Shift: Strategic Reinvention

Steve Ballmer has a new lease on life. After more than three decades at Microsoft as employee number 30, he retired as CEO in February 2014 and is looking toward the future. He’s also number 18 on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans with $22.5 billion, so he discussed his plans for the future with George Anders for that magazine’s recent issue.

First, Ballmer’s purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this year will take a large chunk of his time. This was the third time he tried to purchase an NBA team. Many believe he overpaid for the opportunity, but it aligns well with his love of the sport, and focuses him in an entirely different direction. Second, though he’s no longer involved with the company, as the largest individual Microsoft shareholder (333 million shares!), he will continue to closely monitor his investment. He’s also using his vast experience to teach MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. This is part of evaluating his legacy as they analyze the successes and failures of his former company.

Finally, and more importantly, he and his wife are researching how to use their formidable wealth to positively impact society through philanthropy. He’s surrounding himself with a group of advisors to understand issues and problems around the world as he formulates his next steps in this arena. Ballmer’s legendary energy level, evidenced whenever he met with employees at Microsoft, and with Clippers fans at his first game as owner, seems at an all-time high as looks toward the future. He’s making a shift and strategically reinventing himself.

Organizational Reinvention

Ballmer’s exit from Microsoft came at a time when investors were calling for change. Given the pressures on new product development and revenues, it was time for a shift in the company. He had reached a senior level of professional maturity and accomplishment, and it was time to look for the next shift in his own life. But Ballmer is just one example of the many people who reach that point. Granted 99.99% of the people aren’t quite as rich or accomplished, but nonetheless are similarly passionate about their past and their future, and find a time in life where they need a shift… a strategic reinvention.

IBM is facing a similar pivotal moment. In their 2014 third quarter earnings release, CEO Virginia Rometty acknowledged a need to reinvent the company just twenty years after their strategic shift from hardware, to software and computer services. Now after revenues have declined for the 10th straight quarter, those business lines are lagging and the company is admitting they will miss an earnings target. Some describe it as an “old technology company” that needs to quickly move into cloud computing. And while opinions may vary, they are obviously in need of a shift… a strategic reinvention.

Getting There

Making a shift or strategic reinvention is characterized by several phases.

Discomfort – When individual or organizational results are no longer as favorable, and the tried and true strategies to improve them don’t work, this is a warning signal. There may be an uneasiness that the environment is changing, stakeholders want different outcomes, and competitive requirements are fluctuating. The ability to develop plans to meet future needs becomes more difficult as the environment lacks clarity. This is like shifting gears in a vehicle with an automatic transmission where there’s a momentary pause in the speed of the vehicle, but the ultimate benefit is that it can move faster once the shifting is complete.

Direction – Strategic reinvention requires thoughtful evaluation of where you want to go, what you want to become, and whether you have the resources to get there. It requires careful assessment of the competitive environment, the financial requirements, the skillset of your team, the time required for change, and future perspective. This requires a level of resolve by the leader(s) to make tough decisions unencumbered by the past, to head in the right direction.

Destination – After a strategic reinvention, where you end up will look different from where you were. The people who were with you in the past, may not follow you into the future because they don’t want to, or are not capable of making the shift; they’re not invested in the change. Your destination can represent a fresh start, a new beginning, a different approach to how you add value to others. It’s important to take advantage of the momentum you gather along the way and carefully construct the environment crucial to your success.

Winds of Change

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s book, Only the Paranoid Survive, makes the point that we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. These winds at some point will require us to shift gears, and experience a strategic reinvention, so that we can move further faster. It’s rarely easy. Often a coach, advisor or consultant with specific expertise in the area of focus can help to guide you on the pathway, to help as you shift gears. Steve Ballmer seems to be finding his pace and enjoying the process. Microsoft, IBM and other organizations similarly positioned will be pushed forward by less patient stakeholders. Ultimately all of us will reach a point where we need to shift. How will you handle it?

Doggin’ Philadelphia: 10 Cool Things See When You Walk Your Dog

“If your dog is fat,” the old saying goes, “you aren’t getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in greater Philadelphia while you hike with your dog.

FOLK ART

In 1855, a hotel entrepreneur built a new inn on Rex Avenue. To draw attention to his hostelry he constructed an Indian from old barn boards and propped it up on top of a rock overlooking the Gorge. In 1902, when the Indian Rock Hotel was long gone but with the silhouette still there, artist Massey Rhind was commissioned to make a representation of a “Delaware Indian, looking west to where his people have gone.” The kneeling warrior has gazed up the Wissahickon Gorge ever since. A switchback trail leads to the Indian Statue where you can get close enough to pat his knee. And take in a breathtaking view.

MONUMENTAL M0NUMENTS

The Multi-Use Trail rolls past reconstructed huts and parade grounds that transport you back to the Revolution. The National Memorial Arch, a massive stone tribute dedicated in 1917, stands out along the route. The inscription reads: “Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery. Washington at Valley Forge, February 16, 1778.” In the southern part of White Clay, reached by the Twin Valley Trail, is the Arc Corner Monument marking one end of the 12-mile arc which forms the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line, unique in American political boundary-making. The circular divide dates to William Penn’s directive of August 28, 1701, when Delaware was still a part of Pennsylvania, known as the Lower Three Counties. A little more than 1/2 mile to the west is another monument marking the tri-state junction of Delaware,Pennsylvania and Maryland.

AMERICAN CASTLES

Breaking out of the woods at several points on the hilltops you are greeted with an unparalleled view of Granogue, one of the more spectacular of the American castles dotting the Brandywine Valley’s chateau lands.

MOVIE LOCATIONS

Flying concentric circles outward from Philadelphia, Hollywood location scouts for Oprah Winfrey’s movie project, Beloved, spotted the Fair Hill terrain and selected it as the backdrop for the film’s rural scenes. A ramshackle 19th-century tenant farm was constructed and much of the movie shot here. The producers decided to leave the movie set intact, to deteriorate naturally. You can wander among the fake buildings and even knock on the styrofoam stones.

COOL FORTS

Where else can a dog climb into an actual battery and scan the Delaware River where gunnery officers once aimed guns capable of accurately firing 1,000-pound projectiles eight miles like he can at Fort Mott State Park? Fort DuPont, named for Civil War fleet commander Admiral Samuel Francis duPont, saw active duty in three wars before becoming a state park. The 1-mile River View Trail, a grassy loop path, begins in the marshland along the Delaware River and finishes in shaded woodlands. The trail takes you past several ruins of the military installation, camoflauged to river traffic, and features sustained views of the Delaware River and Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island.

REMARKABLE BRIDGES

In the farthest northern section of Tyler State Park is the longest covered bridge in Bucks County. The 117-year old Schofield Ford Covered Bridge burned in 1991 but after five years of fundraising the 166-foot, two-span crossing was entirely rebuilt by volunteers on its original stone abutments using authentic period materials and methods. An elaborate, reinforced wooden railroad trestle bridges a ravine on the Glen Trail. The trail runs by a stream under the trestle and there are sweeping views of Wenonah Woods from the top.

A walk through Brandywine Park provides a quick lesson is the history of bridge architecture. The classical arch form is represented in grand style with the magificent stone viaduct across the river and numerous reinforced concrete spans. There is even a small iron arch bridge over the mill race. A prototypical 19th century pier and girder iron bridge transports trains over the Brandywine. And the pedestrian footbridge across the water, the Swinging Bridge, is a little suspension bridge employing the same engineering principles as the mythical Brooklyn Bridge.

A floodplain is a safety valve for the release of a raging creek’s overflow. Along the Paper Mill Trail, just off the Creek Road Trail, is an exhibit on managing these protective wetlands that create a unique wildlife habitat. The stone double-arch bridge next to the floodplain exhibit was built in 1847. The fall line on the Pennypack Creek was the natural choice for fording the creek back to Indian days. William Penn was not so patient in waiting for the tide to take the water away each day and in 1683 he asked that “an order be given for building a bridge over the Pennypack.” Each male resident was taxed in either money or labor to build the bridge, which, when completed in 1697, became the first Three Arch Stone bridge in America. Designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the bridge over Frankford Avenue in Pennypack Park is the oldest stone bridge still carrying heavy traffic in America. Germantown Pike was the first road to be started in Montgomery County, dating to 1687 when funds were allocated for a “cart road” from Philadelphia to the Plymouth Meeting settlement. Later extended to present-day Collegeville, an eight arch stone bridge was built to span Skippack Creek in 1792. An equestrian trail crosses the bridge, which is the oldest bridge in continuous, heavy use in America. Ashland Covered Bridge, built in the days before the Civil War; the adjoining Succession and Flood Plain Trails visit meadow, marsh, pond and forest landscapes.

Theodore Burr built a bridge spanning the Hudson River at Waterford, New York in 1804. He added an arch segment to the multiple truss bridge popular at the time, attaining a longer span. Patented in 1817, the Burr Arch Truss became one of the most common in the construction of covered bridges. The Larkin’s Bridge, a 65-foot long, 45-ton “Burr Arch” covered bridge erected in 1854 and rebuilt in 1881, was relocated to the northeast section of the park in 1972. Larkin’s Covered Bridge is the only remaining legacy of Milford Mills.

In 1850 Albert Fink, a German railroad engineer,
designed and patented a bridge that used a latticework of rods instead of cables to reinforce stiffness. This construction was cheap and sturdy, making the Fink Truss one of the most commonly used railroad bridges in the 1860s, especially favored by the powerful Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Only one Fink Truss bridge remains in the United States – an abandoned 108-foot span in Zoarsville, Ohio. A wooden reproduction of a Fink Truss is in a field at Warwick County Park for you and your dog to climb.

CANAL LOCK

Pennsylvania’s first canal system was cobbled together in 1815 using 120 locks to stretch 108 miles from the coal fields of Schuylkill County to Philadelphia. Railroads began chewing away at canal business in the 1860s and the last coal barges floated down the Schuylkill River in the 1920s. Today, the only sections of the canal in existence are at Manayunk and Lock 60, built by area name donor Thomas Oakes, at the Schuylkill Canal Park. In 1985 the Schuylkill Canal Association formed to keep the canal flowing and maintain the lock and towpath. In 1988, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

CHAMPION TREES

The Taylor Memorial Arboretum provides a 12-Tree Self-Guided Tour. The collection is especially strong in Far Eastern specimens and spotlights three Pennsylvania State Champion trees: the Needle Juniper, the Lacebark Elm and the Giant Dogwood. Also on the tour is a Dawn Redwood, an ancient tree known only through fossils until 1941 when a botany student tracked down living specimens in rural China. Some of the first seed to come to America resulted in this tree. Liberated from their sun-stealing neighbors of the crowded woods, the “King” and “Queen” White Oaks have spread out into a massive canopy of leaves. The “Queen” measures seventeen feet around at the thickest part of the trunk and the “King” is closer to twenty. The two trees are part of the “Penn’s Woods” collection of 139 trees standing when William Penn arrived to survey his Pennsylvania colony.

The arboreal oldsters reside at the last stop of the nature trail. bacterial infection. Awbury Arboretum in East Germantown was the summer estate of 19th century Quaker shipping merchant Henry Cope. Across the 55 acres are plantings of groves and clusters of trees set amidst large swaths of grss fields in the English landscape garden tradition. You can investigate more than 200 species, mostly native, in your informal explorations of the grounds. Old macadam paths lead to most areas of the odd-shaped property. Also on the grounds are wetlands surrounding an artificial pond.

BARNS

While many of the Hospital Farm’s buildings have disappeared, the unique dairy barn remains. Built in 1914, it is shaped like a wheel with four spokes. The fame of the hospital’s dairy operation was widespread. In 1961 alone, nine cows produced 1.1 million pounds of milk – more than 300 pounds of milk per cow per day.The Visitor Center is a restoration of a 1923 Sears & Roebuck mail order barn. A century ago Sears sold anything and everything by mail – including kits for building houses and barns. The kit, which could cost as little as a few hundred dollars depending on style, would include rough lumber, framing timbers, plank flooring, shingles, hardware, sash and paint. Usually shipped by train from the west, the barn kit would be loaded onto a freight wagon and hauled to the building site for assembly by local carpenters.

COOL ROCKS

Forty million years ago an igneous explosion occurred underground here and cooled very quickly leaving behind a particularly fine granite rock. Tourists and students of geology alike made the pilgrimage to the Falls of French Creek to study the rock formations. Granite quarries mined the rock and granite from Saint Peters once received an award at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago as “a fine-grained polished cube, a good building and ornamental stone.” The quarries closed in the 1960s and many pits can still be seen. Today the giant boulders in French Creek are ideal for your dog to sramble on – or just lie in the sun. Mountain in State Game Land #157. The mountain is essentially a ridge of diabase boulders and the trail to the top calls for almost continuous rock-hopping, a technique called bouldering. The basaltic rock provides incredible traction.

And our vote for the coolest thing of all on Philadelphia trails – the “Ringing Rocks” in Ringing Rocks Park where the rocks ping when struck by a hammer – or thud on “dead ” spots.

How to Have a Luxury Spa and Hotel Break For a Budget Price

Ever since Gok Wan went from making us look good naked to creating catwalk outfits for less than the price of dry cleaning a designer outfit, I’ve been pulling out my craft glue (and the occasional DIY supplies) to glam up New Look basics into must have “pieces”. I’ve even taken a couple of their comfortable wide fit shoes and made them into sparkling triumphs courtesy of Claire’s Accessories and some Superdrug nail varnish. I know, these are not names that generally inspire, but when the resulting sandals are mistaken for the latest season sandals from Dune (and are actually comfortable enough to walk in) I knew I was on to a winner.

Fast forward to a girlie weekend in Barcelona this March and a visit to a local spa and suddenly my mind was working overtime again.

As much as I love the idea of a long weekend at a luxury spa hotel, if I’m honest the prices have always put me off, and my recent experiences at day spas in Morocco and Barcelona have convinced me that you don’t need to pay through the nose for an exceptional spa experience. In fact the best massages I have had to date have been the cheapest ones:

- Around 32 pounds for a hammam, with a gommage “scrubbing”, followed by a rhassoul, and then the most relaxing massage I’ve ever had. I can’t tell you how long I was in there – only that the sun had gone down, I had lost all track of time, and I was on a completely different planet.

- Even in Barcelona, with the euro at an all-time high, the top rated spa cost us around 54 pounds for the hammam, (with extra hot steam room and plunge pool), followed by a gommage “scrubbing” and another extremely relaxing massage. Three hours of luxury for 54 pounds compared to UK prices is a total steal.

The fact is that in many cultures the local spa is an everyday (or at least every month) treat, which, combined with good exchange rates (when they are available), makes them a great bargain on holiday. So why aren’t we taking advantage of them? Well personally I think it’s because, whereas guide books are stuffed with restaurant, sight and hotel recommendations, very rarely do they spend any time on spas. The spa in Morocco was recommended by friends, and the spa in Barcelona was found with some pre-emptive internet research. Later in the year I’m off to visit China, which has some world class hotel spas, but also boasts a proud massage tradition, which leads me to hope that as well as the day spas I’ve been recommended (where prices are about a quarter of UK rates) I’ll also be able to find other more authentic bargains.

Which leads me to the hotel part of the spa and hotel break. One of the reasons that staying at a luxury spa hotel can cost so much is that you are paying for the option to use it 24/7. If, like me, you see your spa time as part of a whole trip rather than a destination in itself, you’ll probably find that one day spending 3-4 hours in a spa is enough (taking into account the detox effects) at least for a couple of days. So just by choosing to stay in a separate hotel you will probably save a hefty chunk of your holiday budget, and you’ll also avoid the temptation to stay locked up in your hotel for your entire stay and miss out on the local treats.

By then choosing an affordable hotel, reasonably close to your spa, which features the required level of pampering (slippers, robe, fluffy white towels), you can relax back in your room safe in the knowledge that you’ll be going home with a designer glow and a budget bill.

Of course this is not to say that there aren’t spa hotels offering affordable deals, but by being flexible and savvy you can make sure that your relaxation time isn’t spent feeling ripped off. And perhaps more importantly, by being more creative in choosing your hotel, you have a much better choice of spa. You are not limited to an in-house spa experience, very important considering the number of excellent day spas available, even in the UK. Take for example Spa London in Bethnal Green, voted 2010 Professional Beauty Awards “Day Spa of the Year”, where 3 hours of thermal experience will set you back 21.50 pounds at the top of the scale for non-members, down to 6.75 pounds for concessionary local members (including towel, robe and flip flop use) and which is truly a luxury experience compared to the slightly run down Porchester Spa. And then there’s Thermae Bath Spa, the only place in the UK where you can bathe in natural healing spa waters, voted 2010 “Best Spa in the World” by readers of the Daily Telegraph’s Ultra Travel Magazine for the second time running, where a 2 hour session in the New Royal Bath (recommended) will set you back 24 pounds (plus 9 pounds hire cost for towel, robe and slippers if you need them – and you get to keep the slippers!) Unlike many spas the Thermae Bath Spa also offers reductions for locals, disabled guests and their carers, so a local disabled guest (and carer) could pay as little as 9.50 pounds each for a 2 hour session in the New Royal Bath. (You can also buy a glass of spa water at The Pump Room for only 50p!)

Of course London and Bath are not known for their cheap hotel rooms, and certainly in central Bath you might be pushed to find availability, let alone an affordable room rate. However, if you widen your search to the surrounding area, you’ll also find some wonderful B&Bs which would put many hotels to shame, and where you can wake up to the sound of a horse clip clopping past, right in the heart of the countryside. Then it’s up to you whether you decide to explore some old fashioned villages, head back home refreshed and revived, or pop back to the Thermae Bath Spa for just a little more bargain relaxation.

RV Awning Tips For Purchasing and Using Your New RV Accessory

A RV awning adds that extra bit of comfort during your journey on the road. As you may already have discovered, shade is not always accessible at your destination and having your very own sheltered patio is surely a nice luxury. When it is a hot day, no one wants to sit out in the direct sunlight, so the next best thing to a grove of shade trees is your very own RV awning. Your RV awning will not only provide a cool area to sit outside, but also decreases the temperature inside your RV up to 15 degrees or more. As an added bonus, an awning can also be adorned with lights and used for nighttime meals and social gatherings. When purchasing RV awing lights, make sure they are made from shatterproof polycarbonate and UL approved for outdoor use.

RV awnings permanently stay attached once installed for convenience and can either be open and closed manually or by the push of a button with a motorized retractable awning. There are even high tech awnings that have an anemometer input. An anemometer measures local wind speed and your awning will be automatically retracted when wind speed exceeds a preset, user selectable threshold. Now that you have a sheltered patio, it is nice to have a clean area on the ground underneath to set up your chairs, dining table and other accessories. There are specialized RV awning mats that serve this purpose. They are lightweight and easy to store, but sturdy enough for outdoor use. You may want to consider getting polypropylene mats that are classified as campground-friendly since some campgrounds do not allow solid-floored mats because they damage the grass when used for long periods of time.

You can purchase awnings made from either vinyl or acrylic fabric in different thickness weights such as 12 oz. or 15 oz., the higher weights being more durable. Two-piece construction is also superior to brands using single-piece, single-weight canopy fabric, offering greater durability and weather-resistance. It is also good to have a weather-guard wrap made from aluminum to protect the fabric from wear and tear while traveling.

RV awning repair will be necessary when either the fabric gets torn or when the actual hardware gets damaged. Usually, it is the awning brackets that need to be replaced since they support the majority of the awning’s weight. If you buy from reputable brands such as Colorado, Carefree and Domestic awnings, you should not have any trouble finding replacement parts. RV awning replacement fabric is also easy to find, and if you catch the tear when it is small, there is awning repair tape that can be applied fairly easily. Always use caution when doing your own repairs. Be extremely careful if you have to remove the awning end caps because the spring tension is very high and can cause injury if not removed in a controlled manner. Get a buddy to help and follow your manufacturer’s guidelines.

There is one absolute no-no when using your RV awning. Do not ever leave it up and unattended. Although it may not look like bad weather when you leave your RV, this can change in an instant and high winds can not only damage your awning, but your RV as well. Another consideration is that you can also lose your awning while riding down the road. To avoid this, be sure to install an awning lock to prevent the roller tube and awning from unfurling.

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