Category ArchiveExplaining



Explaining &life 18 Jan 2020 12:30 pm

Letters to our children #3

Dear boys, today I want to write to you about running a family business.

You’ve lived through us running our business almost all of your lives. I’m sure you have your own aspects to reflect upon and perhaps we can talk about how you’ve experienced this at some point in the future. I know your mother will want to be a part of that conversation too.

We Messinis’ run family businesses. It takes a heavy toll on our personal relationships. I know you’ve witnessed this. We’ve had high high’s and low low’s and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster hasn’t it? Rollercoasters are supposed to be fun, right? Who would you like sitting next to you on a rollercoaster? Family! Who can you trust more than family?

When we work with eachother and for eachother, the lines are very blurred. Emotions run hot and during the low low’s of business it’s easy to start laying blame on one another.

In running a family business, it’s hard to form a hierarchy, really hard. The family members often cover for eachother but when things get tough it’s inevitable that stress spills over into the home. I’m sorry it does.

I personally, have been both a good and a terrible businessperson. Good in that I can take calculated risks easily and am not afraid to fail, Bad because, too often, emotions take over and too often, I’ve trusted people who’ve stabbed us in the back. Sometimes too, I’ve taken decisions that have made our lives a bit more difficult.

Your mom has been there to protect me and keep me on track and, I hope, I’ve been there for her too. I’ve taught her and she’s taught me. We complement each-other and keep each-other accountable. If one day you join us in a family business, we’d expect the same from you too. I know you’ve often seen us argue and too often things have perhaps gone too far but we never wanted to hurt either of you.

I think our businesses have given us a relatively good quality of life. I think better than if we were employed for another organisation. I think too that you may have gained some knowledge from experiencing our toils too. It’s a fact that children are more likely to be entrepreneurs if their parents were entrepreneurs too. If they were exposed to the challenges and thrills of running a business, they’ll be more likely to be able to spot opportunities and threats.

Once I suggested to your mom that we write a book about how we’ve done this. About what sacrifices we’ve made and what compromises we’ve had to endure so as to help other families avoid our mistakes. We’re still discussing the idea.

Here’s a few ideas we’ve been working on for chapters: (Note, we haven’t done a few of these ourselves but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. If we had, we may have had a smoother ride, I suppose)

Setting boundaries,
Communicating regularly,
Understanding roles and responsibilities,
The business is a business,
The advantages of family businesses vs others,
Treating each other fairly,
Putting things in writing,
Sympathy jobs and avoiding them,
Having clear management lines,
Fresh Ideas from trusted outsiders,
Planning for when someone moves on or is lost,
Having experience outside before joining.

One day we might get to write this book and perhaps you can contribute a chapter or two as the recipients of our flawed parenting.

Thank you for being such wonderful boys.


Explaining &life 30 Dec 2019 10:17 am

Letters to our children #2

Dear kids, I want to write about “logical explanations” and “basic emotions”

You may remember that I often tried to remain calm and collected during difficult days. There have been quite a few and there may be a few more. I haven’t always managed to remain calm and collected though and, while I sometimes struggled to maintain a cool temper I always wanted a fair outcome. I hope we managed to achieve that with you and your mother on most days.

ALWAYS TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHY something has happened. There is a logical explanation for everything. Even if the behavior or outcome seems illogical, the root cause is there. Keep searching. Ask why, then ask why again and, again. You’ll get to the right answer. During these years, as I dig deeply to understand why certain things are the way they are and why certain conditions exist or why certain behaviors manifest themselves, I can’t stop wondering how you saw all these d difficult situations. Perhaps, one day you might talk to me about them.

Understanding a person’s underlying psychological process that drives an irrational behavior is not always easy. During my life, I’ve tried to learn as much about psychology as possible. I would encourage you both to study psychology at school or university, (or the university of youtube).

While the underlying psychology is key to understand, most often, it is one’s own actions over several days, weeks, months or even years that may have led to a toxic situation. I’ve often thought I can heal pretty quickly and forgive pretty quickly. I guess not everyone has the capacity to heal as fast as anyone else so try to always be aware of the things you say and do. Understand that your actions, words and behaviors may be leaving scars that are hard to heal.

Here’s a diagram of some basic emotions that we feel as people, and their follow on emotions. One of the most difficult emotions to overcome is contempt. For one to reach this level, a whole lot of bad stuff has happened and it’s almost impossible to recover from this state. I say almost, because I’m an eternal optimist and one approach to overcome the stuff from the bottom left (rage, anger, annoyance which leads to aggressiveness and, loathing, disgust, boredom, which leads to contempt) , is to pile on a whole lot of stuff from the top right. (Love, acceptance, trust, admiration, serenity, joy and ecstasy.)


In 1980 Robert Plutchik constructed a wheel-like diagram of emotions visualising eight basic emotions, plus eight derivative emotions each composed of two basic ones.
Source: Wikicommons

Basic emotions function as building blocks, with more complex emotions being blends of basic emotions. To use these basic building blocks one needs to be calm, collected and self aware.

I hope you find this useful in life and your various interactions with each other and your mates.

Much love

Dad.

Explaining &work 01 May 2013 11:04 pm

On Values

I was asked a few days ago to contribute to a discussion on values for an organisation very close to my heart. Here’s what I submitted as the 5 most important values. I subscribe to them and I expect everyone I do business with would want to too.

 

  1. Honesty and Integrity
    Maintaining the highest ethical standards. Being open and transparent in all processes. Respecting the resources assigned to us.Being honest and thereby inspiring trust. Doing what we say and saying what we mean, matching our behaviours to our words and taking responsibility for our actions.
  2. Commitment to community
    Giving back. Being committed to doing good overall. Acting in an open and inclusive manner that embraces all players in the entrepreneurial community. Nurturing and inspiring nascent communities with our actions.
  3. Humility
    Valuing the the strengths, experiences, and perspectives of others while recognizing our own limitations. Being committed to partnering effectively with local communities to ensure that our work advances the broader good for all.
  4. Respectfulness
    Placing value in individuals. Respecting people for who they are and the value they bring. Embracing diversity and each individual’s unique contribution. Fostering a trusting environment that treats each person in a way that reflects our values.
  5. Stewardship
    Working towards building a better and stronger company. Developing and protecting the brand and our associated brands.

Explaining &work 26 Feb 2013 01:49 pm

A sunshine moment.

Sunshine momentHello friends.

What a ride! It’s been fun! It’s been challenging, but now, it’s time for something new.

I have just completed a transaction with Dimitris Tsigos and his StartTech group transferring all of my shares in coLab to them.

One key tenant in coLab recently told me “everyone who’s anyone has graduated from coLab or is about to”. I agree, and now, it’s time for me to graduate too.

The last 2 years of my life have been precious. In building coLab, I invested almost everything I had. Money, time, family, tears, everything. Yet, we built it and together, we built a community around it. With sacrifices. Through the crisis. Without (much) investment other than the investment from customers who trusted us. coLab was never meant to return huge profits financially. It did however return huge profits in social terms.

We built our corporate brand as well as our respective personal brands. We had hundreds of events and thousands of readers of our newsletter. We helped and were helped by many. I can’t count the number of kudos emails I received because of what we were doing.

Giving someone a chance in business is so important and all of you gave that to me and Spiro. We gave it to each other. It wasn’t always rosy but it was always fulfilling. I have taken many lessons from this past period. Lessons about commitment, about trust and about integrity.

Selling coLab! I know, shocking isn’t it? Well, they had it coming. The deal is pretty sweet and gives me the ability to continue along a new track.

Spiros will remain in coLab together with the StartTech team. I wish them all the best of luck. I hope you will give them the chance they deserve in this new beginning. If I can part with one final piece of advice to my past collaborators it would be this: service is more than saying, “Yes” and taking care of the customer. Above all, great service needs personality.

Now, on to the terms of the sale: There’s a small catch. The terms of the sale contain a non-compete clause with coLab so and while I will never consider coLab as a competitor but rather a collaborator, I will be going into coworking stealth mode for a short time. Let’s call it a hibernation from coworking. I will not be running a new coworking space immediately. I will be running events and some of them may be in coLab or elsewhere or some may be in a new event space I will likely set up soon(ish). It will NOT be a coworking space, at least not in the short term.

In parallel, I will continue the fun work I’m doing with StartupDigest, facilitating Startup Weekend in cities around the world and helping co-organise SW in Greece and further afield. I am about to complete my accreditation as a SWNext facilitator and the next cohort of SWNext will begin imminently. Also, I’m in discussions about a new track of work I may be tasked to do and as always, as someone who always has more than one pot of tea brewing, I have a few more things up my sleeve as well. Stay tuned to learn more.

By now, you all know my strategy. I announce something and then do my best to implement it. The announcement acts as a promise to deliver and a reminder to me that my reputation is at stake. Not delivering amounts to failure and while failure is acceptable, it is certainly not desirable. I fucking hate failing.

So, on to new things. Remember, I’m only an email away!

Stavros Messinis
coFather of coLab

Explaining &Projects &work 22 May 2008 10:18 pm

On Speeches and Presentations

Only two things about speeches and presentations matter. Your audience is subconsciously asking:

A. What’s your point?
B. Why does it matter?

Explaining &General 16 Apr 2008 02:17 pm

TV Listings Software – TVBrowser

skytitleGreek TV is terrible. After a long day, when you just want to flop in front of the TV it’s a real shame that you are presented with total crap and more advertising than content. We used to buy the weekly TV guide, pick what we wanted to see and just watch it.

However, in Greece, no TV guide can be trusted. Greek TV stations will interrupt shows to shove advertising down your throat whenever they can manage to sell a spot to an advertiser. This means that when a TV guide says some show will start and end at certain times, it’s most often absolutely untrue because the ad’s have thrown the timing out by hours. Forget setting the VCR the tape will end before the show does. A PVR is better. Don’t ever risk sitting through a 1,5hr feature. It will take 4,5 hrs with the ad’s.

Too often, I find myself wasting my life in front of the TV while trying to enjoy a 1.5 hr feature. I have now completely stopped watching Greek TV and have moved onto Satellite TV. I use a great Open Source TV listings software called TVBrowser that will bring the latest Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to my desktop, allow me to set reminders, set recordings and much much more. It’s java based software and a little heavy on resources but the benefits it delivers are great.

Stop wasting your life in front of the TV – Be picky about what you consume, use a PVR and an EPG. Don’t let the channels feed you crap.

Explaining &Technology 10 Dec 2005 02:01 pm

Explaining: RSS

feedreader
Like email, but for websites. It’s a way to get new content delivered to you automatically. When a site gets new content, your RSS reader (a program that retrieves RSS): receives a notification.

Most sites with dynamic content have a little RSS button that helps you subscribe to that sites RSS feed. For example I have an RSS Feed on this site.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”

The BBC has a great page explaining what RSS is

Popular RSS readers
netnewswire
feedreader
newsgator