On Homelessness, Being Trustworthy and the SuperBowl

CorvetteYesterday I had a day off between two holidays. I was going to go for a Fly Your Own Scenic Flight in a Cessna 162 at Ardmore, but the weather looked a bit dodgy and my car got trailered to an auto electrician in Pt Chevalier at lunchtime on Friday who said he was going to check the diagnostics and let me know why the engine lights kept coming up. Ardmore is an hour from here so a long drive with a high risk of rain.

I rang them 3 times after that and they said he was really busy and would call me back. I’ve been ringing ever since and I think he’s taken the long weekend off. It’s now Tuesday. We’ll come back to trustworthiness again later. This guy has been trustworthy before and was recommended by the man I bought my car off as an expert in Corvette’s. He didn’t let me down the other time I went to him. I suspect he is the sort of person that takes on more than he can handle and that frustrates his manager who in the end wouldn’t let me speak to him. So I’m not sure how I’m getting to work tomorrow or when I will see my car next. I think the thing about trustworthiness is it must be pervasive and consistent. It wasn’t.

Anyway, the weather improved a bit and I borrowed a car off my daughter and went into town to visit my friend and your Giapo for a chat.

I parked at Sky City, because it was free courtesy of a couple of poker matches and walked down Queen Street, where in almost every doorway sat someone with a hat out, not making eye contact, mostly no note and a vacant drug stare in their eyes, not the “I can feel it coming in the night” rush I saw on Louis Theroux’s Dark State – Heroin Town on TV recently, this was more like everyone was isolated in the same bad trip.

I had about $18 in coins in my pocket, planning to give some to buskers if they were making an effort, given that I had done some busking in my teens and I respect people who are prepared to make some sort of a trade for value.

Then I walked past this white guy, (his term) in a tidy shirt, clear drugless blue eyes and a hat in front of him with a lonely silver coin looking up at me from it. I turned around and walked back. I asked him if we could chat and if I could ask him a few questions. He looked me straight in the eye, blue eyes to blue eyes and said “Sure, I’m not going anywhere. What do you want to ask me?”

I said “I don’t want to offend you, but how did it come to this?”

He told me that a couple of years earlier he had been working as a labourer, had an accident which left him unconscious in hospital with severe injuries, to the point that he could no longer work when he got out after a couple of months. He couldn’t earn money (still can’t because of tremors and the scars looked pretty real where his hand appeared to have been pulverised). He and his wife lost their State House and then he lost his wife and kids.

With nowhere to go he now lives in a street doorway in downtown Auckland, except when he can find the $10 to get into an Internet Cafe where they don’t mind if you sleep in the night.

I asked what he could do and he said he didn’t know. His body didn’t give him much of a chance to get work and therefore a room and the only work he had been offered was with the gangs and he said “You know where that would end up. Back in jail and I aint ever going back there.” I didn’t ask what he had been inside for but he said it was about 24 years ago. He told me how he had survived by studying on behalf of inmates who were trying to get qualifications and explained how they would arrange it so that at exam time, the guards would let him go in and sit the tests on behalf of inmates that would have failed. He was very bright. He helped them and got to use his mind and they left him alone and safe.

It was clear that he couldn’t do physical labour, but he is 51 by his reckoning and the only way off the street is to work. Without a street address, he couldn’t get a benefit or his first hand on the rung to get out. He told me a lot of stories and he did have a good head on him so I asked if he had done any public speaking. He said he had been a member of Toastmasters while he was in jail. He found public speaking pretty easy and I thought of people I know who tread the circuit and thought he could probably hold an audience with his experiences. I said to him that the chances I could help him were pretty close to zero and not to get his hopes up, but I would ask some questions and I shall.

I dropped the change I was planning on giving to buskers into his hat and with a big grin he said “I’ll be staying in the Internet Cafe tonight.” He went on to say that he had to stash the money because if street kids saw any money in the hat they would run past and snatch it. He said he had been through 7 hats already that they had stolen.

I shook his hand and went on to visit my friend Giapo in his awesome new gelato shop.

Giapo2018This was my first visit to the new store (I know it has been there a while) and there was one thing that never changes. There is always a queue of people waiting for their Giapo gelato experience.

If you haven’t been to his new store in Gore Street, Auckland City, you owe yourself a treat.

This is no ordinary store where they wet an aluminium  scoop in a container of water and drag some ice cream into a cone from the cardboard tub of your preference.

You are purchasing a culinary experience the equal of what you would get from the kitchen of a master chef. You will be taken on a journey of testing and trying flavours, even while you are standing in the queue Eventually a unique visual and sensual experience will be delighting you and your friends, while you are looking at and consuming it, followed by the sensation that you are sated and satisfied and looking forward to recommending it, the experience, to your friends. This is no drive to Pokeno for an ice cream, this is theatre for the eyes and taste buds.

Giapo and I have wonderful conversations and it was also great to finally meet his amazing and beautiful wife in person. I loved that she gave me a firm handshake and looked me in the eye, I don’t like limp handshakes from anyone. I know these last years have been a big journey for her also. Behind every consummate dreamer is their best friend and partner and without her the stumbling blocks are that much higher. We deep thinkers need a leveler and someone to sometimes ask how and why and finally, “how can I help?”

Giapo is an economist, a mad scientist, a gastronome, a master chef, a 3D printer, a social media maven from way back, a purveyor of experience, an artist and a man who speaks with absolute passion and Italian gestures, from a big heart, who wants to leave a legacy of experiences bound by trustworthiness for himself and his business; and a secure income for staff who want to use his business as a stepping stone for his own career.

We have many experiences in common, including both being deep thinkers and the visit left me with lots of thoughts and questions about what a trustworthy business looks like. The simple answer is that he was going to take many years to build it and would find out as it developed. But I can say that trustworthiness for Giapo includes:

  • Consistently delivering a quality experience that is like going to theatre for the eyes and taste buds. I have never seen anyone leave disappointed;
  • Passion for delivering something of quality including his relationships with staff and the products.
  • Passion for his staff and helping them make what they will from the work experience and wishing he could do more with and for them.
  • Helping his staff develop ideas, for example he runs Chef’s Table gelato degustation evenings and VIP evenings (they were set up for one when I was there) which includes matching music to the course, something one of his students is studying.
  • Having a genuine passion and compassion for his customers (and friends) that never wavers, Giapo is who and what he is, not someone living a persona.
  • Making sure that he looks after himself, his health and fitness so that he can be well in order to run his business to deliver the trustworthiness he aspires to.
  • Recognising the importance of family, that includes those of his customers (friends like me and my family) and of course his own, those here and those back home in Italy.

There is something I deeply admire in people like Giapo. There is a sincerity and depth of purpose that he strives for every day, rain or shine, winter (not the best time for gelato) or summer, year on year.

It is a desire to be the best and continue to push the boundaries of what that means, each and every day and he has now done that for years past the use by date at which 80% of businesses go broke. He has proven that it is sustainable.

I’m not saying it has been easy. It’s tough when you are creating a unique business with a unique set of values and direction. Where ultimately you want your business to conform to a set of ideals. Where, if you consistently over-deliver on your promise of a wonderful experience and people trust you that if they tell their friends how great it was, they will confidently wish that same experience for their friends.

Like fractals, (something Giapo used to tell me about years ago, that branch out like pretty ice crystal flowers) customers all over the world would say “If you go to Auckland, New Zealand, you really have to go to Giapo in Gore Street. It will be a highlight of your trip.”

Anyway, enough of that, it’s a beautiful day, go and visit Giapo and let him know I sent you.

Superbowl2018On the way back to Sky City to pick up the car I borrowed, I walked past a noisy bar with an American flag outside. It sounded like there was a show on, so I walked a bit closer to see what was happening. Yep, you got it, Super Bowl 2018. I’m not sure whether the audience was that worried about whether the Eagles one. Heck, I’ve only ever changed planes at the airport there on my way to or from Ithaca NY, but we love our sport in Auckland and despite the showers, it was a great day for sitting in a bar watching sport on TV.

Off I went home to do my thing, working on recording my second track for The Cancer Diaries, my charity music EP and Music Videos for cancer patients and their supporters, a bit of writing on the two books I am working on and pondering with my wife on the nature of trustworthiness as a pillar foundation for a business.

I have 2 questions for you:

What does trustworthiness mean to you in business? ; and

Have you been to Giapo yet. Looks like a great day for it today.



8 Technologies that will destroy how we do business

Unleashing the Road Warrior

Unleashing the Road Warrior

I want a 3D Printer and a Filabot. The are two items on my bucket list. I guess that means I’ll be printing plastic, but the Filabot of course means that I can recycle plastic, so that’s a good thing right?

I was reading an article in the July-August edition of my favorite magazine, The Futurist about Tomorrow’s Jobs. If you have followed my various blogs over the years, you will know that I am driven by working smarter rather than harder, so the story about Goldman Sachs prediction about 8 technologies that are forcing businesses to adapt or die obviously caught my eye. The quote was about 3D printing. If you have a look through some of my other blogs you will find stories about 3D printing military clothing, printing human organs, my friend Vik Oliver’s work with Reprap and others.

So I was naturally curious about what Goldman Sachs thought the other 7 were. I was thinking self driving vehicles, eBooks, virtual and augmented reality tourism and education, eGovernment and all those menial jobs that don’t require human understanding and problem solving skills. So in a nutshell to satisfy my curiosity and maybe yours. The other 7 are:

  • eCigarettes. I know a few people who use these and I was semi-tempted as someone who gave up smoking over 20 years ago, to give it a try, but yeah, nah. I do wish they had been around back in the day though. I’m sure these were originally conceived by someone like Jules Verne and if it wasn’t for the power of the tobacco industry, we probably would have been using them years ago.
  • Cancer Immunotherapy. This is something I have read a little about on recent times. Who doesn’t know someone close who has had or has passed away from a form of cancer and we all know that often the treatment is almost as bad or worse than the symptoms. The concept of having your body able to combat cancer cells in the same way as we deal with a virus is compelling and hugely attractive.
  • LED Lighting. Energy savings of up to 85%, a longer lifetime and so many creative ways you can use it from the home to the car to wherever you are. This one has already become huge without us even realizing it. Something that many disruptive industries and technologies are doing. Is there one invading your turf that you haven’t acknowledged sufficiently yet?
  • Alternative funders for insurance such as pension funds that are willing to take a lower return. That’s a very interesting topic in my neck of the woods right now, where insurance companies who were happy to take premiums from the citizens of Christchurch seem to be reluctant to give it back after the earthquakes. Here are some stories from New Zealand’s Campbell Live Show on TV. CHCH
  • Natural Gas Engines for the freight industry. Funny reading this because my very first company car ran on CNG. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2020 20-30% of hauling fleets will be fueled by natural gas.
  • Software Defined Networking. The cloud gets smarter. This blog is in the cloud and I’m writing it online, it is not stored on my hard drive.
  • Big Data. No surprises here. This is what I was saying earlier about the human element. Until we have a true artificial intelligence, we are still going to be asking the questions, so I’m hoping that problem solving people like me will continue to be able to find exciting and fulfilling work to do. This is not intuitive for many people and the more specialized the workforce becomes, especially in large businesses, the less innovative the companies become. Shareholders increase their expectations of Return on Investment from old products and business concepts, then when it all turns to mush, they wonder what happened. I have to say, it’s not big data, it’s the ability to understand what’s contained in big data and how to apply it. Ask the wrong question and the answer could hasten your demise.

So there you have it. Interesting isn’t it that fundamentally there is nothing particularly new here. Yet all over the world companies are clinging to dated concepts and wondering why they are imploding. The crazy thing is that what people want and need isn’t changing significantly. People still read books, they still listen to music, they still want to know what’s in the news, they take more photos in a day on mobiles than in the entire history of Kodak film based cameras, yet the traditional businesses that grew fat on those industries are going broke.

What I also find interesting is often the answers are in the exact places that those companies don’t look. They are with the customers, they are with independent consultants, often with little experience in the specific industries. They are not in the traditional spreadsheets and they are not in the typical boardroom (don’t get me started). Business As Usual is a great model for going broke and yet none of the above industries are significantly novel or bleeding edge. They are natural evolutions of what came before. Yet many leading brands don’t get it, or stubbornly don’t want to get it.

So whether you own a business, or whether you are looking for your next job. You had better think very carefully about your future. The answers are closer than you think, but possibly not where you are looking. Do you know where your knowledge base is? Do you know what your greatest asset is? If you’re thinking it’s in your IP, unless you own your people, you might find that very soon the value of your patents will be minimal and that your creative minds have moved on, in many cases with the suggestions and creative ideas you turned away, because you knew better.

Whoops, I have sort of ended up on my soapbox again haven’t I?