The Christmas Journey

The Cuen's

On Tuesday night, I load the bags into the car of my wife and two daughters. The sight as you can imagine is my small carry on and seven of the largest suit cases that you have ever seen. I always tell my wife that my purpose on this journey is to act as the mule and haul this stuff around for them. We are on our way to California for Christmas to unite with our two sons, our daughter, four grandchildren and of course the rest of the family clan.

We fly without incident to San Jose, which is always a great feat as we need no additional stress for our holiday journey. We arrive and this year given our luggage requirements and destinations, we rent two cars. This was great as I get a RAV 4 and my wife got a fuel efficient car to remain nameless. Trunk space is key as we head to the cars. I load up seven of the suit cases in my car and I see my wife struggling to get the one bag into her car. Now if you know my wife, this isn’t going to do and she calls the attendant for a change. My daughter and I are rolling as we have seen this story before.

Patty & Jen Getting Dinner Ready

We head to my son’s house and the only thing that is going against us is it is raining. Thank goodness we are in Northern California as you may have seen on the news Southern California is getting slammed with rain, which is resulting in flooding. We unload the car and head into my son’s house. Most of you may know that California has high priced homes that are small in size. In fact my son’s home is 1200 sq. feet with one bathroom. Hmm, 6 adults, 2 children and two dogs and one bathroom. Our granddaughter, Taylor, gave up her room for us and we had the pleasure of sleeping in the princess suites where every Walt Disney princess is on display.

My mornings are up early as we have daily 8:30am meetings with the team in San Antonio. The subject is my favorite as it speaks to the time of year,the forecast. Now 8:30am means 6:30am because of the two hour time change. I stumble through bodies to get to the kitchen to make some coffee, check the reports and get ready for the call. I hear my daughter who is on the couch asking if I know what time it is. My best bet is a no reply as I continue the call. The news from the team shows good signs of progress, so thank you team!

After the call, I get a text from my oldest daughter who asks if I can baby sit the two boys for her to go to work for a while. Well of course I will, so I tell my wife we are heading over to see the kids and she says you have to fly solo due to shopping that she still needs to do. Ok, I have had experience in this, I know the drill and I convince myself that I can do it. I get a bonus as Jacob is sleeping and Lucas is content to watch Nemo. I like Nemo so we snuggle on the coach and watch the movie. Now I don’t hear so good and Lucas says grandpa Jacob is awake! I jump up and head to his room. I pick him up and of course a diaper change is in order. Did I say I was experienced in this?

Mary and Mark!

I did say I have two sons, but one has been noticeably absent. Mark graduated this year from college and after a long time has a girlfriend, Mary. This has been a great experience for him but now we don’t see him as much, as he is consumed with love. Ahh, to be young and in love. As I thought about it, I did the same thing when my wife and I first got together, so I guess it’s normal. To see them together always brings a smile to my face. Happiness is the reason for living.

So, what does this all mean? As I sit here writing this with a smile on my face everyone is asking why I am smiling? Outside, Kayla, Kelly, Taylor and Anthony are outside in the driveway playing basketball. Patty and Jen are cooking in the kitchen preparing for the gathering tonight. Mary and Mark are sitting at the table filling us in on their plans for the evening. Neil is out finishing some last minute shopping and picking up the table and chairs for the dinner. We make plans to go to church at 4:00pm which is always fun, where we take up two rows in the church.

It is the day before Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, but unlike the song things are rocking within the Cuen clan. Traveling to San Jose for Christmas is a pain. Getting everyone together at the same time is a real pain. Stuffing the entire family into one house is a pain. Getting everything ready for dinner and for our Christmas Eve celebration is a pain. Going to church with 20 people is a pain. Cleaning up after its all over is a pain. Yet, ever year, since 1998 we gather together for this ritual.

The Next Generation

I admit it is a pain, but I also have to say that it’s worth every minute. The smiles, the stories and even the hardships are blessings. It may not always be pretty but it is always full of love and good intentions. For me, it is all about them and has little to do with me, although I am blessed to be part of it. I am blessed on this Christmas Eve morning to remember why love, peace, good tidings and family are so important. Today is a day of thanksgiving, loving others more than yourself, doing something for someone in need and remembering that at times it may be a pain, but anything worthwhile usually takes some blood sweat and tears to bring love and joy to those around you.

Remember, “why”, Merry Christmas Everyone!

Posted under General

This post was written by FJ on December 26, 2010

The Journey Cause + Outcome = Longevity

On Saturday, I was channel surfing and happened to stop at the Army Navy Game.  What caught my ear was, this game has been going on for 120 years.  I had always viewed it as a football game featuring football players who just happen to be in the military.  I have seen the game many times before, but this time it wasn’t the same as the words “Freedom” (cause) and “Longevity” (outcome) came to mind.

What might surprise you is it wasn’t the game that caught my attention, rather it was the build up to the game.  They had many military personnel shown in a variety of uniforms serving all over the world.  In fact, we have military in some countries that I wasn’t even aware of and in countries I didn’t know.  Over the past few years with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have had a number of folks from our own office serving their country.  I am thankful to say that those who had served have come back to us safely.

In America, we have a history that has been built on a simple yet complicated concept called “freedom”.   Freedom as you have seen or heard isn’t really free at all.  It is something that you have to work at, be able to change and adapt to and even fight for.  The Army Navy Game has been going on for 120 years and we have had a military fighting for freedom for over 200 years.  Freedom is a worthy cause that stands the test of time and creates longevity for our military.  Can this same premise apply to business?

Apollo11 Mission Insignia

It made me think, when organizations and people work to a higher purpose it creates an enormous commitment level and rallies everyone around it.  It also acts as a catalyst for higher levels of performance and growth, which leads to longevity.  An example would be when President Kennedy gave an edict to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The cause created the momentum that resulted in Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 being the first man on the moon.  NASA had turned the impossible into a reality.  They had a vision, the resources and the time line to make it happen. Now what is interesting is although NASA had fulfilled the dream of a man on the moon, once it was accomplished it started to lose its glimmer.  The purpose or cause had been fulfilled.  By the time Apollo 13 launched, it was no longer news worthy and only the fact that Apollo 13 became a potential disaster did anyone pay attention to it.  Now to be clear, NASA has transformed itself through the Shuttle, Space Station and other new programs.

The real point is, causes, higher purposes, strategies, value propositions and even people have a shelf life.  The key to longevity is the continuation of reinvention of a company or even a person.  It boils down to being adaptive during difficult situations or setting the agenda for the rest of the market.  IBM is an excellent example of a company that was the prominent of the Information Technology market, then in the early 1990’s came close to becoming irrelevant in the market.  Lou Gerstner came in and transformed the company into a powerhouse focused on integrating hardware, software and services into solutions for clients.  Recently, Sam Palmisano was seen setting the industry agenda with his pursuit of creating a Smarter Planet through integrated solutions.  Next year IBM will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary.

50th Anniversary

Avnet is another example, celebrated its 50th anniversary with the New York Stock Exchange on December 15th.  Overall, the company has been around for 80 years.  The company name Avnet, is not some high tech internet name.  It’s a family name that started as a family business that sold radio parts in New York.  Today, it’s a public company, led by CEO Roy Vallee,  listed in the Fortune 500 category of Wholesalers: Electronics and Office Equipment.  Avnet is generating over $16 billion in sales, with offices in over 73 countries and has 10,000 employees globally.  Avnet broke into the Fortune 500 in 1968 at number 467 and in 2010 is ranked 142.

The Army Navy Game is a symbol of “Freedom” that represents a higher purpose, which leads to the outcome of “Longevity”.  Companies have the same opportunity to create the same cause and effect.   It would seem that a key transformation point for a company should occur every decade or sooner given the changes in the markets, business models,  customer requirements, government regulations and innovation to name a few.   A business succeeds based on financial performance, value proposition, people, customers, markets, and communities by ensuring they balance those levers and evolve them over time.

Posted under General

This post was written by FJ on December 19, 2010

The Journey Personal Branding

Smarter Mom

Hello everyone!  I want to introduce one of our first guest writers, Jennifer, who is part of our Voice of the Customer team and will be talking about branding.

With IBM announcing their new Business Partner “marks” (or logos) recently, it made me think of how I would reinvent myself. Plus, the New Year is around the corner which also begs for people to make resolutions to change. I have never been one to make a “New Year’s Resolution”, I’ve always thought, “what’s the big deal”. Don’t most people forget about their resolution before the week is up anyway?

Setting the Industry Agenda

Back to IBM and how they are repositioning their Business Partner “mark”. I really like the new “mark”, the way it is angled, the positioning, the blue, and I especially see value in the Authorized Dealer of… What do marks and logo’s mean to you when you see them? They typically take me back to a favorite commercial, experience, feeling or perception. Ever since I was a little girl, IBM has meant strength (like steel), reliability and business. Today, the one big component I would add is social responsibility (Smarter Planet).

So, if I had to put myself out in the world (aside from my first blog) with an upgraded “mark” or logo, I would like mine to say advocate and educator.  I try to live my life where at the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror and be proud. Today, I have a great job, great colleagues, a great family and great friends but I have a conflict that needs resolution. Sure, I could lose some weight, but that is not the type of resolution I’m looking for.

Most people know me for my 4 year old twins, a mark I am very proud of. One of my daughters has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a neurological disorder in which the brain has difficulty processing what is going on around them and they do not always express their distress in a socially acceptable manner. My daughter looks like any other child, but struggles on a daily basis with everyday things, especially in a social setting.

Parents of kids with SPD are challenged with educating the schools, doctors, and public about this very real diagnosis. SPD is not as well known as autism thus does not have the level of awareness needed to help these sensational kids. Now that is a great “mark”, sensational kids. It is positive and tells everyone how wonderful these kids really are.

For me, I’m taking the calling and will become a better advocate and educator of SPD so the world will know all the goodness these kids have to offer and not be afraid of their differences. My mark of employee, mom, sister, daughter and friend will now be advocate and educator. People will say “that advocate is my colleague, my wife, my friend, my sister, my daughter and my mom”.

Posted under General

This post was written by FJ on December 10, 2010

The Journey Trains, Planes & Automobiles

I have traveled all over the world and there are only a few instances where I have experienced the travel from hell.  I was scheduled to fly to New York at 9:00am and arrive at around 4:30pm.  In preparation, I set the coffee maker to go off at 3:00am so I could do my normal prep of reading and working out.  I get up, drink my coffee, read and hit the gym at 5:00am.  It’s going to be a great day or at least it looks like it.

I get on the elliptical trainer and decide 5 miles is the target and switch on the TV.  Nothing earthshaking on the news and then comes the weather.  A huge storm was heading to New York with rain and massive winds up to 70 mph.  It says LaGuardia is already at 98 minute delays.  98 minutes that was an odd number, why not go all the way with 2 hours I thought.  I finish the elliptical and head to the bike to burn 200 more calories and finish up with stomach exercises.

I head home, shower, pack and get ready to head to the airport.  I check the internet for any delays to Dallas or LaGuardia and nothing, zip, everything is on time.  I think that’s odd, but maybe it isn’t as bad as the news reported.  I get to the airport and I love San Antonio, no lines at security.  I load my stuff on the conveyor belt and head through the metal detector.  The metal detector goes beep, beep, dam.  The officer says try again, I do, beep, beep with the same results, dam.

Well I do have a titanium shoulder and I tell the gentlemen, so it’s off for the full pat down.  The officer puts his gloves on walks towards me and explains the procedure.  I have heard this pitch a thousand times but this one ended with “by the way your zipper is down”.  Boy, that was embarrassing.  Well done with that and I am off to the gate to meet Jack.  When I see him I tell him about the weather and we check the flights and everything is still on time.

Ready for the journey to NY

We load up on the plane and head for Dallas.  We land and get off the plane to find our flight to NY is canceled, but we have already been rebooked on another flight to JFK.  OK, no problem, we are scheduled to leave at 12:00pm.  We sit have a bite to eat and work on our laptops.  There is nothing unusual about delays when it comes to flying and you learn to deal with them as there is nothing you can do about it.  Then the announcement comes, canceled!  Now what I failed to mention earlier is we had two other colleagues flying on another flight behind us and our boss was trying to leave from Phoenix.  We were now booked to leave at 5:45am the next morning, which meant we would miss our 8:00am meeting with IBM.

Now is when the trains, planes and automobiles story begins and every moment and decision starts a snowball effect.  Our colleagues, who had flown after us had landed and had actually gotten on their flight to LaGuardia.  Our boss in phoenix was delayed and we are on the phone trying to figure out our options to either go home or carry on.  We are talking to our colleagues who made their flight and to make it a short story they taxied away from the gate and then stop on the runway and eventually returned to the gate.  My boss asks my opinion on his options and at this point he may make it, but the core team would not.  We conclude that he should stay in Phoenix and in the end, three hours later his flight was canceled anyway.

Jack and I were talking to our admins and the travel agency and we had two options, Atlanta or Orlando to JFK and get there at 10:00pm.  Not desirable, but it could work.  We tell the travel agent to book us both on the same flight and we would head on if they couldn’t book us a flight home.  They book the flight and we are on the way to the gate when we get a call to say we are booked to Orlando, but we are on two separate flights, What?  Jack has a short window to make the flight and begins sprinting to the gate which is in another terminal.  I’ve got another hour to wait and check on where my colleagues are and due to some quick work our admin had them booked on the same flight as Jack.  They are in sprint mode to get there, but get a text message saying they made it.


Well things are looking up as at least three of the guys are heading to Orlando and I will meet them there an hour later for our final leg to JFK.  Then the phone rings.  Its Jack saying he got to the gate but because he didn’t check in they wouldn’t let him board.  They did give him a middle seat for a direct flight to LaGuardia.  What, how did that happen, so of course I want to be on that same flight but to no avail, no room and there are questions as to whether it will leave or not.  Now because I am on standby, I get the benefit as a Platinum Member to be the last to be assigned a seat and board.  Thank God, bin space for my carry on.  On my way to Orlando! What I notice before I get on the plane is that the flight to JFK is delayed an hour :( .  The thought of being stranded in Orlando and the question, should I have just gone home looms in my mind.

I land in Orlando around 6:00pm and I get off the plane, look at the board and there is the flight to JFK scheduled to leave at 12:15am, What?  To add insult to injury the flight is eventually delayed until 12:30am.  I did catch up to Tony and Mark at the restaurant and we monitor Jack’s flight on Mark’s Iphone and sure enough Jack’s plane took off and was 15 minutes from landing.  Can you imagine that, he was going to make it.  Now, the three us were sitting there going through options as there was still no guarantee that we were going to take off and there was a flight at 7:30pm that would get us back home by 10:30pm.  Dam, Jack made it and now he would be the lone representative for us, no we can’t leave him hanging like that.  We are going even if we have to drive from here!

When will it all end?

We go to the gate asking for the miracle of being upgraded so we could at least be as comfortable as possible for the final leg.  We get a break and all of us are upgraded.  I think the guy working at the gate felt sorry for us.  Sitting in an airport for 6 hours is a real drag.  I doze off and on and finally the moment we have been waiting for the plane lands and we are ready to board.  We get on the plane and first class is outfitted with international seats that lay flat like a bed, yes a small bonus.  Can I have the warm nuts and water?

I slept for the most part the entire time and awoke as the captain was on the intercom saying we are coming in for landing.  We land and it is after 3:00am now.  We head to the taxi stand and OMG there is a driver with my name on it, yes!  After a long ride, we got to the hotel, which will remain nameless and we go to the desk to check in.  The young man looked at us and asked if we had reservations, “yes we have guaranteed reservations”.  He looks at his computer screen, then at us and says we don’t have any rooms, What?  One of my colleagues with a lot of prestige with the hotel chain asks to see the manager.  The manager comes out looks at the reservations and says we are sorry due to the storm people didn’t leave as planned.

Sunrise in New York!

Our meeting starts at 8:00am and it’s now 4:00am with no rooms.  We ask for the presidential suite or anything else that is in inventory and the manager says calmly that we don’t have anything but let me see what I can do to get you in another hotel.  As you can imagine I thought, another hotel, where and by when, its 4:00 in the morning.  To their credit they gave us vouchers for rooms at a hotel across the street.  We walk in the cold and check in at close to 4:30am and my thoughts are, why go to bed?  I tossed and turned and got up at 6:00am to get to our 8am meeting. Although haggard and dragging we all make it through our 2 days of strategic meetings.

Meetings adjourned, we head straight to the airport to go home.  We head to the kiosk to check in.  Mark and Jack get their tickets.  I get rejected on two attempts and the machine tells me to go see one of the ticket agents.  She says, “Mr. Cuen did you change your ticket on the flight here?” and I said “no”.  “I reply no, but I was rerouted three times due to flight cancellations”.  She calmly looks at me and says you don’t have a ticket.  What, not again :( !

Posted under General

This post was written by FJ on December 4, 2010