Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lakshana Kumarage/ Why an unachieveable goal can be the best type of goal

Dec. 18, 2017 Lakshana Kumarage: Today I found this article by Cynthia Nixon in the Globe and Mail:

Lakshana Kumarage, 53, is the owner of HNL Greenhouse Growers and a co-owner of Four Mile Creek Farms in Ontario's Niagara region.

My nickname comes from people not pronouncing my name; a man in my first office job in Canada in 2001 gave it to me.

I worked in computer technology and management in Sri Lanka, in many companies like Coca-Cola. I thought I could build my future here, my scope [of opportunities] is good. Sri Lanka is a Third World country; there's no scope.

When people come here they think they can get the same job, but you have to begin again – start from scratch. We came here in 2000, didn't know anyone. My wife and I stayed in a hotel for two months; all my money went to the hotel. No one would give us an apartment because they wanted references.

When I looked for jobs, people said my back-home experience wasn't worth anything; they wanted Canadian experience. I got a job distributing newspapers, had to wait in a van as it was so cold.

The newspapers were dumped off. I had to sort them, alone, didn't know where to deliver them. I said, "I will never survive here." My wife worked at Wendy's, 6 a.m. to late. In Sri Lanka, she was in banking for 10 years, nearly an executive. It took me almost a year to get a job. A contact suggested a place; I offered to work free for a month, and if they liked my services they could hire me. With my computer and software experience, I made a good system, so they hired me.

A friend asked us to come on a road trip north near Midland. I didn't know where "north" was. We went to a nice place and had barbeque. They said they were going to church, it was close and they wouldn't be long, [but] we went along.

We had a little exposure because my wife has Christians in her background. I was Buddhist, a teacher, raised in a temple. My family, history – all Buddhist. I didn't know what to do so I looked around, saw a nice picture of a man wearing a robe carrying children.

We had [been trying] to have a child for 10 years. I made a vow [then that] if we got a baby, I would give back to Him. I didn't tell anyone, not even my wife. Weeks later, she was pregnant. I told her what I vowed in the church – she said she did the same.

From then, I said "nothing can go wrong." that was key to my success in life and business. I became a Christian. Our pastor asked us to help an orphanage in Tissamaharama in southern Sri Lanka. We [spent time there] every year.

It didn't have electricity, just kerosene. With an agronomist, I built a simple biogas generator, piped to the kitchen for cooking, powered the dormitories. I was not scared – I know Buddhists, I know Christians – but in 2013, Buddhist militants had the orphanage shut. It has [since] re-opened, and we are going back [soon].

My wife could not keep getting time off work to go. We lived in Mississauga; she suggested we move to the countryside, start a business. I looked at greenhouses in 2009.

My first question was, "What's a greenhouse?" I stepped into one [in Wainfleet] with English cucumbers, 5,000 plants; it was so big! They were farmers since childhood, generations; I knew nothing. But the greenhouse was on Zion Road, the promised land, so we bought it. We did everything – picking, planting, transporting – working 7 a.m. to dark.

I saw a new site with a big biodigester that had a court-appointed receiver [in Virgil]. I called banks [seeking a loan]; they said I was small fish, no way. In February 2016, this small fish told the judge about my small digester back home; [I] tried to make an offer.

After one year of difficult times, the judge said to give it to me. The penalties I agreed to would be for generations. I remortgaged everything. My cross was heavy. I was short $95,000 the day before [the closing date].

That night, I told my wife and child, "I don't think I will survive tomorrow, you will have to leave the house. I'll be in jail." The next morning, a guy knocked at my door [to buy in] and wrote a cheque. I ran to the bank. Now I needed seeds, plants, $250,000 for irrigation. Hydro and natural gas were to be cut off the day we harvested our first box.

We're on our fourth crop – 67,000 to 70,000 mini-cucumber plants on seven acres – each crop 40,000 boxes, going across Canada and into the U.S., $700,000 for each crop. Our biodigester will feed into Niagara-on-the-Lake's grid, enough to power approximately 500 houses.

I also have six acres of peaches and pears and two houses, one an eight-bedroom with swimming pool [which is rented out]. I am not interested in that; I stay in the small house.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

2 hours ago

This guy is a super hero! Congrats for all your success. So much deserved. I love this story.

Dec. 27, 2017 "Why an unachievable goal can be the best type of goal": Today I found this article by Roy Osing in the Globe and Mail:

Former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.

I had a very bold, audacious goal early in my career – to be the vice-president of marketing before I was 40 years old.

You may not think this was bold, for today there are many CEOs and executives who are much younger, but a few years ago, working for a monopoly telephone company with executive ranks replete with mainly engineering professionals, it was very ambitious.

Marketing was, at that time, thought to be a fluffy discipline compared to the hard, engineering sciences. In fact, many believed that marketing wasn't necessary in a monopoly market.

After all, the company decided what services to provide its subscribers, and the prices to be charged were approved by the regulator. That was it – not much of a role for traditional marketing to play.

Technology was the driving force.

Therefore, the marketing vice-president position was not viewed as one of great strategic value to the organization and was typically filled by one of the engineers.

So my audacious goal was not only a stretch, it was "impossible," given the circumstances of the day.

But that's what I wanted, so I declared it (to myself) without any idea of how to achieve it. I had no plan. I just "put it out in the universe" and went about my duties as group product manager.

I knew, however, that to be successful in achieving my objective, I would have to consciously deviate from what I had been doing in the past.

I had to step up my game if I were to successfully break through the engineering glass ceiling, be noticed and win the prize.

That was my plan. Step up. Step out. Raise my game. Be a force to be reckoned with.

Make my move to vice-president so compelling to the executive leadership team that when the opportunity arose, there would be no logical conclusion other than that I would be the ideal candidate.

The audaciousness of my goal drove the strategy that was necessary. A huge challenge demanded a revolutionary approach. An incremental, more modest approach would not yield the outcome I coveted.

I looked for opportunities to be different. To do things differently than others. I did more of what was required. I did the unexpected. I went in the opposite direction to the thinking and trends of the time.

I voraciously learned what had to be done to help make the move from monopoly telephone company to highly competitive enterprise.

I talked up the moves we had to make in marketing new services that would enable us to stand out from other competitive suppliers, and the moves we had to make in customer service, where we had to lose the tag of a company that treats customers with a monopolist's attitude derived from being the only game in town.

I stuck to my game plan.

The regulatory rules changed and competition arrived.

Marketing and customer service became key components of our competitive strategy.

A new marketing vice-president was required.

I competed against many external candidates.

I won.

I was 39.

My message to young professionals is to declare what you want.

Let the "ridiculousness" of your goal be your guide to achieving it.

Keep it in your consciousness. Do big things.

Do different things.

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