Just arrived in Seoul – took a quick shower – feel great. The blog post before I worked on the airplane.

Its a been a big tiring trip.   Jet lag, drinks, work, etc.    I feel like I have been through the grinder.   One other thing that I think really plays in my travel is the fact that I’m allergic to gluten.   As I travel, choice of food can be difficult, and although I’m very careful about NOT eating wheat, I think inherently when I travel I end up getting some into my system.    I think not a lot, but just a little bit – so that I’m always a bit ‘tired’ on the road.

I didn’t quite realize that before, because usually in Beijing I’m not always ‘tired’ – but it seems my common motif through this trip is being tired.  So, I think the combo of jet lag, entertaining, tiny gluten ingestion all makes these trips for me not so fun.    I will have to think through this a bit more to figure out how I can make it better for next time.

Anyways – up at 6AM – went for a walk on SF bay – nice.   Flight left at 11AM.   Again, if the lounges are any indication – the 1st class lounge for United – was depressing.   Actually, embarrassing would be a better word.   I’m not going to get into it now – but – to be honest – a little scary – oh how far down the US has come down.   Truly scary.  I will be factoring it into my forecasts.

The flight is 12.5 hours  – I watched a movie and then slept for 5 or 6 hours.   I spent a good hour or so – crystallizing my thoughts for my blog from yesterday.   Love the blog.  

I have made the decision to NOT take Genie on current terms and “Walk Away” if I can get terms that will minimize my risk – I wanted to come out of this trip with clarity – and in that way that goal is accomplished – I have clarity – its what I needed the most.  so, I’m going to move forward with an assumption that Genie is a no-go – but will keep the door open – and look for another way to do this project – a way that does not expose me to risk so much.

So, with that decision made, I was very happy to jump into project schedule and plan out 2010, 2011.  

So, going to plan out 2010, 2011 – first stab.  I will get the team to help me enhance it – but I will bring to them a rough outline of where I see things will be going.

Interestingly, spending time in Germany was not a complete waste of resources.  I have learned some very interesting things – first, that there is cheap money out there to be had via banks – and I can look for it.  2nd – the study of consumer in T.. and M… shops was amazing.   3rd – I have met 2 very cool guys – M… and T…   4th.  I saw that speed is NOT important to everyone.  

I have 3 or 4 ideas from the store visits -  that I will carry into the RedStores system.     Going to get our site fresh – VERY fresh.   

Wow, having made the decision to walk away has been amazing.   Living in ambiguity is not definitely something I like, and it feels like I got a big gorilla of my shoulders.   I know where I’m going again.  I control it – and since I control it – I can get there.

For last months I have been neglecting business in pursuit of Genie – it cost me good $250K in opportunity cost – and I simply cannot afford that – so looking forward to put my eyes on the existing business again.  I saw this from meeting with J….,  a reminder, that a 100% focus gets extraordinary results.  If Genie can be made a go, great – if not – ok, np.   But if Genie is to move, I will now have to minimize my risk.

I drafted this is my email to M… and T….   In the end, decided not to send it and just wait things out and let Germany drive from their side – I have decided to be no longer a driver on this project – too much effort and risk.   Germany will have to drive it if they want to go forward.  I’m am going to assume that the project is a no-go, and focus on my existing business. If Germany is able to drive it forward, great – if not, so be it.  

Hi M…. and T….:

I haven’t heard from you in last few days and I don’t have T…. phone number to call in person.    So, I do apologize for deliver this news to you via email but I want to share this with you as soon as possible.

I came to Germany with the need to have a clear answer  – a go or no go.  I had though we have had that.   With the last email, it had become clear to me, that we are still a long, long time away from getting a go or no go decision.    It was not so much the issues in the email, the Bank Guarantee and JV – as my previous emails, I’m sure we could work this out – not really big issues – that can be solved through a variety of ways.

However, for me, this email was indicator that Genie, no matter how much I push, is going to be a slow moving project.   Unfortunately, at this point with RedStores I’m not able to handle a slow moving project – as a slow project of this size could actually kill my company.  

So, after some deep thoughts and considerations,  I have decided that I need to walk away from Genie.   Please note that it wasn’t an easy decision for me, because I really WANTED to do this project, but the reality of the situation is that Genie’s slow speed has become too big a risk for me.

M…., T… – it was a pleasure to work with you gentleman,  you have tough me a lot and I appreciate our openness, cooperation and effort so far.   It has been a pleasure.

If you do continue on the ecommerce path, I would have a suggestion for you that may be a better fit for your business style.   This is the traditional spec, bid, build model:

1. Hire a consultant that will create a detailed specification for you, Terms and Conditions, performance criteria, etc. –  should take about 6 months to 1 year.

2. Have the consultant bid out the work to at least 5 or 6 large ecommerce providers and receive bids from them – should take 6 months to get results.

3. Award the project to  one of the big providers  to build it.

4. Take on operations in house.

I’m always a Skype or call away – so if there is anything I can help with or you would like to discuss this in person– please don’t hesitate to reach out.   This is my passion, and I would be happy to help you on your ecommerce journey in any way I can.




And for the record is here is the email I just sent a few days ago to my staff saying ‘Genie is a Go’.  I think after you read the email below, you will realize how hard it was to ‘Walk Away’.   Not only a business decision but also a what they call ‘face’ issue in front of my staff.  BUT, my ‘face’ is less important than making sure to face the facts as they come.  And if I made a mistake, the sooner I face it – the less damage.   Not easy – but it is what it is! 🙂

From: Paul Lepa [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 12:33 PM
To: allstaff
Subject: Project Genie is a Go!
Importance: High
Sensitivity: Confidential

Dear All:

I’m very happy to let you know that Project Genie – the project to enter the ecommerce in the shoe market space is a go.

After discussions today with the D….. group, we will be moving forward with the project starting May 15th.

What does this mean?

Basically, it means that RedStores will receive. $xxxxx USD for us to build, develop and take online the existing ‘real’ stores into ecommerce place.

(skipped due to confidentially)

It’s a fantastic deal, as it will enable us grow very fast, to push ourselves into a very big market.    It means great opportunities for each and every one of you, since as we grow, you will have great opportunities to grow, develop.

What it doesn’t mean?

The deal does not  mean that our work is done – actually our work is just starting.   We will have amazing opportunity to do great things, but it will be still up to us to make it happen.

What is next?

A big part of the project is to now define much of the detail of what we will do in the project.   As soon as I return back to Beijing, we will put together a detailed plan of all the work that will need to be done.  It means we will likely move offices to a large (much larger) space.  It means we will expand our staff by 10-20 people.   It means that we will be busy.  It means that we will opportunity to show everyone what we are all capable of.   It means that we are now on our way to the big goal of $125MM.    It means that our success rocket is now moving up – it will be truly up to us to see how fast we can get it up higher and higher.

A big thanks to all of you, for giving me the confidence to take on this project.   I truly would not have been able to take on this size of project if I did not have 110% confidence in each and every one of you.   So, although I was in the room alone, I have felt that I had each one of you behind me.   Thank you guys for being so great.

Also,  although I think it is important that I share the details of this deal with you – please treat this email is confidential – the  $ amounts should not be discussed outside of our company –although the project itself is ok to talk about.



So, next steps:

  1. 1. Move forward with focus on my business
  2. 2. Germany can driver Genie from their side at whatever speed they are comfortable with
  3. 3. Any further effort from me, will be evaluated for risk and costs – and will need to be somehow covered upfront.

My guess is that Genie without me driving it will go away – it will be sad, but I cannot force this.