Hire great talent and get out of the way!

On Saturday night we held our annual fund-raising gala for the foundation.  It was a success by any measure.  We more than tripled our contributions, which will allow us to be more aggressive in support of our city police officers.  Our mandate as a foundation is to support our officers to give them peace of mind in doing their jobs by providing a financial safety net for unexpected needs.  We also promote public safety, provide scholarships, and give comfort to children in distress by providing toys and pillows the officers can give them to settle them as they resolve domestic disputes. 

I’d like to share a personal story with you as to why I believe this is such an important cause to support.

Several years ago, we lived on the east coast.  I had a friend of mine tell me that if you were on the New Jersey Turnpike and you were stopped for speeding, you should put your windows down, take your sunglasses off, and put your hands on the steering wheel so the officer could see them.  They would write you up for a seat belt violation instead of speeding.  I never thought much of it, although I did it once on the PA Turnpike.  The trooper gave me a warning instead of a speeding ticket.  Still, it didn’t come to me why I was doing it.  Selfishly, I thought it was for me not to get a ticket. 

A few years ago, I was driving to Shadow Glen, outside of Austin, to play golf and I was talking to my friend sitting in the passenger seat.  I realized I was speeding when I saw the officer turn on his lights.   I just pulled over and put my windows down, took off my sunglasses, and put my hands up where the officer could see them. I had my friend do the same.  As the officer came to my vehicle, I could see him walking up with his hand on his weapon.  When he saw my windows down and hands up where he could see them, he visibly relaxed.  And it dawned on me that what I was doing was for him, the officer.  It was not for me to get out of a ticket.

What our officers do for us is not to be taken lightly because we live in Bee Cave, TX.  While this is a safe community, it is safe because of the people who put on a uniform and protect us, every day.  For those of us who follow the Bee Cave Police on Facebook, we can see just how dangerous a job they have.  Therefore, I support this foundation.

This year’s gala was different than any of the past galas.  It was truly a team effort.  I took over as president after our founding president moved out of state and resigned the post.  I really didn’t want the role, but I took it on.  The changes I made were out of necessity.  I could not do this by myself.  We have a very talented board of successful business people.  In the past that talent has been terribly underutilized.  Not this year. 

We divided into committees and had each member chair a committee.  We talked through what each person was responsible for and they signed on without hesitation.  This is a strictly volunteer board.  Everyone has a full-time job.  The results speak for themselves.  It was simply amazing to see the creativity.  The commitment to excellence.  The commitment to the police department and the officers that run toward the things that we run away from.

I share this because it is the exact same way in business, as it was with this board.  When we hire talented people, give them clear direction, and allow them to be creative, the results can be spectacular.  This isn’t news to most leaders, but perhaps this will trigger you to do a short evaluation of yourself.  Am I actively living this in my business today?

Yesterday I reflected on this with my team at NineRuns.  Do I fully utilize their talents?  Do I listen to their input?  I can do better, I’m sure.  I’m dedicating myself to listening to their thoughts and ideas.  We will have a better company for doing it. 

Our board is doing holding a recap meeting next week.  We still have work to do to wrap up the gala, but we also need to recognize where we can improve.  I’ve already received emails with ideas.  We will celebrate our success.  We will continue to improve, and we will continue to learn.

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Understanding Motivation

We were up early this morning because my wife woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.  She was worried about a decision we had made on the house we are building.  The grout in the tile is too wide and the color is wrong.  The color is an issue, but we assumed the size of the grout would be narrow, based on the type of tile we purchased.  It’s a first world problem.  But my wife was beating herself up because it was not as she anticipated. 

She is a detailed person who takes pride in things being perfect.  I told her that what will make this house perfect, is the memories we make in the house.  The coffee or wine on the patio, or the grandkids playing in the backyard, will make it perfect. 

My wife and I make decisions very differently.  She thinks her way through decisions.  She will look at many options and choose the best one.  I, on the other hand, make snap decisions based on emotions and my past experiences.  We balance each other out.  It was not always recognized, that we make those decisions differently, and that caused stress.

In selling, sometimes we focus on what we want to sell and what it means to us.  But if we aren’t thinking of the buyer and their needs and their process, it can cause stress as well.

At Black & Decker we had a role called Accessory Coordinator.  It was a field role, supporting a sales region, selling accessories (expendables) through distribution.  It was a liaison between marketing and field sales.  I held the role for short time.  Marketing ran a promotion for the field sales team that rewarded them for reaching a specific goal for selling accessories.

I was fortunate to work for Dave Baily.  He was a wise and loved sales leader who knew his team and what motivated them.  He suggested that we turn up the heat on the sales team by writing a letter to their spouses or significant others, not the sellers.  We wrote the letter and sent the spouses a Service Merchandise catalog and shared that if their goal was hit, they could choose $1000 worth of merchandise from the catalog. 

In another region, the Coordinator sent a letter and catalog as well, but he shared that his wife wanted the dining room set and if the team hit the goal, he could get that for his wife.

Our region blew away the goal on accessories and all but one seller reached their goals.  The other region was not as successful.  He didn’t get the dining room set.

When we are focused solely on our benefits, we put ourselves in a position that jeopardizes our chances to win.  We must align our goals with our customer’s goals.  We must understand our customers’ needs and motivations. 

It’s beneficial to understand their motivations.  Your customers may not be motivated by your success.  They are motivated by their success.  As Dave Baily recognized, “When it’s a cold morning, you want the spouse to put their feet in the middle of their back and tell them go get some sales!”  He was a genius.  He understood that bond between sales success and family success.  He understood the emotion of a team effort with the spouse.

My wife and I will work through the challenges on our flooring.  She is planful and tough as nails when it comes to negotiations. I would not want to be the supervisor of our build right now, or the people that laid the tile.  We will take responsibility for this situation, and the choices we made.  We will work to find the supervisors motivation to fix it for all of us.  My wife and I balance each other out that way…

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The annual ritual of changes

There are so many opportunities to overhear conversations when you travel.  I don’t mean to listen in, but certain key words jump out to me, and I catch myself listening to someone’s conversation.  It may be on a cell phone (you don’t need to shout like Grandma used to on her landline). It may be with another person standing next to you.  When you fly, you spend a lot of time standing in line to clear security, or you hear conversations on the rental car bus, or just people talking at the gate.  Many of the people traveling are business people. 

This week I heard several beginnings of the year conversations.  “My goals are ridiculous; we had to go to a training session that was worthless; we had to restructure again!”  Most of the conversations were between sales people.  It is our nature to resist change, especially if we are the victim and not the instigator.  Why is that?  Why is the boss/management/owner an idiot?  Why do we believe we have a better view than they do?  What is our responsibility in this annual ritual of resistance?

I played this ritual too when I first started selling.  Then I spent 4 years at Black & Decker US headquarters in product development and marketing.  I learned the pressures of a P&L and the bridges that we need between the customer and internal support groups in our company.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. 

As sellers, we are the voice of our company to our customers.  We also are the voice of our customers to our company.  So, what is our role in the decisions that are made by management?  Our role is to communicate clearly the situation we face and that of our customer.  This must be an ongoing conversation that is laid out in the format that is most effective for our leadership to hear.  Selling is as much internal as it is external.  We might view that as political, and it may be, but it’s reality, and we need to have a voice.  If we don’t it’s on us.  Prepare for your internal meetings as you would your external meetings.  Share in a meaningful way, using data.  Don’t piecemeal your ideas randomly and expect internal customers to figure out the details.  Anecdotal information is dismissed.  Data is seen as factual and is taken seriously.

As leaders, we are responsible to make decisions balancing both the external and the internal.  We may want to take a price increase to finish the year strongly, or we may need it to hit our profit goals.  The effect of that price increase may kill the next 6 months, both in loaded in inventory and a lack of additional orders when they need to reorder.  We need to communicate the “why” we are doing what we are doing in a clear, concise manner.  It needs to be a compelling reason.  A reason that the team can get behind and communicate to their customers.  If we don’t, we run the risk of the team creating their own story and it might not be the right story.  Over communicate!  While we have been working on this for months, our teams may know nothing about it.  It’s new to them.  It takes communicating something 5-7 times for most to understand.  One meeting or one email doesn’t set up any changes.

I believe there is lost productivity each year as the changes are made and they are not properly communicated or understood.  Communication is critical.  It’s up to each of us to play our part in communicating with each other.  Listening deeply and communicating in the “language” that our business partners “hear” things in. 

I’m not above this.  I’m putting together a telephone conversation with my team early next week.  I’m still learning….

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The complexity of the universe

Yesterday I flew to Ontario California to work with a client.  As I was driving to dinner, I had a fender bender with another car.  I was used to my alarms and safety devices on my personal vehicle, and the rental car I was driving did not have them.  That is no excuse for the accident.  I didn’t look when I should have.  Nobody was hurt, but it disrupted a very nice family’s evening.  I felt horrible. 

Later in the evening, I was thinking about the complexity of the accident.  On the surface, I did something unskillful. I pulled into another lane without taking the proper time and caution.  But that was just a moment in time.  If I had been one second slower, I would have missed the car completely.  But it’s deeper than that as well. 

I flew from Austin Texas to Ontario California.  My flight was delayed in arriving.  I rented a car, when originally, I was going to take a shuttle.  I sat in my hotel room and worked, and wrote, and delayed my drive for dinner.  I could have gone to many different choices of restaurants.  I could have had my food delivered.  I could have used my GPS on my phone so that I knew where I was going.  But I did not.  One second difference, and a multitude of opportunity to change the outcome.

If that makes you feel depressed or helpless against the universe, it is not my intent.  I just wanted to point out that things happen by accident, some are influenced by things that are not under our control.  There are things that we do have control over, and I made choices that put me in that situation.  On the positive side, nobody was injured, and the damage was minor.  It has made me more aware.  I do two checks over my shoulder now when I change lanes. 

In business we a have similar circumstances that we can’t control.  Our best-selling product may have quality issues or may be on backorder.  Our customer may have an organizational change that delays our project.  We may price something wrong or ship the wrong item.  All those things may be out of our control.  Not following up on a lead or not following up on a sample are things we can control.  How often do we take an unskillful action that hurts our business?

I worked for a company that sent hundreds of sample motors to facilities that used a specialty motor in their daily work.  Ours was a better motor.  It lasted longer.  My team delivered the samples, with the intention of selling them additional motors.  It didn’t happen.  We never set an expectation of what success looked like.  We never did the grunt work to change the part numbers in their enterprise system for reordering.  We never changed the hearts of the people who changed the motors.  We could have controlled the situation and made the changes and won business.  We learned from the experience.

Over time my team put on blue jeans and crawled into places most people would not want to be in and created replacement labels for the motors on the machines.  They helped change the reorder software so that the buyers reordered ours as replacements.  They worked with the maintenance teams to educate them on our motors and shared the longer run times.  We controlled what we could control. 

We were not able to convert all the samples into sales, but we converted enough that we had a strong return on investment.  We then applied the education to other products as well.  It was a breakthrough that was driven by one salesperson who was willing to do the work.

The universe is complex, but we can find our place in it and take skillful actions.  I think I’m ordering in tonight… I’m still learning.

  

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Preparation Is A Choice

I woke up this morning with lots of time until I flew out.  I was pretty relaxed.  I felt like I’d done all the things necessary to be ready to go and I had my time set to drive to the airport.  I’d leave at 11:15 for my 12:55 flight.  The only problem was my flight was at 12:25.

The good news was I made my flight.  The challenge was that when I got to the airport and checked in, I got held up in the security line for 10 minutes more than usual, and the gate was further away than usual.  As I was walking to the gate, I looked at the board, only to see my flight was at an earlier time, and it should have been boarding.  I was on Southwest and I had a plumb place in the A group.  I didn’t panic.  I just thought I had wasted my great boarding spot by not paying attention to the details, like when my flight took off. 

Fortunately, the plane at the gate had just arrived.  The previous flight was delayed off our gate.  I made the spot in line and made the flight.  But not without a little nervousness.  A little unnecessary worry based on a lack of preparation.

In our businesses we sometimes take for granted the benefit of preparation.  I’ve had several hundreds, if not thousands of sales calls in my career.  I’ve “winged” some of them.  I’ve over prepared for others.  I’m a lot less nervous when I have over prepared, rather than under prepped. 

Preparation is a process and a choice.  It’s a choice because you either do it or you don’t.  Lack of preparation lengthens any business deal, whether you are selling or holding an internal meeting.  Preparation is a process and can be followed very simply. 

  1. Who are we meeting with?
  2. What do we want to accomplish?
  3. What are their needs and why did they take this meeting?
  4. What do we need to know to accomplish what we want at this meeting?
  5. Prepare questions you want to ask, to learn more.
    1. Think of the order you want to ask them in
    2. Determine how you want to phrase the questions to gain the most insight
  6. Plan to listen when the participants answer your questions so that you can truly understand their answers
  7. Gain appropriate commitment, based on who you are working with, and where they are in the process

How does your process differ from the one described?  Do you choose to prepare before you join a meeting?  Do you challenge yourself to be aware of what you are doing instead of just reacting? 

My near miss on making my flight was a wakeup call for me to do a better job of paying attention.  I fly most weeks.  It has become a habit.  I was just going through the motions and acting without intention.  It was a fairly harmless example, relative to working with clients this week.  I’ve reviewed my work week and spent time in preparation over the past week.  Now I know to review my work tonight and be prepared.  It’s a choice.  I’m still learning.

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There is always an element of fear that surrounds a new venture

There is always an element of fear that surrounds a new venture.  Fear is a very strong emotion.  The opposite of fear isn’t courage.  The opposite of fear is love.  I know that may be difficult to grasp, but I believe it is logical.  With love, there is no fear.

That being said, I have fears just like everyone else.  Am I good enough?  Will I look like an idiot?  But loving what I do and where I’m going overrides the fear.  It drives me to take risks.  It drives me to have the courage to put my fear aside and create.

I have little formal training in writing.  I have absolutely no contacts in the publishing industry.  I have been advised that I’m not famous enough to write a book; it should be a blog.  I’m not certain how to create a business plan for marketing my book that it is so compelling that anyone will want to publish it.  Yet I keep plunging forward.

Putting all the fear aside, I continue to write.  I will continue to share my message. I will work to find a way to get the attention of a publisher who will feel compelled to share my story, as much as I am.  I’m optimistic that my story can help and inspire others.  I’m just a farm boy from Kansas, that has had some great learning experiences, from some fantastic mentors.  What is there to be afraid of?

I wrote my first book in 2008.  I self-published it and launched in the fall of 2008.  For those of us that remember the economic environment of that timeframe, it was hardly a good idea to publish a book on recruiting, interviewing and hiring.  While it wasn’t a total waste, it didn’t sell well.  I now offer it for free as an eBook.

In the fall of 2016 I started what if thought would be a book on relationships in business. I worked on it through the spring of 2017, then I put it on hold.  I was changing our offering and wanted to wait for the beta test to complete before I finished it.  There have been other changes since the beta test and I will finish it.  I believe I’m 75% complete.  Then I will test the market for it.  Without fear.

My background is sales and marketing.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have had my company for 12 years.  It is designed to help companies and individuals improve their performance.  I’ve learned as much from my clients as I have helped them.  I’m driven to help people.  I mentor several friends as they look for the perfect fit in their careers.  I’ve helped friends make the transition from corporate jobs to self-employment.  I’ve counseled people when they have been fired.  This is not a part of my business, but something I feel compelled to do.

My gift is the ability to take complex situations and break them down into a manageable soutions, in a language that everyone can understand.  I’ve been blessed with the ability to rally a team to performance.  Not by inspiring them to follow me, but helping them find the strengths within themselves.  I’ve worked in large corporations and small companies as a direct employee and as a business consultant.  It doesn’t matter what the situation is, people want to be treated with respect.  They want to have someone they trust.  Someone who has their best interest in mind and heart.

My target market for this book is business people who have a heart and head mindset.  It’s for those who care about the people in business.  It’s my strong belief that the money will come to those who care about people and treat them well. 

I love what I do.  Love overcomes fear.  Join me in taking some risks of your own, won’t you?

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Are You Sustainable?

Three years ago, I sat down to write a book.  I wrote a chapter a day and it was so very therapeutic.  I never expected it to be published.  It was just how I felt about things.  It was experiences that I could share, and hopefully others could benefit from them. I never felt that I was superior and that I could preach from a pulpit or share from a soapbox.  The feedback has been amazing.  But I feel like I’ve exhausted my insights.  My book turned into blogs.  Then I started a true book.  One that included the experiences of others tied into my family and my personal insights.  All tied back to my view on relationships and how they impact day to day life.

Our personal lives are not separate from our business lives.  There is no such thing as balance, as in even time spent in each.  I believe you can’t have two different personalities.  You can’t have a business personality that you use at the office, then have a completely different one that you show when you get home.  That creates stress and long-term stress creates physical, mental and emotional issues.

Last week I realized that sometimes you must stop the stress.  I have a drive and energy level that is action, action, action!  I work out several times a week.  Not just going through the motions, but a high level of intensity workout.  Every time someone tells me I’m too old to do the work I do, I work harder to prove them wrong.  I work our business from my home office.  The commute is great, but office hours can be unbelievable.  I could work 24/7.  The office never closes.  I wake up at 3:00 am and write down ideas.  I don’t say this to show how dedicated I am.  I share this because it’s not sustainable.  Last week I became very ill.  My body said “Enough”!  I went for two days without moving from my bedroom. 

I was fortunate enough to recover quickly.  I was on several supplements and lots of natural healing remedies.  Two days after I fell ill, I was back healthy.  However, I had to cancel my travel for the week and I didn’t hit the workout schedule for a 10 days.  I made two adjustments to improve myself.  I added two extra days to a trip I was going to make in three days.  Three 18-hour days, turned into a more reasonable five, 8-10-hour days.  I also cut back on my workouts.  I do the same number of workouts, but I cut the weight I lift, and I do more downtime between. 

Today I drove three hours after my first workouts in 10 days.  I lifted yesterday, then did a spin class today.  After I got out of my car, I could barely walk. 

Why am I so thick headed?  Why am I so driven that I find myself in pain?

When you work with your customers, how driven are you?  Do you push them to the point that they feel pain?  Do you push them to the point that you feel pain?  Do you push them to the point that they don’t accept your calls or set meetings with you?  How do we overcome that?

We have worked with clients that are so eager for change that they push so hard that their teams feel so much stress that they just quit performing.  They were new into the company and had promised growth well beyond any normal growth in year one.  The culture they pushed was unstainable.  In the process they drove good people out of the company.  It’s a fine line.  You want breakthrough growth but recognizing the ability to earn it and the ability to sustain it is difficult.  The true measure of greatness is sustainability. 

As a leader, have you recognized how your drive to succeed has been received by your teams?  Have you recognized whether what you are doing is a one-year plan, or something that is sustainable?  We like to think that the failures of our past have been based on circumstances out of our control, but are they?

My situation last week was another wakeup call for me to take on a much more sustainable workout, and work routine.  Something that allows for me to reach my goals, but not at the expense of others, including my family.  My mother in law was visiting and I ended up in quarantine because my life style had opened me up to catching the flu.  I can’t expose my 80-year-old mother in law, or my pregnant daughter.  I’m still learning….

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Measuring Trust

I was enjoying a morning cup of coffee when something spurred me to pull out a document from a conference I had attended a few of years ago.  It’s a “Genius Cascade”.  They named it, not me.  But we all have a genius, right?  We all have something or some moments of pure genius.  

What made this interesting to me, is that I had not looked at it in over a year.  The words in the document still hold true today, and it’s influencing my actions and our business.  

The cascade is created by the outstanding team at Gap International.  They have consultants who ask questions and capture your exact words as you give the answers.  What they capture, they analyze through a set process, and build your cascade.  What is tells you is where your head and heart align.  Mine starts with “I have a gift and a purpose.”  It then cascades into “Help people heal themselves, talk to people and have the light come on”.  Then on to “Help people wake up to their purpose”.  There are 30 plus other quotes that fall in line under those headers.

I’m impressed with the process.  They captured my drivers, based on what I said.  Three years later, I’m acting on my cascade and it still drives me.

I participated in the conference and it changed the focus of our business.  I had been through the Executive Challenge Course and had been to a previous Genius conference, but this one was the game changer for me.  There was a guest speaker, Rich Karlgaard, who authored the book “The Soft Edge”.  The book was a great book as it discussed the need to understand the “people” side, the soft side of the business.  He shared that it’s “soft” because there are no hard numbers to measure it.  He commented that “The CEO never takes the head of HR to a board meeting.”

That quote landed with me.  Throughout my entire career I’ve always felt that people were the most important part of the business.  They are the lifeblood of a business.  Without people, you have no business.  That moment, coupled with my Genius Cascade, has influenced my work.  The quote drove a conscious effort.  The cascade was subconscious.

In a recent article on LinkedIn, Daniel Burrus is quoted, “The number one certainty in this world is that the future is all about relationships.” “All the technology in the world is secondary to interaction between people-constructive, trust-based interaction that comes from people actively working to improve their people skills, promote true collaboration and actively shape a positive future.”

Our company is actively driven to shape a positive future.  Our drive is to create positive relationships and measure their effectiveness.  We will take “soft”, people skills and measure the quality of those skills. There have been some hiccups along the way, but we are steadily working toward that solution.  We have some terrific business partners who are working with us.  They see the correlation between strong relationships and profitable business.  

What are you doing in your business to ensure that you have positive relationships?  Are you working to build trust?  I believe trust is the bedrock of any relationship.  Without trust, there is no relationship.  You are a vendor with a lower-case “v”.  You are measured on price, not value.  You simply cannot create a long-term relationship without trust.  A relationship that is mutually beneficial for both parties must have trust.

The Genius Cascade was a nice reminder that I’m working toward something specific.  We have a purpose for our business.  We want to change the way people work together.  We’re starting with sales teams.  We want them to intentionally work to build strong relationships with their peers, their supervisor and their customers.  We want the sales leaders to build strong, trustful relationships with their peers, their supervisor and their direct reports.  They will grow long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

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