……And all through the room, not a salesperson was heard except the sales manager saying something about Glengarry on Zoom.
The mail slots were hung by HR with care with the hope that bonus checks soon would be there.
The sales team headed out with the bosses credit card, as they hoped this new economy would not be hit hard. The HR manager was out on the covid protocol, as I wondered to myself how a men’s rooms could only have one stall?
When out in the lot there sprang such a clatter, I quickly hurried to empty my bladder. Then away to the lot the team bolted like the flash, for fear of someone breaking into their EV’s and stealing their not yet legal stash.
The moon shone bright on the new blown snow and showed new tracks that around the corner did go. When what to their wondering eyes should appear, but a delivery driver with many boxes that identified as they/them and as a deer.
With this cleverly dressed driver, so creative and quick, they knew from his nametag that his name was actually Richard. More rapid than social media their criticism came, when he snapped his fingers and started calling them by name.
Now Jimmy, now Phil, now Larry and Sarah, for Lisa, for Tina, for Robert and Klara, to the front of the tavern over near the side wall, I have something in recycled envelopes for you all.
As dry leaves fly in the chilled November air, the sales team headed back to reclaim a chair. So up to the bar their empty glasses flew in order to grab some more of that sweet left over cheap Oktoberfest brew.
And then with a twinkling, the bartender said, we’re finally out of that crap as he topped off the head. As I reached out my hand and was turning around, out came new pitchers that the bartender had found.
They were filled to the brim with a local IPA and slid over to us by the bartender named Ray. With his lumberjack beard and way too tight flannel, we asked him to put the Bucks game on a different channel.
With the remote not being found, we were stuck with CNN as talks of a new jab were just coming in. They went on to say that supply chain was saved by our commander in chief but when they interviewed people shopping in New York, nobody could find any beef. Weird.
We turned off the tube and went back to the table for Richard to pass out the envelopes when he felt he was safe and able, and although he identified as they/them and a deer, he sure could pass out envelopes without fear.
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work and handed out those envelopes without being a jerk. He made us all wait to open them together and I have to admit we all wondered why is he in all leather?
On the count of three, we all read the note, it was from the CEO, a GOAT, who left early that day to take out his boat. Coffee’s for closers, steak knives for you all, I’ll see you on Monday in my new Caddy and show you how to make a call.
Merry Christmas All!
First of all, being a pirate is super cool and I would argue that piracy and the pirate mindset is alive and well. Yes, we all agree that the robbing, the kidnapping, the murdering, and the causing of general mayhem are unacceptable in most civilized societies by most people, but the positive characteristics that created success in the golden ages of the 18th century are still necessary for great leaders to run their ships today.
So if you don’t find having epic combat skills, being ruthless, being able to hold your rum, and the being to navigate the open sea by the stars as being relevant to today’s efforts, maybe the following will be.
Pirates are disruptors, innovators, and opportunists.
Doing the same thing the same way with the same people for too long has a diminishing return.
Pirates are quick to adapt to changing government and economic policies
If you are still in business after ’20 and ’21, then you understand.
Pirates have a code and set of values that align on their mission
Nothing aligns efforts like shared success that leads to the betterment of all involved.
Pirates are the originators of workplace democracy and transparency
Did you know that the cover on the ship’s binnacle was not just for weather protection? It was so only the captain knew what direction the ship was heading and now successful businesses value input on direction and make metrics visible for showing progress.
Pirate captains have to earn the trust of the crew
Pirate culture is more diverse, progressive, and equitable than most societies
If you are productive and adding value to a company, then it does not matter who you are as an individual.
Pirates thrive outside of the traditional hierarchical management processes
Nobody should be able to use the term “that’s not my job” when you are able to take action and drive a next step in achieving goals.
Pirates believe skill and commitment are more important than background
Results will always speak for themselves.
Pirates are visionary, think outside the box, and defy conventional wisdom
There are opportunities and profits to be found by turning into storms and sailing some oceans that others won’t and if you run out of fish, then you might have to hunt for other types of food using different tools and tactics.
Pirates are the originators of profit sharing
Nothing aligns a mission more than the sharing the spoils.
Pirate ships are well funded and outfit their crews to get the job done
You don’t ask a surgeon to bring his own scalpel from home. Just saying.
Pirates believe in work life balance
It’s not there there is not opportunity to work 24/7/365 and yes, there is always more to do but, there is a point where the work needs to be done for the day and the world needs to be enjoyed.
Napster, Uber, Tesla, Amazon, Virgin, Apple, and are credited with being original pirate organizations and there is no doubt that their disruption and innovation have changed the world and led to other successful companies, but funny how some of these tech companies are laying people off by the thousands as of this posting. Maybe they lost their original pirate.
Chances are that if you were in a leadership role in ’20 and ’21, you struggled to make sense of the fluid situations we were handed, but if you stayed true to values and pushed through everything, you have evolved into a more resilient and grittier leader.
As I have reconnected with several people that I respect and consider impactful on my business success and evolution as a leader, I asked every one of them the same question; “How has your mindset, priorities, actions, and decision making changed in your business and personal life after the past two years?”
Many companies experienced anywhere from a 20 to 60 percent loss in revenue in 2020 and into 2021, and more than 14 million Americans either temporarily or permanently lost their jobs. Half of society was deemed unessential, people got paid more to stay home, we mastered washing our hands but those of us still on the roads forgot how to use turn signals. With a 99% survival rate, >90% of the fatalities being realized in older people with several co-morbidities, we had to make it about the children and deaths by gun shot wounds and motorcycle accidents counted towards the daily death tolls leaving us with more questions than answers from the health “experts” about real risks. Toilet paper was rationed and we couldn’t get our hair cut or go out for a beer, but weird how no grocery clerk or gas station attendant died of symptoms. We even threw out the global play book that was adopted by the experts in case things like this happened. In fact, now we have a study from the same people that produced the first study we threw out that says we should not have thrown out that previous study and never should have followed the second study. Douglas Adams could not have dreamed this scenario up.
The Covidiocy started in March of ’20 and still continues in some aspects today. All of the sudden we all felt like Robinson Crusoe being thrown into a strange and surprising adventure and it was trial by fire time. As things evolved, there was no pondering WWJD, no ghost written bibliographies from leaders during Spanish Flu or Black Plague to learn from, there were no wiki’s or even historical references for leaders to use, and no precedent for the command and control political decisions that were being handed down daily with false end dates. Opinion became scientific fact and objectivity disappeared. Biased subjective misinformation became gospel and fear was willingly used against individual liberties and free market economics.
Not everyone in my circles fully landed on both feet after two years of staying committed to their roles and responsibilities. There was a lot of burn out and a lot of good people retired early or took simpler roles where they can just take orders and no longer be the one that gives orders. I miss them and I am grateful for a few stronger people than myself that kept me going.
Business leaders spent the last two years getting kicked in the groin daily and weekly by government policies, conflicting health data, lack of consistency in supply chain delivery and responsiveness, chirping crickets when you needed questions answered from your customers that went remote, and trying to write a new play book weekly for business strategy as the world was changing the game. All this while you tried to keep your employees whole and involved with decisions, being empathetic to their family needs and life balance, and helping to translate all of the politics of the situation where objective truth was non-existent or buried. Not to mention that the people that tried to raise flags of concern and had objective data to prove it were cancelled and deemed witches. The Salem Witch Trials may have taken place in the 1690’s but I would argue the mentality and mechanisms are still being stirred in the kettle.
The answers varied and if I hear the word pivot one more time I will probably puke. If you thought perseverance, passion for achieving goals, staying positive and hence resiliency and grit were important before, I say that before March of ’20 we had it pretty easy. Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” was published in 2016 and contains some brilliant subject matter, but now more than ever, we need to confront even more obstacles and distractions as well as deal with the lagging results described later.
So, as I was listening to my network, gathering feedback, and trying to find my own answer to the questions I was asking of others, I started researching leadership trends now that we realize we were not in a life extinction event. We are starting to see some great articles but they are sanitized because of the fear of being cancelled or being doxed by the perpetuators of what the official line is supposed to be.
I found the information out there overwhelming, conflicting, and subjective depending on the industry the authors were in, but I also found some of the information validating to how I stayed the path and that I was not alone in how my mindset, priorities, actions and decision making have changed. I know I was burnt out by Q3 of ’21 but I took a few days to organize things at home, clean out the garage, replaced some rotting boards, took a lot of long walks with my dog, and made sure my family had their paths set for a strong end to the year. When I got back to work, I found that some of the team had accelerated some of the goals we set and realized the others that were being subsidized and dragging down efforts had to go. I don’t miss them and since we made those changes, the team has never been more aligned on mission.
Through this journey, I found the acronym V.U.C.A. which stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous”.
Let’s dive deeper.
Volatile: “characterized by or subject to rapid or unexpected change, transitory”
Uncertain: “not known beyond doubts, not reliable, variable, indefinite, indeterminate”
Complex: “hard to separate, analyze or solve”
Ambiguous: “capable of being understood in two or more possible senses, obscure, indistinct”
V.U.C.A. is actually the love child of and seems to be more acceptable in the business publication world than it’s predecessors F.U.B.A.R. and S.N.A.F.U. and may be followed by B.O.H.I.C.A. in the next pandemic.
V.U.C.A. acts like a catch-all for the changing and evolving business and social environments that we had. Some of the outcomes of navigating V.U.C.A issues were great! Like the speed that restaurants adopted different technology just to serve a hot dog with to-go margaritas curb side, people that did not believe in Amazon now ordering everyday items you would pick up on the way home now delivered to your door without human contact. (this also finally meant not having to wait for that challenged individual in front of you to find their check book). Virtual meeting tools were adopted so we could stay in our pajamas waist down and save on gas. Traffic patterns for those of us that were deemed essential actually became tolerable and even though we seemed to master washing our hands, I think it would be useful to find a mass hysteria that leads to using turn signals next. I actually think some people thought masks saved them from being idiots on the road like my neighbor that masked up speeding through the neighborhood and ran through the stop signs while driving on the wrong side of the road while wearing his mask in his car all alone with the windows up. Although this same idiot did do some of these things before but now combined the activities like an full orchestra and not just the first chair of each activity.
V.U.C.A also acts like a catch-all for the respective problems and ongoing repercussions to operations, business models, supply chains, inflated costs, and disruption to home life that we are still navigating through. Solutions that should have been simple had to be over thought for unnecessary contingencies and every plan you developed for the next day and week was blown up because someone you were connected to had a tickle in their throat and posted in on social media.
I found that navigating through issues caused by V.U.C.A. helps us realize that the tools and attributes we already had in place could be applied to the new normal. You realize that the V.U.C.A situations already existed and you have already been fighting them. V.U.C.A. has technically always been here, it is just wearing new clothes and could be blamed on a new enemy. Tools and attributes such as agility, responsiveness, collaboration, adaptation, continual learning and setting SMARTER goals were already in your playbook.
Let’s get back to the original question I was asking of my network and the answer about how priorities, actions, and decisions making changed in ’20 and ’21. Zig Ziglar said that sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful. I would say that navigating ’20 and ’21 has given you a good base to become even more resilient and successful and I hope this gives some guidance for the next B.O.H.I.C.A moments handed to us by the world. I believe many leaders have these qualities and I look at this list as a time to recognize what works as well as bringing forth some evolved qualities, traits, and skills that you can integrate and reprioritize.
These are not prioritized in any way.
- Be human and be honest. It is ok to admit you don’t have all the answers and it will build trust.
- Make decisions based on solid facts.
- Build a support network….nobody is an island and you do not have to be alone.
- Collaborate and use your network outside your four walls as sounding boards.
- Take care of yourself mentally and physically, take care of your family, and remember your empathy when working with others.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Complacency kills.
- Embrace agility, responsiveness, creativity, and collaborative solutions development.
- Realize that what got you here might not get you there.
- When facing new adversities, be able to see through ambiguity and uncertainty and stay focused on opportunities.
- Be confident in how you communicate about the opportunities you are focused on.
- Turn head on into problems and be able to reprioritize without losing sight of the bigger picture.
- Be realistic with SMARTER goals and discuss timelines and deadlines as well as agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you’ll review project progress.
- Have contingencies and be able to rapidly reprioritize and address problems quickly.
- Do the work that is meaningful to the mission and delegate the administrative aspects.
- You will have failures but it is more important not to quit and learn to use in game amnesia. Use mistakes and set backs as learning opportunities.
- Give credit to the right people so that their hard work is acknowledged.
- Never stop meeting new people, learning new things, and helping others whether it is making connections for them to people that make sense or filling a void they can’t fill themselves.
- Keep your door open, dissent is not disloyalty, and be open to other peoples opinions.
- Stay true and hold fast to your values and culture.
- Emotional intelligence became mission critical and you may need to fine tune your communication style to fit the situation.
Business today needs more resilient leadership than ever before but it will also need the more necessary help of human creativity and innovation for imaginative solutions to problems that have not even surfaced yet. This new resiliency was named “VUCA-bility” in one of the articles referenced and the list above was gathered from many resources as well as my own experiences and those of the people that made it through. If this BS happens again, which it will, I hope that you are can make use of some of the points above and integrate them now so you are better prepared for later.
Unfortunately, we are just now seeing the lagging issues of our Covidiocy that were actually predicted to occur, but of course we were over reacting. Even now with all of the policy rollbacks, even with Canada being open again, there is no academic acceptance that the “experts” were foolish and wrong in their approach. And what should scare you the most is not how may rights were trampled upon, it is how fast so many people willingly gave them us.
These lagging and lingering issues include:
- K12 test score results recently published show kids are dumber than ever.
- Increased drug use and suicides are logarithmic in growth.
- The “Sofa” generation was created and being short staffed is here to stay.
- Major crime rates are surging.
- Mental health has diminished in all age groups.
- Respect for other peoples opinions has disappeared.
- Consumer and producer price inflation continue to increase.
- Traveled lately? The service mindset is gone.
- Those that want to do the least in society are being rewarded the most.
- Educrats thought they could raise our children better and spent more time on pronouns than the three R’s (now the two R’s according to the Simpsons here ).
- Believing in God, Country, and Family makes you a racist or a fascist or both.
- All objectivity continues to be missing in reporting and an the ongoing practice of deny, deflect, and distract in the press instead of shining light on hypocrisy, double standards, and holding people accountable is normal.
Time to get gritty.
A key component of grit is resilience, resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward, and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way. In other words, gritty people keep moving forward and we’ll wrap this up with the ever wise John Lennon who said “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end”.
VUCA: a definition – From war to the business environment by EHL Insights
What are the main traits of resilient leaders? by EHL Insights
The future of leadership: Skills to look for in business leaders post-COVID-19 by Erin Joy on March 11, 202
urbandictionary.com/covidiocy /by Deus-ex-machina August 2, 2020
5 Characteristics Of Grit-How Many Do You Have? by Margaret M. Perlis on Forbes from October 29, 2013
Learning from Robinson Crusoe – Isolation Specialist by Kent Choi on LinkedIn from April 30, 2020
3 Pandemic Lessons Leaders Should Learn Before Moving Forward by Marcel Schwantes, INC contributing Editor and Founder
Let’s start at 10K feet.
I was born in Chicago, grew up a latch key kid in Southern California and came to Wisconsin for college where I graduated with a Philosophy Degree and a double minor is Chemistry and Biology. I got married and sired three awesome kids with an Irish Catholic Marquette grad. I worked in distribution, hospitality, and professional services (not a Gigolo) for my first three careers. I professed part time at two colleges, started a sales consulting practice, built a Sales Jedi training academy, and now own a machine shop where I lead a great team of skilled and caring individuals. I’m a Jeffersonian that likes bourbon, the 2nd Amendment, Free Market Economics, and really meaty pizza on Saturday nights. I have some great centers of influence that keep me humble (This means you Judi M!), my pronoun is “whatever”, and I am far from having figured things out.
We have three great kids and we have tried tirelessly to give them a good foundation to grow from. Our oldest is high functioning autistic and has taught me more about management than any other experiences. Think of the relationship Picard has with Data. Our second daughter is as selfless as my wife and the world has always been too small for her; Our son is turning into a fine young man and we try to keep up with his desire to be everything he can be.
One of my main rules for parenting is not to treat your kids like kids. Sure there is the car seat phase and the cotton candy line at the zoo, but we have always been honest with them about the world and involved them in the solutions developed at the kitchen table. There are no questions off limits and we all share how we added value to the world that day and what we learned from it. This philosophy has developed over time and now at a point where we can share it with those that are interested. Sure this may provide evidence for my eventual committal to an asylum, but it might help some of you as well.
Since I fell in love with philosophy and continuously ponder the meaning of life when I’m walking the dogs late at night, I have always been a fan of stoicism. A ‘Stoic’, by definition, is a person who endures pain and suffering without letting out their emotions. Simple. It is visually equal to that cow you see in the field when it’s cold outside and it’s raining hard.
Stoicism is a branch of philosophy created for those that live in the real world. Not the people across the street from me. It’s a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and wiser. By default then, we should be better people, better professionals, and even better parents correct? Key word here is ‘should’.
Stoicism and its core values of courage, temperance, justice, and the wisdom generated has been a common thread among some of history’s great leaders. It has been practiced by Kings, presidents, artists, writers and entrepreneurs. Names you would recognize include Marcus Aurelius, Frederick the Great, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Theodore Roosevelt, and General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. All were guided by principles that include focusing on what you can control, taking action, being virtuous, leading by example, showing resilience in difficult times, being grateful, and choosing how they reacted to things. Google stoicism and you’ll find plenty out there on the subject and all it entails.
Over the course of my life and as documented in “The Great Book of Peterisms”, I have found many quotes, sayings, and movie lines that are stoic in nature and I finally decided to turn some of my favorite stoics and their thoughts towards a parenting philosophy to pass on to other Dads. The master list can be found here but let’s look as some of my favorite philosophy quotes and apply them to the spectrum of “Dadness”.
Giving a hand up and not a hand out
Be careful to leave your sons (and daughters) well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant. – The Discourses, CXLV
Teaching your children self care, responsibility, technical knowledge and basically how to live will always be paramount. Yes, provide for them, but don’t forget to show them the way. Like a Mandalorian.
Epictetus said “When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.” I am sure they hope for us to pass on tangible riches, but I think they see themselves as rich already given the support they have to be awesome in their own ways compared to some of the unluckier peers around them.
I love the kid who has the new car and the expensive watch from his Disney Dad, but he couldn’t change a tire or put clothes in the dryer to save his life.
Opportunities through difficulties
“If you have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca AND “Don’t aim to be perfect. Aim to be antifragile.”-Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
I am a huge fan of learning from failure or mistakes and not helicopter parenting. That has already set up one gen for failure and I already feel bad for their kids.
Being there for your kids when things don’t go right is a must. Asking after action questions about what should have been done different and what is going to change so the same results do not happen will give your kids a better foundation than giving them the WTF were you thinking approach.
Not everyone gets a trophy for trying and whenever my son complains about a difficult task or taking on a new project I give him the entrepreneur meme I read somewhere about doing the things that others won’t do today so you can do things that others can’t do later.
You don’t deserve anything
“A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought — they must be earned.”-Naval Ravikant.
Like the final words of Captain Miller to Private Ryan when his life is draining in the final moments of the movie. “Earn this” are his parting words of wisdom.
I am grateful everyday for the opportunities I have had and the experiences I have daily with my family. As I have aged, I do not want to rule to world as much as I want to try to enjoy it and watch those that I am responsible for grow in their own ways. In fact, on the subject of enjoying more, I recently flipped my thought process from complaint based to more appreciation based. Like bitching about the left less and more about being grateful that you have the freedom to bitch. Like bitching about paying taxes but being grateful that I am in a position to pay them.
Some of the things I have could be luck, but as Seneca stated, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Teach your the kids to take nothing for granted, be prepared, and always try to give more than they receive. Givers get and there is no room for takers.
Seize the moment
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do, say and think.”-Marcus Aurelius.
This is more than the YOLO crowd and is in line with how I think you should develop vision statements for organizations. You can associate it with the “turd test”, the “mom test”, and the “golden rule” that I have driven into the kids. Same as the thought that you can do 1000 great things but it takes one bad decision to make you memorable.
I like the question “what do you want on your tombstone” for people to remember you by? Keeps it short and sweet. I see way too many vision and mission statements that have hundreds of words but don’t tell you anything. I actually had a standing joke with my philosophy professor, since I did not easily accept being told I was wrong, that my epitaph would read “I told you I was sick”. I win.
This quote is also for taking action. There are opportunities to parent every single minute and missing those opportunities could be harmful long term. You’ll regret not taking them. I am not talking about the Boomer/Millennial failures of coddling and pacifying the world, but rather dealing with problems like an after action report from a military operation. Want to strengthen your kids? Ask what did they learn, what happens next time, what should have happened, and what do you need from me to help?
One of the latest books I have on taking action states that there are no lack of ideas of what to do, but rather a complete lack of initiative in world.
Yes, opinions ARE like A-holes.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”-Marcus Aurelius.
Teaching kids to critically think for themselves is priceless and seems to be in short supply. I’ve watched all my kids regurgitate some of the thoughts and beliefs my wife and I have, but I have made sure that they understand why we think like that and that it is important to have your own opinions but respect others. Respect, objectivity, and pragmatism seem to be missing in the world when you hear opinions and perspectives that are not yours.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”-Viktor Frankl.
There are two types of people. Those that let the situation control them and those that can change the situation. Remember what someone replies to you when you state “it hurts when I do this”? I let the kids complain once about something and then they get the previous sentence handed to them if I hear the same complaint twice. Then, if they can’t change something, they need to find a new something.
You’ll be fine
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”-Epictetus.
An operations manager that I worked with had one response for every complaint he heard from others. “You’ll be fine” was burned into brain and is now my first response to others that complain. Shit happens and it will happen again. Milk spills. That may sound Taoist but it’s the truth and I believe that how you react to something is actually a choice and can be up to 95% of the actual problem. Like Jack Sparrow said: The problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem. Parenting when shit happens gives you more opportunities to develop your kids foundation to deal with future problems of their own.
Epictetus also said “the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have” and I like what Voltaire wrote about “life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
Patience is a virtue
“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig.”-Epictetus.
My wife wishes I had more patience for sure. Doesn’t mean you have to like it but our kids are set up for failure by Amazon drone deliveries and the instant acquisition of wants and needs available in drive-thru windows. This goes with the thoughts at the beginning of this post for providing a hand up and even teaching your kids to fish. Involve your kids with projects like painting, gardening, building models, working on cars, landscaping the yard, and even raising pets. There are some things that take time but you can tangibly see the results of your labor.
A wise friend of my dads once said “nine women can’t give you a a baby in one month” and ever since I heard that line, I have used it for projects that have a natural pace that you can’t impact.
Some of the coolest moments I have had as a dad have come through teaching my kids how to do something. Operating the boat, sighting in a rifle, installing flooring, changing the oil, driving a car, and even painting their own rooms can’t be delivered by drones from Amazon or experienced by looking at your silicon master.
Focus on what matters
Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. – Paul Graham
Seems simple but it’s actually pretty hard. It seems like we are always trying to keep up with the Jones’s, buying things out of fear of missing out syndrome, coveting what others post about, and making sure the world around us digs us. Lose the phones, go for a hike with your kids and dogs, watch the sunset from the beach, have some cocktails around the bonfire, and then don’t post anything about it. Donald
Rumsfeld said you should prune your business, services, people, and activities annually. I’m trying to take that to a next level with teaching the kids to prune out the BS.
Do as you say
Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. – Epictetus
Like Yoda said; “there is not try, only do”. I’m an open book and like to think my values and beliefs are mimicked by my actions on work and family life but with so much hypocrisy and superficiality in the world around us, it can be difficult to filter out the BS and easy to get caught up in drama that isn’t yours. But guess what? You can choose to ignore it and it’s choice to even let it impact you.
We talk a lot as a family about the world we are in and our kids actions speak for themselves in sports, school, and even in their own jobs. It’s fun to watch them do the right things for the right reasons the right way at the right time and get recognized for it. Scroll up for a reminder of the stoic principles: focusing on what you can control, taking action, being virtuous, leading by example, showing resilience in difficult times, being grateful, and choosing how they react to things.
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.” Marcus Aurelius
Proof I am a Stoic
“No matter how difficult and painful parenting proves to be, it takes me a lot longer to reach for the bourbon bottle now” – Peter Rathmann
Long live parenting!
This post was inspired by two events.
The first was years ago when a good friend made the comment “Hope is not strategic” when we were pre-gaming a project that was set up to fail from the beginning with a shared client. We were called in to help save the project after we both actually pitched to be part of the project originally. The project managers never had a real plan and were heard saying “they hoped it was going to work” when asked what they were thinking or expecting when they started on their path. The line “hope is not strategic” is now commonly used in the beginning of my executive meetings and one of the fan favorites in “The Great Book of “Peterisms” found here.
The second was a result of reading through various prepper blogs when we started experiencing supply chain issues, seeing signs going up in the stores about purchase limits, and having some of the weekly staples we purchase either not being available or the prices rise at a historical pace. And most recently, the crazy fires that swept through Boulder CO, the winter storm that stranded drivers on I95 in Virginia, and the reports out of China from their most recent lockdowns where an entire city ran out of food.
In one of the prepper blog readings, the author states what many survivalists preach; that a person can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 hours in extreme weather, and 3 minutes without air. The author also stated that you can lose hope in less than 3 seconds. It was this last figure that got me thinking about why would you lose hope and how do you maintain it when you are staring at or finding yourself in a hopeless situation?
Hope is defined in Websters as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen and that you believe it is possible to achieve it.
Losing hope means you stop believing that something you want to happen could happen and that it might not be possible at all. Something makes you quit believing that you can succeed or even proceed further and that can happen very quickly.
When the characters Cassian Andor and later Jyn Erso say “Rebellions are built on hope” in Rogue One, it sets the stage for all of the next chapters in Star Wars where we know how the story mostly ends. There were sure a lot of strategies throughout the various movies, some only temporarily successful. They seem to have ended in the positive for the rebellion, but how did hope play a role and how did they not lose it?
Think about all the other movies that have a similar story line of certain doom and defeat but the good guys end up winning. In all of them, hope seemed to be fading but it was never completely lost. The end of Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks’ character is shooting his .45 1911 Colt at a German tank as a P-51 saves the day is another great example and how about the final battle in Infinity Wars when the rest of the help shows up? Same with the final Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker when the entire rebellion shows up as Poe is admitting defeat. Epic shit!
Believe it or not, there is not much on the inter-web about losing hope, not much money is selling hopelessness, but I found a few ways how one may lose hope on a PsychCentral’s website post:
- You may never have had hope from the beginning. You may not have even developed the level of thinking or built the resilience to navigate simple struggles when things prevent you from achieving something.
- You may have lost the connections you had to hope. Going into 2020 and then into 2021, there was a lot of uncertainty and changes that left a lot of people transitioned into a dark place. Being called unessential by the government, having the values that you identify with attempting to be cancelled, having loved ones not get the help they need medically, and not being able to navigate the “new normal” in working from home took a toll on lots of people.
- You may have been a victim of actions that you cannot control. The Waukesha Christmas Parade is a perfect example. How are you supposed to prepare for anything that evil. A failed judicial system, and political atmosphere that favors criminal behavior over the rights and well being of honest and productive citizens, other peoples agendas and beliefs being pushed by media, even unnecessary policies and mandates can all make you feel like you have no control over what happens to you.
- You may just be burned out. At the end of the day, leading is not as easy as best selling books make it look and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can get exhausted and overwhelmed to a point where life seems to just want to run over you. You no longer feel able to manage your responsibilities and you develop a negative and cynical view of the world and others. You just feel defeated no matter what you do.
I’ll tell you that mid way through 2021, we were all losing some hope at the shop based on market conditions, failed economic and health policies based on politics and not objective practicality, a media system focused on raising blood pressures and not truth, and misplaced energy on causes that derail the values and traditions that got us where we were. At the end of the day, I did not see anyone looting work clothes and work boots during what were declared to be “peaceful” riots. You had a Governor that sided with criminals and not law enforcement or law abiding citizens on social media, and we were told to feel guilty for being who we are because we used pronouns that are appropriate. Not to mention the double standards that existed for both elected and appointed officials that were telling us to do the opposite of what they practiced: Gun control nuts that surrounded themselves with armed guards, one percenters telling us to save energy while they fly private jets to climate summits, leaders that get their hair done at days spas when they demanded non-essential businesses and workers be put on the sideline, riots that caused more damage than anytime in history being called peaceful by media, even the neighbor that flies the BLM flag but yet lives in the least integrated part of the state, sends their kids to the least integrated schools and is the first to call the sheriff when a “suspicious” car drives through. Classics.
At the shop, the uncertainty felt and hypocrisy observed in the world led to fear, mistrust, doubt, and caused numerous distracting conversations which took our eyes off the prize of on time with the highest quality. The fact that I had family and employees looking at me for hope kept me going. I did not see it as a choice. It really did not matter the day I had. I found people looking at me with even more concern, uncertainty, and more doubt than I was feeling and I felt a sense of duty to keep going by telling myself it couldn’t get worse and focused on the next right actions even though I felt like I was the captain of a refugee raft being being blown in the wrong direction.
I have have been blessed with great mentors that have been sounding boards for growth and inspired me to not quit. I still talk to some of them often. I have unfortunately also had some great people that I considered pillars of strength melt down and shut down in the past two years. Just look at the great resignation. It is not all bell ringers and crossing guards retiring like 46 thinks.
Through many conversations, I found that I was not alone in this hopeless feeling that I felt and there were solutions to these new problems by repurposing success found in the past, just from different aspects. I have always believed in surrounding myself with older and smarter people that have navigated the same issues before I had but here we are in the same boat building the play book while a game that nobody has played before is being played.
So how did and do I maintain and find hope when hope seems to leave the planet? How do you keep hope alive when everything you believe in is being attacked and you feel like things are out of your control? I started looking at what we have accomplished and gained on from where we were pre-pandemic. I started looking at what we had working for us and not against us and I discovered that we had actually accomplished things that we did not think we could actually accomplish when we set the goals.
Experts with more psychological understanding than myself state that setting and achieving goals, even simple ones, contributes to hope. When you are able to reach your goals, there is a sense of achievement and validation that instills more hope and gives you the confidence and motivation to set and achieve more goals. Nothing is more satisfying than to check a box on the getter done list and in this sense, empowering yourself by setting and achieving goals was the key. Of course these goals should follow the specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound format. If you are not familiar with the acronym “SMART” for goal setting, there are plenty of blogs our there so I won’t expand on it here. I actually like the newer spin on SMART setting SMARTER goals from Michael Hyatt in his book “Your Best Year Ever”. You can read more about it here.
You can start with a big goal or or small one but get started and don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis thinking you need 100% of the information in place before you do. George Patton stated that “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week“. You can build Rome or you can lose five pounds. You can double the size of your company or you can just reorganize one process for efficiencies. Of all the things you could work on to improve in your life, in the life of those around you, in your business, and even the world, you should write them down, and then spend some time prioritizing them and even involving others for input and ideas on achievement. Be SMART about it and make sure you do not have too many. Boiling the ocean is not possible and neither is gaining my college body back.
I will tell you that the best business goal set and business move we made in the past 18 months was NOT my idea and I give full credit to the others. Also, the best goal I have personally right now came from a realization during conversation on a dinner date with my wife and although I am moving the chains on it, it has required some adaptation in strategies and attacking some beliefs that have held me back.
Once your goals are organized and prioritized, you should make the goals that are agreed to be possible known and visible to appropriate stakeholders that can help you stay on track.
I happened across a nifty graphic one day while looking for a new format to keep our vision, our strategies, and all of our business driving goals and metrics visible and accountable for progress. It’s truly the only accountability tool I have seen work and we update it weekly for our meetings to use it as a living dashboard. We check on progress weekly and I like the idea of measuring the gains on the goals and not the gap as told by Omar Itani here.
Our business drivers include structure, sales, quoting, operations, finance, and culture and each bucket has it’s own goals based on our vision with three key leading indicators each that define and show progress on achievement. Structurally, we want to have the proper alignment, balance, and accountability. For sales, we have activity, volume, and profitability goals and metrics. For quoting, we measure the time to respond, meeting of our proforma standards, and project qualification minimums for our capabilities. For operations, we have labor efficiency, machine scheduling, and on-time delivery metrics. For finance, we have timely reporting, certain income statement ratios, and process controls in the ERP for proper reporting. And finally for culture, we have adopted the tactics from the book “FISH” and challenge each other for adoption, we recruit those that can help and force us to grow, and make sure we are adding value to ourselves and the community around us by giving back and having fun.
If that is not enough, I also have a secondary tool I developed for myself to keep my next best steps as a leader organized by the relative buckets of value they fall into for the organization and make them time-bound. This was outlined in the post about our “Quattro V” formula found here.
The achievement of our goals was not as easy as just writing them down and not everyone is going to have your sense of urgency to achieve them. This is where leadership is needed and stewardship needs to be escorted out.
Let’s revisit how you lose hope again. When working toward any goal, there’s likely to be some unexpected situations that occur and you need to be ready to deal with obstacles and setbacks as they arise. You can try to identify what barriers you could run into and how to be prepared to manage these, but there will be others you did not expect. Remember, what can blow up will. When it does, 95% of the solution will be how you deal with it and you need to be ready to adapt the plan and tactics and do not under any circumstance use these hurdles as an excuse to give up.
There is also a natural pace of others and activities that you may have to accept, but if there is progress or gains, then do as much as you can to keep right activities going and accelerate it. Additionally, if there is something that is not working towards the achievement of your goal or goals, change tactics, find different resources, and delegate to different people. Each room in my company has a sign with a big red target printed on it and the words “bang head here” across it to remind us about the definition of insanity and to remind us to look at different options when we are running into diminishing returns on activities.
The title of this post changed seven times while I was writing and editing it and I go back to my friends comment about hope not being strategic. This is the same friend that invented the word “strategery”. I am a pragmatic objective individual that tries to stick to logic most of the time but hope has helped in the past two years.
This is a follow up to the post made in March of 2020 about leading through an existential threat after several business contacts asked us how we are making it through the interesting times of 2021.
Leading a company in the past 20 months has been interesting to say the least. Existential threats from a pandemic, government actions from unqualified and unelected appointed individuals that threaten business continuity, wasted energy from social causes, lack of objectivity in new reporting, and useless political rhetoric make it difficult to keep your eyes on the prize of creating value for your stakeholders.
How have we been successful? It has been through a constant management and fluid development of our ongoing business goals which we keep organized into four buckets we named vision, volume, velocity, and value. We call this our “Quattro V Formula” and it keeps us on track while remaining agile and responsive to customers needs and keeps us moving the chains on short term and long term projects that improve the business.
I’ll break these buckets down for you and give you examples of how we use these buckets with the hope it sparks some new ideas or validates some plans you have been working on or need to get working on.
Vision is about the things we want to be remembered for. Essentially what would you want your tombstones to say and it does not have to be just one thing. Our current goals under our vision bucket include providing the highest quality on time all the time (ISO), being the go to shop for customers that value expertise and experience, being a leader in local manufacturing thought leadership, being agile, responsive and available to customers, and being an organization of continuous improvements and learning.
This should not be confused with your potential mission statement. I often see vision and mission interchanged, somewhat overlapping, and usually way too fluffy to be useful. To us, the mission statements are the who, what, when, where and how you are executing on activities and the goals that will earn you to your vision.
For instance, on our vision goal of being agile, responsive, and available to customers, we build a project center, integrated and new quoting software with a customer friendly interface and keep customers informed about project progress with real time production data from our ERP system. Make no mistake, we still mess a few things up and there are a few things that we say no to, but we are transparent about the solution and quicker to say no to business that does not fit us with at least an introduction to a different shop that might be able to service them.
On being a leader in local manufacturing thought leadership, I sit on the advisory panel for the UAA program at MATC, my production engineer is on the board of MATC for the apprentice program, we sponsor tables at industry events for speakers on topics of economics, leadership, automation, and strategy to invite customer to, and meet with our strategic vendors regularly to understand how we can work smarter together for shared growth.
The goals in our volume bucket are focused on growth. These are the activities that lead to increased opportunities, strengthen relationships in the market, and increase sales new and existing customer sales. We are a classic job shop that services over twelve industries where business cycles and market trends lead to an ever changing top 25 accounts and work mix so we need to keep talking to people about what they do and how we can help. It is the equivalent of a shark needing to keep moving for oxygen to flow through their gills.
As an example in this bucket, we have a goal of talking reaching out to 10 new customers, 10 existing customers, and 10 strategic partners on a weekly basis. We also have a goal of meeting with three prospects about new business, three customers about more business, and three meetings where we are introducing two people that do not know each other but we know they should be doing business together. We have a goal of $100K in orders and $100K in shipments weekly which means we need to be quoting around $500K per week. We also have a goal of turning quotes around in 24 hours for level one and two parts and three days on more complex projects. Current supply chain responsiveness keeps this last mentioned goal interesting interesting to achieve which is why we have swapped out over a dozen vendors in the past twelve months.
Our velocity goals are focused on accelerating production and shipments to the customer. Time is the one things we can not create more of but we can sure try to use less of it. These goals can be the purchasing of better tooling for faster material removal, designing fixtures to increase spindle time and minimize set up time, recruiting to help find more talented direct employees, outsourcing certain services that other partners can do faster and better, and even using our own truck for delivery and acquisition of materials and services so we do not have to wait for our vendors to deliver.
Your number one priority in a business leadership role is to create and increase value for all of the stakeholders around you. Stakeholders can be employees, customers, investors, vendors, other businesses in your industry association, causes you sponsor or advise, and even the community that your business operates in.
Increasing wages, donating to the local high school’s robotic team, mentoring students in the trades, increasing net profits for the investors, painting a mural on the side of your industrial building that faces a bike trail, adding moisture collectors to your machine centers for better air quality, upgrading inside lighting to LED, paying employees for Christmas Eve as a holiday, hosting a customer appreciation party, and even improving internal communications are all great examples of increasing value.
But don’t confuse the success of the activity of creating value with the actual results of the activity. Value needs to be tangible and measurable to be meaningful. Sending your management team to an industry seminar or leadership training is meaningless if there are no improvements to operations or better performance measured in your operations and financial leading indicators. Increasing wages just increases expenses unless it is tied to performance and improves value to customers and thus the business.
Our latest undertaking is to control our ever rising health care expenses that every company suffers. There is no value in cost shifting, carving out benefits, switching carriers, or simply discontinuing a program offering just because it is minimally used. Sure there are some short term cost savings to the income statement but you have taken away value to the employees. Instead, we have decided to maintain the plan design we have, but are requiring the participants in the plan to qualify for their deductible reimbursement by seeing to their preventative wellness check ups in the previous plan year and register for a third party counseling services that helps our plan members become better consumers of their own healthcare. With this tactic, we are offering our employees the opportunity to identify and navigate health risks earlier for a better quality of life and we are looking to minimize the catastrophic claims and unnecessary hospital visits that torpedo the out of pocket expenses and plan costs to the company profits.
Another successful win in value creation was realized through a labor efficiency bonus that not only increases the employee take home pay, but gives us 110% utilization of direct production hours through multi-tasking and pro-active scheduling of jobs through the shop floor. Every employee wants more money and every company wants more production from them. By giving the employees the chance to achieve the bonus and the ability to measure it and make it transparent internally, we have raised the income per employee over 20% in the past six months with the same FTE head count.
After years of missing delivery deadlines because of poor scheduling and not ordering material effectively, we found a new ERP package that has our late orders down to 5% and provides us with the business intelligence we need to target better business based on contribution and reports our financials to the investors much quicker. This little undertaking did cause some headaches but the result has been a 300% increase in operating profit in a sales year that was down -5%.
Transforming the dull grey north wall of our industrial building that faces the local bike path with a mural that depicts the history of manufacturing in our community is next. Not only is the project in line with the DNR objectives for the bike path but it also helps tell people who we are, what we do, showcases the business impact we make in the community and helps the DNR since we know maintain the area around the bike path as their budgets for maintenance have been decreased.
What additional value are you building for your stakeholders? Is it meaningful and can the results be measured so your activities to get there are worth the time and efforts?
I work from a list of to do’s and to don’ts and a fluid plan that is driven by the prioritization within the four bucket of goals. This list gets some items checked off quickly and the list is fluid in nature based on what I can control, what I can delegate, and what I can make an impact on. I have learned that some projects have a mind of their own and certain timelines for success can be stretched depending on how many people are involved and the responsiveness of other parties.
This list is organized into three categories as well. The first is the to do’s that must to get done or something is going to eat my family. Of course my family is not going to be eaten but the metaphor should show how important these tasks are. The next level are the tasks that I need to do because someone else is depending on in. The third is the list of things I want to do and are more of the nice to do tasks rather than the necessary tasks previously listed. Must do, need to do, want to do. The want to do’s never get attention unless the other two categories are done or have as much progress as possible made on them.
Everyone knows that no plan survives first contact and we know that what can blow up will blow up as an organization but how we react is 95% of the solution. Developing the goals and creating your to do list at least provides you with a plan to go back to once the fires are out. What’s the saying about failing to plan is planning to fail and if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there?
I would enjoy hearing how you have navigated the past 18 months and what you have done to come out stronger. Please feel free to reach out, drop a useful comment, or stop by the shop when you have time.
Just to be clear and give credit where due, none of these are original to me. These have been collected over the years from readings, conversations, speakers, presentations mentors, billboards, fortune cookies, friends, relatives, clients, employees, and co-workers. I have tried to give credit where I could.
By the way my pronoun is “whatever” and my tombstone will say “I told you I was sick” so I get the last word in.
“You don’t have to have an opinion about that. I think about that all the time—I don’t have to have an opinion about this, I can just let it be, I can ignore it, I can realize it doesn’t pertain to me, or I can just see it as it is. I don’t need to say that it’s good or bad, fair or unfair—it just is. I’m going to look at it as an objective piece of information. It doesn’t need me projecting my thoughts or beliefs or perceptions on it. You don’t have to have an opinion about this.” – Marcus Aurelius
“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris (I had to wiki him when I read this quote)
“Even a dead cat bounces once” – Economist Brian Beaulieu in reference to the Brandon stock market rebounds.
“Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well” – Eisenhower
“Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” – The Discourses, CXLV
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”-E.B. White
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week” — George Patton
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right thing.” – Team of Teams
“If you have to pick a side, you’ve already lost.’ -Rick Desens.
“Learn to say “no” because every time you say yes to something you don’t really want to do, you are saying no to the things you are doing or want to do” – Tom Hanks
“9 women can’t give you a baby in 1 month.” – Ed Holmann
“No risk it, no biscuit.” – Bruce Ariens
“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.” – Douglas Adams
“Don’t Panic”-Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy
“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a row boat and packing the tartar sauce” – Zig Ziglar
“Our grass isn’t right for everyone”.-Ted Rolfs
“Take the time to do it right because we don’t have time to do it again.” – Carl Rathmann
“I would rather deal with harsh reality than living in false hope.”
“Never put yourself in a position where you are afraid of the truth”-Winston Churchill through Bob
“We’re paid to be productive, not busy.”
“There is no shortage of great ideas, but rather a shortage of initiative to use them”
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
“Stereotypes make things so much easier”-Unnamed mentor
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Churchill
“If you see something wrong, you can either do something or nothing. Nothing’s already been tried.” – Wonder Woman
“Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” – Jim Graff
“When starting at the bottom, be willing to learn from those at the top.”
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”-Some dipshit in politics
“The tail is only there to support the teeth.”-Rumsfeld
“If you want traction, you first need friction.”
“F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” – Zig Ziglar
“Government does two things well, nothing and overreact.” -Rumsfeld’s Rules
“Trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
“What you see is what you get. What you don’t see gets you.”
“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might wish to have.”
“Three kinds of people. Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened.”
“Leadership is by consent, not command. Leaders must persuade.”
“Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important.”
“Disagreement is not disloyalty.”
“The world is run by those who show up.”
“If you expect people to be in on the landing, include them in the takeoff.”
“Prune businesses, products, activities, and people annually.”
“Anyone has the ability to review something and make it better, few are able to identify what is missing.”
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see.”
“Never hire anyone you can’t fire.”
“If you are coasting, you’re going downhill.”
“Working from your inbox is working on other people’s priorities.”
“If you can’t list your top 3 priorities, you don’t have any.”
“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.”
“Warning time not used is wasted time. It’s like a runway behind the pilot.”
“Never assume the other guy will never do something you would never do.”
Sometimes winners are the ones willing to do what others wouldn’t.”
“First reports are often wrong.”
“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
“Speed kills (wins). It creates opportunity, denies options, and hastens the enemy’s collapse.”
“Trust leaves on horseback but returns on foot.”
“If it doesn’t go easy, force it.”
“Keep one in the clip.” – John Schira
“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
“There are losers, users, and fusers. How are you making the pie bigger for everyone to share.”
“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
“Don’t confuse the success of the channel or activity with the contribution to the business.” – @Robert_Rose @BMA_Milwaukee
8 Things to Build a Business -Howard Trudell, CEO 1871
- Tell a simple story
- Keep raising the bar
- Get started! The screenplay is never the movie that is made but you need to start somewhere
- Make cheap mistakes
- Make room for people
- Can’t add value without values
- Run like the wind and don’t look back
- Don’t think for a minute that you’re doing it for someone else.
“Only winners decide what war crimes are.”
“Nail it then scale it.”
“Have in-game amnesia (short term memory) and focus forward and do what is right today.”
“If you are in a hole, stop digging!”
“You can put more steak sauce on your hot dog but it is still a wiener.”
“It’s a business not a romance.”
“Sometimes the baby actually is ugly (tell people when they have a bad idea)”
“Hope” is not ‘strategic’.”
“You get what you work for, not what you wish for.”
“Values change based on life stage and business stage so be careful not to serve too many masters.”
“Have a goal….If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
“You don’t build a lighthouse to go find ships.” – Heather Mangold
“2 different kinds of people…..Those that allow circumstances to change them and those that go change the circumstances.”
“If you have a 6 month sales cycle, then doing nothing today guarantees you will have nothing 6 months from now.”
“Mentoring can be two-way.”
“Don’t let the limitations of others define you.”
“I don’t know” used to mean you were dumb or ignorant, now it just means you are lazy…..Google it!
“The first thing you should do before starting a business is to go out and talk to 100 prospective customers.”
“Never teach a pig to sing…..It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”-From the office wall of Carl Rathmann
“If you want clear water, go to the head of the stream.”-Walter Goggins in Justified
“If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.”
“Do it or not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Jedi Master.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb.
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Henry Ford
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” Mark Twain
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney (before Wokahontus became a character)
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” – Zig Ziglar
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” – Richard Branson
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius.
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”- Timothy Ferriss
“The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them. Ignore the early adopter critics that never have enough to play with. Ignore your investors that want proven tactics and predictable instant results. Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that’s how long it’s going to take, guys. – Seth Godin
“Don’t worry about funding if you don’t need it. Today it’s cheaper to start a business than ever.”- Noah Everett
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison, inventor.
“Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice.” – Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author.
“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” – David Ogilvy
“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.” – Mark Cuban
“Success is how high you bounce after you hit bottom.” – General George Patton.
“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” – Zig Ziglar, author, salesman, and motivational speaker.
From Mark Rodgers – The Persuasion Equation
5 Characteristics of Persuasion (Scale of 1 to 10, you should be a …..)
- Assertiveness (7)
- Empathetic (8)
- Communication (10)
- Tenacious (5)
- Resilient (5)
80% of people are idealists, 20% are pragmatists……Guess what Peter is?
Users of persuasion: Mindless, Machiavellian, Savvy
“You need to have congruence in selling….can’t sell it if you don’t believe in it…….Shouldn’t sell motorcycles if you think they are dangerous and overpriced.”
“Where a person stands depends on where they sit.”
When talking to a new person, use the (FORM) framework to structure the conversation (F) Family (O) Occupation (R) Recreation (M) Motivation
ART: Acknowledge, Respond, Transition – OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS
Use the “Triad” to prove your point….Rule of 3’s. 3 examples of things…NOT 4. 3 is the charm, 4 is the harm.
“Can you show them what the price of doing nothing is?”
“When you pray for rain, you are going to have to deal with the mud too.”
“Every assassin needs a bullet maker.”-Bill King
“Anyone can lead in peacetime…..Real leadership comes through hard decisions in the battle.”
“You’re not superior, you’re not inferior, you’re just you.” – Psycho Cybernetics
“Time is your biggest enemy.”
“Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity” (New ABC’s of selling)
“40% of your time is already selling” (24 minutes of every hour)
“Givers Get. Takers kiss up and kick down”
“Don’t confuse the success of the activity with the contribution to the business.”
“Sell low and close high” – Jerry Lynn
“A hammer doesn’t swing itself” – Brad Van Damm
“The things that can be counted may not be worth counting.”
“Nobody knows until you expose” Jerry Lynn ( I ended up firing this guy!!!)
“Autopsies shouldn’t be conducted by the murder” – Ann Coulter after the RNC was investigating why they could not get anyone other than Trump on their ticket.
‘You don’t know your limits until you exceed them” – Rob Bob
“Profit is an attitude.” – Ted Rolfs
There is no more exhilarating of a feeling than being shot at and missed”- Maddog Mattis
”When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.”-Thomas Jefferson
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”-Maximus
“Destiny may ride with us today, but there is no reason for it to interfere with lunch”-Peter the Great (not me)
“The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of the bad people, but rather the silence of the good people.”-Napoleon
“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that is counted counts.”- Einstein
‘Iron Maiden has our field and that’s what we plow. We can only plow one field at a time; we don’t care what anyone else is doing with their field.’-Bruce Dickinson
Peter 3:16 – I actually flipped John 3:16 being the contrarian I am and made a play on Austin 3:16. I get that God so loved the world that he have his only son but Peter 3:16 states “I so love my son that I am trying to give him the world and all those who support him shall be given gratitude.”
Never mind the standard business threats, here comes an existential threat and you need to adapt as a leader.
An existential threat poses permanent large negative consequences to humanity which can never be undone. We’ll see what the final statistics say about Covid-19 contagiousness, infection rates and mortality compared to other historical viruses but you can be sure the global and national response to Covid-19 will set a new standard for perceived social responsibility versus personal rights, business continuity and global economic impact.
Given the events surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, you now get to tackle lockdowns, quarantines, limited services, diminishing support, fear, uncertainty in the supply chain, concerned employees, non-Covid-19 illnesses that make everyone else nervous, returning employees being quarantines, lousy news services, useless politicians, non-specific governing declarations, and new tax and legal policies that give you no integration plan and leave you with more questions than solutions. You didn’t create this game but you do have to play it.
Yes, we are all in this together and it is completely clear that Europe has more balconies than the rest of the world. I appreciate the cute memes, sharing of inspiring quotes and comical videos from my network. I even enjoy how some companies are trying to take advantage of current market conditions for gain even though some of them are below the line. However, there is a different level of leadership and activity necessary for navigating the current times and I would expect to see more of it. I would consider it the difference between peacetime and wartime leadership.
The peacetime leader sets big, hairy, audacious goals and tries to grow the business through the entrepreneurial spirit and empowerment of the team. The wartime leader is too busy fighting the enemy and needs to be in the field leading. The wartime leader is tenacious, committed, responsive, agile, and ultimately accessible to the stakeholders in their efforts.
Let’s look at some historical figures for some reference; Churchill had courage, imagination, experience, perseverance, the ability to communicate with people and ultimately inspire them. Reagan had a great capability for adapting to changing realities. He understood growth. He had a sharp eye for danger and recognized the leader’s duty to prepare and protect. He also had a profound respect for the dignity, rights, and responsibilities of the individual. Lincoln had extraordinary empathy and the ability to put himself in the place of another, to experience what they were feeling and to understand their motives and desires. This gave him influence on friends and foes alike. Military experts list agility, responsiveness, accessibility, adaptability, flexibility, mental and physical resilience, competence, and most importantly character as qualities of a leader. Character is often demonstrated in how closely our actions, decisions and relationships adhere to ethics and values.
There are, of course, many more examples but these will work to make the point and define what leadership should look like during the Covid-19 pandemic response. Are we seeing any of this? I would argue we are not, at least not the way traditional news sources are reporting. In fact, those that have tried to speak to objectivity and reason have been targeted and demonized and cancelled.
What matters right now is how you are leading your team and if they are responding. The business still has to function and produce value to the stakeholders which includes employees. Think about how you would be described in the history books when dealing with the next existential threat. Are you living up to your team’s expectations and needs now?
Here is what I see working for the peers that I respect; Honesty, clarity, transparency and consistency in communication with stakeholders. Specificity, commitment, delegation and accountability to driving the mission of the organization. And resilience, responsiveness, accessibility and empathy with employees.
This is an interesting time in business. People are looking to you for guidance and don’t forget, your family still needs you as well.
President Reagan, while addressing the United Nations in 1987, stated that he wished of an alien invasion in the hopes that it would unite people. But would it really given what we have seen? I do not think it would happen after the response to this crisis. Donald Rumsfeld stated it best: “Governments are good at two things, nothing and freaking out”. I do not think the government has let us down the past 20 months.
What should have been treated as a health emergency was treated as an economic emergency and has now created further economic and societal disasters of inflation, shrinkflation, labor shortages, supply chain constraints, 50% increases in fuel, unnecessary mandates, polarization of values, and a feeling of insecurity in the globe. Nice work! Try actual science next time instead of political science.
There has not been nor will there ever be a unifying objective and pragmatic voice that leads the world so my advice is to take care of those directly around you, continue to surround yourself with people that value freedom and rights, and do the best you can to navigate the policies and individuals that try remove those.
The plus side, I have found, is that there are still people that value work and want to add value to the world. I’m trying to find more of them and will help support the ones I already have found. By the way, none of them are elected or appointed by those elected in either party. It will be up to the private sector as usual to fix the messes caused by policies and perceptions.
How many calls did you get from services that said they could provide the Glengarry* leads that you couldn’t find on your own? How many software ads did you view that promised your success through fun looking data rich dashboards? How many calls did you get from marketing services that provide magical customer attracting websites and promise to get you on the top of search engines?
In his book about rules, Donald Rumsfeld suggests to prune your business, customers, and employees on a regular basis. Love the rule but, since I really enjoy the team I have, and can’t prune any more of the business than we already did during the past 16 months, I am going to focus my pruning activity on performing a sales cleansing event on our customer base.
When your sales cleanse is performed successfully, you will:
- Identify which customers to replace
- Identify what customers to clone
- Identify where to focus your marketing efforts
- Identify pricing strategies
- Identify what activities your sales team needs to focus on first
Want to know the best part about this sales cleansing exercise? You already have the ingredients and you already have the talent to follow the directions, discuss, and analyse, so ignore the calls, ads, and pitches and continue reading. Here’s my favorite recipe for performing a sales cleanse.
- 1 Sales Comparison Report (should include segmentation, at least 3 years of sales and profitability data, and your approximate closing rate for all business quoted by customer)
- 1 Sales Team
- 1 Operations Team (optional)
- 1 Estimating Team (optional)
- 1 Laptop, Screen and Projector
- 1 Well Lighted Room
- Snacks (non-healthy preferred)
- Export necessary customer data from your ERP system into MS Excel.
- Sort customer data including segmentation from greatest to least sales and profitability based on 2018 sales data. (print)
- Sort customer data including segmentation from greatest to least sales and profitability based on 2017 and 2016 data for reference. (print)
- Provide copies of the reports to the necessary team members.
- Project and be able to sort the report visually on the screen during discussions.
Analyze and discuss:
- Why were certain customers profitable and others not?
- Why did certain customers grow while others declined?
- Why did certain segments grow?
- What segments should you focus more on?
- What customers can you replicate?
- What customers need to be replaced?
- What customers did you spend more time quoting business for than entering orders?
- What activities need to happen next in each of the accounts you want to grow?
- What prospects can you target next to be able to cleanse other customers next year?
- What activities worked best to reach the great customers?
- What services are you not offering that customers are asking fo?
- Ask what the cost of not performing a sales cleanse or completing the relevant sales tasks could be.
- Develop a business case for your CFO to invest in additional services.
- Ask the team what they need from you to get started on their relevant tasks.
- Follow up regularly to drive the results you need.
Even when your sales are growing, I guarantee there are customers that are negatively impacting your business. Completing this exercise will give you and your team time and energy to focus on better sales. It will also give you the template to perform this exercise again next year.
Think I’m nuts? This was always the first exercise as a consultant for hundreds of past projects and since taking the wheel at Allis Tool and Machine Corp., we fired 20% of our customers, replaced 20% of the others, realized a 26% increase in sales, a 50% increase in gross, have a 65% increase in our backlog over last year, and we have a bank that believes in us to foster our expansion goals. This was all accomplished without adding expenses which has been great for shareholder value. Choo choo!
You probably have all of the ingredients but if you would like some help arranging them in the right order and getting started, feel free to contact me. You can also hear about some of the great things we have going on at Allis Tool & Machine through an interview conducting by Katie Felten and her crew. VIEW VIDEO
I pulled into my favorite car wash this week and pushed the button as usual and waited for the robot voice to tell me to swipe my card.
Boom! What the hay? The price of my usual deluxe wash with the under body flush and towel dry had increased by 20% since my visit last week. Now I had two cars behind me and couldn’t reverse in protest. Yes, it was now a hostage situation with my only alternatives being to choose a lesser option that would not get me what I expected or grudgingly pay the 20% and feel taken advantage of.
Where was the warning? Where was the loyalty to the regular longtime customer? What was I actually getting for the 20% increased ransom I just ended up paying?
Sales goals will never go down and part of making your sales goal will include raising prices to your top customers as well as your bottom customers. However, being proactive, transparent, and honest with communicating the price increase will help your cause of not creating a hostage situation.
Stagnant prices can mean a stagnant business model and stagnation can destroy companies. Sure there is the economic and academic argument that internal efficiencies, purchasing methods and production improvement should allow you to lower the price to the customer, but we are not just talking about widget production.
Professional services, SaaS solutions, any skilled labor based business, and custom manufacturing are always evolving their offering at a cost that is not always evident to the customer. These evolved offerings and services need to be communicated. Not only in the initial sale, but in ongoing communications as well.
Here are 8 tips to help your conversations when the time for a price increase is necessary.
1. Understand that your customers increase their prices
Your customers have probably raised prices to their customers and stand to increase more revenues if they mark up your product or services as part of their value chain.
What have they changed or added to their cost centers? Asking some questions and understanding their pricing changes could help open the door for your conversation.
Look at this opportunity as shared growth and more of a partnership in their growth rather than being a vendor with bad news.
2. Rapport won’t save you, but it helps
Although having rapport helps to soften the conversation about price increases, it is not built overnight, building rapport takes some time. Trust builds rapport so do what you say, honor your commitments, call when you say you will and always follow through.
If this a new customer and you don’t have rapport built, then start building it. It may not be the right time for a price increase this early in the relationship so place yourself in a good position to have the price increase conversation next year.
3. Understand the field of play
What questions have you asked to test the waters about a price increase? Asking some key open ended questions about their business trends, what they see in the market, what they have heard about competition, and where they see prices going can help you set the tone for your conversation.
If you are in a competitive market place, asking some key questions from strategic partners and potential prospects could help frame the potential conversation as well. It’s a good time to use that rapport you have built.
4. Remember why they originally said yes
Most of the time, your customers had a previous vendor in place or other options available before you won their business. Why did they switch to you? What are the top three reasons they stay with you? Reinforcing the value they realize should be ongoing and part of the price increase conversation needs to be how raising prices will continue to deliver that value.
5. Don’t flinch
Do you have a quality reputation and record with the customer? Then part of the increase is to ensure it continues.
If not, then you should stress how the price increase will allow you to begin addressing some of the issues in question by allowing you to improve the overall quality of service they have been receiving. Naturally, it is important to make sure all comments are backed with a commitment to follow-through.
Communicating a price increase is all about the delivery. Be transparent, honest, and continue to offer real value to your customers and you will be able to communicate a price increase with very little pain.
This could even make a huge impact on profits since 10% of most troublesome customers cost you money with givebacks and constant concessions. I would plan to talk to those customers first. The rest should be easy.
6. Believe in the price increase
In order to be paid what you are worth, you must charge what you are worth. In order to charge what you are worth, you must believe that you deliver the value you are worth.
Tell your customers what they receive in exchange for more money. In an ideal world, you’re asking for money for a better product which benefits your customers.
7. They could pay the same for less
Is there something you did not communicate they were receiving? Something they have been using but was not part of the original contract? Do you offer an alternative? Do you offer lesser option at the same price they were paying before?
You may consider having options available or an a la carte menu of alternatives if they really want to keep you as a vendor but can not afford the new price levels.
8. Switching vendors may cost them even more
Nuclear option? New Vendor? The lower price vanishes after the initial order and the new vendor will not have nearly the knowledge or expertise as the original company about how to service the customer, so the switch often winds up costing more money in the long-run. I would not consider this a hostage issue. It is rather a business point of where their time and energy is best spent in keeping the value chain running.
Turns out, the car wash added a towel person to the end of the line to better dry the car, they included a repellent in the final rinse that would help with the winter salt issues, and they upgraded the scrubbing mechanism to better clean the wheels of brake dust. If only they had posted a note!
Death, taxes, and sales goals never going down are three constants you can bet your next expense check on so make sure communicating future price increases effectively is part of your sales plan.