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Hope is not strategic, but it can keep your plan alive.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. https://psychcentral.com/blog/positive-psychology/2011/04/how-we-lose-hope-and-how-to-get-it-back#1

Using The Quattro V Formula For Success

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

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.

Volume

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.

Velocity

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.

Value

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?

Finale

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.

The Great Book of Peterisms

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

“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. 

“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

  1. Tell a simple story
  2. Keep raising the bar
  3. Get started! The screenplay is never the movie that is made but you need to start somewhere
  4. Make cheap mistakes
  5. Make room for people
  6. Can’t add value without values
  7. Run like the wind and don’t look back
  8. 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 …..)

  1. Assertiveness (7)
  2. Empathetic (8)
  3. Communication (10)
  4. Tenacious (5)
  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?”

“Progress…..not perfection”

“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

‘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

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.”

Leading Against Existential Threats (updated 11/21/21)

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.

Addendum:

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.

8 Tips For Communicating Price Increases Effectively

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.

Interested in additional sales training for your efforts? Check out the MKE Sales Accelerator custom sales training options and the sales training calendar for the latest workshops.