4 Monday Musings

On the internets (17m video)

Donald Miller from StoryBrand explain why Donald Trump is still at the top of the polls. Whether you love or loathe Trump this assessment is solid and also highlights great marketing principles all CEO’s should understand.

storybrand

Music

This lyric from Eye of the Hurricane by David Wilcox

“Hope is gone and she confessed, when you lay your dreams to rest, you can get what’s second best but its hard to get enough.”

I pray we all ponder this now rather than later.

Article 

The day you became a better writer from Scott Adam’s blog? It is concise (3m read) and hugely helpful – I recommend it.

Watch

The Profit episode on the pet supply company Bentley’s Corner Barkery? I can’t help but learn something from each episode as Marcus uses his business acumen to dissect the issues of each business. In this episode I was particularly struck by his instruction to the owners that they had to let the clients define quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day I discovered a customer stealing from me, and let him get away with it…

Several years ago we were expanding into a new market in the Northeast. In order to facilitate our expansion without investing in buildings or local assets we decided we would try to expand by contracting with a third-party warehouse to store and ship material in the local market. For a fee, they would unload truckloads of inventory into their warehouse, store it, maintain accurate inventory numbers and as needed pull orders and load them into the trucks of local clients. It was a great way to expand without investing a huge amount of resources.

During that expansion we met a client named Charles. Charles was a qualified lead for us and we soon turned him into a repeat customer. As our relationship progressed, Charles would call our office and place an order, we’d prepare the paperwork, send it to the third-party warehouse to pull the order and make it ready for shipment. We would then call Charles and tell him when it would be ready to pick up. After a few successful transactions we even extended Charles a little bit of credit. Just as we thought the relationship was solidifying something happened that ground things to a halt. Charles stole from us.

The warehouse had received paperwork for 15 bundles of product for Charles to pick up. Bill, one of the warehouse employees, had taken a full pallet of material out to the parking lot to load into Charles’ van. As he was getting ready to offload the 15 bundles there was a loud bang in the warehouse and Bill ran back inside to make sure no one was hurt. When he returned to the parking lot he discovered the entire pallet of product, all 36 bundles, were gone. And so was Charles. Bill raced back to his paperwork to confirm what he already knew to be true. The pallet contained 36 bundles of product and Charles’ order was for only 15. This was not a mistake. Bill immediately called Charles on the phone and politely let him know he had taken too many bundles of product. Charles flatly denied taking the extra bundles of product and after further questioning from Bill, Charles simply hung up.

I received a call from Bill explaining what had happened. I asked Bill if there was any way he could be mistaken about what had occurred.  But the facts were unmistakable, and Bill was absolutely certain. There was no one else around the parking lot and he was sure that Charles had made off with the product. He apologized profusely, explaining that when he heard the loud bang in the warehouse he was concerned that someone might have been hurt so he ran in to check. I told Bill he did the right thing and that I’d figure out how to handle the situation with Charles.

I was furious. My first instinct was to get on the phone and call the police and report what Charles had done. The value of the lost product was around $750, which was a lot to a young company like ours. But more than just the value of the product I wanted justice. Wanting to inform the owner of our company what had taken place I immediately called him and explained the situation and told him the next call I was going to make was to the authorities. Instead of agreeing, he calmly said “Sam, you know these things happen and the reality of the business world is you have to learn from them. So we need to reevaluate our protocols and make sure it doesn’t happen again. But there is another reality and that is this. Charles has likely pulled this kind of shenanigan with other people and they have probably severed ties with him because of it. So if we tighten up our protocols and make sure it doesn’t happen again we could keep our relationship with Charles intact. It might even give us a long-term opportunity to help him see what good business practices look like. I’m sure in time, we’ll get our money back.

While I could understand what he was getting at, it still left a feeling of injustice lurking in my gut. If we didn’t do anything then weren’t we just letting him get away with it? And what did it say about us as a company if we just rolled over like that. The owner then asked me to do something I hadn’t expected.  “What I’d like you to do is to call Charles and let him know that we know what he did without telling him we know what he did”. How was I supposed to let Charles know that we knew he had taken the product without saying that we knew it. After careful thought and some scripting I figured out how to get that message across to Charles. Then we tightened up our procedures and moved on.

Was it worth it? It’s been several years since this incident took place. Do I still wish I’d stood my ground and pursued justice? Well it certainly still irks me when I think of it. But on the other hand, our relationship with Charles, with the proper protocols in place, has actually become what we had hoped at the outset. We ended up getting our money back albeit in a different manner. Since the incident. we’ve sold over $3,000,000 worth of product to Charles. Furthermore we’ve made a concerted effort to model what good business practices look like.

I’d like to think that the mercy Charles experienced that day changed his life, but to this day I’m not sure it did.  What I did learn is that my felt need for justice is not usually the right thing to lead with, and that giving someone a second chance, even when they may not deserve it, often works out for everyone’s best.

The Hidden Boss of Your Life (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post I shared how I’ve discovered that for all men, the affirmation of their manhood by their fathers is the key to unlocking their full potential. I also talked about  how a lot of mature adult guys I’ve worked with have showed incredible growth after receiving from their fathers a stamp of approval.

I realize that the prospect of engaging with your father on a feelings-level topic, particularly if you aren’t closely connected to him, is a real risk. And I also realize that for some of you, the results of that conversation might not turn out the way you hope. So let me attempt to address men at all different points along this path.

“I didn’t get this kind of approval and my dad is already gone”

This is a tough one I admit. How can you heal a relational wound if your dad has passed? I was working with a 65 year old gentleman several years ago. Frank readily admitted he had scrapped and clawed in the business world, hoping year after year his dad would notice what he was accomplishing. That conversation never occurred and Frank’s dad had now been gone for a decade. As with many emotional scars there is a way to deal with this and it begins with realizing that healing can come from taking the focus off yourself and looking for opportunities to help other people. I asked Frank how he had handled affirming his own grown sons. He admitted that both of them probably felt similarly to how he felt – left alone to guess what their dad thought about them. I suggested he make a move to have a brief but meaningful conversation with each of them and tell them what he thought of them.

Several weeks had passed when I ran into Frank again and he was beaming with excitement about what had taken place in those conversations. His sons were both shocked that he had made the effort to engage them on an emotional level and were deeply moved by his words of affirmation. Frank told me “just knowing that I broke the cycle of silence in our family has really helped me and now I want do the work to reconnect with my boys”. If you didn’t get your dad’s approval and it isn’t possible anymore the key is look outward. If you don’t have a son or daughter then look for a young man in your place of work. Point out whatever it is you see him doing that is laudable – he’s working hard, he does a great job balancing work and family, he serves others, he leads with humility or he genuinely cares for others. In life, often times removing the focus off of ourselves and looking for opportunities to serve others is the only elixir to heal our hearts.

“You don’t know my dad, he won’t even speak to me”

As I pointed out in part 1, some of you will have to muster incredible courage to reach out to a father with whom relational ties are severed. But I can tell you my friend Brad, whose story I shared in part 1, would encourage anyone in that situation to pull together every last ounce of courage and make it happen. Even if you don’t get what you want out of the conversation there is a healing that can take place and for the few brave guys I have had the chance to see pull this off, they have all been better on the other side.

“Ok, I’m willing but how do I even bring this up with my dad, it seems so awkward”

This is where I give you the secret to having this conversation with your dad. Scoot up on the edge of your seat and bend an ear. I have developed a foolproof method for you to overcome the anxiety of the awkwardness and get right to the point. You ready? Here it is. Schedule a lunch or breakfast with your dad, let him know you have a question you’d like to ask him and then over a meal look him in the eye and say, “Dad, I read an article the other day that said it’s difficult for men to live their best lives unless their dads have given them affirming feedback about their manhood – and it just made me wonder what you thought of me and how I’m doing?”

I remember the first time my father bragged on me in front of another man. Growing up my family owned a Christmas tree farm. It was not my parents’ sole source of income, they both worked full-time jobs, my father in retail flooring and my mother as a school teacher. They worked this additional job on summer weeknights and summer weekends as a source of additional income for my brother and me to attend college. Christmas trees don’t grow perfectly conical as most people imagine, they have to be trained to grow in that iconic shape. And that training requires hand-trimming of each tree yearly. Most summers my parents would let my brother and I recruit 2 friends each and with this small army we’d tackle the task. But the summer of my 12th year was different. My brother, due to various school functions, sports practices and having wisdom teeth removed was unavailable for most of the summer trimming season. My mother also had surgery that summer putting her out of commission. My father, who amazingly would work 8-5 on summer weekdays, would then come home, grab a sandwich and load the truck with our gear and we would trim trees on those slowly fading summer evenings until dark. For nearly that entire trimming season it was just dad and I, and with 35,000 trees to trim, it was a tedious and mostly unsatisfying task. Until one evening, after intensely hot hours of work, dad and I stopped to drop a chainsaw off for some repairs. The guy who was doing the repairs was one of those guys any young boy would look up to. First off James had a beard, which was awesome. Secondly he normally had grease-stained hands that were readily covered up with work gloves when the task required it. He was also incredibly winsome, humble and generous with his time and talents. James was always willing to help and you just knew he was the definition of hard work. After the hard day of trimming I must have looked pretty tired a smiling James quipped “Sam you look like you’re ready for a break”. Before I could answer my dad interjected “well he should look tired he’s trimmed 17,000 Christmas trees”. My dad was bragging on me. And not only so, but he was bragging on me to a guy that I knew appreciated a hard days toiling. In that moment, I would have headed right back to the fields and started trimming until my hands bled. My father’s affirmation of my efforts gave me a dose of energy and determination and grit that you can’t get anywhere else.

Some years later I found myself with a good albeit emotionally distant relationship with my dad. I spent a summer with 40 other college students working and living together in community just before my sophomore year of college. During that summer we would spend evenings in workshops on spiritual development and leadership training.  One of the courses had to do with our relationships with key figures in our lives and how they impact us. When we got to the section on fathers and their integral role I realized that while I had a good relationship with my dad I wasn’t real clear on what he thought of me. They ended the session encouraging us to find avenues to build bridges into our fathers lives and connect or reconnect on an emotional level. I remember the first time I called home after this session ended. My dad answered the phone and as normal he said “let me get your mother”, I swallowed hard and said “no dad I called to talk to you”. Over the next couple of years I continued to look for ways to connect with my dad. We both realized we had a common interest in philosophical thought and how it pertains to spiritual truth. We went to a conference together and began reading similar books and discussing ideas. It was great to find that common ground.

Two years later, when I was making a decision to spend a year of my life in a foreign land, doing something I wasn’t sure I knew how to do, with a team of people I didn’t know, I was understandably anxious. I knew in my heart I was doing what God wanted me to do but I was young and unsure of myself and very restless with my decision. When I got on the plane I was nearly in tears with anxiety and was fishing in my pocket for my boarding pass so I could find my seat and my hand found an envelope that I hadn’t put there. Inside was a note from my dad that read “Sam – you know, I must be the luckiest guy in the world. I have always been proud of you, but I have never been more proud than now”. Even during the most difficult times of that year, I would dig that note out and read it and find everything I needed to push through the lonely moments. Although I hadn’t yet worked up the courage to directly ask my dad what he thought of me, I was incredibly blessed that he made the move to do so without my prompting and it gave me a great foundation as I prepared to move into the next phase of life.

That experience gave me a new understanding of the passage in the bible from the book of Matthew in chapter three when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. If you know the story at all, you’ll remember John first protests and says “hey wait a second Jesus I shouldn’t be baptizing you, you should baptize me!” (my paraphrase). And while I realize that Jesus basically says that he has to be baptized to fulfill what was prophesied in the old testament it always seemed like something more was going on in that story. After Jesus comes up out of the water the bible says there was a voice from heaven that said “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”. Dads, this is textbook for what your sons need from you. Firstly that you identify with them. This is my son. Secondly that you love them and thirdly that you are proud of him. I used to think that the other story that was happening here was that God was using this moment as a great PR push for the ministry of Jesus. There was a crowd gathered after all. But I think now I lean in another direction. I think the statement from heaven wasn’t so much for the crowd as it was for Jesus who was getting ready to move into the mission of his life. A mission that would ultimately require him to allow himself to be hung on a cross to die. His father’s stamp of approval was an important launching point for him to be able to accomplish his most difficult task.

Two takeaways – if you haven’t gotten your father’s approval you can either be bitter about it or go get it. And secondly, if you can’t get it, then a great source of healing is being willing to give it to someone else.

The Hidden Boss of Your Life (Part 1 of 2)

So this post is going to be specifically written with the guys in mind. However, gals, you might find some of this insightful, maybe even helpful, in understanding what’s going on inside the heart of many men.

Guys, do you realize your career may be under the direct, yet unseen, influence of a hidden boss. You may be working diligently to earn his favor. You may even have ordered your life in an attempt to please him. Your entire career could be based on an attempt to elicit his praise. He may have influenced how much education or training you’ve gone through, where you live, or whom you’ve married. He may even be the reason you are still single.. His influence may have caused you to give up things that were at one time very dear to you.

I’ve seen his influence first hand in the lives of countless friends and colleagues. I’ve seen it cripple – even paralyze men. I’ve seen men lose families because of their desire to gain his approval. I’m talking about your dad.

A few years back I was working with a colleague who had spent his first 15 years out of school in the same industry that his father worked in. His father had just passed away and he was introspective and transparent when he confided in me that all those years ago his choice to pursue this profession was made in an attempt to get his dad’s approval. He told me “for fifteen years I did what I thought he wanted me to do in hopes that I’d get to hear from him that I had become something he was proud of. Now he is gone and I never heard it. I wish now I’d just done what I wanted to do. I never would have picked this path for my life if I knew that was never going to happen.”

I know this sounds like an extreme case. Maybe the guy had other emotional issues or maybe he just had a hard time connecting with people in general. No. I can tell you now, what was driving this guy to spend fifteen years in pursuit of approval from his dad is the same thing that goes on in the heart of every man.

The bizarre thing is that dads don’t even have to be particularly good dads for guys to want their approval. I worked with another guy a few years back, we’ll call him Brad. Brad’s dad had left him and his mom when Brad was four. Brad didn’t hear from him for five years and even then it was just an occasional call on a birthday or Christmas. But as I sat across the table from 35-year old Brad I realized that the great void in his life was that he lacked a stamp of approval as a man. And even though he knew his dad had bailed on him, he also recognized that his dad was supposed to be the source of that approval. After a little pep talk, Brad mustered up the courage to call his dad and tell him that he was coming to see him. Brad told him he wanted to ask him some questions and that they would be difficult questions. His dad tried to tell him it wasn’t a good time but Brad went anyway. And Brad asked him why he left and how he thought about him as a man. The conversation was terrible. And Brad didn’t leave with the approval he came for. But he did leave with closure. And he also left with a realization that even if his dad had given him the kindest and most encouraging words they wouldn’t have helped.  He finally saw the ghost he had been chasing.

But the amazing thing was what happened to Brad when he returned home. It was like Brad had been unchained. He was free. And as a CEO he began making business and leadership decisions that he never would have attempted before. He began to allow himself to risk a few things. He also decided to find a better balance between work and home life. It wasn’t until after his talk with his dad that he realized the unhealthy balance between work and home and realized it was at least partially skewed because of how hard he was working to get his dad’s approval.

I shared Brad’s story with Jim several weeks later. Jim was so intrigued that he went and asked his dad what he thought of him the very next day. It wasn’t that he had a bad relationship with his dad at all, but like so many guys he just had an emotionally distant connection with his father. Jim’s dad, after being struck by the nature of his query, went on to tell him how proud he was of him and how much he admired him. The very next day Jim went and applied for a job that he would never have dreamed he was qualified for. After he secured the new job he shared, “when you told me about Brad I knew I had never gotten that kind of approval from my dad. But when dad told me he was proud of me, I felt like I could take on anything in the world. I’m a grown man but I felt like I was finally ready to go start my life.”

In part 2, I’ll tell you about my own journey with my dad and how it impacted me as a person and a leader and give you some tips that might help you get the stamp of approval from your father.

 

How To Attract Top Talent

Business owners have routinely ignored data on what motivates potential employees for years. We always go back to salaries, benefits, bonus structures and the like. For years and years surveys have shown that potential employees value purpose, dynamic teamwork, mission, feedback, flexibility and freedom to innovate – all of these are more sought after than compensation. Why do we ignore this? top talentBecause writing a little bit larger check is easier than doing the hard work of defining your purpose or your mission. Writing a larger check is easier than building dynamic teams and giving lots of feedback.

Joel Kurtzman wrote a book called Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve the Extraordinary in which he made the statement “Study after study has shown that making the big bucks, which is important to a small set of individuals, is not usually at the top of the list for most people.  What is at the top of the list?  Being part of a winning team in a winning organization that has a mission.” We have experienced the truth of his statement in our own hiring and recruiting process.

Having done the hard work of discovering our purpose has actually become a recruiting tool in itself. A few months ago I found myself interviewing a high capacity leader who was working in a Fortune 500 company. The funny thing was, we weren’t looking for anyone at the moment but he came looking at us. He wasn’t drawn to us because of product leadership or market position. He wasn’t impressed by our financing or our market share. He was drawn to our mission. And he made it clear to me early on in the interview that he wasn’t concerned with what we could pay. Of course we needed to help him to be able to provide for his family, but what he wanted to be a part of was our mission.

And that meeting isn’t an anomaly. We’ve had a number of high capacity leaders from other more vibrant, better financed, larger companies come to us for the same reason. When people hear about our mission in orphan care and they realize that it is a real mission and not just a PR or marketing strategy they want to jump on board.

Now I’m not saying find a purpose and use it as a ploy to pay people less. Not at all. In fact, if your purpose isn’t genuine people will quickly see through that and be demotivated to work. However, doing the hard work of understanding what your company is meant to do (and it does not have to be directly related to your business by the way) will provide numerous benefits to your company including – employee buy-in, dynamic teamwork, higher commitment, finding significance and meaning in your work, giving meaning to mundane tasks and hiring and attracting top talent.

Why do businesses give to charity?

It is very popular for businesses to give to charity or to support a cause these days. It might be the great influence this current generation has on business. Hopefully it will snap us out of our pursuit of growth and profitability alone to sit and ponder why our companies exist. But it is so tempting for businesses to find a cause to support simply as a marketing ploy or image enhancement. I strongly believe that profitability should never be a goal or aim but should be understood as a by-product of fulfilling your purpose. And that purpose inevitably will be in the service of some other person. Whether you provide products or services – your helping another person and bettering their life in some way should be your aim and profitability will be realized as a bonus. Now I understand you also have to be smart and real revenues must generate real returns – but fulfilling your purpose is what will make that significant and meaningful. I learned a great lesson about generosity from my two bosses a few years ago that forever changed my view of how and why businesses give.

In 2008 I visited an orphan care facility outside of Beijing. The work this team was accomplishing was nothing short of amazing. They were caring for some seriously disadvantaged children and were providing such an loving and caring environment for these kids as they awaited being paired with a forever family. While I was there I noticed their flooring really needed some attention, and being a flooring company, and being so greatly moved by their work, I offered to replace the floors at no cost.

At this point, I also had to convince the two owners of our company to let me follow through with my offer to donate the flooring. While I was pretty sure they would be easily on-board, their response to my request forever changed my view of giving.

I pitched the idea of donating some raw materials that were of good quality but that had been sitting in our inventory for some time.  I thought the owners would be motivated by the prospect of dumping some old inventory – albeit for a good cause – and getting a tax write off in the process. But I was surprised to find out they were nearly offended at the idea of giving the orphanage anything less than the very best floor we could make.

A number of years prior to this we had been asked to make a custom wood floor for George W. Bush’s home at his Crawford Ranch. Being a man of means, the President had requested a floor made from the king Bush Walnut Sigof the North American hardwood’s – black walnut. The owners of our company didn’t see the orphanage floor as an opportunity for a write off, but an opportunity to be a blessing. Not only did they agree to donate the floor, they instructed me to manufacture the floor for the orphanage out of the same materials that we used when making a floor for the president of the United States.  I learned a great lesson that day about generosity.

You see – we don’t think of ourselves as wood floor guys who happen to give a little of our excess to help orphans. We’re a group of guys committed to serving orphans who happen to fund that mission by selling really great wood floors.