Sunday, May 31, 2009

When People Are Left To Their Own . . .

When people are left to their own volition, you get to see their character. It's what people do when no one is looking or supervising that is important.

I see people who look busy, but it is obvious to me (an outsider looking in) that they are just looking busy for the sake of looking like they are doing something. When you don't want to be at work, it is more obvious than some may think.

What a boring, slow-moving day this makes. What an ineffective employee this makes. What an ineffective business this makes.

The answer is motivation. Yet this is not an easy thing. The real, effective motivation must come from within the employee. The management can only spark the motivation by helping the employee realize their own motives and make better use of them. The best way for both is to tie the work to the employee's highest values and that probably is not money, but something else more powerful. Find what those things are and the business and employees will thrive.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finding Good People Is Not An Option

Whatever you want to call this economic period we are moving through, the focus is on the bad news, yet there are so many good things that happen. For example, one business I talked with said that the slowdown gave him the perfect reason to get rid of some under performers and make his company more effective.

A few days ago, I went into Jos. A Banks clothing store to look at suits. They had a huge sale going on. I was the only customer in the store. I was greeted by a salesman and almost immediately got into a disagreement about their ad. I had it in writing and he was saying I was incorrect. I let it go. I told him what I was looking for and he took me to the suit rack. He guessed my size fairly close and to check it, gave me a suit jacket to put on. It didn't fit well. He was saying things to try and convince me that it did, buy I know when it doesn't fit, so don't you think he should? We moved up one size and it fit perfectly. He pointed out where the suits in my size were and he left. . . well, you're probably getting the idea, but it went from bad to worse and finally after being in the store only about 8-10 minutes, I said, I have to leave now and I just walked out. One of the worst salesmen I have ever encountered. I wouldn't buy a pair of socks from him, otherwise I might be encouraging him. They lost a nice sale and haven't even got a clue. Too bad. I truly cannot imagine this company lasting much longer here. Men's Warehouse is no better in this city. I have to leave town to get better. Sad.

Not to accentuate the negative, but in this economy with many looking for work, this spells opportunity to me. Get rid of the warm bodies and find someone who can excel. Now is the perfect time! When business is so good, it is harder to find good talent and you might have to accept a few warm bodies. Now is an opportunity.

And, I cannot leave this without spelling one of the most important words for an employee: T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G. There is almost never enough of that going on. Of course, it may make all the difference.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wisdom of the Ages

"You are what you repeatedly do.
Excellence is not an event--it is a habit."
- Aristotle (384-322 BC)

"Our life is what our thoughts make it."
- Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD)

I love quotations and see many of them each day. They are thought starters and catch me quickly and lend me a tidbit of wisdom to mull over throughout the day. It amazes me when I see quotes like these. We get to thinking that these ideas are fairly new, yet they are very, very old. The question I have is, knowing this fact, why is it that I learn these things clearly in my later life? Where were the teachers teaching this wisdom in the first 40 years?

It must be that we get focused on the now and what's happening and let go of the real wisdom in search of the quick fixes. Alas, I am now paying close attention and am open to the wisdom of the ages. Aristotle and Aurelius are reborn!

Monday, May 11, 2009

How Much? It Is Totally Up To You.

How much are you willing to do to have things get better? What more will you do? Will you find time to network with other people and business owners? How much will you prosper?

Many people blame. They blame circumstances. They blame events outside their control. They blame other people. With this approach, I can very easily predict your future: More of the same.

A positive change in results is not dependent on outside circumstances, events, or other people. It is totally up to you. You are always in charge and you always have been. You decide and you dictate results with your thinking.

Not enough time or energy for a once a month chamber mixer where you can meet 50 new people in one place at one event? No problem. You get to keep your current results a little longer.

Not enough time or energy to read a helpful book? No problem. You get to keep your current results a little longer.

"Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound." --James Allen

I see a lot of people around me that want to change their results, but they are not willing to change themselves, and this keeps them bound to their current results.

Take a chance on a new plan. Commit to improving yourself and that will change everything.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

To Teach Is To Learn Twice

"To teach is to learn twice" - Joseph Joubert

This quote from Joseph Joubert is the best I have seen about learning and about teaching at the same time. I don't think you can really separate the two. If I want to really and truly understand and know something, teaching it is the fastest and most effective way. There is something about trying to help others understand that causes the teacher to have to know more, and not just more, but more in more depth as if you were looking at something from many different angles.

As I teach, I learn more about the subject and more about teaching and more about myself. I cannot teach and not be learning at the same time.

If you want to see how well you know something, try teaching it. Go ahead. You may very well find that you don't know it nearly as well as you thought, yet in trying to teach it, you have automatically risen to a new level of understanding. Great. Now, teach it some more. You will find after a short time that you now have a far greater knowledge and understanding of the subject and that you know it from a number of different perspectives. You will also find it to be the best learning experience.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You May Have To Look, But Find Some Good News

I made a call yesterday to one of our clients, Jim Fisk, who owns Fisk Cyclery in Dixon, CA. I was just following up on a website we did for their business district and asked him how business has been for him. Essentially, here's what he said:

He said business has been great! He said that last year business was up substantially and that this year it is up substantially from that. He said that he can tell things are loosening up because last year, even though business was very good, the parents were coming in buying and not so much the kids, but this year, the kids are coming in with money to spend. He says that is a great sign to him. He also said that it isn't just repairs or parts, but he is selling more bikes and not the cheap kind, but good bikes that cost $500 and up.

I very much enjoyed this conversation, because there has been so much of the "down economy blues" spoken aloud, that I was overjoyed with his enthusiasm and his business is up message. I told him that I wanted to write about this and he said that was fine.

You can call Jim Fisk yourself at 707-678-4330. Visit his website at If not Jim, find someone to talk to who is doing well and let a bit of it rub off on you. It will do you good don't ya know.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take A Shower and Brush Your Teeth

My wife gave me a parable tonight and I thought I would share it with you. She said (my paraphrase, of course):

If you're sick, that is not a good enough reason to not take a shower and brush your teeth. Put a number of days together without a shower and clean teeth and you are likely to go downhill in a hurry. When you're not feeling well and you take a shower and brush your teeth, just by doing this you will feel better and your day will feel better and everyone around you will feel better. So, when you're not feeling well, take a shower and brush your teeth!

It probably has a lot of different applications. I will let you decide how to apply this tidbit of wisdom.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Referrals Are The Best!

One of our new clients told us that he would not have bought from us except for the fact that people he knew and felt comfortable with liked us and spoke highly of us. He said, if not for this, he would not have even given us a chance to discuss his business.


It makes taking good care of the clients you have a bit more important. It makes networking worth the "work."

You know what else?

It's the best feeling! If I could only talk to these people, it would be so good. They are pre-sold. At least, partly pre-sold. That always makes the selling easier. And. . . way more fun.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is Your Front Line Offensive?

This is a car dealership and three salesmen outside the front door. What is your impression of this business? What is right about this picture? What is wrong about this picture? How does this picture make you feel?

These are questions that people are answering in milliseconds as they drive by or drive up to the store. Do you dealers know what their answers are?

Having been a sales manager and sales trainer most of my life, I can tell you what I think about this photo. Here is my take:

  • I never let salespeople wear sunglasses on the lot. If their eyes are too sensitive, they can work in the dark somewhere else. Cool is not the rule.
  • It is my own experience and that of most customers that if I can't see your eyes, I can't build any trust. I just don't have a good feeling. It's fine if the customer wears sunglasses, but not the salesperson.
  • It looks like these salesmen have nothing to do. They aren't proactive, they are non-productive. This is typical car business however, and that is a sad notation of what can be a great business.
  • Salesmen complain that people drive in and look around and leave. Some dealers even go so far as to block off certain areas to try to force people to stop and get out of their car. When a customer drives up and sees this, why would they want to get out of the car?
  • The salesman with the unique goatee may please his girlfriend, but to many people, he looks mean. Facial hair is okay, but it is better to not look like the bad, nasty rock group photo. It is better to look like someone who is very approachable and that someone would want to talk with you.

The front line is the first line of defense. The manager and business owner needs to be fully aware of the front line at all times.

And, it is not just the car business, although it is so hard to pass up such a great example. . .

A couple of days ago I went into a clothing store and the only salesperson was a seriously obese gentlemen who was dressed so poorly that it looked like he slept in his clothes, nothing fit, and it didn't even look clean. He's working in a worldwide brand name store, selling clothing. Manager? The person running this store is more likely called a Mangler. What a sad presentation to the public when you first walk in. It was pitiful. What are they thinking hiring this person? Desperation? I just don't get it. Is your front line offensive? Business owners: need a real manager?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It Can Be Hard To Change, But That's All There Is

I see some businesses that are struggling in a desperate way under the current economic climate. The problem is less the economy and more they are unwilling to change. What I mean by change is to change their methods, question their previous strategies, to have a willingness to find new ways, adopt new attitudes, change their business.

Business has always been cyclical. It sometimes dips much lower than it may have in the past and it may last longer, and if your business can flex and change with that, or better yet, even ahead of it, you can grow even in this economy. Many are. Think of a tree in the wind, how it bends with the wind, absorbs the impact and flexes. Even in a storm, the tree will adapt to the change. That's what I mean.

I'll pick an industry I am very familiar with: the automobile business. In normal times, salespeople at a dealership are waiting around for a customer to come in and there are normally a good number. Maybe they make a couple or so sales per week each and life is good. Talk to a salesperson about following up with their customers and keeping a database falls on deaf ears. Even the management team rejects it.

Then business declines. Up and down, we've seen it before. No big deal. But it keeps going down and stays down for a long time. Is it time to wake up and try a new way--a better way? Is it time to find new strategies and methods, so when business comes back they have more control? The answer I see with many is no. I'm serious. From the salespeople and the managers both, it's no. Yet I hear the complaints about how crappy sales are.

So, I walk into the store and the manager is in his office and the salespeople are sitting around and they are all waiting for someone to come in that wants to look at a car. All day long. It has got to be torture to come to work and do that every day. Not only boring, but completely non-productive. Same old strategy: run an ad, hope someone comes in. Only right now it is run less ads and hope people come in. Bad strategy.

It can be hard to change, but change is all there is. It's always time to change. For auto dealerships, the time is now. There is only now.