Learning from Lee Iacocca

As a business owner it can be easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in your business. We all have challenges, things that frustrate us and almost always run out of time at the end of the day. But one of the best things we can do if we’re interested in growing our business is to seek the wisdom of others, whether working with a coach, or learning from great business leaders like Lee Iacocca. Lee Iacocca celebrates his birthday on the 15th of this month, so today I thought we’d take a look at a little of his wisdom.   A couple of the quotes may not seem like they are relevant or really share any knowledge that can help you in your business, but if you take a minute to think about what they’re really saying, I think you’ll learn something valuable.

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

“To succeed today, you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.”

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.”

“What is wrong with changing your mind because the facts changed? But you have to be able to say why you changed your mind and how the facts changed.”

“I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.”

“The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything.”

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

“A guy named Charlie Beacham was my first mentor at Ford. He taught me the importance of the dealers, and he rubbed my nose in the retail business.”

“I guess I invented extended warranties, because that’s all we had to sell at Chrysler in those days.”

“Over the years, many executives have said to me with pride: ‘Boy, I worked so hard last year that I didn’t take any vacation.’ I always feel like responding, “You dummy. You mean to tell me you can take responsibility for an eighty-million-dollar project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to have some fun?”

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

“To solve big problems you have to be willing to do unpopular things.”

“There’s no great mystery to satisfying your customers. Build them a quality product and treat them with respect. It’s that simple.”

 

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Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

We Remember

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s an important day to remember and thank the men and women who have fought for our country, and their families as well.  As I think about Memorial Day of course there’s a feeling of sadness for all those people we’ve lost over the many years of battle, as well as the family members who never got to know those people.  War isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, otherwise we might have to deal with more of it which wouldn’t be good.

But with the topic of loss on my mind recently in addition to tomorrow’s talk of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, it has me thinking once again about the loss that the world is experiencing when it comes to the past.  As much as I tend to think (and write) about the future and not about the past, or at least not about the past in the sense of dwelling on it, the past is important.  Every day more and more older folk slip further into Alzheimers and other memory-destroying diseases, every day seniors die, every day people who have great stories but have put off telling them die.  When you die or your memory is gone, your stories die, unless you’ve told them to someone or made some kind of record of them beforehand.

Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who have fought for our country, and I hope you take time tomorrow to honor those men and women.  But I can’t help adding in encouragement to also talk with your elderly relatives and friends, and even with the people your own age, and share your stories and hear theirs. Take time to share a story with your kids this weekend from the past about one of your relatives or friends and help them connect with someone they may never know. If you don’t think anyone wants to hear your stories right now you could start a blog and write all of them down for someday in the future, or you could hire someone to come and record you sharing the stories (which would be extra special for the future generations who will never meet you).  Not sure your stories are really worth telling?  I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and hear their stories, but they’ve all been lost to the sands of time in one way or another (3 dead, one with memory loss).  Their stories are special, their lives are special.  The future is built on those stories, and the relationships and events that they share about.  You and I are here because of things that happened many memories ago.

History, and the past, is more than just a random grouping of dates and facts (if that’s all it was, it would be pretty boring).  In reality history is made up of people who lived lives, enjoyed each other’s company, cried and laughed together, learned from their mistakes and had dreams, just like we do today.  Yes, sometimes remembering those we’ve lost can be painful, but the pain is a little less when we remember the good times and the stories they shared with us and memories we made together.   Who will you remember today?

Earth Day Plans

This week as we approach Earth Day I’m thinking about going green!  Today I’ve got a few ways you can go green and take care of our earth and celebrate this special day.  After all, I want the earth to stick around for at least a few more years, don’t you?

1-take action in your community.  There are lots of ways you can do this, from cleaning up litter and removing dead plants and trees to planting trees and flowers to putting up bird houses and even bee hives to encourage the natural population of your area

2-if you’re not able to go out and physically help in your community, there are tons of petitions online you can sign to support environmental initiatives online.  From organics to GMOs to smog and endangered species, there are tons of great causes you can support.

3-in line with the previous idea there are tons of earth-friendly organizations who would really appreciate a donation.  Even organizations like PETA and Charity: Water have an earth-focused mission that would benefit, you don’t just have to look to the more political organizations.

4-I love my hot showers so I’m not really willing to give them up, so if you’re like me that’s not one way you want to help save the earth.  But you can however wash your clothes in cold water.  They won’t complain and it will save your energy bill too!

5-if you’re looking for a spring refresh for your house there are tons of garage and yard sales that have begun with the favorable change in weather.  Not only are you saving a few dollars, you’re also saving the landfills from some items that would be in them for many years to come.  (And if you’re having a yard sale and everything doesn’t sell there are lots of local organizations who can benefit from the left over items too).

What are you planning this week to celebrate Earth Day and honor this place we all live?

Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

Selfless Giving

I hope you had a good Day of Thanks, and that you were able to celebrate with some of your favorite people, people who make you smile and laugh and dream big dreams.  We’ve got a little more than a month left in the year and I really want to make it a good one.  Today I want to talk a bit about Thanksgiving yesterday and the first Thanksgiving all those years ago.  We remember the first Thanksgiving as a time of joining between the Native Americans and Pilgrims who had recently arrived in America.  For the Pilgrims this day was a celebration of life and new friends.  For the Native Americans they also celebrated new friendships. It’s unfortunate that in the generations following things got really screwed up between the settlers and the large people group they would become.  Not only were settlers famous for “gifting” diseases that native populations had no defenses for, they ended up taking land and resources from them.  This wasn’t just a problem in America but in all countries that were settled by people from Europe.

It’s sad that what was such a happy event turned into something so challenging and tragic, and it’s sad that we didn’t learn our lesson from it, but people all over the world are still hurting each other without thinking about it or taking the time to consider what might happen if they made such a huge change (no political talk today, promise).  We’ve got a long way to go before that’s the default practice, but I have hope that someday we may get there or at least get closer to being more considerate more of the time.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was the amazing gift that the Native Americans gave and what we can learn from their generosity.  These people didn’t have to help the Pilgrims as they did.  They didn’t have to build the relationships with them that they did.  But I think their heritage and culture taught them that it’s the right thing to do and the best way of living, especially if you’re aware of Mother Earth/Mother Nature’s role in your life as many of them were and are still today. These people were willing to give to the Pilgrims without necessarily expecting a lot back, regardless of what the Pilgrims were really able to bring to the table like weapons or knowledge of the world at large.

Today there are still men and women who are giving selflessly of themselves, or giving because they see a need.  You’ve probably heard of CNN Heroes and shows like Extreme Home Makeover, not to mention countless service men and women and other men and women, boys and girls who are making a difference around the world without a national stage or recognition.  These people are willing to give without knowing if their gift and/or generosity will ever really be appreciated.  They’re willing to give because they saw a need and were able to fill it.  This weekend as you’re out shopping I encourage you to look for opportunities to give.  Maybe it’s a little money in the Salvation Army buckets, maybe it’s a little extra spent on someone special or picking up an extra to donate to a shelter or food/clothing/toy drive.  What will you give?

A Call for Change

As we look back at this past week some of us are feeling really challenged and surprised by how things have turned out. Throughout the US people are reeling over the dramatic wake-up call that was the Election on Tuesday night. Some of us are surprised that our candidate actually won and others of us are surprised that our candidate didn’t win and people picked the other person. There were several “upsets” throughout the different races around the US, the presidency being just one of them (but the one that affected everyone). I’ve been reading lots of different responses over the past week, some I’m surprised by because I never thought the person who wrote them would feel that way, some I cringe over because of how much hate is being thrown around, and others impress me with their willingness to really dive into things that are painful and challenging with sensitivity and wisdom.

I’m a big Christmas person. I love the cheer, the celebration, the happiness, the love, the gifting, the giving and the togetherness. I have to be honest and say that I’m OK with Christmas decorations being up in stores and showing up around the towns I go to and even on some houses as early as Halloween. While I don’t know if I could live in a “Christmas village” where it’s Christmas all year long, there are things about the concept that are appealing. However, as awesome as it might be to be in a Christmas mood all year long I don’t think it would change who we are as people and the mistakes we make, failures we have and challenges we have that we should work through but often put aside during the holidays.

But what the holidays each year do remind us is that together things are better. The next few months and year will probably be filled with lots of adjustments, and some of them will be more painful and difficult than others. The election has shown us exactly how divided we are as a nation with about half of the people who voted voting for each candidate. We’ve been hearing over the past months and years how isolated minorities have been and felt, we’ve seen the ways that people generalize and make assumptions (and bad actions/reactions) based on qualities of age, race and belief systems. Change has been called for over and over with varying degrees of success. But as the definition of insanity states (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), if we really want change, we actually have to change. The victory of a non-political candidate for the biggest leadership role in the nation is a big indication to me that people really do want change (even if the elected individual seems to not be the right one for the job because of some things they’ve said) and are willing to work with the challenges that will be present to make that change happen.

Together doesn’t mean that we ignore things that are wrong, together means to me that we choose to work together to be better. Together means to me that we’re stronger when we’re together. Together means to me that we’ve got more minds to come up with more ideas. Together means to me that we have to be open to forgive each other because we will do and say stupid things sometimes. Together means to me that we’re not alone when we’re grieving or upset or hurt. Together doesn’t mean to me that we all have the same ideas or beliefs, we’re all different and that is to be respected and appreciated.

I don’t have all the answers, I never claim to. But I do believe that we will be a better nation and world if we work together. It won’t be easy for us to truly come together given how divided we are, but if we really are upset with how some people are treated, and how the future looks for some of our children and grandchildren and for some of the nations of the world, I think we have to put aside some of our differences and find the common ground that we can work with and build from.

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

Judge and Jury

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of how elections are run these days, right?  I wish we would hear more about how the world could improve if a certain candidate is picked instead of all of the bashing and hatred that goes on. I can’t stand that people are more interested in using the dirt in someone’s past against them instead of making themselves look good by doing the right things and being a contributory person.  Yes, everyone has flaws and mistakes in their past, and everyone has opinions that someone else might not agree with.  In this election for Trump there have been some recordings released that people are up in arms over, and for Clinton there has been a lot of talk around her email practices.

When it comes to looking at another person or company, if we’re considering getting to know them better, considering hiring them for something, checking them out for someone else, or just hear something interesting about them and want to know more, typically we’ll look for three things: what they’re doing presently (current/the past 12 months), what they’ve done in the recent past (up to 5 years ago), and what they’ve done in the distant past (more than 5 years ago).  We typically weigh the present stuff as the most important, but sometimes there are things in the distant past that we place large importance on.

For some people or businesses I believe this does them a huge disservice.  It’s wrong to assume that someone (person or business) hasn’t changed since that/those negative event(s) in the distant past.  To assume that what someone said, believed, did or practiced 10+ years ago is still how they 100% feel and live their lives/run their businesses is a gross oversight.  Yes, there are some people who don’t change a whole lot, but each and every one of us changes!  Whether it’s just appearance as we age, or if we did things as a young one that we weren’t so proud of, things have changed.  To assume that a business that was known for a serious failure in the 80’s is still equally screwed up today, or a person that committed murder 30 years ago doesn’t regret that decision does them a disservice.

Before stringing someone (individual or business) up for something they did in the distant past, take a look at what they’re doing in the present. Have they shown that they’ve changed?  Do they say that they’re doing things different?  Have they just become older and wiser?  Don’t write the last chapter of a book before the rest of the chapters have been written.  Some people and businesses may not change, but don’t lump everyone into that category before considering all things.  You wouldn’t want to be treated as such, so do everyone else the courtesy of not treating them that way either.

Grief and Loss Today and Tomorrow

Every day someone around the world is faced with the news that someone they love has died.  For some it’s a person who has had a great impact on their life, even if they never knew them personally.  When someone who has made a difference around the world dies there are many people who mourn their loss.  When it is someone who only a few knew there are only a few who mourn at the time, although years from now they may be remembered by many more if it is found that they did something during their lifetime to be honored for like some of the artists, chemists, scientists and doctors from many years ago whose research and creations we’re only beginning to understand. But there are those who are just forgotten as time passes, some not even remembered in genealogical resources.

We also mourn losses of pets, animals, places and icons because they have played an important role in our lives, are a memorial to the past or have important cultural references.  I don’t believe it’s wrong to mourn their loss, mourning the loss of anything that is part of a memory, has had an impact on our lives or has had value to us is actually healthy.  When we don’t take the time to consider loss, to think about how important someone or something was to us we unfortunately end up with lives that don’t have a lot of meaning.  Yes, living a simple life with few possessions and moving from place to place can be healthy, but even at those places you have experiences and meet people who place a stamp on your life.  I don’t believe that you can get through life without being impacted by something or someone else, and I don’t think you should.

If you’re facing a loss today first and foremost know that you have my sympathies.  I’m sorry that you’re going through that pain.  As much as we know that pain and loss are part of life it doesn’t make it easier to deal with.  Second, after an appropriate period of grief (only you can determine what “appropriate” is, but it most definitely is not staying in grief and pain forever) it will be time to move on.  That doesn’t mean that you forget it/them, it means that you choose to think of them with love rather than just in grief and loss.   Look for ways that you can share the passion and inspiration that they had in your life with others each day you’re alive.  Finally, don’t be afraid to find a new love or inspiration.  Don’t feel guilty about moving on, don’t feel ashamed that you’re still alive and want to keep living.  Live every moment you can in respect to and in honor of their contribution to the world and your life.