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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Helped to Succeed

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is help. It’s an appropriate topic as students head back to school and parts of the US are being battered by hurricanes, not to mention all the needs that continue on a regular basis like hungry kids and veterans their families. I think being helpful should be an important part of your life, and that of your family. I make it a point to donate every month to a variety of organizations who do all kinds of work around the US and world. But as you know there are tons of other ways that you can be a help, and we’ll be talking about some of them as we go through this month.

But for this post I wanted to keep the focus on being successful as it relates to help. I have yet to meet anyone who is an island when it comes to success. There’s always someone somewhere who has helped with it, whether it’s in creating the website program that the person used to build their own website or the company that sells the wood products you use to build decks or even the people behind the social sites that you put ads on to get local customers for your consulting practice. Simply put, everyone needs help at one point in time or another.

However, I don’t believe that you should be a victim or receive handouts forever. We see lots of people stepping up to help with the difficult hurricane season we’re currently experiencing and that’s great. It’s important to step up and help out when there’s a disaster like that, or even something much simpler like a senior citizen trying to reach an item on the top shelf at the grocery store. But you should not remain in “recovery mode” forever. You should be able to take the help that’s given to you, or find the help you need, and be able to build, grow and thrive from there.

What have been some of the stepping stones or ladders that have helped you get from where you were to where you are today?

Taking Control of Your Success

Success is something that I think just about everyone wants to have. Everyone’s definition of success may be different, but I think we can all identify with the desire to have success and to feel successful. Today I thought we’d talk about a couple of things that may work to help you be more successful.

Success requires focus. Very few people will find success in life if they don’t have a definition for success and aren’t focused on taking steps to accomplish that success. Maybe you’re at the stage that those steps include researching or asking for help to accomplish that success, or maybe you’re deep into implementing what you believe will help you achieve that success. But if you’re off chasing butterflies or out gallivanting all day and not putting in the necessary time or focus, it will be very difficult to achieve that success quickly or maybe at all.

Success requires discipline. Part of the success journey is being able to take control of your life and the factors that are part of that success you desire. If you can’t be disciplined to structure your life in such a way that you’re devoting time on a consistent basis to working on your success and making room for that which will support your success journey, it probably won’t happen.

So how do we incorporate focus and discipline into our lives without feeling completely depressed that we don’t have all the freedoms that we used to in the past? First, remember what you’re doing this for. Keeping your success goals at the forefront will help keep you motivated. Second, choose to be a responsible adult. This one is a bit difficult because everyone likes feeling and acting like a kid sometimes. But the fact is if you really want success you have to be responsible about taking those steps in your life. On the other side of it if you’re really a responsible adult you’ll choose success goals that will help yourself, your family and your world, not hurt it.

Third, don’t be afraid to set up some boundaries and ask for help. I love how instant communication can be with all our technology, but it gets in the way of getting things done. If you are involved with a lot of high priority communications on a regular basis, set up 2-3 times throughout the day that you check those communications and reply, and then the rest of the day unless there’s a real emergency, you should not be replying to communications. If it’s necessary to do some communicating as part of your success work in between those 2-3 times you can do that, but the goal should be to limit your email/phone/social media time so that you can actually get things done. If you have so many communications throughout the day that you are spending the majority of your time on them and not getting anything else done, it’s time to hire a communication team member and have them deal with the majority of the communications, passing on to you only those that actually need your personal touch. As well, learning how to say no can be difficult for you, I know I like to help people, but the fact remains that there’s only so much time in the day and you have to protect the time you need as well as not take on things that aren’t going to help you accomplish your success.

As we enter a new month tomorrow I encourage you to really think about how you want these last 4 months of the year to go. What will you do differently?

We Are All

In case you missed it there was a really big football game this past weekend.  It was a huge upset and a huge shock to many people.  However, there are people who experienced some serious stress during the game but remained fully confident in their team, and were able to experience a huge victory.  Who are these people? Patriot fans.

While I can’t say that the Patriots are “my team”, I have to respect their team, their coaches and their quarterback(s) who have come together time and again to create some incredible results.  I know from talking with Patriot fans how dedicated their team is, how hard they work and how much passion and energy they put into this organization that they are committed to.  They’ve fought against some serious challenges the past few years and bad press from those who don’t like their success or because they may have tried to bend the rules.  I’m not here to place or suggest guilt or innocence.  That’s a whole different conversation that we’re not having today.

Today what we’re talking about is a slogan that I saw after the game: “We Are All Patriots.”  I don’t know of any true Patriot’s fan who doubted them or gave them up as a result of the challenges of the past few years.  They’ve remained loyal to them, and this year their loyalty was rewarded in a big way.

But this really speaks to a bigger conversation, how we all identify with each other.  Do you see that we’re all one people?  We can all break our bones, work a job, love someone, or enjoy a laugh.  Whether we’re black or white, police or civilian, PhD or high school graduate, dog lover or cat lover, parent or not, or TV buff or not, we are all human.  You can’t change that unless you change your body and DNA and that’s not a direction science has been working in that I know of.  We all have differences, yes.  But when it comes down to it there’s a very high probability that you want the same thing I do: to get through tomorrow alive, to be loved, to enjoy life more and to have more time with the people we love.

So congratulations to the Patriots, and I encourage you to think about the community, the state, the country that you belong to and how you’re helping make it a better place to live in for everyone.

Common Ground

I love the holidays.  No matter what holiday it is I enjoy seeing all the different ways people celebrate, even if they’re holidays that I don’t personally celebrate.  I still think it’s interesting to see what matters to other people and how they celebrate, honor and remember life, history and their culture.  I was reading an article recently about football and two guys who came from different colleges (rivals) but are now on the same team and read a really interesting quote.  It reads “We stopped talking about the things that separated us and found things that united us…”

There are a couple of things that just about everyone knows about businesses. One: they sell stuff.  Two: they want you to buy stuff. Three: not every business makes it.  Four: one of the reasons that not every business makes it because of the competition they face and that they’re not able to stand up or stand on their own.  It’s really easy to look at other businesses and think about how successful they are and bemoan the fact that you’re maybe not as successful, or think that they must be doing something sneaky if they’re that successful on social media or think that their successes are the reason you’re not as successful as you could be or even that because you’re competitors in one way or another that there’s no way you can work together.

I disagree, I think that even the biggest competitors can stand together for a good cause or good reason.  I think that they can also find common ground in the fact that they sell similar or the same stuff.  I think that in just about every industry there’s room for more than one business of the same kind and that there are ways that we can work together and support each others success, and be more successful together.  Some of the big companies out there are more open than ever to partnering with little companies and I think that little companies can work together as well.

So this holiday season I encourage you to not shy away from the other businesses in your area, but instead to see if there’s a way that you can support each other and build both your customer bases.  What  common ground will you try and find?

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.

Veterans for Success

Coming up next Friday is Veteran’s Day here in the US, it’s a day to remember and honor the men and women who put it all on the line for us and country.  Today I want to talk a bit about how you can better support the veterans you may have in your employ, how to better employ and support veterans and open the conversation up to include those who have all kinds of disabilities as well, not just those who have some type of disability as a result of their time in the service.

First and foremost, I believe that it’s important for veterans to feel welcome back into the workforce, even if they don’t feel like they completely fit after seeing what they saw and doing the work they’ve done.  I believe that veterans and those with disabilities have valuable skills that can benefit our businesses greatly.  But this is one of the areas that we’re shortsighted in and aren’t willing to see that a few changes and accommodations now can lead to great things for all of us.

It’s not easy to accept that people change in general, and war is one of the most forceful methods of change.  So expecting someone to come back and fit in exactly where they used to isn’t reality for most people.   One of the challenges that businesses have to consider with regards to veterans or those with disabilities is whether or not they’re willing to make the accommodations necessary to serve them, whether as customers or employees.  While organizations like the ADA have helped bring things leaps and bounds forwards in recent years we still have a long way to go.  Yes, for some it’s a huge expense to consider making the changes necessary to really work with veterans or those with disabilities, but I believe that most businesses can and should at least make an effort to do so.  (Accommodation in general is a whole ‘nother conversation, and important for businesses to consider as well.)

One of the simplest things that businesses can do is be considerate of physical challenges and what would make them easier to deal with.  Those who are dealing with cancer, MS, Parkinsons or lost limbs benefit from simple access details, like not putting their desk all the way at the end of the hall on the top floor of the building farthest from the elevator or stairs, not making them walk all the way to the back of the store to talk with customer service, or more flexibility in either hours to work and/or the ability to work from home. No, not every job can allow you to work from home, but just about every business can benefit from an employee whose schedule is a little more flexible and able to cover as needed or provide extra support (as a full time or part time employee).

I was reading an article recently that reminded me of one of the simplest things we can do as business owners for our employees and customers: ask them how you can best support them.  Maybe this means sitting down with a group of potential customers who are veterans or those with disabilities and asking them what changes would make it easier for them to shop there.  Maybe they want the option to have bigger font on the website, later hours one night a week so they could avoid crowds, or bigger aisles to walk/ride down.  While not all accommodations can be made reasonably (an elevator for example), there are tons of little things that can be done to help them.

For employees or those who need jobs, one of the best things you can do is give them the opportunity to gain skills and tools to become a more employable person and maybe even apply some of the skills they’ve learned while in the service.  Maybe that means covering part of the cost for classes or hiring them part time to give them the opportunity to learn skills that will help them get a full time job.  Maybe that means offering a discount or special payment program for veterans only (even if you don’t offer any other discounts).

Most of us can’t do everything and anything for veterans or those with disabilities, but if we all did a little more I believe our country would be stronger economically, more confident personally and it would be a small way for us to give back to the veterans who have given so much for their country.

Haunted House Success

With Halloween just a few days away I thought today we’d talk about haunted attractions and what we can learn from them as business owners. To be clear we’re talking about the places that get set up every October with decorations and inspired by spooky myths and legends that people visit. I’m not talking about places that are reported or known to be haunted like Eastern State Penitentiary or Winchester Mystery House. Haunted attractions are very successful despite or maybe because they are only open for a short time. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from them.

Haunted attractions have one goal: to scare people. I’ve met more than one business owner who really has no clue why they’re offering what they’re offering in their business. If you don’t have a purpose how can you know what you’re working towards, and why would people choose you over others offering similar things with a goal?

Haunted attractions have lots of moving parts behind the scenes. Any good business has support systems set up to make it successful. This includes the marketing, financial, customer/client management, and product/service creation/selling/management. The best haunted attractions are those that have great moving parts, and those moving parts work seamlessly with the attraction, they don’t detract from or remind you that you’re at a haunted attraction that’s all fake.

Haunted attractions have a great team. Just about every haunted attraction has people involved, whether just a ticket taker or actors and actresses throughout the attraction who interact with and scare guests. If the attraction is any good when the guests leave they have lots of positive things to say about the “people” they interacted with, which is how it should be for every business.

Haunted attractions take creativity. Business isn’t easy and isn’t straightforward. I don’t know too many businesses that don’t take a little creativity to run, whether in dealing with customer requests and coming up with what to offer, not to mention the marketing!

So as you visit haunted attractions with family and friends this year, see what you can learn and apply to your business from them, and share your ideas and insights in the comments below.

Teaching for Eternity

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about a topic that is top of mind for many families: going back to school.  Today I want to talk about one of the most fundamental and key aspects to school: teachers.  My mom has been involved in schools in many different ways for as long as I can remember.  She’s taught, been an aide, been a substitute teacher and of course gone back to school.  I’ve taught classes and groups and helped in many types of classrooms too and know how much work in involved, as well as how challenging some students can be, and how rewarding it can be as well as a teacher.  As a student I’ve had a few good teachers, some average (and forgettable) ones, and a few bad ones.  While there’s a shortage of teachers I don’t believe that’s a good reason to let the bad teachers stay at schools and continue to damage the learning experience for kids (and adults).

First I want to encourage each of us to accept the role of teacher as part of our lives.  I don’t think it’s necessary or right to hand that off to those who are officially teachers and say that we don’t have to do any teaching as parents, neighbors or community members.  All of us have skills and knowledge that can benefit the youngest of us, as well as the adults around us too.  Parents and caretakers especially have a big responsibility to not only make sure their kids are having fun, but also that the learning continues outside the classroom.  It’s a great opportunity to educate them about topics that most interest them and in ways that they learn best.

Second, it’s important to support the teachers.  Teachers are always in need of books and supplies for the classrooms, as budgets are tight in most schools.  I’ve known countless teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, and to help students who aren’t as well-off as others.  A great way to help would be to sponsor kids for field trips, support the music or arts programs or give gift cards to the teachers so they can pick up what they need most.  For the teachers who regularly interact with your kids, you can give them gift baskets with things they like, gift certificates to restaurants, and most important ask how you can support them and your kids in their classroom.

Learning is a life-long activity but our foundations are built in those early classroom years by the men and women who give hours, days, months and years to invest in the next generation of minds.  Their impact continues long after a child leaves their classroom and goes out into the world.  What are you teaching those around you?

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”  Henry Adams

Olympic Lessons

As the Olympics finish up this weekend I thought we’d take some time to look at some of the lessons we can learn from this big event to apply to our businesses.

1-Competitors can work together.  Normally there’s talk about how different sports compete for TV/air time, sometimes even competition within a sport over games that are played at the same time.  But the Olympics shows that not only can different sports work together to create something great, they can share the glory too.  A great opportunity for many business owners is to get involved in their local area with other businesses, regardless of whether they have a physical location or not.

2-Good things don’t have to last forever.  The summer Olympics only come around every 4 years and are only talked about occasionally during the in-between years. Yes, you can celebrate your medal status at any time, but most people and companies aren’t talking constantly about the Olympics.  If you’re focus is going viral and staying viral you are probably aiming too big.  That doesn’t mean you don’t market your business or service, it just means that you can’t expect to be king/queen all the time.

3-Everyone has a story.  The news loves to talk about all the different athletes and the story behind their previous medals as well as their journey to the Olympics and what they may have worked to overcome.  Are you telling your story in your business? Do people know you have a story?  Or are you just pushing the services you offer and focused on your bottom line? What about the story of your customers?  Are you even aware of the stories that are their lives?

4-There will be imperfections.  With every Olympics we hear stories of poor conditions, buildings not being ready, failed technology or challenges to travel, not to mention the weather issues that may happen that the host location has no control over.  Focusing on perfection usually just leads to frustration, so instead work on doing the best you can and address the issues when they appear as soon as possible.

What have you learned from the Olympics that you’re applying to your business?