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Planting a tree, you may never enjoy the shade from.

Planting SeedsLast week as I was leaving the gym an older lady was standing in front of her car in the parking lot with the hood open. I approached her and asked, “what’s wrong?” She was visibly upset and had no idea what to do, nor could she begin to tell me what was wrong with the car. The steam rolling from the upper radiator hose was obvious to my trained eye. “It’s the upper radiator hose,” I said. She asked if it was possible for her to drive it to the dealership about 20 minutes away. Knowing there was no way for her to drive that far with the car in this condition, and seeing that it was an easy repair, I told her I would run down the street and buy a hose, quickly replace it, and allow her to get to work–hopefully on time.

The auto parts employee got an ear full as he asked for the year, make and model. “I’m helping a lady broke down in the gym parking lot.” To him, it must have been “Yada yada yada!!” Yes, they had one in stock and then he tried to up-sell me, no doubt as a product of all the training he received during his employment asking, “Clamps? Antifreeze? Heater hoses? Is the radiator OK?” Truly, the treats of a know-it-all employee.

I asked him if he had heard a single word of the story. “I’m just helping a lady who broke down in the parking lot,” I repeated. Then without hesitation I explained, “The training you received is secondary” to the story your customer will tell. The questions you ask are not meant to be a script, nor a sales pitch. They are a way to learning the root cause of their problems and a way to provide them with a solution.” In the end, the parts were less than $15 and I was (somewhat) quickly on my way back to the gym.

Once I arrived back to her and the car, my repairs took only minutes. As she thanked me, she asked, “What should I do if anything else happens to my car?” I thought for a minute.  “You need a learn-it-all mechanic.” The simplest metaphor I could think of using to explain at that moment was that of two different employees at an auto parts store. One of them is a ‘know-it-all’ and the other is a ‘learn-it-all,’ and the ‘learn-it-all’ always will do better than the other one even if the ‘know-it-all’ employee starts with much more innate capability. “You must find a learn-it-all type of mechanic,” I told her.

The truth is, we’ve all been given different amounts of resources (talent, coordination, financial means, etc.) Life has so many distractions, expectations, and responsibilities. Our country was formed by a spirit of cooperation–everyone helping each other. It’s less common now, but there was a tremendous amount of bartering (exchanging) goods for services or knowledge for knowledge. It’s a practice that may yet prove useful in the future. However, whether or not that’s true, giving of yourself to advance another’s ambition or need improves the human condition on the most fundamental level.

Paying forward in the drive-through at Starbucks is noble, but planting seeds for trees of which you will never enjoy the shade is a true blessing. I pray that the auto parts employee one day understands our transaction was not just a sale as I also pray that that lady’s car never gives her another moment of trouble…..

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City folks and Country life

As a business leader, I hold a seat on our town’s Planning and Zoning board. My most asked question by neighbors and friends, “Why doesn’t the town build a Chick-fil-A or Outback Steakhouse?” And second is, “Why are there so many grocery stores in town?” The complexity and detail used in retail location and overall business success can be overwhelming. Understanding the capital investment, builder cost, store up-fit and future value are just some of the considerations.

Have you ever noticed two neighborhood grocery stores pretty much next to each other? Ever wonder why the second one chose to open yards away from the competition? If two grocery stores are right next to each other, chances are it’s a great spot to have a grocery store and many determining factors were applied, for example, scientific analysis using synthesis, mathematical and customer interview methods.

To get more in depth, one of the most important strategic decisions made by retail organizations is where to locate their operations. Customer base does play a huge part. What kind of person are they? What do they do for a living? When do they work? What do they do in their free time? This information might not seem relevant but for many businesses a great location is one that weaves itself into the average customer’s day-to-day life, their income and if they travel for work or work from home.

Another technique is Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques. Potential input variables are extracted from such data sets as Census, consumer spending categories, and point data sets representing location of competitors or location of other important facilities. Selecting the most suitable and relevant variables for further analysis is time consuming but critical in the final site selection decision.

I recently attended a conference where representatives from Starbucks Coffee, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s all spoke about how they use GIS to determine where to build new outlets. It was incredible how fast food chains compare all sorts of data overlays which allow them to see auto traffic, consumer demographics, safety information, commercial mix, and other factors which saves them significant money when deciding which locations to open next.

Many of the answers to why some of your favorite restaurants are not located just down the road are found online. Some franchise operations have demographic requirements of 50,000 for a market area and a location with an average daily traffic count of 21,500 to 45,000, depending on the size of the restaurant. It can cost anywhere from $1.8 million to $5.7 million to open a franchise, according to their websites. For anyone with aspirations to open a local Hooters, there’s a sizable population requirement, plus investors need to have $2.5 million net worth and $1.5 million liquid assets on hand.

So, next time you see land being cleared and a sign placed in the dirt, believe there have been countless man hours, thousands of data files, and mathematical methods used in why the location was picked. And always remember this, small towns and rural areas can be a good place for investment, because city folks are often attracted to the country life.

 

35 WAYS TO KILL IDEAS

There are 35 ways to kill ideas. The one rule that that I found to be most important is the “one person, one vote” rule. Just because someone has a bigger business card than someone else does not make their opinion more important. If they have a valid reason for not doing something, then it is their responsibility to explain or show data why that should not be done to the rest of the team.

1)  Don’t be ridiculous.

2)  We tried that before.

3)  It costs too much.

4)  It can’t be done.

5)  That’s beyond our/your responsibility.

6)  It’s too radical a change.

7)  We don’t have the time.

8)  That will make other equipment obsolete.

9)  We’re too small/big for it.

10)  That’s not our problem.

11)  We’ve never done it before.

12)  Let’s get back to reality.

13)  Why change it; it’s still working OK.

14)  You’re two years ahead of your time.

15)  We’re not ready for that.

16)  It isn’t in the budget.

17)  Can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

18)  Do the best you can with what you’ve got.

19)  Too hard to sell.

20)  Top management would never go for it.

21)  We’ll be the laughing stock.

22)  Let’s shelve it for the time being.

23)  We did all right without it.

24)  Has anyone else ever tried it?

25)  It won’t work in our industry.

26)  Will you guarantee it will work?

27)  That’s the way we’ve always done it.

28)  What we have is good enough.

29)  But we would also have to change the

30)  It’s in our future plans.

31)  We’ll have somebody study that problem.

32)  It’s against our policy.

33)  The supplier would never do that.

34)  The customer wouldn’t accept that.

35)  When did you become the expert?

The organization as a whole needs to embrace the same philosophy, or shall we say, methodology. If you implement a bunch of bureaucratic processes and introduce new, challenging tools without explanation, you will alienate the organization
and create resistance to the concept. Start with communication about why you are implementing the new processes and new tools. Make it user-friendly and a part of your implementation plan. Show them how implementation of this new initiative will make their lives better.

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“Say what you mean, and do what you say”

“We are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with”, “Great minds think alike” and “We are only as good as our weakest link”. All great quotes that can guide everyone who adopts them well, at work and in life. Each of these quotes have this trite in common. “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’ll do”. For more than twenty-five years having the information to make quick decisions has been the key to my success. In motorsports cars travel at 293 feet per second. Quick, good information is crucial. Trust in your people is the difference between winning and losing. More importantly, people that you can rely on to do what they say they will do, so as no one gets hurt.

There is a common belief that we need to know all the answers to have success in life. When asked a question, we don’t know, coming up with any answer, even if it is not correct, to avoid what we believe will leave us looking foolish. The problem with this approach is that many of the world’s most successful people know that they don’t need to have all the answers to gain success, and what’s more, they use it to their advantage. Much like I did in motorsports, we have subject matter experts in their field. For example, Henry Ford proved in his libel trial after the first word war, having a solid team of people who round out your knowledge is far more important than having all the answers.

If you say what you mean, but you don’t mean what you say, what have you gained or what has the person you’re speaking with gained? If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, your credibility decreases. You have probably been told that lying is wrong, but then telling a white lie seems necessary to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The truth isn’t always the nicest answer. It might not be what someone wants to hear. But it helps others to make key decisions that impact the whole team. Solid actions and good information makes life easier and much more productive. This especially includes being honest with yourself.

We now live in the greatest time to be alive. We have answers at our finger tips. We can gain any knowledge we please within seconds if we wish. We just need everyone working together, saying what you mean, mean what you say, and doing what you say you’ll do. The only thing that separates us now, is the actions we take. So, I will leave you with this parting thought:

“What action are you taking today to do what you say?”

Yours in charge,

Troy Selberg

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Use your Turn Signal and Communicate

This morning on my way home from the gym, when I was a block away from my house, I pulled up to an intersection to turn left. Oncoming traffic that was turning left across my path never signaled to turn. Not one person turned on their blinker to let me know they would be turning across my path. Truly this a was clear lack of communication!

Laziness, relative lack of enforcement, a little confirmation bias on my part, yes probably.

Naturally this is a large generalization, but it’s one that keeps weighing on my own experiences in business. I believe, like our lack or willingness to communicate in business, our car culture in America makes driving a thing we take very much for granted, and it makes people less than courteous as a result.

I have found that the root cause of most business problems simply comes down to lack of clear communication. Not defining a plan to others is not showing direction. Not following procedure is like not turning on your blinker. Not having standard working procedures is like not have a turn signal at all.  Often business situations involve communication between two or more people from different positions, in different roles and with different goals and objectives just like cars on the road.

I am not perfect, but I use my turn signals all the time. I also work hard to improve my communication in business. Streamlining procedures, teaching others to follow protocols and returning emails.

Effective business communication like good driving etiquette can help me, as well as you. Today and every day, improve the little things like communication with others and like using your turn signals.

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Traumatic brain injuries and I

troy-selberg-helmetsI’m the father of an equestrian jumper, former NASCAR Motorsports professional and an avid Panthers fan. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) has always been a part of life and minor head injuries are a routine occurrence. From riders falling of horses, drivers bumping the wall and their heads racing cars, to football players hard hit; people often lead with their heads when they move about.

As a father of an equestrian rider I know firsthand, the most frequent cause of death and serious injury for mounted and dismounted horse activities is head injury. Head injuries are associated with approximately 60% of all equestrian deaths and 18% of equestrian injuries. One concussion incident took two weeks of a dark room treatment, missed school, no computers and endless crying by the whole family.

Other TBI incidents with friends and Nascar drivers like Ernie Irvin who has been injured twice. The first injury was while racing at the Michigan Speedway on August 20, 1994 going about 180 mph, and his right front tire blew. His second accident occurred 5 years later to the day August 20, 1999. Again at the Michigan Speedway while practicing for the Busch Series race. Ernie had to relearn many things in order to be able to function again with the handicaps. In spite of my injuries, he considers himself fortunate.  Other friends like Bobby Allison also recover from his brain injury, but he never raced again and side effects of the crash still follow him today. Driver Jerry Nadeau during practice for a NASCAR Cup race at Richmond International Raceway spun and hit the Turn 1 wall at 135 times the force of gravity. Though Jerry accepted that his physical limitations ended his career at 33, it still frustrates him. Steven Park’s recovery from TBI seemed to come quickly–too quickly, some thought. He was back behind the wheel within weeks, but he was different: He was emotional, his speech was a bit slurred, and while he was still very fast, he crashed a lot and often hard. By the end of 2003, Park was out of Cup racing.

The symptoms Dale Earhart Jr has effects his balance and he is overcome with nausea. Dale Jr. stepped out of the sport and put his health and quality of life as a top priority. He is going to take things slow and strictly follow the advice of his doctors, and try to learn as much as he can to be smarter and wiser before getting back into a car.

Now the NFL wants players like Cam Newton to take care of their own health and report any head trauma. Part of the problem is that a player needs his brain to know whether his brain is working. Even with non-brain injuries, in the heat of competition, a player may not know the extent of injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are for real. Usually, a few stars are seen, a headache happens, and all is well. Sometimes it isn’t so clear. The person may be knocked out for a few seconds, may vomit, and perhaps may have some loss of memory but by the time the doctor visits the bedside, everything is back to normal. Traumatic brain injuries don’t just effect some, they effect more that you may understand. Be smart, Be educated and protect your friends and love ones.

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Cross Promotion with Vendors

Cross Promotion with Vendors

Cross-PromotionYou want your vendors to be on your team, so show them that this is not a one-way street. Creating a trusting vendor relationship through a cross-promotion plan. Make sure to get your promotion plans in writing. When negotiating your contract with vendors, add in a small clause about what both parties plan to do. By working together to enhance your mutual exposure, you’ll be showing your commitment to one another, which will establish a trusting working relationship for the future. Creating a successful vendor relationship and promotion plan will take some extra work on your part, but if you are successful it is definitely worth the time.

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Transformative Change

Transformative Change

Fred in school learning transformative changeFred Flintstone was the prehistoric dad in an animated TV series that aired from 1960-66. Fred’s construction crane was actually a long-necked dinosaur, a phonograph needle was actually a bird with a pointed beak, and so forth.

In recent years, some of the most innovative technologies the world has seen have been adopted at an exponential rate. Now that everything, including business information, can be handled online via mobile or the cloud, it’s about time that we get rid of obsolete technology. In times of transformative change, it is not just our skills, tools, and practices that become obsolete. More fundamentally, our mental models become outdated, rendering them ineffective, misleading, or outright dangerous. I ask, are your business practices prehistoric? Have you ever asked a third party group of professionals to review your workflow? The call to action starts with you.

To make sure your business isn’t a cliché, or stuck in the past, ponder “Yabba dabba doo!” and Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” The lessons we can learn about transformative change from animated cartoon characters.

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Sphere of Influence

who's cup of coffeeEveryone needs a sphere of influence. Not to influence others as much as to be influenced by others. Influence can work both ways; it has a halo effect, so association with others of influence, such as leaders, “movers and shakers,” or celebrities, extends your sphere of influence. I would like to share with you the types of influencers that I keep in my sphere.

 

  1. A VP or key sales person within a trucking or logistics company
  2. The owner of an auction company
  3. A soda or beer distributor route person

Never before in the history of business has there been so much change. The only constant in business today is change, from customer demand, to technology, to new products and services. Trucking and logistics companies are the first to feel a shift in the economy. They are the first to see a slowdown in manufactured goods and the supplies to manufacture these goods. They are also the first to see new business trends and are able to gage their growth before others even notice. Case in point, while visiting the small town of Centerburg, Ohio I spoke with the UPS driver that was dropping off goods to a company with which I was doing business. In a conversion, the driver told me about the fastest growing company in the area. It was an internet-based sales company with two employees that moved a 40ft UPS trailer of goods per day. Funniest part of this story was, none of the employees of the small town customer of mine knew of the internet company that soon grew larger than them. The owner of this growing internet company soon built a 100,000 square foot building in the small town of Centerburg. Trucking and Logistics people are great for your Sphere of Influence.

Auctioneers are the best storytellers ever because they learn so much from the customers they do business with.  If you take time to listen to them you will also learn these lessons, and that’s why they are a “must” for your circle of influence. Auctioneers are the first to hear of a business that may be failing or not paying taxes. They learn firsthand by the ones closest to the goods being auctioned how people once made their money and how they subsequently lost it. Auctioneers see trends in business models up to a year before other insiders get traditional “data.” They work hand-in-hand with all the banks and internal revenue systems. An Auctioneer is another perfect person for your sphere and I have one in mine.

Last but not least in my Sphere of Influence is a drink distributor route driver. This group of people are hardworking networkers.  Drink distributor route drivers service all types of businesses from convenience stores, to bars, to mom & pop restaurants. They see how much product is moving and the trends in consumer confidence. They drivers interact with not only the owner and managers of these businesses they call on, more importantly they interact with the employees who are face-to-face with the consumers. When the economy is growing, consumers buy more beer and soda and these drivers understand it and have great insights to the workings of many types of business that you can tap into—if they are in your Sphere.

There is no defined scale on how to measure the sphere of influence—fill yours with the kind of people who help tip you off to trends that are meaningful in your Sphere. “An Auctioneer, a VP and a Driver walk into a coffee shop…..” What happens next is up to You.