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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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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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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.

Don’t miss your Exit

Exit StrategyMy first question in any business conversion: “What is your Exit Strategy?” Without that answer our chat has no path, is without direction and has little to no success upon its conclusion. One definition of “Exit Strategy” is defined by John Hawkey, the author of Exit Strategy Planning: Grooming Your Business for Sale or Succession, “An exit strategy is a means of leaving one’s current situation, either after a predetermined objective has been achieved, or as a strategy to mitigate failure.”

People start companies for different reasons which can influence their exit strategy. The truth is that many small business owners have no exit strategy for their businesses in the event of their disability, retirement, or death. It isn’t surprising small business owners focus their energies on business survival, future growth, and even remaining active in business after retirement. However, a business exit strategy not only means having a plan for the unexpected, including financial hardship, injury, disability and even death, it also means having a plan for the succession or transfer of ownership of your business when it comes time to hang up your hat and retire. Some plans may include:

– Selling a portion of your company in the public markets in an IPO.

– Having another company purchase your business, a “strategic acquisition.”

– Make the business your “cash cow” by finding someone you trust to run it for you.

– Selling the company to the next generation, also known as a “management buyout.”

– The often-overlooked exit strategy of simply to shutting down, closing the business doors, and liquidating remaining assets.

For some, an exit strategy sounds negative. Actually, the best reason for an exit strategy is to plan how to optimize a good situation, rather than get out of a bad one. This allows you to run your business and focus efforts on things that make it more appealing and compelling to the short list of acquirers or buyers. Success starts with a plan that may include creating a peer board, upgrading financial reporting systems, or defining internal operations and training manuals.

Once your exit plan is defined, your marketing approach will need some tweaking. Marketing your company for growth is slightly different than the approach needed in presenting it to potential strategic buyers or investors. First things first; make sure you fully understand and can explain where you are right now. What customers do you have and how do they behave? What marketing are you doing, and what’s working? What’s happening in the marketplace and what are your competitors doing? What marketing methods are available?

Planning your exit is a big undertaking that affects employees, your business structure, its assets, and your tax obligation. Before you embark on your exit strategy, be sure to engage your lawyer and even a business evaluation expert like myself.  That way, you will be sure that you have explored all the options available to you.

Cheers,

Troy Selberg

Kaizen Sunday

super-bowl-50The day on which the Super Bowl is played, now considered by some an unofficial American national holiday, is called “Super Bowl Sunday”. It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the Super Bowl has frequently been the most-watched American television broadcast of the year.

I call this day “Kaizen Sunday” because it’s Time over Money…. A model time study. How does Football relate to your business? Standardized work is one of the most powerful but least used lean tools. By documenting the current best practice, standardized work forms the baseline for kaizen or continuous improvement. As the standard is improved, the new standard becomes the baseline for further improvements, and so on.

In comparison with Super Bowl 50, the Carolina Panthers are about 3 1/2 hours or 100 commercials away for a Super Bowl Ring… “It’s not that different from a business, its a game of intense activity around a lot of people getting ready for the next play.”

A typical NFL play lasts about six seconds and is followed by replays.

Super Bowl 50 broadcast on FOX broke down as follows:

  • Ball in play – 17 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Replays – 23:46
  • Field, ball not live – 72:00
  • Commercials – 48:34
  • Network promos – 7:30
  • Halftime show – 12:28
  • Halftime report – 4:52
  • Miscellaneous – 16:37

The understanding of how long it takes your business to complete a task is equality important. I hope everyone is using a good quality stopwatch. When performing cycle time studies, it’s critical that you can store some history on your stopwatch. You don’t want to break the cycle every time to record and reset. Believe me, a good quality stop watch goes a long way.

Before timing, observe and list the work elements required to produce one element. Then observe and define the actual time required for each individual work element.

Timing Tips

  • Collect real times at the process.
  • Position yourself so you can see the operator’s hand motions.
  • Time each work element separately.
  • Time several cycles of each work element.
  • Observe an operator who is qualified to perform the job.
  • Always separate operator time and machine time.
  • Select the lowest repeatable time for each element.
  • Remember shop floor courtesy.

Super Bowl 50 game will be a timed, 60 minute dual, and or about 11 minutes of actual playing time. Not very productive for a business model but its shows a great point. Introduce standardization techniques to improve:

  • Training
  • Waste elimination
  • Sustainability of improvements
  • Predictability of results

Super Bowl Sunday is a kaizen event, no matter how you break it down. So cheer on your favorite team, share your favorite dish and think about how the game relates to your business.  As I always say “It’s all about time, continuous improvement and a team, a group of people working towards a common goal”. Enjoy the Game… Good luck Panthers and KEEP POUNDING!

A Creative Bird

Creative hobbieCreative bacon turkeys relieve stress, less stress leads to higher productivity. Whether it’s rebuilding an old car or cooking during the holidays, the impact it can have on your work life might surprise you. Some of our best business ideas might pop up when we’re in the kitchen, in a totally different frame of mind.

 

Each year, on the fourth Thursday in November, we gather for a day of feasting, football, and family. Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations would likely be unrecognizable to attendees of the original 1621 harvest meal. With that said, Thanksgiving continues to be a day for Americans to come together around the table.

You have football games planed, family is on the way, and you’re set on going with a traditional roasted bird. Well… maybe you should look into a creative method for cooking your turkey. There are a lot of challenges in creative cooking and these challenges can build character. Here are some ideas to help your creative muscles flex.

Pancetta-Wrapped: Texas bacon- bold, delicious, super moist and savory.

Braised: (cordless crock-pot cooking) ensures moisture in the meat,

Deep-fried: a Southern tradition that’s biggest challenge involves not burn the house down or sending anyone to the ER. 

Grilled: the crisp smokiness of grilled turkey beats the oven and gives a reason to be outside enjoying drinks.

Manischewitz-Brined : cooked in Concord Grape Wine. This method will produce a bright purple turkey.

Smoked: slow, indirect heat using special types of wood will infuse different flavors to the bird. 

Beer Can: the beer-can stand ensures evenly cooked meat and the evaporating beer keeps your bird moist.

Spatchcocked: involves butterflying the bird, removing the spine, and splaying it flat. 

Stuffed with other birds: best know as Turducken, the delicate culinary concoction of a chicken, inside of a duck, inside a turkey…

If you often question, do I have a creative bone in my body? The answer is YES. Creative activities like cooking during the holidays, serve as a means to learn more about our individual strengths and weaknesses. Remember, there are a million-and-a-half recipes, and a million-and-one ways to prepare your culinary concoction. Be creative, flex yourself, and you just might find a part of you that never existed. Have a Safe & Happy Thanksgiving.

The Voices

baseballForeign announcers have called American sporting events for years, but recently have been glorified for their electric calls. We might have no clue what they’re saying, but the calls are always entertaining. The Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets 7-2 to clinch the World Series early Monday. This is the team’s first World Series title since 1985. Mets first baseman, Lucas Duda’s, throw to the plate was off-line, and the crowd’s energy at Citi Field deflated as the Mets saw another late-inning lead slip away. These events sounded super crazy exciting when covered by South American commentators. Sunday’s NASCAR action of Matt Kenseth crashing Joey Logano was no exception. A Japanese announcer gave his account of the melee between the two at Martinsville with massive screams from the booth.

How do your Employees, Customers and Venders view your decisions when it comes to company policy? What can we learn from other cultures views on sporting events that translate into the culture of running our businesses?

Makes you ponder what your customers think of your marketing or what your employees maybe saying about the company’s direction. One thing is for certain, change is constant. If we are not keeping up with trends, market demographics and technology advancements, we could very well find ourselves out of business before we know it.

Some of the ways I have personally found to better understand the cultures of a company are to:

  • Spend 1-2 hours per week working with a different department lead.
  • Take an employee to lunch each week to learn more about them, their family and their views on the company.
  • Meet with one supplier/vendor per week to talk about your partnership and how you both can work better together to make the relationship stronger.
  • Visit by traveling to customers and really listen to their concerns and their needs. Tour their facilities and meet the teams that support the partnership.

Here’s an idea… just let passionate fans announce and give commentary. Everything is too dull and politically correct anyways. LOL….

We are not going to let fans call sporting events no more than we are going to let others have free rein of the business. But we are open to hear what others have to say. It’s called the voice of the people. The people that make your business what it is, the employees, customers and suppliers, those people should have the loudest voices. So get up from behind that desk and go hear the excitement of others!

“Listen twice as much as you talk and others will hear twice as much as you say.” –Nido R. Qubein-

Words

All companies that grow really big do so in only one-way: people recommend the product or service to other people, sometimes through ads and ideally, through person-to-person recommendations. And the only way to generate sustained exponential growth is to make whatever you’re making sufficiently better, sometimes better than the competition, and in some cases, better than your company’s own last version.  For example, refer-a-friend-to-earn-credits programs can work–if the product is good enough to recommend anyway.  But that kind of program can fail for most startups because the product isn’t good enough yet or the sales team has over committed, setting expectations so high the production team fails and under-delivers.

I have mentored literally hundreds of business owners and almost every time I see a business not performing it is primarily because they are not spending enough time on relationship building. Whatever you provide, competition offers it too (or will) and your prospects will do business with the providers that hold the best reputation. I am shocked at how many business owners do not invest in marketing their reputation. Let’s look at an example: the relationships you have with your suppliers. These vendor partners come into your business daily, they have meaningful relationships with your staff. They know your strengths and weaknesses better than most. Your business must have tens to hundreds of them and you will completely transform your business when you begin to look at them as an extension of your marketing team. Trust me; they leave your business and talk to others about what is going on within your company. Your suppliers are a very effective and meaningful part of spreading the good word and growing your business. Why?? Because it benefits them, too. It’s the very definition of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

I think another very fruitful way of spreading the good word and growing your business is conducted in the cul-de-sack of neighborhoods around the country, when neighbors get together at weekend BBQs or moms who chat while they get the kids together to play. Yes, your spouses and neighbors are also an extension of your sales and marketing team! Almost no one wants to see you succeed more than your family, friends and neighbors. Everybody likes to be associated with a stunningly successful person, and they will, sometimes inadvertently help you become that very stunning success. Even the neighborhood guys boosting about your company’s great products and services at poker night while enjoying a cold beverage is powerful. In fact, this is the MOST powerful form of marketing. You know your friends and neighbors and trust them more than you trust a marketing campaign. These one-on-one encounters will boost sales far more than any sales team looking for new business.

What this means is that if you want to be a great company some day, you have to eventually build something so good that people will recommend it to their friends and families.  No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long term if you don’t have a sufficiently great product.

“Do what you say and say what you do!” Word of mouth sells product and grows sustaining business relationships