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.



“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


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.

Adjusting the Kinks


back bone

I regularly see a chiropractor. In fact, my family and I swear by him. He has helped us correct everything from reoccurring ear infections, pains from car accidents, and general wellness care. It is his job to adjust all the kinks so that our bodies work as efficiently as possible. It is mind blowing to me that one small adjustment can truly enrich my entire body. It really is just that simple!

It is no different in the business world. One small communication issue can severely impair a business if it is not dealt with.  Outdated policies and procedures can cripple a company. One of the most common things I find in companies, is outdated technology that causes employees to consistently repeat tasks that in this technological age, could be easily automated. Imagine the amount those repetitive tasks could be costing your company. Each of these examples, could be a kink in your business. Do you think it is time to have your company adjusted?

Often times, those issues can be fixed very easily. The value lies in taking the time to start by examining the backbone of your company. Just like our spine, your company’s backbone it its nerve center. From there, examine the extremities of your business. These are your marketing, sales, IT, HR departments and the like. When you find something that is no longer efficient, outdated, or generally out of whack, fix it.  Sounds like common sense, I get it! However, companies everywhere are skipping this important step in the wellness plan of their businesses.  Don’t let a little kink throw off the whole balance of your workplace!

Winning doesn’t always come with a Trophy!

TrophySometimes its not all about winning a new customer, winning the bid on that big project or winning that job. Winning sometimes comes without a trophy.

Every pinewood derby season, I open my shop to parents and children for bonding, creativity and mentorship. As you might imagine, people really nerd out over how to make the best Pinewood Derby car, and a lot of it could make your eyes cross if you don’t have a degree in physics, a ton of power equipment and quality hand tools.

There is an enormous amount of unsure science in pinewood car culture.  Should you put the weight on the back of the car or the front?  Should you make it so one wheel is off the deck a little bit?  Should it be aerodynamic, or does that really matter?  Only a handful of engineers know the truth, but only because they have done empirical tests.

What’s great about the Pinewood Derby is that it is one the most memorable activities that a young boy will have … of all the trips and campouts and hikes and things that they get to do in Scouting and growing up in general.

The whole purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to allow the parents and the child to bond through a physical, hands-on, do-it-yourself kind of project, because most kids today don’t have shop class and they don’t have an opportunity to use any tools and materials and work with their hands.  I believe it also teaches young people sportsmanship, craftsmanship and safety. The way we handle it in my shop is as follows:

Day 1:  Rules and the technical principals behind the physics and Newton’s laws. Then the child picks a theme and design which they draw onto paper explaining how and why the design will work based on the principles taught.

Day 2: Shop safety, personal protection equipment (PPE), with tool and equipment safety.  We use scraps to teach the fundamentals on how the design will be built—safely.

Day 3:  Build time!  We tweak the theme and design based on what has been learned to date– cutting, shaping and sanding.  But always, building with PPE is a must!

Day 4:  Final assembly.   The child gets to sand, paint, attach weights and wheels, etc. Kids are proud to say, “I worked hard on my cars and so did my father.”  Actually, maybe it was harder on the parent not working, allowing the children to make mistakes and learn for themselves what live challenges can be.

Pinewood derby racing is some of the most competitive racing in the world, because the modifications are not always applied to just the parts. One child with a huge imagination, One adult with life lessens, One piece of wood, four nails as axles and four plastic wheels. In the end, it isn’t all about winning (though that’s certainly fun!).  It’s really about building confidence, taking pride in learning new things, developing good work habits and creating memories in a spirit of fun. Values earned at a very young age that will last a lifetime win or lose…

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!

Team Collaboration

Team CollaborationHow often do you find a marketing project with considerable naiveté, largely unaware of how much cost would be and how difficult it might be to pull off? But, naiveté kept you going and the final result could have certain limitations because you were attempting to do so much with so little. So, you steal an idea from another agency via the internet. All you’ve managed to create was a mess of someone else’s old idea, a bad marketing space and another unsatisfied customer.

I’ve witnessed a lot of marketing fads, gimmicky techniques that were all the rage for a year or two, only to fall out of favor with marketing agencies and/or CMO’s in no time. I’ve also witnessed many project managers who became intoxicated with too much work and took on an impossible travel schedule with a litany of high-pressure assignments—to the point that eventually, they just walked away from event marketing completely because they burned themselves out. You’ll last longer, and live longer, if you don’t take that approach. And, by the way, from time to time, don’t be afraid to totally reinvent yourself. There’s no better way to get out of a creative rut than to involve others.

Surround yourself with people that are stronger in areas you are weak. Learn to create a more powerful marketing displays for your customers with a team. Event marketing spaces can bridge the gap between creative vision and customer expectation. A good display connects all of the elements of an experiential marketing experience, bringing everything together in a pleasing or provocative way, and revealing a heart-felt message to the audience.

The creative vision process of the display is rooted in the practice of hearing, interpreting and re-imagining the stories of your customer’s perception of engagement. Look for alignment with these values of engagement, while appreciating that we seek to instigate change using the aesthetic and social contexts of the marketing experience, where change is needed to improve the human condition….

And, yes, never stop trying to connect emotionally with the audience within the event space. For a successful marketing experience, the creative team and the audience become a part of the same community, even for a brief time.  Examine the story being told and how it relates to achieving successful ROI goals. Each team member (AKA subject matter expert) brings value by hearing, feeling and understanding something unique about the project. Success through team collaboration is the key.  It’s often said that great event spaces are made – not copied.


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

Where are they now?

The year was 1978, I was an eighth grader, building a metal tool box for one of our four projects in shop class. Little did we know or understand, we where being taught a trade. Fast forward to 1993 during a trip to New York City. I stood in Grand Central Station, taken aback by the stonework and the engineering. I had been through the terminal before, but never took the time to view the craftsmanship. The journalist and novelist Tom Wolfewould wrote: “Every big city had a railroad station grand to the point of glorious classical architecture that dazzled and intimidated. The great architects of Greece and Rome would have averted their eyes featuring every sort of dome, soaring ceiling, king-size column, royal cornice, lordly echo thanks to the immense volume of the spaces and the miles of marble, marble, marble but the grandest, most glorious of all, by far, was Grand Central Station.”

This summer during my trip to NYC, deep in The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park, I visited thirteen stone pillars that were installed in the 1910s before Grand Central Terminal was built. Their use was to test the durability of different types of stone that would be used for the facade of Grand Central. I pondered the craftsmen once again, their drive, their skills and the sacrifices their families suffered during construction.

Grand Central Terminal was built between 1903 and 1913, opening February 2, 1913. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central. Its concave ceiling created a view of the heavens from Aquarius to Cancer in an October sky, 2,500 stars, 59 of them illuminated and intersected by two broad golden bands representing the ecliptic and the Equator. For several months, painters debated how to squeeze the heavens onto a cylindrical ceiling, because the artist Paul Helleu’s version seemed more fitting for a dome, and they experimented to find just the proper shade of blue.

Where are these craftsmen today? Where is the drive? Where are the skill sets? Where is the quality? Consider these following statistics. The average age of today’s tradesperson is 56, with an average of 5-15 years until retirement. As skilled laborers retiree in masses, America will need an estimated 10 million new skilled tradesmen by 2020 (such as a pipe fitters, masons, carpenters, or high-skilled factory workers). But even today, an estimated 600,000 jobs in the skilled trades are unfilled and, while 83% of companies report a moderate to serious shortage in skilled laborers.

Not everybody in the modern economy will have “dirt under their nails” after a day’s work;, where are the plumbers, landscapers, carpenters, and electricians? Over time, shop class meant a place where children of “white collar” workers like me, could make toolboxes, a bird feeder or toy car in shop class, but they it had promoted few remaining skills of the true craftsmen, which for centuries had been passed on through a process of apprenticeship.

What can we do about this problem? Although this is a monumental challenge, we can do at least two things. First, praise examples of excellent craftsmanship from auto mechanics, jewelers, masons, electricians and the like that arise above the criticism and display an ethic of skill, beauty and manual intelligence in their work. Second, and most importantly, encourage more young people to go to trade school. While the majority of craftsmen will learn and develop their skills on the job, it is common for most to have at least a high school education. Options exist in community colleges, vocational schools and even higher education institutions for advanced learning.

Here’s to the future: the perfection of our future craftsmen. I respect them and work to generously assist them however I’m able. This will keep me busy until the end of my days. It’s a challenge I gladly accept. I, too, am a craftsman, and always shall be.


If you could, would you go back?

While you can’t go back in a time, you can pay it forward. Hindsight is 20/20 and some of the best insights come from past experiences. As you ponder about yourself, here is a little of my story.

From the outside, Motorsports looks like it’s all about the beer cans and chicken bones, all that rubber in your face and loud cars. In fact, it’s all about coming up with new designs that offer solutions to industry problems and seeing your designs transferred into a commercial reality. Motorsports offered a lot of freedom to test your ideas against other groups of people who thought they too, had a better mousetrap.

You see, I grew up in a sport having access to state-of-the-art technology and I was learning new skills on a daily basis. I was working in a field that significantly crosses over with my hobbies, so most of the time; my work doesn’t really feel like work. Every day brought a new challenge, and I found it particularly satisfying to watch or read a five-star review of a vehicle that I have had a role in testing components for, and know I had a small part in its creation.

Everyone loves working in a team, and for years I lived, breathed and slept Team. My role also required a high level of precision and attention to technical detail, which I find very rewarding, and I like being able to work across a wide variety of projects. It all offers something different day-to-day.

Now days, I get the opportunity to meet fascinating people and improve their quality of life. After years of being part of a team adds to the job satisfaction, my life is never boring and my working days are often quite different.

You too should find every job equally exciting: The progress being made in many industries is rapid and seemingly exponential in its rate of change.

True hard work results in enormous personal satisfaction: “I’m getting the opportunity to use my skills and training to try to make a genuine difference to individuals and a community in great need. It is exactly the job I dreamed of doing when I was a high school student.”

My advice to others? If a job really isn’t working out, find something new and challenging. Life is too short. It’s the random experiences that make life exciting and will lead to new opportunities.”