Chris McQueen Put away the instruction manual on how to manage millennials. These workers and their successors are in the trades, purchasing businesses, and smart enough to ask for help. They are at the beginning stages of being your peers and while some will accomplish business success quickly, others will struggle for many years until they reach a breakthrough, perhaps not unlike yourself. The Restoration Industry: Where it Was As a restorer in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, you helped the younger generations gain data quicker than they could have on their own. Many restorers who have been in business for 30 plus years will testify that the days of cheap dehumidifiers, enough fans to pop breakers, and seven-day dry times with no monitoring are gone. The industry simply did not have enough data at the onset to say when something would be “dry.” Now most restorers, even when not necessary, provide daily moisture readings and adjustments to the equipment that justify their dry times. Point after point and job after job, the data is being collected and all of us know more. The result is that restorers spend hours debating how to tell which category a job is, how
Complacency The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word complacency as self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. They must have had business owners in mind when they wrote that. After the long run of good fortune that many small businesses have enjoyed, I continue to warn against falling victim to our own success by becoming complacent. The enemy of success in business isn’t failure, it’s COMPLACENCY. It’s when we get soft or lose our drive or competitive edge that we get into trouble. It seems the more successful we become, the more guarded we need to be about becoming complacent. To make matters worse, complacency rarely announces itself. Instead, it very subtly inserts itself when we’re not paying attention. And one of the most troubling forms of it is the complacency of thought. We stop challenging ourselves to think differently, to explore the personal and professional weaknesses that make us uncomfortable, to look for blind spots, or to question our assumptions about our success. Complacency with our success or with the status quo can easily lead to three other conditions that can set a company on the path to stalling: lack of innovation, lack of market
CON ARTISTS When thinking of the term con artist, famous ones probably come to mind, like Bernie Madoff, the American financier who bilked billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors in the late 90s and early 2000s. Or Frank Abagnale, the check forger and scamb artist made famous in the 2002 movie Catch Me if You Can. But con artists aren’t a recent phenomena; they go back centuries. In the early 1900s there was Victor Lustig from Austria-Hungary who sold the Eiffel Tower−twice! Or the Italian swindler from the 1920s whose greatest claim to fame isn’t the money he stole from trusting investors or the headlines he made when he was caught. Rather it’s that history has immortalized him by lending his name to the entire genre of cons that made him famous—the Ponzi scheme, named after Charles Ponzi. Even men of the cloth aren’t exempt from the temptation of conning trusting souls, as is evidenced by televangelist Jim Bakker who spent nearly five years in federal prison for his misdeeds. But there’s a type of con that doesn’t get much attention, probably because it’s so commonplace and doesn’t involve violence, politics, or crime. It’s the con game many of us
How Can You Be the Best Service-Based Company? A lesson in excellence I’m not easily impressed by service companies. In fact, after being disappointed in the way most service companies perform, I’ve come to expect very little. However, I recently had the opportunity to do business with a company every service-based operation should consider copying. This company was the model of the type of professionalism, quality, and consistency you just wish every company would emulate. On top of that, they were the least expensive option available, which is odd, because I NEVER go with the lowest bidder (just as a matter of principle). What’s also interesting is that I knew these guys would perform right from the start. Let’s back up. The company I’m referring to applies epoxy coatings to concrete floors. You know—the type of coatings neat freaks like me have applied to their garage floors just because. After all, you wouldn’t want to park your 1984 Yugo on just any floor, right?! I’ve either epoxied or had someone else epoxy every garage floor I’ve had for the past twenty-five years. At one time, I actually decided it would be a good idea for the restoration business I owned to offer this service, so I happen to
SEAT 24-B One of the real beauties of having earbuds or earphones on an airplane is that they help you avoid tiresome conversations with people who seem to use talking to alleviate their anxiety about flying. They must think that as long as they’re talking to the person next to them, the pilot’s going to do a better job flying the plane. I’m sure there’s research somewhere either confirming or disproving this theory, but I haven’t seen it. On a recent flight, I was occupying seat 24-A, the window seat in my row. When jocular Greg sat down in 24-C, the aisle seat, and immediately struck up a conversation, I reflexively reached for my earbuds. Greg seemed like a nice enough guy, but this was a two-and-a-half-hour flight, I was tired from presenting most of that day, had work I still needed to get done, and the passengers hadn’t even finished boarding yet! As it turned out, the earbuds weren’t what saved me. It was Keshab, a 22-year-old, impossibly thin, Nepalis man in middle seat 24-B who saved the day. As Keshab wedged his ceremonially gowned self between us, Greg instantly shifted his conversation from me to him. I wasted
JOE BAGADONUTS My brother-in-law Larry is a college professor who teaches aspiring nursing students. Having spent most of his career as a floor nurse and then nursing supervisor at a local hospital, he knows a thing or two about a critical part of nursing—understanding your patients. Larry was telling me about one of the techniques he uses to help his students better understand the concerns of the patient from their perspective, and I thought it had a direct application to many of us in business. Some time ago, Larry created a character he calls Joe Bagadonuts. Joe’s a simple guy who doesn’t always understand the terms or science behind his medical treatments. It’s easy for him to feel frightened and confused by medical professionals who use big words, theories, and data to describe the procedures or outcomes he can expect. He sometimes feels like an outsider in a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language. Joe may not understand that language, but he does understand compassion. When he takes on Joe’s persona, Larry asks his students simple questions that he knows their patients will want to ask but might not feel comfortable asking. “How will this procedure affect the
CHIEF “NO” OFFICER, Part II The concept of knowing when to say no to a new idea reminds me of an experience I had years ago when working with a client to draft their business plan. I was meeting with the senior management team when the sales manager blurted out, “Let’s just double sales next year and stop messing around with incremental growth.” The startled look on the faces of the owner and other managers conveyed their concern. The operations manager didn’t think he could hire, equip, and train people fast enough. The accountant was wondering where the bucket of money was hiding that would fund all that growth. And the HR person just shook her head. Fortunately, the owner served as his own Chief No Officer, bringing his level thinking to the discussion. A considerably more measured growth strategy was agreed on by all, but the lesson was learned. Any suggestion or decision, regardless of size, should be tested against the company’s current strategy, capacity, and alignment. Strategy. A basic Google search defines business strategy as “an outline of the actions and decisions a company plans to take to reach its goals and objectives. A business strategy defines what the
CHIEF “NO” OFFICER, Part I This is the time of year when many businesses begin to take stock of the things they’ve accomplished over the past year and turn their attention to the things they want to accomplish in the coming year. At VMA we see this firsthand as we help companies prepare for attending one of our annual Business Planning Retreats. One of the things we notice is that regardless of how a company performed in the previous year, whether it fell short of expectations or wildly exceeded plans, the owner usually comes up with a very ambitious list of things they want to still do before the current year expires or to accomplish in the approaching year. As with so many other facets of business, this “goal enthusiasm” can be a double-edged sword. Naturally, one of the objectives of most businesses is to grow. This is good, but along with that growth inevitably comes additional tasks, projects, and to-do items that someone in the organization is responsible to complete; something they didn’t already have on their list. In our quest for growth, too often we overlook the demands these additional burdens place on our people and other resources.