Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Key to Success

“Success is peace of mind

which is a direct result of self-satisfaction

in knowing you made the effort to become

the best of which you are capable.”

John Wooden

What does the late John Wooden have to do with this generation’s retailer?  Absolutely nothing.  But consider Wooden’s legacy as both a basketball coach and a mentor.  Wooden was VERY successful at his job, he won 10 NCAA championships at UCLA in only 12 years.  He was also a disciplined leader that knew how to get his players to perform at the best of their abilities.  Although it is true Wooden probably lacked the knowledge and expertise to be a successful business owner, retailers should strongly analyze his success earned through leadership and strict values.


Success stems through strong values and respect for others.  This means leading your employees through example and providing your customers with complete satisfaction.  Wooden preached the following values needed to achieve success:

  1. Industriousness
  2. Friendship
  3. Loyalty
  4. Cooperation
  5. Enthusiasm
  6. Self-control
  7. Alertness
  8. Initiative
  9. Intentness
  10. Skill
  11. Team spirit
  12. Poise
  13. Confidence
  14. Competitive greatness

These traits were embodied by Wooden during his life as a teacher, coach and mentor.  They were the catalyst for his success and should be emulated by anyone in a leadership role striving for success.


Some people are born strong, natural leaders.  These individuals know how to get the best out of their employees, run a successful business and earn customer satisfaction.  Nonetheless, even the greatest leaders fade when they become complacent.  Wooden recognized this fact and applied the 12 following lessons to his daily life to continually grow as a successful leader:

  1. Good values attract good people
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word
  3. Call yourself a teacher
  4. Emotion is your enemy
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket
  6. Little things make big things happen
  7. Make each day your masterpiece
  8. The carrot is mightier than the stick
  9. Make greatness attainable by all
  10. Seek significant change
  11. Don’t look at the scoreboard
  12. Adversity is your asset

It’s a mistake to believe Wooden’s lessons only apply to basketball coaches or athletes.  As a business owner, your success is dependent upon the ability to lead your employees and please your customers.  Analyze your core values and never become complacent.  The search for personal growth and self-betterment will radiate success that your employees will follow and your customers will benefit from.

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Monday, September 1st, 2008

It’s not your fault.

Sometimes leaders just have to pay the price.

The price of people’s failures: People just “leave the ranch,” they break laws, they backslide and backstab, they believe it’s your job to solve their problems, the list could go on. Leaders have to understand why they are leaders and others are not.

The price of complaining: As a leader you’ll have to face the failure of others to be content. The opposite of complaining is gratitude. Be grateful for the complaining employees. Without them it could be worse. Sometimes it might be an hour-by-hour thankfulness that gets you through.

The price of comparison: Recognize when others are reliving the glory days and move on quickly. People use selective memory. The good ole days were never as good as people claim them to be. Don’t fall into this trap yourself.

The price of playing God: What do you expect of me? My situation is terminally unique. Understand there is a big difference between being responsible FOR somebody and being responsible TO somebody. Don’t try to solve problems that aren’t yours.

The price of being placed on a pedestal: I’ve only heard of a single man who was willing the pay the price for all of the rest of us. Each of us is replaceable. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you’re indispensible.

Check out these leaders. Some might say they are crazy. What do you think?
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Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Soil and seed can be like the chicken or the egg.

What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. This famous parable explains one of the most important laws of the universe. This parable holds true in baseball, marriage, advertising, and certainly business in general.

The story is typically known as “The Parable of the Sower.” But don’t you also believe it could be called “The Parable of the Soils.” As the story is being interpreted there is an emphasis the different kinds of soils and how differently they receive the seed, which seems to be a law of the universe.

In business I’ve seen the truth of the story played out again and again. Sowing the good news, people have received the exact same message in such different ways. Some reject it without a second thought. Some are excited, but soon lose their enthusiasm. Others respond with genuine interest, but their attachments to this world soon strangle their commitment. And then there are still others who hear, believe, and live a life others only imagine for themselves.

Perhaps the most crucial ingredient of good soil is openness to the laws of the universe, genuine desire for goodness and a willingness to do the right things in your life. Such openness comes as we recognize our need for God, and as we respond to the pull of God’s Spirit on our hearts.

So I’m wondering what kind of soil is your company and what kind of soil are you? Has your soil condition changed? Business conditions sure have. Is your business and your life producing the fruit?

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Monday, May 26th, 2008

Refiner’s Fire and Change

When your pain exceeds your fear of risk, you will begin the process of change.

At a key crossroads of your career, ownership must ask, “Why does every day feel like a battle? What causes my frustration to occur? What standard is missing (or isn’t being followed) that is allowing these frustrations to keep happening?” As the owner you’ll need to stick to searching for the cause of the problem, rather than fixing blame. This will keep you on the path toward building a system to predictably solve problems. If not, you’ll continue to be reactive and the frustrations may temporarily subside… but they will always return.

When you feel frustrated, stop and notice what is going on in the business. Consider exactly the circumstances and write them down.

Do this for few weeks, reflect on you notes and deal with them strategically. The common themes will become clearly visible, such as multiple occurrences in one department, sales trouble at the beginning of the week, issues with particular collections or vendors, etc. Once common problems are identified and analyzed, it becomes easier to pinpoint what has to change and to document standard procedures to deal with the issues.

Awareness of system problems will help you prioritize change and develop systemic solutions, versus blaming people and patching with short-term fixes. The most important element of change management is complete focus on the outcome. This happens in three phases.

The first is melting the company down to overcome the existing mindset. This is the beginning of cultural transition that must take place. Inertia and defensiveness have to be worked out of the system and the people. In phase two, everyone is “dazed and confused.” They are aware that the old model is being transformed but there is no clarity as to what the new model might actually look like. The third phase happens only after the impurity of the meltdown has been cleared. The dross has been removed, so to speak, and the new culture and mindset will begin to crystallize and daily organizational life returns.

Look closely at what is causing you pain. Assuming you’ve hired decent people, stay focused on systems and not people as the cause of problems. Otherwise, you may begin to feel that your business is stagnating, and so are you. “Sales are down, deliveries are late, quality is bad… and so is my patience from yelling at the staff. Management shouldn’t have to look over everyone’s shoulder all the time,” you lament.

If you have to be there every single day to oversee every little thing, then your people don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing.

This is classic managing by assumption: leadership assumes that each employee knows what to do, while they assume someone else is responsible, and, ultimately, all accountability falls with a thud at the feet of the owner. Remember what ASSUME stands for.

The flip side of management is agreement and exception, when management and employee understand and agree on the terms regarding the work that will be done in position or on a specific project and communicate any exceptions.

The agreement component requires the employee to sign a written job description accepting full responsibility for performing the required work and achieving results. Ownership agrees to provide the employee with resources. The manager can then assume that all work will be done as agreed. The goal, besides obtaining the stated results, is to avoid unpleasant surprises.

This sounds nice in theory, but the reality is often different. There are breakdowns and wrong orders, missing in action employees and any number of retail snafus. And by damned will you be caught unaware.

When your staff has agreed to the performance standards in advance, they must let you know the moment they realize a task won’t be completed on time, whatever the reason. This is often handled by an exception report that states the original commitment, the reason the commitment won’t be met, and a proposed alternative solution.

Because not all retail situations deal with issues of national security, knowing in advance that something isn’t going to happen allows time to make adjustments before it becomes a crisis. This keeps management in control to decide whether the reason for missing the deadline and the alternative solutions are acceptable. Regardless of the outcome, communication channels are kept open, chain of command is in place, and management maintains the ability to act strategically. These are all things ownership is truly looking for.

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