Paul McCartney and Wings had a song titled, “Silly Love Songs” and it starts with the line, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.”
Every day we are surrounded by silly policies and rules. Some of them even have some benefit.
One that doesn’t, in my opinion, is here my city of Kirkland. Every new house or major remodel must put in a sidewalk, which costs thousands of dollars. We’re a suburban city, there are a lot of neighborhoods without sidewalks and some with full sidewalks, at least on one side of the street.
For example, my street has a full sidewalk on our side and almost none on the other side (which is fine). When a new house was built on the corner, across the street from us, they had to put in a full sidewalk on both street sides. Even though there are full sidewalks across both streets and these new sidewalks have no connecting sidewalks. They just sit there, ending at gravel. To me, a useless and expensive rule.
The flip side
The SBA has a rule that states that when there’s an SBA guaranteed acquisition loan the seller must be completely out within one year. On the surface it seems silly to have to get rid of that knowledge and experience.
However, my experience tells me that 80% of the time, if the seller stays around, it will not be a positive attitude. They can sour the culture with nothing more than a few comments like, “We never used to do it that way.” Or, employees will play off the new owner and former owner like teenagers play off their parents. I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a special relationship and special circumstances to make this work.
This rule was not enacted for the above reason, but it still works.
“Everyone is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day. Wisdom consists in not exceeding that limit.” Writer Elbert Hubbard
Ever wonder what world some people live in? Ever wonder if your clients or customers ask what world you live in? Consider the following:
I’m in a line for coffee while at our Rotary district conference. First, the lady who just got her coffee (some fancy 19 ingredient conglomeration) tastes it, calls the barista, asks for more vanilla soy milk because, “it’s too strong.” Come on, it’s a coffee drink. Shouldn’t you want to taste some coffee?
Then, a young lady walks around the people behind me to the other side of the register to order something. Did she think the line was for everybody but her? Was she that oblivious to the environment?
Then there are the people who walk four abreast, slowly, down the sidewalk or trail. And don’t move over when others approach them, much less worry about people behind them wanting to walk faster (like me).
Finally, the annoying people who charge into a (mostly) full elevator (or airport shuttle train) directly in the way of those wanting to exit.
I see these things regularly. They annoy me, but only to the point of writing about them, as I don’t let them bother me and it always reminds me to not be like this, especially in business. Be aware of all surroundings, take care of your customers, those who refer people to you and those who help your customers so they don’t get annoyed with you like I get annoyed by the above things.
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” Author Terry Pratchett
In the last week I’ve heard two contradictory opinions about the current state of the economy, both from smart people who need to be abreast of current conditions.
One person stated that though his business was strong, he was very pleased because of the still-tough economy. The other person discussed how the market was at 15,000, housing was taking off, car sales are solid, etc.
Let me offer my street-level perspective on how the economy is doing, at least in the Seattle area. It’s very good. I see this in the number of prospective clients I have, flurry of buy-sell deals and how my clients are doing. More important, here is a true indicator; the place where I get my hair cut has raised their prices twice in the last year or so. First they raised them 11% and less than a year later raised them another 15%. That’s a 28% increase in less than two years. Things must be going pretty well.
On April 29 my Rotary Club (www.bbrc.net) held our annual fundraiser, the Bellevue 10K and 5K. When we picked up our family’s packets the day before my wife handled the pickup while I talked to some fellow members.
When we got to the car and she was sorting shirts I noticed my shirt was different. It was a shirt from three years ago. I sent a text to our run director who told me we were short-shipped XL shirts. She added that we should have been told that I will be on a late delivery list for a 2013 shirt.
My comment back to her was that all it would have taken was the volunteer to tell us about the situation. Communication is key and that’s why she, upon getting my text, contacted the pickup site and told people to inform participants getting XL shirts what was going on. Because she did this quickly we only had one email from a non-club-member complaining.
The above is a perfect story for life and business. Things don’t always go right; glitches happen. After all, we’re all human. So communicating the situation is what matters because it prevents misunderstanding, bad feelings and misguided reactions. It’s when we stay silent that we “turn molehills into mountains” and not vice versa.
“Too much apology doubles the offense.” (Poet) James Richardson
I came back from the gym the other night and my wife had the MLB network on and was watching the Dodgers-Brewers game. The Dodgers announcer is Vin Scully, he’s been announcing Dodger games for over 60 years, he’s in his 80’s and sounds as good as ever (and better than most younger announcers).
If we’d been able to listen from the Brewer’s booth we’d have heard Bob Uecker, in his 70’s and still as funny as ever. Here are two guys who love what they do and are still on top of their game.
On the other hand, we read about and know people who can’t wait until they can quit their job and collect social security. What a difference between these people and Misters Scully and Uecker.
I see the same thing in business owners. To some it’s drudgery and to others it’s fun. I learned long ago that when we meet a potential seller of a business who’s in his or her 70’s, and especially in their 80’s, the odds of them selling are not that high (unless they are hit by a catastrophic event). Their business is either too much fun or they don’t have a life outside the business; and let’s hope it’s the former reason and they do have a life. We all should love what we do, constantly evolve it and yet not let it be all encompassing.
“A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.” Tom Waits
There are a lot of words that can be used to describe the events in Boston last week. They include amazing, senseless and barbaric, and in regards to the perpetrators, stupid and incomprehensible.
What I mean by amazing is how the whole thing transpired over just four and one-half days from catastrophic event to capture.
Criminals are not smart. The infamous Professor James Moriarity is truly a fictional character.
Anybody can do things. These two young murderers figured out how to make a bomb. That’s tactical, it’s doing something. But they had no strategy. They ignored the fact there are cameras everywhere and barely disguised themselves. They stayed in town, had evidence in their house, on their computers and as part of their social media.
Technology can be amazing and these guys underestimated technology. Poor quality video plus advanced facial recognition software had them identified in a couple of days. The police used technology to make their job easier and that allowed them to get the tips they got from the public to end the ordeal.
The lessons here are that this event, like in business, shows that anybody can “do things,” but it’s the strategy that tells you what to do, when to do it and how to do it. And part of that “doing” is using technology to increase productivity, not to overuse it and definitely not to ignore it, because it’s different. You don’t have to be as insightful as Sherlock Holmes but you have to pay attention to the big picture, not just the day-to-day, a lot more than the two idiots in Boston.
“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Winston Churchill
My mother-in-law just completed an amazing journey that started when she had a severe reaction to a minor and routine medical procedure. After three months in the hospital and nursing home followed by four months in -living she is back home.
Because of this we were visiting her recently assisted and due our travels couldn’t make dinner the first night until 7:00 pm. As we left her house she boldly announced that we wouldn’t be able to have dinner, “The restaurant will be closed. Only you Seattle people eat this late. Nobody eats this late here.”
Well, guess what? We arrived at the restaurant, the bar was two deep with people waiting for a table, we were lucky to have a reservation and when we left over an hour later all the tables were still full and the bar was still two deep.
Because she eats at 4:30-5:00 she assumed that everybody else does too. It’s the same in many businesses, large and small. It’s why we need outside eyes looking at our business, coaching us and offering new perspectives. Or we end up, “drinking our own Kool-Aid.”
Where I see this a lot is when there’s an attitude of, “We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” Get over it. Break the pattern, shake things up and create a spark of enthusiasm.
I uncovered a business for my business buyer clients that is engulfed in a “disagreement” with the Washington State Department of Labor. Disagreement is putting it mildly as there’s a judgment for well over $100,000 against the company for classifying people as independent contractors not employees.
This is not an isolated issue. A couple weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had an article on how the IRS is getting very aggressive in this area. The state wants money from every source they can find and the IRS knows that contractors tend to not report (all) their income.
The company in question has made a lot of money by not having to pay payroll taxes. Their customers have lower prices than they should because of this. And the model is about to be broken.
Just think if the owner had put his thoughts and energy into growing the business, creating a value proposition based on higher quality not just price and paid people enough so turnover dropped significantly?
Too many business owners are shortsighted because of taxes. Often because they are mad at the IRS or government in general. It often hurts them when it’s time to sell. This shortsightedness may have some rationality to it, “We bought some new equipment (we really didn’t need) at the end of the year to reduce taxes,” to outright fraud, like not reporting income or blending the business and personal checkbooks by writing off massive amounts of personal expenses.
Buyers and banks like to see a lot of profit on the tax return. They don’t like having to justify explanations for why the income is lower than the owner/seller says it really is.
“Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.” Francis Bacon
From Russel Wood, www.fushionflavorsusa.com, Tampa, FL
When we purchased our company, it became blatantly obvious how important technology was going to be for us to be efficient. Coming from the large corporate world, you have huge amount of resources at your disposal; this is not the case when you are in the fast paced environment of small to midsized business owner ship.
We quickly latched on to the use of cloud drives to share documents. Our smart phone became an indispensable member of the team. We began using web clipping and mind mapping to bring ideas together until we were able to execute on them. Using technologies like these have enabled us to move quickly, increase productivity and stay competitive.
My advice to other small businesses, constantly seek areas where you can employ technology to be more efficient. Don’t underestimate the importance of a mentor/consultant to help you implement. In the long run it will save time which is money. Lastly, never allow yourself to grow complacent; business is moving just too fast for that.
Once again it’s the NCAA basketball tournament, aka, March Madness. This year’s tourney has created great headlines for all of the (major) upsets. I feel fortunate that my alma mater, Marquette, has made it to the Sweet 16, again.
As I was telling some friends last week, for many teams, to do well, it comes down to:
Where they play.
Momentum, being hot at the right time.
Matchups, Wisconsin’s style causes problems for Indiana yet Wisconsin is out and Indiana is a number one seed and still playing. What if those two teams were matched in the first round?
When I first looked at all the teams that didn’t have great seasons and are still playing I wondered if making the round of 16 meant as much as if it was filled with nothing but thoroughbreds. Then I realized that it means even more to have lived up to your rankings when many others couldn’t.
The same applies in business, and life. Look at who’s doing well and emulate them. Don’t look at failures and under-performers and avoid what they did. And above all, change with the times. What worked 10 years ago may not work today (and if it does it probably does so in a vastly different way). And, by the way, I said emulate them, not imitate them. We all have to be ourselves and let our personality shine through.
“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never give up.” Helen Gurley Brown