Timing is Everything – Proven

On December 30, 2017 the Wall Street Journal featured a column by Daniel Pink, How to Be Healthier, Happier and More Productive: It’s All in the Timing, which was an excerpt from his new book When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I’ve started reading the book and found this article to be an excellent introduction to the book.

The article concentrates on timing during the day. Pink writes that we all have cycles, most of us on a cycle of peak-trough-rebound, although about 20% of people are truly night owls, with a cycle of rebound-trough-peak. Because of this cycle, most of us are creative in the afternoon, during our rebound period. Our analytical skills tend to be best during the late morning, after we’re energized and in a groove, and before we hit the mid-day slump, i.e. trough.

What I found interesting was the study’s research on exercise. Exercising in the morning allows for:

  • Building a routine (we do it before we get tired and/or distracted).
  • Boosting our mood.
  • Losing weight, because people generally don’t eat before early exercise and therefore burn fat not food.

Exercising in the afternoon or evening gives:

  • Fewer injuries because as our body temperature rises during the day our muscles are warmer.
  • Better performance (cardio and strength).

Last fall I wrote about a book titled, Rest. Similar to what’s in Rest, When recommends we take more breaks to increase productivity. This was shown to be true in a study of students and their taking of tests during different times of the day. Morning tests generate higher scores. But afternoon tests after a break yielded much better results than without breaks. The efficiency of working with others also improves after a break.

 

What was really interesting was that when the break included being outdoors, people who took a short outdoor walk were happier and more rested than those whose break included walking around indoors. In the book Rest, one of the focal points was how Charles Darwin took daily outdoor walks. He also took (what I’ll call) super breaks, aka naps.

Conclusion

It appears the more we study human patterns and tendencies the more we get away from the philosophy that everybody needs to work, work, work. This is especially true for people who use creativity to some extent. This could be writing, art, sales, problem solving, and much more. The concepts above don’t apply to those of us on an assembly line, running a CNC machine, hanging drywall, or similar. But, it’s also known regular breaks from physical work increase productivity (I remember this from my Production 101 class).

The above lends credence to what I tell students in my Dynamically Grow A Consulting Business at the SBA office, find your best time of the day for certain tasks and do those tasks at those times. And, in the final topic, on life balance, I emphasize taking breaks.

Employee Lesson From Sports

In early January the Seattle Times broke a story saying the Green Bay Packers asked the Seattle Seahawks permission to interview Seahawks general manager John Schneider for the GM job in Green Bay.

The Seahawks refused permission and Schneider supposedly wanted to interview for (and wanted) the job. The Times reported NFL rules say permission can be denied if it’s a lateral move but can’t be denied if it’s a promotion. It became a moot point Sunday when the Packers filled the position.

I doubt this will have any effect on any of the parties moving forward but things like this can be sticky situations. Many years ago a client had an employee leave, they went to enforce a non-solicitation agreement, the customer said, “we don’t want to be in the middle so figure it out (without us).” What do you do? Run up legal bills, lose any chance with the customer, or let it go?

I remember another client who did everything right when hiring someone but the industry’s 800-pound gorilla put their legal department on it and the cost of winning wasn’t worth it.

What’s interesting about sports is it’s in the culture to groom people (primarily assistant coaches) for advancement, knowing the advancement will probably be with another team. There’s pride in seeing protégés move ahead, as it should be.

“Never take anyone’s advice.” John Banville

Taxes, Deficits, and the Future

I just received a notice on my phone from the Wall Street Journal saying the federal deficit this year will be $984 billion.

I majored in Economics (undergrad and grad school), my program was primarily monetarist professors (versus Keynesians), monetarist meaning Milton Friedman was a hero (as were low deficits).

There is nothing wrong with deficits, especially in a strong country like the US, and also when times are tough. But this high a deficit when times are great makes no sense. This is when we should be running surpluses, like we did in the 1990’s.

It’s like our businesses or households. There’s a time for debt (mortgage, car, line of credit, new equipment, etc.) but it’s also important to save. We don’t want to leave our children with (personal) debt and we shouldn’t leave them with government debt either.

My conclusion is, it doesn’t matter which party is in control, when in power they all spend like money grows on trees.

Integrity and Relationships

I was reading an interview with a noted Seattle real estate developer and when asked about what he learned from his first mentor he stated it was the value of relationships, and the value of integrity.

Pretty good lessons I’d say. It’s tough to do business without great relationships and integrity. Sure, people can make a lot of money with questionable ethics but, in my opinion, at some point it catches up with them.

As many people know, I preach the power of relationships to my clients in the buy-sell world. In small to mid-sized deals nobody buys from or sells to somebody they don’t like (or trust). When one client disagreed with me I pointed out how the seller gets along with the customers and employees and if the buyer and seller don’t get along how will the buyer keep the customers and employees, which are what is really being bought.

 

If You’re in Business You’re Providing Value

Recently we had to take our Kitchen Aid mixer in for repairs. I was amazed at the sight of hundreds and hundreds of small appliances on the shelves of the repair shop. In this age where so much is disposable (think electronics like a DVD player) there were a lot of items being rehabilitated.

It demonstrates there’s a need for all kinds of services. The shoe repair shop near us looks the same, hundreds of items on the shelves. Good shoes or boots cost hundreds of dollars and it makes sense people want to keep them even when the basic parts wear out.

Think about where you add value. The above examples are simple to understand. Your appliance works again or your shoes don’t leak. At “Partner” On-Call we always said our goal is to have our clients better off with us versus without us. Here’s a simple three step process.

  • Determine how you can get in front of more people you can help (it’s using the phone and in-person meetings, not Twitter).
  • How do you figure out the value you can add (ask questions)?
  • Impress them with valuable information before they hire you (no hard sell, have them realize what they’ll be missing without you on their team).

We all can provide value. But if your value stays hidden within you it’s not helping anybody.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful, that a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Make Yourself Dependent

We recently went out for dinner with some good friends and in our discussions the husband touched on how his customers tell him if he was to leave they don’t know what they’d do (he’s in sales of technical production equipment). In other words, he’s indispensable, at least in the short-term.

I often mention how business owners need to reduce and eliminate dependencies but there’s a flip side to it. Often we need to make ourselves a dependency. This can take many forms.

As described above, an employee with special skills, especially in small to lower middle market businesses, has job security. Not only is it expensive to replace someone, in today’s market it’s darn hard to find great people. Our friend has good job security.

When your company provides crucial services to your customers you’ve become a dependency to them. Without abusing it, it’s revenue security. It’s why repeat business and any “value-add” service is the top choice of business owners (and buyers).

On the other hand, if you are the reason one of your suppliers has customer concentration issues you have some leverage (as long as there are other suppliers). This one is easy to abuse. I remember in grad school learning about how Sears would become the highly-dominant customer of mid-sized businesses and use that to buy the company, and not at what the price would be if they weren’t so dominant.

While I “preach” about the evils of dependencies, if you’re the dependency it can be a good thing.

Getting the Deal Done Recap

On November 7, 2017 we* did our tenth annual Getting the Deal Done Breakfast Conference and had record attendance of about 180 people. Our guest speaker was Joe Fugere, founder and CEO of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria.

Joe’s topic was, “Value Based Leadership.” Here are some of the main points I picked up from Joe.

  1. Tutta Bella has their 10 Point Pizza Guidelines and if any pizza doesn’t meet all 10 guidelines it isn’t served and is donated to food banks.
  2. Joe’s business recipe for success has three ingredients: Purpose, Values, and Vision. Purpose summarizes why a company exists and Tutta Bella’s is, “To nourish lives by sharing traditions, authentic food and love.”
  3. Values in our standards of behavior. Tutta Bella’s values are love, innovation, growth (of their people), community, and passion. As part of this they expect their people to, live our values, be our values, and create memorable experiences.
  4. Vision defines the optimal desired future state. Part of Tutta Bella’s vision is providing employees with clarity, giving professional and personal support via constant feedback and coaching, and giving their people a reason to be proud. Overall, their vision is, “To transcend conventional practices and expectations in casual dining so that our enterprise flourishes and is highly respected by employees, guests, and business peers.”
  5. The company is very community oriented. Each of their five stores picks a charity in their immediate community to support and companywide they have two organizations they support.

They live the above, not just say it. That becomes obvious when you hear Joe talk about it.

As per our standard operating procedure, the sponsors then presented a panel discussion. This year it wasn’t a case study to analyze but rather sticky situations in buy-sell deals (and with operating companies). The topics our group of experts covered included:

  • (Given Tutta Bella is such a people oriented company) what are the top people-employee-management issues?
  • The plusses and minuses of selling to management and employees.
  • Dealing with a C corporation when selling, especially if there’s real estate in the corporation.
  • How to handle shareholder squabbles and disputes.
  • What to do when there’s no management development, which usually means a huge owner dependency.
  • When is a quality of earnings report needed and what makes it a good one.
  • And it goes without saying Marc presented on tax law updates.

Another great event and we hope to see you at next years.

* We means Greg Russell with PRK Law; Kit Gerwels with Columbia Bank; Marc Hutchinson with Hutchinson and Walter CPA; John O’Dore with Chinook Capital Advisors; and me.

 

Treat People Fair and Reap the Benefits

About five years ago I worked on a buy-sell deal, representing the buyer. Time goes by and I get a call from the seller, asking for help with one of his other businesses.

I got the call because he respected the way I handled things. He knew my objective was a win-win deal. (This is an example of why I tell clients their legal bill is dependent on how well the attorneys play together – some play well and others always want “everything.”)

If on every assignment you treat everybody fair, your short and long-term results will be great.

Walk Like a New Yorker

While in New York City earlier this year we had dinner with one of our former exchange students. Alex recently moved to the New York area from Ecuador and we talked about his adapting to the city, which he’s been to before but not to live.

We talked about the crowds and the pace and I said, “You have to learn to walk like a New Yorker.”

This is a metaphor for adapting to any circumstance in life or business. In my business, relationships are key to success for my clients and me. I like to say, “While cash is king, the queen is relationships and like in chess, the queen is the most powerful piece on the board.”

You don’t get the job you want if you can’t relate to the boss or hiring manager. I can’t get a client if we don’t relate and my clients can’t buy or sell a business if they can’t relate to people on the other side.

I recently heard from two owners who told me how important it was to sell their business to the right person. One specifically mentioned his loyal employees and how he wanted them to keep their jobs.

Everybody reading this relies on relationships to be successful so I’m preaching to the choir. So just in case you forgot….

“Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Groucho Marx