When Trump and Liberals Agree

What interesting times we live in, as people in every generation have said. What spurs this thought is the New York Times coming out in a favor of a Trump administration program (after going on a long vendetta against anything Trump, which they still do).

The Times wrote in favor of the administration’s plan to increase apprenticeship programs in the trades. It goes to show no matter how much you can’t stand someone it doesn’t mean everything they do or say doesn’t have value.

I have clients who worry they won’t be able to grow if they can’t find qualified people, who can pass a drug and background check. Business buyers have passed on deals because the seller informed them about how tough it was to find more (good) workers. This is in electrical, HVAC, roofing, trucking, and other industries.

Add qualified labor to the crisis list a notch below opioids, homelessness, and poverty and realize if apprentice programs are successful it will reduce the previously mentioned problems. While having a different focus, it’s one reason my Rotary club and I have sponsored a dozen overseas projects putting technology in schools and sewing centers around the island of Antigua. The better educated we are the better the economy will be, whether it’s tech, the trades, or anything else.

Urgency and the Government’s Pace

At the annual conference for the Society for the Advancement of Consulting I once again heard about how speed matters, i.e. have urgency. Also, how in this fast-moving world 6-12 months is a long time (meaning it’s ridiculous to have a five-year plan and projections), and why it benefits the client to get things done sooner versus later.

Well, let’s tell that to the government. A client had a visit from a government agency 2.5 year ago and jut two weeks ago got a letter saying how they needed to change a few things. Two and one-half years to get out a letter. If this stuff was so important wouldn’t you think they’d want it corrected then not now?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Let’s have fun (my wife’s motto)

On September 20, I’ll be again volunteering to teach my class, “Dynamically Growing a Consulting Business” at the local SBA/SCORE office. It’s always an opportunity to remind myself the things I’m recommending to the students are the things I should be always doing myself, especially to enjoy what you’re doing.

Last week in a newsletter from Alan Weiss he wrote how he always asks coaching clients, “Are you having fun?” And, how many of them don’t like that because they think if you’re hard-charging up the corporate ladder or running your business it’s work not fun.

But it better be fun. On page one of my book, Buying A Business That Makes You Rich, I cover the top nine reasons people in audiences give me on why they want to be in business for themselves (whether it’s buy, start, or get a franchise). Then I tell them the number one reason should be to have FUN, which is mentioned maybe 2% of the time.

When business is good, it’s always more fun. When there are challenges they are at least your challenges and you control how to deal with them. But being in control doesn’t mean you are by yourself on the decision-making island.

As the video below covers, you do better with an advisory board or board of directors (or a business coach). Being in business can be lonely, that’s why there are scores of roundtable groups, coaches, and advisory boards. Use the one most appropriate for you.

“No matter how dirty your past is, your future is still spotless.” Drake

Why Do People “Disappear?”

I recently met someone I considered an “A” prospect. We met, he heard me speak, we met again with his wife present, and I gave him a proposal on how we could work together. He sent me an email saying he’d, “…get back to you next week.”

When I didn’t hear from him I called and left a message. Two weeks later another message and finally an email saying I’d left two messages and the ball was in his court if he wanted to get back to me.

Assuming he’s alive and not severely disabled it means he disappeared on me. Not even the courtesy of an email saying he’s not interested.

And it’s not just him or me. Everybody I know in the employment field (applicants, coaches, recruiters, etc.) say this behavior is very common in the job industry. People at companies don’t reply, leave applicants hanging, etc.

It’s a form of passive aggressive behavior (and being in Seattle, the passive aggressive capital of the world, it’s not unusual). It’s also rude and unprofessional, and probably speaks to the self-esteem of many people as they can’t say no, even in writing (it’s called Minnesota Nice in that part of the country).

If you’re not interested, just say so.

Do More in Less Time

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Copyright © 2016), shared it with a client group for discussion, and I’m now reading the book. BTW, my clients really identified with the topic and had positive feedback.

The title of the excerpt is: “Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too – Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In simple terms, the book (and article) explain why some of the most productive people ever to set foot on the planet only “worked” (or work if they’re still alive) about four hours a day. The opening of the book is about the science behind this (proving it) and is a bit deep as the author describes the various brain tests and similar.

Charles Darwin is a perfect example of this as he put in three intense 90-minute segments a day of work. The rest of his day was filled with correspondence (email to us), walking, napping, family, etc. During this time, and on this schedule, he wrote 19 books including the famous, “The Origin of Species.”

Other interesting tidbits:

  • Studies have shown there’s an “M” curve of productivity, which peaks at between 10 and 20 hours of work per week. After that, it’s lower productivity. In fact, 60-hour per week researchers were the least productive of all.
  • Great performers (music, dance, sports) didn’t practice more than the average but they practiced more deliberately. This means, “engaging with full concentration in a special activity to improve one’s performance.” It’s more than repetition, it’s focused, structured, and has clear goals and feedback.
  • The biggest factor was rest. The best scientists, musicians, dancers, and athletes, made sure they got enough rest, sleeping an average of one hour more per day than those not as good.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago I returned on Tuesday from a long weekend of fishing and other things, got in my office Wednesday morning about 8:00, at 10:00 I took my first break, realized how much I had accomplished, and noted I needed a break. It hit me how subconsciously I was doing as described in the book.

“I’m at the point where naps are a necessity not a luxury.” My best friend’s dad to my dad when both were in their 70’s

Getting Your Message Across

I’m a member of Seattle Executives Association (SEA) and we recently had elections for the board of directors. Unlike my Rotary club where there’s one person nominated for each position, in SEA it’s truly an election, with two people for president-elect and treasurer and six people for three board positions.

An interesting twist is you don’t campaign for yourself, you give a “speech” telling the group why your opponent (or one of your opponents) should be elected. What I noticed is:

All of those elected had their promotion filled with something a bit outrageous and/or humorous. Those not elected had their promoter give a talk filled with facts (went to this school, worked here and there, has these skills, etc.)

People remember stories and humor is a form of a story. An outrageous action (outrageous meaning a surprise or something unusual but in good taste) is remembered the same way.

The business lesson here is facts may be important but the delivery is much more important.

 

Business Basics – From Day 1

A recent edition of my Marquette University alumni magazine had an article on a new mandatory Business School course, Business Day 1 (something I wish they had when I was in school). Every business school freshman takes this class, which exposes them to accounting, finance, managerial economics, human recourses, marketing, supply chain management, and IT.

The course culminates with a “signature curricular component,” an advanced business simulation. The simulation includes hiring, pricing, sourcing, marketing, and ethical scenarios (being a Jesuit institution ethics classes were always on everybody’s course list).

Like most universities, Marquette has a strong entrepreneurial program and this introductory class sounds great for budding entrepreneurs. As most of you reading this know, most business owners are strong in some areas and not-so-strong in others. In fact, they often have very limited skills outside of their core areas (core strengths being a huge component of why they’re good owners/entrepreneurs). A class like this will probably prevent many lessons learned from experience.

However, there’s one learning area missing, and that’s sales. I’ve maintained for years universities should require students to take a Sales 101 class. To give them a basic understanding of what sales and business communication really is (solving a problem) as well as to dispel myths about sales (no, all sales is not like an old used car lot, i.e. sell anything to anyone, just make a sale).

My first “real” job out of college had me buying services. I didn’t understand too much about sales. Although I must have been decent at it as I had my own painting business through college and grad school and I was the one doing all the customer relations and bidding. I feel class on basic sales would have tremendously accelerated my learning and career.

“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” Anna Wintour

 

Jobs, Skills, and Worker Shortages

As I looked through my folder of articles I’ve saved as topics for my newsletters and posts the number one topic, by a landslide, was the topic of jobs and employees.

Here are a few of the article topics:

  • There are 200,000 unfilled construction jobs as 30% of construction workers found new industries after the Great Recession.
  • Trump threats about tariffs and his going after Ford and Carrier and their Mexico plans.
  • The shortage of workers to fill many, many positions in a variety of industries. (As a sidebar item, our family cabin is in northern Wisconsin and in the county with the State’s highest unemployment rate. Yet last year restaurants couldn’t fully staff their operations because people didn’t want to work as they’d have to give up their State benefits.)

Here are some headlines:

  • Good help wanted, but hard to find
  • What would it take to return mill jobs to Trump county?
  • Factory workers demand winner deliver the goods
  • Skilled workers in short supply

The above is interesting (and true). In the day-to-day world of small business here’s what I’m hearing:

Owners are incredibly interested in how to attract, retain, and motivate good employees.

My annual client breakfast had requests for a speaker on employee issues (Jack Goldberg with Personnel Management Systems, Inc., the leading HR outsourcing firm in Seattle). My group of business owners repeatedly asks for presenters on attracting and retaining people. When  CEOs speak to us the questions always include some about people.

The disconnect as I see it, and I’m not the only one, is many of the people looking for work don’t have the skills for the available jobs. No matter what any politician says, someone trained to do maintenance or work in a low-tech factory doesn’t have what Microsoft, Apple, Google, and all the small tech companies need (and they don’t have the right skills to get a construction job or work in a high-tech factory). It’s why there are 500,000 unfilled tech jobs in this country (plus the 200,000 unfilled construction jobs and why good CNC machinists are at a premium). This makes keeping good people more important than ever (and why tech salaries have skyrocketed).

Some things aren’t going to change. It takes a person to build a building or program a computer. But now one person can program a machine that will work all night cranking out parts with no human supervision. Then that person moves to the next machine and does the same thing. What used to take many people over multiple shifts now takes one person on one shift.

Conclusion

In my opinion is education is the answer. As you get this I just returned from Antigua working on a Rotary service project. Our theme is, “Improving Education Through Technology.” Our goal is for the teachers to better reach their students by using computers, tablets, Wi-Fi networks, etc. instead of a blackboard. Not that blackboards don’t work, but it’s all about reaching your audience and the best way to reach kids is to teach via what they are using all the time outside of school, i.e. devices with screens.

Caution Ahead: Construction Related Business are Swamping the Market

Fact 1: In my 20+ years as an intermediary I have never seen so many construction related businesses on the market. This includes building materials, flooring, hardware distributors, window coverings, and specialty subcontractors.

Fact 2: In 2006 every bit of research done by anybody showed at least five years of solid commercial construction in the Puget Sound area.

Fact 3: We all know what happened in 2008.

Buyers and bankers need to be careful. I don’t mean avoid the construction industry but don’t let anybody convince you the valuation should be anywhere near what it would be for manufacturing, distribution, or service.

I’m working on one deal now for a $15 million revenue construction products distributor and the price is 3X profit. The seller recognizes it’s a market at a peak.

Construction is cyclical, very cyclical, and is economy centric. And, obviously, very hot right now. If I was looking at anything construction related I would want to see financial statements for the last 10 years. You’ll see the ups and downs. The good ones will survive, but they don’t have acquisition debt payments.