Think Business is Cut-Throat?

Do you believe in angels? How would you like to employ “better angels” in your business?

Over the weekend, I read Win with Decency, a short book by Douglass and Lisa-Marie Hatcher.

Their premise is that you do business best by positive treatment of every individual and organization the business comes in contact with. This would include:

  • Employees.
  • Customers and clients.
  • Suppliers.
  • Contractors.
  • Service providers.
  • Your community.
  • Shareholders.
  • The “man on the street” – everyone else you encounter, however casually.

You may wonder at my listing employees above customers and clients. Aren’t customers and clients a vital concern of every business? Yes, absolutely! However, your employees will treat your customers and clients only as well as you treat them.

The Hatchers identify five human qualities which best accomplish this:

  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Vulnerability
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity

In the first five chapters, each discussing one of these qualities, they

  1. Define the quality.
  2. Tie the quality to business storytelling. (The Hatchers use business story-telling extensively in their coaching business.)
  3. Make the business case.
  4. Show you at least one way you can transform the quality into an applicable skill.
  5. Give you examples of who’s using the skill for better business. An example company they cite in Chapter 5 (generosity) is Chobani Yogurt. We discussed Chobani here about a year ago..

In Chapter 6, they wrap these concepts together to Win with Decency in a very human way. In this chapter they refer to Carol Dweck’s great work on fixed and growth mindsets, which we discussed here a few weeks ago.

Consider using these ideas to do better business. Of course, you’ll also foster better personal relationships with everyone involved.

Are You Hiring Remote Workers?

Based on an article originally published June 15, 2020.

These days many employers are searching for candidates to work remotely.

How confident do you feel about hiring people to work from home? Many considerations for any hiring apply for remote workers. However, some qualities stand out for special attention here. Minda Zetlin has some suggestions for picking the best candidates for a “work from home” role.

She makes a very important distinction. It’s easy to confuse a “people-pleaser” with an optimist.

Of course, you want to avoid pessimists as remote workers. Probably for all workers. You need people with a positive attitude and the ability to “self-start”.Especially so when they must work with little direct supervision.

Be thorough in probing someone who sounds positive and gives you answers that you like to your questions. Such a person might be very intuitive about what you like to hear, so they give you the “right” answers. Does he or she indeed have a positive attitude? You need to dig a little deeper. Minda suggests some clues as to the things you’ll hear from a true optimist. And some things a people-pleaser might say that can tip you off.

When you’re searching for remote workers, I hope you find Minda’s suggestions helpful. You want an optimist. A people-pleaser might go off in a wrong direction without your realizing it.

Stay focused. Stay informed, but skip the “hype”. Be healthy. Be of good cheer.

Simply Speaking Opens Up a Path


JP Morgan, from Santa Monica, CA: “Hawaii, here we come”.

Some months ago, in one of Eric Lofholm’s daily 15 minute podcasts, I was introduced to JP Morgan. JP has a unique approach to people and relationships in life and business. Here, he shares his wife’s comment, and how it’s snowballing into a big move.

As I’ve gotten to know JP I’ve found him to have clearer mindset ideas than almost anyone I know. I’ve offered some of them before.

In the short talk I’m pointing you to today, JP starts off discussing metaphors. How they can have huge impacts in our lives. How they can transform our reality. How they can drive action.

Recently, JP and his wife had some discussion about their life plans. She mentioned that living in Hawaii was a dream of hers. They discussed the idea between them. Then they began mentioning it to friends and associates.

Soon they began to hear from people who knew others in Hawaii, or had other connections there. Their speaking, leading to the reaction of others, was opening up a clear path to Hawaii. The path seems to unfold from their destination to their feet. Their speaking seems to, in effect, throw out a line with a hook, The hook catches in the future, and things begin to align. A path becomes clearer…and then cleare
r.
Throw another line…the links become stronger. The path becomes clearer. The pull intensifies. Much of this happens just as the result of the ideas we speak.

Listen to JP’s 4-minute description of this process and how it might work for you.

Anti-CEO Playbook Challenges 3 Business “Rules”

Based on an article originally published July 24, 2019

We’ve all heard stories of impoverished immigrants who came to the U. S. and prospered through hard work and perseverance.  

Sometimes unique business ideas have been part of the recipe as well. Here’s an example of that. 

Jessica Stillman relates a great story of a Turkish sheep farmer who came to the U.S. about 20 years ago.  

Hamdi Ulukaya came from a family of yogurt makers. He saw an ad for a yogurt factory for sale cheap. He borrowed money and bought it just as the aging owner had ordered it to be closed. 

Ulukaya had some ideas that he terms the “Anti-CEO Playbook”. He brings his concepts to life in a 17-minute TED talk which is linked in Stillman’s article. I think the entire saga is well worth listening to.  

Strapped for time and want to invest less of it in this story?  You can start the video at the 6:30 time and hear the most inspiring part of the story. For those who opt for that, I’ll summarize the “preamble” a little further along.  

He debunks a few ideas that have become accepted business advice:

  • Maximize stockholder value? How about the employees?
  • CEO responsible to the Board? How about the customers?
  • Incentives from the community? He sees it the other way around.

He’s all about cutting out middlemen and getting incentives and gratitude in the right place. 

The following sets the stage for the balance of Ulukaya’s talk in case you choose to start in the middle. 

The yogurt plant was on a dead-end road and was in terrible run-down condition. The 55 employees were still there, working only to shut the place down. Ulukaya detected a spirit among the employees that energized him. He describes the culture of the company as a “time machine”. 

He kept four of the key people and said to them, “First thing we’re going to do is go the local Ace Hardware store and buy some paint. We’ll paint the outside walls white.”  

Of course the employees wondered at this priority, but complied. 

That’s where the story of Chobani Yogurt gets interesting. Listen, as Paul Harvey used to say, to “the rest of the story”. Start at the 6:30 interval in the TED talk video at the end of the article

Whatever You Do has a Leadership Lesson in it!

Jim Smith recently caught my eye with his story of “Lessons From The Muck“.

A great curiosity-inducing title!

Jim is self-styled “The Executive Happiness Coach”. In this article, he takes the opportunity to extract a few lessons from a distasteful task. Wading into and clearing out an overgrown swamp.

These lessons apply in business, and in life. For many years I’ve observed people’s behaviors in life and business. The issues one faces in life, and in business, differ in detail. The attitudes and approaches most effective in facing those issues are very similar. What works in life works in business, and vice versa.

In Jim’s article he draws these parallels very effectively. In the intensely unpleasant personal task of clearing out 30 years of flora and fauna grown wild, he sees principles that apply to leadership in business. Here are the lessons he draws from this experience.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Many people approach an unfamiliar situation with their familiar knowledge. New challenges require new learning, new approaches.
  2. Seek to understand, then be understood. You’ll rarely be loved, until you love. Rarely will you have friends until you be a friend. You’ll rarely be understood until you understand. What you put out comes back to you.
  3. Declare and hold a clear focus. Without it you’ll get sidetracked by the forces and obstacles pushing you off course.
  4. Practice self-awareness and emotional self-management. It’s important to think critically about how to react to situations, rather than leave it to your emotions.
  5. Continually stretch into discomfort. You make real progress and grow only when you’re working beyond your “comfort zone”.
  6. YOU are a never-ending project. Always finding ways to improve is critical to real success and growth.

These concepts are all important to good performance and progress. I recommend you read Jim’s article to understand the nuances of his approach vs. mine, and to get the benefit of his humorous approach to his story.

Thanks to all Those Who’ve Commented!

During the past several days I’ve received 100’s of comments on my articles. This is a sudden increase and I’m not sure of the reason why, but I’m very grateful.

Many have been very complimentary. Several have offered suggestions for improving my work, like using more pictures and videos. While I don’t have time to answer you all individually, I appreciate every one of those comments, with the exception noted below. I thank you for them.

Several of the comments requested advice on blogging or other aspects of writing. I’ll comment generally with the following resources:

  • Go Daddy is a great place to get started with a website for very little cost.
  • American Writers and Artists Institute offers great training and other resources for all kinds of writing.
  • Having trouble with punctuation, spelling and syntax? Paste your text into Fletcher-Kincaid. You can set up a single user account for peanuts. They’ll help you identify things that could embarrass you later!
  • For those asking about other relevant material to read, many of my articles contain links to other writers who have useful ideas. Check ’em out!
  • If you’d like to be a subscriber (free) and ensure you get my articles when I write them, send me the email address where you want me to send it, or go to http://bit.ly/37PCOM9 and enter your information.
  • You’re always welcome to link to my posts in your own writing. Please do not copy and paste excerpts – that’s plagiarism, and not appreciated.
  • If you’d like to submit something for me to include in a future article, please send it along. If I use it, I promise I’ll give you credit for it when I use it.
  • Some of you have asked about help with SEO. Yoast offers training on SEO and a tool that scans your posts and other work to advise you of issues you can correct to improve your site’s visibility to search engines.

One other thing I should mention – if your comment is a sales pitch or promotion unrelated to the article where you’re posting the comment, I’ll leave it unapproved. Don’t bother posting those messages.

If you have other thoughts or comments, feel free to email me or schedule a phone call.

Thanks again to all who are contributing to this site. I appreciate you.

Think about What You Want!

Again in this article, we’ll touch on mental attitude. If some of you find these mindset messages are more frequent than you prefer, I apologize. It seems to me one can’t be reminded too often to stay focused on what you can do to make your life better. In times like these it’s doubly important. There’s a lot of negative conversation out there. Ignore it.

That means it’s important to avoid focusing on negative things. Avoiding negative focus means avoiding the mainstream news. Your mind can accommodate negative, or positive, but not both at the same time. I recommend you stay informed with a news source that reports facts. It should avoid pictures and language designed to anger or scare you. I get a two-page summary of the news every morning from the Wall Street Journal. It pretty well follows these guidelines. There are links to every article in the day’s issue. The full articles can be inflammatory. However, the one- or two-line descriptions give a pretty good idea what’s happening without over-hyping it.

The TV network news programs are designed to sell juicy stories, rather than to inform. I recommend skipping them altogether.

One of Zig Ziglar’s well-known reminders is (paraphrased): Inspiration is like bathing. It should be renewed daily.

Today’s link takes us to another episode of Eric Lofholm’s daily inspirational conference call. Bailey Cooper guest-hosts this one. It discusses one of Napoleon Hill’s success principles, keeping a positive mental attitude.

Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. He studied the habits of many of the great business minds of the time. Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie are there, along with many others. He condensed their practices into 17 success principles. Keeping a positive mental attitude is one of them. Hill’s great book is on every business success oriented reading list I remember seeing. It’s still available on Amazon.

Eric Lofholm’s daily inspirational call happens at 7:45 AM, Pacific time. Every episode is recorded and posted here. This page also has instructions for joining the call by various methods.

That’s enough from me. Enjoy, and learn from, Napoleon Hill’s success principles. I hope you find Eric Lofholm’s inspiration beneficial as well. Here’s the link again to the episode I refer to in this message.

Get More Done, with More Love, More Calm, More Focus

Mary Lynn Ziemer reminds us to be patient as the route to a calmer mindset and better performance.

Eric Lofholm talked this morning (see the 05.25.20 post) about how to avoid overload. Among his “staying positive” tips are to focus on what’s at hand now, in each moment. Then, in the next moment, focus on what’s to be done in that moment. Thinking about everything you have to do today, or this week, creates overload. Focusing on one thing at a time eliminates overload. Thinking about the day’s or week’s work Is for planning the day or week before it begins.

Ziemer’s and Lofholm’s reminders are very closely linked. In order to keep the focus Eric recommends, you must have the inner calm and patience Mary Lynn recommends. Impatience can easily lead to trying to focus on more than one thing – not very effective. The whole concept of focus is lost when when the “focus” is on several things, instead of one.

To reach the inner calm, she suggests feeling more love. She recommends a step-by-step method to help you do this.

This progression from love to calm to patience to focus on the task at hand is all about mindset. Many people, especially some who want to move fast and furiously, are impatient with the concept of mindset. They think “I don’t have time to work on mindset. I just want to get on with action”. That approach may feel effective in the moment. It leads to trying to “multi-task”, and ultimately to overload. It’s been shown time and again that multi-tasking is ineffective.

To explore other aspects of mindset, you may want to explore my March, April and May posts. We’ve focused on mindset from many points of view, as we considered how to weather the COVID-19 challenge. What works in the most challenging times serves you well any time as you strive to be more effective.

Why do Companies Complicate their Customers’ Lives?

Based on an article originally published March 3, 2018

When you call a company’s customer service number or, worse, their sales line, how do you like it if you have to go through multiple automated menus and then wait on hold for ten minutes or longer? Does it encourage you to do more business with them? How do you feel about recommending such a company to a friend?

Ever since automatic answering systems became the norm, it’s been a mystery to me why companies who should know better put their customers through this.

Strangely, some of the worst offenders are “communication” companies, such as Verizon. Long automated phone menus and long waits on hold are hardly parts of good communication. This is a large part of the reason I departed Verizon’s service last summer. It’s all part of the subject of customer friction, which is our topic this week.

How to Give Your Customers the Best Experience

Constant Contact, who publishes my newsletter, where this article originally appeared, is certainly one of the better known email managers. They came recommended to me when I needed such a service.

As a notably un-savvy guy technically, I often run into technical issues that are “above my pay grade”.

When I call Constant Contact, there’s a brief menu of a few items to choose the subject of my call. Fortunately for me (and most likely by design, since it’s probably the reason for most calls), the first choice is “email marketing”. Then it’s rarely more than 15 seconds before I have a person on the line who can help me, and they almost always do so expeditiously.

This week Josh Linkner, serial entrepreneur and professor, addresses customer friction. Friction happens every time a customer has to click something, sign something (especially multiple times!) meet with somebody, or endure any other impediment to smooth flow. Certainly it’s true that many purchases necessarily require choices to be made (model, color, size, special features, etc.). Some parts of this process may actually be enjoyable (and can be made more so, if handled properly). Others are necessary and not so pleasant. Here’s where it’s worthwhile studying, experimenting, and tweaking the process to streamline it every bit as much as possible.

You can bet your competitors are streamlining their processes. Your improvements in customer-friendliness can make the difference between a prospect choosing you or one of your competitors!

One of the efforts to mitigate the long phone waits has recently become, “Leave your number and we’ll call you back between 38 and 54 minutes from now”. In my view, if waits have routinely become so long that this is necessary, you should make more people available! The companies who use such systems seem to employ them most of the time, so more people would not be idle much, and think how much happier their customers would be!

Friction is what’s missing at Constant Contact. You may be sure that, impatient sort that I am, If I had to go through 2 or 3 levels of complex menus when I called, and then wait several minutes on hold before I talked with someone, I’d long ago have looked for an alternate service. No doubt other companies do a good job, perhaps some as good as Constant Contact. Since they’ve provided such a satisfactory experience for me, I’ve found no occasion to sample the others.

This is how good business is done.

Opinions are Like an Obscure Spot in Your Anatomy

Everybody has one. Few are interested in yours.

I hope you’re finding constructive ways of accommodating the changes forced on us in these crazy times. Remember that every cloud has a silver lining. When you;re handed a lemon, make lemonade. Here’s a more complete reminder of that mindset from a few issues ago.

Last week, I had pretty well decided that today’s The Unity Community would be about opinions.

With perfect timing, Minda Zetlin sent me this on Thursday. I’m often amazed by the timely and unexpected appearance of something that exactly fits current needs.

We all have opinions about many things in life. Other people’s behaviors, lifestyles and traits often generate opinions. Or religion or politics may be your favorite. Many people offer their opinions In ways that are unwelcome to others. To improve the chances your opinion will be received positively, try these tips.

  • State clearly that “this is my opinion”, not “fact”. This makes it clear that others’ opinions have validity for you. That you’re open to hearing them. If you give the impression you’re not interested in others’ opinions, they won’t be interested in yours.
  • Be sure you state your opinion only where it fits into the conversation. (E.g., a comment about politics rarely has a place in a conversation about dietary concerns.)
  • Never demand that others agree with your opinion. Dale Carnegie famously reminded us, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”. You’re unlikely to convince anyone of your opinion. In addition, you make yourself unpopular at the same time.
  • If someone makes it clear they’re not interested in your opinion, keep it to yourself. In that case, stating your opinion is sure to make you a pariah. Also your opinion has “0” chance of being seriously considered.

As Minda points out, your opinion of others’ habits, traits or lifestyles can label you. You may be OK with that. If you aren’t, you should probably keep still.

Throwing opinions around carelessly is a habit of some people. As with any habit, changing it requires practice. If this is you, know that you will slip up sometimes. Remind yourself regularly to adjust your delivery of opinions if you want them received positively.

Hope this helps you or someone you know find better ways of offering your opinions. Or, maybe not offering them, depending on circumstances.