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.

How do You Feel, Facing a New Challenge?

Do you delight in heaping praise on your kids for how smart they are? Or how talented?

If you solve a puzzle, do you look for a tougher challenge, a more difficult puzzle?

Do you believe your, or someone else’s, personality is what you, or they, were born with? This was our topic a couple of weeks ago.

Have you noticed athletes whose mistakes crush them? Who can’t get “back in the game” quickly?

Recently I was introduced to the book, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.

Dweck’s premise is that some people have “fixed” mindsets. Others have “growth” mindsets. Which are you? In reality, most people have a mix, but lean mostly one way or the other. We’re likely to have one mindset sometimes, and the other one other times.

As a primary school teacher, and a tireless researcher, Dweck has studied these differences most of her life.

When you hear statements like:

  • I’m no good with technology
  • I can’t learn French, or Spanish
  • I can’t drive a car with a manual transmission

You’re hearing the result of a fixed mindset, one that believes they have, or don’t have, a certain talent.

When you hear:

  • With some research, and maybe a class, I’ll figure out technology to the extent that I need it.
  • I’m anxious to dig into a language that will be useful, or interesting, to me.
  • Can you help me learn to drive a car with a clutch?

You’re hearing someone with a growth mindset.

The good news is, you’re not “stuck” with one or the other. Dweck reports that her own mindset has evolved from fixed in her childhood to growth as she matured. And of course as she studied mindsets.

In grasping these ideas it’s important to first understand the basics. You’ll need a solid understanding of some terms she uses, and her fundamental concept. After you’ve accomplished that, a couple of chapters stand out for me. These chapters highlight situations where the concepts are easy to see in action.

  • In chapter 3 she discusses the importance of a growth mindset in parents and teachers of young children. Kids, with their young absorptive minds, take signals from what adults say to them. If they’re scolded when they make a mistake, they learn quickly not to make mistakes. Of course this means, “don’t take on anything too difficult”. What if they’re praised for their talents – how easily they did something? They learn that quick performance is better than working hard to learn something difficult.
  • In chapter 7, we learn the results of the two mindsets in coaches of sports teams. She describes three well-known college basketball coaches, All had moments of success.
    • Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers won a lot of championships. His success was sporadic.
    • John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins from a 3rd-rate status to 10 championships in 12 years. He was arguably the “winningest” NCAA coach ever.
    • Pat Summitt coached the Tennessee Lady Vols. She started with a Bobby Knight (explosive, inconsistent) style. She evolved into recognizing losses as learning opportunities.
  • I’m sure you can see, even without reading more detail, where the fixed and growth mindsets were.
  • In chapter 7 she also discusses “false” growth mindsets. She covers a couple of misunderstandings about what is a growth mindset.

I leave you with that much introduction and summary of Carol Dweck’s great work. For me it’s a unique examination of the ingredients of real success. I hope you find it equally compelling.

What do You Hate in Others’ Behaviors?



Recently I connected with John Patrick Morgan through an introduction from another coach I work with. He actually goes by JP Morgan. JP sings to quite a different drummer than the storied banker of the same name. Related? I don’t know.

JP has some wonderful insights into life and what make us human beings what we are. Today I focus on a recent essay where he suggests we hate in ourselves the same traits we dislike in others.

Do you have a friend, or a spouse, that talks too much? Talks too little? Tells stories badly? If these things trouble you in that person, take a careful look. You probably dislike that in yourself. Or you fear the possibility that you might exhibit the same behavior.

Over the past several years I’ve noted this often. When I see that I may be guilty of what I object to in others, I work to avoid that behavior myself. Then it troubles me much less in others than it did. This often happens even if I’m not totally successful in eliminating the tendency myself. Just facing the issue head-on makes it less scary.

JP takes this concept one step further. He recommends actually striving to become the behavior you object to. It’s freeing! In the 9-minute video attached to the article, he describes behaviors that he hated in his wife. When he embraced the behaviors, the concern became a non-issue for him.

This is something I’ll have to experiment with. Likely you will too. Counter-intuitive as this idea is, it makes kind of perverse sense to try it out. Your distaste for something often goes away when you embrace it.

So give it a try! Next time someone does something that bugs you, think about it and try out JP’s approach. Obviously (I think) I would not recommend this for dishonest or belligerent behavior!

Who are You? Who Will You Become?

Personality Traits, and Traits of those Traits


This week, I listened to a fascinating interview with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Dr. Hardy is launching his new book, Personality isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and  Rewrite Your Story. Tibor Nagy of Mindset Horizon conducted the interview. I’ve worked extensively with Ben through his AMP (Accelerated Momentum Program) project. I find his ideas very valuable.

The interview podcast is about 50 minutes long. Many of you will want to skip through it to get some key points. Here I note some times in the interview which will help you do that. The text below the podcast banner lists links to Hardy’s and other books mentioned.

3:10 – Nagy begins his introduction of Dr. Hardy

10:45 – Ben begins describing the ideas that inspired his first book Will Power Doesn’t Work.

13:40 – Ben and Tibor begin a discussion of how one’s identity is built. What factors affect one’s identity – how one identifies as an entrepreneur.

15:30 – Ben starts explaining that your personality continually evolves. You’re a different person from who you were a year ago, 10 years ago, etc. You will be a different person at any point in the future from who you are now. You can learn to design your future self.

20:00 – Ben begins to discuss journaling and how it can help you design your future self. Over the years I’ve started journaling several times, and never stayed with it. I think that’s because I didn’t know how to do it properly, nor solid reasons for doing it. Now, Ben has helped me see those methods and reasons. I would sorely miss journaling if I stopped now, after several months of regular journaling.

23:30 – Ben mentions a Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, who did a great 6-minute TED talk. He says people spend too much time thinking about their past, too little time imagining their future. They may agree that human beings are works in progress. However, they often believe they themselves are “finished”.

25:15 – Nagy asks Ben to talk about his objections to personality profiling tests. Ben discusses research showing that the tests don’t produce an accurate result. He considers them “junk science”. Also, why they lead to a fixed mindset – a belief in a personality “cast in stone”. With these beliefs, many people live mediocre lives.

36:20 – The two begin to discuss distinctions around “fixed” vs. “growth” mindsets.

44:00 – They talk briefly about confidence, what it is, why it matters, and what affects it.


The question all this brings up for me is: You’re going to evolve with time. Would you rather let it happen by chance, or design it?!