Once In A While

I never owned a dog, but I know many who have/do. Often times these animals are so much more than a pet; they really are (regarded as) part of the family. It’s deeply emotional for sure.

Now I understand.

I had the opportunity to witness unfiltered joy last night when my daughter brought home her puppy, Rusty. He’s an Mini American Shepherd https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/miniature-american-shepherd/.

About the Miniature American Shepherd

The Miniature American Shepherd shares many physical traits with its forebear the Australian Shepherd—only on a smaller scale. Females stand between 13 and 17 inches at the shoulder; males range from 14 to 18 inches. Despite their size, Minis are every inch a true herding dog: energetic, versatile, rugged, and extremely bright. The eye-catching coat comes in black, blue merle, red, and red merle. (The merle will exhibit in any amount marbling, flecks, or blotches.) Minis move with the smooth and agile step of a dog built for hard work on punishing terrain.

Really cute of course, but I was more taken by the immediate emotional bond between that little fur ball and this young woman. Yes, once in a while, money can buy happiness.

The bigger picture in my mind is… in a world constantly “dirtied” by greed, violence, tragedy, possessions, deceit, etc, it’s wonderful to witness something happy and near perfect. Oh, I’m sure they’ll be the usual training, curiosity and mischief than many puppies exhibit but I honestly believe no one will mind. And the bond between dog and owner will flourish.

Yes, this Christmas will indeed be extra-special. And the mobile phones that I often rant about will be put to very good use. Here comes the avalanche of pictures, videos and posts as Rusty settles in to his new home. Family paparazzi will be in full force no doubt.

On the runway, center-stage… eight pounds of innocent energy and a whole lotta love.

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Business Owner Mascot

ostrich

The Philadelphia Flyers, the pro hockey team in this city, recently had a coming out party for their Mascot. Gritty. https://www.nhl.com/flyers/fans/gritty. Instant “fan favorite”? I’m not so sure. I heard somewhere the NHL told the franchise, you have to have a mascot. Can’t confirm that.

The Philly Phanatic is another story altogether. https://www.mlb.com/phillies/fans/phillie-phanatic. Great persona and a fan favorite at every baseball game and likely in the entire league.

But all this (local) attention to the introduction of Gritty lead me to speculate about a mascot for the business owner. My nomination, Struthio camelus. The common ostrich. They are big, have lots of feathers, funny looking, strong, and can kill a man with a single kick. But when people picture this oversized bird they generally imagine it with its head buried in the ground. Scared. Hiding. Trying to avoid danger.

None of that is true. An ostrich does not bury its head; it would suffocate. Although the bird surely does exhibit this type of peculiar behavior, it has a useful purpose. The ostrich digs a hole for it’s nest and several times a day, turns the eggs with it’s beak.

Still, the image and metaphor persist.

When people say someone has their head buried in the sand, they are claiming that the person is ignoring obvious facts or refusing to accept advice, hoping that simply denying the existence of a problem will make it go away.

https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-ostriches-really-bury-their-heads-in-the-sand/

Business owners bury their heads. Figuratively and frequently. But, there’s no nest. No useful purpose. No succession planning. And surely no productive outcome. They are hiding. Ignoring risk. And that (repetitive) action is not nurturing in any sense of the word.

Failing to take the proper steps to protect their business, family, employees, lifestyle… is not a misinterpreted behavior. It’s a serious and persistent problem.

Yes, the ostrich fits the bill. (Pun intended.)

We just need a name.

 

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Place Your Bets

table-poker-chips

Shame on me. I made a mistake.

Although it has been corrected, this oversight cost my company a lot of money, too much time and a fair amount of sleep. It consumed creativity, manpower that was assigned to other business, rattled confidence, and delivered a huge distraction. The launch of our new program has been delayed several months.

The advanced markets world needs to be reminded. It is imperative to help business owners identify risk. They have to recognize the potential impact and take (intelligent) proactive steps to mitigate the fallout. A recurring theme in this blog has been focused on trying to help business owners do just that. Protect what they have worked so hard to build. But I can say with confidence there’s still much to be done.

What happened?

A software application was conceptualized and in development. We spent years in the planning stages and knew this endeavor would require a small platoon of creative and technical people. Everyone had to be vetted. Thankfully most had been working with my company for decades.

Proven. Reliable. Supremely qualified. These folks are the cream of the crop. So I assumed, with a bit of bravado, we were good to go. Everyone was energized. There were two well-qualified leaders for each of the primary teams. My partner and I (who lead the project) stopped flying on the same jet.

To make the program work as designed, automated data extraction was/is a key capability. However, the lead programmer assigned to this task had no true back up personnel and no history with our company. She was bright. Painfully skilled in her particular “world” and came with stellar recommendations. It was love at first sight and we were anxious to have her participate.

Months into a successful development cycle we were confident. But after a post-op complication from a routine surgical procedure, our new team member contracted pneumonia. Her illness progressed rapidly and she subsequently died. Disbelief blew through our company. It was a shock to everyone and a tragedy for family and friends. This woman was not old, not sick and full of life. She had a great sense of humor and we laughed on the phone just days prior to her passing.

Life is fragile. We take it for granted. I hope I’ve learned the bigger lesson here.

P.S. I know what you’re thinking. “That will never happen to me.” Of course not. What are the odds.

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Passing

He “passed” away. No one likes to say died. I’m not sure why.

But when a life is taken suddenly or fades away over months or years (who’s knows which is worse); it’s a very sad day for the people left behind. So many can be affected. The spouse, kids, parents, extended family, friends, even pets. I remember when my grandmother died. The dog next door (she lived in a row home) laid with his head down on the porch for weeks. Right next to the lawn chair she occupied on many warm afternoons with him at her side. Both families commented about how sad Boots was… He genuinely missed her.

In the case of a business owner there can be additional emotional (and financial) fallout. Consider the employees, partners, customers, vendors, they too may feel the pain. Death plays no favorites.

There are no words from clergy or anyone else that can truly soften the impact, many of us don’t even try. What do you say? I’m sorry…? Everybody says that. No. We generally spectate at these uncomfortable affairs. Look around to see who showed up, who’s conspicuously absent and once in a while quietly contemplate our own impermanence. I guess that depends on your age. And after the service/rituals are over and the obligatory luncheon concludes, it’s the immediate family members who go home and quietly shoulder the loss. One thing is certain. Nothing will ever be the same.

It’s seems crazy to call it “luck” but I will, because for the fortunate among us, that individual who died made their mortality a priority. At some point in the past, they took the time to plan and protect who they loved and what they had worked so hard to build. And mixing inside the grief and tears, the survivors begin to recognize the value of life insurance. It can provide the most precious commodity. Time. Time to focus on the emotional impact of the loss and helping each other cope. And for the business owner, his/her company may survive. Even flourish. With no collateral damage to the employees, customers or anyone else. That’s a good thing.

Death can bring the hammers of hell upon us and when lives get turned upside down financially…it only adds insult to injury.

I will assume no one was very happy when the policies were issued and premiums had to be paid. Regardless, the advisor was prudent to make sure the estate plan was sound, applications were submitted and underwriting got done the right way. Still, nobody likes life insurance.

But that aversion changes in a heartbeat.

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This One Goes to 11

Need a break from the contemporary flood of special effects movies? Check out This is Spinal Tap. There’s plenty of memorable scenes; one of my favorites is the interview with Nigel Tufnel in the studio. He explained how his rig was unique. The amplifier was modified to make it the loudest, with special volume controls that went to 11. (Conventional amplifiers stop at 10.)

Lots of things are measured with volume, not just music, liquids, and books. I sometimes like to measure the volume of “quiet.” Silence can be hard to get. Harder to appreciate. Until you find yourself remarkably aware of its unexpected arrival. What a treat.

Good things happen in that space and it’s certainly no secret. People sign up for meditation classes and retreats probably more now than in the past. They recognize the value and will book themselves (for days) to participate in organized activities – at secluded retreats – and surround themselves with silence. Maybe it’s their path to rejuvenation. Calm. Sanity.

Has there been a growing departure from the “popular” airport, resort, restaurant, hotel getaway? To get away from what? Let’s go to the map. Orlando. Take a quick look at adults with children visiting Disney World. (If you’ve been there you’ve seen them.) It’s supposed to be a very happy place. Fantasy land. Does everyone look happy? Full of wonder? Not so much. People often say they need a vacation – after their vacation. What’s missing?

I work with professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping business owners. One of the biggest challenges they have is convincing these folks to take a break. Many don’t get much time away from work and even if they do, their mind generally doesn’t follow. Too many things to think about. Too much “noise”. They may not have roadies, guitars or a bus, but they’re always touring with their amplifier. It’s small but very loud and never unplugged. It’s a battle of the bands right in their palm with no audience and no applause.

Ever been to an industry conference and watch the horde assault the exits during the obligatory bathroom break? Every phone is out, cell towers are inundated with signals…so many rush to take out their mini-computer, turn up the volume and check messages – even in the stall. (At least they’re not driving.)

Maybe for the next business owner summit I co-host, I’ll suggest to my team that we include time devoted to mindfulness. Yes. I want to improve the experience attending an off-site meeting with a session of silence.

I’d like it to go to 11.

#putdownthephone

 

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Surfin’ Safari

6:00am. Light off-shores. Tide coming in. Sun. Clean consistent sets. Three of your best buddies in the lineup…

People who surf – young and old – know exactly what this is and recognize how great it can be. Even if it only happened once in their life.

Surfing is more than a sport. It’s a mentality. A lifestyle. I don’t believe the same is true of football, tennis, baseball…blah, blah, blah. The majority of surfers don’t compete. (Although I do think it should be an Olympic sport. Curling?) It’s a way to calm your mind and body. Few outdoor “activities” can do that. Is it meditation with motion, salt and nature? I’d say, yes.

Only one of the Beach Boys surfed, Dennis Wilson, the drummer. And Brian, the genius behind the music/harmonies was petrified of the ocean. http://people.com/books/brian-wilson-reveals-fear-of-ocean-in-his-new-autobiograph/. No matter, I bought all their albums and often held the jacket while the music played.

Paddling out, I can assure you, every distraction has immediately left your mind. Especially when you’re staring at a close-out set and you’re old and caught on the inside. (That means big waves are coming. You’re too close to shore. Waves are going to break directly on your old, wrinkled a** and put you through nature’s washing machine. Rinse cycle.) Been there. Done that. Usually, your buddies – sitting comfortably on the outside (beyond the break) – will laugh. A lot.

I started surfing at 13 on Labor Day at the Jersey shore. Still love it at 63. A little fatter. A little slower. With a board (I love) a little longer. But, so what. The activity still delivers so many pleasures that are incredibly hard to find. It is priceless. And when you’re sitting on the beach in the afternoon with arms that feel like over-cooked #5 spaghetti, you still manage a smile – with a salt baked head – and hope it happens all over again tomorrow.

That is life at it’s very best. And if you’re smart you find yourself thinking…

The best things in life are not “things” at all. And a wonderful “wet” break from the corporate grind is just like a warm summer breeze.

Got any wax?

 

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Alphabet Soup

I don’t know how many professional designations a person can acquire. Here’s a list. I didn’t count them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_professional_designations_in_the_United_State.

My guess is there are more, with new certifications spelled every day. But are they important? If so, how do you know the person who has them is any more qualified. What did they learn? How much did they forget? https://qz.com/1213768/the-forgetting-curve-explains-why-humans-struggle-to-memorize/. Maybe they’re just book smart. Good test takers. Sometimes it’s easy to tell. Occasionally, painful.

Focusing on small business – and the mass exodus – as boomer business owners leave their companies in record numbers, industry people are pursuing designations. Presumably, these wonderful letters punctuating their name will make them “shine” in the marketplace. But it’s a sticky wicket for the owner who is looking for help and has begun to consider life after work; and that’s assuming they’re lucky enough to exit with their health in tact.

There’s plenty of variables and the owner will get one chance to do this right. But one thing is certain. Just because a professional has letters after their name, that does not automatically qualify them to help an owner with one of the biggest emotional and financial decisions of their life. Exiting a company, emotional? Extremely. It’s right up there with the birth of a child, death of a family member, marriage… There’s plenty written on the subject. https://hbr.org/2015/09/dealing-with-the-emotional-fallout-of-selling-your-business.

From my perspective, there are four critical qualifications. The advisor must have them. And there are ZERO letters assigned. Empathy, perspective, experience, and access to a qualified team. Without these, much is at risk.

So for the Usual Suspects who are focused on capturing some of this unprecedented migration of capital, make sure your minions have what they’ll need. Certifications may be a good place to begin, but they will never equate to proficiency… and the exit strategy du jour your advisors serve up may be cold.

 

 

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Hide N’ Seek

Hide and Seek, a game we all played as kids. Today, adults continue that recreation in companies all over the world. But it has a new name, Email.

Why do “professionals” in the workplace frequently hide behind email? I don’t have a good answer but it’s a question that continues to perplex me. And the number of people copied on any electronic correspondence appears to be growing. So, if I “cc” everyone in the division, group, team, or whoever just sat in another mindless meeting, that means I’m doing a good job. The longer the email, the better.

Worse yet, how many people waste time reading and re-reading their wonderful composition even after they’ve hit the send button?

But how much of it is really necessary?

It’s communication breakdown and it “sounds” a lot like the Led Zepplin song from 1969, minus the love story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_Breakdown. (Zepplin was my first live concert. It was loud.)

Communication breakdown
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!

There’s something else about email that drives me nuts. Messages sent at 10:00pm, 1:00am, the weekend, or some other (previously) personal time. And if you don’t respond quickly you may be met with, “Why didn’t you answer?” “Did you see my response?” “I answered your questions…”

Do you know how many emails are sent every day? A mind-boggling 270 BILLION. https://www.inc.com/glenn-leibowitz/270-billion-email-messages-are-sent-every-day-heres-whats-wrong-with-many-of-the.html. And what’s getting accomplished? Not much. Attachments? You decide.

I know it’s not all bad and email can serve a useful purpose. But it’s getting abused.

The corporate electronic message is like a bad rash; it’s spreading. Email has even replaced making and/or returning phone calls. Once again, we must confront the clear evidence – technology is not 100% good nor 100% bad. There are no absolutes in life, except death.

Next time a coworker sitting in the cubicle near you asks a question via email, take a (short) walk to offer your answer. They could be shocked. Maybe even frightened.

In 2018, productivity and professional courtesy are what’s really hiding and may never be found.

 

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4:00 AM Booty Call

It’s not what you think.

I’ve adjusted my work day, now waking at 4:00am to get a jump on the day. I recognize it’s nothing new, but it is new for me. There’s a wonderful stillness early in the morning that fuels creativity. No distractions with the phone, email, text, noise, or even people. Plenty of time for work, exercise, and mindfulness. A perfect storm for well being.

At that hour, the “quiet” is incredibly refreshing. I don’t even use an alarm. Somehow I quickly conditioned my brain to recognize the inherent value and I wake up.

By 9:00am I feel as though I have accomplished a lot. So, if that part of the day begins to fill up with the standard lunacy of running a company, so be it. To my surprise, everything just feels easier.

I don’t know if or when my new routine will deliver the actual prize, but I do believe I’m already receiving huge benefit from a sense of accomplishment and a renewed enthusiasm for building new things, innovating in a space that is historically reactive, exploring new opportunities, and maybe – just maybe – helping people along the way. (Family included.)

For better or for worse there’s simply no “ill gotten gains” or carnal frivolity for me at 4:00 in the morning…but the activity still brings real pleasure.

 

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Burnt Stick And A Rock

The first evidence of humans communicating was quite some time ago.

The most well-known form of primitive communication is cave paintings. The artistic endeavors were created by a species of man that appeared around 130,000 B.C.E, the homo sapiens.

https://www.creativedisplaysnow.com/articles/history-of-communication-from-cave-drawings-to-the-web/

Since then, our ability and (insatiable) desire to interact has accelerated to a fever pitch. Today, you cannot walk, sit or drive anywhere without seeing everyone tethered to a mobile device. It’s gotten to the point where there are phobias tied to losing or forgetting your phone. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/artificial-maturity/201409/nomophobia-rising-trend-in-students.

Medical issues caused by looking down for long periods of time. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/03/text-neck-is-smartphone-use-causing-your-neck-pain/, etc.

In fact, people now spend hours every day worshiping their mobile “master”. The device is very demanding. http://www.businessinsider.com/people-spending-more-time-on-smartphones-chart-2017-5.

Need more proof?

https://hackernoon.com/how-much-time-do-people-spend-on-their-mobile-phones-in-2017-e5f90a0b10a6

https://nypost.com/2017/11/08/americans-check-their-phones-80-times-a-day-study/

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3092446/smartphones/we-touch-our-phones-2617-times-a-day-says-study.html

The devotion/addiction is so strong it’s killing people. Literally.

When will it stop? Never. It’s the zombie apocalypse without the blood. Mindless humans who don’t need vocal chords. The English language has been discarded and few of us can spell. Human brains are being devoured by technology.

I don’t believe there’s a solution – if any – to the problem, but in every problem there are sometimes hidden opportunities. And for insurance/financial services and hospitals (my two obsessions) there are many.

These companies want to engage with their customers. Forget network TV and cable channels. They’re a dying breed. (Wait, can we please have one more Real Housewives of I Don’t Give A Damn City.) Newspapers and magazines? Fossils. Top 40 radio… AM/FM Radio? Do you mean Spotify, XM, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music, Tidal, Slacker, Google Play Music, YouTube Red.

Everything has changed. Everything will continue to change.

Look anywhere. The direct connection to a customer is in their palm. All day. Every day. And when you have the ability to send content (concise, relevant video content) via text message, it’s a guaranteed delivery that instantly interrupts each person. Yes, there are compliance issues but those are being addressed; ironically, technology can help. If you have a compelling message it will cut through the noise. But those “connections” have to be between people (one-to-one). Human beings establish relationships with other human beings, not with companies.

Any company (no matter how old or successful) that does not have a mobile strategy – not a digital strategy –  a specific MOBILE strategy, could very well end up in the tar pit of disruption.

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for more than 150 million years. They were big. Strong. Dominant.

Where are they today? Museums.

 

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