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A Little Business Advice

When I first started EMA, a friend of mine had a similar business. Since the business was heavily field service oriented, his advice was, “don’t hire anyone.” The thought was that employees added cost, complication and headaches. This gentleman was making a very good living as a one man show, seemed to enjoy it, and there was validity to his viewpoint.

I gave that some consideration. It was true, especially back then, that I had the skills to simply work on my own, and since overhead would essentially just be me, it wouldn’t take that many customers to provide a very nice income. I had managed employees before, and acutely aware of the problems that could accompany them.

I think that’s something that every entrepreneur should think about and consider. On the one hand, being a one man show, has its drawbacks. If you have any success at building a customer base, taking time off from the business can be difficult, the number of customers you can have is probably limited, and you can’t grow beyond what you can do yourself.

There’s also the problem of getting older. What’s attractive to you at 30 might not be acceptable to you at 50. And trust me, getting older, is the only alternative to dying. So put it into your plans.

The upside, is that it’s simple. I have a good friend that writes programs for industrial machines. He told me  when he founded his business, he had two goals:  make more money, and  simplify his life.

He works from his home, and his business has been very successful. In fact, he was having to turn down business simply because he didn’t have the time to do it. . I suggested to him that he consider hiring another programmer, and reminded him that he was leaving money on the table by not accepting the other jobs. He reminded me that while that might help the first goal, it was out of line with the second.

I think, at least from a clarity of purpose standpoint, he has it right. That’s not how I would do it, but for his purposes, it’s the proper course of action.

This particular friend is comfortable working completely alone; but you might not be. Again, it’s just something you should think about. What’s right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

Once you do decide to hire another person, it changes everything.

I didn’t handle it all that well at first. I thought I knew how to manage people because I’d been reasonably successful at it before. But that seemed to change when the pressures of my own business hit.

I’d be gone all week calling on clients, leaving a couple of technicians and a clerk there to get repairs done. On several occasions I’d return to find the technicians stuck on the same problem they had when I left. I was well aware that meant no billings while overhead continued to pile up and I was operating very close to the edge financially. To make matters worse, on several occasions the clerk had made mistakes in our accounting system that required hours of my time to correct.

The stress of that, plus my own inexperience caused me to fly off the handle with employees, rather than attempt to resolve the problems. In a couple of the cases, I should have terminated an incompetent employee much earlier, and in others, I should have spent more time coaching and helping them to be successful.

Yelling at people is not leadership; it’s bullying. It’s also unprofessional and unacceptable and I’m not proud at all of it. Pragmatically, it makes things worse not better.

Here’s what I’ve discovered.. the hiring process is important.. in fact, if you plan to have employees, nothing you do is more important.

Jim Collins, in his landmark book, Good to Great uses the analogy of a bus. He says that who is on the bus determines where the bus is going, not necessarily where you wish it were going. Spend time determining who should be on your bus.

Since we were a technical business primarily, I spent a lot of time attempting to test for technical prowess. That was my primary hiring criteria, and I would ignore almost anything else if they proved to me they could handle the job technically.

Even if I were hiring clerical types, I applied the same criteria. For instance, if the person had prior experience and could demonstrate competence with our accounting program, I’d hire them despite any other factors. Those were costly mistakes.

What I learned, the hard way, is that intelligence and attitude are the two most important criteria. I remember a  presentation by Ross Perot years ago, long before he got into politics. He was asked how one could go about training employees to be more friendly to customers. Perot, in his classic style, shot back, “why don’t you just try hiring friendly people to start with?”

He was exactly right.

Collins has another piece of advice regarding employees: had you known when you hired this employee, what you know about them now, would you have hired them? If the answer is “no,” then you made a hiring mistake.

But, here’s a caveat, you have no right to terminate anyone to whom you haven’t been giving feedback about their failings. Everyone deserves a chance to correct their performance.

In a strange and convoluted way, many of us do not want to be unkind to an employee. Hence we will not say anything negative about their work. Instead, we wait until we are so frustrated by the lack of performance, that we just terminate them with little warning. It goes without saying, that is hardly kind, and in fact, is incredibly unfair.

Terminations should never be a surprise. If it ever is, then you aren’t doing your job.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re starting a business..

 1.  Play the “what if I’m successful” game.

I do this even now when considering whether to chase a particular piece of business. As unemotionally as you can, visualize what day to day life is going to be like. You may discover that you are not going to enjoy it at all.

We bought a log cabin in North Georgia some years ago, and near there was a little cozy restaurant where we enjoyed eating breakfast. I got to know the owner, and one day she asked me if I would consider buying her business.

I was taken back a bit at first, but here was her story. She and her husband enjoyed visiting the North Georgia mountains from Atlanta, and in particular this restaurant. They both thought it would be a great break from the stress of city life to move up there and operate this little café.

She failed to realize was what running it would entail.  It meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning to begin getting the restaurant ready for breakfast at 7. It meant no off days, and since this small business didn’t generate enough income to hire employees, it meant doing everything yourself.

Hardly the idyllic life they’d imagined. I am convinced part of the reason so many small businesses fail every year is founder disappointment. I faced this in a very real way myself a few years into EMA.

Visualize, in as unvarnished terms as possible, what the business and your day to day life will be like

2. Be realistic about money.

Out of cash is out of business. Think your cash requirements through carefully. All of us have heard inspiring stories of businesses that started with nothing, and exploded into success. Remember, people also get hit by lightening, but it’s not common.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck now, and couldn’t get your car repaired if it broke, this might not be the best time to start a business. No matter how well you plan, you will not think of everything, and those unanticipated expenses can sink you.

Another factor: invoicing and getting paid are two different things. To me that was one of the most frustrating realities I faced. I would work hard to land a customer, work hard to do excellent work, send them an invoice, and 90 days later it was still unpaid. Meanwhile, my expenses marched on.

That drove me to do a couple of things,  One was place a lot of emphasis on collections, and second, stop doing business with people who were collection problems.

Take all of this into account when envisioning your cash requirements.. the best case scenario, rarely happens. Plan for the worst case.

3. Be able to explain what your business does in a few sentences.

I was asked once to talk to an engineering services business about some marketing issues they were having. I asked them, because I truly didn’t know, to tell me what their business did. Two people talked for about 30 minutes, and at the end of it, I still had no idea what they were selling.

I told them, “I’ve discovered your problem. “ Keep in mind, these were very smart and talented people, but they were trying to be so many different things that they lacked focus. IF prospects don’t know what you do, even if they think you’re smart, they will not be doing business with you.

Be as simple as you can when envisioning and describing what your business will do. It will help you focus.

4. Who is your market?

Politicians and entertainers are often cautioned to avoid “believing your own press.”
One of the first questions I like to ask is “who will buy from you?” There are two ways to approach this.

Steve Jobs built devices to sell that none of us even knew we wanted. Think about that for a moment: He was a visionary that was able to convince large numbers of people to buy in to a technological future, that looked very different than anything that had happened before. You could perhaps argue whether android phones are better than the Iphone, but you cannot argue that Jobs was wildly successful at changing the world.

There have been entrepreneurs all through history that were able to do that.. sell a completely new idea to masses of people. Henry Ford comes to mind, as does Alexander Graham Bell, and others.

The other, and more traditional way, is to determine what demographic is already buying the service or product you wish to offer, or at least, is already buying a similar product.

I have spent almost all of my business career working small niche markets. You can overplay this.. IF the market you’re thinking about is extremely small, and the service or product is fairly low priced, a business dealing exclusively with that might not be viable.

As an example, there is a market for left handed guitars. People that are left handed often need a guitar that is designed to be played left handed. These “leftie” guitars vary from inexpensive to very high priced, and almost all manufacturers make left handed guitars. But, if you were opening a guitar store, exclusively for left handed players, and asked me for advice, I’d warn against it. Guitar stores serve a niche already, and narrowing that niche even further is going to make success difficult. Would it be impossible? No, probably not. But is success likely? .. not in my opinion.

Here’s a few things to note about niche marketing

-The first thing to do is identify the niche. What will the typical person or business that buys the service or product look like? This is an essential step. There’s a country song about “looking for love in all the wrong places.” There could easily be a business song about looking for business in all the wrong places. Selling to people that don’t need or cannot buy your product or service is a waste of time. Spend time on this- it’s essential. The better you can identify who a prospect is, the more success you will have.

-Who else is playing in this field? Competition can be looked at in two ways. . one way is if other people are making money serving this market, then you can as well. On the other hand, if it’s so competitive that pricing has been pushed down into an area where it’s hard to be profitable, you might reconsider. We talk about mature vs expanding markets. A mature market is one in which the ONLY way to get business, is to take it from a competitor. An expanding market, is one that is growing, and new customers are entering, so you can grow without taking business from anyone else. People have been very successful in both instances, but it does change the way you market your product or service.

-Once you identify the niche and the demographic that will buy your product and service, give some thought to what complimentary products and services you can offer to the same group. Don’t go so far as to lose focus, but if you’re selling cigars, then maybe you should sell lighters as well. What you don’t want is your customer having to visit your competitor to get an ancillary product or service they need.

5. Prepare yourself for the long haul.

For most of us, business success is a marathon not a sprint. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Business is a lot more than creativity and inspiration- it is hard work. The common theme you will hear from successful entrepreneurs is that it’s grueling, especially in the beginning. Just be sure you understand that.

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as saying “the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get.” I’ve also heard this credited to Gary Player, Samuel Goldwyn, and others. But regardless of who said it first.. it’s been true for me and others.

Want to start a business? Great..  be creative, innovative, do your research..  BUT..  prepare to work hard.

Eddie Mayfield

 

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EMA enters its 29th year

EMA is proud to celebrate its 29th year of business.  Who could have known that when Vicki and I began receiving checks in the mail from our new customers, that EMA would become what it is today.   Servicing a world wide clientele.

On any given day, EMA service engineers can be found on offshore oil platforms, municipal water facilities.  industrial plants, pipelines, and commercial facilities world-wide.  We have a team of the best people I’ve ever known.

EMA began focusing on medium voltage drives some years ago,  and now have the largest stock of refurbished and new medium voltage VFDs that we know about.   We do both field and shop repair on these equipment, including power cell repair.  Our cell repair test stands are first rate, and in fact, we don’t know anyone that can do it better.

A lot has changed in 29 years.  Smaller horsepower VFDs have become almost commodities.  We do still sell them, and in fact, keep significant stocks of them.  Since this is not primarily a technical site (Visit www.emainc.net for that) , let’s talk for a minute about the business lessons we can learn from EMA’s success.

First of all, as Jim Collins is famous for saying, it matters who is on your bus, and what seats they’re in.  In fact, it’s  the primary job of any company leader to ensure the right person is in the right seat.

 

That is the primary determinant of where your company is going.  I learned this the hard way may years ago.  The team you surround yourself with, makes all the difference.

I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be with EMA all these years, and look forward to many more.

 

 

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Why I am voting for Trump, and doing so enthusiastically

Donald Trump was not my first choice, and I didn’t vote for him in the Republican primary.  Nonetheless, he won my state of Georgia.

Like many others, when he first announced his candidacy, I thought it a joke.  In fact, I said to a number of people that he was just doing it for press attention, and would soon drop out.  Again, like many others, I was wrong.

After he got the nomination, I began to admire his frankness, and ability to inspire crowds.  I’ve long admired his business acumen. But, it seemed that every time I moved toward him, he would say something that pushed me back.   I’m talking about things like making fun of Carly Fiorina’s appearance, viciously attacking Ted Cruz’s wife, and  other examples.  These weren’t things a biased press said, they weren’t things he said decades ago,  these were things that I heard him say.

Perhaps the worst thing I ever heard him say was during a radio interview discussing his faith.  He was asked about repentance.  He said, in effect, that he couldn’t think of anything he’d done that required repentance.

As a Christian, I find that attitude almost unfathomable.  What kind of person thinks he never does wrong?

After he secured the nomination, I adopted an “I’ll hold my nose and vote” attitude.

I was actually surprised Hillary Clinton got the Democrat Party nomination.  I didn’t think Bernie Sanders would get it because socialism just will not stand up to scrutiny by anyone.  But, Clinton is such an obviously flawed standard bearer, that I thought the Democrats would run Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, or someone more palatable.

The Wikileaks emails have since shown that the fix was in for Clinton from the beginning, and that the primaries were really a coronation.

I’ve been convinced the Clintons were criminals for years.  The Whitewater deal, the White House Travel Office deal, Vince Foster, the Mark Rich pardon, and most recently the Clinton Foundation just to name a few.   But, even I was shocked at the depth of corruption revealed by Wikileaks regarding the Foundation.  This is banana republic stuff, and a less powerful person would be in prison for it.

On top of that, from what has been leaked from her staff, and security personnel, she’s disdaining and humiliating of underlings, untruthful, arrogant, and mean spirited. Trump,  often accused understandably of being arrogant, is however spoken highly of  by his underlings.

So again, here I am facing an election choice.  Some would say that the answer is to vote 3rd party, but the reality is, the choice is a binary one.   Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president.  A vote for a third party, if the pollsters are correct, is in effect a net vote for Hillary.  It’s the same for not voting at all.

So, here I was prepared to do a “nose hold” vote for Trump.  But, that’s changed.

I’m a small business owner, and while not especially active in politics, have given a fair amount of money to political candidates, Pacs, and causes.   I became so annoyed at Republicans, at all levels, that I stopped doing anything more than an occasional small donation.

It’s frustrating to help elect someone promising to “fix” this or that, and then to be told after they’re elected that “fix” is impossible.  Obamacare is an example.   We elected a Republican majority in both houses, only to watch them agree to  fund Obamacare long term.  The same with doing something about the open borders; Republicans talked a good game, but in the end, did nothing. Trump is often accused of somehow destroying the Republican party, but from my perspective, he is the result of established Republicans lying to their constituents.   It’s really no different for many democrats who have been told their party is for the “little guy” only to discover that their party leaders are in bed with big business.  Many of them voiced the same frustration, hence the rise of the outsider Bernie Sanders.

For that reason, I was not enthusiastic about nominating another establishment presidential nominee.  I supported Ben Carson for the nomination.  He was intelligent, moral, and an outsider.  My wife and I have been fans of Dr. Carson for years, long before he ever considered politics.

But, for a variety of reasons, Trump won the nomination.  Carson has enthusiastically endorsed and supported Trump, and will, I hope have a place in a Trump administration.

The late Phyllis Schlafly’s endorsement of Trump was one of the best I read.  She makes the case that the Washington elite cadre (of both parties)  has grown so powerful and corrupt, that only a talented and  fearless executive like Trump can overturn it.  She referred to them as the “kingmakers.”  There are few people I admired more than Ms. Schlafly.

“Trump is the only hope to defeat the Kingmakers,” Schlafly told Breitbart resolutely. “Because everybody else will fall in line. The Kingmakers have so much money behind them.”

I’ve come to agree.  Trump is an imperfect messenger,  in some ways, a horribly imperfect one.  But, he is the only person in political life at the moment who can, in fact,  change anything.

He’s not the first imperfect man of the hour.  Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind.  He was selected by the power brokers as Vice President, so that he wouldn’t run for NY governor.  They thought it a good place to park this popular man they considered crazy.  Of course, then Mckinley was assassinated, and Teddy became a great and beloved president.

In the Old Testament the prophet Samson was an arrogant  brawler and consorter with prostitutes, who nonetheless rose to greatness.

Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams, and others of the founding fathers were very imperfect men that accomplished great and enduring things.  We idolize Lincoln today, but at the time, he was considered by many in the established political class as a joke.

I’ve come to believe that Donald Trump is the man of the hour.  His strengths, vision, and ability to lead are nowhere else to be found in the present political landscape.  This isn’t to discount his faults.  Trump claims to have renewed his faith in Jesus Christ.  That report is from James Dobson.  If that’s true, and I have no reason to doubt Dobson, then we still can’t expect perfection.  We can expect stumbles along the way.

I also think that we can see real progress in a federal government that has become an incestous cess pool of special interests and self preservation at the expense of  the citizenry.  He has also pledged to appoint conservatives to the courts, even  supplying a list of possible supreme court nominees.  That alone is reason enough to vote Trump.

And finally,

Democrat Evan Bayh said in an interview with the late Chuck Colson that none of us should expect politics to “save us.”  We will always be disappointed if we do.   He further said that politics in general is downstream of the culture.  Meaning that a corrupt culture will produce corrupt politics.   I think he’s correct.

Alexis de Tocqueville said many years ago that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve.  I think Bayh’s contention is really just a paraphrase of de Tocqueville.

If we as Americans elect the Clintons to high office, knowing for certain now given Wikileaks of their corruption, then we deserve to live in a corrupt nation.

Vote Trump, and do it enthusiastically.

 

 

 

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Customer Service with Eddie Mayfield

handshakeAnyone that thinks they have nothing to learn about customer service, and is in a leadership position of any sort, in any organization- is foolish.

No organization holds a technical or market advantage very long, and the defining factor for growth is often customer service.

For small businesses and organizations  especially, this can be the great leveler when competing with a large company.   This program starts out by asking “what kind of a customer are you?”  Using that as a springboard, Eddie then uses both personal anecdotes and professional standards and research to discuss and examine the “how to’s” of good customer service.

Tune in Saturday morning,  at 11 AM on Atlanta’s Biz 1190 radio.  The program is streamed live on biz 1190.com and podcast on eddiemayfield.com

Driven to Business with Eddie Mayfield is heard every Saturday morning at 11 AM on WAFS, Atlanta’s Business Radio.   Tune in.

Simply the best business radio in Atlanta..  Driven to Business.. 

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How companies /organizations decline, and how to stop it

decline“I’ve come to see institutional decline like a staged disease.  Harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages.  Easier to detect, but harder to cure in the later.” Jim Collins

When I first founded EMA, I would panic if we had a bad month. The panic wasn’t  completely unfounded, I had limited resources and  wouldn’t have survived too many bad ones.  Conversely, I would be almost giddy when we had a good month.  What I learned over time, was to control my emotions a bit, and keep a more even keel.

Almost every organization, even very healthy ones, experience downturns.  On the other hand, very unhealthy ones can have a temporary upturn.  The wisdom is knowing the difference between a blip and trend.

Author and business researcher Jim Collins wrote “How the Mighty Fall” in which he chronicled stages of business decline.

Collins suggests there are five stages to decline:

  1. Hubris born of success
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
  3. Denial of risk and peril
  4. Grasping for salvation
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death

Honestly, the one that frightens me the most is number one, hubris (or arrogance) born of success.  “I/We are great because we do/know certain things,” as opposed to understanding WHY these things we do or know work for us.

I see this all the time in others, and to be honest, have seen it in myself.  All of us like to think highly of ourselves, and if we’ve experienced career or business success, it confirms our opinion.

It’s a recipe for disaster.  Arrogant people don’t learn, and the moment you stop paying attention to what’s going on in your organization, the market, and within yourself- you’ve taken the first step to failure.

I don’t accept president Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement.  But, neither is it true that any of us achieve success entirely on our own.

I was fortunate early in my career to work for two incredible entrepreneurs that taught me not only the technicals of the electronic motor drive business, but allowed me to take a leadership role in a growing company.  They also put up with a lot of mistakes, and I’m forever grateful to them.

The undisciplined pursuit of more is another big problem.  Growth has ruined companies and the people that led them.  (See Grow or Die, is that true?)

Denial of risk and peril goes along with hubris.  “We’re a great company; our customers love us; our competition is inferior to us.”  Often said, without a shred of objective data to back that opinion up.

A number of years ago we landed a big job, in fact at that time, the biggest job we’d ever gotten.  It took a lot of our resources, but it was very profitable.  When that project ended about a year later, I began to have some nagging unease about our company.   We seemed to have lost our edge, but everyone was telling me different.

I hired an outside consultant to help, and an indepth and unemotional analysis confirmed my suspicions. We were losing ground in every area.  The large project had distracted me and allowed a number of unresolved issues to fester. We were in denial.  Fortunately, we got out of it.

When you find yourself blaming external forces for your problems, you’re in trouble. It’s empowering to take personal responsibility, and its the first step to resolution.   IF I am the problem, then I am the solution.

Many companies that find themselves in decline start grabbing at straws.  Hire a superstar, go after another market, begin supplying more products and services, can all be desperate attempts. And, the research indicates they rarely work.

Here’s some hints on avoiding decline:

First of all, stay humble and pay attention to your business. Never assume you deserve success; it has to be constantly  earned.  You MUST provide excellent services and products, and you must be friendly and accessible.

Be sure you have the right people in the right seats in your company.  This is a primary leadership responsibility.  Building a success culture, and instilling it in your people is your job.

Rather than trying new things, the path out of a decline is often returning to good leadership and business practices.  There’s a great story of a fast food company CEO who was hired to pull the company out of a terrible decline.  Prior to beginning his job he visited many of their stores.

At his first meeting, people were telling him the reasons for decline, ranging from changing consumer tastes to increased competition. He interrupted them and said, “the problem with this company is dirty bathrooms and surly employees, and we are going to fix that starting right now.”  The company did indeed turn around.  Never ignore the basics of your business; it’s easy to stray from them.

In a decline..  here are a  few steps to consider:

  1. Put all emotion aside and deal with the scary truth.  This may mean getting some outside help. Don’t underestimate your own hubris.
  2. Avoid the temptation to blame external factors. Accept responsibility.
  3. Be diligent in rectifying systemic failures in your customer service or operations.
  4. Do not grab at straws.  Hiring the competition’s best salesperson usually does not work.
  5. Back to basics.  Why do customers use you? What’s an ideal customer look like?
  6. Fight!  Most companies can,  in fact,  be turned around.

 

Eddie Mayfield

 

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Traditional Worship/Hymn Sing November 6th

Traditional Worship Service November 6thOn Sunday evening, at 6  PM, choirs from Mountain Park and Snellville First Baptist will combine to lead a nostalgic service of traditional music at Mountain Park First Baptist Church in Stone Mountain.

Admission is free.   This will be a wonderful evening of music featuring both choir and audience singing of historical hymns.   Doors will open at 5:30.

Mountain Park FBC is located at 5485 Five Forks Trickum Road in Stone Mountain, GA.   This is near the intersection of Five Forks and Rockbridge Road.

The word “hymn” comes from the Greek word hymnos, which means songs of praise.   Per the New Testament Jesus and his disciples sang hymns together.   For a number of years, hymns primarily were the Psalms and other scriptures set to  music, but Martin Luther changed that with his classic “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”   He used scriptural principles, but not the literal scripture verses.   Although we hold this hymn in high regard today, at the time it was controversial.

Issac Watts created additional controversy with his hymns, but was successful in convincing churches in England to expand their music to include (at that time) modern hymns.   In the America’s, Charles Wesley played a big role in setting the tone of American hymns.

Church hymns do tend to reflect the times.  Hymns written during hard times often talk of heaven and rest.  There are hymns that are celebratory  in nature, hymns that are evangelical, hymns that explain doctrines, and hymns that are prayers.

It’s a marvelous art form, and the impact of hymns and music on the Church is hard to overstate.

Come and join us on November 6th, and enjoy a nostalgic time of worship and praise.

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Negativism; you’d better deal with it

Everyone runs into negative people at times.  You know, the guys who always see the glass half empty.  The people who seem to suck all the energy out of a room when they enter.

The problem is negative people can sometimes be your more intelligent employees.  And, you do in fact need their input.  So how do you keep a workplace positive, and still remain realistic?

First of all, let’s talk about negativism for a moment. According to research, a baby will usually spot a frowning face in a crowd of smiling faces, and will focus on the frowning face.  I’m not sure we ever grow out of that.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers we find the story of Moses sending 12 spies into the promised land. The Israelites had been wandering through a barren land, and now they were getting ready to enter the lush valley of the Jordan.  A land promised to them by God.

The 12 spies returned with glowing tales of the fertility of the land, but they also reported that the inhabitants were big and fierce.  They had fortified cities and frankly, they terrified the spies.

All, that is except two, Joshua and Caleb, who acknowledged the size of the  challenge,  but said with God’s help, they could take it.

The response of the others is instructive.  The more they talked about the downside, the more negative they became.  They began to make irrational statements, even saying at one point that they would be better off dead.

The negative ones  became hostile to Joshua and Caleb, even threatening to stone them.   And finally, they descended into complete rebellion, and attempted to replace Moses and return to Egypt.

So, here’s what we learn:

  • Negativism is contagious
  • Negativism leads to irrational thought
  • Negativism leads to hostility
  • Negativism leads to rebellion

Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review gave some advice for dealing with negativity.  Here it is:

  • Don’t counter their negativity with your positivity

That seems counter intuitive, but it appears to the other person as argumentative.  People don’t like to be emotionally contradicted, and trying to convince them NOT to feel something, tends to make them feel it more stubbornly.

  • Don’t counter their negativity with your negativity

Your negativity, if you try this, will only add fuel to the fire.  Avoid doing it.

  • Understand how they feel and validate it. 

This is hard, but you are not agreeing with them, you’re simply showing that you understand how they feel.  Inc Magazine offered some good advice in this area.  “Inquire first, and advocate second.”  In other words, seek to understand why they feel the way they do.

  • Find a place to agree with them. 

You do not have to fake it, and you don’t have to agree with everything they’re saying, but if you can, agree with some of it.  You can express, for instance, that you too have frustrations over the way some things are done.

  • Find out what they’re positive about, and reinforce it.

 You are not trying to convince them to be positive, you’re simply giving attention whatever they are positive about.  Almost no one is negative about everything.  If they are in fact, completely negative, then make sure they see you supporting others who are positive.

This offers them concrete hope, because it’s based on the positive feelings they already have, rather than on feelings you think they should have.

Negativity DOES have to be dealt with, because it costs money.   Gallop says that negative and disengaged employees cost American businesses around $350 billion per year.

Gallop author Curt Coffman calls these actively disengaged negative employees “cave dwellers.”  C.A.V.E. meaning consistently against virtually everything.

Inc Magazine suggests the following:

  • Strive for healthy conflict

Healthy conflict, goes back to the earlier suggestion, inquire first, and advocate second.  There can be opposing views, but as long as both sides are actively engaged in doing what’s in the organization’s best interest, the results can be positive.

This works in all organizations, including volunteer ones, but I think that profits can be a strong motivator for a business leader reticent to try this.  Negativity costs money; there’s no escaping that fact.  So deal with it.

  • Hire positive people

That sounds almost trite doesn’t it?  But consider this: do you want a positive environment in your company?  Then don’t hire negative people to start with.

This doesn’t mean hiring yes men.  A healthy organization needs men and women that will express themselves.  But, you want people that overall, have a positive outlook on life; people that primarily look for solutions, not problems.

  • Be completely transparent

When people aren’t given the whole story, they tend to make up the rest, and it’s usually more negative than the truth.  This as much as anything can lead to negativity and disengagement.

  • Encourage innovation

This is all about letting go, and allowing people to use their creative talents.  You can counter negativity by giving people the tools to change the things that bother them the most.

  • Allow fun

I am convinced that fun is greatly underrated in most organizations.  Think of ways to make your work environment fun, even crazy at times.

  • Prune bad apples

Unfortunately, there comes a time, when a consistently negative employee has to be cut loose.  These are the grenade throwers, who don’t provide solutions, but simply exacerbate problems.  Give them a chance to change; help them.   But, if that fails let them go.

Your business’ future depends on it.

Eddie

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Learning to succeed despite trials

Success after trialsThe New Testament book of James says “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials.”  It goes on to say that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

I’ll confess that I’m not always joyful in the midst of trials and tribulations, whether business or personal,  but I have learned the value of them.

The picture is my son Trey and me after hiking out the Bright Angel trail from the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  A joyful, although for me, trying hike.  But well worth the reward once accomplished.

Einstein flunked out of school, failed his college entrance exam, and was told he lacked the mental abilities to be a physicist.  Thomas Edison was considered “slow” by his teachers,  and failed thousands of times before coming up with the electric light bulb.

Harlan Sanders, of KFC fame, had a failed restaurant and was rejected over one thousand times when trying to get a franchise going.  He eventually did succeed, and built a successful restaurant chain.

The annals of business are replete with such stories, in fact, it’s more the norm than you might think.  Bill Gates had a failed company that was trying to sell compiled  traffic data before founding Microsoft.

The trick is to learn from your failures.

In my career, I learned much more from my failures than I ever did from success.  It’s just how we’re wired.

John Maxwell wrote “Failing Forward” and he lists seven principles for learning from failure.

  1. Reject Rejection:  Do not allow your self worth to be determined by external events.  Believe in yourself.
  2. Don’t Point Fingers:  Blaming others for your failures is a sure fire way to fail backwards and learn nothing from the experience.   If I am the problem, then I am the solution.
  3. See Failure as Temporary:  You can either wallow in failure, or you can see it in perspective as a temporary setback.
  4. Set Realistic Expectations:  Unrealistic goals doom people to failure.
  5. Focus on Strengths:  It’s very tempting to concentrate on your weaknesses.  But, it’s much better to focus and build on your strengths.
  6. Vary your approaches to achievement: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Harlan Sanders, and a number of other successful people did not achieve great success in their first ventures.  Don’t put yourself in too small a box.
  7. Bounce Back:  When dealing with failures, successful people have short memories.   It’s fine to rehash and learn from failure, but it’s not fine to dwell on it.  Look forward.

Eddie

 

 

 

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Sales: Yep, more sales discussion..

salespersonWe all enjoy buying, but we do not want to be sold.  I was recently in a music store looking at some guitar accessories.  The salesperson walked over and said  “may I help you?”  And I said, (just like you do)..  “no thanks..  just looking.”

That’s despite the fact that I went in there to buy a guitar accessory.   Why did I say that?  Because, just like you, I don’t like being sold anything.

In Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn  after the townspeople figure out they’ve been conned by Huck and Jim’s  unwanted and scoundrel raft partners, they begin yelling “sold, we’ve been sold!”  That’s the same connotation we give to to being “sold” today.  And no one likes it.

But, every successful business needs to “sell” their products and services, right?

Peter Bourke wrote “Unselling: Sell Less and Win More” It’s a great book that I had our people read.  Peter, along with most other successful sales people and sales trainers contend that the first thing you should attempt with a prospect is NOT to sell him anything, but instead to offer him value.  In short, make it about him, and not about you.

Often,  even with the best of intentions, we fail at this simply because we don’t know what the prospect or customer really values.  It’s very easy to assume we do; and it’s a deadly mistake.

In the early days of our business, I was very proud of my own technical prowess in our field.  At the risk of sounding arrogant, I was very proficient in the electronic motor drive world, and enjoyed a national reputation  as a result.  And, it was unquestionably an advantage.

However, I was often distressed when a competitor I felt was technically inferior would steal a customer or land an account I was chasing.  “How could that prospect give the business to them, when I’m so much better?”

Over time, I came to understand that what I valued most, was not necessarily valued by prospects.  They expected a certain level of expertise, in fact, it was sort of the ticket to the game.  When I repaired equipment and it worked they were happy, but they also expected it.  When my competitor repaired it, and it worked, they were also happy.  Arguing technical nuances was not interesting to the customer, even though it was paramount with me.

We must learn what the customer values before we can be of value. Bourke makes the very valid point that there are times when what the prospect values or wants is not in his best interest, and we can offer the value of educating him.   But regardless, the starting point in that discussion is to learn what’s important to him now. Then by acting on what you learn, you can become a resource instead of salesperson.

How do you discover what’s important?  Well, start by listening.  Learning what a customer or prospect values is impossible with your mouth open.  Customers care about their business, not about yours.  The more you learn to care about their business, the better relationship you can build with them.

Jeffrey Gitomer says if you lose a job for an existing customer to a competitor, it simply means that competitor has a better relationship with that customer than you do. That’s a hard pill to swallow for many of us, but like most medicine, it does us good.

Here’s a few thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Why do people buy from you?  Don’t hurry through this, take the time to analyze.
  2. Why do they buy from your competition?
  3. What’s your specific market advantage?  This is something  very important to your customers, that you excel at.
  4. How many more people would buy from you IF ONLY they knew you existed?

How strongly do you believe in your product or service?  At our electronic motor drive company EMA Inc. we say that “No One, Anywhere, is Better at Drives than we are.”  I firmly believe that, and I often ask our team member if they do. When we make mistakes, we will start by saying, “we must fix this in order to remain better at drives than anyone else.”  It’s part of our culture.

This isn’t something you can just say and then leave alone, it means that every day we have to inject energy and passion into what we do, and be certain that we are in fact as good as we say.

But here’s what it does for you in sales…   It gives you a belief that cannot be penetrated about the value you can bring to a prospect.  We firmly believe that in our niche market, prospects get more value in doing business with us than with anyone else in our field.

And that makes selling and doing business a lot more rewarding.  As Peter Bourke says..   sell less and win more.

 

Eddie Mayfield

 

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Success through relationships

daveotc21Assuming you’re ever on a death bed (as Jerry Seinfeld quipped, “why would you ever buy one of those?”) taking stock of your life, the criteria by which you measure success will be relationships.  Relationships with God, family, and friends.  And, probably nothing else.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that nothing trumps relationships, and that’s true both in your personal and business life.

Here’s a few thoughts about that:

  1. Relationships require investment.   
  2. Relationships require humility.
  3. Relationships are one on one; Facebook is not a relationship. 

Author Malcomb Gladwell in his book “Tipping Point” says that our electronically interconnected world has had the effect of renewing the desire for personal touch.  Gladwell says that we are re-entering (I’m not convinced we ever left) the age of “word of mouth.”

Think of this in your own life.  All of us are inundated with marketing messages every day in various forms.  We’ve developed filters, almost an immunity to them.  But, if someone whom we know well and trust tells us about a restaurant or a movie, we give that recommendation instant credibility.  That’s the power of a relationship. It does, trump all other marketing.

Jeffery Gitomer, author and business coach wrote “The Little Black Book of Connections” some years ago.  I’ve read it several times, and have even given copies to friends.  In addition to his book, Gitomer has written numerous blogs on the subject.

Here’s a few highlights from him:

  1. Make the focus of the relationship the other person, not you.  No one wants to be used.
  2. Don’t worry as much about customer satisfaction, as about customer loyalty.  This is huge.  Loyalty requires a relationship.
  3. If you lose a job to a current customer to a competitor on price, it means the competitor has a better relationship than you do.
  4. If you think you will make a sale because you have the best product, price, or service- you’re kidding yourself.  50% of sales are made on the basis of friendship. 

So, how do you start to build relationships?  Slowly.   Harvey Deutschendorf suggests:

  1. Learn to be a great listener.  Everyone wants to be heard and understood.  We naturally bond with people that really hear us, and we want to spend time with them.
  2. Ask the right questions.  Be sure you understand them by digging deeper.  One way is to say, “if I understand you correctly, you said… ”  When others sense that you’re sincerely trying to understand them, then tend to open up.  This deepens the relationship.
  3. Pay attention to the whole person.  We tend to remember and appreciate people who ask us if everything is OK, even if we haven’t told them anything is wrong.   It tells us that they are paying attention to us.
  4. Remember things that are important to them. People will tell us what they value, if we just listen.
  5. Manage your emotions.   People who tend to have mood swings have a hard time building deep relationships.  Erratic shifts in mood tend to push people away.  If this is a problem for you, work on it.
  6. Share your story, but only when the time is right.   We all know people that begin sharing intimate details of their lives before we’re ready to hear it.  Pace yourself, and wait till the right time.   IF you have an experience that relates to the other person’s experience, it’s usually good to share it.  But, here’s a caution; don’t upstage their experience with yours.
  7. Be genuine and fun.  People enjoy being around positive people who are comfortable in their own skin.

Finally, go places and do things.   Don’t give a customer a ticket to a ball game, take them to a game, and if possible, take their family.

Gitomer suggests an I-Max movie for the whole family.  And do NOT bring up business there, unless they do.

Don’t have time for all this relationship building stuff?  Then maybe you’d better find a mundane job where it doesn’t matter.  Because in every significant job, it does.

 

Eddie Mayfield