Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Business Advice I Ever Got: Don't Panic!

There was a recent major national publication that discussed how stress, if channeled correctly, can be a very positive and productive force OR be destructive.

I am a small business expert and I fix companies.

The theme struck a chord for me as that adrenalin surge can sometimes be just as addictive as any other controlled substance.  Think fireman running into a burning building, swooning damsels, squalling babes, etc.  Situations with an element of risk yield reward, fame and more opportunities - if that risk is handled correctly.

Panic and stress can't be disabling; if they are, the waves will wash over your head and it's game over.  Practically speaking, the way to tackle that wave of nausea, that puckering of certain body parts, that fill-in-the-blank-feeling that accompanies crises is straightforward:

  1. Put a name on the problem(s);
  2. Figure out which one goes first;
  3. Attack!
As mind-numbingly simple as this sounds, it's this inability to focus and execute that gets people all the time.  Countless times, I have encountered such basic things like "This person no longer fits in the organization - what do I do?" or "We keep hiring the wrong people; what do we do?" or "We need more sales!".  Each of those (and many other) similar seemingly insurmountable situations are not monolithic - they all tend to be big balls of intermingled issues that need to be (patiently!) unraveled.

Follow the best business advice I ever got, take a deep breath...and start.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is it okay if I (ever) take time off????

I was recently asked the above question and I thought I'd share my answer with you.

I am a small business expert and I fix companies.

The best way to go into something is with the right set of expectations.

Know that having your own business is going to be a lot of work and also (hopefully!) very rewarding; having said that, realize that some of the perquisites that come from living the life of an employee will go away.

Stress-free vacation time: I’m looking at you.

However, once you have developed a rhythm for your business, getting away and being in a different environment is key; it enables one to “sharpen the saw”, “drink the grape” and any other phrase that makes sense to place in quotes.

My secret? 

For my business (I am a small business expert and turn companies around and/or help them grow) I am just about to hit my 10 year anniversary. 

What works for me is to know that once a day while I am on vacation, I am going to re-connect and see if there are any emergencies.

Maybe that will change over time, but this gives me peace of mind, is fair to my family (as they know that work time has a beginning and an end) and my clients like that I care about them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Do you like what you do?

I do.

I am a small business expert and I fix companies.

I'm not sure why, but I have increasingly been encountering small business owners who decided to start their own companies because they believed that they had something special, "mojo", that was sufficiently special that the whole world needed to know about it.

I am blessed to be able to work my mojo across multiple industries.  I used to feel really awkward when I would be asked (at the upteenth cocktail party or networking session) upon which industry I focused; reciting the litany of different fields, my answer soon became "everything but...".  Not very engaging.  What I have realized is that I work my magic on situations versus industries.

For example, my company has recently "struck a vein" of smaller companies that all have a great visionary at the helm who either isn't good at or just plain hates many of the aspects of management and leadership.  Almost pleading, many of them will ask for an opportunity to be able to do that which they originally had in mind to do (e.g., provide environmentally robust products, interface with media clients and parlay connections, be a presence and thought leader in the social media space, provide excellent and environmentally sensitive earth solutions, etc.) when they embarked on their journey instead of being bogged down by the day to day minutiae that now absorbs and drains their energy.

I like encountering these geniuses and unleashing them to "be"; letting them run wild and free as I take out an obstacle for them, hold the door open for them and any other cliché you can think of.  Like a parent at their kids recital or sports game, I really get my kicks off of seeing someone be able to execute and deliver on the giftedness that is at their disposal.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Means more than just having the title to an asset.

I am a small business expert and I fix companies.

Ownership can be exchanged for another word - accountability.  It means that you will get up from your comfortable bed, chair, (fill in the blank) and take the inconvenient call, bring the dog in, discipline your child, (again, fill in the blank).
I don't know how you teach this if you aren't born with it; I think it can be awakened if it is dormant, but how do you teach someone to care?
Too many times I run into people who, truly, have no business being in their current role and responsibility; the guy who is paralyzed with indecision by the cushion that his wife's income from her job in Corporate America provides him so that he can afford to not make the tough decisions and declare himself.  Instead, he embraces mediocrity like a warm, moist towel and wallows in something that is not victory yet isn't defeat.
Or the guys who were partners in a business and wanted to go to the next step - one guy wanted to do what it took; the other was still smarting from a business reversal that had happened a few years prior.  That lesson, rather than galvanize him into action, taught him that he needed to now become the bottleneck for every decision (large or small) in the company.  Meanwhile, the business slowly strangled...

Ownership - requires boldness, wisdom, humility and (more than anything) the ability to shake the cobwebs out of your head and refuse to settle for complacency.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The right stuff

No, not the movie, but just as spine-tingling!

I am a small business expert and I fix companies.

One of the issues I constantly keep bumping up against is the composition of the company team.  You'd be amazed at how a HUGE amount of time, attention and resources will frequently be devoted to the development of a plan, a product, service, etc. but the most important item (the glue) to the whole enterprise is neglected.
What is the glue?  What binds everything together?
Good people who are the right fit for the right role at the right time.
For some reason, it escapes people (normal, thoughtful, smart people) that the same guy with whom you started your company in your garage is not necessarily the best guy to be with you 3 years later when you are now a few million in size and moving into new office space.
You're a good person even if you need a different type of human resource to take it to the next leg.
PLUS, who knows?  Maybe YOU need to replace yourself with the right person who can take your baby to the next level...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Something I think is cool

This really doesn't have anything, directly, to do with work but maybe it does as it's hard to unravel me into little bits and pieces without everything coming apart.
I think history is cool.
I like it all and I like it a lot.
It can be going to Colonial Williamsburg and after the rush of the touristy stuff is over going and talking to the interpreters and really understanding some arcane element of what they are doing and why they do it (note: the majority of these folks that are doing what they are doing are majorly accomplished in their own right; I was stunned to see a guy in the house that contained a piano and harpsichord dealership sit down and actually play the harpsichord   Then he set about explaining (and showing how to make) the quills that they used to pluck the strings to make the sound - this all demonstrated whilst wearing a ponytail and breeches.)
It can also be going to a place where you have some link, some connection - something that ties you in some way to the place.  For us ("us" being myself and my nuclear family), this place is Spain.  Though my parents, as well as my wife's parents. were born in Cuba, our lineage is easily traced to Spain.  I still have family that I was able to track down and connect with in the north (Galicia).  As Cuban as my accent in Spanish is, arriving there and starting to talk to the people (usually over a meal and/or a drink) enables one to enter into what the place is about and understand why that connectedness exists.
On a recent trip, we "discovered" a ruined "palace" that was for sale.  Boy, now we were hitting on all cylinders!  Not only were we talking:

  1. History
  2. History associated with our culture
  3. History associated with our culture AND our faith (there was a nearby chapel [still in periodic use] associated with the palace)
but we were also talking about something that was ruined (see the below picture - this is the actual place) that could be rehabilitated and made functional again.  I guess here is the intersection with my business as I really get a charge out of fixing and turning things around - think diving catches in the end zone but even better.  Taking something moribund and making it even better than it was in it's prime.

Our latest dream - as the palace ended up not being the perfect fit - is to find (are you ready?) the following:
  1. A vineyard (as we decided whatever we get needs to be able to generate an income);
  2. That is ruined or needs a lot of work to be functional again;
  3. That HAS ruins of some sort (preferably Roman in nature):
  4. Is on a specific river in Galicia that was home to a Roman colony of folks that cultivated vineyards and then used the river to transport the wine;
  5. And, if possible, links or is close to the family land holdings.
Dreaming is free, right?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How to really screw with someone's head

One of my favorite all-time saints is Saint Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits).  This guy was a total stud; a military guy who also "got" the court scene, chivalry, honor, etc.  He was really a man's man.
But so were a lot of other guys (and are today). Why, hundreds of years later, are we still talking about him?
The answer is simple, yet difficult: Ignatius decided to take one of his weaknesses, his pride, and turn it into a strength.
While convalescing from a battle wound (he received the wound as one of the last defenders of the castle against the French - his enemies were so impressed with his valor, that they treated him with honor and sent him to recover at his home), he was bored and had nothing to do.  He grabbed the only two books in the household ("whaaa....?  only two books?"  hey, books were considered to be cutting edge as barely anyone even read at that time) and tried to distract himself.
The two books?
The Bible and the lives of the saints.

So where does his pride come into play?  As he read a story about St. Francis of Assisi, he would tell himself "Ha, he was good, but I could do better,"; St. Benedict?  Oh yes, a holy man, but if Ignatius had been around, well, that's another story as to how things might have turned out.

The long and short of it was that over time, Ignatius had a conversion experience.  He realized that he wanted to be a saint and he was willing to do whatever it took to become one.  One of the anecdotes that is recounted is that a dialogue between Christ and Ignatius went something like this:

Christ (C): Ignatius: Will you do something for me?
Ignatius (I): Anything, Lord.
C: It's so disappointing when  people tell me no or place conditions on their yes's.  I really appreciate your unconditional yes!
I: Well, actually, I do have one condition...
C: Oh.  Okay, I understand - what is it?
I: I want what You ask me to do to be the hardest and most difficult thing that no one wants to do.
C: I love you, man!
Okay, I may have taken a little poetic license, but you get the idea.

Full circle time: what about the title of this blog posting?  I have been spending time doing work with Habitat for Humanity; it's really interesting to see who shows up at these builds and why.  Many times, the Build Leader will ask for volunteers to do such and such task - it's not infrequent to see people turn their noses up at the requests until they find what is their thing.
Channeling my hero, I like to go up to these Build Leaders and ask them if I can help and do whatever no one wants to do.  I am also rolling this concept out in my consultancy when I talk to my customers.
Try it - you'll get a real kick; it really messes with people's assumptions.

I plan on trying the approach out in the hardest and most challenging milieu: home.