Friday, January 8, 2010

Where is this Country's Integrity -- The Navy Seals

Media sensationalism can have a dramatic impact on public opinion. It’s often times hard to ignore. Think about the Tiger Woods incident or what American Idol’s Adam Lambert, who Tracy used to adore, that performed his perverted sexual imitation on stage at the American Music Awards. Then there are the White House party crashers; the media just can’t seem to get enough of these stories that really have nothing to do with the substance of society except that they demonstrate how low we have sunk. The major news papers and most of the television news channels just can’t get enough of “Balloon Boy”, “The Octamom”, Tiger’s Sex Life”, “The Health Care Fiasco” and many other non sense stories and yet one of the most devastating- patriotism destroying morale destroying decisio ns of the century is getting very little coverage.

I’m talking about the impending court marshal of three Navy Seals for allegedly punching a terrorist in the mouth and giving him a bloody lip. This isn’t just some terrorist. It is the terrorist that masterminded the slaughter of four Americans, burned their bodies, drug them through the streets of Fallujah and hung them on a bridge. These three Seals are brave soldiers and should be commended for the capture of this mad man. Instead Mathew McCabe, Jonathon Keefe and Julio Huertas face a court marshal instead of receiving a heroism medal.

This story should be on the nightly news across the nation. It is a horrific act against the moral fiber of our soldiers and the sacrifice they make to keep us safe. Instead, short of Fox News, nobody is talking about it in prime time. Instead we hear about the part crashers and balloon boy for crying out loud. Where is our integrity?

I really don’t want to believe that our main stream media has an agenda. I really want to believe that we still cherish freedom of the press. But I have to ask myself, “What the Hell is going on?” As a former military person my heart goes out to these Seals and to every other former military person that is wondering the same thing I am wondering; whose side is this country’s media on? Whose side is this country on?

If I were still in the military I might just have second thoughts on when to pull the trigger; on whether to capture or kill; a decision that could get me killed. Just how do our young fighting men handle this? Will they lose confidence in our leadership? Will they lose confidence in our country?

Just how do we defend taking the word of a terrorist killer over three honorable Seals about a simple bloody lip? I got worse than that in boot camp for bouncing while I marched. We are at War – it’s high time somebody told the leaders of this country that. Better yet, why don’t we give them a gun and let them spend some time on the front lines in Afghanistan or Yemen. Even better, lets invite every investigative reporter from the major news media to be their point men. – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.

And check out Rick’s new CD and workbook Real World Leadership Kit --- “Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Ways to Create Improvements

Off the Cuff --- Three Ways to Create Improvements

#1. Best Practice - Simply stated, “best practices” are business operations that are commonly used by financially successful companies. The identification and study of best practices is now widespread and has contributed to significant operational improvements in many industries. This powerful tool originated from a simple, almost obvious premise: at some level, most business organizations do the same things. Therefore, by examining those organizations that do these common processes extremely well, we can quickly find ways to improve our own business. Significantly, best practices offer a way to learn from any organization in any industry, provided that both organizations share a “common process.” Here are some guidelines to using best practices effectively:

• Remember that they are only correlated with good performance – be sure to use them as ideas for solutions rather than relying on them to fix problems that are specific to your company.
• Good sources for best practices include the industry press, trade associations, peers in other markets, information from suppliers and customers, and general business literature.
• Never blindly adopt a practice, even from a direct competitor, until you know exactly how it will work in your organization.

#2. Streamlining (Process Reengineering) can often help you discover process improvements. Streamlining refers to the act of removing steps and time from business processes. Because time usually equates to money, streamlining can often lead to significant bottom line improvements. The following are a summary of these principles:

• Document the way the process really happens, not the way it should happen.
• Evaluate every step in a process to see if it is really necessary.
• Avoid unnecessary hand-offs between people. This is typically a large source of error.
• When in doubt choose error reduction over speed. It is estimated that over 25% of the labor cost in the distribution industry is involved in correcting errors.
• Attempt to do steps in parallel (at the same time) rather than sequentially.
• Reduce variability processing time – even if all steps have the same average processing time, variability will always reduce overall throughput.

#3. Benchmarking is a simple concept that is too often overlooked. Tremendous insight and problem solving ideas can be generated solely by observing how someone else runs a similar business to yours. Benchmarking involves searching for the best way to perform specific tasks in all functional areas. It is all about trying to become the best of the best and employ best practices that can generally be observed at those companies that perform in the upper quartile of performance.

However, benchmarking can be valuable regardless of how the company you are benchmarking performs. Even observing less than effective functional performance can teach us something and may in fact validate the things that you are doing right. Of course, benchmarking top performing companies is the ideal situation. Looking for companies that use different methods in accounting, customer service, sales, marketing, operations and inventory management can provide tremendous opportunity to evaluate your own processes and procedures for improvement methodology.

There are basically four types of benchmarking.

1. Intercompany Benchmarking – This process analyzes the top performance in key functional areas and looks at applying it to other functional areas.

2. Competitive Company Benchmarking – This is the study of a friendly competitor that allows you to come into their business and observe their practices. Generally this can be done with competitors that are not in your geographical service area. Keep in mind, it involves quid – pro – quo by allowing that competitor to observe your practices as well.

3. Similar Company Benchmarking – This is simply observing a company that is not a competitor but may be in a similar or related business. Although products may be different, systems, process and practices are often the same. This can provide insight for improvements in your business.

4. Functional Benchmarking – This type of benchmarking focuses more on a specific function such as “inventory management” among any and all companies anywhere that may be willing to allow you to observe and learn. The key is searching for the very best methods to excel in that particular functional area.

Benchmarking goals should be centered on making your company the absolute best it can be based on the top performance of other companies. Focus on targeting newer companies in your industry. Older companies often have an innate resistance to change, new ideas and new technology.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the Lighter Side ………… Washington, DC and “The Freedom March”
Tracy and I spent a five days in Washington, DC this month and had a terrific time. One of the highlights of our trip was a four hour Segway tour of the city. It only took about twenty minutes to learn how to ride these things. They were an absolute blast. Tracy rode hers like she was Mario Andretti and was constantly in the lead of our group of ten. I was much more conservative and seemed to linger at the rear of the pack. We also toured all the monuments at night with the most impressive one being the Korean War Monument. Standing there looking at a number of statues of our soldiers coming out of the woods at dusk was an eerie feeling; a feeling that made you proud of our veterans, proud of our current soldiers serving in Iraq and Afganistan and proud to be an American.

The Vietnam memorial brought back many memories and the WWII memorial made me think of my Dad that served as a navigator on a B-29.

We also went to several of the Smithsonians but you actually need several days to really take advantage of the many divisions of this wonderful and education institution. We also visited the spy museum which was quite interesting.

When we first arrived in DC we weren’t very experienced at using the subway system and I almost lost Tracy. I don’t know how many of you remember the Kingston Trio but there song the “M.T.A.” about a subway system almost became reality for Tracy. The chorus to their hit went like this:

“Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston. He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station and he changed for Jamaica Plain.
When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel." Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station, crying, "What will become of me?!!
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea or my cousin in Rocksbury?"

Charlie's wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station every day at quarter past two,
and through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train comes rumblin' through.

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston. He's the man who never returned. He's the man who never returned.”

Let me explain. The first time we rode the train we entered the station and I purchased two tickets. We didn’t realize that we needed these tickets to get out of the station. Fortunately we didn’t throw them away before we reached our destination. Unfortunately, I purchased a five dollar ticket for myself but only had two ones and bought Tracy’s ticket with those two bills. When we reached our destination, the turnstile wouldn’t allow Tracy to exit. You would have thought that she was being kidnapped by the look on her face. She kept crying out for my help but there wasn’t much I could do (except laugh). I tried to tell her to jump over the railing but she absolutely refused to do that. If she would have she probably would have been arrested and I would have had a real story to tell.

I was already through the turnstile and Tracy was in a panic screaming at me that she was stuck. I couldn’t help myself and busted out laughing at the way she was acting. The more I laughed the madder she got. We just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally a station attendent approached her and told she had to go over to the machine and purchase another ticket because she was fifty cents short. Once she escaped, (after she punched me), she was okay and we had a great time the rest of the day. She didn’t appreciate the humor in me singing the lyrics to that Kingston Trio song the rest of the day however.

The Freedom March

Yes, I’ll admit it. Tracy and I Went to DC while the 9-12-09 Freedom March was taking place. Many people equated this march to the war protests and other demonstrations. But, it wasn’t anything like many of those protests. The news media has reported different statistics as to how many people attended this “Freedom Rally” from 10’s of thousands to 1.4 million people. I believe there were at least a million people there. What is absolutely amazing is the fact that there no incidents of violence and this crowd of a million left the place as clean as it was s when they arrived. I was astounded to observe everyone bringing their own trash bags and cleaning up the mess before they left. As for the people that attended this rally, they were everyday people. Moms and Dads and a lot of families were there. At least twelve hundred Doctors showed up for their own special press conference. There were no angry mobsters, no evil mongers, no racists and every one there was a true American interested in protecting their personal views about the freedoms established by our constitution.

This rally wasn’t just about health care reform. It was about Government spending, Government control, Cap & Trade, the deficit, unemployment, the recession and health care reform. The crowd wasn’t about being Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian or any other political party. The people were simply Americans expressing their concerns about the current political environment in Washington. There primary objective was to let their Senators and Congressman know how they feel and that they are concerned. This was a historic event and an incredible site. We were glad we were there to witness it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On the Lighter Side…………. Michael – Farah & Your Legacy

Do you remember where you were when John F. Kennedy died? I was in a social studies class as a senior. I would bet that the majority of readers know exactly where they were and what they were doing even though it happened in 1964; how about last week when Michael Jackson passed; a tragic event for sure. Michael was a great talent and nobody can take that away from him regardless of the fact that he did some strange things in his life.

Death and tragedy like the events of 9-11 have a way of putting permanent marks on our memories if not our souls. We never forget. I’ll always remember the day I found out my Dad passed away even though I was only nine years old and hadn’t seen him since I was five and what I was doing when my mother passed. Death and tragedy just seem mark our memories with permanent ink. Their legacy often lives on long after their passing.

Everyone, regardless of our status in life, leave some sort of legacy behind. Michael Jackson’s legacy has yet to be completely defined but certainly part of it is going to be about his talent and how he touched millions and part will probably encapsulate some of his weirdness.

I prefer to remember him for his great talents. So, what do you want your legacy to say about you? I’ve posed that question to countless CEOs and Presidents --- “What exactly do you want your legacy to be?”

I have been impressed with how many have really put some thought into that question. However, I have been equally disappointed in how many CEOs, Presidents and owners have really never given it much thought. Speaking from my personal experience and my own deep seeded feelings regarding what I would like to be known for, recognized for and thought of as I go down that retirement pathway and even that final walk in my life, I have began keeping a journal. I believe our legacy is not only defined by what we accomplish in life but more importantly it is defined by how we live our life and by how much we give back in the way we treat our fellow human beings.
Maybe the fact that some famous people have recently left us can inspire you to start thinking seriously about what your legacy is going to be. It sure has made me stop and revisit my goals, motivations and objectives in life.

I believe this journal I have been keeping will not only chronicle my own personal story; my successes, my defeats, my challenges, my GOALS and DREAMS, my own ideas and thoughts but I believe this journal will help me maintain focus and priority on my personal legacy. It will become something my family can review now and into the future. I am hoping it can become one of the more priceless collections for the family as the years roll on.

It doesn’t matter if you are thirty years old or if you’re older than sixty. Creating your own journal can do wonders for your effectiveness as a leader. It will help you put things in perspective. It will allow you to create focus, purpose and clarity of vision.
No matter how old you are; learning of Michael’s death, Farah’s death and even the death of famous pitch man Billy Mays paints a clear picture of how little control we have over life and death. People die every day and the older you get the more you realize how short life is.
Don’t squander the opportunity to work on your personal legacy. Start doing something now that is proactive. You don’t have to keep a journal as I suggest; but do something before it’s too late. Life is short.
Create a bucket list. A list of things you absolutely want to accomplish before you leave this world. It is now a perfect time to begin to think about and document what you want your legacy to be. It will help you put things in perspective; it will add serenity to your family life that will help you maintain balance. It could help you define who you are.
Don’t leave this world with an incomplete list. Don’t leave this world with unfulfilled dreams. Don’t leave this world without a legacy that your family and friends can be proud of. The pursuit of your legacy is the chase of your lifetime. It is never too late to become what you want to become. Start doing it now. Time may be running out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Developing Your Management Team

Developing Your Management Team

Winning organizations continuously build leaders at every level in their organization. Leaders who actively attempt to mentor and build other leaders gain respect throughout the organization and transfer knowledge, ideas, values and attitude about success. Your management team must have the following attributes. They must:

• Demonstrate a sense of urgency
• Project and articulate the vision
• Create stretch goals
• Develop trust and a spirit of teamwork
• Develop realistic expectations for success
• Promote an environment of success, trust and belief

Your management team must have an edge. They must be courageous enough to take risk and have an unrelenting readiness to act. Popularity is not a requirement but the ability to generate respect from the employees is without a doubt one of the most critical attributes. They must be relentless in their efforts, unconscious about personal sacrifice of their time and the willingness to go beyond normal expectations. Tough decisions are commonplace; uncharted territories will be the norm. Honesty and impeccable character is a must. Being decisive, doing the right thing, setting clear objectives, motivating and inspiring employees and creating a sense of urgency are challenges that must be met by all members of the management team. Every single member of your management team has to make a difference. It’s the price to play the game. It’s part of the rules. Don’t pay, don’t play, it’s as simple as that. You are not in a position to be overly patient with team members that can’t “Bump Bellies and Grunt” to get things done in such a way that they command the respect of your employees.

Check out Rick’s new CD and workbook Real World Leadership Kit --- “Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow” – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Nothing endures but change”

“Nothing endures but change” - Heraclitus-540 B.C.

What we are facing (economic turbulence) is not at all unprecedented. Simply put, there are good times when things are going well and it’s easy to make money, and there are bad times, when it’s much more difficult to make money. Prior to 2008 we had a run of good times that exceeded most of our expectations. I have often said that it didn’t take a genius to make money during that run. However, “Profit covers many sins.” That means that many of us got a little complacent. Maybe we didn’t quite run our business following absolute best practice. Maybe some of us overlooked less than the best performance expected from our employees. Maybe we were a little too compassionate regarding employee effectiveness and as a result we haven’t “weeded the garden” to allow our good employees to flourish.
A historic shift must be created by you and your executive team. Employee morale and buy-in must increase every day. Don’t forget the cardinal rule. “There is no room in your organization for loyal, yet incompetent people.” Gardening must become a way of life. Continuous pruning will keep you on track as your team rises or falls to the occasion. If an assessment of the company and your team was performed properly, pruning will be a non-issue. If you made mistakes, pruning will become an active initiative.

Confidence in execution means you are on the winning side of turmoil and confusion. More importantly, you know what it takes to succeed in this economic environment. You now have the vehicle, the process, the initiative and the team to execute. Your leadership has provided the following:
• A clear plan with clarity of purpose and participation of the employees
• A raised bar with relevant accountability
• A definitive marketing and sales strategy
• Best practices and determination to reside in the upper quartile for performance once recovery is secure
• A measurement of success through activity management and customer satisfaction formally

You are now in a position to execute your initiatives. You attacked your sales process first. The sales process is at the heart of your success. It is both complex and subjective because it deals with both customer management relationship activities and contingency-recovery initiatives.
You have asked and answered the following questions in creating your sales plan. You must take action based on those answers.
• What determines a profitable customer?
• What methods and processes do you use to identify customers?
• What is new in the external environment?
• What are your competitive advantages?
• What are your competitor’s competitive advantages?
• What are the methods used for gathering competitive intelligence?
• What changes have taken place externally or with your competitors that offer opportunity?
• What initiatives do you have to improve highest delivered value?
• What initiatives do you have to reach the goal of low cost provider?
• What types of customers and segments do you want to do business with?
• Who decides what customers you target?
• What types of customers are the most profitable?
• Have you identified target markets?
• How do your sales representatives spend their time?
• How often do you plan formal business reviews to compare expectations to results?
• How do you measure costs?
• Who reviews and is responsible for customer profitability?
• How do you measure customer retention?
• How do you track lost business and lost customers?
• How do you determine which customers to fire?
• How do you prospect?
• How do you identify critical success factors?
• How many and which customers represent 80% of your revenue, your profit?
• Has your average order size increased or decreased?
• What single thing has the biggest impact on your profitability?
• What are your competitive strengths?
• What volume does the top 10% of your customers represent?
• What do your sales representatives claim the key obstacles to their success are?
• What support could be added to your sales effort to increase revenue producing actions?
• What is your current market share?
• How do you measure growth?
• How do you maximize account penetration?
• What is the role of your inside sales staff?
• Do inside sales proactively solicit business?
• How do you define supplier performance?
• How do you forecast usage?
• How do you analyze your warehouse operations?
• What are your inventory turns?
• Do you measure your cash to cash cycle?
• What metrics are you using for supplier performance?
• Have you defined and analyzed your logistics initiatives?

Check out Rick’s new CD series and workbook “Unlocking the Secrets to Amazing Sales” @ It is a must addition for your sales training initiatives. Order today and get a bonus copy of Rick’s book “Turning Lone Wolves into Lead Wolves ----56 ideas to maximize sales. – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Leadership -- Check Your Ego at the Door

Leadership ----Check Your Ego at the Door

A leader’s role is to serve those people that report to him. He or she is not a dictator --- their ultimate role is to serve, to allow those people to achieve their goals. It’s a style that starts by asking: What do you want to accomplish, rather than telling them what you want them to accomplish.Effective leaders demonstrate a respect for employees recognizing their value as their most precious asset and the innovative use of planning and control systems demonstrates a unique ability to balance predictability with simplicity.

Effective Leaders are consistent, explicit and concise and they command a presence when they walk into a room. But, they are not arrogant and ego driven. When they move on, others want to go with them. Their openness and honesty creates a legacy which people admire and look up to. They gain commitment and foster trust.
Check your EGO ---- Don’t be Arrogant ---- Follow these tips:
• If you start to believe you are special and nobody is as good as you, just look at the number of people in your industry, in your state, in your country. Then ask yourself how many of this grand total of people even know your name. Unless you’re Tom Cruise or Angelina Joline, chances are not many people really even know who you are let alone actually care how good you think you are.

• Arrogance is often just a mask that hides your personal self doubt. Try to figure out what is causing your insecurity and work on improving that area. But first you have to be honest with yourself.

• Speak clearly about other people in a positive sense. Make a special effort to ask questions concerning other people’s activities and lives. Take the “I” out of your vocabulary and only answer specific questions about yourself but keep your answer short, brief and to the point.

• Make it a point to listen at least twice as much as you talk.

• Model yourself after the most respected people in your industry. Note, I said respected not the most successful. Success does not necessarily mean respect. It depends on how success is achieved and how success is defined.

• Create a leadership survey and ask your peers and subordinates to actually rate your performance. E-mail if you would like a template.

You are the only person that can affect a change in your thinking or your attitude. Your thoughts are powerful. They are energy. How you feel and how you act depends on your thoughts. Master your thoughts and you control your attitude. So how do you create a leadership model you can be proud of, one that speaks volumes about who you are and not what you accomplished? The answer begins by taking an inventory of your personal values. Your core beliefs and how you treat other people will speak volumes about who you are. It also reflects the size of your ego.
Check out Rick’s new CD and workbook Real World Leadership Kit --- “Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow” – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail