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Archive for January, 2019

Smells like money…

Denver’s National Western Stock Show & Rodeo closed out its 113th consecutive year last weekend.  If you’ve never been, it’s definitely a must see.  I love being around western folk; American pride; tradition; and the values derived from hard work.  I love the smell of the barn.  For me, it’s motivational when dealing with the stress of today’s “modern” society.

I have written before about my favorite ritual when immersed in the tensions of life’s highs and lows; successes and failures – shoveling horse manure.  Yep, shoveling horse manure (in the pasture, not at the office) really has a calming effect on me.  I know most folks have a different ritual or approach when dealing with their ups and downs.

Nonetheless, business professionals can gain great benefit from ranchers, farmers, cowboys, English riders, and livestock.  For instance, if you own or even lease a horse, you know how motivational it can be.  Thinking about the price of hay alone gets me up and at ‘em in the morning!  Serves me right, I suppose, for ignoring the advice of our favorite, Unknown Sage who tells us:

Seymore’s Investment Principle:

Never invest in anything that eats.

And my corollary:

GAP‘s Reaction to Seymore’s Investment Principle:

Never buy anything that eats while you sleep.

Horses – smells like money alright.  Better get up and go sell somebody something today!

Speaking of sales, understanding a horse’s behavior is also beneficial to our profession because our prospects act a lot like horses.  For instance, if we’re not careful, we can spook our prospects.  And when we do, they cut and run and we never seem to catch them again, do we.  Spooking, aka “No decision”, is our biggest competitor.

I believe prospects act a lot like herd animals.  They shy from sales people and fear being “cut-out from the herd”, yes?  You probably have faced every excuse in the book when a prospect does not want to meet with you 1-on-1, even for a straight-forward; 30-minute; business conversation.

I was working with a team of sales professionals recently and suggested that even a prospect’s objections can have herd characteristics.  First, the prospect objects to our proposed price; then they don’t like our contract language; then it’s our payment terms; and then they want to delay order placement.  Before you know it we get stampeded by a whole herd of objections!

We can learn a lot from English style, hunter-jumper riders, too.  If you’ve ever watched those riders you know that as they approach each jump, they reach a critical, “Go” or “No Go” point, before the horse must leap.

Indecision on the part of the rider or the horse (or a prospect) can lead to a “train wreck”.  It’s another cross-over example of the great benefit sales professionals and business leaders can gain from horses:

Half the failures of this world in life arise from pulling in one’s horse as he is leaping.

Julius and Augustus Hare

Of course, western pleasure style riders don’t usually mix well with English style riders.  Come from different herds I suppose.  But whether western or English, it’s the horses, not the riding style; we learn important business lessons from.  If you are a sales leader and hear one of your sales reps complain about the difficulties of making his/her quota; their problems with a prospect; or pain they feel from losing a deal; you might offer this equestrian-oriented advice:

Cowboy-Up!

Or if you prefer:

English-Up!

Perseverance – like manure – smells like money.

GAP

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Highs and lows …

Welcome to the New Year!  Does this “new year” feel a lot like “last year”?  And if last year wasn’t a “great year”, what will that do to our outlook?  It can be easy to find oneself in a rut, true?  Ruts present us with the proverbial crossroad:

The only difference between a rut and a grave is depth.

Unknown Sage

One option is to work our way out of said rut.  Yes, yes, often easier said than done.

On the other hand, was last year your best year ever?  Did you experience an unbelievably successful event?  The highest of highs?  Getting too jacked up on something can also have detrimental impacts.  I mean, not every year can top the previous year forever, can it?  Besides, we may have been more lucky than good:

Successful people are incredibly delusional about their achievements.  Over 95 percent of the members in most successful groups believe that they perform in the top half of their group.  While this is statistically ridiculous, it is psychologically real. 

Marshall Goldsmith

Even when we truly are that good, if we’re not careful past success can put us on a road towards failure:

I once heard someone joke that the road to success is marked with many tempting parking places. 

Harvey Mackay

Finding that channel between being too low and too high seems to be the key to continued success don’t you think?  Steady improvement; balance; long-term growth; patience and persistence in the face of occasional set-backs; that’s what many strive to maintain.

Sometimes we find this channel only after navigating through a few detours:

Principles of success

  • Everyone has a scheme for getting rich that will not work.
  • When in doubt, mumble. When in trouble, delegate.
  • Whatever you have done is never a complete failure. It can always serve as a bad example.
  • When the going gets tough, everyone leaves.
  • In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
  • It’s a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.
  • If you try to please everybody, nobody will like it. 

Unknown Sage

Yes, life has many ups and downs.  And if you believe as I do that both success and failure are indeed unavoidable in our life’s journey, then that begs the question, “What do we do about it?”

Perhaps a few thoughts about ritual and/or alternative action would be worthwhile.  Permit me to offer examples.

When I find myself too wound up or too wound down my favorite, alternative action is to head to the corral.  There is something about being around horses that calms me.  Others may put on their running shoes and head out for a long run.  Going to the range and hitting a few hundred golf balls might be your preferred action.  Maybe praying in church or meditating restores calm and confidence.  Whatever your preference, what’s most important I think is to have a strategy for addressing life’s twists and turns.

My college basketball coach and life mentor offers this example about one of his rituals:

My frustrations or overwhelming joy were taken out scrubbing the kitchen floor.

Harley Knosher

And yes, there were times during our basketball season that Harley’s kitchen floor was spotless!  I won’t say whether that was due to our victories or our defeats.  Such is the nature of competition – in sports; in business; in life; agreed?  But he had this and other alternative actions to help him deal with life’s highway.

What are yours?

GAP

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Bulldozers…

I was speaking with a manager recently; small talk mostly; family; friends; current events.  With the age of his children, he is more tuned into today’s primary and secondary education systems than I am.  (My wife and I have to rely on the Google Machine whenever we help our second grade grandson with his math homework.  How did we ever make it to this century!!!?)

Anyway, the manager was describing today’s trend of parental “participation” in their children’s schools.  It used to be referred to as “helicopter moms” or “helicopter dads”.  You know, hovering over their children and their children’s teachers and their children’s coaches; “helping” their sons and daughters succeed; risk of failure was not an option.

And just when we thought things could not get worse… he tells me today’s trend is “bulldozing parents”; not simply hovering, guiding, influencing.  No – today, many parents actually do the school work for their sons and daughters.  Today, they’re trying to bulldoze the risk of failure out of the equation altogether.

But will it work?  Will today’s grade schoolers and high schoolers become successful adults if their parents are “bulldozers”?  I guess we will find out in the future when they encounter their first hardship solo.  In the 21st century, do you think we can still learn from Attila the Hun?

Huns learn much faster when faced with adversity.

Wess Roberts

In the meantime, when these young ones enter today’s workforce, what will happen to them sans bulldozer parents?  As sales managers, what lessons cross over into the business world from our modern education (and parental) systems?

I was speaking with a sales director friend of mine recently – he likes to check in from time to time; he thinks “the old guy can still hunt”.  We were discussing front line sales management and the “principles of gravitational pull.”

He said he sees many sales managers working extra hard trying to help their under-performing sales reps.  A common phenomenon, true?  When I asked what extra hard work he sees sales managers performing with (or for) their under-performers… his testimony was predictable; “Well, they help their under-performers on sales calls…”  And there it stands – hidden in plain view – the gravitational pull of sales managers “jumping in” to rescue a deal they fear their under-performers would otherwise lose – “Bulldozing”.

The stark reality about under-performers – which research after research continues to confirm is – they aren’t going to make it.  The sales manager’s time is best invested with their top performers.  When the under-performers don’t make it, the sales managers’ “bulldozing” yields a handful of deals and lots of open positions (temporarily occupied or not):

Among the chief worries of today’s business executives is the large number of unemployed still on the payrolls. 

Unknown Sage

Easy for me to blog about – extremely hard to do in the “real world”… but IMHO rather than “bulldozing”, when a sales manager is in the field with an under-performing sales rep, the manager has to allow the rep to fail; even if it means losing the deal.  It’s what happens after the sales rep fails that counts:

It seems to me that the largest impediment to a healthy attitude toward failure is our inability to distinguish between just plain being stupid and failing on the way to great success. 

Unknown Sage

Bulldozers are commonly used to start construction projects.  But they are long gone before that project is successfully completed.  Failing to move the bulldozers out of the way would be plain stupid.

GAP

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2019 – A year of Fulfillment?

Welcome to the New Year!  Will it be our best year yet?  …

When preparing for an excellent year, I always recommend starting at the beginning; in this case writing our 2019 Annual Achievement Plan.  Planning our year is more than simply thinking about a few goals.  Unwritten goals without corresponding milestones are just “hope”, and as the business book title suggests, Hope is not a Strategy©.

Nonetheless, our 2019 Achievement Plan should start with a point of reference:

The first and most important thing about goals is having one. 

Geoffrey Albery

Then, to advance our Plan we should write down our goals.  And when writing our goals, I believe it’s wise to incorporate the “Principle of Balance”:

At work, many of us write business plans thinking only in terms of the Financial Success quadrant, true?  Yes, financial success is important.

I remember while leading top sales teams, I would occasionally hear one of my Producers say that being family-oriented was more important than sales success.  I agree.  However, I believe one of the best ways to care for my family is to be successful in sales or whatever endeavor one pursues.  Money may not buy happiness, but I believe it’s harder to be happy if you’re broke.

The Financial Success and Family quadrants are connected and I believe in establishing personal goals for my family role, too.  Writing down goals for our family is quite personal – but just as important as any other quadrant in our Annual Achievement Plan.  It could be taking a family vacation; committing to time each day with the kids; “unplugging” while at dinner with our spouse; calling Mom and Dad each week.  It’s all of those “little things” that make a big difference to our family.

Go on – take a moment to write down your 2019 goals for the role you will play with your family; we’ll wait.

The importance of the Personal Development quadrant in our plan is another key to success – as the business book title suggests, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There©.  Personal Development is, well, personal.  Yet writing goals in our Personal Development quadrant reinforces the Principle of Balance.

Leading us to the Fulfillment quadrant.  Our favorite, Unknown Sage puts it this way:

Life is measured by the number of moments that take our breath away.

Although I advocate writing an Annual Achievement Plan; with measurable goals; corresponding milestones; striving to make each year my best year yet…  I also believe in the power of imagination; the presence of magic; and the purpose of fulfillment.

The idea came from a former colleague of mine, Peter Goodwin.  He believed in the annual planning process too, but added a unique twist to his that I have since incorporated into mine.  Each year I write down lifetime fantasies that if I could be so blessed, I will achieve.

And when I do realize the fulfillment of one of those fantasies, I don’t check it off the list.  No, it remains on my Annual Achievement Plan with the date of the fulfillment; serving as a milestone, a constant reminder of the power of fantasy; the presence of magic.  And it reinforces the Principle of Balance.

Go ahead – update your list of fantasies in the Fulfillment quadrant of your 2019 Plan.  And please “DREAM BIG!” James Collins in his book, Built to Last©, called them:

Big, Hairy Audacious Goals!

So here’s to 2019– may it be our best year yet!

GAP

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