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Leadership, Business, Coaching, Recognition and Appreciation

Leaders grow and learn from each other. As a lifelong entrepreneur, business man, youth basketball, soccer, & football coach, husband of one and parent of two, I have learned from and served beside some of the best. This blog is my attempt to share some of my experience and to show appreciation for all those who have pored into me over the years

Sincerity and Leadership

Sincerity and Leadership

Think about a leader who has been a true and sincere blessing in your life. Hopefully there is more than one, but one is good.  

Webster's definition of Sincerity: the quality or state of being sincere : honesty of mind: freedom from hypocrisy

The relationship between you and the leader you are thinking about might cause you to notice some other traits.

  • They love what is good and helpful.
  • They hate what is wrong and debilitating.
  • They are devoted to the people and cause they are leading.
  • They value others more than themselves.
  • They serve with zeal and fervor.
  • They show hope in the future, joy in the moment, patience with the difficult.
  • They are faithful in service, generous to a fault.
  • They welcome others to their presence with grace.

If you think this sounds more like a definition of love, well you are right. It is sincere love in action. If you add truth (which is a whole other topic) to sincerity and love, I believe the result is peace. Sincere, loving leadership works toward the peace we all crave in the workplace, the home and in life.






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Creativity and Renewal

Creativity and Renewal

Creative, innovative and engaging organizations, I believe, are constantly educating and challenging  themselves. Their health and success depends on their ability, not to conform to what other businesses in their industry are doing, but to transform their industry in ways previously thought impossible.

Romans 12: 2 starts out by telling us, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

This verse speaks truth about what it looks like to live a good and holy personal life that is pleasing to God. I think it also speaks truth regarding what it looks like to lead a business, classroom or team that will be pleasing to its customers, students and teammates.

I love being out in nature. To me, nature displays the infinite creativity of its creator - colors, smells, sounds, tastes, shapes, textures.  The possibilities just seem endless.

So, don’t you think that we ought to  follow this creative example given to us and not be bound by the cultural norms that often keep us locked in our old ways? Ways that are often destructive, life debilitating ways?

What if we woke up every day with a willingness to be renewed, a desire to see new and endless possibilities in ourselves and the people we lead. I think our organizations could be transformed by this energy and continue to be good, pleasing and healthy for all those involved.  It all starts with recognition of the gifts we have been given and then doing the hard work to develop them.

The second half of the verse, "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."



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"Crushing It!", How Do You Measure Success?

"Crushing It!", How Do You Measure Success?

To “crush it”, is to succeed, maybe succeed big. But, how do you define and measure success?

For some reason I spend allot of time trying to define and measure success. This is what we do as leaders. We want to know if what we do is working and matters.  Gauging success in the form of our bank account or wins on the playing field feels like the most reasonable way to do this. But, I find defining success, particularly when it comes to leading people, very frustrating. It  rarely shows itself in the form I expect, or if I’m real honest, in the form I desire. It’s hardly ever in a form that can easily be measured by worldly standards. 

In his book “Crush It”, Gary Vaynerchuk makes the statement, “Legacy always trumps currency” when carrying out a plan. This is a challenging assertion when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of what you are doing. There is immediate and tangible feedback on the spreadsheet if you are “crushing it” financially. But, “crushing it” when it comes to your legacy, well, that seldom shows up until you are gone from this life,or your current position in it. 

I Timothy 6-7 says, “We brought nothing into this world, nor can we take (carry) anything out”. This thought of leaving a legacy and not just material things that will rust, decay and slowly fade away, challenges me. Not all, but most material things will soon be of no eternal value to anyone. If you are fortunate enough to leave a hospital, school or church in your wake, that is amazing. However, few of us will ever achieve success of this kind. I do believe though, that each of us,individually or corporately, holds onto something, whether in our hearts or minds, that we can leave behind as a legacy. We just have to find the courage to say it, do it, or write it down, and then share it.

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Reunited!

Reunited!

Reunited, and it feels so good!  It’s true! We’ve just had this experience at Apple Awards this spring and it was a positive one for us.  

As the school year winds down for many, I want to share with you one of my favorite teachers from high school, Nancy Nelson. She was my accounting and keyboarding teacher. She was not special because keyboarding (typing back then) or accounting were my favorite subjects, she was special because of the way she made us students feel, the way she treated us. She made learning fun. The thing I remember the most about her is her smile, laugh and positive, encouraging demeanor.

As the years went on and I started my own business, she started teaching business and entrepreneur classes. I was fortunate enough to be invited into her class room to share what I was learning as an entrepreneur. In turn, she would bring her students to come visit and tour my businesses.

This spring I was looking for help at Apple Awards during our busy season.  I wondered if Mrs. Nelson, now retired, would consider coming in to help us out. As you can see, she said yes. This spring she is once again a blessing to 5 of her former students who got another chance to work beside her. And once again, she was bringing encouragement to students and educators all over North America through awards and recognition. I am happy to report she has not lost her smile, laugh or positive personality.  

Thank you Nancy for being a bright spot in so many lives over the years. You bring truth and meaning to the saying “to teach is to touch a life forever”.

 

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Are You Using Your Rear View Mirror?

Are You Using Your Rear View Mirror?

Effective leadership requires a 360 degree view. Vision and seeing forward is a integral ingredient of effective leadership. Equally as important is seeing what you are leaving in your wake. I call this self awareness. Are we willing to look in the rear view mirror of life and see how we affect others by our words, attitudes and actions?

For some, self awareness is intuitive and for others, not so much.

Now don’t get me wrong, we all have our blind spots. We all occasionally find ourselves dealing with pride, and selfishness. Sometimes we don’t notice the unhealthy things we are doing that may affect ourselves and others. But this does not have to be the norm.

Just like a good car operator we need to stop and check our mirrors when navigating the relationships in our life. Relational wrecks can be as destructive as the ones in our automobile. They can often be avoided though, by slowing down and checking your mirrors once in awhile to see if you have run someone off the road, or worse yet run them over. The only way to know this is to glance back, while still keeping our eyes on the road.



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Getting Back in Balance

Getting Back in Balance

Have you ever lost your emotional balance? Recently, I found myself having an unusual number of bad days in a row. There was a noticeable aggravation lingering in my spirit. The problem was I could not identify anything specific that was causing it.

As I reflected on current events in my life I just could not identify anything out of the norm. There were the usual problems, nagging health issues with myself and  people I love, people getting on my nerves, things just not working like I had hoped. None of these were anything new. Nothing drastic had changed that would throw me into this low spot I was experiencing. It was just everyday life. I thought to myself, what am I missing?

It took some uncomfortable time sitting still in silence to realize that my life, particularly my thought life, had lost its balance. It had become predominantly focused on me and less on others.

I know this may sound trite and simplistic but all it took was a few intentional acts of generosity toward others and I could feel my spirit and attitude righting itself almost immediately.

This Sunday is Mothers Day. Reach out, whether it’s in person, by phone or just resurrecting a memory of your mother. Practice focusing on someone other than yourself and see what happens.



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The "Other Guys"

The "Other Guys"


There are times when we break from a role because it seems meaningless to us when in reality it is exactly where we should be, because it is preparing us for something better. Even if that something is simply a lesson.

Back in high school I was a part of a club. Well, it wasn’t officially a club, it was just something two of my basketball teammates and I made up. We were the OG’s, short for “other guys”.

The three of us got a lot of time on the court during JV games and made up the heart of the scout team, the group of players that would run the offense or defense that our next varsity opponent would likely run against us. However, we rarely got into a varsity game. We were always asked to suit up for the varsity games, in addition to playing on the JV team, and maybe, late in the game, if we happened to be fortunate enough to be far enough ahead, the coach would lean over and look down the bench and say “hey, you other guys, get up here.” That’s how we got our name.

Truthfully I did not mind playing JV or being on the scout team. I took my role very seriously and worked really hard at it, in hopes that I might earn a chance to play a more meaningful role in a varsity game. It never happened. I decided not to go out for the team my senior year. At that time seniors did not get to play JV ball and I just could not stand the thought of putting in all that time and effort and not getting to play the game.

My senior year I signed up for track. It was a huge disappointment to me because I was not in the physical condition I needed to be in and in spite of good intentions of working out (during those evenings free of basketball practice) the discipline and conditioning of basketball practice was missing. I was not at my best.

To this day I regret that decision. First, because I let myself quit based on my perception that “playing time” in the game was the most important thing. Second, I failed to see how my participation in basketball prepared me for much different roles, later in life.  

The lesson was clearer to me as I became a coach and employer. I realized, with great appreciation, the roles held by players on my teams. I learned the importance of showing appreciation, in every possible way.  I now try to share with them how their participation might prepare them for the future in other endeavors. To me, they are more than just those “other guys”.

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Dealing with Trust Issues

Dealing with Trust Issues

When I find myself in a situation where wrong has been committed under my authority whether intentional or not, the quickest and best way back to forgiveness and trust is through a plan.

When Something Goes Wrong

Recently I had a customer contact me regarding a recent charge made by my business on their credit card. Three months prior they had made a purchase from us, but not recently. It was not a large purchase, but a purchase nonetheless.

Pausing in this story, I have to give these people credit for how well they monitor their finances. This was not one or two weeks later when they reconciled their statement. This was the very day the charge was made.

Now this greatly alarmed me. We take people’s trust in us very seriously, especially when it comes to handling their sensitive financial information. At first I had a sense of disbelief that accidentally charging the wrong person's credit card was even possible. But, as I soon found out, it had happened, and it was due to an unforeseen breakdown in how we processed charges. I won’t go into all the details, but it is worth noting that even though we had this system in place for years without problems, the problem was apparent now and needed fixing.

Turning Problems into Opportunities

Thinking that customer relations problems were opportunities to build trust, we have always handled resolution by doing the right thing, fixing the product or refunding their money. But for some reason, in this situation, it did not feel like enough. It wasn’t because I had thought it through or heard advice about it. I just knew that we needed to fix the system and then share that information with the customer, to demonstrate that we had a conscious plan of correction for the future.

Trust Building

I was right. The customer quickly responded with gratitude. She had received a brief but detailed plan of prevention and was assured that the mistake would not occur again. And, of course, the charge was quickly reversed on her credit card.  

There has been so much to learn from this situation. When faced with a problem that involves trust, actually sharing a corrective plan of action with the wronged party goes way beyond just making it right by doing the right thing.



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A Hopeful Faith

A Hopeful Faith

A Hopeful Faith

I think of myself as a positive and hope filled individual and it’s because of my faith. I attribute my faith to the eye witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, his death and his resurrection.  These accounts happen to be recorded in a book called the Bible,specifically the writings of some of Jesus’s disciples - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These letters along with others recorded in the New testament by other eyewitnesses or people of the time, all speak to the “Good news”.

They Were There

One of the reasons I find the gospels so believable is that at the same time they appear so  unbelievable. If the writers were trying to convince me, a mere man to their way, they most likely would not have written much of what they did unless it was true. They wrote it because they saw it with their own eyes and as a result believed. Not because it was of any physical benefit to them because most of them died brutal deaths because of what they believed. To them it was undeniable because of their eye witness.

The Dark and the Light

The Gospel of John starts off with the statement ”In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

I can see that there is darkness. It exist everywhere and we cannot deny or avoid it. John's description of Jesus tells us that in him there is light, but unlike darkness that is unavoidable, we have to choose the light. We cannot earn the right to walk in the light we have to choose it. Because we don't have to earn it, it is not dependent on talent, skill, attitude or health. So essentially, it is for everyone, yes everyone. I find the act of believing to be somewhat of a mystery because it is so simple, but yet for many, it is not easy. It is hard.  

The Hard and the Easy

People are not attracted to hard things. They are attracted to easy things. But if we are honest with ourselves, it is the hard things that typically produce the most fruit, valuable lessons and positive changes in our lives.

To me, believing in the hope found in Jesus is not a religion. The religious people in Jesus’s story were the darkness that killed Jesus. Hope is not found in religion. My hope is found in the person of Jesus, God’s son. The fact that he lived among us, died a brutal death, and then rose and physically appeared to so many, is more than enough for me. About this, I am specific and I am sure. 

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On Being a Committed Generalist

On Being a Committed Generalist

It is common knowledge that to become an authority on something, a heavy dose of focus on a single subject or genre is required.  But what about me, the happy generalist? What am I an authority on?

I have seldom felt like an authority on anything, I feel more like the Heinz 57 type person. Very non specific. I often feel strongly both ways.  Some would say I have an open mind, others would say I am wishy washy.

I have a wide range of interest, I like to do many outside activities not limiting the majority of my time to a single specific one.  I like to create and lead businesses, it often doesn't really matter what kind of business. If it has purpose and serves people I can find myself all in..

I like to be involved civically. I guess in a way I tend to be more specific here, I like coaching youth, but there again it doesn't really matter much which sport or activity it is. When my son found his love for music and theater, something I know nothing about, I found myself striking the stage after performances or chaperoning their trips.  After coaching basketball for close to 20 years my daughter fell in love with soccer, so I learned the game of soccer.

I have eclectic variety of friends and family with different tastes, faiths and interests. I like them all for their individuality and diversity.  Speaking of faith, this is one area where i feel my journey has led me down one specific road. But it has not always been that way. More on this next week.

When my wife and I would share at Marriage Encounters events they had a saying. “Feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are.”  Are some of us just destined to be nonspecific generalists? Not because we are weak or non committal but “ just because we are”.

For a more thorough (and thoroughly interesting) conversation concerning the Heinlein quote on our cover, visit the link below from ricochet.com

https://ricochet.com/512910/archives/quote-of-the-day-specialists-and-generalists/



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Your Credit Score

Your Credit Score

How does the desire to get credit for an idea or product figure into your decision to share it with others? Some thoughts from Dennis Smith as he considers his own business philosophy...

Credit or Caution?

Sometimes when I come up with a creative idea, I tend to hurry to share it and don't practice due diligence.  It’s important to use caution and wisdom, to not cause harm to others, to my idea or reputation - harm that could come by shipping* an idea or product too early. However, if I wait for my idea to be perfect I may never share it or get credit for it..  At some point it has to be good enough, if not perfect.

Here is my struggle. I often find myself wanting to get it out there first so I will benefit by getting credit for it.  It’s difficult to create, for no other reason than that others can benefit from our creation.

The Ideal

As a true servant to the well being of mankind:

  • I would not care who gets the credit. I  would just be happy that the idea or service is out there helping and solving problems.
  • I would  collaborate with others in hopes of making the product or idea better.
  • I would not fear my idea would be stolen and just keep it to myself. Fear of theft or ridicule can cause us to hide our true gifts to society.
  • I would be more concerned about the integrity of the product than who gets credit for it. If my main concern is getting the credit, I’m likely to ship something inferior, or before it’s time.

The “When” Question

Knowing when a creation is good enough is not a clear cut science. Drug companies don’t just settle for good enough when people's lives are at risk. There is a danger in putting things out too early.. But, It’s important that I don't succumb to the opposite, which is waiting until the idea or product is perfect. Getting something perfect the first time is unlikely, maybe impossible. If I’m waiting for perfection, it is a good bet that I will never ship the idea. At some point I have to decide that the benefits outweigh the risks.

There is no clear cut answer to the “when” question,  but it is something that I carefully think about and contemplate. There is nothing black and white about the right time to ship and share our product or idea. There will always be risks involved,  but I contend if somehow and someway I can take myself and the need for credit out of the equation I will make the best possible decision on the “when” question.

Time to think. How is your credit score?



*To Ship, (I don’t think you will find this term defined in the the dictionary this way.)   A term often used by author Seth Godin to describe publishing or acting on a plan or idea so as to expose it to the masses or public.

 

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Showing Up

Showing Up

One of the many great principles that organized sports teaches is the value of “showing up”. You may ask, how is something as simple as showing up a great principle? Isn't it just an expectation of any participant?. Yes it is, but showing up teaches a valuable lesson. We discover the true potential or value of an individual, or a team, when there is a strong commitment to showing up.

As a coach, I enjoyed helping to shape and mold young people through the sport or activity I led. One of my jobs was to help them find their sweet spot, that thing they loved to do so much that showing up ceased to be a problem. In fact, if not being able to show up and participate was heartbreaking for them, I knew I had found their sweet spot. Often finding this place took time, courage, risk and vulnerability. I sometimes had to move them around a bit and try them in different places.

From time to time, a player who had been on the team would choose to do something else. I would find myself wishing they would come out for the team and wondering if I had failed to be a good enough leader. I wasn’t satisfied that they were already a part of something else. I just wanted them on my team!

I can now honestly say I have grown past the point of wanting everyone on my team. More importantly I no longer feel like a failure when those I lead make a different choice. What I now find important to me is that everyone is showing up somewhere. If they are adding their God given value where they are, being generous with their talent and their time, encouraging others and showing their love for the game or cause, then I am happy.

The thought for the week is, are you showing up somewhere? And how do you know if your showing up where you’re supposed to be? I think it is as simple as this - will you be missed if you are not there? It’s not all about your physical talent or ability. Your support, encouragement, work ethic, and leadership are other necessary ingredients of a well functioning team. If you don’t show up, will you be missed?

I challenge you to ask the people you show up with if they would miss you if you were gone. You might be surprised by their answers and the reasons they would miss you.  It’s likely not what you would think.

I believe there is a place, a sweet spot, for every humble soul. Now, find yours and go show up!




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Why Write?

Why Write?

 

Dennis, of Apple Awards, is getting courageous with his writing and wants others to be encouraged to do the same. He’s thinking about why he’s been holding back, and why he’s writing now. Read on...

 

Nothing to Offer

So why is it that I feel the need to write my thoughts in this blog? Is it because I know so much, that I must impress you, so you can have success and fame? This is hardly the case, and actually, the near opposite is true. Writing my thoughts and experiences is one of the scariest things I have done to date. There is this small voice in my head that tells me that I have nothing to offer others. Have you heard that voice saying the same thing to you?

  

Afraid of What Others Think

I have always enjoyed writing a Christmas letter at the end of each year to send to family, friends and relatives. Outside of the worries of spelling things correctly and using proper grammar, this felt like an easy task to me because I was just writing about actual events that had taken place over the past year. That’s simple right? Well, not really because when you start to write about others in the family, they may not want to be written about, and to write only about oneself feels self centered and narcissistic. These negative thoughts, true or  not, have kept me from writing for the past several years.

 

Sharing Life As an Act of Generosity

Back to my blog, This blog’s intent is not to tell anyone how they should live, lead, do business, or coach. It’s not to show people that they are loved and appreciated.  I believe the ways to effectively do these things are as numerous as the stars in the sky. I now write as an act of generosity. Yes, to share one's thoughts, feelings and experiences, I believe, can be a very generous act. Just the fact that deep down I wonder if I have anything to offer, should not keep me from offering what I have. Whether it is of any use to you, “the reader”, is not for me to decide. But if for some reason it is, shouldn’t I muster up the courage to put it out there?

Up to this point in my life I have kept a journal as a simple act of reflection and working things out in my own head. I haven’t worried about spelling, grammar or making sense to anyone but myself, because I was the only reader. I always found this simple habit to be therapeutic and beneficial to my own soul.

Now I am going to be brave and generous by sharing some (not all) of those thoughts, experiences and lessons with you, my friends. No pressure, as I know it’s not for everyone, but  thank you for considering that it may be for someone, maybe not you, but for someone you know and care about. I have benefited so much from reading what others have generously shared with me through books, blogs, videos and social media posts that I desire to give back. That is why I write.

As my good friend Gary always says, “Life is a gift…. live it!” I would humbly add “ and share it”.

 

You are invited, as difference makers, leaders, family members, friends, business associates or total strangers to subscribe to my blog. I feel compelled to share my experience and encouragement, as an entrepreneur, leader, and youth sports coach, with those who might benefit from it.  I will post once a week, on Friday mornings for now (maybe twice if something really exciting is happening). Each post will be short, a few paragraphs, and include an applicable experience or thought for you to contemplate. After reading (five minutes at the most) I want you to feel free to respond with your thoughts or experience as an act of generosity to fellow readers on the subject or simply share if it was of any use to you.





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The Leadership Team

The Leadership Team

Is good leadership the result of good people skills or experience? Which trait of a good leader is most important? The obvious answer is both, they are equally important.

People Skills?

If I were to choose a coach for my children’s team I would ideally chooses someone who was relationaly healthy, could cast vision, build trust, establish loyalty with a high commitment level,  and understand the generation they lead. I would choose someone who was humble, had a heart of service, and was full of love.

Experience?

At the same time I would look for someone who had a lot of first hand experience.  They would have had years playing the game, or many years of coaching and mentoring. Their experience would have led to a good working knowledge of the fundamentals, the rules and the tactical options of the game. I think we would all agree that we would love to play for a coach like this.

Or, switch to the workplace. Maybe this is our employer. We would love to have a boss like this, wouldn’t we?

The unfortunate reality is that there are more leadership positions out there than there are people, gifted in both of these arenas, to fill them. I would actually contend that this person is extremely rare, if they exist at all. So what is the answer?

How to Have It All

I believe it is the team builder. The team builder is someone who has enough people skills and enough technical knowledge to be “dangerously proficient” but is humble enough to surround herself/himself with others who can make up for each other’s deficiencies. Creating and organizing like this can be difficult and messy, but once it has been accomplished it can be a much stronger form of leadership than the single talented, dynamic leader.

A leadership team where there is trust, accountability and diversity has the potential to be  a strong form of leadership simply because there is more ability to withstand the troubled times.  A well crafted and balanced team can lose it’s best player and still remain competitive. A team that depends wholly on the gifts and talents of one player crumbles when that player goes down.

Play Your Part

Are you a team builder? Or more likely, and maybe even more importantly, are you a part of a team someone else is building? Both positions require good choices on the part of the individual. Learn and grow daily so you can bring your best to the team in whatever capacity you may serve. Being part of a leadership team is belonging to something bigger than yourself.  It’s an important part of bringing purpose and meaning to life through your everyday work.

 

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Two Simple Financial Rules for Entrepreneurs

Two Simple Financial Rules for Entrepreneurs

Why I Have Never Had a Budget

I have a hard time admitting this but I have never actually had a budget, personally or for any of my businesses.

I am not endorsing or recommending my approach to handling finances but, in my experience, I have always struggled to see value in creating a budget, especially when I would just ignore it anyway. My thinking has always been, how do I take advantage of potential opportunities if I am bound by a budget? There is no line item in most budgets for “unexpected opportunity” costs!  

Maybe this is just the plight of an entrepreneur -  I never know exactly how much it might cost to make a new opportunity work out, or if it does work, how much profit will there be in the end? Without knowing these things how can I budget for them? I have been on church and organizational boards where a budget has been a necessity and a very good thing. I can see the value of this whole process in many situations. But for my endeavors and unconventional approach I just could not seem to make it feel like it was worth it.

Or  maybe I am just foolish and a bit crazy.

So you might ask, if you don’t have a budget how do you manage your finances?  I have a couple of simple rules and they have worked well for me.

Rule 1

I will not carry any debt that does not produce,or have the potential to produce, income. I use credit cards but do not carry debt on them. Autos or “toys”are not things I want to carry debt on either, because they don’t produce income or appreciate in value. The exception to this was my home mortgage. I have to have a place to live and this is one of the few non-income producing purchases that is highly likely to have the same or increased value over the purchase price when I decide to sell it.

Rule 2

Always be building some form of net worth through a income producing business, rental property or real estate investment. Again the guideline for me has been that these investments have to not only pay their own way, but they need to also provide enough cash to pay my living expenses, mortgage and credit card bill.

In the early years I had to start my first business while I had a day job working for my father's excavating business. Once the business matured to the point where it could support my living expenses, I quit my day job and started another business. Get the picture? One business would support me until the new business could become profitable. In some cases I had to abandon the idea because it wasn’t working. A few times I got to a place where I could not meet my expenses or pay my credit card balance in full. That was my red warning flag. I needed to spend less, earn more, or sell something. But either way, I benefitted.  I would build something of value or I would learn a valuable lesson.

This process worked well for me because it forced me to live within my means yet, at the same time, save through the equity I was gaining in my assets. An asset to me is something that produces regular income, pays its own operating expenses, and over time will sell for at least its original purchase price (and, in all likelihood, more). This is how I have intentionally attempted to build lasting wealth. Slow and steady over time.

Is a strict line item budget a wise strategy for you? It may be, but for me and my financial planning, these simple rules have been the most valuable.  

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Being the "Someone" Who Volunteers: Part 2

Being the "Someone" Who Volunteers: Part 2

 

The Setting

The American Birkebeiner came and went and as we posted a couple of weeks ago, it took over 2500 Volunteers to pull off this 3 day event. Our job this weekend was in the food tent and our mission was to feed soup, bread, bananas, cookies and drink to approximately 10,000 skiers over two days. The food tent was huge,  reminding me of what the tents might have looked like in one of my favorite TV shows, MASH. Big propane furnaces blew hot air into the tent, bringing the temperature up from the low teens to near 50 degrees. There was dim light and the floor was a combination of snow, ice, mud and standing water.

My Experience

Despite the unusual working conditions, and the long hours, the food tent volunteers just seemed to rise above the normal chaos and got the work done. There were smiles and good-natured banter as the soup pots were stirred and the tables set up for serving. Volunteers had set their own “normal chaos” aside for the time and had smiles for the tired skiers as they filed through. The people we worked with and the skiers we served were all amazing and the work got done!  Local groups of coworkers, families, and even visitors from other states stood shoulder to shoulder serving others with no monetary reward at the end - just a hat, a pin and a ticket to a volunteer party.

The networking opportunities were there, like I had imagined. I saw friends and neighbors I hadn't seen in years. There were people who had traveled from as far away Chicago and the Twin cities just to volunteer. There were vendors, like the GU people from California, serving up samples of their products.. All around us other groups of volunteers were doing other tasks, like timing, security, crossing guards, and the baggage handlers. Whenever there were shortages of help, the race chiefs shared resources and people. The spirit of cooperation was so cool!

Years ago in high school I was a volunteer baggage handler and that is another enormous job, as amazing as feeding 10,000 skiers. At the start line, the skiers put their jackets and dry gear in bags and backpacks with their bib number on them. These are loaded in trucks and hauled 25 miles down the road to the finish line. (My memory from way back was riding in the back of the truck with the bags! Not how it's done now.) At the finish line they sort the bags by wave and number and give them to the skiers when they complete the race. Imagine sorting out 10,000 bags to be easily found by their owners!

Summing Up

It was the way it should be, all hands on deck, complete the mission, serve the participants and  fellow volunteers. I saw lots of evidence of what is good and noble in people. The skiers were especially grateful for the volunteers and were constantly thanking those that served. The whole volunteer experience met my expectations and more.

Will I do it again? Heck ya! And you should too. See you next year at the Birkie!

         

 

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Unique and Wonderful, You and Your Business

Unique and Wonderful, You and Your Business

My oldest brother once told me this joke. How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it!

 

The Comparison Trap

It is easy to compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to your career or business growth and advancement. Trust me, I do it all the time.  Things like:

“I should be farther along than this”.

“How do they balance home and work so well?”

“How come they are able to take so much time off?”  

“How can they afford all those toys and vacations?”

“They just seem to have it all together when my world feels like chaos.”  

 

It’s Natural

I contend that these are natural feelings of every career minded person, but at the same time this is a very dangerous road to let the mind travel. Don’t do it! It will cause you nothing but harm and likely lead you to take shortcuts and make bad decisions that you will regret. I am not saying you shouldn’t analyze and assess results of your decisions and take corrective action if needed. This is a “must”. I am encouraging you not to use someone else's path as your gauge of success.

 

But Does It Work?

This is why I think that doesn’t work.

For some people success is determined by how much they have given away, or the hearts and lives they have touched and inspired. Some people like to work alone and others prefer to train and equip others to work with them. Some possess a unique talent or art while others are just born leaders or communicators. We are all different. Expecting “same results” from “different talents” is going to lead to disappointment.

 

You Are Unique, So Is Your Business

We know that every person is different in some way, created wonderfully unique, like snowflakes. So why should every career track or business be the same? Sometimes uniqueness is hard to accept. We prefer to have a formula, something we can follow to guarantee the same predictable results as every other person gets.

It took me awhile to see and appreciate the value of uniqueness, especially in the business world. I would love to say that, when I came upon this realization, I quit comparing myself to others.  I didn’t. Every time I begin to go down the “whoa is me” trail, I start to compare myself again, and it never leads anywhere productive. What I can say is that I recognize this destructive and useless path sooner, and accept myself and my business for what it is. Not for everyone, but for someone.  Unique and wonderfully made.   



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Be the "Someone". Volunteer!

Be the "Someone". Volunteer!

 

Each year, late in February, one of the world’s largest ski events, “The American Birkebeiner®”,  takes place in Hayward, WI. An event of this magnitude would never happen if it were not for its volunteers. This race, for most a ski through the woods, requires an insane number (2,500) of volunteers each year to pull it off. The population of Hayward is hardly 2,500. So, how do they do it? I’m not sure. But here are some reasons why they do it.

There are health benefits to volunteering.

I know from my experience that after you volunteer for something, you simply feel better. Serving others, without being paid, is an amazing feeling. Do it and you will understand. Volunteer opportunities often get us up, out of our chair and moving, and that is always good for the body and mind.

Networking opportunities everywhere.

Volunteering almost always involves working with or for other people. When you volunteer side by side with someone, you can develop a kindred spirit with these people. Just the act of serving with someone can create a bond and a relationship that can bridge cultural, religious or political divides. I have experienced this.

“Warning!” It can be habit forming.

This is why some people resist raising their hand and volunteering. The thinking goes like this, “If I do it, I most likely will want to do it again, and who has the time? I think I will just give them $10 and let someone else do it”.

It is good to have boundaries and yes, there are times when it is wise to let someone else do it. But if you find that you are never that “someone else” it may be time to examine your life and think about what and who you are living for.  You may be surprised what you find.

I love to volunteer, but have to admit that it has been some 30 years since I have volunteered for the Birkie. This year I will be that “somebody else”. I look forward to the experience of feeling a kindred spirit with 2,500 other people from Hayward all over the world that come to help out. I know there are spots still open for this year’s Birkie for those who are interested. Is there a similar event or organization near you that could use some help? Consider volunteering, even if  only for the health and networking benefit it will bring your way.



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Your Name

Your Name

Did you know that the future of your next event could depend on your recognition products and the name they bear?  What you give and how you present it is very important!

There is a reason why many events give every participant a t-shirt. And no, it’s not because you need more t-shirts. You’re given a t-shirt in the hope you will wear it, and by wearing it you are helping to promote the event name for the future. T-shirts are one way, a good way, but not the only way.

At Apple Awards we provide recognition products for the American Birkebeiner®, the largest ski race in North America and  second in the world. The organizers of this race are professionals who know the value of promoting their name to all 13,000 participants. Each one goes home from this event with multiple items that are personalized with their name. In the past couple of years they have gone through a major branding overhaul to create easily recognizable and trademarked images, colors and logos. They have done a masterful job of placing these images on every medal, pin, plaque, shirt, race bib, or gift that goes home with a participant.  These items are displayed in homes and offices all over the world. They are conversation starters and reminders for the participants. They are key elements of branding and name recognition for future events.

Even non athletic events give tokens, like the brass medallion with its raven icon from my altMBA course this fall.  It’s sitting on my desk as a daily reminder of my participation, and at times a conversation starter with visitors.

Here at Apple Awards we’ve had a paradigm shift as we think about why and how we produce  recognition products. It has expanded our purpose from just being producers of awards, to being marketers, helping to promote future events.

If you run an event, big or small, have you thought about the importance of sending something home with each participant, something that boldly display’s your events name on it? Let us help you work on the future success of that event with our wide variety of personalized recognition products. It’s all about your name.

 

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Keep Growing - Start with a Mindset

Keep Growing - Start with a Mindset

If you’re not moving forward or growing, you may be standing still or even moving backwards. What does this mean? I probably don’t have to explain to you what growth looks like. It is a condition of the mind, it is intuitive to life and anyone knows if they are growing or not. The hard part is admitting lack of growth and doing something about it. Choosing to grow is a  choice, like exercising or eating healthy.

Reality is that the world, and the way we do things, is changing faster and faster.  Keeping up with the pace can be really hard. Since I contend that a growth and service mindset is essential to relevance in today’s marketplace, I had to consider the “keeping up” factor before I went into business. Here’s how that looked for me.

Both award businesses I bought were at a point where they were experiencing years of declining sales. A small business naturally loses a few customers every year due to attrition. Customers die, they retire and move on to other employment. But the key to a healthy business is whether it can consistently replace those customers lost to attrition with new customers.

Don’t misunderstand, both of my businesses still had many good loyal customers. Their products, for the most part, were good. The service they provided was good and relevant. Those were the reasons I bought them. Both businesses, in my opinion, were declining because their owners were either unable or unwilling, for various reasons, to keep up with the changing structures and technologies in today's business world. These were growth problems.

Just to clarify, growth is not always about making things bigger. Sometimes it’s a requirement just to keep things the same. For example, a business may be in a geographic area or a competitive market where there are only so many customers, and this is okay. But growing is still  necessary to address natural attrition and keep the customer base large enough for the business to remain viable.

Even when I was working for someone, growth was no less important. I knew if I didn’t grow I could become irrelevant and easily replaceable. The best book I have ever read regarding this is Linchpin by Seth Godin.

This brings me back to purpose, if you have a purpose for doing what you do, I believe you will naturally want to learn and grow to satisfy that purpose.  Your purpose could be as simple as providing for your family, or as difficult as providing clean drinking water for people that don’t have any. Both purposes changes the world for the better, today and tomorrow.

What to do? Are you continuing to grow, learning through curiosity and taking risks? Do you need some inspiration? Check out this video  How ya gonna Live? Answer these questions, and the world will thank you!

 

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