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All things Apple Awards

Who is Apple Awards, what do we do and how can we help you honor and recognize achievement and loyalty to your organization and the people closest to you?

A Better Story

A Better Story

Seth Godin’s altMBA is all about inspiring leaders, changemakers, decision makers and action takers. More from Dennis about this recent online experience...

“Changemaking isn’t about clearly outlining the rational benefit of your point of view. Changemaking happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.”

When I hear statements like this I think that I have to have a story that will convince everyone of my different version of the future. This is not a realistic goal - all we have to do is take a look at the political world and we know that convincing others is not easy. No matter how great our product, our service, our story, someone else out there is going to be able to match or better it.

But each of us has a unique story. Often it is a simple result of our prior experience in life, who we know, where we studied, worked or what team we belonged to. The key to a good story, a better story, is making it our story - our believable, true, one of a kind story that others will benefit from.

I am convinced that every successful product or service starts with a great story. What is your story? Is it true, believable and of benefit to others?

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Call to Action

Call to Action

Dennis shares insights from Seth Godin's altMBA...

During the altMBA course there was one consistent requirement for each project and that was action. After all the brainstorming, reading, and group discussions we were not done until we took action and shipped our work.

How often in our daily life whether at work or at home do we talk a big story, invest large amounts of time researching and dreaming, only to not take action in the end? I know I do this.  I would assume that you probably do also.

Action makes all the difference, even if we get it wrong sometimes. What keeps you from acting? Is uncertainty holding you back?. If life is not turning out the way you had hoped, it may be because you are choosing not to take action more than you choose to act.

I love the saying, “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.”  I’m sure it was said by a coach. Regardless, both winning and learning come about from action.

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Knowing Who You Are

Knowing Who You Are

Critical thinking, putting yourself in another person’s shoes, is an important element in Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis applies this attitude as he examines his business strategies…

As a business owner have you ever wondered why people who buy from your competitors are right in doing so?

When I was asked to consider this during one of my altMBA projects I not only learned who we were as a business but I learned more about who we are not. This was really hard to do. I figuratively had to  put on different pairs of lenses and look at my business from differing world views. It exhausted me, trying to think of how we could appeal to all these different kinds of potential customers,...

Until someone told me I didn’t have to.

Attempting to “be everything to everyone” can actually hurt your business more than it can help. People trust businesses that have a niche, something they can be an authority on. Knowing who you’re not is just as important as knowing who you are.

When you know who you’re not, it frees you to send people to others.

When you know who you’re not, you may even send customers to a competitor when you know they may be better served there. This humble (but smart) act will actually build trust between you and the customer you send. It may even build trust with the other business owner when the customer tells who sent them.

As a business owner, do you know who you are? In life, do you know who you are? How can critical thinking help you decide?

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Rational Behavior? Hmm...

Rational Behavior? Hmm...

Rational behavior? Maybe it’s not so rational… Not being afraid to think differently is a primary focus of Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis of Apple Awards shares encouragement for today’s niche markets.

How often do we strive to be everything to everyone instead of being just the right person for a few people? You might think the rational approach, when identifying the target market for your work, would be to throw out as broad a net as possible and see what you get.

Twenty years ago that approach was probably a good strategy especially if you lived  in a small rural market like we do. But times have changed and the connected society has grown so rapidly that this approach is no longer necessary.

It has never been easier to find people like us, on the fringes, the smallest viable market - people that are looking for that special art or service that we so generously want to share with the world.

I am not saying that it's easy, I am just suggesting that there has never been a time as good as now to launch a niche business or organization. It still requires us to take a long term view and never quit learning. It still requires a daily routine of showing up and shipping your work. I’m just saying, the rational approach is not what it used to be.

 

Find your niche. Don’t be afraid.

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Being a Generous Team Member

Being a Generous Team Member

The value of teamwork is a prime lesson in Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis was able to have teamwork experiences with several different teams during the course. His takeaway...

 

Can you imagine a team where everyone participated with a spirit of generosity?

What might those team members look like? This is what I think:

  • They would show up every day not because of what they get but what they can give.
  • They would share honest critical feedback with kindness and compassion.
  • They would accept feedback and instruction with humility and grace.
  • They would celebrate others talent and good fortune.
  • When things go well, they would have eyes to see all those that made it possible
  • They make the effort to see others for who they really are.
  • They would be brave enough to be seen for who they really are.
  • They might risk looking stupid to think outside the box and share new ideas.
  • They work hard and do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Can you imagine...

 

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Bigger or Better?

In Seth Godin’s altMBA Dennis learned a decision making process that is helpful in examining the options of “bigger or better”.

The project in front of me was to walk through, step by step, a current decision that I was about to make. I was to write out the method I used to make this decision -  should I purchase a certain new business or not?

First, I needed to frame the decision, to draw a box and identify all the options and their potential implications. I needed to take into consideration sunken cost, emotional ties, all the change agents present and how my decision would affect others.

The whole written process was longer than I want this post to be, but I will share this part of it.

I knew I needed to finish something that I had already started with Apple Awards and Sport Plaques. I knew these businesses had a lot of unmet upside potential . But, the allure of “new” was so tempting, especially since the “new” business fit so many of my criteria..  It was closely related to what I already do. It was portable and something that could be moved to my current location in Wisconsin.

However, when I identified all the time it would take to develop the undeveloped parts of the new business, that is when the clarity appeared and the allure of new faded. The unmet potential of my current businesses would take time and energy to develop. I knew we did not have the capacity to add something new. So, the decision was made for better (in current businesses) not bigger (adding something new).

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When Not Deciding Is a Decision

More from Dennis Smith’s experience with Seth Godin’s altMBA...

Have you ever taken a moment to examine all the unmade decisions in your life? Where are the moments when instead of choosing to make a decision, you chose to do nothing? Doing nothing might be a good choice, but it’s still a choice, one that ought to be examined.

Here are some things I ask myself.

Do I not have enough information?

Iis there something like fear that is keeping me from deciding?

Or could it be an inner resistance?

Deciding doesn’t sound like much fun so I will just ignore it and hope it goes away. This is one of my favorite techniques. I read a good book that exposed this approach to making decisions, “The WAR of ART” by Steven Pressfield. I can only assume since he felt compelled to write a book about resistance that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

What kind of “decisions” do you make by not deciding? What do you think about “inner resistance” to making decisions?



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Change Agent

Change Agent

Although his writing often gets stuck on the editor’s desk for a while before making it to his blog, Dennis continues to make good progress sharing what he’s learned in Seth Godin’s alt MBA.

 

What is a change agent?

She just broke up with you, you lost your apartment lease, you just lost your job, you just got a new job offer, a new competitor opened up across the street, or my favorite, “the salesperson called up and said it was the last one left!” These are change agents, things that cause us to react. It is really important to identify these agents that are attached to a decision because they can often cause us to panic and hurry our decision, thus opening up the potential for a sup-par move. Think about some recent decisions you have made. Can you identify any change agents attached? Did they help or hinder your ability to make a good decision? Change agents are neither good or bad, they are just  life's realities.

As the header suggests, people can be change agents, also for good or for bad. Go change your world for good!





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A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’m reminded of a Facebook video that has recently gone viral. It’s about a man who wakes up one day and is thrilled to be alive, thrilled to find that he has a wife and a family, amazed that he has a real job to be going to and a car to get him there. It goes on pointing out all the things we could take for granted on a daily basis.

 At Apple Awards we are thankful to God for the blessings of a wonderful, committed staff, a safe, modern facility to house our work, customers who make our work worthwhile and continually inspire and amaze us with their stories.

Part of what we love to do through the culture of recognition is to encourage others to see the blessings that we experience every day.  Through recognizing qualities like perseverance, courage, faithfulness, selflessness, and commitment, we want to help individuals have the strength and motivation to go forward and influence their world for good.

It is our hope that this Thanksgiving will be a day of awareness, of gratitude and of joy for all who celebrate it. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us, to all of you.

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You Decide!

You Decide!

Dennis shares some of his thoughts about surrounding ourselves with people who help us make good decisions.(From Seth Godin’s altMBA online course.)


The “what for?” regarding good decisions….

The first step toward making any good decision should be asking “who’s it for?” and “what’s it for?”. If you cannot clearly identify the answers to these two questions, you need to do more homework. Asking yourself these two questions and answering honestly can bring a lot of clarity to any situation.

These are hard questions to answer alone though, because we love to deceive ourselves. If we answer these important questions alone, there is no one there to ask the second two most important questions, “who is this really for?” and “what is this really for?”.  My human nature often causes me to avoid people who care enough to ask these difficult to hear questions. I am tempted to go for advice to people who have a similar narrative to mine.

Do you think this is a good strategy? Why or why not? Think about the people you go to when confronted with a big decision, are they the type of people that care enough to challenge your thinking on a particular decision?  Or are they people who are afraid to ask you tough questions because they might hurt your feelings?

It comes down to this, we all have a choice who we surround ourselves with.  You decide!



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How Do I Decide? What if I'm Wrong?

How Do I Decide? What if I'm Wrong?

Dennis Smith of Apple Awards continues sharing thoughts from his recent altMBA experience. 

I don’t remember being taught in school how to make decisions. Every day we have to make a huge number of decisions. But how many of us intentionally think, deep and hard, about making good decisions? When we make a good decisions, do they always have good outcomes?

Before the altMBA workshop, I never considered that a decision with a poor outcome could be looked upon as a good decision.

An example of this is the game of poker. Good poker players know the odds, keep track of the cards played and make bets accordingly. Even when the odds are in their favor, there is an element of chance that plays into the equation. So, a good poker player can lose the hand but still consider their choice to stay in or be hit a “good” choice.

Let me emphasize the word “good”. The poker player is not just relying on luck or chance. He has done due diligence to understand the game and the odds in any given decision. Once in a while a “poor” player gets lucky and wins too, but that’s all that is behind it - LUCK. (That would be me when it comes to poker…)

This is where the rubber meets the road.  We are players in many different situations requiring decisions. When we lose three hands in a row, knowing we have been making good decisions, do we quit or stay in the game? How do I decide?. How do you decide?



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Ideas - Lots of Them!

Ideas - Lots of Them!

Ideas are cheap, but only if you have extras. #altMBA

The reasoning that all good ideas just come from really smart people would be a logical conclusion. But what if I told you that I believe all good ideas come from really brave people? Intellect is not the primary driving force behind successful Ideas. I feel safe in saying that all great ideas, ones that change lives and culture for the better, are simply preceded by lots of bad ideas that are acted upon, and learned from. This takes courage because no one likes to fail. But, all change makers have this in common, they are willing to risk failure, being misunderstood, mocked or, yes, even called stupid - all in the name of positive change.

I encourage you to dream a little today.  Look around you at the problems that have not yet met their solution. You might find yourself trying something, not because success is guaranteed but because you care enough to do about something it.  

 

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Check That Blind Spot!

Check That Blind Spot!

It is the unseen, not the seen that will most often keep us from achieving our goal.

A key element of Seth Godin's altMBA online course is peer group discussion. Every time we were assigned a project there was discussion before and after shipping** a “product”. We received feedback and questions from at least five of our peer group.. One of the questions I was asked regarding my goals project was, what might be some of my blind spots when it comes to executing my goals?  

I was so appreciative of the people who took the time to read my goals, to see me, and honestly share what they saw and did not see. They were  like that blinking light next to the mirror in my new car, reminding me that I have a blind spot and there may be something in it. Look and see, then take appropriate actions or you may not end up where you were originally intending to go.

Through this goals project I learned that my biggest blind spot is the emotional attachment I sometimes get to people. Even though emotional attachment can be an awesome thing, it can also cloud my judgment in making wise decisions. I think this is where I could see a coach or an outside, neutral, peer accountability partner being of great benefit to me.

How do you go about checking your blind spot? Or, if you don’t, why not? I’d like to know.

 

**shipping is to publish something, not always complete or perfect, but to put it out there for the world to see. It’s been said the term has roots in a Steve Jobs quote, “real artists ship”.  




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The Perfect Snowflake

The Perfect Snowflake

Owner Dennis Smith and graphic designer Dan Hankins were staring at side by side monitors mounted on the standing desk. They were designing carefully, each motion on the computer keyboard producing a different line, color, or font. Trying different backgrounds, raising part of the pattern, recessing another portion, consulting each other and offering suggestions as the product evolved and took shape, they worked. Finally, both of them were satisfied. The standards had been met and they had a snowflake they thought the client would like on the medals for the ski race.

It took persistence, because there were a lot of variables to try. It took having high standards because they could have knocked it off quickly and settled for good enough. It took knowledge of the customer’s needs - a local client with a reputation to uphold.  It took personal attention because they knew they were responsible for the result. Every detail was important. If it’s going to last for a long time, it should be beautiful and it should be right. This is how it’s done at Apple Awards.

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Daily Steps

Daily Steps

Students in Seth Godin’s altMBA spend time discussing goals as part of the learning experience. Here is more on that subject from Dennis Smith, owner of Apple Awards and Sport Plaques.

  

Another business goal I identified in my altMBA course was this:

 To create a functioning business plan that surpasses my existence or any key employee’s existence, in that its ownership is easily transferable.

 This goal needed some definition. What did it mean in my case?

 I had been working toward this goal for several years doing something monumentally difficult, yet amazingly freeing. I had been dealing with “clutter” – throwing away or selling the unnecessary and putting the necessary where it could be easily found. I also realized I would never fully accomplish this project if I could not get the people I live and work with to “get on this bus” with me. We've made progress in this area.

 Another defining step toward this goal was to clean up the books, the accounting. That step will start tomorrow as I meet with my accountant.

 Clearly defining these steps gives me things to do on a daily basis. It is true that well defined goals will help me take daily steps down the path that leads where I want to go. My business will be more valuable and efficient now and more easily transferred in the future.

 

 

 

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Do I Need to Focus?

                                                                  

This month Dennis Smith of Apple Awards is considering some of the valuable aspects of a recent online course, Seth Godin’s altMBA. In today’s post he shares some thoughts on saying NO in order to gain FOCUS.

Wandering generality or focused specific?

During our altMBA conversation about goals I noticed that I tend to do a lot of things with very average results. It is my nature to say yes to many things. Is there a connection?

I wondered if my results would be extraordinary if I were to approach my days with more focus. Having focus is not a new concept for me. It is actually a piece of common wisdom that I often choose to ignore. So, here are my two questions:

  1. Can saying no to more things actually help to focus on some things?
  2. Am I able to prioritize and then draw a line where I need to stop saying yes?

Where to start? With a little research…

As a business owner I get a proliferation of wonderful offers each and every day to try new and better things to help me lead our company forward, or serve in our community. I am setting a goal to write down every decision I have to make over the next three days – everything that requires my time, my attention. I’m going to record whether I said yes or no. It will be interesting to practice this for the next few days, see how it feels, and examine the results.

Is this an experiment you have considered trying? It’s applicable to any area of life.

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Do You Believe Enough?

Do You Believe Enough?

 

Dennis writes from his experience with Seth Godiin's altMBA, more on leadership thinking and setting goals...

Another of my goals was to be the leader in the sales efforts of Apple Awards and Sport Plaques - the companies I lead.  I had to confront myself with this scary question: Do I believe enough in the benefits of our products that I can’t help but share them with potential customers? Like a military leader leading troops into battle, I can not lead a team of salespeople if I do not first believe in the product I am offering.

Zig Ziglar, arguably the best salesman in history, has a unique approach. He says “You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

Here are his 7 steps to goal setting. They are simple and clear.

  1. Identify the goal. Write it down.
  2. List the benefits, the “what’s in it for me?”
  3. List the obstacles to overcome.
  4. List the skills and knowledge required.
  5. Identify the people and groups to work with
  6. Develop a plan of action.
  7. Set a date for achievement.

 

What do I believe about the benefits of our products?

I truly believe that recognizing achievement, whether it is winning an award or creating a memory of an event, years of service, or a season and attaching that recognition, in writing, to an tangible item is important. Including the name of the event, the period of time, the unique factors or accomplishments of the event or the people group, along with the names or photos of the people involved  is a documentation of history. It is remembering things worth remembering. We strive to make that as easy as possible for people.

This I can, and must, talk about.

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Getting Out of That Box

Getting Out of That Box

 

What is Seth Godin’s altMBA and is it just another online course where people sign up and drop out halfway through? Here is some of what Dennis has to say about that today in his second post of his month long blogging challenge.

My daughter Claire’s soccer team made it to the finals of the UMACK conference tournament by way of a huge upset, so it put a wonderful, yet unexpected twist on my week. I also found myself trying to catch up on several things at work as well as preparing for the two to four inches of snow forecast for today! So, for the first time I am sitting down and reflecting on what I learned from the altMBA.

One unique thing about the course is that part of the learning process takes place when we students talk through our projects. For each project I was in a small group of smart, highly motivated people with the common desire to level up in the personal and business life. In addition to them listening to my goals and asking me questions, I got to listen to theirs and ask questions of them. This is where the beauty of the altMBA lies.

It is a unique style of learning, not from a textbook, but from walking through a project with others who care. They care about creating a world filled with people facing their fears and staving off the own voices of resistance. It is not so much about one right answer to any problem. It is about considering many possible answers and working through the fear of failure to do something.

They call it “shipping work every day”, producing something until finally a breakthrough is discovered and the world all of a sudden becomes a better place because you dared to go somewhere you previously never dared to go. It is about considering a different outcome than the one stuck in your head because of a particular world view.

In future posts I hope to share about some of the amazing people I met along this altMBA journey. Stay tuned.

 

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Thinking Like a Leader

DO YOU HAVE A GOAL?

Today I am sharing some of my “takeaways” from Seth Godin's altMBA, an online course I recently took to help increase my leadership and business literacy. If you are reading this, you may or may not be a business person, but you are likely a leader of some sort. My hope is that you will be encouraged, as I was. You may learn something new, or you may remind yourself of something previously learned that you can take to a new level.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

Our first action step was setting goals for our course, our personal life, our business and our relationships. Good goals include a time to start and a time for completion. One of my goals is to write  a blog of my own, not necessarily for a wide, general audience, but for myself and those who care to listen. My plan to meet that goal includes writing five days a week for one month. This post today is the first step in meeting that challenge. I realize some posts may be long, some may be short, some may make sense and some may not make any sense at all. I may even miss a few days here and there. What is important is that I am doing it, taking steps to meet the goal, both when I feel like it and when I don’t. My hope is that writing will become a habit. I will eventually have a consistent, daily record of my journey to do work that matters.

Stay tuned for more of what I learned from the altMBA.

 

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I Did It!

 Experience.

 

 Experience counts, and has great value. It’s a simple lesson, and one I’ve recently encountered.   

 For three months I have made attempts to create an Instagram account for the two business brands I have been entrusted with.  I thought this would be easy because social media would make it easy. They would want the average business person like me to have an account, to be able to connect with people who would benefit from my services. To be clear, I truly believe the process is much easier than I made it, but in my early attempts I had made some mistakes. There were multiple accounts with the same or similar names. It was confusing.  

 Yesterday I was determined, after my many failed attempts, to conquer this task. I so wanted to be able to call someone and ask for help, someone who would actually talk to me.  But, can you just call up someone at most social media companies and ask for help? I couldn’t see where that type of assistance even existed.  Better yet, I wanted to find someone to do it for me, to clean up my mess. That would be ideal.

 Or, maybe a business Instagram account was not that big a deal and I should just give up. Maybe nobody would care if there was one less business popping up on their feed, right?

 But, I had an idea of something I wanted to do through my business posts, something I wanted to say to employers, employees, coaches, athletes and the average person trying to tackle difficult projects or circumstances in their day to day life.  I wanted to send a word of encouragement to the world even if they did not want to buy something from me.  So, I could not give up. I knew there was a way to accomplish this social media task, even if it wasn’t easy (for me). 

 It took me four hours to figure it out for my first business, Sports Plaques. I deleted all my accounts that had the same names, linked to different emails but went nowhere. I made the proper connections between my business Facebook account, website and so on. It took four hours (and that was just today!) to become a little wiser, stronger, and yes, experienced, but the struggle was worth it. Creating the account for the second business, Apple Awards took 15 minutes.

 Now I have an experience (the good and the bad of it) to share, to make the world a better place, a more informed place, a more encouraged place.

 Don’t give up.

Get experience.

Find ways to share it.

 
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