Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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December 9, 2014

To Do Lists : What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

I thought about this morning as I was driving back from a networking meeting with a long-time friend. I was thinking of all the things on my To Do list today, and that I could cross off this networking meeting, but that I also needed to add a couple actions that he suggested.

My daily Things To Do (TTD) list is broken down very clearly into personal and business tasks. I even circle the ones that I feel I MUST do today and I write my affirmations at the top of the page. However — and this is a hefty observation — we must never forget one thing when looking at our to do lists:

Don’t confuse tasks and affirmations with goals.

Goals are the real objective; what do you really want to accomplish? These tasks and affirmations are just great tools to speeding up the process and staying focused. Affirmations give you the power of positive thinking, but they do not accomplish the goal. Tasks may move you toward the goal if you have tasks related to the path. We must do the tasks, we must have affirmations, but we must keep in mind:

Crossing off completed tasks on your To Do list is not your goal.

October 28, 2013

Fail Your Way to Success

I love Dilbert. And I also love Scott Adams’ outlook on success. So when this article appeared in the WSJ on 10/12/13 I had to read it twice. (For your reference

I had a boss 40 years ago at Chevy Flint V8 Engine that told me it was much easier to be infamous than famous, and both people would be equally rewarded. I did not believe him then, but I do believe him now especially in the context of Adams’ article.

I like employees who have a passion for work. It’s great when they have passion to serve the customer, a passion to sell, and a passion to make money. I never had the desire to take the risk and start my own business from scratch. My passion was and still is cars and bicycles. I even wrote a business plan to start a business to make tandem bicycles. But, the business plan showed me that it was high risk, highly competitive and carried a low reward. So I decided against the business.

I enjoyed the part where Adams talks about defeats, what we learn, and luck. In my career I had lots of defeats (a good work to describe them), and lots of successes. I have looked back many times and realized that many of the successes followed defeats. They were the product of necessity and opportunity. I only once left a job on my own for a better job, and that ended up a bad decision. So, half my promotions came from taking risks when seeking a new career opportunity.

Take risks! Calculated risks. Know the potential reward. When opportunity presents itself, reach a little higher. In sales, sell to the rich. Or at least sell to those that can pay. Sell to those that can buy renewals. If you sell door–to-door vacuum cleaners, you don’t get a lot of repeat clients. People won’t buy another vacuum cleaner for years. However, if you sell door-to-door food, they will buy every week. If you are a small business have a passion to serve your customer. Anticipate their future needs and prepare.

“Show me a man who has never failed, and I’ll see a man who has never attempted anything”

— Unknown

April 24, 2013

Embracing Change

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Leadership Skills,Sales — Alec @ 9:43 pm

Business, politics, and religion all have so much in common. Hard to believe right?

If you don’t have popular support (or a great majority of support) for your programs, you will probably have a battle on your hands. When the minority feels strongly enough about something, a call for change starts to happen. In the major wars of the past couple hundred years ie. Revolutionary, Civil, Spanish, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq there was a small margin of approval—maybe not even a majority. Or take a look at the Japanese industrial revolution in which a minority of the population led to change. A few copied Juran and Deming’s ideals for Quality Management and now it is the world’s mantra. Religious Reformations are another example (for another day).

My point is that in our business, a few want to change and are hoping for improvement. Often a large number of people fight for the status quo. They like to stick to what they know. If you are the change agent, it is very helpful to have a coalition and get everyone involved. It can take some persuasion and it may not come easy. But just because no one follows at first does not mean it is wrong.

Change is not simple but as leaders you need to think about the opportunities for improvement. And maintain a very positive attitude! It’s easier for people to follow someone who believes that the change is GOOD, the change is RIGHT and the change will WORK. I am a student of the Pygmalion effect—if you believe, it will happen. Things seldom improve if you don’t change. In fact, if you don’t change, you risk a slide backwards into failure.

Great leaders want a majority to support them but to let’s be honest for a minute : leadership and decisions are not a popularity contest. But success is always popular. Embrace the Change:

[1] Support the initiatives

[2] Involve your people

[3] Listen to the obstacles

[4] Address the obstacles

[5] Make decisions based on data AND is in the best interest of your people and the customer

April 11, 2013

Needs and Wants

Filed under: Sales — Alec @ 3:40 pm

Successful sales is really all about giving your customer more than they paid. By going above and beyond expectations for a service or product you are providing, you will make them accomplish their goals sooner, easier, and better.

My sister Jennett gave me a pillow that says something like “I smile because you are my brother, I laugh because I know there is nothing I can do about it!” That is how I try to think about my customers. I smile when I think of them as my customer, and no matter what they do, I will like them and try to help them succeed.

Three Things to Remember:

[1] With your customers, you get what you earn and you get what you deserve. There may be a little bank of goodwill or grace from prior successes but you get what you put into it. Your customer is all about the future and how you can help them today and tomorrow.

[2] Sales is about giving your customer a gift. Sometimes they don’t see the value of the gift. Timing is everything. We must offer them the right gift at the right time, and make sure they see the value. Remind yourself that it is so much more fun to give than receive.

[3] If you truly comprehend what our customer needs and can really be of assistance, the customers will line up at your door.

April 3, 2013

Change Perceptions | Change Reality

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Personal Philosophy,Sales — Alec @ 2:00 am

Many years ago, at a plant in Clarksville, Tennessee, Jim Fox used the phrase “perception is reality“. Jim was one of our best supervisors. Together we worked long hours with our leadership team to make sure that reality was that we cared about our employees and customers equally.

I was recently reading Doug and Polly White’s newsletter (check out their website They discussed a quote by Doug’s first boss, “In business, only two things matter: reality and perception, and reality only matters to the degree it shapes perception.

How does this relate to sales? Your customer has a perception of you and your product.To them it is reality no matter what the facts are. If you want to change the customers reality, you must first change their perception.

According to perception is defined as: the act of faculty of perceiving or apprehending by means of the senses of the mind: cognitive; understanding, a unified awareness derived from sensory processes, intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological or aesthetic quality. That’s a mouthful.

But basically, if we want to change the customers reality, we must [1] Listen to their needs and [2] Link it to the perception we want them to see in our product. What or how can our product fit the customer’s need? We must make it so clear that they intuitively see the value and have an awareness of all the potential.

It seems too easy. This is so difficult because our perception is not the same as the customer’s perception. If we struggle to see how they perceive things, we can’t begin to understand customer’s objections. And even knowing that perception is reality is not enough; we must remember it and put it into action.

This food for thought is as much for my own self-improvement as it is for all you readers:
Shut up! Listen to the customer define their needs and their objections.

March 27, 2013


Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Sales,Services — Alec @ 5:26 pm

We talk a lot about all kinds of tips for ways to do your job better, smarter, and enjoying it more. But let’s not forget that a big part of our job includes interpersonal skills with your coworkers and interacting with your customers. Especially in Sales!

Sales is about knowing the customer’s personal and professional WANTS & NEEDS. And I mean their actual WANTS & NEEDS, not the ones you think they should want. This takes time and focus. Every single time you meet with them they will give you a little more insight about them. This is where those active listening skills will come in handy. Be a good listener and take notes. Review those notes just before you go see them the next time. You might even repeat back to them their professional WANTS & NEEDS, “Last time we met you said you wanted to reduce X, Y, Z” or “We discussed that you are having trouble with…”

The customer will tell you their Personal Needs: Family, Ethics, Social, Mental, Financial, and Physical. But probably not the first time you meet. They don’t know you well enough yet. They will also tell you their Professional wants and needs: Time, Sales, People, Productivity, and Strategy. Again, probably not the first meeting. But over time they will share it with you. Listen closely, it may be delivered in code. You will have to learn to decipher subtle statements like, “I am having absentee problems,” or “My operations manager and controller argue a lot.”

Your best Sales Tool? Get to know your customer.

March 22, 2013

Coaching and Sales

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Motivation,Sales — Alec @ 11:00 am

We’ve already talked about: Tom Izzo, Malcolm Gladwell and getting “the fire in the belly” as it relates to Green Belt projects. But not all of you are in the midst of getting certified. Let’s take another look at how these themes apply to other aspects of business.

Izzo’s words for Sales

Instead of Practice :: Think about OG Mandino’s character Hafid and adopt his personality. Make phone calls, don’t just send emails. Schedule meetings and ask for referrals. It doesn’t matter if at first you are no good or even bad at sales calls. Just find the passion to work hard, fight, and care EVERY DAY. Make calls and set up appointments, meetings, lunches or coffees every day. As you care more about your customer, they will feel that you care more. As you make more calls and work smarter, you will get better at making calls. Care when you make a sale and care when you lose a sale. I want you to care so much that you ask why you won a sale and why you lost a sale – what was the differentiating factor in each of those scenarios? When you lose a close sale, don’t let it ruin your game. Instead analyze the missteps and work smarter/harder tomorrow.

What were you wearing? Were you distracted? What questions did they ask? What questions did you ask? What time of day was it? Did you ask the value statement? Did you ask “anything else”? Did you set a follow-up meeting?

You will get better. Bill Gates wasn’t born a success, he spent his 10,000 hours earning it. You can too!!

March 13, 2013

Selling Ice Cubes to Eskimos

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Sales,Services — Alec @ 1:31 pm

Have you ever have heard the expression “She could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo” or “He could sell an Ice Box to an Eskimo”. It leaves you thinking, why would an Eskimo need ice or a freezer? What the phrase really means is that he or she can sell something deemed unnecessary by many to pretty much anyone.

The real skill here is the ability to sell the value of what is perceived as the impossible, when it is very possible. With all the science fiction writers the last 25 years it is very conceivable that you could find someone to believe you have an implantable memory chip for your brain. If someone believes in it, they will buy it. Advances in technology could also convince us that a pair of sunglasses could double as a computer monitor. Google glasses aren’t far from this concept, and I bet people will buy it.

Think of some of our most influential inventors throughout history. There is some debate over when and by whom the radio was invented, but for the sake of argument let’s says it was David Edward Hughes in 1879. About the same time Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and received his first patent in 1876. In 1876 Paul Gottlieb Nipkow patented a rotating disc that could capture and display an image using electricity. Now let’s say in 1890 you gathered Hughes, Bell and Nipkow in a room and tried to sell them on your idea for a little hand held device that could be used as a wireless communications device with text and video. You were trying to persuade them to invest in your new little gadget or today’s “smart phone”. Do you think they would buy it?

Many people have tried, without success, to sell their ideas and get buy in from potential customers. Xerox comes to mind. The inventor of Xerox eventually gave up on buyers and started his own company to develop and produce “photo copying” machines.

The key to selling an idea is to clearly paint a visual, realistic picture in the buyer’s mind and show them the value behind the idea. Even better, create that picture in their mind appear as if it was their own idea to help their product. In other words, find a way to explain the idea without starting at the total concept, but start by asking small questions. If I were selling the “smart phone” to Hughe, Bell and Nipkow, I would ask them “What could happen if we married your three patents?”  Or maybe start even simpler and speak to Bell, “Could your phone be wireless?” This creates an easy lead in to more questions. “Is it possible for your wired phone to have a picture?” The hardest step but not impossible, “Could we marry all three? And if we could, how would it change the business world? What would it be worth if we could communicate blueprints, information and voice in just minutes or seconds to REST OF THE WORLD?”

Selling is first about helping your customer visualize from within. Then we expand the notion to consider the value to their business. This is the crossroads where selling and listening meet. We must listen to their minds and ask the right questions to lead them to self-discovery. Now you can sell something you knew was beneficial to their company and they just realized they definitely needed.

February 13, 2013

6 Levels of Listening

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Sales — Alec @ 12:16 pm

Have you ever noticed that the people you perceive as great listeners either agree with you or are open-minded to new ideas? Or the opposite can happen, the people you perceive as poor listeners are really just not agreeing with you or are very opinionated. Makes you wonder who is responsible for the listening in a conversation? Makes you wonder if you can be perceived as a good listener simply by being open-minded? Maybe great listeners are just very good at asking enough open-ended questions to make you think you agree with them?

That brings me to my theory that there are 6 Levels of Listening.

Level One: Hearing the noise. For example, if someone is too far away and they can’t hear the words then they probably aren’t listening. We must be close enough to hear the sounds.

Level Two: Understanding the words. If someone is speaking in Spanish and you don’t understand, it will be hard to listen well (darn near impossible). If suffer from hearing loss, a noisy room will make it hard to hear or understand.

Level Three: Do you agree or disagree? You heard the words and you understood, but did you agree with what was said? This is key. If you agree, you will most likely be perceived as a good listener. And if you disagree, your listening skills will be judged on how you communicate your disagreement.

Level Four: Remembering. Do you remember what someone said to you? I might listen to a sermon on Sunday, like it and agree with it, but forget what was said by Monday morning.

Level Five: Action. If you have done Levels 1 – 4 but do not take action, is that considered good listening or not? If you take action, the other people involved in the conversation know that actions were completed. There is a high probability of being perceived as a good listener when action is taken.

Level Six: Priority. Maybe you have other priorities that are interfering. You heard, understood, agreed, remembered, and put it on my List of Things to Do. But instead of following all the way through, you worked on things of higher priority. This may be perceived as a poor listening.

Conclusion: It is imperative that each participant in the communication process fully understands these Levels of Listening and is mutually taking responsibility for each step.

Remember, a person who thinks you are a poor listener is probably very opinionated, disagrees with you or is a poor persuader. Keeping this in mind during your next communications might help you listen better!

January 2, 2013

Finding Motivation and a Positive Attitude in the New Year

Since it’s a new year and most of us set new goals or resolutions, I am trying to get motivated by reading a book about business. This week I read another book by author OG Mandino The Greatest Salesman in the World, Part II : The end of the story. It inspired me and at the same time made me feel guilty about my lack of “GO” power.

This is a second book that I have read by Mr. Mandino, not as captivating as The Greatest Salesman in the World, but maybe a stronger message. It is still all about sales, how it all starts within yourself, keeping a positive attitude, and working hard at networking but some of the tools are more usable in day-to-day life.

Some concepts that stood out to me are listed below:

Page 9: All wealthy people salve (soothe) their conscience with gifts to the poor. This is an interesting idea, probably true, though I wonder what would happen if all the wealthy people stopped giving?

Page 44: Tell others of your hardships along the way. I think this is so true! Many people we meet have no idea where our roots are or what our background is and vice versa. A great example of this is that my wife, Karen, and I worked our way through college. We each had a small scholarship, but we worked 20+ hours a week. Some highlights of our glamorous early careers include the dorm cafeteria, local stores as cooks and as a janitor. Most summers I worked 2 full time jobs to save enough money so we could pay our living expenses for the rest of the school year. We borrowed lots, although maybe not as much as some students do these days. We owed thousands of dollars in a combination of student loans and money from family that we paid off after college. One winter we were so poor we ate for $1.10 a week for 6 weeks. We lived on Campbell’s Tomato Soup, saltine crackers and peanut butter. So, we definitely both know what it is like to be poor.

Page 79: 3 Classes of People

  • Those who learn from their own experience. They are considered wise.
  • Those who learn from the experiences of others. These people are happiest.
  • Those that learn neither from their own experience nor from the experiences of others. These are fools.

Page 92: Never again will I consider what I do to support my existence, labor. I have usually enjoyed my jobs in my career. This wisdom came from my mother. When I went off to my first job at Chevrolet in Flint she told me, “10% of people really hate their jobs, 80% just exist and then there are the 10% that REALLY love their jobs. Be one of the 10% that love their jobs.”

Page 98: My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end. In my opinion, I don’t whine much…although I am sure I have my moments!!

It isn’t easy to be a success, but it is possible! When you get off track, remind yourself of these 10 thoughts below. Here is a quick reference to OG Mandino’s 10 Vows of Success, with my own twist:

1. Never again will I pity or belittle myself.

2. Never again will I greet the dawn without a map; for today and the rest of my life. I recommend having a daily Things To Do (TTD) list and a 20-year Life Goal list.

3. Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm

4. Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul (oops, need to work on this one)

5. Always will I seek the seed of triumph in every adversity

6. Never again will I perform any task at less than my best. It only takes a few seconds longer to clean and put away a tool after you have used it. Although, I guess I could help Karen a little more in the kitchen with this philosophy…

7. Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand

8. Never again will I wait and hope for the opportunity to embrace me

9. Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day

  • Did I survive the day without pitying myself?
  • Did I greet the dawn with a map and a goal?
  • Was I pleasant and agreeable with all I met?
  • Did I attempt to go the extra mile?
  • Did I search for the good in every problem?
  • Did I smile in the faces of anger and hatred?
  • Did I concentrate my strength and purpose?

10. Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator. Pray at every stop light, or while you wait in line; say a little prayer of thanks for all you have will help you remember all your blessings.

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