Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just One of My Lists

Since I do not know exactly who reads this blog, I need to provide a little personal information before I get to the point of this post (if there really is a point).

For those who know me you probably know that my older daughter, Sarah, was married on November 22nd. (Yes, I know I am too young for such things, but it happened…I was there.) It was quite a celebration of she and her husband Marvin’s beginning of life together…and just life in general. I keep reminding myself that the expense was worth it… for lots of reasons…not the least of which is that I truly believe that this life is one of abundance and not scarcity. My God is a BIG God… and a little extravagance in celebration of just being here is warranted every now and then! (I concede that this may be rationalization… and my family tells me to quit saying I’m broke! Which, by the way, is close to the truth. OK..from now on I’m trying the positive thinking thing!)

For those who know me very well, you also know that I live my life guided by lists…to do lists for my customers, to do lists for home projects, grocery lists, books and articles to read list, places to be lists… all kinds of lists.

Since the wedding I’ve added a new list to my list of lists. (I guess I kept this list mentally before the wedding, but the pre and post wedding planning and events brought me to begin writing things down.) My new list is a list entitled:

“Things I have absolutely no control or influence upon”.

So here it goes:

The weather
The stock market
What people think
What people think about me
The mortgage bailout
The auto manufacturer bailout
The actions of our President
Who is our President (Maybe my vote did count…?)
Wedding planning
Where my daughter and son-in-law will reside
Snoring (even though I don’t believe I do…but just in case…I can’t help it)
A certain person’s reaction to snoring (you figure out who…but her name begins with J)
My choloresterol (unless you believe that baloney about eating right…I think it is heredity)

OK..too much editorial comment… but you get the picture… and the list goes on and on…

The conclusion reached by all of this time consuming list making is that the only thing I can truly control or influence is the little bit of activity that goes on between my ears. And this leads to reaction or response. (Reaction=Bad, Respond=Good…as in “I had a reaction to the medicine.” vs. “I am responding to the medicine.”)

Once again proving that life is about 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to what happens. Your actions are guided by your thoughts and beliefs…every time. What are you thinking? What do you believe?

Maybe there is a business application in there some where...I think there is.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2 Keys

Over the past 2 days I have watched my younger daughter compete with her high school volleyball team in the State Tournament. They won convincingly in the quarter finals and lost a close match in the semis. She was not a happy camper! But she did recover quickly and is already talking about and planning for spring club volleyball and next year’s high school season. (She has 2 more years of high school ahead.)

While watching the games I begin to notice, what I think are the keys to success in the game of volleyball. You might find this surprising as I don’t even know all of the rules to the game! But that has never kept me from expressing an opinion before. So here it goes:

Key #1- Performing the routine plays consistently.
Key #2- Innovating successfully when the plays are not routine.

Duh! More easily said than done! And, as you knew I would point out, this observation dovetails very well with success in business.

I have posted in the past about fundamentals and how mastering them yields success. This is really what Key # 1 is all about. Do the basics well! And how do we do that? Plan and practice, there is no other way. Plan how you want your “play” to happen, and then practice it until it is second nature. At our office, for example, we try to anticipate our clients’ wants and needs and then plan our “plays” to meet or exceed those expectations. Not surprisingly, most clients’ wants and needs are similar…so we prepare our basic plays to get the job done exceedingly well.

But what about the plays that are not routine? The tip in volleyball that causes us to feel out of position, the block that is right back on us before we have time to react, are examples of plays in which we must innovate to succeed. We cannot get our feet under us and make a good pass, or get in position for a kill, we must respond to the situation quickly with innovative reflex. Just keep the ball alive until we can get back to the routine.

In business, the “non-routine” can happen in any number of ways. Economic downturns, a supplier mistake, an unusual need/want from a customer, are just a few examples of situations when we must respond innovatively. Just keep the ball alive until we can get back to the routine! So how should we plan for innovation? In my opinion, by practicing the fundamentals repeatedly, innovative opportunities will readily present themselves…and therefore we can “practice” innovation. This may sound like an oxymoron. How can we “practice innovation”? By putting ourselves through the routine enough times, the “non-routine” will naturally occur just due to the law of averages. Nothing happens the same way every time.

Also, by reading, studying, and researching the non-routine events we can actually gain “virtual” experience. Again, in my opinion, virtual experience is the best type of experience as it allows you to not actually experiment with “live fire” but experiment in the controlled environment of your own mind. What have others experienced in similar environments? How did they respond? What worked and what didn’t?

Key #1- Routine….planning and practice makes perfect….consistent repeatability.

Key #2- Innovation…again, routine practice and virtual experience gives you the opportunity to respond to the “non-routine” in a routinely innovative way (routinely innovative…another oxymoron…I am on a roll….).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fun and Happiness

Before I begin discussing my thoughts on fun and happiness I should probably follow up on my last post (Sunday, August 31, 2008).

Hurricane Gustav has come and gone…but certainly will be remembered. My business was without electricity for 5 days and my home was out for 9. A real bummer. We had a tree on our house which caused some significant roof issues and damage to a vehicle caused by another downed tree. Another bummer. But my family is all OK and we are back up and running…harder than ever. Repairs are underway to the property. I have to remember it is just stuff…the real value is in relationships. 9 days without power, however, tested the strength of those relationships. We survived!

We didn’t have much fun for those 9 days..but, for the most part, we were happy. (I’ll get to the significance of that later.) We knew the uncomfortable times would end and we would get back to our routines…at some point. We’re back!

So on with the new post.

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school juniors last week. That was fun! When the class sponsor asked me to speak, I said yes before I even thought about what I would say and if it would mean anything to the students. I began wondering why he asked me to speak…so I asked him…why? He even had to think about it for a second (I am not a past great athlete, not a wealthy businessman, and not a government employee or public servant) and finally he said, “You seem like a happy guy.”

So there you have it, I am a happy guy.

I began turning this over in my head for a while and just thinking about what makes people (and me) happy. The following is some of what I discussed with the kids:

Is there a difference between fun and happiness? I think we all like to have fun but isn’t our ultimate goal happiness? You see fun is an event... and happiness is an attitude…contentment. I think we sometimes get the 2 confused. It is really easy to do.

Take ice cream for instance…eating ice cream can be fun…for me it is really fun! But saying no to ice cream (most of the time) can lead to happiness. Too much ice cream could lead to a lot of things I do not need more of…like weight and cholesterol! So saying no…most of the time…makes me happy. This is paradoxical thinking at its best. (Most of the kids even knew what paradox meant…I was impressed.) You see, my body retains ice cream! So I have to make a very difficult choice.

Choices lead us to a better or worse circumstance. My choice is to weigh over 200 pounds….I say this is my choice because I have never accidentally eaten anything! Choices lead to results…either good or bad results. I choose to eat too much so therefore I must choose to weigh too much. But the choice is mine.

Where we end up, no matter what our past was like or where we happen to be right now, is dependent on the choices we make and actions we take today.

I wonder what’s for dinner?

Just kidding….my diet starts today….again!

I hope I made a connection with the kids and that they will consider their future happiness and choices.

Maybe they will and maybe they won’t….the choice is theirs.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Waiting on Gustav

As I sit here and wait for hurricane Gustav, it occurs to me that I probably have about an hour of uninterrupted thinking time. My family is out and about picking up some “last minute” necessities. (Probably M&Ms and Gummy Worms!) Knowing exactly what to do at this time is a little nerve wracking so I am taking a break and “letting the chips fall where they may” for a little while. The patio furniture is secure, we have propane gas, and we are hunkered down. And I can still use the computer to capture my thoughts. If (when?) the electricity fails I am not sure if I would have the energy to write in longhand (and besides my handwriting is so bad I might not be able to interpret it).

I am wondering if others feel this unprepared in uncertain times. But are not all times uncertain? We never really know what is going to happen from day to day or, for that matter, from minute to minute. We try to have influence on people and events but certainty is forever elusive. The best we can do is to be prepared for uncertainty and change. Change may be the only thing that is certain and constant.

In consulting with business persons we (our business team) are continuously preparing for change. We advise our clients that if they don’t like change… they will like irrelevance even less. So let’s get with the program! Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” So he prepared and was elected the 16th president of the United States.

Upon further reflection, I think it is the hurried preparation that increases the stress levels to the breaking point. If we are continuously preparing and adjusting our plans (in business or for other life events) I propose that our confidence in ultimate survival and success will increase. It is very difficult to plan the battle in the midst of it. The plan should come first. And if the battle is not going the way it should, retreating and gathering a better plan may be a good course of action.

I hope your plan is well thought out and executable. Also, I hope your hatches are battened down!

Let’s hope Gustav is more show than blow.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Measuring or Judging

As an accountant by training, my tendency is to attempt to measure everything in business and make decisions based on those measurements. Measurements… like how many calls came in, how many were converted to customers, how much did each customer spend, how long did you work, and how many widgets did you produce, etc…you know…counting things!

In fact, we have been known to say, “What you can measure, you can manage”. In the world of repetitive tasks, such as an assembly line process, this perspective may be very successful. But the business world of today has many fewer repetitive, factory worker type, tasks and many more unique selling and production opportunities. The environment has changed to a knowledge worker dominated work force as opposed to a factory worker dominated work force. In an environment such as this, measurement in and of itself can be difficult at its best and yield worthless information at its worst. Managers should take note, as managing a knowledge worker is much different than managing a factory worker.

Measuring how long a knowledge worker, someone who thinks for a living, sits at his or her desk, though relatively easy to do, will not necessarily assist a manager in assessing the productivity and value of this type worker. Sure the workers are there, but are they productive? You then may think, “Let’s measure the knowledge worker’s output.” Again, on the surface, this sounds pretty good... and easy…but what if the output is of great quantity but poor quality? Will the customer be happy?

I hope you are beginning to get the picture that judgment in the world of business management is beginning to take the place of pure measurement. A rather silly example is that measuring the efficiency (how many operations performed) of a brain surgeon is not nearly as relevant as judging his effectiveness (how successful were the ones that he did perform). I don’t know about you …but give me effective in this case every time!

Because our firm is totally comprised of knowledge workers, I have given up all together on certain measurements as a management tool. In fact, we have adopted, what we call, a Results Only Work Environment (a ROWE). We do not complete time sheets, we do not have set office hours, we do not have set holidays, we do not have “overtime”, and we do not measure our value by how long we are at the office. But what we do track is how effective are we in completing a task in a timely manner and in the highest quality fashion. We judge how happy our customers are with our deliverables and services. We also hire quality people who are very well capable of knowing the tasks they need to accomplish, the associated timetables, and the quality expected. We treat them like adults (though sometimes we play like children) and judge the quality and effectiveness of their output.

In the business world today…judgment trumps measurement every time!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The poem below has long been a favorite of mine. I was introduced to it in high school by two English teachers (Ms. Ruth Smith and Ms. Sonia Walters) who both have had great influence on my way of thinking. In fact, I have pictures of both of them in my office today. They are both gone now. I wish I could say I enjoyed it as much back then as I do now. Age and experience bring a richness to its words. The wisdom it proclaims is “way cool”… in today’s language. It was written in 1895 by one of England’s most famous authors and poets, Rudyard Kipling. If you have never heard or read it I’d like to know how you like it and what it means to you. If you are familiar with it, I hope it makes you pause and think as much as it does me.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!

Like I said…way cool!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Charles Darwin said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one most responsive to change. While I do not buy in to all of Darwin’s theories, I think this thought is on the money. The difference with humans, as opposed to all others in the animal kingdom, is that the human is capable of making a conscious choice to change… to adapt, to be flexible, to think and adjust, etc.

While watching a DVD presentation today by Les Brown I was impressed by a short story he told about a dog. The dog was whining and moaning when a visitor asked the dog’s owner what was wrong with the dog. The owner responded that he was lying on a nail. “Why doesn’t he move?” asked the visitor. “Well,” said the owner, “I guess it doesn’t hurt enough to move, just enough to convince him to whine and moan.”

Does this describe most of us? Are we uncomfortable enough to whine and moan but not uncomfortable enough to do something about the discomfort? One of my friends, Alan Jordan, left me with a quote that perfectly depicts when change will occur. “Change happens,” he says, “when the pain of the present exceeds the fear of the future.”

If you haven’t figured it out folks…that is profound! (It is my job as the blog master to point these sorts of important things out.)

While consulting last month with a valued customer, we were discussing his business operation, of course, and the fact that he was still working too much IN his business and not enough ON it. In short, he was swamped, stressed, and uncomfortable… yet not quite swamped, stressed and uncomfortable enough to make some changes. Yes, the changes needed to make his situation better involved some risk. The change may cost some money, the change may vest some “power” into others hands, the change may cause the owner to have to become a better manager, the change may… (you fill in the blank). He even said to me, “I guess it is going to take lymphoma or a heart attack to make me change.”

Wow…what do you think of that? It may be too late if this tragedy happens.

Change is happening all around us in our personal lives and in our business lives. We cannot stop it. But to ultimately survive and prosper…to become successful (by whatever means you define success) we must adapt…we must change. And these changes may create risk. But if we don’t change… we may just go the way of the dinosaur. Remember them? They were big, strong, and fast…but they just couldn’t adapt... and they are nonexistent today.

The AA serenity prayer is a wonderful salve for the discomfort of changing times:

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Adaptive Change--Hows and Whys

We are taught through out our lives to “look before we leap”, but what would happen if we didn’t? What if we know that our business could be better or, for that matter, our lives could be better but we simply did not know exactly how to make the improvement? Isn’t that the case most of the time, we know what we want… we just don’t know how to do it.

In cases like this we may need to stir up a little courage and “leap before we look”. We just have to get the change started, knowing that we could be in a better place.

Just do something for goodness sake!

We probably have an idea of what our business and lives would be like if our goals were met, but the specific steps to make the goals a reality are not clear. In other words, we may know why we should incite change, but not how to make it happen.

It is my opinion, that if our “whys” are big and important enough, the “hows” tend to work themselves out over time. I think we should spend much more time and effort on figuring out WHY we want to change rather than HOW we are going to do it. When someone says, “How are we going to do that?” I tend to be a little smarty and respond with, “Does it matter? The real question is...Why do you want to do that? Is your mind made up? Are you willing to pay the price to make it happen?”

I think that adaptive change is the only true way to progress. How can we know precisely what will transpire in the future? I have known people that are frozen until they think they know every step toward their goal. Until step number 224 is known and mapped out and rehearsed, step 1 is never taken. Now, I am not against planning, in fact I am all for it. But I believe that having a plan is much more important than (blindly) following it. When circumstances change our plan and actions must change…adaptively.

You do not have to get it right (at first); you just have to get it started. Until the rocket is launched, it cannot change course.

Go ahead! Jump from the plane and build the parachute on the way down! Wayne Gretsky said, “You miss every shot you don’t take.” Examine your whys…you will figure out the hows.

Are your whys big enough?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Staying True

I have been involved with a small not-for-profit organization, HOPE Ministries, for the past 10 years or so. As with most small non-profits, financial stability is extremely hard to achieve, especially if the organization is not “institutionally” supported by some larger national group, which HOPE is not. So, there is a tendency to “chase the money”.

What I mean by this is to attempt to twist HOPE’s vision and mission, which, by the way, is to assist homeless or at-risk for homeless families in attaining self-sufficiency, to fit into a particular grant program’s parameters. The need for money to continue the mission sometimes clouds the clarity of the mission itself. Fortunately, so far, we have been able to fight the urge and remain true to our purpose…but it is very hard. If there is a grant available that, by a stretch, HOPE’s mission “fits”, a lively discussion is likely to be had.

For-profit businesses sometime have the same issue.

This week an old friend, maybe I shouldn’t say “old” but a longtime friend, called and set up an appointment to drop by and talk to me about some “CPA work”. Ray had retired from one of the local petrochemical facilities and was now being courted as a consultant. Of course, he had heard lots of “cocktail party talk” about the tax and business advantages of operating his own business through some type of legal entity. After a couple of hours of talking through the details 2 things became very apparent to both of us: Ray did not want to go through the “headache” of setting up and running a “real” business (we discussed other ways to “skin that cat”) and Ray’s needs were not a good fit for our firm’s vision of deep, long-term relationships with business owners.

At the end of the meeting Ray had gotten what he needed, a direction, and I, hopefully, brought some real value to him, even though it was not exactly what either of us expected.

It would have been easy to “chase the money” with Ray. We could have talked for hours on end about how he could save a few bucks by setting up a business, etc. But he did not want that. He wanted freedom from details…not more of them. As for our firm…what did we gain?….how about a new advocate that now understands our vision, not working on a project that is not within our mission, and a sense of satisfaction that you brought real value and peace of mind to our “customer”?

The reward for staying true is simply priceless!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


“Gentlemen, this is a football,” so said Vince Lombardi. Who was he talking to? Not a room full of men at a cooking class or boys in high school home economics….but to a group of veteran professional football players. I would say that Vince was interested in fundamentals! You may recall that he was not very fond of the forward pass but instead favored the “4 yards and a cloud of dust” Green Bay sweep. Wow…what a thing of beauty!

Vince Lombardi was a successful coach. Why? Not because of a playbook full of trick plays but because of his insistence on getting the basics right. Blocking and tackling if you will.

I remember back in my high school years (yes I can still remember that far back) one of my friend’s younger brother, I think he was about 8 years old, practicing his technique of spiking the ball. He became a great ball spiker but unfortunately he didn’t get the chance to do it very much because he missed out on learning the fundamentals of the game. He just wasn’t interested. Spiking the ball was more fun. Those fundamentals would have put him in a much better position for ultimate success.

Though Pistol Pete Maravich was known as a magician and showman with a basketball, a little research into his early days shows his disciplined approach to practice and an extraordinary interest in the fundamentals of the game. He practiced dribbling until he could bounce the ball perfectly…from the window of a moving car….with either hand! He practiced pass after pass and shot after shot. Yes, Pete could dribble between his legs while running full speed and he could pass behind his back accurately without looking…but this was only possible after mastering the basics.

Do fundamentals have a place in the business world? Absolutely!

Business persons must define and refine a set of critical success factors for their business operation. The more basic and few in number of these items the better. These critical success factors (or fundamentals) are the things the business absolutely must get right in order to succeed. Care should be taken when identifying these items and systems should be put in place to see that these factors are being executed or performed at the highest quality possible and very consistently.

Have you identified your critical success factors? If not, it may be time to spend a few quiet hours pondering fundamentals.

“Gentlemen, mastering fundamentals makes winners!”

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Importance of Professional Relationships

Building professional relationships and the pricing of professional services to customers can be rather complicated endeavors. Do both the professional and customer have a clear understanding of where the relationship should go? As for pricing, the easy way out is to take a rate-x-hour approach, which, when analyzed, is illogical. How do you place a value on an idea in that environment? How do you price the answer to a complicated question to the second customer when the research was done for the first? Does the amount of time it takes to perform a task always relate to the value of the task performed?

Our firm has adopted a value pricing approach which attempts to match the value of the service delivered with the price charged. Obviously, this is dependent on the value of the service as seen through the eyes of the customer. Intangible products (services) can sometimes be difficult to value if both buyer and seller do not have an understanding of the intimate relationship shared by dealers in intangibles. As the professional, we must appreciate the overall objective of the customer and not just wish to solve an immediate issue. This would be akin to being only concerned with the score at the end of the 1st inning of a 9 inning ballgame. Where do we want to end up? The customer must understand, and believe, that the professional truly cares about his well being and long-term success. The score at the end of the game is much more important than the score at the end of inning 1.

Experienced professionals and their business person customers have been educated in the “school of hard-knocks” and been told it is a “dog-eat-dog” world out there. In other words, we should be suspicious of everyone, even people that are supposed to be on our side. While agreeing that we should apply care in choosing with whom we associate, I propose that relationship building over a period of time will alleviate most worries in this area. As for the “dog-eat-dog” world, I am from rural south Mississippi and have been around lots of dogs and have never seen one dog eat another, what I have seen, and do believe, is that it is a “dog-sniff-butt-dog” world. They are suspicious only until they get to know each other.

The professional (the seller of intangible services) must truly be concerned with the success of his customer (the buyer of intangible services) and not just with getting paid on a project by project basis. This may sound like a “duh” type statement but most professionals in a rate-x-hour firm are short term focused. To be a valued advisor, the professional should spend as much time on the relationship as the specific project.

After all, when we are gone, what will be remembered…the fact that we got the project right?….or the fact that we were a true friend and cared about our customer?

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Folly of Hourly Billing

Imagine you needed to get to San Francisco and called the airline of your choice to purchase a ticket. “Baton Rouge to San Francisco” you tell the friendly voice on the other end of the line, “What is the price please?”

Such a simple question that usually begets a simple answer after a few short, qualifying questions such as dates of departure and return. But let’s assume it is your typical business professional (read: attorney or accountant) that fields your call. The conversation then may go something like this.

“What is the price you say? Well it depends,” says the rather hurried voice.

“Depends on what?” you ask, surprised.

“Well, who is flying the plane for one thing, and the number of other crew members it will take to get you to Frisco. It also depends on if we have a head wind or a tail wind, how many times we have to check the radar and with the various ground controllers, and the age of the plane.”

“That sounds rather complicated,” you say.

“Obviously, you are not familiar with airline work. There is no way we can know every thing we need to know in advance and we must make a profit to stay in business. And, by the way, we will not bill you until we double check the going rate for all of the variables. That may not be for 30 to 45 days. But don’t worry, we are honest…we will write everything down for you in the greatest detail and send it along with the bill. If there is a question, just call. But remember, if you don’t pay the bill very soon after receipt, we will send you some threatening letters and you may not be allowed to fly with us again.”

Sound silly, right. But this is the way most business professionals treat their clients. Why is it that these professionals refuse (in most cases) to quote a price for their services? The answer is usually the one seasoned business persons hate. “That is the way we’ve always done it.” It simply happens without thought.

Clients, by and large, accept this treatment, but the trend toward fixed pricing is creeping into the marketplace. Who cares how long it takes the business professional to get a result? As a matter of fact, most clients want a quick result, and are willing to pay for it. By bowing to the almighty billable hour, the business professional is discouraged from attaining a quick answer. “I can’t bill enough if I get the answer too fast.” Is this upside down thinking or what? From the first meeting, business professionals and their clients are friendly adversaries. They play the game of hourly billing, selling time, expense reports, and labor rates.

Another silly analogy to drive home the point goes something like this.

You know there is gold buried on a 100 acre tract of land. Which relationship would have more value to you…the one with the guy holding the shovel, or the one with the guy holding the map? The map right…anyone can dig…gotta know where! Just because the guy with the shovel may take longer to do his job, is that job more valuable than the knowledge held by the fellow with the map?

It is not the labor (read: amount of time spent tracking down answers or options) that clients crave, it is the intellectual capital, professional perspective, and a favorable result that garner true value. The fact is... time does not equal value. If this were true, why do business professionals invest in technology that allows them to be more efficient at research, form production, copying, and communication? Would it not be more profitable for them to slow down the process and reach a result at a much slower pace? If time and labor were truly the only factors in computing value, would not an ordinary rock found next to a diamond, deep in the mine, be just as valuable as the diamond itself?

It is time for the business professional to wake up and run his/her practice like a business. If insurance companies can set fixed prices for their products in an environment of super risk…so can attorneys and accountants. The client doesn’t owe you a profit; you have to generate that yourself by delivering quality results through a reasonable process.

If the business professional cannot give you, the customer, a fixed price for a particular service because of the variables involved, is this the professional you want working for you? We all know that unforeseen circumstances may arise, and if they do, the price may change. But pricing a service by the hour (usually a service that has been performed multiple times in the past by the same practitioner) places all the risk squarely on the shoulders of the client and also provides no incentive for the business professional to gain an efficient result.

But hark! There is a better way and it is called value pricing.

Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If this were not true, how can we explain airline seat pricing? The guy or gal sitting next to you may have paid 2 to 3 times more or less than you depending on the circumstance. And, believe it or not, no one is up in arms claiming how unfair this is.

Yet, conventional wisdom tells us that any hour of a professional’s time is as valuable as any other hour….BS (Barbara Streisand)! And who has perpetrated this farce? Why the professional of course. Why? How about risk aversion? (And this is the guy giving you business advice!).

It is much less risky for the business professional to use rate times hour billing (a cost plus profit method) than pricing his product based on value received (or perceived). Again, why? Because the professional doesn’t know the value the customer places on his work product. How can he? Value is subjective and the product delivered is intangible in most cases. In other words, you cannot kick the tire on an idea, an experienced perspective, or a creative business theory.

But are not ideas, perspectives, and business theory even more valuable than most tangible property? Microsoft’s market capitalization is in excess of GM, Ford, 3M, Weyerhaeuser, Daimler/Chrysler, Monsanto, and about 60 other Fortune 500 companies…..combined. Microsoft remember, has no factories, no machinery to speak of, and very little real estate. Its value is between the ears of its employees. This is called intellectual capital!

So….do the customers (clients) of professional service firms buy hours? I think not. They buy intellectual capital. I’ve never heard someone brag about how long it took their attorney or accountant to come up with that good idea or business strategy. And certainly they do not brag about how long it took Porsche to build their automobile. People buy solutions to problems and/or good feelings…but what do most professionals sell….hours.

Is there a solution to this madness? Yes, and it is called fixed or value pricing. Just like buying a shirt or tie at your local haberdashery, professionals should provide the price for the service to the customer prior to rendering the service. Now professionals….place a cool cloth to your forehead…you probably feel faint, but it is not that bad. Your customer (client) should know what he is willing to pay you for you to provide the requested service…and you should know your costs in rendering the service (if not, get a grip and come into the real world). Actuaries do it, airlines do it, just about everyone else in the business world tells their customers the price of their product or service in order that the customer make a well informed buying decision. You know the one, it goes like this…do I give this cat my hard earned $ for that product or service, or do I do without it?

“But I don’t know how long it will take me to provide that service and who knows what I may run into when I get started”….these are the laments from most professionals when the fixed pricing subject is broached. Phase pricing in litigation circumstances, fixed pricing for tax return preparation and telephone inquiries are possible solutions. The utilization of “change orders” when circumstances change has been accepted in the construction industry for years…why not in professional “construction” projects…are we not “building” solutions?

But back to setting the price…how is it done and how do I know what value the customer (client) places on my work. Now again…get the cool cloth ready professionals…ASK THEM!!!. If the dollar amount they tell you is much lower than you are willing to accept, consider it one less billing argument you will have at the end of next month’s billing cycle, if the price is much more than you expected to hear…accept the job and consider him a “last minute flyer”… in airline terms.

As a customer in the market for professional services, you do have a choice when it comes to which firm(s) will represent you. Why should you take all the risk and not know what services will cost when you enter into a business arrangement with your professional? Talk about the price up front and give the professional a reason to resolve your issue as expediently and effectively as possible. Remember, hourly billers need hours to bill! Hourly billers have no incentive to resolve your issue quickly…if they do, guess what?.... they make less money! For hourly billers…its all about them.

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Last evening was a special one for my wife and me as we attended Caroline’s, our youngest daughter’s, high school sport’s banquet. We watched as she received 2 honors; the first was the “Coaches Award” for the most coachable in volleyball and the second was “Most Valuable Player” in tennis. It is always a proud moment as you see your children’s hard work pay off. We have, fortunately, experienced many of these moments with our older daughter, not only in sports but academia and her chosen profession.

After the banquet, during the “milling around and getting ready to go home” stage I became involved in a conversation with another parent who began asking why Caroline was now so interested in volleyball and had “quit” playing competitive tennis. (She now only plays for the high school team and does not compete in USTA tournament tennis.)

First, I was stung by the word “quit”. I don’t like what it means and I don’t even like the way the word sounds coming out of my mouth. I thought for a second, and then informed the other parent that she had simply changed her focus from tennis to volleyball. Now…doesn’t that sound better?

I have, of course, pondered this exchange for the better part of today. Is there a difference between quitting and changing focus? I believe that there is... or am I just rationalizing?

In this case, I think Caroline, has simply exchanged something she was passionate about for a while to something she is passionate about now. Bad or good? I don’t know.

Many years ago I was a non-scholarship football player at the collegiate level. I should say that I was a non-scholarship football “practicer” as I never played a down in a real game. I was, however, considered to be “on the team” for a year before I “changed focus”. You see, it became abundantly clear to me, after giving it my best effort, that most of the college recruiters were right, I was just too slow to play at this level. At different times coaches that were timing my 40 yard dash made comments like, “We should time this kid with a calendar,” or “this kid can’t run out of sight in a day’s time.” I took the hint and hit the books.

I truly do not consider myself a quitter. I simply changed my focus to academics and becoming the best I could be at my chosen profession. I was not going to get any faster. Again, rationalization?

Not long ago I was discussing a not-so-successful business venture with a customer. He had done just about all that he could to change the direction of a part of his operation. I suggested that we may want to consider focusing on the parts of his business that were doing well and let this one die a natural death. Boy, were those the wrong words, he informed me that he was not a quitter and he would keep after this segment of the business until it worked. Admirable? Maybe.

You see sometimes we must take stock of what we have and how to best use it. Although a great basketball player, no matter how hard he tries I do not think Shaquille O’Neal could be a great jockey. Nor do I think Hulk Hogan could train enough to become a great ballerina. It just is not going to happen. But what if they tried and saw it was not going to work out and said, “This is not for me.” Are they quitters….or are they changing focus?

What I believe is that we should pick our battles, then give it enough time to make a rational decision. I will not argue that if I would have stayed on that team and the rest of the team were stricken with an untimely illness or about 50 kids were in a train wreck….I might have been able to contribute positively. But short of that, I was better with a book in my hand than a football.

Quitting or changing focus? It is a personal decision. I hope we can all evaluate our strengths and then concentrate on our personal passion. If we change focus or direction a time or 2, looking for things we are passionate about, how can this be bad?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Presidential Politics, Sushi, and Business Judgment

As I write this in January of 2008, campaigning is well underway for the office of the President of the United States. The election is still 10 months away but every other television advertisement is a political commercial of some type. Candidates are touting their positive characteristics and belittling their opponents.

In some ads the candidate will go on and on about how his adversary has changed his/her position on this issue or that. For the life of me I cannot figure out why this is so bad. In fact, I consider it a positive trait in most cases.

Let me explain.

My family loves sushi. They have visited their favorite restaurant so much that the chef and wait team know them by name, their preferred table, and their favorite dishes. Being from south Mississippi, I always considered raw fish as bait. You could say I was skeptical to the extent of being closed minded. I simply could not understand why someone would eat that stuff. But my wife and children liked the sushi so much that if I wanted to spend time with them (which I certainly did), I had to go to Sushi Yama (the restaurant of choice). And, you guessed it, I began trying a little of the sushi. I didn’t try much at first, but steadily I branched out in the taste testing arena. After about 6 months of testing and experimenting I became a sushi fan! I had changed my mind!

In thinking about changing of positions on issues, I certainly had flip-flopped. No sushi at all versus, maybe now, one of my favorite foods. Why did I begin thinking differently? This is easy folks….evidence! The unavoidable evidence was that the stuff was good indeed! When I had only the evidence of knowledge gained when 8 years old and bass fishing, which, by the way, was some 39 years ago, I was not open to anything new in this area of my life. But when faced with indisputable evidence of good taste, my mind was easily changed.

Now, back to politics. If a candidate believes a certain way, but then attains evidence that his belief is false or that there is a better way…shouldn’t they change their minds? Why of course! You know humans first believed the world was flat, but given better evidence, we changed our minds.

Does evidence have a place in business? Sure it does…just about everywhere. Everyday we go to work and ply our trade hoping that the gods of the market shine on us and our products and services are attractive enough to sell at a favorable price. We try lots of things to make ourselves, our products and/or services fly off the shelves. We watch, or should watch, closely what is selling and why. We study evidence. If something is working, we stick with it; if it is not and we don’t change we could be considered insane. One definition of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.

We humans have the ability to think and reason. In fact this is about the only thing that separates us from the animal world (that and the fact we put ice in our drinks!). If we don’t use these qualities of thinking and reasoning, however, it is as if we don’t have them, much like the person who does not read is no better off than the person who can read and doesn’t.

Evidence and reasoning…strong arguments for mind changing.

Here’s to the flip-floppers out there, and pass the spicy tuna rolls please.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Watermelons or Potatoes??

Farmers are a risk taking bunch. Elements out of their control affect their success or failure. They are at the mercy of the scorching sun, drenching rains, and driving winds. I propose that the most successful farmers don’t pay much attention to the circumstances out of their control however, but are obsessive about the factors within their realm of influence.

The farmer prepares the field each season by ridding it of unwanted weeds, fertilizing the soil and providing adequate irrigation. He gathers the right tools and equipment and labor. In a word, he is “ready” to succeed.

But….do you suppose that a farmer ever meticulously prepares the land then plants potatoes at planting time and at harvest time is surprised that watermelons have not grown? Of course not, farmers are smarter than that. They know you reap what you sow. Planting potatoes yield potatoes not watermelons….this is a well known farming fact. Why would we plant one crop and expect another? We should not, and for this very reason I have developed a saying, a rule of sorts…it goes like this… “Don’t plant potatoes if you want watermelons.” Brilliant!

This past spring a family of raccoons (just coons, if you are from Southwest Mississippi) took up residence in my attic. It may sound funny to you, but to my wife and daughters this was no laughing matter. I was charged with ridding the house of these unwanted visitors. So…I secured a “capture alive” trap from my local animal control office and set about trapping the intruders. I was informed by the animal control officers that Baton Rouge raccoons love cat food. Now the only coons I knew about (the Southwest Mississippi version) loved corn out of Mr. Bill Trask’s fields or odorous leftovers out of unattended garbage cans. But what did I know; I am a country boy now in the city. I baited the trap with cat food.

It was only after I let the extremely irritated cat out of the trap at 3:30 am, while dressed only in my tightie whities that I realized I had broken my own rule. When you bait with cat food you catch cats, not coons. Watermelons or potatoes, coons or cats….interesting. I eventually caught all the raccoons and released them near some of my best friends’ homes…just kidding….and all is well on the home front. But somehow I could not let go of the reap what you sow thoughts.

If we treat our kids disrespectfully, why do we expect them to treat us respectfully? If we practice our chosen sport lackadaisically, why do we expect to play well during the game? If we do not prepare for business meetings or learn all about our products, how can we expect to help our customers to the extent they will become repeat purchasers? Expecting watermelons when potatoes are planted is akin to insanity.

Like the farmer, however, only so much is within our control. Treating children with respect will not guarantee they will always be respectful. Practicing extremely hard will not guarantee a sporting victory. Knowing your stuff in business situations will not guarantee delighted customers.

But there is one guarantee….not preparing as we should will guarantee failure. Oh sure, a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, but is that how you want to live your life? Hoping you are lucky?

By doing what we need to do to put ourselves in the place of most potential to succeed we will certainly increase our “batting average” in our quest for successful life experiences and business ventures. But what happens when we do all we can do? We have worked with our children regarding respectfulness, practiced until we could play the sport in our sleep, prepared for the meetings until every answer is automatic… yet the sun scorches, the rain drenches, and the winds shred our crops? Should we crawl in the proverbial hole and wait for the next natural disaster? Of course not. Man up! Hold your head high and set your sights on trying again. Persevere!

Life is actually a series of risks. And the successful mitigate those risks as much as possible by putting themselves in the place of most potential. Without risks there would be no reward. And not only no reward but no excitement either. Teddy Roosevelt put it very succinctly when he said:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Are you half heartedly stumbling through life, dejected because you planted potatoes and expected watermelons? If not I bet your are excited about today and even more so about tomorrow, if not there is great news…yesterday ended last night and today watermelons seeds are on sale! All you have to do is sow them!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hammer or Swiss Army Knife?

It has been said that to the hammer, everything looks like a nail.

When I first heard this said by a business associate I had to think very hard about the real meaning of it. The context of the conversation was a discussion of how some attorneys in a law firm approach every case the exact same, no matter the differing facts of the cases. To those attorneys every situation appears the same, thus should be handled the same.

In today’s world this could be a recipe for disaster.

Treating every client, every employee, every student, every customer, and every circumstance the same doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the individuals involved in the process. Sure we could look for only the individuals to employ, teach or serve that exactly fit our wants and needs, but is this really practical? What we should look for is not the hammer but the Swiss Army knife. This instrument has more gadgets than a few. It is adaptable to multiple situations.

As the leader of an organization or business, adaptability is an enviable trait. I have never heard it said that a single ridged business philosophy will conquer the market. Flexibility and being adaptive to change more likely tips the odds in your favor.

“Bear” Bryant, one of the winningest coaches in college football, admitted in his autobiography, Bear, that he made the mistake, early in his career, of treating all of his players the same. He also admitted to losing some kids due to this belief and behavior. Kids , he became to believe, which could have really helped his teams had he been more flexible. Later in his career, during the time he was winning the most, his philosophy regarding coaching became more adaptive to the individual. He said, “You just have to know who will react best to a kick in the butt… or a pat on the butt.” I believe it was this understanding that lead to his success and to a rival coach saying, “He can take his’n and beat your’n or take your’n and beat his’n.” (Obviously that rival coach was from the South!)

So how can this translate to business? Just as coaches teach and inspire youngsters to perform at the top of their ability in sports, business owners should teach and inspire their teams of employees to perform at their best. To do this a business leader should work to discover the individual wants and needs of his team members. What is it that will inspire them? It is easy to assume that more money in the paycheck is the answer.


Money could be one of the things that inspire, but I propose that reasonable compensation is only a table stake, a method of getting in the game. Employee team members usually want to feel like part of a team, to know they are appreciated for their part…no matter how small a role. In our consulting practice, we often perform an exercise with a management team by asking them what is the most important part of a vehicle. The most common answer is the engine. This is hard to argue with, until you begin discussing the challenges of trying to drive anywhere in a driving rain without windshield wipers! The “stars” on the team are important, but the team itself is paramount. It must all come together.

Recognition, a fun working environment, and strong, trusting relationships with co-workers could be as, or more, important as the size of any paycheck.

What about customers….should we treat them equally? Absolutely not! Choices, choices, and more choices seem to be the mantra of the American consumer. Those institutions that have become adept at serving many customers in an individual (not equal) manner tend to be the most successful.

Professionals charging by the hour for their services are one of the most offensive methods of treating customers equally. I propose that this understanding by professionals that being treated equally is what the consumer wants is 100% false. I also propose that the consumer wants to be treated individually. He has unique wants and needs. Why should he be forced to go through the same meat grinder as everyone before him? Also, this hourly method of pricing services presupposes that every hour of a professional’s time has the same value as any other hour. Again, this could not be further from the truth.

Now, let’s consider Starbucks, a champion of treating customers individually. (One of my friends calls it 4 Bucks..because of the pricyness of the coffee.) The actual process the employees use to greet customers and make the coffee is fairly standard. At the end of the line the cups look pretty much the same. But oh… the content of that cup can be drastically customized! I call it “customerized”. Starbucks also is wonderful at explaining to its employees that value of customization. I have a friend whose name is Eric and he sometimes goes by “E”. E frequents Starbucks. The team at his favorite store greets him by name and has even named his customized coffee concoction an “E”. Given a choice, where do you think E will go to purchase his $4 cup of coffee?

And Starbucks profit margin on the $4 cup….about $3.60! Starbucks is a Swiss Army knife…not a hammer. They have mastered the art of extreme customerization.

How does your business or organization stack up? Is a customer just a number, or do you take the time to understand what they each prefer and appreciate? Consumers are looking for value, not necessarily the lowest price. And value, remember, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You can get a cup of blah coffee at the Quick Stop for about 75 cents or you can get a double latte, with double chocolate syrup, Splenda, fat-free creamer, and whipped cream at Starbucks.

What is your cup of Joe, Joe?

Are you a hammer or a Swiss Army knife?

Super Bowls are not won (or lost) on Super Sunday

Can this really be an essay about business? Certainly…just as ballgames are not actually won on the day of the game but in the countless hours of practice beforehand, successful businesses become successful through careful planning and preparation.

The late Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the famous coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, said that to be successful the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare. Enough said! Everyone wants to be a winner, but few take the time and put forth the effort to do what it takes to prepare to win.

In athletic events the variables are many, but in business the variables are innumerable. How can we prepare for every contingency? We can’t, but we can prepare for the most likely ones. We simply need to raise the “batting average” when batting in a business venue. A successful business associate informed me that he works on contingency planning during his most highly productive time of his day. He calls this working ON not IN his business. He knows that events seldom happen just as planned and by thinking through where the most likely problems will occur, he can devise plan B….and C, and D. He calls this “Chinese Fire Drill” avoidance! By conditioning his team to think in this manner, there are not many surprises to be faced. They know that if “this” happens then we do “that” and if “that” happens then we do “this”.

I have heard many not-so-successful business people lament about their more successful competition being lucky in one way, shape, or form. Sure sometimes the playing field is tipped in favor of another, but most of the time it is a matter of someone else working harder and preparing to be successful, rather than leaving it up to chance.

My older daughter has recently graduated from college and has begun her working career. In the weeks leading up to the actual graduation ceremony many friends and acquaintances asked me about her university experience and what she was on to next. I proudly informed them of her tennis accomplishments (Samford University freshman of the year, 2 time all conference, 2 time conference tournament champs, 2 NCAA appearances, and 1 regular season championship) they inevitably comment about how lucky she is.

Then I talk about her academic accomplishments (President’s scholar, Athletic commissioner’s Honor role, a degree in 4 years)… again the word luck comes up.

From there I talk about her nursing job she has accepted in the city she wants to live in, at the hospital that she wants to work in, on the floor that she wants to work on, and the very shift she requested.

We then talk about her renting a nice house from one of her professors that is close to her work and to other places of importance to her.

Lucky….they all say it. I myself have even said it. She is a lucky girl.

But then I started to think about that a little. What is luck and how does it come about?

In regard to tennis, I seem to recall hundreds of thousands of serves, forehands, backhands, and volleys, hours and hours of practice and strategy discussions with her coach, untold numbers of tournaments, and camps. And, my personal favorite, early mornings before school with Dad working on something she wasn’t happy with in her game. Yeah, she was lucky in tennis.

Academics… even though I wasn’t personally there, I heard about the classes, the library, the study groups, the visits with professors and advisors and the, back of the tennis van, study sessions. Yeah, she was lucky when it came to academics.

Beginning career and living arrangements….again, I wasn’t there but I got the calls about all the options, salary, benefits, retirement plans, future opportunities, stepping stones, budgets, house vs. apartments, her visits and relationship with Geri (her favorite professor and mentor), and about a thousand and one other issues she has been considering. She sought out advice from those who had done it before or had specific knowledge in an area…..Yeah, she is lucky with the job and house.

I think you get the picture….you make your own luck, most of the time. Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. Luck is what happens when you are bold.

Preparation, a strong work ethic, and boldness…what a combination….almost unstoppable! Where are you in these areas? I can honestly say I have fallen short in all of them from time to time.

Please note that in none of the paragraphs above is intellect mentioned. It is not that I believe intellect to be not important or desirable. But I believe there is a very low ratio between success and intellect. The world is full of intellectuals who do not convert thought to action. Action brings results! Preparation makes taking action much easier. In most cases it is not “getting it right” that matters but “getting it started”. Until the rocket is launched it cannot adjust its course.
And it could not be even launched with out a vast amount of preparation.

Here’s to showing up, being ready for the game, studying the business plan, and launching rockets!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cheating....It can be the right thing to do!

OK, so the title may be misleading, but how else to describe fraud? Still confused? Let me explain. When I was growing up I was the youngest of 4 male cousins and a brother. All of them were talented athletes. Sure I had some talent but nowhere near how God had blessed them. When we would play touch football (which often turned into tackle football) I was always last to be chosen. My ego was often bruised and battered. To this day I have an inferiority complex. So….I began to cheat.

I began to practice even when they were not around. I would throw the ball high in the air and run to catch it. I would throw the ball into a small cedar tree until the neighbor thought the tree would die. I would read books about great football players and if they said they ate raw eggs…I ate raw eggs. (This is all true.) You see, I really wasn’t that good, but by cheating I was able to commit fraud…and convince myself that I was. I thought by working extra hard when they were not looking, I may be able to surprise them next time.

Does this make a little sense now? In some instances cheating can be good.

In school I sometimes did not quite “get” what the teacher was talking about. Maybe because it was complicated or it was a left brain activity and I am right brained or maybe I just simply was not fully paying attention. So…I cheated.

I would re-read the material, ask a friend to allow me to study her notes or explain it to me again. Sometimes I even visited the teacher before the test for some extra tutoring. By cheating…(studying more), most of the time, I got a good result.

Today, I cheat daily in my business life. My job is one of consulting (talking) with business owners about how to improve the performance of their businesses. In order to be able to make some sense to them, I read lots of books and papers about business. I attend seminars and lectures on subject matter that may help me help the business owners. I prod my team to help me think through situations and circumstances. Two (or more) brains are better than one. And I usually don’t depend too much on my memory. I cheat…I take notes, then I read and re read those notes. I spend time thinking about what I read or heard and how it may apply to a situation with one of my customers. I also usually go into meetings with an agenda. Once a business man told me he was impressed by how organized I was and that I knew what we needed to talk about each time we met. I didn’t tell him that the agenda is nothing more than my cheat notes!

Most of the truly great athletes, business persons, and world leaders are cheaters! These people begin with a tremendous amount of talent (a blessing from God) then they begin the cheating process. They create an unfair advantage for themselves by working so hard and creating muscle memory and brain automation.

My younger daughter, when she was 10, was the number 1 ranked 10 year old in the state of Louisiana in competitive tennis. She picked it up just because the rest of my family enjoyed tennis. She played from the time she could carry a racquet until she was about 12. She is 14 now and has not played in a couple of years. She and I went to the court last weekend and hit a few balls around. I was amazed at how she played. Although rusty, she was still very good. Why? Muscle memory. She had done it so much in her childhood that keeping her head down on the ball, getting her feet into position, and striking the ball crisply was as natural as walking to her.

This exercise with my daughter triggered my thinking toward mind memory or brain automation. If we think a certain way long enough, it becomes automatic. Have you ever noticed that some people are negative most of the time and some people are positive most of the time? The way they think is automatic…they simply cannot help it.


This brings me back to cheating.

If you are a negative (deficit based) thinker and have reacted that way to information or suggestions for a long period of time, then that thought process may have become entrenched and automatic. But if you want to make a change in this habit you may have to cheat a bit. If you think about thoughts moving through your brain just as water flows in a river bed, the more or longer the same type thoughts flow, the deeper the channel and more difficult for a change in course. But, nature has provided us with a built in “Corps of Engineers”. You can send in the “workers” to dig a new channel, a small tributary, which can begin to divert your thoughts in another direction.

This is where the cheating comes in. When a negative thought occurs, simply call on the “workers” to wipe it out and replace it with a positive thought. After doing this time and time again, a new tributary will be formed. If simply calling on the workers will not work for you, maybe an advance form of cheating could be employed.

Charles Barkley, a celebrated and talented professional basketball player, who was once known as the “Round Mound of Rebound”, was overweight for most of his youth. When he wanted to eat between meals and the “workers” wouldn’t answer the call, he popped his wrist with a rubber band that he wore there. The sting would remind him of his negative thought and then he could more readily replace it with a positive action. After employing this technique over a period of time, he was able to remove the rubber band. The tributary to the thought river was deep enough to navigate!

For some reason, we think, idealistically, that the world should be always fair. Intellectually, however, we know this is not true. So why do we think in any situation, whether it be school, business, family life or war that the circumstances should be fair? General Colin Powell commented when he heard a statement from an esteemed Senator from the great state of New York concerning how the United States had really not accomplished much in defeating Iraq because of the unfairness of the fight. “It absolutely was not fair and I never want it to be!” General Powell indicated he wanted overwhelming superiority in every facet of the battle, in numbers, equipment, training, technology, and enthusiasm, and to add to that, he also wanted to catch the enemy asleep and totally unsuspecting.

Now that it cheating, and it is the way to success!

I don’t know about you but I want the field tipped in my favor every time. And if I have to cheat to do it, I will. Yes, the verb “cheat” as I use it, is a play on words. I hope that your thought rivers run true and your tributaries are easily built. But if they are not, please don’t be afraid to cheat as much and as often as you can.

Cheating can be good.