Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hiring Right

If your organization’s job is to climb trees, which would you rather do, hire a squirrel or train a horse?

Building the right team is important! Start with good stock.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being a Quitter

Vince Lombardi said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

I don’t always agree with Vince.

Winners know how to quit the right things...such as being lazy, such as doing things that are not advancing learning and improvement, such as things that take focus away from their most important objectives.

I am a firm believer that our “stop doing” list should be longer than our “to do” list. If we stop doing the things that don’t matter in the larger scheme of things, we will have more time to do the things that do.

It is certainly time for me to reexamine my day to day tasks.

Winners quit all the time…they quit the things that make them losers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Couple of Quick Observations

Last week I called for a 10-15 minute conference call with the leadership team of one of my clients. I wanted to discuss and refine the draft agenda I had prepared for their strategic planning day to be held at the end of the following week. It was a short but interesting and spirited telephone discussion. It hit me after the call that the development of a good agenda had actually removed some of the need to discuss in detail a few of my suggested topics.

Observation: developing a good agenda may remove the need for a meeting altogether...or at the very least, make the meeting more effective.(In short…a little planning goes a long way!)

Also during the call I brought up some operational measurements that I thought would be interesting to track and monitor for any trends. That sparked a debate about what to measure.

Observation: deciding what to measure is sometimes just as important as the measurement itself.

Still learning…pretty cool.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Filling in the Blanks

When in a decision making mode sometimes we don’t have all of the facts about a situation. At this point most of us simply “fill in the blanks” with something…and sometimes that something is pure fiction.

Always, always, always attempt to get the facts, or at least as many as you can, prior to making the final call. By this simple action you will save yourself lots of heartburn, heartache, and maybe even heartbreak.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Shared thinking is only as good as the people doing the sharing.

Who are you hanging around with?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Ten Cannots

I ran across these 10 statements while doing some reading about our Founding Fathers and the struggles they endured putting together the U.S. Constitution. The actual listing of cannots was published much later in a pamphlet in 1916 by a minister, William J. Boetcker. He was obviously an outspoken advocate for liberty and had done much thinking about the American people’s way of life.

The statements, to me, apply much more to my personal and business life than to my beliefs about political matters.

Here they are:

1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
3. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
4. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
5. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s incentive and independence.
6. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
7. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
9. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

I am also reminded, by reading this, of one of my favorite quotes attributed to Abraham Lincoln,

“The best thing we can do for the poor is not become one of them.”

Abe, I’m trying.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Very Un-Accountant-Like Thought

I believe that an imprecise measurement of the right thing is infinitely more valuable than a precise measurement of the wrong thing.

There…I said it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Outside the Lines

It is pretty interesting how we attempt to raise and educate our children. We want them to be obedient, polite, studious, and above all…to color inside the lines. By and large, we want them to be like every other “good” kid.

Without challenging the conventional wisdom of the above, I would like to point out a few things. Some of these things I have observed by a cursory study of history and some from personal experience. First, the great leaders of our society have not colored inside the lines. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan all were almost totally oblivious to the “lines” they needed to stay within. They led by their own sense of right and adventure. They were not encumbered by the thoughts of “fitting in”. They did not feel the need to “just go along” and be like the stereotypical good guy. I am sure you could name other leaders with the same internal compass.

The most successful business leaders that I have had the privilege to work with or have read about are much the same. In most cases, lines are ignored, or they are there only for people like me (those that have attempted to stay within the lines) to worry about on their behalf. Their thought, though they may not verbalize it, is… “I have the ideas, fortitude, and am willing to take the entrepreneurial risk…I pay you to keep me out of trouble”. And, by the way, trouble usually does not bother them. We, color within the line guys, will walk a mile out of our way to avoid it. The risk takers, the achievers, the real leaders don’t mind rubbing shoulders with trouble (maybe I should define trouble here as adversity or risk)…in fact, I think they get a thrill out of it. The closer to the edge the better! Apple’s Steve Jobs is a great example of someone to which lines mean very little. He has succeeded in creating products that the market didn’t even know it wanted. I wonder how he behaved in the classroom? I bet I can guess.

Now, back to our kids. In the movie “The Sandlot” (one of my all time favorites) one of the moms tells her, “color inside the lines” kid to “get dirty, go out and get into trouble”. She was simply trying to gently push him toward a more rich life, full of worthwhile experiences. I know this thought is very counter-intuitive, but isn’t that what we want for our children, a rich life full of worthwhile experiences?

I truly believe that the people who color outside of the lines are the ones that make the world a more interesting and better place. They also probably talk a little too loud, drive a little too fast, and certainly make us within the lines folks a little uncomfortable.

God bless them!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just for Grins: Things Yogi Said

1. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
2. Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
3. If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
4. If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up some place else.
5. It gets late early out there.
6. Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.
7. We made too many wrong mistakes.
8. You can observe a lot just by watching.
9. I really didn’t say everything I said.

Just how cool is this?

Happy 4th of July everyone. It is great to live in the USA.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What We Think

If what we think determines who we are.

And who we are determines what we do.

Then we should really think about what we think about.

Life is so simple.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Do We Do When We Don't HAVE To?

In working with lots of different businesses in lots of different industries and professions over the years I have observed that the most successful share 2 characteristics.

1. They pay attention to detail and assure that what the business does… it does well.
2. In the “down” times they work on improvement or new ideas/concepts.

Sounds pretty simple. Sometimes simple is hard.

Number 1 is obvious. Number 2 is much less so. Number 1 is usually related to working IN the business and Number 2 is usually related to working ON the business.

Using a hairdresser as an example, styling and cutting hair is an IN the business activity and it must be done skillfully and to the customer’s expectations or the customer may not come back. But what about the time that the hairdresser does not have a customer in his/her chair? What are they doing? Maybe they read a magazine, talk on the phone to a friend, or simply explore the events of the day with co-workers or other customers. Others may study the latest in hair technology, new styles and cuts, or develop new marketing ideas to lessen the actual down time. In other words, they work ON their business. Who do you think will be the most successful? Easy answer, right?

I believe that most of us approach our jobs and careers in a very reactive mindset. We simply react to what is set before us. Maybe it is showing up and styling the hair of the customer who made an appointment, maybe it is returning a client phone call, or assembling the parts to a manufactured item... all reactive activities.

Characteristic Number 2 begs the question, “What do we do when we don’t have to be doing anything?” The more successful person is much more proactive and spends the time working ON his/her business. They ask themselves questions like, “How can I be more efficient and effective?” “How can I attract more customers?” They then develop plans and strategies to achieve their desired results. And then they actually put the plans and strategies into action.

Simple yet difficult. Success takes intentionality. It doesn’t just happen!

How do you utilize your time when you don’t have to be doing anything? What type of person are you…reactive or proactive?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's Your Standard?

In discussing systems and processes with various business owners we often ask, “What are the standards?” What we mean is, “What level of service or performance excellence do you consider the norm for a particular action or for the business as a whole?”

You may be surprised that some operators have never considered the question. We sometimes get, “Well, as long as it sells, or as long as it works…then we are satisfied” or “We’ve never discussed with our team what we really expect.”

The members of our teams are not mind readers…if they do not know the standard that you, the business leader, expect, how can they meet or exceed it? Does your team know your expectations of them? Do you know what your customers expect of you and your business?

Maybe the first standard to work on is communication. When? How often? In what manner? Through what channel? How do we measure success? These are just a few of the questions that great business leaders answer and refine over time.

High standards bring high results!

When we begin to allow our standards to slip, what we are really saying is that we don’t have to be this good all the time…and if this happens effort, pride, and results begin to disappear. We must constantly evaluate our standards and our desire to consistently meet them.

What’s your standard?

Monday, May 31, 2010


How can discombobulate be a word?

I have heard this word twice in the past week. Once by a very well educated person whom I respect. It gave me great pause.

I think this accumulation of letters is one of those “made up” words. I know it was not in the big unabridged dictionary in the Centreville (Mississippi) Academy library when I was in high school in the late seventies. I know this for our world class English teachers, Mrs. Germany, Mrs. Smith, or Mrs. Walters would certainly have made us use it in a sentence, just as they did with the likes of ogre, buffoon, and raucous. Discombobulate is just too cool a word for them to just skip over and not insist upon its daily usage. Therefor the word must be “new” or simply invented by someone with too much time on their hands.

For the record, discombobulate means to confuse or disconcert, to upset or frustrate. The actual act of discombobulating is called discombobulation. Not to be confused, of course, with discombobulated, which is what you are after the discombobulation has occurred.

I am acquainted with several persons after which spoken to for a short time, I feel totally confused and disconcerted…sometimes even upset and frustrated. I now know these folks to be discombobulators. And they should be avoided at all costs.

If I were a betting man, which I am not, but if I were, I would bet that you know some discombobulators also.

One of them may have the given name of Tim. Sorry… sometimes it just happens...it is simply unexplainable. I am thinking of marketing a new bumper sticker…

Discombobulation Happens!

It has obviously been a slow morning for me in the thought department.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Paradox

Last week I was talking with an attorney friend about a mutual client that had made a multi-million dollar investment in a project. The client is in his late 60’s. The attorney commented that if he had that much money his investment would be in him and his family’s stability and security.

I initially agreed with my friend but have thought much about the comment since the initial conversation. It comes to me that most of us, me included, yearn for security and stability, but we also want improvement. I don’t think we can improve our lot in life AND stay the same. Therefore, in order to grow we must challenge the status quo. Growth means change. For that matter, failure means change also. In order to attempt to grow and improve, we must change…we must risk.

I don’t think we can have it both ways…security/stability and possibility for improvement/growth. If we want greater possibilities we can’t settle for just what we have now.

I guess it is a matter of degree… but sometimes we must let go of the figurative dime to pick up the figurative dollar. Achievers challenge the status quo always. Our client is an achiever…he looks at the same things we all see…but he sees possibilities. He sees growth and improvement.

Status quo is never good enough.

I think I am still learning.

I hope I don’t stop.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Several months ago I had lunch with a group of young professionals and a friend who happens to be the Founding Headmaster of an independent school here in Baton Rouge. I have done work sporadically for this friend for over 20 years. His school was founded in 1965 and my friend has been its only Headmaster. Though I do not know his exact age, I would guess mid-seventies.

The purpose of our meeting was to gather some data regarding how his school is run as the young professionals are board members of another school for which I consult.

What a beautiful mind! His passion and drive are contagious. Through our discussions over the years I have noticed his zeal for his mission in life…the advancement of educating those who choose to attend his school. I sense that he fears nothing in his quest to stay up to date on new systems, ideas, and technology in learning. My friend has evolved and continues to evolve. His eagerness to discuss his experiments with different teaching techniques, hiring policies, financial plans (they may even be called “schemes”!), and other ways to just “make it work” are admirable for their creativeness.

On the other hand, I have recently been involved with several groups of middle-aged business persons who, simply put, are stagnant. They have achieved a modicum of success in the past and seem content to rest on their laurels. Their attitude screams of frustration that times have changed and what worked in the past doesn’t today. They have not evolved and seem to not want to try.

Disappointed is how I feel. Potential wasted.

My take away? Age has little to do with energy. Age has little to do with passion. Age has little to do with attitude. Age has little to do with achievement and success.

BTW…I just turned 50…maybe that is why I noticed this contrast in behavior. Please keep reminding me to be receptive to change…the alternative is irrelevance.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Price

“Anything can be accomplished if we are willing to pay the price.”

I happen to believe this.

However, part of this statement causes lots of thought, confusion, angst, and down right anxiety for me. What is the price?

The easy answer, I guess, is that the price depends on what we want to accomplish. The greater the accomplishment, the greater the price. Right?


It seems to me that the greater the clarity of focus, the greater the likelihood of accomplishment. There is an old Chinese proverb that says “If we chase 2 rabbits, we catch neither.” On second thought, maybe, giving up on the second rabbit is the price we pay to catch the first. Maybe giving up on some of our dreams, allows us to achieve others. This would argue for prioritizing what we really want. We must also assure that our priorities are not in conflict. We cannot both spend more time with our families AND spend more time gaining expertise in a time consuming hobby. The fewer the priorities, the greater the likelihood of accomplishment. The more congruent the dreams, the greater the likelihood of accomplishment.

The price may simply mean realizing that we cannot accomplish everything. Sacrificing something, a dream or dreams, money, time, fame, relationships….may make way for the accomplishment(s) we truly desire.

I guess we need to be careful about what we really want. Maybe I need to change the tense here…maybe I need to be really careful about what I really want!

Since I started writing this I think I understand “the price” a little better. Hope you do too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Next Play

Today is April 16, 2010. For the past 27 years or so this day has meant a day to do nothing but chill. As a CPA with a tax practice the filing deadline of April 15 has traditionally caused an approximate 2 month concentration of work and stress. But today, this April 16, I am not chilling…I’m planning.

I have long advised my athletic daughters that the most important play or point is always the next one. I’ve decided to take my own advice. Either after a good point or a bad point in tennis or volleyball the point is over. It is time to move on. Next play…where do we go from here? How can we put ourselves in the place of most potential to succeed now?

Today I am looking at the next play. There are lots of details to follow up on, lots of action items to implement, lots of decisions to be made, and lots of opportunity to seize.

April 15 is over and tomorrow April 16 will be behind me. I’m excited. I can’t wait until Monday!

Next play please!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Listen and Silent have the exact same letters. I know there is some deep meaning in there somewhere.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Unknown Unknowns

Currently I am working with 2 clients that are facing some very large decisions. The details surrounding the decisions are not relevant; however, the decisions themselves are very relevant.

Sound like double talk?

Not really.

What I mean is… that the result of the decisions are not relevant…but the decision making process is very relevant. I have often related to my children that neither I nor they will always make the right decision, but we should always make decisions right. (For the record, I, myself did make a wrong decision back in the 8th grade. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it resulted in a trip to the principal’s office and contact with the “board of education”.)

These two clients are approaching the decisions in radically different ways and with radically different levels of stress. Remember, the result of these choices will follow the businesses for years to come.

Client number 1 is fretting about making the wrong choice. Yet he is not doing much else. He paces and thinks, paces and thinks. What if I make the wrong decision? He is feeling lots of stress.

Client number 2 has made several very important lists. He has listed the known knowns. (What he knows to be true.) He has listed the known unknowns. (The things he knows he does not know…and maybe can only find out by making the decision.) But the list he does not know how to compile is the one of the unknown unknowns. (He simply does not know what he does not know.)

This client, then, began asking questions. Good questions. When do I have to make the decision or when is the opportune time? Have I gathered enough information to make a well informed choice? Have I consulted my trusted advisors? Do I know anyone else that has been in a situation similar to this? He is trying to find out information that he does not even know that he doesn’t know. He is on a mission and is energized by the process.

Who do you think is more likely to make a right decision? Who do you think is making the decision right? Easy choice here, correct? Client number 2 of course.

When he gets to the point that the timing is right and he has gathered good information he will simply “plant the flag” and move forward in a confident manner. Will his decisions always be right…I doubt it… but his batting average sure will be better than client number 1 and his stress level will be much more manageable.

Do you have any unknown unknowns? It is difficult to answer that. How would you know?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Tomorrow

My day will start early tomorrow. A client has requested a two hour appointment beginning at 6:30 am to discuss an important strategy decision he is facing. I will then return to my office for our team’s regular 9:00 am Monday morning WIP (work in process) meeting. We are attempting to expand this meeting to not just go over what is on the agenda for the week in regard to projects in the office, but to also set each or our 3 biggest goals for the day/week.

A lunch meeting will follow with a potential new client who was referred to us and is currently simply looking for a second opinion related to the tax structure of his businesses. I will attempt to go much deeper than this with him. Tax structure is important but what is his ultimate vision for his operation? My experience tells me that he may not have a clear picture of his “perfect” operation or what the critical success factors are for him to achieve that vision.

At 2:00 another meeting! An investor group representative is stopping by to discuss several accounting issues, project management, and liquidation scenarios related to the ultimate sale of the project. This may not sound very exciting… but to these business guys the success of this project and ultimate “cash out” is very important.

Later in the day, 4:30 or 5:00 my wife and younger daughter have an appointment with her volleyball coach and mentor. Are we putting Caroline in the place of most potential to earn an athletic scholarship? Is this what she really wants? If so, what is our continuing strategy and action steps? These are some pretty big decisions and there is lots of information to gather.

After all of this “busyness”, I already know what I will be thinking at the end of the day. Did I do enough, did I really help anyone, what could I have done to improve on the day’s tasks? You see I am cursed with something I call “positive discontent”. No matter how good things seem. I just cannot allow myself to be totally satisfied or content. There will always be something that I could have done to “make it better” or I could have been more effective in some way.

I don’t think I am a perfectionist. I do enjoy the quality completion of tasks. But I think I enjoy examining and improving the process as much, or more, than getting to the end.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. Busy days like it don’t come along too often…thank goodness! There would be no time to get the actual work done. The planning days are the most fun. They allow days like tomorrow to happen with out unbearable apprehension. I consider my “positive discontent” an asset. It helps keep me sharp. I need every advantage I can get!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Sometimes when talking with business owners I ask them where they see their business operation in 3-5 years. The most often response has to do with a financial position. When talking with my younger daughter about her life goals (she is 16 now) the most often response after “I’m not sure” is “Doing something that makes me happy”.

I see both of these initial responses as a sort of “leapfrog” answer. Though not wrong in any sense, the business owner and my daughter have leapfrogged over the details (cause) directly to an outcome (effect). I believe that we live in a cause and effect world, a sort of “reap what you sow” environment.

Most of my involvement with my clients revolves around “causes”. Once we have worked through defining a desired outcome or effect, we begin to explore together what may “cause” that outcome to become a reality. From there, implementing systems and processes to put the client in the place of most potential to achieve the outcome is our single minded focus. It is surprising that most business owners know exactly the outcome they want but have put in little time or effort in effecting processes that deliver what they desire.

As for my daughter, she must first discover what it is that makes her happy before she can leapfrog directly to happiness. My wife and I see our parenting “job” with her as one not unlike what I do with my business clients. I must help her discover the “causes” of her happiness. This can lead to some very interesting (and fun) conversations!

In the business world, owners tend to want to beat themselves up a bit about what they have not done in the past. This exercise is totally irrelevant to our task at hand of brainstorming causes. Sometimes we have a 10 minute “purge session” just to let them get it out of their system. We talk about all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s…but only for a specified time. We then throw that list away. Irrelevant!

Where do you spend your time and effort? Are you thinking about the outcome (effect) or thinking about detailed strategies (causes)?

Leapfrog is a great game…but sometime it prolongs the ultimate “win”.