Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dare To Be Different. Take Risks. Have Fun!

Of all the things I did when I was managing two commercial truck operations, the thing that I am most proud of was my willingness to be different, to take risks, and to have some fun. If you're not having a good time at what you do, it sure makes it harder and harder to show up each day. If you're not taking risks, you are missing a whole world of opportunity.

Risk. Taking risk is a willingness to go where you have not been and to experience something new. That's what being different is all about. The world screams for you to conform--to be the same as everyone else. Conformity is boring. Conformity is safe. There is no risk in conformity. The risk is in being different. That's also where the fun is.

My favorite fun is inventory. It pretty much all starts there. If you don't have something, it is pretty hard to sell it. When you have something to show and demonstrate and get excited about, the sale is a given.

We were stocking about 60-80 upfits on average with a similar number on order in the system. Here are some of the things that made us different, were risks and fun, and were very profitable:

Color. Approximately 40% of my commercial upfit inventory was colored trucks. We stocked more color in service bodies than in other body types. We didn't just stock red or black, but we had blue metallic, gold metallic, silver metallic, green metallic, tan, and more. We stocked every color that was standard at that time. Now, we found that red was the most popular color, black second, silver and blue next. They all sold and they rarely failed to achieve a higher gross profit than their white counterparts. Some people complain about competition, I had none.

Up level trim packages with power windows, door locks, plush interior, in quantity. Probably about 80% of our colored trucks were up level trim. There are a lot of general contractors or other contractors who want their truck to be more than just a bare-bones work truck. We had them in stock ready to go and they could choose from a wide variety of them. These were very profitable units that averaged about twice the profit of the white units. Some people complain about competition, I had none.

Wheels and trim. We dressed the trucks up even more by installing Alcoa wheels on at least 50% of our entire inventory. On the service bodies, it was probably more like 75%. You'd be amazed how many people like nice looking upfit trucks compared to plain old bare-bones units. I left the dealership world in 1997 and I still see units driving around town that we sold because I recognize the wheels. We did a huge volume of wheels. This also adds to the profitability and turn.

Unique. We tried bodies that other dealers would not stock. We got the Isuzu franchise and in my extended travels visiting other Isuzu, Chevy, GMC tilt cab dealers, I saw two things they stocked: van bodies and stakebeds. Boring. Sure, the tilt cab makes a great van body. I saw one dealer in a 4 day trip that had a service body on an Isuzu. He was 500 miles away from my store. I took a different path. I stocked some van bodies, but I stocked service bodies, landscape dumps, flatbed dumps, plumber bodies, you name it. They all sold well. I remember once I ordered two 13' service bodies on two gas Isuzu's. The 11' is much more common, but to me that is a waste of time. The 13' give more storage and still has the turning radius of a pickup truck. Anyway, some guy came in one day and bought both of them! Go figure. Longer bodies on tilt cab will sell more tilt cabs because that is the tilt cab's advantage!

Cargo bed enclosures. I always had a number of service bodies with cargo bed enclosures. Almost nobody around me stocked them. To add them later cost over $2,000. I had them ready to roll and they always sold well.

Aluminum flatbeds. We always had a very pretty ProTech aluminum flatbed on a decked-out chassis. It was an attention getter and a very high quality product. We stocked some other aluminum beds as well. We also kept regular flatbeds in stock with steel overlay on the bed. This gave us another advantage.

Steel dumps. Now they are a bit more common, but when we were doing it, you couldn't find one on a dealers lot. We usually had two or more.

12' Cutaway van bodies. Most dealers don't stock this length. They generally stock the 14'. The 12' has a number of advantages including much shorter turning radius and shorter overall length. I sold 12' and 14' in approximately equal quantities. Without the 12' our sales would have been somewhat less. Be aware that some body companies will try to sell the longer chassis and put the 12' body on it. There's no point to doing this. The shorter wheelbase is the selling feature, not the size of the body. If they don't have the 138" chassis, get them to order them for you special.

I-packs. This is a large box that is about 2' long that mounts behind the cab and then the body mounts behind it. It has 2 doors on each side and you can mount tool boxes under that. Many are transverse compartments so you can see all the way through. The advantage of this box is the long tools that you can store in it. It is a great addition to a steel dump body, a service body, a van body, a flatbed, pretty much any body. It give substantial extra storage, but can take long or bulky items with ease. It is nice looking too. I sold a bunch of these things and having them on the truck helped me sell more trucks. I had no competition with this product.

Tow trucks. We stocked tow trucks and became a distributor for a large tow body manufacturer. This brought us another 30-40 sales the second year and somewhat larger gross profits than the normal items. It also gave us access to selling other make chassis through the body company pool. Most dealers sell chassis to tow companies and make very little profit. The profit is in becoming a distributor yourself and soliciting tow truck business directly with users.

We stocked a lot of diesels when very few did. We were a Chevrolet dealer and I bought every diesel I could get my hands on--especially in the 3500HD 15,000 GVWR chassis. They were hard to find everywhere else. I still remember talking to Harbor Truck Bodies one day and hearing they just got in 7 diesel 3500HD's that they wanted to move. I took them all. They didn't scare me, but most dealers were nervous because of the old 6.2 diesel problems. We sold the heck out of them with great success. The new 6.5 diesel performed very well and most of our customers had no trouble with them. Ford dealers have always stocked heavily in diesels. In today's market, I would go the other direction and stock a lot more gas in the heavy chassis. Diesel is often $.050 more per gallon than unleaded and it takes a lot to make up that kind of difference. It is easy to sell off the diesel right now. Ford dealers are afraid to stock the V10, but it is a perfect choice in today's market! Take risks. The fruit is on the limb.

New things. We tried a lot of new things. Once in a while something wouldn't work, but the vast majority worked very well. You would be flat amazed how fast some of the different bodies sell. When you have things no one else is willing to stock, you have a lot to talk about. Remember this about truck bodies: People are looking for solutions! When you can show how a new body they have never seen will do their job better, why would they not buy it? You can get excited about something new and different! Same old stuff is hard to get excited about. Go out on a limb and try some bold things. Ask yourself my favorite two questions: 1. What am I really afraid of? and, 2. What is the worst thing that could happen. Most people are afraid that it won't sell and they will get stuck with it. First, I say that is not a good attitude for boldness. Think positive! It will sell at a record gross profit and in record time! On the second question, many would say the worst thing that could happen is they would lose their job. How about a promotion? How about a raise? How about awards of merit for bringing more business? Go for the gold!

To finish up: What can you do in today's market to move commercial trucks? There is much that can be done. One of the best things you can do is punch up your stock. I recommend that you stock at least 25% of different and unique items. You still have 75% safe inventory, but you will find that the 25% is what is selling. This assumes that you can see this picture I've painted and that you can get excited about fresh products. Dare to be different. Take Risks. Have Fun!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Now That You're Refreshed . . .

After the last article about taking a day in the country away from the busy life, you must be refreshed and ready with your perspective soothed. So, now is a great time to look at what you are doing and make some decisions.

Take another day and take a good look at what you do and how you do it. See what is working, what isn't, what could. Look over results, statistics. Pay the most attention to two things: The big plan which is your overview, your goal, your desired result, and two, your daily activities.

One of the best ways to really learn a thing is to try to teach it. Now, you don't wait until you're perfect as no one would ever teach anything under that rule. You learn, study and teach. In the process of teaching, you are clarifying it in your own mind. I do this all the time. Trying to teach it brings me to a much higher level. It was after I started teaching commercial truck success that I understood it more and was able to teach even more of it while experiencing even more of it. The teacher who is astute is also aware that they are the best student of their own teaching. Isn't that fascinating?

I am doing what I am trying to teach here: taking the day and looking at the big picture and clarifying my end result desired while looking at the day to day, hour by hour activities and how they fit into the big picture. Sometimes we get confused. If we keep our eyes on the goal and keep believing the end result, that is a good part of the process. The rest is left to daily activities. If the goal is in mind, the daily activities should be moving you toward the goal. It's when we take our mind of the goal that the daily activities wander.

So, let's take an example. Let's say you work at the dealership as the fleet/commercial manager and you have a goal of earning $200,000 per year. You must be able to believe and visualize this--to see the end result of it and feel how it will feel when you are there as if you are already there. Next, do this daily. Now look at your activities and what they have been and how you have spent your time and energy. Now look at what changes you think need to be made to be in alignment with that goal. Don't think about a perfect plan, just look at what you've done and what you think will get you aligned with the goal. You'll know from a feeling point of view how you're doing.

At one point I used to try to figure everything out. I was really into the "how" part of it. Taking the goal and breaking it down into pieces and planning out each step and trying to turn all of that into a cohesive plan of action with recordkeeping to see if I was on track or off track. Then I would try to make adjustments. If I got behind, I would get discouraged because now there was not enough time to do it all. Then I would get depressed about not achieving the goal, start believing I didn't deserve it and on and on. What a waste of energy that is.

You have to leave room for others to help you reach your goals. Don't worry about all the "how" aspects and stop worrying all together. Stay focused on the goal and just do your best effort each day. I have a sign on my wall that says "What is my job and How is God's job." I'm leaving room. I don't have all the answers. I just know what I want and every day I am doing what I can with my goal on the forefront of my mind. I am also grateful for everything that comes into my life, regardless of what it is.

It is the goal that draws, not the activity. The activity does contribute, so it is important, but the goal, visualizing it and feeling how it will feel when it is a reality is the most important. You have to believe it regardless of what others might think. I recommend not even telling others about your goal. It's yours. The only thing that is really important is that you believe it. I have used this process on many goals that I really wanted and could get clear on with great success.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Go Out To The Country For A Day

I was watching a movie last night and saw the scene of an old ranch house way out in the country far from the city and all that goes on there. It made me think of our perspective of what is happening in our world and how we can get a fresh perspective.

Right now in July, 2008 some say there is a recession going on. Certainly the economy is not performing as it did a year or two years ago. I won't bother to discuss the reasons for this or the myriad of points of view on it, but from seeing that movie, there is a good way to put it in perspective.

Take a ride out into the country today. Take the long way home or take a couple hours off and take a ride. Spend the gas money. It will be worth it. Take a road that takes you away from the city and where you only occasionally see a ranch house, or other structures. Maybe you'll see farm animals, birds, the wind moving the tall grass, trees, and maybe a stream. When you find a good place, stop and get out. Look around. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes for a moment or two while you are breathing deeply.

Now, open your eyes. Look around and find the recession. Look hard. It must be there--it's in the city after all, so it must be here as well. Look around and see the politicians saying how bad things are and how they want to change them for the better. See all the newspapers floating around the sky telling you how things are. Face the reality. Don't you know that. . .ain't it awful that. . .and all that. . . that. No. You can't, can you? It isn't there, you see. It is back there, where you were. It isn't real except in your head.

Take a deep breath and look around some more. Look at the breeze moving the grass and the leaves on the trees. Feel the breeze against your skin. Smell the air. Listen to the birds chirping. Listen to the sounds, experience it all. Continue to breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Fantasize yourself as a child, running and playing with friends out in this country environment. Feel it. Now picture yourself sitting on a bank by a steam as you enjoy doing absolutely nothing but enjoying the moment and the sounds and the environment. Picture yourself doing something that you would really enjoy that cost no money, that has no dress code, that has no rules, regulations, should's and ought-to's. It's all gone, isn't it? The stuff that was in the city and in your head in the city. All there is now is this place and pleasant surroundings and experiences.

This will refresh your perspective in a very enjoyable way. Remember that it is all in your head and the heads of the people around you. When you get away from it and think about the country and the environment and the myriad of things touching your senses, the other is not real. How do you change the world? One perspective at a time. You're in charge of yours.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't Get Paid To Sell Service? Think Again!

In all my years (over 25) in the car business, sales and service were at odds. How stupid is that? It's really stupid.

I've been promoting the commercial truck department to sell the service and parts department. I hear, "I don't get a commission on service and parts, I get commissions on truck sales." Ah, this is true; however, it is a very short sighted view of the larger picture because the selling of the service and parts department will bring you truck sales in quantity and quality.

Some want the service and parts guys to go out there and do this, or for them to go along with you. You need to get excited about service and promote it everywhere you go. Get a serious partnership going with your service manager and parts manager. It makes a great and profitable partnership.

Selling service and parts is one of the best ways to gain new clients. It is also one of the best ways to keep old clients. Everyone needs service, they don't need it from you, but they need it. They need a new vehicle much less often, but service is a short term need. The better your store can provide it in speed, accuracy, convenience, follow up and price, the better you can grow your truck sales through new clients coming in for service. This gives you many opportunities for seeing their trucks, knowing the mileage on them, the condition, service records of repairs and so on. All of this information will aid you in your sales of trucks to that company. Heck, its a goldmine don't you know! I get excited about promoting service and parts because I see where that can lead my sales.

Once they come in for service, you need to start keeping track of their visits, look over their vehicles, talk to the service advisor and get to know the company's service patterns and how they care for their vehicles. These things will help you know when the timing is right for another truck or a replacement truck. You couldn't get all this information from any other method that I can think of, so it really is a goldmine.

When you are thinking about growing your sales or your department sales think about the larger picture and think long term. Sure, you need sales today, but you also need them tomorrow and next month and six months from now. Work all the angles: prospecting, advertising, merchandising, service and parts partnership, referrals, events, displays, promotions. Don't leave any of them out and you have a synergistic combination of powerful features to lead you to long term success.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

That Prospecting Stuff Doesn't Work!

I've heard the phrase, "that prospecting stuff doesn't work. . ." many times. Never to my face, mind you, but I've heard it. I say, "yeah, that sitting behind the desk waiting for a call stuff works so much better, doesn't it!" Or, I say, "you know, you're absolutely right. You should avoid prospecting entirely. It's not for you. It's only for those who want control over their income."

If you like people in general, prospecting should be a great deal of fun. You get to meet so many different and interesting people in your travels and that makes it fun. Oh, you run into a few that woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but you might get the chance to brighten their day a bit just by your glowing personality and your ominous presence!

Prospecting is many things. Basically it is a method of finding prospects and filtering out potential buyers for further communication. You are just taking a closer look at your market and the people and businesses in that market and communicating with them in a non-confrontational way. It might be in person, or on the phone. Sometimes people call these cold calls because there is no relationship and no real knowledge of the client except perhaps some basic prior research if any.

Prospecting is a numbers game. You have to keep moving and you will get far greater results from a consistent approach at least in the beginning. You might walk into 10 businesses and find one or two that you could follow up with that express some kind of interest. It depends on what you are selling and how it relates to the people you are prospecting. That is two more than you would have sitting at the desk waiting. Do that 3 or 4 days a week for about 1-2 hours and you will be a superstar in just a couple of months. You can double, triple, quadruple your income as well--with consistency, of course.

Some go out and do it for about an hour and quit. That won't do anything, will it? Some do it for a week and quit. That won't pull. These people say, "that prospecting stuff doesn't work." They are right of course. It hasn't got a chance with either of these plans. But, you go out for 3-4 days a week for 1-2 hours a day and do it consistently for a couple of months and then tell me that stuff doesn't work and I would believe you. But, after a couple of months, you wouldn't be able to say it because it does work.

Of course, this would be true of many things such as an exercise regimen. You exercise for one day and quit and say "this exercise stuff doesn't work." Or, you exercise 3 or 4 times this week, then quit. Of course it doesn't work. How in the world could it. But, we all know that those who commit to doing it as a regime, succeed at it. It does work.

It is not the prospecting, it is you. You won't work. If you plant seeds, you can expect a harvest in time. If you decide not to plant seeds, you can expect a famine in time. Prospecting is just planting seeds. Go out and plant them and expect your harvest. They won't all grow. Who cares? You are guaranteed a harvest in time if you keep planting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Little Things Aren't Little, Part 3

Even in the best of times, some units will sit longer than others for the right buyer to come along. Anything that is left out in the weather is going to deteriorate over time. That includes paint on a new car, wood on a flatbed, plastic parts, etc. And, it includes truck bodies. When they start looking like they have been around a long, long time, take charge and get them back in shape.

Get your body company involved in helping you keep your commercial trucks looking sharp. You have the responsibility, but they are generally willing to help because it serves them to help move it off your lot as much as you. I can assure you that if you do your part and are fair with them, they will be pleased to assist you.

Some common items that need refurbishing are stakeside gates where the wood has faded from the sun. An easy fix: hit the wood quickly with some sandpaper, wipe of the residue and give them a coat of linseed oil or some stain according to they way they were new. Another very common one is a wood flatbed. Some are painted as a temporary protective coating meant to dress them up and slow the exposure down. After a few months on the lot, the paint begins to peel and it is unsightly. An easy fix, quick hit with sandpaper and scraper, clean off and repaint. If it was an unpainted bare wood deck, it usually has a stain or linseed oil coating or sometimes a clear varnish. Also easy fixes.

Service bodies and other similar bodies like the USC combo, plumber's body usually just need a really good detail cleaning and would be protected longer with a coat of wax or protective coating. Easy fix. On open service bodies, the floor has a tendency to turn darker from dust and moisture, sun and wind. A little more cleaning there is an easy fix.

Sometimes there are rust stains where moisture has come from a small unpainted space that is not easily seen. That can look unsightly but it is an easy fix. Make sure and include cleaning the inside of the bodies and compartments and lubricate the lock mechanism. Some units may get a scratch or a small dent and they should be repaired as necessary.

All of these things are little things that can turn into large things when a prospect is looking at the vehicle. How it looks on your lot is very important. It can make the difference of a sale or no sale. This should be an ongoing process so that it never stops. Units are always being checked and spiffed up as necessary. This also helps keep the cost of maintaining them lower. Remember to get your partner body companies to help you get these tasks done effectively. Perhaps they will pick them up and take care of it for you, or maybe they will give you some money or credit and you can get it done through local vendors or your own shop.

One last thing on the clean up schedule. Take the old sale price signs and writing off the vehicle and keep them fresh looking. The customer will have no idea how long you've had the truck unless you tell them verbally or by the way the truck looks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Little Things Aren't Little, Part 2

There just isn't anything as frustrating on the lot as having a prospect ready for a demonstration ride and the battery is dead. Now you have to go get a jumper battery and this is assuming you can keep the prospect interested enough to wait through this process of getting it going. It is unnecessary for the most part.

Start the vehicles twice a week and let them run for a few minutes. This will solve most of the problems with dead batteries. You also want to make sure they are running good and start smoothly. I know this sounds so basic, but it is very surprising the number of dealers who are not doing this--especially on commercial trucks. It seems the commercial trucks don't get the care the rest of the vehicles get, but that should not be. Get the help you need to make sure you have every opportunity to sell the trucks.

Other little things are making sure the tire pressure looks good. This can easily be done well enough by just a visual inspection. A low tire is a problem on the demo drive.

The little things aren't little when the prospect is standing there while you run and get the jumper box. Then they are huge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Little Things Aren't Little, Part 1

This will be a series of articles on a number of little things that aren't so little. They don't seem important until the time comes when you need it to perform, then it is so big, it can make or break a sale, an event, whatever.

Since I deal a lot with the commercial truck dealer, I will start with one of my pet peeves: Keeping the trucks clean--the whole truck clean.

Most dealers have people come and wash the vehicles on their lot once or twice a week. They use a pressure washer and usually chamois them off as well. This can very easily cost the dealer well over a thousand dollars a month just to wash the inventory. My pet peeve is that I see the commercial trucks get washed at the dealer and they only wash the cab. They don't wash the body and some of them a just a mess. Since this is the part that you are really selling, it is very important to make sure the body is cleaned every time the truck is cleaned--even the top of the flatbed and the floor of the service body and the floor of the landscape dump. Most of the time, I see the dirt that is months thick, leaves and other debris in the back of the body and who knows what else.

Perhaps the cleaning company charges more to wash the body, but they wash the whole car, so that shouldn't be an issue. If it cost a few cents more per truck, it is worth the money. Just try to imagine what the prospect that looks at this truck may be thinking. Selling anything means to raise the value of the product to equal the selling price. That can be difficult when it is looking like it has been on the lot for a year. This is a simple fix. Just one of those little things that when taken charge of makes a big difference. Now think about the prospect walking up to the truck and the truck is clean and looks like it just arrived yesterday. What a difference. An easier sale too.

Part of keeping the vehicles clean is making sure the windows are clean. Vinyl sweat from the plastic parts in the cab with the windows rolled up in the sun can mount up quickly. A little window cleaner once every two weeks will do wonders with this little issue.

Keeping the outside of the body clean is very important, but so is the inside. I will be at a dealer and open a service body door and it looks like the compartments have had water in them at some point and it dried up and left stains and dirt accumulated on them making them stand out even more. That will kill a sale in a quick New York minute--especially in a service body. Every two weeks, or once a month minimum, each vehicle needs to be examined and all these little things need to be addressed as a matter of routine so that it continues to get done.

People who buy commercial trucks like to see them clean and they want them to be perfect at least the day they drive it off the lot--just like any other vehicle buyer. Sure, they are going out and going to work and they may never be clean again, but they sure want to see it clean when it is on the lot and they are contemplating buying it. Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Selling the Ford LCF - Guest Article by Jim Feusi

Guest Article by Jim Feusi of Snider Leasing, Sacramento

Selling the Ford LCF

Do you want to sell more cab-over trucks or the so-called LCF?

During the time I was in sales we carried the Isuzu, UD, and Ford franchises at our dealership. Ford did not have an LCF at the time. Since my job was to sell primarily UD and Isuzu trucks one of the easiest ways I found to sell an LCF with nearly 100% success was against the Ford or Chevy Cutaway van.

Not only did the customers switch over but, when they realized it was a superior product they never switched again and continued to come back to buy more LCF’s.

Whenever, I had a prospect call in or inquire about a Cutaway, I would make an appointment and have the prospect come out for a test drive.

Before the prospect would arrive I would find a Ford E-350 Cutaway and park it in the center of an Isuzu line up so that the Ford would stand out as being different. Then on the end of the line up I would take an Isuzu with same 14’ or 12’ body and tilt the cab.

When my appointment arrived, I would take him out to our Isuzu line up and say, “I believe this is exactly what you are looking for.”

By this time you can’t help to notice that the prospect’s curiosity is starting to get the best of him.

He would usually start off by asking what is an Isuzu or a UD or why do you only have one Cutaway. I would say, “These are cab-over trucks and this one over here with the cab tilted has the same size body as you are test driving on the E-350. “Notice how easy it would be to work on one of those engines.

On the test drive in the Cutaway, I would direct the customer onto the freeway. As we increased to freeway speed the noise from the engine compartment, the crawl-through door, and all the rattling of the van in back would get annoyingly loud, and I would apologize for all the noise the truck was making. Customer might say something like, “My older truck is noisier.” My response would be “wow”, and then inquire why he is getting another one, or is his old truck going to be a trade in.

Remember that, it is very important not to bad mouth the product as you are still selling the Cutaway.

When the test drive is over, immediately open the hood, to show off the engine compartment to your prospect. Show him how all the fluids are easily accessible even though you can’t see the engine.

It’s about at this moment I wanted to get to some specifics about the Cutaway that I would merge into the Isuzu test drive. I usually started off saying something like this. “The body on this Isuzu chassis over here is made by a different manufacturer just to show you some differences in the body. Because the body is not attached to the cab this truck is really much quieter which allows you to talk on your cell phone and because the wheelbase is 20” shorter on the same size body you get much more maneuverability and increased payload not to mention larger selection of body sizes not available to the Cutaway. “Would you have a need for a 16’ instead of a 14’ body?.”

At this point tilt the cab back and open the driver’s door and show off the roomy cab and the standard tilt and telescoping steering.

Test drive is absolute to selling this truck. Do a short one if time is running out. I might say, “You know I am primarily a Ford guy but, these cab-over trucks are really getting popular and I think you should take a test drive.” As soon as he is strapped in you need to have him do a U-turn on a residential type street, point out how quiet it is, stay really excited about how the truck is handling and when you return to the dealership ask, “What did you think?.” If he says he likes it, you have just closed another LCF deal.

All LCF’s essentially are very similar so, if you know one make such as Isuzu, or the Ford LCF you know them all. I would think that if a customer wanted a diesel E-350 Cutaway you could easily show the advantages Ford LCF.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 30 Once A Month

A previous owner that I worked for had learned a great way to stay in touch with important clients. The plan was to create a list of the top 30 customers and to contact one of them each day. In this way you would talk to all 30 of your top customers once a month. They wouldn't have a chance to forget you, or you them.

Now if you only work weekdays, that would average 22 days, so you can double up a few days or reduce your customer contacts to your top 22. The key is doing it and staying consistent with it.

You can call them on the phone, write them a letter, drop them a postcard, mail them an article, send them a gift, send an email. There are so many ways to stay in touch. The most personal is to make the phone call. I recommend to mix it up, so that there are many ways you contact them throughout the year. Just think--after a year, you would have contacted each one at least 12 times. Prior to this plan, the number of contacts of the top 30 customers might have been very small in comparison.

This plan makes even more sense in today's market! Give it a shot.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Commercial Truck Success Is Focus

Having a successful commercial truck operation is only a matter of focus. Those who focus on the commercial trucks will sell more of them.

A lot of dealers (I would say the majority) who stock and sell commercial upfitted trucks do so as a side line. Their main focus is somewhere else. Much of what I see is a fleet department that happens to sell commercial trucks, whereas, change this to a commercial truck department that happens to sell fleet and the focus will be on the commercial trucks and more will be sold as a result.

Another successful approach is having a department of more than one focused on this. Having a manager who is focused on the departments growth and success and direction is a critical key to larger scale success and profits. Instead of an expense, it is a wise investment. As required, this department needs to grow and expand in size as the sales rise so that the sales continue to rise.

The other benefit of the focus is that when you are looking for commercial truck sales, you trip over the other vehicle sales, but it is much less so the other way around. It might sound illogical, but it has proven to be true.

If you have wondered how to increase your commercial truck sales, this idea is the place to start to build a firm foundation and a growth business. You get what you focus upon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Making Sales Meetings Fun & Interesting

I have tried so many different things in a sales meeting to make them interesting and fun and also a learning experience. Here is one of my favorites:

We had a team of about 10 sales people plus a couple managers. I was thinking of how we can help each other build our confidence and perform better and that came down to how we talk to and treat one another. So, I devised a plan to have some fun and to try to demonstrate how we can help each other throughout the day.

We had a small amusement venue near the dealership that had miniature golf, batting cages and other entertainments. So I called them up and told them what I was doing and that I wanted to come down first thing in the morning on the sales meeting day and I wanted to use the batting cages for an hour or less and could they do that without having to put all the coins in the machines. They were intrigued and were able to do this, so I took a check for $125 down there to pay for our time.

On sales meeting day, I announced that we were doing something different and we have two vans outside to take them to an offsite location. We arrived at the amusement center and I had them gather for instructions. They were to have one person in the batting cage and two outside for each team. While the person inside is trying to hit the ball, the two on the outside were to spend a few minutes jeering the hitter, calling names, telling them they can't hit, being a jerk. Then I would call time and they would turn into encouragers and shout praise and uplifting words and phrases, give encouragement, tell them how good they are, do everything they can to build them up. All the while through this, they were to take a mental note of how the batter performed. Then I would call time and they would all rotate until everyone had a session at bat and everyone had a session as a crowd member (I won't say fan because they weren't always a fan. . .) The batter was to remember how they felt when the crowd was jeering and when they were praising and to notice everything they could about the feelings and the effect on performance.

When it was completed, we turned the machines off and had our sales meeting right there. We discussed thoroughly how every person felt in each situation, as a batter, as a fan, as a heckler and all of their observations about that. Then I took an overview of all of that and related it to how we talk to each other throughout the day and how we can help each other or we can hurt each other in very simple ways and how important it is to uplift each other as much as humanly possible.

Everyone had a great time and it was a very good lesson and a fun and interesting meeting. Meetings don't have to be boring. They can be a lot of fun. I am sure that no one has forgotten that meeting. Try some unique methods, locations, teaching. Have some fun!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Make Sales Meetings More Effective For Everyone

Having attended hundreds of sales meetings, I can safely and confidently say that most sales meetings are not worth the time spent or the effort made. I have also given hundreds of sales meetings and I can say the same thing about mine sometimes.

I feel strongly about having effective and worthwhile sales meetings. There have been many occasions where I felt I was not prepared enough and so cancelled the meeting. Better to go to plan B and cancel than to make one more meeting a waste of everyone's time.

Here's one thing that I think is important about meetings. They should be focused on the group and not individuals. Going over each other's performance that week or month is generally a waste of everyone's time. The manager should go over each person's performance with that person in private. There will be be a much greater and more mutually beneficial result. The meeting should stick to group topics such as changes in the company that affects everyone in the room. The sales meeting is a good place to talk about policy, changes in procedure to discuss incentive program overviews and so on. All group topics focused on the group. It is an effective way to communicate with many at one time.

Take it to another level and get feedback while they are all in the meeting. This makes the meeting interactive. Do some talking, get some feedback. Do some talking, get some input. Do some talking, get some discussion. Make sure and lead and control the time, but interaction is a powerful addition to make an effective sales meeting.

Most sales meetings could be recorded, put on a DVD and mailed out to the sales team or other members. So, it can't be the information that is the most important, otherwise the DVD is superior. It must be the physical presence that is important and along with that comes each personality and the interactivity that can make any sales meeting productive, effective and interesting at the same time.

Keep the meetings positive, upbeat, productive. Avoid discussing problems around the room. If someone brings up a problem and it can be solved quickly, great, otherwise it is better to have them submit their ideas in writing and work with them individually.

Sales meetings can be fun and interesting. Tomorrow I will tell you about my favorite meeting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

There Are Opportunities At Every Turn!

In every problem, there is an opportunity. Of course there may very well be more than an opportunity--there may be several. In a downturn, there is opportunity. They are just everywhere when you open your eyes to see them. It is just amazing.

During the '91 downturn, I was working my first commercial operation in Santa Rosa and decided to take a 4-day trip to visit every commercial truck dealer I could find that I thought was doing what I was doing. I made a list and headed out. It was a fascinating and enlightening trip. It was the best thing to do and very fruitful.

One of the dealers I stopped at in the LA area was a large Chevy dealer and they also had the Isuzu franchise. I saw this Isuzu NRR out front with a flatbed dump on it. I stopped to look at it and found out that it was 2 years old, but brand new. The NRR is a cool rig because it had the 6 cyl engine in the small cab with low pro wheels and yet had a good GVWR, that I think was 19,000 lbs. So, I thought about the truck and how long they must have had it. They had a heck of a sale price on it, but it was still there.

I calculated that invoice had to be about $35,000 and change, then I decided to go find the General Manager or Owner and make them an offer. I offered them $25,000. They thought about it at length and finally said yes. I was thrilled. I called ahead and got a check coming, hired some drivers to come get it and went on my way.

When I returned and the truck arrived, I sent it out and had the flatbed dump taken off, and installed a van body and we sold it to a company and made a huge gross. In this case, I could sell it for invoice and make almost $10,000 profit. Rock on!

If I were at the dealership today, I would be looking for every one of these kind of opportunities I could find. Let me tell you this: right now there are tons of these opportunities. Some dealers are sitting on old pieces for a very long time and they are so anxious to unload them, that you can make some serious buys. All you need then is a marketing plan and make sure that you move them quickly.

I know there are a number of dealers who still have some new 2006 product on the ground. What an opportunity that is! Maybe all you have to do is buy it and show it. Maybe you have to change the body. Those are easy things. These are gross opportunities. You have to have confidence and a good plan, and then just go for it. Go find those gems. The Isuzu dealer thought he had an unsaleable piece. I saw a customer driving it and me counting the money. I had a plan and the plan worked wonderfully.

The Isuzu is not an isolated incident. I have done this many, many times and have taught others to do it as well. You have to let go of fear and know what you can do. There are opportunities at every turn. Go for it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Simplest Advice Ever

I think the simplest and best overall advice I have heard is this quote:

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." --Theodore Roosevelt

Have an awesome day!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Words of Einstein's Thoughtful Wisdom

I read about the story when Albert Einstein was approached by a reporter during an interview and asked, "Dr. Einstein, you are recognized around the world as one of the most bone fide geniuses of our century, maybe of human history. Your scope of thinking has covered the workings of the universe from the tiny atom to the cosmos. You have seen your discoveries both evolve and enrich, and also mutilate and destroy the human life you so highly value. What, in your opinion is the most important question facing humanity today?"

Characteristically, Einstein stared off into space for a moment, and then looked down at the ground in front of him. Finally he looked back at the reporter and replied, "I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves."

"For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly—and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process."

"If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe’, then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.

"But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives."

* * * * * * *

"Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed." --Albert Einstein

Monday, July 14, 2008

Some Take Commonplace For Granted, Others Innovate!

What is more commonplace in an office or in the home office than a stapler. They come in all sizes for the desk or travel. Some staple a few sheets, other more expensive staplers staple many sheets. You've been loading staples in that old thing for years and years. Maybe occasionally, you buy a new one just to dress up your desktop or just for the fun of it. Nonetheless, the stapler is something we all have taken for granted. It has been commonplace all of our lives. Boring. We don't even think of it. That's what 99.99% of us think about staplers.

Enter the .01% that looks at something mundane and sees innovation! Enter the PaperPro(R) One Finger Stapler! They have taken mundane and boring and made it exciting. Even the clicking sound it makes is cool. It reminds you that you are not using a boring old plain stapler, but the magnificent PaperPro! Well, maybe not that exciting, but hey, this is in fact a better mousetrap.

One day I was cruising through the local OfficeMax store (I do love these kind of stores), and I saw a big display for this new kind of stapler and they had several to test. I tested it. It was interesting, but I kept going. I thought, "I don't need another stapler. The ones I have are just fine." So, I didn't buy it. A month later, I was looking again, and I just decided to try one. So, I bought the standard 20 sheet model. Stapling 20 sheets with my old stapler was a challenge and rarely did it succeed on the first try and it was hard on my hand. I get home and give it the real test. I start to be amazed. It lives up to its promise of 20 sheets and one finger.

The best part of it is that it almost always staples perfectly. I used to have to take a bent staple out many times and redo it, but now that almost never happens. What a difference. So, then I like it so much, I buy one for my traveling office gear. My wife likes it so much, she wants mine, so I buy another one to replace that. Then I wanted another one (can't remember exactly why) and I bought by accident the 25 sheet model. Wow! This one is even better at stapling many sheets and it so easy, albeit heavier. It makes a different sound. The sound is part of the fun of using it.

Now here's a company who has taken the boring and made it exciting again. How interesting is that? Just when you thought there was nothing more to do about the stapler except change the color or shape, this company innovates and changes the way it operates, looks, feels and sounds. It's a whole new device. Thank you to PaperPro! I never would have thought I would be excited about staplers or even write about them. Bravo!

Maybe there is something in our own companies that could be a story like this. How can we look at things we make and make them totally fresh and exciting? Maybe something we have been building for years and years and is so commonplace that we don't even give it a thought. That's a good place to start. What could you do that would turn the market on? If I bought 4 staplers, PaperPro has got to be selling many millions of them. A whole new market for something that is taken for granted. Way cool. What can we work on in our own company?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Business Is Good! Get A New Perspective.

I was driving to a client's business yesterday (Saturday) and took the wrong turn and ended up driving through the Vacaville Premium Outlet complex. As I was driving through to get to my destination, I saw the parking lot was completely full and there were people strolling by the shops with bags. There were so many people, I thought I was at Disneyland! I thought, there is no recession here! It was fun to see just how many people were out there.

I also drove by some popular restaurants in the same area. Their parking lots were full. It's a good thing. So, at least many businesses are doing well. There are others who perhaps are not doing so well. When did that mix ever change? Wouldn't this be true pretty much any time?

So, regarding the businesses who are not doing as well, what is their perspective on their business? Is their perspective on what is wrong, or on what could be? Is their perspective on why things are the way they are, or on what they could be? Truly, there are opportunities in every problem if only eyes are open to see them. I like to ask the Tony Robbins question, "What's good about this?" If nothing else, it forces one to think in a different area and opens the possibility of different ideas.

When things are not going well, there is no better time than to ask outsiders to take a look and see what they see. We have our own perspective of our own business and our own procedures and thought patterns and an outsider would have theirs. The good news is that their new perspective could have a profound effect on our results.

I'll give you an example that we see often. We see a store and talk to the owner or manager about their business. They complain that business is way off and the economy is down and all the other outside influences they can think of. We ask a few questions, like what are you doing to attract business? What methods of advertising do you do? How do you track your advertising versus results? Do you have a website? What do you do to merchandise your wares? Do you have a customer database? How do you promote your business?

The answers we get are telling. They are doing nothing different. They are advertising in the local newspaper and they do not know if it works or not because there is no tracking or thought of it. They are just hoping. They don't have a website, or it is not current and has no focus. They are in the yellow pages and advertise in the local paper or local mail flyers and that is the extent of their methods of advertising. Their merchandising when done, is hit and miss and there is no plan of action and no consistency or creativity. They do not promote their business. They do not keep track of their existing customers. In short, we see them standing in the store waiting for customers to come in while being unprepared to deal with them effectively if they do come in. This may sound harsh, but this is what we see over and over again.

If businesses are operating with their same old perspective, how can they flourish? There is only one way: change their perspective. Get a new look at your business and how it operates. Get a different vision of what your business could be and do. You have to be willing to change. Here's a good very short book to help get your thinking in a better place: Who Moved My Cheese?

Another way is to hire someone to help you see a different perspective. You have only to be open to the possibility of help. Call us at Upward Trend Management Services and we can be some fresh eyes for your business. We guarantee you will have better results, or you don't pay. Does the newspaper offer that? I just talked about the things we see when we go into businesses and we absolutely know how to fix them. You only need to want to change them and be open to help with that. That's a pretty easy solution, don't you think? How many guarantee results of improving your business? How can you lose?

Business is good and if you think it is not, it still can be with a new perspective. Get one today!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Basic Needs Marketing Concept

If I owned a gas station on a highway in the USA, I wouldn't worry much about the price competitiveness of the fuel. I would get a big, nice looking sign that can be easily seen from the highway and I would advertise clean restrooms.

Gas stations are notorious for having less thought about their restrooms than anything on the property--especially, it seems to me, the ones on the major highways or on thoroughfares. This is one of the simplest things to change. Hire a person to keep the restrooms clean constantly.

By advertising the clean restrooms, that will take people's thoughts from the fuel cost and onto more important things: Do I really want to sit in there?

There's a really great, simple advertising campaign that will last a long, long time. Just keep the restrooms clean, let people know they are, you're done! Couldn't be simpler.

Friday, July 11, 2008

If You Wait Until, It Likely Will Not

If you wait until you are ready to do a thing, it is likely that you will not get around to it. Trying to line everything up prior to beginning is not a good strategy. I do recommend thinking it through as much as you can, but setting a deadline on the thinking part, so you can start the doing part. Besides, ignorance is bliss sometimes.

Four years ago I started a little eBay business. It was not my intention to begin with. I was just selling a few of my mother's collectibles. That worked so well, I thought about selling other things and since I love books and have always had a large library, I started selling some books. Within two months, we called it a business and began building it like one. Looking back now from this vantage point with over 13,000 things on the Internet and a warehouse and expenses and all, if I would have known what the work involved was, I don't think it would have ever gotten started. My ignorance and enthusiasm coaxed me along and I just kept going and going and going. First I had a goal of listing 10 items, then 50, then 100, then 500, 1000, 5000 and so on. That's a big challenge for one person part time. Still, it got done and here it is four years old and more than 17,000 items have been sold and delivered.

As I look back there are many things that I probably would not have started that became valuable if I didn't get going before I knew what I was doing. The knowledge will catch up and the doors will open as I go. You could call it moving in faith if you like, but moving is the key word. Waiting until things are ready will likely cause failure to start. Plus, once you're going, there is a tendency to keep moving. That's a bonus feature. Believe you can even when you don't know how is a great strategy. Movement will be the faith in your task. Believe you can, then start moving as soon as possible. The answers will come and the rewards will be yours. You can do it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Most Powerful & Inspiring Talk I've Seen

One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness ...

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right. From her home base in Indiana, she now travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the "Singin' Scientist."

"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career."--Jill Bolte Taylor [From Ted.com]

See this amazing and fascinating talk on Ted here: A Stroke of Insight

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Powerful Thoughts Of Others Encourage Thinking

I am constantly encouraged, uplifted, inspired and curious when I read many quotes that I see everyday. I subscribe to so many newsletters and many have a quote of the day. I look at them all and save the ones I like best, so that I may pass them on. I have now collected thousands and of course they are available everywhere on the Internet as well.

Some of these quotes are so powerful they just take my breath away momentarily. It is these that I keep close and read often. One newsletter I get that has a quote every day is from James Arthur Ray and at the start of the month, this one came:


"Even God cannot talk to a starving man except in terms of bread."
--Mahatma Gandhi


Think about that one for a while. Think about all the application there is for that wonderful message.

Have an awesome day!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How A Company Handles A Problem Can Be Costly.

As a manager of businesses, I have faced a number of customer service issues. I have always felt that it was in everyone's best interests to solve it quickly and generally to spend what it takes to make it right with the customer. I know the word of mouth value of a customer--especially and unhappy one. Not every company feels this way. Here is one story that was and continues to be costly.

Best Buy is a large company. I was a regular customer and loved going in there. I had just purchased a stereo, a laptop computer, a desktop computer and many other items along with regular visits to the DVD section, printer supplies, etc. Then I got to test their customer service. I got to see if the Geek Squad was what they are touted to be. This problem turned into a nightmare times ten.

I took my computer that I recently bought from them to the Geek Squad counter. I was getting a message that indicated I needed to replace a small onboard component that was causing slow and poor Internet connectivity. I took the computer in and expected to get it installed while I waited and get back home in an hour tops. They needed to keep it until the next day. I expected a call and got none, so I went down again. Now they say that there is a virus deep in the system that was not recognized by the virus software and that the only way they could fix it is to reformat the hard drive. I said, okay, but I need my files because I'm overdue for a backup. I wrote down where all the files were (I create my own directories so I know where things are) and they charged my $89 to back up my files. Great. On to other stuff.

I go in the next day to pick it up and they hand me a CD disk of my files. I laugh. You must be joking I say. My files couldn't even fit on a DVD let alone a CD. So where are my files really? This was it they say. I'm being incredibly patient. They say no problem, we can recover the files. I say, I'll make it easy. I need a back up hard drive anyway, I'll buy one and you can back it up there. Great. Call next day. No one knows anything. Call again, and again. I call the store manager. 7 days have passed. 9 times they were going to call me and not one returned call. Finally I see the manager face to face and find out my computer is toast. She agrees to give me a new computer which is the least I would expect since mine was but 3 months old. They put all the recovered old files onto the new computer. I take my new computer, my new external hard disk, etc. and I go home and find out that only about 1/3 of the recovered back up files will work and not the most important ones like Quicken, my CRM database and many more. I can only think of the tons of hours of work to redo all this and no extra time to do it.

I go back to Best Buy and talk to the nice manager lady again with my problem of the lost information. I'm thinking they might pay someone to reenter the data since they lost it all. She is wanting to, I can see this, but she has to go to her manager and he says no.

Now, I was determined to remain calm throughout this ordeal and I did so. I was testing my control. I felt totally justified in taking them to small claims court. I refused to do this. It didn't interest me. The most I can get there is $5,000 anyway. That would have been about right to hire someone to reenter the data, but I had a better idea. I fired Best Buy. It was my favorite store next to The Home Depot, but now I will not set foot in one of their stores for any reason whatever.

In the first 6 months after this affair, I spent a little over $20,000 on computer equipment and other equipment and although Best Buy would have received all of that business, they got none and their competitors got it all. I wouldn't care if their plasma TV was on sale for $5.00, they would not get even a cent. It is costing them a great deal more to not have taken care of this gross error on their part, than doing the right thing, but they are big and they can afford it for a while. As far as I am concerned, they are out of business. If someone asks me where to go to get a computer, TV, etc., I say anywhere but Best Buy.

One customer has a good deal of power. Who has benefited from this situation? I have. I decided to remain calm and to not get emotionally involved in the problem. I am the customer and I get to choose who will get my business. My power is in that choice. Best Buy is big enough to not notice what it is costing, but that doesn't matter--they are paying the bill anyway. One customer has power. If that customer is also a center of influence, the bill skyrockets. Who else benefits? All Best Buys competitors. Circuit City has gotten a good deal of it along with Costco, Amazon, Office Max and others.

So what does it cost to give poor customer service? In my case with this company, the total is around $35,000 in lost revenue already and climbing as time goes on. This might be an example that you just don't know who you are dealing with. It seems clear to me and I am hoping you as well, that good customer service is something that pays--it doesn't cost. And, it's a much better plan.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Great New Tool: Communities Online Network





Introducing Communities Online Network. This is a company that is developing interactive websites for communities all over Northern California with more to come as they grow and expand to other communities.


Businesses can register free and can create free coupon ads and change them at will. Other advertising is available at a very reasonable rate. Many other services will help businesses communicate with their local community inexpensively and effectively.


Seven sites are in the first group of community websites for the initial launch. Three are live as of this writing and the other four should be online during July. Click on the links below to view what the sites look like and how useful they will be as a tool for local businesses or for your customer's business. Services include ultra low cost business video commercials and you can see some of them, along with how to videos about the operation of the Communities Online websites.


We are proud to be affiliated with Communities Online Network through Upward Trend Management Services. It is a great tool for small businesses and a great service to the communities they serve. If you have any questions regarding these sites, please contact Ryan at 707-480-0959.


WoodlandCommunity.com


DavisCommunity.com


ElkGroveCommunity.com


NatomasCommunities.com


RanchoCordovaCommunities.com


SacramentoCommunities.com


VacavilleCommunities.com


Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Truth On Business Failure: I Learned.

In the last article I admitted quitting three business ventures. It was a long time ago and I got over it and yet I am still learning from it.

I remember reading that Edison failed to make the electric light bulb over 10,000 times before he got one to work. Babe Ruth struck out hundreds of times. Failure then, is part of success. It is part of the learning experience. Ellie Drake says, "that which does not kill you will only make you stronger." I am stronger, smarter and more focused. I continue to learn from experience--old and new. That is the value of doing.

There was a time when I used to beat myself up for failing or quitting. It made me feel bad and that tainted my new experiences. The only way a failure can truly be a failure is if one learns nothing from the experience. I learned. From that, I would now call them successes.

What did I learn? Here are some of the things that I have learned and continue to learn from some of those "failures."
  • Beginnings are pure excitement. It is partially the unknown--the never having done it before. It is learning. I love beginning things.
  • Taking an idea and making it a reality. It is creative. It is fun. It was just a thought, then it was real. What a concept!
  • Figuring things out. Those little challenges are fun and interesting. What if? How can we? Where could it come from? When would be a good time to start?
  • Experimentation. Experimenting on what doesn't work in order to find out what does. What does or doesn't work may surprise you.
  • Philosophy. You get to put your philosophy on everything. You get to test it and see how it works in the real world of commerce.
  • You get to see where your comfort zone is and see how much you can expand it. This I know for sure: It must expand.
  • Learning to follow through. The idea is one thing and the doing is another. Learning to follow through is critical.
  • Be your own best counsel. Gather information and look at everything you can look at, but when it comes down to the decision, trust yourself.
  • Accept responsibility for everything that you are involved in. Accept responsibility for activity, effort, decisions, results. The opposite of that is blaming others, circumstances and things and that will not do at all.
  • Build on success. When you find what works, do more of it. See how much you can make it work. See how big it can get. See how profitable it can be.
  • Have a plan. A written plan is cool, but a plan in your head is okay. Having a plan is the critical part.
  • Adjust the plan. As you learn from experimentation, success, failures, adjust the plan accordingly. Keep building the plan.
  • Have a grand vision. A vision of something larger than yourself. I didn't really have that in the first three, but I sure have it now. This was a valuable lesson!
  • Keep focused on what you want to achieve rather than what is happening now. The daily cares of life and business can eat away at your goals if you let them. Deal with the cares as a matter of course, not a goal. Focus on the goal, not the cares. The cares will always be there, so don't give them any more energy than they deserve. You get what you focus on.
  • If you have a partner or partners, communicate regularly. If something is not working right, let's deal with it quickly and move on.
  • Celebrate. I used to say to celebrate success. Now I say to celebrate! Give thanks for everything that comes. You'll be amazed at the difference this one thing makes! It's easy once you get the hang of it.
  • Flexibility. To be able to modify as needed as quickly as possible is a key ingredient. Changes will need to be made. It is a given.
  • Get over it. If something doesn't go the way you want and you are being upset by it: get over it. There are plenty more where that came from.
  • Get on with it. Thinking about something for too long is a problem. Give it thought, but you might want to set a deadline on the decision so that you are encouraged to make that decision and get on with it.
  • Be as unique as you can be. Why should someone come to your business? Why should they come back again? Carve out your own niche. Set yourself apart.
  • Keep moving, growing (personally and the business) and working. There is much to do every day. Keep at it. It is the daily tasks and accomplishments that make the whole business more successful.
  • Have fun. Have as much fun as you can. Work can be fun or it can be work. When it is fun, much more gets done.
  • Passion. The more you develop a passion for what you do, the better it can be. Passion fuels dreams.

So with a list like this, can I think failure? Only if failure equals success. It is the things that I learned from the previous business ventures that is strengthening the current ones. All experiences are good. They are better when we learn from them.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Truth On Business Failure: I Quit.

A thought struck me today that I know to be true. Prior to the businesses I have now, I had three businesses, two spaced very close together and the other a few years later. All three were dissolved. All three were poorly planned, but all three got started. The first one I started right at the beginning of the 1980 recession, yet it wasn't the recession that closed the business. I quit. I have always told people that I got held up at gunpoint and lost my drive. Although that is true, it was not the real reason. The real reason is that I quit. I'm finally stating it that way.

The next business took the place of the first one and lasted about a year and a half or so. It wasn't the business, the customers or lack of them or any other external thing. I quit. I have always told people that the guy who got me into it taught me all the wrong ways of doing it, but that is just putting icing on a rock. The real reason is that I quit. Gave up.

So, I went back to work at a job and previous career and about three years later started another business. This time I did it part time and kept my full time job. Cash was poorly flowing, all partners had major personal issues. But, it wasn't any of the problems, it was that I threw in the towel. I quit. I didn't want to do it anymore, so I took my marbles (or what was left of them) and went home. Over. Done with. Not one of these businesses lasted two years.

I rationalized the business ventures. I didn't analyze them, I rationalized them. I put my focus back on my career and what I might do to grow it and ended up growing it dramatically. I took risks and stepped out boldly where I had not before. I tried new things and accepted challenges. It was successful and profitable.



The thought that struck me today was like I hadn't thought of it that way before: It was a revelation. I quit. That's what it was that dissolved all three. Yes, it could have been easier, and yes, I could have worked harder, though I felt that I worked hard. I just changed my mind and quit. I now realize the truth and admit it openly.

You've probably heard that statement that 95% of the business start ups do not last 5 years or very close to those numbers. It is a staggering thought. So, I wonder how many were like me? How many didn't understand the challenges and after a few struggles, went home? We were just buying ourselves a low paying job and then thought it wasn't going so well, so we quit and went back to the employer who actually has a bank account with money in it--back to a paycheck.



So, logically then, if I don't quit this time, I must succeed. Now there's a thought! I'll be willing to carve the trail through the forest if need be and face issues I didn't know would come up. Well, I'm planning on them this time. I'm looking forward to the new experiences. I'm focused as never before. That is a world of difference. I'm not quitting. It isn't even an option this time. I will succeed. I am succeeding.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Motivation Is A Sugar High

I was watching a video segment of Ellie Drake on TSTN yesterday and there was something she said that just woke me up: "Motivation is of the head. It is a sugar high." She added to this, "Inspiration is of the heart. It has power. It is passion." I hope I quoted them correctly. There was just something about the way it was phrased that just jumped out at me and opened a better understanding of management of ourselves and others.

Having been a sales manager for over 25 years, I have dealt with that word "motivation" many, many times. Webster's New World Dictionary describes motivate this way: "to provide with, or affect as, a motive or motives; incite or impel." Many times I think we have used the word motivate or motivation wrongly. In looking closely at this definition, it is clearly an outside force that is the cause of the effect. So sugar high is such a great phrase to use with the word motivation! It is very short lived and must be continually prodded, modified, enhanced, changed, increased, repeated. It just doesn't last. You know its true. Just think about all those times when you were motivating your team and then it didn't work the next time, so you had to change it and "re-motivate" them. We're trying to move them with an outside stimulus.

Then I thought about inspiration. There is nothing quite like that word to me. It is just pure power in every way. She says that it is of the heart, so it is from within and that it is powerful and it is passion. Let's look at Webster: Inspiration, 1. a breathing in, as of air into the lungs; inhaling 2. an inspiring or being inspired mentally or emotionally 3. a) an inspiring influence; any stimulus to creative thought or action, b) an inspired idea, action, etc." I've highlighted a few words that indicate to me it is an inside influence, not outside.

So, as a sales manager, motivation, though very common, is not effective in the long run. It can have an affect for the short term only. People will only put up with that for so long. It's all about what they need to do for you, when, how, why and what they will get in rewards for success or punishment for failure. It's really a dictatorship of sorts.

My goal early on as a manager was to inspire. I wanted to inspire a belief in themselves that they can do and be more if they choose; that they can rise to any level regardless of what they may have thought in the past. It is much more challenging to inspire, but my, my is it ever so rewarding in comparison. I've had sales people (some that didn't even work for me) that would call me up years later and thank me for inspiring them to believe in themselves and to try and do more than they thought they could. Those comments are worth far more than money--they are priceless. They inspire me rather than the other way around!

In commercial trucks, I have started two commercial truck operations in two cities and made them very successful. What is inspiring to me about that is that they are both still doing well; still running. One I left in January of 1993 and the other I left in February of 1997. It is 2008 and they are still there, still making it happen. Some that I have had the distinct honor and privilege to work with have gone on to manage their own commercial operations or are still doing well in sales. That wouldn't be motivation. It couldn't last that long for them or me.

If I have but one goal, it is to inspire others to believe in themselves and to dream and to go for it. To me that is success. We all need to define that word personally.

My passion is inspiring others, but how do I get inspired? Dreams. I get excited about dreams of what I want, what lights my fire. To many they are strange, but to me they are powerful. Dreams are magic.

How else? I listen to audio, watch video and read books of people who believe in me and yet have never met me. They build me up and encourage me and inspire me to dream and to do. The really good ones I play again and again. I love encouragement.

How else? I have a partner. His name is Ryan Stone. He is 30 years younger than me. He is an awesome human being. He makes me laugh (hard), he inspires me with his enthusiasm and his oh so positive outlook. He is a hard worker. I couldn't ask for anything more in a partner. Surround yourself with people like Ryan Stone and you cannot help but be inspired! My relationship with Ryan is price-less. We live 50 miles apart, so we have little meetings where we meet for breakfast or lunch and it gives me about an hour to get fired up listening to him. It is magic. Thanks Ryan!

I am so blessed to be surrounded by people that encourage and inspire me and all I have to do is pick up the phone and call. Kimberly Bellamy is one. She just gives me so much encouragement and I try to give equal amounts back, but just hearing her voice, makes me smile. Her smile is so clear on the phone, you just cannot mistake it. Calling her and hearing her voice is just pure joy for me. She could light up a dark convention hall.

Warren Mason is another who inspires me. He took over my previous position and has excelled at it. I had no temperament for it, but he excels. His enthusiasm is tested from time to time, yet never fails to come through. Warren never seems to be down, but does have a sliding scale of up. That is powerful. Everything is an opportunity to him. I have learned huge lessons from Warren and he never fails to inspire me.

Greg Martin! Having his best year ever in 18 years selling commercial trucks. Others are whining, he is growing. What an inspiration Greg is. He's just a guy who works at it. He loves his family and that is the most powerful thing about him. He gave up positions and larger salaries to be close to home and have flexible schedules to be there with his kids as they are growing. That is pure devotion. It is success. I have huge, huge respect, admiration and love for Greg and what he has done, but more because of what he is. Truly an inspiration. I feel the same about Roz, his wife. She is a superstar!

Now, these people say I inspire them. Isn't that interesting? I just mentioned a few, but the list is very long and each is an inspiration to me in a different way. These are not motivations (sugar high), they are inpirational (long term!). All I have to do is think about them and my whole body smiles. Go for heart. Go for the inspiration!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Great Interview of Dr John F DeMartini

A little over a year ago, I read The Secret and watched the DVD. Dr John F DeMartinti was one of the featured people on it. A few months ago, I bought one of his books, and have now read many of his books. I have enjoyed and learned much from his teachings.

Recently, I ran across this lengthy interview of Dr John F DeMartini on a show called Life On Maui and host is Steven Freid. At first I was not impressed with Steven Freid as an interviewer, but I have grown comfortable with his style. He asks good questions, but most important, he lets the person being interviewed answer them fully without interruptions.

This interview is in 5 segments and I really enjoyed it, and so I share it with you here in hopes that you will derive benefit as well. It is lengthy enough to be its own seminar. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Inspiring Talk by Benjamin Zander from TED

About this talk:

Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it -- and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.

About Benjamin Zander
A leading interpreter of Mahler and Beethoven, Benjamin Zander is known for his charisma and unyielding energy -- and for his brilliant preconcert talks.

Since 1979, he has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. He is known around the world as both a guest conductor and a speaker on leadership--and he's been known to do both in a single performance. He uses music to help people open their minds and create joyful harmonies that bring out the best in themselves and their colleagues.

His provocative ideas about leadership are rooted in a partnership with Rosamund Stone Zander, with whom he co-wrote The Art of Possibility.

Here is the link for this wonderful talk: