December 18th, 2013
We have all seen the holiday movies that suggest that perhaps it is time for Santa to modernize the factory, get some of his lead elves certified in Six Sigma, or to employ lean manufacturing in his workshop. Gone should be the days of elves singing Christmas carols, eating cookies, and making toys from scratch. The days of that sort of craftsmanship and artisan work are long gone as the nice list runs into the millions.
I am a contingent workforce expert. My Outside-In® Companies help leaders like Santa make sense of the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. And well, Santa does things the old fashioned way with his people, I mean elves. Today’s toy workshops have challenges in staffing and productivity during the busy season. Imagine Santa’s workshop in the weeks and months leading up to the big day! More importantly, what does he do with all of those elves in January?
I propose that Santa would benefit from a temporary elf workforce. Santa could bring in new skill sets and the workshop would flourish with new ideas and concepts. Those hard to fill roles might get the attention they deserve during the busiest of times.
Now, Santa would have to consider today’s laws and hiring standards. No longer can he claim that the measured height of his workshop is a legitimate bona fide job requirement. OSHA made him change that in the winter of ‘82. It just might be a good thing to see a few more guys and gals that look like Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel on the Big Man’s campus. A little diversity is important. Santa needs to keep up with his Affirmative Action Plan as people now live at the North Pole, too.
Most importantly? Santa can staff up and professionally work with the Outside-In® Companies to wind down post-holiday season. Rather than having elves paint the workshop and sweep the floor each and every day, Santa can feel confident that his staffing partner is redeploying his elfen talent that was there for the “busy season.” When one Holiday ends, another begins. Perhaps we can skill-market that talent to the Easter Bunny and have a temporary workforce plant hidden eggs around the globe?
December 28th, 2011
As we reflect on the year, it seems that many entrepreneurs focus on what we did NOT accomplish. We have visions of perfect days and weeks where we cross everything off the list of to-do’s and it seems that unless we reach perfection, it’s all about what went undone. It isn’t natural for us to stop and celebrate, to recognize our achievement. This is wrong. Without celebration and joy it is so hard to build momentum, to gain confidence in your team. And worse, when a leader does this, you become the “what’s next” boss. I find it harder to produce fun and happiness without celebration. I have heard employees complain about too much celebration, however, they usually have fun anyway. Everyone wants to be a part of something when progress is made and acknowledged.
So, for an entrepreneur’s resolution: stop your team and ask them to review their successes (and if you must, their disappointments too) but stop to enjoy the reward of what you did achieve. I promise it makes a difference.
You can do this for yourself as well. Every January first, I sneak down to my home office while everyone but the dog sleeps in — and I do a full review of my year. I think in terms of business, family and my many roles as father, husband, brother, sister, etc. I think about my physical pursuits and well being. I dream of hobbies pursued and those I wish to pursue. I think about places I want to go and things I really want to do. I even think about my mental health and spirituality and how I am doing. I think about all of these things from a place of progress to celebrate my wins.
This my favorite day of the year and the most luxurious thing I think I can give myself. It’s time to think about me and those that are in my sphere of influence. Great and magical things have come from this. In one year, I lost 40 pounds. Two years ago, I hiked 747 miles and finished a 36 mile competitive hike, finishing 10th. Another year, I spent time with a special loved one that I had lost touch with. I am still impatient. Years of reflection and goal setting haven’t helped that but I have hopes for that goal this year.
Not to be too preachy, but there are so many self help gurus and experts in this area. My approach is not new. It is a little bit of Covey, a pinch of the Dream Manager book and the Rockefeller Habits too. And wow, this is my 20th year of doing it? Wondering how I kept track of that? In 1991 I decided that I would start my own business and it took me 10 years to launch CBI Group in 2001!
Happy New Year and Happy Thinking!
November 30th, 2011
Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I had time to unplug and think. I did a lot of the “to do’s” of life and spent time with family but I also had time to reflect on why I have chosen to be an entrepreneur. Most of you have heard me say that I come from a family of them, but that is not necessarily the reason I chose the same path. So why am I an entrepreneur?
Is it because I have romanticized life as my own boss? Because I am in it for the payday? Am I not employable? Don’t answer that one, please. A lot of the reasons came from my first jobs. I did not like office politics or bad bosses. If you are reading this, I still learned from you. I wouldn’t have known what I liked without learning what I didn’t like. Here are some of the things I learned.
- I have never understood the notion of tenure. Wait your turn. Put your time in. Work your way up. Sure I “get it,” but so many times the corporate system kills good ideas and the employees that have them. Why can’t we all be equal in value just play different roles?
- I also felt frustrations in working in corporate America. I got yelled at when I called the Chairman to share my perspective on the state of the business. You can bet I was certainly “debriefed” by my boss to make sure he could “help me.” I wanted a more honest place to call my work home.
- I have often said I started a company because I needed to be congruent with my environment. I needed leadership that led a certain way — open, honest and non-hierarchical. I wanted a fun, irreverent culture. Passion for serving the customer mattered most to me.
These are all things I wanted out of my career but last week I figured out why I am an entrepreneur. I wanted to create a company where others could feel what it is like to be an entrepreneur too. Provide a sort of “prep school” for future small business leaders. I caught up with many friends and family that have traditional employment in this uncertain economic environment and I saw and heard their fear. Some might lose their great job. They have been there for years and years and worked their way up to a nice salary and fancy title, yet they are NOT in control of their own destiny.
Regardless of how long or how bad my day can be, I am 100% responsible for my career. No one from corporate can take that away. I can never be a number in a reduction in force or a casualty of restructuring and re-engineering. Today I read and hear of so many that are holding off on their start-up. The market is bad. Timing is wrong. Bills need to be paid. All are real concerns, but they are obstacles that we can choose to overcome.
Every day I give thanks because I am congruent with my company. I am in control of my own destiny. And maybe I count on the fact that my employees can knock on my door and know the buck stops with me as a little solace that they are slightly more in control of their own careers. Maybe you have never thought about why you do what you do. Perhaps now is the time to find some time to think this one through. Why do you do what you do?
November 22nd, 2011
Last week, I shared some stories about Rose Burkhard and talked about the importance of unplugging and spending time with loved ones. True to my plan, I’m out of the office this week getting some much needed time to recharge and connect with family and friends. I hope you’re all enjoying a short week and hopefully taking some time out to focus on the important things in life.