business lessons

Dynastic Trust: Advice to The Women My Daughter and Niece Will Someday Be.

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1. Use your advantage to help others instead of hurt them. Other than in sporting... Never do anything that puts others at a disadvantage.

2. In matters of great importance, the best response is offered after emotion and suspicion yield to reason and logic. Wait one day to respond to anything that makes your face hot.

3. Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Give Up. The fear of falling is often more debilitating than the fall itself. It is in falling that we realize our resilience.

4. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows you recognize the importance of a task.

5. Sometimes doing nothing is a lot...but when you move, move with purpose.

6. Full Hands In. Full Hands Out.

7. Just tell the truth & never put a price on your principles.

8. Do more than the minimum. 

9. Ski, Surf, Walk, Drive, Ride, Fly & Live in a predictable fashion whenever there are others behind or around you.

10. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can't, you won't.

11. The most Important things you will ever say: "After you", "Please", "Thank You", "I Love You" and "I'm Sorry".

12. Go to bed early. You will accomplish more before others wake than you will after they've gone to sleep.

13. Never drink more than one cocktail with subordinates or superiors. 

14. Dissenting opinions and unpleasant news should only be voiced if some significant good can come of it. Displaying one's level of intelligence or social connectivity does not constitute a "significant good".

15. Those who control others are strong. Those who control themselves are powerful...and more attractive. 

16. It's better to be wrong and alive, then right and dead.

17. Stand back when waiting for an elevator or when someone is exiting a room. If you give people enough space to exit first, there'll be more room for you to enter afterwards.   

18. Never write, text, email or post anything on-line that you wouldn't want to air as a commercial during the Super Bowl.

19. The power in hate, greed, negativity and jealousy is in it's ability to distract you. Don't let it. Never lower yourself to the level of those who thrive on such things. They say misery loves company...and there will always be people who are stressed, overwhelmed and/or unhappy with themselves. Never let them influence your opinion of yourself....because they will definitely try. And be as kind to them as possible. Not because they deserve it but because you are kind.

20. All the world's ills (other than those resulting from chemical or psychological imbalance) can be traced back to poor parenting and/or poor education. Never stop learning! 

21. A person's character is not so easily measured in times of comfort and advantage. The more accurate measure of one's character is taken in the most threatening of times... when weakness is most likely to triumph. Even then, character is not found in one's faults or folly but in the methods and sincerity with which they redeem themselves...and those they've failed.

22. Great intelligence demands even greater patience. 

23. Drugs are a distraction from: doing what truly makes your heart happiest, discovering the most beauty that life has to offer and knowing what day it is...additionally, they make bad ideas seem like decent ones. 

24. Listen carefully. There's a difference between being quiet while waiting for your turn to speak and being quiet in order to hear and consider what someone else is saying. The former requires you to simply close your mouth. The latter requires you to open your mind.

25. When no rule exists, do the right thing. There's always an opportunity / It's never too late to do the right thing.

26. Never buy a house: at the bottom of a hill, near a body of water, with a flat roof or quickly built.

27. There's nothing worse than a bully. Stand up for yourself... and those who can not stand up for themselves.

"The greatest sin that could be committed is the abuse of power. Whether it's mental, physical or economic." - Joe Biden

28. Sustained actions speak louder than words.

29. Never underestimate anyone...especially yourself.

30. In life, there will always be positives and there will always be negatives. Your attitude is driven by which you choose to focus on each and every day. It’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you choose to respond. (Read "The Road Less Traveled".)

31. Everything is relative. Everyone's perspective is their reality. 

32. Never recline a seat in coach or fart in an elevator if you can help it. Both may provide some relief but it's usually at the expense of another.

33. Everything is on it's way somewhere. Nothing "goes away" and nothing can be "thrown away".

34. Quality work is expensive. Cheap work costs even more.

35. Be mindful of the ease with which an unintended tone can be imparted to the written word of another. Read "The 5 Minute Manager".

36. Mistakes and inconsistencies are where the natural beauty lies. There is no such thing as "perfect" and there is no such thing as "right" or "wrong" in art.

36. The Platinum Rule: Treat Others as They Want To Be Treated.

37. Nothing great is ever accomplished alone.

38. You can teach most anyone a skill... but you can't teach anyone personality and character.

39. Make time to be still and quiet in nature...then dance in the rain and let yourself get soaked! It's good for the soul.

40. If you're having a problem with a person or situation, look at your own behavior first...and then look at your own behavior again.

41. Treat every one & every place like a campsite... Leave them a little better than how you found them.

42. Exercise is the ultimate antidepressant...and greatest tailor. 

43. When facing any catastrophe, ask yourself: "How much will this matter in 20 years?".

44. Collaborate with people from all different walks of life. The cross-pollination between passionate people from various disciplines enables real innovation to flourish.

45. Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle... hidden or not. 

46. Boys will break your heart (especially when you forget how wonderful your are). Let them. Learn from it.

47. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer allows you to grow.

48. Stop calling him. Stop texting him. Stop saying things you hope he will hear. If he wanted you, and deserved you...he'd be there.

49. Bellybutton piercings and tattoos are always bad ideas. Self-acceptance is the coolest accessory.

50. Life begins where your comfort zone ends. Be carefree...but don't be careless.

51. Seeing the good in something and building on it is usually more productive than seeing the bad and trying to fix it.

52. You don't have to practice law but you should study law for the sake of your freedom...as both lawyers and judges are human.

53. You will find that some laws are only elucidated once the enforcement of them serves the interest of one (or few) who profit by their application.

54. It's far easier for some to believe a lie that supports one's prejudice and resentment than to maintain an open mind while seeking the truth.

55. You are bound to find some discontent in your life. Don't let that discontent form your opinions, design  your truth or decide your happiness...for hatred, injustice and the absence of peace in the world begins with the prejudice discovered upon projecting self depreciation onto others. 

56. Time doesn't heal all wounds...but it does allow for more experiences which, in turn, yield a different perspective.

57. Don't let anyone define your self-worth...not even him.

58. Trust your instincts.

59. Most people let down their guard after 6 months...if they ever had it up.

60. Be grateful & love with everything you've got as I and your Mom love you. No matter what... forever and beyond. 

61. READ THE DIRECTIONS.

62. Study Immanuel Kant’s Moral Philosophy namely… Categorical and Hypothetical Imperatives & The Formula of the Universal Law of Nature.

63.  Listen to The Beatles. There's a lot of wisdom in their simple lyrics and they can be a good "home away from home".

64. Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted.

65. Sing out loud.

66. Seeing the good and building on it is always more productive than seeing the bad and trying to change it.

67. In life, you will encounter plenty of "sharks". When you do, summon up all of your strength and punch it in the snout. It will most likely turn and swim away.

68. Always consider the source of the information you receive and the source of the food you eat. Your interests may not be aligned nor your motivations.

69. Resist the notion that there is more hate in the world than love. Although some may profit by magnifying it or by drawing your attention to it - it simply isn't true.

70. Go for the job that offers the best culture and most fulfillment.

71. AIM TO SAVE 30% SPEND 60% & SHARE 10%.

72. Clean tools work better.

73. The best ideas come from wide exposure.

74. "Travel is fatal to ignorance and prejudice" - Mark Twain

75. The best ideas come from great exposure.

76. AIM TO SAVE 30% SPEND 60% & SHARE 10%...and consider an index fund.

77. Decisions, based on a longview approach that considers ancillary impacts, take time.

78. If you can't find something - try straightening up.

79. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed from one form to another... we don't die just because our bodies do. 

 

 

 

Staying Afloat: Never Turn Your Back on The Essentials

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"The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence..."'

-Although merely the comedy of Oscar Wilde, this line has lately been extremely evocative, for me, of our Department of Education's inertia in light of positive findings in Montessori research:

http://www.montessori.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=422:montessori-rese..

http://montessoricompass.com/blog/new-research-collaboration-provides-big-opportunity-for-montessori

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-2050676.html

…and our many states’ recent retreat from potential recovery -in the face of pending sequestration which will likely result in extremely damaging federal cuts to education. 

Michael Sargeant’s (Huffington Post) article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-sargeant/north-carolina-education-cuts_b_3785414.html  discusses the efforts by North Carolina's GOP to create new private school vouchers called: "opportunity scholarships". This.$90MM taxpayer contribution drains $500MM out of the public education system sans accountability.

Cuts like these to education budgets (USA TODAY) in order to offset economic shortfalls is like watering the lawn when the roof is on fire:

Read More:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/09/25/7-states-slashing-education-spending/2866529/

I'm reminded of wisdom regarding downsizing in the business world:

"If a firm is able to concentrate it's expenses around the capabilities that make a real difference in terms of winning in the market then great things happen...then they are able to invest in the areas that cause them to thrive and to grow....people, processes and expertise that allow them to out-execute competition" 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8w_aXu2izI

Cesare Mainardi, Managing Director, Booz & Company, How executives should cut costs but often dont.

 

 

 

 

 

Circle Back: Valuable Lessons in Getting Back to Nature

A Montessorial approach to nature, in which the interconnectedness of simple structures is considered, can deepen an understanding and appreciation of many more seemingly complex principles and/or operations within a multitude of fields from business to medicine.

I saw a program on NOVA the other night, the topic of which was "Nanoarchitecture" and it was fascinating to learn that when you reduced the size of a gold particle (to the size of nanometers) you get completely different optical properties. Gold is no longer "gold" in color when taken to the 13 nanometer size. It's ruby red in color. 

 

"...when a particle of gold is made very small...below 100 nanometers, the smaller the particle, the more it begins to absorb shorter wavelengths of light. Toward the blue end of the spectrum..and the redder it appears. When light rays hit a colored material some rays are absorbed and some are reflected."

-Chad Merkin and David  Pogue Nova Series "Making Things Smaller"

The series also discussed "Structural Color...(as found in the iridescence of butterfly wings, beetle shells and peacock feathers). "Once you discover those new properties of nanoparticles, it almost always leads to new applications." Once such application is a new process of sequencing DNA / testing for genetic variations which is capable of being completed in less than 2hrs. One of the experiments which led to this DNA testing breakthough was one in which equal amounts but different shapes of silver nanoparticles were dissolved in vials of water. Different colored liquids were created based solely on the shape of those silver particles. Silver rods turned the water yellow, silver triangles turned the water green and silver prisms turned the water blue. These newly discovered reactions of nanoparticles were used to help develop the test that enables chromosomal abnormalities to be highlighted upon addition of similarly altered nanoparticles to a DNA sample.

There is tremendous value when a parent or business owner is reminded, through a Montessorial observation of the natural world, that visually observed characteristics of things (or people) can be variables depending on applied forces and independent perspectives...and that those observed characteristics don't necessarily dictate substance. Not only does this promote a wider-view perspective but it also reinforces the value in seeking possible factors outside of one's initial consideration. 

If you pause long enough to take a much broader view of your child's development or of your business' operations, you may be fortunate enough to recognize that the natural world and the business world are inexorably bound due to the fact that we ourselves, regardless of how technical our tools or how complex our lives, are merely components born of and operating within the same kingdom as the elephant and the honeybee.

 

After a small amount of research, I quickly learned that applying holistic and systemic approaches to business, social or educational organizations based on principles in nature is not, by any stretch, new thinking... but has certainly been gaining more traction over the last few years.

Business Reinvention with Nancy Lin discusses the fact that scientists and technologists are uncovering innovative ideas and borrow efficient designs from nature. She answers the question: “Does nature offer leadership lessons that can help us manage the increasing level of uncertainty, speed of change and limited resources to achieve such business transformation?" in her January 6th interview with the Denise DeLuca, co-founder and director of BCI, Biomimicry for Creative Innovation.

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Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines discusses the fact that a non-linear world is one in which we embrace the power and potential of complexity rather than trying to break it down into unconnected bits and that we see the world systemically. A non-linear world is where we have the capacity and the tools (which already exist) to transform our organizations commercially and non-commercially to work with the grain of human nature not against it that run leaner, more efficiently, and are greener. 

Giles Hutchins’ blog, The Nature of Business (one of my newest favorites) is exploring similar understandings of the interconnectedness of all things in nature and writes:

"Knowledge of the core principles of how life works becomes a critical skill for business leaders and change agents wishing to successfully transform their organizations in these volatile times.  It is what  BCI (Biomimicry for Creative Innovation) calls ‘ecological thinking for radical transformation'."

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Most people in business subscribe to an outdated worldview, a perception of reality inadequate for dealing with the volatile and globally interconnected business world.  What is required for the health and vitality of our businesses and economies is a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking and our business behavior.  We are witnessing a change in the business paradigm from one suited for the industrial era to one suited for the interconnected era.

At the core of this paradigm shift is a perception shift from ‘seperatedness’ to ‘interconnectedness’.

Just as in science we have discovered that no longer can the universe be viewed as a machine composed of elementary building blocks, so too must we avoid the propensity to view organizations as atomized, silo’ed and tightly managed machines more then we need view them as vibrant, living organisms interacting within emergent, self-regulating and self-organizing business ecosystems."

 

  "Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as a ‘cooperative dance in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces"

-Fritjof Capra / Founding Director / The Centre for Ecoliteracy.

 

Ditto for business evolution and so business people need to shift perceptions from "...seeing isolated, competing aspects of the business environment to seeing the interconnected and emergent nature of the business reality ahead.”

And finally, Fortune Magazine’s Jennifer Alserver significantly contributed to this concept back in her March 2013 article titled “8 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees”:

“The burgeoning field of biomimicry, in which scientists copy nature to solve human problems, has drawn interest across industries -- from energy to consumer goods. 'There is a whole pipeline of people inventing by looking to the natural world', says Janine Benyus, founder of Biomimicry 3.8, a consultancy that has helped Colgate-Palmolive (CLFortune 500), Levis, Nike (NKEFortune 500) and Boeing (BAFortune 500) reformulate products using biomimicry  “.

 

Nicholas Sykes' TED X talk: - Biomimicry 2.0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKQvr-RJQeg&noredirect=1


I continue to discover new and exciting aspects of my business since adopting a more Montessorial perspective on any business venture. 



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New Lenses: Evaluating A Business' Process Management From A Montessorial Perspective

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In the book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators, the authors state, “Innovative break-throughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields.” It’s true, there is often merit in taking ideas and innovations from one industry and applying it to one that is unrelated. Travel writer, Giles Foden, has a “cinematic approach” to gain different perspectives in his writing; by varying the lenses through which Foden views the world, he captures the story he wants to tell. On a parallel plain, varying the lens, from wide-lens to zoom may have you seeing your business with fresh perspective.

Carmen Morgan – The Writing on The Wall

I enjoy discovering how things work. And Since I don’t have a job yet, I’ve been spending a lot of time observing business models (mostly retail) and finding a lot of value in looking at them from a “Montessorial perspective”…which is to say, deconstructing their most basic function(s) and then tracing the process backwards from the end of the customer experience back to the production process. It’s how I see my three year old daughter learning mathematics. Her Montessori teachers have broken math down to the core elements of: patience, dexterity, counting and the physical comprehension of quantity

Studying business operations is stimulating largely because of the challenge presented when conventional process systems are often broken to some degree and with a small amount of adjustment…what I like to call: “microfinement of process management”, you can usually find greater efficiency for the multitude of people any single transaction or service affects in it’s lifespan.

The challenging aspect of recognizing curable inefficiencies or identifying potential process improvements is the necessity to view the entire process from an “outside” and “far-sighted” perspective so that every degree of future impact separation can be considered from a distance like a position on a map.

I was going through my closet the other day when it occurred to me that although I was satisfied with the job my dry cleaner was doing with my clothes…all of my shirts seemed to be facing the wrong direction. Instead of the hooks of the hangers making a question mark…they opened to the opposite side (to the right). After trying to relocate the shirts on different bars throughout the closet, I realized that the only fix to this problem was to unbutton every shirt and put them back on the hangers after turning the hanger around so that the hooks of the hangers formed a question mark (opening to the left instead of to the right).

Every article of clothing my drycleaner hung (from my wife’s dresses to my sport jackets) faced the “wrong way”. On our recent move from Philadelphia to Sioux Falls, I had transported a few of shirts and suits that had been dry cleaned in Philadelphia and never came out of the dry cleaning plastic sheaths they were picked-up in.  While in the process of pairing shirts up with suits, I noticed that I was able to slide all of the suits still covered in plastic (from my Philadelphia drycleaner) to the right while standing on the left and viewing them from the front. When I placed a recently dry cleaned shirt in front of these particular suits, the shirt was facing away from me and I was unable to view the pairing as it would appear when worn.   

Thinking that this may just have been the standard operating procedure of one particular dry cleaner…and being happy with that dry cleaner, I made a mental note to ask them if it would be possible to put my shirts facing in the opposite direction upon my next visit.

It wasn't until several trips later to the dry cleaner that I remembered and had asked if it was possible for them to accommodate my peculiar request. The owner of the dry cleaner informed me that they were unable to change the direction of the hangers since all of the garments go through “a machine” and are all hung in the same direction. I tried to explain why I believed all of the shirts were being put on hangers facing in the wrong direction but I was not successful in effectively communicating my point. I dismissed this minor inconvenience like a man who continues to work with slightly broken tools…until I went to a new dry cleaner out of convenience before a trip out of town. I noticed they too had shirts and dresses hung in a similar fashion. 3 dry cleaners later it occurred to me that most every dry cleaner in town was hanging their shirts and what I had decided was the wrong direction. That should have been sufficient evidence that I was the one whose perspective required some adjustment...but regardless of how hard I tried to accept it, it still bothered me.

I mentioned this to a few friends who dismissed my attention to this minutia of detail as not only silly but also irrelevant and uninteresting. “Seriously?...Who cares?” they said. But my discomfort with this process intrigued me as if it were a puzzle…or a movie title I couldn't remember. I gave it some serious thought and realized that in a world where most of us are right hand dominant and in a country where we read from left to right it would make perfect sense that the clothing industry would display their garments in the manner I expected...in a way that was not only efficient but also enabled a consumer to envision themselves wearing the garments when sliding them left to right (as a mannequin would mirror them).  

I went to a few stores ranging from low to high-end (The Salvation Army, Target, Khols, The GAP, Macy’s, J.Crew, Brooks Bothers, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman). Every one of these retailers had their garments hung on  display racks in the same way. They were all hung so that you can move the items from left to right and quickly observe the shirt, dress, sweater or whatever, on the right hand side facing you as it would be in a mirror if you took the time to try it on. I was discussing this with an executive at Gap North America who told me that she had "spent some time in the fashion industry and explained that it was common knowledge, in retail, that the hanger should always be making a 'question mark' at the top when facing a customer in order to ensure uniformity. Not only on horizontal racks but on rounders [AKA: circular racks) and T-Racks as well. The reason being: so that whether right-handed customers are pulling the garments towards them or pushing the garments away, the garments are always facing the same direction and always 'mirroring' the [right-handed] customer." 

What these dry cleaners are doing by putting garments on hangers where the hook goes to the right instead of the left made me question why such a fundamental convenience was not availed to their customers. There was something to learn here in seeing how their system worked. It posed an interesting life-cycle of service opportunity to learn where the breakdown occurred and how I might prevent similar breakdowns in developing production management systems for restaurants… or for any service related business. I went back to my regular dry cleaner that week and told him that I once had an opportunity to work in a dry cleaner one summer as a boy and had always regretted it because of the mystery of what happens to the clothes when they go behind the wall. I told him that I found it very curious and asked if I could take a peek behind the curtain and see the Great and Powerful OZ. He agreed happily and even offered to show me how each station and each machine works. Not surprisingly, the entire process was a horse-shoe shaped assembly line that went from the left side of the store all the way around to the right of the store where the clothes were picked up. The clothes would travel this path of individual stations after being tagged and sorted by hand at the first station.

Some garments go to the laundering station and some skipped to the dry cleaning station (quite a machine!). After being cleaned, some go to the tailoring station while most go to the next station in a large canvas bin with wheels where they are fit over what looks like a large human figure / dummy. (Every dry cleaner has one and so they typically have a name. Theirs was named Suzie) Once the garment is fit over Suzie, the station operator steps on a large metal pedal that emits enough steam from within Suzie to puff out the garment and instantly steam it. After the steaming, some articles go to a long press and some go to a “hand-ironing” station. After each garment is steamed, pressed and or ironed, they are hung on hangers and pinned with a small numbered tag that corresponds to the number on the ticket originally given to the customer when they drop off their clothes. This whole process goes from left to right until the clothes are then bound together in sections with twisty ties and covered in plastic with the customer's receipt stapled to the plastic. The customer then picks up their order, pays and makes haste to their closet where the white noise of clothes hanging in the wrong direction ensues.

After my back stage tour, I explained how it all made sense to me why the garments were hung the direction they were on the hangers. I explained to the owner that it all made sense to me now and that I understood the garments are hung on the hangers the way they are because the assembly line moved from left to right and you always have the next station in the line receiving the garment from the left and facing them head-on….as is necessary. He smiled upon my “seeing the light” with an almost perceptible sense of satisfaction. I thanked him very much for my tour and left. What I didn’t share with him was that the problem with this process is that it values the employees’ need to see the garments in a convenient head-on fashion but not the end user or customers’ need to.

The owner of the dry cleaner mentioned, before I left, that if I was unhappy with the direction of the shirt on the hanger I could always change hangers as many other customers do. Not only do I find it hard to believe that even five percent of any dry cleaner’s customer are taking their shirts off of the wire hangers and putting them on some other sort of customized hanger in their closet, but if I had the time to do that, I’d probably be washing and pressing my own shirts.  

The easiest way to microfine this process is clearly for the owner/operator to change the direction of their assembly line from LEFT TO RIGHT to RIGHT TO LEFT. This would ensure everyone in-house and at home had the same advantage of viewing the garments in an advantageous fashion (pun intended).

This change would bear only a nominal expense of moving the machines and stations to the opposite side of the store. Doing this would maintain their current efficiency and likely increase their sales exponentially over time due to the fact that the service they are providing is largely identical to their competitors with one exception…they would have a growing base of customers who, perhaps inexplicably, prefer this dry cleaner over another even though they might not be cognizant as to precisely why. The fact, alone, that it would make a customer’s life even the tiniest bit easier, in my mind, is a strong enough case to change the conventional system this operator employs.

This one man’s kindness in offering me a behind-the-scenes  tour of his business, left me with an indelible reminder of the value in consciously considering the lifespan of any product or service beyond the initial point of transaction and the advantage of offering even the subtlest of convenience(s) for one’s customers in a competitive marketplace. 

Risk & Expected Returns: The Applicability of Rock Paper Scissors

NEGOTIATING WITH:

 

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My two laws regarding negotiating are simple:

1. Don't even begin the process until you are armed with an advisor who is experienced and appropriately incentivized

and

2. Don't counter if you can't walk away.

After three years as a Dad, my dimensional understanding of negotiating has broadened into recognizing the need to eliminate risk from the outset. This principle can be witnessed in our home quite regularly as I often pre-select two or more equally appropriate options and allow our daughter to choose one...or pre-select one option out of two that I know my daughter will find extremely undesirable. The result: a win-win 100% of the time. Slanting the field to my advantage is necessary. I can't win otherwise...and if i do, it's a Pyrrhic victory due to the loss of time and stress that ensues.

You’ve heard it before: “Negotiate like a 3 year old.” ...or is it “Negotiate like a 2yr old”?  Or is it "Don't negotiate with a 2 yr old"?  Regardless... dealing with young children can be difficult to say the least but insightful.  They are irrational. They won’t take “No” for an answer, They can have an unlimited supply of whining and tears to gradually wear you down and their idea of compromise is re-wording the same demand over and over. (I've faced clients like this as well).  These tactics reveal themselves both in daily "transaction interactions" and in the games children play themselves as well.

Take, for instance, Rock Paper Scissors. I thought about how this (like many other things my daughter has reintroduced me to) might translate into my line of  business….and here’s what I came up with:

A parallel application I call "Bully Beg Buy" which can be utilized upon entering into negotiations that are already in progress with two or more parties competing for the same thing.

 

BULLY (A.K.A. ROCK)

Bullying functions when one party inflicts fear on another and fear is a great motivator…not the best, but certainly stronger than calculated gains due to the fact that it breaks through the walls of logic and plays heavily on the emotional reaction to imagined physical or social suffering. The instinct to survive socially or even politically within one's professional circles can be the weaker party's Achilles' heel. The flip side of that coin, however is that in negotiations or transactions that involve more than just two parties, bullying as a means to attain an advantage over multiple parties may not work so well. For example: One party pressuring another party to sell to them. In this simple bilateral negotiation, the selling party may be under duress to sell to the bullying party and so the tactic works…but add to this equation another variable such as an additional interested party or a trilateral (or tripartite) agreement upon which the bilateral negotiations rely. The later party’s consideration supporting the promise of the other two parties, (a contingency by definition) is imperative. In a case such as this or in any where there are more than two parties, it is unlikely that the bullying will have an equal impact across degrees of separation. I have seen this diluted pressure often result in the third party coming to the table out of undue influence... but eventually finding and exercising a way to circumvent the transaction via a loop-hole or by intentionally causing some contingency to fail being met prior to closing. “Bully” is vulnerable and that vulnerability resides, predominately, on an emotional level…which brings us to the power of "BEG".

 

BEG (A.K.A. PAPER)

Consult any management or social psychology reference and you will learn that people like talking about themselves. It’s because of the developed ego and sense of self in which we take great stock. People like to feel important. The #1 word used in every language around the globe is “I”…it is for this reason that, all things being equal, when one party (in the case mentioned above: the selling party) is presented with an opportunity to feel strong, important, powerful and/or benevolent, they will most often choose that over the opportunity to feel like a victim. Especially if a negotiation is already in progress and the pressure of "BULLY" is being felt. It’s in this instance that the bullying has likely been taking an emotional toll on the selling party and "BEG" not only offers some relief but also presents a safe exit.

 

BUY (A.K.A. SCISSORS)

Although "BEG" beats "BULLY", bullying and the desire for physical, social or political preservation are often outweighed by the desire for financial gain. After all, what good is money if your dead or worse…a social, political or business-world outcast? "BUY", however does beat "BEG" and it's benefit of making someone feel benevolent. Nothing makes most people feel more powerful, smart or strong than significant financial gain…remember, they can always imagine purchasing social or political collateral such as popularity and be a little benevolent / charitable with some of those large profits later.

Like Rock Paper Scissors, the trick to this method of negotiating relies heavily on two rather large assumptions. The first: that you know which hand all competing parties are going to throw (thus the arena defined as: negotiations already in progress) and two: that no two parties throw the same hand.

 

Swim With The Sharks: Swimming Lessons at The Local College

    "The single greatest mistake a manager can make is not getting out of the way! Provide goals, resources, and leadership... Knowing when to get out of the way is the key."

    -Harvey Mackay: Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

Replication: A Few Interesting Similarities Between South Dakota and Pennsylvania

Far from being South Dakota's doppleganger, Philadelphia, PA has a population density 10xs greater than that of Sioux Falls, SD and is mentioned in way more songs... but there are some interesting similarities between the two.

Although Pennsylvania is aptly named for the amount of lush foliage and bucolic rolling tree-covered hills that more often call to mind more European landscapes than those of the open and primarily flat prairies of the Midwest; both states share a relatively similar size and shape.

The physical location of each state's major city: PA's Philadelphia and SD's Sioux Falls are not only located in the southeast corners of their respective state but also share the unique proximity to several other regional hubs a relatively short drive away. For Sioux Falls it's: Omaha, Nebraska,   Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota  and Des Moines, Iowa whereas Philadelphia is proximal to: Wilmington, DE,   New York City,   Cherry Hill, New Jersey,  Baltimore, Maryland  and Washington, D.C. .

Both States have major "sister cities" a 5-6hr drive to the west. In Philadelphia it's Pittsburgh and in Sioux Falls, it's Rapid City. Both of which are the state's largest city closest to it's western boarders and neither one really has a hockey team.

Both states share significance with regards to historic battles (Indian Wars vs. Wars for Independence) and are home to some of America's most inspiring symbols of freedom and democracy as well...most notably: Mt. Rushmore, Independence Hall & The Liberty Bell. 

Both states also share some space with more socially (and electronically) independent sub-cultures of religious groups founded largely in-part by men named Jakob. In PA, the Jakob Ammann formed Amish & Mennonites and in SD, the Jakob Hutter founded Huttterites. Both trace their roots back to to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century and are easily identified by their simple living, plain dress and wonderful baked goods at local farmers' markets.

Fortune Magazine and US News both conduct annual reviews and ratings for over 24,000 public schools throughout the country. The more notable (ie; Radnor, Lower Merion, Haverford, Trediffryn/Easttown, Unionville-Chadsford, etc...) in the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia  (known as the Main Line) rank in the high 700s to low 800s out of 24,000+....ironically the same rankings as the local public schools in Sioux Falls, SD (namely: Roosevelt, Lincoln and Harrisburg.) Whether we elect to send our daughter to public or private school, the fact remains that public school systems this strong, speak volumes about both areas politically as well as culturally. 

We've only been here for about four months so stay tuned for more interesting similarities between these two states.... 

 

The Right Tools for The Right Job: Chopsticks for Kids

Catherine had been asking for her own chopsticks ever since she first saw Mommy and Daddy using them...but her lack of dexterity never seemed to deter her from trying, so hard, to eat with them.

With the use of a rubber band, any take-away sticks can easily be transformed into "training sticks".

The tremendous sense of pride and enjoyment that results from "Doing it!!!" is well worth the additional two minutes of our time.

Bread & Butter: Spotting Talent to Fuel CBDs

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While having brunch with my family at a downtown delicatessen the other day, I had the surprising good fortune to enjoy a slice of the best raisin bread I've ever had. So good in fact that I asked the server if they could give me the contact information for the bakery that supplied it...only to discover that it wasn't made by a bakery at all but by a local guy out of his mother's garage-turned-commissary. 

After several phone calls and a long lunch, I realized that this baker represented more than just an advisory engagement opportunity for me.  After determining his options for a sustainable business platform I quickly realized that this young man (and his uncanny ability to produce some of the best breads I've ever eaten) represented something more profound: The endangered demand for quality products in lieu of convenience. 

David Napolitano is making incredible bread and supplying a small local specialty grocer along with two or three eateries in town but the demand for his product is sure to outpace his ability to produce it. In order for David to continue making bread at a profit, he is forced to either a.) Charge a price beyond what the market will bear. b.) Outsource the production to a larger scale manufacturing facility---in which case product quality will suffer or c.) Collaborate with a complementary concept (such as a cafe, restaurant or bulk olive oil retailer) with both a scaleable platform (ie; starting as an artisan "open kitchen" bread studio) and significant financial resources in place to incorporate an additional revenue center into their operation for payroll to support a wider supply and delivery radius or ancillary supply channels like boutique / luxury hotels, etc...

Its sad to imagine my daughter growing up in the absence of  "downtown neighborhoods" with retailers like this. But almost gone are the days where local artisans and craftsman line the streets with their shops ie; specialty bakeries, cobblers or coffee roasters indigenous to every town. Granted....more and more Dean & Deluccas and Food Halls style gourmet eatery markets are popping up in most major US cities but outside those densely packed urban areas, suburbanites are driving to lifestlye-centers and super-grocery chains instead of the local town butcher, baker, candlestick maker or farmers' market.

Central Business Districts (CBDs) are the lifeblood and identifying character of any community but without operational systems for replication and mass production in place....master bakers (or coffee roasters, etc...) are saddled with the reality that although they will always be able to pay the rent, surround themselves with like-minded individuals and perhaps have a nice life living above their shop toiling away for 80hrs a week...they'll never realize the fortunes reserved for one stop shop food warehouses and most chain restaurants. Many will argue that franchises are the answer. Most of whom (save for a few with incredible brand equity and operational support in place) most often charge franchisees without sufficient experience (but plenty of passion) $30k for the right to use their name, "formula" and recipes but generally fail to deliver on the all important and imperative component ...the "secret sauce" or "genuine experience" which is only really provided by those who walk and breath their product or service...as the aforementioned artisan.  Its that "wow factor" that is delivered by committed people who love what they are doing and are working in concert with an experienced team.

In exchange for maintaining the integrity of their small-batch products many artisans like Napolitano are often exiled into obscurity... Unless they write a book or land on a food network show or... garner regular support from their neighbors. They are often underpaid and undervalued by the masses who pay their cable companies more than they pay their teachers...and choose their bread based on value and calories or even more ironic....the amount of carbohydrates per slice. 

Meeting David was like meeting Picasso. You could no less mass produce his product than you could mass produce him. Making bread is more than a culinary art. You're not just working with inert ingredients and measuring spoons. Yeast is a living thing and working with dough requires, touch, taste, smell, sound...its a living breathing thing affected by everything from sea level to humidity.  When I considered the great chefs I've worked with, I realized that although they were incredible artists and efficient kitchen managers...they were also able to cross-train and coach. Mentor and develop.  And that's what David needs...a venue in which to build systems, infrastructure and staffing levels that support a cross-training and development programs. He needs help creating a platform to turn people into bakers making bread his way so that he can share it with (or from) more downtown shops and not be forced to grow old above any one of them.

Its not enough to be great at what you do. The real value is in collaborating with and developing people within structured and managed systems. Perhaps that truth will transcend restaurants & hospitality and will, someday, prove relevant to my daughter in some other way. Until then, I'm stuck with my own frame of reference...and my own delicious raisin bread.

 

Impact Fees: The Hidden Costs of Two Income Families

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When both Mom and Dad are both working full-time, it doesn’t leave much time to take care of the basics. Grocery shopping and filling the car up with gas can often prove a challenging fit into one’s schedule… let alone the little things like: laundry, house cleaning, lawn & garden care, dog walking and feeding, picking up the kids because you can’t leave work at 3:00 in the afternoon…little things like that.

The amount of time it takes to run a household adds up fast…especially when you consider the fact that unless you have another family member living with you (like a mother or mother-in-law) you need to pay someone to help with the day-to-day chores and errands.

The bottom line? If you’re thinking about going back to work once the kid(s) are in school full-time, you should consider the direct impact by weighing the tangible expenses of doing so…or rather ensure that your return to the work force will yield an income that outweighs the cost savings of staying home (calculated below).

House Cleaner: $7,200+/yr.

Babysitter / Nanny: $12,000 - $35,000+/yr.

Dog Walker: $7,800/yr.

Summer Camp / Swim or Country Club:  $2,000 - $10,000+/yr.

Landscaping: $1,500 - $4,000+/yr.

Dry-cleaning: $1,000 - $2,000+/yr.

___________________________________________

$31,500 - $66,000+/yr.

In short, unless you’re re-entry into the job market guarantees a salary of at least $50,000+/yr.… it’s likely you won’t break-even (on paper).

But what should also be taken into consideration, if you are one of the very fortunate (and very few) Americans who are in the position to even view a 2nd income as an option, is the fact that people who do what they love are happier people. And happy people not only make better friends and better lovers but better parents too. So, if your family can sustain itself on one (or one and a half salaries) ask yourself what you love more…the fulfillment of keeping a home or the fulfillment of your former line of work.  

Back In The Driver's Seat: Re-Joining The Work Force

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Now that Catherine is a full-time student, I can focus on getting back to a full-time job.

When we moved to Sioux Falls South Dakota, my rolodex became irrelevant. With no known firm behind me, no local experience and a plethora of avenues potentially open to me, I didn’t know where to start...or if it was even worth trying. After unpacking and clearing my dry-erase "deal board", I decide to replace the names of old clients and recently completed projects with the names of established local brokers, developers and restaurateurs who were likely here long enough to witness the beginning of Sioux Falls' boom first hand. The goal was to speak with 50 of the more successful business leaders to better understand from where Sioux Falls has come, where they see growth headed and what factors they perceive as potential obstacles in the way of continued growth. 

Small towns and cities like Sioux Falls are typically "good old boys clubs". Getting to know who's who is not only important to gain insight on the local market and how business is conducted, but also to know where everyone's respective toes are so that none of them are inadvertently stepped-on in the process.

When friends and colleagues back East first learned that I was moving to the Midwest, the assumption was that: I would have the market and the consumer base figured out in a matter of weeks, open a few restaurants in the first year and negotiate several large deals in the first few months. Although Sioux Falls is 1/10th the size of Philadelphia, the market is no less dynamic. The failure to recognize that would be more a sign of arrogance than of ignorance. This city is small but its experiencing rapid expansion. The growth is visible everywhere. It’s like being on a college campus. Continuous construction is everywhere and the energy is palpable. Residential construction alone has topped $56MM this year compared to $20MM in 2012 and $11MM in 2011.

The most challenging aspect of getting back to full-time work after a brief hiatus...and a new perspective, is that there now seems to be more opportunities out there than I realized. Exploring the job market in Sioux Falls is like being in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. So many great things all going on at the same time... that the quandary almost results in inaction.  In so many ways, moving to Sioux Falls is like starting over. So much so that I questioned whether or not hospitality and commercial real estate were really the right paths to continue down.  Sioux Falls is a professional blank slate with the potential to bring one's skill sets to a myriad of professions from Design to Finance.

What I learned...or rather was reminded of, after speaking with many of the old guard here, is that given my druthers, I'd do what I've always done. Although I've often dreamed of trying my hand at things like marketing and advertising, I am a CRE deal and restaurant development junkie. Any fears I may have had about passing up alternative professional opportunities were laid to rest after having coffee one morning with a prominent attorney in town who spoke of his breadth of experience in various fields of law. He "would grow bored of any one specialty after 3 or 4 years so [he] would study some new disciplines and take on new clients to keep things interesting." This ability to regularly re-invent oneself professionally and succeed in doing so, would be impossible in any large city where most service related industries are dominated by tens if not hundreds of practitioners who take the lion's share of available clients based on their extensive experience alone.

This market seems to be one where the consumer is investing more in the individual than the size of their firm. A market where personal relationships and competence rule. A market where opportunities that exist today will likely exist tomorrow. With a 3% unemployment rate and companies losing more money because of their inability to meet staffing demands; perhaps getting back in the work force won't be as difficult as I imagined...but certainly not as easy as some may think.

Focus: Learning to Tune Out The Noise

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99% of the time I'm totally in love with the privilege and awe of just watching my daughter grow up....then there's the other 1% of the time I feel as though I'm a half-step away from being that strangely numbed Lieutenant who is walking through a battlefield of scorched earth with men screaming, machine guns firing, grenades being launched and mortars exploding all around him... while he has a relaxed conversation, with someone completely distracted by all the chaos, about what they might have for lunch later in the day.  

An interesting article I dug up in the Harvard Business Review blog on: Awareness, Focus & Judgement....applicable in any walk of life:

http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2009/01/pay-attention-an-interview-wit.html

Alternative Asset: Montessori - Our Smartest Investment

The public schools in Sioux Falls are as good as (or better) than the public schools in the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia (US News and world reports ranks the local high-schools in Lincoln County as #1 in the state and #600 out of the 24,000+ reviewed in the entire nation). We found a Montessori School for Catherine (Baan Dek) that exceeded the expectations previously set by an exhausting three months of research and meetings with educators at almost a dozen schools back east. The facility, staff and culture at Baan Dek Montessori continues to be a source of pride and gratitude for our entire family.

The following is a letter my wife and I sent to Bobby & June George (owners of the Baan Dek Montessori):

We enrolled our 3yr old daughter in the part-time program at Baan Dek Montessori two months ago because everyone we met there seemed to exude a conscious compassion and genuine passion for education.

The more we witness the Montessori method of teaching in action, the more we realize how misguided we were in thinking that Montessori was simply a school for the over-privileged children of liberal parents who see structure as stifling.    

Over the last two months, through your workshop initiatives like “Preparation for Numeracy”, my wife and I have come to a deeper understanding of (and appreciation for) the Montessori method. We now recognize Montessori as a bridge between conceptual learning and physical comprehension...a maternal imperative, if within means, since our educational aspirations for Catherine go beyond the development of her scholastic competence. We have a sincere desire for her to comprehend the world in which we live... and be empowered to enrich it.

We now know that Baan Dek is actually an advantage, as opposed to an amenity, that we are grateful to afford our daughter and thank you for making possible.

Sincerely,

JJS