Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Two Flat Tires

A huge part of my outlook on life is the general belief that things will work out. You have to have faith, especially when you encounter adversity. You might consider a flat tire a relatively minor setback, but for me it is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a person. In the last two weeks I have been driving a lot. Twice inside of two weeks, I found myself with a flat tire. Both times the situation seemed hopeless. Both times, with the help and kindness of strangers, my outlook went from dread to an overwhelming faith in humanity. In both cases I could not thank my rescuers enough.

Flat Tire #1 – I was in St. Louis to attend a business conference. Anxious to start the day, I left my hotel with plenty of time for a visit to a coffee shop and drive downtown. My heart sank when I discovered my front right tire was flat… flat… flat. Almost like a guardian angel, a young black guy helped me wrestle with the spare tire. He asked for nothing in return. I must have looked pretty helpless. As the dawn started to break, I was able to find an open tire retailer. The problem was solved and I was still on time. I felt lucky. I felt fortunate. I was so happy to have the assistance of a perfect stranger. He said he was barber from St. Charles but to me he was an angel and a blessing.

Flat Tire #2 – Less than two weeks, later I set out on another routine morning. This time I needed to complete some business in Joplin, where I live. A few blocks from my house, I ran over a spike or a nail. Flat tire again! I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. It felt hopeless. I must have looked pathetic in my business suit as I struggled with the jack and my efforts to loosen the lug nuts. It was raining. Almost like a divine intervention, a woman appeared. She used her cell phone to recruit her husband to help me loosen those lugs and change that tire. Blessed again!

A flat tire is not the end of the world. But if you are me, on a typical morning, fixing a tire is the last thing you are prepared for in the darkness of pre-dawn or during a rainy downpour. Good Samaritans took the aggravation out of those two flat tires. I will remember both of these acts of kindness and am determined to return the deeds with a couple of my own when I see someone in a jam. I am so happy there are such generous and loving people in the world. I want to be like them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Be a Fearless Leader

It takes money to make money. All kinds of people make the world go around. No man is an island. Okay, but when the global economy is in such turmoil it's hard for companies and people who run them to recognize that the way out is to reach out. FDR said the only fear is fear itself. That may very well be true today.

I live in a town where a great many talented and creative people have been displaced. Many struggle with the challenge of reinventing themselves. At the core of their being is the basic belief people have in the ability for these people to think outside the box and be creative. Looking at opportunities and seeing things in a way that shows the glass is half full. The world needs leaders who are optimistic. There needs to be faith shown in individuals, in mission, in achievable goals again. When it's every man for himself the problems of the world are simply too large to be conquered. Organize the troops and take charge. Go. Fight. Win.

If you are a leader of a business, small or large, you have a greater responsibility than protecting yourself. You became a leader and you've seen success because people believe in you. Are you squandering that trust? Was it deserved? Luck is usually not just serendipity. You made your breaks and now you are on top. Don't hide. Your business, your community, your family, your friends and the world at large need your vision now more than ever.

Take a calculated risk. Start an initiative. Generate some energy. Be enthusiastic. Be smart but take action. This is a great time to make a difference.

Houser faces Gatewood in local Debate

The election for state representative in Southeast Kansas in November of 2010 was a battle to be sure. The candidates agreed to meet in a public forum to participate in an open debate at the invitation of the local newspaper. It started off like any other debate. The moderator began the proceedings with some announcements that helped settle the crowd. The room in the Community Building was full. (Volunteers had to pull out more folding chairs.) The order of speakers was decided by a coin toss, but that really didn’t matter.

Doug Gatewood started and showed his polish at the top of the show. “First of all I would like to thank the Columbus Advocate and the Chamber of Commerce for hosting this debate….”

Mike Houser stumbled a little early on but by the second and third questions he let his own personality and charm shine through.

Houser knows himself well enough to know he can’t be someone he isn’t. He doesn’t have a lot of public speaking experience. Nevertheless, the audience senses his sincerity in this bid to serve the people of the district. He was emphatic that the county and the rural parts of the state of Kansas need to stop being subjected to increasing taxes, find ways to attract new business and help small businesses grow. Gatewood responded to the issues raised and offered insights from his many years of public service.

Both candidates performed well. In fact, the publisher the newspaper said she thought the contest was a “dead heat.” The moderator of the debate seemed to agree. We saw two genuine candidates. One was a more a polished politician, but both made their points. Both were gentlemen.

This debate in a small rural community in Southeast Kansas was a joy to behold. Not because I cared about the outcome so much as I was proud that this kind of open exchange of ideas is a part of our system in this country. It is the democratic process in action. It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to – you have to love the fact that a healthy airing of issues is at the central core of how our country elects officials in our government.

It might not have been the great Lincoln-Douglas debate, but it was a little bit of history just the same. The incumbent won by a narrow margin. Time marches on. God Bless America.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just say no!

More people are doing more with less, time is crunched and you just don’t want get stuck in a sales pitch. So you make excuses or delay the inevitable with a white lie or a stall tactic.

“Let’s talk about this after the first quarter when we will have a better handle on our business plan.”

“Can’t talk now because I am heading to the airport and out of town for a business meeting.”

“You should really contact Jim in purchasing. I know he’ll be interested in what you have to say.”

Be careful though, your blocking moves may work too well. Don’t forget great ideas can come from anywhere – even a sales call. But it does make sense to speak plainly and honestly.

My friend Dan is in business development at a successful advertising firm. He’s been doing this for a long time. Persistence and determination are his stock in trade. Overcoming objections and trying to understand wants and needs is what he does. He believes in his product and he believes he represent potential value for his prospects. He is fearless and relentless. But I think people might be surprised how he reacts when a person just says NO.

“Rejection is tough to take but you have to remember that a definitive negative answer has a positive impact too. Closure is good. You can move on,” explains Dan, “You have an opportunity to better target your prospects and avoid being too much of a pest. I wish more people would just say no. It is helpful to understand the reason and those stated will help you plan a strategy moving forward. There is nothing wrong or rude about a polite response like: No thank you. We are just not interested. We are happy with our existing resources. An answer like that doesn’t hurt my feelings. In fact I’m happy to know that I have done all I can do at that point in time.”

Just say No. And you’ll waste less time: yours and the hapless sales guys that keep calling. But listen too before you shut someone down. Every once in a while a sales guy really does have an incredible offer and perfect timing. (It might be Dan.)