Monday, January 28, 2013


There are many successful multi-generational family businesses operating in Humboldt County, California. Some go back five generations, to the spring of 1850 when droves of folks, mostly men, began arriving in Humboldt Bay from all across the country and Europe. The newcomers came seeking gold in the nearby rivers. Most found nothing of course and quickly shifted their focus to the exploitation of more readily available resources, namely timber, salmon and raw land. From the chaos of that transition sprang new business opportunities, some which continue to prosper today. The newcomers saw needs to fill and problems to solve. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

The family owned and operated businesses in our region, the stewardship of which has been handed down from one generation to the next, have survived all sorts of tumultuous times and events including earthquakes, floods, fires, recessions and severe depressions.

I interviewed the owners of nine local family businesses. I asked about the following issues: How do familial relationships affect the success or the failure of your business. What issues are special and peculiar to businesses run by family members? How smoothly did the current generation of management take the reins of power from the previous? What are some big problems that have confronting your enterprise in the past and how were they overcome? Is your management style markedly different from the previous operators, and if so, how? To ensure long term survival, what changes are under development? What key lessons did you learn from the previous generation? What were you not taught, but wish you had been? And what about the succession plan, bringing on the next generation, how’s that going?

I also asked about the Great Recession, you know that bad stretch that began in late 2007 or so and continues to this day. I asked questions like the following: What strategies are you using to cope with the recession? Have you had to redirect your marketing, and if so, how? Have you taken steps to get closer to your existing customers? Have you let people go, delayed new hiring? Have you lowered your expectations? What does the next year or so look like? And one last question, what’s your secret of success?

I’m happy to report that the operators of the family businesses I spoke to in Humboldt County are doing great. They are thriving, even in the recession. Much of this is because of the strength of the reservoir of family business experience.

Here’s the unique thing. There is a clear priceless family business advantage. Practically all the input the current generation might need to weather any sort of storm or to expand and grow more and more prosperous comes from the knowledge of previous generations in the family. Resting amid all that history is a vast repository of experience, wisdom, strong financial resources, plus a genuine willingness to pitch in and solve problems and of course, a compelling intention to keep the business moving forward and ensure a smooth transition to the next generation.

Growing up the sons and daughters had a unique business experience. The activities of the family enterprise were to topic of conversation at the dinner table for years. Many of the young had the opportunity to intern in the business during the summer months and after school during their teenage years, always learning at the feet of their parents. This stuff rubs off.

My father was a psychiatrist. I’m a psychologist. The business of mental health was the topic of discussion at our dinner table and I worked in my father’s office after school and during the summers doing laboratory work for him. It was a fun place for a nimble and impressionable mind to be. I’m sure my interest in the mental health of individuals and businesses was hugely influenced by my personal family business experience.

It’s true, the former generations of family business operators have seen just about everything there is to see and have had to come up with responses to all sort of crises and serious problems. Their bank of relevant experience is vast. They built their family business and know how it works. When the new generation faces a prickly problem the elders are more than willing to step in and share experiences and resources, even financial resources. They are genetically predispositioned and incentivized to do so because they are family. Input to the current generation in charge flow from the parents and grandparents and other relatives like a wide open faucet.

Let’s face this fact. It’s much easier to ask a family member, who understands and cares, for a loan when you've got a cash flow problem than it is to go to the bank. And the bank might say no. The relatives want what they built and managed to continue to flourish. They’re not going to hold back. So should the business need an infusion of capital they are likely to pitch with loans.

Now about the Great Recession: Members of the previous generation have weathered recessions before and their input has steered the current generation toward the development and implementation of successful recession coping strategies. These include the obvious notions: Get real close to current customers and clients. Learn their names. Get involved in community activities to be clearly visible. Postpone big purchases. Tighten up on inventory. Hold back on hiring. Cut costs to the bone. Reinvent and experiment with innovative marketing and sales and advertising modalities. Be hands on everywhere. Utilize free media such as Facebook. Be a cheerleader. Waste no time or effort. Manage stress by solving the problems that can be solved. Refocus and clarify the mission. And since there are family members in the business, sometimes several of them, resolve any personal messes in those key relationships. Keep those Thanksgiving dinners about the turkey, not about the business issues. Those can wait until Monday.

The business world everywhere is dominated by family businesses. One huge advantage is that they focus on long-term sustainability, community support and survival. Answering the question of how they survive intact and how families can maintain family unity over hundreds of years is essential. The family businesses that don’t survive the transfer of management from one generation to the next often point to unresolvable relationship conflicts as a big failure factor. I did not see any of that in my interviews. The folks I spoke with have figured it out. They do family business right.

Every one of the family owned business operators I spoke with loves being in their family business. They try to treat their employees like family too. They wouldn't have it any other way.

Humboldt County as a business community and as a society can feel secure in the fact that many family businesses play a major role in our economy and are here to stay. As we go forward, new history will tell us how the next five generations turn out. That will be for another writer to contemplate.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


HOW DO THE ALREADY GOOD GET BETTER? What’s the process for making more money and finding more happiness in your work time activities?

Big True Fact: To get better results from your business you will need to change some things. You may need to do MORE of some things, or LESS of some things, or START doing some things you’re not now doing, or STOP doing some things you are doing that aren’t working, and/or just do some things BETTER. MLSSB is the combination that makes more success happen. And what to change, well, it can be all sorts and kinds of things that need to change, not just a single one or two. But change you must if you are to be happier with your results, especially your money making results. 

You improve the performance of your business by changing your behavior and the behavior of those who work with you. It’s all about what you say and what you do… that’s behavior. 

We talk about making changes in ROUTINES or behavior at every one of our monthly group meetings. One of the goals of Master-Mind Alliance is that members make measurable progress in reasonable time. This means they change something with an expectation that the change will result in a noticeable improvement in bottom line results promptly. Then they see what happens. Did doing MLSSB produce the desired outcome? If not, then they re-apply the MLSSB paradigm and change something else. 

We know how to make the operation of any viable small business more successful. You just have to do enough of the things that are known to work. Those things are not a secret. We talk about them and share experiences using them at each and every Master-Mind Alliance meeting.

Last month my Chalk Talk was about how to start off the New Year, or the new month, or the new day in a way that is likely to produce winning results at work. 

We began off with 13 Assessment Questions looking at what’s working and what’s not. Then moved right into a discussion of Top Money Making Activities, the things people say and do that bring in the money. Essential to the application of your TMMA is setting up conditions that will make it so they work. This is about time management, allocating resources and yup, you guessed it, GOALS and planning and starting and following through with plenty of good old fashion persistent and consistent effort. 

Running a profitable small business is not easy. If it were more people would do it. It’s hard work. It takes time and patience and of course your strategies, especially your Top Money Making Activities, have to work most of the time. 

You get better at wielding your TMMA through Deliberate Practice, breaking down the complex entire activity into small pieces and practicing the pieces to perfection or to as close to perfection as you can get. Then you do a whole lot of what works and make the money flow into your pocket. 

As usual, a PDF of my Chalk Talk, plus a link to a You Tube video of my Chalk Talk, was provided to all members for their review.

TIME is finite. It goes by quickly. There never seems to be enough. If there were eight days in a week we’d probably still not have enough to do all we would like. So what do we do about that?

Winning in business has many requirements of course and central to them all has to be managing your energy and your time, especially your time. You must know the difference between the time you spend on important things -- that is, things that lead to goal fulfillment -- and time you spend on things that may be urgent, things you certainly must do, but things that have no relationship to your important goals at all. 

Ask yourself this question. How many times have you driven home from work and thought to yourself, “Drat, I spent all day busy, busy, busy and didn't get any of the things I wanted to get done even started… again. Where did the time go?”

I lot of people have this experience way too often. Those Top Money Making Activities just don’t get done. Sometime they don’t even get started. If this happens a lot, it can ruin an otherwise productive business. Speaking of a productive business, a definition of productivity I like is the following. Productivity is about getting the most important money making stuff done, in the least amount of time, with the fewest number of hassles and… for the biggest financial reward.

Look right in the middle of that definition and you’ll find the words “in the least amount of time.” The definition also says “getting the most important money making stuff done” that means actually finished and completed. This implies that the most important money making stuff actually got started. Someone, you or one or more of your team members, got to it, whatever “it” was, and they started and finished successfully in reasonable amounts of T I M E.

There are 5 keys to getting right with time, so you can beat the clock instead of having the clock beat you. To keep your business growing obviously your money making activities must be scheduled during peak money making hours and they must be started and successfully completed. And all conditions that contribute to that must be present and working flawlessly.

Getting right with the 5 POINTS of Time Management and making time work for you instead of against you will be the subject of our CHALK TALK in the February 2013 meeting of the Master-Mind Alliance.

Friday, January 25, 2013


In the National Football Conference NFL Championship Game between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers, that took place on Sunday January 13th, 2013, the 49ers were behind 24 to 14 at halftime and it didn't look good for them. Then, miraculously, during the halftime break the San Francisco head coach said some things to the players that changed the course of history that day. In the second half the 49ers played much better and they won, 28 to 24. Then it was off to the Super Bowl.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh must have had some powerful words for those guys huh?

I’m sure a few tactical changes were made and that helped. But it had to be bigger than just that. Harbaugh’s words had some magical effect. It had to be his words that created victory. No new players entered the game. Everything was the same except better performance on the part of the entire team. A few no doubt impassioned and well-chosen words from coach Harbaugh resulted in significantly better player behavior from every offensive and defensive player in the second half.

The Falcons were prevented from scoring any points at all in the second half. That's amazing. They are a very good team.

How did that locker room conversation make that happen? What must have been said? Well, we don’t know. We weren't there. No television cameras were present. But we do know this. Harbaugh’s problem solving, strategy redesign and let’s play better words and conversation inspired a new level of motivation and the results were terrific.

So…what can we learn from this? How can we use our words in our locker room -- our business environment -- to make it so all our players step up and perform at significantly higher levels? Can the mere words we use in conversations with our employees result in increases in sales and more money for everyone involved in our business? That would certainly be our victory, our win. Can we learn how to do that? The answer is YES, we can.

How do you get more productivity (more sales generating activity) out of your employees with your words? Simple, by asking the right questions, question that demonstrate that you genuinely care about THEM at work and at home too. You talk to them about THEM, their GOALS, what THEY want. You find out what’s important to them.

This kind of conversation has a fantastic effect on people. It shows them that you genuinely care about them. And that unmistakable demonstration  of caring inspires them to want to please you because then they like you better too. And when they all like you better, guess what? They work more closely together as a team to meet YOUR GOALS. They increase their focus and concentration on all the activities in your business that brings in the money. Common sense really. You demonstrate that you genuinely care about them and they reciprocate in kind. Everybody wins.

When you become a Peak Performance Leader and engage in GOAL CENTERED CONVERSATIONS, using what we call FIERCE QUESTIONS -- which are questions that pull no punches and are open and honest and relevant and on point and passionate -- the productivity and profitability of your business is all about the goals of your team members, your employees.

And that’s how your WORDS CAN CREATE VICTORY.