Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The 3 Non-Leadership books every Leader, Teacher and Parent should read

I realize that might title is a bit redundant.

A great leader IS a great teacher and vice-versa.
In industries, like internet marketing, where the amount of information doubles every 8 months, the ability to teach your team may be the single most important aspect of leadership.

So with that in mind, if you want to be a leader on one of my teams, these are the 3 books you need to read and live.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

If there was a single book that taught you how to be a great teacher and thereby a great leader, this is it.

Each day we are all faced with success and failures and we respond in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Fixed Mindset – Each mistake is validation that you aren’t smart, talented or good enough. Conversely, every success tells you that you are innately “gifted” which is very dangerous because then you stop looking for challenges where you might fail and therefore not validate your “gifted” status.
  2. Growth Mindset – Each failure and success are a means of learning. You either learned what you wanted (i.e. succeeded) or you didn’t (i.e. failed). Either way, you have more to learn, further to go and higher mountains to climb. Your mind is ever-expanding and intellect can always grow.

Our team has summarized this in our Culture Statements as:

Learning from other’s successes is extremely valuable however sometimes learning from our own mistakes is more memorable. We embrace our mistakes, learn not to repeat them, and therefore are constantly pushing the limits to get better.

If you only have time for one leadership or teaching book, Carol Dweck’s book is it!

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

It wasn’t blind luck that the greatest concentration of artists, sculptors and painters of all time just happened to live in the same area of Italy over a 60 year time frame in the 16th century.

It’s also not chance that the small, dingy school where Anna Kournikova learned to play tennis, at one time produced 4 of the top 50 greatest players in the world.

It’s by design that the Dominican Republic has an unmatched density of great baseball players and, amidst abject poverty, Brazil has produced some of the world’s greatest players and teams consistently for nearly 50 years.

There’s a system and a code to “talent”. It’s not merely innate and it’s not simply about working for 10,000 hours on something. It’s about mindset, commitment, and breaking down the skill or talent to it’s essentials.

Daniel Coyle tells you exactly how and it’s as inspiring a read as you may ever encounter.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Think for a second of the tests that you may have taken to measure your intelligence.

  • IQ Tests
  • SAT’s
  • ACT’s
  • College Exams
  • High School Exams

Of the tests listed above do you know which one most closely predicts success in life?
None of them. None can be correlated to job, income, happiness or any other measure of success.

But there is a test that can.

It’s called the marshmallow test.
Put a 3 year old in a room. Give her a marshmallow and say, “You may eat the marshmallow. Or you can wait a few minutes until I come back and I’ll give you 2.”

If she waits, she understands the value of delayed gratification – working hard and sacrificing now to receive something better in the future – and it will predict her future success more accurately than any other test.

That’s one of hundreds of examples that illustrate that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important in our lives than IQ.

Goleman also provides great examples of how to teach 3 to 93 year olds how to improve their Emotional Intelligence and better empathize with those around us.

Those were listed in the order of importance so start at the top and work your way down.

To your success in becoming a great, teaching leader,

The 3 Videos Every Leader and Manager Must See!

Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s no harder challenge for leaders than to ignore their power and instead focus solely on serving their team. Simon is being interviewed by Glenn Beck and tells the best short story I’ve ever heard to help keep leaders grounded by the fact that they exist to serve not be served.

Dan Pink – Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – Every human being desires these 3 things and Dan breaks this down with unbelievable clarity. He also shares the downsides of commissions and incentives in many job positions.

Shawn Achor – The Happiness Advantage

Everything you know about success and happiness is wrong. You will NOT be happy once you are successful. The truth is, you will be more successful if you are first happy.

All Great Businesses are Inherently Moral

This fact has been proven time and time again by modern business and human psychology experts.

No business that exists exclusively for profit, without the advantages of corporatism or cronyism, will ever be very successful and certainly not over the long-term.

This is not my opinion. This law of business is as well established as the laws of gravity.

By a great business I very simply mean a profitable enterprise that lasts for an extended period of time. An unethical business can fool people for a short time however it cannot fool them for very long, particularly in the age of social media.

Business experts from a few decades ago called this vision and mission. Brad Sugars in Instant Team Building insists on vision, mission, and culture points. Tony Hseih in Delivering Happiness calls on vision and culture statements. Mike Michalowicz in The Pumpkin Plan has his immutable laws. Sam Carpenter references his Rules of the Game in Work the System.

Jim Collins in Good to Great discusses the requirement of all great businesses to have a “Hedgehog concept.”

One of the primary findings in, Built to Last, that contradicted the teachings of many MBA programs, is that businesses that have survived and excelled over time were often the ones that were centered around a core business concept, not a great product.

Let me summarize a major portion of all of those books very succinctly…

The compass for lasting business success always points you in the same direction.

The compass for long-term business success will always point you in the same direction.

Every great business expert knows that a business MUST be motivated by something more than profit to inspire your team, stay focused and even maximize profits.

If you’re still not convinced, pick up a copy of The Loyalty Effect by Frederick F. Reichheld and read about the numerous studies that have shown that companies who downsize in the interest of short-term profits rarely ever recover and often their stock prices suffer for a very long time. Obviously there are necessary times to downsize and appropriate ways to do so, but to simply improve next quarter’s earnings is not one of those times. As a general rule, downsizing is best treated as a last resort.

In The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley discovered that the #1 thing millionaires attribute to their success is “being honest with all people.” (And 88% of the millionaires he surveyed achieved their wealth through entrepreneurship.)

Marcus Buckingham’s research in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently demonstrated that pay is not even in the top 5 reasons people stay at or leave a job. Through 20 years of research with 20,000 managers and over 80,000 interviews, he has developed 12 questions that do show what motivates people and pay doesn’t even make the list.

In other words, money is not the primary motivator for people and all businesses are run by people.

Dan Pink takes it a step further in the below video. Through extensive research in the psychology of motivation he shows that for someone to truly excel they need Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. If your boss, the corporation, or the government is dictating what you should do, there goes Autonomy. If your “hedgehog concept” is to maximize profit, then you’ve thrown Purpose out the window.

A non-crony entity that exists primarily for profit will never be a very successful business and every great business leader knows this. The idea that companies should be immoral is as old as Machiavelli and it was as wrong then as it is now.

If you work for someone who runs an immoral business, start educating them that there is a better, more prosperous way. As a matter of fact, help every business leader and employee you know appreciate the long-term business benefits of running an ethical, moral business.

It’s truly the only path a business can take to succeed over the long-term.

To your ethical business building success,

P.S. My team’s number one culture point is Love and we try to live it as best we can. It’s not easy and we don’t always succeed but it is our most core value. I highly recommend you infuse it into your culture.

Your “experience” is what’s holding your managers back and limiting your growth

If you hired the right managers, who are better than you in their areas of expertise, then the key to getting them to excel is simply to unleash them.

In other words, get out of his or her way!

You just need to let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes, and allow him to lead his own team. Once you realize that your “experience” and knowledge is actually holding your team back, then real growth can start.

If you’re doing ANY of the following, you’re holding your leaders back:

  1. Addressing issues with the team members who should report to him. This should be clearly defined in your organizational chart.
  2. Addressing issues from customers who should be talking to him. If your customers have been trained to go to you to get the best deal, then un-train them by making sure all pricing goes through your chosen leader.
  3. Vetoing ideas and making decisions in his department. Your job as the CEO, Owner, President or Team Leader is to explain why you think something will or will not work. Not to make the decision.
  4. Dictating that leader’s schedule. Sure you can ask him to take care of an issue or help you with something, but dictating a schedule without his approval is more like putting on a choke collar and then asking him to chase away the rabbits. He can try as hard as he wants but he’s never going to get the job done.
  5. Second-guessing or analyzing every decision. The details are not important to you, only the results are. Allow him to work out the details. (I explain below what to do if you think he’s going to implement a bad idea.)
  6. Holding regular meetings to ensure you ultimately get to make the “big” decisions. Quite often this is done indirectly. You might never come out and say, “It has to be done this way because I said so.” But saying, “You know, I really think that idea won’t work but it’s up to you,” is interpreted as “You better not try that!“, when it comes from most bosses.
  7. Ignoring mistakes that are made. This is a major misconception. Allowing people to make mistakes, in and of itself, is pretty worthless. Not addressing those mistakes is downright harmful to your business and the mistake maker. Mistakes should only be made once and the only way to ensure that your leader knows that it was a mistake, and has a way to prevent it from happening again, is to openly discuss mistakes. Biting your lip because you’re afraid to hurt his feelings by pointing out a mistake, is a sign that you still have him on a leash.

So how do you keep tabs on your newly free leaders?

  1. You need some “Rules of the Game” in the form of a written Vision, Mission and Culture. Think of these like your 10 Commandments of business. Everyone on your team doesn’t need to memorize them. However, your key leaders do need to know what’s expected of them and the clearest way to do that is in writing.
  2. You must have a Weekly Action SnapShot (WacSnap) so you can keep regular tabs on the key areas of your business. Depending on your function on the team, this may be included in a weekly meeting with your key leaders.
  3. You need Key Performance Indicators for each leader. For example:
    1. Service leaders need to demonstrate a profitable service department with minimal call-backs and customer complaints.
    2. Marketing leaders need a target acquisition cost, marketing ROI, number of leads, and conversion rate.
    3. Sales leaders also need to know conversion rate along with average dollar sale and lifetime value of a customer.
    4. Finance leaders need to know cash on hand, cash in receivables, and pending payables at all times. She also needs a target goal for savings and capital available for upcoming large purchases.
  4. At least twice a year you need to conduct a 12 Questions survey with each leader.

What if a leader is going to make a bad decision?

Have you ever made a bad decision? Since you’re reading this, then you somehow managed to survive it. Most poor decisions will fall on that side of the coin – They’re survivable. Keep that in mind.

  1. Ask him (don’t tell him) why he thinks X will work out well.
  2. Ask him if he knows of anyone else who has implemented it successfully. If not, and you have a resource for him to talk to on this topic, then offer it. You don’t have to pretend to be the expert on every topic. It’s much better to have a list of resources available.
  3. Let him know you’ve tried something similar to that before and ask if he’d like a few ideas.
  4. Find out how he plans to measure if the idea is successful or not. Every idea should have a measurement for success and just defining that allows most people to see the flaws in their own ideas.
  5. If he still thinks it’s a good idea, no one is going to die, the business isn’t going to go under, and an account worth more than 5% of your gross sales doesn’t have a highly likely chance of getting lost, back off and let him implement the idea.
  6. Once he realizes he’s made a mistake (which will be obvious if you did step #4), ask him what went wrong. Again, don’t just tell him. If you ever want him to think critically and figure out how to catch mistakes before they’re ever made, you have to stop spoon-feeding him all the answers. 
  7. If the idea does work, congratulate him on a job well done! Now go celebrate because allowing a leader to do something you didn’t think would work and being proven wrong, just helped you take a giant leap towards growing your business without it depending solely on you.

Won’t that take more time than me just making all the decisions?

Yes. At first.

You can only physically make so many decisions so your growth will be limited. Additionally, your freedom and ability to take vacations will also be limited.

More importantly, the ability for your team managers to be fully engaged and satisfied with their work will also be very limited.

One last thought…

For some people, “unleashing” your managers is going to be a BIG change. You’re not quite ready for it and they don’t quite believe you’re serious.

So during this transition, when someone comes to you to ask a question, don’t assume she wants your opinion. Chances are she doesn’t. She just doesn’t fully believe the decision is in her own hands and still doesn’t want to do something you won’t like.

Before you answer her question, you need to ask directly, “Are you looking for my approval or my opinion? If you want my approval, you have it. If you want my opinion, I’ll only give it to you if you treat it for what it is. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best decision for your team.

More importantly, when you say that, you better mean it!

To your success in unleashing the talents within your leaders, Bryan

The difference between good and bad is in how it's communicated

As I’m thinking of lessons that are extremely important for all of the members of our teams to understand, communication jumps to mind. Behind ethics and more specifically “being honest with all people”, effective communication is probably the most important part of the culture of any organization.

In my experience visiting businesses I’ve seen plenty of examples of why great communication is so important to an organization. However, 3 great business leaders who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and learning from taught me a few simple lessons that drive home the point a bit easier.

Behind my father, Steve Dickerson and Bob Reiss are probably the most influential businessmen I have met. Mr. Dickerson has an amazing knack for story-telling and an even more uncanny ability to solve problems. He was one of the people I interviewed and referenced in my very first blog and he’s the one who taught me that the difference between a positive and a negative action almost always lies in the way its communicated.

So lets consider this for a moment. You’re in charge of a manufacturing facility that employs a few thousand people (over 2,000). You’re notified 2 years ahead of time that the facility is going to be closed. When do you let your employees know? If you give them 1-2 months then they may just leave in spite. If you give them 4-6 months you’ll probably have most people leaving before you even shutdown and then you’ll have to start hiring people for just a few months. If you give them any more notice then for sure people will leave which makes your job a whole lot tougher. It’s not like you can prevent the plant closure, so its not your fault. Take a few minutes and think through what you could do in this situation to best help all of the company stakeholders. Obviously the way you handle this situation can certainly dictate what will happen to you after the end of those 2 years.

Mr. Dickerson looks at the world a whole lot differently than most people. I have never personally met someone so confident that he could overcome any obstacle and solve any problem. He elected to tell all of his team members right away. Now read this carefully because the way he communicated the plant closing is what turned this situation into a “positive.” Before he told the entire team, he called in upper management and let them know and informed them that they have 2 years to find jobs for everyone in the plant. That’s right, his management team including himself took the personal responsibility to find employment for everyone who was going to be laid off. So they did some research and found a new manufacturing plant was being built not too far away and some other businesses were expanding. The day the plant closed 2 years later, every single one of the “laid-off” employees were now employed somewhere else or had made appropriate plans for retirement.

So the first question that comes to mind is, why isn’t that story taught in every business ethics class in every school and MBA program in the country? Doing the right thing and COMMUNICATING effectively can turn even the most negative situations positive.

Now many of us may not be responsible for the livelihoods of thousands of people so that story may seem to be a bit beyond our capabilities. So let’s take a look at a lesson that Jamie Hresko taught me.

Mr. Hresko was the plant manager for the Pontiac G6 plant in MI. To get an idea of his capabilities, when he took over responsibility for that plant there were over 3,000 grievances outstanding from the union. Amazingly, as I understand it, that’s only slightly higher than the average for a GM facility. However, within 3 years, Mr. Hresko had managed to drop that number to around 30. The lowest of any union facility under GM’s ownership. One of his 5 keys to doing that was Communication and he told this story to illustrate.

He said one day the union rep came to him and said we need another water fountain out on the floor. Jaime considered for a split second that they cut the workers’ hours, the labor force, and their wages (if I recall correctly) and the grievances were still unrealistically low so the least he could do is give them a water fountain. He said “no problem we’ll get it ordered right away” and then asked someone on his staff to make sure they had their water fountain. Two weeks go by and still no water fountain so the rep comes back to Mr. Hresko and asks where the fountain is. Mr. Hresko tells him the truth, “you know what, I’m not sure. I asked someone to take care of that for me and we’re definitely getting it for you so can you give me a chance to find out what’s going on?” So he went and found out the fountain had been ordered, everything had been taken care of, and it would be installed the next day. Low and behold the fountain shows up the next day and all the union members thank Mr. Hresko and start saying “man that guy is good. We don’t have a water fountain for 2 weeks and soon as we mention it to him he takes care of us. If you want anything done around here you have to go to Mr. Hresko.” The reality of the situation was he did absolutely nothing. The person he had asked to take care of the fountain did exactly that. Except one thing. He failed to communicate with the union what was going on and how long it would take. That simple act of communication would have instilled more faith from the union in the rest of management, would have saved Mr. Hresko the time of researching what was going on, and would have prevented the union from getting upset because no one took care of the water fountain for 2 weeks.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, it has been over 3 years since I’ve heard either of these stories so they are paraphrased, however I’m certain my numbers are very close. Even if they were off a bit and Mr. Dickerson helped 3,000 or 1,800 people find new jobs – or if Mr. Hresko only reduced the grievances to 50 or 60 would the stories be any less compelling?

The point is, in every situation, be it a conversation with your sister, husband, colleague, boss, or team member, you should ALWAYS be looking for the most positive way to communicate. Often times being positive simply means calling people back when you say you will, or keeping people up-to-date on the progress of a project. Dale Carnegie in his classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People, suggests in instances where you must critique someone you start out with a positive statement about the person first, so as not to put them on the defensive.

Bob Reiss made a point of assuring his employees that ethics were a high priority. For example, he always kept a copy of the 10 commandments on his desk to reference when a situation with an employee warranted it. From several sources familiar with his companies I was told it was nearly impossible to get a job there. No one ever left. Once you had a job there you stayed for life because you loved working there so much. In one instance, an employee of Mr. Reiss’ approached him with a difficult situation that she was very concerned about sharing with him. Her boss had apparently done something inappropriate or unethical (I was never told what he did) and from experiences she’s had at previous jobs, going above the head of your boss was never a good idea. Mr. Reiss thanked her for bringing the situation to his attention and took care of the problem (I believe by getting rid of that manager). Had Mr. Reiss not been known as an owner with high ethical standards and who strongly valued honesty, there’s a good chance that lady would have never felt comfortable enough to approach him. So if you’re going to be an ethical business builder, make sure you communicate that with your team members. After all, if your team doesn’t know that, are you really an ethical business builder or leader?

The best way to communicate those ethics is through actions and a good way to hold yourself and your team accountable is by setting very specific guidelines for the “culture” you expect at your business. We’ll get more into the importance of defining your business’ culture in another blog.

To your success, Bryan