Lucky's Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Please Help

For those of you who know me, you all know how hard it is for me to ask for money. However, my wife has been battling arthritis for several years now and I can't express how much this disease affects every part of someone's life and their family members. Please dig deep and be as generous as possible to help us find a cure. This holiday season, I’m participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. This family-friendly, fun, and festive 5K run/walk raises money to help the Arthritis Foundation while they search for a cure, and provide life changing information and support to people with arthritis. Please join me or donate on my behalf and make the holiday season merrier!
Please Click below to give or join. Any amount helps!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Can’t I Just Put Talented People in the Right Position and Be Successful?

                                                          --An excerpt from my book--

Too many times it has been tried in sports with no success. An eager owner, with too much money, buys the best talent available and puts them all on the same team. They never become a championship team. So the natural question is why? Simple, the Coach. You can have the most dynamic, talented team in the world but without structure and strong leadership they will ultimately fail. In most cases when a team of over achievers is put together, there are a lot of egos that come along with the talent. This requires an even stronger core structure and clear plan. If you take these people and put them together without strong leadership and structure, they will eat each other alive. Don’t get me wrong, if you can get a superstar on your team, you should always accept them. However, be sure that you are a strong enough leader to keep the team focused and not let distractions interfere with the primary objective. In many cases you can take an enthusiastic, less skilled group of people and turn them into a high performing team by giving them a clear vision and the proper support they require. This will time and time again, produce successful results. It will also have the added benefit of building your next level of leaders. As previously noted, rarely do you hire someone great; you build them through training and support. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Are you prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Smart phones, tablets, clouds, electronic journals and day planners! It is hard to imagine a world without these awesomely powerful devices and repositories that we hold in our hands every day. Being an early adopter and also having over 30 years in the trade, it seems impossible that I was able to do my job before this smart technology was available. However, I did get it done, and actually I had an even better memory than I have today, but that is a topic for another article.

In today’s world it is not uncommon for people to have very few contacts, appointment, tasks, and emails committed to memory. I mean why bother? The smart devices handle all that for you. Have an appointment or meeting? Your device will remind you. Need to make a call? All you have to do is say the person’s name into your Bluetooth device and it will call a contact for you, no need to remember anything. In fact, I just got a new Bluetooth that actually reads my emails to me, eliminating the need for me to even pick up my smart phone to read the email. It does the same thing for texts and incoming calls. Again, great technology and it definitely makes things much safer for me when I am driving. However, when I was traveling last week I had a very enlightening moment and I thought it would be a good share for this week’s article.

I got up in the morning and went to a Denny’s for breakfast. When I walked in the door I noticed about seven other tables that had customers seated. I went up to the counter, since I was by myself, and asked for a whole wheat bagel dry. The waitress looked up at me with a perplexed expression and said, “Our POS system is down and you will have to wait until it is back online before you will be able to pay for it.”

I said to her, probably with an equally perplexed look on my face, “You can’t add it up manually?” At this point her look transformed to anger and she just walked away. A few minutes later she brought me my bagel.

After I finished eating, I sat there waiting for the system to come back on line. I then noticed that many of the other tables were sitting and apparently waiting for the same thing. A few minutes went by and the manager, as well as the waitress I had spoken with earlier, was trying to manually add up tickets on ‘old school’ white and green check tickets. It was quite a sight to see, with them looking up each item including drinks in the menu and transferring it to a paper ticket. Neither had any idea what the price was for any specific item.

They continued on and then started arguing about what the state tax was for Virginia. The waitress was adamant that it was 5.3% but the manager disagreed and said she was sure it was 10%. I looked it up on my phone really quick and tried to show it to them. However, after my earlier remark, my attempt to help was not well received. The manager continued to argue with the waitress and said you have to include county tax and she was sure it was at least 10%. So they started trying to manually add up the tickets and calculating the tax at 10%. Neither knew how to perform this simple calculation. Once again I opened my calculator app on my phone and asked them if they would like to use it. I again was met with nasty looks. Finally, I threw down a five dollar bill and told them when they figured it out they could keep the change and left.

This story really got me thinking about this type of situation and how prepared companies may be, should they lose their wireless/Smart technologies. It shouldn’t be overlooked considering that we lose connections all the time throughout any given month.

In my company, we are 100% paperless and depend greatly on the ever changing wireless technologies and smart devices. So I started asking all my team members to put together a “Zombie Apocalypse Plan”. Meaning that assume at some point we lose all wireless capabilities, computers and smart devices. Will you have a way to contact your customers? Will our field team members have a way to complete and document their jobs without their tablets? Do you have a price list and know how to manually calculate an invoice? In short, could we support our customers keeping the problem completely invisible to them? It may seem obvious, but I really wonder how many people in today’s world would even know how to call their friends and family if they lost their smart phone capability?

I always look for ways to improve, and this was a prime example of how it isn’t always learning what you should do, sometimes it is learning what not to do from observing others success or failure. I know we are stronger by having this back up plan in place and I suggest you also think about implementing your own plan both on a professional and personal level. When the time comes and you lose capability and connect-ability with technology will it be an inconvenience or a curse? Will the Zombies win?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inspect What You Expect

Ok, so yes, this an old saying that has been heard thousands of times. However, it is astonishing how few people really follow the wisdom. There is a reason that old clich├ęs stick around for so long. They are very true!

Over the years I have seen many examples of companies that have built a great process around the execution of the tasks within their businesses. At the same time, I have seen them fall by the way side and close their doors. Most of the time, it comes down to simply not inspecting the team to ensure that the processes are being followed.

Recently, I had a similar situation I was dealing with that really drives this point home. I was talking with Bob and he was explaining to me how he continues to have issues in the field with his team. He had over a dozen “at fault” accidents, in company vehicles that were costing him a fortune since his company is self-insured up to 100K.

Bob was befuddled because he spent so much time training his team on how to be safe drivers. He had all driving team members take a defensive driving course, he prepared his own safe driving course, and had monthly meetings where he reiterated the teachings and importance of safe driving. Despite his continued focus, the accidents kept piling up. None were major accidents, just minor rear end bumps, but enough to cause damage to both vehicles.

Bob knew the problem was that his team members were distracted, more than likely by smart phones and tablets. But he had made it clear that they should pull over and stop before looking at any emails or answering their phones, regardless of whether or not they had Bluetooth. However, it was obvious his instructions were not being followed.

I asked Bob if his team had a record of not following directions. To which he replied,” No!” So we started going through his records. It was amazing all the process that Bob had built for his team. He had very structured protocol for how each team member was to fill out paper work, safety documentation, invoicing, even how they interacted with the customer. It was as if I had built the structure myself. However, once we started reviewing the documentation, it became apparent that none of the process he spent so much time building was being followed by the overwhelming majority of his team members. So I asked Bob what protocols he had in place to review and inspect that his processes were being followed.  He looked at me with a dazed look on his face. I asked him if he ever does QC checks on the jobsites to ensure the required processes he had in place were being followed. Again, nothing!

Bob just lowered his head and said, “I am an idiot! I have been so focused on building the right processes to create an excellent, repeatable, experience for my customers; I forgot the most important element, to inspect what I am expecting from my team!” I explained to Bob that without the inspection process, the team doesn’t realize how important this is to you. While yes, you spend the time and money to constantly remind them in meetings how important it is, if you are not checking to ensure the processes are being followed, it sends a different message to the team.

Now Bob has instituted a QC process to ensure not only the quality of the work and the customer experience, but also for the documentation side which tells him his processes are being followed. Additionally, with the installation of a GPS tracking system, even the driving element is now monitored. These changes have made a huge difference in the effectiveness of his team, as well as shown improvement to the bottom line. The fact is that when inspecting what you expect from your team, you are sending a clear and concise message that nothing less will be tolerated. ‘Buy in’ is a must!

While everyone wants to have the company that provides a level of excellence that blows the customer away, without a solid QC and inspection process, failure is the only thing you can truly expect.

If you enjoyed this post please consider making a small donation to the M.C. Dean Team for the Jingle Bell Run at:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I am raising money to help the Arthritis Foundation. Please consider giving to this great organization by clicking on my team page and making a donation. We only have 46 days left before the big race day. Thanks to everyone in advance for your generosity and support.

If you have found any value here at my free site over the years please consider a small donation to our team page. Just click on the link below and click on Give Now! Thanks for all your support.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Being The Best

Those who know me already know that I have an almost sick obsession with being the best at everything I do. I guess it is my competitive nature that drives this behavior. It is a hard line to walk between my desire for being the best in every aspect of my life, but also having the serenity to know that it is never obtainable.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, I wake up every day with a laser focus on being the best. I ask myself every morning, what I can do today to be better than I was yesterday; as a leader, a husband, a father,  or as a solution for my valued customers, etc...
I have always lived under the principle that if you provide a superior service at a fair price, you will always remain busy. So far that principle has served me well (knock on wood). However, this article isn’t about me and my relentless pursuit of perfection. This article is about focusing on being the best at what you do, no matter your station in your life.

On the business side it doesn’t matter what your role is in an organization. If you draw a paycheck then you are an important member of the team. It should always be your main focus to be the best you can be at that position. If you are digging a ditch, then you should focus on being the very best ditch digger. This is the true measure of a person’s character. I have spent my entire career focused on being the best team member I could be and focused on making the company the most money I could, regardless of what tasks I was given. This is the best advice I could ever give anyone. If you focus on the success of your team, rather than on your own selfish needs, you will always be in demand and rarely need to worry about money or keeping your job. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’.”

It has always been strange to me that many people look past the receptionist at the front desk, or the janitor that sweeps the halls. Their role is every bit as important, if not more so, than that of the CEO.

Let’s look at the receptionist for example. When someone enters a business, the receptionist is the first person they meet. If they call the office, they are the first person to whom they speak. Have you ever heard of first impressions? How well the receptionist does their job, how clean they keep their desk, and how warm and welcoming they are, will definitely have an effect on your customer’s impression of your business. If first impressions are so important, then in turn so is the receptionist.

The same holds true for the janitor. Can you imagine what the place would look like if you didn’t have someone who cleaned up the place and kept it looking like a professional work place?

I bring these positions up because many times people take them for granted. In fact many times we take other very important people in our organization for granted. It makes it very difficult for a team member to put passion and desire into their job, if they feel they are being taken for granted. Always remember that every team member is important and has their role to play in the success of the business.

With all that said, how do we become the very best? Well you can’t! Remember, that is how I started this article. You have to understand that being the best isn’t really a goal, it is a desire. However you should strive to achieve perfection with every fiber of your being.

The difference between being ordinary and world class is often only one second. If you think about it for a minute you will begin to understand what I am saying. In most cases the difference between a gold medal winner in the Olympics and the person who came in dead last is less than a second. So these athletes train day after day, night after night, to gain that second over their competition.

If you want to be the best, then you also need to have that passion and work ethic. You have to want it more than you want to take your next breath. You need to dedicate your time and efforts to being the best. This means training, practicing, and conditioning day after day, night after night, to gain the one second on your competition. This is the portrait of a winner and it doesn’t matter what you do, you can be better at it; and people will notice. Good luck and train on!

Friday, May 2, 2014

What Makes You Different

What Makes You Different
One of the best questions you can ask yourself in business is; what makes you different? It really doesn't matter whether we are talking about your business, or your position within a business. I have been asked many times to help people with their business, or with their career, and this is always the first question I ask them. Rarely do I get a cogent answer.

The most common answer is “our company provides the best quality”, or “I work harder than my peers”. While all that may be true, it usually isn't a true differentiator. Just about every business thinks they are different, better, faster, or offer a greater value. The truth though, is that most people cannot articulate what makes them different, better, faster, or why their offer provides a greater value. Whether you are an employee or a business owner, you need to ask yourself this question and give it some serious thought. If you cannot identify specific metrics that truly separate you from the competition, then you are going to have a hard time convincing your customers, or boss, that you are the better choice.

If we take a look at some examples I think my point may become clear about how to differentiate you, even in a saturated market. In previous articles I have used the comparison of Best Buy versus Wal-Mart. I don’t mean to rehash the same point, but I can’t think of a better example when it comes to two completely different experiences within the same market. So for my faithful followers, here I go again.

Wal-Mart is a great company who provides a valuable service to a diverse set of demographics. If you want to but a product and be sure that you are paying near the lowest price possible, then Wal-Mart is the place for you. They have massive superstores now that have everything from furniture to tonight’s dinner. However, it will usually be hard to find a parking space anywhere near the store, it will be very crowded, and chances are you will not get a sales person who has a great deal of knowledge about the products you are considering for purchase. Once you find the product you want, it will take some time to find someone to pull it from the back for you, and if you are lucky, they will help you get it to your car. This works great for the frugal buyer who has no problem getting and loading their own products and already knows what they want. It is especially a great venue for the buyer who spends weeks looking up information on the internet deciding what the best product for their needs is and requires little to no input from a sales person.

Best Buy has a whole different model. They pay their employees no commission, and make sure that they are very well trained on all the products they carry. They have wide open spaces with great selections to choose from, and a salesperson will spend as much time as you need answering questions and making sure you are paired with the proper product. They will gladly load that product into your vehicle, and even send someone to your house to set it up for you if you desire.

So there you have it, two completely different experiences, in the same retail environment. One is not better than the other, just different. Each one caters to a different type of client. If you were to ask Wal-Mart what makes them different, they would more than likely respond, ‘great value and low prices’, and they would be correct. If you were to ask Best Buy what makes them different, they would more than likely respond with ‘great selection and exceptional customer service’, and they too would be correct.

So when you analyze yourself or your business, ask yourself what makes me/us different? For me, at my office, we have designed innovative ways to enhance the customer experience. We have used technology to become more efficient and speed up the service process for our customers. We have also designed a system to ensure the highest possible quality for every job, every time. If that wasn’t enough we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that we have some of the best trained team members in the industry. While I am not going to reveal all the details, since this is our competitive advantage, be sure that they are a part of our marketing package when approaching new customers.

So what makes you different? What can you do that nobody else can do? If you don’t have that answer, get it! As the economy begins to recover, the companies and employees that truly set themselves apart will have an enormous advantage. You need to identify who is your perfect customer and how can you serve them better than anyone else? If you are an employee, ask yourself what internal need can I fill and be better than anyone else at performing? Once you have identified these things you need to plan and develop internal processes that will set you apart from everyone else. Whether it is focusing on a specific type of customer, service, or job duty, find something that you can do that no one else is offering or can’t offer, and then make that your sole focus. Saying you are better or faster is easy, actually being able to prove it is a whole different situation. So hurry up and develop what truly makes you different than your competition!