Category Archives: Fitness

Perfectly Plausible

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Brett was somewhat disturbed with my observations about his dilemma.

“I don’t think you are being fair,” he said. “You know the market is tight and you know we are out there doing our best to drum up sales.”

“Do you have a competitor that is already out of business?” I asked.

“Not one, we lost three competitors almost nine months ago. The market wasn’t even nearly as tight as it is now. They just couldn’t sustain it.”

“If you ran into one of them in the grocery store and asked them why they went out, what would they say?”

“Well, they would blame it on the market,” Brett replied.

“Yes. And everyone would believe them and feel some empathy for them. It is a perfectly plausible excuse. Your former competitors chose to live with the problem, and whine and complain about it, rather than make the changes necessary to get a different result.” -TF

Easier to Live With the Problem

“Things are getting tight,” Brett explained. “This market is a lot different from a year ago.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“The phone doesn’t ring anymore. We only prepare two or three bids a week, now instead of two or three a day. So, it’s no wonder that our sales are down, backlog dwindling.”

“It’s quite a problem. I am glad you are happy with it.”

Brett shifted in his chair. “Happy, I’m not happy about it.”

I smiled. “Sure you are. You know, it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Brett shifted again. “What do you mean? I just told you that our market has changed. Getting sales is tougher.”

“What would you have to do to maintain your sales volume, even if the phone doesn’t ring?” I asked.

Brett looked puzzled. “Well, we would have to get out of the office, go out and look for new customers, but we are already doing some of that. It’s just hard to do.”

“So, you are happy to have this problem. It’s a lot easier to live with the problem of lagging sales than it is to make the necessary changes that create sales in spite of the market.” -TF


“But, I want to improve,” Barbara stated, flatly. “If there is an area, where I need improvement, or where I make mistakes, I want to focus on that.”

“Indeed, if you are an ice skater,” I replied, “and your laces are untied, you are likely to take a nasty spill. So get your laces tied, tightly, so they don’t trip you up. But getting your laces tied, does not make you a champion ice skater.” -TF

Creating Undergrowth

“It’s strange,” Byron said. “A couple of years ago, we were on top of the world. We were the industry leader, now things are tightening. You just never know.”

“So, this was not predictable?” I asked.

“No, our growth curves just showed, no turning back. I mean, it wasn’t hockey stick growth, but continued growth just the same. We just didn’t think we would have to pull in our horns.”

“So, Byron, what’s the purpose for a forest fire?”

“What do you mean? How can a forest fire have a purpose?”

“From an ecological sense?”

Byron thought for a minute. “I have heard that when a forest becomes choked with undergrowth, a fire can clear it out. Though it appears devastating, that’s what brings on new growth.”

“What could that tell us about business cycles?” I probed.
“Sometimes the market gets overgrown and has to be cleared out?” Byron tested.

“Yes, in fact, if you look at macro economic climates, you will see very distinct cycles. Occasionally, there has to be a clearing of the undergrowth. So, what if you looked at your own internal business cycles, within your own company. What do you now see?”

Byron pondered. “I see that, as we grew, some of the things we created weren’t good for the long term health of the company. They seemed like a good idea at the time, but, perhaps, we were just creating undergrowth.”

Our Proud Service

“But the project you are talking about abandoning is a service that we have provided for more than a decade. Our customers have come to expect it. Heck, part of our reputation stands on it,” Byron protested.

“So, is it your moral duty to continue something that is no longer producing results? Or can you accept that, what you are known for, once served a market, but that market was temporary? And that proud service no longer satisfies a customer need.” -TF

Not More Research

Byron was thinking back. “I think we have done what you suggested. Every year, in our annual business plan, we look at the cost structure in each of our project areas. And each year, we find one or two things that don’t quite measure up.”

“What was the last project that didn’t measure up,” I asked. “And what did you decide about it?”

Byron’s curiosity turned into a muffled laugh. “You’re right. Now that I think about it, the people involved, in the last project going south, negotiated more time and actually spent a ton of market research money to find out that there wasn’t as big a market as they thought. Their dwindling net profit went underwater the more they studied it.”

“And now?”

Byron shook his head. “They are still holding on to some hope that the market will turn around.”

“The answer is NOT, how can we make another research study? The answer is, how can we get out of this? Or, at least, how can we put a tourniquet on the bleeding?” -TF
The failure to accomplish a goal does not prove that more efforts and resources are needed. The failure to accomplish a goal may indicate that efforts should be stopped and a different path should be taken.

Old Indian saying, “When the horse is dead, it is time to get off.”

Just Say No!

“You are right,” Byron continued. “The things that hurt us now are decisions we made a couple of years ago when times were good. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We didn’t think very hard about some of our bone-headed moves.”

“And, now?” I asked.

“And, now we have to get lean. Maybe really lean. It may get worse. We have to be able to take a couple more punches and still be able to maneuver, be able to take advantage of opportunities, but it’s difficult.”

“What is so difficult about it?”

“Well, now, everything has to be focused on a result. If it doesn’t produce a result, it has to go. It’s not pleasant. In many cases, we have to learn to say NO! So often, we try to figure out what TO do. Now we have to make decisions on what NOT to do.”

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Not Under Pressure

“I’m not sure what happened,” Byron explained. “Our company was voted the number one employer two years ago. We have the best employee benefits, we have the best equipment, we have roomy workspaces, our sales people get trip incentives. All of a sudden, to stay profitable, we have to lay some people off. The mood around here turned south very quickly.”

“Times have been good?” I asked.

“Up ’till now.”

“What happened?”

“Sales have been off. Suddenly all these great things about our company are costing us out of business.”

“When were the decisions made that put you upside-down on your cost structure?”

Byron had to think back. “Three or four years ago, I guess. Those were the best of times.”

“It’s in the Best of Times that we make our biggest mistakes.” -TF

Training to Respond

It has been a lively discussion. If you missed the story on Fox News or CNN, you can follow the link at the bottom of today’s post.

So, let’s talk about training. After all, this blog is about management. What Gregory St. Germain didn’t understand was training. My wife trained three years in kick-boxing, with five years in a martial arts blend of kenpo and muay-thai, earning her black belt, and three years of kung-fu weapons training. That’s why St. Germain sits in Broward County jail.

I was not surprised.

Why is management training so important? Over the last 13 years, more than 1,000 managers have participated in my management program. It’s training. While I like to think it has a great curriculum (I compiled and wrote the book), it’s not the book that makes it work. It is the repetitive behavior drills.

In the end, I don’t care one whit what participants know about management. What I care about is, given a situation, can they do? Can they perform? Can they respond effectively? That’s why management training is so important.

Our local police chief, a former graduate of my management program, is quick to caution people about confronting criminals (my wife got a stern warning). So, tomorrow, we will talk about Decision Trees. –TF

If you missed the story, here’s the CNN link.

Split Decision

Twenty-four year old Gregory St Germain must have missed the photos on top of the television, photos taken at Margo’s Black Belt graduation. And he certainly missed the display of Kung Fu weapons in another bedroom. For several minutes, he organized what he considered to be loot, working room to room. Donning a backpack of valuables, ready for his exit, he heard the front door slam shut.

My wife noticed the frantic commotion in the hallway, a shadowy figure trying to release a deadbolt on a side door.

“I am not a victim,” she told herself.

CNN Link

I want to thank you all for the emails and phone calls. There are times in our lives when we are called upon to respond. For the next couple of days, we will talk about training, discipline, fitness and decision trees. -TF