What does it mean?

I recently saw an interview with Linked In CEO – Jeff Weiner.  He spoke about how when it comes to firing somebody it needs to be a compassionate situation.  What?!  Firing somebody is compassionate?!

Yes, it can be the right thing to do… even for the employee.

Many times if somebody is not performing they are more unhappy with their job than the company is with their performance.  The more time goes on they lose confidence, they are uncomfortable at meetings, they lose their passion/drive, mistakes (which we all make!) become a bigger regret than they should be and well, things can get unhappy at home.

What are we all doing then?

So yes, providing somebody an opportunity to again feel as excited about a fresh start as they did when they first joined your company is a good thing.  Look, I understand there’s strong emotion and somebody getting fired is hard on everybody.  My point is don’t wait too long.  When it’s reached the right progression do the right thing… for everybody.

You must fire

Firing is a tough part of owning a business for many reasons.  First, if you’re in the service industry I have a philosophy that is very important to me.  I just don’t ensure I follow it but its critical for the people who work for me as well.  If you ever feel good about firing somebody you’re in the wrong business.  So let me re-qualify that.  If you have ANYBODY working for you that should should be a critical. 

As I’ve said before, you have people working for you not just employees.  Mothers of somebody, boyfriends, daughters and people who are trying to find what’s best for them.  No, they may not make the right decisions for what’s best but that’s not the point.  So the key?  Make sure when you fire somebody you’re 100%, no doubt, for sure, there’s no question that you’re right.  Not just that it’s best for the business but you’ve gone through the process that you’re right.  A meeting where you’re firing somebody should be able to go pretty much like this:

“Do you know why we’re meeting?”

“Yes, you’re firing me.”

“Do you know why?”

Yes, it’s because…”

Now, of course, they don’t have to agree with you.  However, when being truly honest they should be able to repeat back why you’re firing them using the words you have used up to that point.  It should be clear and without question why.  At that point you will know you’re ready.  You’ve given them the respect of a professional process.

So now that I’ve set the stage of when to fire somebody I’ll get into why and how in upcoming posts…

If it ain’t broke…

… break it anyway & make it better.  Sears, Kodak, Tower Records.  Stagnation kills.  Ok, Tower was killed by many things but I loved the store on Sunset Blvd.  Anyway, off my tangent.  Especially as an entrepreneur you need to adapt.  If you came up with a great product, process or even bought into a popular brand people are chasing you.  To use a racing analogy “they’re in your draft” and because of that they may actually be more efficient than you.  So your job is to stay ahead of them.  These are some areas you should always be figuring out how you can get better…

  1. Customer service – Technology is giving us opportunities all the time.
  2. Pay plans – Should drive performance and identify team ineffectiveness.
  3. Product delivery – Two words = Amazon & Prime.
  4. Marketing – Technology has changed marketing so much.  While each customer touch point can be much cheaper than before it is for everybody else as well.  How can you get through all the noise?
  5. Team culture – Anytime you help your team improve culture you will help customer service.  Treutt Cathy made one of the great companies with this being a primary focus
  6. Expenses – There are two sides of the ledger.  Controlling the expense side provides the opportunity to improve in #1-5.

Have a candid conversation with your team and see where something may not seem broke… but it would be really good if it was fixed.

So here I am…

I’ve been gone a while.  Not gone but in a different direction.  As entrepreneurs it’s really easy to go in too many directions.  Let me restate that.  It’s easy to go in a wrong direction.  That’s ok.  That’s who we are.  Sometimes it’s a big sign, sometimes it’s a subtle sign but we always get to the right answer of the right vs wrong direction.  So what did I learn when I was going in that different direction?

  1. I saw first hand why many smart, product focused entrepreneurs with great industry insight don’t become successful. As Bill Gates said, “I built Windows but I could have never built Microsoft”.  Paul Allen built a company of people, processes and product management.  Most entrepreneur’s don’t have the skillset to build an effective organization.  That’s ok.  Everybody brings a certain value.  However, it’s important to understand what you do well and find partnerships to fill in what you don’t.
  2. Similarly, as Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”  Just because you may be the smartest guy in the room doesn’t mean you’re the most effective at getting the job done.  Embrace & encourage other opinions… trust me you’ll learn something that will help you.  It’s your company & your vision.  Excecution is a cross functional team sport though.
  3. Don’t swim upstream.  Whether it’s in a Fortune 500 or a 100 employee company you have office politics.  It’s actually productive if leadership understands how to harness the positive energy in it.  However, if you allow a few to hijack the company for personal gains… well, you’ll realize sooner or later their priority was never the company anyway.
  4. Respect your team.  It’s so simple but your organization is as good as what your team thinks of you.  It really comes down to that.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Travis Kalanick.  Leadership starts with you.

So keep going in the direction your heart takes you. Your heart will also let you know where not to go

Are you sure about that?

My favorite business leaders are Steve Jobs and Jack Welch.  I read as much as I can about them.  Winning by Jack Welch is my favorite business book.   What I admire most is their personable but strict leadership.  I envy it.

My favorite Steve Jobs quote is, “We don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do.  We hire smart people to tell us what to do”.  When you are the leader of your business I don’t feel you’ll have long term success if it’s all about you.  In the beginning it’s easier and probably a more comfortable path to charge ahead with your ideas, skills and processes.   However, long term, I challenge that kind of culture won’t provide for the maximum success.  Maximum success comes from a diverse culture that encourages creativity.  Creativity that challenges not only you but your goals.  Creativity that actually raises your expectations.  Creativity that helps you accomplish more than you planned.

Yes, YOU need a business plan and objectives.  Yes, YOU are responsible at the end of the day.  Yes, YOU either succeeded or didn’t.  Yes… others can help you get there.

Did you plan for everything?  Are you doing it the best way?  Did you uncover every opportunity?  Are you sure?  Who can help?

No job is too little

When you own your own business you understand where the saying “chief cook & bottle washer” comes from.  You are responsible for everything.  Whether it’s replacing the AC or heading to your office on a Saturday morning because somebody forgot their key.  Those roles can take away from the things that provide an ROI or simply stuff you enjoy.  It’s important to keep in mind everything you do… big or small… is the glue that keeps your customers happy, provides a great place to work to retain quality employees as well as provide a return on  your investment.  Everything you do is critical to many people so don’t think something is too little.  Your efforts touch the happiness (or not) and the success (or not) of people not just processes.

I attended a seminar hosted by Disney.  It was very insightful and demonstrated how Disney focuses on the “Guest” experience as well as employee workplace in everything they do.  One session spoke about how every job is important.  An example was given that one day a Cast Member was walking around Disney World picking up litter.  A guest asked for him to take a picture of their family.  He gladly did and went on doing his job.  Soon after, Disney received a heartfelt note from the family.  It seems a member of the family had passed away shortly after their trip to Disney World.  They realized the picture taken by the Cast Member was actually the last picture they have of their family together.

As an employee of your company don’t forget you touch so many people’s lives.  I can assure that you don’t know many of the times you said or did something that touched somebody in a positive way.  People just don’t always drop a note saying so.


Hi, welcome to my blog. I started this blog because the first question I’m asked when I mention I own a small business is, “Wow, what is that like?”  I have the same, experienced answer.  It’s great!  You’re building something, you’re helping people achieve whatever they’re trying to achieve and hopefully your accomplishing your financial goals.  It’s great knowing you can affect & correct every aspect of your organization.  It’s all you.  It’s a whole new set of problems you never imagined though.  I’ll get into those as time goes by.

So what’s with the title?  Well, it’s “lead by example”.  Be the example of what you expect from your team.  Teach them what’s important by your actions not just your words.

I think it’s appropriate that my first post talks about my first lesson, at my first job & at my first management training class.  In the class I asked a very tenured & successful manager, “What does it take to be a successful leader?”  Being right out of the college textbooks and a mindset of I’ve been trained at a 60,000 student university I was ready for something like tenacity, skilled, problem solver, self driven, etc.  To my surprise he said, “You need to care about people.”  Whoa?!  I thought “I” was the key to my success.  I thought “I” was the most important driver of my success.  He explained that if you care about people & their success they will be the most important part of your success.  Over the years I’ve learned he was right.  Yes, there are some who will simply take advantage of your efforts.  You need to address and remove those when you see that is the case.  However, if you hire the right people most will actually help you become the leader you want to be.  I strongly believe that business philosophy because I’ve seen it over and over again.

Hire the right people, help them achieve their own goals, remove those that don’t get it… and Lead By I.E.