Archive for the ‘Insightful’ Category

Elderly Worker 1

It was a beautiful morning as I enjoyed my cup of coffee at a local Panera Bread waiting on a friend.  Next to me sat four gentlemen, all of whom were in their sixties, talking about how much they missed working.  From what I could tell, one had been some type of manager, one an engineer, another a salesman, and the other, I believe, a teacher.

My friend, a small business owner, arrived about fifteen minutes later.  Eventually, our conversation wandered into what I see as a major concern for companies today.  They can’t find qualified employees.  Tragically, one of the top reasons is they often fail drug tests.  In general, his business requires an average level of computer competencies, a college education or applicable experience, people skills, and self-motivation.  He will train the right people.

As we were talking about this challenge, I pointed over at the next table and asked, “Would you hire any of those men?”  His face said it all.  They are old and probably retired.  “Same question.  Would you hire any of them?”  “Probably, if they were qualified and wanted to work.”

I told him about the conversation I overheard.  At least three of these men are probably qualified to work at his company.  When it comes to the “age” thing, it is amazing how dismissive hiring people are of this group.  Maybe many of them do not want to work full-time but would work part-time.  Maybe they need some small consideration.  But most importantly, maybe they are exactly the type of employee you need.  (The lady who waited on me had to be in her seventies; working right next to someone in their twenties.)

Years ago, I was teaching a management class at a local university.  One class I devoted to “generational diversity” and how it can enrich a company culture.  They may not be as ‘up-to-date’ as younger generations but I guarantee you they are way ahead of the curve when it comes to experience.

I find it interesting that people, without hesitation, would vote for a Senator (6-year term), Congressman (2-year term), or President (4-year term), that were in their seventies, or even eighties, but wouldn’t hire someone of the same age group because they were ‘old.’

To the seniors who want to work, don’t hesitate to let people know.  To the companies desperately looking for qualified employees, reach out to this group.  You will be amazed at what is available.




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In 1987 a super computer could process 2,000,000,000 calculations per second.  Think about that for a ‘second.’  In other words, this is the processing power of two billion people for one second.  That was a big deal.

Fast forward thirty years.  On June 8, 2018 the US Department of Energy introduced a new supercomputer from IBM that could perform 200,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second. Using all of the humans on earth (approximately 7.0 billion), it would take every human doing a calculation each second for almost a year to match what this new supercomputer could do in one second.

Take a look at the following chart.  Note the numbers (powers of 10) along the bottom.  During the late 1980’s the personal computer could perform around 12 million calculations per second (126).  Look at the current time period; about 100 billion calculations per second (1011).  To put this in perspective, the IBM super computer mentioned above is (1017).  A gigantic difference.

Information Data Transition


In a decade or so, the ‘calculations per second power’ of super computers today will be available to every day users.  You may ask, what does this mean to me?  My business?

Have you been reading the articles on Artificial Intelligence?  Virtual Reality?  Block Chain?  Data Analytics?  This is an incredibly important transformation and it is going to impact everything you do.  And, it is happening quickly.  You cannot ignore the impact this is going to have on your business.

Therefore, understand the advanced technologies that will impact, or are impacting, the critical components of your business (manufacturing, distribution, logistics, marketing, etc.).  Then, find ways to utilize that power for more effective decision-making.  Don’t wait until you have to; catch-up is very expensive.


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Dad in UniformMarvin began his journey as a radio operator aboard the battleship USS Indiana in the South Pacific during WWII.  Over the course of three years he participated in the battles of Tarawa, Saipan, Battle of the Philippine Sea, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Bombardment of Japan, destroying enemy positions in advance of landing of our soldiers and Marines.  The USS Indiana won numerous battle stars and citations during the War.

Of interest to this post was the Indiana’s participation in the Battle of Okinawa and a sailor aboard that ship named Marvin.  While enduring numerous kamikaze attacks, the Indiana unleashed a relentless bombardment of the island’s defenses to support the invasion.

DadTed began his journey as an infantryman in the Army’s 96th Infantry Division in the South Pacific.  Over the course of two years he participated in the Battle of Leyte, Philippines, and the Battle of Okinawa, which was the largest battle of WWII in the Pacific.  During the battles, the 96th suffered 1,595 killed in action and 14,484 wounded.  The 96th Infantry Division won a Presidential Unit Citation for combat actions in these two battles; one of only four Army units to win one during WWII.

Also, of interest to this post, was the 96th’Infantry Division’s invasion of Okinawa, and, in particular, a rifleman in the 351st Infantry Regiment named Ted.  How he must have loved the bombardment of our battleships.  Ted survived the battle, although he lost a lot of his hearing.

After the war Marvin returned home to settle down and raise a family, eventually having six children, three boys and three girls.  Ted also returned home to start a family, eventually having two sons.

Now, back to the battle of Okinawa.  What are the chances that a sailor on the USS Indiana bombarding an island would have a daughter who would marry the son of a soldier fighting on that island?  The sailor’s daughter was named Michelle, the soldier’s son was named George.  OUR DADS! – (Ted James and Marvin Clements)

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One of the greatest lessons I ever learned, was dealing directly with people in a difficult situation.  It did not matter if it was difficult for me, or difficult for them.  Face to face, or on the telephone; nowhere to hide situations.  The more I had to live through these occasions, the stronger I became in dealing with adversity.  I learned early on that it is almost always better to deal directly with someone in a difficult situation than trying to handle it from a distance.

Today, with the exponential increase in messaging (email, voice messages, LinkedIn, Facebook, text message, etc.) it has become too easy to avoid people in uncomfortable situations.  Send a text, email, form letter, or better yet, if it is difficult for you, avoid it all together.

The difference between someone who plays on the field of adversity when necessary and someone who sits in the top bleacher of the stadium avoiding the conflict, is confidence and courage.  You cannot gain confidence or build courage from the bleachers.  Some of the most successful people I know would go out of their way to have a face-to-face meeting in a difficult situation, even when a phone call would have worked.  Why?

I have seen a CEO meet with a supplier who lost in a major bidding contest that had an adverse impact on their business.  What did he do?  He delivered the bad news and provided words of encouragement.  I have also seen a CEO avoid a minor difficult situation, by not answering telephone messages and emails.  He didn’t know what to say.  In the first example, the business is flourishing, in the second, the business struggles month to month.  Think of the example being set by these CEO’s.  Which company would you rather work for, buy from, partner with, or supply?

This is not just a message for CEO’s, it is a message for anyone who wants to strengthen their brand.

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Outside the Lines

Have you ever watched a small child who was learning to craw go exploring?  They move about three to five feet, stop, look back to see if you are still there, and then take off again.  The more comfortable they become, the less they look back.  Somehow, many of us as adults, have lost that drive to “explore.”  Why?

Obviously, a young child doesn’t know when they are moving toward something that will cause discomfort.  Over time, they will learn, and become more selective about what to explore.  In any case, during the maturation period, they will lean toward exploring, and not worrying too much about discomfort.  They will grow up in a world riddled with rules, limits, and restrictions; even so, they will continuously test the rules.  By the time they are adults, they know where the lines are and have a predilection to stay within them.  –  Whoa, I better not go there.  It’s comfortable here.

From a business perspective, we need to operate more like an exploring child, than someone who lives within the lines.  Often the ‘fear of failure’ is the deciding factor in trying something new.  However, if you want to survive, you must go outside the lines.  And believe me, from a resource (time, people, and money) perspective, it is much better to choose to explore, than to be forced by outside forces to cross the lines.

While there are many processes that business owners use to play outside the lines, most can be narrowed down to a few simple steps.

  1. You must understand your comfort zone, AND why you are comfortable there. This is your first line to cross.
  2. Determine the best and worst-case possibilities for your journey. What is the best thing that can happen to your business and what is the worst thing that can happen to your business?  This is your second line to cross.
  3. Visualize what success looks like. This is more than a glossy picture, or sketch, of your business.  You must identify the most critical attributes of that visualization.  It’s like, being able to describe your (future) business to a new acquaintance.  Mentally, spend time there.  This is the third line to cross.
  4. At every step of the journey, you must capture the learning process.
    – What resources do you need? (time, people, and money)
       – What did you try? Did it work, or not work?  Why?
    – What competencies and capabilities are you building?  What are you going to
    need when you get there?
    – What is happening to your base business as you move along?
    –  In other words, craw three to five feet, stop, look back, and then take off again.

To create that future business, you must play outside the lines.  Successful businesses who succeed in this transition will be those that follow a plan that enables them to manage risks and seize opportunities along the way, while continuously pushing their organization forward.

It is an exciting journey; enjoy the trip.

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Maineville Manufacturing (FICT) was a medium size second generation company producing metal parts primarily for a handful of larger companies.  While competition was challenging, their long-standing reputation for quality and service usually placed them near the front of the line with their customers.  Like many privately held companies their supplier base, for the most part, had grown up with them.  One of their oldest suppliers (OS) was also a second generation business whose relationship was established by the founders of both companies.

After a long battle, Maineville Mfg., finally landed a large customer who needed a sophisticated component part for a new product.  The new customer would generate very good volume but with much smaller margins than Maineville Mfg. was accustomed.  They knew that they could build the capacity to produce the component part; however, it required a very high-quality precision fitting.  (The prototype component part was internally produced by Maineville at a very high cost, primarily the result of the precision fitting.)

Maineville Mfg. had identified two outside suppliers that could produce the precision fitting; one was highly recommended by the new customer.  Their only existing supplier that could produce the precision fitting was their long-time friend OS.  All three provided a good sample fitting during the development stage.

Maineville’s problem was that OS was excited about possibly being part of the new venture.  However, Maineville knew, based on experience, that OS might not be as reliable as the two outside suppliers.  Over the years, Maineville had developed internal quality control processes, at their expense, to occasionally catch and fine-tune parts received from OS.

Now that Maineville had landed this new customer, they had to lock in their precision fitting supplier.  The next step required Maineville, within sixty days, to produce a test batch of component parts, validate engineer processes and quality control standards, and confirm reliable sourcing relationships and specifications.

Which supplier should Maineville choose to produce the precision fitting, and why?  What did Maineville do?  What would you do?  — This might surprise you.  They worked with OS to put in place a rigorous quality control process at OS.  Their long-term relationship was that important to them.

Looking back, it would have been much better if Maineville had addressed the quality issues with OS when they first started, rather than covering for them over the years.  Don’t worry about “hurting feelings” when business issues are at hand.  Be respectful, be considerate, be understanding, be fair, but most of all be honest about the situation.

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Changing Time

What does a government shutdown look like in Washington DC the day after the vote?  This was my experience during the last shutdown.  I suspect it is about the same today.

Monday, September 30, 2013, the day our government shut down at midnight. I was fortunate to be in Washington D.C. the next morning to observe the impact of the shutdown. Listening to numerous news stations predicting the end of the world, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

On Tuesday, October 1st, I arrived by metro train at the Archives/Navy Memorial Station at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue around 9:30 am. Turning toward the Capitol, I stopped at the Newseum Center on Pennsylvania Ave. to scan some of the dozens of newspaper front pages from across the country they had displayed outside their building. Many had bold three-inch headlines such as SHUTDOWN! and Government Closes. I thought to myself, this can’t be good.

As expected, government buildings were closed, monuments barricaded or chained off, museums shut down, and security perimeters extended around the Capital and White House. Yet, the streets were crowed with tourists and lined with vendors. As I wandered along the Washington Mall, I observed news crews from around the world interviewing people. As you can imagine the ‘people’ blamed both Democrats and Republicans for our situation. What was telling though is that the international interviewers were really confused about what was going on in our country; their perspective ranged from the U.S. must be in big trouble, to our country is losing its mind. For the most part, when possible, tourists simply walked around barricades or stepped over chains to see the monuments. Nowhere was this more observable than at the Vietnam Wall Memorial where I helped to move a barricade.

Around 11:00 am I decided to get lunch at my favorite Washington restaurant, the Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House. When I walked in I was surprised to see how crowded it was, especially the large bar area, which only had one seat left available. Tony the manager, a friend and fellow Marine, showed me to the seat; I ordered a sandwich. All of a sudden, shot glasses were placed in front of everyone at the bar except me. One man then lifted the shot glass and shouted “furlough” and everyone drank up. Apparently, the bar was filled with furloughed federal workers who had come in earlier to sign papers and then celebrate the shutdown. About fifteen minutes later another round of shots was distributed. Another person hoisted the shot glass and shouted “vacation” and the shots went down.

Later that afternoon I returned to Alexandria, Va., where I was told that many establishments had half-off drinks for furloughed workers; all-day happy hour for furloughed government workers! You even saw people wearing T-shirts with “Furloughed Fed” in bold red letters on the front.

Early on Thursday morning, I went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit my father’s grave. (Although, the Visitors Center was closed I have a pass to enter the cemetery.) While there I observed a handful of burials of military personnel who, I’m sure, would have never shut down on their job. Yet, our military personnel had commissaries and other facilities shut down on their bases. Why? Next I returned to downtown D.C. and talked to several more establishments about what they were seeing. The word “vacation” comes to mind.

My last stop was for a late lunch at a restaurant at 15th and E Streets and then a walk back down Pennsylvania Avenue to catch the metro at 9th Street; I missed the car/shooting incident by 30 to 40 minutes. Thank goodness the “essential federal employees” were at work even though they were not getting paid.  (Oh, our Congressmen and Senators were getting paid!)

Reflecting back on my initial perception of the Newseum headlines and what I actually observed, I wonder if anyone in Washington is connected to reality. More concerning, do they care? In the meantime, people and businesses in general are struggling to figure out how to cope with this political quagmire and its potential impact on our economy. So, what’s next?

On Saturday, October 5th, the House voted 407-0 to give retroactive pay to furloughed federal employees. Let’s do some more shots!!!

Hold that thought!

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