Saturday, December 11, 2010

There is no bad weather - just unprepared people

Easy for me to say while gazing from my cozy fireplace lit family room at the blizzard of the decade,  Wow 24 inches already down!  I haven't seen a white-out like this in twenty years.  And this is Minnesota!  I love watching snow blow sideways at 40 miles per hour.  Lovely! Nature at its finest!  Bull!  It's deadly out there!  Or is it?

Remember the song, "Baby it's cold outside"?  I love the version with Dean Martin and Dinah Shore where he is devilishly seducing her to stay.  It just goes with Christmas doesn't it?  Kinda sings itself.  Well, it was cold out side- zero with the windchill.  But, by gosh I was prepared.  On went the fleece, turtleneck, down coat, rain pants, heavy boots, ski mask, and out I went - fully prepared. 

The alternative was tempting - stoke the fire, turn on the game, call my snow plow guy, and take a nap.  Sound better?  It always does.  Besides, I had some emails to answer, a couple really important proposals, some nagging projects to think through, and I wanted to work out later.  Oh, and of course I owed you a blog.  Lots to do, ya know?

But, the snow kept falling and the Neanderthal driven lure to conquer nature overtook me.  I was prepared, and initiated a hell of a work out.  While shoveling and blowing snow my head wrote the letter, thought through the problems, cleaned up a flabby proposal, played with the dog, filled my lungs with fresh air, made all of my neighbors jealous, made my wife happy, and above all walked proudly without obstruction to retrieve my newspaper.   

Sometimes the only way to get anything done is to put one foot in front of the other.  And when you are prepared (no matter what the task) there is no bad weather.

Be a Breakaway!

See ya soon

Mike Kerrison

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nostalgia Rocks in Memphis and Montgomery

I find it amazing how much fun I have thinking about the past.  Not living in it, but thinking about it.  And not just my own past, but someone elses.  I guess that's why I like memoirs and bigraphies so much.  Truth really is stranger than fiction. 

Recently, I ran an executive planning workshop for a small company in Montgomery, Alabama.  I had to fly through Memphis to get there, which of course I grumbled about.  During my short stay in the Memphis airport I found that all five of my senses were invaded by Elvis Presley.  I was in Graceland and my mind immediatley leaped to Marc Cohn, Neil Simon, "One for the Money, Two for the Show...", Blue Swead Shoes, and on and on.  I was filtering through my past - my mind like a fuzzy photograph reenacting history, and I had a ball doing it.  This to me is nostalgia.  Its like playing.

My first night in Montgomery was highly memorable.  After dinner (I was stuffed with BBQ) I took a walk down Dexter Ave.  Not on the sidewalk but right down the middle of the street.  I passed Rosa Parks bus stop (chilling experience), Martin Luther King's church (beautiful experience), the slave markets (terrifying experience), and right up the steps of the capital building (dizzying experience).  Again, my mind was a blur of wonder.  The march from Selma to Montgomery - I was standing on the turf of Bloody Sunday.  My imagination went wild.  If only I had a time machine and I could roll back the clock.  I wanted to be there - to march in someone elses shoes.  Particularly their shoes!

Well, I never got to the jungle room and I didn't see the March, but somehow I was there, experiencing this amazing piece of history.  My advice - take time to wander and wonder in your mind.  Allow the nostalgia of events to seep in.  There is a real sense of peace in that pipe.  So smoke it!

Be a Breakaway!

See ya soon.

Mike Kerrsison

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fail Fast -- Learn Fast -- Grow Fast

People ask me “why did you write your book about mistakes.”  My answer is always the same -- because I didn’t learn anything from my success.  Besides, book shelves are overflowing with success stories.  I wanted the reader to have what I call all the desperate bits of what it really takes to start and build a business.  And, I’ve built four over the last twenty five years and believe me when I tell you that my success stands on the shoulders of thousands of mistakes. The book did well and led to a speaking career, then consulting, and ultimately to the formation of Endurance America – which is helping executive teams and their organizations to strive in a new way to reach their full potential. 

But believe me when I tell you, it is only through our mistakes, our failures, that we really learn.  In fact, I am happy to strike the word failure from the Websters dictionary.  The way I see it, you can't fail, you can only learn and grow.  In other words go fail fast, learn fast, and grow fast.  Then tell somebody about it so they don't make the same mistake that you did.  After all, we won't live long enough to make all of them, so we might be better to learn from each other.  Breakaway Performers make mistakes - every single one of them.  That's a good thing.  Now - go learn and grow!

Be a Breakaway!

See ya soon!

Mike Kerrison

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Breakaway Sales Performer

Every year a couple of sales reps blow away the numbers -- and they tend to do it year after year. What do they do that makes them so different? Why does the quota leader board jump from 106 percent to 230 percent, with no one in between? How do they make it look so easy? Why are they the ones who seem start their own businesses? What is a Breakawy? I got some thoughts on these questions.

Breakaway Performers have an edge over everyone else. They are so far out front that you can't see anyone behind them.They have something inside of them that burns, that generates tremendous drive and a desire to be the best. Many times this drive can be traced to an event or circumstance in their life that changed them, forever. How do I know this? I’ve talked to hundreds of them. The stories are all the same.

Somewhere in the past they faced overwhelming challenges or severe adversity. Most of them learned how to work hard at a young age to escape being broke. They were always competitive, whether in sports or shooting pool or playing cards, it didn’t matter. This powerful drive seems to have three origins: fear of failure, a need to prove something, and anger. That’s why the top achievers always shoot for two hundred percent -- fear of failure. Then if they miss, they’re still at one hundred fifty percent. Perhaps they had a disapproving father or a coach who didn’t believe in them, or maybe they were abandoned, either physically or emotionally, so they have something to prove. Or they have anger. Of course, exceptions do exist. Not every high achiever has faced adversity or lost a parent or was shown disapproval in some way. But they are rare.  I love hanging out with Breakaways.  They inspire me.

Be a Breakaway!

Talk to ya soon.

Mike Kerrison

Friday, November 19, 2010

To Grow Your Business You Must Grow Your People

Building a Breakaway Performance Architecture

I have found from my years of running a business that to establish healthy sustainable growth, today’s business leaders will need to draw on all of their talent, resources and wisdom to successfully compete in today’s whitewater world of change.  In fact, change is changing – it’s getting faster.  In order to accomplish this they will need to choose a precise value discipline, design a compelling value proposition, communicate their vision and strategy, lean out their operating model, and build a high performance culture that supports, facilitates and delivers all of the above to loyal customers.  

The way I see it, the function of a leader is to bring about change, whereas the function of a culture is to keep things the way they are.  The challenge for the leader is to understand this dichotomy and help shape the culture into one of commitment from people rather than mere compliance.  The goal is to create new and powerful cultural norms (attitudes, beliefs and behaviors) that support and deliver upon the current and future business strategies.  In short -- grow the business by growing the people!

Lets dig deeper. Leaders spend a great deal of time investigating and determining the appropriate business strategies and objectives for their organization, whether it is just-in-time inventory, lean manufacturing, quality control, sales plans, etc.  These are extremely important initiatives to get right; but, the greatest factor that effects the successful implementation and achievement of a business strategy and supporting initiatives is “the people”.  And, most leaders fail to fully define the value discipline of the organization, the underlying value proposition and the operating model to support it.  Without this, the company has no meaningful direction.  Even with the value discipline fully defined you are still only half way there. 

The other half is your people -- they can make the vision a reality or they can prevent it from happening.  One way to think of this is in terms of a metaphor… the seeds, the soil, and the harvest.

Each business strategy, goal, initiative, or project can be thought of as a seed.  The attitudes and behaviors of the people in the organization (the culture) can be thought of as the soil.  The strategy, objective, initiative or project will flourish if planted in the right type of soil and provided with water, sunlight and nutrients.  If the soil is well tended, nourished, and receptive, the seed will flourish.  If the soil is hardened, dry and lacking in nutrients, the seed will flounder.  The seed may begin to sprout, but will likely die — or more certainly, the seed will never reach its full potential.

What organizations really want and need in order to operate in today’s world is well-tended, fertile soil — a workforce filled with committed people: people who are ready and willing to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to ensure that the organization they work for is successful.  If the soil (workforce) is well tended, all kinds of seeds (opportunities) can grow and flourish thus maximizing the harvest (business results).

The most important factor in building a great organizational culture (preparing the soil) is leadership.  The visible behaviors of leaders and the underlying assumptions they use to make decisions are powerful forces that are seen, felt, and experienced by people.

Creating an organization of high-performing and committed individuals is a serious leadership challenge.  If leaders are willing to accept this challenge then they will need to understand and believe in three truths about organizational change:

Organizational change does not begin until the people within the organization choose to change.

Change occurs quickly when the individuals in the organization accept change because they understand the value of the change to themselves.

Organizational change is most successful when the business strategy and culture strategy are integrated and aligned within the change effort.
For most leaders, it becomes overwhelming to try to develop and facilitate the design of an organizational cultural change process that addresses all of these complex variables while striving for healthy business growth.  This is precisely why so few change processes transform their work cultures into truly sustainable “breakaway performance.” 

Be a Breakaway!

Talk to you soon.

Mike Kerrison
Endurance America 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greetings from Endurance America!

My name is Mike Kerrison and I am finally joining the social network planet that seems to be spinning daily out of control. So here I am providing my initial spin for what I hope to be loyal, discerning, introspective, and fun-loving followers.

My company, Endurance America is devoted to the rebuilding of American companies. Not to say the world doesn't count, of course it does. What I mean is that with strong American companies I believe we will have a stronger world. If you don't think so then I guess we can't be friends - kidding - but you probably won't follow many of these blogs.

In any case, I believe that companies that have healthy sustainable growth require three things - developmental leaders, a culture of inspired and motivated employees, and above all loyal clients. One could argue that there is a fourth requirement that being a powerful, competent, breakaway sales organization. Afterall, sales is your lifeblood!

Having started, built, and eventually selling three high tech companies over twenty years, and having consulted with companies around the globe four the last ten years I have developed some strong opinions, ideas, and competencies that I believe can help you and your business with all of these key ingredients.

Count on relevant, actionable, and powerful tutorials, stories, and anecdotes every day to help each of you achieve success and fulfillment in your life and career. The messages will likely be centered on the critical competencies that I have mentioned above.

Be a Breakaway!

See you soon.

Mike Kerrison