My Great Pumpkin Lesson


I carved a pumpkin for the first time in my life Sunday.  Truly, I never had before.

My young son was feeling sad that he had not yet carved a pumpkin this year with Halloween being right around the corner and all.   He’d carved pumpkins with his mother before, but he wanted to carve one with me.

I was a little nervous about it.  I know that sounds silly.  My son said, “Daddy, it’s easy, you can do it.”

It is something many or perhaps most other people have done.  I never have.  No real reason I guess;  I grew up in the city and maybe that has played a part but I’m also not an artist and it sure looks like it would take one to make a pumpkin look any good.

“I’ll draw the face on the pumpkin for you, Daddy.”  He said.

I worried about the knives but he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take the little one and you can use the big one.”

I honestly (and please don’t laugh too loud) never thought to think what was in a pumpkin and how making it hollow or carving it out must be something that is hard to do.  “It’s full of squishy seeds and stuff and we need a bowl to put it in…” he said.  He was right; it wasn’t as solid I thought it would be.

We cut and scooped out the pumpkin.  “You do this section Daddy, you are stronger, scrape it all out.”

And then… Oh…what a face he drew!

I carved and sculpted and shaped the face.  “Careful not to push on the holes while you carve the other holes” he said.  Great advice.

I had so much fun.  I loved it.  It looks really cool and very scary.   “You did a great job Daddy.” He said.   I was all smiles.

Something about carving this pumpkin meant more to me than I expected.

I thought what a great teacher my son is.  He eased my fears and took control when he needed to.  He helped me through all the tough parts and even praised me.  But in the end gave me something so much more wonderful that I did not readily see it.

He was, in the carving of this pumpkin, being the teacher to me that I want to be, for him.

Later that day on the long ride back to his mother’s house, he put his hand in mine and said “Thanks for carving my pumpkin with me Daddy.”

No son, thank you.

Till next time,

Grow the Business.


Post originally published October 2010

Not Even A Dog’s Year Old


number six

Not Even A Dog’s Year Old

A small trip down memory lane today.  6 years ago on this day, this blog began.   I started it to help 10 sales folks I was working with at the time and it has become something different than that – but not really.   It is an effort to write something short, perhaps interesting but most importantly, something you can use that day to help you be better at what you do, and to grow the business.

Though not even a dog’s year old, there are more than 350 posts (and over 50 others in draft form so awful that you will never see them) and 180,000+ words blathered in blog form.  Thought it would be fun to share the most popular posts based on the stats as well as some of my favorite posts and a few more of my favorite posts today.

Have fun rereading or reading these today (I did).  And thanks as always for reading and sharing.

5 Most Popular (based on your views and shares)

“Piano Man” is a Bad Song

My 25 Secrets for Selling To Small Businesses

The 6 Rules of Marketing and Sales

Treat Your Boss Well


Some of My Favorites

I am Joe’s Lead

6 Questions Never To Ask a Customer

The Perfect I’m Sorry

Angela’s Assist

Platinum Questions Are Better

My Other Favorites (a bit closer to home- but lessons nonetheless)

My Great Pumpkin Lesson


The Luckiest Man in the World

A Wii Bit of Advice

4 Minutes with Little Miss Dangling Arms

Fixing a Throwback Problem

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


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Hear Them Play



I didn’t  expect to break down.  Heck, I didn’t expect anything.

Last Wednesday, I had just walked in the door after work with bag in tow and sunglasses too dark for the basement door I entered through, and saw my son standing next to the old stereo.

“I fixed it” he said.  And he gently put the needle down and a vinyl album began to play.

And I lost it.

I’m not a hugger.  I’m not a crier.   But I remember that stereo.  I remember that sound!  So I did both hug and cry; hanging on to my 17 year old confused and somewhat concerned son.  I held on for a good 2 minutes.  He’s way taller than me and it must have been quite a sight at 6 O’clock at night on a Wednesday in the basement.

That stereo has been sitting in my basement for over a year.  It is more than 50 years old and was my mom’s, who passed away three years ago.   And it was glorious.  I remember it being just about as tall as me though it is not more than 3 feet off the ground.  I remember the music it sang: the operas, the arias, even country and western music and Anne Murray at Christmas.  I remember it all.

But I didn’t quite remember it all like that till I heard it play standing there in that basement last week.     The sound, the crackle of the hi – fidelity speakers, the soft dance and hum of the needle on the record.  It all came back.   And it was too much.  But it was not sadness that made me cry.  It was happiness.  To hear that sound again, to look at that stereo in awe and wonder again like I did as a kid.  To remember in a flash how much time I spent with that stereo through grade school and high school.  It was a good thing to feel.  Wonderful, actually.

I got to thinking about the things we hold on to.  I got to thinking maybe just holding onto things isn’t enough.

I wonder if that old hand carved cribbage board from grandpa needs to be taken from the mantle and put front in center for Friday night game night.   I wonder if that 8 mm camera with the black and white family films needs to be carefully and gently opened and then played for all to see.  I wonder if the dusty photo albums that never get looked at unless someone dies needs to get hoisted out of the crawl space and spread out across the kitchen table offering a backdrop to some great storytelling.

I got to thinking about things we hold onto at work.  I got to thinking maybe just holding on to things there isn’t enough either.

I wonder about that book you’ve had since you were first promoted and that you keep carrying with you from space to space; perhaps that book needs to be pried open and read again as it must have some gems.  I wonder about that dear and trusted relationship with a mentor you always remember fondly, if that needs a rekindling with a phone call or a joyful visit.   I wonder if those memories of the greatest successes you’ve had, faded though they may be, may need your undisturbed and thoughtful review for they have most certainly left lessons worthy to play again.

I’m not sure my son completely understands what happened to his father last week.   I’m not sure I do either.  I know this now for sure;

It’s nice to hold on to things but it’s magnificent to hear them play.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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That Hero Formula





That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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5 Phrases You’re Not Using Enough



5 Underrated Phrases

Words matter.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“Tell me more about that…”  Great at client meetings, great in customer conversations, great in coaching sessions and great at parties!  You don’t lead unnecessarily, you don’t shut someone down and you don’t force anyone down any path they don’t want to go.  You learn and they get to talk and share.  Great sales people know this.  And any of you actors out there know this is the one of the keys to great improv acting—it always keeps the conversation moving and don’t we all want that?

“We love you…”  What is wrong with us?  Do you think your customers give a flying hoot that you “value” them or “appreciate” them or “thank” them?  Blah Blah Blah.   Don’t you really love them? And if not, shouldn’t you?  (Their business puts food on your table).   Use “love“, “adore” or “cherish” in your print materials or email marketing and even those live conversations or voicemails.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “You folks are one of our absolute greatest customers”.  Make it your own—but make it different and real.  Get above the clutter and stand out.

“Let’ me figure out what I can do.”  Who knows why we humans default all the time to what we “can’t” do.  It’s maddening and so hard to break.  But you say the same thing except far better by saying “Let me think about it and come back with what can be done.” Vs “I can’t do this.”   It’s a world of difference be it at work in service, sales and even in your personal relationships.  Positive Resonates; Negative Detonates.

 “Who besides yourself…?”  Add any ending to Who besides yourself as in “has a say in the decision”, “wants to review”, “would like more info”, “would benefit from a demo”?  Too often we push our contacts away (whether we know them well or they just answered your call) instead of protecting them, their contributions and frankly their egos.  Always include, never insult unintentionally by presuming they do not play a role in the next step.

So you’re all set, this will get you (insert pursuit, dream or goal)”:  Easier than it seems but sadly at the end of most meetings, transactions or purchases we limp along and wrap up the pricing, the purchase order or the specifics of the next contact instead of inserting how what just happened is so critical to what the client or the business wants.   They don’t want the copier you’re selling; they want more time to focus on real work.  They don’t want business Facebook page built; they want to get more customers because they’ll be found more easily.  They don’t want to just list out action items for the next meeting; they want to know how what they did today is going to make a difference.  Tie off each meeting or interaction that way no matter what you do—you’ll solidify the value and strengthen the partnership.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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Essentialism: Holy Cats!



One way to make sure no one reads a blog post is to publish it late on a Friday afternoon.

And even better, have that post be an esoteric, academic brain bender.

Check and Check  🙂

But before you close this window out, shut down your computer and otherwise skedaddle, take this with you into the weekend.

“In a few hundred years when this history of our time will be written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology is not the internet, is not e-commerce.  It is an unprecedented change in the human condition.   For the first time – literally—in substantial and rapidly growing numbers, people have choices.  For the first time, they will have to manage themselves.  And society is totally unprepared for it.”

Holy Cats that’s deep. (Actually I never say “Holy Cats”.  One of my smart colleagues in Minnesota does though when her mind gets blown, so I thought it was appropriate).

The quote is Peter Drucker as retold in a superb book I am reading by George MeKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Get the book.

  • It’s not about doing less work; it’s about doing the right work.
  • It’s not about just making choices; it’s about making them so nobody else makes them for you.
  • It’s not about process and practice and structure; it’s about valuing time to think, even time to sleep.
  • It’s not about prioritization; it’s about priority.

I don’t do the book content justice in this short post and truthfully, I haven’t even finished reading it ( but it is sooo good) ; suffice to say go get the book and have a Holy Cats moment or two.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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The Luckiest Man In The World



I’ve said that every year I’ll republish this post on this date.  How can I not?    Nothing’s changed in the last 5 years except for just one thing;  I feel even luckier.   Happy Anniversary Susan.


The Luckiest Man In The World

I admit I’m not an expert on marriage and have the track record to prove it.   But my guess is that you’ll be alright if

You marry someone who feels it is more important to be there for others who have less or are in need, than to be there for everyone.

You marry someone who works hard, never misses a day, and defines her performance only by the happiness of her customers.

You marry someone who when she first met your child of 6 years old, knelt down, looked at him eye to eye, said hello and then gave him a big hug.

You marry someone who loves with all her heart, the movies from the 30’s and 40’s because they always have happy endings.

You marry someone who cries tears of joy almost daily just upon hearing that a total stranger had a baby or if she happens to she see two toddlers walking, holding hands.

You marry someone, a single mother who from her teenage years has raised a beautiful person in her daughter with the crazy belief that “I want to raise her not to be like me”.

Susan, your daughter is just like you and it is the greatest gift you have given her.  My son has known you nearly half of his life and I swear, he loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, I get to marry you.

I think we are going to be more than alright.  It’s a trite statement but there is a reason someone came up with it.  Now, I know.

I am the luckiest man in the world.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Originally published June 9th, 2009



bailey 7


Life got in the way of today’s post.

The beautiful lady you see here, her name is Bailey.   And this picture was taken by her Dad (my brother) at the beach yesterday afternoon which is her favorite place to be.

Bailey’s struggle is becoming more than she can bear and her suffering ends today.

I see the saddened emails, texts and even tears from the aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and friends this week who know this day is coming.  Bailey has been a part of so many people for so many years.

But we can’t really imagine how hard this is for our brother James.   Please know we love you and are there for you.

It’s cliche and trite to say that Bailey or any loved pet was such a good girl.    But she really was.   Let me share just one thing about her with you.   My brother works in a pretty tough space helping young adults – many who have seen and felt suffering first hand in their young lives.

For years Bailey went to work with him every day and those young people loved her.   She greeted everyone equally.  She never judged or intimidated or abused these kids.   She offered some normalcy, someone to hug or to touch or to just sit quietly next to.

Oh were we to be so good as she.


Till Next Time,


Refreshingly Heartwarming



Refreshingly Heartwarming

I sat in on a training class yesterday for a couple of hours yesterday morning.    It was heartwarming.  Odd word to use I know, but stay with me; it’s something you’d like to see all the time I suspect.

The class was essentially about a slew of new products and all that goes with that.    The trainer was pretty smart so she let the group after about 30 minutes; take some time to dive into a catalogue she made with all the new product pictures, sizes, quantities etc.

I was in the back of the room flipping through the pages myself when I heard the first “Ooohh” and then some “Ahhh’s” and then a few “Oh my gosh(es)” .   Soon the whole crew was engaged in chatter and page flipping and laughter and shouting out a bunch of “Oh look(s)!”.

I was kind of surprised and curious because this training was a lot about change and workarounds and for sure some new processes, procedures, conversions and quoting to come etc.    So I asked the group what all the excitement was about.

This is the cool part; the heartwarming part.

“My customers are always asking me for this stuff…!”

“They are going to be so happy we have this now…..”

“I’m not going to have to tell them “no” or try and do some crazy outsourcing”

“Now they can get it one place, it will be so much easier for them….”

And it went on.

“They want these quantities so badly!..”

“They are going to love what we can do with these now on both sides!”

“I had a customer last week – she would have liked this so much better..”

So it was then I realized how different this moment could have been.

It could have been easily a lot of “Thank god, it’s about time I’ve got something else to sell…!”  or the opposite in  “Great, now I have to sell something else that’ll be added to my quota..”   or “This is just more stuff we have to remember…..”

I’ve been around a while, I’ve seen all of that before and I get it.

But this was different.  And it’s a testament to these folks and their leaders and their culture.  And it’s a nod to the product and business leaders who author the changes.  And best, the reaction bodes as promising for growing the business as anything I’ve seen.   The folks in this training class have a great affinity for their customers; that is the heartwarming part.  And when they see new products – their first thought is a refreshing “I’ve got something else to help these people with….”

How awesome is that?


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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Say Something Nice (& 3 Ways To Do It)


Say Something Nice ( & 3 Ways To Do It)


Your mother was right about having something nice to say.  Especially if your clients are businesses.



Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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