The Laminator


The Laminator

This is the actual machine pictured in Kansas City.   

It has its own cubicle The Laminator does, right outside the Site Leader Dale’s office.    Really it does.  It is the only thing on this desk right near the front door.    And it deservedly has this space all to itself because of all the good work it does.   

The Laminator’s work was plastered everywhere in the KC facility I visited.  Laminated Certificates were hanging from the shelves, the monitors and the walls.  For some folks, they even hung from the ceiling. 

I sat with some employees for a bit that day.   A few had evidently received many certificates from The Laminator and I was kind of surprised by the care in which these were displayed and hung in their cubicle spaces.

I commented to one person I was talking with who had a dozen or so in his cube and said “Wow look at all of those…” and with what I admit was more pride than I expected,  he grinned and said “ Yeah, pretty cool eh?”

The other folks I sat with seemed similarly proud of them.   Dale’s center had a pretty good vibe and I couldn’t help but think this emphasis on recognition had something to do with it.

Flying back home that night it got me thinking about that darn laminator and how we need more of those around these parts.  But of course what I really walked away with is how important it is to recognize and be recognized. 

Sure some of us,  we tend brush the need off with comments mostly to ourselves like “Who cares” or “It’s no big deal” or “People know they are valuable”   but if we are honest – recognition is a big deal.     If we are honest, we do look twice at that email from the boss that says “good job” or “great point”.  If we are honest, we do look at the comment from the blog reader or the person that liked your status update.  If we are honest, we do smile a little inside when we get a little public recognition be it your name called out in a meeting or yes, on a certificate for all to see. 

The Laminator knows this.  The Laminator is as honest as they come.  A little heat, a little plastic and Voila! – it’s a shot in the arm for someone.   There are dozens of other ways to recognize people and I’m sure Dale and his team is using more than just The Laminator. 

But here’s a thought – if you have an empty desk and a need for a bit more acknowledgement of good people and good work, fill that space with a laminator.  It does a darn good job. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

Show Rooming Is Our Fault


Show Rooming Is Our Fault

Target got all a tither last week firing off letters to their suppliers demanding they either reduce their costs or focus on giving Target more unique and exclusive products to sell in their stores.

Problem is that folks go to Target, look at a product, touch it, hold it, feel it, ask questions about it and then turn around and go online and buy the same thing cheaper from some online company that doesn’t have the costs to bear for the brick and mortar, the labor and all the rest.

They call it Show Rooming and brick and mortar retailers like Target are getting sick of it. 

But Target is mad at the wrong people.  It’s not the supplier that’s the problem – it’s us. 

Maybe it was the way I was brought up or where I’ve worked but there’s something wrong about using one company to learn and see everything about a product and then going out and buying it online ( or anywhere else for that matter.)   And it happens a lot.

There’s something wrong with walking into the local hardware store, getting that advice on which paint to use to cover paneling, spending some time at the color wheel and then saying “Thanks man!” while jumping in the car to speed off to the superstore to get the exact same paint a little cheaper.

There’s something wrong when the Veterinarian examines your dog, hands you the product she needs to stay healthy and you put it down sheepishly saying “gee I can’t get that right now” only to go on line, look for the same product and order it there for 3 bucks cheaper.

There’s something wrong with going to a car dealer, working the sales rep for 2 days, getting all the answers, taking that test drive and getting all of it down on paper  to then neatly fold it, slip it into your back pocket and then shopping around with all this new knowledge to get better price from some other dealer who sells the same model car.

And it happens to you too.

It’s not real different in sales either when you spend 3 weeks educating a prospect about a solution, prepare a proposal and that prospect takes your proposal and their new education, then turns it over to a competitor and says “Beat that”.  That happens, that’s life but that’s Show Rooming a Sales Rep and that ain’t right.

It’s a lot like stealing I think.  For too many people it’s not a problem to take insight, or time, or commitment, or ideas only to use them against the very people and places that were so skilled or gracious in giving them to you in the first place by going somewhere else to buy.

That’s called Show Rooming and nope, even though its rampant and even a source of pride for some, I don’t like it one bit. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Your Cheatin’ Start


I was young when I learned that if you combine working hard and cheating you often get something that actually pays off.    

I sat at the piano when I was 8.   The M*A*S*H song was the first real tune I played plunking out each note quite shocked that it actually sounded remotely like the theme song. 

I haven’t stopped playing since.   But my story doesn’t blossom into me learning to really play the piano and how I got to play a couple of gigs for Journey or for Springsteen when they came to town.  I’m not a good piano player by any stretch. 

I need that music in front of me.  I taught myself the guitar chords symbols to play on the piano and know enough sight reading to plunk out the melody in the right hand.  I cheat.

But I work hard at cheating so that most people can’t tell I’m staring at the guitar chord symbols as I accompany anyone who cares to sing.  I even play in church on occasion in front of sometimes hundreds of people.

They don’t realize how much hard work this is for me and that I am in fact, cheating.  But they seem to like it.   That can’t be all bad.

In fact, it’s not bad at all, it’s OK – Happens all the time.

  • Your boss or your colleague is sooooo good at coaching people.  It comes so naturally to them.   You on the other hand, sit at your desk and bang out “How to deal with conflict in the workplace…” like 4 times a week on Google looking for a darn answer.  You find it.  You print it off.  You sweat it.  It works.   Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating payin’ off. 


  • Your buddy’s closing deals like Vin Diesel in the movie Boiler Room and yet he looks like he just rolled out of bed most of the time.   You listen over the wall and start stealing his lines left and right with what he’s saying to customers.  You try em’.  You memorize em’.   You steal em’ for a week and soon you start landing deals.  Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating paying off.  


  • The team needs an answer.  It’s brainstorming time.  Have to find a way to drive some more sales.  You are clueless, tired and it’s been a long week.  You trip over a book that fell off some table you walked by, pick it up, pour over it and find the answer.  You go to meeting.  You share the idea.  You don’t (gulp) share that you accidentally found the answer in a book you tripped over.   Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating paying off. 

Here’s the deal.   Hard work mixed with cheating has its place.   Sometimes it’s for a specific need at a specific time.  Sometimes like my piano playing, it’s forever. 

When it comes easy to you it comes easy to you.   When it doesn’t, that combination of hard work and bit of cheatin’ can get you some darn good results and no worries, nobody needs to know.  

And for those of you aghast that I could condone cheating well, let’s just call it like it should be called in this case – stealing shamelessly. 

Gotta run, have to “practice” some Billy Joel.


Till next time,

 Grow The Business.


Odd Duck


What would you be if you believed that the real selling began after you closed a sale?

 What would you be if you believed that the real service began after the phone call ends?

 What would you be if you believed that real customer value began with what you believe and not what you have?

 What would you be if you believed that your real job began with what you think and not with what you do?

 Heck, what would you be if you believed that the real meaning of life begins with what you leave ahead and not what you leave behind?  

 Answer: You would be the most beautiful and wonderfully odd duck of a person, performer or company.



 P.S.  Everywhere you see the word “be” in a question,  swap in the word “do”, go grab a pencil and answer it.   At length.

 Then do it.

 Odd Duck you will be.  How wonderful. 

Till next time,

 Grow The Business.


Lois’ Lessons


I think of how good it is to create opportunities for others, for that is really the best you can do.  What we do with those opportunities of course, is up to us.

I think of how good it is to heed the advice of “offer it up and move on!”   That counsel is authored by many, yet so few of us act accordingly with any consistency.  We should pledge to do better.

I think of how good it is to unexpectedly just send a note or a check or even yourself to someone in need.  And to do it unannounced and tell it to no one.  There is something so pure about that.

I think of how good it is not to waste time.   It’s never coming back.  Spend those “down” times learning or helping or creating something if not for yourself, then at least for someone else.

I think of how good it is to make those individuals close to you feel like it is just you and them; and that “No, there is no one else but you”  that I focus on or care about.  If you can pull that off, you are wondrous.        

I think of how good it is to spend a life in the care or protection of others as a career and as a parent.  Blessed are those that don’t leave work at work, but rather without missing a beat, bring the best of that work home every single night.


I think of these things because later today my family and I will more formally remember someone who taught me so much about what you read here.   I was not my Mother’s greatest student in these lessons but am smart enough to know they do live tattered and duct taped somewhere within me.   

She centered her life on caring; on making you feel like you “were the only one” she was thinking about and always surprised or helped when you never expected it.   Above all, she made, prayed and worked very hard to make opportunities for us.

Her passing this week is difficult but an opportunity at home or at work for all of us, especially me.    Be more purposeful about embracing the lessons of my mother, Lois.   

Go ahead and steal shamelessly from her (but don’t tell anyone); she’d like that.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


But You’re In Sales


You took that call, not knowing the client was sent an email offer by marketing or what it said but you’re in Sales, so you recognized that what’s important was that there’s interest so you fueled that fire and said “Yes, we’ve had a lot of calls about this! Let me make sure I know which one you are talking about…tell me what it reads…”

You personally didn’t screw up the client’s proof or was the one who didn’t call to arrange that installation but you’re in Sales, so you knew that owning the problem was critical and called that unhappy customer back and said “I am so sorry.  I own this, let me fix this problem right now…”

You knew there was a sales shortfall this month and you saw the silly contest poster to “Close the most sales over the next 24 hours!”  but you’re in Sales,  so you focused on solving customer problems and didn’t pitch and dump and spew and pound out phone calls just to hit that low hanging unloyal fruit opportunity and close the deal because heck, you’re not gonna leave a trail of garbage like that. 

Stuff happens.  And most of us;  be we actual sales people, marketers, trainers, leaders or even business owners sell all day long and know nothing ever, ever goes to plan.  But we’re in Sales, so we take our noble profession seriously and apply accordingly. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.




I think I’m done with S.M.A.R.T. Goals. 

It’s the time of year now when so many of us are in a frenzy over setting and writing annual goals for ourselves or our staffs.

You remember those SMART goals don’t you?  Goals that you set, according to the formula,  should be;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely


Yeah OK; got it.

It’s not that there is something terribly wrong with SMART goals; the tenets are solid.   It’s more that I’m not sure SMART goals go far enough in reflecting what drives real people and real business anymore.  It’s more that SMART goals may not be…smart anymore.

For 30 years (yep, in 1981 this formula first appeared) SMART Goals have served us well.  But it’s time for a needed upgrade.  The world is in a different place.  And people are in a different place.  

So before you put those final touches on the SMART goal setting sheets you have proliferating your desks and email boxes, have a look at what I think is a better way.  

S.M.I.L.E Goals  

Strength Focused:  No one person will ever be perfect.  And no one person typically has as many weaknesses as strengths, yet much of our goal setting is often focused on goals  that “fix” a problem or weak area.   But what if all of your annual goals were focused on taking your greatest strengths and either applying them more or making them stronger? Where would we be?  Let’s say you are great at networking.  Set a SMILE goal to build a seminar on that topic where you are required to teach others. What if you are great at floor coaching?  Set a Smart goal that has you delegate many of your other tasks to staff or colleagues so you can do significantly more floor coaching.    Strength Focused goals get you to do more of what you do well.  That’s smart.

Modifiable:  This tenet is the acknowledgement of the age old “elephant in the room” in that many goals written at the beginning of the year are often by the end of the year, ridiculously irrelevant.  Every December from my staff, I usually get two lists; one list that is all the evidence and data to support the SMART goals we set on paper a year before and the other list is called “Accomplishments”.  Rarely do the two match.  Sad.  You could say that that reflects on poor goal setting on my part but often you would be very wrong.  Stuff happens.  Stuff changes.  Business happens.   Business changes.  In the space of a week or a month, your initiatives and priorities could be yesterday’s news.   Often your SMART goals set in February are meaningless by June because you are working on things completely different, more needed or more important.   Modifiable allows you to edit, amplify or delete.  That’s smart.

Inspectable: There’s a difference between measurable and inspect-able.   Measurable is measurable.  Inspect-able is measurable but transparent.  You have stakeholders be they your customers, your boss, your team or your shareholders and inspect-able brings a higher level of trust when it comes to measuring.  Trust I contend, is far more important today in business, than it was in 1981.  Post your goal metrics on the shop wall, in your cubicle or at your desk.  SMILE goals should be ones that don’t require 4 hours of data collection each quarter and a 1 our meeting with your boss to see how you are progressing “so far”.  Inspectable makes it easy to see how you are doing.  Inspectable goals show you have nothing to hide.  That’s smart.

Learning Focused:  If you are not learning you are dying.  Goals to achieve are fine. Goals to achieve that don’t reflect learning or growth are not.  You can do both.  You must do both.  More than ever, landscapes in business change at speeds that make even the hardest working the brightest folks cringe.  It’s hard to keep up, but we must.  In fact, keeping up is just table stakes now and keeping ahead is what is truly needed.  Achieve those numbers yes, but SMILE goals must have an aspect that force you to continuously and consciously learn from that achievement and position you for more success in an ever more complex business world.  Learning focused gives goal setting a leading edge.   That’s smart.

Enduring:  If I had a dollar for every time I forgot what my SMART goals were for the year I’d be rich.  If I had a dollar for every time I and my staff forgot what their individual SMART goals were I’d be filthy rich.   You know it’s true.  Goals are often either “the same every year” (hit forecasted quota plan of….), or “breathtakingly boring” (manage expenses within a budget of….).  Take the expected stuff out of the goal setting and do it the SMILE way.  Create goals that endure, that people remember and that will stick:  “Land face to face meetings with 2 fortune 500 companies by the end of Q2…”, “Create a video campaign that generates viral buzz with 5 digit visits and link backs from 2 of these 15 influential bloggers..” or “Make the pain of the customers from brand ABC as they transition to brand XYZ go away by the end of Q1…”.  You get the idea.  Enduring makes it easier to remember, easier to focus and easier to succeed.  That’s smart.

S.M.I.L.E goals reflect a truer reality of the human and business condition; i.e. what drives people and what really happens (and is needed) in the business world.   SMART goals aren’t something I’d necessarily throw away.   They are a decent formula but my advice is you should use them only if you start with a SMILE.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Lean In


When you visit a small business, lean in and take a little peek thru that half opened storeroom door.  You just might be able to see a little arm attached to a littler hand holding a bright crayon scribbling away on papers laying about that worktable.  Of course then you realize, that Kristen who is tallying the receipts out front, is this little one’s Mommy. 

When you grab that coveted Hi back stool at the local bar (you know, the chair just opposite the TV but kind of on the corner so you see everything), go ahead and order that Sam Adams and as you wait, lean in a bit and you just might see a purse on the floor overflowing with bills including those yellow “final notice” ones.  For a second you get that sick feeling in your stomach too- you’ve been there.  Of course then you realize, Mary must have just raced here for the closing shift and is praying she makes enough in business and tips tonight to at least get the late late late ones paid.

When you take Max for a walk and see “Mike’s All Pro Painting” truck next door at Dave’s house you’re curious so you step a little closer.  You notice the truck is clean with a nice logo on the side- a real pro.  But lean in a bit and take a look inside the cab and you might just see a catastrophe of burger wrappers and coffee cups.  But as you look even closer you see in the midst of this mess a copy of Entrepreneur magazine and WSJ’s guide to Small Business.   Of course then you realize, Mike has much bigger dreams.

These folks and many other small business owners have kids, bills and dreams.

And many of you have the chance every day in what you do to help these folks grow their business.  You have the advice, the ideas, the products and the services that can do that for them.  

But So what?  Growing their business doesn’t really mean anything.  At least not always to us it doesn’t.

We have to think deeper.

Helping Kristen, Mary and Mike grow their business is way more than just growing their business to them.   Growing helps them pay for that after school program, or for those late late bills or for that seminar to learn how to secure an Angel investor and live that dream.

Growing is often a wonderful means to an end for small business owners.  And those ends aren’t much different than what you and me have in mind.

So lean in.

But lean way in this time and give em’ a hand.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


The Wicked Awesome Awards


If I was in fact, having an actual awards ceremony, I think these four winners would give some inspiring acceptance speeches.   And if they actually knew they were winning a Wicked Awesome Award (they don’t) they would be thrilled.

Until the WAA’s reach that “coveted” status, the awards actually mean more to me (and hopefully you) than anyone else.   Why?  Because each of these winners affected me in some wonderfully wicked awesome way.   And you get the benefit of knowing how.

Each of these people over the last 6 weeks did something simple, yet so helpful they inspired me to stop, grab my red book and write down these moments.  That’s a big deal in my book (literally) and makes them worthy winners.    

Here they are;  

Adolphe at Verizon who called me on his lunch break from his own cell phone to confirm that my cell phone was working properly while I was traveling in Kansas City last month.  He said he would; I didn’t really believe it but by golly, he did.    

Helen at Target who checked left, right and then all around her looking for her boss.  And not having found him, grinned, left her register and helped the elderly woman bag her groceries way down at the end of the checkout lane.  Helen, you’re right; some things just aren’t in the training manual.

Rev. Dean who sat next to me on the plane last month, each of us sharing stories about work and life, stopped mid sentence and sincerely asked if there was someone in my life he could pray for over the next month.   There was Rev. Dean, thank you, thank you very much.

Tim and Jimmy at Hannaford, who insisted on loading my wife’s groceries in the pouring rain saying “Just get in the car- we got it!”.  Tim is a made up name (and so is Jimmy) but this complete stranger and his son totally made my day and I wasn’t even there.

Congratulations all.  No lives saved or Herculean efforts here but Wicked Awesome for sure.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


I Sent My Wife Roses For No Reason. What Did You Do?


Yesterday, I sent a dozen red roses (in a beautiful vase I might add) to my wife at her place of work. 

I sent them just because I love her; no other reason.

In fact,  the card read….“Just because I Love You.”   

Upon receiving such a thoughtful delivery and reading the attached note, my lovely wife apparently teared up in front of all her co-workers, which of course made said co-workers tear up, and they in turn even got visitors to tear up.   Love all around and tissues for everyone.

Ahem.  🙂

I know.  All you guys are looking real bad right now.  

Some other guys are looking bad right now too but they don’t even know it.  They will of course when they get home and see this blog post taped to the fridge like a sentry guarding the bottles of beer that lie within. 


But my friends, I’ll take the heat because here’s my point; you can’t be boring or predictable, you gotta keep it fresh.  You gotta surprise.

  •  Are you the sales rep that sent the Thanksgiving card out to the client to say thank you for their business?  Probably not, but some other partner/ supplier somewhere else, probably did.  You go ahead and send out just one card like everyone else.
  • Are you the sales leader who suddenly sat down and called out on behalf of your sales person to set up 5 appointments just for her, so she had a chance to knock em’ dead with her presentation?  Probably not, but some other sales leader, somewhere else, probably did.   You go ahead and keep coaching her on her presentation.
  • Are you the sales rep who called looking to hit voicemail  (cause you knew if you got your customer live for this, it would be interrupting) and left a message about the link you sent to help them deal with a problem totally unrelated to what you sell?  Probably not, but some other sales rep, somewhere else, probably did.   You go ahead and call only when you are looking to hit your quota.

You love your significant other.  You love your customers.  Keep it fresh.  Surprise the hell out of em’ now and then.   You know it’s good.  And yeah, you beat back the dreaded “boring” and the competition every time. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.