Stop Planning and Start Doing

Business success has been approximated at 1/3 strategy and 2/3 execution.  And yet so much time is wasted on “business and marketing plans.”  It’s not to say that plans aren’t necessary, but they should provide the general direction – where you get some real learnin’ is by doing.

You can have some grandiose plans for social media, but the best thing to do is to be mindful of the timeless Nike tagline – just do it!

Once you wade in the social media pool, begin blogging, tweeting, or whatever platform you choose, you can start to see what works, what doesn’t work, learn from others, make changes, etc… You are not going to learn a darn thing by planning.

The world is shaped and influenced by doers not by planners.


Rats, cockroaches, and poo…oh my!

Environmental laboratory and field assistantooh, this job sounded perfect for a hopeful young scientist!  And the job sounds impressive, right?  Well, as it turns out, not so much.  But I wasn’t in a position to be too picky, after all it was a job in my profession and I needed this job desperately to fund my college education.  And so I began my new job with great anticipation.

One of the services I soon learned that we offered was “effluent water quality monitoring and flow measurements.” Translation: We will battle the cockroaches and other vermin in your sewers, stick our hands in water from flushed toilets & industrial waste water, and wade through sewers full of petrified poo and collect samples…

While I’m sure it sounds very glamorous, believe it or not, even this exciting job got to be mundane.

  • Oh, gee another giant cockroach.
  • Hey, here comes another rat toward us.
  • Oh no, you stay behind and let me crawl on my hands and knees through methane filled, crumbling sewers.

And some days I just had a hard time getting excited about exposing my body to toxic wastes — wimp!

But in those times of weakness when I felt like this wasn’t exactly why I was attending the university, my fellow sewer rat and recent college graduate himself, would remind me how important our job was.  He was right.

All kidding aside, our work was the first step in collecting meaningful data.  These data would allow others to make potentially significant decisions about how best to operate their plant and comply with complex environmental regulations.

We were young men and didn’t realize it then, but we were selling our company and ourselves.  We took our job very seriously and there were few challenges we were not able to overcome.  And when our sales team was selling the expensive laboratory analysis, they would add, “…and let me tell you about our exceptional field services team that will collect those samples.”

There are many less than desirable jobs – but there is no job that does not deserve our best effort.  The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were quite appropriate for this chapter in my life,

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

Street sweeper, salesman, cook, administrative assistant, accountant, or even sewer rat – it deserves our best effort!

Prolifically Ineffective

Never in history have we had so many tools to communicate: email, cell phones, and social media, all provide us a means to communicate our message to individuals or masses in an instant.

And yet…we struggle to communicate basic messages in the workplace.  We often travel down different roads of expectation in the office.  We think we have clearly communicated the goal, but when we arrive at the end of the assignment we find ourselves at two very different endpoints. This often leads to confusion, anger, and finger pointing.

You told me this…

I thought you meant that…

You were supposed to do two…

I thought you meant three…

If you don’t understand the basics of communication in the first place, the various tools at your disposal will not make you a more effective communicator.  You’ll just be a more prolific ineffective communicator.

Not sure how effective your communications skills are?  Maybe you should ask some of your colleagues and subordinates. You might find a common denominator in all those problem assignments.

Something Service Providers Must Never Forget

Ask most service professionals (I happen to work in the environmental consulting world) why you should part with your hard earned money and you’re likely to get a litany of (lame) reasons

  • Our prices are really competitive (wow, that’s unique)
  • We’re really good (whatever that means)
  • Excellence is what we are all about (see above snide remark)
  • I have a Masters!
  • I have a Ph.D.!!
  • We’re experts!!!

Not one reason why someone should hire you.

But wait, I went to school and have all these degrees and have written all these books, they don’t count for anything? 

Not unless you can translate it into some tangible benefit for my business.

Never forget this basic principle: People buy for one of two reasons, 1. Avoid Pain or 2. Gain Pleasure.  Service providers are likely helping to avoid pain, our task is to understand their pain and show how we can help provide pain relief.



Arrogance or Insecurity

It seems to me that micro managing is either a reflection of arrogance or insecurity.

Either it is the belief that you and you alone know the right way – the only way to achieve the stated outcome.

Or, you are so afraid that someone else might have a great idea, or worse might find success by implementing their idea!

Tap into everyone’s knowledge and creativity – give them the freedom to share ideas and give them the permission to fail…and succeed.

There might be a better way

Do it this way

But it’s not effective

Do it this way

It’s not helping us achieve our goals

Do it this way

But we could be more efficient and more profitable if we change

…do it this way!

Sometimes we continue to do it this way regardless of logic and reason – we will not change even to the detriment and demise of the company.

So what gets in the way? Pride, stubbornness, pigheadedness, the inability to recognize things have changed?

Don’t ever change for the sake of change, but don’t ever not change for the sake of not changing (yes, I know, a double negative).



53 One of a Kinds

Suppose I gave you 53 precious jewels, each of them absolutely unique.  They are truly one of a kind, they cannot be replicated…ever!

Now suppose you held out your hand and after marveling at these wonders of nature, you take one of them and throw it in the mud and say, “I don’t like that one.”  You then examine them closer and announce, “I don’t like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one.”  You say with disgust, “I don’t want any of them!” You throw them all away.

There are 53 Mondays in 2012 and I guarantee you, they cannot be replicated.

Bringing Value to the Marketplace

Being smart isn’t enough; not today, not in this economy.  Now more than ever, you have to translate your smarts into a tangible benefit.  And whether you are personally looking for a job, or looking to sell you and your company, you have to look beyond your knowledge and skills.

There are a lot of people that can solve complex technical problems –

You need to translate that skill into solving business problems.

Everyone wants to tell you everything they have learned –

You need to respond to what people want and need to know.

While you may have built a better mousetrap –

You have to make sure people with a mouse problem can find you.

It’s great to be able to explain –

Where the true value comes is being able to listen.

You can impress by knowing your stuff –

You can eat when you can sell the stuff you know.

What you have to say may be important –

But it’s imperative to realize that what others have to say is even more important.


Job Security

If we have learned one thing in this current economic downturn it’s that you can’t count on big companies for job security – they too fail and leave employees without a job.

But look, this isn’t exactly the first time big companies have failed. Chicago Gas, Tennessee Coal and Iron, American Cotton Oil, Distilling & Cattle Feeding, and American Tobacco were five of the original twelve companies that made up the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1898.  Where are they today?  Bought out, broken up, and dissolved. There is only one that remains on the Dow of the original twelve; General Electric.

So where do you turn for employment security?  Take a look in the mirror!  You are your best source of job security.  When you expect much of yourself, when you never stop learning, when you consistently exceed the customers’ expectations you are securing your future.

The little extra steps that you take to ensure a job well done are in essence steps to secure your future in a two-fold manner.  First, you are giving the customer every reason to give your company repeat business and you also provide a basis for possible future referrals, both make the company for which you work stronger.

Second, as you consistently do a good job, you are building a solid professional reputation for yourself.  Every person you positively impress is a possible future professional reference. So even if you work for a big national company like American Cotton Oil and they merge with one of the other big cotton oil companies and eliminate your job, you have a solid reputation that will help you find work.

Daily excellence is the best long-term investment for your career.


I have BIG plans this year!

This year I will

Make big plans…

…but not follow through on them.

Observe how many are in need…

but do nothing to help.

Realize the importance of family and friends…

but find plenty of reasons to not enjoy good company.

See my faults for what they are…

but lay the blame at the feet of others.

I will dream big, believe that anything is possible, and know I can make a difference…

…but dare not take a chance on my dreams for fear of failure, allow reality to put me in my place, and realize I’m only one person.

Or… the “or” is up to you.  This is day one.

“I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”

-Benjamin Franklin.