Bountiful Feast

Yesterday during a phone coaching session with one of the franchising groups I facilitate (our monthly lunch-and-learn discussion), someone commented they’re awaiting the economic turnaround to occur before making a big decision about an opportunity for their business. This person suggested there is too much uncertainty right now to commit without knowing when things will get better. I responded they might want to consider ordering off that menu now in order to position themselves ahead of everyone else when a better day arrives.

You have to eliminate inertia to achieve results – in business or boiling water. While this is not the time to spend lavishly at five-star restaurants, it’s also important not to be paralyzed by fear and eat TV dinners. The objective, during high-flying times and periods of hunkering down, is to improve the bottom line. If you’re like most businesses, you’ve carved all the fat out of expenses. That means the only way to improve profitability is to increase sales, and with your customers in a similar dollar-menu mindset, you’re going to have to take market share from competitors in order to enjoy your desserts.

During economic expansion there’s room for everyone at the dinner table… and the feast is extravagant. Today, it’s a blue plate special… and there aren’t as many place settings. To ensure you don’t go away hungry, you need to be assertive and show up early while others are standing around waiting on an invitation. Eventually, everyone will be clamoring to get inside the most popular establishments; you’ll already be there dining on the delicious entrée.


In Search of Leaders

Here in Texas yesterday was primary Election Day… as Republicans and Democrats squared off to determine who represents each Party head-to-head on November 2nd. The big race was for the Governor’s Mansion. Incumbent Rick Perry beat Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on the Republican side, while Democrats chose former Houston mayor Bill White over Farouk Shami, who made his fortune by creating the CHI hair straightener.

Either Perry or White will probably do fine as governor; however, the bigger question in my mind – both here in the Lone Star State and in Washington, D.C. – is “Where have all the statesmen gone?” Political campaigns these days consist of one side chopping up the other… with minimal amount of time spent explaining “Here’s my platform and here’s how we’re going to do it.” Instead of hearing plans for change, the Great Unwashed electorate is served up regular courses of complaints and criticism.

Of course, the shouting displayed in elections leads to the inevitable stalemate by the chosen ones. That’s why Congress continues to point fingers and take sides rather than work to find common ground and take action. Grown men and women act like three-year-olds – unwilling to compromise or accept another viewpoint. Those of us on the outside looking in are left to observe the melee presented in the partisan proclamations of CNN and Fox.

Somewhere George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the founders of this nation are shaking their heads. They understood that putting the needs of the people first is Job One. They gave to receive… and 223 years after signing the Constitution their insight and approach stands as the brightest of lights. Today’s politicians would do well to take a pause and read some history. That would be a better use of their time and your tax dollars than what they currently do on a daily basis.


Quick Reflexes

Toyota instructed dealers yesterday to stop selling the Camry and seven other models due to the potential danger of accelerator pedals sticking. The company recalled more than two million vehicles – on top of the four million previously recalled because of the risk of a loose floor mat jamming accelerators.

Great move by Toyota to intervene before this issue leads to more accidents and perhaps tragedy. Engineers are working around the clock to determine the cause of the latest concern. Tough challenge for dealers who suddenly lost a significant part of their revenue stream and now have to deal with confused/angry customers. (I can only imagine how many calls their dealerships will take today with people asking, “Can I drive it or do I need to park it in my garage?”)

There is a great lesson here for all business leaders. You can’t wait until something happens to decide how you’ll react. Make contingency plans now for potential disaster later (think: weather-related disruptions; product delivery delays; bad publicity; sudden death of a key team member; etc.). While you won’t know the specific problem that will arise, you can decide how you will handle most situations.

Be sure you have in place procedures for knowing: a) Which essential employees need to be notified first; b) Who is authorized to speak for your organization and what consistent message will be delivered; c) How you will handle the inevitable media rush; d) What steps you will take to rectify the situation as quickly as possible; and e) When you will announce changes and provide status updates.

Since 1983, I have owned in succession three Toyotas and driven them a combined 350,000+ miles. They’ve been great cars – needing only minor repairs – and two of our children learned to drive on our current 2001 Camry. I’m guessing the smart folks at Toyota will figure this one out quickly… and get right back to work rebuilding trust in their highly respected brand.