Orca Pod Leader

Location: Seattle, WA, United States

BS in Business Administration, 1979, Metro State College, Denver, CO; JD, 1988, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID; Senior Business Analyst for International Profit Associates from '98 to '03; Master Practitioner, Neuro-Linguistic Programming since '02, CEO of Orca Pod Group, Inc.,

Monday, May 02, 2005

Management Tips from the Navy!!!

When Michael Abrashoff took over as the new commander of the USS Benfold he found a ship suffering. Suffering from lack of leadership. Suffering from lack of vision. Suffering from micromanagement. After the former commander left the ship Captain Abrashoff set out to find out why the man received such a negative send-off. After some pretty intense research he found some things which amazed him.

In his book, It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from The Best Damn Ship in the Navy he says:

"I read some exit surveys, interviews conducted by the military to find out why people are leaving. I assumed that low pay would the first reason, but in fact it was fifth. The top reason was not being treated with respect or dignity; second was being prevented from making an impact on the organization; third, not being listened to; fourth, not being rewarded with more responsibility."

"Further research disclosed an unexpected parallel with civilian life. According to a recent survey, low pay was also number five on the list of reasons private employees jump from one company to another. And the top four reasons are virtually the same as in the military. The inescapable conclusion is that, as leaders, we are all doing the same wrong things."

"The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew. Only then can you find out what's really wrong and, in so doing, help the sailors empower themselves to fix it."

"A simple principle, yes, but one the Navy applauds in theory and rejects in practice. Officers are told to delegate authority and empower subordinates, but in reality they are expected never to utter the words, "I don't know."

Others have found Abrashoff's brand of leadership equally profound. Read the interview at Fast Company. Here's a small excerpt: "Behind Abrashoff's relaxed confidence is his own brand of organizational zeal. Settling into his stateroom, Abrashoff, 38, props his feet on a coffee table, sips a soda, and says, "I divide the world into believers and infidels. What the infidels don't understand -- and they far outnumber the believers -- is that innovative practices combined with true empowerment produce phenomenal results."

His book, It's Your Ship contains the whole story. Great. Read.

Bizzy Blog

My brother got me hooked on a new (for me)blog about business. Bizzyblog is a great site run by CPA Tom Blumer. His manifesto is worth a read if you're interested in an honest guy trying to help as many people with their financial futures as possible. He does so with good solid training.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sovereign Individuals All

A few years ago I read a startling book by James Dale Davidson & Lord William Rees-Mogg. It was called The Sovereign Individual. These two prognosticators may have hit the nail on the head when they asserted that the world map would be vastly different in just 25 years.

The economy created by the internet which would be mostly untouched and untaxed by existing governments along with other forces would accelerate the demise of many of the less affluent ones.

Their solution? Become a sovereign individual. Independently wealthy enough to be like a sovereign of old. Negotiate and acquire (read buy) citizenship in the most advantageous national government available. Purchase real estate - that's property of the king - in other countries, learn their languages and build relationships in each, preparing for the big economic problems to come. Stretches the imagination, doesn't it? Well, they assert you can do that NOW. Yes, only one or two at present, as I recall.

Get it and read it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Ideas about management from a Microsoft Leader

Out searching for great ideas and new concepts yesterday. I came across a site you might be interested in. Brian Groth of Microsoft has a very nice and not so little blog going about business management. He has guest contributors and comments on a number of subjects. Check him out. Good stuff to learn there.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Why businesses fail

Of course there are many reasons businesses fail. There are probably as many reasons as there are industry categories. When I worked for IPA, one of the largest consulting firms in the country for small to medium sized businesses, I heard about four hundred different excuses in my almost five years of traveling and analyzing firms' problems.

Also, of course, there are many similarities between the excuses that owners gave for not achieving their goals. "I don't need very much to survive." "I'm not greedy." "I don't need/want to be a big corporation." "I hate big business. It's so impersonal." "I'm not some business guy, I'm a plumber." "I want to spend more time with my (you fill in the blank) family/wife/husband/kids/dogs."

As I traveled the country visiting companies in different cities I began to wonder if my old professors at college were right. Was the failure rate even higher than 80% in the first five years? I began to read: Michael Gerber's Emyth and Emyth Revisited, Hyrum Smith, Stephen R. Covey, Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, Sovereign Individual by Davidson & Rees-Mogg (sorry if the name's misspelled), Goldratt's The Goal series, Jay Abraham, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Peters and many, many others. What I found was very interesting.

Paraphrasing what Gerber said in Emyth Revisited, it's not that these people didn't know how to run a business, they don't but that's easy to rectify by learning some pretty basic stuff. It's that they spend so much of their time justifying what they don't know rather than learning. Think about it. It's pretty hard to be 'the man' for your employees and be humble enough to admit you don't know all the answers.

I heard a story once about an NFL coach talking about one of the first-round running backs they had on their team. The guy wasn't panning out, was not living up to the hype, was not able to make the yards in the NFL. The coach, when asked why, said something like this: When a young man comes out of college thinking he knows all there is to know about being a running back and won't listen to the pro-level coaches, he won't have much of a career in the NFL, he won't make it.

It's hard to be 'the man' on the team, win all the games, make the hard decisions, carry the team on your shoulders, find the clients, do the work, pay the bills, hire, fire, make split-second decisions, find an office, buy the furniture, all the myriad details for running the business, collect from clients, find more clients, keep them happy and then, AND THEN, admit to your colleagues and co-workers and employees that you don't know everything about making a business successful. That you need to take a class down at the community college on accounting or business structure or management techniques or computers or . . . . . you name it. That's hard. Real. Hard.

Yet the really successful business people have the ability to admit to themselves and others that they don't have all the answers. They don't know everything. That they need input, advice, education, training. One of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin, was that sort of man. He started a group of 12 like-minded business associates - his 'Junto'(I believe it means 'together' in Spanish) - to do a boot-strap elevation of their business education, political education and 'network' for their respective businesses.

They met together each month and rotated presenting topics to teach the others. His group met regularly for 41 YEARS. Some of the original members started their own little groups. This teachable approach led to some great successes. Think of all the things Ben accomplished in his life. He was a life-long learner. Is that why businesses fail? I think so. They fail because the business owner is not teachable, too proud, too stubborn, too 'busy doing the work', too short-sighted, too full of him/herself.

Small business failure rate

When I went to college, in the 70's, in one of my business courses I was told by the prof. that the rate of failure among small business startups was astronomical. What I think I remember the prof said was something like 80% in the first five years - that's 80 out of 100 - and 80% of the remaining 20% - 16 of the remaining 20 - in the next five years. Anyone out there know where those stats could have come from? I've checked the SBA statistics and they don't have anything like that kind of figure. I'm sure the government doesn't want to be in the business of advertising how many small businesses fail each year. Any ideas?