Friday Five for December 23

During this past week, I have been consumed, both personally and professionally, with interpersonal issues. It seems that God, at times, brings difficult situations into one’s life to grow and mature a person. James 1 says this: “count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, you know that the testing of your faith…. [emphasis added]”. The trials that I face are about my faith as much as anything else. I can honestly say that my faith in the Lord has been matured this week and my love for Him is greater than ever. Providentially, God brought to me a book by Henry Cloud, Integrity. I’ve literally consumed this book. God is using it to show me where my character is deficient and lacking in ability to face reality as it is, not as I wish it were. While challenging, it has been extremely helpful on a number of levels. My Friday Five this week is to lay out what God is teaching me – to lay out the core truths about “embracing the negative” that I’ve learned this week. If you’re like me – a nice guy who doesn’t like conflict – then these five quotes are for you:

  1. No problems, no profit. if you orient yourself to the reality that nothing good is going to happen if you can’t deal with the bad things that are going to happen, then you are ready to have something good happen. If you can get with that idea, then you are in the program. But, if you can’t orient yourself to that reality, nothing good is going to happen, because that reality will not go away. It is still the nature of the universe. It will be true that in your business life, personal goals, and relationships, you will encounter problems. Period. If you are not prepared to meet them and resolve them, then they will be the end of your hopes for making anything work, either personally or professionally.
  2. One key to character is twofold: First, integrated character does not avoid negatives, but does the opposite—actively seeks them out to resolve them. Second, integrated character does not see facing negatives only as something painful, but as an opportunity to make things better and get to a good place. Profit comes as a result of facing problems, so doing it is seen as a good thing, not a negative thing.
  3. The masses enjoy the “comfort zone.” They do whatever is most comfortable, even if it is not going to get them to “profit,” whatever that is. But the winners see putting their arms around the problem as their way to the promised land, and their character will allow them to do no less [emphasis added].
  4. The person in charge of a team or an organization who avoids dealing clearly and decisively with an obviously hurtful person loses the confidence of the other people in the team. The leaders who are respected are the ones who can be depended on to deal with things directly and competently.
  5. “Leaders take ownership of the results and do not try to excuse those or blame someone else for them.” It is not enough for the integrated character to be seen as “having followed orders” if the ship sinks or the company is not profitable or his or her child is flunking out of school. Integrated characters want good fruit. They want things to work, and they take ownership of the results as well as their own performance.
  6. One of the most important aspects of character in life, without question, is one’s ability to confront. It is true that you get what you tolerate [emphasis added]. If the nature of reality is that there are always problems, if you do not confront them and instead tolerate them, then problems are what you will have. I have never met or observed a person with a truly whole, successful wake who did not confront well.
  7. Nonconfronters leave a lot of success on the table [emphasis added]. Problems overcome them and stop them, for their political tendency for “people pleasing” can only get them so far. We have seen some examples of that earlier in the book. To do well, and to treat people well, we must confront the problems we have with them. And not only do nonconfronters leave a lot of success on the table, they also leave a lot of messes in their wake. Those who are affected by their lack of confrontation, and messes that they allowed, are deeply disappointed in them. Confrontation adds structure to teams, projects, relationships, and life. Structure adds security, and in security people thrive. Without the security that confrontation provides, people and relationships languish. Both intimacy and performance get sick and die.

    Cloud, Henry (2009-10-13). Integrity: The Courage to Face the Demands of Reality. Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Bill English, CEO

Wishing You a Wonderful Christmas!

I wanted to take a moment and say “Merry Christmas” to everyone who follows this blog!

This holiday season – Hanukah, Thanksgiving and Christmas – is a great time to take a moment and give thanks for the blessings and opportunities we have. While we’ll all hear the constant drum beat of negativity about our economy, wars and other serious events, we can still stop and give thanks that we have more than any other generation in the history of this world.

Being grateful is something we all need to cultivate. May God bless you during this holiday season and may you find your hope and peace in Him.

Bill English, CEO

Friday Five for December 9

Events this week at my business and in my personal life outside of business have brought home once again just how important relationships are. Resolving conflict is essential to moving forward a small company or a ministry. But conflict cannot be fully resolved if one or both parties won’t own their part in the deterioration of the relationship. Some people just don’t see how their actions affect others. In order to implement innovation and change, one must also disrupt the status quo – even if the innovation is rather small and more tactical than strategic. Some will not be able to make the transition and their resistance will often surface in relationship conflict. Arrogance is always a danger with highly talented people and those who know their ministry well. I know I’ve been guilty of being incredibly arrogant. I routinely ask God to show me where I’ve been arrogant. Hardly a day, let alone a week, goes by where God doesn’t point out something I did or said that was arrogant. Regular confession of sin to God is essential for maturing in one’s walk with God. And for me, I can’t be the leader God wants me to be if I’m not regularly praying and confessing my sin to Him. I won’t hear His voice and I won’t develop the graciousness, love, patience and tolerance for other’s that is needed to lead a business, ministry or cause.

Incivility is a key contributor to relationship deterioration. One can be completely honest and right and yet lose the support, respect and attention of others due to incivility. You know, people rarely leave a company – instead, they leave a manager. When you’re a person who likes harmony like I do instead of discord in relationships, it’s difficult. But I’m learning that even the great men of faith in the Scriptures lived their lives in conflict with other people. While the Bible tells me to live in peace with others, the qualifier is added: “as much as it is within your power to do so”. IOW, even God recognizes that not all discord can be eradicated from relationships.

For me, business isn’t just about profits and ministry isn’t about fame. It really is about stewardship – tending to a business or ministry that God has entrusted to me. If you want to know who I’m accountable to – it’s God first. Yes, our customers, my partner Todd and my employees are near the top of the list, but my absolute first accountability is to God. Until I know I’m following Him, nothing else truly matters.

Bill English, CEO

Not a Winning Plan if You’re Interested in Long-Term Prosperity

Call me a geek, but I was surfing the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site today. I came across a seldom mentioned statistic that I had heard in the distant past, but that was brought home to me more directly after thinking about the implications. Only 64% of all Americans are working today – that includes both full and part-time employment. This is down from 67.2% in January of 2001. This is not a trend to be proud of.

Given that roughly half of working Americans paid no Federal Income Tax in 2010, this means that 32% of all Americans are footing the bill for Federal Government expenditures, including the amounts that social security, Medicare and Medicaid “borrow” from the general fund. And given that roughly 10% of those paying Federal Income taxes account for 70% of all tax receipts, then it stands to reason that 3.2% of all American are footing the majority of the Federal expenditures for the rest of us. If this isn’t a definition of success for the redistribution of income, then I don’t know what is.

You know, when politicians claim the rich aren’t paying their fair share, I want to just scream. What is fair about someone not paying any income tax and then claiming they have a right to someone else’s wealth through the force of law? What is fair about 3.2% paying 70% of the total bill for the other 96.8%? The answer is “nothing”. Nothing is fair about this – but since this group is a perpetual minority, they can be hammered all day long because just out of sheer numbers, the majority who pay no income tax are not going to vote to have their taxes reinstated and will happily take money from the small minority. This is nothing more than selfishness infused through divisive class warfare.

What’s equally disturbing is that while our workforce has been declining, our spending has been going through the roof. We paid for two wars totally on borrowed money and now we’re paying for a host of new government workers and services, 42% of which is paid for with borrowed money. This is not a winning plan if you’re interested in long-term prosperity.

I don’t know of any business that could survive if it increased its’ spending to the point where it was borrowing 42 cents on every dollar it spends while watching its’ customer base shrink by 5%. And only through the force of law could a government watch it’s tax paying base shrink, increase revenues by over 50% over a 10 year period and still have the need to borrow another 42% to finance all of its’ operations while letting (encouraging?) half of its’ tax base pay no income tax. It’s absurd.

You would have to be brain-damaged to think this scenario is sustainable. We need to shrink spending, broaden the tax base to include those who don’t pay income tax and grow those who work to increase the number of tax payers in the United States. Answers to this thorny problem abound and I don’t believe that either party has a corner on the full answer. However, the answer will involve our country making significant changes that are both politically and culturally unpopular. My fear is that we do not have have the fortitude or maturity to make these difficult choices. Perhaps we care more about American Idol and getting another beer than we do about grave danger we are in as a country. I hope not, but from what I can see, my hopes are likely misplaced.

Bill English, CEO

Friday Five for December 2

Ethics is a controversial topic because many don’t agree on what ethics is and what actions in a given situation would be right or wrong. Drucker takes a stab at it but leaves me wanting more maturity in his ethical framework. Asking my mom if something is OK to do when I’m in my fifties doesn’t seem like a mature way to discern right and wrong. Instead of asking what my mother would think, I try to ask what God thinks and what he’s already said in his Word.

I find buying a car as one of the top 5 worst customer experiences a person can have. And these authors think these tips will help? I don’t think so.

Don Rainey has some sage advice for entrepreneurial CEOs on how to find out which employees are representing you poorly or hurting customer relations. Good idea, Don.

Work-Life Balance is something that many of us struggle with. I can attest that everyone in my company is working harder than ever before. Their loyalty and work ethic are impressive. But we’re all only human. In his book, Margin, Richard Swenson wrote:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
Richard Swenson. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (Kindle Locations 542-543). Kindle Edition.

Gaining margin – or work-life-balance – is something all of us need. And don’t deny it: we all need time to rest and rejuvenate. Even God “rested” after creating everything we see and know. Now, while God has no need for rest because of His full self-sufficiency, we are not God and our bodies do deteriorate over the course of day, requiring our need to rest. If you deny that stress exists or if you don’t do something to manage your stress, you will do this to your own detriment.

In the Marketplace section of the Journal today, their lead story discusses the growing role of the NLRB in deciding what is and is not legally covered speech in social media when it pertains to employees badmouthing their employers, co-workers and/or customers. Little good can come from this, IMHO. What we have, in effect, is an unelected agency (arguably) creating case law that mirrors their personal, agency, political and Obama administration bias simply by the way they frame the problems and argue their cases before an NLRB administrative judge. The whole thing is full of conflict-of-interest angles – from the board needing to justify and further its’ own existence to their need to make the current administration happy with their actions and decisions. In reading their decisions (yes, I subscribe to their RSS Feed and look at what they announce each day), it’s plain to me that the NLRB has little respect for business owners. I would also argue that their entire existence is unnecessary, but that is a point to make another day.

Bill English, CEO