Friday Five November 30

In my experience over the last 10 years, I’ve fired two people who were talented rainmakers because they didn’t fit our culture – in fact, they were just the opposite. There are times when you need to let rainmakers go – people who are performing well in attaining their job but who do so in a way that damages relationships and people in the process. This article from HBR is a good summary. They call them “vampires”. But whatever name you call them, don’t keep them on your staff. Get rid of them as fast as possible. In my book, culture trumps competence. Hire character and culture – you can always train for skills if the raw talent is there.

Speaking of culture, we live in one that is increasingly negative. This is one of the problems I have with both the far right and the far left. Both sides are filled with such hatred that I have a hard time listening to them. This article expresses some positive ways to live in an increasingly negative culture. I found it helpful to consider their suggestions.

The quarterly Wells Fargo Small Business Index was released based on post-election surveys and the results are not good. The report states:

“Small business owners as a group are now the most pessimistic they have been since the third quarter of 2010, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. The Index fell 28 points to negative 11 (-11) in the post-election survey conducted Nov. 12-16, 2012. Key drivers of this decline include business owner concerns about their future financial situation, cash flow, capital spending, and hiring over the next 12 months.”

I’ve commented before on why small business owners are pessimistic about the future. The election didn’t change the fundamental direction of our economy. All the unnecessary hype about the fiscal cliff doesn’t help either. But those of us who live the economy every day and bear the brunt of the storms are a good group to reference on the future state of the economy.

The best and the worst of 2012 are starting to appear already. I think just about anyone can create a list of 10 things in 2012 and probably get some added web traffic to it. This list is no exception.

Last, but not least, I’ve learned a great deal this week about myself and my company. I can’t and shouldn’t go into the details, but the upshot is that I need to heed my own advice (Undeniable Truth #65). I cleaned up a number of problems this week and though difficult, I feel liberated and free. Imagine that: resolve a problem and you feel better. I wonder how many more times I’ll need to re-learn this truth before it becomes part of what I do all the time.

Bill English, CEO

Everyone Shares in the Pain

In order for us to get our financial house in order, I think everyone should and must share in the pain. You can’t tax the rich enough to close our deficit gap and there isn’t much money at the other end of the income spectrum to make a dent in the deficit, so we need to significantly cut spending and get more revenues into the coffers. This story asserts as much. It’s time, America. It’s time for the party to end and get our finances in order.

Bill English, CEO

Good Advice

I just received an email this morning from a friend who was advising me on how to manage a situation within my company. Near the end of his email, he reminded of the DCOM method that he uses – it was a good reminder for me, so I thought I’d pass it along:

  • D = Direction – Give your team members or employees clear, measurable objectives
  • C = Competence – do they know how to do it? – do they need additional training or coaching?
  • O = Opportunity – do they have the time, tools and resources to do it? Can anyone do it?   
  • M = Motivation – Are they willing to do it or is there something of higher priority/concern that’s getting in their way. 

I like this approach. I’ll be using it in the coming weeks and months to manage the situation he and I were discussing.

Bill English, CEO


Fiscal Cliff? I Don’t Think So.

The fiscal cliff is no cliff at all. People on both sides of the aisle who want to see a responsible government live within its’ means should embrace and encourage the changes in the law.

What the Washington Post refers to as myths are, in my opinion, exactly what is needed to stop the bleeding. What does the current law do (based on both the Wikipedia article and the Washington Post article)?

  1. More people will be paying more in taxes. As much as I hate an increase of revenue to the Federal Government, if we’re going to balance our budget, this is necessary. But here’s the point – *everyone* needs to pay into the system. Every American who earns an income should pay into the system. This law, as it stands now, will cause many in the lower 50% to pay *something* into the system. I think this is good. You can’t have 50% of Americans not paying any Federal Income tax. That’s too progressive, IMHO.
  2. Spending cuts are necessary if we’re going to stop the bleeding. That means less government services. That means defunding some programs – both in defense and in discretionary spending. $1T over ten years? That’s $100B/year. On $3.5T of annual spending, we can’t find $100B to cut? Really? I bet I could find that just in the defense department. I *know* I could find it in the social programs. We’re talking about cutting 3.5% of spending. That’s not going to hurt anyone and frankly, should be done anyways.

Going over the cliff is what we need. More people paying more taxes, real cuts in spending and the realization by all that this cliff is mostly hype without much substance: I see this as a good thing.

What we should really be concerned about is the $1T+ debt we’re adding to our national debt each year. That’s the real problem. Either *all* Americans need to pony-up and pay their fair share into the system to stop the bleeding or we need to cut $1T+/year out of our spending, or both.

The real danger is in doing nothing or too little. Without economic strength, we won’t be strong militarily and we’ll lose our sovereignty to another nation – a nation that will take away our freedoms, plunder our resources and care little about our social programs. The Bible says that the borrower is servant to the lender. God isn’t kidding. So, we can go without some services today or without all of them tomorrow. But either way, the party is ending.

Bill English, CEO

Friday Five, November 23

This is a great example of why I believe women should carry a firearm and why my side company, Maple Grove Firearms, will offer permit to carry training specifically designed for women. We already offer the permit to carry training for the general public, but focusing on women and their specific needs is a good thing. I applaud all of the permit to carry training companies nationwide who are picking up this banner and carrying it forward. If you’re in the Minneapolis area and would like to be a firearm instructor – especially if you’re a woman – please ping me.

I was reading through this blog from Ligonier Ministries and it speaks to what I’ve concluded for a long time: In order for business owners to be effective in our work, we need to be free from the bondage of sin. I’ve met and have heard of business owners who are so steeped in their own bondage that they ineffective in leading their companies. Things like alcoholism or office affairs or anger and control issues – these and other issues keep people from achieving all they could achieve. I caught one business owner having sex with a swinger he met online in a shared conference room. To say it was disgusting was an understatement. I know of another leader who is a Jeckle/Hyde – from public to private – in public he is everything you’d want in a leader, but in private, he is overbearing, angry, controlling and abusive. I don’t know why people work for him. I really don’t. In order to be effective as a steward of a business or ministry – that which God has given to you and me – we need to be free from the bondage of sin. As long as we are in bondage, we’ll never approach being the stewards God intends us to be and we’ll likely harm, if not destroy, people around us.

The job numbers a couple weeks ago are not surprising to me. I could have told you our economy is at a standstill. Every CEO I talk to says the same thing: ObamaCare scares them and the aggressive regulations scare them as well. When you don’t know what the future holds – and that uncertainty is mainly about what the government may or may not do – then you have a risk that you cannot manage. It’s a very real risk but you have no leverage to manage it. How does one manage risks posed by the government? If the government is your greatest risk, how do manage it? The answer is: you don’t. You don’t fight it. You run and hide and hope that they don’t do too much harm to you. That is where business is. That’s why there is so much cash on their balance sheets. Cash is their greatest tool to fight against a government risk they cannot control. While pockets of this economy might be doing well, most of it is bogged down with risk and uncertainty. Look – this is not rocket science. Consider this comparison chart below. It outlines the Federal Government Statues and Regulations that business must comply with and compares what business faced in 1980 to 2012. If you wonder why we’re in the shape we’re in, then use this as a reference for an explanation. By the way, all of these laws and the derived regulations implied in the chart below are in addition to case, common, local, and state laws:



Age Discrimination Employment Act

Age Discrimination Employment Act

Community Reinvestment Act

Community Reinvestment Act

Employment Retirement Income Security Act

Employment Retirement Income Security Act

Federal Contributions Insurance Act

Federal Contributions Insurance Act

Fair Labor Standards Act

Fair Labor Standards Act

Federal Unemployment Tax Act

Federal Unemployment Tax Act

National Labor Relations Act

National Labor Relations Act

Occupational Safety and Health Act

Occupational Safety and Health Act

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Pregnancy Discrimination Act


Affordable Care Act


Americans for Disabilities Act


Americans for Disabilities Act Amendment Act


Adoption and Safe Families Act


Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act


Americans Job Creation Act


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


Black Lung Benefits Act


Clean Air Act


Consumer Credit Protection Act


Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act


Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act


Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act


Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act


Copeland “Anti-Kickback” Act


Community Reinvestment Act


Contract Work House and Safety Standards Act


Defense Base Act


Drug-Free Workplace Act


Defense of Marriage Act


Electronic Communications Privacy Act


Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act


Employee Polygraph Protection Act


Employee Retirement Income Security Act


Fair Credit Reporting Act


Federal Insurance Contributions Act


Fair Labor Standards Act


Family and Medical Leave Act


Federal Unemployment Tax Act


Federal Water Pollution Control Act


Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act


Health Insurance Patient Protection Act


Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health


Immigration Act of 1990


Internal Revenue Codee


Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986


Job Creation and Workers Assistance Act


Longshore and Harbors Workers’ Compensation Act


Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act


Labor Management Relations Act


Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act


Mental Health Parity Act


Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act


Michelle’s Law


Mine Safety Health Administration Act


Medicare Seconday Payer Act


Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act


National Environmental Policy Act


Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act


National Transits System Security Act


National Labor Relations Board Act


Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act


Older Workers Benefit Protection Act


Pregnancy Discrimination Act


Pension Funding Equity Act


Pipeline Safety Improvement Act


Rural Electrification Act


Railway Labor Act


Small Business Job Protection Act


Safe Drinking Water Act


Sarbanes Oxley Act


Social Security Act (updates)


Surface Transportation Assistant Act


Solid Waste Disposal Act


Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act


Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act


Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act


Trade Readjustment Act – 1996


Trade Readjustment Act – 1997


Toxic Substances Control Act


Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act


Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act


Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act


Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act


On a different note, when it comes to interviewing, you need to understand what you’re really after when you’re the one doing the interviewing. Hiring a candidate who fits your culture is just as important as competence. But matching up what the core job functions are and how they will grow professionally in the job to where they want to go with their lifeis foundational to creating a great fit between the employee and the company. When I interview, I ask questions around the person’s personal goals for their life and then discern if there is a “fit” between the job the person is interviewing for and their life goals. Honestly, I have yet to find an individual able to articulate what their life goals are – 100% of the people I’ve interviewed have not be able to answer this question: “so, what do you really want to do with your life?” Most are left, literally, speechless when trying to answer this question. It’s sad to see, really – people meandering through life – not knowing where they are going. As an illustration, if you use a compass, it will tell you which direction North is. It won’t tell you what valleys, mountains, swamps, rivers or other diversions might be between you and your destination, but it will tell you which direction to go. If you need to get off-course to go around, over, under or through a diversion, at least you know that you’re getting off course and you can work to get back on course. But if you don’t even know what direction you’re going, then you’ll go anywhere. This is one reason why a relationship with God can help so much – He gives us overall purposes and foundational directions on where our lives are going and who we’re becoming. I interviewed a likable, smart, hard-working gentleman yesterday for a sales position here at Mindsharp. His response to my question was pretty vague. So I asked the question a different way: “What are you really passionate about?” No answer. OK – so “what would you really like to be doing 5-10 years from now?” His answer: “I hope I’m not in sales – I’d like to go get a Master’s degree in psychology”. OK. Good to know. I doubt a sales position will help him achieve his long-term goal of getting a Master’s degree. Had I not probed this with him, I might have hired him only to learn over time that his heart really wasn’t in the act of selling. I want to fill my company with people whose long-term goals can be enhanced by working here at Mindsharp. I honestly believe that if we can match what a person does today with where they really want to go long-term – and use the job to help them get there – then we’ll be a great fit for that individual and vice versa and both the employee and Mindsharp will experience great benefit by the inherent synergies in our relationship.

On another note, I’ve been chewing (on and off) on the idea that Colossians 3-4 offer significant instruction for how employers are to relate to their employees. More on this later, but I wanted to get it out there that I’m thinking about this.

Finally, what does it say when I’m more comfortable with my non-Christian friends than I am with my Christian friends? I wrestle with this. I don’t feel like I can be myself as well in church as I can at conferences or at other professional events. Does this mean I lack Christian maturity? I wrestle with this.

Bill English, CEO



















Small Business is the Backbone of America

This short story from the Huffington Post illustrates why small business is the backbone of America. We provide high quality services that people want and we take care of our customers. Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship and the stresses of owning your own business and risking everything, but for those of us who do this, seeing articles like this is a huge encouragement. Even in the toughest of times, we need to keep going – not for ourselves only, but also for our employees and customers.

Bill English, CEO