Random Thought #59 – Keep The Customers You Have

When you’re starting out in business, the most important thing is getting customers. Without sales there can’t be a business.

As time goes on, it’s always important to get new customers, but there’s something even more important, in my opinion. Keep the customers you have.

It has always amazed me how many times I’ve seen companies spend a fortune on advertising to bring in new business, but when you get there to buy something, there’s no one to help you. So they constantly bring in new customers, and at the same time, they lose their old customers with their lack of customer service.

In order for a business to grow properly, you always need new business, but you also have to retain the customers you already have.

Random Thought #58 – Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Next Venture

Almost every entrepreneur that’s successful in their first business, eventually goes into another business. Almost every entrepreneur that fails in their first business, does the same.

A lot of fear goes into doing this. Everyone tells you what can go wrong, just like they did the first time around. You also think you have to learn a whole new business,and what could be scarier then that?

It took me a long time to realize that once you’ve been in a successful business, you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new. You don’t have to totally learn a new business, you already know 80 to 90% of what you need to know.

Every business has to deal with many of the same things; we all have bank accounts, accountants, lawyers, insurance, employees and the list goes on and on. All we need to learn is the new service or commodity that we’re selling. So if you realize that you already know 80 to 90% of what you need to know, that should take the fear away.

Random Thought #57 – Who Do I Talk To

In my last blog I talked about isolating myself when I have situations that I can’t work out and taking time alone to try to work them out. Many times I came up with the answers I needed, but not always, sometimes you just need someone else to talk to.

We almost always think we’re alone in our first venture, but in reality, every other entrepreneur in their first venture is in the same position. About a year after I started my first business and looked like I was on my way to a heart attack, I got lucky and a very successful businessman gave me an idea that I used for years. He told me to find 4 to 6 people that were also in their first venture and try to get together every month. Every month one person would share what they were having the hardest time solving and that night’s discussion would be to give them as many different ideas as we could. We helped each other move forward through many situations that seemed impossible.

Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Random Thought #56 – There Is Always A Way

No matter how many times you take a step backwards, there is always a way to move forward again. Many times things seem impossible; you don’t have enough money, resources, etc, the list goes on and on and on.

Successful entrepreneurs are creative, they can think their way through every situation. You have to ask for help when it’s necessary. You can’t avoid the issue, you must take action.

When things are really rough, I put myself in a situation where I can’t be bothered unless there’s a real emergency for a whole day. I know this is old school but I take out some paper and I write what I have to solve on the top of it, then I start writing down whatever comes to my mind. I do this for 2 or 3 hours, I never look at any thing I’ve written until I think I have nothing left to say.

I’ve found that when I read it back there’s a lot of pretty bad ideas, but there’s always some thoughts that could be solutions. I then spend the rest of the day going over those thoughts and refining them until I decide my next move.

If you allow your self to get frozen and not do anything you will fail. That’s not what entrepreneurs are about.

Random Thought #55 – Help Your Employees Achieve Their Goals

Last time I talked about your expectations from your employees. The conclusion is the business is your dream, not theirs, but there is a way to make them want to help you to achieve your dream.

One of the fears of entrepreneurs when they first start out is losing good employees. It took me many years to learn that everybody is replaceable, even us eventually.

One of the most important and satisfying things I’ve learned about employees is that if you help them reach their goals, even if it means they’re going to leave you, they will work much harder to help you reach your goals while they’re with you. It is the best way I’ve learned to get the full potential from my key employees.

With this plan, both you and your employees get what they need. What could be better?

Random Thought #54 – Expectations From Your Employees

As entrepreneurs, we get in a lot of trouble when we don’t realize that no one cares about the success of our business as much as we do. We forget that the rest of the world doesn’t have our passion and determination for our business. Our business life and personal life, if we even have one, are intermingled.

The problem is our expectations are way too high for our employees, we forget that it’s our dream, not theirs. Many times we lose great employees because they don’t live and breathe our business every hour of every day. When we don’t realize that that they don’t care as much as we do, we alienate them, and that includes the people that are doing a great job.

We have to realize that they’re supposed to have a personal life, we’re the ones that chose our path.

Random Thought #53 – It’s A Small World / Watch What You Say

When we’re young, one of our favorite things to do is gossip about everybody, we’re very seldom careful about what we say and we never think of repercussions.

As we grow older, much of our gossip comes back to haunt us. Many people find out what we said and it strains relationships. I can tell you from experience, that in business a lot of harm can be done because of gossip and complaining.

I’ve learned that it’s a very small world, you never know when you’re talking to someone, who they know or might be friends or relatives of.

The lesson is simple. Be defensive in what you say because you never know who’s going to hear it.

Random Thought #52 – Choose Your Priorities / There’s Only 7 Days In A Week

Years ago when I was an absolutely crazy person and ended up having 2 heart attacks in 4 years, I was lucky enough to find a good therapist. I was only 43 and 47 when the heart attacks happened.

After explaining that in order to do everything I wanted to do, I would need about 25 days in a week, he said you better get used to the fact that 7 days is all you get, you have to get your priorities in order.

The smartest lesson I learned is that everything can’t be at the top of the list. In the beginning entrepreneurs never realize this, in fact, if they don’t learn this they must fail.

Remember that the one thing you can’t change is that 7 days a week is all you get.

Random Thought #51 – Have The Right Person For The Job

Almost every entrepreneur starts their business without enough capitol, this leads to one of the largest reasons so many businesses fail, which is that you can’t afford to pay the right person for each job so you hire a warm body. That’s somebody that is just there but can’t perform like they’re supposed to.

It’s hard enough to make payroll and pay rent a lot of the time, it’s worse when your employees don’t have the abilities you need. When we don’t have enough cash, it’s really difficult to make good decisions, our time is spent on how to survive.

From a lot of experience I know that if you don’t have enough cash to pay for the proper employees, you have to do it yourself; If you don’t, the chance of survival is going to be slim.

Random Thought #50 – Downtime - You’ll Live Longer

One of the very hardest lessons that I ever learned is that our bodies and minds need downtime. I used to be a type A personality. I had to be involved in everything and I was the only one that knew how to do it.

My first heart attack was in 1985. I was 43 years old. My second was in 1989 when I was 47. My doctor told me that if I didn’t change, I should get my affairs in order because I wouldn’t be living much longer.

It took time, but I finally realized that other people could do things and I needed time off to regenerate my mind and body every now and then. Now when I go on vacation my employees know to call me only if there’s an emergency.

The definition of an emergency: if the business burns down, that’s not an emergency, the insurance company will be there when I get back. The only real emergency is if something happens to someone I love or to my dog.

Downtime must be taken when you need it or you’re not going to function properly and probably won’t live as long as you’re supposed to

Random Thought #49 – The Customer Is Always Right – Not True

I was taught that the customer is always right. After many years, I realize that it’s not always true, here are 3 examples:

  1. 1. If the customer has unrealistic expectations you will never be able to satisfy them and you would be better off letting them go somewhere else.

  2. 2. If the customer doesn’t let you make a profit you’re obviously better off without them.

  3. 3. If the customer abuses you and your employees, you don’t need them, there are a lot of nice people to deal with.

Remember, you’re in business to make a profit, not just to trade dollars. You also have to enjoy yourself, so you must make your place of business a happy environment. So, if a customer won’t let you make a profit or is abusive, just tell them to move on.

Random Thought #48 – Don’t Keep a Cancer

I remember when I was much younger, on many occasions I’ve had an employee that had a lot of talent, but was also a pain to many of the other employees and to me. I used to think “how can I replace him, he’s so good at his job.” Over time I learned that you must get rid of employees like that; you will find a replacement. Also, if you have more then one employee like this, try to get rid of them at the same time, otherwise the new employees you hire will usually work like the cancers you still have.

It’s much better to have nice people that get along, they might have a little less talent, but life will sure be sweeter.

Random Thought #47 – Leaders Qualities – Part 2

  1. Good Leaders know when to ask for help.
  2. Good Leaders think their way through situations.
  3. Good Leaders help other people think their way through situations.
  4. Good Leaders spend time every day in reflection, planning and self development.
  5. Good Leaders believe change is constant and inevitable.
  6. Good Leaders identify other potential leaders in the company and help them grow.
  7. Good Leaders find answers in places others do not look.
  8. Good Leaders back up their answers by taking action.
  9. Good Leaders understand “Because I said so” doesn’t work.
  10. Good Leaders understand that bad times eventually pass.

This list could go on and on. To sum it up Good Leaders become Great through action, determination, resolve, compassion, passion and vision.

Random Thought #46 – Leaders Qualities – Part 1

  1. Good Leaders are always part of the solution, never part of the problem.
  2. Good Leaders never see problems, but obstacles that they have to overcome.
  3. Good Leaders always persist and maintain a positive attitude.
  4. Good Leaders are always determined.
  5. Good Leaders don’t take no for an answer.
  6. Good Leaders don’t care about being popular or tactful, they are focused on getting things accomplished.
  7. Good Leaders speak their mind.
  8. Good Leaders do not procrastinate.
  9. Good Leaders do not bury their head in the sand.
  10. Good Leaders do not avoid issues, they take appropriate action.

This is a partial list, more will follow.

Random Thought #45 – Deliver a Consistent Customer Experience

Sometimes when a customer would tell me that the last meal that they got at my restaurant was great, I’d say don’t tell me that, the next time you come in you’ll probably expect it to be great again. The pressure is excruciating.

Every owner of every business thinks they have a great product, the truth is that some customers agree with them and some don’t. The idea is to please the customers you have with consistent service and products, that’s what keeps them coming back.

Nothing is worse than the customer having a different experience than what they expect when they patronize you; that’s the surest way to have a business fail.

Random Thought #44 – Some Rules For Negotiating

Here are some of my basic rules for important negotiations. There are many others but here’s a few important ones.

  1. If you want 3 things in your negotiation ask for 9, that way you can let the other   party win a lot of points and you might get most of what you want.
  2. It’s very important to act like you want the deal but you don’t need it. When people   seem like they need something badly, they usually give up too much.
  3.  Never have an important negotiation over lunch or dinner. When you’re business is over you want to be able to end the meeting; if you’re not finished eating, the deal might run into problems that you wouldn’t have had if the meeting had ended earlier.
  4. When possible, try to have the meeting at your location. It’s like sports, when you’re on your home turf you seem to have a little edge.

There are many other fine points of negotiation, but these are a few of the important ones.

Random Thought #43 – Just Say Yes

I can’t remember how many times over the years that I would ask for something from a business, that would seem to be easy to do, and was told we can’t do that or we don’t do it that way or basically every excuse in the book not to do what I wanted. Even if it was easy to do, I would still get no answers.

Smart bosses teach their help to JUST SAY YES if it’s possible. The answer should be we can do that. I’ll find out if there’s an extra charge and how long it will take and let you know.

Owners seem to forget that they’re in business to please the customers, not themselves. If you can do that you’ll most likely have a successful business.

 

Random Thought #42 – Think About Today Only

The biggest waste of time is thinking about yesterday and tomorrow. We can hardly do what needs to be done today, let alone wasting so much time about the past and the future.

I have to be really specific here. You can’t gain wisdom unless you learn from the past. All experience comes from the past, so I’m not saying to forget the past. I’m saying quit wasting time thinking about the good old days. Take from it what you need and go forward.

The same holds true for tomorrow. It’s okay to have plans for the future, the problem is that too many people keep making plans and dreaming about their future but they never do anything about it. Work towards your plan and goals but do what you have to do today. It’s the only moment that exists.

 

Random Thought #41 – Be Totally Committed

One of the most popular reasons that businesses fail is because of the lack of commitment to the goals of the company. When the boss is not totally committed,  how can you expect the employees to be.

When you’ve decided to do something, there should be no plan B. If, of course your plan doesn’t work out, that’s the time to develop your plan B. In other words if you’re not absolutely 150% committed to your plan, it has little chance for success.

Quit wasting time, find something to be committed to and don’t give up until you achieve it. If by some chance it doesn’t work out, go to plan B and be just as committed to that.

Leaders never give up. When they fail, they don’t feel sorry for themselves, they observe what happened and make adjustments. If you never give up, the chances of success are close to 100%.

 

Random Thought #40 – Talk And Listen To Your Employees

When I was young I thought it was pretty good that I knew everything. I didn’t have to get any information from anyone, I knew it all.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth. After many years I realized that the most successful bosses asked their employees questions and actually listened to the answers. The employees that work in the trenches every day and deal with the customers usually have lots of ideas, a lot of them aren’t that good but there are always some gems.

Many times you can take one of those ideas and improve upon to make it great. If you never ask questions, and listen to the answers, that can never happen. Talk to your employees, really make them the important part of your business that they are.

 

Random Thought #39 – Pay It Forward

I’ve been lucky enough to end up being successful, even though I’ve had many failures and situations that didn’t work out  the way I wanted. As I’ve said in an earlier blog, almost everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from my failures.

Today, one of my biggest pleasures is mentoring others in business. I don’t try to tell them what to do, but I do try to help them when they get overwhelmed and can’t seem to move forward anymore.

As your business grows, it goes through many stages. The hardest lesson for any entrepreneur is how to move from stage 1 to stage 2. In stage 1 they have their fingers on everything, which is good because they’re trying to build their own dream and nobody knows it better then them. It’s hard on the employees because they feel the boss is always breathing down their neck and they’re right. But if he really wants to be successful he has no choice, he has to move on to stage 2.

Moving to stage 2 properly is very difficult to do. You can’t have your fingers in everything anymore and you have to improve your delegation abilities fast. To be successful in this stage you have to learn to let your team do everything they can on their own and you have to fill in and take care of the weaknesses. If the business continues growing many other changes have to occur.

So today, go make a difference to someone who needs it, it helps others reach their goals and it feels great.

 

Random Thought #38 – Don't Take Business You Can't Handle Financially

Most entrepreneurs start out in business without a lot of financing available to them. Only a very few are lucky enough to have lots of money available. The hardest lesson is realizing  you can be very successful if you grow your business at a specific rate each year.

One of my businesses didn’t make it was because I had too much business. It got to the point that I was falling behind in delivering orders and when one of my big customers went broke, so did I.

Depending on what business you’re in, a good goal is to grow from 20% to 30% per year for the first 3 to 5 years, after that the formula gets much more complicated. The hardest part of that rule is you might have to turn away business. Be honest with the potential customer, explain that at this time you can’t give them the proper service, but in the future, you’ll contact them when you’re ready. Many will give you the chance for their business later on.

Don’t be impatient, it’s only the end of the game that counts, not the beginning.

 

Random Thought #37 – Never Worry About The Competition / Worry About Yourself

Many people that are inexperienced waste so much time researching their competition, that they forget they’re in business to make sales for themselves.

I have learned over the years that there’s enough business for everyone. You should focus on finding customers that want to buy from you, and while you’re looking for new business, remember to retain the customers you already have.

It amazes me how large companies and even some small ones advertise and do anything they can to bring in business yet give no service when the business shows up. Department stores are good examples, I don’t know how many times I’ve left wanting to buy something but not being able to find somebody that would help me.

There are many ways to reach a goal, you have to find out what’s comfortable for you and run with it. Forget about everyone else. If you work hard and please your customers with good products and good service you’ll always get your share of business.

 

Random Thought #36 – Black, White & Grey

When most of us are young, knowing what’s right and wrong is very easy because we always think we’re right and everyone else doesn’t understand. Everything is simply Black and White. As we grow older some of us learn that everything is not Black or White. There’s a lot of Grey.

We begin to change our mind about many things that we believed when we were younger. If we’re lucky, we actually listen to the other person’s point of view and change our mind when necessary.

This came to mind today because I was upset with a vendor because of a major mistake and I wanted him to do a lot for me because of it. Luckily he reminded me that he’s human and over our long relationship we’ve both done each other many favors and I should back off a little and he’s absolutely right.

There are many ways to look at every situation. When we look at the world through other peoples eyes we keep learning and realize that almost everything is grey.

 

Random Thought #35 – Treat The Customer The Way You Want To Be Treated

When I was young, which was quite a while ago, one of my training techniques was to explain to employees that if they treated the customer the way that they wanted to be treated, many problems would go away and our customer service would improve dramatically.

This worked for many years and then it started to fail. Every generation is different and has different expectations. I had to look at situations through other peoples eyes and use all the wisdom, knowledge and common sense I had and came up with a new rule.

It’s a lot harder but you have to treat the customer the way they expect to be treated, which is different for every generation.

 

Random Thought #34 – Manage Your Time Correctly

I’ve always kept myself so busy in my life that overwhelmed was  my normal state of mind. I would make lists of everything I had to do and at the end of the week I would be so proud of myself because I would always get most of the list done. The problem was that like most people I know I would do all the easy things first so I could get lots of things done. The problem was that the important projects never got finished.

I made a resolution to myself that I would start to work on the important projects first. The problem was that no matter what I wanted to do, as soon as work started my whole day always changed and I spent most of my time putting out fires. So my projects still didn’t get finished.

I tried many things until I came up with the solution that worked for me. I wake up very early each morning, I make the coffee, feed my assortment of animals and then work for 1 to 2 hours on an important project. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you have your own quiet time.  Obviously my system works for me but if you want to get the important tasks done, you need to find a system that works for you.

 

Random Thought #33 – Advertising/Publicist

One of the hardest situations with small businesses competing with big businesses is advertising; small businesses never have enough money to compete. Before the internet, in order to be seen and known, it took a big budget which small businesses never had. Also the results were never track-able and you were throwing most of your money away.

When the internet arrived, small companies thought they  had a better way to compete with large companies, but the problem turned out to be the same. You could use your whole budget and not receive any good results.

I learned a long time ago that when you’re small, if you used your whole advertising budget to hire a publicist you could do much better. You could focus on exactly what you want to achieve and not just throw money into the wind. Advertising is necessary, when you can afford to do it right.

 

Random Thought #32 – If You Have A Dream Just Start It

It seems like when you’re young, every time you have an idea, whether good or bad, everyone around you let’s you know how bad it is and it’s because of this that very few people end up doing what they want to do. These people that kill your dreams always say they’re trying to help you by pointing out all the potential problems you’re going to run into.

I realize that I’ve been very lucky in my life even though I’ve made monumental mistakes; I’ve always followed my dreams. Many times they were gigantic failures but sometimes they worked out great. When I would come up with a new idea, I usually would start it almost immediately, I never thought of repercussions. I’m not saying this is smart and it might even be stupid, but it’s worked for me.

Now that I’m in my 70’s I realize that life isn’t that long. I feel sorry for people that say I should have done this or I should have done that  over and over again. I truly believe that in order to have a chance at happiness you have to do what you want to do and not pay attention to the naysayers. Don’t waste time, there isn’t that much of it.

 

Random Thought #31 – Look Through Other People's Eyes

Yesterday I had a meeting with two of my managers and six employees. They were having trouble with each other for a long time and it had to end. I knew that the problem was communicating with each other but I couldn’t seem to solve it. So we wasted about an hour getting nowhere and then the answer to the whole problem was given to me by one of the employees. One of the managers said “I’m having a problem because I’m not included in certain decisions that I should be included in.” One of the employees said “I’ve been working here for 14 years, don’t you think I know what I’m doing, you make me feel like an idiot when you want to know every little thing  that’s going on.” A light went off in my head; sometimes you have to look at things through other people’s eyes. I told the manager “you should be thrilled that you have people that know what they’re doing, when you look over there shoulder for every little thing, you make them feel like idiots. Spend your time working with people that still need to learn.”

The lesson is easy, if you think about what the other person is thinking before you start talking, a lot of problems go away.

 

Random Thought #30 – The Best Investments For Entrepreneurs

If you’re an entrepreneur that never gives up, eventually you’re going to be successful in a business. As businesses grow, they go through many different stages. There will come a time when you’ll have extra cash and this is when most first time entrepreneurs run into a lot of trouble.

Everyone wants an expensive car, a new house, and many other materialistic items. Eventually there will come a time for that, but not yet. Also other investments will begin to look good to you, this would also be a mistake. In order for your business to grow to the next level you have to bet on yourself. This means all your extra money should be put back into the business so it can keep expanding. Some examples would be if you’re selling a product, buy more inventory than you need because you know that eventually you’ll sell it at a good profit and you won’t be taking a chance. If you’re a brick and mortar business, try to buy your property so you’re paying rent to yourself and building long term equity for your future. Spend money on expanding your business, make sure if you do this you stay very focused on your goals. The best investment outside of your business would be to buy your own house. This will also build equity for your future.

If you finally pass this point then you can start living the good life, but remember, your best investments are in yourself, not others.

 

Random Thought #29 – Transparency

When I first started out in business I was very secretive to my employees about what was really happening in the business. Of course this created many problems. I worked for years trying to solve the same problems over and over again not realizing there was a simple solution.

As years went by I began to realize that the answer was simply being transparent about everything that was happening in the business, whether good or bad. As I started letting the employees know what was going on many things happened.

The most important was that the employees felt needed, which in fact they were. The work production increased dramatically. People were much happier. When things weren’t going well they came up with solutions. The business I was in at the time became much more successful.

Transparency creates Openness, Communication and Accountability. I can’t think of anything more important in a business or in our personal relationships.

 

Random Thought #28 – Let Your Employees Do Everything They Can

When I started my first business and had to do almost everything myself because I knew I was the only one that could do it right, I had a customer that owned 5 companies and was on the board of directors of 5 or 6 others. I used to think, how is it possible to be involved in so many ventures at the same time and know what’s going on. Over time I started talking to him about many business subjects and he became my first mentor. He taught me one of the most important lessons about being a boss, even though I didn’t use his information until years later.

I used to be an absolute crazy person, I had to have my fingers in everything, because I knew that if I wasn’t involved, it wouldn’t be done right. Then in 1985 I had my first heart attack and was out of work for about 3 months. When I went back to work, the business was still open and many of my employees did much more then I thought they were capable of. It was then that I remembered his words and finally took his advice. He said “you should let your employees do everything they’re capable of without putting limits on them. Your job is to get everything done that they can’t.”

All I can say is that most people, if given a chance, can do more than others think they can. A good boss gives his employees that chance.

 

Random Thought #27 – Respect Everyone / We're Not Born With Equal Abilities

A very important lesson that I’ve learned is that we’re not really born equal. The country you’re born in, your religion, your color, etc., all affect you differently depending on what part of the world you live in.

Also, people are born with different talents; some people can sing, some people like me could clear the room if I sang a song. Some people can paint, others can’t. Some people are born smart and others aren’t.

The truth is we need everyone with their different talents. For example if everyone was born super smart, everyone would be a boss and there wouldn’t be any employees.

The world would be a much better place if we respected everyone for who they are. We need all the different talents that people have to have a successful world.

 

Random Thought #26 – Entrepreneurs / Control Your Business When Possible

It’s very difficult when entrepreneurs start their first venture. They have to beg, borrow and steal money from friends, relatives, loan sharks and anybody who will give them some. Relationships are sometimes destroyed and you never quite get to run the business the way you wanted to.

Over time, if you’re good and luck is on your side, one day you’ll get to control your own destiny.

I thought that I had it made when I put together a venture with a very large, successful company. The boss said he liked me because I wasn’t a yes man. Everyone else around him always agreed with him and he didn’t like it.

About a year into the venture, which was exceeding out goals, he wanted a meeting with me. He said remember when I told you I didn’t like being surrounded by yes men, I found out I lied. I only want you to do it my way. Then he blew me away.

He said in this life a have 5 pains in my butt; my wife, who I can’t afford to divorce, my mistress, who I have to keep supporting or she’ll tell my wife, my brother, who every time I fire him my mother sends him back, my mother, and you. You I can get rid of, which he did.

It’s tough, but if you want to reach your dream as an entrepreneur, you have to have control.

 

Random Thought #25 – The Fear Of Starting A New Business

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in many businesses in my life. I’ve had a few that did great and I had a few that did terrible; but for me, they were, and are, all fun.

True entrepreneurs usually try lots of different ideas in their business life. A lot of time, going into a new business is a very scary thing. A lesson I’ve learned is that once you’ve been in a few different businesses, it doesn’t have to be scary.

When most people start a new business they feel like they’re starting from scratch and have lots to learn, but that’s not true; most businesses are about 90% the same . They all have employees, accountants, lawyers, insurance…, the only thing that’s different is the service or commodity that you’re selling. That means you already know 90% of what you have to do, you only have to learn the new 10%. Hopefully this will help take a lot of fear out of trying your new project.

I don’t waste my time projecting what can go wrong, I just delve into it and have a good time. The results can only be known in hindsight.

 

Random Thought #24 – Win/Lose

When we’re young and have hardly any life experiences, we make many decisions that don’t work out. Later on, when we reflect on what went wrong, we realize that the decision we made never had a chance of succeeding; we call this a lose-lose situation.

When we grow a little older, we make decisions that have different outcomes. Usually we start out by making some decisions that put us in a lose-break-even situation. This means we still don’t win but if we’re lucky we break even.

Mixed in with these decisions, sometimes we put ourselves in a win-lose situation. An example of this would be running a red light, if you get lucky you make it and win, if you’re not lucky, you don’t make it and end up in a very bad situation.

Win-win situations very rarely happen, even when everything looks great from every angle, something can still go wrong.

As we gain experience, some of us realize that the best situation you can be in is a win-break-even. When you have to make an important decision, try to think it out to the point where you realize that even if it doesn’t work out, the worst you can do is break-even. If you can get to the point where you can achieve this, it would be very hard not to be successful.

 

Random Thought #23 – The Journey to Happiness - Conclusion

I knew what the major problem was when I started, but it  took me 20 years to achieve happiness. I had lots of therapy, I meditate and say my mantra every day, I got rid of all my toxic relationships in business and my personal life, and I learned how to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.

After 20 years, it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere. One Saturday morning I was eating breakfast and talking to my wife and after a few bites I pushed the plate away. My wife asked me if I was sick, I said “I feel great.” Then, after about five minutes, she asked if I had to go to the emergency room and I said “what are you talking about, I told you I feel great.” She said “in all the years we’ve been together, not only do you finish all the food on your plate, but if you know the people we’re eating with, you even finish their food; what’s wrong.” I simply said “I’m not hungry.” It was at that point that I knew that I was OK. My goal had been achieved from the time I went to bed the night before. Everything was OK.

The explanation is simple, almost everyone has people living in their heads that they try to please, but they never seem to leave. They include your parents and anybody else who you do things for, to gain their acceptance.

On that Saturday morning everyone in my head moved out; I was the only one left and my 20 year journey was over.

 

Random Thought #22 – The Journey to Happiness - Part 5

So far I’ve talked about therapy, meditation, my mantra and personal relationships. All of these were so important, but nothing worked better for me on my road to happiness than my relationship with dogs.

When I was a crazed worker, I could come home from a 4 hour drive and as soon as I walked through the door, I would look at my messages and return phone calls before I even went to the bathroom.

When I realized that I needed down time, I started paying more attention to my dog. I quickly noticed that the more attention I paid to him, the more attention he paid to me. It got to the point that when I came home, I couldn’t work even if I wanted to because if I didn’t play with the dog first he would make it impossible for me not to pay attention to him. When I gave him his 15 minutes of play time then he would lay at my feet and let me work. This is true of the last 5 dogs I’ve owned.

I sometimes believe dogs were put on earth so humans would observe them and then realize how they should act. A dog doesn’t care if you’re good looking or bad looking, fat or skinny, or many more examples I could give. In fact they don’t even care if you treat them good or bad. All they do is give you love and no matter what’s happening in your life all you’re going to get from them is happiness.

 

Random Thought #21 – The Journey to Happiness - Part 4

The next step in my journey to happiness was personal relationships. We all have people in our lives that cause us much more aggravation then happiness. The more of those people that we can eliminate the happier we will be.

This is very difficult to do. Like most people I had friends that I’d grown up with but never realized how negative they were.  Any time I would spend time with them I would feel drained of all energy afterwards. It was work, not fun. Many of these relationships were 40 years or more. Ending them took me a few years. it was very difficult, but I finally did it. I can’t even tell you how much it improved my life.

Relatives were much harder. I come from a very large family. I have 48 first cousins. Every time we had a family gathering of  people it would always be stressful.  It took me a long time to figure out how to handle this. I finally decided to treat my family just like my friends. If I liked them, I saw them. If not, they were eliminated from my life. I gave up many relationships. It was very stressful. It also improved my life 1000%.

I no longer care what restaurant I eat at. I don’t care what movie I go to. I don’t care where we go on our trips. I only care who I’m with. My personal relationships now always make me feel good, not stressed out.


Random Thought #20 – The Journey to Happiness - Part 3

So far,  I was going to therapy and doing my own form of meditation, but I needed something else. I decided that I needed my own Mantra. It seems simple but it took me a long time to come up with the one that works for me, here goes.

When I wake up in the morning I tell myself it’s a great day, the only reason it’s great is because I woke up. Whether life is good or bad you can’t work it out if you don’t wake up.

I then tell myself if I want it to stay a great day I can’t have any expectations. This way if something nice happens I’m pleasantly surprised. If I had expectations I would be disappointed all day long.

The last thing I tell myself seems to work the best. Before I go to sleep I quickly review my day and ask myself is there anything I did today that’s going to make a difference hundreds of years from now. The answer is always no, so I figure because I’m not going to really do anything that means anything long term I should have another great and fun day tomorrow.

For me, it’s that simple.


Random Thought #19 – The Journey to Happiness - Part 2

I had a very hard time with meditation; I knew it was important, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t make it work. I read books, listened to tapes, went to lectures and talked to many people that did it all the time. Nothing worked and yet I knew if I didn’t get the hang of it my journey would be a lot harder.

It then dawned on me that meditation was quiet time and I already had that. I wake up around 4 am; I feed the dog, the cats, the birds, the squirrels, the raccoons and the possums. The last 2 are not intentional, but I don’t mind, in fact they’re fun to watch. Then I answer my e-mails and plan out my day, which sometimes even works out the way I plan it.

Then it occurred to me that these 2 to 3 hours are quiet time and I always feel good afterwards. I found that I already had my own form of meditation.


Random Thought #18 – The Journey to Happiness - Part 1

The first and most important decision I made after my second heart attack was to go into therapy. Luckily I found a great therapist and spent 7 years with her before we decided I could do the rest of the necessary work on my own.

One of the questions I asked her near the end was why the process takes so long. She told me that when she gets a new client she usually knows what’s wrong with them after the first session. The problem is, if she tells them, they won’t come back because it takes a long time for people to realize that whatever situation they’re in, they can change it. No matter what happened to you in your life, there comes a time that you have to get over it and move on.

One of the major problems we worked out together was time management; in order for me to do everything that I wanted to do, I needed about 15 days a week. The only problem with that is, of course, 7 is all you get. When I finally came to terms with that and realized that you have to get your priorities in order, it took a lot of stress out of my life.

My list of problems was quite long, luckily a lot of them were worked out in therapy, but it took me 13 more years to work out most of the list and I’m sure that I’ll be working on improving myself until my life is over.

 

Random Thought #17 – The Journey to Happiness

When I was 43 years old I had my first heart attack, when I was 47, I had my second one. I easily caused them to happen to myself because I was simply a crazed person, had to have my hands in everything and worst than that, I needed total control.

The doctor said if I didn’t lose weight, exercise and lower my stress I would be dead in 6 months. The weight I finally lost, but it took 20 years. Exercise was no problem, I could watch my wife work out for 2 hours and not take a break; such endurance. The stress was a different thing altogether. I spent the next 20 years learning how to let go of things. I went to therapy for 7 years, I listened to all kinds of tapes, I read many books, I meditated and anything else I could do to lead me to a long happy life.

It was quite a journey, I’m guessing this Random Thought will be continued for the next few months.

 

Random Thought #16 – The Lawsuit

In my last blog I told the story of how I outsmarted myself producing a show in Las Vegas, I will now continue the story of how I wasted so much time filing a lawsuit against the Casino.

Over a 3 year period I showed  up in Vegas to be heard in court 12 or 13 times and the case never got heard. I was sure I had the dumbest attorney that ever lived. Of course one time when I asked him if he had change for a $20, he pulled out a roll of cash that looked like $1000’s of dollars, he also drove an Aston Martin and had an estate bordering the 4th hole of one of the casinos golf courses. I was too dumb to realize that he might not have wanted to win this case for me.

The last time I showed up at court, when they called the name of the case to be assigned to a courtroom I jumped up and asked the judge if it would be OK if I speak. He said yes. I asked “if people had to travel to Vegas for a case, shouldn’t they get priority treatment?” He said yes. He started yelling at the 2 attorneys and said the case would be heard in his courtroom at 2 pm. When I got there at 2, he had left for a 3 day vacation. It finally dawned on me, I could show up forever and nothing would ever happen.

When I was beginning to leave, the opposing attorney approached me and said they wanted to settle and I asked why. He told me they felt sorry for me and offered me $5000 for all the times I had to travel there.

The moral is simple. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. Learn when to give up.

 

Random Thought #15 – Fair Contracts

When I was in my late twenties I produced a show in Las Vegas. When we were negotiating the contract, the owner of the casino said we wanted too much money. One of the requirements of the show was a 2 drink minimum, because I knew the Restaurant and Bar business and believed in the show, I came up with an idea that I was sure would work. Since I knew the cost of drinks in those days were about 15% of the gross I told him that I would be happy to take 30% of the take in the bar, leaving him 55% profit; he of course said yes because he wasn’t taking any chance at all.

The show was such a success that after 4 weeks we were called into his office. He told us we were making too much money and he wanted to go back to our original deal, but he would give us a little more than we asked for because the show was doing so well. Being so young and not so smart I said we have an iron clad contract, he apologized and said he would honor our deal.

The next day no bartenders showed up. When I called him up he said they were having a union problem and it would be worked out in a few days. Three days later, the bartenders showed up but there were no servers to take the orders. I called my lawyer in Los Angeles and he warned me not to close the show or I would be in breach of my contract. Like a dummy I kept the show open trying to work out the problems and finally ran out of money. I then proceeded to sue the casino with a Nevada lawyer, since my lawyer couldn’t practice there. That will be a story for another day.

The lesson I learned is when you make a deal, make it fair for both sides. If the deal is too good for you, the only thing the other person wants to do is to get even with you. In fact a few times in my life after a deal was in place for a few months and I saw that the other side deserved more, I called them up and changed the deal so it would be more fair for them.

The moral is simple. When you try to take advantage of people, they are going to spend a lot of time trying to get even at you. When you’re fair you can make a lot more money.

 

Random Thought #14 – Cost of Product vs Profit Per Unit

When I first started out in business I was told that Cost of Product and your Percentage Profit Margin was very important, and it is. Over time I realized that Profit Per Unit is much more important.

Using my restaurant as an example, if 2 customers come in and 1 only orders coffee because he isn’t very hungry my cost of goods on the $3.00 purchase is 10%. If the other customer is very hungry and orders a $30.00 meal my cost of goods could be 50%. On the coffee at a 10% cost I made $2.70. On the meal at a 50% cost I made $15.00.

I can pay more bills with $15.00 than $2.70. My conclusion is that Profit Per Unit is far more important.

 

Random Thought #13 – The Biggest Expense in Business

Years ago a friend and mentor of mine asked me what my largest expense  was in my restaurants. I immediately said labor, he said “no”. I then said food cost, he said “you’re not even close.” He then pointed to an empty chair; “that’s by far your largest expense, nothing is more important than keeping the restaurant full.”

Also, many years ago I was in a meeting with a group of executives of a very large hotel chain, my partner and I had come up with a product that would save them a fair amount of money.  After the presentation most of the group started clapping. The chairman of the board said our product was great but they couldn’t use it at that time. When I asked why this was his explanation, “we have a goal to open 1500 hotels and right now we have over 300 to go, we can only concentrate on that right now. After we achieve that then we’ll concentrate on making money and will look at every area of the operation.”

To sum this up; without sales volume, doing everything else right doesn’t mean much.

 

Random Thought #12 – Definition of Management in One Sentence

If I was forced into defining management in one sentence it would be “Taking  Care of Situations.” A manager needs many skills, but the most important is taking care of the unknown.

When I trained restaurant managers I used to tell them to expect everything to go wrong that could go wrong. When you start your morning, expect to have a bus boy in jail, a server whose car broke down while she’s in Palm Springs and the air-conditioning isn’t working. If you can’t stay calm under these conditions, you’ll never make a good manager.

If everything was perfect, the vendors would all deliver the best quality of food to me. The weights and trim would always be great. The food would be prepared perfectly and the customers would be thrilled. Once a week I would get a knock on my door and one of my managers would say to me, “everything went great all week, we paid all your bills and here’s your profit for the week.” Since this is never going to happen, that’s why we need you. If not, I could hire all minimum wage employees.

The truth is if you come to work and there aren’t any problems you should create some; That’s job security.


Random Thought #11 – Important Business Meetings

When I first started out in business and I would have an important business meeting, I would usually meet somewhere for lunch or dinner. Many meetings worked out great, but of course, some were disasters.

One time I had a very important meeting so I invited the person to go to a Los Angeles Kings hockey game with me. He said he loved hockey and that would be great. About 15 minutes into the 1st period we finished our business and he got up and said he forgot another meeting and left. I was really upset.

He actually taught me a great lesson. If a meeting is very important try to always put yourself in a position that when the deal is made that you can make a graceful exit. I don’t know how many times I made a great deal and then it blew apart because we kept talking.

When your deal is made and you’ve gotten what you want, try to get out of there as fast as you can so you don’t screw it up.


Random Thought #10 – Management Interviews

Whenever I have to interview a manager for a job, I always start the interview by giving  them a situation to work out. For example, if the job was for my restaurant I might say “it’s a Friday night and the restaurant is packed beyond capacity,  all of a sudden you hear shouting from the kitchen and it’s so loud all the customers hear it too. You go into the kitchen and a cook and a server are screaming at each other and it includes obscenities,  what do you do?”

I do this at least twice in an interview. There are many right answers, but not just one correct one. I do it so I can see how they think and if I feel that they’ll stay cool under pressure.

If I’m happy with the outcome, then I start the interview.

 

Random Thought #9 – Synchronicity

I believe that everyone and everything that you need in your life is there when you need it. The problem is very few people pay attention, so it goes right by them. In fact in today’s world with everyone texting and using their iPhone I don’t see how they ever notice anything.

Have you ever experienced a coincidence so incredible that it left you stunned? If so you have witnessed synchronicity.  All coincidences have meaning, nothing happens by chance. What happens in most people’s lives is beyond their control. No matter how carefully you plan, one random event or detail can and will change everything. In fact a ridiculous project could be a huge success due to luck.

It isn’t enough to plan. You must have chance on your side. Without it, whatever you do or plan will most likely go wrong.

 

Random Thought #8 – Lawyers & Accountants Advice On Business

Except for a few exceptions it took me years too learn that you shouldn’t ask Lawyers and Accountants for business advice. You should make up your own mind what you want to do and let your lawyer protect you the best he can. He should give you warnings when necessary, but it’s still your decision what to do. Your accountant should give you all the right ideas to set up your books and ease your tax burden.

One reason that you don’t want their business advice that hardly anyone ever thinks of is that they are unconsciously motivated to talk you out of every deal. First of all if they don’t warn you of everything and the business fails they could lose you as a client, if they warn you of everything and the business works out they don’t get paid any extra money.

Unfortunately, if they own a piece of the deal their advice would be more realistic.

 

Random Thought #7 – The 20 Most Important Rules Of Business

It took me many years of hard work to learn these rules, so here they are.

1. Taking care of the customer and making sales.

2. Taking care of the customer and making sales.

3. Taking care of the customer and making sales.

4-19. Taking care of the customer and making sales.

20. Everything else.

Now number 20 is very important. It includes everything in the business besides taking care of the customers and making sales. Without the 1st 19 rules there can’t be a rule  20. Too many of us lose sight of this.  YOU MUST MAKE SALES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANY OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

 

Random Thought #6 – Normal

In My opinion Normal is one of the worst words in the English language. Information is gathered from many people, it’s all put together, divided by the amount of people and we come up with the norm. The problem is we can never find a person that’s exactly the norm. So many people waste their lives trying to be the non-existent norm.

We’re all different and unique and we should remain that way. As long as you don’t do anything that intentionally hurts someone else anything you do is OK.  You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just be yourself and you will be a much happier person.

 

Random Thought #5 – Problems / Situations

When I first started out in business it seemed like every day I had a new list of problems to take care of. Luckily some were easy, but many were very hard to take care of and many never really got taken care of properly. Many problems freeze us and make it very hard for us to function properly.

After many years I eliminated the word Problem from my vocabulary and replaced it with Situation. Situations can be broken apart like jigsaw puzzles and be worked on piece by piece so they seem much smaller and are easier to deal with.

It’s much easier to be successful when you’re dealing with a lot of situations rather then a lot of problems.

 

Random Thought #4 – Hindsight Observed

It took me many years to realize that most of my brilliant ideas weren’t that brilliant. In fact even if my friends and associates liked them it didn’t mean a thing. The only people that get a vote are CUSTOMERS. So after many years I figured out if you try something, you don’t know if it was a good idea until it’s actually happening. So because of this I learned that what works best for me is looking at something after it’s happened. Then you know if it worked or not. I call this Hindsight Observed.

The only downside to this idea is if you live long enough things change and the ideas that worked before don’t work anymore. So the trick is if something doesn’t work, don’t do that again and if something works use it as long as you can.

 

Random Thought #3 – Planning/Projection

Planning is a very good thing. Short term plans and long terms plans are an excellent way to work towards your dreams, both personal and professional. The only thing you have to be careful of is not being too rigid. You have to be flexible and be willing to make changes when necessary. Doing this properly can make your life much more successful.

Projection, on the other hand is just the opposite. You take every situation and carry it out to it’s worst conclusion. You WASTE your time. Almost every situation that you fear never happens and the one’s that do never happen the way you think they will.

Planning is great. Projection should be non-existent.

 

Random Thought #2 – My Masters Degree In Failure

My college career lasted around 12 weeks before I was asked to leave. Then my education started. When I was 27 years old I started a business with a friend of mine and for 2 years it was very successful. Then the bottom fell out. Because of my lack of experience I just didn’t know what to do. So as the business failed, instead of feeling sorry for myself I observed everything that was going wrong so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.

I almost succeeded but about 10 years later it happened again. So once again I observed what was happening. This time I was a little older so I realized that most of the reasons that the business failed were my fault.

I learned so much from those 2 major failures I had that if they gave a diploma for failing I was at the top of my class. I learned how to read people, be realistic in my expectations and many other important lessons. The most important was that when things aren’t going your way there are usually solutions if you have the wisdom to figure them out.

If I am successful I believe that those 2 business failures are a major cause of my success.

 

Random Thought #1 – The Most Important Thing In The World

In my opinion the most important thing in the world is waking up in the morning. No matter what’s happening in your life, both good and bad, you can’t take care of it if you don’t wake up in the morning. It’s nice to be able to go to sleep at night also, but many people pass away in their sleep. So my preference is waking up in the morning.

 

PROLOGUE

I’m in my 70’s and like anyone else my age, I’ve had lots of great experiences. Of course there’s been lots of terrible experiences also. Along the way, like every one else my philosophy of life was created. I’m using this blog to share this philosophy with others. Many of you will like what I have to say and maybe even get some new thoughts out of it. Also, many of you won’t like what you hear and won’t pay much attention to me. This is the beginning. You’ll hear from me again next week.