Stronghold Rescue and Relief

Stronghold Rescue and Relief provides protection and support for families in conflict zones. Operations are currently underway in Burma and Venezuela. You can become a supporter by visiting their website at StrongholdRescue.org.

For a video of how Stronghold Rescue began, as well as a summary of their mission, here’s a link a YouTube video. It’s worth the 30 minute watch.

A personal note about hydrocephalus, especially in children.

Hydrocephalus affects more than 1 million people in the US each year.
Costs related to treating hydrocephalus exceed $2 billion each year.
Amount of money spent on research annually: $8 million.

We’re raising money again this year in the hopes of finding a cure, not for our son, but for all the others who get diagnosed each year.

In 2017 our son was diagnosed with severe hydrocephalus. You know you’re in deep shit when your son went in for an MRI and the head of pediatric neurosurgery takes you to a small room to explain the situation: a large mass of fluid in the middle of your son’s head. And he’s barely 8 months old. He was taken to surgery the next morning to implant a small catheter into his brain.

Almost two years later and he’s progressing faster than expected, even after two additional brain surgeries. He’s doing great with physical therapy and you’d never be able to tell what he’s been through by looking at him. He just can’t play football. And no boxing. Other than that he should grow up as any normal kid would.

Until this happened, my wife and I had no idea what hydrocephalus was, nor how common it was. We did not understand how lethal it used to be in the US and still can be in remote parts of the world. We have my son taken care of, but help me and many others end this so no other infant has to go through what my son has gone through.  Donate to the Hydrocephalus Association where my wife and I will be walking to raise money for research.

Hydrocephalus Association is a qualified 501(c)(3).

Finding the groove.

I played Little League as a kid, usually catcher, sometimes first base. Something odd always happened when I played first, there would be times when I felt like there was “a right place to stand”.  I just knew where to stand, it almost felt like there was in indentation in the ground, a trough. A little to far left  or right and I was out of the trough. Every time I felt this, the ball came right to me. If I couldn’t find the groove then the ball was going somewhere else.

One of the first rules of trading is “Don’t lose more than 2%”.  Sensible rule except there’s an odd calmness to certain trades, they can be down 4% on the day and on no news. I’m not worried about it, I know the trade isn’t going against me. For other trades, I know as soon as I’m down 0.25% that I need to get out, it’s going to go badly. I’m nervous about the trade from the very start. I’ve done the same amount of work, the setups look pretty similar, but for some reason I’m really pensive about having this open position.

I can’t feel that groove anymore in baseball, but I can feel it in trading. Find the groove, if you’re feeling uneasy about a trade, listen to yourself.

Take care of people because people take care of customers.

Trust. I believe this is the single most important word when understanding why people work the way they do. I trust that you will do everything possible to make that customer’s experience with us outstanding. Without trust then people will not put themselves out there for clients. They know they will get blamed, second-guessed, and marginalized in the future. How do you build trust? As a manager or a leader, you take the blame when things go wrong and you give credit when it goes right. If it’s a one-off then you move on. If it’s a constant problem then you re-train. If you look deeper you may see that it’s a system’s issue, or a business process issue. Fix those problems.

I once sat in a management meeting where the topic was ‘disengaged employees’. Survey results had come back and only 60% were completed. The VP and the directors were blaming employees for being disengaged. This was a hierarchical, low-trust environment. Take a guess at who was actually disengaged. It wasn’t the employees.

Stewardship.

It took me a long time to write this. I’ve been in companies where the main focus of the senior management team was their own bonuses. It was literally said in front of me (they forgot I was in the meeting) “Layoffs are coming but don’t worry, your bonuses are safe.” For me, leadership consists of two main themes: good stewardship of the company (it’s not a shell when you leave), and building trust and empathy with the people you’re entrusted to lead. The organization doesn’t exist to serve those that lead it.

The thread of the value prop runs through the entire company.

Think of the value proposition(s) as a thread that starts with the client and runs through every part of your company. At any point that thread can be cut, tied in a knot, or made stronger. The larger the company the easier it is for people to not even realize that thread is there. Manage your business processes, ensure that the teams know how they affect the customer’s experience. I’ve found that most people don’t even know what affect they’re having on a customer.

Make it easy for people to deliver outstanding results to customers.

Business processes and systems trend toward entropy. If left on their own then the only result can be disorder.  The people who are at the mercy of this disorder are those that speak with and support clients and customers. We don’t make it hard to deliver great results to customers, it just happens. Take an annual audit of your business processes that customer support and sales teams need to deal with or get complaints about. Then get merciless at cutting out the junk you find that doesn’t help anyone.

Tribal Workarounds

In the absence of knowledge comes ‘this is how I got it to work.” People and groups will fill in gaps in knowledge. If you either don’t train people, or your product leaves areas of ambiguity, then people will take the easiest path forward – they’ll either give up, or, they’ll find a workaround that gets them what they need. And one day you’ll find these and be completely baffled as to how they came into existence.

Sit with your teams, see what they do, better yet, do it yourself. I’ve done this with every team I’ve worked with for products and I’ve found that issues going back to a customer for resolution had actually already been solved. But the solution was buried deep in a menu structure that had been forgotten about over time.  If your teams are customer facing, sit with them for a day, see what you learn.

Build a Product That Fixes Your Customer’s Problems, Not Your Own Problems

Over a year in development. Marketing staff to create content for promotion. A development team ready to fix bugs and add functionality. Lengthy arguments as to whether or not the background should be sea foam green or something else.

Total number of users: 0. After 2 years.

The platform was built to facilitate order entry because it was a lengthy process for us to complete it. So we pushed the work onto the customer and said “you’ll love this”.  Well, they didn’t love it because they didn’t care. It wasn’t their problem and it was an obvious ploy to push work on to them. The platform existed for more than two years before it was finally shut down.

Ask yourself this when building a platform or product: “Why would a customer use this?” If the answer sounds anything like “because we want them to” then you should probably not spend much more effort on it. If you need evidence, create an email campaign that points to a landing page asking people to sign up and they’ll be notified for a beta. It should tell you a lot if nobody signs up, even more if nobody clicks.

I’ve been re-reading Adam Grant’s book, Originals for the third time and this time, focusing on increasing output and not increasing quality. Sounds backwards doesn’t it? Most people I’ve worked with in the past want to create brilliant work but what Adam points out is, even geniuses like da Vinci had higher incidences of “brilliant work” because they were prolific creators. The more you create, the higher the chance that your output creates brilliant work.

Many individuals I’ve worked with in the past want to create work that impresses. They spend so much time on trying to get it perfect that they actually produce anything.

If you haven’t yet read Originals yet then please get a copy. There are several other observations within it that can lead to some tremendous breakthroughs.

The Cost Will Reveal Itself Once the Complexity is Understood

My wife texted me the other day and asked me a question about whether a project for the home was expensive or complex? My response was an off handed comment that “The cost will reveal itself once the complexity is understood.” Since you don’t know everything up front, you can’t possibly say how much a project is going to cost unless you’ve done the exact same project previously.