The Coach's Corner

It’s All About Jobs, Part 1

October 8th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I love working with owner-operated businesses competing in the free market. They develop an idea for a new product or service and then take it to the market, where it’s either accepted (like the iPhone) or rejected (like the Ford Edsel). Recently I finished reading Defending The Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, by Rev. Robert Sirico. Fr. Robert is a Catholic priest, and he’s also the co-founder and president of The Acton Institute.

Before I lose you, bear with me.

From 1998 until 2012, Barbara, my partner, and I led more than 30 humanitarian mission teams all over the world. We visited the continents of Africa, Asia, Central America, Oceania, and South America. Our teams provided medical services, worked on construction projects, offered an educational program, and conducted a children’s ministry and marriage enrichment classes. As we looked forward to what we now refer to as our “Last Life Marathon,” we decided we were going to invest our time in a combination of work and mission. If you check out our website, you’ll find our Mission Statement:  “Doescher Advisors was founded to help businesses increase profits and jobs through practical and sound advice.”

As our economy changes due to innovations, the industrial jobs that once provided wonderful standards of living for so many hourly workers for almost a century no longer exist. Barbara and I are committed to assisting business owners find success so they can provide good jobs to these workers.

To make this point really clear, let me tell you a story. We had a client who found himself in the middle of the perfect storm. As we assessed the situation, we believed we could help “right the ship,” so to speak, but we also realized the client was in no position to compensate us for our extra assistance. We decided to help, anyway. I went to the business owner and said, “I think we can help you through this situation. I understand you won’t be able to pay us now, but we’ll keep track of our time and you can decide what you want to do when we get through it.” You can imagine the gratefulness of the client. I acknowledged his comments, but then I pointed out toward his shop floor and said, “I’m doing this for those 40 families. I cannot effectively help them, but I can help you. And if we’re successful, everyone wins.”

In my next blog, I’ll provide some of my takeaways from Fr. Robert’s book.

What Financial Information Should I Share with My Associates?

September 24th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

This was actually a question posed to me by one of my clients. To be perfectly candid, I didn’t give him a very good answer. Thinking about how I could have responded better led me to purchase an old book, Open-Book Management: The Coming Business Revolution (Open-Book), written by John Case in 1995. I also bought The Great Game of Business: Unlocking the Power and Profitability of Open-Book Management, by Jack Stack, and I intend to study the Scanlon plan. So far, here are my takeaways from Open-Book, along with some editorial comments.

  1. I would lean toward sharing information. In my experience with all types of businesses, the associates generally seem to think the company is more profitable than it really is. For example, if everyone hears the company has been awarded a million-dollar contract, they may think the owner will get $500,000. But if the company’s EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization) is 10 percent (a pretty common result for a good company), the actual profit is far less.
  2. Start out slowly and share just a few metrics, like sales/revenue.
  3. Before getting too deep into sharing, think about reporting when you have either a world-class year or a near-bankruptcy year, and anticipate questions. Sharing too much information could become a slippery slope that results in unnecessary concerns or expectations.
  4. NEVER FUDGE THE NUMBERS!!!! Rather than fudging numbers, it would be better not to share at all.
  5. Open-Book appropriately describes the old Industrial Revolution command and control management styles versus today’s knowledge workers, even on the factory floor. Have you been on a shop floor recently? Most machines today are computer-controlled and the operators are required to be very skilled to diagnose issues and/or problems. Command and control would never work.
  6. Open-Book also recommends that owners view their associates as “partners.” I can relate to this because that’s how Frank Moran, founding partner of Plante Moran, made me feel from the day I started there as an intern.
  7. Open Book suggests rewarding people for making money. In other words,  teach them that profit is necessary to maintain a sustainable business.
  8. “What gets measured gets done,” according to Open-Book. Louis Gerstner, former IBM CEO, loved to say, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
  9. Keep it simple. People don’t trust what they don’t understand.

The last half of the book provides specific examples of private companies that have adopted some type of  open-book management style.

When I reflect upon today’s workforce, I think some version of open-book management makes a lot of sense. I would probably suggest reading up on the subject, attending some seminars, and getting outside help to get started. A misstep could be quite painful for you and your associates.

Making Your Bed Is Important? Are You Kidding Me?

September 10th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Recently I finished The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes, a former All-American who is currently on the USA men’s national handball team. He’s also a motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. His book was similar to many others I’ve read and, halfway through the book, I concluded I wouldn’t blog about it. Then I got to Chapter 6, where Howes recommends making your bed every morning. As support for his position, he references the 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas, which was delivered by Adm. William McRaven, a retired Navy Seal. I had listened to McRaven’s address a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to you. In fact, here’s a six-minute portion of the address, where the admiral’s first recommendation to the graduates is that they make their beds.

Howes also quotes from The Happiness Project by New York Times best-selling author and blogger Gretchen Rubin. I’m sure you’ll be skeptical, but Rubin reports that many of the readers who have communicated with her in response to her happiness project report that making their beds had the biggest impact on their happiness. Paraphrasing Rubin, “Making your bed is a step that’s quick and easy, yet makes a big difference. Everything looks neater. It’s easier to find your shoes. Your bedroom is a more peaceful environment.” She goes on to say, “Because making my bed is one of the first things I do in the morning, I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.”

Wow, very interesting. I’ll leave it up to you whether you decide to read the Howes or Rubin books, but if you haven’t heard Adm. McRaven’s address, I would definitely recommend listening to it.

Hopefully you’ll accept this post in the spirit it is offered.




Looking for Topics for Your Annual Planning Meeting?

August 20th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I would recommend using It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For by Roy M. Spence, Jr., as a resource. If you’re like me, after years of attending annual planning meetings you’re often looking for something new and fresh. Spence and his colleagues have advised some highly regarded companies, like Southwest Airlines, and have come up with a list of great questions you could use during your leadership team’s annual retreat/planning session.

I’ve written several times about a company’s “why” or “purpose,” including in my January 11, 2016, post. The primary subject of It’s Not What You Sell is “purpose,” and Spence organizes his suggested questions into four categories:

  1. Are purpose principles alive and well in your organization?
  2. Are you building an organization that makes a difference?
  3. Are you a leader of great purpose?
  4. Are you bringing your purpose to life in the marketplace?

Each of these categories provides 10 questions that could be used as part of a team-building, vision-casting session.

In addition, Spence references numerous books and research studies that you may want to obtain as advanced reading material for your team.

Spence and his colleagues assist businesses with marketing services including branding. As I read their client stories, I reflected back upon sitting in company lobbies, reading the plaques on the walls (yes, this was before digital displays). It wasn’t uncommon for companies to incorporate Bible verses into their messages (purpose, vision, principles, etc.). On more than one occasion, when I was sitting in a meeting with the company’s executives, I had a totally different experience than what I had expected based on the values their lobby displays touted.

So, what’s my point? I’m probably playing big brother here, but I believe it would be better to not say certain things if, in fact, they aren’t the standards your business (and all its team members) adheres to. The plaques or video displays on the lobby walls should accurately reflect the company’s culture. Be careful not to overstate it.

All I Want Is To Blend In

August 6th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

One of my Flint business colleagues gave me a copy of Imperfect: An Improbable Life, an autobiography of Jim Abbott. Because he grew up in my new hometown, I found the book to be very educational. For those of you who don’t know of him, Abbott is a famous baseball player who got his start as a star pitcher at Flint Central High School and the University of Michigan. He was a starting pitcher on the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team and he pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

After finishing the book and reflecting on Abbott’s life, I pondered what I could tell you about this remarkable man. I could focus on his mom and dad, who were teenage parents, or the cutthroat nature of professional baseball, or the painful process of determining when to end a professional career, or what it’s like to be the spouse of a professional athlete in the crosshairs of the media, or what a great job his young parents did raising him.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that Abbott was born without a right hand?

After a great deal of thought, I decided to share two lessons I learned from reading about Abbott’s life.

The first deals with his desire not to be thought of as different. If you see pictures of him in street clothes, he always has his right (hand) in his pocket, and looks like any other person you might walk past. He tells a story about a time he was being introduced as the speaker at an event. In his introductory comments, the well-intentioned master of ceremonies mentioned that Abbott was missing his right hand. As Abbott listened, he thought to himself, Why? Just let my accomplishments of a gold medal and a no-hitter stand for themselves.

The takeaway, for me, is that it’s important to be more sensitive to any labels or adjectives I use when telling my many stories. Is it really necessary to say things about a person’s height, or where they’re from, or what ethnic group they belong to, or to make observations that sound more like stereotypes? I felt convicted.

My hero on the subject of avoiding labels is my youngest son, Joey. He had a new roommate who I had not yet had a chance to meet. Joey often spoke about his roommate and, from everything he said, they seemed to really be a good match. Well, one day I finally met the roommate. Based on things my son had said when describing his roommate, I had been expecting that this young man was going to look a lot like our family. To my surprise, he wasn’t like us at all. I was proud of Joey’s ability to overlook the stereotypes that might have been placed on his roommate, and to instead focus on the person his roommate is.

The second lesson I gleaned from Abbott’s life is “deliberate practice,” a concept with which I am obsessed. Starting at 4 years old, Abbott would throw baseballs against a wall in his backyard for hours and hours. It was there, in his backyard, that he taught himself to switch his glove to his right arm so he could throw, and then return it to his left hand to catch the rebound. (The book includes some really cool stories of how Abbott overcame adversity and was able to field balls, including bunts, in the majors.)

Do you want to be successful at something? If you didn’t have a right hand, would you dare to set a goal of pitching a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in Yankee Stadium?

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.