Obviously, I knew who Winston Churchill was, but until I read Churchill Walking with Destiny,
by Andrew Roberts, I was ignorant of his life story. That being said, if I were asked to name the 10 most impactful people of the 20th century, he probably would have made my list.
Assuming Roberts is an objective historian, he chronicles Churchill’s political life in excruciating detail, from one failure to another. The phrases “foot in mouth disease” or “bull in a china shop” would be appropriate. I was shocked, to say the least.
In the last chapter of the book, Roberts attempts to summarize Churchill’s many failures and his few, but significant, successes.
Roberts would say that early on, Churchill was the only major Western leader who was on to Hitler and Stalin. The fact that he took a strong position and sounded the alarm may have saved Western civilization.
So, you may be wondering, why did I entitle this post “The Churchill Wart Factor”? Because, in my humble opinion, we all have our “warts,” but that doesn’t mean we won’t save the world some day. One of my many bad habits is judging others, often without all the facts. Studying Churchill has helped me see that it’s often easier to see the “warts” and miss the brilliance.
So, I thank Roberts for opening my eyes — not only to Churchill, but to the rest of humanity.
Private equity groups/firms (PEGs) have provided an outstanding exit option for owners of privately owned businesses who want to sell their company. Based on what I’ve experienced and learned from others, when it’s the right situation, PEGs are willing to pay the founder/owners a very fair price, and often allow the owner to continue with minority ownership so they can participate in a second sale. PEG owners are smart, experienced, connected, and often bring resources — financial and otherwise — to the company. They provide a financially disciplined approach with annual budgets/plans, and regular monitoring of the actual results.
You can’t argue that that’s all good stuff. For some reason, though, I’ve had reservations about PEG ownership. Simon Sinek, in his latest book about “Infinite Companies,” helped me understand my concern. Most of his comments/observations/examples would be related to publicly owned companies, but I believe his theories could also apply to some PEGs.
In a nutshell, his definition of an “Infinite Company” is one that bases its decisions on the long term, versus a “Finite Company” that’s short-term-focused. He shares stories about how both Infinite and Finite companies behave.
If you’re a founder with what Sinek would call a “just cause” and desire to leave a legacy, I would highly recommend reading The Infinite Game.
If your company has gone public or it’s been sold to a PEG and you’re no longer comfortable with it, I would highly recommend you read Sinek’s book.
I recently read Adam Grant’s book titled Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
. It helped me piece together situations I’ve been involved with over the course of my entire business life. As many of you know, I like to start new businesses and initiatives. Grant’s book helped me understand the many challenges I’ve faced over the years.It’s also helped me better understand why I have made certain life choices and chosen this path. (Editorial comment: I’ve also been drawn to the song “Different,” by Micah Tyler — because, at times, that’s how I feel.)
Grant concludes his book with these Actions for Impact:
- Question the default. Instead of taking the status quo for granted, ask why it exists in the first place.
- Triple the number of ideas you generate.
- Immerse yourself in a new domain. Originality increases when you broaden your frame of reference (e.g., spending time in a foreign country with locals).
- Procrastinate strategically. (Editorial comment: Grant suggests there are times when procrastination — or waiting — is the right approach.)
- Seek more feedback from peers.
- Balance your risk portfolio. (Editorial comment: Hedge your bet.)
- Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. (Editorial comment: This is counterintuitive but it’s a great idea, due to confirmation bias.)
- Make your ideas more familiar. Repeat yourself. It makes people more comfortable with an unconventional idea.
- Speak to a different audience. Instead of seeking out friendly people who share your values, try approaching disagreeable people who share your methods.
- Be a tempered radical. If your idea is extreme, couch it as part of a more conventional goal.
- Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs. uncertain. When you’re determined to act, focus on the progress left to go — you’ll be energized to close the gap.
- Don’t try to calm down.
- Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator. In the face of injustice, thinking about the perpetrator fuels anger and aggression.
- Realize you’re not alone.
- Remember that if you don’t take the initiative, the status quo will persist.
If you’re an innovator, I would highly recommend you read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. It will be encouraging and will help you understand why change is so hard. You’ll also get some great ideas about how to be more successful, and you’ll realize you’re not crazy.
If you’re a business owner who wants your team to be more creative, it will make you aware of potential obstacles that may inadvertently discourage people from suggesting or making change. You can’t have it both ways.
Somehow I missed another great author, Donald Miller, whom many of you probably already know. He has led a pretty diverse life, which includes the making of a movie based on one of his books, Blue Like Jazz
. In another book, Building A StoryBrand
, he does a wonderful job of helping organizations script their “elevator speech.” I’ve experienced — and agree with — most of his advice.
When it comes to his StoryBrand messaging, he recommends using the following seven categories as a framework:
- A Character: The customer is the hero, not the brand.
- Has a Problem: Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.
- And Meets a Guide: Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.
- Who Gives Them a Plan: Customers trust a guide who has a plan.
- And Calls Them to Action: Customers don’t take action unless they’re challenged to take action.
- That Helps Them Avoid Failure: Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.
- And Ends in Success: Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.
Miller summarizes the above with three strategies:
- Identify your customer’s problem.
- Explain your plan to help them.
- Describe a successful (happy) ending to their story.
As you know from Adam Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, sometimes we need to take risks — so here I go. The following is the Doescher Advisors StoryBrand Elevator Speech:
“Over decades we meet business owners who are lonely. They lack an experienced, objective, confidential partner. Doescher Advisors fills that void through active listening and practical advice, like a member of the owner’s executive team. The result: Our clients sleep better. Try us out for a month, with no further commitment.”
For those of you who have read StoryBrand, please let me know what you think of my new elevator speech.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s easy to talk about and live out your values during the good times, but the real acid test comes during recessions and crises.
Back in the early ’80s, I was a young partner at Plante Moran. The firm had an opportunity and made a very unique confidential investment. In the partner meeting to vote on the investment, it was stated that 10 percent of the profits would be shared with the staff. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic investment that matured and paid out in 1983, which was a deep recession year that significantly impacted the partners’ earnings. I was very curious about whether the plan to share with the staff members would be honored. (Keep in mind that the staff had no idea about this confidential windfall.) To my delight, we (since I was a partner) did share our good fortune with the entire Plante Moran team. I was re-recruited to the firm. Our walk matched our talk.
Why am I telling you this decades-old story? The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses, which have had to make some really tough decisions. Barbara and I are very proud to be associated with our clients, whose actions matched the words on the plaques on their company walls. I can’t share all the heartwarming stories I’ve heard, but I’ll highlight a few.
- A professional service firm’s competitors almost immediately laid off employees and reduced salaries. Although it was gut-wrenching, the CEO of my client’s firm decided not to make any reductions. Recently I asked, “Now that we’re past the worst of it, how do you feel about your decision?” He responded, “It was the right thing to do!”
- Another client, whose manufacturing plant could have remained open due to some “essential service” customers, closed his facility because the CEO was very concerned about his workers contracting the virus. But that wasn’t all he did for his team. He continued to pay all salary and hourly workers during the stay-at-home executive order. Really!
- Finally, the owners of an essential service client decided to provide his $12-13 per-hour workers with a $1,000 bonus. It gets better. The CEO and two other top executives personally handed the bonus checks to their 500 hourly employees working all over Michigan and thanked them for their service to the company, especially during these difficult times.
Every company I’ve ever known says it really values its employees. These three owners proved it, just like Plante Moran did back in 1983.
My question for you would be: Can you substantiate with real evidence that your employees are important to you?
If you have any cool stories about something that occurred during the pandemic, I would love to hear them.