The Golf Ball and How Nike Missed The Boat

Leading up to the 2000 US Open tournament, virtually all the golf balls in use, especially by professionals, were of wound construction.  Top of the line balls had balata covers which better golfers beat to shreds.  Tour pros routinely used six balls per round.  The exception was a Titleist ball with an Elastomer cover, the Titleist Professional, which closely resembled the Tour Balata, but with a more resilient cover.

At the beginning of the 2000 season, Tiger Woods, who was a Nike athlete was using the Titleist Professional ball.  Nike in partnership with Bridgestone Golf was prototyping a ball called the Nike Tour Accuracy, which Tiger call “My Ball”, planned for release at the beginning of the 2001 PGA Tour season.  In early 2000 Tiger had narrowed the prototype field down to two versions.  After some additional testing, the final version of the ball was brought to Hamburg for testing during practice rounds at the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open.  In a wind-swept heavy rain, Tiger hit a drive from the first tee with the Titleist Professional ball that the wind caught and push into the rough.  Tiger next hit the Nike prototype on the same starting line. The Nike ball moved about five yards in the wind and stopped in the middle of the fairway.  In May 2000, Tiger switched to the Nike ball, ahead of the original schedule.  Starting with the 2000 US Open, Tiger won his “Tiger Slam” with “My Ball” and changed the golf ball industry in the process.

What does this have to do with business?  During that period, Tiger Woods was the most influential golfer in the world.  That influence resulted in a complete move away from wound golf balls to the new two- and three-piece balls.  To quote Tiger;

“I won four majors with that ball, and the rest is history because wound-ball technology is gone.  Everyone switched.”

Unfortunately, Nike was totally unprepared to capitalize on Tiger’s success using the Nike Tour Accuracy golf ball.  Kel Devlin, Nike’s global director of sports marketing still ponders the circumstances around the ball.

“If we had enough capacity, and I could have gotten the sports marketing folks and Phil [Knight] to buy into the bigger program … if we’d had the ball available to any Tour player who wanted it four weeks earlier than we did …”

Result?  Nike is no longer in the golf ball business and Titleist continues as the far and away best-selling brand of golf balls.

So, I ask you the same question I ask of most of my clients when they are about to begin a new strategy or marketing program,

“What if this works?”

When you do something new, do you prepare for success?  If you are launching a new product or item, do you arrange for timely delivery of inventory on a just-in-time basis?  If you are launching a new service, has your team been fully trained to consistently deliver the service up to the quality you require, while continuing to support (not losing) your existing loyal clients?  To successfully scale your business, it is essential to ask these questions and many more as part of your planning and implementation process.

My ActionCOACH colleagues and I are expert at assisting clients just like you in the development of new products and services and business growth.

*Based on an article in the June 2019 edition of Golf Magazine.

What Can We Learn About Business from Arthur Rubinstein – What Are Your Business Superpowers?

During a recent conversation about personal and business superpowers, I recalled something I read many years ago about one of the twentieth centuries greatest classical pianists, Arthur Rubinstein (1887 – 1982).  Although I am almost certain I read about the one of his many superpowers that is the basis of this blog in his 1980 autobiography “My Many Years”,  (Last night, I found my copy of the book, it is 626 pages) I was not able to find the exact reference I was looking for. One of Arthur Rubinstein’s amazing superpowers was the ability to play 100 distinct volumes, from pianississimo (very very soft, a whisper) to fortississimo (very very loud, yelling), certainly a necessary superpower for a world class pianist.  Add to that other essential superpowers such as perfect pitch, a photographic memory that enabled him to rapidly memorize musical scores, and a great passion for the music of multiple composers, and you have a pianist who was recognized as one of the greatest, if not the greatest of the twentieth century. Given all that natural talent, Rubinstein was a tremendous success from his early performances in 1904 through the 1920’s.  However, in 1934 he withdrew from concert life for several months to begin a period of intensive study and practice.  He stated that he had neglected his technique in his early years, relying instead on his natural talents. There are two very important business lessons here:
  • What Are Your Superpowers? – As a business owner or executive, identify your natural talents, abilities and developed skills that distinguish and elevate you from others in your industry. Dig deep and periodically repeat the identification process.  Many of us have both business relevant and irrelevant superpowers, so make sure you identify those talents that give you your competitive advantage.  Identify the talents that enhance your ability to excel in your current and future roles, and talents that enable you to bring superior value to your business, community and the world.
  • Continually Enhance Your Natural Superpowers – Just like Arthur Rubinstein, your natural talent can get you far, but not as far as possible. As is often stated by my colleagues at ActionCOACH and many other mentors and speakers, you’ve got to “Learn More to Earn More”.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  Continually learn, improve and practice, some of your competitors are doing exactly that.
My colleagues and I are uniquely positioned to assist you in identifying and enhancing your business superpowers.  Give us a call.

2019 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 3

The second day of BEF kicked off with Michael Losier, author of “Law of Attraction – The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t.”  Among the many BFOs were:
  • Contrast – The brief observation of what you don’t want will bring clarity to what you do want
  • The Law of Attraction is like a Google search, refine the search until you find what you are looking for.
  • To invoke the Law of Attraction, refine your Words->Thoughts->Vibes->Results
Our next speaker was Stephen Hightower, President & CEO of Hightower Petroleum Co.  Mr. Hightower was profiled in CNBC’s “Blue Collar Millionaires”, he went from cleaning toilets in his parent’s janitorial business to founding a multi-million-dollar oil company.  One of his big breaks occurred when his company was chosen to provide all the fuel that is put into new cars coming off GM’s production line.  At the time, he didn’t have the credit nor the supply chain to satisfy the contract.  In fact, he needed to triple his capacity.  His search for credit and supply led him to the following BFO:
  • “If the opportunity is big enough, you can find a supplier to support it.”
Having the right relationships has enabled his company to now supply the fuel for most of the cars produced in North America. The additional BFO’s from Mr. Hightower’s presentation included:
  • As long as you don’t die, you have the opportunity to do something different
  • “Exposure gives you the ability to see what is possible.”
  • “90 % of my customers are being called upon by someone else.  100% of my customers were once customers of someone else.”
This last BFO from Stephen Hightower was so powerful and valuable that it covered my BEF investment several time over.  We all have competitors, thus, to succeed for the long haul, we must CONTINUALLY exceed our customer’s rising expectations. Stay tuned for the next installment of BFOs from the 2019 BEF.

More on Time Management

Reading a John C. Maxwell article in the September 2017 edition of Success about time management, entitled “4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today” got me thinking.  On a hunch, I went back and reviewed several other articles, publications and the ActionCOACH TimeRICH seminar on the subject of time management and was able to confirm my conclusion that

Time Management is really Self Management!

This is not exactly a new idea, I’ve said this during numerous presentations.  So why highlight it now in this blog?  It seems to me that many of us brush off the importance of time-self management.  Taking an “I am what I am” attitude rather than seeking to improve our use of our time.  Thus, I am going to reiterate a few of our top self-time management tips:
  • Set personally motivating goals – if your goals are truly important to you, you must strive to connect every activity to them. In the article, Maxwell encourages creating a Priority Inventory, another way of looking at the connection of your goals to your activities.
  • Don’t finish today until you plan tomorrow – Maxwell explains two concepts in his article; be deliberate in your use of time, and hone your decision-making skills. Once you increase your awareness of your goals and their relationship to your activities, you will become more deliberate in your investment of time.  The decision as to what to address and what not to address will become easier, enhancing your self management.  Remember, every time you say “YES” to something, you are saying “NO” to many other activities.
  • Create a Default Diary – a schedule of how you intend to invest your time on “normal” days. Your Default Diary (Ideal Week or Default Calendar, we use these terms interchangeably at ActionCOACH) accomplishes many things; it sets your time expectations, and communicates them.  You will feel uneasy when your activities conflict with your internal clock once it has been set via your Default Diary.  Many of my clients use their Default Calendar as a communication tool with their teams, using the tool to create “deep thinking” time slots.
  • Delegate – Effective delegation is the key to successful time and self management. None of us are expert or skilled in all aspects necessary for the success of our businesses or lives.  We are faced with the choice to do it all, abdicate or delegate numerous times every day.  Should I change the oil in my car myself?  Should I abdicate the oil change by simply dropping off the car at my local service station? Or, should I effectively delegate the oil change by carefully selecting the service station or dealer, asking them about the oil and filter they are going to use, and all the other details related to the oil change?  I used this example to exemplify the fact that we can all delegate to our extended team even if we have no direct employees.  When delegating, John Maxwell makes the point the we should not mistake activity for advancement.  This applies to those we delegate to, as well as ourselves.
John C. Maxwell included the following quote in the article:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember, you cannot replenish your time, once a moment is gone, it is gone.  As Steadman Graham said at one of our ActionCOACH conferences,

“Time is the great equalizer.  We all have 24 hours in a day.”

His message continued to say that the very wealthy use their time more effectively.  How are you investing your precious time?  My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are uniquely qualified to assist you toward effective delegation and successful self and time management.

2017 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of The Obvious Part 1

I said it last year, and I must say it again, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance in Houston, Texas.  With that many attendees, there was an abundance of formal and informal exchanges of ideas, strategies, success stories and best practices. This year’s forum had an extensive list of keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs) and new ways of looking at things.  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me, most of which will enhance the value I bring to my clients.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar effect on you. During the opening session, Brad Sugars, founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH shared the following:
  • We often present the concept of Learn More to Earn More. Brad added Serve More to Earn More.  Serve More to Earn more became one of the major themes of this year’s Forum.
  • To serve more, you must set an expanded vision (more about that later) and then you must grow into it.
  • Brad highlighted the difference between a Leader and a Coordinator. Leadership is all about the Vision.
  • During a discussion of referral strategies, Brad challenged everyone to develop a pre-gifting strategy. For example, give a book relevant to your product or service to ten of your top customers and encourage them to pass the books along to people who would benefit from your offering.
Our first keynote speaker was Keith Cunningham, author of “The Ultimate Blueprint for an Insanely Successful Business” and creator of the CFO Scoreboard.  (keystothevault.com) Mr. Cunningham, while explaining financial reports in very plain, simple language, slips in many gems about business.  Following are some of the most important:
  • For most in business, the universal answer to business problems or issues is growth – most of the time, that is a fallacy. It is often more effective to consolidate your business and address the problems directly before resuming your growth.  After all, your problems may grow bigger as your business grows.
  • “To play the game of business you’ve got to speak the language.” The language is knowing how to read and understand your financial statements and KPIs.
  • You need two things; Language and Scoreboard:
    • Language (Report Card) = Financials
    • Scoreboard (Dashboard) = Optics which leads to strategy
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  • To make more money, get better at business
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  • M+D+A=N – Management -> Decisions -> Activities -> Numbers.  The numbers on your Report Card (Financials) influence your Activities and your activities determine your Report Card.
  • What activities need to change to change your numbers? When you stand on the bathroom scale and are unhappy with the number you see, what are you going to change to eventually see a happier number?
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  • We have too many goals, we need more standards (non-negotiable goals).
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  • Running your business with un-read or improperly formatted financial reports is like playing pin the tail on the donkey.
  • You give what you tolerate – every management failure is caused by a lack of courage.
  • PROFIT is a Theory – Cash is a FACT
  • “It is not about getting big, it’s about getting rich (generating cash).” Too many businesses lately are focused on getting very big.  Many of them are burning cash along the way.
  • The only reason to spend money is to get or keep customers.
All the BFOs above were from before the morning break!  There is much more to come from Keith and other speakers in the next blog post.

Applying Pareto’s Law to Your Life (and Business)

Many of us have heard that 80% of your results are achieved by 20% of your efforts. Since Pareto introduced that concept back in 1896 by identifying that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population, it has since been applied to science, engineering, healthcare, and sports. My assistant claims that 80% of what you wear comes from 20% of your wardrobe so the applications are limitless. As a business coach, my clients frequently complain that there’s just not enough time to get everything done.  Upon discussion, we have a lightbulb moment in which the client realizes that s/he is spending 80% of their time on trivial matters and only 20% of their time cultivating their core business, the very antithesis of what they should be doing.  During our coaching sessions, I suggest these ways to increase their productivity – and profits – by incorporating the 80/20 rule:
  1. Focus on the 20% of your customers who are generating 80% of your profits. Cultivate those relationships and watch your bank account grow!  Delegate the rest to your sales team and help them to nurture the future 20%.
  2. Identify the 20% of your friends and business associates who can provide 80% of your support, be it marketing or emotional. Conversely, eliminate the 20% – or more – of those who drain you of your energy or stand in the way of your success.
  3. Find the 20% of the tasks that you truly enjoy which bring the greatest reward and put 80% of your energy into them. The rest can be delegated or outsourced.
  4. 80% of a business’s problems come from 20% of the business. Is the 20% related to production?  Delivery?  A particular employee?  Periodically review your processes, policies and procedures.  Communicate expectations to your staff regularly.  This is about fire prevention.
The common thread here is to simplify as much as you are able.  Granted, the way we work has changed dramatically over the last two decades and we’re now “on” 24/7.  However, by discovering how we are using our time, we can make informed decisions about how we choose to spend it. My colleagues and I are ready to assist you in applying Pareto’s Law to your business and your life.  Contact any of us for a no obligation complementary coaching diagnostic session and learn how we can add value to you and your business.

Let’s Talk About Government Regulations

This post is a follow up to a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter post that I published a few days ago.  While reading an article in the July/August 2016 edition of INC Magazine entitled “Taming the Beast” (http://on.inc.com/28Sr8x4) by Leigh Buchanan, I was astounded by some of the examples of well-intended silliness mentioned.  In addition, I appreciated that the article didn’t simply state the challenge without offering some suggested solutions. The first example of regulatory over-burden involved a relatively small craft winery in Brooklyn, NY.  The CEO, Brian Leventhal fills out monthly reports to each and every state his company ships, or has shipped product to.  The information requested on the reports vary by state, but generally includes the name and address of each purchaser of their wine.  Furthermore, he must file reports to states even if he had no shipments during the previous month to customers within that state.  Mr. Leventhal is quoted in the article saying “it looks like [rules governing the wine industry] exist only because someone made them up that way 80 years ago.” The article goes on to site some statistics about the proliferation of regulations; 3,400 federal regulations in 2015, 545 with direct effect on small business, for example.  In a survey about regulation conducted by Paychex, 39 percent responded that over-regulation dissuaded them from entering a new market, 36 percent from introducing a new product, and 25 percent did not start new business ventures into a new kind of business.  Further, that survey found that 65 percent of the respondents reported that regulations hurt their profitability or their opportunities to grow. Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good, a non-profit with the mission of applying common sense toward reducing government bureaucracy is quoted as saying “America is run by dead people.  The people who wrote these rules are dead, so you can’t argue with them or hold them accountable.”  Regulations are like plastic bags or embarrassing social media posts: once they are out, you can’t get rid of them. I invite you to respond to this blog with a list of the top few regulations that hurt your industry or company.  You might highlight your number one target for elimination or revision.  I also invite any suggestions about regulations that should remain, with or without revisions. Finally, if me or my colleagues at ActionCOACH can assist you with overcoming your regulatory constraints, please contact us to learn what is possible to keep you ahead of your competition.

Getting Through Those Conversations You Don’t Want to Have

I was recently reading a great article in Success Magazine by Shelley Levitt about difficult, delicate and distasteful conversations.  Several of the points in the article bear repeating with emphasis.  But first some background.  Many managers, leaders or entrepreneurs work very hard at avoiding these kinds of conversations.   This is a big mistake for a couple of reasons:
  1. As we say in many of our ActionCOACH presentations, the earth is round. Therefore, ignored issues and problems sooner or later come around and bite you in the butt.
  2. And ignored issues usually grow in severity the longer they are not addressed.
In the best-seller Difficult Conversations: How to Address What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen the authors make the point that leaders and companies that can adroitly confront what matters most, “will leave their competition in the dust.”  And a note to those of you who have risen to a level of leadership that requires you to begin to have difficult conversations; you cannot get promoted past having to have distasteful conversations, the opposite is true.  In fact inability to handle these conversations is one of the most common reasons people don’t succeed according to Heen. Here are a few suggestions for having successful professional conversations:
  • Be courageous. These conversations take courage, and there is no perfect time.
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait until an issue gets too big to be corrected.  Most of the time it is much more productive to make small incremental adjustments rather than having to correct major problems.
  • Plan the conversation. Pick an appropriate venue.  Avoid a spontaneous delivery fueled by anger or frustration.
  • Be direct and clear. Do not talk in tangents.
  • Be specific. Avoid generalizations.  “You were late returning from lunch three times last week” is much better than “you always come back from lunch late.”
  • Discuss Consequences Not Intentions. “When you are late with KPIs that causes many other delays” not “It seems you don’t think that on-time KPIs are important.”
  • No Buts. “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, but you need to design the next level of details” sounds critical, shutting down creativity, while “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, and you need to design the next level of details.” Is much more likely to open a productive dialogue.
  • Two Ears, One Mouth. Shut down your inner voice and simply listen.  “Listening is the most persuasive weapon” says Heen.
If you wish to get even better at difficult conversations and to accelerate your timeline to success, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH would be happy to have a complementary, no obligation coaching session with you to better determine how much value we can add to your business.  Simply click the Free Business Coaching Session button near the top right of the screen.

Great Advice from Crain’s New York Business Hall of Fame Inductees

While reading the September 14, 2015 edition of Crain’s New York Business” I was energized by some of the advice given by almost all of the 2015 inductees to the Crain’s Hall of Fame.  Following are a few of the best quotes along with commentary relating the quotes to my philosophy of business. First up are a couple of quotes from Larry Fink, the founder of Blackrock, the world’s largest investment firm.  Blackrock has more than $4.7 trillion under management.  He said “I’m a student of the markets.  If you stop being a student, you will fail.”  This takes our often mentioned phrase “you’ve got to learn to earn” to a whole other level by stating the consequence of stopping your learning … failure.  He goes on to say “I tell my leaders – my leaders are going to be teachers – if you’re a teacher who stopped being a student, you can’t be a good teacher.”  I’ve always said the one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. From Shelly Lazarus, former CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather we get several great pointers.  “You need to have a team that believes in you and people who believe in each other and people who can work together.  Without the people around you, you are never going to be successful.”  This speaks to the idea that true success in bound up with accomplishing a broader impactful mission, a mission that you can’t accomplish alone.  She goes on to say “It surprises me over and over how people don’t realize that you have to treat the people on your team respectfully; you have to let them share in the problem and the solution. You’re only going to be as good as the people who want to work with you.” (Emphasis added)  “Who want to work with you” … that’s the operative phrase.  Not easy, but essential to lasting success. Pamela Brier, current President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center, said something simple but very, very profound “It takes more than medical care to make healthy people.”  This speaks to the point of my previous blog “What is Your Product or Service?” where I discuss the total definition of a product or service.  Later in her interview she highlights the concept of inclusive management “…includes the notion that people close to the work not only have a stake in making a place work better, they also know a lot.  Tell me that who mops the floor in a patient’s room doesn’t know a lot about what’s going on with that patient and the family.”  Finally, she says “There is nothing inherently politically incorrect about being a tough-minded manager who does what you have to do to give an institution the financial wherewithal to do good work.”  You must continually achieve your mission to have impact.  In order to do that long term, the financial foundation has to be strong. Emily Rafferty, the retired president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art talks about timing and personal being.  “Timing is everything, and if we make a mistake, often it is about not getting the timing right.  When you get it right, it lets us soar.  That’s what makes the difference, I think.  Our timing has to be right within ourselves and within our personal growth before it can work in the workplace or anywhere else.”  A prerequisite to success is preparing for success, BE + DO = HAVE.  Acquire the being of success in order to do what you need to do to achieve success to have success. One of the primary purposes of coaching, whether business coaching or other forms of coaching, is to increasing the clients being.  My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I can work with you to increase your being.

What is Your Product or Service?

As promised in my last Blog “Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?” I would like to discuss the definition of your product, the total definition of your product, the real definition of your product.  First, a little background.  I have too often encountered business owners and professionals who stop at the obvious definition of their product, “I’m a pediatrician, I provide medical care to kids,” never either consciously or unconsciously going deeper.  And if the owner doesn’t fully understand what his or her company is delivering, what are the chances that their team consistently delivers the complete product?  That is why I consider understanding of the complete definition the product or service of a business one of the fundamentals of having an exceptional business. In my last Blog, I said “Once you have determined your clients, customers or patients (CCPs) definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service in order to have your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).”  Without a genuine UVP, you are doomed to playing the features leap frog game with your competitors.  So how do we marry our CCPs definition of value with our product or service? The answer is simple, but not easy.  You and your team must answer “Why should I be your customer?” from the customer’s point of view.  One way to accomplish this is to try this exercise that I use with my clients; make a list of 100 reasons someone who fits the profile of your ideal, not your only, customer should do business with you.  The easy part is putting the first five or six on the list.  After that it gets progressively more difficult.  I must be honest and tell you that only one client has gotten to 100.  After eliminating the duplicates, we got down to a list of more than 80 value elements, each of which were part of their Total Product Definition (TPD). Returning to the pediatrician, in addition to providing medical care to kids, her TPD includes such factors as; ease of parking, short wait times for appointments and in the waiting room, waiting room decor and activities, how friendly is the team, is the office child and parent friendly, to list just a few of the more obvious examples.  Note that the list should include both tangible and intangible items.  The tangible items, such as very short wait time, are easier to copy than intangible items such as having a friendly office atmosphere. Once you have determined your TPD, you must constantly communicate it both internally and to your CCPs.  That means you and your team must live it, breath it, understand it and consistently deliver the TPD to your market.  Your TPD is your competitive advantage, the deeper and more detailed it is, the harder it is for your competition to duplicate. My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you in developing your Total Product Definition.