Apr 15

Go Fly Your Own

A sure sign of spring, or at least it used to be. Kite-flying that is. When I was a kid, once the snow melted and the warm breezes of spring arrived, every kid in the neighborhood tried his or her hand at flying a kite. My mother, who had been raised on a farm in southern Illinois, was a terrific kite-maker. She used paper grocery bags and wood glue and most of the time there were plenty of broken kite frames that we would repair, paper-up and launch. They weren’t too pretty … after all they were only cut-up grocery bags … but they were durable and seemed to stay upright with less tail than the “store bought” variety. After observing that the kites that my brother and I flew seemed to last longer, fly higher and not break apart every time they bumped into something, all of the kids wanted kites made by my mother. You know, I may have missed out on a business opportunity there. Then again, it would have been a tough business to sustain …  foreign competitors, seasonal sales, high liability concerns, fickle customers, heavy pressure to keep costs down while constantly innovating with new designs and performance improvements … wait a minute, this all sounds too familiar. Enough already. The winds a blowing, the sun is shining and I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of empty grocery bags in the garage … I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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Go fly your own.

It’s Tax Day … Spring Must Be Here

According to a recent survey conducted by the highly regarded Pew Research Center, 70 percent of American adults surveyed felt that it was wrong to cheat the government by taking benefits they were not entitled to but only 45 percent of those same people thought cheating on your tax bill with the IRS was a bad thing. That doesn’t compute, does it? By the way, I also read an interesting article about IRS employees (some of whom do not pay their own taxes but will come after you with every ounce of energy they have if you fail to pay yours) wherein it was stated that a survey last year of IRS employees found that a vast majority of them don’t like the IRS either. But the pay and benefits are pretty good and so they stay on the job. The problem is, the rest of us have to deal with them.

Yet More Proof of Spring

A few years back, and I honestly don’t remember exactly how many, I had the good fortune of meeting Don Keller and working with him on a little project that he had gotten involved with in his home town of Grand Ledge, Mich. It was one of those jobs where you don’t get paid but you feel quite humbled and gratified by doing it anyway. I was incredibly impressed with Don and got involved in just a little way. Don wanted to pay for the work that had been done but I didn’t see how we could charge him for his efforts to honor men from his hometown who had lost their lives in World War II and after a couple of my guys and one of our suppliers got caught up in the effort, everybody involved donated their time and materials … I don’t think this is so unusual for people in our industry. I regularly see the good-hearted people that I get to interact with giving of their time and resources to the benefit of others. It encourages me to think that in the tough world we live in there is still much kindness and generosity.

But here’s the rest of this little story. You see, now virtually every spring, I get a big box of Don’s personally blended, cooked, and processed caramel corn with nuts and it is some of the best stuff you’ll ever crunch on. So I thank you publicly Don for the fine treats you send my way every spring and for being the fine human being you are. Keep up the good work!

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This stuff is really good.

The Sports Thing

The NHL Stanley Cup Championship playoffs start tonight. Given this fact, there is no other sports-related story or commentary worthy of mention for the day.

The Quotable Thing

This week’s quote comes from none other than Bob Price (JEB) who is a much deeper thinker than any of you who know him might believe. And yes, I know there are probably many skeptics among you but it is true. At least he has convinced me …

“Life is a gift, the problem is most people return it unopened.” -Author Unknown

Please Have a Wonderful Week, Everyone!

Apr 08

Needed a Little More

I could have used a little more … advice that is. Not that what I was reading wasn’t good, because it was. But it was just a little short. You see, the article dealt with tips you could use to avoid hiring bad people. The tips were practical, understandable and made absolute sense to me. But the fact of the matter is, most managers, no matter how good they might be, will occasionally make a bad hire. Now, some will never admit they made a bad hire, but in absolute honesty, it happens pretty much to everyone, unless you are a two-person operation and you hire your mother or something. But the real challenge for most is how to get rid of the bad employee after you have hired her … or sometimes him.

Often, we are reluctant to admit we made a mistake, and so we just live with it. Other times we think we can change the behavior of what appears to be a bad hire, and every now and then we are just so desperate for someone that we live with an under-performing person out of fear that her … or sometimes his … replacement won’t be any better and might even be worse. Lots of reasons, or perhaps the better word is excuses, exist for why we don’t act to move out a bad employee when we know we should. Heaven knows, and so do some former co-workers of mine, that I made a couple of really bad hires in my day, and the one thing I learned in each case was that the bad apple never gets better and really does negatively impact all the other apples around it. For you slow thinkers out there, you can substitute the word employee for apple in the previous sentence.

I once went to my boss, the legendary Joe Kellman, and asked him the question …”How do I get rid of the bad hire I made?” His answer … “I really don’t care how you do it, but I want it done TODAY!”

Unfortunately, I sometimes did not take my bosses advice and lived far too long with people that should have been long gone. Costly mistakes on my part. Don’t be me on this one. Do what you know you should do and move on. You can thank me later, or as I have often said, just send cash.

Now What Do I Do?

As I’m sure you know, California has been suffering under extreme drought conditions for the past four to five years, and now comes word that it has reached a critical stage wherein even farmers are not going to get all of the water they want … or need. Do you know that 80 percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California? Do you know that I love almonds, put them on my oatmeal every morning and regularly eat them as a snack? I might need help here. If you have some almonds that are not being used, PLEASE send them to me at once. I’m really starting to worry about this!

The Thing About Lying

After last week’s quote in this blog (from George Bernard Shaw … “The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”) I received two phone calls and a couple of emails about the subject. It also became the subject among a group of people I had lunch with yesterday. The consensus seems to be that there are different types of liars in the world. Some lie to justify an action or hide the truth of a situation. Others are simply pathological … they literally can’t help themselves. Their lies become convenient ways to achieve whatever their goals might be. The most dangerous however, in my opinion, is the liar who actually believes his own falsehoods and cannot understand why others don’t.

Nothing like the Madhouse on Madison.

Nothing like the Madhouse on Madison.

The Sports Thing

Well, that’s about as close as I’ve come in a long, long time (to predicting a winner, that is). But at the end, my Wisconsin badgers could not hold off those wild and crazy guys from Duke in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game two nights ago. Close, very close… But in fact, once again, I was wrong. So with this in mind, I will now pick the Chicago Cubs to go all the way to become this year’s World Series champions. I mean come on, even the most skeptical would have to conclude that sooner or later I would get one right … now wouldn’t they???

Hey, the NHL playoffs start one week from today. There is nothing in the world like a live NHL hockey game, and the playoffs are the ultimate “in-person” sports experience, in my opinion. In Chicago, the stadium is known as the Madhouse on Madison, and after 300-plus consecutive sellouts, it deserves the name. I’m not gonna make a prediction about my Blackhawks … don’t want to jinx them! In fact, I think I’m gonna go with the St. Louis Blues.

The Quotable Thing

This week’s quote seems quite appropriate, given the results of the NCAA final. It is attributed to legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who during his time at Green Bay, led his team to six divisional titles, five championships and won the first two Super Bowls.

“In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”  

Please Have a Wonderful Week Everyone

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