Keep Trying

Last week I went to the Blood Drive at my church. I showed up at 3:30 for my 3:45 appointment, but I didn’t see any of the usual Red Cross posters around or those delicious cookies. I looked all over and finally found an administrative assistant. She told me there was no Blood Drive that day. Then she looked it up on the calendar, and I found out I was a week early.

I went back yesterday to the Blood Drive. Read all the materials and asked a volunteer if my family vacation to Mexico last summer would keep me from giving. He said he didn’t think it would matter. I waited in line, met with the person from the Red Cross, filled out the questions, and then remembered to ask again if my cruise in Mexico would throw me off. After several more minutes of questions, she said, “You will be eligible to give blood in seven more months.”

That meant two trips in one week and no blood donation. At first, I was very frustrated, and then I just smiled. This is what it’s like for people who want to be great business leaders.

You study, you research the market, you plan, and then you execute as well as you can. And nothing happens. The market shifted at the exact moment you moved into action. Or a decision you made five months ago that you forgot about keeps you from being able to do what you want to do today. Or you made a mistake on your calendar and you made a trip to visit a customer and the customer wasn’t there.

Guess what? Keep trying. Keep making modifications. Keep adjusting your approach. Eventually you will find an opportunity to put value into the marketplace and be rewarded for your efforts. Eventually you will find the right product or service at the right time for the right audience. Keep trying.

Understand and Use the Value Formula

V = I/C

There it is. Keep it in mind.

Value equals the improvement in the customer’s desired outcome divided by the cost to the customer of achieving that improvement. Cost to the customers includes price, time, and energy. In other words, what money did the person pay plus how much time did the person have to put in in order to achieve the desired outcome plus how much energy did the person have to pour in to achieve the desired outcome.

Use that definition in screening every business decision you make.

First, is your product or service really helping the person to achieve what he or she wants to achieve, and if so, to what degree is it helping in that achievement?

Second, how much are you charging the person to commit to financially? Do you think your price is reasonable considering the improvement the other person is experiencing?

Third, how much time is the person having to invest in order to use your product or service?

Fourth, how much energy is the person having to pour out in order to use your product or service?

You can increase your value to other people by helping the other person to achieve better results in what he or she wants to achieve and by reducing the price, energy, and time they have to pour in to achieve that improvement. If you want to keep your prices the same or have them go up, then you need to impact the other aspects of the value formula in positive ways.

Dream Weekend The Essence of My Improvement For Two-Plus Decades

I want to explain the most valuable activity I’ve done in terms of personal and professional development over the past 20 years. We call it Dream Weekend. Starting in 1992, my great friend, Jeff Hutchison, and I met for three days. On Friday we discussed what went well in our lives over the past year, on Saturday we discussed what didn’t go well over the past year, and on Sunday we took some quiet time to write down our thoughts and then we discussed what we wanted the next year to look like. We covered every area of our lives. In 1993 another great friend of ours, Mike Feder, joined our Dream Weekend.

That means for 20 straight years, with the exception of one insanely busy year where we couldn’t get away, Feds, Hutch, and myself have sat down somewhere in the U.S. to reflect on and discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and what we wanted the future to be like. The impact on every aspect of our lives has been truly profound. At the time, Mike had one son, Jon, who was a year old. Now we have 8 children between the three of us ranging from 20 to 11 years old. We’ve all changed jobs during that time.

Through it all we’ve tried to keep learning and growing and improving. Feds died ten days ago, but his presence and influence live on. He taught me a great, great deal at those Dream Weekends about life and integrity and what is truly important. Our Dream Weekends will continue for many, many more years. And Feds will be there continuing to influence Hutch and myself.

I encourage you to establish your own Dream Weekend. Find a friend or two, explain the concept, and move into action. I think you will find it to be a remarkably life-enhancing experience.

Be a Really, Really Good Example Like Mike Feder

Nine days ago one of my very best friends for the past 35 years, Mike Feder, died of brain cancer. 1200 people went to his wake and 900 showed up for his funeral. As I talked with dozens of people at the hospital, wake, and funeral, and reflected on three-plus decades of memories, I kept asking myself how this relatively quiet man affected so many other people in such profound ways.

In the end, I landed on this answer: Feds always did things the right way in every part of his life.

He was not an unusual man. He worked, he volunteered, and he was a husband, father, brother, son, and friend. What made him special is that everything he did, he did it the right way. He never took a short cut.

His fellow emergency room doctors said, “Mike didn’t just act like he cared about his patients. He really did care. He always sat next to the patient and the family and really listened to what they had to say.”

His former soccer players for whom he was a volunteer youth soccer coach said, “He taught us to go after things. He always told us we would miss 100% of the shots we didn’t take.”

A priest in Uganda thanked him via email after his death for the foundation, Gotta Have Hope, that he and his wife, Joyce, founded to provide electricity, medical care, and educational supplies for a very poor school there.

If you want to be a great business leader, remember that way more important than your strategy or your speeches is your example, the way you behave on a daily basis in every area of your life. Really listen to other people and really care about them. That’s what made Mike Feder an extraordinary leader. Thank you, Feds, for everything you taught me.