leveraging connection & collaboration for improved performance
Have Gun – Will Travel was more than a TV show. It was a perfect marketing message. It told you everything you needed to know about the man’s business. His name was Paladin. He was a gunfighter, but he was a gentleman who would try to resolve conflicts without a gun.
My dad, who turned 90 back in September, loved Paladin. He still does. What’s not to love?
He wore black. He was cool. And intimidating. A black knight of the old west. He was simple, direct and skilled. No wonder he had a thriving business.
In 2002, while leading a Dallas-based retailing company, I crafted a presentation for my staff. It was a small inner circle of people I relied on to operate a multi-million dollar enterprise. Each person led their own part of the operation. It was the beginning of a new year and my speed freakiness was kicking in as usual. That was often the case during Q1. I hated slow starts. Still do.
The Gunfighter’s Mentality
It was a Keynote (Powerpoint for you Windows folks) presentation, but I printed out the slides. My meetings were informal and intimate. A slide show didn’t fit my style at the time. The title was, “The Gunfighter’s Mentality: How Speed And Hitting Your Target Can Kill The Competition.”
This week I thought about that presentation as I was working to help some people attack some roadblocks in their business. I dug it out of my files and started to review it and figured it might be helpful for you in building your business.
First, let me give you the backstory of recent observations that compelled me to remember this presentation.
• It’s easy for some people to confuse motion with action.
• If you’re too busy to plan your actions, then you’re too busy to succeed.
• Ready, fire, aim only works if you’ve skillfully practiced the move.
• It’s unprofessional and impolite to impose on others at the drop of a hat simply because you didn’t prepare or plan.
• My grandmother had a sign in her kitchen that said something like…
The more hurried I am the more behind I get.”
Paladin wasn’t a frenetic character. He moved rather slowly, but deliberately. He was the epitome of purposeful action.
He also had a killer business card (pun intended).
The message was clear and to the point. Have Gun, Will Travel.
The location was simply, “San Francisco” which is likely all you needed in the old west. After all, if you lived on the east coast Paladin wasn’t likely your man.
The call to action was simply two words, “Wire Paladin.” No, Wire isn’t a proper first name. It’s a verb that had meaning in the pioneer west. Telegraphs were wires strung all over the country. People would send and receive “wires.”
Gunfighters can teach us how to build better businesses, more efficient practices and become more profitable.
You can download the 21 page PDF of my original 2002 staff presentation here. No opt-in or anything required.
Some of the key points of this presentation speak directly to the problems facing many business owners, especially professional services entrepreneurs:
1. There is competition. Don’t underestimate them.
2. Paying attention is an often under-valued skill.
3. You may not have to be first, but you must aim to be the best.
4. Preparation and practice solve tentativeness.
5. Focus on what matters most.
6. If everything is important, then nothing is important.
7. Focus only what is critical to the fight.
8. Prepare in advance.
9. Ask quality questions.
10. Craft quality answers.
11. It takes more time to prepare to move faster.
12. Show me the results.
Rae Hoffman is Sugarrae.
It was about 8 to 10 years ago when I first encountered her online. I didn’t know her. Still don’t. But I found out she was brassy and candid with her opinions. I liked that.
She was and still is in the affiliate marketing space. I wasn’t terribly interested in operating in that space so I didn’t dive too deeply into her past or present. Like all of us, I just looked at what she was doing, tried to see what I might learn from her and kept glancing casually at her content. No, I wasn’t a devoted follower so I didn’t intently look for any back story.
When Rae moved to Texas a few years ago, I did perk up my interest. I was curious what may have brought her to Texas. Leaving the humidity of Florida could be understandable, except going to Houston is like jumping out of the frying pan into the fryer when it comes to humidity. It wasn’t until late last year that I stumbled onto the real story. Or as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”
Carrie Wilkerson is The Barefoot Executive.
Some weeks ago Carrie and I recorded a conversation that I hope to release as part of my ChasingDFWCool.com project.
I likely stumbled onto Carrie about the same time I found Rae, but I can’t be sure. She seemed perky. In fact, maybe a bit too perky for a guy like me. 😉
I was running a multi-million dollar company so I wasn’t really in her target market. I wasn’t working from home. I sure wasn’t barefooted.
I knew Carrie’s story a bit better than Rae’s, but that was only because Carrie talked about it more than Rae. And I don’t profess to have known the details because once again…I didn’t pay close enough attention.
Like you, I was in and out with my attention span. I was looking only at what I could learn from what these two ladies did. Being an affiliate marketer or working from home didn’t resonate with me so I wasn’t as observant as I should have been.
Lynn Terry operates ClickNewz.com.
I think I ran across Lynn before Rae or Carrie. She occupied the same space as Rae – affiliate marketing. Her story was one I knew from the get go. I think it’s because she was candid about it. Understandably, private things are easier for some to share. Harder for others. Or maybe not. I can’t judge why I personally knew Lynn’s story – or felt I did – better than Carrie’s or Rae’s.
I do know that I paid attention to Lynn longer when I stumbled onto her. She was involved in “internet marketing” but seemed to be very different from the others I encountered in that space. I’m going back a decade ago. It wasn’t affiliate marketing, but it was her dedication to her customers (her audience) that resonated most with me. I was fanatical about customer service and she seemed to share that. So I hung around and got to know her online presence a bit more than Rae or Carrie.
I respect all three of these women and I only use them in today’s episode because for a few weeks now I’ve observed privately and in some personal conversations how, “Things aren’t always as they seem.”
The fact is, we don’t always have it right. Quite often, we’re wrong.
We judge a book by the cover. I’m not blaming us. We all do it. In fact, we have to.
It’s just that sometimes, we judge incorrectly.
Simon Sinek is the modern godfather of “why.” I love his work. I’m a big fan.
Why has always been an important, if not urgent question for me. Yet, I have failed to ask it as often as I should.
When looking at these ladies, and many others like them, I’ve not asked. Or dwelt on it much.
When looking at my own inspirations and motivations, I’ve not asked. Or examined it much.
Or even allowed the “why” to really bubble to the surface.
Maybe that’s a guy thing. Maybe there’s a reason why 3 successful stories of today’s show are all women. Very driven, determined women. Women on a mission.
But in the end, it’s really not “Why?” that’s important. It’s “Who?”
P.S. Sam Hurd is the professional football player I referred to in the show. Late today, he was sentenced to 15 years for drug trafficking.
Do teachers still say this?
They almost always said it when I was young. I knew why. Kids didn’t always write legibly.
I figured the teachers were looking to make their lives easier. Perfectly fine. It’s hard to grade a test when you can read what the student wrote.
My viewpoint was far more selfish.
If I was going to produce anything – including answers on an exam – then I wanted it to be readable. My penmanship was a reflection on me. Why speak if people don’t understand what you’re saying? Why write if people can’t read what you’ve written? Why make the writing get in the way of the message?
For me, it was about connection and being understood. It was probably my lifelong desire to be heard.
Why should we ever let things get in the way, or impede our progress? Verbal crutches hurt lots of speakers. In fact, here in Dallas our top sports talk radio station has a drive time team that did a bit about professional athletes using the phrase “you know” in their interviews. Some do it so much you can’t understand anything else they’re saying. It was a funny bit, but sad really.
We don’t want stuff getting in the way of our success.
A little old man approaches me asking for directions. Well, I assume he was asking for directions. For all I know, he was asking me for money or a job. Or he could have been offering me something. How was I to know? He wasn’t speaking English. It’s the only language I know. Some would argue I’m barely fluent.
He tried hard to help me understand, but it just wasn’t going to happen. All I knew is that he was speaking something other than English. Perhaps Spanish, but it could have been Portuguese. I really didn’t know.
I felt badly that I couldn’t help him. His effort coupled with my effort didn’t make a hill of beans difference. He couldn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand him.
All I could do is apologize and walk away.
That’s what happens when our lives lack clarity or congruency. We just can’t make sense of it. Sometimes none of it makes sense.
Maybe it’s a family situation. Or a job. Or our business.
We feel lost. Sooner than later – if we don’t find a way to get ahead of it – it morphs into hopelessness. We need to attack it before it gets that bad.
Do you know why things almost always look better in the morning, after you’ve had a decent night of sleep?
Because our brain gets a bit of a reboot. It’s kind of like defragging our internal hard drive.
The day before we may have felt confused, unclear and unsure. Groping for understanding. Trying hard to make sense of it. Like the little old man and me – working harder to understand only frustrates things when nothing happening makes any sense.
Tomorrow is a new day. We often find some clarity in the morning. I’m not saying our problems are all solved in the morning, but more often than not it’s sure a lot better. We’re usually able to assemble some sort of plan to move forward after we’ve slept.
For decades I led physical businesses – commonly called “brick and mortar” businesses. Very early in my career I discovered the positive power of one of my quirks. Neatness.
In a retail environment cleanness matters. Go research any study done on what shoppers of physical stores prefer and you’ll see cleanliness and neatness near the top of every single one. Fact is, we enjoy shopping in neat and clean stores. We judge the book by the cover. Well we should. If people don’t take care of their surroundings, then how much pride and competence can they have?
In the late 80’s the President of Scandinavian Airline Systems, Jan Carlzon wrote a book, Moments of Truth. It quickly became one of my all-time favorite business books. In it, Mr. Carlzon made a point that resonated with me because I was (and still am) a fanatic about customer experiences. From Carlzon I first began to focus on the “moments of truth” or the customer points of contact. He observed that the average flier on his airline encountered 5 SAS employees with each point of contact – or moment of truth – lasting a mere 15 seconds. In 1986 SAS had 10 million passengers. That resulted, according to Carlzon, in 50 million moments of truth. He argued – and I completely agree with him – that it was during those moments of truth where his airlines’ success would rise or fall.
Carlzon made the famous the observation of coffee stains on a flip-down tray reflecting poorly on engine maintenance. Are the two connected? Yes, in the customer’s mind they are. The notion is, if you can’t keep the flip-down trays clean, then how could you possibly be on top of the engine maintenance?
For years earlier I had been a drill sergeant about clean stores, clean stock rooms and clean restrooms. I was fanatical about it and I’m sure employees thought it was one of my major quirks. It was, but for good reason. Clean and organized was appreciated by customers. Clean and organized was also a point of pride for employees. I stood before employees and asked, “Have you ever noticed that if you clean your car, inside and out, and do a really good job of it – the car seems to drive better?” Every employee knew that feeling. I preached that the same thing happens in the workplace. And at home.
Yes, it’s focus, but it’s so much more than that. It’s belief. It’s confidence. It’s feeling good about things. It’s clarity.
Cluttered desk, cluttered mind. I’ve heard it all my life and I’m not saying it’s 100% true, but my experience is that it’s mostly true. I’m not talking about moments of clutter. We’ve all be in the throes of a project or a deadline and things have turned chaotic around us. Forget those. Those aren’t moments of truth as much as they are moments of practical reality. But once the project or deadline is passed, do you continue with the clutter or do you regroup?
I’m urging you to regroup. Take the time to clean up and get organized. It’s impossible to not benefit from it.
Besides, we all need to look back at our work and feel good about it. A sense of accomplishment spurs us on to do more. To do better.
I’m not saying that a clean office, a clean work place or a clean home will insure success. I am saying that it can contribute to success though.
And I’m even willing to say that if your workplace or home is a wreck or a filthy mess, you won’t likely achieve very much. Personally, I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen a house that was a wreck or a filthy mess be a successful home. Never. I’ve never seen a wrecked or filthy store make it. I’ve never seen a wrecked or filthy office be the residence of a successful business person. Maybe you have, but I haven’t.
I’ve seen environments that properly reflected the person occupying the space.
Is this a chicken and egg problem? Which came first, the cluttered space or the cluttered mind / person’s performance. I don’t know. And I don’t care. Because what I do know is I’ve seen people change their environment and change their mind, resulting in a change in their behavior. I’ve not succeeded in trying to persuade somebody to change their mind first. But I’ve often succeeded in giving people the chore to clean up, get organized and seen a transformation take place in their mind during the process. Especially at the end of the process when they can look back and beam with pride at what they’d done.
I’ve seen executives do it. I’ve seen warehouse workers do it. I’ve seen salespeople do it. I’ve seen housewives do it. It transcends education, social backgrounds, financial conditions, race, sex, religion and any other variable you care to mention.
It just works!
Your struggle is different. Different from the struggles others have.
“Why is this so hard for me?” you ask. Other people don’t seem to struggle like this.
You’re not stupid. Of course, you know everybody has a hard time, some times. It just seems like they can fight through their problems easier than you.
You wonder if it’s YOU, or are your problems unique?
How can you tell the difference?
Does it matter any way? I mean, whether it’s you or your problems – it’s not going to change things. Cause the truth is, you don’t seem to be able to find your way to daylight no matter how many others have figured it out.
You either feel as smart as most folks, or you don’t. Maybe you feel like an idiot. There are plenty of days that make you feel that way.
All kinds of thoughts fill your head that don’t help. It’s like your very own super-duper negative Jiminy Cricket, ruining your life with trash talking you every step of the way.
It was, after all, Jiminy Cricket was anointed as Pinocchio’s conscience by The Blue Fairy. Of course, he was trying to steer Pinocchio right, even though it didn’t always work out.
The Blue Fairy: You must learn to choose between right and wrong.
Pinocchio: Right and wrong? But how will I know?
Jiminy Cricket: How’ll he know!
The Blue Fairy: [to Pinocchio] Your conscience will tell you.
Pinocchio: What are conscience?
Jiminy Cricket: What are conscience! I’ll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today…
Pinocchio: Are you my conscience?
Jiminy Cricket: Who, me?
A fine conscience I turned out to be!
The Blue Fairy: Would you like to be Pinocchio’s conscience?
Jiminy Cricket: [Blushing] Well, uh, I… Uh-huh.
The Blue Fairy: Very well. What is your name?
Jiminy Cricket: [tipping his hat] Oh, Cricket’s the name. *Jiminy* Cricket!
The Blue Fairy: Kneel, Mr. Cricket.
Jiminy Cricket: Huh?
Jiminy Cricket: No tricks now.
[the fairy taps Jiminy with her wand; his rags turn into fine clothes]
The Blue Fairy: I dub you Pinocchio’s conscience, lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of high temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path. Arise, Sir Jiminy Cricket.
How will you know if what you’re doing is right (taking you closer to success) or wrong (taking you further away from success)?
Well, to quote Jiminy Cricket, “You buttered your bread. Now sleep in it!”
No, it makes no sense. But neither do the messages in your head. But some how you make sense of them. You must…because you give them credence. In fact, you not only give them credence, you KNOW they’re true.
But what if you’re wrong? What if they’re not true at all? What if the voice you stopped listening to a long time ago was right. What if you CAN do it? What if success is possible?
It could be your problem is you’re like Pinocchio. You’ve got a wooden head.
No worries. This week I’m going to try to produce some shows to help you along. Stay tuned.