Tag Archives: running a business

What I Learned from a Bugler

Countless people castigate me for my taste in music. Yet until I finish mining the enjoyment and meaning from Nostalgia Music (a term the folks at Kings Radio in the California Central Valley minted for popular music from the 1930s to the 1950s) I feel no compulsion to listen to anything else. Case in point:

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

So what can a bugler teach? Virtually every line of this song has a lesson for life and business:

  • Start the day off with a blast, like a bugle call.
  • “He was the top man at his craft, but his number came up and he was called to the draft.” – No matter what your place in life, the unexpected will happen. Always bring in the best to your life and business.
  • “They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam. It really brought him down because he could not jam” - Even when life or your business isn't working out the way you want it to, be upbeat.
  • “The captain seemed to understand, ‘cause the next day the cap went out and drafted a band” - Great entrepreneurs, leaders, and parents look for opportunities to support their customers, people, and children by supplying what they need to be successful.
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  • “He can’t blow a note unless a bass and guitar is playing with him” – Life and business are team sports.
  • “He makes the company jump when he plays reveille” - WQe all need to inspire others.
  • “And when he played boogie woogie bugle he was busy as a bzzz bee” – Occupy yourself pursuing your passion.
  • “He puts the boys to sleep with boogie every night and wakes them up the same way in the early bright” – The way you go to sleep determines the way you'll wake up the next morning.

Don Raye and Hughie Prince wprobably just wanted to write an upbeat, popular ditty to lift America’s spirits after the imposition of the draft during the lead up to World War II. But whether I'm running, cooking, or just listening. When Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B plays on my iPod or KCEA my life immediately perks up!

What song describes life as you think it should be lived?

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10 Books that Will Improve Your Life

Every year I read at least 50 books. With so many goods ones even at one per week it seem to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on the three categories below (my guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction).

What are you reading?

While I generally keep abreast of current works, I also look back to see what classics I have missed. Here are the best:

Life Design and Business:

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by Dr. John E. Sarno

A year ago I was so badly laid-up by back pain my doctor told me it would be six to nine months before I could consider running again. Six weeks after reading Dr. Sarno’s book I was back doing roadwork. Today I average 25 miles a week. When my friend Bill Gross told me this book changed his life I was skeptical. He was right.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

A writer for The Wall Street Journal, Duhigg gets to the heart of how habits are formed. More importantly he explains how to use his research to break your bad habits and form positive ones.

Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway & Katie Yezzi

Riffing the old saying, Lemow and company opine that if you are practicing incorrectly you will not approach perfection. Their 42 rules are clear, sensible, and proven in the real world. This truly is the textbook for getting better at getting better.

The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential by John Maxwell

If you are a regular reader of my blog then undoubtedly you are working to improve yourself. A master on this topic, John Maxwell distills his wisdom into actionable principles that you can readily integrate into your life.

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

Harvard Business School professor, and aspirant to editor of The Wall Street Journal, Christensen asks powerful questions to stimulate your thinking about what success is and ought to be to you. Among the important themes of his book is how to better integrate your values and work.

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History and Biography:

Patton (Great Generals) by Alan Axelrod

If what you know about this controversial, powerful icon comes from the caricatured portrait in the 1970 movie, Axelrod’s short, well researched, incisive biography will introduce you to a man who devoted his life to identifying and overcoming his character flaws and weaknesses. Patton will show you how to live intentionally.

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Though I am not a fan of Stephen King’s books, his memoir is enormously educational. If you have always wanted to be (Fill in the Blank), whether a writer or whatever, King will instruct you. His story of overcoming a horrendous accident will inspire you.

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson

So much of World War II history focuses on the battles and major characters that influenced the conflict. Olson’s book examines the impact three lesser-known Americans had on creating and maintaining the American-British alliance at the senior and at the person-in-the-street level. Each had a different character, style, and motivation. You can glean a lot from this study of how they created and nurtured relationships.

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke

If you love The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Poppins then you have reason enough to read Dick Van Dyke’s autobiography. Neither salacious nor gossipy, it is an absorbing portrait of a flawed man who has done his best to live life honorably. Most impactful is how despite many setbacks he maintained a positive attitude.


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

A work of historical fiction for juvenals, I read this book to my six-year-old daughter who was fascinated by a teenage girl’s life in Colonial America. Exciting and thought-provoking, this 1958 Newbury Award winner will delight and engage your children and you.

What worthwhile books did you read this year…

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What You Can Learn from the US Postal Service’s Failure

Recently I saw one of the funniest and saddest things ever: a bumper sticker on a mail truck that said: “Pay Your Bills By Mail.” Does anyone think such a campaign will revive the US Postal Service’s prospects? I don't want to be mean, but the Postmaster General needs to wake up and smell the Internet. Paying bills online is faster, cheaper, and more reliable. Why would anyone trade these qualities for conventional mail?

What You Can Learn from the US Postal Service’s Failure

The bumper sticker does provide a valuable public service by highlighting the folly of the “if you build it they will come” perspective popularized in the movies. As an entrepreneur, your first job is to make sure people want what you are selling and understand what rivals your product or service. If your competitors’ offerings are vastly superior, how are you going to enhance yours to keep pace with or exceeds theirs?

Pity is not a competitive strategy or the basis for a relationship

Moving beyond the business world, pity is not a substitute for the compassion necessary to sustain a relationship or marriage. While you want comforting from your spouse when hit with life’s inevitable setbacks, to retain your self-respect you need your spouse’s help to see and face the need to continually grow.

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The quasi-Luddite in me mourns the passing of traditional mail service. But the USPS’s inability to develop in the face of technological advancement is no more commendable than a man with Peter Pan Syndrome. People and society cannot live in Neverland.

Ironically, not only is technology forcing antiquated businesses to grasp at fanciful notions, through my work as a #NavyRabbi I found it is facilitating infantilization as people live in online fantasy worlds but are unable to deal with the basics of life such as getting to work on time and personal hygiene.

Disneyland is fun to visit for a day or two, but more gratifying is the lifelong struggle to grapple with daily challenges and the necessity to mature and adapt to a changing world. When you live intentionally, you will never have to sport a t-shirt that says, “Marry Me Despite My Inability to Face Life.”

Do you agree with me? Please comment yes or no…

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Avoid This Basic Clash When Running Your Business

Perhaps the biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur, especially a service providing solotrepreneur, is the conflict that inevitably arises between keeping your marketing efforts going and serving the business that such efforts yield. Generally, in the beginning, everything is focused toward generating income-producing business. But once a sufficient amount comes in, the marketing efforts stop in order to take care of the clients. But once these jobs are completed marketing has to be ramped up again, often coinciding with a drop in income.

Avoid This Basic Clash When Running Your Business

For the first few years, I was in business I was caught in this seeming tug of war between marketing and serving clients. It was extremely frustrating especially since I felt I was always losing momentum while suffering through large swings in cash flow.

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I finally learned several lessons that helped me conquer this predicament:

  1. Marketing must never stop. Whether you are working alone or have a staff to service clients, your number one priority is to keep the marketing effort, and thus the flow of business going.
  2. The longer the lag time between acquiring a new client and getting paid, the more important consistent marketing is. Real estate agents have to constantly keep their pipeline filled because often there are several months between getting a client and closing a transaction. Also, many transactions are time consuming. It is tempting to be fooled into thinking that as long as you are busy working on deals you need not worry about marketing, But once all the escrows close, if you are starting essentially from scratch the commissions from the prior deals may not carry you through to the next batch of closings.
  3. Only a mature business can consider relying solely on referrals. Once you develop a reputation for quality work you will receive a lot of referrals. But changes in your industry may necessitate your still marketing for new business since mergers and clients going out of business often mean that referral sources wane or have to be courted again.
  4. Make your marketing efforts scalable. Whatever techniques you are using, be it networking groups, cold-calling, or social media, make sure that you can easily increase or reduce your time commitment so that you are consistently doing the same things while adjusting the volume. For example, early in your business, you might devote two or three hours a day to cold-calling. But as more of your time must be devoted to serving clients, rather than stopping just scale back your calling plan.
  5. Delegate your least productive servicing and marketing efforts. Determine which activities need to be sustained but generate the lowest return on investment, then, rather than stopping them, turn them over to an assistant. Interaction with clients, existing and potential, is probably the most fruitful use of your time. Once you thoroughly understand the less profitable tasks you can train someone to handle them.

Rather than being disheartened by the constant roller coaster of no business/ramp up marketing effort and too much business/stop all marketing, devise a plan that from the start has you consistently pursuing new business while providing excellent service to clients.

Question – What ideas do you have that would allow you to constantly pursue new business while giving the kind of service that will engender client loyalty?

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Learn About Leadership by Being a Better Follower

Service members can attest that it is popular in the military to call everyone a leader. Although this idea has some merit when it comes to creating a safer working environment, the essence of military life is still one of commander and commanded. Much of a service member’s success depends on being a good follower.

Learn About Leadership by Being a Better Follower

About a year after I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan I was asked to join the staff of the battalion responsible for taking care of the largest Marine Corps base on the island. One of the most interesting aspects of the weekly meetings was to observe the interaction of the staff members, most of whom were junior officers, with the colonel in charge of the battalion. At first, it appeared that he favored those who invariably agreed with him. Unfortunately, this left me out of what I perceived to be his inner circle.

However, after a while, I realized what I had read as approval was really resignation by the colonel to having to look elsewhere for candid input. His continually questioning or outright rejecting my recommendations was his way of deliberating their merit. Often I found later he adopted suggestions. Among the greatest compliments I have ever received was his telling me he highly valued my work as a chaplain and as a loyal staff officer.

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Here are the qualities that will make you a loyal follower:

  1. Give your candid viewpoint: Even, or perhaps especially, when you know your leader will disagree you must be honest and forthright. As important, you must convey your dissent in a way that your leader will hear.
  2. Constantly work to keep your leader from being blind-sided: Every leader is a follower too. You must properly prepare your leader to brief and/or make recommendations to the person to whom he is responsible, including customers and clients.
  3. Seek out diverse opinions to prevent your becoming myopic: To keep your leader from being shortsighted you have to maintain a broad perspective. Your recommendation for a particular proposal is only as good as the arguments against those options you think are ill-advised.
  4. Insist your leader treat you and others with respect: To allow your leader to act inappropriately or abusively, even when you are not affected, fosters disloyalty that eventually undermines your leader’s agenda. If a team member is not competent enough to fill his role, better to urge that the person be replaced or his duties re-assigned rather then compromising on mutual respect or worse getting a vicarious thrill from someone else’s humiliation.
  5. Tolerate no disloyalty behind your leader's back: Discussions sincerely endeavoring to identify ways your leader can improve are appropriate. Your true heartedness is questionable if you take part in or sit idly by when your leader is disparaged. A good rule of thumb is if you are comfortable talking with your leader about the results of a conversation about him you are on solid ground.

The point I made above is worth repeating. Every leader is a follower. Similarly, many followers are or will become leaders. How can you reasonably expect loyalty that you are unwilling to give?

Question – What qualities do you think a loyal follower has?

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