Who Is Your Customer?

In Business – Why are you here?


I had an interesting conversation with Caroline, my daughter, yesterday. Caroline is a teacher, and a very good one. Of course, I am going to say that but it is very true. She teaches in an extremely underprivileged community where a very large percentage of the student body who are English Learners. Further, as with the majority of the students in our region, they rely heavily on the food programs available through schools to be able to have a meal each day. With many agricultural jobs, we see very hard-working families who still need the extra resources. A difficult situation to say the least.

We were talking about education and how this current situation, with the country closed down, is going to affect the future of education. My granddaughter goes to University, it is closed and her classes are all being conducted virtually: even the labs, as she is in the sciences. My grandson is in High School and all his classes are done virtually. My daughter teaches High School and she teaches all day, every day, virtually. Imagine that, would you? They are all in school and no one leaves home.

This is what I have been talking about since the early 2000’s. From the Khan Academy, to every major University, to IT training, most everything that anyone wants to learn is available on line. AND for the most part it is free. At Learning Without Scars we have provided a learning platform for individuals who want to improve their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, that is not everyone. Being optimistic I believe that more people, particularly the younger generations will change that and that they will constantly be striving to make themselves better. Of course, the world has to catch up. In order for online education to succeed, our students need to have access to a decent connection to the online world. That is still not true in many parts of our country today.

Which brings me to the customer and my conversation with Caroline. The end customer of education is society. School is the vehicle which every community uses to develop the people that will create the social and economic activity that will better society. BUT, the primary customer of the school systems, of education, is the student and their family. Too often that fact gets lost in the bureaucracies of the education community: the Federal Government, which does not have a role in education enumerated in the Constitution; the State Governments, who have primary responsibility, the School Boards with elected Administrators, many of whom have never taught in a classroom in their lives, municipal governments, who receive the taxes to pay for schools and on and on. Who is thinking about the customer here? Of course, it is the teacher. But who supports that teacher?

Now look at your business. WHO is YOUR customer? That should be a very easy question to answer. I would like you to think about that for when we come out of this economic shutdown. WHO is YOUR customer? Is it the person coming in to order parts? Is it the person who calls to schedule maintenance or a repair on a machine? WHO is it? In many of these cases it is an employee of a business who uses equipment. But one more time please – WHO is the CUSTOMER?

I am hopeful that every distributor and dealer will come to a different conclusion than what has been true the past three to four decades. I am hopeful that they will begin to operate in a radically different manner than they have recently. I am hopeful that the employees will be given more and better tools to serve the machine owners. But then again, I am an optimistic person.

Things won’t be any different coming out of this economic shutdown unless we make them different. And that means some serious thinking about WHO that CUSTOMER really is that you are serving.

The Time is Now.

The Other Side

The Other Side

We have learned and we need to act. We need strong positive leadership now more than ever: clarity of message, cascading and direct communication, basic management methods, understanding, acceptance and commitment.

There is very little we can control at this point. That is creating problems for everyone. Fear is everywhere. People don’t respond well to fear. We have to provide confident leadership. This too will pass.

The Time is Now.

Competence and Recognition

Competence and Recognition

With so many learning opportunities available over the internet and very few of these classes earning University or Colleges credits directly many institutions have devised a method to recognize individual student competencies.

They are using badges.

While with our accreditation by IACET we will be able to offer Continuous Education Units, which lead to college and technical school credits, we fell it is necessary and important to recognize specific skills within our learning programs.

We have identified five skill sets that need further recognition. They are Sales, Finance, Operations, Leadership and Customer Service. We are using the same approach as was used to develop our Skills Assessments. We are selecting 60 questions from the 2,400 questions used in our Skills Assessments and selecting them according to their relevance to the skill sets listed above. We will offer Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Skill Set Badges.

Each learner then will be able to follow classes related to their job function, perform a skills assessment related to that same job as well as be able to be recognized as to their individual level of competence on specific skills sets.

This will be a first in our Industry. We are proud of this accomplishment and hat it will mean to our hardworking heroes in the parts, service and product support sales world.

The Time is Now.


The Virtual Classroom Programs

Virtual Classroom – The VCR Programs

For those of you following this blog or students of our classes, you are well aware of our offerings. The LOD – Learning On Demand which is a series of subject specific classes. These are the building blocks for all of our learning programs. Then there is the job specific series of classes, the PSP Planned Specific Programs. Next is the leadership series within the PLP Planned Learning Programs. Finally, we come to the Virtual Classroom Programs the VCR’s.

We announced last year that the VCR programs would be kicked off in 2020. Well here we are. In April we will be delivering on our promise and put the VCR programs into the market.

Each VCR consists of five subject classes. There are three levels of these programs. This is for up and coming employees, people who can offer more than the traditional employee. The “fast track” employees. Their learning is rounded out with a PLP on Final Staging. Watch our short video below explaining this exciting program.

The Time is now.



Continual Individual Employee Development

Continual Individual Employee Development

One of the challenges we face as a society today, which is in my opinion the most daunting of all, is the ability that we have, as employers, to find, attract, hire and retain talented employees.

As an employee in this environment there are also serious challenges. The world is changing at a rate that is unprecedented. When I was in University, I took a class in number theory as part of my major in mathematics and physics. That was my first year. At the same time, in California, children in grade school were being taught the same theory. It was obvious then that I had a head start of roughly ten years.

In the STEM learning programs in the schools today changes are even more rapid. With Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Realties, 5G networks, data streaming and data analytics, autonomous transportation, and the like the younger generations today are confronted with the truth that their learning, their formal schooling, is not going to last through their lifetime like it has been so far.

The need for each individual to continue to learn, and grow, and read, is paramount. Further we will need to have a second cycle through “schools.” This is leading to more “internet based” learning programs. There will be many changes to deal with in business. This is the truth of this “New Reality.”

Each individual employee’s ability to adapt and overcome challenges will become more critical than at any time in history. Welcome to the new year, 2020, and even more importantly welcome to the new decade.

The Time is Now


What Is Your Why?

What Is Your Why?

Why do we do what we do?

This is a question that is often asked of classroom teachers. I disagree with the motivation behind what we do being something we deliberately overlook. In every career, it is important to understand YOUR why.

We can all say what we do, we can teach someone how we do it. But the why is always unique. Yes, we all want to make a living, so of course that is a “why” behind what we do. That only scratches the surface of who we are to our companies and who we are to our customers and who we are to our coworkers. What is your why?

This is a question I can’t answer for you. I can only answer what my own why is. It’s a pretty simple answer, really. YOU are my why. Even though our format is one of online learning now, my days of classroom teaching still drive what we do here at Learning Without Scars. Contributing to someone’s improvement and understanding is the reason I do what I do. Every student, every manager, every individual who comes through our virtual doors is a student. Helping students to succeed is the best why of all.

I encourage you to take a look around today as you are at work. Pay attention to your interactions and your processes throughout the day. I challenge you to answer the question: what is YOUR why?

The time is now.

So, What Are We Doing?

So, what are we doing?

When we looked at our mission in the internet-based learning business we had to face a series of questions:

 To whom will we be providing our learning products?
 How will we be able to reach the student base?
 How will we measure our ability to provide learning to the student base?
 What will be the learning objectives for each of our programs?
 How important will our learning business become to the employers?

These questions, and many more, caused us some serious reflection time.

We had come from a classroom setting with Quest, Learning Centers. We offered traditional training in two, and three day, programs. We were focused on the management and supervision at equipment dealerships. We had started providing this training in the early 1990’s when most of the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) stopped providing their dealers with their own management training classes. They stopped providing this training due to costs. We decided we enter this market and satisfy what was still an important need; training managers and supervisors in parts and service to improve their performance for them personally and for their dealerships.

We created a lot of content. Each of our classes covered 15 hours in the classroom and we provided a “text” book each of which were approximately 250 pages. We had nine such text books and offered nine different classes. In the more than twenty years that we did the classroom training we covered North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Russia and the Middle East. We had several thousand people taking classes.

Then dealer needs for training evolved.  There were different vehicles that management wanted to try to reduce the costs of training. Along came the webinar. As a teacher I wasn’t very excited about teaching online via a power point with me talking to a group of people who were looking at my screen and hearing my voice. I had no idea if they were “getting it” or perhaps they were doing other things at the same time. However, one of the things it did do is that if forced us to develop products that had a shorter duration. We developed webinars that were designed for 45 to 60 minutes in length.

At last we arrive at the place where we were confronting what the future of learning was going to look like. I wasn’t that interested in travelling all over the world to teach in classrooms and webinars didn’t strike as a good vehicle from which to teach people.
• We chose the internet as the delivery system.
• We chose slide shows, audio tracks and film clips as the vehicle.
• We chose pre-tests, final assessments, and opinion surveys as measurement.
• We chose “badges” as our “certification measurement tool.”

The goal was to keep the cost down and employee learning time investment at the lowest level possible. Then, based on customer input, we determined that the learning programs should be job function related not management and supervision related.

We have plans to be offering 117 two-hour Learning On Demand (LOD) classes, then there are 25 job function programs we call Planning Specific Program (PSP) classes. Each of these programs covers four two-hour classes, and we also have leadership classes we call Planned Learning Programs (PLP). Each of these programs covers ten two-hour classes. We will introduce our Virtual Classroom (VCR) programs in 2019. These classes are for fast track employees and consist of five classes requiring ten hours of learning.

We are redesigning the LOD’s to break the two-hour class into three sections, each section will be about 30 minutes ending with an essay question. We are introducing this in 2019 with our third-year programs, The Final Staging, within the PLP’s then we will redo each of the programs for the Building Blocks and finally The Framework.

We have also changed our reporting to the clients. Each month we send out a progress report to each dealer showing each student and four or five steps or progress. Program Progress, Pretest Results, Final Assessments, Surveys, and Certificates. This allows the students and their employer to track the progress of the individual learning path. We are sincerely interested in providing each student with an employee development program.

We are finalizing our badge structure which we will introduce to you in a later blog.

The Time is Now.

Make It Visible.

Make It Visible.

We have written often about Goals and Objectives and Management Measures and Key Performance Indicators. And rightly so. It also ties into my management philosophy of Understanding, Acceptance and Commitment. We MUST have clarity, everyone has to Understand what it is we are trying to do, everyone has to ACCEPT that what we are trying to do and that leads to everyone being committed to getting it done. I call that UAK, from my friend Malcolm Phares, who felt it was more memorable that way.

I want to address now the reporting of the progress towards meeting or surpassing the goals, objectives, management measure and key performance indicators.

Some time ago I was on a board of a manufacturing company. They did fusion welding on cylinder heads and line boring and rebuilding of various components as well as resurfacing camshafts and crankshafts. It was a good business. The owner wanted me to see what we could do about improving throughput. We went about the project in the usual manner and had UAK. But what really made a difference was in how we presented the results of everyone’s efforts. We put up graphic and table results every day in the employee break room.

We had a quick team meeting in which we explained what we were going to do and how we were going to collect the data and how we were going to present it to them. I was a little surprised at the level of interest in this reporting approach. There was very little interest.

The first few days, we started at the beginning of a month, there was rather disappointing interest. It started picking up toward the end of the first week. By the time the second week was finished the employees had figured out how their efforts could influence the results. They started trying out different methods to achieve the results, some that worked and some that did not work. But they quickly figured out how to have the maximum results in how they approach their work.

No one told them what to do, they figured it out themselves. I have always said that the employees doing the job know how to do their job better than anyone else. It has always been rather easy for me to explain to employees what is needed and you will be surprised at what comes out of it. This is standard best practice management isn’t it? That sure happened in this example.
By the end of the first month the improved results were very obvious to everyone. No additional spending, no changed written procedures, and no-one standing above every employee pushing them. Just management and supervision helping the employees out when they wanted assistance.

By the end of the first quarter under this program the throughput nearly doubled, open work orders were down by more than 50% and as you can imagine profit increased. The customers had improved results as well. Lower invoices as the times to do the work went down and the invoices were produced within a day of the jobs being completed.
I believe it was simply the reporting of the results. Made the results visible, explain how you get the information and how you produce the results and then just let it go.

If you already are doing this you know what I am talking about. If you don’t what have you got to lose? Try it out you will be surprised by the results.

The Time is NOW.

Badges and Socrates Continued: A Look at the Big Picture

Badges and Socrates Continued: A Look at the Big Picture

Last week, we took a look at the price tag attached to formal university education, and the reality of the “brand” driving the costs.

Now we turn to Mark Kamlet, the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He talks about the changes in the school such that the Arts and Science coexist. As he says “Carnegie Mellon is focused on truth, beauty and what connects the two.” Scholars had been thinking very hard about two intellectual questions which will define the age. “The nature of human cognition and the uses of information technology.” This is how computers and the internet are affecting the thought patterns of humankind. This led to studies on neuroscience. People learn differently according to their brain patterns. We have learned in the past two decades that “there are connections from the temporal lobe back to the parts of the brain that process and interpret new information, an unending loop.”

Carey tells us the story of Patrick Suppes. He was a lucky man. In 1930 a group of progressive education reformers came together in Washington, D.C. to talk about the nation’s High Schools. They found that the high school learning had become too rigid and narrow. To test their theories, they chose thirty schools across the nation. One was the Tulsa Senior and Junior High Schools. Patrick Suppes got a very high score. He enrolled in the University of Oklahoma which he found academically unchallenging and transferred to the University of Chicago where he received a BS in Meteorology. Next was the war and he was assigned a posting in the South Pacific where he was able to continue his studies. He returned after the war and obtained a PhD from Columbia before landing a teaching job at Stanford.

He got married and he and his wife had a girl. She entered Kindergarten in 1956 and her father became very interested in how children were learning mathematics. As time passed he threw himself into “learning science.” He became interested in how computers could help improve education.

In 1966 he published an article in Scientific American titled “The Uses of Computers in education.” He found that each student needed to be taught in an individualized way – each student needed a personal tutor. He said “the computer makes the individualization of instruction easier because it can be programmed to follow each student’s history or learning successes and failures and to use this past performance as a basis for selecting new problems and new concepts to which the student should be exposed to next.” He was learning that online education produced modestly better results than those receiving face-to-face instruction.


The world of education today is enabling us to learn from anywhere.  The concept of higher education no longer needs to be reserved for those who can afford the time and tuition of education as a full-time pursuit.


We will continue with the last part of our discussion next week.


The time is now.



We have written over the past three or four weeks about coaching and leadership. Perhaps it is time to reflect a bit on this.

It all starts with each of us wanting to do a good job. That comes from active and passive participation in the work that we do and the life that we live. Perhaps the work portion of our lives is the easier one. The life we live can be either very challenging or you become a victim of circumstances and you let those circumstances dominate your life. In other words, you give up on yourself. That goes to the Nike tag line “Just Do It.” Jimmy Valvano, when he was in the latter stages of his fight with cancer, gives us a better approach. “Never Give Up.” No matter what you face you can overcome it if you give it a good and honest fight. Learn more, train more, practice more, listen more, dream more, care more.

Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for her quote of “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It always intrigues me as to why some people let that happen to them. Why is that?

Curiosity is another attribute that I believe is critical to our beings. We can learn through asking “why,” and children spend more than a year of their early lives doing nothing but ask that question. Quoting Ted Kennedy at the funeral of his brother Robert, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” This is something I believe we should take more to heart. Why do we do what we do? Why do we do things this way? How long have we done things this way? I came to an epiphany when I started studying change in a serious way. We are taught to resist change in every manner possible. From how we are parented with specific rules – don’t do that – to our schooling – this is how you do that – to our jobs – how we are taught to do our jobs. All of those lead us to be somewhat resistant to or suspicious of change. Japanese culture introduced me to Kaizen. Change everything you do, make it better or easier or more efficient, every day, if even just a tiny bit. That to me is a more reasonable approach to life.

Another aspect of leadership and coaching is that we must create followers before anything else will happen. That seems to be quite obvious but many of us fail at this when we start issuing mandates and “orders.” How many people will follow you because they want to if you are all about giving orders? Simon Sinek in his book “Leaders Eat Last” uses in the foreword a Lt General from the Marine Corps who describes meal time in the Marines. The enlisted men and served first and they eat first. Keep them happy and healthy and things will be alright.

I have a reading list on my consulting web site, www.rjslee.com, I call it the reading list for interested people. There are many wonderful books with incredibly meaningful suggestions and ideas to think about. Patrick Lenioni comes to mind with his books – The Three Signs of a Miserable Job and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Easy to read parables with incredibly helpful advice. There are many more books there to enjoy and learn from for interested people. There are also over twenty years of monthly columns, from Industry publications, on the parts and service and product support sales and marketing subjects.

However, in each of my classroom sessions I always ask how many have read a business book that will help them with their jobs. In the last month or quarter. Sadly, not many hands go up.
Another thing that I like to do at each class is to ask some questions. That is the Socratic method to teaching.

 What is the definition of Ignorance?
 What is the definition of Stupidity?
 What is the definition of Insanity?

This causes some difficulty for the room. Ignorance is not knowing what to do. Stupidity is knowing what to do and not doing it. Insanity is continuing to do with you have always done expecting different results. I then tell them that at the end of the class they will no long be ignorant because they will know what to do. I leave them with the last two choices – Stupidity or Insanity. No one in the room is insane so in truth I am challenging them to take advantage of what they have learned and do something with it. If they don’t, well, that is plain stupid, isn’t it?

The Time is NOW.