Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

In tonight’s post, Caroline explains some of the elements that take place behind content creation in Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere.

One of the downsides in education is that we love, and I do mean LOVE, our buzzwords. We really do like to assign a catchy name to our processes. Tonight, I want to break down one of those key names and bring home what it can mean for you.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be simply explained as flexibility. It is flexible in the way that students can engage, in the way materials are presented and made available, and in the way that students demonstrate their knowledge. This is part of what we bring to our students today. There are three main principles in UDL: multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of expression. In other words, a class is designed with the student in mind. This can be a paradigm shift for professionals: we don’t tend to think of ourselves as students, more as experts in our respective fields.

Continuous improvement comes with lifelong learning. It transforms you from being a professional exclusively, into a student at the same time.

The classroom is whatever you need it to be because this classroom is everywhere.

But when you set your own time aside to commit to your professional development, you want to be intentional about your classroom. Are you at work, immersed in the content you are studying? Are you at home, finding a quiet corner – or trying to – in order to focus on your class? Do you want or need a formal test before you select a course of study? Do you prefer to assess yourself and analyze your own skills?

These elements of your learning are entirely within your own control. When you sign up for one of our classes, we try to bring that element of choice and control to you as you study.

When you learn, when you set goals, you always need to consider, as Ron says “what’s your why?” In the classroom of everywhere, we try to answer the “how” for every student.

I invite you to explore our classes, our assessments and spend some time reflecting on your professional goals.

The time really is now.

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Information and a Call to Action

Information and a Call to Action.


Recently we did a Podcast with Mets Kramer where we talked about the “Digital Dealership.” Then we had a Candid Conversation with Ryszard Chciuk on his work experiences in Poland over the past forty years. Then I caught up with Ed Gordon and we talked about “Job Shock” which is his passion. All of this takes me to Data and Information.

Over my lifetime we have gone from “Data” Processing to “Information” Technology. We have changed the name but I am afraid to say we have changed little else. I remember mounds of paper with all manner of data on them. No Information. Today I still see mounds of Data and perhaps a bit more Information. However, I don’t see, from either the Data or the Information, any call to action.

I recently reread a book by George Friedman and his team called “The Intelligence Edge” with a subtitle of “How to Profit in the Information Age.” It was written in 1997. Sadly, I don’t see much in the way of success in the Industries in which I work to have learned enough about this subject. We have made incredible strides in how we have transformed data into information. I myself can attest to that truth. However, what knowledge have we gained from all of this information?

Looking back, I suspect that we have become over-sensitized from the pains of the early 1980s when inflation ran away and then tandem of Ronald Reagan and Paul Volker finally got us out of the inflation bubble by inflicting high interest rates on us. That transformed most of the Capital Goods world by a rather shortsighted solution of reducing headcount. I know it was necessary for us to be able to survive with such punitive interest rates, however, in many ways, we are still suffering the consequences of that action. We don’t have enough people. I have seen altogether too many dealerships that focus on headcount. I am coming to believe that the result of this action is like cutting off your leg and telling your mother how successful you have been at losing weight. Yes, it is true that you weigh less than you did but you now have to function with only one leg. Hardly as effective as functioning with two legs.

I see the same thing in how we operate today with information. First of all, most of the information we get is Financial Information. While I agree that the financials are important. Yet they tell us about things that have happened but much about where we are today nor where we are going. Yet where is the Management Information that we need? Where do I find Market Share from the Parts Business or the Service Business? Where do I find the replacement schedules of equipment working in the field? I don’t see that Information anywhere in the dealerships.

Which people on the payroll are doing that research? Who is working with that information to deliver it to the leadership of the departments and the dealerships? Does the leadership get early warnings of things to come or the necessary action to take? I don’t see these employees in any of the dealers that I have been around. Sure, there are Marketing Departments. But I don’t see them providing this information. I see them maintaining websites and perhaps newsletters. Important work I agree but there is more to marketing than advertising and trade shows. I am talking about what the book calls “Intelligence.” Yes, like the CIA. Information gathering, creating processes and systems to collect and collate and consolidate information. Then to produce this information as a form of intelligence that can be acted upon.

“The Mortal Enemy of Intelligence is Time and Wishful Thinking.” This is a famous Friedman quote. He goes further in the book. “The ability to see the consequences of actions clearly, even when the perception run counter to conventional wisdom, requires courage and a willingness to be alone.” This is the struggle of the “Pioneer” isn’t it? The people who go out front. Blaze a new trail to somewhere. It takes courage to go off into the unknown. “Sometimes it requires courage to be wrong.” That might mean in the sense of the Pioneers, their death. Without them, however, where would we all be today?

Let me bring this thought process to an end this way from the book. “The will to believe that what the facts reveal, and the courage to act on those facts, is the foundation of success in all endeavors.”

I believe it is time we set up Intelligence thinking in every department and every dealership. Find the data and transform it into information. Then use that information in combination with intelligence to take action and strive to succeed.

The time is now.

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Distance Learning Victories

Distance Learning Victories

In tonight’s post, Caroline shares the news of victories in the area of distance learning. As early adopters of the virtual classroom, we know a few things about that here at LWS.

As we all know, it’s been more than a year since the world as we knew it closed down, including our schools. I still remember very clearly the last face-to-face day I spent with my younger students in 2020. Distance learning wasn’t something new in the world of adult education, but suddenly K12 education was thrust into the same platform and style of learning. Now, face-to-face means someone turned their camera on during an online course.

Here at LWS, we began to shift into a virtual classroom several years ago. The software we reviewed and selected was on the newer side, most live meetings were conducted with GoToMeeting, and this “webinar-style” delivery was an exciting thing to help create. Fast forward to the pandemic, and the software options seem endless and Zoom is a household name!

I think it is safe to say that we have all heard the horror stories surrounding distance learning. Tonight, I would like to bring us back to focus on learning success stories.

One of the aspects of what we do here at LWS is student choice: we engage with adults who want to improve their marketable skills within their field. Since 2014, we have fine-tuned that process into what feels like a new “school” on this side of the screen. As each student progresses through a class, they now have the option of listening to the audio or just reading content or doing both together. When we first started our online classes, feedback from learner surveys indicated that Ron’s voice could run to the soothing side – so we made a shift. We have also started to switch narrators, as I myself have begun recording audio tracks as well. My voice is not as soothing as my Dad’s: my high school students swear it isn’t.

We have brought full, professional translations of assessment and classes into French and Spanish. For the student who prefers to skip a formal assessment, we offer the self-assessment: you choose your training path, and you select your skill level. We have even developed coursework based upon student requests.

Where we once offered only traditional, multiple-choice tests, we now offer short response, multiple-choice, and reflection responses. If a student doesn’t want to write that response, they can upload an audio file and simply give the response verbally.

Even though I tend to be the more silent of the two of us (don’t tell Dad I said that, he says I speak in “pages, not paragraphs”), I can tell you this: when students have choices about not only what they learn, but how they demonstrate that learning, success is the outcome. I invite you to join us and start building your success story today.

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Understanding How to View Success

Understanding How to View Success

When we work on setting goals, understanding how to view success is a key component in the process. Please read tonight’s blog from Ron to learn more about this critical process, and all of the viewpoints that go into it.

Most of you are by now aware of our goal of helping each employee identify their potential and then put them on a path to achieving it. The keyword there is “goal.” Each person needs to establish goals in their lives. It starts from a young age in how we are treated by our parents and grandparents. They teach us right from wrong and good from bad. In this manner, we start on a developmental path of understanding what we should do. It is our first experience with goals. Be a good person. As Colin Powell is known to say “don’t do anything that will embarrass your parents.” Then we have a transition from family life as a very young person to our school phase.

We go to school and we are taught to read and write and perform arithmetic calculations. That puts us on a path of learning that is aiming at helping us develop our intellect. That is the goal. We also start to experience socialization with a peer group, first our classmates and then our friends, another series of goals in getting along with others. In some cases, we get involved in music or sports and then learn how to get along with others in different backgrounds, again more goals. We have the family, the school, the peer groups, the sports teams and clubs, music and other groups all helping us grow into a complete person. All goals.

And then we have to make a choice at the end of High School or in some cases before, about what we are going to do next. This is, for many, the beginning of making our own decisions and establishing our own goals. This is the next transition from basic learning to specialized learning. To become able to provide ourselves with sufficient knowledge or expertise to be able to look after our own needs. Another transition. A more serious one.

We then go on to Junior College, or a Trade or Vocational School, or a University. We choose the classes we are going to take with a goal in mind. Sometimes that goal is a particular job. Sometimes it is simply getting more knowledge and then deciding what to do with that knowledge. But we are establishing our own goals.

Then comes the next step, another major transition. Getting a job. Finding a career. Becoming independent financially. This is a more difficult transition. Most people do not know what they want to do for a living. Some are very fortunate. They know they want to be a doctor or a teacher or a mechanic. But most people don’t have a clue.

How are we supposed to get the right answers if we don’t know what we are trying to do? We need to establish goals. We need to do a sort of audit on what we like and what we don’t like. What we are good at and what we struggle with. What kind of people we like to be around and which people cause us to want to be somewhere else?

I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do. Like most of us, I had been working in part-time jobs. I taught swimming and tennis at a country club. I sold things, encyclopedias. I did telemarketing, selling newspaper subscriptions. I played piano in a bar and organ in churches. I taught education at a University. I wanted to work in data processing but in those years, it was nearly impossible to find work in that field. So, I struggled. I am sure that I was not and am not alone in that fact. I think that most of us struggle to try to find our place in the world, in society.

Let me start by saying that I believe that we all want to be a success. But that is the challenge. What does that mean? Who teaches us or guides us on that path? Is success wealth? Or Status? Or Fame? I submit to you it is none of those things. I would like to say that it is simply being able to lead a healthy and productive and happy life. But what is that and who helps us to understand how to obtain it?

Education has changed today. The choices that a person has in classes are mind-boggling. Ed Gordon, a respected voice in education in America, in a recent newsletter stated “Many parents also believe that their local school is providing a good education to their children. Regretfully this is often not the case. Education levels have not kept pace with skill demands in workplaces.”

We, at Learning Without Scars, are strong advocates of the use of an annual performance review with each employee. This is an opportunity for each team leader to have a productive discussion with each employee and help them understand what they can do to become better as an employee. What they can focus on to be capable of another opportunity in the Company. How the team leader is there to help them. Goals can be established and then the path to success becomes clearer. Wouldn’t we all want that, for ourselves? Someone to help us establish the goals that would help us have a successful life. Don’t you think that would be helpful?

The Time is Now.

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Empowering the Technician

Empowering The Technician

In his guest post for this week, Ross Atkinson brings us into the loop of empowering the technician in your business.

Your technicians are valuable, skilled workers and many of them use highly sophisticated equipment beyond the traditional toolbox wrenches. Many manufacturers have mandated diagnostic monitoring systems plugged directly into the engine from a laptop to check the machine for issues. There is no doubt that the technical requirements of the service technician have changed dramatically in the last 20 years! Yes, they still need to take the machine apart and put it back together, however, considering the sophistication of today’s equipment, any assistance diagnosing the problems is welcomed – most certainly a process improvement!

Now let’s talk about another opportunity to save your technician time – business system integration. This multifaceted topic begins with how your technicians record the time they work on equipment. Are they still using punch cards, writing the time manually, or even barcode scanning at a central scanning station? Or do they have access to the business system through a computer to clock in/out of repair orders? It should be obvious that having the technician clock directly into the business system saves time. No need to have a service writer spending hours the next morning keypunching every technician’s time into the respective repair orders.

Beyond the improvement in recording technician time, have you ever taken a moment to analyze your technicians’ footsteps in a day? Everyone knows how important it is to keep the technician in the work bay, otherwise, the time away negatively affects the technician’s efficiency and reduces the amount of throughput you can handle in your shop.

This analysis can help you identify why they left their bay and shed some light on where gains could possibly be recognized by eliminating the footsteps and replacing them with some form of system integration. You can do a similar analysis of the post-repair tasks and determine if it can be done by the technician at the time of repair using the same system integration being offered. Let’s look at some ideas:

  1. Clocking time at their bay eliminates the need to walk to a central punch clock system.
  2. Access to machine history eliminates the need to stand at the shop foreman’s door to ask questions about the service or rental history of the machine.
  3. Visibility to the dealership parts inventory to know whether parts are in stock or need to be ordered eliminates the need to walk to the requisition counter.
  4. Seeing the machine’s configuration including serial numbers with a direct tie into manufacturer systems to check for outstanding product improvements/recalls and parts availability.  Again, eliminates the need to go and ask someone else to do the research.
  5. Allow the technician to update the machine hours immediately so that it doesn’t get forgotten about. As we know from my previous blog on Service Agreements, hours are such a critical component so why chance having someone else do it many days later.
  6. Ability to upload before and after images directly to the repair order for historical and warranty purposes. The payback on this could be huge if the customer questions the repair or you get into a warranty audit.
  7. Visibility to job code hours so the technician knows what the expectation is for job completion and the repair time remaining. An updated benchmark helps the technician stay focused so that the job gets done on time.
  8. Having a tracking system for technician breaks whether the company or the customer is paying for it. Keeping your technician honest and eliminating the “water cooler effect” is important in time management.
  9. Ability to key technician stories and comments for the customer or for historical purposes and eliminate the need for another dealership employee to decipher and rekey what has been written by hand.
  10. The ability to electronically request parts from the parts department eliminates the need to walk to the requisition counter.  The parts can be delivered directly to the bay.

These are just some ideas on where gains could be obtained by empowering your technicians via business system integration. Maybe you already have some or all of these in place or maybe you can add to this list.

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The Difficulties in Achieving Scale

The Difficulties in Achieving Scale

In today’s guest blog post, Bruce Baker continues discussing the difficulties in achieving scale.

So why did this happen to someone like Julia?  There was no cause for alarm because she and her business had the best year ever and had built up an impressive cash cushion. If this was the case, surely this meant that she knew what she was doing?  Also, she had built up the business steadily over the last few years. The problem was the danger and risk associated with a “place of comfort” that Julia had created for herself.

Like many, this reduced her sense of urgency and importance (see my last blog – Chapter 2) regarding her initial need to scale her existing business and establish a solid foundation for ongoing growth.

Julia (like many of us) was caught unaware by an unconscious human bias called the Parkinson’s effect (i.e., usage expands as more availability/supply is provided/made available). In this case, having more cash available provided a long-awaited sense of comfort and release. This created a sense of confidence in utilizing a scarce resource without much thought as to the long-term implications. As soon as the supply (cash) is limited and someone is in crisis, only then (like in Julia’s case) makes an extreme sense of importance and urgency surface.

Human beings (business owners included) typically overestimate their chances of success at the end only to learn that what they fell in love with initially was not the end-result they were expecting. In many cases, we are dazzled by the thought of the end-success that very little if any thought is placed in the actions required to achieve a successful end-result. This sense of over-optimism tends to create blind spots in our ability to plan and execute effectively. Only after failure is imminent or has occurred, we then tend to look for external reasons for our failure(s) versus our tendency to be willfully blind at times.

Of course, Julia and I made up for lost time but to get Julia back on track. I want to share two techniques we used to ensure her success moving forward.

  1. To ensure Julia reduced the chances of being misdirected by the Parkinson’s effect, I introduced and helped Julia implement a Profit First system, which provides a solid way to allocate cash to the right parts of the business system. I said to Julia that if she adopted the system and continued to generate revenue like she had been doing, using this system would guarantee her profitability and eliminate her debt in the company. Julia’s response was priceless, more so because of the look on her face when I said this and her reluctant response saying no one can guarantee to eliminate debt and make a profit. To no surprise, Julia’s cash situation has improved tremendously in the business. She sees a profit, reduces her debt, and pays herself for the first time in six months.


  1. The last technique I introduced to Julia was planning every aspect of her business (including the investment in other business ventures) through worst-case scenario planning. Julia’s comment to me was that this did not make sense as she wanted to be positive in her approach to planning her business’s growth. I responded to her by saying that there was nothing wrong with thinking positively and leveraging hers and the company’s strengths in the planning process. The problem is that optimism and excitement tend to blind us by overestimating the positive/successful outcome. I added to this by reminding Julia that her strengths can become weaknesses or even irrelevant as the business grows. Planning for a worst-case scenario puts the business owner and the company’s existing operating template under a stress test. It ensures that any potential weaknesses or shortfalls in the business systems operating routine/template are identified and strengthened. Since using this approach with Julia, the systems, and structures we started working on initially are scrutinized and implemented successfully.

For more information on not just the tools Julia used but the process she went through to make the transition happen, please send an email to info@4workplaces.com, where I would be happy to send you a copy of the tool video tutorial on the process you can follow.

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The Power of Identifying Your Potential

The Power of Your Potential

I like to tell the story of a young person, at the age of sixteen, being told that they have a lot of potential. That person feels proud and is happy with themselves. Then talking to the same person when they are at the age of sixty-six and saying the same thing. What would be the reaction then? Perhaps it would be what have you done for the past fifty years.

Potential is an interesting element, isn’t it? We have used and heard about many tools used to measure or determine someone’s potential. SAT tests to qualify for University, ACT used for the same purpose. Briggs-Myers, and Caliper to name a few. In sports you have seen qualification events, you have seen auditions for the arts. All of these things leave out something I think which is very significant. The individual freedom to choose their own path.

Let’s start with a definition of potential that we can use as a foundation to this discussion. Potential is “the skill and the will to develop and perform at a higher level or better level in the future. Potential then sets some kind of benchmark against which the individual can measure progress toward their goal potential. Many of you know that I swam competitively when I was a teenager. I have often said it was through swimming that I became aware of potential. I was always chasing a clock, not another swimmer. I was constantly pushed to beat my best time. To stretch toward a higher level of performance. I have translated that thinking into my views on potential.

Today we have Intelligence tests (IQ) and Emotional tests (EQ) to determine cognitive skills. We have personality tests to determine behavioral attributes. Then we try to determine the principles and values of an individual. Then we pay attention to the motivation of the individual. We try and determine the decision-making skills of an individual. Then we apply situational case studies or put people into a mockup example. We test the heck out of people. Then we interview them for a particular job. Then we make a hire-no hire decision.

Flash forward with me now and we have hired an individual who passed through all of these tests and you want them to work with you on your team. They are hired. Can you imagine their excitement? They got a job. They got a job that they were looking to get. They wanted to work with you. They wanted to do that particular kind of work. I call that person “An Enthusiastic Beginner.” They are all pumped up.

What happens from that point forward is dependent on the leader. How do you handle onboarding a new employee? Once the onboarding is done how is the employee introduced to their work? How are they trained? How often does the leader communicate with the new employee? I often see examples where the leader has seriously impacted the employee. The employee can become disillusioned with the Company and their job. This can be caused by the leader not being attentive enough to the needs and goals of the new employee. Or the employee can become very cautious about how they do the job. The leader can use bullying tactics. All that the company wants is a self- reliant employee. All the employee wants is an opportunity to make a difference.

As people move from being at home as a youngster and transitioning to school, or from school to the workforce they are presented with obstacles. At some point we are told that everything is possible and you will do great things only to find out that it is not true. Not everything is possible and it is hard to see how you can do great things. At other times we become sensitive to other peoples’ needs and wants for us. We are afraid of hurting their feelings if we decide that this job is not what you want and you choose to leave. Or there is the BIG dog in the room, we are afraid that we will fail in the pursuit of our dreams. Some people are even afraid to succeed. This is tough duty. Finding your place in the world, finding your passion is tough enough. Finding your potential is even more difficult.

In our Learning Without Scars business, we want to help in this process. We have created job function skills assessments, with the sole purpose of providing an object measure of an individuals’ skills and competence in the job. This is not opinions anymore. It is not subjective. We suggest to our clients that they use these assessments in many ways:


  • The hiring processes
  • The performance reviews
  • The salary and wage administration
  • The development of career paths

In the education world the students are classified as developing, beginning, intermediate and advanced. We use the same structure and the score obtained in the assessments to allow the employee and the company to design an individualized learning program for each individual. This is the product of the thousands of students we have had in classes and webinars first with Quest, Learning Centers and now with Learning Without Scars. We know which subject specific classes apply to each level of skills for each job function. We provide guidance with eight classes being available to fill in the gaps of skills and knowledge. The employee chooses. They know better than anyone where they need the additional knowledge. This approach allows us to be engaged in the process with our clients of helping each individual identify and strive to achieve their potential.

The time is now.

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A Pathway to Purpose Through Learning

A Pathway to Purpose Through Learning

We are all consumed with plans and budgets and objectives. We do them predictably and rigorously at least once a year. Most of us have mission statements and vision statements posted on boards throughout the company. Yet I wonder how many of us have a purpose. Not only that, how many of us know how to find our purpose? I submit that you can find a pathway to your purpose through learning.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by a “sense of purpose.” A sense of purpose is the motivation that drives you toward a satisfying future. It also helps you get the most from the things that you do and achieve in the here and now. Alright that is reasonably clear but how to I get a sense of purpose? That is a problem. Only around 25% of American adults cite having a clear sense of purpose about what makes their lives meaningful, according to one analysis of the subject in the New York Times while 40% claim neutrality on the subject or say they don’t. A study in 2010 by Applied Psychology found that individuals with high levels of eudemonic well-being – which involves having a sense of purpose along with a sense of control and feeling like what you do is worthwhile – tend to live longer. A 2016 study in the Journal of Research and Personality found that individuals who feel a sense of purpose make more money than individuals who feel that their work lacks meaning. These studies and findings tell us you don’t have to worry about making money or being happy, just find your own sense of purpose and pursue it.

What is your purpose in life is a different kind of question isn’t it? It isn’t what do you do or how do you do it or even why you do it. It is what is your purpose. Now that is a real poser. How many of you ask your team members what they believe their purpose is in life? I don’t imagine any of you do. That is much too much of an invasion of what we determine is our “private” space. How are we supposed to know if any of our team are fulfilled in their job or is it “just” a job?

That has been on my mind recently as we slowly come out of the funk that this pandemic has put us in. I have written in the past that we need to push forward. We need to show resilience and strength and continue to serve our customer needs. After all they all struggled to make a living and make ends meet themselves. We need to be strong and present for them.

Recently I read a document about learning from Kinsey Consulting that got my attention. Unilever was the subject of the article and it dealt with creating “an engine of success which is fueled by continual learning.” They are trying to create an atmosphere “where purpose and skill travel the same path.” The consumer goods giant believes that the engine of success is fueled by continual learning. Part of reimagining organizations is the ability to create an atmosphere where purpose and skill travel on the same path.

At Unilever, that’s being accomplished through the company’s Future Fit initiative launched earlier this year, says Leena Nair, Unilever CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). Every person in the company has this plan, which contains four elements, she says. Employees start by identifying their purpose. “We feel that people learn best in areas that they feel purposeful about,” Nair says.

From there, the plan addresses employees’ energy level and overall well-being, and how they can improve both; leadership training and areas of development; and, lastly, actual skills. Nair says Unilever has created a learning pathway for all positions within the company. “We think our approach is unique and well suited for the environment we’re in,” she says. “There’s too much noise right now about what to learn; there’s too much coming at employees.” Being actively involved in the process allows employees to take ownership of their career. “It’s not something being done to them,” she adds. “It’s them embracing the change they need, and the company needs, to move through and past this pandemic.”

This is the direct purpose of our job function skills assessments. Although there are many paths for business to follow there is no one path that is perfect for everyone. It seems to be quite clear, however, that there is a need for a clear purpose, a strategy that everyone is aware of and a strong emphasis on learning. That is what we are aiming to do at Learning Without Scars. Our purpose is to help employees think about and understand their individual potential. Then to provide each employee the learning tools, the assessments and classes, that will help them work towards achieving that potential. It is not an easy road to pursue. It is a path that requires a lot of self-discipline and hard work. It is a path that we are on with each and every one of our employee and business clients. Our purpose is clear. Who wants to join with us on this journey?


The time is now.

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Learning from Old Lessons

Learning from Old Lessons

In today’s guest blog post, we introduce Bruce Baker on the topic of learning from old lessons.

Bruce holds a Masters in Industrial Psychology and is a behavioural business strategist, coach, and change agent. He brings you a wide-ranging skillset in business operational design, planning, and execution, with significant success in leveraging the only growing capital asset a business has– its people.

With over 23 years of experience working with Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies in a wide variety of industries, Bruce focuses on working closely with anyone from new entrepreneurs, business owners, CEOs and their leadership teams.

Your time with Bruce will give you new and fresh insights as he rejects traditional methods of business coaching and consulting while providing you with a very unique and enlightening perspective on how to view and build your business. Bruce will work with you to see what your business is made of and then recognize and address its strengths and vulnerabilities, allowing it to grow with minimal or no risk at all.

Learning from Old Lessons

I would like to welcome those of you following the Learning Without Scars blogs. Welcome to my musings on what is called the Chronicles of Business Leader. My name is Bruce, and I work with Business Leaders and their leadership teams to help them scale-up, start-up, or fix-up their respective companies.

In my blogs, I will focus on discussions I’ve had with business leaders about their challenges and how they have and are becoming successful.

Previously I discussed the reason for ongoing business failure. This is due to a single focus on the non-human aspects of a business (systems, tools, programs etc.). The focus must start with the human element first (i.e., Business leader/C.E.O.) and then the non-human factors. When the business leader understands and identifies with a solution, success is inevitable!

The experience I had this week highlights the usefulness of a powerful tool and technique. Using this tool positions a business leader for massive success.

Many call it “being discipline,” “maintaining focus,” or “not being distracted.” These terms apply to business success but have not aided the business leader.

This week, I want to share an experience I had with a business leader named Robert. Rob owns and operates a mid-sized heavy equipment dealership business he started up almost 10-year ago. I’ve been working with Rob to help him scale his company for over four months now.

When Rob and I started talking, he struck me as an intelligent and well-read man. He could rattle off all the latest and greatest business and leadership books and related tools and systems. Business leaders I had and continue to work with referred Rob to me as I was “the guy who helped business leaders achieve instrumental success.” I asked Rob why he had not used any of these great ideas and best practices he learned about in the books. His response to me was simple but not surprising. He said, and I quote, “I can’t seem to find the time, and when I have some time, I get distracted by other things. I may have a challenge with Attention Deficit Disorder…not sure.”

Regardless, Rob’s business was about to tank if he could not take what he knew and make it a reality in his company. I gave Rob a concept and tool a few weeks ago that made all the difference in him gaining traction.

The concept and tool are not new but initially came from a person named Dwight D. Eisenhower. As many of you know, Dwight was the 34th President of the United States. Before becoming President, he served as a general in the US Army and Supreme Commander during World War II. He had to make tough decisions about which of the many tasks he should focus on each day. This led him to the Eisenhower principle, which prioritizes urgency and importance. Go to www.Eisenhower.me/Eisenhower-matrix for further information.

So, how did Rob benefit and continue to benefit? Simply put, most of us are told to work on our time management skills. Frankly, the term “time management” is not aligned with how our human brains work. I said this to Rob, and he was taken back by my comments asking what the solution was if not for managing one’s time. I asked Rob how many people he knew that attended a time management course and were great “time managers”? Rob smiled and said, “true enough, but what then is the solution?” I responded and said, “task/action management.”

Actions and the commitment we make to take these actions are tangibles that our minds are designed to handle well. The brain can take hold of and then work through what and why something needs to be executed.

Asking “why” a task/action needs to be executed uses the powerhouse combination of the logic and emotion that makes action happen. Without the rational and emotional elements working together, failure to execute continues.

So how did Rob make this successful? Well, like most humans, once suggesting this to Rob, it was the last time we spoke about it after a few weeks. Yes, this was by design, but for a good reason. I followed up with Rob in one of our sessions a few weeks later and asked how his “Action Management” was coming along. He responded by saying, “it’s not.” I told him that this was normal and not to give himself a hard time about it. I then worked with him to show how he could make execution happen. This is how I explained it to him:

  1. Actions in any business are almost all important/relevant in some or another way. Trying to make a specific task less or more important is challenging for Spending time figuring out the amount of “importance” takes up a lot of energy. This makes people abandon their commitment to making something happen. Why? Because all these “important” tasks accumulate in our heads and stay there. This creates an emotional lens when making decisions increasing stress and feeling overwhelmed. The next thing we know is that we have done nothing to achieve traction in the business. So how do we distinguish all these important actions and avoid inaction?


  1. This is where the level of “urgency” falls into the The word “urgency” doesn’t always engender a feeling of “calm” for many. The term “urgency” means the time to execute an action/task(s). Start by asking yourself if the task/action is important/relevant. Then, ask how “urgent” the task is (i.e., when the task must be completed). Splitting this in your mind separates the emotional from the logical. This is where the “magic” starts to happen!

The sheer number of items Rob had on his to-do list was staggering! No wonder the poor guy was paralyzed! Rob’s list (and I kid you not) had over 130 items, and to no surprise, each item was “important.” So, I commented, “If everything is important, nothing is…”

We worked through the to-do list for about two hours. In a matter of days, Rob managed to achieve traction on what needed to get done. He has started to make profound impacts in the business and has begun to see significant results. Rob’s interpretation of himself shifted from being disorganized and distracted to someone entirely different. He now has his weekends to himself and finally started to increase his business volume in a matter of two weeks! This success is and continues to be due to Rob connecting the positive impacts a tool and system have on himself and his business. This impact has also created a snowball effect that has enhanced his team’s performance and other areas of his business.

Last week, Rob mentioned that the number of sales leads that week increased by almost 45%. He said this was due to him “finding time” to work on a lead magnet that finally produced results.

For more information on the tool and process, please email info@4workplaces.com

I hope you found this information helpful and look forward to seeing you again soon.

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Preventative Maintenance and the Service Agreement, Part 1

Preventative Maintenance and the Service Agreement, Part 1

In Part 1 of a two-part blog, guest blogger Ross Atkinson talks to us about preventative maintenance and the service agreement.


There is a phrase you may have heard of before: it’s called preventative maintenance. If you are in the rental business, you are fully aware of the importance of keeping your equipment up and running as much as possible, generating revenue for your business. To ensure that this happens and to avoid those costly breakdowns, you need to spend time doing scheduled maintenance.  


Just about every manufacturer has a recommended maintenance schedule. They offer defined job codes with the time necessary to perform preventative maintenance steps at scheduled intervals. These codes not only tell you the time required to perform the maintenance, they can also include detailed descriptions of the repair task and sometimes a list of the required parts. These schedules not only cover the primary equipment but also sub-components like an undercarriage. Many of the schedules are based on hours of usage whereas others are time based.


For rental equipment, it’s pretty easy to keep track of and know the timing of the maintenance needed because you are always in physical contact with the equipment when it comes back in off rent. Even if the equipment is out on long-term rentals or leases, factory installed GPS transponders are pretty common nowadays or can be installed by your dealership. Knowing the current hour meter or mileage reading is the key to estimating the timing of the next service interval and allows you to plan your service workload accordingly.


But let’s look beyond rentals. What about your customer’s equipment? As Ron has mentioned in his classes, it is your goal to give the customer the best service possible and to reduce the repair costs for the equipment they own. Why not use these same principals of maintaining a rental fleet to upsell and offer your customers the same service? 


You see, I’m pretty passionate about this subject. I believe that dealers are leaving money on the table and missing an opportunity to offer exceptional service. Too many dealers have not even considered going down the customer preventative maintenance path. I was introduced to the concept of service agreements many years ago by a gentleman by the name of Mark Caldwell. The knowledge he had and how he went about selling service agreements to customers was truly amazing.


Mark created his own manual on the entire process, a good 3 inches thick. It covered everything from what was being offered to the customer cost savings formula to how it was to be implemented and managed. He used to say how so many service managers would convince management to buy a service truck and then try to figure out how they were going to utilize it. Mark managed to correlate the number of service contracts to a truck. Boy, did that make for an easy conversation with management to justify the purchase of a new service truck after signing the required number of contracts!


We will continue next week.

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