It Is Time to Fail Faster

It Is Time to Fail Faster

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee shares words of wisdom he heard recently in today’s blog post: It Is Time to Fail Faster.

I never thought that I would call for “failing faster” in my life. Imagine failure? Of course, if we think about this, a moment’s failure is important to anyone who is interested in getting better at how they do things. 

I was given this “line” by Stephanie Smith, Vice President of Marketing from Newman Tractor on a recent Podcast with Mets Kramer. We were talking about Marketing and the Digital Dealership and how fast change was happening. Stephanie calmly stated that we have to learn how to fail faster. I stopped her and asked her to repeat it. I found it to be so profound. Days later, to me it is still a very profound observation.

I was in school in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was a very basic education. Nothing particularly fancy. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. My Mother was a teacher, she was the Vice Principal at the grade school I attended. She chose all my teachers. I couldn’t get away with anything. My Grandmother was a teacher in the proverbial one room schoolhouse. She got a Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in the early 1900s. One year I was doing miserably in Geometry and Latin. I hated studying so I refused to memorize. I either understood it or I felt it was not that important. My Grandmother took over my schooling on the weekends. I spent several months with her every weekend. The first semester I got 38% in both Geometry and Latin. That was unacceptable to Granny. By the final report card, I averaged 78% for the year. I had no choice but to stop failing. I was “taught” a very important lesson that year. It wasn’t “don’t mess with Granny.” No, it was “apply yourself or there will be a consequence.” Did I ever learn! That, plus my experiences in the swimming pool as a competitive swimmer, made me who I became.

That led me to my favorite question: “Why?” It seems from a very young age I was always asking why. Perhaps every child does. But that meant I would try things. That was when I started experiencing failure. I remember one instance when I was doing some work in the warehouse at the Caterpillar dealership in Montreal. I think we were moving parts around trying to make more space. Bob Hewitt, the dealer principal, came out to the warehouse and put his arm around my shoulders. I was surprised. Here I was in a sweat shirt and jeans working and dirty in the warehouse. He was in a three-piece suit looking very elegant. He looks me in the eye and says “I am really disappointed in you.” Even in those early years I was rarely at a loss for words. I quickly responded “me too. Why are you disappointed?” I looked up at him and I could see his face start to twitch. He said “when you are finished come see me in my office.” The thing he was disappointed in was that the roads to a remote branch were closed for the winter and I had placed a stock order that wasn’t going to get there. I hadn’t planned for an early snowfall. I told him if I would have known that snowfall was coming, could have predicted that, I would be working somewhere else. True story.

I have made an unbelievable number of mistakes over the course of my lifetime. They continue even today. The trick with mistakes from my perspective is very simple. You are going to make mistakes, that is clear, identify the mistakes as quickly as you can and make adjustments, corrections, fix it. Fast. Today with the rate of change in society, in technology, in telecommunications, in fact in nearly every aspect of our lives is dramatic. Change is coming at us so fast it is impossible to keep up. At least that is true for me.

When Stephanie made the comment, we have to “fail faster” I was amazed. It was so appropriate. It was profound to me. It was an “aha” moment. It forced me to think about things again in a new way. I needed to pick up my pace and make more changes more quickly. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Don’t worry about failure. That is going to be a consequence of doing more things. Mistakes and failures are also a part of the process of learning. You just have to recognize when things don’t work and make adjustments. Make corrections. Everything will continue to be alright. No one is going to shoot me. At least, not for making a mistake. 

Thank you, Stephanie.    

The Time is Now.

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How Do We Find Our Individual Potential?

How do we find our individual potential? 

As many of you know, the primary purpose of our Learning Without Scars business is to help people find their personal potential. That confuses a lot of people. Most of us don’t have any idea of our potential. Early on in civilization it was quite basic and very simple – to have the strength to be able to find and get food. We were hunters and gatherers. If we couldn’t find food, we died. Simple, right?

Today it is much more complicated. Governments are determined not to have people die from lack of food. We have many social programs to ensure that people will have access to the basic requirements of life. Even in these advanced times, we have many who choose to stay off the grid for one reason or another.

In the United States in 2020, about 18% of the population was under 15 years old; 65% from 15 years old to 64 years old; and 17% over 65 years old. I believe that understanding our potential changes with our age. It varies as we get older. One of the definitions of potential causes me some difficulty. It is the “possibility of becoming something more.” Isn’t that always the case? Aren’t we constantly learning things? Another definition is “coming to self-realization that there is more to our lives.” This definition gets rather personal for me. One day, while my father was still alive, we were having a glass of “brown water” and solving the problems of the world, he paused and looked at me and said “I don’t understand you. You are never satisfied.” I responded quickly with the blithe comment “well there is always more, isn’t there?”

And that becomes the challenge of potential. There is always something more.

One of my grandchildren is in High School and we were talking about what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I don’t know.” It is a terrific answer for someone in High School today. There are so many choices available to us. There are the sciences and the fantastic developments being made within them. The arts and the various media – sculpture and painting – as well various methods to express ourselves visually. Music and literature and drama. Fashion and Makeup. I might add that many of the early school years tend to “stifle” creativity not “encourage” it. How do you start in finding this something “more?”

Well, how about starting with those things that do not turn you on? These are the things that you don’t like to do. In 1998 Sir Ken Robinson led a commission created by the government in the UK – “Commission on creativity, education and the economy.” It turns out he was highly critical of the education system under which he was taught. He regretted the fact that neither the primary school, secondary school nor college enabled people to develop their talents and discover what they really wanted to devote themselves to in their lives. Doesn’t that condition still exist where you live? Where you went to school, or your children and grandchildren are going to school? Where are we supposed to find this magic “thing” to which we want to devote our lives?          

This is a difficult undertaking, isn’t it? This pursuit of our potential. How about we look at the other side of the question. What don’t we want to do? What aren’t we very good at in our lives? Sometimes that is easier to identify.

  1. What was something you disliked studying?
  2. What were some jobs you hated?
  3. What are some of the household chores you really don’t like doing?

Isn’t there anything common in the items above? 

  1. Are they some activities you do alone or without somebody else?
  2. Does someone tell you to do these tasks or does it depend only on you?
  3. Do the activities need something physical or intellectual?

Now let’s make another list.

Write down everything you like or liked to do in the areas below: 

  1. School or Education
  2. Jobs
  3. Everyday tasks

Now find the common denominator in these items.

Have you stopped any of these activities you enjoyed? 

  1. Why?
  2. Can you recover it and start it again?

Now let’s rank the things you liked to do.

  1. What is in first place?
  2. Can you make it more prominent in your life?

Some things should now be standing out. Things should be clearer.

Now comes a big question. I think it will have become clearer to you. You know better now some of the things you want to do. So, let’s ask that magic question? What have you always wanted to do but were afraid to start doing it? Do you think it is time to start doing it? That is the beginning of your potential. The possibility of becoming something more. Are you ready to get started?

The Time is Now.

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Our Winsby Announcement

Our Winsby Announcement

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee makes our Winsby announcement today, describing the new link between our two companies and where readers can learn more about this.

We are pleased to announce a change in our relationship with Winsby. 

Winsby, which is a Colleague of Learning Without Scars, has now tied their website to ours. This completes the cross connection with Learning Without Scars. We are listed as an Affiliate on their website. You can find us by going to their website at https://www.winsbyinc.com/about-us.html

Winsby has been helping equipment dealers grow for over fifteen years. By analyzing the dealer’s customers’ invoices, Winsby easily identify the marketing efforts that work well. As a result, only effective programs are included in ongoing programs. The goal is always to increase revenue as efficiently as possible.

With specialists in every essential marketing area, Winsby offers a complete range of services. On staff are researchers, writers, designers, programmers, list specialists, financial analysts, videographers, account managers, and a group of skilled callers. After analyzing your invoices, Winsby will recommend and implement a program that keeps your business growing steadily.

Please visit their website for more information.

The time is now.

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Find and Develop Skills

Find and Develop Skills

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee writes about how we can find and develop the skills we need in life. He brings the idea of Ikigai to bear on this crucial and timely subject.

How do we find and develop the skills to provide us the best possible life? 

I have written often about happiness. From the philosopher Tom Morris and his book Plato’s Lemonade stand to The Art of Happiness at Work it is clear I want people to be happy in their lives. This I find out is a Japanese word – Ikigai. It is a word that is the meaning of life. It is what gets you out of bed in the morning.

Ikigai is the center of a circle that touches on four basic elements.

 

This is a very simple graphic, isn’t it? I would like everyone to be doing what they love, what they are good at and what the world needs. And clearly you need to be paid for it. 

One of my first clients in 1980 was a cancer survivor. His name was Ron Miller. He was an extraordinary man in his early 30’s who gave Caterpillar fits. He was the largest broker of Caterpillar equipment in the world. He hired me to put him in the parts and service business so that he could feel he was a pseud CAT Dealer. He was quite force. My family and I were living in Vancouver, BC and I was working for Finning Tractor. I was effectively, or not, running the parts business for them in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. We had fifty-three stores then and my job had become babysitting and politics and I neither liked nor was I any good at either. Ronnie successfully lured me away and that was the beginning of my consulting life. I remember as if it were yesterday sitting at the poolside in his building with my wife and daughter Caroline who was about four years old at the time. Ronnie had lost a leg to cancer and Caroline was fascinated with the “six-dollar man.” 

I have met many gifted people in my life and Ronnie Miller was clearly one of them. He once told me that there were three words that he used to quide his life. Happiness, Effectiveness and Making Money. He said each day he tried to be happy and be effective and make money. I have never forgotten that lesson.

I am not as successful at living u0p to that as I would like but I continue to try. Notice he said “effective” not efficient. Two different words. He was all about doing the right thing. Not doint things right. That is a very telling statement. It fits into my mantra of doing your best, doing wha is right and honoring the golden rule. Simple things.

But let us return to Ikigai.

  • What You love to do REQUIRES Passion and Mission.
  • What The World Needs REQUIRESs Mission and Vocation.
  • What You can be paid for REQUIRES Professionalism and Vocation.
  • What You are Good at REQUIRES Passion and Professionalism. 

The British journalist Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers. In it he proposed that it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something and succeed at whatever it is. Aristotle said “We are what we do repeatedly.” There are many wonderful books written around the same theme. I was a swimmer in my youth. I swam hours and hours each day for years to get good at it. And I did get good at it.

When I started at a Caterpillar Dealership in Quebec, Canada, in 1969 I had the Senior partner from a consulting company spend one day a week, all day with just me, to show me and teach me about inventory management and systems. I had a passion to get good at what I did. Ad I did get good at it.

Along the way I had very talented people step up and help me get better at everything I did. Bob Kirk who was the “guru” of inventory management for Caterpillar took me under his wing. Larry Noe, one of the founders of Caterpillar Dealer Data Processing di the same. I don’t know why they did that but they did. Similarly, although later Roger Fay, who was responsible for the Caterpillar parts business in “Caterpillar Americas,” Canada, Mexico, Central and South America did the same. I will never forget those men. The truly “paid it forward.”      

So, what was my passion? To do the right thing and to do things right. It started with swimming and my coach would watch where I put my hand in the water and wasn’t happy until I did it right. It continues today with everyone who influences my thinking about doing everything I do a little bit better. The “Kaizen” way.  

That takes me to Professionalism. That is tough. It is a matter of opinion. I hate that. I don’t like opinions I like facts. 

But let’s look at professionalism.

Professionals are:

  • Competent
  • Reliable
  • Communicate well
  • Poised
  • Ethical
  • Organized
  • Accountable

As a consultant I have to be viewed by my clients in a specific manner:

  • I have to have oral and written skills
  • I have to have observation skills
  • I have to have problem solving skills
  • I have to have people skills
  • I have to have organizational skills
  • I have to have time management skills
  • I have to be objective
  • I have to be independent.

Once have become established I have to have references that will attest to my skills. That is my professionalism.

Let’s return one more time to Ikigai.

I am passionate about what do. It shows. I love it.

I have a mission. I have goals and purpose.

I have to be professional.

I have to make money.

In my life, professionally and personally I live Ikigai. I would hope that each of you would be in the same place. It is not easy and there are many roadblocks. But don’t give up. It is worth the pain and struggle to get there. I promise you that once you get there you will be happy and life and long and fruitful life.  

The Time is Now.

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The Great Reshuffle: How to Retain Top Talent

The Great Reshuffle: How to Retain Top Talent

Guest writer Sonya Law tackles on of the challenges facing businesses today: how to retain your top talent in the face of what is being called the great reshuffle.

The great resignation: could it best be described as the great reshuffle?

It’s true that there has always been staff turnover, so the great resignation is not new, however the reasons for leaving and staying are!

So how do we retain our talent?

  1. Career discussions: We need to be proactive in talking with employees, to discuss their career aspirations or a recruiter will have this conversation for you!
  2. Training: Employees want to learn and grow.  Be prepared to invest in their personal and professional development and ask them an open question: What do you CARE about?
  3. Purpose & EVP: They want clarity on the purpose of the company and align themselves with it. We need to know what our company’s Employee Value Proposition is in order to attract and retain staff, furthermore, we need to believe it and articulate it with authenticity. Ask yourself the question: What do you CARE about?
  4. Empathy: Employees want a manager that CARES for their wellbeing. We need to have a holistic approach to the wellness of employees, both physically and mentally. This will require a budget for the investment into structured wellness programs that detects, monitor and support the wellbeing of staff. What is your financial investment into employee wellbeing?
  5. Leadership: Hiring and educating our mid-level (branch) managers – we know the top reason that employees leave is because of their manager. We need to hire managers who have good leadership skills and educate our existing managers on how to evolve and become better leaders. When was the last time you engaged in leadership training or coaching?
  6. Value: Visibility of leadership and valuing its people is critical in retaining talent, it is also having the conversation with a resigning employee, to ask the reasons why they are leaving and to ask them to stay. Try to keep them!

We are only as good as our people and our team without our employees we do not have a business.  It’s important we understand as HR and Leaders, what are the roadblocks in our businesses and where do our employees need support.  Its having a difficult conversation about an employment contract that needs to be sorted, so that we can get on with business.  All too often we get sidetracked on what it is we think we should do, what leaders DO is focus on the right things.

When, we are put in a position of leadership it is to serve, it is to understand what is needed to get business done and achieve our goals together as a team.  Gone are the days where apathy is a defense or I don’t like conflict is used as an excuse for not having uncomfortable but necessary conversations.

As leaders we need to be addressing issues and people who don’t fit or risk losing talent.

Post Pandemic, employees are looking for:

  • Autonomy about when and where they work.
  • Flexibility to do LIFE, to spend time with their partners, family, pet’s and be connected to the community in which they live.
  • Clarity on what is their passion, what gives them joy, fulfillment and align their life with it. This is the new work life, do LIFE balance!

The entrepreneurial life:

The most interesting reason, that employees are leaving is to pursue their own start up’s, creating businesses that align with their passion and are becoming entrepreneurs.

  • Forbes reported statistics that in the US, new business applications are up 95% according to the Census Bureau.
  • France is up 20% according to McKinsey.
  • Japan is up 14%, in the UK are up 30% according to National Statistical Office.

Jobs in most demand are seeing increases in salaries of up to 30-40%:

The great reshuffle has also pushed up wages because of the lack of supply of seasonal labour and good candidates, due to a candidate short market.

The industries most affected and experiencing this great re-shuffle and increase in salaries are:

  • Human Resources
  • Information technology
  • Accountancy, Legal and Finance.

Compliance is a constraint on time:

The biggest roadblock HR and leaders are facing in retaining its talent is the constraints on time to invest in these initiatives, so much of the role is about compliance due to Pandemic and Vaccinations.

We know though that if we take proactive and positive steps to engage with our employees our businesses will thrive!

“Take the time to look after your people and they will take time to look after your business.”

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Training Develops Skills That Can Be Measured

Training develops skills that can be measured.

Guest writer Natalia Dmitrenko continues to build from the foundation of last week’s blog post, “Loyal Staff” with her exploration of the skills that training develops. Each of these skills can be measured.

Any corporate training initiatives have a similar purpose: evaluation of the difference in the performance of staff before and after the training took place. That way the company gets a much better picture of all the benefits or potential drawbacks which come with any L&D training.

But if you’d look at the other side of the coin, you’d see that developing effective training mechanisms that would provide up-to-date data about the gaps in knowledge and skills within the departments can be time consuming and rather costly.

Good news is that collaboration with e-learning platforms doesn’t mean companies have to invest tons of funds in training since there are already-made training solutions available. Luckily there are some tools that provide good assistance for these kinds of compliance training. One is Grinfer for Business that offers a training platform that takes the stress out of learning. Participants can log in from anywhere and on-the-go because it’s incredibly mobile. Person can watch one course or even a lesson per day and he/she is done. It’s almost like checking your Instagram, but more informative and career related.

Grinfer for Business is not only about the value-adding L&D activities but is also about performance metrics which can be now implemented easier, thanks to online technologies. This e-learning solution effectively builds a continuous cycle of learning with easy access on-demand not just to career related courses but also to a wide library of content for “your body and soul”. Or, in other words, things that are fun to learn in your spare time.

Business teams get instant access to free live webinars and masterclasses on any topic from top instructors, 1,200+ online courses, workshops, access to authors’ blogs, personalized learning paths/curriculum, and much more. Here learning is not a part of the job, it is mixed with enjoyment of learning something new about the stuff that you love to do outside of your job.

An experience shows that whenever a company builds a continuous cycle of learning, this will not only contribute to a corporate culture across the SME. It also adds a competitive edge that encourages staff in a good way to become more productive and efficient. However, everything really depends on the type of company’s training initiative.

For example, a good showcase of such team training would be collaboration in 2021 with a middle-sized IT company called Severex. Initially, this company’s goal was to find a highly efficient e-learning solution that would work well for upskilling company’s work teams with on-demand skills upgrades, rapid upskilling, and reskilling.

Since Grinfer for Business also engages teams by continuously measuring students’ progress/learning outcomes, after about 3 months of training, Grinfer has collected feedback from the Severex learning teams about their personal learning experiences, insights, achievements, success stories, and any drawbacks that they’ve faced along the way. The survey responses indicated that learning paths correlated with employee engagement which boosted productivity and the effectiveness of teams.

At the same time, this training initiative has built a stronger team spirit and contributed to maintaining a healthy corporate culture across the business. Severex employees, who took part in team learning, have admitted that the learning experience positively influenced their overall job satisfaction. And that most of them felt like the company does a good job in taking care of their needs.

Many respondents admitted that most upgrades they received on hard and soft skills were useful and helped them find new creative outlets for scaling and accomplishing set goals more effectively. By the end of the training cycle, the overall productivity of Severex staff had ticked up to about 15%. At the same time, interaction with the Grinfer for Business platform has ramped up showing the increase of 30%.

In addition, Severex’s HRs were provided with enough data (accumulated from the Grinfer’s custom reports and learners’ engagement rates) for finding better ways to develop long-term learning paths that wouldn’t demand costly investments. And, at the same time, would increase the absorption rate, break the daily routine, and boost employees’ loyalty.

Taking into account that retention rates and employees’ loyalty to a place of hire are the two pressing issues (since the cost of employee turnovers can be high), this puts L&D training programs in a high priority list of organizational charts. And if a company’s staff is filled with people who are always up for learning – always is a good sign.

Coping with today’s already accepted “new normals”, companies start to realize that using e-learning platforms for corporate training provide many undoubtful benefits due to its incredible flexibility, mobility, and accessibility. Some companies go for external e-learning resources like LMS or eLearning marketplaces that are available now for both, individual and group training sessions.

Some prefer to stick to blended learning, which could be the best choice too since it’s also highly effective and also less costly. And saving money is what most companies want in the current realities caused by the global pandemic.

Corporate training delivered via e-learning platforms may still raise some contradictions. The main concern is that you can motivate employees with proper training and you can kill your employees’ motivation with improper ways of training. However, with the rapidly growing popularity of the eLearning industry, investing time, money, and efforts into adequate online educational resources is one of the smartest decisions that business teams can come up with today.

Find more info on how we can help at Grinfer website.

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Loyal Staff: Does Corporate Training Really Work Well for Uplifting Employees’ Skills and Boosting Loyalty?

Loyal Staff: Does Corporate Training Really Work Well for Uplifting Employees’ Skills and Boosting Loyalty?

We are pleased to introduce another new guest writer here at Learning Without Scars. Natallia Dmitrenko is a content specialist at Grinfer with a focus on content management and blog promotion. She gained experience studying at the University of Nebraska taking graduate-level classes and working for a number of companies based in the US and in Minsk, Belarus. Tonight, she writes about loyal staff, and asks the question that many of our clients have asked: does corporate training really work well for uplifting employees’ skills and boosting loyalty?

What is one of the most expensive mistakes managerial staff makes? The answer is: unsuccessful hires. Indeed, statistics indicate that a wrong hire can cost three to five times the compensation of the candidate.  On the other hand, according to Go2HR (one of the most trusted sources on HR): “40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year.” Lack of loyalty among employees?

So, how to stave people off from leaving in the first year of hire? No wonder why HRs spend a big chunk of time figuring out best ways of improving training programs for staff. In fact, an engaging corporate L&D training program can become an effective solution for boosting retention and reaching business goals.

Today, L&D online training programs have become a dynamic and almost inseparable part of any business venture. In 2022, almost 50% of L&D professionals confirmed that those employees who were engaged in corporate training were highly engaged in overall corporate processes as well. Hence, being aware of all the popular/efficient trends in the world of L&D is essential for the effective management of staff. Well, especially in the current COVID-19 realities.

Indeed, there are two types of L&D training that exist today: on-the-job training and online training. If the question arises what kind of training to give, this depends upon a multiple of factors: overall productivity and work experience of employees, particular types of hurdles faced at work, the recent work performance, etc. However, the rising tension caused by the never-ending COVID-19 epidemic is forcing companies to pay more attention to L&D training offered via the Internet. Many have already admitted that it really works!

New “work from home” practices prove that if companies engage employees into online training programs, they won’t bet on the wrong horse. Some of the main positive impacts of taking classes on e-learning platforms are:

  • E-learning boosts cooperation by enhancing such soft skills as leadership and communication. As employees work and interact in these training sessions, which helps to build stronger interpersonal soft skills, reliance, and support which ultimately leads to better cooperation.
  • The main advantage of e-learning is in its ability to convert staff into a skilled workforce while providing instant access to learning resources. And then the upskilled workforce can turn complex scenes to opportunities in more effective client-centric ways.
  • Effective online programs open more opportunities to employees to apply new skills in response to potential job challenges.
  • Less supervision required if the employees are trained well. If employees’ liability is amplified resulting from the effective online training program, more man hours can be put to good use. Plus, staff will be more worked up to take on challenging tasks at hand in the future.
  • An effective corporate training program delivered online instills values of learning, evokes creativity in staff, improves decision making skills, breaks the ice and contributes to interacting more openly. Hence, an increased self-esteem motivates employees to work better and develop a stronger sense of loyalty to a place of employment. And that’s just like having a healthy fruit in the diet – the bigger employees’ loyalty, the more companies benefit from the positive corporate culture.

Of course, corporate training programs vary depending on the company. For example, a company that lays concrete for warehouses odds are will probably need a different training program compared to a tech software company.  Still, engaging workers in online training builds a progressive company’s image, foster loyalty, and boost retention rates. Plus, a good online training program also makes any company look more progressive therefore, more attractive to new recruits.

Obviously, staff upskilling through e-learning helps employees understand their jobs and company’s policies better. Proper training contributes to higher retention rates, greater job satisfaction and, as a result, increases loyalty of staff. People feel like they work in an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels like they can contribute. And this is a part of the retention secret sauce.

Job satisfaction is a necessary ingredient for efficient and enthusiastic job behavior of staff. And that’s the case when a proper corporate training really adds to that dish and brings the whole meal together.

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The Business Model

The Business Model

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee walks us through a close look at the Business Model. 

Let’s Revisit our Business Model

With the famous “supply chain” issues that we have been experiencing for the past few years and the serious difficulty in finding, attracting, hiring and retaining talented people I believe that we need to seriously re-evaluate the business model which has been basically unchanged since the early 1980s. Product Support has to become more prominent in the dealer businesses, marketing territory coverage issues need to be addressed and purchasing, transportation logistics and customer service have to become not only contactless, through the internet, but also exemplary in the eyes of the customer. The other aspect of the parts and service business that needs to addressed is the market capture rates. In the past fifty years the parts and service market shares have been reduced by half, fifty percent. This not a good thing. It is a reflection that we are not covering our marketplace very well. In fact, we probably do not initiate contact, with a phone call or personal visit, with even twenty-five percent of the customers that purchase parts and service from us. This is another aspect of our business model that needs review.

This model was created in the early nineteen-eighties. This, while interest rates were running in the mid to high teens. This, after we had reduced our head counts to be able to pay our interest expenses. We have been able to withstand numerous financial cycles in those forty years. Yet we continue to operate within the same business model.

So, let’s look at this a bit.

  • What is our Market Penetration and how do we address that?
  • What is our Parts Inventory Turnover, our WIP Turnover? How well do we manage our assets?
  • What is our Productivity Level as measured by sales per employee?
  • What should the standard be for sales/Employee?
  • What is our cost recovery of standard charges? Supplies, Emergency Service Charges, Vehicle Expenses, Restocking and Handling Charges?
  • What is our Pricing Policy?
  • What is the Gross Margin realized for Parts or Service?
  • What is the Net Operating Income for Parts or Service?
  • What is your customer retention rate? (How many customers defect from you?)

This is not going to be easy.

The fundamental ratio of success in the equipment dealer business model was done before rental became as important as it is today. It is called Absorption. Under that model the expectation was that best practices required parts and service to be 50% of the total sales revenue for the dealership. Minimum performance as 40%. This was split to be 25% for the parts business and 15% for the service business. If you exclude the rental business for the revenue, cost of sales and expenses, including interest expense. You can use this methodology to see how you stack up.

The Rental Business today has sufficient volume with most dealers to warrant becoming a standalone option within the dealership. Either a separate company or separate division. The purpose of the rental business is primarily two-fold; generating customer satisfaction and profitability while at the same time creating well maintained good value used equipment.

The traditional dealership is equipment sales, new and used, parts and service. This portion of the dealership should deliver a minimum of 100% absorption. The definition of absorption is as follows; – The Net Income of Parts and Service divided by all the expenses for Sales and Administration as well as the inventory interest expense results in a number > 1.00.

This definition of absorption has been in use since at least the 1960’s. It is a common belief that it was created by William Blackie when he was the Chairman of Caterpillar Tractor. Early in my career I met Mr. Blackie. It is a very special memory for me. He was one of a kind. I offered to work for him as a trainee for $100.00/month. He suggested there wasn’t much he could teach me but more importantly he thought $100.00/month was a bit steep. He was kidding of course. Bill gave me terrific advice. It is something that I have never forgotten. He said that although absorption was a critical business management tool, it wasn’t all about the net income of parts and service. It was also about constraining the expenses in the sales and administration departments and putting some control on the level of equipment inventory that bore interest charges. This is a critical fact that most people choose to overlook. Parts and Service Net Income can not cover profligate expenses in Sales and Administration. Nor can it cover excess machine and attachment inventory levels.

Looking at the Parts and Service businesses we have some measures that need to be reviewed and standards determined for each according to your line up of brands and your geography. The following is a short, and incomplete list.

Sales Revenue

  • Parts, by category, Customer, Service, Warranty, Internal, Expense
  • Service, by category, Customer Shop, Customer Field, Internal Shop, Internal Field, Warranty, Expense.

Personnel Expenses

  • Parts; salaries, wages, overtime benefits, commissions, etc.
  • Service; salaries, wages, overtime benefits, commissions, etc.

Operating Expenses

  • Parts; Vehicles, Service Charges, Systems, Forms and Materials, Training, etc.
  • Service: Vehicles, Shop Supplies, Small Tools, Licenses, Training, etc.

Fixed Expenses

  • Parts; Rent, (mortgages) Heat, Light, Insurance and Taxes
  • Service; Rent, (mortgages) Heat, Light, Insurance and Taxes

Head Count

  • Parts; In Store Selling, Warehouse, Office, Leadership
  • Service; Office, Technicians, Leadership

Assets

  • Parts; Inventory, Vehicles
  • Service; WIP, Tooling, Vehicles

Net Income

  • Parts; >25%
  • Service; > 25%

In the coming weeks I will break down this model in more detail and leave up to you to determine how you want to proceed. Our executives and owners today are for the most part between fifty-five and seventy-five years of age. At that age they are very risk averse. They seem to be operating on autopilot. This is a time for action. This is a time to make significant or some would say even radical change. Einstein said that continuing to do what you have always done expecting different results is insanity. I think we all can relate to what I am saying. We have yet to exploit our systems and technology. As Alex Schuessler calls it “Paper to Glass.” We have used technology to make things faster but we have simply replaced a form filled in by pen with a screen template, that looks like the form, that we fill in using a keyboard.

It is long overdue. It is time to replace the business model. The Millennials and Gen X and Gen Z are demanding it. And they are proving it with their job change statistics. Each month for the past four months over 3% of the workforce has changed jobs. That is the highest level recorded in many decades. This is a reflection of the fact that they are not going to accept the status quo. They want and need to do better. I think they are right. Care to join me with them and change our business model for the better?

The Time is Now.

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What is True Success?

What is True Success?

In our lives we are all involved in work, our jobs, as well as our families. That gives us both the professional and personal aspects of our lives. Many of you know I have referenced Tom Morris and his books, in particular True Success, A Philosophy of Excellence and Plato’s Lemonade Stand. They are both very helpful in our lives. I have referenced them many times.

Everyone seems to have some formula for us to follow to achieve success. Some are about market share, or customer service, or parts availability or labor efficiency. However, let me ask a question. These measures, while extremely important, do they make you successful? Is that how you define your success? I don’t think so.

I still remember, as if it were yesterday, when I was looking for my first job after finishing my university career – what was it that I wanted to do? What was my passion? What excited me? I had no clue. I was too young and I had no real-life experiences from which to make the choices necessary. From where I am now, I wonder how it is that we are supposed to be able to answer these questions. My grandchildren are in Gen Z. Recently at a family meal, I asked them both what they wanted to do. My grandson is a Junior in High School. He has many things that he is interested in and cannot make a selection yet. My granddaughter who is a Senior in University has a little more clarity. She is taking Biology with a focus on Genetics. It would seem clear that she has a path she is following. Yet it is clear that nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn’t know yet either. One of the troubles today is that there are so many choices. I always told (and still tell) people, particularly when I was teaching Education at University, that everyone should leave their options open as long as possible. When I was out looking for work the people that influenced my life – my parents, teachers, advisors, and counsellors all told me the same thing. Take your time. Whatever you choose that will be where you will work for the rest of your life. That was 1968. Things have definitely changed.

Today the average number of jobs that an individual will have over the work life for men is 12.5 jobs and women 12.1 jobs. It takes that many before a person can make their own selection of their life’s work. But then we still have the question that needs to be answered. What is success? Is it status in the community? Is it money? Is it your job title? I submit to you it is happiness.

For this particular subject I have to turn to psychology and psychiatry. Those two particular disciplines deal with the human experience in many ways. From the challenges that various groups of people have in learning or reading or concentration to depression and other human issues they have more knowledge than most in what success means.

I am currently reading a book, What Happy People Know, by Dan Baker, PhD, Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch (This is a pioneering wellness resort which helps people make a lasting transformation that inspires people to find their “well way of life) and Cameron Stauth. The book cites research that has shown that the root of unhappiness – fear – lies in the oldest, reptilian part of our brains, and negative reactions are often dictated by primal instincts. In other words, we are “hard wired” for hard times. Over the past twenty-one months, since March of 2020, we have experienced hard times. This has been a very challenging time. We are all hoping that 2022 will bring us more positivity.

The book is designed to help us, and it has helped me, to understand that in order to be successful – we have to be happy. The authors give you a road map to happiness by breaking down the elements and qualities of Happiness. You get a very detailed description of how each of these qualities can be influences in your life in the book. I am simply listing them here now:

  • Love
  • Optimism
  • Courage
  • Freedom
  • Proactivity
  • Security
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Altruism
  • Perspective
  • Humor
  • Purpose

Of this list of a dozen elements, I relate to many. Let me focus on Purpose first. Without a Sense of Purpose, you will flounder. Most of you, by now, understand that our purpose, at Learning Without Scars, is to help people identify their individual potential and then we provide tools to allow them to realize their potential. Many of you will see that purpose as a difficult of not an impossible mission. Obviously, we have a different view on that. One of my fundamental beliefs is that “Everyone wants to do a good job.” This is followed with the fact that “everyone can do more than they think they can.” Put those two facts together and you see the seeds of understanding individual potential.

One of the challenges many of us face is that we get “stuck.” We get stuck in our jobs, in an Industry, a Company, a department. We are stuck and unfulfilled, and bored, and clearly, we are not challenged. But we need the job and don’t want to move, because we don’t think we can replace the job. We are anxious, we are afraid. Whenever I find this situation, I ask the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

There is a fresh question for me to consider in the book. “Am I living a life I love?” Perhaps that is a little too theoretical for most of you. But think about that. Isn’t that a terrific question to be asking yourself? Of course, it is. There is an interesting aspect to this question and the work of these authors. They always, every time, provide something that each person has to do. Some action. This is not simply a theoretical exercise. They are trying to create a perspective of success. Of happiness. Nothing is allowed to get in the way. For instance, many of us will use our health or bad habits as a “reason” that we can’t do something. They do not accept that excuse. They give us a perspective to consider with an interesting quotation. “Health is the optimal condition of being that allows for the ultimate engagement in life.” If you smoke or are overweight, they suggest you make the best of that reality. No excuse and no reason for inaction. It seems that there is a trigger when we leave our fear behind and pursue a life we love. I strongly suggest that everyone read this book. I think it could make a difference in your life.

This is the ultimate place to ask that age old question “What If?” Can you improve your life? Your job performance? Your family life? Your relationships? I am by nature an optimist. I know the answer to these questions for my life. Of course, I can. I just need to start. To take some action. To get on the path to success. Care to join me?

The Time is Now.

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What’s Next?

What’s Next?

As 2021 winds down it is time for some reflection and some contemplation. What have we been able to get done in 2021 and what is next for us in 2022?

There has been a lot of confusion this year, wouldn’t you say? Politically, economically, and socially. Perhaps many of us ourselves have been confused. At Learning Without Scars we have been very busy.

  1. We received our IACET Approved provider accreditation.
  2. We revamped our website.
  3. We expanded on the Resources available to our followers.
  4. We introduced Podcasts to our audience.
  5. We added more Contributors to our blogs and podcasts.
  6. We created a Quarterly Newsletter.
  7. We created Audio Learning in multiple languages.
  8. We rounded out our Subject Specific Classes at 108 subjects available.
  9. We rounded out our Job Function Assessments at 18 available.
  10. We made available all of our Job Function Assessments in French and Spanish.
  11. We made our Parts Subject Specific Classes in French.
  12. We create Partnerships with Service Providers, Associations and Consulting Groups.

Now that is a Dozen Items to contend with and it is a list that we take a lot of pride in sharing with you. Ross Atkinson has been a large part of this work and we are most appreciative of having him participating with us in our business. I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to Norma Robbins and Louise Duranleau for their work in providing us the translations and audio tracks for the job function assessments and subject specific classes. And finally, to Caroline Slee-Poulos for her untiring work on working with IACET and completing our accreditation after nearly three years of work. My thanks to all of you.

Yet there are miles to go before we rest.

  1. In 2022 we expect to complete all classes in Spanish, French and English.
  2. We are modifying all subject specific classes to provide multiple quizzes in each class. These quizzes are aimed at improving learning and knowledge retention.
  3. We are working with Industry Associations to provide their members access to all of our learning products.
  4. We are working with Equipment Manufacturers to provide training to their dealership field personnel
  5. We are working with Systems Suppliers to provide training to their sales teams and support personnel.
  6. We will start working with Technical and Vocational Schools to introduce our subject specific classes into their curriculum for mechanical and technical training.
  7. We will be introducing new Products in the Learning area; – new Subject Specific Classes and more Job Function Assessments
  8. We will be adding new Zoom Offerings with panels of subject matter experts providing discussion on specific subjects and specific books that we are discussing.
  9. We will be looking to creating an industry wide Job Certification Program.
  10. We will accelerate our marketing activities with email blasts, e-books and snail mail programs.
  11. We will continue to improve the depth and breadth of our reporting to assist our clients in keeping track of the progress of their employees who are enrolled in LWS products.
  12. We will closely monitor our compliance with IACET requirements and keep them current with our activities.

While we are getting all of that done, we also intend to have thousands of individuals take Job Function Assessments and enroll in Subject Specific Classes.

We would not be in the position we are now, of being the supplier of the most comprehensive list of training products and employee development programs in the industry, were it not for the invaluable assistance we have received from you, our clients. Your suggestions and questions are all taken seriously and without your input and involvement we would never have gotten this far down the road. From our start with Quest Learning Centers in 1994, which provided Classroom Programs and Webinars, to Learning Without Scars, which is focused on Internet Based Learning we have depended heavily on your support.

Our purpose as a business is very simple.

We provide complementary resources to assist each individual to find their potential with blogs, podcasts, audio learning, suggested reading lists, newsletters and job function assessments. Then we give each person a pathway to achieving their potential through the use of Skill Level Pathways. To the thousands of you who have taken assessments and classes with us we say thank you. We know you are making a difference in your lives both personally and professionally through your commitment to excellence. We wish you all the success that you are dreaming about in your life. Your individual happiness is a true sign of a successful life. Thank you as well.

I want to close this blog, our last for the year, with a quotation from our Mascot, “Socrates.”

Socrates Says – Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.

The Time is Now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.