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Chris LoCurto

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December 21, 2010

I’m Just Not Doing That – Part 2

December 21, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

No Way for the Sky

Image by Margnac via Flickr

So, in Part 1, I talked about making some large purchases from some suppliers that were having a hard time giving deep discounts on a product that wasn’t moving well. (Please read it first if you haven’t for context.) As I said in that post there were two things I was negotiating, unit price and shipping price, thus Part 2.

I was doing really well with both negotiations. Until I talked with this one supplier who agreed to discount the price, but not the shipping. In fact, he is who the phrase “I’m just not doing that” came from. I explained that if he discounted the shipping, I would buy more. He shook his head and said, “nope, nope, I’m not doing it!”

When I asked why, he told me that he took a look at it last year and saw that they were losing money. Now, please understand, if I’m able to get all of the other suppliers to discount their shipping deeply, it’s because they have such huge margins on the product price. Thus the phrase “losing money” is extremely relative. If I bought your stuff at cost of goods, then yeah, I’m with you. But that’s not even close to what was happening.

I continued to remind him that if he would reconsider, I would give him more of the little green things that end up in his paycheck. He still didn’t get it. So, I didn’t spend as much money with him. With that said, we had the same situation with our Publishing department a few years ago. They did a special and gave free shipping on every purchase.

That sent sales through the roof! Literally, we had to patch the roof later. So in the month of the sale, revenues were incredible. The trip up came the next month when the shipping bill hit. That caused some of the folks in the department to panic and say that the sale was a disaster since the shipping bill was four times higher than normal.

But the leader was fast on his feet to point out that the expense was not a fixed expense, it was a variable. As a sale was made, the expense was made. When you compare the margin of net profit to total expense, they still won. In other words, DO IT AGAIN!

It takes someone not being so focused on the individual problem for them to see the bigger picture. This applies in basically any problem you have. Try and get outside of it and look at all of the puzzle pieces. When you do, you can find a better way of putting it together.

Have you ever dealt with this type of situation? Share it with me.

Chris LoCurto

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December 20, 2010

I’m Just Not Doing That – Part 1

December 20, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

NO WAY!

Image by tim ellis via Flickr

There are times in business when I see other business peeps make decisions that make me go, “seriously?” Now, I am absolutely positive other people say that about me. Let’s be honest….they probably don’t say that about me….more than 4 times a day.

Anyway, there’s no way that leaders are going to do everything right. But when faced with a push back on a decision you have made, one should at least listen and think through the challenge. What does it hurt? Your pride? Your ego? Okay, don’t listen then.

I was recently making a purchase of something that I was buying in bulk. I was buying it in bulk from multiple suppliers. A product that is not moving like it was before the economic crisis. Because of the current economic situation, I negotiated some serious rates to take the product off of the suppliers hands.

Not only did I negotiate the price, but I negotiated the shipping. Every time I proposed a price that I wanted, I was told that they just don’t do that price for anyone. When I asked how many cases would it take to get to that price, still the same thing. Being me, I asked again, and in frustration they would throw out a number that was well below my upper limit. I, with glee, accepted! (Not the cast. Although that would have rocked if they sung “Wrap It Up I’ll Take It” as my reply!) There are two issues that I had with this approach from the suppliers, and all of them did it.

  • First, you’re in a situation where people aren’t buying your product like they used to. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Don’t just sit there wondering when things are going to get better. If someone comes to you with an offer that includes, “what would it take to get to…” then think! What would it take? If you can give me a number in frustration, how much faster can you give it to me happy? If you say no, and there was a case point where you would have done the deal, but I walk out, you lose! Technically so do I, that’s why I’m stubborn and keep asking.
  • Second, why aren’t you trying to get me to buy more by offering deep discounts. Don’t just sit there and hope I buy one or two pieces, make me an offer I can’t refuse. (That was for all of my Sicilian brethren.) You might be blown away at how many more sales you get by this approach, as opposed to sitting on your thumbs waiting for the day to end.  Okay, maybe that was a little harsh….mmmmm, nah!

If you’re the owner of this business, do you have the same drab approach? If not, what are you doing to empower your team to look at it from a different side?

In part deux, I will talk about what one of them said about…well, you’ll find out. (Crazy cliff hanger, right?)

What are some situations like this that you have experienced?

Chris LoCurto

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December 17, 2010

Let Me Tell You Something

December 17, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

There’s always “that guy” who wants to tell you how your thing needs improvement. How you could have done it better. Why you should change what it is that you’re doing. Okay, it can be “that girl” as well. Whether it be a brother-in-law, a grandmother, a co-worker, a client, or the guy at the end of church service who waits for everyone to leave, so he can correct the pastor on his sermon. No matter who it is, most of us will grit our teeth, or bite our tongue, and say, “Wow, thanks. I really appreciate that!” Okay, maybe there’s one person out there who genuinely likes that time of criticism. Me, not so much!

However, I have discovered in all of my years of leadership, and studying personality styles, that more than not that person is trying to help. I know, you’re like, WHATEVER! But again, most of the time it’s true. They just don’t know how to express it correctly. Okay, maybe correctly is a selfish term. How about, in a way that works for the recipient?

They usually are a high task and detail kind of person who processes differently than most people. The important thing to realize is that if you learn to communicate with this person, you would be amazed at how much they have to offer. In fact, handled correctly, you can build a relationship where they feel needed, and you have someone to give great input into things you might be missing. “Well that just sounds like you’re using them.” It is, if you don’t actually have a heart and care about that person. The truth is, they LOVE to make you look good. They get pleasure out of serving. It’s just that nobody has taken the time to understand them, how they think, how they process, or why they approach situations and opportunities the way they do.

So the next time you come across this person, instead of shooting daggers from your eyes into their skull, take the time to sit down and talk out their suggestion(s) with them. How did they come to it? Why do they see it that way? What other options do they have for solutions? And then ask them if there is anything else they want to share. You will start to see this person in a whole new light. You’ll begin to see an ally instead of an enemy. Trust me…just ask them about it. :)

Have you ever had that person in your life? How did you react?

Chris LoCurto

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December 13, 2010

The Red Mist

December 13, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

There are two types of racing that I love: alpine skiing and formula car, both of which I continue to participated in. Growing up in Tahoe we tore teams apart on a regular basis. We were a bunch of misfits, kinda like the Bad News Bears. Some of the kids were from broken homes and some from broke families, but put us in the gates and step back. There were times that we would go to a ski hill and the team there would have matching jackets, pants, hats, everything. They would make fun of us for a while, but that only added fuel to the fire for us. When we got to the awards ceremony we were the ones with big grins. To this day whenever I go skiing I have to find a place with a race course and crash the gates.

Over the past few years I have been racing formula cars. I started in a Formula 2000 and worked my way up to a Formula 3 (pic above). The funny thing is that you never lose that desire to blow everybody away. From the moment I got in the car, all I’ve wanted to do is win…and have fun…but mainly win. Which I did my first race at Sears Point in Sonoma. So it came as no surprise to me what happened at Mid Ohio. I was racing way out of my league with guys who have raced several years longer than me. I was working my qualifying laps just trying to put down some good times and not worrying about the better drivers. I had a bad exit out of one of the turns, so I was passed by two cars going into the next turn. And that’s when everything changed.

I totally forgot about my times and completely focused on running down those two cars. I caught one six turns later and dove really hot into a hair pin. I made it but got really loose, lost the back-end but caught it in time. This cost me momentum, and all I could think about was catching the other guy. In that moment I made a decision that would…thwart my plans. I short shifted in a corner taking away all power to the wheels that were holding me like glue on the track. It was a stupid mistake that I KNEW not to do, but I did it. I lost the back-end, headed for the concrete wall. I worked that steering wheel back and forth like Miles Davis and John Coltrane trading solos! (If you don’t know them, shame on you! Look up their competitions.) By the grace of God I caught pavement, whipped it in the other direction, and went off the side of the track with the gravel trap.

When I was in the pits explaining it to another driver he said, “ahhhh, you saw the red mist!” It’s an old road racing term that means you’ve become so focused on something that you begin to make bad judgments. All you see is a red mist. That was me!

I think some of us have a tendency to do that in life from time to time. As sales people we want to beat every salesperson around us. As leaders we want to be smarter and have better ideas than other leaders. As administrative people we want to serve more, better, and faster than others. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s when it becomes the driving force, and all we see is winning no matter what the cost. That’s when we make fatal errors.

What are some ways that you have experienced red mist?

Chris LoCurto

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December 9, 2010

Stiffed Again!

December 9, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

I’m a big tipper! That is just a fact. And it comes from having been a server. It’s my belief that all teenagers should be required to do two things before entering the rest of their life:

  • Work on a farm and actually come to an understanding of what hard work looks like. I don’t know a single person who has, that didn’t have an incredible work ethic!
  • Work as a waiter/waitress in a restaurant and learn what it means to serve.

Now, I understand the farm one is a little difficult due to the actual numbers of farms and the need for workers. BUT RESTAURANTS ARE EVERYWHERE! The need to serve is laid out before us. The call from on high, “Go forth ye and serve!” In my mind there’s no better way to serve than to wait on someone who’s paying for food. You would be amazed at how many jerks there are in your city. (If you’re offended by that statement…guess what, it’s you.) That’s why I always start out with a 20% tip, and you really have to screw up for me to drop that. Even then I try to convince myself you’re just having a bad day due to somebody being mean before I got there.

With that said, I do want to bring up a situation that happened recently with a colleague of mine. Now, as I get to the end you’ll see that it was just a misunderstanding, but the greater issue for me is what you as a business person should be concerned with. What happened is he called ahead and put in two HUGE orders with a coffee-house chain that equaled 150 drinks over two days. Afterward he sent over a thank you card with a very large tip. Somehow the tip didn’t get to the manager. A week later that person made a comment about how this guys company didn’t tip and they were surprised about it. Now, let’s stop there so I can tell you that the manager brought in extra help and they all worked their butts off to get the orders done. And to understand more, the manager has a heart towards the team members as I believe they only make minimum wage, so tips are a fantastic thing for them. From my point of view, if you’re ordering tons of drinks like that and you don’t tip, you’re a dork!

Here’s what I don’t want us to miss in business. If my average customer buys 1 item from me, and you come in and in 2 days order 150, I’m a pretty happy person! Crud, how do I get you to do that again? How do I get you to do that multiple times a year? A month? How do we miss out on the fact that due to you spending money with me, I get to pay people who get to take that money home and better their lives? This is a crazy good leadership moment to come along side the team members to show them how they need to use this opportunity to thank the customer for choosing them to provide their coffee needs. It’s also a great time to teach them that, due to their efforts, 150 are about to have a much better day. If a tip comes in, celebrate it! But still do the others. If you’re not helping people to see that their job is bigger than them, then what are you doing to energize them? Look for every opportunity possible to show them that the work they do matters! It changes lives! Especially if what you do is wake up the country’s workforce each day.

What are your thoughts?

Chris LoCurto

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December 7, 2010

Hiding the Truth

December 7, 2010 | By | 5 Comments">5 Comments

Something that everybody close to me knows is that I love babies. LOVE THEM! I’m the guy who gets the mean look from a mom when she’s trying to feed carrot mush to her child in a restaurant, but can’t because I have the little blessing of God laughing at me making funny faces at the other table. (Sorry to all you moms. I’m working on it.) One of my favorite games is when you play peek-a-boo by covering your eyes, not theirs, and they still wonder where you went. Every time you remove your hands from your face it’s like you just reappeared out of nowhere, like New Kids On The Block. The funny thing is that you were there the whole time.

Sometimes as business leaders we can play the same game with the realities we don’t want to face. One of those areas that I see from time to time when I’m working with companies is the hiding of expenses or adding of revenues to their Profit & Loss statements. (P & L’s are taking your revenues less your expenses to show you your net profit.) What I mean by that is, many times to really see if something is being successful you should put it on what is called a sub P & L. That’s where you assign all of its own expenses, income, and fair share of overhead to a single P & L. Now, if you make one widget, only sell that one widget, and never plan on doing anything but that widget…then keep reading anyway ’cause you might change your mind someday. But, if you have at least two different revenue producing items then, it’s not a bad idea to separate them to see how successful, or tragically failing they are on their own. As you get more and more items, it becomes almost necessary to do so. This is a great measuring stick to see how a product is doing.

The problem comes in when an owner/leader is either too busy, or is already doing a bad job with the accounting as is, or they are afraid to see the truth about what is going on. I’ve seen both. I understand the busy thing, it’s wrong, but I get it. The one that bothers me most is when someone is unwilling to see what’s going on. I can’t tell you how many times the team members of a company will tell me how the whole company knows that they have divisions that are dying and bleeding money, but the owner refuses to look at the numbers individually since they are all lumped together. As long as they see a bottom line that’s in the black they feel that everything is working flawlessly. This is a tragic mistake. Not only is it a waste of money/time/resources but it’s also demoralizing to the team members who see it. The converse of this is the number of times I’ve seen a leader collapse sub P & L’s into one to hide what they’ve already found out. Once again this is ridiculous.

Fix the problem! If the problem is that you’re too busy, get someone who can do it. If the problem is your inability to handle the truth, don’t worry, it will eventually reveal itself to you. Let’s just hope that at that time you haven’t lost your team, your bottom line, and your company. Take your hands away from your eyes and get in the game!

Have you experienced this in business? What about personal finances?

Chris LoCurto

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November 19, 2010

Buyer’s Remorse

November 19, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

I wonder what percentage of guys…or gals, that bought the Ronco Spray On Hair absolutely had buyer’s remorse after their debit card (’cause I’m sure it wasn’t a credit card) was charged by the customer service/sales agent at the Ronco “have we got something you need” World Headquarters. Was there a moment while using the product that they realized all they did was paint their head? If you were one of super courteous and happy customer service/sales agents at Ronco, what ran through your mind each time that purchase was made? “What a dweeb!” “Poor sucker!” “Man, I should really pick up a can of this stuff!”

While there are many ways that buyer’s remorse is created, there’s one that comes after buying from a horrible sales person. That’s right, the high pressure sale. I have seen this all too often and it absolutely drives me crazy. This is when someone with mass arrogance makes you feel like the product they have is so amazing, and so fantastic, that if you don’t drop everything you’re doing right now and buy it you’re an idiot. Now don’t get me wrong, any sales person worth their weight in gold is going to be sold out passionate for their product!

The problem comes when they think they can and need to bully someone into a sale. “I don’t have time to mess around with you. If you’re not ready to buy right now I have other people who are crouching around my feet with money in their mouths just waiting. What’ll it be?!!” Too many times I have watched someone be bullied into this purchase.

The outcome, buyer’s remorse. What does that mean for the sales person? A CANCELLATION!!!! That’s right. Once this person realizes that they weren’t served, they were taken advantage of, they all of a sudden have an Aunt who’s come down with some…crazy unheard of disease that they now have to have that money back to take care of the situation. And who could blame them for wanting to cancel. They weren’t served in the process.

If you are that sales person, In EntreLeadership I teach our 4 step process; Qualification, Rapport, Education, and Close. I can’t cover them all right now so I’ll get to the others in later posts. The first and most important step is you have to actually see if they are qualified for your purchase. If it’s a $10 item this shouldn’t be difficult…unless they’re 5 years old, then this could be a challenge. With the qualification process find out if they actually NEED your product or service. Do they have the money to purchase? Do they have the authority to pull the trigger? If not, you’re wasting both parties time.

This is your greatest opportunity to SERVE the customer. I know, it’s a foreign idea that we should actually serve someone in our sales process, but when you do, you will be blown away by how easy the rest of the sale becomes. Once we have trust, you can move onto building rapport and educating me. I can move pass the price once the scale of value has been tipped in my direction. So next time you are selling someone, try not to sell! Instead, serve them and watch what happens.

Chris LoCurto

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September 23, 2010

Leading by Fear

September 23, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

If you’ve ever played any kind of organized sports, than you know that talking trash is an inevitable part of almost every game…except maybe in badminton. What could you possible say, “I’m gonna hit you so hard with this birdie you won’t remember your mama’s name!”

It just doesn’t have the same fear factor as say football or say Jai Alai. (I just needed an excuse to go all Jai Alai on ya!) The goal is to make your opponent feel that you are superior. The funny part is that if you actually were superior, there would be absolutely no need to make someone feel afraid.

Unfortunately, I observe these same tactics being used in leadership. Take the threat of firing someone for instance. There are basically two reason for that threat; someone has done something stupid enough that they genuinely may lose their job, or you want to make someone feel that you are in control of their destiny.

If someone respectfully challenges your processes and your first response is a threat, then you’re not actually leading. In fact, you’re rapidly losing the respect of that person as well as paralyzing them from ever acting on instinct with you again. Any good leader knows this is a highway to the danger zone. (Sorry about that.) Your goal is to foster greatness even if it causes you to take a hard look at yourself. Only then can you truly lead.

This raises the question, “What if I’ve hired an idiot maverick who won’t follow or listen and is always causing problems?” I’ve had this person and I will be following up that answer in future post.

Tell me about the times you’ve observed someone leading by fear.

Chris LoCurto

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September 10, 2010

Hiring T.O.

September 10, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

There are many times in a leaders life that they ask themselves the question, “what the heck was I thinking when I hired that guy?!!” After the 17th person on your team tells you how difficult the new person is to work with, you start to realize there is something way more important than hiring a “star.”

You begin to understand that it doesn’t matter how talented a person is on his own. (Unless your like a tennis coach or something.) One of the worst days for leaders is when they realize they have dropped a death metal guitar player into the middle of their 40 piece orchestra. At first it looks like a fun and exciting change, but quickly everyone understands just how badly this is going to play out.

What does this have to do with T.O.? Well, if you have watched his career at all you’ve noticed that there have been some…..”bumps” in the road. There is no doubt that he is a phenomenal athlete who, when he actually catches the ball, can make some serious plays. The problem isn’t once he has the ball, it’s everything that goes on around that moment.

All I can go by is how I’ve seen him act on the field and what his teammates have said. It’s my opinion that he has done way more damage to teams than good. And the reason is simple, it’s a TEAM sport! A buddy of mine, Ron Cook, used to manage Kenny Stabler in his post career, and Stabler always said, “You can have all the talent in the world, but you will not win if you don’t have a happy locker room!”

On the other hand, hiring the right person is one of the greatest joys of any leader’s life. Building a team of right people, is as fantastic as the first time you wake up to find out that there really is a Tooth Fairy, and she left you a quarter! (Am I showing my age there? Aren’t kids getting iPads for a tooth now?) When you have a team that works together in unity, you can accomplish absolutely anything.

God talks about this in Genesis 11:6 when He said that since the people were of one mind, together in unity, nothing would be impossible for them. Just like MacGyver with a paperclip and some rubber bands. One of the keys to hiring correctly is to hire the fantastically talented, who also are equally talented at being team players. (Key word: talented!) As Kurt Russell said in Miracle “I’m not looking for the best players…I’m looking for the right ones!”

This doesn’t mean you slack on finding someone who can do the job better than anyone else, you still need to hire someone who will leave the cave, kill something, and drag it home. They just need to play nicely with the other hunters.

Question: Have you ever been T.O.ed?