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Leadership

Chris LoCurto

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January 25, 2011

Please Help Me!

January 25, 2011 | By | 7 Comments">7 Comments

I have to say that I used to have the best personal assistant on the planet: Marybeth. “Used” being the operative word since she left me! Yep, you’re on your own, c-ya, ga’bye! I’m sorry, give me a second….*tears*…..ohhhh gaaaaaaaa!!!! WHY?!!!!!…..*snif*….ok I’m back. Sorry about that, where was I, oh yeah, she had to get married to this really cool, funny, charming, (Dare I say handsome…no, that’s crossing a line) great guy Joel and moved to DC. But I’m not bitter. At least I got to dance with her at her beautiful wedding…which again is why she left me. Did I already mention that?

The greatest gift that I got from Marybeth was her friendship. And the fact that she laughs at my jokes; even when I don’t pay her anymore. She knows I would take a bullet for her, and I know she would for me. Marybeth made my life easier! She took care of me like nobody’s business…or…like it was her business. Whatever, it’s a saying. But I can say that it wasn’t always that way. Not with MB, but before she got there. Before MB I had GREAT assistants who did fabulous jobs taking care of my department. But there’s a difference between an assistant, and a personal assistant.

I realized this when life was getting so busy that I couldn’t even get to the emissions place to have my car….emissioned. I don’t know. As I looked around my life, things were getting missed. A lot of personal time was being taken up with work. Everyday became slammed with meetings, every lunch was a meeting, most nights were meetings, or dinner interviews, or connecting time with team members, and then I traveled a ton on the weekends (still do) as well.

I would be in my office realizing that I needed water or a snack, since I had been nailed down to my desk for hours straight, and I couldn’t take the time to get up to get it. Many times I would work straight through lunch and would miss it because there just wasn’t time to go get something. There were times I would miss a birthday, or forget to send flowers to someone in the hospital, or I would leave work too late to pick up my dry cleaning…or…or… And it was these things that would then take up the personal I time needed in my life. Instead of living life outside of the office, I was spending time doing all the “chores” instead of enjoying the down time that was so needed.

I discovered that my personal time was too important to lose doing menial things. That’s when I hired a “personal”  assistant. Someone who took care of my department, but also did all of the personal stuff needed so I could have a balanced work and personal life. That’s when a bunch of stress left my body.

Does everybody need a personal assistant? Oh gosh no. Most leaders I know don’t have to travel, don’t have to work through lunch, don’t have evening meetings. And I’m SURELY not suggesting that you start working like that so you can have one. What I am saying is you need to look at what balance is. If you have a position that requires more of you that can’t be passed off to someone else, and it has an effect on your personal life, then you might need reevaluate your needs.

Chris LoCurto

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January 21, 2011

Will You Hire Me?

January 21, 2011 | By | 7 Comments">7 Comments

Tammy Kornberg is one of my favorite people on the planet! Her and her crazy funny husband Mitch are a blast to hang with. They both just love life. I hired Tammy to sell almost four years ago, and she has done nothing but knock it out of the park.

But how she got hired is interesting. She was working at a restaurant as manager at a high-end place when Dave and his son Daniel came in to eat. She really took care of him and treated him like a normal person. In the process, the discussion came up that she was looking for a daytime job.

Dave liked Tammy so much that he told her to bypass our system and bring her resume straight to his personal assistant. (Now, you should know that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. If you’re thinking you’ll attack Dave with a resume, let me say that it won’t work.)

Tammy brought her resume by that April….in August she got a call. And even then it was for a temp position. But, it was for the best team in the building…mine! Needless to say, not only did she get hired, but she got hired full-time and has been killing it ever since.

But it was after some serious scrutiny from HR, my personal assistant, my sales team leader in that area, my EVP, me, and an interview with my spouse; as was with any hire for my team. It was eight months from the dinner, to me hiring her full-time. And at our place, that’s not bad.

Not only does it take a long time to get hired at Dave Ramsey‘s organization, but your chances are low. In fact, last year we had three thousand applications, one thousand interviews, and we hired thirty people. Yep, we have a one percent acceptance rate. Just a little comparison for you, Harvard has a seven percent acceptance rate.

Why so low you might ask. Plain and simple, we take our time.  We don’t rush the process of hiring. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to meet with leaders who hate the people who they’ve hired. When I ask the interview process, it’s usually one or two steps long. Ours is at least four, and usually greater than five. What are just some of the things we do:

  • We pray!
  • We post the job with enough detail that it can rule out the person before they even apply.
  • We have them take a personality test when it’s down to two or three candidates.
  • We look for the character traits we want for that position.
  • We get a personal budget so we know they can afford to work here.
  • We make sure they are here for more than just a j.o.b.

There’s a lot more, but this should give you an idea. When hiring, take….your….time. Use the ratio of two to one; you have two ears and one mouth, so use the ears twice as much. Let the candidate do the talking. Who knows, they might just rule themselves out right in front of you.

Chris LoCurto

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January 19, 2011

Dang, Did I Do That?

January 19, 2011 | By | 8 Comments">8 Comments

As unmanly as it is to say, I actually like the Lion King. I know, I know, I can hear all of you saying, “But Chris, you’re so studly! How could you possibly?” So go ahead…tell me how studly I am………………(crickets) I like it because it’s a great story, and it has some really great parts to it. Like when the hyenas are gathered in a circle and they keep saying the great lion Mufasa’s name:

1st hyena: “Mufasa!”

2nd hyena: “ewwww, I hear that name and I shudder…do it again.”

1st hyena: “MUFASAAAAAAAA…”

That’s just good quality stuff right there. But my favorite part is when the lion cub Simba has run away from everyone because he thinks he is responsible for Mufasa’s death. Rafiki finds him in hiding and tells him that he needs to come home:

Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.

[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]

Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?

Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.

[laughs]

Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.

Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.

[swings his stick at Simba again who ducks out of the way]

Rafiki: Ha. You See? So what are you going to do?

Adult Simba: First, I’m gonna take your stick.

The truth is, the past does hurt. We’ve all made some serious mistakes that we’re not proud of. (If you haven’t, it’s coming. Sorry.) And because of that, we have a tendency to run from the future. That’s right, we will keep ourselves from doing something that God has ordained because we’ve made a mess of something before. We become afraid of how bad we might screw up again. But you need to know that the past is the past! That’s why they call it that! It’s over, gone, done and done! We need to move on and not allow our past failures to control our future. Every great leader has quotes on how much you must fail to succeed. If they know it, why don’t we?

And God doesn’t want to leave you there in the past and taunt you about it day after day. One of the greatest examples of someone who messed up, but God redeemed, is Paul. Paul was Saul, a guy who used to kill Christians. We believe that it was he who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen. And yet God turned him into the greatest evangelist. Every time I read the story, I don’t ever read how everyday God was there every day going, “Hey, don’t forget you used to be a murderer. That’s really kinda bad in my book.” Instead, He used him to help me to know about my place in Heaven.

As an individual, the next time you allow the mistakes of the past to ruin your day, stop and think about Paul and how some of his days went. It’ll change the way you feel. As a leader, you need to be keenly aware of where your people struggle in the area of making mistakes. If it’s from the past, you won’t get them to take many risks for the future.

Chris LoCurto

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January 17, 2011

The Power Of Influence

January 17, 2011 | By | One Comment">One Comment

Garth Brooks singing the Don McLean song &quot...

Image via Wikipedia

For a very long time, there has been one concert that I’ve wanted to see: Garth! I never got the chance to see him in the early days when he was flyin’ from the ceilings of arenas, and my heart sunk when he stopped touring. But praise God that he and Steve Wynn came up with the incredible idea of Garth doing a bunch of really small concerts in Vegas. And that’s where I finally got the chance to see the genius at work. Let me say, it was outrageous! It was like being in his living room. I won’t go into too many details, I don’t want to spoil it, in case you get the chance to see the show.

One of the things I will share, is he spends a good amount of time talking about influences. Over and over he paints a picture of  how certain people have made a huge impact in life and his music. Starting with him riding in the truck with his father listening to old country music on the radio. It’s that very thing that draws you in and helps you to see each one of those experiences played out in your mind. But it couldn’t happen without there being someone playing the part of the influential one.

Every Wednesday we have a devotional at our office for our team. This past Wednesday our former pastor, L.H. Hardwick, delivered a fantastic talk. But before he did, Dave got up and talked about how Brother Hardwick played a very important role in Dave’s life. It was Christ Church where Dave got saved. He became a spiritual father to Dave in his journey of becoming a Christian, as well as walking the walk. He shared that story with our team and it put you there at Christ Church all those years ago with a young Brother Hardwick, and an even younger Dave Ramsey, walking the road to Romans.

Each time I hear stories like this it makes me want to recognize those who have influenced me in my life, and be selfless enough to be one of the influential people in another person’s life. If you think really hard, can you tell a story of those in your life that have made a difference? Could someone tell a story about how you have done exactly that for them? I believe stories have such an impact on us because we are just that…one big story.

Chris LoCurto

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January 13, 2011

Wow, Look What I Did!

January 13, 2011 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Goal Setting

Image by angietorres via Flickr

It’s that time of year when people set goals. Well, attempt to set goals. I actually don’t find many people who really know how to set actual goals. Usually what I find are people who sit down, write out all the things they want to accomplish during the next year, then put that piece of paper in a drawer somewhere. Long about November, they pull it out, blow the dust off, and comment on how well they did completing three of the fifteen things they wrote down. This is not goal setting people!

Whether you’re a leader or a team member, to truly learn how to do goal setting, you have to understand that it’s not about the “dream” of doing something, it’s about the breakdown of individual tasks that it takes to accomplish the “dream”. I always use the following example in “Dreams, Visions, and Goal Setting” in EntreLeadership: “If we said that we were going to have dinner tonight at 6:30 PM at a specific restaurant, what would need to happen? First, this guy on stage would have to stop talking, then you would get up from your chair, walk over to the door, open the door, walk out to the bus that should have already been set up to take us, get on the bus, sit down, the driver needs to drive to the restaurant, you get up, walk off the bus, walk to the restaurant, open the door, find your seat, sit down, order, the cook cooks it, and the server brings your food.” WHEW!!

Now, that seems overly simplistic, but the truth is, that’s how you need to break down your goals. When you write them down, and then break them down, you can actually see the steps you need to take to complete them. And doing it to this extreme, allows you to see where you’ve fallen behind, are ahead of schedule, missing pieces of the goal, etc.

In that same lesson we say that for goals to work they need to be five things:

  • Specific – not just a lofty idea, what exactly do you want to do?
  • Measurable – how do you know what success looks like?
  • Have a time limit – when should each individual part be accomplished?
  • Must be yours – If not, it’s just a delegated task.
  • Must be in writing – Otherwise it stays a dream that will be forgotten soon.

So, if you’ve already started your process, hopefully this will help you to revisit if you’re missing some of these elements. If you haven’t started yet, then first: find some time to dream, sit down, take out a piece of paper or use your computer, write down the main ideas of what you want to accomplish, then spend time breaking down exactly what needs to happen to accomplish those goals. Put time limits in place of when each thing should be done. Then AT LEAST once a month go back and see where you are. I prefer no more than every two weeks.

I promise, you will do more for your goals than dusting them off in November to see where you are.

Chris LoCurto

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January 11, 2011

Stop Talking!

January 11, 2011 | By | 5 Comments">5 Comments

I happened to stop at a sandwich shop the other day. It’s a great chain with really good sandwiches. As I walked in I quickly realized that I was the only one there, but it was after lunch, so I bet it was hoppin’ before I got there.

Shhh, Lost Is On

Image by Cayusa via Flickr

There were three young folks: two guys making sandwiches and one gal at the register. The guys seemed like they were having a good day, and the gal…..looked at me funny. I gave my order for three sandwiches, and the guys jumped right on it. (No, they weren’t all for me….just two of them. Okay, just one.) Once my order was paid for I noticed that a couple of firemen and a young gal had fallen in line behind me ready to order.

As they placed their orders, one of the guys had to run to the back to get…something, so the gal jumped on the line to take his place. It was then that she began to….complain! She complained about something that the company wasn’t doing, and it was loud enough for customers to hear.

You should know that this is one of my pet peeves! I can’t stand when team members complain with customers around. Push aside the fact that it’s a severe gossip issue, no customer wants to hear it. And every time it happens, all I can think about is what’s wrong with their leadership?  There are many reasons for gossip: like a lack of character, integrity, etc. Gossip is a cancer and needs to be cut out IMMEDIATELY! But there’s one main reason that I have found for gossip; the feeling that leadership won’t listen to what’s going on.

At EntreLeadership I get the opportunity to talk with both leaders and team members. And every time the discussion of gossip comes up, I dig really deep to find the root of it. Almost every time I find the reason for the gossip is that the team members feel like they are trying to correct problems that are going on and nobody will give them the time of day. When this happens, that team member feels the need to tell someone else and be validated. They need to know that someone else understands the problem and the need to fix it.

This can be resolved pretty easily in most cases…TALK TO YOUR TEAM! You have got to get in there and find out what’s going on. There is no leadership error that I hate more than a leader who won’t actually talk to their INDIVIDUAL team members and get a pulse. I capitalize “individual” because I know too many leaders who get a pulse from team members about OTHER team members. This is ridiculous and is another post some time.

“Well, I don’t want to talk to them because they’re just always cynical!” Seriously? That’s your answer? Great job leader! You know, I once heard Jim Collins say that a cynic is nothing more than a passionate person who is tired of being let down. Why don’t you try getting out of yourself and discover the inner champion of your team member. Who knows, you might be impressed. Worst case, you find out they do suck and you get rid of them. Most likely, I believe, that won’t be the issue. You’ll find that you’re the problem. OUCH!

The title Stop Talking! is for the team member who’s complaining, especially with the public in ear shot. If that’s you, force a time with your leader to get them to listen. If they suck, and they can’t give you the time, go someplace where you can be a champion! Don’t stay and become a cynic!

Chris LoCurto

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January 7, 2011

American Airlines

January 7, 2011 | By | No Comments">No Comments

A couple of weeks ago in my post Southwest Airlines, I wrote about how amazing they are compared to other airlines. This past week I had the opportunity to fly American Airlines and let them prove me wrong. Guess where I’m sitting…in the airport having just missed my flight. Now, the important thing to know is that we were late, and that was our fault. And since we were late, the gal at the ticket counter was nice enough to call the plane and ask them to wait, then she personally escorted us through security. (Apparently they have more authority than TSA in that area. Who knew?) The flight was supposed to leave at 4:15 PM and we booked it through the airport like we were twenty years younger!

Up to this point American Airlines has redeemed themselves, and I feel like a heel that I talked trash about other airlines in that post. However,  at 4:10 PM we got to the gate to find that they had released the 4:15 PM flight at, wait for it……..4:06 PM! WHAT?! We’re not even really late at this point!! Yes, their website has their legal jargon about needing to board twenty minutes early and all that. BLAH BLAH BLAH. But Southwest would have let us on! How do I know that? Because in the over four hundred flights that I’ve had on Southwest, I’ve actually seen it happen multiple times. Times that I was sitting on the plane wondering what we were waiting for, and it turned out to be people running for the plane.

So here I sit thinking to myself, why can’t there be more airlines like Southwest? Again, I am extremely appreciative of the lady who helped us get toooo the gate but not so much the people AT the gate! This was your chance AA to show the world…or at least those who read Chris LoCurto’s blog, that you are a company that takes care of its customers. But today I say like Mike Myers in “So I Married An Axe Murderer”, “nononono…negatory…negatory!!!”

Now, we are on the plane leaving and we have realized that they did some other things that were nice, they didn’t charge us the $50.00 per person flight change fee nor the $25.00 per bag fee. But really, leaving us there with nine minutes to spare, I wouldn’t charge us either.

Chris LoCurto

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January 5, 2011

Where My Sheep Be At?

January 5, 2011 | By | 2 Comments">2 Comments

Old Man's Sheep

Image by Kris Haamer via Flickr

My mom used to get on to us as kids whenever she said something, and we responded with a “huh?” She would be like, “huh is not a response. And besides, I know you heard me!” The truth is, we probably did. (Since she reads these, I’m sure you’ll hear an audible WOO HOO outside her office when she reads this one.) I can also promise you that in a crowd of a thousand people, we could hear our mom yelling our names. There’s just something about her voice that seemed to rise above all others. Ken Munday, one of the FPU team leaders here at our office, has a specific whistle that his wife and three girls know. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s so cool. He doesn’t even get that loud, they hear it and turn around looking for Dad.

In John 10:4-5, he wrote about how sheep hear their shepherd’s voice, he goes out in front of them, and they follow. But they never follow a stranger, in fact they will run from the voice because they don’t recognize it. People are the same way as you can see in the previous paragraph. In fact, your people are that way. If you’re leading a team, or a family, you have to make sure that they know your voice. What are you doing each day to get your flock to know which voice to follow in the midst of chaos? As a leader, it is your responsibility to guide and direct. And to the extent that you’re not, you’re failing as a leader. To the extent that you are, well, you can turn around and see that you’re succeeding. I believe it was Andy Stanley who said that, “If you turn around and nobody is following you, you’re not leading!” (Somebody correct me if it was someone else.)

The flip side of that is for the flock. You have to spend time actually knowing the voice that guides you. My dear friend Ron Cook calls it, “The discipline of listening”. Obviously the passage is a metaphor for God and how if we are truly followers of Him, we will know His voice. And it’s my responsibility to spend every day working on hearing that voice. It’s not necessarily an audible voice either. Sometimes He speaks to us through people, or a sunrise, or the stillness of a moment. But there is one thing that I am certain of, He never stops speaking to us. We just have to spend time on the discipline of listening.

What things do you do as a leader of people, or a follower of Christ?

Chris LoCurto

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January 3, 2011

Please…Say Something!

January 3, 2011 | By | One Comment">One Comment

[sixty3]

I started leading people at the age of twenty-one. Nine years ago I decided to implement a meeting with my team members that only gave them the chance to tell me what was wrong with my leadership. Yeah, give that one a try. I set up thirty minute meetings with each team member individually, which really would probably only last what…three minutes? I mean come on…how bad could it be, right? So I brought in the jewel of my team, Teresa Duke, and let her know that the time we had was just for her to tell me what was wrong with me. It wasn’t for me to say anything about her. It went something like this:

CLo – “Readyyyyyy go”

TD – “Your communication stinks”

CLo – *GULP* “uhhhhh….what’s that now?”

TD – “Your communication. We don’t know what’s going on.”

CLo – “Uhhhhhhhhh…what do you mean”

TD – “You know the thing with the stuff? (she mentioned a specific instance that I can’t recall) We don’t know anything about that.”

CLo – “Uhhhhhhh…I just assumed you knew;”

TD – “That’s the problem. You assume that we know what you know.”

CLo – “Please leave while I curl up in the corner and suck my thumb. Thanks for coming in today.”

Okay, maybe I didn’t say that last line. But I probably wanted to. It was a leadership changing moment for me. The realization that I wasn’t sharing enough information with my team to make them successful. I began that day making changes with me to help them know what was going on. What to expect. What to plan for. You see, an amazing thing happens when your team doesn’t have information, they become paralyzed. Yep, without leadership, without direction, they don’t know where to go and what to think.

If you’ve read the information on Nanny, then you know that the doctor gave us some information on how, and what percent the brain heals at. It was an important moment for us. You see, until that point, we felt like we knew nothing. We were standing there day after day wondering if at any moment she was going to open her eyes, look at us, and say, “OUCH! THAT HURT!” Or, will she wake up? And while there’s no way he could answer either of those questions, he at least gave us something that helped us face each day. She will be better than she is today, but it will take WAY longer than we were thinking. Even though that was no guarantee, it gave us information that we could use. Information to go forward with while we wait patiently for God, we’re at least not paralyzed just…waiting!

Chris LoCurto

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December 30, 2010

Southwest Airlines

December 30, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Southwest Airlines is my favorite airline! In the past ten years I have been on somewhere around four hundred Southwest planes. One year I was on one hundred planes in a one year period, so they sent me a companion pass. That meant that someone could fly anywhere with me for free anywhere I went. Pretty cool! In all of those flights, I have had maybe a dozen flights that I would consider to be late ones, more than a few minutes. And of those, only a few really late. For the most part, the Southwest team always treated me well. A couple of people have had some bad days, but compare that to the other airlines that I’ve been on, and you would see why I love Southwest!

Yesterday I posted about my Mother-in-law’s accident to keep a bunch of you up to date. We found out about it while we were on the slopes back in my hometown in Tahoe. Needless to say, we were in a bind. We really didn’t have much info, and we needed to get home quickly. Now imagine this: we are in Tahoe, needing to fly out of Reno, two days before Christmas, with six people. We had seven, but one of them, Anna Watkins, had to go home early and was actually at the airport at that time with a canceled flight due to freezing rain. She said that the airport was a mess with canceled flights.

Debbie got on the phone and called Southwest and explained the situation. They told her about how bad it was in Reno, but that they would see what they could do. A few minutes later, all six of us were booked on a flight leaving in three hours and they said they weren’t going to charge us the fees that are attached to a flight change like that. YOU’RE KIDDING ME!!! We rushed to get packed, changed out of all of our ski clothes and equipment, loaded into a transport, and headed for Reno.

Now, there’s no doubt that God was watching out for us! But it’s great when His kids work out the process. They totally didn’t have to do that. We would have understood that it was a crazy time to make a request like that. That getting us on plane that we hadn’t booked, during Christmas, in freezing rain, is one of those impossible situations for companies to help with. But this is Southwest Airlines, and they laugh at impossible! (And they love my bags!)

As a leader, your reflection is in the actions and reactions of every team member working for you. If you have a team that takes care of customers like Southwest, then you get loyal customers like Chris LoCurto. (That’s me) It is a sad day when I’m going somewhere that they don’t have the flights or schedules that I need, (like OKC from BNA!) ’cause that means I am flying a different airline with a track record of letting me down. Can Southwest take care of every issue that comes up with the tens of thousands of people who fly them every day? Heck yeah! Okay, of course not. But they sure were there when it counted for my family! That’s the true meaning of customer service! Try it today with your customers…your team members…your family! See what happens.

Chris LoCurto

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December 23, 2010

I’m Sorry, Did I Pay For That?

December 23, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

Christ Ascending into Heaven

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Okay LORD, what’s the deal with sinus junk! Why did you bring me to this land overflowing with mold and…hay fever? (It was the only ‘h’ word I could think of. You know, milk and honey reference.) I never had a sinus issue in my life until I moved to Nashville. Due to the blessing of sinusitis, I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Bradley Rudge at the Walk In Medical Clinic today. We’re like old buddies now since I see him like 3 times a year to get rid of this crud. And I’m sorry to say, but I’m a terrible sick guy. I just get mad, and later…emotional. Then I need my b’ankey!

Anyway, as we were discussing the medicinal prospects to aid in my recovery, he asked where I wanted them sent. I told him which pharmacy I usually use, but I could go to the one next to him. He said, “Oh, you don’t want to go over there. There as slow as Christmas and then mean to you about it.” To which I said, “Isn’t that amazing, it’s like, ‘Aren’t I paying you?'” We laughed for a second and he said, “Yeah, aren’t we in the service business?” I replied like I do, “No doubt!” (Apparently I respond too much with this reply depending on who you ask.) I told him he gave me something to blog about. It was then that he said something that would change my day…and hopefully, my life.

He said that he lost his mother earlier this year. She went in for a routine gallbladder complication, and fifty-five hours later she was gone. Now picture this with me for a second, this is a medical professional who went to the hospital to watch his mother move on to Glory in the hands of other medical professionals. He was like, “This isn’t supposed to happen!” I sat there with my jaw on the floor not knowing what to say, except the old standby, “I’m so sorry! He said that during the fifty-five hours, she would grab his hand and say, “Help me Bradley! Help me Bradley!” but there was nothing he could do.

Come to find out, it wasn’t just a gallbladder issue. She had another problem that caused her to be septic and pass on. But then he said, “You know, I realized that that’s what people are asking of me, to help them. It’s my job. So I decided that I was going to put what my mother said to me in the hospital inside above the patient room doors where only I can see it, as a reminder of why I’m here.” I got up from the table and put my jacket back on and said the only thing I could…”Thanks!…And thanks for sharing the story!” He smiled.

I hope that I never forget that! Now that it is in writing, I hope you never do either. It’s almost Christmas, and all I can think is that my God, My LORD, my Savior heard His people calling out to Him, “Help me God! Help me God!” and He did what only He could do, He served! Not like a waitress serves coffee. Not like a cashier takes money at the store in the mall. He became flesh, He took on the sin of the world, MY SIN, and He made it so I could live forever with Him in Heaven. The funny thing is in return, He asks us to love Him with all our heart…and to love the rest of His children! So as you go through this Christmas season, and you see the opportunity to serve someone, don’t think of it as service, think of it as love. Love that was given so freely to us!

Merry Christmas!

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

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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!

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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?