Tag Archive for: Future Strategy

In a recent interview in www.golf.com, Michael Phelps, the U.S. swimmer who won 23 Gold Medals, offered some great advice for business success. He said that one of his keys to success involved having one big goal and then breaking it into smaller steps. He feels it is important to establish this process & work through it consistently.

He also suggested that we need to avoid “over-thinking” this process. The best way to accomplish that is to only focus on the items that you can control. Another key benefit of this focus is that the key employees in your operation would be provided with their “next steps.”

If you died or were totally paralyzed in an accident tomorrow, would your Team know what to do next? My approach with Clients is to establish an Objectives & Challenges chart to clearly outline two items:

  • Your Top 3 Objectives this year.
  • Your 3 Biggest Challenges to overcome.

Once you’ve identified your Top 3 Objectives, work with your Team to identify the most prominent obstacles to each one, potential strategies, who will work on this and a deadline for its achievement. Then track your progress regularly. Are you getting closer to the goal? If yes, fantastic! If not, what needs to change?

On the 3 Biggest Challenges side of the equation, list the most optimal strategic response to these issues, who is best suited to implement those steps, and then establish a deadline for doing so.

If you would like a copy of the Objectives & Challenges format that I use with Clients, just email me a brief request for O&C Form. You can reach me at john@success-strategies.com.

Whether you use my format or one of your own, your results will undoubtedly be improved vs. simply going with the flow of life. As Carl Frederick stated:

“Knowing where you’re going is all you need to get there.”

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Recently, I was listening to a short speech by Kara Lawson, Head Coach for the Duke University women’s basketball team where she explained to her players that life can be challenging.

Yet, the best lesson that she shared was that it is always better to accept that life can be challenging and then move forward with a plan to make it better. Lawson describes this process as learning to “Handle Hard Better!” However, she points out that this requires a mental shift on our part. Instead of complaining, as a Client of mine did recently, about how the bank was being unreasonable, the feed company was becoming aggressive, and the IRS was being difficult, we need to make this mental shift to handling hard better.

Let’s face it. Life is full of challenges for all of us. If you could hear the noise just outside my office right now, you would realize how I know this first-hand. Our contractors were preparing to put the roofing material over our patio cover yesterday, but we received 4” of rain suddenly, and that did not work out too well for the tongue & groove boards underneath. So, they are currently replacing the warped boards. As a result, I am learning how to handle hard better.

Matthew McConaughey says, “Life is not easy.” He adds that “it never was, it isn’t today, and it never will be.” As a result, he recommends that we get over it & get on with it. This advice certainly aligns with Kara Lawson’s speech.

Finally, Coach Lawson cautions her players (& us) to not be “waiting for the easy bus.” She adds that when we stand around, doing nothing, just waiting for the easy bus to arrive, nothing good happens. In fact, unfortunately, the easy bus never comes. That is why we need to learn to “Handle Hard Better!” Let’s heed her advice this year and remember:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”      Anonymous

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I recently reread Tim Ferriss’ first book entitled The 4-Hour Workweek and noted a special recommendation that he made. It was based upon an old Chinese Proverb, which advised us to always know what we are getting involved in ahead of time and went something like this:

  • Always know the Rules of the Game.
  • Know the Prize for which you are competing.
  • Know when the Game Ends.

As I read those words, I started thinking about how they also apply to business dealings.

For example, before you enter any loan agreement with your bank or another institution, it’s critical that you know what the “Rules of the Game” are. What is expected of you in maintaining a satisfactory loan relationship? What are the loan covenants? What can happen if you don’t fulfill all of the covenants? Is there a reasonable remedy that you can provide if this occurs? I would expect that after last year’s challenging financial results, there will undoubtedly be some covenant violations…

Knowing what the prize is at the end of the “game” can be helpful, especially if you are being faced with profitability and covenant challenges. Sometimes, borrowers can let their pride get ahead of the potential prize at the end of the game. Often, this can lead to getting over-extended on loans in terms of Debt Service Coverage. Hence, the need for accurate Cash Flow projections & ongoing measurement (https://success-strategies.com/).

Finally, know when the game ends. When has your objective been reached? Perhaps, more importantly, know when enough is enough… Obviously, the game ends when you pay the loan off in full, but what happens if you run into problems before the loan is paid in full? Will your banker work with you to resolve the challenge you are facing? This is always good to know ahead of time, because, as some borrowers are facing today, their bank’s workout group has become more of a “kick-out group.” While it is admirable to get refinanced elsewhere, the current lender does not need to make it a painful process or one lacking support.

On the contrary, let’s put strategies in place to assist the borrower to make the necessary changes, possibly sell some assets and get themselves back on track financially. This is never an easy process and as George Bernad Shaw suggests below, it may not even seem reasonable, but it is definitely worth pursuing:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Recently, I read an article by Joshua Becker entitled
“The Seven Laws of Success.”

In it, he stated:

“Success, in my opinion, is
controlling what I can (my actions) and dedicating my life to the right things.
If I can do that, I’ll be pleased with how I choose to live. And I will
consider my life a success – regardless of the results.”

To accomplish that objective, the author lists his Seven
Laws of Success:

“Choosing Our Own
Values – Rather than chasing the latest fads in life or in business, let’s
focus on what is most important now. Former Notre Dame football Coach Lou Holtz
calls these WIN’s – i.e. “What’s Important Now.”

Aligning Resources
with those Values – This process will guide us to always focus on what really
matters. It will assist us to stay on course and target the items that are essential
to our life and business success.

Not Measuring Life
with Someone Else’s Ruler – This is essential when we make business
comparisons. While it may be helpful to compare your business with others in
your industry, it is even more crucial that you compare yourself with how you
have done historically. This will help propel you to higher levels of success
& avoid the “trap” of comparing yourself, unrealistically, to other
operations that may be far larger or newer than yours.

Committing to
Continuous Growth – This is applicable to our businesses & our lives. We
can always strive to be better. It is what Tony Robbins refers to as CANI,
Constant & Never-Ending Improvement.

Controlling Your
Attention – It is so easy for us to get distracted by outside variables.
However, it is imperative that we focus on what really matters and, more
significantly, on the items we can control.

Living for Others –
Here, he is referring to being selfless and striving to help others. For
example, build your business to serve your Family, your Church or your

 Doing the Next Right Thing the Best Way We
Know How – As Theodore Roosevelt stated, ‘Do what you can, with what you’ve
got, where you are.’” This will undoubtedly lead to success. Lou Holtz added
that you should always “Do what’s right. Do the best you can. And treat others
the way you want to be treated.” That sounds like a real success plan to me!

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I was recently reading an article by Charles Hugh Smith entitled “Five Themes Will Decide This Decade.” Frankly, it was scary to read these themes, but he may be correct.

In the article, he listed the five themes as Sclerosis, Dysfunction, Debt Saturation, Power Asymmetry and Nobody Trusts Anyone. He describes Sclerosis as a power grab by a few people in our society, regardless of its impact on the rest of us. He suggests that this problem cannot be solved, but I believe it can be cured at the polls.

His second theme was Dysfunction, a state where nothing works, and there appears to be no self-correcting systems. Have you mailed anything recently? This is being compounded by the third theme, Debt Saturation. No matter how much money we throw at a problem, things do not seem to improve. Are we headed there with our current government borrowing?

His fourth theme revolves around Power Asymmetry, where we start to feel like we have little control over anything. That is challenging, but the saddest theme he included is a society where Nobody Trusts Anyone. This has been partly created by the Covid pandemic and the way it was handled. However, as he points out, the ultimate problem with low trust is that it can create a stagnant economy, which may be happening right now, accompanied by inflation. This combination is known as “Stagflation.”

My suggestion? Let’s change our approach to each of these themes:

  • On Sclerosis, let’s be more entrepreneurial. That is what made this country great, and what will move us forward again. As an entrepreneur, I feel much more in control of my destiny, and you will, too.
  • Likewise, when your future depends on making things work, rather than just levying more taxes, being more entrepreneurial is the best approach to becoming more functional.
  • On Debt Saturation, let’s start borrowing less. That is how it works for all of us with our home budgets, and it works very well.
  • To obtain more power over our decisions, it pays to be more entrepreneurial. I can attest that I feel more “in control” today than I ever did when I was working for banks…
  • Finally, if we want to build more trust, I suggest that we follow the advice of my Business Coach Dan Sullivan of the Strategic Coach organization. He offers his best “Referability Habits” as follows:

“Referability, in all places and at all times, depends upon four crucial habits:

  • Show up on time.
  • Do what you say.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Say please and thank you.

 Although these seem like common sense, a surprising number of people in this world, including entrepreneurs, do not practice these four habits.”

I think you will agree that we need a new approach to our current challenges.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine about the possibilities of growing our respective businesses ten times. Many people would say’ “No way! That will only increase my stress levels…”

On the contrary, business coach Dan Sullivan, co-founder of The Strategic Coach organization, offers the following:

“The most stressful thing any entrepreneur can do in the 21st century is to try to stay where they are and hold onto what they already have. Stop where you are, and things will only get more confusing, isolating, and frustrating.”

I imagine that many of us have experienced that feeling, as we have faced the combined challenges of industry stagnation, inflationary cost increases and higher interest rates. However, Dan, who has been my business coach since 2003, suggests that there is a way to break out of this. Adopt a 10X mindset, allowing you to become the cause of change in the world, not the target of it.

Before you write this concept off as being ridiculous, stating that you don’t want to grow your business to 10X its current size, please consider the following idea. What if you grew it by 5 times with half of your current labor or other inputs? I have done that during the past 10 years.

Would you like to know how? I hope you do! Technology has been the answer for me. We have automated so many tasks that we can get more work done in less time than we had previously completed. What technologies should you consider using to boost your efficiencies?

Author and speaker Grant Cardone is adamant about one point on 10X growth. He stated that there are likely numerous ways to double the size of your business, but there are only one or two ways to grow 10X. The good news is that you won’t waste time studying items that don’t really produce big results! Instead, you can focus on the few concepts that really do produce greater success, yielding much faster progress!

To conclude, here are three questions from Dan Sullivan to consider:

  • “What 10X improvement will simplify everything else in your company the most? How and why?” Is it automation, robotics, or other possibilities?
  • “What new 10X capability will free you most from being commoditized? How and why?” In other words, what could differentiate your company?
  • “What’s the one 10X breakthrough you can achieve that no one else in your industry would ever think about? Why?” Think about this concept, and I’ll see you at the finish line.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I have recently met with a number of bankers about refinancing one of my Clients. One of them said the deal was too big for them to finance alone, another one said the deal was too small for his bank, and a third one said the industry was too challenging for him today.

Wow! I felt like I was trapped in a Twilight Zone sequel to Goldilocks & the Three Bears! You know: the porridge was too hot, too cold; the bed was too hard, too soft… I understand that parts of our economy are quite messed up right now, and I hope we all remember that in November…

However, we need to balance the risk & return equation. As I have said previously, if the proposal is completely risk free, there is normally little or no return. Why would any bank want to finance a deal with no return? I’d suggest that we look at the potential risks and determine if we have enough mitigating factors to offset that same risk.

Otherwise, lenders, looking for the “perfect deal” could end up like the gentlemen who was looking for the “perfect wife.” He searched and searched for years, and at long last, he finally found her. There was just one problem. She wasn’t looking for him… The same could be true in lending relationships.

I believe it would be far better to complete the necessary analysis and due diligence to see if we can find those mitigating factors to offset the potential risks. Some examples include: a.) Hedging on the Client’s selling prices, such as DRP & DMC for dairies. b.) Contracted prices on many of their inputs, such as feed or fuel. c.) Fixed interest rates, when appropriate. d.) Does the borrower have a plan for success? e.) Do they have  a system in place to measure their monthly cash flow results? f.) Are they planning to grow their business in order to become more efficient?

Life goes on, and I will keep searching for the most optimal lender for this Client. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be like Goldilocks and find the one that is “just right.” By the way, if you run a dairy operation and want an easier way to track your cash flows, check out our Success Strategies Advantage™ software today at www.success-strategies.com.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

So many people seem to be on a “treadmill” today. Occasionally, I feel that way, too, especially the last three years. I’d suggest what I believe has directly caused this, but you might accuse me of being “too political.”

Perhaps a better approach might be to follow the advice of the January 24th article in Inc magazine by Marcel Schwantes entitled “Science Says Your Overall Happiness Comes Down to 3 Timeless Strategies.”

The article goes on to say that “Happiness will enhance your health, improve your focus, and improve your job performance.” Sounds good so far…

What are the three strategies the author outlines?

First, “schedule downtime.” In the technology dominated culture we live in, it’s very challenging to “get away.” We are always on call… Schwantes suggests that every 80-120 minutes we should schedule ten minutes of down time i.e. a break. Some even suggest that you leave some “time gaps” in your daily schedule – GASP!!! I used to despise these gaps when they occurred, but then I started to realize that they help me to catch up, compose myself and get better prepared for the next event or meeting.

Next, “reward yourself by giving.” Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Schwantes states that “the emotional rewards of giving are more significant when giving is connected to others.” If you make an anonymous donation, it will be less fulfilling than giving funds to a “cancer- stricken friend’s GoFundMe Campaign.” This social connection will provide you with a boost of happiness.

Third, “shift your mind toward optimism.” Remember, that it’s always darkest right before the dawn. These are stressful times we are living in, so it’s more essential than ever to be optimistic and set future goals for yourself. Change is always scary, simply because it is unknown. I met with a banker recently about a Client’s financial challenges and had to remind myself that this same loan officer has “predicted 5 of the last 2 recessions…”

No, that was not a typo. He worried about way too many items. He literally would not provide them with the funds they needed today, despite their $1.5 million in profits from 2020-2022. His reasoning? “I’m concerned about 2023 results now.”

In summary, life goes on, and we will figure it out. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to follow these three steps and boost the happiness of both my Client and me. Let’s go out and make it a great year!

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

We are currently facing some real financial challenges in our country and, more specifically, in the dairy industry… It seems as if many economic events are completely out of control.

Inflation has been raging at the highest levels since the early 1980’s, and many suppliers are using this as an excuse to raise prices dramatically, an action they have been unable to do for many years. As a result, it costs $500 just for someone to show up and evaluate what the problem is with your piece of equipment, let alone provide you with a solution.

Will these costs ever go down? This is not likely, as evidenced by the last bout of inflation in the early 1980’s. All of this calamity has been compounded by the Federal Reserve Board raising interest rates extensively the past 24 months, in an effort to reduce the inflationary impact. Since they were relatively “late to the game,” their impact has been one of potential over-correction and has hurt all borrowers. This includes many businesses.

What can you do? If you are running a dairy operation today, you must prepare a Budget and monitor it relentlessly. If you aren’t doing this regularly, you could fall behind.

What if I prepared this budget for you? Would that help? Our Success Strategies Advantage™ software is designed to take the pain out of this process. I would encourage you to look at it at www.success-strategies.com. When you get to the website, just look for the milk can. The program will be right there for you to explore. What can it do for you?

You can run various “What If” scenarios within it in order to figure out what various repayment schemes will work for you (15-, 20- or 25-year amortization periods). For each scenario, it also will provide you with the following items:

  • A Year-to-Date (YTD) Cash Flow Comparison of your operation compared to a budget that is based upon typical numbers for your region of the country.
  • It will show you where you may be over or under budget.
  • It will provide you with Break-Even Levels for Milk Price/cwt, Feed Expense & Production per cow per day, all useful information for reaching higher levels of profitability, as well as setting your price level coverage through the Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP) and Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) programs.

It will equip you to better understand where you might be over budget and help you to talk with your Team (e.g., Nutritionist, Veterinarian, Financial Consultant & Others) about how to refine your numbers. Check it out at www.success-strategies.com.

And wait. I believe the Milk Futures were up again today. There’s hope!

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Wow! It’s the start of a new year, and we all get to start with a blank slate. Effectively, the score is 0-0. Regardless of what last year brought, the most important question is “What will you do this year?”

Some people call this Goal Setting. I prefer to call it “Future Setting.” My reasoning behind this is that your entire future can be built upon the foundational steps that you take now!

At the risk of sounding redundant, there are some crucial steps to follow:

First, decide what you want to accomplish. While this may seem obvious to you, many people are unable to clearly define what they do want. Oh, they can tell you what they don’t want out of life. However, stating exactly what they do want can be more challenging.

So, step #1 is to define your objective and define it clearly in your mind & on paper.

Next, it is only natural that our minds will present all the obstacles to this goal. That’s okay for two reasons. To begin, you must consider whether or not this task is actually achievable. This is a good “check point” for us to consider.

Beyond that, however, it leads us to consider what steps we need to take in order to overcome these challenges. Can we complete these tasks? Just as significantly, who will lead the process and by when will the various tasks be done?

This is crucial, because we can otherwise end up like the four characters named Everybody, Anybody, Somebody and Nobody. After their committee meeting, Everybody thought the task should be completed, Anybody could have done it, Somebody certainly should have, but in the end, Nobody really followed through.

To avoid this challenge, define the task clearly, consider the challenges you may face, and what steps you need to take. Then, take action, measure your results and fine tune your plan as you move forward.

Remember, getting results requires making a plan, outlining the necessary steps and then taking action. However, as St. Jean Baptiste stated:

“On this path, it is only the first step that counts.”

What’s your first step?