Father’s Day

There’s been a lot of talk in Minnesota and the country about “inappropriate behavior” by high-profile men that many of us previously admired for their leadership, creativity and contributions to our culture or government. But when the “icky” news began to break, we suddenly thought about those men differently. Their legacies will not make their children proud.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad recently. Maybe it’s because of the recent Father’s Day or the fact that dad’s been gone for seven years. He never met my children, the eldest of whom is named for him. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I can’t ask dad for advice or share my proud papa stories with him. Although my mom is always there — and I appreciate that immensely – there’s just something about the father/son relationship that mothers and sons cannot replicate.

My dad, Theodore Salonek, was not a high-profile guy. And he certainly was not the sort of man who ever would have made headlines for inappropriate behavior. But the older I get, the more I realize how much I learned from watching him – and what a first class man he was.

Theodore was a hardworking farmer with five kids. Like many small family farmers, we had some tough times during the ‘80s. That didn’t stop dad from helping others in small and big ways. For example, I remember him “rounding up” when paying hired hands that he knew were down on their luck, giving food to people in need (including a divorced man, which was considered shocking at the time) and continually taking the time to visit an alcoholic who was struggling in rehab. Even when this man let dad down, dad continued to help him and give him opportunities to make good.

I learned a lot about being a person and a father from observing how dad treated others. On holidays, our home was always a place for “stragglers” who lacked a place to go. He and mom would set extra plates on the table at Christmas and Easter for people without family.  As a kid, I didn’t really appreciate these people being with us on holidays. But now, looking back, I can see what a powerful lesson we received about kindness and generosity.

My dad didn’t believe in making a fuss about his acts of kindness. He just did things because he felt they were the right things to do. While the “Bachelor Farmer” is the name of a restaurant today, dad regularly drove two local bachelor farmers who were older and couldn’t drive to countless doctor appointments. And when my grandpa (dad’s father-in-law) had colon cancer and was bed ridden, dad somehow found the money to purchase a washer and dryer so grandma could wash grandpa’s garments. Little things I suppose by today’s standards, but their impact was substantial for the people who benefitted from his generosity. They made a huge impact on me.

One of the best things I ever did was invite my dad to join me for annual weeklong fishing trips before he died in a farming accident in late 2010. I learned more about him on those trips than I did in 18 years of growing up on the farm. His unfailing ability to see the best in others and in difficult situations was remarkable. He looked for the positives in life and he loved people. When we would travel, dad liked to chat it up with people we’d meet along the way. It was rare to see him talk to someone for any period of time and not see them smiling or laughing and patting him on the back.

Now we live in a time when so many men, in public life anyway, seem to be the polar opposite of men like my dad. Humility is out and grandiosity is in. Kindness is naive and personal greed is king. Caring for family, neighbors and friends is a quaint relic of previous generations. Men who are known for their callous treatment of women and disregard for business associates and constituents have been elevated to the highest levels of society.

I hope my son and daughter are too young to notice these men. I hope my efforts to follow my dad’s example (and the parenting by their wonderful mother!) will be enough to offset the corrosive effect of growing up in a world so different from the one my parents created for me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  You may be gone, but your proud legacy never will be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep a Scorecard (and keep learning!)

If you read my book, The 100: Building Blocks of Business Leadership, you might (mistakenly) assume I’m done learning and implementing new business management ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one of the guiding principles at Intertech is “Keep Learning!”

In that spirit, Intertech’s leadership team read the book “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman. We were intrigued by Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which addresses the six most fundamental aspect of any business: vision, data, process, traction, issues and people.

He notes, “Successful businesses operate with a crystal clear vision that is shared by everyone. They have the right people in the right seats. They have a pulse on their operations by watching and managing a handful of numbers on a weekly basis. They identify and solve issues promptly in an open and honest environment. They document their processes and ensure that they are followed by everyone. They establish priorities for each employees and ensure that a high level of trust, communication and accountability exists on each team.”

In addition to his book, Wickman runs a business helping organizations implement his EOS principles. On average, his clients’ businesses grow revenue by 18 percent per year. That 18 percent certainly peaked our interest! Isn’t it uncanny how numbers help to focus attention?

Since we already were following many EOS principles, we decided to begin with data. Wickman advocates developing a Scorecard as a means of using data in the form of metrics to “free you from the quagmire of managing personalities, egos, subjective issues, emotions, and intangibles by teaching you which metrics to focus on.”

Most of us look at profit and loss statements of course, but as Wickman notes, by the time key metrics are uncovered with a P&L statement it’s too late to do anything about them! With a Scorecard you get insight into your organization in close to real time. A Scorecard is:

  • The financial pulse of the company.
  • Comprised of leading indicators.  A leading indicator is a signal that something in the future will impact your business.  (A group called ITR Economics, which we’ve used for years, can help your organization identify your leading indicators.)
  • Updated weekly

The first step in establishing our Scorecard was agreeing about which metrics were the strongest leading indicators. We started by outlining where we want to be in three years.  There was good discussion about what we measure and target goals (as quantified with numbers). We’ve made some tweaks now that we’re in flight toward our 2019 targets.

Our Scorecard includes 15 metrics (the maximum number Wickman recommends) and is updated weekly. The metrics are shown in green to indicate that they’re on track. Red is used to show when they’re not on track. The metrics also are compared against what we’re aiming for in our three-year vision.

While the scorecard is updated weekly, at our monthly management meeting we have a discussion around the numbers. It’s typically a quick review unless we see red. Taking action early, when red becomes a trend, is why the Scorecard is a valuable tool.

Having the scorecard updated weekly keeps us all on the same page regarding our financials and critical numbers. But while the numbers typically “speak for themselves,” the story behind them sometimes is key to helping us know if something is just a temporary “blip” or the beginning of a negative trend that needs our attention.  When the scorecard is sent out, there are a few paragraphs telling the story behind the numbers.

According to Gino Wickman, there are seven truths about the Scorecard. If you believe them, using a Scorecard could be just the ticket for getting you company on track toward the growth and profitability you seek. They include:

  1. What gets measured gets done.
  2. Managing metrics saves time.
  3. A Scorecard gives you a pulse and the ability to predict.
  4. You must inspect what you expect.
  5. You can have accountability in a culture that is high trust and healthy.
  6. A Scorecard requires hard work, discipline, and consistency to manage, but it’s worth it.
  7. One person must own it.

We’ve seen positive results from using a Scorecard and we’re committed to continue using it. To learn more about this smart management tool, check out Traction. It’s also a great way to keep learning!

Next time I’ll share how Traction helped Intertech improve our meetings.

Learning from Leaders by Steve Schmidt

Guest Post

By Steve Schmidt, President, AbeTech Bar Code & RFID Solutions

When Tom Salonek wrote his book, The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership, I was eager to read it. I’ve long admired Tom’s company and the many awards it has received, not to mention Intertech’s consistent growth and profitability. I run a small business of my own and thought Tom’s book might give me some new ideas.

Oh boy, did it ever!

If you haven’t read The 100, I highly recommend it. This little book is crammed with practical management strategies that Tom has tested and proven at his company. Not only does the book provide 100 practical mini chapters (Tom calls them “takeaways”), it is sprinkled with fun quotes and Tom’s trademark humor. It’s the perfect book for a short business flight.

I should confess that Tom is my cousin, but please don’t think for a minute that this is a gushing “puff piece” based more on familial connections than merit. I’ve known the guy a long time and he’s always been highly motivated, focused and eager to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. He’s a, well, natural born leader. I’ve watched his company (and his family!) expand over time, and seen first-hand the productive and healthy workplace he and his partners have cultivated.

The word “mindfulness” is trendy now, but it’s a perfect description of Tom’s approach to business and life. By thinking and acting in deliberate mindful ways based on hard science and life experience, he has built a thriving organization on a solid foundation of values, like delivering beyond what is expected, treating people kindly and fairly, and keeping things in perspective. His book generously shares that experience and practical knowledge in an easy to digest format. It also comes with dozens of downloadable forms and other tools that I’m guessing are worth much more than the modest book price.

Now a confession.

When I first read The 100 it was still in the galley (pre-print) stage. Like the leader he is, Tom reaches out to others for input and alternative perspectives. I was happy to read the manuscript and give him my honest feedback. And, to be honest, I found it all to be a bit much. There are so many great ideas and recommendations; frankly, I wasn’t sure where to begin or how to implement them at my firm without losing a lot of time in the process.

I shared this reaction with Tom and he responded by explaining that following the ideas in The 100 actually save time by reducing surprises and increasing employee retention. Then he created a calendar showing how to implement his leadership program in the most efficient way possible. I reviewed the revised manuscript a second time and was pleased to give it my highest endorsement:

The 100 “artfully captures Salonek’s decades of leadership achievements and details repeatable steps that we all can take to improve our business results. Read the book, learn the secrets and enjoy the fruits of winning in the marketplace.”

30 Free Life and Business Tools

We’ve all been seduced by those that magic word “FREE.” It’s right up there with “life hacks” and “ageless” in its power to reel in even sophisticated consumers. Often, of course, we often find “free” comes with strings attached or the freebee is so lame you’d just as soon wished you’d passed.

I hope you’ll put aside all that valuable consumer experience and consider that I have something free to offer and valuable.  I’m talking about the couple of dozen free resource downloads that come with my book “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”

The free downloads you’ll find associated with my book include templates and checklists. These are free, don’t require sharing your information, and don’t require a book purchase.

These tools are my go-to resources for:

Self Management:

Business Management:

Recruiting

Employee Management:

As you work through the takeaways in my book or the associated free resources, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

Top 10 2017 Posts

My thanks to our customers, employees, and partners for an awesome year.  I’m going to be offline for a couple of weeks to be with my wife and kiddos.   I wish you and yours an enjoyable break and great start to 2018.  Below are my top 10 articles or posts for 2017:

  1. ​Business and life lessons, as taught by … mom
  2. The 100:  Downloads
  3. To keep employees, try valuing them
  4. 5 Lessons Most People Learn Way Too Late in Life
  5. Crazy Busy and Proud of it
  6. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
  7. Social Media Marketing Matters
  8. Listen Up – Your Customers are Talking!
  9. 6 simple ways to make every project successful
  10. 4 rules for delegating so you can retreat without regrets