Leadership: Truth Out Of Order | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Leadership: Truth Out Of Order

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

It is hard listening to others not directly connected to your industry, profession, or project, but a lesson in humility and judgment, nonetheless. Note, not all voices should be heard equally. If you listen through the lenses of hubris instead of confidence, you will often listen with impaired hearing, and misinterpret facts, findings, judgments, trends and hunches. Hubris is one of the worst blinders. Listening to others with less expertise takes a measure of humility; however, the proof is in the pudding. Additionally, a Level 5 Leader is classified by exhibiting humility. We have all received a piece of information from an associate, employee, or customer that became the intellectual bridge to the answer. Truth out of order. Often this outside perspective can provide providential wisdom that accelerates our thinking toward a calibrated stance. You cannot predict truth out of order you can maintain a posture that recognizes its existence.

Truth out of order is not a confirmation bias; it is valuable information from an unlikely source and often out of order. Family, friends, and associates are additional authors of truth out of order. Do not forget, what is correct today is wrong tomorrow. Markets, cultures, and assumptions change. Data is misinterpreted and patterns hide. What about the future set? Often in the form of bits and bytes, rarely in fully developed form, truth, hides in the mouths of the unlikely.

When everyone is blind, the one-eyed man is king. Keep your eyes open for truth out of order. Where is the Mason Dixon Line concerning whom to listen? Avoid the know-it-all. Use discernment. Process information through your background, education, and the books you have read. At the end of the day, you can make any piece of information work if you believe in it enough. Without trust, there is no risk-taking, and without risk-taking, there is no innovation.

For an alternative to Business College, visit Thrive15 Promo Code E2E. For more E2E articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me

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Customer Retention: Pain Points | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Customer Retention: Pain Points | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

How easy is it to find a niche? Easy. Especially if you can diagnose pain points. You know, get downstream from a product or service and find the gaps between what is thought to be delivered and what is delivered; between reality and expectation. The easy targets are bad customer experiences, high fees, and little to no innovation.

I love when I walk into an establishment and the employees are trained to make my experience memorable, to deal with me no matter how difficult I become, and have the ability to sidestep processes in order to get me to solutions. More memorable are untrained employees, with little to no people skills or ability to solve my problem. The outcome: bad customer experience. Identify the logjam where customers are having a high incidence of bad customer experiences and you have a pain point. A competitive advantage. Ceteris Paribus this is a prime reason to start a business.

You have gas stations, grocery stores, retailers, restaurants, and health clubs that you frequent. What happens when the service provided is disproportionate to the cost? Maybe droves of potential buyers find the fees too high. Price is a pain point and depending upon the product, lower fees can be a competitive advantage. Beware; as the incumbent realizes there is a competitively priced product in the market, he may start a price war leading to “the race to the bottom,” a price war leading to lower and lower prices. To avoid a price war, be strategic, methodical, and wise with your pricing. Use analytics when possible. Do not put yourself out of business.

Products with little to no innovation (assuming they are not a dead invention like a Walkman) can be modified to produce a competitive advantage. Augment the product or presentation. Once again, being downstream as a consumer has its advantages. Identify where the current product or service is lacking and create innovative solutions that match customer profiles and needs.

A quick brainstorming session with friends, over cheese & wine can produce the pain points for your next business venture. Start by identifying the gaps between expectation and reality. If the current solution is marred by bad customer service, high fees, and little to no innovation you may have found your next business concept. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

Startups: Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Startups: Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

In 2014, I had been sensing it was time to jump into business full time. My wife and I had been enjoying a cush DOE job that paid well and had some great perks. At work at 8:30, home by 4:30. Weekends off. For a season, this job helped us to stabilize and pay down debt and to enjoy time together. In December of 2014, I started feeling as if it was time to become a full time entrepreneur. It was going to be a big risk. Deep down, I knew staying there would be an even greater risk. No longer was I going to be able to do the one-foot-in type of entrepreneurship. I knew I would need to give up the teaching job, and say “no for now, but not for ever” to my music pursuits and dive in to business. I sensed it was time, but had a child on the way and felt it would be irresponsible to leave a secure job with no backup plan to find my entrepreneurial niche. In March of 2015, we lost the pregnancy. This awkward pause in life gave us a moment to reevaluate what to do next. Thankfully, we had begun the process of reducing our burn rate over the last year and my wife’s income was just enough to give us room for a “takeoff.” Through much thought and discussion within the month, I turned in my 1-month notice and launched myself into business. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.

Instantly I closed doors. I had fallen sickly prey to the belief that having many doors open was a safety net and responsible. Closing doors brought clarity and confidence. Stuck at the juncture between hope and fear I chose to hope that I was sensing a divine beckoning into business. My spouse and both sets of family were on board and supported this transition. I knew I could navigate through the unmanageable obstacles, because of my past business experiences. Start where you are. Quickly I identified an idea that had proven successful in parts of the city. Shaved ice. It was low barrier, low cost, and low competition. The market was fragmented, there was one dominant player and there were huge geographical areas with no providers. Not having much money, we chose shaved ice as our fountainhead. Most of the legwork I completed from my car and house; I had a make shift office in the corner of the living room. I found a helpful resource online about the products, competition, and industry; I read it and began.

It is funny, before we made this transition, we sold my high maintenance RX8, which averaged 10-12 miles a gallon and required high-octane gasoline to purchase a Honda Insight Hybrid. Little did we know this change was a foreshadowing of the amount of driving I would be doing. Use what you have. We created a business plan and started seeking out investors. We started raising money with a business plan; eventually we switched to a pitch deck. We learned quickly from those willing to advise us and read many books. I used my business background, my dad’s ability to build, my family & network for investors and co-founders and we went to work. I started blindly, but quickly realized I needed help, so I started asking questions and making phone calls and through a meeting with Larry Wofford at TU I was introduced to The Founder’s Dilemma by Noam Wasserman, which was an incredible resource.

I built and executed the plan, my dad built the huts, my wife brought home the bacon and helped me with tasks in this business and our other business, our business partners did their part and we were off the ground in less than a month with our first location. Do what you can. We used our own skills and added talent around us with little strengths’ overlap. Through this, we were able to create a more complete team.

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. When you “see the writing on the wall”, focus on the gaps. Inside these gaps are “pain points.” Start your own entrepreneurship based on these “pain points” or customer needs. Find your competitive advantages in these gaps. Do not bet the farm. Squeeze as much of the risk out of the venture as possible, in essence de-risk risk. In new ventures have the ability to fall forward and be ready to acclimate your life to turbulence. Mange your team, time, and money with all due diligence, find your bearings, and keep your eyes on the new horizon. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

Sales: Transactional Versus Relational | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Sales: Transactional Versus Relational

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Ever bought a home? At closing alone, you sign what seems like hundreds of foreign documents. One after another, with everything briefly summarized. Remember now? Sure, you can read it and if you are an engineer, scientist, lawyer, or some other jargon junky, you do. The rest of us sign document after document with that icky feeling inside of should I be negotiating or price checking. Wondering is this in my best interest, my lenders best interest, the sellers, the seller’s agent. Right? For me, it was more of a blur than marriage was. You search, your agent recommends lenders, your agent talks to the seller’s agent, you search more, identifying prospective homes that fit your needs, wants, and budget. You find the home, make the offer, get inspections done, sign documents, get quotes for this and that, sign more documents, and listen to reflexive jargon-laden speeches, all while wondering did we pay too much? Even in a flattening world, maybe this process never changes. Here is the backup plan. You will never have the time to study and learn the language and how it relates to buyers, sellers, agents, lenders, and regulatory bodies, so stick with relationship.

As a new homeowner, I cannot be more thrilled with the decisions we made choosing Bill and Denise Wright with Homes the Wright Way. My spouse’s parents recommended these family friends to us whom many years ago assisted them with their home purchase. So, these agents are family friends, came with high recommendation, have high integrity, and to boot lived up to every ounce of expectation. We had a month to find, purchase, offer, settle, fix, and close on the home for an end of the month move in and we did it. That is 100% because of our lender and agent. We felt connected, like friends; never like a transaction. At closing, I mentioned to the group, which was like a surgical team that frequently work together, that I found it unfair that buyers had to sign hundreds of documents without truly comprehending what each document entailed. David from Supreme Lending said if you wanted, we would give you 24 or 48 hours to read the documents and I chuckled thinking even if I read it would I truly understand the loaded language, acronyms, policies, procedures, potential hazards, and how it applied today and 30 years from today. Probably not. He then said, but truthfully, that is why you work with trusted people, because of the overwhelming amount of documentation needed. Trust. A word used by many, but practiced by few. I could trust our group. Sitting at the closing table, I chitchatted with the sellers, who were beautiful people, when I mentioned that Bill had helped Lindsay’s mom and dad buy their homes and we trusted them with the process. The seller’s agent chuckled and said, “I bet that is music to Bill’s ears.” I did not chuckle. In fact, I find statements that make me feel like a dollar bill in another’s wallet extremely offensive. It reminded me that businesses still miss the mark by creating Key performance Indicators (KPI) that focus on frequency or transaction number. Chet Holmes an amazing sales machine and author of The Ultimate Sales Machine writes extensively on both aspects of sales, the transaction and the relationship. Easily misunderstand, is the fine line between transaction and relationship. What is certain is the buy, cry, or die mentality, rarely magnifies relationship. In a flattening world, with player’s half a world away competing for the same clients in a B2C transaction, the transactional mindset is dead. Relationship is alive and thriving. I hope, as the population becomes increasingly informed, transactional salespersons become extinct. The world will be a better place for it.

My wife was set to have our first child in 2014 and we knew something was wrong. Several times, we called her OB/GYN and were told there was nothing to worry about that she was experiencing common pregnancy symptoms. Really, you got all that over the phone? So you do not want me to bring her in? Several times my wife nearly blacked out, had excruciating pain, spotting, and other symptoms not typical to the pregnancies in her family. We got in our car several weeks into the pregnancy and drove to the clinic, when I called them on the phone and said we are on our way, something seems wrong, they shooed us off and said everything is normal. I turned around and headed back home against our judgment. A few days earlier we had seen HCGs of 40,000, and our next trip to the emergency room showed HCG levels at 100k+ and still no image of the implanted zygote in the uterus! We knew her HCGs because everywhere we went, during the ectopic pregnancy, they took blood samples, but no one was scheduling an ultrasound. The third trip -thanks to a TV ultrasound- by our repeated request, revealed severe abdominal bleeding and required an emergency surgery, salpingectomy. Her Ex-OB/GYN was clearly operating from a transactional mindset. The OB/GYN had an outdated ultrasound machine, a staff that treated my wife like an overly concerned first-time mom, and frankly never dug into the relationship to find out our real needs. Never once did this OB/GYN offer an Ultrasound. I could go on and on, why, we know what the problem is. A transactional mindset.

Caveat Emptor. At any moment as a prospect or buyer, you feel like a transaction, listen to your internal red-flag alarm system. I bet it will be chirping like a smoke alarm. End that relationship and find a new teammate. When possible, use the recommendation of friends and family. When a business or representative interacts as an “agent of transaction”, run, run, run. Profitability in business and in life is not a competitive advantage. When individuals focus on profits, they are not worried about the relationship. Through relationship come profits. Cathy Truett founder of Chick Fil A reminded us “it is more important to focus on principles than on profit.” If we focus on our principles, our competitive advantages, our product, and our customers profit will follow. Profits are downstream. Professionals operating under a transactional mindset have moved profit upstream. Do not focus on the profit; focus on relationship. Yes, operate with financial intelligence, use software, run ratios, have a CPA, create benchmarks, but keep profitability downstream. Focus on relationship and profits will follow. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

Time Management: Never Eat An Elephant In One Bite | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Time Management: Never Eat An Elephant In One Bite

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Law of Conservation, energy can be changed but always conserved, right? At constant temperature for a fixed mass, the absolute pressure and the volume of a gas are inversely proportional, Boyle’s Law, right? I guess I learned these things in college Physics, but the true take away was that you cannot eat an elephant in one bite.

Larger than life are most adventures, ventures, projects, dreams, and plans. If I am 5 inches away from an elephant, I say I am looking at a gray mass, but 20 feet away I can say, ah, that is an elephant with specific parts and motions. When I back away from the “elephant” I can categorize, classify, organize, and orchestrate bites.

When I step back from my own business ventures, I see a leap, the runway, the landing. If I truly want to gain traction with these movements, I might categorize or label the corresponding events and sequences. I might tag events according to priority, content, status, or category. Anything to clear my mind for a focus fire, soon I will have traction and craziest thing is, traction begets traction. I do not advise eating several elephants at once, until you have an idea of how many meals one provides.

Never recommend an elephant for dinner, until you and those guests are prepared to have elephant for leftovers. School, marriage, buying a house, finding the right career are some of life’s elephants. Give yourself time with the big things in life. Plan, work your plan, and throw your plans away when necessary. Not many things are once and done, and sometimes things are thousands of steps long and years in the making. Life gets complicated so eat your elephants gracefully. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me, or Harper’s Hut Blog.

The Hind Sight Dress Up | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Hind Sight Dress up

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

If there is one thing learned from being a recording artist for 10 years it is the hind sight dress up. Anyone that has recorded music, started an organization, or spearheaded a project knows the truth behind the statement. In a studio, track-on-track, take-on-take, session-after-session a beautiful product is whittled into existence. Only after the product is fully produced, mastered, and packaged do we talk about how we walked into the studio laid down a few tracks, laid down on the couch, and wham, out came a masterpiece; the hindsight dress up. Easily forgotten are the pre-studio takes and mistakes, bad takes, wasted tracks, and the other miscellaneous nuts & bolts of innovation. Have you heard others talk about how beautiful things are and how everything rather snapped together nicely? Well good for them and I am calling their bluff. Something that was not beautiful talked about as only ever being beautiful is a hindsight dress up. 

My first job out of college was as a youth & worship pastor. Early on, I took a risk and initiated the Otis Spunkmeyer Gourmet Cookie Dough fundraiser with the youth group. A hundred unchurched kids, not fully connected to the church mind you. Terrible idea. It was very messy and this was an established church. Some members did not get their cookie dough on time; other orders were mixed up. No one finds a lemon cookie funny after imagining a chocolate chip cookie for a couple weeks. Eventually we deciphered the cryptic handwriting and identified the hundreds of buyer’s on the wrinkled, washed forms. It was my fault; first, I should have spent more time observing the leadership and deposited some money in the “mistake bank” instead of stepping off the boat with my Superman cape on. (Growing the youth group from five to 100+ in a few weeks put me in superhero mode.) Secondly, I lacked the foresight to troubleshoot the issues and the intelligence to consult fundraiser alumni to identify troublesome situations. In the end, people got their cookie dough and we were able to purchase two 21-inch IMacs for the youth group; hindsight dress up. And before I was done, the youth group added a ping pong table, foosball table, pool table, the 2 IMacs, and several gaming systems in less than a year. Sadly, I never returned to the good graces of the pastor after that experience.

Making mistakes in an established business does not have to be this painful. In fact, companies that provide no space for mistakes, create cultures of fear and limitation.

When I was a college freshman in Comp 101, I used my Resident Advisor (RA), a senior in college, as one of my term-paper references. What a huge mistake. Mr. Gogan, my English teacher gave me the biggest, reddest “F” I ever received on an assignment. Make sure you record your interviews and pick reputable sources! Comp 102 came, and then 201, then 203, followed by several years of grading science papers as an educator, and then poof I could construct a sentence; the hindsight dress up. (Gogan actually still points out my writing faux pas 10+ years later.)

In 2013, I purchased three territories of a franchise. Let me just say, plenty of things went right. So what went wrong? About that. I initially thought Google would honor my UPS stores as my business addresses. No, they penalize P.O. boxes and suites; several hundred down the drain. In the first month of business, an employee in training, wrecked his car and broke his back. I budgeted the start-up cost to be around $20,000 it ended up closer to $45,000. Several years later, it is easier to laugh about Murphy’s Law and to talk about how great and seamless the business is running; the hindsight dress up.

Much of life is a hindsight dress up. America is a hindsight dress up. Christianity is no different. Most professionals acknowledge the myriad of mistakes they made along the way, personal and professionally, and acknowledge the gains from those missteps. Still, employments, friends, families, bosses, and culture in general, project holograms that portend lives of luck, luxury, and fortunate events. Balderdash. Life, friendship, business, and everything else in between are a bit like the birthing of a child, messy. Oh, the hindsight dress up.

Parallel Thinking | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Parallel Thinking

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Every mind wanders, and other minds take the two second rocket ship to space. These are the same minds sitting to the left and right of you at meetings. So how can a group of ADD/ADHD, stargazers, narcissists, and the catatonic produce results in a group setting? Unintentionally, this group dynamic further diminishes outcomes by the production of noise, friction, and destructive interference. Dissonant cacophony. Is that the descriptor for your meeting?

In a court room a judge does her best to listen to the arguments set forth by the attorneys, but what is taking place is the posturing of two perspectives: adversarial thinking. For instance, in this approach if I think of something that will weaken my argument then I would not say it. In this system why would anyone divulge contrary findings? How does this style of information gathering get us closer to the truth? It does not. Instead of adversarial thinking, Edward De Bono Author of Six Thinking Hats proposes the constructive alternative parallel thinking. How does this relate to business owners? Instead of starting meetings from a debate mindset, with two or more stances of opposing interpretation, look in the same direction at the same facts at the same time. Parallel thinking.

Consider each new decision as a destination and each choice as the route to the destination. Without a map, how can anyone with certainty take the best route to the destination? Secondly, how can they consider themselves informed enough to travel to the destination in the first place? Parallel thinking is the building of a map. De Bono teaches organizations six directions a team must look in order to develop the map: (1) facts, neutral and objective, (2) emotional, feelings, likes, dislikes, (3) difficulty, dangers, caution signs, (4) value, benefits and positive optimism, (5) growth, creativity, possibilities and new ideas, (6) the overarching big picture, management of the thinking process, and the control of the process. When we look in one direction at the same time, decisions are more informed, teams are more on-board, and our decision making atlas is more complete.

Too often our personalities trend us toward thinking through solely one “hat.” The example is the critic or the optimist. Parallel thinking forces the thinker to think in one direction at a time. No longer does it allow one “hat” thinking, or is it my idea or yours, but instead, what is the best decision and route to that destination, according to the map that has been constructed. If your meetings are long and unproductive, ruled by the loudest most aggressive, intelligent, or highest ranking person in the meeting, consider parallel thinking. For more blogs by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog. For a more thorough understanding of parallel thinking read Six Thinking Hats.

The Multiplier: Teamwork | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Multiplier
William Nozak CEO of Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s bobsled time.” – Cool Runnings (1993).

The power of team cannot be overemphasized in a culture where autonomy is celebrated and community is criticized. Eighteen hundred years ago, Aristotle said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and the Bible eludes to this mystery with “How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight…” and “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Gandhi recognized the power of team saying, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” So what is with this teamwork thing?

Just like parents, leaders, managers, teachers, and preachers, some diminish and others multiply. We will consider only when a team is functioning as a multiplier and view teamwork through the lenses of synergy. Google defines synergy as “The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” Not very different from what Aristotle said in 300 B.C. Although culture occasionally reminds us of the power of teamwork, it is more so the exception. Where Simon and Garfunkel gave us, “I Am A rock I am an island” Tenth Avenue North reminds us “No man is an island.” Where professional musicians and television largely teach me, my, and mine, professional sports teams remind us winning and teamwork are never mutually exclusive AKA 2015 New York Nicks. When the business community glorifies the king-type entrepreneur, President Obama weighs in on the theory of a self-made man reminding us that none exists. Beside a few voices in the wilderness, classroom projects, and team sports, who is championing “Team?” You must champion team.

All I want is a successful small business; I do not need a team I need employees.
So you did not graduate from Stanford, major in social science, and do not plan to move to Silicon Valley with your billion-dollar-idea web application requiring hundreds of brilliant programmers, venture capital, and then an IPO? Well, that is the majority of entrepreneurs. It’s different in the Midwest the verticals are oil, oil, or oil. Where have all the cowboys gone? If you are not moving to California, joining the oil racket, or the billion dollar vertical in another state, what do you do?

I cannot tell you but you will need a team. No matter if you take every class at your Alma mater or pull a Kobe Bryant and go straight out of high school to your chosen field you will need supportive friends and family. You may need co-founders or investors. You need mentors, colleagues, a professional network, peers, and support in general. Every successful person has non-paid team members. I use the term team members loosely as anyone that imparts something of value. You will not have team members if you first are not friendly. Sure people can be successful with very little teamwork. Entrepreneurs do not get this luxury. In the CASHFLOW Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, he reminded us to live on the right side of the quadrant. Build a system so that people can work for you and/or make investments where your money works for you.

How do I become a better team player?
Start by practicing friendliness and giving of your time to others dreams and projects. Be mindful when your actions diminish others and multiply self. Read Winning Friends and Influencing People by Dale Carnegie, read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Expend energy in the pursuit of knowledge about communication, body language, and interpersonal skills. See where this is going? Learn how to energize those around you, become a multiplier, reduce your diminishing actions, practice at it, be vulnerable to the team, set goals larger than you set for yourself, and never stop growing. Before you know it, a spark of teammate will grow inside of you and smart people will gravitate toward you, doors will swing open in front of you, projects will appear tailored for you, and at those moments, you will have the skills to find the team to make the dream work. Even Michael Jordan needed a team to win six NBA championships. Teamwork is the multiplier. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.