Entrepreneur: Move Without The Ball | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Entrepreneur: Move Without The Ball | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Eager to start your own business, read on. Remember Pete Rose? Most hits in MLB history. Guess who has the most at-bats? Pete Rose. Much of business is trying, failing, re-calculating and trying again. Iterating. People say all the time, if I had a million dollars I could make my idea work. Very bad idea starting with a million dollars, before you have moved without the ball. This country is ripe with reasons and excuses of why we cannot develop our ideas. Yes the spotlight is on the ball, but every entrepreneur moves without the ball.

Before money benefits, movement is essential i.e. a business plan, seeking applicable knowledge, networking with potential team members, founders, and investors, identifying potential pain points and customers, deciding if you are building a business, a feature, or a product. These actions are steps that set about a chain reaction, very similar to how enzymes cascade into reactions in the human body. Many of these steps are precursory and do not interface directly with the outcome, yet without them there would be no outcome. Too often Americans over emphasize the true downside of blowing it. Think of Pete Rose, or all the game winning shots by NBA basketball players that did not win the game. Think of every entrepreneur that has tried something and failed. I guarantee an internal note was made, a calibration took place, a lesson was learned inside each person that tried and failed. An iteration. Each action (good or bad) is movement toward your dream, company, or product. These movements, motions, patterns, strategies, routines are rarely noticed, well, until the company is viewable through a rear-view mirror and well before money enters the picture. It is impossible to guarantee whether a product will thrive or die (product market fit), the only thing you can guarantee is that you do your part with what you said you were creating. Swing the bat, strike out even, just get up and swing the bat as you said you would. Do not sit on the sideline and talk about how and what you would do if you had the team, resources, opportunities, or trust fund. Talk is cheap, just start moving without the ball. On a side note, some ideas do require millions in seed funds to activate them. If that is your idea, then move to Silicon Valley or another community that supports those size ventures. Many technological or biological ideas require significant start up capital. Most other verticals allow entrepreneurs to activate with significantly less.

Movement instills trust in your networks and gives you an opportunity to take a shot. We have all failed; failure is not to be feared, standing still when no one is passing you the ball is. Each failure is like a key on my key ring. And inside my mind is how each key turned the lock. Movement without the ball is the color of survival, it is the color of entrepreneurship, and it is the color of success. Every competitive advantage that leads to success at the individual level is fungible, except, moving without the ball. Flip a coin three times and you do not know if you have a fair coin, flip a coin 1000 times and you do. What is an ingredient in the secret sauce? Move without the ball.

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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.

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.

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.