Archive for Business

Thoroughly Uncommon Common Sense.

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Everyday people are witnessed doing what appears to us as totally out of the realm of what you or I might call sensible.

Is There Such a Thing as Common Sense?

From one’s own view point a solution might look simple because the other person just needs to apply some “common” sense. Unfortunately common sense only consists of the knowledge we have managed to acquire to the point where we need it! For example, an experienced driver will slow for a corner and accelerate through the turn. The inexperienced driver will tend to enter the turn at speed and break in the turn. To the experienced driver the inexperienced driver has no common sense. Add a race driver and he will assess his speed, visualize the line he wants his vehicle to travel and through a combination of braking and accelerating will minimize deceleration and maximize acceleration. The race driver will view the other drivers as having no “common” sense based on the knowledge the race driver has acquired.

It Starts With Common Knowledge

In effect, there really is no true ” common” sense just gained experience and knowledge for each individual. So it would seem common knowledge would fit as a good base for a form of common sense.

How about an example of common knowledge:

The world is flat (common knowledge) – don’t sail out of sight of land or you will fall off the edge of the world (applied common sense).

Within each persons realm of being, there are multiple sources of “knowledge” that shape the base where decisions are formed. The first time a person forgets a cast iron frying pan on the stove and they realize something is burning (sometimes the flames are a clue) the first reaction is to grab the handle and remove it from the heat. Most will get burned because they acted without considering that the handle would be too hot for an unprotected hand. Good old common sense says if the pan is hot the handle will be hot too! Sense of survival says get the pan off the heat (put out the flames if there are any). If you happen to be a child or a teen you likely were told, “Don’t touch that, it’s HOT!” And we all know a child or two who simply needed the experience themselves to believe it – ouch.

 Can Experience Get In The Way?

Insurance companies know all about experience, common knowledge, and common sense, just ask anyone who runs a golf course. When dark and scary clouds roll in, golf courses are made to blow a loud horn to signal danger and bring people in off the course, the rule is there for a reason. You see, common knowledge is…if you play outside swinging sticks of metal in the air, then the risk of getting hit by lightening increases. Easy, common knowledge, right? Unfortunately, this is where ‘experience’ can get in the way. Our common sense is so tightly tied to our own experiential knowledge that the message “It’s never happened to me before” gets in the way and finishing play often trumps the horn. The number of golfers that fail to heed the horn is significant and scary, and the insurance rates align with that information. The fact is, you won’t see a player who has been hit by lightening wait for the horn, his experience tells him to get out of there when the clouds start coming in, and chances are he’s watching them closely.

Strategic Sense

Yes, we know it’s the name of our company, but we also get asked a lot why we chose it. Well, we wouldn’t want to depend on just plain old ‘common sense’, I mean, earlier we said it doesn’t exist! Great leaders, though, they understand the value of strategic sense in all depths and breadths of decisions. A few questions to ask prior to making a decision are:

  1. What do we know and believe about this?
  2. What don’t we know?
  3. Are our common understandings really true?
  4. What experiences have we had that may shape our decision?
  5. What experiences haven’t we had that may get in the way of a good decision?

Stop for a moment to consider a big decision you have to make in life or at work. Try running it through this set of questions. Odds are, you will discover you need more data before you make your final decision, at least a wise one.

The Contemplative Leader

Companies don’t always consider the ‘contemplative leader’ as driven enough and look for the quick-answer-dynamo when promoting. The fact is, contemplative leaders are less likely to blow a cannon off into a crowd the way some dynamos might. Perhaps contemplative leaders who make good calm decisions are actually naturals at running through a filter of strategic sense.


Your Yes Men Are Hurting Your Business

clearYes men are the people always willing to agree with or go along with the leader for any of a number of reasons.

Yes men (or women) have a reason to believe that contradicting the boss or executive is detrimental to their career.

If you see this in your business, and you are at the top – you did this. You either inherited or created a culture of Yes Men and you likely have failed to address it.

At first it feels good. It’s great to feel like the smartest person in the room that everyone looks up to, the person who everyone agrees with. But it does not bring change, it will not bring innovation, it will never make your company distinctive or set you apart from the competition. It will stagnate you.

Yes Men fail in the actions your business really needs:

  • Challenging how money is being spent and why
  • Courage to innovate
  • Willingness to be accountable for a creative solution
  • Desire to adopt new ways of marketing or selling your brand
  • Being a unique player in a highly competitive market

Sure your business is doing fine. But, are you okay with fine?

Yes men are more about someone’s ego than what is right for the business.

Be willing to hire strong, capable people who are experts in their field. Create an atmosphere of trust where they feel safe telling you what they believe or think. Learn how to facilitate the kind of meetings that pull the best ideas out on the table. Ask yourself these:

  • When a “friendly critic” comes into the company, are they embraced or chased out?
  • Do you take challenge as a personal attack?
  • Think about it. Who could you ask or trust in the business to tell you what you really need to hear?
  • Who is the person who has the guts to challenge the status quo?
  • Are your ‘challengers’ really contrarians or do they have a passion for success?
  • Are they discounted because they are not following in the steps of your Yes Men?

Are you a strong enough leader to allow yourself to be challenged by your employees?

It’s YOUR culture, what are you going to do about it?


Open Letter to Criticizers of Restaurant Manager as new MLA in Alberta – no matter what party you support

restaurant_managementDear Criticizer,

RE: Graham Sucha voted in as MLA for Calgary Shaw

Both a daughter and a son in our family are restaurant managers, and I take great exception to the insinuation that restaurant managers are of a lower unqualified class of flunkies as portrayed by the comments I am seeing on several news posts. Let me make myself clear, restaurant management is one of the most complex, detailed, and difficult businesses in which to succeed and the companies that run them do not select flunkies to be in charge of their margins. 

So, for you salaried employees who work a 40-60 hour work-week, who are not in charge of your department’s budget, marketing, training, staffing, or procurement – perhaps you have a bit to learn about just what kind of a job this is.

The Restaurant Business is a Business!

It is hard-won, always changing, consistently challenging and one of the most difficult roles to take on because you must give up your whole life to make it successful. The dedication of someone who chooses restaurant management is tough, they must be responsible for much more than most MBA’s will have to experience in a life-time. Their fiduciary responsibilities go beyond duty and care, they are the stewards of the entire operation and must do so with fewer resources to support them than the average business.

Data Analysts

Restaurant managers must make good business decisions, and they must do so in good economies and bad. Data gathering and forecasting for both supply and service is a detailed and constantly moving target. They must gather data, understand the meaning behind the data and use that data to ensure consistency of service at the same time costs are being tightly controlled.

Re-engineering Gurus

Policies, talent management, streamlining, constant quality improvement, minute-by-minute business and resource optimization and continual response to environmental shifts outside of their control are all necessary for a restaurant manager to be successful. They are hit by more outside influence than most businesses and they are required to react on an instant.

Ultimate Customer Experience Experts

Few people either understand or care to learn about all that goes into your customer experience within an organization that gets an hour or two of your time while you are enjoying yourself. But to give you your water, wine and put a meal out in 12 minutes that is the right temperature, high quality, delivered with exceptional service in an ambiance that meets with your high standards is nothing short of miraculous. Restaurants require a high level of collaboration of all its parts, both front and back of house, and is like a well-oiled machine. Only an exceptional manager can achieve this kind of coordination from all their employees.

Business Management

I reiterate, restaurants are a BUSINESS. They have margins and budgets, supply, demand, service, and staffing issues. Unlike most businesses which are affected by occasional outside influences over the period of a year, restaurants deal with outside factors on an hourly basis. A downtown-city restaurant can have one day where they pull in $1500.00 in receipts to another day where $20,000.00 of receipts are brought in – all within the same week. This fluctuation of supply and demand cannot change the quality or experience to the customer, thus making their job extremely difficult. Budgetary forecasting, review of multi-year actuals, detailed understanding of the complexity of their location, client base, city events, sporting events, special days like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Canada Day, and more – are all on the agenda for pre-planning long before a customer even considers them. And as for competition, they have 8 other stores down the street that are vying for the very same customers so they must be dedicated 24/7 to win the hearts and loyalty of their customers, and they don’t do it by being lazy flunkies.

Personal Commitment

I’m guessing that some of you may head into work on a day off on occasion, that’s because you are dedicated! But did you know that the average restaurant manager is there on their ‘scheduled’ day off almost always as a rule? They are dedicated to their craft, they miss out on all of your fun events because nights and weekends are their busy times, they miss a lot of family functions, they are lucky if they marry a thoughtful spouse who is willing to manage children, house and home while they are consistently raising the bar to compete with the other store down the street, and at a lessor salary than you. So why do they do it?

It is a vocation, it is a love of people, of service and is a dedicated craft that involves dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They are faced daily with incredible experiences and for a moment are brought into the lives of their patrons who are celebrating, enjoying and feeding their lives through experience.

Yes, even the arrogant, entitled people who look down their noses at restaurant management as a lower-class choice in work leave with a meal served in only minutes with a high quality of standard and their glass filled.

Compared to a few MLAs of the past, I am thinking perhaps a little business management, by a people oriented person, would be welcome in our legislature, regardless of what party you support. The fact that this one chooses to seek advice from someone who is familiar with public life, is right out of the books of some of these folks.

Kind Regards,



I happen to know the young man that has been voted in as NDP MLA in Calgary Shaw and have witnessed his dedication and commitment, I am certain he will apply it as steadfastly to this new role as he has in management, and learn just as quickly. 




One Man One Kit

own-itI have a friend who was in the military and one evening over dinner he and his wife were discussing their training for an upcoming lengthy backpacking trip where the wife was slowly increasing weight by adding 10lb bags of sugar each week in order to build up to the experience. It was the first time I’d heard the expression, “One man. One kit”.

Those four little words convey so much meaning.

A military ‘kit’ is comprised of 90+ lbs of military supplies used while deployed on mission or training. The expression is clear in its understanding – it is your job to take care of your own equipment. You pack it, you haul it, and you bring it back. (I am not military – so please, if you are, feel free to correct me if my understanding is incorrect.) What impressed me the most about the saying ‘one man, one kit’ is its use is very applicable for our roles in companies.

You have a job to do, it is your job and you are responsible for the outcome.

On a military mission, there will be roadblocks, challenges and one might even encounter the enemy, no matter what happens, you are responsible for your part of the mission and your own kit. This doesn’t mean your squadron or troop won’t step-up when you are down, it means you are responsible for your part in the mission.

Used in accordance within a company, if everyone owns and takes care of their own ‘stuff’ it becomes much easier to work together, have each other’s backs, and work as one so no person is dragged down by having to bear the weight or ‘kit’ of another unless that person truly needs a hand. Unnecessarily over-burdening another when you are fully capable of doing the job builds resentment and frustration in a team. There are always exceptions to a rule or times when one needs to get a little help, but the point here is to be responsible and accountable for what you were hired to do.

Owning your own ‘stuff’ contributes to a healthy organization. One man. One kit.

There are many leadership lessons that translate from the military to corporate, do you have any to share?


Change Management and Saving Sears Canada

2sears-storeNew CEO Ronald Boire says Sears is here to stay. He is the newest member of 4 recent leaders in 3 years making a go at keeping Sears alive in Canada, our team chatted among ourselves as to how we might approach such a feat.

Growing up on the Canadian prairies, Sears Canada was a solid thread in the fabric of suppliers for all things home and garage, a virtual security blanket of where-to-get-what and all in one place. Sears was the place my brothers bought decent tools and we could count on Sears to always be the same and carry the goods we wanted. But in the competitive retail marketplace, a lot has changed, and a company that rarely changes will see themselves falling off the radar faster than you can say “rebrand me”.

Changing was once the name of the game for Sears (formerly Simpson-Sears) between 1953 and 1962, from mail order to retail stores they enjoyed a great deal of growth as they moved through building new credit systems and adopting new technologies. They were a force to be reckoned with in the Canadian retail market. Through to the late 70’s there were few Canadian children who didn’t wait at the door for the Christmas Wishbook to arrive. Nary was a ‘Santa list’ created without that prize catalog of toy-land-discovery being carefully perused and assessed. So what happened from the mid-eighties until now to change the powerful force that Sears held on our Canadian Retail market? The landscape changed, but did Sears fail to change with it?

Sitting in our offices today, a discussion ensued about the kind of changes needed for Ronald Boire to truly save Sears Canada, (and shift where necessary) to keep the icon relevant in Canadian Retail.

Where to Start

Building the plan will take an enormous strategic effort, and the planning and readiness through that strategy development is vital. We cannot impress upon them more that the key to a successful change rests upon the importance in having the right data at hand before making major decisions. What data? Let’s start here:

  1. Market Segmentation
  2. Consumer Behaviour
  3. Customer demographics
  4. Multi-channel delivery
  5. Corporate Partnerships
  6. Industry & Marketing Trends
  7. Consumer Engagement and Relationships
  8. Customer Service
  9. Identity
  10. Internal Training Programs

In preparing through the readiness step, Sears Canada reports they have done much in the way of cutting costs, setting themselves up for being able to remain sustainable through a complete overhaul of how they do business, but there is still a long road ahead. Each of the above areas must be analyzed by people who understand the data but more importantly, know how to align it. Considering the whole host of micro data within each area above, it is important that Sears is willing to shift from the “it’s worked before” mentality to a “what does the data tell us, really” mentality. And the decisions will need to take into serious consideration those managers and middle managers who must implement change. Having the corporate focus on true data and stakeholder information, with means and measures of where and how to gather that data and the strength in understanding how to interpret it for the decision makers will make it much easier to evaluate.

Identity Crisis

Do you remember being a teenager and wondering where you fit, wanting to be part of several different groups, but never really feeling like you belong anywhere, you don’t know yourself well enough to self-define so you slide and hope someone picks you up? It appears Sears Canada is in that same realm- floating to be defined but never really knowing themselves well enough to identify where they fit. As a teen must get to know themselves and the people and environment around them better to know who they are, Sears must do the same. They require a solid understanding of the market, the consumer habits and behaviors, the industry trends and what customer engagement looks like in 2014 and to anticipate where it is going. We are in a relationship market and customers want transparency, demand great customer service and want to engage quite literally with every online conversation, blog and write-up. If a business can’t clearly define their own identity, the right customers will not be correctly targeted.

The company is long overdue helping us understand who they are and where they fit within the Canadian marketplace. Are they the middle ground between the low-cost Wal-Mart stores and the higher-end The Bay? (Both of which have their own shifting to consider.)

A clear, desired state must first be defined – who they will be in the future and how that looks, feels and materializes is vital, they need to know where they fit in the Canadian Market and precisely who they are for their customers. Then they need to clearly convey this message from Corporate through to consumer – simply, articulately and soon, so everyone “gets it”. It is not enough to say they are in it for the long-run, they need to share the vision.


In 1959, Sears was instrumental in embracing new technologies by being a pioneer of the Telex Service providing improved international record keeping allowing them to increase their credit accounts by 190,000 within a single year. Sears was rocketing by being technically savvy.

It’s fundamental to take a long hard look at technology and what exists in the current business, evaluating it against what will be needed to accommodate current consumer behaviour and trends and implementing the right strategies moving forward. This is an expensive and important investment that cannot be taken lightly, a plan to ensure all technology is vetted through an overall big picture view rather than a “grasp at mini solutions” ad-hoc set of implementations is paramount.

Areas of technical evaluation to consider will be internal and external. Data management & analysis, metrics tracking, sales and delivery tools, procurement and inventory systems will all need a solid review and update. Externally, digital catalogs, mobile device applications, client engagement tools, and social media strategies. All of these tools interconnect as a means and way of remaining relevant and top-of-mind to today’s consumers and the market Sears chooses to call their own. (See identity crisis above.) Take Neiman Marcus, for example, they saw the benefit of teaming up with the company Slyce to connect people with their products, now that is making themselves relevant.


With all companies, a strong organizationally developed company can gradually slide when they are busy bailing the water out and trying to fix the leak. A myopic view of business challenges can put the people in last place. A once great management training program will need to change as Sears begins to change. They have a pretty solid 18 month training program for their Management staff with a focus on Merchandising, Supply Chain, Marketing and Retail Operations as well as varied store visits and shadowing. Kudos for Sears in building operational processes for management, but there are some key areas of leadership development, change management, leading employees, understanding new consumer trends, reaching the community and other programs we could not find when we did a little research on the company. Their old standard of pop-up in store promotions just isn’t gathering the crowd like it used to. If they have developed some current trends in these areas, it’s not obvious. Shifting the company to a stronger growth-focused environment will require some key elements that support great leadership in addition to strong merchandising skills. Knowing the consumer better, shifting with the consumer and being flexible in reach will help managers better know how to support their staff to sell.

Areas of focus for all change will need a full review of the HR policies, procedures, benefits, training, loyalty programs, incentives, support systems, customer service delivery, and sales practices.


As with the Neiman Marcus and Slyce partnership, Sears is due for a relevance shift. Partnering with companies that serve a broader reach and partnering with retail suppliers in unique ways to drive traffic and sales is long overdue. Most of what our team has observed is that the catalog needs a full technical overhaul to make it easier to buy, flyer marketing needs to include a price because people no longer will go in-store to find that out, a great app for getting current deals is non-existent, and we see very little draw to engage with the consumer.

Take one small example from Costco, they may be a warehouse model where dozens of folks flock to their bricks and mortar to get product, but they also have a pretty solid online system. We are not just talking about an online catalog, however, because members at Costco are provided with something relevant in the area of content management. They ship a magazine/catalog that provides information useful to the consumer, something they can read and enjoy, something that gives them recipes, articles on travel, and more and their lives are enriched by the engagement. Within this magazine are relevant products available at for anyone to purchase conveniently, and presented in bite-sized chunks made into a shopping experience. Once on the website – their search engine and transparency are exceptional. It pays to invest in your technology!


Times change, consumers change, and trends and technology drive those changes. The organization that understands the change management process, that looks at the overall organizational development within their company, and who is exceptional at data collection, review and alignment is better prepared to change with the times and consumers.

Because of the very early beginnings of Simpsons and their merger with Sears, our whole team feels nostalgic about Sears and truly hope they make this fly. Sears needs identity, relevance, reach and engagement to once again become a leader in the retail space in Canada, it will be interesting to see where they take it.


Own It to Change It

Own_It_Change_It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change. How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard. It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones. The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours. There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action. It can be awkward or frustrating. Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others. (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice. Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership. Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity. Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.



Seven Life Lessons From Dad

My Amazing DadI don’t know how many of you are lucky enough to still have your dad in your life, or even have a dad as dedicated as mine, but given that Father’s day is fast approaching, I would like a chance to share some of the very valuable lessons I have learned from the man who helped to shape who I am.

1. If it needs to be done, do it now.

I can guarantee you there are very few ‘unfinished’ projects in my dad’s house. It doesn’t matter what it is, he takes it on like it is his full-time job. Retired and always needing a project, he rarely leaves anything until the deadline. He sees something that needs to be done and he takes it on in his next spare moment. From yard work, to painting, to fixing the back steps – he is a doer; someone who knows success is doing what needs to be done, doing it as soon as possible and not procrastinating.

2. Be a champion for someone you love.

My mom has been ill for over a year, at her side every day, he is her advocate, her champion and her pal. He keeps a steady loyal routine for her, pays attention to everything going on medically for her and is willing to fight with her to get well. He believes in her, he helps her believe she can do it too. Every day, no fail, without complaint, he is a man of conviction. He loves her, love means being there and not leaving it up to someone else.

3. Fight fairly and with facts – fight with all you have if it means fighting for your rights.

My dad is a letter writer, and a good one. He never just sits there and accepts unfair treatment or allows someone to take advantage. He is the first one digging up all the facts, researching the details, finding out the knowledge needed to ensure fairness and he uses it. He learns what it is all about and doesn’t hesitate to make a good factual case. No matter how much he may be angered or emotional about the topic, he works hard to be factual and fair in his dealings. He keeps it as simple as possible to make a great case for why his way may be the way to go. I write letters too – I learned it from him. I have fought and won with a major automaker, I have won my case with an educational institution and have been a winner in making sure my facts are straight and my details are correct. It is a skill I have used many, many times throughout my life.

4. Never settle for “good enough”.

Just “good enough” makes no sense to my dad, from my very youngest years I recall hearing him say, “If it isn’t done right there is no point in doing it at all”. The earliest I recall these words was when we were building fences at our ranch in Montana. He had a chain saw and was notching out spaces to put a cross post in. I used the expression, “Nah, it’s good enough” and quickly learned why it wasn’t. He explained the reasoning behind exactly where the strength in the fence existed when done right and what happens when it isn’t. Needless to say, I dug that post out of the ground and we pounded in a new one. It is something I will never forget, even when you make a mistake, fix it, own it or find a way to ensure it is “done well” but never leave something at “just good enough”

5. Ya, but are you making any money?

If the truth be told, I love what I do so much that I would do it for free. And he knows it. He challenges me all the time to remember that everything has a value, especially expertise and time. He wants the best for me and my family, and if anything is going to take time away from home and family there had better be a return on investment for home and family. My dad is a great provider, he is a role model in many ways that I wish to emulate. How we go about things is different from one another, but he has modelled provision in a way many people these days do not. Earn, save and grow your money – in all cases spend less than you earn and keep some aside, you are going to need it. (I still have a lot to learn)

6. Work harder than you think you can.

Sometimes this is the little piece that makes the difference between finishing with time to spare and nudging way too close to a deadline. He likes to finish things, so starting something one day typically means he finishes on the same day. He pushes it sometimes, and often we tease him for being crazed with it. The truth is, he has combined what needs to be done NOW with “let’s finish it” to ensure he is rarely caught with something left incomplete.

7. Research, research, research.

Don’t just take the word of others, do your research. My dad is an avid “Googler” even at 80 years of age. He has kept his diabetes under control with food, he knows all the antioxidants to eat in an effort to stave off a return of the prostate cancer he had years ago and he has researched the company history and management team of the stocks he buys. He pays attention to the things that affect his life. He has taught me to know more about things, challenge the status quo and to stand strong in my conviction – but back it up with data.


These lessons, these things he has taught me have contributed significantly to my life providing an even greater power now while I work out a redesign of my business and personal priorities. Having in the past few months slid quietly into a self-imposed leave of absence from many outside influences to lay down the groundwork for this change. I am ever grateful to my dad for these and many more lessons that have served me well in the past and will serve me well in the future.


Thanks Dad – You have shaped much of my life and given me strength and courage to be the person I am today – so proud to be your daughter.


The Great Big Shake Up

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.” – Rosanne Cash

Many people who have been connected to me in social media will have noticed I took a social media vacation this last while. Mainly to re-examine both my business and my life – I was fortunate to have a friend who cared enough about me to offer me a lot of insight and spent the time to help me examination things pretty closely. Mostly, he made me look at myself and accept things I was not aware I was doing, saying and being. Facing some of it has been hard.

This year has been a year of purpose for me, focusing on family and gaining insight about my future direction. It has also given me some time to re-examine the grand plan for both the business and my own direction and a number of themes have emerged.

  • Purpose
  • Authenticity
  • Being with people
  • Asking for help
  • Letting go
  • And my own valuation

I suppose I’m going through much of what any entrepreneur goes through when they find themselves on a road they never started out on and have lost their map. But it is much more than that. I have changed, my intentions for my purpose have been lost, and with that comes the awareness a great transition is necessary to right this wobbling boat.

Over the next few months I will be making changes to the business and to my life to get onto a path that is more in keeping with my own truth and talents, and be able to serve others more effectively and authentically. I will be creating the means to be more centered, more focused in a smaller, tighter package in order to remain true to myself personally and the reason I got into business in the first place – and I will be working to remain true to my family. I will be putting on the brakes with a few things, and it has been a very messy journey of processing and a filtering of thoughts, beliefs and ideas, but I guess transition can be messy – well, it has been this time.

I intend to share as things move forward, especially those changes which impact clients, readers, followers and anyone who might wander onto this blog with an interest.

This is more of a life-shift and each of the themes above will be driving forces in re-setting the direction.

In taking the quiet time I needed to work through all of the examination I shared with this friend, I have discovered crazy insecurities I thought were long past, renewed a sense of self and I have rediscovered purpose.

I am significantly impacted by this, and by the very personal experiences I have gone through over the last year while sitting in the side-car of my mother’s health journey. It is my hope I can offer a little more of the authentic Patti and avoid needing such intense privacy. It is also my hope that in not keeping my faults and struggles so private, I can better serve my purpose and the many people I value so dearly.

For your support and readership, I am ever grateful.


Make it Grand!


Business IS of the Heart

…When Cultures Collide in Mergers and Acquisitions

Business consultants tell entrepreneurs to know their exit plan, and many focus on a merger or acquisition market as they build their businesses. This is especially true in the technology or engineering space, where valuations are done of a technology which may be attractive to larger firms looking to grow their offering.

When a valuation is being performed on a company prior to merging or acquiring it, that valuation is usually based solely on the financial side of the business. A careful calculation of the assets and liabilities, the varied business market, the intangible assets like trademarks or patents, financial reporting and more. A company does their homework before any merger or acquisition, and typically if a sale goes through, they feel confident they’ve made the right move.

But there is one thing that is rarely done… and that is a careful study of the differences between the company cultures. Culture is about shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that make up the “personality” of a given company. Personalities are important. Imagine, if you will, two people discussing getting married and they both have children and homes.

Of course ‘marriage is of the heart and this is business’, you say?

Well, two companies coming together needs to be treated like a marriage. If you were considering marrying someone, you do need to consider your partner’s financial health and see if it matches yours, but is that all you would look at? I would think you should see if there is compatibility of the values, attitudes and practices. How you raise your children and how they raise theirs may be so far removed from one another, you could be creating Armageddon rather than a loving, caring blended family. It could be that you are sending a child or two on a run-away spree, or will be forever burdened by being the nasty, horrible and wicked step-parent no matter how hard you try.

image courtesy of

This little analogy is very apropos for M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) and cultural evaluations are starting to make headway in some M and A analysis of companies. Why?

Because after you buy the company and by the time you ask a consultant to come in and help with the messy change management of the two cultures, it can be too late.

It is imperative the company buying takes a careful look at the culture of the company being purchased and consider this in their valuation. A company purchasing a heavily creative and innovative group whose mandate it has been to focus on the customer may find their new family clashing with a process driven conglomerate whose focus is global spread and, trust me, that can be disastrous. In fact, in technology, the key component to a wise purchase is in determining how to retain the knowledge held by the employees. Your software is only as good as the people writing it, and you want them to stay.

I am not saying it cannot be done or to avoid the purchase, what I am saying is, you better already have a great plan in place for merging not only the technology or the company, but the cultures too. Doing your homework needs to be holistic, not finance specific, know what pitfalls and roadblocks you will suffer if culture is left out of the equation, or that beautiful valuation sheet may very well be worth far less once the knowledge has walked out the door.

There are things you can do to prepare in advance:

  • bring someone in who understands how to evaluate cultures and
  • work at building a plan of action toward a healthy merger or acquisition, upfront.

It behoves you to do so, because business is of the heart, and shouldn’t be about wasting money or losing talent.


Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop

Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership

through consulting, advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323 | contact her here | book her to speak



Traveling Your Journey ‘From Bud to Boss’

Book Review:

Everyone is a leader, from the guy helping out at the sports game to the teacher, to the person who answers phones at the dentist office. Every part of our jobs involves leadership skills in one form or another. Just navigating your way through the chaotic and ever-changing world we live in requires a myriad of leadership skills.

In all of the chaos and fluctuation we seek to find a voice of reason and a calm guide to help us work our way through and it’s especially challenging when we have most recently been promoted to a management role and are moving “From Bud to Boss”. Well, you can make a stop on that journey of searching and take more than a peek at a new book of just such a name by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris. From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership is more than just a book, it’s a journal of steps and strategies that will bring you closer and closer to your goal of being a leader people choose to follow.

If you could have a map for dealing with the significant change from an employee to a boss it would be within the pages of this book. Charting a course through that change, the critical components of your own leadership style and how you communicate physically, emotionally and verbally is not always easy. Self evaluation is a big part of growth and Eikenberry and Harris provide ample ways to take a good look at yourself, much like holding a mirror up to you and showing you what other people see.

Why is that important? Because until we see ourselves as others might see us, our willingness to grow is hindered by a limited view. That limited view provides limited direction.

“But now the world is different, and your perspective must, necessarily, change”

With a clear guide through the transition From Bud to Boss Eikenberry and Harris offer you what they call “Remarkable Principles” that, when read alone, provide a great template for remembering the lessons in the book – grab a highlighter you’re going to want to have these as road-signs on your map to leadership.

“Change is a choice. People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

With every “Remarkable Principle” comes both explanation and hands-on, real-life strategies you can take with you and utilize immediately. This is a workbook, a book for a person who has a great desire to take the journey to remarkable leadership. Each exercise applies to you – not some generality you must work hard to apply to your own circumstances.

Throughout the book you will find a “Bonus Byte” a hint or tip for applying the exercise to your own leadership, your team efforts or for simply taking a look back at the steps you have taken and re-assess.

Everyone needs a stepped plan, a place to start and support in getting there. “From Bud To Boss” gives you all that, in addition to a plethora of resources you can tap into in reaching your goals of making a difference as the leader you were meant to be. In addition to all the resources, Eikenberry and Harris help you define a vision for your leadership, your relationships and grow a relationship with yourself.

Not sure why you would bother? It is this writer’s opinion that everyone has room to grow, no matter how successful a leader we are, we always have room to learn more, be more and do more. Take this journey and discover the total cost of not adopting change as the authors walk you through the steps and the path of discovering what happens when we stagnate while change swirls all around us and we live romanticizing the past that we ‘think’ has served us best.

If you were to step yourself through the rugged path of leadership, without a guide, without an understanding of what lies in your path , it is going to be a slower journey. Everyone wants some indication of how to deal with the pitfalls, the roadblocks, the trees in the road, and while one cannot possibly give warning of everything – this book addresses a good many of the critical factors in leadership and creates a map worth following.

“Most people communicate in the way that is most comfortable to

them. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this tendency, it

does present a bit of a challenge to you as a leader.”

None of us are on this journey alone, if you’re the boss – you have a team and an organization you must communicate with, not to mention meeting the expectations of your own boss. Follow the information in the Communication chapters to more effectively influence, support, and provide memorable meaning to what you say and how you say it and then begin to understand the deepest and most relevant skill your team needs – you, listening.

Whether it’s adjusting to change and communicating effectively or coaching and evaluation, ‘From Bud to Boss’ offers a comprehensive workbook and leader-journey to support the key to accomplishing great things… and that is collaboration. They walk you through healthy and unhealthy conflict showing you the difference and give you steps to successfully deal with both so that you, the leader, can set – work toward and achieve your goals.

I don’t know Kevin Eikenberry or Guy Harris, but I get Kevin’s newsletter and read it weekly – that newsletter is always packed with content and valuable information. No fluff there, so when I heard he teamed up with Guy to write a book– I found out how I could get an advance copy to read. Thanks to Kevin and his generosity, I have the privilege of adding a valuable manual for leadership to my bookshelf. It is a book I will reference frequently and that offers more than just words on leadership, it offers actionable steps, resources and a touch-base of follow-up support for the leader who chooses to change, grow and develop with and for the people he/she is privileged to lead.


Great Leaders in Mediocre Companies

Great Leader Mediocre CompanyHave you ever worked for a really fantastic leader within a company that did not celebrate collaboration or leadership? How about a company who cared less about their culture than they did a spreadsheet?

I have. One of those great leaders was a PM I worked for directly; the other was the director within an R&D department. Both of these gentlemen were exceptional leaders in addition to being technically extraordinary within their field. What I noticed was that no matter how difficult the organization was to work within, no matter how their creativity and innovation was stepped on or their hands tied, they always approached their teams positively and enthusiastically.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned from these two leaders:

  • It is possible to change the world.
  • It is possible to deliver exceptional product within pockets of an organization that does not make people, customers, creativity and innovation their priority.
  • A great leader always puts people first and foremost.
  • Maintaining a can-do attitude will provide exceptional results.

Are these two folks still working at this company? Not on your life.

Here is what I learned from their departure

  • The world we change may not be the one we originally set out to change.
  • Without the backing of their company, great leaders will share their strengths elsewhere.
  • Great leaders will gravitate to where they can lead people not process.
  • Regardless of the technical results, a great leader cares more about the quality of what they leave behind than what shows up on a spreadsheet.

Companies who are seeking great leaders may very well have them right under their noses.

To a company that does not champion leadership; they might see a leader’s passion as misdirected rather than innovative. Great leaders challenge the Status Quo – they push against process for process sake and they are rabble-rousers against any decisions made blindly without asking for input from the hands-on specialists on the front-line.

If a company is seeking great leaders, they must first become a company that seeks great culture.

  • One where creativity, innovation, people and behaviour is clearly defined.
  • Where people who don’t fit within the desired culture are paid out to leave.
  • Where people are treated with respect, dignity and compassion, and celebrated for their strengths.
  • Where performance management also holds employees up to the company values.
  • Where the company LIVES their values and their mantra can be repeated by all staff members.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her personal page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Make YOUR company a Cirque Du Soleil

This evening I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday a little early by attending KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, a gift from my kids (thanks kids). What a show – between the antics, the acrobatics and the feats of amazement, I could not help thinking about how all our companies could learn a thing or two in both customer service and leadership.

Here are a few of my observations:

1. Not just any old circus

The quality of each and every act is superior to any show I have witnessed. Painstaking detail goes into every costume, all the makeup, the lighting, the sounds and especially safety. With the maintenance of equipment, upkeep of fabrics for costumes, and the polished shine on the metal parts to catch the light, it is all miraculously new-looking and beautiful, despite hundreds of previous shows. NO cutting costs for cheaper fabrics that don’t stretch with the body, cheaper makeup that runs when you sweat, low-cost equipment – nope, because this is a class act.

There will be no oil leak at this Cirque!

2. Everyone is a star in this gig

If you are a trapeze artist, there’s a good chance you will be moving sets and removing items from the stage. If you have some other talent in your past that would be beneficial like massage therapy or plumbing, you may be asked to provide that as well.

There are no headliners or heroes. Everyone is a star in this gig – you have talent, well, chances are you were gifted with more than one and your job is to not only contribute those talents but also support the talent of others in every way possible by pitching in on everything you can.

Get over yourself – get into the team.

3. Don’t show the customer the cogs, give them what they came for

We went to Cirque du Soleil to be entertained, and entertained we were. There are a ton of mechanical, technical and physical adjustments between acts, but we were barely aware they were taking place because of the high-energy, excitement going on all around us. The clever distractions and crazy antics kept us highly entertained and laughing the whole way through. And then suddenly, we became aware that they’d put together rigging right there out in the open for the next act, and we barely noticed its arrival because we were so caught up with the fun of the show.

This is how the best of the best make your life happy as a customer, they make your experience seamless and fun. You don’t notice how hard they are working in the background to deliver your product and you don’t have to care.

Getting great service or a great experience should be just that, great!

4. Surprise EVERYONE

This is the third Cirque du Soleil show I have attended and I never grow weary of them. Why? I am always pleasantly surprised. They don’t do this with any one thing; it is the combination of things that offer me continual enchantment, so much so I forget to blink in the event I may miss something. There is action happening at every level, every corner of the facility or tent to keep me in amazement. I have a hard time finding anything at all to complain about because of the perpetual activity that astounds me.

If you have one department that truly shines above all others according to customer response, then learn from these folks, because EVERY department needs to shine and surprise. This means learning how to become a company that always exceeds customer expectation rather than meeting it.

Think Apple.

We cannot all be Cirque du Soleil, but we can certainly learn a lot about business and leadership by being one of their customers, I recommend you attend and while you are there, observe, learn and figure out how you can implement.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512


How Do Your Employees Measure Up?

photo courtesy of KLiverap, Poland

Think about this.

The average worker may fail to exceed expectation but most often they meet evaluation.

What you evaluate determines employee performance review scores – these scores determine their advancement.

What they’ll work hardest to achieve is what they believe you need from them to meet those scores.

Ask yourself this:

Where is the disconnect between what kind of performance I WANT and what I evaluate?

Your evaluation must be directly related to reaching the goals set forth by the team. A solid review of the evaluation you use tied into where you want the team to go will offer your employees a clear path to follow. Remember to evaluate on those “intangibles” you want to see happen and be clear about what they are. Share those measures with the employees!

Once these are in alignment, be enthusiastic in sharing your passion for achieving the goal.

See the goal, align your performance evaluation with meeting that goal, watch them shine.

Guess what? Your employees will then pleasantly surprise you.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512


When cultures collide, does the CEO take charge?


Cultures Collide

Image provided by Sias van Schalkwyk, South Africa

If you’ve ever belonged to a company that’s been taken over through a merger or acquisition by another company, rest assured, your original Executive will change camps.

Companies typically buy other companies for how the product leverages its portfolio or market share, not because it’s filled with rocking collaborators.

I have yet to see a merger or acquisition result in anything less than a collision of cultures.

The difference in the success or failure after the purchase or merging of these cultures can be described in how the collision takes place. It can be anywhere from a bump of the shoulders and eventual turn toward the same goal to a total a write-off like a car left in a twisted wreck.

The change-management of such a significant alteration in the ‘flow’ of an organization takes time and effort, and it begins at the CEO level. Acceptance of good decisions in the purchase or merger with another company almost always is adopted by the executive first. Let’s face the fact, it behoves them to do so. The higher in the organization you are, the more you must adopt the direction set forth before you if you are to remain and still play nice in the sandbox and reach success.

If little or no change-management or clarity of direction is offered the employees, they’ll feel like they’ve been betrayed as they witness their executive ‘going over’ to the other side.

People like their current work-flow (good or bad) and significant change shakes up the apple cart – this requires guidance and leadership. Guidance begins, (and must be followed through), at the CEO level. The CEO who rolls up the sleeves, gets involved in the change-management and helps the organization evolve is better equipped to retain its best talent, industry expertise and product knowledge.

Choose to leave it to others, and those others will follow your lead, leaving it to others all the way down the chain until the mass exodus out the door begins at the front line levels and works its way back up. What are you risking by ignoring the obvious?


Human Capital and Culture

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are an enormous effort for the companies involved. Not only are you busy putting process and financials together between two companies, every single level of the organization must take on a ‘change role’ as they begin to integrate.

There are several ways we see this managed by the companies involved:

  1. Push: The larger acquiring company pushes it’s systems down to the acquired company and defines a “This is how we do things here” stance.
  2. Handshake: The two companies take the time to evaluate the systems and processes in order to determine which ones will work best for the newly forming organization.
  3. Separation: The companies are tied at the highest level, but the two companies work and function with autonomy from each other with exception to the reporting levels.
  4. Pull: This happens when a very small company is purchased by a larger organization, often you will see the small company become a department or branch of its own, taken under the wing of the parent company.

Many of us have been through one or many M&As in our working lifetimes and we all have an opinion as to how it was handled, how smooth the integration and how effective the changes were. In many cases the changes are seen as negative experiences and there is a reason for that.

M&As occur for a variety of rationale, a company wishes to partner with another company who has a compatible product – a marriage of sorts. A company will need to improve their portfolio based on a particular direction they wish to head or a company may wish to corner a market and cannot do it alone, but needs the product or strength of another company to accomplish that task.

One of the actions that can be abandoned in this process is the due diligence of evaluating a mix of varied cultures and the effect bringing those cultures together may have on the organization. Cultural compatibility is necessary for ensuring that the very expensive investment made in the new company will be realized with an appropriate ROI (return on investment) for the product being purchased.

If any of you have older teens who have dated someone with a completely different family background than yours, you know what I am talking about when I say marrying cultures. You can see the differences pretty clearly, but those teens are rather blind to what the issues may be. If they carry forward into marriage, there will always be some serious road-blocks as they work their way through those differences.

In the beginning, the excitement of what “could be” doesn’t take very long to turn into “uh oh” as the two organizations begin to define their “show stoppers” and “must haves”. Understanding the risk you take in cultural incompatibility is vital in managing that integration.

Change is always hard, it is our human nature to avoid it at all costs and instead rest in our comfortable way of doing things. The last thing any company wants is to pay 8-50 million dollars only to see the product knowledge walk out the door and risk the product and the investment all together. Your ROI includes the people involved, M&As are best accomplished with a people approach.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512