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Here’s something you might want to consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do, says productivity guru Tim Ferriss.

6-12-2017, Ted Talks -- To do or not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows, and most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. For years, I set goals, made resolutions to change direction — nothing came of either. I was just as insecure and scared as the rest of the world.

The simple solution came to me accidentally in 2004. At that time, I had more money than I knew what to do with — and I was completely miserable. I had no time and was working myself to death. I had started my own company, only to realize it would be nearly impossible to sell. Oops. I felt trapped and stupid at the same time. “I should be able to figure this out,” I thought. Why am I such an idiot? Why can’t I make this work? What’s wrong with me? The truth was, nothing was wrong with me.

Critical mistakes made in the company’s infancy would never let me sell it. It had some serious defects. (This turned out to be yet another self-imposed limitation and false construct — it was acquired by a private equity firm in 2009.) The question then became, “How do I free myself from this Frankenstein while making it self-sustaining? How do I pry myself from the tentacles of workaholism and the fear that it would fall to pieces without my 15-hour days? How do I escape this self-made prison?” A trip, I decided. A sabbatical year around the world. So I took the trip, right? I’ll get to that. First, I felt it prudent to dance around with my shame, embarrassment and anger for six months, all the while playing an endless loop of reasons why my cop-out fantasy trip could never work. One of my more productive periods, for sure.

One day, while envisioning how bad my future suffering would be, I hit upon a gem of an idea: Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be — the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip? Well, my business could fail while I’m overseas, obviously. A legal warning letter would accidentally not get forwarded, and I would get sued. My business would be shut down, and inventory would spoil on the shelves while I’m on some cold shore in Ireland. Crying in the rain, I imagine. My bank account would crater by 80 percent, and my car and motorcycle in storage would be stolen. I suppose someone might also spit on my head from a high-rise balcony while I’m feeding food scraps to a stray dog, which would then spook and bite me squarely on the face.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

The other day I sat down at home to relax and watch some TV. Flipping through channels, I saw that one of my all-time favorite movies was on: the original “Star Wars.” As I watched, I was reminded why it’s so special to me. It wasn’t the epic space battles, brilliant musical score or quippy dialogue. It’s how it made me feel. Every time I watch it, I feel my troubles melt away, carefree as an 8-year-old boy.

Due to my fascination with the film and franchise, I learned an interesting fact: it wasn’t the sole idea of writer/director George Lucas. The basis for these movies is rooted in the teachings of the late Joseph Campbell, renowned lecturer, writer and mythologist, known for his immense wisdom on life.

You could say he was the Yoda of modern myth. He discovered that every story and every person’s personal journey follows the same basic structure, referred to as “The Hero’s Journey.” From this idea, Campbell came up with his most famous quote, Follow your bliss.”

With that in mind, it’s likely that you got into the 12-volt business for a reason. It could be that you were grandfathered into owning a store from family or from a job that began in high school doing basic installs, and you worked your way up the ladder. Whichever the case, you work in this business because you have a passion and drive that gives you what you couldn’t find anywhere else. You followed your bliss.

As a retailer, you already know that part of your job is to keep track of the latest trends on the market so you can be one step ahead of your competitors. In today’s market, that includes keeping an eye on the OEMs and what part of your business they could be impacting next. So comes the question: how do you stay relevant with your customers in the face of competition from an outside competitor? The answer is staring at you when you look in the mirror. Use personal identity to reimagine your business.

The first place to look is within. Passion is infectious. The more passionate you are, the more it will inspire your staff and customers. According to a study conducted by Philadelphia-based consultant PeopleMetrics, employees who are passionate about their companies are the best performers, regardless of industry, tenure or gender.

Another factor is the type of business you’re in. As a consumer, I know that I have certain preferences when I shop. If one store is selling a product I want for two bucks cheaper than the shop down the street, I’m not generally going to care who I buy from, unless I have a personal connection to one shop over the other. That’s where building customer relationships comes into play.

By using your company culture as a bridge to attract customers with similar interests, you allow people to connect with your shop on a personal level, making them more apt to come back. According to brand marketing expert William Arruda, small businesses should use their unique personal brand, or unique promise of value, to connect and maintain position with your core audience.

No matter what a competitor does to take business away, you can always counter by focusing on the side of the business that is often overlooked, such as aftermarket add-ons and accessories. These can include radio replacement interfaces and rear parking sensors. Just make sure they comply with the culture you’ve established. Logically, it’s much easier to sell a product or set of products that fit in with your store’s identity rather than to sell the same car audio equipment as Han Solo-Salesman down the street.

Using social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and participating in local community outreach (like Little League Baseball) can be rewarding, traffic-generating promotions. However, when attending these events make sure your company culture and logo are well represented so potential customers can get a taste of your shop’s unique style. An example of this can be found in the Industry News section of ME’s December 2013 issue.

During the course of any workday there are challenges. No matter if it’s difficult customers, exhausted installers or even dealing with personal issues, never underestimate the importance of enhancing your shop culture with passion. As Joseph Campbell would say, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” 


Given the popularity of college basketball and its annual tournament known as “March Madness,” I thought it appropriate to discuss the concept of a tournament and its affect on the human psyche. But first, here’s a seemingly unrelated book reference:

I recently finished reading the second book in a series called “The Reckoners”. The first book in the series, “Steelheart,” follows a group of freedom fighters attempting to rid the world of super-powered overlords and the book’s namesake antagonist, a Superman-esque villain that is impervious to all weapons. These powerful beings, called Epics, once mere ordinary people,  were corrupted when a powerful atmospheric event turned them into Epics. But due to their powers, every one of them was corrupted. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does any of this have to do with “March Madness?” Good question.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, was known for many things. He was the first person in history to be named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. He was given the nickname, “Wizard of Westwood,” an appropriate title given his record of winning 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, with seven of the 10 coming in consecutive years. He was also incredibly humble, making no more than $35,000 a year—$151,918 in today’s dollars—and never asking for a raise.

Despite all of those accolades, Wooden is perhaps best known for his inspirational wisdom, stemming from his Pyramid of Success model. The model was aimed at giving players the tools to be successful in both basketball and life, inspiring players like Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—both former UCLA players—to become future NBA greats.

There’s a point to all of this, I promise.

As you can see in the attached image, the pyramid is built with a list of carefully selected elements, consisting of virtues like loyalty, cooperation, initiative, self-control and team spirit, among others. These virtues all add up to the top section of the pyramid: competitive greatness.

For the 12-volt entrepreneur, this concept should be familiar considering that to be successful in any endeavor, one must be well-prepared to best the competition, or at least put up a good fight. Perhaps the biggest part of being accomplished is how to deal with success without it going to your head. In his book, “Wooden on Leadership,” Wooden said, “You must monitor confidence because it can easily turn into arrogance which then can lead to the mistaken and destructive belief that previous achievement will be repeated without the same hard effort that brought it about in the first place.”

This leads me to “The Reckoners” book reference from earlier. It’s easy to let success go to your head. You can have the appearance of success by gaining fame, professional respect and money, but that doesn’t mean you are achieving it in the best way possible to gain inner peace and self-respect. If you sacrifice any of the elements that make up the pyramid in exchange for the easy way, you will lose sight of yourself as a person and become a self-absorbed, arrogant bore on his way to “the bench.”

Much like the playoff brackets in the NCAA “March Madness” tournament, the pyramid requires patience and determination so that all steps are executed properly. It’s like building a sound system in an RV; it’s a large endeavor that requires planning, long hours and lots of equipment placed carefully in the vehicle. If any step is skipped, the whole thing could be a colossal waste of time and require even more hours to fix all of the errors. 

More often than not the teams that win the championships in basketball are those that follow the pyramid, or any other healthy leadership paradigm from their coach. Those that fail are like “Steelheart”; they take their natural, genetic talent and squander it without tapping into their true potential. If you don’t believe me, just read the words of the man himself:

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Since it’s both baseball season and a time when many retailers are hiring seasonal staff, I thought it would be a good moment to discuss an important topic. In a baseball club, much like any workplace, a certain balance must be maintained, not just for players to do their jobs and play to their full potential, but also for the players to get along with each other and with management.

In the film Moneyball, Brad Pitt stars as real-life Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who in 2002 was tasked with getting a low-budget, hand-to-mouth ball club to compete with big-budget teams like the New York Yankees. To do this, he had to think outside the box financially and do something socially that he had never done in four previous seasons with the club: talk to his players.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in running a retail shop, it’s understandable that an owner might be too busy to take a minute to get feedback from employees. Much like a baseball team, a staff requires the attention of management, but in an encouraging, rather than critical, way. A recent interview on with John Kotter, chief innovation officer at leadership strategy firm Kotter International, made clear that fear in the workplace acts like a “burning platform,” forcing employees to react. But that reaction style of management only works for so long, until employee energy and enthusiasm starts to wear out.  

“The reality is there are real risks associated with this negative stuff. People may jump off the platform, but they get tired, or they break an arm, to play out that metaphor. What we’re finding is that psychologists are coming out and saying that the positive stuff will maintain motivation over time much stronger and better than the negative stuff,” Kotter said. “Sure, the negative can get you going. You see a bullet coming at you, boom! You’ll get off of your chair. But in terms of maintaining energy and motivation over a couple of years, somebody just running from bullets doesn’t work.”

In Moneyball, tension in the clubhouse is visible when the team is losing. Players either keep to themselves and look at it as only a job, or they are unruly, joyfully dancing on tables to music, even after a loss.

That tension seems to come from the lack of positive reinforcement from Beane, and from the fact that the only interactions the players have with him are in the form of yelling when they lose, or silence due to his absence from the clubhouse most of the time. To clarify, positive reinforcement is the act of presenting a pleasant stimulus to entice a person to repeat a desirable action.

To the customer, it’s obvious when employees are unhappy. Energy levels are low, their mannerisms and speech patterns are less enthusiastic, and the work itself tends to suffer. Likewise, customers can tell when employees are happy.

Aside from the standard monetary compensation and benefits like a 401K, medical and dental insurance, rewarding good behavior can be easy and inexpensive, according to an article by two professors at the Harvard Business Review.

The article states that employees who strive to create a better future for themselves are, in their words, “thriving.” These employees aren’t just content in their jobs; they are proactive, engaged and highly energized. This type of employee was found to demonstrate a 16 percent better performance than their peers, and they were 32 percent more committed to the organization. They also missed considerably less work and had fewer doctor visits.

Whatever your method, knowing the strengths and improvement areas of your staff is vital for gauging what they can and can’t do. When you do need them to push, remember to reinforce their hard work with a reward, whether it’s a verbal compliment, a high-five, a simple thank you, or a form of compensation.

When Billy Beane finally discovered how useful interacting with his players was to their performance and overall happiness, he visited the clubhouse more often, spoke to individuals about specific improvements they could make, and formed strong working relationships with as many as he could. Doing this in your shop might just result in a metaphorical home run. 

As I began researching my topic for this month’s blog, I looked to the past for inspiration. The day I started my research happened to be May 29th, the same day that Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal became the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. This is significant for several reasons. Not only does Everest sit at around the same altitude as most jet airliners (27,900 feet), but due to low oxygen levels, freezing temperatures and unpredictable weather changes, climbing this mountain is considered more than just dangerous – it’s insane.

Risks are inherent in reaching the top of any mountain, but like climbing Everest, a new business startup can be an original idea that others deem to be insane. To be a small business owner you have to be a little “crazy,” as some might say. But I call it something else: Passionate. Without passion, there is no innovation. Without innovation, there is no glory. Granted, glory isn’t why a passionate person opens their business, but personal achievement and self-belief are.

No matter the position you find yourself in, whether it be new installer, solo retailer, industry veteran, or Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year, the lesson of staying passionate should hit home regardless.

Gallup conducted a poll for the years 2010-2012 to capture how engaged the U.S. workforce is in their jobs. The workers polled fell into three categories: Engaged, Not Engaged, and Actively Disengaged. Engaged employees, as you might guess, are the stars of the company, actively working to drive innovation and are the most connected to the other staff. Not Engaged employees are working but have no vested interest and are essentially “checked out,” sleepwalking through their day without energy or passion. Actively Disengaged workers are more than unhappy with their job, they are actively trying to destroy it by undermining what their Engaged coworkers achieve.

Considering how difficult it is to find good help in the industry these days, it’s important to identify which of your employees is Actively Disengaged, which can be done by following the path of destruction they cause. If your goal is to convert Not Engaged employees back to being Engaged, the poll found that companies that engage their employees could minimize the chances that they will leave. So how do you engage someone who’s barely interested in his or her job to begin with? The poll found three methods.

The first method is selecting the right people. Since people engage people, finding a manager who can spark excitement within an organization is critical. Instead of using management jobs as promotional prizes for all career paths, companies should treat them as “unique roles with distinct functional demands that require a specific talent set,” the poll report said.

“We recently had a staff member lose his mojo, and his work was suffering. We moved him from installation to sales to freshen things up,” said Ryan Pepsin, owner of SRQ Customs in Sarasota, Fla. “It was a downward spiral and he is leaving us at the end of this week anyway, but on good terms. As we have grown and I had need to hire a manager, I brought in an outsider with experience instead of promoting, and that hurt him.”

The second method is developing employee strengths. Everyone has a different way of doing this, but the obvious way is to let them follow their passion and work with them to build their strengths, rather than try to improve their weaknesses, the poll said. This also helps to build a strong relationship between management and employee. If an employee comes to you with a request to try something, let them try it, so long as it doesn’t hurt the business in any way or go against company policy. Teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity, according to the poll. Pepsin’s approach to helping staff to grow is to listen to their ideas on how to improve the business and providing staff with the tools they need to grow. “When someone says, ‘We could do a better job if we had…’ then I get them what they need.”

The third method is enhancing the employees’ wellbeing. Considering the rising costs of healthcare, investing in engaging workers improves their wellbeing, and ends up lowering medical costs and improving performance. A thriving worker is less likely to get sick than a suffering worker. Part of thriving is knowing the type of business that your workers want to do versus what they have to do.

“The real key to keeping these guys motivated is encouraging that we only do good work,” Pepsin said. “And it’s not just that we do every job well, we only do jobs that we know will end well. When kids come in and want horn tweeters mounted in their grille, or something else stupid, we say no. It’s not always easy to turn away money, but the damage it does to our reputation and the morale of the staff is way more than the money we could make off of it.”

No matter the challenge, staying hungry for your passion, regardless of the amount of time invested, is the biggest reason to put in those long hours developing the perfect shop and crew. The first expedition to attempt the climb to Mount Everest trekked 400 miles across the Tibetan plateau and reached the base of the mountain, only to be stopped by a raging storm that forced them to abandon their attempt. When George Herbert Leigh Mallory, one of those mountaineers, was asked by a journalist why he wanted to climb the great mountain, he said, “Because it’s there.” 

Copyright - Mobile Electronics Association 2020

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