Smashville: A Model of Business Excellence

This past week, I had the good fortune to travel to Nashville, TN to meet the NHL hockey team and speak to them.  I was introduced to coach Barry Trotz several months ago when I spoke to the staff of the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators.  Sean Henry and Marty Mulford of the executive team had heard me speak previously at a business conference several months back. The Nashville Predators were an expansion team in the NHL who came to Nashville fifteen years ago.  Their start was rocky and the team experienced a change of ownership and operations a few years later.  Jeff Cogan, CEO, Sean Henry, President, and Marty Mulford, Executive Vice President of ticket sales, took over the daily operations of the business.  What a turnaround these guys have created. Not only do the Predators sell out most of their games, the Bridgestone arena is one of the most profitable and popular venues in the United States, hosting more than 135 events annually, not just hockey games. What’s their secret sauce?  I witnessed a taste of it yesterday.  The hockey team was to play a game Saturday night at 7pm.  Coach Barry Trotz invited my wife Angela and I to attend their practice at 10am that morning.  I arrived at the arena and watched the guys practice until about 11:30am.  On my way out, I noticed a seminar going on with a couple of hundred people in attendance.  It was a career fair put on by the Bridgestone arena helping college graduates understand how to start a career in the sports industry.  In attendance and speaking were Jeff Cogen, Sean Henry and Marty Mulford.  I asked Marty, “what’s in this for the arena and the Predators?”  His reply was, “nothing.  We just like to do stuff like this for our community.”  This is just one example of how dedicated the executive team is to doing business at what I call “the fan level.”  What I mean is that they make themselves available to the public in many ways.  They give out their business cards freely, which has all their contact information including direct dial numbers and cell numbers.  They are constantly involved in charities, speaking engagements and other community events where they personally show up and give their time. I travel and speak to businesses all across the US and Canada non stop.  I have seen very few businesses where the executives give so much of themselves: their time, money, heart and so much more.  No wonder their is a strong emotional connection to the fans and residents of Nashville.  Whoever thought that an NHL team would not only survive, but thrive in the deep south of Nashville, music capital of the world.  The answer is simple.  The leader give of themselves like few are willing to do.  Well done Jeff, Sean, Marty and your entire team!  You’re a great role model and example for all of us to follow!
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Raven Industries: A Model Of Excellence

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at the Raven Industries 2013 annual leadership conference.  This is a model company in so many ways.  They are led by a guy named Dan Rykhus, who is one of the best servant leaders among CEO’s that you’ll ever run across.  The conference really focused on one element of leadership, that of providing great service.  At Raven Industries, service is so much more than you think.  We all know that many companies say, “we provide great service” and unfortunately, it’s become a cliche without much meat on the bone.  Not at Raven.  From the top leaders and throughout the organization, service is redefined.  At Raven, service is not an occasional home run where the customer goes wow!  Rather, service is a daily part of the character and make up of the employees, interacting among themselves and the customers they serve.  They are constantly pushing the envelope on what’s possible, putting their customers and others ahead of themselves. One of the speakers today was a four year customer of Raven’s.  His company is all about creating manufactured containers to produce food and other byproducts that can be used for alternative fuel sources.  Raven Industries supplies not only the engineered films to produce the chemical reaction to start the process, but the folks at Raven have partnered with his company to introduce other vendors to make the business cost effective and affordable for folks.  This guy several times during the course of his thirty minute program was thanking the people of Raven profusely.  It was obvious that Raven was much more than a vendor to this company owner.  They were a true business partner. The last thing I’ll mention is that the conference today was completely interrupted by a severe ice storm.  If you’ve been following the news, the upper midwest was hit with a major blizzard and series of ice storms.  Today in Sioux Falls, much of the town was without power, all the schools and many businesses were closed and during my keynote speech, we experienced a complete blackout.  Nobody from Raven panicked.  The event went on as planned, as we all gathered in the lobby of the building while I spoke from the stairs.  The natural light from the windows was all we needed.  Nothing went as planned, yet the conference was a huge success because it provided an opportunity to learn to operate when things don’t go as planned.  It was a litmus test of character and the folks at Raven Industries passed with flying colors.  No wonder they are growing, profitable and a great place to work, as they really are solving great challenges and making a significant impact on our farmers to feed the world, on our military to protect us and on engineering companies to take our technologies to new levels that we’ve never seen.  Hats off to the folks at Raven Industries!
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Mastering Your Online Presence: It’s EASY!

I grew up in Allentown, PA and attended college in Boulder, CO at the Univ of Colorado.  I remember the day I applied to college as a high school senior.  When filling out the app, I remember coming to the list of school choices within the university that I had to select from.  Music, liberal arts, business, etc.  When it came to the selection of engineering, I instinctively thought “nope, not for me.  I’m not driving a train.”  That gives you a very quick insight into how non-technical I am. When it comes to web stuff, be it web sites, blogs, social media, etc, my knee jerk reaction is, “not for me, as I’m the guy who did not want to be an engineer because I did not want to drive a train.”  To my surprise, much of effective online activity is not that complicated.  Even a guy who does not want to drive a train can do it.  This blog is an example. Yesterday, I attended a Vistage seminar led by a guy named Mike Richardson.  The guest presenter was Jason Lavin, CEO of a company called Golden Comm.  I have to tell you that this was one of the best business seminars I’ve attended in years.  Jason showed about 20 people how easy, inexpensive and effective making small changes in your online presence is.  He made online marketing and social media easy.  Trust me, it was not brain surgery.  And this is coming from a guy who did not want to drive a train.  If I got it, you’ll get.  Trust me.  Jason has a lot to offer.  Get to know him! Antarctic Mike
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2013 Goals That Will Really Stick

Happy New Years!  Another year has just begun.  This is the time of year when many resolutions are made, the gyms are full of new members with ambitious health goals, and people have specific goals in mind that they would like to see come true.  If this year is like most, then why will much of the new year’s fire die quickly and most people will not see the things come true that they are thinking of today?  The answer is easy to identify and hard to implement.  It all comes down to a few simple things that most of already know, but don’t put into practice.  Here are three things that will help you to keep on track during 2013. 1.  Pick Just Solid Goal:  Think back to the last time you were at a seminar where a really great speaker gave you so many ideas, that you took notes at a feverish pace.  You filled the front and back of the pages with ideas and things you wanted to change.  How many of those items really changed and became habit?  For most people, the answer is not much.  Why?  Because it is too overwhelming.  You’d be better off to pick one thing and focus specifics on a consistent basis to see it through to completion.  The same is true of goals.  Pick one that is really on your mind and very important to you. 2.  Write It Down And Hold Yourself Accountable:  Take time to note specifically what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish this and when you plan to have it completed.  The why and when are really important.  The why is the fuel that the fire will continually need.  Keeping your definition of the gold medal in front of you consistently at a conscious level of thinking is important, especially when the work load gets more difficult.  The when is critical because it forces you to keep on track.  Otherwise you’ll procrastinate over and over.  Lastly, share this with a couple of people you know and trust.  Make sure that they ask you about your progress toward your finish line. 3.  Stay Consistent In Your Activity:  Consistency of activity is the yeast in the bread.  Even if you only spend 5 minutes on a particular day or two, that is OK.  You are much better off to stay consistent so that your habits and paradigm are changed permanently.  Keeping your level of thinking about what you’re shooting for at a consistently conscious level is a must.  Just like an athlete training for a race, conditioning is everything.  Whether your goal is athletic in nature or not, the need for conditioning does not change.  People often drop “out of their race” because they don’t have the stamina to continue.   Keep Conquering!   Antarctic Mike
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Creating A Chapter In People’s Lives

In 2011, I traveled to Winnipeg, MB in central Canada to do a speaking engagement for a non profit group.  The guy who invited me to speak was Albert Martens, a local philanthropist from Winnipeg.  Albert was also a very accomplished marathon runner, having logged hundreds of marathons in countries around the world.  I told Albert that we should do an impromptu marathon the day before I spoke.  Albert arranged a 26.2 mile run for 5 of us including myself.  The temperature on the morning we ran was a balmy -32c, which for us Americans is -26f. On our run, I got into a discussion with one of the five runners.  HIs name was Matt Duhane, a local Canadian bush pilot who flew people into very remote places in the Canadian north.  Being a fan of cold weather and out of the way places, I asked Matt a lot of questions about his work.  I then got a wild idea to see if he could get us a plane into a place called Churchill, which is known as the Polar Bear capital of the world.  It is located about 750 miles north of Winnipeg on the western shore of Hudson Bay.  My idea was for a group of us to venture to Churchill in the winter with the intent to run a full marathon and see Polar Bears in the wild.  I called it the Polar Bear Marathon.  Matt said he would work with me, and so Albert, Matt and I gave birth to a Polar Bear Marathon. Two years later, November 20, 2012, fourteen of us ventured to Churchill to take place in the first ever Polar Bear marathon.  Albert did a remarkable job of contacting people in Churchill to provide vehicle support, medical help if needed and most importantly, Polar Bear escorting.  Polar Bears are the only known animal on earth that will instinctively attack man for no reason.  Having bear chaperones was a must, especially in light of the fact that we were coming in at the end of Polar Bear migration season in Churchill.  The chances we would run into a bear or two was pretty good.The weather on this day was very favorable, as the temperature was 4 degrees at start with very little wind.  We had runners from Canada, the US and two from Germany.  Our trip was photo documented by Birgit Duval, a German blogger and photo journalist.  Her work can be found here: http://www.takkiwrites.com/churchill-der-tag-nach-dem-marathon/.  Although we were spread out, all the runners had a great day and found there way back to town, completing the 26.2 miles.  Albert and I brought up the rear of the pack, finishing in about 6.5 hours.  We did not care about time.  It was about the accomplishment and the relationships we made with each other.As I was on the plane back to Winnipeg, I thought to myself, “this is not just a marathon.  It was a chapter in the lives of all 14 of us.  We partook
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