Prosper: Create The Life You Really Want

September 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Next week is the week of good books! The Zig Zag Principle is releasing Tuesday, and my good friend Randy Garn is releasing his book Prosper—Create The Life You Really Want next week as well. I’m excited for both events because I love a good story about success, especially when it features zigzagging entrepreneurs.

Randy and his co-author Ethan Willis are zigzag entrepreneurs. They have worked in the eCommerce, real estate, investment, and the personal development sectors; zigzagging their way to success. Garn and Willis’ new Prosper Book is a great read because it shows people how to find prosperity and still maintain a balance in life.

Life balance is hugely important whether you’re an entrepreneur or not. It’s something I preach and strongly beleive in, and it’s just one reason I think this new book is important. Within the pages of Prosper Book you willl learn the following skills and techniques for finding prosperity and life balance.

   1. Find your personal Polaris Point:  What is guiding your life?
   2. Balance money and happiness: Get your Polaris Point and your living in alignment.
   3. Earn from the inside out: Mix your passions and your profits.
   4. Focus on what you already have: People who emphasize what they already have, usually end up with the most.
   5. Create and commit to a plan: Decide to live the life you really want.
   6. Take profound, continuous action: Persist, persist, persist.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…right now is a great time to be involved in entrepreneurship! Now is the time to get educated and take your destiny into your own hands. Entrepreneurship is your ticket to prosperity. Check out Prosper—Create The Life You Really Want and learn how to control your prosperity and maintain your life balance.

Also remember to take part in the fun events we have scheduled surrounding the launch of the The Zig Zag Principle.

Slow To Hire…Quick To Fire – Zig Zag Principle #42

September 29th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

On the flipside, at this same time I made a couple of horrific hires, in part because we didn’t have our value system clearly in place.  During this time I was literally living off three to four hours of sleep a night and I hired an executive assistant who had a good resume, but what impressed me even more were her outstanding grades and recommendations. I had some concern that her work experience was a bit thin; but I needed someone quickly, so I hired her assuming her grades indicated a solid work ethic. 

One week while my partner, Ron, and I were working a trade show in Florida, I kept trying to call into my office.  I tried at several different times, but I just could not make contact with my new assistant.  I finally called another recent hire who was supposed to be at the office.  She did call me right back and said she was on a short lunch break and would call me back, which she failed to do. After four days of not being able to reach anyone, I called my wife and asked if she would go by the office and find out what was going on.  When she arrived, the front door was locked and all of the lights were off.  She found the main telephone was set to voice message.  She did find an engineer in a back room, where he was working on a project.  When she asked him what was going on, he told her that these two women, who were supposed to be answering my phones and greeting people, had decided that since I was gone that they would “work from home” that week.

Needless to say, I had to terminate both these women when I returned from my business trip.  I made the mistake of hiring two young women who weren’t hungry for the work I offered and who had a safety net at home that would rescue them.  I also made the mistake of not screening them effectively against my organizational values, one of which is that we value hard workers. 

Since that experience I have learned to not be too busy to pay close attention as I add resources.  I’ve also developed a series of questions and skills assessments that I run potential hires through, especially my executive admin, who I believe is my most important hire. 

One of my best hires is a woman named Colette Marx.  She is a mother who, by mutual agreement, is working for me from her home (which is yet another way to conserve resources).  When I hired her, I gave her a copy of my book, Bootstrap Business, and told her she needed to read it and then take a test.  The other people I hired at the same time all went home and skimmed through the book.  But Colette wanted to succeed at this job; so she read the book, and then she went back and read the book again, this time highlighting it and making copious notes. When she brought it into the office to take the test, it was dog-eared, it was tagged, it was well used.  Not surprisingly, Colette scored a perfect score. She’s the only one to have done that.  (She even scored higher than I did, and I wrote the book!)  Colette didn’t come with the strongest resume or the most extensive experience, but she is one of the most committed and engaged employees I have ever had. 

Zig Zag: The Abbreviated Version

September 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen


I love this diagram. So succinct. So accurate. This is one artist’s summary of The Zig Zag Principle. To order the 198-page version click here.

Also please join me tonight on Twitter as we inspire each other with stories about success. Log in and share your story. I’d love to hear all about your successes.

Tonight. Wednesday September 28, 7-9 p.m. MT, @richchristianse, #zigzag

Hiring Smart – Zig Zag Principle #41

September 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

As you add resources to your business or your life, you still need to keep your cash flow heading in the right direction.  Obviously, you don’t want to begin hiring if doing so is going to put you in the red.  But as you hire, you need to be clear in your mind, and with those you hire, that if the business becomes less profitable, you will have to decrease resources.  This may seem harsh, but if you have employees in your organization who are not getting you to cash, it puts the whole company at risk.  It is better to lay off those people who are not performing or creating value so you can create opportunities for more employees in the long run.

I was a middle manager in a company that hired a lot of employees but did not become profitable.  That company waited until it was completely out of money and had declared bankruptcy before telling the employees they were out of jobs.  To add insult, the employees were let go without being paid for their last month of work.  Blind bliss is not bliss at all.  It would have been much better for every person in that company to have been laid off when the problems started so they could begin their new job search, rather than wasting a month doing work for which they would never be paid.

In your life, you have to do the same thing.  When you get to cash, you can spend a little more money adding resources such as a house, a car, a computer, or just some things that will make your life nicer and more efficient.  When times get tight, you need to immediately tighten your budget and stop adding those resources.  If times get really tight, you might have to sell off that nice car to make ends meet.  The key is to always keep a close eye on your bottom line.  Always stay profitable.  If you’re creative as you think about adding resources, you may be able to make more progress and spend less money.

When we began to add resources to CastleWave, the business Ron and I bootstrapped with only $5,000, our first significant hires were not college graduates.  They were not even college students; they were nerdy sixteen- and seventeen-year-old high school boys.  In our drive to profitability, I needed to add the resource of engineers. I knew I couldn’t afford to hire engineers at the going rate, and I also knew I could train people who had a working knowledge of computers and the Internet to do what needed to be done.  It hit me one day that my labor force could be found among my teenaged sons’ friends.  My only concern was that I needed them to have a strong vision, so I told them, “When you walk in this door each day, you’re no longer seventeen.  You’re an MBA graduate from Harvard, and I expect you to behave like one.”  And guess what?  They did exactly that.  They grasped what I needed them to do, and they bought into the company culture. It probably didn’t hurt that we paid them far more than they could have earned flipping burgers, but for a number of strategic reasons, those kids were so excited to come to work, they would sleep on the couch some nights because they were totally vested in what we were trying to do.
    

Yippee! We Have the Baby!

September 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Yippee! We Have the Baby! This week we received the press copies of The Zig Zag Principle from the publisher McGraw-Hill. The books turned out fantastic. I’m thrilled!

As I hold the printed books in my hands, I’d like to thank many of my close friends and advisors who have been so generous and forthcoming in their support. As of today, we’ve pre-sold over 7500 books, which was no small feat. So again, I thank you for the incredible support.

On October 4th—one week from today—The Zig Zag Principle officially launches. If you haven’t already ordered a copy, I’d encourage you to go online and pre-order. You can also order at Amazon.com.

Next we’re throwing a launch party that we’re super excited about! Everyone is invited to come celebrate with our teams The Ziggin’ Moms and The Zaggin’ Teens (The Ziggin’ Moms and The Zaggin’ Teens are two teams of entrepreneurial women and teenagers who are successfully applying the Zig Zag Principle to their businesses.)

At the event we’ll deliver tons of useful content and Lightening Skills that you can use to energize your business. And of course, we’ll celebrate the release of the new book.

If you haven’t signed up for the party, I invite you to register today. We’d love for you to join the celebration.

The Zig Zag Principle is going to hit the New York Times Best-Seller List. I’m confident of that. We’ve pre-sold a phenomenal number of books. Now look for great things to come in the next several weeks. You will see The Zig Zag Principle covered by the press, I’ll be doing interviews, and the book will receive great exposure all around. I invite everyone to engage and participate in this. Please share your Zig Zag stories and your stories about success with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks and have a great day.

Sincerely,
Rich Christiansen

PS- Please join me for one of the following upcoming events:
-        Sept 27 • Special Webinar 5-6pm MT, register & participate

-        Sept 28 • Twitter Party 7-9pm MT, @richchristianse, #zigzag

-        Oct 4 • Official Book Launch! Join the teleseminar where Rich will answer your Zigzag questions. Teleseminar from noon to 1pm MT, 801-656-2240 code: 021334#

-        Oct 15 • Zig Zag Launch Party get tickets and register

Video Message From Rich Christiansen

Looking Back at Henson’s History

September 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen
Today marks the 75th birthday of one of the greatest entertainers I know of, Jim Henson. Not many people in this world have had as great an impact on so many people throughout their lives as Jim Henson. Just think of how many generations of kids Henson influenced with Sesame Street and his other creations.

Looking back at Henson’s history and career, I’m amazed at the many zigs and zags he took to achieve his goal. Indeed, he did not begin with the exact formula for how he wanted his creations to evolve. We all know Kermit is the main character, Fozzie is his best friend, Miss Piggy is his girlfriend and Gonzo is a…. whatever.

But that’s not how they started. When Henson was getting his BA in home economics, he made puppets for a kids’ show called Sam and Friends where Kermit made his debut as a sort of lizard. It wasn’t until later when Henson was making Sesame Street that Kermit was revealed to actually be a frog.

Even the idea that adults could enjoy puppet shows as well as children was something that took time to develop. His goal to make puppets an acceptable form of entertainment for adults as well as children was a beacon in the fog that took years to achieve, and Henson had to do things he did not necessarily enjoy in order to get to that goal.

For example, before Sesame Street launched Henson’s work into the limelight, he used puppets for various commercials. The advertising industry was something he reputedly did not enjoy, but he did it in order to keep his business profitable  and moving. He exemplified the concept that it’s better to move toward something than it is to sit still and wait for someone else to make your dream come alive. Henson worked hard and waited patiently for the time his business could zigzag closer to his beacon in the fog.

Now, Henson’s Muppets live on and are still fulfilling Henson’s goal of making people happy and feel good despite his passing more than two decades ago. That’s the kind of legacy any zigzagger can be proud to have.

Grocery Stores Zig Zagging With Technology

September 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The self-checkout was a brilliant novelty when it was introduced to grocery stores several years ago. Customers and grocery store managers alike thought it would improve the flow at the checkout and the customer’s overall shopping experience.

However, store managers are discovering this technology is actually creating problems they never anticipated. Checkout lines are usually longer because customers have to deal with coupons and checking items like produce by themselves. In addition, store managers feel they lost control of the relationship with the customer by eliminating the personal contact of a store employee at the checkout stand.

So now, even after stores have installed dozens of self-checkout stands in each of their locations, they are zig zagging away from the technology to improve customer experience and thus increase revenue.

Albertsons has actually gone as far as eliminating self-serve lanes in all of its stores. Kroger, on the other hand, has zig zagged to what it calls “metro style” checkouts; customers wait in one line and can be directed to multiple cashiers.

Kroger is also testing a “scan, bag, go” system that allows customers to scan items as they shop, and then pay and bag when they are finished.

These are all ways grocery stores are zig zagging to more success and better customer service. We can all learn to be a little bit more flexible—even after we have made a big initial investment. As each of these cases show, it is far better for a company to evolve by zig zagging in order to stay true to company values and to keep on track to its ultimate goals .

 

No, I Will Not Take Out The Trash – Zig Zag Principle #40

September 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Adding resources is harder than it sounds, but it’s the only way you’ll build your dream.  I have a neighbor who owns a shoe repair shop.  This man makes a decent living and takes care of his family’s basic needs.  However, to keep his head above water, he has to work day after day, week after week, repairing those shoes single-handedly.  If he needs a day off, he has to close the shop.  Same if he’s under the weather or has to take care of a sick wife or child.  Of course, that leads to a loss of income.  Now, his business model allows for some days off, but it’s a pretty thin margin.  If something major happened, the effects could be catastrophic.

My friend has made it through zig number 1 profitability—but he has not thought to turn his skis in the other direction for zag number 2.  In other words, he has not added the resources that would allow him to live a fuller, richer, and safer life.

A key reason many people have a hard time adding resources is they have become accustomed to micromanaging every aspect of their business. As hard as it can be to let go of control, as you hire the right people to fill in the gaps of knowledge or skill that you don’t have, and then as you help them learn your processes, your company will begin to reach its full potential.  Think of yourself as being akin to Emperor Shah Jahan, who may not have known how to carve flowers out of stone but was able to hire someone to do that job—and thus help him create his masterpiece.

I’m familiar with a family-owned business, run by a father and his sons, where the father has micromanaged every aspect of the business.  The father is now getting old and is about to retire.  He has talented sons who want to modernize the business, but his response is always, “We have been doing business this way for over forty years.  This is how it has to be done.” When the sons bring up the need to modernize equipment or processes, the father adamantly refuses. 

It’s no wonder the sons and their families are frustrated.  They feel stuck in a business that is archaic, and they would like a little leeway in bringing the business into the computer age and making it more productive. 

This example is common among family-run businesses, but the same plight is found among businesses founded by a strong-minded personality, who is then unwilling to bring in additional resources and let them do what they were hired to do. As you begin to take zag number 2 in order to grow your business, remembering that it is all about disciple will help you loosen your grip on the controls.  The imagine I keep in mind to help me do this (because, I’ll admit it, I can be a bit controlling) is what I call the “Yes, Yes, Yes, NO! Principle.”  While you are working on zig number 1 and trying to get to cash, you will, of necessity, say “Yes” to many things, such as:

  • Yes, I will do the accounting.
  • Yes, I will sell a small order that has potential for larger orders.
  • Yes, I will answer the phones.
  • Yes, I will take out the trash.
  • No, I will not compromise my values.

 

Now, as you add resources, it’s time to add a few more “Nos.”  Some of these might be:

  • No, I will not take out the trash. I will hire a cleaning person.
  • No, I will not do my own accounting. I will outsource my taxes to an accountant.
  • No, I will not answer the phones and do the bookkeeping. I will hire an administrative assistant.

Zag Number 2 – Zig Zag Principle #39

September 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Adding Processes and Resources

I love the Taj Mahal.  I’ve had the good fortune to visit this remarkable shrine several times, and neither words nor pictures can describe it. What adds to its magnificence is that I’ve always come straight from the chaos of India, where there is mayhem everywhere, and to walk into this peaceful grove is like walking into another world.

The Taj Mahal was built with a labor force of over twenty thousand workers who were recruited from all across Northern India and other parts of the region.  In addition to common laborers, the workforce included sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from Southern India, and stonecutters from Baluchistan.  A team of thirty-seven men formed the creative unit.  Of these, one was a specialist in carving marble flowers and another was the best at building turrets.  It took twenty years to complete the Taj Mahal.  It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved third wife Mumtz Mahal.  It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and is a symbol of eternal love.

Imagine for a moment the possibility of this emperor trying to build the Taj Mahal all by himself.  He clearly had a vision of what it was to be. He was a very wealthy man, so he had the necessary cash.  And likely he knew where to find the materials from which this edifice was constructed. Despite all that he had at his disposal, building the Taj Mahal would have been an impossible feat, even if Shah Jahan had had several lifetimes in which to complete the work.

Instead, he put together his beacon in the fog, fueled it with his passion, and then added resources—lots and lots of resources.  And as he added those resources, he had to get everyone to catch the same vision for them to complete something that beautiful.

Adding Resources

In the first zig, you made your business or your life profitable.  Zag number 2 is about adding resources.  Once you have enough cash from the first zig, you can use it to add those people, equipment, and other resources that you need.  You need to do so in order to help perform the labor-intensive work that keeps the cash flowing.  Then you are able to spend more of your time defining the processes and adding meat to the bones of your organization.  This is the time to formalize, structure, and expand those things that led you to your initial success in zig number 1.

Getting to cash feels great! Your determination has begun to bear fruit. You’re in the black. Life is good. You’re actually making money. The only problem is you’re completely worn out.  And your gas tank is now on fumes, if not completely empty.  You know you need to make a change, but you’re also sensing how hard it is going to be to let go of some of your control and bring others on board.  Doing so requires that you shift gears dramatically, and if you don’t you’ll never get to your destination.

Become an Entrepreneur–It’s a great Life

September 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I keep two pictures in my office to remind me of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Both of these pictures are of beautiful and awe-inspiring places in nature. I enjoy hiking and I really appreciate how the analogies of hiking through some rough parts of nature are so closely aligned with what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The similarities are almost unbelievable.

In life and in business as an entrepreneur, much of what we face is hard. Sometimes all you can do is grit your teeth and use your determination to work your way through without forgetting to look up and enjoy the beauty.

Please enjoy this video and my thoughts about a recent trip through the magnificent Zion Narrows in Zion National Park in Southern Utah.

Fail Efficiently – Zig Zag Principle #38

September 16th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I’ve learned a great deal over the years about failing efficiently.  When I use the word fail, I’m not talking about falling off tall buildings, going bankrupt, or losing everything. What I mean by failing efficiently is that if you can’t get to profitability, you accept that you have nowhere left to go.  You have to become financially profitable before you go on to the next step.  I see far too many people say, “Oh, well, if I just add resources and scale, then I’ll get to profitability!”  But they are inevitably wrong.

Failing efficiently means that unless you hit profitability in whatever time you allocated, you are done!  You need to stop.  If you do, you’ve failed efficiently, and life goes on.  If you aren’t willing to stop, you will fail at a level that may have devastating consequences. 

In your personal life, if you keep going into debt without getting to profitability, you will end up in financial ruin.  You cannot keep trying to add resources or buy more and more things unless you have the cash to pay for them. (And while, yes, credit can be easy to get, at some point you’ll max out and no one will loan you more money.)  Become profitable in your life, in whatever pursuit you have undertaken.

Eating our own Cooking

When we took back Froghair, we decided that Curtis would not quit his full-time job to come on board until we had $60,000 in the bank as a buffer.  We felt that a three-month buffer was a safety net we would be comfortable with and that it would take the pressure off in case we had any kind of a hiccup.

To begin with, we were working Froghair as a fifth priority.  I was taking time off to hike in the Himalayas after selling CastleWave, and Curtis had other priorities.  We had a part-time college student named Shane who was helping us.  In August 2010, we sat down and defined our zig number 1.  After looking at our expenses, we determined and wrote down our financial target number, which was that we needed to net $25,000 a month in order to be profitable.  We were both dedicated to putting 65 percent of our resources toward this effort.

Other than Shane, we did not hire any employees until we hit this target, so the three of us were doing everything.  We had a lot of motivation to reach our goal of becoming profitable before January 1, 2011.  We also set a goal to have five new, high-profile brands in place.  On December 1, 2010, we officially hit this goal one month ahead of schedule.  In November we posted $382,600 of sales with $51,195 in net profit.  Now, having hit that target, we celebrated and then turned our skis so we could zag in the other direction.  That next step was to begin hiring and adding additional resources, as I’ll discuss in the next chapter.

 

Summary

When you are driving to profitability in zig number 1, follow the basic components.  Set a financial target and figure out how long you will allow yourself to hit your target.  And be sure to give yourself permission to be miserable along the way.  This is hard work, and you’ll have to dig down deep to get through it.  But absolutely do not start working on the other steps until you hit this first zig.  If you fail, that’s fine. You failed efficiently.  You can restart.  You should absolutely begin your undertaking with the mindset that you are going to succeed, but if you don’t, get past the pain and move on to the next thing.  But, as your first step, always drive for profitability as your zig number 1.

 

Zigzagger Robert Jordan Rides the Internet Wave

September 14th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

No matter how great your new business idea is, it will never succeed if you are the only one who thinks it’s a great idea. People have to want what you’re selling for you to have a successful, lasting business. Indeed, one of the best times to start a business is when you can ride a wave of increasing interest in a new, underserved market. This is exactly how Robert Jordan began his career as an entrepreneur with Online Access.

Jordan recognized the wave of interested people clamoring for information about the Internet and how to get online. This was approximately 11 years back when AOL was making a name for itself by mailing millions of free AOL CDs to everyone in the nation. Jordan seized the opportunity to join AOL in the movement to educate people about the Internet and how to use it.

Jordan didn’t waste time; he launched Online Access as a magazine to help people who weren’t online know more about the Internet, and it took off in a huge way. Riding the Internet wave at the beginning enabled Jordan to not only tap into a large market quickly, but it also positioned the magazine as a prime target for advertising. It became profitable almost immediately from the bidding wars among other Internet-focused companies.

Now Jordan has zigzagged away from Online Access and into new a few other companies, but his success all stems from his initial capacity to recognize a need in an oncoming wave and fill that need before anyone else. He has even published a book called How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America that compiles handwritten notes and interviews from other wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Naturally, not every business that catches a wave rises to such success. Jordan was lucky and smart enough to catch that particular wave, but there are plenty coming and going every year for entrepreneurs to ride. Pay attention to your area and learn to recognize when something is going to be big and how you can attach yourself or your business to it. And always remember to zig zag in these waves so you don’t crash your business.

Our Ironman Zig Zagger!

September 13th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Our next Zig Zagger on team Zig Zag that’s heading down to St. George, Utah, later this week is Dave Heywood. His Favorite part of triathlon is…..the party afterward! Actually, he ultimately loves the swim and doing the swimming training. He says it’s very relaxing even though he’s working hard. Running is definitely the hardest part of the race for Dave. It comes at the end when you’re always so tired yet it’s also the most satisfying.

This tough athlete already participated in a Half Ironman Race in Indiana, a couple of months ago. The race included a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and running for 13.1 miles. He says, “The last 2 miles are pretty rough. I could see the end goal when I got closer to the finish line. It was satisfying accomplishing that goal and cross that line.”

His entrepreneurial dreams all started when he took a course in college while getting his master’s degree in International Management. While there he took a seminar on entrepreneurship and ever since then he has looked for opportunities. He’s had many different ventures to zig zag his way to success. He used to have an import company that imported leather goods from South America. Then he was an insurance agent for a while where he worked as an independent contractor, building up his own business. Another fun job that Dave has done for several companies, is when he heads up the sales training for entrepreneurs in multi-level-marketing companies. He helps the teams understand what they have to do to create sales for their business to grow and be successful.

Dave not only applies the Zig Zag Principle to his business, but he bootstraps each venture as well (he thinks it is more fun that way)! His latest is such an innovative idea that it should be very successful.
MZKWRX.COM is a platform that gives independent artists and bands the opportunity to partner with their fans to create a unique channel to distribute their music and increase their fan base. MZKWRX.COM leverages the power of social networking, text messaging, and great music to help artists reach new fans worldwide.

Right now MZKWRX is in the 1st stage of Zig Zag, which is driving to profitability. Dave would tell other entrepreneurs in this same phase the best way to get through this first drive is, “It’s crucial to stay focused. Even though you may zig zag along the way, keep a focus on that end goal. Knowing what you are going to have to do to get there and knowing that you‘re going have to go left and go right. But still don’t take your eye off of that end goal”

Most entrepreneurs think it requires a bunch of money to get your idea to market, but Dave has figured out the value equation and has applied it to his business to help him bootstrap it. It is:
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave loves spending time with his wife and 5 children. One thing he appreciates about being an entrepreneur is that he gets to see more of his family and he likes that, especially when he works from home.

Dave has two favorite quotes, the first he has printed out and sitting on the wall next to him. It’s by a triathlon coach from down in Australia, Jeff Smith. “It’s better to be the driver than to be the passenger.” When you’re working for someone else you are the passenger and when you work for yourself you are the driver. He printed it off to remind himself daily as he builds his business that he’s the driver. It keeps him motivated.

The 2nd is from his dad. It doesn’t make much sense, but think about it when you finish a job, “It looks a lot more like it does now than it did before.” It means to Dave that hopefully now the job looks better. One way or another, a change has taken place. Think about it!

We’d like to wish Dave a fantastic race and best of luck to him and
www.mzkwrx.com (the site will be up shortly). In the meantime, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mzkwrx.

Lower Manhattan’s Zig Zag Comeback

September 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is a day of reflection for all of us.

I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was playing a round of golf at Wasatch State Park; it was the worst round of golf I’ve ever played in my life. I was so distracted and so worried about the victims in New York City.

Of course I was also thinking constantly about the safety of my family. We had a trip planned to Nepal and were scheduled to leave America in two weeks. We considered cancelling the trip, but decided to go for it once we heard that travel was safe. I am so glad we decided to go—that trip became one of my life’s best zig zag stories.

On that trip, we met our little Sherpa girl, Nawong. She introduced my family to a vision that is very much a part of everything we do today. That mission is to educate and empower children all over the world who lack the opportunity to learn. Nawong is now my adopted daughter and a college graduate.

America has had it’s own zigs and zags in the last decade to make a come back from the devastation of September 11, 2001. Just this last week, we heard from New York’s Mayor Bloomberg about the last decade’s events that have helped bring Lower Manhattan back from the rubble.

This is a great zig zag story. Lower Manhattan was home to hundreds of businesses and was considered the world’s financial district. It was a bustling business center, but in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it was vacant and hollow. About 14,000 businesses were impacted by the event.

Ten years later, Lower Manhattan is not quite back to where it was, but it is well on its way. Mayor Bloomberg said New York has seen the greatest population growth, the biggest commercial development and biggest cuts in crime in the area surrounding the World Trade Centers site.

Small-business owners like the Gandias zig zagged back to success by conserving costs while they could not access their Greenwich Jewelers store because it was too close to burning rubble. They also zagged by adding an online element to their business, which they had never considered previously. This drove Greenwich Jewelers to profitability and the opportunity to rebuild and expand, even though they were in the midst of a national tragedy.

Today the Gandia’s are on to zag number two by adding more resources through adding more product and more space.

Zig zagging is a way of life—particularly when the unexpected comes. It is interesting to note that while the Gandias found great success by zig zagging, others failed by giving up in the face of trial. Don’t let failure bog you down. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep zig zagging. So many times the unexpected brings you results you never even thought of.

Ford Zigging to International Scale

September 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Ford Motor Company is a household name in the United States—one that everyone automatically links to the automotive industry. It is no wonder since Ford has produced some of the most popular cars of the century, including the Model T, which sold more than 15 million cars in less than 20 years. Now, Ford is gearing up for another huge, international zig zag with a $1 billion manufacturing and engineering complex in India.

Though Ford has been zigzagging since its inception in 1903, the people there know that it takes more than one zigzag to win in business. All three zig zags for businesses to follow—(1) drive to profitability, (2) add processes and resources, and (3) scale—are repeatable steps. Once Ford went through the three phases, it repeated, and repeated and repeated them.

Now, Ford has reached a measure of profitability and refined its processes. After achieving scale in its home country, Ford repeated the process in other parts of the nation and the world. In India, it is adding additional resources through these building plans (not to mention adding 5,000 employees), and will be able to produce 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines a year—talk about scale!

So what are the benefits of adding these resources and scaling the business? Not only will Ford be able to make and sell more cars without burdening or overworking domestic plants, but as Ford India president Michael Boneham said, “[Ford will be able] to aggressively grow the Ford brand in India,” further increasing profitability.

As soon as Ford has got the scale zig down, it’ll be back to zig number 1, driving to profitability once again. It’s a process you will routinely see in many businesses, especially large ones looking for new markets to claim. But for your own business, never forget that these steps are repeatable even though your business may not be the same size as Ford or expanding internationally. These steps are intended to keep a business growing and succeeding, all at a manageable, steady pace, no matter the size.