Jonathan Kapla: From Flip Video to Grilled Cheese

August 31st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Jonathan Kaplan, maker of the Flip Video camera, is finally zig zagging closer to his beacon in the fog. That may seem an odd statement considering Cisco killed production on Kaplan’s baby project, Flip Video cameras, earlier this year, but you have to remember that zig zagging is about taking indirect steps to get to your goal. And Kaplan’s goal? Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Kaplan has had a dream of building a grilled cheese sandwich restaurant chain for years, but understood his idea was premature. He understood that though he had the mental capital his idea needed to be profitable, he did not have the relationship capital he needed.

Now, Kaplan has had two businesses he sold: #1. Family Wonder to Sega, #2. Flip Video to Cisco. He zig zagged both to success, and in the wake of Flip Video getting scrapped, he now has everything he needs to build his years-old dream. He has the mental capital, the relationship capital, and he also has plenty of financial backing to turn The Melt, his grilled cheese restaurant, into a nationwide chain. Kaplan hopes to have 500 The Melt stores open all over the U.S. within five years.

Kaplan is also smart enough to use a different goal to get people his employees and customers motivated. Though he has the goal of opening 500 stores in five years, he doesn’t use that as a catalyzing statement. Instead, he talks about using grilled cheese to make people remember their childhood. He talks about bringing customers happiness and nostalgia in every sandwich and in every cup of soup, not just a delicious meal. Listening to him talk in this interview makes me anxious to go and try what he’s talking about myself!

Until The Melt comes to Utah or I make it to San Francisco, I’ll just have to keep an eye on this savvy zig zagger and see where he goes next.

HP Zig Zags Out of webOS to Avoid Crashing Guardrails.

August 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Hewlett Packard (HP) recently announced it is shutting down the webOS platform. For those of you less familiar with the smartphone competitor, webOS was originally an alternative smartphone platform, but it never caught on like the iPhone or Android platforms. None of the phones using webOS sold well. So what did HP do when webOS phones still didn’t get much support? It made a tablet based on webOS to take on the iPad! HP tried to scale it without nailing it first. Unsurprisingly, the webOS tablet flopped, even after a $100 price drop.

Luckily, HP had set up guardrails for webOS. When it didn’t become profitable or sell, HP officially killed all future production for webOS tablets and smartphones, then had a fire sale for the tablets to recoup losses. Unable to meet its goal, HP zigzagged to the next course of action to avoid crashing the guardrails. This was a good move! WebOS didn’t do well, so now it’s back to the drawing board to establish a new foundation to drive the company to profitability. The only regret HP should feel regarding this decision is that it didn’t cut its losses earlier.

Failure is a huge part of both business and success. Failing efficiently is also one of the hardest parts of business to figure out, particularly since it’s one area no one wants to be good at. But having had 11 businesses fail, I can tell you that knowing how to let your business fail without letting it make your life fail is vital to any entrepreneur.

 

Subway Directions

August 28th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Subway Directions:

1. Look up

2. Look Down

3. Look up

4. Look Down

5. Look up

6. Look Down

7. Look up

Now I am not talking about the subway in New York, even though it would be a similar to these instructions: look up and look down. Indeed you have to look up and down often as you board, watch for your stop, and read the map. So indeed, those instructions are very appropriate and applicable for any rapid transit. However; the subway that I am speaking about is a hike in Southern Utah.

If you know me, you know that I love the metaphor of the mountain. Well, today I did a little canyoneering deep into a slot canyon. This hike is about 10 miles long, beautiful, and a perfect activity for my family. The Subway is probably my favorite hike in the entire world.

The first thing we did was look up to see the beauty of the canyon, then we looked down to ensure a good footing. Throughout the day we followed this sequence: 1. Look up to see the views. 2. Look down to see the obstacles that we are attempting to overcome as we are traversing down steep terrain. 3. Look up at the gorgeous canyon around us. 4. Look down very carefully as we swim underneath rocks, carefully traverse logs, or pass over a very difficult rock slide. The entire day was a sequence of zig zagging.

The mountains are a brilliant example of zig zagging, but I have to tell you that canyoneering is an even better zig zag analogy. Even though we are heading in a general direction, we are continually climbing over and up and around obstacles. We wouldn’t have even made it five minutes without killing ourselves if we hadn’t zig zagged through that day. Additionally there was a tremendous amount of looking up and down. The encouragement that I give to everyone, not only in their business, but also in their personal lives, is this. Look down. Make sure you’re on track and avoiding the big obstacles. But for heavens sake, take time to look up to enjoy the beautiful things around you.

We hit one point where there were these amazing dinosaur footprints on a huge slab of rock. But we had to look up to see that. If we had just been looking down at all the little obstacles and stumbling points, we would have completely missed the entire experience.

Now how ironic is it that often times the real joys in life comes from those tricky little traverses. There is one place called the choke stone, where we literally are swimming in freezing cold water. We have to dive underneath the water, turn sideways and go underneath a log and then continue this crazy, big-hairy swim. It was scary! Every time I do it, it makes me a little uncomfortable. Now that we’re done, what do you think my entire family is talking about? They’re recalling that tricky traverse.

Then at the end of the hike there is a steep climb. It takes a lot of endurance to climb out of that canyon. Indeed in life and in business traveling the path takes a lot of hard work.

Let me leave you with a little advice I’ve been contemplating on the hike. Look down, pay attention to the details, but don’t forget to look up and enjoy the beautiful things around you. Both in life and in business take time to savor your sweet experiences.

Watch for Hurricane Irene in your Business

August 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Take a look outside this weekend. If you’re on the east coast, it’s possible you’ll see some of hurricane Irene! As hurricane Irene slides up the coast and people prepare to sit out the storm, I can’t help but think of how important it is to pay attention to the changing weather in your businesses to avoid getting caught unprepared in a hurricane.

Checking on the industry’s weather is vital for you to keep your business out of a hurricane like Irene. But just like some people don’t believe a storm could really be that bad, some entrepreneurs find themselves ignoring evidence that it’s time to get out of a business before disaster hits. They choose to stubbornly hold on to their enterprise and trust that rain won’t hurt them.

This is another danger of plowing straight through to your goal: you don’t stop to make sure what you’re doing is going to keep you out of danger of losing your business or money. But when you zig zag to your goal, you pause to look ahead and think about where you’re going. You make sure your market is still around. You are able to react to changes in competition and demand. You avoid potentially devastating hurricanes.

I hope and pray for the safety of everyone who has to batten down the hatches and deal with hurricane Irene this weekend. I hope everyone in its path was able to either get out of the way or sufficiently prepare for what comes, and I hope you can also learn to watch out for hurricanes in your business.

Pace Yourself! – Zig Zag Principle #34

August 26th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Minimize Your Risks

I once worked with some individuals who operated a very successful insurance practice.  They had a great business financially, but they were utterly uninspired by what they were doing.  They were not moving toward their beacon in the fog in any part of their life, and they were frustrated—not to mention running on fumes.  At the same time, they had a great idea for a very progressive technology.  That was where their true passion was. They knew they had something good and had even started filing the patent for their idea. 

The problem was that every time they started down the path and began to make some progress, they would shift into panic mode.  I could actually see the anxiety and pressure build up in their faces and their eyes.  As I did some digging to understand what was holding them back, I finally was able to find out what was going on.  They were worried their business model might not work.  They would get partway down the path and then just freeze. They were afraid of failure.  They knew so many entrepreneurs who had done the equivalent of running to Vegas and putting everything on black—and most of the time they had failed.  Then they would head home broke and deal with lives that had been ruined. 

When I finally understood what was holding them back, I said, “Listen, you don’t have to bet the farm. You don’t have to give away your soul.  You don’t have to risk everything you value and believe in to succeed as an entrepreneur.  There is a better way.  It’s okay to use your insurance business as a base and then zig zag to success.” I then outlined the steps they should take.  It was as if someone had pulled a huge, sopping wet blanket off of them.  They got so excited.  The fear left their eyes and their faces lit up.  And soon they were zig zagging toward their beacon in the fog.

 

The Need for Pacing

From my own experiences, I have found that when people set their beacon in the fog and then head directly toward it without zig zagging, one of three things will occur:

  1. They never do it.  There are lots of people who talk and talk about their dream and what they are going to do; but then, before they’ve taken their first step, their knees shake and wobble, and they don’t dare take the risk needed to progress toward their goal.  I used to think these people were just weak-hearted, but I’ve decided that subconsciously they realize there is a chance they may fail so they do not even start. 
  2. The second group of people race toward their goal full speed ahead, and when they get halfway there, they run out of resources and fail.
  3. The third group runs straight toward their goal, but by the time they get there, the target has completely moved and their great idea is now a lost opportunity.  In many cases, if they had taken their blinders off and looked from side to side occasionally, they would have seen the need to adjust their course.

 

Zig zagging deliberately toward your goal makes the going slower.  It is more methodical and might seem harder, especially for those of us who lack patience.  But there is a much higher chance of success because zig zagging allows you to inch toward your goal and then adjust and adapt until you actually get to viability. 

One of the benefits of this approach is that it puts you in a mindset of abundance by setting parameters for what you can and can’t risk or lose. And when that happens, you find yourself free from the fear of scarcity, which tends to paralyze us rather than motivate us.  An example of this approach is found in the success story of the Marriott Corporation. In the 1920s, J. Willard Marriott opened a nine-stool A&W Root Beer stand in Washington D.C.  As time went on he realized that people bought lots of root beer in the hot summer months but not so much during winter. So he started selling soup as well and changed the name to The Hot Shoppe.  In the early days, he and his partners worked lots of long hours to get their shop to profitability.  As they looked for additional opportunities, they obtained the food service management contract with the U.S. Department of Treasury.  Then during World War II, The Hot Shoppe catered to the many defense people who moved to the nation’s capital. 

It wasn’t until 1957 that Bill Marriott opened his first hotel.  As the business grew, he found parallel opportunities as his company grew into one of the largest hotel chains in the world.  Some of those ventures included expanding the food business to service major airlines and buying additional restaurants like Bob’s Big Boy.  With each new project, Bill was able to get enough cash to move on to his bigger goals.  (www.marriott.com/careers/history)  This is a great example of a company starting small and zig zagging its way up to long-term strength and success. 

Many first businesses revolve around services.  The reason being is that service businesses can usually get you to cash quickly.  The downside is that they are often labor intensive in the beginning.  At the early stage, you are literally the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker all rolled into one because you typically don’t have any (or many) employees, and so you have to carry the brunt of the work.

For example, when we started CastleWave, Ron and I had to be the salespeople to land our first account in New York.  I then had to be the programmer and had to personally optimize the website.  We also had to be the secretary and bookkeeper and take care of billing and collecting the money.  This was very time-consuming work, but it did bring in the first bursts of cash that allowed CastleWave to get off the ground.

Steve Jobs’ Latest Zig

August 26th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Yesterday the news, hot off the presses was that Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple. Today I am sitting here with Dave McInnis, one of my dear friends, discussing the big news. Both of us consider Steve Jobs a personal hero of sorts and an amazing individual. Indeed Steve Jobs entire career and his life has been filled with zigs and zags. That zig zag path is indeed how he reached success.

 

His first zig came when he was in college. It’s a well-known fact that Steve was adopted. His adoptive parents made a promise to his parents that he would attend a high university. When he got into a high university, his parents simply couldn’t afford it. He ended up dropping out and just sitting in on classes. Indeed, he went to college to learn; although he didn’t actually receive a formal education.

 

We know he ended up working with Wosniak creating the amazing Apple company. He hit the pinnacle of what was supposed to be success, and then in a very public way, was ousted from the company. He went through a period of time where he really turned inward. During this time he got married, and he also decided to do what he truly loved. He went on to create NeXT, as well as to purchase Pixar (which at the time was a little unknown company.) Amazingly, when Apple later acquired NeXT, Jobs once again became the leader of Apple. 

 

One of my favorite statements that Steve Jobs makes is, “Do what you love in life, life is too short to waste it following other peoples dreams.” I think Steve has been a brilliant example of that statement.  The result was a company that now has the highest volume stock in the world. It just overtook Exxon. 

 

The other interesting aspect here is that Steve has had some real personal challenges in his life, causing him to take some unexpected zigs and zags. He overcame pancreatic cancer a while back, and indeed his health hasn’t been very good.  One of the fundamental teachings that I espouse is, “You can replace anything you own in life, a job, money, cars, whatever; but you cannot replace your health, you cannot replace your trust relationships, and most importantly you can’t replace your family.” 

 

Another thing I appreciate about Jobs is that he established strong core values from the beginning. He has established a value base, a way, and a culture that is almost a cult. I think that is kind of why David and I align with the guy. It is all about innovation, high quality, simplicity, and elegance. The Apple culture is there and its entrenched enough into people that I think it will carry on. 

 

It will be interesting to see what his life ends up being now. We will continue to watch the Steve Jobs discussion as he continue as chairman of the board. We wish Steve great success and watch for his next zigs and zags in life.

 

Find Your Hidden Assets – Zig Zag Principle #33

August 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

This first zig requires sheer grit and raw determination. I often joke that when I am starting a new business I will go out in the street and dance in a tutu if that is what it takes to get to profitability.  And while my efforts have never come to that, I will do what it takes, within the framework of my values, to get enough cash to move forward. Operating from the black gives you a much higher level of confidence and a sense of durability that you can’t have if you’re always worrying about draining your bank account.  If you have money in the bank or cash in your pocket, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you keep trying different things until you get one of your ideas to work.  And if you can’t get an idea to be profitable, then check it off your list and try something different.  (This is what I call failing efficiently, which we’ll discuss in more detail later in the chapter.) 

Just before the dot.com bubble burst in the early 2000s, I was working as the general manager of a company called MyJobSearch.com.  It was a heavily funded business in the web 1.0 Internet bubble phase.  This was a wild and crazy time when companies were being built and funded by people writing business plans on paper napkins.  This company had hired forty or fifty employees, and we didn’t even know what the exact product was that we were building.  And, because we were living on investment bankers, we had no clue how we were ever going to get to profitability.  Heck, we didn’t need to!

When the bubble burst, everything imploded.  Not just for this company but for almost every other company in the web industry.  The reason this company and those other companies failed was because they were not built for profitability.  We had never needed to pursue that strategy.  In fact, during this time, the strategy for most of these companies was to get an IPO and then get bought up by a bigger company.  But, as countless people who lost huge sums of money found out, that is not a business plan that can be sustained. 

So many businesses I’ve seen think that all they have to do is head straight for that beacon in the fog.  It doesn’t work.  The first zig always needs to be to get cash!

 

Finding Hidden Assets

When I am starting a business, the first question I ask myself is, “What skills do I have that can get me to profitability the fastest?” (And this same question should be asked whether we’re trying to build a business or any other part of our life.)  The answer doesn’t have to be perfectly aligned with your beacon in the fog, just something that is close enough and is an inch or two up from where you currently are. (Remember, we’re zig zagging.)  While I was in college majoring in electronic engineering, I found a job at a computer repair shop.  It certainly wasn’t where I wanted to end up, but I was able to get cash for my family and also learn skills that would bring me closer to my goal of graduating in engineering.

When my partner, Ron Porter, and I started CastleWave, I had a knack (for which I had been well paid) for getting key words to the top of the search engines on the Internet. I had sworn I would not share any of my search engine optimization (SEO) secrets and mental knowledge with other people because I was done making other people rich and I was in the mode of creating my own businesses.  But in the earliest days of CastleWave, I realized that the fastest way to cash was to fill the need other companies had for SEO work.

I had some contacts in New York City who I knew wanted to get their own web sites to the top of the search engines. So Ron and I flew to New York and sold these contacts on search engine optimization.  We were almost instantly profitable because I was willing to do what I regarded as the equivalent of going out in the street and dancing in a tutu. I did not initially do what I wanted to do; instead, I zigged to the fastest source of cash I could identify because I understand how important that first zig is.

The Zig Zag of Naples

August 20th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Today in Europe my wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to do something I’ve dreamed of my entire life, and that was to visit Pompeii. Pompeii as all of you know, is an ancient city that was buried by a local volcano, preserving much of the lifestyle, the culture, the heritage, and the way of life of the ancient people in the Pompeii.

I woke up today excited and instantly started zig zagging. We had our breakfast on board our ship and then quickly made our way to shore. Of course, I insisted that we don’t take the boring tour bus. So we took the little tram up to the local train station.

Naples is a place confused by little cobblestone streets and tiny byways. We had a delightful time as we wound our way to Pompeii where we spent a wonderful day.
On the way back to the ship, I of course wanted to sample the famous Neapolitan pizza. As we got off at the train station I knew we wanted to head for the little tiny store-lined street where pizza was invented. However, there seemed to be no direct shot to get there. Indeed my wife and I spent half an hour going up and down tiny streets, dodging motor scooters, going through little blind alleys, and other places that are definitely off the standard tourist route. Finally we made it over to our destination and had an amazing pizza baked in a wood-burning oven. It was absolutely delicious.

I then however had a dilemma because we only had an hour and a half to get back to our cruise boat before it left, and indeed there are no straight shots in Naples. 

We started by heading in the right direction and several times we ended up reversing our direction and coming back out of one of these little, tight alleys until we found another thoroughfare. Of course, what we were looking for was a wider street with less congestion. After zigging and zagging for half an hour in the general direction of the water, we finally popped our heads out onto the main street lining the bay and saw our ship.

Despite some sincere concern from my wife at times we both concluded that Naples is a city of zig zagging. I’m now on board overlooking Naples as we pull away from the bay. I’ll cherish my memories of this beautiful, vibrant, kind of chaotic, dirty city. It’s amazing how throughout civilization people have made things work in non-direct lines. Not one time today did we follow a direct course, yet we had one of the most delightful days of my life.

I think one of the main reasons I enjoy not joining the big tour groups, is because it gives me the opportunity to get emerged deep into the city and zig zag around to find the gems and the little golden nuggets—truly the hidden treasures of these romantic, little Mediterranean port cities.

If you haven’t tried zig zagging in a foreign land, you have to do it.

There’s no experience like getting on the local transit and having dialog by trying to communicate the best you can. I guarantee that some of your best memories and richest experiences will result. Goodbye Naples, I look forward to the next time I get to see you.

Christine O’Donnell Should Gave Zig Zagged with Piers Morgan Tonight

August 19th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

By now you’ve probably already seen the Christine O’Donnell clip from Piers Morgan Tonight earlier today. It deftly shows what happens when you don’t zig zag .

As you watch, you will notice how inflexible and unwilling Christine O’Donnell is as Piers Morgan asks less than ideal questions. O’Donnell made the mistake of expecting to drive straight toward her goal of promoting her book rather than participating in an interview. When Morgan asks her something outside of that goal, O’Donnell stiffens instead of zigzagging.

To make matters worse, O’Donnell doesn’t just avoid zigzagging: she flat out refuses to talk about anything but her end goal. She pushes back on Morgan and creates conflict and discomfort for every viewer to see.

In the end, unwilling to zig zag the conversation, O’Donnell walks off awkwardly. Imagine the metaphor I often use of a car driving straight up a mountain; O’Donnell attempted to drive straight up the face of Mt. Everest and drove herself off a cliff.

What a wasted opportunity! O’Donnell had a unique chance to promote her book to millions of people, and she blew it because she wasn’t flexible enough to talk about anything except the particular points she had laid out. Businesses, projects and wonderful opportunities get shut down every day because of this sort of unwillingness to zig zag. The Zig Zag Principle isn’t just for business. It’s great for just about everything in life – including difficult interviews.

What is the Obelisk in Your Business?

August 19th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

This past week, I have been on a much-needed rest in Europe with my beautiful wife. I had an amazing experience in Rome and there was one object in particular that captivated my attention. I was so fixated on it that I couldn’t get my brain off of it, even late into the evening. I wasn’t fixated on the things that you would expect one to ponder after visiting Rome.

Of course we were fascinated with the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum. Each was equally captivating and intriguing to me. But the one thing that struck me like no other was the Obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square—the most famous Obelisk that the Greeks had originally captured from the Pharaohs in Egypt.

As I was looking at it and thinking about it, I considered that indeed this very Obelisk once stood over the Pharaohs in the height of their reign in Egypt. They were the supreme rulers, only to be conquered and have the Obelisk taken by the Greeks, and later the Romans. The Romans placed it in the middle of the Circus of Nero. They held chariot races around this very Obelisk. They thought they were invincible and the Obelisk was a sign of that power. With that power they crucified, burned, and tortured the Christians around their Obelisk.

Ironically, about 300 years later Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion and now the Obelisk sits in the Vatican—the headquarters of the most famous religion in the world.

That very same Obelisk, around which Christians were tortured, became the place where Catholics (believing they were invincible) turned and tortured Protestants.

Now when I look up on top of that Obelisk, I see the old Egyptian symbols, but more prominent is the gold cross adorning the top of the once Egyptian Obelisk. As I gazed up and then contemplated the Obelisk’s history, I had two major thoughts.

1.    It is vital that we steer our businesses in a deep legacy and tradition. That helps us endure. Tradition is what helps sustain and grow roots that penetrate deep.
 
Tradition is also part of our firm foundation and value system discussed in The Zig Zag Principle.

2.    My second thought is more meaningful and impactful to me. I think it is vital that we actually recognize how superficial and intangible many of the things that we espouse to really are.

That hunk of rock is going to be sitting somewhere as a great sign of the power of someone for thousands of years into the future. Our own transient little rocks can be ever so fleeting.

My final thought and bit of advice is this—there are multiple ways that we can live our lives. On choice is to be power hungry, arrogant, and eager to wrestle all the power you can. But I contend that there is a more meaningful way to live life. I suggest we create long term, meaningful, and lasting trust relationships with those around us. It’s fine to appear a little vulnerable and susceptible at times. I would rather live my life that way.

I do believe that we have purpose beyond this life. When the time comes I believe we’ll actually find a much greater level of happiness and joy if we led a meaningful life, rather than a life of seeking after a power rush.

So in your business, make sure you have something to fixate your attention and effort on, but don’t let it be based on a flimsy facade and transient power that will come and go.

Zig # 1 – Drive To Profitability – Zig Zag Principle #32

August 17th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

As children leave the comforts of home for the first time, they typically fall into one of two categories. There are those who, having grown accustomed to a nice house, an abundance of food, and easy access to a car, feel they should enjoy this same lifestyle now that they are out on their own.  If their solution is to max out credit cards and run up student loans, then what happens?  They get partway to their destination—whether that’s schooling or building a career—and run out of resources. Then there are those who ration what little they have, avoid borrowing at every turn, and wait until they’re firmly established before trying to live the same life it took their parents years to build.

As I share my ideas on focusing your first zig down the hill on your drive to profitability, I know some readers are going to feel I’m placing an undue emphasis on business principles.  And while I probably am, in part because that’s the world I live in, I also want to point out that the principle of driving toward profitability has application in all aspects of our lives, whether we’re bootstrapping a business, building a family, or overseeing a multimillion-dollar enterprise. In fact, I would contend that this first zig of getting to profitability is important in every aspect of our life because while it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, being broke can sure cause a lot of headaches.

When my wife and I first got married, we were both in school and broke, and I had to take several jobs I wasn’t all that excited about.  I even had to work late night shifts when I would have preferred being home, because I instinctively knew I needed to do whatever it took to get to profitability.  Neither of us had come from an abundance of wealth, but during our early years we tightened our budget and were so conservative that the humble origins we had grown up in looked like the lifestyle of the rich and famous.  So, we drove that old Dodge Colt that had been given to me, even though I’m sure we could have qualified for a loan to buy a new car. 

We had enough resources to pay our bills, even though our $15-per-week food budget did require that we eat a lot of potatoes during those times.  My wife reminds me that I used to always say, “We will live like you won’t now, so we can live like you can’t later.”  At that stage of my life, I hadn’t given words to the idea of driving to profitability, but I knew instinctively the importance of that principle.

Whether you are starting out in life or starting a business—or are broke and starting over—your first zig always needs to take you toward profitability.  Profitability means you’re able to pay all of your bills and have enough cash to move forward with your plans.  Given the ease of finding money, whether it’s from a credit card, a government grant, a small business loan, or help from family, it’s easy to bypass this first step.  But at some point the wells of easy cash will dry up, and you’ll find yourself at a day of reckoning where if you don’t have real cash coming in, you’re going to be stopped dead in your tracks.  So, don’t let the easy allure of available cash sidetrack you from finding the path that will get you to that critical point of profitability.

Don’t Build Your Business on a Volcano

August 15th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Here I am just off the coast of Sicily, approaching the active volcano Stromboli. As I’m observing this right in front of me, I see there are some idiots that have built their houses right at the base of this active volcano (a volcano that’s been active for thousands of years). There are lava flows coming off of this thing. There are puffs of smoke going up in the air, yet despite all of these warning signs—some individuals have chosen to build their homes on the volcano.

Let me set this one right straight up front for you! In business, the only thing more dangerous than surrounding yourself with really volatile venders, really volatile suppliers, and really volatile customers—is being volatile and angry yourself.

Indeed sitting on a volcano is a very precarious position to be in. I observed this yesterday in Pompeii. I spent the day in Naples and went out to see some of the sights in Pompeii. The most unfortunate, amazing, and predictable thing happens when a volcano blows. It buries and kills everybody.

So when you’re in business, learn to recognize the really volatile individuals and do everything that you can to avoid them. If you find yourself being the one who is volatile and quick to anger, I’d strongly encourage and advise you to get a grip on your emotions. At all costs, avoid building your home or your business on a volcano.

– Zig Zag Principle #31

August 13th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Each company or organization needs to make its own set of values and rules that it wants to live by.  Rick has a few rules based on his values that determine the kinds of people he will hire.  Some examples of these rules include:

  1. They must be responsible.
  2. They must have a credit score about 700.
  3. They must have a college degree.
  4. They must have a minimum of five years experience in their profession.

 

Some of his rules for the people that he won’t hire are:

  1. I will not hire anyone that is a close friend.  
  2. I will not hire anyone who has been unemployed for a long period of time.  
  3. I will not hire anyone who does not value what we value.
  4. I will not hire anyone who is late to an interview.

Listing the values that you want to travel on in your organization is not just limited to your business.  You should set up values and rules to travel on in other areas of your life where you are striving to reach a goal.  Some of these areas could include:

  • Projects that you are involved in.
  • Charitable groups you are involved with.
  • Organizations that your children are involved in.
  • Your children’s friends.
  • Future business decisions.
  • Your personal habits.
  • Your health and well-being.

These are some of the ideas that Rick came up with, but this list should be personally tailored to you, your essential nature, your hopes and dreams, and your abilities.  Using value-based decision making can help you in your business, key relationships, parenting efforts, and virtually every other area of your life.  These values will help you avoid mistakes and make you more aware of where you are traveling on this road to success.

 

Eating our Own Cooking

As soon as we realized that we were getting our trading company back, Curtis and I sat down and mapped out the values we felt were essential for Froghair.  We went through the exercises in the section below and came up with the following list:

  • Competence – We are a competent team.
  • Cooperation – We value teamwork. We work together, we win together, and we waddle together. We cooperate.
  • Freedom – We believe in freedom.  Not only for the company but also in our personal lives.  We support and help our team members to become free – financially, physically, and mentally free.
  • Helping Society – We believe in helping society.  There are a lot of human needs. The most important is to live, love, learn, and matter.  We want to give back and to make a difference.
  • Independence – We believe in being accountable for our own destiny.  We’re not big believers in grants and handouts.  We take accountability for our own destiny.
  • Integrity – We try to do the right thing.  We are not always perfect, but our intent is to consciously work toward doing the right thing.
  • Leadership – Leadership can be lonely, but we have the courage to stand out in the cold if needs be to do the right things, even if those things are not popular. 
  • Responsibility and accountability – We have an attitude of “I’ll do it!”  We don’t say, “I’ll try to get around to it,” we just do it.  Not only do we do it, we take accountability for what happens – good or bad.
  • Gratitude – We’re a company of gratitude.  We’re grateful to God.  We’re grateful to each other. We’re grateful for our relationships and for the opportunities we have.  We expect our team members to be grateful as well.
  • Culturally sensitive – We embrace the people and places of the world. We value diversity.  We work on a daily basis with a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups, without bias.

 

These are the values we have worked hard to establish.  Our infrastructure is solidly in place, and it helps us ensure that we bring people into the culture of our company who are in alignment with our values.

 

Summary

These first three chapters have set the foundation for us to deliberately begin to zig and zag. You first assessed all of your resources so that you know what you are starting with at your beginning point.  Then you defined your beacon in the fog, or your destination point.  You know where you are going.  You have passion and a catalyzing statement that is the emotional fuel that will propel your vehicle to your destination.  Finally, you have defined the values or road system that you will take to get you to your final goal.  These four elements are what will get you on your way to your first zig!  In the next chapter we’ll be tackling Zig Number 1 – Driving to Profitability.

 

 

Find Out Your Values – Zig Zag Principle #30

August 11th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Values Exercise

A powerful and valuable exercise that I like to use is from Rick Sapio.  

  1. Write down three people in your life that you most admire or respect, and who you most want to be like.
  2.   From the values below, circle seven or eight values that best describe each of those people.  
  3. Those values that show up repeatedly will be the things that you value.

This simple exercise will bring great clarity to what your values are.  From my experience, you will end up with about ten values with which you closely align yourself.

 

 

Value Assessment

 Achievement/Drive, Adaptability, Adding Value, Advancement and Promotion, Adventure, Aesthetic, Affection (love and caring), Affinity, Aliveness, Arts, Attractiveness, Authenticity, Awareness, Beauty, Bliss, Caring, Certainty, Challenging Problems, Change and Variety, Charisma, Charity, Cheerfulness, Chivalry, Clarity, Close Relationships, Coaching, Commitment, Communication, Companionship, Compassion, Competence, Competition, Confidence, Congruence, Connection, Conscientiousness, Considerate, Contribution, Conviction, Cooperation, Courage, Courteousness, Creativity, Decisiveness, Democracy, Dependability, Discernment, Discovery, Ecological Awareness, Economic Security, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Ethical Practice, Empathy, Endurance, Energy, Enthusiasm, Environment, Equality, Excellence, Excitement, Expertise, Expression, Fairness, Fame, Family, Fast Living, Fast-Paced Work, Financial Gain, Flexibility, Focus, Forgiveness, Freedom, Friendship, Fun, Giving, Gratitude, Growth, God, Happiness, Having a Family, Health, Heart, Helping Other People, Helping Society, Honesty, Honor, Inclusive, Independence, Influencing Others, Inner Harmony, Inspiration, Integrity, Intellectual Status, Intelligence, Intention, Intimacy, Involvement, Job Tranquility, Joy, Justice, Kindness, Knowledge, Leadership, Learning, Leverage, Life, Location, Love, Loyalty, Making a difference, Market Position, Meaningful Work, Mentorship, Meditation, Merit, Money/Making Money, Music, Nature, Nurturing, Open and Honest (i.e. being around people who are), Openness, Partnership, Passion, Patience, Peace, Perception, Perseverance, Personal Growth & Development (living up to the fullest potential), Physical Challenge, Playfulness, Pleasure, Power and Authority, Presence, Privacy, Probability, Productivity, Public Service, Purity, Purpose, Quality, Quality Relationships, Rational, Receptivity, Recognition (respect from others, status), Reliability, Religion, Reputation, Resolution, Resolve, Resourcefulness, Respect, Responsibility and accountability, Security, Self-determinism, Self-Respect, Sensitivity, Sensuality, Serenity, Sharing, Simplicity, Sophistication, Soul, Spirit, Spiritual, Spontaneity, Stability, Strength, Status, Success, Supervising Others, Synergy, Team/Teamwork, Technology, Tenderness, Time Freedom, Togetherness, Travel, Trust, Trustworthiness, Truth, Unity, Value, Vigor, Vision, Vitality, Vulnerability, Wealth, and Wisdom.

 

After you have established your values, do not let anyone into your intimate circle that does not fit with your values.  Of course it’s naive to think that you will never have to deal with anyone who doesn’t share exactly the same values, but I’m talking about your inside circle or trust relationships.  That means your important hires, your friends, your partnerships.  You need to establish a value gatekeeper that you have complete trust in to make sure that your values are honored.  These values help you surround yourself with people who alight closely with you.

Some Zealous Zig Zaggers

August 10th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 
We here at The Zig Zag Principle are pleased to announce the formation of the official Zig Zag Triathlon Team. These brave souls have decided to run, bike, and swim all in the name of Zig Zag. Curtis Blair will coordinate and captain the team in the Kokopelli Tri, as the team Zigs and Zags through the beautiful red hills of St. George, Utah on September 17th, 2011.
 
Get your swim suit, bike, and running shoes ready, because you’re invited to join the Zig Zag Team. Our company bloggers and social media experts will profile each member of the team and document their training and progress leading up through the event. Not only will you have the camaraderie of being part of the team for the race, but you will also receive encouragement throughout the entire experience!
 
If you would rather not swim, bike or run you can still be a part of Team Zig Zag! By  pre-ordering any number of books, you will receive an author-signed copy of The Zig Zag Principle which then qualifies you as an official sponsor of Team Zig Zag.
 

To be a sponsor, simply  pre-order the book The Zig Zag Principle and with your donation you will receive the following:

 

Sponsorship Level

Individuals

Corporations

Gold

With a 10 Book Donation ($200):

·  An Official Zig Zag Race Jersey

·  10 author-signed books

·  4 Free Tickets to the Zig Zag Launch Party Oct 15th.

With a 50 Book Donation ($1,000):

·  Your company logo on the back of the Official Zig Zag Race Jersey

·  50 author-signed books

·  10 Free Tickets to the Zig Zag Launch Party Oct 15th.

Silver

With a 5 Book Donation ($100):

·  A Zig Zag T-Shirt

·  5 author-signed books

·  2 Free Tickets to the Zig Zag Launch Party Oct 15th.

With a 25 Book Donation ($500):

·  A Zig Zag T-Shirt

·  25 author-signed books

·  5 Free Tickets to the Zig Zag Launch Party Oct 15th.

Bronze

With a 1 Book Donation ($20):

·  An author-signed book

With a 5 Book Donation ($100):

·  5 author-signed books

 

Stay tuned to see the team’s grueling training updates as they prepare mentally and physically for the triathlon of the season! For more information contact Curtis Blair at 1-801-375-7900 or email @ curtis@zigzagprinciple.com We wish the best of luck to Team Zig Zag!

~Colette Marx
Lead Blogger, The Zig Zag Principle