The Linker Boys Return as Men

July 10th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

Every once in a while you have joyous occasions in life. I’ve had more than my fair share in the last month or so. Between Guatemala and Father’s Day, it’s been pretty rock star. But today I’m sitting in the middle of a purely joyous moment.

Jeff Lewis just walked in the door. He’s spent the last two years in Iowa. Johnny just returned from Japan. And Scott and Wyatt both went to South Carolina. This is the first in over two years that I’ve been together here with these guys. Pure joy. 

This group was indeed my first four hires, and what we affectionately now refer to as “The Linker Boys”. They accomplished amazing things in our company Castlewave. In fact, they were kind of the secret sauce behind the Wizard of Oz and some of the things we accomplished in that organization. Castlewave was the test business when we were writing Bootstrap Business.

In keeping with this joyful moment, and now that we’ve captured all this great wisdom in one place, I’m going to ask each one of these boys to say something. Although I realize I can’t call them boys anymore. These guys are now men, as shown by their facial hair—except for Jeff and I (and we’re not talking about that!)

So here we have a snippet of advice (especially for young people or teenagers, but applicable to all) about creating business and doing business.

Johnny:
Never give up. Keep moving forward. When you wake up in the morning, remember to stay awake and not fall asleep back into the normal grind of things. Instead, always reach higher and see yourself as someone who can do something. I think when you fight and win that battle inside of your own mind, then you can win at any other battle in life.

And I’d like to add to that…Zig Zag!

Jeff:
I’ve learned that the quality of our prayers is really the biggest indicator of how successful and meaningful our life will be. So consider the quality of your prayers.

I’m Christian, my mentor is an atheist, and we work with people all over the world of different faiths. It doesn’t matter what or who you believe in–you should always call on your higher power.

And I’d also like to add to that…Zig Zag!

Scott:
One of my mottos has become “live and learn”. In combination with that Rich’s “work hard and play hard” principle. I’ve learned that life is about living and learning. Learning from our mistakes and then moving on. Also working to together and then playing hard together. It makes is a lot easier to excel and have a drive for life.

Of course, I’d like to add to that, Zig Zag. You actually just describe zig zag because we have a life balance but we push it to extremes. Cross the line of balance as frequently as possible. Work hard, play hard!

Wyatt:
Don’t be afraid of the unplanned. You’ll have lots of things planned in life and if you stick rigidly to a plan you will fail, but if you are willing to be flexible with the plan, and still stick as close to the plan as possible, while being flexible. That’s when you find success.

…And Zig Zag!

That’s wonderful and amazing advice from four young men. Watch these young men and the amazing things that they do.

We have in our office a wall that we call the “Live Strong, Die Hard. Defenders-of-the-Faith-Wall.” These four young men were the first people to have their photos posted up on that wall.

I expect amazing things from these four young men. Go forward and let’s knock it out of the park. What delightful time it is to have these little exchanges in life. I thoroughly enjoyed this moment with my young men.

The Doorman Principle

May 26th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

I throw my cell phone down in disgust. As it clacks on the desk I hope that it doesn’t crack the screen. Luckily it doesn’t.

Twenty seven seconds ago I heard the familiar cell phone bing, indicating a voicemail, and I instantly knew what to expect—another misaligned request. Seven times in the last three days I have received calls from the same individual.

The problem is each call leads to another request or demand, each of which is completely distracting and outside of my area of focus. I kick myself thinking, “Why can’t you even follow your own rules?”

These rules I’m referring to come from the wise and successful Rick Sapio. Several years ago I first had the opportunity to meet this amazingly insightful, thoughtful businessperson, and I’ve enjoyed associating with him ever since. He is arguably one of the people that I enjoy dealing with more than anyone else in the country. I truly respect him and know his motivations are properly aligned. 

Rick hails from Dallas, Texas where he runs a company called Mutual Capital Alliance. He also has a training website called Business Finishing School. This solid and practical site offers sequences and information and steps to help someone successfully launch.

Rick’s first module is Value-Based Decision Making. In this module, one of his fundamental teachings is The Doorman Principle. Indeed this is the very principle I violated.

The Doorman Principle is the very deliberate practice of:
-    Setting your values and rules.
-    Aligning them with your business purpose.
-    And then putting a “doorman” in place.

Together your doorman and your values guard whom you let into your business and your life. Indeed, no one should get to you without going through this pivotal person. As a result you stay focused.
-    Only the appropriate things come to you.
-    You remain focused on the critical things that will bring success.
-    Your tasks are in alignment with what you are Sattempting to accomplish. 

I have often heard it said that, “The difference between a successful men and an incredibly successful men, is the frequency in which they say ‘no’.” Incredibly successful people say no much more frequently.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to do it in a negative or caustic way. Saying “No, this doesn’t align with my values,” is a simple and effect way to decline.

I have discovered if I respond to every stimulus that hit me then I end up running myself into a frazzle and accomplishing little good. Indeed these seven phone calls this past week have been distractions. Had I followed my own rules (or Rick Sapio’s rules, rather) I could have avoided the entire derailment.

I encourage all of you to apply the Doorman Principle. Establish clearly what your values are and then put a doorman in place. Now if you don’t have an executive admin, you can devise some other creative way to implement The Doorman Principle. It’s simply imperative that there is a buffer that allows you to easily and deliberately say no to the things that are not consistent with your values.

I thank Rick Sapio for teaching this powerful principle. Rick, I am going to do a better job of applying this and I encourage each of you to visit The Business Finishing School website to learn more.

The Power of Unplugging

April 30th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

This past week I took my entire family down to the Caribbean for a grand family celebration.

My oldest son, John recently returned from two years in Japan, and my second son Matthew is preparing to go to Italy. During this short time we have when both boys are home, we decided to take the whole family on a trip to play and celebrate together.

The first day I found myself a little antsy reaching for my cell phone or other technology, but then an amazing thing happened. In no time I was weaned from the addiction and the technology bad habit. The result was that I was able to think on a deeper and clearer level.

I think so often the things we think are helping us be productive are no more than a noise or just “movement”. I’ve previously posted about the difference between motion and momentum. And indeed in creating a business the difference between success and failure frequently comes from engaging only in the momentum activities.

This week I’ve concluded that everybody needs to take time to unplugged for clarity and to get focus back in his or her life. I know I’ve come back not only resolved but also with clarity of thought in several areas that had been eluding me earlier.

Unplug. You’ll find great power in it. Give your full attention to your family and your loved ones for an extended duration. I promise it will have impact in your lives.

Decision Matrix Tool – Zig Zag Principle #52

November 16th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

When I am planning new ideas for my business or for my life I like to use a tool I created called The Decision Matrix.  It helps me decide which ideas or options fit into my value plan.  This decision matrix can be used for any kind of decision you need to make in your life.  I have used it to help me decide which jobs I should take, where I would like to live, and, yes, what businesses and scale ideas I should pursue.  I love to use this model to appease the left hemisphere of my brain, which is the logical side.  It does not always tell me exactly which option that I want to take, but it does help me weed out the options that are best not to take.  It is really straightforward and simple.  Here is how it works:

Across the top of the paper, spreadsheet or whiteboard, I compose a list of the top ten or fifteen (maximum) things that are important to me for the particular decision I am trying to make.  For example, in a business some of the things I might want that business to do would include making me a lot of money, flexibility of lifestyle, giving back to society, or international travel.  If I were making a decision on where to buy a new home, I may list across the top things like location, quality of schools, safety, friendliness of neighbors, quality of the construction, yard for the dog, a good view, etc.

Once I have made my list across the top of the things that are most important to me in this decision, then I rate them in order of priority as to how important they are to me.  The most important item would have a rating of 2.  The next item would be ranked a 1.9, then 1.8, all the way down to the least important item.

In the business example, I may give “flexibility of  lifestyle” a 1.8 rating and the “international travel,” which I love but which may not be as important to me as my lifestyle, a 1.5 rating.  If I were moving to a new house, I would rate the quality of schools a 2, where I might rate the view I desire a 1.2.

Once I have my values of what I desire listed across the top and weighted in order of priority, then I list down the left side all of the options I am considering.  If I am thinking of ideas that would scale my business, I would list all of those down the left side.  If I were purchasing a house I would list all of the different property options down that left side.  If I were deciding which job opportunity I wanted to pursue or which college to attend, whatever it is I am deciding I list the options down the left side.

After my chart is complete, I ignore the weight factor of those important items and I fill in the blanks. I just go through really quickly and assess to the best of my judgment how my idea or decision would rank with my important item. I use a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.  After I have filled out the chart, then I simply take the score of the idea to the important item and multiply it by the weighted factor of that idea.  I then sum all of the important items together for a score of each idea.

If there are several people involved, then I have each person do their own weight factor.  We add up the weight factors and then use that number to score the spreadsheet.  Together we decide the score between 1 -10 of how well that idea would fit our needs.  If my wife wants a good view and I want a shorter commute to work, we would weigh those items differently.

I like to do this exercise when I am relaxed and calm.  It takes about an hour or so, but it is a really precise and fun way to sort out my ideas.  Oftentimes, I’ll get the top four of five scoring ideas.  These scores are not the only factors in my decisions, but they do usually tell me which of the options are not the ones that I want to pursue.  It helps me to hone in a little bit to where I want to take my next zig or zag.

 

Decision Matrix

Weight Priority Factor 1.6 1.9 1.4 2 1.3 1.5 1.7 1.2 1.1 1.8  
                       
Opportunities Big Back Yard Safe Neighborhood Home Office Good Schools View Quality Nice Kitchen Basement Near Shopping Commute to Work  
Home #1 7 6 7 10 7 5 6 7 2 10  
Home #2 4 8 9 5 2 10 9 3 2 6  
Home #3 6 8 7 5 6 8 6 6 5 3  
Home #4 5 8 8 8 10 2 9 6 7 4  
                       
                       
Home #1 11.2 11.4 9.8 20 9.1 7.5 10.2 8.4 2.2 18 107.8
Home #2 6.4 15.2 12.6 10 2.6 15 15.3 3.6 2.2 10.8 93.7
Home #3 9.6 15.2 9.8 10 7.8 12 10.2 7.2 5.5 5.4 92.7
Home #4 8 15.2 11.2 16 13 3 15.3 7.2 7.7 7.2 103.8

 

Eating Our Own Cooking

We are currently trying to figure out the scale phase in our Froghair business. When we initially defined our three zigs and zags, we defined our scale as making three sales into our direct channel each day.  As we progressed, we hit profitability and were able to add resources, but we realized that our plan for scaling business was not viable. So, we had to adjust our strategy and go after a second option.  This time our plan was to sell items to large companies to use as their corporate gifts.  This has had some success, but we are still exploring other options.  Specifically, we are looking at generating Internet leads in our area of the market.  Almost everyday we’re using the zig zag principle because it gives us the flexibility to adjust and change course within the boundaries that we have set.  As we’ve seen obstacles, we’ve skied around them.  And we’ve been prepared to do so because we know they’re going to come.  My experience has taught me there is a much higher probability of success when you use this principle.

 

Summary

      Zig number 3 involvesa major shift in mindset.  You are no longer working in your business; you are working on your business.  Your are becoming deliberate and you have structures in place.  You’ve survived the determination phase.  You’ve survived the discipline phase.  Now you can leverage yourself, leverage the value of the market you’re in, and start to really see some success.

Building Processes – Zig Zag Principle #44

October 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Now that you’ve started bringing in some cash and adding resources, your organization is going to need more structure and discipline.  As you add more flesh to the bones of your infrastructure, you’ll need to work on making consistent progression.  This will require that you build on what you have learned so far as you have been driving to profitability.  In some cases, those will be lessons you haven’t even realized you’ve learned.

Building processes for your organization is vital to your short-term and long-term viability.  It’s a step that often gets left out as you head toward your beacon in the fog, but I’ve been convinced of its importance since I was a little kid mowing lawns.  After I had acquired a few lawn mowers and convinced my brothers and friends to mow lawns for me, I had to teach them the processes that had made me successful in the first place.  Here are the steps I took each and every time I mowed a customer’s lawn:

  1. Present yourself well. I would tuck in my shirt and wipe the sweat and dirt off my hands and face before knocking on the customer’s door with a big smile on my face and saying, “Hello, I am here to mow your lawn today.  It will take me about an hour and a half. Is now an okay time?”
  2. Clear the lawn. Before mowing a lawn, I looked it over carefully and removed all the balls and junk.  I picked up any dog mess, trash or anything else that may be on the lawn.
  3. Trim the lawn. I used the trimmer to trim around the entire edge of the lawn before I began mowing.
  4. Check the oil in the lawn mower
  5. Check the gas in the lawn mower and make sure the tank is full.  I only put gas in the lawn mower while it was on the sidewalk so that I didn’t kill any grass if I spilled.
  6. I went to the center of the lawn and picked a point straight across the lawn.  Then I shot for a straight line.  Everyone likes nice straight lines better than random tire marks across their lawns.
  7. I followed the wheel patterns through the entire lawn to keep all of the lines straight.  If the lines got off, I corrected them.
  8. I emptied the grass bag before it got full so that clumps of grass would not spill out on the lawn.
  9. After mowing, I cleaned up the lawn and yard.  I raked any grass or debris that was left on the lawn and blew or sweep the sidewalks off.  Everyone likes their yard to look neat and clean after the grass is mowed.
  10. I respectfully invoiced the customer.  I wiped the sweat off my face and the dirt off my hands and knocked on the customer’s door.  I then handed them the invoice for mowing the lawn and put a piece of candy or a package of seeds with it as I thanked them for the opportunity of mowing their lawn.

This process example may seem rather elementary, but I had to mow a lot of lawns before I learned that it took a lot less time and the lawn looked much neater if I trimmed the edges before I mowed.  I also learned that when I was having other people mow lawns for me, they all wanted to do it their own way.  But I knew that my customers had hired me to mow their lawns because they knew they would have straight lines and they would like the way their lawn looked after it was mowed.  They also loved that I gave them a packet of seeds or a piece of candy as my signature when I finished.  So, I had to document the processes and teach these things to my employees so they would know what my customers expected. 

My wife worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken while she was a teenager.  They have a list posted to the wall above the biscuit machine detailing the exact steps for making their delicious, fluffy biscuits as well as other lists detailing each step in making their chicken and every other menu item.  This keeps the consistency and quality that is expected each time a customer goes to eat at any KFC.

I used to love to eat at a regional fast-food restaurant that sells delicious chicken and rice bowls.  But one time when I went there, the dish I was served did not taste the same.  I commented to the person at the counter, “Something tastes really weird in my chicken.”  He said, “Oh, yeah, our normal supplier was out of the chicken we normally use, so we had to use different chicken today.”  I thought this was just a fluke, so I went back the following week.  This time the chicken tasted much spicier than usual, and it was even worse than the previous week.  I mentioned it to the guy at the front again and he said, “Yes, we had to try an even different supplier this week.”  I went back a few more times, but each time the chicken was different.  Not surprisingly, this franchise went out of business not long after, and now I have to drive thirty miles to get the chicken and rice that I love.  Whatever the size or complexity of your business, processes matter!

In zag number 2, you have to document the processes that led to your initial success.  You need to put these into bite-sized processes that other people can follow.  That is why I instructed my employees to trim the grass before they mowed the lawn and to put the gas into the mower while it was on cement so as to not kill the grass.  I had made all these mistakes and had learned from them, so I institutionalized what I had learned.

As you document your processes, remember to learn from the mistakes you made driving to profitability.  Documenting what not to do is as important as documenting what to do.  You want to have something in place that makes people think twice about making the same mistakes, and it will help if you have already proven what doesn’t work. 

 

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.

The 80/20 Rule – Zig Zag Principle #37

September 9th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

During this first zig it is important to remember that you are not going to have time to be perfect at everything.  Many people who are perfectionists or have a methodical personality type fail at this stage because they try to be great and have everything perfect and buttoned up.  You need to think, instead, about the 80/20 rule.  In general, 20 percent of the effort yields 80 percent of the results. The key to success is not to do anything that isn’t geared towards the 80 percent success ratio.  You’re not striving for perfection.  You’re striving for profitability.

I always say that competence and incompetence always rear their heads.  But it is important during this time to know those things where competency is a must.  If you produce a shoddy product, then your customers will never use you again. But, as you do so, you do not need the perfect organization or to micromanage all the details.  During this phase the important 20 percent is providing a quality product and getting to cash.  If your office is a mess or you haven’t taken the trash out in a week, take a deep breath and give yourself a break.  You can get to those things later.

On the other hand, it is imperative that you keep track of your books and know what your bottom line is, but don’t stress about the little things as you take care of the big ones.  I have a former business associate who had the mantra on his desk to “Strive for Mediocrity.” He was a perfectionist in every area of his life.  If he saw a “t” that needed to be crossed or an “i” that needed to be dotted, he would take whatever time it took to stress over minor details.  He soon found he could not be effective living this way.  He had to look at the bigger picture and choose which things he needed to focus on to succeed, and then let go of the minor things. He was trying to be more “mediocre” in the smaller details so that he could shine in the important aspects of the business.  One of my business partners used to call this “selective negligence.”  He would selectively neglect the less important things so that he could achieve the bigger goals.  Once we became profitable and got to the next zag of adding resources, we could hire someone to take care of those small details.

This can be applied whether you are an individual trying to accomplish an important project with your family, a small bootstrap company, or a large corporation.  You can apply this same principle to a new division you may be heading up, if you are launching a new product, or even launching a new service in a large corporation.  Your budget may be bigger, but the principles will make the division or large corporation even stronger.

How Much Cash Do I Need? – Zig Zag Principle #36

September 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 I define profitability as having enough money to cover “the nut” and having a buffer that will allow me to move on to the next zag.  Everyone has different needs, or “nuts,” so profitability will be different for each person or each business.  I am covering the nut in my personal life when I have enough money to pay all my expenses, such as housing, utilities, recreation, food, clothing, education needs, health insurance, and a little more to take care of those unexpected extras that always crop up.

  If a family makes a budget and keeps track of how much it costs to live each month, then that is the family’s monthly nut.  In business, the nut would include the building, utilities, the cost of doing business, payroll for any employees, and any other expenses it takes to run the business, including paying yourself.  (If you forget that, you’ll destroy the nut in your personal life.)  Any amount over these expenses is profit. You need to carefully calculate what it’s going to cost you to get to profitability.  This can’t be a number you guess at. It needs to be a firm number and one you write down.  Here is some help in coming up with that number.

Figure your nut

(what number do you have to make per month to hit profitability)

 

Gross Revenue 

$_______________ 

Minus Expenses:

_______________     $__________

_______________     $__________

_______________     $__________

_______________     $__________

           Total Expenses

Equals Net Income

$_(____________)  

$________________


Components of Zig Number 1 

 Because your first zig is so important, I want to dissect its components and look at each one individually:

  •   Financial Number – Zig number 1 is a financial number.  You have to have a financial target number specifying how much you want to bring in. Refer back to the nut you determined in the last section.
  •   Allocation of Time – How much time are you going to dedicate to getting to cash?  How long will you give yourself to achieve this financial target?  I will typically dedicate 65 percent of my resources toward getting to profitability, 30 percent toward zag number 2, and 5 percent toward zig number 3.  And, as I look ahead, I never plan beyond 3 zig zags.
  •   Duration of Time – How long are you willing to run at this pace?  Anyone can sprint for a block or two.  But what reserves do you have if you end up needing to run a marathon?
  •   Financial Target – What is your target for the profit you want to make? How and why is this different from the financial number above?  After you have covered the nut, what is your goal for how much profit you want to make?
  •   Financial Resources – How much in the way of financial resources are you willing to invest? How do you want to allocate your financial resources?  In the early days of entrepreneurship, I used to be more willing to mortgage my house or use my emergency buffer to help fund my businesses.  Now I have a policy that I absolutely will not mortgage my house or dip into my safety net.  We will talk more about this in chapter 7 when we talk about guardrails.
  •   Relationship Capital – We have already talked about relationship capital in Chapter 1.  Think carefully about how much relationship capital you want to use when driving to profitability.  One of the reasons I choose not to sell to my close family and friends is because I am not willing to expend all my relationship capital in one fell swoop.  It is important in the early stages of your business not to drain your whole relationship bank account.  Selectively choose a few key individuals who can help you, but carefully define and limit how much relationship capital you’re willing to spend.  Then make sure you give those people a “thank you” and put something back into their relationship bank account.  Gratitude goes a long way with relationship capital.
  •   Give Yourself Permission to be Miserable – I’ll be honest; this is not an easy stage. Sometimes, in getting to cash, I have to do a lot of things I really don’t like doing.  I have to do the books, answer the phone calls, and open the mail.  I do it all!  I can do it; I just don’t like to do it.  So I give myself permission to be miserable and endure—but only for so long.

Resource List

 To help you quantify your responses to these questions, here’s a worksheet that will help you see in black and white the road you’re considering heading down. Use the results from you Value Equation to help populate this worksheet.


1.  How much money do you have to put toward this project?

     $_____________________

2.  How much time each week are you able or willing to dedicate to this project?

     ______________________ hours

3.  How long of a time frame do you have to work with?

     ______________________ months/years

4.  Emotionally, how long can you give yourself to accomplish this goal?

     ______________________ months/years

5.  How much pain (emotional, financial, relationship, time) are you willing to endure?

     _________________________________________________________________

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

Values Will Guide Us Through The Rough Times – Zig Zag Principle #27

July 29th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I know of a mother who had a lot of children.  In fact, some people looked down on her for having so many, but she didn’t care.  She loved her children. She had very little materially, but she would look at her kids and say, “I will put you up there with the best of them.”  She had a big goal out there.  It was not only to raise good kids, she wanted to raise children who would be hard working and self-reliant.  She wanted her kids to go out and make a difference in the world.  This was her beacon in the fog. 

This family did not have many resources.  They lived on a dairy farm at a time when milk prices were dropping.  The entire time this family was being raised, there was not one year that their total income was above the poverty level; in fact, many years it was well below the poverty level.  But this inconvenience did not deter this mother.  She had a set of values she was determined to pass along to her children, and those values guided everything she did.  Some of the things she valued were education, hard work, and self-reliance.  She did not want her kids to be dependent on society like many other families in their situation. 

This mother got creative with the meager resources she had, and she taught her children that if there was something they wanted, they needed to do the same.  One of her daughters wanted to take dance lessons like the other girls in her class.  This mother talked with the dance teacher; and even though the mother did not have cash to pay for the lessons, the dance teacher happily took milk and eggs from her farm in exchange for those lessons.  Another child needed some expensive dental care.  The mother went to work at a dental office in exchange for the needed treatment.  This family was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s before personal computers were common.  As her kids became teenagers, the mother would encourage them to take typing classes so they could get a good after-school job.  She then allowed the kids to be responsible for their own expenses and learn how to manage their money. As busy as she was and as much as she stressed self-reliance, she always encouraged them in their homework and helped them seek out scholarships.

Once, one of her children was noticing all the name brand clothes her peers were wearing.  She stopped the mother and asked, “Mom, are we poor?”  The mother thought for a minute or two and replied, “No, we are not poor, we are just broke.”  She wanted her daughter to realize that even though they did not have a lot of money at the time, they could work hard and move up to become whatever they wanted to be.  In her mind a “poor” person was someone with a victim mentality, and she did not want her children to feel as though life was just owed to them.

Another time one of the daughters wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad.  Both the mother and the daughter knew the uniforms, shoes, trips, and fees cost a lot of money.  So they brainstormed together about how to make this work.  The daughter got a summer job moving sprinklers and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pay for the things she needed.  She had to work a little harder than the other girls on the squad, but those things made her strong.

In the end, every one of this mother’s children went to college and then on to productive careers.  Each one of these children is contributing to society in their chosen field.  One is a doctor, another an engineer.  There is a nurse, a businessman, a businesswomen, and a teacher. Now that her children are grown, people say to this mom “You are so lucky.  How did you do it?”  She smiles, knowing it had nothing to do with luck.  She had established her goals and values before she even had children.  And those children were clearly shown the road map they should follow if they wanted to achieve success.

Let’s Talk Football – Zig Zag Principle #25

July 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

You can certainly head down the road not really knowing what your values are, but it’s never going to get you anywhere good. For many years, my favorite college football team had an incredible coach.  He was revered by fans, players, and coaches across the country.  He coached the same team for almost three decades and won countless awards, including a National Championship. He valued hiring great assistant coaches; and while there was no mistaking who was in charge, he was a delegator.  When he took over his team as head coach, he could see it would never compete well with a running strategy, so he decided he would find quarterbacks who valued passing the ball.  He faced teams that could score twenty or thirty points running the ball, but his team could score forty or fifty by passing.  So, they won.  Several of his quarterbacks went on to play in the NFL, and more than one took his team to the Super Bowl.

He believed in his coaches, in his players, and in his strategy.  On game day, he stood on the sidelines with his arms crossed, completely non-emotional as he calmly kept pace with his team from the sideline.  If his team won, his expression was the same as those rare times that they lost. 

After this coach retired, a coach came in who didn’t seem to know what he valued. His offensive strategy seemed to change from week to week. He would start a quarterback, pull him out, and then try another quarterback.  At times, he let his assistant coaches do their jobs, and other times he would take over—sometimes in the middle of a game.  When a game was close, he would run up and down the sideline, waving his arms frantically over what was happening.  Players and coaches alike didn’t know what he expected of them; and, as a fan, it was confusing to watch the team during this time.  No one seemed to know what he valued, and, as a result, it wasn’t long before he was fired.  Since leaving the university, he returned to the ranks of assistant coaches where he has had success, but no one has been willing to offer him a job as the head coach.

The most recent coach of this storied team is almost the exact opposite of the legendary coach.  He is much more hands-on, to the point where he has functioned as both head coach and defensive coordinator.  He is much more emotional.  He is much more involved in the community, and expects his players to be as well.  And yet, with all the differences, he is enjoying a winning record that rivals that of the man this school’s football stadium is named after.  The first coach and the current coach have succeeded with different values systems, but they each have one.  And those values were and are crystal clear to each of the players and each member of the staff. 

Whether you are deciding for yourself, your family, or your business, the values you  settle on will determine your behavior, which will in turn determine what stories will be told about you.  These stories will then serve to guide the behavior of those who follow you.

Let’s Talk Football – Zig Zag Principle #25

July 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

You can certainly head down the road not really knowing what your values are, but it’s never going to get you anywhere good. For many years, my favorite college football team had an incredible coach.  He was revered by fans, players, and coaches across the country.  He coached the same team for almost three decades and won countless awards, including a National Championship. He valued hiring great assistant coaches; and while there was no mistaking who was in charge, he was a delegator.  When he took over his team as head coach, he could see it would never compete well with a running strategy, so he decided he would find quarterbacks who valued passing the ball.  He faced teams that could score twenty or thirty points running the ball, but his team could score forty or fifty by passing.  So, they won.  Several of his quarterbacks went on to play in the NFL, and more than one took his team to the Super Bowl.

He believed in his coaches, in his players, and in his strategy.  On game day, he stood on the sidelines with his arms crossed, completely non-emotional as he calmly kept pace with his team from the sideline.  If his team won, his expression was the same as those rare times that they lost. 

After this coach retired, a coach came in who didn’t seem to know what he valued. His offensive strategy seemed to change from week to week. He would start a quarterback, pull him out, and then try another quarterback.  At times, he let his assistant coaches do their jobs, and other times he would take over—sometimes in the middle of a game.  When a game was close, he would run up and down the sideline, waving his arms frantically over what was happening.  Players and coaches alike didn’t know what he expected of them; and, as a fan, it was confusing to watch the team during this time.  No one seemed to know what he valued, and, as a result, it wasn’t long before he was fired.  Since leaving the university, he returned to the ranks of assistant coaches where he has had success, but no one has been willing to offer him a job as the head coach.

The most recent coach of this storied team is almost the exact opposite of the legendary coach.  He is much more hands-on, to the point where he has functioned as both head coach and defensive coordinator.  He is much more emotional.  He is much more involved in the community, and expects his players to be as well.  And yet, with all the differences, he is enjoying a winning record that rivals that of the man this school’s football stadium is named after.  The first coach and the current coach have succeeded with different values systems, but they each have one.  And those values were and are crystal clear to each of the players and each member of the staff. 

Whether you are deciding for yourself, your family, or your business, the values you  settle on will determine your behavior, which will in turn determine what stories will be told about you.  These stories will then serve to guide the behavior of those who follow you.

A Firm Foundation – Zig Zag Principle #23

July 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Values are the infrastructure or highway system we travel on to reach our goal. 

If my family and I were taking a road trip to Disneyland from our home in Utah, we would have two choices.  We could pull out of our driveway, point our car southwest, and begin to drive through neighbors’ dining rooms and yards, through cow pastures and weeds, across streams, and over mountain ranges until we got to sunny Southern California.  The other choice would be to do an Internet search for the best route to Disneyland, and then print off and follow the directions that are given.  I suppose option one would get us there eventually, if I had access to an amphibious assault vehicle…and if we could avoid arrest.  But I think my family and I would enjoy the trip more if we followed the Interstate—and exited the freeway once in a while for gas, a bite to eat, and a chance to freshen up.   

Just as there are roads my family is willing to take and others we’d rather avoid, there are ways of living life and doing business that I am willing to try and others I steer clear of.  For me, I love to drive on paved streets because I know my wife’s minivan will get stuck in the mud if I head off across uncharted terrain.  And, like a good map, my values keep me on the right roads.

Any organization that is going to be successful—whether it is a family, a sports team, or a business—must have a set of values to work from; otherwise, it will end up wandering into the weeds.  When I say values, I’m not necessarily referring just to moral values.  Values go well beyond what we may typically think of when we hear the word.  They are the infrastructure you are going to use as you build toward your goal.  Values include the behavior you are going to exhibit, the culture you want to create, and the rules you will follow. Values set the tone for what the culture in the company will be.  Following or ignoring values creates the stories that then reinforce the culture we are building.  Different families have different values, just as different businesses have different values.  As an example, let’s suppose you want to start a high-class, restaurant with inventive food and a romantic environment.  In this restaurant, you would value using fresh ingredients and having a meticulously clean kitchen.  Quality, refinement, and culture might be some of the values you would promote among your staff and with your customers (whom you might refer to as patrons).  On the other hand, if you were looking to open a family-friendly, fast-food restaurant, you would value speed, efficiency, variety, and the entertainment of kids.  Ideally, you would value cleanliness as well.  You are not going to use the same high-quality ingredients as your gourmet counterpart, and you might have far more options on the menu, including a kids’ menu.  Identifying your values, based on your purposes and objectives, is essential so you can clearly define where you’re headed with your venture.

Don’t Pick Your Zits

July 14th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Never pick your zits when you’re a teenager, and especially not when you’re in business.

 

Several years ago a delightful young woman came up to me dressed in a white dress and a bright smile. She looked me straight in the eyes and started talking. Then about thirty seconds into our conversation she broke out into tears.

 

Crying she said “I know, I know, it looks terrible, it looks awful. I tried everything I could to cover it over but I just kept picking it and now I have this zit that is just all over my face! I’m so sorry, it’s so hideous!”

 

The funny thing is that I never even noticed that she had a zit. Quite frankly I was enjoying the conversation with this delightful young woman. How frequently in life and business do we stumble and make the same faux pas?

 

Last week I was contacted by a close friend and associate who has an online problem with Google and he was seeking some SEO advice. Apparently when you Googled his name the second listing that pops up is a negative term. As I dug deeper into the scenario, I realized what had happened—indeed he had picked the metaphorical zit. Frequently in business we become fixated on a small negative problem, and then we pick it and we pick it and we pike it, until it becomes a huge problem.

 

Several months ago, this individual noticed that when you searched his name…way at the bottom of the auto fill was the term lawsuit listed with his name. The interesting thing is this lawsuit result had nothing to do with him. This lawsuit was not his problem. However, he and his entire team, and everyone around him became so fixated with the “problem” that they repeatedly searched and clicked on the erroneous lawsuit results, repeatedly.

 

As anyone who knows anything about Google knows, the repeated searching and clicking, alerted Google that this certain search result was, in fact, pretty important and relevant. What was the result? The zit grew bigger, the problem got bigger because the team and the individual himself kept picking the zit.

 

So, when you have a problem, highlight the beautiful, good things, don’t get fixated on a negative problem. Don’t highlight it and bring it to everyone’s attention.

 

The lesson from that young woman that came up and looked me in the eyes and started a delightful conversation is this: Most people would never have noticed or cared. We don’t need to point out our problems. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t open and real! it simply means that we don’t need to make small problems into big problems.