Billy Graham – the best salesperson I ever met

March 16, 2018

Other ministers told funnier jokes than Billy Graham, did a better job of illustrating Bible passages and organizing sermons, but no one was more effective than Graham in getting people to step forward in front of the congregation and make a commitment.  Translated from evangelism, that is what I call closing the sale.  It’s no wonder since he started his career as a Fuller Brush salesman. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which was headquartered in Minneapolis, was instrumental in helping me get started in the envelope manufacturing business in the 1960s.  No one I’ve ever done business with has […]

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Let it go

March 8, 2018

Joe paced back and forth in his sister’s kitchen one Sunday before dinner.  His sister Carol recognized the worried look on his face and called him over to where she stood next to the sink. “Hey Joe, can you hold on to this for me?”  She handed him a can of vegetable scraps. Joe took the can and walked outside where he threw the scraps in the compost bin before returning to the kitchen. “Why did you toss my scraps?  I asked you to hold on to them.” “Why would you ask me to hold onto garbage?” Joe asked. “I […]

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Finding your purpose is like a treasure hunt

March 6, 2018

I had the pleasure of attending the Super Bowl in my home state of Minnesota in February along with many of the parties and events leading up to the big game.  One of my favorites is Taste of the NFL, which made its debut in 1992 when Minneapolis first hosted the Super Bowl. My friend Wayne Kostroski, a successful Minneapolis restauranteur, started Taste of the NFL to address the needs of the hungry and homeless by raising awareness and money through programs and special events.  Wayne saw the opportunity to use the world stage to help those who could not […]

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Street Smarts put you in the fast lane

February 15, 2018

I’m back with another installment of street smarts, those skills that go beyond what is taught in school – the lessons we learn by experience and practice.  Never underestimate the value and importance of “extracurricular” education. First idea:  Don’t be afraid to make a decision.  Be afraid NOT to make a decision.  Good judgment is a critically important skill for any person to have, but especially for those in leadership positions.  Good judgment is such an important attribute that it is often listed first by employers as required qualities of job applicants. In business, the success or failure of the […]

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Look for these traits in successful team players

February 8, 2018

It was a cold winter.  The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to bunch together to keep warm.  However, the quills from each hedgehog pierced their next-door neighbors, so they decided to move apart.  But then they started to freeze and die alone, so they made the decision to cuddle back together and live with the little piercings caused by the close connection with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the group.  This allowed them to survive. And that, my friends, is the perfect definition of teamwork. No team is composed entirely of perfect people.  Whether […]

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Rudeness is contagious in the workplace

February 1, 2018

Germs can run rampant in a workplace, but so can another problem.  Researchers at the University of Florida, presenting their findings in the “Journal of Psychology,” say that rudeness can be contagious. The researchers followed 90 graduate business students as they practiced negotiation techniques over seven weeks, switching partners several times.  Students who described a partner as rude were more likely to be considered rude themselves by subsequent partners more often than those who negotiated with people they felt were polite.  The researchers theorize that this suggests that experiencing rudeness may make people more inclined to engage in it themselves. […]

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The wisdom of Bruce Halle

January 29, 2018

I often use the expression – One person can make all the difference in the world. That adage certainly applied to my friend Bruce Halle who recently passed away.  Bruce was the founder of Discount Tire, the nation’s largest tire and wheel retailer with 975 stores in 34 states and more than 20,000 employees. He truly was a self-made man, working as a paperboy as I did, and even being a gravedigger to support his family.  He tried selling life insurance before he opened his first tire store in 1960 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He was the sole employee.  His […]

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A smile adds face value

January 19, 2018

Readers of this column know that I am a big fan of Dale Carnegie, the master of making friends.  I carry a poem from one of his books with me and often share it when I am speaking to groups.  It’s called “The Value of a Smile,” and I hope you learn as much from it as I have. “It costs nothing, but creates much.  It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.  It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.  None are so rich they can get along without it, and none […]

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Dig your well before you’re thirsty

January 11, 2018

If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. Although I never met David Rockefeller, he certainly would have fit in this category.  When he passed away in March 2017 at the age of 101, “Bloomberg News” revealed that he had an “electronic Rolodex” of 150,000 people.  “The Wall Street Journal” recently reported it was 200,000.  He was a master networker during his 24 years as the head of Chase Manhattan Bank and 60 years […]

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A new year brings change

January 4, 2018

A new year often brings new beginnings.  I was intrigued to discover how one company used a novel way to motivate employees to think about new ways of doing things. Here is the approach practiced by Chiyoji Misawa, who founded the largest home builder in Japan, Misawa Homes, more than 50 years ago.  He “died” at least once every decade to arrest the momentum of out-of-date assumptions and policies.  He sent a memo to his company that formally announced “the death of your president.” According to Robert H. Waterman, Jr. in his book, “The Renewal Factor,” this was Misawa’s way […]

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Putting the fun in fundraising

December 28, 2017

A little girl asked to see the president of a large company.  She explained that her club was raising money and asked if he would contribute. Smiling, he laid a quarter and a dollar bill on his desk and said, “Take whichever one you want.” The little girl said, “My mother taught me to take the smallest piece, but I’ll take this piece of paper to wrap it in so I won’t lose it.”  Smart kid. Fundraising is one of those necessary tasks that enable great causes and scare people silly, all at the same time.  Even when needs are […]

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Look for these traits in future leaders

December 14, 2017

I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a small business owner or a manager or supervisor; you are only as good as the people around you.  In other words, it’s important to surround yourself with success-oriented people.  When hiring, always try to pick future leaders.  They may not be easy to recognize, but they’re crucial to an organization that wants to be innovative and intrapreneurial.  Here’s a list of factors that can help you identify and develop potential leaders on your staff: Collaboration.  Look for employees who communicate well, delegate effectively and build strong personal […]

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How to deal with disappointment

December 7, 2017

His team was behind one run in the ninth inning, the bases were loaded with two out, and the leading hitter on the team was coming to bat.  The crowd sat on the edge of its seat as he swung two bats in the on-deck circle, picked up the rosin bag, dropped it, straightened his helmet, knocked the dirt from his spikes, wiped his brow, raised the bat over his shoulder and wiggled it, pounded it on the plate, dug his spikes in, reached forward – and then watched the pitcher pick the runner off third base. We all deal […]

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Curiosity can set life on path of discovery

November 30, 2017

Thomas Edison once visited Luther Burbank, the famed horticulturist, who invited every guest who visited his home to sign the guest book.  Each line in the book had a space for the guest’s name, address and special interests.  When Edison signed the book, in the space marked “Interested in,” Edison wrote:  “Everything!” Thomas Edison, who was awarded more than 1,000 patents, was a prime example of curiosity.  He said, “The ideas I use are mostly the ideas of other people who don’t develop them themselves.” That was an understatement.  In his lifetime, Edison invented the incandescent light, the phonograph, the […]

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Why do we need a sense of urgency?

November 16, 2017

The founder of a highly successful company was asked what it took to succeed.  He answered:  “The same thing it took to get started; a sense of urgency about getting things done.” The people who make things happen share the same sense of urgency.  Ask any entrepreneur to list the keys to getting their company off the ground, and urgency will be among the traits listed. No matter how intelligent or able you may be, if you don’t have a sense of urgency you better start developing it now.  The world is full of competent people who honestly intend to […]

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