Coming Up Short

Two TV programs that I watch when I can: Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer and The Profit with Marcus Lemonis. I watch these programs from the perspective of a former business partner in a multi-million dollar enterprise and as a follower of Jesus. I watch them because they provide insight into human nature and the nature of rescue. (Blessedly, there are no Progressive Element talking points (race equality, gender equality, wage equality, etc.) in these programs. The only politics involved are the underlying business relationships of the owners, managers and employees.)

A different bar is presented during each hourly segment of Bar Rescue. If one were to watch Bar Rescue over many episodes, one would see that each new scenario has many of the same old problems. And one would hear that the owners are deep in debt. In many cases the owners have invested their life savings, their home’s equity and their retirement funds to keep the failing business afloat. Because of bad assumptions and broken processes and botched relationships the heavily-invested owners will not only lose their business in a matter of months, if not weeks, they will also lose everything invested. So, they agree “to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make a call for help—to Bar Rescue.

Enter Bar Rescue’s Taffer. He is invited to assess the failing bar. My own assessment gathered from my many viewings of the program: the owners continue to do the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.

At the show’s opening Taffer is shown sitting in a car with two professionals, typically an experienced mixologist and a skilled chef. They view the bar via hidden cameras. They talk about what they see. Here’s a typical recounting of what they view from the car:

The bar’s name recognition is off. The signage is uninviting and confusing. The marketing is off and even off-putting. The signage is more of a liability than an asset.

The bar is chaotic. The employees have no direction and no constraints. The bartenders are drinking and over-pouring away the profits. Some of them sit at the bar. Others party with the customers. In one episode a woman, one of three equal partners, sits at the end of the bar every night smoking and drinking. She told Taffer that she thought that’s what her partners wanted.

The owners and managers appear indifferent and helpless and overwhelmed as to what is going on before their very eyes.

Relationships, at home and in the business, are dysfunctional. Denial and finger-pointing create more distance between partners. Employees and managers verbally fight in front of customers. The alcohol in their systems adds to the bar-family drama and acrimony.

Customers are given horrible beyond-expiration-dated food. The kitchen is unsanitary or unusable. The cook, often a novice, struggles to make decent food. The bar waitresses serve their customers slop.

As a “food and beverage industry consultant specializing in nightclubs, bars, and pubs”, Taffer becomes riled up as he watches. He storms into the bar and confronts the owners about what he saw. And what he saw was what has been right in front of the owner’s eyes for months.

Taffer, in a confrontational style, points out to the owners what he just witnessed via the hidden cameras. He makes “them face reality”: “nobody is being a manager!”; “It looks like the blind leading the blind!” In response, the bar’s owners usually become defensive and deny doing anything to create the situation. They deflect responsibility by acting as if they deserve better treatment from Taffer. They hold a sense of entitlement but not a sense of responsibility.

The staff confirms to Taffer what has been going on in the bar. He encounters employees who are conscientious and desire step-up management. And there are others who make excuses for their behavior after being caught on camera. The owners and managers are no different. Though the bar is obviously failing before their eyes, their pride is the resistance to accepting responsibility for the obvious failure. They balk at personal change. Taffer makes the reality of their dysfunction clear with a stress test: “If you can’t manage an empty bar, how will you manage when it’s filled?!”

After some initial training of the bartenders and the cook, Taffer invites in a crowd to see how the bar functions. By overwhelming the bar with customers, the test reveals to the staff that they cannot handle the level of business they need to succeed to meet monthly expenses, including employee paychecks, let alone be profitable.

Though the bar had opened successfully years before and brought in a stream of revenue, lack of good business practices and an “Anything Goes” mentality brought the bar to the brink of bankruptcy. Taffer opens the books. The bar’s revenue is less than half of what it was at the beginning. The heavily invested owners are about to lose their homes, their retirement and more.

Taffer talks to the owners one on one. He asks about the bar’s early years. With empathy he addresses issues both business and personal. Getting the business’s underlying relationships in order is a priority. Dysfunction has created the chaos and mounting losses. Regarding the unpaid staff, Taffer tells the owners “When you own a business you need to give the employees a better life.” Taffer seeks to light a fire under the owners/entrepreneurs. He offers a new vision and a new bar design with new tools. He offers hope for the bar’s turnaround.

“Let’s get to work!” Taffer tells the bar staff. The two experts are brought in to train the staff. The mixologist trains the bartenders in making properly poured cocktails. The chef trains the cook how to make delicious bar food. After the bar is rehabbed, Taffer presents the new look to the anxious staff. They are overwhelmed by the change. The bar’s signage is inviting and brand declarative. (Sometimes a new name is required despite the owners balking.)  Renewed and revived, they gear up for a new opening of the bar.

The opening is flooded with guests. The processes begin to work as they should. Taffer had told the staff, countering their assumptions, “The guests don’t want cocktails, they want the experience.” The experience begins to happen for the guests. The bar appears ready for success. Taffer leaves after many hugs and the owners saying “Thank you.”

 

For the sake of brevity, I’ll sum up what I see of human nature and the nature of rescue from both reality TV shows.  But first, some background on The Profit.

Marcus Lemonis is presented with applications from failing business (some 44,000 per Inc.com). When he picks a company, he considers it as a possible investment opportunity. “My ultimate goal is to make a reasonable return,” he says. “If I can average 15 to 18 percent on my money, I’m happy.

The Inc. com web article Marcus Lemonis: The Way of the Profit starts with this:

Both on screen and off, Marcus Lemonis is the king of turning around failing small businesses. But his obsession with fixing companies comes at a price.

And, later in the article we learn of Marcus’ and the viewer’s perspective:

“In most cases, the people who apply to get on the show are really in need of more than just financial help,” Lemonis says gently, and when he offers more, as he often does–by calling out a bully boss or defending an overworked and underappreciated employee–that’s when viewers might see parallels with Dr. Phil or even the Dog Whisperer. A lot can happen in those 40 unscripted minutes.

 

Where Bar Rescue presents a consultant-rescuer, The Profit presents an investor-rescuer. Both men must deal with the underlying issues that negatively affect a business. Both offer retooling and reimaging the business. Both encounter a wall of resistance to change. Pride, denial and the owner’s excuse “we’ve always done it this way” impede the business. The consultant and the investor challenge the assumptions, the habits and the lack of accountability they find. The business will not grow and, worse, it may fail completely if their advice is not taken.

Both offer a rescue from the way things are for the heavily invested and the deeply in debt. As Taffer said on one occasion, “We need to take a different path.” Both men give stern warnings about the business’s state of affairs. They each point to the wall of resistance and to the wall of reality.

For both the consultant and the investor, the business’s outcome becomes personal. People’s lives and their welfare are at stake. The business is an extension of the owner’s personal failure or his success.

Both men command respect. They speak with strong self-assured voices. And both are empathetic to the owner’s plight, especially as it concerns relationships that have soured. Their combined benevolent authority and considerate empathy bring about change in the businesses they rescue.

 

Human nature: Man is often antagonistic to personal change. Man will point to the circumstances and/or others as the problem. Man has blind spots. Man’s pride keeps him from seeing what is right before his own eyes. Man often refuses to communicate his shortcomings wanting to appear in control of himself as things he cares for spin out of control. Man resents being told he is going down the wrong path and that he has come up short. Man is often lazy and seeks the minimum of effort to correct what is wrong. Man invests heavily in himself as the captain of his fate. Yet, his Titanic ego doesn’t let him see the icebergs until it is almost too late.

 

Rescue: An authoritarian voice is required. There are those third-party consultants and investors with years of experience who can show a man the way to succeed. They are able to see things as they are without emotional attachment.

Rescue requires turning around and taking a new path. Rescue requires meekness. Rescue requires learning new habits and processes. Rescue requires facing reality and throwing away assumptions based on unreality. Rescue requires a man taking responsibility for his actions. Rescue requires a man seeing he has come up short and seeking the advice to fill up what was lacking in himself.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One very clear dynamic I see in both programs: employees want to be part of something successful and worthy of their effort. They gain a sense of dignity when they invest themselves in things that they deem profitable to their well-being, to their self-esteem and to other’s well-being. They want to tie their wagons to owners/managers who are success bound and who are both firmly directive and also have good human relations skills such that make them able to convey direction. They desire managers and bosses who are empathetic when it is called for. Employees desire training to improve their skills, to achieve success personally.

Employees want to see themselves involved in something much higher than a bottom line. The owners/managers must evoke a vision that dignifies and elevates the work being done, especially in light of the customer. Work must be all-around humanizing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

For those of you who know they have come up short of the glory of God and have put their trust in the One True Authoritative and Empathetic Counselor Jesus, you can rejoice in “the proper goal of your faith – namely, the rescue of your lives. 1 Peter 1:8-9

“Let’s get to work!”

True Hope, True Change, Once Upon A Time In America

No comments required from me other than to say that at the end of the speech Reagan signs a bill to promote Women’s Businesses.

President Reagan’s Remarks at the National Conference of the National Federation of Independent Business on June 22, 1983 

Do You Know a Government That Could Use a Rescue?

bar rescue

Have you seen the TV program Bar Rescue?  The show is in the same genre as the Restaurant Impossible and Hotel Impossible.  Customer service based businesses are failing and someone from the outside comes into to save them.

 Bar Rescue is a favorite show of mine and not because I’m a bar fly but rather because at one time I was one of three partners in a manufacturing business.  I know what Jon is dealing with.

 In my role as Vice President of Engineering I had to make business decisions on a 24/7 basis. I had to hire and sometimes fire engineers and designers. As VP I had to make sure that the equipment we designed and sold worked. I interfaced with customers, employees and technical issues on a constant basis.

 As partners we dealt with cash-flow issues on a weekly or even daily basis. We would meet in our board room and hammer out the details.  The three of us each had our specific roles to carry out.  Each role carried responsibilities that supported the entire framework of the business. 

 I regularly made business trips across the U.S. and outside of the country to start-up the equipment.  I was (and had to be) a major force behind our businesses’ multi-million dollar sales revenues. That was the only way to keep the business afloat and more than just a blip on the market place map we covered. So, I understand where Jon is coming from.

 Jon Taffer is the force behind a Bar Rescue.  You can tell that he knows his stuff.  He knows what it takes to make a bar successful. He knows when to finesse and when to pound his fist to get a response. He will raise his voice to grab people’s attention away from their egos.  As you watch the show you will see bar owners and their business partners who have no clue as to what to do.  And because of their in-the-way egos they are deeply in debt when they call Jon in. 

 From appearances these bar owners seem to think that the bar will run itself, that people will naturally just come in off the street for a drink.  But the numbers, the businesses’ accounting books Taffer shows them does not project wishful thinking.  The numbers show reality. And that is why I like this program and why I like business – numbers don’t lie. Reality is the key ingredient to any success.

 Now, our government is like a huge bar that needs rescuing from its managers.  We the People, sadly, are like its troubled and overworked employees who do not have the say or the power to make the changes needed.  We see the mess and try to do everything we can to make it better.  But we reach a point where we see that management does not have a clue.  Management wants the perks but not the responsibilities.  If we speak up we are patted on the head and then kicked in the butt by our representatives.

 Yes, there are voices of reality in government just as there are on the Bar rescue program.   But those few voices are drowned out by huge political egos.

 Now, I wish that we had a Government Rescue program. Washington’s decisions degrade our lives, our liberty daily.  Those decisions wear us out.  The U.S. government is out of control and rapidly growing deep into debt.  Help!

 To fix the debt issue Obama, like a poor business manager, wants to publicly litigate for more tax revenue from Americans by using words and phrases like “fair share,” and “social justice.” Just work harder he tells us.

  Obama is not a hands-on guy ~ he is an attorney ~ a one-time professor of Constitutional law ~ with no clue as to how to run a business let alone a national economy. Elizabeth Warren is of the same cloth ~ all hyperbole and ego but no substance ~ both are true politicians.

 As a nation we have more attorneys than business people in lead positions in our government.  Is it any wonder that these attorneys are more concerned about “rights” and about jabbering on about what they can do for us if we hand over our liberty and our money? 

 What about the liberation of our human flourishing by embracing economic reality and making wise business decisions? Instead of new laws which constrain each of us and kick us in the butt we should be set free to do what we do best thereby generating increased revenues through successful and time-tested business practices.

 The Free Market ~ people like you and me ~  already know how to deal with reality.  What we need now is for someone to come in and toss the current “Progressive” management and to help us turn this nation around.

Par For My Course

For fifteen years I was one of three partners in a manufacturing business, a business that I helped start from scratch, a business that when I left had sales revenues close to twenty million dollars. 

 Before starting the company I met with two friends.  Each of them wanted to leave the company we were all working for.  The three of us knew that the company we were at would soon fold.  The owner had mismanaged the company into the ground, causing many to be fired.  Soon the owner would take the assets out of this failed company and go start another business.  We saw what was coming and so we decided it was time for us to set our sights higher and take care of our futures.

 In the failed company the three of us soon-to-be partners were the three people who knew how to make the equipment being sold.  And, though only one of us had a BS degree there were plenty years of experience between the other two partners. Each of us had met with customers and we knew manufacturing.  We didn’t know all there was to know about running a business but we did want to find out for ourselves. 

 My own experience developed from many years of electrical engineering and design in the manufacturing sector. Over time I managed groups of designers and electricians.  There were also many times when I was a welder, a fabricator, an electrician.  I taught myself how to use AutoCAD and Microstation CAD design software.  I taught myself how to program PLCs and computers.  I went to night school to learn accounting, economics and business.  I took math course, physics and welding. In order to commission equipment I traveled thousands of miles to customer sites across America, Mexico, Canada, and as far as Korea, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. I learned by applying myself to the task, by learning what I needed and simply by doing.

 After several after-hours discussions at a local bar the three of us decided which day we would leave the troubled company to start our own business.  Being integral to the functioning of the business our concurrent departures would mean that the company would rapidly fold. The company did close within a year.  We went off on our own with no nets beneath us and just our own will to make things happen.

 We began our business in a basement. We invested $3000.00 in start-up capital. We each claimed a share of equity in the new firm, incorporated as a Delaware corporation.

 Now I have to tell you, starting a business with nothing but sheer determination is not easy.  The risk of no immediate sales and therefore no paychecks for weeks and months is ever before you. With this in mind we began to solicit business by sending out business letters telling a broad spectrum of customers about our new venture. We even begged for business, often drastically discounting the sale just to get our foot in the door and to keep it there.

 While we advertised I also set up the computers and the accounting system using what I learned at night school.  I set up the accounts:  Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Assets, Revenue,  W-4s, etc.   

 Over time (almost a year after starting) we received our first purchase order.  I had developed a small position indicating device that could be readily used in the plastics industry to control plastic sheet gauge – a necessary requirement for thermoforming companies. We sold one and then two. I was then sent to California to install the later-to-be patented device. I had to make sure that our product did what we promised it would.  Once it was proven we invoiced our first receivable.

 We slowly gained sales momentum from customers who knew our reputations and knew of our capabilities.  We sometimes over sold ourselves just to get in the door.  There were many quiet anxious days along the way waiting for something bigger to break.  When things did start happening we rented a small industrial building and set up what little we had. As orders came in and invoices went out we were then able to buy computers, software, drafting tables, welders, paint equipment, hand tools and a truck with our company name.

We soon hired staff:  a fabricator. As business continued to grow over a time , a seeming eternity for us with our shoe string budget, we added more and more people.  When I left the company there was over fifty employees on the payroll.  This company, currently housed in a 325,000 sq. ft. building with large overhead cranes, is now doubling it size, building an expansion on the same site.

 The reason I left the business and cashed out was simply the fact that the work of starting a new business is a 24/7 job.  This intensive venture took a toll on me and my family.  There were many nights away from my family.  There were many intensive phone calls with clients.  As the Vice president of Engineering I spent many hours trouble shooting customer problems in person or over the phone from home.  I spent a lot of time interviewing people and then hiring and firing as needed.  I supervised design work and managed over a dozen people, all engineers. I was on call constantly.

 In the early days of our company I multitasked.  There were only three of us and one of us had to go on the road to do the cold calling.  I stayed with my other partner and we did what was needed.  As an order came in I would create the electrical schematics on a drafting board, I would then order the parts. I would receive the parts, sort out the paper work, input accounts payable, print out checks on a line printer and then send out the checks to vendors. I would assemble the large-scale equipment by hand:  I welded half-inch plates of carbon steel to create structural frames; I assembled control panels and wired the instrumentation.  I also spray painted the finished products.  Before that I would power up and test the equipment.  I was front office, plant, truck driver, assembler, engineer and tired but excited.  I was working for myself and creating growing equity.  My piece of the pie was growing.

 Until you’ve done something like start a business from scratch you would have no idea how intense, exhausting, scary and pleasurable it is to make your way in this world with just the work of your own hands.  But the excitement doesn’t stop there.

 As the company grows you hire people.  But it is a scary proposition.  You know you need more help but you don’t know where or when the next order is coming from.  You bite your nails and finally say “OK, we need someone. Place the ad.”

 When you hire someone and train them you’ve given them hope.  At the same time your own stomach is wrenching with the fear that someday you may have to lay that person off if business drops off.  It is all risk, calculated risk and that is what entrepreneurs do best:  find a venture and put themselves and their money at risk in order to create something successful and to gain a return on their investment – an investment of dollars and tons of sweat equity.  Obama knows nothing about what I talking about.

 Obama risks nothing.  He finds safety in numbers, in government. He is the child of safety nets. His absent father gave him no guidance whatsoever about business. It is apparent from Obama’s biographies that Obama learned to hate anything which might smack of colonialism.  And Obama has wrongly conflated capitalism with colonialism.   Obama’s only claim to success is his community organizing.  We can see now that his organizing is nothing more than organizing taxpayer money to the benefit of his political gain.

 No government built our business.  Government with its ever-present paper work and regulations was ever the impedance to growing our business and hiring more people.  Government now, in effect, hinders human flourishing. And I don’t have to tell you that Barrack Obama wants more government and less independent success.  You’ll have to ask him why he hates business and demonizes success.

 Sweat equity built our successful business not government.  And it was not Obama, not Elizabeth Warren, not roads and bridges, not the IRS, not organized labor and not the three thousand dollars of start-up capital back in 1988. We built it with our own hands while paying corporate taxes up to 30%! Obama can kiss my sweaty ass!

 Listen Obama (I know I am speaking to deaf ears) – There is no sweat equity in golfing.”

******

The Real Deal

Paul Ryan calls out the blame shifters and political grifters, talks about his widowed mom’s success, gives small business at shot in the arm – “You did build that” –  and tells the Obama poster generation that there is hope beyond Obama:

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

Update:  Here’s Clint Eastwood making my day as he speaks to the empty chair at the RNC.

He Is Heavy, He’s My Government

H/T to a blog down under, another land of the free and the brave:

http://catallaxyfiles.com/category/libertarians-dont-live-by-argument-alone/

Take the Buffett Rule Off the Table and Shove It

The Buffett Rule appears like a gesture of great benevolence toward the American poor and middle class:  shake down the ultra rich and throw the poor and middle class pennies on the dollar. (More likely, though, they would receive a rhetorical bone.)  Such magnanimity would make any gangster appear as a saintly Robin Hood.

Nobody asks the gangster where the rest of the money goes, the big money.  Nobody knows anything until some business fails down the road.  And when that happens big money is laundered and power is purchased.  But the recipients of the gangster’s largesse don’t ask questions.  That is because they get a piece of the action – empathy for their plight, scraps from the table. They have been hushed up. The gangster takes care of his own people.  His own people take care of him.

You should know that Obama, Buffett and the Dems don’t want to pass the Buffett Rule.  This is all just another rhetorical bone thrown out to get Obama reelected.

****

Why is Obama telling us that we should tax the rich?  Why is he telling us that we should have their money? Where would that tax revenue money go?  Why does he not tell us where it will go? Why does Obama want the money when he has created more public debt than any president before him?  It is not like he cares about our national debt and he wants to pay it down.  Credit and debt bind the debtor to the gangster just like on the mean streets of Chicago. I know. I have lived in Chicago for a long, long time.

(2012 Chicago Tax Day Tea Party at Daley plaza, April 16th.  I will be there.)

There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to hide money in government budgets. Where did all money from the previous bail out go? And now with the Buffett rule on the table Obama is asking for even more money. Who would end up getting the money?

And, why are people letting Obama become more involved in their daily lives?  To make others do what they want? To make others pay for what we want? For security? For a handout?

We are becoming a nation of slaves and addicts. A nation of slaves because there are those who surrender their liberty for the sake of a few scraps that fall from Obama’s tax table (pun intended). A nation of addicts because there are those we rely on a victim class status so as to continue to receive the sop and scraps from the government.  Like the willing slave they choose this life for themselves over and over again.

This is the Buffet rule:  “a sucker is born every day.”

Another sad dollar-for-dollar irony foisted on us by the government:

The past several weeks, while listening to an AM station I enjoy (WLS 890 AM, the Larry Kudlow show) I heard something truly astounding:  a radio government public interest commercial warning people to be careful of how they use their credit!  The double-standard is beyond belief! There is even a web site you can go to:  controlyourcredit.gov

At the redirected website, you will read this:

The US Treasury Department along with the Ad Council recently launched a new credit education website, located at ControlYourCredit.gov, with the goal of helping young adults learn how to make good financial decisions and use credit responsibly.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly sad.

***********************

More to think about before November 2012:

The Bush Great Recession ended June 2009. The Obama Great Failed Recovery is the problem.

 The joys of being a small business owner in Obama’s America.

**********

(No, I am not hard-hearted and cruel.  The truly poor, the orphan and the widow need help and not those inclined to poverty because of a lack of character, will and discipline.)