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Capitalism, Greed and the American Way:  Are they synonymous?

Capitalism, Greed and the American Way: Are they synonymous?

capitalism

In our current culture, it’s hip to equate capitalism with greed. The people who associate these terms suggest that the two represent the “American way” — as if they are synonymous. Entire movements and ideologies have grown out of a disdain for capitalism. Whether Communism of the last century, or the Occupy movement in recent years, there is a growing perspective that capitalism is a flawed system, that greed and selfishness are integral to it, and that it must be replaced.

Given that my entire adult life has been involved in capitalistic pursuits and recognizing that many of my friends and clients are engaged in capitalistic ventures, I think it’s important to answer the allegations of many Americans who condemn capitalism, the economic system upon which our nation was founded. To start with though, it’s important to define capitalism.

Capitalism in its most basic definition is simply:

“an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market” versus a planned economy via a central government.

This economic system, berated by many, is the approach that places the individual as the supreme authority over economic ventures, their ownership and the ultimate distribution of their product to a would be customer. In contrast to capitalism is the economic system that elevates the government to the position of authority and the ultimate master of the individual, often referred to as socialism, or in its more radical form, communism.

However, noticeably absent from the definition of capitalism and other forms of economic systems is any reference to greed or selfishness. I would contend that these two human flaws, encountered in the best examples of mankind, are present in all of us. So whether one finds himself working in a capitalistic society or a socialistic one, greed will be present in both.

When individuals berate capitalism as evil and greed-induced or suggest some other negative attribute, they typically point to a company, industry or even an entire society that provides fodder for their argument. I think of the instances just a few years ago when financial behemoths collapsed as a result of the greedy and selfish decisions of their executives. At the same time many of these same executives made out like bandits with their “golden parachute” deals. To compound the calamity, politicians gratuitously bailed out some of these firms on the backs of the American taxpayers.

Just this week I was meeting with a young entrepreneur who recounted the story of how his family’s new start-up company was defrauded out of $100,000 by a national corporation just days before that national company filed for bankruptcy protection. The company ordered the young entrepreneur’s product, knowing all the while that just days later they would seek bankruptcy protection. By then though the product would then be in the company’s possession and the payment for that product would be tied up in the court for months to come. Was greed and malicious intent involved? Without question.

Examples such as the two just cited are undisputed evidence that greed and selfishness often abound within capitalistic endeavors. But here’s the question: Should we impugn the 28 million businesses in America and their owners based on the actions of a number of errant ones?

To partially answer this question let’s apply this same reasoning to another area of our society. Consider for just a moment a family where the father is a workaholic, totally engrossed in his company to the detriment of his family. At the same time, the mother is self-absorbed, interested more in her friends and high society than the needs of her children. The husband may fail to tell his children or wife that he loves them, given his undue focus on his business. When he arrives home from work, he may “kick the cat,” yell at the kids and quickly turn his attention to his overwhelming business projects. Meanwhile, his wife throws some meals in the microwave and heads out for a night of socializing with her friends. Clearly, this husband and wife are failures as parents, with their priorities all amok and their children will sadly suffer as a result. But because this couple fails to exemplify what good parents look like should we denigrate the concept of families and impugn the thousands of parents that are seeking to do it right?

Of course not.

Likewise, when I hear the denigrators of capitalism throw up examples of companies and their CEO’s, whether a few or even dozens, who exemplify “greed gone wild” in their capitalistic endeavors, it ignores the reality that hundreds of thousands of business owners in our nation are genuinely seeking to offer a product or service to meet the needs of their fellow man and in so doing generating an honest profit.

Profit is what enables a business owner to provide for his family, his community, his church and his world. And that profit is enhanced and incentivized via capitalism. So if you are a business owner, by all means check your motives to make sure they are pure. But never, ever shy away from pursuing the dream of building and growing your business enterprise. Each time you sell your product, generate a profit and reinvest that profit into growing your business, you exemplify capitalism, the greatest economic system ever known to man and upon which our nation was founded.

Because of you and millions of other risk-taking entrepreneurs, you continue to preserve at some level the America that our forefathers envisioned and of which one of my favorite US Presidents, Ronald Reagan, referred to as “the last best hope of man on earth…”

Thank you for building your business the American way, via capitalism and free of greed and selfishness.

Mark

How to Motivate Your Most Valuable Resource… And it won’t break the bank!

How to Motivate Your Most Valuable Resource… And it won’t break the bank!

our-most-valuable-resource

[imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”dropshadow” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”#ffffff” bordersize=”10px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”right” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]Photo courtesy of Chadbee Photography[/imageframe]I had the opportunity to travel to Virginia this last weekend in pursuit of one of my hobbies, road course racing. In route though, as I was towing my race car, I passed hundreds of semi-trailer trucks. While semi-trucks are a dime a dozen, every now and then one will stand out and catch my attention. Sometimes it’s because of their driving. Other times it’s because of a message or paint job. One company that always catches my attention is Crete Carrier.

Crete has been in business for decades and they claim that they are one of the largest privately owned trucking companies in the nation with over 5,000 trucks and 12,000 trailers. They also claim that they have enjoyed profitable operations every year they have been in business.

While these are impressive claims, in order to achieve such success there is a value that Crete openly shares that is without a doubt one of the primary contributors to their success. That value was on display this weekend when I passed one of their trucks. Prominently displayed on the side of their trailer was this slogan: “Our most valuable resource sits here” and a huge arrow pointed to the cabin where the driver was seated.

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Clearly Crete understands that their people are the greatest determinant to their success. Without satisfied and motivated “over the road” drivers, none of their goals could be achieved. Shiny trucks, great compensation plans and appealing schedules are all important to a truck driver. But like all employees, how one is treated is of significantly greater value than simple compensation.

Survey after survey reveals that while compensation is important to employees, it is not the sole or even greatest motivator. The belief that one is doing something meaningful is valued above compensation. Additionally, the feeling of being valued, acknowledged, and respected are also significant motivators.

My own experience bears this out during our time of rapidly growing our company over a ten year period ending in its sale in 2006. While we consistently sought to structure compensation plans that were at the middle to upper end of the pay scale in our industry, we found that our associates were motivated more by the non-financial incentives, and we were constantly seeking ways to affirm them through such incentives.

A survey conducted in 2009 by McKinsey Quarterly affirmed the fact that employees “viewed noncash motivators — praise from immediate managers, leadership attention, and a chance to lead projects or task forces — as no less or even more effective motivators than the three highest-rated financial incentives: cash bonuses, increased base pay, and stock or stock options.”

It seems that Crete Carrier understands this principle. Do you?

If you have employees (or associates as we referred to them in our company) are you focused simply on their financial compensation? True, this is important. But what about all the other non-financial rewards? The survey cited above referenced two primary reasons why companies fail to pursue or emphasize the non-financial incentives. The first is because the traditional managerial belief that “money is what really counts” is a myth. There is a tendency by all of us to think that if we just pay people enough money, their attitudes, performance and motivation will be high. But we know from experience this is false.

The second reason why companies fail to focus on the non-financial incentives is that these motivators generally require more time and energy from management. It’s easy to write a check, assuming the company is capable of doing so. It takes little thought or effort. But pursue a strategy that consistently and continuously focuses on the non-financial needs of a company’s associates and you will find it to be an endless endeavor. At the same time though, you will find such an effort not only worthwhile, but it will separate you from your competitors and other employers.

So as you go about your day, emphasizing the financial aspects of your company, including those of your associates, don’t overlook the greater needs and motivators of your team members. Remember, money is important but it’s not everything. Embrace Crete Carrier’s philosophy that asserts that your “most valuable resources” are your associates and you will find new ways of motivating, valuing and respecting your staff, while at the same time not breaking the bank financially.

Mark

How Ignoring This Business Principle Will Haunt You

How Ignoring This Business Principle Will Haunt You

business-principle

Business ventures have played a prominent role in my life for the last 35 years. In addition to business, though, one of my other passions is following and engaging in politics. While politics can often times be very divisive, one thing that most Americans would agree on is that truth is a rare commodity when it comes to the political arena. It’s been said that there’s only one time when politicians are untruthful: when their lips are moving.

I realize this may be an overstatement, at least for some, but it’s sad when an entire profession, which enjoys referring to themselves as “public servants,” is characterized as dishonest.

But what about you and me? When people think of us, both personally and in our profession or businesses, does the word honesty come to mind? Is truth a word that characterizes your business? Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to determine if Truth is not only important but is it a value that others see in you.

Do you fudge on truth?

In business, there are a myriad of relationships in which we are engaged. Whether it’s our employees and partners, lenders and vendors, or customers and prospects, we are regularly confronted with the option to communicate truthfully or “fudge” the truth to fit our agenda or gain an advantage. Whether our motivation is pure financial profit, or perhaps it’s a power or prestige issue, we can often be tempted to exaggerate, confuse or disguise the absolute truth. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to justify communicating in an untruthful manner.

I can recall at one point in our business that my business partner and I had the unpleasant task of meeting with one of our lenders which had financed the construction of four of our projects. We owed the lender over $15 million and several of the properties they had financed were not living up to our projections or their expectations. If you ever figuratively “went to the woodshed” as a child, that’s what this meeting was like. Clearly, the temptation was great to simply tell the lender what they wanted to hear. But it would have been untruthful.

The meeting grew very tense with the executive of the lender hurling a string of obscene expletives at us. In the heat of the moment, I responded that if he wanted the keys to the properties he was welcome to them. We were doing the best we could do and if that wasn’t good enough, then he was welcome to step in and take them over. It’s interesting how simply responding firmly in truth changed the entire demeanor of the conversation. While the facts were still the same, the attitude of the lender changed when he understood that we could not simply promise him what he wanted to hear. As a footnote, several years later when we sold our company, those four properties contributed significantly more in value than their associated debt.

Do you invite truth from others?

In politics, it’s easy to see whether a politician is interested in the truth by observing with whom he surround himself. Are his advisors and team members simply “yes” men who tell him what he wants to hear or does he open himself up to divergent views and opinions? There’s a verse that says, “Iron sharpens iron.” The concept is that as we hear the truth from others we trust, we ourselves are sharpened in the process.

Do you invite input from your team, advisors, and customers that might conflict with your views, even if at times it might be hard to hear? And if you do, are there times when the truth they share with you causes you to change your attitude, behavior or actions? Truth is sometimes hard to receive, but it’s critical that we display an attitude that invites it. Doing so reveals another important quality we all need, humility.

compassAs I think of the importance of truth in my life and business I am reminded of this verse: “Truth has stumbled in the streets.”  (Isaiah 59:14) Sadly we see the reality of this verse being borne out in all areas of our society including politics, business, athletics and even in the church.  Just this last month, corporate giant VW was caught in a scandal that involves millions of their vehicles and will cost the company billions of dollars, but more importantly their reputation will be tarnished for years.  And it all originated from a scheme to cover up the truth.

At the end of the day, truth is one of the most important qualities in both your life and business.  Embrace truth and you can overcome or confront any obstacle in your life.  Compromise truth though, or even worse reject it, and you can be certain that those same obstacles will come back to haunt you.

“At the end of the day, Truth is one of the most important qualities in both your life and business.  Embrace Truth and you can overcome or confront any obstacle in your life.  Compromise Truth though, or even worse reject it, and you can be certain that those same obstacles will come back to haunt you.”

Mark

Supercharge Your Success: The Power of a Mentor

Supercharge Your Success: The Power of a Mentor

supercharge

Americans are universally noted for their expectations of immediate results.  Whether it’s fast food, easy weight loss programs, get rich schemes, or you name it, if there’s a way to do something quicker or better, we’re up for it.

The same holds true for success.  We all want to know the secrets to success.  How can we get there quicker?  What are the “x” steps to achieve your dreams in life?

awake-mentorBut in truth, there are principles that we can all learn and practice that will “supercharge” our success.  By “supercharge” I mean greatly enhance, improve and hasten our efforts at achieving success and reaching our goals.  One such principle involves the power of a mentor.

A mentor is simply someone with greater experience or expertise than one possesses in a particular subject, and the mentor is willing to come alongside and share that knowledge or wisdom.

We often think that mentors benefit younger folks with little life experience who are just getting started on the road to success.  And there is no doubt that mentors can be a great resource for the young.  But in truth, we all can benefit from mentors.

Two verses come to mind that deal with mentors.  In Proverbs 3:1-2 we read:

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”

And in Proverbs 1:5 we read:

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

We see in these two proverbs that a “son” needs input and counsel as does the wise and discerning person.  We are all in need of counsel, input and coaching, and the more, the better.

There are many benefits to having a mentor but here are just five suggestions on how a mentor can help supercharge your success:

1.  To avoid pitfalls, learn from a mentor’s mistakes

We all make mistakes and poor choices which typically lead to negative consequences, from delaying our progress to impacting our wallet.  But what if you could go back and prevent those mistakes altogether?  What if you could reverse the clock on those consequences?  Well, frequently the pitfalls of others can be a learning experience for us.  Hence, the mistakes of a mentor can offer us the opportunity to avoid the same consequences.

2.  Two minds are better than one

I love the collective power of multiple minds, often called a mastermind.  When you combine one mind with another, the results can be greater than the sum of the two.  Brainstorming is a useful exercise that can often result in some of the most ingenious ideas or solutions that would have never been realized if only one mind had been involved.  Bringing a mentor’s mind into your life can help you explore, test and secure answers to difficult questions that appear to have no solutions. When you harness the power of multiple minds, you have just supercharged your potential.

I remember one such instance in my life when my business was in a rapid state of growth.  My business partner and I were at odds and it appeared we were headed for some serious conflict.  At the time, Roger was an older, seasoned businessman who was also my personal mentor and I met with weekly.  He also sat on the board of our company.  As a result of Roger’s involvement and wisdom, he suggested some creative solutions that resolved the conflict and led us to restructure our roles in a manner that served the company well.  And ultimately Roger’s mentoring contributed to the sale of our company, at a value greater than $100 million (see The $100 Million Napkin).

When you harness the power of multiple minds, you have just supercharged your potential.

3.  Encouragement when needed

In business, just as in life, there are times when an entrepreneur can become discouraged.  Whether it’s losing a long-term customer, a key employee’s departure, a devastating new government regulation, or a catastrophe of some sort, circumstances can arise that can dampen an entrepreneur’s spirits.  At times like these it’s critical that a mentor is in the picture.  When we are discouraged, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture.  We can often become so overwhelmed with the immediate problem that we fail to see the obvious solutions.  But having an objective mentor who seeks our best interest can help us see the forest for the trees and provide us with the stability we need during trying times.

4. Provide opportunities for networking

Networking in one’s career, business and life is a key ingredient to success.  A person will never build a business or life completely on his own.  There is no such thing as a “self-made” millionaire.  Instead, much of an entrepreneur’s success is achieved by the relationships and contacts he forges along the way.  I have personally seen the value of networking through a mentor.  In addition to the wisdom a mentor offers, he can also bring an array of contacts that can frequently bring solutions to specific challenges we might face.  Remove the mentor and you may remove the precise individual whom he knows that could hold the key to a major obstacle you are encountering.

5.  A book can be a mentor

This last point may catch you off guard but I have found that one of the most powerful mentors in my life can be the written word.  Books are simply the thoughts of others expressed in writing.  The wisest man that ever lived (as well as the wealthiest) was King Solomon who lived approximately 3,000 years ago.  He expressed his thoughts, counsel and wisdom for the benefit of his son and the rest of us in Proverbs, the ancient book of wisdom.

[imageframe lightbox=”yes” lightbox_image=”http://www.awaketofreedom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Plan-Fails-600.jpg” style_type=”dropshadow” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”#f7f7f7″ bordersize=”15px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”right” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed[/imageframe]I have made it a goal to read through Proverbs on a regular basis because the principles communicated by Solomon are timeless.  There are 31 chapters in Proverbs so I like to read one chapter every day of the month.  While a chapter can be read in 5 minutes, the truths and wisdom in those chapters can be meditated on for hours.  I would encourage you to do the same.  If you have a smartphone, you can download a Bible app here and read it each morning on your phone or iPad, or even have it read to you as you drive in your car.

So, are you ready to supercharge your success?  Don’t try to do it alone.  Rather, find a mentor to walk beside you.  Seek out a more seasoned individual in the areas with which you need input.  You won’t be disappointed and your success will be enhanced and the likelihood of your goals being achieved will be greatly improved.

Mark

The Value of Coaching

Growing up were you involved in sports or some kind of extracurricular activity?  Do you remember having that special coach or mentor who greatly impacted your life?  Did their words of wisdom and informed perspective provide insights to you that resulted in improvement, achievement, the ability to overcome and success?  I can remember Coach J in my life.  He came alongside me during my teenage years and the input he provided along with the example he lived were deeply impactful. I am grateful to Roger, a retired executive who became a regular part of my life as I met with him weekly for several years during some particularly challenging times in my business life.  His steady influence and regular engagement with me contributed to much success.  Find out more how coaching can benefit you, by clicking here.