Noel Tichy

I just received my latest issue of the Michigan Business School Alumni Magazine, Dividend. The Michigan Graduate School of Business has consistently been highly regarded and I am glad to be a graduate. In the late 60’s, the emphasis was very corporate-oriented, for example a course on people(called labor) was entitled Industrial Relations. The intent of the MBA program in general was to produce folks who could manage complex corporate enterprises. To the best of my recollection, there was little on Leadership or managing change. Ford, GM and Chrysler were very prominent in the Michigan MBA world.

Over the years, the focus of the Graduate School has changed for the better. Noel Tichy arrived at Michigan and has written some excellent resources on Leadership. While an academic, Tichy writes from real world experiences, in particular at GE. His latest book is: Judgement: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls written with Warren Bennis. Bennis, of course also being an acclaimed expert on Leadership. I will put this book on my next order from Amazon! And remember to always check my radar screen for the best resources wherever they may be.

Lesson Learned: “With good judgement, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters.”


Leadership Failure

“What we have is a failure of Leadership”

The Secretary of Defense has replaced the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff . This happens very rarely in the Pentagon. There were several reasons cited in the announcement. The transfer of nuclear weapons. A questionable $50,000,000 contract award and the responsiveness of requests by the Secretary of Defense.

I was somewhat dismayed when I read the article as being a Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff are highly regarded leadership positions. The term: “Everything rises and falls on leadership” is not just a cliche. While in my time in the Air Force, I observed really outstanding leaders. In my first assignment, the Systems Project Office was led by Colonel Ed O’Conner, who later became a three star general. Colonel O’Conner was an excellent leader. In my second assignment, we had a Lt Col who had no business being in a demanding R&D position. So like in the Air Force as well as business….there are some great leaders and some folks who should not be in pivitol positions in business and organizations.

Leadership is one of my big soapbox issues. In my experience, without effective leadership, an enterprise, whether business or social is doomed to failure. Leadership can be learned. Excellent leaders spend time and effort to become better leaders….they want to learn more on how to accomplish the mission and reach the vision for their organization.

For great leadership stuff: see John Maxwell, Warren Bennis, Tom Peters



No Hot Water

My Latest Hot Water Experience (or replacing a hot water tank is not so easy)!

Last week we were gone for the better part of the week. Upon returning home we found we had no hot water. The hot water tank was about 15 years old so I was not surprised. Yet somehow furnaces, air conditioners and hot water tanks seemed to be programmed to go bad on weekends. So a new tank needed to be installed….nothing extraordinary or so I thought. I usually am well prepared in doing my homework when it comes to major purchases. However, no hot water is an inconvenience….not a real big deal….but an inconvenience.

So off to Lowes on Saturday morning. They along with Home Depot market quick installation on things such as this. Went to the right department….made the arrangements for an evaluation ($35)….but no installer was talking calls over the weekend. It seems that they should at least have one that is available on weekends. Monday at 2:00 pm installer comes to evaluate. Now he is suppose to get back to Lowes with the details so they can provide a final quote. Tuesday, no quote. Wednesday , no quote. In the meantime I called our regular plumber….he can’t find a suitable replacement….no call back from him. He is now no longer the regular plumber. Wednesday, I call the gas company. They visit and say they can install one in a week. Our hot water use is relegated to filling a pail….sort of like camping out.

On Thursday I become more proactive. Our old hot water tank was made by State Select found through an Internet search. They make a current model that fits our space. I call the distributor and they recommend an installer. I call the installer, Project Services Incorporated, on Friday morning at 9:00 am. Joe gives me a price over the phone. Says he can be there in 45 minutes. At 10:00, Joe and Jeremiah show up with the hot water heater. Two likable young guys.  By 1:00 pm, we have hot water. The bill is less than the gas company. I use a $25 web site coupon. “Thank you Mr. Baker, any problems call us.” “Don’t forget to register your new State Select Hot Water tank with the manufacture.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Businesses solve customer problems. Lowes/Home Depot exist primarily to take the order with minimal selling.
  • Do the research….seek out good businesses.
  • Evaluate the product.There seemed to be several problems with the Whirlpool brand sold by Lowes. Stand behind your product/service.
  • Respond as quickly as possible to customers. Lowes finally called at 8:30pm on Thursday with a quote.


Bennett Pump + Hines Corp.

I happened to watch a segment on TV last week where an economist presented an interesting idea. He said as fuel costs increase….the cost of manufactured products from overseas also increases. His theory is that efficient/innovative manufacturers can now compete and that in turn this will strengthen our manufacturing base.

My hometown in Michigan was a classic manufacturing town. There was CWC Foundry, Continental Motor, Bennett Pump, Shaw-Walker, Norge, Browne-Morse, Clarke Floor Machine, Fitzjohn, Sealed Power. Of course these companies no longer exist in their original form. However….by developing unique markets and recognizing the special capabilities of some of these older companies….Larry Hines has assembled several of these firms into the Hines Corp. I met Larry back in the early 80’s….so his efforts in Western Michigan got my attention.

Hines Corp. owns and operates: Bennett Pump-fuel pumps, Johnston Boiler-fire tube boilers, Pacific Floor Care (from Clarke Floor Machines) and Michigan Spring among others.

The point of the story:Effective leadership combined with savy business acumen can provide new life for unique….specialized….innovative businesses….even those 100 years old!

CoolGem – Different

A friend passed this along. Excellent!

Marketing is more than the sum of its parts.

Company: 72 Degrees Heating and Air Conditioning (highly descriptive)
Advertising: direct mail…”Invest $69 in a precision tune-up for your
air conditioner and I will guarantee you a 100% profit or will return
your $69 with no hard feelings” – compelling (only direct mail I’ve ever
responded to).
First telephone contact: “72 Degrees…how can I make you smile today?”
(I already was)
Second telephone contact: This is Bill, your 72 Degrees technician. I
plan to arrive at your home at 9:30 this morning.” ( he did — on the
First in-person contact: sparkling clean red service truck, sparkling
clean uniform, sparkling clean manners.
Tune-up _ 90 minutes for one of two units; recommended we not tune up                                   second unit since they were both relatively new.
Sales pitch: Explained service contract features and benefits with no
attempt at hard sell. (we deferred until both units were five years old.)

Result: Put all the pluses together for an unbeatable synergistic experience.

Lesson Learned: Be Different! to Be Better!


Sweet Roll

Old Chinese Proverb: A man without a simile should not open a store!

I believe in the free enterprise system. That’s why we have a strong economy and a high standard of living. What it all boils down to is someone selling a product or service and receiving something in return. I find it difficult to fault business. Now I do believe that some businesses are better than others. Some should not be in business. Ethics are critical in business. Businesses provide income to people who in turn buy products/services. So in one form or another we sell to each other all the time. So where am I headed with this?

I was very desirous of a sweet roll last week. I was near a local bakery. I went in. No life in the store.  No background music to create a buying environment. Bakery person seated. No greeting. No smile. Minimal information. No motivation to suggest perhaps a loaf of the Italian bread special. I did buy my sweet roll….however the end result….no selling….just an order taker.

Lesson Learned: Little things….put together makes a business better. No selling will lead to failure.