Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Routine or a Rut?...

I recently attended a college football game involving my alma mater, San Diego State. This particular game was a part of Homecoming weekend. While participating in some "pre-game festivities", I happened to run into several old college friends.

As would be expected, the question "How are you doing?" frequently came up during one of these encounters.

When asked, I explained to them that life was really good for me at the moment... I am in excellent health... our business is growing each year... my relationship with friends and loved ones were strong and operated without any drama... and with the kids mostly grown, I finally had some free time for myself and to share with others less fortunate.

Life at the moment is good...

As I retold my story several times that afternoon, I began to give some serious thought to how very ordinary and simple my life had become.

Was my life in a rut?

My life is very much based on simple routines. I get up each day at 6 am... I prepare a cup of hot peppermint tea... lie on the sofa while reading the newspaper... check my e-mail... take a shower... get dressed in practically the same (albeit clean) clothes... make the bed... leave for work... drive the same route... park in the same space... etc...

I rarely vary my routines... I have grown accustom to doing things the same way each day... I rarely need to think about what I need to do next because I already know what I’m supposed to do.

To most people, it probably sounds like an incredibly boring life... doing the same thing day after day... week after week... year after year...

Although my life is very much built upon the foundation of routine... but I don’t really consider life to be boring in any way.

Routines are there for the basic maintenance functions of life. These are things that need to get done... but you don’t want to spend mental energy on them. Things like chores and obligations.

My daily routines are simply just the structure and boundaries in which I can freely operate the remaining portion of my life.

By employing simple routines in my life, I can free up time to spend on important things... things like creative outlets, opportunities to learn new things, and personal development. The time is also spent on fostering old relationships as well as creating new ones.

Often, some of my best thinking is done while doing some mundane routine daily task. For instance, I tend to develop a lot of good ideas while driving to and from work each day or while working out at the gym after work.

Routine allows you to become organized so you can get things of importance done. Many people never seem to get anything done because they are so disorganized and lack focus. Employing routines and processes allow us the opportunity to get our lives organized.

Getting organized is indeed good, but one needs to avoid falling into the trap of over-organizing. These are the great "paper shufflers" of the world. They seem to be constantly working... but in reality they never seem to get anything done. They spend so much of their time organizing, separating, and sorting, that they rarely have any additional time to actually accomplish anything meaningful.

Routines are meant to simplify life not make it more complicated...

So what is the difference between life of routine and being in a rut?

Being in a rut is when we have the extra time, but we do nothing to really improve our lives. We waste the opportunity to grow as a person or to make a difference in the world. A rut is when we find ourselves incapable of creating new ideas, formulating unique opinions, or thinking independently.

Routine gives us opportunity... but it’s important that we do something with the opportunity once we have it.

Ruts are easy to get into. We get lazy... we get complacent... we get tired.

In order for us to avoid falling into ruts, we need to create challenges for ourselves. We need to learn new things, and create new experiences. We need to create new relationships while nurturing existing ones.

We need to stretch our horizons beyond what we are doing today and try something new... something that makes us think... something that moves us to action...

Routines help us to organize and maintain our daily lives. They give us the opportunity to create valuable time. Time that can be spent making a true difference in ourselves and the world around us...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that servicing our customers is anything but routine...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Business Simplified...

America is the land of opportunity and regardless of politics; it is still a great place to start a small business.

Enter my friend Michelle... 

Michelle currently works as a customer service representative for a large electronics company. She really likes what she is doing but after 19 years she is yearning for a new challenge in her life. 

Michelle and I have been friends for many years so she contacted me with a new idea for a business to see if I might be able to give her a few pointers on how to get started.  We agreed to meet at a local coffee shop where we could sit down and discuss some of her business ideas. 

After a few minutes of small talk, I asked her to describe her new business idea. 

I sat and listened to her describe a very unique product idea having to do with a portable baby stroller (I'm not going to share her exact idea as I've been sworn to secrecy). 

After listening for about 15 minutes, I told her that I think her idea was really good and that she should take the next step forward in bringing her new product to market.   

With this she stared back at me with a bewildered "deer-in-the-headlights" type of look.  

"So what should I do next?" she inquired. 

"Well..." I answered, "You should probably think about getting together with some sort of technical designer so you can put your product idea on paper." 

"After you have an actual design... you might want to think about having a couple of prototypes made to see if the design has any merit." 

She looked at me... still a bit confused. 

"Where do I find this designer person?" she asked. 

I gave her some guidance regarding as to where she might locate a CAD designer and where she might go to have a prototype built without breaking the bank. 

She scribbled several notes on her yellow pad and then looked up at me and sighed, "I don't know... all this business stuff is so intimidating... I'm not an MBA... how do I learn about all this business stuff?"  

"Look Michelle... running a small business might seem complicated... however at its core, business is really quite simple." 

"Several years ago I attended a conference where the key note speaker, entrepreneurial "guru" Verne Harnish, gave a talk about the structure of business.  He stripped it down to just 6 core essential elements... let me share them with you today." 

Business, at its core, really just consists of six things: 


Shareholders / Bankers

Producing a product or service
Record keeping 



In order to be a business concern, you will need customers... plain and simple.  The way to acquire customers is to create a message and then broadcast that message through multiple channels to a target audience. 

The message might be about your products, your services, your quality, your customer support, convenience, special pricing, selection, or whatever you feel your potential customers might need to know about you and your company. 

Typically this function of a business is called Marketing.     


Unless you are a sole practitioner (which really isn't a business... it's a job), you will want to hire employees to do some work.  The idea behind having employees is that they can produce more revenues than they cost creating a profit for the company. 

In order for this to happen, the right employees need to be hired.  They need to be trained and be put in a position to succeed.  Once they are creating profits for the company they have become very valuable so care needs to be taken to ensure that they stay with the company. 

Typically this function of a business is called Human Resources (HR). 

Shareholders / Bankers 

Starting and operating a business takes capital (money). 

The money to operate a business can only come from three sources:  selling shares of the business to investors (shareholders), borrowing the money from a lender (bankers), or from profits of continuing operations. 

A start-up business has no profits from continuing operations so it needs to rely on investment capital and borrowing.   This investment can come from the company's founders (you), friends and family members, or on occasion, venture or "angel" funding.  This seed money will help to pay the expenses of the company until which time the company can earn a profit. 

The function of the business is typically handled by the company Chief Financial Officer. 


Producing a product or providing a service 

This is the area that most people think of when they think about business. 

If the company is product oriented, then the product must first be created and then manufactured.  Many would-be entrepreneurs might have a great idea for a wonderful new product, but the key is to actually make something... not just think about making something. 

Some companies don't have any products but rather provide a service to its customers. 

This function of a business is called Engineering, Manufacturing and/or Operations. 


If it's the marketing department's function to find the prospect, then it's the sales department to make sure that prospect becomes a customer. 

Marketing finds a way to bring the potential customer to the car lot... Sales makes sure the customer on the lot drives away in a new car. 

Marketing is about people... sales is about activities. 

Record Keeping  

It is vital that all businesses keep good records.  Without record keeping, it would be impossible to determine if the company is producing profits or losses.   

Record keeping tracks where revenues are being produced and where expenses are being made. 

Record-keeping is also about creating systems and controls to help manage, store and quickly recall the data and information.  

Record keeping is typically the function of the Accounting department but also encompasses the IT department as well. 

People vs. Activities 

It's important to note that the first three elements of business - Customers, Employees and Shareholders - are about people.   

The second three elements of business - Products / Services, Sales, Record Keeping - are about activities. 

We manage only activities... not people... instead we lead people... 

With people... we look to acquire them... grow them... and keep them... 

With activities... we look for faster, cheaper, and better... 

This is business in a nutshell... 

My time with Michelle was coming to a close.  

I told her to send me an e-mail reminding me to send her a few product designer contacts. 

She nodded in agreement and we left the coffee house going our own separate ways. 

As I drove back to the office that afternoon, I wondered if Michelle would move forward with her ideas.  It takes a special person to venture out of their comfort zone to become an entrepreneur.  It's not for everyone... 

It involves a lot of hard work, dedication and persistance... but the rewards in the end can be great... both in terms of profits and the feeling of making a true difference in the world. 

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we understand that small business is the foundation of our society and we wish well upon those who try to make it a go... 

Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Success?...

Long time readers of the OptiFuse Friday blog  all understand that I typically don’t watch a lot of television. 

Oh sure... there are several shows that I follow throughout the year such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, Shameless, and Nurse Jackie. However, fortunately for me, these shows tend to run in about 15 episode seasons which means I can rotate them so I am only watching one or possibly two shows each week throughout the year.

I find that these shows are all well written, highly acclaimed and very entertaining.
Not watching much TV frees up my evenings to pursue other interests and activities.
Such was the case a few days ago when I happen to be visiting one of my favorite websites - TED Talks.

TED is an acronym that stands for Technology, Education and Design. It is an annual conference that began in Monterey in 1984 and has since spread to other venues around the world.

At TED, speakers are selected to promote ideas that hopefully will educate and inspire... "ideas worth spreading".

TED Talks is a collection of short videos of selected speakers from these past conferences. Anyone with computers and a high-speed internet connection can view these phenomenal short presentations.

One video presentation that I watched a few days ago was by an educator and author named Richard St. John.

Mr. St. John has studied, among other things, the traits and characteristics of very successful people. Some of these people are extremely wealthy business leaders such as Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Sir Richard Branson.

Some of the people are political and military leaders such as Gen. Colin Powell, Gen. David Petraeus, Bill Clinton, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Some of the people are social leaders such as the Dalai Lama and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Some of the people are artists such as film maker James Cameron and actor / comedian / educator Bill Cosby.

Over a period of 10 years, he conducted over 500 face-to-face interviews with highly successful people from different disciplines to try and determine what it was that made them successful. After the interviews, he collected, organized, compiled and distilled the data points and formed his list of 8 traits of highly successful people... success measured over a variety of disciplines and fields.

8 Success Factors


Successful people are successful because they love what they do not because they can make money at it. There is an old adage that says, "if you do what you love to do... you’ll never work a day in your life". Successful people are passionate about what they do. They live it... they breathe it... they want to be doing it for the rest of their lives...


Successful people work hard at getting to where they want to go. They understand that rewards from their hard work will eventually come to them. They don’t look at work as toil and drudgery but rather they enjoy their work and have fun while doing it.


One of the greatest attributes of a highly successful person is focus. They understand the issues in front of them and devote their entire energies and mindshare to problem solving. They don’t spend time on distractions or procrastinate.

Be good at something

Successful people spend their time learning new skills and honing those skills by practice, practice and more practice. They become the expert... the "go to" person... the person who is indispensable. They continue to add new skills, techniques, and talents to their repertoire.

Push yourself
Successful people are self-starters. They want to get out of bed each morning. They want to lead. They have an unquenchable thirst for learning new things. They want new challenges in front of them. Successful people move ahead not because they lack fear... they move forward despite their fears.

Serve others

Successful people understand the "value equation" where people will trade their money, time and/or other resources for something of value. They know how to create something valuable that people want or need. They understand that by first helping others to get what they want... you will allow you the opportunity to get what you want.


Ideas come from listening... they come from observing... they come from asking questions... being curious... solving problems... they come from discussions and personal social interactions. Not all ideas will work... but if you focus on creating a lot of ideas... then some of them will eventually work.


Successful people fail. They have failed in the past... they fail in the present... and they will fail in the future... but after each failure... they get up... dust themselves off... and try again. They persist even though they might fail... they persist even when they are criticized by others... they persist even when their ideas are rejected. 

Success can not solely be defined in term of dollars and cents, a career, or other business ventures.

Success can be found in a successful relationships, philanthropic endeavors, higher education, sports and recreational activities, involvement in the community or places of worship.

Success is the journey... not the desination...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where we strive to help you to find as much success as possible. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Ride Too Far...

"When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place."
                                                 ~ Unknown
Last weekend was abnormally hot for San Diego with temperatures along the coast near 90 degrees.  Despite the heat, I decided that this might be one of the last weekends to ride due to the upcoming end of day light savings at the end of the month...so I left bright and early for a long ride. 

The ride took me away from my house and up along the coast about 40 miles away.  It was about the time when I was planning to turn around and head back home I started feeling a bit more exhausted than normal.

I've been riding all summer so it wasn't that I was out of shape, but the heat that day had begun to take its toll on me. 

I'm not a person who is easily defeated so I just put my head down and kept peddling while making sure that I fed my body plenty of liquids in order to try and stay properly hydrated.

After about 10 miles into my return trip (50 miles in total), my legs really ached.  I was hot and I was really tired. 

Soon all sorts of negative thoughts started going through my brain...

...Why did I have to go this far on such a hot day?

...What if I get in an accident?

...What if I run out of water?

...Am getting too old for such a strenuous activity?

Every thought was a negative thought and I knew that I needed to quickly change my attitude if I was going to make it home.

I decided that I needed to clear my head of negative thoughts and start thinking about positive things.

I began thinking to myself...

...yes 80 miles might be far...but I've ridden farther this past year...so I know that I can do the miles...after a season of riding I'm in really good shape.

...I won't get in any accidents if I keep my wits about me and watch extra carefully for potential traffic hazards.

...I can and should stop every few miles to take in water.  I wasn't racing so I should just take my time...and ride safe.

...I'm still relatively a young man so why am I complaining?

I began setting small goals that I knew that I could achieve.  These small goals might include riding to a stop light that I knew was up ahead a half-mile away...I knew that I could ride a half-mile...so it would not be so daunting...

I also decided to catch up with another rider and strike up a conversation.  The conversation would take my mind off the miles ahead of me even if it were only for a short time.  Plus I could draft behind the rider to help make the riding easier.

I now had the right attitude and small goals that would eventually lead to a bigger goal (getting home safely).

The last 10 miles were agonizing as I knew in the back of my mind that a decent sized hill still lied ahead of me on my way back home.  There was no way around it.  If I wanted to get home...I needed to climb that hill.

When I got to the base of the hill, I decided that I needed to attack the hill with whatever energy that I still had in me.  Plodding up the hill slowly was only going to cause the heat of the sun to bear down on me longer...I was almost home.

After an initial burst of speed, I rose off the seat and put my full weight into each stroke of the pedals.  I counted 20 revolutions of the pedals and then sat back down for 20 revolutions.  I repeated this pattern over and over until I had reached the crest of the hill.

My house was all downhill from there so I was able to coast all the way to my driveway.

As I laid down resting later that afternoon, I thought about the important lessons I had learned that day...

-        It's imperative to recognize the current situation and plan accordingly.  I had taken several long rides before, but never in this type of extreme heat.  Before heading out, I needed to take a step back, review the situation, and adjust my plan accordingly.  It was not very smart of me to remain committed to my original plan when the environment around me had changed.

-        When things start to go badly, it's very easy for negative thoughts to start ruminating throughout our brains.  These negative thoughts can lead to bad decision making, a reduction in applied effort, self-rationalization, stress, self-doubt, and a bad attitude.  Negative thoughts take away our will to fight and can cause us to give up and quit.  We need to fight those negative thoughts...especially when adversity strikes. 

-        A big goal is simply made up of a lot of achievable small goals.  I didn't look at my goal being 40 miles to get back home.  I needed to break it down to single miles and half miles.  I just needed to worry about getting to the next stop light.  Completing small goals is just the first steps in completing larger goals.

-        We all need some help somewhere along our path.  I looked for other riders who could help me to get myself back home that day.  Ask the most successful people in the world and they will tell you that their success was a byproduct of surrounding themselves with a lot of great people.

-        Even when we think that we have done all that we could do, spent all of the all of the energy that we had, or left everything on the field, we can still reach down and find a little bit more.  Successful people seem to find that extra little bit to get them over the last hill when it would have been so easy to quit.
One of the ways I tried to remain positive that day was to replay a new song that I recently heard over and over in my head.  The song is by a young songwriter / artist named Jessie Rubens and it's quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite songs (even though you won't find it on any top 40 chart).  I hope you like it as well...

Sure quitting is easy...but we need to remember to just keep our heads up and keep peddling and soon we'll get to that place that we want to go...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where we are absolutlely positive that we can. 

How To Boil A Frog???

There is an age-old question:  How do you boil a frog?

The answer:  You can't just put the frog into boiling water because the frog will just jump out, so you put the frog in cold water and continue to turn up the temperature one degree at a time until the water is boiling and your frog is cooked.

My friend Julie was recently in negotiations to sell her medium-sized plumbing business to a much larger company.  She has been in business now for about 30 years and has seen her company grow substantially over the years.  She had grown tired of the plumbing business and wants to branch out into other areas.

Her business has several employees and it makes Julie a comfortable living each year, although she doesn't put in the hours or the energy she once did.

The concern trying to buy her company is a much larger company based on the east coast who is looking to break into the west coast market.  The larger company is professionally managed and has made several acquisitions in the past.

The bigger company has a great reputation in the industry for treating employees well and prides itself on the quality of its customer service and customer satisfaction.

Through the help of a local investment banker, the two sides quickly settled upon a fair price for the business.  The deal was structured to where 65% of the purchase price was to be paid up front with the remaining 35% paid over a three-year period based on the future performance of the company. 

By structuring the pay-out in this way, the acquiring company could mitigate some of the inherent risk by forcing the seller to continue operating the business in a profitable manner.  This way, an orderly transition from one owner to another could be made.  If the customers were to go away, so did a substantial portion of the sales price.

Once the deal was initially agreed upon, the purchasing company began their due-diligence process.  This is a period of time when the acquiring company reviews the books, records, contracts, financials and other key pieces of information related to the company that they are acquiring.  This is standard practice in most mergers and acquistions.

Although Julie gave them most of pertinent information upfront, the new company wanted to perform their own audit of the company.  The aquiring company sent in their team of forensic accountants to review all of the records and to meet with key personnel.

After a few days, investment banker called Julie.  The acquiring company had found several things during their initial due-diligence that concerned them.  These items were not major problems but they were issues concerning the concentration of accounts. 

Julie's company performed a lot of work for one really larger property management company and that this customer represented about 30% of all of Julie's company's revenues.  This was a concern for the new company in that if this customer went away, so would 30% of their revenue.

Due to this "issue", the acquiring company proposed that only 55% of the purchase price be paid upfront and 45% would be earned over the next three-years but overall the price would remain the same. 

Julie understood their concerns but felt confident that their key customer would remain with the company, so she agreed to this new change in terms.

A few days later, the due-diligence team found another possible issue.  This time it concerned the company's insurance rates which were much lower than the industry average. 

Julie explained that the insurance rates were low due to her conscientious employees who rarely had accidents on the job.  Since the front-line employees were staying with the company, she sensed that her lower rates would remain the same. 

The acquiring company explained that this was really an aberration and that rates would surely go up in the near future, therefore the company's future earnings would affected and therefore a slightly lower purchase price would need to be negotiated.

Once again Julie, who really wanted the deal to go through, accepted the new terms.

A few days later the due-diligence team found yet another problem...and the terms were renegotiated...and then again another problem...and the terms were renegotiated...and so forth.

Soon the deal hardly reflected the deal that they had first struck only a few months ago.  However, by this time, Julie had already spent several tens of thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees.  The acquiring company had also spent a great deal of money doing all of their legal and account investigations.

Julie had agreed to all the little changes in terms but the deal was now substantially different than the original deal.

After some deep soul-searching and counsel from some of her good friends, she realized that she couldn't sell her company under the terms and conditions that were now on the table.

She mustered up the courage to call the acquiring company and told them that she wasn't able to sell under these terms and conditions and needed to just walk away from the table.  There were threats of legal action and recourse but in the end the deal just died and ultimately both parties went their own ways.

Julie's story isn't atypical.  How many times in our own lives do we continue down a path seemingly longer than we should even though we know in our hearts that it is the wrong path?

We continue to stay in a bad relationship...we stay at a bad job...we let ourselves be bullied or taken advantage of by relatives, friends, bosses and/or colleagues...

Maybe we allow this to happen to us because we give ourselves excuses...we have kids...because we feel fortunate just to have a job in this economy...because we're afraid...or maybe because we just don't know any better...

We rationalize our situation by saying to ourselves, "Better to live unhappily than to live alone or to live poor"... (I'm told that to "rationalize" is nothing more than telling ourselves "rational lies").

The sad part is that we aren't even aware of what is happening to us until many times it's too late...we started in cold water...but the temperature has been increasing over time...and now it's boiling...but we're too afraid to jump out of the pot.

Changing our lives takes courage and determination...but we can do it...we need to just take that leap upwards and forward...to a place outside the boiling water...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse, where the water is always the right temperature for your comfort.