Extra Points: Empathy

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40This past week was marked by the deaths by suicide of two prominent celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I knew of Kate Spade because I have a wife and daughters who all carry purses (and I think at least one of them is her brand); however I really followed Anthony Bourdain’s work as a foodie and amateur cook always looking to learn. I found his work on television to not only be educational, but edgy, provocative, and entertaining. Both deaths from all appearances seem shocking to even those that knew them well.

I’m no expert on depression, mental illness, or what would compel someone to commit suicide. What I do know is that money, fame, and success don’t deter the action; in fact they might actually contribute to it. I’ve seen countless pleas from people on social media trying to raise awareness of depression and as noble as that is, I’m not sure it leads to people with depression suddenly coming forward, or to make it easier for those that don’t to observe it. What I do find poignant is the testimony of those who are brave enough to share their stories of depression and mental illness to help raise the depth of the discussion.

Life is volatile and we humans are complicated. Emotions and our sheer humanity are shared equally among us regardless of station in life or money in the bank. We all strive for peace in our hearts, acceptance from friends and family, reward in our work, and strong, loving relationships. What I fear is happening in our world is a decrease in empathy; a growing unwillingness to genuinely understand someone else. Social media has become a repository of judgments and opinions meant to harm others emotionally.

We all can become better when it comes to empathy and concern for others. While there’s no proof that a change in this will reduce tragic suicides or alleviate mental illness, it can’t hurt. And, if we do make even slight changes, think about how this will positively affect us individually and improve the relationships we have.

Quote of the Week:

”Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”

~ Anthony Bourdain

© 2018 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The key to personal and professional improvement is accountability. My mentoring and coaching program has availability. Contact me at dan@danweedin.com or (360) 271-1592 to apply.

The 100 Deadliest Days

The 100 days between Memorial and Labor Days are the deadliest on American highways. You likely know the reasons: more cars, more drinking, more impatience, more rage, more distractions.

As a risk management expert, I promise you that the greatest risk you take daily is getting in your car and driving. As your public service announcement (and because I care), please don’t drive distracted meaning: texting, intoxicated, angry, eating, stupid, medicated, with a dog on your lap, shaving, putting on makeup, dialing or answering your phone, or complacent.

I have plenty of reasons to avoid doing any of these, and these are two of the biggest ones.

Nothing is so important that the risk is worthy it. Be safe out there this summer.

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© 2018 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Being Entrepreneur

58842029-Dan+Weedin+Unleashed-43 copyIt takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur.

It requires a rare blend of risk taker, visionary, creative thinker, resilience, perseverance, confidence, and tenacity to even start a business, much less run one successfully. It’s not for the faint of heart. Since the week of November 13-17 is Global Entrepreneurship Week, this month’s column will offer entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ideas on growing and protecting a successful business.

The dictionary defines entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” With all due respect, I would revise that to “always” with considerable initiative and risk to health, wealth, and sanity. While entrepreneurs built this country, it’s never been the easy way to go in creating a way of life. As both a former employee and an entrepreneur, I can confidently say that employees rarely lack the full understanding or empathy for what it takes to start and build any business. It’s the ultimate risk and reward situation. To that end, let’s examine a few thoughts I have for both starting and growing a business:

Starting Out:

  1. You have an idea on how to create a business out of your skill set? Great. You’d better also have a passion for it because you will be tested. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you will die on a hill for it, and sometimes that’s what it might ask you to do. It’s a two-sided sword you must wield: competence and passion.
  2. You need boldness and confidence. This is no place for the meek. While humility is a personal virtue, nobody wants to hire a humble consultant, attorney, IT expert, contractor, CPA, or brain surgeon. I’m not suggesting arrogance, which is aloofness with no care for the well being of others. Confidence is believing that you are highly skilled and able to improve the conditions of others with genuine concern for their improvement. You must be able to boldly project and communicate that confidence.
  3. You need to line up enough financial reserves for six months. While it may not take that long to get going making money, you don’t need the stress of a financial burden to cause desperation.
  4. Create a marketing “process.” Business plans look good on a shelf, but often don’t ever get looked at. What you need to focus on in as acquiring clients. That means picking up the phone, setting meetings, and solving problems for them.
  5. Plan for obstacles. Bad things happen. Whether in your control or not, you need to create a strategy and plan for being resilient. It’s a combination of adequate insurance, strategic planning, communications, and practice.

Current Entrepreneurs:

  1. Have a board of advisors. Too many entrepreneurs go the “lone wolf” route. The smartest business owners are the ones that surround themselves with experts and sages. Executive coaches, technical experts (finance, IT, Human Resources), and peer groups are crucial for assuring you don’t get caught breathing you own exhaust.
  2. Constantly reinvent. Don’t become stale; rather constantly seek ways to build the better mousetrap; to differentiate yourself from the competition; and to find new ways to help your clients. Business (and life) is about changing realities. Be on the cutting edge of change.
  3. Hire strong people. Building a strong team is paramount to growing and transitioning out of your business. Don’t settle for warm bodies; rather demand excellence from your team. That starts with you. Modeling and mentoring is required to build a top-flight team of employees.
  4. Plan for obstacles. Look familiar? Let’s just say “ditto” for the suggestions from above. Entrepreneurs may be resilient by nature, but often get bloodied and bruised in the process. Make it easier for yourself with proper pre-planning of crisis and critical systems.
  5. Remember to have fun. I’ve met too many entrepreneurs that work themselves to a frazzle. They become a worse boss than the one they left to start a business. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, then you should go get a job working for someone else. It’s not worth the sacrifice if you’re not enjoying the journey.

Bonus: Vibe Coworks in Poulsbo will be offering an exciting lineup of events, activities, and workshops to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Check out their schedule at www.VibeCoworks.com. What an opportunity to learn more and engage with fellow entrepreneurs.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are the engines that run our communities and country. You are responsible for hiring and developing more people that the Fortune 500 companies. You’ve taken a huge financial and emotional risk, with hopes and dreams of making a better life for yourself and your employees. For all of you, I leave you with three final words of encouragement as you end one year and prepare for the next:

  1. Don’t listen to the haters. You know who they are. They are energy suckers and will only harm you and your business. Stay positive and focused on the next step in the journey.
  2. Don’t be one of the haters. Positivity starts with self-talk. Worry is a bully; it gives you nothing and only takes. Keep your confidence and boldness up.
  3. Utilize help. There’s no glory in being stubborn and trying to do it on your own. There are colleagues, experts, and friends that can help in a multitude of ways, be it emotional or financial. Find those friends that believe in you and always keep fighting the good fight.

It takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur. Go be crazy!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 My November column for the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal.

Veterans Day Special

Dad_DonWeedinIt was February 11, 1942. Just lightly over two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Don Weedin – who celebrated his 17th birthday just the day before – dropped out of school at Bremerton High School.

That morning, he boarded a ferry with his parents and enlisted in the United States Navy. He needed his parents permission because he was under 18 years old. He wanted to go on his birthday as he was eager to enlist; she made him stay and celebrate his birthday with his family. His older brother Max Jr. was already in the war. Grandma feared that neither would come back to her.

Dad served in World War II and for a total of 30 years. He loved the Navy and would have stayed forever if he was allowed to. Growing up as a youngster in the 1970s, the attitude towards veterans and those serving was very different. It was post-Vietnam and at least in my memory, being in the service didn’t have the same level of gratitude. I never could understand why Dad didn’t have a diploma, but rather something called a GED. It wasn’t until I became an adult that the immense nature of his sacrifice began to sink in. Fortunately for me, Dad lived a long life and I was able to express to him my sincere gratitude for his service. He was part of “The Greatest Generation” that Tom Brokaw wrote about. Where once I was ambivalent as a child, today I’m proud.

We all have stories like this to share. My family has deep ties to the armed forces – my father-in-law and sister-in-law were Navy; my brother was Army; my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were Coast Guard; and I have a nephew currently serving in the Air Force. Dad was able to trace our family lineage back to three direct descendant grandfathers that served in the Revolutionary War.

Veterans Day is unique because it’s a day to honor all veterans. Dad was always strong in his belief that Memorial Day was to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Veterans Day is clearly a day to celebrate everyone that ever served.

So for those family members that served or serve – thank you.

To my friends from high school and college that served or serve – thank you.

To those that I will never meet but know that because of you, I get to live in a free country and be able to raise a family and run my own business – thank you.

God Bless America and all veterans….

P.S. My most special thanks to Don Weedin, my dad, who finally got to graduate with his granddaughter Mindy and get the diploma he so richly deserved in 2007.

high school grad

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of Swinging…

cubsAs a lifelong baseball fan (and a novice baseball historian), I LOVE this World Series. The Chicago Cubs are appearing in their first World Series since 1945, and haven’t won one since 1908. The Cleveland Indians have been in two World Series’ in the past 25 years, but haven’t won since 1948.

While there are certainly no players (or even managers and coaches) that were even alive when the Cubs or Indians last won a championship, there is a exponentially heightened air of pressure on both teams to finally break through, especially the Cubs. The weight of decades of failure and futility for the respective cities and fan bases are on their backs. These aren’t robots; they are humans and they fully understand this. For both teams, that extra pressure can cause one to subconsciously try too hard, and those results are normally bad.

The very best athletes know how to slow the game (and their mind) down. They are able to reduce or even eliminate pressure by focusing on the job at hand in the moment. They stick with the process that got them there; they don’t allow one failed at bat or pitch carry over into the future; and they ignore outside voices.

Can you do the same in your business?

Have you ever felt the pressure to perform? We all have. Certainly when times are tough, you might be getting external pressure. Creating new revenue, exceeding sales goals, getting work out faster, etc. Whatever your stress, you are compounding it by adding too much pressure and altering your performance. You’re not letting your own skill shine through.

To stick with the baseball metaphor, you’re trying to hit the curve ball instead of waiting for the right pitch. Curve balls are hard to hit. Rather, stay with your process and force the fastball.

Bottom line – we all feel pressure. Sometimes it’s external; often it’s self-inflicted. In either case, stress can take you out of your game by making you try too hard. This gets compounded by failure. To avoid this, stay in the moment, slow down your brain, have confidence in yourself and your team, and lay off the curve ball. Instead, hit that fastball over the fence!

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A Tribute to Arnold Palmer

thIf only we had cell phone cameras in 1987…

The GTE Northwest Classic was being played at Inglewood Country Club outside of Seattle. The GTE was the senior tour where all the legends of golf (over 50 years old) played. My brother-in-law worked for GTE at the time and got me passage into the tournament to watch. I followed Arnold Palmer for 18 holes.

I started playing golf at 13 years old in 1978. Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros were my first golf heroes. Mr. Palmer by that time was nearing 50 years old and wasn’t a regular on the PGA Tour anymore. However, if you golfed, you knew Arnold Palmer and I was no different.

So when I had a chance to watch The King in person, I devoted the entire round to him. I followed tee to green for all 18 holes, stopping at every shot behind him to eagerly watch him in action. Had I only had my iPhone, you’d have seen a few selfies!

My favorite story of him came midway through that round. Mr. Palmer had hooked a ball a little to the left and found himself stymied by a tree. He stood behind the ball and pensively considered his options. The crowd was hushed in anticipation. Then suddenly breaking the silence, a woman exclaimed, “But Arnie, I’ve seen you hit these in your videos all the time…” The crowd nervously chuckled. Mr. Palmer turned around, made eye contact with the woman, then reached out his club to her and replied, “Okay then. Here, you hit it for me!” He smiled and the crowd erupted. He then on cue hit a beautiful shot right at the green.

Arnold Palmer – like Muhammad Ali who passed earlier this year – transcended his own sport. His dedication to fans, to the game, and to people was an unmistakable hallmark of the man. He touched everybody in the game in some way; and his list of accomplishments and awards outside of golf is impressive, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor. I even noted in reading his biography today that he’s a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, which adds a common bond with me.

Arnold Palmer was a brilliant businessman, basing his entrepreneurship and philanthropy on helping improve the lives of people. He will be sorely missed, however it’s clear his legacy will continue and help others though what he’s made sure to leave behind. The game of golf, the business and philanthropic community, and the world will miss him.

I’m thinking a toast in his honor, lifting a cold Arnold Palmer, is in order…

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved