Musings On A Move …

As some of you may know, about two years ago, I chose to join my wife in her new real estate career … mostly just to show support, handle the “techie” stuff, and because I have long wanted to test something.

That “something” is the decades-old result of my taking a Holland vocational assessment (link leads to an interactive online version of the assessment) while in high school.  The Holland code is often referred to as RIASEC., reflecting the six letters which represent basic vocational directions:

RIASEC Hexagon


Realistic (Doers)

Investigative (Thinkers)

Artistic (Creators)

Social (Helpers)

Enterprising (Persuaders)

Conventional (Organizers) 

Taking the assessment provides you with the three letters of the six above which appear to represent your preferences.  The code is not about skill, ability, or aptitude, but simply what appeals most to you based on your personality.

It’s a combination of personality theory and vocational choice that has stood the test of time and is still used by many to assess and plan careers.  I myself have used it off and on throughout work in management, education, social services, counseling, leadership development, training, and business/life coaching.

I Am Social, Enterprising, and Artistic (Original Order of My Holland Code)

On a personal level, I have taken versions of the instrument every now and then.  Even with increasing and varied experience in different jobs and career fields, my results are amazingly consistent in terms of the three letters which describe me:  SEA (Social, Enterprising, Artistic).  The order changes sometimes, but the core elements remain and as I reflect on almost six decades of work, I can attest to the accuracy of this assessment, especially as it concerns the Artistic and Social elements of my results.

Being a real estate agent and REALTOR®, I am now in a position for the very first time to determine the accuracy of that Enterprising part. 

All Work Involves Some Aspect of Selling, Influence, and Transaction.

We are all engaged in building relationships, whether those be with clients, customers, the public, our colleague or co-workers, those who report to us and those to whom we report, or anyone else with whom we come into contact.


However, for the first time in my working life, I am tasked with literally making my living through using whatever enterprising skills I have to create relationships.  No paycheck occurs, unless I sell, first myself, then a “deal” to others. 

So this is the forward direction for this blog.  I have waited almost two years to begin this new journey, because I am just now starting to feel comfortable in this new role.  As I can, I plan to share my reflections on how this is all working, mostly in three significant directions:

SELF-LEADERSHIP: How we handle ourselves when we work for ourselves

RELATIONSHIPS AND TEAMS: At the heart of both the sales process and collaboration in a world of self-employed people

THE SALES PROCESS:  Elements and strategies for ethical and win-win transactions

I hope you will stay tuned for what is to come and react to whatever I offer in whatever way you deem fit.


Saturday Morning Sales Meetings …

TiesAs a Promising Young Man, I spent a few years in retail …

During that period, I worked in a culture that does not always seem still with us, at least as strongly as I felt it.

Part of the ritual involved Saturday Morning Sales Meetings, where we gathered in the shoe department (more chairs) to hear about special promotions, the latest in merchandise from each department, and to learn how to sell in the spirit of the traditional and slightly upscale retailer within whose walls we toiled.

From 9:00 AM to 9:25 AM, we were a learning machine.  Then, the doors opened for business and it was show time …

This was a somewhat surreal time for a farm boy, still getting used to the Big City and its ways.  As I continued, I became part of the agenda for these regular gatherings and learned some of the simple, but effective presentation and speaking skills that I still use every single day.

During that period, I had several teachers, some of whom reported to me, some of whom I reported to, and some who were just walking the same path at the same time.  We had four classrooms, each with their own set of rules and ambiance:

1)  The Sales Floor …

Sacred Space where the transaction occurred.  Whatever was going on in your life, it had no place on the sales floor.  This was public space, where both colleagues and the public gathered.  Your actions and your words were public and fair game for comment, especially by other salespeople.  Did I mention we worked on commission?   One reason existed for this space and one reason only:  To sell the customer what they needed at a reasonable price through careful listening and excellent service.

2)  The Back Stock Room

Just off the Sacred Space above.  A place for a quick and quiet correctional chat with a supervisor, a venting place for frustrations with whatever had just happened out in the Sacred Space.  A safe, but temporary space for getting yourself quickly back into Sacred Space mode.   Also a great place to keep the clutter and back stock out of the public eye.  We all used this space on an “as needed” basis.

3)  The Store Manager’s Office …

Official space, where formality ruled and things happened.  Sometimes a place of great pleasure, when you received news of a promotion or a raise, while at other times, a place of pain …    Never entered casually and not part of the daily grind.

4)  The Back Dock and Shipping Area …

My personal favorite space, where lessons were learned and reflection on the business and on life itself occurred.  A leveling place, where the titles fell away and one could just talk.   Work always awaited here, even if just breaking down boxes, packing up things to ship out, or checking out new merchandise, but that was just the excuse to visit a much more personal sacred space.  Those who frequented this part of the operation were both more grounded in reality and more thoughtful about the philosophical aspects than those who lived and died on the Sales Floor.

So this was one of my earliest learning environments.  Here are some lessons learned through repeated behavioral modification in one or another of these four learning spaces:

The customer, right or wrong, is the reason I am here …

Helping the customer have a pleasant and rewarding experience magically contributes to a paycheck each week …

Every customer does not know what they want …

Sometimes a customer wants something for which a more suitable alternative exists …

At times in life, you just have to smile and swallow your impulses …

What was your early learning experience?

Remembering with deep appreciation an earlier time in the Heartland ….


Book Review: The Age of The Customer: Prepare For the Moment of Relevance by Jim Blasingame

AgeOfTheCustomer_4b-300x300I was prepared not to care much for Jim Blasingame …

I think to myself:  Here is another opinionated, contrarily-minded, “expert” who’s going to tell me how things have changed and are changing, and then sell me his approach to how to successfully navigate that change … like he knows all there is we need to know … just like all the other authors in the leadership and business genre.

Pleasant Surprises:  

Yes, Jim is opinionated … but he backs up his opinions and they become well-thought out positions.

Yes, Jim is contrary .. . but not really.  He IS independently minded and does not suffer fools, fads, or fiction easily.

Yes, he is an “expert”, but you can remove the quotation marks, because he truly knows what he is talking about.

In all honesty, I am still reading this book, but the general idea is that the focus (and the power) is shifting from the seller to the customer.  Our brave new world of technology and connection has leveled the playing field a bunch and we are no longer dominated by a few mega-corporations.

This is good news for the little and medium-sized guys … not so good news for those who labor in mega-corporations

He also talks about the “moment of relevance” and how a small business can prepare to take advantage of this critical point and he does so clearly and with solid thinking.

Being a little bit contrary myself, I read Chapter 17 first … the title of “Social Media: A Rose by Any Other Name” caught my attention, since I spend much time in the social media environment.    Several things about this chapter make it an important one and a good choice for your start:

1)  Jim devotes the first paragraph to a self-description which provides a context for understanding his comments much  better.

2)  Whether we are comfortable with the idea or not, social media is going to continue to play a significant role in our shared future.

3)  Jim displays a common-sense and balanced approach to how we use social media.  This is way beyond the “You need a Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, and a Facebook page” level of coaching that is the norm these days for social media usage.

Jim’s observations and suggestions for how you, as a small business,  approach your social media presence and use are solidly anchored in what makes good business sense. 

Read this book, follow Jim’s advice, and your small business will be ready for your moments of relevance.

Enjoying reading a book I thought I would not enjoy in the Heartland ….



Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, will be launching on January 27, 2014.

Disclaimer:  A copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes … and I am very happy that this happened, because I otherwise might not have been exposed to Jim and his thinking about how to move ahead.

Guest Post: Self-Publishing With A Twist …

BooksThis guest post is by Keri of Kickstand Books , an interesting new function of HandleBar Publishing … not your father’s mega-publishing company:)

The world of books is changing and these folks are leading that change.  If you are thinking about writing a book, have written a book, but not published, or are just curious about the current world of book publishing, read on … then visit the links above to learn more.

Should you self-publish your book?

How to get the book that’s “in you” out to the world

You’ve got a book in you—you’re sure of it. Whether it’s an amazing story, or solid expert advice, you know others would benefit from the book you’re already writing in your head.

So, what is the best way for you to go about getting this book out to the masses? You’ve got a few options; we’ll walk you through them here.

Traditional Publishing
Getting your book published has never been tougher—if you go the traditional royalty publisher route. Traditional, or “royalty” publishing, works like this: you (or more accurately, your literary agent) queries a publishing company with a book proposal. If the publisher “buys” your book, they’ll offer you an advance (sometimes) and a small cut of the book sales proceeds. In return, they’ll edit the book, cover the costs of production (including the cover), printing, and so forth. But this also gives them editorial control and more sway in your brand management. The publisher handles distribution—getting your book into stores and online sellers—and book promotion, handling some marketing, but leaving a larger chunk to you than you might expect.

Self-publishing is a risk you, the author, take on in full. You can expect to pay all publishing costs: editing, design, printing, marketing, advertising and distribution. Because of this, you also have control of the product: you have final say on the cover, the content, and marketing plan. Once the expenses are paid, the author receives the profits from sales. The risk to you is greater, but so is the reward.

Self-publishing, as the name implies, can be a lonely job—you are on your own, often being funneled through a cookie-cutter type system. You’re doing it all by yourself. You’ll learn by making mistakes, and some of those “lessons” can be expensive. You may just want to write, but a self-published author also serves as business manager, brand manager, and more.

Self-Publishing with an Experienced Team
There is a third option in the new world of publishing: you can self-publish with a team.

Hiring a team of publishing professionals can make the self-publishing process much easier, less lonely, and increase the quality of your end product greatly.

You’ll also avoid costly mistakes by relying on the book professionals’ expertise. And you’ll be able to hand off much of the “book business” tasks so that you can focus on being an author—while still retaining control of content and the overall process.

Working with a self-publishing team like Kickstand Books is like hiring a personal concierge when exploring a new area. Having traveled this way before, this team can steer you in the right direction, help you make good choices, and take care of details that you, the author, might prefer not to handle. The team at Kickstand prides itself on the white glove service offered to each author, creating quality products every time including top design, printer negotiations, and more behind-the-scenes tasks most authors would prefer to leave to someone else.

Self-publishing can be a challenging yet gratifying option for authors, especially when they have a team of professionals working with them.

John again: If Keri’s word make you want to find out more, go to Kickstand Books and dig in.

Wondering what to wear at my first book-signing event in the Heartland ….:)