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Deer hunting & business…

  Well…here I sit. The last day of deer season in Virginia. And the last day of my first season of hunting! The best thing that happened was I got a buck on my first day out. The worst thing that happened was…I got a buck on my first day out! Aren’t you supposed to get one everytime you go?!? Uhhhh…no. Ten hunts and 100 pieces of gear later, I haven’t seen a thing!

For those of you who know me, I rarely do anything halfway. I’m all in. Gear out the wazoo and totally obsessed. Shiny things are my downfall! Either way, my new addiction is hunting. 

I think the deer have already migrated to San Juan Capistrano for the year. Or are those the birds that do that? Either way, sitting in the sub-freezing temps, bundled up, looking like a Michelin tree, I thought I’d ponder on how hunting and business are similar. 

Hunting, I believe, comes down to a few key things: Preparation, practice and patience. What gives me the right or credibility to even write a post like this? I’m going off of a few grand with Wilcox Bait & Tackle, Bass Pro & Cabelas. As well as watching continuous re-runs on Sportsman Channel & Outdoor Network! Doesn’t that count for something?

To hunt, one has to be prepared before they just go out into the woods. Scouting, trail cam analysis, the right clothing, weapon, scent control, knowing the wind direction, knowledge of the regulations and thinking of anything else you’d need for you adventure before you leave are all important. Each one of those are minimum requirements to succeed.  

In business, you have to be prepared financially, physically (staffing), mentally (know your business, competitors) and emotionally. You have to prepare your facility, staff and systems as well. You don’t open a Subway without sandwich artists, knowing the menu and how to make a sub. One must prepare. 

Practice makes perfect. Kinda. I’ve heard only “perfect practice makes perfect.” Either way, practice makes you better. Every hunt is a game day experience. A day without a successful harvest is practice for the next one. A hunter must practice on the range with their weapon. A wounded animal isn’t a good thing. To me, practice is all about what I learned. And in this sport, I’m learning a ton right now!

Practicing your profession isn’t any different. Are you role playing with your team? Are their word tracks and systems being executed with minimal errors? Are you sitting on the front lines every so often to keep up with your industry? The marketplace is constantly changing. We must continually practice to be successful. 

Patience. Goodness gracious! This is the hardest thing in the world for me. I love buying the gear! Or going to the range and shooting! But when it comes to sitting out in the elements for hours..trusting in your prep and practice…that’s tough. But it’s the name of the game with hunting. If you sit in the woods long enough, you’ll eventually see something. I hope. 🙂

In your business, you have to have patience with your people, strategy, marketing and customers. You can only make the plans. You can’t make them buy. Sometimes it just takes patience before that 10-point monster buck walks in or walks by and wants to engage with you. 

As you begin 2016, I encourage you to consider how much preparation, practice and patience you have done or plan to do? Your success depends on it! Happy hunting! I’m going back to dream about the chance to let out a, “MEEEH!” Then a BANG! And then a, “Sssssmoked him! Yeah, baby!” 



A father’s love…

Today…among all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season…the Saturday before Christmas…I ventured out to run some last minute and seemingly important errands. “Tis the season…,” right? 
When I left the house, I had no idea how much my perspective would be altered. Nor that I would be in tears with my three sons several hours later.

Allow me to set the stage. Saturday before Christmas. 11am. Big box strip mall. 45 degrees with a nice 15mph wind. Freezing. Sunny. Crowded. 1000 people trying to hurry to get everything done at the same time and same place. High stress. Pressed for time. Not excited about being there. Ever been there? 

I’m in my car and pulling out of the parking lot after making a return at a home improvement store. I roll up to the light, to see a young man in his late 20’s or early 30’s, clean cut, jeans and a hoodie, freezing at the corner beside me with a sign. “Laid off, 2 kids, Will work for their Christmas.”

We’ve all seen people on the side of the road asking for money. We’ve all judged what they may or may not do with the money. We’ve passed them by. Or maybe even given them money, food, a ride or whatever seemed to be important in the moment. 

Today was different. A father, unemployed, who loves his kids so much that he’s willing to stand outside and beg for work so that he can give his kids Christmas. Being a father, it struck a chord with me. I rolled my window down, attempted to offer him money. He approached the car and asked if I had some work that he could do. He wouldn’t take my money unless I had a job for him. I told him I lived a long way away and asked him to take the money for his kids. He thanked me several times. I told him about our church and offered him a ride. He said he needed to stay there so that he could find work today since Christmas was a few days away.

Giving him money wasn’t to make me feel good. I actually felt bad I couldn’t do more for him in the moment. But, coming across him has caused me to take pause in what transpired today. He has blessed me.

If you’re reading this, you’re blessed. We’re blessed. We’re all blessed beyond belief. For at any moment, it could all be taken away from us. To what point would you be forced to stand on a corner and try to pick up work so that you could afford Christmas for your kids? It can happen. Anytime. 

As a father, telling my teenage sons about this humble other father, it brought me to tears. The love that he was displaying for his children was touching and inspiring. He caused me to look around, take note of what the Lord has blessed each one of us with and to thank Him for all that we have. And to give us wisdom of how to best use our resources.

A spiritual parallel also struck me today. Here was a dad, who loved his kids so much that he would stand on a corner and beg for work in the freezing cold. It reminded me of our Heavenly Father who sent his Son to the lowest of lows so that we could be blessed with eternal life. Ultimately, it’s all about a Father’s love for his children. 
As we wrap up the holiday season the next few weeks, I urge you to take a look around and realize how blessed we all are. I ask that you consider the best ways to use the resources and talents you’ve been given. 
I hope I run across that young man again sometime. I’ll find some work for him. 

God Bless & Merry Christmas, everyone! 


Team Development – The Second Pillar!

This past summer, I began a series of posts aimed at giving business owners what I believe are the four pillars of success. Business management was the foundation of the four. You can read the post here. It focused on the following areas:
•Incentive programs
•Quality management
•Tracking results
•Your scorecard goals
•Executing your business plan
•Developing your leaders
•Does your team, group or company know your vision?
•Do you create a high performing environment?
•Do you know your market? Your challenges? Your SWOT?
•Do you manage the agreements you have with you B2B partners?

If success in a business rises and falls on one’s business management acumen, everything in the middle depends on your team! Your team of highly trained ninjas are your brand. You can have the fanciest logo, catchiest slogan. But, if your team can’t deliver on those promises, you’re done.

I have the pleasure of working with 44 independent contractors. All of which employ at least three and sometimes nine people. It’s an awesome group of highly talented agents and team members. In my seven years of leadership and working with these agencies, the common thread of success or failure is the team that’s in place.

Great teams? Got ’em. Ok teams? Got ’em. Teams that need improvement? Got ’em. Which team do you have? My style is to help my business owners identify which teams they have and put things in place to move them to or maintain them at the next level.

Great teams…why or how did that happen? Simple answer…recruiting. We’re all in the talent management business. Most of the time, they hired the best person for the job. Not the last-minute, desperation hire. The owners were good at anticipating their staffing needs well before they had them. They are typically over staffed. As everyone knows, anything can happen at any time. Relocations, medical issues, out-of-the-blue wild and crazy issues…it happens. And the companies that are staffed properly never miss a beat.

But still…why a great team? If recruiting was the first step, what happened after that? Another simple answer…leadership. Their boss, or business owner, took the time to lead them through the on boarding, training, customer experience and training processes. They motivated them to do better than they thought they could do. They took bullets for them and ushered them through tough times. They created a positive and energetic environment. One that was absent of cynicism, negativity and focus on what they can’t do. But, what they CAN do.

Are you that type of leader? What’s the culture in your office or company? Because, as the leader, you have 100% control of that culture. Own it. Everything rises and falls on your backs. It’s not someone else’s fault. Or the company’s fault. Or the customer’s fault. In every good AND bad situation, you have a role in the outcome.

“Ok” teams…what does that look like? I would respond to that question by asking a few more questions. What are your business results? Are you meeting your goals/targets? Are you ok with being average in your industry? Do you reward mediocrity every two weeks? But wait…it’s not their fault! Maybe short term it is. Maybe you’ve just cleaned house and hired a new team. Marginal results will occur. But, if you’ve been marginal for the long-term, I’ll ask what you’ve done to develop them? Do you foster or encourage development? Do you train them? Motivate them? Reward them? Send them to seminars to be better at your trade/craft? Do you invest in them? If you haven’t done much around those areas, then you probably have an “ok” team. You may even have a team that needs some improvement.

Here’s the catch 22 of all of this. A team is only as good as the leader’s desired level of success! If you’re content with being average, there’s a good chance that your team will be that way too. If you’re content with being at the bottom of your organization’s list, then good chance your team is too.

Teams that need major improvements are absent all of the above. Typically, no strong leadership from the top. Zero investment in team development. Disengagement from direct supervisors. Zero accountability for activities in the agency. Zero measurements of leading indicators or practices. I’d call it being in cruise control, in a 35mph zone. But, the competition is doing 70mph!

“But wait, Jeff! I want to be at the top. I’m providing all of those things you mentioned above! I’m still not getting results! What’s the problem?!?”

I would go back to the very beginning…recruiting. If you’re doing all the good things above, and still not getting the results, you have the wrong people on the bus. Or your leadership style is not conducive to the industry you’re in. But, I’d bet the farm on it being the wrong people.

At the end of the day, team development comes down to:
•Recruiting the right talent
•Your leadership & vision
•Your investment in your people (time, training, talent management)
•Accountability measures – “The checker gets what the checker checks!” (couldn’t resist that time-told saying!)
•Addressing short-falls and making plans to correct
•Repeat 1-5!

I could spend a day on recruiting tips. Perhaps for another post sometime. If you have any specific questions or want to chat, drop me a note! I’d love to engage in conversation! Stay tuned for the 3rd pillar soon!

Jeff Brittain, Sales Leader

Ironman? Lazyman? Or Crazyman?

Help! I’ve slacked off and I can’t get back!

Ok sports fans…I need some help. I’m in a training funk right now and can’t seem to shake it. Any advice is more than welcomed. 

State of the athlete: I’m 17ish weeks out from my first full Ironman in Arizona. I’ve done two half-distance triathlons in the past. One I trained for. One I didn’t. Finished them both. One with a smile. One with a not-so-happy face. Can you guess which one? Work is taking up 50ish hours per week. Summer travels are killing my consistency with training. I’ve been traveling the past three weeks and am traveling the next three weeks. One day in town in six weeks. 

Issue at hand: First off, I’m the classic Type-A, overachieving, never satisfied with status quo, “Brittain’s never quit,” kind of guy. Hard charging. Owner, not a victim. “Excuses are what you find when you take your eye off the goal,” dude. While that’s really nice at work. It’s really taxing when the stress of training for an Ironman starts to take it’s toll on the psyche. Not to mention, being a father of three awesome teenage sons and husband to my wife of 19 years. Just as much is going on at home as there is at work. 

My training is starting to get REAL. Multiple hour workouts seven days per week. I’ve got a great coach that I work with. 

Real issue at hand: I’m overwhelmed, sensing depression symptoms and super stressed about getting these workouts in. You know how (maybe you don’t know how) you get when you have so much to do, you feel paralyzed and lethargic about doing any of it? That’s my entire life right now. But, I’m wired to my core that I can’t quit anything. Right now, I want to tell the Ironman sayonara and focus on shorter distance triathlons or even just a marathon. I’ve told scores of people that I’m training for an Ironman. Plus, I’ve dropped some coin on the race. I don’t want to tell them why I couldn’t do it.

In my head, I knew it would be tough. But, I had no idea how much of a lifestyle that Ironman training is. If you’re considering one, please heed my advice and make sure you have capacity to take on the necessary training for one. As they say where I’m from in NC, “It ain’t no joke…”

Am I just going through a phase? Is this the wall that I need to push through? Will it get better? I know it won’t get easier. But, I want to wake up and be excited about training for it. Not wake up and have the dark cloud of my daily workout raining on my parade from the moment I put my feet on the floor. 

I’m working on strategies…ones like: Get up early and do my workouts before work. Find an accountability partner. Set really small frequency goals to get to where I actually do all seven workouts in a week. It’s actually 10 workouts counting three two-a-days I do with the gym. Focus on the positives and successes that I have right now. I shouldn’t complain about being able to swim 2400yds, ride 50 miles and run 10 miles (not all at once). I’m just burned out. 

Maybe this journey includes period of being a Lazyman. I know I’m already a Crazyman for signing up for an Ironman. But, this race doesn’t define me as a Man. There are much more important things in life that define that. 

Any advice or experiences are appreciated. I’ve got to get over this hump! Thanks everyone!


The pursuit…

Every year, our church does a youth retreat called “D-Now,” which is short for Disciple Now. This year, the theme is The Pursuit. Now, before non-spirituals tune me out, read me out.

I can go on and on about our various pursuits in life. Those pursuits can be spiritual, happiness, love, money, physical fitness and so forth. While we can also debate which ones of those should rank first, second, etc…the point of this morning’s message relates to whatever pursuit you have.

The message is this…we can be so focused on the pursuit that we totally ignore or miss very important things going on around us. Your faith, family, friends, co-workers could be in need of our help or attention. But if we’re solely focused on our pursuit, we may get what we want but there could be quite a bit of fallout.

I would simply encourage you to take stock of the things around you while you’re in hot pursuit of what you want out of life. Keep the most important things, the most important things. I would caution you that if you don’t, your success or achievement will be a very lonely award. Bring others along with you for the ride. Those sorts of rides are the ones that altered history and built some of the foundations we take for granted today.

How do you do this? Just take a pause and look around for a few minutes. It doesn’t take a Zen meditational state to see how life is going. But if you don’t take the step of pausing, you’ll never look back to check the wake that you’re creating in your life and others.

Enjoy the pursuit! Best wishes for a balanced one.


If You’re a Leader, You Have to Commit.

Daily Read- If You’re a Leader, You Have to Commit.

What commitments are you making when you take on a leadership role? Your answer may determine how effective you really are. See the difference between those who show up every day very clear on what it means to be a leader, and others who are going through the motion. It all comes down to these four commitments:

1. Leadership is a decision. You have to really define who you are as a leader, not just an individual contributor to the organization. Real leaders accept responsibility as the heads of their teams, and they’re always working to do things better.

2. Leadership is an obligation. Once you’ve made that deliberate decision to be a leader, you must accept that the expectations are higher for you than for everyone else in your organization; this includes holding to a higher standard of behavior than you might expect from those around you.

3. Leadership is hard work. Leadership is hard and getting harder. When you’re running a business, there are a lot of great things that have to get done, and also some hard things; being a leader means you can’t avoid these difficult tasks and issues

4. Leadership takes a community.  This is an especially important commitment for small business owners, who often fall into feeling isolated in their positions. You have to build a sense of community within your company, with bedrock relationships and people who can act as your advisors. And you must nurture other leaders within your organization, and hold them to the same four commitments.

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How Healthy is Your Team?

Daily Read – How Healthy is Your Team?

Being a great team is a choice. It doesn’t just happen naturally when you bring together a group of talented individuals; it takes hard work and a firm commitment that can lead to great payoff. However, some teams don’t achieve the best results because they’re not operating as productively as they could be. Why? Your team is unhealthy. Here are five quick questions to gauge your team’s health (and future prosperity):

1. Are your team meetings a nightmare? Toxic: The leader holds court while everyone around the table nods their heads and takes notes; no discussion; no argument; in fact, hardly any interaction at all. A healthy team: discusses issues relevant to everyone present, people voice their opinions without fear., decisions are made and everyone is clear on the reasoning, benefit, and company-wide message.

2. Do you always get the best ideas on the table? Toxic: People hold back their honest opinions from the group because they fear being ridiculed or, worse, ignored. On healthy teams: opinions, no matter how far into left field, are shared at the meeting, in front of the leader. The common goal is to hear all of the best ideas before making a decision for the organization.

3. Is there backstabbing? Toxic: Team members hold one another accountable and discuss destructive behaviors open; or complain to colleagues but resist telling the person directly.  High-performing teams: trust each other and know that whatever feedback they receive, no matter how hard it may be to hear, is aimed at getting the best results for the team. It is not personal. Of course, teammates tell each other the kind truth, the most constructive way of saying something.

4. Do you hold each other to the same standards? Toxic: Do you look the other way when star performers act out, yet hold others accountable for their mistakes? Successful Teams: understand there are different roles on every team, but everyone is held to the same standard. Regardless of whether they’re generating revenue, providing support, or leading, each person plays by one universal set of rules.

5. Do team members put the good of the group ahead of their personal goals? Toxic: People forget that the goals of the team supersede their personal or departmental goals. Healthy Teams:  automatically put the good of the whole first, realizing if the team is struggling and needs to cut expenses that everyone needs to make sacrifices in their areas for the greater good.  People have a sense of shared responsibility, and they trust that they’ll be taken care of when it matters most.

How is the health of your team?

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