Thursday, 29 March 2012
Don't Mess with your IRA 401(k)
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It can be tempting to dive into your retirement savings for emergencies – find a way to avoid the temptation.  Retirement savings left alone can grow into a meaningful nest egg and when you hit “that age” you need to be able to take care of yourself.

As an example I want to share my story.  In the late 1970’s I began my IRA (Individual Retirement Account) with $1500 annual contributions and raised them a few years later to $2000.  Over a twenty year period I contributed a total of $36,500. I invested wisely for the times, first in CDs, then in money market funds while interest rates were very high  and then into an aggressive mutual fund.  By 2006, 30 years after staring, my IRA was worth over $400,000

That is the power of disciplined saving and common sense investing.  How are you doing?

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Posted on 03/29/2012 1:25 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 26 March 2012
Leadership and Perspective
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We all see the world through our own customized lens—we see it as we are, not as it is.  As a result we make assumptions about things based on our perspective. Those assumptions drive us to conclusions that we then act on.  To us, every step makes sense and is perfectly logical.  But what happens when someone has a different perspective or different assumptions and comes to their own natural conclusion?  Usually this situation results in conflict of some kind.  In dealing with difficult conversations, we are told to be very aware of the fact that we may see things very differently than another party, and yet both of us are convinced we are right.  Allen Alda writes to “begin challenging your own assumptions.  Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”  So what does this look like?

Doug Stone, one of the authors of the book Difficult Conversations says that we must first identify that there is a gap in the way we see things, and that we must then explore why the gap is there.  Is it because we come from different backgrounds, whether cultural, ethnic, or educational?  Have we had different experiences that have brought each of us to the place where we are?  A number of factors may be in play, but the solution is the same:  explore those differences, and look for the ways both parties are alike as well, and begin to look for ways that we can close that gap.  Sounds simple, but it is a practice that is difficult to master.

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Posted on 03/26/2012 1:24 PM by Mary Fink
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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Leaders Build Leaders
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The most important success component in most growth organizations is people.  One of the key questions at Tractor Supply evaluation time is always about personnel development. How are you doing? Who are you developing?  Who will take your place if we promote you tomorrow?

When evaluating regional and district managers we always look to see who is developing the talent that will fuel our future growth.  If you are doing so well that you are exporting talent to elsewhere in the company you get special attention, and in my book, you move to “star status.”

One of the key measures of executive performance is leadership development. Senior management always looks favorably on those that are helping to stoke the engines of growth by recruiting and developing future leaders.

How are you doing?

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Posted on 03/22/2012 11:57 AM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 19 March 2012
Confidence: The Secret Ingredient
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A quote that struck me recently is “We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall to easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.”  Roderick Thorp, the author of a number of crime novels, wrote that and I am sure that as a writer he struggled with the challenges of being his own worst enemy, or his own worst critic.  Leaders are no different—plagued with questioning their decisions and actions, second- guessing themselves in many instances.   I believe that if there were one thing we could snap our fingers and have instantly it would be confidence—that ability to believe that we are capable to do what we do and that what we do is the right thing, done well.  For many leaders that confidence is slow in coming.  For others it seems to come naturally.  I would offer that  most people have developed the skills that have given that “natural confidence.”  I believe that the best way to acquire confidence is to practice those skills that result in confidence until we do them well. 

If I were asked to summarize the results that participants in our Signature Executive Program see, it would be confidence.  It might be in public speaking, managing difficult conversations or negotiations, but part of the reason for the program to last fourteen months is that everyone has the opportunity to practice what they learn, and to get feedback about that every time the group is together.

Confidence is one of those intangibles that we can’t hold in our hand, but that is easily observed in those who have it.

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Posted on 03/19/2012 11:54 AM by Mary Fink
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Thursday, 15 March 2012
All Things in Moderation
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This wonderful personal advice I heard from mother more times than I can remember.  Mom was talking about every day personal conduct. 

When it comes to eating, Mom was talking about a varied diet (lots of vegetables) and never stuffing yourself with goodies like potato chips or ice cream.  The same good advice pertains to drinking – drink too much and you make a fool of yourself or worse.

When it comes to conduct in a social or business situation mom’s advice is still good.  Don’t be too loud or too shy.  Don’t be a braggadocio.  A middle of the road approach works best.

In your conduct no matter where you are Mom’s “all things in moderation” words  is great advice.  You should only get outside the moderation mode when you are really confident in your actions.

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Posted on 03/15/2012 10:33 AM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 12 March 2012
Know When to Hold Em
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You all know the words to the old Kenny Roger’s song “know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Those words for a poker game pertain equally in the business environment, yet so often we see leaders who don’t know “when to fold ‘em.”

The good business leaders face the hard facts and know when to walk away. Sometimes the issue is an old worn out business model and often it is new initiative that is simply not what was envisioned.  The decisions are most difficult when the person responsible to make the final “fold ‘em” decision is also the idea person behind the initiative.  Ego can prolong the decision so obvious to others.

When the facts tell you it is time and in your heart you know it is, go ahead and “fold ‘em.”  Don’t procrastinate when you know things will not improve.

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Posted on 03/12/2012 1:16 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Thursday, 8 March 2012
Look for the Truth
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Norman Vincent Peale once said “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”  We love it when others let us know how smart, skilled or right on target we are.  The truth of the matter, however, is that what we really need to value are those around us who will tell us exactly how it is, whether we want to hear it or not.  How critical it is for leaders to have staff who will tell them what they need to hear, and let them know how things really are.  We have a quote in our classroom that says “If you have a ‘Yes Person’ on your team, one of you is unnecessary.”  If everyone you listen to is telling you what you want to hear, you need to find some other people to talk to.  This becomes more prevalent the higher you rise in the organization—it becomes critical (and sometimes difficult) to find those people who will let you know when things aren’t going well, or when you need to do something differently.  So if you have some of those people on your team, let them know how valuable they are to you.

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Posted on 03/08/2012 1:14 PM by Mary Fink
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Monday, 5 March 2012
Frugality as a Way of Life and Business
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Frugality does not mean being cheap, it just means using good judgment.  A good rule of thumb in business, regardless of your position, is to treat the company’s assets as if they were your own.  Do what is in the best interests of the owners, and when you do, you will earn the respect of the owners.

Whether you are purchasing or making high level decisions or simply using your expense account - always apply sound judgment.  If you are in a leadership role you want to set the right example for your team and, if you are not, you want to demonstrate to your boss that you make good business decisions.

Being frugal in all matters is a winning formula.

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Posted on 03/05/2012 1:11 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Thursday, 1 March 2012
What's Your Culture?
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If you as a leader are spending all your time and effort thinking about yourself as a leader, think again.  As leaders, we accomplish very little ourselves—we are not on the front line taking care of customers or clients—we get that done through other people.  So as leaders, our primary responsibility is to take care of those who are taking care of our customers.  Danny Thomas said, “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why.  Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself.  It’s what you do for others.”  Leaders are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to do something for someone every day in the course of their normal work.  Research studies have shown that when leaders are asked what in their career they are most proud of, it is almost always about the people they helped to develop, not bricks and mortar or strategy.  Organizational culture is always a reflection of the top leader(s), and when you walk in the door of a company you can sense what kind of leader they have, because it is demonstrated through the behavior of those working there.  It is important that what others sense about your company’s culture is what you want it to be, so make sure that it is!

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Posted on 03/01/2012 12:58 PM by Mary Fink
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