View From The Top

View From The TopEarly in the treacherous course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something CPA entrepreneur, the counsel of an older client friend cut short my whining as he said, “Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”

About that same time, the message was being broadcast in stereo. Zig Ziglar pierced my consciousness with, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” It was the era of cassette tapes and I was enamored with his stories. They all contained this consistent theme of inherent goodness. Then, I discovered Zig had captured his encouragements into a book titled, See You At The Top.

Thirty years after reading that book, I can still picture the Stairway to Tomorrow in my mind. To give honor where credit is due, I just now purchased the Kindle 25th Anniversary Edition to properly reference one of the greatest motivational books of all time. Those six Steps on the staircase are defined as: Image of Self, Relationship with Others, Goals, Attitude, Work, and Desire.

In Zig’s words:

As you start on your stairway to the top, your first step will be the development of a healthy self-image. The second step is the recognition of the worth and ability of other people, as well as the necessity of effectively living and working with them. The third step is a strong goal orientation. You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal. The fourth and fifth steps are that you must have the right mental attitude and be willing to work. The sixth step is that you must also have a burning desire to excel.

If possible to summarize a book into one sentence, the Mission and Value might be captured in this statement from Zig Ziglar, “The foundation stones of honesty, character, faith, integrity, love, and loyalty are necessary for a balanced success that includes health, wealth, and happiness.

In other words, the Intangibles matter far more than the Tangibles. In fact, the latter flow from the former. Success is, simply, the abundant harvest enjoyed as a result of planting and nurturing little seeds of goodness, daily.

The day was August 1, 1981, when I stopped at the little Post Office at Lavina, Montana, and received the letter announcing that I had, finally, passed the CPA exam.

The day was August 1, 2011, when I was driving in the desert north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and received a phone call from a new client, with an old problem.

The tumblers of a lock had not, yet, fallen into place to open the door in his mind to an understanding of what it takes to “Wow!” customers. Sitting there on a wide spot in the road, under an itty bitty shade tree, 5 Steps to Success poured from my heart into the microphone of the Motorola Droid to encourage my friend to Build Something, special.

After thirty years of preaching and practicing the individual Universal Principles, that was a first to capture them all in one place, at the same time, for the benefit of another person. Even more surprising was the realization that each and every Step is important. They must be done in order: Step 1 ~ Establish a Fair Price; Step 2 ~ Ask for Acceptance; Step 3 ~ Plan the Work; Step 4 ~ Deliver on the Promises; and, Step 5 ~ Enjoy the Celebration.  All of them are necessary for a successful journey!

Last week, as I was enjoying a favorite salad at a favorite place for lunch, a Blast from the Past pushed into my life, once again.

He was a young Entrepreneur and I was the young CPA with the ambition problem. Regardless of the semantics, I was a young man on a mission, to serve. My intent was to help others get everything they wanted so I could get what was important to me. (Note to Everyone: many mistakes have been made and lessons learned!)

At one time, the young Entrepreneur and I held a similar worldview: Implement the Intangibles for the benefit of receiving the Tangibles of health, wealth, and happiness. In essence, we each understood the need to take all of the steps on Zig’s Stairway to Tomorrow. After a few years, the Entrepreneur arrived.

He won a national award from the Small Business Administration. Politicians wanted their picture taken with him. In fact, he became a media darling and the poster boy for minority businesses.

Through the years, I always celebrated each of his successes and felt honored to believe that I was an integral part of his team. At the pinnacle of his newly anointed recognition, this old accountant wasn’t good enough to associate with his new crowd of friends. He wanted a real CPA firm worthy of his eminence.

After a few years of that and upon hearing about the misfortune of my divorce, he approached with an idea: I could be his Chief Financial Officer. Because of my funky attitude at the time and (as Zig teases) “Stinkin’ Thinkin’, rumors were rampant that I was considering a departure from the service of Public accounting, for something else.

The “something else” idea and offer was interesting; so, we negotiated mutually beneficial terms for a hired-gun CFO position and I accepted. That lasted about a month and we both knew I needed to go, away. Our worldviews were different and, as a result, the paths of our journeys were diverging. Two can walk together, only, if they agree.

In the course of making pleasantries, the (now) older Entrepreneur sat down at his lunch table a few feet away from mine. Sincerely interested, I asked about him and his Company. He proudly announced the expanding influence of his business activities in Montana and the projects they were doing in multiple other States. Once again, I congratulated him and celebrated his largess.

To return the favor, I shared information about the new location of my office in the heart of the Wall Street of the Rockies. Since that bit of news was received without notice, or response, I went on to mention, “It’s true what they say. The view is better from the top!”

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. This is what I heard in retort, “Well, watch out, because there will be someone trying to knock you off!”

The eyes are the window to the soul. Ours were speaking volumes to the other about the core of our beliefs. After a few moments of this silent conversation, I just smiled, bowed my head, and resumed the enjoyment of my salad.

My belief is that The Top is a spiritual level, physically unobtainable, encapsulated in the exhortation, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Great idea. Ain’t gonna happen in this life, folks!

Yet, the joy of Life is discovered within the journey, not the destination. When we actually arrive, friends and family will be digging a hole to plant our physical remains. The ripple from the wake of our deeds and how we touched others will be our legacy.

Some people are willing to scratch and claw their way to the top of the heap, using the dead and injured for their next step. It is true; once they arrive, there will be a bigger, meaner, and tougher gorilla coming along behind to use them as the next step in becoming the new king of the hill.

This difference in worldviews can be fully understood by imagining a finite and very small pointed space at the top of a pyramid and then comparing that to an infinite mountain of opportunity.

At the top of a pyramid is room for one. The rugged face of the mountain before us, which ascends into the clouds of heaven, provides many routes of accession. The Tops visible to us, as mere mortals, are really just plateaus for many to rest before beginning the next climb.

If we will climb with the intent to bring along others, we will find ourselves in the company of kindred spirits. We will enjoy lifting them past the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When we slip and are dangling in the nothingness of our despair, our climbing friends will be there to shout words of encouragement and pull us back to the face of our Rock.

Indeed, I believe it is a worthy endeavor, for all of us, to enjoy the view from the top!

www.kimfoard.com

Build Something — Special

Build SomethingThis is more than another B.S. musing. A bright financial future is waiting – if, you will accept this encouragement to Build Something Special (B.S.S.).

Let’s begin with that extra “S”: the Special one. Yes — that is YOU. You are one-of-a-kind, broke-the-mold, and a special creation with a unique set of gifts. You are of great value and have much to offer others. The world is anxiously waiting for you to Build Something Special, for our mutual benefit.

You’ve heard the expression: Preparation plus Opportunity equals Success.

This is, even, more powerful: Preparation is guaranteed to produce Opportunities resulting in Success.

There is absolutely no need to wait around for an opportunity. The encouragement to Build Something Special is really an encouragement for us to focus on what is within our, individual, control. Answer the Why, How, and What of YOU — and, the world is your oyster.

Why do you exist?

How can you make a difference in the lives of others?

What is the very best way to deliver your value to the world?

By thinking about the Value inherent in YOU, a choice manifests for you to become a Master Craftsman and Build Something Special.

Lift your dominant hand up and forward. Carefully, look at the thumb and fingers. Those five digits are the number of steps necessary to Build Something Special. There is a matched set of tools on your other hand. That, my friends, is the extent to which we are in control. Plenty to keep us busy, though. Let’s begin.

Step 1 ~ Establish a Fair Price

A fair price is one which is good for You — and, your Customer. The question begging to be answered is, “Price of what?!” Glad you asked because the question provides the opportunity for YOU to answer it. The secret to finding your way out of this Riddle is to answer the Why, How, and What questions, above.

Define your passion for life and the Why will be obvious. Inventory your abilities and the How becomes evident. Then, you will know, exactly, What you need to do to Build Something Special. You will fully understand whether you will be offering a Service — or, a Product — to the marketplace.

YOU have the responsibility to establish a Fair Price for your offering. As long as the Customer perceives Value greater than Price, they will believe the price is fair. Naturally, the Customer’s perception can be enhanced, by offering Value many times greater than Price — which, is also mutually beneficial in achieving a Fair Price for You.

In the simplest of definitions, a Fair Price for You is one, which — enables You to provide for your Family.

(For a complete narrative and solution to fair pricing, see the detailed examples in the articles Price We Pay and A Better Business Plan.)

Step 2 ~ Ask for Acceptance

Unless the Customer wants what is being offered, the price is irrelevant. We, all, want what we don’t have. The secret to acceptance, then, is to provide options which satisfy what the Customer wants. The only way to know that is to carefully listen. Yes — listen, with care, to discover what is of Value, to the Customer.

By beginning with the end in mind, we can negotiate mutually acceptable terms and expectations. Simply ~ Who is going to do What by When.

Step 3 ~ Plan the Work

An old Proverb best communicates this powerful principle: Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. In other words, every successful venture requires planning — and, bountiful harvests are necessary for nurturing our families.

The purpose of Blueprints is to Build Something Special on paper, first. By doing so, we consider the required resources of Time and Money. The best use of resources is to proceed from Start to Finish, without interruption.

Step 4 ~ Deliver on Promises

This is the time for action. We have a quality offering — the Customer has a want in need of fulfillment — terms have been agreed upon — and, resources allocated. Preparation has generated Opportunity. Get-er-done is our mantra as we push forward to Success.

Step 5 ~ Enjoy the Celebration

As with any party, Ribbons and Bows showcase the gifts. You have exceeded the Customer’s expectations. They are all kinds of excited. It’s appropriate to celebrate with them. Do a walk-around. Let them express their Appreciation for spectacular Results. Listen for the Opportunity to provide even more to them in the Future. Accept their willingness to Pay in full for Value beyond Price.

Experienced builders know the secret to success is to Begin — and, Begin Again. Five digits at the end of a strong arm. Five steps to Build Something Special.

The sweetest surprise for YOU: Discovery of the passion for the Why of your existence — an understanding of How to touch lives — and, the What of your gifts.

Preparation has created Opportunity and Success.

You did it once.

You can do it again.

Build Something — Special

kimfoard.com

 

Maverick Concepts

Maverick Concepts


Embracing the reality that no one else can fully understand our individual Business experiences, these thoughts fit well in the category:

“Easier said than done.”


1.)  Value is a perception. Given that your Business is the BEST, each Stakeholder defines that differently. Regardless of what we believe, offer, and do, the value is subjective to the understanding of the Customer. When we understand “fully” what they need and want, a menu of options can be presented for their consideration. The first step to understanding is to Care; the second step is to Listen. Then, our Customers are interested in our ideas.

2.)  People buy what they want, not what they need. Many times, they don’t know what they want. If we can broaden their horizons, they might want what we have. They just don’t know it, yet! Beyond the things they need, waits opportunity; Customers want solutions to problems. The bigger their problem: the greater the opportunity, for them and us. Rather than sell into a need, mutual benefit grows from letting them buy what they want.

3.)  Commodities are subject to price manipulations; Uniqueness isn’t. One business appears to be just like the next. Until… we have “something” no one else can deliver. At that moment, the messenger becomes Priceless. Example: Plumbing supplies can be purchased by the Consumer at the “lowest” cost; their Value is dependent upon a Plumber knowing what to do with them. By knowing how to “fix the leaks,” we move from the problems of the Past through the Present Value into the opportunities of the Future.

By changing the rules of the traditional game, we can stand out, stand up, and stand for something special in the minds of those we serve.

At that moment, there are no competitors. We stand alone!

www.kimfoard.com

To the Nth Power

Yes and No

This is a story about a Hen, a Pig, a Cat and a Rat. Neighbors with very different world views. Unique in their approach, they became aware of the consequences of their choices at an individual pace.

Before we begin, I must confess. The catalyst for these thoughts came from a question asked of me by one of my favorite young adults, “Why did you choose accounting as your work?”

My first response was, “Well, there was this teacher, back when I was a junior in high school …” Then, a thirty year story about jobs, college, doing, learning and growing. Until, a Rest of the Story moment of, “And, I wanted to provide financial opportunities for my family.” Later, that day, as we were comparing leadership qualities, I experienced a flash-back to childhood and the story of The Little Red Hen.

Now, to many people, the little word “No” is perceived as a “Negative”. Maybe, it’s because both words begin with the letter “N“. Maybe, it’s because “Communication is what the listener does” and the listener has had their twig bent from childhood experiences modeled on scarcity, derision, intimidation, inferiority, or just plain, old-fashioned, generic, meanness.

This morning, the thought occurred that NO written on a piece of paper and held up to a mirror might morph into ON. With thought into action, the result was close. With failure, comes new opportunity. Then, I remembered the sign in the window of a store I drive by each day to work. Early in the morning, I see NOPE. If I pass by later in the day it displays OPEN.

More than the power of “N”, we will discover the degree of opportunity in “NO”.

When the little red Hen asks her barnyard friends, “Who will plant, harvest, thresh, carry and bake?” the answer is the same every time. “Not I,” says the Pig. “Not I,” says the Cat. “Not I,” says the Rat.

“Well, then,” said the Little Red Hen, “I will.”

And, she did.

Then, probably because she had acquired the habit, the Red Hen called, “Who will eat the Bread?”

All the animals in the barnyard were watching hungrily and smacking their lips in anticipation. The Pig said, “I will.” The Cat said, “I will.” The Rat said, “I will.”

But, the Little Red Hen said, “No, you won’t. I will.”

And, she did.

The flip of a coin is used to determine choice at the beginning of every football game. On one side is Heads and on the other side is Tails. One coin; Two possible answers. Of the results, one is not “better” than the other, before the question.

Why do some people say No to everything? Why do others say Yes to everything? Both groups, will then, struggle to understand “Why” someone will tell them, “No. No, thank you. Heck, No! What part of “NO” don’t you understand?!”

The secret to understanding is: Boundaries.

Those with solid walls for boundaries keep everything, and everybody, out. Those with porous sieves for boundaries let everything, and everybody, in. Both are dysfunctional.

Profitable interactions occur through doors of opportunity that swing on the hinges of “No, thanks.” and “Yes, please!”

Look carefully at the word NO. Now, focus on the O. What do you see? I see the beginning of Opportunity!

Just like the Little Red Hen, I see an opportunity to say, “I will.”

In fact, there is an opportunity to remember and practice, once again, the “2×10” mantra: If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me.

The most important part of the “2×10” is the first “2×5”: If It Is To Be.

“To the Nth Power” is a reminder to move the N from NO to where it belongs: ON. And, to move the N from NOPE to where it belongs: OPEN.

From there, let’s toss the P and center the N: ONE. By doing so, we leverage the power of N to the Nth Degree and enjoy a reality bigger than we ever imagined!

www.kimfoard.com

A Better Way

Thinking In A Different Way

Innovation only comes from those willing to think differently.

Since all we do begins with a thought, new thoughts lead to new actions. While new thoughts are frequently accepted as entertaining, new actions give the world cause for pause!

Because these thoughts and actions are new, they are different from the old. If everyone is doing the same old thing, the innovator gets noticed. Our comprehension of anything stems from language. Until we have a word, title, or category for something, we are limited in understanding its reward, or risk.

This is a story about being different.

There are days of pleasant surprises. Yesterday was one of those for me. The gift was wrapped inside my email Inbox.

Hi Kim,

I’ve added your blog to my AccountingBlogList.com under the category of General which, after reading some of your blog, doesn’t seem quite accurate to me. Can you skim my list and tell me if you see a better spot? Or suggest if I should create a new category and, if so, what might it be called?

Thanks and congrats on a good blog!

Michelle

This is my response.

~

Michelle,

Thank you for the great honor to be included on AccountingBlogList.com!

Your comment about finding me “hard to categorize” did make me laugh! It is not the first time I’ve heard that. In fact, many tend to believe there needs to be a special classification in the neighborhood of “Off The Wall”.

Seriously, though, I have noticed that, as I tell my stories, eyes get big and soon laughter follows; usually, with a comment of, “Kim, you’re unique!”

The greatest documented compliment was offered by Ron Baker when, at the bottom of my Trailblazer article, he provided this valuable feedback: “More importantly, congratulations to you for having an open mind, looking for a better way, and contributing to the dignity of our profession by doing the right thing for your customers.”

That comment is what, I believe, defines Accounting:

  • Care about the people.
  • Listen to them.
  • Deliver value.
  • Learn.

Then, repeat the cycle.

Meeting you at the AICPA Tech+ conference was a treat for me. The excitement of being with a thousand of the sharpest minds in the country was only dampened by the frustration of not being able to meet and share with each of them.

Sitting in the session of One-on-one with Peter Sheahan and listening to the methodology of promoting ourselves to others resulted in a moment of clarity. The questions from the audience were relative to the specific steps in offering our marketing more effectively. It dawned on me that the problem is not with our sales tactics; it is with our ability to communicate. Communication is what the listener does.

We, simply, need to listen to our customers. Their desires, today, are different from what they were, yesterday. Each day is a new opportunity to deliver value to them, and the marketplace.

Listening to our clients is another of those Win-Win propositions: We learn what they want and they learn how much we care. What I know, now, after thirty years of sitting at their feet, pales in comparison to the formal college degree. Sure, our clients come to us for our qualities as a Master in the realm of accounting; yet, we (and they) benefit when we become their Students and learn even more about them and the multifaceted world we share.

That’s a very long introduction to my point: In my original Tribute email to Ron on Memorial Day, I shared a story of growth to that moment in time. Now, it is different. I was doing the best I could with what I knew, at the time. With new education and experience, I’ve discovered A Better Way.

Originally, the thought was to have a Business blog and a Personal blog. Silly me! Great accountants eat, breathe, sleep and live this chosen profession, passionately, 24/7. So, the design has been re-tooled to provide introductions from my Website blog; then, to tell stories at the SageTalk blog.

In a telephone conversation with a Client last week, I heard a new twist on that friend’s impression of my efforts. She said, “Kim, you’re a gladiator! You refuse to sit on the sidelines; you are engaged in battle to make a difference.”

Maybe it’s the Scotch-Irish ancestry and the parable that goes with it: “You know what Irish tact is, right? It’s the ability to tell a man to go to H-E-double L and have him looking forward to the trip.”

Personally, I want to believe it stems from a Teddy Roosevelt shtick quoted in this Coattails blog post:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but, who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly!

My purpose is to join you and Ron in your efforts to make a difference in the lives of many.

If there is a category for our type, I believe a fitting title is: A Better Way

New, Different, Better; regardless of the semantics, we intend to, truly, be Trailblazers for the benefit of all.

Thank you, again, for your kind and thoughtful recognition.

Best regards,

Kim

~

www.kimfoard.com