My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

Remembering Walter Cronkite

Posted in Attitudes,Leadership,Personal Opinion by Rick on the July 21st, 2009

Walter Cronkite 2004

He never sold a single record. He never performed in concert. He never made the headlines of Entertainment Tonight, and he was never placed in the public spotlight for questionable acts of morality. Yet he truly did bring the people of this world together. He broke the racial barriers like no man or woman has ever done before bringing all races, religions, and nationalities together. He caused people to listen and to respond simply by the words he spoke.

He was respected for his honesty, integrity, willingness to challenge the norm, for his compassion in times of difficulty, and for his pride in country when great achievements were accomplished.

He never moonwalked, but he did proudly walk on the moon with all of America on July 20, 1969. He never wore clothes with flashy military imagery, but he did wear the fatigues of Army green while reporting his findings of the Vietnam war effort. He was never called the “King” of anything, but “Uncle” Walter was a predominate news voice in America and will be remembered for his faithful reporting of such events as the Cuban Missile Crises, the Assignation of President Kennedy, the moon landing of Apollo 11, Watergate, and so much more.

We lost a true American icon this week. Walter Cronkite was like no other celebrity in my life time. There were times when I disagreed with him, there were times when I cried with him, there were times when I cheered with him. And when he spoke, I listened, as did all of America and the world.

I, for one, will miss the integrity, professionalism, honesty, compassion, and moral compass that Walter Cronkite brought to Journalism. His death was not surrounded in pomp and ceremony, national television did not preempt all other broadcast in favor of covering his funeral, and tickets were not sold on Ebay to attend the visitation, but his legacy will endure for many centuries to come. Good bye Walter.

And that’s the way it is, July 21, 2009.

To Your Success,

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Do You Know the Rules?

Posted in General Business,Leadership by Rick on the May 2nd, 2007

I’ve been watching my local basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, struggling in their first round of the playoffs, hoping this is the year they take it all. I still have confidence that they can win, but an interesting thing occurred to me during last night’s game. I was talking out loud to the TV as I often do during ball games (I think it’s a guy thing) and many times I would shout something like “That looked like goal tending to me!”, or “That wasn’t Charging!”.

My wife patiently read her book as all of this was going on but finally she looked up from her book and said “How do you know all these rules?” It made me take a moment and think as to why some people know the rules better than others, not only in basketball, but in all sports. I examined my own knowledge level of sporting rules and quickly determined that even though I may watch all kinds of sports, baseball, football, golf, Hockey, etc., there are some sports in which I understand the rules better than in others.

I tried to think about why that was so, and eventually I came to the conclusion that the sports that I actually participated in as a youngster were the ones in which I had the most knowledge of the rules. I believe this is probably true with most people. If you have ever played baseball you probably understand what an infield fly rule is all about and why it exists. If you have never played golf you probably don’t completely understand when and where you can take a non penalized drop or how it is done.

I believe this is true in the business world as well. Those of us who have gone through the trials and tribulations of running a business have made enough mistakes that we are quite familiar with what will work and what will not work, the rules so to speak. Just because we might have an advanced business degree doesn’t mean that we know all of the rules. A degree by itself is probably similar to watching the sport but never playing it.

This brings me to the point of this article; never underestimate the value an experienced advisor can bring to the table. Many business people will fail simply because they did not know the rules they were playing under. Keep your business advisor close and consult with him/her frequently. Their EXPERIENCE will make a significant and positive impact on your success. You’ll soon be playing the game of business with a high level of knowledge. It is a lot more fun when you understand the rules.

The last thing you want is to hear the referee blowing his whistle, pointing at you, and slapping a penalty on you because you did not understand the “3 seconds in the paint” rule!

To Your Success –
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Small Business Ethics

Posted in Ethics,Leadership by Rick on the March 4th, 2007

Executive in CourtEthics in business has become big news over the past several years. We read about the escapades of the executives at Enron, WorldCom and other major companies and shake our heads in astonishment thinking, “How could that happen.” We marvel at the unethical behavior of these leaders while at the same time never considering our own behavior.

The truth is that business leaders, regardless of the size of the company, are faced with ethical pressures everyday. The scale or impact of the ethical decision may not measure up to the likes of an Enron, but nevertheless, they do exist. How a business leader handles minor ethical issues is a precursor to how larger decision will be made as the business grows.

Many of the ethical issues we may face are not clearly black or white. In fact, two people faced with the same issue could quite possible make contrary decisions, while believing they each have made the best ethical decision. Why? Because ethical decisions are based upon one’s moral character. When it comes to moral behavior, we each march to the sound of different drummers and as such will make different decisions on similar issues.

As a business owner you must set the bar on ethical behavior. Make integrity a core value, be honest with your customers and employees, always follow the rules, never compromise your principles, and remember that the right thing is not always the opposite of the wrong thing. Do these things and your customers will respect you and your employees will remain loyal, essential ingredients to a successful business.

To Your Success,

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Are You Choosing To Fail?

Posted in Attitudes,General Business,Leadership by Rick on the January 23rd, 2007

Fixing a CarIt is an interesting phenomenon with us humans… we migrate toward those things that are harmful to us as individuals, as a people, and also, as business owners. We go through life making choices on how we live our lives, the activities we participate in, the things we watch, and the things we eat, all of which become the essence of who we are. Left to themselves, things will deteriorate. It takes positive effort to cause improvement. Unfortunately, it seems that we have a propensity to take the easy road in life, the one that allows things to decline, instead of the hard road which yields positive improvement.

Take a car for example. If all we ever do is drive it around town, or worse yet, let it sit in our driveway, what happens? It begins to fall apart. To keep the car at its peak, we need to change the oil regularly, rotate the tires, check the belts, insure the proper fluid levels, and myriad other inconvenient maintenance chores. If the car just sits, it will begin to rust, tires will become flat, fluids become sludgy, etc. In other words, left to themselves things deteriorate. And so do we.

We choose those things in life that are harmful to us. We choose to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of going to the gym to work out. We choose to eat pizza and fast food on the run instead of taking the time to sit down to a quiet, healthy dinner. We choose to dream and never take action to see it fulfilled. We choose to let others decide our political leaders instead of voting ourselves. We choose to pollute our air instead of applying technology to keep it clean. We choose to build bombs instead of relationships. As business owners, we choose to let the status quo determine our fate instead of applying change proactively to improve our lot.

Kermit the frog once said, “It ain’t easy being green.” We are all green when it comes to life, and believe me it’s not easy. We must take an active approach to make a difference in our lives as individuals, as a people, and of course, as business leaders. We must force change. Left to themselves, all things will crumble. If a year from now you are doing the same things you are doing today, you will be worse off for wear and tear. Lack of change means failure. Are you choosing to fail?

To Your Success,

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Where Have All the Leaders Gone

Posted in Leadership by Rick on the September 16th, 2006

I find it disturbing that in many businesses these days we find an obvious lack of leadership. We can find managers everywhere, but no real leadership. What ever happen to independent thinking and risk taking?

It is easy to be a manager. Managers follow processes and monitor the action of people around them and insure the “Process” is being followed. Leaders on the other hand create independent thinking among their teams. They inspire pride. They stand out from the crowd and command respect. They are entrepreneurial. They are willing to take chances. They are innovative. They are willing to accept responsibility for decisions, right or wrong. They are people whom others will follow. Because of these characteristics, they do great things.

I am seeing a trend in business today that does not encourage leadership, and therefore does not produce leaders. Instead they produce managers. Here is what I am seeing. When a difficult challenge is presented to a manager, he or she will form a committee to discuss the issue before them. The committee is made up of team leaders (managers?) who sit around a conference room and throw out ideas regarding the challenge at hand. The committee may have appointed or been assigned a committee chair who will report back to the manager. When all of the ideas have been discussed, they vote on what to present to the manager.

The manager then takes this suggestion and forms another committee of peer managers and again the ideas are tossed around until a consensus is reached by the committee. The decision is then presented as the solution to the problem.

No one during the process wants to be responsible for the solution. Instead all of the blame for any mistakes can be placed upon the whole team. “Well, we all agreed that was the way to handle this.” So no one gets in trouble. If it turns out to be the best decision since “sliced bread”, then everyone begins posturing to take full credit for having originated the idea. What a hypocritical mess corporate America is making by encouraging this type of decision making.

That is why I really respect the small business owner. There is no committee to reach consensus. If the decision is wrong, the owner, not only bears the burden of being wrong, but pays the price for the error. If the decision is right, he/she goes on to the next decision, no fan fare and no pat on the back, but if lucky, will someday benefit from the decision.

It is easy to be a manager, just follow the processes. Leadership, on the other hand, is rare. How sad that is for corporate America.

To Your Success –

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