The Value of Value Difference with Harvey Miller

This last semester I had the privilege of taking a class with Chris Howard, the current CEO at Northstar Investors amongst his involvement in many other successful business ventures. In Chris’s class we were given his view on value creation and management, it was a brilliant class. But that’s not what I want to talk about in this piece. Chris had three guest speakers all of whom gave their view on the same topic. I want to emphasize “view” here because in each instance, including Chris’s, they never gave us budding business students absolutes on how it is or was, but only their view if it. There’s a difference. One of those guest speakers was Harvey Miller.

Harvey is the VP and GM at Glacier Glove, a sporting goods company headquartered in Reno, NV. Harvey is also is involved in or has been involved in many other successful business ventures and when he came to our class he did a presentation on value creation and management from a marketing perspective. Afterwards, I reached out to Harvey about a possible interview and he graciously accepted. Here are a few of the great things we talked about.

Elton: “One of the things you talked about in your presentation was ‘the purpose of an organization is to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things’ which had a big impact on me. One of your strengths is your ability to develop a strategy or tactical mode of operation for a startup business. If you were taking over the marketing portion of a startup, how would you develop a process for ordinary people to do extraordinary things?” Harvie Miller, Picture

Harvey: “To begin with, I think for an individual organization to follow that type of strategic path requires an understanding of who that organization is. I truly believe in any organization you have unique features, and it’s whether those unique features are important or significant enough to your target audience. If you can differentiate yourself to your employees and in turn your employees can share that with the potential customer you can create a unique organization. At that point you start to empower your employees when they understand what your unique position is, and what that value difference is when it comes to the competition.”

Expert’s Input: I know we’re just getting started but recently I was reading a piece by Dave Stein titled: “What’s Your Difference? Achieving Competitive Advantage with your Customer by Establishing a Value Edge.” There’s a lot of good content about that value difference Harvey is referencing but to briefly share Dave says: “When you demonstrate that you understand your customer’s value expectations, it’s likely you are having conversations with your customer that no one else can have. You have gained the value edge.” That directly supports what Harvey is talking about so now back to it.

Elton: “That was also something you hit on in your presentation, that ‘management of differences.’ Is that along those same lines?”

Harvey: “Once the differences are understood, then the employee can make decisions with a level of confidence and that is what you want them to be able to do. To make the decision and not feel like they need to necessarily get things approved all the time. It gives them the ability to proceed with confidence either to resolve an issue or to move forward.”

Elton: “That’s a high level of empowerment going on with the employees. By enabling them to actively make decisions and ultimately that’s why they were hired in the first place. Enabling you to step in as needed otherwise your focus can be on that vision.”

Harvey: “I like to see recaps in what has occurred, whether it’s daily or weekly so I know what is going on. It also gives me the ability to follow up if I am concerned about something, to gain additional information for clarification if you will. It can also become a teaching moment depending on if they made the right decision or not. Now if they made the right decision then you want to give them positive reinforcement. If they didn’t make the right decision, well then what can they learn from it and as an organization how can we have others learn form that also?”

Elton: “So you are seeing not only moments for correction but opportunity?”

Harvey: “Constructive guidance is the best way to describe it. Most organizations take a negative approach when there is a problem, they see it as a situation where they need to reprimand someone. That should only be considered after a continual repeat of the same problem, then you need to take corrective measures. There has to be a learning curve, that’s how organizations grow.

Elton: “That is something that I have been keying on in my own business interactions, these moments as being real opportunities for growth. That is where a lot of us in management and those we work with make some of our biggest strides, but only if we see it as opportunity?”

Elton: “Another thing you discussed in your presentation was a brand development strategy. That it’s not what you say it is, but what they say it is. Building enough trust for them make the purchase which ties into service marketing. How are you giving the customer that perspective or enabling them to glean that perspective on their own?

Harvey: “Some organizations look at the product independent of service, but if you stand behind your product and service that product, then that service leads to more product and that again comes back to service. So you are connecting the two rather than treating them independently i.e. once the product is out you feel removed from it and don’t allow for that service to take place.” 

Elton: “So, it is a constant service review from service of the product to the customer and back to service again? Kind of a service feedback loop?”

Harvey: “We do it on a regular basis by looking at what our top performers are, and then kind of taking the Jack Welsh approach like he did at GE. By looking at the bottom performers and cutting 10%, we can then introduce new products and have room to grow without the clutter.”

Elton: “That ties into another thing that I wanted to touch on and that is: ‘keep raising the level of the conversation with the customer.’ Is that part of that relationship? That cutting from the bottom portion while improving the top portion?”

Harvey: “We see it in when we take a look at sales and we break it down by product. We know what of our product mix is being accepted through the number of purchases. At the same time we take a look at the stuff that’s not moving and ask why. Is it bad product? Is it a bad price point? Is it a combination of lack of value because it isn’t a good product or it’s priced to high? Then we have to seek out additional feedback and we may do very informal focus groups to drill down on some of those points so we can get to the root of the issue.”

Elton: “Do you feel that conversation with the customer is taking place and you’re not just sweeping away the non-performers? But rather asking why they didn’t they perform and then determining how can you improve in those areas?”

Harvey: “There’s an overlay to that and that’s when we introduce a product, sometimes there is a ramp up period. We work on the product and we think we understand the market very well but why isn’t the market jumping in? The reason might be we may have reps that don’t know the subtleties enough to empower the customer. For us, it’s about finding reps that understand and can be empowered, at least to a certain degree since their independent, what is it we are trying to achieve and what makes our product unique, understanding those differences. How are we differentiating and is there enough difference that if it’s a high price point people will still see value?”

Elton: “What I would like to wrap up with is in regards to data base marketing. As you said in your presentation to us: ‘marketers know more about us than ever before and some of them know how to use that information.’ As a leader in your field and given what you see going on around you, how do feel we should be responsibly managing this information while using it effectively? Again, with the customer’s needs and there safety being at the forefront.”

Harvey: “I am going to give you an example of different sales metrics becoming valuable in making a decision. Most of our business is business to business vs. business to customer. But a trend we have been seeing is our target market has been predominately male. As a result, a sizing of the gloves are skewed towards medium to xx-large. As these males are crossing over into fishing and hunting, spouses are getting involved and they’re bringing in their children at various ages. Now we’re finding our mix has been skewed towards the smaller size so we are changing to include small and even x-small in some situations. So its understanding how our target market is shifting a little along those lines of different product mixes. People are also becoming more aware of sun damage and when you are out fishing, you don’t want a lot of lotion on your hands so we’ve found that sun gloves are well received. That market is growing at a phenomenal rate both because people are active and because people are looking for that sun protection. So as we become more educated to the dangers of the sun, so does the customer allowing us to provide a product that is functional and helpful. That is a significant change in our market place.”

Elton: “Do you feel that there are some out there that are misusing this type of information they’re getting from the customer in this data based market? And if so can you think of an example?” 

Harvey: “I will share an interesting story about a company that we don’t compete with directly but is also in the outdoor industry. This company is called Outdoor Research or OR. When Outdoor Research started into the outdoor industry, they had very high-tech product that was very well researched based upon the needs of the target audience. They provided apparel that really had unique features and that provided that extra dynamic whether it was the way they sealed seams or the way the product was cut. Then they started to get into hats for sun protection and now they have gone so far into the hat line that they’ve become fashion. Meaning they have lost the focus of where the company started from. Now I don’t know why they went that direction, whether it was because of a test market from their bae or because it’s a larger market? But to me the competition is so much greater in the fashion world that they may be able to move more product but that may come at a lower price point and smaller margins which affects the bottom line. Just not sure if strategically it was well thought out.”

Elton: “To conclude, you made the statement in our presentation that: ‘whatever it was that got you here today, is not going to be enough to keep you here tomorrow.’ So, you have to keep raising the bar or cut away from the bottom. Which is what it sounds like you’re doing here at Glacier Glove and unless you have anything else to add, I would like to thank you for your time.”Harvie Miller, Sketch Retouched

Again, I want to thank Harvey for his time and his marketing view on value creation and management. So, when looking at your own business, any business, look for that value difference. If it’s not there, how can you create by empowering your employees and in turn your customer? If it is there, how can you sustain it?

Image Credits: Picture, and Sketch by Author


A Selfie with the Mayor of Reno, NV

I waited a while for the opportunity to sit down with Hillary Schieve the Mayor of Reno, NV. As you’ll read she’s justifiably quite the busy person. For me, after completing this blog post, it was worth the wait. During our sit-down we had a chance to talk candidly about growing up in Reno, screwing up tweets, and ping pong. But also we discussed management topics such as delegating authority, leadership as a role, and transparency. So let’s get to it.

CofR Final

Out-of-the-Box Thinking

Elton: “As you built your private business, it was out-of-the-box thinking that set the stage for you to excel in Reno even when we were in a decline. Can you tell me about that type of approach when it comes to being the mayor?”

Hillary: “As an entrepreneur, I have this drive and this way of thinking that is a little different. It’s typically creative and innovative. When tackling similar challenges in government, something totally creative and innovative is very difficult to put into an ordinance. You have to go to the legislature and have a bill passed to make a difference here. In my business or in being an entrepreneur, when faced with a hurdle I can immediately get creative and think outside the box. As much as I think we need more elected leaders that think that way and have that creative side when it comes to getting things done, you can still do it in government it’s just a little more difficult.”

Hillary: “For instance, we have local motels that are very dilapidated and a lot of are police officers are continually having to go to them when 911 calls are made.”

Elton: “Right, I saw some of those posts on social media referencing this.”

Hillary: “What happens is that it takes all of our resources to one property all the time instead of our police being out there with other citizens.”

Elton: “Instead of doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing?”

Hillary: “Right, exactly! My idea and it seems very simple and easy, is that when there are excessive calls were going to start charging you for those services. The business managers running these motels making excessive calls and consuming our resources; there has to be a better way. Unfortunately that’s not something that you can just do, you have to go down to the legislature and have a bill passed which takes a lot of work and time to get something like that and acted upon. That’s where it can get a little challenging but also this is where you can think outside the box. Now I’ll go down there and pop into these businesses and have a one-on-one meeting with these managers which can have a dynamic effect. But we also have to be very thoughtful and sensitive; for instance the same motels are being used for low income housing. You have to think “how am I going to work around this?” That is the one thing with government is that it can be a little challenging when it comes to wanting to get something done right away.”

Elton: “You’re actively engaging which I’ve found in business and as I’ve written about in my blog, if you get up out of your seat and actively engage individuals’ face-to-face, talk to them one-on-one, the results are ‘dynamic’ as you said.”

Experts Input: Readers please pause for a moment here. In a great piece about the dynamic engagement approach titled “A few Management topics in Brief” by Sree Rama Rao, he talks about how an organization’s environment is not some set of fixed, impersonal forces. The entire piece relates to my interview with the mayor but I’ll leave fore to you to read, it’s full of great insight. But to this idea of dynamic engagement he says: “… managers must not only pay attention to their own concerns, but also understand what is important to other managers both within their organizations and at other organizations.” It sounds like Mayor Schieve is doing just that by listening to what it important to these motel manager and their tenants. Let’s keep it rolling.

Delegating Authority

Elton: “When you’re down at these motels or wherever you may be and you’re getting that dialogue established, do you ever feel that some of these duties or some of this facetime should be delegated? Because what I see from the outside is that you’re all over the place. By delegating some of this might allow you to focus your attention to more quality results rather than the quantity of visits?”

Hillary: “I really want to connect to our community and that means being involved in many different issues and initiatives. I’m very much involved in being hands on with our community that’s why I focused on bringing back the neighborhood advisory boards (NABS) which I found are really important to the citizens of Reno. Other things like the university movement, the revival of downtown, and bringing in large economic drivers for businesses are also very important to the city. My focus on downtown issues revolves around cleaning up the blight, addressing homelessness and addiction, and again the university movement. People really want to live downtown, there’s a new generation of community that we’re seeing in technology and arts and culture so I’ve really tried to stay focused on these types of things; we all want a downtown that were proud of. But at the same time, I’m out in the community a lot because there are so many other issues that need to be addressed. I want our city to see me out there all over the place, I want them to know that I’m engaged and that I care. I think there’s a problem if you don’t see the mayor out and about.”

Elton: “Those are some things that were a part of the platform on which you ran, so seeing that you’re following through is tremendous. It sounds like that active engagement we were talking about earlier is keeping you focused rather than spreading you too thin and your energies are concentrated on the areas that are the most important to you.”

Hillary: “Well, I think you’re right, my first year in office it was really important for me to engage with our community. That’s the only way we’re going to change our community for the better, buy how our citizens want to shape it.”

Elton: “All of us?”

Hillary: “Yes, I was out there a lot getting lots and lots of feedback. If you saw my State of the State address there were five hundred people that attended. It goes to show that when you engage with the community it allows them to say: ‘Hey I am part of this city, I own part of this city.’  And that’s where things change, that’s where private and public partnerships happen, more opportunity happens. Because we can’t do it all, but we can certainly do some maybe most of it if we’re all in this together.”

Author’s Input: Pause again just for a moment here readers, and re-read or listen to that last statement:

“And that’s where things change, that’s where private and public partnerships happen, more opportunity happens. Because we can’t do it all, but we can certainly do some maybe most of it if we’re all in this together.”

That was off the cuff but really resonated with me after listening to the interview again. It allows for perspective and is realistic about what can and can’t be done by an individual, but also what is attainable in a united community.

Leadership as a Role

Elton: “For you, it’s a ‘dynamic’ relationship that you have with the city and at the same time the city council. As a focal point for both, how is your leadership style effective when you’re having to step in and step out of that leadership role?”

Hillary: “I think people might perceive leadership in different ways. For instance, our last mayor had a different leadership style and people were used to that style for over a decade. In the past I’ve been criticized that I don’t strong arm my council into enough votes. But that’s not the kind of leadership that I like to aspire to. I like to bring the council along with me at the same time, we’re all in this together. They’re all free thinkers and talented people, I want them to come to the table with their own ideas and be respectful of that. Remember, they were elected just like I was and we work for you so it’s important that we take into consideration what your wants and desires are. But we still have to make decisions and typically half the people like them, and half the people don’t. That’s difficult, one side wins and the other side loses. As we discussed earlier, I started out as an entrepreneur that was frustrated with the process of government, not a politician. I don’t want to rule with an iron fist, that’s not my style of leadership. Like I said, I’ve been criticized because people were used to what we had in the past.”

Elton: “And it’s different now?”

Hillary: “Yes, my style of leadership is very different from that, I believe that were all doing this together.”

Elton: “But is it still effective leadership?”

Hillary: “Absolutely.”

Elton: “So, if the results are manifesting themselves, and it’s effective, don’t challenge the style of leadership that got them there to begin with? That’s a big thing people can improperly focus on, when they’re critical of how you do something and aren’t necessarily focused on the results. Which,in the case of a governmental timeline, is even more difficult as the results might not be seen for a long while to come.”

Hillary: “And my personality is very positive and sometimes people perceive that as weakness. I really believe in having a community culture, one in which all us can shape this community, that’s more my style of leadership.”

Biased Perceptions

Elton: “Besides being the mayor of the city, you have outside business connections that might make you appear biased when making mayoral decisions. How do you fight that perception that you’re making decisions about the city to favor your business connections? How do you maintain an unbiased approach?”

Hillary: “Reno is a small town and we all sort of know each other, it’s just part of living here. People come before the council all the time and people will always perceive the same thing differently. There was an incident where we were appointing people to a board and one of those people happened to be a friend of mine so I abstained from voting on that item. I know the council very well and I believe them all to vote their conscience and how they feel about a matter. I don’t go to them and say: ‘Do this or else.’ As I said earlier, they’re all free thinkers and incredibly talented and bright. But there are a lot of people who felt I put this individual in that place when again, I actually refrained from voting. So at the end of it you have to do what’s right towards the council and towards this job with a moral compass because no matter what your decisions are, you will always be judged by them.”


Elton: “Can you tell me about the evolution of transparency in the way that you interact with the council and bringing the citizens of Reno into the governmental process?”

Hillary: “Transparency is very important and a lot of it comes down to opening the doors to city hall so that everyone has a voice. I felt like before, and remember I’ve experienced being a council person prior to being the mayor, that business was only open to a select few. I felt that this was wrong and we needed to open the doors for everyone. So now you see people that are investing and doing business in the City of Reno that never would have been seen here before. We’re pulling in people from Silicon Valley, Arizona, even people from Japan. So it’s very diverse now which is healthy and a lot of that has to do with transparency. We want to be a city open to everyone, especially the residents. We want their voices heard because that’s what’s going to change the dynamic and the culture and make this city for them, for us.”

SelfieThat wraps it up and what a great piece to be a part of. As you can see the Mayor of Reno is a very busy individual and so I would like to thank her for giving openly of her time and focusing on the questions in a genuine manner. She gave me some great insight into dynamic engagement which is a twist on active engagement, a topic I hit upon last year. In closing remember this dynamic engagement doesn’t just involve the mayor and her interaction with us, but it involves all the citizens of this wonderful city. It’s our responsibility to be dynamic with our voices, with our actions and with our convictions when it comes to Reno. The door is open, we just need to step through and engage.

                                                             Image Credits: Video, Picture, and Sketch by Author

Quick and Dirty Leadership, with special guest: Mignon Fogarty

Today, I’m going to take extra care with my writing as in this post, because I had the honor of sitting down with Mignon Fogarty, or more popularly known as Grammar Girl. To this point in her young career she’s already created so much great content I don’t mind saying I was a little excited, and a little bit nervous about our scheduled interview.

We met downtown at the Reno Collective, a collaborative workspace for designers, creatives, technologists, entrepreneurs, freelancers, rocket scientists and startups. It’s a great space and an even better project. It was my first time there, so I really appreciated Mignon inviting me down to check the place out and more importantly, to talk with her.

Typically when I’ve been lining up these interviews to discuss leadership and project management across industry platforms, I’ve had an idea, at least an inkling of what I wanted to discuss with the interviewee and how it would tie into the subject matter. Not so with Mignon. I knew that she offered a very unique perspective, one which I hadn’t considered until the opportunity of talking with her had presented itself. I attempted to formulate a loosely structured direction the conversation could’ve gone, but it was pretty much chucked as soon as we started talking.

Rather than try and force her perspective and accomplishments into a leadership box, we ended up talking about her passion(s), what excited her and how she arrived at this point in her life. That’s where the real magic appeared to come from, so I’m very happy to share some of that conversation now.

Let me interject quickly here, she started out in English then matriculated into science. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I’ve heard of failed scientists turning towards an English degree but not vice versa. Chuckle. It really speaks to her broad interest and her thirst for knowledge, not to mention her intellectual capacity. Let’s see where it takes her.

Accepted into the biology PhD program at Stanford and then dropping out to work on a startup during the late ’90s .com boom! Man, this woman has lived! Haha! But, she took advantage of opportunities and it sounds like she took calculated risks. Very daring and yet necessary sometimes to see what sticks. As managers and leaders we’re required to do this quite often when searching for a solution, when searching for results. We need to be daring, we need to take calculated risks and play it away from the vest a little. It reminds me of my interview Mark Estee of Reno Provisions and Campo. He definitely plays it away from the vest and so should we in certain instances, with our own level of extreme applied accordingly.

Quality content is difficult to produce as attested to by Mignon, twenty hours for forty minutes of content. But for her it was worth it, it wasn’t sustainable, but worth to effort. Through the process she was able to experience some great enjoyment it sounds like but more than that, she was able to determine what wasn’t feasible. We’ll talk a little bit more about this in a few moments but I’ll preface with this: just because we love it, doesn’t make it the right fit. Also, let’s not lose sight of something here, before Mignon was Grammar Girl, she did a weekly forty minute science podcast, man that’s great!

“Snackable” content, or “Bite Sized Quanta”, that’s the nerd in me that’s appreciating the science gal in Mignon, such great stuff. I think the point here is we as leaders and managers don’t need to say a lot to be effective. Sometimes it’s necessary to package our message in lengthy statements or speeches, but you’ll probably find the shorter to-the-point messages stick better and can have legs of their own, longer lasting. Again, just because we love something, that’s not the whole story as Mignon said. We have to be sustainable too and when those two can merge, when our passions cross paths with a good business model, well then that’s where the magic can and will happen as seen by Quick and Dirty Tips for Mignon. Wrapping up, I talked with Mignon about her TEDx talk: Who Votes for New Words? You Do! she did earlier this year for the University of Nevada Reno.

Beyond this clip I talked to Mignon a little bit more about the rules, about abiding by those rules, and about those who have staunch opinions regarding language rules. I believe it’s very safe to say she has a real respect for those rules and those individuals. But, as with all things we need to maintain perspective because as she said, in two-hundred years from now we’re the ones who are going to look ridiculous, and our rules will be picked apart. So, in all things, maintain perspective because staunch opinions and absolutes breakdown and don’t hold water in the face of perspective.

From being first in her family with a college degree, to budding scientist, to author and creator of Grammar Girl, the point is you never know. The path we travel is long, and as leaders and managers we need to maintain perspective that just because we’re not seeing immediate results, or if we get frustrated and bogged down, that doesn’t mean we’re on the wrong course. In fact, the hard the road traveled usually has the more rewarding the end result.

I said at the beginning of this post that I was going to take extra of my writing in this post. Well, after sitting down with Mignon, I found her to be very much accepting of people’s writing styles, unique quirks and honest mistakes here and there. After all, that’s how it sounds like Grammar Girl was started. A girl who wanted to write and didn’t know quite all the rules or how to better her writing. And in her research she decided to share what she was discovering with the rest of us. I don’t think I could feel more at ease when it came to my writing than after sitting and talking with this extraordinarily accomplished woman, with an extraordinarily approachable and humble spirit.

Image Credits: Video by Author

Law Enforcement Integrity, with special guest: Jim Colbert

We’re back with Jim Colbert, former police officer in the Reno P.D. for thirty years. Yesterday were talking about …

There was a lot more along with that, such as struggling against a public that doesn’t trust you, or having a captain that’s not in tune with the problems of the day, but if you haven’t read it yet I’ll leave it to you. It’s a good read with some great video but not necessary to continue with today’s piece. I would say at this point that Jim gives some excellent examples and perspective of these leadership/management topics I’ve been discussing in this blog. Granted, they are extreme versions of those topics but non-the-less, very applicable to the discussion. Let’s continue with some more great perspective.

This is a great example of how over time, our standards need to evolve. On a vaguely related level, it’s similar to what restaurant owner Mark Estee was talking about: “Never being satisfied,” we need to be pushing for change constantly because it’s going to happen whether we like it or not. The world is banging at the door and the face of that word is ever evolving so it’s up to us to open the door, welcome in that change and assist in its development. If we’re not changing along with it, it’s going to move on down the street to the next door and we’ll be left behind. I’m not sure this is the best metaphor but I believe it makes the point that in five, ten, twenty years’ time, you won’t recognize your business, industry, or those working in it so we can be a part of it, or we can be left behind.

I’m not sure what I mumbled 28 seconds in but it sounded like gibberish. (Haha). My apologies. What Jim it talking about ties directly into what we were talking about yesterday in having the right personnel for the job and how harmful it can be when the wrong person is brought in and the fit isn’t quite right. The difference between today’s and the conversation yesterday along this same line is that the same person hired for the job today is not necessarily going to be the right person for the job tomorrow. As I said previously, the world is changing and we have to change alone with it and that includes how we fill out our teams. We need to be constantly asking: “Has the job changed? Is the job still necessary? Have the people for the job changed?” Let’s keep going with that same discussion.

Maintaining that balance between: “This is what I’m allowed to do and what I can do,” and being cognizant of those boundaries can be so beneficial. Know yourself, know your strengths and especially know your weaknesses. That “knowing” is a strength in itself and it can be such a tremendous asset in dynamic situations similar to what Jim is talking about. It will give you the perspective you need to gather the right kind of help when you need it. Let’s start to wrap up this great two-day conversation with Jim and see what he has to say about his own perspective on a thirty year career.

“The most important part of it is that honesty and integrity that you have to maintain if you want to be able to get the job done. If you want to be able to work with supervisors, fellow officers, and to have the communities support that’s so critical in getting the job done. And if you are lacking in those areas, you’ll never get the job done.”

Well said and nothing more is needed or should be added to that great synopsis, Jim nailed it! And you heard what the result was, how the Chief of Police valued Jim as an officer and what he provided to the force? It sounds like the Chief valued Jim as more than an officer and that kind of credibility can only be gained through your actions, your values, and what you stand for.

So, that’s what honesty and integrity accomplishes, that’s what it gets you on the street as a police office. Without it, there is no way Jim could do his job effectively day-to-day. Armed with that honesty and integrity  not only did he effectively do his job, but he did so much more in the form of projects and in the process garnered the respect and admiration of his fellow officers. Can you imagine what it can do for you in your day-to-day interactions with team members, in your business?

I want to thank Jim for taking the time out of his day to sit down and talk with me about leadership concepts that he faced and dealt with in the extreme. I hope this has added to your perspective of law enforcement and perhaps gives you an idea of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. I know for me, even after forty years as his son, I’m still learning from Jim. About quality leadership, about perspective, and about the life skills necessary to live an effective life. I’m also about the double standard he had when it came to forcing his own kids to eat their vegetables. Haha!

If you didn’t catch that last reference, read and watch yesterday’s post: Police Blue Leadership, with special guest: Jim Colbert

Image Credits: Video by Authro

Police Blue Leadership, with special guest: Jim Colbert

Retired but definitely not out of the game, this is the second video interview and in it I was able to garner some very unique perspective from Jim Colbert, a retired Reno Police Officer who spent thirty years on the force. Let’s just get it out there now, Jim is my father but he’s not the first family member of mine to be interviewed for this blog. Earlier this year I talked to my brother Joel about being a father of four and how leadership plays a role in his household. He and his wife Mandy are very effective project managers, effective managers of tomorrow’s leaders I would dare say. The point is, managers and leaders are all around us and we interact with them daily. We are said managers and leaders and the qualities necessary to effectively get us through life, to successfully launch and build careers, and to manage our hectic lifestyles are very similar, as you’ll see, to those of a retired peace officer.

When I sat down with Jim, we stared talking about how the mantle of leader is thrust upon a police officer, it’s not something they grow into or are promoted to. As soon as that uniform goes on, they are instantly a figure of authority, a leader in the community. Let’s not waste any time and listen in on some of that conversation.

What a very difficult situation to be in. Imagine being a part of a situation where you were brought in to replace an outgoing employee and it was known for a fact that this employee did business unethically. And regardless of the fact that you were the new guy brought in to replace this tarnished individual, everyone you were accountable to considered you unethical also? At least until you could prove to them otherwise? I don’t know how you could even function in a situation like that let alone make a difference. Also, I want to be clear on something, when that uniform went on, that’s exactly who Jim was accountable to, every member of the public. Let’s continue with the thread and the dichotomous relationship that Jim had to deal with in a general public that he was sworn to protect.

Double standards and the fundamental attribution error. Again, what an uphill battle to fight every day if your career. A public that wanted to blame the officer for catching them when they were wrong. Ironic, that’s exactly why we have them in place to begin with. To uphold the law and discipline those who break the law. So, as difficult as that sounds, let’s hear how can this can get even more so.

Wow! So, that’s  it can get worse. Dealing with a public that doesn’t trust you and compounding matters by having a captain that can’t navigate successfully through some very tough waters. What I see though is a chance where a leader to step up and be accountable and be transparent, and how effective those qualities can be in very trying times. As Jim said, a leader that is “in-tune” with the situation and upfront, being accountable. But more than that, communicating what’s going to be done about the current problems and how those problems are going to be prevented in the future. This is such a hot topic item right now with police brutality center stage in so many precincts. But, that’s not what this conversation is about so let’s continue.

Leadership, it’s constantly an uphill battle. As a police officer, and as Jim said: “It’s was a weird role,” one that required him to wear many hats including Vegetable Patrol. As leaders we need to be aware of the many expectations that could at any turn be thrust upon us. As authority figures we may need to respond to one or many awkward and challenging “weird” moments that you can’t prepare for but with practice and perspective, you can have the right tools in place, ready to respond to them

Having the right people for the job matters. Just as Jim was talking about in his line of work, we shouldn’t just plug-and-play people into different roles as we see fit. There needs to be an alignment between their skills and the job in question. There needs to be an alignment between the individual and the tasks that are going to require their attention. Yes, we could just plug anyone in and we might not notice how ineffective it is. But we will defiantly notice when it’s absolutely the wrong person for the job, and so will that individual. There are many that suffer in these instances, the person doing the work, the job itself, and ultimately it reflects back on you the manager or team leader since it was your responsibility to insert appropriately. Again, in Jim’s case the examples are extreme, for the wrong person in those situations can lead to the loss of human life. Regardless, the same principles apply.

Perspective. We in the general public as so quick to make those judgment calls in regards to the police and their actions. But after listening to Jim talk a little bit about it, it really brings into focus a much different perspective. We have to keep that flip-side of the coin readily at our disposal, we have to be able to analyze and consider what our team members and our employees are having to deal with. Because more often than not the results of a situation gone awry is exactly that: results. Results of something that could have been prevented at the beginning of a chain of events. Looking at the whole chain will give you that valuable perspective.

Jim wraps up this portion of the conversation with something that again in his case is extreme when compared to what we’re required to deal with. He’s held accountable in a job that he was hired and trained to do, and that it’s very likely his results could be called into question down the road. I believe he said it earlier: “People remember the bad stuff you do, they hardly ever remember the good stuff.” So, in that light, being accountable is very difficult but if you can stand up take ownership of your actions, especially when it goes bad, it will set you apart as an individual of strong character.

After this we took a short break and so let’s pick up the remainder of conversation in tomorrow’s post. But, what a great conversation so far! For me, what I find intriguing is this man who has been my father for over forty years still has something new to show me about himself, about is experiences, about his views and even about his double standard when it came to eating vegetables. I can’t believe he told some kid he didn’t have to eat his vegetables. Who is this man and where is my father? Haha! Beyond that, he’s given some really extreme examples of when leadership goes wrong and what it takes to keep it right.

Image Credits: Video by Author

Being a One Percenter in Leadership, with special guest Dusty Wunderlich

This is a rather special interview. It will be the first one that incorporates the dialog from the interview with video. For this groundbreaking occasion, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dusty Wunderlich – founder and CEO of Bristlecone Holdings amongst other things. I could sit here and tell you about the great things that Bristlecone is achieving, or about some of his previous endeavors, but I’ll leave that for you to research after readings and listening to what we talked about in our sixteen minutes of face time.

First of all I want to apologize, I didn’t have the camera set up optimally so part of my head is cut off. But, that’s really okay because there’s a great money shot of Dusty, and a mug.

To start off, to preface, it was a little fortuitous that the night before I was to sit with Dusty, I was listening to NPR and heard a blurb about the richest 1%, and how much control they have over the worlds wealth. Statistic: 85 of the world’s top wealthiest people control the same amount of wealth in the world and the bottom 50%. The fortuitous nature of it was that I had also watched the 80’s classic movie Wall Street the night before also. You know the one with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen? Classic! In that movie they hit on some very poignant topics that are still very relevant today. This all tied into a TED Video I was recently shown about a plutocrat whose talk was directed to the top 1%, and how they need to wake up because the torches are coming. He actually equated it to the French Revolution.

Tying Wall Street to the TED Video to the NPR piece I walked into Dusty’s office knowing I had some thoughts on all of it. What do I think about it, and what if anything could I do personally? Now I’m sitting in this room with this guy who’s has already experienced very serious business growth and is personally and financially successful. He’s on his way up running an incredible startup and I’m sure his fingers are already in other things where he could see additional rapid growth. So some of these concepts I was marinading on, maybe he’s already thought about them. This was kind of a perfect storm for this topic since Dusty had recently returned from a trip to South Africa where he experienced some of this stuff first hand. He apologizes for the phone but the conversation and the message is clear. Let’s listen to some of what he has to say now.

So, we’re poised for an answer but I want pause here to remove some of my own opinions about the matter. I want this to focus primarily Dusty’s thoughts and what the topic might provoke in you. What he follows up with is great also because he ties it into Reno and gives it a local perspective. He defiantly answers from a place experience and links it to what they are trying to do at Bristlecone which is more than you would expect.

“Creating a hundred millionaires,” sounds good to me. How do I get in? Seriously, what Dustys talking about there is as leaders, we’re not only in it for our own gain, if we can bring others up along with us, we can then send them out as ambassadors.

Wow! This is some great stuff that Reno is in dire need of. I feel comfortable inserting my own little opinion here on Reno. And that is this wonderful place has had an identity crisis for so long. At least ever since we tried to compete with Vegas and after losing that battle we’ve been scrambling and grasping at straws to really get our legs underneath us. So now that we understand where Dusty is going, and what we as individuals can do about the wealth inequality gap that exists today, how does the guy out on the street combat that? How does the individual who doesn’t have the means get his voice to be heard?

So what are we up against? A system that was setup two-hundred plus years ago to work effectively in those times, for those men? And now, it’s a radically different time and we’re struggling in that same system that itself is struggling to respond to current times. From a business perspective, we’re trying to fit our environment into that same outdated box. We end up with a lot of old school mentality that is striving to implement change in a way that is antiquated at best while declaring: “This is how we’ve always done it in the past.” This is Institutionalist mentality and just because we have always done things a certain way doesn’t make it right, nor does it fit in today’s environment. So we need people from within and without to come in and push for change. Let’s look at this from a different perspective, let’s switch our way of thinking and get the word out.

“You never arrive.” I seem to recall another gentleman talking about the same thing. A Mr. Mark Estee and his passion for never being satisfied. So, it’s not that we haven’t asked this question before or are grappling with the something different than our parents wrestled with. It’s a new generation and we’re asking the right questions it’s just that ….

So this time we’re in now, it’s kind of exciting as everything is becoming so branded. People are aligning themselves with companies and products that fit their taste and their lifestyle. There are all these niche groups that are created and according to Dusty: “It’s phenomenal! It’s never been easier to be an entrepreneur with things like Kickstarter, social media, and the internet. This is what we should be embracing, products and services created out of nowhere that traditionally would have been impossible. A time that can increase the greatness of America and address the problem of those 1%ers.”

What a great interview! I want to thank Dusty for his time and to Kristin Stith also at Bristlecone for aiding in setting up this interview.

Image Credits: Video by Author

Sweet Spot Leadership, with special guest: Mark Estee

Okay, we’re back and I’m still with special guest Mark Estee of the Reno Local Food Group. This is the second part of the interview and if you haven’t read the first part, check it out: Roller Coaster Leadership. We’ve been having a great conversation about his projects and some of the things he faces as a leader/manager and how those things are handled or addressed. Let’s not waste any more time as this doesn’t need any more setup. The last thing we were talking about was his managers need to have ownership, that
 they need to run with their own projects and the result is valuable experience regardless of success or failure.

Mark: “Those are the things we use to create that organizational leadership we were talking about earlier. Now I’ve been in other places where it’s been a dictatorship, I came up in that. You know I worked in hotels and it was the way the general manager wanted it and that was the way it was going to be, no matter what. And I was fuck’n pissed cause the general manager never worked a god-damn day next to me. He didn’t know the hell I went through. So, I think there’s something to be said about coming from the bottom up, I think there’s something to be said about willing to do and be a part of every job that’s out there, but also knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. So, if I know I’m not good at something, I’ll find someone who is good at it and bring them on.”

Elton: “Play to your strengths and play to their strengths?”

Mark: “Yep. I kind of call that ‘Putt’n the ego aside.’ A lot of times I think ego gets in our way of leaders in situations like that. And we need to make sure we’re checking our ego at the door, and that everybody else checks their ego at the door, that we’re all making good solid decisions.”

Elton: “Which leads to success?”

Mark: “It can lead to success. I always challenge my managers and I talk about this a lot and that’s if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. You know what I mean? If you play it all close to the vest and all safe. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m going to go out on a line and say that 90% of businesses do that. I’ll say 90% of businesses get to a place and then they play it close to their chest, I’m not knocking them, that’s just not who I am. You know I had a manager say to me one time, it was a couple years ago and he doesn’t work with us anymore, and I was talking about something and he’s like: ‘You’re never satisfied man! You’re never fuck’n satisfied!’ And I literally threw the table over and said: ‘Get the fuck out of here, I’m never going to be satisfied, who’s satisfied?’ Satisfied, what does that even mean? Now, we don’t sit here and harp on people every day like crazy, but we’re never satisfied. Again, what does that even mean? Is it an exit plan? In which case, no! Not right now.”

Elton: “Where you sit back and coast?”

Mark: “No way! I’ve been in businesses like that, I don’t like that. And that’s not how I want to run my company. Now, do people have days off? Yeah, everyone gets two days off, everyone has family time, everyone has all that kind of stuff they need. It’s not like we’re salve driving everybody.”

Elton: “Quality of life, you have to have that quality of life outside and inside.”

Mark: “The thing is, the thing that I’m working on, in full disclosure, I’m working on figuring out my end. You know, I’m the guy, still to this day that gives everybody their days off and I don’t have days off. But, I’m in the growth period and for me it’s like, it builds up a loyalty or a trust factor with the managers knowing that I’m not asking them to do anything that I haven’t done or I’m not willing to do myself.”

Elton: “Sure, leading by example. And there’s a lot to be said about leading by example.”

Elton: “I want to backtrack again to something you said about that transparency and how you’re open to the community. Are there any ways that you’re engaging with the community to say, and not just when they come knocking are you transparent, but are you banging on people’s door, knocking on people digitally, knocking on people’s conscience saying: ‘Hey, we’re a transparent company, come check us out. Hey, we’re reaching out to the community, come check us out. Hey how can we help you? Come check us out.’”

Mark: “Well I think, to answer that question let me say this. We’re more about attraction rather than promotion. So I would rather, and I think people have, seek us out versus me seeking them out. I think that gets to be a little bit pompous, I think it’s a little bit of a bad thing. You know what I mean? We just do what we do and if that attracts people to come talk to us that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. I’m not the food police, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do. Like I had somebody call me and say: ‘Look, I really want to get involved in this whole local food movement, I want to get in on all the related media, how do I do it?’ And I said, ‘Buy local food.’ Real fuck’n simple answer. You know? Buy local products, there’s no secret.”

Elton: “Yeah, sounds pretty straight forward.”

Mark: “Exactly. We’re sitting here talking about how do I do this and how do I do that? And the answer is, just go out and buy it. There’s no secret. The secret is there is no secret. So I think for us we’re more about just doing what we do. We do talk about it a lot, again we’re not playing it close to the vest you know? When asked to speak, I speak, but I don’t go around volunteering to talk to anybody. If someone asks me I’ll say: ‘Yes.’ And I do say ‘Yes’ a lot. Actually there’s a point that I need to pull back a little and we’re talking about the possibility of putting it together. There are a lot of projects that have come to fruition that I consulted on for free, or given my advice on or given my opinion which is totally cool but there’s a point there and well shit, a lot of people get paid to do that. You know? So I feel I get paid back in other ways, you know like every time I give I get ten times back.”

Elton: “Right! And there’s a lot to be said about that too. I checked out your website and it tells you about this or that but you’re … how do I say this? You’re providing an atmosphere where you’re giving and then like you said, you’re getting back tenfold from that giving. But you’re not giving to get back. You’re giving to actively engage with the community and I think that active engagement fosters communication, trust, loyalty, and I think you’re seeing that now take place in a lot of your different projects.”

Mark: “We’ll tend to say: ‘Do the work, but don’t be attached to the results.’ So, we’re willing to do the work always, and not just me, everybody is. We want the results and for instance we’ll say: ‘We really want to promote lunch,’ so we try and then lunch usually then gets promoted. Or, we have some bad reviews about service so we all want to really improve service. But then we get another bad review but we’re still trying. So to me, it’s like we did the work and we ask: ‘Did we do it?’ Then we again ask everybody: ‘Are we doing everything we can right now?’ And maybe someone is like: “You know, I think I could have, I think I only touched ten tables that night but I missed the eleventh table and that’s the table …’ And we’ll respond: ‘Okay, well than hit them all.’ Then well boom, all of the sudden all those problems go away. Or they say: ‘You know what? I touched eleven tables that night and still that happened.’ Okay, well let’s keep doing it and even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, I bet if we keep doing it we’ll eventually get the results we want. Right? So it’s just kind of that small mentality.”

Elton: “Sounds like it’s the little things? All fine tuning?”

Mark: “It’s all about the small stuff.”

Elton: “That can reach so far into what you’re trying to achieve.”

Mark: “Yeah. Again, going back to it the culture is the setting, that vision, that mission is the setting and everything else is little compared to that. And all of the things that we do that are little, but put them together and that adds up to that setting. And so it kind of feeds itself that way, that’s kind of how we manage our whole entire operation. And we ask our employees to buy off on that. One of the things and I’m not sure if other people do it is our employees are our biggest proponents. You know, that mass is our biggest group of people talking about what we do, talking about our culture, talking about who we are and all that stuff. Those are the things that really make us successful. So I know that it comes from me and goes down to our managers, it goes from our managers to our employees. You know I think that’s how it works the best. And the way we do it is for me, I’m the hardest on the managers and the sweetest on the employees because the managers have to manage that in their own way. So for employees when they say: ‘Mark, can I get some vacation?’ And I’m like: ‘You know, you’re going to have to go talk to your manager, I can’t answer that for you.’ It’s not my job you know? I’m not going to step on the managers toes.”

Elton: “Sure! And you’re not here to micromanage?”

Mark: “Right. So, and I learned that the hard way, to really make sure that it stays that way. Like if one of the employees says: ‘I want a raise.’ I’m like, okay, let’s all get together to make that decision. I may like that person a ton and think they do a great job but I’m not next to them fifty hours a week.”

Elton: “But you hire the people to make that call. That’s why you put them in place. Again, play to your strengths, allow them to play to their strengths, and then with everybody that you have, you have this strong environment.”

Mark: “And even if it’s easy for me sometimes, I have to let them kind of earn their bones, they have to earn their bones.”

Elton: “Like you did?”

Mark: “Right. I might be like: ‘I could do that in five minutes,’ but also I’m like: ‘Okay no, it might take you five hours to do the schedule, so be it.’ So, instead I say: ‘Hey, I’m really good at making the schedules so if anyone needs my help I’m here, if not, you guys got it.’ They can show it to me and I’ll look at it, go through it and show them the scenarios. So, it’s kind of a fun thing to kind of help manage other managers still. That’s how we do it.”

Elton: “Right! So that ground floor improvement, that ground floor excelling, it sounds like it’s kind of permeated throughout all of the businesses.”

Mark: “Yes, that’s what we work on. Now is it always perfect? No, we’re constantly tweaking it.”

Elton: “Well, that goes back to that guy who said: ‘You’re never happy.’ And your reply: ‘No, no I’m not.’ And on one level if you stall out …”

Mark: “’Satisfied!’ I’m always ‘happy’, but I’m never ‘satisfied.’”

Elton: “Okay, let’s make that delineation.”

Mark: “There’s a big difference. Because if you’re not happy in your business who the hell wants to be around you? So, I work hard to be happy, that’s important.”

Elton: “And I get that vibe from you.”

Mark: “It’s important that everybody is happy.”

Elton: “Okay, well even when I walked in here, I walked through the place, I came back and I was engaged by everybody that I encountered in a very positive way so it definitely exists. So, it’s not something that you’re just talking about, it’s happening. But, if you’re never satisfied, and you’re trying to avoid that ‘stall-out’ point, there’s gonna be the guy right? There’s gonna be that guy right behind you that is pushing, that’s pushing harder. And you’re pushing to keep ahead but you’re also pushing because you love what you do. And I believe that’s what people do who excel in project management, in leadership, and in the businesses. They love what they do and they’re good at it. So, they’ve found that ‘sweet-spot.’ And you may find people, business managers that love what they do but ehhhhhh, they’re not the greatest at it. Or they’re really good at it but their hearts not in it. But when you find those leaders and business managers that are not only effective in the business side of things, but they’re effective with their employees and they’re effective in engaging with the community, that to me is just … it resonates with me and with the people I interact with in the right way to getting those quality results.”

Mark: “Yeah, yeah to all of that.”

Elton: “So, I think you hit on ten or twelve things more than I anticipated so I’m going to conclude our interview here.”


So, again, a roller coaster of an interview. We were literally all over the place and I probably could have pieced it out into combined single thought threads. But, I believe the spirit of the interview would have been lost. Literally, we met for the first time, sat down and shot-the-shit for twenty minutes. Yes, all that took place in a twenty minute time period. We were spitt’n it out as fast as the thoughts and words rose to the surface. For me, it was fantastic!

I want to thank Mark Estee and his assistant Amanda Bratzler for putting together this interview and making the time to sit and talk about leadership and project management in a fast paced industry that is, like Mark said, is not for the faint-of-heart. So, to the readers, it’s about finding that ‘sweet-spot.’ Aligning a passion with something you’re good at. It’s not easy to do, but if you get the opportunity to combine those two things, you too could find yourself working seven days a week and loving every bit of it.

Image Credit: Photo by Author