What Is A School Bus, Really?

While attending a presentation in the Detroit suburb of Novi I was given a fresh perspective in an unexpected way.  The CEO of a school bus company was visiting the group to speak with us about the economy and how they, as a company, had weathered the storm.  The structural changes and adjustments to employment levels they implemented were significant, but necessary, to assure long term success.  As he shared charts and graphs that illustrated his points I paid attention as well as I could.  Typically, these kinds of presentations are not of much interest to me but it was educational nonetheless. 

As he transitioned the presentation to the history of the company he got more passionate.  Many years ago the company founder had an epiphany and I can imagine the conversation in his head went something like this. 


“Children in rural areas can not get a good education because, in part, they can not attend school on a regular basis.  This is due to the great distance they must travel every day.  If I could help them attend school every day, they can improve their chance at a better life.” 


Thus, the first school bus was built and a brand new industry was created.  Is this not the starting point of so many entrepreneurial ventures?  One person wakes in the morning and sees a common problem in a brand new light.  They see the problem in a whole new way and think to themselves, “I can solve this.”  As the CEO laid out a history of the development of the school bus industry I became more engaged in the conversation. 


The blessing I received from this presentation was yet another confirmation that being an entrepreneur is not simply about being your own boss and making lots of money.  Becoming an entrepreneur is more about being willing to suffer personal struggles and loss in pursuit of a greater purpose.  We do what we do to make a significant difference in the lives of the people whose lives we touch with our presence and our product.


As you develop in your journey, whether you are an entrepreneur or not, seek a higher purpose.  Find a passion that drives you outside of your own personal desires.  Follow the dream placed in your heart from the time you were conceived.

Racing To Success


During a recent visit with a friend we were discussing how running a successful racing team can be applied to running a successful business.  I thought I might share some insights from the conversation. 


In racing, things happen at an incredibly high rate.  There is little time to make decisions and execute changes when you are driving 200 miles per hour.  As a result, the need for precise and accurate decision making is paramount.  Racing teams invest an enormous amount of time preparing the car and equipment throughout the week to assure it is ready for Sunday.  They practice every move they will make over and over until they can do it subconsciously.  The simple task of changing a tire must be completed in as little a 3 to 5 seconds during a pit stop.  Putting 40 gallons of fuel in the tank must be accomplished in less than 10.  Everything is a carefully choreographed ballet.  Any slight misstep can mean the difference between first place and 20th.  After two hours of racing the difference between winning and losing can in the 100ths of a second.  Many races have been won or lost based on the pit stops alone even though they take up less than a minute or two in total.


During the race, the driver must make small yet precise adjustments to car and driving style to minimize the time it takes to circle the track.  Each and every move that is not dedicated to maximum forward motion costs precious time, time that can never be recovered.  Every time the accelerator is lifted speed and time are lost.  Every traffic situation that requires excess navigation costs more time.  There are a tremendous number of decisions that have to be made every second of every race.  Distraction of any kind will cost the team the race.


The pit crews are built based on finding highly trained individuals who know how to work together in pursuit of a single goal; being the first car to cross the finish line.  Each member has a specific job and trains to do it as efficiently and quickly as possible.  They practice endlessly to perfect the moves they will make together on race day.  The things they do become ingrained into their minds so deeply it becomes second nature.  They anticipate what could go wrong and practice how they will deal with it on race day.  Something as simple as a lug nut falling off a wrench can add several seconds to a stop so they plan for and practice what they will do when it happens. 


Business can be approached in the same way.  We make many critical decisions every day.  We perform functions that will affect our future, sometimes in very significant ways.  Many times we do not see the result of our decisions until late in the “race”, when it is too late to make up time and win.  Each decision has a natural, reliable and predictable outcome.  Often businesses struggle, not because of huge errors in decision making, but more as an aggregation of ineffective or incorrect decisions.  Decisions that did not keep them moving toward their goal. 


As you circle the track in pursuit of your business goals, be mindful of your decisions and actions.  Make those decisions purposeful with an eye toward constantly moving your company toward your ultimate goal.  Educate yourself continuously.  Make plans that accommodate changing conditions.  Work closely with your team.  Practice, practice, practice.


Good racing, see you on the track!!

What Is Solar Power Anyway?

The idea that all energy sources are in competition with one another has bothered me for some time.  It seems the arguments are all about solar vs. hydroelectric vs. wind vs. petroleum vs. (insert your favorite here).  I submit there may be an argument that all of them are actually solar power.  In short, every source of energy on the planet is the result of solar energy being stored for later use, just like a giant battery.  May we consider the following as examples of solar energy in it’s various forms?


Solar panels capture photons of light that are directly converted to electric current to be used immediately or stored in a battery for later distribution.  This is the most direct use of solar energy and what most people consider “solar power.” 


Hydro electric power, in use since antiquity, leverages water’s tendency flow down hill.  Humans discovered in ancient times if we channel and focus the energy, stored in high altitude lakes we could leverage its power.  In modern times a dam is built and water flow is directed through a turbine of some kind to generate electricity.  If you consider that water is deposited in a high elevation lake as the result of solar energy evaporating water at lower elevations and condensing it at a higher elevation, its potential energy is merely the result of solar energy; just one step removed.


Wind power, used for millennia, is a method of capturing natural air movements and harnessing it as a source of power.  As air passes through the blades of a wind mill it is converted to mechanical energy which turns a generator creating electricity that is distributed to where it is needed.  What we call wind is nothing more than air that is forced to move due to the heating and cooling cycle caused by solar energy.  As the sun bombards one part of the planet with heat other parts are cool.  Because hot air rises, cool air sinks the results is air movement on the planet.  Again, it is solar energy just one or two steps removed from the source.


Petroleum created when plants absorb energy from the sun.  Through photosynthesis plants absorb sunlight energy and use it to convert carbon and hydrogen into the hydrocarbon atoms that feed their biological processes.  As plants die they become part of the biomass that is under our feet.  Over time the dead plants are covered with soil, compressed, heated and processed to become what we know as oil, coal and shale.  Over time plants become the condensed and highly concentrated hydrocarbons that fuel our economy.  This too is a form of solar energy just several times removed from the source. 


Consider that even wood is a source of solar power.  For thousands of years people have used wood as a fuel source.  This just shortens the process by one step as compared to using hydrocarbons.  It is a source that is only a couple of steps removed from the solar energy emanating from our sun.


An argument can even be made that nuclear power and geothermal started with a burst of energy from the sun in the beginning of time.  As the planets were forming the sun sent huge amounts of energy and heavy elements into the core of our earth.  What we know of as nuclear fuel is but the remnants of that formation process.  This is, perhaps the oldest source of solar energy.   


Here is the point.  As with any energy source there is a finite amount available, even if it is millions of years worth.  If we deplete the source faster than it is replenished the “battery” will run dry and our economy will grind to a halt.  As we engage in conversation about the future of our energy needs it makes sense to me that we strive to discover the longest lived source of energy with the least damaging long term impact so we can all enjoy the benefits and abundance that our planet offers. 


Could there be some benefit from all advocates gathering together under one banner to find the best solution to our energy needs?  I leave it up to them to consider this question and make a decision on how to leverage their time and effort.

Expert or Know-it-all?

Do you share your knowledge or express your opinion?

We have all seen it.  In virtually every social or business engagement there is one person who seems determined to convince us that he or she is an expert on a variety of topics.  The pattern is quite  typical.  Based on a small nugget of information they tell everybody what they “know” and how they should respond to this critically important information.  I think of the many emails I receive from friends calling me to action based on some urban legend or myth that makes it into the internet biosphere.  Have any of you seen an email from this person?  Your friend forwards an email reading something like this; “For decades car companies have been buying up patents  that will make our cars go 100 miles on a gallon of water only to quash them so their buddies in the oil industry can get rich.  Call your congressman now  and tell him to make GM build cars we can fuel with our garden hose.”  Most of us think it is silly that car companies would pass up on that kind of competitive advantage for more than two or three milliseconds but some believe it to be irrefutable fact.  More so, they think we should al believe it as well.


With little or no research these people will share incorrect information with EVERYBODY they encounter.  They forward emails to the world without investigating the issue for a minute.  Their desire to be admired by the crowd overpowers common sense and logical thinking to the point they lose all credibility.  But, since they don’t recognize it as such, they shout their message frequently and loudly hoping people will see them as an expert in something…in anything.  I am sure a psychologist could share the root of this condition better than I so I will leave it to them to fill in the details of this section.  


What these well intentioned folks do not realize is that they are undermining their position with every repetition of a falsehood.  In math and science the principle is called an inverse relationship.  The more something is done the less effect it has on the desired outcome.  As their reputation builds it is not long before they are seen as nothing more than a blow hard or “know-it-all.”  They lose power and influence in social and business settings. 


The “know-it-all” shares opinion not knowledge.


Contrast this with another, far rarer, person.  These special individuals have invested the time to research a topic deeply and carefully.  They understand the nuances of an issue in great depth and can back up what they say and do with clear, incontrovertible, evidence.  Interestingly, they never seem to argue with others or try to convince them to believe they simply share their knowledge and let others decide what to do with it.  There is a sense of confidence that allows them to share information with others in a non-threatening way.  Should someone disagree they sit quietly with an open mind and listen carefully and honestly.  They have the confidence to know that, should they be proven wrong, it is ok to make adjustments to their belief based on new evidence.    Should a debate be necessary they can conduct it with intelligence and compassion.  They engage in a process of mutual discovery not badgering and name calling.  In a room full of people they are regarded as an “expert” in their field and are generally well liked by most (except for the know-it-all of course). 


“Experts” share knowledge not opinion.


For much of my 45 years I was seen as the “know-it-all”; I was even referred to as Cliff Clavin from the TV show Cheers on multiple occasions.  Cliff had broad but shallow knowledge of many things yet caved easily when challenged because he never took the time to understand anything in depth.  As I grow and mature I have purposely chosen to become a true expert in my field.  I’ve worked hard, studied and completed research to know what I know and have the ability to back it up if called upon to do so.  Contradictory views do not threaten me, they energize me.  As a result I have better relationships with those around me.  By listening more and saying less I have built additional influence and power within my community.


Are you striving to become an expert or settling for being a know-it-all?  I would encourage you to take the path of becoming an expert.  Put yourself in a position to share your knowledge not your opinion!

Fly The Plane

Recently, I took my introductory flight lesson and got completely HOOKED on flying.  It was the realization of a 30 year old dream and I can’t wait to begin the process of getting my pilots license.  Once on the ground I sent the requisite text message, including an aerial photo, to family and friends in order to commemorate the event.  Thanks mom and dad for the gift certificate!!! 

A few days later I was on the phone with Dean when the topic of flying came up.  He had taken flying lessons 30 or 40 years ago but his memory was fresh on the subject.  As we discussed my experience the topic of dealing with unexpected aircraft problems came up.  He shared that his instructor told him over and over the most important thing to do in an emergency is to “fly the plane.”  What he meant was to not become so distracted with the emergency that you forget to make sure the plane is staying in the air as long as possible while you assess the situation.  The first thing to do in an emergency is to scan the gages, set the flaps and trim for maximum glide path and begin looking for a location to land the plane.  If, for instance, the engine has quit running there is little hope of restarting it in the air.  Focusing on starting a dead engine while careening out of control is counter-productive to say the least.  It is critical to know what to do in an emergency and how to do it which is why you are trained how to deal with them long before they occur.  Just like the boy scout motto says, “always be prepared.”  I think of Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed a US Airways airbus in the Hudson, saying what he and the crew did as a team was merely a result of the excellent training they had received. 


We all experience emergencies in life whether they be personal or business.  Storms just crop up from time to time.  When an unexpected challenge comes about consider how pilots are trained to handle emergencies.  First, and foremost, keep calm and identify the most important things that must happen to assure forward momentum.  Financially, check the equivalent of gages, flaps and controls to be sure they are set correctly…then deal with the issue methodically and calmly.  Knowing your plane will not careen into the ground because you prepared properly will give you a sense of confidence that will pull you out of the situation successfully.


Life is short and precious.  Keep perspective and set your priorities carefully.  Always, “fly the plane.”

Start Strong, Work Hard, Finish Well

The most fulfilling times in my life were in the pursuit of what I was designed to do. Fulfillment was never measured by my bank account or pay stub. Though money is important, it is rarely the best measure of true success.


I recently shared a few words of encouragement with the students of Mott High in Warren, MI. We were at our last meeting of “Winning Futures”, a high school mentoring program in the suburbs of Detroit. Volunteer mentors take high school seniors through a curriculum designed to develop a five year life plan that gives them focus after graduation day. I shared this principle in the hopes that they will stay focused on futures they are ill-equipped to comprehend at this point in their lives. My encouragement was to find the dream that exists deep within themselves and pursue it with passion and purpose. Never sell themselves short was the essence of the message.


Do you believe that each of us has a calling placed within our soul from the time we are conceived. A calling that is unique to us. A calling that only we can fulfill. With the worlds population approaching seven billion it is easy for us to look at what we do as insignificant or un-important; in the greater scheme of things. I would ask you to consider the contrary to be true. Consider not only the famous people who endured great hardship in the pursuit of their passion. Consider those in your own life that fed your dream and supported you as you followed your passion. Did they get a Nobel prize for their efforts? Did they get public recognition for the gift they gave you? Probably not but was it not as important as the work done by those famous few who did get the recognition?


I propose that each of us is given a grand dream that can only be fulfilled by us. If we do not follow this passion but instead opt for the safe route we not only cheat the ourselves but we diminish the world in some significant way.


Do what you can, do what you do, follow your passion….the world is counting on you.


Start strong, work hard, finish well and never, ever, quit.

Hosanna House of Michigan

Every year thousands of kids leave what should be the safest place on the planet for them and go into the world alone and frightened.  Home has become so incredibly dangerous that staying put is not an option.  They do not know where they will live or sleep every night.  They do not know where there next meal will come from or who will supply it.  What seems unlivable to most of us becomes a way of life.  They become homeless by intention. 


Imagine a home life that is so bad that it feels better to become voluntarily homeless.  Imagine what life must have become to leave home and  enter a dangerous and un-predictable world with no place to go and no plan.  Now imagine encountering someone who tells you they will care for your needs and protect you.  Who is this person, what is their true motive?  Can you, a scared and vulnerable 16 year old be a good judge of character?  Is this a kind, compassionate stranger with pure intentions or just another pimp looking for his next girl to work the streets?  Perhaps this is just another drug dealer looking for yet another mule to spread his destruction?


Now imagine there was a place they could run toward as you flee your life at home.  Imagine a place that is safe and loving, the home you always wanted.  Such places do exist, though they are few.  Thousands of teens live alone and exposed on the streets because there are not enough safe havens for them to run to.  why?  The answer is  simply a matter of mathematics.  There are more run away teens than safe houses  to accept and care for them.


Enter “Hosanna House of Michigan” a start up non-profit organization based in Lansing, MI.  The mission of Hosanna House is to begin filling the gap.  It has taken upon itself the duty of establishing homes that are  staffed by caring professionals with a deep driving desire to make a difference in young peoples’ lives.  It is our goal to buy and renovate homes in towns around the Greater Lansing area, and beyond.  These houses will be the foundation of the safe havens young people need to flourish and grow.  The  staff will shepherd young people from hopeless lives of desperation into productive and proud adults with a desire to overcome their past.  Our desire is to help them paint a vision of the future that would otherwise be unobtainable.  But we can not do it alone, we need help and lots of it!


Hosanna House will be opening the first home later this year, but only with the help of many, many people like you.  People who are willing to part with a little of their money and time in support of our mission.  Will you be one of the select who help make Hosanna House a reality?  Will you do your part and share what you have been blessed with?  Will you donate some money and time to make this happen?


Visit the website www.hosannahousemi.org and let us know what you are willing to do to help young run away kids move to the next phase of their life, whatever they choose for themselves.


Thank you


Dan and the whole Hosanna House of Michigan board of directors

Michigan Manufacturers Association Workshop

River’s End Consulting is proud to announce it will be conducting a half day workshop for the Michigan Manufacturers Association in Lansing on April 13th.  This workshop will guide the participants through a set of exercises designed to familiarize them with the principles and tools of a Voice Of the Customer (VOC) system known as “The Customer’s Way”.  For additional information, follow this link  www.mma-net.org/education/seminars.asp?SeminarID=670

Interchange forum April Event date is set

River’s End Consulting is proud to announce it is co-hosting an executive forum on April 19 in Novi.  If you are a forward thinking leader click on the link for more information Event Info or simply click the order button below and join us for a two hour discussion.