Category Archives: Thinking Aloud

The Smoke Alarm Reminded Me

We lost power last night. There is a curve in the road near our neighborhood that apparently is difficult to negotiate although I’ve never found it to be so. At the apex of the curve, there is a utility pole that the folks who can’t manage to keep their rubber on the road hit with some regularity. That, in turn, kills power to several neighborhoods, mine being among them.

The real darkness and quiet (no ambient light, no fan) woke me up. After spending a minute worrying that the power would be out long enough to defrost all the contents of the freezer, I heard the unmistakable chirp of a smoke alarm. Not the shriek of a problem, but the chirp of an alarm whose battery had died. Our system is hard-wired into the house’s electrical system so the battery’s life is rarely an issue. It was last night.

I tried to ignore it. It wasn’t the unit in my room but the one about as far from me as could be. The chirp that came each minute disturbed the dogs, who are terrified by the alarms. You’ve never seen three “fearless” beasts shake like Jello when a little smoke from the oven sets off the system (all the alarms go off when one goes off). Still, I tried to go back to sleep despite the chirping from the alarm and the whining from the dogs. I figured if I ignored the problem, the power would come back on shortly and all would be well.

Eventually, I was right. The power did come back on. Not before I got out of bed and found that one alarm was glowing red (they normally glow green) and reset it which didn’t solve the problem. Not before I got out of bed a second time and found a step stool to reset the chirping alarm in the hope that the chirping would cease. Not before I removed the battery from the singing siren despite the fact that I didn’t have a fresh battery to put in. But several hours later, the power came back on.

Did that solve the problem? Nope. The alarm kept on letting me know that the battery I’d reinserted was no good. It wasn’t until I remembered that one of my tools had a 9-volt battery I could swap in that the chirping ended. In other words, it wasn’t until I addressed the problem head-on and with a solution I know was required but was reluctant or unable to provide.

It was a good reminder. We often ignore potential problems until they happen. We’ve lived in this house for 18 months but haven’t changed the smoke alarm batteries since the system doesn’t run on batteries. We often attempt to minimize the problems (but the power DIDN’T come right back on). A small problem can lead to bigger problems. No battery leads to frightened dogs which leads to no sleep. We try to force solutions that we know won’t work but are easier for us instead of doing what we know is required. 

Take the time to do routine maintenance. Look for potential problems and anticipate the solutions. Don’t wait for the alarm to chirp about anything in your business. Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud


I started playing the guitar when I was 11. At the time, learning how to play the riff from “Satisfaction” or “Day Tripper” felt like a big deal. A few years later, along came Jimi Hendrix, and what I thought of as playing lead guitar changed completely. Sure, Clapton was still my idol (I mean, the “Crossroads” solo on Wheels Of Fire. Has it ever been better?) but Hendrix opened my ears to the possibilities the instrument contained.

I played guitar in bands through middle school, high school, and college. I was rarely alone in my room without a guitar in my hands. I couldn’t really emulate the Claptons and Hendrixs of the world but at least I understood what they were doing. Then, in February of 1978, along came Eddie.

With the release of “Eruption,” Eddie Van Halen redefined the guitar. It’s the solo that changed guitar forever and blew the minds of anyone who ever picked up the instrument with serious intent. In 102 seconds, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about something I’d been playing for over a dozen years. How was he doing that? It was so far beyond even what Hendrix had done.

What amazed me the most wasn’t just his use of a technique I’d never seen before. It was how grounded in musicality his playing was. Beautiful arpeggios that just soared. Yes, as I came to find out, others had been using the techniques Eddie was using, but what made Eddie’s playing stand out was how despite the feedback and squeals, it was very musical. You might not have known that Eddie learned music early on and won a piano competition. He learned Bach and Mozart and not just Lennon and McCartney. There’s a business point there.

Too many of us jump into business thinking that we’re going to change everything. There’s nothing wrong with that. But learn from Eddie, who really did change everything. Before he did so, he was grounded in the fundamentals. He studied the masters. He learned to play Clapton note for note and mixed up Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Hendrix. He melodized, perfected, and popularized the techniques he learned from them and from others. Oh – and he always seemed to be having fun while he was doing his job.

We can learn a lot more from Eddie than just how to handle a fretboard and even if you’re not a fan. I’m sorry he’s gone. You?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Music, Thinking Aloud

The “Stuff Got Real” Moment

I’ve never jumped out of an airplane and I probably never will. I’ve had a number of friends who have done so, however. Most of them were excited about making the jump but even they had what I call the “Stuff Got Real” moment. OK, I usually use another word in place of “stuff”.

The moment comes when they reach the open door, feel the wind rushing by, and look down. That’s when whatever fear they have hits them. My guess is that there’s something in our DNA that says leaving a perfectly good aircraft when it’s several thousand feet above terra firma isn’t so smart but our DNA doesn’t know about parachutes.

That same SGR moment is something I deal with on a regular basis. The folks I work with to help them change their lives through business ownership inevitably hit the SGR moment as they realize that they can change their lives and live their dream. They have the money, we’ve found a business that they like, the numbers work, etc. That’s when they hit the open door.

No, they don’t see the ground. In some cases they know they have to leave a job even if it’s one they hate. In others, it means they have to invest (read that as risk) a chunk of their life’s savings in their new venture even if it’s a venture that dozens or hundreds of others have proven to be successful. It’s scary and because of that, quite of few of the people who travel this road with me vanish at this point. They quit returning calls and emails. They go back to what Thoreau termed their lives of quiet desperation.

Maybe it’s a good thing. Starting your own business, even one that’s an established business model with a known brand is hard. Sure, you’re given an operations manual and a marketing plan. You’ll be trained by people who have been running the business for years. You might even have a mentor assigned to you for a period of time to guide you. That’s all well and good but YOU have to stand in the open door and jump, even though you’re strapped to people who have made the jump many times before. You have to commit to the jump and not everyone can do that.

I tell myself when a prospective owner balks or disappears that they are probably part of the 99% for whom business ownership isn’t the best path. Lately, I’ve taken to warning folks early in the process that they’re going to face the SGR moment and I’m here to help as are any franchisors we decide to investigate. Hopefully, that helps when the wind hits their faces and just maybe they step through the door. Could you? Let me know if you want to try.

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Filed under Consulting, Franchises, Thinking Aloud