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13 Feb 5 ways to prep for the bad times in business while enjoying the good

This year is starting out like gangbusters, and it’s easy to smile as we enjoy the incredible tailwind created by this economy. However, as every experienced entrepreneur knows, business runs in cycles, and it’s not if we’ll see tough times again but when. So, at the risk of being overly pessimistic, how do we enjoy the good times while also staying prepared for the bad?

Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Protect your goals – Have you crushed your original goals? Has your timeline of events shortened? Remember why you’re doing what it is that you do and where satisfaction and happiness lie. Set new goals if you must, just recognize when the original finish line’s been crossed.
  2. Never lose sight of the fundamentals – When the pace of business increases, so does your tendency to take short cuts—just don’t let them become habit. It’s important that you maintain your process because the success you’re enjoying today is the result of tactics you employed months ago.
  3. Dance with the one who brung ya – Loyalty is earned over time, so don’t forget about your long-term relationships while wooing the new. There’s always someone out there waiting to make them their newest client.
  4. Know thyself – Just because your growth is leading you into new areas of business doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Shiny objects and distractions abound, so understand when you’re outside of your core competencies and re-focus. A very wise and successful entrepreneur once said “The key to success isn’t recognizing opportunity; instead it’s recognizing those opportunities you elect NOT to chase.”
  5. Remember, you’re not that good – It’s OK to pat yourself on the back for a job well done, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid. We all have flaws, and just like jagged rocks that lie below the water’s surface, they can sink you when the tide drops.

So ride this wave and enjoy every minute of it! Just know that at some point we all have to bail.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider 

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28 Dec The #1 goal you should have for your business in 2018

Every entrepreneur I know has the usual goals set for 2018 with targets for revenue, profit, and new product lines/markets all spelled out in detail. But there’s one very important goal that often goes overlooked – amassing and retaining winning talent.

Over the past two plus decades, my work has afforded me the opportunity to work with scores of companies, and one trait all of the great ones share is an uncanny ability to attract and retain top level talent. It’s in their DNA—and they aren’t just attracting any talent, but winners who both fit into and eventually alter their culture in order to sustain that next level of high performance.

I could sit here and list the “5 Ways Winning Companies Amass Talent” but that would be grandstanding B.S., as all good companies understand how to recruit. The real winners set themselves apart in their mission and with an almost maniacal drive to be the best (not necessarily the biggest) in order to dominate/change their respective markets.

Remember, the talent you need doesn’t just want to be on a winning team, they also want to have an impact. So plan big, get focused and be known as a company that will let them.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider

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03 Nov Dwain DeVille and The CEO Ride featured on Lafayette’s KADN

Dwain DeVille, the CEO of The CEO Ride, made an appearance on KADN News15 Today while on his ride through New Orleans and Cajun Country. The CEOs started their ride in New Orleans on Halloween, then made their way through the heart of Cajun Country to Lafayette. The bikers ended their trip by returning back to New Orleans for a fun night on Bourbon Street with great food, fellowship, jazz music and great stories.

In Dwain’s interview on KADN, he talks about why he started The CEO Ride, how it has grown, and what it stands for.

See the full clip here.

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12 Oct Ya Gotta Protect The Brand!

At best I guess you’d call me a casual fan of the NFL, as the sport lost my avid interest decades ago after moving to Florida. The reason is that football season coincides with riding season, and I prefer spending my Sundays on two wheels rather than the couch, so I’ve drifted.

For disclaimer purposes, this blog isn’t about whether or not players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem is just. That’s another argument for a different blogger. Instead, this blog is about my fascination, from a branding perspective, at how one of the biggest brands in America — the NFL — is totally bungling it.

We often hear that the locker room is a microcosm of society, so if that’s true, the players on a percentage basis mirror the feelings of America in general. In other words, if a large percentage of your players and a large percentage of your market do not agree, why in the name of brand management do you get involved and take a knee on such a divisive issue?

Why piss off a major portion of your customer base giving them reason to turn away, to take that Sunday ride, maybe never to return? The answer lies in an age-old axiom that “nothing fails like success” or to put it another way — hubris. The NFL’s overhyped opinion of itself has apparently outstripped its true value to society and is now feeling the pain of that all-too-common self-inflicted wound.

Where I come from, you learn to never discuss religion or politics, especially if you’re looking to sell something, much less if you want to be invited back to the party. Or as one eloquent pastor wrote recently, “How long would you continue to walk into your favorite department store or turn on your favorite sitcom if you first had to listen to one of my sermons?”

The NFL’s marketing department must be cringing knowing that with all of the other issues facing the brand, i.e. head trauma, misogynistic behavior and spouse abuse, job one is to sell entertainment, not politics. The NFL’s CEO, Roger Goodell, always talks about protecting the shield (brand) — but now, in the eyes of a great many, it’s tarnished. And as of this writing, he’s desperately scrambling to put that genie back in the bottle.

Indeed, this great country of ours allows for freedom of speech, but in business, we must also factor in the economic concept of opportunity cost and that we’re here to serve everyone. So before getting involved in something you feel strongly about, ask yourself if your opinion is worth alienating a significant segment of your market, i.e. cash.

If it is, then by all means go for it, because taking a stand for what you believe is what this country is founded on. If not, look for another way. In either case, consider the consequences, because it’s going to affect either your business or your conscience. And by the looks of recent reactions, we know which is more important to those owners.

I’m not sure how the NFL’s situation will turn out, but what I do know is that on any given Sunday, the sun will be shining and I’ll probably see a few more bikers on the road.

As always – These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider

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01 Aug A new way to look at peer-to-peer groups

The most recent CEO Ride through the Black Hills and around Sturgis and Deadwood, South Dakota, was our best to date. During our business sessions, one of the riders continually referred to industry disruptors and compelled us to look at our respective businesses in that light. Everyone, from those in investing to global security to IT to construction to retail had them – including me.

You see, The CEO Ride is based on the decades-old peer group model that in the beginning was itself a disruptor. As knowledge between business leaders began to be shared in meaningful ways, they achieved a competitive advantage that resulted in their respective businesses flourishing.

Now, however, it’s time for a change in the old school, large group, one-meeting-per-month model. That’s because in this fast-paced era of business, it takes too long to become a cohesive team and groups often only deal with issues of the moment.

When founding The CEO Ride five years ago, I designed it to be a small, intimate gathering of entrepreneurs who engage in a week-long process where we share information and knowledge while creating one-of-a-kind experiences that (in their words) take them out of their heads and bond them for life.

In other words, we don’t show up in a meeting room at 9 a.m., drop our bombs and then return to our normal daily chaos. Instead, we meet in the room at 9 a.m., drop our bombs, and then as a group, ride through the countryside letting our heads run free, coming up with one new idea after another and always building on our daily conversations.

And we do this for four consecutive days.

During that time, this group of very different, high performance leaders come together to form a solid team in a fraction of the time. Like the experience of riding, it’s hard to truly describe the depth of connection achieved, but I’ll try using our most recent ride as an example.

Day 1 began as a typical peer group meeting where everyone got to know one another and where the conversations were mostly business, focusing on just facts and lightly sprinkled with a bit of personal info. Then we added a 150-mile ride, and the shared experience quickly broke through the surface and created our own inside stories and jokes.

This was followed by dinner, where the conversations, be it business or personal, went even deeper—and where, as one multiple-time CEO Rider put it, “We’ll become your friends if you let us.” We multiplied this over the course of days discussing in-depth each other’s fears, attitudes, issues and desires in a continuous loop of sharing and most importantly – caring.

At week’s end we truly KNEW each other and had forged bonds of support that will continue to grow over time and have us all looking forward to the next ride.

Now I know this blog comes off as a shill for The CEO Ride, but there was really no other way to get my point across. Other entrepreneurs may not share our passion for the open road, and but they share a passion for something.

The saying “It’s lonely at the top” is not a cliché … it’s a fact. So whether it’s a passion for hiking, rock climbing, sailing, fishing or whatever activity takes you out of your head, find others who share it and come together to simply be who you are—because that, my friend, is when the magic happens.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider 

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08 May How to get back on track if your business is missing goals mid-year

I have a client who is missing her goals big, so we scheduled a meeting to work up a plan to get back on track. Hours before our meeting, I received an email saying an emergency came up that needs attention and we therefore need to re-schedule.

On the surface, having to move the meeting a few days is not a big thing — but let’s face it, folks, both success and failure are the culmination of the little things that are either done or not. And when they’re not done, they put you in a negative spiral that controls you rather than you controlling it.

It begins so harmlessly. “Ah, that call can wait until tomorrow,” or “I’ll get around to that meeting next week,” and then one day, a month or two later you turn around and that call still hasn’t happened nor has the meeting.

Goals aren’t missed in one fell swoop; instead success is slowly eroded day by day by the acids called inactivity and rationalization. In other words, we rationalize our inactivity by patting ourselves on the back for being so busy with the crazy day-to-day.

Every loser I know has a reason for not hitting his goals, and as you’ve read in this blog before, business is the biggest, baddest win/lose game there is. There is NO second place because only one person cashes the check – the winner.

So if you expect to cash those checks, expect to do the damned work. No matter how trivial the task may seem now, it’s not so trivial when goals are missed and cash becomes tight.

So if you find yourself in a hole and need to dig out, here are a few tips:

  • Review the plan – If you stopped to plan out your year (and I hope you have), pull the damn thing out of the desk drawer and look at it. Remind yourself of the promises made to growing the company and get back on track.
  • The power of three – Work the tasks listed in the plan by not leaving the office until you’ve checked off three items that will move the organization forward in the future, not simply clear off the detritus of today. This can be something as small as sending out a meeting request or returning that long forgotten phone call.
  • Do something, even if it’s wrong – Activity begets activity. Stop waiting for the perfect time or wordsmithing the perfect email. Just do something and set the wheels in motion. From there you can make the necessary adjustments.
  • Stop living in the moment and start projecting into the future – Just because something can be put off until tomorrow doesn’t mean it should. Remember, it’s always today, so take action and make sure when your next today comes, that “future activity” is now in the queue to happen TODAY.
  • Accountability – Hold a weekly or monthly team meeting (depending on how deep the hole is) and check to see if you’ve won or lost that round. Look into the mirror of accomplishment and admit to your team—and more importantly yourself—that you’re doing the work. Your progress or lack thereof answers that question every time.

Getting back on track is a process that takes discipline and attention. It’s pretty simple; in order to get paid, you must first pay attention.

As always – These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider

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12 Apr Why building your tribe is the trend to ride in 2017

In my previous post, I focused on the value of tribal ways when discussing the past in terms of how you and your company got where you are. Today, more than ever, we also need tribes to help handle the present, and more importantly, focus on the future. But you have to develop new tribes, made up of members from the outside.

Fortune Magazine recently posted an article by Verne Harnish, founder of a great tribe – The Entrepreneurs’ Organization. In the article, he talks about The 5 strategic trends to ride in 2017.

I’ll continue his “riding” theme in what I hope is not too shameless a plug as two of the trends especially resonated with me. They embody what I believe and build into each and every CEO Ride, and here’s why:

Join a Learning Circle: Peer-to-peer learning has been part of my business life for over two decades, and as noted in the article, is still the best way for us to learn. One of my mentors once put it this way: “The best experience is someone else’s.”

Sitting around a campfire or on the back porch of a cabin in the woods after a great afternoon of riding mountain twisties makes for a deeper and more relaxed exchange of tips, information and ideas. Having the time to hear the back story about the challenges that fostered their solution affords us greater trust when incorporating the same solutions into our business.

Plus, these in-depth, give-and-take sessions create friendships for life and give us a pack of thought partners to call on when tweaks are needed to our plan.

Mix with the Best: When searching for the right tribe, there are a few things to look for in terms of membership. We incorporate these in every CEO Ride, but these traits should be universal to any group you connect with.

  • Sharing vs. Taking – There’s no more giving group of people than bikers as we’ll ride for any cause in any weather simply because it makes us feel good and is the right thing to do. Entrepreneurs are the same when it comes to giving of their experience and support, so magic happens when combining those two mindsets.
  • Relate – The late, great Peter Drucker once wrote “size does not equal significance,” meaning your true peers come in all shapes and sizes. When first gathering, we’re not sure who we’ll meet, but we know our real peers in a split second as they aren’t there to judge one another or boast of revenue. Instead, peers are more interested in sharing what matters most – life experience, the challenges that have shaped their businesses and how each was handled.
  • Diversity – The best come from all over the globe – from Boston to North Carolina, New York to Toronto, Chicago to Grand Cayman and everywhere in-between. That’s the beauty of building a global network. The markets are somewhat different, but the challenges are similar and more often than not, the solutions universal.
  • Bonding – There’s a sense of belonging to a true team that helps with the ever present loneliness at the top. Members will take a call anytime or jump onto a plane at their own expense to help a fellow rider work through an issue with only one agenda – to be of service.

In the end, whether you ride or not, finding your tribe is important. And if you do ride, come along on a CEO Ride … it’ll change your life.

As always – These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider

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30 Mar The Way Of The Tribe

Throughout history, tribes talked … a lot. After all, what else were they to do with no smart phones, texts or email to “communicate”? They met around a fire at night where elders held court, passing tribal tales down from generation to generation. These were stories of battles won and lost, of success and survival, with each tale serving a purpose — to teach the traditions and wisdom of the forefathers.

Today the campfires are long gone, and the pace of life and business has grown ever faster. However, just because the pace continues to increase doesn’t mean we have to. It’s now more important than ever to slow down and take time to communicate — properly. Because in business the race isn’t won by the fastest, it’s won by the best.

Too often we rush things, and what used to take years to master we allow/expect people to learn in half the time. Instructions? Let’s just write it down and expect them to read it. Perfection? Who has time for that? They’ll “grow” into the job.

We find ourselves only talking about the day-to-day issues of the moment rather than lessons of the past. We forget to value and honor the hard-learned lessons and thereby are destined to re-learn them.

Yes, it’s cool to go all Zen and live in the moment, but it’s also important to take the time to dwell on the past. Buy a 6-pack or two or pizza at the end of the day and have everyone gather around for old war stories. Stop and tell them what you went through, how you either got your ass kicked or succeeded. Tell them why you continued to get back up.

They need to hear firsthand what you’re made of as well as the principles and traditions that built the company they’re banking on for the future. They need to learn how to win, and it’s not done in a vacuum or as they’re left to their own devices.

Simply put, winning in business isn’t a mic drop, it’s consistent excellence and an adherence to the traditions on display, day-in and day-out, that embody your ideals for the world to see and embrace.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider 

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23 Jan How to hit the ground rolling in Q1 with your business

It’s the start of a new year. You’re rested and focused, and you know where the business needs to go. All that stands between you and a successful year is your team’s ability to hit the ground rolling in the first quarter. That’s because history shows the efforts and projects started in these first months pretty much dictate what we focus on, engage in and accomplish during those that follow.

So how can you be certain that your team is focused on those key tasks that will jump start a successful year? One easy way is to treat the coming year like it’s a cross country bike trip and break it down into “legs” — one quarter at a time. Here are three questions that will help focus your team on doing just that:

Q1 – What are your top two or three companywide initiatives for the first quarter?
Indeed there are a dozen or so items on your company goal sheet for the year, but it’s not realistic to start all of them now. So, as a team, discuss each and agree to the two or three that should be started now. You’ll get to the rest later.

Q2 – What are the top priorities among your individual team initiatives and goals for the first quarter?
Identify with specificity each team member’s role in executing the initiatives you selected. Their understanding of the “why” behind the “what” will help to start the year quickly. Besides, the last thing you want to do is begin the year with a failure simply because you started a project or two at the wrong time.

Q3 – What does success look like on March 31, 2017?
General Norman Schwarzkopf was once asked how he managed the thousands of troops so successfully during the first Gulf War. He said that “There were many individual battles but EVERYONE knew that our priority was to NOT let them cross that line.”

So, after you’ve organized individual priorities, go back to the big picture and remind your team what a successful year looks like. Define and paint a picture of the proverbial finish line so they see it clearly and ensure all efforts are focused on crossing it … successfully.

As always – These are my thoughts, and I could be wrong. If you disagree or simply want to add to these ideas, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Dwain – CEO Rider

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