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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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28 Dec Just stop it! What things must you stop doing in your business in 2017, and 3 other important questions to ask

At year end, an entrepreneur’s mind is on many things, from a look back at the past year to a look at next year and how to organize it. To that end, I created “The December Project” to help take stock of where I’ve been and where I’m going in order to hit the ground running next year.

These four basic questions are usually pondered one at a time, but when separated out, they help us to see things a bit differently. And when asked of your entire management team, these questions help foster an enlightening and productive conversation on the current state of the company and where it’s going. (Plus, their answers and perspectives just might surprise you…)

Q1 – What 2016 accomplishments are you most proud of?
This is tough for most entrepreneurs, as we rarely take time to pat ourselves on the back and usually focus only on the misses. But taking the time to reflect and expand on our wins reminds us how good we really are. It also allows your team to feel good and celebrate a bit too.

Q2 – What were your major challenges/failures for 2016?
OK, back in our comfort zone. We can create this list, but this time, write it down. You can then better discuss each in-depth in terms of what went wrong, and you can then learn from it and let all of it go—because it does you no good to enter the new year harboring past guilt.

Q3 – What are your key goals/focus areas for 2017?
To be sure, we all have an extensive list rattling around in our heads, so here again, write it down! This will prevent the pace at which business runs from combining with our short attention span and causing things to fall through the proverbial cracks. Plus, hearing your team’s list in its entirety helps you to prioritize the first quarter, ensuring a fast start to the year.

Q4 – What must you stop doing in 2017?
You may think this is the same as Q2, but it’s not. This is more about what tired old habits need to change going forward in order to grow and succeed. Just because it has worked since 2010 doesn’t mean it’s effective today, so identify those soon-to-be bad habits and let them go before they really cost you.

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 Nov I love my lifestyle but hate my business. What now?

hate-my-business-imageLife is about evolution in that your needs and desires change as you experiment, learn and age—and this natural state of growth can often cause difficulties in business. The very company that affords you the ability to raise a family, buy that motorcycle and take those great vacations is now the albatross around your neck holding you back from true happiness.

You’re in an endless Groundhog Day loop, and that’s a tough place to be. It’s caused many an entrepreneur to leave their company emotionally and physically looking for relief in all the wrong places. They begin developing real estate, invest in another business or start coaching others only to crash and burn because while their skills and experience may transfer to another venture, this stage of life isn’t about expertise; it’s about passion and focus.

Besides, after running the business for a decade or two, it’s a major part of who you are and how the world sees you. So the challenge isn’t about finding the new, new thing but instead figuring out how to continue running a business when you no longer want to.
I’ve worked with many successful entrepreneurs as they go through this passage, and each case is as different as the person going through it. There is no universal solution. However, here are a few tips that may help.

Take some time away. Tom Peters once wrote that we all need to take a minimum of 30 days a year away from the job, as the day-to-day pressures slowly whittle away our desire and cause us to simply go through the motions. Take a couple of weeks off in a row and go for a long bike ride, either alone or with a group of your peers, to get a different perspective on an old picture.

Re-define your job. During your time away from the business, create a “T-account,” listing what you love about your job on one side and what you hate about it on the other. Then take all the things you hate to do and give them to someone else.

Let someone else run it. This is taking the “T-account” thing to the ultimate level. If you’ve developed a great team or a successor, start handing over the reins. Just know that it’s a process and one that takes time and planning, usually 3-5 years. Not a quick solution, but at least you’ve now got a new finish line.

Find a new frame of reference. It may seem as if everyone else has it better, but know that 99.9 percent of the population would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Change your perspective by volunteering at your local Center for Entrepreneurship to work with younger (and hungrier) entrepreneurs. Not only will you remember what it took to get where you are today, you’ll also feed off their energy—and that can only be a good thing.

Re-define how and with whom you spend your time. Broaden your current circle by joining a peer group. There’s strength in numbers, and you’ll now have someone to talk to who doesn’t have a dog in the fight while realizing that you’re not alone.

Through it all, know this is a normal passage of life that only becomes a crisis if and when you don’t handle it properly.

Dwain – CEO Rider 

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.

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11 Nov Moving forward

Our national election may be over, but the debate continues in earnest, as always.

moving-forward-imageLike you, I have friends to the right of me and friends to the left – some who are happy and others who are not. But in either case, our success or failure still depends on the ability to identify and work with, around and through the new limitations or opportunities that come with this change.

Remember, it was a short eight years ago that the outrage and fear was on the opposite side of the aisle, and our country is still here … hell, we’re still here. So if you’re on the winning side, temper your elation; and if you’re not, work through your grief and anger ASAP because our country stands on the shoulders of entrepreneurs

This ain’t new — entrepreneurship is very much alive, and our products and services are needed now as much as ever. So let’s get our focus right and do what we do. There’s a country to build.

Dwain – CEO Rider 

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.

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27 Oct It’s that time of year

November is upon us and that means the beginning of the holiday season and end of the year. Yes, there are still a few things left to be done, but essentially the “hay is in the barn.” It’s that time of year when we begin to close things up for 2016 and look to the future.

october-2016-image
This year may well go down as the most challenging of my life and business career, filled with tremendous loss, creative challenges and huge opportunity — so I’m especially looking forward to its end and the beginning of 2017. Here are a few things I’m doing to close the year out in order for the new one to rock.
1. Cross my finish lines – We all have projects that have to roll over into the New Year, but make sure they are the right ones, as there’s nothing worse than bringing unnecessary business into the next year. So don’t let them slip through the cracks during the party season.
2. Reflect on the past year – It’s important to remember the lessons learned and celebrate the victories achieved throughout the year, so take time stop to think about them. I’ll clear my head by taking a long ride or sit down with a favorite cigar and libation … or both.
3. Reach out and thank those around me – A successful year is never a solo effort. There are those who contributed greatly to the cause, and there are those who, without that little nudge or opening, the big things couldn’t have occurred. Try not to forget anyone.
4. Look to the future – “2017 will be a good year if…” Answering that question pretty much identifies my key goals for the year.
5. The first 90 days – the first quarter sets the tone for the year, so what am I going to do on January 2? What needs to happen in February and March?
Remember, preventing things from falling through the cracks is as simple as stopping to think about what needs to be done and writing it down.
Cheers to a great holiday season!
Dwain – CEO Rider
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.

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