Effective Communication — Today and Always

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I have been slacking in a big way at stepping up and blogging for DBusiness.com, but it has been a little hectic of late. I say that same thing every year right after Thanksgiving. The hunting season is almost over, and soon I will be an insanely attentive, intense leader once again, and tasks like pumping out a blog will be easier for me. In the fall, I am a hard core bow hunter and I kind of go a little off the grid other then trying to handle being CEO of our Internet business, which I admittedly do a fair job at best during the rut (period where breeding is occurring among white tailed deer). Even during the hunting season I believe that I “do not confuse activity with results,” so I try to run everything from my BlackBerry. I email directions to my team and answer their questions on a kind of whenever is convenient for me basis, and in turn, expect an unrealistic result from those actions.

Building our core business has all of my attention and we are beginning to enter a faster scaling period for the company. This is good news for a Michigan based, locally funded Internet business. Our focus is on the outdoors vertical, and we have become the market leader on line in our space. As of late, achieving growth and maintaining strong EBITDA has been a challenging journey. With so much negative energy and fear present from the long hard recession, growth can be extremely taxing on the lives of the awesome players on our team. Never before has strong leadership been so critical, along with trust based relationships that comprise the culture our company was founded upon. While it is easy to state the obvious about why this trust based culture is critical, it does not mean it is easy to have in a good rhythm. My buddy, Craig Erlich, said to me recently: “The difference between a rut and a groove is so finite, and it is discovering that dichotomy and riding it out that makes for excellent results!” Today, I am blogging about something that is not typically cutting edge, but it is happening right here in our Internet business. It’s something that is likely happening in technology businesses, banking businesses, or just any business, period. I am talking about our over use of technology as the main form of communication. I dearly love and embrace technology and use it to do nearly everything, but this can easily get the best of anyone and may become a growth inhibitor when not channeled correctly. We can become so attached to our Droids, crack-berry’s, and iPhones that we lose site of the power of face-to-face communication. Many of us have forgotten that PDAs are a tool, but it is not an exclusive way to communicate — face-to-face communication still trumps all.

Today, I was sitting at our weekly Monday morning executive meeting and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have not been leading in the correct fashion as it pertains to information transfer and follow up. I temporarily lost sight of the critical benefit of face-to-face communication (and leading always in that capacity). How naïve am I really? Larry Bossidy (retired CEO of AlliedSignal, now Honeywell) did not build empires with a BlackBerry! Nobody in any job is that good that they do not need day to day interpersonal communication. Oh yeah, I’m sure all of my co workers are just sitting around at 11 o’clock at night waiting for me to e mail them some explicit set of tasks that we need handled. I am sure that they will perfectly process exactly what I want, read my mind, and just nail it the first time without sitting down, checking in, and validating that everyone is on the same page. Yeah right!

My simple high tech cutting edge idea is to shut off your Crack Berry, turn it upside down so that you can’t see the red message light flashing, and have meetings where you are fully present and engaged. I am writing this with aggression and with purpose, as I have fallen victim to the false notion that emails are the ultimate form of communication. My other advice — pick up the phone, visit a customer (or even a friend), and get out of that constant e-mail mode. We think we are living safely in the PDA world, but when abused, it can hurt our relationships dramatically. To hear a voice helps, to see a face is priceless and should not be underestimated. I love technology. I am a believer that when used effectively, technology provides a huge edge in scaling a business. It allows for superior checks and balances, superior levels of output of information, and it is the world we live in. All I’m saying is that when your thumbs and hands hurt, or when you can’t enjoy a date with your significant other without needing to check your IM or whatever, you have a problem. Check yourself and stop justifying it as a business need. Start living in the present. It’s a lock to improve your quality of life, boost critical communications, and enhance overall results. Now that deer season is winding down, I have no more excuses. In fact, my sales team won’t be getting any more emails about what to expect, or what to deliver, at today’s 7:30 AM sales meeting. Instead, I will communicate this critical information to them directly. You should, too.

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