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Archive for May, 2014

Lemonade from Lemons

On December 23, 2008 Tom Smallwood was laid off from his job at a General Motors assembly line. The thirty-two year old Saginaw, Michigan native looked for work for six months–without success.

He then turned to plan “B.”

He decided to go bowling.

Smallwood, an extremely good amateur bowler, decided to enter the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour Trials. He beat out approximately one hundred bowlers winning one of eight tour exemptions.

The exemption guaranteed a small PBA paycheck and a spot in each tour event for one year.

December, 2009 found Tom in Wichita, Kansas for another tour stop. Not long before the Wichita tournament began, he had received a call from GM offering him an opportunity to come back to the assembly line. Tom said “thank you but no thank you.” He explained that he had another job; then suggested the woman on the other line check out ESPN on Sunday to watch him.

It was not just any sporting event. ESPN was broadcasting the PBA World Championship. The tournament began and Tom took to the lanes.

Did he ever.

He bowled his way into the final round where he faced the reigning PBA Player of the Year, Wes ”Big Nasty” Malott.

Needing seven pins in the last frame, he bowled a strike and won the championship and the $50,000 first prize–more money than he had ever made in one year working in the plant.

Life it seemed had given Tom a “lemon” and he decided to take it and make “lemonade.”

His story is inspiring but he is not alone.

Bill’s Story

Bill owns an equipment repair company. Last year revenues were down. If they continued to drop, Bill might be forced to lay off technicians and other employees.

Bill was willing to do that but only as a last resort.

He decided instead to turn his energies inward and see what he could do to improve efficiency, morale, and the bottom line.

He began meeting regularly with his branch managers and other company leaders. He replaced ineffective branch managers and began mentoring those that remained. He encouraged innovation and new ideas. One manager came up with an idea called “Go Fish.” When a technician was working on a piece of equipment they were to ask the customer if, while they were on site, there were any other problems they might address. If the request resulted in an additional work order, the technician received a ”fish.” The technician with the most “fish” (additional work orders) at the end of the month received a reward. Result? In one month technicians generated over $10,000 in additional work orders. Bill is thinking about introducing the idea company wide.

The economy had created a lemon for Bill’s company. He responded with a nice pitcher of lemonade.

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

So what’s the recipe?

How does one make that lemonade?

It’s as easy as 1,2,3…

Step One—Change Your Mind Set

Both Tom and Bill decided there was another way to deal with their current situation.

They decided they would control how they responded to the circumstances. They did not create the “bad economy” but they were not going to sit back and be victimized by it either.

Step Two—Be Bold

Changing careers in a bad economy?

From a seat belt installer to a professional bowler??

Spending $1,500 you can’t spare on the entry fee into the Tour Trials?

Now that’s bold!!

So is getting creative and insisting that in a slow economy business can increase.

Step Three—Build on Your New Successes

Tom is a busy guy these days. Not only does he continue to drive from tour stop to tour stop, he is also busy sorting through book and movie offers. And next December he has that world championship to defend.

Bill’s company is looking to add other novel incentive programs, and Bill has found a new love mentoring and guiding the next generation of talent in his company.

It’s easy to look at the success of others and respond with “If I…”

“If I had their talent or their luck or their ability or their creativity, I could be successful too.”

The harder thing to do may involve thinking differently about your current circumstances.

For those who will risk trying something new, there is a lemonade stand waiting.

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Baltimore, Maryland 21214

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