Lucky and Leadership

Lucky and Leadership

How a Horse Named Lucky Taught Me a Lesson in Leadership

reed laws your employment solutionsI was standing in 4-inch thick, perfectly combed dirt ready to face one of my lifetime fears. The indoor arena had a light chill and dust could be seen swirling in the air. A dozen of us, teamed up in pairs, were standing face to face with an 1100-pound, ready-to-kill-you animal. It’s eyes intimidating, the power it held was extraordinary and with one swift kick: you could be dead. My heart was pumping at a high rate as I recalled a childhood memory of falling off one of these creatures.

I signed up for a 2-day, hands-on leadership course where a good majority of classroom time didn’t involve using desks. The classroom was held in an indoor arena and the “hands on” portion was to lead and direct a horse.

You read that right, a horse. I hated horses. I guess I didn’t really hate them, but I was certainly afraid of them. “I paid money for this,” I thought to myself. “How in the world does this have anything to do with leadership training?”

This course guaranteed 4 leadership outcomes:

  1. Confident Humility
  2. Being Responsible
  3. Motiving with Fierce Resolve
  4. Being a Genuine Partner.

For this article, I will solely focus on Confident Humility and explain how this four-legged creature dramatically changed my view on leadership.

What is Confident Humility?

“Confident Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis.

horse training toolStanding in the middle of the arena the instructor held a device in her hand and explained how the tool was to be used. This tool, called a carrot–not the vegetable but a device–if used correctly, would help lead and guide your horse. This carrot is about 10 feet in length and looked much like a 6-foot rope tied to the end of golf club shaft. The tool was to be used for two reasons that oddly seemed to contradict each other. First, the carrot was used as a calming mechanism, or to help create a safe environment for the horse. Second, it was used as a whip or a way to help motivate the horse to follow directions.

My turn came far too quickly and the carrot was now being gripped tightly in my hand. I followed directions given earlier with perfection. I slowly lifted the carrot over the horse and then softly allowed the rope portion to slide over the head, neck, back, and then hind quarters. I would lift and repeat this pattern until I felt a safe environment had been reached.

“Good job everyone” the instructor said. “The next challenge is walking backwards.”

Still nervous and trying to slow my heart, I told the instructor I have been doing that for years and personally showed her. “This dirt isn’t going to slow me down!” I shouted, sarcastically. She gave me a courtesy laugh and said it was now the horses turn. I took a deep breath, lifted the carrot and with a horrible attempt, tried to back up the horse. I failed. My second attempt didn’t fare much better, fail. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth, yep you guessed it, all failed. As my attempts continued I started to feel the horse’s frustration.

Seeing my lack of progression, the instructor asked me to pause momentarily and asked me a very simple but powerful question. “What is the horse doing?” Not allowing me to answer her question, she walked away.

What is the Horse Doing?

“What is the horse doing?” I asked myself. “What IS the horse doing?” I asked again. “I’ll tell you what the horse isn’t doing,” I mumbled under my breath. I guess this comment was a bit louder then intended, as I noticed the instructor looking at me and laughing.

I have taken dozens of leadership courses, embedded myself into networks and boards, listened to hundreds of books and podcasts, spoken at high school and college events and have even made myself vulnerable enough to organize a leadership event for high net worth CEO’s and Presidents, yet I found myself miserably failing a simple task, getting a horse to take one step backwards.

Then it happened, the ah-ha moment of Confident Humility, one of the leadership outcomes. The timing was perfect and the instructor knew it. Watching me struggle, calling a time-out, asking me a question and then walking away was all part of the experience. I had it all wrong, I was so focused on me and my success I lost sight of what the horse was thinking, or in this case, doing. I was irritating the horse by trying to force commands rather than working with or leading the horse.

confident humilityMy focus was now where it should have been, on the horse. Repeating the same techniques, with the carrot, and a bit more confidence and poise, the horse walked backwards.

On day two of the training course I once again found myself standing in 4-inch thick, perfectly combed dirt, ready to face one of my old fears. The indoor arena had a light chill and dust could be seen swirling in the air. A dozen of us, teamed up in pairs, where each ready to stand face to face with a 1100-pound animal, and the power they hold is truly extraordinary. So extraordinary that in one day, a horse named Lucky helped teach me an important lesson about leadership: Confident Humility.

Reed Laws
Your Employment Solutions

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Your Employment Solutions is Utah’s best staffing agency!

Staffing Perfected

Staffing Perfected Isn't About Being Perfect

perfecting utah staffingMy daughter recently received her learners driving permit and like every other 15-year-old teenager, has an entire year to complete the required hours of practice before claiming the ultimate teenage reward: A legal, freshly minted, see you later mom and dad, driver’s license. Let me articulate what has and will continue to happen before that almighty, glamour shot, invincible day happens.

First, it was a slow drive around the neighborhood teaching the importance of being a safe, defensive driver. Sure, she put the left blinker on when she was turning right, or the windshield wipers turned on when she was looking for park, which is why we started on a slow neighborhood drive. The damage of a mistake would be small.

On our next outing, we raised the bar a bit, and my heart rate raised with it. It was our first outing out of the neighborhood. As she increased the speeds to 35 miles per hour, few minor mistakes were made; shifting from one lane to another or stopping in the middle of the intersection during a green light.

Braving the inevitable we ventured to the freeway, our speed was now approaching 65 MPH. I had some confidence in her driving but deep down I was terrified and may or may not have peed a little when merging into traffic.

As evidenced by the fact that this article was written, we did make it home safely.

Perfecting Staffing Is a Daily Practice

Staffing perfected is analogous to my daughters driving story less the terror. With time and practice you become better, more confident and closer to perfection. Much like my daughter, practice makes you more effective but doesn’t guarantee that an “accident” won’t occur.

A staffing agency can perfectly follow processes and protocols and still have an undesired outcome. Some examples might be, on-boarding an employee that doesn’t show or a client forgetting to inform the staffing agency of a myriad of possible changes.

A Perfect Staffing Company

Staffing Perfected isn’t about being perfect or expecting the outcome to be perfect, it’s about perfecting what’s given to you and then doing it again tomorrow.

Reed Laws
Your Employment Solutions

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Your Employment Solutions is Utah’s best staffing agency!

Competitive Ignorance

How I Lost Because of Competitive Ignorance

competitive ignorance I had prepared for weeks and the big day had arrived.

  • Market research… Check.
  • Competitive advantage… Check.
  • Financial analysis… Check.
  • Proven market-share… Check.

I was perfectly prepared, or so I thought.

Many years ago I was sitting in a conference room and anxiously anticipating the biggest sales pitch of my life. I knew my numbers would win the day. I educated myself of the struggles that my potential client was facing and had solutions prepared for them. I even stepped up a bit and dressed the part.

I stood as high level executives, dressed the way I was dressed, walked into the office. The standard introductions were made and we took our seats and engaged in a great discussion. For the next 90 minutes I answered questions about my staffing company’s history, locations, size, expertise, industries served, value, price, customer service, customization, marketing, asset availability and other important topics. I was on fire! I could see that they were thoroughly impressed with my preparation and even more impressed what we could offer. I was sure I had em!!

The 90 minutes flew by until that last comment fell from the senior most executive’s lips, “We are evaluating many companies to meet our needs and we will let you know within a few short days who we award the contract to.” Again, pleasantries were exchanged and I left the conference room with a smile on my face.

I still remember everything about that sales moment. The clutter on the desk, the slightly crooked pictures hanging on the wall, and the plastic aroma coming from the production area. I recall with clarity the exact pricing and I even recall how impressed the executives were knowing how closely our services aligned with their needs.

The Competition

Then, a short time later, from the other end of the phone line came these words, “Reed, you have a very impressive company and its was an honor getting to know you, however, we have decided to maintain our relationship with our current provider, we will reach out to you if anything changes.”

What just happened?!

competitve-ignoranceI was suffering from “Competitive Ignorance.” My market plan, price point and services were superior and I was ignorant enough to think that I would get the deal based on the fact that I was way better on paper. I was ignorant to think that my numbers would trump a long lasting relationship. The winner, that day had long lasting relationship that superseded every advantage I had. I spent all my time preparing for a financial discussion and proving our value and lost. Lost big!

Relationships are, in my experience the single most important ingredient for gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage. Branding, marketing strategies, price, adaptation, ingenuity, and service all play a supplemental role to relationships.

This experience quickly taught me that relationships build confidence, confidence builds trust and trust builds relationships. Strong relationships will tell you where your shortcomings are and give you time to fix them, and in most cases will even help you improve where you need it.

I will forever be grateful for that humbling experience. It echo’s in my business psyche almost daily, reminding me that my clients need more than fancy spreadsheets, balloons and confetti. They need relationships.

But the Story Doesn't End There

Fast forward 8 years… I was experiencing “sales déjà vu” meeting with the same group in the same room answering the same questions… But this time, I had 7+ years of relationship building under my belt and this time I wasn’t ignorant to the importance of relationships. I was perfectly prepared and…. I WON!

Reed Laws
Your Employment Solutions

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Your Employment Solutions is Utah’s premier staffing agency!

Lesson Learned!

The Most Important Lesson I've Learned in Your Employment Solutions' 20 Years of Business

20 years ago a staffing agency called Your Employment Solutions (YES) was born in North Salt Lake, Utah. Shortly after the company was founded, I was hired to answer phones, recruit temporaries, and issue a few payroll checks. I was 20 years of age, invincible, and a know-it-all.

I had just landed a new client, who was at that point in time our largest, and I walked around with a puffed-up chest and a look-at-me attitude. I wanted everyone in the company to know how amazing I was and how grateful they should be for my heroics. In my mind I quickly became underpaid and was now entitled to an executive position. I needed my own office, WITH a window facing the mountains. I soon would have a new sports car, personal secretary, and private parking spot for that new car.

business is easyI was told by those with experience that in order to run an effective, profitable business I need to be willing to listen, learn, control cash, create relationships, and keep my nose to the grindstone. Also I would need a little luck.

“What?!!! All crap!” I told myself.

If all that was important, why in a short period of time was I able to nearly double the company?

My ego took control and by doing so nearly bankrupted YES a few short months after becoming a self-proclaimed God. That very client that doubled our company filed bankruptcy and nearly took us with them. Additionally, the clients we had in place before my arrival were soured with my lack of communication and had started looking for other staffing providers. I did not watch the cash or create any real relationships. I was already gifted with knowledge so there was no need to listen or learn.

My poor behavior and not implementing any advice given jeopardized the jobs all those employed. All that “crap” I so egotistically ignored, really did matter.

Lesson learned.

20 years of Utah jobs20 years have passed and fortunately YES was gifted with a little luck. I am blessed to work with well-educated, ethical and wonderful co-employees who are responsible for the companies’ success. Looking back I am disappointed in my behavior as a 20 year-old but the lessons learned have been powerful. As an organization we keep our noses to the grindstone, appreciate our relationships, listen and learn from our clients and continually have a little luck.

Happy 20th Anniversary!!

About that personal secretary, needing my own office, and private parking space for my sports car… I’m still working on it.

Reed Laws
Your Employment Solutions

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Your Employment Solutions is Utah’s premier staffing agency!

ACA is Expensive, But YES Can Save You Money

ACA is expensive. Your Employment Solutions (YES) uses its customized staffing processes and IS SAVING its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My last post, YES Staffing Hires Better, Faster, Cheaper created a little buzz and I was surprised by its positive engagement. I am hoping my post this time around will provide the same type of value as I write a little more about “the cheaper” portion of the above title.

YES has multiple ways to substantially save our clients money but for this post I will focus on a single topic.

The topic of choice is……….. The almighty, loving, coveted, most talked about topic of all time:

ACAThe ACA (The Affordable Care Act) also know as OBAMACARE.

Hahaha, hopefully you could feel my sarcasm because I was laying it on thick. This post is not about me and my absolute love towards ACA, this post is to teach you this:

The 3-5% up-charge other staffing agencies are charging is too expensive.

Here is an article that explains why staffing agencies are increasing your cost 3-5%.The article speaks of an across-the-board or itemizing increase as methodologies used in passing the cost along to the client.

I think most would agree that ACA is not fun to work with, that the rules seem to change every other minute, and the added expense has certainly made business more costly. A 3-5% increase is the easiest way for a staffing agency to justify the cost increase, but it is best way?

I don’t think so.

Why? Because most staffing companies are just guessing their way through, and betting no one will call their bluff.

Using assumptions, estimations, and maybes are no way to validate a cost increase to your clients. For 20 years YES has been built on (and continues to build on) what the client wants, not the other way around.

YES is not staffing industry spawn off or a spin-off from another agency. YES was not started from disgruntled employees seeing things differently only to start their own staffing agency. We operate with integrity in all things. save clients moneyFrom IT to human resources and finance to sales, YES is built to handle unfavorable business changes like these and create practical solutions without handing a blanket 3-5% increase to our clients.

So even though ACA is expensive, Your Employment Solutions (YES) uses its customized processes to work through it and is currently saving its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you currently work with a staffing agency and are interested in finding out how YES can be an affordable employment solution for you, please contact me.

Reed Laws
Your Employment Solutions

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Your Employment Solutions is Utah’s premier staffing agency!

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