Wild Bill, ain’t no fighting City Hall

If I’ve got any authority in Hays, Mrs. Lake isn’t going to pay this town a cent of license for showing, and if any man attempts to stop this show, then just put it down that he’s got me to fight.

Wild Bill Hickok, http://www.brainyquote.com

Some may wonder which came first, shaping stones and bone into spearpoints and arrowheads, or the village council that decided Mog and Og needed approval, licenses and regular inspections of their enterprise.

Eight thousand years later, an enterprising small business person who ventures into performing a service or providing a product, is supporting a community. She has not just her own family’s living to support, but an entire “industry” of bureaucrats, at the local, state and federal levels of Government. And in California particularly, as a businessperson, earning a living that minimizes the costly regulations that have environment, employment practices, taxes, fees and so forth, driving small businesses under.

Deciding to start one’s own enterprise, in California, and certainly elsewhere, requires a great deal of capital up front, a niche market, and establishing quickly an efficient organization. Mentors, business seminars and other resources can provide training and encouragement, but skilled and dedicated owners and employees find, serve and retain clients. Many, like myself, who have decades of employee experience, soon realize the challenge of one’s own business to balance investment, expenses, and fees against recurring income to make a decent return in the first and succeeding years. It takes planning, and frequent tweaking of the business model. The bureaucracy is another thing entirely.

After filing the regulatory paperwork with the State, including forming a Limited Liability Company, we loaned the business personal funds for the contractual and mandated types of insurances, paying filing fees, and notarizing documents, setting up business banking, bookkeeping, and a Google GSuite of Cloud-based calendar, business email and document storage. Since we were still working for our respective employers, tax considerations of incorporation or forming and LLC were and remain an important issue. Prior to earning a cent, our Liabilities were looking to be a very big motivator to getting our business moving forward.

As a residence-based service business, our enterprise does not operate in an office building, nor manufacture products, nor maintain an inventory. Operating out of a residence located in an unincorporated area, I learned that reporting the actual physical location – separate from the mailing address – in business organization documents would mitigate municipal taxes, inspections and other recurring fees. (The mailing address bears the nearby municipality name.)

But there are other concerns as well. Operating a business, even one that travels to a customer site as our business does, is required to file for a business license. The “gray area” that no municipal clerk whose job it is issuing business licenses and collecting fees, would likely err on the side of the entrepreneur – is whether a license to do business in every municipality that one performs a service – is required. Of course, every municipality’s City Hall will state categorically that a license is required by a business according to a list of industry types. Some types require fees and inspections from safety professionals, zoning and building code enforcement officials. Business coaches I have spoken with, concur that paying fees willy-nilly can quickly eat away an enterprise’s bottom line. While membership in associations that help small entrepreneurs may be a necessary expense, I am considering that expertise gained in those associations may help steer a small business toward profitability.

At least, one of my prospective clients is a State agency, so there is an opportunity, however slight, that money coming out of my pocket, might eventually trickle somewhat back to me. And while I might appreciate a Wild Bill Hickok helping me fight City Hall, I think even he might be outgunned, particularly if he has not paid the required 2019 firearm licensing and entertainment business fees.

Finding a niche

Doing research yesterday for a business venture, I stumbled upon an idea that may have some merit as an opportunity.

Taking out all the politics of immigration, in California as elsewhere, there are many people who seek employment with rudimentary skills in English if any at all. And some find opportunities to get skilled training for in-demand jobs. Assuming that people are legal residents when seeking job training or employment, what avenues are there for people, entry-level, working people to become functional in the so-called ‘native tongue’?

I witnessed people struggling with written English. While I know that many high school graduates in the United States, even college-bound Seniors, struggle with grammar and vocabulary, it is even more dire for the adult-learner who is foreign-born.

And thus, there is a demand for Teachers of English as a Second Language. And particularly teaching for jobs with a technical jargon that is difficult to grasp. The next step is to determine the investment necessary to find others with the necessary skill, certification, or degree. And then to do a costs-benefits analysis for your enterprise.

Conveying a simple message

In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.

This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.

An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.

To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)

In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”

And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.

After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:

” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”

no fear

Every motivational program I have heard or subscribed to since my mid-Thirties, has quite sensibly detailed a method to improve finances, marriage, or speaking in public. Several were focused on succeeding in leadership and/or business. Some gave ideas on raising confident and capable children, and others focused on achieving a healthy work/life balance. Most of these were in relation to a Spiritual foundation. While everyone I know who engage in these self-improvement workshops, get something from them, those who diligently apply themselves and are undeterred by resistance, seem to thrive. But am I alone in being stuck in old routines, jobs, or commutes, because of “fear of change”?

Thirteen years ago, I began working at a company located almost forty miles (one-way) from my home. For a few years there was the prospect that a subsidiary a few miles from home would have a position I could transfer into. The subsidiary was closed. Moving was not an option; not just the expense of a new home, but my teens and spouse had strong ties to the local area. As I got older, I made excuses that I would not find stable work somewhere reasonably closer. The issue is that I did not apply consistently or obsess about finding a different job. This goes against my experience, spiritual training, even rational common sense. Do I hate change?

Do others have this dilemma? Do many live with constant economic instability and change, because they prefer the “life” in “work-life balance”? In my mid-Twenties, in between periods that I eventually made a Navy career, I enjoyed not being serious about work. I had heard stories of people who were so driven to always be at work, they became ill or suffered cardiac arrest when they no longer had the constant adrenaline jolts of the job (stress). But I recall being so fearful of “starting over” that I remained stuck for years in something I probably was less suited for than the horses I cared for when a high school student, or the university where I participated in work-study. When the one co-worker told me she was leaving after a year because of her commute (twenty miles), I empathized.

Perhaps metathesiophobia is a covered condition in the employer’s health plan? However, to relieve this condition I might have to make a change in my work-life balance. And I fear hate the idea.

Don’t participate in bullshit – be pure in your heart — joypassiondesire

Whenever you hear someone complain – don’t join them in their negative rampage. Complaining doesn’t make anything better – you are better off being quiet than joining them in their complaining. Even if it is socially accepted and expected of you to join in when someone complains, it is never of value. You always have […]

Don’t participate in bullshit – be pure in your heart — joypassiondesire

Carrying water

def. Carry water for (someone) 1. To serve, assist, or perform menial or difficult tasks for some person, group, or organization.

Ten years ago, as a retired Navy Senior Chief, the first thing I had to adapt to was my immediate loss of seniority and status. The tradition and status acquired over twenty-five years meant little to the non- military working public. As in most professions, a job in the commercial technical sector is judged only on your performance. Meeting the required output of widgets particularly at the fiscal end of the Quarter when the resources, software, or parts needed to meet the quota finally become available. Packing up an expensive piece of equipment and hustling it to FEDEX, or renting a delivery truck and driving it a hundred miles to another facility, is somewhat like carrying water for my boss.

Unless you have been working in the manufacturing world for a number of years, as an older technician, it seems that adapting to rapid changes – in technology, in workforce culture, and in tasks each employee is asked to perform, is more difficult. In engineering, procedures often lag product development. Cross-training peers is often as much how much they observe as giving them polished instructions. For some, it is jarring to be hindered by processes or lack of information, or age, or when she has been willing to “come out of retirement”, but is feeling her contribution is wasted.

Additional study, asking specific questions, and bringing one’s strengths to the job is necessary. Willing to do whatever is required, despite not being in a “job description”, helps the overall mission of the company. Working with a curmudgeon is difficult.

I have found that courtesy, whether toward peers, couriers, janitors, IT support, or supply clerks is repaid in kind. With more than a quarter-century of military service, working initially with folks cleaning toilets, and later reporting to Admirals and senior Government executives, character and a dedication to excellence count toward career success.

Playing with fire

harder than it looked on YouTube

The one thing that a Navy career, and a subsequent life in an engineering industry, gave me is an appreciation for tools and their uses.  As a result,  I have been able to learn over years, homeowner maintenance skills that I have put to good use.  Sometimes these skills are out of necessity and other times, as a result of being unwilling to hire a “professional” – who probably could do a particular task more efficiently but at a cost to my pride and wallet.  

I learned that earlier in the year when my air conditioning system shut down unexpectedly.  I inspected what I knew, but then found – when calling a serviceman – a dog-hair and dust-choked filter had caused a pressure switch to trip.  At considerable expense for that lesson,  I then decided I would research all my home systems for maintenance and repair information that I could reasonably do myself.  Fast forward to this past week.   All our large appliances in the kitchen have failed in turn over a few years.  We were hanging on till we became “empty nesters” (the kids were extremely hard on our kitchen).   We purchased new refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher.  But because the last time I had replaced leaking water valves  I wasn’t thinking what working appliances needed  I had no means for the installation crew to hook up  icemaker or the dishwasher.   And the man the company sent to install my new microwave told my wife the unit had greater dimensions than the old one to be removed.

Of course, this was partially correct and partially, B.S.    In the case of the microwave,  the installer was likely tired, irritated or unmotivated to actually “look” at the unit.  When my wife and I went back to the store – talking with the salesman also – the floor display was a HALF-INCH larger in depth and height than the original.  It would have fit without any modifications!  But the installer took the new unit away with him.   I still need to get him back. As for the line to connect the dishwasher,  apparently the issue was a little more complicated.  Because the stock water line was four feet shorter than required (new kitchen have the dishwasher next to the sink and not adjacent like my  1960’s-design) a new hose about ten feet in length is needed.  

I put the new dual-outlet valves on the existing pipes under the sink so I would not totally foul-up Thanksgiving plans my wife had.  The cobbled together work leaked requiring a big roaster pan catch basin, and frequent draining for the past few days.   That is where my love for tools, an engineering sense, and YouTube comes in.   Today while my family was out of the house, I removed a stubborn piece of copper pipe under the sink and then brazed on a new section.   A few technical difficulties resolved by a quick visit to the hardware store – for some advice,  a section of flame-proof cloth for welding;  I also borrowed my son’s fire extinguisher at his insistence – and after a couple tries:  Success.   With full water pressure back on this evening there have been no leaks and no desperate calls for a plumbing contractor on a holiday weekend.

Tools any Bronze-Age craftsman would love

Both dogs, Dexter and Comet – who normally hang around at my elbow ALL the time I am in the kitchen – were NOWHERE to be seen. Maybe they didn’t want to be witnesses to me setting myself on fire?

I came here for an argument

The older I get, the more I find it ironic how some people argue and protest about fairness in life – as opposed focusing on gaining in-demand skills, creating work to employ themselves and others, or volunteering to share their talents and good fortune with others.  College students and academics are often the noisiest, when they themselves are better off than most other people in the world.  Ironic, as, once upon a time I was one of those post-high school, underemployed, single people whining about fairness.  And at the time,  I had my own apartment, a vehicle,  and was a spendthrift living on credit.    In my early Twenties, I was not skilled sufficiently due to personal choices I had made about education.  I was economically disadvantaged.

As I grew older,  I made better choices.  I made the military a career.  I used skills and resources gained there to obtain a better living.  I have been able to serve my fellow man, here and abroad, with material things I can provide from my income.  I have taught some to read. Others, I have helped through translation.  And still others I help through donations to Non-Governent Organizations (NGO)  medical clinics, disaster-response efforts and  volunteers.   In the process of working for myself and for others,  I learned the maddening impossibility of an efficient bureaucracy.   Governments may be able to provide for the national defense, but can spend trillions of dollars and still not have good roads, education that translates into skilled occupations, or decent healthcare.   Often I find myself in an argument because I believe more in principles that are in line with my religious and personal views, and individual responsibility, than government “nannies”.   I will tell people,  “I’m here for an argument, not abuse.”  And that usually gets a quizzical look.

In the 1970s,  Monty Python, a British comedic troupe was very entertaining with comedic sketches that lampooned society, politics, culture, and history very irreverently and often quite bizarre in a very British styled humor.   This sort of humor might harpoon many topics sacred to a generation focused on a dire future.  Why few have any opinion on a solution for the topics they brood about, from climate,  health care or international relations is odd for an opinionated society.   Perhaps if we could laugh at each other and disagree with one another – in a manner that Monty Python did so well -we could find solutions in the best interests of our fellow man.

 

Ask the Chief: dress for success

In the manner of dressing for work,  the corporate world I entered in 2000,  was a lot like the corporate world where my father worked.  That is,  suits, or sport coats with button-down shirts and ties,  nice slacks and polished leather shoes.  With the corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the CEO and founder a product of the late 1950s, we dressed up even when we never left the office.  But employment in San Diego in the new Millennium was being influenced more by Silicon Valley than Wall Street or Foggy Bottom in D.C.

Not surprisingly, the client of my employers in that first decade of the Twenty-First Century were the Naval officers and senior civilian staff (SPAWAR) who oversaw technical development in ships, electronic systems and aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps. Since the military has prescribed uniforms for daily wear, and standardized grooming,  these military officers had a certain expectation for civilians who supported their efforts.

In published articles in the Wall Street Journal and Scientific American , studies have shown also that dressing well, whether in button-down shirt and tie,  or  “business casual”,  in the years since my father’s generation retired,  has positive benefits on worker advancement, attitude and productivity.  When I first interviewed at my company eleven years ago, I was still a member or the Navy Reserve and a Chief Petty Officer, so I arrived fit, clean-shaven, with shined shoes, and in a tailored suit.  When the offer of employment was accepted,  I was told that the dress code, when our clients were not on site, was more casual.  California in general and San Diego, in particular,  is a center of technical businesses, Integrated Circuits, Biotech, software companies and avionics.  But with several universities in the area,  interns and later their graduates were recruited and accommodated with casual dress options, flexible working hours and amenities from gyms to coffee houses to volleyball courts.  Of course, the industrial standard requirements for manufacturing areas are as uniform in required dress as the military.

While senior management of the major divisions were often more formal due frequent meetings with senior-level clients, it was still an office environment where a staff meeting occurred at 10 AM to allow for surfing or gym workouts.   In the last ten years however, the growth of the company has changed the culture slightly.  From acquisitions, becoming a publicly-traded company, and increasing leadership roles in major technical boards, advisory groups and other businesses, business casual, including button-down shirts, nice tailored polos (with the corporate logo) and slacks and leather shoes is increasingly seen in the middle and senior division-management and those groomed for their next level.  New hires, and casual employees who make a significant contribution to a project  (read “brain trust”) are often the ones who are more casually attired year-round.

What does all this mean for the transitioning military member who has the education or the skills to enter the corporate world?  It means having to adjust their “uniform” for the workday.   While it may seem refreshing to wear baggy shorts and sandals,  or hair that recalls more of the college dorm life than a corporate environment,  one’s work ethic and contribution to a project, may be hindered.  During meetings with military or senior government clients,  a sharp appearance can foster more productive outcome.    And the more ambitious a former military member becomes, there is value in a certain standout appearance.

This also seems to motivate employees to maintain or enhance a certain fitness and healthier lifestyle.  Not only because the workplace may subsidize health insurance for workers more generously for fitness, but also it reflects better on the employee’s advancement opportunities.  (Of course,  this does not imply that any of the equal opportunity standards that govern employment are overlooked.)  A sharper appearance and a healthier overall person is more often a better candidate when looking at similar qualifications.

don’t smoke that mushroom

Eat it.

Compared to the years I served in the United States Navy, robust health and nutrition of sailors in the Nineteenth Century – the “iron men and wooden ships” of lore- was less a factor of the sea air than good fortune.  Logs of ships’ surgeons from that era contain reports of men lost overboard in storms at sea, accidents, cholera, dysentery,  over- consumption of alcohol leading to death, infections, sexually-transmitted diseases, run -ins with native populations )in the then- relatively isolated foreign ports), and poor diet.

In the years just after Desert Storm,  fresh dairy products, fruit, and vegetables became available fairly regularly at sea due to underway replenishment.   Even in the early 1990s,  it was not uncommon to have powdered eggs, and ultra-pasteurized milk ( the sort the US Army Veterinary Service certified as safe for consumption) in place of fresh more than a week out of port.

It leads me to wonder aloud,  whether the new health-consciousness of many activists for varied range-fed beef and compassionately-raised chicken,  organic vegetables and gluten-free choices, have filtered down to our armed forces.

Most of my peers who retired around 2009 -2010, know that the military began a renewed campaign to fight obesity – discharging members who failed to maintain a standard that – even with body-builders  – was difficult to achieve.   But we also know that society has gotten farther and farther away from healthy diets and regular exercise.

But there are choices.   Although,  I do not expect my local Pizza Port to alter the menus just yet.   And with virtually every town having small breweries popping up,  I do not believe “lite” beer is going to be on the minds of the young men and women today.   However, for those fewer of us, where the excesses of youth are around our waistlines, in our zeal to stay off medicines and out of hospitals,  may yet find ways to exercise moderately and eat tasty, and healthy, food.

When I heard about this Portobello mushroom pizza, I was skeptical.  It is remarkably tasty!

But this also has cancer-fighting properties as well as staying off my waistline.   And I surprised my doctor last Wednesday with my complete turnaround in health.   Thirty-five pounds lighter,  blood -chemistry all in the normal range,  and much happier.   He didn’t ask me how,  but when others may,  I’ll tell them, “Pizza, fish, Chinese food, fresh vegetables.  Yogurt.  And more cooking with garlic, turmeric, mushrooms, and herbal ingredients.”

That gives me the ability to enjoy a nice craft beer.   Guilt-free.    I’m still a Sailor, after-all.

Leadership

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. Vince Lombardi

In the military, in business, school,  one’s faith, family, and pursuits,  leadership is a challenge that not everyone aspires.  However,  it is a rewarding opportunity for some who embrace it .   While people may naturally recognize a person with the qualities that make a good leader,  fewer know that leadership can be developed.  Some confuse position with leadership, and other confuse management with leadership.   Sometimes opportunity is looking for someone to lead, but fear, doubt, or improper motives get in the way of leading.  What are the characteristics that identify individuals as strong leaders?

 

8 Characteristics of good leadership

Forbes magazine published research that examined what makes a good leader:

  1. Sincere enthusiasm.  Belief in a company, it’s mission, its employees and its products cannot be faked and have that person succeed.
  2. Integrity.  Giving credit where it is due,  acknowledging mistakes, and putting quality ahead of the bottom line, is another.
  3. Excel in communication.  Great leaders are effective communicators.  They instruct, listen, discipline and motivate those they lead.  Weakness in these areas can demotivate and generate sloppiness.
  4. Loyalty.  Leaders are loyal to their people.  It is tangible and benefits are seen in the employees having the tools and support to do their work.  Leaders protect them in times of conflict or crises.   And in turn, that loyalty is given back to the leader.
  5. Decisiveness.  Leaders make decisions, take action, and calculated risks.  They know that consensus -building takes much effort, creates indecisiveness and perceived weakness, and results in applying band-aids instead of solutions.
  6.  Competent as managers.  Good technicians, business people, or a skilled athlete do not translate into managing people to excel.  Competence means people can inspire, mentor and direct others.
  7. Empowering others.  Leaders can recognize and foster in others to perform, possibly make mistakes, take some risks and be creative in achieving the objective.
  8. Charisma.  Good leaders are approachable, friendly, and sincerely care for those they lead.  People follow those they respect and like.

The motivational coach  who for more than twenty years has helped many succeed in business and life,  Tony Robbins , adds confidence and positivity to these principles.  A leader generates confidence in non-verbal ways as well, in manner of dress,  maintaining eye contact when speaking to another, and practicing self-control (not fidgeting). A leader radiates positivity, focusing on that, and not negative “what ifs”.

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. Ray Kroc

“Deckplate Leadership” and the Navy Chief

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2018/01/29/mcpon-dishes-new-guidance-to-all-cpos/

 

The mentorship I learned as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy underscores these principles.  For more than a century, the Navy has relied on the most senior and experienced enlisted Sailors in their particular specialty, the Chief,  and the wisdom and expertise of the Chiefs’ Mess,  to execute the mission of the officers appointed over them.  They were not only mentoring junior enlisted sailors, but also the green junior officers that were appointed in the command or unit.  The training I received encompassed these mentioned characteristics.   But it adds some important fundamentals:

  1. When a Sailor was asked “when” he became a Chief Petty Officer (leader) and was confused by the question,  the seasoned Chief responded that he, himself, became a “chief” when he decided to act and think as one.  He just waited for the uniform (rank) to catch up.
  2. A leader is not about his or her achievement, but fostering development and leadership skills in others.  When a Chief empowers others, so that they succeed, this benefits that individual, the mission, and the community of leaders.
  3. A leader still requires the mentoring and support from other more-seasoned and successful leaders, whether through study, personal relationship (mentoring) or community of peers.   The Navy Chief’s Mess, including former (retired) and current Chief Petty Officers is a community that serves this function in perpetuity.

 

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed

During the course of this day, you have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the donning of the uniform of a Chief. It was our intent to impress upon you that challenge is good; a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you ─ which, in fact, strengthens you.

In your future as a Chief Petty Officer, you will be forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you demonstrated today.

By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy ─ and only in the United States Navy ─ the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill.

Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E7 but because you are now a Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one paygrade, you have joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty Officer.

Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, nor file. They have existed for over 100 years, Chiefs before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.

It is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications. “Ask the Chief” is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are now the Chief.

The exalted position you have now achieved ─ and the word exalted is used advisedly ─ exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards.

It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has assured us that you will wear “the hat” with the same pride as your comrades in arms before you.

We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.

Quotes obtained from http://www.brainyquote.com 

Image: (top row, l. to r.): Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, John D. Rockefeller; (bottom row, l. to r. ): Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein.