Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bad Bosses are GOOD? No.

In my “boss” roles over a 50 plus year career, I’ve had from 4 to 24 direct-reports.  The grand total is probably 200, and the grand total of employees has to be a couple thousand (incorporating turnover).  I take a great deal of pride knowing that I treated most (I’d like to think, “ALL”) of my employees with dignity and respect; and, I’m confident that they all know how important they were to the success we shared.  No abusive boss taught me this, instead, my father instilled those traits that shaped me as a man and as a boss, respect, compassion, kindness, generosity in the positive example he set for me.  I don’t care how you paint it, there’s nothing good about bad bosses.  They typically have higher turnover, lower productivity, and thus lower profits.  Keep in mind, not every direct report becomes a boss; perhaps one in a dozen that does will learn ‘what not to do’ from a tyrant, but there’s no redemption in that. 

That said, I have had at least two bad bosses, one threw me overboard, off a production platform, into the Gulf of Mexico, to make the point that he was the boss and that I should blindly obey everything he said.  I was on the second day of a 7-day hitch, did as little as possible the next five days and never went back.  This was at a time before EEOC really gained much traction in the oil fields.  That tyrant left a lasting impression, but did not shape the way I’ve treated my employees in the subsequent decades.

My other bad boss was recent and with the best company I ever worked for.  There’s no point getting too specific, but there’s a level of irony here that’s curious—this worst was preceded by one of the best, same BU, same job.  I’ve written extensively about “what a leader ought to be,” and my best bosses all possessed some or even all of those character traits, so I made it my mission to make them look good.  They knew they could trust me and I trusted them.  That more recent bad one . . . betrayed me.  He didn’t understand that his success depended on my success—and I couldn’t work around his duplicity. 

So what's the bottom line?  I can't imagine a scenario where there's any value in a bad boss (as described in the literature today).  Who's watching the store while this person abuses his employees?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Not interested in self-driving cars (see photo below)

A single or a handful of self-driving vehicles is just simply a disaster waiting to happen. I agree that a “network” of self-driving vehicles CAN be safe, perhaps even safer than the current fleet of human-directed cars & trucks, but a lot of things have to happen first. The makers of self-driving cars (they cannot accurately be called autonomous), must first invest in a massive infrastructure of transmitters & sensors (infra-red, radio-frequency, something) in all vehicles, on bicycles, motorcycles, on pedestrians (your child walking to school), on everything that moves; and, at every cross-walk, every stop sign, sensors that warn of wet or icy roads, traffic lights with “short yellows,” and every other potential hazard. I would even install a device in my Mustang Cobra to communicate with the wimpy little driverless shoeboxes (as long as the device doesn’t record or report my driving habits on long stretches of deserted highways). Until the infrastructure is in place and all the rolling-stock is communicating, I won’t get in a self-driving car. There are plenty of options out there for people who don’t want to drive, those who can’t drive—cabs, Uber, Lyft, ride-share, other local/regional car companies, limos, shuttle-vans, buses, trains, and of course planes for longer trips, feet for shorter ones. No one likes work-hour commutes, I took light-rail when I lived in Sacramento, until someone stole my car from the park & ride lot—I’ve even resorted to Uber and Lyft rather than rental cars when I travel to new cities, or to get me back and forth to the airport. But, there is still a place in our lives, our culture, for cars that we direct, that stop and go and turn when we make it happen, and cars that deliver that powerful adrenaline rush you can’t get many places.  For more information just Google "self-driving car crashes".  Still not convinced, let me know, I'll take you for a ride in the Cobra.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Are you old . . . like me, maybe retired but feel like you can still contribute, even make a difference in people’s lives?  Or, do you know someone who fits that description?  There is a vast wealth of talent, passion, energy, imagination, expertise and VALUE, largely un-appreciated, thus wasted in America today . . . among old people (my age +/- a year or two or ten). 

What if there was a modern, high-speed, tech-based way to connect with people everywhere, not just in your neighborhood, that want or need your guidance or advice, would you be interested in participating?  What if you could even make a few bucks doing it?  Starting soon, I’ll be recruiting people to provide expert-level guidance and advice to consumers, small business owners/operators, craftsmen and women thinking about going it on their own, and much more. 

Think about it:  Are you an auto mechanic who could take a look at the estimate my neighbor just got for repairs to his over-heating Toyota?  Is it really a $2,500 job?  Are you a retired builder, carpenter, tile mason that can assess the bid my brother-in-law just got for a bathroom remodel?  Will $10,000 get him everything he wants?  What about a retired teacher who might consult with a parent struggling to help a struggling student?  Is tutoring an answer?  How do they evaluate local tutors?  Or, maybe you’re a retired marketing manager who can help a small business owner put together a simple marketing plan, or an HR expert who can give a little advice on hiring, training, or motivating employees.  Maybe you’re an operations manager like I was and can help a small business reduce costs.  If you’re old like me, but have worked in IT since computers were steam-powered, maybe you can consult with small businesses to help protect themselves from cyber-crime?  My list goes on and on, but I doubt it’s totally comprehensive.  I’m anxiously awaiting input from other Grey-Haired folks—but, of course you don’t have to have grey hair, or any hair at all.  I’ve used Grey Haired Guy as my blog ID for many years and thought it works for this endeavor, but of course you don’t have to be a Guy either.  All you really need is a desire to help.

I am working on the business plan and will have a complete start-up guide ready to execute in a few weeks.  I expect our professional services will be limited to $20 to $50 per consult but will be expandable to fit the project.  As founder, coordinator, this grey-haired guy will take a small fee to set up your profile in the ‘catalog’ and a paltry 5-10% of fees to support the web-site and provide a little compensation for my time.  We will swap resumes so you’ll know enough to trust that I’m reliable, and so that I can offer assurance to customers that you’re reliable.  I’ll also consult an attorney to be sure we have the disclaimers and levels-of-service agreements we’ll need to keep everyone safe.   

Like many others in my age group, I didn’t get much traction during the first half-year of my post-retirement job hunt, so I decided to diversify.  I had been fabulously successful in oil & gas, retail, food service, manufacturing, training—yet nothing seemed to grasp the attention of recruiters; so, I went to work on other skills & training.  During my time as a consultant, I learned a lot about what small businesses need, so I set about gaining some real practical expertise in those topics—insurance, bookkeeping, tax accounting, tax planning, estate planning, even exit strategies (all with a little help from my brother the CPA, and my other brother the IRS Enrolled Agent).  I was already an expert in food safety (I was a ServeSafe trainer for more than a decade, helping operators satisfy state and local health department requirements for food safety training).  I know I have a lot to offer—I’ve set sales & profit records in most every job I’ve held, I’ve made (with my team’s help) staggering improvements in customer service and image in two different industries.  I have some level of expertise in wood products manufacturing, catering/banquet and bar businesses, building custom motorcycles, muscle cars, and writing/editing/publishing.  Now that I’ve earned my insurance license and my first broker agreement, now that I’m a certified Quick Books ProAdvisor, while I’m enrolled in graduate school, I’m ready for a new project.   For more info, IM me, or email me at  And, by the way, I don’t feel a bit old.

Friday, January 26, 2018

FREE Kindle Edition, Great Family Mystery and Adventure Series, Volumes 1 & 2

Friends and Foes?: A Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure
For five days, Monday, 1/29, through Friday, 2/2, download FREE Kindle editions of both Madison Adventures: Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer, and Friends and Foes?  Check out my Author's Page on Amazon for info on both novels:  BR Author 
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nordstrom's and Cashmere Socks

 Case Study, Cashmere socks:   I had just taken over new territory which included Seattle, WA.  That part of Washington is among the wettest areas of the nation.[1]  I should have been prepared for my first trip to Seattle, but I was caught without raincoat, umbrella, or galoshes--- and had about a four-block walk from hotel to store.  The hotel was kind enough to lend me an umbrella, but I was still soaked up to my knees after the walk.  After the third day, I was talking to my wife, describing how my shoes were ruined after being rain-soaked for days and she suggested I needed a new pair anyway, so why not go to Nordstrom’s and buy a new pair.  I had just recently learned of the department store chain, but knew very little about it.  It seems that they had sent us a Nordstrom credit card, unsolicited, and we had $300 open-to-buy (likely bought a mailing list from someone, another lender perhaps). 

My wife, having travelled and worked in the Pacific Northwest, was familiar with Nordstrom, and told me, “You’ll love it!  They’re very friendly, have the best-quality stuff, and their main store is just a block or two from your hotel.” 

I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but it was hard to argue that I didn’t need new shoes.  The next afternoon, the rain had ceased, for the moment, so I walked on past my hotel to the Nordstrom store.  Men’s shoes were on the second floor, so I rode the escalator up, thinking the store looked really very nice.  At least three people smiled and said, “Hello” to me between the entrance and the bottom of the escalator.   I found shoes, took a minute or two looking at dress shoes on a table right out front.  The shoes were very nice, but a little pricey for me.  I had never paid more than $60 for a pair of dress shoes and these were all $75-$95.  I could see a young man working in the department, dusting, straightening displays, but he didn’t seem to notice me----very odd for a shoe salesman. 

Another minute or two went by before he moved my way, and when he spoke it was very casual, “Holler at me if you find something you wanna try on.”  Very casual.

As a retail person, I’m always assessing, evaluating the merchandising, sales techniques, pricing strategy, and more when I shop.  This store had me stumped---it was not like other department store chains.  I moved to another table, picked up a couple of shoes, and simply raised my head to glance in his direction and he was looking my way.  I thought, “Here we go—the sales pitch.”

Instead, he asked, “Would you like some coffee?  I just brewed a fresh pot.”

I was aware that Seattle was/is the center of the coffee universe, even back before Starbucks became ubiquitous.  “Sure, just black would be great.” 

He brought me coffee in a ceramic Nordstrom mug, not a paper or Styrofoam cup.  As he handed it to me he said, “It’s a dark roast Arabica bean—we sell it downstairs.  Let me know if you like it—I have a 50% off coupon I can give you.  So, have you seen a shoe you like?”

Was I disarmed at this point?  I don’t know, maybe, but I pointed out a couple of shoes I wanted to try (not too far out of my price range) and he left to go get my size.  He returned with three boxes, helped me try the first two, and then offered the third, “I just unloaded these---and, I thought I should at least show you.  They’re hand-made Italian, a tassel-loafer, like the others you like, but, way too expensive, probably more than they’re worth, but if you have a minute, try ‘em, just to compare.” He was positively giddy.

So, I tried them on.  They were unlike any shoe I had ever worn.  I stood and took a couple of steps and maybe the salesman was reading my mind.  He probably knew he had a sale---maybe not that one, but I was going to buy a pair of shoes that day.

He said, “You know what, why don’t you let me put a coat of polish on your old shoes---it’ll keep them a little dryer as you wade around town.”  He picked them up and started to walk towards his stock room, “It’ll only take a minute, enjoy your coffee and I’ll be right back.”

I didn’t know whether to be annoyed by this or not.  I didn’t have all evening to shop for shoes.  But, I sat patiently for a minute or two and he came back out, without my shoes but with a pair of argyle socks.

“My colleague is working on your shoes, and he’ll bring them out in a just a minute,” he had a huge smile on his face.  “I have something else I think you might want to try.  Have you ever worn cashmere socks?”

When all was said and done, I walked out of Nordstrom’s that day with a $225 pair of hand-made Italian loafers, a $35 pair of cashmere socks, a pair of cedar shoe trees (free), a great new shine on my old shoes (free), a Nordstrom coffee mug (free), and a one-pound bag of coffee (50% off).  Oh, and some rubber galoshes (apparently, they really did wear them in Seattle), about $8.   The salesman’s name was Chad and he’s been sending me Christmas cards for nearly 20 years now.  And, I still have the loafers---that kind of shoe never goes out of style.

Nordstrom’s is unique in its segment---that level of service I have described was the norm, not an exception, not unique to men’s shoes, but a cut above the other department stores I’d visited over the years before and since.  At the time I attributed it to luck, lucky hiring, very good training and supervision.  But, this was the home store, the flagship.  Would it translate to other locations?  That question was answered a few years later when they opened a store in Sacramento, where I lived at the time.  The store was staffed with former employees of the other major department stores in the area, NOT known for great service---but, in a very short time, they were as good as the Seattle staff.  They were the picture of a culture of respect. 

I’ve analyzed other organizations with similar cultures of respect and I‘ve use a variety of tools over the years to foster a comparable sense of respect and gratitude in my own organizations.  It may sound blunt, but the secret I’ve found that will make this happen is  “relentless nagging,” not in a negative, pushy way, more of a positive, supportive fashion.  Practice it at every level, every day in every encounter inside and outside your company.  Build a system of rewards and consequences to fortify your efforts.  Set the standard at the highest level and never compromise.   

Lesson for entrepreneurs:  Nordstrom’s product offering was not unique.  Other men’s stores had similar high-quality stuff, the store was nice but not markedly better than Niemen-Marcus or Sak’s Fifth Avenue, yet Nordstrom’s had a clear, distinct competitive advantage in the level of respect offered to customers---and, as I learned later, for its employees.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why I call myself a Patriot

The official DOD figure for combat or combat related deaths in Vietnam: 58,300
The official casualty figure for Korea: 33,741

6,800 military deaths since the “war on terror” began in 1999

We watched filthy rich football players turn their backs on our national anthem—and someone asked, “Why?  What are they protesting? Could any of us do that at our jobs?”  This is not a complicated thing for me, when the National anthem plays, I stand at attention with my right hand on my heart.  Do I do it because our country is perfect, because our government does everything right, just, and fair?  Nope, that’s not it.  I have several things on the wall in my home office, my college diploma, a tribute to John Glenn the Astronaut, framed certificates & medals for accomplishments at work or in school, my framed photos commemorating the Saints Super Bowl win, and my “Thank you from a Grateful Nation” for my active duty service, signed by Richard Nixon.  Am I less proud of my service because Nixon was my Commander-in-Chief?  Hell no.  Am I less proud to be an American because we went to war over the “domino theory,” a flawed premise?  Hell no.  I stand at attention, get a lump in my throat, because of the  100,000 young men (mostly) who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and for the families, and friends, whose hearts were broken—during my life time.  That’s more than 4 times the total population of the Parish where I grew up—can you imagine that?  Every man, woman, and child in Plaquemines Parish, four times over. 

We learned in Civics in fifth grade, that being Americans meant we have certain rights, but there are obligations that go along with that, our responsibilities.  Among those responsibilities are be good citizens, abide by laws, vote, take part in the democratic process—and for some, serve, either in the military or as volunteers in the service of people who need a hand up.  My family has a heritage of military service, my father, my father-in-law, several uncles on both sides of the family, brothers-in-law, many cousins, nieces and nephews, so it wasn’t a tough decision for me to enlist.  I’ve told the story before about a friend who died in Vietnam on Christmas Eve, 1970—that event erased any doubt I may have had.  Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a Patriot—and when you think about it, that’s a little odd.  I’ve used it to sort of differentiate myself from . . . anyone who’s not a Patriot, but without actually examining the thought.  Now, it’s clear, at least in my mind.  I love my country, I stand at attention during the National Anthem, I pause EVERY time I see our flag flying, because I am a proud patriot, proud of my contribution as a citizen, proud of all the things good about our country, and honored to be part of making it better.  Anyone who does not see things that way, who does not live up to the responsibilities of citizenship, does not honor those who battled to earn and preserve our freedoms, is not a patriot, does not deserve the rights that come with citizenship. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Best Things in Life (50 years ago)

I'm sure there are lots of guys out there that had similar passion for baseball when they were kids.  It's funny that I have so few vivid memories from when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old--but I can remember things about baseball as though they happened yesterday.  I remember trying out for 'majors' with Coach Bourque watching.   We played Little League (or Dixie League--a long, sad story) on the fields in the Town Site, near the tennis courts and the Community House.  I don't remember the kid's name I was playing catch with--he had bright red hair as I recall.  Coach Bourque walked up and down watching us catch and throw--and I made 'Majors.' I remember a big kid named Mike throwing to try to catch me stealing second --instead hit me in the face.  It hurt but I got over it--it was maybe my only steal.  Years later, Coach Cormier asked me not to try to steal (I was too slow, though he didn't come right out and say it).   I remember playing 'under the lights' in Belle Chasse for the first time ever--we didn't  have lights.  Our infield at the PSHS was all dirt, and I can remember the dust and the smell when it was really hot and dry.  I remember my first home run in high school, at a park somewhere in Chalmette--I had grounded out the AB before and coach Cormier suggested I take off my spikes and put on my "tennis" shoes--my black Converse All Stars, because I was dragging my front foot, not getting a good stride--and, it worked.  I smashed the first pitch over the left field fence--with a runner on first.  I don't remember my slow trot around the bases, but I can see the ball fly over the left-fielder's head, like it was yesterday.  Few memories from boyhood are as rich and satisfying.

I remember Kenny Sonnier hitting a home run at Mel Ott Park in Gretna--with major league scouts in the stands (we heard).  The fence was short, just over 300 ft., but it was 50 ft. high.  Kenny hit it over the fence, across the street, into the 2nd floor of the building on the other side.  I was standing at the end of the dugout and I can see the ball, still rising as it cleared that chain link fence, and crashed into the brick wall.  Nobody cheered at first--they couldn't believe it, but then suddenly we realized what had happened and I think even the other team's fans cheered.  We heard later that Kenny was the first and only high school player to ever hit a ball over that right field fence.