What I learned from HGTV

love-it-or-list-it-hgtvTonight I’m sitting here watching Jo decorate another house that she and her husband, Chip, have “fixed up”. On other nights I come home to Love It or List It with Hillary and David or Property Brothers with Drew and Jonathan because my wife loves HGTV.

I have come to realize that a new addition to my business is a fusion of my wife’s favorite HGTV shows. In part of my consulting practice, I serve clients as a “business” stager. I work with properties that have a lot of potential but for some reason need some cleaning up, remodeling, and staging. My goal is true Love It or List It: To make a business so nice that the owner no longer wants to sell it.

Some businesses just need a little touch up, a new P&L, some operational clean up and removal of too many lifestyle expenses. Some businesses need major renovation, a new product line, personnel changes, and/or marketing focus.

And like all the shows, no business exit plan unfolds like you expect. Asking owners to trust you to improve something they view as their baby is always more difficult than the initial agreement. The irony is that usually the result of helping someone stage his business for sale is the kindling of a new love affair with the business. The owner ends up loving it more than wanting to list it.

And of course, that is our goal. When you love what you have, the market offers buyers willing to pay a premium. We all want what we think isn’t for sale.

So when you want to sell your business remember to:

  • Remove the clutter.
  • Open it up to lean processes.
  • Upgrade to current technology features.
  • Set some goals that would make you a fool to sell your business.
  • Use professional staging.

A new Fixer Upper episode is coming on. Time to learn a few new tricks!

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What I learned from Arnold Palmer

arnold-palmer-signatureArnold Palmer was part of my Dad’s big three. When I was a kid, on his desk at work were pictures of my mother, Bear Bryant, and Arnold, Arnie to us. The standing joke among us kids was, “Who do you think Dad looked at more?” Dad always loved Mom, but his affection for Alabama football and Arnie were a close second. We went to the Pensacola Open in the late fifties, and I got Arnie’s autograph. My best family memories seem to always include football and golf to this day.

With that as a lead in, Mr. Palmer’s passing, revealed a wonderful trait about him. He considered being a “professional” golfer included making sure his signature was legible. He figured if a fan wanted HIS autograph, he owed it to them and his profession to make sure they got his best effort.

Professional golfer after professional golfer related stories of Arnie admonishing them to make their signature legible. And for 60+ years, you could always tell an Arnold Palmer signature. Part of his greatness was his attention to his professional in the little things.

My calling in business is working with people, and Arnold has me wondering. If I passed today, what would my colleagues say was my consistent application of being a professional? What would be my “signature”?

I would hope it would be encouragement. That has been identified and ratified as a gift and talent I was born possessing. I would hope my colleagues could relate stories of my encouragement. Yet, I know that my encouragement at times is less than legible, and my willingness to stop for anyone needing it has been far below Arnold’s autograph commitment.

So what I learned is that to be a professional is to use your talents to the best of your ability every time it’s required. As Julius Erving put it, “Being a professional is doing what you love to do, even on the days you don’t feel like it.”

Arnold Palmer, the man, is gone, and he leaves behind so many lessons for his followers. I think his picture needs to be added to my desk as a reminder to be a professional every day.

Private Miller reporting for duty in your Army, Mr. Palmer!

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The Big Rock in the Focus Jar

rocks-in-a-jarEntrepreneurs and small business owners have more hats than heads when they are growing and sometimes saving their companies. Given their “head on a swivel” world, what is the one metric they should always stay in touch with? Is it cash flow, market share, sales, or debt service coverage?  My answer is simple, the lifetime value of a customer.


Three key words combine to be the biggest rock in the jar of focus. And we all know that if you get the big rock in the jar, the pebbles and sand tend to fit in nicely.


Lifetime – Would anyone like to compete on customer turnover? Only the scammers and spammers approach business this way. Lifetime recognizes the commitment we all want in our relationships.  To think of your customer like your family changes the way you interact. Decisions become strategic first and tactical second. You don’t ditch your kid for a newer smarter one. You work to bring out the best in what you have while deciding whether to grow the family.


Value – How many of us value our customers?  I mean really value. Have you thought  of all the volume that lifetime customer relationship has meant to you? Have you thought of how many dollars you have saved in searching for a replacement for their business?  Have you valued how much word of mouth referral business a customer has brought you? I continue to do business with people that recognize my contribution and let me know it. I choose being valued over price nearly every time.


Customer – Is anything more crucial to your survival in business than a customer? Is there anything worse than losing a customer? Anything more draining than a mad customer and anything more satisfying than meeting and surpassing a customer’s expectation? The heart of servant leadership is always focused on the customer and not the company.


And the best part of this metric is the power it possesses. When you lengthen the lifetime value of a customer, revenues increase without increasing your costs. Marginal advertising and customer service tend to also go down. When customers feel valued, they become less price sensitive, and they help you avoid having to compete on price.  Finally, when your lifetime value exceeds your competition’s lifetime value, your enterprise value grows exponentially given the increase in both cash flow and the EBITDA multiple. Who wouldn’t pay more for a 25-30% higher length of tenure than your competition?


So keep swiveling but never lose sight of the lifetime value of your customers.

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How to have a Good Day – The day after Labor Day

When you come across information that combines behavioral science and workplace issues, share it. Here’s the first of several installments on Caroline Webb’s new book, How to have a Good Day.


When you aim to stay focused on your attitude and then pay attention to your most important goals, your day brightens.

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Getting Back on the Podium

Phelps and BowmanNow that the Olympics are over, what do you remember? For me it was a how hard it is to repeat as the Gold medal winner in successive Olympics. We are sure to remember Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, but what about Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin?

That got me to wondering about what makes a difference? Certainly age and competition drive our ability to compete. But I think something that is rarely noticed is that after the Olympics, star performers go back to work with someone by their side, a coach. Coaches Bob Bowman and Glen Mills have already scheduled time with their pupils to go over what went well and what could be improved. They will next go over their student’s goals and start charting a plan to get them back to the top again.

How many of us have major successes followed by recognition then the slow fade? Perhaps it’s due to lack of having a coach or an accountability partner to go over our successes in a way that allows us to move to the next success. What I have found in researching successful businesses and their leaders is that the success breeds coaching first and not the other way around. Successful people always seek coaches, while less successful people think they can’t afford one.

So the next time you have a success, think of Usain Bolt. Picture: Usian running sprints pulling a tire under the careful eye of  Coach Mills. I can hear Bob Marley in the background singing, “The fastest Mon is 31, The Fastest Mon… he ain’t done!”Bolt and Mills 2

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Touch Matters

staying in touchThank you “Black Lives Matter,” for reminding me of the message of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

Like Water ‘gate’ before it, their phrase has sparked a whole genre of __________ Matters. And while I disagree with the Black Lives premise, their phrase sparked me this morning to write about something that really does matter to me, Touches.

Touches are actions that define what or who is important to you. Physical touches, politically and legally incorrect in today’s EEOC environment, gently let people know you notice them. I often joke in my sexual harassment workshop that my dad would never survive one month in today’s environment because he was a notorious “toucher.”  My dad’s touch was endearing, as I found out from so many strangers at his funeral.

Touches, in a business sense, let your customers/vendors know you are thinking about them. I call some members of a chamber where I work just to say hello and see if we can do anything for them. Invariably, they have very few requests, and most literally tell me they are “touched” by my thoughtfulness. When business relationships die, an autopsy usually reveals a lack of staying “in touch” as a major contributing factor.

The same is true with friendships. My active friendships have a common thread, we both stay in touch. One way touches usually fade in my experience. I have been on both sides of this equation and must admit that my non-responses are to blame for some faded friendships. Mirror time again!

Touches are not big things: a note, a quick text, a phone call. Yet they are really are THE BIG THING.  In the end most of us will leave this earth with only one category of regret. We will miss the relationships we have built and the gentle touch of a loved one. So make sure each day includes building your relationships, one touch at a time. It WILL matter and your touches will all work for the good! 🙂

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Putting your brain in the fast lane!

Here’s a power tip on how to combine old technology with modern brain research and increase your productivity big time.


If you are like me, you probably hear Joe Walsh tearing it up in the background. Love that riff!

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