Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

I want to start off the year with a good push in the right direction and found Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win while browsing Audible’s top rated Business books. Here are links to the book:

Amazon
Audible

One Chapter Per Day

Since I spend at least an hour walking Maggie each day I’m a listening to the book on Audible. (Thank you for sharing your credits with me Jordan. That means I can get through a chapter of the book each day. I’m limiting myself to 1 chapter per day because I want to do a good job evaluating the lessons and thinking about how to implement them in my work and day-to-day life.

Good Leaders Own Outcomes

Chapter 1 is direct and relates to the title of the book immediately. Own all of the outcomes. If the project objectives are not being completed then it’s my fault for not properly delegating or explaining tasks. If the project receives poor reviews from customers it’s because I did not create proper evaluation procedures before a release. If sales are low it’s because I didn’t work with the sales team enough or create a better pricing structure. It’s me. I did it.

Great Leaders Give Credit Away

But then things take a quick turn when there are successful endings. Yes, I had something to do with it, but it’s more important to pass the credit to the people who did the work. Chances are that was a developer, or salesperson, or project manager.

This is really hard to do if you have a big ego. Egos cause us to look for scapegoats. They get us to stand tall and puff our chests when we get things right. These are bad practices. Don’t let your ego in the way. When you hear yourself making excuses…that’s your ego. When you take the compliment you earned because of your team’s performance and don’t pass it on…that’s your ego. Stop it.

Friendly Fire

I love how this book always points toward the key to success being the ability to own outcomes. Chapter 1 of the book gives the example of a Seal team leader who is involved in a blue on blue or friendly fire incident. I’m not a military man, but the authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin do a great job explaining how catastrophic soldiers treat blue on blue incidents. These moments are a risk that can never be eliminated, but every soldier does everything they can to avoid this mistake, but we have similar issues each day in our jobs.

How many times have departments been faced with a miscommunication or lack of information from another department. Maybe the sales team didn’t get the latest marketing brief or get notified of the new update to the software from the development team. While this is in no way as catastrophic as bullets blazing toward team members it has the effect of stopping progress. When an employee knowingly holds back when they know negative effects will ensue, it’s friendly fire. Don’t tolerate that. Don’t do it. If someone does it, make sure they never do it again. Every company faces this issue in the form of knowledge sharing. Successful companies find ways to nurture knowledge sharing. Struggling or stale companies do not. They are full of employees who are petrified to share their knowledge for fear or being replaced.

Leaders need to teach, mentor, find and fix weaknesses in the team, and above all else take ownership of outcomes. This has been a great choice as my first book of the year and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs that extra push to start the year off right.

Discount or Give Back?

Discounts work, but social giving is creating interesting phenomenons in the marketplace. Who knows how to generate the greatest social good with a donation? Is it a company with a 10% donation policy or is it the customer who can put the money to use in other ways? Which plan generates the largest profits for a company? That’s a big question these days. It won’t take you long to find a Tom’s poser who is donating profits or giving units away in the hopes of pulling at a customer’s heart strings. I sound cynical, but unfortunately this has become a marketing tactic for some brands who have run the math and understand that even with lower margins, the higher volumes linked to social giving create a more profitable business.

National Parks Service

So what do we do with our Amazon store? Jordan is leaning toward donating a portion of profits to the National Parks Service. He immediately took the high ground in the argument because he knows we both feel passionately about that organization. I have a backpack full of patches to prove it. If you need more evidence, Enterprise has a Ford Expedition with the smell of me and my dog burned into the upholstery (We drove cross country visiting as many parks as we could.)

How Do You Amazon?

I don’t believe Amazon customers shop in a way that promotes social giving. My mother pointed out the Amazon Smile program, but I’m still convinced Amazon shoppers follow this hierarchy when evaluating products after a search.

  • Price (Is it a good deal?)
  • Prime (Is shipping fast and free?)
  • Reviews (Is it going to work?)

Early Adopter Bias

I buy A LOT of things on Amazon. I was one of the early adopters of Amazon Fresh. They have done a great job of listening to feedback and improving that part of their business (The new bags are very well built.) I also know that as an early adopter I am not in the majority. If you feel inclined to offer your opinion on the matter I would love to hear your feedback. Please email me here with your opinion. Should we offer customers the best discount, or charge a premium and donate profits to the National Parks Service?

Next Steps: It turns out a domain name isn’t necessary and we can funnel customer relations through Amazon with our current email addresses. We still need to agree on a username for Instagram and are leaning towards @AmericanProductsNow. I know it’s long, but…so what. Jordan will setup the Amazon store and I’ll get started on IG ads and posts for our stickers. Here we go!

Amazon Stickers

I’m very excited that the first project I’ll be starting this year will be with my Brother! I love when we get to work together.

We are starting an Amazon store and our first product is a custom sticker.

I know this sounds incredibly exciting to you, but this first product was chosen on a whim as a cheap and dirty way to setup our Amazon store and distribution system as well as test a marketing plan for the product. Stickers are cheap and offer a quick turnaround from suppliers. They are also tiny easy to store and ship. These attributes were on the top of our list when selecting a lower risk product to start with.

Jordan has already finished designing the sticker and I’m rocking that amazing design as my iPhone wallpaper. If you see me out and about feel free to ask for a sneak-peak.

Product Selection

Our system for finding more products to sell will start with a visit to major retailers such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy. We will see which products are out of stock at these retailers. Jordan is in Boulder, CO and I am in Shawnee, KS so we can visit at least two stores for each retailer. We will see which products overlap on our lists to rank order the products. This is only our first filter, but should allow us to build a significant, yet insightful, first stab at this.

Build a Model

To filter further we will build a model to estimate (guess) revenues for each product. We have not started on this portion of the process, but it will likely include Google search data, sell-thru estimates from retailers, and margins. This piece of the process will be helpful, but it’s very much a guess at the outcome. Luckily, my brother and I are pretty cautious of each other’s brilliant ideas. While we are extremely supportive of one another we also know how to ask focused questions about why or how an outcome will occur. This will not only help us filter our list even more, but also help to build a stronger model to evaluate future products.

Instagram Marketing

Most, if not all of our marketing efforts will be conducted through Instagram. This channel will allow us a simple delivery method at a relatively low cost. Since we are starting with one product we can link directly to that Amazon page in our Instagram bio. We can also link directly to the Amazon store when we run advertisements on this network. I’m not very keen on influencer marketing, but if Jordan can talk me into it we may go in that direction as well.

Next Steps

The most urgent next steps are to agree on a name for our store, purchase the domain name, and sign-up for an Instagram account and secure the matching username. We will also create a generic email account for the domain to handle customer service issues as well as communication with Amazon. Here we go!

Resolution for 2017

As the first post on this new blog I think I should explain why I’ve hit the ‘Reset’ button on a few things.

My resolution for 2017 is to ‘Remove Clutter.’

I decided to make it vague because it puts the burden on me to make the most of it.

Website Update

The first area I attacked was my personal website. If you remember, the last version had a bit too much going on. You could view my Instagram feed and my Twitter feed. There were a lot of pictures and categories. Basically, there was a lot of fluff. I’ve removed nearly all of that, but you can still find me as @jacobkbluhm on Instagram here and on Twitter here. I also decided to stop using so many social networks. That means no more Snapchat or Facebook for this guy. I’ll keep testing new networks as they pop up, but that will be for research purposes.

Access to Content

The next piece of this resolution involves the clutter in the form of content I absorb. I read a lot and I definitely fall victim to information overload when it comes to social networks, news, and other sources of entertainment. I’m going to limit myself, by time, each week. I’m not sure how long I will allow myself to indulge, but that may come in another post.

Less Multitasking

I’ll also be getting rid of clutter in my day-to-day tasks. I have a habit of multitasking. For a long time I thought of this ability as a skill. I recently returned from a month vacation in Bali with my only device being my iPhone. This put some severe limitations on the way I work, primarily on my ability to multitask. On an iPhone it is very difficult to do two things at once aside from listening to music while running another app. It wasn’t long before I realized how much faster I was getting things done. Now that I have my laptop and other devices at my disposal, I want to continue to limit myself on the amount of multitasking that I do.

No More Stuff

The last piece of my resolution involves physical clutter. After my move from Venice, CA I realized how much stuff I have. Stuff is what you call something when it doesn’t have a necessary or immediate purpose. I don’t want anymore stuff. I want to remove as much of this clutter as I can. This involves selling, donating, or otherwise getting rid of anything I’ve been keeping in storage and have no plan to use in the near future.

That’s it. That explains my resolution for 2017. I will certainly write updates about this adventure. There will definitely be ups and downs throughout the year. Happy New Year!