Archive for the ‘Tougher Than The Times’ Category

How to Reinvent in a Dying Industry

October 21, 2009

I once read a very astute marketing consultant’s opinion of the newspaper industry.  He concluded that it was a “dying industry” and commented that “not since the town crier deliveNewspaperred the news” had he seen an industry truly facing extinction.  I agree that the industry is facing extinction… but ONLY if they don’t do something NOW to become as indispensable and relevant as they were in their industry “prime”.  And to be sure, the newspaper industry doesn’t stand alone in their need for reinvention and relevance.

While the dinosaurs may not have been able to escape their own extinction, today’s organizations are run by people… individuals who were created with the ability to reason, to create, and to navigate obstacles…. Individuals whose potential will never go “extinct”.
If you are leading an organization, association, business or INDUSTRY that looks with “dread” towards the future, I encourage you to do three things:
1) ACKNOWLEDGE REALITY.   Acknowledge (in detail and specifics) the top three challenges you are facing – no matter how daunting they appear.
2) ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION.  Ask yourself this one question, and spend some time journaling (if alone) or brainstorming (if in a group): Given what we are up against, what do we want to CREATE?
3) CULTIVATE SUPERIOR FOCUS.  Focus, when strategically applied to an (even daunting) obstacle, has the power to penetrate and expose.  FOCUS on HOW you can achieve RELEVANCE and be viewed as an INDISPENSABLE resource to the customers or clients you serve.  What specifically can you do?
Finally, ponder the word “REINVENTION” and set out to create something brand new.  If you (and your team) limit your focus to “reasonable” or “realistic” improvements in your current circumstance, you will stifle your ability to make a profound difference.  So DREAM BIG, but commit to ACTING SMALL.

Easy Comes with a Risk

October 8, 2009

EasybuttonWatching a recent Staples commercial, I was again amazed at our culture’s fascination with the “EASY” button.  Commercials promise EASY (no diet, no exercise) weight loss, EASY (dollars while you sleep) money, and EASY health “fixes” in terms of the latest and greatest pills.

In fact, I want to challenge you to LISTEN to these “prescription” commercials with a new purpose.  IGNORE the “EASY” part… the part that promises instant and life-changing results.   Instead, I want you to pay attention to the “warnings”… you know, the part of the commercial in which they begin to speak really quickly.  This is when they “caution” you about the REAL risks of the drug they are pedaling.  “The risks / side effects can include heart attack, irregular menstrual cycles, and, oh yeah… DEATH.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

But the truth is that EASY comes with a RISK.  The risk of NO RESISTANCE is a lack of growth.  The RISK of far too easy credit is a national financial crisis.  The RISK of “blanket” tolerance is a lack of standards.  The RISK of not allowing anyone to FAIL is in the creation of an environment in which no one wins, either.  The RISK of “taking it easy” is the INABILITY to get TOUGHER THAN THE TIMES.

I am already writing a sequel to the soon –to-be-released fable:  Run to the Roar:  A Fable of Choice, Courage, and Hope. It will focus on the COURAGE of our CONVICTIONS.  As I write this book, I am reminded that our nation was built by a people that would have ruthlessly questioned (the existence of and need for) an “EASY” button.  Our American ancestors didn’t seek, hope, yearn for, NOR expect to find an “EASY” route.  They expected that life would be tough at times.  Their commitment was to be TOUGHER than the TIMES.

And sometimes… just sometimes… our greatest moments are in the “tough times”… our greatest accomplishments…. our greatest growth… our greatest contributions…

Me vs. Them

September 25, 2009
“… considilovemepnger others better than yourselves…” – Philippians 2:3

I am always refreshingly reassured by how practical this ancient book is for today’s circumstances.  When I look at the verse above, I am positive this is never more apparent than when you consider the development of state, corporate and church leaders
Leaders are facing unprecedented challenges today, yet there are a few time-tested principles that will allow them to be “Tougher than the Times” no matter what circumstances they face.  Developing a “THEM” mentality instead of a “ME” mentality is one such principle.
You see, leadership isn’t about the leader at all…. only about the people he or she lead. When a leader keeps their eyes on their TEAM, instead of on THEMSELVES, we avoid many “traps” of leadership, including:
  • Taking circumstances and conversations too personally;
  • Clouded judgment that often comes when a leader is more interested in protecting his or her own “standing” rather than dealing with a situation more directly and objectively;
  • Timid leadership;
  • Stress associated with carrying every outcome squarely on your shoulders rather than sharing burdens and rewards with the team; and
  • Unnecessary “power struggles” – that often completely disappear when a leader is willing to fully embrace his or her primary role: serving their team.
Leading my very first Tougher than the Times Leadership Roundtable has been incredibly exciting and rewarding already!  I would like to thank EACH leader and company represented for all you bring to the group!  Until October… we remain… Tougher than the Times!!

What Do You Want To Do?… Do The Opposite

January 26, 2009


Is it any wonder a keynote topic like "Tougher than the Times" has surged to "most requested" status lately?  Of course not.  It doesn't seem to matter whether you are a corporate executive, factory worker, healthcare provider, small business owner, or government official.  Across the board, Americans are facing some "tough times" and looking for solutions.  

The best news about all of this is that we seem to be of one mind as Americans as we view our current global and economic challenges as temporal.  We know that “this too, shall pass”.  Still, the questions of how we “get to the other side” and “how long will it take” linger heavily in the air.  Bottom line, in order to get through “tough times,” we need to be “tougher.”  So, what does it take to be tougher than the times exactly?

First, we need to understand that often times, what is required of us in challenging circumstances is exactly OPPOSITE of what we want to do.  Too often, we want to “hunker down” and “wait it out.”  Perhaps we keep operating at the status quo and simply “hope for the best.”  Unfortunately, this passive mentality will have us run over, defeated, and beaten down in no time flat.  There are two important facts to remember when becoming “Tougher than the times.”   One, any challenge or obstacle worth our time and attention will require strategic action on our part.   Two, in times like these, our best defense is offense.  

To illustrate this, I want to share with you an ancient HERO who became (much) tougher than the times.  

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed King over all of Israel, they (the Philistines) went up in full force to search for him… – 1 Chronicles 14:8

Many of us may have heard the famous “bible story” battle between David and Goliath.  Well, Goliath was a Philistine, a nation of people who were literally classified as modern-day giants.  Clearly, they already had SIZE as an advantage.  But, history also tells us that size was not this nation’s only “weapon.”  You see, archeological digs in Israel reveal that only those sites occupied by the Philistines contained iron tools and weapons.  So, in addition to being giants, the Philistines had developed advanced technology enabling them to create iron weaponry that the Israelites did not have at that time.   A formidable opponent, wouldn’t you say?

Perhaps as formidable as being a leader in an organization experiencing layoffs and massive transition? As formidable as being a small business owner entering a new year dominated by media – driven DOOMSDAY forecasts???  As formidable as entering a new economy in which people more carefully consider each purchase?  As formidable as pursuing a goal that seems “impossible” to achieve?  Let’s see what we can learn from David’s “tougher than the times” response.  

…but David heard about it and WENT OUT TO MEET THEM.” 1 Chronicles 14: 9

The bottom line is that we will all face obstacles in 2009 – just as we faced obstacles in 2008.   But we don’t have to face them the SAME WAY we always have.  We don’t have to hunker down and wait it out.  We certainly don’t have to run away or put our heads in the sand.  I love what David does… He hears about these giants who are coming out in FULL FORCE to destroy him.  Our own first response may have been to HIDE and hope this army of well-armed giants got lost on their way to Israel.  J BUT, history records that David did just the OPPOSITE.  He ran TO the roar.  He met his opponent … his obstacle.. head on! Click Here to read about how  Scott Rigell of Freedom Ford “Ran To The Roar”.

Today, I am asking each of you to do the same.  And, when you are meeting each new challenge with confidence, with faith, with your BEST effort… why not leave a comment below about what you are up to?  I would love to include your story in one of my upcoming books or newsletters.

Author, Rolfe Carawan

Run To The Roar America…

January 21, 2009
President Obama renewed his call for a massive plan to stimulate economic growth.

President Obama renewed his call for a massive plan to stimulate economic growth.

Today, a new President will take office, and while this may be a lifelong dream for him, I can’t say I envy him at all.  He is coming on the scene when our country is facing unprecedented and daunting economic challenges, as well as continued global terrorism and a challenging war effort.  Like a “roaring lion” these obstacles continue to intimidate us, evoking fear and anxiety in the hearts of many Americans. 

While we may be tempted to hear the roar of the lion and “run for the hills”, a more thorough investigation of our “enemy” may make us think again.  You see, the male lion isn’t even really a hunter.  In fact, his typical contribution to a hunt is simply his roar.  It is the lionesses who are actually known for their hunting prowess.  As these females lie in wait at one end of the grassland, the male lion will be at the other end, as their prey graze in the middle.  To signal the hunt, the male lion lets out an intimidating roar.  Out of fear, the grazing animals run AWAY from the roar, and into the dangerous group of lionesses, who lie in wait. 

But, what if they RAN TO THE ROAR instead?  Well, with their size (in number) and speed,  they could easily run past the ONE male lion on that end of the savannah and survive. 

It is this very analogy that I shared with Congressman Randy Forbes not long ago.  You see, our immediate reaction to something fear – or anxiety –– evoking is to run away from the roar, often into more dangerous or daunting circumstances.  I, like Congressman Forbes, believe that we stand as a nation in the middle of the grasslands and RUNNING TO THE ROAR is exactly what is required for us to move beyond our current (personal and global) obstacles and challenges. 

To hear more about RUNNING TO THE ROAR from Randy Forbes, visit his blog  and be on the lookout for the book he and I are co-authoring entitled, “RUN TO THE ROAR”.  


Run To The Roar Award

December 31, 2008

A Sinking Ship

Many organizations experience highs and lows and transitions that cause considerable uncertainty among members and test the very fiber of what a true leader is made of.  Such transitions are occurring in the business world on a daily basis and whether internal or external they tend to expose the core of an organization and test the true unity of its members. 

In the late 1980s Freedom Automotive of Norfolk, VA, was facing this very sort of transition with little hope of recovery.  With economic woes, poor market location, very little strategic edge, and a leader who was swiftly growing weary of the business itself, Freedom Ford was headed toward what looked like commercial ruin.

The Arrival of a Leader

In 1991 Scott Rigell became the president and owner of Freedom Automotive.  Rigell knew that the only way to turn this company around and make it succeed was to unite his employees behind a common vision rooted in common values.  He would have to focus on exceptional customer service by investing in those who administered it, his own employees. Coming from a state of seemingly unfixable brokenness and failure the company grew into a modern success story of fortitude, vision, values, and unification.  

The Run to the Roar

In the face of the recent economic downturn Scott Rigell is once again demonstrating his courageous leadership by running toward the challenge. I was present last week at an all-company meeting where he re-affirmed his original vision for being a “Different Kind of Dealership.”  

He assured his employees that he would not waver in his commitment to investing in his company by providing innovative marketing.  Their customers would continue to experience the exceptional customer service they have come to expect. Employees would continue to receive world class training.  

He went further to say that he was increasing the company’s amount of contribution in the employees’ 401K plans.  But he didn’t stop there, he informed them that he would be reducing his salary by 66% and if necessary he would take no salary at all to ensure they continued to receive their benefits. Leadership like that takes courage and integrity, and that inspires all of us.

Way to go, Scott. Way to Run to the Roar!!

If you are in the market for a new car or truck be sure to check out Freedom Ford’s inventory.  You won’t be disappointed by their unyielding commitment to their customers.  

Tell us your stories by leaving a comment about how your organization and family are running to the roar during these tough times.

Author: Rolfe Carawan

Going above and beyond. It’s the Marriott Way.. and it truly is!

October 16, 2008

This day and age it seems to be that exceptional service gets overlooked.  We have become accustomed to connivence over quality and recordings over people.  As a whole people are more likely to acknowledge and voice a complaint but overlook an opportunity to share a sincere praise.  Well, I have stepped on a “diamond star” when it comes to customer service.. so much so that I can not allow it to go overlooked.  

Marriott Logo

For the past few weeks I have been organizing a speaking event at two Marriott hotels, one in Philadelphiaand one inTysons Corner.  This was my first time to ever act as an “event coordinator” from negotiating contracts, selecting menus, ordering AV equipment, establishing room set-up and booking sleeping rooms… it was details galore.. and lets not forget keeping ourselves within budget. My Event Managers at both hotels, Lisa Cirello and Trevell Williams were top notch!  They saved my tail in many instances, not allowing anything to go over-looked.. they made me look like a pro.  

So what did they do that was so exceptional?:

  1. Treated our event as if it was their own.
  2. Took care of every small detail.
  3. Went above and beyond from cradle to grave.
  4. Responded quickly with solutions and action.
  5. Provided a great nights rest in unbelievably comfortable beds.
  6. They valued us as their guest!

Lisa was working miracles the day before our event while Trevell was overcoming all obstacles to ensure our guests had a pleasant experience.  The entire event staff delivered exceptional service.  

Here are a few specific examples of exceptional service the Marriott way:

Tyson’s Corner:

  1. Gladis Martinez – Banquet Captain. She and her assistant Doris Diaz (Banquet Lead) were so helpful and accommodating. Example: “Tim HATES nuts!!!! I asked Doris if she could offer something chocolate without the nuts. She came back with a plate of chocolate truffles. She was so nice and helpful.” Dayna Taylor, Today’s Dentist Event Manager  
  2. Osama Marrero – AV Tech. He was great!! He went out of his way to make sure the speakers were good to go throughout the event. Very professional!!” – Dayna Taylor, Today’s Dentist Event 
  3. Lisa Cirello – Senior Events Manager “While our event was going on in Philadelphia, Lisa was on the phone with me making last minute changes to the menu, confirming our new AV needs  and ensuring me our event would be exceptional!”  Laurie Baggett, Event Coordinator
Renaissance Philadelphia:
  1.  Shaun Williams – AV Tech – “Even though, he had to overcome some obstacles, he never complained or blamed someone else for the mistake. He just worked with a smile and was very helpful in making sure that the AV person in Tyson corner  would have what they needed when we arrived. He made me a list of equipment that he used and explained it to me so I could understand. Great addition to their team!” Dayna Taylor – Today’s Dentist Event Manager
  2. Trevell Williams – Catering Manager – “During our event Trevell ran interference and did everything needed in order to ensure the seminar would run smoothly.  She overcame obstacles and was quick to respond to requests.” – Dayna Taylor – Today’s Dentist Events Manager

So… if you are ever looking to book an event and you just happen to be in search of  great hotel don’t overlook the Marriott.  I give them my highest level of recommendation and praise!  Thank you again Trevell Williams & Lisa Cirello, I hope to work with you in the near future!  As for our future engagements… well lets just say we are Marriott all the way!

Our Economic Times are Tough… Is Unifying Leadership Too Much To Ask For?

October 3, 2008