John Tenney

Professional and Personal Blog of John Will Tenney

Misconceptions of Success

I‘ve listed seven and a half of what I see are the most common misconceptions of “success.”

(Edit on Aug 29, 2020: I have been blessed with opportunity in my life and willfully prepared myself to be in a position to explore more opportunities. This will probably lead to another article, but the main reason is that I learned in my 30s that getting G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Debt) is a key part of being prepared. If you are overcome with debt, you will have a tough time taking on a new opportunity.)

1: Success means having a lot of money.
While it is certainly better to have money than have not, there are more important things than money. The most important thing to any person is health. Ask any person who is unhealthy how much they would pay for good health, if you are wondering. Ask someone in a wheel chair what they would pay to have their legs back, for example. Health comes first, then money.

2: Success comes from working hard.
A lot of people work hard their whole lives and end up broke, destitute and in poor health. Success does not rely on hard work although it may be necessary from time to time. Success comes from working smart. Pay attention to what is going on around you and work on the right thing at the right time. Don’t forget that successful people take time off to recharge their batteries as well.

3: Successful people were born rich.
Yes there are some inherited fortunes out there but most research shows that unless the ancestors took careful time and consideration in building and protecting the fortune, the heirs were quite capable of squandering it, and in a hurry. For every inherited millionaire (or lottery winner for that matter) there are a million scammers with “get rich quick” schemes that will take away that fortune, and quickly.

4: Success comes from luck.
There is no such thing as luck. There is only being prepared when opportunity presents itself, and recognizing that opportunity. When opportunity and preparation collide, you “get lucky.”

5: Go to college, get a good job and you will be successful.
While a college education may be a good thing, it does not guarantee success. It certainly does not guarantee a “good job” if such a thing exists. Most jobs are not guaranteed and do not offer lifetime security. Those that do (government jobs for example) are being closely scrutinized and there is a trend to take those hefty pensions away. Formerly, you could get a government job right out of school (with a local government even) work it for 20 years, retire with a full pension, and even go get another government job and end up with 2 guaranteed pensions. With the recent backlash at the rising cost of government, this option (and others) may not be there for much longer. Also, every job involves someone else controlling your destiny, which is not ever a good thing.

6: Be persistent, stay focused on one path and you will be successful.
Oddly enough, most successful people today have changed their paths many times in their lives. For them, success is more of an attitude than an ability. Along with happiness, success to them depends on their state of health, and state of mind.

7: Successful people make their vacation their vocation.
Changing your favorite hobby to your business may sound like a good idea, but then what are you going to do to relax? It’s important to keep some activity separate from your professional or career life that you can use to enjoy your existence. You don’t have to make money at what you do.

7 and a half: Successful people take more than they give.
Not true. Truly successful (happy) people are always giving back, and not just for tax deductions. They give back in a multitude of ways. Here are just some of the activities that give back: Mentoring, coaching, volunteering, contributing, tithing, performing, speaking, teaching, etc.

Here is a suggested exercise to determine what “success” means to you. Write down your answers to the following questions and read them over carefully:

Today is ___ _____ 20__ and I am ___ years old.

Ten years ago my situation was:

The things I am most proud of over the last ten years are:

The things I wish I did differently over the last ten years are:

Ten years from now I will be:

The most proud of:

Happy I did:

Sorry I didn’t do:

Back Story: My Success Interviews
In the mid 90s I was working as a corporate pilot. I spent a lot of time at General Aviation (what the public calls “private”) airports, waiting for clients to go do their business and return to be flown home. I decided to take advantage of that down time.

I would wait for a flashy corporate jet to arrive, or maybe even a fancy turboprop (a King-Air for example) and greet the people when they walked in with a question: “Do you own that plane?” When I was directed to the owner I would then ask, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? How did you get to where you are now, that you can afford a beautiful plane like that?”

I must have asked that question to at least 150 wealthy people. I wish I kept better notes. Here is what I remember.

  • All of them took time to talk to me. They all enjoyed talking about their success.
  • Almost all were business owners. NONE worked for a government organization. Some owned charities though.
  • Very few of the business owners had bought the business. They had sold many businesses but rarely bought one.
  • All of the business owners offered me encouragement. They were impressed that I would ask that question. Most gave me their address (this was before email) and asked me to stay in touch. (I still do with some of them.)
  • All of them treated me with deference, as if I were an equal. That impresses me more today.
  • All of them discussed failed businesses or ventures and what they had learned from them.
  • Most of them had developed a repeatable system, easily duplicated with proper training.

I was surprised at how few of them actually talked about setting goals. They were mostly what you and I would call “deal makers” or negotiators. They were prepared rather than planned. No one gave me a “way to plan success.” The impression I got was that always being prepared when an opportunity presented itself often led to a win. Many also suggested I “learn from other’s mistakes.” I’ve remembered that one.

I often wonder if the stories would be the same today. I don’t spend much time sitting around airports anymore. Maybe it’s time I took a day to do so.

Ethical Sales

This article is reprinted by permission of PEO Sales Training.

Can Sales be Ethical?

We at PEO Sales Training believe that all sales must abide by certain rules of ethics. We teach Ethical Selling. PEO business, like many others, requires long term thinking. The best clients are those that stay with you for many, many years. Some reports indicate that the cost of the sale for a typical client is not recuperated until the client is with the PEO for at least a year.

First let’s start with some guidelines. In an ethical sales transaction there is:

  • Transparency
  • Integrity
  • Accuracy
  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Open Communication
  • Full Disclosure

What’s not in an ethical sale:

  • Deception
  • Hidden Charges
  • Hidden Defects
  • Unnecessary Up-Selling
  • Denigrating the Competition
  • Pressure Tactics
  • Traps, Baits or Hooks

Two Way Street

Of course, the ethics need to be followed on both sides. One training system teaches as rule 1: “All Prospects Lie, All The Time.” Well they can’t be blamed for that. They believe if they tell the truth it will be used against them by an unethical sales person.

Therefore, the goal is to develop an open, trusting relationship as soon as possible. If the prospect believes you are really interested in the problem, and not just trying to make a sale, they will begin to open up to you and tell you the real story.

Sales Travel Agent. “I’ve always believed I’m more of a travel agent than a salesman. I help people go from point A to point B. Which do you think they have the most trouble describing? Not point B. Most people know, and have no trouble sharing, where they want to be. It’s only after trust is developed that they share where they really are, and what problems they really have.” Sales Trainer John Will Tenney

Tips To Avoid Ethical Traps

You Can’t Handle 100% of the Market

If you suddenly got 100% of your market, what would you do with it? Would you have the capabilities to handle it? Do you know anyone who could answer “yes” to that question?

You won’t get them all. Accept that now and also realize that you are not the best match for everyone either. In a sales meeting both sides should be qualifying the other, and disqualifying as well. It is perfectly acceptable to tell a prospect: “What I’m hearing is that we are not a good fit for you. May I suggest you contact (put in alternate source here.)”

Don’t “Bad Mouth” the Competition

While it’s true there are companies in our (indeed every) field that don’t do a good job, aren’t completely honest, or are very risky to work with. It’s not your job to tell people that. You are tasked with finding out if you are a match. Of course, you can ask questions. When presented with a low ball quote from one of those companies, for example, you might ask: “That’s a great quote. There must be some reason you haven’t taken it. May I ask your thinking on that?”

Failure is an Option

As previously stated, you will not win them all. However even the worst failure can be an educational experience. There are four acceptable outcomes to a sales meeting: Yes, No, Clear Future, and Lesson Learned. More is learned from failures than successes. Do not be afraid to fail.

Avoid Commission Breath

Few things make a prospect more uncomfortable than a hungry salesperson. It helps to remember that in this industry, closing a bad one has no long term gain. If it isn’t the right fit, the client will leave and the commission ends. Even worse, the reputation of the firm is in jeopardy, for taking the wrong client. Sure, they might leave in a friendly manner but are the chances of a good reference better, or worse?

Under Promise and Over Deliver

How often do you see the opposite? Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It will hurt you in the long run, and sometimes in the short run. So many firms have bad reputations in the industry for breaking this rule. Don’t be part of that.

Communicate

Pick up the phone. Write the email. Let the prospect or client know what is going on. Encourage the same from them. Lack of communication leads to lack of understanding, which can lead to all kinds of ugly situations.

Don’t Upsell Products They Don’t Need

Remember that as a PEO salesperson your job is to build a long term, profitable relationship on both sides. Selling products or services they don’t need is not going to help. There is always a lot of pressure to do this, but think of the ramifications of overloading a client with extra expenses for unused products or services. It can lead to loss of the residual income, which is why you got in this business in the first place.

Keeping It All Together

It’s important to audit yourself now and then and make sure you are following your own set of ethics. It helps to have it written down. Most CRM systems allow you to make notes on each client. Journal it. Score yourself on a scale of some sort, even if it’s 1 to 10. How ethical are you? Do the prospects and clients trust you? Are they comfortable referring you? Have you asked them?

BizFest 2017

I was honored and flattered to speak at BizFest 2017, put on by the Orlando SCORE chapter at the National Entrepreneur Center, on May 9.

I was selected to be on a panel discussing “Tips From Business Survivors”. We introduced ourselves with a little story and then took on some questions. I think some of the questions are worth relating here, along with my answers.

Q. Why Were You Selected For This Panel?
I’m pretty sure I was selected because I have failed so many times at business, yet I keep going. I learned from each failure and applied that knowledge to the next try. The current business is very successful for those reasons I am sure.

Q. What Made You Start Your Own Business?
I had two main reasons. Time, and Money.

Money: I was working as a commission salesman for a printing company in the early 90s. I was getting 20% commission (only) on all my sales, but all my “leads” were things like envelopes, business cards, stationery etc. Small stuff. I was barely scratching out $300/week. I made a decision to go in to a new market, and contacted some real estate developers I knew in south Florida. One was building a 3000 unit golf course community and wanted glossy, high quality brochures and inserts to market it. I went down to meet him and left with a $120,000 order. I was elated and ecstatic as I handed in the 50% deposit check (yes, $60,000) and eagerly awaited my check on Friday.

Friday came and I opened up my check not to find the $12,000 I was expecting but a check for $2,000 and a note that said “See me, Rich.” Well I traveled very quickly to Rich’s office and said “See this note? It was unnecessary. If you pay me 2K when I’m expecting 12K I will be here anyway!”

The conversation went from bad to worse as he explained that they were going to put me “on salary” and they couldn’t afford to pay me $12,000. I said, “Why not? I just made you $120,000, 60K in hand!” He replied, “I can’t pay you that, that’s more than I make!”

“Hey I just made you more in one sale than you made the company all year! You can’t PAY ME?” He said his boss would fire him if he paid me that much.

Money lesson learned: Never let someone else have control of your potential income.

Time: I changed industries and worked towards being an airline pilot. Yes it was a “glamour profession” with prestige and the office had a great view, but I had no control of my time. I was stepping on to a cruise ship on my honeymoon when the company paged me, expecting to “junior assign” me and cancel my vacation. This happened ALL THE TIME. Even though I knew this, I couldn’t drag myself away from aviation. However, after 9/11 my company shut down and I was forced to start another business. It was a horrible tragedy for America but looking back, it was the best thing that happened to me in my business career. Lesson: Even out of tragedy can come great benefits. I now have complete control of my calendar.

Time lesson learned. You can get more money but you can’t get more time. Control your own time!

Q. Handling Good Times Seems Easy. How Do You Handle Bad Times?
Being in business as EmployerNomics since 2004, we have had highs and lows. I remember one particularly bad time in 2009 when we were down to very few clients and barely making enough income to pay bills. I was about to whine and complain to my wife and business associates when I had an epiphany. I told them, “Hey things may seem bad. But if we had to start over today, this isn’t a bad place to start from.” Since then, I have viewed each day as a fresh start, and down time as an opportunity to improve and grow the business. Business cycles are real. You will have good. You will have bad. Learn to enjoy both.

Q. What Keeps You Up At Night?
I still wake up at 3am often worrying about some business thing. Then I realized, nothing ever gets fixed at 3 in the morning. I have learned that stress kills. I try to fix the things I can, and adapt to the things I can’t. That’s all I can do. It makes me much more relaxed.

Q. How Do I Get Started? Where Do I Find Clients?
Well this is the big one isn’t it? No business survives without sales (not marketing, sales.) Somebody has to sell something before business happens. Learn sales techniques. Get good at networking. Learn to make good cold calls. Find out the RIGHT places to do social media. Put money in the budget for sales training or even a sales coach. I do all of the above.

Q. What Is Your Biggest Fear Of Your Business Failing?
When I failed in the past I usually had to go find a job. There is no more humbling experience than entering the job market when your business fails. My biggest fear right now? I would have a tough time entering the job market at age 60.

Summary
There were many more questions but these were the ones that stuck in my mind. We also ran short of time as we only had an hour. This topic could easily be an all day seminar. If you are interested in hosting one, contact me to be on the panel please!

About SCORE
I am excited about SCORE. I love the concept of giving free counseling to startup businesses. I plan to apply to be a SCORE counselor now. I highly suggest you check out your local SCORE chapter.

Just before we took the stage for our panel discussion on surviving in business

Washington Odyssey

What an adventure. On January 3rd, 2017, my family was invited to attend the swearing in ceremony of my sister Claudia, as the NY 22 member of the House of Representatives. Yes this is a family first. No other family member that I can recall has made it to the federal level in politics. My political efforts have always been on a county or city level. Our dad was a State Supreme Court Judge in NY but never got appointed to a Federal court. I wish he (and mom) could have been alive to witness this. I’m sure both would be incredibly proud.

When Claudia announced her candidacy last year I have to admit, I wasn’t that excited. This was her second try. However, as the campaign progressed, we became aware that she had the lead in most of the polls, and her chances were excellent.

The enormity of it however, didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in her office, (yes her congressional office) in the Cannon building, looking out the window at the Capitol dome. “Wow. My little sister is now one of the country’s decision makers, and in a big way.”

L to R: Claudia, Betsy, Will, “Alex” (from the Hyatt) and me. Sunday night at the Park Hyatt for a family reunion of sorts.

We came up a few days early, to sort of a family reunion. The winter flu had attacked several of us but we fought valiantly to join the family party, of course.

Will, Betsy and Jack had flown in from Vail, CO. Bob, Rose, Kyle, Marianne and Laura had come down from Sherburne, NY and Stasia joined us later. Julia came down from Boston. Cousins Debbie and Dory arrived with family in tow. Cousin on my mom’s side, Andy Cooley, was there with Claudia and kids.

Throw in many of the key workers in the campaign that were invited and you have a big party.

If you are familiar with my family you can probably guess that this was a noisy, rowdy group that pretty much took over the lobby of the Hyatt. I think Kathleen is getting used to them finally, although Sophie and Grace retreated to their phones, unable to keep up with all the conversation.

Sophie made quite a hit later in the week, but we’ll come to that in order.

Even though I was also fighting that nasty sinus flu, I managed to stay up past 11 (which is now late for me) to talk with my sisters. I did however, sneak away for an hour to do the stationary bike in the Hyatt exercise room. I could see that Washington was going to be a trip with lots of food, and I didn’t want to start off the new year with an extra five pounds.

Sophie coping with the noisy Tenneys

Monday was an unscheduled day for us, intended to be used to sight see in Washington. Uncooperative weather forced us to seek indoor venues, as it was mid 40s and a cold drizzle all day long. We chose to walk over to the Air and Space Museum. This was our last long walk. We chose to learn how to “Uber” later. That was also an adventure.

Air and Space was not what I remembered from 17 years ago. Yes some new exhibits but when did they start charging for everything? In 2000, when I last visited, everything was free. Kind of disappointing.

We ended the day with a family dinner at Carmine’s Italian, with a reservation for 33 (yes 33) people. Good thing Carmine’s serves family style! The food was fair to good (We Uticans are very picky about Italian food of course), but it certainly came in large quantities. Glad I had hit the exercise bike for another hour that morning.

Most of us went to bed rather early, as we knew tomorrow was a busy day on The Hill for us.

I got up at 6:30am and hit the bike again for another hour. Then over to the Hyatt free breakfast, which is phenomenal by the way.

Later that morning, the gang assembled at 512 Cannon, Claudia’s new office:

The door to her office. L to R: Dave Townsend, Kathleen, Sophie, Grace, Me, Trey Cleary (Claudia’s son)

Lots of pictures were taken next to the sign, and of course we couldn’t be the exception. Claudia was off doing “congress stuff” so we were entertained by Margaux, Hannah, Teri and some very young looking interns. I was impressed with how well they dealt with us, as the “mob of Tenneys” is not known to be easy to manage.

We took over the office. Grace is talking to her cousin Stasia. Shannon is Trey’s friend on the right, and Mike Friedel(?) on the left.

Bob, Trey and Kyle enjoying the office. Hannah is in red, one of Claudia’s super competent staff. She and the others did a great job of making us feel like VIPs

Laura takes the congressional desk with help from Kathleen and Sophie

We entertained ourselves by watching the re-election of Paul Ryan as speaker on C-SPAN in the office. Something tells me I will be watching this channel more now. Biggest thrill: When they finally got to the T’s, Claudia stood up and spoke very loud and clear, “Paul Ryan!” The office erupted in applause.

Claudia is upper right, just left of the “LIVE” graphic. It isn’t him, but I thought the guy in front of her was Chris Chistie.

We were taken to another, larger “waiting room” with larger monitors, to watch the official swearing in on the congress floor. There were several motions going through, and a lot of screen hogging by the Democrats. You could tell they were not too excited about their prospects in the next two years.

We were not allowed to witness the official swearing in live, as the congress hall was too crowded already. It was still pretty nice in the waiting room, with still MORE food. I don’t have any pictures of it, but it was right next to the Statuary Hall, which is the foyer for the Congressional Hall.

Following that, we were taken on a guided tour of the capitol building, which I highly recommend. The history was stunning and a bit overwhelming. You can check my Facebook album “Capitol Pics” for more on that.

Next it was time for “the picture.” This is a ceremonial swearing in picture with Ryan Paul. She was already sworn in that morning, but this is the chance for the family to get involved. Here is where Sophie gets her 15 minutes of fame. At some time during the day, one of the Congressmen’s sons decided to “DAB” for the camera and was stopped by Ryan. It got a lot of press on all the news networks. However, a few of them left the story with a shot of the photo below, referencing Sophie as “the girl with her arms crossed”, wondering what she was protesting? For the record, she was cold. If anything, she is protesting the fact that the air conditioning was on in the capitol when it was 42 degrees outside. Yeah I didn’t like it either!

This is a different angle than the one being shown on the networks. I don’t know why I was making that goofy face

We retired to The Capitol Hill Club for an excellent reception, with even more food, and even some beer and wine (no craft beer though. Points off!) We stayed a couple of hours. We finished off the night with a hot chocolate in the Hyatt restaurant, which was my favorite place to eat by the way. Quiet, comfortable and excellent service.

Sophie and her new best friend, her cousin Alex, in front of a statue of George Washington – this was on the Capitol tour

On Wednesday we had some time before our flight, so we visited Claudia in her office. I managed to get about a half hour of her time to do some quick video interviews, which I will hopefully be able to show here as soon as they are cleared. Stay tuned.

The flight home on jetBlue was great. My favorite airline for sure. Many thinks to our neighbor Judy for picking us up, and brother in law Patrick for taking care of the mail and the cats. It was a great trip, but as it is with all trips, it was also great to be home.

Failing My Way to Success

How many times do you need to fail at business before you succeed? I decided to review my own attempts at starting businesses and see how many it took in my life:

Failure 1: Sailing Business in Upstate NY

1981: I started a partnership called “Racer’s Edge Sailing Accessories” with a girl friend, while living in Rome, NY. Fairly quickly, I learned the negative aspects of seasonal businesses, maintaining inventory and partnerships. It lasted about 3 years before I just stopped doing it, with a garage full of sails, blocks, tackle, other sailing accessories and not to mention an extra boat or two. I think one of the boats is still sitting in the weeds behind the old Pennysaver business in Clinton.

Failure 2: Computer Consultant Business

1983: John W. Tenney and Associates actually had a couple of successful contracts, working as a subcontractor for RADC at Griffis AFB, but it didn’t last. I learned quite a bit about the gov’t contractor business though, as well as the perils of media advertising. I placed a discount ad in the family paper, the Pennysaver, and was immediately deluged by sales people from other media. I got suckered a few times too, by a local AM radio DJ, a pen salesman, and a computer supply company. I learned a lot about the politics of contracting though, and it has stuck with me to this day.

Failure #3: Various MLMs

1989 thru 2012 (sadly): This included Amway, NetTel, Amway again, Advocare and even a weird one called Zeek Rewards. While I learned a lot about sales techniques, positive thinking and interacting with people, I also learned three key negative but firm reasons to stay out of MLM:

      1: There is no room for creativity in MLM. You MUST duplicate exactly what your upline is doing. If you try something new, so will everybody below you, and things get out of control quickly. Doesn’t work for me.
      2: Relationships are vertical, never horizontal, in MLM. You only talk to people above you or below you. “Crosslining” is a recipe for disaster. Also didn’t work for me.
      3: The government will never allow you to make money without working. That is reserved for government employees only.

Failure #4: Website Design Company #1

1994: OK to be fair, this wasn’t a full time thing. I was doing this for friends in the airlines, who had sideline businesses but it never generated a livable wage. It was educational though. In addition to learning a lot of website design basics I also learned what the market will bear. Everyone wants a “flashy” (pun intended) looking website but they only want to pay about $100 for it. True to this day.

Failure #5: Aircraft Charter Company

1992 until 1998: Although this business didn’t “fail”, it certainly didn’t meet my expectations or financial needs. It was tons of hard work, schmoozing, and waiting around for people. Hard to insure, too. Absolutely no residual income either. It did lead to a brief airline career which was fun, but also not financially successful.

Failure #6: Website Design Company #2

2001-2004: Tenncom was our attempt to recover after 9/11. Back in to the website business, my wife Kathleen and I got a lot of clients, but all at a discount, so we never made any money. To make matters worse, we took the advice of a college student (big mistake) and started selling hardware. Didn’t I learn about the negative side of inventory years ago? I still have a big bag of 3.5 inch floppy drives in the garage.

Success: PEO Pros/EmployerNomics

2005: Although we started the corporation in 2003 we didn’t start the PEO brokering business until early 2005. It has what we have learned are necessary elements to a successful startup. Here are just some of those points:

  • Low overhead
  • Residual income
  • No inventory
  • Not seasonal or location dependent
  • Possible to build your own niche
  • Duplicatable, repeatable business model
  • Teachable

So I had six failures before finding the right place. I learned from each one. The business landscape we have today was formed by what I/we learned from those failures. It hurts that we failed, but it is very reassuring to know that without those failures, we never would have gotten here today.

I’m very glad I decided to fail my way to success.

Three Steps of Leadership

(edit: updated 31 Jan 2018)

MeDadUnknownLocationI am the oldest of five children, who grew up in central NY. Our father John R. Tenney was a successful public servant. He retired as the senior judge in the New York State Supreme Court in 2003.

He taught us a lot about leadership. He had a lot of experience at it. He was the person in the group that everyone turned to when things got tough. I admired him for it and aspired to be like him. I’ve attempted to follow his footsteps ever since. “Those are big shoes to fill” people would tell me. “Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t as successful as your father.” Really annoying, isn’t it?

In my early 60s now, I can look back and have a much better perspective of what my dad went through. He wasn’t “born” a leader. Who is, really? Once the covering is peeled back and a leader’s life is studied, three steps emerge. Before we cover the three steps however, there are some rules to lead by that must be discussed.

Preamble: Rules to Lead By

Norman Schwarzkopf was a great leader. As a decorated 4 star general who led our armed forces in Desert Shield and later in Desert Storm, his record speaks for itself. I was fortunate to be there when he related some points of leadership to a large group in the Atlanta “Georgia Dome” in the early 1990s, and the last two are very pertinent here:

Rule 13: When in Command, Take Charge
As a colonel in the 1970s, he had been left in command of the US Forces in Viet Nam. As the general he replaced left, Norm asked him, “How do I command?” The general told him “Easy. Rule 13. When in Command Take Charge.” It sounds simple but does history record any examples of great leaders who talked to everyone to “get the feel of the group” before making every decision? Norm said you still have to delegate responsibility and listen to the troops but you have to be in charge.

The next question he asked the general was, “but that involves making decisions. How do I make good decisions?” So the general gave him rule 14:

Rule 14: Do What’s Right
Seems obvious doesn’t it but how do you know what’s right? Norm didn’t have to ask that question, because he knew, and related to us, “You know what’s right. You always know. Inside, you know. Sometimes the right thing is not what the public wants you to do. Sometimes it’s not the popular thing to do. Do it anyway.”

Sometimes Doing the Right Thing is different than Doing the Popular Thing

Sometimes Doing the Right Thing is different than Doing the Popular Thing

This struck a chord with me because I had heard it before. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was nearly an exact quote of our father’s lesson to our family: “You can never go wrong by doing the right thing. Just because a decision is popular, does not automatically make it right.”

Okay, with these rules in our quiver, now it’s time for three steps of Leadership

Step 1: First Be a Follower

This step is the one people try to skip the most. 95% of business start-ups fail and this is certainly a contributing factor. There is no substitute for experience in the field. Before you can lead, you have to know what it feels like being led. This can prevent poor leadership decisions in the future. It’s also a great place to learn from others’ mistakes, as you don’t have enough time to make them all yourself.

Dad had some good people to follow. One which comes to mind is his father in law, Robert C. Roberts. Bob Roberts was a powerful figure in NY politics, although he never held an office. He was the owner of the Mid-York Press and editor of the Mid-York Weekly. His business and journalism brought him in to contact with many other powerful people in NY. He took Dad under his wing, so to speak, and introduced him to other leaders from Albany to Buffalo. Dad’s first act of leadership was following Bob Roberts.

My personal lesson in this came as a new airline pilot. I started as a “First Officer” – or Second in Command. For the first time since my training was completed I was not the boss of the aircraft. It was a learning experience. I had assumed that being a small plane pilot would transition automatically to handling a passenger filled airliner. Huh, bad assumption. Captains quickly took steps to straighten me out. It was an uncomfortable learning season for me!

Step 2: Blaze a Trail

At some point, it is time to stop following and to go off in a different direction. This is that “moment of truth” where the risk becomes a reality. It takes a “leap of faith” to go off in a new direction, without the safety and security of the known.

Many new business owners skip to this step or at least go a little early. This may lead to failure, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as most lessons are best learned from failure. However, success rates are higher when the appropriate amount of time is spent in step 1.

This step can be lonely. When you are off doing something no one else is doing, it stands to reason that you will have fewer people around you. Hence the term, trailblazing.

Sometimes this step is very discouraging. A few years back my pastor identified me as a “church leader” and I was shocked. I approached him later and said “How can you call me a leader? Who am I leading? Look behind me, there’s nobody there.” His answer encouraged me, “But you go places no one else will go. That’s part of being a leader. Give it time, once people see you going where no one else goes, they will eventually follow you.”

I worked for an insurance company for a while before starting my current company. The experience was very helpful in getting started.

Step 3: Encourage and Develop Other Leaders

This step sounds like the directions on shampoo: “Help others with steps 1 and 2, rinse and repeat”. A leader teaches others how to be leaders and doesn’t worry if they get ahead of them. Many leaders frequently fall back to step one when the mission and goal is better led by someone else.

The purpose of leading is to beget leaders. The world needs more leaders. Without leaders in all walks of life we would be no where, advancing to no place. All leaders, past, present and future, are at one of these three steps.

We sell franchises now. Obviously, developing leaders is an integral part of our business.

Necessary Talent: Patience
It takes time. Leaders are like a fine wine, better when aged and seasoned. Experience counts. Sometimes you make it to the front just by outlasting your opponents. I remember when my dad was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1968, they gave him a license plate for his car that said “JSC-272”, indicating that he was #272. I asked him “so Dad, there must be like 500 judges right?” He said “No Will, there are 272. I’m last!”

We would get excited each year to see his new plate arrive to see how far he had moved up in seniority. First year it was 259, then 237 and so on. Each year, he became more and more a leader in his field. At his retirement party in 2003, I took this picture in the parking lot of the Yahnundasis Country Club:

It was upgraded from JSC to "Supreme Court" but as you can see, our dad retired at #1.

It was upgraded from JSC to “Supreme Court” but as you can see, our dad retired at #1.

Conclusion

From a personal view, I can see this happening with my brother and sisters. In our family, our dad taught us to be leaders. He learned it from his mentors. If you take a look at us five kids, you can see that the leadership either paid off or it’s starting to happen.

John W Tenney (me): Owner and lead agent for EmployerNomics, national franchise and PEO Pros, a P&C agency in Orlando, FL
Robert W Tenney: CEO and Chairman of the Board for The Mid-York Press and Mid-York Digital
Claudia L Tenney: US Congressional Representative for NY22 district
Jane E Lewis: Independent Business Owner in Vail, CO
Julia C Tenney: Self marketed graphic artist in Boston, MA

Our dad died in 2004, but I think he would be proud of his teachings if he could see how we are all doing now.

Three Rules of Money

captain_obviousIt shames me that I have to write this article. These three basic rules of money seem so obvious to me, and yet I see people break these rules every day.

You’ve heard the expression “smart money”. What it really means is “people who are smart about money.” Kind of falls in to that category of “common sense” doesn’t it? How many people are smart with their money?

Below I will state each of the three rules and go in to a little discussion about each.

Money Rule 1: It is better to have than have not.

Sounds like the headline on the cover of “Duh” magazine doesn’t it? Nonetheless I hear it every day and I’m sure you do too. “I don’t need money. I am happy without it.” While this may be true and it is true that money can’t buy happiness, but lack of money (debt) can sure cause a lot of grief.

Walk around a prison some day. You’ll find a lot of people who didn’t have money to defend themselves. Granted, most of them did something horrible, and belong there, but there is a significant percentage of people in there who didn’t have the money to hire a defense attorney and relied on “public defense.” Yeah, that didn’t work out did it?

I know that’s an extreme case, but let’s talk about personal health care. Not having money is going to cause a problem there. The most important possession you have (on this earth anyway) is your health. Without it you are less useful, more of a drain on family and friends, etc. How many times do we hear someone can’t do some necessary health procedure because they can’t afford it?

Let’s not forget stress. A lot of our stress problems are money related. Stress is a killer.

I saw a 20-20 episode where they estimated the effect of various negative situations on shortening life. Flying on airplanes took 18 days off your life, for example (due to the risk of crashing.) Driving on highways took 1.5 years. Smoking was 8.3 years. The number one life shortener? Poverty. Took an estimated 18 years away from your life.

So we could conclude it is better to have money than have not.

Money Rule 2: It is better to have more than less.

Basically this means don’t sell yourself short. Don’t undervalue your value. Are you making what you are worth? Now before you go running into the boss’s office and demanding a raise (which doesn’t have a high success rate by the way) look at the whole picture. Are you maximizing your earning potential? Have you invested properly? Are you wasting money on things you don’t need? That’s a leading disease in America by the way. We are the Kings (and Queens) of buying junk. Why would “Hoarders” be such a popular show otherwise?

It also means don’t settle for less. In sales, we tell people to plant their feet all the time. Don’t be so quick to offer a discount. Is a discount warranted? Who is going to suffer because of that discount?

Going back to rule 1, towards the end, we say that poverty was a killer. It is not bad to be wealthy. Here’s a headline you don’t see: “Rich Person Robs Convenient Store.” Having more money usually means having more peace of mind and less stress.

Disclaimer: I am not saying it is better to have LOTS more. There are different stresses that come from trying to have it all. That’s another article.

Money Rule 3: It is better to have it now than later.

This is a tricky one. There are certainly situations where it’s advantageous to stretch income out over time, primarily for tax reasons. A better interpretation of rule 3 might be “It is better to have it in hand than promised to you.”

Get paid when you should get paid. I’ve had companies tell me “Well it’s our policy to pay net 45”. That doesn’t work with me. I usually come back with. “OK that’s fine as long as you either pay a large advance deposit, equal to the total amount of the job, or you let me bill you 45 days in advance.” You should hear some of the responses I get from that.

I don’t worry about those that refuse. There’s another customer around the corner. Slow Pay is bad for business.

Get your money now. Not later. Later may never arrive.

John Will Tenney is the owner of several businesses, including the national franchise EmployerNomics. He has been involved in sales training and public speaking since 2005. If you have questions or comments for him please use the contact form below.

Why Doesn’t GE Pay Taxes?

GE_meatballHow Do Corporations Get Away With Paying No Taxes?

People are upset that large corporations like GE are not paying taxes. It doesn’t seem fair or right that a large company should “get away with free money.” Is this truly the case?

Do corporations really “get away” without paying taxes? Not surprisingly, there is more to the story.

First, let’s discuss corporations and different types of taxes.

Why Form a Corporation?

Every large corporation started as a small one. So why form a small corporation? The two primary reasons for incorporating are

1) to reduce risk of shareholders and
2) to qualify for some tax deductions not allowed to sole proprietors or partnerships

It’s important to realize that one of the reasons for forming a corporation is to get some tax advantages.

What Kind of Tax Advantages Do Corporations Get?

The tax advantages are not as great as might be expected. The majority of the tax breaks come in the form of allowed deductions and deferred taxes. Some of these are available to sole proprietors and partnerships but not all. One notable deduction is the interest paid on a credit card. The IRS does not want to encourage people to run up credit card bills so they disallow personal credit card interest as a deduction. Corporations are granted some leeway in this area.

Why Don’t They Pay Income Tax?

Well this isn’t always the case. A corporation has ways to defer income and distribute profits in order to reduce the net income to zero, if the accounting firm is doing their job. In reality, if a corporation pays corporate income tax at all, it usually means something went wrong in the planning.

So How Does the IRS and Other Government Entities Get Money from Corporations?

There are several ways. Here are just a few.

  1. Corporations match employee deductions on payroll taxes for social security, medicare, state and federal unemployment taxes and in some states there are additional taxes assessed. (Florida for example, under Charlie Crist, assessed a “re-employment adjustment” of .9 percent of employee payrolls.) The total tax is pretty high, 12-19% of payroll depending on the state. This does not include the employee’s deductions, either.
  2. All for profit corporations must eventually distribute money to shareholders and employees. This money is taxable income. Why should the corporation pay additional taxes when all income it makes is subject to personal income tax of the shareholders and employees? This would be double taxation.
  3. Corporate filing fees are paid annually. These fees can range from $150 (in Florida) to $500 (in California for certain types of corporations)
  4. Tangible and intangible taxes are assessed on corporate assets. These are based on inventory and capital equipment.
  5. Impact fees are assessed whenever a building is constructed or a property improved.
  6. Sales tax is assessed on every retail sale of taxable items.
  7. Excise tax is assessed on all foreign transactions.

So GE DID Pay Taxes?

Oh yes they certainly did. Just not in Corporate Income Tax. In 2013, it is estimated that GE paid over $400 million in employee withholding taxes alone. This doesn’t include filing fees, tangibles, intangibles and impact fees.

So Why Are People Saying GE Didn’t Pay Taxes?

Ask yourself that question. Why does anyone say anything in the public arena? Usually they have some personal or political agenda to promote. But if you think GE didn’t pay taxes, then think again. Also, consider this: without corporations there would be very few non-government jobs. If all jobs were with the government, well wouldn’t that be communism? No? Then what else would you call it?

Economic-Gardening The Right Way

Economic Gardening

Economic-Gardening  The Right WayFlorida has touted the term Economic Gardening for several years now.

Many business, political and economic leaders have dropped the phrase many times. Is there something to it? What’s it all about?

More important: Is it working?

The subject has several parts. It would require an in depth study beyond the scope of this essay but let’s try and explore it a bit.

What is Economic Gardening?
I first heard the term in a Florida Trend article (which I have been unable to find online) several years ago. I believe it was an editorial on the current practice and some excellent suggestions on how to improve it. Hopefully someone will point out the source to me as a result of this essay.

Economic Gardening, simply put, is the process of planting and growing business in a specified region. All regional leaders, be it village, county, state or even nation share a common desire to grow their economy. All realize that starting, growing and cultivating regional businesses will accomplish that goal nearly all the time. Unfortunately the practices some regions use are less than optimal. Let’s discuss some negative practices and follow up with some positive suggestions.

What NOT to do
One practice that sounds good at first but is counter-productive in the long run is attracting businesses from out of the region by giving tax breaks for moving to the area. While this might be initially advantageous, it will eventually hurt the existing businesses, and history has shown that a high percentage of transplanted business get up and move once their tax breaks end. Well, of course. If they were eager to move once to save money, why not do it again?

Another practice that can be abused is marketing in other regions. Aside from being expensive, with travel and all, it hasn’t shown a large success rate. My own county used to pay one of its commissioners to make “marketing trips” to another state with the auspicious intent of attracting businesses to move down to Central Florida. The ROI on this effort was extremely poor. It was also discovered that this commissioner was combining family visits with nearly all the trips as well.

The final error I will discuss is the tendency to concentrate on larger businesses, and neglect the high potentials of smaller business. A region would benefit much more from 100 small businesses than one large employer. When a region is dominated by a large employer that employer starts to get too much power in the region, and creating many other problems.

Let’s do it RIGHT
One of the most enlightening features of that Florida Trend article that burned in to my memory was the concept that most of the “seeds” for the region’s garden are already here, in one form or another. There are startups all the time. Giving assistance to local startups seems like a good idea, no?

Another idea was that a lot of the businesses you want to recruit from other areas may already be visiting. In Central Florida we have a large tourist population, and many of those are business owners. The article even went on to say that it might be as simple as starting a conversation at one of the local attractions and including a comment such as “Wouldn’t it be great to live here year round? Wouldn’t your business do just as well or better in this region?”

My final suggestion is to spend more time on the smaller, high potential businesses, which are generating positive cash flow for the region. This would be companies that are creating an inflow of cash to the area, be it through the private sector or government contracts. Several local organizations here in Central Florida are working in this direction – GrowFL, UCF Incubator, SBDC to name a few.

Summary
As I previously stated, a large number of small businesses makes a more attractive economic environment than a small number of large ones. Keep in mind, that every large business at one time started as a small one. Next time you see a small business owner, encourage them. And you might ask them, “Hey, you know anyone in business from out of the area that might like to live here?”

Good business to you!

July-2012-profile-photo-JWT

Video FAQ

July-2012-profile-photo-JWTMy company is PEO Pros, which also goes by the name of PAY-surance HR. As owner and lead agent for the company I also am ultimately responsible for the website.

Our website has a contact page for people to ask us questions. Not surprisingly, people use that page to find out not only more about what we do, but also more about our industry in general. We get a lot of questions that surprise us.

Some of them are excellent questions. We decided to try answering questions in video format. We will be adding videos here to answer those where we feel we have a unique or educational answer that is not readily available elsewhere.

Roofer Rick asks: “Why did I get cancelled (or non-renewed)? My insurance claims are normal.”

We have found out that not all agents and agencies are the same. There are definitely right and wrong ways to do things in our business.
“Why shouldn’t I get the cheapest insurance available?”

After hours, we asked John Will “Is there a downside to getting multiple quotes?”