Select Page

What Season is Your Business In?

Most areas of the continental US enjoy parts of every season. One of the reasons we enjoy Knoxville so much is the robust sampling of each.

Often by the end of one season, we begin to be ready for the next.

For example right about now the thought of a weekend in the mid-90’s is not at all as appealing as it was back in February.

But there is one thing I’ve learned about seasons.

Our mindset regarding them can make all the difference in how we experience them.

That goes for business and commerce, as well as climates and communities. Because in case you’ve forgotten, business is very much seasonal.

A business can enjoy those warmer seasons of abundance and harvest. They also will experience the austere times of flatness and contraction.

Every market summer of gains ultimately has to be met with a market winter of consolidations. It’s never a matter of if, but when. With proper planning and diligence, every period of pull-back can prepare you for advances and new seasons of growth.

It all depends on upon your mindset.

Are you tracking the seasons of your business?

Do you anticipate them? Plan for them? And systematically cultivate the agility necessary to respond to them like a Scandinavian responds to the freeze?

It’s a worthy question to ask yourself – both on an organizational and personal/professional level.

If you live long enough you’ll understand what it’s like to have a vocational winter. But live even longer, and you’ll know the joy of a spring season of renewed vigor and growth where you never thought it could happen again.

With seasons, our mindset regarding them can make all the difference in how we experience them.

As you move along the route through which you ship value to our world, be sure to incorporate these three questions into your reflective times.

  1. Understand – What season am I in?
  2. Anticipate – What season might be next?
  3. Plan – How can I best prepare for that next season to happen then while remaining fully engaged in the one I’m in now?

The future sometimes has a tendency of knifing it’s way into our lives unexpectedly. Whether we see it coming or not, the savviest way still is learning how to be ready in season and out of season.

Seeking how to flourish in them all.

August 25th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

How to Boss-Up Without Being Bossy

Elizabeth’s anger and frustration were apparent.  It was also justifiable.  A few employees had just been discovered taking small liberties with inventory.  They were using very poor judgement at best and stealing at worst.

The team members worked hard and brought a lot to the business.  So the gravity of the moment pulled heavily on Elizabeth, and she knew it was time to do something.

Managing her anger would be as difficult as choosing the rights words.  Too reactive and intense (I caught you jerks red handed!) would dissolve any hopes for a redemptive outcome.  Too lax of a response and the team could lose respect for her with unspoken words of passive aggressive behavior and sloppy business practices that could threaten the business.

It was time for Elizabeth to “boss-up”.  But her mind was far from knowing what to say and do, much less how to say and do it.

We’ve encountered our fair share of sloppy practices and dangerous habits in our own store that crept in over time because they were left unchecked. Most of us who own small businesses probably have, if we’re honest with ourselves. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ultimately the responsibility for any actions that we allow, or disallow, in our stores falls squarely on us as owners. To the point of a popular meme…we have to boss-up.

That does not mean we must be bossy. It means we just have to be willing to BE the boss…the overseer, the leader, the buck-stops-here person…consistently, day by day.

Many times our fear of being too bossy, or sometimes the carnage from having been overly bossy, leaves just enough head trash to keep us from actually BEING the boss.

When that happens we can lose our voice in our very own businesses. And THAT is the most dangerous behavior of all.

You don’t have to be bossy to boss-up. Reaffirm (or establish) what the boundaries of play are. Just like our Olympians must play within the boundaries of their sport, so must our employees.

It may take several conversations over time to get the point across. Rarely do bad habits change on one authoritative edict…especially if they’ve been allowed to form over time in a bossless-vacuum.

Throwing up a sign or sending a snarky email won’t make up for boss-lessness.

We boss-up without being bossy through simple acts of conversation.  Actually talking to your team – directing them away from sloppy business practices calmly…yet persistently firm…one conversation at a time…over time.

You can even try that yet today.


August 18th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

One Way Your Sales Process Could Leave a Bitter Aftertaste

Two purchases I made recently reminded me of an important sales dynamic.  One that even the best of sales processes can sometimes neglect.

Both purchases were things I needed at some point in time.  Yet neither purchase was one I had been looking to make right then.  There were simply other more pressing matters on my plate.

In both cases the sales came about because the two sales professionals involved entered my sphere of time and attention to relationally connect with me, and share a little of the value they often deliver.

Both were good at what they did.  Our brief conversations always felt like a walk in the woods chat, instead of the one-sided demands of a toddler.  The initial sense of distraction was replaced by a momentary respite of conversation that good sales professionals know how to precipitate.

In both cases I made a purchase. Both purchases were appropriate, timely and not superfluous to my needs.  I have no regrets about either of them.

Yet the aftertaste of the two purchases were subtly different.


July 28th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

5 Reasons to Leave Pokemon Go Out of Your Marketing Plan – At Least For Now

This one is for my friends in retail.  And just to be safe, for anyone who might be tempted to let fads drive your business development strategy.

I’ll warn you this content may register high on snark, cynicism and verbal spiciness.  It’s that kind of post.

I don’t mean to sound cooler than I really am, but we need to talk, man, about Pokemon Go. (more…)

July 22nd, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

How to Improve Your Working Memory

I can sometimes be so forgetful that I wonder to myself if something is wrong with me. The next room, the next sentence, the next mouse click all can be no match for my absent-mindedness.

I’ve learned though that I’m in good company. Being forgetful can happen to all of us at any age and stage in life. In fact I’m seeing traces of it more frequently with colleagues and clients alike.

It’s like a memory epidemic of organizational dementia.   Yet it’s a hidden burden that doesn’t show up in the monthly financials.


May 27th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Detecting Your Personal Superpowers

You want to make an impact on your world and feel a sense of contribution and significance.  You may be looking at one of the many transition points in life.  Maybe the kids are about to all be in school.  Or you’re looking for a new job.  Or you just retired but sure as heck are not ready to put yourself out to pasture.

The idea of possessing a superpower appeals to you but seems rather fanciful.  But deep down you know there is some special reason you inhabit this planet.  You’re just not sure your current gig utilizes it.

In order to detect your superpowers, you must begin by searching for the right clues. (more…)

April 25th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Locked Out of Your Own Heart?

For the life of me I couldn’t unlock that lock.

Several times I used the combination I myself had set.  After all it was my lock.  I put it there.

The lock was on a storage unit containing inventory and fixtures for our business.  After numerous combination attempts, it became obvious that none of us were going to unlock that lock.  This meant one frustrating realization: (more…)

April 20th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

New Blog Series – “The Superpower Series”

As some of you know, I recently conducted an experiment on Facebook whereby I asked my community what they felt was a unique ability or “superpower” that I possess.

The idea came about through a book I’m reading this week by Pat Flynn called “Will It Fly.”  It’s a business book about validating potential business ideas.  This particular exercise so resonated with me, that I knew I would want to incorporate it into my coaching practice.  And if I was going to serve it up to others, I needed to eat it first myself. (more…)

April 15th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

The One Type of Win That Matters The Most

Without any words whatsoever he caught my attention.

The emotion-packed pause in his post-match interview said enough to make me look up from my laptop.  I had not been watching the tournament.  The TV was on merely to catch the news that followed.

But quite unexpectedly I was drawn into the emotion of one man’s moment of victory.

Jim Herman had just won his first PGA Tournament after languishing in complete anonymity over the past sixteen years and 105 tries as a PGA cardholder.

If that is not a cinderella story, it at least qualifies as a glass slipper moment.

The man had shown up for work all those years yet had never taken home more than a paycheck.  No celebratory wins.  No high dollar sponsorships.  No trophies to adorn the mansion.

I love stories like this.

It reminds me that our greatest successes at work come not from the grandiose moments of victory, but through the daily moments of faithfulness.  The skillful “drives and putts,” one long hole after another.

Those are the wins that matter.  That’s what winning really is.  The showing up.  Getting things done.  Playing steadfastly.  Being forever students of our own game and seeking to improve with each project, task and responsibility.

This principle fits for Gofers as well as Golfers.  Programmers as well as Pilots.  Loan Officers as well as Librarians.

Being faithful, more so than being first, is what produces the wins that matter most.

And so it’s not lost on me that Jim Herman’s victory happened in Humble, TX.   It’s a fitting metaphor underscoring the roots of anyones capacity to finish well, whether or not they finish first.

When a glass slipper moment does happen your way, they will inspire others not from a cocky trumpeting of success, but through a simple embrace of the moment.   

Regardless of the score at the end of the day.

April 4th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Grace to Work. Opportunity to Love.

Monday mornings remind me of an important vocational reality – our very capacity to work is a God-given grace.

Our focus, attention, drive and ambition, the wisdom and skill, motivation and opportunities – all of it coming at his creative, sustaining hand and for His sovereign purposes.

If there was one thing that I see as most beneficial to the start of each day, it’s the ordering of our minds to recognize, embrace, and share this incredible grace.

Whatever we lay our heart, mind and hands to doing is not for our grandeur but for the benefit of others and the redemption of this world.

So the best way to meet the day is to pull up the anchor of your anxieties in order to let the wind of God’s grace carry you through the choppy and wild seas of the office, the factory, the store, the clinic, the classroom, and the fields.

Just in the act of expending your energy and gifts for the benefit of another – be it customer, boss, patient, student, co-worker or stranger – there is value to be offered by you and you alone.

It’s the most immediate way to be missional in our work – simply doing what we do with it being about others, and not about ourselves.

Everyday at work is actually an opportunity to love. Pull up anchor, put up the sails and let Him show you the supply of grace that will be sufficient.

April 4th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

A Lasting Legacy From a Family Business

We had traded emails for several months; weeks sometimes passing between each.  

The laborious prospecting for clients of my newly established coaching practice had finally yielded a coffee time with a reasonably interested candidate.

Greeting Jim Wakefield and shaking his hand was enough to realize he was no stranger to hard work.  His rough calloused hands firmly grasped his new acquaintance with unwavering engagement yet no unnecessary show of strength.  His face testified fully to nearly 70 years of life, yet held the handsome features of mindful resolve and sincere regard that never fade.

From the start I sensed this was a man who could be gentle yet firm, intense yet involved.  He was direct and to the point.  Yet he also let himself be impacted by the words and ideas of others. 

That is a very rare combination.  Together they meant very little neutral zone for Jim.  Everything he did was purposeful.  Everything he learned and listened to was meaningful.   Else his attentions would be elsewhere.

So on this spring morning in 2014 I sat across a bistro table from Jim at a local Panera as he began to tell me about business and life with sincere reflection and transparency. (more…)

February 19th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Two Fail-Safe Ways to Find Treasure in Personality Assessments

I’ve lost count of the number of fee and free personality, temperament, strength and skill assessments available today.  Some are based on well developed behavioral and management science.

Some, I’m convinced, are based upon substance-accompanied late nighters against deadlines to create copy for pop culture magazines.  You know, the “why your lover acts like a spoiled tarantula” crowd.

As users become increasingly savvy in the selection and use of assessments, those instruments become important tools for people and teams for a variety of reasons.  Not just in making employment decisions, but also in the daily decisions among those employed.

In practice I find they serve all parties best when two things are present: (more…)

February 10th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Why We Must Stop Focusing on Greatness

In our day’s work journey toward corporate greatness (even if your work is at home) I find one recurring challenge that is the proverbial fly in the ointment.

We the people have to deal with us the humans.

It’s like a friend sometimes joked – “this job would be fun if it weren’t for the people.”  He was a minister.

Everyone wears a mask of some kind…or hides behind an imagined version of themselves to some degree.  It might be one of dominating power or of sullen defeat.  It might even change from day to day based on how it’s going.

But we usually project onto the world a version of ourselves that is fabricated and measured.   To the extent we do so, we forget an important thing. (more…)

January 21st, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

3 Effective Principles for Re-Entry After a Vacation

As the sun rises on your first workday of 2016 the hope and promise of a new year is staring us right in the face. Many of us are coming off an extended holiday with much in the way of food, fun, family and various work-avoidant activities.

Re-entry can be tough. Especially after an extended break.

Just how tough can be found in a common question we ask ourselves in secret that first morning back. It is the one question that stands between where we are at this moment and our future glory in this new year. That question – whether verbalized or not – is almost always there in the back of our minds during that first day back. (more…)

January 4th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Measure BOTH of these if you really want to know how your business is performing.

I love weekends in the fall.

Aside from colorful foliage here in East Tennessee, fall weekends give us football!

I actively follow two college teams and two NFL teams.

This past weekend one of my college teams won. And one lost. One of my NFL teams won. And one lost.

According to those outcomes, it was a 2-2 weekend for my teams. If I were keeping tabs of only how many net wins I booked, you could say it was a zero weekend.

But that would be far from telling the whole story of this football weekend. (more…)

November 9th, 2015 by Brad Hobbs

Every Successful Leader Has This One Kind of Friend

My buddy sat across the table from me listening patiently, his head cocked to one side while making a few scribbles on his yellow pad as I talked.

A project I was working on had stalled, and I was in no small state of consternation about why it refused to find it’s higher gear.

Our coffee time was nearing its end and so at a lull in my droning, he asked a simple question.

“Do you think you might be making things too complicated?”

Nailed.  Again.  It was a question that I had heard before.

Those closest to me know its roots and its tenacious presence in my life and work.

We spent just a few minutes processing the what’s, how’s and why’s of this recurring gremlin in my leadership style.  It was enough to put fresh wind in my sails that a) it was not a fatal flaw though be it an recurring impediment, and b) I could once again, for the 685th time in my life, resume being intentional about keeping it’s salty habits away from my work.

Listening Beyond Your Brain

Sometimes just verbalizing these things empowers you to once again take thoughtful authority over them in your life.  As they say – the truth can set you free.

But all too many times we don’t communicate the truth to the person needing it the most.


Some truths we have difficulty hearing if they come from within our own minds.  We either minimize their nagging reminders, or we over-exaggerate their ominous threats.

And so in one way or another we ignore them – tuning them out of our days mental labors.

But that same truth from the mouth of someone who cares about you as a person, who can hold your story without judgement, and has demonstrated a sustained presence in your life – begins to have credibility.

Because it’s piercing edges have been lubricated by the oil of steadfast friendship.

Every business leader needs a few people with whom they can talk about business, life and their personal business life.  Afterall, personal challenges as well as business challenges do quite often show up together in the same places at the same times.

Career Transforming Conversations

These conversations must go beyond the personas, beyond the masks, and beyond the self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing superficialities of our business veneers.

It’s these kinds of conversations that speak objectivity, wisdom and encouragement into our lives through questions, observations, and feedback.  They are particularly useful to those personal realities with which we struggle.

Because it’s those areas – where we are unsighted, ungifted or just plain stuck – that we need others even if it’s only to provide an encouraging presence amidst the process of wrestling free from their achievement-draining holds.

Many things in business and life don’t change easily.  Some things in our lives may never change.  But most things in our lives can be managed if not transformed.  There can be major and minor steps forward through interventions and remedies that come from training, coaching, collaboration, practice, study or whatever.

But one thing is for sure.  Those areas are rarely remedied by our silent consternation in hunkered-down isolation.

We need community.

And within community we need a few people with whom we can unmask our business personas and delve into the true substance of our fears, uncertainties and doubts.

Because it’s in that small abundance of counsel, among people loyal to your existence, that we find the wisdom and courage to move ahead to live well, lead well, and do good work.

And that, my friends, is very much worth a cup of coffee.

October 30th, 2015 by Brad Hobbs

The Single Most Important Decision for the Start of Every Week

This Monday morning you’ll have an opportunity to make an important decision regarding how you will spend your time and attention this week.

The outcome of that decision could be the greatest single influence on your overall productivity, satisfaction and results when the week draws to a close roughly 100 hours from now. (more…)

October 5th, 2015 by Brad Hobbs

Not a Lazy Man’s Book

For close to 30 years I’ve had an early morning routine of reading, journaling, prayer and contemplation.  It is my go-to disposition, my place of mindful and spiritual repose.

The Christian bible has been the centerpiece of that morning feast most of that time.  One would think by now I would have a certain level of mastery of these glorious words.

But quite the opposite I many days feel a sense of wonder and illumination on matters that I’ve studied many times before – sometimes like I’m reading them for the first time.  Sometimes that is as exciting as a young couple discovering their new love.  But many times also it is as frustrating as a prospector late to the creek.

And so this little gem that I came across just this morning helped me put it all in perspective once again – just as a mentoring word from someone who had sat in my seat before me…and thought it worthy to be shared with you as well.

the Bible is not a lazy man’s book, nor can it be soundly expounded by those who do not devote
 the whole of their time, and that for years, to its prayerful study. It is not that God would bewilder 
us, but that He would humble us, drive us to our knees, make us dependent upon His Spirit. Not to the 
proud — those who are wise in their own esteem — are its heavenly secrets opened.” – AW Pink

September 22nd, 2015 by Brad Hobbs

7 Make-or-Break Steps to an Actionable Strategic Plan

One of the many bloggers that I follow is John Jantsch, whose Duct Tape Marketing often provides helpful insights on marketing for the small business community.  He holds this spot-on perspective about strategic planning and small business – saying “…small business owners would love to have a three-year and five-year plan, but the reality is we often have a one-week plan and it’s a rough draft.”

So true.

And it can be difficult to land on a planning model that recognizes that unwavering reality.

Consequently most of the popular strategic planning models  – which have their origins in large corporate environments and business schools – rarely adapt well to the needs of the small and family business community. 

All too often those ‘charty’ and ambitious collections of ideas end up spending the year in the Dropbox and not on the streets with the owners and their teams.

The result is not so much a waist of the planning time.  (I would argue there is inherent value in the exercise of planning in itself as a learning activity.)  But the biggest detractor is the lack of follow-through on what could be the most significant business opportunities of the year.

A 7-Step Sequence

The following Small Business Strategic Planning Model is one helpful approach to the small business dilemma.  It contains seven critical elements in a sequence – offering a step-by-step way to see both the forest and the tree’s.  It calls for both a strategy system and an activity system in recognition that a strategic plan alone will not produce results.

Screenshot 2015-08-14 05.33.13

One Crucial Connector

Moreover, I have learned that even the best of plans can grow dormant if there is no way to connect the strategic plan with the activity system in trying to develop the business amidst daily demands.

The crucial connector between the two is a region of thought and action that I call the breakthrough zone.  I call it that because it is this zone that separates the makers from the breakers.  The doers from the mere dreamers.  And the achievers from the talkers.

This breakthrough zone breaks down the one year plan into a set of 90 day objectives and two week activity campaigns in service to those objectives.

Set-Up and Follow-Up

One of the most critical parts of creating an actionable strategic plan is the set-up and the follow-up.  A good way to execute this process is through a deliberate set-up and follow-up schedule that surrounds the actual planning day(s). 

By stretching the planning exercise over multiple conversations, you reinforce a learning and validation process across multiple creative periods.  This allows for your plan to incubate and cure, making it more pragmatic and powerful as you unpack it for implementation.

Planning ActivityTiming
Private Owners Session (1-2 hrs)4 Weeks Prior to Off-Site
SWOT Analysis w/Team (via email/online)3 Weeks prior to Off-Site
Pro-forma (Budget) Review2 Weeks prior to Off-Site
Agenda Review1 Week prior to Off-Site
Planning Session with Team1 Day or 2 Half-Days Off-Site
Post-Session Review of Action/Open Items1 Week after Off-Site
One Month Follow-up with Owners (1-2 hrs)4 Weeks after Off-Site
90 Day Check-In and Follow-up with Team12 Weeks after Off-Site

Regardless of the model your business may use, the essential principle here is that just as important as the systems for creating strategic plans, is a system for making them actionable, day in and day out.

If you would like a one page guide to actionable strategic planning, shoot an email to

August 14th, 2015 by Brad Hobbs

5 Toxic Effects of Gossip About Former Employees

The meeting was going well until a name was dropped. 

The ensuing chuckles and eye rolls suggested some kind of infamy or company lore.

The only comment made was less than flattering.  And then the conversation continued as if nothing happened at all.

But in reality something very septic just happened.  Something that often goes undetected in organizations that can undermine the formation of a healthy team and building of a vibrant business.

They were talking about a former employee in a negative way.  In doing so, they were ingesting a uniquely noxious form of gossip that can make a culture toxic.   

It’s understandable that a team with shared experiences will have all kinds of stories of people and situations.  However the way in which those stories are retold are rather important.  Especially the negative ones.

Here are five ways negative gossip about former employees can derail your team building leadership.   

It normalizes toxic conversation

Gossip in most any culture is seen as toxic.  To talk negatively about someone outside their presence, especially in a group setting, is a show of disregard and contempt.  It is a malevolent form of conversation that never brings good returns to an organization.  It is not edifying to those listening to it, because it is sharing something that is not theirs to share.  It’s like stealing someone’s dignity and showing the goods off in an alley amongst gang members.

Gossip usually involves exaggeration, misinformation, incomplete perspectives and unproven theories.  It creates a vacuum of both trust and relationship.  Sometimes it takes pushing back on it when it happens to keep it from becoming normalized in the team culture. 

It’s a mark of immaturity

There are elementary school lessons being violated – such as “if you can’t say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all”.  Leaders who mire in the negative minutiae of personalities end up straying from the principles that keep a team anchored and productive.   

If you want to build a sophomoric culture akin to high school, then gossip away!  If however you desire to create an environment with emotional maturity and good judgement, then don’t accept the cheap entertainment of former employee gossip.  Here is a play on words, but if you frequently belittle someone behind their back, you’ll be little in stature among those whom you are trying to lead.  Guaranteed.

It is a breach of confidentiality

Especially if there is a personnel action involved, any discussion of the matter in public is a violation of laws governing employee confidentiality and could be subject to legal action were the matters found out.  Which because of the very nature of gossip, is a likely possibility.  “Word get’s out” whenever gossip gets in.  If you give it, you’ll need to be prepared to take it. 

If there is not a protection of confidences in your organization, there can never be a confidence and propriety amongst team members.  Which brings us to the next casualty: trust.

It erodes trust

It subtly communicates that anyone could be fair game for being ‘talked about.’  That mistakes are memorialized instead of learned from, and ridicule becomes an unspoken method of control.  It breeds a type of shame and insecurity that populates your unspoken attitudes with ridicule instead of respect and and actually demeans those present, even though the gossip is about somebody outside the team.  There is nothing in negative gossip about former employees that is innocuous.  It affects everyone who listens to it and eats away at trust within the community like a driving rain in a gravel pit.

It’s a waste of time

Unless your product is triviality and your business depends upon a high volume of meaningless words, negative gossip about former employees (or any kind) is a waste of time that is bad for business.  Not only does it waste time but it can drain emotional vitality from team members making it all the more difficult to be productive. 

Three Alternatives to Negative Gossip

Instead of indulging the poisonous banter of gossip, here are three ways to redeem the moments when former employees and negative situations enter into a team conversation.

Focus on principles not personalities

Focus on the lessons learned, systems changed and principles embraced that came from the former employee situation.  Maybe it resulted in new hiring guidelines, or a different communication structure.  If business leaders will pay attention to the principles instead of the shaking-my-head fondling of a negative employee experience, they will empower themselves to lead beyond it to a better day for everyone.

Cultivate respect for persons

Have a zero tolerance policy for negativity, bullying, drama, gossip, or toxic energy of any kind. Let encouragement and support be the lead team ethic. If you disagree or have an opposing viewpoint to share, do it with respect, honor and from a place of compassion. Spirited debate about ideas or concepts is awesome, personal attacks are not – especially if you are attacking someone not present nor even a part of the team.  

Keep performance protected

Healthy teams will set the bar for acceptable levels of performance and contribution.  If there are issues, those are best handled one-to-one in person.   Celebrate positive contributions – of present and former team members.  That reinforces what real value looks like.  But when it comes to the negatives, by far it’s best to avoid the guile, disdain and dishonor that comes from gossipy banter in a public form.  By the way this holds true for email and informal communications alike.   

Again, toxic behavior yields toxic culture and toxic culture won’t produce healthy outcomes.  Gossiping about former employees in a negative way is a malignant team activity.  Avoid it, call it out and redirect it. 

Let the negative past be a part of your learning history.  Refuse to give it a continued presence in your promising future.

August 6th, 2015 by Brad Hobbs