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randy morkved

Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers, Business Wisdom
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Vince Lombardi Quotes, How He Inspired His Packers

Football season is here and, for me, that means the Green Bay Packers and memories of Vince Lombardi will add a punch of inspiration to my non-stop work week. Many an entrepreneur has been motivated by Vince Lombardi quotes; they’re timeless and inspired his Packers to great feats I’ll never forget. Memories dating back to my childhood in Wisconsin were made stronger by an article I recently read on Fox Business, by Michael Lee Stallard, President of E Pluribus Partners, speaker, and author of Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity.

He made note of Lombardi’s attitude toward winning: put in your best effort, with a strong focus on ethics and excellence. Mr. Stallard points out: achieving excellence in relationships and tasks, together, is the formula for success. This underscores my own philosophy:

how you win is just as important as winning itself.

It took many years for me to appreciate the depth of Lombardi’s values and understand their correlation to success, both on the playing field and in the business world. His legacy first touched me when I was twelve, and a staunch Packers fan. My business success at that young age reflected pride in earning $20 a week delivering newspapers to my community. I was the richest twelve-year old in town.

Decades later, as a businessman, I realized the richest man in town is the one who has an ethical business with loyal employees focused on the company’s success, knowing their individual returns will follow. That team effort to go the extra mile ensures a growing fan base of loyal customers. That was success. That was being rich in all the right ways.

As a young boy in Wisconsin, this winning spirit of Lombardi and his Packers promised an exciting football season every winter. The pride my friends and I had for our home team was also a bit personal. My neighbor was Larry Krause, who was a Packers running back from 1970-1974. After watching him play on TV, my friends and I would replay the game in subzero weather, for two- or three-hour stretches, passing a rock-hard football down our makeshift field, tackling each other and being too caught up in our adolescent fantasy league to notice the ground was as hard as cement and our fingers were numb from the frigid cold that was Wisconsin winter.

Sometime during that season, Lombardi’s focus on relationship and task success was executed by me, although I certainly didn’t recognize it at the time. My newspaper boss held a contest asking all the paper boys to knock on every door we could find to solicit new subscriptions. The top “salesmen” across various territories would accompany him to a Packers’ home game that season. I was one of the winners. Sitting behind the goal posts that bitterly cold day, I even caught a football. It was an exhilarating example of inspiration from a great football team. It also proved how creating new relationships and focusing on the task at hand could lead to wonderful rewards.

Today, I have my own publishing company and the Lombardi ethics are still inspiring me, as well as the value system of my business.

Our team recently sat down to develop a mission statement and lay out our value system. After almost three years of foundation building, content production and organic evolution, we know who we are and where we’re going. We’re now prepared to etch our corporate values in stone (or granite, in honor of Lombardi’s influence on the offensive line at his alma mater, Fordham University, nicknamed the “Seven Blocks of Granite”). The business of publishing, like most businesses, hinges on relationships and tasks. One of the cornerstones will be the respect we have for our affiliates, partners and readers. The value system we came up with reflects our commitment to never forget that as we also strive for top-line growth.

Our resulting six goals form an acronym, CREATE, which also happens to articulate why we love publishing to begin with:

Collaborate through teamwork on all aspects of business and production.
Respect each other, our authors, our readers, our partners.
Ethics and integrity are mandatory, on all levels, for all personnel.
Aim for outstanding quality across the board for titles, products and public relations.
Trust is imperative, earned through consistent practices, production and roll-out.
Endear ourselves to others by curating and nurturing the human legacy, in words.

You might notice there’s no overt emphasis on actual sales in our value system. Rather, it’s the overall goal of CREATE. We believe, as Lombardi did, true winners are those who place ethics and respect firmly at the top of their priority list. Success will come, if these tasks are consistently met. Even the Green Bay Packers saw success as a franchise, following the turnaround led by Lombardi, with consistently sold-out games since 1960.

As the great man himself once said,

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that, whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

In business, if we invest in “individual commitment to a group effort,” in Lombardi’s words, we’ll perpetuate eventual returns in the future, in the form of a great reputation and a growing base of customers. But we all need to participate to the best of our abilities to make it happen.

Teamwork doesn’t mean merely showing up to win the prize of a paycheck before the effort has been completed. Everyone needs to be ready to pick up the ball and “run to daylight.” If one partner needs to block, he must do it. If another needs to step in to formulate a new play at goal-and-inches, he must speak out, take the initiative, and make sure we win the game. Just as Lombardi’s Packers won as a team, we’ll win as a company by respecting each other, and recognizing and complementing our individual abilities. We’ll lift each other up to increase our chances of winning through teamwork. It’s a tried and true formula for success. Why change it?

P.S. Go Packers!


Business Lessons from the Red Queen, Randy Morkved, Balcony 7
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Business Lessons from the Red Queen

by Randy Morkved

Business, like chess, is a game of strategy in which the pieces are alive and in constant motion. To play this game well, we should remember the Red Queen, the chess piece that comes to life in Lewis Carroll’s, Through The Looking-Glass. She reveals to Alice, in the looking glass world, one needs to run with all his might just to maintain his position. It makes for one of the best business lessons of all. Here’s why.

That sure is how it feels “running” a business today. For example, how many countless hours does your team spend just on maintaining a social media presence? All that time is well spent, of course, but it doesn’t always yield immediate results. In fact, just maintaining a stable base of followers or likes means your doing something right. Viral spurts are few and far between in today’s social-media-driven market environment, and some companies rarely see actual sales conversions. But that doesn’t mean you stop trying. On top of the energy spent on crucial day-to-day matters, we hope to muster enough momentum to sprint ahead on occasion.

If an opportunity presents itself, we could make a strategic move to enhance our position on the chess board of our industry. But even if we do, will we ever win the game?

I came across a great take-away of Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen race recently, one that talks about evolutionary theory yet accurately describes the business world. The late evolutionary biologist, Leigh Van Valen, coined the Red Queen Hypothesis. In his abstract, written in 1972 for the University of Chicago, he compared Evolutionary Theory to game theory: “…each species is part of a zero-sum game against other species. Which adversary is most important…may vary from time to time, and…no one adversary may ever be paramount…no species can ever win, and new adversaries grinningly replace the losers.”

In my own industry of publishing, the Red Queen example is appropriate and timely, but I think you can find similarities in any industry. Within publishing exists a tiered structure, heavily weighted toward the top players controlling the bulk of content, in all formats. Prior to the ebook explosion, traditional distribution and brick-and-mortar stores formed an ecosystem in which everyone knew their place and great content was never in short supply. The double whammy of ebook proliferation and e-commerce convenience introduced a massive disruption to this ecosystem.

Enter Amazon, an adversary who evolved faster than the publishers themselves, by wisely embracing the digital, online future of both content creation (self-publishing and print on demand) and distribution (vast, online, direct-to-consumer sales). With a virtual superstore in place, this adversary grew from the sidelines to become a cornerstone in the publishing industry. Now, as we all know, we’re witnessing a power-play to rebalance each player’s role in the industry. One can argue the situation now facing publishers was foreseeable; but you know what they say about hindsight.

The dynamics of today’s business environment make comparisons to even ten years ago seem like apples to oranges.

It seems one important thing to consider is recognizing when the pendulum has swung too far. In this case, perhaps it finally has.

Did traditional publishers stop running and now have to play catch-up just to keep their place on the board? Or did they simply run in the wrong direction? Did they miss telltale signs of eventually being check-mated? Or did they simply mistake their adversary for an ally? How the players move around the chess board now will determine the next phase of dominance. At least, until the next adversary steps in to disrupt the board once again.

The chess game for any industry is rife with non-stop dynamics directly impacting a player’s position on the board. Stop running in place and take your eye off the other chess pieces, and you may find yourself face-to-face with the Red Queen, reminding you to keep running. But by then, it may be too late to keep yourself from getting check-mated. Importantly, in any organization, all weak links need to be identified and nurtured into strengths before a sprint for the lead can even be possible. The check-mate is often played by those companies who are able to offensively study the whole chess board rather than defensively focus on their next move.

The ever-evolving Internet adds yet another layer to today’s game of business, a layer in continuous motion under our running feet. Those who can balance themselves on this undulating board may advance to make their next move. Either way, the Red Queen will always be in our rear view, and always closer than she appears.

  • Do you have a Red Queen Strategy in your organization?
  • Have you identified where all your company’s energies are spent?
  • Are you maintaining your position as a result?
  • Do you know where your company lies on the chess board of your industry?
  • If an opportunity arises, are you ready to make your next move a check-mate?

Isn’t business a zero sum game? We, as leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, etc., do our best to identify organizational strengths that, if maintained, will keep us in the game. At the same time, we keep an eye on adversaries and trends so we can do things better or move ahead of the pack with the next best thing. But no one ever really wins, do they? Don’t we just jostle for the lead and try to keep it as long as we can before an eager adversary disrupts the board and forces us all to reconfigure?

When the Entrepreneurial Itch Won't Go Away
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When The Entrepreneurial Itch Won’t Go Away

by Randy Morkved

What do you do when the entrepreneurial itch settles under your skin and refuses to be ignored? My advice is: take it seriously and consider your options. For me, in spite of always having an entrepreneurial style, it took me decades to finally pursue my dream.

I became a shadow entrepreneur instead; the companies I worked for let me do my thing because I did it well. I received my share of the rewards, and plenty of notoriety and financial security. But, to me, the most exciting part of business was growing it and continuously building on momentum.

Not actually being an owner made this a frustrating process because oftentimes ideas moved slowly through layers of bureaucracy, and stifled progress and creativity in the process. Too much resistance certainly led to my itch to finally quit working for others and gave me the impetus to channel my business sense into a more flexible entity: a company of my own making. If great ideas keep popping up in your head but end up going by the wayside in your current situation, you may know the feeling.

Creativity is the root of innovation. If you have enough of it, this may be a clear signal you’re ready to do your own thing.

In my experience, I also sensed limited opportunity in a mature business. I had plenty of steam for a new challenge and sensed it was time to take a leap of faith and finally do what was in my blood all along: let my steam run my own machine. That machine, for me, ended up being a boutique publishing house.

Those of you who’ve been down the road of exiting a comfortable job and starting up your own business have likely heard responses from colleagues similar to mine when I finally announced my resignation. Everyone thought I was crazy. Do these questions sound familiar?

  • “How can you walk away from a steady paycheck?”
  • “Are you sure you’re ready to be on your own?”
  • “What if you fail?”
  • “When you’re done trying, give me a call. There’s always a job here for you.”

Yes, it’s hard to walk away from a steady paycheck. I agonized over my decision to quit for months before actually handing in my resignation letter. When I finally did, there was no turning back. I already had a plan, some projects in the works, key relationships forming, and a partner I could rely on to help build my company and share the risk.

I recommend anyone with the entrepreneurial itch to lay out a timeline and a plan of action while you still have a steady paycheck. It’s wise to implement your plan before you take the leap. This is when initial resistance may happen, signaling you might need to rethink your strategy or business plan.

As far as being ready to be on my own, I felt decades of business experience gave me plenty of ammunition to blaze a trail without burning down the whole forest. Never underestimate the value of your work experience, passion and confidence. For an entrepreneurial venture, this even trumps a college degree, in my opinion.

If you’ve got experience to back up your itch, it may be time to ask yourself: “If I don’t do my own thing now, when the passion is in my gut, will I be passing up the opportunity of a lifetime and always wonder what could have been?” That’s what I did. I realized I couldn’t live with these unknowns.

Going it alone is certainly challenging, and the risk of failure is real and daunting. If I didn’t have the encouragement of a partner in the trenches with me, quitting would have been that much harder.

The itch to make a move should be followed up by reaching out to people you trust, even if they won’t be business partners. The support and encouragement of those who know and understand you will help you weather early storms. Using your inner network as your sounding board will give you peace of mind. Once you make it down the learning curve, you may feel what I did: your company begins to take on a life of its own. That’s when you’ll know you made the right decision.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

Knowing I could fall back on past relationships was reassuring. I’d give myself a chance to get started and see where it would go, believing I’d know when to say “uncle.”

After two and a half years of owning my own business, though, I can safely tell you it’s extremely difficult to quit on your dream. You give it life and become committed to seeing it grow and blossom. When it does, you may be able to pick lots of fruit, while all the others may be drooling in the sidelines, thinking their own “what-ifs.”

I would urge anyone to resist standing in the sidelines of their own future. If you feel the entrepreneurial itch, don’t ignore it. That nagging feeling in your gut is the first sign you’re ready to make your move. It’ll take plenty of stamina, passion and patience. But, in the end, you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. And you can stake your own claim in the business world. That’s priceless.