Friday, March 29, 2013

Using Vision to change your life – Part II

This is part II of "Using Vision to change your life".  To read part I please Click Here.

So, how do you go about creating your own unique vision for financial prosperity?  As I was writing this presentation I struggled with this question.  I really wish that I could say that it is as easy as 1.2.3.. And I really thought that I could break down what I did into a plan that anybody could follow.  But the truth is that there is no simple step by step method.  At least, not one that I have figured out that can work for everybody.

What I’ve realized is that everybody realizes their own vision through different methods.  Some through tragedy.  Some through frustration.  Some by inspiration.  I can only summarize how I created mine and hope it provides some guidance and inspiration.  Here is the simple breakdown of how it happened.

1.  First I had a thought that created an urge and a desire.  After realizing that owning my own business would be the most likely way I could create wealth I started to really get excited about doing it.  I just had no idea what type of business it could be and how I would actually do it.

2. I took a small action step and bought the first bike.  By this point I had been fantasizing about owning a business for years.  On an almost daily basis I came up with a new idea for a business.  And some of them were really, really good ones.  But as soon as the idea would enter my head, I would become completely overwhelmed with the enormity of it all.  This would in turn prevent me from doing anything.  Fear had a lot to do with it.  I could always immediately find enough reasons for why I wouldn’t be able to make it happen, therefore I never got past the idea stage.  The moment I took the first tiny little step at the beginning of NPD the next step showed itself to me.  I believe that is how it works.

3.  I added intention when I decided what I wanted for my life. The moment I figured out that my primary aim in life was to always have the courage to tell the truth, the direction of the business took on new meaning.  Once I had something more important that just making money, something special started to happen.  I felt like I had a compass that could guide any decision that I needed to make.  And it felt like my work now had worth and value to everybody, not just me.

4. I wrote it down on paper.  I don’t know why it is, but things become much more real when it goes from just thought to being written down.  Taking the time to write down your plan creates a strong picture of what it is your trying to create.  That is what “vision” really is.

There is a part of creating a vision, or plan for the future, that cannot be understated.  It is the most important thing to start with.  You must start with the belief that you can do it.  You can do everything above and fail miserably if you don’t really believe in your heart that you are capable and worthy of achieving whatever it is that you want.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry Ford.  He said, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, your right”.

Our lives today are the result of our thoughts of yesterday. If you want something different in your life, then it all starts with changing your thoughts.  Nothing that exists today could be without somebody thinking it first.  That is incredibly liberating to realize.  You have the power to create anything that you want, but it isn’t going to happen unless you dedicate the time and energy towards creating that vision.  It takes work.  It is difficult.  All you have to do is try to focus on one single thought for 5 minutes before you realize that it is extremely hard to do.  Our minds wander and focus on many things in a short amount of time.  The more you work on developing your ability to focus on what you want, the quicker it will happen for you.

I believe that there is a force at work in all of our lives that we can’t fully understand.  Call it whatever you want.  God, Jesus, Buddah,, the Universe, etc. This force is just waiting to provide you with whatever you need in this world.  Whatever you focus upon is what it provides to you.  This force is always working, whether you are aware of it or not.  The more you focus on what you want, the better the results.  The clearer your vision, the better the result.

I saw something the other day that illustrated it perfectly for me.  Have you seen the new 3D material printers?  They can “print” three dimensional things seemingly out of thin air.  The printer basically has three main parts.  The material that things are built with, the mechanism that creates it and the computer that inputs the design to be created.  It can make anything that you want, but it has to have that design input perfectly into the computer.  Without a plan it would just produce a pile of goo.  So the same machine that can make a perfect yoda head, as seen in the video below, would just make a pile of plastic goo if it was turned on without a plan for what to make.  Same machine, same material.  The only difference is the clarity in how it is programmed.

So, what if the universe works in exactly the same way (which I think it does)?  The universe will provide an unlimited amount of “material” for you to create your vision.  It is the mechanism that turns that material into reality.  And you are the computer that tells it what to create.  Just like you don’t need to understand how the printer turns your design into a yoda head, you don’t need to worry about how the universe will turn your thoughts into reality.  Just have faith that it does.

Here is the catch, and it’s a scary one.  This printer is always on.  It is constantly moving material out of its nozzle.  You cannot turn it off.  And your thoughts are the computer input.  The clearer the input, the better the output.  By the way, we all have access and are connected to the same printer.  Successful people don't have access to a bigger, better, faster printer.  It might seem that way, but what is really going on is that they know how to input better designs (thoughts/visions).

But the key to financial prosperity is to use the printer to create something that has value to others.  You can use the printer to create things that only benefit you, but that is not going to create nearly as much wealth. For example, I could have continued just selling motorcycles to make more money than what I was making off my mutual funds.  But  I turbocharged the company when I changed the mindset from just making money to creating a better value for my customers.  The byproduct was that they chose my company to give their money to instead of another shop.  That is because I focused my creative power on building value for others, not just selfishly on my own needs.

Everybody has a gift.  Use yours in creating your vision. If you create a picture of what you want that is based on what you love to do, you have a great chance of succeeding. And if you build something that also has great value to others you will be wildly successful. Pile of goo, or perfect Yoda head? It all depends on your vision.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Using Vision to change your life

A few weeks ago I was a guest speaker at a local event called the “March Fourth Motivation-A-Thon.  This is an annual event that features a new speaker every hour from 9am until 7pm.  The theme for this years event was Prosperity.

I was hoping to be able to post an audio file of my presentation, but the person who taped it has not reached out to me.  Since several of my friends have asked me to post it, I’ve decided to write it out here.

When I was told that the theme was prosperity I immediately asked, “define prosperity”.  It can be defined many ways and it means something different to everybody.  Since the dictionary specifically mentions it in terms of financial well being I’ve decided to talk about how I used vision to create my business, National Powersports Distributors.  I’ve used Vision to create many things in my life, but NPD is the most financially prosperous thing I have ever created.

npsd_nobevel_greydrop copy
For those of you not familiar with NPD, we are one of the largest used motorcycle dealers in the country.  We have 35 employees and are known all over the world for having the best values on used bikes.  We also have a reputation for being “straight shooters” and for being fair and honest.  To say I’m proud of my staff is an understatement.

In order to understand how my vision for this company was created I have to give some background on my professional life as well as my scholastic career. Lets start with schooling.  I was a terrible student.  Not sort of bad, but terrible.  My grades were mediocre at best and I was constantly challenging my teachers. Frankly, I just didn’t care about learning these things.  What I did care about was riding BMX bikes.  I lived to ride my bike.  I remember sitting in class looking out the window at the bike stand where my bike was and just waiting out the minutes until school got out and I could go ride.
At the age of 17 I took my first summer job at A.T. Naults bicycle shop in Manchester NH.  I continued to work there summers and eventually became a full time employee.  After high school I decided to attend Keene State College.  The first semester I received a 1.4 GPA.  I also discovered Snowboarding.  I fell in love with riding with the same passion that I had for riding bikes and soon started competing.  Of course, my first semester GPA put my on Academic Probation and I achieved the dubious GPA of 0.0 the second semester.  I actually tried pretty hard to pull my grades up the first few weeks of my second semester, but once I fell behind I just gave up and stopped going to class.
Do I look like I'm studying hard?
1987 snowboarding
I continued working at the bicycle shop in the summer and snowboard shops in the winter.  I enjoyed my work a lot.  I thought I would never be rich because I thought that the only way to earn more money was to have a better paying job.  That’s what they taught us in school.  The way to make money was to study hard and get good grades so you could get a good paying job, right?  I knew that I would never make the kind of money a Doctor or Lawyer would and I was ok with that.  What was most important to me was being able to balance work and being outside in nature moving my body.

In 1991 I met Amy and fell madly deeply in love.  Within 2 years we were married.  I felt that if I was going to be able to start a family that I needed to find a better paying job.  I decided that it was time to call my father, the owner of A. D.Sanel Auto Parts.  I told him that I was ready to grow up and that I wanted to come work for him and learn the business.  He told me that he had no place for me and he wasn’t interested.  I was pretty bummed, but over the course of the next few months I convinced him that I was serious.  He decided to give me a shot and Amy and I moved up to St. Johnsbury VT at the end of 1993.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of what it was like to work with him.  But lets just fast forward 7 years.  I am now the VP of the company.  I work from 6am till 7pm every day.  I have two children, a house, and lots of bills.  And I am utterly miserable.  Hopelessly miserable.  Everything is good at home with Amy and the kids, but the work situation is the worst.  I hate working for my Dad and he hates having me there.  The gloves are off and we are not very nice to each other.  I have never felt more trapped in a situation in my life.  I have no college degree and can’t go back to working in a bike shop for $25k a year.  I don’t have the confidence that anybody else would see the value of hiring me.  I realized that the only way that I was ever going to make a lot of money was to own my own business.  The seed was planted.

Luckily, a man named Ray Stover who owned DST, inc visited me to sell us a new computer system.  Over lunch he told me that he would GIVE us the system ($125,000!!!) if I agreed to come work for him within 2 years.  I started to realize that I was wrong.  I actually did have value!!!  He showed the confidence in me that my father did not and changed my mindset about the position I was in.  About a month later, after walking out of an extremely nasty argument with Dad, I called him up and asked him if the offer was still on the table.  It was, and I left the family business to work for DST.  Ray apologized to me about the salary he offered me, which was almost 50k a year more than what Dad was paying me.  I started to realize that I really wasn’t as dumb as I had been brought up to believe.  After less than a year I was hired by an internet startup, Point 5 Technologies for even more money.  I loved that job and really liked the people that I worked with.

Since I was now making decent money I did what everybody told me I was supposed to do.  Amy and I met with a financial planner who advised us to invest in mutual funds.  We started putting $500 a month into the funds, even though the market was not doing well.  We were told to just be patient, ride it out, and in 30 years we would have 1.4567 (or whatever) million dollars to retire with.  It didn’t take long for me to see that it just didn’t make sense. 

mutual funds
One day, after looking at our mutual fund statement, I told Amy that I wanted to use the $500 to buy a motorcycle to fix up and resell, rather that put into our funds.  We did, and sold it within a week, making a few hundred dollars.  I thought, if I could just do this a couple of times a month it would pay off way better than the mutual funds.  I started buying more bikes and fixing them up in my garage, with my buddy Jeremy helping with the mechanical work.  I had a lot of fun doing it in my spare time and soon I had a garage full of bikes.

Unfortunately Point 5 was not able to raise the capital that they needed to continue and I received a call from the CEO around Thanksgiving of 2001 saying that they were going to call it quits at the end of the year.  I had been wracking my brain for the last 2 years trying to figure out how I was going to own my own business and all off a sudden I realized that I had already been doing it!!  Amy and I talked and we decided that we were going to go for it.  I wasn’t going to try to find another job, I was going to turn this little side project into a business.  “The Collectable Trader, LLC” was born (we later became National Powersports as I grew tired of calls asking if I sold baseball cards) on January 2, 2002.

At this point my only Vision for the business (remember, this post is about vision?) was to just make money.  Amy and I had no employees and we worked from sun up till sun down and beyond.  Jeremy continued to help me at night after he worked his regular job.  We had a blast finding old bikes, fixing them up, and riding them a bit before we sold them.

There were two books that were extremely influential on me at this point.  One was “Rich Dad Poor Dad” which I had read the previous year.  It got me to start thinking about how money was actually made, in a different way than I had thought before.  The other was a little book called “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber.  It is a story about why most small business’s fail and it taught me an incredibly important lesson.  I needed to work ON my business as well as IN my business.  So at night, after traveling to buy motorcycles, working on them, selling them and being on the phone all day, I spend time doing things like writing job descriptions for all the different tasks I was doing and working on what the business was going to look like (Vision…) in the future.

Emyth book
One day while looking at the E-Myth website I saw that they offered a program called the “e-Myth Mastery Program”.  It was a guided program with weekly calls to a coach and a workbook to use.  It was $500.  $500 was a huge amount of money to me at this point.  At this point Amy and I had a very small savings and no other income.  Our idea of a big date was a dinner of Ramen pride soup and a six pack of Budweiser. With $500 I could by another motorcycle and make money off it.   I agonized over buying into the program, but I had this overwhelming feeling that I should do it.  So in October, with Amys blessing and after 10 months officially in business, I bought into the program.

The first workbook in the program was called “Finding your Primary Aim”.  I really don’t want to make this post an advertisement for the E-Myth program.  I’m not going to get into all of the details of the program.  What I will tell you is that I couldn’t seem to separate what I wanted for the business vs. what I wanted out of my life. This is a theme that I have noticed with many people.  When push comes to shove, most of us really can’t answer what we really want out of life.  We all want to be rich.  We all want to be happy.  So what.  Not many of us can truly state, in a simple sentence, what we want.

After going through working for my Dad, I found it very easy to list out the things that I didn’t want.  So I started there.  Those things flowed out of me like water. I wrote that I didn’t want: “A Boss, To be around people that don’t tell the truth, financial worries, to be around close minded people, to be around negative people, to get unfit – out of shape, to be bored, to be ignored, to be isolated, to be disorganized, to procrastinate, to be around lazy people.”

And then I had an epiphany.  On the paper in the workbook that said “The essence of my Primary Aim is….” I wrote, “To always have the courage to tell the truth”.  I knew it was right from the moment I wrote it down.  Here was something that I could apply to everything in my life.  To the business, to the relationships around me, to everything current and in the future.  It became my guiding principle.  And it transformed the way I approached the business. (During my speech I took out the paper and showed it.  As I read it I had to choke back tears).

Now it wasn’t just about making money.  I had a bigger obligation to fulfill.  If I wanted the business to reflect my primary aim then I had to go about building the systems to make sure it did just that.  I started to write condition reports that explained everything I knew about the motorcycle.  And that also meant that I had to develop more thorough processes as well.   My vision for what I wanted to create was getting stronger, but only on an emotional level.  The next exercise is what really helped create the true “Vision”.

The next workbook was titled “Your Strategic Objective”.  Now this was starting to look like work.  I actually had a hard time with this workbook. I’m a “wing it” type of guy.  Making me think about and define  “Company size and growth objectives” and “Market Positioning” was extremely difficult.  Yet, at the end of the workbook I wrote my Strategic Objective paper.  And it is incredible to read today.  At this time the business was doing about $15k per month and I had just hired my first employee to go pick up bikes because I didn’t have time to do it anymore.  I was working out of my garage still.  But after going through the workbook I was forced to create a vision of the future.  I wrote this:

“Within 10 years TCT (The Collectable Trader) will be a multi-state wholesale purchasing company of used motorcycles from other dealerships.  TCT will enable the growth of its partners by giving them a system to take in trades, thus enabling a sale of vehicles that they would have previously turned away.  We will have a system of agents within those areas that will facilitate the inspection and pick up of those trades.  We will have a distribution center to prepare these vehicles for resale.  Our vehicles, when ready for sale, will be fully inspected and certified, and all information known (good OR bad) will be revealed to our potential buyers.  Our primary method to market our vehicles will be the web, but regardless of where we sell we will always reveal the full known information of these vehicles. TCT will guarantee that our vehicles are in the condition that we represent and we will have a reputation for honesty and truth.  Our customers will appreciate our approach to the point were they will be hesitant to buy a vehicle from anybody else.  Our gross sales will exceed $10,000,000 at a gross profit of above 20%.  We will employee people who crave to work in an environment where they can tell the truth.  We will always continue to develop methods to discover and reveal more information about the vehicles that we sell.”
primary aim
This is the actual paper that I wrote
As I wrote this I created a picture in my mind of exactly what the business looked like when it was finished.  It was a vision in the most literal sense.  I was forced to dream and create a picture.  To this day, I still hold that picture in my mind and it is as clear today as the day I wrote that paper.  I can open the door to the shop, know how the bikes are laid out, see how the lighting is.  I know the font on the signs that hang down from the ceiling.  I know where the reception desk is located.  I know what it smells like!  This paper is almost a perfect definition of what we are today.

Over the years many people have asked me if I ever am happy.  They see me as somebody who is never satisfied with how things are.  The truth is that I am very happy, I’m just have not finished what I've started yet.  The picture for what it looks like when it is done is has not been realized yet.  It is certainly getting closer though.  I am simply connecting the dots from where I am now to finishing creating that picture in my head.  Oh, and In 2011, our tenth year in business, we had gross sales of $9,900,000.  Pretty damn close….

The whole point is that I had to WORK to create that vision.  It didn’t just come to me.  I had to do the hard work of forcing myself to define what it is that I wanted.  That’s the first step in creating your vision, and subsequently getting what you want out of life.  You have to create your Vision through hard work.

So, how do you go about doing just that?  How do you create your own unique vision for financial prosperity?  Click here for Part II….