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Heading Time Bandits off at the pass

Three of the worst words in our language are “Got a minute?”
The Time Bandits use those words to waste hours of your life.
Some simply want to gossip or chat.
Many have no purpose other than to hog your time.
They have nothing better to do with themselves.
What can you do about them?
Strategy #1. If you have an office door, close it.
Some of the less astute may ignore this subtle signal.
If they do . . .
Strategy #2. Stand up when they enter.
Do not offer them a chair.
Most will get the message and leave.
For those who don’t . . .
Strategy #3. Ask what you can do for them.
If there’s nothing they need, thank them for stopping by.
Suggest you get together after you’ve finished your big project.
Let them know that may be some time next week.
For more Time Bandit strategies, go to
Scroll down to #19, “Dealing with Time Bandits”.

Tip of the Week: Rewarding loyal customers

Here’s our Essential Entrepreneur Business Tip of the Week.
This week we’re talking about incentives for your loyal customers.
For retailers, sticker prices are what one-time customers pay.
Customers earn discounts based on their volume of business.
For service providers, utility companies are a good model.
Offer savings to your customers with a 12-month agreement.
This evens out their monthly payments.
It lets you perform the services as needed.
If you’re in landscaping, you work hard for the money in the summer.
While you’re in the Bahamas in January, the money keeps rolling in.
You’ve guaranteed your business a steady cash flow all year round.
If you have questions, contact me at
For more tips, see our new “Doing More With Less” workbook.
It’s available at
For a video Tip of the Week, go to
Next Monday: How to track loyalty.

Cooking with someone you love

Our son Mark and I like to cook for our newspaper team.
One of our team’s favorites is our lasagna.
It takes us a Saturday afternoon to make it.
We always make extra for Saturday night dinner.
This is a simple dish but takes time to prepare.

Lexington County Chronicle Lasagna

(to feed 16 people)
2 lbs sweet Italian sausage
4 lbs lean ground beef
2 large heads peeled, crushed garlic
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
2 14-oz cans tomato sauce
4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
18 lasagna noodles
32 oz ricotta cheese
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot, brown sausage and beef over medium heat.
Drain fat from pot.
Stir in garlic, tomatoes, seasonings and parsley.
Cover and simmer an hour.
Stir occasionally to keep bottom from scorching.
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Spray cooking spray on bottoms of three 9×13 inch baking dishs.
This makes cleaning up easier.
Spread a layer of meat sauce on bottom of each baking dish.
Next a layer of uncooked noodles over sauce.
Add a layer of ricotta, layer of meat sauce and layer of mozzarella.
Sprinkle each dish with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Spray 3 sheets of foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
Cover and bake for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes.
Set aside for 5 minutes to cool before serving.
Open bottle of Chianti Classico Reserva. Celebrate.

Best advice: Cook with someone you love.
It’s a great bonding exercise.

Learning from the Marines

Retired Gen. Tony Zinni knows what makes the Marines elite.
The U.S. Marines often draw the toughest duty.
They make up with brains and guts what they lack in numbers.
In Gen. Zinni’s “Battle Ready”, you will be struck by how Marine values apply to any team that wants to develop pride, professionalism and a competitive spirit.
Our son Mark gave me a copy.
It made me examine my own values.
Marines realize they are not vital to the nation’s existence.
Yet Marines offer unique values we admire and respect.
Values we can’t afford to lose.
Does that describe your team and the role you play?
Does your team represent values people admire?
Are these values we respect and can’t afford to lose?
We believe our little newspaper does.
We’re glue to hold our community together.
We celebrate the best and uncover the worst.
We allow citizens to keep an eye on their government.
We show if our officials are good stewards of our money.
We alert residents to crime and other threats to security.
We report on how well our children are schooled.
Gen. Zinni cites eight values the Marine Corps offers.
Would you like a copy of all eight?
Email me at
I hope these values will inspire you and your people.

How to Reach Peak Performance

My father encouraged me to practice the piano by telling me stories about the virtuoso Ignacy Paderewski.
“If I miss a day of practice,” the great pianist said, “I can tell it.
”If I miss two days, my colleagues in the orchestra can tell it.
”And if I miss three days, the audience can tell it.”
Even a nine-year-old child, struggling to master the keys with tiny but growing fingers, understood that story.
Of the gifts my father gave, among the best were his stories about successful people and what they demanded of themselves.
All of us have seen exceptional people achieve exceptional results.
In truth, they are all fairly ordinary folks like the rest of us.
Michael Jordan practiced at the arena hours before a game.
Tiger Woods, even after a tournament, was on the practice green.
Top performers put in hours of “deliberate practice”.
They set specific goals for themselves.
They solicit immediate feedback from coaches and mentors.
They constantly push themselves, stretching to reach higher levels.
Where does your passion lie?
Where do you feel compelled to excel?
What price are you willing to pay to reach that summit?
How committed are you to making that happen?
For more on reaching peak performance, go to:
Click on “Reaching Peak Performance”.

An underdog becomes a big dog

Myelita Melton thought she was headed for the big time in TV.
Then she lost two TV jobs, one after the other.
It wasn’t her fault. It was the economy.
Her no-count husband turned to drugs and crime.
She moved him out of their house. Changed the locks herself.
She filed for bankruptcy protection from his creditors.
Because she was bilingual, she had trouble finding a job.
Employers told her she was “over-qualified.”
Relax. Her story has a happy ending.
Using her language skills, Myelita started her own business.
She called it Speak Easy Communications.
She taught health care workers to speak Spanish.
She taught construction foremen to speak Spanish.
She taught professionals who needed it to speak Spanish.
She published Spanish language tutorials.
These books and CDs have turned Myelita’s life around.
They have made her a successful business owner.
What skills do you have that could turn your life around?
What skills might you acquire to make you successful?
For more about Myelita, go to
For more about Success Strategies, go to

How much should you raise prices?

Raising prices on your products and services is necessary if the economy is inflationary or your suppliers have raised their rates.
For instance, in newspaper publishing, the paper mills have hit us with a series of price increases over the last six months.
That’s bad for our bottom lines.
Our subscribers and advertisers have to underwrite this added cost.
Your customers, clients and patients must do the same for you.
Unless you raise rates, added costs will erode your profit margins.
That could kill your competitive position and your business.
Ask your tax counselor how much he or she advises in raising rates.
Your counselor should figure this using the latest government-researched cost of living increases and your other costs.
Ask how much he or she is advising other clients to raise theirs.
For more on this, contact me at
Next weekRewarding loyal customers.
For advice on lowering costs and raising revenues see “Doing More With Less: 73 Strategies to Cut Costs and Boost Revenues

Let go & others will grow

One of the hardest leadership attributes to master is “delegation”.

Someone on vacation or out sick? Guess who did their work? Sudden emergency? Guess who jumped in to save the day? I had to learn the hard way that I did not have to do it all.

Now our son Mark struggles much the same way.

We received a notice late this week that a local group will be at Eagle Aviation tonight to see off a contingent of sailors headed for the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will give each sailor a box of Girl Scout cookies. They will let them know that they are appreciated.

Mark feels compelled to cover their departure for our newspaper. He has a soft spot in his heart for military people. His father and his grandfather served their country.

Mark lived with the troops in Iraq in 2003, covering their deployment. He saw some awful stuff happen to good people over there.

I understand what drives him. He came by it honestly. It’s in his genes.

But, he doesn’t have to cover their departure this time! He has other good people he can assign to do it. And they will learn from the experience.

He has to learn to relax and let go. Only then can his people grow.

Easy lesson to talk about. Harder attribute to practice.

What say you? Send your comments.

By the way, if you have not yet voted, see our weekly poll below.

Why write a book?

I believe there’s a book inside all of us.

I just happen to have several in me impatiently waiting to get out.

Our son Mark, a highly talented journalist, interviewed me yesterday about my new book. It’s called “Your Life’s Great Purpose: Set Sail for the Adventure of Your Life”.

I thought you might enjoy part of the exchange between two journalists a generation apart.

Mark’s Q. What prompted the idea for this book?

A. Many of us are concerned over what appears to be a growing involvement among young people with drugs, gangs and violence. I started writing about making hard but good choices and choosing smart options back in January 2007 in our Success Strategies eLetters. The series talked about turning dreams into goals, planning your life in eight major areas — spiritual, mental, physical, family, community, financial, career and fun. People began to tell others about the series. Our subscribers rose to 3,000 plus and is still growing. We are discussing adding additional eLetters on Leadership, Smart Business Practices and Marketing and Sales.

Mark’s Q. What do you hope the reader will take away from reading this book?

A. A recognition of their God-given talents, skills and opportunities, a realization of their great purpose in life, a plan for the future, the determination to succeed in all that they want to achieve, to live an exciting and adventurous life and the decision to build and leave a legacy for a better world. That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life and I want to see more people have that opportunity.

Mark’s Q. How did you research this book and what personal learnings do you share with the reader?

A. The book contains many personal stories and many other stories that friends have shared about their own lessons in life. I feel that I have been researching this book for more than 50 years, thinking about my own mistakes and what they could teach me — and about a few personal triumphs and successes that suggested I wasn’t a completely hopeless klutz.

Mark’s Q. Were there any stumbling blocks in creating this text and how, if so, did you overcome them?

A. The writing was the fun part. I would get up many mornings at 2, 3 or 4 a.m. and go down and crank up my laptop because God was talking in my head and telling me to go write. When I would sit down, I felt I was in “the zone” and He was guiding my thoughts and my fingers on the keys. I am not a particularly mystical or religious person so this may soiund strange coming from me. But I knew He was showing me the way.

The editing, design and formatting of the book was less fun but I knew it had to be done. If I ever get where I can contract this part out to someone else, you can bet I’ll seriously consider it.

If you are interested in this book, an eCopy is available at We plan to make personally autographed print copies available as soon as they arrive from our printer in the next few weeks. They make great graduation, birthday or wedding gifts, if I may modestly say so.