Earn Your Success, Pay the Price

A good friend of mine always said that success was earned, and that it's important to accept the fact that success normally carries a price.

When I work with my clients' sales teams I always inquire about their goals, actions and commitments that are aimed at achieving their objectives. What doesn't surprises me anymore is their inability to fully understand that there is a "price to pay." I am not suggesting that our lives should be so consumed with achieving success that all other facets of life are out of balance. Those of you who have taken my "Personal and Professional Pizza" assessment understand my focus on life balance; if you haven't take the assessment yet, view my "Gourmet Life" video here.

However, if you are leading a sales organization or are a professional salesperson, you must understand and accept that there is a price to be paid to achieve success. Instead, I see salespeople showing up on Monday simply to work. Sales leadership and sales roles demand more.

First, it's creative time. Taking the time on a quiet evening or on a Saturday to review each active sales opportunity and thinking through your sales tactics/strategies demands extra time. What else can you do to win?

Second, it's professional. Are you actively taking the extra time to review LinkedIn groups within your market to better understand what issues are being discussed? The Sales Association group in LinkedIn and its VP Sales Group are good groups to join. I am actually leading a series of monthly sales leadership webcasts for the VP Sales Group.

Third, it's your network. Paying the price to develop, nurture and expand your network pays results. This means taking the time to find the right individuals and making an effort to create an active campaign to build the network. As a professional, this effort will bring you additional levels of revenue -- at unexpected times.

Fourth, it's mental toughness. Just last week, a salesperson said he was 90 percent confident he was closing an opportunity -- and then he got hit with an objection and was flattened. He wasn't strong enough to counter-sell the objection, but at least he was strong enough to ask his fellow sales team members for advice. We will now see if he and his manager go in to win.

I always enjoy the comments everyone makes on my various blogs, but reading your thoughts on this particular post would be important. What are the actions or efforts you believe are necessary to achieve success? Leave a comment below.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on April 21, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Learning by Observing

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in what is called a "speakers showcase." Ten professional speakers had an opportunity to stand up in front of over 100 association managers and give a 15-minute program based upon their desired topic. My topic was "Gourmet Living: Building a Menu for Your Life!"

The real opportunity for me was being able to sit back and observe other speakers -- not only to hear their messages, but more importantly to see:

  • how they opened their presentations,
  • their energy levels,
  • their body language,
  • their vocal tones and
  • how they closed. 

I also asked several of the other speakers to provide feedback on my session. I know every year when I attend the National Speakers Association conference, I pick up so many great ideas to build my professionalism. 

So what does this have to do with sales leadership?

In many situations, the sales manager is the key coach, mentor and trainer of their sales teams, whether it's in the field or in sales training environments. It is the second-most important aspect of your job. (Hiring correctly is No. 1.) Too many times, when meeting with sales managers in peer groups or in one-on-one coaching, I have found that many sales managers have a challenge keeping their mouths closed during an onsite sales call with one of their team members.

Certainly, there are occasions when the manager should talk, and those should be defined during the pre-calling planning process. However, during any sales call, the manager must be acutely aware of the five items listed above when observing their salesperson.  Hint: You might keep that list and rank each one from 1 to 5 (with 5 being great) for each salesperson. Prepare a short report card after the call and then share it with the salesperson. Keep every scorecard on each salesperson and, during your twice yearly review, share all of them and hopefully you will see an improved performance. Remember: Inspect what you expect!

During the past few months, in this blog I have from time to time provided "free" sales management tools to improve your sales management structure. If you have not visited our Web site lately, you will find the Sales Management Tool Kit -- a resource that includes over 40 sales management guides, tools, best and practices. It is an online library where you can download a variety of tools, all for only $175.00. I do add to this toolbox from time to time, so it is a living value. For all orders in the second quarter, I am including three free books:

  • Developing a Business Plan
  • Building a Marketing Plan
  • Creating a Winning Sales Strategy

Have an awesome April! Let me hear about your success.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on April 08, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Mow Your Lawn

The first quarter is over and sales leaders are capturing forecasts for the next two months -- and hopefully celebrating the achievement of their first-quarter results. 

I am sure not everything has been smooth. After the last 90 days of working with a variety of clients and speaking at a variety of conferences, I've found that the odds of some "uneven" achievements and unexpected events are real. In one client's case, we didn't hire the salesperson we wanted. In another, a salesperson left without management knowing it would happen. And in another, the marketing campaigns didn't launch on time.

Just like my lawn.

As I drove into my garage last week, I realized it was finally time to mow my lawn. For the first time this year, my lawn looked uneven in growth. Leaves had nestled into the grass, some weeds had extended themselves and it resembled something far different than what I had hoped to enjoy. There is work to be done. I am sure after this afternoon, when I hope to mow, that the results of a fresh cut will level off the growth, the leaves will be mulched and generally it will begin to represent a well-groomed lawn. The next treatment of fertilizer will stimulate better growth.

You should consider having the same view of your sales team: Evaluate your team, determine who needs to be "groomed" or "cut," and find out what treatments you must begin to accelerate your growth during the second quarter. This is necessary in order for your summer sales to generate the necessary look and feel that you desire.

In past blogs, we discussed how to create your quarterly sales training programs and coaching sessions with each salesperson. Hint: Now is a great time to hold one-on-one salesperson review meetings. What worked? What didn't work? What new steps and actions need to be implemented to increase performance? Develop a mutual action plan where both you and your individual salespeople agree on those actions and use that to coach and manage for the next 90 days.

Enjoy the spring and position your team to truly enjoy a wonderful summer season of selling. What are you plans?

Posted by Ken Thoreson on April 01, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


What's Your Training Plan? Learn from 'Disney U'

As a sales manager, one of your responsibilities is to develop your sales team's professionalism. After reading Doug Lipp's Disney U: How the Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer Centric Employees, you will come away with a notebook filled with ideas to improve your employee development. Lipp lived the Disney U experience and gives us the inside stories that back up the results.

The book provides you insights into the genius of Walt Disney, but also the other people in the organization who brought their vision and dedication to make Disney U an exciting and valuable part of the Disney organization. Each chapter breaks down various subjects with excellent summaries that you can turn into action steps for your own organization. While reading the book I picked up the various "mantras" that drove the development of Disney U. For example:

  • "Management must be diligent or the show [customer experience] will deteriorate."
  • "Management must be diligent or the cast [employees] will deteriorate."

The interesting aspect is the impact Disney U had on the entire organization; it is looked upon by management not as a training department but an element of the organization that impacts the culture, operations and performance. The chapter "Capture Hearts and Minds" mentioned four questions that relate to a focus on the entire organization:

  • Is innovation encouraged?
  • Is organizational support found at every level?
  • Is employee education valued and non-negotiable?
  • Is entertainment incorporated into training and education initiatives?

"My basic story is about the two men laying bricks," says Van Johnson, the person responsible for building and leading Disney U, in the opening of the chapter titled "The Language of Success."

"When asked what he is doing, one man says, 'I'm laying bricks.' The other man performing the same task says, 'I'm building a cathedral.'"

Johnson went on: "I have found that most people want to be involved in something greater than just being paid for a job."

The question is, what are you doing to not only train people on your products/services but to truly build a team that excels in all aspects of representing your firm? Ask me for a copy of "Building Belief" for a few ideas.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Has Your Sales Team Watched 'Pawn Stars'?

Recently, during several coaching calls, I heard a common theme among comments -- either the prospective client was asking for some kind of discount or the salespeople were asking for some sort of promotional discount so "I can close the deal."

These comments always pop up during the last month of each quarter. Generally, this occurs because:

  1. You have conditioned your customers or prospects to expect these kinds of end-of-quarter promotions.

  2. Your vendors want to achieve their numbers (public companies) and they have conditioned your salespeople to expect their deals or coupons.

  3. Your sales team has not been trained to effectively sell the value of your firm or the value of the impact of your products/services on your prospects' businesses. Hint: This needs to be done early and continually through the sales process.

If you hear the word "deal" spoken by one of your salespeople, then you have failed -- either by hiring that kind of salesperson or your training program has failed to set the standards. Doing deals is simply a bad mindset for professional salespeople and leads to discounts, coupons and lower margins. We work "opportunities," not deals.

What can you do to reset this mindset? You need to build the mental toughness of your sales team. I recommended that each salesperson watch two episodes of "Pawn Stars," a popular show on the History Channel. They then need to discuss at the next sales meeting what they observed. If you have not watched it, the show covers the daily issues in a pawn store in Las Vegas. People bring in items to sell to the store and the store buys them to hopefully resell for a profit. There are four characters the reality show follows.

What I want the salespeople to see is the owner, Rick, review the items people are bringing in, determine their real value to him, set a price in his mind that he will pay, and then begin to negotiate with the person selling the item to the store.

In some cases he brings in an "expert" to help set that value. Rick then asks the seller how much they want for the item. He proposes a price and banters with the seller until they settle on a price. In almost every case, the seller caves in because Rick knows how to negotiate better, knows his business, and holds firm on his price. In some situations, the seller walks away for another opportunity, feeling they did not get their price.

In our world, the salesperson must be the "expert" and understand the value they are bringing to the buyer (Rick). They should be mentally tough enough to handle the negotiation discussions and reinforce the value they bring. 

With too few opportunities in a closing mode, salespeople become weak-minded. Your hiring must focus on testing that attitude -- your activity management must be focused, your sales training must include skill-building and your sales management coaching must help build this facet of their professionalism.

There is always something to learn from any life experience -- even from the "Pawn Stars."

Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 17, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Book Review: 'The Sales Winner's Handbook'

It seems that every client I have worked with over the past 14 years has had a challenge creating enough leads driven through their sales teams. Does that sound familiar?

Last week, I was fortunate to read The Sales Winner's Handbook by Wendy Weiss, self-professed "queen of cold-calling." The book is subtitled "Essential Scripts and Strategies to Skyrocket Sales Performance." It delivers on that statement.

Weiss broke the book into four segments:

  • cold-calling in the 21st century
  • gatekeepers, voicemail and e-mail
  • introductory appointment-setting scripts
  • selling entirely over the phone

If you have your sales teams attempting to "dial for dollars" or even communicating over the phone, this book should be in your library. If you have a tele-sales team, the content in the book should be included in your ongoing sales training program. Use the book-club idea -- during your weekly sales meetings, discuss a chapter -- and tailor the techniques and scripts to your product/services. 

Chapter 10, titled "Words to Use and Words to Avoid," is a must-read for any salesperson -- it's worth the price of the book! 

Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 09, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


How Salespeople Can Expand Their Income

I recently presented a webcast to a number of people on the topic of how to partner or work with other organizations that are non-competitive but sell to your existing market. I call these "business ecosystem partners." It is a tactic that executives can use to leverage expertise, resources and ability to grow their businesses.

During the program, I stated that if successfully implemented, the partnering program would bring in the equal of one salesperson's revenue/quota per year without the cost of hiring another salesperson. If you would like additional information on this topic send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.

While that program was aimed at executives, I like to address in this blog what salespeople need to do to leverage themselves. As a sales manager, you must not only educate your team on this, but monitor your team's actual activity. Salespeople must find ways to leverage themselves as well and the good news is it won't cost selling time. Here are a few ideas and I would encourage all the readers to contribute their thoughts.

  • Create a spreadsheet listing all of the "circles of influence" within your market and assign someone to connect with each person on a regular basis.  These people are individuals that can influence decisions; they differ based on your product/service but could include commercial bankers, architects, CPAs and consultants. If you want a sample Excel spreadsheet to help you track these individuals, send me an e-mail.

  • Develop your list of five to 10 networking sources. These may be local associations, networking groups or social events where potential networking contacts may attend. Rule of thumb: Every salesperson should attend at least one networking group event per month.

  • If you have individual salespeople that you are networking with, be in touch every month. Out of sight is out of mind. Send them interesting sales ideas you have picked up via e-mail (hint: this blog), send them a sales book, and work to find a lead for them. It must be a win-win situation. Arrange a lunch or breakfast meeting. Invite them to your office to see your solutions and meet your team.

  • Make it both ways -- another way to say this is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you want to have your phone calls returned, return phone calls. If you want help with your sales career, you must be willing to help others. When I started my business, I tried to make two networking calls a week. While my objectives have changed, I still return the phone calls.

  • As a salesperson or sales manager you will need to track activity. Networking is a lot like flossing your teeth -- for it to do you any good, you have to do it regularly. Include networking activity as a metric. If you pay attention to certain actions, your salespeople will also.

  • Can you use the referral's name? Yesterday, I was meeting with a meeting planner and provided her two sources. During the conversation I suggested she should use my name. If your networking source does not offer that, ask! You need to be totally clear as to their relationship and how to use the referral.

  • Find the right people. Look for active, energetic and creative people that are hungry to build their business. Are they already active? How would you judge their existing market relationships? What is their profile within your market? Obviously, LinkedIn is a great tool to find the individuals you wish to work with.

Building a network of relationships is a lifetime objective. Make it part of your sales business plan if you are fighting for leads and trying to increase your pipeline.

Eighteen months ago, I reached out to someone who had crossed my radar. I placed a call, shared some thoughts and explored a few ideas. What has it led to? Four consulting agreements with major vendors, a variety of industry-speaking opportunities and increased market awareness! We have actually done all of this together -- both have added value and expertise to our new mutual clients. And we have had fun doing it.

If you have not signed up for my monthly newsletter, "Why Sales Managers Succeed," you can sign up here.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 06, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


The Difference Between Selling and Order-Taking

One of the main jobs of sales management is to help their salespeople see where they are in the sales opportunity. Are they early? Do they know what they need to know? Do they have an excellent strategy to close?

I like to think that a salesperson is a juggler, tossing x-number of opportunities in the air and the sales manager's job is to assist the salesperson on judging what opportunities to keep and which ones to toss away, and to providing ideas on how to work the selected ones. During a few recent client/consulting meetings, I realized that this remains an extremely important aspect of any salesperson's life -- as well as any sales manager's or president of any firm. Exceeding monthly sales objectives are the goals of the sales organization, especially the sales manager. What to do?

First, if you have not subscribed to the "Sales Manager's Tool Kit" at www.AcumenManagement.com, you can get a free copy of the Sales Strategy Guide by sending me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com. The Tool Kit contains 40 tools/guides for any sales manager. The Sales Strategy Guide is meant to be used by each salesperson and the sales manager to discuss and strategize on individual sales opportunities and uncover what you know, what you don't know and develop tactical steps to move the account to conclusion.

Second, the salesperson must know what the impact of your product or services will have on the prospect's business. The salesperson must fully understand this question and its answer. You will use it during critical aspects of closing the opportunity. You close for the prospect's benefit -- not the salesperson's.

Third, depending on the products/services that you offer and vendor relationships, knowing when the prospect wants to be fully utilizing your offering is critical. It is not about when a decision will be made -- it's about understanding timing and any issues surrounding that timeframe.

Fourth, knowing early on during the sales process the reason the client will make the decision, the impact of your solution on their company and timing, allows the salesperson to begin to set the hook early. Now, I am not suggesting unethical sales tactics -- but just make sure early in any sales cycle that you fully understand the prospect's key issues allows you control the sales process.

The key element to remember is individuals are always challenged to make a decision. Your job as a trusted advisor is to assist the individual in making the right decision that will impact their business and to help them make it on your timeline. This is selling versus order-taking.  

Being mentally creative and tough and moving your role from simply presenting products/services to providing business guidance moves the role to the next level. It is the job of sales management to assist the salesperson to move forward professionally.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 03, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Getting Refreshed

Last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I provided a closing keynote for an international association's annual conference. The program was based on a topic that has proven to be very popular: "Gourmet Living: Building a Menu for Life." During the same week, I spoke to a group in New York at its 2013 kick-off meeting -- that topic was: "Changing Environment Means Changing: A Plan for Success." In both cases, with different programs and certainly different audiences, the after-program conversations were identical.

It is normal for members of the audience to come up to me and make a few comments after a keynote. After both keynotes, everyone commented that they had been needing an uplift, new thoughts or simply a reminder of something they knew. These words hit me on the plane from Fort Lauderdale to Destin, Fla., where I have been taking some time off as well. At Destin, I monitored e-mail, attended a few conference calls and did some limited management coaching. I have also walked the beach, played golf, enjoyed friends and I am almost halfway through a fun book I am reading.

I've written about the fact that sales leaders face "sales fatigue" within their sales teams and perhaps within themselves. I offered a few ideas as to how to counter that attitude.

On Thursday I will be driving back to my home -- nine hours of windshield time. Today, though, I am heading to the spa for a massage and few other treats. Why am I telling you this? I am firmly convinced that you must "treat yourself" to maintain a freshness. My wife had to teach me this, but as hard as everyone works I have come to accept that these opportunities to relax, treat yourself and enjoy friends are unique. Serious sales leadership requires high levels of energy, creativity and the ability to relate to your team members and certainly to prospects. If you are dull because of not taking the time to refresh, your organization will sense this and feed off of your lack of energy and robotic behavior -- and your sales will suffer, as well.

During keynotes, I normally hand out a Personal Pizza and a Professional Pizza (not real -- only on paper) in which each of the eight slices for each pizza are described by one or two words. We ask each attendee to score themselves from 1 to 7 (7 being "great") based on how they feel about themselves in relation to the word. They then connect the circled numbers and draw a line connecting the dots. The representation will show if you are in balance personally and/or professionally. We then have instructions as to how to fix their lives if they need balance. If you want a copy of our Pizza Test, send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com

The message: Find time each day to refresh. In my keynote I speak about creating "extreme self-care" by creating daily rituals that relax (yoga/mediation), are fun, exercise (walking or something more strenuous), and focused on eating better. Focus on getting mentally and physically refreshed, and your sales results will improve as well. Off to the spa.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on February 06, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Keeping Your Team on Top with Persistent Sales Training

On Sunday, I was reflecting on what might be a good topic for this week's sales management blog, when I realized the idea was right there in front of me. On Friday afternoon, one of my client's two new salespeople called me individually to practice making a telephone sales call and performing a sales discovery call. My client and I wanted to make sure the salespeople knew what questions to ask a prospective customer and if they could roleplay effectively. The salespeople have been going through our three-week new-hire training program, which is a prescriptive approach to ensuring new salespeople know everything from how to sell their company and their company's products/services, to how to use the copier and telephone system.

Next, on Monday morning, I led a client's sales meeting, where we discussed the concept of account planning and learned how to "cross-sell and up-sell" to increase their sales revenues. Each salesperson will create 10 Accounts Plans in the next two weeks. Tuesday, I am speaking at a sales kick-off meeting on the topic of "Changing Times Means changing Tactics."

Because of other commitments, I couldn't attend one of my other clients' sales meetings, where the all the salespeople (and management) are reading a sales-related book and discussing one chapter a week -- a kind of book-club approach to sales training. 

How are all of these actions related? They are helping drive a higher level of professionalism within their sales organizations.

  • They are focused on sales training. While Acumen Management is not a sales training firm, it is focused on ensuring our clients execute on holding a minimum of two hours of sales training a month. We have a quarterly objective that each client creates an entire quarter plan for training sales on skills, operations, and product/service knowledge. This includes dates/times, topics and what each salesperson is responsible for. If you want a copy of the outline, send me an e-mail at Ken@Acumenmgmt.com.

  • Roleplaying is a must. Connecting the brain and the tongue is the essence of ensuring your salespeople can communicate effectively. During the new-hire training program, the salespeople have to "sell" their company to other salespeople -- the sales manager as well as the president of the organization -- before they can hit the street.

  • New ideas are important to stay fresh. Creating a learning environment and building training programs to introduce new ideas will re-invigorate the sales atmosphere. Even when old ideas are reviewed or new concepts are introduced, the brain cells will kick in. I have heard it a hundred times: "I remember that from a long time ago. I had forgotten about that [sales skill] but I will start using that again." I like to suggest your team read at least two books a year and discuss one chapter a week. If your sales team is following the sales process it has used for the past five years, it is time to shake it up -- it will be good for them, your prospects and your revenues.

  • Increase your professionalism. This is the ultimate sales/marketing differentiator. Ensuring your sales team presents themselves in front of a prospect at a higher level than your competition will impact your revenues faster than anything else you can do. Record them making tele-sales calls, video record them selling your company/products/services, and inspect what you expect. Keep a record of how many sales calls you make each month with each of your salespeople and watch them make new calls, discovery calls and proposal calls -- even if they are top performers (you might learn something) or if they have worked for you for 10 years!

Bottom line: Develop an attitude of high performance and high expectations but increase your commitment to training.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Bringing a Sharp Focus to Your Sales Meetings

During the past few months, I have been consulting with several clients on a variety of issues and coaching others via our new "Acumen Project" (more on that later). In both environments I have begun to revert to a similar sales management technique to achieve the desired results. For this week's blog, I thought I should share this fundamental concept with you. If you are attempting to bring an increase in focus on weekly sales and activity and on exceeding your monthly sales goals, this idea will help you.

First, you should be using Acumen's Sales Meeting Template. When you get to the sales forecast section and opportunity discussion, note your monthly sales objective (for example, $250,000). You can either go to the "white board" or via Excel and a PC projector to do this.

Second, ask each salesperson to forecast each account and dollar value on all sales opportunities with greater than 75 percent probability of closure. Write each entry underneath your sales goal.

Third, total the overall sales to see if they exceed your sales goal. If they don't, list all additional opportunities with greater than 50 percent probability of closure. If you still don't have enough opportunities and potential sales to exceed your quota, you are in trouble.

Fourth, discuss each opportunity as a team to ensure the salesperson has the next TWO sales steps planned to close the opportunity for this month.

Fifth, perform this exercise each week in the month (save the list) and as certain opportunities closed or are postponed, work to move other sales opportunities to the close list. The "50 percent" list becomes your "upside" list.

Six, track what your individual salespeople forecasted at the first of each month and what they actually ended up selling. This is called the "forecast accuracy ratio," a great way to better understand your team's ability to forecast and understand their prospects' buying reality. You will be in a great position not only to forecast pipeline values to your management team with this historical view, but be a better coach for your sales team.

Seven, each week, each salesperson should be prepared to report on specific weekly activities. While this will vary by type of sales organization, by having a weekly reporting function, salespeople will have to be accountable. As a rule, we ask each salesperson to rate their previous week on a scale of 1-5 at the beginning of each sales meeting. In other teams, each salesperson must earn 25 points a week by performing a certain level of variety of activity. If you would like to see a sample of the 25-point list, send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.

What's the bottom line? It's fundamentals and back-to-basics. Salespeople pay attention to what sales management pays attention to. Discipline of focus is always the payoff to success. What is your commitment to success?  Let me know your ideas to drive performance.

As for Acumen Project...

I was watching the Golf Channel several months ago -- specifically, a show called "The Haney Project," where a golf coach would take a well-known celebrity for six weeks and provide customized coaching to improve their game. While it was somewhat a reality show, it had positive results. I thought about that program and have now created the Acumen Project. Using our online Interactive Sales Management Tool Kit, my books, DVDs and 12 hours a month of consulting services over five months, we will turn executives or sales managers into leaders of sales teams. We cover the strategies and tactics of successful sales management: recruiting, compensation, reporting and coaching and much, much more. For more details, e-mail Ken@AcumenMgmt.com

Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 21, 2013 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Holiday Reflections and the Passion of Impact

I woke up in rural Wisconsin on Christmas morning. When I peeked out the window of my mother-in-law's home it was seven-below on the thermometer. I grew up in rural Wisconsin -- that is how it is supposed to be on Christmas morning.

What do I mean by rural? Well, driving the last seven miles on a twisting county road during a blizzard means no plowing, drifting snow and no actual idea where the road was. Rural also means no cell phone coverage or e-mail connections unless I drove 15 miles to a McDonalds to find a wireless connection.

But what rural really means is making time to talk to my 89-year-old mother-in-law recovering from knee replacement surgery. Every morning, I would wake and the coffee would be ready, a Danish would be on a plate and we would sit in our chairs and watch TV. Or she would read a daily devotional and we would talk -- just good conversation -- until she dozed off. In the afternoon I might nap or drive to the local small-town (population 268) bar and order pizza or sandwiches for dinner. While I waited, I would sip a beer and chat with the one or two folks at the bar about the upcoming Packers game.

On two days, I went for a walk. It had gotten up to 20 degrees and the snow was still crunchy but the air was crisp, clear, almost light. If you have not felt that kind of Wisconsin fresh air, you are missing out. I had forgotten what it does to your nose and lungs -- it is a cleansing experience.

As I trudged down the street the people in the few cars that went by waved as if they knew me. It is what you do in small towns. One day, I walked into the Pigeon Falls, Wisc. meat market to buy meatball mix and lefse (Norwegian tortillas) and the owner came up to me and said, "You're Thoreson, right? I saw you on Facebook!" Amazing.

It was a quiet few days to reflect, reunite with family and friends, share laughs and stories, and end with warm hugs and big smiles. It is where I come from.

There were other experiences, as well, but what I returned with is a continued reinforcement of the blessings we have, knowing that many others in this world don't have them. I have a continued commitment to do what I can to help others improve their lives and inspire them to succeed. In a recent speech, I talked about the impact others had on my life -- but the reality is the more you impact the lives of others, the more personally successful you will be.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on December 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments