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About Mike

Have you ever said something  and thought,

"Man, I need to follow my own advice"?

There I was, sitting in a crowded roadside restaurant one late afternoon with my college age son waiting for our order number to be called.

My son was struggling to identify the path of his life. There was something he wanted to do, but the path he wanted to follow was a difficult one. He wanted to pursue a professional golf career. 

Here was his dilemma:  Prior to that season, he had set foot on a golf course less than a dozen times. He had grown up on baseball fields and although his uncles and I love playing golf, he was never that interested...

...Until that year!

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Suddenly he was playing any chance he could, "sneaking in a few holes" almost every day. (When you are a teenager with very little income, the phrase "sneaking in a few holes" has a completely different meaning.)

His swing was effortless and beautiful and he was already beating me.  His drives were longer and straighter than mine and parts of his short game made me green (no pun intended: "short game", "green") with envy.

Unfortunately, being better than me is rarely a good barometer for becoming a golf professional.   

Like a tourist atop a Costa Rican waterfall, he was trying to decide if he should take the plunge or back away from his dream. After all, this was not a lifelong dream of his. Was he ready to make a lifelong commitment to something he just became interested in a few months before?

As we sat there drowning in our collective silence, I knew this was my opportunity as a father to say something meaningful.  This was a legacy moment.  I imagined him twenty-five years into the future saying to his son; my grandson, "I want to share with you something my dad said to me when I was about your age. He said..."

I knew what I wanted to say, I just wasn't sure how. When dealing with young adults, you have to pay particular attention to delivery, especially if your goal is legacy material.

As my oldest daughter has spelled out for me on numerous occasions, you can't be too corny or you're a dead man walking.  Your words evaporate into the abyss.  If you are overly excited, you may as well be juggling bowling pins and wearing a clown suit. 

The look in his eye, the way he was slouched in his seat with the slightest hint of a smirk, told me he was on to me and already planning his counter attack. It was like the World Series of Poker, sans the poker chips, playing cards and professional dealer sitting between us.

I was ready for the challenge.

This was going to be a life changing moment.  I owed it to all future generations to get this right.  And then it hit me, "Where's our food?" And right on cue, our number was called.

Once we started eating, the tensions subsided and I caught him with his guard down...

"Listen, you can't be afraid to say 'YES!' to what you want to do. If you know what you want to do,  Go For It with everything you've got."

And there they were.

My brain swelled as those words fell out of my mouth like broken teeth. My ears got all hot and a light humming sound bounced around my seemingly half-empty cranium. Even before I finished the first sentence, I thought, "YOU ARE SUCH A HYPOCRITE!"

I presumed my son thought I was talking out of school. In an attempt to recover, I admitted to my son and myself that it was time to start modeling that for him.

It was time to say, "Yes!" to the life I was meant to live.

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My story really began in grade school when I began to wonder just  what had happened to my own enthusiasm for learning.  I wondered what changed me into this bored, struggling and distracted child, surviving on the edges of acceptable behavior, just a few inches from trouble. (And often far past that edge, up to my elbows in trouble.)

This was such a stark contrast to the vivid memories I had of being in first grade practically falling out of my seat, wide-eyed and excited,  poised to be first to shoot up my hand to answer my teacher's questions (and often obnoxiously shouting out the answers). 

I remembered the fun I had with my Mom studying flash cards day after day. I remember the pure joy of learning and being filled with self-pride knowing that I had completed my assignments.

Back then I loved everything about school, but those days were gone.

In High School things only became more mystifying.  As I matured and developed into a young adult, it was obvious to me that I was smart enough to compete. I wasn't lazy. I loved to think things out.  I just struggled to find the purpose in what I was being taught.

And while it frustrated me to no end how people not as equipped, both socially and intellectually, outperformed me in almost every class, I still lacked the motivation to make the necessary changes in my behavior.  I simply could not connect to the purpose of my work. At the same time, I had friends, really brilliant friends that somehow performed at levels below me.  I instinctively knew that there was something wrong with this picture. 

Are you with me so far?

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You could say I have spent my whole life on the edge of that same Costa Rican waterfall, trying to decide on playing this game of life by their rules or by my own.  After all, the rules of their game are simple: show up, follow the policies and procedures (spoken and unspoken), do your job, don't rock the boat, go home and get ready to do it again tomorrow. 

I kept trying to convince myself that, when push came to shove, I could out play anyone in this game. Often, I succeeded.  When I applied myself, I found the work to be easy and even somewhat enjoyable. In fact, I often came up with some simple innovations for making success come more quickly with less effort. 

I got along well with my coworkers and most of them remain friends to this day.  Despite my own inconsistent results, my coworkers and even my bosses would seek me out for advice and coaching. 

Alas, inevitably the truth would reveal itself. I couldn't sustain the effort to succeed at playing the game. You see, I grew up as the son of a small business owner.  I knew from the time I was 13 years old, that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and own my own business some day. Whenever I achieved any levels of success in my "job," it simply reminded me that I had strayed from my own dreams of owning a business.

I don't know, does that even make sense to you?

Unfortunately, in the traditional business model, you can't get promoted if you are delivering inconsistent results. Although I loved everything about sales, and I loved helping my fellow salespeople, my inability to consistently reach my sales marks eliminated me from the Sales Management candidate pool. Heaven forbid you utilize the strengths of your employees, right?

I know what you're thinking, but before you go there, hear me out.

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I do not consider myself a victim of the traditional business model and I am not bitter in any way. Rather, I consider myself a conscious observer; a joyful participant in this failing experiment. Like an international spy, constantly scanning my surroundings, always on the lookout for potential enemies and escape routes, I am grateful for the opportunity to solve this problem from the inside.

You see, the bigger problem for me is that I love to rock the boat.  I love to dig deep and find out why we do the things we do and look for better ways to get things done. I love to research what works and understand what doesn't. I no longer want to play the game; I want to fix the game. 

"There is nothing so useless as trying to become efficient at something you shouldn't be doing at all."  ~ Peter Drucker

That's why I launched my business, The Stone Group, in December of 2006.  I had formed a Strategic Alliance with Profiles International, the Assessment Company. I had found a way to make a living through my passion. Finally, it appeared that someone was paying attention. 

We were not put on this earth to hate school/chores/work/our jobs.  We are not supposed to feel trapped into doing something we no longer want to do, or are not very good at, because of a system that takes away other options. We should not be this committed to a system that produces a 70% - 90% fail rate.

Did you know that according to the Gallup Management Journal of Management, less than thirty-percent of employees are actively engaged in the work they do? And that only counts active employees.  Not factored in, are the people that leave a job within the first year. Profiles International offered the tools that allowed businesses to hire the right people based on something other than traditional hiring criteria.

The people at Profiles knew, like I did, that job success has nothing to do with interview skills, prior work experience, and degrees. They knew that job success was determined by "job match." In other words, culture, vision, purpose and beneficiary (the people you serve) mattered.

So This Might Surprise You.
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In less than a year I severed my relationship with Profiles International. 

Let me explain.

It had absolutely nothing to do with Profiles International, their products, philosophy or levels of service.  

However, after my very first client, I recognized a flaw in the business model that made me uncomfortable.  Although I was convinced that the tools and products offered by Profiles International could help any organization "put the right people on the bus," as Jim Collins would say, I knew that wasn't enough to make my clients successful. 

There was no guarantee that the client organization was doing anything right to keep the talent once they found it. Inevitably, the solutions were merely bandaids for bigger more serious problems. I was determined to find the cure.

That was a big problem for me, but it wasn't the only reason I ended the relationship and thus unofficially ended my business. I realized that the  Profiles International ideal client was not mine.

The fact is, I am passionately motivated to serve, what I call, the Solo CEO. My father was a Solo CEO; a small business owner operating without a Human Resource Department, huge HR budgets, and levels of middle managers to assist with complex solutions. Solo CEOs are not the typical target for the types of products and services my company was now offering through Profiles International.

Technically, I guess you would have to say that my company was one of the 80% of small businesses that fail in the first year, but I don't look at it that way.  Certainly I invested thousands of dollars and lost most of it during this experiment, but I look back at that experience as a massive success.  My relationship with Profiles set me on course and allowed me to create my perfect business in service to the clients I am meant to serve.

I have dedicated the last five years to researching strategies and systems that would help my ideal clients, Solo CEOs, Build a Better Workforce: the kind of workforce people RAVE about;  a workforce that allows you to make more money by working less.  The type of workforce that would change the world for the people that were associated with it.

The problem was, up until that conversation with my son, I had delayed my re-launch.  I had created a solid skeleton of my first book, 6 Simple Steps to Building a Better Workforce (with little or no money), and had been creating content for workshops and seminars based on the material for years.

It was time to jump!

Success through the success of others.SM

What can I do for you? If you serve small business owners in any way and have some creative ideas about how we can work together, I would be happy to explore options with you. Simply go to the Contact Info page and fill out the form. Try and be as specific as you can in the comments section.

Do you know any small business owners that might be interested in Building a Better Workforce?  Why not send them a copy of my book.  

Would you like free* copies to share with your clients?

Send me an email with "Service Mark" as your subject line. For a very limited time, I will send you two (2) additional signed copies free of charge, for every book you order *(you'll just pay the shipping and handling charges for all books ordered directly through me).

Bulk discounts and additional bonuses available for quantities of twenty-five (25) and fifty (50).

Would you like a free audio sample of my next bookGreatness Comes Alone: Achieving Greatness Through Systematic Anti-Social Behavior?  In today's social crazed world, so many of us are losing ourselves in other people's lives.  This book will give you the inspiration and focus to turn away from distractions and discover the greatness that is waiting inside of you. Get it Here.

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