Where the rubber meets the road

It happens to all of us. You’re sitting at your desk. Your to-do list is like a wave towering over you, getting bigger with each passing moment. And on your desk is a notebook full of good ideas.

Those ideas could have come from any number of places. Maybe you belong to a 20 Group, read a business book now and then, or participate in online learning. You might take classes at a local college, visit your manufacturer for technical training, or attend the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo or the Marine Retail University.

Regardless of where you turn to get better, there comes a time when you ask yourself: “Was it worth my time and money?”

That’s where I am today. I just returned from a four-day conference, and this is a make-or-break moment. The return on investment in this conference is literally in my hands.

If I set the notebook of ideas on my bookshelf and start hammering away at my to-do list, chances are that I won’t turn back to it. The bulk of what I learned to help me get better at my job and help our organization fulfill its mission will be lost in the fast moving current of a busy work life – something most of us share in common.

There are very real consequences when the items on our to-do lists don’t get done. If you don’t submit payroll, your employees will start looking for a new job. If you don’t pay the electric bill, the lights are switched off.

The brain is hard-wired to put survival over improvement, explains Steve McClatchy, author of “Decide: Work Smarter, Reduce Your Stress, and Lead by Example.” It goes back to cave man days when your to-do list included things like finding food and protecting yourself from predators.

So, what’s a person to do? As delightful as it sounds, the answer is not to throw our to-do lists away. Nor is it to stop seeking improvement. And please don’t try to fool yourself into putting improvement off until you check every last item off your list. That’s my tendency, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from experience, it’s that a to-do list is never really done.

“If you continue to do solely what is necessary to survive every day, all you will accomplish is preventing pain,” comments McClatchy. “To move your business forward from where it is today and to see an improvement, you must … pursue gain.”

We pursue gain by adding small tasks that will help us meet our goals, not to our to-do list, but to our calendar. The calendar is where we put stuff that we can’t afford to put off. We essentially save a spot for those items. And if something more important comes up, we reschedule it. We may not feel like we have time to tackle a big project, but all of us can make 15 minutes a day for something that moves us forward.

So, before you pick up your next book or register for that conference, write down three goals that, if fulfilled, would do the most to make your work life and your business better. Then choose training and educational opportunities that can help you meet those goals.

If we’ve done our job well, you’ll consider MDCE. It was designed specifically to help you improve and grow your business, whether your focus is leadership, sales, marketing or service. We measure our success based on what you take back to your dealership and implement, so we provide you with tools to help you take action.

Speaking of action, that’s where the rubber meets the road. What will make the conference I just attended worth the time and money spent is an action plan that lists the most important things I learned, outlines the steps it will take to put them to work, and reserves a spot on the calendar for each of them.

Here’s why I took the time to make that plan. Theoretically, there are no negative consequences if you put off a “gain” task. Your life and your business will stay the same. The same stress. The same income. The same feelings of burnout that come from working hard and not moving forward. And what happens to your business when your competitors are improving and you’re standing still?

“If management is maintenance, then leadership is improvement – moving things forward from where they are today and making them better,” comments McClatchy.

When you look at it that way, it’s clear. None of us can afford to put off gain any longer. It’s time for leadership.

Liz Walz is director of education for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. To learn more, visit www.mraa.com or email her at liz@mraa.com.


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