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I Can Give You a Harvard MBA in Three Minutes

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January 1, 1970
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Let's get something straight first - I did not attend Havard University for my MBA. The fact is, I don't event have a college degree. But my first business mentor, John Golde, taught me this, and now I'm teaching you.John Golde was teaching a business management class in a junior college that I was attending. Grunt Style was not even a year old yet, and I was very clueless about business. In his very first class, he looked at all 20 students and stated:

"Every semester, I ask if there are any entrepreneurs in my class that would like to meet with me one on one for business mentorship; hardly anyone takes me up on this offer, but my decades of business experience is yours if you ask for it."

I was the only one who raised my hand. There is no shame in ignorance, as long as you have the will to learn. And so we began to meet once a week for the rest of the semester outside of class.On our second private meeting Mr. Golde stated this to me:

"I'm going to save you a hundred thousand dollars from getting an MBA from Harvard and teach it to you in 3 minutes."

[caption id="attachment_10565" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

The financial cost of an MBA from the top schools is expensive.[/caption]He then proceeded to break it down into a very simple process; just 4 questions. And if you find yourself in a situation and don't know what to do, ask and answer these questions in order.

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What this means: there is a problem in front of you. Write it out, say it out loud, make it clear. People try to go off of memory instead of writing things down - this is a mistake. If you don't want to write it out, more than likely you have some fear of being exposed, or it means that you haven't thought it through. Good writing is clear thought expressed on paper (or via keyboard). The point is that you must clearly understand what the problem is before moving forward.A good example of this from our business: not long ago we were selling out of all of our product. This is a great problem to have. However, we started to have thousands of orders not being shipped out on time. At one point, that number reached nearly 48,000 orders behind. This is a huge problem. So I wrote this down:
  3. "Customers are not happy with our inability to deliver products to them in a quick manner."
  4. This seems almost brainless. Duh. But this is only step one.
  5. What is the solution?
  6. What this means: you identify the remedy to the problem in a way that you can measure. "Ship faster" is not a solution, it's an action. You must describe in a quantifiable way the solution to the problem.A good example of this from our shipping example is what I wrote next:
  7. "We will ship all customer orders within 24 hours from the time of the receipt with a 95% accuracy."
  8. Take a look at that sentence. It's simple, but you can measure it because there are numbers to obtain. "All orders, within 24 hours, 95% accurate". If you can measure it, it can be done.This later morphed into our GS24 program, where we guarantee custom orders to ship within 24 hours or we give you a $25 gift card. From the launch of this GS24 program, we have achieved 99.9% accuracy. Pretty incredible.
  9. Who will do it?
  10. What this means: you will hold someone accountable. You need a name here; it cannot be ambiguous. One name, not a department. Someone will be responsible for the success or failure of this process, and it is your job as a leader to put the right person in place to be successful.A good example of this: I turned to my COO, Tim Jensen, and told him the mission and objective for shipping on time. He looked right back at me and said,
  11. "Consider it done, sir."
  12. He then was responsible for putting the plan in place, which was followed by actions. It is my job as a leader to communicate clear goals and objectives, while ensuring that the right team has the right leaders with the right assets to be successful.
  13. How do you inspect the results?
  14. What this means: you need to know how to know if you've reached success or failure. If you are maneuvering through the wilderness and have a destination, how do you know when you've reached it? In business, this is no different. You need to know how to know when you've reached your desired goals. A favorite quote that a Battalion commander used to say to us while I was in the Army was,
  15. "You can't expect what you don't inspect."
  16. That is, if you didn't check it, don't believe it's done. This is not a matter of trust, this is a matter of ensuring others have the same standard that you do to reach the goals that you set for them. When someone tells me that they finished a project, my first response is,
  17. "Great! Show me."
  18. A good example of this: the weekly reports I get from our Operations Department on the shipping backlog. In a couple months, our team rallied together and crushed the 48,000 orders that were outstanding to zero, and they maintain that next to zero number every single day since. I verify this number by checking the live stream of information displayed in our operations center, and my weekly inspection in our fulfillment department.
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