Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" by Robert Gates

CloserQ readers, I typically review business books, however, I wanted to share my positive feedback on "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" by Robert Gates.  As usual, I listened to on Audible vs. actually reading.  The reason I chose, "Duty" is that I am a mini-political junky, and I was fascinated to get Secretary Gates thoughts on working for Presidents Bush Obama.  

Secretary Gates is both strikingly candid and fair, in his vivid accounts of being Secretary of Defense during two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and under two Presidents.  

Gates shares the challenges, frustrations, complexities, politics, and accomplishments of managing the two wars under two different administrations.

Gates planned on leaving Washington politics behind, after working for six presidents over thirty years in both the CIA and the National Security Council, when he became president of Texas A&M University. But when he was asked to succeed Secretary Rumsfeld, even though he loved being a College President, he felt it was this 'Duty' to accept the position.

I may of picked 'Duty' to learn get this thoughts on Presidents Obama and Bush, however, I enjoyed so many aspects of Gates autobiography too: from dealing with Washington Politics; to managing the Department of Defense with literally 1,000,000+ service man / woman and contractors; to putting together a half a trillion dollar budget; to the egos of the generals, admirals and joint chiefs; to meeting with foreign dignitaries; to the planning and killing of Osama Bin Laden; repealing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'; to dealing with the press; the Pentagon procurement challenges; the cultures of different branches of the military; and the politics.

Secretary Gates is very balanced in his personal thoughts on Bush / Obama, and I believe he is ultimately positive on his feedback on both of them. 

Good Reading / Listening!

Reader Feedback, please click the ‘comments’ below to give your feedback on "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" by Robert Gates.  Shaun Priest aka CloserQ. Have fantastic day.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Father's Advice to Teenagers, "The 3 B's"

CloserQ readers, my two kids, a junior in high school and an eighth grader in middle school, left this week for Spring Break.  Each of them are traveling separately with other families to Destin, FL.  I wanted to share my simple advice of the 3 B's to them:

  • Be Nice
  • Be a Leader
  • Be Inclusive

Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: "The Ultimate Question 2.0" by Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey

For the CloserQ readers looking to increase sales by increasing client satisfaction, I recommend, "The Ultimate Question 2.0: How NET PROMOTER Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World", Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey.  I recently listened to the book, via Audible, after a CEO recommended to me.

The book titles refers to the one and only ‘survey’ question you need to ask your clients on how you are doing as a company:  “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?” The question gets right to the heart about how the client really feels about you, which is, have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty.   

Why is the book being reviewed on a sales blog?  A time tested method to grow sales is to have referenceable and loyal clients, and this book offers simply, concrete, and executable plans to increase your number of loyal clients. 

How does it works?  The survey categorize results of your customers into one of three buckets (iPromoters, Passives, an Detractors) when answering the Ultimate Question.  With regard to the scores themselves, Promoters are those who provide a rating of 9 or 10; Passives 7 or 8; and Detractors 6 or less.  Promoters are those clients who have the highest rates of repurchases and referral,s and will be advocates for your business; Passives are satisfied Clients that stay with a your company more due to inertia than true loyalty and will move for a better deal; and Detractors are clients who spread negative word-of-mouth comments about the company which negatively impacts your company’s reputation, ability to attract new Clients and have positive employee morale. Your NetPromoater System (NPS) Score is simply the % of Promoters of all responders minus the % of Detractor of all responders.

So how do you rank?  The average Net Promoter Score across over 400 companies in 28 industries is just 16%.  Top consumer companies are Harley Davidson (81%), Amazon (73%), and Apple (66%).  Top performers Tech Vendors there have an NPS of 50% with Intel (53%) and IBM (50%). 

If you choose to implement an NPS strategy, I recommend using Survey Monkey, which even has a NPS template that you can use for you NPS Survey.  

Good Reading / Listening!
Reader Feedback, please click the ‘comments’ below to give your feedback on ' The Ultimate Question 2.0: How NET PROMOTER Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World '. Shaun Priest aka CloserQ. Have fantastic day.

Lastly, below is a presentation that I recently gave on NetPromoter.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Grandfather's Advice, 'Stay Clean'

CloserQ readers, this weekend, I told a friend, simply and profound advice from my grandfather, Harold L. Priest Sr., that I wanted to share with you:
  • Keep your NAME Clean
  • Keep your WORD Clean
  • Keep your CREDIT Clean
  • Keep your YARD Clean

That is my grandfather, a postman, in the picture with my Uncles Denny and Linwood.  I guess the picture was taken around 1965.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sales Reading Recommendations for a Newer Sales Person

My cousin Alex is a couple years out of college and just took his first direct sales position.  I wanted to share my email exchange with Alex, see below.  Note, that just asking for advice shows his desire to learn and be a better sales person:


Sorry for the slow response, I was traveling this week.  Great to hear from you and great to see your mom.  Glad to hear you are enjoying Milwaukee too.

My favorite sales books in order: 

Let me know if you get to Atlanta.   


-----Original Message-----
From: Alex W.

Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 7:45 AM
To: Shaun Priest
Subject: Sales books

Just bought marketing warfare off amazon. I'll let you know what I think. What are your top 3 or so favorite sales books?

My mom sent me your blog. Good stuff! You still updating it?

Job out in Milwaukee is going really well. I have been out here since the beginning of aug and 'go live' nov 1st. It's exactly what I am looking for, saas/ solution selling, full cycle sales, working against a monthly/qtr/annual budget,, all that good stuff.

 Everything good in GA? Madison a junior? Ha college right around the corner or what? What city you and Carson watching the pats in this year? My mom said she saw you the other day and like she always says after she sees you, "it was so nice seeing him, he's such a good guy!"

 Sent from my iPhone

'Good Reading'. CloserQ Reader Feedback, please click the comments below to give additional recommendations and I want your feedback on my response. Shaun Priest aka CloserQ

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: 'The One Minute Manager' by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

I was recently asked what is my favorite book for a new manager.  I responded with  my favorite book for all managers, 'The One Minute Manager' by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.   The genius in 'The One Minute Manager' is that the book is both simple and counterintuitive.  I believe that many managers both new and seasoned, make mistakes, where they believe they are helping their employee but in reality are hurting, 'The One Minute Manager',  offers easy and positive habits for all managers. 

There are three components to being a 'One Minute Manager', below is a high-level overview and I strongly recommend reading the book:

One Minute Goal Setting:
It sounds simple, but many employees have no idea, what their managers want and expect from them.  One Minute Managers begin by having their people write out their goals in 250 words or less and focus on positive actions. Again, keep the goals simply and trust the employee to meet their goals vs. a 30 page document with details at a task level.  The One Minute Manager encourages employees to revisit their goals weekly and reviews the goals periodically with them to determine the need to be adjust, as the employee grows in his or her role.  The mistake many mangers make, is assuming their employees know exactly what they expect from them, including new and transferred employees.

One Minute Praising's:
One Minute Managers catch people doing things right or approximately right. As soon as the One Minute Manager observes the positive behavior, they tell the person what they specifically did right and how this positive action makes him or her feel, reinforcing the praising.  The mistake many mangers make is 'Leave alone zap', only communicating with employees, especially great employees, when they make a mistake.  Unfortunately, what happens is that good employees who are doing most things right, only receive negative feedback.

One Minute Reprimands:
One Minute Mangers use reprimands to correct and redirect behavior. When the One Minute Manager observes someone doing something negative, he or she will tell them specifically and immediately, what they are doing incorrectly as an action, never reprimanding them as a person. He or she will also tell them how it makes them feel, and then redirect them back to the One Minute Goals and encouraging the person to do better by focusing on correcting their behavior in the future and letting them know that they can do it. The mistake many mangers make is the 'Reprimand' sandwich, where they say a positive, then a negative, then a positive.  This is completely wrong, because when you give a compliment, the employee then expects a negative, and you ruin, One Minute Praising's.

I try to be a 'One Minute Manager' and writing this posts reminds me that I need to be a better job of 'One Minute Goal Setting' with my direct reports.  I have weekly calls with management team, however, I only formal 'One Minute Goal Setting' annually, however, I need to do on a more regular basis.

Below is a link on
Good Reading / Listening!

Reader Feedback, please click the ‘comments’ below to give your feedback on 'The One Minute'.
Shaun Priest aka CloserQ. Have fantastic day.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

13 for 35 Hour Ocoee River / High Country Adventure

At 7:30am, on Sunday, June 30th, 7 thirteen year old boys (one my son), 2 sixteen year olds (one my daughter), 3 moms (one my wife), and 1 dad (yes, that's me); met in The Walker School parking lot and we jammed the 13 of us and our luggage into a SUV and mini-van, then we headed north two hours to the Georgia / Tennessee boarder, where we met our High Country guides, Frank and Lacey at a local Wendy's to start our adventure.

Caving was the first event in our journey.  Because of the advance notice that caving was muddy, the mothers passed on caving and headed into Chattanooga for lunch.  The ten of us going caving piled into the dirty and well-used High Country passenger van for the very short drive to 'Howard's Cave', and drove a half-mile from Wendy's to the cave.  
What is amazing is that 'Howard's Cave' is less than 30 yards from the road.  Our caving adventure was like being on another planet, and in just over two hours, we covered five plus miles underground.  The boys were both fast and enthusiastic, and Madison easily stayed with them.  I got very winded just keeping up with the energetic boys in the cave. 
This was my first time caving.  ‘Howard’s Cave’ starts at the mouth of a dry creek bed, and you wouldn't know it was a cave if you were standing right in front of it.   You start by crawling on your hands and knees on the dry and rocky creek bed for about 50 yards to enter the cave.  Once in the cave, the temperature is 59 degrees all year round, and has a muddy floor covered by a damp thick clay.   The experience was surreal for me because there is no wind, no sound, and no light.  At one point, we all shut off our headlamps and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. 
The boys LOVED the cave, crawling under, over, and threw the tunnels.  Our guide, Frank was fantastic, and he led the boys into each nook and cranny.  Frank tried to educated the boys that stalactites (hang tight to the ceiling) and stalagmites (might make it to the ceiling) are living organisms but the boys were just too excited to listen.  Lacey was the 'sweeper' hanging back with my daughter and I.  One really fun part for the boys was the section called the 'Meat Grinder', where climb down one hole in the cave and then back up another hole.  Madison and I were able to skip that secion and see Carson's tight fit in the picture.
Please note for my adventurous readers, a guide is necessary for multiple reasons: including gear, you definitely need a helmet as I demonstrated by banging my helmet against the cave walls and ceilings too many times to count; you need a headlamp not a flash light because you on your hands and knees to get through many sections of the cave; without an experienced guide, you can very easily get lost and the cave looks and feels very different when crawling into and out of the same tunnel; and lastly there are some deep holes in the cave, and our guides strategically assisted us through these treacherous sections.
Caving was fantastic, see our muddy and smiling faces.
After the cave, we piled into the van(now I understand why the van is so dirty) and headed into Chattanooga to find the mothers, then onto the High County campground in Ocoee, TN.  After settling into our cabin, we put on our bathing suits and we headed to the pavilion for dinner.  Kathy, our leader and scheduler, knew that we would be hungry after caving, so she catered dinner from the Whitewater Grill.  The restaurant owner and his 6 year old son, Jeremiah,  served us a bounty of fried chicken, potato salad, summer squash, break, mac & cheese, and tea (both sweet and unsweet).  As we were packing up I innocently asked Jeremiah if he had any brothers and sisters, when to my surprise he said SIXTEEN.  I had to ask the dad if some were adopted, to which he said no, same mom, and that it helps to have seventeen kids to run a restaurant. 
After dinner, we piled back into the passenger van, now with a trailer of ten flat water kayaks to kayak on Lake Ocoee.  Our kayaking guides were Ben and Benji.  Ben is an expert whitewater kayaker and showed us an eskimo roll in his kayaking by flipping over and back effortlessly. 
The mothers joined us for the kayaking phase of our adventure.  We piled into single and double kayaks to paddle around the lake.  We paddled across the lake to where the boys had the most fun, a local rope swing.  Of the parents, Kathy went off the rope swing, not once but twice.


After racing back across the lake, we loaded 
back into the van to head back to our campsite for smores.  As expected the boys had a blast running around, making smores, letting their marsh mellows catch fire, putting a fake snake on me, and Remy wore his morphsuit,  and we were somehow able get all of them into their beds and sleeping bags by 11pm.  Most were still chatting but I was so exhausted, mostly from the caving, that I fell easily asleep.

At 8am on Monday morning, we had a quick breakfast, sang Happy 14th Birthday to Varun, then headed back down the pavilion for a crash course in whitewater rafting.  There were 9 rafts, 45 raftees, 9 rafting guides, 2 guide trainees, and 1 bus driver.  Frank our caving guide, was the leader of our whitewater expedition.  The pavilion has a raft on land, and Frank walked us through safety steps of rafting.  Somehow Frank was both serious and funny, as he explained the dangers of falling into the water, and the dangers of hitting another passenger with your paddle.  After Frank's safety review, we all piled into our hunter green painted school bus with the 9 green rafts strapped to the top.
As our bus pulled into the parking lot at the Ocoee Dam #2, it looked like a movie scene with all the different colored school buses with similar painted rafts, and people everywhere.  One of the guides said there are 24 different rafting companies with permits to run the Ocoee, the guide then pointed to park ranger at the top of the dam, who schedule the raft departures. 
There were thirteen people in our group and split into three different rafts.  In my raft was Christine, Madison, Sammy, myself, and our guide Benji.  What was very funny to me is that during flat water kayaking, it was hard to get two words out of Benji, and I assumed he was a quiet introvert; but when he was whitewater rafting he was so excited, he wouldn't stop talking, and a total extrovert.  I guess is that for a whitewater guide, flat water kayaking is just boring.
My favorite adventure by far was whitewater rafting the Ocoee River.  Seventeen summers earlier, my dad, brother, and family friends went on my first and only other white rafting trip down the Kennebec River in Maine.  The Middle Ocoee River offers the most continuous stretch of Class three and four rapids in the country. Tumbling through a spectacular scenic gorge in the Cherokee National Forest, the Middle Ocoee plunges 269 feet over five miles, where paddlers must maneuver around treacherous boulders, crashing waves and multiple drops over steep ledges.
Benji was a fantastic guide explaining each section of the river, and previewing how he was planning to take us through each rapid.  We successfully navigated each and every rapid, even doing 360 degree circles through one of the smaller rapids.  Benji is an expert rafting guide and at one point another raft on our High Country group got stuck on a rock, and Benji rammed our raft into theirs and freed them off the rock.  In another section Benji jumped off our raft onto a large rock sticking out of the river, ran up the rock, dove into the water and swam back to our raft.  In one section, Sammy and I jumped out of the raft to float down the river.  When  Madison tried to help Sammy back into the raft, he pulled her into the frigid water.

During one particular fierce set of rapids a person in another raft in our group fell out of the raft going through a rapid, and Benji steered our boat over to help the raftee out of the water.  In my enthusiasm to help, I accidentally hit Christine with my paddle when I reached into the water to help too. Fortunately for me Christine wasn't hurt.

  More good news, no one fell out of our raft, nor in our group of thirteen.
After successfully navigating the Middle Ocoee, we rapidly packed up the rafts and piled onto the school bus to head back to High County.  We then packed up our cabin, rejammed the 13 of us and our gear into one mini-van and one SUV, and headed back to  the Walker  School  in Marietta.  The Priests were back in our house by 6:30pm to complete our 35 hours journey. 
Ocoee  River Expeditioners:
8th Graders:
1. Andrew
2. Braden
3. Carson (my son)
4. Ewan
5. Hunter
6. Remy
7. Varun
11th Graders:
8. Madison (my daughter)
9. Sammy
10. Christine (my wife)
11. Kathy
12. Leanne
13. Shaun (me)
One huge advantage of a 35 hour adventure, is that there was no drama with any of the teenagers nor adults. 

   A special thanks to Kathy Bowden, who put together the whole trip.