The Most Important Element of Success in Business… and its not Talent or Expertise

A few years ago, I was helping someone with their due diligence when they were contemplating purchasing a company.  He had hired the best attorneys and accountants to review the books and the contracts of the company and the company had proven to be legally and financially sound.   It was fairly certain that the company’s prior success would easily continue under new ownership with little work on the part of the new owner.  It was a good deal.

Two nights before closing, he and I were sitting in a conference room going over last-minute details and he looked sick with worry.   I turned to him and said, “You don’t want to do this do you?”  Before I could get another word out, he nodded, gathered the pile of folders in front of him and as he scurried for the door said, “Nope.  I just don’t have the guts for this.”

He had the experience and had certainly done his homework regarding the purchase.  What he didn’t have was guts and the ability to take action.  He had what I call paralysis by analysis.

Action will get you further than talent or expertise and even hard work.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The wrong action can get you in trouble.  But I see people all too often do nothing because they think it won’t get them in trouble.

Doing nothing because of fear is an action.  And its always the wrong action.

Entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff.  You don’t know when you jump if you are going to fly or fall to the ground.  You don’t know if your new product will be a raging success or the biggest flop ever.  I don’t propose you jump off a cliff without putting on a parachute.  You MUST do your due diligence and be prepared – but eventually you need to jump and you will never be totally ready to do so.  I can guarantee you though, that standing on the cliff holding your research in your hand will never allow you to fly.

How Do I Create Goals to Meet MY needs and Not Everyone Else?

Ever feel like you live your life to please your parents, spouse, friends or society? Brianna Bowling interviews Kelly Travis, creator of the She Doesn’t Settle podcast and a health and success coach, as she leads us through steps to live a life that removes excuses and takes action towards YOUR goals.

For those that find value in themselves by being “helpers” in their community, it can be difficult to find a balance between giving and still taking care of ourselves. Kelly recommends evaluating what your core values are to help you decide which activities and goals are important to you. “If you say yes to someone or something else, we are saying no to ourselves. We have to make sense of that and determine if it is worth it. So we have two questions we have to ask ourselves – 1) what am I having to give up in my own life to say yes to this and 2) what am I getting out of this and is it in alignment with where I am trying to go?”

Listen in to get the details on how to avoid the “shiny object syndrome” and the “mean girl” and even practicing “how to say no”.


Recreational Oystering

I spent a recent morning with my husband on the Wicomico River in Southern Maryland (Fun fact… did you know there are TWO Wicomico Rivers in Maryland? The other one is on the Eastern Shore.) Recreational oystering involves using oyster tongs to scrape along the bottom of the river on oyster beds, gathering the oysters, and sorting out the ones large enough for harvest. It is hard, back-breaking work and makes the end result of the tasty, salty oyster even better… of course that is easy for me to say because I am not the one doing the tonging!

An adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day so they are integral to the river’s life. Recreational oystering, by the nature of the difficulty of how the oysters are harvested and by regulation, takes very few oysters from the waters. To help ensure there are oysters for the future, careful measuring and culling of the oysters that still need to grow happens while still out on the boat. Oysters that are too small and empty shells are returned to the water at the oyster bed site so baby oysters, called spat, can grow on the shells.

It takes an oyster 3-5 years to reach regulation size on the oyster bars in the wild.  Farm grown oysters grow even faster, in as little as 2 years since they are suspended in the food and sun rich top layer of the river instead of the dark bottom.

View from the pier as we headed out. Such a beautiful morning – couldn’t tell which was the sky and which was the river. The sun was just coming up through the clouds.
The fog gave the sun an eery look.
Tongs used to gather the oysters
Oyster culling hammer used to measure oysters and break them apart – this one is too small
Cleared culling board after the oysters have been sorted
Can you find the little crab hiding?
Pulling up anchor to head home

Electoral College: Does My Vote Matter?

Michael Maibach (Founder of Center For the Electoral College) recently explained to me the history of the Electoral College and how it works and if our vote really matters when using an electoral college system.

Michael gave a wonderful history of why the electoral college was formed in the first place. The founding fathers wanted to avoid majority tyranny by the U.S. Congress, balance small and large state interests and have an independent President to lead the nation. The electoral college supports those goals.

I thought I understood the electoral college but I learned quite a bit including:

  • the number of electors mirrors the number of senators and congressmen from each state
  • the electors are elected by their individual party and their term lasts just a single election
  • electors do not vote for the President until the Monday after the second Wednesday in December which in 2020 is December 14

This is a video every voter should listen to before the election. There are compelling reasons for the electoral college and our founding fathers used their historical knowledge to create a government and election system that still works to this day.


Core Values of Management – Discipline, Affirmation and Tools

Over the years of owning and managing my companies, I’ve narrowed the core values of management down to three main concepts. These core values apply whether I am managing an individual, a team, a project or my entire company. They are discipline, affirmation and tools. Let me explain…


Discipline comes in many forms. The first and most important is setting the rules for people to work within. Inherently employees want to do a good job and clearly stating WHAT you want gives you the best chance of achieving that goal. I’ve seen too many projects go poorly because the manager at the END of the project expresses what they want and their dismay that their staff did not deduce what they wanted. Clearly stating the end goal gives you the best chance of getting there. In addition, giving the rules of the road makes sure your staff has the best chance of success. For example, if you don’t want them to work overtime to complete a project, they do and then your project’s budget is blown, it’s not your staff’s fault… it’s yours.


Just as important as telling your staff what they should and should not do, is reassuring them that they are in indeed on the right path. People want to hear they are doing a good job and telling them helps ensure they continue to do so. Employee recognition through “pat on the back” type awards, “employee of the month”, and public recognition at employee events are all good ways of making sure your employees know them and the work they are doing are valued. Simply encouraging your managers to tell employees on a regular basis they are doing a good job is even better. Don’t assume they know… tell them.


Give your employees the tools they need to do a good job. You can’t expect them to dig a hole if you haven’t given them a proper shovel. Frequently tools are tangible items like a computer or cell phone. For example, as a software engineering firm, it’s important that employees have up to date computers and software that help them produce quality products fast enough to meet their customers time constraints and budget.

Tools can also be intangible items such as training, proper supervision, or confidence they can do the job. One of the incentives, a company I founded put in place was to have an education reimbursement program. Employees have up to $2500 per year to apply to whatever type of training works for them – books, online tutorials, college credits, conference fees or travel costs to get to training. Training, like many of the tools we provide employees, is essential to them doing a good job and has the added benefit of showing them we believe enough in their abilities to invest in them.

Having all three elements will ensure you have productive employees who stay with your company and feel good about the job they perform.

Angel Investing: What is it and Is it for Me?

Greg Cangialosi from the Baltimore Angels teaches us in this interview about angel investing, who makes a good angel investor and what types of companies make a good angel investment.

Greg explained that angel investing is “early support for entrepreneurs and founders who are executing on a business idea that typically has been proven out to a certain stage. …. Companies have typically have raised friends and family money or have self-funded to this point, and then they go out for seeded angel funding.” Investors can work as individuals, part of a syndicate, or part of a club like the Baltimore Angels.

Angel investing is not for everyone. It can be a risky endeavor. Greg broke it down into three characteristics.

  1. A person not afraid to take risks.
  2. Be an accredited investor. (Want to know what this is? Check out the video below!)
  3. Understand the industry in which you are investing.

The last thing we discussed was what makes a good investment including where the company should be in their maturity and finances.


Rejection – The Kick in the Butt We All Need:

When I was in fifth grade, our class got to try out for the school chorus.  All but three kids were selected.  Yup.  The three not chosen were myself and two boys who didn’t want to be in it anyway.  It stung because I DID want to be in the choir.  How bad could I be that I was the ONLY girl not chosen?  I guess pretty bad.

But what a great kick in the butt it was for me.   In sixth grade, anyone that signed up could be in choir and you can bet I signed up immediately.  I continued to be in choir for seventh and eighth grade and all the way through high school and college.  Eventually, I wasn’t just in the choir because they had to let me in but because I actually could read the notes and sing on key.  I had the exciting opportunity to sing Carmina Burana with a collegiate choir and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.  I never became a great singer but I held my own and to this day I enjoy singing in my church choir.

The moral of the lesson isn’t just that I have a hard head and don’t like to  hear “no” – although that is true too!

That 5th grade choir director’s rejection gave me the motivation to prove her wrong.

One of the biggest blows in my professional career was a proposal I wrote in response to a solicitation that was designed for my company to win – and we lost.  Our company was liked enough by the customer that they wrote a solicitation easy for us to win.  We had the past performance and the expertise to do the job better than anyone else.

We lost because I didn’t know how to write a decent proposal.  The contract was worth more than a million dollars.  It was a big deal I lost and that rejection was the kick in the pants I needed to admit my flaws and get the education I needed to write better proposals.

Rejection is humbling.

And we need it. Some of the best things happened in my personal and business life after rejection.

Short Hike (7) Free Public Domain Cc0 Image

Ever see a forest a few months after a fire?  The regrowth is green and lush and feeds the wildlife much better than before the fire.  The pain of the fire is difficult, like the rejection we receive, but the growth it spurs afterwards is well worth the pain.

Rejection likely occurred because you became complacent or over-estimated your abilities.

So the next time you feel the pain of rejection, remember it is likely the kick in the butt you needed.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End

I recently finished the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Dr. Guwande clearly articulates what I have pondered and then through a compelling and personal narrative, provides concrete solutions. Even if you think you are not interested in end of life issues, you should read this book. Each of us will eventually face the dilemma of quality versus quantity of life — certainly for ourselves, but most likely also for a loved one. Read this now. Before you are in the crisis.

Dr. Guwande’s book is a call to change the medical and caregiving community from a goal of long-term survival to instead long-term well being.

Remember when you first got your driver’s license and your parents had all type of rules about when you could drive and where you could drive and who could drive with you? It was annoying and frustrating. They did it though because they cared and wanted you to live to see adulthood.

Then you became an adult. And some things you did may have been good decisions. You got an education. You didn’t get arrested (or maybe you did… but hopefully you grew up enough that eventually those type of things stopped happening!)

Some things you did though were not the best actions for a long life. Perhaps you smoked. Or drank. Or gasp… drove a car in traffic! You had the right then though to make those decisions. They may not have extended your life but they did make you happy to live that life.

Then slowly as you progressed through life, the people you cared about starting taking away the ability to make those decisions. You may have heard things like, “you can’t have a dog Mom. He may trip you and you might break a hip.” Or “That bourbon is not good for your health Dad.” Slowly, the right to make decisions that affect our quality of life are taken away and that is not necessarily a good thing. Compounding the problem is the lack of education for doctors working with end of life patients. They are taught to extend life, not enhance it and it is difficult for them to discuss end of life issues or suggest hospice or palliative care.

Dr. Guwande strongly advocates that not everyone can be cured but everyone needs comfort, kindness and the chance to have purpose in life. He recommends bringing pets and children into senior living communities to give the residents purpose. He gives specific suggestions on how to talk to the seriously ill. In particular, I love his approach of asking them what their goals are for the rest of their life and what their fears are. You may be surprised by the answers and the answers can help guide how you help the person in those last years or days they have left.

I highly recommend this book.

ASHES TO ART: Finding Joy and Purpose in Adversity

In 2012, Lori Joseph was driving back to her home in Nebraska from Colorado with the devastation of wildfires in her rear view mirror. Lori recalls, “there was smoke in the sky and what I remember is how much the locals were taxed with the burden of trying to move their livestock and help their families and their homes were burning. Some of the firefighters lost their homes while they were fighting the front lines.” The next morning she went for a walk and was struggling with finding a way to help. She was not in a financial position to just write a check so came up with an idea to use charcoal from the fires to create art. Artists throughout the country made art from the charcoal and the auction proceeds were sent to the Poudre Canyon Fire Department.

The concept eventually evolved into a workshop of the same name. Participants use sensory exploration using fire, art and a “dress up” box to explore fear and adversity to find purpose and joy. The “playfulness of the workshop gives people permission to play because we take ourselves so serious as we grow up and we forget that it’s important that we give ourselves recess so that we still go out and play.

Lori said there are three levels of empathy:

  1. The first is to be able to relate to the person or the situation.
  2. The second is that you relate because you had a similar situation
  3. The third is where you feel a call to action

The third level is what Lori hopes participants at her workshop discover.

“When we set our fear aside, that is when we really grow into who we were meant to be.”

We discussed so much more in our interview including Siegfried the Elephant (her giant stuffed elephant who helps at her workshop) and how our connection to the environment helps us connect to one another. Her book, My Embrace, is part of her journey to face her own fears and how she uses nature and service to continue to find positivity and purpose. The back page of her book wraps up her life philosophy well, “Today’s a good day to list all of your accomplishments, big and small. After all, you took baby steps, then ran and leaped and oh yes, you took flight!”


Upcoming Suicide Prevention Learning Series

I need your help! Well as always … God pushes me in directions where I need to go. I never know where my morning “waterside chats” will lead me and today it was to discuss suicide prevention and my lack of understanding on how to help. And so based on feedback … I am going to host a series of learning talks on Facebook Live and YouTube so I can learn and you can learn alongside me. I need your help! Please share this video with those that may want to share their story and help us learn (survivors, families, and professionals). They can speak to me privately or share their story in a live interview… I don’t know where I am going exactly on this but I know its a topic that needs attention and I need to learn more about… come along for the journey!

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