Tuesday, August 11, 2015 was one of the scariest days of my life. Jorjanne was involved in an horrific car wreck. Thankfully, she had no internal injuries, and she is healing very well. Since the accident, she and I have experienced many emotions. Fortunately, neither of us have been involved in a major accident before. And, the only time either of us has been in the hospital was when Jorjanne gave birth to our children. So, needless to say, I was scared when I arrived on the scene. I was also very nervous about the next steps of her care. I was praying for God’s healing of her body and His wisdom and peace as I helped her. But, when we arrived at the hospital, I was looking one person… my brother.

Eric is an Emergency Physician. Eric is extremely compassionate, fiercely loyal…and (not to brag, but…) the best doctor around.  I joke with others, though, that I don’t ever want to see him at work! One of his concerns as an ER doctor is that one of us is injured. His biggest fear is that he is at work when we arrive. But, as my brother, his presence was the reassurance I needed in knowing that Jorjanne was receiving the best care and that everything was going to be okay.

Within minutes of arriving in the Emergency Room, our other brothers and sisters also showed up meeting every other need like taking care of our boys, praying, and bringing us food.

Fortunately, Jorjanne is recovering remarkably well. After five days in the hospital, she is home now. And, I couldn’t be any more proud to see her healing and to have her home!

Over the past couple of years, I have become a fan of the musical group NeedToBreathe. Their most recent release, Brother, is now my favorite song…ever! You should watch the music video now…and read the lyrics. This song captures my gratitude and love for my biological brother and sisters along with so many more of you brothers and sisters who have prayed, called, texted, visited, and brought us food and flowers. I told a close friend yesterday that we have experienced the love of Jesus through prayers and boiled peanuts this past week! To all of you brothers and sisters…you have been the hands and feet of Jesus, the Body of Christ.

Brothers and Sisters, Thank You!

How to Know What the Next Move Should Be

I just realized that my last blog post was almost 8 months ago! Oh my goodness…where has the time gone?!?! Since I last posted anything here, life has been a blur. For starters, I was elected as Irwin County’s newest County Commissioner. My business has continued to grow, and we recently brought on four new team members. As time continues to fly by faster, my business becomes more complex, and I am asked to make decisions that impact many people, I made a serious investment late last year in my leadership. I hired a coach.

What kind of coach, you ask, did I hire? I hired an executive coach. This person has so many experiences from the business teams she’s led. And, today she works with a large leadership and small business consulting company. Needless to say, she is highly qualified. I’ve worked with tennis coaches before, but I’ve never worked with such a personal type of coach. Much like a tennis coach, my executive coach starts with the fundamentals of my game. The only difference being that my executive coach’s first assignment was reading about and then writing my values and vision instead of hitting ground strokes. My executive coach’s goal is to help me lead my business towards the vision and preferred future she has helped me craft. In the midst of uncertain times, she has helped me chart a course and clearly communicate it with my team. But, the beautiful part of working with my coach is that she has helped me gain perspective and ideas for bringing clarity to my situations.

In his book, Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge, Dr. Henry Cloud makes the argument that leaders, much like any other closed system in the universe, are doomed for disorder without an external input of energy. In fact, leaders need energy and guidance in order to maintain order within themselves. Energy keeps us going, and guidance points us in the right direction. You can find this energy and direction from trusted friends, mentors, and books. I have a couple of close friends who help me navigate personal and business decisions. And, my executive coach is now also providing energy and guidance as I navigate complex business decisions.

My coach is a serious investment. But, the energy and guidance I gain in leading my team far outweigh the costs. If you’ve ever wondered what the next move should be, I highly recommend you work with a coach. You’ll be glad you did.

And, here is a great resource and another super helpful resource.

Question: What is the best quality of your favorite sports coach?

Get To Know Your Neighbors

Now that our muscadine harvest is over, I am busy campaigning in my race for Irwin County’s 4th District Commission Seat. This past weekend, I walked around in Ocilla making introductions and visiting with voters. Earlier in the week, I also drove around one community visiting with constituents. I will be honest, I originally wasn’t looking forward to this part of campaigning. I am not a politician, and I find myself becoming an introvert as I get older. But, I have really enjoyed meeting my neighbors for several reasons:

  1. Many people have amazing stories to share, and my neighbors are truly the salt of the earth. They are what make #ABetterIrwinCounty.
  2. Some of my neighbors have made incredible sacrifices for their family and friends. I met one lady Saturday who raised her 5 nephews after her sister (their mother) suddenly died. She is in her eighties and still occasionally works, too!
  3. Lastly, people take great pride in what they create, raise, and earn. One lady had the most beautiful pepper garden growing right along the walkway to her front door. Another couple raised two children who have started successful businesses and farming operations in Irwin County. As people of #ABetterIrwinCounty, we have many accomplishments to be proud of. I am grateful for this opportunity to see and hear what brings people pride and joy.

As I visit around the eastern side of Irwin County over the next month, I look forward to meeting many more of my neighbors. If you live in Irwin County, I encourage you to get to know your neighbors, too. They have great stories to tell.

They, like I, also believe in #ABetterIrwinCounty.

So, what is something amazing your neighbor has done? Go find out & share it here.

What is #ABetterIrwinCounty

Over the past few weeks and months, I have been posting and sharing pictures and thoughts online with the hashtag #ABetterIrwinCounty. For an explanation of hashtags, click here. For an explanation of #ABetterIrwinCounty, keep reading.

I believe in Irwin County. I was born and raised here. I was educated here. I was also taught to dream here. I believe in our natural resources. I believe in our fields, orchards, and vineyards. I believe in the people of Irwin County. I also believe in what Irwin County could and should be.

A better Irwin County is built on the realization that we are all here for only a short time and should leave things in better shape than when we found them. A better Irwin County is home to healthy farms, healthy industries, and healthy small businesses. A better Irwin County also makes it safe and a pleasure traveling to these places. Lastly, if you live here, a better Irwin County includes you having great relationships with your family, friends, and coworkers.

This belief in a better Irwin County prompted me to run for the 4th District’s County Commissioner’s seat. When I see examples of what makes Irwin County a great place to live and lead my business, I am sharing them online. I’d love to see what you believe makes #ABetterIrwinCounty, too. Please use the hashtag #ABetterIrwinCounty when you share your pictures and thoughts. Also, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see what I believe makes #ABetterIrwinCounty.

One question: What do you believe makes #ABetterIrwinCounty?

Managing by the Numbers

I recently discovered a new way to help lead my company. I wish I had discovered this technique 10 years ago when we started my company, but I thought everything was just intuitive back then. In fact, I probably would have dismissed it as too simple since it involves only basic math I learned in middle school. But, this new technique is helping me see and solve very complex opportunities. It is simply, Managing by the Numbers.

I dismissed accounting (sorry Mr. Pat!) for a long time because I didn’t understand it. How can something based on basic math provide powerful insights? Money comes in, money goes out. What I failed to realize, though, is that while I am on the ground floor spending and receiving money, there is a forest’s worth of activity going on around me. And, I can’t see any trends by spending my time in the forest. By understanding how to use Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss Statements, and Cash Flow Statements, I can zoom out and see the entire forest for the trees in my company. I can use this basic math to understand my company’s trends and opportunities.

In his book, Managing By The Numbers: Understanding and Using Your Company’s Financials, Chuck Kremer, Ron Rizzuto, John Case tell the story of a fictitious office supply company and demonstrate the power of these three statements. The owners purchase the company from previous owners, operate through a couple of years and then start reading their financials. As they learn to use these reports, they recognize trends. They also recognize their greatest opportunities and their greatest weaknesses.

Now that I have a better appreciation for accounting, I am putting this knowledge to work as I lead my company. I have already spotted a few of our largest opportunities and risks. I have also started recognizing how to better motivate my team. I can’t help but wonder what the small business community would look like if each owner had a better understanding of his or her financials. What would our local governments look like if they knew how to use their financial statements? Heck, what would our state and federal governments look like if they also used them? I can’t help but imagine that we would all understand what is profitable and what needs improvement; we would all have money in the bank; we would really plan for the future. Managing By the Numbers is a great way to learn and start using our own financial information. If you own a small business or farm, or if you lead any organization that spends money, pick up a copy of this book now. You, your employees, owners, and constituents will be glad you did. I know I am.

My Favorite Ways to Get Things Done

Have you ever just really loved using something? We guys love our gadgets and tools. And, with Father’s Day this weekend, I thought about my favorites. Next to my Leatherman, my iPhone is, without a doubt, my favorite and most used tool. In particular, I love the apps on my iPhone and especially the ones on my home screen! They help me work and live more productively, so I thought I would share them with you…and, yes, this is a super geeky blog post!

Here are my favorite apps from top to bottom (on the screen):
1. Messages: This is Apple’s messaging app. Honestly, I’ve never tried another messaging app…why get rid of a great thing! I use it regularly to send text messages to friends and team members.
2. Calendar: This is Apple’s calendar app. I’ve tried other calendars, but I really like the new daily and mothly views. This app syncs perfectly with my Google Calenders and even my tasks in Nozbe (more about this later).
3. Google Maps: Google Maps is my go-to app for maps and directions. I recently tried Apple’s default Maps app, but Google Maps has voice guidance directions that are easier to understand, the directions are more precise, and the maps show more detail than Apple Maps.
4. Camera: This is Apple’s Camera app. I really like the way Apple allows the user to switch from video to still shots within the app. And, the picture quality on the iPhone 5 is a great improvement from iPhone 4.
5. FastEver Snap – Camera for Evernote (FE Snap): FE Snap is my camera app for Evernote (more about Evernote later). I take pictures of equipment and other items to remember in Evernote, and I don’t like for these pictures to get mixed into many pictures Jorjanne and I take of our family events. FE Snap is a quick and easy way to take and store pictures into Evernote.
6. Scanbot: Scanbot is the newest addition to my homescreen. This is my iPhone document scanner. What’s even better is that this app also automatically uploads the documents to the cloud (Evernote for me)!
7. Instagram: Instagram is my app of choice for sharing personal pictures to my social media channels. I love the filters, too!
8. Cobook: Cobook is my social address book. I already store friends’ and colleagues’ contact information in my Google account, but Cobook connects their information with their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). How cool is that?!
9. Calculator: As if I wasn’t geeky enough for writing a post about iPhone apps in a blog post, I included the Calculator app in the post! But seriously, I’ve tried other apps, and I like the simplicity and ease of use of Apple’s app.
10. Podcasts: I LOVE listening to podcasts! They help grow my faith, leadership skills. and knowledge of cool new apps to help me be more productive. Apple’s Podcast app is the easiest and best way to do this.
11. Audible: I love to read, and Audible is the best way to listen to books in the car and when I’m running.
12. Dropbox: Dropbox is my server in the sky. I share files at work with my team, and I store my personal files in Dropbox, too… all accessible on any device.
13. Buffer: Buffer is the service I use to schedule my social media posts. I scheduled this blog post’s announcement with Buffer. And, Buffer allows you to post to multiple social media sites using predetermined schedules!
14. Hootsuite: Hootsuite is social media’s version of drinking from a fire hydrant! Hootsuite allows you to connect to all of your accounts with one app. And, you can view it all on one screen. Talk about catching up in a hurry!
15. Feedly: Feedly is the way I follow, organize, and read other blogs. Much like podcasts, I read blog posts that help grow my faith, my leadership skills, and knowledge of cool new apps to help me be more productive.
16. Lift: Adam Suter and I stay accountable to each other with Lift. We each have a goal of getting up early to conquer the world. But, when no one else knows about my goals, it’s easy to just sleep in. This app allows us track our progress and cheer each other on as we create great habits.
17. Safari: Safari is Apple’s web browser. I’ve tried other browsers, but I really enjoy the features Safari offers such as syncing bookmarks and browser history between all of my Apple devices.
18. Drafts: Drafts is the way I write down quick notes that also sync with Evernote. I open up the app and start typing. I don’t have to create a new note. The app just opens up with a blank page…very handy for conversation or meeting notes!
19. Mint: Mint is my personal finance app. Mint is produced by the same folks who make QuickBooks, Intuit. They really know how to make functional and easy-to-use financial software. Mint is easy to use and it syncs with my all of accounts.
20. Converter+: When your day is filled with converting tanks of muscadine juice to bottles and performing various other mathematical conversions, Converter+ takes care of every unit. Super geeky and easy to use!
21. Phone: Apple’s Phone app is the easiest way to make and receive my calls. The apps syncs up with Google’s contacts. And, the built-in voice mail system helps me keep track of missed calls without an extra app or service.
22. Mail: Mail is Apple’s default email app. I’ve tried using other apps, but I keep coming back to the basics. Email addresses sync with my Google contacts. And, I never miss an incoming message. One of the few features to improve is the app’s search function. I just use Google’s Gmail app to search for old emails as a work around.
23. Nozbe: Nozbe keeps me on task. I’ve tried other task managers. But, no other app or service syncs across my devices and with team mates, Google Calendar (yes, Nozbe tasks will sync with Google Calendar to show tasks on their due dates on the Calendar!), and with Evernote (notes from Evernote can sync with tasks) like Nozbe. This is the way to really Get Things Done!
24. Evernote: The app of all apps! Evernote is my digital brain. I scan documents into Evernote. I take pictures of cool ideas. I write down notes for later reference. I write down tasks within my notes and sync into Nozbe. Seriously, if I want to remember something, I store it in Evernote. In fact, Evernote is a blog post all on its own.

So, these are my most useful tools & apps. I hope one of these sparked an idea to try something new and become more productive. These apps help me throughout the day. I’m sure they can help you, too.

Question: What are your favorite apps? What helps you get things done? Please leave a comment below.

Lessons from Walt Disney

My family and I went on a five day vacation to Disney World last week. We had a blast on a truly magical trip! We went to every park and rode every single ride that the boys were old enough to ride, and we were thoroughly exhausted when we got back. My favorite attraction of the trip is called Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. This multimedia gallery exhibit showcases artifacts from Walt Disney’s life like his 2nd grade desk, various cartoon sketches, and early Disney toys and memorabilia. The attraction ends with a 15-minute video of Walt Disney recounting his lifelong story. Today, the Walt Disney Company is a fascinating company, and I (along with others in my family) am truly inspired by the movies they produce and the experiences they provide within their theme parks.

While walking through the attraction, I learned several lessons from Walt Disney’s life:
1. Disney combined curiosity and courage to fuel his career. I especially love this quote: “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage.”
2. Disney aimed to accomplish one goal – “entertain people, in bringing pleasure, particularly through laughter.” When people truly enjoy the experience you offer, they will become fans, become customers for life, and bring their friends.
3. Disney viewed his full-length animated movies as nothing really unique, even though Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first movie of its kind. He viewed them as a unique business opportunity to combine movies and cartoons to entertain people. Other people made movies. Other people made cartoons. But, no one had ever put the two together. And, he applied the same thought process to his attractions. After visiting a carnival with his daughter, he saw the opportuntiy to launch an amusement park like none other – one that adults enjoyed visiting with their children.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend 5 magical days with my family. I am also grateful for Walt Disney’s influence on our culture and my life. His curiosity, attention to detail, sense of humor, and ability to combine profitable business opportunities offer many lessons. Maybe these 3 lessons will inspire you keep moving forward (which is a line from my favorite Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons)!

Question: What is your favorite Disney movie? Leave a comment below.

Gratitude on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I am grateful. Jorjanne and I celebrate 13 years of marriage today. She is the most amazing woman… more beautiful, smarter, loving, and fun than I ever deserved to marry. Most every guy I’ve ever met marries up. I am definitely no exception!

I am also very grateful for the influence of four verterans. These men have made great impacts in my life and I am eternally grateful.

My grandfather, Jacob W. Paulk, Sr., served in the Air Force during the Korean War. The picture above depicts his character. I’ve had the privelege of growing up with him and now working with him for 11 years. He loves his family and is willing to make sacrifices to help make this a better world.

My father-in-law, William D. Zorn, Sr., served in the Navy. He has taught me to be proud of my heritage and learn from those who helped make my hometown the unique place it is today.

My best friend, Matt. He serves in the Navy and has taught me how to lead. No matter the type of organization, the same principles apply. And, he has taught me to relentlessly pursue excellence.

My mom’s first cousin, Joe Dexter Flynn, served during Vietnam. He recently battled the same type of brain tumor that my maternal grandmother battled 19 years ago, and his funeral is today. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting his family in Alabama and playing with our cousins, Brock and Ashley. He, like my grandmother, has received his eternal reward in Heaven, and my prayers are with his family during this time.

I have many other friends and family who have served in the military. I am grateful for your service to our country and your influences in my life. You are to be honored.

Question: Who would you like to thank? Please leave a comment below.

Why Most Business Owners are not Entrepreneurs and What I’m Doing About It

The following is a repost from my previous blog…enjoy!
Have you ever discovered something that changed the way you approach each and every day? I recently discovered a book, and I want to share my discovery with you in hopes that it can help you as much as this book is helping me and my company.

The book is The E-Myth Revisited. Written in 1995, Michael Gerber outlines a way of operating a small business that sets you up for success today and success for your business long after you are gone…and you will be gone one day. The book starts with the idea that most businesses are the result of an “Entrepreunerial Seizure.” The owner is usually a great Technician…a great accountant, chef, mechanic, farmer, etc. During the course of his seizure, the Technician decides to start his own business. “Instead of cooking food for someone else, why don’t I open my own restuarant?” And so, the business begins.

What he doesn’t realize, however, is that two other personalities must also come to life in order for this new venture to succeed. A Manager who is responsible for payroll, paying bills, and ordering next week’s ingredients. And, the Entrepreuner who is responsible for charting the business’s future course. We each have different personalities, but most founders are Technicians – NOT Entrepreuners.

My greatest take away from this book, though, is the idea that “the true product of a business is the business itself.” By applying this concept, I begin working ON my business, not just IN my business. I create systems for every aspect of the business as if I were going to create 1,000 businesses just like the one I arrive at every day by using a Business Development Process of Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration. If you wold like to learn more about the book, here is a detailed summary.

So, what does all this mean for Muscadine Products Corporation?

To begin building on our mission of Delivering Health and Hope, I need to create our organizational chart, create job descriptions for each position in the chart, and then create written procedures for every process to ensure that all responsibilities are quantified and orchestrated as we have designed. Within this one sentence lies countless hours of work. But, I know that they are hours invested working ON my business, not just IN my business. In the end, though, we will have a strong company that can operate without me and succeed for generations to come.

If you lead a team, run a small business, or farm please pick up a copy of this classic book.

One quick question: Are you more of a Technician, Manager, or Entrepreuner? I’m definitely a Technician.

I’d love to hear from you.

Four Life Lessons I Learned From Little League Baseball

I am Seth’s little league baseball team’s coach this spring…well, actually I am the assistant-to-the-assistant coach! When we signed up to play, I told my friend who is the head coach that IF our sons were on the same team; and IF he was asked to coach; and IF he needed help coaching, I would help him coach. Later, when he called me to help coach, I couldn’t help but laugh because my baseball career ended in the 2nd grade. I didn’t enjoy the sport, and I especially didn’t enjoy playing the game. My teammates always played the positions I wanted. And, the 20 extra coaches in the stands telling me what to do when I thought I only had two coaches on the field drove me crazy! I felt like I was in a pressure cooker with everyone staring and yelling at me – “Swing the bat (why would I NOT swing the bat?)! ”Watch the ball (what else would I look at?)! “Throw the ball in (where else would I throw it?)!” So, I traded in my bat and glove for a tennis racquet and didn’t look back. No teammates. No obnoxious fans. And, the point of the game is easy, right? Be the last person to hit the ball into the court?!

After serving as the assistant-to-the-assistant little league baseball coach for most of one season, I can honestly say I love this sport! Seth has a blast, and I have a blast. Here are four life lessons I have learned that changed my opinion of little league baseball:

  1. Coaches can make a positive influence in a child’s life. Heck, they can change a kid’s life! I’ve seen this through my friend as he builds self-confidence into each player.
  2. Coaches have a unique opportunity to serve each family that no one else on or off the field can do. If you serve my child, you have my attention. I’ve seen my friend serve an entire family by helping meet the need of one player.
  3. Seth is learning about humility by sitting out of the game so that others can also play. I remember riding the bench as a kid, and I hated it. I thought it was like being sent to timeout for a crime I didn’t even know about! We’ve been talking about humility at church this month and defined it as “putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve.” Humility is a tough virtue to learn early in life, but it is critically needed as leader later in life.
  4. Seth is also learning to see the big picture beyond his chance at bat. We play some talented teams who can field the ball really well. If he hits a ground ball to the infield, he is most likely thrown out at first base. But, many times he advances a runner one base…possibly even driving home a runner. So, while Seth doesn’t always get on base, he helps his team score. Getting thrown out at first is no fun, but helping win the game makes a bigger difference.

I am still a tennis player at heart. I don’t own a pair of cleats. I had to borrow a glove. But, I treasure the times spent throwing with and pitching to Seth and his friends. I also enjoy watching him play and enjoy life. I also love learning life lessons along the way with him. Maybe these lessons can help you the next time you are on a team. And, if you have the chance to help coach a little league team, do it! This assistant-to-the-assistant coach sure is glad he signed up to help!

Question: What have you learned from little league sports? I look forward to hearing from you!