Monday
Apr252011

Fanaticism Equals Success!

Creating An Extraordinary Company

 

By John T. Hewitt

Founder & CEO of Liberty Tax Service

 

[Fifth in a series of articles on managerial and company building successes by John Hewitt.]

 

 

Have you ever heard of a successful company with so/so passion? Have you ever heard of a successful leader with mediocre ambitions? How about an athlete that’s ambivalent about winning? Of course not! It takes a true “zealot” to be a winner and a real “fanatic” to build a successful company. Fanaticism is the contagion that all successful leaders should have in order to nurture “fanatical” employees, and in my case, franchisees as well. Success can only be accomplished by a group force moving in synch with an ideal; and at Liberty Tax Service, our fanatical ideal has always been to be extraordinary!

 

While we typically hear the word “fanatic” often used in a negative sense, as in utilizing unreasonable efforts to achieve a goal, a fanatic is essentially a person whose enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme or beyond normal limits. Take Guy Kawasaki, for instance. It was his zeal for the Apple product line that created the concept of “evangelization” as a strategic tool for success. Does anyone really think for a moment that Guy was not fanatical about Apple’s product line when he was their chief evangelist?  True visionaries live to be phenomenal and to create incredible products and services – nothing less is acceptable. As I shared in a previous article, transforming your business from mediocre success to extraordinary requires the support of your internal intelligence, i.e. your staff and team. So, the first step for any business with goals to succeed beyond the normal boundaries is to follow some fairly basic rules of thumb to build your team of fanatics.

 

First and foremost, successful companies listen to their customers, and yes, their employees as well. Often, business leaders and companies think they know what their clients want, think they know how to satisfy their client’s needs, and think they know how to keep their clients happy and committed to their service. Likewise, corporations often think they know what motivates their employees (and franchisees), think they are doing what is required to keep them motivated, and think they are creating a cohesive force committed to the company’s success.  Why is it then that so many of their clients and employees are not out evangelizing about the excellence of their experience with the company? Very simply, there is a tremendous difference between hearing someone, and listening to them. Listening requires that we be completely open with disengaged defensive mechanisms, and that we truly absorb the information as realistic and pertinent – not just as an afterthought of being polite. That said, in order to know what your clients and employees need and expect, and how best to satisfy those requirements to achieve evangelical heights, there is no other way than to listen and heed their messages. If one of my staff members or franchisees is going to take the time to share their needs, suggestions and expectations, it is incumbent on me and the entire Liberty Tax team to listen to their constructive inputs and try to understand how they can be incorporated to provide change and improve our service. Naturally, all companies will experience the 80/20 rule where you will likely have 20% of your customers or staff providing 80% of your company’s negativity and complaints. For this reason, I always focus on the terminology “constructive” when I speak to the need for suggestion-driven action. By “constructive” I don’t necessarily mean that the suggestion might always present the best approach. It should, however, be delivered with the sincerity of truly wanting to help make a difference in a positive way. I have learned through the years that staff and franchisees who are truly successful and think in terms of excellence, rarely have time to complain. However, they do take the time to provide advice and constructive ideas that have helped my companies, Jackson-Hewitt in my previous life and now Liberty Tax Service, reach the heights of success we have enjoyed through the years. As a matter of fact, it is because of our internal and external fanaticism to become the most extraordinary tax service in the “universe” that Liberty has enjoyed the singular distinction of being the fastest growing tax company in the industry’s history!

 

In a recent article [Transforming From Within ~ A Simple Survival Guide], I emphasized that a savvy leader acknowledges that corporate culture and stakeholder involvement is paramount to achieving successful organizational transformation, which in turn, will provide exceptional results. That’s why, it is equally important that your internal intelligence also be zealots in order to continue the tsunami of positivity a company must possess in order to be worthy of being evangelized by its clients. What good does it do a client or staff member to offer constructive inputs, or complete quality service surveys if all of these efforts are only going to ultimately fill your paper shredders? Soliciting inputs is simply not your silver bullet to becoming an extraordinary company – there’s a follow-up piece that must be introduced. That’s why the second most important focus for any successful leader who wants to build a company of success-driven fanatics should be on affecting change for improvement based on the constructive inputs received. This fact cannot be iterated too often. A successful leader must be able to respond to improvement opportunities with expediency, and typically, he/she will receive these opportunities directly from their customers and/or internal stakeholders. 

 

Sometimes, affecting expedient change means you have to throw out the rule book. Do not mistake this statement to mean you should be in constant reactive mode with no control mechanisms in place. What it does mean is that successful leaders are always in “response mode” so they can quickly embrace bold ideas before the competition even realizes they exist. Fanatical leaders lead from the forefront. Fanatical leaders are always aware of the risks and are capable of inspiring their teams to move forward in unison and with confidence. And finally, fanatical leaders only promote things great things! For this reason, communication is the third most important focus for a successful leader. After all, if you are unequivocally committed to being extraordinary, you must communicate this message effectively and continuously so that your team(s) will be able to follow in synch. Best of all, they will draw others who are equally committed to the ideal. As I’ve shared before, building a strong and successful company depends on the strength and enthusiasm of its leadership and internal intelligence. In my case, zealot employees and franchisees have brought other like-minded additions to the mix. And together, Liberty continues to break industry records year after year.

 

So, once you’ve listened to your clients and staff, and decided on a plan of action, let them all know what you’re doing and, most importantly, why. Then, don’t forget to communicate the results. You can’t build zealots if they don’t have the tools to thrive – and communication is one of the most vital tools in your arsenal for success.

 

Establishing your objectives and “walking the talk” will always be a requirement if you are serious about building a company that is fanatical about success and service. The reality is that if you expect less than exceptional performance from yourself or your staff, you are assured to receive exactly that. To build your fanatical team, you must have a clear vision of what is expected and you must share it publicly.

 

Just as Apple wanted to “change the world with breakthrough technologies”, fanatical leaders and their companies must have equally lofty goals. Besides affirming to be the #1 tax company in the universe, we created a very simple Mission Statement that is Liberty’s mantra: SET THE STANDARD! IMPROVE EACH DAY! HAVE SOME FUN! … and we are fanatical about this commitment!

 

About John Hewitt

John T. Hewitt is a pioneer in the Tax industry with over 42 years devoted to its success. He is the founder of two franchise service companies that Entrepreneur magazine has ranked in the top 20 of their Franchise 500 and also listed in Inc. 500 top privately-held companies. He is also the only CEO in the tax industry history who has made the Top 100 List for most influential people while heading two different companies, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service and Liberty Tax Service. Accounting Today has named Mr. Hewitt one of the Top 100 most influential persons in the tax industry time after time (minimum of 10). 

 

After a highly successful sale of Jackson Hewitt (NYSE: JTX), Mr. Hewitt started Liberty Tax Service in 1997. Under his leadership, Liberty Tax Service has reached unmatched success in the industry and has been recognized as the fastest growing retail tax preparation company in the industry’s history, continuing to succeed at the level of the sum of both of its competitor’s business.  In January 2011, Entrepreneur magazine ranked Liberty Tax Service as #1 of the tax franchises on the Entrepreneur “Franchise 500.” Additionally, Liberty Tax Service is the only tax franchise on the Forbes “Top 20 Franchises to Start.

 

With 3,800 offices in the U.S. and Canada, Liberty Tax Service has embraced diversity in its ranks, and kept its franchise price affordable. For this reason, Liberty Tax Service is the only tax service that was included on the elite list of “25 Top Franchises for Hispanics” in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 published by Poder, formerly Hispanic Enterprise magazine. Liberty was also been recognized in 2009 and 2010 as the “Best of the Best” in Black EOE Journal, the Hispanic Network Magazine, and the Professional Woman’s Magazine in the categories of “top franchise,” “top financial institutions,” and “top supplier of diversity programs.” Black Enterprise magazine also named Liberty Tax Service as one of the most affordable and best franchise opportunities for minorities six times since 2001, and most recently as one of the 40 Best Franchises for African Americans” in its September 2010 issue.

 

Mr. Hewitt is a highly regarded national speaker, writer and expert in the tax industry, as well as a serial entrepreneur and expert in management growth strategies.

Sunday
Apr242011

THE UNITED ATHLETES FOUNDATION PRESENTS

GLOBAL PRO ATHLETE SUMMIT AT

THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE ON FRIDAY, APRIL 29

 

Third Annual United Athletes Foundation Charity Weekend Offers Financial Guidance and Leadership to New NFL Draftees and Professional Athletes during
NFL Draft Weekend

 

Ray Lewis, Jerry Rice, Eddie George, Vivica Fox, Dominique Wilkins, Tracey Evans and many others to participate in variety of events throughout the weekend

 

Atlanta, GA – April 19, 2011 - The United Athletes Foundation (UAF), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering athletes to impact their communities through education and social development, will host their third annual charity weekend during the NFL Draft from April 28-30 in New York City.  The organization will tackle financial literacy as part of a groundbreaking “Global Athlete Summit” moderated by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Robert Marchman at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).  Many of the world’s top athletes are expected to attend the event and participate in a series of informational roundtable discussions on financial management, community service, life after sports, plus brand development & marketing at the event to be held Friday, April 29 from 11AM to 2PM ET.

 

The Summit, moderated by Robert Marchman, Executive Vice President of FINRA, offers athletes a forum to discuss basic economic principles for financial growth and wealth management, plus receive guidance from the country’s most influential financial experts.  Most significantly, the closed door session will provide young athletes an opportunity to share and receive advice directly from gridiron veterans.

 

“We’re thrilled to host this important financial literacy conference at the New York Stock Exchange,” said Reggie Howard, United Athletes Foundation President and former North Carolina Panther.  “With 78% of NFL athletes filing for bankruptcy within two years of leaving the game, and 58% of NBA players in a similar position after five years, financial education is critical in establishing stability and helping young men and women transition from amateur to professional athletic careers.”   

 

Guest panelists at the Global Athlete Summit will include Gordon Brown, Assistant Director Market Regulation, FINRA; Chuck Lewis, WM Lewis Group (Chairman & CEO);

Adrienne Lance Lucas, Inheritance Capital Group; Mary Anne Howland, IBIS Communications (CEO); Bill Imada, IW Group (CEO); Dr. Diane Chen, CESI Debt Solutions (CEO) and Dr. Doug Guthrie, Dean of George Washington University.  Athletes including twelve-time NFL Pro Bowler and UAF Board Member & Vice Chairman Ray Lewis, the NFL’s Mike McKenzie, along with the WNBA’s Kim Hampton and Rusha Brown will also participate as will Sam McNabb, President of the National Football Players Fathers Association (NFPFA) and Char McNabb, President of the Professional Football Players Mothers Association (PFPMA).  

PAGE 2 – UAF Global Athlete Summit

 

In addition to the Global Athlete Summit, the UAF Charity Weekend will feature multiple events for UAF members and partners, culminating in the “Athlete of the Year Award,” which will be held on Saturday night as part of the organization’s black tie gala fundraiser, hosted by

Vivica Fox and UAF Vice Chairman, Ray Lewis. 

 

The weekend will kick off on Thursday, April 28 with a special father and son bowling tournament, hosted by Ray Lewis and the NFL Fathers Association.  The afternoon bowl-a-thon will honor military families with a percentage of proceeds donated to the I Am Not a Hero Foundation. A welcome social will follow at the Katra Lounge in NYC. 

 

On Saturday, April 30, the focus will be on youth, with a health screening and fitness clinic as well as a Bridge Builders Youth Summit co-hosted by the Bill Gates Millennium Scholars and United Negro College Fund (UNCF).    

 

Title sponsors for the weekend include Valkry Corporation & Exotic Cars South, George Washington University, the RL52 Group and Racing Towards Diversity Magazine.

 

Led by President & cofounder, Reggie Howard, the United Athletes Foundation is a coalition of over 150 of the nation’s top athletes who are using their power and influence to change neighborhoods and impact lives.  The organization offers resources and technology to help broaden reach, recently launching the UAF Channel on Pic.TV at www.pic.tv/uaf.  The new channel offers fans unprecedented direct digital access to the work athletes are doing in their communities, plus immediate access to educational information and solutions for sustainable community impact.  For more information and the full weekend schedule, visit www.unitedathletesfoundation.org

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Martine Charles, 206-295-9114 - Martine@sportspr.com

Katrina Younce, 310-995-3619 - Katrina@sportspr.com

Friday
Apr222011

North Carolina Farmer Works to Diversify the Hog Market

Farm and Food Voices

Mary James from Pender County, North Carolina, not only dreams about a better farming future, she makes dreams come true.
Some of her dreams are for the specialty farm that she and her husband Nelson, a third-generation farmer, own. Since retiring as a reading tutor from the local school system, she’s become a full-time farmer, adding new products to the operation.
The James’ produce vegetables, flowers, ducks, rabbits, Cornish hens, free-range chickens, brown eggs, and pasture-raised Niman Ranch pork. They also rent out ornamental plants for weddings and special events and sell their Dogwood Farms’ products at farmers’ markets and on a new Web site.
This year James will add shiitake mushrooms and more herbs. She and Nelson have also qualified for USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which will provide technical assistance so they can expand their hog operation while improving environmental practices.
“I am on cloud nine,” James says. “We’ll have 16 acres in EQIP, and we’ll be able to sell 250 hogs to Niman Ranch when we’re done. It’s a blessing to get this assistance for what we’re trying to do.
“I am a visionary. My biggest goal was to build a small processing operation so we didn’t have to take our hogs to one place to be killed and another to be processed before we could market the meat.”

 

Type of Operation:
Vegetables, flowers, plants, rabbits, ducks, Cornish hens, free-range chickens, brown eggs, pasture-raised hogs; markets her own meats
Land in Agriculture:
35 acres
Greatest Challenge: 
Farm profitability and energy costs
Program Participation:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Unmet Need:
Programs to help small farmers market their crops; incentives for beginner farmers

Her other dream is to introduce more people to agriculture as an enterprise. “You can’t get more farmland. When the older people pass on, if their children need money, they’ll sell the estate. In New Hanover County, there’s a lot of housing development like that.”
That vision made James one of the first people selected for North Carolina’s new Farmer to Farmer Mentor program. Through the program, she shares her enthusiasm and experience to help other small farming operations.
“I talk with people and show them how they can turn a profit on the land, or if they don’t want to farm, how they can keep the land in the family and get payments through the wildlife program or easements.”
“My plan for this summer is to introduce more young people to agriculture. I want to see school kids come here to see how our food is raised and processed. I can start to work with them with the rabbits. I want a training program, because we need to reach them when they are young.”
James would like to see federal farm programs support her vision. “The best thing to help us out would be to assist the small farmers in marketing their goods and to create new incentives for beginning farmers.
“That could be a young person or an older person who is just retiring and needs an incentive to work the land. People have got to be visionary—they’ve got to look down the road and see that they can make a living in farming."

 

FYI Mrs. Mary is planning a major TV cooking show. Details to follow.

 

 

Saturday
Apr162011

 

CESI Joins Forces With UAF & All Star Ray Lewis to Talk About Financial Literacy Education

 

Ray Lewis, as part of the United Athletes Foundation (UAF)  is speaking out about the need for Financial Literacy Education in our communities and for the athletes they serve.

CESI’s CEO Dr. Diane Chen will be taking part in a panel discussion at the upcoming Pro Athlete Summit in partnership with UAF, the New York Stock Exchange and Racing Toward Diversity Magazine. This event is part of the larger UAF  Charity Weekend in New York City. We are excited to spread the word about the difference financial literacy can make in our communities! For more information about the UAF Event visit the link on their website