Our interview today is with Dwain M. DeVille, author of The Biker’s Guide to Business: When Business and Life Meet At The Crossroads
FQ: The biker/open road analogies worked very well in your book. How did you first connect your love of biking to your love of business?
The real connection and underlying reason for writing the book came shortly after beating cancer in 2004. That trial was more of a focus on the future than it was a wakeup call. That’s when I decided the time had come to combine my two passions, biking and business.
I’ve always used the principals of biking in my business because running a company is very similar to that of taking a long road trip on a bike. We pick a destination, plan it out and use our skills when hit with the unknown. In both, a laser focus on fundamentals is crucial to successfully getting where you’re going. So from that standpoint, it was natural to write the book.
FQ: Your book works for all sorts of entrepreneurs, not just those who bike. What would you say to non-bikers to encourage them to pick up your book and dive in?
Don’t let the handlebars scare you! I wrote this book specifically for entrepreneurs. The biker perspective helps illustrate my points. The goal for any entrepreneur is to overcome adversity in order to build a great company AND a life. The underlying theme of the book is that adversity in either isn’t a question of “if,” but “when.”
And the key to success is how you pick yourself up and excel. It’s also written in real time. By that, I mean I’m still actively growing my company as are the entrepreneurs whose stories are sprinkled throughout.
FQ: I found the chapter on effectively addressing the "in-between" growth time great. So many business books neglect this ho-hum (but very important) time in a business' growth. What are some key elements entrepreneurs need to address during this time?
You’ve nailed one of the things that sets my book apart from almost all those other business books. The “in-between” is who we are and where we grow. The other books solely focus on the finish line. Heck, anyone can tell you where they are today and most can tell you where it is they want to be. But only true winners can also describe, in detail, the in-between of getting from here to there.
So my focus, both in the book and my daily work life, is to help entrepreneurs break down their journey into what bikers refer to as “legs of the trip”. In other words, if you have a five year plan, break it down into one year increments. If it’s a one year plan, break it down into three month increments and so forth.
The in-between is where EVERYTHING happens so you better have a good handle on it as you go forward.
FQ: Your additional rules at the end of the book are quite interesting. My favorite is "If two people agree all of the time, one of them is useless." It's so true but also quite funny. Which rule is your favorite? And which gets the most reaction from your clients?
The one you mentioned is the rule that gets the most reaction from my clients and is something I tell them before we’ve agreed to work together. It’s about setting expectations in that creative conflict is a necessary ingredient to any successful organization. I’ve never seen a successful company of ‘Yes Men.’
My favorite rule is: “You never know what you’ve got until you watch it.” A mentor taught me that as a lesson on how people and things react over time and circumstance. Your employee will act one way when times are good and totally different when the pressure is on. In order to set that person up for success you must know their range and set your expectations of them accordingly.
FQ: PDP and SWOT - would you briefly explain these terms and why they are so important?
Because at the end of the day your success is all about the people you have working for and with you. Therefore it’s imperative that you constantly inventory the talent within your organization.
PDP is short for Professional Development Planning and that’s where you find out where the employee sees himself in the future in terms of position and growth. You then overlay their goals and vision for personal success with your perception of them and you do this with the SWOT.
SWOT is where you list the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats you see with this individual. I go into more detail in the book, but here again; it’s about calibrating expectations, both the employee’s and your own. For example, if the employee’s goal is to run the department and your view of him is that of a supervisor then there’s a disconnect that needs to be discussed.
FQ: You mention entrepreneurs who succeed despite the fact that they never had a business plan. However, you discuss the downside to this course of action. Would you give our readers today a little teaser on what the downside is?
Lewis Carroll wrote that “if you don’t know where you’re going...any road will take you there.” The downside to not planning is that if you never stop to think about where it is you really want to go in life and align your business accordingly, you’ll rarely if ever get there and end up living a miserable business life. I’ve seen too many entrepreneurs who’ve had great success in business end up with terrible personal lives.
It’s an old cliché, but true that “Life is a journey, not a destination.” So it’s all about knowing what direction is best for you and then creating the type of 'in-between’ that works and makes you happy. After all, if you’re not happy on the trip over, you’ll probably not be happy once you arrive.
FQ: In your consulting business, do you run into entreprenuers who are resistant to your suggestions? How do you convince them that in order to grow/succeed, they need to make changes?
As someone brought into the organization to help effect change I run into resistance all the time. People are wary of ‘change’ and all have their own ideas and agendas. This is why I get everyone focused on the ultimate goal – the “work to be done.” Once everyone agrees upfront what the goals are and helps to identify the work to be done, it simple becomes a matter of results. We then discuss the work in the open so all involved can see how their actions have affected the outcome positively or negatively.
Everyone wants to do a good job so it’s imperative that you clearly identify what’s expected of them...what the work is, their role and the level to which they must perform. Then it’s a matter of them making a fundamental business decision at the start of each day. They must decide to trade their time for your dollars (salary) and perform to the level needed. If not, then it’s time to move along and you both need to know that.
FQ: One of your real business scenarios deals with a company where you admit that you, and the other consultants, only had one side of the story (Crash and Burn) which resulted in "Glenn" being fired. First, kudos on admitting how things can go wrong. Second, how do you make sure that you get both sides of a company's story now? Finally, I have to ask...do you know what happened to Glenn?
In order to effectively navigate a company, I must have both sides of the story. And I get this by meeting regularly with everyone on the management team both individually and as a group. In these meetings we focus on the work to be done and how it’s going. Our conversations are usually confidential in nature unless we both agree it’s a big enough topic to bring to the table. So I always hear the unvarnished truth. Then it’s my job as Navigator to take this information and filter it to the rest of the organization so we can move forward.
As for Glenn, no one likes to fail, but in business, things run their course and his time with the organization had simply done that. He’s a very talented man and has landed in a situation more conducive to his talents and direction. What initially looked to be a tragic event turned out to be a win-win situation for both sides.