Monday Minute | 026

For anyone who has ever had to face down the awful options when faced with a hurricane, especially one like Florence, both hard decisions and hard work is necessary.

During my 20+ years either working long-term assignments or living in the southern regions of the U.S., it was almost a regular thing to get to Labor Day and wonder who was going to be affected by decisions related to boarding up, packing, going to higher ground, and—for some—ignoring the warnings and going about their day. My earliest exposure was back with Hurricane David in the ’80s when I watched my beloved NASA fight with the options to bring an orbiter in from the launch pad or leave it there and wrestle with the risks. This wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last. Even today, safe and sound many miles from any chance of hurricane-force winds, rising tides or risk from flood waters, I’m saddened that our decisions are played out on public media like a retelling of a Shakespearean plan. Will she or won’t she? That is the question.

With memories of so many big hurricanes recently on the Gulf Coast—not least of which Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 up to Harvey over Houston in 2017—the media is certain to add some melodrama to the situation. They will always find “Uncle Bob” who ran out of the house without his shirt and shoes, and many will mock the humor associated with the hardships that many of these people will face. To the fine people of the Carolinas, we feel your pain, understand your challenges, and hope that the worst is past you. We know that many first, second and third responders are out there helping to keep people safe and to lend a hand as needed. We hope the awful sadness and hardships that befell 2017 will not be repeated in 2018. We can only hope that the path forward is brighter than the one you just passed over.

Monday Minute | 025

As we begin our flow through the week, we want to take a moment and look at leadership. It is important to note that leadership is an inherent quality inside all of us. Leadership varies from person to person in regards to the leadership of what and for how much of what. However, one thing we should all do is stand on the shoulders of great leaders from the past. For today’s Monday Minute, we want to highlight 10 great quotes from leaders throughout history. 
  1. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams
  2. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” -Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
  3. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through–then follow through.” Edward Rickenbacker
  5. “Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.” –Unknown
  6. “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” -Theodore M. Hesburgh
  7. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy
  8. “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.” -Jim Rohn
  9. “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell
  10. “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday Minute | 024

More than 30 classic and modern cars were on display at the one-day Fort Wayne Motorfest event held August 25 and sponsored by PQC. Lots of onlookers were able to admire some of Indiana’s and Ohio’s finest hot rods and classic cruisers. Even with a delayed start due to wind and rain, the event was well attended. Despite the foul weather that threatened to turn sponsorship tents into sails and toppled the DJ’s equipment, everyone went home safe and sound.

This was the first year for the event, and it gathered more than $1,000 for the Windrose Learning organization. Windrose Urban Farm is a local Fort Wayne program with a singular focus: They seek to provide employment opportunities for individuals living with special needs in our community while growing high-quality food and garden products. They know that by giving employment to people with special needs, they will create jobs and provide fulfilling opportunities. In turn, they then hope to nurture compassion and understanding by exposing the community to individuals with disabilities. Their employees will work in either the warehouse/grow rooms at the urban farm in downtown Fort Wayne, run deliveries, or sell their products during the week and weekends at local farmers markets. Their goal is to ultimately have a permanent position at the new Electric Works facility, which was a partial sponsor for the event.

In addition to the car show, the Motorfest provided a great opportunity that allowed both the local community and surrounding neighbors to see the possibilities for the Electric Works campus. This fun event also hosted the Windrose Urban Farm booth, which sold their highly sought-after mushrooms as well as lemon shake-ups and locally made yard games. Along with PQC and Electric Works, other local sponsors included Sweetwater Sound, Edwards Sewing Center, and Clean Fuels National. Local restaurants also gave out raffle prizes, with local food trucks and Sweet Creations serving fabulous food that would make anyone give up their diet!

We’re looking forward to future years and being a part of the event as it grows!

Contributions to Windrose Urban Farm can be made at www.windroselearning.org.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 023

In today’s labor market, it can be difficult to find the right person to fit an open position. It’s because, thankfully, we are working in a market where there are lots of jobs and lots of options. Because PQC does vocational rehab, we seek out those open jobs that could be held by someone with disabilities. We’ve learned that—when given a chance—there is a job for every person, and we just need to provide the information, training and encouragement to go after it.

People and businesses can succeed when they have the information that they need to make a difference in their lives. As economic freedom is often tethered to employment, providing employers and prospective employees with information on available tools helps make that transition, but it also takes a lot of communication and support. Some of that comes in the form of coaching and job training from companies like PQC, but often it comes from the hiring organizations themselves. I recently had a story of a company being very supportive of hiring people with disabilities; however, when one of our clients was about to pass their 90-day review, they were let go. When we went back to find out what happened, the company was thrilled with the person’s attitude, attendance and willingness to learn; however, where they failed was in the volume that was required. At no time did their management let either our client or their employment specialist know about this pending metric that was “make or break” to future employment. It makes me wonder how committed they really are to disability hiring. Even if that person was only to make 90 percent of production, they had to be better than having no one fill that need. What are we willing to do to make it possible to fill those jobs that go unfilled?

Only 35 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 had a job in 2015, compared to 76 percent for people without disabilities. At the end of the day, our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. So, the next time you hear about a company being a champion for disability hiring, please say thanks! And then make sure they really mean it. Look around and be a cheerleader for that person who is working and making a difference. They are no longer part of the 65 percent that are still waiting for the right opportunity.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 022

We call the toughest days we face “character building.” Those times when we are tested could be emotional or physical, ethical or intellectual, professional or personal. The choices we make in these moments say a lot about our character.

Character primarily refers to the assembly of qualities that distinguish one individual from another. “Be honest, moderate, sincere”; this line from Hamlet tells us that the term “character” consists of a wide variety of attributes, including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, humility and loyalty, or of the prevalence of good behavior or habits. Our character is who we are even when no one is watching. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Moral character is the bedrock of values on which our thoughts, speech and actions are built. Your character is who you are; it defines you and guides your actions. Our character depends on how we behave when faced with challenges and adversities.

When faced with tough challenges, especially when it comes to PQC, my first tendency is always to look for opportunity based on solutions and possibilities. I think that’s part of the character most business owners must cultivate. It would be tough to sustain an organization without some sort of positive view toward the results. The challenge that leaders face in today’s organization is balancing that optimism with a strong sense of reality. My highly optimistic character generally gets pushed by today’s business market, which has little space for nurturing the entrepreneurial character. We are faced with higher customer demands, tighter budgets, and increased competition. When looking for guidance, the results tend toward a stream of “leadership rhetoric” that makes those character-building moments sound so easy. Ultimately, we must face the results of tough love, especially when it might be seen as harsh. Part of having character is about making those tough decisions.

Monday Minute | 020

I’ve always been blessed with a sense of curiosity that has led me to want to learn about new and exciting things. Right now, my attention has gone back to my old love of outer space and travel to worlds beyond. It fascinates me that we’re talking about going back to the moon, but it really gets my attention when we talk about Mars. Mars is a challenge beyond anything we’ve faced in the past, but our technology has come so much farther as well.

This week, NASA selected the five winning designs in the latest stage of its 3D-printed habitat competition, including a pod inspired by the anatomy of a spider and a vertical egg-like container. Teams were challenged to come up with a solution that tackled the issues of transporting materials to Mars while considering differences in the red planet’s the atmosphere and landscape. If you’re like me and getting a chance to think about possibilities, please take a few moments to read the article linked below and watch the 4- to 5-minute videos! It boggles the mind that this is possible and that once we master the travel to the planet, we can actually construct housing without even being on the red planet! Talk about move-in ready.

After a short 30 minutes of refreshing my mind, thinking about the future and imagining the potential, coming back to reality and facing the challenges of today doesn’t seem so overwhelming. We need to allow ourselves time to gain perspective and realize that in today’s world … the sky is no longer a limit to our possibilities!

Be inspired at https://www.designboom.com/architecture/nasa-mars-3d-habitat-competition-winners-centennial-challenge-07-30-2018/

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 019

“The world does not need more successful people. The world desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, and lovers of all kind.” -Dali Lama

Humankind can spread love faster than it can spread hate, hope rather than despair, confidence rather than fear.

Monday Minute | 018

Last week we talked a little about whether we are a partner or a vendor to our customers. It’s important to state that PQC’s culture has always been to partner with our customers and look for ways to make them better. To understand their mission allows us to be quicker to see opportunity and bring it forward for consideration. We strive with every engagement to give that extra “oomph” to our work. We consider it a differentiator to our competitor, and our customers have always appreciated it. With that said, it doesn’t mean we should go rogue on their organization and tell them everything they do wrong. We should be thoughtful and tactful about the recommendations and use planned discussions for making them.

So how do we go from being a vendor to a partner? It starts with mutual respect. There are many people who can claim to do the job. As a partner, over time, we want to become a key resource to our customer. Someone that will come to know as much about their business as they do and be able to make them aware of their blind spots. We want to be able to support them in ways that other vendors can’t.

Out of respect for the expertise of the people you surround yourself with, offer a selfless generosity in your appreciation of their time and schedules. A few things to keep in mind when transforming your vendors into partners include:

  1. Ask, don’t order. We all have clients who are demanding, and it can be tempting to pass that experience on directly to your partners. However, the more you can slow down and interact in a calm manner, the more everyone has the space they need to execute at a high level.
  2. Partnerships are collaborations. Whether it’s an inspector or a stager, people want your very best and the knowledge you bring to the engagement. Be respectful and understand that they have a working plan. We are there to help tweak when we see opportunity. If the customer isn’t open to the tweak, we understand. It’s their operation! Being open to their input will help in future recommendations. The more respect and buy-in you give to their mission, the more they may be willing to share. This leads to great relationships, which opens their network and creates opportunities for you.
  3. Communication is as important as competence. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, the fact that your working styles align can be even more important than the vendor’s reputation. You have to enjoy genuinely working together and must be able to trust that the other person will communicate with you in the style and time frame that works best.

For PQC, turning from a vendor relationship into a partnership has a real effect and creates an energy that is focused on our mutual success. When we’ve been successful in creating this kind of relationship, it brings long-term success to both organizations. We hope that as you move forward through your daily activities, you’ll remember that our customers are always looking for ways to be more effective and proactively avoid mistakes that can be costly and negatively impact their organization. If you see something, please bring it to the attention of our operations managers. They will include you in all discussions as we move forward in helping our customers.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 017

Are you a partner or just a vendor?

If you’re a service-based company, you are always striving to build your customer relationship up to the point to be truly called a partner. It’s such a compliment. It means you’ve committed the time and effort to understand the customer’s environment, their mission and their goals. You have built a bond where you can give advice and the customer doesn’t quickly think, “How much is this going to cost me?” and instead focuses on the positive outcomes that will come for both organizations.

So how do you know if you’re a vendor versus a partner? Here are some common perceptions:

  1. Alignment of core values and clear communication are foundational to a solid partnership. I think this is important no matter if it’s a vendor or partner. We’re a pretty eco-friendly company. I’d be devastated to find out partners or vendors that didn’t engage in the same “recycle, reuse” mentality that we do.
  2. The people you partner with to help execute your vision are not just doing their jobs, they are also delivering to the best of their ability and working toward a common goal. They are a direct reflection of you and your company. We look for this in vendors and partners. Why look for someone who’s just going through the motions when you have better options?
  3. Vendors are transactional and replaceable, whereas partners are long-term relationships critical to your success. Not so fast—this isn’t so simple. For example, I have a great relationship with the company who maintains our lawn/landscaping. The last thing I ever have to worry about is that small detail, but it’s one less thing to think about. Equally incorrect is that partners are long term. I have a good relationship with our bank, but because of the multiple changes we’ve had with the bank industry, we’ve had 5 bankers over the past 8 years. Bank dealings can be seen as transactional, and as long as you don’t have “unique” needs, it might be worth continuing to treat this as a vendor relationship.
  4. Vendors simply perform a service—partners have skin in the game and know that your success is their success. Again, not so simple. It’s harder and harder today to determine who’s got skin in what game. A small business always has skin in the game, because they are playing margins on small numbers and can’t afford to lose clients. I revert back to perception #1—if we’re both focused on good values and communications, we all have skin in the game.
  5. Transforming vendors into partners can be a great benefit to your business and accelerate growth. I can’t agree more. For every project we do, every customer request should be treated like it’s meant to ensure our customers see us as partners. In government contracting, there is sometimes a fine line (based on the contract) where that lies, but we should consider options, offer suggestions, and look for ways to meet and exceed our customer requirements. Building trust is key, and making sure they see you as an extension to their organization versus just being another contractor is key to going from vendor to partner!

Next week’s edition of the Minute will include more on this subject. For PQC, this is a critical subject worth a couple of Monday conversations.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO