Beyond Cool: Jamal Robinson by Jim Johnson

I had the privilege to have lunch with Jamal Robinson of Desiar at the end of October.  What is Desiar (pronounced “desee-aire)?  Here’s what Jamal says from his website, www.desiar.com:

“a new revolution of eyewear for the fashion-forward who want to become style legends”
“progressive eyewear line for the bold, the confident, the expressive”
“Desiar is the framework for individuality”
“FUTURE CLASSIC”

desiar 1

desiar 2

Jamal and I met at a mentoring program hosted by IPFW (Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne) where business leaders (Jamal and I) spend time with IPFW business students to help them connect, network, and create a context for their current learning journey.

Jamal began Desiar in 2011 after early adventures into entrepreneurship.  He has designed clothing for a magazine in Florida before he began to focus on eye-wear.  As the idea for Desiar matured in his mind, the designs moved from “glitter” to working with mediums not normally seen in glasses – wood.

So how did Jamal create and develop Desiar?  He used his resources to figure out how to start up this growing business.  He worked for an import/export company here in Fort Wayne and learned valuable lessons that he has directly applied to Desiar.  His work/mentoring experience here helped lay the foundation for Jamal.

I asked him how he came to find the overseas factory.  “The internet.”  Jamal is genuinely curious.  He is not afraid to research and learn. In fact, that is a primary characteristic of this young business man.  If he didn’t know something, he jumped in and found the answer.  Not knowing did not create obstacles that stopped him.  He pushed and climbed and questioned and researched.  He found his answers, and he moved forward.

He didn’t stop there.  As he developed his eye-wear line, Jamal would go to concerts and get back stage to meet the artists (if possible) to present his product and simply ask if they would wear them.  He asked for the business.  But he did it intentionally.  He would approach the artist and say, “I design glasses. If I gave you this pair, would you wear them?”  They did.  His “fashion-forward” eye-wear had to be in the hands of individuals who were already setting fashion trends – people that other people would and do take notice.  Smart, smart moves.

Those first glasses were made by Jamal himself.  But he soon he realized that he could not keep up if he wanted to broaden the scale of his business.  He knew he had to go overseas to bring scale to his production.  So how did he find a production company on the other side of the world?  “The internet,” Jamal answered.  He did his research.  He spent nights reading, talking with manufacturers, making connections. 

His fashion line developed into glasses made of wood and other mediums.  His business grew.  But now, he is about to launch (first of November) a new line of eye-wear made solely of wood.  And they are beautiful!

So did Jamal look overseas for a manufacturer to make these all-wood glasses? No.  These are made down the road (from where we ate) in a small town.  Who makes them? A furniture maker.  Only 2%-3% of eye-wear is made in the US.  And to Jamal’s knowledge, none are made in Indiana.  But he just changed that.

As he met with potential investors, he explained that his glasses would be “made in Indiana.”  They didn’t think that marketing line was a good idea.  Who would buy glasses from Indiana? It’s a state of farms, race cars, auto manufacturing, and Amish.  Wooden glasses exist in a different atmosphere, right?

wooden glasseswooden glasses in a row

Made in Indiana?  Jamal is “pretty pumped by that.”  He’s proud of this.

“By fate and a blessing”, he was called on by a company to help them. In doing research for them, Jamal learned about the kind of machinery that HE needed to produce his all wood glasses.  Through this experience, Jamal shared his vision and his designs and this company was able to produce the necessary machinery needed to manufacture the new Desiar line.  He then found a furniture company who is now producing his wooden eye-wear.

CollaboratePartner with Talked toLearned from.  This is Jamal’s path to success.  Just 15 minutes into our interview, I heard these words over and over again.  Sure, Jamal is incredibly gifted in the creative process.  He has a very strong vision for his business.  He is passionate about it.  But he knows that HE must work with others. HE must find partners to help him fulfill his company’s vision.  HE must do the hard work of research to find the answers to his questions.

Jamal explained to me how the wooden glasses are made.  He knows the process.  He knows how the wood has to be manipulated to form the correct bend. He knows what kind of machines are needed to do this. He is intimately aware of his products processes.  He knows his business.

Jamal is currently in China to meet his overseas partners.  Knowing Jamal, he will come back with more ideas, improved processes, and new connections.  It’s not a sight-seeing trip.  Jamal will turn it into gold.

I asked Jamal if he ever wakes up in the morning to ask himself, “how did this become my life?”  He reflected on his China trip.  “The world has become smaller.  I find it easier to make connections.”  He uses those connections to build his business.

Did Jamal begin Desiar as his sole source of income? No.  He bussed tables at a restaurant.  He worked a year and a half with one of his mentors who runs an import/export business.  He got a “real world perspective” from this.  And all from our town, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jamal has mentors from all over.  Import/Export.  Online music equipment sales/service.  He’s learned why they are great at what they do.  He’s captured why they do what they do.  His desire is to have Desiar known just at Sweetwater is known in the music business.  Jamal listens, absorbs, and applies.

What keeps him up at night?  Not much. He’s not worried about tomorrow.  Jamal shared with me a question he asked himself – “what are you doing today that made the business better than yesterday?”  It’s about positive movement forward.  It’s about not settling.  His agenda daily must be involved in the things that truly help his business to grow.

He sets goals with his team.  But it’s not about the goals.  It’s about results.  What did they learn from their results? Did they miss the goal? Why?  What do they need to do to hit the results the next time.

I asked Jamal if he ever struggles with self-doubt. He stated that he wouldn’t be human if he experienced “hesitation” from time to time. He listens to a lot of motivation podcasts and videos.   He explained that he has learned some techniques over the years to deal with this.  When a self-doubting thought comes up, he simply says, “Thank you, but I’m not on the list for you today.” 

He explained it’s good to have a dream/vision.  But you have to write it down.  Look at it.  Talk about it. Bring life to it.  Always learning.  Always willing to be stretched.  Always being positive.

This young business man is grounded.  Solid family.  Solid beliefs.  Confident in his abilities.  Faith.  A vision beyond eye-wear.

This is Jamal Robinson.  This is Desiar.

Discover Desiar here:  www.desiar.com

Jamal Robinson

 

Christine: A Courageous Life by Jim Johnson

I may have shared this story before, but it’s worth repeating in case you didn’t read it then.  This is a story of a former team member of mine, Christine Frick.  The story “ends” with an update from last evening…

 

8/3/2014 10:23 pm. Within the past hour Christine passed away. I have just received word about this.

Most of you reading this have not met her. Most of you won’t. Christine and I had worked together at 3Rivers here in Fort Wayne. Christine was one of our great call center reps. I had been privileged to work with her for many years, and she gave me permission to share part of her story.

Christine has had her share of struggles in life. But you know what? I didn’t know about the struggles until she told me about them. You see, Christine was one of those wonderful people we get blessed to encounter who was facing really big issues but found a way to smile and bring happiness to others.

Christine had been diagnosed with cancer. She found out about it at the end of 2011. I won’t go into the details, but it was a shock to her, her family, and her friends. Her body was causing her many painful days that led into weeks and then months. After tests and surgery, she got the diagnosis. Did she crawl into a hole to cry out for a pity party? No. Not Christine.

You see, Christine was  no stranger to a life that had been anything but smooth sailing. She had MS. She was born with a condition that had affected the “normal” development of her arms. There were other uphill battles she had fought in her life. But had she given up? Nope. Had she settled for less in life? No.

Christine  earned a Second Degree black belt in ATA (American Taekwondo Association). Her goal was to achieve Third Degree status. I watched her work. You did not want to mess with that woman!

Christine was respected as one of our best service providers here at 3Rivers. She engaged in meaningful conversations with our members (customers) and helped them  understand money matters every day. There was a smile in her voice when she was on the phone. She handled cranky people with patience and empathy. One of our Sales Managers wrote: “I also want to take this opportunity to give extra special recognition to Christine Frick!! She is a star!! Not only does she resolve all of our questions and problems immediately, but she goes a step further and educates us on how to obtain the information ourselves in the future, hence allows us to speed up the resolution processes with future member questions or concerns.”

Christine had been positive and inspiring. Even after losing her hair due to chemo, she returned to work continuing to be a model with an awesome attitude. She had her good days and her bad days.  When I get caught up in feeling sorry for myself about trivial matters, I remember Christine and tell myself to toughen up. She gave me a good perspective on life.

I asked Christine to share her story. Her is what she wrote…

In Christine’s own words:

“I shared last two years ago with a few in my congregation that I did not know what my “Gift” was that the Lord had/has blessed me with. Well, you know how the saying goes – “Be careful what you pray/ask for”. I asked for my gift to be revealed to me.

Then I was blessed with a total hysterectomy in January, 2012 and was told I had stage four cancer (mind you I was blessed with MS and diagnosed in 2001). It was a friend who pointed out to me on June 19th, 2012 what my gift was (of course, I did not see what that was so I asked because I still not see what it was). She told me what an inspiration I was to her due to my handling of the news, my treatments, and my daily walk with Christ and accepting my blessing with the cancer and how it made her take a closer look at her walk with Christ and how she has renewed her faith.

I would not be able to do this walk if I did not have the support of those brothers and sisters “In Christ” that the Lord has blessed me with to lift me in prayer. I would like to thank those who I don’t even know who have prayed for me and continue to do just that very thing. This in itself is such a blessing and inspiration to me for through “Christ all Things are Possible”.

So when times seem to be too tough, keep looking to heaven and those who he has blessed us with and don’t be afraid to lean on someone. Reach out a little and before you know it, that little will turn into a lot of people.

I did not have an easy childhood and I now understand why. Everything I went through was preparing me for the different roads that I would be traveling down. I have never been one to wallow in self-pity. God has blessed me with one life on this earth, and I intend to live it to the fullest.

My phrase or motto is “I may have cancer but cancer does not have me.”

You are Your Own Business by Jim Johnson

You are your own business. I heard this from a favorite radio personality, Charly Butcher of WOWO radio. Have you ever thought of your job that way?

Most of us probably live our lives at work fairly passively. We do our jobs, and expect the paycheck. We get assignments, we’re assigned projects… we just do our jobs.

But what will set you apart from others at your office who have been living just like you?

It basically comes down to being actively involved in your job rather than being a passive participant.  What if you took a different approach to your job?

Look at you as your own business.

– Act as though the money you spend is your money. Will you use that resource the same?

– Protect your personal brand. Always be aware of your working relationships.  Pay attention to how you communicate and interact with others.

– Find efficiencies that will make you more effective and will allow you to bring more value.

– Increase sales and revenue. Businesses do not thrive if revenues disappear. Exceed your goals. Find new revenue streams. Understand which delivery channels are performing and which are not.

– Champion innovation. Read. Think. Experiment. Inquire. Try something new. Interact with other innovators.

Think about this idea. Try it. I think it can transform how you approach your work and will improve your results.

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Conquer! by Jim Johnson

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Last week my family and I were in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One of the many activities we experienced was ziplining.  It was a first for every single one of our family members.

As we were preparing to head up to the zipline course, my wife and I talked about the concern we had for our youngest – my son, Karsten.  He has had a history of being afraid of trying something new – especially things that would challenge him directly.

But to our surprise, when it came time to head out on the course, Karsten stepped up to be first in line. He jumped off the first platform and flew down the zipline without any problems at all. Throughout the entire experience,  he was excited. I think he knew that he was actively conquering a fear.

I learned a lot from my 8 year old son that day. There are lots of times in life when we face new challenges and new experiences. But instead of standing petrified on a platform, many times it’s just better to jump and trust the mechanisms that you have in place and just go with it.

I told my son that he was a role model for me that day. He just smiled.

Truth be told, I think I was the one who was the most afraid of the experience. But I conquered my fear, jumped off the platform, and zipped to a new adventure.

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Passion – the fire within by Jim Johnson & others

flame

(Here is the next section in my L.E.A.D. (Leadership Effectiveness and Development) initiative that I’m doing with my team here at work.)

For a team to succeed every member must know and understand their specific role so that you are united in working to achieve the team’s goal. It’s the bigger picture that drives your actions. While this is broadly understood in most businesses, it is usually approached in a purely practical way by determining SMART objectives or establishing clear KPIs. And there is nothing wrong with that, but for best performance it lacks a vital ingredient: emotion.

Emotion is the extra gear, or passion, you need to go from cruising speed to take off. When teams have an emotional bond, members understand each other better, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, support each other through tough times and enjoy celebrating successes together.    (Marianne Hewlett)

PASSION

Definition:  noun – a strong and barely controllable emotion.

 

“Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.  Simply put, it’s being who you are and doing what comes naturally.  When what you do is in alignment with who you are, you get energy from doing it.  It’s like water flowing along its natural riverbed.  It actually gains energy from the path it’s taking (compare that to what most people experience in their work, which is more like trying to force it up and over a mountain).”

(http://mapmaker.curtrosengren.com/what-is-passion.html#kkXUyc4j.dpuf)

Points to Ponder:

“Passion is infectious…and the catalyst leaders use to excite others.  Passion is what others view as strength and confidence as they’re led down a path full of obstacles and danger.  Passion makes you brave (some might say stupid)…Passion is what helps you up after a fall.

The role of leader doesn’t come easy because you have passion.  At first, many people will be skeptical, even afraid, to go along with you.  Leaders don’t go where everyone else has already been; they go where no one has gone before and that is what makes them leaders.

Passion is always shown, not told….do what you’re passionate about and it won’t feel like work at all…There’s an added bonus because passion is an adventure so you’ll never be bored!”

(Al Borowsky, from http://changeyourgamebealeader.com/2014/02/07/making-passion-navigator-towards-success/).

“I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” John Wesley

Yes, that old English preacher said that. He would ride around the countryside on horseback to preach at different churches. And people did go to hear this man preach. His preaching changed lives. It created a movement. John Wesley was on fire.

How about you?

Leaders are passionate. They are passionate about their business, about their products/services, about the differentiation, about their staff. You can tell when you’re around a passionate leader, can’t you? Even if you don’t know much about their expertise, you can get caught up in their enthusiasm. They are infectious.

Have you ever been around a person who is in charge and it is clear that they are not passionate? Can you image the organization that they lead? I have a feeling that few others are showing any kind of passion either. Status quo probably rules the day. “We’ve always done it this way” is their motto. This type of leader and organization aren’t necessarily like Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh’s sad friend. But they aren’t Tigger either. They just are.

If you want to see results and motivate your team, check your passion. If you want to move on to the next level, check your passion. If you want to achieve, succeed, and grow, check your passion. Don’t lament about where you are today. Take what you know and where you to grow to the next level – and do it with passion. Rick Patino, basketball coach/guru said this:

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a crossing guard, a schoolteacher, or a basketball coach. It might not be where you want to be tomorrow, but it’s where you are today. Seize the day.” (from Rebound Rules)

Passion moves you to change. Passion is showing up and continuing to show up.

“But I’ve been at this same job for a long time and I’m not getting anywhere. They (corporate) don’t recognize me and my skills,” you say. What to do, what to do?

Passion says “I will not surrender”. Don’t get caught up in a pity party. Nobody wants to attend that. And you’ll go no where focusing on poor-pitiful-me. “Never complain about your problems because 95% of the people don’t care and the other 5% are glad they happened to you” (Lechter & Reid in Three Feet from Gold). Hopefully, not all of that is true. But the point is this: refuse to surrender your dream of the next level.

So how do you live in passion? Here are some ideas that I think are worth acting on:

1. Keep your dreams and goals in front of you all the time. Write them down. Do the things that will get you to your goals.

2. Be enthusiastic. Facing a tough challenge? Jump in and tackle it. Learn from it. Use your resources. Master it. As a leader, others will see your passion as a beacon and will follow. They will!

3. Don’t seek recognition if you’re not in the position you desire. Learn your profession. This will lead to mastery and will build your confidence.

4. “We have one chance to do our best on each given day; don’t waste that chance.” (Patino in Rebound Rules)

5. Never let mistakes define who you are. Learn from them and move on. Or as a wounded soldier said when asked how he faces life after being seriously injured on the battlefield, “I F.I.D.O. – forget it, drive on!”

You can approach your business, your department, your branch, your personal life with the same-ol’-same-ol’ attitude. You might grow new business. You might see success. You might achieve. But there’s a good chance that you won’t.

Or you can set yourself on fire. Know, really know, your business. Look for opportunities for your business to grow whether you are in the office or not. Throw yourself into the development of your staff. Be a cheerleader for them. Love every chance to talk with potential customers about your business. Be enthusiastic.

People will come to watch you burn – and they just might catch on fire, too!

(https://goleadergrow.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/passion/)

What Passion Does for Us:

“1. Passion produces energy. 

A leader who has passion is driven forward from the energy it produces. When it comes to leading yourself and others, passion and energy are essential. Donald Trump said, “Without passion, you don’t have energy; without energy, you have nothing.” Leaders who have passion also bring energy into what they do.

2. Passion drives vision.

If a leader wants to see their vision and goals being accomplished, then the leader’s passion is the fuel that drives the production and results of the vision. The vision of the organization or team should be frequently and passionately communicated to others.

3. Passion ignites others.

We have all seen or been around a passionate leader. I personally know after I’m around a passionate leader their energy and passion rubs off on me. This causes me to feel more energized and motivated. A person’s passions can ignite other people’s passions and bring energy into their lives.

4. Passion raises influence. 

John Wesley said, “When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.” This is what happens when a leader has passion. The leader starts gaining more with others, and people want to be a part of what’s going on. If you want to raise your influence, then you need to be a passionate leader.

 5. Passion provides potential.

I have observed that a leader’s passion brings new opportunity and opens the door to success. This is because when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it moves you closer to your potential. Moving you closer to your potential causes you to be moving into the next level within your career and personal journey.” (Dan Black, http://danblackonleadership.info/)

Something to think about:

“Without passion, man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel, Writer

Here at work:

  • What makes you spark?
  • What inspires you?
  • What gives you so much satisfaction or/such a buzz that you would do it for free?
  • What role does passion play in your working life?

 

How to Encourage Innovation in Your Company by Anita Bruzzese Gannett

Is America losing its innovation edge?

If so, the reason could be because managers and employees are not on the same page in developing new ideas.

Specifically, many employees think they have a good idea, but their managers won’t listen to them. In their defense, managers say these ideas often are out in left field with no real focus or value to the company.

In a recent study, Accenture found that 69 percent of employees believe that this country will lose its entrepreneurial edge over foreign employers in the next 10 years unless companies focus more on encouraging employees to pursue innovative ideas.

But Accenture research also finds that corporate leaders find it difficult to channel the entrepreneurial enthusiasm to the right areas with 85 percent reporting that employee ideas are mostly aimed at internal improvements rather than external ones.

Matt Reilly, managing director at Accenture, says he was surprised at the gap between what employees say about presenting entrepreneurial ideas and what executives report receiving.

Some of the problem is because managers may pose “What do you think?” queries to workers without clearly defining what the problem is and what they’re seeking in terms of innovative ideas, he says. If managers put up “guardrails” clearly defining their needs, workers would understand the limits and provide better solutions.

Clearly workers have at least some frustration with the process: While the Accenture survey of 800 corporate employees finds that 52 percent say they’ve pursued an entrepreneurial idea at work, only 20 percent believe that their employer offers enough support to develop ideas.

Read the rest here:  http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/article/20140119/YOUNGPROFESSIONALS/301190008/How-encourage-innovation-your-company?gcheck=1