My Wood Burning Stove – Everything It’s Taught Me About Business

My wife and I bought a home 17 years ago. We love our home and the cherished memories it keeps. Many of those memories include collecting, splitting, and burning wood to keep us warm. Each year we gather and split anywhere from two to four cords of wood. They say that burning wood heats you up three times: when you gather it, when you split it, and when you burn it. We have certainly found this to be true.
We have converted our backyard into different areas where we can process the wood in two steps: splitting and stacking.

Marketing requires consistent searching and effort.

Just as finding firewood for the upcoming winter requires one to start looking in April, so does marketing require one to keep a constant search open for new and potential clients. A good marketer is not spotty in when he or she puts all effort into reaching out to potential clients; a good marketer constantly gathers and searches, knowing that consistent effort is a must.


Oftentimes we will find a tree that has just been cut down, so the wood is green. We have to let that wood sit in the yard anywhere from six months to a year in order to dry so we can then split it. Splitting green wood is almost impossible. This is similar to nurturing along potential clients before they become clients. The timing has to be right before we can actually engage with them as clients. We can stay present and vocal with them, but only when the client are ready to do business with us can we do our job properly. Just like leaving wood to sit so it can be split properly, we need to let our potential clients decide when they are ready.

Go with the grain.

When splitting wood, I have found that it is easiest to put the larger side towards the hammer that will push the wood towards the stationary axe, and the thinner side towards the axe. This allows the splitter to cut with the grain of the wood instead of fighting the grain of the wood. In business, it is important to be aware of climates, situations, and attitudes that, when confronted, would be a difficult struggle, expending more energy than is needed. One can, instead, continue in a current course until the right direction is found, knowing that there will be a time and a place for everything.

 Work around the knots.

Every batch of wood has pieces that won’t split correctly because there are knots in the wood that are impossible to get through. Knots can exist in business, as well. There may be things ingrained in any industry that are just part of it or the way things get accomplished that are impossible to fight against and will not go anywhere. Sometimes these knots need to stay in place and we need to learn how to work around them because they actually help the business stay in place.

Getting the right people for the job.

My wife grew up stacking wood. I have tried to do it before, but she has the necessary experience to make sure that the wood is stacked correctly. When she stacks it, it won’t fall over or lean once the wood dries or in harsh weather because every piece is perfectly placed. When I do it, the pile sometimes leans, because I simply did not grow up doing this. So, my wife stacks the wood and I split it because our experiences have given us different strengths. It is more efficient this way. So, too, in business, should people be placed in positions according to their talents or experiences, their strengths.

A good foundation is imperative.

When my wife stacks wood, she always comes to me and says, “In order to begin another row, I need some solid, square pieces that will ensure that the foundation is strong, that way the pile doesn’t fall over.” In business, having a strong beginning will create a solid foundation, ensuring that the business process can continue forwards  without fail. There need to be good, solid, consistent practices put in place from the beginning in order to accomplish this. My previous posts talk about having a champion, or creating standards, or owning data, or involving IT, and these are those strong practices that create a good foundation.

 Energy will be produced.

Burning wood creates energy, and so does a business that lays good foundations and follows it’s principles set up from the beginning. By taking these lessons that I have gained from gathering, splitting, and burning wood, I have been able to see positive effects in my business; in the RSC culture, in the profit I see, in our relationships with our clients, and the things we have been able to produce. They are essential, and I hope you can learn from them as well.

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10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: Pt. 8, Working in the Relationship Arena

This week we are excited to bring you Part 8 of our 10-Part series on successfully implementing an IWMS.  In this article we will discuss how to maintain a healthy relationship arena.


In any situation that requires collaboration, tense relationships may exist between any given parties involved. An IWMS system may span many, if not all, departments in a company, and those installing the IWMS must work with and get permission from many department heads. If the relationship arena between departments in a company is not healthy, the IWMS installation can be slowed down, inefficient, or stopped completely.

What is the Relationship Arena?

The relationship arena is a term we use at RSC to refer to the teamwork between departments in any given company and/or between the company and the third party installing the IWMS. Ineffectual teamwork within the relationship arena may lead to a slower IWMS installation. For an IWMS to be installed as quickly and efficiently as possible, quick and efficient communication and collaboration needs to happen. This will be hindered if the relationship arena is not healthy and functioning, or in other words, if there is a breakdown in teamwork because of strained relationships between departments.

How To Maintain a Healthy Relationship Arena

In earlier posts, we talked about the irreplaceable value of an Internal Champion. For a more defined role of an Internal Champion, please see article 1 of this series.

As discussed above, two key elements of teamwork are communication and collaboration; the Internal Champion will be able to shine, not only because of his/her ability to communicate in the vernacular of many departments, but also because of his/her ability to collaborate with different individuals. If the Internal Champion can help with effective inter-departmental teamwork, the IWMS installation process can be moved forward with minimal to no inefficiencies.

Even if a relationship arena is not functioning at its best when the third party arrives to install the IWMS, the Internal Champion should be able to help facilitate the installation because of his/her leadership skills and willingness to cooperate, creating an environment of teamwork, building a positive relationship arena.

The key role of the Internal Champion here is mediation — not only does working within a relationship arena require strong communication skills, but the ability to help others when a problem arises. This latter ability can look like helping two team members solve a disagreement, protecting a company from aggressive, third-party sales, negotiating between departments, etc.

The Result of Having a Healthy Relationship Arena

Together, with the support of the Internal Champion, as well as the roles that each team member play, the companies involved in installing the IWMS can create a synergy and unity based on compromise and understanding that will move the installation along smoothly.

Once good teamwork is established, the tasks that need to happen to install the IWMS can be completed as efficiently as possible. Consequentially, your IWMS will operate as you need it to because no important piece of information will have been lost in the process of working as a team.

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5 Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Pt. 2 — Tools for Effective Communication

This week we are excited to bring to you Part 2 of our series on The Five Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Tools for Communication.

Most of life’s problems arise from an inability to communicate effectively. But why is that? Why is something that seems so simple, in reality so difficult?

Clear, concise, effective communication is a talent. It is something people must work at to develop. Luckily for you, I have some tips on how to make your communication 100% effective. It starts with this simple fact: Not one person or culture communicates the same way.

This truth was illustrated to me during a monthly session with my Vistage Chair Lance Descourouez. He began with a question which I will now pose to you: What are the chances a person would tell you there was food stuck in your teeth? Or that a particular outfit is unflattering?

While I would hope my family and friends would truthfully point out the broccoli in my teeth or unflattering shirt, Lance explained that kind of communication wouldn’t happen across every culture.

Consider the Relationship

When we communicate with associates at work, it is generally to get a task done or convey important information. But it isn’t as simple as that. During any given communication, one must always consider the relationship.

Just as I count on family to tell me about food in my teeth, I count on colleagues to be transparent in our interactions so that we can complete projects and accomplish our goals. With that transparency however, comes the hard truths. Conversations that are vital to success, but potentially difficult to have.

Think with me for a moment; how likely is a trusted colleague to tell you a hard truth? On the other hand, how likely is a new hire to point out that same issue? And how likely is it for that new hire if you’re the boss? In my experience, there are only a handful of people with the gumption to speak up in that situation – and that’s in our culture, one where people are known to speak their mind.

Communicating Across Cultures

When communicating cross-culturally, the line grows even fuzzier.

Going back to the example of the unflattering shirt Lance introduced, many Asian cultures value the relationship higher than the task. As such, they would likely reassure you your shirt is just fine, especially if you were an Elder or Boss. Wear that same unflattering shirt in Europe, you’d be advised to change post haste because the task is of utmost importance. Then there are other areas, like in Latin America, where they try to find a balance between the relationship and the task, and you would likely be given a noncommittal answer on your shirt.

Not one approach is better than the other. They’re just different.

The Key Is Understanding

The key then is to understand how to navigate through these truths to come to the appropriate conclusion.

Looking at these cultural differences – or even those within our own corporate structures, we have to remember that there are communication differences that can affect the answers we get – even if we’re all speaking the same language.  We need to be aware of where our audience is coming from, how they communicate, and how they weigh the balance between tasks and relationships.

It’s this kind of insight that has made me an absolute fan of Vistage and their program.  It’s absolutely changed how I see and approach communication.  It’s as we implement these tools that our communication turns into 100% effective, allowing us to get the job done well while valuing our partners.

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