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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5 Reasons the CFTA Conference is Not to Be Missed

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the CFTA conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Sitting in the Dane County Regional Airport, waiting for my flight home to San Ramon, CA, I reflected on the week of activities: a tour of Epic, Inc., a local band at an outdoor bar and grill with delicious food, dancing, and great conversations. The venue was top notch; hosted by the University ofWisconsin Madison, the Edgewater Hotel provided a relaxing atmosphere. The views of Lake Mendota were awe-inspiring, The restaurants – The Statehouse and The  Boathouse – and the in-room dining, provided satisfying cuisine.  The rooms were spacious, comfortable, and elegant. But what really made this conference one of the best I’ve ever attended was that the sessions were about real-life experiences concerning successes and challenges. This was a refreshing and welcoming approach for the conference. Here are the five main reasons as to why this conference should not have been missed.

1. Communication, goals, and accountability.

Firstly, the responsive design of the website and the guidebook allowed each attendee to carry the conference on their smart phone. Along those lines, the guidebook provided a schedule that was easy to use, including descriptions of each meeting that were clear and connected to attendee’s calendars with reminders. Secondly, the executive board meeting was efficient and informational; it was concise and direct.  The three executives that were present delivered facts surrounding the existing state of their role, their future plans and goals, and a review of past performance highlighting successes and challenges.  All this was completed in less than 30 minutes.

2. Non-sales Vendor involvement.

This approach is rare and refreshing.  Approximately 20%
of the attendees were vendors, including myself, but I never heard a sales pitch.  We each presented solutions and observations, then shared experiences.  Software solutions were mentioned in context to problems that were presented, but everything was collaborative instead of competitive.  Each vendor was given a time to give a 6-minute Spark Talk.  We presented our solutions concisely, some with humor, others with facts, and some with an overview of their offering. Overall, the collaborative environment ensured that everyone felt included and had the opportunity to learn and contribute.

3. Friendship.

Our bond was a simple one.  We were all colleges and
universities executing CAD drawing and GIS applications with little resources and sometimes minimal support.  These commonalities created an instant bond because we understood and had empathy for each other. Because of this bond, our conversations were not forced or insincere.  They flowed easily.  We discussed BIM, GIS, CAD, KPI’s, etc. We talked sports, families, shared laughter, and shared successes and challenges. Conscious time was set aside for these conversations. I personally had many that stood out, but would like to highlight two in particular: 1) I had the opportunity to receive advice on
how to resurrect a neglected piece of technology that had been
disregarded.  It is slated to be replaced even though it is still a viable
solution. 2) I also was able to have a great conversation about BIM: how it is connected to the IWMS industry, its strengths, and its weaknesses.

4. Sharing Freely.

Every moment of every session, gathering, and entertainment, I observed sharing: old friends reuniting and catching up, new acquaintances sharing their life experiences, vendors providing insights into the future of technology, and universities sharing successes.

5. Meetings that Broke the Mold.

One example of this was the Unconference. This was a meeting reserved for those who wished to stay after the official CFTA activities. This was the first Unconference I’ve seen. We were each given five topics, which quickly multiplied. The topics were distinct and appropriate.  They ranged from space floor plans and their security, BIM and its opportunities and constraints, project management, KPI’s, GIS, and more.  As I sat and listened intently, the openness was refreshing, the struggles were real, the successes were celebrated, and professional connections were created.  These meetings flowed freely without interruption.  When the time was up, the desire to continue was evident.  These colleagues truly faced familiar problems and were eager to solve them and they found brothers and sisters in arms. Additionally, the Spark Talks provided each vendor 5-6 minutes to share who they were and what they represented. This shortened sales approach was done in less than 45 minutes.  I was impressed at the preparation to make this run smoothly.  Though a small detail, the combining of all PowerPoint slides into one slide deck provided a smooth transition between vendors and cut down on time.  I found myself drawn to my competitors’ stories and offerings.  I enjoyed their candor and examples and the humor presented was refreshing.  I gleaned new perspectives, cataloged improvements, and relished in mine and everyone’s uniqueness.


I reiterate: this was the best conference I have ever attended.  I recommend this conference to all Universities and will continue to support the CFTA
organization as they continue to provide disruptive innovation. The challenge of disruptive innovation was given to all Universities in attendance.  As a vendor I was inspired to pick up that challenge. How I will accomplish that is worthy of another article.  So, for now, I’ll see you, my new friends, next year at The Ohio State.

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