At Surfaces and Beyond, Think: Are you Proactive or Procreactive?
February 25, 2008
Procreactive. Several years ago I trademarked the word. I created it to differentiate the two types of action that I teach in my Time Management and Territory Management seminars. Experience tells me the primary force separating successful from unsuccessful people is action. Successful people act; unsuccessful people don’t.
Achievers do what failures beg off doing. Chinese proverbs put it this way: “Talk will not cook rice,” or “Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth will wait a very, very long time.” Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, phrased it: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
I teach two types of useful actions, but we actually have four choices. The first is Inaction, doing nothing. People who do nothing often accept the status quo as the norm, and choose to simply park themselves where they are. Their motive for inaction may be fear, helplessness, laziness, ignorance, or procrastination. Whatever, and however much they may mope, blame, shame or justify it, inaction leaves their aspirations in a dream world, and them moving backward. Inaction actually makes life harder.
Second, we can act without thought, merely by habit. This is Reaction. Reaction gets us into trouble when we don’t consider long-term consequences. Such thoughtless reaction is no better than inaction. Most of us have experienced this, such as when we’ve lost our temper and thoughtlessly lashed out. Later, we regret our reaction and wish we could relive the moment. We realize that we simply reacted to another’s actions. We let their emotions and ours enslave us.
We admire people who control their emotions. The beginning of controlling our emotions is realizing, as Herbert N. Casson said, “There is no fate that plans [our] lives. Whatever comes to us, good or bad, is usually the result of our own action or lack of action.”
We gain control of our emotions by gaining control of our actions. According to William James, “By regulating our actions, which are under the direct control of the will, we can regulate the feeling, which is not.”
The third type of action is Proactive, which is driven by careful thought and initiative. Proaction is the antidote for fear, helplessness and procrastination. Or as William Burnham put it: “The most drastic and usually the most effective remedy for fear is direct action.”
When we carefully choose how we want to respond to problems and thoughtfully estimate the possible consequences, we take charge of our destiny. Doing so, we usually achieve our goals and desires. The great thinker Aristotle put it this way: “Honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”
I believe that being proactive is often, but not always effective. At Mohawk University and in our consulting practice, I see and work with many proactive dealers. They work hard to accomplish their goals - to make more money, increase their sales, improve their employee’s productivity, and increase their company’s market value. They apply tried and true business systems that in good economic times have produced results. Recently, however, the results for many dealers have been meager. To them, I say, if you are not getting the results you want in your business, even if you are proactive, you are doing the wrong things!
Recently, flooring sales have been flat or falling - the exceptions being tenant improvement and commercial building. Tough times call for innovation and creativity … different actions. Many dealers are trying new things, taking bigger risks, and some are flourishing. I believe tough times call for a higher level of action: Procreaction.
Procreaction is undertaking an act when you can foresee the outcome you desire, but not the path to it.
Someone may ask: How are you going to do that? You may reply, “I have no idea!” Thomas Edison used procreaction when he wanted to invent a light bulb, but didn’t know exactly how to do it. Procreaction is driven by four ingredients: a clear vision, focused thought, dispatch (effective execution), and persistence. On the new path that you draw to your goal, you should expect some trial and error. But you should also expect success.
Procreaction requires us to create new solutions. The human brain is a marvel at this. But first we must give it a clear picture of what we want-a vision. Then, we must fill it with information-pertinent information it can use to analyze the issue and its obstacles, and find new ways to solve them. When we put our brains to work, we will not notice most of its work-it is in the subconscious.
But one day, seemingly out of nowhere, the germ of an idea will come to mind. Consciously then, we can elaborate it, experiment with it, and eventually design a solution that yields the outcome we sought. As we thus create and act on the idea, we become procreactive.
Many dealers feel that they are not creative. Fact: all of us can create new ideas; we just need to develop the ability. Try this method. First, feed your mind. A mind can not create something out of nothing. Like a computer, it needs data. Good stuff in, good ideas out. Second, give your mind time to work on this fertile field of ideas. Third, sit in a quiet place and let your mind talk to you.
Write down all ideas. Consider their potential. Think of different ways to apply them. Pick the best. Finally, act them out. When you create new solutions, mountains become valleys! This is procreaction!
This month, many of you will go to the Surfaces show, local vendor road shows or marketing group conventions. There, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich pool of information about running a better flooring business. Here’s a tip before you go: sit down and reflect on your business. I recommend this tip to all readers whether you are an owner or salesperson.
As you reflect on your business, ask yourself these questions: Which goals do I want to set? What’s my ideal outcome for 2008? Think about customer satisfaction. What about employee satisfaction and retention? What about your satisfaction? Envision how your company and your own life will be when you achieve your goals. Can you vividly foresee them? Write your goals down and read them. All of the responses give your brain a clear and detailed picture of the end-result you seek.
Then, as you work the flooring shows or seminars, think like a student, soaking up information as a thirsty sponge. The best retailers are students of the game. Renew old acquaintances, network with people you don’t know, make friends with new vendors. Devour industry publications. Take copious notes of everything you hear, see and feel.
Become a master at asking questions like: What are you doing that’s working for you? What isn’t working? What are you doing differently? Listen to all ideas. Don’t think, Oh, that wouldn’t work for me, I tried that once. Soak in everything, so your mind has ample fodder to chew on.
These are times that try dealers’ souls. Your company’s life may depend on your becoming procreactive. I also want you to expect success: That’s why I invite you to move up from being proactive to procreactive. I still believe that consumers want to buy from one person. Walt Whitman put it best. “There’s a man in the world who is never turned down, wherever he chances to stray; he gets the glad hand in the populous town, or out where the farmers make hay; he’s greeted with pleasure on deserts of sand, and deep in the aisles of the woods; wherever he goes there’s a welcoming hand-he’s the man who delivers the goods.”