Friday, December 6, 2013

Giving Thanks For…”Wired” Magazine?


Once again, I continue to be amazed by the wondrous thinking that this magazine serves up monthly.  Just wrapping up its 20th year in print, Wired has been a constant source of inspiration to me.  And I’m probably not really the target audience of technology geeks, fanboys  and gamers!  Instead, I’m someone who loves what technology can do for us and marvels at where it’s taking us at an accelerating pace.   Wired gives me optimism about the future when the daily news seems to suggest otherwise.

 Wired is also a beautifully designed magazine whose every issue is a mini work of art filled with compelling graphics that leap off the page.  A good example can be found here:

As I read the December 2013 issue featuring guest editor Bill Gates, I was particularly moved by astronaut Chris Hadfield’s essay “The View From 250 Miles Up” (    From space, he could see how people gather in cities, how civilizations have migrated and gathered.  And, how after 70,000 years of wandering and exploring, most people still feel fondest about their hometowns.

Commander Hadfield ended his essay by writing “I often thought, while silently gazing out the window at Earth, that the actual legacy of humanity’s attempts to step into space will be a better understanding of our current planet and how to take care of it.  It is not a perfect world, but it is ours.  Sometimes, you have to leave home to truly see it.”

What Am I Reading?


They say that George Lois was the inspiration for Don Draper on Mad Men, so when my son insisted I read this book, it was an easy sell.  Fortunately, it was also an entertaining, inspiring, easy read!  Seriously, I loved this book, which in stark, simple terms reminds us to be authentic and bold in pursuing our life’s work.  I bought multiple copies for some of the people in our office and am counting on them taking it to heart.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Living Memorial

Please indulge me today but I’m feeling particularly sentimental as I wait for my flight out of DFW airport.  I’m leaving Dallas after another short visit with my parents, who I’m lucky enough to still have in my life.

My brave Mom has spent many of the past 10 years or so battling a series of health issues, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, knee replacement surgeries, breast cancer, chemo, near-fatal infections, MSD and now Leukemia.

Quite a list of maladies, isn’t it?  But Mom remains resolutely hopeful, a loving partner to my Dad and caring friend to so many. They still head out to Acapulco’s for breakfast many days, she manages to go to movies with her pal Trudy (apparently Gravity is on tap for this Friday), reads newspapers and magazines to stay current, roots for her favorites on “Dancing With The Stars” and continues to live her life with a faith that is truly inspiring.

At breakfast yesterday, Mom shared some fascinating stories about her childhood on the farm in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in the post-Depression years.  Maybe it was those time-tested Midwestern values that her parents instilled that helped shape her into the strong, honest, caring woman she is.  And as I listened to her and watched her recall her own family and what they endured, it made my own challenges and problems seem remarkably small.  America is a country that produces “salt of the earth” people like my Mom.  And we are extremely lucky for that.

My Mom’s doctor has given her a much-appreciated honest prognosis and she is well aware that she may not have long.  But knowing she reads this blog (like the proud mother she is!) I want to tell her once again how much she is loved and cherished by her husband, all of her children, grandchildren, other family and countless friends. You’ve been a kind, generous, beautiful person, taking care of so many of us over the years.  And every day I try to live up to the gifts you’ve given me.  Thanks, Mom. 

What Am I Reading?

TopsyJust finishing this fascinating true story of the beginnings of the modern circus, with all of its showmen, hucksters and charlatans.  In particular, Topsy focuses on the elephants whose very presence as the stars of the traveling shows could be fascinating headliners on one evening and turn into uncontrollable behemoths the next.  Topsy, the crooked-tail elephant, became famous as one of P. T. Barnum’s attractions and met a grisly end courtesy of the up-and-coming Thomas Edison.  This book presents a fascinating time in America’s developing entertainment culture and a thought-provoking perspective on how far we will go in our subjugation of some truly magnificent creatures.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rewarding the Producers

GWC Warranty is all about Accountability.  In fact, “Accountability” is literally at the center of our core BECAUSE values!  And that makes celebrating top talent that thrives in a culture of Accountability especially rewarding.

Our top salespeople, our producers, are those rare individuals who are self-motivated to be the best.  They don’t have to be prodded or pushed to do so; they simply wake up every day driven to perform.  As company leaders, Chris and I don’t get to spend enough time with them; in fact, we all too often fall into the trap of spending an disproportionate amount of time trying to fix what’s broken rather than enjoying what’s working!

Our recent trip to Bermuda with our top salespeople and their significant others was a small way to thank them for all they do and spend some quality fun time in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.


It obviously looks like Joe and Amir (along with his lovely wife Nena) enjoyed themselves!

We have many exceptional people in our company, particularly those on our Sales team who tirelessly represent GWC on the street to our dealers every day.   It was a privilege (and a lot of fun) to kick up the Bermuda sand with the very best of these talented folks and their partners.

What Am I Reading?
The InterestingsA great summer read that presents a 4-decade chronicle of the lives of six precocious teens who proclaim themselves “more interesting than anyone else in the world” while at summer camp in 1974.  They may believe they’re exceptional but their challenges end up looking an awfully lot like those of “uninteresting” people as they navigate through careers, relationships, parenthood and everything else that life throws at them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blinders On!

For GWC Warranty, it’s been an eventful first quarter, highlighted by the successful sale of our company to Stone Point Capital in February (see the press releases on the home page of our website.)  After a sale process that practically consumed the GWC leadership team for much of 2012, we’re eager to be re-focused on our mission of expanding our sales team and products to better serve our growing customer base across the U.S.

Just after the transaction was finalized and we turned to the daily tasks at hand, our VP of Strategy and Business Development, Mike Melby, coined a phrase that has become our mantra for 2013:  "Blinders On!"  No matter the distractions, we are committed to continuing our superior growth and profitability trends in 2013.

With 33 consecutive months of year-over-year revenue growth, record sales and all-time-highs in earnings, I’m pleased (and a little relieved!) to say that the company is already doing just that.

With used car sales showing sustainable signs of life, vehicle availability slowly improving and buyers flowing into dealer lots, it’s a great time to be in the auto space. Success will go to those who ignore the trivial and focus on the critical, to which we at GWC eagerly shout “Binders On!”

What Am I WATCHING?  A Change of Pace...

Although I love books, I’m also very passionate about music, movies and, of late, great television.  Over the past few years, we have been enjoying what many are calling “The Platinum Age of TV”, with amazing, cinematic-quality shows debuting with regularity.  Networks like HBO, AMC and Showtime have taken outsized risks and dared to be great.  In the process, they have minted passionate  viewers of shows like:
Game of Thrones (whose return last night I’m celebrating at the moment!)

Breaking Bad
(can’t wait for the final 8-episode arc starting in July.  Who knew meth dealers could be so compelling?)

Boardwalk Empire
(whose prohibition-era characters get deeper and richer every season)

Mad Men
(for helping us view the ‘60’s through the jaded eyes of an advertising agency's various geniuses and miscreants)

(with its intense spin on the cloud of terrorism we live under in 2013)

Even Netflix has gotten in on the action, with its original series House of Cards tempting us to binge-watch 13 all-new episodes over a weekend. And, by streaming classic shows like Twin Peaks, Netflix is giving a new generation a chance to savor amazing treats from 20 years ago that laid the groundwork for today's classy serialized shows.

It is really exhilarating to have shows like this coming into our homes as virtual palate cleansers for all the mind-numbing reality TV that has erupted in recent years.  If you’re loving these shows like I am, congratulations!  And if you haven’t, I envy you a little:  When you watch your first episode of “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” your fresh eyes will be embarking on a thrilling ride.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Caffeine on the Cheap

I recently attended a conference with Mike and unwittingly provided him with a perfect anecdote for at least one dimension of how we run GWC. 

As a non-coffee drinker, I'm heavily dependent on a morning can of Mountain Dew just to get my internal engines started.  When we entered the breakfast buffet area at the conference, I grabbed a can of Coca-Cola from the beverage cart before heading over to the main meeting hall.  I had just popped open that Coke when Mike pulled up next to me and said "They must have known you were going to be here:  There's Mountain Dew in the back of the room."  Without thinking, I said, "Damn, I just opened a can of Coke - too late!"

Mike initially started laughing at me.  After all, it was just a can of Coke and any normal person would have simply discarded it and exchanged it for the delicious, tempting nectar of the gods that is Mountain Dew.  But when he got done ribbing me for my thriftiness, Mike noted that my instinctive reaction, to not waste the soda, is analogous to how we treat expenditures in our company:  We will happily spend money for a good return or to benefit customers, but we are exceptionally frugal when it comes to wasting anything.  I'm not sure exactly where that originated, but I suspect it was instilled in me by my parents who raised me with sensible Midwestern values they grew up on as children in post-depression America in the 1940's. 

Smart spending, no wasting, no matter how insignificant.  Probably not a bad perspective to have to drive the ultimate in efficiencies in any business. 

What Am I Reading?

If you're a music geek, you've no doubt harbored fantasies of being in a world-famous, chart-topping band with legions of adoring fans following your every move. Alex James, the bassist for U.K. band Blur, lived the high life as a member of  Britpop royalty in the 1990's and, despite a few hiccups along the way, makes it sound every bit as cool as you imagined!  His book, "Bit of a Blur" describes the surrealistic existence of a rock star living in central London surrounded by musicians, models, comedians and assorted other cohorts.  It's a fast-paced, hilarious read filled with lots of name-dropping that will give instant goosebumps to indie music fans (e.g., running into Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine the morning after a particularly raucous gig in New York).