Prairie Trail Software, Inc.

Recent View from the Prairie Articles

June 2022

Culture and Character

Do people wave and smile in your neighborhood? These little things and many more are how a neighborhood builds a culture. In the same way, every business has a culture, built through how we handle events and customer issues. The business culture can have strengths which help or flaws that hinder the business.

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Compliance

President Ulysses Grant vowed in his inaugural address to enforce bad laws so that people will force them to be repealed. This idea has also been ascribed to President Lincoln. A number of employees have taken this advice to heart when given bad instructions and decided to follow the rules to the letter. In some cases, the results have been humorous. There are numerous stories of "malicious compliance". Being in one of those stories is not a "win" for the company.

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May 2022

Culture of Accepting Mistakes

Nobody has experience with the situation we are in. Between the war in Ukraine, China shutting down shipping, and the Federal Reserve trying to tame inflation, the business climate is changing rapidly. When things are changing this rapidly, nobody has experience and everyone has the same chances at being right or wrong. All we can do is make a choice and recognize that we are likely to be wrong. We will make mistakes. One way to survive such turmoil is to build a culture that accepts that we make mistakes and can learn from them.

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Trashing the Internet

My neighborhood has some open spaces. Trash blows into them. A (very) few people dump trash in them. Trash seems to attract more trash. It takes effort and intention to keep them clean. The same is true with the Internet. Without effort and intention, the Internet fills up with "trash". The (very) few people who dump "trash" can overwhelm everyone else if there are not ways to identify and clean up the "trash".

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April 2022

Connecting to Our Values

The song stated, "When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am." When every part of the business can be pivoted and changed, what is the meaning of the business? Business is a human activity meant to satisfy a human need and humans are meant to connect with others. We connect by sharing something; some values, some beliefs, some common pains, etc. Selling is a spiritual interaction between the values of the seller and the values of the buyer.

Strong businesses are built on values. These are often driven by the board or top executives. When the world is swirling chaos around us, we do best when we identify and connect with our values.

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Hearing the bad news

In recent years, several notable world leaders didn't want to hear the bad news. One surrounded himself with people who would tell him what he wanted to hear. When he acted on that and found strong resistance, he was shocked. Another tried to change the bad news into what he wanted it to be. Both failed. When we don't hear the bad news, we operate with blind spots.

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March 2022

Surrender to the Changing Market

Ready to go back to "normal"? However, with the economic disruptions caused by a new war, that is not likely to happen. It is most likely that we will continue to see massive changes over the next 10 years. There is no way for any one person to know ahead of time what is going to happen. We need to be resilient, surrendering to the market, listening to the changes, and ready to pivot at any time. History shows that changes never stop.

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Non-Traditional Candidates

Many job postings pull in hundreds if not thousands of applications and many of those applications don't have the needed experience. Quite a number of people are sending in applications in a "shotgun" style - spraying out so many applications that they figure one might hit the target. The basic problem is that there are so many people who respond to a job posting that almost nobody can handle all of them. Many large corporations now use software packages to screen so many resumes that come in from job postings. On the other side, there are places training people on how to get their resume past the screening software. Both the companies and the candidates are getting frustrated with the process.

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February 2022

Open to listening

No one needs to tell us that the last few years have been challenging. The business environment has changed rapidly. What we knew about the marketplace isn't true anymore. We used to think that we had specific competitive advantages, but those are no longer the most important. Instead, our ability to adapt and learn is now the most important business competitive advantage that one can have. But constant change is also tiring. So, how do we keep ourselves agile and learning? We have to listen to many and to diverse voices. We do best to listen to all the constituents of the business.

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Steady States are Unstable

Many people want to go back to a time when they thought things were simpler. They hope that they can build a steady environment. Unfortunately, that steady environment they long for was unstable. It could never have lasted. We have built quite a civilization on agriculture, mining, oil, and many inventions. The problem is that all of these wear out and fade away.

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January 2022

Honesty to Self

Recently, a founder of a Silicon Valley startup was convicted for fraud. She made fantastic claims for her startup, collected a lot of money, but had nothing to deliver. In some places, it is almost common that leaders make fantastic claims and hope to be believed. For many of us, we have tried to live up to the image of the strong business leader: confident and constantly giving assurances that we are all on the right path, but it has cost us a lot. When events happen, often employees, investors, and followers are left disillusioned.

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Do You Still Believe?

One investor said that the one factor that kills a startup the most is when one of the founders stops believing in the venture. The same is true in nearly every other business. When employees stop believing that the business is doing good, they disengage or quit. A disengaged employee is the worst to have as they don't do right by the customer.

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