Be the trainer who gets it right

There are many roles a business leader must play. One very important role is the role of “Trainer”. At every level in every organization there are goals to be met and processes to complete. You could say every step that is taken to reach every goal requires a certain behavior or set of behaviors. To put this simply, an organization has to do a lot of the right things at the right time to be successful. This means each person has to do enough right things in the right timeframe. This requires a trainer at every level.

Someone has to figure out what needs to get done to achieve every step along the way. Someone has to figure out how to teach people to recognize when to do what. And someone has to train people how to do each thing and how to know when it is done right. So the business leader must work as a trainer at a very personal and individual level. At the same time a business leader is the trainer of an entire organization. In order to approach an organization in a manageable manner, you should see your organization as a living, breathing, feeling thing that has tendencies, direction, momentum, drives, fears and motivations.

Wherever you are in the chain of command or in the network of talented individuals, you are responsible for being the trainer of the people who you depend on. This includes the people who report to you, the people you report to and the people you collaborate with. It is not always easy to train people, is it?

For some reason, I have always been a trainer. There was a time I was called “Tron the Trainer”. My early interest in life was music. I was so interested in pursuing music that my guitar teacher began giving me his youngest and most inexperienced students to teach. I was a freshman in High School who was a trainer of new musicians. This situation worked out great for everyone. I knew enough about training beginning guitar players, because my teacher had given me a good system to work with. I taught a group of songs that involved certain chord changes, rhythms, strums, figure picking patterns and solo lines that were designed to cover all the basics. By the time the students started getting so good that I was no longer qualified to take them to the next level, my teacher took over their lessons. This was a great arrangement. My teacher got to take over a steady stream of students who were already committed and playing at an intermediate level. This allowed him to have some fun and make some great progress with his students. I got to make a great income as a guitar teacher. Most of my friends were working as stock boys and grocery delivery boys making next to nothing. My students got some great basic training, because I was motivated to be a great trainer of musicians and build my little music business.

A year or so later I met my brother’s neighbor who was a trainer of protection dogs and police dogs. I had always been fascinated by German Shepherds. I guess Rin Tin Tin had made a mark on me as a child. I had also seen a working German Shepherd dog trial in East Germany on a family vacation when I was 11 or 12. I was mesmerized. I know; who takes their family to communist East Germany for a family vacation? Well the Jordheims would. My mom had grown up in the area that became East Germany and we went back to see old friends and the old family home. This is a whole other story for another time.

Anyway I know wanted to become a dog trainer. And that’s what I did. I found anyone who could teach me. It was a good time for my pursuit. There were many German Shepherd enthusiasts trying to establish the German working dog sport called Schutzhund in the U.S. Local dog clubs would bring over trainers and trial judges from Germany for seminars and working dog tests. I went to every one I could. I soon realized I needed to speak German to get the real story from the experts, because many of the translators who I encountered did not know dogs or dog training and much was lost in the translation. I knew a little bit of German from my mother and got serious about it. I studied it in evening courses and made it my minor in college. I traveled to Germany to seek out the experts I had met and met many more. It wasn’t long before I spoke and understood German well enough to pass for a native. I became a favored apprentice to a few old masters and became the translator of choice for dog clubs in the U.S. who wanted to bring over the old masters and the new innovators of dog training from Germany for seminars. I had a blast.

At the same time I became sought after as a trainer in my own right. I trained many people how to train their dogs and helped many dog clubs develop top notch training programs. I helped people with many, many breeds of dogs gain Shutzhund titles and I was on the training team of the 1981 US National Schutzhund Champion. I was selected as the Team Captain to lead the U.S. team at the 1982 European Schutzhund Championship in Salzburg, Austria. We had a very respectable finish. I had a great time.

As you know, one thing leads to another and before long I was using my trainer skills in the world of B to B sales. I had taken a job with the Great Bear Spring Water company in New York City after college and quickly learned some great selling systems and methods from my supervisors and co-workers. Since I thought like a trainer, I revamped the system and ultimately taught my system to others in the company. We had great successes with it. Ask the people at Beatrice and KKR. These were two companies that profited greatly from our work.

I later found a use for my trainer skills with Culligan Bottled Water. I saw that the local Culligan dealer in my adopted home town of Columbia, MO had a fledgling operation at a time when the demand for five gallon bottled water service was about to take off in smaller markets and “outstate” regions. I showed how my sales system worked and boosted their business. I acted as trainer for the route drivers, the sales rep I hired and for the entire organization as we created the best bottled water franchise in the whole Culligan system. We had the highest concentration of bottle cooler rentals per capita than any dealer in the 900 plus dealer network.

Because of this success, other bottled water companies looked to me to help as their trainer. I shared my system and they saw their businesses boom, too. The success of the bottled water division was one of the big reasons that Culligan was able to sell at such a respectable multiple when The Vivendi Group took over the company.