I have found that creating a healthy life rhythm is the key to being fresh, healthy, and productive. You do this by understanding your demand, creating flow, and then leveling everything out.
Michael E. Parker is the Founder and CEO of Michael E. Parker Enterprises, Value-Centered Solutions, Inc., “You Are a CEO” and more. Michael is a serial entrepreneur, an esteemed inspirational speaker and leader, and author. Growing up in Richmond, California, Michael was driven from the start. In an area known for high rates of poverty, violence, and drug abuse, he found hope via his godparents, who infused him with encouragement, advice, and support. Thanks to these positive influences, Michael was able to shift his ambitions and focus.
After realizing the need to obtain a degree, both for personal development and career success, Michael started his academic journey to higher learning, driven by his quest for controlling his own professional life as an entrepreneur. Upon graduating high school, Michael went on to earn his bachelor degree in Business administration and master’s degree in Operation and Procurement from California State University, Hayward.
Michael began his career with Toyota and quickly moved up the ranks. After working as a Senior project manager, Michael fully realized his potential as an entrepreneur and walked away from Toyota of his own volition, courageously leaping into creating businesses in the service, manufacturing, and technology industries. While he met challenges along the way, many that tested his resilience and ability to adapt, Michael excelled in his efforts. In turn, Michael received many awards for his work and appeared on a variety of news outlets.
Michael also understands the value of creating an excellent work-life balance, utilizing Lean Principles. Not only does this help with his productivity, but he also recognizes that obtaining a solid life rhythm helps maintain his discipline and keeps him happy and healthy. This also allows him to spend some time outside of his duties as CEO. By doing so, he can spend time coaching his team and budding entrepreneurs.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After being hired by Toyota and becoming a Lean expert that traveled throughout North America training companies in Lean Principles, I decided to go back to school and get my Masters. It was during this time I began to see how I can take these Lean principles I received from first generation Lean Experts and apply them in industries other than the manufacturing industry. No one else was even thinking about this approach, not even the Lean Experts I was working with. As soon as I was done with my Master’s Program, I left Toyota and started my own company and began the journey of building businesses utilizing Lean Principles in the service industry and developing my own management philosophy that is now known as Value-Centered Management.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend the majority of my time in meetings with a core group of leaders that run the various businesses we have within the Michael E. Parker Enterprises family. In these meetings, I am making sure every business is moving in the right direction based on our Enterprise Goals, as well as each company’s individual goals. I spend the rest of my time-solving problems, creating new products, and I always make sure I make time to develop and support my team of leaders. In essence, outside of being a serial entrepreneur, I am an Executive Consultant and Coach to the Leaders who run our businesses.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I spend a lot of time in deep thought considering ways to make things better. The pursuit of improving many of my existing products, processes, and pending opportunities continuously fuels my ideation. I also brainstorm a lot and I usually do that by putting my ideas on the whiteboard to capture them in a visual way that tells a story. Once I get my ideas out of my head, I enjoy sharing them with my team and getting into strategic and creative discussions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me at the moment is mental wellness and mental fitness. As I have studied this quite a bit over the years, this trend to help people create a certain state of mind has been an interesting discussion to watch across industries. There are a lot of philosophies, ideas, and strategies that are working on discovering how to accelerate productivity, performance, and success by influencing how people think. In terms of what it means to me, I promote utilizing the You Are A CEO philosophy to establish and maintain a state of uplift. This self-leadership philosophy not only gives people the knowledge of how to reach and maintain a positive state of mind, it also utilizes current habit-forming activities created and proven by the social media industry as well as the gaming industry to anchor human behavior. The idea is to teach people healthy habits through information, tools, and positive communities that encourage them to make a lifestyle out of staying positive to achieve their goals despite any obstacles. I have a lot more to say about this, but just be on the lookout, there is definitely more to come!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I guess I can sum it up in two words: life rhythm. Too often people try to create a work-life balance and that really doesn’t exist. Again, utilizing Lean Principles, even when it comes to my personal schedule, has been a great benefit for me. I have found that creating a healthy life rhythm is the key to being fresh, healthy, and productive. You do this by understanding your demand, creating flow, and then leveling everything out. This strategy and approach, coupled with unwavering discipline, allow me to touch everything and everyone I am accountable to on a consistent basis which allows value to flow.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It is really simple; I would tell my younger self, you already are a CEO because you run the business of you. It’s all about self-leadership, the ability to lead yourself in the right direction and to have a mindset to win. I would tell my younger self to move from setting limits to setting goals, establish positive relationships that will help you get where you are trying to go, and practice self-discipline which is the key ingredient to always strive for excellence.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is a very interesting question and one that I don’t spend too much time thinking about. But the first thing that hit my mind when asked this question is I have a lot of experience sharing the stage with other successful people and we are often asked, “what does it take to be successful?” and one thing I hear lot is, “don’t ever let anyone tell you no or that you aren’t good enough.” Well, I don’t always believe that. Sometimes “No” is great advice! And, in terms of people telling you that you aren’t good enough, that might be true. We all have faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses that we must acknowledge to help us be more successful. I think it is more important to be personally aware of who you are and where you are trying to go than it is trying to say “yes” to everything in hopes that it all works out. I also think it is equally important to be able to discern when someone is trying to help you versus trying to stop you from progress. I know what people mean by trying to tell people to work hard, even through adversity. In fact, I believe in this too. However, there is another side to this question that a lot of people do not have the courage to pay attention to. If I say no to something, what will enable me to say yes? After all, if you could be the next Steph Curry or Lebron James, then why are there only one of them each? You have to be the best you possible, and no one else can beat you at being you!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I fail! Too many people go through their professional lives trying not to fail. People don’t try to leave their nest because they are afraid to fail. The fear of failure is one of the seven fears I often talk to people about, and it is paralyzing. People have to value failure as much as they do success. If they take this approach, they will see that failure is often the womb of success. And failure doesn’t always have to be some massive calamity. It could mean you just need to make a few tweaks to a brilliant idea based on constructive criticism and business experience. The fear of failure leads to the behavior of fearing to try and I refuse to give anything less than my best effort at all times. Fearlessness coupled with wisdom is the best approach, but wisdom only comes through experience that will always include failure.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I have come to the realization that the silent glue that creates the right environment for growth is culture. In my book, Who Said So? The Questions Revolutionary Businesses Ask That Make Them Successful, I took an entire chapter to talk about the importance of Business Culture. If you can get the people in your business to commit to becoming better and you build the right environment that fosters their growth, it becomes the best strategy you can have for your business to grow. In other words, your business grows as the people in your company grow. So in my companies, I make sure I hire people that are fully aware of what I call The 7 Commitments: 1) Attitude Control, 2) Identifying and Strengthening Individual Weaknesses, 3) Positive Thought Process, 4) Effective Communication, 5) High Tolerance Level, 6) Resilience, and 7) Respect for Authority. These commitments cannot be compromised but must be promoted, celebrated, and adhered to at all times.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
WOW! This is a tough question. Not because I’m ashamed of my failures, but because I have had so many of them it is difficult to choose just one. I often tell people who fear failure that failure is just the womb of success. I guess the biggest “failure” if you will, is not being more prepared for the economic crisis that hit this country in 2007/2008. I wish I would have seen it coming and was better prepared for it. Not that I could do anything about it, I mean it was a national crisis; however, I wish I had been better prepared to work through what was coming. Nevertheless, through that challenge, we were able to reinvent ourselves and survive the most difficult economy this generation has ever seen. It gave birth to my own management philosophy, Value-Centered Management, which has an extreme focus on providing customer value. It gave birth to the You Are A CEO Philosophy, which has an extreme focus on Self-Leadership. And it gave birth to Value-Centered Solutions, our business training, and consulting company. Being able to adapt to the times, having the courage to reinvent yourself, as well as to lead a core team through tough times is essential to overcoming any business challenge any entrepreneur will face.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Hmmm…I think a business idea I would give away is to create a site that shows how much a person’s content, activity, and influence is worth to the social sites they use. Companies currently make billions of dollars through advertising based on analyzing their visitors and/or users and selling this information to companies who want to sell their product or brand. It’s time for someone to make this hidden truth more visible so that people can truly understand that free is not free. If we truly knew our social worth on the sites that we use, how would it change our perception of the free world online? Maybe someone will help us answer this question one day.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I guess most recently it would be having my swimming pool cleaned so that I can step away from business and do something I enjoy. When I swim I am able to block out much of the stress of work and responsibilities and become one with the water. Sometimes you do not realize how much non-business activity directly impacts business success. I have learned that turning things off is just as important as turning things on.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Lightshot. I love it! This application allows me to take quick and easy screenshots on my computer. This saves me so much time interacting with my team and letting them know what I need from them. In addition, it is useful to me when my team needs to communicate with me about important things that a screenshot will help to make clear. Communication is everything and being able to convey ideas, clarifications, and/or suggestions in a succinct way in which the information is connected to an actual visual is very powerful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I hate to toot my own horn here, but I think you should read my book, Who Said So? The Questions Revolutionary Businesses Ask That Make Them Successful. It is a very good read and a very easy read. Instead of being academic, it is more of a business narrative that tells a story of how to implement Value-Centered Management Principles within your business or organization. The book contrasts the familiar pains of traditional business management styles with the Value-Centered methodology by following the different management styles of a Father and Son.
What is your favorite quote?
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.