A Service Culture

…is not merely doing customer service. A service culture exists if you are seeking to change people. Customer service is what we call it when we are nice to people. Customers, whether patrons in the butcher shop, students in class or parishioners at church, all have a problem to solve. Part of the problem is transactional…solved by merely providing what’s on offer…the cut of beef, education or comfort. Solving this part of the problem isn't customer service nor does it require a service culture. One step up, being pleasant and helpful, is what we’ve come to know as customer service. This wrapper around the transaction is part of the culture we’ve developed and come to expect. But it’s not worth extra…being nice just comes built-in. Alternatively, service comes from doing something else. It comes from acting with intent to change a person from someone who merely gets served to one who feels uniquely looked after. It’s a gift of focus, obsession on detail and caring that comes with no strings attached…and it’s usually a pleasant surprise. 

Customer service is an overused and misused phrase connected to what and how something gets done. But a service culture starts before that…it begins with the “why” something gets done. Purpose creates a cause and pins meaning to the act of serving. It’s what creates and drives a service culture. And it’s what changes someone fom merely being part of a transaction to someone who cares about changing the way people feel.

Purpose begets “wow, you did that just for me”.

Have a nice day.


Ignore Old Problems...Find New Ones

Historically, most markets were constrained by geography and the lack of portability of what was on offer. If you were a blacksmith, you worked for your town and the occasional passer through. And there wasn’t much demand for shipping because it was easier to replicate the work than to move goods. Same goes for the modern lemonade stand. One shop for the visitors to your corner of the neighborhood. Another one for the neighborhood next door.  

It took a while but two things eventually happened. People learned you could charge a premium for higher quality and unique products...which created choices. People like choices. And modern transportation and the internet solved the constrained market problem…these products could now be had anywhere. People like immediacy and convenience. These trends created tension for some and possibility for others. The people stuck on solving old world market problems with old world marketing failed. The others ignored the old problems and started solving new ones.

If the market is constrained by virtue of what is on offer, i.e. a restaurant or a gas station, not only do you need to solve how to earn enough trust to create loyalty from your neighbors. But you also need to solve how to become a destination to attract people from outside the neighborhood. How does the choice become compelling enough for people to consider and then make the journey?

Or if your offer is transportable, an ebook or a widget, how do you gain attention and earn trust in an increasingly crowded and expanding universe? How do you find and connect with the person who seeks precisely what you have made, even if you only need a few?

But what if you could remove all of the constraints, solve the problems of transportability, immediacy and could reach anyone that wanted one? What if you could create a new problem to solve? What if you were Dream Pops?

You can be…you just need to solve new problems differently.

Common Ground

It doesn’t mean you need to agree on everything or even some things to co-exist. But it does mean you need to share the same point of view about what’s on offer when you’re seeking to change it together. People use different filters to process information and form conclusions. And it’s okay and totally expected they will arrive at different points of view on the same subject. The challenge isn’t to ignore everyone with a different perspective. It’s to recognize they exist, see them, understand them and then decide where you have common ground to do productive and meaningful work together.

Loyalty You

Why would anyone choose someone else instead of you? 

If what you have on offer can be done by someone else for less, there is no loyalty to you. But what if how you acted, how you inspired, how you led, how you worked and the results you achieved could only be performed by you? And what if your performance was in demand and so valuable to someone they would gladly pay you more for it?

Loyalty isn’t reserved for brands, companies and products. It’s for people too. Might as well be you.

Expertise, Love and Practice

Expertise is essentially driven by two things…falling in love with a subject and relentless effort to change an outcome…practicing enough to achieve the result you seek.

Consider the young mechanic who spends hours of his off-time learning about the physics of friction and how it impacts the transmission. Or the musician who dives into music theory to better understand the relationship of notes and why some work better together than others. Or the aspiring chef who takes chemistry classes to better understand how sauces change food. Each could certainly do the job adequately without the additional insight. But it’s the love of the craft and the obsession to understand what’s in-between the cracks that creates break-through.

Same goes for practice. Practice is for failing…for failing differently on purpose to gain confidence…confidence which then reduces those mistakes to make room for others, higher level ones. And the cycle repeats, over and over, resulting in higher level mastery.

But it all starts with love…without it, expertise doesn’t stand a chance.

Unexpected Small Delights

The great American statesman Henry Clay captured this sentiment perfectly: “Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.”

I’ve noticed in my thirty-five years of innkeeping that it’s almost always the small acts which impact people the most, both guests and staff. It’s particularly meaningful when you stop to focus on them when you hadn’t planned on it, when you’re hurried…when it’s the most inconvenient. At this point it’s no longer a task…it’s a gift. The result…wow, you did that just for me.

When you don’t have the time…take the time. Caring matters.

Will You Be Missed?


Today I’m releasing my second published work, Will You Be Missed?. It’s been twelve years since the last one. I know, I’m taking too much time.

Will You Be Missed? isn’t a short story or manifesto. It’s a workbook, an exercise of personal reflection meant as an alternative to the traditional performance evaluation, usually completed by your boss. The trouble is that your boss doesn’t know you as well as you do. Your boss doesn’t have the insight, the clarity or the truth that you do. And she likely doesn’t care as much about you and your future as you do. So don’t wait for someone else to tell you how you are doing…you already know. My hope is that you will use what you know to move forward, to reach your goals and realize your dreams.

You can find my new work here. I hope it helps. 

What's Your Dream? Why Are You Here?

Beyond the transaction of the job and the compensation on offer, the job interview is for understanding how we are going to help each other realize our dreams by working together. So the challenge then isn’t to determine the hard skills, the aptitude, how much or how fast we each can produce. More important is to understand what we care about, what difference we are trying to make and how we plan to get there.

The Lottery

The lottery works because it creates momentary hope…a very small chance for a new start. It’s for people who believe that financial freedom creates happiness and some sort of a springboard to success. Of course, it’s almost certain that your not going to win. In fact, the chances of winning the lottery are almost the same…whether you buy a ticket or not.

Alternatively, rather than investing in almost certain failure and the false hope of the lottery system, why not create something worth talking about. The chances of becoming a millionaire (or billionaire) are far greater when you make stuff…put things into the world which make a difference. The odds begin to shift in your favor when you do the hard work, go through the trials and tribulations of uncertain outcomes and take responsibility to lead change. It turns out that you are far more likely to realize your dream of financial freedom if you work to create a legacy of remarkable work. But first you have to believe in yourself. And then you have to start. Good luck.

Why Selection is So Important

Outside of establishing your cause and the culture you seek, choosing those that will join you on the journey is the most important act. Selecting people who are enrollable...people aligned with your values, who have similar world views and who are willing to make the same sacrifices as you is critical to the eventual outcome. The wrong choices will waste time, cause friction and drain the life out of the project. This has nothing to do with completing assignments, working hard or making things happen through authority. That becomes necessary when you haven’t chosen well…when people who can’t see it your way, who don’t believe what you believe, insist on hanging around. And when they do, they resort to commander tactics because that’s what’s left when you aren’t able to get someone to fall in love with an idea…which it turns out is so hard to do when you don’t believe.

Find people who believe what you believe…the work is so much easier when everyone wants to lift. 

Sorry About That

Perhaps the most powerful words one can utter or write. The power comes from taking responsibility…shifting it from someone else to you…being on the hook. But it goes beyond power…it’s a gift. It’s an offering of freedom and peace from worry…worry about being blamed, worry about lowered status, worry about financial impact and so on.  And it comes without expectation, without quid pro quo. It’s not a transaction, it’s an act of generosity. If it comes with strings, it’s not an apology…it’s merely a deposit in a zero sum game. And the withdrawal is inevitable.

A Difference

When you notice…see a chance

When you care enough to put someone else first

When you show up over and over, practice and put forth effort to do something remarkable

When you choose hard, and right over easy

When you cause someone to reflect, Wow, you did that for me.


When you choose to, you can make a difference.

Conflicting Ideas

vs. being conflicted.

A conflict of ideas is a good thing...different outcomes, more possibilities, often leading to compromise or a new idea altogether. It’s a welcomed beginning. Conflict within a team, partnership or even with yourself however is a deep rooted problem which prevents constructive analysis of opposing ideas. The lack of trust, empathy and fear of uncertain outcomes undermines the chance to work together to solve problems and consider options. Too often we mistake personal conflict as idea conflict and work to create compromise or simply to choose one to move things along. Managers choose, often through compromise. But ultimately, they decide. Of course this leaves one or more sides unhappy...leading to more conflict. Alternatively, a leader focuses first on the root issue, resolving conflict by restoring or building trust, teaching the value of generosity and seeing alternative points of view. At this point conflicting ideas are no longer seen as a problem, as an obstacle to get past so one can win out over the other, but rather as a range of possibilities for an even better outcome. A group who trusts each other and is enrolled around a central cause now sorts it out themselves. Of course leadership like this takes longer and requires more effort. But the results exponentially expand the universe of possibility.


If I lead enough people to see it my way…

If I train hard enough…

If I learn more about this than most…

If I become an expert…

If I become the only one...

The ability to see through the hardship in advance with some clarity keeps you in the game. Knowing what pain, embarrassment and failure lie ahead allows for the mental preparation necessary to see it through. But that vision also keeps many people from starting. The question then is...what happens if you don’t?

The Wave

Harley riders wave to other Harley riders. Same for Mini Cooper drivers and Aston Martin’s. 

We see you…and we respect your choice. People like us drive vehicles like this. We care about uniqueness, out of the ordinary and most of all the feeling we have when someone acknowledges us for our decision.

This sort of wave is beyond an act of kindness. But it’s reserved for those willing to live on the fringe. It’s not found in the mass market middle or in the ordinary. While there’s nothing wrong with the middle and the safety that comes with it, that choice doesn’t garner the same type of respect and acknowledgment as an outlier…one who seeks to be different.

Change doesn’t happen without those seeking to make it. Thank you for being one of them. And here’s a wave to you…for making life interesting. 

Sent from my phone, please excuse brevity.

But why?

Most of the time we should demand it. 

Conveying a point should not be misconstrued with artful storytelling. Both have tremendous value. But too often, we add words to be kind, take the edge off or to assert status through our command of a larger vocabulary. Stories are necessary when we are sharing a vision…creating a mental picture of a place to go. But they aren’t needed when time is of the essence…because the receiver isn’t ready for a story. 

Less is more. And it takes practice.

The Gift of Failure

When you fail, you know what it feels like…to be beaten, to be ignored, to be disappointed, to be ridiculed, to be exposed. And every time you fail, you practice the feeling. Over time, there’s less fear…of what it’s going to feel like. You know what’s coming…and it’s not as scary as the last time.

Failure isn’t something to be avoided. It’s something to be cherished…something to be sought out.