Stealing Business

…isn’t a good strategy because much like kids’ toys, it’s based on taking what’s not yours. Typically the tactics include acts of desperation...short-run price drops and deceptive offers to create attention and entice someone to change. The problem then becomes convincing someone to stay…because there’s always a better short-term deal. It’s a downward spiral leading to low quality, poor service and a legacy of trickery.

Alternatively, you could be in the business of creating something worth talking about and delivering what was promised. You could employ care as your strategy…caring enough not to take what you didn’t earn. And you could get busy making something that can’t be easily taken…trust.

Free is Too Expensive

…most of the time. Because most of the time it’s a zero sum game. Free is on offer when there is a concession elsewhere. The movie is free. But we’ll show you some ads. Here’s a free phone…for signing a two year contract. Or, it’s last year’s model. Time, quality, price and trust…they are all interchangeable parts in the system. 

Sometimes though, there aren’t any strings attached. It’s just a generous offer…a gift. Just understand the difference the next time you’re offered a free lunch.

Privilege of Artful Work

A job is more than a chance to do the work someone else prescribes. It’s an opportunity to show your best self, approach and do work in such a way that it changes someone. We all know when we experience someone in this state, it’s a magical and remarkable experience.

Showing up and meeting the standard is important…it’s work that needs to be done. Performing the work in such a way that it moves someone is a choice. It comes with the risk that it might not work. But it’s also one we all deserve. Choose wisely.

All We Need is One Percent

…is one of the most common traps of modern business plans. A speculative, larger outcome is always easier to develop than the smaller, first steps necessary to gain traction. Everyone knows that the grand end will likely be different than planned, so it’s not seen as a promise…just a desired result. But what you’re going to do today and tomorrow to get there…that’s much more real. You’re on the hook and there's no way off.

Best to first focus on how to get the first few people to buy your product or idea. Scale later.

A Bad Day

Everyone has a lousy day. The one that doesn’t start right because the routine, the expected smoothness, a good night’s sleep or just simply feeling well was somehow interrupted. It’s a downward spiral. And we can’t wait to hit the reset button…when will this day end?

Of course having a bad day is a choice. We can stop it at anytime. One bad thing doesn’t need to lead to another. But sometimes we can’t break the chain. Sometimes we need a little help, a boost, some clarity…and someone to see what we are seeing, feel what we are feeling. We need someone to stop for a moment, take the time to notice, to see us as individuals and to care enough to offer to help, hoping to lift the burden in some small way. We need someone to make our day. And that someone might as well be you.

How can you change someone’s day for the better…today?

Selling an Idea

…is often like selling someone a meal when they’re not hungry. You’re offering a solution to a problem they don’t have…yet. But what if you could create a version of the future so compelling, so interesting and legacy driven that you could gain enrollment to go there? And what if you could take responsibility for getting past the obstacles that stand in the way? What if you did the heavy lifting?

Big ideas often come with hard work and risk. But they are necessary for meaningful change. Your job isn’t to sell the idea. It’s to lead the charge to get there.  

A Culture of Help

Your goals aren’t nearly as important as the ones of the people around you.

A posture of generous and caring commitment to people on your team is the most effective way, perhaps the only way, to fulfilling your own dreams…because people naturally want to help those that help. 

Leading change is really hard to do on your own. Gaining enrollment from others may be even harder…unless you commit to seeing them first.

Density and Caliber

There’s a lot riding on the people you choose when building a culture, creating a meaningful legacy that outlives the current group or project. Adding just one person who isn’t aligned at the core and enrolled in your purpose can take a considerable amount of time and energy to unwind. But of course it’s going to happen. No matter how much you interview, research or test, someone’s going to slip by. The key then is to create an overwhelming majority…a high density group of remarkable, legacy driven people who take-over the culture and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. If you have enough high caliber people who care to do work that matters in a generous way, a few oddballs won’t matter so much.

Harmony

Great design, both physical and service, isn’t about one or two parts elevated above the rest of it. We don’t expect a great hotel to have spotless bathrooms but lousy curb service at the front door. We’re far less likely to talk about a restaurant if only the appetizers are worth going for. The most remarkable experiences aren’t the one offs, they’re the ones that consistently and harmoniously deliver at all of the edges. Harmony requires an extra level of care and obsession on all of the details…not just a few. Harmony matters…but it’s really hard. That’s what makes it remarkable.

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.

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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?

Why?

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.