Remarkable Product

Free Work

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to advertise is to give your work away for free. In the right hands, this sort of immersion is very powerful and the idea spreads, almost effortlessly. There are two give it away to the wrong people, people who would otherwise have no interest...and that your product is average. Both produce the same outcome...the price they are willing to pay is at or near zero. The pressure then is to do something so remarkable that even in the wrong hands it seems satisfactory.

Then there's the fear factor. People who are afraid to give anything away, a song, an ebook or a recipe are hiding behind the false notion that this somehow protects them and their pricing strategy. The worry is that someone will steal their idea and benefit from it. In reality, this sort of theft isn't that difficult anymore. So, the protection effort and the associated annoyances to the fan base are hardly worth it. But, more importantly, what they don't understand is that most people don't want something for free, especially if it's really great. There is an inherent quality in most of us that wants to reward people for brilliant work. So, again, the ultimate form of protection is to do something that matters, that creates such a stir that it compels people to talk about it.

All roads lead to remarkable as the best insurance policy.



Create Content

Most organizations, and people for that matter, don't spend nearly enough time working on what really matters...meaningful content. Instead they worry more about selling the idea, spreading the word and getting on Oprah (I realize that's actually not possible anymore).

Companies spend more energy and money on interrupting people than ever before, mainly because of the proliferation of channels. They feel pressured to sell the story, buy the ad, talk to the editor...before someone else does. Ironically, if the same energy, passion and commitment was devoted to creating content, they wouldn't need the push...the pull would happen instead.

In a conversation about how to generate more PR, a chef once told me, do something truly remarkable and you can't hide.

Spreading the word is indeed important...but without remarkable content, you're pushing boulders up a hill. Good luck.

Dream Company

I’d probably call it Appelos...hybrid Apple and Zappos

It has nothing to do with computers or an internet store. It’s about their obsessions...

Apple- quality, innovation, design, spirit, growing the tribe

Zappos- employee care, employee dream fulfillment, customer engagement, pursuit of happiness

Obviously, both organizations have been very successful on every measure. But, they also both started at zero and went through serious dips before emerging into what we know today. The key takeaway is how they stuck to their core values and developed obsessions around them. They survived and made progress by ignoring popular trends and advice and simply (but not easily) doing flawless work. They executed their obsessions...and continue to do so.

Lesson...Write down your purpose, what you stand for. Develop obsessions and execute. There, that’s your business plan. Please go do something remarkable.

Execute or Die

In case you haven't noticed, these are not normal times. In fact, I'd call it down right scary...the alarm bells are ringing. I've heard from a number of my industry friends...leisure, corporate, group...all travel is already down and there's no sign of a quick recovery. Sorry, but it's true (if you know different, please call me, I need some good news). But this is no time to panic. Rather, it's time to what you do extremely well. Now is the time to worry less about creating new things, and more on protecting the precious customer and employee relationships you have worked so hard to achieve. Now is the time to perfect service and optimize efficiency through having the best and brightest on your team. Now is the time to make sure the telephone is answered correctly...every time. Now is the time to invite the meeting planner or travel agent to lunch...the one you've been putting off. Now is the time for everyone to get serious about keeping the fans you have by executing with some serious attitude and can't afford to lose a single customer. Now is the time to be remarkable...odds are your competitors soon won't be.


In your pursuit of personal remarkability, one of the best things you can do is to find, get to know and be with people who share your passion and have common goals. No too long ago your options were fairly one dimensional and linear...get the best education you could afford, move away, hope to find a good mentor, work your tail off, read a lot of books and attend a conference or two. Some of the same still applies...there's no substitute for mentors and hard work. But, with low cost access to bandwidth (you hear this theme from me a lot), the world is truly at your fingertips. You now have the means to connect with just about anyone, anywhere on the planet. Surprisingly, I run into people almost daily who don't take advantage of the web medium. Too busy, not for me,

So, you'd think anyone with a desire to get ahead would become fully immersed and engaged, joining the literally thousands of conversations going on about

The Jeff Widman Effect


Back in March, after a long recruiting stretch, I wrote about re-engineering the resume. My attempt was to nudge people to rethink the way they present themselves, especially when looking for a new career opportunity. Seth Godin  wrote about it too...and, as usual, explained it perfectly.

Job search, like any other marketing activity, takes one of three paths:

1. You're remarkable- sure to land you the best job with the best people. Or,

2. You're average- rarely gets you noticed, almost never lands you an interview for the job you really want and makes you forgettable if you happen to get past initial screening. Or,

3. You're lucky- what you need copious amounts of if you're average.

Notwithstanding it's almost certain outcome, most people don't choose remarkable...because it's too hard. It requires too much time, too much thought, too much risk, too much energy, too much money...just too much. Contrarily, most people are willing to gamble by doing the easy, average thing, the thing that feels safe and then hope (and pray) for the best outcome.

Jeff Widman is clearly not average. I've never met him. Chances are, you haven't either. Good news, you don't need to...take a quick look at his website and handy work and you'll understand his brand almost immediately. He's a thinker, and a thought provoker. He's imaginative, humble and passionate. He knows exactly what he wants, understands what it takes to get there and works hard at it. And, best of all, he gets results. Interestingly, I learned all this without a resume, no boring intro letter, no phone interview and no reference checks. Just a quick e-mail thanking me for my post and inviting me to take a closer look. That's marketing. Great content, personally delivered in a meaningful way. I learned more about Jeff with a few clicks than I could have with a folder full of paperwork.

Jeff's last job application took fifty hours to develop...that in itself is remarkable. If you're looking for inspiration, I recommend you contact Jeff. Personally, I hope I get the chance to meet him someday.

You Know You're Remarkable When...

  • you no longer need to place recruitment ads in the newspaper or HCareers.
  • recruiters call you regularly with top prospects
  • interns ans externs are lined-up out the door
  • chef wanna be's come from all over just to tour the kitchen and knowing they have only a prayer of ever working there
  • the "open position" list is replaced by "top candidates"
  • turnover is minimal (less than 20%), and when it occurs, it's not your fault...retirement, transfer, entrepreneurial opportunities, etc.
  • getting housekeeping room attendants is rarely a problem

If this isn't the case at your place, perhaps the word's not out. Or, maybe the experience isn't fully developed, or the right leaders aren't in place, or your company isn't committed to excellence. It's rarely a "poor labor market" problem. More often, it's something carefully inspect that area first.

Don't Quit...Connect

A lot of people with talent quit...and they often quit because they listen to people they know and trust. Problem is...many of these people are fear based decision makers who are always looking for the safe, quick and least stressful route. People like Paul somehow get past that, take a chance and try to connect with new people who will value the talent they have.

Watch the video. Thanks to Seth for the pointer.

Do It Well

Alex mentioned this in a conversation we had a couple of weeks ago. I thought about it again today during today's indieHotelier program.

If you do hospitality really well, by default you will be different. And, you might even be the best. Take a look around. Almost all guest experiences are average and inconsistent.  This gives you an excellent chance to step-in and take win.

It's not easy or cheap. But, if you make the investment, it's as close to a sure bet as you can get.

  • Pick something you're really good at doing, something you're very knowledgeable about
  • Put a lot of effort into it
  • Execute...Chop Wood
  • Act like you're always in second or third place (from Seth Godin)
  • Be honest and transparent
  • Be extremely customer gimmicks, shortcuts, or growth plans

Traffic and Coat Tails

Just how important is traffic? In some cases, it's real important. I heard it was extremely important to John Q Hammonds...for years (maybe he still does) he developed hotels by following interstate highways and building where traffic peaked...or was about to. A pretty good strategy judging by his portfolio.

In the end, the importance of existing traffic depends on the type of experience you create and whether you're trying to reach the masses, or a niche. An average product relies more on chance to be successful. Hence adding a flag affiliation to improve your odds...but, that's a subject for another post. So, the more traffic that comes by your front door, the greater the chance someone stops in to buy. Most fruit stands survive on this premise. Now, choose a location with lots of traffic and a place that people actually want to be...then you dramatically increase your odds. I think that's what JQH does so well. And, that's what most of the chains work so hard to do...find cheap land in a location with lots and lots of, they collect 5%-10% of every room sold.

There are generally two paths to development. You create the reason people come...and your own stream of traffic. Or, you ride the coat tails of another...whether it's an interstate, Mt. Rushmore or a beach. The more "reasons" you create for yourself, the more insulated you are from someone else's peaks and valleys. Biltmore Estate is the primary reason people visit Asheville, North Carolina. And, as long as they remain interesting, they'll generate visitation...and the town benefits. On the other hand, you probably don't need to look very far to see examples of the opposite end of the coat tails spectrum. Most roadside hotels and convention center properties fit into this category...relying on the destination someone else has created and their location to be exposed to the most traffic. Of course, there are hybrids...unique and interesting properties that also rely on some outside factors. Some of the JQH propeties are. In fact, you could argue that a remarkable hybrid is the best of all scenarios...a good strategy, but it does require some luck.

So, on the surface, it seems easier to go the coat tails route. It's cheaper, quicker and requires far less imagination to get started. But, in the end, your destiny relies heavily on another...that's risky.

Consider some additional thoughts...

  • Making something average is easier and cheaper than building something extraordinary, interesting and different...that's why there's so much of it.
  • Making something just good enough and getting a lot of traffic feels safe.
  • People pay less...far less, for average stuff.
  • It's likely, very likely, you can't make yours the cheapest...someone else is already doing it. And, it's extremely difficult to be better...and cheaper.       
  • Making something different is hard.
  • Being the best at something is really hard.
  • More and more people want remarkably different things.
  • People pay more for what they want...a lot more.

So, I ask myself everyday....what category do I want to be in? And, what am I doing to get there?

Defense vs. Offense

How much time do you spend on defense? On filling out reports, dealing with guest complaints, responding to e-mails, the day-to-day stuff?

Now, how much time do you spend on offense? Thinking about remarkability and what it’s going to take to change you and your business in order to survive next year, or in five years?

I bet the ratio heavily favors the defense. Do the analysis just for a day or a week…and do the math. The problem is…great defenses only win games in sports.

Happy Thanksgiving! Go Broncos.

Thought inspired by pages 27-28 of the Big Moo

Down Time

Most people, when they get a day or two off (especially in our business), just "veg". They read a novel, ride a bike or watch a ball game. Down time is considered private time and an opportunity to re-energize.

Other people, like my friends at Ideas In Food, spend off-time getting better. They take the time between games to practice and to work on new things. They invest so called "private time" to keep the game interesting and to stay ahead of others. They're relentless in their pursuit of excellence with set-backs viewed not as "bad" things, but as get better. And, none of this tireless effort is considered "work"...because they really love what they do. This is what it takes to be remarkable.

Finding people like this isn't a cinch by any means. But, if you're lucky enough to get them on the bus, do what you can to keep them there. And, yes, get the heck out of the way.

This is what happened on today's "day-off". I wish I could do that!


Mobil Stars

Well, it's that time of year again...ratings season. Mobil just released their four and five star assignments. You can read the entire list here. Here's a scorecard...

Five Star- 32 total

Indie's 15
Four Seasons 8
Ritz 5
Penninsula 2
Raffles 1
St. Regis 1

Four Star- 119 total

Indie's 64
Ritz 23
Four Seasons 15
Mandarin 5
St. Regis 4
Park Hyatt 3
Others 5

Overall, the indie's claimed 52% of the ratings...that's very impressive. The big franchise winner is Ritz at 39% of chain rated hotels. Although, if you're aiming for five star and are in love with chains, go with Four Seasons who earned almost half (47%) of the five star ratings for chain properties.

All in all, independents remain at the top. I dont think that's going to change. What say you?



As pilots we're taught the mechanics of flight to ensure we get up in the air and back down again safely and enjoyably. Once we have that figured out, the real teaching begins. That's when we learn to improvise and adapt. Because, much like in ordinary life, not much goes according to plan. We're asked to perform with the expecation that the s**t "will" hit the fan. The instructor's mission is to determine...How you will react? How you will adapt? What happens when one wheel doesn't come down, when the fuel gauge was stuck on the wrong indication (and you're sucking air), when you lose all electrical power (at night) or worse, a T-38 shears off the nose of your airplane at 5,000 feet (true story, I know a guy that happened to)? Great pilots are the ones who get to tell us these stories. The rest...I'll give you one guess. In aviation, this is where the men are separated from the boys (or, women from girls, whatever, you get my point).

Now, while it's not a matter of life and death in the world customer care (except for that one guy that threw a stapler at me when I was a desk clerk), the rules are the same. Anyone can be nice and offer smiles, hugs and kisses when the waters are calm. But, what about when it's choppy or there's a tidal wave? When there's no time to analyze, no time to think...just to do.

Better have the people with the "right stuff" on the line...because things almost never go to plan.

Creativity Leads To Remarkability

Want a creative work environment?

Try this...

First, hire smart, passionate, caring and honest people


Allow them to “act” and “express” themselves
Have Less rules
Have Less structure
Preach Adaptive
Train them to Improvise
Give people Freedom to “play”

In other words, Get Out of The Way!

Wiggly Kidz


If you're looking for a way to make your little guests happy, try this...Wiggly Kidz

Steve Riskas, founder of Wiggly Kidz, recently sent me a few activity bags to try-out on my own kids. They passed with flying colors.

In brief, this is a great product... and in keeping with the company's mission to foster child development through imagination and creativity. All of the contents are safety oriented, colorful and full of things to put together, glue, color, etc. There's quite a variety to choose from. And, for the price it's a perfect giveaway for your rugrat arrivals. We particularly enjoyed the King's and Queen's bag.

Children's feelings and impressions are often the most important, especially on the road. Cranky kids can ruin an entire trip. On the flipside, entertained and happy ones can make an otherwise mediocre stay very memorable. This is a smart buy when you consider what's at stake.

The F Word


My new friend, “Dr. A” (Dr. Mario Arnaldo, Hawaii Pacific University) recently reminded me of an important part of the remarkable service puzzle…Focus.

In sports, it’s called “being in the zone”. Once in this state, there’s no longer a quest to be the best…there’s an obsession. And, with that obsession comes a focus so sharp that nothing is allowed to get in the way of achieving the goal. Every conceivable distraction is tuned-out in order to give full attention to the task at hand…winning.

Another example…

I just watched The Aviator (starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes). The film depicts Hughes (quite accurately according to most accounts) as an ego eccentric maniac in a constant search (and struggle) to be the best aviator in the world. His passion, obsession and focus on flying enabled him to achieve exactly that…for a time anyway.

The same principle can be applied to service performance. Without obsession, passion and focus, we can only hope to be mediocre. So, as a leader, here’s your most important job. First, find the most passionate people you can afford. Then, give them the stage (tools and training). And finally, keep them focused. The best thing you can do is to minimize or eliminate distractions (get rid of stifling rules and regulations, get non-passionate people out of the way, provide “failure support”, etc.). Do these things well, and the rest takes care of itself. Oh, and don’t forget to get out of the way.