Examples of Great Stories

First Hospitality Linchpin Award

At least as far as I know it's the first. Inspired by Seth Godin's latest book, Linchpin, I was determined to replace the traditional and tired "employee of the month" award with something more meaningful. We awarded the first one yesterday...


Matt's Molteni Story

Part of Matt's story is the equipment he uses to do his job. For people like Matt, building a remarkable career requires better than average design, more than standard function. In fact, what works best is a story within a story...makes the end user much more appreciative of what went into their experience. Translation...they feel better, perhaps more attached and are often willing to pay more. Tools, like the much coveted Molteni, are often the difference between just another restaurant and one that people go out of their way for.

Money Isn't Everything


Ken and Diane Hendricks

Money isn't everything. But for most, it's a big part of the report card, especially in business. Spending money is how we demonstrate action. And, action is always louder than words.

Many, many companies claim they are the "employer of choice" and brag about how well they take care of employees. I'm certain I'm not the first person to tell you that most organizations fall short of their  mission statements....sometimes way short.

Ken Hendricks of ABC Supply seems to have figured out how to put his money where his mouth is. Haven't heard of Ken? He's only number 107 on this year's Forbes richest Americans list....worth $2.6 billion. There's a great article about Ken and his business philosophy in this month's issue of Inc. magazine (starts on page 108). It's well worth the read. But, in my opinion here's the most important part...

"wasting people is a sin. Repeatedly, he rails against "sick" cultures that don't nurture employees, or that simply discard workers. ABC, by contrast, invests $15 million each year (.5 percent of sales) in training and employee development and returns 51 percent of after-tax net income to the workforce in bonuses. Close to half of the company's managers making an average of $100,000 or more started out as roof loaders, warehouse workers or truck drivers."

How many companies do you know that return 51% of after tax income to its people...not the execs...the people?

The foundation of any company rests on how well it takes care of its own...and its customers. Often, that's measured in dollars.

What do your grades look like?

Tom Gets It...So Does Charleston


Tom Peters has posted twice in a week (here and here) about his visit to Charleston, South Carolina. It seems, the town is making quite an impression on him…in a good way. Here’s a guy who logs about a gillion miles a year and has been just about everywhere on the planet. So, when he makes a point like this…people should listen.

Here are some interesting facts about Charleston (2003/2004):

Population, about 500,000
Unemployment rate, 4.4%
Port traffic, 1.72 million containers annually (it’s the largest container cargo port in the Southeast, including the Gulf Coast!)
Retail sales, $13.7 billion annually
Largest employers include Medical University of SC, Piggly Wiggly (it’s a grocery chain), US Air Force and US Navy, Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Columbia/HCA Healthcare and the Robert Bosch Corporation

Find even more info here

These facts are interesting because you never hear about them. What you do hear about is what Tom highlights in his writings...history, hospitality and good old fashioned southern charm. In a nutshell, it’s a tourist town. And, just about everything is geared toward that. Master plans, websites, economic development, PR, TV ads and on and on. And, for being focused, they receive about 4.6 million visitors annually who contribute approximately $5.1 billion to the economy. That’s not chump change in anyone’s book.

If your town is having trouble figuring out the tourism thing…go to Charleston. You won’t find too many folks there who don’t understand the big picture, and more importantly who lines their pockets.

Oh, and one more thing...I proposed to my wife there. So, I too have some very fond memories.



Why did a band like ELO become so popular and with such velocity when rock ‘n roll had already been around for so many years?

Because they weren’t playing rock ‘n roll as we knew it…they started something new. The Electric Light Orchestra added strings and a true “orchestra” experience for their performances. They had a new story and very unique design by way of both sound and stage presence. This experience had never been heard or seen before. They were the only ones doing it…and were quite good at it based on record sales. That’s what made them so hugely popular, so quickly.

Eventually, the “newness” and resulting success faded as other interesting acts came along, i.e., Queen, David Bowie, etc. They could no longer attract new fans with the same experience…it wasn’t remarkable anymore. And, there were too many other choices.

Occasionally, we need to change in order to keep ourselves interesting and attractive. It’s not good enough to rely on past successes, no matter how good they were. Being remarkable means coming up with something new as often as it is necessary. And, these days, with such short customer attention spans, that’s a much more frequent occurrence.

I’m sure you can think of other remarkable artists who had a great run. Some changed along the way to keep attracting new fans. Others had a short, but very successful go of it. Here’s a short list that comes to mind:

Jerry Garcia (the one who inspired us to be The One and Only)
Pink Floyd
Ray Charles
Harry Connick, Jr.
Dire Straits
David Bowie
The Rolling Stones
The Beatles
The Kinks

Etc, etc.

A Whole New World


The World looks like quite a place. And, they have one heck of a story to back it up...

The World' in Dubai rises up as sand reclamation reaches 55 percent

Rising out of the Arabian Gulf with incredible speed, 'The World' has quickly taken shape with up to 10 dredgers working daily. The scale of the logistics operation is immense: more than three million cubic metres of sand is moved every week, which amounts to more than 181 million cubic meters of sand deposited to date. A fleet of up to 14 barges transports rock to the site, with more than 5.5 million tons of rock placed to date. When completed, 'The World' comprises some 321 million cubic metres of sand and 31 million metric tons of rock.

Black Glove Marketing


Marketing is like a puzzle. All of the pieces need to fit neatly together in order for the image to make sense. It doesn’t work if pieces are missing or if you have some that don’t fit anywhere.

I’ve mentioned some important marketing elements before (design, story and care). Any one of these on its own is not enough to carry you...at least not anymore. Take coffee for instance. You could have the greatest blend in the world (yes, hand picked by Juan Valdez). But, put it in a crappy looking cup, and it just doesn’t taste good. Worse yet, deliver it without passion and in a place that’s cold and uninviting and you might as well sell instant.

Here’s a company that seems to get it, Black Glove Coffee. They use design and story to make their product meaningful to people who enjoy more than flavor when they sip their coffee. They make the coffee experience personal with descriptions like, “hand-made”, “small batch”, “New York” and “gourmet”. Of course, they aren’t the only ones making good coffee. But, that’s clearly not what they’re selling. They sell creativity, enrichment, relaxation and joy. The website supports this experience very well. It’s functional, efficient, aesthetically appealing and smooth.

So far, the pieces fit perfectly. I’ve ordered some coffee. We’ll see if it all comes together…I’ll let you know.

Thanks to Aki and Alex for the referral.

How Does A Tiger Make You Feel?


Well, after this weekend, I know how Nike feels..can you say, cha ching! I don't think it could have been orchestrated any better.

Take a look at this clever video put together by Joseph Jaffe. Yes, it should be the next Nike commercial.

Watching this replay of that very memorable moment doesn't make me want to run out and buy shoes, shirts and hats. But, it sure reminds me of the Tiger Woods story and how that makes me feel. Over time, I have definitely come to associate those feelings with Nike...Just Do It!

So, what am I really buying?

The Butter Story


If there’s no story behind the experience you’re selling, it’s going to be (or, has been) a tough road. Stories sell because they strike an emotional chord with your guest. More and more, it’s the “process” and the behind-the-scenes part of the experience which sets you apart from others, becomes the most memorable, and hence, is the most sought after.

For instance, take Animal Farm butter. It’s great butter to be sure. But, it also has a great story to tell. It’s produced from only seven cows on an organic farm in rural Vermont. No tractors, no fancy milking machines, just love and passion. In fact judging from the photo, I suspect Diane and her family care for those cows like children. I bet the Robin Williams Effect is in full swing up there.

The limited quantities make this butter very exclusive and very hard to get. How much do you think this story is worth?

Only three restaurants were smart enough (and lucky enough) to use this butter story to perpetuate their own. You can hear it at Keyah Grande, Per Se and French Laundry.

So, what’s your story?