People Smarter Than Me

Reading This Might be Better Than College

College is a great experience. But for most of us...we didn't learn things we could take into a job. Turns out practical experience wins out over Quantitative Methods of Business and Macro Economics. So, even if you go to college, you might try reading this anyway. At least start with the 30 posts that are available if you click through.

Thanks Seth.

What the Plus...A Practical Guide to using Google+...and why you should

Guy Kawasaki is one of my favorites. If I was the team captain, I'd pick him every time. He has a way of making sense out of things that don't always, well, make sense. Like Google Plus for instance. In the shadow of established social mediums like Twitter and Facebook, it's easy to dismiss Google's platform as an also ran, another Lab project waiting for the scrap heap. Not so fast. Even if you don't plan on using Google Plus, please read the first chapter of Guy's new book. It's free here...and over on Google Plus if you search for it.

Merry Christmas.


One More Thing...

I never met Steve Jobs. I didn’t know him. But like many, I didn’t have to. I became an Apple fan (I have at least one of just about everything they sell) not so much because of the products, but because of the culture. If you peel back the innovative design and technology, what you’ll find buried way underneath is a culture of hospitality, a culture of caring about not just what you’re doing, but how you do it. Many people have described Steve Jobs as a tremendous leader and visionary. Some have characterized him as a hard driving perfectionist which was off putting to more than a few. But almost no one has labeled him as a hospitality guru. I have.

Imagine the Apple retail experience without the following...

  • Obsession with efficiency and customer handling- handheld checkout devices, emailed receipts and a devotion to having more than enough people to handle customer demand.
  • Hello and Good Bye- Devoted to greeting you at the door and saying good bye when you leave...regardless of purchase.
  • Passionate people- having witnessed the hiring process first-hand I can say they spend more time and money on screening and training than anyone I’ve come across, except for maybe Zappos. The result is an army of fiercely loyal and passionate people who I think would almost work for free.
  • No Counters (except for the genius bar)- devoted to a high level of customer engagement.
  • Genius Bar- a dedicated group of highly trained specialists who listen and care more about solving your problem than charging you for it.
  • Apple Care- just the name is enough said.
  • The Details- classic Steve everywhere...receipts (if you want one) are produced like magic tricks from printers cleverly hidden under display tables, bags are high quality design statements in their own right and worth buying (and also come from seemingly nowhere) and store layouts are spacious, eye appealing, clutter free and comfortable. Everything fits.

Without these elements, Apple stores would be very different...much like most average retail experiences...boring and much less personable. Thank goodness they’re not.

Here’s a video pitch I made earlier this year to help secure an Apple training meeting at our hotel. I’m told it made quite a splash at Apple (and luckily we got the meeting). We lived with the Apple culture for three weeks, had a great time, made new friends and learned a lot. And in the process we helped them open a new store.

Steve...thank you for doing it differently. Thank you for inspiring me to often ask “how would Steve do this?”. And thank you for taking hospitality seriously.

I will miss you.

Recruiting Changes When...

you have a compelling story and a loyal tribe of raving fans. At this stage, you don t post ads on HCareers and hope for a good bite. Instead, you do what Sasha does at Acumen. You let your audience spread the word and impose a deadline taking advantage of the principle of excess demand over limited supply.

Your goal is to go from push to pull.

There's No Perfect Time...

to start something. There's always a reason not to go, to present the idea or change the plan. The indecision of decisionmaking is what holds us back time and time again. And therein lies the subject matter of Seth Godin's newest work, Poke the Box.

Poking, starting and shipping's a simple idea that's brutally hard to execute. Along with the book is a free downloadable PDF workbook...which you can get here. I hope you enjoy and find the materials as useful as I did.

Heaven on Earth

Sitting here drinking an authentic Mexican Coca Cola (yes, there is a difference) while peering over the top of my Macbook Air at the ocean (I have my priorities)...I came across this little riff from David Wolanski 

I've been working on making changes myself so that mine isn't a colorless cubicle shaped stew pot. Part of it is preparing mentally, and part of it is thinking about how to use the tools at hand to shape something that is my own version of heaven on earth. Bring beauty and encouragement to others. Give of my time talent and treasure to make a heaven here on earth and leave a legacy behind that outlives my time this side of the veil.

Amen...and don't settle for anything less.


Linchpin Meetup Next Tuesday, December 7th in Little Rock

I've agreed to host the second (first one was last June) Linchpin Meetup, this time in Little Rock at the Capital Hotel. Details and sign up can be found here. I attended the last one when I was in Munich...a very interesting group and good discussion.

If you don't know what this is this. Having read Seth Godin's book, Linchpin, is a real plus, but not required. The only prerequisite is wanting to discover new ideas, connect with like minded people and have fun.

Build a Hospitality Culture...or Die

This time of year is loaded with lists...of things you should and shouldn't do. This one by Guy Kawasaki may be one of the most complete I've ever read. It's practically a book full of advice given in a few paragraphs. While he intended it for small business, it applies to everyone, big or small.

Not surprisingly, my favorite point is the first one...put likeable, competent people on the front line. Seems like a no brainer. But, virtually every company does exactly the opposite. They let the lowest paid, least experienced talent make the first impressions. This is a culture developed by big business out of desparation...desparation to control every aspect of a customer interaction. Unfortunately, it often backfires. That's why small business is making a strong comeback, using hospitality...meaningful interactions and personal build a loyal audience of raving fans and stealing market share in the process. Yes, there's plenty of stumbling in the process. But, who cares, as long as the customer is happy and there's enough in the financial tank to open tomorrow.

The smaller the business, the easier it is to put your best people on the firing line. It just works out naturally. The coffee shop owner is the barista, the the innkeeper is at the front desk, etc. But, as your business grows past one or two it becomes exponentially problematic. We're taught (in business school and by experience in other large companies) that when you add staff, you need to add managers to manage control what and how much the group produces. We're taught that this is actually the coveted spot in the organization, first to manage front line workers, then to manage managers and so on. So, as one gets "smarter", they move further and further away from the customer. The irony is that as we move away from our customer, we actually get dumber. A dumber organization with more layers, i.e., smart is that?

So, what to do...

The extreme would be to put the highest paid, most experienced group up front. But, this is financially challenging and organizationally ineffective, especially as you grow. The reality is that bigger means there's more administrative stuff to do. Here's a compromise. Make sure that more than half, closer to two thirds of your management (assuming they're the most competent and likeable) spend more time on the front line with their staff than in an office or cube. This means two things need to happen. Non-customer related work needs to be reduced or shifted elsewhere. If it's non-essential to building a loyal fan base, let someone else do it, i.e., outsourcing. Secondly, build a hospitality culture by hiring people who want to be near the customer. This is the hardest part. Odds are, you're not going to find them in the traditional business school or at a large firm. So, if your priority is to build a hospitality culture (it should be), stop looking there. That means you'll need to either grow your own or find some in small business. Small business produces the most likeable and nimble talent on the planet...out of necessity. They either serve the customer remarkable well or they die. These people can infuse your company with the hospitlaity culture you need to be front line focused. Likely, they'll also be the ones that don't follow rules well or know how develop a fifty- page strategic plan. But remember, your customer isn't buying those things. They're buying likeable people who can quickly solve their problems. So, please get some.





Powerful Marketing Message

Picked up this nugget from Seth's latest post...

"marketing involves effectively communicating a story about benefits to (and among) the people who will appreciate them"

That's it in a nutshell...all the rest of the stuff you hear about marketing is fluff. Of course there's a lot that goes into it. But, that's called work. Best get busy.




Why Do It at All

Go here to be inspired with a list of 16 questions you should ask yourself if you're starting a new project, setting out on your own, etc. I'll add my own...What happens (to you, the market, etc. ) if you decide not to do it?

Does someone else replace you? Do you a leave a void in the lives of prospective customers? How does the world not change? In other words, what's the consequence of not doing it?

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...