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"Why Choose Between Fun and Content When You Can Have Both"

Create a great employee experience. Avoid Taxes! Spend.

A while back I found myself in a debate with a friend about poverty, the economy, and the tax increases which almost everyone is going to feel in one way or another. Whether it be at the pump, in the supermarket, for luxury items or an increased income tax we are all about to feel it in our pocket.

My friend said he is willing to pay more in taxes. If he had to pay an extra $100 in taxes each month to keep our government running,  people employed, and social programs running he was willing to do that. I am not. Until the government can prove once and for all that they have a plan – that everyone agrees on – count me out.

My response to him was wouldn’t that $100 be better off in hands other than the government. I encouraged him to take that $100 and donate more to charity; to hire someone to do basic data entry or some house repair he was going to do himself. Perhaps even give someone who was about to lose their home that $100 each month? (well maybe make the payment directly to their mortgage company since some people can’t be trusted.)

Businesses are no different. Cutting back on things like staff development while improving the bottom line; to preserve a stock price. Not allowing your team to buy basic supplies and expecting them to have a positive employee experience that turns into a great customer experience. The cost of cutting expenses can be detrimental; and you’re gonna get socked anyway.

Case in point, I recently offered an amazing professional development deal to clients/prospects in CT; a 2-hour RECESS to get their people engaged, recharged and identifying/creating new products and services; at a price that had some of my colleagues asking me what I was smoking. I have had a few takers so far. The response from others was “we just don’t have the money.” Sad thing is they will have the money to pay more taxes at the risk of a workforce that continues to become disengaged. They will have the money to pay more taxes as the employee experience dwindles.

The money IS about leave all of our bank accounts. This is not about Democrat or Republican ideas. This is about common sense. You can hire someone, do something good for your staff, or create a job. You can do something that is feel-good; versus sitting there and getting frustrated. You can lower your net income, avoid taxes and put some smiles on people’s faces. It’s your decision.

P.S. Way to go Scott for donating more to my favorite charity, The World’s Only Virtual Diner Fighting Hunger, and hiring some help.

You should hold a Customer Bathing Suit Contest!

This is one of the picturesI posted on Facebook yesterday.

In 1989 I lost a bunch of weight after joining Weight Watchers. In 1993 they recruited me to lead motivational/informational weight loss meetings for them. I did that for many years; until I reached a philosophical difference about measurements of success; me measuring it by behavior change; pounds lost and kept off; they measuring it by getting people to spend more money.

My approach was never conventional and my hand was slapped numerous times by those within the corporate structure who believed in convention. I never wanted people who showed up weekly to see some canned presentation; like 99% of the other staff members offered. Worse yet, I refused to turn into an infomercial for more products and services.

The picture above was from the “Bathing Suit Contest” I held in June each year. In December I held the “Slutty Thing Contest.” Now if you’ve been to Weight Watchers you know that this is definitely a RECESS from those canned presentations.

Both events were about celebrating success; where people who had/were overcoming a difficult personal struggle got to feel good and proud in a safe environment. There were two rules:

  1. You participated or
  2. You sat and made a heck of a lot of noise for those who did.

I bought prizes (thank you Dollar Tree) and made up certificates of recognition. I did this at my expense; see my earlier comment about their measurement of success. The couple of hundred dollars I spent each year kept people engaged and on their way to success. Each year close to 100 people participated. There was music, laughter, screaming and even some crying. And as a good leader I led the way in my bathing suit.

As an aside, every year I promised I would wear a thong if everyone in the room showed up in their bathing suit. And every year under my bathing suit was that thong……just in case. One year I got nervous as people worked the room for weeks leading up to the event. (And I still don’t know why anyone would want to walk around with a piece of string up their butt. It was the most uncomfortable week of the year for me.)

Yes, there were those who thought I was absurd. Yes, I did get calls from the management team asking what I was up to. I ignored them. This was about providing a unique customer experience. The team of people who worked with me sometimes wore their bathing suits. Enthusiasm is catchy. And make no mistake, management loved the revenue I generated with hundreds of engaged customers weekly.

But here is the important thing…… I positioned this as an opportunity to celebrate success/accomplishment. I positioned it about fun. I positioned it about standing out, being bold and being different; doing what others weren’t doing; others who were not successful because they took the same old hide behind fat clothing approaches. I got people excited about these events; both the employees and the customers. That’s how people succeed in life; that’s how businesses succeed in business; by being different; by getting excited.

I wear a propeller beanie cap. No one in my world who works with businesses in developing their staff is doing that. Last year I founded the World’s Only Virtual Diner Fighting Hunger, the Double D Diner operated by One Less Meal, Inc. No one is doing that. I work with organizations who want to stand out; who are open to the idea that conventionalism is not going to keep them on the top of people’s minds. Burger King will always be #2 to McDonald’s. They both have burgers. They both offer fast meals. They both have a mascot (Ronald & The King). Burger King is not original; they don’t stand out. I personally don’t think flame broiled versus fried matters; but I could be wrong.

So I have three questions for you today.

  1. What are you doing that is so radically different than anyone else? 
  2. Why hasn’t that “crazy” great idea come to fruition?
  3. Isn’t it time to keep people excited about what you have to offer?

Employees First. Customers Second. More Proof!

After an hour of listening to Usher, Lady Gaga, Flo Rida, and Jay-Z, I unplugged the MP3 Player and tuned to News Radio.

45 minutes later I learned that the Middle East continues to erupt in craziness, 90% of people with the last name Washington are African American/Black, and employees are the best thing about three companies in the NYC listening area. The last point excited me the most.

I’m an advocate for the employee. I believe that a customer experience will be terrible unless you provide an employee experience like no other. I believe that ongoing training, professional development, mentoring, taking an interest in their work, providing interesting and challenging work, and open communication with employees will deliver you the happiest employees and customers. I also know that too many organizations forgot about these things over the last few years as the economy went into the crapper.

But how odd was it that the three commercials for three different businesses talked about “our people”; how the “best thing about our company is our people” or “our people make the difference.” Three different businesses; all within a 45 minute period? It might get you wondering if they all hired the same PR/Marketing firm.

Make no mistake ,it IS your people that make the decision for me and others as to whether we buy from you. 

  • An investment in them is an investment in your business.
  • Communicate with them. Better to talk with them than have them talk about you.
  • Laugh with them. Cohesive teams laugh at the chaos and craziness of their workplace.
  • Ask them if their work is challenging? Meaningful? If it is not, work with them to change that.

And heck, why not………..buy some ad space somewhere where you can shout how great they are.

Rucki’s General Store; Helping figure out who your client is

I drive between my home in CT and my other home on Cape Cod regularly; usually rushing to get to either place; because that is what we do as a society…..rush.

In Abington/Pomfret CT at the intersection of Rtes 97 & 44 is a run down looking building which houses Rucki’s General Store. For years I’ve been staring at this place as I whizzed by, telling myself that some day I’m going to stop in and see what’s inside. Curious I was. For years I drove by. After all what could that “dump” possibly have to offer.

This past Thursday on the drive back to CT I was doing a little soul searching; pondering who really is the client I want to work with; those I enjoy working with most; those who actually implement the ideas that come about as a result of hiring me to work with them. I was looking for some inspiration.

Yellow light ahead. My normal approach……speed up. Nah, let’s take a RECESS from trying to make the light; considering the law enforcement I noticed on the road this morning. I stopped at the light. There was Rucki’s. Thursday morning I finally stopped.

 

Rucki’s is one of those places where you can find anything you might need. I don’t know what that is; but I’m thinking if you woke up tomorrow and said you needed a hacksaw, a container of milk and a last minute gift you would find it.

And that’s exactly what I found inside; a hodgepodge of stuff. Some old. Some new. Some very new. Some things that looked like the board of health would have a field day. They don’t take checks at Rucki’s. They don’t take credit cards. CASH ONLY as the sign says on the door. The woman inside was exactly what I would expect from a Rucki’s employee or business owner; cheerful, welcoming and happy to see me walk through the doors.

So how do they stay in business?

  • Is it locals wanting to support other locals?
  • Is it the fact that they are the only thing for miles and miles?
  • Is their customer service superior?
  • Do they anticipate the needs of the community?
  • Are the prices competitive with the big box stores miles away?
  • Do they provide a type of nostalgic experience that people who choose to live in rural Eastern CT are hoping to keep alive?  

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know one thing…. I’ve been driving by this place for years; it’s still in business. I’ve watched other businesses in more thriving communities come and go. But out in Eastern CT is a little gem that reminded me one thing that I want to share with anyone who has a dream…………..

There’s a market for any business, product or idea no matter how high tech, low tech, nostalgic or futuristic you want to be. I know my market. Do you know yours?

A better employee experience: Are your “regular” customers always worth the effort?

The other night I watched a drunk get verbally abusive to a customer and a staff member at a restaurant. The restaurant manager smoothed things out, calmed him down and removed the charge for a glass of wine; a glass of wine which the drunk had bought for a woman he was hoping to “get to know.” She refused his advances and the glass of wine.

Things got a little loud as the manager let him know she was removing the glass of wine from the bill. He was complaining about the wine being bad. It wasn’t that the wine was bad; it was that he was rejected. How about removing the drunk from the restaurant were my thoughts.

Apparently this man has outbursts like this and exhibits stupid behavior on a regular basis. And therein lies the problem. He is a “regular.” He comes into the restaurant often. So they put up with his nonsense. The owners and managers continue to allow employees and other customers become uncomfortable.

For whatever reasons businesses seek to protect “regular” customers. I wonder how many employees are having a miserable experience because of this one idiot. I wonder if employee turnover is related to business not creating an environment that is comfortable for employees and non-regulars. I wonder how many “new regulars” have been lost because of  idiots like Gil.