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

It’s a Cookie Planter; not a Cookie Jar

Once upon a time a friend gave me a cookie jar. I put cookies in them. Then I outgrew cookies (of course that was after I started to outgrow my pants).

Okay, I really didn’t outgrow cookies. No one who loves cookies really ever outgrows cookies. But I realized that having a jar of cookies was probably not the best thing for my health and my waist; and was starting to reverse a weight loss I was proud of.

So I turned the cookie jar into a planter. I removed the jar from the kitchen and put that planter on my desk. Each day I look at that planter and think how I’ve kept a plant alive for close to fifteen years (it’s all about choosing a plant that basically won’t die no matter how hard you try); have maintained a friendship for almost 20 years; and have kept a whole bunch of weight off for over 22 years.

And this has to do with what, Rich? 

What other uses have you found for ordinary items? What uses have your customers found for ordinary items? You should ask them. You should hold a contest; engage them in communication. Make it a meeting ice breaker for your team? Employees and customers just might give you an idea; and another revenue stream.

Oh, and by the way; the most important thing about that cookie planter is that I am always guaranteed that someone (or something) will smile back at me each day.

 

 

The Great Whites are killing seals but the Land Sharks are making a killing too!

Cape Cod, specifically Chatham, MA, has become a modern day JAWS. Yep, this New England town has become a feeding ground for great white sharks now that the seal population has been saved. And last week, again, beaches were closed and swimmers were told they could not swim.

A seal protecting itself in Chatham Harbor

 

But gaggles of people are still making their way to Chatham in hopes of seeing a fin swim by. Of course there are those who are looking for a seal carcass or two as well. They come by bike. They come by car. They are coming with rolls of quarters and planting themselves by those Viewfinders.

But with no swimming what’s a vacation beach town to do?

Easy:

  • You make shark candy
  • You sell shark T-shirts
  • You add shark pot holders to your kitchen product line
  • You stock shark books
  • You concoct a shark drink
  • You have shark parties

Yes, the town of Chatham has become everything shark; and everyone seems to be having a heck of a lot of fun despite the potential for danger; which is just a reminder that in every adversity is opportunity.

What’s wrong in your industry right now? Where’s your opportunity to sell something to the masses as they are forced to change their actions, buying habits and thought processes. That’s what I’m thinking about today. That’s what I’m sharing with business owners and employee sales teams. So take a Recess and gather your employees together today, identify the problems and come up with a fun and creative solution. Despite the bad economic news, people are still buying.

Maybe what you need IS an interruption?

  • There’s that phone call that you don’t want to take
  • There’s that meeting you don’t want to attend
  • There’s that family matter that pulls you away
  • There’s that need to check your Facebook page, Twitter Stream or other Social Media website
  • There’s that friend who wants you to blow off work tomorrow and go to the beach

Let’s face it, there’s always that interruption of some sort that seems to keep you from getting your work done.

But what if that interruption led you to laugh at something that really isn’t a challenge but an opportunity to solve a problem? What if that meeting led you to think about new possibilities? What if that family matter made you realize and set priorities; to become more efficient? What if something on those social media pages led to a collaboration? What if the day at the beach led to you finding new work or doing some social good or to a new product or service?

Two years ago a day at the beach led me to finding the nonprofit One Less Meal, Inc. (http://onelessmeal.org); The World’s Only Virtual Diner Fighting Hunger – where you don’t eat a meal but rather donate one. What if keeping your head buried in your keyboard or glued to your smartphone is actually the thing that is keeping you from being great and/or making a difference?

What if you looked at today’s interruptions as something else………what I like to call INSPIRruptions!

 

Is there a market for that?

Yesterday I was talking with two friends (at separate times) about two new products I am tossing around in my head. One person immediately said I should move forward; the other person asked me “is there a market for that?” One product I could probably have in production within 24 hours; the other might take a couple of weeks. Both would require little production costs as they could be done in small runs.

But there’s that nagging question “is there a market for that?”

If you’re old enough you remember the pet rock. Was there really a market for that? Look at the success of those silly bands. Was there really a market for that? And doesn’t it piss you off that someone now owns their own island because you bought these things.

When I designed the Recess at Work System and the RECESSitation Pack (see products page) I designed them for companies who had slashed/eliminated their training and development budget and were looking for a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) option when bringing in an outside consultant or trainer was out of the question. Things like employee morale, employee engagement, productivity and creativity were still on the minds of managers, leaders, HR Professionals and CEO’s; spending money was completely not on their mind however. These two options are affordable alternatives, have value when used the right way, and accomplish specific objectives.

But my discussions yesterday led me to a different thought process regarding markets for new products and new ideas:

Is the question really about whether there is a market or really about marketing and how and who you market that product to? And is there a difference? What do you think?

 

 

 

Don’t you love when customers force you to be better?

Imagine working for a company that lets you decide which meetings you choose to attend and which you choose to skip.

Well that’s the conversation I had with a head of Human Resources last week. She had just purchased two sets of The Meeting PLAYce Mat and called to talk with me about how to best use them given this new strategy.

When I developed The Meeting PLAYce Mat it was a result of years of listening to people tell me what they were really thinking about meetings (too many, pointless, no agenda, one-way dialog, etc). The tool was developed as a way to poke fun at meetings and to keep people engaged. But like everything else in business, I designed it to have a purpose: to challenge each participant to contribute and understand that everyone plays a role in the success of a meeting. I have always felt that if a meeting sucks it’s not only the fault of the person who called/organized the meeting.

So after talking for a while she says to me, “Do you think you could send me some bullet points how to best use these PLAYce Mats before our meeting next week?”

My first and immediate thought was “Huh? What? Didn’t we just talk about that; weren’t you taking notes?” And my next thought was…….WOW! This is an opportunity for me to take a closer look at the uses of this product; but more importantly do something that I preach to my audiences………deliver more than expected.

So in all fairness I told her to give me a couple of days; and two days later I sent her my thoughts and ideas. She was thankful; but I was grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to be able to offer this client and future clients more value when it comes to using a tool that I think offers opportuntities to increase morale, create a better employee experience, and take the pain out of meetings by perhaps forcing the organizer to be a bit more strategic before calling a dozen people together for an hour and potentially wasting 12 hours of productivity.

So here’s a question for you and be honest here: How many times have you or your employees looked at customer demands as more work to do; instead of WOW opportunities? From now on keep this in front of you:

Customer demands are WOW opportunities for you to be better!

 

 

 

 

5 VIBES for a successful employee morale committee

In the last year I have seen a big increase by organizations looking to form employee morale committees. Sometimes it comes at the request of leaders; other times it is a result of employee groups getting together and taking the proverbial bull by the horns. While this is no surprise given the turbulent times we are in, I’m also surprised at the lack of a clear plan and understanding as to what an employee morale group entails. It’s not all fun and games – and if you think it is please disband your group right now.

So here are a few must-haves for you and your committee to consider before undertaking the task:

Vision – your team/committee needs some sort of a vision. What are you really trying to do here? There’s a difference between putting together a crazy hat day (don’t forget to include the Is It Recess Beanie) and sitting around and sharing employee concerns and new ideas while wearing a crazy hat. There’s a difference between a one time event (what I call a band-aid) and a longer term plan of making morale a priority. Why is morale so low? Is this a pattern? In addition to reacting to the current declining morale what can be done to not get to this place in the future?

Information – your committee needs to know what’s going on. A while back I spent an entire day working with a team to lay the foundation for creating a better employee & customer experience only to receive an email a few days later that people were laid off – that same week. Some of the same people who were in that room. I’m having a hard time believing that decision was made after I walked out the doors. If things are going to get worse, your committee needs to know. When given the task of helping a CEO, HR or a VP build a better workplace you’re only killing any type of initiative with an example like I just shared. Are layoffs coming? Benefit reductions? A reorganization of the company? Is a big customer about to leave you? Etc. Etc. Be forthcoming before you further take the wind out of people and kill your efforts.

Budget – your employee morale committee needs a budget. It can be big or small. It can be used to purchase supplies, hire a magician, enlist the services of a food truck for an afternoon, or bring in a consultant to get them started on the right path. But make no mistake, when forming a morale committee you need some bucks to make this happen. 

Environment – Where your employee morale committee meets can often be the make or break as to whether their efforts will be a success. Sending them to that four walled hell that I call a conference room may or may not work. Sending them to a coffee shop, a park or a beach might be just the inspiration they need to gather some new ideas and create an initiative that engages people and has impact. And if they happen to apply for a job while at the coffee shop this idea may have been too late. 

Support – Why do employee morale teams fizzle? Simple answer: there is no support from leadership. Set aside some time to visit with them. Attend some of their meetings. Let them know you approve. Praise their efforts in front of the rest of the organization. But please, please, please do not send them off on a mission and forget about them. When a large medical devices company was instituting a RECESS AT WORK initiative there would have been a very different outcome and level of participation had the VP of HR (who approved) sent a message sharing what was going on and what the committee was planning.

Well that’s it. Vision, Information, Budget, Environment & Support. Oh and of course, please make sure your committee is having fun and providing fun – fun with a purpose that is!

Good luck and let me know if I can be of help.