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

Do you and your employees really exemplify your brand?

Everything about The Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale MS is fun. Their signage. Their accommodations. Their website. I especially love their FAQ’s (take a moment to read them); probably because I have done similar stuff at The World’s Only Virtual Diner Fighting Hunger; The Double D Diner website. (heck take a moment to read ours too; and maybe make a donation to help fight hunger.)

Bill Talbot, Owner Shack Up Inn

Bill Talbot (pictured here) is one of the owners of The Shack Up Inn; and from the time I tried to open the wrong lobby door (the picture below) it was nothing but fun, laughs, stories, and anything he and his staff could do to make your stay better.

No, I haven’t become a travel writer. But how many of you have heard “this is a fun place to work?” Especially during the interview process. Then you arrive on day one and it is anything but fun. An occasional ice cream social or after hours get together does not make a business fun. Fun is infused into a business at every possible moment.

You should always make it easier for your customers


Recently I visited a place that used the word Funky in its name. When you run a business called the Funky Whatever, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a slight expectation when I walk through the doors. Yet, the people you have working are nothing but awkward stiffs, who struggle with a smile, and act way too professional. That is a problem. You’ve hired the wrong people. You’ve trained the wrong people. Perhaps you’ve stifled their funkiness with too many rules and policies. Or worse yet you thought the name of the business was cool but never really thought through the branding.

I’ve been paying lots of attention to people who work in what might be classified as fun places: museums, bars, souvenir shops, boutique retail shops, a pool and a park. Sadly too many of these people were concentrating on the transaction and not on the customer. Deep down inside my gut was telling me they were concentrating on being who they thought they should be and not really who they are. So I did a short experiment…………………

18 out of 20 people basically exhibited the same personality. I’ll let you guess where 19 and 20 worked.  Professional. Low key. Unenthusiastic. Process and procedure oriented. Statistically that cannot possibly be. Or can it?

Hire employees who fit your brand and something amazing might happen………your employees will be happy and your customers will have a better experience too! They might spend more money. And even better, they might tell a whole bunch of people about you!

So whether you’re a fun biz, a serious biz, an uptight pretentious establishment or an off the wall crazy as you-know-what entity, the right people are out there. Find them. Hire them. Everyone wins. Bill Talbot knows his brand. He is his brand. And so are the people employed by The Shack Up Inn.

And if you’re ever down in Clarksdale MS, where Blues Music was born, the only place to Shack Up is The Shack Up Inn! Tell Bill I sent you!



Your class often matters when it comes to customer service.

Delta is one of my two preferred airlines. And the other day they reminded me why. It was pretty simple. I arrived at the airport and wanted to change my flight. I was flying on an awards ticket. To move me to the earlier flight (which was a nonstop; versus the connection itinerary) there needed to be seats available in the same class of ticket. There were none.

The agent at the counter looked to her left and then to her right. Not sure if she was looking for help or looking to do something that she wasn’t supposed to do.

“Let me see if I can override this and get you on the earlier flight” she said to me.

She was about to go rogue. She was about to break a rule. She was about to do something that lots of employees love doing…………. something to help a customer; even though the policy manual might say to do the opposite. She was about to do exactly what I had just read about in the Delta Sky magazine on a flight a few days earlier.

3 hours later I was in Memphis. 4 hours earlier than my original plans.


Now my car rental experience was something much different. My two preferred car rental companies are Enterprise and Alamo – which coincidentally are owned by the same company. However, I received a deal from Hertz. Not exactly my favorite car rental company from past experiences I thought I would give them a chance.

“There are no cars available in the class you rented. It will be about 20 minutes” is what I was told by the last Hertz counter agent I will ever encounter. I looked around and saw several others waiting for a car. I pointed to a lot full of cars. She offered to downgrade me a class. So much for my deal – and so much for giving Hertz another chance.

For those of you who remember the previous Hertz branding……….NOT EXACTLY my idea of employees offering a great customer experience. I told her I would wait.

Suddenly the shuttle bus appeared. It had lots of people inside. All I could think was what these people were about to encounter. Then I heard my name called. They had a car for me.

Upgrade!!! Of course they should have done that immediately.


Customer Service is not that difficult. As a matter of fact it is pretty simple if you keep these 2 things in mind:

  1. Do whatever you can to make the customer experience memorable
  2. When you screw up, the fix is not to penalize a customer but do whatever you can to not lose their biz

So thank you once again Delta. And bye-bye Hertz…..for good.


4 mini-vacations you can take AT the office

Sometimes the office just takes its toll on us. And while your official vacation might not start for a week, month or year, here are a few mini-vacations you can take at the office, on any day when you just need to get away from it all and your real vacation is nowhere in sight.

  1. Take a trip to the bathroom. Yep, sometimes you just need to escape your desk, your phone, your co-workers or the boss. Alas, there is the bathroom. While 1/3 the size of the typical office cubicle (heck you felt the walls are closing in on you anyway); it is a place just to go think, relax, reflect and just get away from it all. Unless of course you work with that one crazy who thinks it is okay to follow you there – and talk to you. Now if we can just get bathroom stalls made of white boards.
  2. The trip back to your desk from the meeting. Yep, you just sat in a two hour meeting where nothing was done, no one said much of anything, nothing was accomplished, fingers were pointed, backs were stabbed, and you all agreed to get together next week to do it again. On the trip back to your desk you shake your head at the stupidity, laugh at the pointlessness, and celebrate that you get paid to be ineffective and kept from the real task at hand. Now of course this walk should be the long way, perhaps using the stairs or walking out of the building. You will need this time to decompress. Next time perhaps bring along a Meeting PLAYce Mat for everyone. Of course you can also invite someone else along and hold that meeting after the meeting to say the things that should have been said during the meeting.
  3. Take a trip to the cafeteria. Another place to get away from it all. Grab a cup of coffee or a refreshing cold beverage and snack. Bring a pad and pen or your laptop. Go off in the corner and let people think you’re working on the next new initiative; the 2013 operating plan, or solving a complex customer issue. Make sure your back is to everyone or you have one of those serious looks on your face.
  4. The car is always good for getting energized. You were smart. You parked as far away from the bulding as possible. You parked at the top of the ramp garage. So take that quick power nap. Crank up your favorite tunes. Your co-workers will just think yoo’re in another meeting. 15 minutes of sleep or high energy music will be just the thing you’ll need to get you to 9:00 PM. Yep. you have to work late again.


Well that’s it. Enjoy your mini vacation. It’s only 258 hours/days to the real one.