Thursday, April 12, 2018

Let's make some lemonade

Can you say something nice?

Did you know that when something goes wrong, you’ll tell an average of 25 people about it?
And when things go right, you may tell one?

I like lemonade, especially when it gets squeezed it directly from a lemon and we add a teaspoon of simple syrup. 

We live in a world where bad news sells. I think we want the good news stories, but we still rivet unconsciously to the things that potentially ruin our day

It makes better stories.

It’s these negative stories that have me concerned.

A dash of sugar in a sour world changes every thing.

I quit Facebook back in 2017. Admittedly, there are times I find myself exploring information on it. But I quit. There was too much negativity, too much victimitus and too much whining and complaining. It didn’t come from everyone, but it came from enough that I found myself pulled into the same negative space. And I didn’t like what it was doing for me.

This week, I was sitting in circle at my favourite place on the planet and a wise man asked what was the favourite part of the week. He then went on to say that without verbalizing the positive event, the human brain automatically searches for the negative. 
“The food could’ve been better”.
“There wasn’t enough wine”.
“There was too much wine”.
“The instructors went too fast”.
“The instructors went too slow”.

My guru went on to say that evaluation forms at the end of a session searches for the negative events, in the hopes of making the session better. But this activity actually imprints the negative to the participant's mind and forces an undesirable feeling.

No sugar, no lemonade.

I have not enjoyed my experience on Air Canada for years. It is rare that someone from the organization makes me feel like a valued customer. Yet this week, my flight was cancelled on Air Canada and it forced me to stay overnight in Austin, Texas. 

I’ve seen flights get cancelled before and the room gets filled with smoke bombs and hand grenades.

Yet this time, there were high fives, fist bumps, handshakes and smiles from all inconvenienced passengers. 

The staff responded in clockwork fashion, without getting bitchy and whiny. They accommodated everyone and averted a potential disaster. I watched a ticket agent beg over the phone for a hotel room. No less than 7 times, did he say, “Please save me that room” in a row. It was awesome. He was saving the room for ME. 

He helped me check in for the next day's flight from my phone. 
He gave me the number of the shuttle I needed to call to get to my free hotel room. 
And then he gave me $40 in food vouchers. 
Air Canada went above and beyond to help the stranded customers. 
It was unexpected. 
I was delighted.
It was this type of experience that makes me want to use Air Canada more.

In keeping with the wise man’s words, the best part of my flight was the way Air Canada converted a bad situation into an excellent experience.

They finally figured out how to add a little bit of sugar into a mouth curdling event.

I never thought I could say this but, 
Thanks for the lemonade Air Canada!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Do you know who I am?

Imagine you are looking for a parking spot in a small plaza. There is one spot available, but it's bordered by a snowbank and a big van. But there's no other spot and you need to buy a sandwich from your favourite shop.

You open your door to meet the driver of the neighbouring van arriving at the same time. It's that moment when he goes left and you go left. Or he steps right and you try to go right.

I call it the "Dance". Part awkward, part funny. It's a moment that gets a chuckle.

Today, you have no time to dance. You're in a hurry, so to avoid any parking lot jig, you politely say "Excuse me" and scurry past him. He steps back, but then runs right into you with his dirty floor mat with the residue of 538 shoes on it.

No big deal.

Until you hear the next words out of his "co-worker's" mouth, who was walking behind your dance partner.

You could've waited until he put the mat in the van. That was rude.

We were just going to be a second, you didn't have to ram into him.

What would you say?
Were you rude?
Most people don't try to be rude purposely.
They may try to be funny, or they may look for attention.
But rude is reserved for assholes. And you're not an asshole.

What would you do if you were the dance partner that got bumped?
Would you feel compelled to correct the actions of some random guy trying to get into his favourite sandwich shop?

What would you do if you were the owner of this company?

This happened to me this week.

I asked the big mouth if he owned the company that had a big red logo on the van.
He hesitated.
Then I asked my dance partner if he owned the company.
He reiterated that I didn't have to bump him.

"Do you know who I am", I shockingly stammered in my most indignant voice.
Umm, No.
Exactly, I'm nobody, a regular joe, a potential customer, and an existing customer of the company that pays your paycheques.

What's your point?
You don't know me.
But I know who you are.
I can retell this story on Facebook.
I can trash this company online.
I can hurt you.
I can use this story as a rallying cry for my cause.
Your business is possibly affected and you may lose your job.

Is it fair? Nope. But you're in customer service. Doesn't matter if I'm wrong or right. You need to have a higher standard for everyone, including regular Joe's like me, because you don't know what we are capable of doing.

Was I wrong?
Maybe. I was in a hurry and probably wasn't paying attention to the needs of someone else.

Am I ashamed of it? A bit, but the result wasn't a big deal until some hot-head felt the need to berate me in a parking lot.

We're all in customer service, especially when we wear logos on our shirts, on our cars and on our hats.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pay attention to details or get caught with your pants down

Are there things you should be taking care of that you're avoiding?

No one is asking for it to get done so it's easy to push it to the back burner. 
It only gets done when it becomes a priority. 

Imagine you gained a few pounds over the winter. You eat a bit more, and exercise less as the temperature drops below freezing.

You become a bear. You hibernate, and fatten up to have an extra shield of armour to ward off the cold. 

Your favourite pair of pants become uncomfortable. They stretch past the comfort zone. The zipper fights to stay closed and your stomach scrunches up to survive another day.

Just after Christmas, the zipper informs you that he is stressed and may need to go out on leave if this keeps up. 

You avoid the plea for help. January is only 31 days long and Christmas weight will come off. The world would return to normal and all would be right again between you and your knickers. 

Then one day in January, you see in the bathroom mirror that your zipper is already half way to quitting time. Luckily you are wearing black underwear, so you suck your gut back into place and coax the zip back to work.

To get a head start on spring, you make a conscious decision to work out a bit more to help the zipper with his job. And all seems back to normal. Everyone is doing their jobs.

Fast forward two weeks...

You are standing in front of a room of 25 people giving a presentation, when 3 ladies off to one corner start giggling. The presentation has some funny parts, so giggling is expected. But you aren't at the giggly part yet. So as you're talking, your mind races to what could possibly be so funny.

It is distracting. Your mouth is moving, but your mind is focussed on those three girls, when a lightning bolt strikes. 

"Are you wearing the pants with the tired zipper?"

Oh shit, what if your zipper quit?
How do you check?
If you put your hand there, and the zipper is still holding up, you'll look like a fool.
You can't turn around and do a zip check, it will look odd.
But you can't continue if the zip retired. No one can focus on a fool's words when his horse is about to escape the barn. 

You think you're an idiot. You should've fixed that zipper or at least put those pants aside until you lost the weight. Now you're forced to deal with the shame you created.

With all this distraction, you can't continue. Words are coming out and you're not sure you're making any sense. You're living your nightmare. You're half naked in front of 25 people you don't know. All because of a stupid tired zipper not willing to do his job. You weren't paying attention to details.

In a last ditch effort, you decide to leave the room with some lame excuse. 

But the good lord comes to your rescue as someone feels the need to discuss his experience. It is the perfect timing you need as everyone looks at him.  You turn sideways to your right, while quietly sliding your right hand quickly down to the junk region, to discover your zipper is working as hard as you expect of him.

Phewf, another disaster diverted. The ladies are laughing at something other than your nakedness. 

Are there things in your business that need your attention?
Are those same things continuously going to the bottom of your "to-do" list because of their low priority?

Remember, like a dumb zipper, everything eventually becomes a priority. 
A disaster outside of your control is unfortunate.
A disaster within your control is stupidity.

Don't get caught with your pants down. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A tea, a blinker, a battery and a door

I walked to my car with a hot cup of tea in my hand.
I didn't put a lid on it because it cools faster.
I don't like steaming hot tea.

Arriving at the car, the good Lord splashed a fresh coat of freezing rain on my windshield, so I reached in the car to put my tea on the dash while reaching for my window scraper.  I missed both the scraper and the dash. My tea leapt out of my hand and sprayed itself all over the interior of the car to show its ownership.

Feeling stupid, I still had to clean the windows. I pushed as much of the water off the important parts, so I could drive home.

Two minutes later, my left blinker started to wave at me. I hadn't flipped the signal light on. Cars were cautiously passing me, while I fiddled with the signal lights. It wouldn't go out, so I put on the hazard lights to balance out the left blinker.

After 5 minutes of driving, I thought maybe the left blinker would be tired of his continuous waving. But to no avail. Removing the hazards, he was still there waving away as if to say, "Hey jerky boy, I'm hurting over here with all this waving, can you please turn me off".

I listened and pulled to the side of the road. But I couldn't get the key out of the ignition. The car was in the middle of a coup and it was about to overthrow its king. I didn't know what to do. I don't know what it wants. The hazards are working fine, so I restart the car, and keep driving, with the lights cautiously telling everyone that I'm at war with my car.

After 15 more minutes of driving, I try taking off the hazards again. The left blinker must have been exhausted. He stopped waving. Phewf, everything seems to be back to normal. Another disaster has been avoided for another day, I think to myself.

And just as I think everything is back to normal, my right blinker starts buzzing, like he's hopped up on some good drugs.

I get home and thankfully shut down the car and my key comes out without a fight. The disaster is over. The blinkers are quiet, the ignition has released its formidable grip and I'm home safe. Everyone must've been tired.

Or so I thought.

The next morning, I get to the car to find out the doors won't open. That's it, they've kicked out their king. The car hates me for that stupid tea.

Not having time to ask for forgiveness, I asked my wife if I could use her car for the day, which she awesomely agreed.

Not knowing what conspired the night before, I went off on my merry way.

Later that day, I opened the side door to the van and it wouldn't close.
Viva la revolutionne.
I was until full attack from another car.
The door wouldn't close.
And as I tried to force it back into place, it leapt from its home into my arms.
I'm screwed. I can't drive a van without a side door.
Nothing I did was working. So in one last attempt, I apologize for my inattention and magically the revolt is disbanded.

I was able to get the door back onto the van so it was drivable until the next day when I got it fixed for $500.
I asked for forgiveness from my car, by showing remorse of the spilled tea.

And everything was back to normal.
As I see it in my mind.

Now here's the reality.
I spilled tea all over my car, temporarily screwing up the electrical. The battery died in the middle of the night because the parking lights came on after I got home. My wife's van door had been a problem for a while. Not thinking it would literally fall off, I had been ignoring the issue. Crazy that both things happened in less than 24 hours.

That's the boring way to look at it.

I could assume I had a run of bad luck. And you might not disagree with me.

But I think I had an amazing string of good luck.

Here's why:

If I don't spill the tea, my car doesn't act up.
The battery doesn't die.
I don't borrow my wife's car.
And the door doesn't fall off on me.
If falls into her hands.
She wouldn't know what to do.
Except call a tow truck and rental car place.
Besides me being worried, it would've cost $300-$400 more than it did.

The difference between good luck and bad luck is perspective. I'm $500 poorer but it gave me a great story to share.

Check your perspective the next time something shitty happen to you.
It might the best alternative to all the shitty options.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The difference is in your head

I should eat healthy...
I should exercise...
I should pay my bills on time...

The space between what I SHOULD do and what I WILL do depends on one thing: My belief.

Back in November, I made two important decisions: Quit coffee and quit wasting time on Facebook.
Both had become debilitating addictions for me.
I didn't like the effects they caused on my life.
But I couldn't stop.
So it seemed.
Until I made a conscious decision that I didn't like them.

I believed the problem wasn't me, it was them.

Quitting an addiction, is like watching the love of your life walk away. It's painful to get over.
Walking away from a relationship because you no longer loved it is much easier.

I chose to be the dumper and not the dumpee.

I cleared a spot in my head and told myself that I never liked those things, didn't like myself when I was with those things, and didn't like who I was becoming because of those things.

It worked. I changed my belief about coffee and Facebook.
And it was extremely easy to move on.

The same goes for you.

There's a difference between what you know and what you believe.
What you KNOW is where the "should's" lie.
What you DO is where the "belief's" lie.

You're not eating healthier because you believe you'll be ok despite your eating habits.
You're not exercising more because you believe it's too hard, or doesn't fit your schedule.
You watch too much TV because you believe you deserve a break after a long day of work.

Check your SHOULDS and your WILLS. If you take inventory of them, you'll find where your BELIEFS really are.

I'm not going to tell you what you should do.
That's not up to me, or anyone else.

Because it won't matter, until you change your own beliefs.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Coffee talk business conversation

I see you're in your office.
I sit here every weekday after 2pm gathering my thoughts and writing about random business conversations.

I remember reading that in one of your blogs. I was in drive-thru and I saw bright orange jacket screaming at me. Then I saw it was you and it wasn't a surprise.
How's your business purchase coming along?

I haven't done anything further with it.

I have to figure out the money thing and decide if it's worth it for me.
Are you worried about financial stability?

Of course.
What if you lost your job tomorrow?

I'd be out of work and have to find another job.
You aren't comparing like objects. The stability of your employment is based on the assumption that you will be continuously employed forever. When we both know, downturns in the economy, rightsizes, merges and acquisitions, competitive factors and technology threaten our jobs everyday.

Yeah but I have a steady paycheque, whereas if I bought that company, there is no guaranteed paycheque.
Has the business been around for more than 10 years?

Is the business dependant on the current owner being there?

Yes and no. The employees do the "real" work while the owner sits in an office all day, doing nothing except taking a three hour lunch everyday at god knows where.
Don't misinterpret entrepreneurship with technical work.

What's the difference?
Let me change the question.

I should've expected that from you.
When you're at home, do you have chores to do?

Umm, yeah. Don't we all.
Right, but isn't the chores we do like cleaning the garage, mowing the lawn, or painting the fence considered work?

Sure, but it's not paying work.
Exactly, but if it doesn't get done, what happens?

Things start to break, and the value of my home will go down. I'll be miserable.
So as much as you hate it, if it doesn't get done, things will be worse.

The same goes for business. Many would-be entrepreneurs get into a business that does a technical job that they're really good at. They focus on the technical aspects of the business and ignore the other stuff. The focus on where to make their dollar today. And just like you're home, if you ignore the other stuff long enough, it devalues itself, it starts to break down and ultimately it will make you miserable.

You've lost me. You're comparing household chores to office work. I get the need for office work. I'll just hire someone to do it.
Right, so why haven't you hired someone to mow your lawn yet?

Wha??? That's not a fair question.
My point is that your discounting the contribution of the owner in his organization because he sits behind a desk and then disappears. Just because he isn't doing the billable work, doesn't mean his contribution to the organization isn't substantial.

Ok. Fair enough. He's there everyday.
Are the sales growing or are they flat?

Flat, but with new blood, the sales could explode.
Could they implode?

The majority of sales are dependant on federal political contracts.
Are these contracts awarded annually?

Yes. But he gets them every year.
So what's the problem?

I'm afraid the contracts won't give me enough security to move forward with a purchase.
That's fair. Why do you want a business anyways?

To make more money.
Wrong answer. If you want to make more money, keep your job, or get another job, or figure out how you can make money on the side while keeping your job.

But I want to own a business.
No. You just said, you wanted more money. You think owning a business will give that to you. That's a false assumption.

What's the right answer?
There isn't one. An absence of the wrong answer is the right one.

Now your talking in riddles. Please help me out.
Wrong answers include; more money, more time, more fame and more flexibility. You see there's a difference between owning a business and owning a personal revenue stream.

Personal revenue,  I'm confused.
A business is something that helps many people in the community: suppliers, employees, customers and owners. A personal revenue stream is a type of business with a single purpose - make money for the owner.

Can you give me an example?
That's easy. For years young professionals, like doctors, dentists and orthodontists would buy a book of business from a retiring professional. Dr. Smith's clients would get sold to Dr. Kelly, which is truly just a personal revenue stream transfer. There wasn't any brand equity transferred. The brand "Dr. Smith" was gone, and the new brand, Dr. Kelly was here. So although, the young doctor would buy a business, he actually had nothing because the brand equity left with the retirement of the previous doctor.

But customers will keep going because we're all creatures of habit.
Yes, but the relationship was with the person and not a strategically built brand.

What would have to be done to turn the same model into a business?
The young doctors started clinics using names not associated to the practicing professionals. Dr. Smith's office became "Doc Wellness". Anyone working at Doc Wellness was an employee, including the presiding doctor. Dr. Smith could leave or sell and Doc Wellness lives beyond him. Now that's brand equity. Customers who came didn't necessarily get Dr. Smith each time.  Just like in a restaurant, they couldn't always choose who would be serving them. They were building relationships with a brand and ultimately a business.

You still haven't answered my question, what's the right answer to why I should own a business?
That's a very personal answer that I can answer for you. What I can tell you is a business exists for only one reason, and it's not for you. The business exists to help others get what they want. It has to be greater than the owner's needs. A business helps customers first. And when I mean customers, I mean buyers, employees, suppliers, bankers, government and landlords. If there's anything left, the owner gets to decide where it goes - his pocket or a in a future investment.

It has to be greater than the owner? I thought the business was mine.
You control the asset. But without everyone else, you have nothing. It is their grace that allows you to succeed. Never forget that. But that's a story for another time. You haven't decided to buy yet.

No, I'm scared.
That's perfectly normal. You have to figure out why you want to do this beyond money. And here's why: Imagine in a moment of weakness, when nothing seems to be going well, when you wish you just had a job. The 80 hour week isn't commensurate with your pay. Your wife is worried. You're worried. Mortgage on your house just got missed. At what point do you quit?

I don't know.
You'll quit when the pain is greater than the perceived reward. If your goal is money and there isn't any, you'll lose faith quickly. If your goal is something greater, you'll persevere through the lack of funds. You'll even invest more money to try to keep your dream alive.

That's crazy. Who would do that?
Only people who get into business for money would say that. A dream is all us entrepreneurs have. And building on it is why we do what we do.

I can't afford to make a mistake. How will I provide for my family if I do?
Then stay out of business. Mistakes are going to happen. This isn't grade 12 math where there are only right and wrong answers. There's no way of knowing for sure what is going to happen. World War 3 could start tomorrow and kill all of our efforts.  I don't worry about the things I can't control. I only dream of things for a better tomorrow.

I have to go, but I just wanted to say hi.
Hi to you as well. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Just remember, do it for something greater than for yourself. And ask yourself this, if money wasn't a concern would you do the deal?

I don't know.
Right. Money's usually not the problem, but always the excuse to not do something.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Are you a car chasing dog?

Entry: December 27, 2017

Sitting in a coffeeshop, sipping on a green tea, I was writing about sales conversions when someone  interrupted my thoughts.

Excuse me, do you remember me?
Not sure, where do I know you from?

From a marketing class you did in June. Can I ask you a question?
Sure, what's up?

I'm having a hard time converting clients into my 12 session packages.
Refresh my memory on your product.

It's a service based product that I charge $85/hour for consultation. I'm trying to get those early purchasers to convert onto an annual package.

Have you converted anyone yet?

Did your client pay a fee for the first session.

Good, that means you got them to open their wallet. That is one of the hardest steps in the sales cycle.
So why can't I get them to buy future sessions. Dentists get their customers to book right away after their initial session.

Be careful of your thoughts

Dentists sell preventative maintenance contracts. A patient calls for one thing, maybe a sore tooth. The dentist pulls the tooth and explains why the patient may want to buy into their maintenance contract to not get more sore teeth. It's really fear based marketing. Many people walk into a dentist office to get the problem fixed never to come back until the next problem arises.

But the dentist really wants the customer to come back every six months right?
Of course. That's as close to guaranteed sales as anyone can get.

So how do I make my business more like a preventative maintenance contract?
It starts with your approach.

How much money are you spending on marketing?
None, I do the free stuff like Facebook, Facebook Live and Instagram.

What are your results?
I got three clients from it.

And once those three clients experienced your service, what happened next?
I offered them my 12 session package at a discount, but no one took it.

Based on what you told me, that's not what dentists do.
Yes they do. You said it yourself, they get you into the preventative maintenance contract.

No. Dentists get you to agree to another session. - One at a time. Slowly but surely.
Yeah, but once you're in, they've got you.

Not necessarily. Let me explain in a different way. Are you married or in a serious relationship?
Yes, I've been dating the same girl for 2 years.

How did you meet?
On Tinder.

Ok, so when you met your girlfriend on Tinder, did you ask her to sign up for a 12 month relationship package?
No, that would've been weird.

For two reasons, I don't know if I like her yet. And even if I did,  I wouldn't want to scare her away by being too....

Oh my!

You're trying to marry your customers on the first date. Stop that right now.
So you're saying, my main goal after the first date is to get a second date???

Use your first session as a "getting to know you" opportunity. Just like in dating, if you don't think you can help, or if you don't want to help,  don't offer a second session.

But I'm leaving an opportunity off the table. Isn't that bad sales?
Not really. If you're not going to be able to help them because of their poor attitude, they're going to be more harm than good through negative referrals. They will bring you down and your ability to help someone more worthy of your talents.

But money is money. And if they've got it, shouldn't I want it?
Business isn't linear that way. If you think like that, you'll be chasing cars your whole life not understanding why no one is stopping for you.

You've lost me again.
Who chases cars?

Uh, dogs?
Exactly, and if you chase cars, then you're just another dog. Imagine you own a retail store on one of the busiest streets in your city. There are five equally competent competitors selling relatively the same thing within a mile of your store. To convince people you are the best choice, you've invested in the biggest, brightest sign. People notice you and inevitably, they stop in to find out your product is below their expectations and your service is worse. Will they be back?

No, but my product won't suck and my service will be the best.
Says all of your competitors.

But it will.
You don't get to decide that. The person walking through the door makes those decisions for themselves.

What does this have to do with chasing cars?
The amount of cars going by your store doesn't diminish. However, what happens is that the traffic inside your store does. Over time, those cars don't stop anymore. And all of your marketing efforts in your signage and your high priced rent is useless.

But someone will like what I offer, right?
Yes, but your adrenaline addiction for "traffic" and "opened wallets" will tantalize you with destructive behaviours like price discounting.

You've lost me.
If you chase money, it will always elude you.

So what do I have to do differently?
That's a conversation for another time. I'm late for my lunch rush. Here's my card, call me tomorrow to set up our next meeting. My hourly rate is $150.

Do you offer a discount?
Nope, and you should've picked up from our conversation that is the wrong question.

But I'm new at this entrepreneurship stuff and I don't have any money.
I get it. Would it make you feel better if I give you my consulting for free?

But it won't help either of us because you won't take me serious.

Of course I will, I think you have a lot to offer me.
Let's step back for a minute. Think about everything I've already shared with you.

Chasing cars, discounting and relationships, I get it...
Well if I was chasing your car, I jump into the free advice, hoping that you'd like me enough to get into a relationship with me. Then when you were making money, you'd start paying me.

Exactly. I'll take care of you if you take care of me.
Wrong. You take care of me, because that's what you do. The customer relationship is based on you taking care of the customer.

But if I paid you, I'm your customer. Not the other way around.
That's what I mean by business not being linear. Customers are suppliers, consultants, street sweepers, people buying your product, people seeing your product. Any interaction with your brand creates a potential customer. Your role in your business is to create and keep as many positive customers as you can. Although you would be paying me, I'm still one of your customers. I help your business succeed. And you'd be my customer.

So will you help me?
I'm not chasing cars. I need a few more dates to figure that out. But the next date is not on my dime. If you're not willing to pay my hourly fee in advance to our next meeting, then I can refer you to someone else.

I will call you tomorrow.
Ok. If you don't, can you do me a favour?

Sure, what?
Throw out my card.

I've never met anyone like you. Are you serious?
If you can't keep a simple promise like calling me, throwing out my card releases me from having to tell you I can't work with you.