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Friday, October 27, 2006

Why I like Colorado Weather

Wednesday the temperature was low 60's and beautiful. I went to bed around midnight and the temperature was still mid 40's. Then I woke up on Thursday and saw this out my basement door.

Then I scooped a path for our dog to do his business and measured just to see how much we had at around 8:30am

Checked the TV - every school was closed, every church, group, workplace and shopping mall was closed as the snow continued to fall and blow at 40 mph winds gusting up to 60 mph.

So we did what every other reasonable family would do. We loaded up in the 4-runner and went out for a family drive. Thank God for 4 wheel drive and in some cases 4 wheel low.

So why do I like Colorado weather? I woke up this morning and the sky was blue, the snow was melting and the temperature will be in the 60's today. Another day in paradise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Disney Makes Memories Out of Potential Misery

I know I just bashed Disney and their guest services, so I wanted to come back and make amends with the mouse, so here goes...

Our first full day in Disney World, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the Electric parade where floats and characters lit up by thousands of lights pass by thousands of people. Like most anything in Disney World, you have to rush there early to get a seat and be able to see. So, we hurried to find a front row seat along Main Street to watch. Being the perpetual people watcher I am, I looked around and noticed young children juiced up on cotton candy and funnel cake and suckers and Mickey only knows what else. This is the formula for disaster I thought. How could any parent legally keep kids in order while managing anticipation of the parade?

It was at this point that I noticed cast members stepping out of the crowd into main street with hula hoops. They each selected one of the hula hoops and began hula hooping right there in the middle of the street for all to see. Another group came out with a big rope and began to jump rope. Then they turned, found a child and invited them to join in the fun. This went on for almost 45 minutes. Kids jump roping, hula hooping and at one time even a group of about 20 played Mickey Says and doing the hokey pokey under the guidance of cast members. Anyone was welcome to join and several kids ran to get their parents involved too. Yes, even I stood in for a round or two of the chicken dance before the parade started as parents clicked picture after picture of their child dancing, jumping and swiveling their hips on Main Street Disney.

The amazing thing here is Disney didn’t just provide a really cool parade, but they also knew the potential misery parents would face and provided a solution to it by making a memory for everyone with some plastic hoops and a big piece of rope.

Ask yourself, what kind of plastic hoops and rope do you have laying around your business that you can alleviate your customer's misery with?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tooting My Own Horn

I'm usually fairly modest. I play all big and tough, but in reality I keep a low profile about my accomplishments.

After a few days of contemplation, I decided to make mention of this because I got linked to the main website (click the SBDC logo) or go directly to the press release here.

In the picture from left to right: Steven S. Little, John Massaua, Kelly Manning (my boss), Yours Truly & Antonio Doss.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go deflate my ever growing ego.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Who's On First?

Tonight, while watching the new show Studio 60, they referenced the old Abbott and Costello sketch Who's On First. I menitoned how funny I thought it was to which my wife said she'd never heard it.

I remember where I was when I heard it the first time. (Jimmy Robert's basement on vinyl on the record player outside his dad's office next to the fireplace.) I remember listening to over and over again and laughing each time.

After the show, I looked it up and watched it last night and laughed again.

Just in case there is anyone else who hasn't seen / heard it I've posted it here for you. For those who have already seen / heard it, gather your co-workers around your computer and watch it again. You'll be suprised how funny it still is. A true classic.


Caffeinated Soap

I saw this at Downtown Disney and thought of a few people. (no names... just links) I've heard about it before, but never seen it.

I asked to sample a bit, but couldn’t get anyone to offer to scrub my back, so I just took a picture of it instead. Then, after we got home, I found out my wife wanted to buy some kind of body bar, lotion beaded thing. If I would have known that, I would have gotten her the beaded thing and myself some caffeine soap.

It would have made dragging myself out of bed this morning a little easier. At least the time from wake up to conscious would have been shorter.

For some interesting facts and articles about caffeine, check out the CofCaf Blog. Posts are a little slow, but if you've never been there, you can spend time checking out back posts.

Hope you have a great Monday... I gotta go brew some coffee.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When Good Customer Service Isn’t Enough

If you know anything at all about customer service, you are aware that Disney has a reputation for being the best. They provide incredible levels that leave guests walking out wondering, “How did they know just exactly what I needed?”

This proved to be a bit of a two edged sword this time. Don’t get me wrong, the customer service was good. However, there wasn’t any magic in everything. For example, we used the Disney's Magical Express to pick us up from the airport. If you’re not familiar with it, before your trip, Disney mails you luggage tags which identify your bags to cast members who collect your bags for you when you land in Orlando. Then you get on a tour bus which takes you to your resort. Later that day your bags are delivered to your room for you. It was a good service, but here’s where Disney missed it. The bus was playing relaxing light jazz as we drove to the resort. Some kind of sax music, which I thought was appropriate, but what would have been better would be to have had light jazz Disney music playing "It’s a small world" or "Zip-a-dee-doo-da" on sax. It was good, but not great.

Another example is once we arrived to check in at the resort, there was of course a line. This was impossible to avoid because we just got off a bus with a bunch of people, who were now in line with us. Knowing the last thing a bunch of kids are going to want to do after a plane ride is sit in line, they installed a movie area for the kids to watch, what else, Disney programming to keep them entertained while the parents checked in. But, we were staying at the All Star Movie resort and what I felt was missing was something as simple as popcorn. I’m walking into a movie theater looking building titled Movie Resort and while the movie to watch was good, I expect great and wanted to smell and taste fresh popcorn while I stood in line.

I found myself the first few days walking around nit picking all of the good stuff. It was as if I was expecting Mickey Mouse himself to come leaping out of the lobby and say “Gosh Mr. Barrett, we know how much fun you’re having and know you have to return home soon, so I spent all afternoon doing your laundry and ironing for you so you won’t have any to do when you get home. Thanks for coming!”

A two edged sword. Good isn’t good enough when you expect great.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Process of Visiting Disney

I tend to be process oriented. I enjoy understanding how and why things work and what the reason is for the order of which things occur. Everything in life can have a process put to it. Many problems in business are caused because processes aren’t in place. So, after analyzing our trip to Disney, I put it into these distinct processes.

ANTICIPATION– I can’t wait to get inside.

ARRIVAL– Woo Hoo, we’re here.

EXCITEMENT- Sugar, adrenaline, more sugar - whee!

FULFILLMENT- I've waited all my life to give Eeyore a hug.

MELTDOWN– I’m not tired and I don’t have an attitude! Hmmph!

EXHAUSTION– zzzzzzz…. maybe I'm just a little tired.

RETURN TO REALITY– Good by Orlando, hello snow!

An Appropriate Response

This was just sent to me by my brother-in-law in response to my previous post.
How appropriate!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm Back and Ready to Ship UPS

Thank you for eagerly awaiting my return. I have many stories and observations to share over the next week, but wanted to start with the end of my trip first.

Yesterday morning I woke up in Orlando, Florida. I dressed in my usual vacation attire of shorts and t-shirt and packed up to head home. Everything went smoothly, accept the bus driver going the wrong way down a divided street and almost going head on with another bus. Personally I thought it was just part of another ride at Disney World, but what do I know?

I looked out the window of the airplane as we were descending and noticed snow on the ground in Denver and my short and t-shirt clad body shivered with anticipated frost bite. The typical drive time from the airport to my house is about 75 minutes. It was 5:00pm when we left Denver International Airport, so I figured maybe 90 minutes with traffic. When we made the half way point in just over an hour I knew we were in trouble. The snow was falling heavily, cars were in the ditch and things were looking bleak as we hadn't even approached Monument hill, the high point in our journey home.

We pulled over for some dinner at the half way point and were promptly laughed at by the wait staff as we came in brushing snow off of our t-shirts and shorts.

Back on the road at 7:00 for the last half of the trip which only took two and a half hours. Let me sum this up for you. It took us 4 hours to travel from Orlando to Denver and three and a half hours (not counting our stop for meals) to travel 70 miles from Denver to Colorado Springs.

As we approached Monument hill, traffic stopped dead for 20 minutes. Then as we started going again we went less than a quarter mile and stopped again for another 10 minutes. We were behind an SUV which was behind a Fed Ex truck and we couldn't see a thing because of the truck blocking our view, but we figured with all the reports of accidents on the radio, we'd soon see an ambulance or fire truck pass by to clean things up.

Finally, after waiting, a truck passed us all and drove right on past the Fed Ex truck without slowing. At the same time, the driver of the Fed Ex truck gets out and starts putting chains on his rig. There are no cars in the right lane because of a semi in the ditch a little ways up on the right, but we figured that must be where the accident happened. All of the sudden the light went on in our heads and we realize this idiot of a Fed Ex driver has been blocking traffic for the last 30 minutes because he can't get traction up the hill, but hasn't had the decency to let the 4 or 5 HUNDRED cars behind him know they can all pass on the right.

We pulled out around and drove the next 15 miles without seeing another set of taillights ahead of us. I vowed right then never to ship Fed Ex again.

I've heard marketing defined as everything you do from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Intentional or not, this driver did some poor marketing for his company last night.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Disney World is Waiting

I'll be away from the blogosphere for a few days as my family and I head to Florida for some Disney action.
I love going to Disney World and especially Epcot Center. It is truly magic.
I also love experiencing some of the best customer service on the planet. I'm taking notes, so when I get back I'll share my experiences with you all.

My kids are off the hook excited. My youngest son has this piggy bank where he has been stashing every nickle, dime and penny he can get his hand around for the purpose of going to Disney World. My dad, who never seems to help the situation much always feeds him change by the handful and has even invented games to give him more change. Well yesterday, the bank cracked open at the bank and all was counted... and counted... and counted. Finally a total of $200.45 was paid out to a 4 year old blond kid on his way to see the big mouse. WHAT THE HECK!!! I had to earn my money the hard way. I worked for it. My kids, they wrestle their grandfather for $3.00 in quarters.

So, while I'm gone and busy asking a 4 year old if I can borrow some money, I've given you several links below to entertain you. These are just some fun and quirky places I've discovered recently.

A dog who's seen too many horror movies

Prisoners become Pretty in Pink

One of my colleagues & his personal cause

www.thingsmygirlfriendandihavearguedabout.com - doesn't need a comment

Overheard in New York

Now don't stray too far, because I'll be back no later than Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Flexibility of Small Businesses

A while back I mentioned changes in weather as I traveled around the country. This week I didn't have to travel at all and had similar experiences. Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day. It was mid 70's and clear skies. This morning I woke up the scene above. The first snow of the year.

Now I know some of you think it's gotten a little chilly in your neck of the woods... or desert as the case might be, but as I sat at dinner last night with my lovely wife, all I wanted to do was go shopping like it was Christmas Eve.

This won't be the end of the weather changing though as Thursday morning I climb aboard a plane bound for Florida, where the highs have been in the 80's all week.

The way I plan on surviving this week of weather is the same way we survive the turbulent changes in small business. We prepare as best as we can, then we improvise, adapt and overcome. In the same way you should never allow yourself to go to Florida wearing a t-shirt, under a sweatshirt, under a fleece jacket because that's what you needed in Colorado, you can't allow yourself to hold onto the same product, service, vendor, client, employee or any other thing that is weighting you down and causing you to sweat uncontrollably. Shed the unneeded layers and keep you small business agile and flexible.

Here's a great article from Fast Company about staying flexible with your employees.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Tribute to the US Air Force Academy

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one hell-uv-a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

I recently started using Google Analytics. (I know I'm behind in the times here, but better late than never.) I'm virtually addicted now. I check it daily and monitor trends from every angle I can get.

One surprising trend is that somehow I've gained quite the following at the United States Air Force Academy. Now, granted I'm not racking up the hits in the thousands every day, but when 21.99% of my hits have come from our beloved academy since I started tracking stats, I have to stop and pay tribute to the men and women who click away at Grin and Barrett.

First, let me say to the students of the USAFA, you are all much brighter and more determined than I was when I was your age. In 8th grade I wanted to go the Academy. By 9th grade, I totally lost focus and was on to something else.
The faculty and staff of the USAFA have to be top notch to teach the best. Not that my Alma mater wasn't nice, but I don't remember any Brigadier Generals on staff either.

Obviously there are hundreds - check that - thousands of jobs at the academy. While I don't expect this individual is reading my blog (though perhaps he should be), I just met the individual who is responsible for food services for the students and even as a civilian employee there is still some essence of mystique surrounding anyone who works for such a premier, quality institution.

So, to the fine men and women of the Air Force Academy, thank you for your service to our great nation. Thank you for "Grinning and Bearing It" with me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On a Personal Note

Taking a break from business blogging for the moment... I feel horrible.
I've never been hung over, but I just confirmed with someone in my office that the way I feel is equivalent to being hung over. My head feels thick and my mouth is dry. I have a low grade headache and the room spins slightly when I move too fast.

Alcohol and a wild night on the town is not to blame for this feeling, instead it is the dentist, a now absent wisdom tooth and prescription of vicodin that is at fault. I took today off sick, but managed to strap the shirt and tie on for a 2:00 appointment and a photo shoot with a local magazine. Now I'm going home to crawl into bed and cover my head and pass out.

By the way - a special note of thanks to my sister-in-law, who stopped by last night and suggested I double up on vicodin for the first night because it makes things better. I think that advice is like saying, don't just do one shot of tequilla, drink the whole bottle, it makes things much better, but forgets to tell you about what the next morning will be like.

Hopefully tomorrow I can blog about my drug induced dreams / hallucinations that are always present when I'm stoned on narcotic drugs.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Doggie Dodge Ball for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs by definition are self starters who prefer to do it themselves. This is what makes them willing to take the leap, risking it all and depending only on themselves to make it work. This is also what makes it difficult for many to succeed. No one person can successfully be an island. It takes a supporting cast with a wide and varied array of talents and skills to make the entrepreneur successful.

So, when you find yourself doing something that isn't your strength, you should stop and find help, or try something else. For example, if you ever find yourself playing dodge ball with a dog at 2:30am in your pajamas and flip flops you should probably evaluate the situation you've managed to get your self into. Let me explain.

Last night at 2:30am, our dog, Baxter, woke my wife up because he needed to go out. To add to her frustration, Baxter decided he needed to stop and drink an entire bowl of water before going out. Finally he trotted out to the back yard and did his business. But, before coming back in he decided it would be necessary to bark at the neighbor's dog. This prompted my wife to walk out into the grass and try to grab the dog by the collar to drag him back inside. Unfortunately for her, he wasn't ready and thought this was an invitation to play, so he began to run around the yard.

Somehow the thought of grabbing one of our boys balls and hurling it at the dog crossed my wife's mind and was processed as a good idea. So as the dog continued to run circles around the yard, barking at the neighbor's dog, my wife stood in the middle, illuminated by moonlight, dressed in PJ's and flip flops, whipping a variety of plastic and rubber balls at Baxter's head.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, dodge ball has never been a strength of my wife and Baxter went unscathed throughout the ordeal until finally deciding he was ready to return to our bedroom to go back to sleep.

My point: If you ever find yourself playing doggie dodge ball at 2:30am, you may want to consider why, and are you qualified to handle this situation alone.