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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prepare For the Worst, Plan For the Best

I recently heard Donna Childs of Childs Capital, LLC speak about her experiences surviving the attacks on 9/11. She was in the tower when the plane hit, evacuated to her apartment just up the street when it collapsed, and evacuated again to be hurried off the side of the pier and into a boat that took people to New Jersey where she spent the next month living and while trying to keep her small business surviving. She has since started a non profit to help small business recover from disaster.

Why is this important? That's what I thought at first. Let me give you some statistics about business disaster.

  • Less than 5% of small business claims were settled for what the owners identified as full value.
  • The Red Cross says that 40% of small business don't reopen / survive after a major disaster.
  • The Red Cross says that 30% of small business have had a major disaster in the last year.
  • (A major disaster is defined as having an interruption of business for more than 24 hours)
  • Having a disaster plan reduces your insurance premium by up to 30%.
  • The most common disasters are not terrorist attacks or even fires, they are data loss and power outage.
After hearing her speak, I became aware of just how unprepared almost every small business I come into contact with is. I wouldn't even count myself as disaster ready.

If you want to learn how to improve your chances of survival after disaster, check out her book here.
To develop your own Disaster Recovery Plan, consider this:
  1. Set up an emergency response plan and train employees how to carry it out
  2. Write out each step of the plan and assign responsibilities to employees in clear and simple language
  3. Compile a list of important phone numbers and addresses
  4. Decide on a communications strategy to prevent loss of customers
  5. Consider the things you may need initially during the emergency
  6. Human Resources
  7. Physical Resources
  8. Business Community
  9. Protect Your Building
  10. Keep Duplicate Records
  11. Identify critical business activities and the resources needed to support them
  12. Find alternative facilities, equipment and supplies, and locate qualified contractors
  13. Protect computer systems and data


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uninspiring Inspiration

I recently heard the "15 Survival Strategies for Entrepreneurs" presented at a conference last week. I thought I'd learn something by seeing something from a different perspective and perhaps gain some inspiration. I was only half right.

The strategies presented were: (somehow I ended up with 17 instead of 15)

  1. Be persistent - Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, keep going
  2. You can't be emotional and logical at the same time - learn to control your emotions
  3. Don't keep all your eggs in one basket - Diversify your clients
  4. Find a way to manage and release your stress
  5. Believe in what you're doing - understand why you're doing it.
  6. Be flexible
  7. Rely on people you trust outside your business
  8. Maintain healthy teams inside the business
  9. No one is irreplaceable
  10. Make a list - What do you want to get done?
  11. Write a journal
  12. Learn to trust your gut instinct
  13. Make tough decisions
  14. Find the spiritual way - it brings peace
  15. Surround yourself with "positivity"
  16. Find angels now - you may need them later
  17. Have patience
I was right in that I saw things from a different perspective, but wrong in that I'd gain any inspiration. What I learned is that just because you write a book on a seemingly motivational topic does not automatically qualify you to present the contents of your book to a room full of people.

I was amazed at one thing, which is the ability the presenter seemed to have to present information as if she were delivering the financial statements at an annual meeting. (Yawn)

The lesson I learned is that just because you can write with inspiration, does not translate into speaking with inspiration. So, as I have now crossed my 3rd year of blogging and have accomplished my first goal, which was to develop my writing skills, I now have to go back and analyze how I will tie together speaking and writing inspirationally.

As leaders, we have to ask ourselves, "Do I inspire?" You have to ask yourself "Does my writing inspire?" and "Does my speaking inspire?" Then remember, just because your answer is yes for one doesn't make the other a yes as well. In today's age of email, blogging and leadership, I think it takes both the ability to speak and write in a way that inspires to become an effective leader.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Kid Looks How I Feel

I have been a little absent this week in posting anything. Not because I am short on information, but rather I am short on energy.

Coming off of 3 intensive days of learning and networking with my colleagues I have pages of notes to share in the coming days, but one thing I have never learned is that I'm getting older. While I was once able to sustain the life of a rock star, I am no longer rock star capable and need my beauty sleep. So getting to sleep last night at 3am and waking up at 7:20am has left me in need of some rest.

I promise good posts inspired from my observations at the national conference as well as words of inspiration from Stephen Coven, who spoke to us in our closing session last night.

Until then good nigh..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Perception Becomes Reality

I'm up in Denver this week at our national conference. It's kind of a drag that it's in Denver, just an hour north of home, but it's still okay. Yesterday I sat in on a session presented by Chris Tripoli, restaurant consultant from Houston, Texas.

When he said "Your guest's perception becomes your reality." I was instantly reminded of my days in college when I was waiting tables at Grisanti's. I had this guy sit alone at my table and order the french onion soup. He had this eerie quality about him that all these years later has stayed with me.

When I brought him his soup, I carefully handed it to him and gave my normal disclaimer, "careful this is very hot." As I left, he quickly called me back to the table and said the soup wasn't hot. I apologized, took the soup back to the kitchen and exchanged it for a bowl that came right off the line. It was so hot that I had to use a towel to carry it out to him. I set it on the table and waited for him to eat it. He spooned up a mouthful and as I watched the steam roll off the spoon, he stuffed the entire spoon in his mouth and shook his head saying, it's still cold.

"WHAT THE...!" Is all I could think. "Okay." is all I could say. I carried the scalding bowl back to kitchen and told the expediter the problems I was having. I took another bowl, stuck it in the industrial microwave and ran it until the cheese began to bubble, carried it out and returned a few minutes later saying, "I think I have Satan in my section." He still wanted it hotter.

Again I stuck a new bowl to the microwave and ran it until I thought it was going to explode. Finally Mr. Satan agreed that the bowl of molten lava wasn't quite hot enough for him, but it would be fine. He was tired of waiting. I went back to the kitchen and ran my hands under cold water to soothe the burns I received through the towels I used to carry the bowls out.

His perception that the soup wasn't hot enough became my reality. Regardless that I knew the soup was at least twice as hot as we normally serve it, his perception was that it was cold. So, my reality was the soup was cold.

My thoughts that this guy was Satan became the reality that this guy was my guest and he would get what he wanted. I had to have a dual conversation to satisfy him. One conversation was my perception, the other conversation was my new reality. One of the keys to exceptional customer service is the ability to carry on this dual conversation internally while externally only displaying kind words meeting your guests reality.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

What I Learned From My Students

This past Friday, while sharing the video I posted on Marie Digby, with one of my classes for discussion on the ethics of this marketing campaign, I suddenly found myself sidetracked by the students wanting to show me their favorite YouTube videos.

Two things I have learned from my students:
1. I need more time to do things like watch dumb videos on YouTube.
2. I still have the sense of humor of a college student, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Here are their favorite videos:
The Sneezing Panda -make sure your volume is up a little so you can hear

Soup Nut Shot - the name says it all

The Grape Lady - 100% schadenfreude

The Grape Lady Remix - only if you liked the original

Though not very educational from a starting your business standpoint, I do think it was the most fun we'd had all semester. I can't wait to see what we "learn" tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finding Passion from Passion

Sometimes you see a story and think, "okay that's nice, whatever" and other times you see something that makes you think "I'm a total slacker with my life and should really do something beyond what I'm currently doing."

This video is the latter. I am beyond impressed with the idea and the results that Muhammad Yunus was able to accomplish with very little resources and a lot of passion. This social entrepreneur is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I recently heard Steve Bigari, a local entrepreneurial mogul, say "I don't care what you stand for, just take a stand. If you don't know what you want to stand for, call me. I've got a cause you can stand for."

Motivated by the passion of Yunus, this brings me to my second point. (My first was compared to Yunus, I'm a slacker) How does one go about finding a cause that they can devote their entire life, or at least a good portion of their life to? Is there anything that I am passionate about? Something that makes me take a stand? Is there anything that makes you take a stand?

As I was doing some research to find a way to answer these questions for myself, I came across this article, which discusses the 5 steps to finding your passion. Perhaps a little sterile for such a deep topic, but it at least it provides these tips to help get you started.

  1. Identify what gets you excited. "If you're at a party, and there are people talking in different corners of the room about different subjects, and you overhear somebody talking about a subject that fascinates you so much you want to hang around and listen, what would that subject be?"
  2. Go back to your childhood. (this implies I've left mine)
  3. Take stock of your talents. "You don't love what you're not built to love."
  4. "Shop" on the job. "Wherever you work, take as much time as you can to 'shop' around the various departments. Learn the ropes, and find out what you get a kick out of"
  5. Look at the big picture. "Do I like doing it? Am I good at it? Does the world need it?"


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Witty, Cynical and Skeptical People

Last Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to sit down with David Haupt, whom you may not be familiar with, but I'm fairly certain you know his work. David, founder of The Onion, came down to give some feedback with a start up company I'm working with. As David helped form the general concepts of how we should market to our clients (newspapers) it was fascinating to hear his anecdotal stories about what it was like in the beginning of the Onion and how that has changed. [David's blog is here]

Over the last 4 years, I've had the fortune of developing a couple relationships with journalists, editors and publishers. Yesterday, as I was at a local event and talking with the publisher and editor of a local paper, it dawned on me that one characteristic all newspaper staff have in common is a dry, witty and cynical sense of humor combined with a skeptical look at the world. The two yesterday, David last Friday, and even a good friend whom I recently reconnected with are all skeptical cynics. In fact, and I think my good friend I'm speaking of would take this as a compliment, he and David were strikingly similar in many ways. They even looked alike, which was a little eerie.

Don't get me wrong, I don't give that description with disdain, instead I say it with sentiment because I think I could easily fit the profile of every newspaper person I've ever met. I am definitely skeptical in many ways and obviously cynical. Some even agree I'm witty, though not everyone thinks those combine to be humorous.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Marie Digby in the WSJ

Today's issue of the Wall Street Journal has an article by Ethan Smith and Peter Lattman that tells the story of Marie Digby, the musician that has seemingly made it big with home made videos and word of mouth by using YouTube.

Her videos have over 2.3 million views, according to the article, and have been used on MTV's "The Hills". This apparently has culminated with Hollywood Records press release announcing "Break through You Tube Phenomenon Marie Digby Signs With Hollywood Records."

The article then goes on to disclose that in reality, Digby signed with Hollywood Records in 2005, 18 months before she became a YouTube phenom. This radio interview continues the portrayal that Digby is an innocent start up nobody that found fame and fortune on accident.

This all brings me to this... Do you consider this a case of genius marketing, or customer deceit? Even if you never knew of her before, would you feel lied to and misled? Or do you now respect the outside the box approach to using the trends of independent music to bring new artists into the mix?

Personally, I deeply appreciate the marketing attempt, but I also see how it might run the risk of back firing on them. If it does, I think it will be a backfire triggered by the media and not the fans. Fans like the product and don't want to know about all the mess of advertising and contracts. The media likes to create the controversy. I guess time will tell.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Labor Day Traditions

For me, Labor Day has long since been associated with the demolition derby. Growing up, I always went to the metropolitan area of Essex, Iowa to stay with my grandparents and take part in all the great traditions such as the flea market where I could usually talk my parents into buying me something small and junky. Then the parade, which is where I got my inspiration to play the drums would come down the street. Finally the whole weekend was culminated with the demo derby. I would walk up to the dirt field and watch cars smash into each other. WOW! What a rush for a kid to see.

Well, last Friday morning on my way into work, I was the lucky caller to the radio station and won tickets to the Colorado State Fair Demolition Derby. My youngest son, who is more the motor-head than my older son, joined me for the adventure. What a night of twisted metal and flying mud.

I'm glad I could extend the joy of the derby to one more generation on Labor Day.