Featured

The Gift of Subtlety.

There are some gifts I willingly admit I possess; I have a talent for identifying color- which shades work together and which do not; I understand how to turn a phrase, or align words in such a way that they seem to make more sense; and I have a decent singing voice. These are real gifts.

The gift I do not have, nor has ever been attributed to me, is that of subtlety. (At this very moment, people who know me are nodding their heads, or laughing at the very thought of such an attribution.)

Subtlety, of course, isn’t the only gift I am lacking. I have zero idea how to throw a football or even the faintest understanding of the game. Numbers and I have a difficult relationship, making sometimes even the most basic equations an all-out brain freeze. And the square-jaw, rugged-handsome gene skipped my generation.

If my mother were to chime in right now, she’d probably say something like, “Well, Tom Brady and Daniel Day-Lewis certainly don’t have your singing voice, do they?” Thanks, mom.

However, just because I don’t possess those gifts, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them.

The gift of subtlety and nuance is one rarely witnessed today– but you know it when you see it. And you miss it when it is absent.

New York Times Opinion columnist Frank Bruni recently referenced this in his take of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Debates:

We’ve entered an especially coarse chapter in American politics. We’ve also entered a spectacularly unsubtle one, in which what stands out and wins the day are big jokes, bold strokes and broad-brush moralizing. Tidy, intellectually facile dichotomies rule: good and evil; villain and victim; oppressor and oppressed. The least exalted real estate is the middle ground and… the most rapidly fading shade is gray.  (full article)

In my line of work, subtlety is risky, but it sometimes really pays off. There are great examples of this in advertising over the years. I think of the simple “S.C. Johnson, a family company” creeping in at the end of television ads.

What isn’t said matters.

One commercial I saw recently brought me to tears in the first ten seconds. Watch it here, but try not to read what the commercial is for, just watch the ad. You’ll be glad you did. This is even the abbreviated version and it totally works.

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 2.05.40 PM

The subtlety of this ad is everything. What isn’t said is so important. (Watch the full movie here.)

I am looking forward to more opportunities in my creative life and my actual life that cue me to face challenges with subtlety and nuance.

Advertisements
Featured

Say What You Need To Say

Sometimes, we are just not all that invested. Sometimes, we don’t really care that deeply about the issue at hand, so avoiding our real stance on a subject is just easier– more convenient.

John Mayer proclaims nearly 30 times, “Say what you need to say” in his song by the same name. Ironic? I think not.

All too often, we avoid saying what needs to be said. We tiptoe around the truth or the hard truth with mere suggestions of what we are really wanting to say. We “suggest” our intent by veiling it with “perhaps…” or “maybe…” 

But– do we feel strongly? All we need to do is spend ten minutes on Twitter or Facebook to know that we are a people who feel. Unfortunately, it is all too simple to post strong feelings or attitudes without the backbone of a face-to-face confrontation.

Sometimes, we are just not all that invested to speak up for how we feel in the workplace. Sometimes, we don’t really care that deeply about the issue at hand, so avoiding our real stance on a subject is just easier– more convenient.

Recently, I saw a post on LinkedIn entitled, When Your Most Motivated Employees Become Silent! by Graham Thompson. I was immediately overwhelmed at the very concept. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I proclaimed as I read these words, “the origin of the lack of passion so often lies in leadership inappropriateness, neglect or selfishness.”

Have I created an atmosphere in the workplace where my coworkers feel comfortable to speak the truth? Have I created a safe place?

We have always tried to maintain a high-performing ensemble of teammates who are welcome, even encouraged to voice their differing opinions, knowing full well that dissent and criticism is often a crucial element of the creative process. It’s not for everyone. And the moment it becomes personal or petty is the moment the process grinds to a halt.

Every opinion matters. Yes. Indeed– or you wouldn’t have a seat the table. However, every opinion does not and cannot carry the same weight. The key challenge is discerning who is owning the project. And who is ultimately responsible for that project’s success.

View from back of man with his friend near bar

HERE’S WHAT HELPS:

CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

I will often begin a group session with something like, “Hey- a lot of these decisions have already been made, but I would love to get you take on where we are, and see if you have any suggestions for improvement.” That is different than, “What do you think?” If you aren’t prepared for, “I hate it”- you shouldn’t even ask.

CLEAR BOUNDARIES

Sometimes, it is important to remind your team of the Rules of Play. “This is John’s project, and he’s done a lot of work. Let’s discuss how he can take it to the next level” or “Folks, we are on a strict deadline. Only constructive, easy fixes at this point”.

CLEAR RESULTS

Here’s where we often fail. Celebrate the success of your team, and your team’s work. I fail at this all the time, because I am so in love with the process. I absolutely take great pride and reward in the teamwork of a project, and I seldom remember that the rest of the team may find their reward in celebrating the win of the project once it is completed.

 

 

Featured

The Joy of Being Known

We all hear that a cardinal rule of sales is “know your customer.” As an oft-for-hire actor, I can tell you the cardinal rule for any performer is “know your audience.”

I have benefitted from that sage advice many, many times.

The gist of knowing one’s customer, or audience is that, if you know them, you can adequately serve them, or (in the performer’s case)– reach them.

Today, like I always do, I stopped by a coffee shop to acquire my hourly fix. ( Full disclosure: I contemplated typing “daily fix,” but I decided to be honest– its hourly.)

This was a brand-spanking-new coffee shop. It has been open for less than 24 hours. I had the privilege of stopping by the coffee shop for an ‘advance tour’ on Sunday, and was excited about its opening.

Today, when I stepped to the counter at this new coffee shop, I was greeted with a friendly smile, and a warm, “Hi, George– you want the Nitro, right?”

You bet I do. And lots of it.

coffee picYou see, Nitro Cold Brew is my jam. Big time. I love it. But, you’re missing the point. How did she know my name– and my coffee order. It was day one!

The reason doesn’t really matter. But she did. And that mattered.  You see, she knew my order, and she knew me. And I love that.

Now, sometimes, I like to be not known. I’m not famous, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, there are those moments when any of us loves to disappear into a city, or a foreign place and merely be a spectator. But not today.

Today, I was reminded that I was known. Even at a brand new coffee shop. And that really meant something.

Who You Know Matters

We all recall the phrase, “it’s not what you know, but rather who you know.” This is usually referencing climbing the corporate ladder, or some reference to unfair opportunities based on relationships, rather than skill or talent. But some of it may be true in our work: Do we really know our clients or customers?

“Hey, George! How was your trip to Colorado?”

“Good morning, George! Where have you been? We’ve missed you!”

“George- so sorry to hear about your sick dog- is she better?”

These may seem trivial, but they are important signs that we know each other–– really know each other. This kind of interaction goes beyond emoji-level responses to real life, and ground us in the importance of being known.

Perhaps we could all take a few minutes this week and attempt to “know” one another. We may find ourselves embracing the joy of fellow humans in our midst. At the very least, we may end up with a delightful cup of coffee. And a smile.

img_7275

 

 

 

Featured

Pulling a Creative All-Nighter? Nope.

On a recent Tuesday morning, after enjoying a long-weekend due to holiday, I studied my list of to-do’s, and attempted to organize the week ahead. I have become accustomed to starting my day with a ‘big three’ list, the top three things I must accomplish that day. Throughout the day, I revisit the list, to ensure I am on track for completing my agenda. Sometimes the items are specific: ‘Complete Photo Assets for Web Project.’ Sometimes they are general: ‘Forecast Design Profiles for June.’

As I made my way through the day, I quickly learned that Tuesday’s list may get held over to Wednesday, which is often the case. Waking early Wednesday, I proceeded to the airport for an early flight, and quickly boarded the plane. I am writing this while aboard a United CRJ 700.

It got me to thinking- perhaps I should have pulled an all-nighter. Remember those?

The old, college all-nighter. The thirty page term-paper, or exam-cram, or presentation prep. Back in the day, no all-nighter was complete without a pizza, a trip to Denny’s, or endless amounts of caffeine. They worked, usually without many long-term consequences, besides sleeping through the next few days while trying to catch up.

But, did they really work? They always felt more like cheating than really accomplishing anything. Virtually nothing of those evenings made it into long-term memory, and, aside from nailing the presentation, or landing that score, they were a blip on the college experience.

Creative Work is Unique

Okay, I know that’s a ridiculous headline- obvious, perhaps. But, for a moment, let’s acknowledge that many of us find ourselves in creative work. And, whether we ever thought those two words would cram themselves together and haunt and befuddle our lives, they have, and they do. Creative Work.

In my more than twenty years as creative and art director, I have learned that, even though every project begins and ends on a specific date, the life experience of your art director is part of his or her employment.

For example, if I know that I am starting a project focusing on, say, the rebranding of a major soft drink, my eyes are opened to every drink around me. The customer at the table next to me during date night becomes my test patient in my very public laboratory. I eavesdrop on conversations, spy on consumers, and evaluate every sip of every drink in my sight.

And that is the creative work. Though my pen hasn’t yet touched paper, and no images have been conceptualized, no talent hired, no scripts produced- the work has begun.

Some days I jump from the shower and type notes into my iPhone centered on a thought or idea that works with the new beverage campaign. And sometimes I test ideas on my family or friends.

Perhaps it is that way with every profession. Perhaps lawyers, accountants and teachers all do the same thing. In fact, I am sure they do.

However, artists begin their work- their craft- long before they sit at a canvas, and dip the tip of a brush into paint. The only difference is, they don’t look at those moments of ‘life’ as ‘Work.’
My children will often chastise my wife or me for talking ‘work’ for hours after we get home, How unfair is that? We shouldn’t be clouding our home with the mess of our days. And yet, some of the greatest insight I’ve had comes from our smart, insightful boys, usually unbeknownst to them.

Today, it is expected that employees and associated be available, or at least on-call virtually always. When was the last time you ignored work issues over a weekend? Being available to life is equally important. Or, we may miss it.

So- when does the work begin? When does it end? Maybe it is as simple as re-framing our thinking.

Maybe life fuels our work, not the other way around.

 

Featured

Heroes Created and Destroyed.

In the past weeks, we have been bombarded by the Facebook scandal, recently accused of skirting their responsibilities in protecting users’ data through a relationship with Cambridge Analytica.

Many of us can recall those days or yore when Facebook didn’t exist. If this isn’t you, simply imagine yourself on the subway, on the couch, or at your office desk without having the nuanced details of your closest friends at your fingertips. Those were the days– the pre-Zuckerberg era, if you will.

In 2010, Time Magazine named Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year. After the successful, if not entirely glowing biopic The Social Network, the world recognized the awkward, quirky Zuckerberg as an American success story.  The Forbes Top-lister and Facebook CEO is reportedly worth more than $36 Billion. He and his wife recently announced they would donate 99% of their Facebook shares’ value over the course of their lifetime. An American-made hero, to be sure.

But that was then.

Just like so many ‘created’ heroes before, Mark Zuckerberg now faces the scrutiny of defending that which he created to the general public, Facebook users and the U.S. Congress. Surely, this was not the big plan.

There is no doubt the world celebrates Zuckerberg and all his success. And, by late 2017, Facebook had a reported 2.2 billion monthly users– nearly a quarter of the earth’s population. The product works. The ‘global village’ first dreamed about in the early 1990’s is now a reality. Facebook is a catalyst for uniting this expansive planet.

Zuckerberg has his enemies, to be sure. Some are competitors, thinking the child-king is too big for his breeches. Others don’t entirely understand the platform and wish him ill. Some are just worried about the future of their identity, and their personal information.

It does seem that America loves to identify these heroes, build them up, and then work to destroy them. Perhaps it is to test their mettle. Perhaps it is jealousy. Perhaps is something far worse– that we never believed in the hero to begin with.

During the hearings on Capitol Hill yesterday, Zuckerberg seemed cool to the touch when questioned by Washington stalwarts. His attire (scrutinized in today’s New York Times) and his drinking from a glass of water (mocked on late night television) combined with his apparent inability to discern when the questions were ‘softballs’ and ‘serious’ makes him a curious figure to all who tuned in.

Frankly, I was more embarrassed to watch these congressmen and congresswomen attempting to ‘understand’ the complex algorithms and structure of Facebook. It was cringe-worthy.

Gawkers watch and criticize every move. Why? I wonder. The Zuckerberg Honeymoon is over, I guess. 

I agree that the third party’s misuse of sensitive data was inappropriate. And I agree that there should be tighter restrictions on the sharing of private information. And I agree that offensive and hate-speech laced advertisements should be edited. And I believe Facebook should employ more diverse engineers. And I agree that Facebook should monitor the possible infringement of these rules by foreign intruders who wish the U.S. ill. And guess what? Mark Zuckerberg does, too. He said so yesterday. On the record.

This man created this thing that we use everyday. It’s free. It’s accessible around the globe. Its goal is for good, not for ill. I like it. My mother-in-law likes it. My kids use it. My high school teachers and choir director connect through it.

What if the narrative was “Fix Facebook, We Love It!” Wouldn’t that be refreshing? At least that would be honest.

And, while many have stated (on Facebook, ironically) that they would leave the social network site, the Facebook platform is still king. Even if Zuckerberg himself is on the brink of being dethroned.

 

Featured

$330 Sneakers? Maybe.

A fascinating article in GQ today examined the current alarming status of the sneaker market.

That’s right– tennis shoes, gym shoes, kicks– whatever you call ’em, the market is booming. And not just for new items, either. The after-sale market is presently valued at $2 billion, with the ath-leisure market expected to be worth $83 billion by the year 2020, according to some analysts.

In the early 1980’s the footwear trend hit my hometown, a suburb of Detroit. And I had to have them. All I had to do was convince my parents that the $40 price tag was worthwhile. It wouldn’t be easy– we’d never spent more than $25 on shoes, and those were dress shoes. My parents scoffed at the idea.

Today, a $40 pair of quality sneakers can be near impossible to find.

After Christmas this year, our family decided to have a ‘stay-cation’ in Chicago. Since we live here, we often don’t do the touristy things, so once every year, we try to be tourists for a day or so. We visit museums and eat pizza and drink too much coffee.

As a special treat, I thought I would jet my boys to a couple of the “hippest” sneaker shops  while we were nearby. (Thank you Google for making this middle-aged dad appear, even momentarily, kinda cool.)

What I found inside the minimalist, tiny, privately-owned shop surprised even me: white walls, bare floors, plywood shelving and industrial pipe racks. This was the place?

Now, let me be clear: I have literally seen closets on the north shore that rival the square footage of this shop. But, here, on a blustery December day, I found a welcoming shop owner and a small community of enthusiasts who were pleased to show us their latest acquisitions. My sons were wide-eyed. And, I admit, I was taken by it all.

The sneakers in this shop are unique. Most are unavailable at retail outlets, and here they are sold at a premium- with few at retail prices. The curating of such items comes at a cost. The average price of a premium, after-market sneaker these days is $330.

Each of my sons, age 20 and 15, would pick up a sneaker, examine it from every angle, holding it up to spy the unique stitching and fabric dyes. And to be honest, I haven’t seen them take an interest like this, other than the screens of their phones.

What is it about this place? They’re just tennis shoes, right?

Wrong. It’s the community that the individuality and specificity of the brands affords the consumer. There are Adidas folks. Nikes folks. And then, those others who want the custom, gold-plated designer shoes. My boys save their hard-earned dollars to buy tennis shoes. Ridiculous? Maybe not.  My youngest has even taken to buying premium sneakers on their ‘drop date’ and reselling them online at a premium. And he’s making good, real money.

We bought shoes that day. That’s right, we. I bought a pair, too. To be fair, they were on sale for $50. And I love them. houndstooth

Read GQ article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Difficult, yet Rewarding

 

George Wolff

This Sunday’s New York times featured a terrific article about an exciting and popular new class offered at Yale University, “Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness.”

‘Psychology and the Good Life’ taught by Yale professor Laurie Santos, “tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life,” according to the article by David Shimer. The course was so well received, it had to be moved to a larger location to accommodate the crowds or registrants.

Santos fights the mischaracterization of what many assume will be a fluff course. She surmises that Yale students ‘reprioritized’ their own happiness in high school to attain ivy league acceptance. Hmmmm. And while that seems like a typical response to this millennial generation, she also thinks hers is the “hardest class at Yale.”

Really? Happiness is the toughest course at Yale? 

She goes on to explain that the social pressures of taking a course with friends that calls students to be held accountable for their actions and their habits is truly unique and challenging.

My entire college experience was that course.

Though I studied music performance in my undergrad, I did so at a small, liberal arts college that encouraged proficiency across all aspects of academia. Music theory, performance studies, and aural skills may have been the focus of my degree, but the cornerstone of my education lay in the core curriculum and understanding of art, literature, religion and the sciences.

Though a liberal arts education isn’t for everyone, I found the value of my focused degree in the variable academia across campus. And, perhaps because it was a smaller college, my ‘general studies’ professors always encouraged my featured major in their individual concentrations.

I recall being in a literature course where my professor called me to study, in depth, the texts of the music I had been studying. Cracking into Voltaire as I studied Bernstein’s Candide, and discovering the text of Shubert’s Winterreise. But it went beyond these obvious illustrations.

During my sophomore year, my roommate was killed in a van accident. He was one of three friends who lost their lives while on our university choir tour. It was difficult for all of us, but I took it especially hard. My older, resident-director roommate had become a mentor to me, and I looked up to him.

With him gone, I expected I would be alone. I was wrong.

Instead, I found a campus (what seemed like an entire campus) that was now stepping in, ready to support me in my college career: professors, students, staff. The entire community was there to support me and help me cross the finish line– well.

Because of this tragedy, I assumed it was all for me. I assumed these fine people were investing in me because I had experienced some great tragedy. I am happy to say the was not the case.

My conversations with other graduates of my fine college tell a virtually identical story of their experience: professors inviting them to their homes for family dinners; one-on-one meetings to discuss life and all its complexities; and random phone calls to “check-in” on them. Apparently, our professors had collectively decided to ‘not give up’ on us.

Perhaps this happens at every college. Perhaps not.

My undergraduate experience was an eye-opening, challenging, stretching venture into the world of who I would become. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the men and women who devoted their lives to their knowledge and skill and craft, and chose to invest in my life.

And, while I may have never taken a course entitled ‘Happiness,‘ I feel as if my undergraduate experience did provide such an experience.

 

Read David Shimer’s article here

 

 

Featured

More, From Less

MUJI as inspiration for our work

I’ve been toting around the most recent Harvard Business Review since it landed in my office several weeks ago– I kept meaning to get to it. Mainly, I wanted to be sure to take adequate time to digest “How I Did It” by Masaaki Kanai, chairman of Ryohin Keikaku– parent company of MUJI.

Now, you may have no idea what MUJI is, but trust me- you will.

MUJI is a line of sustainably designed, inexpensive, nondescript, non-branded  housewares and clothing, launched in 1980. Chances are, unless you live near a booming university town or a major metropolitan area, you’ve never stepped foot inside a MUJI store. And you certainly haven’t seen their advertisements, because they don’t believe in them.

I first discovered MUJI when I was living in Brooklyn Heights, outside New York. I stepped into their Manhattan store and immediately was taken by their minimalist concept. And anyone who knows me knows that I am anything but a minimalist.

But MUJI was different. It was so decidedly practical, and, well– necessary. Every item I saw, I thought I needed. Including their fashion. On that first visit alone, I purchased $300 in tee shirts, socks, a toothbrush holder and travel gear, a sweater for my wife, poncho, and two scarves that had been conveniently shrink-wrapped to the size of a Rubik’s cube.

As I strolled the store that day, I never realized that that my overpriced suit and shoes and topcoat and briefcase were the height of contradiction. I longed for the MUJI simplicity, and I decided to partake in all they had to offer.

Kanai credits the store’s universal (and now global) success to this concept, I like to say that MUJI goods should be like water: of universal appeal.” He also credits the adherence to a “uniform vision and execution” as key to MUJI’s success.

Kanai goes on to say, “Our aim is not to grow as large as we can. It is to be tenacious in our quest to deliver on the MUJI promise and to be of use in the lives of people around the world.” (Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2018)

How are we doing?

It got me to thinking: how are you doing in this area? Are you delivering on your company’s promises, and are you helpful to people around the world? Regardless of your product or sales category, your quest is to make an impact in the world, but primarily, in an individual’s life. In one life.

Kanai’s challenge is a good one, and I hope the simple concept of MUJI can inspire you to discover anew your mission and then, go boldly (or in MUJI’s case, simply) in the direction of your purpose.

 

You can read “How I Did It” by clicking here: https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-chairman-of-ryohin-keikaku-on-charting-mujis-global-expansion
Featured

Don’t ignore it

George Wolff, 989Group Partner, Creative Director

 

Dad, What are You Doing?

Last Saturday, while I waited in front of the soccer arena to pick up my son, I lay across the gear shift in my car, pointing my phone up at this beautiful series of color and patterns and light and shadow coming from my sunroof.

First looking over his shoulder to see who else might have noticed this, he said, “Dad- what are you doing?”

It’s Right There

Sometimes, I stop and stare at an object, a shadow or a light beam, and I cannot take my eyes off it. If I have my camera (phone) with me, I will snap a quick image, with the intent of returning to it later-– all to discover what about this image captivated me.

But, on those very rare occasions, when I am without my phone (camera), I am forced to stop and absorb what exactly it is that has come into view. That’s difficult to do. It means pressing ‘pause’ on whatever it was I was supposed to be doing so I can focus on this interesting, odd or beautiful thing that has stopped me in my tracks.

I may have been on my way to the copy machine, or coffee pot, or to tell Adam or Brian about a really great idea. And I have to stop.

Stop and Smell the Roses

To me, this phrase always meant, “make time for things that make you happy.” And, perhaps that is part of it. I love that idea. But, let’s not ignore the seismic impact acknowledging the beauty and majesty and wonder around us could have on us. These roses (and thorns, perhaps) are meant to be noticed along the path.

The shadow in a coffee cup, the puddle from snow-heavy boots, the leaves tossed across a brick path, or the light fighting to break through a car’s sunroof– they are all there to be noticed. They may not all be significant, but they are not to be ignored.

It’s What I Do

My work with 989Group allows me the luxury to stop and notice the details. Whether staring at a photo or layout spread or collaborating on the best word or phrase for an article, my job is to notice the details.

Sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse, it’s important to notice the details.

My son didn’t notice the ripples of light emerging from the vented opening in my sunroof, nor did he think much of it when I pointed it out to him. But then I snapped a picture and showed him.

“Wow- pretty cool.” He looked up at it again, and tried to see it the way I had captured it on my phone.

An extra set of eyes, seeing what we may not see, can sometimes make all the difference.

 

 

Why do the Wrong People travel?

“Travel they say improves the mind, An irritating platitude, which frankly, entrenous, Is very far from true.”

from Noel Coward’s, “Why do the wrong people travel”

 

I love looking at the year ahead, and anticipating what great things I may encounter. It seems silly, I know. The resolutions, the predictions. But, maybe lookin a head is exactly what we are supposed to do.

Anticipating the Future

It’s not really possible to predict the future, I think. I know I may make some enemies by saying this. However, we can make goals and prioritize the twelve months that lie ahead of us.

I’m not a big goal maker, although I live by my daily lists and calendar items. You might say they guide my daily progress. The items not tended to from today get bounced to tomorrow’s list. Sometimes the top, sometimes a sidebar.

But this year, I looked at 2019 and thought, “I want to travel more.” This great article in the New York Times emphasized my longing to succumb to my wanderlust and depart the midwest for adventures unknown.

But then I got to really thinking about it, and discovered a greater truth. I don’t want to just travel. I want to travel and explore with people I love–– my family and friends.

Noel Coward famously penned, “why do the wrong people travel… when the right people stay back home?” Coward blasts the American tourists for slathering food with ketchup and mucking up dust in famous attractions around the world. It has nothing to do with my article, but it makes me laugh.

As for me, I want to be with, and experience new things with my children. To watch their eyes light up at the revelation of a new understanding, and to see them experience different cultures. I want walk cobbled streets and sip coffee at cafes we alone have discovered.

I have traveled for work most of my life-– first as a performer, now as a creative director, but even in those moments, it wasn’t the travel itself that was fun, it was the people I encountered, and those with whom I shared the experience.

For our family, road trips are crucial to our family dynamic. Each holiday, we pack into the SUV and make way to family’s homes across the country. And the ride is important. We always end up singing some goofy song together, arguing about who sits where, and casting our ballots for which coffee shops will earn our business along the route.

And, the family needs that time together. We need to be cramped in a limited space, relying on each other for map guidance and navigation, dj-ing, and management of the all-important snack bag. But– making this trip alone? Not hardly. The reason we enjoy this trip is because we are together.

Travel on, wanderers. But do it with those you love.

Great Starts

90C81B72-3250-4B8A-ABEA-161DBCD0EA80

Checking In

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of staying at a brand-spankin new hotel, two days after they opened the doors. I didn’t plan to be their thirteenth guest, it just happened. How fun for me!

The parking lot was sparkly and all the landscaping perfectly-manicured. The lobby smelled like fresh paint and new carpet. The staff stood behind the counter and were smiling. Widely. They were excited to see me. All their attention was on me.

That was the moment that it occurred to me to inquire, “Did you just open?’ “Yes!” They all exclaimed- “Monday!”

In that moment, I was instantly both excited and a little sad. You see, I had just come from a three-day conference where I led focused sessions on hospitality and guest services. So, I was secretly hoping the service I was experiencing was genuine and unique. It was probably genuine, but it is most likely temporary. Nerve-enduced attention. And, I’m okay with that. It was a fine experience.

I’ve come to expect a certain level of service from hotels and other hospitality providers. Occasionally I am overwhelmed with expertise and accommodations, but usually, I am-(how to say this nicely?)- satisfied.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Satisfaction is good. But it isn’t a goal. Because, how can we possibly know the extent to which some guests will require being completely satisfied with their experience? Not always is that information clear. But what is clear is genuine care and attention.

It only takes a single visit to a Starbucks to know that the priority has been placed on speed and drink accuracy. That’s good. And that would make most customers “satisfied”. But is it enough? For a while, perhaps- or at least until someone opens a coffee shop that provides exceptional customer-focused service. Today, I look for coffee shops where the barista (not wearing a headset), is willing to engage in a conversation. I want to know about the coffee’s origins, I want the expert’s advice on the best brewing process for a particular roasted bean. (Thank you, Stone Creek Coffee)

Start Start Start Start Well

What if every day was a start? What if each day was a new gift? What if we treated every day like it was the first?

Maybe if we begin looking at every day from the customer perspective, it would change our outlook. After all, it is new to them.

FEB03C6D-B89B-4151-856F-32567FAC16BA