Monthly Archives: November 2014

Timing Is Everything

Today is prep day for tomorrow’s feast.  Since I’m busy doing many other things (including praying the pending snow storm misses us), I’m reposting my Thanksgiving screed from 2008.  Not much has changed in the intervening 6 years about my approach to the task at hand.  It’s also a decent observation on the value of planning and attention to detail.  Happy Thanksgiving!

I had an assistant once who developed the concept of “the Ritter factor” when estimating time.  The basic concept was that if I said something would take a certain amount of time, that amount needed to be multiplied by 4.5 to determine the actual time required.  While not admitting to the accuracy or even existence of this factor, I can state that Thanksgiving‘s biggest challenge is time. “Time?” you’re thinking, “that’s the biggest challenge?  HA!  This idiot has really lost it!”  I’m sure you could put together a list of this week’s challenges which would contain items such as where to stash all the coats, how to fit 25 people around a table made for 12, and how to step over Uncle Elmer to get to the bathroom without waking him up.  However, as the conductor of the Thanksgiving orchestra around old Rancho Deluxe here, let me assure you that the primary challenge of the day is delivering all 39 items on the menu to the table at the same time, appropriately hot or cold as required.

The key to the entire day is a timed checklist.  Seriously.  I take enormous amount of crap from everyone who sees mine each year until they realize that the meal is being served at exactly the time requested by the Mrs. which happens to coincide nicely with halftime of the football game.  This list is created by using back timing – something TV and radio producers do all the time.  Beginning at the desired end time and factoring in the availability of necessary facilities (ovens, stove burners, etc.), you work backwards and piece together the time required for each dish until you have a road map.  Anything I can knock off ahead of time (baking, prepping all the dressings, parboiling vegetables) is done up to 24 hours in advance.  It even gets down to resting time for the turkeys before carving and the time it takes for the oil to heat up in the fryer.  In fact, we’ve started frying a turkey in part because it frees up an oven late in the process.  This sounds like a silly bit of overkill to get the meal ready, but it prevents you from leaving the soup in the refrigerator or forgetting you were serving carrots and finding a 20lb bag the next morning.

I’d be happy to share my list with you but it really would only help you a bit.  The cooking facilities here are pretty damn good although we spent the money on them instead of indoor toilets (kidding).  You have to tie your back-timed list to the menu, the facilities you have available to you, and your cooking skills.  Even though my former assistant (who comes most years for the Thanksgiving meal) thinks I’m chronologically challenged, I’ve got 25 full bellies Thursday evening that think otherwise.

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints

Thanks For Bad Bosses

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, many people take the time to reflect on the things for which they’re thankful. When I was managing a team, I was hopeful that I made the lists in my team’s minds since having a good supervisor can make the work day seem not like work at all.

What always struck me when I worked in large offices was that there are really bad bosses. I had a few and I was peers with quite a few more. I even supervised a couple although their skills got better fairly quickly or they moved on. That’s not to say that I never had great or even good bosses. I was lucky to have had many of them. But the bad ones really stood out, and in a weird way I give thanks for them as well since they provided daily examples of what NOT to do.

Why were they bad? More importantly, what can you take away as learnings from the suffering of their subordinates?  Well, first I always shook my head at the bosses who confused what they did with who they are.  The bad ones all had a sense of entitlement; the great ones felt like jut another teammate.  You can spot the great ones – they’re leaders and would be so even if they didn’t have the title.  People come to them for help and guidance.  Bad bosses get avoided like the plague.

Great bosses have people who work “with” them, not “for” them.  Listen carefully the next time a supervisor mentions someone on his staff for that word.  You might also think that a great boss is completely incompetent.  Every time something goes wrong in their area, it’s the boss who says they’re to blame.  That is because the great ones take blame for every bad event that occurs while giving as much credit as they can to members of their team.

Finally, you’ve heard the old truism that there’s no “I” in “team.”  Great bosses believe that and they make sure that every member of their staff gets it.

So how about it.  Are you as thankful as I am for all the bad bosses that show you the light of effective management, or have you been cursed with only great bosses in your life?

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Three Types Of Customers

I saw the results of a survey by the folks at SAP a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to write about it as we hit prime shopping time for the holidays.  They announced results from the Customer Journey Poll, a survey aimed toward helping organizations improve their understanding of customer happiness and encourage brand loyalty.  They polled more than 3,000 Americans, ages 18 and older, to gain insight into what makes customers loyal to a particular brand.  What they found is interesting, albeit not very surprising.

They uncovered three very interesting personas that they claim definitely did not exist 10 years ago:

SAP found three distinct personas that surfaced from the poll data: The “virtuous” customer who patronizes companies that have values to which he or she relates; the “invested” customer, who loves to interact with companies and often seeks guidance and information; and the “ignored” customer, whose inquiries about a product or service sometimes get delayed or ignored. By understanding which customer falls into which persona, brands will have the ability to deliver content that customers consider most important and, in turn, improve overall engagement.

First is the Ignored Consumer:

While email is the most popular way cited to communicate with companies, nearly half of respondents (48 percent) reported problems with delayed or no email responses.  These customers… likely wouldn’t continue to patronize a company that cuts them off.

No kidding.  But how many of us are guilty of creating exactly that group among our customer base?  On the other side of the fence is the Virtuous Customer:

Virtuous customers are those who repeatedly buy from companies they deem to have values similar to theirs. Poll data showed that shared values was cited by 30 percent of Americans as a reason to stay loyal to a brand, making it one of the top three reasons for loyalty. Seventy-five percent said the product/service itself spurred loyalty, while 41 percent cited discounts/offers.

Finally, there are Invested Customers:

Invested customers are the ones who love to interact with companies. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they’d either like or might like (depending on the company) to be offered help via chat or phone before they even ask for it. A whopping 80 percent would either like or might like to be kept up to date on new products.

Interesting.  Just as there are different types of customers there are different methods with which to engage them.  It’s increasingly important that we not offer up one-size-fits-all solutions and focus on reaching each segment in a manner that addresses their loyalty hot buttons.

Worth some thinking?

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