Monthly Archives: March 2015

How I Write

I was speaking with someone last week about this blog. They were kind enough to ask about using some of the content and in the course of the conversation they said something to the effect of “I don’t know how you are able to write five days a week” so I thought that maybe I’d attempt to answer that question. As I do so I’m hoping it provide a little insight into some business thinking you can use.

The hardest part for me is finding a topic each day. I mean it’s not just what pops into my head but also is what pops in aomething that might be of interest to anyone other than me and, more importantly, does it have a broad enough business application to be relevant to you, the reader, no matter what your business might be. As I’ve written many times, it’s about your customer, not you.

As part of my daily routine I scan over 1,000 articles each day. I do this to stay on top of tech, marketing, social media, and other business and media trends because these are the topics with which my clients need help. That content ranges from the sort of stuff you might also pick up in “mainstream” media down to granular topics such as web analytic and SEM. These articles will generally provide a starting point.  You’ve read screeds on research, on things happening in social media, and marketing trends.  Most of those posts came from reading something that sparked a thought.

Sometimes (yesterday for example) something going on in my own life prompts a post.  We forget sometimes that our own narrow perspective may have application to other folks’ lives and as we were taught in education class you work from the known (what happened to me might have happened to you) to the unknown (what happened related to a broader business theme).  There are also posts that are just fun for me – Foodie Friday tends to be that way as was the TunesDay stuff I wrote about music each Tuesday.  Which brings up another point.

I stopped writing those posts because they were the least read.  I also have cut back on some of the research-related posts since they too tend to drive less readership.  Again, it’s about what interests you, not just me.  I don’t write about politics other than when something in the political sphere has non-political takeaways for us.  Why not?  Because inevitably one side or the other gets angry, justifiably or not, and might stop reading.

Finally, I keep an ongoing list of topics.  Links to articles, random thoughts, and even photos which prompt a thought are posted in a drafts folder as I go throughout my day.  When I’m ready to write that folder is my first stop. The hard part is making the point that came to me while telling a compelling story of some sort.  Then it becomes a matter of presenting it to you in a concise, clear manner.  Mechanically, I write in WordPress, I add an image, I proof twice, I check spelling, and I edit.

Since this is now about 100 words longer than my usual rant, I’ll stop here.  Hopefully you can apply that methodology to your business.  Look for things that might prompt a thought – new products, new platforms, new practices.  Consider them for a moment, hold them if they resonate, act on them when you can.  Any questions?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud

Loyalty Isn’t Stupidity

We’ve been customers of a particular heating oil company almost since we’ve moved into this house. That was in 1985. Sure, on occasion we’ve asked around to see if we’re getting hosed on heating oil prices (not usually) and we’ve found them to be pretty reliable when there is an issue. The service techs show up quickly and are generally pleasant. Given the cost of fuel and the amount we use along with the annual inspections and tune-ups, the last 30 years of our business has probably been worth at least $100,000 to them. We won’t be renewing our contract in a couple of months. Here is why and it’s instructive for any business.

A few weeks ago we noticed some water on the basement floor near the water heater.  Our water heater is just a tank – the furnace actually heats it – so we called the oil company to come take a look.  Admittedly we told them we suspected a leaky water tank which they replaced.  The next day, water on the floor.  Repair comes back – it was a faulty circulator which they replaced.  Of course, that inexpensive part might have been the problem all along but no one actually ever checked it before pulling the tank.  New tank, new circulator and a dry floor.

That stopped after another couple of days.  More water in the same area.  We had the annual boiler inspection scheduled for three days later so we waited to see what it might be – hopefully not a furnace issue.  The inspector came and found the leak – it was a relief pipe and the leak was probably caused by an old or faulty valve.  The water tank?  The circulator?  No, they were fine.  The furnace was fine too.  Phew!

When we woke up the next day the house reeked of oil.  I thought it was just the residual smell from the burner cleaning.  The Mrs. went to look and found oil all over the floor.  Our fourth visit in a week from the fuel company to fix the problem (the cleaner had forgotten to shut something) resulted in a floor now covered in oil-absorbing kitty liter which they just called to come clean up in a few days.

In a sentence – the customer reported a problem which you misdiagnosed twice, selling them thousands of dollars of stuff they might not have needed.  You also screwed up a routine cleaning and now the customer is once again inconvenienced (the smell, having to be home for more service calls, etc).  This customer’s patience and loyalty are at an end.

That’s the lesson for all of us.  No matter how loyal a long-time customer has been, every interaction is an opportunity to win their business again.  When we take that loyalty for granted and are sloppy (a nicer word than dishonest), we make withdrawals from our loyalty bank account.  This company overdrew – we’re closing the account.  Our intention is to explain exactly why to them as we don’t renew.  Who knows – maybe I’ll just send them this link.

Lesson learned?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Easy Recipes

This Foodie Friday will involve a trip to the store for me. I like to avoid the markets over the weekend so Friday mornings are sometimes spent reviewing and searching for recipes. A little menu planning in advance means just today’s trip to the stores.

Pulled pork in BBQ sauce sandwich with slaw

Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I was going through a few food sites looking for ideas it struck me how many recipes involved the word “easy.” I suspect part of that is an appeal to the time crunch all of us seem to be under and part of it is to make cooking less intimidating for those whose kitchen skills involve a microwave and opening a can.  The recipes are indeed easy – dump some stuff in the slow cooker, walk away for 6 hours, voilà! Supper!  While I love my slow cooker and have made, say, pulled pork in it, I’m not going to tell you that the end product is anything like, or near as good, as what I produce from my smoker.  The smoker is a tricky beast to use and requires a lot of attention. Which is, of course, the business point.

I’m not going to tell you that we need to make things as difficult for ourselves as we can.  In fact, I think quite the opposite.  What I won’t do or ask my clients to do as part of making things easier is to denigrate the quality of their offerings.  That’s where “easy” tends to become hard.  Maintaining the greatness of your brand, your products, your services isn’t easy nor will it ever be.  It requires constant vigilance and a proactive mindset.  You can’t just set the cooker and walk away.

So here is the easy recipe for this Friday.  This is the one that gets us to great while being relatively easy. As a person, learn the basic skills you need and practice them.  That’s true in the kitchen and the office.  Possessing those skills – critical thinking and communicating first and foremost – and getting them right makes using them easy.  As a manager, hire and train only those people because when every member of the team gets the basics right every day the end product will be easy AND great.

You in?


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Filed under Consulting, food