Monthly Archives: December 2015

Posts Of The Year – 2015 – Foodie Edition

This will be our last post of 2015, and it’s the most-read Foodie Friday post from this year.  Since writing this post, I’ve actually met Big Al himself.  He enjoyed the post almost as much as I enjoyed his food.  Have a happy and safe New Year and we’ll see you on the other side of December!


Foodie Friday, and our food fun this week comes from a restaurant in which I’ve never eaten but of which I am a customer. A very happy customer, actually, and my happiness is all due to an excellent lesson in customer care.

Big Al’s BBQ & Catering is located in Raleigh. As Al’s website proclaims:

We aren’t the cheapest Carolina BBQ vendor, but we guarantee freshness and award-winning flavors you can’t find anywhere. Period. Come eat with us, or call in and order out! We’ll pack your plate just fine.

Honestly, I’ve not done that. What I have done is to order merchandise from him. You see, my Dad is also called Big Al and I thought it would be a fun surprise to send him a shirt and a hat bearing the Big Al name and logo.  I placed an online order and entered my parents’ address for shipping.  After a week when I hadn’t received an excited call from Florida I began to wonder about the status of my order.  It was then that I noticed the receipt said “local pickup” meaning they were waiting for me to walk into their store and grab the goods.

I emailed the address from which the receipt came explaining that there had been a mix-up.  Within 20 minutes I had a note back from Al himself explaining that he had tried to text me (I had used a land line on the order) to ask about shirt color and was glad I had sent the note.  Here is where the lesson begins.

A quick exchange of emails to furnish the correct shipping address concluded with Al saying “I’ll get that out to you.”  No long explanation, no haggling over if the error was on my end or on his.  Just “I’ll get that out to you. ”  This morning, I received a text – “Going to ship your Dad’s package this morning priority mail…I am picking up the freight for all your troubles.”

If you take one thing away from the roughly 1,700 screeds I’ve written I hope it’s the rock-solid focus on the customer Al demonstrated.  Heck, I’m some schlub from out-of-state that ordered a shirt and hat.  I’m not going to be coming in weekly for food.  Al treated me as I assume he does everyone – with respect, an assumption that the customer is right, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

If you are ever near Raleigh I hope you’ll hit Big Al’s for a meal.  Order out if you can.  Tell your friends to go. Even if you have other dining plans, do me a favor and swing by and let him know you admire his customer-centric focus.  I sure do. I wonder if he can ship ribs to Connecticut?

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints

Posts Of The Year – #1

The post below was originally called Worst. Call. Ever. and was written the morning after the Super Bowl.  Maybe it really resonated with all of you or maybe it was just good SEO, but this became the most-read post of 2015.  It’s the kind of post I love to write: take an everyday event and extract some point that makes us better businesspeople.  Tomorrow we’ll have the year’s top Foodie Friday post (even though it’s Thursday!).  Enjoy.

I suspect you watched the Super Bowl last night. Hopefully, you did so all the way to the end and you witnessed the subject of today’s rant. For any of you who missed it, the Seahawks were driving and were on the 1-yard line, about to win the game. They just had to run it in and had 3 tries to do so (OK, maybe 2 since they only had one time out left). I’ll let the Times explain: 

A team with Marshawn Lynch, one of the best goal-line running backs in football, instead opted for a far riskier option, and Malcolm Butler made them pay, intercepting the ball at the goal line to effectively end the Seahawks’ hopes of winning a second consecutive Super Bowl.

Coach Pete Carroll took responsibility for the call after the game. So did his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell. Whoever actually made the call, the decision joins an ignominious list of the worst coaching decisions in sports history.

There is a business point in that decision.  Simply put, rather relying on the proven strengths of his team, the coach opted for trickery.  Obviously, it backfired and they lost the game.  It’s a good lesson for all of us.  We invest a lot of time in building our team and our business.  We come to realize over that time the things at which we excel and which help us win.  Those are the things upon which we must rely, especially during crunch time.  Trying “trickeration” may seem like a fine idea but it usually isn’t as good as doing what is known to work.

It wasn’t absurd to think of trying a pass play when everyone is expecting a run.  What made it such a bad call was that the passing game hadn’t been particularly effective and the Seahawks had lived on Lynch’s running ability all season.  Expecting him to run at you is not the same as stopping him and the Patriots hadn’t done so without at least a yard gained during the game very often.   In business, it’s not about what the competition is expecting.  It’s not about trickery or fooling anyone.  It’s about executing better than they do and producing a better product or service.  Ask Apple.


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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

Posts Of The Year – 2015 – #2

Continuing with the most read posts of this past year, here is one from April.  A close friend of mine killed himself (I didn’t know that for sure at the time) and it prompted me to step outside of the daily business screed and into something way more important.  Please read and pass it on.  More importantly, act when you see a reason.

This was not at all how I planned to start this week of blogging but sometimes reality rears its ugly head and our plans need to change.

Over the weekend I learned that a friend passed away.  He was relatively young – in his early forties – and while I’m at an age where death pays a visit in my world a lot more often than it used to, this one has shaken me up.  You see, this is a guy whose life was seemingly very much on track up until about 2 years ago.  He had some physical challenges – very bad arthritis – which made his job in golf difficult.  Things started downhill.  He tried to start a business but it never quite got off the ground.  His marriage broke up.  His social media activity became less frequent as did his general communication.  I even heard he was homeless at one point.  While none of the obituaries mention a cause of death, it may have been as simple as a broken heart, deep depression, or as complex as a suicide.  I don’t know that it matters.

I wrote something on this topic a year and a half ago:

We all know a person who displays symptoms of things not being right in their lives. Those symptoms could come in the form of substance abuse or a big weight gain. Maybe their personality has changed – gone from light to dark. If you care about that person, you probably think about a way to say something that asks about what’s going on. It’s hard – people have feelings, after all and they are probably just as aware as you are of what they’re doing. Probably more so.  The ensuing discussion can be hard for both of you.  Sometimes it can derail a friendship.  More often, it begins a healing process, but only if you care enough to say something.

I tried to follow that advice with this friend.  I tried to help with the business start-up, doing the digital work and marketing.  I invited him to come cook with me (he had professional training and loved a kitchen).  Other invitations to meet up went unanswered.  In short, I tried.  And yet I feel as if I could have done more. I didn’t really “say something.”

It’s easy to say that his family should have been helping – he has a lot of family in the area.  Who knows – maybe they were estranged.  Maybe he wasn’t keeping them informed.  How many of us tell our loved ones all is well when the reality is that our world has fallen apart?

I’m sorry to start the week on a down note but PLEASE.  If you have people in your lives who seem to be lost, helping them find their way is really about helping you too.  Be that selfish.  Do more. Don’t wait and don’t be afraid.  They might be gone before you overcome your fears.

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Filed under Reality checks