November 29, 2009

State of the Island Economic Summit

I attended the economic summit organized by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) this past week.  The event was very well organized and informative.  Attendees were from industry, consulting, academia and various levels of government.  The presenters and attendees shared a common commitment to the future vibrancy of the Vancouver Island economy.  Many ideas and thoughts were shared around what we could do collectively to support economic recovery and growth.

Being part of the session confirmed yet again for me that the work I do is important, and needed.  I developed a mission statement for Inspiricity a few months ago.  It is 'to help B.C. businesses be the best in the world'.   It was great to spend two days in the company of others similarly committed.

November 22, 2009

more on creating loyalty

I have been thinking about customer loyalty.  About what has us become loyal customers.  There is a lot more to it than just having our needs met. Lots of places or people meet our basic needs but we don't think of ourselves as loyal to them.

What makes the difference?

The ideal for any business or organization is to have zealous customers or clients.  I have also heard this described as evangelistic.  Customers who can't stop talking about them, who tell their friends, and pretty much anyone else, about how wonderful the business or the services are.  They spread the word more effectively than any ad.

I have my list of businesses and people I feel this way about. They each have benefitted from my referrals.

There's another list, the list I want to be evangelistic about but I haven't quite gotten there.  I want to love them. The atmosphere or the product or the philosophy and values are there.  Something's missing.  The critical ingredient that would have me feel special as a customer. A sincere and friendly greeting with a little extra conversation.  A reasonable application of rules or procedures appropriate for the circumstance rather than 'by the book'.  A concerted effort to resolve something so that I, as the customer, am satisfied. Being listened to.  Being called back promptly if I leave a message.  Having appointments kept, not cancelled.  Meetings held on time.

These things, and others, are what make the difference for me.  I feel taken care of and valued.  And I become loyal.  When the opportunities come up to refer the business or the person, I do so.  One zealous, loyal individual can make a lot of referrals.

November 21, 2009

ups and downs

I read with sadness this morning in Jack Knox's article in the Times Colonist that
Cabin 12, the little restaurant near the corner of Pandora and Government, has shut its doors.

I had been tracking their progress on and off since they opened.  I was inspired by their story.  A story about someone who had a dream and was working hard to make it happen.  I also have been starting a new business over the last year, and I felt a connection.  Possibly I had it that if they could succeed in this economic time, that was a good indicator for my own success.

I made a point of eating lunch there a few times when I was downtown.  The food was good, the atmosphere was great, the staff were friendly.

That wasn't enough.

As they are shutting their doors, Corey Judd, who started it, is focussed on how much he learned from the experience. How great it was to see his staff pull together, and make mistakes, and learn.  Jack writes about Corey:  He talks a lot about developing a "safe" work environment built on respect, an anger-free zone where people are allowed to make mistakes. And quotes him as saying: "In that respect, it's been the most successful thing I've ever done.  Even if it all crumbles tomorrow we'll walk away far better than we were."

Starting a business at any time is hard. During a recession, it is harder. It would be easy to blame the economic times, or be angry, or bitter.  Not him, and that impresses me.  He has focussed on what has been learned, rather than what has been lost.

Life is full of ups and downs.  The downs are often where the best lessons are, for all of us.

November 16, 2009

the opposite of customer loyalty is...

An article in The Epoch Times announces that three new cellular providers would soon be in the Canadian market.  I can hardly wait.  I hate my current provider.

Now, hate is a strong word and I rarely use it.  But it describes how I feel.  Every now and then I even rant.

Technically, there is nothing wrong with the service.  Dropped calls are rare.  There are few black holes.  The reception is typically very good.

Do I feel well taken care of?  No.  My experience is one of  being 'in jail', trapped by my provider.  Little things that add up.  Being stuck paying for an old phone because the number couldn't be transferred when I got my blackberry, and getting out of it would have cost me $400.  Being charged long distance on incoming as well as outgoing calls.  Having no affordable long distance plan options.  Having to sign a three year contract to make the blackberry even remotely affordable.  And, judging by the meager 'upgrade' credits I am allotted, I am apparently not worth much to them as a customer, even though I have been theirs for over 5 years.

I feel no loyalty to my provider.  They have made several thousand dollars from me, and I will be leaving as soon as I can.  According to the article, and my own conversations with friends, many others feel the same way.

With new providers entering the market, the current big three are probably sweating.  And so they should be.  Through a time when nothing forced them to treat each customer well , they could have anyhow.  A huge opportunity missed.

November 13, 2009

transforming meetings - additional thoughts

I have discovered a wonderful new usefulness for my blog.  Readers of my newsletters often send me great comments on my articles.  Having a blog enables me to share these with you.

In response to the article in my November edition about transforming meetings, Larry Pedersen had the following additional point to share:

"I will add one more thought to your suggestions about accountabilities for good meetings.   Differences of opinions should be sought and discussed in good meetings.  The trick for the chair is to figure out how to mine the value out of differing opinions and preferences around the table.

Have you read “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni?   It is an interesting parable about how to get value from differing views around the table."

I have included the original article from my newsletter below for your reference:

Transforming Meetings
How is it our concept of a ‘meeting’ is so negative? We rarely speak of meetings with enthusiasm. For most of us they are seen as something to be endured, time mostly wasted that gets in the way of getting ‘real work’ done. I even looked for a quote about meetings for this edition and couldn’t find a single positive one.
It is possible to transform meetings. What would it be like if people came to know you as someone who called and held productive meetings that were a good use of everyone’s time?
I googled the word ‘meeting’ and came up with this great graphic from the site, There is no connotation of ‘waste of time’. Being responsible for great meetings is an art as well as a science. The first clue is in the phrase ‘being responsible’. The person who calls the meeting IS responsible: for the time to be well spent. That means responsibility for many things, such as:

• being clear about what the intentions are of the meeting (a way to harness collective intelligence? Brainstorming? A key decision needs to be made?);
• being mindful and respectful of the cost (if you invite 5 people making $50 an hour; a two hour meeting just cost your organization $500);
• ensuring the right people are invited AND able to attend (how many meetings have you been to where a key player wasn’t in the room, thus requiring another meeting?);
• ensuring you have ONLY invited the people who need to be there, and limit the information to what is relevant for the people who are there;
• ensuring that the objectives are communicated ahead of time to the participants (a GOOD agenda (people need to know how to prepare, and those with a preference for introversion
may need time to think about the material beforehand);
• if you want to be able to participate yourself, have someone else facilitate;
• start when you said you would. Don’t waste the time of the people who honoured you by arriving on time to wait for those who are late; and
• follow up with whatever commitments you make in the meeting (notes, action lists).

Taking responsibility for that one or two hour meeting means some prep beforehand and may mean some follow up afterwards. But these few suggestions could make your meetings be seen
as more valuable by the people who work with you.

November 8, 2009

newsletter day...

yesterday was newsletter day again.  I love newsletter days...I love sending out emails and checking in with everyone to see how things are going.  I always receive a collection of updates and notes back, and it feels good to have a sense of what all the people in my life are up to and know that things are well.

If I didn't mail it straight to you, you can check it out here:  newsletter page

Tomorrow is the start of another great week...

November 6, 2009

when the best ideas strike

My best ideas rarely come when I am sitting in front of my computer.  They arrive when I am driving in my car, or out walking, or standing in a line.  Or loading the dishwasher, or chatting in a coffee shop.

In traditional workplaces people are expected to generate good ideas and clear thoughts in front of their computers from Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30.  Or in a meeting room, sitting around a table facing each other.

Maybe blocks in creativity don't have so much to do with timing as they have to do with the environment.  There's something about sitting in a cubicle and expecting ourselves to be creative and brilliant that just doesn't work.

This isn't new information.  It has been recognized for some time now in some high-performing companies.  Most of us have heard about the Google work environment.  Although initially met by some with disbelief and skepticism, there is no denying that Google is incredibly successful and the way they have their work environment designed gives them access to the best in their people.

Creating learning spaces that foster creativity and recognizing the value of a more flexible attitude to workplaces has made some small inroads in our government and corporate spaces.  The conversation has started in many places.

Does your workspace bring forth the best of your creativity and ideas?