Tag Archives: culture

Let it or Make it?


I’m a pretty laid back guy.  When things need to get done though, I make them happen instead of let them happen.  Yesterday one of my buddies said, “man, things are pretty slow today.”  Things are slow because we are allowing them to be slow.

To make things happen one must:

  • Learn the system and identify slack points and remove them.
  • Meet the people involved, especially decision makers, address their concerns directly and mitigate.
  • Drive the timeline.  When will this step be completed?  What’s next?  Warm up the next step.
  • Congratulate accomplishments.
  • Keep the bosses excited so you can ensure resources and support.
  • Be ready, each ‘thing’ made happened opens up the possibility for another.

If you let things happen you wait for things to come to you.  You avoid pressuring the system, your peers, subordinates or superiors.

It doesn’t matter if you work at McDonalds, Google or the White House.  Stop waiting for someone to hand you a purpose and make things happen, time is running out.

The Brands That Own Me

amazonapple hiltonstarbucks

I don’t like or trust corporations but I love capitalism. I relentlessly fight against marketing but I ‘believe’ in some brands. Why? The reasons are listed below but the bigger reason is that they have maintained a decent standard of quality while ensuring personalized customer service.

Apple: Their stuff just works and better yet, it all works together. I’m a family man and the fact that our phones, laptop, tablet and TV device all work together and work every time makes me a believer. Call them if you have a problem, they give a shit.

Starbucks: I think the environment inside a Starbucks is nauseating and artificial It’s garbage and I’m almost 100% sure I don’t agree with the founders or workers politically or morally. All that being said, a freshly brewed Pikes Place is the best cup of coffee I can get. I travel so I try local coffee as much as I can. Most every other cup of coffee I have had sucks compared to a Pikes Place. They’re consistent and that’s why large chains dominate. They actually train their employees too, nice touch.

Hilton: First off, the Embassy Suites is smart enough to offer the government rate in every city I go to. Second, they have a free, real breakfast (I’m not talking about those fucking Belgium waffles) and free boos every night; can you beat that? Yes you can. Third, they have a great rewards plan. I earn free stays and status quickly. You got me Conrad Hilton, nicely done.

Amazon: Dear Amazon, you have made it too easy for me to buy exactly what I need anytime. I am a Prime Member; you sold me ‘free’ shipping and other nice benefits. You have reduced my trips to Walmart and department stores by 87%. Thank you. I even own kindles and borrow books for free. On a few occasions I have had to call or chat with you; Hamza, you are now on my Christmas card list.

Someone Died Here

This family has problems of their own.

This family has problems of their own.

Sometimes I drive through the country and when I do, I see signs like this but in better English.

They’re funeral home signs asking me to drive slow because someone from a family that lives on this 100 meter part of the road died recently.

I’ll slow down because the sign asked me to.  But why?

Why do grieving people need me to drive slower?

Is it because there are more pedestrians around and we don’t want to add anyone to the party?

Is it because cars aren’t as loud when they are driven slow?

I don’t understand why I need to slow down; but I do.  Rest in Peace.

The Making of America: True Story

Are you willing to work?

True Story:

A large area immediately outside my office had to be excavated due to some kind of underground HVAC flooding problem.

The first day was pretty hot.  The guys started to clear the stones then cut into the dirt with a shovel.  It was getting hotter.  A few guys worked on it at first, then as the job expanded the guys had other duties to do and one guy was left to dig.  It was hot.  The man dug and dug.  It was apparent at this point that the shovel he was given was inadequate for the job.  He was in jeans that didn’t fit well and an old t shirt, he just kept digging.

The next day, another guy was on the job.  He was younger, tall and slender.  He dug some when he first arrived but the heat came quick.  He dug a little, stopped for a smoke. Dug a little more, did some texting then his buddy showed up.  He sat on the side of the hole for a bit, smoked and talked then dug a little more.  Someone brought over some Gatorade and a sandwich.  He left earlier in the day than the guy from yesterday.

It rained heavily that night.

The next day the first guy showed up again.  Since it had rained the job site was a bit of a mess.  The hole no longer had perfect edges, it was sloppy and eroded.  The dirt pile was flattened and some was falling back into the hole.  The man did what he could to shovel it out.  He wasn’t having much success.  He grabbed a nearby plastic cup from a fast food restaurant (the big kind that are against the law in NY) that was littered from the past.  The man began using the cup to throw the water out of the hole.  He had to throw it some distance as to avoid it from receding back.  He did this for several hours, even as it started to rain again.

The final day an excavator showed up, now with space to expand the hole.  In a few days, the entire job was finished.  It was covered nicely with new gravel, looking better than when it had started.

I didn’t see Juan or Steve again.

Highway confessions; I ran over that sign

This sign has directed its last patron

So I had a bit of a rough weekend in terms of driving.  I had a hitch mounted cargo carrier on the back of my jeep to haul camping supplies.  I guess I had a hard time judging distances, I blame the heat.

I hit two things:  I ran down a fast food joint’s sign and bumped someones SUV in the parking lot.  There’s a difference.

When I bumped the guy’s car, I felt really bad.  There was barely any damage, a small dent in the rubber probably on its way to popping back out.  I stayed out in the parking lot and waited until he came out of the store and explained what happened and apologized.  He looked at the bump briefly and agreed that it was too small to care about.  We went on our way.

I stopped briefly when I cut a turn too hard and clipped the fast food sign.  It made an awful sound.  Not a full stop, a rolling stop really.  I’m pretty sure the sign was already down and I just finished the job, it was rusty and seemingly sheered off at the base.  I didn’t feel bad though.  As a matter of fact, I was more concerned with any damage to my jeep and wondering why they chose such a poor place for a sign.  Honestly, I laughed  hardily as I drove down the highway, trading jokes with my wife about the situation and my impending arrest.

Here’s what separates the two incidents:

I identified with the SUV owner, even though I’d never met him.  He is a person and deserves to know that his car was bumped.  I was prepared to pay for any damage caused because I wanted to do right by him.

This fast food place is a nameless and faceless corporation.  Their parking lot was unkept and cared about me only enough to get me out of their drive through line.

The fix?

Chain stores need to identify themselves using their people.  Managers should have their pictures up and meet customers.  Clerks should make a bit of small talk and use their names.  It’s an easy fix really and customers will come back because they were treated like people BY people.  It’s not that corporations need to increase the number of self reporting sign runner overs, they need to increase the customer return rate.  Even corporations can be small town shops.

If I had met Bill the manager or even knew his name I may have let them know that I ran their sign over.  I might mention to him that it was really poorly placed though.

Customer Service – What get’s it done?

The gym I go to has a great front desk staff.

Their greetings are strong when I come in, smiles big, very receptive to the few requests I’ve had and bid a great farewell when I leave.

Every time, all of them.

Most of the other staff seem to be on board as well.

So what is it?

Does American Family Fitness pay really well?  Do they just hire the right twenty somethings?  Are they consistently trained and managed?

I’m not sure exactly but what I am sure of is that the culture is right.

Regardless of hiring practices, pay or training models the culture set by the leadership creates the environment for success…or failure.

In my experience culture is determined through time by communicating with your peeps often, by being forthright with standards and expectations and, most importantly, by explaining “why.”  Explaining why means explaining to the staff the enduring end-sate, the objective, the second or third desired effect.

Your people are smart and will help you to your goal; if they know what it is (exactly) and you allow them to.

Leaders need to take some time to reflect, communicate and observe; this, done over time, will start an organization on an enduring path to success – it will create the right culture.

Answering lots of email doesn’t.