Over the weekend, I attended a wedding reception at a facility that specializes in hosting weddings. Whereas many banquet facilities or hotels are venues for a wide variety of events, this place was the wedding reception mecca.
Because they specialize in weddings, the facility is set up for them and decorated in such a way that brides favor, with no need to regard that conferences or other business meetings might not find some of the decor to be attractive. It is floor to ceiling white satin, with pillars covered in mirror titles, little white lights sparkling everywhere, a head table on a stage and ready-made dance floor. Tables remain set with covered chairs, mirror centerpieces, about a hundred tea light candles lining the entrance hallway, etc.
There are dressing rooms for the women, complete with make-up mirrors, full-length mirrors and couches. The dressing room for the men is equipped with a large screen TV tuned to ESPN.
Need a steamer for the dresses? Got it. Want candelabra centerpieces? Done. Photo booth set-up? Check. Separate play room for the kids? Yep. It was a finely tuned wedding machine.
Not all venues have the luxury to focus on just one type of event, and a narrow business plan is not always wise. But for those who can make the economics work, having a specialty provides a deep level of understanding about what your customer really wants. You can anticipate their needs because you have probably been asked for it before. You can cater (no pun intended) to a targeted audience and know where to reach them. You can make the complicated easy for those who are going through the process, many for the first time.
Even if you can’t limit your line to only one audience, think about whether there is an area where you can go deep. Being all things to all people doesn’t allow you to create a fairy tale setting like a one-audience venue does.
— beth triplett
I recently did some consulting for an organization. It was a great experience that stretched my mind, afforded me an opportunity to reconnect with a colleague and I believe provided them with some valuable insights. Overall, my interactions with those I was directly involved with were quite pleasant and positive.
But if you asked me about the experience overall, I would rant and rave about the bureaucracy that accompanied the process. After a verbal understanding, I had to fill out a four-page service agreement and a three-page worksheet. I needed to submit three different invoices, separating out all the categories of expenses. After another interval, they requested a W-9 and my date of birth. Later I had to sign an expense report and return that. Still later there was a discrepancy about meal reimbursement vs. meal allowances so more paperwork followed. And still no check.
The operational procedures and bureaucrats have soured the whole experience for me.
Do you have practices in your organization that are overshadowing the good work that you are doing? Are your clients turned off by your billing or payment processes? Do you make the application or hiring process so arduous that people are exasperated before they come to interview? Is it complicated to buy something from you or access your services?
There is no such thing as the back of the house. Everything impacts the way your clients (and employees) experience your organization. Try to find ways to interact with your organization as a client and see if the way you do things still makes sense.
— beth triplett
Marketers and retailers have long capitalized on holidays and special events to tie into their promotions. You have seen the “Special Black Friday Sale” or “Back to School Savings” in addition to ads for the actual holidays.
It seems now that we have moved beyond just events as companies try to capitalize on flavors and scents. The latest trend: pumpkin.
Starbucks was a leader in this craze. Their Pumpkin Spice Latte has been the subject of over 29,000 tweets with #pumpkinspice and over 200 million PSL drinks sold to date.
Americans spent $308 million on pumpkin-flavored products last year (up 14% from 2012), so others are now trying to cash in on the mania. Among other things, you can buy cream cheese, M&Ms, marshmallows, Pop-tarts, Jello pudding and Extra gum in the pumpkin spice flavor.
What does this mean for you? Most likely you aren’t going to start selling a pumpkin-flavored item, but can you acknowledge that the flavor is attractive to people? Have a pumpkin-scented candle in your waiting room. Do your promotion in orange and feature pumpkins as part of the graphics. Decorate your office for Fall. Serve pumpkin-flavored treats or have flavored cream cheese on the bagels at your meeting or serve pumpkin spice cake as the dessert at a meal. Buy flavored coffee or creamer for the office.
You don’t have to go overboard, but don’t be oblivious to the trends around you either. See if you can’t spice up your organization by paying attention to what is popular.
— beth triplett
Roundup: Spice up your life in Time, September 29, 2014, p. 58
Wondering what to do today? Perhaps you can partake in Museum Day Live!, an annual event where museums around the country offer free admission to two people with a Museum Day Live ticket (available for free at www.smithsonian.com/museumday/ )
The Smithsonian Museums are free everyday, and this inspired Smithsonian Magazine to sponsor an event to increase access to other museums across the country. It is a great way to explore some history or culture that you normally may not do (and a great way for them to build a database of new prospective members/subscribers!)
How can you translate this idea into your organization? Is there a way for you to collaborate with other counterparts to do a joint promotion or event such as this, Small Business Saturday the weekend after Thanksgiving or state-wide private college weeks? Can you offer something free on one day that normally would cost or make something free to one segment of the population like active military or senior citizens? Or could you generate excitement by doing an event like Restaurant Week where eateries in a city offer special pricing and access?
It is hard to do something really big on your own. Think about how you can scale an idea and involve partners to turn your plans into something special.
— beth triplett
And one final thought that struck me from Dr. Michio Kaku’s speech. As with my other two blog entries about him, again, it wasn’t about some of the cutting-edge science he described, but rather an anecdote that piqued my interest.
Kaku described (and a story by National Geographic confirmed) that when Albert Einstein died in 1955, he left instructions to be cremated. As part of the autopsy, pathologist who worked on Einstein’s body extracted the brain. When he held it in his hand, he realized that he had something special — in his opinion, too special to be destroyed — so he took Einstein’s brain home in a jar!
The brain traveled in the back seat of his car, was stored in a cider box for years, moved states again — before he eventually donated it back to Princeton 40 years later.
The pathologist, Thomas Harvey, did receive from Einstein’s son retroactive permission to study the brain, but he did not have authority to preserve it when he did.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar moral conundrum, where you truly believed something was the right thing to do, even though you did not have the right to do it? As in this case, things are often complicated by the fact it is a “now or never” irrevocable decision — if you cremate the brain, there is no deciding later that it was the wrong choice.
Is it better to ask permission or forgiveness? I recommend that you reflect on your values and become clear about your inner compass before you are holding the brain in your hand.
— beth triplett
The tragic story of how Einstein’s brain was stolen and wasn’t even special by Virginia Hughes, Only Human, phenomena.nationalgeographic.com, April 21, 2014.
Another thought from Dr. Michio Kaku (see yesterday’s blog):
He has classified beings into three levels of consciousness:
Level 1: those that react to feedback but don’t have independent conscious thoughts (like flowers)
Level 2: those that respond to space and can make social connections with others (like animals)
Level 3: those who can understand time (only humans)
Dr. Kaku said that “only humans have the ability to run simulations of models into the future and also the past; humans are the only animal that understands space and time.”
It was a distinction that I had not considered before, that what separates us from the animals is our understanding of time. Kaku said this allows us to create, to plan and to develop “cities, civilizations and rocket ships.”
Think about what your awareness of time allows you to do. You can learn from the past, plan for the future, savor memories or anticipate actions.
How are you going to use your highest level of consciousness today?
— beth triplett
Author and theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku spoke on campus over the weekend, sharing his mind-blowing revelations about the world of science today. I’ll give him a lot of credit for making high level science accessible to a general audience, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around most of the ideas he says are reality already (or will be in the near future.)
Dr. Kaku spoke of recording and then uploading a person’s full memory via a “brain pacemaker”, photographing dreams, having Iron-Man-like exoskeletons that serve as mind-controlled avatars or surrogates in hazardous positions (like the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan), developing a “library of souls” where via hologram connected to computer you could talk to famous people or your departed friends, and a contact lens that could connect you on-line via a simple blink. It was like science fiction come to life.
But what struck me most from his talk wasn’t about the cool gadgets that are out there, but our lack of knowledge about who is out there. Someone asked him whether he thought we were the only intelligence in the universe. He described it this way:
When you see an ant hill, do you bend down, dig around in it, ask to see their Queen and offer them nuclear energy? Of course, you do not. It could be the same way in the universe — that all around us are other beings but they see us as ants and go about their business unconscious as to our existence.
Bringing this back to a perspective that I can comprehend, it occurred to me that sometimes people in organizations treat others as invisible ants. Do you notice the facilities workers and stop to greet them? Are you oblivious to the employees who serve you? Do you take into account the needs/feelings of the line workers when making policy decisions that may impact them? Have you treated your neighbors as ants who play no significance in your life rather than acknowledging them as members of your community?
Don’t act like King of the Hill in your world. Instead, practice humility and remember that it could be that you are just the king of an ant hill.
— beth triplett
Former pro golfer and sportscaster Johnny Miller was on the circuit for 30 years and spent 20 years broadcasting the U.S. Open. Over time, the outspoken Miller made a few observations about the golfers who came and went on the tour.
One of his thoughts was the “wick theory”, indicating that every player’s wick burns only so long.
This explanation of behavior can apply to other settings outside of sports:
> In entertainment, stars come and go in music, movies, etc.
> People ride the tide at work, going from “golden girl/boy” when they ace a pet project to the scapegoat when the risks that put them on top cause them to fail
> Politicians are the darlings of their party — until they aren’t
> Popular kids at school tend to run their course too — they are part of the “in crowd” only for a limited time
> Celebrity chefs and/or their dishes are in high demand for short spurts of time until the next person’s star rises
> Fashion designers are copied and sought after for brief periods before the stars want something different
Think about the wick in your career or your industry. If it will only burn for so long, how can you take advantage of that brightness to do something that will let the light continue to shine after you move on?
— beth triplett
Quoted in Haney shoots straight on Tiger by Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2014, p. 6
A recent advertisement for Ann Taylor (women’s clothes) proclaimed: “Never underestimate the power of the third piece.”
The purpose of the ad was to promote the purchase of a jacket or sweater, showing that it made the outfit look much more professional and polished than just a blouse and skirt or pants. They were right.
The “third piece” can be a descriptor for many things that add the extra finishing touch:
> a clear plastic cover to make an ordinary report and its cover seem more special
> an embellishment on a package in addition to the bow
> a garnish flower on the plate with the meat and potatoes
> a tie that pulls together a man’s outfit
> a cherry on top of the whip cream on the sundae
Think about the power of three as you get dressed tomorrow or do your work today. That third piece may be the tipping point to move you from ordinary to extraordinary.
— beth triplett
If you needed yet another sign that the world is changing, take this: last year, sales of blue jeans declined by 6%. For most of the 141 years since Levi Strauss invented the ubiquitous denim work pants, sales have been steady or rising. But recent figures show that the popularity of the wardrobe staple is waning.
The cause of this shift is being attributed to the growth of the “athleisure” category of apparel. Women in particular are buying more athletic clothes, and wearing them as casual attire outside of the gym. This type of clothing is seen as looser-fitting and more comfortable. It is also noted that some women “want to look like they’re running to the gym, even if they’re not.”
Jeans are in nearly every closet in America. Everyone owns several pairs, from toddlers to seniors. They are omnipresent.
Or at least they were. If the sales of such a fundamental product can be threatened, it should be a lesson for you to take nothing for granted. A long, storied past is no longer a guarantee that there will be a long, prosperous future.
— beth triplett
Source: Makers of jeans enduring rough patch by Ann D’Innocenzio for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, September 14, 2014, p. 2B.