In my work with supervisors, I hear many laments about how hard it is to find people to fill jobs these days. They make it seem like it would be nearly impossible to find people to work the shifts at Milt and Edie’s drycleaners – a service business that is open 24/7/365. Not only do they need people to do the actual laundry, but they also offer alterations and tailoring during all those hours.
Yet Milt and Edie’s has found a way to keep people for extensive periods of time. They feature a large sign on their building that shares the name, the number of years worked and nationality of those who work there, and they tout the cumulative number of years’ experience they provide. Inside are flags of the countries of their employees. Next to the Alteration Center is a pegboard that features pictures of all the employees who are working that day.
Many organizations acknowledge longevity at a once-a-year ceremony or newsletter, but it was front and center at Milt and Edie’s. Think of how you can make your recognition efforts more personal and prominent. The future of your organization depends on your ability to have people operating it.
One does not normally look for a dry cleaner while on vacation, but there was a cap and gown that needed to be pressed so we sought one out. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating stops of the whole vacation.
Milt and Edie’s drycleaners is a place like no other. They are open 24/7/365 and offer alterations during all those hours – at no extra charge! There is free popcorn and coffee (always), sometimes supplemented with free hot dogs or cookies. You can eat your treats by the fish pond outside where the sign proclaims: “If we were any more environmentally friendly, we’d be beating your clothes on a rock.”
Milt and Edie’s provides free cardboard caddies for hangar recycling, bins to donate old clothes and free shirt collar stays and buttons on a lapel pin to use in emergencies. As a new customer, we received a gift bag with a lint roller, nail file, notepad, coupons, and more. I walked out of there with more branded materials than I have for my own company!
The place is so busy that at night they have a security guard directing traffic in the parking lot. When you walk in there are six counters to serve you, all awash in their distinctive hot pink.
Milt and Edie’s has been in business for over 70 years. When it was founded it was certainly not common to offer this level of service or to create such a distinctive environment, but perhaps their foresight is what has sustained them for three-fourths of a century.
If Milt and Edie can make a memorable experience at a dry cleaning and tailoring business, think of the possibilities that exist in your organization. How can you go the extra mile to deliver the seemingly impossible for your clients and clean up on your competition?
As part of the Universal Studios theme park, we were able to take a tour of the production lot. We drove through facades of different neighborhoods, felt tremors as if in an earthquake, were splashed by the rushing waters of a flood and saw the pond where the first mechanical shark from Jaws swam.
If you were familiar with the movie or television show, the props and effects had a much greater meaning. For example, a car is just a car, unless you watched Back to the Future or Knight Rider and then you could appreciate the sentimentality of those vehicles.
To help place the sets into context, the tram cars included television cameras that would show clips from movies that featured the sets we were seeing in person. It brought home how easy it is to fake things in the news or on the internet; the plane crash that we saw was totally staged yet appeared perfectly real on the screen.
The studio tour is one of the most popular attractions at the park. It reminded me that people, myself included, really like behind-the-scenes access. It helps us to have a deeper understanding and greater context for the world around us. It helps us to feel “in-the-know” and special. It gives added appreciation for what goes into achieving the end product.
Help your clients see your organization with a new lens by providing a behind-the-curtain look into some aspect of your work. You may not be able to show something as dramatic as replicating an earthquake, but those who know you will love you more if they get a peek at how you make your magic.
Memorial Day is often the first cookout weekend, and for many, that means sweet corn along with the grilling. Most corn is served boiled or grilled but a restaurant in California puts those traditional methods to shame.
Why stop at butter when you can have an ear rolled in Flaming Hot Cheetos or lemon juice and chili powder? My favorite was the Uni-Corn featuring rainbow-colored cotija cheese. From Mexican to Doritos to Cheetos to queso fresca, this sweet corn was definitely not served straight from the farm.
All around you, there are items that have been cooked or done in a traditional way for years. Think about the crazy flavors of corn when you are serving up your picnic or even when you are heading into the office tomorrow. Pledge to step out of the box to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.
The Griffith Observatory was filled with a multitude of exhibits that really impressed on the viewers the grandeur of the universe and our small place in it. What the Observatory did not have, however, was recycling bins. Worse than that, their cafeteria served sandwiches in bulky plastic containers, sold water in bottles and offered no capability to recycle any of it.
I come from a long line of extreme recyclers and we were all dismayed at the incongruity of their brand. We were surrounded by messages about the importance of the Earth, yet their actions were contradicting that. I thought about all the money they spent to install elaborate displays in the Observatory but failed to invest a small sum more to put into practice what they are preaching. At the very least, they could have sold water in paper containers and made a point with the novelty of them.
Never doubt that people notice the small things and take to heart more of what you do than what you say.
Another stop on my California visit was the Griffith Observatory, an imposing architectural structure that towers above Los Angeles. The Observatory contains exhibits that you would expect – a planetarium, telescopes, moon rocks, and solar system exhibits – but the most eye-catching display was that of jewelry.
Kudos to the curator who expanded his/her view of what could or should be featured in an observatory. Because of their openness and vision, one very long hallway is enhanced with 2200 pieces of jewelry representing variations of celestial objects and astronomy. The collection was amassed over 25 years and donated by a long-time board member – who obviously had an affinity for the stars. It provided a beautiful diversion from the geodes and rugged items on display and illustrated the expansiveness of both the universe and interpretation of it.
The next time you need to communicate a message or emotion, think beyond the usual ways of doing so. The sky’s the limit for ways you can effectively tell your story!
At the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, there is a working paleontology laboratory that manages the sorting, classification and archiving of the bone and plant remains that are found in the tar pits. Rather than be hidden in the bowels of the building as some behind-the-scenes functions are, this lab is glass enclosed and the work is in full view of the visitors.
People can see the scientists painstakingly sorting through deposits with a small artist’s paintbrush, looking for the bone remnants that may be found within them. The facility has over 1 million specimens from 650 species logged and categorized with the specific date and quadrant in which they were found.
I watched the sorting process for about a minute and already was bored. I can’t even imagine a job where you peer through a microscope dusting off a handful of sediment looking for a bone chip with a paintbrush. Then I learned that those performing the tasks are volunteers! The lab only has three paid staff with the remaining work done by those who willingly donate their time to do it.
The La Brea Tar Pits are a great example of matching interests with needs. They have developed a way to recruit and train those with an interest in their work, and to do it at a consistent enough level to run the operation.
There is a job for everyone. How can your organization excavate the talent pool to pair the work with those most interested in performing it – even if they are doing it for free?
When it was suggested that we visit tar pits when we were in Los Angeles, I thought that they were joking. It turned out to be a fascinating lesson in understanding the Ice Age and how it impacted our ecosystem today.
The La Brea Tar Pits are an archeological wonder in central Los Angeles. Both in controlled excavating and even in spots in the parking lot, pools of oily tar are visible, just as they have been for centuries. Bones of thousands of plants and animals have been preserved in this tar and reclaimed for public display.
The Tar Pits Museum demonstrates how during the Ice Age the Wooly Mammoths would wade into the pits attempting to eat plants but become trapped in the sticky tar. Subsequently, wolves and other predators would see a vulnerable mammoth and move in close to eat it, thus becoming trapped as well. This continued throughout the food chain with more and more animals becoming victims of the tar pit pool.
Without the context at the museum it is hard to imagine how giant mammoths could disappear but seeing their exhibits makes the behavior logical if not inevitable. One thing led to another and to another and soon the whole ecosystem was mired in a gooey mess. Tens of thousands of years later archeologists are still excavating bones that recreate the disastrous path.
Think of what is the equivalent of a tar pit in your organization. Where do your employees continually get tripped up on policies or procedures that cause them to be stuck? What behaviors create complications that have a ripple effect throughout the organization? What conditions paralyze your staff and leave them vulnerable to outside forces? It may not be a literal tar pit, but there may be something toxic in your environment that mires the best of intentions. It’s time to do some organizational excavating!
Like all good tourists, when I was in Hollywood I strolled Hollywood Boulevard and looked at the Walk of Fame. I thought about the thrill that must have been for those whose name is permanently engraved on the sidewalk and how for many it would represent a highlight of their career.
We reveled in seeing the stars – as if it were the star themselves. Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Alex Trebek, Bob Hope, Harrison Ford, Walt Disney, Matt Damon, Amy Grant, Michael Jackson – blocks and blocks of the biggest names in entertainment and we were standing where we know they once were.
But we also traversed over dozens of stars whose names we did not recognize at all – Viola Dana, Clyde Cook, Gabby Hays, Faye Emerson, Madge Bellamy, Barbara Whiting, Meriam C Cooper, Eerlin Husky, Yma Sumac – all famous enough to be immortalized on the Walk of Fame, but not enduring enough to become household names (at least in our circle).
Your organization likely does not have a literal walk of fame but think about the people who would be on it. What are you doing to keep their legacy alive? How do you tell the story of your founders or legends in your industry so that the subsequent generations would at least recognize their name? It’s nice to do recognition in the moment, but even better if you allow the star to keep shining over the long term.
As part of our “California Adventure”, we rented a house so the family could stay together instead of in multiple hotel rooms. The agreement was for the home to come fully equipped with all we would need for our stay.
The gray area came about with consumables. Who was responsible for providing trash bags, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, napkins, shampoo, paper towels, tissues or even propane for the grill? We found ourselves making daily trips to the local grocery store because we needed something that was always on hand in our own home environment.
Renting a house highlighted the number of disposables or consumables that a family uses in a given week, but it also made me more aware of the items that are staples for routine functioning. Think about what is on your “list of essentials” for your home or office. Do you have a checklist or way to monitor inventory so that you are not making multiple trips to the store? Can you automate the ordering of certain items to make it even easier? Can you get more clarity on things you feel are optional that another in your home or organization would classify as essential?
A lot of time is wasted when the basic resources are unavailable. Don’t be running out to get what you ran out of.