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Purple, Green, Golden, and Blue: Pal's is a Goldfish Paradise

Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. It’s the quintessential backyard American food and a staple of Americana fast food. But these establishment are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? Sure, there are the Chick-fil-A’s of the world. But isn’t it nearly impossible to carve out your own identity in this sea of sameness?

Pal’s Sudden Service, a double drive-thru fast food restaurant chain with 26 locations in Tennessee and Virginia, is certainly up for the challenge. Pal’s believe that an emphasis on its people, speed, customer service, and quality is what truly sets them apart.

Here are five quick facts about Pal’s Sudden Service that demonstrate that the proof is really in the pudding (or their milkshakes for that matter): 

  1. An astonishingly low turnover rate with the at the assistant manager level coming in at 1.4 percent, the hourly staff at 32 percent, and has only lost seven general managers in 33 years. In comparison, most fast food chains have an average turnover rate between 50-150 percent with management and hourly employees aggregated together.
  2. An average of 18 seconds at the drive-up window, and an average of 12 seconds at the pickup window to receive the order for a grand total of 30 seconds. That’s four times faster than the second-fastest quick-serve restaurant in the country.
  3. Pal’s makes a mistake only once in every 3,600 orders. That’s nearly ten times better the the second most accurate fast food chain, Chick-fil-A.
  4. 1,100-square-foot buildings accruing right around $2 million per year in sales. That’s just over $1,818 per square foot. The iconic Shake Shack and Chipotle restaurant chains come in at $387 and $250 in comparison, respectively. Remember, it’s not how high your sales are, it’s how much you bring home to the bank.
  5. One of two restaurant chains that has ever won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This prestigious award caused Pal’s to create the Business Excellence Institute (BEI) as a way to share best business practices with others. The other restaurant winner of the Baldrige award is a BEI client, Mighty Fine Burger.

By now you’re probably very impressed but this all begs the question, how does Pal’s do it? 

Here are seven differentiators that Pal’s has instituted that you can learn from:

  1. An emphasis on great people – Pal’s has developed and fine-tuned a screening system to evaluate candidates that includes a 60-point psychometric survey, based on the attitudes and attributes of Pal’s star performers, that does an unprecedented job of predicting who is most likely to succeed.
  2. Top-notch training – Once Pal’s selects its candidates, they put employees through 120 hours of training before they are allowed to work on their own, and must be certified in each of the specific jobs they do. Pal’s also has assembled a Master Reading List for all the leaders in the company and it includes 21 books that must be read. Every two weeks, the CEO, Thom Crosby, invites five managers from different locations to discuss one of the books on the Master Reading List.
  3. Ongoing training – Pal’s believes that all leaders are trainers and educators. They also believe that people educate by their attitudes, their behaviors, and by their focus. At Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day. Management and leadership asks their employees at random, “What’s your target for today?” Every single employee has to have a person and a topic every single day.
  4. Technology – Pal’s has a proprietary “training tracker” software system that manages all employees. The software quizzes employees at random every single day whether it’s their first day on the job or they’ve been there for 10 years. The software goes through the basics, the most critical parts of the operations with employees. Management then conducts an observation to make sure the employees are still adhering to the standard 100% without exceptions.
  5. Development of leaders – Employees who have scored 100 percent on four re-certifications are eligible to become coaches within their restaurants and help their colleagues consistently develop and adhere to their standards. According to the CEO, “We are looking to get people to this mastery level.”
  6. A commitment to staying top of mind – Pal’s recognizes that all restaurants are chosen from a defined mental rolodex by customers. and believe that customers only ever think about 2-10 establishments. This is the reason why Pal’s created their website to have a unique and inspiring thought of the day, local movie theatre showtimes, and the CEO answers every single question through the contact form. This is what keeps people coming back to Pal’s site and provides a useful service to the communities Pal’s serves.
  7. A focus on culture – According to the CEO, “Sometimes I get that itch that maybe it’s time to step up and expand faster. But we want to make sure that we hand off all the cultural pieces to each store. I see operations that outgrow their cultures. They can’t pass on their culture so they go from a really great concept with great people to weaker and weaker operations and people who don’t understand the origin of the culture.”

What’s preventing you from instituting world class principles just like Pal’s? Does your business do anything similar? Leave a comment below.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Be sure to check out this incredible overview about living your mission from the president of Pal’s BEI, David McClaskey.

Are Your Customers a Hobby or a CAREER?

Creating a sustainable customer cycle is not guesswork; it’s a science.

The overarching system and processes for building sales, in theory, are very easy to create. There are five components within a successful sales system which are: Customer Attraction, Retention, Experience, Extra spend, and Referrals. An easy way to remember this principle is with the acronym, CAREER.

Like anything, it’s the implementation of a well defined sales system and commitment to genuinely serving our fellow man without reverting back to mass media, gimmicks, and quick fixes that is the difficult part.

I believe that there are really only two schools of thought as to why an entity exists. You are either in business in order to facilitate a sustainable return for shareholders or to serve your fellow man. These reasons for existing are not mutually exclusive and we are in a time where these two concepts need to converge (see: Red Goldfish).

Profit is important, yes. Without profit, you cannot stay in business obviously. More importantly, you can’t grow in order to give more back, to create more value, and to manifest opportunity for others.

I would argue that by serving your fellow man and creating value for them, the inherent byproduct is profit and it’s not a dirty word.

What I’m proposing is extremely hard work. It takes a significant amount of time to critically think, design a plan, organize your team’s efforts, and consistently execute on a daily basis.

It requires extreme discipline to juggle the various sales components, analyze the results and continually improve your processes. This will be especially uncomfortable because you’ve probably never done this before. However, I promise you that it’s worth it.

Get uncomfortable. Reallocate your time. Master the theory and the execution. Do it even when you don’t see immediate results. Make the sacrifices necessary to scale your sales processes and enjoy the long-term benefits. When you do this successfully, you’ll have accomplished the following:

  • A firm grasp on who your customers are and how to touch their hearts and minds.
  • How to create a relationship that exceeds your customer’s expectations.
  • Customers that willingly spend more with you, and under their own volition.
  • An army of raving fans that are eager to tell their entire network about you.

Just imagine if you could find the right customers, ensure that they have a spectacular experience time in and time out, allow them to spend more with you, and enthusiastically refer everyone they know to do business with you as well? That’s the goal after all, right?

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that you have many of the other necessary components such as a fantastic product, sufficient capitalization, and a culture that attracts and keeps top-tier talent. Let’s take a look at an example from my vocation to illustrate the five different areas of CAREER:

Customer Acquisition – ClickFunnels, Facebook ads, and retargeting.

Retention – Follow-up thank you email after initial shipment and every third shipment, yearly thank you card at random, and a free ebook every quarter.

Experience – Thank you phone call upon initial delivery, monthly customer feedback contest, and surprise next day shipping.

Extra spend – Exclusive email one time offers (OTOs) once per quarter, gifting program where customer can gift the product to a friend, and a consultative offer with every shipment.

Referrals – ClickBank affiliate marketing, email marketing, and a refer-a-friend program.

As you can see, there are only three critical activities within each area of the customer cycle. There could be more and there could be less activities but of course with focus comes demonstrable results.

How about you? Do you have a rock solid plan in these areas or are you just throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks? Leave a thought below.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out Chuck Shaeffer providing another vantage point and a more granular analysis around this topic.

The Purple Goldfish of Service Industries

All I knew is that the service industry had my heart and that I was meant to serve others through remarkable food, drink, and service.

This thought constantly went through my mind after I made the decision to walk away from my job at a Google subsidiary in DC to fry chicken for free at a fast casual restaurant startup in remote South Carolina.

For three and a half months, I provided pro bono consulting to the developing chain and worked in operations to learn the ropes of multi-unit expansion and leadership (as hourly restaurant jobs had helped me pay for college). 

It was impossibly hard at times, but I came to realize that I needed to devote my life to the creation of PurposeFull organizations, inspiring engaged employees, and creating remarkable customer experiences.

Flash forward a few years and I had become a full-fledged restaurant operator. One day, a manager at another one of our restaurants told me that he had met Stan Phelps. The manager raved about Stan’s business insights and offered to let me borrow his copy of What’s Your Purple Goldfish that Stan had given him. I picked the book up and felt compelled to shoot Stan an email.

Shortly thereafter I started researching Stan’s work and found that he had just published an article about our restaurant and, lo and behold, the “lagniappe of the day” was one of my video newsletters that I created for our customers. (I’m still waiting for Stan’s apology for unauthorized use of my “amazing” creative work but that’s a topic for another day).   

Stan and I met about a month later and figured out quickly that we both believed that the best way to differentiate in a “sea of sameness” was through touching the hearts and minds of the people that you serve.

I believe that people that are congruent in their beliefs and actions inevitably attract one another. That’s why the two of us connecting came so naturally, and it quickly led us to foster a successful personal and professional relationship.

The reason why we rewrote the original Purple Goldfish book and created the “service” edition is because we both have a passion and deep commitment to these industries. We see a lot of service industry pros needlessly suffer when we believe that the answer to their diminishing returns is quite simple. Let me explain the background for the problem that I’m alluding to and what I believe the simple solution entails.  

Consider the theory proposed by the legendary economist, Milton Friedman, which states that the sole purpose of business is to provide a return to shareholders. Of course, a profit-centered focus is where instruments such as KPIs and quarterly dividend returns come from.

It makes sense and most of us accept this principle at face value. The problem with this philosophy is that there’s never enough of a return and executives get caught in a perpetual quarterly return cycle. For better or worse, ROI and profits are what validate the efficacy of leadership in most businesses.

…So how does a business typically make more money?

You’ve seen this firsthand time and again: quarterly top-line sales and bottom-line efficiencies have to be created constantly. It never ends.

When it comes to sales, most companies choose the quick and easy route by discounting their brand and they give just to get. This is short-term, often comes across as contrived, and creates a slippery slope of discounting. Once consumers expect to pay a discounted rate; they never respect your brand in the same way.

To establish bottom-line core competencies, entities typically hack at the product, labor, and physical plant. These decisions diminish quality, employee care, and damage morale.

Ultimately, sales cure all and there needs to be system to drive people in the door, ensure that they’re coming back, and that your customers are feel compelled to tell others about how great you are.

In order to drive traffic, the first inclination of companies is to start dedicating their budget to advertising in order to reach the masses. However, consumer attention has never been more fragmented and the value of traditional advertising has decreased significantly.

I say “value” because advertisers provide a valuable service but it’s too expensive, does not readily correlate to top-line, and “impressions” aren’t conversions. (Side note- Traditional ad companies, please feel free to keep charging outlandish prices and save up as much as you can because no one will be buying from you in 2025 if you continue down this path and refuse to evolve).

Consumers now have millions of ways to spend their time and companies are bold enough to think that their message is so special that people will drop whatever they’re doing to pay attention? Do they believe that their customers put their businesses on some sort of pedestal and all clamor over the opportunity to share the newest promotion with their friends?

It’s a staggering thought…but perhaps we have to show the people that we currently, and will potentially, serve that we care about them first if we’re ever to receive anything in return.

What Stan and I are proposing in the newest edition of Purple Goldfish is not easy. I would equate the principles to brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth quickly and haphazardly every so often then you’ll get the job partially done. Perhaps there are even some “quick fix” solutions that you can utilize such as mouthwash, white strips, and an annual cleaning. In short, everything looks great on the outside, but the foundation is crumbling.

It’s those that are willing to brush thoroughly, floss, and show dedication in their daily upkeep that will still have a beautiful set of teeth when they’re 80 years old while your competition is soaking their dentures in cleansers (if they haven’t already died of tooth decay).   

We are asking you to consider the long-term. The only possible thing that we can do to stand apart is to intentionally touch the hearts and minds of the people that we serve on a daily basis. 

Frankly, it’s difficult to quantify the impact of genuinely serving others and creating a remarkable experience. However, what we’re advocating is the willingness to try and adapt to today’s business landscape and allocate the resources necessary. Be willing and able to fail, test, and continually improve.

Your people are counting on you.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out the Slideshare presentation for some of the top hospitality Purple Goldfish examples or the entire Purple Goldfish Service Edition book.

"For Purpose" or "Not For Purpose"? That is the Question.

“Brooks, we’re going to make so much money together, buddy!”

This is what the CEO of our newly created entity exclaimed to me on a warm spring night while sipping an expensive craft beer atop a rooftop bar overlooking the Charlotte, NC, skyline.

For some reason, that statement really struck a nerve with me.

Maybe it was because I liked to focus the last few hours of my day on personal and professional development, and was reminded about the time that I was sacrificing to be here.

Perhaps it was because he was drinking a $12 bottle of beer while a majority of the world was starving to death. (Sorry, the inner hippie in me just came out).

Ultimately, I realized that the purpose we had set forth was not consistent with the type of value that I wanted to create with, and for, others.   

Without skipping a beat, I quickly responded, “Yes, I hear you, and that’s awesome. To be candid, I care more about creating something remarkable together and genuinely serving the community. The money will be a byproduct of our service. Whose lives are we going to make better as a result of our existence?”

He looked puzzled and the conversation quickly tapered off. Most of our group had worked together in a previous life and they clamored about the “good ol’ days.” They excitedly made plans about how big we were going to grow and what they would do with their newfound wealth. I stood there knowing that as badly as I wanted to fit in; this square peg was not going into a round hole. Our values just weren’t congruent.

The Elusive Red Goldfish

It’s easy to get “cause marketing,” and the overall new wave of philanthropic infused business models confused. The newest book to emerge from the Purple Goldfish platform is entitled, Red Goldfish, written by my colleagues, Stan Phelps and Graeme Newell, and it argues that all businesses must choose to be “for purpose” or “not for purpose” in 2016 and moving forward.

The most common problem that I see is entities treating “purpose” as though it’s a campaign or integrating this aspect because they’re “supposed to” or because “everyone else is doing it.” The end result is an effort that typically comes across as contrived, and ultimately, chock-full of lackluster results.

Let me be clear, profit should be a primary goal in business. Without properly stewarding over your finances and investment, you’ll never have the ability to create more opportunity for others. My argument is that entities must begin, or reinvent themselves, with the end result in mind.

In essence, businesses must ask, “Whose lives are we looking to positively change, and how are we going to make the world a better place?”

Enter “For Purpose” Entities

As I just mentioned, companies seem to align with a different cause and are all out to make a positive difference in the world virtually everywhere you look now. While all of this action is wonderful to see, I came up with five keys based on my failures, overall experience, and copious amounts of research to create and sustain meaningful “for purpose” entities.

1. Start with an idea.

John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse didn’t set out to create Florida’s largest barbecue chain. John cooked his now world famous brisket to serve his community, raise money for those in need locally, and to gently evangelize.

At the root of it all, John lives out his vocational purpose. He acted on an idea which begets excitement which begets passion which begets purpose. When you have a joyful heart toward your cause you’ll always take massive action, and this all comes as a result of being led by the right idea.

2. Be inclusive.

Too often entities want to make their impact all about them. You’ve seen it time and time again when entities make proclamations in their communications to say, “See, look at what we did for all of these people and how awesome we are.” They’ve made it all about them and how great they are.

They talk about what their vision is and how they are going to accomplish their goals. But what about the people that they serve? What about their employees and the people that want to help? Everyone wants something to believe in. Are you giving them the opportunity to be a part of your movement and inviting them to do so?  

3. Intentionally permeate your purpose-driven culture. 

One of the largest disconnects with purpose are the personal connections to the stories about the end results. So what can you do about it?

I highly recommend creating internal and external communications that celebrate how your employees, customers, and community align with your purpose. Take the time to celebrate the instances where your purpose has manifested as often as possible. Hang up pictures or post them on your website to tell the stories of the people that you have helped by living out your purpose. The possibilities here are endless.

4. Lose yourself in service. 

Too many entities focus on the outcomes in the form of a P&L and financial statements when they need to be focusing on a few strategic inputs. My suggestion is to garner that focus on a few customer impact measures, i.e. what are the few activities that we can take scalable action on that drive our customer’s overall experience and the top-line?

The biggest disconnect that I see is the inability to correlate the right measures of service to profitability. Therein lies the key to truly losing yourself in service to others and the commitment to become a servant leader.

5. Say what you mean and execute.

Have you ever seen a speaker that looked the part, put on an excellent presentation, and said all of the right things but you just couldn’t bring yourself to trust them? Something about them just made you think that they are going to jump off stage and engage with the superficial (and typically illicit) pleasures that money buys.

Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School has argued that our primitive brain immediately evaluates every person that we meet by asking two questions: “What are this person’s intentions toward me?” and “How strong and competent is this person?”

Competence is the key word in those questions. Your employees, customers, and community are all counting on you to follow through with what you say you’re going to do. The second you start making successions; you’ll have broken trust and will create a slippery slope of incompetence.

The unfortunate part that is never addressed is that no one wants to deal with confrontation head on and call out your incongruence.

Instead, your employees will talk after hours over drinks and let their discontent fester. Your customers will leave without saying a word because they don’t care about you. And the community will talk behind closed doors about how they don’t support you. Before you know it, you’re out of business and feeling empty inside.

If you make bold promises, stick to them no matter what. Your word is your bond.

Et Tu, Brute?

Will you be one of the “for purpose” or “not for purpose” entities moving forward? Either choice is completely acceptable and I hope that you don’t choose the “for purpose” angle just because everyone else is doing it or that you want to look good in the eyes of others.

Personally, I look forward to the day when I’m able to turn to a group of young men and women to cast vision and make a statement very similar to this one:

We’re going to develop 100 million transformational leaders together. As a result, we’ll be able to take care of our families and create amazing experiences with people that we love and care about.

…Oh yeah, and we’ll make some money too as a result.

Breaking Out of the Sea of Sameness

Education of the masses - Cloning the brains of people

My colleague, Brooks Briz, recently shared a fantastic post: What The Heck’s a Purple Goldfish Anyhow? In it, Brooks explains that while the theory behind Purple Goldfish is rather simple, actually giving those “little extras” on a consistent basis is entirely different. In fact, ingraining that something extra into your everyday business practice is so rare, you’d be hard pressed to think of an example outside marketing giants with huge budgets like Southwest Airlines and Chick-fil-A. Maybe that’s why this article about Hyatt attempting to make an emotional connection with customers through each of its different properties really struck me hard this week.

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What the Heck's a Purple Goldfish Anyhow?

“Be nice to people and give ’em free stuff. They’ll come back.” 

This was an oversimplified answer to a question that a potential retail client gave me when I explained the theory of a purple goldfish. I thought quietly for a moment and responded, “Yes, this can be simple in theory. However, be honest with yourself, what do you give consistently that sets you apart and how do you measure that it’s working?”

Crickets.

To those that are new around here, a purple goldfish is giving a “little something” that touch the hearts of your customers and makes the biggest difference.

Call it G.L.U.E. – Giving Little Unexpected Extras.

Call it a “lagniappe” – A little more given at the time of transaction.

The principal has many names but the concept is nearly the same. 

The tricky part is ingraining this “little something extra” into your operations and making your purple goldfish both cost effective and scalable.

Conceptually, [nearly] everyone that I talk to says that they understand this concept, the overall strategy, and share that their entity encompasses this value. Unfortunately, very few people go from knowing what a Purple Goldfish is to proper execution.

Back in 2009, when my partner, Stan Phelps, temporarily lost his mind…he set out to find 1,001 examples of the “purple goldfish” in action. Stan sent out email blasts, social media requests, asked other world class customer experience professionals, and worked tirelessly to crowdsource the best 1,001 purple goldfish.

Think about it, if you devoted all of your time to this practice, surely you could uncover about 5-10 anecdotes per day. Let’s go on the low-end and say that Stan was only about to accrue five examples for his project per day. That means that 1,001 examples divided by five daily additions equals approximately 200 days or between six and seven months to complete the project.

The end result? It took Stan almost four times as long and over two years to find these examples!

This should be a clear indicator how rare a unique, sustainable purple goldfish is to find. When I set out to find many anecdotes in the service industry for the Purple Goldfish Service Edition book, it amazed me how difficult most people found this idea without citing DoubleTree, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys Burgers, and Southwest Airlines.

In a former life, I unknowingly had helped create multiple Purple Goldfish in our operations, such as:

  1. On-site neighbor appreciation – This was an initiative where we cooked samples of our signature dishes for neighboring businesses, sports teams, and clubs free of charge.
  2. Magnetic pin – This was a gift that we provided our “VIP” guests to signify that they were returning guests and were to be greeted by any member of our team that walked by the VIP.  
  3. Full tours – This was a practice where we took any guests that wanted to see a full view of the kitchen and overall operation. This practice was more impactful by encouraging guests to take pictures, videos, and live stream the tour.   
  4. The colored menu – Three different colored menus denoted to the staff that the table was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or going away party. 
  5. Dining room basin sink – This was an “old school” wash basin in the dining room that invoked cleanliness and made washing one’s hand much more convenient.

The purple goldfish doesn’t have to be in service industries and it doesn’t have to be strictly B2C, either. As another example, I’m currently helping grow a fermented superfoods supplement company and we provide a free “shaker” bottle given as a surprise gift with the first order to enhance their experience. The next iteration will be a communication sequence that encompasses email, the phone, and direct mail to ensure that we have exceeded the customer’s expectations, and continue to do so.Shaker BottleAny entity can do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2C, B2B, for purpose, not for purpose, governmental, or anything else in between. The Purple Goldfish is, and will always be, the key to touching the hearts and minds of the people that you serve and will always serve as the beacon for retention and referrals.

So how do you go about designing and executing your own purple goldfish today?  

Here is your quick five step checklist that will help you get off to the races:

  1. What gift or service can we provide the people that we serve that is congruent with our values?
  2. What are our strengths? What makes us different from everyone else? How can we physically manifest that differentiator?
  3. Does this purple goldfish add value or help maintain the relationship?
  4. Can our team readily implement this purple goldfish? Is it easy to understand and execute?
  5. Can we ensure that the purple goldfish is being implemented consistently? How?

The other option is to simply pass off the concept of the purple goldfish as common sense and state that “you know” it’s important. However, as my high school wrestling coach once put me in my place and said, “No, you don’t know. Otherwise, you’d be doing it.”

My belief is that you do know. Go create something remarkable!

Today’s lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Let’s keep it simple. Want to know how to pronounce, “lagniappe”? Now you’ll finally know!

Engaging Customers on Social Media? Be About More Than Yourself

We’ve invited all of our clients, we’re posting useful resources, and no one is paying attention. What a waste of time!

This is what a recent financial client emphatically stated to me about their Facebook page. I suppose you would feel the same if you had 1,394 “fans,” 67 of which even saw your latest APR calculator post, and only two took their precious time to give you a thumbs up. Yes, every connection matters, and obviously engagement doesn’t happen overnight. However, this sort of “failure” is frustrating to say the least.

…So what should you do instead?

Keep your brand’s social media accounts (the overhaul is a topic for another day) and allocate the time to create an account that serves as a helpful resource to genuinely serve your current and potential customers. This isn’t a new approach either. This is the exact formula that Guinness used to create the Book of World Records and that Michelin used to create their famous guide.

It doesn’t matter what your industry is or who you’re trying to reach. This simply encompasses a little bit of critical thought and creativity.

There are two keys here:

  1. Create something valuable which will become synonymous with your brand.
  2. Remember that you won’t see an immediate return. This resource will help you over time on the platforms where the eyeballs and ears are gathering.

Let’s look at three examples to see how this works. Here’s the first:

My good friend, Sean, is the Triangle Food Guy and what he does is brilliant. Here’s his formula:

  1. Sean is known as the source to restaurant consumers when it comes to Raleigh-Durham restaurant news. To do this, Sean asks the community to share the latest happenings with local restaurants and organizes the information into a weekly newsletter.
  2. Restaurants, food trucks, cafès, and bakeries are all eager to get in Sean’s good graces in order to be featured on his platform.
  3. Sean subtly mentions that he also serves as a catering intermediary. In essence, Sean coordinates catering deals between his clients (consumers that follow him) and restaurants (the ones that desperately want to be featured).

All Sean had to do was go out to help his potential customers and general community by organizing some information and it turned into a full-time career. Kudos to Sean!

Let’s look at another example. Julius Solaris created the Event Manager Blog (EMB) almost 10 years ago and it’s a terrific model. Here’s a look at their site:

EventMB

Here’s why this approach works so well:

  1. Instead of fiercely competing for attention in the speaking world, Julius created a useful resource for the decision makers that book the events.
  2. Julius has positioned himself as the event planning authority figure and subtly mentions that he can tackle speaking topics around event planning. Instead of being a “pusher” like the rest of the speaking world, Julius has positioned himself differently and is now a “puller.”

The speaking industry is about as cutthroat as it gets. Julius flipped the script and looked to help when everyone else aimed to take.

Finally, here’s an example of an Instagram account that I started with a buddy:

CLT Food Adventures

Here’s what works about this approach:

  1. We’re aggregating the best food pictures from around the city and recognizing the creators. The next step is engaging the audience and organizing events which creates “community” amongst the foodie and general Instagram audience.
  2. Consumers know that they can follow this account to discover the most unique food joints and dishes in the Charlotte area. The problem with most accounts is that they can be bought, and thereby, are biased. As a result, restaurants are mad when they find out about the rigged game and consumers no longer trust them.
  3. I don’t care about the monetization (see: last point). I’d rather have a relationship with the blogging and social media audiences which I may leverage in the future.

The best part is that you can leverage this approach in different verticals, on multiple platforms, and with different audiences. Get it right one time and scalability becomes a very real possibility.

What does this mean for you…?

This strategy doesn’t necessitate that you go and spend $10k to build a website and hire copious amounts of labor to manager your social platforms. Start simple and do the following:

  1. Establish what platform your current and potential customers use the most.
  2. Figure out how you can best help them.
  3. Subtly mention who you are and what you do over time.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to “sell” when you’ve provided value and people have learned to trust, like, and respect you. Or, you can continue to struggle with that .0014% Facebook engagement rate. My advice…

Be bigger than you!

Five Unforgettable Bits of Wisdom from John Maxwell

Recently I went to Atlanta, GA, to help serve John Maxwell at a conference. It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I fell behind in my work by at least two days. I also paid my own way just to be there. You heard me correctly…I invested my time and hard-earned money to volunteer.

And I can tell you unequivocally that I would gladly pay to be able to serve, again and again. Spending 10 hours in a room with a master that had devoted his entire life to systems of leadership and constant growth was an honor.

Multiply-120

Most would say that John Maxwell is a book writing machine (80 plus and counting), but I believe that he has merely chosen to be intentional, full of purpose, and dedicated to what he has been called to do in his vocation. Those simple decisions are all that it took for him to become the best in the world.

I have over 20 pages of notes on the topic of growth laws but I went ahead and developed the five top takeaways from the weekend along with my thoughts on them:

1. “Good becomes great when you change a life.”

As leaders, this should always be our sole goal in all that we do. Positively impacting and changing the lives of all of the people that we serve is what it’s all about. However, how often do we let ourselves get bogged down with the [not as] important, everyday activities? How often do we focus on our P&L, and only analyze the output numbers?

Those are good behaviors and overall mindset; but it’s one of the keys that separates the good from the great. Greatness transpires when a leader chooses to make a commitment to change lives of the people that they serve, and refuses to dilute their efforts with mediocre behaviors.

2. “Transformation begins within yourself. Start with you, and go from there.” 

Too often we set out to change and mold others when we’re the ones with the major character flaws. Before a flight takes off, who do the flight attendants tell you to take care of first in case of an emergency when the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment? For all of those that are too busy getting in those last second emails or watching Inception on your portable DVD player, they tell you to take care of yourself so that you can then care for others. You can’t help anyone if you’re on the floor gasping for air.

The same applies to engaging our people. If we can’t take care of ourselves, and lead in the way that the rest of the world is counting on us to; then there will be no one to follow us.

3. “Every day, get a win. Do something for someone that they couldn’t for themselves.” 

If we’re winning every single day, and celebrating those successes; then we’re making progress. The key to servant leadership is providing value to others by giving them something that they can’t do alone. Most people tend to overthink this component when it’s actually quite simple at its core.

Can people listen to themselves, and give tidbits of wisdom that they’ve never heard before? Can people learn something new that they currently know nothing about? Nope, and that’s where you, as the leader, need to step in and be proactive about how you can help others. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.”

4. “Don’t tell me, show me what you’re going to do.”

How many people do you know that are still talking about what they’re going to do, and all of the amazing plans that they have? If you’re honest with yourself, do you have the tendency to be one of those leaders as well at times?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to how you lead your people. They don’t care what you were, or are, going to do for them. They want to see how you can serve them, add value to them, and make their lives better. This is your responsibility and calling as a leader.

5. “No matter how far you go, you have to remember where you came from. That’s who you are, and that’s your foundation.” 

John ended his talk with a walking stick that reminds him where he’s been and what he has accomplished. Various areas of success have a way of putting us on a “feel good” drug where it becomes about you and what you’ve been able to achieve. In my estimation, John’s “walking stick” is the perfect symbol.

The walking stick helps support us when we’re dreary and want to give up. It helps us stay the course with where we’re going. It serves as a constant reminder with where we’ve been, what we’ve conquered, and helps keep us grounded.

This was my number one takeaway: “Where have you come from, and who are you, really?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John presenting the same content to Nerium, a network marketing company that achieved over $1b in sales in just under six years. Nerium went “all in” on John Maxwell’s teachings, and the results show that the proof is in the pudding.

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Photo credit: leadersmultiply.com

What Does an Old College Couch Have to do with Remarkable Customer Service?

In 2012, the original book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish? – How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth, was released. This happened shortly after the time that I walked away from my job at a Google subsidiary to fry chicken for free at a fast casual restaurant startup in remote South Carolina.

For three and a half months, I provided pro bono consulting to the developing chain and worked in operations to learn the ropes of management (as hourly restaurant jobs had helped me pay for college). In the interim, I slept on an old college couch wedged between a ping pong table, and a mini fridge full of stale Miller Lite.

Most people would say that I had verifiably lost my mind, and most people would be right.

All I knew is that the service industry had my heart, and that I was meant to serve others through remarkable food, drink, and service. I felt called to devote my life to the hospitality industry in the form of leadership, purpose-centric service, and people development. People were counting on me to add value to their lives, and I had to make it work one way or another.

That’s where it all started, and I’ll always remember where I came from. Those humbling moments in our lives that help us define who we are, how we grow, and our ability to serve are everything. When is the last time that you’ve examined your “couch”?

I’m happy to say that everything got better. Flash forward a few years and I had become a full-fledged restaurant operator. One day, a manager at another one of our restaurants, Matt, told me that he had met Stan Phelps. Matt raved about Stan’s business insights and offered to let me borrow his copy of What’s Your Purple Goldfish? that Stan had given him. I picked the book up and I immediately felt compelled to shoot Stan an email.

I felt as though Stan had emptied out the contents of my brain and put them in a book as our ideals were strikingly similar. Shortly thereafter I started researching Stan’s work and found that he had just published an article about our restaurant and, lo and behold, the “lagniappe of the day” was one of my video newsletters.

Side note: I’m still waiting for Stan’s apology for unauthorized use of my “amazing” creative work but that’s a topic for another day.

Stan and I met about a month later and found out quickly that we both believed that the best way to differentiate in a “sea of sameness” was through touching the hearts and minds of the people that you serve. We hold that people that are congruent in their beliefs and actions inevitably attract one another.

But why is this so important?

Consider Friedman’s theory which states that the sole purpose of business is to provide a return to shareholders. This is the basis from where KPIs and quarterly dividend returns come from. Most of us accept this principle at face value, but the problem with this philosophy is that there’s never enough of a return and executives get caught in a perpetual quarterly return cycle. For better or worse, ROI and profits are what validate the efficacy of leadership in most businesses.

I’m sure you’ve witnessed this firsthand where quarterly top-line sales and bottom-line efficiencies have to be established. In my estimation, most companies choose the quick and easy route to drive top-line sales by discounting their brand and give just to get. To establish bottom-line core competencies, companies typically hack at the product, labor, and physical plant which all, in turn, diminish in quality and damage morale.

At the end of the day, sales cure all and there needs to be strategy to drive people in the door, ensure that they’re coming back, and makes your customers feel compelled to tell others about your remarkable experience.

In order to drive traffic, your first inclination is probably to start dedicating your budget to advertising in order to reach the masses. However, consumer attention has never been more fragmented and the value of traditional advertising has decreased significantly. I say “value” because advertisers provide a tremendous service but it’s too expensive, does not clearly correlate to top-line, and doesn’t capture attention despite how they might sell it.

Consumers now have millions of ways to spend their time…

Are we really bold enough to think that our message is so special that people will drop whatever they’re doing to pay attention to us? Do we believe that our customers put our businesses on some sort of pedestal and all clamor over the opportunity to share our newest promotion with their friends?

Perhaps we need to selflessly serve others and care first.

I would equate this principle to brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth quickly and haphazardly every so often, then you’ll get the job partially done. Perhaps there are even some “quick fix” solutions that you can utilize such as mouthwash, white strips, and an annual cleaning.

In short, everything looks great on the outside, but the foundation is crumbling. It’s those that are willing to brush thoroughly, floss, and show dedication in their daily upkeep that will still have a beautiful set of teeth when they’re 80 years old while your competition is soaking their dentures in cleansers (if they haven’t already died of tooth decay).

The only possible thing that we can do to stand apart is to intentionally touch the hearts and minds of the people that we serve on a daily basis. All it takes is the willingness to consistently adapt to today’s business landscape and allocate the resources necessary. You owe it to yourself to be able to fail, test, and continually improve.

Your people are counting on you.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out this oldie but goodie from Seinfeld illustrating a classic customer service failure. It’s a great reminder basic execution should always remain the foundation when we go to serve others.

The Foolproof Method to Uncover Corporate Purpose and Ignite Your Team's Passion

It brought me to tears often.

It was only one simple word: significance. Yes, our new business had made our “corporate purpose” revolve around just one word, and yet almost none of the 107 employees could recite this one word without being prompted.

I thought that we had checked every box off of our operational checklists, and done everything right as we started our new venture. Not only did we have the tangible tasks completed, but we had also taken the time to intentionally develop a culture that served both our customers and our team.

Every single day, I would ask the team members the same question, “Why do we exist? What is our purpose as a business?” The answers were varied, but again, virtually no one could succinctly answer the question.

At first I foolishly blamed the team. I often thought to myself in a childish manner, “What kind of dope can’t remember a one word answer?” My initial gut reaction, of course, was not correct nor fair to the team.

I knew that frustration would not get us closer to our goal, and I began to take the disconnect to heart…

I felt like a total failure for developing the culture that did not understand what it stood for.

It wasn’t until I made the revelation that although the culture’s purpose was simple and strictly defined; it was the team that was missing purpose in their work.

It didn’t matter what our leadership had written on a piece of paper, and was preaching to the company. Without the employees having conviction and feeling meaning in their work, there was no way that they were going to buy into the purpose that was constructed in a corporate boardroom.

You might be thinking that a lot of companies have a “corporate purpose” though…

I would tend to agree, but what percentage of employees actually know what this statement means? More importantly, how many employees actually live these words with all of their heart, spirit, mind, and action?

I would venture to say that corporate purposes fail to work for two predominant reasons, which are as follows:

  1. They’re too complicated.
  2. Employees don’t feel purpose in their contributions, and don’t align with the company.

Let’s start with that first point. Oftentimes, corporate boardrooms form these statements and “purpose-driven” cultures because “it’s the right thing to do” or “it’s good for business.”

The problem is that they turn their corporate purpose into more of a slogan, a contrived attempt at garnering employee buy-in, jam pack the statement with every buzzword, and/or all of the above.

The repercussions of not having a clear, easy to understand purpose in business is just as bad, if not worse, than not having one at all.

If the team doesn’t understand why the entity exists, then how can the people that you serve possibly know? On top of that, how can your customers excitedly share your business’ story with their network? 

How does one uncover corporate purpose?

I believe that you only have to answer one question: how do you improve the lives of the people that you serve? There are other questions that you can ask. However, it all starts and ends there. Once you have an exact statement that answers that question, the rest becomes much easier to develop.

The other reason for lackluster results with corporate purpose are employees that don’t have personal purpose in their work that aligns with the company. Call it purpose, meaning, or whatever else but it’s the fuel for all of the other positive qualitative factors.

Without purpose, a career quickly becomes the dreaded “job.” The position becomes all about the individual, and the employee demands to know how their employer can service their needs in the form of education, compensation, and stature.

If you think about it, solely profit-driven companies are only looking to leverage its employees for its shareholder returns, and the employee treats the company in the exact same way.

…How do we do help our people uncover more purpose?

I’ve read just about book, listened to every podcast, and watched every video on this topic. I’ve disseminated all of this information, and applied these principles using my life as the guinea pig. This is how I discovered the BASIC framework which is as follows:

Baseline– Notate what is providing and taking energy, and formulate a system for measurement and awareness. (I recommend physically writing everything down in a pocket-sized notebook, and translating it to Evernote).

Assessment Proactively become more self-aware by asking everyone in your network hard questions about your work, and identifying trends in your vocation. 

Strengthen Steward over your relationships, thoughts, behaviors, and actions to identify and focus on positives.

Intentionality Envision the perfect work day, and strategically add little positive behaviors to make daily progress toward that vision. 

Commitment Go “all in” with your current job, lose yourself in service to others, and assume or align with the corporate purpose.

Ultimately, when your people uncover more purpose that was divinely created for them in their work, they’ll either align with the larger corporate purpose, or strengthen the corporate purpose with their own.

This is all good and well, but you’re about tangible results on your P&L, right?

The fact is that purpose-driven businesses are more productive, generate higher sales, keep employees longer, and are more profitable. Entities such as Deloitte, Gallup, and Millward Brown have provided copious amounts of data that state “for purpose” businesses are beating the pants off of strictly profit driven companies. 

Millward Brown summarized this concept best when they said, “Our 10-year growth study that reviewed over 50,000 brands showed that companies who put improving people’s lives at the center of all they do have growth rates that are triple that of their competitors, and they outperform the market by 383 percent.”

Did you get that? You have the opportunity right now to outperform the market by 383 percent by just doing right by your people. Or you can choose to get tears in your eyes when people can’t remember one word.

Speaking from experience, a system of purpose a lot more fun and profitable.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out this brief clip from Advisory Board which shows how their deeper purpose applies to their people, and the communities that they serve.