The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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The Ragin’ Cajun

James Carville was my guest yesterday at my annual Thought Leadership Conference at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. He is a fast-talking, straight-shooting guy who goes full bore, start to finish, and he joined us for dinner, as well.

I asked him why Barak Obama, elected amid speeches between Doric Columns and Greek Porticos, with a rock star excitement in the audience, is now shunned by members of his own party seeking reelection in states he originally carried. James said that most candidates promise that they’ll work within the system to create change, but Obama claimed he would change Washington and the way it worked. But no one is about to change Washington, so he failed in his primary promise.

Sometimes we all think there’s a better cosmos to superimpose on the current one. But I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from John Dewey, I believe: “Saints engage in lofty introspection while burly sinners run the world.” With our clients, we need to seek pragmatic change within their own reality, and not seek to implement an idealistic, theoretical new construct.

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(Photo courtesy of Richard Citrin.)

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Doorman

The first and last impression you have in most top-flight hotels is created by the doorman. He greets you, often relays to the desk that you’re approaching for check-in so that you can be welcomed by name, and then packs your bags in a car and wishes you well when you checkout. In the interim he greets you and holds the door every time you depart and return. He has a great deal to do with how you enter and leave that hotel experience. He’s not the highest paid employee, but he has a huge impact.

Who are the “doormen” for your business? Are you paying attention to the hiring and nurturing of those people who form first and last impressions? I’ve met too many restaurant hostesses with zero personality, and too many bank tellers who are bored to tears, to think that all organizations pay close attention to these crucial interactions.

Find your “doormen” and make sure they add significantly to the customer experience and aren’t detracting from it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Drink Shop: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

There’s a place on the web called The Drink Shop that advertises “liquor distributed worldwide.” So I ordered a vodka through their quite confusing site.

I received an email today stating that, since I didn’t fill in my country, they were canceling the order from a week ago. Apparently, “Rhode Island 02818″ wasn’t sufficient when I missed yet another box. Yet they had both my phone number and email, and they had the time to write me to tell me this instead of merely confirming I’m in the US and filling the order. And this took them a week. When I pointed that out, they wrote back a second time to say, in effect, too bad, that’s the way it is.

Drucker said that the purpose of a business is to have a customer. It seems to me you get customers by providing reasonable service, not by making them jump through hoops or demanding your web site forms be perfectly completed when the intent is otherwise obvious.

I’ll say this: The Drink Shop can drive you to drink.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 10/20/14

This week’s focus point: Why do we panic at the irrational fear of Ebola spreading in the US but not at the carnage on the highways every day? It’s fascinating that some people demanding on social media that our government provide 100% protection are doing so by texting while they drive. George Carlin famously remarked once that the driver in front of us who won’t move aside is a moron, while the guy tailgating us is an idiot. We seem sure that if we have control we can always master our fate, but losing control causes panic. The greatest causes of stress I’ve observed are the feelings that you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and you can’t influence it anyway–a loss of all control. That’s a poverty mentality, believing you’re a victim. Live your life as if you own it and maybe you will.

Monday Morning Perspective: If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. — Charles Darwin, “Voyage of the Beagle”

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University Dermatology: We May Be Rude, But We’re Also Slow

On August 28 I posted here the story of horrible service in a medical practice when I was trying to change an appointment. That changed appointment finally occurred yesterday, or almost did. These people deserve the Dumb-Ass Stupid Management Award of the Month, with a tin Caduceus.

I showed up at Miriam Hospital in Providence to visit University Dermatology for my annual checkup. That medical practice is owned by a group of physicians. My appointment was for 10:15 and I pulled up to the valet at 10:00, and saw my dermatologist walk past me. I said, “Good morning,” but she seemed distracted and uninterested, and we took the same elevator to the second floor.

It took me ten minutes to check in while several of us just waited for the lone woman on the job to compete a raft of paperwork. During that time, patient files with names on them—including mine—were clearly visible on her desk for anyone to see. I was finally checked in and took a seat at 10:15, expecting to be called quickly. At 10:30, there was nothing happening, so I asked someone what the delay was. I was told to go to another window as a man said, “Let me know what you find, I have a 10 o’clock appointment.”

But how could that be, if the doctor walked in at 10?

I returned to the same paper-bound woman and she agreed to make a call, during which she found I’d have to wait at least another 30-40 minutes. I told her that wasn’t going to happen. Apparently, either the doctor was very late arriving or the practice simply books far too many people to meet any kind of promised schedule. She had at least six patients backed up in various rooms at 10:30 before my college with the 10 am appointment.

This is a practice where the women in Rhode Island Hospital, their other site, often eat while they are talking to you, or chat among themselves while people wait to check in or out. There is only one woman in Miriam handling the chaos, and she’s clearly overwhelmed. But this is medicine from the “old school”: We’re the ones whose time is important, and you can just wait until we’re good and ready.

I asked a dermatologist once what attracted her to that specialty. She said, “There are no emergency calls in the middle of the night.” That seems a strange criterion to choose your role in medicine. It also seems that there isn’t exactly great urgency during the day, either.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Small Minds in Small Business: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

I walk into the local liquor store and ask a woman who’s obviously a manager or part owner to order a very expensive vodka and single malt scotch. I tasted Konik’s Tail Vodka at Scott’s in London and my local cigar club carries Dalmorie King Alexander, which I’ve inexplicably developed a taste for. I want them on hand for when the spirit moves me (pun intended).

Well! I just about ruined her day. She couldn’t find the vodka on her lists easily, and I pointed out that I found it on the internet with no trouble. Then she told me that it may not be available or it may be rationed or it may be stolen by pirates (I began to lose interest). She told me she’d check and call me. I somehow doubt both.

A boutique hotel nearby reached out to me over a year ago, but the sales director dropped the ball, told me NOT to come for dinner unless she was there, and never offered me the deal she had promised. Recently, the new general manager reached out because he used to sell me clothes in a boutique store in another life time. I arranged for some rooms for a group in January to make a gesture. His director of lackluster service wrote me asking for credit card details, copies of both sides of the card, photo ID, blood tests, etc.

I told him the hotel I usually use simply sends me a bill for the rooms and I send a check. He said they’d only accept a check five days in advance. In other words, they have to protect themselves because my credit may not be good or I could give them a worthless check.

On the other hand: A speciality wine shop nearby immediately agreed to pursue a high-end wind they’d never carry to ship as a gift for someone, and they secured it and sent it and then asked for my payment later. Four restaurants on Main Street carry Jean Marc Vodka for me (and one stocks Far Niente) which they can’t really sell daily due to the cost, because they know I like it and they like me to be happy.

It’s like the TSA with too many small businesses—you’re guilty until proved innocent, and you’re not innocent until we invade your privacy. I drink very expensive liquor, and I placed 80 local hotel rooms last year, but I’m not about to move my business to people who are too  lazy or too suspicious to want my money.

How are you reacting to customer inquiries? With enthusiasm, or suspicion, or sloth? Only one will make you rich.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 10/13/14

This week’s focus point: You’ve probably heard the physiological admonition “we are what we eat.” I believe “we are what we tell ourselves.” People get up in the morning either eager to squeeze opportunity out of another new day, or dreading a slow, tough crawl through enemy territory. Our beliefs about ourselves create attitudes about our situation which are manifest in our behaviors. It’s not “them,” or technology, or the economy, or politicians, or your ENTJ label. The words you use to inform your behavior are your choice of determinants: talented or lucky; perseverant or stubborn; setback or defeated; unfortunate or unworthy? We control the words, and they control the results of our experiences. The preceding paragraph can help you. I’m not sitting here hoping you like it. I’m happy to have been of help.

Monday Morning Perspective: Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members. — William Graham Sumner, “The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays”

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The Dog Star: Dog Fight

(The Dog Star is a symbol of power, will, and steadfastness of purpose, and exemplifies the One who has succeeded in bridging the lower and higher consciousness. – Astrological Definition)

I was working in my den when I saw Bentley attacking Buddy in the back yard. This is “play” of course, but an 80-pound, two-year-old Shepherd doesn’t know his strength with a ten-year-old, 30-pound Beagle. I stood up, ready to tear downstairs and out into the yard.

Then I saw Bentley turn and Buddy launch himself at Bentley, causing him to retreat and regroup. Buddy was enjoying himself. (He’s also mastered how to get a shared stuffed duck away from Bentley by using his lower center of gravity and tugging it out of Bentley’s jaws.) I sat back down and determined not to intervene.

If Buddy had to defend himself against almost any adversary, he’d do a pretty good job because he is used to fighting German Shepherds (first Koufax and now Bentley). I’m reminded of baseball players who take practice swings with weighted bats, and my track days when I ran the 440 for speed and stamina in training when my actual competition was in the 100 and 220.

Don’t run from tough competition, pressured situations, and stronger athletes. Learn to compete and comport yourself well. If you do so, other situations will be a piece of cake.

You may lose the sale to a billion dollar company’s CEO, but what you’ll learn will make it easy to sell to $500 million division presidents. You may not get the keynote for IBM’s annual meeting, but you will get the featured spot for a trade association, or a concurrent session with IBM, or be invited on TED.

Don’t run away. Throw yourself at your counterpart. Once they back off, the leverage is yours. Bentley may have bigger teeth, but Buddy’s are just as sharp.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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