Still looking for a resolution for 2015? Think about this

And so a new year begins 

Often it can stir up questions for us:

  • What does the year have in store for me? The people I love?
  • What is it that you’re truly seeking?
  • Am I going to make any resolutions? If yes, then what are they?

And this list can go on for many folks

Well, I’d like to suggest a new type of resolution for you to consider. This kind of resolution you are certain to meet. The degree to which you meet it will be entirely up to you. It’s something that if you ‘drop off’ or forget, you can pick it back up with ease anytime during the year.

What am I talking about?

Recently someone mentioned to me that at the beginning of 2014 he had been challenged, instead of making a list of resolutions, to simply choose one word. Yep, that’s right – one word and only one word. So after careful consideration, decided to take the challenge. And the one word he chose was ‘buildup’. Without going into details, he found this experiment surprisingly successful. Not only was there ‘buildup’ in many areas of his life that he’d sought and wanted for some time, but he also discovered that there were a few things he needed to, or should, eliminate from his life and he achieved that as well. And finally, he also found positive buildup in areas he’d never even thought about.

So, how about this? Why don’t we take this challenge? Let’s take a little time to think about it and then choose that one word that would be just right for you – just one word. What word you choose is entirely up to you. You may or may not want to share your word with anyone – and that’s fine. And you may or may not want to jot down a starting place. Some might want to keep a journal (or not), while some of you might want to just wait until the end of the year to review your progress {last phrase is just a suggestion}.

I’ve decided I’m going to choose one word and take on this challenge and see what shakes out for me. I’m going to take the next day or so to settle on the word that I think is just right for me. And then, I’m going to go for it

Calling all shopping cart ditchers

I promised as we began this journey together to write more often. I want to apologize right here in the beginning. I’m going through a bit of a season of loss and, while it’s not an excuse, I share that because I want to be clear that I’ve not lost my drive or inspiration. I’m still in!

That said, I begin by shining a light on smaller opportunities to chase to bring some goodness to those around us. So…I think today’s opportunity for us to chase is pretty simple. I believe if we ever go into a parking lot, this will be a piece of cake.

Over the last week or so, I’ve come across more than several instances where people have just let their carts in the parking lot right outside the stores where they’ve been shopping. It’s pretty simple to return your cart to the store, and if the store is too much of a walk, in most cases there’s a corral where you can simply push your cart without stepping in to connect it to the other carts.

Often, I will come across situations where someone has left one cart in front of another store – yep, that’s right, not even the store it came from. I’ve also seen situations where people will take the trash from from their car and put it in the cart they are not planning to return, either to the store or the corral.

I’ve also seen more than once this week several carts left in the handicap parking area. There are more than several reasons it’s not a good idea to leave your cart here. And in most cases, the handicap spot is just a few steps from the store in any case.

These stores are kind enough to provide us with these carts and even baskets so that it’s easier for to carry the things that we are interested in around the store – we can fill up those carts and decide not to buy what we’ve placed in them. They are also kind enough to allow us to take these carts with us to make it easier to get the items we’ve purchased to our cars.

Yet another reason to return these carts is because, when left in the parking lots, they can easily roll into another car….maybe yours. If they are left in the middle of a parking space, then it’s a space someone else can’t use…maybe even the one where you’d like to park. Carts left in the parking lot or half on/half off the curb are more likely to roll into a car. What if that car is yours?

One final reason to be mindful of this is that just one cart left behind can become a dumping spot where other people will push their carts. It’s like a blinking sign saying, “push your cart and trash here, let’s see what mayhem happens!”

So this week – just 7 days – let’s make a conscious effort to return carts we have used to get things to out our own cars. And if you are really feeling generous, and maybe a little energetic, then why not push a cart maybe even two that have been abandoned to the corral or even the sidewalk of the store the cart belongs to.

This tiny act seems small but its impact can go quite a ways. It will not only get these carts out of the parking lots, but you just might inspire someone else to return their own cart or maybe step out of their comfort zone and return someone else’s cart to the store or one of the conveniently located corrals.

So whadda ya say – is this something you can take on for the next week? I bet it won’t be hard to seek out these opportunities. And who knows the goodness it could bring to someone.

Are you ready for the weekend?

Happy Friday friends, and so we head into our weekends. And this weekend, rather challenge you with an additional opportunity. I’m going to offer you a gentle reminder of our previous ones.  Wow, I really appreciate every single story you have shared with me. And if you’d like to share them with the rest of us that would be great. And if not, please continue to share them with me one on one.

Last night over dinner with a couple of friends, they asked me to offer up a gentle reminder of the previous opportunities I’ve posted.  So that said, how about we stay our course for this weekend?  However, I want to add a little twist.  How about if you find yourself as the one someone offers up a kind word to, be sure to take note of it and definitely say thank you. And remember –  it’s never too early or too late to count our blessings! 

If you are up for it, I’d love to hear your stories – whether you share them here, or shoot me a note directly. All that said, before we close today, I want to wish all of you a wonderful weekend! Make sure you check back next week, as I already have my challenges/opportunities brewing.

Thank you for stopping by today,

Robyn

 

Stop, drop, and take a minute to count your blessings

Over the last 60 days I’ve had more than a few reminders as to how important it is to count my blessings. Some of the triggers have been through loss and while others through kindness from others. I’ve written more than once that I truly believe that while everyday might not be good there is absolutely goodness in every day.

Today, my friend, that I have the privilege of working with twice a week shared with me that today is her niece’s birthday. As it turns out her 10-year-old  niece is asking her family and friends to make a donation to Give Kids the World rather than give her gifts. She’s decided that she has many blessings to count and she wants to share some of that with others.

So today….let’s take a little time and count our blessings. If you are feeling bold then why don’t you share them with a friend. If you are not feeling so bold, how about you  just take a quiet moment to stop be grateful? We all have something be thankful for don’t we?

It only takes one

What is this all about? What do you mean by chasing goodness?

Good questions. I’m using the phrase chasing goodness because I truly believe there is some kind of goodness in every day. Even on my toughest of days, I’ve been able to find a tiny ray of goodness. The goodness I’ve found on those days hasn’t always been from a friend or family member – sometimes from a stranger, and sometimes it’s a combination of goodness from many. On some of my toughest days, a kind word, a little humor, holding a door, a simple thank you, even someone letting me letting into the traffic flow can be something so appreciated for a variety of reasons.

 

One tiny act afforded to me one day I still remember. A friend of mine and I were racing to get one of my dogs to the vet. I came up to a spot where it seemed like it was impossible to get into the traffic flow, and candidly, time was of the essence. One kind fella stopped and waved me into the flow. We were so thankful. I turned and gave him the thank you wave and instead of a kind wave back he gave us a thumbs up. Both of us remember that, even to this day. And his simple act of letting us into traffic was extremely helpful – more so than he could have guessed at that time.

My point is that we don’t always know how the simplest act might be just the thing someone needs. So my question: what if we begin to build a community of people who are chasing opportunities to share or bring just a tiny bit of goodness? Can you imagine the impact that could have in our communities and even beyond?

So join me! Check in once a week or maybe even more. I will share some suggestions for opportunities to chase, and some of my experiences. And I would love to hear from you about your experiences and any opportunities you might suggest.

“Look for a way to lift someone up. If that’s all you do, it’s enough.”
— Elizabeth Lesser
So, are you in? Will you join us?
So let’s start this slow and easy, how about this week we look for an opportunity to share one kind word with someone we don’t really know?
There are lots of people we come across during our week where it would be easy to offer up just one kind word.  Sometimes we see them often during the course of our week and others we might never see again.
My challenge to you as we kick this off…is to seek out at least one person that is out of your comfort zone and share just one kind word with them.

So, are you in? Will you join us?

A cup of coffee with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent

A key foundation for any business in building success is positive word of mouth. Often a word from a friend, an online review will motivate people beyond an advertisement. And building positive word of mouth means creating remarkable moments. It means being consistent in your products/service and in the experiences you create. It means a commitment not to word of mouth but to the people you serve and the service you deliver. I have been fortunate to experience many remarkable moments over the past year, and I want to honor these places. So I am returning to the shine a light section of my blog. And there’s no better way to kick this off than with my experiences with Bagel Boys in Alpharetta, Ga.

It’s about 7:30am maybe even 8:00am on a Monday morning early summer, and I have the privilege of avoiding the traffic and working from here. A group of guys are gathered at their regular watering make that ‘coffeeing’ hole/table. This place has become their clubhouse. Wait…make that community center not just for this group of guys. (those of us who come here often also think of it as a community center, a great place to bring friends or just sit and work or read.) This group of guys meet up here in the mornings (many of them daily) to connect, share their stories, a little breakfast (lots of coffee) and then head out for their day. This group is a fairly large group and on any day there could be 5, 6 even 7 of them.  On this particular day, the stories are flowing, there’s lots of laughter and all of them ‘leaning forward’ into the conversations.

IMG_0734The door swings open and dressed in casual attire, one of the regulars rolls in. He’s carrying a vase of beautiful hydrangeas – colorful, large and he’s clearly very proud of them. He walks squarely up to the table and announces “I thought we needed a centerpiece today!”  Candidly the vase almost looks out of place with him.  His buddies enjoy a good laugh and the ‘florist’ has a seat. The conversation resumes, as if there has not been a break. As that story unwinds, it’s on to the next. And the guy who brought flowers proceeds to share his story related to flowers.

In some shape or form this story plays out here every day. All of the regulars have come to feel a sense of community and not just with each other but the staff. The folks that work here are a unique team, team really isn’t the right word it’s more like family. They view this café as more than a place to get coffee, a bagel or a sandwich. Everyone who interfaces with the guests – from the owners, to the sweet girl who often takes the orders, even the guys in the kitchen.  Even more unique, is not only do they know the names of ALL their regulars they also know their story. They always take the time to engage beyond your order. All of that said the food and the coffee are always exquisite.

One day I came in to get my regular large vanilla nut coffee. I ordered, was handed my cup and then headed to the coffee bar to pour my coffee and add the extras I like. It took just a few minutes, as I returned to exit, the only thing in my hands my coffee.  As I was leaving, the gentleman behind the cash register came out from behind the counter and opened the door for me and said “Have a great day Robyn, hope your commute is smooth this morning!” I returned with “You too, thank you!” Now this is not a unique experience, every time I come in they treat me as if I were a guest in their home. They treat everyone as if you are in their home, whether you are a regular or a first timer.

So where is this place – what is the name of it? It’s Bagel Boys in Alpharetta, Ga. And as I have gone into great detail to share with you the community – make no mistake, the coffee and ALL of the food alone are a reason to come and try it out. But I encourage you to stay, or return regularly.   You will be treated as if you are a special guest.

These guys are not chasing goodness they are bringing it everyday!

Are your customers and employees your best sales force?

Recently, the husband of one of my best friends (CEO at his company) asked me: “what is the value of word of mouth, and why should I care?” He explained that he was asking because his marketing team continues to ‘pester’ him about adding it as part of their communications mix.

Rather than review the stats that 90% of people will make purchase decisions because of the recommendations of friends or family – or even more powerful, that 70% of people will trust a stranger or online reviews over the brand message (Source: The Nielsen Company)  – I decided to turn the tables and ask him some questions.

As someone who is passionate about the goodness of word of mouth for any organization, I could not help feeling like this question was served to me on a ‘silver platter’! I simply asked him: what led you to purchase your new car? Of course he asked what that had to do with the conversation – but I asked him to stick with me. His response was: ‘One of the guys at work had one – he loves it and talks about constantly. So I decided to check it out.’ (Of course I wanted to say…..ta dah, that’s word of mouth!)  I followed that up with:  ‘after the test drive did you do any research?’ He responded:  ‘of course! I wasn’t going to buy the car just based on my employee’s experience. I went online to consumer reports to do a little research.’ (At this point, I am tempted to say ‘ah ha’ case closed, however I feel compelled to press on).

So I asked him one final question:  ‘how did you choose the new accounting software for your business?’  At this point he’s a little irritated with me and slowly responds:  ‘I don’t know why you need to know this.’ Nevertheless he responded:  ‘I was not fond of the sales rep or his pitch. However, I knew some colleagues in the industry who had upgraded to this software and were very happy with it. We are in a niche business so I wanted to make sure the package we chose was right for our business.  Oh, and I did a Google search to see what the consensus was from other businesses and CFOs actually using the system to get their feedback and reviews.  All of the info I could find was positive so we moved forward with the software.

At this point he said to: ‘are you ever going to answer my question or are we going to catalog my major purchases over the last few months?’ (Can you say cranky?) I smiled and responded:  ‘I think we have enough data to move on.’ With a puzzled look he leaned in to see where we were going next.

Now, having his attention, I responded:  ‘you have made two very large purchases over the last six weeks, personal and for business. And in both cases word of mouth has played a significant role.  And in both situations, you relied and trusted the experiences/reviews of friends, colleagues and strangers. In the instance of the new software package, you heavily relied on the reviews of strangers and colleagues.’

At this point – I fought the urge to pause for effect…. So I continued:  ‘John, this is the power of word of mouth. It is Word of Mouth that not only influenced your purchases but also gave you the confidence to move forward.

‘This is why you need to embrace word of mouth and why your marketing team wants to incorporate word of mouth into your marketing mix. As you are in a service industry, this approach could be very powerful. I am absolutely sure that you have customers that are very pleased with your services – this is why your marketing staff so wants to build a strategy that equips your customers to become evangelists for your business. And as you relied on strangers and friends to make your purchases, so is your target market.”

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful communications tools (especially in this age of social networking – the average Facebook user has 260 friends) and should be considered an integral part of any brand’s marketing/communications strategy. It can extend your reach, spread quickly, and provide real results. Are you equipping your employees, customers and friends to be your evangelists? If not you could be missing out on a real opportunity to extend your influence and grow your business!

Swinging blind?

It is a story that is played out in many little leagues across the country weekly. There is a young boy (let’s call him Jack) who despite his best efforts is just unable to get a hit. He has certainly made it on base, he’s drawn several walks and even been hit a few times. In spite of his meager batting average, he remains enthusiastic and enjoys the team and the game. On this particular Saturday, there’s nothing remarkable – it’s not the last game of the season, it’s not two out and bases loaded – it’s just Jack’s turn to bat.

Jack steps into the batter’s box and the first pitch comes in….swing and a miss.  The next pitch comes in and it’s low and outside. The third pitch sails in:  Jack swings and thump – it’s a hit! At this point, no one is more in shock than Jack. His dad and his coach begin yelling, “Run, run, run!” It takes a couple of seconds but Jack begins to run, rounds first and makes it to second.  Everyone on the team and in the stands is cheering. It doesn’t really matter at this point if they win or lose; everyone is excited that Jack got a hit and made it on base.

As they are leaving the field, Jack’s dad proudly says: “Great hit son, great hit!”

The he asks: “What did you do differently today?” Jack’s answer was quite a surprise; “Dad I did what I always do – step into the batter’s box, take my practice swing, watch the pitcher carefully and as the ball leaves his glove, I close my eyes and swing as hard as I can.” At this point the dad asks in a puzzled tone, “Son why do you close your eyes?” And Jack confidently responds, “Isn’t that what everyone does?”

This is a scenario played out in various companies as well every day. They decide they need to get in the game: social media. And they in essence close their eyes and hope for the best. They set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account and start broadcasting without any rhyme or reason. And then they wonder why their community/audience is not growing. They do not have a plan or strategy; they just start posting, hoping that, if they build it, the audience will come.

Simply put, this will not work. The companies who are succeeding today are moving beyond social media; they are moving toward a social business model and their social strategy is what the experts would refer to as ‘social by design’. They have more than a plan – they have a strategy.  They have a cadence of communications designed to inform, engage and drive word of mouth.

Over the next few posts, we will discuss what are the key the elements of a successful strategy, and what it is meant by social business. We will discuss what drives word of mouth and why it is important. Or how do you make your social brand architecture irresistible?

 

How Do You Say Goodbye to a Legend?

That is the question Dr. Shirley Raines, President of the University of Memphis, asked as she opened her tribute to my great aunt, Elma Neal Roane, on Friday September 23, at her memorial service. It was a hard question, and candidly, up until the last few days I was unsure of how to answer it.

I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on all of the wonderful stories that people have shared, and continue to share, with me and my family over the last couple of weeks. Every story was personal and a blessing. There’s no doubt that my aunt, Elmo, as she has been known for the majority of her life was quite a woman. She accomplished so much but I think what I admired most about her was her vision, and determination to stay the course on that vision, regardless of the obstacles, or naysayers that crossed her path. I’m not sure she ever saw an obstacle – just opportunity. The road less traveled beckoned her and she forged a trail for all of us. She knew her calling and she embraced it with boundless energy and enthusiasm. I wrote about her last year as all of her papers and artifacts were donated to the U of M.

So how do you say goodbye to a legend….more importantly to my great aunt Elmo? I am not sure it is possible.  But here is what I do know. Knowing Elmo was an incredible privilege and blessing – but it came with a calling. She expected, and well lets tell like it is, she demanded, all of us to just do and be our best. I believe the answer to the question comes in a simple sentence, I must have heard her say it a million times during my life. A phrase that many may find cliché or trite – however to her it became her mantra. We all need to “keep on keepin on!” The very best way for us to honor Elmo in my opinion is for us to keep on giving the best of ourselves to our family, our friends, our work. To strive to leave people and things better off for knowing us. The best way to honor Elmo is to be good to each other, to encourage each other and to pour out ourselves into each other.

A few years ago at the Social Media Business Forum, I had the privilege of meeting Geno Church and he challenged the audience to: “Be famous for the people who love you, for the way you love them.” When he said that I immediately thought of my aunt and today those words mean so much more as Elmo was famous because of how she loved all of us – family, students, friends, and of course the University of Memphis!

I’m reminded of our last quiet moment together – we were at a tea honoring her accomplishments at the U of M. I said to her: “I’m in awe of all the goodness you have created how did you do it?”  She responded: “Everything I did, I did because I had a passion for it, not just the education but the students as well. I’ve dedicated my life to promoting fellowship, honor and integrity, and we need more teachers who are pushing that as well. That’s my passion, keep on keeping on!”

So I challenge you today, if Elma touched you or your family in any way what will you do to pay it forward? How will we keep the trail she blazed going? I am not sure I know the answer today – but it’s heavy on my heart and I am working on it. How about you?

Crowdsourcing or Democracy?

[cross-posted on the Ogilvy Fresh Influence blog]

Earlier this week we introduced you to SeeClickFix and their model of social business. We talked briefly about how they are using social technologies and process to improve how governments operate and engage their constituents.

Today we thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the intricacies and wins we learned discovered in our interview with Ben Berkowitz, CEO of SeeClickFIx.

We wanted to know where SeeClickFix is having the most success? What stories could Ben share to cast the vision and help us to see how things are working?

Ben: “The biggest success with the application, is in terms of geography. Some of the bigger cities are Richmond, Raleigh and Washington, D.C. The functionality of our app is really neat because not only can people report they can also see what issues are recorded nearby. So maybe someone without an app reported a big pothole and you walk by and you have the app and you see the issue, you can take a photo of the pothole, and add it to their issue. So it’s kind of an interim (iterate) of the reporting process where people with the mobile application can help those without. I also think there is a place for city inspectors and others with the application where they can go out because all the issues are mapped they can follow those issues around and easily close out work orders right from the phone.”

It’s interesting that the inspectors can check projects and issues and close the issues right from the phone allowing the citizens to see in real-time and track how and when their issues are closed.

One interesting story was how a town in Connecticut used the application to respond to an algae bloom in their water system but also how the community helped spread the word and prevent panic.

Ben: “Here in Connecticut, in a town near by, there was a late algae bloom, which is a non-life threatening thing that can happen to a water system, but it’s something that can be concerning. Hundreds of people voted on 20 or 30 issues in different locations as to the spread of this algae bloom and the city was able to respond back to just one of the issues letting people know that an algae bloom is safe, that they don’t have to worry, the water may taste funny, but it’s safe and they are working to resolve it. So not only could you see the spread of the algae bloom through the reports of the citizens but you could see the citizens could communicate with each other and let them know not to panic.”

Finally we brought up the question of crowdsourcing:
Does it work? Are citizens taking advantage of it?
Ben’s response was interesting:
“This is government helping to spread the word through citizens. I like the term ‘crowdsourcing’ when it comes to business and I do think that governments can learn a lot from a businesses that are focused on customer service, but the interesting thing is that it’s really not crowdsourcing when it’s government, right? It’s just basic democracy. In the US, to a lot of people, democracy happens once every four years when you go to vote then you walk away and you don’t get to shift the opinions of the people you elected. At a very local level, SeeClickFix allows citizens to help governments make decisions that better improve the citizens’ lives. We are just enabling a core feature of democracy in a real time and very dynamic way about very specific issues that affect everybody.”

I think Ben has a point and that we all are accountable and wasn’t this country founded on the premise that government is for the people by the people and of the people? And SeeClickFix is removing the barriers and not only making it easier but efficient.