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!

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?

Are you smarter than a baboon?

At first glance Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya is a peaceful beautiful safari park. It’s best known for the thousands and sometimes millions of flamingos.  Recently the park was enlarged so it could provide sanctuary for more than 25 black rhinos. Overlooking Lake Nakuru is a picnic area called Baboon Cliff. Aptly named because of the troops of baboons that live here.

When I visited Lake Nakuru I had lunch at Baboon Cliff, prior to entering the picnic area my team was briefed to be “on guard” because the baboons were very bold here. However, there was no amount of briefing that could have prepared us for what was about to happen.  It had been quite a morning seeing rhinos, hippos, vultures, lots of zebras and even hyenas up close and sometimes personal for the very first time.  As we settled into the picnic area, within seconds, we were surrounded by about 25-30 baboons. Our guides had large sticks and were doing all they could to keep the baboons at bay. And that job quickly became increasingly more difficult.

Baboons are really crafty characters and worked together to distract us so the larger more aggressive ones could try to rob us of our food. They would come together almost like a football team in a huddle, make disturbing sounds as if they were formulating a plan. Then, one or two would come in close and do some kind of trick, or something entertaining while the aggressors would try to charge us. And it’s all fun and games, until you are face to face with one of these scary creatures.

Taking note of my anxiety, Mike, one of the men on our team, invited me to sit on a bench with him, promising to fend off any baboons that got close. So I acquiesced and agreed to sit with him, but against my better judgement. As we opened our box lunch and started to go through it, a huddle formed just about 25 yards away from us.  We had our eye on that huddle and then they dispersed. We all breathed a sigh of relief.  Then out of nowhere a baby baboon appeared before us doing tricks, making sounds and before we knew it all of us were paying close attention to the baby. When out of nowhere, the biggest baboon I’d ever seen was on top of Mike, wrestling him for his food and mine. In a matter of seconds, Mike was on his back, with the large creature on top of him. Everyone sprung into action, even the other baboons. Needless to say, the big baboon got away with Mike’s lunch and mine. And as quickly as he’d been able to spring into action, he was off and running with the bounty of his efforts. He proudly joined the huddle and shared the spoils with the rest of his troop…or should I say team?

So, what does this have to do with community and marketing? What’s the lesson here? It’s the power of collaboration and working together to accomplish a goal. It’s so amazing that the troop of baboons knew that unless they worked together, there was no way they would have been able to get a single morsel. It’s the same in our communities, organizations and even friends. As organizations find themselves running very lean, collaboration is critical to overcome the challenges of today’s competitive landscape. The social web has made it easier than ever to connect and collaborate to overcome any barriers that previously existed.

If a tribe of baboons can grasp the power of collaboration and working together to achieve a common goal. How is it we lose site of it?

I think Margaret Mead said it best and interestingly enough after her time in Africa. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”