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    20 Aug

    Monty Python’s Spamalot was in Kansas City’s Music Hall this past week and I was fortunate to see it last night.  For those that don’t know, Spamalot is “lovingly ripped off” from Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  (their description, not mine).

    “Always look on the Bright Side of Life” is one of the big numbers in the show (although it’s actually from the Life of Brian).

    Anyway, the point is that the show was very good, lots of spoofs on Broadway in general and they managed to keep almost all of the best parts of the movie intact.  There were some extremely funny moments, definitely two thumbs up!

    But probably the biggest reason for their success last night at least was because of how much fun the cast was having.  I have never  been in a major off-Broadway production, but I’ve seen a lot of them and this cast just appeared to be having more fun than others I’ve seen.  And it made the audience enjoy the whole thing even more…

    FUN…

    Children laugh an average of 400 times a day and that number drops to only 15 times a day by the time people reach age 35. Preschoolers must know something we don?t. Laughter releases endorphins (a chemical 10 times more powerful than the pain-relieving drug morphine) into the body with the same exhilarating effect as doing strenuous exercise. Laughing increases oxygen intake, thereby replenishing and invigorating cells. It also increases the pain threshold, boosts immunity, and relieves stress.

    For those that have been corporate cube dwellers, the word fun is almost forbidden (at least in 95% of the corporate environments that I’ve seen).

    Which by the way is one of the reasons that most corporate environments are broken.

     

    There’s a great ad running on CNBC for CNBC in the “I am American Business” series.  (See writeup and video clip here)

    Herb Kelleher, the former CEO for Southwest Airlines is explaining his philosophy on business as (I’m paraphrasing here):  Employees first, Customers second and Shareholders third.  If the employees are relaxed, having fun while they do their jobs, the customers will enjoy themselves and come back, which makes the shareholders happy.

    Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines are a legendary success story, especially in a difficult and competitive industry.

    And the focus at Southwest is on having fun…

     

    In 1998, a film was created by John Christensen at the Seattle Pike Place Market entitled FISH!

    What John captured and translated into film was that even in a workplace where fishmongers spent stinky, grueling 12-hour shifts stocking, selling and packing fish, remarkable results can occur when people accept the invitation to: 1) Be There for their coworkers and customers; 2) Play; 3) Make someone’s day, and; 4) Choose their attitude about how they show up for work.

    The success of this story has gone on to create a thriving educational and training company centered around the philosophy that not only is it okay to have fun at work, it’s required if you want to get the best out of your people.

     

    Here are a few reasons why this idea works and is so important:

    1. More Productive:  Your employees (and you…) will do their best work in a relaxed, supportive environment.
    2. Better Customer Experience:  Your customers will notice and appreciate the festive atmosphere.  *Note – this must be in addition to professionally providing good service, it can’t be just about having a good time.
    3. Improved Employee Retention:  Your employee retention rate will be much higher than average.  There’s another post I could write on this, but suffice it to say that employees in 2007, especially the younger generation are not willing to put up with a bad environment just to keep a job.
    4. Improved Hiring response:  If you’ve got a positive workplace, people will be clamoring to work for you even if the pay is just average.  Having fun could save you money!

    So how does your business stack up on the fun meter?  And I’m not talking about forced fun like awkward team-building exercises or the occasional Pot Luck lunch.

    What do you do to genuinely generate fun for and with your employees?

    If you’re not sure, perhaps it’s time to schedule an all hands with your staff and ask them what would be fun…and productive.

     

    Always look on the Bright Side of Life

    words and music by Eric Idle

    Some things in life are bad
    They can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse.
    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
    Don’t grumble, give a whistle
    And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    If life seems jolly rotten
    There’s something you’ve forgotten
    And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
    When you’re feeling in the dumps
    Don’t be silly chumps
    Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    Share any fun ideas you might have here – I’d love to hear them!

    Shawn Kinkade www.aspirekc.com

      18 Aug

      I had the opportunity to slow down for a couple of hours yesterday and have a couple of cold beverages with a friend of mine and a friend of his. 

      As a side note, I would highly recommend this.  It’s probably not something you should do daily or perhaps even weekly, but if you haven’t done this for a while, it will do you a world of good to break your routine, get out of the office and just relax, even if it’s just an hour or two. 

      It had clearly been too long since I’ve done it and it was good! 

      Anyway, during the course of discussion we started to talk about my new business and the obvious question came up pretty quickly:

      “What does a business coach actually do?”

      It’s a great question and there’s not a stock answer out there that applies to all coaches.  In other words, most coaches do very different things.

      So I can’t answer the question for all coaches, and I can’t even answer for all of those coaches that call themselves ‘Business Coaches’.  However I can give you a better idea of what I do…

      I work with groups of business owners by facilitating and coaching in a Peer Advisory ‘Mastermind’ type of group called BANG! (Brainstorming, Accountability and Networking Group).  (see here for details).

      I also conduct educational workshops that focus on small groups and a lot of interactive discussion to really learn great new strategies and ideas about all aspects of business.  (see here for details).

      Finally, my primary ‘product’ is 1 on 1 coaching with small business owners.

      With thanks to Adam and Jack from Maximum Value Partners (http://www.askthebizcoaches.com/about/) I’ve been using a modified version of their model to explain what I do.  (This is a 1 page graphic that I pulled together for a recent chamber meeting).

      Most small businesses started with a great idea for a product or a service, and the owner realizes…”hey I should start my own business!”  However at that point they suddenly have to start worrying about Sales and Marketing and all of the other ‘Stuff’ that it takes to successfully run a business.

      For the first year or two, it probably doesn’t matter too much what they do (assuming it’s a good product or service).  They’re in the honeymoon period and extraordinary measures can cover up any mistakes they may make along the way.  However they will get to a point – whether it’s because they have to hire their first employee that’s not a friend or family member, or because they’ve hit some sort of wall that things stop working so well.

      At that point they have a few choices:  A lot of the time, they will fall back into their comfort zone and spend most of their time on their Product or Service, it’s what they like to do and what they’re good at.  They’ll either blindly delegate the other work, or just let it go and hope it works out.  Unfortunately that will not give them a successful business. 

      Without all 3 legs of the stool, it won’t stand for long.

      Another choice is to try to do it all themselves, work 60, 70, 80 hours a week and spread themselves thin across all aspects of the business.  Look over everyone’s shoulder and put their personal stamp on every single decision.  This may work for a while, but inevitably they’re going to burn out or drop one of the many balls in the air and bad things will happen. 

      Ideally what they do at this point is to start working on their business rather than in it

      Building or improving systems in all aspects of their business, with an eventual goal that they personally are no longer needed for the business to continue to survive and even thrive without them.

      It may be the ideal solution, but it’s not easy – in fact it can be really difficult, which is why people may need help…help from a trusted business advisor that will work with them on all aspects of their business:

      • brainstorm with them on new ideas,
      • act as an impartial sounding board,
      • help to hold them accountable,
      • keep them focused on what they want and
      • give them access to tools and strategies that successful business owners and coaches all over the country are using every day.
      • help them reach clarity about what they want and how to get there.
        I primarily work with the business owner on the nuts and bolts of their business.  Depending on what’s holding them back, we’ll focus on things like their marketing plan, the system they have in place for hiring, or possibly we’ll look at their overhead and cost structure and together evaluate what changes might need to be made.
        A lot of the structure and the way I work with clients has been leveraged from the Professional Business Coaches Alliance (PBCA)  
           
        This is a fantastic group of very experienced coaches from all over that I meet with every week (coaches need coaches too…!) and I leverage them for advice and support.
        So in a nutshell, that’s what I do.
        As my friend pointed out after we had this discussion, “So you don’t just quote Successories at them and think good thoughts?” 
        That’s not what I do.
        I’d love to hear what other people think about Business Coaching – what have you seen or heard?
        So what does your business advisor do with you?  Can you think of any reasons why it might be really helpful to have somebody to talk to or work with – share your examples here.

      /begin shameless plug/  Now that you know what I do, if you even remotely think I could help you or someone you know, give me a call and we can talk about it  (perhaps over a cold beverage if that’s your preference!).  /end shameless plug/

      Have a great day!

      Shawn Kinkade  – www.aspirekc.com

      15 Aug

      I was surfing the Internet and stumbled across a really interesting article and idea about a new way to run a meeting. 

      In fact, there is apparently an entirely new way to organize your business that is intended to optimize productivity, quality and morale.  (loosely based on the Agile development process)

      This new concept is called Holocracy – here’s a definition from  Holocracy.org:

      Holacracy is a next step in the evolution of human
      organization. It includes a set of interwoven models, principles, practices, and systems that enable
      a fundamental transcendence of virtually all aspects of modern organizational dynamics.

      Holacracy embraces everything we’ve learned
      about organizations so far and at the same time represents a quantum leap to a higher order of organization, one capable of artfully navigating in a world of higher order complexity and increasing
      uncertainty.

      Whew…a fundamental transcendence!  That’s a mouthful.  That’s from the executive summary on the Holocracy site and it’s actually simple to understand compared to some of the details they describe behind the overall system.

      So back to the original article that I found interesting:  cheaprevolution.com/the_cheap_revolution/2007/08/new-technique .  The approach recommended by the blog author Skip Shuda is an introductory technique focused on using the Holocracy Governance Meeting format.  Skip has used this process successfully in at least a couple of situations and is extremely positive on the whole thing.

      He does a great job of explaining the new process and using an example to show why it works and what it could do for you.  Just by reading the approach, I can imagine, if facilitated properly, this would be an extremely powerful approach that could save a huge amount of time and energy…!

      A couple of the key points that I can imagine being difficult:

      1. As Skip points out, the facilitator has to be empowered to control the meeting and capable of exercising that power.  Not always as easy as it sounds.
      2. Breaking the habit of cross-talk.  My experience in challenging meetings is that people have been trained to weigh in on every significant statement.  In order for this to work, that can’t happen outside of the controlled process.
      3. The power structure has to be open to group decisions.  The whole point of the process is that the autocratic, traditional executive approach of command and control by level doesn’t work efficiently.  However, for this process to work, it doesn’t matter that you’re the CFO of the company, the group can and will override your preferences as long as it’s workable and you need to live with solution the group agrees to.

      As a scarred veteran of way too many corporate meetings that went on for hours and never resolved anything, I would be willing to try this in a heartbeat.  Nothing kills morale, productivity and general positive momentum like a really bad meeting. 

      So how would this approach fly in your world? 

      The folks at Holocracy clearly believe this is an evolutionary approach that will leave the old ways in the dust.  Everyone talks about and is aware of change, technology, marketplace competition, etc.  But there’s not too many organizations/companies/businesses that I’m aware of that are considering a fundamental change to their organizational approach.

      If this is the first sample, perhaps they should be.

      Weigh in and tell me what you think.

      Shawn Kinkade – www.aspirekc.com

      14 Aug

      Adam over at Ask the Biz Coaches blog recently had a great post on What can technology do for your business?  Adam suggested a few tips to consider when it comes to technology and your business:  (see details in the post).

      Adam was inspired by using a new state of the art driver at the driving range.  About the same time I ran across the following news story that I was inspired with and found amazing:   2007/08/06 Levitate in the London Telegraph. 

      In case it’s not clear, that is a picture of levitation in action.  The article explains that this is possible by reversing the Casimir force (a consequence of quantum physics) and could be used for all sorts of amazing applications. (read the article).

      As the little kid in the movie the Incredibles says “THAT…WAS…AWESOME!!!”

      It’s stuff like this that makes me believe that we are living in the most amazing time in recorded history.

      You probably don’t need to do any planning for incorporating levitation into your daily business operations just yet, but there are a lot of slightly less amazing things that are coming out all the time.

      Here are a couple of examples that I thought were interesting:

      http://www.dimdim.com/  An Open Source Web conferencing application that allows shared presentations across the Internet for free.  Could be used for remote teams, clients or prospects.

      http://www.billingorchard.com/  – “an online electronic billing software application that maintains hourly time billing, along with flat fee and recurring billing, managed using your web browser.”  Easy to use  application to track hours across your team, fixed fees and invoices for customers.

      http://www.plaxo.com/about  – “Plaxo, Inc. keeps people connected by solving the common and frustrating problem of out-of-date contact information. Founded in July 2001, Plaxo provides a free service that securely updates and maintains the information in your address book.”  Ingenious way to make sure you keep up to date with all of your contacts, great for networking and prospecting.

      There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of additional applications that are available with a click of your mouse.  This is just a quick sampling.

      Is there some aspect of your business that’s frustrating you or holding you back?  It might be time to search to see if there’s a new tool, application or way of doing business enabled by new technology.

      What would you upgrade right now if you could?

      Have you used anything new or cutting edge in your business?

      I’m off to wash my hover car – have a great day!

      Shawn Kinkade – www.aspirekc.com

      11 Aug

      A lot of people around Kansas City have heard of Chris Cakes, they’ve been doing catering, special events and fund raisers for a long, long time and they are very popular.  They specialize in pancake breakfasts – usually tossing them to the customers with a lot of fun banter.

      In what I thought was an interesting move, they decided to open up a Chris Cakes restaurant in far south Leawood, about 4 blocks from my house.  I found it interesting because they picked a location that’s a nice new building, but doesn’t currently have a lot of traffic and because it would usually be considered a big step to go from catering to full service restaurant.

      The grand opening was earlier this week (KC Star Story) and we decided to try it out today for breakfast.

      We stopped by around 9:00 and knew we were in trouble.  Not only was there a 25 person line out the door, there was also no room to park anywhere nearby – we didn’t ask, but it had to have been at least 1/2 hour wait.  We chose not to get in line.

      Feeling crazy, we decided we try again for lunch around 1:00.  It’s a breakfast place, but they’re open until 2:00.

      It was still fairly busy, but there was parking available and no line.  In fact, the very pleasant cashier/greeter at the front told us that things had finally slowed down about 10 minutes before we got there and at this point they were no longer charging anyone that came in since a lot of the buffet items had run out. 

      The menu is very simple;  there is a buffet of standard breakfast foods (scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, french toast, oatmeal, sausage, bacon, cinnamon rolls…fairly comprehensive, but nothing fancy).  The centerpiece is the hot off the grill pancakes (Chris Cakes) that the cook will flip at you when they’re done.

      So how was it?  Even with the limited buffet choices, everything that was available was good.  The pancakes are very good and there were plenty of options on how to eat them; maple syrup, pecan syrup, fruit syrups, fruit toppings, whipped cream, peanut butter, if you could think of it on a pancake, they probably had it.

      The restaurant itself was open and airy with lots of natural lighting and clever, whimsical decorative touches (one of the tables had 2 toilets as the seats).

      The staff was extremely friendly and efficient and engaged people in a very positive way.

      If I had to pick out some negatives, they have limited options for people that are looking for a really healthy meal (although you probably knew that when you walked in).  They may also have some challenges with weekday traffic – they appear to mostly cater to families, not the business crowd.

      All in all, as a restaurant experience it was top notch.  Quality food served in a fun and pleasant atmosphere that really appeals to kids but doesn’t put off those without kids.

      ——–

      As a business, the whole thing is even more impressive!

      Here are just a few of the business aspects that I noticed that makes this a really excellent concept that is going to do very well.

      1. Simplicity – there is no need for menus, there is no need for waiters to take your order, there is the buffet and you can take as much or as little as you’d like.  Even better, the pricing is simple (and fair), adults pay $9.95, teenagers pay $7.95 and kids pay $5.95 (there may have been one other price range for toddlers, but I didn’t notice it).
      2. Leveraging existing expertise – with some minor exceptions, I imagine that all of the food they serve in the restaurant is exactly the same food that the family has been serving in they’re catering operations for years.  They know where to find the best suppliers, they know the best way to prepare things for large groups and now they can do that in the relative comfort of a specially designed kitchen rather than out on location for a fundraiser.
      3. Location – although the shopping center they’re in isn’t generally busy, there isn’t a restaurant known for breakfast in at least 5 miles in any direction, and probably more like 10.  And this is in one of the more affluent suburban areas in the country that’s fairly well built out.
      4. Focus on a unique experience – it’s pretty clear that they spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it a memorable and fun experience rather than just picking up some food.  Although breakfast is usually a commodity at most places (eggs are eggs…) by making it an occasion that people enjoy, they instantly separate themselves into a different category than 99% of the other restaurants around.

      So how could you apply these ideas to your business?

      Could you simplify your product offering – not only because it might reduce cost, but also because it becomes much clearer to your customers.  Generally a confused customer isn’t a happy customer. 

      Is there something you or your business does better than everyone else?  Can you leverage that expertise into a complementary category?

      Location is a bit less relevant for a lot of businesses, but ultimately it comes down to filling a need in the marketplace.  There wasn’t a decent breakfast place in the area – now there’s a good one.  What unfilled need could you fill?

      Can you make your interactions with customers an experience that’s memorable and fun?  Depending on the business, that could be very difficult, but if you can do it you’ve likely greatly reduced your competition (or even eliminated it).

      It wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t end up setting Chris Cakes as a franchise.  If so, I imagine it will sell…well…like hot cakes!  ;-)

      Shawn Kinkade   www.aspirekc.com