Understanding Millennials

All men are created equal is bullsh$#.

The ONLY thing every living person has that’s the same is time. Everyone, no matter where they live, what they look like, what they wear, what they drive, or how much money they have (or don’t have) is allocated 86,400 seconds each day to do with what THEY CHOOSE.

I believe every human being wants to be connected to others with whom they are compatible. That connection is the energy, the CHEMISTRY, that makes each of us who we are.

Artificial Intelligence has been created BY HUMANS, not to REPLACE themselves, but rather to ACCELERATE connection and make more efficient use of their time. In other words, humans are creating ways to not squander one valuable second of the 86,400 they are allocated each day.

Why do we choose to work? It’s not for the same reasons as in the past, at least not for everyone.

Globalization: Disruptor or Threat?

The difference between a disruptor and a threat is the threat already HAS both an infrastructure AND a network.  A disruptor typically has neither, at least at startup.  It’s like comparing ants to elephants:  Put a few ants in a sandbox and nobody really notices.  But put an elephant in a sandbox and there’s no longer a sandbox.  

A disruptor who wants to play in your sandbox is little more than an ant, at least at face value.  But if you ignore them, they will build networks and create infrastructure inside your sandbox that you’re not aware of.  That’s because ants: 1.  Never stop working, and 2. Are intricate system and network designers.  (Ever have an ant farm as a kid?)

Who’s Coming to Play?

If an internationally-networked business shows up to play in your sandbox, they’re not coming to simply “disrupt” recess, especially when they’ve brought their own toys.  The first thing to figure out is why when there’s plenty of sand in other countries.  The second thing to figure out is how, and I’m not talking about THEIR plans.  I’m talking about how YOUR plans and processes make THEM the shiny new toys everyone wants to play with.

As it turns out, sand is sand pretty much anywhere you go (although I’m quite partial to Michigan sand). And there’s PLENTY of it to go around, which makes trying to differentiate sand an exercise in futility. Using acquisitions and mergers to build bigger sandboxes seems equally as futile, and much more expensive. Spending more just to get more area isn’t the same as building “up” to get greater exposure and easier accessibility.

Now that this new reality is getting settled in, expect the sands to be constantly shifting.

Reading in Bulk

There’s a reason I read 3-4 books at once.  Every author in my library has provided some incredible ideas; however, I’ve found that reading one book at a time ends up being little more than individual pieces of a 10,000 piece puzzle without the box.  It can even be hard to find the edge pieces.  Reading multiple books simultaneously creates a mental collaboration of ideas when arranged to fit a bigger vision.     

It’s a Gift

One of my gifts is the ability to make complicated things easy, or at least that’s what the Strengths Finder says.  While some struggle to grasp the big picture because they’re stuck in the details,  I tend to ignore details that don’t align with the ultimate goal of a more fulfilling life less disrupted by interruptions.  No matter what your career, your place in the organizational hierarchy, or where you are geographically, I’d like to share what I’ve done every day for ten years.  It’s not simple, nor does it get instant results, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m not your guy.  What it will do, however, is create a foundation for success in a world of ever-evolving chaos.

Advertising Worldview

 I tend to use the word “worldview” a lot. What, exactly, am I referring to when I say “worldview”?  It’s easiest to explain with an analogy. When I’m at a party and a group of people starts talking about something I’m not interested in, is too controversial, or is polarizing, like politics, religion, and sometimes even sports, I’m likely to walk away or leave.  It’s not because I don’t have an opinion.  It’s because sharing my worldview about those things may cause or escalate conflict, which I prefer to avoid, especially in family and social situations.  In broad terms, my worldview is optimistic rather than pessimistic, positive rather than negative, and complimentary rather than critical. So if I find myself in a situation that appears to be headed toward conflict (something I perceive as negative), I remove myself from it.

Compatible, NOT Complementary

 Before going any further, I sense you may be thinking:  “This guy walks away from conversations where people oppose his ideas.”  That’s an inaccurate statement.  I openly welcome other people’s points of view—it’s how I learn.  I don’t care about being right or wrong as long as there’s healthy sharing and exchange of ideas within a group.  I reach the point of no return when others in the group become emotionally overwhelmed and close their minds to anything that opposes THEIR worldview.  There’s a huge difference between participating in discussion to learn versus participating to assert your opinion (which is what a worldview really is.)

“Job Descriptions”

The books above weren’t chosen randomly.  I’m grateful to have met half of the authors in person, and am honored to be connected with online.  Each book was acquired with a purpose (job description) and each has contributed in some way to a very specific business strategy.  With the amount of content out there to be consumed, it’s important to be very strategic about who to “work with” (give attention to.)  The same process can happen for anyone, although time demands for the influencers who have been leading from the start has increased dramatically.      

There’s much more to the process than is contained in this post.  If you’d care to discuss in more detail, please feel free to contact me.  Just Google “Gary, Iowa City” and shoot me a message.  

Thanks for your time and attention.  

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Nor can you judge a person by a job title.  Job titles were created as extensions of job descriptions.  A one or two-word summary of the list of mostly general responsibilities someone could be held accountable to by the person paying them to do work in the Industrial Age.

News Flash:  It’s no longer the Industrial Age.  

Perhaps job titles are still necessary, but it’s time to knock off the stereotyping of the people the job titles are assigned to.  Most didn’t create them—-they came from a common aligned database accumulated over the last two centuries.  Unfortunately, they not only restrict the range of creativity and contribution of the person who wears the label, they restrict the perception of the creative value an individual could bring to the table in a different environment.

 A Question of Motive

Why would a sales representative  in one industry want to engage with people in another industry?  If the people, groups, or organizations suffer from tunnel vision, they automatically assume the rep wants to permeate their walls to sell more products.  Why else would they possibly choose to do this instead of smiling and dialing the names on their purchased lead lists?   Could it be REMOTELY possible that they understand the LONG GAME and truly want to help other people?

It’s worth considering.

I’m SO Stressed!

 The question is, which kind of stress are you experiencing (cuz there are two).  Society has always focused on the negative one:  “Distress”.   Distress is caused by perceived lack of control and pressure to perform. Accountability is CONSEQUENCE when this kind of stress is IMPOSED UPON someone, usually by someone is a position of “authority”, and typically when things aren’t going the way THEY need them to be.  
The other kind of stress, eustress, is, ironically the inverse. Eustress is created by possessing knowledge, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.   As it relates to accountability, this kind of stress is OWNERSHIP by the person possessing it, and thus cannot be IMPOSED UPON anyone.

Trust and Respect

 As the two kinds of stress relate to trust and respect, distress breaks them down and eustress builds them up.  Distress in an organizational hierarchy influences decisions in a  way best summarized by two motivational themes at sales meetings:  “Whatever it takes” and “make hay while the sun is shining”.  There are certainly more, like “Git ‘er DONE!”, but you get the picture.  Simply put, distress encourages finding shortcuts to create results demanded by superiors (because they’re being demanded by those superiors’ superiors, and so on—-until you get to the top of the hierarchy.)
Eustress is the exact opposite.  This kind of stress is driven by self-actualization and emotional intelligence, first of the individual possessing it, and, AS IMPORTANTLY, of the person or people in the hierarchy the individual reports to.  
***Note:  Ego, arrogance, and conceit are not factors of eustress as these are not positive leadership traits.  

Automomy With Purpose

Eustress in an organizational hierarchy most often results in the creation and implementation of agile strategies that, in turn, accelerate growth in a POSITIVE manner.  “EU-stressed out people” aren’t stressed out at all, unless they’re not allowed to make a difference.  Such permissions must still be granted from the top of the leadership hierarchy, but those permissions are rooted in support, encouragement and respect versus consequence.  In Industrial Age lingo, this was called “autonomy with purpose”.  

A Distressed Culture

It’s essentially a death wish.  Here’s why:  If the only thing people high up the ladder care about are results that reflect positively on them, they will ALWAYS lead from a position of distress.  It’s a learned habit perpetuated in Industrial Age best practices manuals.  People working on assembly lines in factories were held to quality and production metrics that end customers really knew nothing about.  Customers weren’t truly allowed to have opinions about the systems that created the products and services they purchased.  That’s not true anymore.  Today’s consumers are informed.  They know what materials go into every product they use and what the costs are.  They are also, perhaps even more importantly, in tune to the impact each has on the environment and/or world economy.

  “Eu”-Stressed-Out?  The Tipping Point

When the most optimistic people in an organization start being relieved of their duties, the proverbial snowball at the top of the mountain has been formed.  It’s just waiting for one last nudge to send it down the slope.  The rate at which the snowball will accelerate is dependent upon the degree of loyalty eustressed-out employees have to their organization—-not to their leadership.  It’s quite  likely that those employees lost trust in their direct leadership months or even years ago.  So why have they made a conscious, self-aware choice to stay?  Two reasons:  

  1. Faith in the mission and purpose of the organization, regardless of leadership.  These people are ADVOCATES for the organization.    
  2. Belief in their own vision, as demonstrated by the inability of the organization’s DISTRESS culture to overtake their own EUSTRESS state. 

Strategy of the Edge

For some employees and reps, the tipping point has already been reached and they’ve moved on.  For others, the snowball has been nudged, but hasn’t gained enough speed yet.  In this case, the people in the middle will build momentum for the snowball. They’ve been doing a balancing act between the organization’s distress and their own eustress for years.  Unfortunately, either the failure of the organization to appreciate them or introductions to other organizations that will, they are either released or persuaded to leave when the pressure becomes unbearable (or potentially unhealthy.) The last group to go is unique because they may also be the only group to be INVITED TO STAY.  They’re the ones who live on the edge.  They not only enjoy the view, but also maintain a sharp focus on the horizon.  To them, the snowball of distress represents a conscious decision, this time by the company—-to strategically leverage attrition.  In Ryan Holiday’s terms from “Obstacle Is The Way”, they’ve chosen to use the organization against itself.

 What better way to jettison a distressed work force from an agile ship, openly disrupting itself, in order to thrust itself into the future?  

The Experiment…WORKS?!?!

Hearing about an experiment designed to generate new ideas sends chills through the ranks of middle management.  They rarely know why they’re anxious because they’re not really paying attention.  They’re too focused on getting immediate results, which, in turn, saves their own ass…for now.

Ready, Set, Disrupt!

Many traditional organizations began investing in self-disruption a few years ago.  Recruitment of credible, driven outsiders with fresh ideas and proven track records ignited the process. Next, an independent hierarchy was created, usually with an abbreviated food chain.  Reporting structures are often less than 4 layers thick, half to one-third that of a normal bureaucracy, to allow for greater agility.

 The brilliant minds on these agile teams are charged with generating game-changing ideas.  The goal is to enable the organization to maintain its market position or extend its market dominance—-At least that’s the inscription on the facade.  As time passes and the discard pile of quality ideas “shot down” by the bureaucracy grows, a more obscure mission is being revealed:  Have the teams been assembled to DISPROVE disruption by generating outcomes that VALIDATE the legacy structure?  In other words, to show that the disruptive processes don’t really work?  If so, it’s not a well thought-out idea.

Ignoring the First Concern

Customers’ impact has been left out of the equation because it’s never mattered before.  (ANY organization can SAY the customer is their first concern, but they also have to FOLLOW THROUGH).  Most of the ideas those “mad scientists” initiated a decade ago were likely before their time.  Custom-branded website domains, interactive CD’s, personalized video website overlays, and even highly-touted, complex, and expensive platforms all represent outside-of-the-box ideas that never gained momentum, but for less-than-obvious, not dictated, reasons. Simply put: CUSTOMERS  WEREN’T READY.  To assume that they never will be is a serious misinterpretation.

Changing Tide

For a majority of industries today, their products and services have become little more than commodities.  That means successful innovation demands a laser-sharp focus on the customer experience.  Building solutions where the primary currency exchanged is emotional rather than physical in ways that make people excited to do business with your brand.

About three years ago, I learned that a team of people with an idea to build a new business model was issued a title with a name that couldn’t be searched in the public domain.  I know because I tried, which meant it was the subsidiary of a larger entity.  After the initial facility was created, more capacity was added to accelerate the self-disruption.  Even though the expansion required a significant investment in resources, the cost, again, was a small fraction of the alternative.

 “Houston, we have a problem”

“Problem” doesn’t do it justice.  It’s more of a quagmire—-a gargantuan cluster-f*#%.   Why is it a problem when anyone can have ideas and dreams?  Most organizations today encourage people to be innovative. While top-level leadership encourages the creativity of “Renegade Intrapreneurs” (at least when in the spotlight), middle managers see them as threats, often extinguishing the passion behind their ideas.  What those managers fail to comprehend is that creative thinkers aren’t their biggest challenge:  Tunnel vision is.  In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know and don’t believe what they refuse to see.

A handful of creative business visions are being executed relentlessly and producing results.  A few early adopters, for reasons inconceivable to middle managers, have actually begun EMBRACING some of the experiments.  In fact, a small nucleus of customers is building word-of-mouth momentum from the inside-OUT, with “community chemistry” one “molecule” at a time in an ongoing retention/education/transaction cycle.  Unlike traditional models, this one grows EXPONENTIALLY once the second iteration of trust-centered connections is established.

It’s the inverse of traditional thinking, which is why it’s not only ignored, but also the biggest threat to their future.  The self-disruptor is proving that the obstacle truly IS the way.

 History Repeating Itself?

An article was written by Greg Satell in 2010 about the demise of Blockbuster at the hands of Netflix.  Contained in that article was this link to another, equally intriguing, one:  


The reason the current scenario is different for the self-disruptive organization than scenarios a decade ago is that customers’ “silent networks” were not nearly as developed (or curated).  Back then, people didn’t connect based on worldview compatibility and actually engage in conversations, they connected to improve their vanity metrics. That meant ideas were crippled from spreading and becoming visions worthy of detailed business plans.

Today is different.  People have pared down their online contacts. They’re having more frequent and meaningful exchanges with others in their networks.  With each exchange, trust grows.  As trust grows, new connections are introduced and the communities, in turn, grow.  But the quagmire for legacy leadership isn’t even that the power of the “silent networks” is magnified EXPONENTIALLY, it’s that it happens outside their field of tunnel vision.

If a monster is chasing you through a dark forest, it’s difficult (and painful) to maneuver through trees you can’t see. 

Collaborative Synergy

The days of customers accepting brands’ “my way or the highway” systems are nearing an end.  No longer can self-proclaimed “customer-centered” or “customer-focused” organizations survive with lip-service and no actions to back it up.  While customer segmentation and predictive analytics have increased the speed of compatibility assessment and worldview-matching, optimal results cannot be achieved without inclusion of the HUMAN ELEMENT.  

My assertion is that we have reached a critical point in our futures as brands, representatives, AND customers. The actions we choose in the next two years will determine our success or failure for the next century across multiple industries.  And yet, so many of these industries are choosing to hunker own in their storm shelters when they SHOULD be harnessing the storm’s energy. Doing so would fuel changes that would provide them a competitive advantage difficult, if not impossible, for an organization clinging to bureaucracy to overcome.  Making this happen can be best demonstrated using the example of the most powerful force in nature: The tornado.

Harness The Power

Tornadoes aren’t a force because two opposing air masses necessarily COLLIDE.  Instead, they are a force because two opposing air masses collaborate in a way that intensifies the rates of circulation and rotation.  (Admittedly, this is a simplified way of describing how tornadoes develop, but being from the Midwest, let’s just say I’ve been up-close and personal with them more than a few times.)   In fact, an EF-5 tornado is one of the greatest examples of synergy ever witnessed in nature, far more powerful than the individual winds and air masses that combine to generate its destructive capability.  

Any area impacted by such a catastrophe is admittedly heartbreaking, yet one cannot help being awestruck by a force powerful enough to drive a 2” x 4” piece of lumber through a chimney. Then two blocks away removing an entire dining room wall while two glasses of red wine remained undisturbed on the table.  My family and I witnessed both in our own community when a tornado struck in 2006, literally 100 yards from where we were huddled under the stairs in our basement. While thoughts and memories of such events evoke fear, I ask that we set them aside for the remainder of this post and, instead, focus on the potential to recreate the same degree of power, except for the attainment of a POSITIVE outcome—SUPERIOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES.  

Synergistic Collaboration

I’ve brainstormed hundreds of ideas for acquiring and building momentum in my business model, but nothing ever connected the solution to the problem.  Then I began focusing on what WASN’T being discussed—what was missing from a large percentage of the proposed solutions. That’s when I searched the term “Synergistic Collaboration”.  Perhaps cultures don’t necessarily be changed, per se, but rather culture, brand representatives, and customers all need to work together to achieve synergy in ways that harness the power of the tornado.  This all starts with a laser-focus on the customer experience: It’s at the center and everything else “rotates” around it. Unfortunately, momentum isn’t picking up because of breakdowns in trust and communication of responsibilities between all three components of the “storm”.     

Like the tornado, the higher the speed of rotation the greater the potential strength.  Air masses (in this case brands, reps and customers) should not collide, but collaborate synergistically for maximum outputs as deemed valuable by each component.  This collaboration and rotational force is exhibited by the directional arrows.

Enterprise forces coming from one side apply the high-level influences by protecting brand image, keeping promises, developing and updating systems for operational and transactional efficiencies, etc.  Representative forces from the other side provide grassroots influences by creating and promoting a differentiated and transparent personal brand, building network connections, sharing and engaging with customers in an educational manner, etc.

In the center of it all is the customer, which, in line with the tornado analogy, is also the CALMEST part of the storm.  The customer should never feel the impacts of what is rotating around them. The more consistently “calm” their experience is, the more likely they are to advocate for the brand and provide direct introductions to the representative who serves them.

Make An Impact

Or as Chris Brogan and Julien Smith say in their book, “Impact Equation”: CREATE an impact:

Impact = C(Contrast) x (R(Reach) + E(Exposure) + A(Articulation) + T(Trust) + E(Echo))

To fully understand how to apply the Impact Equation requires effort and reflection.  The important thing is that the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE must always be the focus. Referring to the diagram above, note that two elements of the IMPACT equation have been assigned to each of the three parties involved. Doing so makes it easier to identify activities that can be combined in a manner that creates synergy. Like a tornado, circulation of ideas (versus air masses) is what generates the greatest amount of energy.

Combining the Theories

This is what my personal branding impact graph looks like today.  All metrics are based on the only thing that truly matters: CUSTOMER PERCEPTION (preferably acquired from direct feedback.)  For example, contrast asks if an idea stands out. You and your organization may think it does, but to a customer your idea may be nothing more than a commodity. On the other end of the spectrum, you and your organization may think your idea connects to the intended audience, but marketing reports say otherwise.

Here’s a breakdown of the 6 factors of the Impact equation and the primary drivers of each:

  • Contrast—Primary metric driver:  Customer feedback
  • Reach—Primary metric driver:  Office systems
  • Exposure—Primary metric driver:  Parent brand
  • Articulation—Primary metric driver:  Enterprise systems (Namely precision and efficiency of systems
  • Trust—Primary metric driver:  Personally-branded representatives
  • Echo—Primary metric driver:  Customer feedback

In summary, the graph reflects weakness in two areas:  Reach and Echo. In my situation, the two are directly correlated and have been kept low intentionally until the next phase of a larger vision is initiated.  At that time, an increased focus on community engagement and education should improve potential personal AND parent brand advocacy if done correctly—with the best interests of the customer in mind.  One more reason reach was kept low intentionally?  To monitor disruptive trends and industry responses to them in order to create effective, agile personal branding strategies.

Perhaps a similar analysis would benefit you as well.

Thank you for your time and attention. Also, many thanks to Chris Brogan and Mark Schaefer for being the inspirations behind this post. If anyone cares to discuss Synergistic Collaboration in more detail, Google me (Gary, Iowa City).

Learning To Swim

When learning to swim, do you begin when it’s sunny or when the flood waters are approaching your second-story windows?  Why, then, have you waited for the proverbial storm clouds to fill the skies? Probably because, like many others, you never thought it would be THAT bad.

The Industrial Age is Gone

There are times when being an optimist is perfectly reasonable, but this isn’t one of them.  Now it’s all about realism. It’s time to open the blinds and take a long, hard look outside.  The Industrial Age is gone. So are land lines, televisions with 13-channel dials, and 8-track tapes.  We are now in the Internet Age, where consumers are armed with more information about brands AND individual  representatives than can be printed on a direct-mail piece. Where does all of this information come from? Transparent sharing by real human beings in and between an infinite number of online communities.  If you think your “dirty little secrets” can stay secure forever, prepare for a big surprise. You may be able to secure most inside information that is protected legally, but common-knowledge across-the-board “perks”  in any industry will likely not fall in that category.

It’s NOT About You

What happens when full disclosure really means full disclosure?  How do you explain to customers that the true reason for your 40 calls to their cell per week is less about them and more about you.  The legacy generation of customers that has provided your income stream for the last three decades already knows, but they no longer care. They are nearing the end of their buying cycle for your products and services.  Unless they are independently wealthy, the likelihood of them needing more from you than they already have is slim to none. What you’re failing to realize is that every generation of consumer that follows is going to have access to exponentially more information shared transparently across infinitely more platforms than their Industrial Age elders. No longer are they going to lie down in a sales appointment.  In fact, there won’t be a “sales appointment”. It will be a “validation meeting”. They will meet to validate that you are a real human being, confirm that you are as represented by your online avatar, and that your brand’s solution has identical features and pricing when you submit the application as when they quoted it on their mobile device.

How are you preparing for that reality?

Hell’s Kitchen

Fifteen years in the food and beverage industry provides a multitude of life lessons:  How to think on your feet, how to make a killer Bloody Mary, how to properly use a mop, how to carry trays of dishes with both hands, and a walk-in cooler is the best place to go scream when a difficult customer or manager has pushed you over the edge.  Being an executive-level manager of a few places established some guideposts I’ve used in my own business for the last 16 years. If you’ve never worked in the industry before, you’ll be tempted to dismiss a couple of these insights. If you sense that starting to happen, I’d encourage you to stop reading and think about the point from an opposite perspective—-with empathy.  

Control What You Can Control

It doesn’t matter how great a restaurant manager is, I’ve never met one that could predict exactly how many people would choose to dine in their establishment during a given shift.  No one can possibly know what time each guest will come in, what they will eat, or how long they will stay so the table could be “turned” and reset for the next guests.  Predicting cover counts with 100% accuracy is impossible for many reasons (and these are NOT excuses):

  • One never knows everything happening in the area—-if there’s a concert at 7, the restaurant could experience an earlier than normal “rush”, then be slow for the rest of the night.  
  • There could be a weather situation:  A snowstorm once struck during a shift and none of my employees could get out (which also meant no customers could get IN.)
  • People have both time and money budgets.  Going out to dinner takes time and costs money. Our three children are now adults. No more KIDS MENU for us!  Taking our family of five to Five Guys costs $60 and 35 minutes. If we go to our neighborhood place with microbrews, burgers, cloth napkins and food servers, we’ll spend $100 and at least ninety minutes.   

If none of this makes sense, I challenge you to try this next time you go to Starbuck’s for a latte’:  Have a seat and take out your smartphone. Ask Google to tell you when the next customer is going to walk in.  Then ask Google what they are going to order. Document how many times Google accurately predicted either. (If you REALLY want to raise the bar, approach the customer who orders something other than what Google predicted and try to change their mind.  You may want to note which arm their smart watch is on as that’s most likely the direction the punch will be coming from.)

Customer Experience Isn’t the Best Marketing Strategy…It’s the ONLY Marketing Strategy

Most people refer to this as “word of mouth”.  What many people don’t understand is the breadth of the concept of customer experience.  Unless you’ve had mentors who were diligent about perfecting EVERY minute detail from the time a potential customer saw the sign on an interstate off-ramp indicating “Food this exit”, to the way a menu felt to the customer’s touch, to the elimination of water spots on the bathroom counter, to someone ALWAYS being at the host stand to say “Thank you” to guests heading home, it’s unlikely that you can relate.   

Perhaps you’re thinking:  “If a restaurant has a great chef that produces great food, that’s all that’s necessary”.  If so, here’s a little “rebuttal” joke: You know that fastest way to end up with a million dollars in the restaurant business?  Start with TWO million.  While it may be a myth that 80-90% of new restaurants fail within the first three years, I can tell you from experience that building a successful one requires great vision, hard work, and a total team effort. Such a formula is pretty clear-cut, right?  It is until someone begins using two very different terms interchangeably: GOAL and FUNCTION.

The GOAL of every business is to make money.  

The FUNCTION of every business is the acquisition, maintenance, and retention of customers.    

These words do NOT mean the same thing.  Get them mixed up and before long there will be no more customers.     

I once worked with a chef who had a “supersized” ego, but not in a value-added way. He didn’t make “gravy”, he created sauce.  For 6-course, $150 per plate dinners, he refused to allow salt and pepper to be placed on the tables because his food was always perfectly seasoned.  If a customer ordered a medium rare steak and sent it back saying it was undercooked, he took it off one plate and put it on another, added fresh sides and sent it back out.  Perhaps this chef should have read Ryan Holiday’s book: “Ego is the Enemy”.

Retention Drives Acquisition, NOT the Other Way Around

If you even SLIGHTLY agree that it’s nearly impossible to predict the exact number of people who will enter a restaurant on any given day or time, then how is using predictive analytics to “drive” acquisition a smart use of mental energy and attention?  Why are analytics not used instead to sharpen the very customer experience that creates advocacy and retention in ways that have the potential to exponentially increase acquisition? The answer is simple, but no one wants to admit it: SOMEBODY wants control activity that they believe drives revenue.  News flash: Those activities aren’t generating positive customer experiences.  They are, in fact, breaking down trust one customer at a time.

Retention is the most consistent, time-tested business-creating activity that is totally dependent upon HUMAN to HUMAN (H2H) connection.   (“H2H” was coined by Bryan Kramer, author of Shareology). Where purchase transactions typically involve a systematic exchange of products or services for an agreed-upon price, retention involves the empathetic exchange of emotions that create remarkable and mutually-beneficial value.

Blending of Old and New

There’s a misconception that traditional (human) values cannot be incorporated into New Age processes that are more aligned with today’s demanding customer experience metrics.  The reality is that this is not only inaccurate, it’s a paradigm wrought with frustration and, quite possibly, failure for many who refuse to adapt. Ten years ago, it was as difficult to visualize the future as it is to predict the number of guests a restaurant would serve on a given night.  

Today the future is becoming as clear as an HD image taken by an iPhone.

A Dog and a Doorbell

What do a fire alarm, tornado siren, telephone and doorbell have in common?  They’re all designed to make people take unanticipated and immediate action. When school children hear a fire alarm, they are to begin executing emergency evacuation procedures.  When a tornado siren sounds, families are to seek shelter in the lowest level of their homes.

While fires and weather-related events are literally matters of life or death, what’s the rationale for lumping telephones and doorbells into the same category?  Twenty years ago, there wasn’t one. Like everything else, however, times have changed. Allow me to explain using one of Pavlov’s theories, a time management course, and a couple of real-life examples.

Sit, Ubu, Sit…Good Dog. “Woof”

Pavlov has been credited with the discovery of classical conditioning:  The relationship or association between the occurrence of one action in anticipation of another unrelated action.  If you’ve studied psychology at any level, you probably remember Pavlov’s experiment where he rang a bell and immediately fed a dog.  After repeating the same action multiple times (ringing the bell) and consistently rewarding it with food, the dog eventually began anticipating being fed, as noted by salivation each time the bell was rung.  Although stimulus and response are relevant, this post is about the EMOTIONAL STATE EXHIBITED when responding to a stimulus, which leads to the next point…

Who the Phone Serves

One segment of a time management course taken several years ago made a rather startling assertion:  The telephone was primarily designed for the benefit of the person DIALING IT, not for the person ANSWERING IT.  Since its invention, the phone has been used to ask a neighbor for a favor or a place of business a question about a product or service.  It made perfect sense to call instead of driving a car or sending snail-mail, then waiting for a reply two weeks later. The exception to the “benefit to the user” assertion was when a call from another person was ANTICIPATED AND EXPECTED—usually someone important in their lives.  

When I was a kid, I remember sitting by the phone in our upstairs hallway WAITING for the phone to ring. My school friends would tell me that they were going to call, but not always when. Needless to say, I was looking forward to it. In that sense, the phone brought me, the person receiving the call, pleasure.  To complete this puzzle, let’s combine the two examples of Pavlovian dogs and phone calls into one final example: The doorbell.

This Had Better Be Important  

Our family dog loves HIS people (our family).  He knows when we’re all home and somehow anticipates when someone who’s not home WILL BE. And unless we’re playing, he rarely makes a sound, even when a family member comes home late at night.  


All bets are off when the doorbell rings.  Like most dogs, this one also  LOSES HIS MIND.  He goes into a fit of barking that neighbors can hear even with their WINDOWS CLOSED.  Preventing this from happening has been relatively simple: We tell him in advance when we’re expecting visitors.  It sounds weird, but he can sense what we’re telling him and he often greets our guests with a few small barks and whimpers.  Strange how talking to a dog can reduce a human’s blood pressure.

Putting the Puzzle Together

Still questioning the inclusion of telephones and doorbells in the category of “things designed to make people take unanticipated action”?   Take a few deep breaths and visualize the following scenarios:

You’re sitting at your desk working on a project with a strict deadline.  The phone is on “do-not-disturb” and your assistant has been instructed to hold all calls.  Suddenly your phone rings—someone has broken through the “gate” and IT’S NO ONE YOU KNOW!!!

What was your immediate response?  (Was it at all associated with an employment ad?)

You and your family are seated at the dinner table after a long, hectic day. You’re ready for a nice glass of wine and a wonderful home-cooked meal. The family dog is under the table, poised to pounce on whatever falls his way.  You take a sip of wine and just as you’re raising the fork loaded with succulent flavors, the doorbell rings. In a nanosecond, your dog goes from peaceful to BALLISTIC.  He sprints toward the door to either greet a visitor or annihilate an intruder.   (Determining which really isn’t clear although you’re secretly hoping for the latter.)

What’s going through your mind in that instant?  

Psychology Behind the Statistics

Social media “gurus” have been throwing out statistics for years saying that cold-calling is “dead”.  This post wasn’t written to disprove or argue their points. To the contrary, it was written to reinforce them.  It lends insight as to “why” their observations are not only accurate, but also how consumer psychology may indicate their facts are understated.  (Unless, of course, those consumers continue to embrace or instill compliance to the activities in the scenarios.)  For everyone else, phones and doorbells have been negatively conditioned since the dawn of the Internet Age. In my case, the primary reasons those things should ring today is similar to a fire alarm or tornado siren: A life or death situation.    

Otherwise, allow me to introduce you to my dog.