To a New Year Filled With Success

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2017 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect and thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2016.

It also seems, in these less than certain times, like the perfect moment to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of being curious and open-minded in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities for innovation and growth if we are able to see the best in everyone around us.

In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing our industries and organizations, we will all need to step outside our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best way to do this is by being more open to the world around us and more willing to connect with, and learn from, people with different ideas, insights, backgrounds, and points of view.

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So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with new people and new ways of thinking in the year ahead. And if you could use a little help in sparking a new conversation in your company or organization, please do not hesitate to ask.

But most importantly, giant thanks again for everything you have taught me during the past twelve months and best wishes for your most open and successful year yet!

Cheers,

Alan

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Greetings. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, the revered American baseball player and accidental philosopher, died last week at the age of 90. Baseball fans will remember him for his remarkable career as a catcher for the New York Yankees during one of the sport’s golden eras…a career that included being named an All-Star 18 times and the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times, 14 World Series appearances, and 10 World Series titles. And many will say that on one of the greatest teams in sports history, and one packed with much bigger and more glamorous stars like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford, Berra was the real catalyst for the Yankees incredible success.

Yogi Berra

But baseball fans and non-fans will also remember him as an exceedingly likable guy with a rare gift for saying delightfully memorable phrases that rarely made sense and often spoke to the very nature of life and what it means to be human. Within the joyful absurdity of his “Yogi-isms” there seemed to lurk keen insight, not only for our personal lives but the lives of our companies and organizations.

Here are some of my favorites which I remembered fondly upon hearing of his passing:

It ain’t over till it’s over.

It’s like deja vu all over again.

The future ain’t what it use to be.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.

Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

Many of these have a valuable message for the challenges we often face in our collective work lives. And given the work that I do to help companies and teams explore and unlock genius in themselves and the world around them, I will always have a special connection with the notion that “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In fact, I am convinced that part of our challenge as adults and organizations is to do a better job of “watching,” paying attention, being present, and rediscovering how to be curious about all of the ideas, insights, and possibilities that we pass by every day but somehow fail to notice.

Words to live by from a slightly unusual business guru. And words that will hopefully be remembered for a long time to come. After all, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And that’s a long time into the future from now.

We win in business and in life when we try to not take ourselves too seriously. And when we find joy and inspiration in crazy ideas that are filled with wisdom.

Cheers!

Independence Day

Greetings.  It's the 4th of July or Independence Day in the U.S., a day that marks the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the "birth" of the United States as an independent nation.  And in big cities, suburbs, and small towns alike the day is being celebrated with parades, picnics, and fireworks.  

The most famous words of the document set a big hairy audacious goal for a brand new nation–a goal that we continue to try to achieve with each new generation of Americans:  

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We might also suggest that these powerful words imply the right to be curious and open to new possibilities, and the right to work together in order to reach our full potential.  These are innate human gifts that strike at the heart of what makes America so innovative, entrepreneurial, and at our best welcoming and generous.

Fourth of July 

We win as countries and organizations when we acknowledge and celebrate the rights of everyone–every citizen, every employee, every customer, and everyone else who has a vital role in our success.  And when we give everyone with honest intentions a chance to make their mark.

Cheers and have an inspired holiday! 

What Claims Do You Make?

Greetings.  By now, most of us know about the health benefits of chocolate.  And some of us have even convinced ourselves that a diet filled with chocolate and red wine is a sure fire way to live past 100.  Though new research at Boston University suggests that genetics might have a bit more to do with it.  But before our friends at General Mills get a bit too excited (in marketing terms) about one of their newest products it might be helpful to do a reality check because some foods and offerings aren't quite as remarkable as they appear to be.

First, let me admit that I'm a big fan of this Minneapolis-based international food company and many of its brands.  I eat the original Cheerios, Wheaties, and Total many mornings, and often keep a supply of Nature Valley granola bars at my desk in case I need a quick snack.  I also enjoy many Progresso soups, Cascadian Farm organic vegetables, Yoplait yogurts, and an occasional pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream–especially dark chocolate, chocolate chocolate chip, and chocolate peanut butter.  Seems like a pattern there.  And I don't eat Lucky Charms because I have a strict policy against eating any food that's a color not found in nature.

But Chocolate Cheerios as a healthy breakfast choice might be stretching it just a bit.  Though I was more than slightly curious this morning when my wife Lisa, in her desire to enhance my well-being and support my chocolate addiction, placed a box of "New!" and "Whole Grain Guaranteed" Chocolate Cheerios on our breakfast counter.  As you can see below, the box is attractive and encouraging to those of us who have placed chocolate at the top of our personal food pyramids.  It indicates that Chocolate Cheerios are "The Perfect Balance" and "May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease*."  With a nice little asterisk suggesting that "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Chocolate Cheerios cereal is low in fat (1g), saturated fat free and naturally cholesterol free."  Which kind of means that it won't hurt you to eat them, but will they really make you healthier?

Which got me thinking about all of the claims that companies and organizations make to those they serve, employ, and collaborate with.  World-class companies like General Mills.  And how many of them sound a bit better than they really are. And, how powerful it is when we make a claim that matters and deliver on it. 

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We win in business when we offer something that is too good to be true and is true at the same time.  What bold claims will you make today? And will they be wrapped in a tasty package covered with value or fine print?

Cheers and have a tasty and healthy weekend ahead!  

Sticking to the Customer

Greetings.  There you are in the middle of a large chain supermarket and unsure where to find a particular item.  Let's say you're looking for prune juice.  It's not exactly Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, or one of those trendy new waters filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and possibly even antibacterials and anticoagulants.  So you won't find it hanging out in the popular beverage aisle. Though it should be part of your "regular" diet (pun intended), because prunes keep you running young (whoops, another pun intended).  But where the heck is it?  So you scout out the closest associate and ask them for a bit of guidance.  And they reply that "it's either on aisle 22 or 23," pointing toward the other end of the store or a galaxy far away.  Then, as you head off in that direction, they add: "Try one of the top shelves or maybe one of the bottom shelves."  "Thanks," you respond with equal measures of hope and doubt.    

But what if you ask the same question in Whole Foods Market…one of my very favorite high-priced grocery stores?  There you're likely to get a different response. Because their associates, who are always easy to find, will actually take you to the product.  And, when you arrive, ask if you have any questions.  Then, if you have a question or concern about prune juice that they can't answer, they will try to find a colleague who can.  It doesn't work perfectly all the time, but it happens enough to make you feel that they really care about customers and delivering knowledge.  

And so should you no matter what type of company or organization you work in. Because sticking with our customers until their real needs are met is fundamental to business success.  

I always smile when someone mentions prune juice.  Maybe it's because I've had the pleasure of retrieving large bottles of this magic nectar from the top shelf of aisle 17 at our local Giant grocery store four times in the past year.  Not for me mind you.  Though I firmly believe that prune juice is a remarkable beverage.  But for four different and equally adorable 80 plus year-old women.  And I always ask them if prune juice is one of the secret reasons why women live longer on average than men.  I'm also curious why a product that is used with greater regularity by older people (i.e., folks who aren't quite as tall and flexible as they use to be) is almost always found on the top shelf.  Is it to give them the opportunity to stretch a bit?  Or maybe to help them meet people who are just a bit taller?

Prune Juice 

We win in business by sticking to the customer until their needs are met.  It's a simple skill that pays big benefits in building lasting relationships and making new friends.

Cheers!