The Secret Sauce Of Success
If reading the subject line inspired you to open this email as fast as possible, you probably have just one question burning in your mind: “What is the secret sauce of success??”
What if I told you the answer could be encapsulated in one word with seven letters?
Why is believing so important? I am glad you asked. But first, a story.
When I was in high school playing on the golf team, a new superstar joined our team midseason. We lived on the same street and we became awesome friends!! I was still struggling with my game at the time but he wasn’t. He’d been playing since he could walk – his dad was a pro at the golf course that they owned, and he lived, loved, and breathed golf…and on top of that, he was just super talented.
What intrigued me most about his game wasn’t his ability to hit it long or his perfect follow through or even his incredible good looks. But, what I remember to this very day is his confidence on the course. For instance, a 10-foot putt on the last hole to win the match? No problem. Right in the center of the cup. During our high school tournament on hole number 1, driving a fairway with a lake on the left while our entire team, their entire team, and the coaches were watching, he would blast one out there…right down the middle…long and straight…with so much sureness. Me? On that hole? During that tournament? I put 2 balls in the water.
So, what did he have that I didn’t? Well, for one, he had CONFIDENCE. He believed in himself. He believed that he had the ability to do what was set before him and he believed that he had the ability to do it well.
A renowned behavioral geneticist named Robert Plomin did a study 20 years ago. He took 15,000 sets of twins and followed them from birth into adulthood. In light of their identical DNA, he wanted to take a closer look at the element of confidence. So the twins had been given a standard IQ test at age seven and again at age nine. They were also tested academically in math, writing and science. Then, they were asked to rate how confident they were about each of the subjects. After much cross-referencing by the research team, they were surprised by their finding.
So, what did they find?
The students’ self-perceived ability was a significant predictor of achievement. It was even more important than their IQ. What? Our perceived ability and our realistic sense of feeling secure actually overrides our IQ. It doesn’t matter how smart you really are…it doesn’t matter how great and talented you are…it’s the fact that you believe in yourself that helps you achieve success.
So, knowing the importance of “BELIEVE,” how do I learn to start believing in myself? I would love to give you some of my thoughts on how we can achieve the confidence to expand a bit more on our series this month. So, stay tuned.
If you haven’t been following, we are talking about the mental/psychology of success and happiness. Here are the last two topics that we addressed:
We can be our own biggest cheerleaders or our biggest critics. It’s not just about “thinking positive” – your level of belief is a real thing that is either helping you or hurting you right now. And the difference between the two will make all the difference in the world.
Don’t stop believin!!
When A Joy Becomes A Burden
Let me know if you can relate.
At some point in your entrepreneur journey, or somewhere in your professional career path, you lose the joy of it all. I mean like gone. Like you can barely get out of bed to go to work, and once you get enough courage to get in the shower, you stand still with your head down with the water coming down over your face and you can’t muster up any energy to even give a crap. Maybe not to that extreme, but I think it happens to everyone. And, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. I know this because it happened to me.
For 15 straight years into my career, everything went right. I was told by Tim (our VP of Human Resources) that in all of his experience, he’s never seen anyone like me advance so rapidly in an organization. I went from an Intro Design Engineer to a Mid Manager to an Upper Managing Position with a nice big office and a personal secretary. That was the dream back then. So, was I ecstatic? No. My wife would say to me, “I think you are slowly dying inside.” And she was right.
According to Dr. Bhrett McCabe, author of Break Free from Suckville, there are 3 phases that lead you to Suckville. And for reference, Suckville is where people get stuck. For athletes, they stop winning. For creatives, they stop creating. And for all of us, it is a place where we no longer find any joy, motivation nor purpose in what we are doing. So, how did we get here?
Phase 1: Joy. When it was fun. Do you remember when you were learning something new? Learning a sport, learning how to paint, learning a new video game, learning how to build. You couldn’t be stopped. You didn’t mind spending extra hours to figure it out. Especially if you found yourself being good at it. Mastering the skill was exhilarating and the winning was just the icing on the cake. I can do this forever. During this phase, hard work produces proportional results. The pursuit of competence and the mastery in your craft drives your focus.
Phase 2: Job. Then it becomes a job. Good things come to an end. Joy dims. Entitlements begin to foster during this phase. Expectations start to emerge. Over time, the rewards lose their shine. You want more. The relationship you had with your craft while you were learning it changes. Practice becomes a task rather than a training ground to keep improving. Mistakes become magnified. People’s feedback becomes a personal attack.
Phase 3: Burden. Now, it’s a burden. When does this happen? It occurs when the rewards you receive from doing what you used to love to do no longer outweigh the sacrifices you must make to perform at your best. You start to focus more on the struggles rather than the benefits that it used to bring. What started as fun has broken you down with disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion. Your performances no longer validate your worth.
But, here’s the good news. Suckville is a temporary place. It’s where you stay for a bit to regroup, refocus and recalibrate. It’s a place where you learn to see from a different perspective, learn to be grateful about the process, and learn to persevere. It’s where you break free, where you understand more of who you are, what you are made of and what you are willing to do to escape. It’s where you reach deep into your soul and say to yourself, I got this. I want to live. I want to find joy again.
For me, it took a courageous decision to write out my resignation and quit at the top of my game knowing it was a game I didn’t want to play anymore. And I started again from the bottom in a new place, in a new role, finding joy in learning..mastering a new skill with exhilaration and focus. That’s where I am today. Am I in fear of phase 2 and phase 3 around the corner? Not as much as before. Seems like it’s easier the second time around. Bring it on, haha. And how will it be different next time around? Well, for one, I am doing a lot of work within. I am learning to be mentally tough and learning to be more aware of and staying in the phase I am in now.
I would love to hear your story as well. We are all in this together. Right? Email me back. Let’s chat.
How Not To Suck
Here’s an interesting thought. Picture an elite athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his or her success. They’ve accomplished the feat that most humans can’t even imagine to dream. Wouldn’t you think they’d now be completely free from the fear of failing, the sting of criticism and judgment, and ultimately have the power to rise above all the annoying hassles of life?
I mean, shouldn’t their continuous success and legendary status erase all doubt? Well, not according to a study that was done. Even with the fame and fortune that come with being a champion in their sport, success does not create happiness. The research and evidence suggest that even an Olympic gold medal does not protect you from the struggle.
Let’s deep dive into the research done in 1995 by a group of nerdy psychologists led by Thomas Gilvovich from Cornell University. They specifically studied silver medal winners vs. bronze medal winners. Surprisingly enough, the bronze medal winner appeared happier than those winning the silver. What the what? Why? It doesn’t make any sense.
The answer? One word. Expectations.
For Olympic athletes, they start off with such a low probability of winning a gold in an event that only happens once every four years, leading to life-changing possibilities… and added pressure. So for silver medalists, it means you lost to the winner. You are not the best, but the second best. You are the most successful loser.
Can you imagine missing the gold by .005 seconds? Feeling like just one more rep, one more hour of work, one less indulgent in-and-out double double with cheese fries could have made the difference. It can be devastating and hard to accept second place and move on without torturing yourself with “if only I could have…”
But for the bronze medalist? You are walking away with something. You get to stand on the podium. While you missed the ultimate goal of winning, the struggle to get there was worth it. Why? Expectations.
I am starting a new series this month. Let’s discuss and unpack the mental/psychology of success and happiness. Let’s look at high achievers and the rise and fall of highly motivated individuals with huge expectations of themselves. And for funzies, let’s do a challenge at the end of the series to help us do hard things and grow.
If you are asking what does this have to do with Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Business…etc…my answer to that is, everything. It all starts with you, so let’s all grow and learn together this month.
Back to managing our expectations. I believe there’s a way to set healthy, realistic and specifically-tailored goals that won’t lead to disappointment or frustration but keeps us challenged and motivated. It could be us directing our attention to process rather than outcome; it could be learning to embrace our failures; it could be practicing self-compassion and/or seeking support and help.
Please be ready to share your own thoughts and any wisdom you’ve found through the struggles – we’re all in this together! Not to overhype it, but this could end up being the beginning of the most important month of our lives. Or maybe to set the right expectations, let’s try to make it the 3rd most important month of our lives and be happy with that.
Why is Everyone Quitting?
For those of you who have been following our email series, we’ve been talking about dream jobs. How to get it (if you are applying), and how to provide it (if you are hiring). It’s been a fun series as we learn about what specific questions to ask to offer special insight to yourself, how to hire someone that understands and shares the company values and culture, and finally, how to share information about yourself as a candidate to stand out and shine!
But technically, there is another path to your dream job that doesn’t involve interviewing at all. In fact, the first step might be the exact opposite direction:
In recent years, there has actually been a record high number of people not seeking employment but quitting their jobs.
In 2021, the US Bureau of Labor reported an average of over 3.98 million workers quitting their jobs every month. That’s just crazy! Never before have so many Americans left work and guess what? In 2022, almost 4.4 million more people quit. The trend is continuing. Why?
The biggest single predictor for companies losing workers by such a large margin was a toxic work culture. In fact, a toxic culture is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Check out the study here.
For all those millions of workers who quit their jobs…what are they doing? As their means start to run out, they’ll have to return to the job market, but interestingly enough, many have chosen to do so by starting their own business. In fact, new business applications rose 23% in 2021 compared to 2020. The pandemic gave people a taste of entrepreneurial life, and many of them wanted to keep working from home and maintain more control over their time and work schedule.
So, what does this all mean? It means that we are all looking for something… When I stumbled into an opportunity to start my own business a long time ago, I had no idea where it would lead…but I am happy it led here… Here where I can help others dream their dream and help them start and pursue what they’ve all been wanting to do because no one can do it alone. We need each other. I am grateful for all those who walked with me on this entrepreneur journey, and I want to do the same for you. Call me. Let’s talk. Let’s dream…together.
But before you go, if this is something you’re really considering, here’s a great checklist for you to think about before starting a business. These are gold and they will help you get prepared for your next steps:
1. Develop a powerful message
This is the question we always come back to the most important question you need to answer as a business: What problem are you solving for customers? This will drive whatever you do.
2. Understand your target market
Get specific: Who are you solving this problem for? Do some research on your potential customer base and understand their buying habits.
3. Start small
If possible, self-fund your business idea at the beginning and then go for funding when you can create a growth story. This might cause you to break up your product/service offering into smaller pieces so you can fund the early stages and get some traction and experience.
4. Build around your own strengths, skills, and time available
You can’t do it all. Look for partners with complimentary gifts (this may include an accountant, a lawyer, an insurance agent, a marketing specialist, a web page designer, etc)
5. Who are your advisors?
This is another one of my favorite questions in business. Being a smart entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have all the answers – it’s about surrounding yourself with the right advisors.
6. Get a mentor
You don’t just have to learn it the hard way. Mentors are wise because they’ve already made those mistakes themselves. It’s huge to have their skills and experiences in your corner.
7. Write a business plan
Starting a business is difficult; it’s easy to spend all your time and resources on it. Having a written plan with your projected results and personal goals is the best way to stay on track.
8. Know your numbers
Have a good grasp on the numbers that tell you how your business is doing and what you can expect. “What gets measured gets managed.”
9. Know that it won’t be easy
Being a small business owner is one of the hardest jobs around. But it’s also worth it – 84% of small business owners say they would do it all over again.
10. Do it with passion
When it gets tough, remember why you started your business and let that passion drive you every step of the way.
And remember, I’m here for whatever you need. Let’s do this!
So, Tell Me about Yourself
“So, tell me about yourself.” Did you know this is the most asked question during an interview?
And did you also know that 90% of people don’t really know how to answer?
Where do you start? Do you tell them where you were born and what your childhood was like? Do you only tell them the most recent and relevant facts about you? Do you mix & match and sprinkle a bit of each? What’s the winning formula?
Well, you came to the right place. After much research, we are going to give you the perfect formula that will help you stand out from the rest. But first, do you ever wonder why they ask this question? Why is this the most asked question during the interview? What do they want to know?
Personally, I think it breaks the ice and gives the best non-confined window into your world. So essentially, it’s the best question to really get to know you and how well-rounded and personable you are. They get to see and get a better sense of who you are beyond what they can find on your resume or just answering direct and specific questions.
So, how do we make sure to give them what they want? To let them know the genuine you. Here are the three parts to the best answer, with a few bonus tips along the way:
- Present – Who You Are. The first mistake many people make is giving too much detail in this section. Your goal should be to keep your response around 60-90 seconds, and ideally this part should make up about 20% of that. Talk about your current role, keeping it professional and positive – this is not a place for personal info or complaints about your previous work environment (you don’t want that negativity as part of your introduction).
- Past – Why You’re Qualified. Highlight a few recent achievements that show your ability to go above and beyond expectations. Try to focus on 2-3 that best reflect your previous experience (more than 4 might go too long and start to feel braggy). You can mention any past promotions or special projects/problems you solved that are specifically relevant to the new job you’re applying for.
- Future – Why You’re Here. All of this should lead up to what brought you here today. Make it clear why you’re interested and how your skills align with this new role and company. Bring it all together by showing how your passion connects with this opportunity – that reflects your fit in the role, and can be a subtle compliment to the company as a place that embodies these shared values. “I’m really passionate about x and y, and so I was really attracted to your company…”
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate this question! It might seem like an easy win (since you obviously know all about yourself), but this will often be your first impression, and most hiring decisions are made in the first minute. Don’t let the open-ended nature of the question stop you from being prepared and intentional with what you share. You know the question is coming… I hope it becomes a chance for you to shine.
Who Should I Hire?
Do you know what’s interesting to me? When I observe different businesses and start getting to know their staff, a lot of times they all seem to have a similar vibe. Like this one time, I got off the freeway and realized that my tire was flat. Not having a spare, I had to quickly call the tow truck and have it towed to the nearest repair shop. Well, the person that answered the phone was quite rude and condescending. He did not consider my emergency situation to be urgent on his end and had zero empathy. In fact, I got the sense that he hated his job and was taking it out on me.
I decided to write a review explaining how it made me feel as a customer to deal with a difficult person during a difficult circumstance. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the owner of the company replied to my review and chewed me out. No apology, just rudeness. Similar vibe.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I walked into a busy coffee shop to get my flat white, and was met by an energetic and friendly barista who greeted me with a smile and joked around with me to lighten the mood. He told me about how the flat white is made and how they use a unique blend of creamer to make the drink pop. Then, I noticed his supervisor in the back – running around with high energy, whistling a tune, and playfully talking to the other baristas working away. Big smiles, friendly service, excellent coffee. Similar vibe.
My conclusion is that we tend to hire people that get us…and who are like us. We like to hire someone that understands our values and even shares them.
Vibe = Culture
But just because they fit our vibe, does that automatically make them the best person for the job? How do we identify and hire the right person, and not just the perfect resume? Other than finding someone with similar values, what are the best ways to evaluate important factors that will make a great hire?
Here are some to consider…
1. Do a Culture Fit Assessment
According to a study by Leadership IQ, 89% of hiring failures are related to attitude, not the technical skills that tend to be represented on paper. By evaluating cultural fit in advance, you can ensure that a candidate is aligned to your company’s beliefs, values, and unique style. A culture fit assessment is a survey that you include in the recruiting process that asks about a person’s motivation, goals and preferences that can bring these dynamics to the surface. Questions about their dream job, ideal schedule, the amount of support they expect from a manager, or work/life balance can help shed light on their fit within your organization.
2. Implement Job Auditions
Can we really trust every word someone says in a resume or interview? Job auditions are an emerging new way to cut through the BS and see how a candidate engages the actual work you’re hiring them to do. Whether it’s inviting the person to come spend “a day in the life” at your company, paying them to do a contract assignment that’s applicable to their position, or giving them an extended tryout in the desired role, a job audition is like the dressing room of the hiring process – both sides get to try it on and see how it looks before making a final decision.
3. Make Hiring a Team Effort
At BOS Media, we believe in being better together, especially in the hiring process. Having multiple perspectives will help mitigate your own blind spots or biases. Ideally every candidate should be interviewed by at least two people in your organization—preferably three—from different departments, with no single individual having the overriding vote. This might take extra work, but it’s worth it to find the right person that everyone loves to work with.
I hope this helps you hold up a mirror to your hiring process. If you find yourself too busy and stressed out to give thoughtful consideration to who you bring on board, don’t be surprised if you end up surrounded by busy, stressed out employees… Similar vibe.
Questions To Ask During Your Interview And Why
Well, I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from last week’s email about finding your dream job and how I totally messed up during my final interview to NOT get it. You can read about my sad story here. So today, I want to start from where I left off.
As I shared before, I just kept replaying the interview in my head and trying to figure out where I went wrong. Honestly, it was a lot of things. But, what I remember most was at the very end, she asked me if I had any questions for her. Instead of having a few prepped questions to let her in on how I think, how I work, and what she can expect of me… I proceeded to tell her why I would be a great hire and how hard I would work and how dedicated I am..etc…me, me, me. I think she was turned off by my self-promotion and indulgence.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have prepared questions to give her insight into my honest intentions. You can see I’ve had years to brood on this idea… here’s what I’ve hand picked:
My top 5 if-I-could-turn-back-time questions, plus some of the benefits that come with asking them:
- Why did you decide to work at this company? I like this a lot since it’s so personal. It gives the interviewer the opportunity to talk about themselves and share from their heart and experience. Hopefully that helps establish a stronger connection between you.
- What are some of the challenges or roadblocks I might come up against in this role? This question shows that you can already envision yourself in the role, but without sounding presumptuous (since you’re anticipating the challenges as well). Based on the answer, you’ll be able to propose how you might deal with the problem as well, and reassure them that you’re not afraid to face it.
- What do the most successful new hires do in their first month here? In other words, you’re the type of person who likes to hit the ground running, and you’re open to learning from the best practices. This insider info gives you a head start to success in the company.
- How does this role contribute to larger company goals? I like how this reflects that you want to be part of something bigger than just you. The reality is, too many people struggle to stay motivated in their work because they never really get this answered.
- Do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications? This question means you’re not afraid of critical feedback, and gives you a real-time chance to answer any issues they might have with you before you leave the room. This could be the difference between an offer and a rejection.
Hope these questions help you shine in your next interview! Before we go, I want to offer one last tip – an example of WHAT NOT TO DO:
I’m so thankful for that guy’s videos – no matter how bad my interview was, he’s proof that it definitely could have been a lot worse haha.
How to Find Your Dream Job
I haven’t told this story to a lot of people but here goes…
I interviewed for a job at Disney 20+ years ago. I’d been promoted at my current job as an Industrial Engineer and after working super hard and really enjoying the world I was in, I had an opportunity to apply for the same title at the happiest place on earth. Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to work for the most iconic, fun-loving, easy-going, and carefree CEO in the world? Not to mention I kinda had a crush on his girlfriend Minnie.
The application and the interview process were intense. I realized right away that they were very focused on me as a human, not just what I had accomplished. Application questions asked about specific situations and how I would handle or address them, how I would help solve them or how I would walk away from them. I don’t quite remember all the details of the questionnaire on the application, but it was enough for me to say, ah…I see what they are doing there. They want to know me.
Apparently, I answered the initial questions to their liking, because the phone interview process started. First, with the HR Director. She was kind, but kept it very general – she asked a few logistical questions, and answered some of mine. Then, I got to the next phase…an interview with my direct report. He was a delight to talk to. We connected on a lot of levels. We talked shop, discussed details about my responsibilities at my current job, and he told me about the culture and benefits of working for Disney (including passes which gives the holder and their families access to theme parks and all kinds of discounts on resorts, cruises, dining and merchandise all over the world)…I was sold! I had a good feeling he liked me too. Which I found out he did, because my next phase interview was scheduled.
Can you believe it? My dream job was almost at my fingertips. All I needed to do was kill the next interview and they would send me an airline ticket to visit their office and have the final informal interview to figure out when my starting day will be. I heard by the time they send you the airline ticket, you are pretty much in. Hearing all this, I was anxiously anticipating interviewing with my boss’s boss. Actually, I was losing some sleep…there was a lot on my mind.
Well, to make a long story short. I bombed the next interview. She was intelligent, intuitive, and intimidating. I was not ready for the questions she threw at me, I was not ready for the lack of engagement or connection I thought I would have with her, like in the previous interviews. She didn’t even laugh at my jokes. What the what? I fumbled over my own words, I sounded desperate, I sounded overconfident, I sounded like I had no idea what I was talking about, and I even sounded like I was making stuff up. I was a mess.
Disney never called me back.
For the next year, I replayed that last interview over and over again in my head. How could I have been more prepared? How could I have been more myself? How could I have been more confident, yet genuine, yet profound, yet funny, yet charming, yet intelligent, yet engaging, and yet humble? All at the same time?
I didn’t have a lot of resources back in 2002 when it came to preparing for interviews…I wish they had a TikTok hashtag I could have followed for tips and tricks to kill an interview….but, we barely had email.
In our next series, my goal is to generate great interest in learning about standard practices, insights, tips, and tricks from both ends of the job interview. I hope that what is shared can help the employer (entrepreneur) find that perfect new member of your team that you’re desperately looking for, or the employee (contractor) find that dream job you’ve always wanted.
What are the right questions to ask to ensure that the right answer will lead to the right person? What are the not-so-obvious things to look for during an interview to make sure the company culture meets your criteria? Stay tuned, there’s so much more to share.
Making Your Small Business WORK
Hopefully what we’ve shared the past few weeks has helped inspire you to truly think like an entrepreneur about your business. If you’ve been too busy to read these recent insights, you may want to take some time to go back and check them out — it could save you from the many well-intentioned but disastrous practices that cause many overwhelmed small business owners to burn out and ultimately close their doors.
I really want the story to end well for you, so let’s wrap up this E-Myth series on a very practical note. If you’re ready to WORK ON your business and experience more growth and freedom, what do you do now?
Here are 7 Steps to launch your business development program:
1. Your Primary Aim
It actually starts with you, not the business. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you looking to increase your income, or have more free time? What do you value most? Answering these questions will drive everything you do with purpose and energy.
2. Strategic Objective
This is a very clear statement of what your business has to do in order for you to achieve that primary aim. It’s a vision of the finished product that your business will become.
3. Organizational Strategy
The key here is to build around function. Instead of just hiring random people, define responsibilities through a “position contract” – a summary of the result to be achieved by each position in the company, and the work that each occupant of that position is accountable for.
4. Management Strategy
More than amazingly competent people, you need a management system designed to get you a marketing result. The more automatic the system, the more effective your prototype will be.
5. People Strategy
You can’t just expect people to do what you want. Create a place of community that has purpose and order that inspires them into action.
6. Marketing Strategy
At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer. Visualize the people you’re serving – their demographics, and especially their needs they have that you are helping to solve.
7. Systems Strategy
There are three types of systems in your business: Hard systems (like computers), soft systems (like your people and ideas), and information systems (which tell you how these are both interacting – and what needs to change). Create the system that lets them work in harmony.
One final thought: after creating this incredible, detailed, creative, and robust system that anyone can do, are people even valued? Will they even need special skills for the job? The truth is, it’s not that people are unimportant – quite the contrary. People bring systems to life.
Great businesses are not built by extraordinary people, they are built by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you in this – I believe in you!
The Magic Of Turning Systems Into Checklists
Our little family of four has been going to the same dentist for the last 15 years. They know us by name and know all the little intricate details about us. They knew when my daughter was running for student council; they knew when my son was getting his driver’s license; they knew I started growing my hair long and they knew when we were celebrating our anniversary (and all the suffering my wife has endured….hahaha). Do you know how I know that they know? Because every time we come in for an appointment, they follow up on what we shared from our previous visit. Did she win the student council? Did he get his license? How’s your big anniversary celebration? Oh, I see you finally got a haircut, looks much better.
They created this simple checklist:
- Casually and naturally ask questions that they care about
- Note the answers
- Review the answers right before the next appointment
- Ask specific questions about what was shared last time
- Ask new questions
This made us feel like they cared. And honestly, I think they truly did care and really enjoyed our visits. I believe that was their intention.
I love the idea of systems. As we talked about last time, the goal of an entrepreneur is to create systems that can be duplicated anywhere by anyone. It can transform our day-to-day operations, creating efficiency so the business can scale. Also, it ensures we’re delivering the same service, same product, with the same quality, and the same experience every time.
I am going to leave you with this one last story from the book E-Myth written by Michael Gerber. The story is called “A Match, a Mint, a Cup of Coffee, and a Newspaper,” and I hope it inspires you as it inspired me to continue to create systems in your business with checklists for all to follow and be accountable for.
The surprising result of all this structure: it actually allows us to be more relational as we serve customers and clients, giving them amazing experiences over and over and over again.
A Match, a Mint, a Cup of Coffee, and a Newspaper
(Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited)
The first time it was an accident; that is, an accident for me. I hadn’t planned to go there.
I’d been driving for seven hours, and, tired of the road, decided to stop for the night before going on to San Francisco.
The hotel was located in a redwood grove overlooking the Pacific.
By the time I walked into the lobby, the sun was setting and the grove had turned dark as pitch.
Instantly something told me that I was in a special place. The lobby was warmly lighted. Redwood paneling reflected the red glow of the light onto beige overstuffed couches that hugged the three walls surrounding the reception desk. A long, dark wood table faced the front door through which I had just entered. On the table rested a huge woven Indian basket overflowing with fresh fruit. Beside the basket stood a massive bronze lamp, its deepest burnished light bouncing off the fruit, adding a festive look to the room. Running the full length of the table and falling down on either end almost to the floor was an intricately crocheted linen cloth, its bright, exotic pattern accentuating the colors of the fruit, the bronze of the lamp, and the deep red ochre of the walls.
At the far side of the table, against the far wall, in a massive fieldstone fireplace, a roaring fire filled the room with the cheerful crackling of its furiously burning oak logs.
Even if I hadn’t been so tired, the contrast between the heat of the flames on my face and the cold of the night at my back would have been enough to attract me to the room. As it was, I practically melted with delight.
Behind the reception desk a woman appeared dressed in a freshly starched red, green, and white gingham blouse and a deep red ochre skirt. A pin with the logo of the hotel atop a red ochre ribbon decorated her blouse like a badge of honor. A matching ribbon held her hair back from a glowing face.
“Welcome to Venetia,” she smiled warmly.
It took no more than three minutes from the moment she spoke that greeting to the time the bellboy ushered me into my room, despite the fact that I had no reservation. I couldn’t believe the ease with which it all happened.
And the room! The overall impression was one of understated opulence—thick, muted pastel wall-to-wall carpeting; a four-poster, king-size white pine bed covered by a magnificent, impeccably clean, white-on white quilt; original graphics depicting scenes and birds of the Pacific Northwest gracing the rough-hewn elegance of the natural cedar walls; a stone fireplace with oak logs already prepared and waiting on the grate for the fire someone knew I would appreciate, paper rolled ceremoniously beneath the grate, and an elegant oversized match lying diagonally across the hearth, waiting to be struck.
Delighted with my good fortune, I changed for dinner; the woman at the desk had made my reservation when she checked me in! I walked out into the night to find the restaurant. A sign by a path outside of my room pointed me down another well-lit path through the dark redwood grove.
The night air was still and clear.
In the distance I could hear the hushed, rhythmic patter of the Pacific Ocean surf. Or was it my imagination? It scarcely mattered; an aura of magic surrounded the place.
The restaurant stood on a knoll overlooking the hotel and the ocean. Until I went inside, I hadn’t seen another person, but the restaurant was crowded.
I gave the maitre d’ my name and he immediately showed me to a table, despite the fact that other people were waiting. Evidently, reservations meant something in this restaurant!
The meal was as delightful as everything I had experienced before it, the food attractively prepared, the service attentive yet unobtrusive. I lingered over a glass of brandy while enjoying a classical guitarist who played a selection of Bach fugues for the dinner guests.
I signed the check and returned to my room, noting on the way that the lights had been turned up on the path apparently to compensate for the growing darkness.
By the time I arrived at my room, the night had become chilly. I was looking forward to a fire and possibly another brandy before going to bed.
Somebody had beaten me to it!
A brisk fire was burning in the fireplace. The quilt was turned down on the bed. The pillows were plumped up, a mint resting on each one.
On one of the night tables beside the bed stood a glass of brandy and a card. I picked up the card and read:
Welcome to your first stay at Venetia. I hope it has been enjoyable. If there is anything I can do for you, day or night, please don’t hesitate to call.
As I drifted to sleep that evening, I felt very well taken care of.
The following morning I awoke to a strange bubbling sound in the bathroom. I arose to investigate.
A pot of coffee, turned on by an automatic timer, was merrily perking away on the sink counter. A card resting against the pot said:
Your brand of coffee. Enjoy! K.
And it was my brand of coffee!
How in the world could they have known that?
And then I remembered. At the restaurant the night before they had asked me what brand of coffee I preferred. And here it was!
Just as I caught on to what they had done, there was a polite knock at the door.
I went to the door and opened it. Nobody. But there on the mat was a newspaper. My newspaper, the New York Times.
How in the world did they know that?
And then I remembered. When I checked in the night before the receptionist had asked me the newspaper I preferred. I hadn’t given it another thought. Until now. And there it was!
And exactly the same scenario has occurred each and every time I’ve returned.
But after the first time I was never asked my preferences again.
I had become a part of the hotel’s Management System.
And never once has it let me down.
The system knows what I like and makes certain that I get it, in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time.
What exactly had the System provided? A match, a mint, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper!
But it wasn’t the match, the mint, the cup of coffee, or the newspaper that did it. It was that somebody had heard me.
And they heard me every single time!
The moment I walked into the room and felt the fire, I knew that someone had thought about me. Had thought about what I wanted.
I hadn’t said a word, and yet they had heard me.
The moment I saw the mints on the pillows, the turned down quilt, and the brandy on the table, I knew that someone had thought about me. Had thought about what I wanted.
I hadn’t said a word and yet they had heard me.
The moment I heard the coffee pot perking in the bathroom and saw the card that identified it as my brand, I remembered that someone had asked for my preference.
And they had heard my answer.
The instant I saw the newspaper and recognized it as my newspaper, I remembered that someone had asked.
And they had heard my answer.
And it was totally automatic!
Every single element was an orchestrated solution designed to produce a marketing result, and integrated component of the hotel’s Management System.
After my third visit to the hotel, I asked to speak with the Manager.
I wanted to find out how he was able to produce the identical results for me every single time.
How could he make certain that someone would ask the right questions so as to ensure the correct results for each and every guest?
Was it because he hired extremely competent people?
Were the employees owners?
Was it some kind of special incentive system?
The Manager was a young man of twenty-nine. He invited me into his office to talk. It was well-lit, modest in size, and overlooked the redwood grove I had walked through to get to the restaurant. His desk was clean and neatly organized, not a loose paper in sight.
“This is very orderly young man,” I thought to myself.
“Perhaps he’s the reason the hotel works so well.”
The young Manager obviously enjoyed his job, because he warmed immediately to the conversation about his work and the task of producing the results for which he was held accountable by the hotel’s owner.
“You know,” he said, smiling self-consciously, “it’s funny sitting here talking to you about what we do here at the hotel. Because until five months ago, the only experience I had in the hotel business was as a guest for two nights at a Holiday Inn in Fresno three years ago.
“In fact,” he continued, “before this job I was working as a short-order cook at a restaurant nearby. The owner and I got to know each other. He asked if I’d like to learn the hotel business, and before I knew it, he hired me. Everything I know about the hotel business I’ve learned here.
“Here, let me show you.”
He reached behind his desk for a red binder. Printed on the spine were the initials OM and the logo of the hotel.
“What we do here is simple. Anyone can do it.”
He opened the binder to the table of contents.
“This is our Operations Manual. As you can see, it’s nothing but a series of checklists. This one is a checklist for setting up a room.” He opened the book to a yellow page.
“This group of pages is yellow. Everything in the Manual is color coded. Yellow has to do with Room Setup. Blue, with Guest Support Services. For instance, when we light your fire at night, put the mints on your pillow, and so on.
“Each checklist itemizes the specific steps each Room Support Person must take to do his or her job.
There are eight packages of checklists for each Room Support Person waiting in their mailbox when they come in every day. Each package of checklists is used for one of the eight rooms the Room Support Person is accountable for.
“As a Room Support Person goes about the process of taking care of his or her eight rooms, a checklist is completed to confirm that the work was performed according to the standards. As you can see, here at the bottom of the checklist is a place for the RSP to sign, indicating that he or she did the prescribed work.
“To sign and not to have done the work is grounds for instant dismissal.
“But there’s another part of the system that really makes it work.
“On the back of each checklist is a drawing of the specific room that identifies each task to be completed, and the order in which it has to be done. The drawing takes the RSP through the routine, and, as they complete each task, they check off the corresponding part of the drawing to show that it was done.
“With the drawing we can train new people almost instantly and have them producing a result identical to that of a person who’s been with us for quite some time.
“As added insurance, my RSP Supervisors run spot checks every day to make certain that any errors are caught in time.”
He paused and smiled. “But there are rarely any errors. They system works like a charm.
“There’s an equally effective system for everything we do here. The fact is, the owner worked it all out in advance. The lighting, the sauna, and the pool are timed electronically and synchronized with the seasons, so that they deliver a predictable result to the guests. For example, you might have noticed that at night the outdoor lights increase in intensity as it gets darker. That’s done automatically. No one has to think about it.
“I could give you lots of other examples, but I think you get the point. The whole thing was put together in a way the owner believed would make a positive impression on our guests. You’d be amazed at how many people come up to me after staying here just to thank me for how well they were treated.
“But it’s not the big things they talk about; it’s always the little things.”
I could understand and believe all he had said, but still I asked, “How do you get your RSP’s to use the checklists? How do you get them to use the system? Don’t they get tired of the routine? Doesn’t it get boring for them?”
“Ah,” said my willing host. “That’s where we really shine.”