Archives for January 2013

Excellence – Learn From the Elite Ballpark Vendors

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Excellence can be found in every profession.  You name it, there’s a “cream of the crop” in every walk of life and the 80/20 rule always emerges, where a select few generate the greatest results.

Take ballpark vendors.  Hawkers of hot dogs, beer, peanuts & cracker-jacks.

Not all are created equal.  Some out Hustle their counterparts.  Some come up with a creative twist to selling their product.  Some simply “out-care” their competition.  All love what they do, and some may even do it for free.  All create a bond with their customers.

There is learning from all below videos.  Some will simply make you laugh!

Hope you learn something from the folks that make our national past time enjoyable!

The Grand Daddy of them all

Roger Owens – LA dodgers famous peanut vendor.  There’s a ton of “peanut guys,” but there is only 1 Roger.  47 years, a following and a ground breaker.  There’s a best in class in every profession and in the world of peanut vendors, this guy is it.  Do you think his heart is pure?  Think he’s an advantage for the Dodgers organization?


Stamina and Brevity from the Beer Man


Crazy Hot Dog Guy – Fight for your product!


“The Beer Guy” – Intensity and focus matters


16 year minor league beer vendor, that started out as a Side Hustle.  Relationships matter, and “you can always get better.”

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Want to make a huge difference? Be a MENTOR!

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  • Experience is a great advantage.  The problem is that when you get the experience, you’re too damned old to do anything about it.  – Jimmy Connors

Jimmy connors experience is a hard teacher

One of the most beneficial and rewarding relationships you can have over the course of a career is one that involves the Mentor/PROTÉGÉ dynamic.  Formal definitions:

  • men·tor –a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
  • PROTÉGÉ: one who is protected or trained or whose career is furthered by a person of experience, prominence, or influence

What often comes to mind in the context of the mentor relationship is the picture of the “just out of college” young adult trying to establish themselves in the “real world” setting, and a Mentor takes the young gun (i.e. PROTÉGÉ‘) under their wing.  They show the person the ropes.  They provide a trusted sounding board not just to show WHAT should be done, but HOW things should be done.  The latter is often more filled with land mines than the former.  The relationship can be company sponsored/formal, but often times the relationship evolves informally.

I have been extraordinarily blessed in my career to have great, caring and inspiring mentors.

My experience at Kraft Foods while co-oping* from 1992-1996 was one giant blur in the mentor experience.  I can remember countless times when very seasoned and “awe-inspiring” talent asked me to lunch, showed a genuine interest in me and made me feel part of a team vs “just an intern.”  My skills as a 19 year old earned me ZERO right to be a contributing member on their team.  When you are 19 years old working with people 15+ years older at a premier CPG company, there is no greater crisis in confidence that can race into your mind than the feeling that you don’t belong.

I suspect this feeling happens at every organization on the planet where this dynamic exists.  When I look back, what I remember about these people is not the specific skills they were teaching (ie the “what”), it was the psychological/harder to define areas that made the biggest difference.  Some come to mind:

  • The examples they set about how they approached their business.  Their willingness to explain “why” they were doing what they were doing.
  • Their wisdom gained over the course of their careers.  To build on the words of Jimmy Connors, why learn over the course of many years what can be learned just by listening and applying it immediately from those that have lived it?  For me, START EARLY! was one of them.
  • The creativity and sense of humor that helps endure “the grind of work.”  There is a real human experience that comes from work.  When you are young and a seasoned professional allows you to come inside and participate in their world, the young person will never forget it.

Mentor Take-away:  Teaching hard skills is always a value to the young gun.  But including them and making them feel part of a team is a simple, and sometimes more important gesture.  Confidence usually precedes results.  Anxiety is an inhibitor of confidence.  A mentor understands this and  finds a way to reduce anxiety.  The rest becomes easier.

This sounds simple right?  It isn’t.  There is a big difference between “acknowledgement” of the young person, and “embracing” them.  Not everyone will embrace, pull in, teach, train and motivate in a way that makes a real difference.  How many?   Maybe 1/3 of the population is wired for it, enjoys it and puts the time in.  50% max.  Why?  It takes time and additional effort, both are in short supply these days.  As a result, “not my job” becomes the fall back.

Not my job may be convenient, but it isn’t a catalyst to excellence.  It is, shall I say….. Anti-HUSTLE.   

Regardless of the % of people who embrace being a Mentor, what is undeniable is the impact they make.  An investment in the young- gun comes back 10 fold.  It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.

The great mentors in life often don’t even know they are viewed as such, they simply do it to help and it’s part of their DNA.   In other words, they have “The heart of a teacher.”  Think back to the great teachers you have had in your life.  Isn’t your life immeasurably better because of them?  If you are lucky you will use more than 5 fingers.  And when you think of the great teacher, you can think of how things would be better for someone if YOU pay it forward.

Being a Mentor is a choice.  It is one of those “force multipliers” in life.  

Would love to hear about what makes a great mentor to YOU…..


*  Co-op – Co-operative education at Northeastern:  Translation:  Go to school for 6 months.  Quit school, go to work full time for 6 months.  Quit work and go back to school.  Repeat for 5 years and graduate with 2 full years of real world experience.  Northeastern University is the world leader in co-operative education.  I hope the President is not falling trap to what many college presidents are, which is sleeping well at night.


Jason Giambi, From Mega-Star to paid Mentor




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Want a Surefire edge in business? Start early!

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The alarm clock, start early!

It is simple.  Starting early gives you a head start, whether you are running a marathon or a sprint.  The difference is that in sports, it is not allowed.  Business, however, it’s a choice.  And so many people choose not to take it.  That is OK.  But all too often there are people that are frustrated with the hand they are dealt in life, and many times these are the same people waking up a few hours later than the above alarm clock.

Some of the best advice I’ve always been told is simple:  Start Early!

Even better?  Start VERY early.

  • Work-out earlier.  Very early.  Get to the gym at 4 am, sweat for an hour.  Notice how many cars are in the lot.  If your gym is like mine, less than 5.  Why?  Because it’s tough.  It takes sacrifice and discipline.
  • Sit in the sauna for 15 minutes reading your favorite mag, you’ve earned it.  Shower.
  • Get to your local coffee joint at 5:30, relax, you’ve earned it again.
  • Get to your desk at 6 am.  You’ll have at least an hour before  the rest of the Hustlers show up.
  • You’ll have 2 hours before the remaining 85% wonders in and starts chatting about American Idol.

The early drive after starting workout early

This principle is as Old School as it gets, I know that.  Some call it a recipe for burn-out.

98% of people will cringe at the thought of the routine I have just outlined.  Nothing says you still can’t get your 7 hours of sleep.  The key with starting hyper-early is the work-out, jumping right into the work grind for your edge IS a danger zone waiting to happen.

There simply is nothing better than knowing you have done one of the key ingredients to healthy living (fitness), AND started your day with the quiet focus that only comes from showing up early.

Want to mix in a little NEW SCHOOL with this routine?

How about some education WHILE working out?

Put your I-pod shuffle to use on the treadmill.  Download a few pod casts.  Harvard Business Review Idea Cast, and Entre-Leadership are two of my favorites. for great teaching’s on Leadership.  There are hundreds of great, FREE Podcasts available.

Update as of May ’13:  John Dumas is a content machine!  DAILY (yes, I said DAILY!) podcasts with inspirational entrepreneurs telling their story.  Fantastic, hard not to get magical nuggets putting this on your i-pod.

Mix in half your work-out (30 minutes) with new learning and half with your motivational workout tunes.

Do the math on this routine for a year:  3 times a week, (give yourself 2 off days during the week) * 50 weeks a year (give yourself 2 weeks off too!) equals 4,500 minutes of additional knowledge, 75 hours!  All while your reducing stress and burning calories.

Compound this over a few years.  Think that will give you an edge?

Start Early.  Gain an edge while the competition is sleeping.

There simply is no substitute for HUSTLE.



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The Hail Mary: Rarely Works in Sports OR Business

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The term “Hail Mary pass” has become generalized to refer to any last-ditch effort with little chance of success.  The origins come from football that denotes a long, low probability pass at the end of the half or game.  Picture 5 wide receivers sprinting to the end zone while the QB scrambles, buying time while he launches the football with all his might 50+ yards, while 7 or more defenders greet the sprinters in the end-zone.

Hail Mary Pass in Business or Football, low probability of success

It’s certainly a captivating play, and thrilling when it works.  But the facts are not on its side in terms of success rate…..which is hard to find but if it’s greater than 10% I’d be shocked.

All too often businesses try their own version of the Hail Mary.

It could be the struggling brand in a cash-strapped company that tries a flashy new ad on the Superbowl.  Or the high profile “white knight” CEO hired from the outside, paid huge $’s to save a highly leveraged, declining company.  You get the idea:  Big, bold, low probability moves trying to be a catalyst for success.

I couldn’t help but think I watched one this week on the premier of one of the most successful TV franchises of all time:  AMERICAN IDOL

American Idol 2013

Fox’s American Idol kicked off its 12th season on Wednesday night with a 19% decline in viewers.  Many reasons have been given for the decline, from greater competition of similar shows, more channels,  and a general “tiring” of the brand.  19% declines are huge when you’re at the top of the ratings heap, this translates into 4 million+ fewer eyeballs.  AI brought in 3 mega stars (joining Randy Jackson) as judges in Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and one the top female recording artists of all time, Mariah Carey Hollywood Reporter cites their compensation:  Minaj @ $8mm, Urban @$4mm and a staggering $18mm for Mariah Carey to Judge for 1 year.

Hail Mary sign #1:  Splash Big names with even bigger compensation.

“Big compensation” is always relative, and with AI pulling in north of $750mm in ad revenue, one could argue that $30mm on 3 new flashy judges is small potatoes.  I can understand the argument.

What’s the bigger risk?  I see 2 flaws.

1)  The assumption that great singers can all of the sudden be great judges of singers, which is a major difference.  How many star athletes went on to become great coaches?  Very few.

2)  The belief that these mega personalities can not only be effective judges, but the chemistry between them will not be toxic.  Building on the sports analogy again, if very few star athletes can be remembered to be great coaches of a team, can you think of 3 star athletes become coaches on ONE team!  Enough said.  This is what American Idol is trying to pull off here with this judging panel.

The great Casey Stengel famously said:  “Finding good players is easy.  Getting them to play as a team is another story.”

Teamwork matters in business.  It’s an Old-School “fundamental.”  

So for me to call the judging decisions on AI a Hail Mary is not that big of a stretch.

Regardless of where you stand on that argument, businesses are always well served to understand their customer base, and what strengths they have that generate its foundation for success.   If you’re a fan of AI, many come to mind, but a few I would consider are the “bedrock” of its success.

  • It feels like the “American Dream” playing out on TV- The unknown, everyday person gets discovered and hits it big.  They are given a shot, and they make the most of it.  Its aspiration playing out on the TV, kind of like ROCKY.
  • The stories were never-ending.  It’s not just the discovery of talent.  It’s the talent + the unique STORY.  People love a great story behind the talent (substitute talent for BRAND), and AI told the stories with great skill.
  • The Water cooler factor is huge.  How many times do you remember the conversation of last night’s episode being carried over the next day at work?  It could be the great performance or bizarre audition, but chances are people were talking.  The buzz factor matters.
  • The CUSTOMER matters.  They matter SO MUCH that they determined the next AI.  Long before social media took off, AI recognized the power of the customer, they put it front and center so much that it’s the foundation of the name and the show itself.
  • The judges mattered.  It is undeniable that the show has discovered great talent, and the judges deserve great credit for this.  Simon often comes to mind as the greatest, albeit most critical judge.

I think of the above 5 as the American Idol’s “Success Formula.”  You can argue which one of these formula elements are most important.  I personally feel that the “judging” factor, while important, is last on the list of importance.

Every successful business has their formula, or recipe.  [Continue Reading…]

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The Last Lecture: Keeping Life in Perspective

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There is a ton of life wisdom to be learned from this tremendous human being.  This 10 minute video is great to watch when you are feeling down, or just need a little nudge to keep life in perspective.

Some themes from Dr. Randy Paush’s Last Lecture

  • What were your childhood dreams?
  • Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
  • Old school football coach on Jim Graham:  “He rode you pretty hard….because he cares.”
  • The brick walls that are in our way are there to show how much you want it!
  • Have a sense of fun and wonder!  Choose to have fun.
  • Let your kids paint the walls!
  • A good apology has 3 parts:  I’m sorry.  It was my fault.  How do I make it right?
  • Gratitude is a simple and powerful thing.
  • Above all:  Don’t feel sorry yourself, despite the most trying of circumstances.  Attitude is a choice.  You can spend your time complaining, or you can spend it playing the game hard!

And if you have the time and want to watch the full “Last lecture,” here it is.  It is well worth it.

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4 Reasons the College President Sleeps Well at Night….While Their Industry Awaits Disruption

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I can’t think of another industry that is more “ripe for disruption” than the higher education market.  

I’m not sure if being the President of a University would excite me or leave me up at night in cold sweats.  Probably both, but I suspect that most Presidents are sleeping well at night.  It reminds me of  the music, book, and traditional retailing industries overall.  These are industries that have long histories of stability that were turned on their head when a better, sometimes more efficient (ie cheaper) alternative came along.  I’m sure those companies did not see the disruption coming either.

While positive changes in higher education are certainly happening, it does not  seem to recognize the magnitude of what could lie ahead related to “disruption.”  So I will write this post as if I were the President of your beloved Alma Mater, commenting on his or her ability to sleep at night.

What Excites Me Leading The University:

1)  I sell a product that falls into the “no brainer” camp called a college education.  Employment opportunities, lifetime earnings and the overall “intangibles” of a college education (vs not having one) are numerous and in black and white numbers reported by the US census.

It’s worth PERSONALLY envisioning where YOU would be, had you NOT spent your time in college, and compare that to where you are now.  Chances are, you feel great about your college investment.  While your college experience may not be credited with 100% for all your life’s blessings, I do suspect it would be high on most people’s list.  As a result, these good feelings tend to be generational and self-sustaining, creating long term inertia and little need for fundamental change in the industry.  If it worked for me, than by golly that’s what I’ll do form my kids!  It is a self perpetuating cycle that leads to more of the same.

Unemployment and Earning comparison of education levels

 Back to the President….

It’s fun to market a “no-brainer, gotta have!” product that is universally recognized as being the link to “game changing” life outcomes as an advanced education is often linked too.  So my faith in PRODUCT, scores a perfect 10 on my ability to sleep at night.

2)  Don’t take my word for it, the population recognizes these facts, and their actions prove it over the past 50 years.  In 1950, about 5% of the population had a bachelor’s degree.  Today, that number approaches 1/3.

More importantly, that means there are tons of growth opportunities that lie ahead.  While there has been massive growthnearly 2/3’s of the population have NOT obtained that bachelors degree.  Plenty of HUNTING ground for new customers.  It’s great to be in the 3rd inning of a game that looks like we are winning by a wide margin.

Education Attainment of Population 1947 to 2003

 3)  When you have a GREAT product proposition, and more and more customers flocking to your door, the laws of supply and demand tend to be in your favor.  What does this mean?  PRICING POWER.  When you have the ability to price your product north, that creates more opportunities for re-investment (faculty, buildings, technology, marketing), and is simply less stressful than industries engaged in the race to the bottom.

And how has college tuition/fees been priced relative to overall inflation?  This chart sums it up.

College inflation vs overall inflation

 What’s important to Note:  While my factors #1 & 2 could RELATE to the pricing reality, it may not necessarily have DRIVEN the price of college increases.  In statistics, there is a saying:  “Correlation does not imply causation.”  Nevertheless, if I’m the President, I would rather see this chart than the reverse.

4)  There is a “big brother” in our corner, called the federal government.  They recognize the USA’s competitive position in the global economy is linked to a highly skilled and educated work force, and they put their money where their mouth is with grants, cheap loans, etc.  “Making college affordable” is a theme that does not seem to be going away anytime soon.

Abundant money supply with a growing consumer base also provides a “sleep well at night factor” that approaches a 10.

Incidentally, this may be a contributing factor to cost escalation as well.

Those are 4 big factors as President of this esteemed University I feel great about.  I have a great product.  More and more customers show up every year.  I can grow rapidly, as more people haven’t experienced this product than have.  And  I can price it strong, and while I wouldn’t abuse it, there seems to be no limit to pricing well above the overall inflation rate, the past 15 years prove it.  It’s also nice to have a pretty big check-book in my industries corner called the federal government.

Are there things that concern me?  [Continue Reading…]

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The Old School Leader: Dirt Under Nails Required, Polish Optional

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Construction  workers having lunch


Give him a pass, he’s Old School!  Watch out, he’s old school!  What do you expect, he’s old school!

And multiple other spins on this saying.  Sometimes “Old School” has a negative connotation, sometimes there is a respectful deference.  Sometimes it’s generational in context, when the young guns coming out of college, now have to interact with peers with 20+ years of experience.  Generational differences are intriguing, and also provide for great workplace entertainment!

The Old School vs. New School is a phenomena that is all around us, whether in in business, your local community groups, your neighborhood.  If its not direct AGE difference, there are mind-set differences driven by Old School/New School Mind-Sets.

Here’s my take:

I view Old School as nothing but ROCK SOLID.

A respect for FUNDAMENTALS.  HARD WORK.  I think about Dirt under the fingernails, which comes from being close to the real work.

I think about the Store Manager who is not afraid to pick garbage off the floor or stock a shelf when needed.  They are equally as comfortable doing the real work as managing the work.  In other words, they are described as a DOER, not the Prima Donna.  Why is the DOER critical?  Simple:  Nothing demotivates a workplace more than the manager that uses delegation as a means of efficiency (getting it “off their plate”) vs developing the people they lead.  Both can be accomplished simultaneously, but the developing side of delegation must be more important.

The old school LEADER earns respect from the people they lead, because of the example they set.  They simply wouldn’t ask their teams to do anything they either have not done, or would not do themselves.

In business, names like Jack Welch (GE), Herb Kelleher (co-founder of Southwest Airlines) and Sam Walton (Founder of Wal-Mart) come to mind.  I’m sure many others come to your mind, and I’d love to hear them with your comments.

The Old School leader has ingrained in their DNA “fundamentals that matter.”

They respect and honor what works, what is proven, yet they never stop learning new techniques to “Sharpen the Saw” as the late, great Stephen Covey wrote about in THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

This is NOT about that rare “old dog that is able to learn new tricks.”  It’s about RESULTS, because that is what matters.

In business there are personal traits that are closely linked with great leadership.

For me, Old School traits are at the top of the list.  I also think HUSTLE.  And OPTIMISM.

Have you ever seen out of this world results from a lazy pessimist?

Of course not!

Give me someone with dirt under his/her nails, that sees potential, where others see road blocks, that has rock solid old school fundamentals.  There’s the person that will generate results….and make people better in the process.

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The Transformational Story of Johnny The Bagger

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Is it me or is customer service at your local retailer “ho-hum” at best?

The people that enjoy delivering customer service from the heart are simply few and far between.  When your lucky to receive great service you almost always know it, AND remember it.  The loyalty these moments create are hard to measure, but it is very real.

Here’s one of the greatest short stories I’ve seen on the art of customer service, and what happens when it truly comes from the heart.

This is one of the best 3 minute reminders on how little things, driven from the heart can make huge impacts on people.

Will you be a Johnny today?


Barbara Glanz’s presentation of the story.  

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A Marketing Case Study from Parental Guidance: It’s The Approach, Not the $’s

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What started as casual internet “research” just became a Marketing Case Study!  I loved Parental Guidance and was curious to see if the critics liked it as well.  So I turned to the granddaddy of all research tools (GOOGLE) and searched on “Parental Guidance Reviews.”  One of the top results returned was the “Rotten Tomatoes” site, which I have heard of but never used.  The site is actually intriguing and very useful, a one stop shop for all things movies.  The front page ranks the top 10 current movies by box office $’s.   Next to the movie name they display the move a “tomatoemeter”, which is listed as “the % of approved tomatoemeter critics who gave the movie a positive review.”

Parental Guidance was ranked #4 on $’s but had the LOWEST score by a WIDE margin at 17%!  Said another way, 83% of the critics were not positive in their opinion.   This is where things get interesting….

When you click on the link of a movie you get all the movie details (trailers, reviews, cast info, etc).  What intrigued me more was the “audience score,” which is defined by the site as “the % of the Rotten Tomatoes users who have rated this movie 3.5 (out of 5) stars or higher.”  What did they score Parental Guidance?  68%, a far cry from 17% of the critics having a positive review.

parental guidance score

 What I wanted to understand:  Is this large “GAP” of 51 points (17% critics – 68% audience) between what the audience scores vs the critics common?  I checked this gap on each of the top 10 movies and summarized it below.

rotten tom movie review

So the answer is (at least for this small subset of 10 movies) that a 51 point Gap between what the critics say vs audience sentiment is highly UNUSUAL!  The largest gap in the top 10 besides PG was 16 points (The Hobbit…) and the average gap excluding PG’s 51 points is only 7.    The statistical term for the 51pt gap between the critics and the audience is what’s known as an OUTLIER.  Something out of the ordinary is going on, but I suspect it’s related to the demographics/”sweet spot” of the critics being vastly different than the people actually watching the movie?  But that’s not important.

What IS interesting however, is what the people who brought this film to market are doing to deal with this (or not).   I limited my discovery to 2 social media platforms, Facebook & Twitter.  Here’s the cursory review to get a feel for the Marketing/”Engagement” approach.


  • 16,477 fans.  10,2664 “talking about it.”  67% of fans “talking”
  • How does this compare to the remaining top 10 movies?  #2, behind only the Guilt Trip with 67%.  The average “talking %” for all 10 movies was 32% as of 1/1/13.  Confirms what Rotten Tomatoes reported:  People really like this movie and will talk about it!  OPPORTUNITY!
  • Their marketing approach?  PUSH, PUSH, PUSH.  And when all else fails, PUSH even more.  How do I come up with this?
  • I scanned the first 15 posts or so, and the majority of the posts from PG are some version of “Buy Me!”  There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, however…..
  • When you look INSIDE the posts and the comments, what is clear is that there is NO ENGAGEMENT!  No thanking people for their kind words, or attempts to generate more conversation.  I hunted for 5 minutes and couldn’t find any engagement, not  even a “Like” on any of the comments.  So I  stopped here…

Facebook Take-Away – It takes very little time to “care” and say Thank YOU!  The pay-back is hard to measure, but real.  People want to engage with real people, not bill-boards.  This is simple, Old-School butcher shop mentality of customer service.  It’s old-fashioned, it worked then and it works now.

Twitter    #ParentalGuidance

  • 2,112 followers.  Generally a low number for a film with major celebrities (Crystal, Midler) with over 600k followers alone and what is probably a stout marketing budget with countless free media impressions
  • 850 or so “Tweets.”  I would say they do an “OK” job at best, but clearly their objective is to Re-tweet positives (without editing them) that have come primarily from the cast and secondarily the public.  I say secondarily, because there are many examples of positive comments with the #PG that went un-acknowledged from outside the cast.
  • There was one snarky comment about the movie in particular from a person (I will not name) with  30k followers.  Unfortunately, this got Re-tweeted over 218 times and “favorited” nearly 600 times.  What was PG’s response?  I couldn’t find it, so I stopped digging on Twitter at this point.

Twitter take-away:  The conversations will happen whether the brand likes it or not (they always have, always will.)  Would the brands rather be in the middle, or on the outside looking in?

Twitter is often compared to being at a cocktail party.  If you were at a cocktail party, would 90% of your conversations be “look what great things they are all saying about me?”  If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t do that on Social either….

[Continue Reading…]

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