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In the Land of the $27,000 Cocktail

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In my recent quest to dominate business knowledge, I wrapped up reading Winds of Turbulence, an overview by Howard Putnam of what it is like to be CEO of an airline that is both successful and fruitful and one that is struggling and on the decline. It takes courage to lead a company to greatness, and it takes even more guts to lead one through a declining and turbulent time of potential failure. The book was a wonderful read – very concise, not full of unrelated tangents, and was just entertaining and full of great and practical business examples of dos and don’ts, as well as some painful lessons learned.

Few industries have the ebb and flow that the airlines experience, regulation, deregulation, fuel costs, purchasing of planes, influx in prices, war, raw materials cost. It all has a very real impact on an airline’s bottom line, which in turn affects ticket prices, customer satisfaction, etc. It makes it non the easier to be successful, and guaranteed success is a “fleeting” (airplane pun) thing indeed :D Anyone heard of Northeast Airlines, Braniff, or Pan Am? Exactly.

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Picture credit 1.

Listed below are some of my favorite anecdotes and high level themes from this book. I take no credit for creating these and took them from the book itself. Credit where credit is due.

Budgets and Finances

·         Budget mentality creates waste – The behavior and attitude of a “budget mentality” almost never reflect a company’s true needs. Ask anyone who has ever worked for a state or government agency. The mad rush to seize all the funds they can get creates wasteful spending, poor allocation of resources, and fosters a hostile and competitive environment instead of departments working together.

·         Emphasize service and quality over profitability– This is one of my favorites, especially in the post 2008 world where greed and the mad pursuit of money and exorbitant wealth was a far cry from serving customers with a quality product while maintain a healthy, reasonable profit. Reality check: you can’t increase profits 5, 10, 30% on a yearly basis for forever! There isn’t enough economy to drive it.As stated in the book, “the bottom line will almost always take care of itself” p. 101

·         Productivity goals – Budgets are bad and unrealistic for projections, instead companies should focus on what they are producing and the costs associated with that production. Maintain reasonable guesses to meet those needs, and only spend what you absolutely must.

·         Spend $.85 to make $1? – Absolutely! Morality and ethical issues aside, a company should always be willing to spend some amount of money to gain an ROI if it is in line with their business plan, goals, and objectives.

·         A company cash shortage $27,000 party – This story just makes me sick, in the midst of a cash crisis at one of his companies, a bill was paid for a $27,000 cocktail party. People are losing jobs, the operation ability of the company is up in the air, and someone threw a huge bash for no other reason then “they always do it.” Can you imagine? I would be irate! Needless to say, they lost their job… lesson learned: don’t be STUPID.

Keys to Success

These points truly speak for themselves and can apply to any aspect of life:

·         “A plan is nothing more than a guide for action within an arena that is constantly changing. The demands of the environment must drive actions… the purpose of the plan is to reflect those demands…”

·         “Report simple, timely, and honestly,” even when it doesn’t show you in the best of life. People appreciate straightforward news and high integrity far more than anything else. Anybody remember when Bear Sterns ate it in 2008? Literally the day before, their CEO insisted that “everything was fine.” Ha!

·         Ability to laugh at ourselves – People, please. Don’t take yourselves so seriously! Work is serious enough as it is, and yet it is important to remain lighthearted.

 

Corporate graces

These are the absolute musts for any company to follow religiously. It should be engrained in your culture and encouraged and supported at every level. No exceptions!

Honesty
Integrity
Courage
Needs of society
Long-term thought
Innovation
Benevolence to the environment
Reciprocity
Justice
Ethics

What are some other keys to success? Enjoy your weekend!

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Destination: IRONMAN

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Oh man, it’s time. The twelve month wait is over and Tahoe is knock, knock, knockin’ (I feel that I may be dying on Heaven’s doorstep at the end of thatjourney). I know that I did my homework: 75 training hours in August. That’s a lot! Still unsecured in my preparation, I also feel unprepared from a mental standpoint. It’s always an unpleasant reminder of how much brutality is exacted upon one’s body and emotional capacity during an event that long, and to drag yourself away encumbered by wobbly limbs and a strangely mirth-some spirit does nothing to help. I have assembled my favorite race snacks, drinks, and socks, and have bled, sweat, and hauled ass all over Nevada and Northern California many, many times. The starting line waits for no man; nor I for it. Just let it pass in a blaze of excitement, fun, and minimal pain.

In 2013 I broke through IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene in thrilling fashion (a.k.a. I finished in one piece without dying, drowning, or breaking my legs). This year, I have a better pulse on what is in store, plus I invested far more into training time – which I never thought would be possible. This training season (February-August) I averaged 49 hours of swimming, biking, running, lifting, and yoga-ing monthly. Last year was a measly 38…pff! Big, big difference and I’m hoping that makes up for it. I’ve got goals and dreams and aspirations, like any athlete would, but having the race in my backyard will *hopefully* get me the advantage I’m looking for. If nothing else, I will know what to expect more than most…Oh Brockway Summit, the bloodied battlefield on which many will be slain not once, but twice. Lactic acid meltdown awaits for your quads and hammies!! >;[

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Training for these races (if one could even call them that) is a very strange phenomenon. My dog understands the impact because, well, she suffers the most from it. All those hours in a kennel while I’m out gallivanting on my bike or trekking through the woods, running shoes in tow. The time commitments really require sacrifice and take their toll very quickly and very abruptly. Last year was so busy and frantic – an MBA program plus IRONMAN stacked within six weeks of each other. It didn’t seem possible, and it certainly wasn’t the sane thing to do. I’ve written about the passing of time in many, many articles, but this go round feels a little different. It’s freaking September people! GAH! This August had been much cooler than any in recent memory, and it is so refreshing and yet I am a bit disgruntled that I didn’t have much of my summer to relax and do summery things. Instead of trekking across the Sierra Nevadas, I spent most of my three months busting my butt (literally) on my bike, which I have a very close and real emotional bond with now, running over pavement and through forested areas, getting my yardage in the pool, and trying to construct an overall life balance that is more a desperate pursuit of a sanity check and less true balance. You know you’re desperate for recovery when you have discussions with inanimate objects that you spend hours with such as your bike and/or water bottles.

I am super stressed – like, ouch. My coping mechanisms rarely fail me but getting sub-par quality sleep, crushing an incongruous training regime, working, and still being happy and social just takes it out of me. Ironically, I cannot wait until September 22nd. I will be done with all of the madness and yet college football season will have just begun!  A year’s worth of accomplishments will finally be laid to rest, and I can resume being a normal human being again. Ahhh, the soothing sigh of relief.

The dullness is beginning to seep into my bones, and I feel tired, worn, and just ready to get it over with. Doesn’t mean I don’t love swimming, biking, and running, and it certainly doesn’t mean I regret how I spent my six months of prep, but it is just go time. I’ve had a busy year and a very busy race season, and the time has come to get back to a somewhat calm reality. I have board games to play, wines to try, adventures to go on, and friends to chill with. Sleep needs catching up on, I would like to try some new food recipes, and my running shoes need a break (or I from them).

I nearly had a heart attack when I woke up today and there were only 18 days left. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I better find a new way to regain my razor’s edge. Listening to AC/DC will be a great start but I need to find the mental and physical freshness to tackle my upcoming mountain. Hopefully, I’m starting with proper sleep to lay a good foundation and figuring out the rest as I go. I expect nothing less than a blur from here through 6 pm on the 21st, but I am making a very conscious effort to enjoy it… all of it! Plus, I have a mother and a very dear friend from middle school coming from out of town to join the local cohort in supporting the racers. Can’t disappoint them!

How do you maintain a cutting edge prior to a big event, such as a trip overseas or a big project at work? What are your keys to success?

How Zappos Saved Me From My Own Stupidity

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Listen up folks, because I am not one to aptly admit this, but I’m an idiot! I have one of the greatest stories in my recent memories of just stellar, out of this world customer service. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to be writing this, because it is pretty bad, but it’s Friday and I feel like having a good laugh at myself.

As many of you know, I am quite involved in the rigors of triathlon, so naturally it makes sense that running shoes are something very near and dear to my heart. On average, I go through two pairs a year (just for run training) and an additional pair or so for random day-to-day activities, exploration, and conquests of assorted galactic empires. That’s a lot of shoes, and the mileage that the soles of my running shoes endure is plenty, roughly 15 miles a week year round, which isn’t a lot but put that into perspective of also swimming and biking 21 and 340 respectively each month, that’s quite a bit. Regardless, I make my shoe choice carefully; or rather the choice is almost made for me. As I’m sure someone out there can relate to, it is a pain in the ass to find cool running shoes if you have wide feet! Ugh! Besides being almost impossible, my favorite brand (Mizuno) drastically changed my go to pair last year, forcing me to switch over. And so the stage is set for a tale of great buffoonish behavior…

Zappos, a killer online retailer that started with shoes (read: similar to Amazon starting with books), is quickly taking over the world. Known for their top-notch customer service, (seriously, look it up) and with HQ in Las Vegas, Nevada, this company gives its customers plenty of reason to love them. Free shipping and returns is just some super sexy icing on that cake!

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So toiling down the path of shoe selection, I ended up ordering five different pairs of shoes from Zappos. In case you weren’t aware, it isn’t easy to fit even three sets of shoes into a cardboard shipping box, so naturally I receive a behemoth of box containing, unfortunately, not a single pair that worked with my Hobbit-like feet. Frustrating for me, and I’m sure frustrating for some poor Zappos employee who has to process a monstrous container of returned, sparkling running shoes. Round two was a bit more reasonable with “only” two pairs of shoes, neither which I found to my liking. So naturally I go about the process of carefully returning the now seven pairs of shoes, but in the hubbub I accidentally included a pair of shoes that I purchased at a local store, not from Zappos, and only realized my blunder a day after I had dropped the box at UPS. Needless to say, I thought the shoes were a goner…

So I submit a plea for help to Zappos service desk, and they kindly tell me that this happens all of the time. Honestly, I think they told me that to make me feel better :D but they provided great customer service as always, and said they would send in a request to the warehouse supervisor to see if they could track down the shoes. Truly, that was about 1000% more than I was expecting – I would’ve accepted the fact that I made a stupid mistake and that would be that.  A few weeks past, and my shoes were unable to be found. Much to my surprise, their customer service department apologized to me (the moron who shipped the wrong shoes in the first place) and more than made up for it by giving me a chunk off of my next purchase. Needless to say, I will continue to be their customer for a very, very long time. Quality products, killer customer service, and reasonable prices – pfff, I would be dumb not to keep shopping with them J

Normally, I write about customer service horror stories, but today I am pleased that the scenario was reversed. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Way to go, Zappos! Happy Friday indeed. What is your greatest customer service story you have to share?

Unpleasant Office Fails We Could Do Without

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Everyone loves a good bit of office drama, especially because there’s so much to go around! You spend 40+ hours of your life each week with your colleagues and of course shenanigans will occur. Multiply that by 50 weeks and you’ve got yourself 2000 jam-packed and emotionally fulfilling hours of joyous, employee mirth. That, and you get some of the craziest happenstances ever to be recorded by mankind…. Did you hear about Betty Sue?! Oh man…

You are stapling documents at a nice, competitive clip (come on bonus for being the Speediest Stapler in the Southwest!) when you come upon a 20+ page document. Naturally, you clutch the black shiny object preparing to infuse your silvery, pointed items of destruction into the defenseless, fibrous material holding printed words, only to wind up with a document that is unstapled, a staple that did not fully puncture the paper, and a frustrated employee. You quickly whip out the staple puller and repeat the process a minimum of three more times before finally conceding defeat and moving on. It would’ve been so much simpler to use the monster staple machine equivalent to a small pile driver.

That moment when your favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets lodged in your esophagus because you ate too fast…ow. And now you’re feeling foolish and not enjoying your favorite treat.

The instantaneous stopping of your heart because you missed a meeting, blew an important assignment, or said something stupid out loud. And yes, that rushing feeling in your veins is the adrenaline trying to prevent further stupidity and moronic behavior. You then run into an inanimate object and further humility triumphs the day.

When you smash the CEO of your company with a big, heavy, wooden door. Yes, this happened to me years ago – in front of a girl I was trying to impress… neither scenario worked in my favor.

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It’s Friday and everyone is excited. Hope the weekend treats you well! Be wary of those office shenanigans…now, if I could just find my red Swingline stapler…

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When Did Common Sense Become Rare?

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Perhaps one of the greatest paradoxical and utterly bewildering ideas is that of “common sense.” It’s common – everyone should have it, right? HA! Ask anyone, truly, and “they” will all laugh at you and tell you that common sense isn’t common at all. Not even close. Frankly, I have found that in the workplace that common sense is absolutely the exception not the rule. Not that I have experienced being struck with lightning, but that is the jolt I get to the senses when the blinders are torn back from my eyes and I see the rampant stranglehold that mediocrity, and dullness clamp down on the average citizen like a crushing vice. Fortunately for me, the department in which I work is packed with people all loaded with common sense, but that doesn’t mean my prior work experience at other companies was so great…

Common sense would dictate that being polite and well-mannered, using your ears more than your mouth (which is likely oozing diarrhea), applying logic, critical thinking, and active listening to conversations, and actually being engaged with the world would all be viable things demanded of every citizen, no different than filing taxes, going to work, or paying your bills on time. I said ON TIME! I’m always baffled when people complain they got dinged for not paying something on time… well, it was due two weeks ago and you didn’t pay it – it’s your problem, not mine!

I like to think that anyone going through the education system would acquire these “common sense” skills. Seriously, why is it such a struggle to be above the mediocre line of acceptability set for us? Why don’t people aspire to greatness? Why don’t they crave more? Who would want to be below average when you could be better than average? The answers to these questions obviously lie in far more meaningful and reaching conversations, and some prickly ones at that, but even in the realm of higher education I crossed paths with students who were bland – vanilla, lukewarm, tepid. They could be as easily forgotten as the hundreds of people you pass in the grocery store without giving it a second thought. Granted, there were also students who were clearly destined for greatness, but again not the rule and almost always the exception.

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In a world lacking delayed gratification, the ability to structure your finances soundly, and one in which more is “better”, it should come as no surprise that common sense is ridiculously underrated and rare. I just picked up a copy of America Mania: When More Is Not Enough and I feel that pretty much sums us up quite well. We lack common sense and we are packed feel of the desire for more, more, more… I have yet to finish it but will post a review when I do!

As you all head out to your weekend adventures, keep in mind that common sense is quickly becoming something to be treasured. Take the time to have enlightening conversations, read a good book on a topic you know nothing about, and make the time to improve yourself, even just a little bit. Happy Friday!

10 Reasons Why Swimming is the Best Medicine

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Hot off of a back-to-back race weekend, I was more than happy to retire my running shoes and bike cleats (only for a 24 hour break) and got to thoroughly enjoy my Monday and *gasp* actually spent time with my dog! What a concept :-|

I’m not going to lie; I am slightly depressed that I have finished all of my triathlons prior to the big granddaddy of the year: IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. It was a year ago, and what a brief year, that I signed up for that race and now it is nearly here, towering over me yet again with the imposing stature of a 140.6 mile mountain. My calendar has my workouts scribbled all over it, I have begun flagging days as “don’t make any plans!”, and I can only think and prepare as the day draws nearer.

I do find great solace in that my training and attitude toward the race are all controllable, and that can be a very empowering thought. When push comes to shove, I will be prepared for the repercussions. They are mine and mine alone to handle…

I am a swimmer at heart, thanks to my mother (note: my father would not share mine and my mother’s love for the water). The pool is home to me, in a much different context now than when I was six, but the principles are the same. There’s just something healthy and healing about the water surrounding you. It can be soothing; it can be relaxing; pff, it can even eat you alive and spit you back out in a limp, exhausted form! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why swimming is the best. And below, you will find 10 solid reasons for swimming being the trump card of all exercises.

  • There are no problems that swimming can’t fix. Shoulders stiff? Go swim. Hips out of whack? Go swim.
  • Feeling drained of energy and lifeless? Go swim.
  • Want to get bigger shoulders? Go swim. Looking to shred your abs? Go swim. Tired of chicken legs? You get the idea…
  • Need a good aerobic workout? Hit the pool. Hoping to spike your anaerobic threshold? Go shred some 125 repeats ‘til you can’t breathe.
  • Cat got your tongue in the latest argument you’ve started with someone? GET IN THE POOL!
  • Feet killing you after hauling your butt over a 15 mile run? The pool has a remedy for that. Get that blood flowing back into your legs!
  • Feeling underappreciated at work? You guessed it – pool time!
  • Need to burn off some angst from your personal or professional world? Knock out a 3000 yard swim.
  • Feeling like you aren’t going anywhere in life? Go swim across Donner Lake and then crush a breakfast burrito.
  • Having a hard time prioritizing challenges, coming up with helpful solutions, and overall feeling like you are worth your salt? Spend some quality quiet time in the blue oasis, honing your focus on breathing, your stroke, and the multi-colored swim lanes and flags overhead. You are the master of your own destiny at that point! The solution will present itself in good time

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Picture credit. Featured image credit.

So there you have it, the 10 reasons why swimming is just the best. Have a safe Tuesday, and enjoy all this August rain (if you’re in Reno)!

Why August is Totally Awesome

Happy first day of August! August is great, although July seems to usually be busier. 31 days full of summer glory and the last full remaining month before fall takes over. Thank goodness!

·         It’s almost September (best month of the year).

·         It’s nearly IRONMAN time!

·         August will have five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. That’s fun! (Note: there is a myth that this happens every 823 years. False!http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/823-years.html)

·         All the little people go back to school. Whahaha! >:-)

·         Baseball season heats up as the preparation for playoffs begins.

·         The weather is still nice enough to float the river, assuming there’s enough water ;(

·         While summer begins to fade away, there is still plenty of daylight left. 8 PM bike rides anyone!?

·         BBQ tastes just as good in August as in does any other month of the year.

·         Most of the major blockbuster movies for the year have already come out so it’s time to enjoy some sleeper hits (or catch up on video games).

·         My cyclist tan lines continue on!

·         It is time to start planning a vacation/reality escape in the fall

·         Instead of 100 degrees it is usually a much more manageable 90ish

·         Hot August Nights – thank you, classic cars!http://www.hotaugustnights.net/

·         The inkling that college football is around the corner begins to creep back into the world.

·         It’s National Goat Cheese month:http://blog.artisanalcheese.com/national-goat-cheese-month/301

·         Many special days also occur in August (source: Wikipedia)

o   1 August is Swiss National Day.

o   6 August is Independence Day in Jamaica since 1962.

o   9 August is the National Day of Singapore.

o   15 August is Indian Independence Day since 1947.

o   14 August is Pakistan’s Independence Day since 1947.

o   17 August is Indonesia’s Independence Day since 1945

o   The Philippines celebrates National Heroes Day in commemoration of the First Cry of the Philippine Revolution on August 23, 1896.

o   24 August is Independence Day in Ukraine since 1991.

o   27 August is Moldova National Day

o   31 August is the National Day of Malaysia.

o   It’s a great time to buy new running shoes!!

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So there you have it, plenty of reasons to celebrate August! Happy Friday.

 

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