When Mother Nature strikes her blows can be catastrophic. What was once a sleepy arts community becomes a disaster zone. Floodwaters rising to historic proportions as five-foot raging water ripped through homes and businesses. Objects becoming buoyant as mud waters rushed into structures destroying everything with its wake.
As you arrive at the scene best described as your worst nightmare, something internally clicks. Your responsiveness and assertive direction kicking in. The body and mind operating on autopilot. Emotional shock and awe are suppressed as you rise to the occasion and lead.
A meditative calming overrides your consternation. Your thoughts and actions become focused. Stepping into the driver’s seat you embrace the challenge and become a leader.
Leaders lead, followers follow and some people are over-wrought with anxiety and fear. Frozen within this moment. Helpless and panicked.
Observance of the wreckage it appears overwhelmingly impossible the normalcy of life can continue. Worldly possessions and property waterlogged and filthy.
Victims of the disaster look tattered, beaten, and defeated. Looking to you, to anyone to assist. To guide. To help. Often the victims are leaders that at this moment can’t lead.
Leaders assembly a calvary of compassionate followers. Willing to help in any way humanly possible. Grabbing shovels and brooms, distributing water and food. Providing shoulders for the misfortunate victims to cry.
Selfless able bodies arrive, called to action by sympathy and desire to help. Ready, willing, and able to help restore civility. Awaiting orders so that they assist.
A police chief arrives calming the situation and directing people to safety. Trucks full of supplies arrive, dispatched by leaders that determined they were needed. Chaos becomes order as natural-born leaders quickly make decisions.
Leaders aren’t born, they are created. Leaders will lead when nobody else can. Leaders lead and leaders concede when another leader assigns direction.
Scanning the situation I counted not one leader, but hundreds. A football coach marching his team of strong able body players into the toughest game. The game of life. These boys are being crafted to become future leaders, carrying heavy saturated furniture from people’s homes into the streets. Shoveling mud and sludge.
Picking up the phone I called every leader I could think of. People I knew that naturally can assemble a team of followers that would assist in reversing the disaster. Those leaders would yield to my direction, hang up the phone and proceed to lead. Assembling and directing.
Leaders are not born, they are created. Leaders lead and leaders concede. Leaders provide comfort and compassion. Leaders make tough decisions and selflessly right the wrongs. It’s how you live your life and what you do every day that will make you a great disaster leader.
“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu
A few years ago I was reading an article comparing Patagonia and North Face. Both companies manufacture similar outdoor winter wear products with a similar price point and customer base. Both companies are turning profits however North Face’s annual sales far exceed Patagonia’s.
North Face is a subsidiary of VF Corporation which is a publicly traded company that owns 30 odd apparel and footwear brands.
Patagonia’s 2018 Annual Benefit Corporation Report notes “Each year, we commit one percent (1%) of our annual net revenues to support nonprofit charitable organizations that promote environmental conservation and sustainability”.
Patagonia is a 46-year-old company and known as an activist company. Back in 2011 on Black Friday, Patagonia’s marketing campaign placed labels in their coats “Don’t Buy This Jacket” suggesting to customers they don’t buy the companies products unless you absolutely needed a new coat. Patagonia recognized a 30% percent increase in sales with a belief the increase was the winning over the competitor’s customer base.
Patagonia also created a buy back program called Worn Wear. The concept is to wear, repair and share in items you already own instead of buying new.
As an educated consumer, my purchases are generally researched and calculated. My decisions are based on many variables as I search for brands of companies with philosophies that I can align with.
The environment is a top priority for me as I’m recognizing the effect we are having on our planet from companies and people that aren’t concerned with our future. Businesses are built to profit, that I can align with however certainly not at the expense of the world environment, workforce or excessive taxation. Corporate welfare privatizes profits and socializes losses at the expense of the taxpayer who also is the consumer.
Large corporations lobby politicians for tax breaks, leniency on rules and laws governing wages, benefits and environmental impact for only one purpose, artificial growth and maximizing profits.
Working as a Brand Designer with a new startup company we are designing the core values of our brand. Listing the individual threads of what will ultimately become the fabric of the companies mission and philosophy we are researching companies that align with our own personal beliefs and recognizing their struggles to close the gap on sustainability.
As we recognized the current status of the global business environments challenge to remain competitive and profitable we also see a pattern of the abusers. Cutting corners, removing quantity and quality from goods and services while devouring up the competition and creating conglomerates that are too large to fail all hiding behind a welfare system designed to absorb the risk.
Daily I challenge myself to evaluate my personal impact on the environment and things I can do to change. My distance traveled to work has grossly diminished based on 8 years ago and I’m evaluating the products I buy, upcycle, recycle and repurpose. I’ve stopped shopping in stores fully of kitsch and buying memorable trinkets. Instead, I try to purchase Buy It For Life products that may not last an actual lifetime but certainly can be repaired, handed down or resold.
I’ll remember places visited and experienced by taking photographs and writing about the experience. The sharing of the experience through communication far exceeds the memory of a plastic souvenir thrown into a drawer.
For products that I can not buy it for life, I try to extend the life expectancy of those products by no longer discarding clothing or shoes due to imperfections, I’ll instead try to stretch out a bit more use out of the products until they are fully expended.
I revitalize old buildings to give them a new life while minimizing the waste of discarding the structure. I’ll repair items to extend their life and donate or gift away items with limited resale value.
Items such as clothing, books, and household goods have low to no resale value due to the artificial capitalist economy we have created. Cheap products and services are being sold while risks and losses are bring absorbed through creative accounting and taxation loopholes.
More billionaires are being created annually as employee benefits, wages, retirement funds, and job security have diminished to record lows. Our product choices have also been grossly decreased as we find out about large conglomerates who own the majority of the products that are on our shelves. Startups and market innovators are bought up and absorbed into just another product line in these already obese corporations.
These companies work on tight margins and maximize sales by increasing their market shares. Many corporations product lines or acquired companies are designed specifically to lose money to drive down the price of goods and services forcing competitors to cut corners for survivalism.
Our single line of defense is to research the companies we purchase from. Learn from actual consumers about their personal experiences on purchased goods and services and we must create our own standards of what we as the customer are willing to pay and receive in return. We must flock to companies that align with those beliefs and place a stakeholder in their future.
The future of our planet relies purely on our active participation in revitalizing our planet by minimizing waste and buying sustainable and renewable resources. Collectively we must look to where we can take a firm stance on global warming, pollution, reduction in quality of life and natural resources.
“We can revitalize the Earth by making gradual changes based on products we use and how we treat the waste. Our biggest voice is in the boycotting of products that do not align with our core beliefs and in turn either doing without or buying from companies that take a truthful stab at saving our planet”.
Heading back from an art installation a few weekends past my wife and I had a craving for some favored Peruvian food. Being we were close to a great restaurant we decided it was a perfect opportunity to stop in.
Over the past year, our lifestyle has changed to where we’ve incorporated a vegan diet. We’ve found many places that have vegan offerings and so we make it a priority to frequent businesses willing to undertake the challenge of modifying their menus and training to accommodate our needs.
Our dietary choice is of the equal importance of empathy to animals, environmental concerns and lastly dietary requirements. Luckily we don’t have nut allergies, gluten intolerance or milk allergies.
Our prior experiences in this restaurant had been quite memorable as we had waitresses that were also vegan and that both had a firm understanding of the ingredients that needed to be excluded in our diet. Our food was amazing and afterward, the waitresses asked us to fill out a survey card expressing our appreciation for the vegan menu items to reassure the owner of the decision to keep the various dishes on the menu. Of course, we complied.
Walking into the restaurant that beautiful fall afternoon we sat down and read through the menu which contained clear and distinct (v) and (gf) next to many dishes.
Over the past year, we have learned that we need to be responsible patrons and specify our exclusions such as no cheese or no queso, no egg, etc. Often the menu doesn’t specify certain ingredients that’ll often wind up in the dish and we recognize we need to remind the staff.
That afternoon we were as extremely detailed to our waiter as we have been in the past again specific that we were both vegan and therefore no meat, no cheese. We each had a lovely Peruvian drink as we awaited our food, hungry from the days hiking.
Out came our painfully frustrating food. My wife’s salad was doused in cheese and a white cream sauce. My meal included a creamy shredded meat substance in two of the three pieces of my trio entree topped with a sliver of hard-boiled egg.
We don’t like to make a scene and felt sympathetic to waitstaff based on the low pay and reliance on tipping to survive. Both my wife and I scraped off the offensives pieces and ate what we could. We paid our full check and left a 20% tip never to patronize the establishment again.
Harsh? Possibly however the systemic failure is real. The efforts to create a specialized menu to cater to specific dietary needs completely ignored is unconscionable.
Upper management who possibly is the owner assumably decides on what dishes the restaurant will offer. The conscious decision to attempt to list knowledge of dietary restrictions on a menu and fail miserably at following through to getting that food onto a plate and served to the consumer is dangerous. With food allergies on the rise and mistakes by the inclusion of ingredients potentially life-threatening why should I risk returning to this restaurant.
Mentioning the scenario to a friend I learned that they also had the same experiences. This is disheartening that a service-based business refuses to get it right. Am I extreme? Not really I’m just cautious.
Van Halen and Brown M&M’s
Back in the 1980’s arena rock was huge with Rock and Roll acts filling arenas and stadiums on huge often sold-out tours. Bands like Van Halen headed up by David Lee Roth a spectacular showman know to preform karate like stunts and often fly over the crowd suspending from overhead cabling.
Van Halen was an experienced roadworthy band and Diamond Dave Roth’s uncle was the owner of the famous Greenwich Village club Cafe Wah? Enter the Van Halen tour rider weighing in at over 50 pages included the legendary request for backstage M&M’s with a caveat of no brown M&M’s in the dressing room.
Once the bands’ management arrived at a venue they would verify if the M&M’s had been included and excluded the forbidden brown M&M’s. Eccentric? Hardly. It was a test to verify the promoter had read and was detailed oriented enough to follow the riders requests. So what if there were brown M&M’s? The band and management would request a detailed safety inspection of the stage and rigging.
The fish is stinky from the head.
Good customer services involve the entire staff.
If you have a broken part in a machine, it probably won’t run. And Ecosystems with a competent out of balance could upset the sustainability of the environment.
So why is a failure of the waitstaff a systemic failure? What exactly is the job requirement? To take a customer’s order, whatever that might entail and ensure it’s prepared and served accordingly. That’s it.
Modern restaurants have bus staff, runners, computerized cash registers. The job requirement is relatively low. Know your product and follow your customers’ requests. That’s it. Simple.
So why the issues? Lack of proper training and desire to care.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. One link breaks and you have a catastrophic failure. If there’s cheese in my dish or brown M&M’s backstage what other corners are being cut?
For years I’ve been building my business originally as a freelancer working as a hired gun and gradually moving towards a business owner. Often the lines are blurred on the difference between the two but what I will say is there are distinct differences.
As a freelancer you are always out there making connections to prospective clients, competitively bidding against god knows who and aggressively fighting to win work.
Personal investment in time, equipment, insurance and most of all learning is negotiated against low bidders that often haven’t any actual qualifications most frequently to a hiring agent whose objective is the bottom line.
At the start, I jumped at any opportunity that I could to learn my crafts and most often worked for zero pay. The investment into my future by obtaining real-world experience far exceeded the couple shekels my no budget/ low budget clientele could not afford.
I learned a lot, often the hard way. Not only did I make mistakes I learned how to fix them. Desperately needing to make the best of what equipment and knowledge I had I saw a positive trajectory as the quality of my work product increased.
Countless hours were spent reading forums, blogs, books and articles learning the craft while others were having fun. Early mornings my sleep was disrupted as solutions to problems arrived in my lucid dreams.
Money flew out the door at a rapid rate like the deforestation of the Amazon. An unsustainable business model as I was always chasing the dragon obtaining the best equipment to feel eligible to charge accordingly. To this day I’m writing checks monthly to cover the investment costs of these essential tools.
The phone continues to ring with some of my earlier clients wanting me to jump onto their next project. Most of their projects are still low/ no budget as they have also been following the same shitbag business model.
And then one day I just stopped. I didn’t stop working, I stopped taking shitty projects. I raised my rates to where I felt they needed to be and developed some concrete rules.
My first epiphany came during some research on passive income streams. My business was based solely on freelance work that came and went like a Hurricane. Calming before the storm as all was quiet and then the shit would hit the fan. Low budgets, timing constraints, submission deadlines. What the fuck? Didn’t anyone have a freaking plan? Yes, they had a plan however most often it was their plan, their project and their product. And where did that leave me?
Anxious and stressed solving other people’s problems for low money.
So what did I do?
A complete restructuring. It began by breaking down my passions and qualifications. An assessment of which of those areas could yield the most traction for my business model. I began to evaluate my client’s businesses that seemed to continuously be also working for low to no money and I began to see the pattern.
Clients that were working in markets that didn’t have a consumer value ultimately were taking on projects of negative equity. As we would develop marketing material and products without an actual return on the clients or even my client’s client Investment, the adage “you can’t get blood from a stone” reared its ugly head.
As I surveyed the playing field I began to see the gap. An area in my market that had a void I was certain I could fill. Immediately I revised my rate card and mentally fired my underperforming clients as I’d finish their projects as expeditiously as possible fully knowing it was the last time I’d work for them. I needed to stop the bleeding quickly as I felt by continuing down my current path I would reach the bottom. Instead of working on low and no money projects to obtain more experience and exposure I again decided to reinvest into my best investment…. Me.
Redefining my core business model was simpler than you would think. Fire shitty underperforming clients frees you of stress and anxiety. Your mind can suddenly function clearly as you refine your model. First and foremost what did I feel I needed. Honestly, it wasn’t more money it was a desire to obtain a feeling of accomplishment.
My restructuring has product prototypes sitting on my desk awaiting product launch. I’ve spent my time not working for shitty clients but writing my first book soon to be printed, becoming a writer on Medium, expanding my artworks and planning for some exhibitions in the coming months. I’m in preproduction for a feature-length documentary and developing content for a startup company.
My equipment is all still in use almost daily however I’ve repurposed the business model into profitable markets that I’m passionate about. I’m not spending any more time or effort working to get ahead, I just dumped my bad investments.
As I’ve weeded out the deadwood, my focus is clearer than ever and my path is clear. New opportunities arrive daily with limited efforts as I’m no longer burdened by the stress and anxiety of crappy freelance gigs. My profit margins have increased and my stress is none existent. Any expenses going out the door are for me. My products, my projects, and my personal development.
I don’t want you to think this is a get rich scheme nor a crappy fad diet. I firmly don’t believe in either.
This is a perfect way to find your lane and pick up some speed. Will I succeed? Absofuckinglutely… I already have. And what’s on the horizon? More positive upward growth. What I can tell you is as I’ve distanced myself from the underachievers I’ve grown exponentially.
We all have witnessed brilliant business ideas pop up into a void of an existing market,that successfully takes off and changes the status quo forever. A gap so wide and vacant you’ll question yourself on why you didn’t come up with the idea yourself. Like watching the instant replay of an amazing touchdown run and seeing that gap, as now visualizing how the running back saw an opportunity and made his move.
Did Blockbuster not see the coming of DVD services like Redbox and Netflix? They most certainly did however they stood there and watched as a small innovative concept…took over.
Not smart business. What did Blockbuster do wrong…they didn’t Look, Listen and Learn. Without looking at the then current DVD rental market and heading off the Netflix and Redbox growth, listening to their then current customer base and learning from the data, Blockbuster nailed it’s own coffin shut.
What about Borders books? With over 500 retail based brick and mortar superstores worldwide Borders had a decent market share. In the early 1990’s Borders had an edge on the industry by having a sophisticated inventory system that could predict and optimize consumer purchases. However with growing competition from Barnes and Noble brick and mortar, and online giant Amazon, Borders mounting debt and large wagering on merchandising of CD’s and DVD’s forced them into bankruptcy. Borders didn’t adapt to the moving trends of online sales, while they invested heavily into a market segment that was going digital.
Borders certainly didn’t Look, Listen or Learn to their customers or the industries innovations.
Ironically a few weeks ago I visited an Amazon Books store in Manhattan. The store felt familiar to me with bright lighting and blond colored shelving adorned with 4 Star and above Top Seller books.
Sounds to me like Amazon is doing just as I suggest…. Look, Listen, Learn.
Working as Brand Designer for a startup experiential event and products company I’ve been tasked with the core projects of defining our brand, corporate culture, product design/ packaging and defining our target audience. Simple tasks complicated if you head into the quagmire of business development books and websites usually aimed at copying others.
Most of the content outdated or written on a generally broad topic without analysis of the only thing that really matters… the customer.
Recent business advice was to discuss anticipated costs, balance sheets and capital. Typical Wharton School of Business tactics to maximize sales and growth of what?
Of what I asked? We are still defining the targeted market that’ll fit into our brand, vision and values of what this company should be.
Looking at the assembled team of highly qualified team members of our startup, I felt it was imperative to understand why they signed on. Looking and listening to each individuals values on what environment they saw themselves coming to each day. Listening to how they hoped to interact with our future customers and who they visualized those customers to be.
We have a long way to go to build the brand, however by looking at the current state of our alleged competition, listening to our proposed clients and learning from the experience we’re developing what’s soon to be an innovative, lifestyle changing business.
With limited efforts placed on balance sheets and venture capital and all effort placed on defining our mission and culture, we are sure to change the lives of customers…. We shall Look, Listen and Learn