Good Customer Services Involve the Entire Staff.

Photo by Michael Competielle

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.

Photo by Michael Competielle

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?

Fire Your Toxic Clients to Increase Revenue

Photo by Michael Competielle

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?

Photo by Michael Competielle

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.

Photo by Michael Competielle

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.

Inventing New Ways to Gain Results

Photo by Michael Competielle

Recently I was asked how I had the ability and willpower to turn down some birthday cake. Being a vegan for over one year now most of the ingredients in the birthday cake I don’t eat. Eggs, milk, processed sugar, butter and who knows what else. As I listened back to the question in my mind of what I had just heard I believe they were saying “I don’t have to willpower to say no to cake”.

Certainly this is a person that lacks in self control and discipline.

Daily I’ll turn down food options that I’ve previously eaten and even enjoyed in my quest to maintain my new lifestyle. Is this the correct option for me? That’s a question I can not answer however it currently is working.

Am I on a diet? Not exactly. I’ve decided to make a large change in my philosophy that drives my life decisions. Empathy towards animals, environmental issues of factory farming and lastly my personal health. Is anyone one reason more pertinent than the other? Not really.

Is it a fad diet? Good god no. I feel sorry for the fad diet types, convincing themselves this is the best thing since sliced bread, only to dropout days or weeks later citing a list of reasons why they could hack it. Why not? Because they probably didn’t make the diet a lifestyle change, and the reasoning behind the diet was probably superfluous and selfish.

Is there a magic bullet that will change your life and make it perfect? Nope. Is my life perfect? Nope. Do I want it to be? Not really?

With environmental issues, sustainability problems and corporate greed, we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a mess. The environmental impact of over populating the planet, over using the natural resources and not really caring have us in a downward spiral as we race to the bottom.

Do I have the answers? Nope and you shouldn’t listen to me anyway. What you should do is look in the mirror and take an honest assessment of yourself. Is there anything you can change? Is there any way you can make a minor adjustment that can incrementally have a large impact?

Are you in control of yourself? If your lacking willpower to not eat cake what exactly can you be in charge of? Are you faking your way thru life cheating and lying to yourself. I’ll guess the answer is yes.

Am I perfect? Fuck no far from it. Do I daily try to address my issues and make modifications. Absofuckinglutely. Will I be someone different tommorrow or next week? Gosh I hope so.

Currently I’m questioning my daily diet and the impact of my bananas and avocados. Are they sustainable and what impact are these foods having on the environment? Probably not a great one however I can tell you I don’t buy a lot of imported single use plastic crap.

I used to take mass transporation to work and for the last eight years I work 5 miles from home. Do I walk or bike to work? Nope as a car is a requirement for my job however would I? You bet your ass.

I’m of the BIFL movement. Buy It For Life. These products include:

Vitamix, Magimix, Jeep Wrangler, Mazzer, Sennheiser

I could go on for quite some time however I’m assured if you’ve bought any of the products on my list…. you already know.

Am I functioning in an environmentally friendly way. I certainly make a concentrated effort to.

“Five percent of the people think; 
ten percent of the people think they think; 
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

So how exactly do I invent things to get ahead? Think Thomas Edison…

Photos by Michael Competielle

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

Thinking like Edison and having the courage and willpower to try something. See if it works, if it does hooray for you, move on. And if it doesn’t work, don’t give up try something else. It’s only after you’ve exhausted every option can you finally saw there isn’t a solution.

Image if Thomas Edison gave up after his first failure. Would we have the incandescent light? The Phonograph? The Movie Camera? And the list goes on.

What does it take to invent something? Tenacity.

Every day I try something new. I’ll expand myself by taking on new challenges and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Have a failed? The real question is have I ever succeeded? For the most part the answer is no. I’ve gotten things done, received a few accolades but am I complete or complacent? Nope. Not by a long shot.

What is my legacy? I’m building it daily, constantly expanding my network of life’s works. Does anyone really care? Not really, or at least not presently. Will they? Probably when I’m long gone. Does that depress me? Nope it makes me push my self harder and farther.

Looking back at my achievements there a lot of small cumlative efforts that combined equal something. Am I successful? You bet your ass. Do you know why? Because nobody has to push or drive me to take risks and succeed. My inner inventive voice does that for me.

Starting a Startup by Starting….Now

Photo by Michael Competielle

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus

Last week I wrote an article on my experiences taking the Google designed SIYLI course. Part of the course incorporated a great exercise to start the building your future and developing a plan by Writing and Imaging Your Future.

Try it right now. Write down what you feel is the best possible version of yourself in your future. Maybe it’s becoming a yoga instructor or owning and running a food truck. Your personal future goals start now in the present.

During the course I imaged my future was running a creative design and experiential media business. I pictured a situation where I was in an inspiring office environment surrounded by drawings, sketches and prototypes of projects I was working on.

Since that day when I recognized my future path and focused on the goal, situations have presented themselves daily. I’ve worked on multiple corporate video shoots, two web series, two feature films and two shorts. I’m expanding my sound library, developing my immersive interactive kiosk and visual display prototypes.

I’m creating the brand of a new startup venture, designing interiors of a retail store, conversion of a massive old mill and finishing my first book.

Lately I’m attempting to declutter my life by selling off old things that are no longer inspiring. Since recognizing my future my mind is constantly focused on structuring my thoughts and situations that expand upon my vision.

If you’ve followed my advice you should be able to look down at your paper and see your future. It’s hopefully there in black and white. Maybe you thought about it before, talked about it with your friends yet nothing materialized. But I’m going to give you the secret to how to start that startup.


Photo by Michael Competielle

The Power of Now

There isn’t any better time to do anything than right now. It doesn’t have to be a huge step. Take one small step once a day for a week and see where you are in a week, in a month.

24 days ago I was a reader on Medium. I’d read 4–5 articles a day and think to myself one day I’ll write an article of my own. And then I did. My first article yielded about 35 views on its first day. Not bad for starting at zero. Second article 82 views in one day. Now I’ve got 700 views, I’m a paid writer for The Startup and developing a following. Incremental steps that honestly I never would have taken if I hadn’t decided to just start now.

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. General George Patton

Okay so maybe I’m not the best writer you’ve ever read, however the best thing I ever wrote was the plan for my future.

Lacking in funding, tools, abilities is not an excuse for not starting. It’s the best recipe for success. Money and a room full of equipment won’t build an amazing product. Your ingenuity will.

Write down your top five favorite products and the companies that produce them that you use daily. Here’s mine:

  • iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro- Apple
  • Oatmilk- Oatly
  • Silencer/ Convertible Pants- Kuhl
  • MOAH 2- Merrell
  • Polo Shirts- Orvis

Now as I analyze my list I can’t help but think of each companies products design, taste and feel.

Apple products have a form and function that I absolutely can’t live without. As tools of my trades I need a product that will just work. My creativity and workflow is rarely hindered by Apple products as they just function well. An important feature modeled into the fabric of the Brand and subsequently the company.

My lattes have never tasted better than after my discovery of Oatly. Reading the product labels I find a company with humor and foresight. With an importance on the ingredients and sourcing I know Oatly is out for both of our best interests.

Staring at a blank piece of paper in which I had written my future vision. And here I am doing it, building my future. Writing my first article it started with one word, then a title, then a sentence, paragraph and then I published it. Was it perfect? Hardly. Did I do it. Absolutely I did. Would I do it again. Yes. Everyday.

Every minute of my day I’m designing. Products, interiors, articles and sounds. I spend zero time dwelling on time I wasted in the past and only what I can do right now to move my business forward. And that’s by just starting something new right now.

Honestly assessing our favorite daily products and brands allows us to analyze why we use them and why we love them. And now the next lesson for today…

Photo By Michael Competielle

The Power of Why

Why do I absolutely love the products I use daily? Some reasons are technical, some reasons are ethical, some reasons are practical however none of them are based on price. I honestly don’t care about price. Now having said that I know what your thinking.

“Paid writer”

Not quite. I’ve evaluated each of the products I know I love and need to be happy. I enjoy the way I feel and function daily while using these products and brands. There is no way I can put a monetary value on my happiness.

So how does this help your startup?

Build the company of which you’d buy the products from. Don’t worry about profit margins, marketing tactics or distribution chains. Worry about building a great Brand. A brand that cares about quality of its ingredients and that the user experience is unforgettable.

As you look back down at your paper that states your Imagined Future, ask yourself WHY?

  • Why am I starting this company
  • Why am I designing this product
  • Why is my service the best
  • Why do customers trust my brand

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. Steve Jobs

Answer why, and if you say it’s for money, your probably in it for the wrong reasons. A lot of my services I give away for free. Know why? The return on investment is often huge. More doors open and more opportunities present themselves, and money always comes. But on my terms as I’ve decided to control my future.

Why… for me.