30 September 2009

Customer Service - Part 1

I believe that the more one focuses on customer service and continually en grains service excellence in their daily habits both professionally and personally it will become more natural if it wasn't already. But, this is just picking the low hanging fruit, of course the more you do something the easier it becomes.

For those that think customer service is only for those with a job titled 'customer service' or in a support capacity you are dead wrong. Everyone is in the business of customer service. Whether it be a client from work, your boss, a co-worker, a subordinate, or even your family, one should always be providing the highest level of service that they can. Anything less is simply displaying laziness. If you continue to put the effort in you will be surprised at how others adapt and to see the morale change.

A Consultant must be motivated and hungry with a destination in mind.

If you've ever looked at my profile, you know that I earn my money as a consultant, specifically in the areas of learning and performance management. My job is very rewarding mainly due to the projects I get put on and of course the great clients I learn from daily. If you are one of those customers surfing the net and have found me...thanks for everything at work.

I thought I'd share a post I put on my work blog hidden behind a firewall. Of course, I'm sure it's worthy of some editing, but it is a blog post after all.

A Consultant must be motivated and hungry with a destination in mind.

After being in the consulting business for a few years I have realized the following:

  • Verbal and written praise from peers, direct reports, managers, other colleagues, and clients is just as good as a simple pat on the back,
  • Contract extensions and requests for advice and guidance down the road are the real indications that you are doing your job – the right way,
  • You are only worth merely a slice of what you are billable for annually, and
  • As I’ve said for a while now, the true test lies within your ability to continually prepare at least 2 protégés to replace you.

Continued positive feedback from co-workers is nice and accolades from clients might make you feel even better, but all these performance review ‘print-outs’ do is credit you for doing your job. Any consultant should know that if you are not getting positive feedback from clients on a regular basis something is wrong. You shouldn’t need ‘that-a-boys’ to prove you are out there hustling through the airports and burning the midnight oil. Check your demeanor, your actions, and the way you conduct business. By no means should you ever solicit positive feedback. Of course it’s okay to slip in the routine, “why don’t you tell my boss that?” upon receiving deserved compliments. But seriously, you should be setting the bar so high that compliments actually start to diminish and become rarer. A consultant’s above average performance should be routine and expected. If not, maybe you should get a day job.

Customers display their true recognition of your value by continuing to subscribe to your services rather than hiring a contractor or full-timer to do the same work you do for a third the cost. This is the true definition of an appreciated consultant. I think that this spans all industries and continued renewal of services speaks volumes. There aren’t always opportunities to continue projects or just keep your warm body around – that’s understandable. The repeat customers are the payoff though – these are the ones that really trust you to make them shine. However, if you can get the clients you worked with a few years back to call you for advice and guidance, you have really accomplished something. That is the true display of respect and admiration of your work. It won’t come easy, but this should be your goal. You will have to stay in touch yourself. But if you lay the ground work, the stars will a line. Just wait it out and work hard.

For all of the gold diggers and hot heads, come on, really are you serious? You can only be paid some small fraction of what you are being billed for. There is a lot of overhead in running a business. If you can’t get with the program, go work for yourself and join the rat race. Nothing is wrong with the system or working for the man. Continue to add experience and credentials to your resume and put yourself in a position within your company to be billed at a very high rate on great projects. Only then will you be able to make the big bucks. You can make this journey an express train, but it’s a give and take relationship. The give portion lies within being billable since you are the product. If your company is not selling the product how do you expect to get paid? Make it easy for your company and sell yourself and then you can start taking, just don’t get greedy. The money will come.

And finally, put yourself in a position to move up. How else can you move on and work on better projects without having replacements. Try telling one of your customers that loves your work and the relationship you have established that, “Oh, sorry, I have to go and work on this better deal with a more important client.” See how that goes over. You should always be grooming someone to fill your shoes and take your place. In order to continue to grow, work on new projects, new technologies, and pioneer new business you will have to have a replacement. If you don’t set someone up to fill the gap you leave behind you will either become stagnant as an expense for your clients or burn bridges trying to move on without meaning to do so.

I love being a consultant and am passionate about the road ahead. I am eager to land my next opportunity from current, past, or future clients or of course from within. I can’t wait for my next assignments.

28 September 2009

Fake Lobster Pizza

This past weekend I caved to my fiance's continued request for Red Lobster. If you know me, I do not like to dine at chain restaurants, especially the type that the food probably comes frozen and either tastes like crap, isn't good for you, or costs much more than it's worth. I am happy to say that this was only the 3rd Red Lobster experience of my life as far back as I can ever remember. The first being in childhood, and the 2nd being last year in Ft. Lauderdale. During that experience I was presented with a wonderful skewer of shrimp. It was so wonderful that they interlocked two teeny shrimp looking pieces of meat for every one to appear like normal shrimp all the way up the wooden skewers. What a deceitful trick. I lost what little respect I had for the chain that day. Well, that brings me to my story for yesterday.

I wasn't feeling 100% so I opted for a bowl of gumbo and what they were calling a Lobster Pizza. Let me start by giving Red Lobster credit for the picture, upsell by their staff, and actually the taste. It wasn't bad outside of the dripping oil - but that's normal for many pizza pies with certain mozzarella, so I won't complain about that. The issue I have with this appetizer is that they have the audacity to call it Lobster Pizza as if it's real lobster. The description defines it appropriately with Langostino Lobster: "A crisp thin-crust pizza topped with langostino lobster meat, melted mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and sweet basil..." I can't really complain about the price even without real lobster meat since I pay way more than that for tens of other appetizers or dishes elsewhere. It's the Langostino that gets me. I noticed it before ordering and didn't really let it affect my choice. But when I got my flatbread creation I saw a handful of what looked to be crawfish pieces mixed amongst the cheese and tomatoes. I looked it up later and was even more disappointed.

I learned my lesson. AGAIN. I just don't think I will ever completely understand why she loves Red Lobster and Benihana so much, but I'll leave Benihana for another day. I should talk to her parents about it more as there must be some great childhood memories that stand above this fake food.

If you are curious about these Langostino Lobsters click on any of the highlighted words and see for yourself. They are nothing like Maine, Florida, or Pacific lobsters. I just don't want to explain any more and get all worked up about it. I did find it interesting to read about the class action law suit in California against Rubio's on a similiar topic.

27 September 2009

When is enough?

I attended the Florida Gator football game this past weekend in Lexington, Kentucky against the Kentucky Wildcats and I saw the hit that took Tim Tebow out of the game live and then later saw the ambulance drive by with him inside on the way to the hospital. It was a scary sequence of events but not something most of us football fans haven’t seen before. The difference last night was that it was Tim Tebow, our Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, who may now be out for a while. He will most likely be back at the helm for our next game against LSU, but either way, out for a bit – and I am by no means a medical doctor.

We all know that concussions are part of the game of football. One of the ugly parts, but the players understand and choose to take this risk. It’s easy for me to sit here and talk about this type of thing having never actually played a down of organized contact football, but I respect the situation none the less. I bring all of this up because it is going to be interesting to see and hear the commentary the next 2 weeks from the media and other schools regarding whether or not Tebow should have even still been in the game figuring the Gators were up 31-7 in the third quarter and in control of the game.

I think there is a lot more to the situation then people give it credit for. There is of course the primary conversation of whether or not the game was over and then there is the discussion of running up the score. But, I think there is more to it. As far as the game being over, sure Florida was dominating the game, but try and tell either football team that with 20+ minutes left on the clock that the game was over, or the 50,000+ paying fans. Yes, I do think the game was more or less over (where Kentucky couldn’t come back) at the end of the 1st quarter, but there’s more to it than that which I will get to in a minute. As for running up the score, maybe it’s because I’m a Gator fan, I do think it’s okay to score 50-60 points on another NCAA opponent…especially in this specific game against another SEC eastern team. Kentucky is a good squad and is capable of scoring 4 touchdowns of their own. So what am I really trying to say? I guess what I am getting at is that when is it acceptable for a team like Florida to go out there and test lots of their plays? We keep hearing that teams like Florida leave starters in too long, run up the score too high, and the games are more or less over when they are 20-30 points up.

Let’s take a look at the overarching goals at hand. Florida is gunning for another championship, the 3rd in 4 years. So Florida needs more than 15-30 minutes of football to work through their playbook and test out different packages with all of the players. This was only Florida’s 4th game this year. In the first game, Tebow only played into the 2nd quarter. The second game he played into the 3rd quarter. And then Tebow played the whole game against Tennessee, their 3rd opponent. I know Tebow and the other Gator athletes practice quite a bit, but they really need to play 60 minutes to ensure they are prepared for upcoming opponents. I think having an athlete like Tim Tebow in during the middle of the 3rd quarter is completely acceptable when there is a 24 point margin. Yes, it was taking a risk, and yes, this is what will happen sometimes. I’m sure if the exact situation was to present itself again, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow would do it all over again.

I hope Tim Tebow ‘s head is okay and he is able to quickly to recover from this injury. But, I think the critics really need to look deeper into the situation before criticizing what Florida Football and many other schools are doing to prepare for a title run.

Florida @ Kentucky '09

I have been working in Louisville, Kentucky every other week for over a year now and made sure to get tickets to this past weekend's NCAA football game with the University of Florida at the University of Kentucky down in Lexington. Below are some of the pictures I took on Saturday. Not the best photography, but something to share. It rained almost all week before and some more the morning of the game. We were lucky during the actual game time to see the sun and not have any rain.

The cloudiness in some of the pics is actually some smoke from a cannon or fireworks.

22 September 2009

No more myspace

Well. It was only a matter of time. I finally pulled the plug on my myspace account. I was a few years late setting one up anyway. I love the idea of social networking, hence this blog site, but the idea of a myspace or facebook doesn't sit well with me for some reason. Both of those mediums are great in concept and work well for millions of others.

One can't beat the ability to keep up with current and past friends and acquaintances the way that those sites provide. I was able to reconnect with several friends from the past which was great, but since I got to a point where I was only checking my site once every 2 weeks or so, just to see if I got mail, I closed the book on it. I know that there are privacy settings and ways to keep non-'friends' out but it's just hard for me to have pics out there on the internet that are no longer mine. As well as a profile that quickly becomes out of date.

I'm sure this sounds a bit weird. Especially since these social sites are now the norm. I am at a point where I want to focus. I want to retain LinkedIn and of course this site, so I made a choice. I'm still on my second cell phone - how odd is that? You should see the beat up thing. It still works, so why change it? What does my smartphone have to do with myspace? Nothing. I guess I'm just tired and rambling.

So, for now it will be Michael Michael and LinkedIn for me.

20 September 2009

War Games fans.

Attention War Games fans. Why didn't anyone tell me?

Apparently there is a new version or remake of War Games and it's called War Games: The Dead Code. It appears to have been out for over a year now - I just happened to catch it on the Sunday Night Movie on The CW while looking for other NFL games on TV. So I guess since it was published in 2008, I must be the last one to know.

I'm not like most youths of my age declaring The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off as my favorite movies from my adolescence. I always watch War Games whenever it reruns on TV as it defines a fair slice of my interests as a youth and I always enjoy watching him talk to Joshua.

I'd have to say the top 3 movies of my childhood are:
Donald [Duck] in Mathmagic Land,
R.A.D., and
War Games

Headed to Lexington

Well, the 3rd weekend of college football is over already. Me and the rest of the NCAA football fanatics wait all year for the season and then it just goes by so fast.

Florida pulled through and beat Tennessee as expected but not by the margin that was widely predicted. The upsets came this weekend with Washington over Southern Cal and Florida State beating up on BYU.

I am really looking forward to attending next weekend's Florida game at Commonwealth Stadium against the Kentucky Wildcats as it will be the 5th SEC stadium I get to visit. And I have tickets ahead of time. Having tickets before the day of a Florida game is a rarity for me as they are always so hard to get. Or should I say, how expensive.

I will try to post some pics next week.

09 September 2009

Happy Late Birthday to Blogger!

I noticed the piece of birthday cake on the Blogger logo today and investigated. It turns out it is Blogger's 10th birthday. Happy Birthday Blogger!

07 September 2009

NCAA Football Week 1 2009

There are only 2 more games left to finish off week 1 of college football. Tonight's Labor Day showdown with Miami at Florida State and Cincinnati/Rutgers. With that said it was nice to see the SEC go 11-1 Thursday through Sunday. Our only loss was Oklahoma State beating Georgia.

Football season is back!

06 September 2009

I'm an interrupter.

I often find myself in a situation hearing: "I didn't finish (what I had to say)." I wish I didn't interrupt others so much but at least I recognize the problem and continue to work on it. I have good pockets of time where it doesn't happen regularly and then other days when I get on streaks.

If I had to guess, I'd say it has been going on since nearly middle school. I don't know why I say that it been that long other than I know it's been a while. My pendulum swings between having too much to say and thinking I'll forget my thoughts if I don't jump in the conversation. Sometimes at work I am a real 'pause pouncer'. It's tough sometimes to tell when someone has finished their thoughts or is just pausing for a moment. I normally figure it out too late.

Well, at least I'm working on not interrupting. I'm looking forward to the day when I can say: "I used to do that."