Is a sidewalk really a sidewalk or a “ridewalk” or “sideride?”

Our fair city has pushed for drivers to share the road with cyclists. Other than downtown, where whole lanes were eliminated on many streets to create a dedicated cycling lane, all other streets were not changed. Even when there was road construction to fix our many potholes and deteriorating road surfaces, roads were not widened in order to create more space. At best, a lane was eliminated in parts to add a cycling lane. That was small and ineffective at best (my opinion).

As a result of the fear many cyclists have that drivers are not going to be cordial and respectful of cyclists on the road, many cyclists ride on the sidewalk.

And this is concerning on many fronts, especially pedestrian safety.

The other night, Trappar and I walked to the library to return a book for my wife. It was a glorious evening, we had a quick pace, and Trappar was very obedient when he stopped at every intersection and waited for the command to “heel.”

We also had to use our quick (me?) reflexes to get out of the way of cyclists riding on the sidewalk. Sometimes a pair rode abreast and this forced us to walk on the grass or get run over.


How selfish and inconsiderate can you be?

Every walking/cycling path in the city has signs that indicate cyclists must yield to pedestrians. I endorse this.

When I see parents riding, without a helmet, and guiding their kids down the sidewalk I harken back to growing up and learning how to ride safely on the street. The other day, we noticed a woman with her child riding on the street, both with helmets, and she was advising on how to drive on the less busy side streets. “Stay close to the curb.” “Use proper hand signals.” Etc.

But, in a classic case of “that which we permit, we promote,” when serious cyclists ride abreast on the street, do not obey traffic signals, zip in and around traffic at stop lights, at least I know where others think they can get away with not following respectful rules.

What happens in your business? Do you allow bending of safety rules? Have you stopped to consider the long term impact and potential problem that gets created when issues compound and pile on each other?

What happens in your business? Do you allow some sales reps to discount “a bit” just to get the sale? Do you allow everyone? Have you studied the total impact of “just letting it happen once?” This is how bad sales habits start.

What happens in your business? You have company vehicles that are not clean – do you have a cleanliness policy (I hate policies, but if people cannot understand…) or at least a standard expectation? Do people driving your company vehicle know they create a bad impression of your brand when they are poor drivers and do not follow the safe driving rules?

What happens in your business? You deal directly with customers and your staff sometimes have a bad day. How do you help people understand that customers really don’t care about your bad day – they care about receiving excellent service. Do you advertise that your service is the best? Do your employees understand what this means and how they are expected to deliver? Maybe they have suggestions on how to get everyone onside with the standard because they can see when a teammate is not pulling their weight.

You can apply this assessment to every part of your business to realign and ensure everyone is operating to the same, and ideally safe, standards. Setting the standard and living it is one of the most powerful change tools that can be used in an organization. And this always starts at the highest level of leadership.

Or are you content to let things slide once in a while?

And to all those riding on their bikes on the sidewalk. I have often thought about sliding the figurative stick into your spokes to teach you a lesson about respect.

Fortunately, Trappar has me trained and we will be “the bigger people” and move out of the way. I promise to just mumble my annoyance.


Ahead By A Century

This is my 100th post.

Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 70,000 words have graced these pages.

Some funny. Some serious. Some just taking a different look at life and our foibles as humans.

I try to bring the message back to some aspect of life, personal development, or business that may cause you to think differently and seek another way to improve your performance in one of these areas.

I do not want to be preachy. I don’t know everything…although I would like to! Could you imagine all the trivia contests you could win!!!

Lately, there have been more conversations with friends, colleagues and relatives that have some aspect of analyzing human behaviour. From assessing the quality of service in a cell phone store, to the service received by a waitress at a high-end restaurant, to blog posts by brilliant marketing professors from Australia, to insightful briefs from a UK ad man, to Dilbert cartoons that so vividly capture office life, to deep discussions about success on the football field and translating it into business with my new friend from BC, there is never a lack of stories to share and discuss.

But it is the application of these discussions into a specific action to resolve a particular challenge that can help make improvements in your life – whatever aspect you are trying to get better at. There is always work involved; sometimes very hard work. Otherwise everyone would be doing it and the word would be full of sameness.

As humans we have each been given gifts. Some people are terrific at cultivating these gifts and leading lives of value. Some people want to be successful but they are not prepared to do what it takes to be a top performer. This is OK, just don’t whine about stuff afterwards. Stop talking about your trip to “someday I’ll…” which is the magical land where nothing happens for you.

I have spoken quite often about my admiration for Coach John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA. He was voted the top coach of the past century – in any sport at any level. His main focus was helping people be the best they can be. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be the CEO or become the star player. Coach’s focus was doing all the little things better so you can do the best with the gifts, tools, drive and ability that you have. Sometimes, by pushing ourselves, we can become better than we thought. We can achieve something we never would have imagined possible.

I believe this all starts with caring for ourselves first. If you are doing the best you and you try to get a bit better each day then you are successful, according to Coach. When you are doing your best you can assist others. This collective “best” is how great teams are born in sports and business. It is how families can support each other in their dreams and goals.

Many great researchers, coaches, professors, consultants, leaders, and other experts  have studied human behaviour and tried to distill key characteristics of success. For me, Coach Wooden’s definition of success still stands the test of time and reality because the only thing we have full control over is our self.

Those that know me also know I am a huge Tragically Hip fan. Hence the title of this post. When lead singer Gord Downie succumbed to brain cancer Maclean’s magazine did a fitting tribute in a single issue. Ron Maclean’s poignant article was tremendous. But another that struck me was Professor Robert Morrison’s analysis of the lyrics of Ahead by a Century. He is a professor of English and literature at Queen’s in Kingston, hometown of The hip, and originally wrote the article for “The Conversation.” It was updated and reprinted in the MacLean’s issue. He does a masterful job of describing the stages of life that are described in the lyrics. He writes:

At its most basic level, “Ahead by a Century” is a song with a broad sweep, as it weaves together past, present and future. It is about time, memory, loss, disappointment and desire. But it is also about Canada’s identity and the politics of hope. It is a song in which the Hip asks us to shed what holds us back, and to imagine a future that sets us free.

First thing we’d climb a tree
And maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
And listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
Cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal
This is our life
And that’s where the hornet stung me
And I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight, we smoke them out
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
Stare in the morning shroud
And then the day began
I tilted your cloud
You tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time
And rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
But that’s when the hornet stung me
And I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight, we smoked them out
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
And disappointing you is gettin’ me down
Be your best when your best is needed. Your best is needed every day. Make today better than yesterday and tomorrow a bit better than today.
And you are ahead by a century




I’ll Call You…

I have had a few technical challenges over the past few years that have impacted timely email responses from me.

First, I had my email account hacked about a year ago and it caused all sorts of problems in my communications with people. Some folks addresses were blacklisted and it took a while to sort through this mess. Eventually my provider was able to help with the solution and we got closer to normal. Instances of emails being blocked by the special filter we employed were reduced dramatically. This was good news and allowed me to respond in a more timely manner.

Second, some people were sending messages to an account that I do not check that often in the hopes of getting a response from me. This was the proverbial double-whammy.

Then something happened with the Samsung Smart Switch App – it stopped being smart. Now my contacts and calendar do not sync between devices. My carrier blames Samsung, and Samsung blames the carrier. And no one can resolve…not even with blogs and forums and stuff.

I also changed how I check and respond to emails so I could be more productive. I only take a thorough look at my inbox in the morning, at noon-ish, and end of the day/early evening. The exceptions are when something is very time sensitive and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. This happens infrequently.

I reply as time and priority permits, and I do reply. I even reply to some of the generic sales prospecting emails just to see how they will respond to my response. There has been only one very positive response and one semi-decent response in all the years of me sending back a note saying “your service is not for me because…” In fact, I have sent messages asking if they ever checked my website or LinkedIn profile to see that I am a sole practitioner. I have never received a follow-up from anyone in this category.

What is your personal or corporate policy in terms of responding? Some are immediate. Some are within 24 or 48 hours, depending on travel, court appearances, and the like. I am interested to learn what works best for you as it may be a great share for other readers.

On the flip side, I have sent many messages (calls and emails) that have never been returned. In many cases, these were to people that know me, in some cases very well. And in other cases we met in person and agreed to follow-up. As I was working on one project, there were many surprises with responses/non-responses. Colleagues creating a similar business offering mentioned they experienced similar responses.

So, this got me to wondering:

  • was it my messaging? Maybe, so I adjusted and used other proven successful language.
  • was it my timing? Maybe, so I was patient with responses and tried not to flood a person’s inbox or voice mail.
  • was it something about the offer? Maybe, but the offer was just for 15 minutes of time. A reasonable investment with potentially more substantial benefits to them.
  • was it personal? Gee, I hope I didn’t do anything wrong.

This process, and a recent situation with a fundraising event, leads me to a famous Sandler Sales System adage – “a fast no is the second best answer from someone.” The worst is “maybe.”

I would rather have you simply say no. I am not offended. As we were seeking donations for our event, I asked a supplier that we use. He responded that as a small business they are very targeted in their giving and they stay within a component of their industry that can always use certain donations. “Terrific” I said, “I am glad that you are doing something so positive. And I am still going to buy our supplies from you.”

Others received the request letter right from me and said they would take a look and get back to me. Sadly, these were the responses I never received. In one case, I called to follow-up and was told “I will talk to my manager and call you back  by 4 this afternoon!” I am not sure which afternoon they were referring to, but the response still hasn’t happened.

With this said, however, the event was a rousing success because of the overwhelming generosity of so many people. More prizes and larger prizes and special prizes than I ever could have imagined. And I am so grateful for this outpouring of generosity. Thank you very much to all who donated and bought tickets to support and attend.

And to those few others that have known me for a long time that never responded at all?

When you need something just remember, I only have so much time and available personal resources to offer. I will invest my time and money where the return is graciously accepted. And in your case, “I’ll call you…”

Technology Driven or People Driven?

I cringe when I hear companies say they must be data-driven. Data-driven means you are beholden to numbers that are a function of activities that happened and projections of a future that no one can predict with accuracy (or I would win the Lotto Max every week).

People should always be at the center of decisions. Hopefully, you have a seat at your boardroom or management table for your customer, as advocated by Dr. Linden Brown and his son, Chris, in their fantastic book, “The Customer Culture Imperative.” Purposefully having a chair dedicated for your customer means you will talk about them all the time – with intent and focus.

Please do not misunderstand me. Data is important to learn more about your customers, your competition, and understanding other influences on your market and on your company. It is the way this concept is so often described that I get a nasty feeling in my gut. And it is not gas!

The great Dave Trott talks about how the person/customer has always been at the center of the various technologies and platforms throughout the evolution of media. And that they should still be at the center today.

I believe that this holds for data-driven focus as well. While we must obtain a clear view of the customer using the appropriate data points, too often we rely on these analytics to forecast certain future behaviours. And I do not see consistent evidence of this approach resulting in success. Otherwise everyone would be doing it!

A couple of weeks ago I referenced a recent Deloitte study that concluded that millenials are not that different than baby boomers when the boomers were younger.

And yet we are made to think that this is some new species that everyone must worship.

Understand – YES!

Obsess over? – NO!

How many decisions do you make each day that you can say are 100% predictable? While I may have a pattern of certain habits, why did I decide to eat the last leftover burger with a fried egg for breakfast today? This is not normal behaviour for me. The data would have shown a trend that would be one of two breakfast options that account for 90% of my morning choices. And today’s choice was a definite – and tasty! – outlier.

Digging deeper on my morning eating habits, a researcher would find that there are many factors that might impact my daily choice. And these factors are only somewhat consistent or predictable. So, a breakfast cereal company would be often studying the wrong data points about me in order to predict what cereal I might like.

I go through food phases on a whim – I cannot really tell you why I chose raisin bran the other day when there were fresh mushrooms and bacon that I could have used to create a tasty omelet. Hint – using Pam cooking spray allows that omelet to slide around and it is easy to flip.

When you extend the decision matrix to my daily choice of clothes, for example, the data will not be accurate to a great extent either.

You would gain greater insight into my decision-making if you studied the psychology of my choices and the behaviours that were attached to the entire process.

Becoming a behavioural scientist, not a data scientist, would help increase the understanding of the buying behaviours and actions that retailers would really crave.

There was a saying that a previous VP I reported to used often – “In God we trust, all else bring data.” While there are important truths in this statement, the actual person that you are trying to get to buy from you is not inherently at the center of the decision-making process with this mantra.

You must bring some human element to the analysis to increase your understanding of the person or group you are trying to attract. “Win the heart and the mind will follow” says Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads.

The words from the chorus of the song, “Human,” originally written by the Divinyls, and covered by The Pretenders,  sums it all up quite nicely:

Well there’s blood in these veins
And I cry when in pain
I’m only human on the inside
And if looks could deceive
Make it hard to believe
I’m only human on the inside

As marketers and human beings, do we seek to understand the behaviours of our customers or do we slot them into a chart and beat the living data out of them?