Driving Social Business, Championing Innovation, & Inspiring Creativity

Babies, Bikes, & Beer. Does It Get Any Better?

What a great weekend! Well, at least for my family it was, as we were lucky enough to avoid most of the damage from the #brewcityflood on Thursday. I say “most” of the damage because we again had some issues with the skylight in our kitchen.  It seems as if whenever we get apocalyptic rain storms it leaks in the corners.  Never fun, seeing as it softens up the drywall around the skylight, which will yet a gain need to be redone.  One day I’ll get around to replacing the darn thing but not really wanting to spend the money to do so.  Despite the minor damage we encountered, my thoughts and heart go out to all of those who sustained significant losses.

Anyways back to the real reason I wanted to write this post.   Saturday I had a great ride from Waukesha into Wales and back.  It was a great hour and a half ride, solid pace, and I felt really good the entire time! At first I thought it was going to rain, but the clouds broke about thirty minutes in and made way for sunny blue skies. Could not have asked for better riding weather.

Fast forward to later Saturday afternoon… Heather and I  (baby Lillian in tow) went into Milwaukee to watch the Downer Classic Pro 1/2 criterium.  We always look forward to this race as the crowds are fun, and the racing is intense. This year was our first year attending as parents, and we did not know how Lillian would do in the heat and with all those people around.  Good news for us, as the weather was much cooler downtown and the crowds were very light. I cannot ever remember attendance being so poor for this event. Perhaps many were dealing with damage from flooding.  The race course was also impacted from the rain, as several pot holes and dips in the road formed.  The race was even restarted a few times due to significant crashes.

As attendance was so low this year, we were actually able to grab a table at Cafe Hollander on Downer. This was awesome, seeing as in years past you needed a reservation a day ahead of time for an outdoor table on race day. Another win for us!  Right from the table we were able to enjoy the entire race, eat a great meal, and enjoy some delicious beer. I enjoyed a few New Belgium Fat Tires (a personal favorite), and was able to sample a beer from Unibroue Brewery called Trois Pistoles.  A really heavy beer but extremely tasty, I will definitely order one next time.  Sun almost set, dinner through, beers drank, race over, it was time for us to journey home.  Babies first Downer Classic Criterium was a success!

Sunday morning I was able to enjoy another great ride.  I embarked on one of my infamous rides, Le Tour De Delafield (see ride page above for route details).  Let’s just say I had the legs this morning, as I felt great!  You could not ask for a more perfect day to ride.  A HUGE thank you to my wife for letting me escape from daddy duty the last two days so I could enjoy some time on the bike.  This afternoon I was able to return the favor and watch the baby for a bit so she could get out and run with our dogs for an hour or so.  She is looking forward to getting back into running and cycling after a long hiatus (le pregnancy).

Sunday evening was also enjoyable, as we headed out to Waukesha County Fair.  First festival with baby Lillian, glad it was a small one.  She actually slept the whole time in the baby bjorn. Bonding time for daddy, as I got to carry her the whole time. We made a few laps of the grounds, enjoyed some traditional fair foods, people watched a bit, and headed home.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend in the saddle and with the family. I am already looking forward to the next one!

Building Relationships Via Twitter

I have had some time over the last few days to really think about why I am present on Twitter, and what I truly enjoy most about that arena.  To be honest I could quite possibly open it up to the entire social media landscape as I am passionate about building relationships regardless of what form they might take in person or online.  For me Twitter seems to have a significant draw.  Mostly because it seems to house a significant number of local professionals, that are for the most part *bites tongue*, trying to add value to the online community in some way. More over these people actually care about others and are working to build relationships with people, in turn enhancing their personal and business lives.

Clearly there are the ever present distractions on Twitter i.e. Tweens discussing @JustinBieber or obsessing over the #Twilight movies at all hours.  Let’s not forget the constant noise of those individuals claiming to be “social media experts”, “gurus” or my favorite “ninja’s”; that won’t let you forget how awesome they are.  Meanwhile your Twitter stream seems to be overrun by these individuals selling their snake oil.  For the record, I am not impressed by your 38,000 followers, and 1,356,900 tweets.  When was the last time you actually “connected” with someone in a way that actually makes that other person feel valued?  It is clear to me that many on Twitter just don’t get it.  These “experts” cloud the internet with noise and distraction.

For me it’s different.  I’m not a social media expert by any means, nor will I ever claim to be.  How can one claim to be an expert in an arena that changes every month, every week, or every day for that matter?  For me social media is about learning.  Continuous learning.  Learning about how to better connect with people, both personally and professionally.  For me Twitter is about building trust, credibility, and relationships with real individuals.  It is these relationships that can ultimately lead to customer retention, customer loyalty, new business, or even a new friendship.

I can’t tell you enough how amazing it feels to have searched Twitter for a dissatisfied customer, a customer that has a problem or simply needs a question answered, and then been able to deliver for that customer in a way that turns around their perception of the products and or services you are selling or support.  To me this is the ultimate use and reason Twitter even exists.  Your customers need a sounding board.  A way to give you feedback, ask questions, or just plain vent.  The occasional positive praise doesn’t hurt either. There is one important lesson to take away here.  Listen to your customers.  They are taking the time to talk about and give feedback about you, your products, and services.  Use this information to make changes for the better, and build positive relationships with others in the process.

My goal is to serve as a resource in my field.  Someone others can trust and are excited about working with.  If I can help someone in some way, no matter how small, then I have added value to their life.  The ability to add value when possible is what keeps me using Twitter as a means of communication.  For me it’s all about building relationships and connecting with people.  Social media (Twitter included) is just another vehicle to get to that special place with your customers.

Creating a Positive First Impression with Your Customers

Ever walk into a retail store and wonder, is anyone working here? Are they even aware I walked in? Did this experience make you want to visit that establishment again?  I certainly have been in this situation and unfortunately it happens frequently. In this day and age, when it’s just as easy to make your purchases online, and when your competitors are chomping at the bit to steal your customers, it is critical that you acknowledge everyone that took the time to travel to your store.

Take a look at www.zappos.com for a second. You can now purchase shoes and clothing online for lower prices than you see in most stores, get free shipping, and try them on in the comfort of your home. Get an item that doesn’t fit? No problem, send it back for a full refund and shipping is free! For the record, this is not the only website that operates this way.  Now, seeing how easy it is to buy online, still think your first impression with a customer in your store is not critical to your success? Think again!

This initial customer greeting is your first date, the first dance, the infamous first impression!  Most likely your customer can buy what you’re selling from countless other stores or mediums.  You often times only get one chance at this, make it count.

In my years of retail leadership and service industry experience I have seen all extremes of what I like to call “The Greeting”; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s often your first face to face interaction with your customer, it better be good and leave a solid positive impression of you and your brand.  Over time I have come to the realization that the best customer greetings have three key components.

1. Act with urgency. Your customers need to feel like you value them unconditionally.  This means acknowledge their entrance into the store within 5-10 seconds.  This should be a vocal acknowledgement such as “Welcome to *insert your business here*, how might we assist you today?”  (Some variant of this verbiage is fine). It is ever important that your customers feel as if they are being truly welcomed into your store.  Think of how you would greet visitors to your home.  This is no different.  Additionally there may be times when all of your staff is currently busy with customers.  It is still critical that someone takes a brief moment to acknowledge customers coming into the store. Letting customers know you see them, and will be available to serve them soon will go along way.

2. Have a positive attitude. This one is the most simple but the easiest to get wrong.  Attitude is everything.  If you and your team are having fun serving customers it’s easy for customers to pick this up in the atmosphere within your store.  Believe me they can tell which of your associates aren’t happy to be at work.  It is so important to greet customers with a smile; be warm, inviting, and genuine.  Attitude is contagious.  Which attitude do you want your customers to catch?

3. Follow up and check in. Often times it can take time to work through the customers you might currently have in your place of business.  Keeping a pulse on the customers that are waiting in queue will be critical to their satisfaction and add to the overall first impression.  Letting them know on a continued basis that someone will be with them shortly, and thanking them for their patience goes a long way.  This shows you did not forget about them and that they are still important to you.  Don’t miss this step, as it’s often easy to do.

In my experience using the aforementioned three components of the effective greeting will ensure that you lock up that critical first impression with your customers.  The greeting alone will not guarantee a sale, as it’s up to the rest of your sales process to close the deal.  However, a proper greeting will show your customers that you care about them and that you value the fact they took the time to choose your establishment to visit.

Motivated to Move Forward

For some time now I have wanted to create a space to share ideas and interests, yet I have always come up with an excuse on why I couldn’t.  Not enough time, too much work, so many personal responsibilities, the list could go on; yet all of these were just imaginary hurdles that I needed a push to jump over.  Today I received that push and gentle guidance that has enabled me to see what this space could be.  I credit my first visit to #MKELikemind at Bucketworks in Milwaukee and a compelling speech from Jim Raffel, a local small business CEO,  in regards to blogging and building your personal brand.

Once of my biggest hurdles was a question really.  What are the impacts of combining personal thoughts in a blog that contains professional insights as well?  This question was answered for me today, and I guess one could argue on a stance either for or against it.  The light came on for me in a sense that all the ideas I will share over time are all my own viewpoints, be them personal or professional.  Now I would agree that one should approach the combination of both professional and personal posts with the highest in tactfulness.   I am passionate about all of the ideas I write about, they make up who I am.  Why would I leave any of it out?

For some time now I have enjoyed this quote from Henry Ford in my business life: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!”  Today it had additional significance for me personally.  All too often we focus on why we can’t do something (insert your reason here).  I have decided that in regards to creating my digital space; one which will serve up thoughts on the customer experience, personal milestones, and life’s shenanigans, I can.

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