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The Slight Edge

TV, James Brausch and the slight edge

James Brausch has been talking about tv’s effect on your income (and kids, etc) over the last day or two.

One post in particular should leap out at you: the one about the correlation between tv viewing hours per day and annual income. While I agree with his comments, I wanted to warn you not to get “bound up” in the ratios themselves, the scientific accuracy of the numbers/survey and all that.

Those numbers and their accuracy to 7 decimal points don’t begin to matter. What does matter is what you do with the time you would normally spend watching American Idol, etc.
Are you reading books from my book list, or for that matter – anyone’s?

Remember, Amazon has said that the average American family buys 5 books per year – and that most of those are GIFTS. Given that bit of information, how much effort does it take to get another slight edge over your competition if you are regularly reading business and personal development books, marketing newsletters and similar materials? Not much, IMO.

Are you putting out any effort to learn more about your competition, your industry and more importantly – what tactics and strategies are being used by people in other industries that can be molded to become useful to your business?

I suppose the bottom line is this: are you putting out any effort? Or are you watching American Idol? Look around you. What are the habits of the most successful people you know? If yours are completely different, perhaps you should consider why that is.

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The Slight Edge

NASCAR’s 2007 Daytona 500 – further proof of the slight edge

You may have noticed by now that I tend to push the concept of the slight edge. IE: Continuous small improvements. Little hinges swing big doors, that sort of thing.

If you missed the race yesterday as I did, look at today’s USA Today. On the front of the sports section, there’s a picture at the finish line showing the winner crossing the finish line ahead of the 2nd place car.
After 500 miles, the difference between the day’s best/luckiest driver/team and the 2nd best/luckiest driver/team is….

0.02 seconds, or about the depth of the bumper of the race car.

Wonder how many times Mark Martin replayed in his mind all the things that he did on that last lap, while supposedly waiting for the yellow.

Look at how close Olympic class races are over the last 20 years. There are plenty of examples where a slight edge (often less than a second) would mean the difference between gold and silver. Between winning and “losing”. Between reaching what they’ve worked 20 years for and …. not.

What can you adjust today?

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Corporate America The Slight Edge Uncategorized

What first impression does your business give people?

Today I spent the better part of the day flying across the country. 6am flights, yummy. Spending a few days with Dan Kennedy in DC.

When Dan has meetings in DC, he typically has them at a particular Hilton. Most of the experiences at that Hilton are very good, if not outstanding. The staff is typically right on top of everything, every time.

But there are always first impressions that a business gives to clients, some they never think about, or just dont realize if they don’t secret shop their own business by following the same path that their clients follow.

Here are the first impressions that I had from a few businesses today.

Arrived at Dulles. Noisiest airport ever on the INSIDE, particularly down by the shuttle area (again, INSIDE). I go to the courtesy phones, which are difficult to hear with because there’s a muzak speaker right above the phone (not an ideal design, of course). Add to that, the phone’s earpiece is too quiet and there’s no volume control like there typically is on these setups. I’m not hard of hearing (at least not since I was a teenager<g>). Anyone who is hard of hearing will find these phones very difficult to use.

I call the Hilton from the courtesy phone. A couple dozen rings, I get the switchboard (who I can barely hear). While all of this is going on, its a very noisy luggage roller fest next to me (again, not Hilton’s fault). I get reservations, they cant find me.

I call back, ask for the front desk, note to the girl that I cant hear her, she does something and I can finally hear someone and carry on a conversation. We speak for a minute, she starts taking care of my stay details and we get disconnected.

I call back and it takes 3 minutes of rings to get the switchboard (I know this because I have to keep hitting the “more time” button on the phone screen) and then it takes 3 more minutes before the front desk picks up (very unusual for them). Anyhow, I get the same pleasant woman, she says she’s gotten it taken care of and tells me about the shuttle.

It arrives every 15 minutes. I’ve been standing outside for 30 minutes already, which is why I came in and called. A British-sounding gentleman was there when I first went outside, he’s come back in, called and gone back out.

Finally, I go back out and the Hilton van is sitting there in the same place I’d left about 10 minutes earlier. No driver. 20 degrees out, wind blowing. Its colder in DC than it was in Montana at 5am when I left for the airport. I start to walk around to van to find a driver and a head pops up. He’s taking a NAP in the van, in the pickup lane.

I open the door, he is somewhat startled, pulls on his shoes and ties them, I sit down. He gets my suitcase. We rumble about 100 yds and he finds the British sounding guy, who is fairly annoyed by now but only makes a brief comment to me about it. He tells me he’s been waiting for an hour. 45 minutes for me.

We take off for the Hilton. Driver is in a rush, dodging left and right, van is lurching around, making “Im your universal joint or main bearing grinding and Im going to explode at any second” noises. Not a Hiltonesque experience.

Driver is going way too fast for this van, not unsafe, just too fast for a vehicle driving clients around and making the van continue to lurch about. Imagine if your grandmother was being brought to the Hilton, she’d be freaked. Not what Conrad would have wanted. Probably not even what Paris would want:)

Of course, once I’m inside the Hilton, their well-trained, competent staff takes over and all is well. Its a very well run place once you’re inside and the HHonors rooms are fantastic. Giant marble showers, plasma screen on the wall above the desk, etc.

But my first impression is of the napping van driver, our lurching trip from the airport, and the wait in the cold.

I’m guessing that shuttle drivers are hard to find and retain, and as such, Hilton pays less than ideal attention to that function when they train, analyze their quality processes, do customer service checkups, and so on. But that’s just a guess.

What first impression customer contact are you forgetting about? Icy sidewalk? Mario Andretti driving the van? Male flight attendants talking about “getting some” while female passengers just a few feet away are getting settled into their seats? (that happened on Delta this am on the SLC to IAD leg).

The slight edge. Keep looking for it. The investment makes big payoffs. First impressions last.

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Reality? The Slight Edge

The Apprentice that quit, and secret shopping to win

I record the Apprentice on the DVR. No idea when it comes on, no idea when its over, I just look to the DVR. Cuts out the details and lets me view on my schedule, not the Donald’s 🙂
I watch it because there’s always a marketing or business lesson there somewhere.

The episode I saw last night had Trump splitting the losing team into 2 teams and pitting them against each other in a quest to make the best tour of Hollywood.

The losing team simply couldnt have been more spastic. The leader was trying so hard to get 100% support for every decision that she proved unable to make a decision. Trying not to get fired is a great way to be so lame and boring that you get fired anyway. Pulling an all nighter to figure out a bus tour? They had some challenges, namely feedback from a microphone that should have derailed them for a moment, but instead seemed to infect their tired minds. They were clearly out of their league. Im a little surprised that Trump didnt fire them all, but that would shorten the season a bit too much, I suspect. The team leader ended up quitting, despite a lecture from Trump about quitting and regretting it later. She probably would have been fired anyway, but instead of fighting, she chose to quit.
The winning team clearly got it. They had the Laker Girls meet the bus, sign autographs, they had water and popcorn on the bus and the smartest move of all – they had James (the Internet guy) ride the regular tour bus ahead of time so that he could experience it and ask the customers on the bus about their experience. Seems like a simple thing but that little thing is what changed the direction of the experience that they provided for their riders. Little things. The slight edge. They realized that the driver’s stupid jokes needed to be managed (ie: eliminated).

Do you secret shop your business? Do you secret shop your competition? It’s quite a learning experience. If you get 10% of the benefit that the Apprentice team did, you’ll find it worthwhile.

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The Slight Edge

Hanson Trucking understands that little things make a difference

I was driving past Hanson Trucking today and noticed they had put up a new sign.

Airline pilots who have flown millions of miles still use a checklist. Why wouldnt truck drivers do something similar?
This sign (see below) helps that happen.

Not rocket science, but if it saves one extra trip to a mill because something was forgotten, the fuel savings alone will pay for the sign, plus improve the company’s performance, and perception at the mill. Smart.

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The Slight Edge Uncategorized

Round rubber

Bought $505 worth of tires late today from one of the largest tire store chains in the Northwest.

They didnt even ask my name and address, other than “Mark” so theyd know who to ask for when my rig was ready.

This company does so many things right that this just floored me. What are they thinking?