“The 2-Mile Sweep”

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Hello ~Contact.FirstName~,
If you’ve ever met me in person, the first thing that comes to mind is likely NOT “distance runner”. It might more accurately be “bowling ball” or “miniature plow horse”. None the less, in an effort to stay in shape for high school soccer, I took up track & field as a spring sport back in the day. I chose a combination of sports never to be repeated: I threw shot put, discus and ran the 2-mile.

Truthfully, I didn’t run the 2-mile, I participated in the 2-mile.
You see, as you may remember from your own track & field days, meets took forever and by the end I was bored to tears, so I thought I’d participate. That way at least I’d get some running in for soccer season, my true love.

Knowing that winning the 2-mile race was not even an option, I still needed a goal. I landed on “thwarting the enemy”. I took it upon myself, as a number of good friends were indeed competitive in the 2-mile, to clear their way to victory. From the opening gun I would weave, sprint and dodge my way in front of the opposing team runners for the first 400 meters, annoy them, then settle back to be “lapped” by those same runners as they would finish easily over a minute before I did.

Littlestown. Much in the same pattern, hours after winging my discus, our meet at Littlestown High School in Littlestown, PA was drawing to a close. We lined up for the 2 mile; 8 wiry competitors and me, looking burly and dreadfully out of place.

 
(A classic quote from a track official to my coach was, “ He looks like he should throw shot put.” – my coach – “He just did.”)
 
With a bang, we were off and the race started like every other. Our best runners led the pack as I annoyed the others and settled in to finish the meet. It was late in the season and I was getting pretty used to the routine.

In the middle of the race I noticed that some of their runners were still in sight. I guess all that running had worked a little because I felt good and chugged past a few, still over 3/4 of the track lay between me and the #3 runner. That was OK with me, in fact, it met my expectations for the race and I chugged on putting Lap 5 in the bag.

The coach. Jim Cook was one of “ those” coaches. Strict, not a yeller, but he had an opinion about your performance and when he did, you knew it. I hadn’t really had much interaction with him as he coached the runners, of which I was, very loosely, one.

 
For some reason, for whatever reason, maybe he was bored with my performance, too. Maybe he was bored with the meet. Maybe we needed points. Maybe he just wanted to see what was possible, because he was waiting for me in turn 1 of Lap 6.

The difference.
Mr. Cook, said as I chugged by, “Come on, Hugh. You need to get this guy. Come on, go get him. You can catch him. Go get him!” 

That was it. That’s all he said, but he said it with a conviction and belief that I did not have, until he said it; until he gave his conviction to me as a gift and a demand. Suddenly, my complacent running didn’t seem good enough anymore. Suddenly, that runner didn’t seem so far away. Suddenly, I had something to run for, something to live up to that hadn’t been there before and I started running like I meant it. 

Lap 7. As I crossed the finish line completing the next to last lap, something had changed. The runner ahead was less than 100 meters ahead. Our whole team was assembling near the line as something unusual was happening. Now it was on. I couldn’t possibly have gone to all this trouble only to let them down, so I pumped my dwarf-sized legs and bored my eyes into the back of the remaining runner, willing him towards me.


Isn’t that the way it always works?
We go through life working hard, having mild success, but happy to finish the race in 5th. We’d just keep doing that time and time again, wouldn’t we? Then along comes something, someone, some event, some diagnosis, and we are catapulted into the stratosphere of performance. We never knew that we could handle, achieve, push so hard, go so far and climb so high.

Why can’t we perform like that all the time?! If we can do it when circumstances happen upon us; if we can do it when pushed to the limit by necessity, then why not each day? Why not right now?

Coaches. Did you ever stop to think that Tiger Woods coach, probably isn’t as good at golf as Tiger is? Once you get to NBA level play, why do those guys need coaches? Aren’t they good enough? Many pro sports players have a team of coaches – a strength coach, a shooting coach, a defensive coach, a free-throw coach. Often they even employ a sports psychologist!  Ever hear of “keeping your head in the game”? 

The American (business) Dream is at odds with coaching. For some insane reason, in the business world, particularly in the small business world, we are told that successful people “did it themselves”, “bootstrapped success”, “went alone against the world and won”. In every such story, delve deeper and you’ll find a coach, maybe not an official one, but a coach none the less. Turns out, every success story features a coach or teacher or mentor who believed in the suceeding person beyond person’s belief in him or herself.

Coaching is the most efficient way to reach your peak performance. You can hire a coach You can read blogs like this, but in the end, you must take action to find someone or some group that pushes you, encourages you, asks you to be your best and holds you accountable. Just like a coach would. Just like Mr.Cook.

Lap 8. It was scary. I was working hard now, huffing and puffing and that kid just didn’t want to be reeled in. On the back stretch, furthest from my cheering team, all alone with just the track and my burning lungs I thought all the things you think in pressure situations. “Even if I lose, everyone would have expected it.” “Boy, do I want to stop.” “Why am I doing this?” “Why did I join the track team?”

Most of all I was thinking, “Mr. Cook said I could do this and he never blows smoke, so the hell with this, I’m going to.”

By the 3rd turn, I could reach him and he could for sure hear me as my breathing had reached freight train proportions. He made one last sprint to stay ahead.



Have you ever gotten close to completing a goal only to find that obstacles show up out of nowhere?
My experience has been that the road to goal achievement isn’t easy. The minute you set a goal, tons of obstacles arise and you want to quit before you begin. Newsflash: Most people quit. 

Once over the initial activation challenges, you continue to proceed until you get within 10% of completing your goal, then WHAM! you get hit again with challenges. Newsflash: Almost everyone else quits here.

Are you willing to “push through”, “toughen up”, “gut it out”, “kick some a**”, “don’t take No”, “man-up” and “girl power” through? It all comes down to how badly you want your goal. Only that strong desire, that “powerful reason why” can push you through, that and some encouragement and accountability from a coach.

200 yards to go. I didn’t think he had it in him, but sprint he did. For 15 yards, I thought it was over. I wasn’t going to catch him. The extra 50 lbs I was carrying with me, he was approximately the thickness of a pencil, was going to bring me down. 

Then it hit me.
His sprint had carried him ahead only 5 yards out of reach and he was out of gas. The building chase in the past 2 laps had worn him out. As we rounded the final turn I caught him, lunged right a lane and passed him as the first of my teammates, wild with the hilarity and hysteria of the moment, came into view. 

Never say never.
Whatever propelled me that day pushed me across the line a triumphant 3rd Place. I nearly blacked out, almost hurled, took 20 minutes to catch my breath, got assaulted by jubilant Kennard-Dale track athletes and lay motionless on the pole vault mat while everyone else packed up and loaded the bus.  

The 2-Mile Sweep. Doubtful anyone on our team, save the 1st & 2nd place finishers Jason & Rich, even remembers it, yet that 3rd place finish remains one of the high points of my high school athletic career. Maybe the only time I was cheered for during an individual athletic performance, and it almost didn’t happen. 

One coach made the difference.
Mr. Cook’s words created the situation in which I could become more than I had been; in which I could contribute more than I would have if left to my own devices. He didn’t do it for me. He coached me.

 
Next Week…
Are you coaching or just managing?
I’ve always hated the term “managing” because it never felt like a term with enough action; enough power; enough growth. There’s a BIG difference between managing and coaching. Next week, I’ll lay out some key differences for you as you get into employee management this season. I hope you’ll at least consider coaching your team this year.
 
Today…
I encourage you to grab a coffee and write down, or just relive in your mind, one of your great moments from high school. 
Could be sports, drama, band, chorus, welding competition, classroom report – anything! Savor that moment in time and how good it was to be young and achieve success. 

I know you’ve got a good story. Email it to me if you like!

Have a great week,
Hugh

PS If you like what we’re talking about, checkout what it’s like to have me as your “coach” through developing a new employee management system. Register now for the Agritourism Manager Boot Camp FREE introductory webinar. 

PPS Know anyone else who would like reading this kind of stuff? Just share this email and this link with them.

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“Don’t get squashed by yourself.” S.U.M.O. practice for farmers.

hand-frame-fingers

…Continuing our series looking at Paul McGee’s S.U.M.O. (Shut Up and Move On) strategies, we’re looking at #3 and #4. If you look back to last week’s #1 and #2, we were working through our individual reactions to any given situation. We are to ask ourselves, “Where is this issue on a scale of 1-10 and 10 = DEATH? and How important will this be to me in 6 months time?

Both those questions zoomed out our perspective and worked to frame the issue appropriately using a long time scale. The real power in S.U.M.O. comes, I feel, from McGee’s next two questions because they are designed to engage you on a personal level.

#3 Is my response appropriate and effective? We all want people to do what we want them to do. The trouble is, we have no control over their actions and reactions. Tough as it is to accept, we can only control ourselves.

Here’s a chart of Appropriate/Inappropriate, Effective/Ineffective to illustrate the concept that we can only control our personal actions.

Appropriateness chart for blog

Think of a time when you have experienced each of these potential outcomes to your actions or reactions. Using the abbreviations, I’ve provided a few examples.

  • A/E: You see an employee doing a great job with a customer. You encourage the employee and praise her publicly. She continues to improve and turns into one of your star employees, helping others along the way. This was Appropriate and Effective.
  • IA/E: You scream at a vendor and they rush to fulfill your request. It gets done, but the relationship is never the same. It was effective, temporarily, but not an appropriate response.
  • A/IE: You politely request for the third time that your young employee come in on time. Sure, you kept your tone appropriate, but it will likely not modify the employees behavior.
  • IA/IE: Your wife fails to notify you that the in-laws are coming for the weekend. You flip out, curse their names, slam the door and shatter the glass on a cold December night. Riiiight, you get the picture you are WAY inappropriate and COMPLETELY ineffective…. and now you are cold, out some money for a window, still spending the weekend with your in-laws, only you’ll be sleeping on the couch to boot!

Don’t get squashed by yourself. The key is that YOU are in complete control of your response. It may not always feel like it, but taking just a moment to consider your words and actions can save you from being IA or IE and maybe even M.I.A. (as I would be if I ever tried to pull that last trick with my wife 🙂 Don’t squash yourself with IA/IE responses you may regret later. Focus on improving the situation.

Support_GroupPeopleRing

#4 How can I influence or improve the situation? After identifying the type of response you plan to give, you need to choose your words and actions. #4 focuses your energy on “influence and improvement.”

Have you ever seen people “pile on”? Kids are famous for it, but I’ve seen adults do it, too. Someone starts complaining about “Bobby”. Then, anyone within earshot comes in to “throw another jab”, “remember another time” when Bobby failed, and before long “everyone hates Bobby.” How could you approach this situation with a focus on improvement?

If you find your kids arguing, do you pile on the complaints? Send everyone away? Add your own yelling? How can you focus your reaction to the situation on improvement.

This week, take the next two steps and personalize your reaction to situations by (#3) identifying the appropriateness and effectiveness of your reactions, then (#4) focusing on how you can influence and improve the situation in a positive way. We’ll finish the series next time, until then, have a great week as you practice your S.U.M.O.!

-Hugh

Down The Rabbit Hole.

Alice-in-front-of-rabbit-hole

 

All I need to do is get these three things done. OK item one: Send that package. OK to do that I need to gather everything up. OK to do that I need print that out. OK well, that really needs to be edited. OK to really edit it I need to re-read it and get out my red pen. OK I need to print it. OK I need to get more ink for the printer. OK I need to get on Amazon to get the ink, OK Hey, that looks neat I’ll get one of those while I’m on here and save time. OK but I better check reviews on this 2nd item. OK and on and on and on… then 2 hours later… Hey, what was I working on? Oh, crap I missed sending that package!

Ever have this happen? This is going “Down the rabbit hole.”
The Task Dominos. I find a good way to think of things is in a hierarchy of Vision, MIssion, Objective, Project, Task. 

Here’s a VERY basic example: 
Vision: To make the agriculture entertainment world so fun people would rather visit farms than theme parks. 
Mission: Build up our attraction clients into profitable, fun destinations. 
Objective: Create incredibly fun attractions. 
Project: Develop & perfect the Barnyard Board Game attraction. 
Task: Choose the best paint colors for the blocks.

Mostly we find ourselves in realm of tasks because, quite frankly, things need to get done. Tasks are the lowest level of operating, however, which can create those days in which you do a loot of things and never get anything done. You actually did get tasks done, but you feel frustrated because you didn’t move any of your Objectives or Missions forward. You wake up dreaming about your vision, but the task dominos start falling and you struggle to keep your head above water. You struggle to stay out of the rabbit hole.
Projects. The next layer we often reach is the project level. You want to install a new attraction. You want to renovate your web site. You want to serve fried food. This is a very useful, practical level. My trick is to organize my projects by file folders. I do this to keep things off my desk, collect a to-do list of tasks, and especially to allow me to collect information in a safe place and keep myself from working on the project until I have time for it. I find a new web site or brochure that I need for the fried food project, but I’m working on our marketing plan – throw it in the folder for later.

Technology aside: I also use Evernote to scan and store information I might need in the future, but don’t want to clutter up amy desk with a hard copy. It’s free at Evernote.com. The scanner is about $400. The key is that I’m clearing my mind and desk, because I know I can get it instantly with a search in Evernote. I don’t need to remember the details.

Target your Objectives. We’re only going as high as Objectives today, because if you can master this level, you’ll have plenty of time to work on the next two, Mission and Vision. You Objective level is: Increase the food & beverage revenue and enjoyment at our farm. OR Decrease marketing costs by 10% while growing social media engagement by 50%.

You can see how each of these would have multiple projects, large and small, beneath it. Each project would then have a series of tasks. You can also see how keeping all of this straight is nearly impossible. It’s probably becoming obvious that you could run down the rabbit hole on any of these objectives, projects or task lists.

What to do about it.
Name your nemesis. In Harry Potter, the nemesis of our hero Harry is Voldemort. He inspires such incredible fear in the land that people call him “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” because saying his name, eventually (spoiler alert) reveals the location of rebellious people. Harry persists in using Voldemort’s name throughout the series as a direct form of rebellion. Naming the problem reduces it’s power over you.

Writing is better than thinking. Not only should you write and name your tasks and problems and challenges and opportunities, you must take it a step further. You must write down every single task, activity, process, script, video, brochure, person, action necessary to wipe this project off you list.
Writing it all down is giving the project or problem a “Name” so it’s not floating around in your mind. It becomes concrete and workable. It’s just hard to get in the habit of writing things down.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Write Things Down:
  1. It’s all in my head. I know what I’m doing. Bulls**t. I’m just calling b******t on this one and you can’t dispute it. At one time or another “it’s all in your head”, but it isn’t right now or you’d be done with the project and laughing at me instead of desperately reading this for a solution. Did you know that cognitive research has determined that humans can barely capture, contain and control seven individual directives or channels in our minds at once? How many of you have more than seven projects underway right now? How many of those projects have more than seven tasks yet to complete? Right. It physiologically can’t be all in your head, so don’t put it there. Write it down. All of it.
  2. If I sat down and wrote it all out, I’d never get anything done! Picture in your mind one of those days when you ran at full speed all day only to realize that you got nothing accomplished. You and I waste so much time each and everyday putting out fires, checking email, starting and stopping projects and racing down the rabbit hole that we actually HAVE the time to do the planning!
  3. Reacting feels like action. The biggest problem in my work world is that reacting feels like action. You know the feeling: An email comes in with a guest or customer order or complaint. You jump in as the hero and solve the problem! Great! Then, you check you other email and off you go down the rabbit hole until another emergency arises! You swoop in to save the day! By the end of the day, you’ve moved NONE of your projects forward and you wonder why you feel lousy.
  4. Someone might hold you accountable, maybe even you. Let’s be honest: You don’t want to be criticized. If you write an objective down and you don’t achieve it on time, someone could call you on it and you certainly will know you didn’t do it. Even the fear of self-criticism prevents us from writing things down.
  5. Writing things down makes them real and stifles my creative thinking. I must be free! Sometimes I have to writing the stuff that goes through my head down just to laugh at how stupid it really is. I used to say this to myself! I’m an idea guy I can’t be constrained by lists, man. What a bunch of crap. Writing things down keeps you from believing this stuff your brain makes up to try to avoid accountability. I routinely have to pull myself back from the land of make-believe, because we live in the real world. One of my favorite quotes is: “You’ll deal with reality sooner or later, so you might as well deal with it now on your own terms.” – Todd Bieler.
How to try it out, the easy way.
I know this sounds like a big deal and huge time drain, so to make it accessible for you to try out, to sample. I suggest you do these 3 Steps for just ONE Project. If you like it, repeat the process for your other projects, just do it ONE AT A TIME to keep it light and easy.
  1. Get a file folder and label it for your project. (Ex: Build a Corn Box).
  2. Place all the pictures, brochures, web sites and information you’ve ever collected on Corn Boxes into the folder.
  3. Use a BLANK sheet of paper to brainstorm for 5-10 minutes all the tasks, items, materials, costs, procedures, people, other operators to call, EVERYTHING you can think of that you might have to do to build this box – just write in down in any order as fast and free as you can. (This is a good time to involve your staff in the process if they will be a part of it.
  4. Use a 2nd BLANK sheet and organize the tasks neatly by kind (i.e. Construction, Staffing, Equipment, Financial, Location etc.)
  5. Type (preferred) or use a BLANK a lined pice of paper to organize the tasks by the order you THINK they should be done or MUST be done down to the most minute detail. (NOT “order materials”, BUT “draw plans, count 2x4s, count 4x4s, measure cubic ft for concrete, estimate shingles, choose paint color, etc.)
Sound like a lot of work? It’s not because once you do this for maybe 1 hour, you NEVER HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT AGAIN. You just have to do the things on the list and you’ll have a Corn Box.

That’s the magic. That’s why it works. Your brain is free to think about the next project because this one is off the table. It’s planned. It’s done. No longer will you chase this project down the rabbit hole because you’ll know exactly what to do.

I want so desperately for you to be successful that I took my time to share this with you. Let me know if you do this on just one project and it helps. Let me know how it feels when your first folder is done. Try it. I dare you. You’re brain will thank you 🙂
Have a great week,
Hugh

Find Hugh at:

www.cornmaze.com

www.mazecatalog.com

www.mazefunpark.com

Twitter: @themazemaster

Communicating your core. Are you neglecting your center?

Sun_diagram_chandra

Behaviors are surface. So much of what we do deals with behaviors. We want behavior modification for our employees. We try to incentivize the right behaviors. You have good behavior. I have bad behavior. The trouble with behavior is that, by the time you see a behavior you don’t like, things have been changing for that person long ago and deep within themselves. Behaviors sit on the surface.

Values are core. Behaviors are like solar winds. They are the last things thrown off by the nuclear reaction in a star. In that star’s core is the reaction that generates the heat, the gravity, the energy the light. So what’s at your core? What generates the heat and light in your life that radiates into the world around you?

Finding your core. Go somewhere quietly and write down why you are in business.The easiest way to keep digging is to keep asking yourself “Why?”

Why am I in business? To make money.
Why do I want to make money? To get a great car.
Why do I want a great car? Because it makes me feel good.
Why does the great car make me feel good? Because people notice me.
Why do I want people to notice me? Because I like the attention.
Why do I like the attention? Because it makes me feel valuable.
Why do I need to feel valuable? Because I want my life to matter.
Why do should my life matter? Because…

See how you get to some interesting places? It works on business initiatives, too. Just substitute “How?” for “Why?”

Why are we in business? To make money.
How do you make money? We sell apples.
How do you make money selling apples? We charge more than it costs to grow them.
How do you get to charge more? We sell direct to the customers who visit.
How do you get customers to visit? We advertise, promote in the media, and post social media to convince customers to visit.
How do you convince them? We offer a premium product.
How do you prove it’s premium? We…..

See how using this strategy allows you to blast some assumptions? This leads you past “we always have done it”, “people have just been coming for years”, “Word of mouth is all that works”, “Everyone knows that we (fill in the blank)” – insert any assumption you are making and eventually you’ll work your way to the core of the problem which is, What is your core?

I can’t answer this for you. It’s your core. You alone can plumb the depths of your being to determine the value, the purpose you bring to the world each and every day. I can tell you it is likely that not enough people know your core and your business’ core. I’m sure you don’t communicate it often enough.

Why it matters. Neglecting your core has a number of unintended consequences.

For you. Neglecting your core leads to frustrating days when you are really busy and don’t feel like you’ve gotten anything done. (Ever have one of those?!) When this happens to me, typically, I was not focusing on the right activities, even though I was doing tasks. I wasn’t moving forward the greater purpose of my life. Even accounting (the bane of my existence), has meaning when framed in the purpose of providing for my family, our family of operators and caring for guests.

For your employees. You job is to be successful in your business so the bills get paid, employees payroll checks clear and the business moves forward to a happy future. When you start neglecting your core, a number of things start going wrong. You start doing jobs you shouldn’t be doing. Are you doing minimum wage jobs? Jobs teenagers can do? You are stealing from the company and you’ll start getting frustrated because, the bathroom needs cleaned, but that’s not your core responsibility. You have to stop and look around, metaphorically, to see if you are really focusing on the core of the business.

For your guests. No one can care for your guests like you do. One of your core values likely is (approximately) providing an environment of wonder for your guests so they can’t help but talk about your business. If you drift from this core value, your guests will notice. Make sure you are on the front line, not necessarily the front register, of greeting and ensuring your guests are well cared for.

At the Fun Park, our core is a mantra: Make people happy. Three little words my teenagers have memorized before orientation is over, yet everything they do, we do, we train them to do gets filtered through it. It is our core.

What’s at your core? Take some time to thoughtfully consider it between now and the new year. You’ll find a whole lot more motivation in this one exercise then in a thousand New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions typically have to do with behaviors, but behaviors are just on the surface.What matters more, what motivates more is what’s in the center.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a great week.
Hugh

See Maize Quest’s attractions for entertainment farms at:

www.MazeCatalog.com

Communicating your core. Are you neglecting your center?

Sun_diagram_chandra

Behaviors are surface. So much of what we do deals with behaviors. We want behavior modification for our employees. We try to incentivize the right behaviors. You have good behavior. I have bad behavior. The trouble with behavior is that, by the time you see a behavior you don’t like, things have been changing for that person long ago and deep within themselves. Behaviors sit on the surface.

Values are core. Behaviors are like solar winds. They are the last things thrown off by the nuclear reaction in a star. In that star’s core is the reaction that generates the heat, the gravity, the energy the light. So what’s at your core? What generates the heat and light in your life that radiates into the world around you?

Finding your core. Go somewhere quietly and write down why you are in business.The easiest way to keep digging is to keep asking yourself “Why?”

Why am I in business? To make money.
Why do I want to make money? To get a great car.
Why do I want a great car? Because it makes me feel good.
Why does the great car make me feel good? Because people notice me.
Why do I want people to notice me? Because I like the attention.
Why do I like the attention? Because it makes me feel valuable.
Why do I need to feel valuable? Because I want my life to matter.
Why do should my life matter? Because…

See how you get to some interesting places? It works on business initiatives, too. Just substitute “How?” for “Why?”

Why are we in business? To make money.
How do you make money? We sell apples.
How do you make money selling apples? We charge more than it costs to grow them.
How do you get to charge more? We sell direct to the customers who visit.
How do you get customers to visit? We advertise, promote in the media, and post social media to convince customers to visit.
How do you convince them? We offer a premium product.
How do you prove it’s premium? We…..

See how using this strategy allows you to blast some assumptions? This leads you past “we always have done it”, “people have just been coming for years”, “Word of mouth is all that works”, “Everyone knows that we (fill in the blank)” – insert any assumption you are making and eventually you’ll work your way to the core of the problem which is, What is your core?

I can’t answer this for you. It’s your core. You alone can plumb the depths of your being to determine the value, the purpose you bring to the world each and every day. I can tell you it is likely that not enough people know your core and your business’ core. I’m sure you don’t communicate it often enough.

Why it matters. Neglecting your core has a number of unintended consequences.

For you. Neglecting your core leads to frustrating days when you are really busy and don’t feel like you’ve gotten anything done. (Ever have one of those?!) When this happens to me, typically, I was not focusing on the right activities, even though I was doing tasks. I wasn’t moving forward the greater purpose of my life. Even accounting (the bane of my existence), has meaning when framed in the purpose of providing for my family, our family of operators and caring for guests.

For your employees. You job is to be successful in your business so the bills get paid, employees payroll checks clear and the business moves forward to a happy future. When you start neglecting your core, a number of things start going wrong. You start doing jobs you shouldn’t be doing. Are you doing minimum wage jobs? Jobs teenagers can do? You are stealing from the company and you’ll start getting frustrated because, the bathroom needs cleaned, but that’s not your core responsibility. You have to stop and look around, metaphorically, to see if you are really focusing on the core of the business.

For your guests. No one can care for your guests like you do. One of your core values likely is (approximately) providing an environment of wonder for your guests so they can’t help but talk about your business. If you drift from this core value, your guests will notice. Make sure you are on the front line, not necessarily the front register, of greeting and ensuring your guests are well cared for.

At the Fun Park, our core is a mantra: Make people happy. Three little words my teenagers have memorized before orientation is over, yet everything they do, we do, we train them to do gets filtered through it. It is our core.

What’s at your core? Take some time to thoughtfully consider it between now and the new year. You’ll find a whole lot more motivation in this one exercise then in a thousand New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions typically have to do with behaviors, but behaviors are just on the surface.What matters more, what motivates more is what’s in the center.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a great week.
Hugh

See Maize Quest’s attractions for entertainment farms at:

www.MazeCatalog.com

What I learned from Anthony Mechiorri of Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible.

On sales, advertising and marketing:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying

‘Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,’

that’s advertising.

If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion.

If the elephant walks through the Mayor’s flower bed,

that’s publicity.

And if you get the Mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions, and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus,

that’s sales.

And, if you planned the whole thing,

that’s marketing!”

Unknown

From his website: http://www.argeohospitality.com

 

Vulnerability makes a stronger connection, than strength.

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Vulnerability makes a stronger connection, than strength. A different thought is circulating in the marketing world, but one you might have noticed some in the local food movement already use: Marketing your vulnerability. I see this as an offshoot of marketing with authenticity, or just being authentic; just being yourself. (This was inspired by an article I could not find again, but this article is a good connection to vulnerability marketing connections.) Spotlighting your vulnerabilities takes courage,but there are a few specific reasons why it can be effective for small business owners like us. 

You are authentically are vulnerable. The most important thing to remember is that you are vulnerable. No business is a fortress. No business can exist without customers. Mother nature can turn on a dime and leave successful operators wondering what happened. 

Empathy builder. Sharing your honest concerns for your crops with your customers, all in good measure, helps them relate to you. It connects them to you and activates empathy within them. That empathy, a very regular human emotion, is not accessed by “We’re the best!” marketing messages. It’s a personal connection through pictures of frost-bitten blossoms and apples fallen to the ground.

It’s hard to be Superman and everyone knows you’re Clark. I know this because for years I was on the by-the-book, everything’s-great-here, we’re-the-best-all-the-time-at-everything marketing plan. It’s so hard to keep trolling out the superlatives, awesome, great, something for everyone, best-ever-and-ever-and-ever again(!). Seriously, nobody’s buying it. They all know your secret identity as a real person. 

Social media allows you to tell your story.Social media also encourages it. The people who “Like” your business have asked for a closer look into your business. They can hear your ad on the radio, but they connected to hear your story. Facebook & Twitter are built to allow you to share pictures, joys, disasters, worries, successes all with a click of your smartphone. The platform s there. You just have to commit to using it to connect. 

How to appropriately connect. You can take this too far. No one is interested in your bad-mouthing the weather, complaining about every circumstance or belittling troublesome employees.(If that’s really a rut you get into, please adjust your “authentic self” for the sake of your business and lighten up.) 

Go for balance. Stay positive 13/16ths of the time and add in a real, true vulnerable moment. 

Use pictures. Don’t complain about the weather, show the snow and explain what it means, good or bad, for the crop. 

Education & empathy. Use the posts to tell the story of the plant, the crop, the people. In short, educate your customers with these authentic moments in farming. 

What a relief. Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to be perfect any more? It was such a relief to me because I was failing miserably at perfection. The world ain’t perfect. Your customers ain’t perfect and, thankfully, you don’t have to be. You have to be positive, but not perfect. 

Share your vulnerabilities every now a then and let people know the real you and the real story of your family’s farm. People are desperate for something real in an age of posers and politicians. 

Have a great week,
Hugh

PS Registration is open for NAFDMA (North American Farmers Direct Marketing) Conference! This has been my favorite place to meet folks doing pick-your-own, pumpkin patches, corn mazes just generally fun folks who do what we do. It’s Feb 1-6, 2013 in Portland, OR. I’m leading one of the Bus Tours, the “TechnoBus”– it”s a workshop on wheels where we explore the world of social media and technology in a quest for customer connections. You can see the Bus Tour destinations here.

 

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