“S.U.M.O.” Farmers? Part 1 of 3

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Paul McGee says,┬áHe has a very pragmatic approach to dealing with customer situations, management issues and daily interactions I just love. Over the past few years he has expanded his program to be taught in schools to kids to Stop, Understand and Move On. I’ll do my best to explain how to apply his philosophy to your life in 3 sessions. If you like the blog posts, I really suggest the buying his book here.

1. Where is this issue on a scale of 1-10? McGee adds, “And 10 is death!” What he’s doing is reframing the issue in a broader perspective. Perspective shift, or time shift is a way to look at the issue that might be smacking you in the face right now and “shifting” that issue into it’s future historical context.
Let’s say that your son doesn’t return the gas can full. You go for gas, no gas. You get mad and begin yelling. He starts yelling. Bad situation.
S.U.M.O. strategy: Call a time out. Rate the issue in your head knowing that a “10” equals death. Gas can is likely a 4 or less. Restart the conversation explaining what just happened in your head to your son.
Hugh’s example: Back when I was engaged to my lovely bride, we went to pick out silverware. I love cool unique stuff. Janine likes clean classic lines. After exhorting the awesomeness of the “natural twig sculpted handles” for something like an hour, I realized that on a scale of 1-10, silverware was not something important to me. It was more like a “1”. As I was already getting hungry, I just wanted to eat and I’d use a gardening shovel if I had to.
2. How will I feel about this in six months? This is the second reframing question and it’s a great one. I find myself using this with the kids as they get into petty bickering and nit-picking each other. I like to make them tell my how they are going to remember the specific things they are arguing about in six months.
I like questions such as, “Tell me Ian, which part of what you are saying right now to your sister would you like to have me remind you of in December? Which part of this conversation is so important we should write it down and post on the walls in your rooms? (I love that one:-).
Just making them stop to try to choose the important parts, puts an end to the momentum of the fight.
So, just using these first two strategies, how can you change the way you are currently interacting with an employee or how can you use these in making decisions in your life?
Here’s one more to start your thinking: “You know what, babe, I’d rather spend more of our time together at any restaurant than arguing about which one.”
I know it’s simple, but the best ideas are. Let me know how it works for you and stay tuned for next week’s edition.
Have a great week,
Hugh
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Be personal.

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

Be personal.
“As the amount of inputs go up, as the number of people and ideas that clamor for attention continue to increase, we do what people always do: we rely on the familiar, the trusted and the personal. 

The experience I have with you as a customer or a friend is far more important than a few random bits flying by on the screen. 

The incredible surplus of digital data means that human actions, generosity and sacrifice are more important than they ever were before.”  -Seth Godin

Seth Godin has written a number of books on marketing and creative ideas, but his quote from Seth’s Blog really stuck with me.

We are in the business of creating space for our guests to have real, interpersonal interaction. We are at the center of promoting a positive, trustworthy experience for our guests.

If we are successful, they will in turn share that experience with their friends.

Seth’s quote expands the structure of word of mouth advertising in the digital age. People will lean on their friends. It’s just that now, they can do it on Facebook or Twitter a whole lot faster.

As you are marketing this fall, remember that nothing trumps a good experience for your guests. Nothing.

If you provide something good enough, you won’t have to worry so much about the marketing.

Have fun,
Hugh

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Redundancy.

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

Redundancy.
Just got a great lesson in pre-planning for emergencies. We had a lightning storm that took out our local Internet service provider’s tower, our service, fused a wire, and blew out an ethernet switch.

That may sound like mumbo-jumbo, but basically, our Internet was down.

With our business, that means the credit card machines were down, our POS registers were down, my online CRM was down, even our phones were down because we have an IP-based phone system.

So for 6 hours(!), I ran around the farm tracing, testing, replacing, until we got service back.

Here’s the lesson.
We weren’t even busy and it was a disaster. I bet there are systems you can’t live without too, so it’s time to plan for redundancy.

Take two, they’re small!
I now have ordered a second unit for every critical point in our IT infrastructure. EVERY POINT. Routers are $50, switches are $15, credit card machines are cheap to rent. (Email me if you want a CC processing vendor.)

I can swap out our entire network in less than 30 minutes now. How much money can you lose in 30 minutes in October?

Assess you vulnerabilities. Open one week early, just to make sure you know how everything is going to work. Turn all the power on, on EVERYTHING. Try to blow a breaker now, because you don’t want to be without a 100AMP fuse with guests in the corn maze. (Had that happen too!)

In the end, your preparation is more about safety of your guests than making money. Without safety, you’re sunk.

Think about redundancy in your critical systems this week and try to ‘break’ something.
 

Have fun,
Hugh

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The SmartFax Epiphany.

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

The SmartFax Epiphany.
I hate our fax machine. Not only is it crappy output, but it takes $$$ of ink to get that crappy output. You also have to be there to get the fax.
If you phone line goes out – you’re out. When it malfunctions, you lose the information and have to call to have the send er re-fax.

I hate it.

No longer! I searched around when my fax line, yet again, was down and we were out of ink and found a service that sends my faxes to my email inbox.

I know these services have been in existence for years, but I’ve just caught on and I have to share.

I chose http://www.smartfax.com. There are probably 50 other versions of it but here are the basics:

1. They give you a new fax number – yes, changing is a huge pain in the rear (imagine all the order forms I have to change!)

2. Faxes go to the new number inside their servers and are saved in my account.

3. The faxes are sent to my email AND to Michelle’s email (she our franchise coordinator if you haven’t met her yet.)

4. The fax is now a PDF inside your inbox FOREVER and searchable, no wasted paper or copies of faxes. We even attach client faxes to their records in Salesforce.com our CRM program so we can find them anytime.

5. Michelle and I have Droid smartphones, so we can forward faxes, review them, add our own notes and email them to anyone from the road.

6. It is SO COOL! Well, as cool as faxes can be. It does cost about $6.00 per month. We saved that much within 2 days in time, paper, effort and convenience.

7. You can send any document from your computer via fax to anyone you want as well.

8. I have a scanner, so I really don’t need a fax machine at all, but we keep it around for old school users like my Dad.

Give it a try. You’ll be hooked the first time a fax comes to your email. Enjoy the time savings!

 

Have fun,
Hugh

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Northeast Adventure Tour

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

Northeast Adventure 2010. I love meeting new clients and seeing old friends and that’s what I did last Sunday through Wednesday.

I drove 1,400 miles, saw 7 clients, 2 college friends, and listened to some great podcasts and audiobooks in 3.5 days.

The clients. My insurance man called me on my way out of town and asked if eventually I’d have someone to do all this running around for me. I told him NO WAY!

Meeting innovative people face-to-face to “nerd out” on entertainment farming I will never delegate. I only hope they learn as much from me as I learn from the farmers and friends with whom I visited.

Here are some of the nuggets:
Peter (farmer): Scrappy Irish Catholic with the deck stacked against him growing up owns two garden centers and just bought his third farm.

What I learned from him: Never give up no matter what people say! Most barriers and doubts are completely fabricated by unimaginative people who don’t have the guts to really go for it.

Dave: Friend, pastor in Princeton, NJ.

What I learned from him: Small, community churches are struggling to meet the new spiritual needs of busy people. Many  beautiful, old historic churches are closing, but innovative groups of cross-denominational pastors are looking at ways to revitalize congregations.

Charles: Young lad who’s accepted a ton of responsibility in his family operation.

What I learned from him: They run a tour package for shoppers out of New York City in which the motorcoach of guests arrives, they pick a bag of apples, hop back on the bus and go to the outlet stores. 50 bags of apples per bus!

Rich: Runs a beautiful garden center in Rhode Island.

What I learned from him: Create a landmark. He is the only place in the world with 4,000lb hanging baskets! He hangs them out by his busy road and is known as “the place with those giant hanging baskets.”

More next week!

Hugh

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BookMyGroups.com is here.

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

Better group tour management has been our Holy Grail for 2 years and now it’s here.

Upgraded from 2001. Our first online booking system was circa 2001 (Remember the Internet back then?)

It was a very basic, static, inflexible system, but to worked for us and handled thousands of groups. (It also let Michelle, our Group Tour Director, work from home during her pregnancies.)

We knew it was time for an upgrade as our packages began changing seasonally and the old site could only be changed by a professional web designer.

BookMyGroups.com is here. After 2 years of experimentation, frustration, exasperation, and exhilaration the new site is LIVE and ready with entertainment farm clients using it now.

It is the neatest online tool we’ve ever invented. You can change your tour packages by yourself, change your pricing, availability, add booking agents, print reports, and allow groups to book from your websiteall by yourself.

It’s built for attraction owners like us. We didn’t just build the site for us, but made it expandable for you to use too.

If you want to check it out for FREE, just use the site, as any group leader would, to book your demonstration with me or Laura.

BookMyGroups.com will make your group tour management easier than ever, allow you to handle more groups, and pay for itself with just ONE booking.

I hope you’ll take a look, schedule your demonstration or call me with any questions.

Hugh

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“Start Late, Finish Rich” Review

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Hugh’s Reviews

Each week Hugh reviews something, anything really, that has provoked a thoughtful insight.

“Start Late, Finish Rich.” – David Bach
Another follow-up to my incremental change posts. David Bach is a financial guru who’s been on Oprah, CNN, and more. He also wrote “The Automatic Millionaire”.

In this book he talks frankly about the likelihood of most people not making it to retirement age with enough money and how very small changes in the present, stretched over time, can make huge changes in your financial future.

Got $243? You might be surprised to know that $243 dollars is actually worth nearly $80,000!

I got into checking out some of Mr. Bach’s strategies for small changes that yield big returns and checked out refinancing my home mortgage.

9 years less. I found that I could take my remaining 24 years (out of 30 year mortgage), change the load to a 15 year mortgage subtracting 9 years of payments and saving almost $80,000 in interest! The cost? Just $243 more per month.

Start saving now. The other myth that I believed, and Mr. Bach TOTALLY BUSTED was the myth that you have to pay off all debt before you start saving.

As business owners, we can save in a number of ways before taxes. Including 401ks and IRAs that increase our rate of return by keeping money from the government. He advocates saving in this manner AND paying down debt as rapidly as possible.

Where do you get the money? Mr. Bach pioneered the “Latte Factor” – a classic example of brewing your own coffee instead of buying from Starbucks that can yield you over $300,000 in retirement money after 30 years!

Don’t drink coffee? It just means you need to find your own “Latte Factor”, mine – yes as many of you know I LOVE coffee, but I brew my own – was hardware stores, supplies, and especially tools. I found I would “buy a tool for the job” to make things easier, when I really just like having tools. Now, I only go to the store with specific lists of what we need for the projects that week.

What’s your “Latte Factor”? Are you saving each month? Is your saving plan automatic (now our savings automatically withdraws each month)? Could a refi shorten the life of your mortgage?

It’s the little things that count. All those little changes really add up!

Hugh

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