The NEW Three R’s (okay so I never learned ‘rithmetic)

27 Mar

Who was the hardest working person you have known? Hands down, the hardest working person I have ever known was an 8th grade educated man named Morris Bunton. During his life, Morris had a wide variety of jobs. At 13, he left school to work on the farm for his father. Later, he owned a chicken farm, raced greyhound dogs, started a meat store, and also a furniture store. In the 1960’s, Morris bought an orange grove in Florida. I first worked for him as a young teen where I picked oranges in the hot, humid Florida summers. It was (and still is today) the hardest work I have ever done. We would leave his Winter Haven home long before the sun came up and sometimes not return until dusk. I worked alongside my brother for 2-3 weeks for several summers to earn money for summer camp. We were paid .50 a box and I don’t think I ever made more than $20 in a day. After multiple freezes damaged his fruit trees, Morris sold his grove and designed a high efficiency solar water heater for which he received a patent. I also worked for him for two summers and periodically on weekends throughout college helping him build and install solar panels.

In my career, I have never seen anyone who could work as hard as Morris Bunton. While he worked 6 days a week harder than anyone half his age, Sundays were for rest and so was vacation.

Early in his 70’s, he was diagnosed with cancer. He read everything he could on cancer, paying particularly close attention to how peak health and eating well could extend one’s life. He also researched and tried alternative treatments. A life-long meat and potatoes eater, Morris radically changed his diet and eliminated beef, replacing it with small portions of chicken or fish once every third day. He juiced fresh fruits and vegetable. Ultimately, he extended his life far longer than doctors predicted. If he were still alive, he would have celebrated his 106th birthday today.

Whether you are leading others, managing a business, or trying your best as a parent, consider the lessons Morris left behind:

1)      Risk. Don’t follow the status quo. People who stand out in life are risk-takers. Avoid living the safe life. Life and work is much more adventurous and usually rewarding when you live life on the edge.

2)      Read. Commit to life-long learning. Find a subject that interests you and one you know little about and immerse yourself in it. From classics like Guidepost Magazine founder Dr.  Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking  to New York Times writer  Charles Duhigg’s 2013 book the  The Power of Habit: Why We do What We Do in Life and Business, there is power in learning.

3)       Be results focused. When you work hard, you get results – period. Be among the hardest working persons on your team, in your business, or in your volunteer organization. As trite as it sounds, the dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.

4)      Rest. You can’t keep pace with the world without downtime. Take a regular Sabbath. Nap when you are tired. Turn off your electronic devices and let your brain have a break. Recharge, renew, and refresh.

Thank-you, Granddad. You were right…Experience is a dear teacher. Thank-you for demonstrating the 3 R’s in the way you lived your life.

Professional Speaker Tim Richardson helps organizations empower, engage, and enrich the lives of their employees while creating a culture of caring. Contact Tim at Tim@TimRichardson.com or on Twitter, Facebook,  or LinkedIn.

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My father and my bucket list

22 Feb

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I don’t remember where I first learned of the concept of a bucket list, but I started one many years ago. My bucket list is called 100 things I want to do before I turned 100. (any guesses on the first item on my list?) There’s a wide assortment of things on the list – some I have accomplished like visiting all 50 states, catching an Alaskan King Salmon, and dining with a U.S. President. There’s a lot on the list I haven’t accomplished – delivering a college commencement address, giving a jazz piano concert, and learning how to kite surf. Though I have been a professional speaker for nearly half my life, it was item # 17 (perform stand-up at a comedy club, that frightened me the most. I have no illusions about becoming the next Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy, or Brian Reagan. I thought performing standup would be a lot of fun – a great way to stretch myself, and provide new insights into my speaking. Several of my National Speakers Association colleagues told me that doing standup comedy created more extemporaneous humor in their speaking.

A few years ago, I noticed an ad in the paper for open mic night at Side Splitters, a local comedy club. I clipped the ad and put it on a bulletin board below the shelf that housed my bucket list book. I thought that having it visible MIGHT inspire me to take action. As time passed, the advertisement began to yellow and curl at the edges. Other more pressing items were tacked to the board almost covering the Side Splitters ad.

Several months later, I received the call that so many of us dread. My father had terminal cancer. Much of that week was a blur. One day, about a week after I heard the news, I opened my bucket list book and read item #33: take dad to the Final Four. Dad loved basketball, particularly the Duke Blue Devils. Over the years, dad recounted many of his favorite Duke basketball games. His amazing brain held an encyclopedia of facts including names of players, their jersey number, and how many points they scored in big games from many years past. It was ironic that his once keen memory now was impeded by a tumor on his brain. Weeks of discouraging news about my father’s decline, affected me greatly. I couldn’t get the Final Four goal out of my mind. It just wasn’t going to happen. During one of these reflective moments, I noticed the stand-up comedy night ad I had saved. Dad’s short life span made me realize the importance of acting with urgency on important things. I decided that I needed to let go of my fear and quit saying I’ll do it “someday”. At that moment, I called the club and booked the next available open mic night. A few weeks later, in front of a crowd of mostly strangers, I walked on stage for my standup comedy debut. It was my own tribute to my father, a man with a great love of the spoken word and an avid joke teller. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of his death, a good reminder to review and act on another bucket list item. How about you? Do you have a goal or a bucket list that is waiting for action? I believe that there is no SOMEDAY like TODAY. After all, life changes not when you begin to act but when you commit to act. Also, your action may inspire someone else. Please share something from your bucket list in the COMMENTS section below.

Note: While I didn’t make it to the Final Four with my dad, I was able to take my dad to a Duke football game three months before he died. He hadn’t been to a game since he attended Duke in the 1950’s.

Tim Richardson has been speaking professionally since 1988. He works with organizations to help them create a create a RICH work environment. To learn more, please visit http://www.TimRichardson.com

Do Attitude and Work Ethic REALLY Matter?

31 Jan

A few years ago, while walking through the Knoxville airport, I was enthusiastically greeted by a young man. He was working at a newly opened Quiznos. While it was a bit early for lunch, the young man had an effervescent personality so I engaged with him. He asked for my name and introduced himself as Denzel, a “sandwich artists”. Because it was so early, I had no intention of ordering a sandwich and told Denzel that. He countered with, “Mr Richardson, have you ever eaten a sandwich masterfully created by a sandwich artist?”  I admitted that I had not.  Then he said, “Mr. Richardson, you have to eat sometime you might as well eat the best!” Then he assured me that he’d make the best sandwich I had ever eaten! You probably guessed the rest. I not only ordered a sandwich but also a cookie, bag of chips and a drink (heck I may have bought a car from him!). His service was exemplary; he was a master of upselling; and he created a need. His exceptional service skills, wit, and professionalism truly made him an artist. After our short interaction, Denzel thanked me for letting him create a masterpiece for me and he told me to make sure to drop by the next time I was at the airport. Wow, this from a nineteen year-old fast food employee who viewed his job as much more important than most in his position. I told Denzel that I was a keynote speaker and that I wanted to talk about him in my speech that week.

On my next trip a week or two later, I stopped by Quiznos to tell the manager on duty about my experience with Denzel. As I related my story, the manager seemed almost sullen. Then she told me that one of their regular customers had noticed Denzel’s great attitude and work ethic and offered Denzel a new job. I learned that the staff there missed Denzel and his artistry. I shared this story many times emphasizing how having the right attitude and taking pride in your work creates opportunities for career advancement and how empowering employees to add their uniqueness to their work pays huge dividends. Every time I told the story, I wondered how things had turned out for Denzel.

Last week, in route to get a haircut, I walked past a U.S. Cellular retail store. As a customer approached the entrance, I heard a familiar voice say. “Good morning and welcome to U.S. Cellular.” There was Denzel armed with his contagious attitude and his million dollar smile. I delayed my haircut a few minutes and talked with Denzel. He confirmed that he had indeed been hired away because of his attitude and work ethic, attributes that earned him a 40% pay increase, a job with benefits, and a promising new career that he loves. He seemed to be putting the same great attitude and work ethic into his new job. I wonder how much better our work places would be if we populated them with employees who exhibited the skills that Denzel did. ImageImage

You Do Not Control Your Brand

30 Nov

Last week my speaker colleaugue and friend Bruce Turkel wrote a great blog post that I thought I would share with you here:

Think back 20 years.You had just checked into your hotel. You went up to your room and found a disgustingly large cockroach scrabbling around in your bathtub. After you screamed or screeched or hopped up on the toilet tank, you called the front desk and they got rid of the giant bug. But then when you got home you decided to write a note and complain to the hotel. So you dragged out your stationery, found a pen, scribbled your complaint, stuck it in an envelope, licked the flap, and rooted around for a stamp. Three weeks later the letter was still sitting on your mantle until you finally remembered to take it with you and drop it in a mailbox. Three weeks after that you got a letter back from the hotel that said something like this:

Ten years ago if you happened on a roach in your hotel tub you would have waited until you got home, fired up the computer, and zipped off an email explaining your disappointment. And you would probably get  an email back within a few days that said pretty much the same thing that the letter did. Now picture what would happen today:

You walk into the bathroom and find the same damn roach partying in the tub. What’s the first thing you do — scream? No, you take a picture of the bug with your smartphone. And you don’t even have to reach for your phone because you were either texting or playing Words With Friends as you walked into the bathroom in the first place. Then you add a note — “OMG!!! There’s a ROACH in my room at the XYZ Hotel” — and hit SEND. Your comments, and the roach, are instantly uploaded to your 7,000 Twitter followers and 3,300 hundred LinkedIn associates, and to 587 of your closest friends on Facebook. And even assuming that only 10% of your contacts are online at the moment, that means that more than 1,000 people know about the roach within minutes.

Worse, many of them forward your note to their collection of contacts. A bunch of people “like” your post and one or two sickos probably even post the picture on their Pinterest cockroach enthusiasts’ board with a comment such as, “Check out this beautiful German cockroach specimen my friend spotted at the XYZ Hotel.”

So less than 10 minutes after you spied the roach, thousands and thousands of people know about it and the XYZ Hotel. And if the hotel’s marketing staff isn’t monitoring their name on the Web, they are completely unaware that this sort of news is hopscotching around the globe.

Do you still believe you control your brand?

Sure you can create clear, concise, cogent, and comprehensive communications. But if your brand isn’t powerful enough to withstand these kinds of assaults, you’d better start thinking about how you’re going to reinforce it.

To modify the old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” understand that if your brand doesn’t stand for something, your customers will fall for anything. Today the power of smartphones and the Internet, combined with the newly democratized control of information, means every single person your brand interfaces with has the potential to reinforce — or redefine — your messaging.

Managed properly, this new situation can be both powerful and profitable. Managed poorly, it’s a lot scarier than that disgusting bug crawling in your bathtub.

So what should you do? A proper brand audit is the first step. After all, if you don’t know what you’ve got, then how can you figure out what you’re capable of? After that, crafting your core messaging and strengthening any weaknesses are crucial. So is assembling your brand standards, building your distribution strategy, and creating your crises plan. And then, implementing your plan in a systematic, measurable way. And finally, evaluating both your actions and their effect.

Are you thankful for adversity?

19 Nov

“On the other side of adversity is always something better”. Even if you don’t fully believe that, think about how much better you could handle challenging times if you looked at every adversity with that mentality. When I am speaking, I tell audiences that while you might not be able to see the good in adversity right when it is happening, eventual SOMETHING good CAN come in just about every adversity if you look hard enough. 

 Yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of the death of my best friend who died of melanoma. Losing him was painful and I still think about him all the time. While I have had a difficult time fully integrating that personally, there have been lots of positives come from this very negative situation:

 – The Bill Walter Melanoma Foundation was created to carry on his legacy

- nearly $500,000 has been raised in his memory

- over $200,000 has been given away to help people who can’t afford treatment

- more than twenty 5K races in Florida and Colorado have attracted thousands of runners who have heard his story

- a melanoma symposium has brought leading melanoma experts from all over the world to discuss new treatments

- young people are being educated about the melanoma and the danger of sun overexposure

 If you have been through an adversity lately, ask yourself what good has come of it. It might even be that you are thankful for the adversity for the opportunity it created. 

Tim Richardson is a full-time professional speaker and author. He speaks and writes about customer service, innovation, and leadership. For more information, please visist www.TimRichardson.com

Positive and enriching customer experiences

6 Sep

Imagine that  Good Morning, America is sending a film crew to your workplace in the next few days. The purpose of their visit is to film your company, interview staff, shadow you for a day, and feature a unique aspect of the experience you provide for your customers. How would you prepare? My guess is you would make sure employees were well prepared. You would ask them to put their “A” game on in dress, attitude, effort, etc. You would make sure everything was spotlessly clean. You would have a meeting or training session to update your team about anything new or just remind them of how important it is to make a great impression. The bottom line is that you would want the film crew to see you at your best so anyone watching would want to do business with you.  Most organizations probably are not going to be so fortunate to have that experience, but nearly everyone has the possibility that they may be featured in a video and that their company will be “viewed” by hundreds or even thousands of potential customers. It may have already happened and it is possible you don’t even know it. Today’s consumer has more tools that ever before to create impressions (positive or negative) and potentially share them like it’s their own TV show. It’s as easy as using a smart phone to capture some images that can be uploaded immediately.

In today’s world, it makes sense to be certain that you and your company create positive experiences that make customers want to “document” your company. To create that experience worth documenting, you might consider the following:

1)    Hire a great team. Organizations that lead the way in customer service have internalized the concept of hire slow, fire fast. Make sure that you have a great team in place that can create the positive impressions that make customers want to rave about your company and continue to do business with you year after year. Pleasant people create pleasant experiences. If you have one person who doesn’t project this type of attitude, send them packing. All it takes is one negative encounter to lose a customer and which may cause them to write or worse film something unflattering about their experience with you. Conversely, a positive encounter can make a guest your biggest advocate.

 2)    Provide training time. Even if it’s very short, giving employees and work customers opportunities to learn how to be more service-focused, should be a regularly part of your routine. Make sure that they can answer simple questions about your company and surrounding area with courtesy and kindness. Teach your staff to answer questions that they are asked with “My pleasure” which is a response used both by high-end organizations like the Ritz Carlton and the fast food chain Chic-fil-a. It is amazing how those three words can make such a lasting positive expression. 

 3)     Develop standards of service and exceed them – people will usually rise to the level of expectation that is set for them. Involve your team in the creation of a standards list. Make sure that they have guidelines for providing exceptional service and that they know how to handle any difficult situations that might arise. In the hospitality industry, leading customer service organizations have a daily line-up. It’s an opportunity for employees to be trained in 3-5 minute meetings. Use something similar at your company to provide information, updates, and to constantly review service standards and customer service principles.

 4)    Make them say WOW! Figure out what you and your company can do to create an experience to wow your guests.  Recently my son and I had the pleasure of staying at the Diamond M Ranch in Kenai Alaska. Upon arrival, one of the employees presented us with some homemade bread and a staff member gave us a pound of lean ground beef from the farm raised cattle on property. It got me thinking about how using something unique about your company can make your guests say WOW (and share that WOW with others).

 Arguably these ideas are simple. However, the reality is that it doesn’t take much effort to distinguish your company and make it worthy of a visit by Good Morning, America.

Tim Richardson is a professional speaker and author. Tim writes and speaks about how to build community (with customers, with co-workers, and in the community where you live). His programs focus on how to increase employee morale, lower employee turnover, increase customer loyalty and build a better sense of healthy community in cities, states, and countries all over the world. He is a community builder by volunteering in scouting, youth sports, and as a board member in several organizations including president and founder of the Bill Walter Melanoma Research Fund. For more information on Tim, go to www.TimRichardson.com

Pursuing Passion

30 Jun

(Note: The story below was written by my speaker colleague and friend George Walter. George and his wife decided a few years ago to spend a year living in places they love all over the world. They alternate choosing where to live spending the last year in Nice, France. George and Barbie exemplify Living Rich by pursuing their passions. This post is a great reminder of the importance of doing just that. Enjoy!)

Right outside the front door of our apartment in Nice, France, it’s Pierre’s domain. There’s a very attractive, very French establishment with a terrific atmosphere, “Restaurant Le Brasserie Grimaldi.” Its proprietor, Pierre, works there morning, Noon, and night. We typically see him at least twice daily as we enter or leave our apartment building.  He’s either standing cross-armed, wearing his hat and holding a cigarette, or taking an order, or preparing a tableside salad with seriously artistic flourish.

While we don’t dine with Pierre often, we did so recently because my long-time friends, Jack and Suzanne Healy, were visiting from Washington.  They’re true connoisseurs of fine food and wine. Le Brasserie Grimaldi is their kind of place.

So, at the Healys’ suggestion, we ate there together, rather than just walking by, as usual.  After enjoying an excellent meal, we chatted a bit with Pierre. I was completely surprised to learn that he speaks English! And he speaks it quite well. It was such an odd discovery. I mean, it’s not like we’d just met the guy. We had lived there for 11 months, and we exchanged daily pleasantries with him, stumbling along in basic French. My wife, Barbie, and his wife, Alexa, were friends. They went to the same yoga studio and sometimes took classes together. Despite all this, I never really had a conversation with Pierre … and I had no idea that he knew even a word of English.

In fact, I’d always felt somewhat awkward with him because, despite our daily comings and goings, I rarely patronized his restaurant. I’m simply not passionate about enjoying excellent food. We dined there with Jack and Suzanne because they are passionate about fine dining.

Studying the wine list on the night we dined with the Healys, Jack selected a Bourgogne Pinot Noir “Les Vendangeurs” 2008 to accompany our starters.  He also told Pierre that he’d want to see the wine list again before our main dish was served, because, of course, Jack could not pair the Pinot Noir with his lamb… or my clam pasta … or Suzanne’s truffles … (or Barbie’s salad, for that matter)!

To accompany our main dishes, Jack selected the Saint-Emilion “Grand Cru Chateau Lavallade” 2007, although the first bottle of Bourgogne was still half full.  (I only know these particulars because I saved the bottles so I could quote from the labels.)

I watched Jack fully enjoying the art of selecting the proper wine to accompany our meals, and Pierre quickly recognized that he was dealing with a passionate connoisseur.  He smiled at Jack’s selections.  They were both engaged in their passionate pursuits.

If I’d made the wine selection, it would have been a carafe of the house red without regard for our food choices… and I’d have been able to finish it off quite happily.

Pierre is the proprietor of a difficult, challenging, demanding enterprise. His hours are long; the entire outdoor seating area must be disassembled every night, and reassembled early the next morning. He runs the whole show, including ordering supplies, dealing with wholesalers, taking diners’ orders, advising his guests on wine selections, delivering the food, and working very hard at his multiple roles. His wife, Alexa, is there working alongside him on most days. And during the peak summer months, he also has a part-time waitress.  Despite their remarkable toiling, they’re not getting rich, though.



In that first-ever conversation with Pierre and the visiting Healys, he said something quite simple that made me think about how I live my own life. When I commiserated about his difficult vocation, he said, “Yes, eeet’s very ard work, but it eeez my passion.”  It was as if he recognized that the work was far too demanding for the financial rewards he received, but he just couldn’t do anything else.  He was a French restaurateur; he had to pursue his passion.  At the end of our meal, he asked, “Ave you ad an enjoyable mo-mont?”

After 11 months of passing him right outside our front door, I’ve never seen him smile as broadly as when we replied, “Yes, very enjoyable!  Magnifique!” Creating moments of enjoyment by providing fine meals is his passion.

I’m sure Pierre would make more money doing just about any other work.  He could be taking long lunches, instead of serving them.  And, this being France, he could go on strike if he felt that he was working too hard.  But, he wouldn’t be pursuing his passion, so he works at his own restaurant, instead.

This made me think about my own passions… and perhaps this encounter will encourage you to think about yours.

I just don’t care about fine wine and excellent cuisine. Those aren’t my passions.  Just one night before our dinner at Le Brasserie Grimaldi, Barbie’s friend Barbara was visiting us in our apartment. I offered Barbara some wine. As I poured it from the plastic jug container, I said, “I hope you don’t mind $5.00 wine.”

After Barbara said that she thought it tasted great, Barbie said, “You had better hide that jug so that Jack and Suzanne don’t see it when they arrive tomorrow.  You know how passionate they are about fine wines.”

Then, she began to tell Barbara about our wine connoisseur friends, and explained that, “George can’t tell the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $500 bottle.”

I quickly protested: “It’s not that I can’t tell the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $500 bottle. I can detect a slight difference. I just can’t tell you which one is the $500 bottle and which one is the $5 bottle.”

At that, both Barbie and Barbara fell all over each other laughing.

This happens to me a lot. Most of the time, it happens with Barbie and my daughter, Kelcie. I say something that is totally factual and not at all funny. At least it’s not funny to me. But apparently, others find my statements hilarious. I just don’t get it!

Well, during this dining out experience, when I observed how pleased Pierre was when Jack and Suzanne appreciated his fine meal, it made me ask myself two crucial life questions:

1.Aside from nurturing my personal relationships with my wife, child, and friends, “What eeez it I am zee most passionate about?”

And the even more important question:

2. ” Am I leeeving my life in accordance wis zooze passions?”

It’s worth asking yourself those same two questions.

In my case, I’m certainly passionate about my profession as a keynote speaker.  I love to perform on stage, and “something comes over me” when I face an audience. It’s where I shine brightest, professionally.   Since 1983 I have been a member of the National Speakers Association and have received its highest honor for platform excellence.  I’ve been inducted as a lifetime member of the Speakers Hall of Fame.  I love providing enjoyable performances (“enjoyable mo-monts”) for my audiences the way Pierre loves providing enjoyable moments for his guests.  I’m always eager to present another speech.  (Unfortunately, hustling for business isn’t my passion.)

I’m also passionate about architecture.  In particular, I appreciate the specialized field called “adaptive reuse.” This refers to a very specific type of architecture in which structures originally erected for one purpose are adapted and reused for another.  A couple of months ago, I booked the most expensive hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.  What made it so special and worth it? It was a converted harbor crane on the shore of the North Sea in the Netherlands. It’s the only one of its kind in the world, and is a one-room hotel that’s built inside a functioning crane.  From the outside, it looks about like any large crane you’d see loading cargo containers onto docked ships. Inside, though, it’s an amazing hotel consisting of just that one room. From the control cab, you can push a lever and swivel the entire hotel around to change your view. (I only wish I could have used the lifting mechanism to heft someone’s car.)

I make it a point, daily, to pause and appreciate good architecture, especially when the design is either controversial avant-garde, or clever with some little trick for the observers’ eyes.

I’m passionate about cultural explorations. That’s why I’ve traveled to and through 104 countries so far, and why I’ll keep exploring more. Most people think this is nuts. Very few people share my passion in this regard. But that’s the thing about passions. Other people don’t necessarily relate to them, and none of us has to be passionate about what others care most about. One of the things that makes me happiest is boarding a plane to fly for many, many hours … and disembarking in a remote part of the world, … where I hope to end up sleeping in a village hut with “primitive” tribal people.  I don’t care if others find that odd.  It’s my passion.

I’m passionate about using almost any mode of transport. People who don’t share this passion find any flight of more than a few hours painfully uncomfortable. I, though, will happily take a flight, sit in coach, and enjoy a 22-hour journey, with multiple connections, and cross 12 time zones, just because I love to fly. If there’s any railroad near me, I want to go for a train ride. If there’s a ski gondola to a mountaintop, or a metro tunnel that goes under a river, I want to experience it! Even riding on city buses gives me a little thrill.

Most of all, I’m passionate about slaking my curiosity. Whenever I spot a brown road sign pointing to a historical marker, scenic overlook, or other point of interest, I have an urge to pull off the road, despite the fact that it will slow my journey.

Or will it? Maybe feeding our passions is our journey. If so, taking detours is all part of the fun. And instead of hindering me, it makes me grow, in intellect, experience, and satisfaction. It feeds both my head and my heart.

So, how’s this for an important personal exercise for yourself:

Give yourself a passion checkup. What makes you feel most passionate? Are you living your life in accordance with your passions?

Or, as Pierre might put it:  “What eeez it I am zee most passionate about?  Am I leeeving my life in accordance wis zooze passions?”

If you’re not passionate about wine, don’t order the $500 bottle. And if you’re not passionate about long flights, detours, and bizarre travel, stay home.  And if you don’t feel passionate about your work, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

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