In the Business of Love

This month I read Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. It was written in 2002, almost 20 years ago, but so many leadership books contain what is called “evergreen content,” advice that’s good for maybe ever, things that can inspire and encourage leaders and business owners, so I decided to read it anyway.

The first lesson I got from reading the book was an encouragement. Much of what Tim Sanders suggests are things that more businesses and leaders are doing, are doing publicly and are doing as part of large corporations and well-known leaders. It’s definitely not universal, but it’s not odd, or something done by the “special” businesses, or something that people say “oh, that’s nice” about. More businesses than ever are focused more on creating relationships than just trying to get the financial transaction to happen. More businesses are working to create experiences for their customers. And more businesses are working to make both employees and customers happy. We’re not there yet, but more businesses are thinking about people and not just profits.

The second lesson was the focus on intangibles. Throughout the book Sanders focused on a couple of ways to make an impact, and they weren’t marketing or discounts. Instead, he suggested focusing on knowledge, networking, compassion, love, caring, and charity. We’re seeing that there’s only so many products and services that can be created that are different, and what ends up being the difference maker are these intangibles that help separate products and services from others that would otherwise appear to be identical.

The third lesson is right in line with that and well explained by a quote in the book “choice spells doom for villains.” I don’t love the competing aspect of competition, but I do love that there are many choices for people to choose from in just about every area of product and service today. This means that with a little research we’re able to find exactly what we want, or get very close to finding exactly what we want. It means we don’t have to buy from the company that has terrible customer service, the company with the rude employees, or the company that doesn’t have the freshest products. It means we can shop around and very easily pick and choose where our products and services come from and we don’t have to get everything from one company and just deal with something average. But with as much “competition” as there is, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself, your company and your products/services from the others on the market.

Are you using intangibles to build your business and support your people? If not it’s a great time to start.

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I’m Not Tired of Love

As we close this month of love this coming week I wanted to share one more thought about love as it has to do with families, communities and relationships. Love comes with challenges and there’s always the potential to be hurt by love. But I believe that it’s worth the risk. Love should teach us many things, it should make our lives richer and more fulfilling, it should give us support and encouragement through life’s challenges, and should create rewarding opportunities and relationships.

The one thing love should not do is make us bitter, unhappy, or tired. Yes, sometimes we’ll feel that way because of other aspects of our lives, but love itself should not make us feel that way. If you really feel bitter or unhappy about a relationship that you thought was love, it probably wasn’t love, or isn’t love anymore. Love, like many other things in our lives often changes and grows and goes through seasons, some of which will be more challenging or less invigorating, but generally it should be one of the more consistently positive aspects of your life.

Overall you should be sustained through the more difficult times both regarding your love life as well as the rest of your life. Love should make us want to share the good with the world, to help others have what we have, to turn the tide from the negative to the positive. Love should inspire us to live full lives, lives that make a positive impact on each of us and the world around us.

If you’re not feeling inspired, maybe it’s time for a talk with your significant other and family. Maybe you need to get serious about what’s going on with you personally and relationally.  Maybe it’s time for some changes.  Life shouldn’t consistently drag us down, and when it does we should have the support in our lives to get back on our feet.

On the other side of that, if you’re doing well or even thriving, it’s your turn to be a support for someone else and give them a helping hand.  Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time, and a reminder that there’s still love in the world.

An Attentive Partner

This week has been one for the books.  I’ve seen lots of examples of love, and I’m so thankful.  It seems like the world has really stepped up and embraced the topic of love this week, from galentine’s day to pet love to children love to the very traditional meaning behind Valentine’s Day, romantic love.  With Valentine’s Day being on a Thursday this year both my partner and I had very full days and didn’t really celebrate on the day of (a frequent occurrence for holidays because my partner is in both the restaurant and wedding industries).  But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t take time to express our love and remember all of the great years we’ve had together.

I know how challenging it is to keep a relationship alive and healthy, especially for a long time.  I think one of the reasons that relationships don’t last is because we’re used to how fast things change and have to be purchased and aren’t as focused on things lasting forever.  So to then switch to expecting relationships to last for years let alone decades, while we’re not commitment-phobes, it’s a big perspective switch.

Whether you’re interested in having a long term relationship or one that lasts as long as it lasts there are somethings you can do to help that relationship work well.  I talk often about the importance of communication, of course things like having similar interests and hobbies and opinions about things help as well.  The two things I want to focus on today that go hand-in-hand are awareness and attention.

Awareness and attention mean that you’ve got your senses open to your partner and to what’s going on in their life.  If you’re not paying attention to them and what’s going on in their life they may someday feel that they’re not truly wanted by you or that you don’t really care about them.  Being aware of what’s going on doesn’t mean you stalk their social feeds or scroll through their phones each night, it means that you take the time to look at them and listen to them, to know what’s going on in their life and what is affecting them.  It means sharing the little things with them, checking in with them throughout the day, and actively building memories and sharing experiences with them.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the love should end.  I encourage you to commit to your relationship anew each day, for as many days as you’re blessed to be together.  What have you learned about relationships since last Valentine’s Day?

Customer Service for the Ages

Today I want to talk about customer service, specifically regarding people contacting you or reaching out to you with questions or issues.  Customer service is one of the make-or-break aspects of a company.  They make people love or hate your company.  Depending on how it goes a person may be less likely to buy from you in the future, or at the very least not recommend you to others.

There are one or two companies I absolutely dread reaching out to because it has become consistently increasingly difficult to understand the people I speak with, either on the phone or virtually, and therefore to get my issue solved (I recently had one of them tell me the issue with my account was that I was shipping to 3 locations that are nowhere near any locations I’ve ever shipped to, which I told them was absolute bunk (to be polite), and hung up).

Recently I shared an article about the 55+ demographic and their careers with my newsletter subscribers which got me thinking about how they’re living longer and wanting/needing to stay in the workforce for longer.  Can they be part of the solution to poor customer service?

They have a better grasp of language than most people do, light years better than those who are taught a second or third language for (cheap) customer service purposes.  Many are also very friendly and can add a great level of personal touch to what can be challenging moments.  Many of them have great minds and can be taught to use the computer and knowledge that’s on it to perform the simple tasks that customer service typically deals with.  They can work from any location thanks to today’s technology, and it may even add some extra benefits like increasing socialization and helping with consistent income to help with end-of-life expenses and more.  I would say those are some pretty convincing reasons why you could add some older adults to your customer services.

If you currently outsource your customer service to someone in some other country, I encourage you to consider if you’re really doing your company a service by doing this or if you’re hurting it.  There are ways that you can spread the love through your business and the people you interact with, what are you doing to spread love?

A Little Valentine Treat

This week I bought my partner some little pint containers of ice cream. I don’t do it every week, but they were on sale this week and I thought it would be a nice treat for him (and us). We like ice cream, not as much as some people do, like my brother (he buys several gallons at a time), but a night or a couple nights each week it’s a nice treat to have. Over the past few months I’ve gotten some different kinds of ice cream and ice cream treats for my partner to try and he’s enjoyed them, which makes me feel good.

But my favorite part of all of this is when I see my partner going to the kitchen freezer. I love being in the room and hearing or seeing his reaction when he opens the freezer door. I always wait silently while he goes to look and pretend innocence when he asks me with surprised pleasure and happiness how those ice cream treats got there. I love surprising him with them and hearing his excited reactions to finding them. It’s one of the only things I enjoy about our freezer being on top of the fridge: the treats are front and center at eye level when you open the door.

It may not sound like a really big deal to you but it’s these little ways that we care about each other that make a big difference for our relationship. With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, it’s the perfect time for you and your partner to get into a habit of doing nice things for each other, and not just on Valentine’s Day but throughout the year. Relationships aren’t built on one or two days a year alone, they’re built on countless little moments, words, actions and thoughts. Whether those thoughts are positive and empowering or dangerous and hurtful determine the health, longevity and satisfaction of your relationship. What little things will you do this week to show your partner how much they mean to you and how much you value the relationship you two have?

Changes At Heart

In less than a week we’ll be in February, and we’ll be talking a lot about love. But if you know me, you know that I am a big fan of love, and anytime is a good time to love, not just February.  I recognize that sometimes love can get a little tricky. The biggest challenge is that everyone, yes everyone, changes! We don’t always like change and sometimes we want change so much but it just doesn’t happen. I’ve met so many people who say “I just want my partner to…” and then they share the biggest frustration that they have with their partner or with their relationship. Often it’s not just our partner who needs to make a change, sometimes we do too. And since change is one of the very few guarantees in life (besides death and taxes), what do we do about it?

Well, the best, but not always easiest, thing is to work with the changes that happen. You may decide that a few of the changes aren’t really necessary for you, your relationship or your family, but many of them are. So how do we approach change? Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman have some wisdom on that subject:

“When you really want change, reinforcement will come from your heart.”

When you’re really open to change your heart will encourage you to go for it. You may also have little (or big) signs in your life that it’s time and that your life is moving in that direction. The key to remember is that you’re never going through the change alone, no one is. There’s always the guidance of your heart, which doesn’t lie, and thanks to the internet, a whole world of people willing to support you (including me!).

The biggest challenge is learning how to hear your heart. As I said it won’t lie, but you may not understand what it’s trying to say to you unless you listen to it, and live by it, on a regular basis, even when you’re not going through changes.

This week I encourage you to listen to your heart on the little things and get to know how it works and talks to you. It’s a fun exercise and can really pay off in the future.

The Love of Christmas

This time of year is really about love. It’s in Jesus’ story, it’s in Santa’s story, it’s in countless stories recorded by Hollywood, and there’s many a couple that will tell you they fell in love over the Christmas season. Love is many things: it’s giving, it’s forgiving, it’s endearing, it’s celebratory, it’s rewarding, it’s difficult, it’s educational, it’s life giving, it’s challenging, it’s attractive, it’s exciting, it’s work, it’s fulfilling, and that’s just for starters.

Love has highs and lows, but I believe if we’re talking true love (regardless of whether you’re talking romantic, family or friends), the highs and rewards far outweigh the challenges and difficulties and hold true to the statement ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than not loved at all.’ The challenge of the journey doesn’t make you love them any less, and you can work through just about everything that is thrown at you as long as you do it together.

Christmas isn’t the time to be discouraged about the love in your life, it’s time to celebrate it and commit to being more loving from here going forward. Even though it’s a story that’s grown over the years, why would Santa deliver presents around the world if not for love? It’s a lot more factual that Jesus came to earth some 2000 years ago as a baby, and it’s been said many times and in many ways that it was because of love. Why would we give gifts each holiday season if not for love?

So be encouraged that love is really all around. Will you welcome love into your life and heart this holiday season?

Comfortable Changes

How do you handle those conversations with your partner when they want to talk about things they want or feel are lacking in your relationship? I had a conversation with someone about this during the past week and it got me thinking about how we can overcome the challenges we personally may face if we’re asked by our partner to make a change or do something different.

While the first emotion you may feel is gratitude that your partner is finally sharing their concerns, fears or desires, the emotions that may closely follow are guilt, fear, and panic. It’s never easy to realize that you’ve been failing in some way on something or not being everything your partner needs. But that’s not necessarily what the conversation means, because it may not be about you failing to do something, but about something new your partner wants or needs or wants to try. If you’re in a healthy relationship, it should be an opening conversation, a beginning of a discussion, not a requirement or hard line.

Change and growth are natural parts of a healthy relationship. So what it you do feel overwhelmed by the request or the conversation? Instead of trying to conquer the mountain in one jump, pick something that’s easier for you to work up the courage or confidence to get to that point, or at least try to get to that point. Showing that you’re trying will mean a lot to them and may give them the immediate positive reinforcement they need to regain their confidence in your relationship and encourage you and work with you on trying to incorporate their requests or feedback into your relationship. It will also give you the courage and strength to keep going and working on their requests or feedback.

For example let’s say they are bored with what you all typically have for food options in the house and everyone needs to eat healthier, but you don’t really like fruits or vegetables. So don’t dive into trying the ones you know you don’t like, start with incorporating more of the ones you do like into your diets and pantry. Let’s say they want to do more and get in shape. Instead of trying to be ironman or woman, start with walking or swimming or whatever fitness activity you are OK with.

That first step may be a little intimidating, but it’s way less challenging than trying to go all the way from day 1. What tips do you have for working through conversations with your partner?

Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.

5 Principles of a Successful Relationship

Today I thought we’d take a look at 5 principles of a successful relationship, as inspired by a post I saw on principles that are indicative of people who can become millionaires.  As a side note, it’s interesting that these principles can be applied in what seems like very different applications, but it’s really all about success, however or whatever you’re hoping to be successful in.

Say No: I think this is an interesting one to start with because sometimes we’re all about saying yes or ‘ok I’ll do it’ and then we get caught up in something else or just don’t have the time or ability.  You have to make sure that you’re capable of doing what your partner asks of you and letting them know when you just can’t do it all and need help yourself.

Plant Seeds: this is one of my favorite things to do with regards to relationships.  Relationships aren’t usually made or broken on one single event, it’s little things over the whole time that you’re together. It’s those date nights, it’s the moments having a cup of coffee together, it’s those walks around a park or other favorite place together, it’s the stories you share with each other, it’s the people you enjoy life with, it’s how you teach your kids together, and a thousand other little moments that all won’t be remembered, but are valuable parts that come together to strengthen (or hurt) your relationship.

Don’t Rush: I know we’ve all got tons of things to do on our individual lists each day, but at the top of that list each day should be loving on your partner.  Yes, you can do a quick kiss goodbye in the morning or quick ‘I love you’ text in the afternoon, but at some point in time during the day there should be some serious quality time between the two of you.  Maybe it’s only a couple of minutes, but for those few minutes you’re fully present with each other.

Ask Questions: my partner is really good at asking ‘what can I do for you’ and I’ve gotten pretty good at asking clarifying questions so that I fully understand the thinking or the story or the need before trying to follow through on a request (both with my partner and my clients).  Sometimes what comes out of someone’s mouth isn’t really what they want or isn’t really the issue and it’s important that you take the time to figure out what’s really going on or really needed.

Love: this is one of the most important principles of a successful relationship, because if you don’t really love each other how much motivation do you really have to make the relationship a success?  And if you have some other kind of motivation, is it really healthy or will it end up damaging both of you before the relationship ends?  So I say start with love, make love the foundation of everything you do, work on talking with love, and work on living with love.

What principles have helped you grow your relationship with your significant other, or have helped it last?