Contentment Is A Slippery Slope Towards Complacency

(originally published in Screen Magazine 9/26/12)

I hate the word content. More specifically, I hate both the noun and adjective uses of the word content.

So as of today, I’m on a mission to remove this word from the creative industry’s vocabulary.

First, let’s talk about the adjective: content. As in “He doesn’t feel the need to be more creative, more innovative, or do anything differently. He’s content.”

Is there anyone out there who feels they have accomplished enough, learned all they can learn, and helped all those who could use some help? If so, please step aside and let the rest of us do our level best to kick ass and keep moving the industry forward. Please don’t misunderstand me. I highly recommend being happy and satisfied with your work. Just don’t be content. Contentment is a slippery slope towards complacency. Followed by mediocrity. Ending up at “average.” And as anyone who has worked in this industry for more than a week knows, “average” just doesn’t cut it.

Now then, let’s move on to the noun: content. I see and hear this word everyday. The client is looking for content for their website. We need more content that appeals to our social media audience, etc… I understand why everybody uses this word in the creative industry. It simplifies everything. But I think it oversimplifies. You might as well say we need corporate “stuff,” or “bland wallpaper,” or we need “un-interesting visual material to fill up some space.” In this industry we can’t allow ourselves to be content (the adjective) with mere content (the noun.)

Content (the noun) doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it has the potential to be fun, informative, innovative, and yes – even entertaining.

From here on out, I intend to use the word entertainment in place of the noun content. Doesn’t corporate entertainment sound better? Doesn’t it sound like the goal is to produce something more innovative, creative, and engaging?

So please help me with my mission to remove both “content” and “content” from the creative industry’s vocabulary. Together we can do this. I for one won’t be content – uh, make that happy/ecstatic/entertained, until we do.


The Wild West – Part II

(originally published in Screen Magazine 9/12/12)

About seven months ago, I wrote a little blurb about how the creative industry was starting to look like the Wild West. The thinking behind that article was that If you want success you have to go out and claim it. Nothing will be handed to you. There is no map or trail that will guide those working in the creative industry. You have to draw up your own map.

I love history, and I often wish I lived in the Wild West. It must have been pretty scary for those early settlers, but exciting at the same time. But can you imagine if everything had already been established, lines drawn, and then erased? That is where we are now.

Twenty years ago, everything was clearly defined. Advertising agencies provided specific services, event agencies played a defined role, PR firms applied their trade, and marketing shops tied up all the loose ends. Back then, talent agencies and their famous acting clients didn’t really concern themselves with the advertising world, because there were bigger fish to fry. Recording artists were considered “sell-outs” if they collaborated with a brand, and no one was talking about product placement or interactive agencies back then.

Everything was right with the world. Or was it?

I currently hold a position that didn’t exist twenty years ago. If I told my high-school guidance counselor that I wanted to be a Director of Branded Entertainment when I grew up, he would have said, “Really? What the hell is that?”

So I’d like to expand my Wild West analogy to include the entire entertainment industry. That’s right, I’m here to officially announce that we are all working in one big industry called the entertainment business. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome those working in the direct mail sector, as well.

Seriously. Everything is a part of everything now. TV networks are looking to include interactive and potential branding components. Record company execs are talking about how to best brand their artists. Event agencies are producing some of the most visually creative work out there. Interactive agencies are taking the lead on many campaigns. Dogs and cats, living together – it’s mass hysteria!

But don’t let all this change scare you. In fact, embrace it. I think it’s great for everyone involved – especially the brand. Where others may see a duplication of service, I see a creative challenge. Exceed expectations on this assignment, and you’ll get another one. Earn the client’s trust in one discipline, and the door will open to another. But the key is this. If you put yourself out there and offer services that you haven’t offered before, you better be good at it. You better be ready to perform beyond the level that everyone has come to expect. You better improve on client relationship skills, and not just execute the boards. You better be prepared to live up to – and exceed – all of those promises. Because if you don’t, there is someone else out there that’s expanding their services to include your specialty. The Wild West just keeps getting wilder.


Be responsive to the needs of your clients. Orange soda anyone?

(Published in Screen Magazine 8/22/12)

In 1989 I unofficially started my sales career.   I was duplicating radio commercials, when my boss asked me to go get fitted for a tuxedo for the next day’s sales event.  I wasn’t sure why was he asking me to do this, I had 1,000 public service announcements to duplicate and ship by the next day.  My boss explained that he wanted me to walk around and act as the host of the office.  “Just be you,” he said.  That was my first taste of sales and how important it is to simply be nice and approachable to the people you work with and want to work with.

Fast forward through six years and a variety of post-production roles at Editel/Chicago before I transitioned my hobby of building client relationships into an official sales representative role.  I only asked for one thing before I started this new job, and that was orange soda.  Yes, orange soda.  I explained to my boss that it was important for me to be responsive.  If a client had a concern about any or all of our services, I wanted to be in a position to address those concerns.  My examples of potential client issues ranged from big things like staffing and technology upgrades to having orange soda in our refrigerator.  I always kept a case of orange soda in my office at Editel as a constant reminder to be responsive to the changing needs of my clients.  Do you need a reminder?  Is it time to buy some orange soda for your business?


Are The Unwritten Rules Being Thrown Out?

(originally published in Screen Magazine 7/11/12)

If you’re not familiar with the unwritten rules of production and how they relate to getting advertising work, don’t read the rest of this column. It seems silly to fill you in on a set of rules that are becoming obsolete. Maybe you’re better off not knowing. You know what they say. Ignorance is bliss.

If we were talking about sports it would be a different story. For example, the unwritten rules in baseball are legendary. As a matter of fact, by writing down the unwritten rules of baseball I’m pretty much breaking the rules, but what the hell. Here they are:

  1. Don’t talk about a no-hitter during a no-hitter. Don’t even think about talking about it.
  2. Don’t stare at a home run when leaving the batter’s box.
  3. When your team is winning by more than 5 runs, you shouldn’t steal a base or bunt.

Recently, Major League pitcher Cole Hamels broke an unwritten rule. He hit rookie Bryce Harper with a fastball on purpose to welcome him to the big leagues. This in itself is fine. Actually, it’s accepted as an unwritten rule. Someone had to throw at the kid. No, Cole Hamels broke the unwritten rule when he admitted that he hit the player on purpose. He broke the unwritten rule about regulating the unwritten rules. It gets very complicated.

The most accepted unwritten rule in the production community has been around for years. It has long been understood that all vendors should get their work from the advertising agency or marketing firm on record. At no point should the vendor call the client directly for work. This rule makes sense when a company or person is hired as a sub-contractor. For example, I just hired a cameraman for a three-day shoot. I expect him to be approachable, professional, and courteous to my clients. I also expect him never to contact my clients directly for work in the future. The cameraman I hired understands this unwritten rule, so I expect we will work together for many years to come.

But what if I never hired him to begin with? In that case, can we both pursue work from the same client? Can I really expect him to stay away from all my potential clients? What if my company decided to put some cameramen on the payroll, and I never engaged his services again? Is he still expected to stay away?

The answers to these questions used to be much clearer. Back in the day (about ten years ago) everyone’s role was defined. There was the client, the agency, and then the vendor. Just like the Army, we all followed the chain of command. No one seemed to challenge the workflow, because there seemed to be enough work to go around. But things have changed since then.

Four years ago, I sat next to the President of HBO for an event. He asked me directly if there was any possibilities of using the music I produced in the future. “Could it be part of a larger campaign? How would you take this to the next level?” he asked. My response was, “Isn’t that a question for your agency?” I knew the rules. I was just a music guy who did his job. My role was not to develop the ideas, I was limited to just executing them, right?

A week later I sent along an estimate for turning the :60 song into a 3:00 minute piece. The estimate also included the lead singer and actor from the video touring the world (12 cities)promoting the cause at both local high schools and nightclubs. The bid total was over one million dollars. I had just broken an unwritten rule, by presenting an idea directly to a client. But he asked me for it directly, so that made it okay, right?

A few weeks later, I attended an AICP event at the Park West in Chicago. It was a roundtable discussion about the state of the industry. The heads of the top five agencies were the speakers, along with a chief McDonald’s strategist. Wouldn’t you know it; the topic of the unwritten rules came up. The McDonald’s representative said, “I don’t care where the idea comes from. If a 15 year-old kid on YouTube has a clever idea, I’m going to take a look at it.”

Of course this didn’t sit well with the Leo Burnett representative. I stood up and asked, “What if the vendor is approached by the client directly? Doesn’t the vendor have a responsibility to his company, employees, and family to pursue that work?” The answers were mixed. One of the members of the panel walked up to me afterwards and said that if the agencies aren’t already doing editorial, audio, and graphics in house, they will be soon. He put it like this. “We’re already getting into your line of work so there’s no reason you can’t get into our end of the industry.” It was an honest assessment of the state of our industry. Whoever has the best relationship with the client will control the work.

Fast forward 4 years, and it’s easy to see the playing field has leveled even more. Of course there are still agencies of record, and I continue to respect that protocol. But there are also many more clients who are controlling their creative in house. In fact, the demand for content across so many platforms suggests that potential clients are everywhere. Or maybe I should say relationships are everywhere. Anyone, and I mean anyone, might have leads. The music producer, the graphics guy, the editor, the sound mixer, or even your dentist might have a relationship that leads to work.

My suggestion would be to pursue every possible lead. If you are aware that a potential client has a relationship with an agency or another shop, you have to determine if the risk of losing potential work from that agency is worth the reward of landing a project directly from the client. It kind of reminds me of being single. When you approach someone in a bar, you have no idea if they’re seeing someone, if they could be happier with you, etc…

The same goes for the production community in today’s world. If you’re unaware of any pre- existing client relationships, there should be no risk. So go for it. Frankly, the unwritten rules are losing ground in this economy. I’m sorry I even had to write them down. Ignorance may be bliss. But work pays the bills.


Play As Well As You Dress

(originally published in Screen Magazine 6/27/12)

Recently I sat down with my dad and played cards. He’s a good man, my dad. He worked his butt off to help raise his seven kids. For most of his life, he had a full-time job, a part-time job, and then did what he could on the weekends to make ends meet.

He never sat me down to talk about a proper work ethic, integrity, or even relate some of his business skills knowledge. He probably didn’t have the time. No, my dad (like so many others) led by example.

Every once and a while, he threw out small pieces of advice that I put in my brain bank, and would use throughout my career. One such piece of advice came when I was getting ready to play golf at the age of 17. My dad said, “You play as well as you dress, so dress well.” He continued to explain that if you respect the game and dress appropriately, the game will respect you back and you will play well.

I don’t recall if I played well that day, but I’ll never forget those words of advice. Play as well as you dress became a constant reminder in many things I embarked on.

Many people dress up when they go to church, have a big meeting, go on dates, etc., but what is their everyday dress code? On several occasions, I wore a suit and a tie to my recording studio. Not because I had to, but to serve as a physical reminder that I needed to be professional that day. There was nothing on my agenda other than to be good at my job. For years, I never wore shorts to the places I worked. Not only do I have the ugliest legs in the world, but I also thought that the simple act of wearing full-length pants would remind me that I was there to work, and not be on summer vacation. Now these days, mind you, I sometimes wear shorts to work. But they’re not the same shorts I wear to clean the gutters at my house.

This by no means is a knock on anyone who wears shorts or ripped jeans to work. In fact, if your job is to be creative, I think you should dress as funky, cool, and creatively as possible.

My point is: respect the position you hold, and dress appropriately. If you dress in sloppy, unwashed, or disheveled clothes, there’s a good chance your boss will think you don’t care about your job.

I’ll leave you with this, a quote from the movie Bull Durham.

“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.” – Crash Davis


The Power of Words

(originally published in Screen Magazine on 6/13/12)
As I picked up my pizza last night, my son asked the owner of the restaurant why he named his place Prima La Pizza when he obviously serves much more than pizza. Frustrated (as if he’s been asked that same question many times before), he turned to me and said that adding that single word ‘pizza’ has cost him sleepless nights. He continued, “All of my pasta recipes were brought directly from Sicily, but the sign outside suggest that that the only thing I do well is pizza.”

I wasn’t really in the mood to have a lengthy business conversation with my ‘pizza’ guy, so I simply shrugged my shoulders as if to say. What are you going to do?

As I got into my car, I concluded that A) The owner of Prima La Pizza should have read my recent column about having a road map for success before naming his business, and B) People still don’t understand the power of words.

I see it all the time in business, someone comes up with a clever name, incorporates their business, and then immediately realizes that they may have chosen to be clever over profitable. Or perhaps they name their business after themselves, and then years down the road, when they want to phase themselves out, they’re forced to re-brand & re-invent. Seriously, whoever came up with the name Just Tires should be fired immediately if he or she hasn’t been fired already. By the way, Just Tires has added tune-ups and oil changes to their repertoire.

Poor word choices are also being made in business emails, texts, social media updates, and more. There is a great deal of power in words, and often times the person on the other end of your message isn’t receiving the same thing you’re sending (if you know what I mean).

I have also found that a lack of words can lead to confusion, and even keep vendors from getting awarded projects. I don’t know how many estimates I’ve seen that didn’t include a descriptive summary of the project. In my opinion, it’s hard to conclude if you’re right for the job if all I see is numbers. When I receive an estimate with a well written paragraph or two describing what needs to be done, and how the vendor intends to go about doing it, I get a sense that this company was really listening to me. Even if it basically repeats everything mentioned in a conference call, I feel that this company understands the scope of the project.

It’s not just the written words that can get people in trouble. I know an editor who answered a client’s question with a one-word answer. They rarely worked together again. To make a long story short, the client asked if a specific effect was possible. The editor took a minute, and finally said “Yea”. The combination of the long pause and the word “Yea” suggested to everyone in the room that the editor didn’t want to take the time to do the effect. It appeared that the editor was frustrated that he was being asked to do one more thing. In actuality, the editor was just thinking about how to pull off the effect, and what devices he needed to accomplish the goal.

I guess my point in all of this is… choose your words carefully.

• When starting a business, take the time to consider a name that reflects your capabilities as well as your business personality.

• When writing an email, make sure that if a complete stranger skims through it, they would read that email exactly how you intended it to be read.

• If you’re putting together an estimate, tell a creative and quick story about what’s happening on screen, it just might help you get the job.

• When speaking to clients, understand that every word you say can and will be used to determine if they will keep coming back.


How Much Money Do You Want To Make?

(originally published in Screen Magazine 6/6/12)

In early 1996, I was sitting in an accountant’s office discussing new business strategies. Towards the end of the meeting, the accountant asked, “how much money do you want to make? At the time, I thought it was a stupid question. Two weeks after the meeting I finally realized the point that accountant was trying to make. How much are you willing to spend/risk in order to achieve your goals?

A few months ago, I made an appointment with a frustrated employee who was thinking about starting his own creative editorial shop. He had several questions for me, like: How important is it to have a downtown presence? Should I seek out a partner or angel investor? What is the right number of initial employees? After listening to his questions and concerns, I had only one question of my own… “How much money do you want to make?”

The great thing about starting your own business is that you have the opportunity to set your own goals. You can set out to build a national chain of auto repair shops or, like my mechanic, choose to have one small garage and refuse to open your doors on Fridays.

I have great respect for both types of business owners. Those who have unshakeable ambition, and set no limits to what they can accomplish, and those who have a clear understanding of what they need to be truly happy.

When I first started a business, my annual sales goal was a million dollars. When I reached that goal, I set my sights on two million a year. I never reached that two million annual sales goal. In fact, I fell well short of it. In retrospect, I wish I would have been honest with myself and picked an obtainable business sweet spot. I should have kept updating my annual goals to reflect my changing priorities, but I didn’t. It’s kind of like sitting at a blackjack table with a solid goal of how much you want to win. When you hit that point, it’s best to walk away. If you don’t, you’ll find your stack of chips dwindling before your eyes. In business, I chased a number that didn’t exist, and ultimately couldn’t exist.

So my advice to those of you who (by choice or not) are starting a business of your own would be… Find your own sweet spot. Understand your personal priorities, your goals, and how much money you need to have the life you want to live. Once you have that number, you’re better suited to answer those hard questions that face new business owners. Best of luck, be bold and experiment. Above everything else, enjoy the ride.


Cold Calling in the Creative Industry

(originally published in Screen Magazine 5/30/12)

There’s a rumor going around that making direct phone calls to potential clients is an old school approach to sales.  I’m here to tell you that the rumor is true, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m of the opinion that clients want to work with people they like.  And what better way to introduce yourself, (and the company you work for) than over the phone?

When I’m putting together a marketing strategy, I always include phone sales.  Of course, email marketing strategies are included as well, but I don’t put all my eggs in that one electronic basket, nor should you.  It’s very hard to embody your company’s personality inside the body of an email, although many young reps are trying that approach.

I once asked an employee to call and introduce herself to a client.  A few hours later, I followed up to see how the call went, but her response was, “They didn’t reply to the email yet.”

Turns out she felt more comfortable introducing herself through an email, maybe in part because rejection is a part of sales, and being rejected with no response to an email, is well, less personal. But then again, so is the email she sent in the first place.

After all, being “personal” is a huge part of what makes a  sales person successful. Being in sales, maybe more than anything else in business is often driven by relationships. And relationships are personal.

So, I thought I would offer some unsolicited advice to anyone feeling a bit apprehensive about making cold calls.

Jim Olen’s Top Ten Tips for Cold Calling

10.  Listen to music.
I hate silence.  I use music as a source of energy, and to remind myself to have fun and enjoy the call.  Sometimes I listen to my “Really Stupid” I-Tunes playlist that features Air Supply, Monty Python, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, and an assortment of one-hit wonders from the eighties.

9. Don’t sell. Build trust.
This is sometimes a hard thing for business owners to hear, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking success will come with that next job. I always preferred a steady diet of work verses a “one and done” sales scenario.  Maybe your company isn’t quite right for what the client needs at this moment, but remind them that you will be here when they need you. Take time to nurture the relationship and make it about the privilege of working with them rather than merely focusing on a particular project you are bidding.

8.  They need what you’ve got.
Remember, the people you’re calling will need the services you offer at some point.  You’re not cold calling some homeowner offering a deal on long distance services. If you represent a director, make the call knowing that the person on the other end of the line has influence hiring directors even if they don’t need one today.  It’s not like you’re trying to sell music to a package design firm, right?  If you are, it’s time to update your contact database.

7. Go ahead, leave a message.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to leave a message.  Make it quick and confident.  Be personable and professional and let them know how you want to proceed. Will you be calling them back tomorrow, following up with an email, or are you requesting that they return your call when it’s convenient? Be clear that you would actually like to have a conversation with them, so it doesn’t just feel like an obligatory call you can check off your list.

6.  The Soft Sell
The person on the other end of the phone is not going to give you a credit card number at the end of the conversation, so there is no reason to pressure them. Like I said earlier, a cold call should be a simple reminder of your company’s talents & resources. Let them know where to find you when the need arises.

5. The first date
In past columns, I’ve suggested looking at the sales position as if you were on a first date.  Be approachable, pleasant, and charming.  Represent the best you and your company.  Don’t try to accelerate the relationship.  You’re not going to get engaged after the first date, and most likely, you won’t get awarded a project after the first phone call. Let the client/vendor relationship take its course.

4. Change it up.
To keep up your energy and enthusiasm, change it up. Call an Art Director in Chicago and then a Copywriter in Kansas City.  Follow it up with a call to a potential client in New York.

3. Be confident.
Confidence is the key to engaging someone over the phone.  The services you’re offering are needed.  The people you represent are talented.  Pretend you’ve done this cold calling thing for years, and you are not intimidated.  It’s kind of like buying a case of beer when you’re underage.  You have to walk into the liquor store like you own the place, like you’ve done this a million times.  The clerk won’t sell you that case of Pabst Blue Ribbon if you look like this is your first time.  The client won’t have a conversation if you don’t sound confident.

2. Timing is everything.
Yes, there will most certainly be times when potential clients aren’t looking to have a conversation.  You might have interrupted their workflow. Be respectful – their time is valuable.

1. Tell the truth. Don’t over-sell.
The content of the cold call is the most important.  With an understanding of all that is listed above, don’t forget to mention your true intentions such as “I believe we offer a creative alternative” or “Our goal is to exceed your expectations.”

Well that’s it. Good luck. By the way, one note to the people on the receiving end of the cold call: Understand that we value your time. All we’re asking for is one minute. Literally 60 seconds to make you aware of what we can offer. Those 60 seconds can result in a mutually beneficial relationship for many years to come.


Does the Creative Industry ‘Like’ Facebook?

(originally published in Screen Magazine 5/23/12)

Facebook’s recent IPO has got me to thinking… Does Facebook have anything to offer the creative industry? I know the ad industry has jumped into the Facebook game; I saw a clever McDonald’s ad the other day. I didn’t click on it, but it made me think about getting a Big Mac, and that psychological temptation came true this afternoon. A Big Mac and fries called to me. I chased it down with an old fashioned McDonald’s hot fudge sundae.

But I digress, just because McDonald’s takes advantage of the social network, does that mean that the vendors who seek their business should as well?

I refer to Facebook as a type of maintenance marketing for the creative industry.

Just like getting your oil changed in your car, it’s important to post updates (from your company FB page) every other day. Consider these posts to be very brief press releases. Most of the folks reading this column have been sharing their company news for many years now, so this may not appear to be life-altering information. At least I hope it isn’t. But, where some shops fall short is using Facebook to offer up a little bit of your corporate personality.

Of course, this is only my opinion, but I think clients may choose to work with you because they like you. Help these clients “like” you by branding your shop with simple Facebook posts.

I see great examples of this everyday. Utopic is one creative facility that seems to be doing the Facebook thing right in my opinion. The updates coming out of there are funny, professional, creative, and resourceful. When reading Utopic’s posts, I can’t help but think that these same characteristics carry over to the staff and speak of their over-all talent.

Other shops choose only to post recent project information on Facebook. Again, I think that kind of an update is very important, but ultimately not enough.

This next paragraph might rub some people the wrong way, but since I’m on topic of the utilizing a company Facebook page, let me make one quick suggestion for personal pages as well (as it relates to good business); take a look at the friends you have on Facebook and count how many you consider clients, work colleagues, or professional contacts. Keep that number of friends in mind when writing your personal posts.

Understand that people who can engage in your services can read everything that you put up on Facebook, so a slight hint of professionalism, or at least common decency, is not a bad thing.

I also like to see senior staff members post about the company they work for every once and a while. Many corporations ask highly visible employees to champion the cause of their employer on Facebook. I agree with this whole-heartedly. I know someone who has a key role in Chicago’s creative community. He loves his job, and is very good at it. But you would never know this by reading his Facebook posts. This person has a hobby that he obviously is very passionate about, which is great. But the absence of work-related topics, suggest to me that his day job is just that. Again, I’m not suggesting that everyone should be all business all the time, or that each Facebook post should have marketing spin. But when you hold a key position at a company, keep in mind that at some level you are reflecting your employer’s brand and personality.

I’ll get off my high horse now.

A Facebook strategy has to be considered when discussing your company’s marketing plan. It’s a great (free) tool for building your brand. So keep up to date with your maintenance marketing, and share your corporate personality with the world.


The Company Morale Pie Chart

(originally published in Screen Magazine 5/16/12)

Company owners – let me ask you what may seem like odd questions. Would you bring in pie every Friday afternoon if you knew it made your employees happy? Would you buy employee’s T-Shirts emblazoned with dumb sayings like “Friday is Pie-day”, if all that pie camaraderie had a positive impact on company morale?

Is company morale even important these days when many, if not most employees are happy just to have a job at all?

Back in the day (which means something different to everyone, so let’s say mid 90’s), creative shops placed company morale near the top of their priority list. I’m wondering where it ranks now on any company’s priority list, or if it made the list at all.

Believe it or not, some companies (and of course the military) still list “Morale Officer” as an actual job title. I performed a quick search for this elusive “Morale Officer” position on Simply Hired, and my search resulted in zero opportunities. It appears this job function has been eliminated along with many other roles. I did find the word morale included in the essential functions of executive management positions though. Call me crazy, but I’m not sure if a CFO is the person best suited to inspire fun in the workplace. Then again, I know a very talented CFO named Jim Cowhey at Optimus (a Chicago creative services company), who would excel in the capacity of a morale officer, but I digress.

Back in 1992, my official job title was Shipping & Receiving Manager at Editel/Chicago, but it might as well have been Morale Officer. I helped organize our softball team, ran our NCAA pool, set-up and performed on our stage for a variety of events, and a little basketball game I started (with a crumpled up piece of newspaper) grew to become the annual Pig Tournament with a hundred or so clients and staff cheering on the final four competitors.

You see, I believe positive morale in the workplace can be accomplished with something as small as serving pie in the lunchroom on Fridays, to something larger, like taking all of your employees and their families to Hawaii for a week. Thanks Oprah! I had a great time.

There’s no question that a happy employee is a productive employee, but who is in charge of making sure employees are happy?

I think employees should be responsible for about 85% of their own happiness, and the employer should look out for the remaining 15%. Of course, that assumes both parties are relatively normal, respect one another, and enjoy their role in the organization.

And by enjoy their role in the organization, I mean both the employer and employee should like their job to begin with. For example, when hiring a bookkeeper, I want to make sure that this person loves to reconcile accounts, can’t wait to prepare financial reports, and embraces payroll with an unbridled passion. Once I find this bookkeeper (which is not so easy) I assume that the 85% employee happy quota has been reached. Now all I have to do as the employer is hold up my end of the bargain, and sustain the happiness all around.

In other words, it’s my employee’s job to want to be at work. It’s my job to make sure they want to work for me.

So next time you are driving to the office, stop by and pick up some pie & ice cream. It can make a world of difference in the morale department. I recommend the Whole Foods apple pie. That’s good eatin’.


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