Waffle House and Well Managed PR

Here’s a great piece over at Inc.:

“Waffle House’s Response to the Drunk Customer Who Cooked His Own Meal Was a Brilliant Lesson in Humility”

The cliff notes version:

  • Guy heads to Waffle House late at night after an evening of drinking
  • Waffle House staff has fallen asleep
  • Guy who’s lacking in sobriety heads to the kitchen and cooks up his own meal

From my time in Corporate PR, I’m well aware of the reflective desire for retaliation. Mr. Warner, the PR Director at Waffle House, however, opted for a bright and pithy response.

“We’re glad Alex was able to enjoy his Texas Bacon Cheesesteak. We’ve apologized to Alex and have invited him back to eat with us. We also promised him we’d do the cooking the next time.”

For me, this was perfect. Humble, accepting of the company’s failure in this, and working to engage a committed customer. I expect they brought in many to the fold.

And, most important, they got right back to business.

Nicely played Waffle House. Nicely played indeed.


My Team Is Hiring A Home Detailer

Here’s the job description below. We’re a dynamic and fun team looking to make something really great in the local construction market.

Residential Home Detailer Wanted for Growing Construction Company (Snohomish County)

Compensation: Depending on Abilities
Employment typeFull Time

This person will report to our construction manager

We are looking for a highly motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, and hard-working person to help us maintain our jobsites throughout Snohomish County.

Responsibilities include but not limited to:

    • Walkthrough prep for new homeowners
    • Complete punch lists
    • Follow-up on warranty items
    • Landscaping
    • Fencing
    • Pick-up work


  • Ability to learn quickly
  • Transportation
  • Great “can-do” attitude
  • Able to follow instruction and meet goals and deadlines
  • Well rounded skill level
  • Minor Carpentry skills from millwork to framing
  • Ability to do drywall repairs, patches, texture & paint
  • Some knowledge of landscaping
  • Familiar with construction projects

If you’re interested, please reach out to me directly. We’ll then ask you to email a cover letter explaining your potential qualifications for this job, along with your resume.

Feeling Hopeful

My son just introduced me to this video by the British group “Bars and Melody“: Hopeful. The guys sing/rap quite well, but I find the anti-bullying message of this song powerful. It looks like this is a key part of their identity, which I fully support.

Now, it’s important to note, this video is from 2014. They have a pretty cool story of rising up via Britain’s Got Talent, getting a recording contract, and making a way via the arts through one of the new arts delivery channels.

Anyway, enjoy the video and let me know what you think in the comments.

Reflecting on Fortune’s article “Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove”

I’m an alum of Starbucks, having worked at the SSC (Starbucks Support Center) from the time Orin Smith was at the helm, through Jim Donald’s tenure, and then getting laid off with 300 of my colleagues a few months after Howard returned. Starbuck’s history overlaps with key parts of mine. I still care quite deeply about the company. I make it a point to read pieces like this one that come through my filter: Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove.

I remember the hand-off to Jim Donald, and the eventual fallout. I remember wondering if the only way Howard was going to leave Starbucks was in a pine box. The transition mentioned looks like a great opportunity for both Howard and Starbucks.

The article does a good job of looking at the situation, at least from what I can see. Now, I’ve been away from Starbucks for nearly 10 years now, so my understanding of the corporate dynamics are weak. But it meshes with my memory of days gone by.

Besides the internal challenges of succeeding someone who deeply shaped the culture of a major company, though, I’m more interested in their brief look at the state of the coffee sector.

It delights me to see audacious goals. That’s a part of the company I’ve admire and love. I agree with Johnson’s view that Starbucks has two overarching challenges: continually embracing digital culture, and then expanding the coffee expertise elements of the Brand. And I expect the Roastery and Reserve brands will do good work tackling those issues.

The competition will be fierce, though they’ll be quite adept at giving the other players a run for their money. However, it’s important to keep an eye as companies merge, align and garner new assets to apply. I’m thinking of the JAB Holdings acquisition of Peet’s, Stumptown and Intelligentsia as referenced by the article. Well, JAB actually has become a significant player in the Specialty Coffee arena. Besides Peet’s, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, they also control Keurig: Green Mountain, Caribou Coffee, and Mighty Leaf tea. And they control Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (the bagel chain) and Krispy Kreme. I would never have anticipated these companies going private, and becoming united under one investment group. A fascinating development that will help shape the specialty coffee world for years to come.

I don’t envy Kevin Johnson as he steps up to follow Schultz. It’s daunting to consider. However, he’s just the leader. I know many, many of the people bringing the day-to-day Starbucks experience to life. They’re committed, passionate and talented. I have no fears for the future of the Siren.

Thinking About Downtown Everett

Everett Logo

Yesterday I spent a little time walking right along Colby. I was struck by the large number of vacant store front spaces. Which surprises me, since retail space in the region is in high-demand. I guess we can see the upper bound of that.

Perhaps Everett is considered too far from Seattle. I find that interesting as it’s only 35 miles, 44 miles to Seatac airport.

There’s a great arts community up here, with the Everett Philharmonic, the Village Theatre and the Schack Arts Center, just to name a few.

Plenty of businesses occupy the larger buildings, banks, escrow companies, the offices for Snohomish County, and, of course, the City of Everett’s offices.

The city has an amazing amount of potential. I hope that the business community realizes it and helps Everett grow…and grow the right way.

Maybe that can Everett’s call to glory: smart and compassionate growth! Just a thought.

Sears CEO Lampert blames company’s woes on ‘irresponsible’ media

Sears CEO Lampert blames company’s woes on ‘irresponsible’ media

I just had to shake my head after reading this one. This Mr. Lampert is, well, an eccentric chap and, sorry to counter his statement, but either in deep denial about Sears’ states, or a terrible liar.

He spends a great deal of time comparing Sears to Amazon, and in strange, illogical ways.

“The company has not reported a profit for six years, which Lampert compared to Amazon.com Inc’s early unprofitable growth.”

I fail to see this comparison as apt. or even close to related. Sears is no startup, and Amazon has been focused on posting profits for some time (since 2004, I believe). But if their goals is to invest their profits back in the company, do it and then talk about it. Based in reality, it can be a compelling narrative.

Here’s something to mull about, when comparing Amazon & Sears: “Amazon’s total revenues grew 27 percent to $136 billion in 2016, while Sears’ revenues fell 12 percent year-on-year to $22.1 billion.”

This one really puzzled me:

When “…asked if Lampert was in denial about the company’s losses and paranoid”, he “refuted his question, saying there were “behind-the-scenes” counterparties trying to take advantage of the company’s situation“.

Apparently, the reporting is “deliberately unfair”. Wow…serious delusions of grandeur. A whole sector? All the reporters are in collusion against Sears? Sorry, that I doubt. Sears isn’t that big a player in retail anymore, especially as the space got saturated and online started eating everyone’s lunch (in the retail sector).

“”Excuse my rant but a lot of what we’re doing deserves a chance to see the light of day.”

Well, that’s a PR failure, if it’s based anywhere in reality (which I’m having a hard time buying).

Then there’s the reliance on their new loyalty program, “Shop Your Way”. Seems a puzzling thing to bet the farm on. As Erik Gordon (professor at Ross School of Business) puts it: “‘A loyalty program was innovative 20 years ago. Now, it is like saying ‘our stores have electricity.’ Sales still go down, so the loyalty program isn’t turning Sears around”.

Sears is in trouble, an a significant piece of it seems to be leadership. Their ill-fated venture into a Lord of the Flies internal structure was probably the most extreme of their poor choices. Now they’re at a point where they’re destroying their future to stop the cash bleed and keep operations afloat. Cutting hours and pay simply drives your best producing staff to your competition.

With Sears closing stores in solid retails markets (like my nearby Alderwood Mall), it’s hard to put much stake in a turnaround. The retail sector can be scary, and I’m hard pressed to think of a company that’s pulled themselves out of a tailspin like Sears’. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’d like to be. I grew up with the iconic Sears catalog, circling Christmas hints in their holiday catalog. The emotion is there. However, my last few experiences at their stores were of a morosely apathetic crew in dismal, worn out stores. It’s gong to take more than a loyalty program to pull back from that.

On that note, Investopedia has a great piece from last month, “Who Killed Sears? 50 Years on the Road to Ruin“. A solid and detailed look at the history of the venerable brand and it’s turn towards doom.

The Future of Work: Cashiers

This morning I read Cashiers’ Last Stand, which covers some thoughts I’ve had about AI recently.

I tend towards the futurist’s view: that these changes will happen (machines will take on more of the rote work of the cashier) and that those displacements will happen relatively soon.

I also think that the service role of cashiers has a long-term place, culturally.

Lastly, I need to invest some time into studying Amazon Go. There’s disruption coming to the retail world.

Here’s their intro video:

What do you think?

A few reflections on marketing 

A few quick reflections…


  • An easy, and dangerous, trap: selling to everyone! That kills sales, unless you’re already at a huge scale. Yes, Starbucks, Microsoft, etc, market to the planet. They didn’t start there. First they focused on a niche, on quality service. Build the relationship, the connection, a reputation for expertise and quality. When we find our gift, our marketing sweet spot, business will grow. Slowly but surely, growth. In Steven Covet lingo, when you focus on your area of influence, our area of influence grows. The
  • I like feeling special, connected and cared for. There’s a cafe close to home where I talk with the owners, they ask about my family, they suggest coffees based on knowing my tastes. Clearly, they do a great job communicating appreciation to me. And I’ve become an evangelist. 
  • Marketing power comes with knowledge. Yeah, perhaps a bit cliche, but hear me out. First element: expertise. Whether it’s a specialized real estate niche, coffee and pastries, burgers…It can anything. Second: know thy customers! What do they like, what makes them happy, what they hate; you get the picture. Lastly, with both bits of power, build marketing tools to grow that connection. There are so many great customer/client relationship tools out there which let you build specialized communication plans. Spend time building out those tools, knowing them, using them to make your customer’s lives better. 

That last line is the key: “make your customer’s lives better”. Every action needs to push that way, drive with that focus. 

Thoughts about Amazon and Seattle 

Back in the mid-90s I worked a short project at Amazon.  The gist of it: assembling work stations in a new call center. 

It was a unique place to be. Most striking: this guy who had his corgi at the office. About once an hour, he would throw a ball down the hallway. The dog would tear down the hall, bring the ball back, rinsert & repeat. It was filled with great people and felt like a positive place to work.  

It’s gratifying to see this icon of Seattle’s tech culture growing so boldly. They’ve no grown past the 150,000 eemoloyee mark, with 30,000 of them in Washington. Though fewer than number 1 with 75k at Boeing, and Microsoft’s 44k, they’re a solid player in Seattle’s business scene. 

They’re also a player in our real estate market, with some 8.5 million square feet of office space. They’re the biggest player in South Lake Union. And their continued staffing growth will bring more home buyers, increasing the pressure on supply. 

Delighted to see their continued success and look forward to seeing what the future brings  

The independent artist and social media

Earlier this evening I attended a performance by Aaron Strumpel at my church. Talking to the musicians afterwards, I was reminded of several ways that modern technology is changing the music business. Yeah, there’s tech impacting performance, but that’s not really what’s got me jazzed right now. No, it’s the way the music business is transforming due to social media.

Artists like Amanda Palmer and Zoe Keating have carved a living out of the modern music business. They’ve mastered an evolving toolbox that revolves around social networking. Interweaving websites & blogs with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, KickStarter, Patreon, along with such classics as email. With a blend of genuineness and talent, they’ve built a worldwide fan base who delight in any opportunity to assist these artists they love. Ultimately, the key is a genuine delight in their fans. By loving them, taking pleasure in the interaction, these fans are passionately in love.

In Amanda’s book she talks about selling 10,000 albums (which her label defined as failure) and 10,000 Kickstarter investors. In so many ways, 10k is not that dramatic. But she’s been able to leverage and engage that audience. If she was simply making a living, that, to me, would be glorious success. However, she’s been able to launch some very innovative and novel projects. A success beyond measure, in my eyes. And her audience is intimately involved, more than the fundraising. An additional layer of richness.

This plethora of tools speaks to opportunity. Opportunity which excites me; I see great things arising. And I both look forward to witnessing the glory of what’s coming, and taking part. For I always seek to be part of cool things.