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    Small Things Yield Big Rewards

    January 18th, 2011

    I once read in a book that an individual is less likely to sue a doctor if the individual likes the doctor. That makes sense, as people give a larger amount of room for error, in general, for people they like compared to people they do not like.  The element that makes this possible is trust.  One trusts a doctor that they like whereas if one does not like a doctor they are more likely to be skeptical of answers, treatments, and suggestions.

    The one thing that I feel like people fail to realize is what builds this sense of trust, in particular in the work environment.  Building that trust with people is a critical life skill because you can more often pick your friends than you can pick your coworkers or clients.  And this is not about a fake trust or a fake relationship.  This skill is about truly adding value to a conversation, project, or company.  When a person can do that out of genuine interest for the people they are interacting with they ensure that their friends, not coworkers, are there when they slip up.

    So how does one build that trust?  The answer is that the biggest differences between people are the smallest of things.  This is because it is the smallest of things that can really make a difference.  They all add up and most people only pay attention to the overall feeling of ‘nice’ or ‘not nice’, not realizing or even being able to articulate why they feel that way (“he’s just a good guy”).  The memory that most demonstrates this and sticks in my mind was right after I got my new (used) car.  I was pumped.  It was my first ‘nice’ car; a slight splurge because I enjoy driving.  I couldn’t wait to take my coworkers for a ride in it.  I tried to think of what they would notice first.  The all-wheel drive?  The jump from the twin turbo engine? The leather seats?  Any of the obvious ‘nice’ things?  But then my friend got in the car and started fidgeting around with stuff.  Pressing buttons and testing the hanger-hooks and handles above the door.

    I thought to myself “What is he doing?  Look at all the obvious nice stuff!”  And then he looked at me with this smile and said “the buttons have that satisfying click when you press them and your door handles have an elegant slow-retract to them.  Nice.”  Now, he was being a bit sarcastic with his remark, but it stuck with me.  Those are the sorts of things that, while largely ‘unnecessary’ are the exact things that make the car ‘nice’.  The engine, leather seats, nice rims…these are all things that could be put on or in virtually any car without thought.  But the satisfying, tactile *click* when I press a button or the softness of the cup holder opening up.  These are things that are small, one could say insignificant, but simultaneously the fine touches that truly make the car ‘nice’.  Things that are not obvious, not hard, but take a definite thought to put them in place

    Likewise, it is the small things that make the person, even in the business world.

    • If someone starts a thought and gets cut off by another, remember and ask what they were going to say
    • Listen for bits of personal details during a conversation and remember to follow up on it later
    • Set up a .cal list in Outlook for your company holidays (google it) and send it out to your coworkers
    • Make sure to have lunch with different groups of people to learn more about them
    • Sort the pages that are sitting on the printer
    • Make the coffee when the pot is about empty, even if you didn’t have any
    • Have that homemade treat if the person doesn’t often bring treats in
    • Stop by and thank that person for bringing it in, even if it was not homemade
    • Pass along an article you read to show that you’re thinking beyond your own position
    • Ask about a specific item in a person’s desk/cube/office (you’d be surprised how little people do this)
    • Say that you will get back to a person, even if you don’t have the time to fully answer now

    This is just a short list of small things one could do at the office.  They are all small, but they all take effort.  And don’t be fooled, they take lots of effort to do all of these things all of the time.  But as my dad likes to say “the only difference between work and play is your definition.”  So work to redefine your view and these small things that take lots of effort will become natural and maybe the next time you sit down in someone’s new car you’ll notice the satisfying *click* their buttons make.

    Do you take time to do the small things?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.



    Off & Away – How To Cash In

    May 24th, 2010

    My posts with the most traffic are the ones that talk about these online ‘entertainment shopping’ sites.  They have come quite a way since I first blogged about them, but now you finally have a chance to strike back.

    I first saw Off & Away in an article that TechCrunch wrote about.  It has the typical comments about it being a scam since you pay $1 for the bids that raise the auction price $0.25 and then the winner pays whatever the final cost of the room is.  Not sure if your bids are applied to paying the price of the room, but I assume not.

    But here’s the thing: you want to lose.  Well, maybe you don’t want to lose, but there seems to be a nice loophole where this site, that many people call a scam, could actually save you money.  It all relies on the simple thing they did to not make it a complete rip-off: you can apply the money you spent on bids towards a hotel room.  Furthermore, it says right on the site that they have up to 50,000 partner hotels.  Clearly all of these are not as ludicrously priced as the $40,000 room they have up to launch the site.

    So, if you know you want to go some place and you are willing to spend $200 on the room (for 1 night) buy $180 worth of bids.  Then, place the bids on the auction for the awesome room.  Let me state right away that you will probably not win.  But that doesn’t matter because of another gem they built into their business model:

    “Apply up to 110% of your used bids towards a room at one of our 50,000 partner hotels.”

    So, you don’t win the room you bid on but your $180 is now worth $198.  It may not seem like much, but 10% is 10%.  Not too shabby.  You spend less than you were going to spend and you have a shot at getting the awesome hotel room you bid on (if only a very small chance).

    I will probably stick with a site like Priceline or HotWire for my hotel needs, as they are more of a sure thing.  But if you want to live a little and have minimum risk, this Off & Away thing may be something to check out.  Of course you might be better off just using a AAA discount…

    So, do you think it is a scam?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Throw Pillows And Business

    June 12th, 2009

    throw_pillowsaaIf you’re like me, you see a bed full of pillows and wonder what the purpose of all of them could possibly be.  After all, if one were to use the bed, all of the pillows would have to be removed and the put back on after the cat nap.  It is very easy to think that the extra pillows have no purpose.  But, I have found that there is a very subtle error in this way of thinking.

    Many things are not designed with practicality in mind.  Yes, the widget has to accomplish the job it was made for, but it also has to look good doing it.  Here again you may argue that as long as it gets the job done, it doesn’t matter; again I have to say that there is an error in that logic.

    The common error between the throw pillows and the widget examples is that it ignores that instant judgment that people make upon viewing the object.  The reality is that many, if not all, people judge a book by its cover.  Knowing that, it is easy to see how this ties into business.

    The experience that people have with your product matters, the story it tells matters.  What is often overlooked is that this extends beyond the product to the company itself.  This includes everything form retail locations to corporate headquarters.  Money has to be spent to preserve the experience and the brand image.

    I have a great example.  Out at Lands’ End headquarters in Wisconsin we have both offices and a distribution center.  View_from_2nd_peninsula_hillOut in the back there is an area where semi trailers are parked that are not being used.  I have not idea how much space, but it can hold a few.  What I noticed on a run the other day is that there is a big grass mound/hill between the offices and this parking area.  It has been there for a long time, but how much did it cost to build it?  I have no idea, but it also makes me wonder, how many people decided to work for Lands’ End, or how many vendors gave a better deal, or how much business has been done because of a great experience on the campus.  An experience that was great, in part, because they saw a beautiful grassy hillside with trees instead of parked semi trailers.

    That is why as much as I wonder why a business would pay for an office in downtown NYC or why people spend what they do on nice suits, or why a company does what might be considered ‘fat cat’ spending on things such as landscaping, art, architecture, and the like…as much as I wonder about all of that and as much as people love to criticize it I think at the end of the day it matters.

    People will argue until they are blue in the face that they would like to just have something that gets the job done and that all that spending is wasteful.  Mostly this is because we want to believe that we are completely rational and don’t make ‘shallow’ decisions.  But as much as we would like to believe this, it is simply not true.

    What do you think about throw pillows?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Redbox Is For Me

    November 17th, 2008

    This story starts 2 days ago.  I recently had some great things happen at work and so I wanted to celebrate.  I headed over to Walmart (did they drop the dash?), the starting point for any real celebration, and picked up some beers and then headed over to the movie section.

    Keep in mind that I have not purchased many moves since my days on eBay when I made buying and reselling a hobby.  I counted on my awesome roommate for movies who had a great collection, Netfix, and newsgroups.  I also don’t really rent movies because I don’t like to pay for something that I don’t have afterwords.  See my post on virtual goods to see if you agree.

    Anyway, I was lamenting my purchase of several movies at work when a co-worker informed me that he just found out that there was a Redbox at our local Walgreens.  My response was a woefully uninformed “What the hell is that?”  He explained it to me, gave me a photocopy of some codes he had copied down for a free rental and here is sit less than 24 hours later having already watched 2 movies that I wanted to watch and didn’t spend a dime.

    So now that you are this far into the post, you may be wondering what Redbox actually is.  Basically it is a movie vending machine.  Not a new idea, but still awesome because it is a network.  You can return a rented DVD to any Redbox location.  The other point that is puts this from “cool” to “freaking awesome” is the cost.  One dollar a night.  You can’t beat that. Oh wait, except with codes that can be used once per credit/debit card you have.

    So I was already sold and then I decided to see if they were on Twitter.  They are.  More awesome.  Can it get better?  Oh yes.  They give out codes for free rentals on Monday.  With all of these codes one has to wonder how the heck they even make money, but I am sure there are a ton of people that never look for codes before buying.  I always do; its just my nature.

    I couldn’t help but spread the good word from my Twitter account @TheCakeScraps at which point a friend took the opportunity to point out that @redbox doesn’t have the greatest selection.  I can’t speak to that.  I don’t even know what was released this past week, or any week, because I just look for movies that look interesting.  I admit that there are movies in the case that kind of make me think “who the heck would want that movie.  Some just look like crap and no surprise that imdb.com confirms my suspicions on many of the titles such as Beer For My Horses which is clocking it at a whopping 3.8/10.0.

    That said, I would highly recommend that people look into this.  My Redbox is a block away and it takes, literally, 5 minutes to go get a DVD and get back.  I doesn’t have the selection of a Netfilx or local rental store, but the price is right, free DVD codes abound, there are no hours on it – if it is an outside machine – and there is no monthly fee.  Check this service out.

    On a side note, and in closing, I want to say that if you work at or own a company that employs a lot of people – such as a manufacturing plant – or in a place that has high traffic you should really look into this.  I was a little disappointed because I found out that I can’t just buy one and make money from it.  I have to own the place that it is going.  Too bad, I would have thrown up some money to put one in somewhere and taken the chance to get some money.

    What about you; does this seem like something to look into?  Would you use it or is streaming video coming too fast and Netflix is too big, and who knows what else?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.