Monday, July 26, 2010

Give it Away

My friend, Richard Vance, who owns the local McAlister restaurants, e-mailed me today to let me know that he is giving away free tea at his restaurants on July 29. That's right, free tea. Why in the world would he be willing to give away an item that people gladly pay him for every day? There's probably more than one reason but the most obvious one to me is that it is just good business. If you've ever had one of those extra-large glasses of McAlister's sweet tea you know it is good stuff. If you haven’t, Richard is confident enough in his product that if you try it just once, you will come be back to buy more.
People are great at spotting real value. If your product offers real value, there are only three reasons people won’t buy it: 1) they don’t know about it, 2) they don’t need it, or 3) they don’t trust you. Giving it away addresses all three. If you give them a sample, they definitely know about your product and how it might help them. Some people who think they don’t need your product will decide after trying it that they were wrong. One of the best ways to build trust and show that you are trust worthy is to be the first to ante up. Reciprocity is a powerful human dynamic. The next time you go into a building, hold the door for the person behind you. There is a pretty good chance they will intern hold the door for the person behind them.
None of this stuff works if people think you are simply trying to manipulate them. In fact, give aways work best when there are no strings attached. It shows you have supreme confidence in the intrinsic value of your product and respect the customer enough to let them make a decision based on their own personal value system. That kind of behavior not only builds trust; it also grows revenue.
Now back to sweat tea. Come by any local area McAlisters on Thursday, July 29th and enjoy some of that famous sweet tea absolutely free.
For more info on how to build trust, get a free review of the book Trust Agents at

Friday, July 9, 2010

Motivation in the Workplace

I have been reading a great book by Chip Conley called Peak. Chip is one of the key players in a group of San Francisco based boutique hotels operating under the name Joie de Vivre Hospitality. The company’s name comes from a French term meaning a delight in being alive. Conley has tapped into the intrinsic human need to self- actualize as outlined by Abraham Maslow in his famous hierarchy of needs. Each hotel in the group has a unique personality that allows patrons to experience something beyond the basics of sleep and comfort. That extra something is consistently delivered by employees that are motivated on three distinct levels.

Do you want to have highly motivated employees? Then make sure you cover all three of these bases. The most basic of these is wages and benefits. If people are not making what they perceive to be a reasonable wage compared to others working in similarly situated positions, they will become unmotivated. The same is true for general working conditions. Wages, benefits, and working conditions can prove to be dissatisfiers if they don't reach certain minimums but they rarely produce high levels of worker satisfaction when they are above that threshold. As a manager in your organization, you need to make sure that you are paying competitive wages. Paying above competitive wages can actually be detrimental to your organization. People who need to go hang on way past their time because they don't want to give up the great wages and benefits.

The next level of motivation comes from a sense of belonging and teamwork. When people's basic needs are met they look to the next level in the hierarchy to receive satisfaction. Being part of a winning team is motivating. We all want to belong and if you belong in the workplace your chances of being productive and staying motivated grow exponentially. A popular phrase from Marcus Buckingham is “employees don't leave companies, they leave managers.” What are you doing to help employees have a sense of belonging? Are they part of the team? Have you institutionalized the recognition process? One of my clients created a “fun team” that was commissioned with the responsibility of regularly coming up with fun and enjoyable out-of-the-box activities on the company's dime. When this company had to recently lay off a couple employees due to the extreme economic downturn in their industry, the parting employees asked if they could come back and work for free to wrap up some of the loose ends. That is a sense of belonging!

The next level of motivation, and it's really only possible if the first two are in place, revolves around purpose and meaning. As humans we are wired for purpose and meaning. If your organization or company has a clear and compelling mission or purpose, the highest levels of motivation are possible. We are all looking for something that transcends the ordinary drudgery of everyday life. People want to be part of something that's bigger than themselves. Does your company offer that? At its core every company or organization exists for a reason or a purpose. As a leader one of your primary responsibilities is to tap into that cause or purpose and articulate it both internally inside the organization and externally to the world around you. When the self-actualization and the organization’s mission become natural compliments to each other, people grow and so does the company. Think back about those times when you felt most alive and I think you will find that it was because you were connected with something that was bigger than yourself. While this third level of motivation is the most compelling, it is not realistically possible without providing the first two.