Archive for the ‘Experience’ Category

Maya: Shoes Always Work.

In Be memorable, Business, Experience, Just plain fun, Shoes on 05/01/2015 at 2:27 pm

Maya is one of my favorite people of all time. She owns Swank Productions, a ridiculously creative and luxurious event planning company based in Chelsea. We met when we were both the only non-industry people speaking at a User Experience conference in Toronto a million years ago. And although our meeting was brief, I have always remembered her passion, straightforwardness, and no-BS way of approaching life — and I try to see her as often as I can, because her energy is so contagious.

Way back when, the Sex and the City movies were coming out, and Maya decided she wanted to produce the launch parties for them. She wasn’t sure how to get her company in front of the producers. In her typical New York hustle fashion, she did some covert research, found out one of the female producer’s shoe sizes, and sent her a single Manolo Blahnik . . . with a note. “Want the other shoe? Meet me for coffee.”


And like that, she won her way to a meeting, followed by a contract, to create the launch party of Sex and the City: the movies. In her presentation: “Shoes always work.” True story.

I ❤ Maya. Happy birthday to you, my sparkle sister from another mister! xo

Jeannie: The Happiness Jar.

In Experience, Human behavior, Just plain fun, Parenting on 02/06/2015 at 12:22 am

Jeannie was one of our company’s first supporters and quickly became a rockstar in the digital media space. She owns a company called 360Connext that tackles the customer experience aspect of business. We recently met up for the first time in a long time and caught up on so much stuff — life, business, kids, projects.

And in our catch-up conversation, she shared something that she and her family have been doing for a while: the happiness jar. The premise is simple: write down what makes you happy throughout the year. Drop your happy slip of paper into the jar. At the end of the year, go through the jar and remember all of the times you were happy.


I love this idea. And the great thing is, you don’t need to start adding happy slips of paper to your happiness jar on January 1st. You can start being happy any day of the year.

(Photo credit: Tara Leaver)

Tony: Don’t Outsource Your Core Competency.

In Be authentic, Business, Experience, Strategy, Tech on 06/21/2012 at 7:53 pm

I met Tony Hsieh at a 37signals event (seems like I meet a lot of people there). He was doing a national tour to promote Delivering Happiness, and my friend Jason invited me to join them. There were only 30 or so people there, so it was a pretty intimate setting, which was great.

Tony talked about his experiences with growing Zappos, and one of the biggest operational hangups he experienced was when they trusted an external company to handle their warehousing and fulfillment. After losing money, losing customers and losing time, Tony writes in his book:

“It was a valuable lesson. We learned that we should never outsource our core competency. As an e-commerce company, we should have considered warehousing to be our core competency from the beginning.”

People think our core competency is cupcakes. But it’s not. There are a million cupcakes in this city. What sets us apart (according to our clients) is the service level that each of them get with each order. Yes, the cupcakes need to be pristine. They need to be impeccable. But what we’re GOOD at, what sets us apart from our competitors, is our personal service.

So taking Tony’s advice, we will never outsource that. You have my word.

Tim: Hit the Halfway Point.

In Driving, Experience, Self Defense on 04/19/2011 at 12:31 am

I’ve known Tim since my freshman year of college. I remember how he introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Tim Winter. Like Winterfresh. Want a piece of gum?”

We were neighbors our sophomore year, and for some reason, spent a good amount of time driving around together. And one time in the car, he taught me how to parallel park in a way that made more sense to me than anyone else’s explanation.

1. Pull up parallel to the car in front of the open spot. PARALLEL. Not angled at all.
2. Back up slowly.
3. Once you hit the halfway point, turn the wheel sharply and maneuver your way into the spot. Your back tire will probably hit the curb. That’s okay.
4. Turn the other direction and straighten out.
5. Done.

Thanks to Tim, I can parallel park in ANY spot in Chicago, left or right, snowbank-filled or pothole’d – even in front of a $150,000 Maserati (and no, I didn’t even tap it!).

Hey, Tim Winter (like Winterfresh) – next time we hang out, remind me to show you my paralleling skills in action. Then maybe I’ll make you a breakfast burrito to thank you for the many, many dollars you’ve saved me since I don’t ever have to park in an overpriced garage. Deal?

Art: Meet and Exceed Expectations.

In Business, Experience, Human behavior, Marketing on 08/06/2010 at 1:04 am

Professor Art Middlebrooks teaches Marketing of Services at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I love his teaching style. I love the way he relates traditional marketing principles to current pop culture. And I loved our discussion on the whole concept of “underpromise and overdeliver.”

He said that it’s actually been psychologically proven that underpromising and overdelivering makes a consumer actually think they’re not getting as high quality of a service. Their expectations are low, so they’ll possibly perceive you as shoddier than a competitor. Instead, he suggests to promise what you can actually follow through on, and then consistently deliver, over and over again.

I’ve always run with the “underpromise, overdeliver” mindset, but now I’m wondering if I need to adapt it a bit: “promise, and deliver over and over.”

What’s your customer service mantra? And how does it work for you?

John: European Travel.

In Experience, Strategy, Travel on 02/26/2010 at 11:35 am

I met John (@localcelebrity) via Sydney at dinner one night. He mentioned that he spent some time traveling through Europe, and since I’m actually a European at heart, we started talking about the places and things we’ve experienced.

John speaks German. He doesn’t really speak French. But when he went to France, he used this trick to get by with English:

John (to the person selling train tickets): “Sprechen-sie Deutsch?”
Train ticket person: “Non, non. English?”
John: “Oh, yes, I speak English. I’d like two train tickets to Amsterdam.”
Train ticket person: “What time would you like to depart?”

And just like that, he convinced a French person to voluntarily speak English. (Which rarely happens.)

He said this: “They’re obstinate about speaking English, until you present them with another language they’re even more uncomfortable speaking. Like German. And then they beg you to speak English.

I’m totally trying this the next time I go to Europe.

Mrs. Dunn: Save a party.

In Experience, Human behavior, Just plain fun, Networking on 02/10/2010 at 10:10 am

A few weeks ago, Sydney and I went to the most random dinner ever with the most random group of people ever. It had serious potential awkwardness written all over it.

But then I remembered a game my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Dunn made us play on the first day of school to get us all to start talking to each other:

1. Talk about yourself, your accomplishments, your life, your goals, your dreams, your fears – for two minutes.
2. No embellishing allowed – just straight facts.
3. Those listening shouldn’t be judgmental.
4. Stop after two minutes.
5. Allow the others in the group to do Q & A / follow up on any interesting points for two minutes.
6. Move onto the next person.

By the end of this game (and before our dinners even showed up), I had something in common with everyone. No joke.

Mrs. Dunn, thanks for coming to our rescue – 21 years later. If you’re reading this, could you please remind me what the name of this icebreaker is? Because right now, it’s just called the 2-minute-bragging-game. And I’m positive you had a better name for it . . . .

Derek: Chicago.

In Be memorable, Cooking, Dancing, Experience, Sports, Travel on 01/11/2010 at 1:42 am

I met Derek (@dshanahan) a few months ago over lunch, which turned into a four hour discussion of usability and technology under the el tracks. Which turned into a several-month love/hate relationship over who has better dance skills (Mari), a better mustache (Derek), a prettier Google calendar (Mari).

He’s on his way to Vancouver, BC to kick butt on his latest venture, Foodtree, and writing nostalgic Chicago stuff on his blog as a result:

There’s a toughness about this city…a confidence in the experience of being a Chicagoan that doesn’t exist anywhere else on earth.  This city stays sexy all winter.  It’s hard to see unless you train yourself to see through the challenge this time of year puts in front of us.  You look through it and you see smiles and music and art and a camaraderie among total strangers that’s only possible if you’ve walked through our streets and watched them transform themselves over and over and over again as seasons change and years roll by.  We watch our sports and politics with unwavering commitment, dedication, and skepticism.  We pride ourselves on hotdogs, pizza, and Italian beef.  We don’t apologize for that.”

I love this. Everyone knows winters suck here. But we get through it together. We survive it with the best combination of sports, culture and food in anticipation of the most celebrated summers in North America. Chicago is a city connected by deeply rooted relationships, in large part due to the seasons we get to experience together.

To apply this in any group setting, people bond when they go through challenging times together (and have some good food to go with). Brilliant.

If you agree with Derek, say “yeah.”

Mari: “Heck yeah.”

Good luck, Mr. DShan. I’ll miss you – and that’s not really even sarcastic. 🙂

Tom: Relationships + numbers = fun.

In Be memorable, Business, Dancing, Experience, Human behavior, Just plain fun, Marketing, Strategy, Take action on 11/08/2009 at 11:58 am

Tom Krieglstein (@tomkrieglstein) is one of my new favorite people. Among the many things on his list of accomplishments, he owns and operates SwiftKick – providing the training and tools to student leaders to engage others in their college experiences.


He invited me and Nate to his presentation on Dance Floor Theory at UIC. While his speaking style was engaging and his content captivating, one thing that stood out as absolutely brilliant was this:

“Anything is fun with relationships and numbers.”

It doesn’t matter how well-planned your event is. If it a) is not attended by enough people and b) doesn’t allow people to bond based on their common interests, chances are it won’t be fun. And fun is memorable.

I need to remember this, not only among my company’s internal staff relationships, but also among customers. I’m positive people across Chicagoland could really connect via their love for cupcakes, and with numbers, they could do something amazing for the community. I’m not quite sure what this could be, but I’m definitely open to just about anything right now. As long as it’s fun. And legal. 🙂

Does anyone have any ideas? (And thank you, thank you Tom! You’re so FAB!)

Pieter: React in a complementary way.

In Experience, Human behavior, Music on 10/30/2009 at 4:58 pm

Pieter Schlosser (@schlossax) is an LA-based composer and musician. He’s IMDB-credited for Desperate Housewives, The Sims 3, and Friday the 13th. I LOVE talking with him about the many facets of music composition and performance.


Pieter’s ridiculous studio

We started talking about past professors and influencers while he was in college:

“Abe Laboriel (the bass player) told me that that the highest expression of love is to listen. When you truly listen, you’re able to mesh better with the musician, feed off of what they’re performing, and react in a complementary way.”

I’ve NEVER thought of music in that sense – an experience where it’s my job (as the listener) to feed off of what a musician is performing – and then actually REACT to it. A selfish consumer/listener, I’ve totally missed out on what could have been potentially amazing two-way musical conversations.

Thanks, Pieter, for helping me see another way to experience music. This Marianita is most grateful for the ear-opening words by the one and only Abe Senior. Gracias, amigo.