Living (Not Bringing) Your “A” Game

| March 26, 2015 | Reply

We’ve all been guilty of polishing up our “A” game in order to entice the sale.

You needed a favor. You wanted permission. You hoped for another date. Or, maybe you just wanted to close a business deal.

Children learn the queues as infants and perfect “A” game usage throughout life, again, pulling out “the good stuff” at opportune times in order to get something. Being extra kind. Being extra nice. Extra helpful. Going the extra mile. Being extra thoughtful.

But what if you trained yourself to always bring your “A” game? What if you left the light on all the time?

Recently I attended a corporate dinner function at an upscale restaurant. The people at the table were all well-educated and professional. I, of course, was the square peg, the entrepreneur, the free spirit, the one without the need to impress or put on airs. I just did me.


I made the toast, “to new friends and to our individual selves who help to create the perfect whole.” I pulled out chairs for the ladies, asked the server’s name (Dawn) and addressed her by it all throughout the night, and stood up to greet the people who arrived late and again to say goodbye to those who left early. I sent a special “hello” to the head bartender who (maybe not so ironically) I knew. I complimented the chef for a great meal (for which he came out to the table to express his thanks).

I just didn’t have the need to be viewed as important and instead treated everybody else as though they were.

I wasn’t putting on a show. I was just doing me.

The immediate result was better service (for me, anyway), increasingly more-generous pours in my red wine glass, and my drinks comped by the bartender. At the end of the night, as everybody shook hands with the out-of-town guest, I went in with the two-handed handshake, pulled him in for a “good ol boys” hug, called him by his first and last name, complimented him, thanked him for coming, and told him how glad I was to have met him. His clever response; “Scarecrow, I’ll miss you most of all.” And I’m pretty sure that’s true.

Who knows? Maybe the guy thought I was a jerk. Probably not, though. I always notice when people are nicer and kinder and more polite than the norm. And I’m guessing that other people notice those things as well.

Before you accuse me of self-canonization, let me confess that I often forget to bring that “A” game home with me for the people who deserve it most. We all forget. We all slip. It’s a conscious work in progress.

If you turn your heat off at night, you’ll wake up to an icy cold house. But if you leave it on all the time and just turn it down a little at bedtime, you can be comfortable all winter long. It might cost a little more – from an energy perspective – but I think its worth it. Others will too.

Who’s YOUR Daddy?

| February 21, 2015 | Reply

I’ve always thought that to be peculiar rhetoric. I’m not sure about the meaning or origin of that overused quip, but I know that (in the literal sense anyway), most people only have one daddy.


Personally, the question makes me thing about the “next level” of top-of-mind awareness (TOMA). TOMA is when people automatically think of you when a certain topic arises. For example, when I hear something about the New England Patriots, I instantly think about my friend Brian Kryzanski. My good friend Jim Kohn has earned TOMA for multiple things  . . . restaurants, bourbon, BMW, and Jamaica to name a few.

Clearly, though, you’d like to earn TOMA with the people you know when it comes to your business. If you are a REALTOR® then you’d love it if all the people within your “circle of influence” would instinctively think about you when its time to buy or sell a house – and would also refer you to their circles.

But the “Who’s Your Daddy?” syndrome is the ultimate plane of business success.

Bob McIntosh (Frontline Electric) is not an electrician. He’s my electrician.

Mike Tegeler (Tegeler Insurance) is not just an insurance agent. He’s my insurance agent.

When I have a heating and cooling situation, Pete Galasso (PG & Son) is my HVAC superhero.

Of course I could go on and on. These people have earned my business by being more than professionals at what they do. They know me, they like me, they appreciate me, and they appreciate my business. At least I think so! I trust them completely and am 100% comfortable calling on them when I need their help and will refer them every single time. Because of who they are, I’m their customer for life.

What’s funny is that there are several people (and places) I do business with who have not done anything special to earn my trust and loyalty. And they’ll only be on my payroll until somebody else comes along and does.

We all earn that “next level TOMA” with somebody to some degree. The secret is not necessarily to identify who YOUR daddy is. Its to prove to everybody else how grateful you would be to be theirs.

Are you expendable?


Don’t Be a Sucker

| February 11, 2015 | Reply

What does it mean to be “a sucker?”  Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 9.30.50 AM

One of the most popular chapters in Appreciation Marketing® is Chapter 5, entitled “Seven Deadly Creatures.” In it, we poke fun at different character traits that people (including ourselves) tend to exhibit as we go through life. Identifying these – not so good for you – traits, is part of what helps make us better people.

One of our “featured creatures” is The Sucker, or the Energy Sucker. This is the person who is always focused on the negative things in life and has a tendency (unknowingly) to suck the energy out of other people.

Surely you’d agree that it would be detrimental to both your personal and professional life if people viewed you that way.

As I scroll though Facebook this morning (as I do every morning) I’m noticing the usual current event posts. Yep, that moron Kanye West acted like an idiot at the Grammys again. The Chicago Little League team was stripped of its World Series title for cheating. Of course, we’re still hearing not only about how the New England Patriots may or may not have deflated footballs, but now the buzz is how Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll blew the Super Bowl with a dumb call. Michael Moore is a Nazi. ISIS is executing people. And Obama doesn’t care. “I can’t breathe!”

I stopped focusing on the “news” a long time ago, because it puts me in a bad mood. I don’t watch the news before bed, and I don’t start off my day with it.  On the weekend, I’ll read about it in The New York Times, fittingly, while on the toilet (sorry).

The world is so overwhelmingly negative that oft times we want to talk about all the negative crap. Again, I sometimes stumble and do it myself. But it seems that people like to re-report all the bad news like there’s a reward for it.

I know people have the right to post whatever they want on Facebook. That’s not going to be my argument here. My only question is, do you want to be pegged as the Energy Sucker who reposts everything that’s wrong with this world? Or would you be better served if people thought of you as a beacon of light, an energy giver?

Food for thought.

Have a great day (unless you have other plans)!

A Little Extra

| January 20, 2015 | Reply

At 211-degrees, water is hot. At 212-degrees, it boils. And as Sam Parker and Mac Anderson point out in their book, The Extra Degree, it’s just that one extra degree of effort (in business and in life) that can separate the good from the great. Just a little bit extra.

Last week my wife and I dropped our teenage daughter off at the movies and decided to kick around the mall for a few hours instead of driving home and having to come all the way back.

Though we don’t normally go into Sears, we had to walk through the store because of the parking spot we found outside the entrance. And while moving through the fitness section, I noticed the sale they were having on treadmills. Mine happens to be about 12 years old and is slipping, so I took a closer look.

Fifteen minutes later, we had dropped $1,500 on a sweet new treadmill (that we really didn’t need), which was to be delivered on Monday (in six days). The kid who (barely) helped us was thrilled to have collected a nice commission bonus just before quitting time on what had been a slow day. He was a nice kid, and I felt good for him.

Fast forward to Friday night ad I’m whipping up a birthday dinner for my wife. Company is coming in 30 minutes, when I see sparks flying around inside the oven window. I turn it off, run downstairs and shut off the fuse, and – in a panic – make an executive decision to cook the dinner (linguini with white clam sauce) in the microwave. Eww.


On Saturday morning, reality sets in. We need a new stove.

Stove or treadmill? Eat or exercise? “Let’s call and cancel the treadmill.”

“I feel bad for the kid,” Michele says to me. “Yeah, me too.”

The Appreciation Marketing expert in me was wondering what would have happened if that kid had sent a thank you note or even called or left us a voicemail to personally thank us. I have to think that we wouldn’t have cancelled. I am certain, however, that if Sears had delivered the treadmill faster, the sale would have certainly stuck.

So, as it is, we’ll be getting a new oven in a few days and I’ll be hanging clothes on the old treadmill for a while longer.

Still, I feel bad for that kid.


Bite Sized Chunks

| January 9, 2015 | Reply

Happy New Year, friends! New-Year-Resolution-photo

I’ve heard it said that the number-one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Number two is to make more money or get out of debt. Others include exercising more, quitting smoking or drinking, traveling more, spending more time with family, and insert your own here _____.

Regardless of what your own resolutions are, every single one of them revolves around being better. People resolve to have a better life in 2015, not worse.

And being better is so simple when you do it in bite-sized chunks.

Read a page a day in a book. Do five pushups. Smoke one-fewer cigarette. Put a smaller portion on your dinner plate.

In your business, be more conscious about showing your appreciation. Say thank you more. say thank you in better ways (than just saying it).

Yesterday – after the temperature rose from 1-degree in the morning to 40 by afternoon – I found myself in the mood for a cigar (yeah, I know; but quitting smoking isn’t one of my resolutions!) I went to my humidor, but the cupboard was bare. None left. So I disregarded the urge and went on to other things.

Within the hour (true story), the UPS man came to my door and handed me a small cardboard box. I noticed the return address was a friend (Diana McIntosh) and was puzzled at what she might have sent me. I opened the box to find a single cigar in an aluminum casing! Yes, I also heard harp music and angels chanting (but that was in my head). On top of the gift was a note. It read:


There are certain things that make you think of certain people.

Here’s to a great 2015. Happy New Year!

Paying it forward,


Now, considering I have smoked a cigar in about three weeks, the timing of both the urge and the gift are a complete coincidence. Or are they?

After immediately thanking Diana on Facebook, and sending her off an actual thank you card, (well not immediately, I smoked the cigar first!) I began thinking of people that I could reach out to and also “pay it forward.” It was a natural reaction.

As it happens, if you take a left at the bottom of my street there’s a small farm with a beautiful giant pine tree which stands near the road. Every year, the family there hires a truck with a lifter and a crow’s nest (I don’t know what they’re called) and decorates this enormous tree with Christmas lights. Its beautiful and I absolutely love to drive past it at night.

It has occurred to me that decorating this tree must bring the family great joy because it costs them time, effort, and money to do it each year. I know this, because I personally get a little lazier with my own holiday decorating every year. I hope this family never does.

So I pulled out my personal stationery and wrote them a heartfelt thank you. Did I mention, I don’t know these people an have actually never even seen them before. I just wanted them to know that they bring joy to more than just themselves by lighting up that Christmas tree ever year. I urged them to never stop.

I felt so good as I pulled over and put the envelope into their mailbox last night.

These are some of the things that I intend to do more of in 2015. Yes, I have my grand list of ways in which I can get better this year. But – always most important – is the list of ways in which I can express my appreciation and gratitude to the people who make my life better just by being in it.

You’re one of them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to drop and do five pushups.

The Value of a Customer

| December 23, 2014 | Reply

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 10.52.36 AMSo what is the (dollar) value of a lifetime customer?

Clearly this depends upon what type of business you’re in, but Appreciation Marketing® has always maintained that more attention should be spent building relationships with your past and existing customers than drumming up new business.

And while this philosophy might cause a sales manager’s ears to burst into flames, we’re sticking to it!

In 1998, for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife wanted an “upgrade” to her engagement ring. Having been young, inexperienced, and broke when I purchased the first one (I think I sold baseball cards to find the $2k) – I agreed that it was time. New York City, here we come!

My first visit to the Diamond District was akin to one of those street fairs you see in Aladdin. There were jewelry stores up and down both sides of the street, and there were “hawkers” all over the sidewalks trying to get your attention and bring you into their store.

We ended up visiting a few before purchasing a new ring for more money than my first four cars cost me combined. It was my first and last visit to the Diamond District in NYC. I’ve never gone back.

Finding that store again today, 16 years later, would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Virtually impossible. But wait just a minute . . .

For the past 16 Christmases (this one included) I’ve received a Christmas card from “my friends” at Salvatore & Co Diamonds and Fine Jewelry at 55 W 47th Street (#39) between 5th & 6th Ave. So I CAN find that store again! And though I have zero plans to go back anytime soon, if I ever do . . . I’m going to see Michael Salvatore, Terri Levitsky, Peter Cardella, Liza Giraldo, and John Sullivan at Salvatore & Co.

Furthermore, if a friend of mine ever asks me about a place in NYC to get diamonds, guess what I’d tell them?

Was it worth the $2 a year that “my friends” at Salvatore & Co have invested in me?

Also got Christmas cards this year from Basel Saad at West Haven BMW, Frank Rocca at Acura of Berlin, Guy Brown at Danbury Mercedes Benz, and John Murphy at Jaguar of Darien.

Still a few days left! I wonder who else will step up to remain top of mind?

Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) from Appreciation Marketing®!

photo 1

The Corkscrew

| December 4, 2014 | Reply

IMG_0172My “gratitude awareness” was at its peak, as my family got into the SUV on Wednesday morning for a three-day Thanksgiving getaway.

My wife, two daughters, and yellow lab Buttercup all got up early so we could hit the road before the forecasted snow storm was to begin . . . destination, The Equinox Spa and Resort in Manchester, Vermont.

Grateful for the ability to take such a getaway in the first place, I fully enjoyed the family atmosphere, the hot coffee, and the dime-sized snowflakes that started falling about halfway through our our 150-minute drive north.

Built back in the late 1700’s, the Equinox has housed many of our nation’s forefathers as far back as the Revolutionary War. I appreciated the history, felt the ghosts, ate Thanksgiving dinner at a house once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s son, Todd, and even drank a glass of whiskey from the same tavern as Ulysses S. Grant had.

Coming home, recalling the wonderful (and as always, too short) time we had I began to itemize all the things that I was grateful for. (I know, I’m cursed! LOL) And guess what impressed me most?

On Wednesday night I wanted to pop a bottle of wine I had in my suite. There was no corkscrew. So I called the front desk and asked for one to be brought up. I hung up the phone and looked around for wine glasses and there were none. Within less than two minutes I had a knock at my door. It was a bell clerk with a corkscrew and two wine glasses (that I hadn’t even known to ask for).

In a resort that large, packed to capacity on Thanksgiving, I was shocked (in a good way) to receive “more than I has asked for” in just a few minutes. What’s more, the front desk called my room five minutes later to confirm that I had received my request.

THAT, is called “over delivering” and is the reason – small as it may seem – that I’d recommend The Equinox to any close friend.

As Zig Ziglar would say, “it’s the part of the blanket that hangs over the bed that keeps you warm.”

The big question would be, what do YOUR customers think about after doing business with you? Trust me, if they’re as impressed as I just was, then you’re in great shape!

* Full disclosure: The corkscrew / wine glasses gesture overshadowed the poor-to-mediocre service we received at dinner just 45 minutes later, proving you don’t have to be perfect to leave a positive impression!


Lazy Decisions

| November 20, 2014 | Reply

In a sudden “wine emergency” last night, I leapt from my office chair, grabbed my coat, and slipped on some loafers (none of which matched my sweat pants and tee shirt). In Connecticut, liquor stores close at 8:00 pm (though some stay open until 9).closed-sign

As I sped out of my driveway, the clock in my car said 7:53.

If I take a left at the end of my road, I can make it to my favorite store where I’ve been going for ten years and where I’ve spent a minor fortune (probably financing the owner’s vacation home somewhere). If I take a right, I can make it to a store on the other side of town that actually does stay open until 9:00.

Almost by habit, I take a left.

As I screeched into the parking lot, I was pleased to see that it was still 7:58. But before I made it to the front of the store, I noticed my man Ryan turning off the lights and locking the front door. I hit the horn.

As I ran up to the locked door, Ryan was walking down the aisle away from me. I pounded on the door. He didn’t turn around.

To be fair, if he had known it was me he would have let me in. But that’s not the point.

Angered, I got back in my car and drove all the way across town to the one place that stays open later.

As I was driving home, I thought how stupid I had been for not just going to that “other store” in the first place. From now on, I probably will.

From the Appreciation Marketing standpoint, you must realize that even the tiniest inconvenience to your customers might result in them going elsewhere. Remember, they ALWAYS have the choice to go elsewhere.

Is Yours Worth Catching?

| November 10, 2014 | Reply

Driving through Newtown on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but be affected by the woman, dressed in a traffic cop uniform,  gyrating, in the middle of the street. 

As I drew closer I recognized her as Kathy (Ballwig) Holick, class of 84 Newtown High School.Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 9.34.07 AM
There she stood, in the middle of Church Hill Rd, grinning ear-to-ear and directing traffic with a twinkle in her eye. When she wasn’t directing  cars into and out of the St Rose Church parking lot, she was just dancing and waiving to the cars passing by. All of them.
Though I don’t really know Kathy, I found myself smiling, chuckling, honking, and waiving myself.
Even several minutes after I had passed, I was almost embarrassed as I caught myself still smiling, alone in my car.
I have no idea what a job directing traffic pays, but I’m pretty sure they don’t pay extra for the smile, the dance, and the attitude.
The next morning, I saw her there again. This time I actually was pulling into the parking lot where she was working. I stopped to watch for a few minutes and was just overwhelmed to witness how many drivers-by smile, honk, and wave to “Kat the traffic lady” as they pass.
Growing up, I remember the slogan “Nicer in Newtown.” More recently, it’s “Newtown, We Choose Kindness.”
Bravo, Kat.
I love seeing people who choose to adopt your amazing attitude and outlook on life.
Reminds me of the quote, “Attitudes are contageous. Is yours worth catching?”
Yours certainly is.
I Appreciate You!
PS. I guess the Appreciation Marketing question of the day would be . . . would it be good for YOUR business if people left you smiling?

Taking the High Road

| November 3, 2014 | Reply

When I was a kid, my mother always used to tell me to “take the high road.”


To a kid, especially a boy, that usually meant being a wimp and letting somebody get away with something. Clint Eastwood would ride into town with his cheroot and his pancho and exact his revenge on all the bad guys. I’m supposed to let them all off the hook? I never understood.

We live in a society – especially now with all the reality TV garbage – that glamorizes an eye for an eye. “Revenge is sweet,” and “payback’s a bitch!”

So what about this “high road” stuff? What is it, and why would anybody want to take it?

Somebody has done something nasty to you. You have this pit in your stomach and you can’t stop thinking about it. You’re consumed with negative feelings, anger, and even depression. You want justice.

Today’s easy way out is to lash back on social media. Bad move.

The Appreciation Marketing expert practices taking the high road. And, trust me, it takes a lot of self control.

It sounds like the sissy’s way out, but consider  that no matter how badly someone has wronged you – there’s no amount of revenge that can undo their transgressions. No good can come of your revenge. Only more hurtfulness. Sure, you may feel a sense of satisfaction, and it might even make you feel like Clint Eastwood in front of your friends, but it will always do more harm than good.

If your goal is to “feel better” or gain a personal satisfaction, then take some pride in the fact that you were big enough and strong enough to travel that “high road.” When you laugh at the bully, you disempower him (or her).

I know, your situation is different. Somebody really wronged you and you feel justified in paying them back. Well guess what? I’ve been betrayed too. I’ve been stolen from, lied to, mislead, and gossiped about too; all unjustly. Don’t think I haven’t plotted and fantasized about recompense. I’m human too!

My favorite line from my favorite movie (Casablanca) is where the sleazy local crook, played by Peter Lorre, sits down with Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and says, “You despise me, don’t you Rick?” Without hesitation, Bogey fires back, “If I ever gave you a thought, I probably would.”

Acid destroys the container in which it is stored. Victory is the supreme vengeance in life.

There’s this thing they call karma. If you react with vengeance and fury, you can bet that the same negative forces will push back against you. If you react with kindness and forgiveness, the world will sit up and take notice and karma will pay you back in kind. (Not to mention the karma that will visit the person who wronged you).

Let it go! That jerk who deserves your wrath doesn’t even exist in your world! Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive.

Which one will you be?