March 19, 2008

On Feeling Like an Adult

This post has been moved to Next Gen Dads. Click here to see this post.

March 18, 2008

Blanchard Block Party!

Last Sunday afternoon our REALITY Home Group hosted a block party on Blanchard Street (the street we live on). It was so much fun! The wind picked up and it got cold but people stuck it out. Todd cooked up some absolutely mouth watering tri-tip. Like I've never had tri-tip this good...ever. Everyone from our Home Group pitched in and we really had such a wonderful time, and I think everyone that came did as well.

We were planning for about 50 people and didn't get quite that many but we got to meet some neighbors and hear some awesome stories. Our neighbor directly across the street has lived there for 32 years and has never seen anyone on the street coordinate a block party! That really amazed me as every neighborhood I've ever lived in has done a block party, and I've never lived at any address longer than 6 years.

Todd apparently saying something very funny to Georgina.

Rich and Charles doing it unplugged style on the wall.

When it got so cold our neighbor brought out blankets for all the girls.
I think a bunch of them wanted to keep the blankets because they were so awesome!

I'm hoping this will be the first block party of many. I've already got some serious ideas about getting permission to block off the street for Fiesta!

The main reason for the block party was to connect with our community but to also invite people to the Easter Service at REALITY. If you normally head to Church on Easter but are not sure where you are going we would all love to see you at REALITY on Sunday morning. The service is held outside at Carpenteria High this Sunday at 10:00 am. After the service we'll have carne asade and the kiddos (if you have them) can jump in the bounce houses and play games.

If you do decide to come visit try and and find me as I'd love to meet you. It may be easier to find my gorgeous and very pregnant wife. Either way we hope to see you there!

March 17, 2008

Compelling Rhetoric About Your Resume

A few months back I wrote a post about resume writing called Care Enough to be Different. Today I read a post by Seth Godin that moves the ability to be unique and remarkable in your resume to a whole new level. His opinion is to be so bold as to not even have a resume.

Read his post here. It is worth your time to think about his thoughts.

March 16, 2008

Remember The Name(s)

I'm terrible at it. Absolutely horrible. When I meet someone it is almost for certain that 10 seconds later I can't remember their name. I know it is one of my worst traits and I hate it about myself.
Image provided by ArstySF
I'm envious of people that remember names because it comes natural and even more envious of those that have trained themselves to be better at it. I have tried almost all methods: say it 8 times in the next minute, word association, activity association, writing it down...none of it works for me.

It is important to remember someone's name for many reasons, but I think the most important is because it shows you care. Note I did not say it shows you listened. Listening is important, but caring is more important.

As I was trying to find a parking place at Church today I saw my new friend Dave from the Mammoth Ski Trip. I rolled the window down and yelled, "Hey Dave!" He came over and said, "Hey Kevin," and then looked in the back and said "Hey Brody, gimme five." It is important to note here that Dave had never met my son Brody. He had heard about him during our trip but never met him. He cared enough to not only remember my name but to remember Brody's name. He knew Brody was really important to me and it showed that he cared about that. I immediately felt like I was important to Dave...which made me feel great.

The next time you want to make someone feel like you care, remember the name(s) of people that are important to them...which will always include their own name.

And if you have any fail proof method of learning names please tell me...I would love to be better!

"Blogger Buster" - The Best "How To" Blogger Site

As I've gone through the process of customizing my blogger blogs and struggling through the html on how to get it setup. I've used lots of different help resources using multiple Google search terms. But last week I found THE site for blogger users on customizing your blog. Blogger Buster by Amanda Fazini is now my one-stop-site for anything "how to" on blogger. I even emailed Amanda directly last week on a problem I was having with the line height on htms (for the record I had no idea at the time the problem was with my line height). She emailed me back the next day with the most likely resolution...and she was totally right! I also found out how to implement page links for my htms blog on Blogger Buster. I was thinking about switching to WordPress because I could not figure out how to do page links, but now that I've figured it out I'm no way changing.Amanda also gave me props on my blog layout, which makes me feel great because I think her layout is KILLER!

Here is what else I love about Blogger Buster. Blogger Buster offers everything FREE! Amanda even wrote a pdf guide on tips for designing your blog and it's all FREE! The value of FREE cannot be understated! It not only brings people to your site but also breeds loyalty because your hard work supports others success. It is a wonderfully authentic and extremely effective marketing tactic.

Thanks Amanda!

"Ya-ttitude" - A Great New Blog

For those of you that have not found it yet, "Ya-ttitude" by Benny Greenberg is one of the best new blogs on the web. If you are interested in joining the allied forcies against the Procrasti-NATION read his blog and join the fight.
Thanks Benny for the insightful wisdom and witty rhetoric!

March 12, 2008

Effective Networking

I'm currently in Dallas at the Hospitality Operations & Technology (HOT) Conference and will be speaking tomorrow on Business Intelligence. Tonight we had the welcome reception and I knew no one...literally I had never met a single person in the room. I know they say more people are afraid of public speaking than being burned alive (or something crazy like that). I however have no problem standing in front of a bunch of people (friends or strangers) and talking about almost anything and could probably go on for hours (I can tend to be long winded at times). I think it is great fun. But being in a room full of people I don't know and starting up a conversation is roughly equivalent to being stabbed in eyes with red-hot forks. I have flash backs of being at the jr. high dance with that deathly fear of being rejected, but knowing I had to ask in order to dance (which is a whole other story for another post). Why is that?!I know it is part of being a consultant. You have to network. So here is a question to my small group of readers and smaller group of commentors.

"What is the best way to start an interesting conversation in professional a trade conference?"

Oh, and "So what do you do?" cannot be an answer. I'm looking for something more interesting and original.

March 10, 2008

Apathy = A Problem Technology Cannot Solve

Some of you know I have two blogs currently. I wrote a post for hospitality technology made simple that I thought was worth while for the readers of k.sturm blog as well. I won't do this often as duplicating blog content is a bit lame, but I thought this post was worth it.
I am a big believer that technology can solve many business and operational problems. There is POS for tracking product mix, streamlining order flow, and revenue reporting; Inventory Management for getting accurate food costs, purchasing cycles, and inventory control; Reservations for managing guest reservations, table turn, and wait times; and a slew of other systems depending on the venue. But for hospitality venues there is a problem that technology solutions cannot solve - mainly apathy or the trait of "learned helplessness."

Last night my family and some friends went out to dinner at El Paseo restaurant in Santa Barbara. We were doing an early dinner (we had two toddlers in tow) and were glad to see the restaurant was not too busy. We really like El Paseo because of the atmosphere (retractable roof) and good food (our opinion). We LOVE the table-side made guacamole and fresh made warm tortillas, and they usually have a pretty solid margarita. We go enough we know what is good and what is not, so we stick to what is good (like the fajitas). Also an important point is I go there because they are a former customer and I am a firm believer in supporting your customers.

But our experience last night ranks in my top 5 worst at any hospitality venue. I point the cause to apathy on the part of the manager and service staff. I will set the stage as it was immediately apparent El Paseo was understaffed for the night. We were all sensitive to this as my wife and friend both waited tables for years and I have spent hours on end helping restaurant staff work through system technology issues (I bused tables in a suit once at a customer site because that was where I could help ensure the guest's experience stayed positive).
From the moment we walked in the door at El Paseo we were an annoyance versus a guest. I had to find someone to seat us, and once we were seated had to flag down the manager after 15 minutes. We asked the manager if he could bring us water and napkins (napkins came half way through the meal...recall we had two toddlers with us) and requested a waiter to come over. He declined to get us water and replied, "I will find someone to get your drink order." No apology for the wait or a comment that things might be a little slow.

When our waiter arrived (visibly annoyed we had him summoned) we ordered our drinks, our food (with a one special request), and asked for silverware and napkins. We got three deep sighs and at least four eye rolls. We had been given a kids menu and ordered two kids meals with a lemonade. When our drinks arrived the waiter set a foot-tall-cone-shaped-three-pound-bar-glass filled to top with lemonade in front of our friends 2 year old (no exaggeration!) We asked for kids cup to which he responded they have none (kids menu, kids meals, no kids cup?). We asked if they had a smaller cup, and he came back to the table with a plastic Budweiser cup and no lid (a Bud cup for
a toddler?).

We arrived at the restaurant before 6:00 pm and received our food at about 7:00 pm. In that one hour we saw our server once to place our order and once to receive our drinks. We called the manager over twice to ask for more water and napkins, and never once got an apology or a comment on better service. I helped implement El Paseo's technology solutions so I know their systems cannot be to blame for what we experienced last night. I also know the ownership group and have eaten at their other restaurants in Santa Barbara, so I do not believe it is part of the ownership group. Our experience last night was 100% caused by apathetic management and wait staff. But our experience could have been 100% different with the same staff and same poor service. Here's how...

roll out the welcome mat
Greet your customer with a smile and welcome them to your venue. Even if the service is going to be below standard you should still make your customer want to be there.

when required set a low expectation
When as a manager or server you know you cannot deliver the best service, be up front with customers and set that expectation. Offer that you will check in as often as possible, but that service may be slower than normal. That way if it is slow the guest expected it, but if it is not you over achieved. Most customers will be accepting of this.

Image credit to Julianfoto
cater to your customer
If you offer a separate kids menu families will come to your restaurant. Parents expect kid cups to be available if you have a kids menu. Not having kids cups is saying you don't want kids in the restaurant.

apologize when you know you should
You know when you need to apologize for crummy service, even when it's not your fault. An apology can go a long long way. Everybody has bad days at the office. Apologizing when you flat out do not deliver means you care enough to want to deliver.

If only I could invent a technology solution that solved the apathetic employee problem...

My Celebrity Morph

Okay, after the last post this had to come next. I'll get to a business post in a few but Chrystal and I just laughed so hard. Chrystal was looking at a blog that had a Celebrity Morph, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Apparently my celebrity look alike is Sinclair Lewis. I don't think he was known for his looks...

MyHeritage: Family tree - Genealogy - Celeb

March 6, 2008

I'm a Stock Model!

I switched to a local bank recently after major frustrations with Wells Fargo. It's pretty awesome because two of the employees know me by name now when I walk in and I don't even have to give them my account number! (As a side note it's Wescom Credit Union and I would HIGHLY recommend them for your money.)

Yesterday I walked in to make a deposit and Jessie asked me what kind of consulting I did. I told her hospitality technology consulting and she says, "I only ask because I was on this site and there was a guy that looked exactly like you." I asked her for the site and last night remembered to go look. I don't think there is much similarity other than the hair style, but even Chrystal said the resemblance is pretty close. She is always saying I could be a model which is a load of bologna...but I love her for it!

Heading to Mammoth!

I'm heading up to Mammoth Mountain this afternoon for the REALITY Men's Ski Trip. Three days of fellowship, skiing, and getting in The Word. It always amazes me how much "stuff" it takes to go skiing. It probably doesn't help that I always bring two pairs of skis.
Mammoth got dumped on last month but it doesn't look like there is any chance of snow this weekend. :-(

Insurance for Your iPhone

Three days ago I dropped my iPhone for the first time. My hands were full and in an attempt to slide it into my pocket I dropped it on asphalt. I cringed as it hit and then bounced, landing screen side up (whew!). As Apple promised, it withstood the drop well and came away without so much as small scratch. But a nerve had be pinched and I needed insurance. For me it is really more than a phone. It is almost a mobile computer away from my computer.

And more importantly it is the worlds best toddler distraction when in the car, grocery store, hardware store, or (insert location here). Brody (who is not quite 3) knows how to start the iPod and watch Cars or some other movie, and has just recently figured out how to use YouTube. In preventing him from watching whatever he clicks on I've bookmarked a bunch of YouTube cartoons for him. He still never fails to end up watching some strange cartoon clip with graphic rap lyrics a full volume. It's like he knows exactly how to find it, crazy.

Seriously though, let's get to the point. After searching the web I found some insurance companies will cover the iPhone. I quickly emailed Jayme (my all star All State agent) and asked how much it would be to cover my iPhone, laptop, and a few other ancillary items that I carry in my mobile office. Get this...$79 bucks per year. I already feel a sense of comfort.

I couldn't get less than a $250 deductible, but $250 is better than paying $400 for a new phone (or $2000 if it's my laptop). $79 is pretty cheap for peace of mind.

March 3, 2008

"Perfectionists are Losers" by Pamela Slim

Here is a great post by Pamela Slim on not being perfect. If you are thinking about starting your own company you should be reading her blog.

After talking with a couple different friends who had made the leap I came to the realization that you have to build a company to have a company. And to have a company you have to start somewhere. kevin sturm Consulting is in no way ultra successful, but I enjoy my work now more than ever and have more time to spend with Chrystal and Brody.

There are tons and tons of things I need to do to make the company better, but if it would never have been if the goal was for it to be perfect.

Grab Your Integrity and Hold on Tight!

Picture courtesy of Ian David

After quitting my job and starting my own company I thought it was time to look into a financial adviser. It was not that my company was ultra successful so I needed somewhere to put the money (far far from it), it just seemed that someone who new more about how to grow wealth than me was needed. I have almost no interest...okay, no day trading or monitoring the stock market to plan my next stock purchase. But there are people who love it and make a living at it...oh the beauty of capitalism. So why not pay them?

One seemingly opportunistic day while working at Starbucks I struck up a conversation with a really nice person that ended up being someone that could possibly help me with this. Chrystal and I met with them a few times and discussed our financial goals. We reviewed how we should roll over our 401K, what our risk acceptance and aversion was, and all the options of where our money could go. After three meetings we were heading towards investment in a VUL and rolling our 401K into a traditional IRA.

We put our trust in this person and I liked them. I felt we had a bond in being young entrepreneurs, expecting parents, and Christians. In our last meeting to sign papers I was advised to answer a question on the application untruthfully. I questioned the advice and said I would prefer to answer the question truthfully. But I left the meeting feeling very unsettled. In order to not make a short story boring, I'll get the point that today I let the person know we would not be investing our money with them or their company.

The point of this post is this.

Never ever ever do anything that brings your integrity, honesty, or character into question with your customer.

I believe the person we met with is honest, has a high character, and values integrity. But this one thing made me call into question the advice we were being given. And since we were talking about our financial future, I was not willing to take even a small risk.

From a letter I received from the person we met with this was a learning experience for both of us. I took five points from this experience.
  1. When deciding on who you are going to work with to invest money, I think it is best to talk with the actual person that is going to be investing your money. Seems somewhat like common sense now. ;-)
  2. Before you meet with someone about your finances, do your own research on what you think the best options may be. Have a basic understanding of options so you can talk the talk.
  3. Find out exactly how fees are paid and who is paid. Ask for a detailed example of if you invest X, and have a return of Y, what will be paid by you in Z. This will most likely be a hard question to get answers to. It is worth it.
  4. Entering a partnership like this is a bit like getting married. The first meeting is informal and soon you are talking about long term plans. There is a cost to get in and a larger cost with penalties to get out. And more important, even a small amount of perceived dishonesty can ruin the entire relationship.
  5. Last but most important was the confirmation that the most important thing you can be to your customer is honest, always!