Upside Down

“You’re gonna kill each other in under a week,” is what a friend said when I told her my wife is now working from home (alongside me) and my kids are also learning remotely. So far, we’re all alive and well in our house with only one dedicated office. There is an upside of working from home when everyone is home.

1. I didn’t realize how important my wife’s work is and how good she is at what she does, until she started working from home. She’s a Human Resource Professional and I see how hard she works and I can hear how smoothly she handles the hard stuff she has to deal with. I have a newfound respect for her and what she does.

2. I’m much more aware of what my kids are learning, how they learn, and their study habits—and I’m here too help if they need it. I also added a class of my own (it’s mandatory) about how things work. They’re learning how to cook, clean, and fix things so they’re more prepared when they live on their own.

3. I’m actually less distracted now. When I was home alone I would take frequent breaks to watch television, eat, and futz around the house. Now I have to be quiet and I feel guilty if everyone is working on something but me, so I’m more focused and productive than before.

I’m not sure how my wife and kids feel about our new arrangement, but I love spending more time with all of them and watching them work. I enjoy making breakfast and lunch, and taking our breaks together so we can catch up for a few minutes. Maybe most of all, the closeness that comes from being in close quarters has been surprisingly wonderful. There is an upside to remote working learning.

Upside Down

In Your Neighborhood

One high school was offering an elective titled, “Home Economics”. The class included all the skills one would need to know to live on their own. Not one male student signed up. The principal changed the name of the course to, “Bachelor Living” and the class filled up fast. 

With my kids being schooled at home, I added a class to their curriculum I call, “Lessons With Lee.” Part of what I am teaching them is how things work around the house—and how to fix them. It seems to me like being handy ended with Baby Boomers, but I’m bringing’ it back. 

How handy are you? Take this quiz and see what you know about how things in your home operate, and how to troubleshoot some of them when they don’t. Don’t worry, I made this really easy to pass. 

1. A noisy refrigerator could possibly just need to be re-leveled.
T or F

2. One reason clothes may not be drying is a clogged lint filter.
T or F

3. An electrical outlet that suddenly stops working may just need the GFI switch to be reset.
T or F

4. If a deadbolt lock on a door is stiff, a shot of lubricant can usually loosen it up.
T or F

5. If your TV remote stops working (or anything requiring batteries) even after replacing the batteries, it may just need the contacts to be cleaned of corrosion.
T or F

The correct answers to all of the above question is “True”.

In Your Neighborhood

Exceed Expectations

Good customer service is simply meeting the customer’s expectations. Outstanding service that customers rave about exceeds their expectations. In 2020, these companies do it best. Who do you feel gives exceptional service? (leesilber@leesilber.com)

Publix

The theory is, the better you treat your employees, the better they treat your customers. That is the case with Publix. They consistently win awards for being a great place to work.

Valvoline

Sometimes winning over customers is simple, and if you go in for a quick oil change, you’ll usually see it in action. They smile when you drive up, they work fast, but not too fast as they thoroughly check everything and then explain it to you with respect. 

Nordstrom

Nordstrom hires good people—because it’s hard to train empathy, attentiveness, and niceness—and instructs them to use good judgement and find ways to say, “Yes” to the customer. This often means allowing people to return most anything, which increases sales and builds longterm loyalty. 

Trader Joe’s

When we wait in lines at stores, the DMV, or the airport, it’s often due to a lack of staffing. At Trader Joe’s, they overstaff so the lines aren’t long and employees are free to interact with customers. (Granted, during Covid, customers have had to wait outside, but during normal times customers encounter a friendly, knowledgable, helpful people staff and short lines.) 

Neiman Marcus 

You may be surprised to learn that a 113 year-old company is a leader in the use of technology to enhance the customer experience. They use simple things like private lockers you can charge your device in while you shop, and digital dressing rooms where customers control the lighting and can request different sizes and all check out without leaving the fitting area.

Exceed Expectations

Small Acts of Niceness

I’m always looking for little things to do that are quick and easy, but make a difference. Here’s my short list of action items for you to consider trying when you have a spare minute or three.

  1. Scroll through your contacts and choose a person you haven’t spoken to in a while and give them a call or send them a text.
  2. Fill out and send a thank you card to someone who deserves, it but likely doesn’t expect it. 
  3. Learn something new by reading an article, watching a video, or doing something you’ve never done before.
  4. Ask someone (preferable an older person) to share a life lesson they learned the hard way. Do it through Zoom or FaceTime so it’s safe.
  5. Do something nice for another person—pay for their coffee order, pay them a compliment, or pay attention to their social media posts and write a complimentary comment.
Small Acts of Niceness

In Your Neighborhood

On our podcast, “The Faster, Easier, Better Show” my co-host and I are starting a series that includes lessons learned (on efficiency) from Firefighters, Administrative Professionals, and Restauranteurs. Here’s a few of the tips we discovered. 

FIREFIGHTERS

What if we all woke up and slid down a pole into our outfit and our work for the day and equipment was all laid out and ready to go? In all seriousness, what we can do is simplify our systems (if we have one) to make getting going quicker with the least amount of steps and distractions so we hit the ground running. Another thing we can borrow from firefighters is the fact that they constantly clean and check their tools. Many of us (or our family, friends, or co-workers) put things away dirty or broken (with dead batteries, a dull blade, or a glitch). Time spent maintaining our equipment is time well spent.

ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONALS

As someone who’s mother was a former executive assistant, I’ve seen how attention to detail, a can-do attitude, and left-brain thinking are superpowers. I’ve also witnessed amazing feats of resourcefulness, herculean efforts to meet unrealistic deadlines (not of their making) and an innate ability to work well under pressure. How do they do it? For one thing, they embrace technology (regardless of their age). They also work smart. They automate when possible, and save and reuse things like letters and forms as templates to save time and energy. They are meticulous and believe in triple checking things so they don’t have to be redone due to a mistake. Lastly, since they work for a boss (or bosses) they know to leave white space in their schedule in case they are asked to drop everything and deal with an unexpected project.

RESTAURANTEURS

There is so much we can learn from eateries and those that work there, I’ll skip the preamble and just jump right in. On those restaurant makeover shows on TV one common problem with failing restaurants is they have too many different items on their menu. The reasoning is, the more you offer the more ingredients you have to order and the more tools you need. Instead, focus on what you do best, what people like and want, and what’s most profitable. (Think: In and Out Burger.) Or, being able to use the same ingredients to create different dishes makes sense. (Italian restaurants can use the same sauce for a dozen different dishes.) Tools that do more than one thing also save time, and make the utensils you use the most, the easiest to get to. (I just saw a commercial for something called a Spurtle, a spatula / spoon / does-everything cooking tool. I ordered one. Just sayin’.)

Podcast: http:www.leesilber.com/podcast

In Your Neighborhood

Quick Dip

We are experiencing a heat wave in California as I write this. While working I take frequent breaks to cool off. I have found that putting my trunks on and hosing myself off or running through the sprinklers has the same effect as jumping in the ocean or hopping in a pool. A cold shower works, too. (No, I don’t have air conditioning, but wish I did right now.)

It just goes to show that we can get the feeling of doing something big by doing a smaller version of it (swimming in a pool versus making it rain with a hose) the aftermath is the same (we’re outside, wet, and cooled off).

Quick Dip

A Novel Idea

I only golf with my kids occasionally. I hardly ever scuba dive these days. My tennis partner is having issues with his vision. What I’m getting at is, I have time to write. I’ve been toying with three different directions to go with my next novel. I’m curious what you think would be the best bet. Or, what you would want to read. I’m dying to get some direction.

NOVEL IDEA 1

Lately, I’ve been writing (mostly) books for all ages. This book idea would be in that same vein. It’s the story of two teenage brothers with no mother (she left?), and an inventor for a father—who is obsessed with working on his off-the-books pet project, all the while ignoring them. While he’s at work (at a tech company, his day job) the boys steal his invention—without truly knowing its capabilities. The invention is a smart phone that looks somewhat like a regular iPhone, except it has phenomenal features and functions. When you use the map app, it literally transports you to that spot. This super phone also allows you to access and listen to everyone else’s phone. It opens any lock, tracks other people, and includes a contact list with people in very high places who can be called on to help. You can see heat signatures through walls and withdraw any amount of money from the bank, without leaving a trace. It’s like Harry Potter and Hermione’s wand . . . in a phone. When the brothers grab the prototype and us it, others want the invention for nefarious reasons, and chase the boys—willing to kill them to get what they want. All the boys want the phone for is to find their mom and convince her to come back.

NOVEL IDEA 2

This one is much easier to describe than the first novel idea. It’s about two empty-nesters who sell everything to buy a sailboat and travel around the world—along the way they’ll have all kinds of adventures and misadventures. They meet interesting people, work odd jobs at tropical locales, and probably get into some trouble along the way. As you can see, this could be quite a ride.

NOVEL IDEA 3

Mark Twain advises writers to write what they know about. I’ve covered just about everything I could be considered an “expert” on (or at least I have experienced myself) except . . . being a musician. I was thinking about writing the story of a rock star who was a one-hit wonder and struggled mightily after that. Then . . . suddenly his song is used in a movie and a commercial—thankfully he’s in demand again. What happens next is yet to be determined, but it could be interesting. It’s the story of Jimmy Buffett if he only recorded Margaritaville and then stopped.  

Which would you prefer to read? leesilber@leesilber.com

A Novel Idea

Old and Improved

Thank you for your suggestions of companies, products and brands that have survived over the years by constantly improving. I got quite a few ideas to add to the book now called, “Old and Improved,” which I’m writing with Andrew Chapman. Here’s some additions provided by readers that I thought you might like to see. Thanks for the contributions.

M&M’s—The most popular candy in America, again. (Since 1941)

Mr. Coffee—And our Employee of the Month is . . . Mr. Coffee. (Since 1972)

Fender Guitars—They just keep getting better and better. (Since 1946)

Old and Improved

Readers Rule

I have a book exchange going with a retired contractor who helps me maintain and fix things at the baseball fields. Ron reads at least a book a day. What’s impressive is his knowledge of everything—he’s a walking encyclopedia. 

They say the most successful and smartest people are avid readers. I worry that we (me included) don’t read enough. It’s true that some things are easier to learn by watching a video. I reluctantly agree. I also think audio books, podcasts, and Google searches are great. But books, man, books are the best. They can provide an escape, and where movies and shows are more passive, a reader is actively filling in the blanks while reading—and actively learning.

This is the point where you probably thought I was going to try and sell you one of my books. Not. I just want to challenge all of us to read more. (You are reading this newsletter, so that’s a win right there.) I’m working on reading one book a week. How about you?

What are you reading now? leesilber@leesilber.com

Readers Rule

What’s Different

This is my list of things I’ve noticed that have changed in the last few months,

Breath. Now I carry mints so I don’t have to smell my own breath inside my mask. What was that I ate for lunch, a sweaty sock and coffee grinds? Yuk. 

Haircuts. My boys and I were going to this fancy barbershop before they were forced to close and between the three of us, the cost was $100 . . . plus tip. A few months ago I bought a set of clippers (for $28) and we started cutting each others’ hair. At first it looked like a drunk and blind person did it. Then just a drunk person. Now we are all sporting cuts that look like they were done by someone who had a wine spritzer, or two. Oh, and I’ve noticed a lot of people have decided (not always by choice) to reveal their real hair color. Gray is the new blonde. 

Outdoor Dining. I think it’s great restaurants can expand and serve us outside. However, it’s a little like camping (or glamping). It’s civilized, but you’re still at the mercy of the elements. There are bugs, humidity, and market lights strung inches from your head—plus the drinks get watered down when it rains. It truly is curbside service. When seated outside in a makeshift stall, I always sit facing the oncoming traffic because I want to down my drink before it’s too late—or take it to go, which used to only be allowed in New Orleans, Key West, and Vegas. I’ll say this, it would be a good time to be a plexiglass salesman or a carpenter who specializes in using reclaimed wood.

Fitness. I’m not sure how it is where you live, but in California, people are super fit. I mean they look good. Really good. The guys are ripped like Zac Efron. The women resemble Kelly Ripa. I’m impressed by how sculpted everyone looks. I feel like I went the other way and put on the “Covid 15”. I’m sort of into fitness. I’m gonna “fitness” whole pizza in my mouth. 

Movies. My bandmate does a Saturday movie night in his driveway (the film is projected on the garage door). Others are staying home and binge watching Vampire Diaries or some other guilty pleasure. Me, I’ve been going to the drive-ins. It’s just like the old days—one kid hides in the trunk to get in for free (hey, it’s ten bucks now), we pack our own healthy food (who am I kidding?) and after a double feature, the car battery is dead. Good times. Really, it is.

Driving. In California, we tell someone a destination is about thirty minutes away (which equals about ten miles . . . on a good day). Other places, people will tell you a place is ten miles away, meaning ten minutes or less. When I was in Montana, I stopped in the middle of the road and took a . . . picture, and didn’t see a soul. Today, in my hometown I don’t have to plan my day around traffic—because there isn’t any. So nice. I feel bad about people (me included) who aren’t working and not commuting, but the upside is there is no rush hour.

Boxes. I love that people want to recycle. The problem is we are ordering a ton more from Amazon and have more boxes in our recycling bins than a UPS Store. My hope is the Post Office will adapt, but the Post Office has bigger fish to fry.

Clothing.My wife was so excited. She received a package with yoga pants with built in pockets for her phone, wallet, car keys, and tablet. When I first saw her wearing them I said, “Are you going to a yoga class?” Even though I knew she was not. You’re right, how rude. It was then that the fight started. People are dressing more casually, which is certainly more comfortable. That said, there is a not-so-fine-line between weekend wear and weekday clothes. Just sayin’.

Germs. I remember when myself and a few others trainers I palled around with were all road warriors for SkillPath Seminars. We traveled to five cities in five days. Most of us were hardcore germaphobes, and would compare notes. “Did you wipe down the TV remote?” My answer was always a firm, “You bet!” I taught my kids to open the 7-11 door with their shirt. My wife keeps wipes and alcohol (I mean alcohol wipes) in her car. If she is out of wipes, I simply rub my hands together real fast to create enough heat to kill the germs. I know, it sounds crazy. Now . . . it’s normal.

Games. I’ve played (and lost) more chess games in recent months than I have over the past ten years. Our family game night is now every night and the game I like best is, Risk. It lasts for hours and when you win, you rule the world. Totally worth it. Of course Monopoly is my second favorite game.

Learning. In twenty years our country will be run by people homeschooled by day drinkers. I know this for a fact. Bring it!

What’s Different