Archive for April, 2014

If you could do anything what would you do?  Do you dream of owning your own business? Competing in a marathon? Climbing a mountain? Visiting a foreign land? Learning a new language? Traveling the world?

We all have dreams. But how many of us really pursue them? Remember when you were a kid you dreamt BIG. Nothing was impossible.  You were only limited by your imagination. What happened?  When did you grow up and stop pursuing your dreams?  Self doubt? Fear? Or, are you just comfortable? What is really holding you back? If you’re honest with yourself it is most likely….You!

4 and 1/2 years ago I started my company Zenware with 3 other partners. It has been a difficult but rewarding adventure.  In a recent discussion with one of my partners he reflected, “My only regret is that I didn’t start my own business years ago?”  I asked him why he waited sol long and he responded, “I was comfortable and didn’t want to risk what I had. But now I know I could’ve had so much more if I’d taken the risk sooner.”

This caused me to ponder what held me back from pursuing my own dreams. Yes, I had my reasons, my justifications, but really it came down to me not ready or willing to take the leap. I recently came across this short film portraying the true story of the Panyee FC.  This inspiring story depicts how boys living on a little island in the south of Thailand “Koh Panyee” s, who loved football (american soccer) with a BIG dream, became football champions. They literally overcame the challenge of having nowhere to play to becoming champions.

Here are a few lessons I learned from their inspirational story.

  1. Have a dream – This seems obvious but what is your dream? What are you passionate about? More importantly what is your vision? A leader with a vision kicks starts and fuels an idea. The kids dreamt of being football champions.  In a world  surrounded by water what could be done to fulfill their dream? As their dream simmered in their minds a plan developed to fulfill that dream.
  2. Build Your Own Space – The kids of Koh Panyee decideded to build their own floating football field. An ingenious approach to their problem. Remember starting from nothing is ok when coupled with vision. Be like the aspiring athletes and don’t focus on what you don’t have. Rather, discover what you can create.  Develop a plan to build your own space. With your plan in hand, take the first step to ascertain and gather the resources at your disposal to build a playing field to accomplish your dream.
  3. Get Creative – Starting with nothing forces you to get creative. Take assessment of the resources at your disposal. Pull them together. Like our soccer heroes you may have to scrounge, hunt, scavenge and search for resources. Once you start exploring resources you will discover you have more at your disposal than you ever imagined. Creativity fuels progress. Progress fuels excitement. Excitement catapults you towards your dream.
  4. Dig in and build – Once you’ve gathered your  resources get to work. Pour every bit of energy you can spare into building your dream. The kids of Koh Panyee worked after school and every spare moment to build their dream. Yes, I’m sure the kids were tired, but fueled by a dream they dug in and built.  What do you do when you get home? What do you on the weekend?  Crash in front of the TV?Our kids sacrificed their time and energies to build their floating field – a place to practice, play and pursue their dream. This didn’t happen by sitting around dreaming. It came to fruition because they got to work.
  5. It’s ok to get wet – With their playing field constructed, the kids jumped in with excitement to play football. Was their field perfect? No. Their field was shaky and uneven, riddled with an occasional nail sticking up.  Yes the ball went out of bounds on occasion. They jumped in the water, retrieved the ball and got back into the game. Once the foundations of your dream is in place get in the game. Start playing. Explore what you can do. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.  If it’s a new business venture put your self on the market. Recognize that you won’t do everything perfectly. Some of your efforts will hit the mark, others will go askew. But that’s ok. It’s ok to get wet. Jump in and start playing! Developing as your grow is part of the process. With the right attitude, commitment and persistence you will fine tune your game.
  6. Learn to play within your space – Like our aspiring champions, when getting started your initial playing field will be tighter than you prefer. Constraints while constraining ( a little pun) are constructive.  I’ve discovered constraints cause you to stretch. They foster creativity. They force you to fine tune skills. Constraints require strategic thinking.  As you work through constraints you will eventually discover that you have become exceptional within specific areas of expertise.  This will serve as a powerful foundation for future success.
  7. Don’t Listen to the Distractors – When the villagers heard of the kid’s dream to become soccer champions they mocked them – saying their idea was “ridiculous”. The villagers focused on the limitations of their environment. They had no vision. In contrast our aspiring champions, motivated by a dream, were undeterred and set out to build a floating field.I’m reminded of when I split off to create my own software company Zenware with 3 partner, I received an email that said “Ha, ha, there’s no way you’ll make it 6 months. No investors, just a dream, ha ha!” signed happytoseeyoufail@gmail.com. That was 4 1/2 years ago – no investors, a lot of blood, sweat tears and 4 very supportive wives. We are now 18 team members strong with three cloud software products and still growing.
  8. Take A Chance – If you’re going to dream big, Go Big! When the kids learned of a regional championship. They wondered if they were good enough. They doubted their abilities. Undeterred they decided to enter the competition. They decided to prove themselves. Yes, they were concerned. They had doubts. But unless they decided to play they would never know how good they truly were.

    The same is applies to you. Set your doubts and  aside. Put yourself to the test. Get on the field and compete. That’s the only way you’ll know how good you really are. Don’t be afraid of competition. Yes there is competition. There is always competition. However, don’t be afraid to be the competition. You might surprise yourself and find yourself on the winner’s podium.

  9. Determination wins fans – When you prove that it can be done you will win the admiration and loyalty of skeptics. Their skepticism, doubting questions and unbelieving statements will quickly shift from “Why do you want to do that?”, “That’s ridiculous!”, “Look at where you are, it can’t be done!” to “Wow, I can’t believe you did that!”, “How did you do that?”, “Where did you get the inspiration?”. “Great job!”, “I wish I were more like you!”
  10. You are better than you think – Stepping on the field was a scary thing for the “inexperienced” team of kids. However, Once they got on the field with the competition they recognized they were better than they thought. They quickly realized that the constraints of their floating, wooden field had fine tuned their skills. Their practice paid off. They possessed the capacity and talent to compete at a championship level.

    This self discovery is important, it breeds confidence.  Until you put yourself on the field you will never know how good you really are.  Don’t hesitate! Get into the game. My bet is you’ll surprise yourself, launching yourself into a whole new realm of opportunities.

  11. Tough times will come – return to what you know – Our young athletes made passed the Semi-Finals. Can you imagine their excitement as they headed into the final match? Confident and filled with hope they were ready.In the final match heavy rains came. Their soggy, water filled new shoes hindered their ability to compete. Discouraged and frustrated by their performance.  They felt sluggish with the unfamiliar weight of their wet shoes. They decided to return to what they knew and played the second half in their accustomed bare feet. Playing in familiar conditions, they made made a quick comeback and almost won the final.

    Amid your success you will encounter set backs – new environments, new situations, competition, even your own limitations, etc. With the right perspective set backs are healthy. They cause you to refocus. They cause you to dig in a little deeper. Setbacks motivate you to succeed when you are determined to win. Recognize that sometimes it’s wise to step back and rely on old strengths to push you through the challenge. Revisiting what made you great in the first place is often the secret sauce to getting to the next level.

Having a dream is great. Dream BIG! But remember dreaming will only take you so far. A dream with no action only become a wish – always out of reach. Dreams do come true – conditioned on your efforts to bring them to fruition. So what’s holding YOU back?  Go do something unbelievable! Go do the impossible and fulfill your dream!

Thank you kids for the inspiration!

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Jody Sedrick
Follow me on Twitter: @jodysedrick and @zenewareinc
LinkedIn Profile  | Zenware

Customer Service - The Power of FriesWhen was the last time you were WOWED by customer service? Can you even recall a customer service WOW moment?

I dare say that being WOWED as a customer is the anomaly not the norm.  Wait check that…. I suspect we’ve all had a WOW moment but it was more in line of “Wow! Can you believe the horrible service we just received?” “WOW, Can I talk to a manager? or “Wow, I’m NEVER going there again!”

I recently had a “WOW! That was UNBELIEVABLE!” moment and it gave me pause to reflect on the power of WOW in customer service.  Let me share my “WOW! That was UNBELIEVABLE!” moment.

After a full-day of business meetings and no lunch I stopped with my partner at Chic-Fil-A.  I ordered a spicy chicken sandwich and a lemonade.  Thinking that I had ordered the Spicy Chicken Meal I was surprised when my order came with only a chicken sandwich, lemonade and no fries.  I commented (more as a reflection to myself), “I thought I ordered a meal?”  My server said, “I”m sorry but you ordered just the sandwich. If you like I can get you some fries. Don’t worry it’s on us”. I protested saying, “No it was my mistake I’m glad to pay for the fries.” He responded, “No worries, let us take care of that for you today.”

I couldn’t believe it. I walked away and said to my partner “WOW! Can you believe that?”.  “That’s never happened before”.

Now throwing in some fries may seem like a little thing, but WOW what an impact.

Lessons Learned
1. The customer comes first. This wasn’t a question of whether the customer was right or wrong. I admitted to messing up the order. I  offered to pay the difference. Yet, the server was willing to take care of me.  He didn’t make a big deal about the missed order. He focused on getting the order right. In the process he provided a phenomenal dining experience.

2. Empowered Team Members impact the customer experience.  As my partner and I sat down to eat we discussed the rarity of such a customer experience. He wisely observed, “It’s not only that he took care of the situation but that he felt empowered to do so.”  Obviously this server had the power to act. There was no hesitation. There was no “let me ask the boss.”  He was empowered to act. Thus, when it came time to act, he acted with out hesitation – leaving at least 2 customers “WOWED” by the experience.

3. Culture of Service. Now you might say, “Well that’s nice. That doesn’t happen very often.” Your right!  But here’s the kicker. My experience didn’t stop at the free fries.  When I returned to the counter for a lemonade refill a second server greeted me with “Hello sir, it would be my pleasure to refill your drink what did you order?” before I even made it to the counter.  Yes, it’s a little thing. But being greeted with an attitude and desire to be served left me with my second “WOW” for the day. I recognized that the manager and team of the Boise, Idaho Chic-Fil-A fostered a culture of service. I hung around to see other customer’s interactions with the Chic-Fil-A team. I was surprised to see that the culture of service was exemplified in every interaction – even when they were clearing off the tables.

Yeah I know customer service is touted by every company.  Maybe it’s time we actually took a lesson from my experience at Chic-Fil-A and developed a culture and attitude of service. We might just find our customers being WOWED by Incredible Service.

Happy Selling!

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Jody Sedrick
Follow me on Twitter: @jodysedrick and @zenewareinc
LinkedIn Profile  | Zenware