Life Lessons from Shel Silverstein

Everything on it

I have always been a fan of Shel Silverstein. Since my first read of, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” I have admired his work. I learned many of life’s lessons on his stark and gritty pages.

Last night, while reading with the kids, I came across this beautiful poem, a jewel amongst the snarky rhyming couplets and occasional illustrated bottom:

Happy Ending?

There are no happy endings.

Endings are the saddest part,

So just give me a happy middle

And a very happy start.

From: Every Thing On It

You can chalk this up to another life lesson learned from Silverstein. It’s not the end that we look forward to when it comes to life. It’s this part here in the middle that matters, warts and all. I am thankful for my middle…and all the people that give it joy.

May you have a very happy middle and a Happy Thanksgiving!

How a Pizza Place Saved My Bacon

Hot Homemade Pepperoni Pizza

I read CEO of Beyond Philosophy Colin Shaw’s posts a lot about the “Customer Experience.” If you have ever read his stuff, then you know that he writes a lot about making sure the emotions of your Customers are addressed with a deliberate strategy. I have always thought about that idea as a broad concept, but today I got a much better idea of what Shaw means in a real world example.

A little backstory is probably necessary here. When I quit my day job nine years ago to raise my children myself (Sorry, Sheryl Sandberg…I feel like I personally fail you every time I write that sentence), I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into on a day-to-day basis. Honestly, I don’t think many first-time parents do or humans might have gone extinct by now.

One aspect that surprised me the most was the expectation of hosting incredibly elaborate birthday parties for my progeny. Now, growing up, I had never hosted nor attended a party for anyone I knew that was fancier than what they would do at McDonald’s . It was (ahem) a little while ago, to be sure, but not so long ago that you had to watch out for the glaciers or anything…

So when I discovered that birthday parties today required fancy steps like invitations (the McDonald’s invite was done over the phone in the kitchen with the long twisted up chord), I was perturbed. When I then discovered the need for “entertainment” either as a rented inflatable or an acrobatic show featuring six original cast members from Cirque du Soleil, then you can imagine my feelings. Add to it the need for a Pinterest-worthy theme and a related take home gift for the party attendees, you can understand why the thought of a party made me feel the need to lie down for a bit.

However, if there is one thing I have learned as a mom, it’s that lying down doesn’t do anything except predictably result in some “emergency” that simply cannot resolve itself without Mom’s intervention, e.g., Someone needs a drink of water or the “She won’t stop touching the door handle!” dispute requiring Mom’s impartial mediation. So instead, I embraced the party, like a Super Mom.

We had a party with a bouncy house. Then I had a party at the bouncy house place. Then I had the Lizard Wizard come, followed the next year by the Mad Science crew. The last party I threw was a garden party where everyone painted flower pots and planted them with seeds. Truth be told, they were good parties…but I wore myself out. Whether I was sick of throwing parties or not, however, the birthdays still keep a coming, and my kids aren’t quite old enough to be “over the whole party thing” yet.

So What’s All This Have to do with Customer Experience?

As I mentioned, I was still on the hook for the party whether I had the energy for it or not. This year, I decided to take my oldest, a few of his buddies, and my other two kids to the movies and then to a local pizza place afterward. The plan was simple, required no top-to-bottom house cleaning, and featured two of my nine-year-old son’s favorite things. It was a winner for everyone involved.

Gino’s Pizza is a local pizza joint. We decided to host my son’s apres movie lunch there. This pizza place is not Chuck E. Cheez (I don’t even care if I spelled that right…I can’t stand Chuck E. It’s like a gambling simulator for Vegas-bound kids. I escape that place with a thrumming headache and a fierce desire for a martini…). Gino’s doesn’t host ten simultaneous pizza parties every Saturday. From what I can tell, they don’t host any parties on a regular basis.

Despite this lack of experience in party throwing, they were fantastic. They were extremely accommodating, had a table reserved for us right in the middle of the restaurant, and served us awesome pizza. Honestly though, while these things are important, I would have been satisfied. Not thrilled, not unhappy, but satisfied.

My experience with Gino’s doesn’t stop there, however. Alex, the manager, also helped me by storing the cake in his refrigerator while we went to the movie, helped me mend a broken candle (the R in the “Celebrate” candles box broke in transit; it was his idea to use frosting to glue it together–pure genius!), and then cut the cake for everyone. Lucky for me, he had paper plates and forks, since I didn’t bring any. He even ran out to his car to get a lighter to light the candles. Finally, he came out to give my birthday boy a couple of extra quarters for the video games all the kids were climbing on in the end.

And yes, I am a dolt for not thinking of a single one of these details on my own! Frankly, in some ways, he threw the party for my son. He saved my bacon with that lighter. I suppose I would have had to rub two sticks together and hope for a spark to conduct this important birthday ritual.

I would never have expected him to do all the things he did. He went above and beyond. I felt important and cared for as a result, which if you read Shaw’s posts then you know that is the feeling that creates Customer Loyalty and Retention.

In Gino’s case, I even went out and wrote a glowing Yelp Review, an activity I rarely bother with in experiences good or bad. It just goes to show in a real world example that when you put yourself in the Customer’s shoes and literally help them get their party started, you will reap the rewards of repeat business and positive buzz.

So my question to you today is: How are you adding the flame to your Customer’s candles and saving their bacon?

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at http://www.terrilively.com.