Translate

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Perspective

Dewitt Jones, Puffball


A few years ago, I was working with a major travel industry conference and facilitated the Jones brothers Dewitt Jones​ and Terrell Jones​ as "book ends", opening and closing the conference. It was a raging success.


I had known Terry for decades and knew he was an amazing, engaging speaker, but I wasn't really familiar with Dewitt. If you have never heard him speak, he is masterful at talking about perspective.

After the conference, they sent me a gift of thanks. Terry, knowing me well, sent wonderful wine. Dewitt sent me this picture. Some of you may see the loss of the beautiful, yellow dandelion, which while it is a weed, it is still a reminder of the sun. And the flower in full bloom may even make you smile.

But others may have Dewitt's perspective, which is about finding beauty in absolutely everything, even the dandelion in its state that you see here. About to blow away with a stiff wind, with the sun at its back, this perspective never fails to lift my mood. It reminds me of childhood where we would pick it and blow it and watch the fronds blow into the wind.

I have this photograph in my office to remind me to always see things from many angles. That is important as a parent, as a CEO, as a consultant and even as wife, sister and friend. And yes, even as a voter and citizen of this amazing country.

The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart ~ Helen Keller


Focus on beauty today.



Thursday, September 01, 2016

Think like a customer

Most of us are way too young to remember that there was a day when the person who received a letter paid for the postage.  Or that the person receiving a cell phone call paid for the minutes, as well as the person placing the call.

Until today, when I saw my daughter's boarding pass for her flight tonight on AA, I didn't realize that their boarding pass now has the arrival time information and not just the departure information.


For many years, you would get on a plane and have to ask the person next to you "do you know when we get in?"   I know you remember those days.

I can't tell you when the change occurred, as in the past few years I have [thankfully] travelled less and less, so pardon me for just realizing it today.  

It makes total sense to eliminate those steps that we put our customers through that are unnecessary.

It is important to note that technology wasn't the barrier here.  The Passenger Name Record (PNR) has always had the departure and arrival times in it.  So there was no reason why the boarding pass didn't always have this info, other than the fact that it was after all a "boarding pass".

But one day, someone somewhere at AA, decided to think like a customer and ask what questions that they were having to ask that they could take care of by being proactive.

If you are an airline employee reading this, I hope you are checking your own boarding pass to see if you have made that simple, customer-centric shift.

If you are in another business, think about what your customers still have to figure out manually in order to do business with you.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thinking about going to the 2016 PGA Championship? Plan your trip here.


For those that love golf, next month there is no more exciting place to be than at the PGA Championship.  It is being held at Baltusrol Golf Club, located at the base of Baltusrol Mountain in northern New Jersey, only a stone's throw from New York City. 


With a rich heritage that dates back to 1895, Baltusrol is considered one of the country's premier golf clubs. Its two championship courses, the Lower and Upper, have played distinguished roles on the national stage since their creation by Golden Age architect A.W. Tillinghast in 1922. Together, the courses have hosted 16 major championships, including seven U.S. Opens and one PGA Championship. The 98th PGA Championship is set to return in 2016.

Click on the image above to plan your trip to the 2016 PGA Championship.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

EVENT PLANNER EXPOSE: The Room Block Fallacy

Are you still spending time pre-arranging rooms so that your attendees will get the best rate at your event?   For decades, a practice known as blocking hotel rooms has been the way that event and meeting planners have arranged rooms for their event.   But guess what?


There is a better mousetrap.

I have been in the travel industry my whole adult life, but I will always remember the conference that I attended more than a decade ago in New York where I realized that Expedia had rooms that were cheaper than the "negotiated rate" for the conference attendees. It was at the Marriott on Times Square.

I felt cheated when I found out that a colleague had gotten their room online for $75 cheaper than I had paid.  Since it was a 3 day conference, the savings was significant and especially since I am an entrepreneur and was paying my own way.

Today, more than 15 years later, this is still common practice and the same story plays out every single day.

A REAL LIFE CASE STUDY


My company is currently working with a major event that has negotiated blocks at three hotels for their upcoming spring event.  They are expecting 50,000 attendees.  By our calculations, that should translate into 5,000 or more that need or want hotel rooms.

For their fall event, we had contracted with them to put our hotel widget on their website when their block rooms ran out (nearly 2 weeks before the event).

Then, the day after their event, people who had booked rooms started using that widget right away to book the spring event, before we even had a chance to customize the dates!

We were fortunate to be able to keep that widget on their page until they formalized their room blocks (three months later).

Old habits die hard, so we are being patient and waiting until the blocks for their spring event run out. And while we are patient, we want to make sure to let everyone else know that you don't have to go through the old room block song and dance, as it is fraught with problems:

1.  GUESSING GAME - TOO MANY OR NOT ENOUGH ROOMS?

For their fall event they expected over 120,000 attendees.    They had arranged several thousand
rooms with five hotels for their fall event. And while that sounds like a lot, it didn't begin to cover both the "needed" and "wanted" rooms.

But each year for their spring and fall events they "filled" their block, got their commission  (you will see in a minute where that money came from) and they were happy .  They were even able to report back to the city that they had done their part of contributing to the local economy. But guess what, it wasn't as much as it could have been.

The sum total of "need and "want" rooms should be approximately 10% of your attendees and could be as high as 20%, particularly for multi-day events.

2.  NEEDED vs WANTED ROOMS

I have heard the objection over and over again.  "We do events that are primarily for locals.  They don't "NEED" a hotel room. "

Needed rooms are those that are coming in from out of town (usually more than 100 miles away) where it simply wouldn't be possible to go and come in the same day without a hotel stay.  This can also happen when an event starts very early (such as a triathlon) or it ends very late (like a concert).

Wanted rooms are for those that want to make a weekend of it, those that don't want to miss out on what is going on locally the night before the event, those that live close, but the commute time would add on a ridiculous amount of time to each day.  From a practical perspective, if they were going home to be there for family, they might get home after the kids were in bed or would need to leave before the family was up.

They "want" a room.  Make sure that you are marketing to this kind of attendee and making the offer.



2.  THE WORK FOR THE ATTENDEES TO FIND A ROOM

In this particular case study, the event had a special ACCOMMODATIONS page on their website that showed the negotiated hotel deals.  There was a graphic on their home page that would take you there, or you could find it on the HOTELS navigation.

They showed the hotel locations on the map, but failed to show where they were in relation to the event.



For the event attendee to check availability and rates, it took not only 3 separate clicks off the site onto the three separate landing pages of the hotels (each with their own dialogue and approach), but for two of them, they didn't pre-fill the event dates, so I had to go back to the main event site (not even the accommodations page had the event date shown) and find the date to select on the FROM and TO boxes of the booking engine.

On the third one, they pre-filled dates, but it was for a 15 day block around the 3 day event.  While it was nice of the hotel to extend their negotiated room rate for that entire period, it caused me to have to go back to the event site to look up the dates (again).

I was forced to write down all of the rates for the hotels so that I could compare and decide.   Then I had to go back through the booking engine to request the room and book it (and for a popular event, it was possible that the room would no longer be available).

Time spent:  10 minutes

3.  BEST RATE?

As I mentioned earlier, the conference negotiated rate isn't always the best rate.

In the case of the conference we've been talking about, for two out of the three hotels listed, our rates for those same rooms for the same dates were as much as $31 cheaper per night.  For a 3 day event, that is a significant premium to pay.

And both their site and the hotel site promised the "best" rate, but that simply wasn't the case.  The consumer was paying for the extra amount that the hotel had agreed to give to the event.

With our widget, not only did the user get the best published rate, but we guarantee it and will write a check for 110% of the difference if a consumer finds a better published rate on a website.

4.  LAST MINUTE BOOKING?

You may be too young to remember this sign.   When I was young, we would take road trips and to find a hotel, you had to look for one that did NOT have this sign illuminated.  Archaic I know, but it worked.  Especially since there was no such thing as a phone in your car.  [gasp] 

Without our widget, the fall event would have shown SOLD OUT when you checked availability at any of the five properties (after you wasted 10+ minutes searching the negotiated deal links).

With our widget anyone that needed a room, right up to the LAST day of the event (not the day before the event, but day 3 of the three-day event) could book it online.

IT IS TIME FOR A BETTER MOUSETRAP

We actually have a theory at Solutionz Technologies that the best way to sell a room with an event is
as a part of the registration or ticketing path.    We call it the "Do you want fries with that?" method.

The best time to get someone to commit is when they have just committed to attend your event.  And why should you get involved?

  1. They are already booking a room (even if they don't think about it for weeks after registering or buying a ticket)
  2. We guarantee that they will get the best published rate
  3. You are missing out on an ancillary revenue stream (we share our revenues with you)
  4. It makes it much easy for them to book it if you provide a tool that pre-fills the date and that automatically searches close to the event venue.
  5. We give 10% of our gross revenues from the event bookings annually to your charity of choice 

Not only are blocked rooms no longer needed, but there is a better game in town.   Click the image below to learn more and to request a FREE widget for your event (or for your venue).

Going to Sebring? Need a hotel room?


To get a hotel room, click on the image above.






Friday, January 29, 2016

Path to your promised land - 22 days or 40 years?


Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses and how he led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.    We know that as the Old Testament story goes, that it took them 40 years. They didn't exactly go on the most direct route.

What you may not know is that his journey was very much like the journey of an entrepreneur. 

Assisted by technology of today, and if this map is to be believed, Moses would have known that it
was actually only 92 hour walk (give or take with no sleep and no breaks) to make it the 448km between Goshen and the Promised Land.

(Actually, since GoogleMaps can't calculate from the ancient city of Goshen to Petra, which is now in Jordan, I used Jerusalem as the destination.  But you get the idea. )

Since a normal, healthy person on a road in poor repair can walk about 20km per day, then let's be generous and say it should take a month (22 days with some extra time for the sick and the elderly).

So what is up with the other 39 years and 11 months?

Today we have the benefit of not only hindsight helping us out, but we have navigation tools.  We can see the journey from the birds eye view, with the starting point and the end point in mind.  We can evaluate different modes of transportation, including walking as shown here.  We can also choose different routes.  What it doesn't show are the dangers, both physical and of the bandit variety.

I would suggest that strategy for your company is not unlike mapping out the Exodus.

HEADED FOR THE PROMISED LAND

Moses was very clear that he was taking the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery to the Promised Land and freedom.  Now, whether he knew that Petra was the ultimate physical destination or that any place with milk and honey that was safe would do, Moses knew where he was going and he had great confidence in his Chairman of the Board (Jehovah) that set him out on the mission.

Before you start, you must know where you are going and you must know who is sending you (or make sure that you have reviewed where you are going with your board or advisors).  For that you will have to truly know why you are going.  With help on your WHY, watch the Ted Talk of the same name by Simon Sinek.

CROSSING THE RED SEA

Now, in your journey, you may not need to part the Red Sea, although I would suggest that to entrepreneurs, raising money may feel just as daunting.

Getting started on the journey requires that you not only know the destination, but that you take the first step and that you have the resources to get to where you are going, or at least to where you can replenish your supplies.

There are many ways to fund a new venture (or an expansion of your business).  You can raise money, you can borrow money, you can do a strategic partnership with someone that has the money or resources that you need or best of all - you can fund it with revenues.

This was not Moses' first trip into the desert, so he knew that the trip would be hard, but there were many things along the way that he couldn't have predicted.  You too will have unexpected jaunts in your journey, but if you will plan for those contingencies and ensure that if you do raise money that it is done in milestone based tranches, then as you reach each key point in your journey, you can "replenish" along the way with new funding.

ALONG THE WAY

You may not cross a desert on your journey, but for the first few months after you launch your minimum viable product or service, it may seem like that is exactly where you are.

Being prepared with a plan that addresses each challenge and knowing the triggers that signal that one of your anticipated risks is about to happen, is essential.  If you need outside help in doing that detailed plan, it is worth its weight in gold.

Oh, and if you don't know the details of the Israelites' journey, it entailed quite a bit of mutiny, so be careful before you part your Red Sea that you put together a team that you can trust.

REACHING THE PROMISED LAND

What you may not know about the end of the journey is that the original generation that left Egypt never actually made it to the Promised Land.  And when they got there, darned if there wasn't another river that they had to cross.

When they thought they were nearly there, they sent out scouts to make sure.  The reports that came back were not all milk and honey.  Some reported giants and other fearful things.

The moral of the story is that even when you get to your destination, your goal may not look quite as good as your vision of the goal, but press on.  You may even have to march a couple of times around the wall so that it will tumble down and you can take possession of the land.

No one ever said it was easy, but I can guarantee it is worth it.

Do whatever you can to stay focused on your goals and to have a minimum of distractions.   I don't know about you, but every day I pray for peace and clarity of vision, just for that next step.  And on a larger scale, I pray for wisdom, strategies for the next leg of my journey and above all, God's favor on everything that I do.








Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Is the Travel Industry on your dropdown list of industries??

I have the pleasure of serving in one of the largest industries in the world.  If you don't know what the travel industry contributes to our country, you may want to watch this video from my friend Roger Dow of the US Travel Association.



State of the Travel Industry 2016 from U.S. Travel on Vimeo.


If your system has a drop down of industries to choose from and Travel is NOT one of them, you may want to rethink your selections.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Year, New BLOG Name - Changing the Game

With the new year, comes not only the expected resolutions to work out more, eat healthier foods and to spend less time doing things that don't matter and more time on the things that truly will leave a legacy, but also a shift in focus for my blog.

I've been very busy this past year building a new company and as such haven't written as much as I have in previous years.

I've also just finished writing a book.  It has not been published yet, but when it is, my loyal readers here will be given the opportunity to get an advanced copy in PDF form, so Stay Tuned!

In the meantime, I'm borrowing the image from the cover of my book for the header of my blog and this year I will focus on writing about companies and individuals that have really changed the game in their industries, their companies and in their own lives.

If you know of someone that I should be talking to, send me their info and we will see if it is a good fit for our radio broadcast, SolutionzLive.

Have a great weekend.  







Friday, January 08, 2016

Solutionz is celebrating 20 years

I am proud to share with you that today marks the 20th anniversary of Solutionz.  

When I launched the company in 1996, I never would have imagined all of the twists and turns that we would see in the business, the economy and in our world.

I want to personally thank you for your friendship and the support that you have provided to help us reach this amazing milestone.  

Whether you have been a client, a part of our network resources, a partner, an industry colleague, a subscriber to our blog, a member of the Executive Girlfriends Group, an investor or a board member, you are an important part of who we are. 

Over the years, people have asked about my formula for success. I find this question interesting, as success is indeed relative. Yes, over the past 20 years, our influence, impact, and income have multiplied many times over. However, as we enter 2016 I truly feel like we're just getting started.

That said, I can honestly say God used one thing to propel Solutionz, our message, our products and services and our vision.

It all comes back to...innovation.

At Solutionz, innovation is the air that we breathe.  Whether it is in our own branding (clean new look this year), our consulting and advisory services, our podcasts, our incubator or our publications, we don’t settle for business as usual, and we don’t want you to either.

I’d like to take just a few minutes to catch you up on the different business units of Solutionz.  You no doubt see lots of posts on social media from me.  Well, here is the skinny on what I’m really up to.

Solutionz Technologies is one of the companies that we are currently incubating.  In the 2nd quarter of this year we launched our new TripPlanz™ intelligent trip planning widget.  We have over 2,500 venues using our product and are powering over 24,000 events per month, in the US, Canada and in the UK.   We’re excited about transforming the way travel is booked by people attending events, finding hotels nearby the venue instead of near an airport or city center.

Our advisory services and consulting company, Solutionz Services, is alive and well.  In 2016 we are introducing a number of new members to our Solutionz Network team.  This means that we can handle a wider range of projects.  Check out our team and our clients to see the breadth of talent that we can bring to your organization.

Solutionz Media is the company that broadcasts our SolutionzLive radio show.  We have over 400 shows available in podcast form on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes.  The topics are leadership, growth, innovation, entrepreneurialism, giving back and other subjects that are geared to executives.  We also have advisory services, helping you leverage digital media, create buzz and increase engagement through community. 



What's next?  Well, you know the answer to that already.....

Stay tuned.

Popular Posts

TripPlanz - Intelligent Trip Planning right from your website or blog