As 2010 winds down and the holiday season hits full stride I want to take this time to say THANK YOU! It remains the honor of my career to be able to share, teach and apply ideas. Much of what I do happens through the efforts of a fantastic team. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce them:

Dr. Jim Hengstenberg: Not only a dear and trusted friend, but one of the smartest strategists around, Jim's keen insight has helped form long term Creative Ventures direction. He's my key editor on all my writings!

Chris Ryan: Chris is my general agent and is responsible for many of my client relationships. He is a tireless, ultra-connected worker and I am deeply appreciative of all his efforts on my behalf.

Mike Wilcox: Mike is the master of the look and feel of many of my teaching tools and the monthly newsletter. Creative and visionary in his work, he brings fantastic to expression many of my ideas.

Colton Woolford: Colton is an extraordinary film maker who does all my video projects. He can take a concept and turn it into an experience that is full of impact and emotion.

Scott Braud: Scott handles all my marketing and branding. Scott is a design genius and can take a concept to completed project with the flair of the best creative people I know.

Darren Horwitz: Darren is in charge of my public relations and is responsible for all my magazine interviews and profile pieces. He constantly challenges the way I think through his tough assignments.

John Peterson: John is my web master and has designed all my web sites. Check out and He is currently leading the complete redesign of the Creative Ventures web site, which should launch at the first of the year.

It is an honor to be able to work with these talented professionals who are always challenging my ideas and bringing their unique perspectives to what I do.
She will cringe when she sees this, but without Laura, my lovely bride of 31 years, NONE of this would have happened. She believed in a tennis-playing, surf bum scientist and his wild idea of how he could impact businesses. Thanks, Babe!

December has me in San Diego, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, Iowa, Nebraska and Chicago. Wow, what an end to the year!

I wish you all the most joyful of Holidays and a dynamic and successful 2011.

I'll see you next year!

The Law of What You CAN do

What you fear in the night in the day comes to call anyway. -from "Einstein on the Beach" by Counting Crows

Strategic planning is a scary undertaking. It is predictive. Despite all the work and research you do, it involves a leap of faith, a release of resources on ideas that are not yet based in reality. This is a future-driven process.
I recently had the opportunity to contribute to a Wall Street Journal piece on the trends and strategies we will see in the 2011 business community.

I knew there were smart contributors speaking intelligently on the continuing impact of issues as far-ranging as technology, unemployment, social networks, health care and an increasingly volatile economy. When it came my turn to comment, I wondered what I might contribute that would be deemed worthy of making the article.

I started with a very simple thought, one I have been working on with many of my clients as we've been preparing for 2011: think Control and Impact. The reality is that many of the macro issues affecting business allow very little strategic control for most organizations. These big issues are the aircraft carriers of business, hugely impactful but not able to turn very easily. The ability of one person or organization to really nudge the macro issues to make an organizational impact is virtually non-existent. So, think Control and Impact.

Here are two top-level strategic ideas that should be in your 2011 plans:

SKILL SETS: Nothing impacts a work force more than improving the core skill sets of your team, those skills directly applicable to their jobs. You may not be able to control the credit crunch or the escalation of health care costs, but you certainly can impact your skills and those of your people. Take a hard look at your training programs. Are they impactful? Do they create measurable improvements? Are they structured to be part of your culture? What are you training for? When was the last time they were updated? Is the content current? When was the last time anyone in your company had a remarkable training experience? Companies that make improving employees' skills a part of their culture are at the top of their industries. The Four Seasons hotel chain not only has a laser-like intensity when it comes to their training program, they also make it a continual process rather than just a feature of "boarding" new employees. They even REQUIRE every new employee to spend one night (with a guest, of course) at one of their properties. The employee uses a rating sheet that measures everything from the number of rings before their room service call is answered to intentionally asking questions and determining the effect of the answers they get. This type of commitment to training separates companies and is at the core of what you CAN do to strategically move your organization to new levels.

CLIENT EXPERIENCE: Every company can control the way their service, project, or business interacts with customers and clients. They can't control how the customer will react, but they can design, implement and measure the impact their culture delivers. Begin with a firm understanding of what the current client experience is like. Draw a "client experience map," from beginning to end. The beginning is a good place to start. What is your Point of Contact. Define EVERY point of contact a client can make with your company. Look closely at what the beginning feels like to a customer. Is it a phone call, an email, a referral, an in-person drop in? Is it a marketing piece? From that simple beginning, draw a connected map of subsequent contacts. This will give you a visual point of reference. Then look for one, just ONE, point that you can improve, that you can impact fully to change, and make it a strategic priority. This exercise is not restricted to organizations but also applies to individuals. James Cabela of the Cabela's national sporting goods company wants his customers to know their ideas count. He reads through EVERY customer comment card and hand delivers them to the appropriate stores and departments, making an emphatic point of the issues he feels need attention. He then lets the customer know the response to their comment. The Cabela's customer experience starts at the top and drives value. The client experience is a point of differentiation, a point of separation in a very commoditized world.

Direct your energy toward areas that you can impact. THAT's real strategy!


New Ideas in Meat: For 120 years Hormel Foods has been a player in the food world, from the first "ham in a can" to the 1937 invention of SPAM…and beyond. They are constantly innovating, and in 2010 they are on schedule to hit $2 billion in revenue from new products alone. Their constant commitment to creatively looking at their market has created a culture of innovation, like their new push into turkey-based products and new snack-size packaging. This demonstrates the impact new ideas can bring to any company regardless of age or industry and challenges us all to push energy toward our development of new ideas!

I'll Have The Chicken: Americans are back at the trough again as the restaurant industry is finally picking up. Restaurant revenues are up in all sectors with same store sales up for the first time in over 9 months. Many of the 1 million-plus jobs added in the private sector in the past 10 months have gone to the food and beverage industries. Business travel is up (take my word for that), and that also feeds the eateries. Morton's Steakhouse sales are up in the third quarter. Applebee's was up 3.3%, and even hard-hit Hardees's was up almost 7%. So grab the keys and head out for a quick bite to keep the economic momentum moving forward.

A Nap Sounds Like A Good Idea: In the world's first Siesta Championship held recently in Madrid, the gold medal was won by an unemployed security guard named Pedro Lopez, whose snore measured 70 decibels. Now that's some serious sleepy noise! But I digress. A recent study by the AMA showed that workers' attention is improved by short naps. Have your company buy some cots!


Interested in these ideas?


You can contact Steve at or give him a call at 972-490-7717.
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