Simple Things

Chaos is inherent in all compunded things. Strive on with diligence.


I opened one of the cupboards in my office and looked in with disbelief – it was a chaotic mess.  Impossible!  I had just cleaned all of these out, what, maybe a week ago.  OK, maybe a month ago.  How in the heck had they returned to their cluttered state?

I knew the answer.  We spend almost 80% of our client project time around the idea of simplicity.  I have spent 32 years committed to its strategic impact, so I knew exactly what happened  –   THE CREEP.


Keeping an Eye on the Creep

Simplicity is about a small sense of order, not a big one. The universe fights against big order, but you can get away with the success of small order.



Simplicity needs a rather constant level of attention.  If you pass off keeping the simplicity train on track, THE CREEP will step right in. THE CREEP loves and thrives on a lack of attention.  One of the favorite homes of THE CREEP is your garage.  You spend an entire weekend cleaning out all the junk that had a gravitational attraction to the garage.  You stand with hands on hips with a triumphant smile on your face.  You conquered the black hole of order.  A month later, with tears streaming down your face you cannot comprehend how the whole damn mess has returned.

THE CREEP is the creator of operational complexity.  It gives birth to bottlenecks and backward thinking that stops your forward momentum and leaves you asking, “How did this happen?”  Given an empty space, THE CREEP looks to fill it.


Simplicity Requires Attention

During a recent project where we were working with a client to simplify their client experience, this happened; he said, “Despite the success of our simplicity work, we just let it get away from us and started adding stuff until we were right back where we started.”  THE CREEP.

If you are genuinely committed to the benefit of a simple approach to anything, PAY ATTENTION.  It takes discipline to become simple and even more to stay simple.

Nothing, and I mean no strategic focus, can gain more impact than a commitment to simplicity and no strategy can collapse faster than simplicity ignored.  We consistently default to our bias for more.  Come on, we can add another feature, another service, we have the capacity and I think our customers really want it.  BOOM, say hello to THE CREEP.

You hear people talk about simple all the time.  It’s EASY, just get rid of stuff.  What?  No, no, no, it’s not about reduction, it’s about THOUGHTFUL reduction and then subtle adjustments until the simplicity you’re searching for fits YOU, fits your culture, fits your company, and fits your clients’ needs. It’s about allowing simplicity to be your lighthouse, providing you direction on your course.

Let it slip and you’ll find yourself loosing another weekend to a garage full of stuff, courtesy of THE CREEP.

The Client Experience Doesn’t End At The Point Of Purchase


Our Dazzling Blue program is centered on creating a client experience that separates and differentiates our clients in the face of a creeping sense of everything’s the same.  We are battling the commoditization of what we make, what we do, and how we solve our client’s needs.


When we start one of our Dazzling Blue projects for a client,  we always start at the beginning.  Where do the tendrils of what you do touch your client?  In order to be Dazzling, to be extraordinary, it has to encompass all that you do.  You can’t commit to Dazzling half way.

Here is one of my favorite examples of how NOT to be Dazzling.  Client touch points are critical in a Dazzling experience.  You need to know all of them and see each touch point as an element in the client experience.

I recently purchased a new charging cable for both my iPhone and my iPad.  It was positioned beautifully in a display case which positively impacted my buying choice.

Upon getting it home, I  went downstairs to the office to create a charging station for my gear.

So what could be the problem?  Hmmmm.  I tried to open it.

Now, I’m pretty smart and after a dozen attempts and a study period equaling getting ready for the SAT,  I couldn’t get the top off.  I obviously had the wrong tools, my hands.  I checked the packaging.  No opening directions.  I looked for some unique tool that came with this Chinese puzzle box.   Apparently, this chord is more valuable than the gold in Fort Knox, because I believe I could have accessed that shiny bullion easier than anyone could have accessed this damn charging cable!

Then I thought I needed something, a tool, and tried to pry it off with a screwdriver.

Nope, the lid would not budge despite my Archemidian attempt to use the screwdriver as a lever.

I was now 20-30 minutes into just trying to get the damn thing open, so I decided to change strategies and thought about the following tools.



I settled on the hammer and proceeded to beat the ever lovin daylights out of the plastic vault like container.  And . . . . .  I’ll be damned but, it opened and shattered into a hundred pieces.

I had my cord and, though I somewhat enjoyed the destructive process of opening the case,  I can’t believe that was the intended design.

Though the packaging was beautiful and its ability to stand out in a custom display case enticed me to buy, it is as far from a Dazzling Blue experience as a company can get.  Surely they tested the case?  Surely they gave it to some folks to open?  Surely they thought of the client, the customer, the end user, beyond the cool way it looked?  NOPE.

A Dazzling Blue experience wraps itself around the client.  It is found in the way you greet a client, in the way you deliver your product, in the way you handle problems.  You have to see the whole picture to separate yourself from the vanilla world and creating barriers is as far from Dazzling as you can get!

How Do You Show Gratitude?



Creative Ventures is part of the Pay If Forward corporate movement where companies pledge to pay a percentage of either net revenues or profits to various charitable causes.

At Creative Ventures each team member is given a share of net revenues to donate to any charity or cause they feel connected to or whose mission speaks to them.

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipients:


THE NOT IMPOSSIBLE FOUNDATION:  I had the honor of meeting and working with the charismatic and incredibly fun founder of The Not Impossible Labs, Mick Ebeling this year and was stunned at the phenomenal work Mick and his team does.  Taking small amounts of resources and marrying them with imagination and a dogged determination not to fail, Mick and the Not Impossible gang are changing the world, literally!  With a three-part mission:

  • Technology for the sake of humanity
  • Help one, help many
  • Help through making things

They are changing the perspective of what can be done – ANYTHING!  And nothing, I mean nothing, is impossible!


st-judesST JUDE’S CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL:  St Jude’s has been a core charity for Creative Ventures during our 31-year existence.  Their work in the prevention and treatment of pediatric catastrophic disease is world renowned.  NO child and I mean NO child is ever denied treatment.  NO family ever received a bill for their child’s time at St. Jude’s.  St Jude’s is in the miracle business.



open_graph_heiferHEIFER INTERNATIONAL:  Their mission is to empower families in the most poverty stricken areas on this planet, through sustainable agriculture and commerce, to find hope and prosperity.  Through the idea of not just giving a fish, but teaching them to fish, families receive livestock that provide nourishment for the family and the ability to create small pocket businesses with the surplus provided by the animal.  Their work across the planet has changed thousands of lives and given hope, where hope did not exist.


operation-smileOPERATION SMILE:  Every child deserves exceptional surgical care and to be treated like they were your own.  That’s what Operation Smile does.  They provide hundreds of thousands of surgeries in poverty stricken areas providing children a chance at a normal life where that chance never existed before.  Operation Smile is one of the oldest volunteer-based organizations in the world and offers their medical services in over 60 countries.


We are honored to be chosen by our clients to work with them on the core strategies they plan.  Our services are unique and fit a very distinct value proposition.  We are grateful for the relationships that inspire our thinking and drive us to new ideas and actionable plans.

This is just one of the way’s we say; THANK YOU!

An Avalanche of Apologies


“I’m sorry, have you been helped yet?”

“No,” I told the waiter.

“I’m sorry, but your server doesn’t seem to be around.”

“You’re a server, right?”  “Yes,” he responded.

“Well, how about you get my wife and me a couple of menus.  We’ve been sitting here for about 10 minutes.”  I then asked him the group of servers around the wall mounted computer?

“Oh, those are waiters training on our new system.”

“During the dinner hour,” I asked?

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Each member of that training wait staff had looked over at our table and promptly ignored our dinner plight.

You ALL recognize that exchange, the service experience STARTS, with an apologyapology and from that point on you’re riding your ski’s down an avalanche of apologies.  In fact, the apology has become the national language of customer service.

It’s a business disgrace.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will create impact faster than the way you treat your customers.  A single horrific experience can spell doom for a relationship you have spent time developing.

I was at the pro shop for our golf club and the guy behind the desk was on the phone.  I stotalking-on-phoneod there, right in front of him as he continued his conversation.  Not once did he cover the phone and say; “I’ll be right with you.”  Instead, he just kept on talking like I was invisible.  Finally, he put his hand over the mouthpiece and said, “Yeah?”  That was the service response; “Yeah?”  He then followed up his eloquent “yeah” with, you guessed it; “Sorry, I’ll be with you in a sec.”  SORRY, SORRY, SORRY.

The saddest part is that not one example I can choose will surprise you. We could trade our horror stories.  They would roll out of your memory at a speed far in excess of your great customer experiences. You and I have come to accept an apologetic process as a regular part of our business day.  Poorly trained, customer facing humans, who will never be held accountable for anything they do.  They will behave like the directions on your shampoo; lather, rinse, REPEAT!  They repeat over and over again until we’re numb.  The worst part of this scenario is that the great majority of us will do nothing.  Hell, we’ll even tip 18% as some sort of reward for being condemned to one of the inner circles of a Dante-like customer service hell.

It’s not a secret.  Companies know what’s going on.  But they lie to themselves.  They believe that an I’m sorry service experience is an anomaly and not the norm.  They shake it off as a grumpy customer.

It’s a shame because Laura and I will NEVER go back to that restaurant.

Companies can fix this.  It’s not some Herculean challenge, instead, it’s surprisingly simple.  Here’s the formula:



  • Allocate some resources, usually time, to training and make sure all your people understand they are, as Walt Disney was apt to say, in the “happiness business.” Make your clients happy.  Your teams need to know this and need to LEARN how you want it done.  Your training should be a connected process whose end result is a team of service providers that make a real difference in your client experience.
  • Check in on your team. Great service is all about being held accountable.  When there is a bad service experience step in immediately and let your team member know what went wrong.  Let them know you won’t accept it again.  When something goes right, CELEBRATE it so everyone knows your commitment.
  • Yeah, it’s all about attitude.  Be happy to see me.  Welcome me instead of apologizing to me.  Great service is about a culture of great attitudes and a great attitude is a CHOICE.

Try those for a starter and watch the change.

Committing to a Model of Innovation


Last week, in an effort to feed the Netflix monkey on my back and having already exhausted so many of Netflix’s great original series, my wife and I stumbled upon a true gem. As a foodie, I’m fascinated by the creative process that takes place in the kitchen and was blown away by Noma: My Perfect nomaStorm. The documentary offers a unique peek into the internationally recognized Danish restaurant, Noma, its head chef Rene Redzepi, and the inner workings of a restaurant that has been voted #1 in the world for 4 years since 2010. It wasn’t that the movie was great (it was), or that the food looked amazing (it did), or that watching this film with my wife has cost me a future unknown fortune as she was insistent on a promise to take her there one day (the downside of Netflix and chill) that caught my interest. What was interesting was how Rene had developed and implemented a systemic approach to a culture of constant innovation and accountability.

At Noma, on Saturday nights, after 80-hour workweeks, and into the wee hours of the night  (after 2am), the hustle and bustle in their kitchen doesn’t seem to die down. You don’t see chefs and kitchen staff wandering out into the night looking for a drink to calm the nerves of a high-intensity night. Instead, eager and weary chefs gather for what has become a sacred saturday-night-projectsceremony, Saturday Night Projects.  At Saturday Night Projects one chef from each station in the kitchen is responsible for creating something new, a snack, a dish, an ingredient, or an idea, it really doesn’t matter as long as it is new, true to the chef, and pushes the limits of their current reality.  (oh and that it uses regionally specific Nordic ingredients which can be a problem as his chefs come from all over the world).

This process has opened the door for new and exciting food that consistently places Noma at the top of the restaurant charts year in and year out.  Creating a process that fosters creativity isn’t easy. If you look at the Saturday Night Projects now vs. what it was at its inception you wouldn’t recognize it because it’s changed quite a bit. So, what is the secret to Noma’s success? Well, in traditional Creative Ventures format I’ll break it down for you in three parts:


  1. Budget time for creativity: You have to intentionally etch out time in your schedule for innovation. Noma isn’t the only great example of creating a specific time for innovation, Google does a pretty good job too. They allow their employees to have one day a week dedicated to idea development, which has led to the success they have had with Google Maps, Gmail, and Froogle. Or look at 3M, arguably the most consistent innovator in business. They mandate that 15% of all engineers and scientists time is spent on a project that interests them, effectively giving them permission to be creative and harness their passions. It doesn’t matter whose model you follow, just that you create an environment that fosters innovation.
  2. Find the right fit for you: When Saturday Night Projects started each chef in the kitchen had to present something. Rene figured out rather quickly that having that many people create and present at the same time wasn’t an effective use of his time. What did he do? Quit? No, he adapted. He tweaked the model until it fit his restaurant and his staff. The lesson here is that if it doesn’t work at first it doesn’t mean that you should abandon the idea. Work on it until it not only meshes with your business and culture but also has some success.
  3. Repeat

What’s great about all of this is how Noma handles prototyping. We have preached in previous blogs and newsletters the importance of the prototype. We at Creative Ventures have experimented with our own models of innovation until we finally found the right fit for us. If you decide to make a prototype-review-refinecommitment to a culture of innovation you have to be prepared for the outcome, new ideas! Having a new idea is great but how do you share, test, and ultimately have success with launching something new? Over the years we’ve stolen some great ideas from companies who do this very well (yes its ok to steal good ideas, just ask Austin Kleon or read his book Steal Like an Artist) and have created a system we teach and share with our clients across the country.

Step One: Be Quick to Prototype – Take advantage of the energy that exists around a new project. Push your team to get something to the table. The prototype is just that, a prototype. Don’t waste time trying to perfect your idea, product, or process in this phase. Just create something. Refining it comes later.

Step Two: Prototype to Market – This can be the most tricky aspect of this whole process. How do you test your prototype? Do you test it internally? Do you test it on existing clients? There are a multitude of options for you to explore and find out what works best for your business but if you’re looking for great Printexample check out Nikes Innovation Kitchen. At their innovation facilities in they have the great benefit of mitigating the risk that comes along with new products by testing their gear on their sponsored athletes. Why is this great beyond having experts critique every aspect their product? It insulates them from the risk associated with consumer testing. Whatever model works best for your business make sure to capture all of the feedback.

Step Three: Final Product Launch – Take all of that feedback, analyze it, and implement changes. Make all the final adjustments needed, create a marketing and sales strategy, and execute.

Your business might be running smoothly today. Hell, it may continue to run smoothly for the next twelve months. But, a strategy that omits a commitment to growth and innovation leads to business stagnation. Whether you find inspiration from Noma, Nike, 3M, or some other innovator, what’s important is embracing and implementing your own innovation model. Commit to a process and hold your team accountable to its application. If you find yourself struggling in this endeavor, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

A Visual Vocabulary

We are sketchers.  We’ve always been.  What this means is that we use a different approach to capturing ideas than traditional note taking.  We have created a visual vocabulary that allows us to graphically organize our thoughts.  We use these images to visualize ideas.

This is not a new idea.  During the 1930’s Walt Disney created the idea of storyboarding as a way to “see” how a story would flow, before actually filming a feature.  Storyboarding is now the norm for all Hollywood story development and has virtually been perfected at PIXAR Studios.  In more recent times Mike Rohde brought the idea of sketchnoting to forefront of using pictures to represent ideas.

People are always asking to see Colin and mine’s notebooks and are fascinated at the way we take notes.  For those clients that we are directly working with all of our work starts on flipcharts or whiteboards using the vocabulary we have developed.  We have a web based inventory of our images that we use in our  preliminary idea  concept proposals.


storyboard process

In 2015 we integrated our methodology into a major stage presentation where I delivered the idea and Colin taught the group to use a very simple visual vocabulary to take notes.  Each participant had notebooks and pens to help them get started.  We were amazed at the impact of combining our ideas with our sketching had on the group.

We often get asked about the materials and how they connect to our methodology so I thought I would start 2016 with a guide to our stuff.  FIRST and we have learned this is really important; choose your stuff wisely.  If you love your stuff you will use it.  This means find the pens and pencils that fit YOU.  Discover the best notebooks with the kind of paper you like.  As weird as this sounds it is CRITICAL.  So here’s our stuff.






sketchnote tools


  • We us the Bic 0.9mm automatic pencils.  They have a soft lead that makes a firm line and erase well (yeah, we make mistakes).
  • We use the Precise V5 in extra fine by Pilot.  Great dark black ink and a strong fine line.
  • Sometimes we need a little thick line and use Flair pens.
  • When we work at large scale (big paper) we use fine point and ultra fine point Sharpies in a wide range of colors.
  • To add fill color we use Sharpie highlighters.



idea journals


  • We have gone through every notebook imaginable in our quest for the  best fit for us.  We are now using Muji Spiral Notebooks.  Incredibly cheap with good paper.  You will want a notebook that will lay flat when open so you can sketch on both sides without shifting your wrist.




sketchnote large tablet


  • We often work in large scale when working on ideas.  This takes us out of notebooks and puts us into bigger paper.  We use large rolls of “butcher paper”and our glass wall sized panels get filled with images.  We use Pacon Painting Paper Pads (18″ X 12”) most of the  time.  They hold the ink from Sharpies.


Mid size sketchnotes


  • We switch to color coded 24 lbs, 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper when the idea moves to a final phase.  The colors signify the progress of the project.

There you have it.  Give the idea a try.  Remember, it’s not about art, it’s about IDEAS!

Drop us a note for any help you might need.



The Magnetism of Exploration

Like iron is drawn to a magnet we, as humans, are drawn to exploration.  It is damn near impossible for us to leave a rock unturned.  At Creative Ventures we share this passionate curiosity as we build and launch our strategic ideas, always looking for  new ways to express value.

In 1990 NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope.  Up it went and set up housekeeping about 370 miles above our address of “third rock from the sun.”  From there we have been able to peer into reaches of space that earthbound sky watchers could only dream of.




The Hubble Space Telescope, named after Edwin Hubble, the father of modern cosmology, is basically an optical / ultraviolet ray telescope.  Though it has opened the near universe to us, it is limited in what it can “see”.  The next generation space telescope is coming, not necessarily to replace Hubble, but instead as a worth successor.




Enter the James Webb Space Telescope, named after the early leader of a fledgling space agency that would soon become NASA.  Under development with NASA at the James Hopkins University, this $8.8 billion dollar international project will take its place in our solar system in 2018.  17 different countries are involved under the NASA leadership flag.  In fact, the telescope will be launched on a European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket from a launch site in New Guiana.


The James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb is pretty big.  While the Hubble is about the size of a school bus, the James Webb is bigger than a tennis court.  It won’t be orbiting earth, oh no, it will be orbiting the sun about 940,000 miles from earth. That’s why you need a rocket to launch it.  The home orbit for the James Webb is a LONG WAY from here.  Where Hubble was an optical / ultraviolet telescope, the James Webb is an infrared telescope looking at the electromagnetic spectrum with long wavelengths that go well past visual.  Infrared telescopes can penetrate the great cosmic stellar dust shrouds that block our vision of deep galaxies, allowing us to see farther back in time than imaginable.  Since light travels at a fixed speed when you see the light from a sky full of star’s you are actually seeing the distant past.  It takes those twinkles a long time to reach us.  The night sky is our time machine and the James Webb will give us a +/- 12 billion year window into the birth of the universe.  WOW, hard to even get your head around!


James Webb Space Telescope's Home in Space

So, as the heavens open to our curiosity, so should we all be explorers.  The search for opportunity and solutions is not so different from our search of the dark depths of our universe.  It’s only the field you are playing on that’s different.  So think and may curiosity and risk drive your passion!

Exploration is the engine that drives innovation.  Innovation drives economic growth.  So let’s all go exploring!  Edith Widder.


Despite having been in my field for 31 years I remain a simple apprentice, still learning my trade.


Learning 3


I attend and participate in a great number of meetings, conferences and events every year. I know that many presenters or instructors arrive within a small window of time just ahead of their appointed program and rapidly exit after the last question or the final round of applause. I see their carry-on bag parked just out of sight behind the stage. I get it. When you spend your professional life in hotels, airports and Town Cars, the draw to get home or to the next gig is like a surfer to a good set of waves. I feel this too, but over the years I have learned a valuable lesson that I call:




When I get the agenda to a function, I pour over it with a zeal of interest to discover what else is going on beside my humble contribution. Who else is presenting? What are the other topics? Even in the most detailed industry specific outline of topics there is always something I can learn. I map out my time and attend as many sessions as the opportunity of my circumstances will allow.


note with completed checklist


At a recent 1,000 person meeting, I had the honor of delivering the closing keynote presentation. I arrived the day before and confirmed all the stuff that impacted me, rehearsal times, pre-event set up, checked my shipped artifact package and then moved on to hitting my planned attack points:


  • I went to the evening trade show / cocktail party. I walked each aisle and visited with some of the vendors. I listened to their pitch (a short audition to generate interest). I looked at their displays, took a few photos of the ones I found interesting. Met a few people who recognized me from my picture. I discovered some interesting stuff to add to my IDEA JOURNAL.
  • The next day I went to the breakfast and chose I a table to visit with attendees. I wanted to know what they thought of the meeting so far and what sessions they were going to attend. This meeting was at a major resort and the temptation of skipping anything to take advantage of what beckoned outside was ever present and understanding what they thought was important gave me some insight.
  • I went in to listen to the parade of those speakers scheduled to open the meeting.
  • I watched one of the worlds leading economists effortlessly take us through the global financial scene. He had simple graphics with no more than two colors in any graph. In 45 minutes I had take three pages of notes.
  • He was followed by a technology expert who, unfortunately was doomed to try to explain the use of a new platform without anyone being able to actually use it. Without a direct physical connection to DOING, the ability to engage a large group in a technology application causes an almost immediate disconnect. An ocean of heads were looking down at their electronic devices as they checked email or market conditions.
  • There was a break and then off to breakout sessions. I went to the one on the client experience, a critical piece of sales strategy and one in which the key element of separation and differentiation should be on display. The session was about ¼ full and in 10 minutes the presenter had droned the audience into a passive submission. Too bad, it was a good idea.
  • I left and went to another session where a woman was speaking on the skill set of product presentation and she was fantastic. I took two pages of notes, even though I had never heard of the new product. She was just really good.
  • Off to my set up and rehearsal for the closing afternoon session. I had talked the client into giving me 90 minutes which gave me a chance to use a full slate of multimedia, interactive tools to help turn an idea into something useful and applicable.
  • I attended the dinner to get input on their thoughts and insights into my program , then jumped on the first flight home the next morning.


This is a two night application of THE OPPORTUNITYOF CIRCUMSTANCES law. I took advantage of what had been given me and the result was over five pages on new ideas and notes that may make their way into what we do. Here are the variety of idea journals we have generated over the recent past. Each is brimming with information and concepts.


idea journals


An apprentice is always learning, always looking for the path to mastery, always aware of THE OPPORTUNITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

The Art of Expectation

Handshake 2

 What you say and do not mean, follows you close behind –  Ben Harper

“We can have someone come by your house between 1:00 PM and 4:00PM, does that work for you?”  There it is, an expectation contract.  It’s simple and agreed upon.  In fact, the service provider set the terms of this micro agreement.  You simply accepted.  A level of hope is now in place.

At 3:45 PM you are notified that your 4:00 PM outside time is not going to happen.  In fact, they now can’t be there until 6:00PM.  Does that work for you?  NO.  Since you have shattered my expectation contract can you tell me the new time I might expect someone?  Tomorrow, between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM.  Welcome despair.  Why should I hold out any hope you might show up then?  I don’t trust you.

There you have it, a crushed engagement and a freefalling reputation.  All done in the blink of a non-caring eye.  There is nothing harder to reconstruct than broken trust.


Accountable 1

It happens all the time.  The meeting is scheduled for a 10:00 AM start time, but doesn’t get rolling until 10:15.  A conference call is scheduled that gets cancelled at the last minute.  A deadline is set and then moved back and back until its validity is about the same as a sasquatch sighting.  It’s  so often our experience that it has become the norm.  Did I really expect someone to show up between  1:00 and 4:00 PM?  Of course not.  I have been in this sinking expectation boat too many times to hold my breath for a timely knock on my door.  Sad but true and you know it.

A customer, team member, manager or leader should recognize the intense power that lies in setting, fulfilling or better yet (get ready) exceeding expectations.  Just think of the minimum.  You say something and then do it, just as you described.  Wahoo!!!!  I love that and that is just a smallest thing you SHOULD do.


Hand firing off confetti.  Focus is on the cone.  Confetti is blurry due to motion

If you can build the least amount of fulfilled expectation you have a reputation that can grow.  Clients are shocked.  You mean my car repair is done?  My 9:00 AM appointment is ready to roll?  I received my package on time?  You know the simple joy Amazon or Zappos creates when your order gets their AHEAD of schedule.  Heck, you are singing and dancing before the UPS guy gets back to his truck.  EXPECTATIONS.  Do the minimum to build to the next level.  Miss the minimum in your expectation agreement and guess what?  You are in constant recovery mode and you will be apologizing for the foreseeable future.  A business built on I’m sorry doesn’t stand a competitive chance at survival.

Before you commit to something, think of it as a contract between you and the other party.  You are the designer and implementer of this agreement.  Don’t make it lightly.  THINK.  Can you actually do what you just promised, because this agreement, this expectation contract, no matter its size, is a PROMISE.  It tests your word.


storyboard 3 (2)

One of the laws of Creative Ventures is that “speed should never outweigh thought.”  Speed is often the villain in this drama.  You think it is the master of expectations.  The faster the better.  You make promises based on your love affair with speed, but speed is the enemy of expectation.  We are horrible estimators.  We think we can do things we can’t and we promise those “cant’s” as expectations.  We build  our own traps and unfortunately our word and integrity  is the thing that gets caught.

Try this, slow down and think.  It sounds simple, but when speed is pushing your brain, slowing down seems impossible.  At Creative Ventures, after an initial project call, we often tell our clients that we need to think about the issue and provide a timeframe in which we will develop our initial ideas.  This allows us to really think and actually forces us to slow down.  We ask if this works for the client and then our integrity clock starts.  We have provided time for us to think and produce based on an agreed upon schedule.  It’s not about NOW, but instead about an agreed upon when, a when that allows us time to make it happen.



Accomplishing our commitment to our client is our gold and it should be yours too!


What Do You Mean, You Won’t Take My Bag of Money?



We live in the most competitive business environment the world has ever seen.  Capitalism has invaded cultures that had fought wars based on its evils.  From free trade coffee to banking, the consumer sits on the throne of choice.  With all of this common knowledge, why in the heck do companies continue to make it so damn hard to do business with them.

You know exactly what I’m talking about, phone trees where the discovery of an actual human is like the Goonies finding One Eyed Willies treasure, self serve registers at the store where the scanner recently thought my Honeycrisp apple (the Ribeye steak of the apple kingdom) was a box of Honeycrisp cereal, which then required a checker to fix the issue defeating the entire purpose of this business convenience .  There are doctor office visits where you have to fill out the same form EVERY TIME you visit, even though you haven’t changed your insurance carrier.  No, I still don’t have Restless Leg Syndrome.


Many of my blog posts are inspired by recent “real life” experiences and this is no exception.

Our Austin home, like a vast sea of others, was damaged during the recent floods and hail storms.  Our FANTASTIC insurance carrier sent out a wonderful adjustor who spent over 3 hours going over our home, noting damage that has missed our scrutiny and created a comprehensive insurance claim.  He even printed a check for the first half of the damage right there in his car.  Simple, powerful and elegant service.

The check was issued from the 3rd largest insurance company in the US and drawn on the largest bank  in the world.  When we went to our bank to deposit the check, they refused to take it as it was over the amount they accept when a check is issued for an insurance issue.  HUH?  WHAT?  I want to give you a bag of money and you don’t want it?  Aren’t you in the business of taking peoples money?  Look, if you’re worried, hold on to it and don’t honor it until it clears.  No worry on our part as the roofers won’t start for three weeks. You can play the float and send our money overseas to invest in short term rice futures.  They said; sorry, but it’s our policy.  We do all of our banking, personal and business at this bank and I would venture to say we’re great customers.  Still, no.  I asked our banking officer if I could talk to the manager.  He confirmed the policy to the point of turning his computer monitor around for me to read three pages of corporate speak.  I said, unless there is a car chase or a gun fight in that text, I have no interest in entering the apparently nonsense kingdom of your company.  I told them, that despite their wonderful attempt to explain their policy I would find it hard to continue doing business with them, when there are dozens of banks that would gladly take my bag of money.  I asked if I was the first person to suffer this baffling  policy and they said, no, with the size of the storms and the extent of the damage we have had a lot of similar encounters (you mean problems).  Yet, here I sit with no way out.  We will be establishing a new banking relationship.



I recently bought a car and wanted to pay cash.  Simple transaction.  There is the car, we agree on the price, here is the money and I should be saying “goodbye”, driving off in a new vehicle.  But, no, I had to wait for a series of forms to be completed and the finance guy toMoney 2 come out and visit with me.  HUH?  WHAT?  I don’t need the finance guy. I have a bag of money I want to give you for a car and you are in the business of taking money and giving people cars.   Yes, we know but he has a few additional forms.  30 minutes later, I was still sitting there, making small talk with the salesperson.  I took out my iPhone and set it for a 5 minute countdown and explained to the earnest salesperson, when this alarm goes off, I am walking out the door, because you see, I know the difference between want and need.  Miraculously, I was sitting in my car with 90 seconds to spare.


communication bad

It’s time for a change of perspective.  Instead of making it hard to do business with you, you should be making it hard for your clients to STOP doing business with you.  They should WANT to talk to you.  They should be a choir of praise.  Ask most clients why they LIKE doing business with you and your company and somewhere in their narrative they will say, “Mary makes it so easy.”   Look at your business processes and discover the LIKE formula, why do people really LIKE to do business with you?  Once defined, look for the advantage the LIKE’s give you and create strategic leverage.  People like our initial approach to projects.  After our first call, we create a storyboard that gives an overview of our ideas.  The client then can decide if our ideas fit their problem or opportunity.  Where are your LIKES?

I’ll bet it’s NEVER about how hard it is to give you my bag of money!