Three More Lessons From “The Virgin Way”

Last week I wrapped Richard Branson’s book The Virgin Way and I must say, I did not expect to enjoy the process of getting back into reading as much as I did. Branson uses some really stellar stories and examples to illustrate powerful concepts that seriously challenge the status quo (arguably Branson’s biggest MO). Here are three more lessons from the second half of The Virgin Way!

Train Them so Well They Can Leave, Treat Them so Well They Don’t Want To

On the subject of leadership in life and business, one of the threads that ties the entire book together is the concept of treating your people like family. Whether you run a business, a non-profit, or simply manage a group or people, Branson insists that treating your people right is the MOST important thing. Your people are a direct reflection of you and happy people tend to give unreal customer service, which in turn leads to happy customers which makes the staff that work with them even happier. It’s a cycle that, if started right, can yield fantastic results. Branson suggests that the best way to support your people is to empower them to solve problems themselves and ensure they have enough structure to know what they should be doing but enough freedom to go over and above.

90% of Life is Just Showing Up

Branson uses several examples of PR bumbles by CEO’s to illustrate that, whether you’re a C-level executive or a mid-level manager, being present when things are happening is half the battle of being a good leader. On one level, being around your people consistently gives you a really good idea of what’s important to them and what challenges they’re really facing (this sounds like common sense but think about how much time you really spend interacting with your boss or employees as a percentage of your day). On another level, being present when there’s a problem allows you to react much more quickly and effectively. Think about how bad it looks when there’s some sort of corporate disaster and the CEO isn’t at the initial press conference. Conversely, the leader who is on the scene immediately (even if they aren’t really doing or saying anything) tends to win the day.

Like Shouldn’t be About Making a Living, But Making Every Living Moment Count

Richard Branson is well known for his eccentric style and sometime death-defying escapades. Branson’s approach to life can be summed up in the tagline of the book: “If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing”. It’s an almost cliche idea at this point, but all throughout the book Branson hammers in the idea that every moment we have on this planet, whether through business or simply the way we conduct ourselves, should be spent embracing the things we love and making life better for other people. Time wasted can never be earned back, so putting in time to simply earn money without achieving these two ends is by all measures a complete waste.

Well there you go! I would highly recommend reading or listening to The Virgin Way (seriously, audio-books have become a game-changer for me).

stratlab video department 17

StratLab Video Production in 2017

One of my favourite videos of all time. It made me tear up the first time I watched it. The part about this video no one really knows is Andy edited it the same day and had it to pride week organizers a few hours after the parade. The response online was overwhelming and I don’t think we would have had that type of response if we would have waited a few days or the regular week or two to ship the video. Hats off to you Andy!

Tourism Regina wanted a campaign to showcase what Regina is to us. That’s easy, we call it the greatest city you’ve never seen. The idea came when we had folks visit us from Fort McMurray visiting and they couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved the city. From Wascana park to the amazing night life, it’s easy to take Regina for granted, this short video puts into perspective all the different options you have in the Queen City.

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Four Lessons From “The Virgin Way”

Recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to get more reading done. My mother is a teacher librarian so when I was a kid reading was priority numero uno, but as often happens when one goes through university “reading for pleasure” is squeezed out of the equation by “required reading”. That said, (oops, ignore that) I’m realizing more and more how little I’ve actually learned about life and business from such riveting reads as “Managing Information Systems, 1st Edition”. As a pro tip if you find you have a hard time sitting down and actually turning pages I would highly recommend downloading an audiobook app like Audible, it goes a long way. Last night I mowed through Richard Branson’s “The Virgin Way” and managed to get about half way through. I gotta say, the guy knows his stuff. As I often do, I found myself texting myself some of the best quotes and biggest ideas from the first half of the book and they eventually stacked up to the point where I had to write a blog post just to get them out. So here goes.

 

 

1.”Nobody has ever learned anything from hearing themselves speak.”

The entire first section of The Virgin Way deals with the importance of listening. The best business leaders it turns out are not necessarily great orators, but rather are extremely good at actively listening to everyone who talks to them and, most importantly, acting on feedback. Richard stresses that it’s much better to listen and say nothing than to talk and say nothing (which many people are prone to do). His advice is simple and, true to form, he summarizes it perfectly in this quote. Shouldn’t you be looking to learn as much as possible in your interactions with clients or colleagues? Are you really going to learn anything from speaking yourself?

2. “The only valuable thing on your business card is your name and your contact info.”

On the subject of “rank”, the “Virgin Way” (as Virgin staff affectionately refer to their way of doing business) deals with hierarchy in a very flat way. As far as Richard is concerned your title at the company is subservient to your ideas and your work ethic. Your name (and by association, your reputation) is a much better indication of your value. Furthermore, being able to get a hold of you directly and easily is much more valuable than the letters behind your name.

 

3. “Delegation is better than relegation.”

When it comes to leadership in management, Richard stresses the importance of handing things off to trusted people, and then trusting them entirely. The Virgin Group is made up of over 30 companies, each with their own team of C-level executives and Richard rarely gives them input on how to run their respective companies. The Virgin Way makes the firm distinction and relegation. Delegating passes the full blame or praise for decisions along with the unfettered ability to make those decisions and respond to the outcomes. Relegating in contrast passes the blame but takes away full control of the decisions, or puts the other party in a box (think: “I’m passing this along to you, pick the best bad option).

 

4. “Sometimes not knowing the correct way to do things and doing them anyways opens up the most amazing doorways.”

One of Richard’s most well-known “catch phrases” and consequently the title of his first book, is “Screw it, let’s do it!”. Think about the diversity of the Virgin Group of companies. You’ve got everything from records production, to air travel, to cell phones, to the ill-fated Virgin Cola (yes, that was a real thing). A product offering this diverse comes from jumping in with both feet, having only a “pretty good” idea of what’s below. Often times, approaching a situation you’ve never dealt with puts you at an advantage, because you’re not pre-trained to achieve predictable (and often mediocre) results. Take risks, try things, fail and learn, says Sir Richard.

I’m very much looking forward to finishing The Virgin Way tonight. Branson writes in a very personal tone, and you can almost hear the smile behind every word. It doesn’t hurt that the guy reading his audio-book has a voice like butter. Part 2 will be coming soon!

You can judge a company by the way their people treat you

You Can Judge a Company By the Way Their People Treat you

You can judge a company by the way their people treat you

There was a moment I’ll never forget that made up my mind we needed to unfriend them on Facebook. A Stratlabber was on the phone with one of this companies main people and the conversations went something like, “do you think I have time to figure out where you’re going to setup your camera’s? I have more important things to do with my time.” It was harsh, it was completely uncalled for and I couldn’t believe someone would be so pompous. The ironic part was we were doing a video on this companies new and innovative approach to their industry. Wow, did we feel dumb. We trusted them. We put their logo on our website as a pride piece (have since taken it off).

It’s 2017 if you want to berate someone over the phone because you think they’re wasting your time all the power to you, but just know there are consequences. You can’t yell at someone too many times before they stop listening and stop caring all together. It’s a sign of your culture, if your people are that stressed out on the job that they scream and yell at the folks they’re working with, something needs to change. I don’t think you can operate like that for very long. Turn over increases, quality decreases, and anyone working there isn’t doing because they want to, but because it’s just a job.

You're never too important to be nice to people

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What I learned at the Royal LePage Headstart Conference

What I Learned at a Royal LePage National Conference


This September I had the pleasure of speaking at, hanging out in the pool, and MCing the Royal LePage National Headstart conference. I didn’t have any expectations going in other than I knew Realtors liked to have fun, and well I like to have fun so I thought we may just get along!

I was blown away.

The people were incredible. I’ve only spoken at a couple of conferences, this was by far my favourite. I basically made 300 friends that week.

As I was reflecting on an amazing couple of days it was it dawned on me, these Royal LePage folks really get it, I learned a TON. And here is what I learned.

If its not fun its not worth doing

1. If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing!

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be weird be awesome be loved

One of The Most Remarkable Non-Profit Organizations in the World

“Be weird. Be awesome. Be loved!”

This was the latest sticker COR had printed and left out in a container on a table just inside their office. A circular container that has the likes of stickers, postcards, magnets, stress balls, pens, you name it. All with similar bright colours and uplifting messages. The table they are on is located by the pinball machine, just down the hall from the coffee bar and to the right of the foosball table, and PS4 complete with beanbag chairs for optimum gaming comfort.

This isn’t your regular not-for-profit organization

I’ve never met anyone with the same consistent energy. COR has its own unique culture and brand. Talk to their employees family members, even people who don’t work there any more, you’ll hear nothing but amazing stories about how gentle teaching has changed their life. They don’t run the organization like a regular non-profit, they do things different and they don’t apologize for it. COR is a breathe of fresh air in an industry that was getting stuffy.

COR is an inspiring organization. You don’t have to go far to hear some of these stories:

“Being WITH one another is one of the main lessons I have grown to appreciate since being introduced to Gentle Teaching.”

“Gentle Teaching has pushed me to be the best support and friend possible”

“A culture of gentleness for me has come naturally by genuinely caring for the three gentlemen I serve.”

Or check out one of their “COR Cribs Episodes”

COR Cribs: Episode 2 from Creative Options Regina (COR) on Vimeo.

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how safe is your job

How Safe Is Your Job?

A consultant from Calgary was in town working with one of our clients. As the marketing arm of this organization I was interviewed by the consultant. After asking a bunch of topical questions to what the organization was going through he then asked me a rather interesting question I thought;

“How are you staying current?”

How are you staying current? I’d never been asked that before. Well not in that context, I’m sure I’ve questioned my age and opinion’s relevance more and more over the past year. But every now and then I get a little too preachy and the coach in me comes out. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to stop.

The question at hand, “how are you staying current?” is a wonderful thought experiment. You ask yourself, “what IS current?”, “how would one stay current?”, “what’s the number one sign someone isn’t “staying current”?” I’m pretty sure he was wondering whether or not I was a growth or fixed mindset person. You know, someone who believes in the future and is bettering ones’ self. The growth mindset allows you to improve no matter what. If you have a growth mindset you’re probably staying current in a number of specific ways.

I’m definitely a growth mindset person. Growth mindset people never have to worry about a job, they’ll always be valuable because they can learn as they go. Reminded me of a podcast with an eerie subtext called: How Safe Is Your Job.

It’s worth a listen.

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In a society that profits from your self doubt-liking yourself is a rebellious act

You Have To Love Yourself First

Loving others begins with being able to love yourself.

On a recent Tim Ferriss podcast I was listening to, Morgan Spurlock tells the story of Touré visiting Kanye West at his home.

“He went to Kayne’s house. So he’s inside Kanye’s house, and inside Kanye’s house there’s a big, giant picture of Kanye, like, right inside the living room. And so Toure said to him, he goes, Kanye, why do you have a giant picture of YOU on the wall?’ And Kanye goes, Well, I gotta cheer for me before anyone else can cheer for me.'”

And that’s why Kanye West has a picture of Kanye West in his own house.

You have to be your own champion first. If you can’t cheer for yourself, why would anyone else cheer for you? An important lesson Kanye West has taught me.

Then today on Instagram I saw my friend Tiffany’s post. I commented on it but it made me want to post this story. Liking yourself isn’t easy sometimes but you have to try.

In a society that profits from your self doubt

On the door of one of the offices at StratLab there’s a poorly designed poster with a weird smiling Alien that says (in Star Wars font) “GEBY”.

  • Gratitude (showing you care about something or someone makes you appreciate it/them more)
  • Exercise (see documentary “23.5 Hours” thanks Barb!)
  • Breakfast (you need some fuel)
  • You (do something for you)

Every morning if you do these four things you’re going to have a great day. Ironically, also learned on a Tim Ferriss podcast (the one with Noah Kagan).

What’s your hobby?

You have to start taking time out of your day to care for yourself. If you don’t know how to, ask someone how they do it. You’ll find it fascinating because generally no two people have the exact same things they do to take care of themselves. Or you’ll find people will give you a weird look like “I don’t do anything for myself I have (insert excuse here).” Generally I don’t keep exploring the conversation with those folks, they’re happily in their bubble of comfort.

Start loving yourself.

It’s rare in the business world. People are very willing to backstab a competitors, a coworker, even friends. People who do these things have no respect for themselves, and no respect for their reputation. In the end, you will be judged on how you treat others but also yourself. If you love yourself you have no reason to try to take stabs at others. You’ll have no reason to look at other people in a negative light. It all starts with loving yourself first.

In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act. 

 

SEO for beginners Regina

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy For Beginners

SEO is an ugly topic. Lots of hearsay floating around with little evidence based opinion. Many assumptions, rarely facts that you can trust. It’s not my intention to tell you how to do SEO, no no, like they say, there are many ways to skin a cat! This is simply my findings over the past five years.

First of all we’re going to simplify what you’re doing with your website. Set one goal, one page must be more important than every other page. Pick three keyword phrases in your industry, those are your first three goals. Then develop your outreach strategy (how other websites will link back to your websites). Determine what you’ll update your website will ongoing forever and ever amen, and you got yourself a perfect little search engine optimization strategy.

  • Set one main goal
  • Pick three main phrases you want to come up for in Google search
  • Why will people want to link to your website?
  • Update your website weekly
  • Measure relentlessly 

If it isn’t as easy as described above than come along for the ride, you aren’t alone!

First, you don’t need traditional SEO if you are;

  • A major corporation, simply changing how your website is structured will do wonders!
  • If you have an amazing social media presence (e’hem, Wheel House, The Riders, Hard Pressed do NOT need SEO help)
  • If you publish content (stories, photos, videos) weekly to your website you most likely have no use for SEO

For everyone else here are a few starting points to give you enough information to piss off your I.T. manager at the office.

nobody likes a know it all

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