Lost Puzzle Piece a Business Lesson

My favorite part of my ProCO360 podcast interview with Jeff Eldridge of Liberty Puzzles was the conversation about how they replace puzzle pieces lost by a customer for free (great stories about the cause of missing pieces by the way!).  He said they have two full-time team members whose job it is to do that – free to the customer.

Can you find the missing piece?

I quickly did the math and asked Jeff, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to simply send those people a brand-new puzzle?

To Jeff, that’s not the point.

The point is customer engagement.  Jeff said that customers are sad when they call for a replacement piece. They spent hours with friends and family during which they collaborated, found pieces for each other, and had relationship enhancing conversations… then they were left with an ungratifying hole in the puzzle rather than a fulfilling sense of collective completion.

Liberty Puzzles fixes that sadness.  Often the lost puzzle piece can be attributed to a dog.  Liberty Puzzle offers to put a photo of the dog on the “wall of shame” and reports that back to the customer.  There are now hundreds of dogs on the wall!

So, while my idea may have been cheaper and easier, every puzzle piece lost by a customer is an opportunity for Liberty Puzzle to build a friendship.

Does Living in Colorado Foster Multiple Personalities?

In the most recent episode of ProCO360 (“Harmony as a CEO, Author & Speaker”), my conversation is with Kerry Siggins, CEO of Durango-based StoneAge. Kerry is a CEO – AND a Speaker, AND the author of a new book called The Ownership Mindset (AND a mom).  I’ve often felt challenged by the demands of being both a senior executive at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, AND a podcaster.  Both Kerry and I have found ways to have our passionate avocations dovetail with our primary vocations.  We’ve done that by structuring our avocations to support the performance of our primary professional roles.  As Kerry puts it, she’s showing that “there’s a different way to lead a company.”

A friend, author and speaker John Garrett, wrote What’s Your “And”? Unlock the Person Within the Professional.  His thoughtful and encouraging premise is that bringing one’s whole self (including hobbies, interests, background) to the workplace enriches the company for all.  I agree, and what I’m discussing above is different.  I’m fascinated by having two or more professional lives that are interwoven such that synergy is created – both professional “lives” perform better.

Based on the now 150 episodes of ProCO360, and the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with Colorado CEOs, I conclude that Colorado’s work culture, probably more than other locations, enables those of us with multiple professional roles to mesh them together and be transparent about that with our companies and colleagues.

Remote Colorado: Home to Cantaloupes… and Life Saving Technology

There’s lots of recognition that Denver and the Front Range where the weight of our economy is centered.  That’s why when I recorded the last episode of ProCO360, with guest Jack Barker of Innovative Water Technologies, I felt compelled to highlight that his company is doing amazing work from its global headquarters (and only location) in Rocky Ford!  Where’s that?  Go south to Pueblo, then east and little south for an hour.   

Why Rocky Ford?  Because Jack lived near there when he built a prototype, and a building that had been sitting vacant for over 10 years was offered to him.  Now Innovative Water Technologies’ SunSpring has produced and installed over 850 solar/wind powered water filtrations systems being used by communities all over the world, preventing disease, serving emergency needs, the military and more.   Jack’s story is a great reminder that Colorado – the whole state of Colorado – is a great place for business innovation!   

Buderflys – a Reminder That Innovation Energizes

I left my interview with Shea Gerhardt, Founder & CEO of Colorado-based Buderflys feeling energized.  There’s a contagious energy that is inescapable in the presence of a founder who with a spark of genius, followed by commitment and boundless energy, has created a game-changing product that takes off. 

My interview with Shea about Buderflys is reminiscent of those I’ve had with the founders of Popsockets, Sheets & Giggles, SkratchLabs, Alpacka Raft, and Nite Ize to name a few.  There’s something about the light-bulb moment, the trial and error, and unending energy applied to this sort of innovation.  Sure, it’s happening all over the world.  It’s seeing it in Colorado that I love the most! 

Does a Nice Leader Make a Good Culture?

The most recent ProCO360 podcast episode is called “Deliberate Culture,” and was recorded with a LIVE audience watching and listening to the leaders of four Colorado companies known for having a positive culture. Recognizing that we’re in a massively competitive talent war, I wanted to explore what leaders DELIBERATELY do that creates and maintains a culture that is far superior to what might be typical (even good) in their industries.

All these people are passionate about their team members, they all seem like great leaders to work for. So how automatic is it when there’s a caring leader to have a positive culture? Here is a synthesized sample from each of the leaders I interviewed…

Anthony Lambatos, “The Coach,” Footers Catering

Alejandra Harvey, CEO of Tendit Group: “When we form a strong culture, we attract those who share our values.”

Mary Moore-Simmons, VP Engineering of AgentSync: “Difficult problems tend to be culture issues, and it’s important to include middle management in culture.”

Bill Graebel, CEO of Graebel Companies: “Seeing a new problem? Start by looking for where there is an absence of love, truth, or integrity.”

Anthony Lambatos, The Coach of Footers Catering: “Build a culture that embraces what’s HARD because accomplishing difficult things together in a fun way is the work people feel is most gratifying.”

Back to the original question: is a good culture what you get when you have a kind leader?  It’s way more DELIBERATE than that.

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