Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Spirit is Everywhere!

As a sit in my office very early on this morning of December 22, 2011 I can't help reflecting on this past year and what it means to finally take a breath and celebrate joy. It doesn't matter what religion you are, you should have the ability to take a minute, slow down and learn to appreciate your blessings. I have no time for "bah humbug" or those who feel it necessary to take the spirit out of this holiday. I am receiving cards from friends all over the world that celebrate this holiday even though they may not be Christian. How hard is it to let others enjoy their "time?" How difficult is it to have some quiet peace on earth? It shouldn't be hard at all if you could for one minute think of others instead of yourselves.

As business slows downs for at least a few days try and collect your thoughts, organize your life for 2012 and be at peace. Look at all the problems you could have, deal with the ones you do have and decide to change the ones you can. I am a firm believer in re-booting for the next year. It helps me prioritize, organize and finalize my 2011 to move steadily into 2012.

So let's get ready for a splendid new year and remember "if you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tom Peter's 7 Step Path to Sustaining Success & Cindy's Twist on This!

I have always been a big fan of Tom Peters and his recent blog on the 7 Step Path to Sustaining Success really says it all...
-You take care of the people.
-The people take care of the service.
-The service takes care of the customer.
-The customer takes care of the profit.
-The profit takes care of the re-investment.
-The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
-The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)

Read this again and think about it carefully - it makes perfect sense. You live this every day, if you do your job right and take pride and care in the company you work for or own. A big, successful company takes care of their people which in turn creates happy people. Those happy people are now in charge of your clients and provide excellent service. That excellent services gives you an ecstatic customer base which makes them return and continues to build your profit. The more profit you make, the more you re-invest to make your company better and stronger for the years to come. That re-investment turns to innovation which leads you in to a successful future.

Practice these steps as you continue to think about the new year that is shortly upon us!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

End the Year with Positivity & Teamwork!

This week, my team focused a lot on teamwork and being positive in the workplace. Yes, yes - we all say this and talk about this a lot - but do you actually act on it? I know that as tired as I am sometimes, I don't always have the most upbeat attitude but I will say, I do try my ABSOLUTE best every single day. Now, it's your turn and my team's turn. I will tell my daughter all the time when I call her - let's be a little more positive Jess! Sometimes, she gets annoyed with me by saying that - but later, she thanks me because just smiling will make you feel better. TRY IT. A successful team cannot operate with negative vibes and attitudes - bottom line. As hard as it can be, don't bring the drama to work with you; not only doesn't it make your day less productive - it weakens your team players. End this year on a positive note and make your goals strong for a SUCCESSFUL 2012!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The CEO or Team Leader is Ultimately Responsible!

The time has come to call out the great leaders and the ones that are just sailing along. I think about what has happened recently with some businesses and wonder how many leaders have looked the other way because of "their friend" that works for them or the fact that if they hold people accountable then someone might blow the whistle on them.

How can any business owner, CEO or team leader not walk the talk every day? Why is it too difficult for leadership to be authentic, have integrity, embrace teamwork and empowerment? Simple...too many people are hiding behind the fallacy of what actually got them to this point.

Don't hide - speak up, shout from the rooftops and take charge of your destiny now or someone else will. You have very few chances these days to make a difference - today is your chance!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Be Careful When Business Gets Busier!

Wow you think to yourself. Just a few months ago business seemed slow. How would I find new business, how would I keep the clients I have? And overnight it happened - business turned around and you still have staffing levels of last year with less resources. Here are a few tips on how to handle a burst in business even when you are still short on resources:

1. Slow down and focus
2. Don't just raise prices without a candid conversation with your key clients
3. Create an internal process to handle inquiries/phones/RFP's
4. Don't lose the personal touch that your clients got used to during slower times
5. Remember as fast as business comes back it can go away - create a give and take with clients

We are dealing in a time when business flow is not constant. You need to prepare for the ups and downs without losing control. Time management is key at this point. How you manage your emails, proposals and follow up will separate you from your competition. Remember the average won't work - the middle of the road is the road to nowhere!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Let's Take It Up a Notch for Q4!

Where did 2011 go?!
As we have entered our last quarter this week, it is so important to raise the bar in the last months of the year. Because the year has flown by and things, for most, have been very busy - it can be very easy to relax and take the slow road through the holidays and onto 2012.

Don't crash your creativity. I built my business on my creative spirit and that lives through my entire team. Creativity is the core of innovation. Begin to start thinking more creative today. Start this creativity course of action:
1. Change up your office environment.
2. Change your Outlook background and colors!
3. Start your day earlier and spend 15-30 minutes reading something - newspaper, online articles, a book or magazine.
4. Stand up during your calls and ALWAYS during your morning lineup.
5. Change where you go to lunch.
6. Get outside your comfort zone, where a different color to work today. (I know we all wear black, black, black!)

*Keep it fresh, keep it simple and never settle for ordinary!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Changing Face

How often are you looking at a brand name nowadays and notice that their brand image has changed? It is happening all the time, all over the globe. Companies are having to re-shape their organizations, create new images, messages and products - this isn't easy to do. Customers are no longer loyal to certain brands and can be quite picky when it comes to choosing where they want to shop, what kind of car to buy or what hotel to stay in.

These brands have recently changed their "face" -
-Starbucks: with store closures, menu refresh and a new logo, Starbucks has seen rising sales in 2011, after being down for 2 years.
-Walmart: with a new logo, renovated stores & new merchanidise with celebrity designers, Walmart is getting the kick they needed!
-Polaroid: this beloved brand from years and years ago has re-surfaced and has been brought back with Lady Gaga as their creative director!
-Holiday Inn: with a new look and comfier beds, 3,000 hotels have increased their revenue by 5%!
-Old Spice: this "old" brand was rebord with a new look, smell and their image focused on a younger generation
-Lincoln: the old "Lincoln TownCar" has received an image makeover to appeal to younger, wealthier customers.

These are just a few examples from the recent issue of Fast Company. You cannot remain stagnant - everyone is constantly changing nowadays and it is important to continuously be looking at your brand and "face" :)

Monday, September 19, 2011


My new invention: "Novo-nomics" (you've heard of Reaganomics!)

Business is coming back! We all can see this. Things may not be up to where there were in 2006-2007, but we're getting busier, hotels are filling up and the demand is increasing.

It is time to start stimulating the economy again. You can do your part too - we must keep going. With Novo-nomics, you must spend money, whether it's a lot or just a little. Doesn't have to be frivolous spending, but we have to get back out there and keep the cycle going. If we continue cutting back too much, we will never survive.

Take this new approach and incorporate into your business and your personal life! We must keep America running strong!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Art of Focus

How many times today, yesterday, in the past weeks and month have you said, "I really need to sit down and focus today." We all say it far too much and have a real issue with actually TRULY focusing on the task at hand. This results in decreased productivity and overall poor efficiency for you and your team.

Too many people start things, lose focus and never get back to finishing them. Yes, we get it - things come up, the phone rings, you get 1,000 emails in one day. But, believe me, I spend my life on the road and you have to learn to live with no balance sometimes and continued to stay on the track in the midst of something we call, life...

This is why people have a hard time in business - they open a new restaurant or store but the dreams and FOCUS that got them to that point in the first place are never realized because of the lost focus.

Do not lose focus on your dreams and goals. Set some for yourself this week and actually follow through with them. You will be amazed at the outcome...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Change or Chance?

The other day I was sitting on a plane (of course) and listening to the flight attendants talk about their lives. One began telling the story of how she was constantly uprooted from her home and moved to different cities because of her dads job. This she said is why I have had such a tough time in life! She explained that she was living in Newport Beach, California when her dad got transferred to Indiana and it was terrible. The "farm people", the "uncool people", "ugly clothes", and on and on!

At that point I couldn't take it and spoke up (as I would). I was sitting in row 1 so I was practically in their conversation. I said to the flight attendant, "oh I know what you mean, my dad was transferred so much that I went to 10 different schools and moved all over the country, including Indiana." She smiled and said "oh so you know what I mean." I replied with "no I don't, I had a great experience traveling all over the country, meeting new people, going to new schools and learning to fit in to my next home." You can only imagine the look on her face.

What is wrong today is that too many people want a certain life to fit into their plans and make it perfect. Well I have news for anyone that wants it to just work your way - it won't. Life throws us curves everyday and your ability to handle those curve balls is what gives you character.

I am writing this as I sit on my beautiful porch of our cottage in Northern Michigan. I remember growing up in Michigan (down state as they call it) and getting so excited each summer for our trip "up north." It was the same for many years - our vacation was always in Grand Haven, Michigan staying in my grandparents travel trailer until my dad started us sailing. Each year we would load up the boat and head "north." The weather was unpredictable, some ports were more fun than others and depending on which friend we brought with us the company was sometimes better than others. But what we did have was our family - my mom, dad and sister and me. We were a team and learned how to have fun in rain, sleet and sun.

I believe this came from our life moving around. My dad's career kept us on the move, he would get promoted and off we would go. I always remember how he would come home and tell us that we were moving - first he would say "I have some good news and some other news." Not bad news, just other news and we knew. I would get so excited - a new room, new friends and a new outlook on life.

I know that my idyllic life on the porch of my cottage won't last all year. I too have to go back to work and re-enter "real life." But for now I will always remember that change is good because it gives you a chance to find yourself in a new way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FOCUS & De-Clutter!

Can you believe it is the last week in July, already?!

Time is flying by and I bet you all can feel it. Where do the days, weeks, and months go? As we are gearing in for the last portion of the summer, it is time to get truly focused for the fall and close out the year with a bang!

Today, you need to clean up your desk, go through your files, finally look at the emails that have been sitting in your inbox and CLEAN THE CLUTTER. Clutter bogs you down and does not make your work days run smooth. Ya, yaaaa - everyone says that. But, this time you should listen and actually do something to make your life easier and more efficient. Having mental clutter will destroy you. Focus on one thing at a time - by doing that, your business will thrive.

You have to go out and fight for your business - there is no such thing as loyal customers anymore. You have to continue making a difference, pushing the envelope and say that you will INTENTIONALLY do something to make a difference today.

What is your story? If you don't have one, go ahead and create one today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bust a Boss!

Attention - Attention! Listen to me loud and clear if you are a manager or leader of any kind. Your role as a "boss" is the most important role other than being a parent, spouse, friend, daughter or son. Your influence on those you manage will affect them forever! Years ago when I started my business I had so many people confide in me regarding poor leadership, I felt a need to do something about it. Fix the world! Let's just say I was young and thought I could change everyone. To this day, I still hear "off the record" from many people searching for advice about their "boss." I created a 800# back in 1990 called "Bust a Boss" which was similar to a "hotline" that would tattle on bad bosses and then I would try and follow up with their Human Resources Department and try to help with coaching on these individuals. Within just days I received so many calls about bad bosses that I had to shut it down because I couldn't possibly handle the volume.

Well fast forward - we are a much bigger company now and have the ability to provide a lot of executive coaching around the world. There are many individuals that are in the personal coaching arena but have never really managed people, they just got certified in coaching.

We are different, we not only have certified coaches on our team, each of these people have managed teams and have been very successful. Are you a boss who needs feedback and coaching? Do your people talk to you, open up to you and seek your advice and direction?

Or are you the boss who everyone avoids, goes around you for advice, tells you what you want to hear and overall wishes they didn't work for you?

So here I go again. Bust a Boss is alive and kicking. If you have an issue that you would like help on just simply email us at and we will take it from there. Remember trying to "throw some one under the bus" will be dismissed immediately. We are about authentic coaching and helping everyone get better.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Road Warriors Ignore Road Rage!

So you travel a what! Any successful person who lives on the road for business knows that the way to make more money is to get out there and see more customers. So why when the rains of heaven pour down on New York City last week does every grown professional adult that I run in to go crazy at the airport?

So if you haven't read my book Living with No Balance and Loving It, here are some tips to keep you calm during the hectic dog days of summer travel.

1. Summer storms are worse than winter storms. The lightening and tornadoes keep planes on the ground so - get real with your technology - make sure your mobile office is really set up for travel. I can't tell you how many people I had to lend my power cords to at the Red Carpet Club because they "were only traveling for a day so they didn't think they need to charge anything." Are you kidding. Always be prepared to charge your phone, computer, iPad and anything else you need charged - maybe yourself!

2. Pack smart! Your business suit is not fun to set around in at the airport - either change before getting to the airport or travel with a change of is not fun eating your pizza on the floor of the airport in your Armani suit.

3. Bring entertainment - download the latest episodes of your favorite HBO series, use your ebooks to browse magazines and articles so that you can pretend you are having fun.

4. Most importantly have fun. Many of the airports have upgraded their bars, restaurants and shops. Pull up a bar stool and order your favorite drink and make some new friends. Remember to lose the attitude because you are not alone in the misery of travel - everyone you meet at the airport is in the same boat so enjoy it and carry on!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The US Open Shows a Sign of a True Professional

For those of you who have been following my blog in the last year, know that I attended all 4 golf majors last season and have become quite a golf connoisseur, like my husband and daughter.

So far 2011, my family hit The Masters and Lefty (my husband) just attended the US Open at Congressional in DC. He spent the entire week, staying at the player's hotel - conversating and relaxing with some of golf's finest. One of these players, was Rory McIlroy who just won his first major yesterday at 22 years old.

On Thursday afternoon, Lefty was hanging out in the player's club room after most of the players had just completed their first round of the 2011 US Open. Lefty was sitting at a table and Rory came up and sat down next to him and started a conversation. Now, think about this - this 'kid' is LEADING the US Open, 22 years old and is going to sit down at a table of strangers for some casual conversation. I know many senior sales people in business and senior players on the tour that would not do what Rory did.

After introducing himself to Rory, Lefty told Rory that his (Rory's) sponsor, Jumeirah is one of our luxury customers as well. Rory was so enthused and started asking him all kinds of questions about what we do in business and how we got in this business, etc. It was incredible, Rory is leading the US Open and is excited to have a full conversation about something other than himself. Remember, he had a lot on his mind. In the lead, pressure all around him and yet totally engaged in others and soaking up all the opportunities of playing in this unbelievable tournament.

So what is my take away? What has happened in business today where some people make it to the top (or what they think is the top)and forget those around them. There are so many people who don't return calls for months even years and then when they need something you are the first person they call. How about your team, your company and your clients. Most people care about those in a different order - clients first because they pay me, but forget about the team that supports them in order to get those clients and make their commission.

Time will tell what type of person you will be remembered as. Are you the person who is giving of your time, ideas, solutions and partnerships or are the person who only cares about yourself and what you will benefit from each interaction.

Good guys do finish first and Rory has shown that a winning golfer can be relaxed, fun, professional and shows that to the fans who support him because he knows that is why there are golf tournaments in the first place.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Friends, It's Truly a Luxe World!

No matter where you live, where you came from & how much money you make - you can enjoy a luxury lifestyle, because the word luxury can be made into any way you want it. Luxury to some may be designer bags & clothes and extravagant trips to far away destinations or to others maybe it's a small town feel of bike riding, popsicles, spending time with family and going tubing down the river for a summer vacation.

What my point is, is that luxury, no matter what "kind" should not be shunned upon for any reason and NO ONE should have to apologize for hosting events or parties for the luxury industry.

I spoke at an event last week in San Diego: Engage!11, which is a luxury wedding event put on by two incredible women, Rebecca Grinnals & Kathryn Arce for all luxury wedding professionals - and what a spectacular event this was. The colors were "noir, cream, & crimson" and it was done to THE NINES. Splendid set up, divine speakers, dolled up parties, exquisite decorative items, you name it - they had it!

While my team and I were there, we were speaking with numerous people in the luxury industry and they were all saying the same thing - why should we apologize for hosting luxury events? Business is coming back and there are still consumers out there that want luxury goods and services. They kept saying, we are employed in this industry to provide the best of the best and work our tails off everyday to provide these people with the most outrageous experiences ever - why should we apologize?!

They are right, luxury isn't saving lives by any mean, but everyone has their own role in this world. One of them put it into this perspective for me: I am putting on weddings for people in the luxury market that are working hard to maintain a comfortable life and then there are some that are just born into wealth and maintain that. But in retrospect, they explained that they work with people that work hard and want to have nice things and desire to be on top one day. Doesn't everyone?!

So, next time you see something with "luxury" plastered on the label, don't be discouraged or think that luxury means the same thing to everyone - get motivated, inspired & engaged!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Traveling Blanket Saga

Many of you saw on my Facebook a few weeks ago about "my traveling blanket." Being as I'm such a positive and happy person all the time, you probably thought it was some cute story about how my daughter made me a traveling blanket or something - NO! It is a terrible story of bad customer service and how customer service is downsizing across the globe and how once again, it always happens to me.

I was flying on United Airlines on that day a few weeks ago, coming home in my first class seat from Washington DC. I'm flying first class because I had flown over 100,000 miles in the first half of the year. Yes, I know, scary. So, as you all know I'm exhausted from my trip and need to get my 5 hours rest in on this flight because the next day I'm doing it all over again.

I have griped about a lot of airlines on my blog because #1, I live on them and also because I simply do not understand how downright bad most of them treat you as a PAYING customer in a service industry. Well obviously United is cutting costs and ultimately beginning to screw every passenger, one by one.

Let's go back - I am putting my "wheelie" in the overhead compartment and I sit down to get wrapped up in my blanket and catch some Zzz's. As I open my blanket up, I realize that it barely covers my body and think to myself if I have the kid's size or something... NOPE. I look around me and people are getting their blankets out and they are all HUGE ones. Am I seriously the only person that has the small blanket? I ask the flight attendant, because at this point, I'm OTT (over the top). "I'm sorry Ma'am, I know that United is changing the blankets to cut costs on these aircrafts and maybe they are doing a "slow transition." A SLOW TRANSITION? No, you are downsizing your customer service one blanket at a time and I'm the one sitting here with the kid's blanket when every one else has the big ones. Of course there were no extras and none in Coach because God forbid anyone catch Sars or the Bird Flu. I stole the girl's blanket next to me when we landed, so I could take both of them home, lay them out on my floor and show to you all that I am FAR from kidding. Look at the right of my blog and see for yourself.

Needless to say, another letter will go in the mail to United and I'll rant and rave and a measley 10,000 miles will be awarded in my account - YIPEE. When is it going to stop?!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Let Cindy Do It – Circa 1979 Gaslight Clubs, Inc. - Chicago, Illinois

I was in our conference room the other day on a call and looked up and took a really good look at some of my past – pictures speak a thousand words and the “Let Cindy Do It” poster that has been framed and in our office for 23 years brought it all back to life for me.

I have been in this business my entire career and that career has taken me from running night clubs in Chicago and NYC to the hotel industry where I then started my own company in 1989. I think back and how the years have just flown. But have they? It has been a lot of hard work, lots of travel and nights away from home, constantly being pulled in several directions and yet I am here to tell the story.

I wouldn’t change anything as I look back. I will always be a big believer in hard work and going the extra mile. This business of running out of the office at 5:00pm because your “shift” is over has never been my mantra, regardless of what job I had or what I was being paid. I worked hard, got my work finished and then left for the day – ok, call it what you want but it was good, honest work and is the reason I am where I am today.

I am starting my second book on Living with No Balance and Loving It. I am writing it for all the young people who are entering a work force that is not all that easy. I am writing for the generation that is so concerned with balance – I am writing for YOU!

Please know that I will always be proud of the balance I do have – a great family, great relationships with my husband, daughter, my parents and my sister’s family and I will never regret the hard work I put in to get us to this point.
Challenge me, argue with me and show me how anyone is better off by working less and trying to become successful. It doesn’t happen with star athletes, performers, business owners, doctors, lawyers or teachers. As an example, the other day I was having a mani/pedi and seated next to me was a teacher grading her students work. I said to her how much I admire teachers and how much work they have to do at home like grading assignments. She looked up at me and said with a smile on her face – “I do this work because I love my job, I love my kids and I love education.” Enough said. I couldn’t agree more with her. I do this because I love my industry, I love my clients and their business and I love the employees on my team that make it all happen and I love the fact that my hard work will take care of the family that I love and that depends on me.

So if you don’t want to work that hard, no problem – Let Cindy Do It for YOU!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Dress French

Such fun thoughts for Spring & Summer shopping!

-Better a genuine straw bag than a fake luxury label. Counterfeit is counterfashion!

-Jeans are never too risky; they’re a little like salt – they go with everything!

-The little black dress is not simply an item of clothing, it’s a concept. It’s abstract, universal – which means there’s one that’s perfect for everyone.

-Never, ever buckle the belt properly like a good little girl. Tie it in front or behind with the buckle hanging loose. Unobtrusive fashion statements like this…are very, very Parisian.

-Push back or roll up the sleeves – the ultimate ‘easy chic’ statement. Even better when the lining’s a different color.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Masters!

As many of you know - in the past year, I have become quite the golf aficionado! This past week I attended The Masters Golf Invitational in Augusta, Georgia. What an experience and class act event.

As a difference in many industries and companies, these employees were actually excited to be working there and passionate about making every attendee's experience an unforgettable one. With proper etiquette while interacting with guests, exquisite customer service and an overall feeling of well-being while being there, makes this event one of the best in the world.

Because traveling around the world and driving customer service values is a huge part of my life - I wanted to share how unbelievable the experience is.

Another obvious aspect of the event, is the golf - ha! I attended all 3 practice rounds and really got to see the golfers up close and personal. I watched them practice with their coaches and analyze their intense concentration while putting. I believe that this determination, concentration and hard work should be put into all of our daily tasks and jobs. Every week these men play, their number one goal is to win...and in your job on a weekly basis, your ultimate goal should be to WIN too...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Travel Needs a Makeover!

Whatever happened to the days of getting excited about traveling to faraway places and lands of the un-discovered? Even if you are only traveling within the US, there are cities to be visited, museums to see and in my case fabulous new restaurants to discover. But this part of life has lost its luster and shine, and personally I intend to bring it back.
A travel consultant used to be able to make things happen, but the airlines, hotels and even the destination is making it more difficult for a travel “agent” to make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the need for the travel consultant who is a specialist in certain cities, countries, cruises and faraway destinations. But confirming a coach seat is not what I need a travel consultant for – that is what an agent does and I can do that myself. So where does that leave the industry?
If you are a travel agent you should get ready for a major shakeup. Do you deliver exceptional service everyday in every way, or are you just in the business so that you can personally make connections and travel the world? Do you put yourself in the shoes of your corporate traveler or are you only concerned with their holiday plans? Travel search is getting easier and cooler by the minute and to survive and thrive an agent needs to become a consultant who can deliver results.
Look at the sites out there that travel consumers are using every day:
• Seatguru by
The OTA’s (on line travel agents) are fighting with airlines, airlines are trying to make customers go direct, and in the meantime, the real road warrior like me is stuck in the middle seat – COACH! I have had it and I will figure out how to beat them at their own game. I currently sat next to a guy on a flight to Sydney who used “HIPMUNK” to book his ticket – great price and a better seat than me. Then of course there is Kayak which also searches for the best deals. Now I have never been a fan of the D.I.Y. world but if my travel agent is not being empowered to help me get better flights than what am I to do?
So here is my idea – if I were a travel agent – I would immediately become a true “travel consultant” and I would use all tools and resources available so that I could provide my customers with the most up to the minute information (not just what the major airlines feed me) but what millions of D.I.Y. “ers” are using and searching with to find a better deal, better seat and a better route. When a person like me who has over 4 million miles on United Airlines and over 3 million miles on American Airlines is seated for a 14 hour flight in coach, in a middle seat and the guy next to her paid half of what I paid there is something wrong.
Listen up everyone – start using all the resources available to you to travel the globe. Don’t let all the negative press about the airlines and travel stop you from seeing the world. It is amazing where we live and how sad not to explore it. I am truly an explorer – I love to see new horizons, try new food, visit ruins of faraway lands and I won’t let my middle seat to Sydney from St. Petersburg ruin it for me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Love for Russia!

Oh Dr. Zhivago!

Let me just tell you that I have traveled around this world, many, many times and I finally landed in an unknown place - St. Petersberg, Russia. Just as I pictured it and breathtaking. Let me share!

Russian Cuisine – let’s have a party and celebrate this great history of food and “vodka!” So I arrive in St. Petersburg to work and knowing that this was my first trip to Russia I was so excited to see what I have only read about in books or watched in movies. I was thrilled to find the hidden gems that make up this vibrant city. For those that know me, I have always been a big fan of “vodka.” Dirty martinis have been among my favorite – but now – I am all about the chilled shot glass with the Russian Standard Vodka with eggs and caviar.

Let's talk about the beautiful architecture: The Church of Our Savior on The Spilled Blood is just magnificent Walking through the city on a cold, snowy day just conjures up images in your mind of years gone by. This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia.

However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage. The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 and was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church (a.k.a. The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood ). The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997 in all its dazzling former glory. The view of the church from Nevsky Prospekt (the main street in St. Petersburg) is absolutely breathtaking.

Needless to say, I am ready for my return!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Customers Wanting More!

Service is about attention to detail. Whether it is Five Star Dining or a hotel – it doesn’t matter how much you pay if you do not get the small attention to detail. The amount of travelers out there today is amazing – the crunch is coming to an end and people are paying to fly business or first class, stay in luxury hotels and wait in line at luxury boutiques. I am not talking about millionaires, I am talking about everyday people that are back to enjoying life – BUT ….. with that said – you better be prepared to treat them so well they will return for more. Does every employee on your team know how important the guest is – does everyone smile, call people by names or….do they treat their customer as a nuisance? I am beginning to find nicer people out there traveling – not necessarily working in the service business but the travelers – they have made a conscious choice to get out, get on a plane and travel. They want to be treated well.

Just watch this latest video on some of the guests that are traveling but not necessarily in the luxury world – remember we have to know our customers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tiger vs. Cindy

My husband and daughter are really into golf and over the past year, I myself have become a pretty big fan. As I was watching a tournament on my ONE "off day" in the month of March with Lefty a few weekends ago and I started thinking about some things. I began to relay the actions of certain golfers to the hospitality industry.

I will tell you this: I am not a fan of Tiger Woods, for numerous reasons (email me if you want to know why) and I started watching his swagger. That swagger that has recently started coming back now that his melancholy, "I'm Sorry" stunt is over. Before Tiger got caught, he was on the top of his game, living the life. Yet, not a gentleman on the course or off the course and became too big for his britches. He never appreciated one fan, signed an autograph, smiled for a picture with a 7 year old aspiring golfer. Tiger began to falter on the basics in life - having that integrity and demeanor of a true athlete. Spitting on the course, swearing when hits a bad shot on live TV, throwing clubs, or having his caddie, "Stevie" call a class act golfer like Phil Mickelson, some obscene names is not going to get you very far and for the remainder of 2010 and now into 2011, he is winless and it will stay that way. Karma is a funny thing.

I began to think that Tiger is like one of those sales people that makes their sales goal one time and thinks they're senior. Or that speaker that gives one speech and gets a standing ovation and thinks, "That's it, I've made it - I am the best." Every single time I go on stage I am nervous, but humble and sincere enough to say my piece and move on to the next one. You are never bigger than you think you are. Remember that - and call Tiger and let him know too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take some time to think!

I recently read the book "The Way We are Working, Isn't Working! by Tony Schwartz and it reconfirmed my whole theory about living without balance and loving it. Although Tony goes into much more detail about health, exercise and diet, he does say that the most productive people work in high energy bursts of time for shorter periods and then step away to think, relax and re-charge.

Every time I am speaking to sales professionals and their leaders I always emphasize how critical it is to jump on the phone for one hour of prospecting and then off again to return calls, check email and even take a quick walk outside to get a breath of fresh air. It is not about locking yourself in a room and pounding out hours of prospecting calls.

This also relates to the theory "work hard, play hard." I have often been critized that I am a work alcoholic because of my tough travel schedule. Again, I would argue that I have more balance in my life than the executives that are sitting in their offices for hours upon hours getting home after their family has had dinner and there is no time left except to fall asleep and start all over again.

My travel schedule has allowed me to spend more time with my family. Even when my daughter was young I took her out of school and allowed her to travel for a week with me. She had my full attention and we saw the world together. Now that she is out of college and working for me, she still gets to spend time on the road with me. My husband, Lefty has been traveling with me extensively for many years, thus giving us more time to talk about both work and our lives.

Even the most successful musicians, artists, and athletes practice in short bursts of time, giving them the ability to keep going and practice more than the ones who take hours upon hours of practice but don't step away to clear their minds and re-energize.

I am currently spending a week in Breckenridge skiing and clearing my mind. I do this every February for that same reason. The rush of the holidays are over, January is always a busy kick off month with a lot of travel and prep meetings for the year. It can seem overwhelming unless you take time to step out of the race and focus on what is important and what isn't.

I challenge you to step out of the race for at least a few hours - put that Blackberry or iPhone down and really think - think about your goals, what is important to you that you have ignored, your diet, your health and your future.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sine Metu ~ Without Fear!

The history of John Jameson and Irish whiskey is a great story as it relates to tough times today! If you have never traveled to Dublin that is ok, as I will take you on a journey of what it takes to succeed during tough times and what you can learn from this historic entrepreneur. So relax with a shot of Jameson (neat –no ice or mix) and relate my thoughts to the future of your business.
October 5, 1740 on a bright sunny day, a legend was born and the history of whiskey making began. Many people think that John was born in Ireland (after all it is Irish Whiskey), but he was born in Scotland and became more Irish than the locals in his quest to make the best whiskey in the world.
Although Jack Daniels is the most sold whiskey in the world, Jameson Irish whiskey is by far some of the best whiskey in the world.
Sine Metu – Without Fear is the family motto and the crest of John Jameson Irish Whiskey. His bravery of battling pirates on the high seas as he sailed to Ireland in search of his quest to make his mark on Irish Whiskey was a test of strength. Remember the Irish already had become known as the leaders in Whiskey making before John Jameson ever was heard of. Then he comes with a vision to make it better – Sine Metu!
Just like business today, the most important part of building and leading a successful business is about quality, best ingredients, best people and commitment. He worked with farmers to grow the finest barley and bought the finest wood barrels to mature his whiskey. He was competing with Guinness who also was buying up all the barley, so John gave farmers the best seeds to grow the finest barley for him and purchased it in advance to beat Guinness to the harvest so he wouldn’t lose out to the big beer maker.
Keep in mind that he went against the norm, fought the average and challenged status quo ~ not very popular with the competition. – Sine Metu!
Again, if you are not familiar with whiskey making, it is fun to know that in the late 18th century, whiskey was distilled twice like it was in Scotland. That is ok, if you are fine with just a double distilled whiskey, but John Jameson was not happy with that. He decided to go for a third distillation, as he found it made the whiskey that much smoother. He even kept trying, four and five times but could never perfect the taste past 3 times.
He created all this in a single distillery on Bow Street in Dublin. Stored all the barley, triple distilled and hosted all the best parties in Dublin at the distillery. Today, even in Cork The Irish Distillers Group (Jameson joined forces with rivals Powers to distill the best whiskey in the world) work this same way. Although there is much more technology, much of how the original whiskey was made is still the foundation of today’s whiskey making is the same.
It was great to work for John Jameson. He paid the best wage for the best talent, gave them great working conditions and even sat down for a nice drink of whiskey at the end of the day with the employees. If you think about our world today, we have to watch reality television about under cover bosses, read books about employee engagement and if you treat your employees right, they will treat your customers and business better. John Jameson was way ahead of his time. I am a firm believer that we can learn so much from history on how to create our future. To this day you will notice on a bottle of Jameson next to John Jameson’s signature 2 men balancing a barrel, just another tribute to his employees, symbolizing the passionate and committed ladies and gentlemen that made Jameson Whiskey the best! The men that worked on the barrels were called Coopers and each of them were given nicknames that have gone down in history. It is said that John Jameson’s nickname was “Glorious John” because he threw such great parties that when he would walk into the room, he would ask his guests how they were enjoying their evening and the response was always “Glorious John Glorious!”
My visit to the Brazen Head in Dublin (the oldest pub in Dublin) gave me another look at how smart John was. He would take his whiskey to the Brazen Head and ask customers to try it (market research of yesterday). He would get feedback and continued to perfect his whiskey – everyone would know to ask for a “jimmie” because it was Irish and the best.
Success does not come easily, and John and his sons kept the tradition of quality, commitment and loyalty alive just as “Glorious John Jameson” envisioned his future.
What are you doing to drive success in your business? How do you engage with your employees and customers? Yes, it has been a tough 18 months, but history has shown us that if you work hard (really work), strive to be the best and take a risk – you will not only survive but thrive ~ – Sine Metu!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A True Gem of The South - Van Michael Salons

It all started 27 years ago with 2 brothers in Georgia trying to make it out in the big city. Through hard work, perseverance, and a dynamic goal setting ability, Van & Michael successfully opened their first hair salon with only 7 chairs and now, have made a name for themselves – one that will go down in history. With locations from Tokyo to Miami, they have a simple philosophy – no matter how much you pay for a service there, VMS gives their clients a $500 experience. They value customer service and want every single one of their employees to take ownership of the salon. Their training is a key part of the company and investing in your best is a strong mentality of theirs. Being a client of Master Connection Associates, we take pride in knowing they strive on creating such a valuable experience. These salons are of a different caliber. World class salons should equal world class service, and that is what they strive for. Like Michael has always said, “To keep the doors open, we would cater to the client.” This hasn’t changed. Maybe it was the 70’s flick, ‘Shampoo’ that motivated Van to set a goal and drive for his dream; whatever is was, I can say that they’re doing something right!

i call heathrow my second home!

Life on the road is not too bad at Heathrow when you get bacon rolls in the BA Lounge! MMMMM

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Functional" Design

As much as I travel, I see a wide variety of design in hotels, restaurants – you name it. I think the word innovation has been taken to another level. Believe me, I love new & cool design in the right kind of hotel, with vibrant colors and the latest gadgets – but sometimes having the neon yellow blinding you when you wake up for your business meeting is just not that appealing. Design for your customer. Everyone is trying to be “cool” today and when thinking about these shops, websites, hotels & restaurants, the word “cool” or innovative, still needs to be functional. Bottom line. I can’t tell you how many times I go into a hotel, and I take my cosmetic bag out and there isn’t even a ledge for you to put it on. It is so sleek with touch screens and a TV built in the mirror, but no place to lay your mascara or cologne. Another thing – hey, I’m 5 feet tall, and when the sink juts out a good 3 ½ feet, I can’t even lean that far into the mirror to my put my makeup, NOT functional. So the next time you are deciding on the new, cool, and innovative design for whatever the case may be, remember if the lighting in the room is too dim, your customers won’t know whether they’re dressed for the disco or a board meeting…

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Enjoy Travel!

Who said that just because travel is a big part of life in business today, it has to be so … painful? Why can't we enjoy our business trips, make the most of our time away, and still stay connected to the ones we love? These were some of the questions posed by road warrior and speaker Cindy Novotny of Master Connection Associates, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., during a recent speech on how to balance it all and be happy.

Cindy's thoughts on this:

Not only am I passionate about loving life on the road, I actually have alot of fun laughing about the trials and tribulations on the road. Just yesterday I was scheduled to be on a noon flight from LAX to NYC, and if you watch the news at all you know that the snow never stopped in New York City. We had several trainers from my team hopping on Amtrack to get into the city - 4-5 hours to still make a "gig." That's what I mean when I say we are serious about getting the job done. Two weeks ago I drove 9 hours from Atlanta to Orlando due to a snow storm with Gina from our team to make sure we didn't miss another program. Ironically the theme of that meeting in Orlando was "We Mean It." We proved we meant it when we pulled in at 2:00am.

The real message is that we made the best of our road trip. Stopping with all the truckers (I followed the Target truck) to get snacks at the Cracker Barrel and even bought a rocking chair along the way!

As we ring in 2011, it seems the perfect time to examine life on the road. I'm sure some of my ideas will inspire you, to not panic during these tough travel days, but to think of it as an adventure.

Home is where you plug in your phone at the end of the day. No matter how short your stay, unpack everything, bring some items to make your hotel room cozy, and always check in with the people you love.

Look for the humor in travel delays. Last night at LAX the Red Carpet Club was full with all the New Yorkers waiting to get home. We were like a group of school kids hanging out. People were sleeping on chairs, the floor, sharing their candy and magazines and actually feeling "ok" about the delays.

Check it Out. Always see the sights when you visit a city, even if it's just a short cab ride. Taking the opportunity to check out a different place will keep your excitement about travel alive. My last trip to Vegas, just 3 weeks ago the cabbie said to me what is your favorite breakfast food? Pancakes or Steak and Eggs. I wanted to say granola, but I was honest and said steak and eggs. Just then he pointed out Bills - a joint all the cabbies go to for $5.99 steak and eggs. Although I didn't take him up on his offer to meet him there at 3am, I did go the next day with an associate for breakfast and it was the best! How would I ever get that tip from the five star concierge.

Bring your kids when you can. Traveling offers life lessons richer than any textbook. Many of you that follow me know I raised my daughter on the road, but now at 22 years old she has graduated from college and is back on the road with me working for our firm.

Find a way to unload the household tasks you dislike so that when you are home, you can relax. You don't necessarily need money for that, I once bartered with a neighbor to clean my house, and in return I cooked that neighbor a meal each weekend.

Every once in a while, try to picture your life without your work. Do you really want that? And if you are unhappy, stop complaining and find another job!

What will always resonate with me is that we only have one life, and the time to live it to the utmost is now!

I wish you a truly fulfilling 2011. Things are getting better so don't miss the party by being in a pity pool!

Cindy's book, Living Without Balance and Loving It, can be ordered online at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Bliss

Everyone always thinks that Cindy Novotny never slows down – and in reality, this statement is true. I am a constant road warrior who works very hard and travels for most of the year. Despite popular belief, I actually do take some time to myself throughout the year, but for the first time in a long time, I was able to do that in January. A fresh start – a recharge of my battery, and now I’m ready to roll.

This past weekend, Lefty & I went to our cottage in Northern Michigan. And although we had 15 inches of snow – it was beautiful, relaxing, and gave me a couple days to really recharge and relax. Even my daughter, Jessica said, “Gosh, Mom I haven’t really heard from you guys in days!” (That is very rare!) I was able to semi plan out my year, decide when I’m taking time off, get to some personal and professional to-do’s that I’ve been putting off a long time. And on top of that, I was able to decorate and enjoy our serene, wintery cottage with a roaring fire and glass of wine – ah!

So, even if you feel like you don’t have enough time – deep down, if I can find some time, so can you. Take a step back and look at the year ahead. Start planning, re-focusing and prepare to take 2011 by full force. It is important to re-connect with yourself – do what you need to do, go where you need to go – all of us have families, companies, and jobs but amazingly enough they know when you need that time and they will end up giving you that gift, I promise.