This Ambition Crew went to Market…

This past week we were able to revisit a career rite of passage for a lot of people – working retail during the Christmas season. We were invited by A Little Taste of Country (shop online with them here!) to help decorate their location in Calgary’s newest destination market, Granary Road, and to assist with guests for the Market’s VIP event. This was exciting because we’re big fans of A Little Taste of Country (seriously, try the iced honey – or the pickles. Have you had pickled garlic before? The all natural jam is incredible too… Wait, where was I?)   – and also because it’s always great to have the opportunity to meet new people. Spending time on the action-packed floor of their space, observing how Market guests approached their location, the way staff interacted with those guests, and how people spent their time in A Little Taste of Country is always valuable. For us, however, it was also a really incredible honour to be asked to be their brand ambassadors during a VIP event. Local media personalities, politicians and other esteemed guests were all in attendance at Granary Road and we all wanted to put our best foot forward. Continue reading

Zen and the Art of Customer Service, Part II

Like a lot of people, this time of year can really affect me if I’m not careful. The dreary weather, the too-few hours of daylight.. On more than one occasion I’ve considered swapping hemispheres to cheer up through the winter months!

grumpy_calvinA few days ago, I found myself in a funk. The weather and some personal things had all ganged up on me, leaving me in an incredibly grumpy mood. Fortunately, I’d had a massage therapy session booked for that day so I was at least appreciative of that. Grumbling my way through the cold, grey day, I walked in to my therapist’s office and was immediately greeted by their receptionist. For a moment I was the only person in the waiting area, so we chatted for a few moments until it was time for my appointment. I didn’t think too much of it, and a few minutes later my therapist came to bring me in to the room. A few minutes and some elbows through my ribcage into my session, I was having another chat with my massage therapist / psychiatrist. Continue reading

“Ambition never rests.”

All across the continent, it’s a long weekend and people are enjoying their days off. People are at beaches, out camping, doing all the things they didn’t manage to sneak into their summer before now. It’s a time of happiness, sunshine and smiles – and here I am, at my desk, working. I am happy about this.

For those that work an hourly gig, or punch a clock and spend half their working hours watching that clock, I get it. But we’re building something here, and when it means I get to put in some extra hours to take the company to the next level – I’ll happily do it. This summer I took a week away from the office to go surfing. I took exactly zero days off for this. In the mornings I would work and catch up on emails, in the afternoon I’d surf, and in the evenings I’d check in again to see if anything pressing required attention. Not a bad way to spend a week, really.

“Ambition never rests.”

Just now, I called a client to check in on a couple of projects. He said to me, “It’s the long weekend! Don’t you ever take a day off?” I replied, only lightly joking, “Ambition never rests.” He laughed and said this was definitely true.

Some people are happy to work their nine to five and forget about work the second they punch out – and that’s entirely fine. Some people dream of building their brand into something known across the world and put in incredible hours to make it happen – and that’s entirely fine too. Do what makes you happy, and do what makes you go to bed at night with a smile on your face and excitement for tomorrow.

What’s your goal? What makes you happy? Leave your comment in the section below!

Jason

The Tale of the Cheap Dress Shirt

While looking at my closet the other day, I wondered what my “style” really is. I found a mixture of t-shirts, dress shirts, suit jackets, sports jerseys, ties, jeans, dress pants and a few brave remnants of the late 90s I’ve never been able to bring myself to throw out. I’ll wear any of these (except the 90s refugees) on any given day and feel equally at home in any of them. Should the occasion call for it, I’m more than happy to rock the suit and tie – and sometimes, even when it doesn’t call for it. If it’s a casual day, jeans and a nice t-shirt are always an easy option. No matter where I show up, my friends and the people that know me are almost always prepared for whatever wardrobe choice I’ve taken that day.

This thought process got started the other day when I had a meeting at one of the office towers downtown. People in suits and power outfits blazed back and forth between offices and overpriced coffees. The sun reflected off of over-shined shoes and brass-cornered briefcases. In the midst of all this I parked my 20 year old sports car, slung my bag over my leather jacketed shoulder, and walked to my meeting. I made my way through the crowds and into the building my meeting was at. As I waited for the elevator, two other gentlemen came and waited beside me. They gave me a quick glance, surmised I wasn’t part of their group, and continued their conversation about nothing in particular. As I looked at them, I wondered if perhaps I was underdressed. In my head, the old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other…” started playing. However, as it did, I looked at them again. The shirts were poorly cut, wrinkled, and looked like they’d skipped a wash cycle or two. Their collars were loose and the ties they wore didn’t go with the rest of what they were wearing. Generic, grey pants stood unevenly over dirty brown shoes.

My skin bristled. Not at their fashion choices (for the record, I can barely tie a tie – and don’t ask me about stripes with stripes – I have no idea) – but at their overall inauthenticity. I’d rather have shown up in shorts and sandals than be in the shoddy outfits they were in. They were dressing to a dress code, sure, but that was it. I understand not liking a dress code, I understand being a bit behind in your laundry – but if you have to do something, do it properly, yes?

I remembered my days of freelancing back in Kamloops, BC. I was fresh out of university and anxious to build my empire. My clients ranged from nightclubs to restaurants and party planners to auto body shops, clothing stores and even a tanning studio. The styles of work I did for each was vastly different; as was the way my clients thought of me. For one client, I would always show up in a freshly pressed shirt, cleanly shaven, early in the morning. For another, they knew me as the “crazy, rock’n’roll artist guy” (their words, not mine!) that had been out the night before at one of the nightclubs I worked with until all hours of the morning, no matter what day of the week it was. When I was meeting with them, I wouldn’t shave, leave my hair a bit more dishevelled (I mean hey, do artists really care?) and would put on something usually more appropriate for the club.

The thing was, I wasn’t being dishonest with any of my clients in my appearance. I knew what aspect of myself they had connected with, and if I enhanced it a little, I viewed it as salesmanship. If a client thought of me as the polite, well-dressed young man, I would be the best dressed man in Kamloops minding my Ps and Qs. If another thought me a gear head like the guys that worked in their shop, I’d make sure to talk about my cars as much as I did with friends and not clients. The point is – no matter where I was, I was genuine. I was comfortable and at ease.

It’s such a simple thing, but being okay and honest with yourself can help you face whatever difficult situation you are in. If someone isn’t being honest with how they’re presenting themselves to you, what else aren’t they being honest about? If they don’t care about how they look and how they represent their company.. well, you get it.

The elevator chimed and they both left. They turned a casual glance back at me, and I felt as if I was standing perhaps just a touch taller. Yes, I’d left my suit and tie at home, but I wasn’t the one pawing at my collar and itching out of my skin.

The doors closed again and I smiled to myself. I walked into a room full of fellow business owners who returned my smile when they saw me. I set my jacket and bag down and got compliments on my company shirt. The meeting began, and all thoughts of clothing and being genuine were cast aside. I didn’t need to think about these things, as I was where I was meant to be. My clients and colleagues had recognized me for who I was, as I had them. Business was discussed and goals were achieved.

…….
Somewhere in a small town, and many years ago, a younger me in a jean jacket is smiling and happy.

 

– Jason
Founder, Ambition Branding

Zen and the Art of Customer Service

Quote

I’ve been going to the same gym, on average, 4 to 5 times a week, for the past two years. I recognize most of the regulars and the staff that works there. I’ll usually say hello or share a quick smile as I head past the various desks, and today was like no other. However, when I got to the main desk, I found that I’d forgot my membership card. Ordinarily, this is no big deal – all you have to do is tell one of the Customer Service Reps your phone number, they type it into the computer and off you go. There were 3 people working at the desk, so I approached the one at the main computer and explained my situation. I got a deep sigh and an ice cold voice in response. As the computer beeped and the gate opened to let me in, she asked if I’d left my card at home or if it was somewhere else – what did this matter? I had said I’d forgot it, but provided the alternative, acceptable method of identification. I smiled and said yes, but she continued on, saying that I’d better make sure I brought it tomorrow if I wanted to get in.

I was shocked. Apparently my asking this Customer Service Representative to provide me with 10 seconds of service was too much to ask for. I clearly deserved to be admonished for my insensitivity. I don’t know if she was having a bad day, or if the gym has decided to phase out the phone number method of entry for those that forgot their card, but either way, she had gone about it in a completely wrong way. I bit my tongue and carried on.

It made me think of just a few days ago, when I was having an absolutely horrible day. At about 9 o’clock, a client started texting me, saying she couldn’t access her email. I texted her a few times to help, but she couldn’t get it to work. Now, at this point, I was already done with the day. All I wanted to do was unplug from the world and shut down for the night. 9pm is well past our standard office hours, and the email situation wasn’t really urgent as she hadn’t started using her new email address yet. I texted a few times more in response, but she couldn’t get anything to work.

“You’ll be amazed at the difference you will make.”

It took me about one second to realize this would take me under 5 minutes to help, and would probably mean a lot to her. I told my bad mood to take a hike and gave her a call. I walked her through the steps again, and everything worked out. She was incredibly grateful and happy, and felt relieved that her email was working. She felt comforted knowing that I was there to help her out, even at 9pm.

I hung up the phone and smiled, just a little bit. I was still in a bad mood, but I’d made someone else’s night and was able to help. She didn’t know I was in a bad mood, and she didn’t need to.

That’s what business is about though; that’s what life should be about. Sometimes we need to take a step back from ourselves and realize that our brief interactions with other people can affect them more than we know. My trip to the gym was 10 hours ago and I’m still thinking about it. Imagine how you can affect the people close to you with only a few words, or the slightest action.

You’re more powerful than you realize – choose your mood, and choose how you deal with others. You’ll be amazed at the difference you will make.
– JT

 

The QR conundrum

While at a trade show recently, I walked into a booth and the sales rep immediately started a conversation with me. He seemed friendly, open, and very knowledgable about his product. We chatted for a few minutes and when I asked for more information, he directed me to a sign on the wall – a QR code.

The disconnect was immediate. We’d gone from a warm, personable chat to a stark black and white square directing me into the technological abyss. Did that QR code lead me to his company website, or to his daughter’s girl guide page selling me cookies (which, admittedly, may not be a bad thing) – or something far more sinister? Reaching out for a second chance, I asked for his card. He passed it to me, and to my dismay, it had his company logo, his name – and another QR code. Not even a phone number. I smiled, thanked him for his time and made my way to the next vendor, who was more than willing to provide their website and phone number to me without my asking.

Of course, you’re asking what my issue is with QR codes – and my answer is, I have none, when they’re used properly. In this instance, however, the technology was being forced upon me with no alternative. This is only one bad example of utilizing these codes: They’ve been placed on billboards beside busy freeways (who is going to scan a code while doing 100km/hr?), in subways with no cell coverage, or on bus and vehicle graphics. QR codes, when first introduced to the general public, were supposed to usher in the next generation of connectivity. Scan this simple square and be whisked away to a world of wonder! – but more often than not, to the company’s website, or in the case of the less imaginative, a digital copy of the ad you’d just scanned the code from.

Truthfully, if an ad or product doesn’t have me intrigued enough to remember their url or something google-worthy,  I probably won’t take the time to scan their code anyway. In the time it would take to open the specific app and scan the code, I could have punched in their domain name and already hit their site. The disconnect with QR codes continues with a simple glance – they’re ugly. Initially they were created as a means of identifying car engines by Toyota (it’s true – look it up!) – not to tell you a story and connect with you emotionally. Sure, there have been several creative means of dressing them up, including colouring them and going outside the generic square, but there’s no masking what they really are.

The QR code hasn’t made the expected impact upon the connected world that many thought it would. A recent study by comScore.com found that only 6.2% of mobile phone users in America were using QR codes. Other studies are predicting QR code use will rise to 8% this year, but drop shortly thereafter as other, more user-friendly technologies take its place.

A well-placed and thought out QR code can still have a meaningful contribution to your marketing campaign; but don’t rely too heavily on it. Support it with the traditional methods of contact, and never forget that a firm handshake and a welcoming smile will tell your audience a million times more than a black and white square ever can.

– JT