When Business and Heart Combine

When Business and Heart Combine

December 31.

If there’s ever a day to be introspective, this is it. The Super Bowl for the spiritually inclined and the ultra-organized.

It’s resolution day.

And I fully intend to get busy, not setting resolutions but establishing goals.

But before I do that, I wanted to post an email I received from Chris Brogan yesterday. Chris is pretty much a rockstar in the marketing and blogging world, and like thousands of others, if Chris talks I listen. I loved this email, because Chris really doesn’t gain much by writing it to me. It’s his New Year wishes for the people who care enough to follow his work, and it shows his heart for people.

I’m not sharing this to drive you all to Chris Brogan’s site, although if you are interested in content marketing and small business ownership, his blog is certainly a must-read. I’m sharing it because I love seeing someone who isn’t afraid of combining their business with their heart. He isn’t afraid to let his business followers see who he is. He is transparent.

It’s really hard to be transparent out in the business world. We have clients to reassure, prospects to impress, competitors to stay ahead of. It’s hard to risk transparency. When we write our business blog, it’s hard to maintain a commitment to authenticity. But I think Chris’s New Year’s letter inspires me to greater transparency in 2015.

So I guess I have started my contemplation after all!


Hi Marla!

This email to you is full of wishes. I mean every single one of them, and I hope to be able to help in some small way. I hope this email finds you in that moment of contemplation and mild guilt we all slip into this time of year. Because I want to help with what’s to come. 

I’ve got a mug of mulled cider because, you know, holidays and winter and stuff. You? 

My Wish for You

My wish in this coming year is that people know more about you, that they understand what you’re about. My wish for the coming year is that people get as excited about what you’re doing as you yourself do. 

My wish for 2015 is that you find within yourself the commitment and discipline to keep your passions alive and share them with all those people who need what you’re doing and providing. And if, for reasons of fate and circumstance, you’re not working on something you feel strongly about, I wish that this coming year is your breakaway year, and that you find a way to be where you belong, instead of trying to fit in. 

I hope that you find the misfits and world dominators, the instigators and crazies, the people who freak out over what you bring to the picnic. I hope that you dare to dye your hair blue or get that tattoo, or tell that person you’ve loved forever but never told that you love them. I hope you shave your head, grow your hair long, buy that purple hat, use that purple crayon. 

My wish is that you crave more but be so grateful for what you have. Make the “more” be about your capabilities and your ability to serve. Make the “what you have” serve you well, but never look for anchors when success comes from sails. 

Wealth comes from serving others. Find those you can help and help them. Don’t worry about the details at first. Be helpful. All my money came from two places: failure, and helping others. And remember that money isn’t the definition of wealth. It’s a byproduct. 

My wish for you is that you face the fears that need facing, and that you banish those fears that were silly to begin with but have somehow held residence in your soul for far too long. The fears that need facing can be trained for, prepared for, practiced for, and then you go to war. The silly fears? Well, those just have to go. 

My wish for you is that you know those around you. I’m just a fire you’ve gathered around. But if you sought out the monchu (Heck, tweet something with the word #monchu and see who tweets back), you’d have so much more than what I alone can offer. That’s been my dream since I started. So far, no one ever goes far enough to make it true. You’re the star. I’m just the fire. 

Finally, remember that my annual “My 3 Words” experience starts on January 1st. Just go to my blog (on the 1st, not sooner!) to see how to do it, and then dive in. I can’t WAIT to hear yours. 

And thank you for all you’ve done this year. It’s been a great ride so far. I’m here to help you own your 2015. 

With love, 


Vendor or Partner?

Vendor or Partner?

I read a great article on Agency Post today about seeing yourself as a partner in your client’s business, rather than as a vendor. Partners are fully vested in the business, will put in the extra hours needed to let it succeed, and will allow their minds to dwell on creative options to solve everyday challenges. Partners will have “Eureka!” moments in the shower. Vendors, on the other hand, do not. They provide a service or an engagement and walk away.

Our companies have always approached clients as partners without actually using those terms. That focus on learning a new business and truly wanting what is right for our client makes doing this worthwhile. It’s been said so many times that it is almost a cliche, but we fire bad clients. We really do. If we can’t fully endorse and evangelize for a brand, we let them go. We lose a little money in the short term, but the end result is a roster of clients we’d be happy to sit down to dinner with, in a manner of speaking.

The Agency Post article is worth taking the time to read. It has some good prompts of ways to engage with your client’s business and how to view yourself as a partner. While I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think that the principle holds true for a lot of things in life, too.

I’m at the point in life where I don’t have time to engage in activities or relationships that are counter-productive or meaningless. I want to invest my life in the things that matter, in deep relationships and creative passions. I want to take my faith seriously and not settle for a surface engagement with the people and places that prod me to do better and to rest in God more each day. I want to jump into creative pursuits that bring let me breathe and fly. I want to steward my health so that I have the depth of energy and physical ability to travel the world and see the sights that reduce me to tears. Most of all, I want the people I’m with day in and day out to know that they are integrally wound into my life, and I would go to the wall for them.

The vendor side of the equation holds true as well. There are moments in life when a client relationship or a personal one seems to be merely transactional. They are less than fulfilling, and barely register on the blip of my life screen. Choosing to view every engagement as a potential partnership, however, helps me reframe even those small moments in time as important and meaningful. Many of my relationships in life have started off as transactional moments, but they develop into a rich engagement over time.

Some quotes from the Agency Post Article

  • “Those that treat their customers with respect also treat their service providers with respect. They’re the most successful. They’re the brands that people aspire to own, work for, and work with.”
  • “Beyond respect comes the ability to take your client’s business personally. How their business does should matter to you personally. It should matter on a human level, not just on a financial level.”
  • See the full article here

A Disney Lesson on Leadership

The cloud of Pixie Dust descended on South Florida last Saturday.

David and I were happily at lunch waiting for our salads to arrive, surfing our Facebook feeds like we always do. And yes, we do look like geeks in public quite often. But on this day my feed was lit up with friends heading to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom for Disney World’s 40th birthday. In addition, while we were sweltering in SoFL, apparently Orlando was getting one of its first fall days. Pixie Dust sparkled from my Facebook.

Within an hour we had picked up a good friend and headed north for an evening in the Magic Kingdom.

Great decision.

While we were wandering with the other 50,000+ crazy folk, we spent a good chunk of our time analyzing the Disney magic. I could spend years studying the best practices of Disney leadership and creativity, and this day was especially significant as all Disney employees were on high alert. The birthday celebration was proving far more popular than even the Disney prognosticators had anticipated. In response, the park moved into action. Alternate exits were opened to ease traffic flow — something I’ve never seen before. Guests walking through Cast Member Only areas? Wow! Ride lines were extended and re-worked. Entry to the Kingdom was restricted to resort guests only. This was Disney in full response mode, and it worked.

At one point we were spending a few moments with a friend of ours who works at Disney in their transportation department. On this night he was estimating guest flow and helping adjust the monorails accordingly. But he had a few moments to meet us and chat about the day. We were impressed that Brandon had gone out to buy a new shirt for the celebration day: an employee so excited about a company event that he wanted to “spruce up!” I loved it. That said a lot to me about Disney’s ability to inspire loyalty (which is legendary), as well as Brandon’s commitment to his company.

We also asked Brandon about his trash picking stick he was slinging over his arm. Remember, Brandon is a team leader in the transportation department, not assigned to the inside of the park or the sanitation department.

“Brandon, why are you carrying that?”

“We always carry them whenever we walk through the park. We don’t want trash to lie around.”

“Does everyone carry them? All employees?”

“Oh no…only the leaders. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to tell who is a team leader.”


Now that will preach.

The easiest way to spot a leader at Disney is to notice who is carrying a trash picker and is picking up the trash as they walk through the park.

Pretty great description of servant leadership, if you ask me.

The best symbol of leadership!

Main Street on Disney's 40th Birthday...look at the crowds!

Starbucks North American President and Rick Cone


Congratulations to our friend Rick Cone on his visit with Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks North America!!!

Rick not only is a great Starbucks barista and manager (obviously!), but he also attended Christ Fellowship and hung out in general Saturday night “cool guys” area until he and his family moved to Nashville last year. Now managing one of my favorite stores in the Cool Springs/Franklin area, Rick has obviously continued to use his amazing people and leadership skills. Recently Cliff Burrows came to visit Ricks store and congratulate them on the amazing job they have been doing within the Starbucks company. Rick not only got to give Cliff a tour of his store, but he got to sit in on some leadership and planning meetings for the company.

Congratulations, Rick! Yeah, I know that on one level meeting the president of Starbucks is like meeting anyone else — only more caffeinated, I’d assume. But on another level completely, it showcases your heart and your mission. I know you are passionate about coffee, but that isn’t your only passion. And it is your leadership, your passion for people, and your heart to live out the kingdom in the community that was being recognized this week. And oh yes, that coffee thing didn’t hurt either! 🙂

The Nines: the best of what technology can do!


Tomorrow I am inviting you to participate in some of the best technology you will find on the internet. So many times we hear about what is “wrong” with the internet, with social media, with the new digital society. Tomorrow we will see what is RIGHT about all those things.

I am talking about “The Nines,” an online conference happening over the internet tomorrow. Over the course of the day tomorrow, this FREE (Yes, Free!) conference will present 70 of our country’s top Christian leaders. They will each speak for 9 minutes, up close and personal. Imagine 9 minutes with top pastors, worship leaders, executive pastors, authors. I’d give you the names of the speakers and you would recognize some of my personal favorites such as Steven Furtick and Mark Batterson. But any list I give you will be incomplete. Go to the website and look at who is going to share tomorrow. Then register for the event, because while it is free, you have to pre-register.

And I suppose it goes without saying that there will probably be multiple posts, twitters and new ideas coming your way from me tomorrow! Make it a two way street…go sign up and get in the conversation.

This barista brews up community: Starbucks Palm Beach Gardens will miss you!

Jeremy and David before a coffee cupping!

Jeremy and David before a coffee cupping!

Today the inevitable happened. We walked into our favorite Starbucks and Jeremy wasn’t there. He’s been there, in one way or another, for the last year and a half. But today was the first day our little band of coffee lovers had to realize Jeremy really is moving. Or trying to, as he and Maria are in the throes of packing madness. After commiserating and chatting for awhile, I grew philosophical as I realized all that Jeremy has taught us over the past year. And taught you, too, since most of the time what I learn sitting on my seat at the bar gets written in the electronic pages of Coffee Shop Journal.

Thank you, Jeremy, for teaching us…

  • Have passion. I don’t know anyone as passionate as Jeremy is. But he isn’t passionate about everything, just the things that really matter to him: Jesus, Maria (his wife!), coffee and people. I will never forget the night Jeremy and Maria came over to the house to eat shortly following the last Starbucks convention in New Orleans. He reminded me of a teenager hopped up on sugar, he was so high with the outreach, learning and fellowship. In those days, or any days, you couldn’t meet Jeremy without knowing his passion.
  • Coffee is complex. After hanging with Jeremy this year, I’ve realized that coffee deserves a capital C: Coffee. It is complex, filled with social justice issues. It brings people together and divides us into drinkers and non-drinkers. There are flavors for everyone, brewing methods galore, pairings and even a few disasters. Surely that’s the mark of a special person, if they can enlarge your view of the world just by being part of it.
  • People come first. Over and over I’ve seen how Jeremy treated his staff, his customers and especially his family. Even the coffee takes a back seat to the relationships.
  • Leadership is a byproduct. Jeremy illustrates this principle so clearly. He is a leader, but his leadership is a byproduct of his life and relationship. His staff is anxious to make his life easier, to do what he needs, to grow and make the store prosper. But they do it because they know Jeremy wants to do all those things for them, too. It is a relationship.
  • Kingdom comes first. Jeremy is moving because Maria got a job working in the church they feel most connected to, in Tampa. She’s going to be guiding and pouring into countless children’s lives as a result of her opportunity. In spite of having just gotten settled, even though Jeremy liked his job here, the kingdom comes first. They move. Great example.
  • Life consists of details. Over the years I have noticed that in the service industry, it is the manager who notices the details who does the best job. Jeremy is skilled at noticing and accomplishing the details. Scheduled lobby clean ups (often skipped by sloppy managers at other stores) are always done in his store. The cream is filled. The staff follows the recipes. It works. I’ve been inspired to work on the details of my life many times, just from watching his gang hit the mark over and over.

That’s probably enough. If Jeremy reads this, knowing him, he’s going to be embarassed. But sometimes we wait until someone leaves our life before we reveal how they impacted our thinking. Once in awhile I believe it’s good to encourage each other, to see the purpose in a friendship and a season of life. Jeremy and Maria have been a relatively short season of time in my life, but the Kingdom has been at the center of our relationship. I believe there has been — and will be — a purpose in our shared time in the coffee shop. And maybe that’s why I keep coming back to write about community and companionship in the third places of life, in the coffee shops and bookstores and malls and restaurants. There is a purpose greater than we can imagine, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

Safe travels and God’s blessings on you and Maria, Jeremy. May he guide you to the next phase of your unique ministry, giving you enough glimpses of the purpose along the way to keep you energized, but hiding enough surprises to delight you each morning with unimagined life. David and I pray blessings over you and Maria and your family — present and future — knowing that He has a great plan for you. Find the people in Tampa who are waiting for the knowledge that people like you exist. Keep inspirng, keep leading, keep dropping on your face before the King. And next time we see you we’ll sit down over a French Press of some good African coffee and marvel over the twists and turns.

Leadership Lessons from the Gym


There are certain situations that put me into a creative zone, ideas spinning and new connections made. As we all know, coffee shop are one of those places. The music, the scent of the coffee, the buzz of people, the buzz of caffeine! Oddly enough, working out on the elliptical is another creative spot for me. I guess it’s the oxygen to the brain? In any case, my mind races with prayers and people, blog posts, party ideas, future plans. Of course I have no way to write those ideas down! The last couple of weeks, however, I’ve been tapping into my inner John Maxwell. So here it is.

Leadership Lessons I learned in the gym

  1. We aren’t designed to run alone. Not too long ago David and I hit the gym an hour before it closed. It was practically empty, and I was excited to get to run on my favorite elliptical. It has a great heart monitor that never loses my heart rate (thus changing my cardio program when I’m unaware of it). After a few minutes of light runing, however, I realized that I wasn’t working very hard, and yet I felt exhausted. There was no zip, no energy, no fun. Talking about that workout later, David and i both agreed: it’s harder to work out when you feel like you are only one in the gym.
  2. We’re all in the same boat. Look around you next time you are in a gym. Everyone there is dong what you are: trying to hold back the hands of father time. We’re all people in varying stages and states. No one escapes the effects of life, and we all have a choice every day whether we do our part or not. In the broad scope of things, our excuses about why we can’t work out are worthless and unnecessary. We either work out and reap the benefit or we don’t and we slide slightly backwards. Time doesn’t really care about our excuses.
  3. Look around you. I have my best workouts on the days when there is a “pace setter” nearby. Their rhythm becomes part of my rhythm. They keep going so I keep going. In life, even more than the gym, we need to look around and find the pace setters. They are there…God puts them there.
  4. Look behind you; someone may be watching. In Oregon last week I was running at the gym and noticed a woman on another machine ahead of me by a couple of rows. My eyes settled on her back, and I “followed” her as I ran. She became my pace setter, which was wonderful until a girlfriend of hers came over for a friendly chat. The pace completely stopped…she became one of those recreational walkers. My pace stopped. I stumbled when my pace setter stumbled. So apply that to your own life. Sometimes you are setting the pace for others, and you have a responsibility to keep on task. Life does not stop for you to talk on the cell phone or read a magazine when you are supposed to be running the race. Keep the pace.
  5. Show up. Sometimes when we are beat up — by illness, or schedules, or emotions — our routine is thrown off and we skip the gym. I just came through three weeks of a crummy illness that kept me out of the gym, and after three weeks it was easy to rationalize just one more day off. But we didn’t. We showed up. And you know what? The workout was lousy. So were the next four workouts. But after that they began to get better again. Perseverance isn’t a popular virtue right now, but it is an excellent discipline. Show up for your life.
  6. There are no secrets in the gym. Yes, you heard me. I don’t care what kind of gym clothes you wear, if it CAN jiggle, it will. In front of everyone. But that’s ok. We’re all there to get better. In fact, the gym might be one of the few places where people can connect honestly, with out artifice. Ministry can happen there if we have the eyes to see. So don’t worry about the clothes, the look, the cut muscles strutting around you. Just be real. It’s so much easier.
  7. Be intentional with your iPod. It changes your whole workout. Get the wrong beat and you are sunk. In life, too, be intentional about what goes into your mind. Choosing wisely can fuel your entire perspective.

Glenn Beck: who ARE you???

“You need to do what you say you’ll do. You need to be who you say you are.” This is what I heard Glenn Beck saying on the radio just before I stopped in to the “office” to get some work done.

Glenn was in the middle of a discussion on the G20 summit that took place in Washington this past weekend. Quite frankly, the summit scares me to death: does the idea of all the nations of the world searching to establish a Global Resereve Currency not send shivers up and down your spine? Glenn reminded his audience that part of what has made the dollar a reliable currency in the past was our word that we would not go off the gold standard (we did) and — later — that we would not devalue the dollar, which we are. As a result the world is now beginning to clamor for a reserve currency that is a known quantity. As Americans, we did not keep our word.

In the same way, Glenn continued, we each need to keep our word even when it costs us. In his transition from CNN to Fox (upcoming) there were two weeks during which Glenn was not allowed to speak to his staff. He couldn’t explain that CNN asked him to immediately leave the studios. He couldn’t discuss the future with his people. At the end of two weeks, however, he was able to meet with them. To his surprise, he found none of them doubting Glenn’s loyalty or his version of the truth. “We’ve worked with you for two years,” they said, “We knew we could believe you.” Glenn’s commitment to truth and integrity preserved his staff for him during a difficult time.

Now Glenn Beck’s television staff is a small issue, not really an issue that will affect us. But his principle could turn our lives upside down in leadership. Can your people, your community, your family, trust you even in the face of contrary “evidence” based on your track record of integrity in the past? If contrary accounts of events do not match, do the people who know you automatically trust you? Or do they look at a history of flip flops and wonder what to believe now? Leadership in any setting — community, nationwide or in a family — depends on your moral and social capital. And that capital is funded through integrity.

Why does it require a radio host to call us back to a bedrock of integrity?

Leadership lessons I learned in Starbucks today

There are some Starbucks stores I just can’t walk by even if I just downed a triple espresso and have no business going near more caffeine. Jeremy’s Starbucks, outside Macy’s in the Gardens Mall, is one of them. Not only have we gotten to know many of the staff by name, but we consistently enjoy a good experience in the store. Today David and I were pondering a few leadership lessons we observed while getting our fix.

  • You have more than one business objective.

As we all know — mostly because Starbucks released it in their corporate press release!  — the core mission of Starbucks is to produce a quality cup of coffee. But really there are more objectives than that. In Jeremy’s store there are a few others: create community, give back to the community, be innovative, create your first impressions.

Takeaway: identify the priorities that help your core business succeed. Remember that you are in the people business, the social justice business, the hospitality industry…

  • Build systems in to meet your objectives if they don’t come naturally.

Sadly, we’ve all been to a Starbucks just after they have been slammed by a rush. Tables are littered, there are spills on the floor, maybe sugar scattered over the condiment table. And yet it is Starbuck’s objective to make sure the lobby area is cleaned and straightened periodically — every ten minutes according to Jeremy. To remind himself — and staff — of this important but easily forgotten task, Jeremy has a timer going off especially during rush times. Simple solution.

Takeaway: what are the seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks that actually cause our whole system (church, home, business etc.) to run smoothly. Are we remembering to place a value on accomplishing them?

  • The goal of leadership is to have a team that functions well without you.

Several times this week we’ve sat in Jeremy’s store and been taken care of as well as we are when he is there. And it isn’t (always) because the staff knows us. He has developed a culture of personal responsibility and community that can function without his physical presence for a period of time.

Takeaway: does our team fall apart without us? Do things run smoothly only because we are there to keep an eye on the minor bumps in the road or have we empowered our team to take responsibility for solutions and ideas?

  • Keep a close eye on your staffing requirements and supply.

Jeremy makes sure he hires top-quality people, but only just enough to cover his hours. Why? Because a top-quality person doesn’t want to be competing for hours. They want to jump in and get the job done. An uncommitted sparse part-timer has a hard time absorbing and transmitting your company or church DNA. It’s not impossible, but harder.

Takeaway: tough times may require difficult decisions. Do you have the right number of staff to keep your energy levels high without burning anyone out?

  • Exceed expectations.

Time and again Jeremy excels in this department. Today, for instance, he quietly switched our to-go cups to ceramic “stay here” cups, encouraging us to sit down and relax for a moment. It’s a little difference, but my inner coffee soul (yes, there is one) loves the look of a dopio espresso in a ceramic white cup. In another crucial area, he and his staff work hard on learning names and favorite drinks. Yes, this too is part of Starbucks culture, but it isn’t always practiced. Done well, this one idea alone leads to increased customer loyalty. We’re all in an energy-draining fight against anonymity. Simple solution.

Takeaway: look for the small areas where you or your staff can exceed an expectation on a regular basis.

John Maxwell: How to Hold Up Under Criticism

One of the best parts of writing posts everyday, in my opinion, is to sometimes write in order to give yourself a pep talk! I’ve often heard preachers say, “I’m preaching to myself, here.” Well today, I’m preaching to myself. I need to constantly stop and evaluate where I am at in my thinking, since I can allow wrong attitudes to sneak in the back door. Or come grandly through the front door. Today I am working on knowing who I am in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life. John Maxwell, in his Leadership Gold book and seminar, offers a little bit of advice on holding up when the world seems to be criticizing.

  • Know yourself: this is a reality issue. I have to learn to separate criticism on something I do, say, or even wear from the core of who I am. My self-worth is in God, and my joy is in my family. Those things can’t be taken away, and when I remember them I am happier.
  • Change yourself: this is a responsibility issue. Yes, there are some issues I should deal with. I need to stop whining about them (“Why don’t these clothes fit?”) and get a plan together to accomplish them. If my book isn’t written, I am the on who needs to start outlining it. If my schedule is out of control, I am the one who needs to learn to say no. These are the things I can — and should — change.
  • Accept yourself: this is a maturity issue. As Maxwell points out, there comes a time when we all need to grow up and stop depending on affirmation from other people. Not only are most other people not thinking about you at all, but they are also waiting for affirmation from you! Realizing this helps me make my mission in life clearer. Affirm people and watch them grow.
  • Forget yourself: this is a security issue. Focus on others. Focus on others. Focus on others. Really, this is the only point I need to remember. It is the beginning and the end of security. Focus on others.