True Success Requires Asking Questions

by Kevin Wallenbeck September 1, 2014 17:03

A recent article in Inc magazine had a list of business questions to ask provided by some of the most successful business people of our time.

Questions are good.  If you've ever been in a conversation or meeting with someone who knows how to ask good questions they very quickly begin to earn your respect.  It's probably safe to say the wisest people you know ask thoughtful questions and speak very little of their own opinions.  You mention their name and reference them as wise to a colleague and they respond with, yeah, but I hardly ever hear them talk.

Voltaire once said "Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers".

Some of my favorite questions from the Inc 100...

  • How can we become the company that would put us out of business? -Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group
  • What trophy do we want on our mantle? - Marcy Massura, a digital marketer and brand strategist at MSL Group 
  • Massura explains, “Not every business determines success the same way.Is growth most important to you? Profitability? Stability?”
  • What counts that we are not counting? -Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and head of global hospitality for Airbnb 
  • Conley explains, “In any business, we measure cash flow, profitability, and a few other key metrics. But what are the tangible and intangible assets that we have no means of measuring, but that truly differentiate our business? These may be things like the company’s reputation, employee engagement, and the brand’s emotional resonance with people inside and outside the business.”
  • In the past few months, what is the smallest change we have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the large return? -Robert Cialdini, author and professor emeritus of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University
  • What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve? -Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator
  • Which customers can’t participate  in our market  because they lack skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions? -Clayton Christensen, author, Harvard Business School professor, and co-founder of Innosight
  • Who uses our product in ways we never expected? -Kevin P. Coyne and Shawn T. Coyne, authors and strategy consultants
  • What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees, and partners? -Matthew May, author and innovation expert 
  • May explains, “This deceptively simple question creates utter clarity inside and outside a company. It is incredibly difficult for most people to answer and difficult to get consensus on--even at the highest levels. Apple = different. Toyota = quality. Google = search. It’s taken me three years to get one of my clients,, to find and agree on their word: trust.”
  • What should we stop doing? -Peter Drucker, management expert and 
  • Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief? -Chip and Dan Heath, authors who teach at Stanford’s and Duke’s business schools, respectively
  • Do we have the right people on the bus? Are they in the right seat? -Jim Collins, author and management consultant  
  • Am I failing differently each time? -David Kelley, founder, IDEO
  • If our customer were my grandmother, would I tell her to buy what we’re selling? -Dan Pink, author

What questions help you find success?  Find at here:

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Category: Business

Having a Budget Can be Life Changing

by Kevin Wallenbeck February 24, 2014 11:44

Do you have a budget? Many people say yes and then can't really tell you how much money they alot each month for even the basic things like groceries, gas for the car, or eating out.  Actually having a budget that is written down and followed each month is vastly different from having an idea of what you think you spend each month.

I was a fool for years thinking I 'had a budget'. It wasn't until going through Financial Peace University from the Dave Ramsey folks and applying the principles that our family's way of life was changed.

Amazing to think that some basic planning and committment can allow a family of two incomes to drop to one income just by keeping track of where they spend their money each month and sticking to it.  Yep, that is our family.

Now, that we've been faithful at it for almost 18 months it's exciting to share it with other folks and encourage them as well.

Their are many money managment tools and resources online but I would encourage you to check out with many resources and fanstic advice on all areas related to money.

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Category: Family

Observe to Learn and Confirm

by Kevin Wallenbeck October 22, 2013 07:50

A recent hospital visit reminded me of a few things and how important it is to observe so that we can both learn and confirm.

The first example came after I had decided to visit the cafeteria for a hot cup of coffee.  A seemingly considerate, young gentlemen that worked at the hospital was passing me in the hall and politely asked 'how are you'?  My pre-conditioned response was simply ... 'good, thanks' and then immediatley my mind recalled the story of the dad on the train with the three young children who were running around, yelling, screaming, and the dad just sat in a daze staring at the subway tunnel lights not seeming to care at all about his unruly children.  A few fellow 'caring' passengers made eye contact and traded looks of disgust at this parent who didn't care about the way his children were acting.

One of the 'concerned' passengers finally couldn't take it any longer and sternly asked the dad if he was going to get his children under control as they were disturbing several other passengers.  The dad snapped out of his daze and apologized for his lack of attention and poor behavior as they had just left the hospital that afternoon  where their sickly mother had passed away.  He collected his children up and held them close as the deeply embarrased, 'concerned citizen' shrunk into their seat, lowered their head, and stared at the floor.

So, this young polite gentlemen had really asked me a loaded question ... 'how are you'?  He was intending no ill will at all but here I was in a hospital, and he having no idea whatsover of my current circumstances.  Thankfully, my hospital visit is merely for my wife's minor surgery and all has gone well.

A good reminder to me that it's important to understand the circumstances before assuming a position.

My second observation was in the cafeteria itself.  Gossip can be such a cancer in anyone's life and especially at work.  We work hard at InteractRV to promote a no gossip policy.  negative's should always go up and positives should always go down.  A group of nurses were sitting next to my table and I coudln't help but listen into their conversation, believe me I didn't have to strain my ears too hard at all.  75% of their conversation was about other people or their working conditions and I'm pretty confident that none of them was hte 'supervisor' so their concerns weren't going up.  Made me grateful for my team and their desire to keep gossip out of their conversations.

My last observation came from the processes during surgery to make those in the waiting room comfortable and confident with how their loved one's surgery is going.  When I arrived at the waiting area I was greeted by a receptionist who took our info and promptly handed me a pager to carry with me that worked anywhere in the hospital and was a way to reach me if I was needed at all before, during, or after the surgery.   So about 30 minutes after my wife headed to the OR my pager goes off summoning me to the desk where I have a phone call from the OR nurse letting me know she fell asleep fine and the doctor is about to begin.

An hour later I get another buzz, summons, and again over the phone the OR nurse lets me know she is being moved to recovery and the doctor will be out to give me an update soon.  Needless to say I was impressed.  Was it completely necessary? Did it probably increase my health care costs?  Do either of those questions matter when a loved one is in surgery?

A good confirmation and reminder to me that the little things we do for our clients, even if they cost a little more, are worth it.

I truly didn't expect to learn anything this morning at the hospital, but that's what I get for observing ... we should all try it a little more:)

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Category: Business | Personal

The Power of a Story

by Kevin Wallenbeck July 3, 2013 23:28

Have you ever heard someone present their company, an idea, their ministry, or their invention?  I can guarantee the ones you remember are the ones that told their story.

Stories are powerful if told honestly and correctly.  Yes, even a truthfully story told poorly can leave people listening with boring stares.  So, how do you tell a good story?  Afer reading a newsletter from and I came across a useful article on story telling.  Here it is in summary...

1. Get Personal - Get personal and share your dreams, mistakes, and humble beginnings. Dump the powerpoint and tell it from the heart.

2. Plot it Out - Begin with a goal or dream. Include the obstacles you faced and how you overcame them. Then the lessons learned on the way to success.

3. Practice Makes Permanent - Wash, rinse, repeat your story.  If a section draws weird looks, re-write it.  Tell it to yoru friends, your colleagues, even yoru mirror.

Link to article here

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Category: Business

How Customer Service Strategies Change

by Kevin Wallenbeck November 2, 2011 13:25

As we all know business models and service strategies can evolve over time, and at the end of the day is it about the almighty dollar or the greater good?

You can swing to the almighty dollar and service begins to stink.  Or you can focus on the greater good and not making any money.  I think there is a middle ground and to be successful you have to find it and stick with it.

InteractRV, the rv website design company I co-founded in 2003, has used as their hosting partner for years.  In the beginning they were a smaller, privately held company bending over backwards to make sure things were right and easy to use.  Then a couple of years ago they went public and they just didn't focus on the fantastic service any longer.  The account managers began treating us as a number and their product/service offerings began evolving into a one-size fits all approach.

I'm not sure if they did it for the dollar, but my gut tells me as much.  What the whole process did do for me was open my eyes to make sure that as InteractRV grows servicing more customers that we are sure to maintain our premier level of service.

We will learn lessons and products/services will continue to evolve.  Some may make sense and we'll continue and some may not.  But at the end of the day we need to be available, listen to our customers, and help each one be successful in the best way for them.

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Category: Business