Customer Service Highlight – Discount Tire

Customer Service Highlight – Discount Tire

Customer service is a huge deal to me. When I experience great service, I shout it from the mountaintops; although, for what I’m referring to, the term “customer service” doesn’t suffice. I’m talking about the way a patron should be treated by a merchant. I’m talking about the reason I buy glasses from Warby Parker, tires from Discount Tire and computers from Apple (every ten years or so if I can afford it). There are several things that factor into buying decisions, but the way I am treated sits right at the top. Discount Tire is a vivid example for two reasons. First, the way they treat customers is extraordinarily consistent across employees. Second, while they claim to have “discount tires,” I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had an interest in comparing price after my first experience with them. At Discount Tire, unless every employee is working with another customer, someone will come out and greet you by the time you exit your vehicle. Every time. They will introduce themselves and ask something like “how can we help you today?” Every time. After I explained what brought me in, the guy who helped me today engaged me in some light-hearted conversation about my car, with a smile, while he checked the tires. This has happened every time. On the way inside, they will hold the door open for you. Every time. The wrap-up is similarly consistent, but not at all robotic. “Mr. Myrick, you’re ready to go! Make sure to come see us again in 3 months or 3,000 miles for a rotation (included with the tires). Do you have any questions for us?” As I got my stuff together, he waited patiently with some friendly small talk so he could shake my hand and escort me to the door. He opened it for me as he thanked me for my business. My car was waiting a few feet away. This all happens every time. I’m wired to be loyal. If I am treated well, I will stick around. I’ll also go out of my way to honor loyalty and likely even pay more, within reason. I doubt that I am the only person who feels this way so why have so few companies placed the priority on service that Discount Tire has? In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about “getting the right people on the bus.” I agree with him completely; however, there’s something really interesting about Discount Tire. Their employees are typically 18 to 25-year-old males who are not the type to own a suit and maybe not even a pair of khakis. In most industries, these guys would not be banners for stellar customer service. But they are at Discount Tire. That tells me that while Discount Tire may prioritize getting the right people, they definitely have a killer training program. I would go as far as to say that we could use some of their magic in education, both for our own students and in teacher preparation programs as well. I’ll close with a comment about vision. I love talking about vision because these kinds of highlights in an organization often stem from a clear vision. Check out this excerpt from Discount Tire’s Vision and Values (no mention of tires): One common thread running through the hearts of everyone within the organization remains the same – treat customers and fellow employees with respect and fairness. Care for those in need, always do what is right, work hard, be responsible and have fun. This kind of service is not limited to their loyal customers by the way. The next time you have a problem with a tire they didn’t sell you, drop by a Discount Tire and see what...

Facebook Reluctance and Diversity

Facebook Reluctance and Diversity

I have been reluctant to join Facebook for quite a while. I have from afar watched divisive rants and hateful things I want no part of. However, I do enjoy engaging people. One of the things I am passionate about is engaging those on opposite sides of an issue with civility and collegiality. Interestingly, in my first week as a Facebooker, there are folks who have either accepted a friend request or extended a friend request who are all across a variety of spectra. As a veteran, I am happy to have defended the right to express an opinion, but my stance is that divisive and hateful discourse is not productive. What I know is that from 4th – 12th grades in Jackson Public Schools (MS), friends with a variety of skin shades surrounded me. I remember working on projects with, being taught by, getting in trouble with, and serving in leadership roles with friends whose lives at home were completely different than mine. We did not always hang out together outside of school, attend the same churches, celebrate holidays the same way, or even view the world the same way. But we were dear friends.  I remember engaging conversations, innovative solutions, shared struggles, and really cool performance experiences. Yes, there were tense moments, but I do not remember relationships ending because of them. I’m sure some did and I doubt all of my peers share my perspective. However, because of those experiences, I am rarely uncomfortable around people unlike myself. Those years, especially the ones at Forest Hill High School, are still having a profound impact on how I view the world at 40 years old. It has been such a sweet thing this week to watch those faces pop up on Facebook. I cannot tell you how many times in my professional life I have referenced my wonderful high school experience. Some of the folks I most respect and admire look nothing like me and a few do not even share my worldview. So, in the tense atmosphere of extreme partisanship and polarity that we’re in currently, I badly want to encourage civility. I know it’s more complicated than that, but if you share my desire to be a part of the solution, please join me in looking for and sharing ways that diverse groups of people are collaborating well. And by the way, diversity is more than skin color. How many folks do you know who live on a month-to-month budget that are really tight with folks who are wealthy? Socioeconomic diversity can be equally complicated; just rarely as hateful. Please feel free to share an article, a quick observation, etc. It does not have to be lengthy or time-consuming. For example, in the past, I’ve shared a comment as simple as this one after a visit to Atlanta: “Just spent a weekend in Atlanta…diverse groups of people left and right. Love it!” As an educator, I am about to exit the eye of the hurricane into January, but I will try to send periodic reminders through social media to be on the lookout for things to share. I’ll conclude by saying that I am no one’s judge; nor do I believe I am better or superior in thought. I’ve made some royal mistakes that I do not plan to share on Facebook. I stand in judgment of no one. Only One has that job...

Wealthy Nashvillians, It’s Time to Buy a Tesla

Wealthy Nashvillians, It’s Time to Buy a Tesla

I see high-end models of the following brands every week in the Nashville area: Maserati, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche. All of them have an MSRP of around $100,000. There are plenty of exotic cars as well, but I want to focus on the $100,000 price range.  I want to challenge those willing to shop in that price range to consider another equally impressive option while taking part in a revolution. First, a disclaimer. I am a huge fan of Tesla Motors. I am also a stockholder (a whopping 14 shares). Their story, though somewhat scandalous, is extremely exciting to me because I am a fan of innovation as well. In the Model S, Tesla has created a beautiful and unprecedented machine.  In the P85D version of the Model S, for $104,500, revolution meets thrill ride. The Electric Revolution This is the primary reason I’m writing. For far too long, the auto industry has delayed this next chapter in automotive history, but Tesla has taken away the typical excuses. Range One of the most common reasons drivers are reluctant to adopt EV (Electric Vehicle) is range. The Nissan Leaf can take you 84 miles on a single charge. The Chevrolet Volt has an EV range of 38 miles. The Tesla Model S (P85D) has a range of 285 miles at 65 mph. Aesthetic Pleasure The Chevy Volt is a pretty cool looking car. But let’s be honest, the Leaf is not. Now look at the Tesla Model S.                         Performance The P85D is a groundbreaking dual motor all wheel drive with over 600 hp and a top speed of 155mph. Let that soak in for a second. Infrastructure This is the most exciting part to me. I’m not saying Elon Musk can do no wrong, but he is a very intelligent man who I believe is literally transforming the way we view personal transportation around the globe. The Supercharger station is Tesla’s answer to the gas station. teslamotors.com       “So what are they gonna do, build a bunch of ‘Supercharger’ stations all over North America, Europe and Asia just so people can use their cars?” Yes, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Check out the map below of current stations in North America. http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger           Now look at the number of planned stations for 2015.           The current map of Europe is impressive enough, but look at 2016.           Asia, 2015.           Coast-to-coast travel in the U.S. is currently an option and will include 98% of the U.S. population by 2015. At a Supercharger station, a Tesla Model S (85 kWh) owner can get a half charge in 20 minutes for free. It takes 40 minutes to get to 80%, which is typically sufficient to get to the next Supercharger. “Superchargers are located near amenities like roadside diners, cafes, and shopping centers. Road trippers can stop for a quick meal and have their Model S charged when they’re done.” The Persuasive Power of Presence We all know that one of the most powerful tools for introducing a product into the marketplace is seeing the product in use. I believe that getting more Teslas on the road will have a domino effect on innovation and conservation. As scale increases, I suspect Tesla and other companies will introduce more affordable products into the broader marketplace. Nashville has become known as a hub of innovation in recent years. We also are unique in that we have an extraordinary number of millionaires in our relatively small middle Tennessee metropolis. I am simply asking that some of you take a risk that would be akin to me buying a new laptop. And by all means, if you don’t like the car, let Tesla hear about it. Let me hear about it. And don’t buy another one. But after all, it was Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. And hey, if you have the kind of disposable income with which you are willing to put one on the road, but for whatever reason you don’t want to drive it, please let me know and I’ll gladly help you out with that. It starts at $69,900. I used the P85D to make my case, but you can get into a Model S (60 kWh) for $70,000. You can pre-pay for all service needs up to 100,000 miles for $3,800. History is being made. I really do believe early adopters will be taking part in historic change with respect to automotive technology. Most of...

Teachers in Lower Grades are Less Qualified. Right?

Teachers in Lower Grades are Less Qualified.  Right?

I heard recently from a very highly respected educational leader that excellent teaching is excellent teaching, regardless of grade level or content area. I suspect that if asked, most teachers would agree with this powerful statement. However, in practice, many of the upper grade practitioners in our field tend to view those in lower grades as somehow less qualified.  Elementary teachers, have you ever been made to feel that your work is not as critical as that of middle and/or high school teachers? I have recently made the transition to high school after teaching for several years at the middle school level. On more than a handful of occasions, I felt that my work was perceived as less vital than my high school peers. This morning, ESPN ran an interesting piece on College Game Day called “Coaching Up.” It highlighted three head coaches currently in the Top 10 who also coached at the high school level: Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), and Art Briles (Baylor). Just nine years ago, Gus Malzahn was coaching at the high school level and as the segment reminds us, “Auburn played for the national title in his second year as head coach.” While this route to the oversized world of college football is rare, all three attributed their success in large part to their experience at the high school level. Malzahn said that early in his time at Auburn, he would commonly hear negative comments: “high school this and high school that,” but he goes on to say “I took great pride in that…it gave me the foundation to do what I do at the college level.” My favorite quote came from Art Briles: “I’ve always viewed coaches as coaches, regardless of the level. Doesn’t matter whether you’re playin’ on Sunday or Friday night.” This resonates so strongly with me! Many of my peers warned me about the shock I would undergo by making the transition from middle to high school. I even received well-intentioned jabs like “Are you sure can handle high school?” First, let me acknowledge that I have not been in my current role long enough to point to any kind of particular success. I may eventually prove to be an epic failure. However, I can say with absolute confidence that the richest source of positive results thus far has been my experience as a successful middle school teacher. Recently, I participated in a parent/teacher conference led by a first grade teacher. It was one of the most professionally managed meetings of any kind I have ever been involved in. I am certain you have at some point heard a snide comment about a young woman teaching elementary school referred to as having an “MRS” degree. The irony is that most of those ignorant enough to make such a comment would not last one day in a successful elementary classroom. A master teacher in any area at any grade level will motivate and engage students using varied strategies. They will pace briskly and differentiate. Their questioning will fall across the classifications of Bloom’s taxonomy as appropriate. They will encourage peer engagement, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Most importantly, they will care about their students. Finally, they will operate with professionalism. Certainly these things cannot be said of every teacher. But they can be said of many more than you might expect. And most of these characteristics connect only to the craft of sound instruction. There are several other leadership and administrative elements required in order for a teacher to be successful. When you see master teaching at a variety of grade levels and in a variety of content areas, the similarities are far greater than the differences. Consider this. If a teacher, coach, or director is achieving excellence with less mature students who have received less training, would it not be a logical conclusion that they are at least an equally effective teacher, if not more effective than their peers working with more mature students with more training? Never before have those of us in education needed to operate as a team than in the current climate. We must be the biggest supporters of our peers, regardless of grade level or content area. We ought to be sources of encouragement for our colleagues. And for those who are new to the profession, we must remember whence we came. We all learned from failure. In no other field are first-year practitioners expected to operate under the same expectations as a thirty-year veteran. The best of us are striving to be professionals under less than ideal circumstances. We are all in it together. As I’ve...

Excellence in Arts Education – a tribute to Tennessee Arts Academy

Dr. Bridges and Mr. Bluestein, I am writing to sing the praises of Tennessee Arts Academy, and to thank you both for investing so much of yourselves into what is arguably the greatest annual professional development opportunity for arts educators in Tennessee. During the 2013 Academy, Marc Cherry ended his muse by referencing a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille.  In the letter, she beautifully describes what is central to the vision of Tennessee Arts Academy – artistic expression:  “… because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  If you block it, it will never exist… It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions…It is your business to keep it yours clearly and… to keep the channel open.” At Tennessee Arts Academy, educators are trained to guide students toward the joys of self-expression and excellence in a fine arts setting.  In a much larger context, I believe the arts are the most significant tool for inspiring humans to think differently about the world around them. The Arts:  Heart of the Common Core I admit this theme for last year’s Academy felt a bit cliché to me on day one.  However, on day six, I believed it wholeheartedly.  The Common Core State Standards emphasize learning by discovery.  Discovery has always been a fundamental precept of arts education.  The arts also reinforce literacy through theater and the multifaceted language of music.  Finally, the arts foster an appreciation for the abstract and enable students to operate in complex environments.  These will all be key elements of successful Common Core classrooms. Core Workshop Sessions Thank you for bringing faculty into these small group settings who are subject matter experts at the forefront of current research.  They rigorously challenge teachers with graduate level content.  Consider for a moment the exponential impact this kind of instruction has on the students of Tennessee. Musings and Performances Thank you for carefully utilizing TAA resources to bring in an ideal number of iconic performers and musers.  Each year they inspire us.  These unforgettable shared experiences allow us as artists to experience great art together. Excellence George Li’s performance on Sunday was an ideal launching pad for a group of educators:  a 17-year-old world-class piano virtuoso.  Craig Jessup was an inspiring example of an American story tracing humble beginnings through a career of greatness.  Finally, the closing presentation to Frank Bluestein was the perfect way to encapsulate the focus on excellence that permeates Tennessee Arts Academy.  His leadership in Tennessee’s arts education community is an inspiring example, but even more powerful is his stewardship of influence as evidenced by his illustrious list of alumni. Investment Policy makers and school leaders need to know that Tennessee Arts Academy is arguably the most successful event of its kind regionally if not nationally.  Like anything, maintaining excellence requires great resources.  Consider contributing financially to the Academy and please make legislators aware that it is an incredibly effective use of educational funding.  Research consistently points to teacher quality as the primary contributor to student success.  Few professional development opportunities for teachers make a stronger investment in teacher quality than Tennessee Arts Academy. Dr. Bridges, Mr. Bluestein and other TAA organizers, thank you for treating educators so respectfully during the week we are with you.  Finally, thank you for your work to ensure that Tennessee Arts Academy is itself a work of art.  You have created a legacy that will impact our region for years to come. Sincerely,   Jeff Myrick Arts...

Come On, CBS Sunday Morning!

Come On, CBS Sunday Morning!

CBS Sunday Morning, you are my favorite show. In a landscape of negativity and hopelessness with regard to media storytelling, CBS Sunday Morning presents pieces that celebrate the arts and life with laughter and tears.  One thing you do particularly well is reflect the emotional context of a given week or season with taste.  So I was surprised that your cover story for the week of Christmas was The Shadowy World of Counterfeit Wines. Let me first give you some credit.  You know your demographic.  It’s highly educated, highly appreciative of the arts, and wealthy.  I get it.  This story was like an episode of White Collar for the wine world, perfectly suited for your demographic.  But it’s Christmas week. The bulk of the piece was about billionaire Bill Koch’s wine collection and that a portion of it is counterfeit.  When he found out, he got angry and launched a legal battle.  The End. Let me highlight some things that seemed outside the context of your typical production planning for a week such as Christmas week. 1.  Koch:  “For 421 bottles that are definitely fake, I’ve spent $4.5 million.”  According to the story, Koch himself said he’s spent nearly twice as much on fake wine as the average college graduate will make in a lifetime.  Why in the world would you use that painful comparison to bring attention to a loss?  If the same numbers were put on authentic bottles, would you say during Christmas week, “Look!  For twice as much as the average college graduate will make in a lifetime, I have 421 bottles of wine!”  Probably not, because it’s an inconsiderate thing to say.  Do you realize then that since the bottles are fake, it makes it even worse?  That money was wasted. 2.  In 1985, the so-called “Thomas Jefferson wine” sold for a record price of more than $157,000 to Christopher Forbes.  Factor in inflation and that amount more than doubles.  At the time of purchase, Christie’s offered the following disclaimer:  “There is an immense amount of circumstantial evidence supporting the ordering of this wine [by Thomas Jefferson] and its identification, but, of course, no proof.”   Here’s what I heard:  The amount spent on a single bottle of wine [accompanied by an authenticity disclaimer] was roughly triple the 2012 U.S. average household income.  Oh, and those are 1985 dollars.  Oh, and the official poverty rate in 2012 was about 15%.  Oh, and Merry Christmas. 3.  In 1988, Bill Koch bought four of these “Th. J.” wines for just under $400,000.  It’s like when you can buy four of something for $4 that cost $1.50 each.  That’s a savings!  Merry Christmas. 4.  When Koch began to question their authenticity, he hired investigators, including an ex-FBI agent.  Okay, so he put people to work.  That’s a good thing.  Merry Christmas.  And it paid off!  They informed him his bottles were fake!  (noisy inhale) 5.  Koch was furious!  Understandably.  These people had taken advantage of him.  “If it takes me until the end of the world, I’m going after the fraudster,” he said.  Yes, he said “fraudster.”  He goes on to admit, through a smile, that he’s spent (so far) $25 million on eight lawsuits aimed at the perpetrators of such counterfeiting.  That’s right.  There are few things in the world more worthy of $25 million in litigation costs.  Merry Christmas. 6.  CBS, toward the end of the story:  “As for Bill Koch, with more than 40,000 bottles in the cellars of his various homes, he’s stopped buying.”  [Cut to imaginary John Stewart]  Why?!  Oh God, please tell me, why?!  There are so many more bottles in need of a home!  For God’s sake, buy more homes to house them!  Bill Koch’s response:  “I’m tired of the aggravation of being violated by these con-artists and crooks.”  You tell ‘em, Bill!  We’ll show you…fraudsters!  We’ll spend whatever money is necessary to make sure that you get…what you deserve…fraudsters!  Because we’re tired of the aggravation of being violated…fraudsters!  If only the rest of the world could know what it feels like to be aggravated and violated.  Merry Christmas. 7.  As to the question “has it been worth it” to spend such large amounts of money to go after these crooks, he concedes to a comparison with Don Quixote’s windmills recognizing that his efforts might be in vain.  [Cue imaginary John Stewart again]  You think?!  Koch again:  “But, to me, it brings me great satisfaction.”  And come on, that’s worth $25 million, isn’t it?  Merry Christmas. CBS Sunday Morning, the story was interesting at best, but it was a celebration of excess.  That might have been fine...

My Take on “The R Word”

My Take on “The R Word”

Neda Ulaby of NPR produced an interesting story on the use of profanity in cable TV shows.  The story is enjoyable if for nothing other than the creative way they choose to refer to the top two words most censored:  s*** and f***.  Beyond that, the story examines the liberties cable TV shows have to use s***, but not f***.  And not because of an FCC guideline; rather because “It’s just basically people in suits making up the rules,” says Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy on FX.  It’s a great story, but instead of spending time on the wild west of nighttime cable drama, I’ll use this as a segue toward a related topic.  In the same interview, Sutter said he is also not allowed to use the word retard.  I want to explore why this might be off limits for cable. My son has Down syndrome.  At least once a week, someone around me uses the word retarded.  Every time this happens, I cringe.  Many of these people are caring, loving and dear to me.  They know my son and would never say anything to hurt him or me.  So why does this happen and why am I offended? The only thing I can figure out is that their use of the term never lines up with its definition.  I hear uses like this: “You are so retarded!” “That meeting was so retarded!” “That show is so retarded!” In these contexts, they’re saying something is ridiculous, stupid, or wasteful; but retarded means none of those things.  Retarded means delayed and when referencing a person, it usually means that they have a cognitive or mental delay.  But what I hear is “You are so stupid, like [my son]” or “That meeting was such a waste, like [my son].”  I’m embarrassed for putting words in their mouths because I know that’s not what they mean.  But I also know what they don’t mean.  They don’t mean delayed because most likely the person, the meeting and the show were not delayed, or slow.  They’re referencing the behavior associated with someone who is intellectually disabled.  It’s the only logical explanation.  My son will likely exhibit this kind of behavior well into his adult life.  That’s why I’m offended. I’m not the type to rest my feelings on my sleeve, nor am I easily offended.  Further, I’m turned off by the overly defensive nature of folks who are offended by the smallest things.  And here I am…offended by something said by good people who care about me.  And my son. Why would they say this?  Don’t they understand that it’s a hurtful thing to hear?  The answer is no.  They don’t.  They can’t possibly or else they wouldn’t say it. This is why I haven’t said anything.  I think they would be embarrassed and mortified at how their choice of words has affected me.  And that’s why I’m writing.  I want to make the point that saying retarded is offensive, because I’m convinced that most do not know they are saying something offensive.  I would want to know. And no, I do not think its use should land someone in prison, get a student suspended, or be banned altogether (like that’s possible).  On the web, it’s easy to find entire websites dedicated to the end of “the R word.”  That’s not at all where I’m coming from.  I sometimes say things that would offend certain people.  However, when I’m aware, I don’t say them around the people they’ll offend.  For example, profanity is very effective when used in the right context.  However, when used in the wrong context, the offense caused might overshadow the point being made.  I have come to realize that most of the people who say retarded simply do not know it is offensive.  I’m writing to inform those people. For all of you who use the term with the knowledge of how offensive it is…by all means, keep it up.  For all of you who use the term directly to or around a person who is intellectually disabled for the purpose of being hurtful…by all means, keep it up.  You are the subject of an entirely different post.  I’m not writing this for your benefit.  I’m writing this for people who have no idea the word is hurtful.  I’ve heard this point made:  “If you outlaw retarded, people will just use another word to offend that was previously associated with the disabled in a clinical and non-offensive way.  That’s what mean people have always done.”  This is true.  As the songwriter said, “all you are is mean.”  And you have the right...

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