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The Route

March 18, 2011

Wow, that was fast. Thanks to the awesomeness of MapMyRide and IDOT’s on-line bike maps I was able to plan my entire route in about 3 days. And there are surprises:

  1. It’s shorter. A LOT shorter than I was led to believe. Instead of 600-650 miles, the entire route is 513 miles. This is both good and bad. I definitely wanted the challenge of averaging near 100 miles every day, but at least this way I’ll be able to enjoy the ride more and worry about the miles less. Believe me, over 7 days it’s still a lot of miles.
  2. It was originally shorter than that. My initial ride was from Cairo to Chicago, ending at the North end of the Lake Shore Bike Trail. Now I’ve extended it all the way to the Illinois/Wisconsin border, so it’s a true bike from the bottom to the top of the state. This is awesome.

Below are the daily details of my ride along with a link to the route on MapMyRide.com. If you want to bike with me at any point during the route just send me a note and we’ll figure out how to meet up. I’ll have my cell phone on me so it should be pretty easy.

Day 1 – Cairo to Carbondale: 54 Miles (Sunday, 8/14)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29680292

The shortest of the days but also the second steepest in terms of total elevation gain at 968 feet. This should be a pretty scenic ride in the southern part of the state. I’ll start at the Days Inn in Cairo and finish at the Super 8 in Carbondale on Main St. With any luck I’ll still have some time to explore the city. I anticipate being very happy at the end of this day’s riding.

Day 2 – Carbondale to Centralia: 80 Miles (Monday, 8/15)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29681532

Now we’re warming up. 80 miles is definitely good for a day. I’ll be starting early, somewhere between 5:30am and 6am. Those of you who know me know how much of a feat it is for me to be up and alive at that hour, let alone in the saddle. I’ll end at the Bell Tower Inn in Centralia, hopefully before dinner time.

Day 3 – Centralia to Effingham: 63 Miles (Tuesday, 8/16)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29682390

Another “light” day, so I’ll use this as recovery. Also the lowest in elevation gain at only 499 feet. I’d like to consider this a “cruising” day where I just click off miles, but I’ve learned never to underestimate the heat and wind in Illinois. I’ll take hills over wind any day of the week, that’s for damn sure. I’ll be staying at the Comfort Suites in Effingham for the night.

Day 4 – Effingham to Champaign: 89 Miles (Wednesday, 8/17)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29683830

This will definitely be a grind-it-out day. At this point I’ll have 197 miles over 3 days with no rest day, so I think this will be difficult. Thankfully I’ve got some friends/co-workers in Champaign, so it will be good to see them at the end. This also happens to be where I “splurge” on hotels at the Drury Inn & Suites. Good thing I get a corporate discount through Caterpillar!

Thursday, 8/18 – Rest Day (and My Birthday!!!)

With over half the trip finished at 286 miles, I think I’ve earned a rest day. Sweetly enough, it also happens to fall on my 29th birthday! Rest assured I’ll be celebrating with a big-ass steak at Alexander’s in Champaign. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is invited to join me for the night out! I’ll have more details as it gets closer, but you can take this one to the bank.

Day 5 – Champaign to Kankakee: 100 miles (Friday, 8/19)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29685632

Ah, there’s my good old friend, the Century ride. Back to the grind after a great night off. Also low in total elevation gain (500 feet), so this should be cake compared to Door County Century in 2010 (watch me eat my words).  I’ll end at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kankakee, probably a little bit whiny but glad to be in the Northern half of the state.

Day 6 – Kankakee to the Illinois/Wisconsin Border: 127 Miles (Saturday, 8/20)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29716660

Ah, what better way to end the ride than with back-to-back Centuries? Oh, and also the steepest in elevation gain at 1,000 feet! This is where mental fortitude will need to over-ride physical depletion. At this point it’s full-stop, leave nothing behind, the last day! You’ll be able to meet me at Lake Shore Realty in Pleasant Prairie, WI (3875 116th St.). Hopefully before dark!

And 513 miles later I will have done it. August seems so far away, yet so close at the same time. Ride on!

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Open Season

March 12, 2011

I was supposed to be in Japan yesterday for work. 2 coworkers and I took the 6am flight out of Peoria and got to our next connection in Minneapolis, and that’s as far as we got. Work called, said the entire trip was canceled, and we found a quick flight home and were back by lunch. It’s crazy and scary to think how narrowly we escaped being on the ground there during the earthquake and tsunami; Lady Luck has roots in P-Town, apparently.

So fresh with a 1/2-day off on a Friday (Go to work? Are you serious, my boy?), I decided the best thing to do on a 51-degree sunny day was to ride. My first real ride of the season. I’d done a lot of off-season training with RPM, the Lose-10-Pounds-Before-Christmas Challenge, and I felt generally in decent shape, so what ride did I pick? Probably one of the hardest rides I did ALL of last year: the 30-mile Scenic Peoria County Ride. All I remember about the ride last year was hills-hills-hills, whine-bitch-moan, a ride that seriously kicked my ass and laughed in my face while doing it. Chock-full of optimism, what better thing to do on a Friday afternoon than test my skills?

The first 10 miles were amazing. Freshly tuned bike, new tires, new road shoes, lots of strength. 20 MPH in the flats with no effort, hammering down the hills until they were pancakes, nothing I couldn’t handle with my new-found legs of glory. I was so relaxed that I could even enjoy the scenery around me! Hawks circling each other, playing chase, and diving at rocket speed as they ride the jet streams, cows staring at me trying to decipher my existence, the finally warm sun casting a shadow on my near perfect cycling form. Everything seemed perfect, like this was meant to be. That is, until I remembered that the REAL hills didn’t start until Mile 15.

And hills they were. The first one looked like a near-vertical, about as close to a mountain as you’ll get here in Illinois. A wave of fearful nostalgia swept over me as I paused at the base: I distinctly remember walking my bike up this one last year, the rolling laughter of the mountain echoing ever so faintly through the trees. Well, I’ve got legs this year, right? Let’s gear down and GO! I hit the entrance hard and rocketed up…..the first 50 feet. The pedals got stiff in a hurry. Quickly shifting through the gears I reached my easiest, not anywhere close to the top. Hamstrings burning. OK, time to stand. Match the cadence to the song in my head. Left. Right. Left Right. Heart rate at 175 and climbing. Halfway there, you can do it! Match breathing to cadence. Punch, then counterpunch. Don’t worry about the speed, 6MPH never felt so slow. I can see the apex now, let’s move! Quads aching, arms shaking, abs struggling to pull my form back into line. Left. Right. Left. Right. Like pistons in an engine. Maybe a 1985 Buick, huffing and puffing and just trying to stay alive. The hill, it wants to laugh, but it’s seriously concerned. Leaning forward, I’m nearly over my front wheel. My entire body is now screaming at me to stop, but I don’t listen. Just a few more feet to go. 5….4…3….2….1….and I’m there! Gasping for air, I settle back into my seat and grab some water. I look behind me and see the asphalt plunge into nothingness. I did it! 2011 Chris 1, Hill 0.

The rest of the ride was just as challenging. Way too many standing climbs (I swear there was a downhill around here somewhere….), no rest in the flats (“There’s the 15MPH headwind the Weather Channel mentioned in passing”), semi trucks whipping by at 50MPH nearly throwing me off the bike, even some extra mileage thanks to road closings and GPS inaccuracy.

2 hours, 25 minutes, and 36 miles later, I rolled back in next to my car. With no one around, I pumped my fists in the air and let out a triumphant scream. Having been up since 4am, flown 800 miles only to end up back home, victory was now mine! All the off-season workouts, the torturous RPM classes, the pain, sweat, and tears of a winter that knew no rest, the constant fear of losing all that I had gained from my best-ever biking season in 2010, all of those worries vanished into the wind. Here I was, in March, with my first road ride of the season under my belt. I had conquered a ride that decimated me last year in the middle of the season, in my prime. Without another sound, I loaded my bike back into the car. There was a mutual understanding too good for words: Nothing can stop us in 2011.

——————

Obviously this is a great start to the training season for my charity touring ride, Bike Illinois 2011. I was so excited after this ride I went out and purchased nearly all of my touring gear! I now have a rear rack and panniers, rear storage case, and even a new helmet (it’s shiny and matches my bike color scheme!). I’ll be posting pictures soon so you can see all the upgrades to the Blue Demon as well as information for business sponsorships for the ride. In the meantime, please keep the donations coming at my FirstGiving site. A HUGE thanks to those that have already donated; I’m over 10% to my goal and it’s only March.

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Bike Illinois 2011 – UPDATE

February 10, 2011

All has been quiet recently on the biking front, but I have a few quick updates to share:

The Ride

I’ve been a complete slacker on planning my route and haven’t done anything so far. My friend Mike has been kind enough to share his routes with me when he planned a similar ride, so I’ll cross-check those against the IDOT maps and go from there. February is stacking up to be a busy month for me (my second trip to Europe in a year), so my new goal is to get the first draft of the route mapped by the end of March.

Sponsorship

I had a long phone call with NMSS today and they’ve agreed to sponsor the ride! In the next few weeks they’re going to set me up with an online event page through their Illinois Chapter site along with an easier donation page. I found out that FirstGiving actually takes a 7.5% cut of the donations to fund their site, so I’ll be shutting that donation page down as soon as the NMSS page goes live. In the meantime you can still donate if you wish.

Training

Offseason? What offseason?? Even though there’s a foot and a half of snow on the ground and we’re at sub-zero temperatures, my legs are stronger than they have ever been. I’ve been doing RPM (spinning) twice a week at my gym along with my regular exercise routine, and RPM is as close as it gets to real biking. I honestly think that I’m going to come out at the start of this season with a lot more speed and endurance than at the end of last season, which is awesome. Plus, they’ve been nice enough to let me bring my own clipless pedals in, which is friggin’ sweet! I’m doing OK weight-wise, probably have 5-8 more pounds to lose before I’m at my target riding weight. All it takes is discipline, which I feel is in short supply sometimes. I’ve also picked out some longer-distance rides during the season for training: the Tour deWitt and Hundred Miles to Nowhere in May, Tour de Farms in June, and some back-to-back long rides from the house to Lacon and Henry.

My Bike

I took the Blue Demon (a.k.a. my 2010 Giant TCX2) in for his annual tune-up, and he’s all nice and shiny now, and even has new bar tape! I’ve also finished my tire conversion. The stock tires were Kenda SmallBlockEights, which are great cyclocross tires that were also surprisingly smooth on the road. BUT, I had at least 15 flats last season, all on the rear tire, mostly punctures, which tells me the tires are too thin. So I upgraded to some Michelin Pilot City tires. They’ve got a smoother tread which will help on the road, and they’re thicker all around, which should help with puncture resistance. Basically a full-out city commuter tire that fits on my cyclocross bike. The only downside is that they are at least double the weight of the Kendas, but enough leg strength will take care of that. Plus they have reflective sidewalls, which is a serious win. I’ve also been scouting the rest of my gear which I’ll be purchasing next month: a new helmet, road shoes and cleats, rear rack and panniers, handlebar bag, a few more pairs of shorts, rain gear, and maybe a new Garmin cyclocomputer. REI and Bushwhacker are gonna love me!

That’s it for now; please spread the word about my ride! Spring can’t come soon enough…..

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Bike Illinois 2011 – The Craziest Thing You’ve Heard This Year (So Far)

January 2, 2011

As some of you may already know, I had a very successful biking season in 2010. This marked my first official season as a cyclist and not just a person who happens to ride bikes. Here are the highlights:

  • 1,602 miles
  • My first century ride since 2003
  • My first Metric century and last L.A.T.E. Ride
  • Biked the entire Rock Island Trail….three times
  • Lost a total of 40 pounds

So in the same spirit I’m setting a pretty big goal for 2011: I am going to bike the entire length of Illinois in 7 days. Moreover, this is going to be fundraising ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I have set a goal of raising $5,000 by the start of the ride (August 14th). To help with donations I’ve set up an easy and secure online site through FirstGiving here: http://www.firstgiving.com/bikeil2011

I’ve created a FAQ below with more details just to prove to you that I’m not completely crazy. :-) Stay tuned to this blog for updates as my planning and training progresses.

Bike Illinois 2011 FAQ

Why are you doing this?

Mostly because I’m completely crazy, but actually for a few good reasons. First, my Aunt, Janice Pechtold, has been living with MS for over 20 years. I’m doing this ride for her. Second, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is great. They have one of the lowest overheads of any national charity organization, so you can be confident that your donation is actually going to research and development for treatments and hopefully a cure. Third, I’ve been inspired by Janeen McCrae, who completed a TransAmerica ride from Virginia to California in 2010 after breaking her wrist. Check out her awesome documentary blog, complete with breathtaking pictures, at http://nodirectionknown.com/blog.

Is this event officially sanctioned by NMSS?

Yes. I submitted the paperwork for their approval on December 7, 2010. I will update this blog with the information after I receive it, hopefully sometime in the next month or so. NMSS has been kind enough to send me donation forms and informational literature, which I will share as soon as I get it. In order to maximize the amount of money going to the Society, I will pay for all expenses (lodging, food, equipment, repairs, etc.) out of my own pocket.

What are the details of the ride?

I plan on riding the entire length of Illinois, starting in Cairo and finishing in Chicago, in 7 days. I will start on August 14th and finish by sundown on August 20th. While I haven’t yet finished mapping my route, I’m using the wonderful maps provided by IDOT along with some help from friends to plan the safest route possible.

Where will you sleep?

Since this is my first attempt at touring, I’m not bold enough to try towing a trailer and camping. I’ll be staying in hotels in my stop towns of Carbondale, Centralia, Effingham, Champaign, and Kankakee. As mentioned previously, all my expenses are out-of-pocket in order to maximize donations to NMSS.

Can I send donations to you instead of online?

Yes. You can mail donations to me or give them to me in person. I will credit you on the FirstGiving website as well as give you a donation receipt. If your company wishes to donate I will find a way to put your logo on my bike somewhere!

Can I ride with you?

Absolutely! However, there are a few things you should know before you decide to ride:

  • I’m not a racer. I’m hoping to average 12-13MPH with all my touring gear.
  • I’m a safe rider. I expect you to be the same. If possible, I’d like to do some training rides with you so we can get comfortable riding together.
  • I plan on riding rain or shine, so please come prepared.
  • I would expect you to be active in helping raise donations.

Are you crazy?

Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

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Goals

July 6, 2010

This post has been a long time coming, that’s for sure. This past year I was in terrible shape, both physically and mentally. The numbers were appalling: 5’6″, 218 pounds, cholesterol at 256 mg/dL, blood pressure at 140/92 (pre-hypertension), resting heart rate in the 80s, basically the worst I have ever been. I was tired all the time, taking naps after work (I’m friggin 27! I should be loaded with energy!), and just generally not happy with myself. So I decided to change that, set some goals, and check back in a year:

Goal 1: Healthy Eating

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s that I can exercise until I drop but if I don’t consistently eat better I won’t be healthy. So this goal became my main focus. Less eating out, more cooking at home, eating healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. All my other goals cannot be achieved without this one; this is the core.

Goal 2: Drop the Weight

This one was actually going to be easy. I was confident that I could establish a decent exercise routine (see the next goal), so as long as I stuck to my healthy eating plan the weight would drop naturally. I decided not to obsess over every little pound week-in and week-out like I had before, but just set a goal weight where I would be comfortable and happy – 190 pounds (-28).

Goal 3: Spark Up My Exercise

My routine at the gym had become stale. I mean 3 years stale. If I was going to lose weight I needed an exercise routine that worked. So I bought The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises and developed complex upper and lower body weight routines. I alternated that with elliptical trainer and stationary bike cardio in the gym to average 1,000 calories burned per workout, with a goal of burning 4,000 calories per week through exercise. At the same time I was determined not to just become a gym rat, so I decided to put biking back on my radar, which leads to the next goal.

Goal 4: Bike On

Last year was a shitty year for biking. The never-ending rain kept Whitney and I to all of ONE bike ride all year (on the hottest, most humid day of the year no less). This year was going to be different. We set an early goal of doing a century ride in 2010 (100 miles in a day), and picked one in mid-September. To train for that I put down some serious coin on a new bike (love my Giant TCX2 with upgraded Shimano Tiagra shifters and gear train) and decided I wanted to bike 1,000 miles this season. To put this into context, I’ve NEVER EVER come close to this mark, even in college when I was training for the longest ride I’ve ever done, the MS 150. On top of that, I weighed only 150 pounds for that ride, so a weight drop was in serious order if I ever stood a chance at making this goal. So basically I would be a gym rat during the winter and then bike my nuts off in the spring, summer, and fall, hoping for the best and watching the miles add up.


Where I’m At Today (4 Months Left)

I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of a LOT of people. First and foremost, my wife, Whitney. She has been the constant force behind all the healthy recipes, meal planning, and cooking. Without her I don’t eat as healthy as I should and the good habits I now have don’t develop, plain and simple. Second, well, there’s just too many people to list. Everyone has been so supportive, and there hasn’t been a single negative word uttered from anyone about what I’m doing. To my family, friends, coworkers, band mates, and everyone else in between, THANK YOU. Here are the numbers as they stand today:

Weight: 183 pounds (-35)

Blood Pressure: 112/76 (-28/-16)

Resting Heart Rate: 59 BPM (-21ish)

Cholesterol: TBD (will check in November)

As you can see, I’ve already reached my goal weight and then some, so at this point the new goal is to maintain or lose more, no matter what the numbers are. I’m consistently burning over 4,000 calories EVERY WEEK through exercise and have somehow maintained that every single month since November. The weather this year has been magical and we were able to jump out on the bikes as early as March 9th! I’ve biked 832 miles so far with another 125 scheduled in rides. At the rate I’m going I’ll break the 1,000-mile barrier by the end of July!!!

Again, without the support of Whitney and everyone else, this just doesn’t happen. I haven’t seen this weight in 8 years and I’m not done yet. I’ll continue to update on a monthly basis as I have been on Facebook, so stay tuned. Damn this feels good!

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Top 5 Albums of 2009 You’ve Never Heard Of

January 16, 2010

Inspired by a post by my cousin Seth over at his blog daybums, I’ve decided to post my top 5 albums that were released in 2009. Some of these you may have heard of, some you may not, but that’s the idea! I encourage everyone to buy these albums because these are definitely artists worth supporting. So without further ado, here we go!


Number Five: Static-X – Cult of Static

Along with their previous album Cannibal, this one signifies a true return to the roots of Static-X music. While not as innovative as Wisconsin Death Trip, this album provides a fine assortment of Wayne’s signature riffs and Nick’s killer, in-the-pocket drum grooves. It starts with a choppy, almost marching-like feel on “Lunatic” which sets a serious tone before the lighter “Z28″. One of the best songs is “Tera-fied” which was no doubt written as a tribute to Wayne’s wife. The last track, “Grind 2 Halt”, makes you feel like the world is ending and you’re standing at the edge of time. Awesome.


Number Four: Pelican – What We All Come to Need

This one actually made it into my collection late in the year but became a fast-rising staple. Originally from Chicago, this four-piece instrumental band makes some great music for relaxing but complex enough to keep your ears alert. My favorite song on this album is “Ephemeral”, which alternates between a simple yet catchy verse pattern and a heavy, slow-grind chorus that’s got quite a few layers to it.

Number Three: Iced Earth – The Crucible of Man


I had been looking forward to this release since Framing Armageddon came out in 2008. This is the final act of Jon Shaffer’s 2-disc masterpiece designed to expand on the trilogy of songs at the end of Something Wicked This Way Comes (also known as Set Abominae). Strictly speaking this album cannot be fully understood without the context of Framing Armageddon, but there are a lot of elements within the album itself that make it truly stand out as a master work. First and foremost, Matt Barlow is back on vocals. His range is better than ever and his epic high notes send chills down my spine. Second, Brent Smedley is THE perfect drummer for Iced Earth’s style, and his double-bass work matches the guitar patterns note for note. Absolutely incredible! Third, the instrumentals are full in both ears. A very powerful sound and songs written with a sense of purpose. You can tell Shaffer knew he was writing something significant. If “Come What May” doesn’t get your adrenaline going I don’t know what will!


Number Two: Mastodon – Crack the Skye


I actually reviewed this album as a guest post over at the daybums blog, so I’ll just link there and let the review tell the rest. Amazing album, their best work yet!

http://betweenparties.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/guest-post-mastodon-crack-the-skye/

Number One: Lamb of God – Wrath


Ever since the release of As the Palaces Burn, Lamb of God has evolved leaps and bounds with every release. Sacrament blew me away with its complexity and power in 2006 and I didn’t think anything could top that. Wrath sets THE STANDARD for metal music in this age. Even if you don’t like metal music you absolutely cannot walk away from this album with anything but the utmost respect for Lamb of God’s raw talent, emotion, and pure songwriting ability. Randy Blythe is in top form with powerful lyrics and (wait for it) actual vocal notes! “The Passing/In Your Words” is the perfect opening. Solemn acoustic guitars give way to a pounding, full-band intro that has this album smashing through the gates and ready for war. Chris Adler remains one of my top 3 drummers of all time, but in this album I actually had to replay sections and slow them down to fully get my mind around his riffs. I can’t find any other examples in recent history where a drummer has pulled of such technical riffs at this speed with such power and precision. I’m absolutely speechless through this entire album. Released in February, Wrath reigned supreme for the entire year as nothing else would even come close to matching this effort. I’ve played it virtually nonstop since then and it still continues to blow me away. Play this one over and over and over again!

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Would You Like Fries With That?

December 4, 2009

As a long-standing survivor of the service industry (fast food, book store, pizza delivery, auto mechanic) the issue of rude customers and disengaged employees has always been near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned a lot of things in my many years of working as a service employee, but what shocked me most in the early years was how disgraceful humans can be to each other when one group feels superior to the other and entitled to a lot more than is actually deserved. We’ve all heard stories about the worst customers on the face of the earth, employees who spit in the food (or otherwise sabotage the provided service), and the overall hellish experience of “retail”. There are always lessons to be learned about common courtesy, but the lesson that seems to be missed by a lot of companies is that the rude-customer-disengaged-employee cycle is self-perpetuating. Let’s take a deeper look at the mechanisms at work here and see if we can learn something.

Part One: The Employee. Ah yes, it all starts with finding the right employee. A mixture of good work ethic, affable personality, trustworthiness, and independence is the general formula for creating the ideal service industry employee. To give humanity the benefit of the doubt, there are a lot of people out there that fit this bill. High school and college students quite easily fit into this mold and are typically drawn to the service industry for the work scheduling flexibility and sheer volume of available work. Even though the students’ expectations are to be temporary in the position (until graduating school, moving away from home, etc.), this does not prevent them from being a happy and engaged employee, especially if the hiring company and local management ascribe to those values.

Part Two: The Employee Interacts With Customers. To place one of my few judgments on humanity, I believe that overall there are an equal mixture of “good” customers and “bad” customers. Unfortunately, the “bad” customers are usually really bad and severely skew the employees’ perceptions of their customer base as a whole. Stereotyping? Yes. Normal human behavior? Absolutely. I’m not going to dwell on the causes or interpretations of “bad” customers, but the effects are almost universal. Employees become jaded, disengage from the customer experience, and the quality of the service declines as a whole, which then casts a negative light on the entire service industry.

Part Three: Shifting the Paradigm. It should be clear by now that employee engagement/morale is absolutely vital to a company providing a positive customer experience. Unfortunately employee engagement and customer interaction are inevitably linked due to human nature. The transient properties of service sector jobs also increase the difficulty of providing the positive customer experience and keeping employees engaged. Sounds like a catch-22, doesn’t it? Not exactly. In my view, the burden of shifting the paradigm falls on the employers since they have the most to lose (reputation, sales). The most effective tool is investment in the employees. Take Starbucks, for example. They offer health insurance to any employee who averages 20 hours per week over a calendar quarter. That’s right, their part-time employees get insurance benefits. And not bad ones either – Aetna is their primary carrier and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the amount and quality of their coverage. I can say that not a single company I’ve worked for part-time has ever offered me health insurance benefits, and in most cases I worked 35+ hours per week for those companies. The benefits don’t stop there either. They even offer paid vacation time that’s earned by the number of hours worked. Paid vacation days at a part-time job? Sounds like a winner to me! The results speak for themselves. Starbucks takes great pride in creating a great customer experience that is locally tailored despite being a national chain. Employees that I’ve talked to all say the same thing: they love the company (but generally hate the customers). That attitude hasn’t stopped Starbucks from ranking very high on the customer experience scale, so one could say that the employees tend to provide a positive experience to customers because they know the company stands behind them. Coincidentally, knowing a company stands behind you facilitates taking pride in the work being done!

Before this starts to sound like a paid promotion for Starbucks (if it doesn’t sound like that already), I’m sure there are plenty of other companies that offer similar benefits. On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of companies that don’t, and more often than not one will find the typical stereotype of disengaged employees at a significant level there. What’s the key takeaway from all this? Simply put, if you invest in the lives of your employees no matter how transient they are they will provide a higher quality of service. That higher quality of service does not go unnoticed by customers, either. It drives up repeat customers, increases business reputation by word-of-mouth, and raises the expectations of all customers who choose to spend their money there. Higher expectations of service, when delivered upon, breed pleasant customers, which in turn perpetuates happy employees!

Altogether it sounds like there are 2 cycles: disengaged employee/poor service/poor customer; and engaged employee/good service/good customer. Why does it seem like the first cycle dominates the industry? Perhaps that is best left up to discussion or another post.

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