Undercover Boss 7

Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE)

Joel Manby, CEO of HFE,  was the Undercover Boss (UB) this week. HFE owns, operates and manages family-oriented theme parks and attractions across the country.

I liked UB7….Joel Manby seemed like a person that had some strong values that were learned the hard way….and maybe because he was from Battle Creek, MI.

HFE was a different “case study” because they offer a discretionary product….folks don’t have to “ride the duck.”

Key points from UB7:

+ Pride in work

+ Frontline jobs-where it all begins

+ The more you know the better

+ Create a great guest experience

Nothing really different….yet this UB conveyed a positive experience and that is a plus for any business.


First Class

New Orientspiration Catalog

I know this business fairly well….it was started by my son and daughter-in-law.

Orientspiration has published a 51 page catalog. This is the first one in full color….quality paper. For any business….this is an outstanding marketing/sales tool. As it gets distributed, the new print catalog will certainly enhance sales and the Orientspiration concept.

Businesses/organizations need to continually get better.

This catalog is definitely helping Orientspiration get better. It is First Class!



Clear Purpose

When we moved to Cary (1986) Kmart was the only discount retailer in town. Cary at that time had a population of about 30,000….today it’s 130,000+. The Kmart and most of Cary’s retail was only a few blocks from where we lived. The Kmart on Kildaire Farm Rd is still here and has a clear market position….and I’m suprised, especially after it was bought our several years and combined with Sears.

Here’s why:

 + The floors shine. The stores are clean. (I like clean)

 + Fairly well stocked….displays are generally neat and tidy.

 + Merchandise is targeted to their demographic market.

+ Kmart knows it is not Target or Walmart.

+ Kmarts value in many respects is in store locations.

+ It’s products/pricing are OK….It has its own market.

+ The associates have done a good job in making this Kmart work.

Is Kmart a great business? Probably not. Yet, I believe they know who their customer is and make a pretty good effort to meet their needs…. at least at the Cary Kmart.



Two years + 260 posts

March 2008….TrueNorth Blog begins….over 30,000 words.  Businesses/organizations in challenging times can be better and/or different. The free enterprise system gives people the opportunity to create and innovate. Our economy is a global economy and disruptions seem to be on a larger or perhaps on a different scale.

The best companies are those that value people and customers. These businesses also tend to have the products/services that are in demand.  Being in business means continually learning and executing and often forgetting what has been done in the past.

Real success means laying a solid foundation of purpose….values….direction.

Soft (organization intangibles) is Hard. – Tom Peters. 

Assembly Line


One summer I worked on a Norge refrigerator assembly line. I sat on a rolling stool with an air gun and fasteners. My job was to drive four machine screws to hold the compressor assembly into the back of the refrigerator.

Norge was one of many plants along Broadway in Mukskegon Hts. These were old plants even 40 years ago and where many of our parents worked after WW ll.

The assembly line was real work. It wasn’t an easy job….yet is was a great start on knowing the real world and what work was really like.

I may have attached the compressor to the back of this refrigerator!

Undercover Boss 6

GSI Commerce

Michael Rubin, the CEO of GSI Commerce, was UB 6. GSI is a fulfilment and customer service provider for on-line retailers.  It’s fascinating to realize the technology that went into developing these types of centers as a completely new way of doing business….getting a product to customers in a very short period of time.

The individual stories were quite similar to the other episodes….what came through were:

 + Frontline folks are hard and dedicated workers….they make the company run.

 + Getting and training good people gets the right people on board.

On a different level….Michael Rubin said he always wanted to win at business….a compelling drive to succeed. The scene where he was at home in a suit at the computer and his daughter wanting some attention was a little too revealing. Perhaps in the future he will forget the computer and play with his daughter.



Speaking Skill + Responsibility

I was a Toastmaster for several years and progressed through several levels. I do seminars/workshops so I get paid for speaking.  When someone pays you….you need to have superior presentation skills. Plus good skills allows you to convey your message to your listeners. And it lets your listeners get the most from investing their time in listening to you.

After all listeners are the customers….the topic is the product….the presentation is the execution.

I recently heard a presentation that lacked excellent presentation skills. Having the podium is a responsibility and privilege.  Listeners deserve the best.

The presentation missed the mark completely. I wonder if the group that sponsored the speaker really understands that it’s the audience that is imporatnt.