Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Camper

Now here is someone who works happy!

Just wandering thru the offices during this quiet week. Love the Christmas Spirit Lisa!!!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gifts That Don't Suck

It's nice to know I can still find my wife a Christmas gift that she likes and vice versa.

Today one gift we gave each other really made us laugh. You see, we each had the exact same idea for a gift - the "Happiness Molecule".

The Happiness Molecule is a design based on the serotonin molecule, a neurotransmitter that interacts with receptors in the brain to induce feelings of happiness, satiation and relaxation.

Sandy gave me a nice framed picture and I gave her a hand made necklace from an artist called Raven out of Hawaii I found on Etsy. Her company is called "made with molecules."

Merry Christmas.



Thursday, December 20, 2012


Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

I love this word. To me its a way of being, a state of mind, kind of like an internal radar looking for "happy accidents". But, if you don't have the radar on you wont find them.

Case in point. Today I was out for a bike ride alone while on our family vacation in Maui. Serendipitously I was caught on the side of the road as a Christmas motorcycle parade approached.

The road was narrow and I pulled my bike off the side the best I could and then pulled out my iPhone to film. What happened next was just so cool. As I filmed I received waves and honks and smiles as the hundreds of bikers rode by.

It was great to just sit there and soak up all the positive energy. As my 6 year old would say - my bucket was totally full!

Then as fast as it started, it was over..........silence. I got back on my bike and headed quietly on my way. Cool.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Mind Your Wake

It's that time of year again for my favorite movie "It's a Wonderful Life". The reason I love this movie so much is because of what I call your WAKE.
Like the movie, everything we do or don't do in our life has an impact on other people far more than we can ever realize. The movie is all about George Bailey being shown the size of his wake and what a positive impact he made on others, or in some cases because he wasn't there he made no impact at all. I think our wakes are much bigger than we can ever imagine. Like a boat cutting thru still water there is a large wake spreading out that will ripple long after we have moved on.
Minding our Wake is something we talk about in our company and are conscious of. When you have a group of people mindful of their wake and making positive ripples, some pretty great things can happen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giving Back

Tonight was our annual "Give Back" Event. It's an opportunity for our company to support the less fortunate on the downtown east side.
This year we were able to leverage some of our suppliers who donated product that helped fill over 2500 care packages for us to hand out.
Before our group of 100+ strong headed out on the streets there was a fantastic speech given to by Sister Nancy from Covenant House and her message of being involved at any level helps build the bridge of understanding and tear down the stigma that surrounds the less fortunate.
It was an impact full evening that was far reaching for many of the participants. I would like to share a email string I read the next morning from Shawn our VP of eCommerce below.

Hi friends,

I sent an email a couple weeks back about the far reaching effects of our reputation and the
impact our actions have in ways we are often unaware of. Calvin, as our leader, gives us a venue and a platform to "Live, Love, Laugh and Learn" both in the work-place and in our personal lives. Last night with the EO event on the downtown Eastside, we directly impacted lives - not just of those poor souls on the streets, but our own...and this truly is the gift we have been given. I've spoken with many of you today, and I know that you were profoundly impacted. I believe that all 4 of our core values were strongly in evidence last night. I congratulate you all and I applaud Calvin for providing us with this opportunity.

Broadening the scope and the impact of the event though, I wanted to add this email that I received today from Ron Lee. Ron's daughter Madison plays on the soccer team I coach. Ron is a high school educator in the Coquitlam school board. He came with both Madison and his 9 year old daughter Taylor.

Here is what he wrote to me:

Thank you for the tremendous opportunity that you gave to my children and the rest of the girls. This is not a soccer lesson, but a life lesson. The impact that you have and the the experiences that you give the girls (yesterday and soccer), helps shape them for today, tomorrow, and forever. I heard the word "sad" at least three times last night and what it showed is that the girls where effected in some way. We as adults, are a beacon to opportunities for our children to experience. I wish discussion takes place with the girls and their parents as these moments become the "teachable moments" that we look at during school. It's not just the experience, but where we go from here. I know that Madison respects you and I am sure that your words have meaning.

I have spent the first 10 minutes of every one of my PE classes today discussing what I saw and how students can make an impact (to remember being kind to one another or helping with food hampers at school).

Once again, THANKS from the Lee family.

Remember, that we have 364 other days during the year to support, encourage, respect and treat people without judgement. I'm sure that you feel as I do, that I took more than I gave last night - that's the beauty of selflessness, and doing good for others.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Best Workplaces

Last night was the gala dinner for BC's Best Companies to work for.
It was our first year entering our company and we were excited to see where we stood against some of the
past winners like Nurse Next Door and HootSuite. The process actually starts in May with in depth executive interviews and surveys of the company employees and culture.
The entries are verified and graded for best practices and the highest scores are announced at the gala.
For a first try we did great I thought - Placing 4th overall in our category and 2nd specifically on culture.
Next year we'll shoot for #1.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Filling an invisible bucket

Today when I asked my 6 year old boy how his day was, he told me he had filled 2 peoples "buckets."
I wasn't sure what he was talking about so I asked him to explain and he blew me away with his answer.
He said he thinks people have an invisible bucket filled with "good stuff" and sometimes when a persons bucket gets low he likes to help people fill theirs back up.
I had never head him talk about this before and it wasn't something we taught him. It was just the way he saw the world and other people and it made my heart melt.
I asked him how he filled other peoples buckets and he said with hugs or helping people pick up things they dropped. He is such an inspiration and our family will definitely use the "bucket" idea to make sure everyone we come in contact with is topped up.
Such a simple and yet impactful idea of how to spread a little happiness in the world. Sometimes letting ourselves think more like a child creates the best ideas.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sailing Away

Shawn Nabil and I are flying home today after being on an executive team building retreat for the past 2 weeks in the British Virgin Islands. Although entirely my idea, the guys jumped at the chance to build on our strong management team camaraderie and exercise our core values of living a remarkable life.

I know it will be hard for people to believe we could actually do any work in this environment, but it really is an amazing experience to live in close quarters and manage all the duties and responsibilities of cooking, planning and sailing a large boat together. Tasks like anchoring or pulling the sails takes team work and we couldn't help but come out of the experience as a well oiled management machine, relaxed, in sync, and raring to blast off when we get back.

I would love to take other staff on similar team building adventures in the future. Nabil and I have contacts in Africa who drill water wells and build schools and are looking into December 2013 as a possible trip date for 4-6 staff or possibly customers too. Anyone interested in expanding their remarkable life experiences??


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the wacky staff at Costless.

Thanks to the Culture Club for the Costume Contest prizes and Pumpkin Carving.
Great job Bryan on the fun video too. Sorry I missed the party, as Shawn, Nabil, and I were on our Executive Retreat but here is my entry from the Halloween Party at Foxys Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Let's Get Real

Real Time Inventory that is.

Today we quietly rolled out another feature to our website. The link of our inventory to display online. Now customers can see what we have in stock and make buying decisions based on this and avoid an out of stock on their order. It's pretty cool to see we have 1000 boxes of Oreos or 500 bags of pistachios or 8000 boxes of paper clips in real time. The idea is when a customer sees there is zero stock available, they can choose a suggested replacement built into the logic of the website and displayed below the out of stock item. We spend hundreds of hours designing the feature and we hope customers like it.

Shawn is the chief architect on the site and his team will continue to make improvements to the site and add new features. Most important to him is customer feedback so if you have a suggestion or pet peeve you would like him to know about please contact him at and he would be happy to chat.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Silicon Valley

Along with my EO Vancouver Chapter of 82 Entrepreneurs, we hit Silicon Valley for a whirlwind tour of some of the most exciting and influential companies in the Valley. As I write this, I'm thinking of you the reader who may not be so excited as I was in seeing these businesses, so I'll keep it short but please allow my enthusiasm to shine through. To me, Silicon Valley is the Disneyland of tech business entrepreneurs like me.

We had some very memorable visits to the Apple Campus, Google, Microsoft, ZenDesk, Kiva and SalesForce. Even during social time at the hotel we had fantastic speakers like the founder of California Closets and founder of Grasshopper.

My main takeaway from Silicon Valley was how they all approached business - it seemed fearless, ready to make mistakes fast, learn, adjust and then accelerate some more. Oh, and find really smart hard working people. Everything happened in Dog Years the COO of ZenDesk explained. (He already built MySQL to a $100mm business then sold it for $1b in under 5 years).
Second takeaway was although culture at the big companies like Google is legendary for all the cool stuff they offer employees, it's not that much different than what we already do at Costless, and in some ways I think we do it better, at least for us. So afterwards I was much less intimidated that these big legends of the valley had some sort of secret fairy dust we couldn't duplicate. It was like pulling back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz - ah ha, yup, OK... Now that I see how it all works and it's not magic, it's just persistence, vision and hard work - and we can do that in spades.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Working Happy

Our new additional of 4000 sq. ft. of office space sure has come in handy for doing brainstorming sessions. We have a large area dedicated to just that task. With white boards, flip chart paper and a projector we have a blast gathering people to toss out crazy ideas and see what sticks.

Today we were looking for tag line ideas. In the past we have used tag lines such as More Than Just Office Supplies, IT'S EASY BEING GREEN, and recently trademarked Work Happy. Although we love Work Happy, it is more of our Mantra than a tag line so we wanted something that had Office Supplies in the line. Our result out of hundreds of great ideas, and a few beers later was "Delivering Office Supply Happiness".

Yeah, I'm happy with that :-)


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Setting new heights

Every year, I go on a retreat with my EO Forum mates. Last year, we were in Memphis for the FedEx tour. This year we traveled to... rainy downtown Vancouver. We decided to stay local, since one member of our forum was expecting a child birth any day.

Our agenda was focused on Heath and Goal Planning. Both important in my books.

First, for health, we all took a full body scan that determines bone density, muscle and fat percentages. My personal results were not quite what I expected. I thought I was in pretty good shape. Over the summer I really kicked my health up a gear with a better diet & yoga, and I was able to drop 25 pounds, so I feel pretty trim. Not so on the scan, said the clinical tech, as my 6 foot frame should not be at 195lb with over 30% body fat but instead I should be at 22% BF and about 175. Fine, a new goal to set!!

So that brings me to the second part of our retreat agenda. Goal Setting.

Every year we set our goals for business, personal and family. Then throughout the year we report monthly to the group on our progress. In preparation, I sit with Sandy and we track our family goals quarterly. It is imperative in my books to have goals and people aligned, or it will be impossible to achieve them. Goal setting can be as simple or complex as you make it, and there are lots of books on the subject, but in my eyes I set goals I'm passionate about and will do whatever it takes to achieve, or else is it just a "nice to have" and not a goal?

Our retreat was mostly held in a boardroom at the Terminal City Club, but we did find time to get out for some exercise and team building at Rock Space.

Do you set goals each year for yourself and if so do you share them with others and allow them to hold you accountable?


Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Wild Time!

The Culture Club has outdone itself this time. I vote this event the best Costless event so far.
Have a look at the WildPlay pics and video, and you can see why.

I want to personally recognize all the staff who came out, it was an incredible team building event with the confident ones helping the less confident climbers and everyone shouting encouragement from the tree tops to each other. One person in particular who stood our was Chris, as she was quite nervous at the whole idea of swinging through the trees and zip-lining from platform to platform, but she amazed us all by completing the entire course, including the black diamond (most difficult) section. Woot Woot to everyone!!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Culture Club strikes again

Let me stand up here and give a round of applause to our Culture Club. Staff who volunteer their time to put on cool and fun events for our company. Kudos for all your hard work!!

The Culture Club recently posted an upcoming event at WildPlay September 29th, and just finished pulling off an awesome Panini Party in the Parking Lot. Last few months included Italian Soda Days, Driver Appreciation Pancake Breakfast and pizza days.

The Panini Party in the Parking Lot was in appreciation of our Purchasing department, who work so hard to keep our warehouse stocked to the brim with all the great stuff we sell everyday. The purchasing department was also decorated and the gals were given tiaras to wear. I loved the selection of meats, cheeses and other fabulous ingredients ready to make paninis. The Culture Club keeps out doing itself with unique events and everyone can't wait for the next one - WildPlay!!


Friday, September 14, 2012

End of Year All Hands Meeting

Today was a very special quarterly All Hands Meeting.
Not only did we have Mary and Brian, our two newest managers in attendance, we were happy to see Lucas from our warehouse, who's been off with an injured knee. It really felt like a big family party with music, drinks and lots of food. The energy was fantastic, decorations were super fun and the games and prizes were just plain crazy.

Calvin, back when it all started!
Our All Hands Meetings are held each quarter to share where we have been and where we are heading. I took the stage for a fun trip down memory lane of where we started 24 years ago from my 1-bedroom apartment and rusty truck. Shawn and Nabil covered e-commerce and finance. One highlight was some videos the staff surprised us with that had each person explain what our core values meant to them. For me it was very cool to see the passion and commitment of the staff when talking about our core values. We had recently condensed our core values down to only 4 main principles:  LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH, LEARN. I'll talk more about our core values in a later post this year - Secret is we have some big news and projects on the horizon that we will roll out and I'll blog about soon. Stay tuned!

The highlight of our All Hands Meeting was the passing out of our Profit Sharing cheques to each employee. Thanks to everyone for another successful year and sharing a large portion with our staff is very satisfying for Sandy and I. TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More is our saying, and it's true we all worked as a team caring for our customers and delivering a memorable WOW service each and every day. Well done everyone.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There's Something about Mary

Our goal over the summer was to recruit a world class Sales Manager. We used LinkedIn, personal networks and a recruiting firm to find us a candidate who had vast past experience and can take our business over the $20 million mark in sales.

When the recruiting company called a few weeks ago explaining they had a candidate that we must take a look at, I was optimistic, although there was a big BUT. This candidate was, in essence, way overqualified for our company. She had a stellar history, time and again, of building successful teams of up to 600 people in large fortune 100 companies and fast growth companies. Also, she was a trained team building and motivation coach working with successful business executives all over the country.

I agree, the opportunity to add significant growth and sales experience to our management team is exactly what we are looking for, but why would this candidate consider joining our small entrepreneurial (and sometimes kooky) organization?

First, let me jump ahead and say we hired Mary. Now for the explanation of why it was a great fit.

Mary had built a significant and successful career in the large corporate world, and that was where she found her passion for nurturing and building great teams and individuals who had the "will" to be successful but lacked some of the "skill." Mary loved seeing her talents put to use changing the lives of people passionate to learn from her coaching. So she made a very conscious choice to leave the bustling corporate world with all its perks (and bureaucracy) to focus her energy on a smaller organization where she could see the immediate fruits of her labor. She was also very conscious about her personal happiness and life balance (hmm, sound a bit like me and our core values??) And in turn we were looking for someone who has "been to the big show" and could help us become a larger organization with the experience of being there.

In turn, I think we offer Mary a solid company in its 24th year of business, and thousands of customers who love us and a corporate culture that is anything but Fortune 100. A solid foundation with a strong existing management team for her to fit right in with. I know she will be a great fit, and together we are primed for a fun and rewarding ride of building a great new brand!!

Welcome Mary, we are excited to have you write your next chapter of life with us!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Crew

Welcome to Bryan, our new Marketing Manager. His experience at Electronic Arts and as a freelancer will rocket our marketing and social media efforts forward at a frenzied pace. I'm sure you'll be seeing lots of his work soon as he settles into the role. We have some exciting and ambitious goals for our growth and brand expansion, and I personally hand picked Bryan to lead that charge.

Bryan worked his way through our intensive 10 step recruiting process, impressing us all along the way. One memorable moment was when we took him for Sushi during the final selection process. As we ordered "the same old sushi," Bryan challenged us to be adventurous and try something new. So I ordered a different dish that was completely different than I would normally order. When the dish arrived at the table, it was a work of art so amazing in its presentation Bryan whips out his phone and snaps a pic that he immediately posts on his Facebook page and Pinterest account, then proceeds to check in on FourSquare and comment on the dish and sushi spot. His chances of getting the job at that moment were pretty good, and of course as the story goes, we hired him and here he is showing the marketing and social media love to all our customers now.

Welcome Bryan - I'm sure it won't take long 'til we find a nickname for you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happiness is...

Finding a parking meter downtown with 2 hours left on it.
Bonus Happiness moment: Letting the next guy know to take my spot as I drive away - still 1 hour left on the meter.

Sharing the parking meter love :-))


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You had me at hello.

Have a look at this fantastic job application that came in recently. Clearly this person had researched our company and knew what it takes to stand out from a crowd. We are a wacky bunch at Costless and this application spoke volumes to us and made its way to the top of the pile.

I love it when our culture translates into all things we do in our company. After seeing this unique and creative application we thought it would be so much fun to have all our applications sent in to us with a creative flair by the applicant. Or how about a video application - that would be very cool too.

Stay tuned, we may just try this on our next round of hiring and if you would like to work with us here at Costless, you now know how to get to the top of the job application pile.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Italian Soda Days!

When the temperature at work rises in the summer at Costless we have a tradition - Italian Sodas!!

Yummmm - Ice, soda water, flavored syrups - (we stock over 50 flavors) and topped with whipped cream...

Did I say YUMMY!!
Today we gave out some cool Italian Soda gift packs in a draw to our Facebook Fans. I'm sure we'll make some new friends with gift like that.

Cheers to Italian Sodas,

Monday, August 13, 2012

Love Bombs Away!

Have you ever heard of a Love Bomb?
I first hear of this concept on a blog I was reading some time back. I wish I could remember the name, but all the same the concept of this Love Bomb stuck with me until I decided to use it this week.

How a Love Bomb works is you focus the attention (and love) of many people towards one person, in a concerted effort. Let me explain how it works by using my recent Love Bomb example.

For the past two years, I have been the Chair of the BC Children's Retail/Wholesale Council, and Aaron Sanderson has been our fundraising liaison with the Hospital. He has been instrumental in helping our council raise record-breaking donations of close to 5 million both years running. Unfortunately, Aaron announced he was recruited and would be moving to Toronto at the end of the month. I wanted to do something special for him to show our thanks, and this is where the Love Bomb idea kicks in.

I emailed our 18-member council, and asked that each person focus their gratitude toward Aaron on August 13th in whatever fashion they saw fit. The idea is to have as many people as possible Love Bomb him on one day. So people from the group did just that, and sent him kind emails, thank you cards, presents, balloons, gifts and visited his office. Imagine this happening to you, 18 people all showing their love for you on one day. What a memorable day it would be!

Everyone had a blast dropping the Love Bomb and I plan to do this again when the next opportunity arises. Can you find an opportunity to try a Love Bomb?


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Bright Side

Ahhh, we can breathe and stretch out our arms again.

The offices at Costless have been pretty tight lately to fit all our staff as we keep growing. With 3 more job postings to fill this month, we have plumb run out of room. I've been looking for more office space for the past few months, but my biggest dilemma has been not wanting to split up the staff, since our family culture is so important. We needed to have extra offices that are within walking distance from out main building.

I was relieved to find an additional 4000 sq ft in the next building beside us. We jumped at the opportunity and immediately moved in. With so many bare walls, we held a brain storming session and plastered the walls with planning sheets and Post It notes. Boy, is it nice to have some free space to plan and work.

As I said, culture is huge at Costless, so when I heard the new space was being nicknamed the "dark side" by our staff, it kind of bothered me. So, officially I announced the new space was to be forever known as... "The Bright Side." A little positive suggestion seems to go a long way and staff get it. Even the smallest grain of negativity can erode our Work Happy positive work environment.

Can't wait to stick more Post-Its on the walls in out next planning session!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Recruiting MASHUP - Craigslist vs LinkedIn vs Paid Recruiters

At Costless, we are continuing to add more senior staff as we grow. Sometimes we are able to advance people within our organization - this is our first option - but if no candidate exists, we need to look outside. Currently we have postings: a Marketing Manager, Merchandising Manager and a Sales Manager.
So, where do we find great A Player candidates? I'm currently trying 3 approaches:
1. Craigslist
2. LinkedIn
3. Corporate Recruiter
1. Craigslist - in the past we have had some success with posting here. We try to make sure the job ad is very clear: "Must include cover letter" for example. so we can weed out all the spammers and not-so-serious candidates. For manager positions, this is not the place A Players would hang out. So I give it a FAIL.
2. LinkedIn - personally I love LinkedIn and have over 650 connections. It has been a powerful way to build a diverse and deep pool of like minded connections. A must for any business person. But what about recruiting? I needed to ask around my LinkedIn network for who had done this already. The response was overwhelmingly positive and at $299 for a 30 job posting - let's give it a try.
I posted the jobs and immediately received very qualified candidates. Best part is you can see their profile on LinkedIn and who in your network they are connected to. There was nowhere to hide - I could see everything about them and that saved us tons of time in the shortlist process. Our job ads were viewed by hundreds, replied by many dozens and we interviewed a healthy handful.
I give LinkedIn an A 4 Awesome!
3. Corporate Recruiters - I'm very fortunate to have a good friend who owns Titan Recruiting, so I know I'm getting their best efforts in finding me an A Player. I gave them the Sales Manager posting as I expected this to be the hardest to fill since our requirements were the highest. Although recruiters charge 30% of the first year salary for a placement, I know there is a right time to use them. In our case, it's to help us find a sales manager who will get us over the 20 million in sales mark. The recruiter assists with us and determines a perfect candidate profile, then seeks out that person. Although expensive, if they deliver, it's worth every penny. I'll also give Recruiters an A 4 Awesome!

****Follow Up September 4th, 2012***
We have filled all three positions!
- Merchandising Manager was a promotion internally - that was super news!
- Marketing Manager was found thru LinkedIn - a former Electronic Arts employee and Marketing Consultant who is going to really ramp up our on and offline marketing efforts.
- Sales Manager was located thru the recruiter - a very senior level manager who has build teams of over 600 people and is also a customer service coach in her spare time.
So there you have it - Recruiting MASHUP Summer 2012 is in the bag. We are locked and loaded for our $20M sales climb!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Doing the right thing feels good!

Sometimes life tests you to do the right thing, and today was no exception. We filled up our boat with gas at a small dock on Shuswap Lake and the experience did not go smoothly. The dock and old gas pump are part of a restaurant on shore. There was no attendant on the dock or any signs, so we were unclear how to purchase gas. After wandering around the docks and then up to the restaurant we were told someone would come turn on the pump. It took a while but a young guy came down and got things started. He was a local kid and the dishwasher at the restaurant. He said the restaurant had been very slow this season, and the few staff who still had jobs were doing double and triple work.
After our fellow completed filling our tank, my wife followed him up to the restaurant to pay. While she was gone, I looked at the old gas pump with the rolling style numbers and noticed it read - $81.76 and 124 litres. Hmm, that's a great price for gas at 65¢ per liter. There must be a mistake, it should be $181.76 ($1.46 per litre). I bet dollars to doughnuts the kid will read it wrong and under charge us. So when Sandy came back, I asked for the receipt - yup $81.76 - the kid under charged us $100.
I decided to go up to the restaurant myself to sort it out. I didn't want the kid to get in trouble, after all I was the one distracting him with questions about his summer and the restaurant while he filled us up.

At the restaurant, I hunted down the owner and explained the situation, making sure to note the kid made an easy mistake. But it was the reaction form the owner that really caught me off guard. He explained how things were tight, and losing $100 from the bottom line would really ruin his day. He was choked up, and thanked me for taking the time to correct the mistake - "Most people would just drive away," he said.
Back at the boat, I told Sandy about the owner and how good it feels doing the right thing. My 2 boys who were on board were taught a valuable lesson too, I would say. 
Now for my confession... something people close to me know about me. Systems - I love systems in business, and when things don't go according to systems, I get a bit irritated. That was my motivation to see the owner - To let him know he has a BIG hole in his gas bar system. It's just my nature. I would have never considered driving away without paying, but it sure did feel good after knowing we did the right thing.
Now I wonder if I could go back to the owner and draw out a better system on how to make his Gas Bar more efficient??

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Something most people don't know about me is that my wife and I have our birthday on the same day. OK, she is younger in years but June 21st is a birthday I don't forget. We sometimes keep things low key and other times one of us spoils and surprises the other with something special. This was my year to be spoiled.

My present was an advanced multi-day driving course at one of the top Rally Car schools in the USA. Amazingly, Dirt Fish Rally School is a mere 5 hours from Vancouver in Washington. My topic for this blog post is not about sliding 400 horsepower cars around mud tracks at high speed with a HUGE grin on my face, it's about hiring great staff.

Dirt Fish solved a lingering issue we have been pondering in our business. Let me explain. The instructors at Dirt Fish were just incredible, incredible brand ambassadors, teachers, sales people and all round nice guys that made the students feel welcome and at ease. Most of all Dirt Fish has found exceptional rally drivers with a passion for their sport and craft.

I think we could learn something from the Dirt Fish staffing model when hiring. They have found staff with "Will and Skill", People with passion and purpose. Staff who live the brand and love where they work. If you have heard the term FLOW, they are living it all day.

Leaving Dirt Fish after an exhausting but exhilarating several days I thought about how others perceive where they work, are they ever in FLOW, truly working happy in an inspired environment like the instructors at Dirt Fish? And how could we improve our company to create more of that kind of environment. For the drive home I had just the audio book to help answer that question - DRIVE by Daniel Pink. I'll keep you posted on what I learn and implement.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Washington, DC

Away from sunny Vancouver this week and off to Washington DC for the SP Richards supplier conference. This year I have Nabil, our VP of Finance and Operations, with me for a jam packed five days of learning, socializing and some R&R.

The conference is a highlight in the office products industry and brings together thousands of independent stationers and suppliers. Together we share information about customers, the economy and technology. This year, it felt like there was a focus on "grass roots," back-to-basics service and selling. Service and relationships with customers seems to be the main thrust right now in differentiating small companies from the large national players in the office products industry. Over the past several years the focus has been on technology and social media and although it's vitally important office products dealers master these skills, they are not the differentiators against big box competitors that service could be.

Washington was a welcome destination for a conference and a city I had always wanted to visit. Nabil and I took advantage of our down time by getting away from the massive Gaylord National complex we were staying at and visiting many of the famous sites "DC" has to offer.

A few highlights for us were Alexandria - one of the oldest cities in America, preserved like a flash back in time, and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum - simply amazing is all I can say. Did you know there are numerous Smithsonian Museums in DC and all are free to access?

DC was... inspiring for me. My take away learning was to continue focusing on innovation and the future while respecting and learning from your past.

Landing in Washington DC - Holy cow, our plane sure flies close to the White House

You gotta love cool history like this - time for a beer!

Alexandria - Beautiful architecture in this 300 year old town

300 year old French restaurant for dinner (The wine was not quite that old)

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - I could spend a week here!

Oh Canada!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Squeeze the Orange

Seems my artistic talents are not ready for the art gallery but the staff seemed to love the white board session I held today.

The story time we had today was about a rocket ship that ran on orange juice. We all were responsible for squeezing the oranges to keep the ship moving faster and faster to our goal of the New World!!

The idea was to cement everyone around the concept that this company is run by a group called WE and not ME. We all matter and when some people are not giving their 100% it can effect all of us and the outcome of our goals. Like in any business we all want to come to work and be surrounded with others who are pulling their weight and contributing as much as you are. If a company does not set the standard for excellence then it will be the A players who leave because they are working with C players.

This fun session was a way to show as a company we are all on the rocket ship together heading to a new exciting future and we only want people on the journey who love getting up every morning for the ride and the reward. This is something we talk about a lot at Costless - if you are not happy, it's ok to find a place where you can be happy. We always want to have this discussion openly and boldly with all our staff and in return our staff feel open to let us know what we can do to make their journey here at Costless the happiest it can be.

I wouldn't have it any other way and I would be heart brokered to know a staff member hated coming to work at Costless every or any day. We just want to Work Happy.