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@McDonalds: Get Back to Smaller, Intimate Moments

When I was younger, Saturday mornings held a certain level of excitement, especially when Chicago’s winter winds retreated in favor of a warm early day spring breeze.

My brother and I would race through our paper route, tossing papers onto driveways and porches on Elm, School and Maple Streets. Some unlucky neighbors had their paper land in the grass. When our aim was true, the paper landed smack dab in the center on the welcome mat. The faster we’d finish our route, the quicker we’d get to a destination that we’d be longing for all week long – McDonald’s.

I know our parents didn’t like us braving the steady, speedy traffic on Golf Road to get to the Golden Arches, yet my brother and I always made a quick, cautious dash across the road when cars weren’t nearby.

The place was usually empty except for a few seniors who decided to get a headstart on their Saturday, exchanging tales and laughs from their glory days while nursing steaming cups of coffee.

By the time we sat down with the Big Breakfast of pancakes, eggs and hash browns, we hardly said a word. We watched the sun rise while sipping the orange juice that tasted like heaven.

Sadly, McDonald’s doesn’t hold that place in our family’s heart anymore. I watch with disappointment as they try to stay relevant to today’s fickle, finicky consumer. They’ve fled their roots of pancakes, burgers and fries. Now, they chase smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, salads, wraps, specialty coffees, healthy fare. I want them to simplify, yet they feel pressured to diversify to quell shareholder disappointment. Whatever happened to becoming great at only a few things instead of mediocre at many things?

What will the next generation think of McDonald’s? Will it still captivate the imagination as it did for my brother and me? Will youngsters in Toledo, Ohio or Salem, Oregon count down the seconds until they can sit down with those crispy golden fries? Or will it fade it irrelevance, becoming just another restaurant in a crowded landscape of commoditized fast food/fast casual restaurants?

I cheer for McDonald’s as they undergo yet another rebranding effort. The enormous pressure they face to stay the #1 fast foot chain in the world makes it a challenging road ahead.

I don’t have McDonald’s management’s ear, but if I did, I’d tell them to try to create experiences (through quality food and customer service) that can span generations. Think of two brothers saving up cash all week to split a Big Mac. Or a volleyball team celebrating victory with cheeseburgers and fries.

If I had it my way, I’d gladly be nervous about my son racing down a busy road towards the Golden Arches in the distance.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Writing: It’s the Best Medicine

Writing helps me rewind. Writing unclogs the parts of my life that are stuck or in need of a clearing voice.

For the past year, I’ve written nearly every day – sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for thirty minutes. The discipline of writing has yielded some interesting ‘results’. Sometimes I write a poem, song lyrics, short story, or an ode to my labrador of 3+ years.

Clear your mind. Simplify your life. Write.

Clear your mind. Simplify your life. Write.

Before this daily form of mental exercise began in December 2014, I felt tense, uneasy, with little time to reflect on where I’ve been or where I was going. Life was zooming by and I was just holding on for dear life. Writing doesn’t slow down the passing of time, but it seems to make it a bit more manageable.

Go ahead and write. Don’t think you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or clever enough to write something good. Most days, you won’t produce a masterpiece, but there will be glimmers – a word play, a few sentences – that will cause you (and maybe even your readers) to smile, laugh, think.

Pick up a pen or pencil and start creating. I recommend this route rather than punching the keys at your computer. When you write with a pen or pencil, your words are more carefully chosen. Your writing doesn’t seem as disposable, fleeting.

Don’t fret over the quality. The act of writing will start to help you find your unique style and voice.

Think you don’t have time? Balderdash!! Turn off the TV, open the notebook and start creating. 15 minutes or less is all you need. Start. Now.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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If You Aren’t Selling the Why, You Might as Well Not Even Try

You’ve options in today’s world – it doesn’t matter if you are in the market for an oil change, high-end database, or a new piano for your living room, you are overwhelmed with choice.

If you are one of these oil change, database, or piano providers, how do you stand out from everyone else?

It all starts with why.

Kudos to Simon Sinek for igniting this movement with his famous Ted Talk, books and thought leadership series: START WITH WHY.

Sinek hit the mark by stating that people really don’t care that your feature list is longer than your competitor, or that your price is significantly lower. What people deeply care about is the passion behind why you do what you do.

Everyone in an organization (product, marketing, development, sales, operations, HR) should recite the following legendary quote before they start each workday:

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

Don’t just sell a piano; sell that you’ve been delivering the beauty, warmth, and power of a well-played song for over 50 years.

Or sell the joy that you feel when another young girl or boy gets the confidence to master the notes, melodies and harmonies of a truly beautiful instrument that you’ve sold.

A feature list or price list is boring, factual, emotionless – there’s no story.

Behind the why, however, is a colorful, dynamic tale of adventure, triumph, persistence, dedication and enthusiasm?

The hardware store owner doesn’t sell hammers, nails, saws, ladders. The hardware store owner sells consistency, trust, loyalty, personalized service to the local community for nearly 25 years.

Make it easy on yourself, your business, your customers by getting out of the feature game and tell a story that will inspire people to act.

Do share—what’s your organization doing to sell the WHY?

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Use Social Media to Help, Not Just To Promote

Social media has lost its way. It’s moved too close to ‘look at me, look at me’ and frighteningly far from ‘I want to help you’. If all you are about is ‘look at my greatness’, you’ll quickly alienate your followers.

Oh brother, here's comes another selfie.

Oh brother, here’s comes another selfie.

Social media should be grounded in the concept: I want to help you with a key piece of information.

The scales have tipped too dramatically in the favor of pics from Vegas, cute holiday shopping finds, and an insanely stupid video of a cat. I am amazed that people have the time to build these gems, much less to consume them.

When on social media, don’t be surprised if you feel a pang of regret about the 15 minutes you just lost from your life.

Carve a different path. For every ego-filled selfie that sucks the conversation dry, try sharing 5 things of value with your audience. Show your connections you care about solving the problems that keep them up at night.

I know the selfish nature of social media won’t vanish, but let’s be a little more intentional about putting forth items that can stretch, grow, or motivate your audience to be better tomorrow than they were today.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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When Your Job’s On the Line, Do you Fight or Flee?

If you’ve been working for ~10 years, you’ve probably been part of a workforce reduction or downsizing. These episodes are never easy for anyone – your colleagues, boss, friends, family.

One day, you are putting everything on the line to optimize a campaign, launch a product, sell a solution, and the next you are out of a job.

Sometimes you get a sense that your job is at risk. Your project gets little attention or funding; your job responsibilities get smaller and smaller. When this ‘news’ is announced, or you read between the lines, I see people fall into 2 camps: Fighters and Flighters.

Fighters roll up their sleeves, sensing opportunity amidst the eminent change. They do everything they can to make sure their name is NOT on the short list. If it is, they are prepped and poised for whatever’s next.

Like many of my peers, I was involved in downsizing very recently. A buyer of my company told all employees that many would be losing their jobs. The Fighters and Flighters readied their personas when they digested this unfortunate news.

The Fighters ‘heard’ this news, yet it didn’t affect their productivity. Fighters continued to deliver even when the future appeared to be uncertain. Honestly, when is the future NOT uncertain?

Flighters, on the other hand, mentally checked out. Productivity dropped like a rock in the heart of a flighter. And work produced by a flighter centers on his/her resume. When the ax finally fell, eliminating many positions in an office, the flighters were usually the first to feel the brunt of the reduction. They’ve done nothing to impress a new boss or owner, or very little to keep skills fresh.

While fighters recommend new ways to approach a problem, or novel ways to do business, flighters run for the hills.

Yes, there are some situations where it makes perfect sense to freshen up the resume. In fact, you should make it a practice to review and update your dossier and profile once a quarter.

Be a fighter when you really don’t want to be. It’s easier to just mentally check out, but don’t fall for the hollow allure of laziness. If you take the challenging road and fight, you might be rewarded with a new job, a promotion, a dream opportunity.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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