BC Municipal Elections

November 17, 2011

If you’re voting in the British Columbia municipal elections I recommend you read Michael Geller’s recent blog post. It can be found at: http://gellersworldtravel.blogspot.com/2011/11/please-read-this-before-you-vote.html.

The part I found most entertaining and accurate is as follows:

The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching third grade this year.
The presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest.
I decided we would have an election for a class president.
We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote.
To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members.
We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have.
We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.

The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids.
I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support.
I had never seen Olivia’s mother.
The day arrived when they were to make their speeches Jamie went first.
He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place.
He ended by promising to do his very best.
Everyone applauded.
He sat down and Olivia came to the podium.

Her speech was concise.
She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream.”
She sat down.
The class went wild. “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream.”
She surely would say more.
She did not have to.
A discussion followed.
How did she plan to pay for the ice cream?
She wasn’t sure.
Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it.
She didn’t know.
The class really didn’t care.
All they were thinking about was ice cream.

Jamie was forgotten.
Olivia won by a land slide.
All candidates running for office offer ice cream.
Fifty percent of the people react like nine year-olds.
They want ice cream.
The other fifty percent know they’re going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.

My wife

April 14, 2011

I am extremely proud of my wife for many reasons. She’s my silent giant.

One of the important things she does is fix children afflicted with cleft lips and/or palates. She’s traveled to both China and India on volunteer missions to operate on children in those countries who would otherwise never have a chance at fixing these deformities.

A non-profit group in Vancouver which supports cleft lip and palate repairs i has made a submission to a competition run by Pepsi. If they win then they will receive $100,000.

I’d appreciate it if you would vote everyday from today to April 30 by going to this website: http://www.refresheverything.ca/springforkids. It’s a great cause, great people with great results.


This post is on customer service because of an email I recently received from WestJet.  I’ve appended it  below.

<Begin WestJet message>

As a valued Guest, we would like to remind you that you currently have a credit which will expire on the date listed in the above subject line. 

You can use your credit to book a flight for yourself to visit friends and family, or you can surprise a friend or relative by transferring your credit to them. Please contact our Sales Super Centre in Calgary at 1-888-870-6258 prior to the expiry date if you’d like to use or transfer your credit. 

With over 45 North American and Caribbean destinations to choose from, planning your next trip has never been easier. Visit westjet.com for more details. Your credit can only be used to book flights and is not eligible to book packages with WestJet Vacations. 

If you have already used your credit, we thank you for choosing WestJet, and look forward to seeing you again soon!  

Bob Cummings, Executive Vice President

Guest Experience & Marketing 

<End WestJet message>

This is the second time WestJet has contacted me to remind me of credits I had forgotten.  Last time the company actually phoned me.  WestJet could have just let the credits expire and it would have been fully justified in doing so.  However, by being proactive, the company sends me the message that it cares about me as a guest and is looking out for my best interest.

WestJet “gets it”.  The company understands that customers matter.  It understands that the only rules that are important are those that help your customers come back over and over again.  It understands the big picture.  In this case, it “spent” $100 on my credit, but by doing so ensured that I will continue to be loyal to the company (and I fly back and forth between Prince George and Vancouver almost every week).

Conversely, Air Canada, WestJet’s main competitor in Canada, took the following approach when “retiring” some Aeroplan points from my father.

My father did a lot of domestic and international business travel when he was professionally active.  He often paid full fare for first or business class seats.  He had been loyal to Air Canada since the 1960’s – even when being pressured by colleagues to fly Canadian Airlines, WardAir (in the day) and WestJet.  Over time he accumulated a lot of Aeroplan points, so when he received a statement notifying him that a large portion of his points had been “retired” he was, naturally, surprised.  When inquiring with Aeroplan, they simply notified him that rules had been sent out to him and that, had he read them, he would have known that unused points are eventually retired. 

It was his fault for not reading the rules.  Aeroplan was right, no doubt.  But I too was at fault in respect of my credits with WestJet.  Both credits were sitting there on my account and I just had not used them.  But instead of letting my credits expire, in accordance with its rules, WestJet was proactive.  Air Canada’s Aeroplan was not.

WestJet’s approach has had the benefit of creating a collegial relationship with me.  Air Canada’s approach creates an adversarial relationship.  What I now find is that I give WestJet a lot of slack when it is running late, has equipment problems, makes errors etc. etc.  That is because I know the airline cares about me and looks out for me.  I do not afford Air Canada that latitude.

I do not blame Air Canada’s front line employees, but I do blame Air Canada’s management.  Management creates the culture and empowers its staff.  It does this by espousing a system of beliefs and by setting boundaries. 

It may sound a bit glib, but providing exceptional customer and guest experiences is not that hard provided that an organization has a clear system of beliefs (“without our guests we would not exist, therefore, we believe in making every experience with our company a positive one”) and easily understood boundaries (“we are never permitted to blame customers”). 

The system of beliefs should permeate the entire organization.  It is a feeling, it is a culture and, developed and deployed properly, becomes a non-negotiable for every member of a company’s team – from the CEO to the janitor. 

Setting boundaries and then letting your team operate anywhere within those boundaries permits creativity, entrepreneurship, empowerment and fleet footedness.  Let them loose to do what they think is right.  The CEO of the hospitality company I consulted to put it best when he said, “if it feels right then it probably is – so do it”.  He was able to provide this freedom in part because we had clearly defined boundaries and a terrific system of beliefs.

Here is to WestJet’s continued success and growth.  Let’s hope more companies are able to follow the example it sets.

Transportation in Vancouver

December 17, 2008

I left Broadway and Alder at 5:45pm yesterday and arrived for a meeting at the Vancouver Club at 6:25pm.  That’s forty minutes to travel 4.0 km which translates into 6.0km per hour in my car!  That’s not good enough for a world class city.  

Our city planners and civic government have failed Vancouverites in not managing our transportation infrastructure in anticipation of our city’s growth.  They seem to have always been in reactive mode and not out ahead of the population curve.

Some will criticize me for not riding my bike, taking the bus or walking.  I do bike.  In fact, my computer tells me that I have averaged 21.5km/h since December 2006.  I do walk and I do on occasion take the bus.  But in this circumstance I needed my car.  Biking was not an option because I didn’t want to be sweating in my meeting.  Walking and the bus were not options because I didn’t have enough time between meetings and I needed to get home expediently to take our new puppy out for a walk.  

Traffic has lots of negative consequences including road rage, lost productivity, harm to the environment and, when ambulances can’t get through the bottlenecks, medical consequences.  The annual costs of wasted fuel and wasted time are estimated at more than $1500 per traveller in cities like L.A.!

As far back as Julius Caeser’s time, government was dealing with traffic congestion proactively.  Indeed, Caesar banned carts during the day in ancient Rome!  London, Mexico City and San Francisco and Singapore, France and Australia are examples of jurisdictions that ban cars on certain roads at certain times of the day, issue specific permits permitting specific cars on specific high traffic roads at specific times or just tolls for certain roads.  Interestingly, Washington DC deals with congestion by reversing the direction of one way streets in the morning and the afternoon.

Here’s to hoping for civic leadership that produces creative and forward thinking transportation plans for our city.