one of the things that really caught my interest was being counsel to the Subcommittee on Select Education and Civil Rights for the US House of Representatives from 1986 to 1993. I can’t even imagine how interesting that was.
Laurence Peters: It was so interesting. I had a ball. I worked for a congressman from New York, Major Owens who was the first Liberian to be elected to Congress and he had marched with Martin Luther King. He had a great record of civil rights. He’s a sharecropper’s son. Came up the hard way from the South and probably the most the intelligent, the most well-read person I’ve ever met. Incredible passion for civil rights and with him we were the first subcommittee to hold the first hearing on ADA, the Americans for Disabilities Act. It was because he saw the connection between civil rights for African Americans and civil rights for disabled people and it was such a natural fit.
There were so many good things that came out of the experience. I was only there for six years but we managed to pass a slew of legislation. We were the first subcommittee to hold a hearing on pediatric AIDs. AIDs was some horrible, stigmatizing disease in the early ’80s and people thought that somehow children could not contract AIDS because it was “a gay disease” so we had to try to educate our Republicans as much as anything and generally the media into helping them to understand that AIDS was in fact transmitted in utero through some uses … certain women were using needles that were basically infected. Anyway, there’s a long story to that.
We were in the forefront of a lot of very progressive legislation. I felt like I was in my element. Certain times and certain roles in life you feel like, okay, I was born to do this kind of thing. I mean what was most remarkable is the fact that I’m originally from the UK. I don’t know if you saw that on my bio.
David Brower: I did, yeah, yeah.
Laurence Peters: To be given an opportunity, let me do my patriotic thing here. As a former citizen of UK, I’m now a citizen of United States, to be able to be privileged to be in that position was just incredible to me and to see the openness of the American political system and how people, I guess, these days in particular are feeling very frustrated about the American politics in general but I’m here to tell you that it is among the most vibrant, the most open systems we have in the entire democratic world.
It can allow a person like Trump to come into whatever you think about him and it can allow an Obama to be president. It does respond to people and I think that’s the essence of a democracy. That it’s open, it’s responsive, and things happen as a result of people getting elected. Not that everybody can agree all the time with those results but the system has a way of working.
David Brower: It does. Generation after generation whether you like it, love it, hate it or anywhere in between. It has some kind of innate balance to be able to continue to go on and on.
Laurence Peters: It’s a very well built machine and it does work and your voice can be heard and it does make a difference. If you become politically active, you can make a difference. I don’t think that’s true of every system out there. My sense is that we need a little pep talk sometimes about the vibrancy of the system and I just wanted to use the opportunity you’ve given me to just put that plug in for the democracy.
David Brower: Outstanding. I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s move on to your book because I’m equally excited about this, a book called, you’ve co-authored it, Retirement Reading: Bibliotherapy for the Over Sixties crowd which includes me and there is a lot of myths out there, a lot of, I don’t kno David Brower: Hi, this is David Brower and welcome back to Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our guest today is Ken Bator. He’s the creator of the B+C+S Formula, and the author of The Formula for Business Success. Welcome, Ken, from the wonderful world of Long Beach, California.
Ken Bator: Thank you, David. Thank you for having me.
David Brower: Hey, you’re very welcome. You’ve had some great success in reading your bio on helping businesses create environments where employees actually want to come to work and where customers actually want to keep coming back. That’s magic to me, and to a lot of businesses. How do you do that?
Ken Bator: Well, it actually is pretty simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple. People sometimes confuse simple with easy, but simple can still be hard. The way that I do that is I help businesses understand their brand, culture, and strategy alignment. That is the B+C+S Formula.
David Brower: Okay.
Ken Bator: In other words, knowing exactly what is the image we want to portray out in the public, what’s the experience we need to create both for and through our customers, excuse me, employees, and what’s the strategy? How do we drive more of the right business to our business?
David Brower: I mean, those are obviously great questions. I would think having special ways of recruiting would be important?
Ken Bator: Well certainly, I think it all comes back down to the brand and the culture that you want to create. When recruiting, we need to think about who is going to fit into our formula. One of the ways and frankly, I’ll give the best tip right now for your listeners, a little earlier in the show. A lot of times people ask me, “Well I don’t have time to read your book. I don’t have time to go through a whole B+C+S formula. What’s that one tip that you can give me that will at least make a difference?”
That tip that I give is to apply service standards. To actually work with your team and put together a list of what service actually means here. Some concrete examples are we’ll greet the customer within three seconds of him walking in the door. We’ll answer the phone within three rings. We’ll get back to customers with any problem resolution within 24 hours. Things of that nature that you can adhere to.
When you have that, then recruiting frankly becomes a little bit easier in that you already have a very clear picture of what service means to your business and you can look for certain qualities in people that are going on line with those service standards.
David Brower: Well that makes all the sense in the world. What a great setup and a great way to understand potential employees to make sure you’ve got the service in place and then bring in the people that can facilitate that exactly the way you want it day in, day out.
Ken Bator: It really is a huge help to the new employee because you’re new on the job. Even if you’ve worked at restaurants all your life or you’ve worked at banks all your life, you walk into a new environment, especially in retail, and things are a little bit different. You’re always a little bit uneased in your first day, your first week, but when somebody hands you something like a list of service standards and your told, “This is what service means here,” they have a blueprint with which to go by and understand all right, if I follow these things, odds are I’m going to fit in here and do well. There’s so much chaos in the world, I do think that everybody, especially our employees, are looking for at least a little bit of structure in their lives.
David Brower: No question about it and when you walk in the door with that kind of structure, you understand it. The employer understands that you get it, then all of a sudden the productivity begins much, much sooner than compared to the old way of hiring folks.
Ken Bator: Absolutely, and you hit on the key word, David, productivity. We don’t do this just for the sake of doing this. We do this for better productivities, better profits and growth. If you’ve done the service standard piece right, which is a critical piece to the overall B+C+S Formula, your life as the owner, leader, manager actually becomes easier because if you engaged your employees to create it in the first place and you’ve gotten them on board, they have buy in, they actually begin to police themselves in many ways.
David Brower: That makes a lot of sense and if they’re working, and I’m sure, I know there’s all kinds of different working environments, but if you’ve got people working fairly closely together keeping an eye on the guy next door or the lady across the hall or what have you, there’s some kind of symmetry and ability to keep each other focused and motivated in the right direction.
Ken Bator: Well again, it’s a blueprint.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: Much like another book that I recommend, other than mine of course, is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, I believe it is. He talks about putting in systems and processes, and all standards are are another process. With that process it’s important to get the team involved in creating that process so there’s buy in, but when you have a process then things begin to move in a consistent way, which is obviously the key to branding. For a lack of a better way of putting it, to call it policing, employees, peers have a way of encouraging other people. Let’s use that word.
David Brower: Yeah, yeah.
Ken Bator: To say, “Well you know what, we have a service standard that we’re at our station 15 minutes before we start.” Maybe even, “The boss really does get on that, and it’s listed right here, so if you want to stay in good with the boss, make sure you’re here about 20 minutes early.” It gives people a clear blueprint of what the branded experience needs to be at that particular business.
David Brower: Boy, no kidding. The other thing I think is when you’ve already got employees in place that have been there for awhile, they know the system, then when somebody new comes in, it’s easy for them to welcome them in and make the new employee even more comfortable that much quicker.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. They can, especially if the new employee immediately adheres to how business is done there. The last thing a seasoned employee wants is for a new employee to make his or her job more difficult. While granted, yeah I think people for the most part are decent people and if a new employee makes a mistake then so be it, we need to put our arm around them and mentor them, but at least we have a tool with which to do that.
I think, and this is one of the things that I stress not only with service standards but also the whole B+C+S Formula, is the more you can get your entire team involved, the better it’s going to be for everybody. If you do get new employees in and you get an influx of let’s say you have a business of 10 people, and three of those people are new within the last three or four months, there’s nothing wrong with having a staff meeting and saying, “Hey, here are our old service standards and we’ve been doing well by these for a long time, but you know what, we want your input as new employees. Is there anything that you would suggest that we might want to change or update?”
“By the way, for all those folks that have been here for a long time, if you see a standard on here that just ain’t working anymore. Maybe we have an actual operational reason as to why we can’t get back to a client within 24 hours with a problem. If there really is a legitimate reason why we can’t, then let’s go ahead and change that.” The thing is, the whole team will be involved and it’s not just one more thing that ownership or management is shoving down onto the team.
David Brower: Team is the key word. That’s cool. S is service standards. Tell me again, what’s B and C?
Ken Bator: Well, the S is actually the strategy.
David Brower: Oh, okay.
Ken Bator: The service standards actually help us not only begin to build our culture, because the C is the culture, but also allow us to create a branded and consistent branded experience, which is the B, but yeah, I think that the thing that we really need to think of in terms of the B+C+S Formula is that it is simple. It may not be easy, but the way that it’s helped me, and granted, it took me years to come up with this, David.
David Brower: Sure. Sure, absolutely.
Ken Bator: It’s not one of these things that they necessarily teach in college. They certainly teach pieces of this, but they don’t teach how everything really works together and that if you have a great culture, meaning that you’re providing a very good experience for your team and your customers, but you don’t have a great brand, you’re like the best-kept secret because nobody knows that you’re there.
David Brower: Well I was just going to say, so do you help businesses create their brand as well?
Ken Bator: Absolutely. It starts with not just simply doing graphic design or making something pretty like a logo. It starts with really understanding what your differentiating factors are. Who you want to serve. A brand isn’t necessarily, to use a restaurant example, the logo or the signage that’s outside the door. The brand is that you might be a family restaurant and that you serve the best family breakfast and lunch that they’ll have for 100 miles around. Well, if that is the case and that is your brand, it’s not just simply sending that message in the proper channels, but also making sure when people come through the door, that they get the exact or better family-type experience that you’ve been promising in all these different marketing channels.
David Brower: I think promise is the key word, right? In your brand, if you’re going to throw a promise out there, then that’s go to be consistent, honored, 24/7, 365.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. Everybody’s discerning these days. Everybody has very, very high expectations of what they want from their consumer experience. If you tell them that they’re going to have a family experience, and you’ve got two rude waiters that are trying to serve, and your family meal consists of things that have all been microwaved, then you’ve just broken your promise and not only are these people not going to come back, but they’re going to make sure that hundreds of others know that this isn’t a family restaurant.
David Brower: Well, and that’s where reviews come in because more and more people are paying attention to reviews, be they good, bad or indifferent. It’s certainly an increasing part of our culture where okay, I’m going to go to that restaurant. Oh, it’s only got two and a half stars. Okay, I’m out. I want to go to the three and a half star one.
Ken Bator: Exactly, and I forget the gentleman’s name but I believe he was the founder of Intuit, had a quote that a brand is no longer what we, the business, tell people it is. It’s what other people tell that the brand is for that particular business. Reviews are very [inaudible 00:11:45]. That’s why I recommend from a branding standpoint, to look at those Yelp reviews, to look at those Facebook reviews, and frankly sometimes you are going to get a customer, member or client that simply didn’t get it right.
David Brower: Right, right.
Ken Bator: Was irate for possibly not the right reasons. The customer isn’t always right. Sorry, sometimes they did get it wrong. The one thing that people that do look at those reviews and read those reviews do care about, is they care that the owner cares. I’ve seen this, 90% of the time when the owner or manager answers that review, something like, “I’m really sorry you had a bad experience. Call us or come on in and we’ll make it right for you and talk about the experience that you had.”
David Brower: Yeah, exactly.
Ken Bator: Now you’re not necessarily saying that we as the business screwed up, but obviously acknowledging that the person had a bad experience for whatever reason, and that acknowledgement has a lot of power.
David Brower: It has a lot of power because the other people who are looking at those reviews see that you care enough to respond either to a critical or even marginal review, that you’re very engaged in your brand.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head, David. In fact, a lot of times when people see a negative review and there was not a response, they automatically think that, or many times, automatically think that negative review is the right review.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: But when the owner, manager, executive has responded and said, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience, give us a call or come in and we’ll do what we can to make it right,” and that’s the last in the conversation string, it’s kind of like the person who speaks last is the winner. Is that all right, well the owner acknowledged it. The person who was upset didn’t make another reply, so he must have taken care of whatever the issue was.
David Brower: What’s fascinating to me is with all the social media, the Yelp, the Google reviews, all those different things, it really strikes me as the new 21st century word of mouth.
Ken Bator: Yep. It really is. My wife and I are planning on a trip to New York in a few months and I’m sure we’ll go on Facebook or Yelp and look at some of the places that we’re planning on visiting and we’re going to take word-of-mouth advice from total strangers.
David Brower: Right, isn’t that funny?
Ken Bator: That we never even met.
David Brower: Exactly, exactly. That’s what’s fascinating to me is back [inaudible 00:14:38] you go, “Well yeah, John, I love this place.” Now it’s, “I don’t know who the hell John is, but he loves this place.”
Ken Bator: Yeah, exactly.
David Brower: You know what I mean? It’s fascinating to me.
Ken Bator: If John said it was okay, then it must be okay, right?
David Brower: Right. It’s the last voice in the conversation, just exactly what you said. You’ve got the brand, and then the culture is what the owner and the management create around that business and with their employees, so the culture has to be consistent too.
Ken Bator: It does. Culture frankly is just a fancy word for experience.
David Brower: Okay.
Ken Bator: That’s why I say what’s the experience you want to create both for and through your employees? If you’re creating an experience that’s a positive one for your employees, it’s going to be much more likely that your employees are going to take good care of your customers.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: The flip side unfortunately is also true. If the employees don’t want to be there, which I’ve seen in the cases of some businesses, it’s going to be almost impossible. I’ve seen it done, it’s very hard, but it’s going to be almost impossible to have satisfied customers or clients.
David Brower: You’ve spent a lot of time and energy building your brand, you’re comfortable with that. You’ve got your culture dialed in, and now you’re going to get to your strategy. What does that involve?
Ken Bator: Well, it’s not frankly as involved as it used to be. The days of the 127-page strategies have kind of gone by the wayside. What I do and I encourage people to do, is be very, very clear on their mission and their vision and their values, and also tying those in to some specific goals. I would actually rather them have what I call is a strategic map where they just have some key elements, some key objectives for the year, some targets that they want to hit, specific niches of customers and markets that they want to focus on, and have that on a two-page document that they can post up on a bulletin board and better yet, share with the entire team, and have that than have a 127-page binder that’s going to be on a desk someplace collecting dust that we never look at.
The thing that I hear from actually a lot of clients before I even say it, is the term “a working document.”
David Brower: There you go.
Ken Bator: That things have a habit of changing very, very quickly, whether it’s the economy, or an opportunity that presents itself, or whatever it may be. That’s why I really like the strategic map idea because if it’s just two pages, it’s not a daunting task for people. Especially a business owner that’s wearing four or five different hats a day.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: If something really does change, positive or negative, in the next three months, four months, five months, crumple up the darn strategic map, throw it in the garbage and start from scratch.
David Brower: Absolutely, so the brand, the culture and the strategy of a business produce results and that’s the name of the game.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. It’s all about knowing what image you want to portray, what experience you want to create, and driving more of the right business to your business.
David Brower: Ken Bator, MBA, President of Bator Training and Consulting, Incorporated. His new book, The Formula for Business Success = B+C+S, now available on Amazon.
Ken Bator: If folks want to go to my website, which is simply www.BTCInc.net, not only is there a link to purchase the book, there’s also a link to an e-book which is completely free, which is a supplement to The Formula for Business Success, that people can grab right away and have some tips that they could apply to their business practically immediately.
David Brower: Again, it’s BTC, which stands for Bator Training and Consulting, so BTCInc.net. Ken Bator, thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.
Ken Bator: David, thank you. It’s a pleasure.
David Brower: You’ve been listening to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower and our special guest, Ken Bator. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us at Facebook.com/Your20MinutePodcast.
w, media-created impressions about what retirement means and doesn’t mean and my sense is this book really zeroes in on the truth of it.
Laurence Peters: Yeah, I wrote it with my brother who’s back in the England and we both are in our 60s and we both read a lot. We thought some of the wisdom of the reading. We’ve read pretty much a lot of Philip Roth who back in the day was quite the author, quite the American author. We’ve read a lot of British authors like William Boyd and Graham Swift. A lot of these authors have things to share about what it is like to grow old and particularly, in the ’60s.
We also referred to classical authors like Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. The long and short, it’s not to make people into a crushing board or to just appeal just totally to bookworms. Our thought was that the usual way people think about retirement is it’s basically either a financial proposition which everybody thinks about retirement in terms of can I afford it, what will my lifestyle look like based on a reduced amount of income. That’s one of the first thoughts that people have.
The second thought people have is well, maybe because I’ve got this time available I can pursue “hobbies” and I can go travel. That’s usually the way people look at it. As you well know, once you are retired, the world changes a lot for you and there’s a lot of time to fill and you can’t fill all that time on the golf course and you can’t fill all that time traveling. There’s a time that you’re given and it’s precious time. It’s time we’ve earned because we work so hard during the major part of our working careers, we deserve it but the question always comes back to what do we do with this time. How do we use it productively?
These authors I’m going to come back to help us, I think, understand a little bit more about some of the ways in which to think about things. It’s a time that’s … I don’t know. It’s a time that’s quite eventful, particularly health wise. We’re reminded of our mortality, probably not once or twice but several times and we have to cope with that. Now if we spend a lot of time just focused on the financial issues or the travel issues, and particularly people who have basically been healthy most of their lives, when they 60, 65, they’re going to come into some health situation. It may not be serious but it’s going to affect them.
We wanted to try to come up with a book that helps people understand, confront that for want of a better word, mortality issue and what have the writers said about mortality and how have they approached it? How have you approached the fact that your body is changing quite rapidly after 60? There’s quite serious issues to do with losing muscle mass. I think there’s a sense in which we all have to deal with that. We shrink. There’s a physical change that occur.
I’m trying to reflect on those and not escape and run away from those or pretend that they don’t exist and that everybody is fine and great and we’re all going to live forever. It’s just not …
David Brower: I remember a couple of generations ago, I want to say, oh gosh, 40, 45 years ago, and I was working at a television station and one of the higher up management types was getting ready to retire. This was in the mid ’70s. He was 65 years of age. He had worked his entire life, high energy, fast drinking, hard smoking, very wonderful family but just a real go-getter kind of guy that was very successful.
In his mind, when he turned 65 and he retired he was going to go home, put his feet up, hang out with his wife and the grandkids, maybe play a little golf and he was dead within five years.
Laurence Peters: It happens very often. Basically, we don’t know how much time we have.
David Brower: Yeah, exactly.
Laurence Peters: That’s a scary part too. It’s a huge rite of passage. Maybe we used to make a big fuss when people left work at 60, 65. Gave them a gold watch or some other but it’s sad. We no longer even perhaps make that old rite of passage a big deal anymore. The retirement party is passé now. How do you begin to come to terms with this new status, that’s really …
I thought really and here’s just a plug for reading. Reading is a place where it has some downside because it’s not that social but it allows you to at least reflect, help you reflect on the experience of other people who’ve gone through this.
David Brower: One of the things I was thinking about as I read through segments of your book, it seems to me, and it may be better now than when I was in school or my kids were in school, but it seems to me back in the day as you go through junior high and high school, there should have been, in retrospect, there should have been some classes teaching you how to balance a checkbook, how to go grocery shopping.
Some real life applications and then 60 years later, it seems to me like there should be some classes on how to retire, what are the options, you know what I mean?
Laurence Peters: Right. No, I think that’s the right thing and I think maybe they will. We just can’t. … These days, people are so busy with everything. I mean the current situation is a lot of people feel that they can’t retire because of the economic situation. Another segment is too afraid to retire because they feel the same, the stigma that some people feel about not working. They feel that they have to be busy and they have to keep up a certain front, social front.
When you retire, when you’re just out there walking the dog and have plenty of time to go around the mall, it feels a little bit like you’re not quite part of the society, you feel a little bit like an outsider. Even the label, I’m retired. It’s not something that people like to use very much.
David Brower: Well, that’s right. I think another important part of what you’re talking about no matter where you are in life is fear. I mean fear is a real deal whether you’re working, whether you have a family, whether you have retirement, there’s real fear out there that you have to figure out a way to be able to face those fears to get back into your own skin.
Laurence Peters: There are fears. One way of dealing with them is a negative way. There’s a huge increase in depression, in suicide, in all of those bad things when people basically don’t have work because work has provided so much meaning their whole life. It’s provided their identity and so when you lose that identity you feel like you’ve lost part of yourself You have to reach back down in deep to find that inner self that’s been there the whole time in your working life but really hasn’t been able to be expressed and to surface just to get a sense of other people out there who are struggling.
You don’t feel so alone. You feel other people have gone through this as well and they haven’t come up necessarily with great answers, with a complete answer but they come up with something which makes you feel like you too could figure out your own meaning, your own sense of how things stack up, how things work.
David Brower: Absolutely. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left, Laurence, and I wanted to touch on biobliotherapy. I think that’s such an important word and when you go back and talk about the Egyptians and King Ramses and how all of this kind of history helps you create this book, can you touch on that in a couple of minutes?
Laurence Peters: The first library ever in the world was the one that was founded in Ancient Egypt and the pharaoh then, King Ramses, wrote over the first library the motto “the house of healing for the soul.” That’s basically one function of books. We used to think books, well, you look them up for reference purposes and so on. They’re a record of certain events chronological but the notion of books as healing, as therapy, is something we lost along the way over this 2000 year in history.
The Greeks also had the same feeling about not just books but about art itself and we lost the notion of soul along the way, both the Egyptians and the Romans believed in the idea of a soul. We feel well, yes, sort of, if you’re religious but really, I think it was Spinoza who said that our basic point, purpose on earth is to refine and mature our souls which are there from our birth and need this constant, they need to fulfill themselves, they need to need to begin, the passions that we had as young people need to be expressed still as older people, perhaps in a different form.
If you recognize this, if you recognize the soulfulness that’s in you and in everybody, that it’s about trying to express some inner meaning, inner self, then books can help because books can help you see how other souls have done it.
David Brower: It’s innate in each of us and we need to figure out a way to pay attention, bring it to the surface and help us live a more enjoyable life as we get old, right?
Laurence Peters: Yeah, I would love for people to read this book and correspond with me. I’d love for them to even create a virtual book club where people could talk about some of these titles. Let’s pick out one of these titles from … I reviewed 50 books and let’s have a conversation about it and I’m very open to that.
I want to connect more with … and that conversation is just not out there for me. It may be for other people. I’m not somehow a book clubby person but in terms of these kinds of authors and in terms of these issues, I’m ready for a conversation.
David Brower: That sounds fabulous and very important to say the least. Folks, his website is laurencepeters.com, L-A-U-R-E-N-C-E peters.com. The book is Retirement Reading: Bibliotherapy for the Over Sixties. It’s not only an important read. It’s also wonderful conversation that we just had and I wish we had another 20 minutes. I really enjoyed it.
Laurence Peters: Thank you very much. Appreciate it, David. It’s been very enjoyable for me too.