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Don’t overstress yourself. You must pace yourself so you don’t burn out. As a senior, our physical abilities are less than when we were young. Once you identify and pursue your passion, remember to schedule rest time into your life. When I first discovered acting, I couldn’t get enough of it; it was like an addiction. Often, I filed my schedule with more acting work or classes than I could comfortably do, and I found myself becoming exhausted. That is happening to me now with my writing. I find I can sit at my computer for hours without even realizing it. Sometimes, I forget to eat or go outside. My new back pain from so much sitting is reminding me to take a break. I’m now setting an alarm at one hour intervals to remind me. Don’t turn your passion into a chore. Downtime regenerates you so you can return revitalized.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee Gale Gruen.

After retiring from her 37-year career as a probation officer, Lee Gale Gruen became a professional actress, appearing in television, commercials, videos, theater, print, and live-interactive roles. Her published memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, recounts how she attended an acting class for seniors with her father when she was 60 and he was 85 before going on to become a professional actress. Her blog, lecture, and new self-help book for retirees and seniors are all titled:Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years, and they share the goal of helping retirees, those soon to retire, baby boomers, and seniors find joy, excitement, and purpose after they retire.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up Los Angeles, California in a middle class family which included my parents and sister. I was bright but very shy. As a teenager, I was consumed with what others thought of me, and that kept me from developing my creative talents. I dragged that ball and chain into adulthood, and it influenced so much of my life. I graduated college from UCLA and started working as a probation officer in Los Angeles County, a career that spanned 37 years. During that same time, I married and had two children. Now, I also have three grandchildren.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” — Arnold Glasow

I love that quote! I grew into it slowly and painfully as I aged and gained more confidence in myself. I had lots of stumbles along the way, feeling inhibited by the fierce competition from others I considered to be superior to me. Now, as a senior, I’ve overcome so much that held me back, mostly my own internal doubts about myself, but I still remain a work in progress. Nevertheless, I am self-motivated to move forward and grab life. I have been writing a blog for over eight years titled the same as my new book and my public lecture, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years,” based on my thoughts, observations, and experiences. It is my way of giving back to the community by helping others blossom and reinvent themselves in their senior years. Writing the blog is cathartic for me in my quest to do the same.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1. I feel that I have insight into the human condition. I learned a lot of that from my probation clients who had erred greatly in the eyes of the larger society. They often shared their innermost feelings with me, probably because I wasn’t a part of their personal lives, and they taught me that we are all frightened and vulnerable beings just doing our best to make it through life no matter how confident, clever, or together we may present ourselves to the world. I have tried to pass along what I learned to others through my blog, lecture, and books.

2. I have a developmentally disabled child. Being a shy person and never wanting to draw attention to myself, my daughter drew constant attention to herself and to me by extension. That was a painful lesson which taught me to stand up to an often cruel world in order to protect her and to confront others for their bad behavior. I think that is at the root of why I try to help people find their Second Chapter. If they feel beaten down by an unforgiving society, maybe my encouragement might help them stand up and take action. Sometimes, just a subtle word or smile of support will do wonders for those who feel lost and defeated.

3. I am able to relate to people and present myself well to both individuals and groups. I think I’ve always had those abilities, but I was too shy and insecure to develop them. As a result of attending an acting class for seniors after retiring from my career, I was able to overcome my lifelong stage fright. It was a slow, painful process, but I kept going because I was so captivated by acting. Once I shed that crippling stage fright, I couldn’t get enough of performing in front of the public. One thing I did besides paid acting jobs was to become a volunteer tour guide at the La Brea Tar pits, a prehistoric geologic site, which was near my home in Los Angeles, California. That position was a type of performance in front of an audience, and I loved it when the group members would tell me how much they had enjoyed my tour.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

As I said earlier, I had a 37-year career as a probation officer. That is where I honed my writing and introspection skills. I supervised caseloads of probationers, and I learned from them how people think and feel. I wrote sentencing reports for judges to help them sentence convicted criminal defendants. That taught me to write in a concise, descriptive manner. I used those skills I had learned when I became an actress and a creative writer in my “Second Chapter.”

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

At the age of 60, after retiring from my career as a probation officer, I mistakenly registered for an acting class for seniors at a local senior program, thinking it was just a play discussion group. My lifelong stage fright kicked in big time that first day when I was asked to read a scene with a partner in front of the whole class. After a bad start with a tiny, shaky voice, I became so immersed in my role that I completely forgot about the sea of eyes watching me and judging me. That hooked me on acting! My 85-year old, newly widowed father soon started attending the class with me, and I was forced to write our scenes for the acting class showcases due to the scarcity of professional material for a man his age. So began my “Second Chapter” as an actress which transitioned to include author, public speaker, and blogger.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

After attending acting classes for a few years, a good friend said, “Lee Gale, you’re an actress.” “No, I’m not,” I countered. “Yes, you are.” After a few rounds of that, I began to consider the possibility that she was right. I had never viewed myself like that before, and that was the trigger that started me on the path to attending acting auditions, finding an agent, and booking paid acting jobs. Some of my classmates were earning money from acting roles, and they mentored me in the process. It was slow and intimidating in the beginning, but I kept at it and got better and better. I remember my first paid acting job. It was a television commercial, and I had to skate down the sidewalk holding the sign of the sponsoring company. After a lot of practice alone in parking lots, I was able to maintain my balance as I glided along on the roller skates. However, I couldn’t stop myself and had to grab onto trees or railings. The day of the shoot, the director stationed a crew member just outside of camera range, and I skated into her arms.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

I never had an inkling that I had acting abilities. Even if I had, I never would have considered pursuing it as I had horrible stage fright whenever I had to talk in front of groups. I think it stemmed from grammar school when we had to give book reports in front of the class, and all the kids would tease the presenter for the slightest reason. That first day in the acting class for seniors when another class member asked me to read a scene from “Death of a Salesman” with him in front of the class, I looked at the door and seriously considered bolting. The only reason I stayed was because I was too embarrassed to leave; I was a mature senior after all. After starting to read with my heart fluttering, I soon inhabited the character so completely that everything else around me faded out, and I read for ten minutes. The class members clapped at the end shaking me out of my trance. The whole experience was such a high! From then on, I was addicted to acting. Once I overcame my stage fright and developed my acting skills, I found an agent and started going to auditions and booking real acting roles. I continued attending the acting class with my father and performing with him twice a year in the class showcases the humorous scenes I wrote for us. That gave me the idea to write my memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, which was published in 2013. It includes those six scenes I wrote. Then, I started writing a blog to promote my book. However, the blog soon started taking on a life of its own, and I’ve been writing it for eight years. From there, I began receiving invitations to speak to audiences about my memoir. I realized I had learned a lot which I could pass on to the retiree and senior community about how to seek and find their own “Second Chapter” just like I did. So, I developed a lecture on that subject composed of my own experiences and of research I did. I have been hired numerous times to present this lecture to senior audiences throughout the United States. Audience members began asking if they could buy a book about my lecture. That resulted in my recently published book which is an adjunct to my blog and lecture. All three share the same title, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years.” My new book contains the contents of my lecture as well as seven years of posts from my blog. My goal with my blog, lecture, and new book is to help retirees, those soon to retire, baby boomers, and seniors reinvent themselves after they retire.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

I lived in Los Angeles, California until four years ago when I moved to the East San Francisco Bay area. When in Los Angeles, I auditioned and booked acting jobs for about fourteen years. I made many commercials and was in a Jane Fonda workout video aimed at the senior market. I had amazing experiences with my acting work including riding a mechanical horse and falling onto an air mattress. My roles included playing a trash talking granny with a machine gun, the mother of comedian Patton Oswald when he hosted the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and a one-time stint as a sexy senior on the “General Hospital” soap opera. For twelve years, I worked part-time for UCLA Medical School portraying patients for medical student training. Since moving away from Los Angeles, I’ve focused much more on my lecturing and writing. I was hired by one corporation to travel to different states to give my lecture to residents at their senior residential communities. The Covid 19 lockdown gave me time to complete my new self-help book for retirees and seniors, Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years: Find Joy, Excitement, and Purpose After You Retire, which was published in November, 2020

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Three people come to mind. Barbara Gannen and Buddy Powell, my two acting-for-seniors class instructors, were instrumental in my becoming an actress. I attended both of their classes for several years where I learned about acting and was able to network with visiting talent agents as well as class members who were doing paid acting work. Both teachers inspired me to work hard and keep going. Also, my father, Marvin Schelf, was a great support to me as I progressed. He was my scene partner for three years in the acting class showcases as we performed the humorous dad/daughter scenes I wrote for us. He always encouraged me although we argued from time to time on creative input. Nevertheless, he was the one I’d go to after each audition when I felt down about how I had done. He was always there to spur me on, even in his later years when he could no longer attend the acting class with me after becoming wheelchair bound and moving to a nursing home. When I’d visit him there, I would sit beside his bed and share all of my acting experiences with him. He would later brag about them to the other nursing home residents and staff. He had my acting headshot tacked to the wall at the foot of his bed so he could see it when he woke up each morning. I also write about this in my memoir.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I think the most amazing revelation was how strong and capable I am. I never realized it or believed it. Now, I can look at myself with critical assessment without diminishing my own achievements. My Second Chapter in life has finally freed me to like and respect myself. Often, I’ve received emails from strangers who have happened upon my blog while navigating the internet. Many share their own difficulties in finding fulfillment in this stage of their life. It’s amazing how so many reach their senior years and are still struggling with low self-confidence, discounting their own abilities. Too many devolve into loneliness and depression. It doesn’t have to be that way. To reinvent yourself is a process involving baby steps as one success builds on another regardless of periodic setbacks or failures. Certainly, I’ve had both successes and failures, but my passion has kept me going. This is a frequent theme I write about in my blog.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Oh, you bet I struggled with believing in myself. I always thought that whatever I was able to do was not anything special, and it was only others who were accomplished and special. Overcoming it was a process that continued into my senior years. The lightning strike was that first day in acting class when I went up to read that scene from “Death of a Salesman” shaking in my shoes. After the first few sentences, I morphed into the character that I was portraying, and I read the scene completely unaware of anyone else in the room except the actor playing my husband and setting up my lines. It was like stepping into a parallel world; I had no idea I had such an ability. I got terrific feedback from the teacher and class members. One called me “a natural.” That was the beginning of my metamorphosis. It was a slow, gradual process. At my first real audition, I reverted right back to the insecure, self-doubting person I had been for over sixty years. However, the siren call of acting was stronger and propelled me forward. Each audition or acting job I completed helped to chip away just a bit more of my self-doubt. Now, I go forward if not completely fearlessly, then at least stronger than before. When those old seeds of low self-confidence surface to try to control me, I’m much more successful at pushing them back where they belong.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I had many friends and my father and son who encouraged me. I had my acting teachers and fellow class members, and we were all passionate about acting. They were my tribe, and we became an informal support group, sharing our highs and lows. When I began lecturing and writing my books and my blog, I attracted followers . Many write to me after a particularly relevant blog post they enjoyed. They thank me and tell me how much it helped them and how much they like my writing. That inspires me to keep going.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

I remember the first acting audition I ever went to. I dressed like the character, an aging English spinster, as had been recommended in some acting books I’d read. I was very nervous as I walked into the lobby of the playhouse where the audition was to take place. My nervousness ramped up to include embarrassment when I saw that almost everyone else in the room was wearing jeans and tee shirts, including those my age who were obviously there to audition for the same part. It must have been clear to all that I was a newbie. I was humiliated and felt like leaving, just like that first day in acting class. The only reason I didn’t was that the passion for acting propelled me on. It was a grueling experience as I had to ask others what I was supposed to do. I write about this in my memoir, also.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

My goal in my Second Chapter is to help retirees, those soon to retire, baby boomers, and seniors reinvent themselves in this new stage of their lives called retirement. Their job is gone, the children are grown, and too many sink into loneliness and depression. Here are the five things I wish I had known during that major passage in my life:

1. I wish there had been a lecture, blog, or self-help book to direct me on how to carve out a new life for myself after I retired. I didn’t have a clue what I might like, where to find it, or even how to start looking for it. Shortly before I retired, I met a man walking his dog in my neighborhood whom I had worked with years earlier. He had been retired for a month, and he said he had hadn’t found anything of interest and had no idea what to do with himself. He died a short time later. Of course, that doesn’t happen to all new retirees, but it happens to too many. That first day after I retired, I remember being at home and feeling like I was in a fog. I was hungry and thought about walking into the kitchen to get some food, but I felt frozen and unable to put my thoughts into actions. I had to direct myself out loud: “Okay, now you put one foot in front of the other.” I think that’s really why I’ve gravitated in the direction I have: to help others create their own Second Chapter and not have to struggle as much as I did.

2. I wish someone had told me to try lots of different things even if I’d never done them before, and not to get discouraged just because the first few didn’t resonate with me. Several years ago, I was the organizer of a study/discussion group at the Plato Society, a learning-in-retirement program for seniors in Los Angeles, California. I created topics under our umbrella subject, Antarctica, for the thirteen group members to pick from a hat. One member was particularly upset as he had wanted a different assignment that was more in line with his pre-retirement career. When he finally gave his presentation some weeks later, he started by saying how much he had enjoyed learning about his topic and would never have done so on his own. It’s so easy to become discouraged and give up. In my new self-help book for retirees and seniors, Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years, I offer lots of ideas for activities and pursuits they can seek out, how to find them, and how to identify what might even interest them.

3. The magic word is “passion.” Find something to be passionate about as that will motivate you to get out of bed, get dressed, get out of the house, and embrace life. That’s what acting did for me. Once I wrote my memoir, I also became an author. However, I learned that writing a book isn’t enough. The author has to promote it, too. Now that I had my acting skills and was confident about speaking in public, I tackled giving book talks to groups. Acting and writing became my Second Chapter, and I loved the whole experience. A friend who was my age and also an actress had to drive over fifty miles one way to get to most auditions. I asked her once how she kept up that pace for so many years. I still remember her response: “Acting energizes me!” When you are passionate about something, it will excite and energize you.

5. Don’t overstress yourself. You must pace yourself so you don’t burn out. As a senior, our physical abilities are less than when we were young. Once you identify and pursue your passion, remember to schedule rest time into your life. When I first discovered acting, I couldn’t get enough of it; it was like an addiction. Often, I filed my schedule with more acting work or classes than I could comfortably do, and I found myself becoming exhausted. That is happening to me now with my writing. I find I can sit at my computer for hours without even realizing it. Sometimes, I forget to eat or go outside. My new back pain from so much sitting is reminding me to take a break. I’m now setting an alarm at one hour intervals to remind me. Don’t turn your passion into a chore. Downtime regenerates you so you can return revitalized.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My target audience is the retiree and senior population. That group comprises about a third of the population in the United States, so that’s a pretty big demographic. However, it’s often a forgotten group. It shouldn’t be. A group that big has great influence socially, economically, and politically. I’d like to see a movement where seniors flex that muscle. Such a movement could improve the status of the senior population and put them back into the role of wise and respected elders that they once held and really still are. I am also opposed to potentially harmful methods to make oneself look younger. That is a pursuit sold to mostly women that they are not good, not acceptable, and not worthwhile unless they are young. There’s nothing wrong with trying to look nice, but too many aging women and increasingly men put their health and even their lives at risk pursuing that “youth” ideal. Why do we buy into that hype? Can’t we ever be okay with how we are? Certainly as seniors we should be, but sadly, seniors still pursue the dream of youth, viewing signs of aging as ugly and unable to accept themselves as they are. I have written often on this subject in my blog. To sum it up, I would like to see a movement where seniors are respected, revered, and held in high esteem by the population at large and by themselves as a group.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

I love Maggie Smith, the 86-year-old actress. She goes about her life and craft just as she is without artificially trying to be something else. She has aged gracefully with the wrinkles and croaky voice that go with it. She remains charming and delightful portraying and being a senior. Thank you, Maggie Smith, for the example you set.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is: It tells all about my books, acting, and public speaking.

My blog website is: It is free and contains my blogs going back eight years.

If you google my name, Lee Gale Gruen, you’ll find many links to my acting work, books, and blog.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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Lee Gale Gruen: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Not all solutions can be taken from a text book. There will be things that need to be solved that cannot be addressed by pulling a book off a shelf. It’s more about using common sense, leveraging what you know and asking the right questions to get to the root of the problem. When the pandemic hit, there wasn’t a manual for how to host daily war rooms. We knew as a team we needed to quickly offer solutions and resources for franchisees. No matter the severity of the new circumstance, it’s the leader’s responsibility to lead. Don’t wait for the playbook, make the playbook.

As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Williams of Batteries Plus.

Scott is a highly accomplished executive with over 25 years in retail and e-commerce, who joined Batteries Plus as the company’s CEO in January of 2019. Scott was selected due to his perfect combination of experience, expertise and vision. Prior to Batteries Plus, Scott held a number of positions at Cabela’s, including President of Cabela’s Inc., Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. During his six-year tenure, Scott’s achievements included driving significant results by improving retail operations, revamping marketing, as well as many others. Prior to Cabela’s, he held senior management positions with Fanatics,, and OfficeMax.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in Kansas and graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Eventually, travelling north to Chicago to pursue my MBA at Northwestern. During business school there wasn’t much being said about retail, e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities, so I didn’t anticipate that I would become focused on this sector.

However, a pivotal moment in my career was being tasked to run all the marketing, e-commerce, and direct-to-consumer messaging for Office Max. I transitioned from serving as the SVP, of Marketing with Boise Cascade to the SVP of Marketing for Office Max, the newly acquired company. It was a Top-6 e-commerce site and I was thrown into the deep end based on my propensity with CRM experience and background with successful advertising campaigns, such as The Rubberband Man. At that point in 2000, e-commerce was still seen as small and emerging.

Can you share an “Aha Moment” that influenced the success of Batteries Plus?

As I joined Batteries Plus my analysis focused primarily on the question “What’s our moat?” — meaning what protection can we build or fortify to avoid attacks on our castle — in this case the castle being the company — from competitors aka primarily online retailers. Despite the articles written about the difficult future for retail and those public failures and store closures, I saw early-on that Batteries Plus had a lasting competitive advantage. We’re a specialty retailer with a real niche as our categories are primarily product plus service — hence the plus differentiator. For example, we install auto batteries that cannot be shipped to homes (as they contain lead) and are challenging for most to install. Also, our key fob business reduces the hassle of any at-home programming and saves consumers time from having to schedule an appointment at their auto dealership. Service in this case is both knowledge and installation. In fact, 97% of our e-commerce orders are ordered online and picked up in store or serviced on-site (BOPS or buy online, pickup in-store), compared to single digits for most omnichannel retailers — this is our moat!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were hard?

When I joined, sales were a bit sluggish, franchise owners were seeking momentum, and new franchise sales were relatively flat, causing me to explore the root of the challenge. Interestingly, we had many of the fundamentals in place — but we weren’t telling our story or getting credit for all the services we provide. Some customers didn’t know about our device repair business or key fob programming and some were confused by the Batteries Plus Bulbs naming, which limited our scope to consumers. That was another pivotal moment internally as we recognized that our greatest brand story was not being told. Fast forward two years, we are now no longer positioning Batteries Plus as the best retail franchise opportunity, but rather the most predictable investment opportunity due to the multiple revenue streams, essential products and growth potential with commercial, national accounts and ecommerce. We found our mojo.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We have the momentum we were seeking, as evidenced by the nearly 40 new store signings over the last year and start of Q1. Also, our existing franchise owners have reported returns of comp of +5% over the last eight months of last year and the sales growth has been across a variety of commercial categories including transportation and customers seeking more hands-free technologies. In fact, a handful of our owners have signed on for expansion agreements to open new stores based on the business stability throughout the course of the pandemic.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As the pandemic hit, many would ask ‘Hey, how are you doing through this?’ as they saw much of retail closed, adhering to shelter in place, and stay home orders. We never closed based on the essential nature of our categories (another competitive ‘moat’) as each of our core offerings are fundamental to people’s lives. This includes batteries for everything from wheelchairs and mobility scooters, to thermometers and flashlights, as well as lighting, cell phone repair and key fob replacement.

In fact, we rebounded so quickly that June of 2020 was the largest sales month in the history of the company. I felt we needed to find a way to describe this segment of retail in a very understandable way so I coined the term S.A.L.E.

S — Small box (limited crowds, personal service)

A — Assorted (not relying on just one category)

L — Local (growing call to support small business owners and communities during this time)

E — Essential (never closed, and resilient through all challenging times)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

As I was graduating from undergrad, I was racked up in student loan debt. I had one suit from my dad that I was wearing for all my interviews. Once I landed my first job, I was informed that I had to wear a suit every day, and I realized I was not going to be able to afford four more. To work around that, I purchased two different color shirts and five ties to disguise it that I wasn’t wearing the same shirt/suit jacket and I’d take the jacket off as soon as I got into work. That lasted me long enough to wait for a couple of paychecks.

The takeaway is that people are often more self-conscious than they need to be. It’s more important to put in the thought and effort versus focusing on the outward appearance.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Most people believe that if an employee isn’t showing immediate signs of success that it’s important to cut ties sooner than later. Sometimes true, but I’ve found most cases to be situational. For instance, a person might feel that the job is beyond their current capabilities. In that case, I’ve found it worthwhile to invest in them and training, which often converts to gaining their loyalty and appreciation.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Have Integrity — this is №1 and non-negotiable including doing the right thing when no one is watching. I remember early in my career discussing discipline for someone who had cheated on their expense account but it was only for $100-$150 — and the question came up ‘what is the amount that is ok to fudge?’ This had an impact on me as an absolute.
  • Provide Inspiration — leaders need to find ways to get others motivated to follow — and it can come from storytelling (sometimes at your own expense). At Batteries Plus we have drawn on this from using stories of our franchise owners who have relocated halfway across the country and raised families in new locations based on finding a great territory. We want to use the success stories to provide inspiration to others in the system who are looking to do the same and/or scale their own business to new heights. This is their career — and we owe it to them to be the best in class franchisor.
  • Tell an Inclusive Story — my management style has always been about making the story about the team as a whole, not just me. I’ve been a part of growing the network for two years but we didn’t become the nation’s largest and fastest-growing battery, light bulb, key fob and phone/tablet repair franchise because of a few people. We’re a nationwide network of more than 700 stores with a leadership team dedicated to supporting our franchise owners who are serving communities across the U.S.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Part of managing a franchise is making sure to manage the energy in the room. Part of team building is managing your energy as the leader while also being mindful of the energy of others and all relationships involved. In good times and when the company needs to navigate through difficult situations, it’s the leader’s role to ‘keep the locker room.’ If there is conflict within the team or the dynamic is off, it must be addressed ASAP and move forward. It’s also important to address concerns and feedback. If team members love coming to work except for X. Then it’s worth addressing that, as its likely impacting others on the team who are unwilling to share.When people look forward to coming to work it breeds better performance.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The biggest most fatal mistake leaders can make is ignoring market forces and refusing to make changes to the business model by assuming consumer behavior will ‘go back to normal’ or remain the same. Some examples include the catalog industry believing that direct-mail would remain unchanged or that consumers would always buy cable TV. Rather than leaders of companies being stuck in their ways, they should believe the evidence that ‘the times are changing,’ and worth evaluating future trends.

It’s easy to look back now at how blockbuster was done in, but what can we do in the here and now to spot the trends that are right here in front of us — like what’s the future of movie theaters and dining rooms of dine-in restaurants? For us, we’re looking at the future of contactless curbside delivery and navigating commercial sales across growing industries like transportation and hands-free technology. We’re also monitoring to see when schools and church re-engage with our offerings. It’s a disservice to any company to ignore the world around it. Leaders need to be forward thinking and position the company for what’s up ahead.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Growing up in retail and e-commerce, there is an art and a science to running a great retail store. People think you just open the door, hire people, and it all takes care of itself. If it was that easy, everyone would do it. In our case we have 700 stores, multiplied by six employees, which equates to roughly 4,000 people that franchisees need to train in order to deliver at a high superior service.

The main experiences that dictate a customer’s retail preference often boil down to how well the store is run, how fast they were able to get what they needed and if the product they were looking for was available.

You want to get yourself to operate well in all stores all across the nation, so that folks will get outstanding service every single time. It’s an ongoing challenge to keep people’s training up to par, and easier said than done, but important for consistency. There is a lot that goes into training, reinforcing and driving superior standards. To have a great retail story, the journey is never finished.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. The pronouns change as you progress through your career. When people are talking about management it’s often said that “they need a better strategy or they need to communicate more.” As the CEO, you learn that they means you.
  2. Not all solutions can be taken from a text book. There will be things that need to be solved that cannot be addressed by pulling a book off a shelf. It’s more about using common sense, leveraging what you know and asking the right questions to get to the root of the problem. When the pandemic hit, there wasn’t a manual for how to host daily war rooms. We knew as a team we needed to quickly offer solutions and resources for franchisees. No matter the severity of the new circumstance, it’s the leader’s responsibility to lead. Don’t wait for the playbook, make the playbook.
  3. It’s not a popularity contest or about being liked. There are times that the best decision is a difficult one. There are times when I might have an 80/20 split of overall approval, it’s more important to make the right decision versus waiting for 100 percent collective agreeance.
  4. You’re the protector. As a franchisor, with 280 franchise owners who decided to invest in Batteries Plus as their livelihood, and in many cases uprooted their lives to open their stores — there is a great deal of responsibility. I don’t take that lightly, the team and I do everything in our power to protect the system and provide them with everything they need from quality product, PPP guidance support, innovated technology and more. I’m always blown away by the amount of franchisee testimonials we have, and what they’ve been able to do long before I arrived.
  5. The golden rule of making sure to get the right people on the bus and in the right seat as soon as possible. It’s important to navigate the culture and people need to be able to feed off of one another. I learned early-on in my career and its helped me ever since, that it’s not always what you work for but who you work for.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Thru my personal circumstances, we’re all motivated by what we’ve experienced in our lives. In my greater family, there’s adversity such as members having autism, ADHD and depression. I’d love for us as a country to have an opportunity to not judge a book by its cover and to think you know what’s going on in a person’s life at first glance. People deal with challenges that are not evident to the naked eye, and acknowledge that there are greater traits on the inside of a person. I’d like to live in a world where people are slow to judge and lead with more compassion and understanding.

How can our readers further follow you online?


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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Scott Williams of Batteries Plus: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

If you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ardell Broadbent.

Ardell Broadbent has a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She is currently marketing and expanding on a game-based politics curriculum. The intent is to provide a platform for lighthearted discussion and understanding of the strengths and contribution of the four largest parties, with the intent of transcending the entrenched divisiveness of public media messages. She served seven years as a board member and one year as president of La Vereda, a community-centered non-profit in Del Norte, Colorado. She is a court-rostered mediator.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

Yes. I have a sister and brother who don’t talk to each other anymore. There are a lot of similarities between them. They are only two years apart in age, both have four kids, belong to the same church, and make their kids take music lessons. My sister’s family is in some ways a typical liberal city-dwelling family, drives a hybrid, eats vegan, and posted Bernie signs. My daughter and I lived with them eight months in their mother-in-law apartment, so we know their beliefs pretty well. Prior to the pandemic, they refused to visit the family home for gatherings because of my brother who lives there with his family. It’s rural. Although my brother and sister-in-law both work other jobs, they keep a small hobby farm and have a few horses. She processes chickens herself. I lived in the separate unit of the house for two summers, and there wasn’t any soundproofing. I pretty much know their business, and I consider them responsible parents. But the issue for my sister was that they let their children own and handle guns, and reportedly one wasn’t put away at a time that my sister visited. The gun issue is just a symbol of a rift that seems political, to the point that they couldn’t talk to work out an agreement. The family helped work out an agreement about guns put away at family gatherings, but there wasn’t trust that it would be adhered to.

Before we go further into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Yes. It’s actually relevant to the topic. I’ve lived in a variety of locations or communities that epitomize the four largest political parties of the U.S.

  • I was raised in semi-rural staunchly conservative and religious community, in Utah, which for nearly six decades has voted Republican.
  • In college I fell in with a crowd who supported every conservationist cause. The value of frugality and long-term planning fit with my pioneer heritage. This immersed me in Green party ideologies. During and after the college roommate communes, many of us continued these ecologically conscious ideals including permaculture gardens, green architecture, minimalism, and beekeeping.
  • Next I became conscious of Democrat ideals. A couple of years prior to and during my graduate studies I lived in large cities where I grew to appreciate public transit, worked for government social services, and benefited from federal school loans. I married a public school teacher who became a professor of multicultural education, and I had a minor in multicultural and women’s issues from my undergraduate degree as well. I lived in Los Angeles for 5 years, the epitome of ethnic and cultural diversity, working closely with clients of a variety of nationalities.
  • Then back to Green. I wanted to raise my daughter in a location that offered more connection to nature and a sense of community. Her earliest schooling was in the small town of Crestone Colorado, a unique place that grew out of a land grant donation to any certifiable major religion. An ashram, zen center, native American ceremonial group, and monastery, brought a variety of experiences to the community. Tie dye, music festivals, new age spiritual beliefs, UFO sightings, government conspiracy theory like chem trails, and abundant cannabis use were all part of the culture.
  • I’ve also had a solid Libertarian training. At one point I lived in a small mountain town that to me represents this outlook. My cousin in LA tells me I just am not acquainted with the urban libertarian type, and she’s right, but anyway, I’m thinking of a friend describing a road trip during which they saw Hillary signs in every city and only Trump signs in between. The insistence on self-sufficiency, in addition to some lack of economic opportunity, created a specific look characterized by a lot of rusted metal and weathered wood. The look of the town was wild west, with garages or yards of hoarded clutter subject to neighborly sharing. There and in nearby communities I had friends with family-owned ranches, small farms, cottage industries such as cheese-making, the type of artisan work that big business continues to push out of the market. They value their independent livelihoods and tend to be fiscally conservative, but they can’t compete with the low prices offered by government-subsidized big agribusiness. This worldview ties back into my childhood. My dad was a prepper and John Bircher, intent on raising a family without negative cultural influences such as TV and popular music. I grew up hearing about the illuminati, the mark of the beast, and the new world order.

So I’ve been in more than one bubble.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I developed a set of games to help give a platform for families, friends, classrooms, or any small group to have a more lighthearted way to discuss politics. These are role-playing games. You can take a stance and explore ideas without wondering if others will think you are deluded or evil, because you’re just playing. The website is fractioNation.US. For the most part, it’s not presenting you with prepackaged ideas but inviting you to respectfully debate, to share examples and experiences, or figure out a compromise.

What or who inspired you to pursue this interest?

It was my daughter. She was 11 in 2015, and I was trying to figure out how to help her understand the issues she was hearing about, in a way that didn’t dumb it down but also wasn’t so complicated. I found it was really fun to work on game-based learning, and it just took on a life of its own even though I didn’t really have time for another project.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

As far as the games project,there was a local game-maker’s guild that would get together weekly to playtest each other’s games, and they had a lot of good feedback and encouragement.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Can’t think of anything relevant.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Lemme mention one relevant to this topic. The title is We Must Not Be Enemies, by Micheal Austin. The title is from a quote by Abraham Lincoln. You can get a good overview on the Amazon description of the book. Among his main points are that we need to learn how to be better friends with people we disagree with. I’ve tried to do that. It has been maddening sometimes. Also, he says we should argue for things and not just against things. Be part of a solution, rather than opposing others’ solutions.

Another is Cultivating Peace by James O’Dea, who was the Washington DC director of Amnesty International. That book influenced me to go thru training to become a court-rostered mediator.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

There’s one framework that has been important for me while working on this project. It’s Carol Sanford’s idea of four levels of operating an organization. The lowest level is extracting value: You try to get as much out as you can while putting in as little as necessary. It’s a self-serving strategy, and it is often a short-term strategy. An example in the energy business would be continuing to extract and burn coal to convert to electric. The next level is arrest disorder. You try to stop some of the damaging effects while you’re extracting value. You provide housing and reparation to those whose family members died from black lung, and use better smokestack filters to stop externalizing costs. Better than that is a commitment to do good. Here you try to adopt best practices in the business. You might build some solar farms or windmills and try to phase out fossil fuels. You may even reverse some of the damage by planting trees. But solar and wind tech have their own extractive impact. The top level is regenerative, meaning to use systems thinking to consider how the various parts work, and how to heal. In this case, we would look at the regulation of insulative values for buildings, include rooftop solar costs in the mortgage to avoid power loss thru transmission lines, use glass brick windows for lighting and passive solar heating, and in general use structural design to maximize comfort and minimize the need for external energy.

So applying this principle to politics, we wouldn’t be trying to drain the swamp. We would look at how the political system incentivizes behaviors that are exploitative, on both sides. We would look at how the economic system interacts with the political system, on both sides. On the “do good” level we could work on election reform to enable third party candidates or examine the strengths of other nations that are functioning as social democracies, to adopt best practices. On the regenerative level, we notice that fundamentally it is the doctrine that “greed is good,” “might makes right,” and “winner takes all” that has permitted a culture of exploitation to become accepted, which has damaged trust in business interactions, replaced it with reliance on lawyers, and obliterated the social contract. Then we can start the slow work of rebuilding culture at the level of values.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The organizational leadership literature has an important distinction between position power, which is more a manager role, and leadership, which is more an influencer role that doesn’t necessarily rely on position power. Obviously, you can be both at the same time, but everyone with position power I believe should strive to not exert coercive power but to instead influence by example and persuasion. When you think about the people who have made an important positive impact on your life, it’s more likely to be a family member, a school teacher, or a mentor rather than someone famous. I love Brene Brown’s books on leadership, including Braving the Wilderness, which talks a lot about not allowing yourself to be pigeonholed into one side or the other. There’s a lot about being truthful and respectful, which is both daring and vulnerable.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Collectively we’ve been living beyond our means, and we could argue whether it’s because of peak oil or the growing wealth disparity, but as the easy credit dried up, many are getting uncomfortable if they’re not already at the point of barely scraping by. At the same time, we see so many on social media living enviable lives, and a lot of people feel the economic opportunities are unfairly distributed. However, few have the time to really dig into the historical trends of economics and social changes that got us here, so instead we play a blame game. It’s easier to pass along phrases that are partly true and that jive with our views than to take a balanced perspective.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Well, this is where I can put in another plug for those educational games. With my politically diverse family, there was one time we assigned everyone to play the political role pretty much the opposite of what we knew them to be. It was fun, and I came away from it realizing that those whose views are most different from mine knew more about my favored positions than I thought they did. I also played many times with my mom, because who else would have enough patience and love to playtest games over and over? We both learned a lot. She has never voted the same as me, but we began to see that we had a lot more areas of agreement than we had differences.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

One of my sisters deleted her Facebook account because she was using up too much time arguing on social media and just couldn’t quit the habit. Even if you make a snappy comeback and feel some satisfaction from it, it isn’t helping you or them if it’s antagonistic. You just make people more defensive and dug in. That adage from educators applies: “They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Focus on something we can all agree on. Everybody from every party can agree that human trafficking is wrong, and it’s a lot more pervasive than most are aware. Let’s unite to work on something we agree on and table the other discussions until we fix that.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

There are some great movies that are entertaining and also show nuances of social and political stances, and people’s interactions around them. Crash is a brilliant example, super relevant to the current conversations. Beware of Children is a more recent one.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

We can try to find the most unbiased news sources possible using monitors such as Don’t support other news outlets.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

This is not going to be the answer you want to hear. The problem isn’t out there. It’s inside each of us. I don’t think there’s any way to lower the ante beside becoming more mature ourselves, and getting our own anxiety under control. If we’re less reactive and less antagonistic, then those we talk to won’t be as threatened. Also we won’t be bothered as much by the idea of deluded people who need to be persuaded or stopped. We don’t want to be stressed out by something we have almost no control over. We can work toward our own version of a solution without convincing the opposition. I also wonder if it’s not as bad as it sounds from the media. Those with extreme positions get a lot of press, but they don’t represent the majority.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

First, if you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

Second, set boundaries. Boundaries show self respect. I love how Brene Brown insists that “clear is kind.” Don’t make others guess. This can reduce the potential for hurt feelings and conflict. Without making others wrong for their views, you can say “that doesn’t work for me” or “that’s not a topic I’m open to discussing.” Get some support if some aren’t respecting your boundaries.

Third, see if you can get some mediation or therapy to work through whatever rifts you have between members of your family. This may seem harder than fixing the national political divide, but it’s where unity starts. There’s no guarantee, but you can at least know you gave it a chance. Again I love Brene Brown’s reminder that family isn’t replaceable. It’s not your political allies who are going to help watch your sick kid or join in to help pay for a family member’s rehab.

Fourth, once your own backyard is tidied up, you might be ready to expand your influence. Find how you can contribute your talent and interests to make your neighborhood better, maybe thru clubs, church groups, activist groups that are non-violent, or just a volunteer effort that your workplace or social group might take on. For example, as a way to unite in an important goal that isn’t politically charged, on the website fractioNation.US there’s a free download of a role-playing game that helps talk thru emergency preparedness by setting up potential disaster scenarios that you have to navigate with limited supplies.

If you manage to do the first four, then it might be time to get even more involved locally in your community. You might attend local government meetings. You might hire a local mediator to guide a discussion between two groups that have been at odds about a local issue. This is where it counts, where you can actually make a difference. Trading insults on social media is not how you can make an impact in changing anyone’s mind. This is where it becomes obvious the need to speak respectfully face to face. James O’Dea, an author mentioned earlier, said that when faced with another’s rage, an important question to diffuse the situation is, “What do you need me to understand?”

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Every major religion has some version of the perennial philosophy, to treat others as you would want to be treated, which means offering respect even if and when we need to set boundaries.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am optimistic. I think it might get worse before it gets better, but I am confident in the overall trajectory of cultural evolution. It might be that climate change, wealth disparity, loneliness, and the mental health epidemic all becomes so challenging that we quit focusing on trivialities and pull together.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

There’s an organization called Cultures of Dignity that’s created resources especially for young people, to help them emotionally deal with tough cultural issues, including politics. I would point them to resources they can access online.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

What a helpful question! I’d say Jo Jorgensen who was the Libertarian party’s presidential nominee AND Ralf Nader, who of course was the Green party presidential candidate a while back. I’d want to get them at the same table to see where they could agree and possibly unify the anti-establishment. That could provide us with a qualified candidate who stands a chance of challenging the duopoly.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’ve got a lot of projects going, but relevant to this topic, check out fractioNation.US, or Google-search my name.

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Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Do 100 small improvements over 5 big improvements: CEOs should try to create a culture where teams prioritize trying to improve the details in the customer journey. Some of the best companies appoint people whose role is specifically to look for and fix all the small things can be improved.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven van Belleghem.

Professor Steven van Belleghem is widely regarded as one of Europe’s leading experts on customer experience in the digital world. He has helped organizations including Salesforce, Microsoft,, Disney and Google and leads ‘inspiration tours’ to take executives to visit some of the world’s most innovative tech companies to help the understand the future of the customer-brand relationship. He is the author of a several international bestselling books, including ‘Customers the Day after Tomorrow’ and ‘The Offer You Can’t Refuse.’

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Today my passion is to create and share ideas about the future of customer experience. All my presentations, books, articles and videos talk about the possibilities technology can offer to improve customer experiences.

This passion was born during my teenage years. I had relatives in San Francisco and I had the pleasure to spend almost all my summers with them between the age of 13 and 21. There I fell in love with the optimism about technology and the spirit of the valley. My parents also had a photography store in Belgium, and looking back, my parents were always very customer-centric, going the extra mile for customers and investing in early technologies to make that happen.

The combination of these two parts of my youth were the foundation of my current work.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made or saw when you first started working in customer experience? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?

Around 2010 I was convinced that social media would become the most important channel for customer service. That was naïve. I looked at it from my own perspective. I was spending a lot of time on social channels and I saw certain brands trying their best with social media service. Today I realize I was completely wrong.

Social media channels are too slow and too public for customer service. Even if you have to wait 10 minutes to get a human service agent on the phone, it is still faster than social and a personal conversation is still the perfect way to solve an entire problem.

What did I learn from this? I was looking at the problem from a technology point of view. If I had looked at it from a customer point of view, I wouldn’t have jumped to this wrong assumption.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people who helped me along the way. My parents, my relatives in California, my wife, Kristof De Wulf, the CEO of InSites Consulting, Peter Hinssen who started a business together with me…

But, if there is one person that I would have to point out, I would say Prof Dr. Rudy Moenaert. He was my marketing professor during my senior year at university, and hired me as a research assistant when I graduated. After a few weeks, he started to involve me in teaching and some consultancy projects, so within just three months of leaving I was presenting to a senior management team of an international company. I was scared and nervous like never before, and… I did an awful job! It really wasn’t good, but Rudy gave me direct and honest feedback, and never stopped giving me the confidence to try again. Thanks to his lessons, his feedback and most importantly his trust, I started to belief in myself, and that started my career. Rudy and I are still very good friends today.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Without customers you don’t have a business. The customer pays the bills, and the customer is the best advertising channel to get new customers. Most companies want to keep their existing clients and find new ones, well the fastest road towards success is providing excellent customer service.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Many companies are focused on their internal problems and challenges. Many companies are only interested in short term results, and because of that, they make the wrong choices towards their customers. The moment your store opens up, the main goal and only focus should be to share positive energy with your customers and give them the best possible service you can give them. They are not interested in your problems or challenges, they want to have a good time and enjoy working with you.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Competitions definitely helps. In my opinion, the biggest boost in customer experience was the rise of social media. Suddenly many businesses were confronted with customer feedback scores, with customers complaining about them on social media. Suddenly the customer had a loud voice, and that was new. This has increased the effort to improve customer service in many organizations, even if social media itself isn’t necessarily the best channel to deal with customer service issues.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience they received?

One of my favorite examples is the Dutch company Coolblue. They are one of the larger e-commerce companies in the Benelux, and they have build their success on looking for product categories where the customer is not being helped in a good way.

One of those categories was washing machines. If you need a new washing machine, it takes an effort: you need it immediately, most people can’t carry it, it doesn’t find in your car, you have the old machine that you want to get rid of, maybe you live on the 5th floor in an apartment building, you don’t know how to connect it. You see, many challenges. Coolblue identifies markets like this and then they decide to take care of everything, and do everything other players in the market wouldn’t do. They will come to your house, install the machine, even in you live on the 20th floor, they take the old machine… and beyond this transactional part, they also make sure the humans who come to your house are perfectly trained to deliver great service. They focus on the details to make sure that everything they say can even add value to the experience.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Within just one year of the launch of this approach, Coolblue were already the market leader in the Benelux. And then, they used this same approach when they were selling TVs or computers. More and more people enjoyed the experience, saw the value and their growth was impressive as a result.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Do 100 small improvements over 5 big improvements: CEOs should try to create a culture where teams prioritize trying to improve the details in the customer journey. Some of the best companies appoint people whose role is specifically to look for and fix all the small things can be improved.
  2. Everyone should get direct customer feedback: One of the fallouts from the pandemic has been the number of sports being played without fans in stadiums. It has been interesting to see how many players have performed or behaved differently because they don’t have the direct feedback from their supporters — or customers! Soccer players, for example, need the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of a crowd to feel the emotional connection and respond accordingly to lift their game. You should try to install a system that gives as many of your team as possible direct access to customer feedback, so they can feel the same ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, rather than looking at customers as numbers on a PowerPoint slide.
  3. Always fix a problem first: When something goes wrong in a customer experience, the instinct of many companies is to spend time and energy researching whose fault it was — company or customer. The reality is, it doesn’t really matter, and the process of pointing fingers simply creates negative feelings. My advice would be just fix the problem, even it is the customer’s fault, and that will be remembered by the customer.
  4. Be fast, easy and fun: Domino’s Pizza is a company that has outperformed many of the world’s leading tech companies on the stock market over the last decade, and they have built their success by becoming the fastest, easiest and most fun place to order pizza. They transformed from a food company to a tech company and through data analytics, they realized 80% of their customers order the same pizza every single time. This meant that by putting an entire menu on their app they were alienating 80% of their customers, so launched their first zero-click app — just open the app and a pizza will be with you in 20 minutes. What could be easier than that?
  5. Empower employees to choose for the customer: Make sure you have a culture in your organization where employees can take decisions on their own, and where they don’t need to ask for approval if they would like to do something extra for a customer. They shouldn’t be afraid of helping a customer even if it doesn’t bring in any money, or even when it could cost money in the short term. Employees should get that freedom to make that shot, and feel the satisfaction in having helped a customer.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Word of mouth is a crucial part of a successful strategy. So, always make sure that customers know that you are online, let them know that you would like to have an online conversation with them. You can kindly ask them to share the news.

Your chances for online word of mouth will increase if you are also part of the online conversation. If you are known as an online brand, people will reach out faster, if they know that you will reply to them, they will reach out faster. The best thing you can do, is start the online conversation proactively.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to start a movement that solves the educational problems in the world. In many countries, it is still a challenge to get all children in schools to receive a proper education, especially for girls. If we can solve this problem, many related problems in the world would start to be solved. When girls go to school for longer, they have less children, they have a higher quality of life… which leads to many positive evolution for all people. To contribute a little bit to this goal, I’m a board member of Plan International that is trying to work towards this goal, but we can always use all the help available.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m active on most social media. They can find a lot of content on, or on my instagram @stevenvanbelleghem on Twitter @stevenvbe or on LinkedIn. Those are the channels where I share most content. Would be a pleasure to welcome the readers on my channels.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Author & Professor Steven van Belleghem: 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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CrossCode: A New Home expansion is out now

CrossCode: A New Home expansion is out now

Ready for the next chapter of Lea’s story? CrossCode: A New Home is the brand new expansion for CrossCode the retro-inspired 2D Action RPG set in the distant future.
A pretty surprising game overall that combines a 16-bit SNES-inspired style with lots of modern features. Smooth physics, fast-paced combat, plenty of puzzles to solve and a pretty wild sci-fi story that you can now continue on from…


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AURORA voting in the poll launched by lovely @allisaurorainside on insta!

special thanks to our talanted warrior @yngridsarts!  ❤️

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Steven Williams talks about life as an ex-pat in Madrid (twice) and compares the cost of living in New York to Spain. Steven also has a pretty big YouTube channel that he hosts entirely in Spanish and he discusses how he got to be so fluent among other things. #Expatlife #AmericanBoy #Madrid 

Check out this episode!

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Let’s hear the intriguing story of Blogger Hadassah Monique Barr-Alves of the blog ‘My Flame On The Other Side’!

By Creative Minds @ work

February 23, 2021

Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Hadassah Monique Barr-Alves. She is the author of the blog My Flame On The Other Side.


Please tell us about your journey.

My story is about my spiritual journey that began in 2017, shortly after my intuitive gifts returned. I know my Story sounds strange and unbelievable because it involves my relationship with God and a spirit that’s been with me since his suicide in 2009. I grew up in an intuitive household, but when we became Jehovah’s Witnesses, we didn’t speak of anything intuitive anymore. I stopped talking to my mom about the spirits I was seeing and the glimpses of the future I was getting. 

Eventually, we left the church, and I developed my own ideas about God and sort of became an atheist and ignored my intuitive gifts until they finally disappeared. Not entirely, though. I was still getting visions, and I turned to science to find out what was happening to me in high school. Nothing made sense. I was also struggling in school because I am on the autistic spectrum, was being bullied my whole childhood, and I started having Tourette’s tics, so a lot was going on. And it piled on to the point that I lost my friends and coasted through high school without graduating. 

I have, of course, looked at all possibilities that could be wrong with me, and none of them felt right. Since middle school, I have kept a journal. In 2007 after a long-distance break-up, I wrote asking for guardians of my soul mate to help him find me. Coincidentally it was written on my Twin Flame’s birthday in 2007. He would commit suicide after I had consulted with a psychic about this need I had since I was 11 to find someone outside of my state. Now, I didn’t really believe in Twin Flames or took the concept seriously, so in the letter, I used the term “Soul Mate” instead. I wouldn’t believe in Twin Flames until much later.


Just before I met the spirit that had been following me since 2009, I had a dream of us being carried together and introduced by angels. It took me some time to put it together with the letter written 10 years prior since it was in 2017 that this introduction happened. That is what started this journey. A psychic, a few days later told me to talk to him. I protected myself, of course, and VERY heavily. We’ve been working together ever since.

For those who don’t know, a TF is the literal twin soul of yours, and there can only be one because the word TWIN implies two, not more than. What I learned is that we are all soul mates as we all come from the same source or “God.”

What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?


Constantly writing and having an outlet for the things I’ve been experiencing and working on has helped me become successful. The blog started as my way to take all this energy and express it when I couldn’t otherwise. I was alone in the beginning without anyone to talk to about it. Writing in my journal wasn’t enough. I had to get my Story out there in hopes I could get some help. I got plenty of help and gained some friends. Turns out I’m helping people who have a very similar experience as me as well.


Any message for our readers.

A message for my readers is that if you are dealing with something similar as I have, you aren’t alone. Having a Twin Flame in spirit is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Write about your journey, and if you can, share it with the world. I’ve made friends with at least 7 people who have similar experiences as me. That is a coincidence, but it still means something. It means you aren’t alone. Support and friendship are there, and I am happy to offer that. I won’t judge you.

Unfortunately, the spiritual community isn’t always full of positive and accepting people. They can be hateful, and they might gaslight because deep down, they are in fear and feel their spiritual journey or beliefs are threatened. Fear is the absence of love, and they don’t have love in their heart. Finding someone who won’t judge you but will encourage you in your journey can be hard. So I pledge that I will do just that and introduce you to others who are just as happy and willing to lend help based on their experiences. If you find yourself on a similar path, you need love, support, and encouragement, not someone who will tear you down or gaslight you. Unfortunately, that’s what people in spiritual communities will do. Be strong, be brave, and most importantly, live in YOUR truth. Not in the truths of others.

Fantastic! So tell us, how can people find out more about you?

You can check out my blog, –, more information is on there about who my Twin Flame is. I have a table of contents that should make it easier to navigate should there be any topic, in particular, you want to read about.

You can also check my Instagram @thestonedpriestess.

YouTube The Stoned Priestess

I can also be reached by email at

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BTS BE ‘BE-hind Story lnterview’ Preview

Source: WeVerse / Big Hit Entertainment 


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You Deserve a Limitless Life. Todd Stottlemyre, 2x World Series Champion MLB pitcher, author The Observer, entrepreneur, investor is interviewed by David Cogan founder of Eliances and host of the Eliances Heroes Show. Broadcast on am and fm network channels, internet radio and online syndication 

Check out this cool interview where they share secrets

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One of those Days…. When There’s nothing to Talk about…

One of those Days…. When There’s nothing to Talk about…

Not me, just thought it was funny. I don’t own pearls.
After eight years of blogging, I find myself with a day (today) that I really don’t have anything to say. It’s too early for March’s author interview. It’s a good one! I’ve run dry on tips for writers ….  except  ….  “Writing isn’t a calling, it’s a doing.”  That hasn’t and will never change.  So get busy. 
Lee Goldberg
I spent my morning…


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