Cleanliness Isn’t “Mickey Mouse”

If you have ever listened to friends just back from a vacation at a Disney Theme Park, you have heard them exclaim about how clean and spotless everything is. “You never see even a piece of paper on the ground!” “They must have an army of “litter-picker-uppers!” It didn’t just “happen by chance.”

Cleanliness is part of the Disney plan to make their customers (“Guests” in Disney terms) enjoy a perfect experience. Super-Cleanliness is a hallmark of that perfect experience. It is the embodiment of the Disney Culture and shows that the staff is ever vigilant against litter. There is also the implication that the vigilant staff also makes the park safer and more secure.

Most companies can use super-Cleanliness as a marketing tool:

· Real Estate brokers find a Super-Clean home easier to sell and will usually attract a higher price, not only because it is more attractive, it gives the impression that the home is well maintained.

· Restaurant patrons feel that spotless washrooms are indicative of sanitary kitchens (since one rarely gets a peek in the kitchen).

· A tidy auto garage gives the feeling that extra care is taken in repairing the car.

· Clean retail display windows impress, dirty display windows detract.

· Manufacturing plants and distribution centers that are clean and orderly are more likely to have a better safety record and produce higher quality and / or more accurate output.

· Clean and shiny company vehicles, especially if the company name and logo are on display, are attractive, impressive moving billboards.

Disney and others that embrace the Super-Cleanliness / Orderliness culture feel they have one more marketing tool to impress their “guests” and customers. It is evident that there is a plan to keep the physical surroundings of the company attractive, orderly, and safe and that everyone within these surroundings takes care to keep it that way.

Interestingly, one’s perception of a dirty disorderly looking company is that no one really cares much about the company’s image and that their products and services might be and probably are not as good, not cared for, not as enjoyable, not as safe, not as durable and not worth as much. That may not be the case in actual fact, but as always, perception is reality.

Cleanliness and orderliness are not “Mickey Mouse.” Disney and other high-quality businesses that embrace this culture are very serious about it. Think of a Squeaky Super-Clean Disney experience when you are looking for your next advantage and you won’t be “Goofy!”

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Lots of Great Ideas But Zero Action

In my years working in corporate America, medical practices, and running my own business, I’ve heard a ton of great ideas; unfortunately, in most cases, no action is taken to make these ideas a reality. I’ve put together a short list of reasons why leaders, managers, and staff members decide it’s best to forget that something good can happen if action were taken.

Work is Painful

As a project manager, I often notice that people are enthusiastic about the results the initiative will yield. For example, a project is launched to create a new product that has huge potential in the market. The excitement usually comes to a screeching halt when work is assigned to the team members. Even though the project is important to the success of the company, the people feel the extra work is burdensome, and they hope the idea is scrapped. One rationale is that the project can wait one more year.

Mediocrity is Fine

Believe it or not, some leaders are willing to accept falling behind the competition. To get in the game, this project and many others must be initiated, planned, executed, and controlled. The leaders believe they have a share of the pie, and while it’s not great, it’s good enough to stay in business. The bills are paid on time, and people are willing to work in the company. Given that most of the work pertains to current clients, the workload and stress are manageable. In other words, the mediocre company is operated by mediocre leaders and employees. The unfortunate reality is that the days for these types of companies are numbered. Within a year or two, their market share will disappear, and mostly because the customers will decide that someone else can provide a better value.

Incompetence Reigns

Like me, I’m sure you’ve worked in companies where the leaders lack a clear understanding of what it takes to make the enterprise successful. I remember one situation where an executive petitioned for the main office to be moved to a location closer to his home. He was tired of driving the 15 miles to the current office, and felt he could be much more productive if his commute was cut to 5 minutes. You will find it interesting to know that he raised this issue at least 10 times in meetings with key stakeholders. His wish never came true, and he soon left the company. The job he accepted was 25 miles from his home. Go figure!

The takeaway here is that great ideas are only meaningful if someone is committed to making them become a reality. This means that a champion is required, which is someone who will work tirelessly to ensure the planning and work get done. This person must be either a decision-maker or someone that has the ear of the executive team.

There are people in companies that are willing to take on the challenge of getting things done. These individuals know when they can take on more work, and they also know when to ask to be removed from other work to focus on critical work. I’m sure you know who they are in your organization. You won’t find them near the water cooler or at break time because they’re busy doing the work. The other notable characteristic of go-getters is that they find excuse-making a waste of time.