Search This Blog

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Spirit of Nickle & Dime-ing

I'm sure I'm not the first person to blog on this topic.

I’ve just had my introductory experience with Spirit Airlines. My sister had warned me: Expect an upcharge for everything. No complimentary beverages. Even water costs money. Unless you can sneak a drink from the faucet water in the bathroom (I do NOT recommend this). More on that later.

An inexperienced Spirit traveler can quickly be depressed in spirit unless you know the game. For example, ticket and baggage fees. If you don't print your boarding pass ahead of time, you pay ten bucks at the ticket counter. If you wait until you arrive at the ticket counter to check baggage, you really missed it. You see, you had two earlier chances. You could have paid a baggage fee when you purchased your ticket. Or when you printed your boarding pass. You poor sucker. Now you pay the super premium baggage fee. But wait...another surprise could be in store. You might be used to the well established 50-pound weight limit for luggage. Nope. Spirit has you down to 40 pounds.

Now there's the carry on fees. You think you’ll save money by just bringing a small piece of luggage for the overhead bin? Think again! A child size backpack or medium briefcase qualifies as a personal item, but anything larger is a carry on surcharge … $100 at the gate! Whee! Are we having fun yet? Surprise!

How strict are they? Depends. (Yes, I’m sure they would charge you for Depends as well.) One guy who brought a large overhead bag and a personal item paid nothing by sneaking past the boarding agent. He was sweating, though, since he didn't know the rules.

Seeing the innovative ways Spirit finds to make added revenue, I have a few recommended upcharges for them. I suggest add-on fees for any access to the overhead bin during the flight. A charge for the flotation device, seat belt, and oxygen mask, if used. Fees for lowering the tray table, using the overhead light, or the fan. And, of course, the air sickness bag. (By the way, there was NO air sickness bag in the seat pouch on either of the flights we took, so perhaps they really do charge for them.)

Use the toilet? Maybe charge for the bathroom light, flushing, toilet paper, water to wash your hands, and those paper towels. A supercharge if you leave the seat up.

During the flight, Spirit recommends you get their credit card. Let's see...possible up charges for using the card: receiving paper statements, paying by check....hmmm....what else? Maybe if you call to register the card when it arrives there’s a fee.

All chiding aside, Spirit Airlines got us to our destination and back for the lowest price we could find. And if you know of all the fees upfront, you can maximize your savings. I found their on board menu to be quite reasonable. But there was no magazine to read while munching on the snacks.

In the spiritual life, many believe that our eternity requires we pay a price for all of our wrongdoings. Some believe we can offset these sins ourselves in the afterlife. I am convinced God is the rescuer. Completely.

Here is what the Bible teaches. “I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NCV)

We do not pay the price. We accept the gift. A great and wonderful gift we receive by faith.

But when it comes to airline travel…that’s a different story. And knowing what I now know — as often as possible — when traveling any direction, I'm flying Southwest. Gotta love those free Lorna Doon cookies.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blessings of The Silver Tsunami

Times must be changing. During my teenage years, I remember all of my aging bosses and co-workers plugging away toward retirement. That is IF they could afford retirement! I often sensed a feeling of drudgery among the older crown of fifty-plus in age.

In my Air Force days, I believe the same sentiment existed. The “lifers” were looking forward to paychecks for a lifetime after twenty or more years of service. This is not to say that they did not serve their country out of a true sense of duty or commitment.

What they may have missed was an appreciation for the wisdom and experience that had been gained over their years of service. And beyond that, enjoying the opportunity to mentor and bring added value to the job.

Maybe I’m thinking about this right now for a couple of reasons. First, I am coming up on age 63 this week. Secondly, in a more practical sense, I have found a great amount of satisfaction in my work in this decade of my 60s.

For one thing, I’ve settled any performance questions. I’m not trying to “prove my worth” or value to an organization. My skills are what they are. I still work on getting better, but only because the pursuit of excellence is never ending.

When I arrived at age 50, I was told by several friends and associates that “your best years are in front of you.” At the time, I thought this was said by those who simply wanted to feel good about themselves at this point in life. But now I realize ... it is true. And it makes me wonder why all those people I knew decades ago couldn’t wait for retirement.

About a year ago, I read an article that supported my awareness of this. It came from a study by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It started out by saying, “Not happy with your job? Just wait.” It had that kind of Back to the Future sense.

The significant claim from this research found that 9 in 10 workers, age 50 or older, were somewhat or very satisfied with their job. This held true regardless of gender, race, educational level, political ideology, or income level. Younger workers did not fare so well.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses. Significant numbers reported unwelcome comments about their age and being passed over for raises or promotions. But far more comments addressed the positive impact of age. On the plus side, these Baby Boomers (often categorized as the Silver Tsunami) reported that colleagues often turned to them for advice. Increased respect was also noted.

Of course, some stay on the job for economic necessity. Others genuinely like their work. Many claim it gives them a sense of fulfillment.

I’m a blend of those reasons. The income is still a necessity. I really DO like my work. And I definitely feel fulfilled. 

The Bible has much to say about wisdom. In Job chapter 12, we read “Wisdom is with the aged and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12, ESV)

I’m particularly grateful that my employer, Salem Communications, felt that my experience and capabilities were of value. Age was not a barrier. The welcoming banner for my radio program still appears on our web page. 

Thank you, Jeff Reisman!

As the song goes, “There’s no business like show business!” Ain’t it the truth!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pants on Fire

My Monday business centered blog is not all about business. It is an effort to connect a recent story or article from the work world and apply a faith perspective. So when I find a blog headline like, “Why You Must Lie on Job Interviews and What You Must Lie About,” I’m ready for game time.

By title, this article would be seemingly easy to judge. Encouragement to lie? Oh, please.

The author, Mark Stevens, is CEO of a marketing firm known as MSCO, Inc. He is a bestselling author. And an insightful thinker.

Stevens cites two specific HR questions that commonly arise in a job interview:
  • Do you work well with others?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
The problem with question #1 is that many very skilled and qualified people DON’T work well with others. They work best by themselves. There needs to be an HR category for those folks without turning them away as trouble makers.

The problem with the second question is that the employee does not answer truthfully. Most people are seeking a job with lots of benefits. But they won’t say that. Instead, they spew words of praise on the company, the reputed culture and/or the quality leadership.

Before I move on to another HR issue, let me comment on the ethical issue of lying in job interviews. Let’s do our best to avoid doing that. As to the first question, a reply that might be more effective is, “In my work history, people have always commented on the quality of my work as a contribution to the team.” As to the second question, one SHOULD be able answer truthfully, “The most meaningful kind of work is one you can put your heart into and be compensated for it. I will commit to being an excellent worker and I would hope that a good compensation package would follow.” No lies. Just the facts. Assuming this is the truth.

Another problematic HR type question is, “What qualifies you for this job?” Quite frankly, some of the best people out there are “unqualified” for jobs by a false standard. I’ll explain.

In my last job, I found a superior candidate in terms of the kinds of skills needed for a radio producer. He had no real background in this. When a job opening for a producer came up with our organization, HR sent him a rejection letter. He wasn’t “qualified.” And in the strictest HR sense, he wasn’t. But in the truest sense of what was needed, he was.

Shortly thereafter, I needed a person with his skills. The short story is that we were able to get HR to let us take the rap if this was a bad decision, and we hired him. It was a great decision. He thrived. He’s moved up. He’s considered one of the best talents in that role.

Often, we look at the “outer” distinctives of a person and their career, rather than the heart of the person and their giftedness. And so it is with God. King David was not considered worthy material for a number of reasons. But this is how he was assessed by God: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NCV)

So David was the truly hot prospect. AND he could play the lyre. Ok…I can’t resist it…the end of my story goes….lyre, lyre, pants on fire.

I know…it takes a sick mind.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Be Well Advised

A fellow blogger has shared a transparent request for business advice. I salute him for it. He also revealed a personal quest to find significant meaning and meaning in his work. The piece recently ran as part of the “You’re the Boss” series in the New York Times.

The blog is titled, “My Quest to Create Pride and Joy in Work Runs Into Reality.” That is what caught my attention. The author is Fred Warmbier, who owns Finishing Technology Inc., based outside Cincinnati.

Fred openly admits that he is still on his search for deeper meaning in his work. He acknowledges a “constant need for reinvention” of his business in an ever changing world. A key to his growth as a business leader lies in his commitment to avoid a business mindset that being the business “hero” means always having to figure out solutions himself.

So what was the challenge that interrupted his joy-at-work quest? Fred’s company has a significant client who is having financial problems. Orders placed with Finishing Technology, Inc. have been filled. But payments have stopped. And there is more product waiting to be shipped. So…does Fred ship the goods and trust the customer will recover and pay? Or does he cut his losses now and stop additional shipments? Fred says he fears what most men fear: “I don’t want to look like a fool.” I’m with you, Fred.

This story, and true to life business challenge, puts a couple of things before us. First, it raises a moral/ethical dilemma of caring about others while being a good steward. But it also raises the flag of Help!—a cry most often spoken internally by executives under pressure.

In Chicago, as in many other cities, there are a number of CEO and executive support groups. I can’t imagine being in a high pressure or high demand role in business and NOT seeking out of these groups. So three cheers for the men and women who do, and for Fred’s wisdom in seeking counsel.

Another point to be revealed is that those on the outside can often see things much clearer than those in the midst of a struggle. External perspective is objective and does not have the emotional connection. I’ve seen it happen quite often that when a problem is explained to a peer, that peer is often able to quickly resolve the issue and it can make the problem owner say, “Yes. Of course! What was I thinking???”

As to the solution to Fred’s dilemma, my advice would be twofold. First, neither course is necessarily the bad way to go. If Fred ships product out of kindness and the payment never comes, he can feel deep satisfaction in his desire to help. And he can likely write off the loss in taxes. If he chooses NOT to ship, because it is wise stewardship not to send good money after bad, he acts shrewdly and can likely still write off the loss. Part of the solution would be best handled by a direct phone call with Fred and the other business owner. Maybe even a personal visit. Problems viewed firsthand have a different way of impacting us. As in…do unto others.

But I close with repeating my praise for Fred’s pursuit of outside wisdom. The Bible says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Prov 15:22 (NLT) Who's on your team?

And why is it I feel like Ann Landers right now?

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.