Bacon, Beer, & Freedom

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As I write this post, I am sitting on the deck overlooking the Puget Sound, consuming three pieces of bacon, wondering if it’s too early for an IPA, and thinking about freedom. Having recently returned from a trip to the beautiful land of Israel, there are certain aspects of our country’s freedom that I am more aware of and grateful for. The word freedom is an interesting one. We use it a lot to describe our rights and entitlements. In my own profession, we use it to describe what we’ve been “freed from” and therefore what we’re “freed to receive.” Freedom is defined as the absence of restraint resulting in the state of being free.

Therefore, freedom is a two-fold action! The absence of what’s restraining you results in a euphoric state of freedom. You can’t have one without the other.
Today we raise a glass to freedom and celebrate this country.
Freedom is a gift we all agree we are thankful for.
What ways can you celebrate personal freedoms in your own life? In other words, fill-in-the-blank: “The absence of ________ will free me to ________.”
Let freedom ring in this country and in your life!
Happy 4th of July. Stay safe out there and make good decisions!

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From Blondes to IPAs to Sours, Beer Lovers Toast to Seattle Beer Week

unnamedWhether you’re new to drinking craft beer or a longtime fan Seattle Beer Week is your chance to join thousands of others who want to enjoy what the market has to offer. The ten day celebration kicks off today with dozens of bars, pubs, and breweries hosting dozens of events showcasing a variety of hop based beverages. It’s no coincidence Seattle Beer Week is successful. According to the Brewers Association, Washington State ranks second in the nation  in the number of craft breweries creating batches of a drink first created in ancient Mesopotamia.

Among the dozens of business owners participating is Burc McFarlen, who runs The Beer Authority in Lake City. Like a sommelier speaks effortlessly about wine, Burc knows his beer. With 13 taps that are constantly changing, more than 400 bottled beers, Burc estimates he’s tasted about 75% of his inventory. He uses descriptions like “floral notes,” “hoppy,” and a “hint of vanilla” when explaining the subtle differences in beer you can find at his bar. He’s looking forward to Seattle Beer Week and is hosting a few events starting with a golf tournament. “The first four days we’re only pouring Washington beer to keep it local,” he explained.

BA_BurcPhoneBurc also partnered with Alaskan Brewing Company to offer a unique event on May 15. Customers can try grilled Alaskan salmon marinated in the company’s amber ale. Exotic meat like reindeer sausage from a butcher shop in Juneau is also on the menu. “We’re going to do a vertical tasting of their smoked porter,” Burc added. It will be from 2014, 2012, 2010, and 2008. Burc raved about the beer comparing it to “drinking smoked salmon.”

“It’s been fun watching it grow. Although it makes it harder to get into the events that I want to go to,” Jennifer Schweitzer shared with a smile. “It’s a good time. You get to see everybody in one place.” She has nearly two decades worth of experience as a bartender and has watched the evolution of Seattle Beer Week since it began in 2009. She knows firsthand the amount of work required to handle the event.

This year she won’t be behind the bar and is especially looking forward to Sour Fest hosted by Brouwers Café in Fremont. When asked why she loves the variety that’s growing in popularity her answer is succinct, “because sours are the magical unicorns of beer.” According to Jennifer there’s a wide variety of sour beers that are pleasing to many palettes, “the profile ranges from really sweet and fruity to tart and citrusy to boozy and funky. It’s just fun.”

As the craft beer market expanded, Jenn took an interest in the specialty beer about ten years ago. She wanted to know more about what she was serving and the interest has paid off. She’s able to make recommendations and help others give new beers a chance by providing “guidance not judgement.” Last year 252 craft breweries called the Evergreen State home according to the Washington Beer Commission. That’s up from 202 in the previous year and there’s no signs of the trend slowing down. “It’s happening everywhere especially in Ballard. You can’t turn a corner without seeing a brewery,” Jenn added.
As Seattle Beer Week expands Burc thinks there’s room for improvement. He’d like for there to be less focus on major distributors and see it go back to its roots – offering more educational events where people can “nerd out” and really learn about the intricacies of craft beer. His partnership with Alaskan Brewing Company is a reflection of what he’d like to see as a craft beer maven.

Whether you’re a novice or have advanced knowledge of craft beer Seattle Beer Week is a great opportunity to try new beers and share a toast with friends or strangers. “Craft beer is the ultimate ice breaker,” Burc shared.

Status Update from Massive Frontier FIOS Outage: Day 5

Day 5: Earlier Frontier held a community meeting at the Redmond Community Center for residents and businesses impacted by the massive Internet, Phone, and TV outage that has been going on since Saturday, September 20.

Frontier made it clear that IMCO Construction was the company that ripped up 1000’s of feet of fiber and copper cable in the street at Bear Creek Parkway and Redmond Way. Frontier representatives said that while 99% of customers are back up except for copper wire customers.

I stood up and asked a question on behalf of small businesses in Redmond that have been impacted — what will be done to take care of businesses that have lost money? I explained to the audience that we have people dropping by my company who are not even sure we are open. It’s impacting our businesses. Banner Bank and Chase Bank on our street have been closed for days. Businesses are paying their employees who don’t have as much work to do. The representative from Frontier had a response of:
“I don’t understand what you all mean by losing business but I don’t have an answer for you.”
Here’s the schedule for when they plan to fix things:
  • Education Hill – Next 48 hours
  • West of Avondale Rd – Next 72 hours
  • NE 83rd & 161st Ave NE – Next 72 hours
  • 168th Ave NE (Downtown apartments) – Next 96 hours
  • Businesses in Redmond Town Center may not get service until the first of October.

While I’m glad that they held this meeting at the Redmond Community Center, it seems like they should focus on over communicating with residents and businesses until this is all fixed.

If you want better customer service, give better customer behavior.

It’s all-too-easy to complain about poor customer service.

We’ve all done it.

We blame the cable company for hiking up rates and madly call the company (only to be placed on hold for way too long). The result of the call is poor customer service paired with not getting what we want (boo-freaking-hoo).

But what about our customer behavior? Who holds us accountable?

Brené Brown, TEDx speaker and author of Daring Greatly, asks:

“Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behavior has gone to hell in a handbasket.”

I recently had an interaction with a barista that has changed the way I view customer service.
It reminded me that those providing us with customer service deserve to be engaged and interacted with, paid attention to, and humanized.
The interaction went something like this:

I ordered my high-maintenance drink.*
I paid, and then stepped aside to wait for my drink to be made.
This waiting period usually involves whipping out my smartphone to check email or facebook.
But this time, my phone stayed put in my purse.
This time, I watched the barista.
Intently.
She poured the fat free/whole milk combination with precision (making it a perfect blend of 2% milk).
She carefully measured a teensy bit of chocolate.
She steamed the milk.
She drew the shots of espresso when they were done (not letting them sit too long), and then poured the milk into the espresso-light-chocolate mixture, and made a cute design…only to cover it up with whipped cream.
When she handed it to me, I looked her in the eye and said one word: “Beautiful.”
She looked back at me.
Her eyes welled up with tears and said: “You just made my day.”

I remember smiling, walking away, and thinking how my one-word compliment didn’t deserve to make her day.

But regardless, her response has inspired me to start giving better customer behavior.

Because if you want better customer service, work on giving better customer behavior.

*A short 2% latte with less than a tablespoon of chocolate, but still topped with a dollop whipped cream.  Yes, I realize that technically, this is a mocha, but when I emphasize to the barista that it’s more latte than it is mocha, they put the correct amount of chocolate in it.

Remembering Nick Magnotti and Supporting Alyssa

alyssa-nick-magnotti

Over two years ago on 11.11.11 the Seattle community surrounded Nick and Alyssa Magnotti as Nick battled a rare form of cancer. We have all have loved, hoped, cared and prayed for Nick and Alyssa along this journey. This morning Nick passed away.

In the spirit of our desire to wrap our arms around Alyssa and Austyn in this most challenging time, please consider this alternative to sending a sympathy card:

Take a piece of blank paper. Trace one hand. Write a note. Tell her this represents a giant hug from you. Have your spouse, family do the same, if appropriate.

Mail to:
Alyssa Magnotti
c/o Thinkspace
8201 164th Ave NE, Suite 200
Redmond, WA 98052

(If you have her direct home address you can mail it there, otherwise, we will forward all mail to her)

Our goal is to immediately fill her mail box with hugs from those of us that walked this journey. The sooner, the better.

If you would like to express support in lieu of flowers, perhaps consider donating to Austyn’s (8 mo.) college education. You can make a donation through this website: http://teammagnotti.org/

Bless each of you,
Peter

Shonda Award

shonda-kearns-bucky-ballsToday marks the four month mark of when Shonda McCarty Kearns passed away from cancer on July 22, 2013.

With Thanksgiving a week away, I am thankful for Shonda and her friendship. I’ve been feeling strongly about wanting to do something to honor and remember her presence in my life and those that she worked with. Shonda’s impact is interwoven into the fabric of thinkspace which is why I’ve decided to create the Shonda Award.

A Heart of Service

Shonda exhibited a heart of service for others. That is something that I value so much in her. Shonda was exceptional in her kindness and ability to create connection. The Shonda Award is being put in place to recognize the employee who embodies her spirit. The peer-to-peer award will be signified by:

  • Magnetic Bucky Balls
  • A cash donation in the employees name to a charity of their choosing
  • A gift card to the employee

Why Magnetic Bucky Balls?

A few years ago Shonda gave me a stocking stuffer, little magnetic ball bearings. The day that Shonda passed I held this little gift in a totally different way. It’s a symbol of friendship to me, it’s something that I keep close to me. It also represents community to me, all these little magnetic balls stuck together!

Donation to a Charity

Shonda has always been about helping others, putting them before herself. I can’t think of a better way to honor Shonda than by donating to a charity.

thinkspace’s reKode: Rakel Sölvadóttir Teaches Kids to Code!

rekode-277x165The subject of teaching kids to code is one that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve got three kids that are between the age of six and nine. My oldest son has a strong interest to learn how to code. I’ve searched around the Internet looking at various things like Scratch, a project by MIT, which provides a framework on how to get kids to start coding. I started my son out with that but I’ve been searching for something better and I don’t think I could be any luckier than to not only find something that is better but the startup reKode that is doing it moved into thinkspace here in Redmond!

rekode-rakel-teaching-kids-to-codeThe company’s founder Rakel Sölvadóttir has a mission of teaching young people from the age of six how to code and spark interest in technology through the reKode Methodology so that students have the opportunity to become innovators rather than consumers of technology.

reKode was just covered by BBC with a video post: Smiling ‘helps children in the classroom’ The video interviews Rakel who has been running this startup in Iceland over the last few years. Hundreds of children are learning to code and now Rakel is bringing her framework to the United States. In the the interview Rakel also explains not only do children learn to code, it also has been helping children with ADHD or other difficulties can learn to code, teach their peers and learn, importantly, to smile.

I’m very excited about having reKode kick off it’s classes in Redmond and I’ve already told Rakel that my children will definitely be first in line so they can learn how to code in 2014!

In Remembrance.

shonda-memorial-poster

From day one of finding out that she had stage four colon cancer, Shonda McCarty Kearns was a cancer survivor…not a cancer victim.  Her survival skills were her optimistic and faithful perspective paired with her contagious spunk and spirit.  When asked how she was feeling, Shonda would respond by saying “I’m at 100%, except for this cancer.”  Shonda never fixated on the cancer itself, but looked to her family, friends, and faith.  Even in the midst of battling brutal treatments, she continued to put others before herself, always wanting to know what was needed and how she could help.  Because that’s who she was before she was diagnosed.  And that’s who she remained true to be.

While at lunch with her father yesterday, he said the following about Shonda: “She never wanted the spotlight, but always wanted to be the center of attention.”  Today, she will get to have both.  At 3pm, there will be a memorial service at Mill Creek Foursquare Church in Lynnwood.  All who knew Shonda, or knew of her, are welcome to attend.

We have the opportunity to partner with Shonda’s dreams for her children, Andrew and Rachel.  In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a fund for them by clicking here.  And to read more about this lovely lady, click here.

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What really happens when you work from home…

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

As much as I love working from home (on my couch…in my pajamas…), I must admit that when I’m at the office, I’m much more alert and effective.

Blink [see a new perspective]

The article Snack Laundry Lunch Clean Snack reveals a survey with disturbing results: what employees confess they are actually doing while they work from home.  For example, “43 percent of workers say they’ve watched TV or a movie while ‘working’ remotely, while 35 percent have done household chores, and 28 percent have cooked dinner.”  When I work from home, I find that my taste buds are uncharacteristically high-maintenance:  This iced coffee sure sounded good 10 minutes ago, but now I want a hot earl grey tea…and wouldn’t some toasted almonds be a great pick-me-up?…perhaps with a bit of dark chocolate…Is it lunch time yet?…I should probably start something on the stove right now…and take out that chicken to thaw for dinner…

It’s amazing how much time I spend in the kitchen when I work from home.

Shift [try it out]

If you must work from home, establish some boundaries.  Turn the television off, designate your lunch break, clarify when you’re on the clock versus off the clock, and finally – don’t work in your pajamas.  You probably won’t just lie down for a second when you’re in heels and a skirt (or a suit and tie).  But when you wear pajamas, you’re halfway to a nap.

Listen [hear from our community]

At Innovatively Organized, we not only work with busy entrepreneurs who work from home, but my team and I work from our home offices as well.  It certainly takes discipline to set boundaries around your time in order to stay productive when you work from home.  Just because you have a home office, doesn’t mean you should be watching television or doing laundry during the day.  It’s important to set up your home office to operate efficiently and feel welcoming.  This helps you avoid sitting on the couch with a laptop where it’s easy to get distracted.  Also, I’ve found it is important to set expectations and have open communication with family members when you work from home.  If you aren’t used to it yet, the lines can blur easily.”  –Elizabeth Bowman, President & Founder of Innovatively Organized

Innovatively Organized is also hosting an event tomorrow that will give tips for mobile professionals – find out more here.

 

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Health Insurance for Entrepreneurs

By the sheer definition of who they are, entrepreneurs are risk-takers. Many have quit a 9-5 job to start their own business without a financial safety-net, living month-to-month, not 100% certain that the mortgage or rent (let alone everything else) will be covered next month.

One of the biggest risks entrepreneurs take is with their health. A recent Gallup Poll revealed 25% of entrepreneurs don’t have health insurance, compared to 10% of other workers. Gallup says that, “the reason for that difference is not clear, but it could either reflect the high cost of health insurance for individuals and small business owners, or a greater willingness on the part of entrepreneurs to accept the risks inherent in not having health insurance.”

Health Insurance for entrepreneurs as individuals – and even entrepreneurs with families – doesn’t have to be expensive. As someone who has been “self employed” for almost three years, I’ve relied on a plan through Regence that covers prescriptions, office visits, and lab work. While some of my “employed” friends have luxurious benefits such as acupuncture and unlimited chiropractic visits via their health insurance, I’m at least covered should I have a true health emergency – without it breaking the bank.

Of course, the cost of a health insurance plan can still add up – My $233/mo plan isn’t exactly cheap, especially for those who have a business that’s not making much revenue yet. The good thing that entrepreneurs tend to be healthier than the average worker. Gallup found that, “Entrepreneurs report better health habits than other workers. [They] are more likely than other employed adults to say they exercise frequently (60% vs. 54%) or eat fruits and vegetables regularly (61% vs. 55%) and are more likely to say they ate healthy all day “yesterday” (67% vs. 61%). However, smoking rates were about equal among entrepreneurs and other U.S. workers.”

Since entrepreneurs are apparently not only risky, but also healthy, health insurance for entrepreneurs could be more of an option. That said, it may be worth looking into if a plan could potentially save you money on prescriptions or just reducing the cost of an office visit, since insurance plans will only “allow” your doctor to charge you a certain amount for a visit. Consider comparing plans via a site like ehealthinsurance, or check out plans offered by trade groups like the Freelancers Union or the WTIA, which offer employee-like group plans to their members.

If you’re an entrepreneur, how did you choose – and afford – your health insurance plan? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!