adding value

What is a business but a system for adding value to people? No matter what business you are in, selling goods or services, business to business or direct to the client/customer/patient, you are providing something to the people you serve that fills a need. In our business we are focused on intentionally adding value to the people we work with, the vendors we partner with and the guests we serve. As we have grown it has become more and more important to stay focused on this foundation. The addition of more people and personalities to the team has led us to sometimes stray away from this, but never for long.

How do you know when you have failed to add value? Well in this current instant world we live in the feedback is instant. Anyone can post a review online of your business and let the world know you failed them. Employees can quit without giving notice. You may lose clients. Not every interaction is in our control, but it is the leader’s responsibility to continuously navigate the course and ensure that the people who are following him know the ultimate outcome.

And what is that outcome? To add value!
How does one intentionally add value to someone?
-Make it your intention every day to listen without formulating your reply
-Be present in your interactions
-Value them, and value what they value
-Have them leave the interaction feeling better than when it started
-Take a genuine interest in what is important to them
-Practice “Kaizen” – This is a Japanese word that has no word for word translation to English, but it simply means “change for the better”
-Under-promise and over-deliver
-Exceed their expectations
-Lead by example
-Just do it!

strength or weakness

Where would you rate your leadership ability on a scale of 1-10? Where would those closest to you rate you? I would venture to say that if you are leading people you have a tendency to see things as better than they are. I was making a list of my strongest and weakest leadership qualities, and although I consider myself a humble person, it was strangely difficult for me to look at the weakest qualities. However, when I asked my family to help with this they had no trouble at all rattling off the weak parts. A few I agreed with, such as impatience, my tendency for tunnel vision (not looking at the big picture), and the difficulty I have had with visualization. It was interesting to me however that one of the areas I consider my strengths, empathy, was what they saw as my weakness.

I consider empathy one of my biggest strengths. It helps me to turn myself around and attempt to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I look at is as if I am adjusting my eyesight to their prescription of glasses. I look at behaviors that would hurt or trigger me and imagine what could be motivating someone to cut me off on the freeway, write a bad review, quit with no notice, do something unethical, be unkind…and choose to believe they are coming from a place of pain. I choose not to judge. This is an ongoing process, as you can imagine, since I continue to get tested in this (most often by those closest to me).

Can this be a weakness? Apparently so. It is a weakness when it falls too far to the left into the area of enabling or complacency. Its a weakness when I don’t want to let someone fall down, fail, experience pain or feel the discomfort of their choices. It is a weakness when I let the lower energies that other people are operating at bring me down. It is a weakness when I let it stop me from making the tough decisions leaders have to make.

I still think that empathy is my superpower, and it’s in my DNA. I also know there is a spectrum. As long as I watch the slide left and right on the scale and remember that pain and discomfort, failures and falls are our greatest teachers then empathy can remain a strength. It only becomes a weakness when I dip into fear.

the valley

The dip, the valley, the resistance, the crash, the wall…it goes by many names, but the symptoms are the same. You have been going hard on your project, dream, vision and suddenly it hits you. You can be deep in the middle or even at the end of your venture, but it will hit just the same. Suddenly you feel deflated and your motivation falters. You want to tap out. What was exciting, fun and fulfilling becomes hard, boring, and dissatisfying. It can feel like its crushing you, a heavy weight that you didn’t even realize you were carrying. This happened for me when we were 3/4 in to our project of opening our 4th location. The lease negotiations had dragged on and cost us a lot of our budget, and the remodel of the 20 year old building was uncovering a Pandora’s box of unexpected repairs that we needed to make. Fortunately (or unfortunately-) we were vested and on the hook to complete this and get it open as soon as possible so we could change the flow of funds from flooding outwards to trickling in. I am also facing it again now as I push to complete the current projects I am leading in our organization.

What to do? It helps to admit it. To face it, and to recognize that it is a normal progression and it has happened before, and will again!
-I am going to pause and take a moment to reflect.
-I am going to ask who can I enlist to help me with these projects?
-I am going to prioritize the projects and take one at a time.
-I am going to remember that there is no tapping out for the leader.
-I am going to look at my life as a whole and see what areas I am neglecting that are pulling me into this dip.
-I am going to be grateful for the opportunity to be able to work on these projects.
-I am going to focus on someone else instead of me.
-I am going to remember that its a journey not a destination- an experience not a goal.
-I am going to have someone hold me accountable.
-I am going to complete the projects while starting new ones.
-I am going to admit I’d rather have too much going on than the alternative, and embrace the valley, without which there would be no peak.


I am a positive person, and that translates to the issue that I really have a hard time tolerating negativity. I don’t watch the news because it is all fear based. I bring positivity to all of my interactions, whether at home with my family, in meetings and negotiations, at the grocery store, in my company, as I drive. What does that look like? It means that I am coming from the place, the mindset, that everyone has a positive intent. The checker at the supermarket who does everything she can to avoid mirroring my “niceness” is staunchly set in her views of her role as an embittered, disenchanted, unappreciated employee will not despite my best efforts give me back anything but the token responses. My view of her is that there are things in her life that are not going as she had hoped and dreamed, so it is hard for her to see anything good, especially from the perpetually nice customer that always tries to win her over.

The voice of negativity is so loud and big that it gives a distorted picture of how things are. We see it in the media all the time, and I think that its crazy to live in fear. I get it that negativity is a habit, its like a road with deep grooves that your tires get stuck into. It’s the go to place for some people when things don’t fit into their picture of what life should be like. It can be incredibly frustrating to me when I have to interact with these people. I have said it many times, I am impatient. I realize that not everyone is going to be in alignment with me, and that my version of reality can rub people the wrong way, yet it continues to be a struggle for me when I can’t avoid them. I have worked to be in a position to be able to choose who I work with, and I am blessed to have the freedom to be able to surround myself in my organization with people who share my view, but invariably there are a few that slip through. Usually they are people outside of my work environment. Maybe my lessons to still learn are to accept people as they are in whatever state they come to me in.

I think the only way out of darkness is by shining a light, and negativity is dark. We have so much to be grateful for, and the mindset of scarcity will always always leave you in the dark. Thoughts and emotions are very habit forming, and if you are thinking negative thoughts all the time you will feel like shit. Guaranteed. I can’t get in your head and change what you focus on, but I can bring my positivity to every interaction and maybe in some small way shed some light on the road. It is my mission, my job, my passion, to help show how good life can be. It all starts with your thoughts.

changing our culture

I recently watched “The Founder”, the story of McDonald’s restaurants, and although the movie portrayed Ray Kroc in a not very ethical light, I was curious to learn more about the story. What was the difference between Ray Kroc, who took over and grew the concept that the McDonald’s brothers had founded, and the two brothers? Why was he able to grow the location to the monolith that it has become today? The brothers had achieved great financial success, and had sold some franchises, but lacked the vision or desire to take it big. They had attempted and failed and given up on the process, they were great operators, great managers, but lacked the leadership skills and talents to take their company worldwide.

They were what I call top performers, or skilled producers. Very good at what they do, but lacking in the ability or knowledge to improve their effectiveness by improving their leadership abilities. When we went from one location to 2 then 3 in the space of 2 short months, we were faced with the same problems. James and I were very skilled producers. We had what it took to create a successful restaurant that was profitable and had a loyal fan base and employees. We went blindly forward on that foundation and signed leases for locations 2 and 3, which opened each one month apart. This was a real test on our leadership. I thought that it would be easy to duplicate the success we had at our first location in these 2 new ventures. We recruited, hired and trained the new management team, not really investing the time or even knowing about leadership. We thought it was as simple as hiring experienced managers, paying them well, putting them in there to do their management thing, and it was done. Wrong. It has taken us 5 years of learning and growing to realize that a title does not gain you much in the way of influence or success.

We had seen the coming and goings of many managers in our company when I finally hit a wall. It was so exhausting and expensive to keep rebuilding the management team. Every time we had a change in leadership, there was a trickle down effect on the entire company. The new manager invariably alienated some of the people on the team due to their unique style, and employee turnover was the unfortunate result. I knew that in order to change this cycle I needed to change my thinking. I resolved that I was going to change the direction of our organization. I would no longer hire anyone into a position of leadership out of desperation, and with a very rare exception would I hire from the outside for leadership roles. Thus began our culture shift to one of internal growth. Instead of pushing our growth to the outside, through opening more and more locations, we turned our focus inward to our people. We began the long yet incredibly fruitful process of investing our energy in our team.

The benefits have been compounding. The people we work with that are already invested in the culture know what we are about. They already have the foundation and we are working with them to fortify that base with the skills they will need as they grow into leadership positions with us. We are sharing with them what leadership looks like, it means believing that the power is in the team, never in any one individual. It means taking responsibility for the team if you are a leader, and if something goes wrong or you fail to achieve a goal, its always a leadership issue. It means giving credit to the team when things go well, and taking the blame when they don’t. It means connecting and caring about the people who are following you, and looking for the potential of future leaders. This is the path to the next level of success. You can absolutely have success without leadership, but the only way to maximize your impact, whether in your family, organization, or life, is to bring people along with you on your journey to success.


Find something you’re passionate about and do that. Okay thats easy to say but what if I don’t know what I am passionate about? What if I am not really passionate about anything yet, or I am passionate about a lot of things? This message is so prevalent, we hear “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” and there are countless quizes and checklists online that you can use to supposedly find the one thing that is “YOUR PASSION”.

I think the process of discovering your passion goes hand in hand with becoming more self aware. I talk to people who are looking for the one thing, the job or activity that will light them up, and it reminds me of the ephemeral search for happiness. We need to make a living, earn money to clothe, feed and support ourselves, and are told to do this in a field that will feed our passion. But not everyone can narrow it down to the one thing they love to do. We see artists, celebrities, and people in the media making a living doing what they appear to love, and think that it has to be the same for us, it has to be huge and glamorous and exciting. I am going to submit that its not like that for most of us.

I have found that it is just as important to find out what you DON’T want to do as it is to finding what you DO. This can and should be a part of your process, of trying new things, changing jobs, hobbies, careers, foods you eat…It’s absolutely okay to start something strong and then find out it’s not what you thought it would be. It is okay to change course many times in your life. A pilot flying a plane from SFO to NY will change course multiple times on the 5 hour journey, but will always arrive at his destination. There can be so much pressure to stick to it, to choose a career, go to school, get the job, buy the house…I am going to put out there to you if you are feeling lost that it’s OKAY.

Finding your passion requires looking inside, not outside. It means looking back and reflecting on the times you were in the zone, or felt joy, or when time just seemed to fly by. What were you doing? Not activities so much, but what were the more simple things that brought on the good feelings. Your passion will develop as you begin to know yourself more fully. For me I have learned that I really like doing things that are hard. I like to do things I used to think were outside my skill-set. I like climbing hills, literally and figuratively. Whether on my feet, my bike, or with a big new work project, these are the things that give me huge satisfaction. I like being the leader, which took a long time to realize. I was bossy when I was a kid, and that became something that I tried to change. There was a certain negative stigma to being “bossy” if you were a girl, so I learned to become a follower. Finding my place again as a leader took me well into my 40’s to find. I have always been super passionate about family, but that took a long time to redefine for me as well. When I realized that we are all part of this big family called the human race, and even bigger family called our universe, it all came together even more.

So where to start? Whatever you are doing, whether you are working at a job that doesn’t quite do it for you, or washing dishes, or at the grocery store, or hanging with your friends, or walking your dog…do THAT with passion. Enjoy where you are at the present moment as if you had created it. Let go of the search and see where you are. The passion you seek may be as simple as making someone smile.


It is so easy to get caught up in regret or looking back at decisions and choices you have made and long to do it over again a different way. This happens even if you believe that we always make the best possible decisions at the time with our current state of awareness. It’s only looking back through our wiser eyes, after we have seen how the scenarios play out, that we can get sucked into the no-win game of wondering if we should have done things differently.

The process of learning to love myself has required me to forgive myself for the things I wish I had done differently. The catalyst for me on the journey to truly love myself was realizing that no matter how deeply and much I love my children, my husband, my family and friends, it was always going to be less than until I started here, inside me. If I am continually judging myself, comparing myself, finding myself short of where I think I should be, how can I ever truly love unconditionally?

The most profound act of forgiving myself happened out of the blue while helping my sister in law move. I can only think that it was a moment of divine intervention, because I have not memory of any outside cause or trigger for the moment that changed my life. 10 years after my divorce from my first marriage, in one moment forgave myself for ending the marriage. In releasing the guilt and shame, I was able to see how carrying that blame had colored every action until that point. My relationship with my kids, their dad, my husband, my family, my employees…basically everyone I met, was built on the twisted concept that I was a quitter, I was selfish, I was a failure.

I remember the immense lift of my soul at the moment of forgiveness. I felt light. I was light. There is no cookie cutter answer to how to get to that moment, but the first step is to look inside yourself and see where you are blaming and judging yourself for your past. The greatest gift you can give is to release yourself from regret and self judgment, so you can do the same for everyone else.

what i learned at pastry school

I have loved to bake since as far as I can remember. It was my grandma Emily who instilled in me the joy of showing love through baking. She was a terrible cook, but a wonderful baker! She always had cakes made with bumper crops from the garden my grandpa tended in their huge front yard. During the summer months and on weekends throughout the year, my sister, brother and I would love to go to gramma’s house! They were both retired and always busy with projects around the house or in the garden. There was a constant rotation of delicious homey cakes depending on what bumper crop was currently being harvested. Apple cake, zucchini cake, banana cake, strawberry pies…her famous cookies and rocky road every holiday season, all this and apricot brandy made for lots of yumminess every time we went to grammas.

Baking for me was therapy, an activity that I now realize was my earliest teacher for being present. When I am baking I am not thinking of anything but the measurements and temperatures, the smells and tastes, and envisioning the finished product. Even though I was a good baker, I lacked the confidence to make a business of it until I went to some weekend courses at culinary school. What I learned at pastry school was that I was a VERY good baker, with an eye and taste for what makes things yummy. I did learn some recipes and techniques that were added to my epertoire, but the most important thing I learned is that there are learners and there are doers.

There was no magic secret to baking that I didn’t already know. I knew that accuracy was important, that even great bakers cannot make a recipe great, some recipes are just bad. I learned that I already had the talent and skills to make a business if that is what I wanted. I learned that believing in yourself is the first step to achieving your dreams, and that if you open yourself to the idea there are people everywhere who will help you. Understand that persistence, consistency, and learning from your mistakes is key to reaching your loftiest dreams.

don’t speed

“If you want to lead don’t speed” was the pearl I heard from one of the members of my inner circle. This from a man who 2 years ago was impatient to get the results he envisioned for his team. When you begin teaching what you are learning, it is amazing how it comes full circle and you begin not only learning what you teach on a deeper level, but become aware of the lessons that are there from those you are coaching!

Leadership is a process. It’s like building a high-rise. When you see a new building being built, it seems like forever that they have the area surrounded with chain link fence, and it appears nothing is happening in there. Then suddenly after many weeks, or even months, the structure begins to rise, quickly now in comparison to the past. When developing leaders you have to take the time to lay the foundation. Everyone is at a different place in their journey. Some are hungry, some are curious, some are asleep and unaware. There is no right or wrong, just different. When your thoughts and energy are focused on adding value to others and developing leaders, you will begin attracting people who resonate with you and want to hear your message.

The foundation you lay in creating the relationship with your future leaders is sacred. The single most important thing to remember is to build trust. This means to do what you say always and live your talk. It means to take time to talk to them about them. It means to find out what is going on for them not only at work, but as a whole person. Invest your time and energy in creating the trust that is needed to help them along on their journey to becoming aware of their potential and ability to influence those around them.

There is always a gap between your vision and your reality. Understand that leadership is a process, one that progresses through the habits, decisions, and building blocks that you do every day. Practice patience.

intentional growth

"Change is inevitable, growth is optional" - John Maxwell

My journey into intentional growth began when I started looking at myself differently. I began questioning my long standing beliefs about what I could and could not do, connect with people, be athletic, create a successful business, and be happy no matter what. I had a long standing relationship with depression, was very uncomfortable and awkward talking to people who were not in my immediate circle, had no athletic tendencies whatsoever, and did not believe in my talents and skills to create a business doing what I loved.

I am so blessed to have found a partner and soul mate who is a strong leader with vision, who carried me along with him on the early part of our journey together. He gave me the unconditional love and support as well as the perfect accepting environment to begin to live to my biggest potential.

The first book I read that helped me wake up to the thought of being able to control my emotions and create my life was Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins. I had just begun running and taking better care of my body, and was a follower of a vegetarian runner with an online blog, No Meat Athlete. The saying "when the student is ready the master will appear" really has proven true to me so many times. Matt, the writer of the blog, happened to occasionally mention this book and this speaker, and I was intrigued. Then he wrote about going to an event with Tony Robbins, and how it changed his life and inspired him to start the blog and change the course of his life. This was good stuff, and just what I was needing at the time. I bought the book, and read all 500+ pages, but what really stuck with me was the section about using different words to describe my emotions.

This was a catalyst to a new way of thinking and feeling. I started defining my feelings as a level up. For example, when I felt bored, I changed that to I am relaxed and unstimulated right now. When I was sad, I thought into it and realized most of the time I was tired, and needed some down time to either nap or veg out. Gradually this became more of a habit, though honestly it never ends. As I became better at redefining my emotions, sure enough, more opportunities to grow would come up. Just when I thought I had conquered one, I would get triggered and fall back into depression or feeling disempowered. I realize now that it is a process.

Any change you want to make has to be ongoing. If you think you can fix it and be done, you will swiftly be shown that this is not the way life works. Life presents us with opportunity after opportunity to react or let go, and the journey towards letting go is the journey to freedom.

I recently heard John Maxwell speak live, and he is a helped me see the value of intentional growth. I set the intention for myself to create 5 daily habits that would leave me no option but to grow and learn more about myself and how to best serve others in this world.
Every day without fail I -
Since making these 5 key things a habit, I have seen tremendous results in my life. I have more focus, more gratitude, more appreciation, and more inspiration than I ever have in the past. I start my day early, I wake up without an alarm between 5 and 6 am, and spend 1-2 hours of quiet time doing these 5 keys for me to a fulfilled life.

Think about this for yourself. What 5 daily habits can you start that will set you on the path to intentional growth?