An airline does something right--alert the media!

When Alex Sullivan's family in New York learned of his death in Aurora, Colorado last week, they all wanted to be together as soon as possible.

The cost of 25 last-minute tickets from New York to Colorado would have been a hardship for many of Alex's family. When Alex's cousin, Steve Schwab, was making the travel arrangements with United Airlines and told the ticket agent the reason for the flights, the ticket agent offered to help. With the help of donations from their local community and from United Airlines, which provided free round-trip tickets for the whole family, the big family is together this weekend.

Another of Alex's cousins said, "This shows what this country is made of. for all of us to see that's how this country operates is amazing."

I'm sharing the story because it is amazing that an airline stepped up to help. We usually hear stories about airlines losing luggage, trapping customers on planes for ten hours, or having delays that cause us to miss events. A giant in an industry that gets a well-deserved bad rap did a great thing by helping that family this week.

Way to go United Airlines. Way to be All-In!


Chick-fil-A fails to live its corporate purpose

I like companies who stand by their values. I seek them out to learn about them, meet their leaders, understand their cultures, and identify how other companies could emulate them. Chick-fil-A has been a company I've admired because it openly expresses and endorses Christian values. In a time when most companies turn themselves inside-out to be politically correct, Chick-fil-A does not. They proclaim their Christian values loudly and proudly. I've referred to them as being All-In many times in presentations. 

But, has their outward Christian appearance been a ruse? Do the Christian values genuinely matter, or is the chain really just focused on the chicken change? The chain's response to the current controversy will shed light on the answers to those questions.

The controversy began last Monday, July 16, 2012, when the Baptist Press posted an article about Chick-fil-A's culture. Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of the $4 billion fast food chicken chain, emphasized the company's fervent dedication to its Bible-based values. In the article, Cathy answered questions about being closed on Sundays, if success is tied to the biblical foundation, and its support of the traditional family. His flippant comments about the last topic caused the stir among supporters of gay marriage.

The article was picked up by bigger media outlets across the country, and word spread within a week about how outspoken the COO was regarding traditional family. The Jim Hensen Company responded by immediately removing the muppets as a partner of the chain. (Edit--There has been much publicized support for the COO's comments too--it's not all negative.)

At first, I thought what he said was not surprising considering the history of the company and how open it is about its Bible-basis. A southern company based on the Bible favors traditional marriage over gay marriage--not surprising, not noteworthy. 

What is a disappointing surprise is how opposite the company's actions are with regard to its corporate purpose. Cathy said the corporate purpose is to "glorify God and be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A."

It turns out, Chick-fil-A does not care to have a positive influence on all that come in contact with it. The company does not simply support traditional family values, it reportedly actively campaigns against nontraditional families and gay people. There are reports of millions of dollars in donations from the company toward anti-gay groups. 

Cathy's comments and Chick-fil-A's dedication toward the anti-gay movement are not aligned with the stated corporate purpose. Clearly, they are not concerned with "all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A." He and the company are concerned with all non-gay people who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

Cathy said, "...thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." Someone check the good book, but I'm pretty sure the most important Bible principle is about loving God. Isn't the second one about loving your neighbor? I'm starting to wonder if the chicken chief's company is just pandering to the Bible-loving south by openly proclaiming it is based on Christian values but only living by the ones it finds convenient.

Please note, I don't care whether the company is in favor of traditional marriage. I care that they proclaim to be one thing but are showing they are something else. That's it. My issue has nothing to do with sexuality, marriage, or religion. My issue is with honesty, with Chick-fil-A's behavior (including the COO's flippant attitude) and purpose being out of alignment, and with the company invoking Christian values while supporting groups opposed to them.

I like companies who stand by their values. I just won't be using Chick-fil-A as an example of one any more.

I wonder how KFC and the other chicken chains will respond to the Chick-fil-A controversy? I'd advise them to beef up their customer service training, keep their restaurants clean, and not say a word about the gays. After all, actions speak louder than words. I think that's in the Bible somewhere too.

All-In at work and play

Greetings All! I'm officially back to work after two weeks off for my wedding. We had a wonderful wedding weekend--full of love and loved ones. I was a first-time bride over forty and jotted down 10 strategies younger brides might like to know. We will return to regular business-related All-In posts tomorrow.

Top 10 Wedding Success Strategies
From a first-time bride over forty
By Kelly Tyler Byrnes
July 20, 2012

I usually blog and write about how people and companies can be All-In and the impact being All-In has on results. This summer, the All-In philosophy was on my mind as I planned the wedding weekend for Bob and me. While my husband-to-be was more interested and involved than some grooms, he appreciated my eagerness to put my planning skills to good use. I kept the All-In mindset as I planned the weekend and continued working until two days before the wedding, and it paid off.

I frequently plan meetings and speak at events, so planning something so personal and fun was exciting. Bob and I discussed our theme and decided on Simple, Elegant, Joy. We agreed right away that we would focus on the love we have for each other and for our guests. We wanted to enjoy the engagement and planning process—we wanted to be All-In! We wanted to make it as stress-free as possible for both of us, and focusing on the love made the planning easy.

The planning also was made easy by paying for all events ourselves, which meant we were not required to ask for permission or advice from anyone else. My parents were involved in some of the decisions because we appreciate their perspective, but we had the freedom to gracefully accept their input then decide ourselves. Consider including a few very close family members and friends in the planning process to reduce the pressure of decision-making and to increase the guests’ enjoyment.

Younger brides in a different financial situation might welcome financial and planning input from their parents. When the parents pay, the wedding is hosted by them and they reasonably expect to have input into most of the decisions. Accept their generosity with respect and grace, just as you would any gift. And, expect to include them in key decisions. Clarifying expectations in advance can reduce the pressure you feel throughout the process. It also can help reduce tension caused by different opinions. Anything you can do in advance to make the process go smoothly is worthwhile.

The third thing that made planning relatively easy is that I did not have my heart set on certain items. Unlike most brides, I had not been dreaming of my wedding my whole life. Since I did not have a wedding pre-planned in my head, I could make decisions easily without disappointment. For example, I did not have my heart set on a certain venue. Sure, there were a few places I really liked, but I was fine when they were deemed inconvenient for our guests or beyond our budget. Brides who want what they have dreamt of their whole lives set themselves up for disappointment—and bridezilla personality disorder. If you have a dream wedding, identify your priorities with your groom, so you can respond effectively when changes to your dream are required.

Although I did not have a dream wedding in mind when we were engaged, I had the wedding of my dreams and enjoyed all of the steps along the route to the altar. Our wedding was the happiest hour of my whole life, and it began with our engagement.

My beau of five years proposed to me on December 23, 2011. It was fun seeing friends and acquaintances over the holidays and answering queries of “What’s new?” with real news, “I’m engaged!” As a first-time bride over 40, it was fun seeing the excitement on people’s faces. I started to notice the difference in how people responded to my engagement versus my younger friends’ engagements within a few days. The differences became more evident throughout the planning of the wedding weekend as my groom and I met with various wedding industry professionals, vendors, and suppliers. Some of them liked me a lot, but others did not.

I suspect those who did not like me felt that way because I did not buy in to the wedding industry’s exaggeration of the wedding day into “my one special day.” For one thing, it was not only “my” day. Secondly, it was not going to be my “one” time to feel special.

When they started in with things like, “You should choose whatever flowers you want because it’s your special day…” or “You should have it at any venue you want because it is your special day…” or “Everyone in your family will do what you want because it is your special day!”, I resisted rolling my eyes but dismissed the notion of my wedding day being my one special day.

I am over 40 years old. I have had special days before, and I live in such a manner to have many more. My wedding day was to be another one—not the only one. The wedding industry puts too much pressure on that one day. They, along with well-meaning loved ones, make the bride the center of attention and enable her self-centered attitude. They expect her to be self-centered, so most young brides go along with it. It’s almost like a woman gets a pass at manners, courtesy, and respect because she is a bride. I didn’t buy in to that.

The vendors we chose to work with for our wedding weekend were those who liked us and our mature mindsets. We worked with wedding industry professionals who believed our budget, created joy-filled events instead of theatrical productions, and wanted to have fun throughout the whole journey to the altar and beyond.

We planned a Catholic mass and hotel dinner-dance reception for Friday, and we hosted a casual BBQ dinner at our home for Saturday. All events were spectacular!

No dream-defying glitches. No embarrassing bridezilla-like behavior. No budget overages.

Our wedding weekend was full of love. Our guests loved us and we loved them—and the feelings remained strong before, during, and after the wedding weekend.

Since the reaction to this first-time bride over 40 was so different, I pondered the most important strategies other brides might want to employ so their weddings are as lovely and loving as ours. I hope these strategies help brides enjoy the planning of their weddings, so they are relaxed and ready for their marriages.

1.      Pick the right groom so you are not worried about the marriage or being a wife. I used to fear that I would have a gut feeling that I was marrying the wrong guy as I waited in the back of church to walk down the aisle. Several years ago, a friend told me she had that feeling and knew deep down that she should not be marrying the man. She went ahead with it because it was her one special day, and they divorced a few years later when their daughter was a baby. I did not want to have that feeling, so I made sure in advance of the engagement that Bob was the man I wanted to be married to. Don’t look for the man you want to have a wedding with. If you pick the man you want to be your husband, not just your groom, you’ll remove one possible area of angst for your wedding.

2.      Spend more time planning your marriage than the wedding. Discuss your lives, health, financials, careers, families, religions, household operations, goals, fears, and ideals often. Discuss them prior to becoming engaged and during the wedding planning process. Keep the focus on your marriage and don’t let the wedding become bigger than the marriage. You might think it’s more fun to talk about the ring, flowers, music, or cake, but it will be more important to talk about your lives together. Doing so will eliminate the angst that comes after the wedding when life gets back to normal.

3.      Keep the day in perspective. I’ve already discussed my belief that a wedding day is very special, but it is not the one day in your life to be special. Live your life so you have many special days, and remember to do so during the planning process. Do not accept the industry’s pass on manners and grace. Do not succumb to the bridezilla personality disorder. Your wedding day is very special, and throughout your life you will have many special days, not just one.

4.      Keep the Princess Complex in check. Frankly, if you think you should play the role of a princess on your wedding day, you might not be mature enough to be a wife yet. Mature, grown adult women are comfortable in their own skin and with their real lives, and they do not pretend to be princesses like five-year-old girls. Even if your loving parents or others call you a princess, remember, you are not really one, so expect your bridesmaids, vendors, and guests to treat you in accordance with who you are in real life. This is your wedding, when you are committing yourself to your husband. It is not Halloween, when you are playing dress-up with your little friends. Take the pressure off the day, so if there are glitches, they do not ruin your day. Take the pressure off the day, so you still have friends throughout the process. Take the pressure off the day, so you’re not shocked when no one is talking about your wedding 48 hours after it ends.

(Slightly off-topic…Our deejay asked for a short list of songs that should not be played at the reception under any circumstances. I felt like my do-not-play list put her in a tough situation if someone requested one of the songs on it. So, when I told her a list of songs we dislike, I also told her there was nothing she could play that would ruin the reception or the day. She remarked that many brides do not feel the same way and would be in a rage or in tears if she played a song on the do-not-play list, even if a guest requested it. Take the pressure off the day, and song choice won’t ruin it.)

5.      Expect a post-wedding letdown. After all the weeks/months planning, the wedding events go by quickly and within 48 hours everyone’s lives return to normal. You still have ends to tie up (paying all the vendors, writing thank you notes, putting away gifts), but no one else does. Sure, it’s okay to ask about their experiences—it’s fun to hear stories you weren’t aware of—but, don’t expect them to want to talk about your wedding nonstop.

6.      Respect your guests’ lives, finances, and schedules. Your guests love you, but they also have lives of their own. Be respectful of them during the planning process. For example, keep the bridesmaid dresses reasonably priced so they are not a financial burden on your friends. If they all can easily afford $250 satin, purple-zebra-print one-shoulder gowns with bows on the derrieres, then by all means, pick a dress like that. If they are of different financial means, limit your choice to something they can afford easily.

For our wedding, we chose a hotel ballroom as our reception venue primarily because there were guests who would appreciate minimal driving in a city new to them and others who would appreciate going up to their rooms early (with kids or for health reasons). Our venue’s restaurant is well known as one of Kansas City’s best. Guests raved about the meal and convenience. They appreciated our consideration of them, which also might have influenced more of them to attend. 

(Slightly off-topic…Your wedding vendors have lives too. They are not your servants. They are running businesses and need to be mindful of their finances and schedules, just as you do. Our photographer called me the night before the ceremony to see if she could send someone else for the first hour of our allotted time. She was just given the chance to photograph another event that could lead to additional business for her, and she hoped I would enable her to work both events. While I could have stuck to our agreement, it felt better to agree with the new plan. The substitute person was very professional, fun to work with, and did a great job. When our photographer arrived, she was happy and ready to take over the rest of the day. She had a life outside of my wedding, just as the DJ, hotel point person, chef, servers, church coordinator, and guests do.)

Remember, your guests love you but they have lives too. Your wedding is important to them but so is what they have going on in their lives. Be as interested in them during your engagement as you would like them to be about your wedding.

7.      Include as many people as possible in the events. We included 36 loved ones in our wedding mass. We each had just one person stand up with us, and the rest had various roles during the mass. We also listed the names of the military veterans present during the prayers of the faithful and had all deceased family members listed on a prayer card (there were too many to read aloud during the mass). Including so many people made the wedding very personal to all who attended, and it made it more special for us. Our wedding was full of love because our loved ones were in it.

8.      Decline invitations to add more errands to your schedule. Unless you have a lot of free time or help from others, resist the urge to add errands. Everyone has ideas for weddings. Since most people go to them and have been in them, they like offering suggestions. As a busy professional, I did not have time to interview five deejays, all six florists my friends like, and ten favorite venues across town. I picked two of each to meet with and made the decisions based on those two. If there was an opportunity to say “no” to another errand, I took it. For example, I picked the guest book Hobby Lobby had rather than run to other stores to see if there was one I liked better. When friends suggested various guest favors, I resisted the urge to spend hours driving around town to get items needed and put them together. Our guests were coming to our home the next day, so favors were not needed. In some circles, guest favors are considered tacky and unnecessary—I went with that philosophy. Whether you have favors or not, manage errands efficiently so they don’t waste your time. 

(Slightly off-topic…Be respectful of your mother’s and friends’ time if you’re lucky enough to have them helping you. Don’t expect them to run all over town on your whims. If you forget that one, refer back to #4: you are not a princess. Besides, if you were a princess, that would make your mom the queen. Treat her respectfully and show your appreciation for her help.)

9.      Determine your wedding priorities in advance. Discuss them with your groom and come to agreement on everything from the style, theme, budget, approximate guest count, wedding party count, music style, ceremony style in advance. You’ll fine-tune as planning proceeds, but agreeing on these items in advance helps ensure the wedding is in line with your personalities, lives, families, and budgets.

10.  Determine a budget and stick with it. This is your wedding. It is not a reflection of your wealth, your parents’ wealth, or how much your parents love you. Determine a reasonable budget you, your groom, and all who are paying can manage. Please do not put a financial burden on your parents. If they manage to live a comfortable life, don’t ruin that by expecting them to take on $50,000, $25,000, or even $10,000 debt for your wedding. Even if they say you can do whatever you want, choose wisely. Choose venues, flowers, attire, music, etc. as if you were paying for it yourself—after all, if you would not buy it, why should your parents? They will respect you more if you do not allow them to take on debt for your wedding. They also will respect you and your groom if you resist the temptation to go in to debt yourselves for this one day. Your guests are your loved ones. They will judge you for who you are, not for how much you spent on flowers, cakes, favors, or a venue with a view. Determine a budget and stick with it, regardless of what vendors pressure you in to. We did, so I know it can be done. 

(Slightly off-topic…select vendors who respect your budget. We worked with people who respected our goal to have a simple, elegant wedding within a certain budget. Since we chose vendors who respected the budget, we trusted them and saw them as partners in our events. All of us enjoyed the events because we were in on it together.)

I hope brides who read this benefit by having weddings full of love, not angst. May all of your marriages be as successful and full of love as your wedding day.