Mike Kelly: Leadership & Mindset Beat Any Recession

Mike Kelly, Owner of the Kelly Hospitality Group
Mike Kelly, Owner of the Kelly Hospitality Group

When I decided to write on the power of a recession-proof mindset, I started looking for successful examples of entrepreneurs that create their own economies, despite what the media calls a “recession”. Mike Kelly, of the Kelly Hospitality Group, is one of the best examples of such entrepreneurs.

In the small NC community formed by the Outer Banks, approximately 35,000 people reside within  along,  thin stretch of land (almost an island).

The region is highly seasonal, reaching over 500,000 visitors/week during certain times in the summer. Due to the summer migration, most businesses in the area are ONLY open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, closing theirs doors as the tourists head back home.

During the winter months, few businesses stay open, and the majority burn through their summer profits just to keep their lights on.

At Kelly’s Restaurant & Tavern, however, tables are full even during the winter.

Kelly’s is the star of the Kelly Hospitality Group, which includes two other restaurants in the area as well, owned by Mike Kelly.

The night before Valentine’s day, Kelly’s dining room was full before 5pm. The last entree came out of the kitchen a few minutes past 11pm, with guests waiting over an hour for a table.

In the lounge, as diners arrived and waited patiently for a table, Mr. Kelly himself was the host, entertaining guests, serving drinks, and ensuring effective table turnovers.

The same scenario can be applied to the Friday before last, and to the one before that. Kelly’s is always full, and the reason is immensely due to its owner.

Mr. Kelly is always the first one in, and the last one out. He knows every vendor, every repeat guest, and this relationship is extend in all his marketing campaigns.

On his 3 restaurants, several data-gathering opportunities are softly presented to guests, and the communication is differentiated between local Outer Banks residents and tourists, to maximize personalization. This winter, when the area was surprisingly covered by two inches of snow, Mike sent out a postcard to his list of residents with a picture of his building covered in snow, that said: we’re always open, it’s warm inside, and the food is always great.

The consequences of Mike Kelly’s efforts are represented on the cordiality and dedication of the staff, who are greatly motivated by the owner’s leadership. Kelly sets the example to be followed by every employee, and even his wife often joins the staff and help on the busiest occasions.

His persistent relationship-building, through personal & direct marketing, impacts his turnover and determines his success.

One thing to be noticed is that Kelly’s marketing has been consistently effective, no matter what the economy is. Recession in, recession out, his presence is always noticed in the local media, his campaigns always include a bonus for local residents, and it reflects on his sales.

Entrepreneurs such as Mike Kelly create their own economy, focusing on his target market and ignoring national economy, news, and bailouts. Their mindset sets the pace of their success, and their leadership guides his entire enterprise forward.

Now, it is up to you: how do you plan on overcoming this ‘recession’ epidemic? Have you not been affected at all? How?

Why Some People Will Live In A Recession Forever

Today, I had to stand in line to speak to a Charter technician. It felt really 20th century being forced to drive there and actually see a technician, but I’ll save that thought for another post.

While I was in line, a lady came in to do something with her receiver; she had all kinds of cables and this huge receiver under her arm, and she was not happy.

As soon as she walked in the office, she sighed at the 4-people line, and mumbled a “Oh, crap!”. The office had a customer service phone booth, and she decided to place her receiver next to phone; now, the receiver was at least 1 1/2 the width of the booth, so balancing it was quite a feat.

30 seconds after she finished securing the receiver on the booth, the lady probably dislocated the air around it and the receiver started to fall. When she reached for it, she banged her elbow on the edge of the booth. Even though she managed to save the receiver, her elbow was bleeding  badly.

As she cursed, we all learned that the exact spot she hit had been recently stitched after another cut. The coincidence (really?) marked the beginning of a series of “that’s exactly what I needed!”, “what else now?”, “that only happens to me!”, amongst others, not so polite.

Of course, the whole office was involved on her suffering, bringing her napkins, and trying to calm her down.

As I got called in, and sat down with the technician, I couldn’t help but overhear the unfortunate lady at the counter. It turns out, she was returning the receiver, and cancelling her cable services.

At the counter, she found the perfect opportunity to include the so-called recession to her list of problems: “I don’t understand why the government doesnt approve the stimulus check already”, she says. “This economy is impossible right now, my boss just cut my hours”.

I could not stop thinking about how would her complaints ever be of any benefit. I, of course, know nothing about her, and maybe she was just having a bad day.

However, wouldn’t she recognize a pattern between her situation (at that moment, at least), and her mindset?

Would You?

The reason behind this quick story is to illuminate how mindset can rule over economy, no matter whether it’s recessive.

The extension of your thoughts reaches way beyond your pockets; how can one expect to be in a better situation when your entire focus is on your current, crappy situation?

So I invite you to participate in this discussion. Post a comment, and let me know If I’m wrong, or should we all be whining to OBAMA?

A Life Path of Discovery: Embracing the Unknown (Baby Swimming)

My 7-month-old son Leonardo went swimming for the very first time on Christmas!

Not without surprise, it took him a few moments to acknowledge he was surrounded by water, that he had to keep his head out of it, and he did not have any support for his feet: he was actually floating!

The expression on his face as I entered the pool with him on my arms was amazingly revealing: he was in a brand new situation,  and as water started to cover his body, he had to deal with it. I could see in his eyes how much he was learning from the experience; for about a minute, as I moved around, playing with him, he was quiet, almost static.

It was when I held him on my hands, giving him freedom to move his legs, that he accepted whatever all that water was, and started enjoying it. From then on, he got more and more comfortable, laughing, splashing  and kicking the water.

Now, I could easily start the beaten analogy between a baby’s discoveries and an adult facing a new enterprise; how both, in different levels, take their time to accept a new environment, adjust, and act on it. But I won’t. I refuse to start yet another discussion on this subject.

Instead, what I enjoyed the most was his readiness to face a new challenge. Without the pre-accepted notions that we acquire over the years, without even knowing what fear or danger is, my son faced the pool with his eyes wide open.

As a business owner, I find myself struggling to start on anything new. I tend to stick to what I know, to what it’s working, to the technicians I trust, to the pre-judgment I formulate without knowledge, to the media I know more about. And when I do try to start a new enterprise, I tend to hold so much control over it, that I never get to experience it in full.

So I declare my first resolution for 2009: I’ll embrace change and fears, enjoy the ride, and stop listening to my pre-conceived notions.

I’ll be a brand new baby, and re-start my life path, filling it with discovery.

Here’s a quick video my wife shot of us; notice how he reacts when he first hits the water – how he adapts, and seconds later he’s already laughing! That will be me from now on, just adapting and laughing about it.

A Holiday Special – How Raymond Fong Killed My Next Vacation

It is that special time of the year again. Family meals worth months in the gym, all the relatives we thought we missed but we really don’t, and vacation! Oh, sweet time off, away from everything…

Before we get in line at the airport, or in the mall, or anywhere in our upcoming vacation, let’s all be proud of adopting a lifestyle where vacations are UNNECESSARY.

Taking my chances here, bordering arse-kissing, I’d like to tell you about Raymond Fong. Of course we are all familiar with Raymond, his contributions to the Better Networker, his AMF Empire, and probably from SeduceAdwords.com; the reason I’m mentioning him on this article is that – for those who haven’t noticed it yet – Raymond is vacationing in Australia, or so he says.

I highly suspect of his “vacation” because this talented marketer just won’t stop posting interesting discussions to our forums, writing articles in between boxing matches with Kangaroos. The terrifying idea of actually letting “business” actions take place during our vacation sends shivers down our spines, and we refuse to even think what is going on at office? But not Raymond. And why is that?

What Does Vacation Mean To You?

To most of us, a vacation is a luxury, which allows us a break from stressful realities, suits, rush hours, bosses, and so forth. It is carefully planned, anxiously awaited, and often goes by faster than it should. Who in plain sanity would waste precious vacation time to write business articles, review peer work or even communicate with the “real world”?

This definition of vacation is only true when you’re living an undesired reality. Your daily reality is so wrong, in so many ways, or so exhausting, in many other ways, that you just have to get away.

What if your reality was one of joys, accomplishments, fulfillment, and fun? What if your daily activities reflected your daily mood, your personal goals, within whatever hours you decided?

How would a vacation fit into that reality? Why would you even want a break?

Introducing: Vacationing to Your Second (or Third, or Fourth) Office

All right, if your reality is that good, you do not need a break; your vacation is nothing more than an office expansion, or a mindset expansion, to be more accurate. You truly enjoy your profession; you carry it anywhere and let everything be touched by it.

Getting back to Raymond, I bet when he meets crocodile Dundee down there, he’ll adapt his experience into a new training email, which will turn into another great article in the Better Networker, and generate a couple hundreds of fans (or customers, I don’t know the difference anymore).

Raymond doesn’t mind writing articles, and contributing to our community during his vacation because it is an extremely rewarding activity for him; he thrives on sharing knowledge, experience, and opportunity with fellow marketers. His writing, as profitable as it is, as important as it is, can be qualified as hobby, because it is easy to notice an underlying passion inexistent in a regular J-O-B. And who takes vacations from hobbies?

My message for these holiday season is to turn your everyday activities into a hobby. Let your routine be fulfilled by a greater purpose, beyond making money, and develop a strong passion to be the background of your success. Let Fun be part of your day, and soon it will dominate your every move; you’ll even “work” from behind a Fosters pint in Australia.

So, happy holidays, everybody. Have a wonderful vacation, and remember to take your hobby with you.