Dear Friends,

There was a dusting of snow on the ground as I came into work this morning. I take the back road called the Waitsfield Common road to work this time of year. It is a little longer and slower but I do get to drive by a couple of the last working farms in our area and often see some interesting wildlife, too. I enjoy my commute even though it is a short 15 minutes. I seldom see another vehicle, but often see deer, moose, fox, turkeys and plenty of cows and horses.

We have been working hard on the holiday promotions and I can assure you we have some of the best deals ever coming up for our customer appreciation pre-holiday sale and, of course, for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

I ask each of my employees to do three things as a job requirement here at Small Dog Electronics. Each employee must achieve Apple Product Professional status in Apple’s training program. This includes our interns and every employee. Those employees who achieve the highest level of training—Apple Sale Professional—are further recognized by a custom garment and special dinner each year.

The second job requirement is to take one paid day off to perform community service. I do not put a lot of restrictions on this community service—it can be anything from stacking an elderly neighbor’s wood pile to helping out in the schools or other volunteer effort. I was very proud of this community service idea (which I stole, lock, stock and barrel, from our local phone company, Waitsfield Telecom) until I was with Walt Freese the CEO (Chief Euphoria Officer) of Ben & Jerry’s. I told Walt about our community service program and he listened politely, then explained that he does the same thing but gives each employee 40 hours! I hope that some day we can do that at Small Dog!

The third job requirement is that each employee must write a weekly report to their direct manager, Hapy and me. This report covers accomplishments of the week, challenges met, goals for the next week, resources needed and general commentary. Each sales person is also asked to describe his or her “best” sale of the week. We have also asked lately for each employee to suggest something that the company could do to improve. We maintain these suggestions on our internal Wiki and will implement the best of these. It has taken many years, but I have nearly 100% of the company now submitting weekly reports. As Small Dog grows, these are an extremely valuable management tool!

I try to set the example by doing a daily report to all the employees. I give updates on the company, commentary and always a picture. My trip to Asia has given me a lot to work with this week but I seldom find myself at a loss for a topic. I do use my daily reports to announce policy changes and I suspected that some employees were not reading the reports so I instituted a game. I put one word in BOLD in each report. The words were a riddle that if you unscrambled the words and solved the riddle, the employee would be entered into a drawing for an iPod shuffle.

One employee who is a riddle freak guessed the riddle with just one word! Others started Googling and soon I had about a dozen correct entries. I think I need some more obscure riddles if I am going to continue this practice… Got one? Send it to me at don@smalldog.com and I’ll post some of the good ones in future Kibbles & Bytes issues.

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