When it Comes to Building Relationships, Giving Thanks is Everything

thanksgiving-day_10065385-031914In this week, when our entire country pauses to give thanks for what we have (at least, I hope that’s what we’re doing, and not just stuffing our faces and running out the door to save on the latest toys), now is the perfect time to share the importance of expressing thanks to others. Look around your world today and see who might be due for a “Thank You”…or two. Whether in the workplace, among family or with total strangers, don’t underestimate the powerful influence of a little appreciation. Or more accurately…a lot!

Appreciation is Good for your Bottom Line!

As a certified Happiness expert who has worked with companies and organizations of all sizes on how to lower costs and maximize profit by making happiness a priority in the workplace, I cannot stress strongly enough how important gratitude is. It is especially important if you are asking an employee to do more than was originally agreed, or pulling someone off one task and putting them on another, even though they were doing a good job on the first one (because we all face the “Tyranny of the Urgent” now and then). Want to save money on turnover, absenteeism and even theft? Lead with appreciation.

“Thanks for the work you’re doing on this. I’m very grateful that you’ve been able to handle it so well. Now, the scope has changed and there’s actually going to be more to do, and I’m happy to know I can count on you for that.”

According to all of the major studies on Happiness in the Workplace (Gallup, Harvard Business School, U.C., Riverside), the number one factor in an employee’s engagement and workplace satisfaction is a sense of accomplishment, the feeling of doing a job well, of making progress on work that matters. As a leader, you increase that exponentially by simply acknowledging and appreciating what they’ve done.

Put Appreciation on Steroids

You don’t have to limit “Thanks!” to just words you remember to say now and then. If you make a full commitment to expressing gratitude to those who work for you or help you out in other ways, you can have a lot of fun with it. Amp up the results! All it costs is your creativity and a little time.

I’m running a Kickstarter campaign right now to launch my tech company’s first product, the Happy Couples Bot. We got a bit of a blow due of the timing of our campaign, but the one thing we’ve stayed committed to from the start is expressing our thanks for anyone and everyone who backed us — often and publicly!

Our first ten backers were all sent this video (either by email or on their Facebook pages):

It didn’t matter that we were making fools of ourselves — in fact, that was part of the message. We are so committed to showing our thanks that we’ll go this far outside our comfort zones.

The next wave of backers got even more appreciation, as we went all-out with one of two videos, depending on which we thought the recipient would enjoy more:

The sincerely foolish:

Or the foolishly sincere:

Our primary goal was to make sure the people who supported us got something fun and heartfelt in return, instantly. The secondary goal was to give them something they could not only laugh at, but share with friends, which several of them did. Again, appreciation is just good business.

So, this week, as you gather around a table overflowing with food and family and love (and hopefully not too much political discord), start thinking of ways to express how thankful you are to everyone who makes your life a little easier, a little better and a little (or a lot) richer.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

(and if you want to get our next video sent straight to you, go ahead and back the Happy Couples Bot Kickstarter campaign!)


How to Recover From a Broken Campaign

happy-couples-bot-cover-imageThis post is not about the U.S. election, although in many ways it is. It’s about what happens in business when you do everything the way you’re supposed to and forces outside your control knock you completely off your game. It’s about rapid pivots and steep learning curves.

The Inception

I’ve been working on the Happy Couples Bot since May of this year. The idea came to me while helping a friend open up the lines of communication with his significant other. I realized that people in committed couples want to do things that make the other person happy, they just often don’t remember to, or even know what that would be.

Having run a successful happiness brand for the past 3 years, with research heavily focused on brain science, I set about designing a tech product that would solve this problem. I also knew apps were a dying sector, as people don’t want to download anything on their phones anymore, and bots are starting to explode. This gave birth to the Happy Couples Bot. Everyone I described it to got excited. Everyone wanted to be part of the company in some way. More importantly, they all wanted to use the product. Right away. Yesterday.

That’s when I looked in my network for an exceptional developer who might want to come on board as a CTO and Co-founder. Enter Tracy Greene. We hit the ground running and started building both the company and the bot. It was awesome and we were speeding along.

We started exploring funding strategies that included angel investors, VC, equity crowdfunding and rewards-based crowdfunding and decided for strategic reasons to go with the latter while rolling out the beta (which will be early next week), then go to other sources. We knew we could raise enough through Kickstarter to cover our costs and generate excitement.

The Campaign

While neither of us had personally run a Kickstarter campaign before, we both had helped several friends through theirs. Add to that the researcher in me spending days absorbing everything anyone’s written about it, and we had a great plan. We lined up our influencers, contacted friends and family, made numerous videos to release throughout the campaign, worked backwards from the date at which we needed the cash infusion, and put it out there.

We knew November was a risky time for crowdfunding, but we figured we could get ahead of the holiday shopping curve. We also chose to have our biggest push after all of the political campaigns stopped asking for money every day. So we rolled out quietly on November 4th, hitting the 25% mark in the first 24 hours, as planned, and prepared for the following week to be huge.

The Gut Punch

We didn’t anticipate what news the following week would bring. November 9th was the day I was going to send the link to the Kickstarter campaign to my entire mailing list. Instead, I had to write a post about maintaining happiness in the face of unexpected outcomes. The first video that was going to go wide, with all sorts of pre-arranged community support, included me saying, “Now that we have our first female President.” I’m a female CEO of a tech company, a former lawyer, former investment banker, former Hollywood screenwriter. Tracy is a female programmer and active in the LGBT community. You can imagine who makes up most of our networks. Regardless of who you supported in this election, everyone can at least acknowledge that people were reeling. Our tribes were reeling.

It didn’t even take until noon on Wednesday before the first influencer who had agreed to blog and tweet about us sent me a note saying, “You know I can’t do this now, right?” I did know. I understood. Hell, I was trying to figure out how I could still do this without seeming completely tone-deaf to my entire community, and it’s my company.

The Pivot

I knew a man — a friend of a friend — who saved for years to quit his job and start a tourist-based company in New York. He opened his doors on August 1, 2001, and somehow, through sheer force of will, stayed afloat. Believe me, I know there is no comparison. I’m not even trying to say there is. We aren’t in that place, or anywhere close to it, but I take his accomplishment as a huge inspiration. Guess what? Sometimes, things don’t go your way. Sometimes people have much larger, deeper concerns than the product you’re offering. Sometimes the road you chose, which seemed tough enough when you picked it, was the easy way and now, there is work to do. Next!

So Tracy and I regrouped and mapped out a plan. As Sheryl Sandberg says, when Option A isn’t available, you have to kick the shit out of Option B. We told our backers (who were mostly friends and family, still) that we would need extra help from them and one issued us a challenge — she said she’ll double her contribution if we can hit 1,000 pledges before the end of the campaign. Given where we were that day, and where we still are, it was a low-risk offer, but we took it!

We shot a quick extra video which we put out today, and will be making 5 more over the holiday weekend, three thanking our current contributors (like the ones we already sent where we badly sing, badly dance and badly lawyer), and the other two letting people know what it means to join our campaign. How much of a difference it might make to the world to have a tech company with only female founders succeed.

Of course, that’s not why we’re doing it. That’s not why I started the company, nor why Tracy joined. We did that to build amazing products that will amplify happiness in the world. But at a time when so much seems broken, it makes us happy to know that we are contributing to all that is good, and setting an example for what is possible. I’m still hoping those who were supporting us when we were all in our happy place will come back on board, but if they don’t, we’ll be okay. We have others who’ve seen the product and are asking to help, so hopefully in the two weeks left of the campaign, we’ll have their enthusiasm to add to our own.

For the past week, campaigns all across the country have broken in unexpected ways and unexpected places, but like a bone healing after a fracture, they will come back much, much stronger. We’re already on our way…

Here was our first pivot:

Click here to join the Happy Couples Bot campaign.

The Simple Happiness of a Smart Kid

While waiting for my latest HuffPo article to make it through editorial approval and get posted on the site, I thought I’d share my favorite story from last week.

My dear friend, Abid, who is a huge supporter of the book and must have talked about it in front of his family, was out to dinner with his son when he sent me this text:

Simon and I are eating massive quantities of tandoori at the best Indian buffet in NOLA. After a quiet moment of gluttony, he says… “Happiness as a Second Language: the key to happiness is CHICKEN!

Gotta love a kid who knows how to be happy (and, more importantly, in his happiest moment thinks of my book!)

I think I’ll go out and get some chicken.
Thanks, Simon! (and Abid)

Stay happy.