Business Relationships Begin With First Class Service

As I found Seat 18A aboard a Continental Express flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to the Midland/Odessa airport, I settled into my routine.  Sony noise-cancelling headphones? Check.  Kindle stowed in seat pocket for takeoff? Check. Carry-on bag neatly stowed in overhead bin? Check.

Admittedly, I don’t pay much attention to the goings-on of other boarding travelers on most days.  That day, however, I noticed something different.  The flight attendant was amazingly polite.  Her banter pleasant and sincere.  Each passenger was greeted with a “thank you for flying with us today” and gentle suggestions for comfort as the attendant performed her pre-flight check of the cabin.  Normally, I wouldn’t notice.  Today, however, there was something VERY familiar about the attendant.  Probably just coincidence.  Then, something caught my eye…and I grinned.

I settled back in my seat, and before I knew it, the aircraft had leveled out at our cruising altitude, and the attendant began our in-flight beverage service.  Normally, I don’t get excited about an over-iced, 5 ounce plastic cup of soda and a Hobbit sized handful of peanuts.  Today, I couldn’t wait.

The One & Only Judy McClure
Cooksey with Judy McClure January 2011

The flight attendant approached my row, made eye contact, and, as I expected, asked, “Mr. Cooksey, what could I get to you drink this afternoon?”

“Judy”, I smiled as I answered her, “you won’t remember me, but a few…”

She put her hand up to stop me mid-sentence to say, “You’re the gentleman who wrote the blog!”

“So you got it?”, I asked, unsure if my message by way of the @Continental account on Twitter had been received.

“My supervisor brought a copy of it to me.  Before that, I didn’t even know what a blog was.”

We laughed, chatted a few minutes, and she continued service to the remaining passengers.

Upon our arrival at the Midland/Odessa, TX airport, I slowly gathered my belongings so I could exit last.  I wanted to make sure to thank her again for continuing to make a difference in each passenger’s experience, whether THEY noticed it or not.

After thanking Judy for the opportunity to share her story from that flight nearly three years earlier to my audiences, she said to me, “You speak and train on customer service, right?”

“Among other topics. Why do you ask?”

Then she dropped the bombshell, “What could I be doing differently to be even better?”

Stumped, I replied, “Judy…just keep doing it.  YOU are the example I’ve been using for the past three years of someone who takes initiative, is sincere, and puts others before herself for the sake of great service.” Then I asked her, “If I may, where did YOU learn about the importance of great service.”

“Probably from my parents”, she humbly replied. “They owned a dime store while I was growing up.  My father always said the key to his success was treating people with enthusiasm and respect.”

Judy, I’m not sure what the future holds for you, but I know you will continue to share your smile, sincere voice, and quiet confidence about you wherever the road (or the skies) may take you.

In a world with thousands of domestic flights each day, thousands of flight crews, and countless travel schedules, it isn’t often that I see the same flight attendant more than once.  When I do, rarely have they left the impression Judy has on me. Every time I board a Continental Express flight, I look for Judy.  If you see her, please be sure to tell her I said hello!

And, yes….she DID give me the entire can of Diet Coke during beverage service.  I didn’t even have to ask!

A funny thing happened on the way to Dumas, TX…

After a bit of a hiatus, I traveled this week to Dumas High School in Dumas, TX to deliver a couple of presentations to the Junior and Senior classes.  I’ve been a presenter for Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs for about three years, a relationship I’ve had much fun with!  We had a great time, and the students there were fantastic!  ( CLICK HERE to link to the video montage of the presentation created by the folks at the local online paper, High Plains Observer-Dumas.)

Watching the video, I found myself smiling, laughing, and re-enjoying the time I spent there…at work!

Sure, when I headed to the airport the day before, it was just like one of those days when you aren’t looking forward to the commute.  Once in the air, though, I opened up the blank, leather-bound journal my wife gave me not two weeks ago on our wedding day.  With the gift, she’d included a note of instruction that I was to use that journal to capture the plans and dreams in my head, and begin putting them into action. So I started writing…

As the sun set over the horizon (it’s a beautiful sight to watch through the window of a plane at 31,000 ft), I was settled in with my iPod, pen in hand, and before I knew it, I’d written about 6 pages of ideas which have become the early draft of my business plan for the coming year.

The next time find yourself dreading your commute, turn up an old album you haven’t heard in a while, settle in for the ride, and open up your mind to ask, “How can I make today count?”.

Oklahoma State, Samoa & a Los Angeles Taco Truck

It’s been said that some of the best friends we have in life are those with whom we experienced college.

It’s amazing to me how many divergent roads so many of my friends have taken since our days at Oklahoma State University.  For the most part, we’ve done pretty well.  We are the camp counselors, teachers, fire protection professionals, community leaders, bankers, attorneys, builders, architects, dentists ….basically, the “grown ups” we were studying to become during our collegiate years.  Of course, some of my friends have taken other paths.

One is currently circumnavigating the globe with a backpack of his possessions to share his faith…a far cry from the banking job where we first met just after college.

Another group of friends all wound up working for a technology company that went public during the dot-com craze, most of whom have continued on with other software firms in search of the next big thing…while another simply said “I’m going to take some time off”.

Last month in Los Angeles, somewhere off  Wilshire Boulevard near Koreatown, I found myself sharing some laughs, swapping stories and enjoying some amazing mexican pork goodness by the light of Tacos Juanita’s…a trailer quietly parked on the side of the road.  I was sitting with one of the most colorful characters of my residence hall floor, Dave…or to the fans of last fall’s “Survivor: Samoa“, Danger Dave!

I can’t remember a day of college where something hilarious didn’t fly out of Dave’s mouth, usually as he blasted past you on his red mountain bike (often while defiantly riding straight through the dormitory lobby and onto the elevator).  Here’s a guy who truly has decided to live his life (quite happily) doing what HE wants to do. Dave…I applaud you!

The next time you’re out of town on a business trip, or otherwise find yourself somewhere you usually aren’t…pick up the phone (you know…that texting maching attached to your hand can also place phone calls), send an email, reach out to an old friend.  Most likely, they will be glad to hear from you.  Best of all, there is no telling what they have been up to.

Not Quite Bear Grylls or Steve Irwin…More Like Kevin Costner…sort of.

Today I:
(a) Woke up in a hotel room and realized I’d forgotten dress shoes and belt
(b) Went to WalMart before 7AM in slacks and running shoes while holding up my dress pants
(c) Spoke to students from 4 different High Schools (they all came over to Frederick High School to hear me)
(d) Hiked within 100 yards of an American Bison…in the same field….with NO FENCE between us
(e) Stood atop a dam built in 1933
(f) All of the above.

For those of us who stay on the go (like Peter Shankman), you have to take your recreation time when you can (Shankman skydives, I hike and run). Today, I had a few extra hours to burn in the afternoon, so I went exploring at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.

This place is REALLY COOL! There’s a few nights sleeping in my tent to happen here real soon.

Enjoy the footage!

The next time you hit the road for work….steal some time and visit a museum, take a hike, or…reenact the “tatonka” scene from Dances with Wolves!


Ice Storms and Windshields – True Story!

Over the years, I’ve shared a few of my travel stories…this one is, perhaps, the scariest to date. In short, here’s a copy of the post I made to Twitter shortly after it happened: 70 mph + falling ice = shattered windshield. That was scary!

On my way back to Tulsa following a speech this morning in Van Buren, Arkansas, I was chatting with a friend (on my bluetooth headset) about a current project, when I heard a sudden POP and looked over to see the first image. After a startled shout, somehow I managed to maintain enough composure to end the call, pull over to the side of the road and figure out what had just happened.

As I looked back down the road toward where this had occurred, I noticed there was a huge power line stretched over the turnpike. The line, like the trees all around, were covered in a tremendous amount of ice left from the storm system that’s been working it’s way east over the past few days. Ice that was beginning to fall from a height of about 100′ to the ground. I never saw it coming.

When you look at the second picture, you can see the tremendous dent left in the support post on the passenger side of my SUV from the impact of the falling ice that actually hit the vehicle…Did I mention I was truly traveling at 70 mph when this occurred?

Fortunately, the impact was on the passenger side of the windshield and only blew glass into the seat NEXT to me, rather than in my face. And, despite not being able to use the wipers for fear of knocking an open hole in the glass that might rapidly cause the window to completely disintegrate, I made it back to Tulsa in about an hour.

Some things I learned today:

  1. Yes. Freak things CAN happen to ANYONE when driving. Stay alert, and be calm if disaster strikes.
  2. It is CRITICALLY important to keep your mechanic’s phone number in your cell phone. I called mine right after my insurance agent (who couldn’t help) and he referred me to a glass local, family-owned auto glass shop. I scheduled an appointment within 15 minutes after impact and about 3 hours after arriving back in town, the windshield had been replaced…at a VERY reasonable rate!
  3. Wiper fluid that includes Rain-X creates a helpful water shedding effect when driving on a wet highway if you are unable to use your wipers.
  4. Windshields are surprisingly cheap.
  5. Act quick when you need to get something done. By the time I arrived at the shop (about an hour after the incident) they were already pushing off work until next Monday (4 calendar days later). If I hadn’t called, I wouldn’t already have the glass replaced. [Hmmm. Anyone know a good body shop?]

God has a plan for me, and I must still have something important to do here on this great earth, so I’m going to continue making every day count! I’d encourage you to do the same.


Chicago in Winter Just Like Caribbean!


To you, Chicago, IL in winter may not be your idea of warmth. For me, however, this week brings me to the point that winter in Chicago makes me want to slap on some sunscreen and dip my toes into the surf. Let me explain..

Sunday night, severe icy weather in my hometown of Tulsa, OK put me smack dab in the middle of the worst power outage in Oklahoma’s 100 year history! At it’s peak, nearly 600,000 customers (read: households, businesses, cities, etc…) were without power. At this writing, the numbers in the Tulsa area remain around 150-175,000 without electricity…and that’s just from ONE electrical provider!

Should you find yourself reading this in the next few days after it is published, try this link to find out the latest: TULSA POWER OUTAGE.

My house (no, that’s not my house or car in the picture) is somewhere near the intersection of the four “quadrants” of the city…which likely means it’s effectively in “no man’s land” until each quadrant is sufficiently restored to “normal”. That means it may STILL be 3-6 more days before I have electricity restored!

On the bright side, my car is safe (currently at the local, off-airport secured, covered parking garage), my house is looked after, my next round of utility bills will be cheap, and I can finally toss that lasagna that had become a permanent fixture in my freezer when I moved into my bachelor pad after my divorce was final two years ago.

So you see, warmth is where you find it! Thanks, Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs for sending me on the road this week to a hotel with internet, electricity, and a bed I can sleep in – sans sleeping bag.

Early tomorrow morning, I return home….likely to finish cleaning out my fridge.

Cheers!