Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Don't think customer, think subscriber"/ "My boss’s juvenile humour makes our clients cringe"

Aug. 6 "Don't think customer, think subscriber": I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Apr. 20, 2015.  This is a smart article.  Here's the whole article:

Businesses depend on loyal, repeat customers. But Toronto-based consultant John Warrillow believes companies can go one better: persuading customers to sign up for a subscription that ensures they receive the product or service regularly, ideally after paying up front for the pleasure.

Subscriptions, of course, are common in magazines and newspapers. The hallowed Book-of-the-Month Club took advantage of the model to send subscribers a featured selection every month, unless declined in advance. Your cable or Internet hookup is subscription-based, as is Netflix. But Mr. Warrillow believes all businesses can – and should – consider subscription models, to enhance their value.

Mr. Warrillow, founder of The Value Builder system, software that can help business owners heighten the valuation of their operations, notes that one of the difficulties in selling a business is that the owner is usually the chief rainmaker, bringing in the bulk of revenue, so if a subscription model is in place, potential purchasers will feel more comfortable about the acquisition’s long-term prospects. And even if you don’t intend to sell, he argues that subscribers are better than customers, smoothing out demand, increasing the lifetime expenditures of a customer, and helping your firm to get paid automatically – and perhaps even up front.

In his book The Automatic Customer, he identifies nine subscription models to consider:

1. Membership website

People pay for access to a website offering unique expertise, such as the Wood Whisperer Guild, where for $129 (U.S.) a year, you can tap into the woodworking knowledge of Marc Spagnuolo. Mr. Warrillow notes that, a decade ago, the argument was that information should be free, but now we realize it’s worthwhile to pay for high-quality, niche content. The website can also be used to sell bigger-ticket items.

2. All-you-can-eat library

Netflix has a huge library of entertainment content that people sign up to explore. Spotify has a similar approach, for music. offers access to a library of content that can help you trace your family tree. You can’t consume all the available information but the breadth and unlimited access is the appeal. With the membership website model, subscribers eagerly await the latest bit of information but here most of it is already in the warehouse. With the membership website model, subscribers eagerly await the latest bit of information but here most of it is already in the warehouse.

3. The private club

Golf clubs are a prime example of this subscription arrangement in which access is provided to something rare. Another example is the Genius Network, where in exchange for $25,000, entrepreneurs, authors and investors meet three times a year to share ideas. The privacy can be appealing, and if the fee is high, that makes some people more eager to join the exclusive ranks.

4. The front-of-the-line model

This offers priority access to a segment of your customers who are willing to pay. A premium-priced credit card can allow you to jump to the front of the line at an airport, for example. So-called Lexus lanes allow access to traffic lanes with fewer vehicles.’s Mission Critical Support package gives you quicker attention from its technical staff. “We’re often trading money for time these days,” Mr. Warrillow said in the interview.

5. Consumables

The Dollar Shave Club sends you razor blades at regular intervals, saving the hassle of remembering to buy them at the pharmacy. Blacksocks has 30,000 subscribers who receive regular shipments of black socks for about $100 a year. Amazon is looking to provide similar, regular shipments of consumables to interested consumers.

6. The surprise box

Here subscribers get a curated package every month with samples from an area of interest, such as Standard Cocoa’s shipments of delights from craft chocolate makers around the world; BarkBox’s treats, toys and accessories for your dog; and’s lovemaking paraphernalia.

7. The simplifier

As the world grows more complicated, we’re willing to pay for someone who can strike some of the items off our to-do lists. For years, people have been paying to have someone mow the lawn every week. Now the Mosquito Squad will spray your backyard regularly. Hassle Free Home Services manages the routine tasks facing a homeowner.

8. The network

This offers a product or service that grows if more people use it, so the actual consumers help to popularize the activity. The telephone was an early example – the more users, the greater its value to an individual. World of Warcraft and other online games similarly benefit from more subscribers.

9. Peace of mind

Tagg is a pet-tracking service that puts a special collar on your dog and sends you an alert when the dog leaves the area you have predefined. You hope you’ll never get the alert, but are willing to pay for the insurance of knowing it’s there. ADT similarly offers peace-of-mind with its security service.

The appeal of such services to consumers is clear. For businesses, the value is having something your customers have signed up to regularly receive – and pay for. The approaches may seem unusual in your industry but that can be a big advantage.

“Instead of saying that’s not the standard in my industry, ask what you can borrow from what these businesses are doing and apply to your own operation,” Mr. Warrillow concludes.

"My boss’s juvenile humour makes our clients cringe": I also cut this out in the Globe and Mail on Apr. 20, 2015.  This is a smart article.  Here's the whole article:


I have a great boss. He’s hard-working, he’s fair, he knows our business inside and out, and he encourages us to stretch and do our best. He worked his way up from the bottom and has succeeded without stepping all over others. I admire that. But his social skills leave something to be desired. When he gets nervous, he will try to break the ice by joking about inappropriate things. Nothing he says is racist or sexist, it’s more dumb and juvenile, the kind of stuff that kids in Grade 8 might find funny. While our clients have been too polite to say anything, I can just tell they think he’s an unsophisticated dweeb. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but seeing him make a fool of himself is painful to watch. What should I do?


Bill Howatt
Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.

This is a good news story. Your boss has demonstrated that he has integrity and has proven himself to be a credible leader. But it’s your view that he has a blind spot with respect to how his behaviour is influencing customers’ perceptions of him. Most likely your boss knows you respect him and appreciate his leadership approach. The good news is you now have an opportunity to help him discover his blind spots and move beyond them so customers can come to respect him as you do.

Employees’ opinions can help shape a leader’s behaviour. The first step is to calibrate his perceptions and then start a conversation about customer confidence. Share a personal story of when you wondered what the customer really thought, and then directly ask, “Have you ever been concerned about how a customer perceives you?” Regardless of what he says, respond with, “Interesting. Could I share one observation?” He will most likely agree, if he has time to listen. And then you can continue with, “I am so happy to have you as a leader, but I have noticed a few times when you are talking that some of your comments come off as if you are tense or nervous.

If that’s the case, I have an idea. Would you be interested?” Encourage him then to consider doing a 360-degree feedback process.

The Globe and Mail has an online tool called 360 In Vivo that could be printed off to help get the conversation going. The first step is for your boss to become aware of his blind spots and accept them. Only he can decide to change his behaviour, once he decides what he is willing to do and learn.


Billy Anderson
Founder of the Courage Crusade, Toronto

First, be grateful you have a boss you admire. Some people never find that.

Second, be careful about your assumptions. You are assuming the client thinks he’s an “unsophisticated dweeb” but maybe they don’t really care. I personally would rather have a supplier who is effective and socially awkward, versus one who is an ineffective Casanova. Being socially awkward doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not taken seriously and it doesn’t mean he’s not trusted and respected.

While I do believe you’re concerned about his image, you are probably also concerned about your image (it’s only natural). Do you worry that his awkwardness makes you look bad? Do you feel it jeopardizes your job?

Discussing this kind of thing with someone is always scary, especially with a boss, but as long as you’re looking out for his best interests, it shouldn’t hurt his feelings. Here are a few tips: a) state your case as your opinion, rather than fact; b) share a few examples of his awkwardness so he can better understand your point of view; c) offer a potential solution for him to consider trying.

And if you’re still nervous about the discussion, once you’ve prepared for it, don’t be surprised. As human beings we want to be liked and we want to look good at all times, so the possibility of hurting or offending someone is always nerve-racking. We worry that we’ll look insensitive or we’ll look like we’re a know-it-all.
But that’s what courage is – being afraid and doing it anyway.

My opinion: I like this advice column question because it's about not hurting people's feelings and being sensitive. 


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