Hold Your Thoughts

As a “seasoned” professional in the hospitality business, I am often asked to give advice to newbies entering the industry. What is the key to longevity in a business known for high turnover and long hours?  For sales and business development professionals, what are the secrets to success? I always gave and still give the same answer;

Be Patient and Listen. 

Recently, I have added a third; Hold Your Thoughts.

Be Patient

This means be patient with your own career path. Take the time to learn. Ask questions and do not be afraid to show your vulnerability. Find a mentor and connect for life. Do not expect immediate gratification and career advancement based on what everyone else is doing. Every individual is different and you will grow at your own pace.

Listen

This means do not just hear, but listen. To your clients, your peers and your mentor. Your clients want to talk. Listen to their voice, tone and level of urgency. Do not interrupt them when they are speaking. Let your peers share their opinions and consider alternative ideas. Let your mentor provide constructive feedback to push you further.

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Hold Your Thoughts

Recently, I have noticed that salespeople really like to talk and talk and talk. And talk more. Trust me, I am one. When I am coaching salespeople, I often cannot get a word in. Do not own the conversation just to show you are the expert. It is exhausting. The definition of conversation is a ‘talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged’.  Engage with others and do not make it all about you.

Eat. Drink.

Inspire.

I met a colleague for dinner this past week at a new restaurant in the West Loop. For a restaurant that opened within the last two months, the quality of the food was excellent and the plates were creative.

The service was another story. I arrived a couple of minutes late so my friend was already at the bar drinking a Campari and soda with an orange peel garnish. We immediately were seated and took off our coats to settle in. The waiter arrived and asked what I would like to drink. I said, I will have the same. The waiter said, what is that garnish? My friend said, “an orange peel”. The waiter said, “no it’s not. It’s lemon. I will be right back.“ This was an awkward interaction as our first connection between guest and server. It was an orange peel.

After my drink arrived, the menus were delivered. Our waiter started talking before we even had a chance to look. He didn’t even take a breath for me to say, “Can you give us a minute?”. Rather than asking us what we were interested in, he told us what he liked on the menu. I honestly didn’t care what he liked. I simply wanted to read the menu.

We were constantly interrupted as well. There was never an acknowledgement of our table conversation. It was more about keeping to his schedule and activities. We would be mid-sentence, then have to stop our conversation to accommodate his questions.

The service of one waiter affected the overall dining experience. The food was great, the dining room was warm and cozy. I do want to go back for those reasons. I just want to make sure the next time I go there my next waiter holds his thoughts and just listens.

Construction Crane Crazy

Sales consultants, it is Springtime. Daffodils are blooming. The sunset is an hour later. We are in a better mindset after the chill of winter. What does weather have to do with sales? This is the opportune time to step away from your desk. Get out of the office. Be proactive in looking for new business. Why? Because it is good for your soul and you will feel fabulous and productive after you do it. What is it? I call it “Old School Selling”.

I define Old School Selling as looking for business opportunities in a more traditional way. Reading newspapers and business publications to see what’s developing in your area. Finding out which new businesses are moving to your community. Taking urban walks or getting a sales buddy in your car for a drive (they need to take the notes while you drive!). Start looking at office buildings in a new light. Identify new naming rights and where construction cranes are parked.

Construction Cranes = Open House Receptions.

Remember we are sales consultants, not account management consultants. This is the time to get out there and find new business. When you step away from your routine, you will find yourself invigorated and excited about getting the win. When you feel good, it shows. Potential clients want to work with a happy person. Sales consultants, it’s time to put a little spring back in your step.


Eat. Drink. Inspire.

It is a great day in Chicago. It’s the beginning of May. The Cubs and White Sox are playing. I am out for a walk in my Fulton Market neighborhood.

I should have worn a hard hat today. There is so much construction going on. I counted eight cranes in the three mile circuit. That means endless amounts of new businesses coming in. I also walked by a brand new hotel, three new restaurants, two new coffee shops and a new ice cream shop open for business.

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I also had to fight the crowds for space on the sidewalks. Everyone is outside today. We have all been cooped up too long. Some guys are already wearing shorts. Everyone looks really, really happy.

This is what most of us wait for, that perfect day to get out of the office and get a breath of fresh air. My last stop on my stroll was to pick up copy of the Chicago Tribune. I can’t wait to crack open the Business section and see if any other companies can use my consulting services. I’ll contact all of them after I introduce Fulton Market Consulting to all the new hospitality companies in my own backyard. Spring is really here.

No Hay Problema

Eat. Drink.

In my 25 years of selling, I always had to be creative with client proposals to keep me at the top of my game. I never assumed I had the sale, even with my repeat, loyal, dedicated customers. I kept my edge by consistent follow up, being aware of what my competitors were doing and always, always, being ready to answer any question to help the client make a decision. 

Proposals were always sent in the budget provided, but more often than not, budget was never the issue in the client making that decision. It always came down to defining myself as the best solution-driven catering salesperson for their event. I let them know I could fix any challenge or problem on-site based on my experience. I made the clients feel that they had to do their event with me. That I was part of their team. 

Catering is a scary purchase for clients, especially first time buyers. Imagine being a bride and groom. The investment in a wedding is equal to purchasing a car. They feel anxious, nervous and excited, yet do not want to show their vulnerability when it comes spending the money. When a salesperson can ease that anxiety by showing they are there to solve any challenge, it develops a level of trust and partnership. Explaining the potential problems and “pitfalls” will ease their minds. Being proactive in these conversations let’s them know you have dealt with their fears before and you have a solution. At the end of the day, clients hire you out of “fear” of not hiring you!

Be this solution-driven salesperson and figure out how to get your message across to your potential clients. Have your toolbox prepared to show them your stuff. Always be ready to answer their questions and be creative with your solutions. You will win the business more often than not with this approach.

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Inspire.

I was out for my daily walk and decided to end it with a freshly squeezed orange juice. On street corners in Mexican cities, it is very common to see vendors working at metal carts and stands offering freshly made to order foods and beverages. A specialty cart near my condo was lined with oranges, grapefruits, herbs and vegetables with a woman making fabulous juices and smoothies.

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I wanted to bring home a simple “jugo de naranja” … orange juice. She cut the oranges, squeezed them freshly in front of me then poured the juice to the rim in a plastic cup. As I was about four blocks from my place, I asked her for a lid. “Lo siento”. No lids. Bummer, I didn’t want to spill on my clothes. I guess I’d just have to stand there and drink it, but I really wanted it with my toast and coffee in my condo.

No hay problema. She asked if I wanted a “bolsa”. “Si”. I was curious what she was going to do. She poured the juice into a thin plastic bag. Put a hot pink straw in and twisted it in a knot. ¡Hurra! The sale was made and I was happy. I walked home and did not spill a drop. She made a creative solution and had me as a return customer every day for the rest of the month.

Catching the Big Fish

Eat. Drink.

When salespeople are prospecting for new clients, they need to cast a wide net in order to get a few bites.

They also need to be ready and waiting for their prospects to respond to them based on the prospect’s schedule, not based on the salesperson’s desired timeframe. Salespeople need to be organized, respectful and methodical with their follow up. In these times of immediate reward and recognition, it is difficult for salespeople to be patient and understand they need to put in extensive time and effort in order to eventually be rewarded. They have to work every angle and be creative with every opportunity that comes their way because you never know what may come of it.

The biggest client I ever landed took four years to catch. It started with developing a relationship with the receptionist. A year later, she got my foot in the door to present my menus to the large administrative team. This landed two years of lunch orders that eventually got me one of the partner’s attention. This partner eventually asked for a proposal for a holiday party. That holiday party became a $300,000 annual event for at least 10 years of my catering career (in addition to all that lunch business).

I never gave up and I never thought any business was too small. I was ready, willing and responsive for whatever they asked of me. I never assumed their business was always mine and I was always prepared.  This became the biggest client of my career.

Inspire.

I was working in Puerto Vallarta last December. I took weekends off at my favorite beach club, La Carreta (read my other blog, Welcome Home). It was a typical Saturday at La Carreta and I was chatting to my regular pals when a lot of action started stirring just south of us on the beach.  It was like a scene out of “Jaws” where a wave of people started standing up from where an odd water activity was taking place. What was it? Did people spot a whale close to the beach? Was it a dolphin? Was someone in danger?

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Actually, fish were fighting in the water just feet from the beach. Biting! Attacking! Splashing and whipping around like crazy! Pelicans were circling them causing even more of a ruckus. Suddenly, a fisherman showed up with fishing wire wrapped on a cable ring. He launched the wire into the ocean with a tiny piece of bait. He was at the location on the spot, ready to catch the big fish. This was incredible to see. 

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Within seconds, and I mean literally twenty seconds, he whipped out the wire with a strong arm (without a pole might I add), and pulled in a torito (white fish) on his third attempt. To say we were all in awe of what happened is an understatement. I have been coming to this beach club for ten years and have never seen this before. Neither had my beach pals or the La Carreta staff.

That fisherman was amazing. He was ready, had his “tools” and got his prize. We all clapped. He smiled, grabbed his fish and walked away. Be ready for your big fish to come your way.

Frutos De Mi Labor

Eat. Drink.

Never give up on searching for what you are passionate about. You work too hard and put in too many hours to not love what you do. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, set a goal and hustle. The key is hustle.

You cannot wait around and look for someone else to do it for you. It is up to you to work hard to make what seems impossible actually possible.  Putting in the time and effort now should allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor later.

This time of year, I hear from so many people that are “reevaluating” their career.  This is the post-holiday, start of the year “blah” time. In sales, the opposite should be happening. This should be your reboot time. You should be refreshed, energized and ready to rock out a new year. You should already have your hustle on; setting up appointments, meeting clients and strategizing your year based on the goals you already developed. It is up to you and only you to map your course.

Your employer is merely the resource to support you. If your sales manager has to push you to get out to sell and follow up with clients, it is time to self-reflect that this is in fact the career for you. The drive needs to be all yours. Your success and happiness will result from your own effort and drive. Be passionate about what you do. Recognize that sales success is driven by setting your own goals and wanting to achieve them for you.

Inspire.

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I am already living my goal I set forth two years ago. (Refer to Blog Gol!). I just recently returned from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after working there for an entire month, remotely.

I booked clients from my condo rental. I wrote blogs on my terrace. I had weekly consultation calls.  I networked and met new people. My only foreign country “issue” was when my next door neighbor’s rooster interrupted by new client introduction call. I was disciplined and focused, waking up at 6:30 am to work the early mornings, went for my daily walks and then explored “my” new town in the daytime and evenings.  I tried a multitude of new restaurants and was inspired.  I learned a lot that I can now share with others. It was everything I wanted and more.

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Each morning I would buy a banana from my local corner store for my breakfast. For 28 days.  I also looked for a mango on that same shelf for 28 days. My storekeeper told me there were no mangoes for sale. On Day 29, I walked a new path.  I wanted to explore the neighborhood that was more local and that my new friends told me about. I passed homes that were not nearly as decorated as the tourist rentals.  Broken sidewalks. Loose dogs. Old cars. Then I found my destination. The Farmers Market. The first thing I saw were piles and piles of mangoes. I bought two. One for breakfast that day and one for my last breakfast before I headed to the airport to return to Chicago.

I have no regrets. 28 days of bananas was still a dream come true, my dream. I now have a new goal for next year. I will explore new neighborhoods and look for plenty of mangoes.

Patience

Eat. Drink.

As a consultant, I am often asked by clients how to manage Millennials and now Post-Millennials. Their request for help often includes eye rolls, sighs and complaints with complete exasperation. It’s as if ownership and management (some of them are actually Millennials themselves) have used the fact that Millennials working at the organization are the cause for challenges and problems in the everyday working environment.

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Get over it people. Figure it out. Millennials and Post-Millennials are here to stay and it is up to us as leaders to learn how to coach, train and mentor them. We just need to have the patience in order to teach them how to grow.

Millennials and Post-Millennials want feedback. They want to feel appreciated. They want to be a part of a high-performance team and want to have opportunities for growth. Most importantly, they crave mentorship. As a leader, you must provide your time, your experience and your knowledge to these willing students. 

You must be patient throughout the process, as the real cream always rises to the top. They need to be patient with their education as well. Slow and steady is key.

Grandpa Lefty James

Grandpa Lefty James

Inspire.

I love football. My grandfather was a college football coach and a scout for the NFL. It is in my blood. If I have the opportunity, I will spend every Sunday on the couch to watch my beloved Buffalo Bills. Even I realize though, as a die-hard Bills fan, that something special is happening west of me at Arrowhead Stadium.

I think the hottest player in the NFL this season is Patrick Mahomes. Patrick is playing his second year for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a first round pick, selected as the 10th player in the 2017 NFL draft. What is fascinating about his rise to stardom is his poise & confidence as such a young player. I attribute this not only to his talent, his upbringing and strong arm, but also the thoughtful, methodical and steady teaching from his head coach, Andy Reid. 

Watch a game. You will see Coach Reid with Patrick sitting on the bench when the defense is on the field. He is constantly coaching him. There is such individualized focus and attention that you can see a true relationship and respect amongst the two. Coach Reid also made a wise decision a year ago. He was patient with his new star.  Unlike other franchises who immediately start their new draft picks, Mahomes sat on the sidelines and learned for a year. He watched a senior quarterback play. He learned the game. Now he is ready.

Mahomes was born in 1995. He is a Millennial. Way to go Coach Reid. He recognized the talent and he didn’t rush it. Patrick is a lucky guy. He is learning from a future Hall of Fame coach.  As of today, the Chiefs are 11-2. I can’t wait to see what this mentor and mentee do next. I only wish it was happening in Buffalo.

Welcome Home

Eat. Drink.

There is something exciting about living in one of the top food destination cities in the world. In August 2017, Bon Appetit Magazine named Chicago the “Restaurant City of the Year”. I am spoiled. I live in the heart of the hottest dining neighborhood in Chicago. It’s wonderful to know you can walk out your door and have the opportunity to dine at a hot restaurant every day of the week if you like.

However, there is something fabulous about going to the same old place. Having that bartender know you like your martini shaken, not stirred. Ordering from the waiter who knows you like your steak cooked rare and you hate mushrooms. Chatting with the owner when she stops by the table to say hello and to see what’s new in your life. These are the places that keep bringing you back because they always welcome you back home.

It is so important for your team to remember that we are in the hospitality business. The definition of hospitality is:

“The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers”. 

Customers have so many options today that you must make every experience memorable for a return visit. Food and Service are two essential items we provide that make memorable experiences for guests if we hire the best people. Your team needs to understand that hospitality is the fundamental element of our culture.


Inspire.

La Carreta Beach Club, Puerto Vallarta

La Carreta Beach Club, Puerto Vallarta

I have been going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the past fifteen years. I usually visit at least once a year for a two-week vacation. About ten years ago, my great friends, David and John, introduced me to a beach club called La Carreta. La Carreta looks like a typical club on Los Muertos beach; an open-air restaurant set in the back with rows and rows of umbrella tables leading to the Bay of Banderas. What is not typical is the level of service I receive every time I return.

It may be an entire year between my visits. But upon my return, the owner Romy welcomes me with a hug. He remembers me. I then say hello and get hugs from Enrique, Ricardo and Carlos because it has been a year since I have seen them too. They grab me a Pacifico Light with limón because they remember my beach drink. They also know I prefer the second row, like two tables rather than one and I am still an early riser and will be there each day by 9am. They have everything ready for me each day before I even arrive, with the reserved sign holding my spot.

Since David and John first introduced me, I have now brought numerous friends and family members to La Carreta. Why on earth would I go anywhere else? Romy and his team make me feel so special. They have made Puerto Vallarta and their beach club a second home for me.  Gracias amigos. I will see you again soon.

Continuing Education. Part Two.

Eat. Drink.

I recently wrote of the importance of continuing education and how leaders and management must encourage and invest in their team’s opportunities for growth. I also stated that the best salespeople always ask endless questions, stretch beyond their comfort zone and are continuously on the quest to always learn more to be the best they can be. This also means that these salespeople should go above and beyond what the company provides to continue to learn and grow.

How? Salespeople should invest their own money and personal time into continuing education to be the best they can be.  

I always appreciate this as a sales leader. We all have personal experiences and “extracurricular” opportunities when and where we learn. We are fortunate to work in an industry that is relatable and “tangible” during our free time. (I mean let’s be honest, what family member has not seen us looking at china patterns and commenting on service every time we go out to dinner?? And going to a relative’s wedding … fuhgettaboutit!). Bringing these out-of-work experiences back to the office only broadens all of our knowledge base. So spend your own dime on your own time out of the workplace to recognize that these extra “investments” spent are only furthering your knowledge base.


Inspire.

I recently dined at a Three Star-Michelin restaurant in a resort town in the southeastern Bavarian region of Germany. It was toward the end of our ten-day journey across magnificent Switzerland and Germany and I am embarrassed to admit, I was getting “fooded” out. I also knew the financial commitment was going to be about 500 euro each for food and wine (about $600 USD per person). However, I made the reservation at the Restaurant Uberfährt in advance, and I am a firm believer in honoring my commitments. The restaurant had fabulous reviews and I was destined to see what it was all about.

To say this was one of the highlights of my ten days abroad is an understatement. How often can one experience a culinary education like this? The three of us were all “varied” in our fine-dining history; one was a complete novice and actually intimidated; the other would normally experience this as a business transaction. I myself had only the good fortune of dining at Michelin star restaurants through my industry, always eating alongside chefs who ordered and guided me along the way.

We opted for the “seven” course which really turned out to be ten eye-opening and mouth-watering creations. The level of creativity impressed us as each dish was set before us. Chef Christian Jürgens passion was evident  as each course was designed to showcase his unique culinary art. The table and wine service was outstanding. I will let the photos explain the rest.

Eggplant and Chicken Mousse and Olives

Eggplant and Chicken Mousse and Olives

Morrel

Morrel

Golden Eye

Golden Eye

Pavlova with Pineapple Strawberries

Pavlova with Pineapple Strawberries

Patisserie

Patisserie

I now look back and am so thankful I did not cancel this unforgettable experience. It would have been a shame to miss the craftsmanship and art that was lovingly presented as food. We are lucky to be in an industry that allows us to learn from something that we do every day … eating, entertaining and inspiring.

 

 

 

Continuing Education

Eat. Drink.

The best salespeople ask endless questions, stretch beyond their comfort zone and are continuously on the quest to learn more to be the best they can be. The elite sales managers I mentor and coach push their teams beyond the scope of the 9-5 job. Sure, we can all do our job but after a while, it becomes the same & we want and crave more.

So how do we mix it up? How do we reboot after a busy season and want to start all over again? How can we be inspired to learn new things?

Through continuing education.

We are fortunate to be in an industry that provides an abundance of educational resources that are affordable, accessible and practical. We can join associations that provide relatable webinars, peer networking and regional workshops to teach us more. (Tip: Check out internationalcaterers.org). We can attend conferences to give us that annual boost to inspire us to think differently, hear fabulous speakers, attend trade shows and network with our peers. (Tip: Check out catersource.com). We also can dine in our respective cities, watch hospitality-designed programs, read magazines, engage in social media and travel.

 

Inspire.

I participate in several outlets to continuously educate myself and keep “my” industry and business fresh. I am honored to be on the ICA board for my sixth year, presently as the President’s Council Chair. I am an active Advisory Board member for Catersource. My coffee table is stacked with magazines to keep me inspired. I invest in travel to open my eyes to other cultures, foods and people.

Due to the geographic jackpot, I was able to spend four working day and nights in Lyon, France prior to meeting travel companions for a driving tour from Geneva, Switzerland to Munich, Germany. Lyon has always intrigued me as a city who’s people live and breathe food & wine with a passion. I had to invest the additional time, money & my curious and adventurous spirit as a solo traveler in order to educate myself on this historic and fascinating city. 

Bouchon- Le Un, Deux, Trois

Bouchon- Le Un, Deux, Trois

Quenelles de Brochet (Pike Quenelle in Crayfish Sauce)

Quenelles de Brochet (Pike Quenelle in Crayfish Sauce)

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

To say the Lyonnais are passionate about food is an understatement. Each evening I dined at a typical Lyonnais bouchon, which are warm, cozy restaurants serving regional, hearty specialties. I enjoyed local red wines, served in “pots” or “fillettes”. Paul Bocuse’s (may he rest in peace) love for his town and influence is felt everywhere. I visited his namesake culinary and hospitality school as well as the magnificent food hall, Les Halles de Lyon- Paul Bocuse. I grabbed my book and shopped with the locals at the Saint Antoine Market for fresh fruit, cheese and a baguette to eat a simple lunch along the Rhône. I signed up for a fantastic four-hour walking food and wine tour through Vieux Lyon that started with tasting local Saint-Marcellin at the fromagerie (cheese shop) and included stops for pates, local wines, authentic Jésus de Lyon (dry cured sausage), incredible ice cream, local craft beer and ended with the famous tarte aux pralines.

Paul Bocuse Mural

Paul Bocuse Mural

Les Halles de Lyon - Paul Bocuse, Chocolate

Les Halles de Lyon - Paul Bocuse, Chocolate

Lyon Food Tour- Tasting Cheese (Saint-Marcellin)

Lyon Food Tour- Tasting Cheese (Saint-Marcellin)

Lyon Food Tour- Bouchon Stop

Lyon Food Tour- Bouchon Stop

Throughout my journey I took photographs, notes, menus, asked questions and was an inquisitive “student”. I wanted to better understand the beautiful culture that celebrates the “joie de vivre” lifestyle and that approaches food and beverage as a significant moment in every day life. This was important to learn and be able to bring back to clients back home.

As leaders in our industry, it is imperative that we encourage continuing education. We must provide inspiration, guidance and financial resources for our teams to get out there, explore new ideas and then share with the entire team. I know traveling to France is a fortunate and once-in-a-lifetime experience,  but it is up to you to find your “France” in whatever outlet you can. It can be a road trip an hour away from your home as much as it can be a new restaurant in a different neighborhood in your own town. Just go out and start exploring. Get excited to get out there, be willing to learn, share your findings and continue to be the best you can be.

Time is Money

Eat. Drink.

As a seasoned sales manager, it has been fascinating watching the media coverage of Amazon as it searches for it’s “second city”. Finally, a relatable case study that non-salespeople can understand what we really do! I have been following each step of the sales cycle as many cities have been vying for this big deal.  There are so many steps including the discovery process, delivery of proposals, site inspections, elimination of competitors and the final few cities still standing. Then, the waiting game.

Sales is not cut and dry. It is not just lunches, cocktails and afternoons on the golf course. It really does take time, effort, money, research, creativity and thoughtfulness for a sale to happen. However, it also takes one very important element which is often overlooked, qualifying the business opportunity.

Salespeople often feel the need to bid on every piece of business that comes their way. They cast a wide net hoping for a few fish. They are afraid to ask questions that will save them time and ensure they are the right fit. They make promises with the best intentions of figuring it out if the sale happens. 

No worries, we are caterers, we can figure out anything. By ignoring the qualifying stage, salespeople are wasting their own as well as other team member’s time. This is a true opportunity cost that could be spent on business elsewhere that is truly tangible, attainable and profitable.

Time wasted is money wasted.

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Inspire.

The most impressive news piece regarding the Amazon search was in the Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2018, titled “Hi. It’s Amazon Calling. Here’s What We Don’t Like in Your City”. 

How great is that! 

Amazon is actually calling on some of the cities that have been eliminated to tell them whyAnd kudos to the cities that have actually asked for the feedback. Essentially, these city leaders should be learning from this process for a next time. Were they qualified to bid to be the second city? Did they read the RFP? Were they truly capable of fulfilling all Amazon defined? How much time, money and human resources did they put into the presentation? What can be learned for next time? What changes will they do when the next opportunity arrives? 

Chicago is still a contender in the Amazon bid for their “second city”. Two potential locations for their campus are within blocks of my office on Fulton Market. It will be interesting to see where this lands and if Chicago has what it takes to make this sale happen. For the amount of time, money and effort spent thus far, if we do not get it, I hope the city learns from the loss so they are ready to tackle the next RFP that comes our way.