Patterns

Eat. Drink.

Salespeople need to be organized and methodical. They need patterns and order. I always recommend a system that they develop that works for them. There is no one-size-fits-all method to organization as each person has different strengths and weaknesses. Some salespeople are morning people. Some like lists. Some like sticky notes. Just figure out what works for you and follow it every day so you have a pattern to your day.

I never was a salesperson that developed a to-do list and crossed things out as I completed them. I always watched people do this and felt like all they were doing was re-writing a long, agonizing list. I, instead, organized my work into three piles. The three piles consisted of the following:

#1 Work I need to complete today

#2 Work I need to complete this week

#3 Future Projects

I never left my desk until the “today” pile was done. I also looked at the “this week” pile before I left to see what had to become the next day’s “today” pile. I never let Thursday pass without getting most of my work done since Fridays and Saturdays tended to be events and production days. Future project work was done during slow time on my couch during the evenings or on weekends.

Remember: Sales is a 24/7 job if you want to make the money.

I recommend you develop your system and stick to it. It is amazing when you feel like you have control over your own work flow.

Inspire.

I just went for my daily hourly walk. I leave through the same gate, walk down the same sloped, cobblestone street and cross the one intersection that may have cars passing through it at 7:45 am.  It is a weekday in Puerto Vallarta’s Olas Altas neighborhood. I walk past the popular “gringo” coffee shop and see the same four regular guys sitting at their table chatting about last night’s happenings. I take a right at the Pier and walk toward the Malecon to loop to the McDonald’s (yes, I know but that’s my perfect 30 minute turning point) and head back. 

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Every day, I see the same people, in their same spots, in the same order. I am sure they see me. A young man who appears to have had some horrible accident, standing with a walker and asking for pesos. I drop coins in his cup and say “buenos días”. He never says anything back. Three, old fisherman leaning on a rock wall and laughing, always laughing. An old man that looks like Ernest Hemingway who has a dog that is missing it’s front right leg enjoying the sun. A male nurse sitting on a bench, taking a break from pushing his patient in a wheelchair. A couple dressed in their “Sunday-best” trying to get new followers to their church. The sights are wonderful.

One day the young man with the walker was not in his normal spot. I noticed it. What happened to him? Why wasn’t he there? Was he okay? Just then, I saw him slowly walking up the ramp from the restroom one level below. Phew! I am glad he was going back to his regular spot. Now I need to see the old fishermen laughing so I can get on with the rest of my day.

The Grass is Always Greener

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Sales is a tough business. Managing sales people and then keeping them happy is an even tougher business. But … sometimes you lose them. And lately, it seems like more and more salespeople have been leaving companies for greener pastures. They move to another city, they want more “work/life” balance or they decide sales is not for them. No matter what the reason, it’s painful for management. All exits of staff is a loss of training time and recruitment dollars.

In my 25 years of managing an uncountable number of sales team members, I have been fortunate to develop nurturing and long-term relationships with several of them. I have attended weddings, baby showers and funerals. I have kept in touch by their choice. If they want to continue the mentor and mentee connection,  it is an honor to still be connected to them. However, what I find interesting is that I don’t really hear from any of my sales team members that were working at the company I left two years ago. Why? They are all doing great. Who do I hear from? Several former team members who had left that organization. Again, why? Not for fear that I am no longer a workmate but rather, they are asking my advice because they didn’t realize how good they had it and what they gave up.

Maybe it was a rash decision, maybe they left for more money or maybe they thought something better was ahead. Either way, they didn’t think about the infrastructure and support they received from their former company that was not detailed in their paycheck. They didn’t think about the award-winning culinary team making their food (so they didn’t have to be concerned with food quality). They didn’t think about trucks breaking down on the highway (because the operations team always took the vehicles in for servicing). They didn’t think about the payroll actually being funded on payday (because it was). They didn’t have to think about a thing because they thought all these things were normal, especially if this was their first job out of school.

Employees need to realize that “compensation” is more than just money and benefits. Do not take for granted all the other “extras” your company does to run as a successful business. I am not talking free lunch either. I am talking about running a solid business. The core and infrastructure that a company provides is often as important as the extra money in your paycheck.

Inspire.

It was my second vacation day in Mexico. I was already settling into my routine. I was staring out at the blue water. The sun was blazing. The palm trees were swaying. Ezequiel, my lovely waiter asked me what I wanted to drink to cool down. It was very hot. He struck up a conversation and he asked me where I was from. I said “Chicago” and he said, “What is the weather like in Chicago right now?” I said, “Snowy and cold.” You know that smug feeling you get when you know you could be home shoveling, freezing and fighting the elements but you are actually lounging on a tropical beach chair? I could not have been happier at that exact moment. Ezequiel looked at me, then out at the beautiful water, off the steamy sand and said, “I wish I was in the snow right now”. We just looked at each other and laughed. The Grass is Always Greener.

Nice Guy

Eat. Drink.

Catering sales consultants should always be nice. Customers mostly buy from people that are pleasant. Sales consultants should also be just as nice and considerate to the backbone of the catering business; the warehouse, operations and culinary department team members at their own company. This “back of house” core team is the reason we are in business. Spend time getting to know these important and talented people that make what you sell so wonderful. Stop being so “front of house”. Show them a lot of appreciation for their hard work and thank them.

Recognize the value of relationships with each department member and what you can learn from them. Have you ever thought that your food delivery drivers have the most frequent interaction with your actual customers? Ask them how your customers respond and react to your products. Consider the reality that off-site venue representatives probably have better relationships with your service captains than you. Why? Because they spend long event hours together and develop that special bond.  

Get out of your comfort zone and ask for feedback from department leaders on what you can do to make your production paperwork better for them. Learn from them and ask for advice. If you are nice to them, they will be honest and give you what you need. If they do not consider you as an ally, they will just think it’s a waste of their time.

We all have closed dates. What about your competition? You never know how and when you will need them. Be nice to them too! I have referred business in the past to my competitors and have received business in return. I truly would not be in business today if I had not been nice to my competition.  The support they have provided me in my first two years of business consulting has been immense. I am grateful to all of them. Remember, what goes around comes around. It pays to be nice.

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Inspire.

Every Monday at 11:00 am my Dad stands outside his garage door waiting to hear the sound of the engine revving from a big truck turning the corner. Then he sees the big green box coming toward him honking furiously and sees two arms waving out the window. The garbage men have arrived for the weekly pickup. The garbage men are my Dad’s new friends.

I love their relationship. It started a year ago when my parents moved into their new home. They moved because the new place has an attached garage that their previous place did not. My Dad is a master of several crafts, with woodworking being his most adept. He spends 8 hours a day working in that garage, designing bookshelves, building rocking horses, creating chicken coop egg-separators; you name it, he will figure out how to make it for you. He is very passionate about this hobby. If you are lucky to receive one of his creations, you can see the love he puts into each piece.

One hot Monday, Dad was working in the garage when the garbage truck arrived for pickup. Dad offered each garbage man a cold bottle of flavored water. The guys were so pleasantly surprised and grateful for this simple gesture. They said, “Nobody is ever this nice. Thank you”. After they thanked Dad, they said they would see him next week. They also rolled his regular trash and recyclable bins to his garage door. The rest of the neighbors bins were tossed at the end of their driveways without a thought to which way they landed. The garbage men honked that day as they drove away. 

Since that day, Dad gives them different flavored waters to try each Monday. They love it. They are now pals. They talk about what’s new. The guys ask what new project Dad is working on. They get out of their truck to admire his woodworking projects. At Christmas, Dad gave each of them a bottle of wine and homemade pizzelles (thin Italian cookies). They still always honk as they drive away.

On Mondays when Dad and Mom are not home, they leave the bins at the end of the driveway. Dad doesn’t get to see his friends and give them cold drinks. It doesn’t matter. The guys are still always gentle with Dad’s bins. When they get home from their errands or activities, the bins are placed at the top of their driveway, lined up near the garage door. For just a little act of kindness, Dad now has the best garbage service in the neighborhood.

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

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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

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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.