Watch: How to Be Happy & Successful In Your Business

Sue Cooper, owner of Lazy Dog Adventures, shares her secret to success and happiness. (Psst … it starts with you.)


Sue Cooper of Lazy Dog Adventures





Grow grow grow goes the corporate credo, but grow at any cost? Sue Cooper of Lazy Dog Adventures and the author of Millionaire in Flip Flops have a different message: you can grow a great business and have a balanced lifestyle.

After succeeding in a corporate business environment, Cooper woke up one day and realized she wanted to live on an island, hang with her dog, and own her business. 22 years later, Cooper’s Key West-based kayaking and stand-up paddle company is still thriving. The secret to her story starts—and ends—with people.

Watch this talk, presented at Arival Orlando 2019, and get ready for a healthy dose of inspiration.

Video Transcript

Alright, so thank you, everyone. My slide deck is a little bit different from everybody else’s. I just thought I’d throw in some pictures from last week at work. So I don’t want to make you too jealous up here. So, the first slide here, if you have a look, these are some of the most popular college classes in the last five years. And if you look, they’re all on happiness. In fact, Gail’s class on happiness is the number one attended class in the history of Yale. Also, the most sought after degree is in business.

So can you build this thriving business career and be happy and fulfilled? And so that was my question to myself about 23 years ago when I was working corporate. I was climbing the ladder pretty fast, having a great time learning as much as I can I absolutely loved everything about the business. And I want a big award, went out with my friends that night, celebrated, woke up in the morning. And as well as having a hangover, I also was absolutely miserable. And what I realized was, is this it like, I want more than just business, I want to have this wonderful life and be fulfilled and do the things that I love and travel. And I don’t want to sacrifice all that because of business. But I love business. I’m passionate about it. And so I went into my boss’s office on Monday, and I quit. And I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to live on an island and open my own business. So I moved to Key West is the closest island that still attached to the United States. So I figured I could make my parents a little bit happier with that one. And I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So like with anything anytime you don’t know what you want to do, you just say yes, if anyone’s seen the movie Yes man with Jim Carrey. He says yes to everything and his whole life changes. And so I thought, well, I’ll give that a try. I said yes to everything. And I ended up somehow owning a kayak company and I’d only ever kayak once before. Sorry. Well, I started a kayak company. I started from scratch.

And so since then, we’ve just celebrated 22 years I’ve been able to build kayak and paddleboard company as well as a lifestyle brand. Thanks to Amazon and Shopify, we’ve been able to grow outside of Key West have been able to host events, participate events, travel the country, and all the success I’ve had personally and professionally boils down to one thing and that’s people and the because this is a little bit more of a business conference. I’m going to really this the next little five minutes here to The three categories of people.

The first is putting yourself first, not the customer, and not your staff. And what I mean by this is every day showing up and setting the stage for the kind of day that you want to have for your staff, and for your customers, for your business and for your life. And to do that, you have to put yourself first. And it’s just like taking the first hour or two upon waking whenever that is and taking the time to work out because you need the energy to go about your day. If you’re going to be successful. You need to take time for yourself, the quiet time so you can focus on what it is that you want to do for the day with your goals. So much more clarity comes when you just have that time for yourself. You know, getting proper sleep, meditating, thinking about the thoughts that you put in your head because a lot of times 80% of our thoughts or repetitive actually sorry, 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% are negative. So it’s just changing your thoughts and changing your life and bringing your A-game every day. Because Can you imagine if you went into work, just grab a cup of coffee roll out of bed, you’re like, Oh, hey, guys.

So let’s get on with the day, let’s have a good day. All right. If you bring your B minus game, then your staff going to bring their maybe c minus game, and your customers aren’t going to have a good time. It’s really that simple. It’s about bringing the energy being responsible and setting the stage for the type of day you want to have personally and professionally. Bringing your A-game Don’t settle for a b minus. And so you guys don’t have to tell me.

But just take a little you know, check with yourself, and what is your score on a scale of one to 10?

  • Where do you stand?
  • Are you in a plus every day?
  • Or are you a b minus? Are you okay?

Bring it up b minus, because if you beat bring your B minus self to work, you’re bringing it to your relationships to your kids to everything that you do. And I don’t think anybody really wants to do that. And it’s the quickest and easiest way to change our lives, and also make a huge impact in our work environment. The second of the three most important people who come to your second is your staff, staff, and your team.

My dad wrote the leadership manual for IBM back in the 80s. And it was all about people back then. And he said, he told me back when I was young, that you can build any solid business off of two pillars, trust, and confidence. And so how do you bring trust and confidence to your staff? Well, first of all, anything you want to get from your staff, you have to deliver First, if you want them to work hard, you have to work hard if you want them to care, you have to care. But with trust and confidence, one of the things that I do is I give my staff full resources to be able to do their job at the best ability that they can do their job because I don’t want them to be great. Sue Cooper’s I want them to be great, Kathy Gilmore’s or Brian ever falls or hollien modos. I want them to be the best version of themselves and did not have to be like, hey, Sue, can we do this? Or hey, the customer says, Can I do that. And if you just give them the trust and confidence, and it’s really hard sometimes to be able to do that. But by doing so, the staff can excel and use their personality and the resources and the trust and the confidence to do their best job. And then, in turn, the customer is going to have that excellent, excellent experience.

Just on a side note, if any of us are doing well in the industry that we’re in, then you’re going to have competition, right? You’re doing something right. So you’re going to have a competition. And the way to set yourself apart is with people and the staff can make the face of your company, they can really make that happen. That’s that connection that you’re going to have with your customers and your customers are next right so your customers and they’re not first they’re right there. How can you make a difference with your customers? And what we do at lazy dog is I noticed on TripAdvisor that people were starting to write not just about our experience, but about everything and the people and from the pickup to how easy it is to book and how great the conversation is, with our emails, I mean everything. And so I thought, these people, they’re really connecting to us, not just the tour.

So on our busiest times of the day, I would actually hire more people to work so that everybody knew that if they are having a great connection with a customer at a time, it’s okay for you to sit on the picnic table right there and talk with them and connect, listen, connect, engage and share. That is the that’s the secret juice of customer satisfaction.

That’s the secret that’s going to bring people back because if they feel good, and doing that listening attention is like the greatest thing that we give each other and if you give the attention to your customers, they’re going to feel good. And really, ultimately, I know this is business, but it does come down to feelings.

Maya Angelou said,

People aren’t going to remember what you said and what you did. But they are gonna remember how you made them feel.

And so you want to make yourself feel good. By giving yourself that time that first couple of hours every day, you want your staff to feel good by giving them trust and confidence. And you want your customers to feel good by giving them attention, and listening, connecting, sharing, and engaging. And in doing so what’s going to happen is you’re going to feel good, your staff is going to feel good. So they’re going to want to continue to work for you. People are going to want to come and work for you. So it’s going to make hiring and retaining employees much easier. And customers are going to want to come back and they want to be part of your success. So it’s really again, up to you it’s bringing the 100% responsibility you into every single day and everything we do and so The conference is almost over. But I love to ask you guys I’m big on action plans. If you guys could just do one thing before you leave this hotel today, if you could just reach out to somebody, whether it be text in person, email, however you want to do it, call them and just let them know to make them feel good.

I could say to my Operations Manager Cassie, right back there, video and me. Thank you, Cassie, Kathy Gilmore. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to build a company the way it was because I trusted you. And you took care of a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to do. And, and so just reach out to somebody, do it today. And then do it every single day and make it a way of life because making people feel good is going to make people want to do business with your company. A second thing, last thing, guys, thank you. The last thing we’re going to bring the energy into this room so I would like everybody to stand up. And for the next 15 seconds. I want you guys to bring the A plus version of yourself into this room. Okay, I want you to be the energy you can scream. You can jump up but I want you guys to high five each other. I want you to feel good, go.

Awesome. You guys are awesome. Thank you so much!

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