Monday, December 21, 2015


Sunday, December 13, my son Jon called me after his basketball game. He said he was having some severe pains and had taken an Advil and some GasX and was going to lie down for a bit. We were supposed to have dinner that night to celebrate my birthday the next day. I suggested we postpone it, and he asked me if I could change my plans and do it ON my birthday, the next day. I told him we could postpone it for any time at all. Just being together was what mattered. We chatted a bit even though he was in severe pain. His priority was to celebrate with me. When he said the pains were really bad, he told me that he needed to lie down. We ended our conversation as we always do with, “I love you” and “I love you, too” Always. Every conversation. Every day.

Shortly after that conversation Jon  drove himself to urgent care. He had his eight-year-old son, Ethan, with him. Danielle, his wife, called me to meet him there. Ethan was sitting alone in the waiting room sucking on a popsicle, totally alone. When I tried to talk to Jon, he was in so much pain that he couldn’t speak. He was hurriedly ambulanced to Holy Cross Hospital, given morphine, which didn’t at all help. Danielle joined me at the emergency room and we all thought it was either a hernia or a kidney stone, either of which needed surgery. I left to take Ethan away from the hospital atmosphere, and subsequently Danielle called me because Jon was to undergo surgery.  I dropped Ethan off with his other grandmother and joined Danielle in the waiting room. It was still December 13, which turned into December 14, my birthday. It was not a simple operation.

Jon died on my birthday. Now I will always remember that day, yes with pain, but also it will act as a reminder that for 45 years every second of my life was filled with the most wonderful man ever born, a man to be proud of, to be admired. I raised this sensitive, loving, caring, considerate and generous man who supported me, loved me and whom I would trust with my life. To me, December 14 will always be all about him and only him. Our history started in a hospital because from the moment my beautiful baby was laid in my arms I was filled with a sense of wonder. That wonder lasted 45 years.

I have learned in the last days that the qualities I so admired were shared with many of you as he is laid to rest. The hospital still is talking about all of their waiting rooms filled to capacity with family and his friends, so very many friends. Though they wanted to kick us out of the hallways, there were so many people who loved him there that there was no other room. All day and all night no one left. It was out of love for Jon, their friend, and every moment in his presence, whether he knew it or not, was precious.

Danielle and her entire family were there. Of all the images I will always remember Danielle holding Jon tenderly in her arms, her hand on his heart, his great big huge heart, as he passed away. Her love for him, her tender caring was indeed the fairy tale she called it, and I am grateful that he had such love and respect in his life. Danielle, I know that he was the man of your dreams; you told me, his mother, that, and nothing could ever have meant more to me than knowing he shared his life with you.

As much as you loved him, he loved you back. Danielle, you were his everything, always his beautiful Irish bride. Every moment of every day was filled with thoughts of what you shared, most especially your two beautiful boys. I don’t think any father could have loved more fiercely and protectively, or been more proud of Cameron and Ethan, both so handsome and so well-mannered and loving. Every thought centered around his family. On a scale of 1-10, you took at least the first five spots, and the rest of the family and friends and business friends, happily experienced what remained…and it was enough. Even five minutes with Jon made him into a friend.  There was never a day that he didn’t think only about getting home to the three of you, his family. He would rather take red eyes, or drive all night to get to an event, than lose any time with you. Baseball practices, school meetings…it didn’t matter. Jon often told me that he couldn’t wait to get home to see them.

He loved his friends, and there are many of you. What a testament to your friendship that you were there for him, leaving your jobs and your families to show Jon your love for him. His coworkers, though he had to act like “a boss,” were so very much appreciated by him. He always talked of your talents and capabilities with great respect. And worried that he would not be considered part of “the gang” when he had to act like a boss. He really needed to be liked. And in the last days, you’ve all shown me how much he really did affect your lives. Thank you. He wanted so much not to be your boss, but your friend.

I want to thank all of you for enriching his life. I believe he enriched the life of everyone he encountered.

I will miss the twinkling of those beautiful blue eyes which was usually followed by a slightly teasing comment and then that Jon-smirk. I imagine most of you know exactly what I mean. But beside that twinkle and smirk was an ethical, honest and articulate man with great business acumen, a sense of fair play and a tremendous desire to always make things right, even in the most trying of circumstances.

I loved my son with all my heart. I will miss him forever. And right now forever seems like a very long time. I have lost not only my son, but my partner and my very best friend.

When my mother, his grandmother, died, Jon wrote something for her funeral that I had not remembered at the time. Jon had spent many Friday nights with her, and it was traditional that they watched The Love Boat and then Fantasy Island. When that show was over his grandmother would say "Fantasy Island is over, Jon. It’s time to turn out the lights."

Jon, my beloved, beloved son… Fantasy Island is over. It’s time to turn out the lights.

Andrea Michaels, Founder and President of Extraordinary Events, gave this speech at her son's funeral on December 17, 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Polite Society: Be a Nice Customer

What rings so true from this article is the word “respect” and how that affects so much of our business transactions. That means respect for not only your customers, but also your suppliers. So as always I’m happy to share Shep Hyken's inspiring words. –Andrea Michaels
-By Shep Hyken 


Customer service is usually about the people who work at a company being polite to the customer. But how about the customer being polite to the employee? Be nice and maybe you’ll get nice back.

So, this article is from the perspective of the customer.
No doubt that a squeaky wheel gets the oil. For those that aren’t familiar with this old saying, it basically means if you are loud enough, you’ll get noticed. To put it in business terms, if you feel you’re not getting the customer service you think you deserve, stomp your feet up and down and you might get what you want. Sounds like a good plan, but there may be a better way.
There is another old saying: You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Being nice to the people serving you may beget nice customer service in return. If you don’t believe me, try it. It’s the right thing to do anyway.
The catching flies with honey concept comes to life in a couple of amazing examples I read about in an excellent article in Companies will reward you for being nice and polite to their people and the other customers around you.
Last year McDonald’s and Coca-Cola got together for a special promotion that rewarded diners for not using their cell phones. I don’t mind someone using their phone in a public area if they are discreet and respectful of others. The idea of rewarding a customer for their good behavior intrigues me. The promotion encouraged customers to take a “timeout” from talking, tweeting, Facebooking and texting. The longer you stayed in “timeout,” the more points you receive. Participants could win prizes, including a free trip.
I can’t vouch for the success of the app, but the premise is sound. Just the other day I was at the grocery store and standing in the checkout lane. The person in front of me was on her phone. She was loud and showed little respect for the people around her; specifically the cashier who had to wait to catch the customer’s attention to pay for her groceries.
In that same Trendwatching article, there was another excellent example. La Petite Syrah, a French cafĂ©, had a pricing policy based on politeness. The customers who were kind to the barista and used the word “please” were charged less than those who weren’t so polite. The two prices were posted on their menu board. A cup of coffee for the polite customer cost EUR 1.40 versus EUR 7. That’s an 80% discount, just for being nice. Sign me up for that one!
Here’s the point of this article: Respect.
As a person, respect the people around you. As a customer, respect the people you do business with. They just may give it back to you, and sometimes even more so. Dealing with someone having a bad day? Smile. Be polite. Be the nice customer that’s easy to do business with, that potentially can make that bad day a little better. Then, watch how you’re treated.

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information contact (314) 692-2200 or

For more information about Andrea Michaels and Extraordinary Events, please visit,