Monday, December 28, 2009

Are you upset?


Do you ever wonder about getting upset? Irritated? I do.

I find when working with clients and in my own life, it all comes back to what we might expect. My spouse has been gone for two months. I expected that he would be home for a while after being gone. Apparently, that was not to be.

Now does the picture make sense?

Anthony has gone off to fly air ambulance service in a tiny silver mining town in Nevada. He is going to be on call for a week there, then will likely be flying down to Mexico for another week. He was home for just 4 days.

We will miss being together New Years. Again. He will likely be busy during my birthday because his 135 check ride will be the day after it.

And he wonders why I am not excited for him to be flying. He is still an unpaid intern. He can't get a green card and I continue to support him. It has now been over three years. Does the picture make more sense?

I try very hard to be positive, upbeat and optimistic. I strive to find the silver lining in nearly all things. I admit, today I feel a bit frayed. The lining is harder to discern, if I can see it at all. I wonder how much longer I have to continue to make the best of things. I find the dream ever more distant. I find the desire to even build expectations failing.

If I was my own client, I would be forced to point out some deeper questions. When do our family needs come first? At what point can we feel less burdened? So yes, I am upset. I am upset he is gone again. I am upset I had some expectations. I am upset I can't seem to see that silver lining. Unfortunately, I find myself becoming tired and simply indifferent, and that is the most frightening of all.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Year in Review - Seal Beach

“The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.” Walt Whitman could have been talking about Seal Beach, for this year in business has been marked by ups and downs, but more often than not, it has been our locals and fellow citizens who have helped business survive.
The Sun asked me to evaluate what has happened in our town over the last year of business and it has been full of challenges. From Mel’s Diner, Minx Fashion Shop and Lei of Love to Circuit City, it has been a tough year for many of our Seal Beach businesses. Those just closed shop. We have seen a rebound in many spaces, like Home by the Seashore and Marshall’s moving into our community. We also have seen an expansion of services like the weekly Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays up by Leisure World. The Chamber was proud to sponsor that market to bring fresh produce and items to residents who lost their only nearby grocery store.
Bay Hardware and 320 Main have changed ownership and the Seal Beach Center, home of Pavilions and CVS, is still full of vacancies. Thankfully, there are some new businesses, which are finally coming in.
From an events standpoint, the Chamber and the Seal Beach community have had an incredible year of production. Starting in March, we had the 2nd annual Seal Beach Health Fair with over 80 vendors and hundreds of participants up at the Shops at Rossmoor. Look for the 3rd annual Health Fair on March 20th, 2010.
The 5k/10k Seal Beach Run was another record success with Bill Ayres at the helm. The business community and volunteer committee came together along with incredible attendance of 5,500 runners, to produce the most successful fundraiser in race history, giving back over $100,000 to the various grant recipients.
How about that amazing car show? So incredible! The last several years have been filled with a sold out show by mid-February. Over 550 cars, exhibits and nearly 20,000 visitors, the Seal Beach Car Show is the single largest event we produce. Mark your calendars now for the event on April 24th, 2010!
The Chamber had the largest run of our well-received Summer Concert Series from the July 4th week on to September 2nd. This year’s series marked an expansion by 3 concerts to be “9 in ‘09”. When other communities were cutting back on activities for residents and visitors, Seal Beach was expanding! We look forward to next summer’s series and seeing all of you there. Let us know how we can make it better for you as well.
October was the month for Sidewalk Sale and Trick or Treat. Record number of little ones gathered on Main Street on Friday and Saturday to collect their treats from participating merchants. The Sidewalk Sale ran on Saturday and Sunday. While we tried combining the two events this year, next year we will return to the previous format by popular demand; separate weekends for separate events.
November kicked off the holiday season in style with the 30th Annual Community Thanksgiving dinner held at St. Anne’s Church and pulled together by the entire community. The 2nd Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony took place on the Friday after Thanksgiving at Eisenhower Park at the Pier. This event has really taken hold as an annual tradition. This year many fun details were added for the kids such as faux snow to play in, picture cutouts, Santa, Antique Fire Truck and more! Put it on your calendar for next year, the Friday after Thanksgiving.
December was definitely Christmas month with the 29th Annual Christmas Parade down Main St. This year’s parade saw a record number of entries at 95, which included over 3100 people just in the parade! Now imagine 9,000+ people lining Main Street to watch. The holiday spirit was in full swing and carried us to 2010.
When considering the other successes in our community, we have the LIONS, LOTE, Surfrider Foundation, Save our Beach, Friends of the Library, and so many other organizations which come together with our friends and neighbors to make our community great. As I mentioned in my last article during Christmas week, there are many businesses, which have insight and are bringing even greater success. It was also a pleasure to see Rick Gordon, the current president of the McGaugh PTA talk about the two way street of shared responsibility in his December 2nd, op-ed piece in the Sun. We can make our community better in 2010 by continuing to focus on our businesses, neighborhoods, events and schools. We need to keep local dollars local and help each other even more in the coming year. As a final note, I think credit is due to the Sun Newspapers, for providing our local newspaper filled with stories and resources week in and week out for the last 42 years. For as Issak Walton, the famous English biographer said, “Good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.” So it is in our community. Happy New Year and remember, in 2010 to always shop local.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day



Christmas is a special time. Take time to appreciate your customers & clients. They are the reason you make a living.

Also, I want to take a special momement to thank my family and closest friends - love and joy to all of you and thank you for all that you are and will be. My life is richer, fuller and far more delightful with you in it.

Thank them with words, gifts and deeds. Remember that they will likely be making a choice about you and the service you provide in the coming year. Deliver excellence in all components of what you provide - including your appreciation.

Give gifts of appreciation and joyful

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Frenzied Consumerism


Doesn't the holiday bring out the frenzy in people? Have you noticed that in the season of giving and appreciation, we are surrounded by people who are impatient, hostile, rude and in too much of a hurry? It amazes me how quickly people narrow their focus to their immediate need and forget that others are there to help.

I had an interesting experience returning a gift recently. It was a major department store and I have to say it was incredibly easy. We did not have a receipt and they exchanged a set of bed sheets for the correct size without any hassle. The people in line who were returning did not seem to understand the ease with which these returns were occurring. I was also amazed at the tremendous amount of "stuff" which was for sale. There were rows and rows of clothes, home furnishings, housewares, bathroom and bedding. I saw designer names like Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and others. It counjured the vision of the US consumer as a school of piranha - all ready to strip the merchandise from the shelves in a frenzy of consumerism. I felt ill.

We live in a society which celebrates its own disposability. I wonder when we will realize that our lives and our efforts which go to purchase so much of this "stuff" are somewhat empty. Could we not buy less or at least appreciate what we have more? I think the businesses do themselves a credit by making returns easy. On the other hand, I don't think it helps our consumer driven lifestyle or expectations. Make an effort to be more appreciative of the service you receive. At the same time, consider the consumption you do and try to reduce it. Both of these will improve your ability to provide exceptional service to your clients.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twas the night before. . .

As some of you may know, my partner, Anthony, has been out of town for the last 7 weeks. It has been a LONG 7 weeks. He had gone to the UK to renew his visa, and to convert his licenses from the FAA to the JAA.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see him. When you work for yourself, and in many ways by yourself, your spouse often is your "venting" and stabilizing influence. I know that I have done all I can to stay busy while he has been gone and this was a "natural, easy transition," but it is a relief to know he will be back. My sounding board and best friend will be here. That makes a huge difference.

Wishing all a Merry Christmas and the best of the time off. I hope you all spend time with family, friends and loved ones as this time draws near!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some business insights

Today I wrote a quick piece for the Sun Newspapers about some key businesses in Seal Beach. Here it is!

Surviving in business can be hard. Failure rates of new businesses often hover around 80% in the first five years. After years like 2009, that rate may seem low. Though we have some big business in Seal Beach, most of our local businesses are the “Mom & Pop” size and have been around for years. Do you wonder how some continue to make it in our town? I did, and here is what I found out from five successful businesses:

Brita’s Old Town Gardens, 225 Main Street – Brita shared with me, “We are thankful for the support of the local residents in our business. They really keep us going and share with us what they want. It is not just Old Town, but we draw from Rossmoor, Long Beach, Los Alamitos and even further like Palos Verdes. Without them, we couldn’t continue to stay in business as a unique provider of plants, garden and yard pieces.” So remember to stay engaged with the community and listen to what they want. Winning concept – customers.

Main Street Cyclery, 317 Main Street – Dave Dunton said, “Keep your business simple and the focus on what works. After being on Main Street in two different locations and in business for 12 years, I realized you don’t change a winning game. We just keep providing knowledge and service to our customers and that works. Families have bought multiple bikes as they grow and change.” Winning concept – simplicity.

Crema Café, 322 Main Street – Tarit Tanjasiri, who has seen growth even this year in his business, credits his product and people. “It’s all about the food. If you make something so delicious that people say, ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’ not only will they be back, they will bring friends. The same is true of our staff. By always looking to anticipate what our customer’s need, they are delighted by our service and want to experience it again.” It seems simple too, but how you present your product, whether or not it is food, makes a great deal of difference. Winning concept – quality.

State Farm Insurance, 1066 Bolsa Avenue – Eric Lenahan feels that his success is based on a strong connection to the community. “For me, it is about engagement. As an agency, we are present at many events and functions, from the Classic Car Show and Summer Concert series to PONY Baseball. Residents, our customers, see that we are part of the community and that we as an agency give back. They know we are here and that we care. That makes a difference when they are making a buying decision for insurance. They know we are here to stay and we put our energy back into our own backyard.” Winning concept – community engagement.

Beach Fitness, 148 Central Suites E&F –Bryce Turner feels, “This year we expanded our business. It was a risk, but one we were ready to take to position ourselves for 2010 and to innovate. You can’t stay static in the fitness business, you have to always be looking for new ways of helping people. You have to change it up to keep your clients engaged and challenged.” Winning concept – innovation.

As David Rockafeller said, “Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you're not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.” If you use the points above to consider success in your own business and stay focused on community, the possibilities in 2010 look bright. As always, please remember to SHOP LOCAL as our winning concept and keep your sales tax dollars in our town!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Supes & Geekiness



If you could be a superhero (supe), who would you be?

I have to say, that for me, Firestorm the Nuclear Man (the first one), wins hands down. A fusion between a high school jock (Ronnie Raymond) and a Nobel laureate physics professor (Dr. Martin Stein), Firestorm is the perfect duality between brains and brawn. In addition, his super power, the control of the atomic structure of all material objects, transformation, transmutation, atomic blast, flight and superhuman strength, endurance and performance all seem practically peerless. At the same time, he isn't as well know or well established like Superman or Batman. He exudes both tremendous power and the lack of certainty that his dominant personality (Ronnie) has as a new and essentially accidental supe. Much like Spider-Man, Firestorm has his personal life constantly interfering with his supe life and he must always struggle to balance the two. He also struggles with his identity and purpose in life. His powers provide the ability to change the world in dramatic ways yet they do not ever give him the best insight for how to use them effectively to help himself.

What does this have to do with consulting? Well, first off, I have to thank for this inspiration one of my Twitter friends (@cratledge) and the great, quick conversation we had this morning about supes and their affect on our lives. As adults, we often forget the formative impact that hobbies and activities from our youth have on our development. Firestorm, as a character is an example of the ultimate control of his environment that is tortured with a dual nature on the inside. Often times, as a consultant, we have tremendous impact on a business, but we like Dr. Martin, are not the prime mover within it. We can only advise and inform, not always make decisions. That is the struggle that I face with many clients. We know the right moves for others, but sometimes even struggle to make them in own business and life.

Try to think about what supe you would be. Manifest their best attributes and ignore their faults. Sometimes channeling a little superhero is good for the soul and for perspective in your own life and business.

Did I mention Firestorm is freaking hot & sexy? Ok, I admit it, I was a bit in love with him too. . . lol.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Rush & Service


What is your customer service mantra? How do you measure your own commitment to the success of your clients? During the holidays, the sense of urgency often may diminish the commitment to providing a consistently high level of service. This hurried state of mind distracts us from the need to listen carefully, process what the customer is saying and meeting their needs.

One of the ways you can measure your commitment is by repeating back what the customer wants. I have found as simple as it sounds, it prevents confusion later. Another key way to "hurry up and slow down" is by scheduling plenty of time for activities. By having appointments, you block out time and can focus on the client when they are most ready to share information with you.

This holiday, just be careful of being in too much of a rush and losing site of where you money truly comes from, the customers you serve.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Working the Core


I found this image online and I really like it, having taken my first Pilates class today. I can't say that I know much about the location spa it is taken from, but I can tell you that my Pilates experience definitely made me connect business concepts to exercise. The stated mission of Pilates: The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles.

In business, you are often confronted with the need to keep your "core" strong: brand, competencies and skills tightly focused. The spine or "backbone" of your business is what needs to be protected in so many ways. What I found interesting about the workout was the reminder that focusing simply on control can be a workout all in itself. So as the year winds to a close, try doing something new for yourself and remember to be focused on the basics in your business and yourself.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What makes your business successful?


Currently, I am working on a piece for the local paper about how businesses are being successful in this recession. Do you have a comment? Let me know!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Darwin Awards

I received this today via email - these are not mine, but the Annual Darwin Awards. They deserve all the credit for finding the stories of individuals deserving of such evolutionary recognition. . .

1. When his 38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

And now, the honorable mentions:

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef's claim was approved.

3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies.. The deception wasn't discovered for 3 days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer... $15.
[If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?]

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly.. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti , Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast... The man, frustrated, walked away. [*A 5-STAR STUPIDITY AWARD WINNER]

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for.. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his siphon hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he'd ever had.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Inconvenient Conveniences


Today, I thought I had it all planned out. Client meetings in the AM, a power lunch with a business leader and potential client from the Chamber. A trip via an unbelievably fast and hot car (one like it pictured - except this was a 2004 Saleen with white rims and even more detail) to a warehouse to pick up some "will call" ordered stock for a client and then an awesome chest workout with my trainer Vidal and circle back to a meeting with a rep from a publication for appetizers and drinks. Finally wrap it up with more client work, some content generation and potentially a healthy dinner at home.

Some days, things just don't happen the way they are supposed to. After a great morning, I started on my car quest for inventory items. First stop, smooth sailing. The next however was a warehouse of truly titanic proportions. Add to this that "will call" was not well labeled and that everyone working in the warehouse was not accustomed to dealing with customers, particularly when the paperwork had not all arrived. Thank goodness I speak some Spanish (albeit poorly) and was able to be somewhat interactive. Congratulating myself on my creative problem solving, I zipped out of the warehouse running only 30 minutes late. Convertible filled with boxes and bikes, I eventually found the 405 freeway and got off at my exit. Immediately following my exit, while merging to a major intersection light, the car stalled.

"Hmm - that is strange!" I thought. Trying to restart, while coasting to the red light, I expected all to be well in hand. No such luck. The car was dead, and the cars behind me were more than a bit upset. Undaunted, I got out of the car and leaned in to push it to the shoulder, all the while cars passing me on either side, yelling expletives and honking (as if I intended to inconvenience them.) Thankfully two good Samaritians came and assisted me - we pushed it through the intersection and then into a gas station.

Called AAA and thought - well, at least I can still make my 4 pm appointment. By 6 pm, still no flat bed, a mistaken tow truck, and continued errors by AAA, I realized that the "convenience" of running these errands ended up being quite the false economy. If I had shipped them, I would have gotten those four hours of my life back and still gotten the product in the time I needed it. The meetings would have happened on schedule and life would have moved in a very different way. So just think before you move to do something yourself to "save time" because it may be anything but a time saver!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Unbelievable

I was horrified today to learn that an acquantaince (via Twitter) was hit by a car (as a pedestrian) and then the driver tried to get away! How f*****up is that? We are living in one of the most prosperous nations in the world, filled with abundance and luxury and we can't stop after nearly killing someone?

The degree of selfishness and narcissism in our society is simply beyond comprehension to me. How could the driver do that? Did he/she think they could get away with that kind of crime - a hit and run in the morning? What is equally confusing to me is the disrespect that the hospital staff had for a symbol of the relationship - a chain & lock used by the boy in a Boy/Sir family. Understood that it might be foreign to many, but clearly it was important to the individual, but it perhaps(best case scenario) wasn't recognized as important. Worst case, it was simply dismissed or devalued. Last time I checked, we are very aware of religious icons being important to people's healing. We treat them with respect. Why can't we respect relationships in the same way?

As a consultant, I am constantly asked to put myself in the "shoes" of the business owner and industry. I can manage to do that regularly. Can't we do that for our fellow humans about the relationships they are in? I think we live in a society too facinated with the Puritan social standard or expectation. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and our integrity before we callously disregard the importance of other people.

Particularly now, there is a need to be more kind, more focused and more aware of our brothers and sisters in the world. You don't have to even like them, but acknowledge that they have people that love and care about them. Each of us is NOT the focus of the universe, but most of us have a small universe of family and friends that revolves around us. So take a moment during the holidays to others and pay it forward. Don't be the asshole who hits somebody with a car and then tries to get away - rest assured, that karmic debt will come around to you.

Finally - for those three guys in the Pacific Northwest and their universe of friends and family around them; know at least one near stranger cares about you, hopes for a speedy recovery and is sending support out to you from So Cal.

Carrot & the Stick


Theodore Roosevelt in a speech in 1903 said: There is a homely old adage which runs: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far. It has become clear to me that when working in consulting and advocacy, you have to be familiar with both the "carrot" and the "stick." Both are required to help clients or produce effective change. It is also true when dealing with government or advocating for any substantial change.

The carrot, obviously, is the incentive to achieve more, accomplish a goal and the reward at the end. Sometimes it is money, but realize that motivations for people are different. You may want to ensure they hear words of thanks and praise. They may wish public recognition, rewards of some type or a special title. Be sure you actively listen to what individuals, clients and even enemies may want out of a given interaction. Then once identified, connect to your eventual goal - how can they help you get there.

The stick you use to defend yourself, those you care about and to strongly demonstrate not only your willingness to act, but your ability to back up your words with action. Consequences can help others identify why they need to be on your team and not opposed. There is no need to show that stick to threaten, but when you do use it: strike hard, fast and without hesitation.

Each of us has goals and objectives. Using the carrot and stick as two sides of the same coin will result in optimal results.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Employee Reviews


How often do you have to review employees or contractors in your workplace? In earlier posts I have talked about "being the hammer" or the tough choices that are part and parcel of what I do with some clients. Today I thought I would focus on the positives that come with a good review. First of all, everyone wishes to be understood and appreciated. It is a basic and primal need. When you have a good team member, it is easy to understand & appreciate them. When you solicit for feedback, what you get is generally positive and extols the virtues of the individual.
What do you do when you have positives only?

Simple - you set goals.

The way to have further success with a high performing team member is to establish more challenges and objectives. One of cheesy HR sayings is: "TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More"

I would agree with that, but only if you give clear goals for what MORE is! Set some targets for achievement. Metrics make evaluation easier down the road. Remember that metrics may not be just a financial target. It could be new programs, ideas, brainstorming sessions, memos, clients or other variables in your business. What stimulates our brains in many ways is not just pleasure or sensation, but the experience of novelty. This experience can be explained as the achievement of a goal in a way that relates in value to a target.

Give a goal, get satisfaction! A stretch target is not a bad thing if presented in the right way. Remember that for yourself. We are quickly coming up on the New Year. You should make a point to review your own performance and that of your company.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

12 Days of Christmas

Sometimes gifting can get out of hand. My dear friend Jimmy sent this to me today and I have to say, I too laugh every time I read it. Remember that courting is an art, both with potential mates and clients and you need to be thoughtful, but not too thoughtful! So begins the troubled (and hopefully fictional) journey of John & Agnes.

December 14th
Dearest John:

I went to the door today and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. What a delightful gift. I couldn't have been more surprised.

With dearest love and affection, Agnes

***

December 15th

Dearest John:

Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine, two turtle doves.... I'm just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable.

All my love, Agnes

***

December 16th

Dear John:

Oh, aren't you the extravagant one! Now I must protest. I don't deserve such generosity. Three french hens. They are just darling but I must insist.... you're just too kind.

Love Agnes

***

December 17th

Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now really! They are beautiful, but don't you think enough is enough? You're being too romantic.

Affectionately, Agnes

***

December 18th

Dearest John:

What a surprise! Today the postman delivered five golden rings. One for each finger. You're just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, John, all those squawking birds were beginning to get on my nerves.

All my love, Agnes

***

December 19th

Dear John:

When I opened the door there were actually six geese-a-laying on my front steps. So you're back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are huge. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbors are complaining and I can't sleep through the racket. PLEASE STOP!

Cordially, Agnes

***

December 20th

John:

What's with you and those birds???? Seven swans-a-swimming. What kind of joke is this? There's bird do-do all over the house and they never stop the racket. I'm a nervous wreck and I can't sleep all night. IT'S NOT FUNNY.......So stop with those birds.

Sincerely, Agnes

***

December 21st

OK Buster:

I think I prefer the birds. What am I going to do with eight maids-a-milking? It's not enough with all those birds and eight maids-a-milking, but they had to bring their own cows. There is poop all over the lawn and I can't move into my own house. Just lay off me. .

Ag

***

December 22nd

Hey:

What are you? Some kind of sadist? Now there's nine pipers playing. And do they play! They never stopped chasing those maids since they got here yesterday morning. The cows are upset and are stepping all over those screeching birds. No wonder they screech. What am I going to do? The neighbors have started a petition to evict me. You'll get yours.

From Ag

***

December 23rd

You Creep!

Now there's ten ladies dancing - I don't know why I call them ladies. Now the cows can't sleep and they've got diarrhea. My living room is a river of poop. The commissioner of buildings has subpoenaed me to give cause why the building shouldn't be condemned. I'm sicking the police on you.

One who means it, Ag

***

December 24th

Listen Idiot:

What's with the eleven lords a-leaping? All 234 of the birds are dead. I hope you're satisfied, you rotten swine.

Your sworn enemy, Miss Agnes McCallister

***

December 25th (From the law offices Taeker, Spedar, and Baegar)

Dear Sir:

This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve fiddlers fiddling, which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Miss Agnes McCallister. The destruction, of course, was total. All correspondence should come to our attention. If you should attempt to reach Miss McCallister at Happy Dale Sanitarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot you on sight. With this letter, please find attached a warrant for your arrest.

-Merry Christmas

Friday, December 11, 2009

Secret Santa?


Today I found out that I was invited to the premier of Cirque du Soleil: Kooza in Irvine on January 8th. What was delightful about this discovery is I have no idea how or why I was invited to the event! I have helped out a few people and unexpectedly one of them might have coordinated for this to happen. That is part of the joy of what I do, if you provide valuable services to people and don't really dicker about what you are compensated for it, often you get some kind of delightful "Secret Santa" type surprise. I would encourage all of you to play Secret Santa to one of your friends, clients or family members. Through your business you likely have connections that can make something special happen. Now is the time to do that! Go ahead, pay it forward.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home cooking


Earlier this week, I talked about the family dinner. In this post, I wanted to turn our attention to how you prepare food in your own home. Do you cook once a week, several times or every night? Do you prefer to have partially prepared foods (like frozen or steam in a bag vegetables) or work from organic / scratch ingredients? Do you like to bake? How much time do you spend preparing food?

Gee, why would I ask all of this? Well, simply, food preparation is one of the activities that many entrepreneurs never seem to have time for. We go out to eat, we ask our spouse to cook or we live on TV diners. Sound familiar? What we don't take into consideration is that the work of preparing food and then eating it is a more holistic approach for our bodies and minds. We expect our bodies to perform at high levels, but we don't necessarily give it the best fuel. Here are some tips about prepping food for those who are "too busy" to cook:

1. Set aside one block of time a week to grocery shop & cook. Just one.
2. Plan a meal you enjoy eating.
3. Cook for at least four - you can eat the leftovers later or make your own "TV dinners"
4. Where you can, buy organic and free range on all meats. They hold better in cooking and the micro-nutrients in the food are more balanced.
5. If you are not comfortable as a cook, follow a recipe. Work on recipes that are simple, clear and don't have many unusual ingredients or holding/prep times.
6. Turn on some music and relax into it!
7. Clean as you go. Often you will have a few minutes between steps to clean cutting boards, bowls and other items.

Hope that you have a fun time with it! Write a comment if you have a question!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What century is this?

I just about fell over when I saw this CNN article:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/12/08/uganda.anti.gay.bill/index.html?iref=allsearch

What century do we live in? Why do the world's churches hate us so much? When is the insanity of hatred going to leave this world? As a human being, how can you not be offended by this?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Worth



Often, I try to stay focused on the positive in business and in life. At times, I think a more "toungue in cheek" approach is warranted. The image here is a great example of that! I really think they have a great view on "successories" style items.

It is from www.despair.com

Did I mention how they are seriously brilliant and very funny. Check them out!

Family Dinner


What kind of family dinner did you have growing up? I would suggest that the kind of dinner you experienced tends to reflect the kind of professional you are today. Did you sit around the TV as a family? Were you allowed to eat alone or did you generally? Were your siblings present? Did the adults have one conversation while the kids talked about something else?

These questions should trigger some fairly clear memories about what your dinners were like. I for one had dinners that were filled with dialogue. We had to not only share about our day, but to talk about meaningful topics of the day. My father in particular was one to launch a discussion about the role of art in education, the nature of materialism, the power of excellence or a myriad of other topics. Dinner was a time to assert a position, provide feedback and to consider the sources of information available.

Fellow entrepreneurs are often people who seem comfortable having ideas and communication constantly percolating. They are not always the most loquacious, but they are generally opinionated. They tend not to be managers who seem to have a need to be compliant or conciliatory. They express themselves with passion and drive. I have noticed the same trend with teachers (at least good ones). Do you take time at family dinner to talk or is it just a time to watch TV and veg out? I would say, turn that TV off! We only have each minute once, never to be repeated! Take hold of them and use them to your advantage as often as possible.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rescuing on the train tracks of faith


I had a fascinating conversation with a woman, Stephanie on Saturday night. She is an attractive, well-heeled woman with raven black hair and quite a well toned physique. She is happily married to a successful general contractor and has two college age children. She invited me to her home in Temecula. We got on the topic of politics and eventually segued to religion - always a dangerous combination for strangers at a party!
She was extolling the virtues of capitalism as the panacea for all of the world's ills and that Obama, as the architect of socialism, will bring all of our prosperity crashing down. A fervent believer in Glen Beck's emotional pleas for action and a deeply convicted born again Christian, she felt compelled to meet me with love, compassion and her faith. I felt very much like Socrates in his quest for a truly pious man. I worked hard the light of reason during the conversation and I must tell you that neither Socrates or I have yet found the truly pious man, but perhaps I met her.
What troubled me was not the view, but rather the passion that Stephanie expresses all of this. The abiding certainty of her own righteousness and belief system was the most terrifying aspect. She, a stay at home mom (truly a full time, respectable job), was CERTAIN, she knew the answers to our economic problems. At the same time, she was certain I was (as politely as she said it) going to hell and could never be married to my partner. As a straight woman, she knew that if only I turned my soul to Jesus, I could be transformed straight.
I knew she was absolutely convinced that she was trying to save my immortal soul. She was utilizing all of her faculties to help me. How could I be outraged? How could I be offended? Selfishly, it would be easy to dismiss her concern or to belittle her efforts. If I am more honest with myself and with her, it is much harder. Another friend of mine used a powerful analogy to help me understand the concern.
Imagine that you are looking out at train tracks and on them, you see a loved one tied down and unaware of the oncoming locomotive which will run them down and kill them in just moments. Do you try to help them? Of course. Do you run and despite any protestations try to save them? Surely. If necessary, do you overpower them and FORCE them from the danger. Most of us would say yes.
Thus did Stephanie see my predicament - I was simply unaware of the danger. She could see the train, the tracks and my apparent immobility. She was was out to rescue me.

My quest then was to simply get her to say the three magic words which could dispel all of my fear: "I don't know." By admitting some uncertainty, suddenly the oncoming train might be so much illusion or hysteria. Happily, I eventually did. Interestingly enough, it was on the issue of gay marriage - that something else could be "equal" to her. If she said yes, then the union would have to be blessed and mandated by God, to say no would be to admit to being a bigot and a self-identified hater of that which is different.

Of all things which frighten me, it is absolute certainty of someone's own righteousness which is the most fear inducing. Can't we agree that there is far more in each of us that is the same rather than different? Can't we move to greater harmony and unity of purpose? I willingly admit my lack of certainty in much beyond my own existence and my faith in the existence and love of a few people in my life. Absolute certainty is just one brief step away from jihad isn't it?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A changing view

While in the Christmas Parade on Friday night, I realized that there are multiple perspectives for an event:

- Participant or attraction
- Driver or facilitator
- Spectator or receiver
- Business or beneficiary

Each of these "roles" has a perspective on the parade itself. There are the insiders and those simply on the outside or affected by the event. What I found most interesting was that I got to be part of all four viewpoints. In the days before the parade, I helped various clients who would be affected by the extra people in town prepare for the parade or have an entry coordinated into it. Prior to the parade the night of, I was walking around as a spectator, as well as at the very end. In the early part, I went through as a participant in it and then later as a driver for Congressman Dana Rohrbacher. Though I might disagree with the Congressman on many social issues, I was a bit embarrassed at how many rude statements were yelled at him. This was a family event with many young children and this was a Congressman. It helped me understand the hurt public servants might feel because others don't agree.

How often do you change your position in order to understand what is happening in your business or non-profit? Do you make an effort not just to see from the perspective of owner, but also as a customer or competitor? What about as simply a nearby business or brand?

Remember to take a different view and remember not to be hateful - it just looks bad on you and doesn't engender any extra positive feelings from the one you are criticizing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Parade


Hillary Clinton famously wrote a book and said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but what does it take to produce a parade? Today was our annual Christmas Parade in Seal Beach; with dozens of volunteers, over 3100 participants and almost a hundred entries, it is a two hour parade which goes quite literally - three blocks. This year, it is estimated to have attracted over 9,000 additional spectators. A joint effort by the Seal Beach Lions, the City of Seal Beach and the Chamber of Commerce, the parade is one of three large events that happen every year.
From a business perspective, the 29th annual parade from a production standpoint would cost well over $10,000 simply for city services, logistics, professional staff and miscellaneous expenses. The all-volunteer leadership team of 5 has billing rates of at least $50/hr in their actual professions. They each have easily spent 50 hours each on the project, and add in the volunteers at minimum wage - say $10 per hour x 4 hours for the evening x 40 volunteers. Before you know it, the volunteer labor is in excess of another $14,000! What about all those lights and media? Add another couple thousand and the amazing volunteer base of SBTV-3. We could say that the costs are in the realm of $30,000 when all is said and done.
The real contribution of dollars in parade entry fees and sponsorship is really never more than $6,000 or so. The Chamber and the volunteers defray the rest of the expenses directly. What is the tangible economic benefit to business? Well, for restaurants and bars, it is likely one of the top five days of the year from profitability standard. Lots of visitors and a willingness to eat and drink with family and friends are abundant. This certainly makes it a win for many businesses.
Scott Newton, parade coordinator and really the architect of the parade, sums it up this way: “The parade shows the region the wonderful community heart and soul right on our Main Street. For that one brief stretch of time, all our neighbors, visitors, residents and businesses wait in delightful anticipation for their loved ones, performers and finally Santa.” Jim Klisanin, who always has a remarkable spread at Baytown Realty on parade night, has been involved for over 25 years. “The parade has never been about making money, it is about the kick off of our holiday season and all of us coming together for Christmas.”
If you look at the entry fees for Belmont Shore’s Christmas Parade, it is $500 for non-members and $400 for those who are. The Seal Beach parade is quite a bit less at $75 for a business entry or $25 for a school, non-profit or Chamber member. Other parades in our region are even more expensive or elaborate. Should we change? I don’t think so.
When all is said and done and the first Friday in December comes around, I for one am happy we have the parade we do. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who I drove in the parade and spoke with after I had done my parade ride summed it up quite well: “Seal Beach has kept its small town charm and wholesome values clear for all to see.” Thanks to all of those who made it happen, volunteers, participants, sponsors and spectators – Seal Beach clearly loves a parade!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pain & Care


Pain is an amazing thing. It signals to the body tissue damage, it is a reflection of the psychic energy imbalance that we experience, and it can drive us to distraction or achievement. This week I was reminded of the reality of pain. On Friday I was moving some hay bales for a community Tree lighting and then on Saturday I lifted legs and did some deep squats.

By Monday, I knew that was a mistake. Hardly able to get out of bed and in serious pain, I went to the Urgent Care and $140 later, I had a couple of prescriptions and some bed rest ordered.

Being highly active both physically and mentally and then being forced into bed reminded me of the importance of taking care of yourself. Thankfully I am blessed with a very robust constitution and have bounced back to about 70% by today, Thursday. As I mentioned in an earlier post about being superhuman, remember the importance to being kind to yourself and your body. Realize that no one can take care of the money making machine that is your body other than you!

When you hurt - go get checked out. I know it is expensive and time consuming - trust me, without insurance, I really get it! You have to be gentle with yourself! Use the pain as nature intended it, to warn you that you have done something wrong to your body or that your body needs extra attention. Pain isn't a necessarily a bad (though it is uncomfortable) thing, rather something which is a forceful reminder of our limitations and mortality.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

I have many friends who are HIV+. I have many who are not. Part of my life has been spent working in the HIV/AIDS fundraising world. It is deeply troubling to me that we have been searching for a cure for over 25 years and it has eluded us. What is more troubling is that rates of HIV infection continue to rise, partiularly among younger gay men. What are we doing wrong?
The following is an excerpt from a CDC page: "In August 2008, CDC published the first national HIV incidence (new infections) estimates using new technology and methodology that more directly measure the number of new HIV infections in the United States. The first analyses, published in the August 6, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed that in 2006, an estimated 56,300 new HIV infections occurred - a number that is substantially higher than the previous estimate of 40,000 annual new infections."

For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/surveillance/incidence/sote/fullscreen.htm

What can you do? Wear a condom. Play safe. Talk about sex openly and honestly with your spouse, children and loved ones. Like many diseases, it is nearly 100% preventable by individual action. Realize that at this point, though the disease is easily prevented, it is expensive to hold in remission. There is also little hope of a "cure" anytime in the future.
I try hard to stay focused on business, but in this case, I believe strongly that the issue is powerful enough that we all should take note and be held accountable for our actions. Only through concerted, willful action will we be able to conquor the disease. Thanks for listening, and end of commercial!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quiet on a Saturday night


Where is your "quiet place?" For me, oddly enough, it was in the laudromat on Saturday night. Amongst all those silent machines, flourescent lights and strangely loud/silent television screens, I found some solitude.
As a community leader, business owner and activist, I find being alone lately a deeply private and renewing span of time. While I was there, for about an hour, the only other person who came in was local police officer. He was documenting a break-in which had occurred that morning around 4 am. Someone had tried to break in to access the money in the coin changing machines. The perpitrator had been caught and nothing had been stolen.
This was a particularly surreal moment because the television show COPS was blairing from one of the TV screens. I chuckled at the irony but did not share it. As some of you may know, my partner, Anthony has been away now for over a month. He usually does the laundry. I felt close to him while drying and folding. Is that strange?
Regardless, what I wished to share with you is the importance of solitude, silence and reflection. In my partying 20s, the idea of being alone doing laundry on a Saturday night was even a possibility, now, it seems a kind of luxury. The luxury of doing a basic task, looking within and having some quiet time seems particularly important to those of us that are usually "on stage." Be sure to appreciate it for what it is, not missing the other distractions that may call to you.

When is it time to end?


When do you know it is time to end a relationship with a client? When do you end a relationship with anyone in your life? When have you been hurt enough to move on?

One of the statements that I have tried hard to live by is: "Change occurs when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change." We all get different things from our work and personal relationships. We often receive monetary compensation, recognition, accolades and perceived power over things or people.

What is subtle and often not thought of when it is time to end is our own vanity and pride. We often will continue because we think we are smart, talented or "special" enough to change the way the world works. Often, we do this with little or no compensation, believing we can make the critical difference! Do not be fooled by your own vanity or desire to be the critical piece in a failing business. Step back and be objective about what you can contribute. It may be that you can make the difference, and be sure that you are able to be appropriately compensated for those efforts. All too often, we are limited by our own self perception and end up working for little to no return.

Be a smart entrepreneur, know enough when to say "enough!"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Richard & Homelessness


Today I spent some time with Richard. He is homeless. He came into the bike shop angry because he needed a new tube and thought we had given him a "slime" tube so he couldn't deflate the tire to change spokes or the tube. He is dirty, old, ugly, profane and hostile. He oddly enough didn't smell, other than the faint smell of old tobacco smoke. His bike looked like the one pictured, but less nice and more laden than with his stuff (which most would call "crap"). He had layers of clothing which were ratty and his hair, face and hands were caked with the dirt of outside living.

We started off on the wrong foot - him yelling and me firm that I wouldn't help him. We both calmed down after we saw the other wasn't being disrespectful to the other, we just didn't understand what the other was asking for. Then we both decided that the other was not an enemy, but rather a potential solution for his bike or my customer.

This was a strange revelation for me. I told Richard how much the repair would cost - $25 (which is the retail price point) and he agreed to that price and that he would pay it. I believed him.

He commented on my name, Seth, being similar to Set, the Egyptian god of evil and that must explain my foul disposition. He referred to his as a result of his name and the history of English monarchs who were vile with the same name. His hands moved swiftly and with certainty over the wheel, though he complained that his eyesight was failing. He laughed at himself in a genuinely self-deprecating way. I was stunned.

Homelessness is a problem in our world. Richard reminded me of a simple truth: He WANTED to live that way. It is not my place to attempt to provide what I think he needs, but to treat him the same way that other customers would be. Yes, he may have some mental illness, he may be an alcoholic, he may be far outside the norm, but he deserved to be treated with simple equality. If I constantly ask for that as a citizen, shouldn't I ensure that I treat others the same way?

Sue Sylvester, the aggressively competitive cheer-leading coach on the television show "Glee" in a recent confrontation with Mr. Shuster, the glee club adviser, said to him, "You don't know the first thing about me." Apparently, I didn't know the first thing about Richard either; he paid in cash, full price and even said "thank you."

Expectations


Do you have expectations of yourself and your business? During this time of Thanksgiving and pre-holiday madness, you might want to evaluate what they are. The reason I present this has to do with two very emotional conversations I had with two important people in my life: my father and step-dad.
Right after stepping off the plane in Michigan and unexpectedly going to the grocery store, my dad proceeded to have a very intense set of questions to outline the "expectations" of our relationship going forward. This was primarily an overview of monetary concerns that he had, or in actuality, what he did not wish to feel "obligated" to me. Then, Thanksgiving rolled around and my step-father seemed to be aghast at my failure to be making in excess of $100,000 per year. I humbly indicated what my compensation and lifestyle is really like and the realities in which Anthony and I lived in.
Some other people could have been offended or hurt by these parent's remarks. I took it in stride and looked at my life and my business objectively. It reminded me that simple survival is not sufficient in today's world, but rather the need to accumulate some assets and eliminate any and all obligations to others is part of the dream of many entrepreneurs. I am proud of the fact that I don't owe money to anyone for starting my companies. Though I still have school debt, I have survived five years of being in business including some of the worst times in recent economic memory. I share this to be a bit cathartic about what happened, but in addition to remind you, gentle reader, of the need to keep envisioning your success not just today, but how to be free of other's expectations. At the same time, you need to have clear sight to what YOU want out of your life and business. I am so thankful that I never feel I go to work anymore. I am just living my life and clients and customers pay me to live it! Isn't that remarkable? It is for today, but those conversations reminded me that at some point, I have to possess enough to sustain myself and my partner in our non-working life. Should I just continue to reposition my life and business so that I am always compensated for living it? That certainly seems like a possibility. What do you think?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tree Lighting, Thanksgiving & Black Friday




Here is the official Press Release:

The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce says a BIG HEARTY THANK YOU to the community for two outstanding events this past week. First of all the 30th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner served over 100 guests and 40 volunteers at St. Anne’s church. A fun time was had by all and an attitude of gratitude abounds. Special thanks to Bryan Hardwick of Seacoast Grace Church who spent countless hours coordinating efforts. Donors for the dinner include Anytime Fitness, Ayres Hotel, Binney Chase, Bogart’s, California Seashells, Crema Café, Devyn’s Garden, Dr. Oaxaca, El Burrito Jr., Finbar’s, Hennessey’s, Kinda Lahaina, Mahe, McDonalds, Merle Norman, Miss Seal Beach Pageant, O’Malley’s, Ruby’s, ServPro, Sweet Jill’s, LOTE, Tru 11 Form, Pavilion’s, Seacoast Grace Church, and Walt’s Wharf. Special recognition goes to Father Bob Vidal of St. Anne’s Church, Shirley Broussard, SWARM Group, Barbara Wellington, Volunteer Coordinator. There are two women in particular, Virginia Fairman and Joan Wofelt, whom without their dedication over the last 30 years, we would not have this grand tradition.
Next day, the 2nd Annual Tree Lighting at the Pier was a resounding success with over 250 people in attendance. Children played in the winter wonderland with trees provided by Snowy Pines and a photo cut out created and donated by Hampton Inn and Suite. Hot chocolate, coffee and cookies donated by Crema Café, Bogart’s and Pavilions were enjoyed by all. The FireDept. Reserves provided the antique fire truck for kids to see and climb on. The modern fire engine delivered Santa to the scene much to the delight of everyone there. Harbour Surfboard provided a surfboard for the Santa photos background. Seal Beach Animal Care Center and Surfrider foundation were on hand to educate and solicit volunteers and donations for their organizations. Coast party Rentals provided the popcorn machine. As the sky grew dark enough, Seth Eaker, President of the Chamber of Commerce, led the crowd in a countdown that culminated in the lighting of the tree covered in colorful LED, environmentally friendly bulbs! You can view the tree all month long in Eisenhower Park at the foot of Seal Beach Pier. This new tradition has taken hold and remember to SHOP LOCAL this holiday season!


Personally, you can see I had fun with the key volunteers and Santa! Boy was I tired! I love what I do in the community, and it is wonderfully draining. If you wonder how to increase visibility for your business - go be a leader. Trust me, I know. Also, it helps drive sales on days like Black Friday. People seek you out not because of a sale, but because they know you make a difference!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Take a moment and just be thankful for your clients, friends, family and spouses. None of us get through it all by ourselves, so the people around you deserve your respect and thanks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Consistency in your voice

Consistency is one of the unchanging laws of marketing and branding.

Inconsistency will erode awareness, loyalty, integrity and trust. When most people mention consistency, they mean visual consistency and there's no doubt that is critical. Making sure your materials have a recognizable look and feel to them is critical to your brand's success.

Today, however, let's focus on a different kind of consistency - you actual voice.

You've heard the old axiom “how you say something is more important than what you say.” That doesn't just mean the words you use. It's also about the attitude, tone and style. Have a clear idea of what your company's voice is. Regardless of how many different writers are involved, your materials should always be in the same voice. How do you "sound" in your communications pieces?

~ Are you formal?

~ Conversational?

~ Do you use short, choppy sentences or long, descriptive paragraphs? In other words, cadence.

~ Do you strictly adhere to grammar and style rules or do you take some liberties? What about slang or industry jargon?

What does each of those choices say about you?

Don't assume the right answer is based on industry stereotypes. Imagine the tone and style differences between a corporate law firm and a law firm that specializes in family law.

Your voice goes beyond the written words. What is the attitude of your radio promotion? How about your signage? Is your voice consistent in how you answer your phone? The signature line on your e-mail? What about your press releases and sales promotions materials? Your on hold message? Is it positive, distracted or just blah?

Think of all the ways you communicate to your customers, potential customers, employees, and vendors. How consistent and strong is your voice? Trust me, it matters.

-Thanks Altus Agency for the insights and thoughts presented here!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Being Thankful - Early

My op-ed piece for the Sun Newspapers which will hopefully be published for this Thursday's paper:

“Abundance is, in large part, an attitude,” remarked Sue Patton Thoele, a powerful contemporary writer. This year, in Seal Beach, we have an amazing number of blessings and abundance to be thankful for this year. We have a balanced budget and reserves in our town, incredibly low crime and great public services. At the same time, we have the natural beauty of Southern California and a fairly stable if not robust local economy. There are city-wide improvements which are occurring on storm drains, wells and other infrastructure projects. We have citizens making great positive impacts: Bill Ayres, Cypress College’s Citizen of the Year for Seal Beach and founder of the 5K/10K Run, Pastor Don Shoemaker of Grace Community as the Christmas Parade Grand Marshal, Kim & Steve Masoner of Save our Beach, Eric Lenahan of PONY Baseball (and the Chamber) and so many others.

At the same time, some things are a bit troubling in our society right now. There was the horrific shooting at Fort Hood, an act of homicidal desperation; a continuing degree of unemployment with an expectation of continued governmental support and now a sweeping set of health care reform to deliver yet more services to more people. Our national budget is in deficit and we continue to spend money as though we can print our way out of any problem. We vote for entitlement after bailout but seem to miss the issue of accountability to our taxpayers. We have a troubling cleanup occurring in our Bridgeport neighborhood by ARCO with not a lot of clear information going to our citizens until recently. For the second time in our history (the first being Prohibition), we are actually taking rights away from our fellow citizens in both California and Maine: the right to marry. This is troubling for me, as I am directly affected by that “taking.”

Among these concerns, there are a few other “unsung” heroes of our town. These heroes keep us on track and I think we owe them a debt of thanks. They are the activist who create a strong voice for their constituents – Mike Buhbe, Joyce Ross-Parque, Robert L. Goldberg, Eldon Alexander, Patti Campbell and a few others. Since the Chamber started having a government and public relations presence two years ago, I have been proud to be among them; these individuals have demonstrated a commitment to positive change that is admirable. Regardless of where you might stand on an issue, they are actually speaking about them to our Council and Commissions. Thank you.

Perhaps we should remember the words the famous Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.” In Seal Beach we have a tradition of improving our community. Impact Seal Beach on November 14th brought over 150 volunteers together to improve our parks and public spaces, we are about to have our 30th Annual Seal Beach Thanksgiving dinner at St. Anne’s and will welcome in the holiday season with our Holiday Tree lighting on “Black Friday” – so be sure to visit Main Street and then enjoy the festivities at Eisenhower Park on November 27th.

We must continue to come together to help preserve the quality of life within our town. I would ask each of you, how are you involved in community? Do you volunteer? Do you encourage your friends and family to participate? You should. Only through action together can we continue to grow that magic that is Seal Beach. So take a moment and be thankful for our unique community. Speaking for the Chamber, I know all of our member businesses thank you for a great year. If we don’t see you at the Chamber Annual Thanksgiving Dinner, then surely we will see you, your family and friends during our largest ever Christmas Parade on Friday, December 4th!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A multitude of sins in high sales. . .


One of the things you should be prepared for in any business is the reality of a need to "hide one's sins." No, I don't mean you should break any laws or evade paying taxes, but I do think that our own vanity or pride can help us in business by driving us to higher sales. Our businesses are a reflection of our own identity. The more successful the business, the more gratified we become as owners. Realize this and use it to drive you to further heights of effort. Only you can author the success of your business, so don't be afraid to hitch some of your vanity to the yoke of your business. Also, remember that with higher sales, you have more cash flow which almost invariably leads to a greater number of choices in your business.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Creative placement

Do you ever think about where your brand is placed? What is it next to? Who might wear a t-shirt, carry a pen or have a piece of logo merchandise? Though some movies and media do a great job of making this fairly ridiculous as you can see! Makes me not want to buy Wonder or Old Spice ever again.

I would recommend that your brand and products whenever possible are attached to attractive, successful people. The more you can associate the brand with qualities that society places value on, it helps. Also, consider placement in areas which are complementary but unexpected. Imagine a shelf of cold medicine with a section of Campbell's Chicken Soup. Obviously not a cold remedy, but certainly a complementary product.

Look to brand your products or service in interesting ways. Your volunteerism, community engagement and identity within a town is critical to how you are perceived. Make your brand shine every day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Returning from the Vineyard

Well, there is something incredible about having your family own a vineyard, winery and tasting room. Seriously cool.

Not just from a conversation standpoint, but making wine is amazing. The vitality of the product, the vibrance of wine aficionados, the sensual experience of drinking wine, the art and science of its production and the passion of those who create it. My father is an exceptionally creative man, with the mind of an entrepreneur, the soul of an artist and a heart of enduring love. His wines embody a dry farming, terroir of glacial marine soil, deep clay and hearty vines. The reason I share all of this is not for you to buy his wines (though you could be encouraged!), rather to appreciate the style of wresting a product out of essentially nothing. When I evaluate business, one of the things I look for is the level of vertical integration a business has. In Longview's case, from grapes to final wine bottle, nearly everything is done on the estate. This allows a level of quality control enviable by nearly any business. Dad checks on things every step of the way. This ensures he never has to compromise on his product. How many compromises do you make? What does it do to affect your customer relationships? Do they really get the level that you personally would stand behind? If not, maybe you need to bring more in house. At the end of the day, YOU are your own brand.

Oh, and feel free to go order wine! www.longviewwinery.com Go ahead and tell them I sent you!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting ready to leave for MI

How do you know what to pack for a trip? When is the right time to leave clients when you own your own business? How often do you see family?

I know some of these questions seem puerile, but you need to answer them if you are in business for yourself. In the last three years, I have traveled to be with my mother during a hospitalization, my grandmother after a massive stroke and then eventual funeral and my father's prostate surgery and recovery. Combined, these trips were more than a month out of my life. I am of course VERY thankful that I have the kind of life where I can just leave as needed. There are some simple rules of thumb I use about travel in my professional life:

1. Family come first. Period. You only have one family and when they need you, you go. No one on their death bed ever said, "gee, I wish I worked more."

2. When possible, schedule time where your absence actually reduces the expense to the client, or can be offset by other factors for the client (a less busy time, etc. . .)

3. Provide advanced notice and ensure your absence can be adjusted to.

4. Use time away to reflect in a relaxed way on issues in your professional life and to brainstorm some solutions for your clients.

Anyway, I am excited about a trip to see my Dad and family in MI. May be cold, but should be fun! It is always good to see the latest in the vineyard and tasting room.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

State of the City

Today I was a guest of the City of Seal Beach. It is quite a switch from being reprimanded from the dais by the Mayor. LOL - I guess I have made it. Seriously, the last three years of living in Seal Beach has taught me that it is of VITAL importance that you PARTICIPATE IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

Let me pause to let that sink in.

Want to hear it again? PARTICIPATE IN YOUR COMMUNITY!!!!!

I am frightened and discouraged by the complete apathy by many of my fellow citizens. Go use your rights of free speech and assembly. Go advocate for positive change. Go make the world a better place as only you can do. We all have lives, please, I implore you, don't lead one of quiet desperation. Lead one of great strides, active help and make a difference. Today I knew I made it when the mayor made a joke with me in it. Two years ago, the Chamber of Commerce would not even have been invited. Now we represent a powerful constituency of nearly 250 member businesses of all sizes and are providing feedback on zoning, policy and major funding issues in our town. The City you live in has the power to keep you in business or not. They control many elements of your external marketing, your conditions of use for your business property and even hours you can operate. Reach out to your community leaders and build bridges not bonfires of hostility.

Finally, I would make a personal call to action to all of my LGBT brethren out there. COME OUT in your community. Show up to a public meeting. Talk about your rights. Insist on them. I will not drink out of a separate but equal drinking fountain. I will not give up my seat on the bus for someone else (unless they need it by means of disability). I will not accept a separate but equal marriage or civil union. I will not be quiet as a business leader because I am not "abnormal" - I am a vital part of the community because I participate. Shouldn't you participate too?

ps - thanks to the Mayor, Boeing (as I sat at their table) and City Manager. I really had a good time!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Relationships matter


I was reminded today about the importance of relationships. How do you feed the relationships in your own life? What about your business? What do you do to sustain them?

I guess I wasn't done talking about them from my trip to Philly. Getting ready to go to Michigan. Wanted to make sure I shared some gratitude with some clients. Have you made a point to actually get out there and say thank you for the work they give you? I know that without them, I would not be able to provide for us and keep living the dream! They are:

Main Street Cyclery - www.mainstreetcyclery.com
Beach Fitness - www.beachfitness.com
Crema Cafe - www.thecremacafe.com
Violet Source Healing - www.violetsourcehealing.com
Altus Agency - www.altus-group.com
LA INC. - www.discoverlosangeles.com
The Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship - www.lebow.drexel.edu/Centers/Baiada/index.php
The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce - www.sealbeachchamber.org

And so many others. . .thank you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reflections on Philadelphia

Going back to Philadelphia is always a bit bittersweet. There are so many memories there that filled my life and now, several clients which continue to keep bringing me back. Having now been in business successfully for five years, there is a line of satisfied clients and boards that I have been a part of. It is amazing how if you continue to deliver on your promises, have integrity and keep focused on the important things in life: family, friends, experiences and your real passions, you end up with abundance and a steady stream of improving conditions.

A big thank you to Chris D., his new boyfriend Mikey, John W., my former business partner Josh and his lovely wife Djung (and their new boy!), my client DJ and of course the irrepressible David S. for making the trip so fun.

Coincidentally, I was able to spend some time meeting with a supplier of a current client Advanced Sport International (ASI). They have a great operation and it was a pleasure meeting with Roy, Pat and Greg. Fascinating how companies of any size often confront the same issues of communication, silos and client relations. Having fresh eyes often helps. My visit reminded me of the importance not only of long term client relationships, but the importance of being open to opportunities with those businesses which also provide services to your own clients. By helping them, you ultimately help those you work for. The battle to provide always increasing value is never ending.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Children & Parenting


What is happening with parenting in the USA? Seriously. My friend John and I were out to dinner at Marathon Grill at 16th and Samson in Philadelphia at 8 pm on Friday night. Across from us, a table of 5 adults and two children were having their meal. What was incredible to me was the 3-4 year old standing up on the high chair and screaming, then running along the booths and playing with blinds. What was more incredible was the ineffectual attempts by the mother to control either child's behavior. After 30 minutes of this, including an episode in which both children darted away from the table (still screaming) and were in the way of servers and other guests, John lost it.

Shouting directly at the kid, "SHUT UP" in an unquestionably authoritative voice, the restaurant was swept into silence. For about 5 seconds.

The mother was offended, the presumed father was so outraged he got up lunged at my friend and had to be physically restrained by his "bros." The entire party was aghast at the nerve John had in speaking to their children.

I continued to eat my fantastic coconut shrimp and take another sip of my Pinot Grigio. Fully prepared to step up and poised with my knife in the other hand, I actually thought the scene was going to devolve into violence. It didn't and after apologies and other harsh words from them, they left. Nearly an hour later, as I was outside on my cell phone coordinating some other members of our party arriving, I noticed the "daddy" and three of his friends standing on the opposite street corner waiting to continue this in a more physical manner. They shouted at me and then finally stalked off into the lovely evening air. What did this say about them, the messages they were sending to their children and the role of decorum in public places? Apparently it is better to take offense and then violent action than to discipline your own children.

I share this because the level of kindness in public places seems to be declining. We are all to blame for this - my friend shouting, their expectation of tolerance by others, the willingness to get physical and the "pack" mentality of status and retribution. Is it any wonder we are looked at so poorly by other nations and cultures? Should we expect kindness when we are certain, as the parents were of their own moral "rightness." Perhaps we should all look more closely at our motives and feelings, thus taking responsibility for ourselves before we are so quick to blame others. We could all use a bit more kindness in our lives.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Night - Part Deux


I am once again frustrated and enraged by my fellow neighbors and citizens - this time in Maine. Thank goodness for Adam Bouska (and partner Jeff Parshley) and his NoH8 campaign. It is a powerful representation of where we are as gay citizens in a culture which asks us to be less than what we are. Why is this?

From a business perspective, the prevention of citizens by government to marry seems an exercise in futility. Over time, every ethnic, gender and religious group has been integrated. The fights are costly, divisive and result in countless lives being affected in a negative way until acceptance. Doesn't it seem silly to make gays the whipping boy of our time? Do you really think it is going to turn out any differently? Who will need to get shot before the public realizes how ridiculous the arguments of those opposed to same sex marriage are?

Also, as a special message to all of our religious institutions - be careful of what you support now, for later, you will reap the harvest of the seeds of hate. When you have your tax exemption removed because of your involvement in this issue, you will look back and only have yourself to blame. As a species we need to move forward in harmony. Marriage is not a zero sum game, it is non-zero sum where your support and understanding now will pay dividends to all of us later. Mark my words, those who oppose us will never gain the benefits of the LGBT community dollar, business or network. We are well educated, affluent and highly brand loyal - all of the marketing research proves it. So check back and if others have ideas for how to move this along, please comment.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Natural, Easy Transition. . .

Anthony left today. He flew back to London to convert his FAA licenses over to the JAA in the UK. In addition, his visa was up, so he needed to go renew it. What happens during this process should be "easy and natural" but as in many things, it is harder to have your partner gone than here. I'm sure many in a relationship (and some who aren't) understand. I really look forward to him being gainfully employed!
The issues of work, immigration and pay are critical for many businesses and industries. Who is willing to do the work, who is qualified to do the work and what is reasonable compensation?
This certainly isn't confined to pilots. There are many highly technical or trained jobs which have more demand than supply, as there are those in which unskilled labor is aggressively sought out by immigrants. Should be be protectionist in our workplace? I am not so sure. One of the issues facing small business is the level of expectation of employees: benefits, salary (or any compensation), vacation, sick leave, etc. . Dovetail this with the expectation of our government to tax the owners, the business itself and the employees, that is a lot of friction to producing quality goods and services. Perhaps we should be less forceful in controlling who is eligible "to work" and instead allow the business to decide who the best employees are. Wouldn't that make more sense?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day - one of the celebrations not necessarily a focus of in the USA, but one which many cultures recognize far more than Halloween. We did have an amazing time at Halloween and Trick or Treat Main Street was particularly successful. This blog post is in honor of a facinating book I have read: The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. Totally worth at read!
http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-God-Robert-Wright/dp/0316734918/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257724567&sr=8-1

Friday, October 30, 2009

Neologism - These are TOO good!

Speaking to Win: The Blog

2009 Winners Of The NY Post Neologism Contest

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.),a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavoured mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6.. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole