Saturday, January 31, 2009

Self Discipline

Today I thought I would focus on the idea of self discipline to attain results.  In business, like in life, often we have to focus on a goal and then eliminate distractions that interfere with our ability to attain the goal.  Most goals are simple in concept, but hard to attain.  For example, if you want to lose weight - eat fewer calories and/or burn more calories.  It is simple, but for most people, not very easy.

Self discipline is the source of energy we need to draw on for these challenges.  Make an effort to isolate what the challenge might be and then focus your self discipline to attain it.  Also, sharing that goal with others will help you stay focused on it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I was reminded today of the importance of generous listening. Often in partnerships of a business, you forget that your thoughts and ideas are not always the best. Other people associated with your business - specifically your business partner - may have a different perspective. The best answers usually come from consensus. Consensus building is hard. It requires far more effort than the simple expedience of directing others.
Speaking of directing others, one of the best insights that one of my life mentors taught me was: "I am often wrong, but I am always emphatic." Your conviction will encourage others to crystalize and clarify their views as well. I know the idea of being emphatic and generous listening seem diametrically opposed, but in reality, they work together to resolve issues more quickly and honestly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Response about Image Culture

L. E. Modesitt Jr. is one of my favorite authors. He has recently started a very thought provoking series of blog entries. Check it out at . I posted this in response to his Image Culture comments.

We live in an era of entitlement. Children are praised for mediocre efforts and shielded from any criticism or critique of their performance. It is no wonder that there is an expectation of benefits – like home ownership. Why do we live in a culture which is fixated on “sickness” (bringing the patient from a negative value to zero) rather than a “wellness” (from zero to a positive)? Why do we insist that the only route to success is with a college degree, when many people are better suited to craftsmanship or creative pursuits, in which traditional apprenticeship to journeyman makes more sense? Why are so many people compensated based on position rather than the actual value created in the society and culture as a whole? Because we have been taught a skewed value structure. A structure based on appearances and vanity rather than substance and quality.

In regard to the financial crisis, it is the individual consumer behavior which is the actual root of this issue. We have been overwhelmed by marketing and advertising messages that elevate the virtue of possessions, but not the value of experiences or sacrifice. Why do we need such ridiculous cars? Why do we spend such vast sums of money on elaborate “toys”? Do we really need to live in 9,000 square feet? Who could possibly need such vast space? We consume like a voracious organism with no thought to the eventual consequence of our actions. Why does television capture us – because it is effortless. We are a lazy species taught that complacency in some way relates to attaining success, as long as we have the “things” which society uses as a measuring stick for our own vanity. I still have yet to hear where $350 billon has gone other than to “the banks” or to Wall Street. What an appalling lack of accountability. Yet we seem unfazed and prepared to give yet more money, which I might add is OUR money (the taxpayers) to continue to allow the consumer to go back out and spend. Are we really tackling the right issues? I think not.

Monday, January 26, 2009


When working with entrepreneurs, I have noticed a trend - intensity.  This group of people tends to throw themselves with great abandon into their work.  Often it is a labor of love which intersects some profitability.  Often they merge their natural inclination for sales and marketing into their daily life.  They also tend to work and play very hard!  They take trips, indulge in sensory stimulating activities and enjoy life.  There is also a great deal of intensity in their relationships.  Coming from a family of entrepreneurs (both of my parents and most of my close friends are entrepreneurial), it also seems to be somewhat a characteristic which has been nurtured from an early age.

When meeting with my mentors Mark and Terri from the Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship earlier this month, we talked about this characteristic and where it comes from.  Most of these people are at work ALL THE TIME!  They proudly bring their work into their daily life and home life.  Where does this lack of traditional "work/life balance" come from?  Why are entrepreneurs so intense?  Why do they seem to "suck the marrow" from life and live more richly (if not with more wealth?)

Also, have you noticed that this intensity is coupled with an almost irrepressible sense of optimism?  We are confident not only of our success, but of the joy in life.  I think this would be a fascinating area to evaluate and study - what in the nurture or nature of this group of individuals allows for such behavior. . .

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Arts & Culture

We went to the Norton Simon museum to see Vermeer's A Lady Writing. It was amazing. To see what was done with light and texture - Vermeer was a master. The work of genius is both inspiring and humbling. It truly excited me to see it. There also was a nice show of Jainist art - interesting how snakes in an Eastern culture has completely different meaning than the Judeo-Christian tradition. Here Anthony and I are in the sculputure garden and there is an image of A Lady Writing. Take time to enjoy family and culture!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Letters of Support

You ever wonder what can help with contracts with larger organizations?  Letters of support!  With a project I am working on presently, the Navigaytour ( got great letters of support from Chambers of Commerce and also the client LA INC., the Convention & Visitor's Bureau for greater Los Angeles. These letters help open the door to potential advertisers and customers for the publication.  

Further, here in Seal Beach, letters of support can be used to help impact the political landscape from Zoning Codes to City Council opinions.  Even members of the local Chamber, when bidding on regional, county or city contracts will look for letters of support.  It is one level up from a testimonial of a customer - it is an endorsement of your competency and success.  So don't be afraid to ask for one.  We all need help!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


In meeting with a client today, I was reminded of the importance of mantra.  Guy Kawasaki makes much of this in several of his books.  Mantra is really the heart of what all components of the business grow out of.  For example, Black Marble Consulting helps innovators transform their ideas into strategic documents.  This clearly states who I help (innovators), what I do (transform their ideas) and the final product (strategic documents).  I have recently considered revising this mantra because what I do - I really imbed in business and help them make money by evaluating decisions in the business.

Further, this economy provides great opportunity for consultants and experts to provide insights.  I just had a great meeting with the founder of The Default News today as a potential client.  It was inspiring to see how this real estate crisis was giving her an opportunity to grow her business.  You have to look to your mantra and the environment - there is value you can add!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Role playing

Ever wonder what a customer feels?  Do you wish you had greater insight into a client?  Don't wonder - set up a role play!  Have people transact business, play with customer personalities and work through challenges by setting up a mock experience.  Surveys will get lots of data, but having your employees play both sides of a transaction or experience percolates new ideas and new perspectives.  

It is also important to inspire people to go beyond their limits and preconceptions.  Role playing in a safe environment (be it work or pleasure!) can often create a better skill set for the individual and ultimately the team.  The key here is both safety and seriousness.  Role playing should be taken seriously while in the role.  Otherwise it can seem silly and trite.  Give it a try, who knows, you might learn something.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shadow blogging

So today I helped a client create their own blog on Blogger. Pretty simple really. The interesting thing was after setting it up, the content just flowed out of me. It reminded me that writing is a skill which benefits from use, and you have to practice, practice, practice. I guess the question I have is: "Is it ok to shadow blog as if you are someone else?"

Seems simple, but I guess it is a bit more complex than first reflection. First off, I have a distinctive "voice" to my writing and I think this comes through. It is much like an accent, cadence, word choice and tone all rolled into one. So could I form another "voice?" I am sure it is possible, but as a writer, so much of what I write is informative or persuasive, I can't help but have that in the style of the other blog. Perhaps it is a bit like a fiction author writing a new series or about a new set of characters. You can often tell it is the same writer, but the voice of the storyteller is different. One of my favorite authors, L.E. Modesitt Jr. seems to have the gift of changing voices - particularly since he writes books in both high fantasy and classic science fiction.

That then leaves the ethical question: should you shadow blog. I believe you can and should, but in the business world, people want to know the person behind the business (at least in my type of business), so I think it is best to give a hand, help and then turn it over. After all, I have more than enough to do. . .but maybe if the price was right. Let me know what you think. . .

12 Key Questions

These qustions arise out of the book First, Break All the Rules. Great questions to ask your employees and ultimately yourself to see if you are fully engaged and ready to be a high performer.

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

These questions all link to at least one of the four key business outcomes: Productivity, Profitability, Retention and Customer Satisfaction.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Scorpion & the Frog

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river. The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back. Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.
"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"
"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.
"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim” Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"
"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"
"Alright do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.
"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.
"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?" The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drowning frog's back.
I could not help myself. It is my NATURE." Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

The Nature of Sabotage

Sabotage is a term of French origin coined during the railway strike of 1910, when workers destroyed the wooden shoes, or sabots, that held rails in place, thus impeding the morning commute. An alternate definition pretends the word to be older by almost a century, the times of Industrial Revolution. It is said that powered looms could be damaged by angry or disgruntled workers throwing their wooden shoes or clogs (known in French as sabots, hence the term Sabotage) into the machinery, effectively clogging the machinery. This is often referenced as one of the first inklings of the Luddite Movement. Others contend that the word comes from the slang name for people living in rural areas who wore wooden shoes after city dwellers had begun wearing leather shoes; when employers wanted strikebreakers they would import 'sabots'/rural workers to replace the strikers. Not used to machine-driven labor the 'sabots' worked poorly and slowly. The strikers would be called back to work (with demands won) and, could win demands on the job by working like their country cousins - the sabots. Thus 'sabotage'.
A few quick questions:
Why does the worker throw the sabot into the machine?
Who ultimately does the failure of the machine hurt?
What is the repercussion directly against the perpetrator? Aren’t they hurt just as much?
If these things are all true, then the perpetrator does nothing but destroy value without creating any positive change. More importantly it is a reflection on their OWN internal dissatisfaction with the status quo, but does not provide a dialogue to produce change.
Why do you sabotage your own success in relationships / work / income levels and family expectations?
What are you so afraid of? How can you get over this?

When you question why you work against yourself, consider the process of sabotage and how you may be subconsciously interfering with your own success.

Article #2 - Helping your business survive in a bear economy

Well, 2009 is here after 2008 went out with a whimper. 2008 was a tough year for many small businesses with the crunch in credit, rising health care costs for employees, increased minimum wage and decreased discretionary spending by many consumers. Seal Beach has been protected to an extent by having many residents with recession resistant incomes – often retirees. At the same time there is a fairly stable base of energy and defense related businesses – Boeing, Energy Tubulars and Clean Energy, all of which are part of our community. The opening of the Shops at Rossmoor and the Target Center both have continued to help the northern part of our town and sales tax revenue overall.
All that said, how can you work through these tough times? How can you protect your business? After all, as Harry Truman said, “It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.”

Look to creative guerilla marketing ideas from your business / employee team or associations you might belong to. The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce is full of creative ways to brand your business without spending a lot of money. Try ribbon cuttings, customer appreciation events, anniversaries and related types of events to create a buzz around your business.
Here in Seal Beach, we pay a quite a bit per square foot, often between $3 - $5. This makes simply having a storefront an expensive proposition. Consider lease relief – we pay a great deal for our property and a vacant storefront doesn’t make any money for the property owner. Talk to your property owner and have an open and honest discussion about your business and where it is.
Look to “impactful” advertising – advertise in a way which allows you to track the return on investment (ROI) for each dollar spent. Now is a time to build transactions, not just brand for your business. A great way to do this is through cooperative advertising. Several businesses or business alliances will come together to buy a complete page of advertising, thus providing a discount to all of the individual members.
Create partnerships with other businesses in ways that go “win-win.” Perhaps there are services that you could use in exchange for other services. Uncle Sam always has to get his cut, so be sure to appropriately document, but see how your business can work with others.
Referrals are alive and well! One of the greatest complements you can give to a business is the power of your word in referral. Nearly 100% of my business comes word of mouth and from the standpoint of credibility, nothing beats a great referral.
Join the digital age. Have a website, keep it up to date and utilize networking at the business to business (B2B) level. A great site to network is , or locally, use the Chamber web page to be seen by others.
There are many more ideas, and feel free to share them with me or the Seal Beach Chamber. Remember, be sure to buy local to keep the charm that is Seal Beach.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sponsorship to local events

One of the best ways for business to make an impact in a community is via sponsorship of local events.  Check to see if there are opportunities to have booths, tents, raffle (or opportunity drawing) prizes or other such brand marketing venues.  Often a gift certificate is far more valuable than just giving cash to a cause.  It drives customers directly to you.  

Wales or Bust & Waves for Surfing

So my trainer Andrew S. has gone to study abroad in Wales - wow is it going to be some culture shock for that SoCal boy!  LOL - if you are interested in his blog which he just started, it is 

Back to training hard this AM with Barb at BF - great hour of blasting out my legs.  Feels so good to be back in the gym.  Today is also the Katin Seal Beach Surf Championships.  My dear friend Chris D. would LOVE it.  The swell is pretty small, but more should be coming it.   The weather here in Seal has been amazingly warm all week - felt like Summer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Legislative Committee

West Orange County CA has it going on!  There is a great body of people who get together to advocate for small business in our community.  Advocacy in community can be amazingly effective when over 1,000 member businesses are represented.  The Chambers of Stanton, La Palma, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress were all present.  It really was an great group!  With a new administration moving in and change coming - business needs a voice.  Glad to know we have such a strong one in Seal Beach!

Chambers of Commerce

Had a great set of meetings with several Chambers of Commerce in the LA region.  In particular, the Hollywood and West Hollywood Chambers were so encouraging and helpful about bringing in the LGBT visitor and making them feel welcome.  More importantly, they were excited about being part of the destination marketing activities to attract gay visitors.  In this time, communities which actively recruit various demographics and make them feel welcome - will reap greater customer visibility.  Make it a point to reach out to diversity.  Your business will benefit.

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

For the last three days - Tuesday through Thursday, I was with my client David J. of Navigaytour.  What a great visit!  On the down side - I had to brave the I-405 traffic from Seal Beach to north of LAX.  Wow - was that a nightmare.  It is clear that sitting in traffic for 3.5+ hours a day is no way to live!  I look forward to not getting in the car for some time.  Consider your commute and try to reduce the amount of time you do so.  It is good for the environment and in my opinion, your spirit as well!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Power of the People - Building Consensus

Today I have the opportunity to make a difference by leading business through the Chamber of Commerce. Last night I testified in front of the Planning Commission and finally helped resolve the parking issue at Seal Beach Center. What a feeling of satisfaction that a political and planning problem finally got fixed (at least for the short term) last night. Later, I worked with Mike L. and his wife as they tried to bring in a new Vietnamese restaurant. Thankfully the effort worked and I believe they can live witht the conditions of the CUP with very extended and negotiated in-lieu parking fees.
I have to say that working with the Planning Commission is a pleasure - they really are trying to help business. I was particularly pleased by the Chairman's recognition that during these economic times, business needs help and the City should be ready and willing to do so. It finally shows me that we are making progress.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Year, A New Focus

Welcome back friends and happy New Year! It has been a great start to 2009. Anthony and I spent a wonderful week of Christmas and New Year celebrating with family, friends and eating our way through Southern California. Wow was it delicious! Big thanks to Mom & Jim, Susan & Sean and of course Hazel and George for making the holiday so flavorful and indulgent.
New Year was really great with Bryce & Annika and our new friends JJ & Leslie. Sorry to have missed the Giant party with Moby, but when Andrew gets back from Wales, I am sure the whole BF tribe will go out again!
Whew, ok, so on with the post!

I was interviewed yesterday by the Sun Newspapers & Sean Belk about Main Street going online. I do feel that online and virtual components of any business are absolutely essential to the growth of any business. Let me be clear - ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. If you don't have a website for your business, or for that matter for you personally. Do so. You can have a Facebook, myspace, LinkedIn or whatever, just have something. There are all kinds of resources to help you make yourself & your business exist in the virtual world. The reason for this is simple, you want customers (and people in general) to be able to find you. We are quickly becoming a very flat world, and your online presence is part of who you are and what your business is all about. So for 2009, I encourage all of you to have an online presence. Make it a priority. Let me know if I can help.