Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sick

Being sick sucks. I have to say that I genuinely dislike getting sick. It goes beyond the discomfort of it - currently I have the flu, and it makes my life so unproductive. I end up being able to do very little. I know I need to rest. I know it gives me an opportunity to catch up in reading (I have already read three books since Thursday) and I guess I could look at the fact that I get to stay in bed as a plus.

Honestly though, I just hate it. Here's hoping to get well quickly!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Building Bridges


I mentioned in an earlier post about the nature of relationships being key to a selling process and today I had another insight about it.  People who don't build relationships don't understand why it is so important.  At times individuals will look to the work you do and question why it is valuable - the reality is relationships build into sales, commitment and effective business.

Another reason we needed to connect with relationships is sometimes relationships sour. Eventually, time passes, the "water flows under the bridge" and it is time to reach out to build a new bridge.  Bridges literally span gaps over hazards or impassable terrain.  The same holds true in business and life.  We have to work to establish bridgeheads or points of commonality with others.  It may not work.  Bridges do fail - but at least you know you have tried to build again.

I was asked today what I thought I would bring to a sales effort - my answer - relationships and a willingness to simply work on connecting with people.  This answer was met with some derision.  I found this odd considering how beleaguered the project is, particularly the credibility of it.  Upon reflection, it was clear, my relationships were not being viewed in the full light of the work I had done in the community.  Further, my relationships potentially being more effective with this project would reflect poorly on the existing team.  Either way, I can be assured that I tried to build the bridge.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In God We Trust?

Tonight at City Council, I as always advocated for business. We acknowledged fires, 25 years of service for a pastor, the Girl Scout troops (and a center for Girl Scouts which had a $1 a year lease renewed for 10 years), the Tennis Center operator and a MADD award for a police officer with many drunk driving arrests. All wonderful things, but nothing was said of the concerns I brought up about the business community. Again.

The thing which actually was commented on most by the public was the potential addition of the phrase "In God We Trust" to Council chambers. Of six speakers, only one was in favor of the proposal, 4 against and two opted not to comment (myself included - though I feel quite strongly opposed to it). Amazingly, the Council seemed to ignore public comment and passed it 5 to 0. I was shocked. Then I reflected, should I really be shocked? We live in a society which likes to acknowledge "safe" things - Girl Scouts, the response of the Fire Department and arrests of drunks, but to really examine the foundations of what our City is based on, our elected officials just blithely prosteletize about how "wonderful and appropriate" the motto is. Why do we live in a culture where the baby-boomer feels that as long as they "bless" it, it must be good?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

All I ever needed to know. . .

I loved this book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten : Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things" by Robert Fulghum. In it are so many wonderful thoughts. Please take a moment to reflect on the statements below.

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school.
These are the things I learned.
Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are food for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.
Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. We are like that.
And then remember that book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK! Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology, and politics and the sane living.
Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put thing back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Doesn't that all make sense?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Luxury


This past weekend I had a remarkable experience which reminded me that the American Dream is still alive, a tour of the nominations for the “Most Luxurious Home” in Seal Beach. During a time of recession, why would we focus on luxury? Simple, in a relentless media barrage of negativity, luxury is still something which we can relate to as material success and with some positive feelings. This success is part of the American Dream – what deep down all of us can connect with and ultimately aspire to. In this way, the exploration of luxury helps us all become more optimistic about life and our own aspirations to comfort and security..
Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Perhaps, but luxury is not something as fully subjective. All five homes were remarkably luxurious, but what really is luxury? According to the Free Dictionary, it is:
1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.
2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.
3. Sumptuous living or surroundings.
All five of the homes I toured definitely fit the second two definitions, but it was the first definition, which convinced me of a dividing line between everyday luxury and extraordinary luxury. It is what is fun and entertaining to have but certainly not a necessity in your life. Art or views could play a part in some of the consideration of luxury, but more often it is the use of space, light, furnishings, electronics and the convenience of choice, which defines luxury in a home. I saw a remarkable in-home theatre, infinity pool and fire, amazing water features, trompe-l'oeil walls, ceilings and vistas of oceans, nature trails, art, rich furnishings, sumptuous fabrics and gardens galore. I felt that the American Dream was alive and well for these homes and more importantly their owners & families. It was not a celebration of excess, but a celebration of the attainment of what people desired in their own environment.
This humility and pride coupled together is part of what makes the American Dream so great. We can be pleased with our accomplishments and generous in sharing it with others. They in turn can appreciate it. In one home in particular, there was a very creative family crest done with a modern take in one of the most delightful bar rooms I had ever seen. In yet another, the interior was the showcase among amazing patterns, d├ęcor and artistic elements. Finally, in another, a fellow judge commented to me “why with all of this, there is never a reason to leave.” I concur.
So with all of the terrible news in the stock market, late night state budget, housing bubbles bursting and grim financial issues, negotiations where no one seems to win, Seal Beach can hold its head high. We have a community where individuals can survive and prosper – just like the American Dream, entrepreneurship and our own community newspaper, The Sun. Luxury, the idea of “sumptuous living” is alive and well. Congratulations to all of the owners of these homes for sharing and also being proud enough of their accomplishment to be generous with it. Thanks for helping us all strive to be more successful professionals and remember to shop local!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Patterns and Perception

Do you ever just see how things connect? Does your work seem to connect you to different ideas and people which cause you to see the strategy behind apparently disparate activities? That is part of why I love my business. I get to interact with people of various businesses and disciplines all day! What fun.

One of the patterns which I love to discover is when one insight is translatable to multiple clients or scenarios. For example, today in a West Orange County Legislative Committee meeting - which is a gathering of local, state and federal legislative aids and Chambers of Commerce representatives, the issue of collaboration came up. Later, with two other situations, we discussed the importance of collaboration to the success of their business. In one case it had to do with staff and in another it was finding a way to make a product more accessible. It even was an issue in my home life as my partner and I discussed collaborating more effectively to reach certain goals in our financial life. This concept of collaboration was a pattern that was a clear focus for my day today. On a side note, tomorrow I will be working with four other judges to evaluate five finalist for the "Most Luxurious Home" in Seal Beach - should be great fun. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Perception and illusion



Images and perception play a huge role in our lives. These two visual or optical illusions demonstrate this. The Impossible Chess Set is by Sandro Del Prete @ 1975 and next to it is a old crone, or is it a young ingenue? An optical illusion is a visually perceived image that, at least in common sense terms, is deceptive or misleading. The information gathered by the eye is processed by the brain to give, on the face of it, a "percept" that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source. It is the two dimensional affect of the magician's or artist's sleight of hand. Cognitive illusions are assumed to arise by interaction with assumptions about the world, leading to "unconscious inferences", an idea first suggested in the 19th century by Hermann Helmholtz. Cognitive illusions are commonly divided into ambiguous illusions, distorting illusions, paradox illusions, or fiction illusions (hallucinations).
It is always worthwhile when considering outcomes or possibilities to understand that we may not fully perceive the entire image or situation. In other words, illusion does not happen in just our visual field! We need to look at situations in our lives from as many perspectives as possible. This in turn will allow us to be more capable of seeing what is, rather than what we might wish something to be. Our own vanity often works against us, by locking us into a single set of perceptions rather than a willingness to consider all viewpoints. Take a step back, really take a moment (or several) to give your perception and ultimately your mind a chance to see the "big picture."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stimulus? An Excerpt from Wikipedia (my comments at the end)

"In economics, Fiscal policy refers to government attempts to influence the direction of the economy through changes in government taxes, or through some spending (fiscal allowances). It is the use of government spending and revenue collection to influence the economy. Fiscal policy can be contrasted with the other main type of economic policy, monetary policy, which attempts to stabilize the economy by controlling interest rates and the supply of money. The two main instruments of fiscal policy are government spending and taxation. Changes in the level and composition of taxation and government spending can impact on the following variables in the economy:
  • Aggregate demand and the level of economic activity;
  • The pattern of resource allocation;
  • The distribution of income.
Fiscal policy refers to the overall effect of the budget outcome on economic activity. The three possible stances of fiscal policy are neutral, expansionary and contractionary:
  • A neutral stance of fiscal policy implies a balanced budget where G = T (Government spending = Tax revenue). Government spending is fully funded by tax revenue and overall the budget outcome has a neutral effect on the level of economic activity.
  • An expansionary stance of fiscal policy involves a net increase in government spending (G > T) through rises in government spending or a fall in taxation revenue or a combination of the two. This will lead to a larger budget deficit or a smaller budget surplus than the government previously had, or a deficit if the government previously had a balanced budget. Expansionary fiscal policy is usually associated with a budget deficit.
  • A contractionary fiscal policysurplus than the government previously had, or a surplus if the government previously had a balanced budget. Contractionary fiscal policy is usually associated with a surplus.
Fiscal policy is used by governments to influence the level of aggregate demand in the economy, in an effort to achieve economic objectives of price stability, full employment and economic growth. Keynesian economics suggests that adjusting government spending and tax rates are the best ways to stimulate aggregate demand. This can be used in times of recession or low economic activity as an essential tool in providing the framework for strong economic growth and working toward full employment. The government can implement these deficit-spending policies due to its size and prestige and stimulate trade. In theory, these deficits would be paid for by an expanded economy during the boom that would follow; this was the reasoning behind the New Deal.

Some classical economists argue that fiscal policy can have no stimulus effect; this is known as the Treasury View, and categorically rejected by Keynesian economics, which is predicated on fiscal stimulus being possible.

During periods of high economic growth, a budget surplus can be used to decrease activity in the economy. A budget surplus will be implemented in the economy if inflation is high, in order to achieve the objective of price stability. The removal of funds from the economy will, by Keynesian theory, reduce levels of aggregate demand in the economy and contract it, bringing about price stability.

Despite the importance of fiscal policy, a paradox exists. In the case of a government running a budget deficit, funds will need to come from public borrowing (the issue of government bonds), overseas borrowing or the printing of new money. When governments fund a deficit with the release of government bonds, an increase in interest rates across the market can occur. This is because government borrowing creates higher demand for credit in the financial markets, causing a lower aggregate demand (AD) due to the lack of disposable income, contrary to the objective of a budget deficit. This concept is called crowding out. Alternatively, governments may increase government spending by funding major construction projects. This can also cause crowding out because of the lost opportunity for a private investor to undertake the same project. Another problem is the time lag between the implementation of the policy and detectable effects in the economy. An expansionary fiscal policy (decreased taxes or increased government spending) is usually intended to produce an increase in aggregate demand; however, an unchecked spiral in aggregate demand will lead to inflation. Hence, checks need to be kept in place." - Thanks www.wikipedia.org !

What does all of this mean? In my humble view, the government is not going to be successful in "spending" its way out of the recession. We need to affect the heart of the matter - our behavior as consituents and consumers. Quite simply, we expect too much and we know too little. We also don't think about the value that we produce in our own economy. Do we really need all the things we are told to buy on television or in media? Do we need to take as many drugs as we do? Do we need to drink as much or as often? Our expections of reward are far out of line with the value we create. Take a good look at your quality of life and really reflect on the things you consume. Do you need all that you have? Or do you simply want it? For that matter, are the things you posess simply a placeholder or a way to keep score? Our government has spent decades doing the same thing. If we have more weapons, we must have the greater society.

I am not convinced. I am futher not convinced that we deserve all that we have. Perhaps a readjustment of what we have is in order. Hopefully it will be peaceful. I wish government would do less to interfere with my life and the lives of those around me. I wish government would protect, educate and serve. Right now I feel like we are sliding ever more quickly into socialism. The wants or needs of the masses will never be satisfied and will never be reasonable. What has happened to reason?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pressure

Being a decisionmaker for small business has benefits and liabilities. I find it interesting that as I work with marketing plans and advertising solutions, I become viewed as a "one stop shop" for sales members of all kinds of publications and advertising resources. Deadlines continue to march forward in print publications and new products are released. Many of these sales members look to me to bring them results. Last time I checked, they were the salesman - not me.

I can even empathize as one of the sales people for a product. Times are hard and finding the right "sell" which will convince an advertiser in this economy to spend money, that has value. As I look at both sides of the issue, it is clear what does work - relationship building. It is equally clear what doesn't work - pressure.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Musings

Today is a day of great attention to the importance of couples. I know that for my company, I would not be where I am today if not for my partner, Anthony. Where would you be without the support of those who love you? Even if you are not presently with the person - close partnerships and historic relationships have helped make you the person you are today.

When I look at the person I am today, I am thankful not only for Anthony, but all those who have come before, from Robin to Amy, from Chris to Jimmy & Ryan. I think in their own way, parents (if we are fortunate) also travel with us through our journey. So thanks to all of my parents!

Great love yields confidence. Ultimately, confidence and security let each of us take the careful risks that help us to grow and become sucessful.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Focusing on the Positive

Do you ever reflect on how to be more positive?  You ever wish you could be?  When I was in 8th grade, I competed in the Optimist Oratorical competition in Florida.  Wow, what an important experience in my life.  Want to know more?  www.optimist.org 

I still remember my opening line: "Optimism - a way of life."  I came in second in the competition for the state.  It was my first really experience with public speaking and I loved it!  What fun!  The idea of communicating to large groups was so much more than just talking to a single person.  It taught me a powerful lesson about people - they are drawn to the positive.  Not a "put on" kind of positive, but a really robust, honest positive energy.  During this downturn, stop focusing on what isn't happening or the troubles that are going on.  There is still a great amount of money to be made and businesses to be launched.  Life is too short to be brought down by all of the negative press in the world.  Stay focused on the positive, be honest about where you are and realize that successful people stay optimistic both about themselves and their message.  You can too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Capacity

When working lots of days in a row, for many hours a day, we often think about the "capacity" that we have as individuals and that our business (or our client's) might have. The ability to remain productive for long periods of time without a respite is something that many entrepreneurs have as a key quality. We seem to be able to focus on a given set of tasks over time.

Like the photo of this building, standing tall and slightly differently than others around it - so are entrepreneurs. Our capacity is as much design (what is intrinsic to us), and one of maintenance & improvement (how we expend effort to expand our capacity). Look to work to your capacity and expand it over time!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Frustration

Do you ever reach a point where you have maxed out your resources? I certainly have. I have struggled with cash flow for my business for some time. If I didn't love it, I am not sure why I would continue doing it. Many entrepreneurs I know also struggle with cash and their own lives. Remember to take a step back. Look to the larger picture of your life and the positioning you are doing for yourself and those closest to you.

Building a business is an investment not only of time and money, but your emotions and passion. Some days may seem more challenging than others, but like the Field of Dreams - "If you build it, they will come."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Isolating the Difference. . .

Do you ever wonder what makes a business stand out?  I have talked about the mantra of a business, but what about it makes it special?  I read a book recently that taught me a great view of this "specialness" - Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.  This book, which is really part autobiography, biography of Dewey and social commentary / history on Spencer, Iowa, does a great job in demonstrating the greatness that the simple life of Dewey had on his environment.

Good business is like Dewey.  It understands its place in the world and with customers, it has a strong sense of what it is good at and it strives to be the best for what it is.  Today, Anthony told me that they were going to make the book into a movie.  I hope not.  The story is too good and would likely be ruined by too much Hollywood.  Sometimes we should keep the simple and plain exactly that.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A few beautiful photos











Sometimes it is just great to share photos - these are courtesy of S. J. Carter. You can see more at http://www.sjcarterphotography.com/ Go JIMMY!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Reflections on Integrity

Today had some very interesting moments - nearly all of which had to do with integrity.  Quite simply, "honesty is the best policy."  I know it sounds trite, but it really is.  You have to consider the idea of cooperation vs. defection.  All business relationships have to do with a belief that the other side of a transaction is going to act in good faith.  This is cooperation.  As you play the "cooperation card" with every transaction, trust is established and reinforced.

In any relationship, occasional defection can occur - often due to misunderstanding, occasionally due to laziness, but rarely (though it does happen) out of malicious intent (or an intent to "get more").  By making an effort to avoid defection, your word and your actions become consistent.  In business, though there may be contracts, legal documents and even more "binding" instruments, at the end of the day, it is your word which matters.  

When placed in a situation where your integrity may be questioned, stand by the side of clarity, honesty and openness.  It amazes me how often people think they are more clever than they really are.  There is always someone more perceptive, more insightful and simply smarter.  People can respect your struggle if you are clear about your limitations, liabilities and condition.  The economic conditions not withstanding - be honest first and the money will come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Some Work Affirmations Thanks to SZC

  • The Universe freely hand me work I love to do.
  • I do all my work with a free spirit.
  • I always have a great source of energy for my work
  • I am doing work I love to do.
  • I have everything I need to perform the tasks in front of me.
  • I have the right amount of time to easily and comfortably do all my jobs.
  • I see all my work as opportunity to express myself.
  • I see all my work as opportunity to develop myself.
  • I see all my work as opportunity to reach greater levels of achievement.
  • I am sincere and honest at any job I do.
  • My efforts always bring accomplishment.
  • My efforts always bring monetary reward.
  • Work is my opportunity everyday to become a more accomplished, more aware, wiser person.
  • I am efficient, thoughtful, creative, wise, and skilled in the work I do.
  • I always feel respect from people working with me.
  • My love of what I do brings me success.
  • I am very fortunate to be able to work at what I love to do.
  • The Universe is always giving me opportunities to advance in my career.
  • Everything I do turns into success.
  • People love working with me and around me.
  • I am the kind of person other people love to work around and have as a work partner.
  • I attract to me, other positive minded people with also have steady and sure success in all they do.
  • Any work before me is a golden opportunity to learn, explore, develop, understand, contribute, achieve, build, promote, help anything I desire.
  • A deep storehouse of extremely positive resourceful thinking manifests within me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Multi-Tasking

Can you find more to do in your day than you seem to have time?  I know I do.  Earlier in this blog, I have talked about not being able to create more time and to stay focused on a given priority.  I wanted to deepen that thought by expanding on focus - you can stay focused on a single objective but may have multiple ways to attain the same goal.

Some refer to this as "multi-tasking" but to me it is more task optimization.  Certain tasks to achieve an objective can be done in certain environments, while other tasks are best suited to a different one.  Today, I had to spend a great deal of time in the car.  A great time to catch up on telecommunication, conference calls and other telephone duties (all hands free of course!)  When in a meeting, being conscious of not only your time, but all of the team members is another way to help you task optimize.  What else do they have to do to further a project?  Have deadlines been set?  Who is following up with those deadlines?

You may not be able to make more time, but you can make the time you have work for you better!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Easy Win

When working with a sales force, remember to ensure there is an "easy win." By this I mean that a skilled sales person or leader should allow the less experienced person work with them and to reap the benefits of a few "double team" encounters. The work of two helps each feel the success of a good sales call. At the same time, allow sales team members to have a healthy sense of competition about the customers and the goals attained.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Strategic Partnerships

How do we know what strategic partnerships are worthwhile for our business?  How do we know that a "partner" will actually drive sales or customers?  What is the basis of "trade?" These questions are often asked by clients and today I specifically walked through some of the measures and ROI (return on investment) which can be considered for a good strategic partnership.  The following are considerations:
  • Advertising / Branding - Each impression of a business identity is worth money.  Further, providing an outlet for another business to have some of your space is advertising.  If you pay to advertise above urinals in a restroom, having materials in  your business should be of value.  This may be only in one direction - if so, it is worth cash.  Things like brochures, business cards and other print collateral fall in this category.
  • Referrals - Each customer which comes to you should be "compensatable."  Also, consider if the referrals are returned.  If so this is a roughly equal exchange.  I recommend that this should go in both directions in nearly every case.
  • Experiences / Product Sampling - Often you will need to experience a given product or service before you are able to sell it or recommend it to one of your clients.  I suggest that you expect generous samples of the product or service both for you and for clients you refer. Referrals work well if the client receives some additional value for following your recommendation.
  • Marketing / Showcasing opportunities - There may be chances to conduct seminars, lectures, group classes or provide a format for many people to be exposed to a given person or product.  Make sure these are in a mutually agreed on format with mutually agreed on costs and revenue (if any.)  Generally this also goes in both directions.
Be sure to communicate the expectations clearly and honestly during the discussion with strategic partners.  Good luck!