Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rage anyone?

Have you ever felt rage? Serious rage? I know I have. It has to do with the malicious interference of one of my client's business by a sociopath neighbor. He drives by taking photos, making police calls, harasses team members in the business and makes himself not only a nuisance, but a true barrier to the business.
Clearly this person needs a psychiatric evaluation - it is only a matter of time until he hurts someone or steps over the line. . ."going postal" is a real possibility for this individual.
Along these lines, I have come to understand a subtlety about the nature of City Code and other local ordinances: they enforce by complaint. In other words, unless someone chooses to call you out on something not in accordance with code, you are in the clear. The cost of enforcement is too high to police all individuals. So if you want to get away with things, don't have a vocal position in the community and don't "rock the boat."
Guess I am fated to be affected by code because I invariably have a vocal position of leadership and tend to rock the boat. The force of rage I feel ends up being channelled into more activism and advocacy. Look out - if you really want to see me on fire, just make it unfair to me or those I care about!

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Dirctions Article - SBCoC Newsletter

Our community of Seal Beach is vibrant, conservative, beautiful and monochromatic. “Seal Beach: small California town, big time destination” is our official Chamber visitor’s motto, and indeed we are a small town in this highly desirable vacation and visitors’ region. It is a study in duality in many ways. As we embark on another year with the Chamber of Commerce and our business community, the words of Marcus Aurelius Antonius during his Meditations in 200 B.C. comes to mind: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” As a leader of the civilized world in his time, he knew a key to leadership – to guide with reason and in a fearless advocacy for what we see as right.
The Chamber has worked hard over the last five years to not only to produce events like the Car Show and the Holiday Christmas Parade, but to become a strong voice to represent business. We want to create value for our members through networking, sponsorship opportunities, connection to local & regional government and introduction of new programs. This is what we will continue to expand and develop. Why, because you, our members deserve it. Together, we can make Seal Beach even better. It should allow many of us to live, work and play all in the same community and our Chamber will help us do that. We should drive tourism, help increase traffic to our merchants and allow business to flourish. We will continue to create destination activities like the Summer Concert Series where the biggest complaint was that there was no place to sit. It was too successful. I don’t know about you, but I would love it if we had too many customers in all of our businesses!
We are in a recession of unknown length. As a result, we the Chamber, have to stay focused on our core membership. We must help all of you stay in business! How can we help the most? By allowing you be involved in the opportunities we present and create yet more. Volunteer, show up for mixers and meetings, be on a committee and strike out to do something you are excited about. We want to facilitate your success! Remember as always to “Shop Local” and use reason to avoid anxiety about the future. Our new board, committees and leadership team of the Chamber are all behind you, advocating for your success. Let us know if there is anything further we can do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Clients in Crisis

In most cases, our clients/customers come to me in a relatively calm state and in response we react to them in our usual business manner. But what needs to shift if your client is in crisis mode? In those instances, here's what your client needs from you:

~They need you to acknowledge that they are in crisis. They want to know that you know. This is not the time for "can you hang on a second?" or "do you want some coffee?”

~They need to be your only priority until the crisis has passed. This isn't the time to take another call or put them off until the next morning. They need you now.

~They need reassurance. They want you to tell them you're going to be at their side until it's over. This isn't the time to sugar coat things or say it's going to be okay if it isn't. They want to know they won't be going it alone.

~They need empathy. If a client is in crisis, they're most likely angry, scared, worried, sad or in pain. They want you to recognize that emotion in them and help them get it under control.

~They want to see action. That's the most reassuring element of all. They want to know you are doing something to get them out of their crisis.

Dealing with a client who is in a crisis is usually not pretty. They're in full panic mode. But, if you can stay with them and get them through the crisis - you've earned a loyal client who will come to you in confidence knowing you've seen them at their worst.

How have you dealt with clients in this frame of mind?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law. - Aristotle

Why are so many people threatened by those they view as "others?" I just finished a comment on a blog about the Los Alamitos Unified School District's decision not to broadcast President Obama's televised message to school children. (You can see the article and my post here )Quite simply I am appalled. The idea that any sitting president should be dismissed because a vocal conservative minority are afraid of the spoken word is deeply chilling. By the same token, why do so many people feel a visceral fear about my partner of 9 years and I getting married? How does it affect their life or marriage? It certainly doesn't affect their personal relationship with God or their children. If it does, then I have way more power than I thought! Let us all remember that we are all equal and a "separate but equal" drinking fountain didn't work in the 60's so why should a "separate but equal" marriage (aka - civil union) work now?
Also, the picture inspired me - it is Aristotle walking with Plato (two of my favorite philosophers) engaged in what I believe is a true moment of the dialectic. Let's all try to get there and to not be afraid of equality or uncertainty.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Marketing is not Overwhelming

The natural urge for marketers seems to be to deluge potential consumers with information. How often have you seen one of these?

~ A brochure with no white space and so much copy that your eyes blur

~ A company who explodes onto the marketplace and you see them everywhere - TV, radio, print for about two months - and then you never hear of them again

~ An e-mail campaign that floods your in box with multiple messages in a short period of time

~ A 12-page newsletter (white space or no)

~ A corporate website's homepage that is packed with copy, "starbursts" and news items galore

Some marketers are compelled to shove as much information at their consumers as possible. Perhaps it's a concern that they'll only get one shot at them? Or the misperception that if they don't explain every nuance of their product/service, the audience won't get it?

I think, in most cases, it's a mix of insecurity and not really understanding the audience. It's as though they're saying "I'm not confident in knowing what my audience needs/wants to know and I don't trust my own instincts, so I am going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them."

Bad marketing strategy!

Here's the analogy we use to help clients understand this concept - When there's a hard, driving rain, the ground can only absorb so much of it before the water just runs off. Consumers are the same way. They can only absorb so much information before our well-crafted words just run off, falling on deaf ears.

But a gentle all-day rain has a different result. Because of its slow and steady pace, the ground can easily, over time, absorb all the water that comes.

How can you be a drip when it comes to marketing your company?

Monday, August 10, 2009

That Stinks? Your word

Three quick facts about making a mistake:

~ You're bound to do it.

~ It can cost you a customer.

~ Most people don't handle it well.

Disappointing a customer stinks - fortunately the solution does too.

S - Shut up. When a customer begins to complain, shut up and listen. They need to vent. You need to understand what has them upset. To accomplish both, shut up.

T - Take ownership. Your fault, someone in shipping's fault, the customer's fault - it doesn't matter. Once the customer hands you the problem, make it yours.

I - Investigate the problem. Your customer wants to know they're getting more than lip service. And, you want to avoid having to do this again, don't you?

N - Never offer an excuse. It doesn't matter why it happened - it just matters that it happened. Once the situation is defused, then you can offer an explanation, but never an excuse.

K - Keep your word. If you say you're going to call them back that afternoon, do it. If you say you're going to mail them some coupons or pick up the tab for dinner - do it.

S - Say you are sorry. Use those exact words. "I'm sorry this happened." "I'm sorry we kept you waiting." The customer wants to hear that you feel badly - they do and they do not want to feel it all by themselves!

I can see you shaking your head at me and saying "well duh." But you know's not a duh. Otherwise, more companies would actually handle problems this way.

So print this off and post it somewhere your employees can see it. Better yet, go over it at the next quarterly meeting. Then walk the talk by demonstrating how it works next time you make a mistake.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Social Networking and your business model

Why is social networking important? What should I be on as a business person? How do I select what resources are best for me? How can I track results?

All of these questions are not only valid, but important to consider as a business owner. There are a slew of "experts" willing to take your money to work these systems. I recommend against that. The following are a few basic rules that may work for you:
  • You need to be on social networking sites. Commit to spending some time on it.
  • Select 2-3 sites ONLY. They can take over your life if you are too diffuse. I recommend Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Remember all that you say is public. Imagine it a permanent record of your comments - you can be judged and evaluated by it.
  • Not all of your clients or customers may appreciate it, so be prepared for mixed reactions. I was amazed that a client refused to follow me on Twitter because of some of my followers - it was too risque for her.
So get online, get engaged and start making your presence felt in the virtual world - for it won't be virtual forever. Your future customers are already searching for you and your presence.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

So today was my mom's birthday. She is a remarkable woman with a sense of panache that dwarfs most people's. A classically trained artist and self taught gourmet cook, she can make the world of entertaining seem a breeze. As my godmother Gail says, "she can make a feast out of a beef bone and some vegetables."

Mom and I have a belief that there are three types of people: those who create events, those who attend events and those who are simply not invited. She has made a life of creating amazing memories and stylish living. She and Jim have been more than a bit peripatetic with houses all over California and even New Hampshire.

A woman of remarkable spirit, a cancer survivor and a woman of endless optimism, she is a template for the power of positive thinking. I hope that she continues to have a rich, full life as she has had all along! Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some relevant quotes for business life

  • "Here’s my theory about meetings and life; the three things you can’t fake are erections, competence and creativity. That’s why meetings become toxic they put uncreative people in a situation in which they have to be something they can never be. And the more effort they put into concealing their inabilities, the more toxic the meeting becomes. One of the most common creativity-faking tactics is when someone puts their hands in prayer position and conceals their mouth while they nod at you and say, 'Mmmmmm. Interesting.' If pressed, they’ll add, 'I’ll have to get back to you on that.' Then they don’t say anything else." - Douglas Coupland
  • "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."
    David Rockefeller, US banker (1915 - )
  • "Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it." Seth Godin, Seth Godin's Blog, 07-28-06
  • "Drive thy business or it will drive thee." Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

All in all, a rather good showing of views. What other quotable thoughts do you have gentle reader?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Barb & I and the Summer Concert Series

Loving the Summer Concert Series put on by the Chamber of Commerce with my friend Barbara from Beach Fitness - not only is she an amazing entrepreneur, but she is awesome to train with. Thanks Friend!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It is important in our world to be an activist. While I disagree with the somewhat sarcastic sentiment of the photo, I do think that we tend to talk about activism at cocktail parties, mixers and with our peers, but do little to actually be involved.
When was the last time you were an activist for anything? Don't you think you should consider advocating for something you believe in?