Friday, March 26, 2010

Lyrical Business

Last night I went to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to hear Emanuel Ax on piano and Lionel Bringuier (who is quite young and handsome I might add) conduct Chopin, Berlioz and Shostakovich. It was lyrical, transportive and sublime. It always amazes me the dynamic between conductor and orchestra. Add to that the courtesy and majesty of a pianist like Ax into the mix and it becomes a true auditory treat.

The reason I was able to attend this was due to the largess of a friend and business mentor, Beverly Pearce here in Seal Beach. She is a season ticket holder and couldn't make it. I was the lucky beneficiary of her tickets. The trip reminded me of the importance of culture for all of us, but particularly entrepreneurs. We tend to become filled in our own world and lose sight of the need to enrich our life experience.

When working with teams in business, do not think your role is just the obvious one of the conductor. You may be a member of the orchestra which is working to the greater success of a larger player. As Piers Anthony asks via his character Stile in his Apprentice Adept series - who is greater, the artist who ascends to the heights, or the players which allow him to reach them? You must work diligently to extract not only the best performance out of everyone, but you must be prepared to do it with courtesy, style and aplomb.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Business makes a difference

This past Saturday was a very full day. The new Seal Beach Fire Station #48 open house and dedication was at 9 am, the 3rd Annual Seal Beach Health Fair was at the Shops at Rossmoor from 10 am to 3 pm, and the St. Baldrick’s event at Hennesey’s on Main Street ran that afternoon as well.
What do all of these things have in common? They are demonstrations of businesses and government working together to produce improvements of the quality of our lives and the lives of others. Business PAYS and facilitates many things in our city.
Millard Fuller said it well, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people's love and concern for each other.” Business plays a vital role in that objective. Did you know that “shopping local” helps the city pay for essential services? Here’s how:
Under California sales tax law “Bradley Burns” 1% of the purchase price is returned to the local government based upon point of sale. Every time you shop local, our City gets more revenue to pay for services and projects – like street paving or emergency services. In the City of Seal Beach budget, this “local return” amounts to over $4 million, of $26 million budget. On top of this, there are license and use taxes – like business license fees and the transit occupancy tax (TOT) which also
One of the city’s top 25 sales tax producers, Energy Tubulars, recently announced their recommitted to Seal Beach, signed a 40-month lease. This is great news for our town! Good long term business tenants equal a stable, viable and flexible form of revenue for Seal Beach.
Did you know that Dendreon, a new manufacturing center is coming to the Boeing Center and is creating nearly 500 biotech, management and light manufacturing jobs? The Chamber of Commerce is working with Dendreon to try to fill some of those positions.
The Health Fair was the largest ever with nearly 100 vendors and close to 700 people who made it in and through the sea of tents and businesses. They were not just “hawking” their wares, but providing information, screenings and free services to our residents and visitors. It helps drive traffic to those merchants and the Shops at Rossmoor shopping center particularly. We are proud of our synergy with both the Los Alamitos and Cypress Chambers of Commerce who participated this year.
St. Baldrick’s at Hennesey’s shaved over 100 heads, raised over $15,000 for childhood cancer and helped provide excitement in our Main Street area, which all merchants enjoy. Where did all of those fabulous gift baskets come from? Our merchants. It was remarkable seeing what the event did for those children who attended and are affected – they were transformed with joy and love. Hopefully this will be an annual event and something you might attend in the future.
One of the issues our community might wish to ask more clearly is what kind of business do we want in Seal Beach? Some years ago, there was a proposal for a Costco - what kind of sales tax revenue might that have generated for our City?
All of this circles us back to Fire Station #48. It was paid for by our tax dollars and it is a credit to our community. I would not suggest that only business paid for it, but I would say that business participated in it, though taxes. We are proud of it, and I am optimistic that all of us in town are as well.
Finally, I would remind us all that the TOT tax, again as a business tax, went to provide resources for the storm drain management improvements. Based on what I saw at the last City Council meeting about flooding in Bridgeport, we will need all the funding resources we can get for yet more storm drain improvements. Please remember to shop local – it helps us all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consultant tips. . .

So everyone wants to be a consultant lately. Lost your job, hate your boss, tired of working for others - sure, go ahead and try to be a consultant. But do you have what it takes? Maybe. is an interesting posting and resource site for those who might want to get a client feed. I have never gotten one from it, but occassionally it does provide some good insight. This is from an eblast today:

In addition to advanced degrees and a significant amount of industry experience, these skills are "must haves" for any professional consultant:

1. Sell your analysis: In addition to being able to analyze problems down to their most granular levels, you also need to "sell" your analysis to your client.
2. Stay cool: Changes in any organization can lead to emotionally charged meetings. Keeping your cool will help you and the client to get the work done.
3. Be ethical: Always maintain the strictest confidentiality regarding sensitive information and document any situations where you feel someone has acted questionably.

Your professionalism, even in the most difficult circumstances, will ultimately lead to your success and the success of your client.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Should I drop my price? - thank you Altus Agency!

We use an outside vendor to provide extranet services for our clients. We'd been with them for over five years.

We recently discovered a better solution. Not only is it better, but it’s also less expensive. It wasn't so much the fact that it was cheaper that sold us. It was the ease of use for our clients.

But don’t get me wrong, cheaper certainly doesn't hurt. And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month. When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was. "We can match their price."
What? So you've been overcharging me for years? Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

We’re still leaving but now, instead of feeling a little guilty about leaving our old vendor, I’m feeling a bit used. If they’d valued our business - why didn’t they offer us this new price while we were still their customer?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price just to keep a customer is never a good strategy. It makes everyone feel a little cheap. In the end, no one wins and you can kiss any sort of recommendation goodbye.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message. It speaks about things far beyond your cost. It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term. It's not something you should just stumble into.

And it's not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

VIP Reception & Commissioning

This week has been an incredible series of events from the Dewey Crew BBQ on Monday, the Commissioning Committee reception on Thursday and the incredible VIP reception at Boeing on Friday and finally the actually Commissioning & VIP breakfast on Saturday. It was simply amazing.

What was also incredible was the opportunity to meet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - Mike Mullen and his wife Deborah. They are remarkable people. Courteous, respectful, calm and very insightful. Clearly Mrs. Mullen as sponsor of the ship had an impact on the crew and the officers. The second photo is my family with Mrs. Mullen and one of the officers from the Naval Weapons Station. I had the opportunity to connect with Chairman Mullen on the Don't Ask - Don't Tell policy and his support of the repeal and my gay brethren was deeply satisfying. He concurred that it was the right thing to do. Mrs. Mullen was remarkably kind to Anthony and my mom & stepdad. Really a class act!

Our community really did a great job for our sailors and Naval personnel. I was proud to be a part of the commissioning committee and a big thank you to all of them! They know who they are. Also, some of my business contacts were able to be part of the event through the Chamber of Commerce. Again, a great opportunity to connect business with our armed forces! So great!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Changes by the Sea

Recently, I have had the opportunity to look closely at the visual history of Seal Beach. From the early 1880’s to the present day, seeing the ebb and flow of change is both humbling and instructive. Our town has been through many eras of size and shape. “They say time is the fire in which we burn,” spoke poet Delmore Shwartz and it is true, the one thing we can never get back is each moment.
Seal Beach has been burning in the fire of time for nearly 95 years now. Where is it going? I would suggest to you that it seems to be growing – perhaps cautiously and with some resistance, but it seems to be changing ever so slightly. We seem to have deepened a relationship with the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station and the USS Dewey. The weeklong activities, from tree planting on Lampson Avenue to a reception at Boeing, culminate on Saturday March 6th, at 11 am when the ship is formally commissioned.
We have an award winning school district that is the envy of much of Southern California and the business community is busy supporting Project Seek and other fundraisers for them. It does seem that the business community continues to step to the plate when asked by events. PONY baseball had an amazing opening day, filled with business sponsors of teams and the field. I especially want to thank those who sponsor so many wonderful Chamber events and those this week for the Dewey commissioning like O’Malley’s and Grace Community with the LIONS who did the crew BBQ on Monday.
We have begun a community discussion about what might happen with the DWP property and the committee is interested in what the public has to say on the issue.
We are talking this month about Title 11 – the complete zoning code for the City. Who can forget the over 24 months of hearings, battles and bombastic proclamations from all sides during both City Council and Planning Commission hearings? Those study sessions are happening and are posted at City Hall. Do you have any issues about zoning? Now is your time to have your voice heard.
What does this have to do with time as “the fire in which we burn?” It is simply that: change comes. It will come to our town. It is inevitable. Just as we will rebound from the recession (hopefully sooner rather than later), so will we go through periods of growth and expansion. Equally, we will have contraction and stagnation.
In the 1920’s, Seal Beach was an entertainment and vacation destination. Over 20,000 people a week came from all over Southern California to visit the Joy Zone, the rollercoaster from the 1915 San Francisco Exposition and the Jewel CafĂ© which could comfortably seat 500 diners at a time. Seal Beach has had a huge boom time!
We have had gambling casino boats and dancing girl clubs! Seal Beach has had its period of even a “Red Light” district Main Street.
All that may be history, but it is part of the “fire” that exists in our past. Shouldn’t it be recognized and honored for what it was? We don’t need to return just to casinos but our centers of shopping and Main Street need to stay vibrant to both residents and visitors.
Along with that change, isn’t the crosswalk pedestrian sign on Main Street between Electric and PCH great? You can be less fearful of being hit and cars have really been slowing down rather than just worrying about the light.
Change is coming to Seal Beach, slowly and inexorably, but that is as it should be. For times change, people live, grow and pass and our Seal Beach continues to evolve. It was the Founder’s Day Publicity committee which really created the drive to write this column, and they know who they are! I for one am glad Seal Beach is such a remarkable place, and through all of our participation and support in community, it will continue to be our “Jewel by the Sea.” Remember as always, SHOP LOCAL!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A great paper of statistical analysis

One of my Twitter friends sent me this link:

Check it out if you want to know more about gay rights and public policy issues. Let me know if you have comments. Thanks to @skekoa for sharing it!