Monday, March 30, 2009

Developing change

What does it take to produce change in business? Is it pain or vision?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is it negative?

I am blaming it on The Secret. Okay maybe not - but I must say that the idea of positive thinking (which I am all for, by the way) is really being taken advantage of or misunderstood of late.

In the past, there have been clients who ask us to go back and revise something we had created a while ago that they have already been using because it contained too much "negative language."

One even referenced the book and The Law of Attraction. I'm not saying that having a positive attitude is a bad thing. But I do think it's more of a concept than an absolute.

Then the topic came up just the other day in yet another client meeting on a current project, so this has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

As a copywriter, I strongly believe that sometimes it is more powerful to speak in the negative. Maybe I'm wrong, but let me share with you my thoughts on this topic.

Words like never, don't or won't can be potent triggers. They can connote a depth of conviction, in my opinion. I like to use them as a contrast to give the copy a twist or really pound home a point without pulling out the hammer.

"We'll never charge you for the same repair twice" is a more powerful statement than the same concept written in the positive.

"We don't do banker's hours" feels stronger than the statements "we have evening hours" or "we're open until 7".

"Our viscosity standards will never be compromised" is pretty tough to state in a positive way with as much conviction. Depending on your message, "negative" might not be so negative.

Friday, March 27, 2009


It was a strong event on Monday night. Two and half hours of public testimony from the business community to the City Council. Quite a bit of press! So great! I will say that it was both positive and humbling to be called from the dais by the Mayor. It reminded me that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I think that we are going to see some new changes by the City Council to budget issues and concerns of business. Stay tuned - this is a going to be quite a ride. Finally we have produced dramatic change.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Preparation & public speaking

You should spend an week working on a speech of 30 seconds, a day on a speech of 2 minutes and a hour on a speech of 5 minutes.  On a speech of more that that, spend only as long as you feel you might need.  We tend to over talk our points - whether in government, sales or simply to each other.  The rehearsal of the material is also critical - as I have mentioned before, you need to be focused on practice, practice, practice!

Tonight, I will hopefully join with business people to actively recruit the City to help business in a tangible way.  More on that later. . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday business

Sunday is a great day for retail and shopping.  A late opening and early close - say 10 am to 4 pm captures most of the customers who are done with morning activities and are taking time to spend it with family and wander around a Main Street or shopping area.  There is a certain idle pleasure in walking about and simply "window shopping."

There is also something to be said for the weather in our community.  Though stormy, cold and overcast it cleared up but stayed windy this afternoon.  Truly a blustery day.  If we can, we should stay more in tune with the weather and cycles of time, we may connect with customers more easily.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Health Fair

Well, today was the 2nd annual health fair at the Shops at Rossmoor.  What a blast it was!  Over 70 vendors and hundreds of visitors really made it fun.  Lots of clients were there - Beach Fitness, Main Street Cyclery,, Bogart's Coffee, Family Chiropractic and more.  What made this event so fun was the positive energy that everybody had and the networking for many businesses in the health & wellness sector.

As you can see, I had a great time whizzing around on one of the power scooters - man can those things get around!  So remember to shop local!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Conflict & Crabs

I serve on several boards.  It is a joy of service and a belief in the obligation and ability of business owners to affect our communities that I do so.  What amazes me about the role I play is how by being vocal in a community for anything makes you a target for others.

One of the stories I heard growing up near a beach is the one about crabs in a bucket.  If you place several "scuttler" crabs in a bucket, they take a few minutes to understand the environment they are in, they fight a bit, then one gets the bright idea to get out of the bucket.  The other crabs rush over and pull it back down to the sand.  Why does this occur?  I am not sure of the biologist's reason, but the moral of the story from my parents was one about getting ahead - that many people we encounter will try to pull you back to the base level if you demonstrate you are "getting ahead."  This is especially true in the world of non-profits.  As you build emotional volume, more people both take notice and take note of how to target you.  I already knew this in the world of gay rights and advocacy, but I was surprised about how similar it is in advocating for business in a small town.  A friend and fellow board member shared some concerns yesterday with an op-ed piece I had written.  One which was highly critical of our City Council.  I left the conversation both concerned and a bit upset - she was critical of me and my use of first person when all the other pieces I had written were first person as well, but now I was "speaking for the Chamber."  Apparently quite a sin.  We will see what the repercussions of it are and how many people show up for the Council meeting on Monday night.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

It was a wonderful St. Patrick's day with lots of meetings and fun! I have to say that when everyone else drinks or parties - it sure lets me get a great deal done. I also caught up with my friend Dan W. - he is up in SFO and it was great to spend some time talking to him. What was also so great about the day for business is that I got a chance to discuss some ideas with the Chief of Police and the City Manager about the day and potentially changing how Main Street is utlized. It was also amazing to see the Grand Opening of the Farmer's Market here in town. A great slide show of it can be found at
Have a great night and hope everyone stays safe tonight.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Are blogs useful? Is my blog useful?

I have been blogging now for a solid 5 months. I wonder if it is more than just me creating a virtual record of thoughts and perhaps stroking my own vanity. Does it have value? Is anyone out there?
I seem to believe that they are useful, but I am not sure if I am leveraging the use of my blog most effectively. I will press on, but hope to know more soon. . .

Friday, March 13, 2009

When is the right time for growth?

When is the right time for growth? How much cash reserve should you have? Can you expand during a recession?

My father taught me that there is no luck - there is only when opportunity meets preparedness. Right now, if you are prepared and have planned to expand, now may be the best time. You can get favorable terms from a landlord, you can really get the most out of your team and you can really push yourself to go that extra distance for the business.

Don't just look to the news, look within yourself and ask the hard questions for growth. If you are prepared - go for it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Best minds in government?

“The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.” - so said our 40th president, Ronald Regan. I find myself agreeing based on the last two years of interfacing with our City Council. I have been insulted, stonewalled and ignored no matter how pleasantly or not I have come forward and presented ideas. I have been buried under residential concerns about two stories or three stories, the reimbursement arrangements for City Councilmen for travel (is it Mapquest or actual mileage?), the inclusion of “In God We Trust” in our council chambers or not, and whose street gets redone paving or sidewalks. I point out we are in one of the greatest recessions of the last fifty years and am met with silence.
I quote out of historic City Council minutes, the biannual financial report of the City, complement and cajole. I try to build consensus or even get the slightest hint of support for business in public from our City Council and I am met with blank stares, vacuous expressions and stone-faced miens. Last time I checked, these were public servants – our servants. Let’s review a few key points from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 2008 prepared by Administrative Services, the following statements seemed clear (emphasis added):
Page 6 - "Community Development is comprised of Planning and Building Departments that provide planning and zoning services, economic development services and building plan check and code enforcement services."
Page 8 - "Actual revenues in excess of budgeted revenues were primarily due to increases in sales taxes coming in $3 million higher than budgeted partly as a result of new businesses opening in the Rossmoor Shopping Center after completion of the rehabilitation of that property."
Page 9 - "For the next fiscal year, property tax and sales tax revenues are projected to remain at the same level at the 2007/08 fiscal year"
The assumption that sales tax revenues remaining at the same level seems a complete fantasy as the economic condition of our nation and our community continues to erode. There is an urgent need for the City to help the business community. This is definitively part of the role of economic development as outlined in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. What are they doing? Nothing.
Are our needs in business of no interest to our public servants? Apparently. Is someone else going to help keep our Main Street and other centers of shopping vibrant? Nope. Will Congress or the State Legislature somehow come and rescue Seal Beach as our economy slows to a halt? Of course not. Are we going to work hand in hand, neighbor with neighbor to help preserve and grow what is in our town? Can’t we brainstorm together to help save jobs, income for residents, keep the events and the character that is our town?
I am tired of asking these questions. I am tired of looking for creative solutions. I am tired of being a lone voice for business. I ask you, my fellow citizens to come and show your support of business and ultimately our community to our “public servants” at City Council chambers on Monday March 23rd at 7 pm. Our government needs us to provide direction, for apparently they are incapable of helping a key group of constituents, the ones that are responsible for the engine of growth in our community - business.
The so called, Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, one of the greatest editors and commentators on American life tells us, “The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.” So sadly do I now agree. Hope to see you Monday night.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Local government & business

Last night I again spoke to council about the state of business, the economy and the need for the City to help small business. The focus of economic development has been lost by our City. I even had a memo which I sent to Council and Staff tonight. IT WAS NOT EVEN ACKNOWLEDGED by Council. There was NO discussion. Instead, Councilman Miller got to continue to pound the City Staff about how mileage is reimbursed for staff and councilmen. They are talking about pennies, when we in the business community need help! Our economy is losing millions - just in our City. We are discussing the housing element - how affordable housing can exist in our community and other items (including the police response to the coyote situation!), but we cannot get attention focused on the business community. I am deeply angered and frustrated that we are simply ignored by our community leaders. As a result, I am asking for business owners and residents who care to show up for next council meeting, and for all of us who are able to DEMAND why the Council is not paying attention to one of the greatest assets and group of constituents in our community - business. Please place it on your calendar NOW - Monday March 23rd at 7 pm. Let us work the democratic process in our favor for once!

Monday, March 9, 2009

What about inventory?

When looking at your business, be sure to control inventory.  Many clients who have physical products have too much inventory that is not actively working for them.  Do a quick check of the inventory you have in your business - even if it is a small amount.  If it hasn't sold in the last six months, you need to get rid of it.  Find a way to capture cash out of it or ship it back.

On a personal note, reduce your own life.  If you haven't used something in the last year, do you really need it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sharing the burden

Often as we focus on our businesses and our lives as entrepreneurs, the burden seems extraordinary.  We feel we are superhuman who have concerns which are far beyond those of mere "employees."

Our vanity works against us.

We should be more aware of our need to share our burdens with those closest to us.  Our partners, our spouses, our family. The sharing of the burdens makes them lighter.  I happen to be blessed with amazing parents - all of whom are very entrepreneurial.  In the last week, ALL of them have checked in with me to find out how I am doing and how the business is performing.  In addition, they also wanted to share how they were responding in their various industries to the recession.  Amazingly, several clients have also shared with me how they in turn have connected with their inner circle (often including parents and/or spouse) to receive guidance and feedback.

We are NOT alone.  We have a network of trusted advisors - we need to remember to share with them where we are and ask for feedback.  None of us gets through this life alone - so don't allow your vanity to interfere with the best resources you have for insights and ultimately encouragement to keep going.  In the coming crisis - it will be those who continue to fight and look to results who will be the most successful.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Networking thoughts

Thanks for this great quote Natalie K!

Networking with integrity creates a greater willingness of all parties to be part of a human conduit to serve as energy and resource to one another.  Sometimes you get more than you receive and sometimes you will get back more than you give.  It is not about keeping score.
- Chris London

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Time & the Four Turnings

I am currently reading an amazing book - The Fourth Turning.  It considers time as three distinct perceptive modalities - linear, cyclic and chaotic.  I find the thesis, that Western culture has primarily evaluated time as linear over the last millennium as very accurate.  Further, the cyclic nature of the saeculum (80 - 100 year period / long lifetime) so that we (the USA) are entering a period of Crisis, seems right on track.  I think that we should carefully consider where we are and what generation we are as individuals and our roles in the current and coming period.  Perhaps even more frightening is what deep crisis has yet to come?  Are we ready for World War III or another Great Depression?

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Art of Pitching

Pitching clients is one of the hardest things that businesses can do.  The secret to a good pitch:
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid
  • Short & Sweet
  • Give a take-away
If you can get down what you do to a short "elevator pitch" and avoid buzz words, generally you can get your point across.  Trying to cram too much it will just cause their eyes to glaze over.  Also, make sure they can take something away with them beyond your business card - they will look back at it and see more than what you said!