Saturday, October 23, 2010

West OC Legislative Committee

As election season comes to a close, there is a pervading sense of unrest among the citizens. We see it regardless of what news station we watch or political affiliation we may have. People want change, results and a belief that our system of government works. Our community is no different.

You may not have heard about it, but there is an organization, which has been meeting some time for years, combining our voice and votes of business, in what is called the “ West Orange County” region: The West OC Legislative committee. This community of Chamber leaders from La Palma, Stanton, Los Alamitos, Cypress and Seal Beach, along with representatives from the Joint Forces Training Base, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, and the unincorporated regions of Rossmoor and Sunset Beach tries to identify core issues and communicate en masse to our legislators. We meet monthly, on the third Friday of the month, and get updates from the contiguous legislative representatives for the region. Currently we are served by the following representatives:

• Congressman Dana Rorhbacher (R) - 46th Congressional District
• Congressman Ed Royce (R) – 40th Congressional District
• County Supervisor Moorlach (R) – 2nd County District
• State Senator Tom Harman (R) – 35th State District
• Assemblyman Jim Silva (R) – 67th State District

Formed over two decades ago the organization has provided direction for an often-overlooked region of Orange County. Theresa Murphy, of the Los Alamitos based Precious Life Shelter, and a long term member of the committee, indicated that the group has gone through many levels of activity, but has been focused always on informing the business community: “ Before legislators started having ‘ town hall’ style meetings, we had the annual mixer, where everyone wanted to attend to access them. It [the West OC Legislative committee] was designed to let the Chambers interface with the aides to our elected officials and bring some notice to our small cities for business purposes and legislative action.”

Recently, we considered several state assembly and senate bills and tried to support or oppose those which were in alignment with the consensus of the entire region. It is far easier to sway a politician when you have a high percentage of their constituents in agreement. This past year, we advocated for Senate Bill 954 which would have ensured the evaluation of tax impacts on business prior to adoption, supported Assembly Bill 1812 which would have provided credit for manufacturing businesses and opposed Senate Bill 518, an elimination of free parking in local communities.
Concurrently, there has been a support of the JFTB runway funding and support of the USS Dewey commissioning earlier this year. The voices of these communities is magnified by their synergy and participation. There are several ballot issues which are of particular business concern: Proposition 22 (which would remove the state’ s ability to take local funds), Proposition 24 (which would remove a tax break for businesses) and Proposition 26 (which would force a 2/3rd vote for most new fees and some taxes).

Overall, the West OC Legislative committee is pro-local control and opposed to new tax increases or removal of existing tax benefits. Business owners and non-profits have to meet budgets, payroll and regulation standards. If they don’ t, they go out of business. Why doesn’ t government? We too have become frustrated with government, but try to work a process of engagement with the legislative aides, who both inform and communicate our needs. The meetings are also quite different from others in that they are focused on actionable legislative issues. It is a conduit for information from the legislature to our Chambers and communities directly. If you are interested in attending our meetings,
please let me know.

In closing, as co-chair of the West Orange County Legislative committee, I would remind you of the words of Thomas Jefferson, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” Please go vote on November 2nd. If we don’ t hold our politicians accountable, no one will.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The FABULOUS Bellagio

The FABULOUS Bellagio.

Yes, it is that sumptuous. This past week, I had the remarkable opportunity due to a client visit and conference to stay at the property, attend a conference and dine several times. I could write reviews of all of the components individually, but that would take up far too much time. Instead, I will write in aggregate about many of the features.

1. Hotel rooms - four stars. They have delightful rooms with vast glass showers, soothing bed sheets, beautiful views, a simple but elegant turn down service and all that you should need in the room. They don't get five stars because I had to pay for wireless access - seriously? $15 a day simply for access seems silly. Also, don't bother with the minibar or snack selections - they are a fortune. The room sizes are really ample. I live in 550 sq. ft and I think the room (including bathroom) was bigger than my condo.

2. Convention services - three stars. Because of the size of the facility, it takes forever to walk to your venue. There were multiple AV issues for both presenters and the audience and networking connectivity varied over time. On the plus side, the food was remarkable at lunch and in the cocktail hour one evening, kind of meh at breakfast. Not much to enjoy if you don't do carbs.

3. The Bellagio Buffet - four stars. They don't get five because the wait to get in can be as long as an hour, the place is usually packed to the gills and the service can be hit or miss on the drinks. In terms of the food, it is unbelievable, particularly in terms of both depth and breadth of choice. You don't want to go on the weekend if you can avoid it as the buffet becomes "deluxe" which jacks the price up $7 (29.95 to 36.95) and the "normal" buffet still is amazing. Make sure you go after the high protein items. My friend Aron and I grubbed deeply on crab legs, shrimp, prime rib, NY strip, lamb, Chateaubriand, etc...that was the value. The Friday night "deluxe" buffet did include quite a few exotics - quail, ostrich, carved duck breast, etc...Oh, and to the four service people who ignored my friend Aron's request for Thousand Island dressing refill - BAD CALL / EPIC FAIL. How hard is it to refill the dressing container? It cost part of the tip and prevented me from giving it five stars for the entire review.

4. The Bellagio Fountains - five stars. Watch from the elevated veranda roundelay in front of the hotel so as not to be overwhelmed by all the plebes not staying at the FABULOUS Bellagio. (That was for you Aron!) The best part - it is FREE!

5. The FIX restaurant - two stars. Overpriced, loud and without alcohol, two people was over $160. I know I am an epicurean, but I expect all components of dining, including environment to be amazing and in this case, deeply disappointing.

5. The Fitness Center and Spa - FIVE stars. Originally off put by the $25 a day (which runs from 6 am to 8 pm), we decided to go down on Friday morning early 6:30 am to get our workout on before the conference. What a GREAT decision! As a long term weightlifter who has now looked to CrossFit and HIIT, they had ample equipment and machinery for everyone. Loved their cardio equipment and because there was so much of it, I never had to wait a second. The crowing glory however was the spa. Three jacuzzi spas (102, 104, 106 F, respectively), a cool (room temp) plunge, eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, complementary beverages, ice towels, fluffy & silky robes, luxurious large, enclosed rain showers (with primo soap, shampoo & conditioner), full on grooming with razors, qtips, etc... and shorts you can borrow, it was THE best part of the trip. After doing a 45 minute workout, having a steam and sauna, not to mention the luxurious shower, I was fully focused and centered for a day of sitting and doing the mental work the convention required. It was such a delight, since our day pass was still good, at 6 pm, where were we for another hour and a half? Yep, the spa! Totally worth it.

Overall, if I was going to hit Vegas again for vacation or a business trip, I would definitely go back to this property. Some minor lessons learned, but mostly remarkable. No kidding about the Spa. I would go back just for that!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Weekend in Vegas - Sales anyone?

This past week I spent it in the FABULOUS Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. I was there for an InfusionSoft (a corporate CRM software system) convention with a variety of speakers. Some of them were: Bob Britton, James Malinchak, Bill Glazer and Brian Tracy. Wow, do these people know how to sell. They package, ship and then produce programs of "value-packed, wealth generating, high energy, synergetic, marketing & sales resources." The promise success in a box.

I have realized it is a lie. You lie to yourself if you believe them. Yes, the programs work. Yes, they produce results. Yes, their clients are successful. I believe however, we fall victim to a fallacy of attribution. We think because of some course work, the successes happen. I would argue a different reality.

Winners simply do the following: work hard, show up every day, research and implement plans, track results, hire the right people at the right time, envision their own success, surround themselves with other successful people, are prepared for opportunity when it comes knocking and have fun while working.

See, it is simple (not easy) and I didn't even have to charge you. Don't let that stop you from buying my program when it comes out. After all, I am certain mine will have all the secrets of the ancient civilizations and "7 Ancient Keys to Business Success." I promise. Just get your credit card ready...

Did I mention we will help starving kids in South America too?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seal Beach Changes

Some weeks you never quite know what to expect. This past week certainly was a surprise in many ways. The Chamber suffered a devastating loss, one of our newly installed board members, Beverly Pearce passed away last week.
At the same time, it was a busy week of City Council meetings, Planning Commission, additional community meetings, and the real start of change in our traffic and parking patterns in Seal Beach due to the Electric Storm Drain project and the West OC Connectors projects.
Erik Dreyer-Goldman was out of town with some family emergencies this past week, and our Director of Operations, Gina Phillips, mom had to have open heart surgery. If you would keep all of them in your thoughts, we would appreciate it.
All in all, change came abruptly and in some cases very painfully to our members and supporters of business. Cicero, the great Greek Senator and orator, said over two millennia ago: “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”
In Seal Beach, with the 95th anniversary of Founder’s Day coming up in just a few weeks, what can we learn from history, business decision and cycles of change in our own community.
Firstly, there are those businesses which have been proven over time to be successes: Walt’s Wharf, Hennesey’s, Bay Hardware, Clancy’s, Art on Glass, Sun Newspapers, Harbour Surf, the post office and a few others. They have managed to last for decades and have filled a niche for many of our residents and visitors. They have evolved in small ways, but rather have each become destinations for more than one generation. We should tip our hats to those businesses who have survived more than one down turn in the economy and certainly a boom or two.
Secondly, the historic successes: the Joy Zone with its roller coaster and the Jewel City Café. There was the remarkable Red Car railway system and the hotels and expanded dining options like Sam’s Seafood (when that part of California was still Seal Beach). If we thought Seal Beach was always a sleepy town, you might be surprised if you saw Vivian Laird’s Garden of Allah and her rakish matchbook advertising. What about the gambling boat run off of the pier in the 30’s? If you look at photos of our Main Street in the 40’s liquor stores and restaurants dominate it. Tourism boomed and caused Seal Beach to thrive. They exploded into prominence like bright fireworks and then faded from view as the region’s demographics and needs changed and the era of the Glider Inn slipped away one night.
As we moved through the late 70s and early 90’s, Seal Beach went through a period of contraction. It wasn’t unusual to see boarded up store fronts on Main Street, a decline in many of the options we now enjoy. We saw restaurants, coffee shops and retail clothing come and go, but some solid businesses arrived and flourished. California Sea Shell Company, Main Street Art & Frame, Baby Boomer and others have made their mark.
By our current decade, we have seen the changes, the new buildings on Main Street and the annexation of what is now the Shops at Rossmoor and the Target shopping center. This started the current upswing in the businesses of Seal Beach.
What can all this teach us? Those cycles continue to move forward and that life brings change. We should be thankful each day for the business and personal successes we have and be a little more gracious about those who might have less or are going through a rough time. We should continue to shop local and find common ground between us. Seal Beach has been a boom town, a shanty town, an older town and a young town. Most importantly, it is our town. It’s success or failures are only our own visage in the mirror of history.

Cool words - linguistic gymnastics

As a consultant and writer, language is important to me. This is provided by the Washington Post in their annual competition:

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Are we focusing on the right things?

John Abrams, a noted business author once noted: “If the people who make the decisions are the people who will also bear the consequences of those decisions, perhaps better decisions will result.” This past week, in a memo dated July 7th, Main Street merchants received a “Courtesy Notice if Sidewalk Encroachment/Outdoor Display Laws” in which city staff asserts “a number of complaints,” and “an increasing amount of sandwich board signs, racks of clothing, tables with merchandise, tables and chairs, and other items…” I doubt if any business owner complained about such things in Seal Beach. Most of the business owners I know are just trying to entice a few more customers into their stores.

Interesting that the merchants I talk to are not concerned about these issues, they are concerned about other code issues. Code enforcement in the City is by “complaint” meaning that if you call, it will be investigated. I thought I would share a few concerns and highlight what others might have missed from the business community standpoint.

There are an increasing number of individuals who are using our public spaces without event permits or agreement with the City for outdoor classes. This is prohibited by code. Where is the effective enforcement of that?

What about the “bandit” flower or candy vendors which move through our community with impunity selling their product without a business license or tax contribution? Where is the support for “No Solicitation” signs that are in many storefronts which others ignore – going so far as to interrupt customers and shop owners during a transaction? Where is the code enforcement on that?
Merchants are concerned about benches for their patrons to sit down outside their shop while others browse or wait for a table. They are concerned about uneven pavers which are far more of a trip and fall hazard along with the awful newspaper racks which lie unused and unkempt with graffiti. Can we do something about those items? What about installing more bike racks or benches permanently by the City which would make it even more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists? If we encouraged more biking traffic, we may even favorably improve the parking situation.
There are groups which have gatherings on the beach in excess of the “exempt” number. Those businesses and organizations who apply for permits and receive them have no advantage over those who simply do not get a permit. They actually end up paying for more than their fair share - as one friend and congregation did this past Easter sunrise service. That congregation had paid, but another didn’t and saved the special event permit fee and the “beach use fee” – over $250 in savings. This is quite a bit for a church. Neither service was interrupted so why be compliant? Is this a double standard or just lax enforcement?

We have inconsistent enforcement of various ordinances pertaining to how businesses conduct their business – what is outside, enclosed, noise, waste and appropriate or “compatible use.” Just this past Monday there were several residence speaking about two years of complaints against a Main Street merchant. While some of their concerns may have merit, what is the other side? What about businesses, which have more understanding neighbors, are they held to the same standard? Doubtful as they simply don’t’ receive complaints.

When does business have a voice?

There are two sides to every story. As a community, we need to remember that if you look at the historical record, in many ways, Main Street was here first. As Anaheim Landing, it was the business which developed our City first. Residents came later as it was identified as a great place to live. If not for Main Street and our other centers of shopping, Seal Beach would not be the place it is today.

There is the ongoing issue of parking in our community. Will the City be as robust with their code enforcement of residential garage requirements? To all of those residents who have surfboard shaping areas in their garage, a home based hobby business or other concern in their garage where a car is unable to be parked, will the code strike you as firmly as some City councilmen wish to strike at Main Street?

I recently had one store owner comment to me how perhaps we should transform our Main Street into Main Street Disneyland – full of facades and empty storefronts with just window dressing. Residents and visitors could then promenade unimpeded through our “pedestrian friendly” corridor. The 95th birthday of Seal Beach is coming up and I hope all of us remember that in our roots, business was the seed which founded our City. We should consider the benefits they bring to us – in unique character, quality of life and ease of transaction.

I often implore you to shop local. In a bit of a change, I would ask you to consider the other voice, the voice of the “mom & pop” stores which dominate our centers of shopping. Most of those shops are good neighbors and at some point, they deserve the right to advertise, have special events and enjoy some of the protections that the residents so extol. Most of the shop owners and workers I know live in town. Isn’t there room for both sides of the story?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Perspective on business

It is important for all of us to get out of our own heads to see perspective on our life and our business. When working in our small businesses or non-profit, we forget to take stock of the 360 degree viewpoints around what we do.

Look to mentors, peers, family, friends and other community members to give us an unbiased view (when possible) on the work we do. Realize that the way you see yourself is often quite different from the way others see you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Growth & Viewpoints

“Growth, in some curious way, I suspect, depends on being always in motion just a little bit, one way or another.” Norman Mailer’s words seem particularly relevant to our community of Seal Beach. No matter what happens in the larger community, there is steady motion, sometimes forward, other times backwards, perhaps even sideways.

As we enter the heart of the “visitor season,” the summer months, what is in and what is out? What has been happening with the business community? Change has happened in the Shops at Rossmoor as Panera Bread, Subway and Yogurtland all have indicated they will be coming to the center. Main Street has said goodbye to the AT&T store and welcomed another clothing shop, along with Ensemble, the new boutique, next to the Crema Café. These new businesses will definitely serve both visitors and residents.

Our restaurants and hotels seem to be doing quite well with high occupancy and solid sales. If you are having out of town visitors, be sure to check them into the Pacific Inn, Hampton Inn or Ayres Hotel – they all have great rates and are perfect for visiting family. Make a commitment to dine out in one or more of our restaurants. Try something new and if you like it, write a Yelp or other online review to help bring more visitors to our town.

With this in mind, the Chamber marketing committee has developed a vistor’s rack card which will be strategically located at airports, hotels and visitor centers in our region. We hope to continue to drive new customers to our centers of shopping. D on’t forget to use a Seal Beach City map to help navigate our town or to share with visitors. Also, be on the look out for our new 2010-11 Community and Visitor’s Guide, which is being produced by the Chamber again. Full of resources, information, business and content, it will be the official guide to our business community for the next two years.

On the governmental front, we were hoping for some closure to the Title 11, the comprehensive zoning code. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as it was sent back to the Planning Commission for further consideration. It should be of concern that there seems to be resistance to merchants advertising and marketing their businesses with A-frame signs. Further, there seems to be growing discontent with our City Manager, David Carmany from at least one councilman. From the Chamber perspective, Mr. Carmany has been one of the best things that has happened to City Hall. He has consistently been focused on improving our community and moving city staff to a greater degree of customer service to everyone.

With the Car Show and EDGE (Educate, Develop & Grow the Economy) Seal Beach Seminar series, over, the Chamber is ready for the annual Summer Concert Series. It is going to be a wonderful series and as other communities are wondering how they can afford to provide this kind of free summer entertainment, our Chamber and town is producing ten concerts this year.

Look out for bands like Sligo Rags, Nobody Cares, Emperor, the Elm Street Band and locals like Eddie Montana and Robbie Armstrong. Previews of some of the bands will be in the Sun’s “Hot Ticket.” New this year will be our vendor village, in the concrete slab area next to Eisenhower Park. This should give residents and visitors more access and seating in the grass of the park. Look also for a Main Street sidewalk sale kick off on July 7th, the first of the Summer Concert Series concerts. Be sure to shop local and have friends come to town on those Wednesdays. Use the beach lots at 8th and 10th to reduce parking impacts for residents too!

Part of the mission of the Chamber is to “enhance the quality of life in Seal Beach.” As Mailer states, movement is critical. The Chamber is proud of the movement we produce in the community. Major events and partnerships are what give part of the magic to our city. It is always a great time to look for events like the LIONS annual Fish Fry in July and the Rotary’s Fishing Derby and new Chili Cook Off in August.

Finally, remember that the Chamber, our members and volunteers, produces the Summer Concert series. It is through sponsorship, vendors and our member dues that the event is provided as a free benefit to all. Your connection to our merchants helps us keep all of it happening! Enjoy your summer and we look forward to seeing you at our events all season long. As always, shop local!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memorial Day weekend

So here are some photos from my trip to Rehoboth. My best friend Christopher and I on the dance floor along with my client Ross, 'topher and his boyfriend Michael (my new Boo!) Such a good time.

Reminds me that we have to all celebrate friendships, particularly those which are like family. Christopher in particular and I have been through a great deal - far to much to share here, but suffice it to say, if you could go through it, we have. LOL! Doesn't he look amazing? If only you knew his diet...

What was also great was to work with my client Ross on his vision of changing iPhone applications and technology development. With some work together, we have outlined a draft business plan - certainly enough to clarify his vision. It was such a pleasure to work in my area of core competency.

Technologies & false economies

Do you wonder about the nature of technology as it affects our lifestyle in work? Much ado is made of the labor saving devices like cars, cell phones, computers and other tools which allow us to connect, create and manage not only our lives, but those of others as well. Is it really all that great?

"U.S. labor statistics show that while aggregate output in the banking industry increased from $281,105 to $408,218 million, or by 45%, in real terms between 1992 and 2002, banking employment remained within the range of 3,151 to 3,313 million labor hours in the same period. In other words, the average number of labor hours per dollar of banking output fell by more than 30% within this period (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2005). A similar phenomenon happened in the UK: whereas total outstanding consumer loans increased by 195% between 1992 and 2002, total employment in the banking and finance industry increased by only 39% in the same period (Office for National Statistics 2005). There are two commonly cited explanations for the contraction in banking employment: banking consolidation caused by the deregulation of interstate expansion and the emergence of labor-saving technologies." - (excerpted from AllBusiness a D&B division)

So we have more work being done by fewer people. On the surface, a good thing. Yet, I doubt those people were being paid huge premiums for the quantity of work. Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, writes a great deal about the change of the human workforce in the factory economy. Many of the things we now own make it easier simply for us to work. At the same time, one of the leading leisure activities is shopping - the acquisition of more "stuff."

Do we need more? Shouldn't we look more to create both greater art / creativity in our work product and be tied down to the "factory" of a process less?

The car lets us run errands, it also obligates us to a variety of departures from our home and office. Our phone has become a tether - no longer simply a device to send or receive calls, it has become a social lifeline. With the advent of the Facebook & Twitter era, our most mundane behavior has become an exhibitionist impulse which must be satisfied. We foursquare, post and tweet about the greatest inane mundanities of life. Has this technology made us more effective or simply more dependent on it and the other "stuff" of our lives?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Showing up

As Woody Allen says, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I couldn't agree more. Wouldn't it be stunning if people actually did their job? Showed up on time (or dare we hope - early)? Told the truth? Acted out of kindness? It certainly would make work simpler wouldn't it?

When you have work product done, exceed the expectations. Provide a consistently superior product by being PRESENT when you are interacting with your client. Show up as needed and delight your customers with more attention than they may expect. Make an effort to deliver in a way that makes the client see value in your very attendance to their words.

One of the most driving needs that people have at a cognitive level is the desire to be understood. Strive for clear, concise understanding of what they say. Repeat it back as needed. Trust me, they will appreciate you more for it. Both your attention and demonstration of your courtesy to listen and comprehend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The "feeling of knowing"

Occasionally, I come across a book which is truly stunning in relevance and presentation of a perhaps esoteric subject. I have been enjoying the basic findings of one of them, On Being Certain (pictured left). As a consultant, we often have to see the pattern in potentially unrelated items. We are asked for answers and often have to express it with confidence and certainty. How do we achieve certitude? What does the "feeling of knowing" feel like? Below is an excerpt. I would ask that you read the following and determine if you have a strong understanding of the passage:

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications, it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve well as an anchor. If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance.

Is it meaningful? Meaningless? A simple stream of consciousness? Is it possible that a single trigger will make it compressible? What does the "feeling of knowing" feel like?

If you want the answer - post a reply.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bizarre Comments, their moderation & hijacking sites

Some time ago, I didn't know why some of my friends who started blogging before I did, moderated their comments. Now I understand. I have had many attempts to place unknown Chinese characters on my blog. No translation is provided, I have no idea if the comments are even relevant. It is a strange and potentially offensive post. The next attempt, I will try to determine the source and report them back to Google as spam.

I find this particularly upsetting as my website was recently hijacked due to an absentee hosting company and became an attack site. Not what you want first time clients to experience! It is humiliating and embarrassing. While I recognize we can't all be experts in all things, having content which is uniquely yours taken over and used for a bad purpose feels very "rape" like - I feel used, abused and violated. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is my frustration with the internet as a medium. I have also backed off on Twitter - not because I think poorly of the media, but rather, I find the participants are covered by a degree of anonymity which brings out some of the worst in people.

Anyone else have relevant or cogent thoughts on this?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is it really Leisure World?

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to several hundred residents of Leisure World Seal Beach. I was invited by a group who's identifier is "Where We Live." As keynote speaker, my comments focused on the importance of the large, engaged senior population to the surrounding area. Here is some background on it.

From Construction on the approximately one square mile (2.5 km²) community was begun in 1960 with the first residents moving in on June 6, 1962. This was the first major planned retirement community of its type in the U.S. Today, Leisure World has 9,000 mostly older, retired residents. The Leisure World in Seal Beach was developed by Ross W. Cortese's development company, the Rossmoor Corporation, which also developed the nearby community of Rossmoor. The same company developed several other Leisure Worlds around the United States, and started, but did not complete the Rossmoor gated retirement community in Walnut Creek, California.
The community has three guarded gates with a private security department that provides traffic enforcement, patrol service and gate control 24 hours a day. Housing consists of one and two bedroom apartments as well as condominiums. Recreation opportunities include a swimming pool and heated pool, a 9-hole 3-par golf course, a well-equipped weight room, 6 clubhouses, woodworking and art studios, a sewing room, lawn bowling courts, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard courts, ping-pong tables, pool tables and other amenities. There are also numerous planned activities for the residents, including regular dances with lessons. There is a very large number of clubs and organizations as well as religious groups that meet in Leisure World.

The meeting was focused on what I would consider a phase three branding exercise. Final determination of a first, second and third name choice. What also was interesting was the impetus for the renaming - a potential financial liability by the Cortese heir for the trademark control of the name "Leisure World." Leisure World's entrance is also, as you can see in the photo above, quite dated and commercial in style and feel.

Since the community stands at the exit ramp area of the I-405 freeway and CA-22, it is often the first impression visitors have of our community. Like any brand, there is some benefit for updating the look & feel of it. As is often joked, Seizure World has unfortunately connected it's name to the most infirm of elderly constituents. In reality, it is a vital, vibrant community full of amenities and activities. Since it represents a significant number of voters and consumers (roughly 30% of the full time residents of Seal Beach), any sort of rebranding is likely to have a great impact on our community as a whole.

As to my own feelings, a name change would make sense. The outmoded, dated appearance only creates a visual cueing to an old, out of touch population. This is not an image that I believe captures the essence of it's residents, nor it's vital impact on the City. Added to that, a financial incentive (or lack of liability), it seems to be a no-brainer. Then again, what do I know as a marketing

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day reflections

Mother's Day is an important day for all of us. We have the opportunity to connect with those remarkable women who have helped shape us to who we are today. Mother's have a unique position in our developmental lives, not just because they bore us, but because they represent the uniquely feminine and the reflection of what is feminine in all of us as we grow and develop.

There are several key gifts my mothers have given me in my professional and personal life:

1. A keen sense of emotional awareness and sensitivity
2. Patience - especially with men
3. A strong independent streak - a "can do" attitude
4. An appreciation of the beauty in life
5. Nurturing others
6. Comfort in identity

As individuals in business who are constantly interacting with others, these gifts have helped me understand others and meet their needs. Thanks Moms!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A review of some recent events

“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president spoke those words about the endeavors not just of government, but our society as a whole. Work has been evident in the past 30 days in our very own Seal Beach. Two of our signature events, the 5K/10K and the Classic Car Show both happen in April, and this year was a banner year for both.

I had the pleasure of being at the finish line of the 5K/10K and was in awe of the thousands of runners, walkers and riders (some in strollers!) who performed to challenge not only themselves, but to generate resources for our community. Dennis Kaiser, of the Sun and I tag teamed via walkie-talkie the approaching finishers and announcing them.
The race takes literally hundreds of volunteers and nearly eight months of planning. The results however, are well worth it. According to Bill Ayres at the last City Council meeting, the race raised $110,000 in funds for grant programs. It was also the biggest race to date with over 5,400 registered runners. Had there been same day registration, this number might have been higher! Grants are via a request for proposal (RFP) process to qualified non-profits, so if you are interested in learning more, go to Last year, the 5K/10K Race Foundation gave away $100,000 to various non-profit recreation programs in the Seal Beach area.

The Classic Car Show this year was perhaps one of the best ever. What sets the tone of the entire show is actually the parking of the cars. This year, we were able to get everyone in and parked well before 9 am. The show didn’t start until 10 am, but Main Street was pretty packed in the early morning. We actually performed all of the parking with half the volunteers in comparison to last year, only 15 people! Approximately 516 cars were here with 30 trophies awarded. The “Best in Show” was an amazing ’28 Model A Ford by Steve Wilkinson. This car was carefully brought to show condition by he and his family and it included a hydraulic lift to pick up the rear end of the body of the car to showcase the mechanical interior!
Best 32' to 34' Closed Car, ’32 Ford 3 window High Boy, was built by kids 15 to 18 with the direction of a Christian youth leader, Pete Youngma who lives in Surfside. The kicker is, these kids were delinquents and been in the criminal justice system. Most all parts were donated and under guidance, these kids enjoyed the personal experience of how to apply their energies to creation instead of destruction. And boy did they build something special!!

In talking with Brian Kyle of O’Malley’s on Main, “Sales this year were 15-20% ahead of last year.” With vendors on Main Street and in Eisenhower Park, reactions were mixed. Some felt that it was a great addition, while some merchants, like Woody of W. Woodruff Hair Design, were concerned about the food vendors. Pascal from Thai on Main, also sent me a quick email note congratulating us on the Car Show, but concerned about some vendors. He shared, “The car show was a great event for the city but truthfully not so much for our business.  I was hoping the crowd would bring in some patrons to the restaurant but most as I noted went for street food.  Nevertheless, I thought the food booths were a great addition to the Car show but let’s promote the local restaurants.” Honestly, the Chamber is here to promote our community, so we take to heart our member’s and community concerns. Let us know what you think.

The Car Show owes a debt of thanks to not only our sponsors, but the dozens of volunteers, hundreds of participants and of course our merchants who all make it happen! Great job team! We also know it was successful, because the show for 2011 is over ¾ of the way sold out already. As Coolidge stated, we must consistently work in our town to make it grow and flourish. So be on the look out for the incredible Summer Concert Series, the LION’s Fish Fry, Rotary Fishing Derby and more all in our town this summer, and remember to always shop local!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


How often do you take a client to lunch? What about your spouse or a family member? One of the things most evident in our culture is the premium we place on time. We are constantly moving from one activity to another. We obsess about work and shorten the time in which we eat. The very nature of meal time has become one of ridicule or speed - a power lunch, fast food, working lunch or the dreaded taking the boss to lunch.

We have to multi-task even our most basic needs - like eating. When was the last time you went to lunch with someone work or family related and it was a pleasure? Couldn't you do more of that? I think you can and should. The iconic image of the steel workers having lunch on a steel beam is one of clear cammraderie. Where else could you be indifferent to the height yet trapped in a world of solitude? Make an effort to build a relationship with clients beyond that of service provider. Work to find common ground with co-workers. Focus on spending time with your family. Enjoy meal time in a fresh, new way. Your life will be richer for it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An open activist letter

Last night I attended a very long council meeting with a study session about Title 11, the zoning code. What came out of it was a bit of a surprise, particularly from one Councilman. He has continually blocked all efforts of the Chamber to advocate for business, has worked consistently to throw up barriers to growth and he and his wife, under color of authority when he was mayor verbally assaulted and harassed me in the City Manager's office. Below is my call to action to fellow business owners. As a business owner and business advocate myself, it has become clear that only by backing up my reasonable requests with further call to action can we assert in a positive way our role in community.

Business is a vital part of any community and we should all be engaged with government, philanthropy, education and service in addition to our role in making a profit. If you live in Seal Beach and wish to know more, please leave a comment or reach out to me.

Fellow business owners and friends,

Well, last night we were blindsided and attacked by Councilman Antos. He
has done several things which are beyond the pale at Council and the
Title 11 study session.

* All special events on the beach, which are NOT City "sponsored"
are to be prohibited unless approved by the Parks & Recreation
Commission as "appropriate" for our community. This would add
60-90 days to the approval process and many events may be turned
down as "not appropriate." That means Easter sunrise services,
weddings, gatherings, sports events non-profit fundraisers, etc. .
.He doesn't want "those kinds of people" (not sure other than
"non-local" what that means) having events on our beaches. I
couldn't believe it. We currently have a functioning process
which is already costly and time consuming for special events.
All of this because he doesn't want Brazilian Sand Soccer on the
beach in May. I specifically brought up houses of faith and he
said NOTHING in support of them. Council approved that
recommendation 5-0. This may also be an item which is open to
challenge by the Coastal Commission, but in particular, I would
like the churches and non-profits to determine if this is ok with
* After 11 pm tonight in the Title 11 Study Session - He BLASTED
Main Street and every business that had an A-Frame sign or ANY
OTHER FORM of outdoor display. During this session with Planning
Commission, he personally attacked me, Main Street Cyclery,
Bogart's, the Sun, Abbey, Seal Beach Shoppe, Up, Up & Away Kites,
B.S. Pearce, Furnace, Subject, Main Street Wine Cellar and others
for their a-frames and / or clothing displays. He had huge blown
up photos of businesses and any display they might have including
benches, chairs or any goods out on display. This came as a
complete surprise and was a shock to everyone present.
* He also attacked all display signs for realtors which were in any
way stuck in the ground. He asserted this a-frame signs or
"staked" signs punctured sprinklers. He specifically attacked
Baytown Realty, First Team Realty, American Realty Brokers and others.
* He made multiple attacks on business and special events. This
signage issue would affect A-Frame signs EVEN ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.
Shopping centers and homes may also be affected.
* If you have an A-Frame sign, be prepared to have the City pick it
up and cite you shortly.

I am asking for a CALL TO ACTION from all of you. I will have a
petition ready for you to sign on for A-Frame Signs and a separate one
for special events on the beach. I will be coming by in the next week
for signatures and to answer questions. I would ask that you further
forward this email to anyone you believe would be supportive of our
business community and those beach activities. We will also identify a
council meeting in which your attendance will be meaningful. Other
council members - notably Mike Levitt and several planning commissioners
were supportive of business.

Antos has identified that he is an enemy of business, an opponent of
reasonable efforts by our businesses to flourish and simply a barrier to
nearly all that the Chamber stands for. We have worked hard for several
years to deepen and improve the relationship with the City. We provide
the engine of resources for most of the non-profit events and
fund-raising in our town. I ask you to make a commitment RIGHT NOW to
be part of the solution, but positively proving to all of the council
that we are a valuable part of the community and are not to be simply
dismissed. This affects all of us!

Please email the City Clerk, City Manager and Planning Director with
your concerns. Their email is below:

* David Carmany, City Manager -
* Linda Devine, City Clerk -
* Mark Persico, Director of Planning -

Your email should contain the following: your name, your business or
organization, your clear support of A-Frame signs and reasonable local
signage efforts, and your desire to NOT increase the difficulty of
special event permitting on the beach. We will keep you posted on the
call to action for a date to appear for Council and/or Planning Commission.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Benefits of the Chamber. How do your associations help you?

This is an article I wrote for the Chamber newsletter. Think about what you might get from various professional associations.

People regularly ask “What do you get out of your Chamber membership?” This really is a good question. Chambers of Commerce differ in the way they focus on providing value to their membership. Our Chamber’s mission is fairly simple and clear: to sustain, promote and grow business and to enhance the quality of life of the Seal Beach community.
With that mission in mind, the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce is the single largest event producing non-profit in our City. We produce many of the largest: the Classic Car Show, the Christmas Parade and the Summer Concert Series. Beyond this there are over a dozen other events. In addition to the opportunity to volunteer, network, and sponsor at these events, they fulfill the need to enhance the quality of life in the Seal Beach community. Special thanks are in order for all those members who participated and sponsored the recent USS Dewey events: Boeing, O’Malley’s on Main, Grace Community Church, Hennesey’s, Main Street Wine Cellar and the LIONS. It was an incredible event that showcased our town at a national level. Just ask Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff, he was here!
Recently in partnership with Boeing and the Small Business Administration (SBA), we have launched the EDGE: Educate to Drive and Grow the Economy, business seminar series. These highly informative 2 hour lunch meetings bring real information and resources to bear for many of our small to mid-size firms. Mitra Novin, of Boeing and Doug Dare of the SBA are both instructors for the series. I was delighted to be the kick off session facilitator on business planning. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should! If you are interested in teaching a session, let us know. We are always looking for ways for our members to contribute.
Finally, as you may be aware, there has been a great deal of movement on the government front where the Chamber is working for you to help promote business. We are working through concerns in the Title 11 zoning code and also with position papers to not only our City Council, but also Assemblyman Jim Silva and State Senator Tom Harman. Erik Dryer-Goldman went to a meeting with the Assemblyman to work on some state issues. Steve Blount continues to represent us at the Regional Military Affairs Committee (RMAC) at the Joint Forces Training Base. We are also thankful for US Congressman Rorhabacher joining us for our April 8th meeting to give us a breakfast briefing!
Remember as always to shop, network, refer and spend locally. Join us at our next breakfast meeting or networking event and be sure to RSVP for an EDGE seminar. After all, what you get out of the Chamber is what you put into it!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The upcoming car show

It is that time again, for the Seal Beach Classic Car show! Now in it’s 23rd year, it is one of the longest running annual events in our community. What is in store for this year? Well, cars, vendors & visitors, as always!
This year on April 24th from 10 am to 3 pm, our Main Street becomes classic car heaven. More than 500 cars will begin to fill up our downtown around 6 am. From woodies to muscle cars, there is plenty for every gearhead to admire. We expect thousands of visitors to come and enjoy our community and show.
The car show takes months of planning and dozens of volunteers to pull off. Brian Warner, this year’s Seal Beach Car Show event chair feels the Chamber has stepped it up, “We have 30 judging categories and are particularly happy with our t-shirt which will feature two of our winners from last year and new styles for women and children.” He added, “We also have listened to participants, attendees, merchants and residents to make this the best car show ever!”
Brian has been working for the last several years on improving the judging system and quality. Participants really value that kind of focus. The expansion of categories from just 20 a couple of years ago to the 30 now, which makes divisions more descriptive and in line with other shows.
Other key improvements include enhancements to the parking process with seven points of entry into the show, more vendors and a smooth operating team. Currently, every leader in the show has been a part of it for at least a year. JoAnn Adams, a former president of the Chamber and chair of the show for several years, worked tirelessly to improve the entry process for the show. She along with major participants like Stuart Green, a new car show committee member, and his group of 51 entrants helped design the flow patterns to make the entry smooth and efficient. JoAnn shared, “We really wanted to make sure the cars don’t have to idle a long time and that they have minimal noise for the residents. By bringing them in from multiple streets they park faster and better.” Signage set up and barricades begins around 3:30 am and Bryce Turner and his team, including volunteers from the Naval Weapons Station, will be coordinating this inflow. This system eliminates back up on Pacific Coast Highway and along Seal Beach Boulevard.
The Chamber has continued to partner with the Seal Beach Lions and Leos for the Pancake Breakfast as it has been a part of the car show tradition for the last nine years. Long term Lion, past Chamber president and car show corporate sponsor Jim Klisanin feels, “We have always had good car shows, but this year we have made it even better. I have talked to a lot of the participants in years past and they almost always say this car show is their favorite.” The Lions will be continuing through lunch this year with their famous bratwursts so stop on down by the pier and get some!
Vendors are more expansive and focused in Eisenhower Park thanks to sponsorship chair Gina Phillips. More than twenty vendors will be in place up there, though the Big Red Bus will be make an appearance down by PCH.
There should be more to do and see this year in the park as the Pinewood Derby moves over into it. It certainly adds even more of a family friendly atmosphere to have the kids all racing cars too!
Car show central is located at the Electric and Main intersections and will be an information and registration hub. Judging begins at 10 am and wraps up around 1 pm. Our new PA system should allow Rick Paap, our MC and the 2:30 pm awards ceremony to be clearly heard. So invite friends and family to come down to Seal Beach on the 24th to help us celebrate classic cars, our community and our merchants. If you need more information, please contact the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce at (562)799-0157 or

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunrise Service

Getting a good start on the day is important for many of us. I was particularly moved today to attend a sunrise Easter service on the beach. It was a beautiful vista and helped me connect with some "universe" time first thing. The breaking of dawn and the great swath of Pacific ocean that I could look out upon reminded me of the importance of a positive mental attitude and spiritual centeredness.
Pastor Tia Wildermuth of First United Methodist Church ( during the homily reminded us all of the importance of believing without understanding. The disciples did not understand what had happened with the body of Christ, and yet once the message was delivered, they still had to believe without the understanding still. For articles of faith, this is undoubtedly true. For business - perhaps less so. Or is it?
When we first have a vision of success, we do not know it's certainty. We act on faith that the business will be profitable, enjoyable and filled with good results. We act on a belief not based on facts in evidence. We look to the sunrise, the opportunity and the promise of the day.
Easter is a time of renewal and hope. I hope that it is for you and your business as well.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trip Planning

Business owners often find that they don't have much time for travel. Their business demands constant, unbroken attention. This photo is from a trip I was on a few years ago to Rehobeth, DE with friends. There were a bunch of us who were auctioned off at a fundraiser as strippers/models. I did bring in a nice price I might add. You can see me with the hat on in the back.

For all of us, try to book time to travel when you can combine business and pleasure. Meet with clients for a few days and when it is time to relax with friends, then enjoy that as well. You can often fit both in. What you don't want to do is NOT vacation. You really need to recharge your insights and perspective. So go ahead - plan a trip! I just did!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Detox Cleanse - Personal & Business Choice

Mid day Monday (03/29/10) I decided after much thought and reflection to do a detox. For those of you who know me well, this might seem kind of funny given my history! I really felt with news my mom gave me about her physican's concern over health issues (not to mention being a cancer survivor), my dad's battle with prostate cancer, my own age and my need to take a more natural approach to body building/sculpting, a cleanse and diet change seemed in order.

Following the guidance of my friend and tranier Barb over at Beach Fitness, I opted for a cleanse focused on vegetables (no white/starchy), a few nuts (mostly almonds and some pinenuts/cashews as sesonings in cooked vegetables), Macrogreens supplement drink and a high quality protein powder. I am still only drinking water outside of the supplement shakes. That has eliminated all dairy, meat, processed food, refined sugar, soft drinks, additives, gluten, grains and most fats. This is day 5, and I feel AMAZING!

Day 1 was very tough. I was hungry and unsatisfied most of the afternoon and evening. Did 30 of cardio in the AM and lifted legs in the afternoon. By Day 2, I was irritable and my sleep patterns were disrupted. My energy level was very low and training was hard, though I did 30 minutes of cardio, lifted chest and then took a 30 minute kettlebell class! Day 3 brought some feelings of change in my energy level for the better, but I was definately irritable and I only could manage cardio for 30 minutes. That night sleep was the worst of the week - I only managed about 4 hours and then was up around 3:30 am. Day 4 brought continued feelings of lastitude, though my attitude was better and my hunger was far more manageable. I worked a 16 hour day and then just had to collapse in bed. I did manage to lift back lightly.

Today was a shoulder day and I woke up after a full 9 hours of sleep feeling incredible and super positive. So THIS is what it is supposed to feel like! I like it - A LOT. I was able to train shoulders and I weighed myself - a solid 5 lb. drop with a + change in body composition. NICE!

What this week has taught me about business and life is the following:

1. Changing it up and forcing yourself to do what you know you need to do is the right thing.

2. We all could use a cleanse now and again - both personally and in our businesses.

3. The first few days of fairly radical change are hard, and Mother Nature is amazing, we adapt to the new lifestyle. We can do the same in business - we expand our efforts to inculde the optimal result if we only stay focused on it.

4. You have NO time to waste. If you are ready to make changes in your life, don't wait for New Year's Day, your birthday or your doctor(consultant) telling you to cut stuff(waste) out of your life(business).

5. Results are worth it. It produces a positive feeling of causality between effort and result.

You know what you need to do to produce positive change in your life. Just go do it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's

Today is the day when we commit hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible. Traditionally, in some countries, such as the UK, Australia, and South Africa the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool". Elsewhere, such as in France, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). (Thanks Wikipedia for that overview!)

Do you ever feel that the day is April Fool's Day and the joke is on you? Well, today really is that day and you might want to be sure you are not a joke in someone else's book! A few keys to ensuring the joke is not on you with a client:

1. Underpromise & overdeliver - make sure you have what you say you will do and focus on delivering it.

2. Communicate clearly - use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle

3. Be efficient - Don't waste the client's time. Most likely you are being paid by the hour as well.

4. Don't be a "yes" man - The client is paying you for results in their business. These results are usually tied to financial performance. Do not be afraid to tell her a "no" and why.

5. Respect the work - Remember it has your name on it. It better be good!

6. Thank the client for the opportunity to work with them.

So yes, all of those points seem obvious, but all too often we forget one or more of them at critical times. It can devestate your cleint/consultant relationship if you do.

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 Café 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!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


So today I did my two hour seminar on Business planning 101. It was a joint effort of the Chamber of Commerce, the SBA and Boeing. My class was the first one in an eight session series. Here is the outline of it:
When you start building a business plan, do you know what your business stands for? Do you recognize the difference between a slogan, brand, mission statement and mantra? Simply, your mantra is the statement to which all of your business decisions stem from! In this two hour intensive seminar, you will explore the basic segments of a business plan, some key steps on how to write one and finally develop your mantra for your own current or future business. Appropriate for all levels of business owners or non-profit staff, you will find this EDGE session will start you off right!
It was at the Hampton Inn & Suites here in Seal Beach and somewhat ironically, there was a meeting of the Education & Evaluation Center for Medical Marijuana having a conference in the room we were supposed to have, so we adjusted to working in the main lobby and breakfast area. It went very well. All the participants got a lot out of it and when anonymous presenter evalatuations came back and I got the results from the director of operations - I received near perfect marks! Another successful seminar session. What was even more exciting was the additional work from several participants which will likely develop.
So if you are in a service business, I strongly encourage you to teach a seminar for free - the clients and credibility you will recieve pays serious dividends!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working through the Power of 2

Working in the consulting field always results in collaboration. First, you collaborate with your client, and in many projects, there are multiple consultants, advisors and departments all interfacing. This type of interaction will lead to issues which exist in pairs even more than in "teams." Recently, I have become an advocate for not only strength based leadership, but the entire structure pertaining to positive psychology. Those of you who have read my blog in the past know that I often focus on positive issues.

I can't comment strongly enough how communication, trust, mission goals and ultimately acceptance are core tenets of good partnership. The book illustrates others, but I absolutely agree that those are vital to any endeavor. When working with your clients, realize they are imperfect, you, in partnership with them can yield far superior results than they could alone. Be proud and clear in the value you provide. Accept that you may disagree, but remain open and understanding of what they provide - their willingness to listen and ACCEPT what you have to share.

Now go give them even better results!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A failure of customer service - Verizon

It is rare that I am deeply negative. Verizon has changed that for me. I have been trying since February 3rd to actually have my internet work. It still doesn't. I have spoken to people in Indonesia, India, California, and locations unknown. The latest, for the last three years, I have had a "slow connection" only now, I have found that at the crossbox I am apparently the only DSL customer and they simply can't deliver internet to me. FiOS is apparently available, but not for me. They have offered no helpful solutions. Why is this such a problem? Are they really as incompetent as I now believe. Are all cable and phone companies just raping us? When do we as consumers of a product become enraged by their gross failure of customer service? When do we band together to demand change?

If politics is any indication, we should simply throw them all out! If that is the case, when we are as dependent as we are on technology, how can we force telecommunications to meet the needs of its customers rather than its shareholders? Ideas - anyone?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

USS Dewey

Sometimes extraordinary things happen in Seal Beach. This March 6th, for the first time in Orange County, a naval vessel will be commissioned: USS Dewey DDG 105. Commissioning a ship is a time-honored tradition, which celebrates a vessels' formal entry into service with the active Navy fleet. USS DEWEY was constructed at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi and is sponsored by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff & Admiral Mike Mullen’s wife, Deborah. The vessel, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is the third ship to bear the name of Admiral of the Navy George Dewey. Earlier versions, the DDG 349 was very active in the Pacific theatre in WWII and the DDG 45 a Farragut class missile destroyer. But what does all of that mean to us as a community here in Seal Beach? Why should we care?

Our USS Dewey has a complement of 380 officers and enlisted personnel and is one of the most sophisticated Naval vessels ever developed. With a comprehensive set of offensive and defensive capabilities, it is capable of sustained battle and support in ship-to ship, ship-to-shore, ship-to-subsurface and ship-to-air engagements. It also represents a first ever opportunity for our business, school and residential community to participate more fully in what our largest real estate partner: the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. For those businesses in Seal Beach, we have an opportunity to build a greater connection with the sailors of this vessel and others which come in and out of the Weapons Station.

Lead by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, which is hosting the VIP reception on Friday, March 5th, the business community is doing it’s part to facilitate the USS Dewey events. Main Street Wine Cellar and Hennesey’s have also stepped to the plate and provided wine and beer for the events as well. Many Chamber member businesses are coming forward to create a “Welcome Kit” booklet of coupons and discounts for the crew. Working with the City of Seal Beach, Trees for Seal Beach and the Commissioning Committee, a large number of trees are going to be planted along Lampson Avenue in commemoration of the special day.

How does a series of events like this get pulled off? Thanks to a large number of volunteers both inside and outside the Navy. Maria-Isabel Soto, Chief of Staff along with Captain Jon Kurtz and the Commissioning Committee have worked for the last 4 months to make it all happen. Members of the Seal Beach staff also have played a huge part in connecting the ship and crew with events. I was deeply honored to be present when City Council presented Commander Warren Bullen with a certificate of appreciation and recognition and he complemented our town and citizenry for such a warm welcome and support. The Chamber of Commerce has commissioned a ship’s gift of a stained glass piece to connect our logo and the ship’s logo, as seen in this article, to commemorate the day and our community’s partnership. We are after all, in part a Navy town, not that unlike our larger cousin San Diego. So let’s all be sure to welcome our sailors and be proud of the partnership we have!

As President Theodore Roosevelt said in Chicago in 1903, “There is a homely old adage which runs: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’ If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far.” Though the time of the Monroe Doctrine has passed, we are pleased that one of the “big sticks” of the U.S. Navy has been commissioned here in Seal Beach. For more information about the events, go to

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A return from SFO

My friend Dan and his best friend Lola are amazing. Here they are at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in my recent trip to visit. Do you ever wonder what life would be like with unconditional love? I know Dan doesn't.

He has near perfect love with Lola. He shared an interesting observation about love and care. Dan is a physician (among other things) and quite a successful one at that. The problem with being a successful physician (yes Jim, Dave and others - you know who you are and yes, I am talking to you too!)is that you often (like entreprenueurs) keep extrodinarily long hours. He pointed out that when he arrived home Lola would love to see him. When he was later than usual arriving home, rather than being upset or hurt Dan didn't make it home faster, she simply loves him THAT MUCH MORE.

Don't we wish all of our spouses would be that understanding about our schedules?

One of our first stops was the San Francisco Main Branch public library. Wow! That kinda says it all - WOW!

This library is simply amazing. From the outside, it seems fairly blocky, but once inside, you are transformed into a modern version of the library you grew up being forced to go to. It has a sweeping central rotunda and floor after floor of abundantly spaced shelving and seating. There are work stations for computer docking and computers available for use. Fastidiously clean and remarkably well policed, this library is a credit to the institution.

My favorite area, the Hormel LGBT special collection actually was not on display as I expected, but was a nice reading area. The collection in that area was a bit more sparse than I expected, I thought the Main library would have had a large selection, but perhaps not. It did have a good offering of periodicals relevant to the community.

The main reason I went here was to return a book for my stepfather, Jim who had checked out Canterbury Tales from June 19th, 1955. The circulation desk took the book, was delighted to receive it and didn't charge me! BONUS!

Plus, Dan and Lola (dressed in her uber cute "service dog" outfit!) were able to spread the joys of doggie service to many patrons. Overall, I would fly into SFO just to go to this library. It was that good.

When it was time to Nom-Nom, we asked: where do you take the boys and your favorite bitch in the Castro? Squat & Gobble! We couldn't have been happier at this restaurant. Not only does it permit dogs, it is DOG - FRIENDLY! Practically a must for those gay men with requisite four furred friend (not your collared cub, Papi bear!) j/k Seriously, they have bowls of water for dogs, a very friendly staff and a pretty substantial menu. Being fairly big men, we ordered four entrees for the two (and a half - for Lola) of us. I had a Chicken Divan crepe along with a half pound Black Angus Chuck Burger (they forgot the cheese - hence the four stars) and Daniel had the Seafood Linguini (yes, with huge ass tiger prawns) alongside the Marina crepe.

NOM-NOM; woof-woof; sigh. . .

Yes, it was that good. No, there weren't leftovers.

So grab your man, boi, hot friends (do you have any other kind?), lesbian sister, whatev. . . and be sure to stop in.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Huntington Library & Gardens

Today we toured the Huntington Library and Gardens. Vast gardens, significant buildings, a great collection of rare books/manuscripts, and a free day the first Thursday of the month to which you may request tickets. Be sure to get the tickets on line rather than via phone and you must do it the month prior to your visit. The system can be confusing, but you can get up to 5 tickets to one address. DO NOT think you can send multiple ticket orders to the same address, as they will be canceled out.

Some highlights from our trip:
- A Gutenberg bible
- An illuminated original manuscript of The Canterbury Tales
- Christopher Isherwood's original manuscript of "A Single Man"
- The succulent garden
- Tea & dim sum in the newly created and opened Chinese Garden (very pricey, but delicious)
- The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough & Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence
- The "Plant Lab" - good exhibits, but not great staff present to explain or answer questions about things. Very self directed.

Regardless of minor issues, the trip was truly delightful. Abundant parking and easy to get to as well. Perfect for out of town guests or a trip with your spouse. Do NOT think you can do this trip in just one day. I would suggest highlights the first time and then back for a second (or more) deeper visit. Enjoy!