Income disparity during snow days

snow day in ohio

snow day in ohio

I heard the blizzard warnings last night on the television and immediately thought all the news stations were just salivating at the chance to finally scare the living crap out of us with spun-up winter weather.

Shortly after sun-up this morning, I knew I was wrong. We were getting some real winter weather.

I’m lucky. I don’t have to go into my office to make a living. I just need an Internet connection and a laptop. I can redirect my office phone to my cell phone with a few clicks and log into servers from anywhere I can get WiFi.

But many employees are not as lucky. Many employees who work for retail and fast food places at or near minimum wage are not only expected to show up for work during bad weather, but will probably get their hours cut or fired if they show up late or not at all. In addition, many will also choose to sleep in their cars after their shift today so they won’t be late for work tomorrow morning.

Something to think about on Boxing Day when those of us who are more fortunate are supposed to be mindful of those less fortunate and labor in service for our comfort.

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What the housing experts are missing that Warren Buffet sees

Watch the following video. See if you can spot the trend. I’ll give you a hint; it is almost at the very end, but you have to watch the whole thing to pick up on it.

Did you hear it? If not, watch the video again.

Warren Buffet is investing in COMMERCIAL INVESTMENT stuff, the banks that lend money to commercial leasing companies. But these commercial leasing companies aren’t leasing traditional commercial space. They are leasing to commercial property holders that are buying up the inventory of foreclosed properties, fixing them up like flips but instead of flipping for resale, they are flipping for longer-term leases to people who have kids and have grown used to the suburban lifestyle.

These commercial leasing companies are creating suburban slums in the first and second outer suburban rings to city centers.

Watch the video again. Did you catch it? Do you now understand why these pompous “experts” never quite see trends coming? I’ll give you more than a hint on that; I’ll give you the answer.

They are too enamored with the sound of their own voice to listen to what they’re saying.

This is why Congress has no interest in helping out those going through foreclosure. If they intervened, it would slow or stop the flow of inventories into the private residential leasing industry.

The real estate market is heating up and recovering; it’s just not flowing wealth into the middle class but rather, pushing more wealth into the upper classes and corporate coffers. Corporations have found a way to skim off the wealth that even a massive recession creates.

Give me another ten years and see if I’m right. I’ll bet you $10,000 I am.

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The chicken is a red herring

Yesterday was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which resulted in photos splayed all over the Internet of slack-jawed Oakies, holding up sandwich bags of fresh, blood-splattered carcasses gleaned from the day-long rabbit clubbing frenzy in No Man’s Land.

Some of the red-letter citizens of No Man’s Land America are posted to the right. You may recognize them by their goofy grins and the thumbs up “okey-dokey.”

As the day unfolded, I marveled at the Right’s ability to mobilize their army to march out to their local Chick-fil-A and buy a sack of fat and carbs without reservation. What power, what pull. But in the light of day, fueled by a wee-hours chat with two really smart women on the twitter, I came to realize something: Chick-fil-A really messed this one up.

What the hell, dawg? No, they had a great day. There were lines out the door and down the block!

Settle down and let me explain.

Chick-fil-A may have sold a lot of sandwiches yesterday, but thanks to the meddling of Mike Huckabee, they don’t know why. When Cathy spouted off in his interview about one-man, one-woman Biblical family definition, blah, blah, blah, the issue had clarity. If you supported Chick-fil-A, you also supported their beliefs. If you boycotted, you didn’t. If you were oblivious, you probably just liked their chicken sandwiches. When Huckabee got involved, he threw the issue kattywhompass by encouraging people to support a great small business, to boycott the boycott, to show that the voice of the American people could not be silenced by a bunch of left-leaning, commie weenies.

Alrighty, then. So now we have some people going to Chick-fil-A because they are lemming drones with GOP knee-jerk marching orders vaguely based on some goofy understanding of the First Amendment, some people showing up because they support Cathy’s version of family, some people out of pure hatred for gay people and some people who were just caught up in the fracas going to their lunch place.

In their frenzy to stick it to the Left, the Conservatives left yet one more organization in shambles trying to figure out what just happened, proving once again they can win an issue, but can’t govern or manage. The chicken for these cultural locusts was just one more pest to club on their way to solving a problem they have not defined or thought through. If Chick-fil-A thought they had an ally on the Right, they are probably wrong. The Right is on to club the next thing in their way. After all, there is an election on the horizon.

Chick-fil-A had a great day yesterday, but they don’t know what to do today. They know less about why people eat at Chick-fil-A today than they thought they knew the day before yesterday.

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Two questions we should ask Mitt Romney

Last night, Mitt Romney conducted some hastily-organized interviews with the major networks in part to respond to the deluge of attacks by Barack Obama about his role at Bain Capital. He did not do very well because I think he was confused by the lack of understanding of corporate governance the reporters exhibited in their questions.

Ironically, as the GOP pushes to slash education budgets, more and more Americans are learning less and less about how business works. Most kids are now being trained to go to work, punch a clock and expect money for work. They don’t understand the difference between passive and active income, an executive vs a shareholder position in a corporation or the relationship of a board member to a CEO. All they know now is you are either the boss or you isn’t.

Oops. I’ll bet Mitt did not see that coming. If he had, his explanations would make as much sense to the nails ladies and the dogs walkers as they do to the 1%-ers. In short, he would not be in this pickle.

As someone who holds annual shareholder meetings with the shareholders (me) and my board (me) and my CEO (me) I understand the nuance. Is it silly? Absolutely. I should not have to generate meeting minutes where the Secretary (me) takes role call of all the directors (me) and also calls for a vote on mundane things and seconds them (me and me.) But, the letter of the law and my corporate charter is very specific so we (me) do it.

But we should really move on and away from all this legal crap and into some questions everyone understands.

Question One:
If you resigned as CEO, who specifically was then in charge? What was the organizational chart? Please name the names of who reported to whom. Will you release the Board of Directors meeting minutes that show these votes?

Question Two:
We will accept at face value that you resigned from Bain Captial in 1999. Since then, you have led the Olympics — a non profit — and were governor of Massachusetts, a public-sector job. Since being governor, you have been running for President of the United States. That is a thirteen year gap in your private-sector, for-profit business experience résumé. Please explain how this is not like a typical stay-at-home mom who may have left an executive career to raise her kids and is now trying to re-enter the workforce?

That should do it. Just two questions.

Which news organization is going to take me up on this?

.

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We should be careful about filling people with ambition

I had a pretty lively discussion with someone on the twitter this morning who had some strong opinions about how everyone should be self-employed and that we should quit relying on “The Man” for a job. I expressed some concern that before cheering them to jump off the ledge, we should perhaps maybe encourage people to first assess the risks, that they should jump with eyes wide open.

Twitter being what it is — by the end of the discussion — I was accused of scaring people, looking for more ways to fail than to succeed and killed fifty people on the highway with a load of wood.

….

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Don Draper and potted plants

When I worked at a major retailer many, many, many years ago we would get regular deliveries of potted plants in the spring. They would come in on trailers from some place south and everyone would gather at the dock and help unload them. They were always huge and green — large palms, ficus trees, dieffenbachias — planted in gallon pots and sold for $19.99 or some other low price. Having spent the previous five months buried in the snows of Minnesota, customers were eager for anything green.

The plants sold quickly. They also died quickly.

Apparently, the grower would force the leafy part of the plant to grow quickly and not care about the roots. He made money on quick turn of the product, not on the health of the plant. He knew the big, lush greenery would sell. He didn’t care how long they lasted.

“All of this for such a cheap price? Wow, that would look great in my apartment!”

As I watched “The Other Woman” episode of Mad Men this past Sunday, that lesson leapt into my head.

Taking short-cuts work for short-term results. Anyone who has ever worked in the online space has probably had constant battles with the “SEO v Quality Content” arguments, knowing full-well that a dedicated SEO effort with back links and “black hat” stuff will produce quick results. We know that we will have to defend the “quality content” argument against the seemingly successful SEO push as the client’s site hits page one of Google at a meteoric rise. But we know equally well that the page will drop like a stone once the effort is stopped.

We are rarely given the chance to defend the quality position as the client gets busy popping the champagne cork in celebration.

We know the plant will die because it does not have the root structure to sustain the leafy green top. That might be ok if the client were a white-label brand selling quick greenery to a cabin-fever-infected audience looking to buy cheap plants. But if the client was in the long-term relationship, quality results business such as selling very expensive cars to an exclusive demographic — where their brand is also on the line — that might prove to be a bit problematic.

This is what Don Draper knows. While many reviews out there focus on the morality of “whoring out Joan” or the role of women in the workplace, the real significance of the “deal” was not lost on Don. He now has to decide how to handle a situation where he is contractually tied to a group of people who are willing to game the system to produce leafy green plants with no root structure to sell to an audience who will buy from the nameless vendor willing to sell the leafiest greenery at the cheapest price. His future is tied to these people and he no longer gets a vote. He is feeling too old, powerless and out-of-touch to just leave.

This is what he is processing in the instant Joan and he exchange looks in Roger’s office. He is not judging Joan; he is assessing everyone else in the office. Joan has won 5% of a leafy green company and Don knows it. That is what is in Don’s eyes.

I’m not quite sure what is in Joan’s.

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Awesome business videos

My BFF Chris Celek started up this really cool service for small businesses to get started using video for their web sites, social media presence, etc. So he calls me up and asks if I wanted to be a guinea pig to test out the cameras, instructions and his final edits.

What?!? A chance to play with toys? I’m all in!

Anyway, we shot some stuff, talked into a mic and sent the whole mess back to Chris, sort of like stuffing a big pile of dog poop into a bag and handing it off to someone else.

And out of that bag of sh….. well, he made this for us. He even gave my editor a cameo.

Awesome!

Incidentally, Awesome Business Videos is where Chris lives. Give him a call. Or a tweet.

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You really want the US Postal Service to go away?

USPS

I received this letter in the mail yesterday. I noticed the return address had two things; a PO Box and the ZIP Code.* That’s it.

A few days ago, I read some tweets in my stream where a few people were cheering on the demise of the US Postal Service. My gut reaction was “not so fast, everyone. The USPS — with all its faults — is still a pretty vital spine in our democracy.”

The letter I received underscored how sophisticated the USPS really is. With no more information than a PO Box and a ZIP Code, it can get a letter to the right person from anywhere in the world.

That is something that just didn’t happen by accident.

*Altered for some privacy

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Crowdsourcing bridges

In the past week, I’ve stumbled onto two major brands that launched crowdsourcing design projects they probably should not have. The first is the Barack Obama Reelection Campaign (MY poster submission is posted to the right) and the other is Moleskine. For obvious conflicting reasons, Obama should be giving young designers paying gigs instead of trying to steal ideas from the most vulnerably unemployable during this recession, but more unforgivable is Moleskine for poking their core audience in the eye with a disrespectful rusty finger. (You figure out the euphemism.. you’re all smart people)

….

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A chat with the character Saxon Henry about Adroyt

Saxon Henry with Adroyt

You might think that the last thing the world needs is another Social Media consulting company, but Saxon Henry of Adroyt would tell you you are wrong. Saxon is re-defining what it means to craft and run a social media program for a brand or company.

I hope you enjoy listening to this short podcast as much as I had speaking with Saxon. She has an insanely cool point of view on what it means to “be on social media.”

MP3 File

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Jobs

Barack Obama on Labor Day

I was going to skate past Thursday and not comment on this big jobs speech that President Obama is going to deliver tomorrow, but then @caroljsroth tweeted this morning:

I want to know what #jobs creation efforts/policies you are looking for as a small business owner. What would incentivize smallbiz to hire?

Oh, crap! I took the bait and replied:

Guaranteed customers. Seriously, that’s what I want.

I know, I know, it was flippant and snarky but it was what bubbled up on my brain at that exact moment. And I just blurted it out. I think a lot of other small business people are thinking the same thing. Washington and the media keep asking the wrong damn questions.

Here is the small business reality: Yes, we know that by hiring someone, that person will then spend money into the economy and eventually, when there are lots of other small businesses hiring, that will create more demand for the goods and services we provide. We get that. We really, really get that.

Theoretically.

But on a practical level, we’re all sticking our heads out the store front, not seeing any potential customers and saying, “I’m not gonna try it; you try it.” just like the Life cereal Mikey commercial.

In the back room, the banks — who have nothing to lose because they will get bailed out — are pressuring us for personal guarantees on any loan we sign. If I am the first to stick my neck out and nobody else follows, it is MY house and MY car and MY retirement fund that I will lose. And my government will not give a puppy’s pooch about me. Same with the SBA and other government-backed loan programs. Modern-day natural selection.

But back to the original question.

The president will most likely do some tax policy deal. Ugh. Tax policy tinkering never works for small business because the only thing we hear is the ear-piercing screaming of our CFO who just got back from a workshop learning about all the changes to the tax code from the last time Congress messed with taxes. Yeah, we all hate paying taxes, but taxes are a sign of success. If you make money, you pay taxes. If you spend money, you pay taxes. If you are neither making nor spending money, taxes don’t matter; even if they are set at 100%. 100% of $0.00 is still $0.00! Congress can’t give us a big enough tax incentive to hire anyway, so just quit trying. Please quit trying.

Policy change #1: Quit farting around with the tax code. When you make these “deals” it only sounds like someone is getting screwed somewhere. And that someone be us. Leave it.

Put your money where your mouth is. US government, YOU hire people to do stuff. Start with writers, artists, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians to create works open to the public. If we see that work, chances are people you are paying will start buying our goods and services and we’ll have to hire people to staff up. Pretty soon, the private industry employees every other small business is hiring will start spending money on our stuff and Uncle Sam can quit hiring people. We’ll probably offer better wages and benefits anyway and then those government jobs will just dry up.

Policy change #2: Direct hiring. Do not give money to the states and private contractors to hire people. They will just use the cash to shore up their bottom lines and bloat their stock prices.

That’s pretty much what I want to hear tomorrow. I’m not going to, but that is what it will take.

Otherwise, it will be the same ol’ waiting game we’re all playing right now.

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Are you sure about that?

Ask Better Questions

Years ago, I was hired in from a field management job to a corporate training job. My job — or so I was told when they transferred me — was to take the training I had developed that produced rapid and reproducible results in the field and apply it across the country. What happened in reality was the training director who was currently doing train the trainer, sales and executive training was ready to move up and he wanted someone to replace him.

And do exactly what he was doing. Exactly how he was doing it.

I spent that first year learning how to be like him, how to deliver the training exactly as he was doing it. His method was very pedagogical. He would seat field trainers (who were used to working with their hands all day, assembling and repairing bicycles) in a classroom for 8-10 hours and “teach” them what he was certain of. For two solid days. And then send them back and expect great results.

….

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Google, hire an English major

Watch this video resume. Then visit his web page.

And here is a comment I sent to Matthew Epstein this morning.

Cool resume, but the correct use of “bad” is the adverbial form.

“I want to join your product marketing team, badly.”

If you are writing copy, you can take some liberties, but should punctuate it differently as such.

“I want to join your product marketing team. Bad.”

My English Major oath would not let me let this slide. Sorry if you are feeling those usual, “who the hell does he think he is” thoughts most people feel when we point out a typo. Really, it’s for your own good. Learn from this. You want the advantage over others who won’t care so much about the details of craftsmanship. As Joseph Conrad writes in The Secret Sharer, “exactitude in some small matters is the very soul of discipline.” Google is an exacting company and will only hire those who subscribe to this life philosophy. Embrace it. (and read the book; it’s only 50 pages.)

And how is it that you have not gotten the “Cease and desist” letter yet from the Google Legal Team for registering a domain with “Google” in it?

Anyhow, I hope Mr. Epstein gets a job with Google and I hope they never regret hiring him because all of his copy is clean, tight and well-crafted.

You’re welcome.

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The US Post Office mangled their good news again

Owney the Dog USPS

Yesterday, The Rachel Maddow Show (with guest host Melissa Harris Perry) ran a story segment about Owney the Post Office dog. In short, a new stamp will be issued today with Owney’s image.

I’m not sure how easy it is for everyone else to get The Rachel Maddow Show to run a story about them, but they seem to be able to ignore any request from us at the Dog Walk Blog rather deftly. It might be the restraining orders, could be that we have not published any cool dog cocktail recipes or maybe they just don’t want annoying little English major sh*ts in the bullpen, correcting them at every turn..

I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe you have to know someone, like Melissa’s dog Pebbles (does Pebbles have a twitter account?)

We got all excited and dashed off to USPS.com to buy a doghouse full of Owney stamps.

Nothing.

No promo, no front page links to the unveiling, nowhere to place advance orders. They received a ton of free media promoting a really cool story and they did nothing with it. Dogs have been maligned as tormenting carriers for decades and when they finally have a chance to make it right with the entire canine community, they blow it.

Eventually I found the Owney stamps in their store and placed an order, but I had to click around for a while. If anyone wants a personal note with an Owney attached, just DM me on twitter with a mailing address. When they come in, we’ll send them out.

No wonder the USPS finds itself closing offices, laying off workers and losing money. It is not competition from FedEx, UPS and email. It’s just not paying attention to the details.

BTW, here is the segment. And the 45322 post office has a sign that says “No dogs allowed.” Really.

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Dog Days at JD Custard

On July 17, JD Custard is celebrating Dog Days of Summer. Show up, have some great custard and each dog receives a free Dogwich.

Hours are 12:00 noon until 10:00 pm in Englewood. Take a picture of your dog eating his/her favorite JD Custard treat and share it on their Facebook page.

Be sure to follow @jdcustard on twitter too.

Custard makes you cute. It makes your dog even cuter. Really. (ok, not really.. our lawyers made us say that.)

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