Serving red-staters only

Three things of significance have happened in the past year that has made me pause and think that perhaps we may be on a trajectory that should reverse course.

1. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the right to free expression, which enables them to give freely to any candidate they choose.

2. I made a visit to Jim’s Donut Shop in Vandalia, Ohio. There were a bunch of old men sitting around the counter and I jokingly remarked to the counter lady that this must be the place where all the political talks take place. “Just don’t be supportin’ Obama in here,” she candidly remarked.

3. I participated on a New Media Dayton panel about content and the question of identity online was asked. I made a joke about how we will see businesses force customers into Red State and Blue State lines depending on their political views and the ones in the line the brand supported would be served first. I was immediately taken aback by how true that is becoming.

Eventually, someone at a client organization will find this blog and connect it up to my real life person. There will probably be some discussion around a board table in which a comment like, “That boy leans too far left to be able to represent our brand with integrity. All in favor of firing that liberal, socialist commie, say ‘aye'” will be made.

Will business ever get to the point where they start thinking “your money is not green enough for us to take from you?” They did once upon a time in this country when no matter how much money a black person was willing to spend, business did not care to take it or treat him well based solely on the color of their skin. Still happens, but we’re less likely to put up signs.

Business is not nameless and faceless. Business is people. People have emotions, opinions and points of view that are not necessarily in line with their long-term best interests or survival instincts. Most times, they are not.

Will we get to that place where business refuses to serve you based on the color of your politics?

I hope not. But I have not been back to Jim’s Donut Shop since.

And never will.

Photo source: http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8a33793/ Does using a photo in the public domain, stored by the US Government in the Library of Congress make me a socialist? I dunno.

Real patriots die at 55

When you turn fifty in America, you are old. When you turn fifty-five you are too old and should consider dying to make room for the next generation of revenue-producing units. It’s the patriotic thing to do. Hear me out on this.

When you turn fifty-five, the human resources department is looking for a legal way to get rid of you despite what they say about you having vital experience. You’re making too much money, you don’t go to as many training classes as they think you should, you are not as mobile with that family and mortgage anchoring you down and you are starting to contribute a whole lot more to the 401(k) than they had planned for matching funds. They will lay you off in a heartbeat and you will not be able to find another job. Ever. Not in this economy.

When you turn fifty-five, the health insurance premiums for the plan you had to buy on your own because your employer could no longer afford to provide benefits will double over last year. Your out-of-pocket health care costs will also go up and you will start racking up pre-existing conditions, making you ineligible for any other insurance. But you only have ten more years to go to qualify for Medicare, so maybe… oh, wait, they are going to raise that to seventy. You’re screwed.

By the time you are fifty-five, you should have already produced at least one, maybe two future revenue-generating units for the corporate consumer machine. They were far more expensive than you thought they would be, but you’ve put off saving for retirement until they finished school and left. You are now ready to front-load your 401(k) and mutual fund portfolio…

But wait! CNN tells you that you have only about a 30% chance of outliving your retirement plan at the rate you’re going. Oh, sure you’ve helped fuel the economy by having kids, buying a larger house than you could afford, paying for their tuition and feeding and clothing them, but now, you are on the taking end of the economy. Whoa, there! Your country frowns on those who take out of the system, regardless of much you’ve contributed in.

Business wants your money. They tell you this all the time by marketing to Boomers. But they don’t want you actually working for them, drawing a salary and sucking up the benefits. Heck, those young GenY brats will work for half what you need and still think it a fortune. Thank God Walmart hires old people as greeters. Oh, you can’t stand for eight hours a day because your sciatica has been acting up? You should go see a doctor about that. Insurance? Man, that’s tough luck buddy.

Next!

The business of America is business and you are standing in the way when you start getting old. Manup and die off when you hit fifty-five. Your country needs you to make that sacrifice to help reduce the unemployment rate and the federal deficit all at the same time. Moreover, you are likely to have life insurance and your kids could sure use that money to prop up retail sales.

Have you lost hope yet? Really? The great United States of America does not need its future derailed by negative-thinking pinheads like you. Is you or is you ain’t a patriot? Time to decide.

Amy Poehler, wisdom, teamwork and the art of improv

Hulu left the best parts of the interview out and I hope to be able to find them to piece this together, but the video below comes the closest.

Among the gems:
“Playing with good players makes you look really good.” This works in life and in business. Play with the smart, funny, talented, dedicated and passionate people. Don’t spend time with the haters and nay-sayers.

“Yes, and….” The first rule of improv and a pretty damn good piece of advice for life. Accept something from the other person and offer something more of you back.

Why Hulu decided to cut these parts out and just go for the funny is baffling to me. We can watch Amy Poehler’s comedy every week on Parks and Recreation and SNL, but it is these inside glimpses through the cracks when the actor isn’t “on” that gives Inside the Actor’s Studio it’s value.

Listen to the groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil being yanked from his comfy home by people who can't wait to know the future.
Punxsutawney Phil being yanked from his comfy home by people who can't wait to know the future.
I love Groundhog’s Day. It is a silly holiday that you can just hype up and people giggle at.

When reading a post from Chris Brogan today, along with my Wall Street Journal, The Waterboy and a healthy dose of Morning Joe, I’ve come to a conclusion about this economic mess. The economy prognosticators have it all right. And all wrong.

Here is why Punxsutawney Phil — that famous groundhog — is relevant to what is going on with this economy prognosticators right now and what we can take away from him. If Phil sees his shadow, gets scared and scurries back to his burrow, there are six, long weeks of Winter left. If he doesn’t see his shadow, there are only six weeks left of Winter. Yeah!

We can learn a lot from this annual holiday in Punxsutawney, PA, but accurately predicting the future is not one of them. The “Inner Circle” of Punxsutawney have figured out how to get thousands of people to visit their little town in a very cold part of the country in the dead of Winter and all the news media talking about them for a whole daily news cycle. They created a legend of a groundhog, dress up in top hats, hold this grand ceremony and declare the future of Old Man Winter!

That is all these economy pundits are doing. Nobody knows the future. The quality of the remaining six weeks of winter is not a function of a skittish groundhog or a proclamation made by a fraud in a top hat, but by the decisions you make with that time. Will you hibernate and wait out winter or go out and play with the snowflakes? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

As I mentioned in my comment to Chris Brogan’s post:

My take on all this future stuff, however, is to look at future films of the past — even as recent as the 1980s. Nobody got the 16:9 television. Even when screens were larger, wall-sized, the 4:3 format still reigned.

For the astute reader, you may have seen the mention for the movie The Waterboy in my opening paragraph. At one point in the movie, (toward the end, you have to watch the whole thing) Coach Klein envisions his nemesis Coach Beaulieu with the head of a cute puppy, is no longer scared of him and adopts a new-found self-esteem.

The next time you watch Joe, Pat and all these other prognosticators on television predicting gloom and doom, envision them with the head of a groundhog.

Then, go make your own future. It will happen whether you wait it out or not.

Four stages of a on-line service company

fblogo

I was reading and commenting on a post by Bob Scoble in which he rails on Facebook for bumping Joel Comm due to him having too many friends, fans, etc. which probably just amounted to a whole bunch of traffic out to Joel’s friends for which he should probably be footing the bill.

It got me thinking about almost every other online business out there and the stages it goes through. Here we go:

Stage One: “That is a stupid idea. It will never work.”
Stage Two: “Hey, that is pretty cool. How are you making money? Call me to invest when you are making money.”
Stage Three: “You suck. You owe me for making you what you are and you are not giving me what I expect, even though I built my entire life around you, paid you nothing and had expectations of you that you never promised me.”
Stage Four: “You are too big, powerful and are monopolistic. Kill the beast!”

In between these stages are statements peppered with “You know what you ougta do..” and “I would buy advertising on your site to help you grow if you only reached this demo or that demo,” blah, blah, blah.

Why do people continue to use free services to further their career, business or other interests and then think they have a right to complain about how a service treats them? You paid nothing for the service and you are owed what you paid for it. Nothing. If it doesn’t meet your needs, then go find something that does.

Or build it yourself and then you will find out what it is like to have thousands of users who are each all willing to pay you nothing for your efforts, drink all your beer and then complain about you and your lack of “give a crap.”

Or buy stock in the company you are supporting if you believe in them that much. At least then you will have an ownership stake and you’ve bought your right to complain. But, as an owner, you would then be paying for the cost of supporting users who do not pay you and will only be loyal to your brand until the newest best thing comes…..

Oh, look, is that a Twitter screen over there?? Is that the coolest thing or what?!?

Businesses that look small are huge, as long as they stick to the knitting

They say this feeds fourteen people. We ate it using three.
They say this feeds fourteen people. We ate it using three.
Television adds ten pounds. It also add a few hundred square feet to a restaurant if featured on the Food Network or the Travel Channel. Case in point.

Last weekend, we were in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Our one goal was to seek out and eat a Pointersaurus pizza at Pointer’s Pizza. For those of you who have not seen the Food Network and Travel Channel segments, it is a 28″ pizza and is as large as a table top.

First, we had to find the place. It was across town, with no parking except for an Office Depot across the street. We stopped in and bought some blank CDs to ease our guilty consciences about parking in their space. The store front looked no larger than a Dominos carry out. Did we have the right place? It looked bigger on TV.

Yes, we did have the right place. We went in and there were two tables. Two. And a waiting couch the size of a dime. The rest of the store was devoted to a counter to take orders and answer phones and two rows of pizza ovens.

That’s it. Answering phones, making pizzas.

Businesses that look small are huge in this economy, as long as they stick to the knitting. Pointer’s Pizza does one thing and does it very well; makes pizza. That’s it, nothing fancy.

I can imagine how the phone call went with The Food Network:

PP: “Pointer’s Pizza. What would you like.”
FN: “We want to come in and film your big pizza you make and put you on TV.”
PP: “Ok, come in, stay clear of the ovens and the phones. You are going to pay for the pizza, aren’t you?”
Long pause…
FN: “But we’re putting your store on television….”
Longer pause…
FN: “Of course we are going to pay for the pizza.”
PP: “See you next Thursday.”
*ring*
PP: “Pointer’s Pizza. What would you like.”

Stay small, stay focused, stick to the knitting.

Some things I know

I just got done speaking with an American Express rep to pay my bill. I had to call them because I missed the bill pay window between 3:00-7:00am where their web site will actually work to pay my bill.

It got to think about stuff I “know” to be true, even though other dogs swear they aren’t having the same problems.

I KNOW the Amex web site will not work during business hours.

I KNOW the Chase drive-through will make me wait for hours after 2:00pm on Fridays.

I KNOW the shake machine at the Burger King in Englewood will be broken.

I KNOW Time Warner will not really send someone out between the hours of 8:00-12:00am and I should just set aside an entire day.

I KNOW the only flights that ever leave on time from the Dayton International Airport are the first one and the last one of the day.

I KNOW any rental car company will not have a sub compact car available when I arrive.

I KNOW I will not be able to get out of Meijers without waiting in line at the register, even though I will have found everything I needed.

I KNOW my cell phone bill will never be what I was told when I signed up for the plan.

I KNOW the latest gadget I bought will not be compatible with anything else I own.

I KNOW that “no assembly required” really does require assembly.

I KNOW the directions someone just gave me that includes the phrase “you can’t miss it” will not actually get me where I’m going.

I KNOW portable electronic devices will have a 50lb power brick attached to the cord.

What else do YOU know that customer service reps tell you never happens to other people?

Contributed:
@Eva_Abreu via Twitter: I know that I’ll press 3, then 6, then 2, then hold for 13 min. only to get disconnected!

What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

How to profit from stupid and sloth

I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. So do hundreds of my neighbors and I know exactly who they are.

The WSJ gets delivered to my front door every morning by a carrier with the Dayton Daily News. About a year ago, I noticed that the mailing label in the upper right hand corner of my copy of the WSJ was not me. It was a neighbor who lived in another part of the subdivision or worked at another business. 

So, I started saving these labels. Sometimes I would get my own label, but most days, I would get someone else’s. Eventually, I reasoned, I would probably get everyone who subscribed to the WSJ on my carrier’s route. I think I am right.

Now, I have a mailing list of neighbors with whom I have something in common. When I want to refer to an article in the WSJ that I think might affect them, I can send out a cheap postcard, with a URL to my blog to the list and I know they will most likely have read the same article as me.  And, they will most likely go to my blog, read, comment and maybe pass it along.

They may wonder how I got their name, how I knew they also read the WSJ. Or, maybe not.

Or maybe, they have been getting my newspaper and tracking me the same way.

Posted by email from rufus’s posterous

Email and peeing…

Reposted from a July 29, 2008 blog entry on Media Post. Not terribly exciting news when a dog does it, but when people start “multi-tasking” to this level, makes news….

About 59% of email users said that they check their messages while in the bathroom–up 6 percentage points from last year, according to AOL Mail’s fourth annual Email Addiction Survey. The survey, which AOL conducted in conjunction with Beta Research, polled 4,000 email users ages 13 and up, and found that use of email in increasingly strange places was on the rise.
For example, more than two-thirds of Americans said they checked email while in bed (in pajamas, no less), and 15% of respondents said that they even scanned messages while in church. Meanwhile, some 50% of the respondents said that they checked their email while driving, up by 13 percentage points from last year–not a favorable statistic in terms of driver and passenger safety.

“We really do live in a 24-7 society and it’s not uncommon to be online and checking email at all hours of the day,” said Regina Lewis, AOL Online Consumer Advisor. According to Lewis, the research also shows that a significant number of Americans have become addicted to email as they’re increasingly unable to detach from their inboxes, regardless of whether they contain business or personal messages. In fact, nearly half (46%) of all survey respondents admitted to being email addicts, up from just 15% last year. –Tameka Kee

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.san&s=87578&Nid=45541&p=462007

The real death of the Dayton Daily News

For those of you who may not know, I was with the Dayton Daily News from 1998-2002. It was perhaps the most meaningful period of my life, in which I learned how to write objectively, think independently, treasure really, really talented people around me, learned how to change the world with little more than a thought and a pen, to learn patience, compassion and humility from greater human beings and learned how to find meaning in a job where I was paid almost nothing and expected to accomplish almost everything. I loved every heartache of the 4 1/2 years I spent there.

Yesterday, I visited the DDN building on Ludlow Ave in downtown Dayton. They were having a public sale where furniture, computer equipment, etc was being sold for whatever they could get. I went to walk the halls for one last time, to hear my friends, colleagues and mentors in my head one last time, to reclaim the same excitement I felt coming into the old newspaper building every morning. I was not disappointed.

….

BUSTED!!!

Rufus got BUSTED by the Englewood Police today as we were walking along Union just minding our own business and “doing our business.” If we continue walking along the busy, mean streets of downtown Englewood, we need to be on a leash.

Apparently, it is not so much to be in compliance with the ordinance (which does not mandate leashes, just control) but some people have so little to do during their day that they will actually call the police when they see us. So, to help them out and make sure they don’t come chase us down, we’ll leash up.

And, if you are one of those people who have that much time on your hands, give me a call! We are swamped with work at Rivershark and could use some help!

Oh, one more thing: Rufus peed on the tree in this blog post. The letter is gone.

Colors of the Union

I watched the State of the Union last night.. mostly what I heard was that voice that Charlie Brown hears whenever the teacher talks, so I drifted off quite a bit and started looking at other things.. Here is what I noticed:

Dick Chaney was wearing a purple tie… but not a REAL purple tie; i was more red than blue. Is that a small concession or a little private joke from Lynn, who you know dressed him. I vote it is a private joke. *chuckle*

President Bush was wearing a blue tie, but not a REAL blue tie.. a light blue tie. Can you say “I acknowledge blue, but I’m not going to commit to the full, rich, deep color blue”? And, when was the last time you saw a Democrat wearing a light red tie… oops, that would be pink and I think Donald Trump already has the trademark on that.

Now, here is the most interesting thing and I’m surprised nobody has commented on this yet. Laura Bush was in BRIGHT FRICKIN’ FIRE-ENGINE RED from head to toe! While her husband was saying conciliatory things to the Democratic Majority, she was screaming from the balcony, “WE STILL HAVE THE WHITE HOUSE!! CHOKE ON THAT!” 🙂 Well, maybe she wasn’t saying those exact words, but her suit sure was!

They say dogs are color blind, but we’re not really. We just tell you humans we are because it is fun to notice these things. Most of what you SAY isn’t all that interesting. But, you sure do scream what you really mean to say by the way you dress.

Take a tip from us dogs: Go around naked and let your parts hang out. That is the only way people can really see the real you. Or, maybe you don’t want that. So, everybody buy grey suits and ties. Then you can really pull off the lies. Or put the HDTV industry out of business by going back to B&W. I have a date at Tim’s. gotta go!

Business advice from a 20-something

I was sitting outside the Uptown Cafe in Oxford, Ohio this morning, drinking coffee, watching the sights… and this 20-something unlocked his bike from the meter and asked me if I was with Vanguard (my free computer bag had the Vanguard logo stitched on the front). I told him no, but we entered into a brief conversation about bicycles (he works at BikeWise, kitty-corner to the Uptown. Long story short, we talked about the consolidation of bike shops and his remark was, “Most of these places fail because they fall in love with the bike and forget about the business.”

Well, interesting philosophy with soccer as well. Most of these “think of the children” and “purity of the sport” people who feel that money somehow taints youth soccer need to take a lesson from our Bike Wise friend. Stay focused on the BUSINESS of soccer and that will enable you to enjoy the SPORT of soccer much, much longer.

Donuts and Business

I’m beginning to worry a bit.. some of my best business theories are based on donuts…

Give em a show
When Jim and I were at the 2002 USYSA conference, we stayed at the Luxor… the Luxor is connected to Excaliber by way of a tunnel.. in that tunnel, we came upon a group of people (mostly adults!) pressing against the glass of one of the shops. As we got closer, we discovered the stuff behind the window was a Krispy Kreme donut factory… They were just making donuts, but there was one heck of a show going on. Moral: ALWAYS give them a show, even if you are doing the most banal thing (like frying up dough)

Look for donut holes
For those of us old enough to remember, days were when you could go to the bakery counter at Cubs or Krogers and they would give you a bag of donut holes for free… they were just waste and were going to get thrown out anyway. Then, all of a sudden, they started SELLING the holes. Tim Horton’s even brands these things as Tim Bits in cute little carry packages, etc. Didn’t cost the bakeries more.. they were already frying up the holes… Moral: look for donut holes in your business.