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

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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!