Friday, May 30, 2008

Do you want exceptional customers?

What things do you buy that you really rave about? We buy a ton of stuff every month most of which is pretty utilitarian and warrants little fanfare. But once in a while someone comes along with something that could have easily been considered unremarkable that rises to the top and we tell people about it. How does that happen?

One product I can think of is Netflix. When this company arrived on the scene I thought this was the neatest thing I ever heard of. I signed up just to see if they could really deliver as promised. They did and I told everybody. Video rental was a pretty mundane business and Netflix reinvented it. They added a twist, they didn't revolutionize the industry in the sense that they invented the DVD they changed how we acquired them. They were very creative in making it convenient for us to enjoy the DVD's we wanted. In computer jargon they improved the user interface. They created an exceptional product.

I think in many respects Google has done the same thing. I am very new to all this internet stuff in terms of being a hands-on user. Google may not be the premier provider in all segments of online services. They seem to provide a supermarket of online services that meet my needs right now which makes them a standout in my mind. I am sure this will make me a loyal customer well beyond the time that I need more sophisticated tools as my needs expand. Or maybe not because I am sure they will keep moving with me to meet my needs as they grow. Once again creating an exceptional product.

I don't feel nearly the same loyalty to the vast majority of the products I buy. When I think about it my loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising is probably based more on my emotional attachment to the company or the product than it is the product itself. Don't get me wrong the product has to be very good. But something has to happen to motivate me to talk about it. That something has to make them exceptional.

What is exceptional about your product, service, company, image, reputations, values, integrity, creativity, responsibility or humanity that attracts exceptional customers to you?

As for Lester that's easy. As you can see he has exceptional buns....or he did anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Clear goals and expectations

Following on the Dilbert theme in the previous post let's talk a little about clear goals and expectations. I really like truisms as you can probably tell. I decided a few weeks ago that I was not going to subject myself to a burden of proof or provide serious documentation in this blog. This is going to be about what I've learned in a practical sense of life and business. These are knowings that have passed the smell test over and over again and worked for me. I don't need to check the references at this point.

Having clear goals and expectations in every relationship personal or otherwise is critical. Virtually all conflict stems from the disconnect between the realty and the expectations in any relationship. Now think about how bad it gets when the realities of a situation are present but the expectations are virtually non-existent. We're disconnected at step one with no hope of ever finding a path to a common understanding or a future moment when we can have a wild celebration marking our tremendous success. We have no milestones, no check points, no markers along the path to tell us how we're progressing. We only have the daily drone and the nerve racking vulnerability of being directed, redirected and redirected again into infinity. Does the fun ever start?

If football was played this way on each down the official would come to the line of scrimmage and arbitrarily decide how many yards the offense needs to gain for a first down on this play. Now that would be fun. "Gentlemen, on this play you need to gain 12 yards for a first down". On the last play they needed to gain 3 yards to get the first down and on the next play it might be 35 yards. If you think there are too many fights in hockey wait until they play football using these rules. Welcome to a lot of families and work places my friends.

The problem here is, things become very subjective and the balance of power shifts radically to the party who is setting, or should I say, not setting the standard. Many of these people are just plain incompetent but some are very slick manipulators who enjoy limited accountability and a world of flexibility. They enjoy the power this gives them. Someone is paying a price for this in goodwill and productivity and this group is large. It impacts businesses, schools, governments, families, marriages and friendships.

Is it really so hard to say .... this is what we want to accomplish and this is the time frame that has been set to achieve this goal. Mid-course corrections are expected but here is were we are going and this is when we expect to get there. Now let's get to work. For some this is impossible.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indy 500, Danica Patrick..... So much for no sports

Gosh I wish I could be as fiery as Danica Patrick. My favorite image from the 500 yesterday was her marching down the pit wall on her way to confront Australian driver Ryan Briscoe after he ran into her on pit row taking her out of the race. The sight of this little tinny woman with this huge helmet on ready to kick some ass and take some names was priceless. I applaud and admire her. She is undoubtedly one of those people in the world who will be revered for her skill and accomplishment and characterized as "difficult" my many. Good for her.

I love the purity and honesty in it. Yesterday she was asked if she felt different starting the 500 after her first Indy car win. She said yes, she was probably more nervous than ever. Once again honesty personified. She's here to do a job, she is going to do it to the best of her ability and yes by the way, she has all the normal humans emotions we all have and she's not afraid to let you see them.

I hope she shows up this week on the Late Show with David Letterman. I am sure Dave will do something brilliantly funny like greet her with a football helmet on explaining that he had heard she might have been upset with him. It will be good.

Bravo Danica. She is one of those people that brings brilliant color to life.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

INDY 500 !!!!! Yea baby, it's on

Indy is on and I'm planted in my chair ready to enjoy this year's race for the first time in HI-Def. It's better than being there. Maybe I'll be able to find my daughter in the crowd this year, there's only 300,000 people to choose from. I have some history with this race. It's probably the only sporting event that I look forward to watching on TV each year. Here's why.

I am sitting here watching the pre-race show with a ticket stub in my hand from the 54th running of the Indy 500 on Saturday, May 30, 1970. The ticket has a picture of the 1969 winner Mario Andretti on it. You would be amazed at the resemblance to his grand son Marco Andretti who is running in this years race. I love the tradition, the pageantry and the family dynasties that have surrounded this race for years. It creates a familiarity that make me feel all warm a fuzzy. I also love the intrigue of the ever present up-start challengers who have only been around for 15 or 20 years. Let's not even talk about those arrogant Europeans and farm boy NASCAR drivers.

In 1970 I went to the race with my dad, I was 17 years old and I don't know for sure but I suspect this was the last race we attended together in the years after my mother died. I suspect I got busy with college and my stuff after this. These trips were the highlight of my year because it was one of the few times during the year that I had his undivided attention. Yes, this day is flooded with emotions and really good memories for me. It really wasn't so much his attention I enjoyed it was a connection that was hanked together, and reinforced by the shear joy of being part of Indy. It's not possible to simply attend an Indy 500 without becoming a part of it. If you haven't been there it's hard to understand but 99% of the experience has little to do with the cars circling the track. The race is the catalyst. It still works the same way for me today, right now, just as powerful, sitting in my living room watching it on TV.

Thanks Pop for giving me some wonderful memories. I love you. I know you're out there watching the race with me today, touching my soul and sharing your spirit with me and others. But, I really wish you could see this in Hi-Def with surround sound and better yet we wouldn't have to lug the cooler 110 rows up into the stands.

Thanks for reading.

PS: Well there's the icing on the cake. Jim Neighbors was unable to attend the race last year and sing the traditional Back Home Again in Indiana. He's back this year. There it is again that flood of emotion. But Jim Neighborss??? that's just scary.

Dilbert, sez made up numbers are just as good as real ones

More and more today business is being run by the numbers. OK, that makes sense we all have computers so let's run things by the numbers now. To what extent should we run the business by the numbers? Do the numbers drive the people or do the people drive the numbers? At one point in my career the CEO of the company suggested that the best way for him to reduce expenses in the business was for him to terminate the entire senior management team. That is a pretty extreme case of numbers based management. Part of me wishes he would have done it and I could have been a fly on the wall watching the outcome.

There was a Dilbert series a couple of weeks ago talking about numbers. In the first frame Dilbert is making a presentation and has a number on the flip chart beside him. He says, "studies have shown that made up numbers are just as good as real numbers". In the next frame he says, "so I made up this number". Next frame, someone asks how many studies? Dilbert says "67". As is true with most of the Dilbert comics there is enough truth and absurdity in this theme for it to be meaningful. Hey, is it proper to quote a comic strip character?

Virtually all the numbers used to justify decisions are in some way made up. We all do it. Yes, even Mr. high and mighty Lester has been known to stretch a decimal or two. We don't really make the numbers up we just find the numbers that are friendliest to our cause. I like the numbers that make my case and who could blame me or anyone else for that matter as long as we don't go too far. This is just how it's done and we all know it deep down. How many different ways can a single passage in the Bible be interpreted? The interpretation can be very liberal or very conservative depending on what you are trying to prove. I rest my case.

In my last job we always tried to be as reasonable and true to the cause as possible. We always wanted to make the right decision so we did our best to deliver the right facts. I would bring a set of numbers to my controller for him to look at before sending them on to the board or using them to make a decision and he would always say; "I need a little time to check your math but they seem to pass the smell test". You know what, I can't remember a time when a set of numbers passed the smell test and failed the math test.

In the end common sense has to rule. Whatever we try to make the numbers say they need to pass the smell test or we are venturing into dangerous territory. We all have observers who are checking us out. They may not have the resources to check all the detail when we make a decision and offer a justification but they do have extremely good sniffers. They can tell whether the story and the action fits the situation. This is the root problem that both Bill and Hillary have. They just can't pass the smell test, it all seems a little fishy, we can't exactly put our fingers on it but somethn ain't right.

Our observers, whoever they may be, can smell a snake oil salesman coming a mile away. So I say let's avoid the snakes and the oil and do what we can to improve the aroma of our decisions by floating on the sweet smell of the truth and appropriate facts. We'll all be better for it.

Thanks for reading.

And by the way, I bought the little video camera today. Very cool little toy. My dog looks fantastic in Hi-Definition and he smells better too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wild success... is my head swelling?

I want to let all my loyal readers know, yes both of you, that there is a blog groupie among you. OK one of the two of you is a blog groupie. Yes, I am happy to report, and you can read the comment yourself on the Happy Times post, there is someone out there who would die if they could not read this blog. OK, perhaps I over state a bit, but I am in sales. There is a person out there that has been reading this blog since the beginning. And this person thinks I should teach or publish this stuff. I thank you and enthusiastically I agree.

I am so pleased to have this wonderful bit of uplifting feedback. It made my night last night and my day all day today (doesn't take much does it?) and launched me into practicing my acceptance speech for my big award. It went something like this "You like me , you really really like me".... wait I think that's been done. I think it was Sally Fields. Oh well so much for originality.

This reminds me of how easy it is to really uplift someone with a kind word a smile or a small deed. It takes so little and can be so meaningful. My brother is a master at this. How about tomorrow we all go out and say something nice to someone for no reason at all. That's it!! Tomorrow is officially UP LIFT DAY.

I better trademark that fast before the bra companies get a hold of it.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Here's the answer, it's email

This post will make more sense if you read the one before it first.

It's the Internet, DUH, sometimes I'm just not too quick. And more specifically the problem is email. (By the way I love it, I'm a junkie) We can move ideas, concepts, information, tasks, appointments, assignments, reports, explanations, evaluations and the data that supports all this instantly. All this moves light years faster than our brains can manage it. The information is also highly fragmented. We send 25 little pieces of data as it becomes available rather that sending cohesive and well articulated reports, as we did in the past.

On April 12, 1978 the Federal Express Company issued it's first public shares of stock. It was years before the use of this service became common place. Affordable fax machines started to appear in our offices in the mid 1980's. Do you remember your boss complaining about how expensive the fax paper was. As if to say we have the machine but please don't use it.

In just 20 or so years we have gone from "snail mail" and the telephone to email, web cams, webinars, this includes audio, video, voice, data and images. The only thing missing is the smell of a bad cologne and the occasional coffee spill. In effect, we have real time communication, on demand, around the world and it is virtually free. However, this is only the communication piece of an increasingly complex business landscape.

The elements surrounding a business issue must be assimilated, considered, balanced, shared, discussed, judged and evaluated by humans before final decisions can be made and these decisions are becoming more complex with the passing of time. An added challenge is the human brain is not working any faster or more efficiently now than it did 25 years ago. In fact, the overload of information we are experiencing today is causing us to work less efficiently and less effectively.

So we are attempting to accomplish more with modestly less brain capacity. My observation is we are seeing a lot of activity but not much in the way of achievement in many settings. This is not to say that a lot of really good things aren't happening in the world. I think there are some leaders who have learned to slow things down or to effectively balance resources with the human capability and technical capacity they have to produce winning results. There is no change here this has always been the secret of great managers with or without technology.

Those who haven't figured this out will spin their wheels and their teams will feel the pain and frustration of having no sense of accomplishment in their jobs. In my opinion, there are far too many people laboring in these circumstances. Activity does not equal achievement, productivity or profitability. It never has and never will. The sad part is I know far too many people who are trapped in these unbalanced and unfair environments.

Remember carbon paper? It wasn't that long ago was it?

Ok, now it fits. It makes sense to me now. I think it's horrendously foolish and grossly unproductive to let this powerful new technology throw so many of us out of balance but now I understand. What company uses the tag line "The power of one"? That's me from now on, using the power of one to offset the disruption of email in the universe. Too bad I don't look better it tights and cape.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why and how does it fit?

I am a person who needs to know how and why things work. This does not apply to all things. I am oriented toward systems that involve business, human interaction and machines. The bigger the machines the better by the way. I am analytical at a macro level being more than happy to leave the detail to someone with more patients.

When presented with an idea or a personal situation within the realm of my experience or knowledge my mind immediately begins to diagram the possible solutions and potential outcomes. It's instant and I really can't begin to grasp the full meaning and weight of any circumstance until I have some form of this flow chart in my mind. This trait allows me to simulate a range of potential solutions and outcomes before coming to a decision. In my role as a senior executive this is a very useful talent.

My challenge over the past couple of years has been to try to figure out why the business environment is so much different now than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. And why it is that so many people seem to have accepted this crazy nutso environment as normal, healthy and productive? In a very short period of time we have come from a fairly peaceful and predictable Ozzie and Harriet life style and gone to poorly directed Keystone Cops episode running on fast forward. I know that people have not changed all that much we evolve very slowly. So you can imagine how difficult it has been for me to struggled with this question for so long.

I have an answer which I will offer in my next post. Here is a hint. What ever it is it spread like a virus and everybody got it.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

UFO aduction and safe return

After lunch yesterday I was unable to speak, walk in a straight line or drive my car for 10 full minutes. I was crippled as my brain struggled to make sense of the disjointed conversation peppered with vehement opinions, backed-up with fervent miss conceptions, pressed forward confidently with hubris and authority empowered by a title and tight relationships with rich and powerful people. If they only knew. Maybe they do...let's not go there. No I did not have lunch with Al Gore.

My brain had turned into an overloaded PC with a virus sucking up all the system resources. There was no system capacity left to carryout anything but the most basic functions. Thank God bladder control was one of them my car is fairly new and I didn't pop for the leather seats.

I felt like I had spent time in an alien space ship hovering over our office building. The aliens had told me how the earth really works from their perspective on their planet a million light years away. Which of course is completely different than we earthlings see our world as we walk upon it. Then suddenly I was dropped back into reality and had to rationalize my trip into the twilight zone. It took some time to recover and try to make sense of it all. In the end the only way to make sense of it was to understand it didn't make sense and it never will.

Did I mention who I had lunch with? No. But we all have people like this in our lives. It's best to just stick to your game and roll with the dynamic ambiguity.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Leverage vesus manipulation

Understanding leverage is pretty easy. Leverage can be positive, neutral, or negative. Positive leverage results in an agreement were everybody wins, and they are delighted to have a deal. Neutral leverage results in an agreement that carries little fanfare or celebration. Negative leverage delivers a pact where one party clearly wins and the second party feels a loss. In its worst manifestations negative leverage results in one party coming to the table in a severely weakened and or demoralized condition only seeking relief from an intolerable situation. Manipulation enters the picture when the stronger party plays an active role in undermining the weaker counterpart.

Manipulation also extends to bending the rules and skewing the data thereby misrepresenting the circumstances in the perpetrators favor. To some degree this is expected in a healthy negotiation, we live in a competitive world, but there are those who are driven to win at all costs. These folks are not constrained by values, ethics, fairness or even the law in extreme cases.

Those who use negative leverage and manipulation are the bottom feeders of the world There seems to be no limit to the extent they will practice these skills. We have all read the stories about the roofer who signs a contract to install a new roof on a senior citizens house, then takes a $20,000 down payment and disappears into the night never to be seen again. This is tragic. I suppose the sub-prime mortgage guys aren't much better. They have impacted millions.

These guys are employers who take advantage of ordinary employees with restrictive vacation and sick time policies, miss-leading health insurance programs. They intitute abusive management practices, unfair incentive compensation programs and maintain poor working conditions. Watch for companies and organization that have high employee turnover this is a sure sign of an unhealthy environment. People don't change jobs in large numbers without good reason. Bad people are out there in greater numbers than we think.

Don't settle. Find good people to work with and work for and do business with. They are out there and it will make a difference in your life and in the world to get close to these good people. And pay it forward every chance you get.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reciprocity versus Leverage?

Do you live a life of reciprocity or leverage? For you, is life a reciprocal experience? Do you find that it works for you to extend generous levels of kindness and fairness to loved ones, friends, coworkers, subordinates or even enemies and strangers and the "universe" returns the favor in kind or many fold greater? Or is life an endless series of negotiations, leverage points, specification, deadlines, delineations, guidelines, terms and conditions, personal boundaries, exit strategies and the "universe" returns suspicion, distrust, anxiety, and an edgy unsettled existence? Are you meditating in your off time or constantly checking to see if your corporate and personal lawyer's phone number is still programed into your PDA?

There are a lot of business terms in the leverage concept definition that are hard to avoid. Far fewer terms perceived as being business oriented can be applied in the concept of reciprocity. However, I feel most business deals and personal relationships fail from the lack of reciprocity than fail from the lack of leverage. In the end we can't define, document and legally agree to every detail of every shared experience. We have to trust, move forward and forgive when we come up short and celebrate when we exceed our expectations. It is the power of this trust and the human bond that is formed that creates powerful and productive human relationships and outcomes. Both personal and business.

The first person who articulated these concepts to me is an exceptional executive coach by the name of John Agno. John is one of the most exceptional people I have ever met and he has dedicated his life and career to the concept of reciprocity with great success. My take on John's experience and I may or may not be right, is he ultimately found in his very successful executive level career that a life of leverage just takes to much energy. I may not be too far from coming to this same conclusion myself. I would suggest you check John's website out and if you have a need for some career guidance he is outstanding.

My orientation has always been toward reciprocity. I have been lucky or the "universe" has guided me mostly to business settings and communities of people who share this philosophy. When I have fully trusted it and allowed it to govern my behavior and interactions with people its impact has been truly remarkable. Conversely, the further I stray from principles of reciprocity and flirt with the alluring simplicity of leverage the more difficult things become. There really are no short cuts. Perhaps this has something to do with why I am having such a hard time right now. I am surrounded by a bevy of highly dedicated practicing leverage people who have slowly drawn me away from my personal game plan of reciprocity. That's how it happens folks, it's a slippery and painful slide, so watch out.

The next step in this line of thinking is the difference between leverage and manipulation. This is a very very short step. More on this later.

Maybe some examples will help. Reciprocity = Warren Buffet, Leverage = Donald Trump, Manipulation = Ken Lay & Bernie Ebbers.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who will buy the cars?

I just receive an email from my cousin. He is an attorney with an insurance company in the Midwest. His company is being purchased by a competitor and his job may be eliminated. This is clearly indicated by this years of service, wealth of experience and oh yes his highly inflated salary. He's being paid what he's worth which makes the soon to be heavily indebted buyer very uncomfortable. He accepted a promotion into senior management 7 or 8 years ago and relocated to headquarters. I was really proud of his mid 40's adventurous spirit (I would have gotten a divorce and changed jobs, wait that is what I did) and now he may be shown the door. He's an attorney but even with that being said, it's still impossible to find anything good in this. He's a great human, a loyal employee, loving family man and this should not happen to my cousin or anyone at this station in life when it is not their choice. Oh yes, and did I mention he is a wonderful friend.

This is not a unique story in America today. Men and women like my cousin represent what all of us high achievers aspire to be in the closing years of our careers. We are experienced, knowledgeable, wise and thus highly effective. We know the right way to skin the cat. This has earned us the puffed up pay check that seems to makes a lot of younger aspiring people pretty uncomfortable. And some of these people are becoming our bosses. When guys like my cousin are invited to leave it is a loss for the company, community, and our competitive position in the world. This is happening far too often and the collateral damage is extensive. It impacts everything when productive and capable people are underemployed or put on the sidelines. It's like driving a new Corvette only in school zones. Just stop to think about the downstream events that take place when earnings fall from $100,000 annually to $30,000 due to the loss of a "good" or "secure" job. It gets real scary. Multiply that by millions and you begin to understand why we have economic problems in this country and why it will be difficult no matter who is elected president or dog catcher for that matter to fix this mess.

Probably 20 years ago a friend of mine in the auto industry asked me, when they layoff all the engineers, skilled trades, middle managers and well paid assembly workers, who is going to buy the cars? Indeed, who IS buying the cars these many years later? We can add houses, boats, TV's, Gas and Beef to that list now too.

We are losing something very dear and valuable in this country and that is the independent business man who can afford to care about his employees and look out for their well being. Today the struggle is great for the businessman with a calling to serve his fellow man and make a buck in the process. Maybe even make more bucks because he does this. I tried to explain that people make the difference again to my boss tonight and he worked equally as hard to convince me the numbers are all that matter. He's not a bad guy its just how he sees it. Stalemate again.

When I was young I never thought it would work out this way. Somehow it seems at this stage in life we shouldn’t be working so hard in such uncertain environments. It really sucks. I hate the thought that we don’t have more choices in the closing years of our careers. It pains me that we are under so much pressure to prove ourselves after so many years of productivity. The world is pretty screwed up if you ask me.

All this is done under the veil of global competitiveness and shareholder value. Give me a break. All this is done largely to make a quarterly earning forecast. The future is being sacrificed for today. A nameless, faceless executive dweeb and shareholder who does have choices where to put his money, stand behind the curtain making the calls and ultimately pocketing millions at the expense of others. In so doing he or she guarantees a rich life for generations of their offspring yet to grace this earth. There seems to be no conscience, no guilt and certainly no remorse. This is greed at it’s best. They are big winners in the game of business. They made the deal. That MBA paid off.

Somewhere along the line the measure of wealth and prosperity for our country switched from using the power of capitalism and a free society to create jobs and increasing the standard of living for many to creating enormous wealth for a very few. I am no socialist but is it fair to begrudge a manager with 25 years experience more pay and seek to replace him with a lost in space rookie college grad who can't find his ass in a house of mirrors with both hands? I think time will tell us this is not such a good idea. Who will buy the cars? Indeed who will.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

People Count ..... Big time, they have Proof!

Early on it was apparent to me that I worked a lot harder and smarter for people who respected me and treated me well. I've tried to apply these ideals in all my leadership roles. Today the predominant focus of business is on analytics and metrics. Certainly, we must measure and compare to assess the direction and pace of change. But there are other factors that influence our outcomes that are closely related to the inexact science of human behavior. These two authors do an exceptional job of delving into the the human or the feeling side of business.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, by Patrick Lencioni. This is a fast read with meaty content delivered by creating realistic business settings with believable characters. You can read this today and apply it tomorrow.

Moral Intellignece, by Doug Lennick - Fred Keil, Ph.D. This is a highly credible and well documented explanation of why some leaders have instant and impenetrable credibility and leadership stature. Their research shows that moral standards, values and integrity are key to building a high functioning organization that performs above industry standards.

In the end we were all taught this when we were kids. We called it the Golden Rule.

Thanks for reading.

Video Camera

Have any of you noticed how cheap some of the new HD camcorders are today. You can buy a very small HD video recorder at Target for $130.00. They look like really nice little machines. I think the reason they are so cheap is that you have to buy SD cards to store the data. It looks like 1Gig of SD will store 30 minutes of video. A 2Gig SD card is about $20.00 at Radio Shack. I just learned I have an SD slot on my computer so I can plug a card right in and watch my video on my computer. Seems pretty cool to me.

I read the reviews on this one and most of them were so good they make me think if George Bush had one of these his approval rating would be much higher now. Others weren't so good. These were from people who didn't really understand the technology. Their expectations weren't exactly in line with the design of the product. Something tells me you shouldn't take this thing snorkeling or duct tape it to your son's football helmet for the "big" game or assume it will record images in a pitch black basement right before the lights come on and everyone yells SUPRISE!!?? I can't say I blame the retailer for not giving a refund in these cases.

I'll probably hold off a little while longer on buying one of these things. Do I really need video pictures of my dog laying on the couch night after night? I've also been informed the only recording devices that are welcome in our bedroom are attached directly to the cable outlet and lead directly to the TV. Like using a camcorder in the bedroom was ever, ever, ever on my list of intended uses .... at least with me in the picture it wasn't.

Thanks for reading.

The Happy Herald, Brigitte Lang, Founder

Yesterday I had the good fortune to meet and chat with Brigitte Lang the founder of the Happy Times Herald which is circulated in South Florida. The name pretty well tells the story, good marketing. The inspiration to start this publication came to her in a sleepless night of inspired writing that ultimately became her business plan. She started immediately. That was 15 years ago and she is still going strong. Her story is a testament to what can be accomplished by a talented and inspired individual with a clear vision and lot of energy. She knew what she wanted her publication to look and feel like and she went about creating it and succeeded in finding loyal readers and advertisers that have fueled her vision.

I have worked for many years in the publishing industry and had a blast listening to her recount stories of her early days. It was a real trip down memory lane for me. Why do we all have to make the same mistakes?

Think of this, Brigitte, a woman, with no publishing, printing, business, sales, writing or finance experience starts a newspaper in 1995. Add the very first death bells for the newspaper industry were being sounded around then. But she has grown her circulation to 75,000 monthly, found a place in her community and provided jobs and economic benefits for hundreds if not thousands over that time. Her next challenge is to figure out how to make it bigger and better after a pause to let the current economic uncertainty pass.

Good for her, happy times indeed. I'm feeling pretty inspired myself. Well done Brigitte. Did I mention she's Canadian?

Thanks for reading