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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Busy As A...

In an advanced aplogy I will not be blogging much in the next few days. I'll be as busy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest.

It's 3:22pm right now and I have a 4:00 meeting and a 5:00 business dinner.

Tomorrow I have the Small Business Opportunity Expo to smile and hand out pens and brochures all day at, then dinner at our friends house.

Thursday I have to ditch the Expo so I can attend the first half of a meeting. (I'm not sure what it's about but I was told by my boss' secretary that the boss wants me there.... so guess what? I'll be there) Then I'm ditching that meeting early to get back to the Expo and ditching that early so I can drive 9 hours back to Iowa where I will stay the night at my parents.

Friday I get up and drive back to Lincoln, Nebraska to go hang out with the mighty men of Omega Alpha Chi (my fraternity of which I'm so proud). We celebrate 11 years this year.

Saturday - Fraternity alumni golf event

Sunday - Drive back home to Colorado

Monday - Try to blog about everything that just happened

So in advance, forgive me for not being as consistent about blogging. I'll try to get a few in, but trust that my experiences will bring much insight and hopefully lots of laughs when I get back.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Using Floccinaucinihilipilification For Team Assembly

Floccinaucinihilipilification is nothing to cachinnate about.

In a study of self-esteem it was found that those with a low self esteem tend to think negatively not only about themselves, but about most everything. From R.F. Baumeister's research titled "Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?" comes the following quote:

"The word floccinaucinihilipilification is allegedly the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary, and it is defined as “the action or habit of estimating as worthless.” The definition of low self-esteem involves making a disparaging or low-worth judgment about the self, yet there is mounting evidence that people with low self-esteem are not merely negative about themselves. Rather, they express a generally negative attitude toward many events, circumstances, people, and other realities. That is, they have a tendency toward floccinaucinihilipilification."
When you look at assembling your team, whether hiring a new team member, promoting someone off the production line into the leadership team, or picking someone to play on your softball team this research shows us that we may want to stop and consider among other things their self-esteem.

Baumeister's research concludes that "If anything, high self-esteem fosters experimentation..." and "High self-esteem makes people more willing to speak up in groups and to criticize the group’s approach. Leadership does not stem directly from self-esteem, but self-esteem may
have indirect effects. Relative to people with low self-esteem, those with high self-esteem show stronger in-group favoritism, which may increase prejudice and discrimination."

If you want your team members to challenge what normal is, question why something is done and risk embarrassment and failure by trying to do it better, then self-esteem is a key factor in what you should measure. It really comes down to do you want your team to see the glass half empty or half full?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Want more money? Try Being Funny.

I've said it, you've said it, my wife says it all the time. So by popular consensus, my sense of humor is a little strange. When I saw this sign hanging in the halls of the business college on campus I nearly laughed out loud. But then I thought about it and I'd probably vote for the guy just because his campaign slogan was so funny.

What is it about our psychological make up that would make people want to vote for a candidate or buy a product just because their ad campaign is funny?

Psychology has all kinds of quirky things to tell us. For example did you know the way you eat your Oreo cookies tells a lot about your personality? (test here)

This article from Entrepreneur.com reminds us why we use humor to sell.
  1. Humor helps customers remember you
  2. Laughter makes people feel good
  3. A sense of humor is an admirable quality

This quote from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "We live in a vicious, violent and intimidating world, but there's still a place for fun. Well, there ought to be, and not just on the comics page, either."

That sums it up pretty well I think.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Serious News - Seriously!

Never one to cover much serious news, I couldn't resist "breaking" this story. I was at breakfast this morning with Congressman Joel Hefley, the chair of the House Ethics Committee, and he said "I think the evidence will show that Osama Bin Laden died in Iran of natural causes."

Translated that probably means some deep cover CIA agent (i.e. Sydney Bristow) stuck a syringe in his neck and injected some crazy solution that caused immediate heart failure that medically looks like a heart attack after the blue solution quickly dissipates into his blood stream.

Whether or not that's true, we'll never know. But, the truth is out there!

A Much Needed Change

After almost 7 year of wearing the same glasses, I decided it was time to get some new frames.
When getting my frames I was asked a series of questions by the lady who worked the eyeglass store that I found peculiar.

First she wanted to know what I did for a living.
Second she wanted to know if I'd heard about the lens options (upgrades to tinting lenses and super clear lenses you can't even tell are in the frames).
Third she wanted to know if I had a recent prescription.

What I found peculiar about this was she was assuming that what I did for a living was going to effect my choice in frames. She didn't want to know if I was trying to break the mold of my profession's stereotyped look or wanted to conform to it.

Second I found it peculiar that she wanted to upsell me. That's fine and a great business practice, but if you don't yet have the trust of the individual, you can't ask them to buy more.

When she finally got around to asking me about my prescription, I wondered what took so long to ask a relevant question.

When interacting with a potential client about a change, 3 things you should discuss before upselling them are:

  1. What are they looking for
  2. What do they want this thing to accomplish for them
  3. What else should I know about your decision before presenting you with options

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Experiencing Friday Night in Denver

This past Friday night was full of activity. So to keep you in touch with what's going on in my persoanl life (something my wife says I don't do enough blogging about anymore) I thought I'd tie business and personal life together with a photo illustration of Friday night.

My sister, Elizabeth and her husband Brian came in from New Jersey for a visit.

We decided to head up to Denver for some food and fun. Choosing Gallagher's Steak House for the food.

I was initially impressed by their atmosphere, which included a view of their meat selection. It gave it a real chop house sort of feel.

However, if the cost of the steak is $38 and sides are additional, there are a couple of things that I expect beyond being able to see a chunk of cow laying on a metal rack. First of all, I expect our server to be polite and friendly. After telling us "Our steaks are aged for 21 days", I said "So I have to wait 21 days to get a steak?" Okay, not as funny as I hoped and she had obviously heard the comment before, but the cold blank stare of "You're such an idiot" is something I expect from my wife and not from the waitress. The other thing I expect is a little cleanliness. As I looked up I noticed the ceiling tiles were water stained and looked moldy. Creating an experience for your customers goes beyond window dressing. It has to come from the heart and soul of every employee including the employees who clean the ceiling tiles.

"We need to look at our business as more than simply the building and selling of personal computers [that is, goods]. Our business is the delivery of information [that is, services] and lifelike interactive experiences." - Intel Chairman Andrew Grove as quoted in The Experience Economy.

So after our meal, we headed to Sing Sing. A local dueling piano establishment.

Talk about talent. Talk about an experience. Four guys rotate through playing on two grand pianos. They played everything from Bon Jovi's Living On A Prayer to Charlie Daniel's Devil Went Down to Georgia. The fiddle solo was incredible on a piano. The whole crowd sang and cheered and laughed as the performers got everyone wrapped up in the experience. I'm still singing "Fire on the mountain, run boys run"

Well, almost everyone. This couple couldn't take thier lips off each other. GET A ROOM!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Are We All Prudes?

A brief disclaimer: This post may contain material that you might find offensive. It contains adult topics and should not be read by younger children. When leaving comments to this post feel free to do so anonymously. Your opinion will not be discounted because of signing it anonymous.

Prude - n. - One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous.

Saturday I read this article in our local newspaper about Book 22, a company named after the 22nd book of the Bible (Songs of Solomon) selling sex toys marketed at Christian couples. They even have a blog, but I guess everyone does by now.

It brought about much discussion among my family on Saturday which carried over to Easter Sunday. Not exactly a resurrection topic, but none the less it was "stimulating" conversation. (sorry bad pun, but I couldn't help it)

From my point of view, the topic of sex and Christianity are like oil and water. The closest I've ever seen them mix in a serious and beneficial level is when they... well, I guess I can't think of one.

There are lots of books out there on the topic. Most I've read or listened to take the "just pray and invite God into your bedroom and things will get better" approach. Something about faith without works is dead is coming to mind right now. It's kind of like in school when we all prayed, "God help me pass this test, I really need an A", and then never studying for the test.

There are a limited few books or resources that are helpful, but not many. The problem is in my opinion that many Christian conservative couples struggle in their sex life, but have no where to turn because they are afraid to seek out secular sex counseling because it might turn out to be like one of those HBO Real Sex episodes (intentionally there is no link here). They are too embarrassed to talk to their pastor about the specifics of sex because it would just be too weird. During one counseling session I actually had a couple say "This is just too weird talking about this with you." To which I answered, "Well I could go get the senior pastor and you could talk to him." They quickly decided that for some reason sex talks with the assistant, though weird, was better than sex talks with the senior pastor.

My point is this: There is a definite problem and need among many conservative Christian couples when it comes to sex. Book 22 has found that niche and is serving it. Pure genius from a business standpoint.

This article points out how small businesses can take advantage of the niche market
  1. Their Economies of Scale are a Friend of Your Niche
  2. Your Small Size Enables You to Develop a Following
  3. Niche Category Sellers Can Effectively Target Their Limited Marketing Budget

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Imaginations

Inspired by Shannon, who commented on Metromom's post, I took yesterday afternoon to go outside with my two boys and play in the dirt with matchbox cars. We spent a good hour plus digging and developing the most incredible off road racetrack. The best part of it all was that it reminded me not only of how to have fun and be a kid again, but it also helped remind me how to imagine.

Obviously from the picture you can tell that it's not an architectural masterpiece, but in 0ur minds it was. We had jumps and bridges and all sorts of neat things available for our small metal cars to race across.

Important things to remember when you imagine:
  1. If you don't like the way your road is going, imagine something different. You hold the keys to what you make. If you don't like it, change it.
  2. Your imagination inspires others to imagine and is inspired by other people's imaginations. As my 4 year old sat above me and my 8 year old beneath me, we continually talked about what this rock looked like, or how we could use this stick to build something. I started breaking sticks to make little flag poles to stick out of the ground. Jacob grabbed some and started lining them up on the track for the cars to jump over. Then we both started building a bridge for the cars to drive under. Imaginational synergy was alive and creative solutions were everywhere.
  3. Imagination helps you see the potential of the situation. Granted the track wasn't really anything more than a clearing in the rocks where we smoothed out the dirt, but in our minds it was a place where real cars would fly off of ramps and slide into barricades in thrilling crashes, even drive sideways on a wall made of rocks. We saw what the potential of our imagination was.
  4. There is nothing that is imossible when you close your eyes and imagine. Before we started, nothing more than a hill covered in rocks was visible. But when we finished rocks weren't rocks any more and dirt wasn't just dirt. It was a possible for 3 kids (okay two kids and one adult who never really grew up) to design and create anything.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Physician Heal Thyself

I spent time yesterday and today with two different clients helping them register their trade names for their businesses. It's a simple process. Click, click, print, fill out the form, walk it in with $8 and presto - you have a business trade name. It's the all important first step to being in business.

Well, for some reason, the thought never crossed my mind that I may want to consider doing the same with Grin and Barrett until I discovered this.

Evidentally Angie Barrett (no relation that I know of, but she has a great last name none the less) has a TV show in the Dallas area on KXAS-TV/NBC, Channel 5 called Grin & Barrett.

If you want to see what my nomenclature competition is all about, you can click here and watch the first 11 episodes. I watched parts of a couple of episodes and it's not bad. She has some A-List celebrities on her show anyway.

Well, I think I'm now off to register my trade name, or probably more appropriately register a trademark before my last two clients come back and laugh at me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Day Of Antiprolific Actions

In an attempt to be less "prolific" (definition 2, not 1 by the way) I thought I'd share some of the latest quirky things you can do while being unprolific at your computer.

The Song Tapper - Ever get the melody of that song stuck in your head, but can't place the words. Now you can tap out the rhythm of that song running through your head on your space bar and it will give you the song.

Magic 8 Ball - Make important corporate decisions based on the wisdom of the Magic 8 Ball. "Should we shut down the Alabama divison and outsource everything to China? - Reply Hazy, Try Again. Doh!"

Shakespear Insulter - Don't feel that "dip wad" and "dork" are cutting it any more when you toss insults around? Next time try calling them a tottering dizzy-eyed giglet. This randomly selects a shakespearean insult.

Sesame Street Terror Level - Want to introduce your preschooler to the world of terrorism? Then this is for you. Combining the Homeland Security Advisory System's terror levels and your favorite Sesame Street characters makes for loads of fun. Today's level is "Bert"

International Bra Size Calculator - I'm not realy sure. I'm not even going to comment. I just couldn't resist posting it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Back to School

I don't know if I feel more like a business professional or a high school teacher lately. After going to high school last week to present to a class I went back again today to share more to another school about this great organization called the SBDC.

God bless Ms. Jamison. I don't know how she or any other teacher handles the day to day task of teaching to students, though these students were actually pretty good. Most stayed awake and many even seemed interested despite my continued efforts to bore them to death.

I'm usually a pretty good judge of when a joke is being played. This comes from years of experience playing them, but honestly I couldn't tell if the young man was serious when he told the class he was going to start a day care center. If he was serious, good for him. If he was giving me a hard time, then good one - ya got me.

Either way, I'm an on school hiatus for a while. The schools of America will have to fend for themselves without me.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Book Review: You Need To Be A Little Crazy

Just over a month ago a message was left on a blog followed by several emails and then a book came to me so that I could write a review. Completely honored by the author’s request, I jumped at the chance, but quickly realized the conundrum I placed myself in. What if I didn’t like the book? What would I say? Fortunately after reading only the first chapter I realized I wouldn’t have to deal with the possibilities of that problem any longer. I truly loved the book. So here it is, my review of the book “You Need To Be A Little Crazy: The truth about starting and growing your business” by Barry Moltz.

We all have friends of varying degrees in different circles. Some are surface friends that compliment your clothes even when you look atrocious, and some are real friends that tell you when your breath smells or when your zipper is down. To all entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs, Barry Moltz is the latter. He unguardedly tells you exactly how tough it is going to be starting your own business. No candy coating it with what I, what we all, have come to expect from self help / start your own business and rule your own destiny books that line the shelves at the mega book stores. By the end of the first chapter he almost has you believing that you either need to go back to work for fortune the 500 company you left or check yourself into the local mental health institute.
“You need to be a lunatic who has a steadfast long-term belief in her vision – a lunatic who will try anything, ask anyone for everything, and see everyone as a source of help. You also need to be comfortable being alone in your beliefs \because the only thing others will agree with you on is that you are indeed crazy.”
A refreshing change from the psycho-babble of most you can do anything if you just try hard enough and wish on the right star books, Moltz not only deals with the possibility of failure in your small business, but personally guarantees it’s going to happen.
“It is not a question of whether you will fail as an entrepreneur, it is simply a question of when and how. One key to being a happily successful entrepreneur is the way you handle failure. An entrepreneur is defined by how he or she handles failure, not by how he or she handles success.”
So why would you ever want to become an entrepreneur? Why would you face the horror of Moltz’s reality? As he dangles the straight jacket in the doorway to the room with padded walls, he addresses this fact by saying it’s who you are. Not only should you accept it, but you should embrace it. As he helps you into the straight jacket and cinches down the last of the straps he smiles as he locks the door behind you. He smiles because he knows what you are about to go through. He’s been through it himself.

Because of my former profession and many of my readers present involvement in churches, I will make mention that Moltz seems to touch on the topic of faith and its necessary involvement in small business. I couldn’t help but draw comparison after comparison between the words he had written and scripture. The margins of my copy are scribbled with notes to myself about scripture references, concepts of faith and comparisons between entrepreneurs and pastors. Perhaps I was overtly influenced when I read the statement that when he was growing up he wanted to be either a lawyer, the president of IBM or a rabbi. Perhaps I just drew my own conclusions because I wanted to connect dots that weren’t intended to be connected.

Bottom line, if you are starting anything from a bio-tech company to a church to a lemonade stand, this book is a must read. It will challenge your motives as well as your thinking. If you don’t you are a little more than crazy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Education is Never Wasted

I had the opportunity Tuesday morning to drive to Peyton, Colorado and present to the high school business class about growing a business. It's a "two blinker" town. Blink twice and you'll miss it. But I guarantee their business program is one of the best in the area. I mean just look at the quality of guest lecturers they get there.

The saying that the teacher learns more than the students was again correct.
What I learned from this experience was:

  1. This group of students, ranging from freshman to seniors, had a better grasp on running a small business than most adults already in business. Those adults who come to me for professional advice could take notes off of what these students already know. To those students of Mrs. Simmons' class who are reading this, you have no idea how well prepared you'll be to run your own businesses after school. That doesn't mean you can quit studying and skip the final exam though. Sorry.
  2. Every person - let me say that again for effect - every person should take a business class such as Mrs. Simmons before graduating from high school. It should be as integrated into public schools as math and science. Why? Because every person is going to work for some sort of a company at some point in their life. Regardless of big business or small start up, you need to know at least the basics of how a business works and how it makes money.

    For example, if you run a small business and want a raise, you work harder and smarter and become more profitable. If you work for big business and want a raise, walking in and saying, "Hey, I'm a swell guy can you pay me more?" isn't going to fly very far. But if you say, "Hey, I cut expenses 19% while increasing revenue 31% and have increased the efficiency of the office by 8% this quarter, I think I deserve a raise." I bet your boss would agree because you just spoke the language of business to your boss and that's what they are fluent in.
  3. One should be prepared when asking a high school girl what the last movie she watched was. Expecting to hear something like How to lose a guy in 10 days or Titanic or even Failure to Launch, I was taken back a little when Dawn of the Dead was the last movie she'd seen.
  4. Chicks dig the long ball. You'd have to ask Nathan for more clarification on that one. But with softball season coming up and my wife in the stands, I'm definately going to be swinging for the fence more often. Thanks for the tip Nathan.

Thank you Mrs. Simmons for having me.
Thank you class teaching me so much. Also, thanks for staying awake for me and not making fun of me for being so old and out of touch with what goes on in high school... at least to my face anyway.
Thank you to my father who instilled in me the fact that education is never wasted.

Is Martha Moving to Seattle?

It is common knowledge that when investing you should invest in what you are familiar with. For example if you are not familiar with how nanotechnology works, but are familiar with medicine, then choosing pharmaceutical investments over tech companies would be wise.

Here are what other have said about this exact thing

Obviously Martha Stewart could take a few words of advice from these people. It was rumored back in December (article) that Martha would invest around $30mil for a share in the rights of grunge band Nirvana's music. I haven't heard anything recent on this until I heard it mentioned again on the radio this past weekend.

Martha, come on! What on earth do you know about grunge other than how to use an organic, herbal cleaner to get it off of your stove?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Transitional Adjustment Assistance

While in Iowa, the town I lived in had one major industry shut down and move to another city in the US. Another was just on it's last breath as I was leaving. It was being sent to Mexico. Because of this, employees could take advantage of Transitional Adjustment Assistance from NAFTA. Under this provision, the displaced employees could retrain for another profession at the expense of the government.

Well in another transitional adjustment effort, an organization by the name of Diakonie Westfalen is providing assistance to care givers as they transition from one line of work to another. Yes, the German based Diakonie Westfalen is taking prostitutes off the street and putting them in hospitals as nurses.

Some peculiar quotes from the article:

  • "The prostitutes generally get on very well with the people."
  • "They have no reservations about any aspects of the work."
  • "Coming from an industry where intimacy with strangers is standard..."
  • "...she feels that she has learnt a lot more about human nature, and herself, during her work with old people than she ever did brandishing chains and whips for her clients."
(article is here)

All jesting aside, I think it's a valiant effort by this organization to help these women out of a dead end career and help them have a better life. Hats off to Diakonie Westfalen.

Monday, April 03, 2006

History in the Making at Starbucks

Granted I'm not a Starbucks stockholder, or even one of their top 20 customers in the world like some people I know, but I did experience something that made me feel like an elite member of the Starbucks society.

My mother-in-law, Mary Kay has become a barista at Starbucks. Deann and I stopped off to grab some caffeine (day light savings sucks) and visit with Mary Kay. While there she and the other barista were mixing up a new concoction.

Understand I'm not a big tea fan, be it iced or hot, but when I tasted their Passion Mellon Tea, I was pleasantly surprised. No typical iced tea taste and no watermelon jolly rancher flavor either. It was refreshing and quite tasty.

So, if you want your local barista to make it, here's the recipe as I got it from the creator.

  • Make some Passion Tea.
  • Put 1 cup Passion Tea
  • Mix with 1 cup water
  • Add 2 squirts of Mellon flavor
  • Add some ice and shake

Honestly it tasted like a Sobee. Mmmm good... but with caffeine. Mmmm better!