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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Phantom Cell Phone Vibrations: It could be mental

I don't know how many times in a day I feel my right hip or left pant pocket to see if that sensation is my phone vibrating. I always knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I couldn't be the only one to have experienced this sensation and though the article is a little dated, it still proves my point. I'm not losing my mind.

The Columbia News Service reported that Phantom Cell phone Vibrations, or PCV's are quite common among cell phone users in their article, Who's calling? Is it your leg or your cell phone?

According to the article, there hasn't been any scientific research done to determine the cause, but the common thread among theories seems to be a psychological cause where we desire so much to be connected, or just want the phone to ring with important information that our mind actually tricks our body into feeling the vibrations we associate with these desires being fulfilled.

Personally, being the conspiracy theorist that I am, I'm quite sure that the frequency in which the phone transmits information is detectable by our bodies. After wearing a cell phone for a period of time our bodies begin to automatically respond to the frequency of an incoming call and we then subconsciously associate any similar frequency our body detects with a soon to be vibrating phone.

In reality, the government, probably the NSA, is conducting tests to determine the body's ability to detect such frequencies and will soon be imbedding microchips in our bodies via the flu vaccine so they can obtain mind control over the American population.

What's really sad is I wrote all that conspiracy theory stuff, then googled for mind control and came up with that site which already has the same theory. I'm not sure whether to be afraid that my theory could be true, or to be scared that I'm actually beginning to think like the crazies out there.

Be ware - If your leg starts vibrating, start looking up for stealth helicopters to come swooping in to capture you for more mind control experiments. Is that my phone or yours vibrating? Trust no one!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Writing: The most important skill to learn.

Several years ago, when asking people what was the most important thing I should learn in college, one person told me business writing skills. I thought "Phooey" no one is going to care if I can write. They just want someone who is talented and smart. They don't care about business writing skills. I've since realized my error, and the truth in what they said.

Today, I'm amazed at the overall lack of people's ability to communicate. I understand not everyone is a brilliant writer, but to not be able to organize thoughts and punctuate them is baffling to me. Notice I did not mention spelling. Spelling is not a huge issue any longer thanks to spell checker. Besides that, I am a horrible speller without spell check. I do, however, make an attempt to at least proof read an email before clicking "send".

Not the case for everyone. This is an email I received yesterday. I know some of you are reaching for your red pens to make corrections, please don't since red is so hard to clean off your monitor and by the time you finish, you'd have a red film on almost every inch of your screen.

[edited to protect anonymity]

I [name] is a female trying self employment after lay off at [company 1] previously was known as [company 2]. Once [company 3] merged with [company 1] and had to many locations ours was closed. My severence pay ended Dec 15th not sure where else to go my bills are coming up over due and my credit cards almost over the limit very much destroying my credit and once that happens financial assistance is impossible. I'm in [industry a] and [industry b]. Im not quit noticed yet business hasn't got started in reputation. I am starting from scratch and need assistance funds to purchase a [equipment 1]. [equipment 2]. Im interested in a [equipment 3] do you know of any commercial accts in this area. I would appreciate anything you can assist with. I can't claim Unemployment because my association with my business there is no income being generated to pay bills. I have [training] thru colleges and management and leadership experience as well as education thru [organization]. Advertising on my truck and home office window is needed and any other stratedy to promote my business making it more noticable. A business memory desk top computer to assist in my book keeping etc. I hope you can assist me in my endeavors and dreams to assisting my community with my services thanks again for your time and efforts in this matter.. [individual's name] your friendly customer satisfaction and goal orientated professional.

That was the email, exactly how I received it - spelling, punctuation, paragraph breaks (or lack there of) and all.

Coincidentally the Wall Street Journal's Career site has just released this article titled, M.B.A. Recruiters' No. 1 Pet Peeve:Poor Writing and Speaking Skills. How appropriate.

Credit to Ben for the link


Monday, January 29, 2007

A Comparison of Business and Church

It has been over a year now since I've left my previous career track as a pastor and ventured back into the business realm. What has made the transition so easy is that if you squint a little bit, being a pastor and being an entrepreneur are one in the same. With few exceptions, the average entrepreneur and the average pastor face the same challenges day in and day out.

There were of course many contributing factors to why I left life as a pastor, but the deciding factor had to do with the incompatability of having a healthy personal life, family life and ministry.

Today in the entrepreneurial environment, I see sometimes five people a day who are getting ready to start a business, and it is my responsibility to help them navigate that process. As any good navigator would, I give them the heads up on what may lie ahead if they make certain decisions. As a result, I often have a conversation with a starry eyed, soon to be entrepreneur about the sacrifice they will have to make in personal and family life to make their business a success. I tell them that their marriage will definately be strained if not end in divorce, and that their kids may resent them for spending time with the business instead of them, even if they someday leave them a successful business to run as an inheritance.

I was recently reading Leadership Journal's article titled Leader's Insight: The Subtle Sin of Grandiosity and as I read it I couldn't help but to draw an instant parallel between the struggles of ministry and entrepreneurship. Read the article, but every time you read the word "church" or "ministry" substitute "business" and see if it doesn't change your perspective on what it takes to start a business.

This quote really drove home the point on both the ministry and business aspects.

"I remember a church [business]-planting consultant who warned a group of us that we would need to pay the price if we wanted a successful church plant [business start]. We'd have to do whatever it took: let our marriages suffer, put our children on hold. But it seemed to me then, and it does now, that this cannot be the way God intended ministry [business needs to be]."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Assassination Attempt on the Energizer Bunny Foiled

Evidently I'm not the only one who hates the Energizer Bunny. (see earlier post) Which begs the question, if you threaten to kill a furry pink bunny, do they arrest you using furry pink handcuffs?

See the story on 6 high school girls who had similar feeling as I did.

I do carefully pick who I'm going to assassinate and generally as a rule of thumb keep it to fictitious people or fuzzy, pink mascots. Since it is coming up on my one year anniversary since my last arrest warrant, I am going to be a little more cautious.

Thanks for the heads up to my sister.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's In A Business Name

While it is fun and exciting to brainstorm with a few friends or business partners about what to name your new business, is it really that important what you name it?

A business name is like a bathroom at a gas station. If the bathroom is clean, no one cares. They aren't spending money for bathrooms, they are spending money on convenience items and gas. People just expect the bathrooms to be clean. But, if the bathroom is on the dirty side, then people are dramatically less likely to return in the future because they refuse to tolerate the mess.

If a business name is acceptable, then people really don't care what it's named. A law firm should be two to three names like Crane, Pool & Schmidt. It sounds like a law firm you want representing you. A construction company can use names or describing factors such as John Laing Homes or Quality Design Homes. There are unwritten social guidelines that have to be followed. For example, you shouldn't have a doctor's office named Totally Extreme Urology Clinic, but Extreme Pizza works.

I recently came across an event that had a name I wasn't quite sure about. The White Privilege Conference to me sounded like a Neo Nazi conference filled with a bunch of southern red necks wearing bed sheets as hoods. Finally I determined it is quite the opposite, but at a first glance it turns off the potential customer.
No one cares if your name fits the unwritten laws of business naming just like no one really cares that your bathroom is clean, but if your business name is outside the norm, you'd better have a really good marketing strategy to brand yourself and convince customers it's okay to shop for pet supplies at the Vicious Animal, or be prepared to lose business. Your customers will be more concerned about the quality of product and service they receive than who to make the check out to.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

God Must Be a Mac User

There are certain monumental events in every one's life that are frozen like snapshots in your mind's eye. The moment your wife agreed to marry you, the birth of a child or buying your first house. I can distinctly look back and vividly remember such instances as if I was looking through the photo album of my life.

Last night I experienced yet another memory making event. No longer must I hang my head in embarrassment when I discuss computers. Now I can join the ranks of being a Mac user. Proud and confident am I. It is as if I approached the altar, knelt and surrendered all that I had been carrying on my shoulders alone. Struggling to make it through the day, every day. Wrapped in the bondage of cables and cords and wires that hindered my life, I turned over a new page in my life... No I tore the old pages from my old life and was given a new beginning through the purity of the sleek, gleaming white iMac, which arrived via UPS (Not Fed Ex thank you) to my doorstep last night after making the purchase on eBay last week.

Out with the old

In with the new

Glory Hallelujah - I've been set free.
If you want to learn more about accepting Mac as your computer click here.


Monday, January 22, 2007

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Think back to 1989 when a little fuzzy rabbit carrying a bass drum outlasted other similar toys to illustrate that Energizer batteries outlast all other brands. At one time, like you, I thought what a cute commercial. Now, every time I see that stupid rabbit I'm torn between running to the bathroom to vomit and running to the garage to get my shotgun and go rabbit hunting.

At some point during the last 17 years I have seen too much of this stupid rabbit and now I intentionally buy Duracell in hopes that the bunny will be shelved for a new ad campaign. I even dreamt up the idea of suing Energizer because while the bunny keeps going and is even now being used to jump start a flying saucer, but you never see anyone change the battery. To me this sounds like false advertising when they imply that one battery can last 17 years. I've got some emotional trauma somewhere I'm sure I could dig up.

But, Energizer isn't the only ad campaign that has lived it's life. Many just don't take 17 years to annoy you. Take the recent Dodge Ram commercials where the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot punches the Dodge truck and looses because Dodge is too tough. The first time I saw this, I thought, "Ha - that's kind of cute. Makes me miss playing with that toy. I wonder if I can still find one of those on eBay." After seeing the commercial, oh I don't know, say 3 thousand times a day, now I think I want to get my Toyota truck and run over the stupid little robots.

Repetition in marketing can be good, but too much of any one thing can be bad. Especially when they show it 4 times in 19 minutes as they did during the BCS Championship Bowl Game.

Paul Farhi assesses the situation pretty well in his Washington Post article where he makes reference to the Law of Diminishing Returns.

Most small businesses don't have to worry about this directly because your marketing budget is probably not going to allow you to run your commercial on a continual loop during prime time programming. However, your message, while you should live, sleep and breathe it, should not always be the first thing out of your mouth. Relational business is how small business is conducted today. So take time to ask how their personal life is before you turn your branding efforts into the next Energizer Bunny that no one wants to hear about anymore.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Networking Must Go On

With the recent fame of my first television appearance, I just missed out on the opportunity to be seen again Tuesday. Something about a little fire on the other side of town seemed to draw the media away from the press conference I was going to be speaking at, so they postponed it until later. All sarcasm aside, I am glad, and we are very fortunate that things weren't much worse than they turned out to be, but they are bad enough as it is.

Despite all the events of the day, the networking must go on.

The press conference was for a new group my office is involved in starting called the Rising Professionals. A great place for young professionals to get together and build relationships with other young professionals in the community.

Tessa Nelson from the Colorado Springs Business Journal writes a great article describing the importance of networking and gives some solid basics on how to network. The one statement that sums it up for me is:

You have to sell yourself to the person that you are talking to and make them want to talk with you. Walk up and introduce yourself, tell them where you work and what you do, or if you don’t have a job tell them that you have recently graduated, what your degree is in and what you are interested in doing.
Whatever you talk about, exude confidence and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Make sure you ask questions about them and what they do. The conversation is going to be short-lived if you only talk about yourself.

Good point Tessa, and it was great seeing you last night.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


On a short surfing excusrion I came across this site. Indexed is written or should I say drawn by Jessica Hagy. Every day, on a 3 x 5 index card, she draws what I think. I would describe it as The Far Side meets all the stupid graphs I had to do in my econonomics classes.

Perhaps you think I'm a little geeky or a bit of a nerd for finding these funny, but I argue it shows my superior intellect and anyone who argues the contrary has proved my point. How's that for logic?

Anyway, point being, I encourage you to check it out. It's relevant, funny and witty. Whatever you call it, it's definiately innovative. She has even expanded to her own line of t-shirts so if you find one you really like, you may be able to wear it.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Unused Tools

I had a great weekend with my grandparents. In typical “Barrett fashion” we made fun of each other’s downfalls as a way of saying, “Despite everything, I still love you.” It’s one of our tools for communicating our affection.

I do need to clarify at the behest of my grandmother that when I previously mentioned we went to Organ Stop and all the old people were swinging their beer mugs in the air singing to the music, my grandparents were not swinging their beer mugs in the air. They aren’t wild and crazy people and would never swing beer mugs like that.

Now with that out of the way, hopefully I can make it back into the will.

In addition to time with family, I spent an evening with friends. It was great catching up, however initial conversations were a little awkward because the normal conversation of “So what have you been up to” or “So what’s new in your life was still asked, but we all knew the answer already because we all read each other’s blog as a tool to keep up on each other and already knew what was new and what they’d been up to. Once we got past formalities the conversation was great and realized how much I used to love hanging out with all my old friends.
On my way home from visiting with friends, my 25 minute drive turned into a 2 hour expedition of late night Mesa. Sure I had Mapquest directions to get there and could have followed them backwards, but instead, when I thought I missed my exit I abandoned my Mapquest directions and went to a map provided by the rental car company. As a result, I became disoriented, lost my direction and wandered aimlessly for an extra hour and a half.

How many times in business do we have a tool, say a business plan, but like my Mapquest directions we panic, think we’ve missed our exit and abandon our tool. An unused tool, no matter how much potential it holds and how much time is spent perfecting its use is absolutely worthless if unused.

A business plan with dust on it is worthless.
Oh yeah, to clarify some more, my grandparents didn't swing their beer mugs because (as they wanted me to clarify) they don't drink beer. Love you Grandma :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trading Snow for Sunshine

Tomorrow, I'm headed to Mesa, Arizona to see Grandma and Grandpa Barrett and take advantage of Marting Luther King Jr providing me with a 3 day weekend. It's been a long time since I've seen them, and an even longer time since I've seen them at their home in Leisure World. Seriously, that's the name of it. People drive golf carts on the roads and play cribbage all day. Sounds odd, but I love it there. While all my friends in college would go to Padre Island, or Mexico for Spring Break, I went to Leisure World.
Mostly, I'm excited about getting back to some warm weather. Colorado has been unseasonably snowy lately. The picture is the snow in our back yard. 3 weeks ago the airport closed. 2 weeks ago people died from the snowy conditions. Last week an avalanche buries people alive and they had to be dug out. This Friday we're set up to get more snow. I just hope my plane makes it out before it gets too bad.

Following the food theme of yesterday's post, I'm looking forward to eating at my Mesa Favorites like the Organ Stop and Luby's. Okay, obviously they aren't my favorites because of the food, but because of the memories I have eating there with my grandparents. I also want to make a trip to the Orange Patch to pick up some great oranges to eat.

If you've never been to the Organ Stop, think Chuck E Cheese for old people. There's nothing like a room full of senior citizens swinging their beer mugs in the air and singing the Iowa state song to the sounds of a HUGE pipe organ. If you've never been and you're in Mesa, you have to go. It's an experience.

Also on my trip, I'm going to be hooking up with some dear old friends from back in my Oklahoma days who took refuge in Arizona. I can't wait to see everyone and catch up on what's been going on. Hey, maybe we can all go to Luby's for dinner! - No, not really.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chocolate Filled Strawberries

One of my wife's favorite sweets is chocolate covered strawberries. In fact I've noticed that pretty much anything with chocolate in the name has a good chance of being enjoyed by women. I wonder if I would have introduced myself to my wife when we first met as Matt "Chocolate" Barrett if I wouldn't have had to work so hard to woo her. Hmmm...

Anyway, during the holiday season I came up with a great idea to improve on the chocolate covered strawberry idea. I call it Chocolate Filled Strawberries. (Original isn't it?)

Here's what I did.

Take a normal strawberry. It has to be one of decent size though. Think golf ball size.

Then get one of those melon ballers and scoop out the stem and insides of the berry. You'll need a small melon baller to do it right. Set the stem aside, you'll need it later for garnish.

It may take a second or third scoop, depending on the size of the berry. Your ultimate goal is to hollow the berry out and make a nice cavity to fill with chocolate.

Use a small teaspoon to fill with melted chocolate.

Once filled, your berry should look like this.

Now, pull a couple of leaves from the stem and press into the chocolate as garnish and dust with powdered sugar. I know my powdered sugar looks a little heavier than a dusting, but what the picture doesn't show is my kids waiting to open their one present on Christmas Eve and I got in a hurry.

Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.

I was amazed at how different the taste experience was from a chocolate covered strawberry. Normally, you crunch through the hard chocolate and finally get the berry. This way you first taste the berry, then the chocolate starts melting in your mouth. Plus the bright red berry is much prettier than plain brown chocolate.


Why I Do What I Do - Great Treats and Helping People

There are lots of perks to my job. I get to travel occasionally, but not all of the time. I get to meet lots of great people like the mayor and bank presidents. And, while the pay isn't outrageous, the benefits are. But, the true reason why I like my job is that I get to be involved with helping people accomplish their dreams.

Yesterday, I drove my staff over to Nocon's Gelatoria and met my wife and kids to be one of his first customers ever. Frank Nocon, a client of ours, fell in love with gelato while stationed in Italy in the Air Force. Yesterday, he and his wife began the next exciting phase of their life by opening their own store.

If you've never had gelato before, let me explain. According to the sign in the store, 'gelato' translated from Italian, means ice cream. But, in the United States in order to call a frozen dessert ice cream, there are certain characteristics and guidelines to follow. For example, the product should have a minumum of 10% butter fat. Most ice cream on the market have up to 18% butter fat. This cream flavor gelato contains from 4-8% fat and the fruit flavors contain less than 1% fat.

However, don't be mistaken that gelato is some kind of health nut, twigs and bark flavored stuff. The chocolate is rich and creamy. The white chocolate is equally good and my favorite, the coconut, makes me feel like I'm in the palapa bar in Mexico. But with over 30 flavors, you'll have to make up your own mind.

If you're in Colorado Springs, stop in and eat your fill. It's on Union, between Research and Briargate. Tell Frank "Hi" for me.


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Principle of Money

As a young, somewhat impressionable college student, I sat in my anthropology class and listened to Dr. DuBose talk about how she would never invest in some mutual funds because some of the companies they owned stock in were companies she didn't ethically agree with. She told the class about Nestle, as in Nestle's Crunch and how they had wronged some tribe in Africa back in the 70's because they forced their product on them as an underprivileged society.

I didn't understand the entirety of what she was saying and though I don't share the exact set of ethics she holds, I have learned to ask myself the question "Which is more important, the money or the principle?" It's easy to claim principle until you're faced with the decision, then it becomes a little more difficult.

This article made me realize how far from Nestle we've come, or haven't come depending on your point of view, in the money vs. principle argument.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What If You Don't Want To Understand Your Customer?

One of the things I love most about business is the psychographics of customers. What motivates them to buy something? Why do they choose one product over another when they are seemingly identical? Essentially, what goes on inside the mind of the person who holds the purse strings to the next sale? Understanding your customers is a crucial part of business.

I love this because of the strategy involved. I you understand the way they think, then you can set up "traps" to use their reactions to capture their spending habits. It is the process between understanding and springing the trap that I love.

But, what if there are some customers you just don't want to understand. What goes on inside some individuals minds is a little too scary for me sometimes.

Were you aware that there is a growing trend of making videos of yourself while you make funny faces and noises and then feel the need to post that on Youtube? Why? I don't get it. What makes people think this is a good idea? I'm not sure I really want to know the answer regardless of the amount of money they may spend.

Here are some examples.

More examples (click to watch)
Strange faces and noises I can make
More Strange faces and noises
Even More Strange faces and noises
This guy goes on for over 4 minutes

To all you marketeers I say, target that as a demographic.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Are You Planning or Dreaming?

One of my favorite entrepreneurial quotes is, "A plan without a deadline is just a dream."

I hear lots of plans to start busiensses, expand businesses, make life better, provide back to the community that helped them. But, it is less frequent that I observe people making good on their plans.

Nick Graham is one guy... make that kid who has taken away all of the excuses we can come up with. He's too young at the age of 17. He doesn't have family support because his dad died when he was 4 and his mom left him. He didn't know anything about the grocery store industry and admits never going grocery shopping before. Not only does he not have a college degree, he hasn't even finished highschool. Those are just a few excuses I hear regularly that Nick has over come.

You can watch the video here and then feel guilty about not making your dream a reality. I know I feel a twinge of conviction to put a deadline on my dreams.

Thanks to Dane Carlson for the link.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Television Debut

We've all heard the saying "The TV adds 10 pounds." Well It's not true. Yesterday, I was interviewed by one of our local television stations for what would become my first television appearance. I didn't make it home in time yesterday to watch the story, but this morning when I watched it on my computer I can say, no it didn't add 10 pounds, I'm just really that fat!

Good thing for New Year's resolutions because after joining a gym at the end of November and playing with the idea that I need to get healthy, now I'm ready to shed the weight.

My only hope is that my incredibly high level of intelligence radiated so brightly off of the television last night that people didn't notice the jiggle and were mesmerized by the intellect.

Here's the video. (Try not to laugh)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Screeching Halt

December 29th, 2006 was one year to the day that we moved from Mount Pleasant, Iowa to Colorado Springs. Today, January 2nd was one year to the day I first stumbled my way into my office and started the next leg in my career.

There were many reasons as to why we moved our family, but one reason was to be closer to my wife's family. Today I am extremely glad we made the decision.

In the middle of a "staff meeting" which was about to grow heated (see my previous post on confrontation) I got a call from my wife who told me her dad came over to our house after finding out he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lots of details are still unknown and we all have lots of questions, but needless to say both my wife and I were extremely glad we were able to be there to support him and the rest of her family.

It's funny how all of life's seemingly important things come to a screeching halt and what is truly important quickly becomes the priority. Business is business and customers will probably be there tomorrow, but family is family and that's priority.