Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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When one door closes, it’s good to have the master key to the rest of the house.

January 24, 2011

I had something happen to me for the first time in my life. I was given my walking papers due to re-structuring and re-focusing at work on November 30th. For more than twelve years in the ad agency business, I was always on the other side and learned early about survivor’s guilt, making myself marketable, and staying grounded, driven, and positive.

And yet this time it got me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. I am not embarrassed or ashamed I was let go. I’d like to think my ego hasn’t grown so much that I can’t admit the truth. I simply didn’t have a specific PR foundation and background to warrant keeping a tenured advertising guy on staff. Kudos to my former boss for recognizing he and his agency needed to change and get back to their roots. I also appreciate the way in which I was let go. They did some things for me they didn’t have to and that took the stress out of these past seven weeks, especially over the holidays.

And in there lies the one thing they didn’t intend to give me, that was the greatest gift.

I spent more than six weeks at home with my two kids, my wife when she wasn’t at work, and friends and family, all over the holiday season.

I danced with my daughter in her room to songs we didn’t know, I was there to ride through the sleepless nights as my son got his first two teeth, I was able to help be Santa with my wife, and I grew an even deeper appreciation for the countless friends and family who reached out to me with support.

And now I am happily part of the team at The Momentum Group, a small, very cool shop in Broad Ripple doing some amazing things in the branding, digital, social, and traditional advertising space. I have certainly found a home.

So as I look back on my career already, one thing always rides true. No matter what, under any circumstances, sell yourself short by changing who you are, how you conduct yourself, and not treating others with respect. Because as I have just found out, sometimes the unexpected can turn into the greatest gift.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson


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Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

December 8, 2010

I finally saw Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall documentary last night after it sat unloved in DVR-land. I am an admitted football freak, but there was some great commentary from old coaches and players about life and striving to always reach the dream you had as a child.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was John Madden talking about making sure that you still find the fun in what you do. Once you have lost the joy in what we are doing, you lose the passion, fire, and desire to chase your dreams and goals.

I agree completely. Too often we get caught up in the stress and wear and tear of the daily grind to find the fun in what we do. I am not implying that every day should include uncontrolled laughter and high fives, but we should get enjoyment out of our work.

It also makes me realize how the culture of your work environment can either support and embrace an individual’s goals or completely demoralize and paralyze a person’s path to reach those same goals.

I am personally tired of a culture that simply looks for someone to blame, is blind with arrogance and self-indulgence, and limits other’s ambition by being complacent with their own situation.

I like this quote from James Dean. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

No one is going to stop me from continuing to reach toward my life’s goals and nothing other than myself will impact that drive. I’d rather die trying than lie dying wishing I would have done more.

 

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A simple thank you can go a long way.

November 3, 2010

I was left a voicemail message the other day from a close friend and fraternity brother, Brett Benson, thanking me for something that I did.  And what I did was not groundbreaking, world changing, or even difficult, but you would never know it by the thank you I received.

Brett is someone I personally and professionally admire. He is every bit as passionate about life as he is quick to crack a joke. He lives to serve and his life’s goals are fixed on giving and sharing to others rather than receiving or focusing inward on selfish wants.

I have seen him get so worked up discussing his desire to help and those outcomes of when he has, that he verges on that laugh/cry mix that is nothing but pure emotion. It is raw, it is real, it is Benson.

That is one big reason why his message left such an impression with me I decided to write about it. And the other reason was what and how he said it. In an age and a generation where it is easy to text, email, or adjust our writing to 140 characters or less, he took time out of his day to reach out. To let me know he didn’t just appreciate what I did, but that he appreciated me as a person. He didn’t thank me for one event, but for things that cumulated over time. And he reminded on how sometime taking the time to say a heartfelt thank you, has become a rarity. And not only from a personal side, but in business as well.

Brett, you are the one we should all thank for your dedication, generosity, thoughtfulness, and daily impact you have on the people around you.

I sometimes end these with a quote and here is one I learned from you: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough,” Meister Eckhart.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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Say it ain’t Joe

October 14, 2010

Joe Paterno has been a constant on the sideline at Penn State for 61 years. His life has been spent developing young men into community and business leaders, teachers, coaches, lawyers, and the list goes on. Oh and he has two national championships, five undefeated seasons, and countless All-Americans. He and his wife have donated more than a million dollars back to the University and he still preaches that you need to be good student first then focus on football.

And what I am going to say next might shock you. He should retire.

I’m not just saying this because Penn State is fielding an uncompetitive, boring, and flat out bad football team but because the team lacks leadership. I’m not faulting the players. The same man who used to grab a player’s facemask as they walked off the field, the same man who paced the sidelines barking out orders, and the same man who oozed confidence looks tired, old, and out of touch.

In all fairness I am obviously not at practices, team meetings, or locker room pep talks, but the team has no identity. If his main goal is still to give these kids the best chance at winning both in the classroom and on the field, he has lost the later. You don’t win 397 games with an attitude built around quitting, but it is time to hang up the black shoes.

Joe once said, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.”

Sadly, by holding Joe to his own expectations, this is not happening in Happy Valley any more.

I can’t help but think about the parallels in business. The maturing leaders of companies who have lost the pulse of their surroundings, the tenured lifer who is change resistant, and the executive comfortable with status quo. They become gatekeepers for growth and they do so in such a fashion that can literally tear down the walls around them.

I thankfully have only had to fire one person in my career. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, and yet it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest and most unpopular ones. And time and time again those decisions aren’t made. Those businesses who change out of want are the ones creating the curve, the ones who change out of necessity, change because they can’t yet see the curve.

So Coach Paterno, thank you. For a kid who grew up in central Pennsylvania I have bought into the way you run a program. I agree being a good person always comes first, my kids will win and lose with class, and if I ever coach, you better believe we’ll treat our opponents with respect. But it is time. Impart your legacy on a new staff, let them take your foundation and build on it, and when 108,000+ fans cheer, “We are…Penn State” know you had a huge part of that tradition.

 

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A recent trip to the grocery store made me think of a simple question, “How do you not know?”

October 7, 2010

There are three things that constantly seem to pop up that just amaze me. And it amazes me even more when these things happen in a business setting.

Plumber’s Butt
OK no matter what you call it, builder’s bum, sideways smile, butt cleavage, coin slot, and on and on, how don’t you know? As I mentioned above I headed into the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. As I headed back to the dairy aisle the stock boy bending over to pick up a carton of yogurt and his San Andreas Fault line rudely greeted me. From a practical standpoint, how annoying is it to keep pulling your pants up or feeling a breeze on your bum? Get a new pair of pants, a belt, or a longer shirt. Just cover the crack and do us all a favor.

B.I.V.
No not Bell Biv Devoe, which is a good thing. Poison, Let Me Know Something, BBD (I thought it was me), ahh… throws me back to ninth grade at Keith Junior High School in Altoona. No I am talking about Booger in View (B.I.V.), bat in the cave, whistler’s brother, and the dreaded nose goblin. How don’t you know that every time you breathe it sounds like a teakettle ready to burst or that your green guest keeps playing peek-a-boo as you talk? I know this one can be unexpected if something shakes loose, but look at people’s eyes when you are talking. If they can’t take their gaze off of your nostrils or they keep rubbing their nose, you may have a problem.

Bad breath
So for lunch you grab an onion bagel sandwich with garlic spread, a side of FUNYUNS, and then wash it down with a coffee. Hint, your breath may stink. How don’t you know that your breath smells so bad that every time you talk your teeth duck? Or others may actually look forward to you passing gas as a more tolerable option. When I was at the grocery store I saw they have things called mints and gum. These do a great job of at least covering up the toxic gas that is being omitted from your pie hole.

Is anyone else out there witnessing other interesting behavior? Are these happening to you at work?

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What business can learn from athletics

September 23, 2010

I had the privilege to go to a luncheon yesterday put on by the Indiana Humanities Council. The topic was Sportsmanship, Competition and Civility in Athletics and the panel included Chairman Jim Leach, Bill Polian, Dr. Bernard Franklin, and Coach Beth K. Wilmeth.

The panel was asked a question by moderator Clark Kellogg about what one word each panelist would use to describe not only the civility in sports but business, politics, and life.

Chairman Leach went first with team. He used examples of Iowa football players who now play for the Colts and how their journeys weren’t always from point A to point B. His main focus was these players did what was asked of them to make the team better. What a concept for business. Instead of a group of individuals focused on their personal needs, get the team focused on collaborative and collective goals and move as a unit towards the end result.

Bill Polian was up next and picked respect. His examples were around the NFL’s decision to cut back on celebrations and taunting. He also eluded to the fact that after 60 minutes of physically beating on someone, the players leave with a tremendous amount of respect for their opponent, the game, and the product. One of my old bosses always used to stress that above all else you respect the position even if you struggle with the person. After working on numerous communications teams throughout my career this is so true. It takes every person in the agency, department, office, etc. to accomplish whatever goals are set in front of the team. When people start losing respect for each other, trust and the willingness to succeed are not far behind.

Coach Wilmeth was next with integrity. Her story was unique and very inspiring. Her volleyball team decided as a group to challenge themselves to be better, to impact people around them, and to leave a lasting impression. The team decided to call hand fouls at the net if the referees missed the call. In a society where winning is everything these women decided to do what was right, even if that meant it would cost them a win…and it did. Each day we go to work and hope that everyone is holding themselves accountable and responsible for their actions. Yet many times there are instances of pointing the finger, passing the blame or simply delegating work through to the next person. When did we get so far away from taking ownership and pride in our work, even if that means we sometimes have to admit mistakes? In most cases we can learn from them, move on, and become stronger.

And last but not least was Dr. Franklin. His word was character and how he felt it is a byproduct of your value system. I agree completely. I’m not sure why as a society we can spend so much time tearing someone down instead of building them back up. I also believe adversity shows someone’s true character. When the world around you is crumbling do you motivate or devastate, inspire or conspire, or lead instead of follow?

Most sports and businesses are a team concept. From top level management to the rookies, everyone has an active, responsible, and important part in achieving goals and upholding reputations.