Sunday, 18 December 2011

Spam and Speedo

It's always amusing to me that a brand name can have both a positive and negative meaning.

Take Spam, for example.  No really, take it.  I've got three cans still in my cupboard from the mid-seventies.  Spam is a pork and ham canned meat invented in 1937 by Jay Hormel.  They've sold seven billion cans of it.  But it also has negative connotations as unsolicited emails, and is defined on the web site spamlaws.com thus:

"The term spam refers to submitting the same message to a large group of individuals in an effort to force the message onto people who would otherwise choose not to receive this message.

Speedo is another brand new that evokes both positive and negative reactions.  Picture your middle aged uncle in a Speedo.  Sorry about that.  Now imagine a competitive swimmer wearing something other than a Speedo.  Sure, there are other brand names but they are all grouped, in the mind of those who don't care or know, as Speedo.

There's a lesson in this for all of us.  If you figure it out, let me know.   I'm buffaloed.

Friday, 16 December 2011

All my Yesterdays

There's nothing like a silent retreat to cleanse one from all ones obsessions.  In October I spent a week in the wilderness, not completely silent, but all but cut off from the outside world.

Weaning myself and entering into the solitude of my own thoughts, I realised that maybe, just maybe, all the connectivity is actually creating a disconnect.  I have all the opinion I want, 24 hours a day, on Twitter and Facebook, but spend little time forming thoughts of my own.

Humans are the only creature that use a 'net to escape (not recognizing they can be just as trapped in their daily surfing as a dolphin behind a Japanese trawler).

It isn't going away, but for me, here is yesterday's social media:

Twitter - too much.  The name is appropriate, and I like Twitter.  If I could have only one media, it would be Twitter.  Yet the endless self-promotion renders every tweet and link suspect.  If you have to filter for the inevitable come-on it loses its usefulness.

Blogs like this one.  Enough already.  Very few are any good.  If the writer sticks to one area of interest, genuinely imparts original thought based on solid research, and writes with the intent to serve, it's a good blog.  If you read my blog at all you'll immediately recognise that I wouldn't include this it in a list of good blogs.  This thing bounces all over the place!  Cars, management tips, sales opinion, restaurant reviews...what the hell?  But if you like it, hey...there's no accounting for taste.

Dailies are so yesterday.   Does anybody really care what anyone thinks on a daily basis?  This crap about referencing individuals on Twitter  to drive readers to your daily and then to your site is such a colossal fail, it's right up there with writing names on a grain of rice at the county fair.

Newsletters..see dailies.  Sorry, they serve only to promote, not to inform.  Oh, yours is to inform?  My mistake.  I'll do business with you.  The day you recommend your competitor, or publish an unbiased piece that drives me to your competitor I'll read your newsletter.  Heck, I'll recommend it.

Facebook and LinkedIn still serve to keep us current and connected with the person, professionally and personally.  They go off the tracks when users post the same update on both plus Twitter, or when every update is a sales pitch.

We know what yesterday held, how it helped us, and how it's held us back.  Let's get busy on tomorrow.

http://deaconjeremy.blogspot.com/2011/12/all-my-tomorrows.html

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Young Men...Some Advice

Guys, I don't mind telling you I'm a little peeved at you.  I won't go so far as to say disappointed, but I think you can do better.  I'm talking now to the young fellows, under the age of thirty or thereabouts.  You guys are pretty cool most of the time, and I like almost everyone of you I meet, but you're innate uncoolness is, well....uncool.  Here's why and remember, this is coming from a guy who has NEVER been cool.

High Priced Razors and Shaving Cream:  Why do I pay more for razors now than I did for a full tank of gas when I was in my twenties?  It's your fault.  Here's the thing - the razor companies are targeting all this high priced smoothness right at you, and you guys walk around with two days of stubble on your faces, so what the heck do you need all those expensive blades for? 

Don't think I don't know the answer to that question - I do know and it's uncool.  It's your business, but when it starts hitting me in the wallet because you're afraid of a little razor burn where it itches, it reluctantly becomes my problem too.

You're Fat:  Too many of you are at least 20 pounds heavier than you should be.  Uncool.  Don't deny it.  And don't blame it on the beer and give it cute names like the "Freshman 15".  It's you and your processed food and your lazy fat asses.  It's not the beer; it's the nachos.  The average dude in his twenties today looks like what we used to call the "fat guy".  Don't believe me?  Look at your dad's high school yearbook and see how many guys you can count in his graduating class who are as heavy as you or your friends.  Now count the heavy dudes in your yearbook.  I rest my case.  It's not cool, and you're killing yourselves.

Personal Responsibility:  Remember that scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams tells Matt Damon "it's not your fault" over and over again until Matt's crying like a baby?  Get ready to well up.

"It's not the beer, it's YOUR fault you're fat and in terrible shape; it's not the beer, it's not the beer..."  Crying yet?  Well stop it, and don't expect a hug. 

Hugging it Out:  Guys, did you never learn to shake hands?  A good, firm handshake?  What's that, your dad never taught you, and neither did your mother's boyfriend?  OK, stop with the quivering lip and STOP hugging your friends like you're a couple of schoolgirls.  It's unbelievably uncool.

A Full Day:  If you punch a time clock and work to a schedule, enjoy your 8 hours and enjoy your paycheque because that's all you're getting.  I'm sorry to say that until you get off the time clock, your career ain't a career...it's a job.  Nothing wrong with that if you're not interested in a career.

What motivates you; your goals and aspirations and professional responsibilities, or a ticking clock?

Size Doesn't Matter except when you're comparing.  But it's just a paycheque and some are larger than others.  Don't worry about the size of your buddy's bank account, car or apartment.  As long as you've got a roof over your head and you can meet your obligations, there's no need to take a job or to leave school for a job just because it pays relatively well.  Concentrate on your vocation and do what you love, or do what you have to do until you can do what you love.  The money will follow. 

I'm not your Dad
Look, stop thinking of me as some old guy who sounds like your dad.  I am; but stop.  Think of me as future you coming back to warn present you.  Except I can do more push ups than you can and I'm statistically likely to live to a much older age.  But damn, doesn't your chinstrip face fuzzy thing look cool! 

Actually, it really doesn't.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Road Test - 2011 Kia Soul

Some people might think it unfair to judge a vehicle strictly from the driver's seat after only a couple of days of rental driving, but look at how we buy them.  We can do all the market research we want, but in the end, for most us it comes down to a 20 minute test drive and a 2 hour negotiation.

My opinion of the 2011 Kia Soul is not a good one, with all due respect to those who design and build them. Look, no one's NOT buying a car because of anything I say, except me.  I won't be buying a Kia Soul.  Here's what I thought.

Great - It's got a GREAT turning radius, so if you're into u-turns and mall parking, this is the vehicle for you.  Hello soccer moms, I'm talking to you.  Pick up your child from school, make the u-turn and drive three blocks back home before you load up and head another few blocks to the soccer field.

Good - Funky interior design with all the knobs and buttons in all the right places.  I think the ladies could use a place for their purse.

Room to Grow - Look, this is a pure chick-mobile, but I don't think the average mom-driver is going to like the fuel economy.  It's not good for a car this size.  The combined city/highway mileage on this drive was 11 litres per 100 km.  Heck, my 1996 Thunderbird with a massive 8-cylinder under the hood gets the same on the highway.

Would I buy one?  I don't know how it is in the snow, so I can't promise I'd buy one even if hell froze over.  Not for me, not for my wife.  Next time I'm offered one at the rental counter I'll be asking what's the second choice.   Sorry Kia.  I'm not a Soul-man (who didn't see that coming?)

Watch my One-Minute Review here:

Monday, 28 November 2011

Deal or no Deal? Salesperson or Order Taker?

I recently spent $526 on winter tires at my favourite tire place.  These guys take very good care of my wife's car, and so when I went shopping for winter tires for my old beater, I called them first for a price. 

Buy three, get one free was the deal.  $526 out the door.  I checked around, and on the same tires they were not the lowest priced, but within a reasonable margin that it warranted continuing what has so far been a great relationship.  It still is.  I ordered the tires and they put them on this weekend.
 
I paid my bill and they told me all the other great stuff that went with the deal.  Four free oil changes.  120 days complimentary roadside assistance.  $250 in a coupon booklet, and reasonably speaking I may use about $100 of it.  Free alignment annually.  Replacement value pro rated on road hazard damage to the tires.  I was blown away and very glad I had paid a few extra bucks and come back to this place.

But none of that was mentioned when I was still in the shopping stage.  They were order takers.  Customer asks a question, guy at the desk gives an answer.  Your move, Mr. Customer.  Without a pre-existing relationship they might not have got the sale at all, and I would have ended up with four tires from someone else, never the wiser or worse, retroactively wiser if I found out what could have been.

We're all in sales, folks.  A smarter man than me once said, "You can have the greatest product in the world but if you can't sell it, you've still got it."  Sell, sell, sell!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Well, Shut my Mouth!

Want to lose weight?  Shut your mouth. That's the title of an article on CNN.com - read it here.

The subject of the article found she lost more weight by keeping her goals to herself, which is counter intuitive to what we've been led to believe about enlisting a support group, a confidant, someone who will cheer you on.  But I have to agree.

Sometimes we spend more time dreaming and talking than doing.  Frankly it's a panacea, if we engage the endorphin inducing state of imaginary success already realized, we can avoid the adrenaline and pain of doing; of failing, of facing defeat on the way to victory.

But first you're going to have to get off your butt.  So stop talking and start doing.  Here's three more things about which you should just shut up, please.

1.  Your first million.  You're lying.  You wouldn't be talking about it otherwise.
2.  How many women you've been with.  I don't believe you, and if it's true, I don't respect you.  Wait, I don't respect you either way.
3.  How much you won (or lost) in Vegas.  You're an idiot.

We are surrounded by the quietly successful, and if we can just keep our mouths closed long enough to use our eyes and ears, we might just benefit from being in their humble company.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Agora and the Occupiers

ag-o-ra 
: a gathering place; especially : the marketplace in ancient Greece
merriam-webster.com

The dictionary definition sounds benign, however the wikipedia description suggests that the gathering place in Greece and in Rome (the forum) was under government control.  I can't imagine freedom of speech was a coveted right in ancient Rome .  We have only look to the Christian martyrs for proof.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora

The Occupy Wall Street movement is slowly disbanding across the globe by government decree, by ennui or by inclement weather.  If this movement is to survive, and it has to, what will replace it?  There isn't one sane person who believes the occupiers can camp out forever, but I wonder, "how can we use the village square as a place of the people to be heard?"

The answer may be "agora", the gathering place of civilisations long past.  What if?
A view to City Hall Square in Windsor, Ontario
  • Local government created a place in the square for a permanent "soapbox" of sorts, that included proper audio visual, and perhaps a recording aspect that municipal politicians could access and listen to.  Yes, Much Music in Toronto did it first, but why not continue it into the public square?
  • Politicians, wanna be politicians, protesters and loudmouths alike would have equal access to the soapbox, not regulated or monitored except by the patience of the assembled
  • This place is protected and celebrated, not merely tolerated. 
We regularly see protests in front of government buildings.  What I'm suggesting is town square by design.  Windsor's City Hall square has some nice flowers and benches and a cenotaph, but I can't see where the right to freely gather was built into the design.

We are citizens first, before we are taxpayers or voters.  Let's encourage and elevate debate.

Here's another look at the Occupy Wall Street movement; interesting reading:

http://www.truth-out.org/agora-liberty-square/1321290469

Monday, 21 November 2011

I Have Met the OccuHippies (and I like them)

The other day during lunch I walked across City Hall square and waded into the midst of the "OccuHippies", as I have referred to them (here).

I went prepared to learn enough to write a second scathing piece, which I suppose I could now.  I couldn't find even one person who voted in the last election, which actually suits me just fine.  No, really, it does - I've written about that here.  But I have trouble criticizing them for it.  I found what I was looking for but can't write the scathing piece because what I found were people, not ideals.

Look, these citizens want change.  You may not agree with their methods, but do you have a better idea?  Don't tell them to join a mainstream political party - they don't trust 'em.  Don't tell them to get jobs - they're trying.  Starbucks only needs so many baristas.   As one of the underemployed told me, "I'm just sick of being poor."

In the Windsor camp the voluntarily homeless occupy when it suits them, showing up to protest and then heading to their warm homes and apartments.  The tents mark the spot.  For others, the first wave of fainthearted joiners have been replaced by the actual homeless.  If not here, they'd be under a bridge.  Here they live in community, people give them food and treat them with respect.  They have much to protest, as much as their situation is as much of their own making as it is of society's.

There are no easy answers.  The fate of the least of us falls on the shoulders of each of us.  In our lives we will never eliminate poverty.

But shame on us when we look the other way.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Well I Ain't no Superman

Perhaps you've met or worked with a Super-manager who's respected by one and all for being the go-to guy when things get rough.  You know that things are hitting the fan when he breaks down a door and enters the room.  When he flies in and saves the day everyone breathes a sigh of relief and feels an enormous debt of gratitude.  Compliments abound and buoyed by our affection, off he goes until he's needed again.

What he doesn't seem to know is that if he applied himself to the mundane task of a problem free workplace, there'd be no need for his heroics at all.  A focused presence and an attitude of anticipation, not reaction, would make it difficult for the supervillains who threaten productivity and outstanding customer service to gain a foothold.  Boredom, staff chatting, neglected customers, over and under scheduling, lack of inventory, lack of tools to do the job would all but disappear.  But what's the point of owning tights and a cape, if not to don them from time to time?  The trouble is, things have to be well on their way to hell (in or out of a hand basket) by the time his preferred management style is implemented.

This "putting out the fires" stuff makes for great movies and comic books, and for some legendary stories, but it's a lousy leadership model.  It is reported that with an excellent and diligent system of routine traffic and by-law enforcement the incidences of more violent crime and costly crime are reduced; the need for a Superman in a well governed town is rare*.  Carrying the metaphor, the same is true of our businesses.

Following policy and procedure, holding people (and one's self) accountable in a well managed organization is far more work and takes more fortitude than swooping in when all hell breaks loose, but infinitely worth it to the professional manager.

Besides, as exciting as it is for us when things go crazy, as good the celebrations afterwards when we save the day, our customers like it way better when we've got things are under control.


"Well I ain't no Superman, if that's what you demand then set me free"  Set Me Free - Utopia

Cool tune - listen to it here: Set Me Free - Utopia

* Source: http://www.ou.edu/oupd/traffe.htm

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Take my Call, Please

There are a few people who really enjoy cold calling.  Frankly, I'm not one of them.  I do like getting "cold" calls, though.  I learn and I'm inspired to persevere.  I am by no means an expert, but here's what I've learned from the best of them, here's what I try to put into practice every day:
  • It's a good idea to warm a call up a bit with a personal connection, perhaps through a mutual friend or association membership.  
  • I like to get a feel for the potential client's needs by doing a small amount of research first, either by the web or connecting with a few of my associates in the biz.  
  • Armed with a bit of knowledge, I use it not to tell my potential client what I think she needs, but to frame my questions in a way that helps her get directly to the point.  I don't know anyone who has the patience to explain what is easily attainable through a little background work, but I have met lots of people who have shown me the professional courtesy of sharing information in answer to a genuine query about their unstated needs.

Cold calling is not dead.  It's an introduction that can be nurtured at networking events, trade shows, conventions and monthly meetings of our Association.  At it's best it isn't a cold call at all, it's a follow up to a conversation we've started elsewhere.  It's a live connection to a mutual interest perhaps, or a common goal.

If we determine we're not a good match, isn't it better for both parties to have had the conversation?  Neither of us wants to do business if it's just going to end in anything less than success.

A thoughtful and professionally delivered telephone call is far from a nagging annoyance in a busy person's day; it may just be the right information (for both parties) at exactly the right time and it can lead to a satisfying and profitable relationship.

So, for all those salespeople who believe cold calling is dead, you just keep on believing it.  That just frees the phone lines up for those of us who don't.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Flux Capacitor...Fluxing!

It's official, says the L.A. Times.  Time Machines Won't Work.  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/07/time-travel-impossible.html

That's good news and bad.  Frankly, if time travel was ever going to be possible we'd already know about it.  So now that it's been proven that the photon cannot travel faster than light, we can get on with our linear day.  Here's some good (and bad) news as a result of time travel being put to rest.

1.  I'm thankful this discovery wasn't made 20 years ago, or every other episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation could never have been filmed.  All they ever did was travel through time.

2.  What we do today matters today and going forward.  We can't undo the past, so once we've atoned for it, let's move on, shall we?  Step away from the time machine.

3.  We can't come back and fix today - so doesn't it make sense to give it our all right now?  Play full out, go the extra mile, stiff upper lip and all that...  Choose your cliche.  Pedal to the metal.  You won't get another chance.  Don't wait, do it now.

4.  One day most of what we worry about today won't matter, so let's try and remember that through our sleepless nights.

Your humble scribe stepping away from the Delorean

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering

A few months ago I wrote about my absolute abhorrence of the overuse of the word "hero".  I think it does a great disservice to the individually heroic to label everyone a hero simply on the basis of their vocation alone.

I was taken to task by one reader for that, and understandably so.  It's a tough subject to broach with one who is the parent of a soldier, sailor or airman.  I respectfully stand by my words and humbly present those of another, of a man who knows what he's talking about first hand.

While I write comfortably from my chair, enjoying the freedom to be have an opinion and sometimes be wrong, he writes as one who served our country in West Germany, arriving at the Canadian Air Force base in Baden-Soellingen in 1970 just as my family was leaving, my father having served three years on that same Base.

Read Jock Williams' beautiful remembrance of Captain Paul Rackham, the first casualty to travel in 1973 what is now known as "The Highway of Heroes".  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/Remembrance_Day/accompanying-a-fallen-airman-the-highways-first-hero/article2230132/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Home&utm_content=2230132

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

OccuHippies

I miss the hippies of the sixties.  They didn't trust anyone over thirty.  Under thirty?  Cool.  Over thirty?  You're the man (and that didn't use to be a compliment).  They just wanted to tune in, turn on, and drop out.

It's not like I'm not paying attention, but I don't know what the Occupy movement stands for.  I kind of think I know what they're against. I think.  

When I walk by a tent city filled with the voluntarily homeless occupy hippies, I am filled with sadness at how easy it is for them to put a canvas roof over their unwashed heads, cook on camp-stoves and take bio breaks in portapotties, all on public property.  

Fill that same space with the legitimately poor and homeless, and wait to see how long it would take the police to clear them out.

If the occupiers are serious about building a better society, and I think that's their raison d'etre, then they will begin a peaceful retreat, leaving the tents and stoves in place for the homeless to take their place.

Monday, 7 November 2011

When Willpower isn't Enough

We are several decades into the "believe it, achieve it" delusion in the business world.  Several decades before that I was raised on a little engine that could, by personal willpower alone.  "I think I can, I think I can..." therefore, I will.

It makes for great movies, for mythic success stories, but for some it becomes an anesthetic to the realities of life.  I once worked with a sales person who started each day with a different motivational saying.  She talked herself into joy and optimism every single day.  Trouble was, she spent the rest of the day repeating the mantra de jour, but doing nothing else about it.  Before long she was broke and unemployed, still, presumably with that optimism of certain wealth just around her cheery corner.  She's one of many.

There's a business lesson in all of this, that optimism and self-motivation alone are not enough.  Hard work, continuous growth, reflection, the good sense to ask for help, properly directed sweat equity AND a great attitude are all predictors, but not guarantors of success.  Pithy quotes?  A little, but not so much.

You think you can?  Just do it.

Friday, 4 November 2011

You Guys are Idiots

"You guys are idiots," he said.  "Excuse me?" I answered, a little surprised.

We were a few days away from opening a restaurant in the Eaton Centre in Toronto back in the mid-eighties.  "You invest all this money, you design, you pay all sorts of professionals, you research the market, you pay guys like me to build it" (he was a professional painter), " and then you pay some waiter $4.25 an hour to go to the table and blow it."

He continued.  "One waiter in a bad mood who gives crummy service makes all this investment worthless, and you pay them minimum wage and roll the dice that they won't bankrupt you."  A sobering thought, and I have spent the rest of my career making sure that doesn't happen, either at the minimum wage front line level, or at the managerial level either.


Here's one Room Service attendant who cost herself a tip and cost the hotel my future business.  She didn't do it alone.  When I called the hotel management to let them know about the card that was left in my room, their answer was a matter-of-fact reply, without a hint of an apology, that they were in negotiations with the union and this sort of behaviour was to be expected.

Not by me.  Not by any reasonable person.  Contrary to what my painter friend from the 80s thinks, I'm not an idiot, and I won't be back.  Don't ask me the name of the hotel.  Between their management and the union, they don't need my help putting themselves out of business.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Road Test - 2012 Fiat 500

I had the opportunity to try out the Fiat 500 this week.  I've seen them on the road, and I've always been tossed between thinking the Fiat was pretty cool, and thinking I wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near one.  One thing's for sure, love it or hate it, it's a head turner.  Some guy came up to me while I was stopped at a red light and just circled the car and stared at it.  I almost wanted to do a hidden camera view as pedestrians walked by my parked Fiat and stopped to check it out.

I loved it.  What a fun car to drive!  I hate to overuse the word, but I was zipping around heavy traffic situations, parking in impossible spaces, and scooting around lane blocking land cruisers in spaces that shouldn't fit a car.  Here's what I thought of the Fiat 500:


Great:  Well, I've written it already, but here it is again.  This car is just plain FUN to drive.  I get so tired of driving boring cars, and I can't exactly put my finger on what makes a car fun.  Why is the Corolla so yawn inducing, and the Cruze interesting?  Why is couldn't I wait to give back the Versa, and was sorry to have to return the Mini and the Fiat?  Why is Tom Cruise making make Mission Impossible 4?  These are difficult questions to answer.

Good:  I think the European feel of the Fiat adds to it's attractiveness, and may be partially the answer to most of my questions above.  It's aggressive, bold, perhaps a little spunky for a little car.  It's like it didn't get the memo - it doesn't know it's just a little guy.  Maybe it knows and doesn't care.

Room to Grow:  I'd like the "sport" mode button moved to the gearshift lever where it makes sense.  You have to take your eyes off the road to find it at the very time you should be paying attention.  Love the fog lamps, wish there were heated seats.  Cool mute button on the steering wheel so you can turn off the radio if you get a call (on your hands-free phone) but I wish the radio control buttons were on the steering wheel as well.

Would I buy one?  In a flash, but only after I test drive it a snowstorm.  I'm betting it's a tank (and that's a good thing).

Here's my video review:

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Debater's Truth

I'm a political freak.  Election night, for me, is like Super Bowl  (without the Doritos commercials, but not without the Doritos).  If I could have two TVs going I'd be flipping between 3 or 4 stations watching results come in.

Debate night is like a play off game.  I'm glued to the set, waiting for someone to say something that will turn the tide, even if it's against my guy.  I like intelligent discourse.  Remember a few of the best lines of the last few years of televised debates?

"You had an option, sir"  Brian Mulroney to John Turner in 1984.  Mr. Turner should never have come back to the patronage issue after he had already deftly maneuvered out of Mulroney's first trap, but for some reason he reopened the subject and Mulroney landed this punch.  He'd been waiting.

"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in 1988 in the U.S. VP candidate debate.  Like Turner, Quayle felt compelled to address a vulnerability; the question of his relative youth and readiness for the Presidency if called upon.  Quayle pointed out that John F. Kennedy was about the same age when he became President, and Bentsen delivered the "I knew Jack Kennedy, and Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" punch, right to the solar plexus.  You could actually watch Quayle lose his wind, angry at Bentsen for the cheap shot and at himself, aware he had made the mistake of walking into a rehearsed line, into a well laid trap.

"Can we have it back, please?"  Fictional President Jedd Bartlett of The West Wing challenges the fictional Governor of Florida in the Presidential debate to renounce federal association and his state's shared tax revenues with the other 49 states, if he despises federalism so much.  You have to see the episode and the campaign episodes leading up to the exchange to fully appreciate it.

Of the three lines quoted, though The West Wing is fiction and obviously scripted, Martin Sheen delivers it as though extemporaneously, unscripted.

In the Ontario Provincial Leaders debate this week, all three tried to score that memorable line, the challengers tried harder than the Premier had to.  They failed because they tried.  They failed because they were too obviously programmed, scripted, waiting for an opportunity to recite their lines, instead of seeking an opportunity to speak their truth.

We're not that stupid, folks.  Give us a real debate.  We want to hear you speak with passion from your guts, not from your memory.  That's why it's called gutsy - you wonder if you might lose the contents of your stomach in nervous apprehension of working without a safety net. 

That's why you're a leader - because you do it anyway.  Except our three couldn't be bothered.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Consequences and Youth

I take no pleasure in it, and I have absolutely no knowledge of the upbringing of this young man, but yes, I'm making a connection between his temporary foolishness and his ability to discern consequences.  Read the story about a young polo player and his part in the Vancouver riots, and what it has cost him:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/more-sports/polo-player-photographed-participating-in-vancouver-riot-gets-two-year-ban/article2181732/

I feel bad for the kid.  Trouble is, he's not a kid anymore, and these are the adult consequences of his actions. We've all been there...well, maybe not THERE, but the young men in our midst can relate, and yes, there are gender differences.  We have all done something terribly stupid and maybe even risked all that we and our parents have worked for.  Some of us get caught.  The vigilante judgement has been swift and terrible.  Read this story from the Vancouver Sun that printed immediately after the riot:

http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Rioting+teen+Nathan+Kotylak+family+face+backlash+forced+leave+home/4972283/story.html

I pray for his ability to rise above this, get past it, and I pray for the community's ability to forgive and move on.  He's paid the price.  God bless him, he stood up and took it like a man, so you know his parents have done something right.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Coffee Shops, Bars and Other Cool Ventures

"The Coffee Shop Entrepreneur Myth":  I read the title with interest, even more so because the blog was written by Craig Ballantyne of Men's Health fame.  Finally, I thought, someone is busting open the notion that just anyone can successfully own and operate a cafe, a lounge, a restaurant or a boutique hotel.  Thanks to TV shows like Cheers, Friends and Newhart, many dreamers have tried and failed; heartbroken, disillusioned, exhausted and broke.

But Craig Ballantyne's article had nothing to do with actual coffee shop ownership.  It was an attempt to kill the fairy tale that wannabe millionaires will ever actually reach their goal in a coffee shop.  Ballantyne contends, with real world experience, that Starbucks might be the worst place to attempt to develop a business.  Read it here, it's a great article.
The Coffee Shop Entrepreneur Myth Early To Rise

Here are some cold hard facts for anyone who wants to own their own restaurant or lounge, three simple dream-killing (or inspiring) realities:

1.  If you build it, they might not come.  Field of Dreams was a movie, dammit.  Your best ideas, your grandmother's recipe, your flat screen TVs and the encouragement of your buddies to sell your special (burgers, donuts, muffins, whatever...) may end up in your lasting fame and fortune.  Truth is, it probably won't, particularly if your entire marketing plan relies on other people innately recognizing your brilliance.

2.  Get ready for competition.  If you're any good, they'll try to imitate you (and put you out of business).  If you're pretty good, they'll try to best you (and put you out of business).  It's why you're thinking of opening your dream spot, isn't it?  You make better (burgers, donuts, muffins, whatever...) than those other guys, right?  And if you serve crap and have lousy service, even unintentionally, there's a good chance you'll put yourself out of business.  It's only a matter of how long you can avoid the inevitable.

3.  There are 24 hours in the day.  If you're open 12 of them, and probably it's more like 18, be prepared to work most of them.  And then sit down and do your paperwork after the last customer leaves, or before the first one comes in.  If all this attention to detail and long hours isn't enough, remember the success of your business is often in the hands of a minimum-wage,  part-time front-line employee, who can make or break you with each transaction.

4.  Your friends are the ones who insist on paying full price for everything, who come back often and bring friends and clients because they know they can count on you to make them look good for choosing your place.  People who come in looking for discounts and freebies aren't your friends (though they may be family and there's nothing you can do about that).  They're leeches.

I said I had three points.  I've actually shared four points already, and that's point number five.  If you can't count you should stay out of the biz.  Your profits will be exiting the back door with your dish guy, either due to waste or theft.

This is why I can't abide some Twittering Twit trashing restaurants on-line, and I've discovered how thin-skinned some of these textperts are when challenged about it.  They wouldn't last 5 minutes in the hospitality industry, or anywhere else in the real world.  If the place is great, tweet away!  They need all the help they can get.  If you're displeased, let them know privately but stay off line.  If they can't improve, they'll put themselves out of business without any of your help.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Be Human

I don't mind sharing that I'm a little bummed today.  Last night I made the horrendous mistake of communicating with an on-line superstar, a self-described on-line strategist, in what she perceived to be a criticism.  Actually, my hero was having an on-line meltdown and I was trying to caution her that I thought she may have stepped way over the line, publicly.

So, my hero tweeted that I was a "troll".  Actually, an "awkward troll".  At first I wasn't sure she meant me, then I thought it might be some sort of internet slang that I didn't understand.  And then it got personal.

You see, I'm a little self-concious about my height.  (And of my thick eyebrows and scruffy beard, my pointed ears and my penchant for fresh goat).  As the tweets progressed, I realized "troll" was a slur on my name.  Tyrrell - Troll, get it?  If at first I didn't, but I caught on after she tweeted something about J Troll.  She's so clever, my hero.

OK, so what did I learn?  First, even admired leaders sometimes just blow it.  I feel bad that all 20,000 of her followers had to see it happen.  There, but for the grace of God, go any of us. 

Secondly, even though we feel like we know someone who tweets 5 or 6 times a day, even though we admire their insight and appreciate their timely links, we are not friends.  We've never met, although I used to hope we would someday. 

It still hurts to be mocked publicly.  And that's my third lesson learned.  Although well intentioned, she saw my communication as an attack.  (She actually tweeted that - "I've been attacked by a troll.")  If I had to do it all again, I wouldn't.  She was clearly having a public, reputation-destorying meltdown, and I know I didn't help though I didn't intend to hurt.

And so I leave you with the tweeted words of another of my internet heroes, Mr. Shane Gibson.  "Social Media Tip: When you criticize people online realize that one day you may have to interact with them face to face. Be human."  Good advice for trolls and nanny-goats alike.

Monday, 19 September 2011

This Beautiful City

I am fortunate that through a combination of my work, my natural wanderlust and my upbringing as an Air Force brat, I love to visit new cities.  I'm not one of those cosmopolitan travellers who can regale you with tales of exotic locales.  You're more likely to hear of gritty inner cities in unlikely destinations.  This is one such story.

I am in Saskatoon as I write this.  I've never been.  So far we're off to a good start with a nice meal in a small "global café" (their words) called  St. Tropez.  The front desk agent recommended it and pronounced it traw-pez, but hey, she pronounced my surname correctly (teer-rül) so I won't quibble.

This morning started with a run along the river on some nice trails and I was impressed at the fitness level of the locals  Not a sloppy, overweight, out-of-shape person in sight, yours truly excepted.  It occured to me how much I would enjoy living here, going so far as to be a little envious that our little city isn't more like this little city in so many ways.

Truth be told, living here is different from visiting.  I would imagine the citizens of this city experience frustration probably as much as anyone.  They may not even recognize their beautiful river and vibrant downtown (sidewalks dutifully rolled up on Sundays) for the gems that they are, seeing them every day.

That this town, or any town including mine, is a good place in which to live, visit or work, is not by accident or happenstance.  It takes political will, vision, trust, cooperation and an engaged citizenry.  That didn't just happen here.

It is happening in my town.  Sometimes you just have to leave to see it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Chopped Liver

"What am I, chopped liver?"  One translation of this old Jewish saying turned modern colloquialism suggests that since chopped liver is a traditional side dish, the implication is that the offended party just didn't make "main dish" status.

Imagine being invited to a dinner party.  Everyone who is anyone in your social scene is invited.  You're looking forward to it, and you arrive at the party ready for a great time with a great host and good friends.

Now imagine you're the only guest who shows up.  You and the host for dinner.  No one else arrives; a host's worst nightmare.  And now comes your nightmare.  The host spends the next few hours listing off the guests he invited but didn't show, looking at the door; if he stares at it long enough someone will knock.  It becomes clear that the people who aren't here are more important to the host than the one who is sitting right across from him.  "What am I, chopped liver?" one would legitimately wonder.

How many times have we done that in our own lives?  From talking about parishioners we don't see in church anymore in front of those we do, to beating ourselves up over lost customers, crying over lost loves or mourning lost loved ones in the face of the present and apparently unaccounted for, we miss the here and now.  We miss the chance to celebrate the gifts we have.  This day is a gift.

There's a time and place to mourn, wonder, worry about, pray for and remember those aren't with us today.  And there's a time to pay attention to the ones we love, the ones who love us, the ones who count on us, the ones who are here; now.

It's September 12.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Oh Lord Open My Lips

"If you watch the video of the half time entertainment at the 2002 Super Bowl in New Orleans, you can hear Bono, over the music and the cheering, speaking into the microphone: "Lord, open my lips that my mouth may sing forth your praise."  These are the same words spoken at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Hours every day in the Catholic Church."  Deacon Greg Kandra

I wish I wasn't so damned cynical that I could have appreciated this performance as much then, as I do now.

Watch the video here:  U2 at the 2002 Super Bowl



Thursday, 8 September 2011

Promotion DE (wait for it) NIED!

Tom, (let's call him Tom), has reached the pinnacle of success in his current job.  He's ready for a challenge that can only be realized with the responsibility, and frankly - the reward that comes with a promotion.  There's no internal candidate more qualified or even as qualified as Tom (just ask him). 

He applies, he interviews...and an outsider is brought in.  What now, for Tom?  In one section of his mind he knows that once upon a time HE was the external candidate who got the job over an internal candidate.  A man of faith, the words of the Gospel ring in his ears, "A prophet is not without honour except in his own country."  It is difficult to recognize homegrown talent.  He knows how that feels, and it smarts. 

Tom goes through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' stages of grief after a loss, which do apply to his situation, sort of.  Tom experiences denial, and then anger.  In a form of bargaining, he mentally lists all the reasons why this was a bad decision on the part of his boss, as objectively as he can, which in truth is the farthest thing from objective but he's a long way from admitting it.  For a short time he experiences a kind of depression and then, God willing, acceptance.

His wife doesn't hear the news until he gets home late that evening, so she is a full 8 hours behind him in all these stages.  It's actually harder on her and not made any easier that he's already accepted the decision while she's still listing his fabulous attributes against the obvious shortcomings of his boss, his internal competition, and a few outside candidates neither has ever met.

What Tom will hopefully internalize is that there is a higher purpose that he has neither given thought to nor is willing to acknowledge.  He can't see things from the Boss' chair, so he doesn't know all that factored into the decision.

My advice to Tom?  His coworkers and boss will remember how he acted in the hours and days after he got the news.  A period of disappointment is natural.  For damned sure let's hope he keeps his thoughts to himself.  Misery does indeed love company, the rest of us can stand it only for a short while.

A period of reflection, a frank conversation about the boss' expectations and some private reflection would serve him well as he applies himself to the goals and aspirations of this new phase of his career, wherever that takes him;  a smile and a cheerful countenance to welcome the new guy, who shouldn't be able to tell that Tom was the spurned applicant.  And finally, a consideration of his standing within the company outside of his annual performance review.

An old boss once explained how he had moved up the ladder with several different employers, "sometimes you have to move to improve".

Tough Decisions

I'm kind of missing Jerry Lewis this year, but his absence proves that the cause is greater than the man.  That's a lesson we need to learn in all areas of our lives, whether we're reeling from the loss of a loved one, picking up the pieces after the fall of a hero from grace, or a parishioner adjusting to a new Pastor.

By all accounts the Muscular Dystrophy Association raised more money this year than ever before.  We armchair critics can chalk it up to one thing or another, but initial results indicate the board of the MDA made the right decision in asking Jerry to hang it up.  In a day and age where boards and managers and teachers and politicians are operating in fear of upsetting real and imagined up applecarts, this executive team took a bold step.  It hurts to see a man who's given so much asked to step away.  It must have hurt like hell for them to have to do it, but it had to be done.

There's a lesson in this for all of us.  We may not always like it, but an effective leadership team makes tough decisions that are best for their organization.  That's the job of an informed, educated, dedicated and courageous Board.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Say Only the Good Things People Need to Hear

From time to time a blogger will present a criticism of a product, process or experience.  Hopefully the intention is to serve others with a lesson learned, and ultimately an introspective evaluation keeps we service providers humble, knowing that, except for the grace of God, there go any of us.  Sometimes criticism is malicious.  This criticism isn't.  It's about a bad business practice, and not about the place in which it occurred.

I guess it's better than Tweeting
Today's businesses are but one Tweet away from closing the doors.  Any idiot with a smart phone is a critic.  Sometimes is seems like every idiot with a smart phone is a critic.

When do you concentrate on excellence in product and service, and when do you sacrifice quality and service for cost?

Recently my son, a Business major in University, received incredibly bad service from a well-known local restaurant, the gist of it being that his take out order was mistakenly prepared a full hour before the requested pick up time.  The deficiency in execution came in at least two parts.  First, the order taker argued with him about exactly what time the pick-up had been arranged, and took as proof of her own infallibility her history of apparently never having made a mistake.  Secondly, the restaurant protected their costs by determining the hour-old food to still be edible.  It wasn't, and that presumption leads to two sorrowful conclusions.

First, that merely qualifying as "edible" is their culinary standard, and secondly that the restaurant, for the sake of saving about $3 in food costs, placed its reputation on food that had been sitting under the heat lamp for over 60 minutes.  In effect they determined that even though this customer would base his opinion of their restaurant, his recommendations and all future dining experiences on this one meal, rather than make a fresh order they were willing to risk everything on hour-old, cold, and dried out food.  The good news in all this bad news is that they saved a few bucks in not having to prepare it twice.  The bad news is that they will never have to bother making my son or his friends a meal, ever again.

And that, my friends, though I'm sorry to report it, is nevertheless painfully good stuff we all need to hear and learn from, we in business.  We can't fix that place, but if we take our eye off the ball for even a moment in our own operations, there go any of us.  We walk a fine line between watching the bottom line and serving the customer, but even when our priority is necessarily the bottom line, it can't be obvious to the customer.

We don't need to know the name of the business.  Does it matter?  It could be any of ours, no matter what we make or do.  The error was executed by a front line employee in a culture that finds it's source and support at the top.

To deny that it could happen to any of us is the first step towards closing the doors.

The final word is that my son did complain to the manager, and after a full day of reflection(!), she offered to replace the meal on his next visit.  He took her up on her offer immediately.  There was no apology.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Answering God's Call

God speaks to everyone.  Everyone.  God waits for our response.  It is anticipated, unique, and given (or not) through the grace of free will.  As Getty Lee from Rush sings in Freewill, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

God knows that answering His call is not always the easy path, but He does not wish hardship on any of us, though that is almost certainly guaranteed.  The reason is simple.  God calls everyone.  Everyone.  Some ignore, pretend not to hear, or reject the call.  Some give a lukewarm and half-hearted response.  Few give fully of themselves, even to the point of death.  Those who do find themselves on the outside of society.

The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, just passed, presented two readings, a psalm and the Gospel all addressing how differently we respond to God's call.  In the first reading Jeremiah complains of being mocked, and yet he presses on; he can't help himself.  I suspect most of us can be silenced on the mere threat of being laughed at.  The Psalmist longs, on the other hand, to see and be with God.  St. Paul, in the epistle, reminds us to be a holy and living sacrifice, yes a living sacrifice to God.  The word is not chosen lightly.

And finally, in the Gospel, Jesus tells of the persecution and death that awaits him.  Peter tries to talk him out of his journey to Jerusalem, and is harshly reminded that he is thinking only of human things, and not with God at heart.  "Get behind me Satan!" says Jesus to his right hand man.  Ouch.

The readings run the gamut of response we can expect from others when we do God's will - from laughter, to longing, maybe even death.  It takes humility and courage to submit.

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63
Romans 12:1-2 (pithy and poignant)
Matthew 16:21-27



Monday, 29 August 2011

Designer Funerals

After this weekend's State Funeral for Jack Layton I fear we will see an increase in "pep rally" funerals, specifically designed following very little traditional format, if any.  We already see this in weddings, so why not funerals?  Jack Layton's funeral was a political rally, a tribute to an outgoing leader as though it was a retirement party, and a melded cultural presentation, presented like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, or a Canada Day performance.  Was there anyone, any favourite cause NOT represented?

I met Jack, and I liked him.  I grieved, like all of Canada, when he died.  I have watched his political career since he was a city councilor in the early eighties in Toronto.  I liked his preferential option for the poor, and told him so.  I profoundly disagreed with some of his other positions.  May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.  My prayers are with his family and friends, and especially those in the NDP caucus.  Literally, and every day after we learned of his death.

I watched his funeral, as much as I could.  God was at best a dignitary who, because of His position, had to be invited.  Like the other VIPs present but not members of Jack's party, God was barely acknowledged.   A couple of unattributed Bible readings and a prayer recited as mystical poetry by a flamboyant activist turned minister was about as close as He came to getting His foot in that door.  Note - simply putting the word "hallelujah" in a song, even if you're Leonard Cohen and even less so if you're a former Barenaked Lady, does not make a hymn of praise.

Funeral rites and ritual exist to assist and comfort in times of sadness.  The elders of our religious traditions chose the prayers and the form carefully for solid theological reason.  For those who claim a religious association we serve our beloved deceased and their families with respect and kindness when we leave the secular pop rock where it belongs, and surrender to God's love in its entirety, with grace and humble courage.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Road Test - the 2011 Chevy Cruze

I've been wanting to drive one of these since those catchy TV commercials hit the air.  The 2011 Chevy Cruze is a good-looking small car, and I wondered if it really could live up to the implied promise that this was the future of the new GM.

It did.  I enjoyed my day with the car, and while I confess I didn't drive it under very demanding circumstances, renting a car for 24 hours gives you a much better test drive than the 30 minutes I'd expect from the dealership.  For the money, I'd recommend it.  Here's what I thought:


GREAT:  The car is zippy, if not a bit buzzy.  It has plenty of go, and none of that air conditioning lag that used to plague smaller engined cars.  It's tight, fast, handles well and feels great at any speed.

GOOD:  It's well laid out, with lots of thoughtful touches like the handle inside the suprisingly very large trunk, 60/40 split folding rear seats, easy to read radio and console control centre, and a comfortable firm seating.

ROOM for GROWTH:  Heated seats, baby.  That should be standard on any car sold in Canada.  Heated seats are as much about safety as they are about comfort, in fact the two go together.

WOULD I BUY ONE?  Sure, if we were a young couple with a few little kids starting out, this would be a great car because of the roominess of the interior and the trunk.  It's a great commuter car, great on gas and not bad looking.  Maybe as an old retired geezer with a penchant for golfing, this car would do as well.    As a highway vehicle, I'm sure it's fine but I'd really want to pimp it up with leather seats and a sunroof - taking it into a price range I'd prefer not to pay for a compact North American made vehicle.

Here's my 60 second video review:

Friday, 26 August 2011

WYD 2011: As I sang the Gospel in front of the Pope and half a million youth I saw that the Church is alive | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Just under a month ago I was having supper with a friend when a text message arrived from Fr Stephen Langridge. “James,” it said, “I’ve arranged for you to read the Gospel at the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at WYD. Let me know if that’s a problem.” Deacon James Bradley

Read more:

WYD 2011: As I sang the Gospel in front of the Pope and half a million youth I saw that the Church is alive | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Loaves and the Fishes of Our Times

When people struggle for parity, with the ordinary things of life seemingly always, and maddeningly, just out of reach, who could blame them for losing hope?

We sometimes look at a bad situation and wonder if God has forgotten the people affected.  The relatively poor, unable to even afford the things that set them apart from the rest of society (such as field trips for their kids, or organized sports, nutritious food) might rightly wonder if society has forgotten them; if God cares.

St. Paul's letter to the Romans assures us that NOTHING separates any of us from the love of Christ.  Addressing their concerns of the day, Paul tells the Romans that no height nor depth, not death nor life, no circumstance or situation or station in life can separate us from Christ's love.  He specifically mentions famine.  Not even finding ourselves victims of famine means that we are unloved by God.
Kevin Carter  1993 Sudan Famine
Mr. Carter took his own life
3 months after he captured this photo

In the Loaves and Fishes Gospel, the only miracle to be related in all four Gospels, we learn that there is enough food for everyone, quite literally in the miracle of the moment, and quite literally in our world today.  There is enough food to feed everyone, including the 4 million people starving in Africa today.  Today.

All that stands in the way is a societal will to overcome every obstacle to making it happen. And in the meantime, those who can must give what they can, and then some.

Monday, 1 August 2011

You Can't Get There from Here

There was an article I read probably 13 years ago that ended with that sentence.  "You can't get there from here."  It stuck with me.  The article was about relative poverty, the working poor, those who long for better or more, but can't reach it from where they're at.

Reporting on conditions in the inner city of a second tier Canadian city, it could have been Windsor, the article was about hunger.  It was born of the frustration of seeing the poor in the writer's neighbourhood sending the children off to school without a proper lunch, of seeing children eat packages of Mr. Noodles (a dry ramen noodle with a package of sodium meant to imitate a chicken stock) as a breakfast substitute as they shuffled to school; of seeing a child stop by a convenience store, buy a large bag of Doritos, put it in the hood of her winter coat (for lack of a proper backpack).  This was her lunch.

It is difficult to find nutritious food within a reasonable walking distance of most neighbourhoods of our inner city.  Big Box supermarkets (and hardware stores, and pools and rinks, and libraries) may work well for people with wheels, but those without spend precious dollars on taxis to bring their groceries home.  It is faster and more convenient, but not better or cheaper, to spend precious dollars on belly-filling junk foods in the local 7-11 or a Tim Hortons.

Sickness and poor health as a result of poor nutrition keep people in poverty.  Children lack the energy to concentrate at school, adults struggle to get through the work day in listless surrender.  Decrying the lack of reasonable local alternatives to convenience store food shopping, to quote the article, "You want fresh vegetables?  You can't get there from here."

The relatively poor in a country of plenty live a quiet desperation.  Not only do they live day to day with a hunger for a decent meal, they live in a land of plenty, just out of reach.

The poor of Windsor live with empty stomachs in a poverty of hope.  You want better for yourself and for your children?  You can't get there from here.  Not the way it is now.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Running on all Cylinders

"Going to church every Sunday doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car!!"  That was the oh-so-clever Facebook update I read last week.  I have no idea whether my friend counts himself Christian, or even attends Church.  I doubt these words of admonishment are from a regular church goer, though.  


I don't disagree with the sentiment, but the premise is a bit off.  Since a man cannot become a machine, I think my friend might have meant to say "Going to church every Sunday doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a mechanic."  


One cannot call himself or hope to be a mechanic without spending a good amount of time in a garage, any more than one who rarely or never attends church can call ever properly hope to be seen a Christian, and certainly one who does not attend Mass at least weekly is at best a Catholic in name only.  


I say this not to condemn, but to caution; not to accuse, but to encourage.  


Come and worship with the body of Christ, take your place among the great unwashed, we hypocrites, we the struggling, we the generous, we the meek, we flawed sinners.  It may be time for a spiritual tune-up. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Not my Cup of Tea, at any Price

I had breakfast with a professional associate.  We meet regularly and the talk is sometimes about the challenges each of us face.  Different industries, remarkably similar challenges.  We both learn from each other.   We're both in sales.  I am in hotel sales, he is in technology.

This time the talk took a turn to salaries, and he asked for an idea of what people in our industry earned.  I told him how much I made last year  He was suprised.  I could tell by what he said.

"I'm surprised," he said.  "I thought you made more."

It was my turn to be surprised.  I thought I was doing OK.  Actually, I am doing OK.  I guess I could be making more if I applied my skills and enthusiasm to selling his widgets. but his widgets do nothing for me, and I love the industry I'm in.  Sure, I'd like to make the kind of dough I imagine he makes, but you can't do that in my bakery.  (See what I did there?)  The truth is, in his industry I'd be an underperformer who despises his job because I'd be selling a product I don't understand, that I don't believe in from the heart.  He'd have to fire me and I'd go back to doing what I enjoy, if they'd take me.

My industry, the hospitality industry, doesn't pay a lot, it certainly doesn't pay what most of us are worth.  If it did you couldn't afford your burger, frankly.  You couldn't afford to stay in my hotel, if it did.  It is, however, the industry I love.  I study it, dream about it, blog about it and wouldn't trade my career for all the tea in China.

Come to think of it, I think the lady at table 12 could use another cup of tea.   Gotta go.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The "H" Word

Father Mychal Judge, NYFD Chaplain
First casualty September 11, 2001
Before a couple of planes hit a couple of buildings in Manhattan, I had never heard a firefighter referred to as a "hero" before. I'm not saying they aren't or weren't, I had just never heard it said. The title has since been bestowed on military casualties in Canada's latest war, and the highway between Trenton and Toronto renamed the Highway of Heroes in honour of the route they take on their final journey after repatriation at CFB Trenton.

I have no argument with any of this, and I hesitate to even mention it for fear my words might be misunderstood.  John Allemang of the Globe and Mail, on the other hand, minces no words.  "Death in a war zone isn't automatically heroic, no matter what Ontario's Highway of Heroes procession route implies."

Read his article here:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/baseball/from-alomar-to-gretzky-to-mozart-reflections-on-true-greatness/article2107270/

If we overuse a word, it loses it's meaning. One doesn't become a hero simply by employment status, vocation or calling. One doesn't become a hero by the way that they died, but by the actions they took while they lived, sometimes that lead to their death. Just being there isn't enough. Extraordinary action in unusual circumstances on behalf of another, and not on behalf of a country blissfully engrossed otherwise with day-to-day life, but on behalf of a present and engaged other who is in immediate danger.

This is my definition. The Merriam-Webster on-line dicationary somewhat supports my definition, and to a degree, that of the common definition of a "central figure in an event, period, or movement".  John Allemang says it simply, "A...hero is someone who faces down common sense to do the uncommon thing."

If everyone's a hero simply by association, then no one's a hero.

That would be a loss to society on two levels, first the loss of yet another word watered down to become a bland modern colloquialism, and secondly the loss of what it truly means to be a hero, notwithstanding the very many examples of truly heroic individual behaviour by the men and women in Manhattan on 9/11, and of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Why I'm Opposed to Abortion (and so are you)

I oppose abortion, and so do you.  Here's how I know that you know it is wrong to kill a human being not yet born.  Here's the scenario - you see a woman who you know to be pregnant.  She's smoking.  Let's be honest, we all agree she shouldn't be smoking in her "condition" because it will harm the child.   I have even heard people express their belief that their should be a law against smoking when pregnant, and around children. 

OK, let's add some context to the scenario.  She's smoking on the way to an abortion clinic for a procedure.  Is it OK to harm the child with cigarette smoke now?

I rest my case.  This isn't arguing apples and oranges, this is life and death, this is right and wrong, this is good and evil.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Quality of Life and a Nice Home

Years ago we were transferred to Windsor, Ontario from our life in Toronto.  Frankly, I had no idea where Windsor was.  I knew it was west.  That's an understatement.

"Get on the 401 highway and head west," were the directions from my boss.  "When you get to the end of the highway and someone asks for your I.D., back it up a little.  You'll be in Windsor."  Windsor is on the border with the U.S.  Detroit is across the river.

Long story short, that was 18 years ago.  In spite of career upheaval and crisis now and then, this has been the best thing that ever happened to our family.  We couldn't possibly have enjoyed the quality of life we now enjoy - our neighbours and neighbourhood, our proximity to a major American city while still living in a small town, our friends, our Church, and our well adjusted, well educated and very cool children raised right here.  Windsor has been good to us.

There's more to a community than house prices.  There's more to life than working to pay a mortgage.

Read the Globe and Mail article on the subject:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/mortgages/want-to-buy-a-sweet-house-for-under-200000/article2101942/

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Verso L'Alto!

It's a mainstay of almost every conference or meeting I attend, at which a minor celebrity or inspirational motivationalist (my word) is needed to fill the bill.  Someone's climbed Mount Everest and we have to sit and take life lessons out of it.  If I sound cynical, it's because I am.  I have no doubt that climbing the Mount is hard, so too is running a marathon.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who have disciplined themselves to do it the once.  Frankly, I'm more interested to know what they've done with their lives since and besides before they start telling me how their singular endeavour should inspire me to change my life.

I have far more respect for the avid mountain climber than I do for the hobby-climber who, on their first foray, challenges the world's tallest peak.

I like the concept, though.  Reach for the top.  Go towards the peak.  Toward the heights!  We should all aspire to better.  Verso l'alto.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was an avid climber.  He was a young, athletic man, handsome and devout.  He died at the age of 24 reportedly from a disease contracted while serving Italy's poorest of the poor.  He has been described as a man of the beatitudes.

Perhaps you know the beatitudes, also called the sermon on the mount.  You can find them in Matthew 5:3-12 and in Luke 6:20-22.  "Blessed are the poor.." and so on.

Pier Giorgio had a special place in his heart for the poor from a young age, when at four years old he is reported to have spontaneously given his shoes to a pauper child in need.  He was a devout follower of Christ all his life, without the support of his family.


At his funeral after a brief illness and sudden death from poliomyelitis, thousands of the poor whom he had helped lined the streets to mourn his passing, surprising his parents who knew nothing of the extent of his preferential option for the poor.

There's so much more to his story than what I've written.  What impresses me, and the reason I wear a wrist band with the words "VERSO L'ALTO" is that this man reached toward the heights physically by climbing mountains, and reached greater heights in life by stooping to help the lowly, quietly and with nary a speaking gig to show for it.

Learn more here: http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/?s=pier+giorgio+frassati


Monday, 18 July 2011

Play Full Out

http://www.frassatiusa.org/
I've got no time for people who don't play full out.  I've got no time for people who don't give it their all.  Whether it's the morning paper delivery, or the drive-thru attendant, or a famous entertainer; I'm a big fan of anyone who respects their audience, their sport, their vocation or chosen career and their employer.

I've worked with people who deliberately give less than their best, even in their lame excuses.  "I'm hung over, I'm tired, I guess I'm under a lot of pressure..." well boo-flipping-hoo!  I heard once of  a hung over cook who was asked at what percentage she thought she might be operating, the morning after a bender.  "Sixty per cent," she replied with a moan.  "Great, that's what I'll pay you," said her boss.  "Sixty per cent of your hourly wage."  She perked up and if she ever came to work hung over again, no one knows and no one cares.

I knew a manager who used to ask us, "If you paid $100 for a ticket to see a performer and they just 'phoned it in' (gave a mediocre performance), would you feel ripped off?"  Naturally, any of us would.  "Well," he'd say, "Those people pay good money for a meal at this restaurant.   Give 'em what they came for!  Every time!"

Play full out.  "Verso l'alto", my friends, in all that you do.  Head toward the top.

From Boardroom to Breviary

Father Thomas Dowd, former young telecom Exec who answered God's call, and the first Catholic priest to blog, will be ordained the Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal.  He will be the youngest bishop in Canada.

If ever I wonder that there can be a connection between business and faith, Father (soon to be Bishop) Dowd reminds me that God calls us from wherever we are, and sends us to wherever he needs us to be.  We have but to listen.

Read more here:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/blogging-priest-to-become-canadas-youngest-bishop/article2100251/

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thanks for Your Resume - now F*** Off!

Thanks for your resume, now f*** off!  OK, so no one's ever said that to me exactly.  And sometimes that's exactly what the comfortably employed mean to say to the underclass who dare to presume they might someday join their midst.  I was surprised to learn of the behaviour of a major Canadian company recently, I am sorry to say, who effectively behaved just that way to a good friend. 

A man I know, well educated, well experienced and well respected responded to an opportunity on LinkedIn.  I would suggest that he was almost uniquely qualified for the position.  He submitted his resume with a cover letter and then followed up.  This guy's a pro; the kind of guy you want working for you, the kind of guy you want in your corner.  He reached out to an executive in the company, a man he had not seen in years but with whom was once a friend and professional associate.  He researched the company, properly prepared his position, made contact on several levels, followed up, followed up again, requested a meeting with his executive friend, and waited for a response.  Hell, he waited for an acknowledgement.

Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Bupkis. This is the kind of guy who sells to company presidents and has no trouble in the company of the influential.  Some might count him as being one of the influential people in his profession.  This is also the kind of guy who knows crass behaviour when he experiences it.

This guy doesn't need a job, he's doing very well where he is.  What he craves is a challenge, a place to spread his wings and grow, a place to practice his career of excellence.  What he got was rudeness in return.  What the company lost was goodwill, and their reputation.  My friend forbade me to use their name, but I can tell you that now there are two of us that will never do business with them again.  It won't bankrupt them, but this continued behaviour could.  He wouldn't accept a job with them now, not out of spite or anger but because he won't be associated with such a culture of disrespect.  He certainly won't recommend them either as a place to do business.

You could blame it on the actions of one, two or three people in the company (that's how many his resume would have reached, minimum) however the pattern indicates that it's deeply ingrained in the corporate culture.  "We don't need you, we're doing you a favour, thanks for your resume, f*** off!"

I suggest it would be good corporate and personal policy to be respectful to every candidate, every applicant.  A simple "thank you, no thank you" would go a long way in differentiating a company.  They have invented the technology to do it by email if postage costs are a worry.

Look, I'm a professional sales guy, a pretty good one.  I do OK.  Rejection is my stock in trade, so to speak.  Certainly it comes with the job.  If I'm not getting rejected regularly it's because I'm not trying hard enough; not reaching for more.  I can handle rejection and so can my friend. 

I just can't abide rudeness.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

In Real Life, we're Friends

I use three social networks primarily - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and occasionally Four Square.  I don't differentiate strictly, although naturally Facebook is more for family and friends, and LinkedIn is strictly business.  They meld, and so I am careful not to post identical messages in all three, just to avoid filling someone's page with, well...me. 

These social networks are sources of leads for me, as a salesperson.  They are a way to keep up on what's happening in my friend's lives.  They are a way to keep current on my profession, and our world.  Here's what you can do to assist me, since it is all about me.  Isn't it?

Keep tweeting your activities.  You know who you are - you're a frequent speaker at conferences and meetings.  Keep tweeting about it.  I use that as a source of leads.  Here's how.  @Prominentspeaker tweets:  "On my way to Honeypot Lodge to deliver keynote for the Widget Association"  Me thinks - hmmm...Honeypot Lodge is about the same size as our place, and the Widgets are meeting there in July, I wonder where they're meeting next year?  So I call the Widgets in August....

Keep telling me where you are via FourSquare, especially if you're my competition.  It helps me to get a feel for your sales activities, your target market, your techniques.  Hint - it's especially helpful when you name the client you're taking to dinner, if for no other reason than I'll take her to a different restaurant when I'm in town.

Keep tweeting reference material like articles and white papers.  That way I know what you're about, I know you're serious, and you keep me on my toes.  What you tweet tells me a lot about who you are, and what motivates you.  I can talk to your interests, and you to mine when we're fully engaged on social networks.

Please keep your LinkedIn profile up to date.  Seriously, it's my on-line rolodex.  I need your address and phone number if we're going to catch up for a beverage next time I'm in town, or if I just want to call and say hello.  I'd have to say this is the most neglected social network but the it's the one that has the most potential to reach and be relevant.  

I love your Facebook pictures and status updates; no really, I do.  No matter what we get into professionally, it's important to keep it all in perspective.  If it's important to you, it's important to me whether you're my client or my competition - social networking reminds us that in real life, we're friends. 

http://twitter.com/#!/jeremytyrrell
http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jeremytyrrell

Monday, 11 July 2011

This Frog Doesn't Sing for Just Anyone

One of my favourite Warner Brothers cartoon involves a man and a frog - you know the one.  A construction worker discovers a remarkably talented frog in a time capsule, figures the frog will make him a millionaire, sinks everything he has into it, and when it comes time to perform, the frog doesn't.

Beyond being one of the funniest cartoons ever, time and time again that sneaky man with dreams of a shortcut to easy street shows up in real life, all over town. Every time I'm faced with one of these "no work, big money" schemes, all I can hear is that frog singing in my ear.

Local Networking Events - every time I attend a Chamber of Commerce networking event some sales neophyte gets hold of my card and tries to convince me that my organization, one of the largest in our little town, should do business with them.  Maybe we should, but why do they imagine we're going to drop our current provider for someone we've just met?  Maybe it could happen, but I wouldn't start counting the cash yet.  So for the umpteenth time - I'm not a decision maker, I'm just a sales guy.  You can tell me how well your frog sings, or you can tell someone who cares.

Pyramid Selling - OK, I'm in sales, and I'm pretty good at what I do.   What makes you think I'm going to give it all up to buy from you so I can recruit a bunch of someones to buy from me until eventually someone finds an end user to buy a product no one wants?  This frog doesn't sing for just anyone, fool.

Plus, I'm not that into frogs:  Know Your Market.  I'm thrilled that we live in a world where frogs can just belt out a tune anytime they feel like it, and I admit we've come a long way; congratulations.  I'm just not that into frogs, which doesn't, by the way, make me ranidaphobic.  I didn't say I was scared of frogs, I said I wouldn't pay to hear one sing.

Tradeshows:  I'm a Sales Guy.  If you're Talking to Me, Get out your Wallet  I'm not saying I don't have some connections that you, my fellow salesperson, could benefit from, but that's not why I'm here right now.  If you can't buy from me, and I can't buy from you, could we both just get out of each other's way while we talk to actual customers?  I promise I'll buy you a coffee some day soon.  Plus, it cost my company a lot of money for me to be here.  I feel sort of obligated to make some of it back.  I know my company could probably use your fantastic product, but since you didn't buy booth space and I did, I'd appreciate it if you could take that stupid frog someplace else.
Watch the cartoon here - One Froggy Evening

http://twitter.com/jeremytyrrell