Appreciate first. Safety will follow.

I was in Glenn the Barber’s chair yesterday when he looked out the front window and said, “Uh oh.  Here comes ‘Noise’.”  As if that were the large, pleasant 40-something-year-old man’s nickname.  I could tell that there was a brotherly love there.

There was a twelve year old kid receiving what I expected was his first ‘real haircut’ in the other chair.  His Mom had dropped him off and run errands, knowing he’d be in good hands with the pillars of the local community who are fortunate enough to afford a session with Glenn or his assistant.

As ‘Noise’ entered the thin-doored bathroom, Glenn yelled after him.  “Why couldn’t you use the bathroom at your house?!”  If I could have bottled that ad-lib comic routine, I’d land a regular gig on SNL.

Glenn subtly hit me up for a donation to his church fundraiser, proud they’d just moved into the old synagogue down off Pequot; Zion something….  As ‘Noise’ settled cozily into the third chair, he was psyched for a ‘big meal’.  He talked about every soul food dish as if they were holy:  “Collared greens…  ham hocks… fried chicken…”  The list included 10 more items I wish I could remember.  “Oh, and macaroni with cheese.”  Cruel shoes before lunch I thought.

I was also jealous of Noise and Glenn for being able to move their heads to the unbelievably righteous, bass-driven, Marvin Gaye-style funk from 1975 while I had a sharp buzzing razor attacking the hair on my temples that my friends had never told me I have.

Obama, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and others looked proudly down on us from the wall.

Noise said, “I just thank Jesus that I had the good fortune to wake up and enjoy one more beautiful day on this beautiful earth.”  We all agreed we were fortunate people.  As I left, they each gave me blessings, and me them.  New London is a sanctuary of cross cultural exchange.

Yet some are saying, as the Police Department is shaken up a bit, that New London is becoming less safe.  Its been almost two years since 21-year-old artist, Mathew Chew, was stabbed and beaten to death by six punks just a couple blocks from our condo.  The six wanna-be gang members were quickly arrested and have been sentenced to long years of incarceration.  Since then, New London citizens have been educated, police have become more ‘community’ focused and only a few minor incidents of people being harassed have been reported – but there’ve been no gun or knife murders downtown.

This past week, however, a group of 10 men were alleged to have ‘beaten up’ on a visitor to one of our bars.  The victim claims to have been punched in the face, thrown to the ground and kicked by this ‘group of men’.  Police were on the scene within minutes and the victim was treated and released by L&M Hospital.

It all sounded suspicious to me.  A downtown bar had thrown a ‘welcome back college students’ event?  I’ve never seen anything like that publicized.  I walk my dog downtown every night and have never seen 10 men together except at one of our two local gay bars.

I’ve seen some chemically-effected, middle aged guys on bikes without shirts weaving through strollers on the pier.  I’m sometimes hit up by both local and transient wanderers who respectfully ask for fifty cents or a dollar, likely having heard that our local convenience store is a friendly weigh station.  But no one’s been threatening.

Well, I put on my Shirlock Holmes hat and googled the name of the victim and his home town.  It turns out our visitor had a couple different incidents a few months ago involving disturbing the peace, unlawful discharge of a firearm, interfering with officers…

He comes from a pleasant, colorfully named middle class town in New Haven County.  Without blaming the victim (I have no further insight – the local police have issued no further information), I can only speculate that some of this individual’s bad karma followed him here to New London.

Senseless violence doesn’t distinguish between rural and urban, between on-the-street and in your front door.  Idiots and wannabe’s could be living upstairs from you, in the house next door to you, or down the street near your kids’ bus stop.  We have to be vigilant.  But let’s not let ourselves be intimidated.  My dog and I have ears and eyes and legs ready to run.  We explore using his nose.  I will not be denied that right to roam.

Sure, violence might visit any one of us in a downtown.  But in the meantime, let’s enjoy each other and our cities.  We are truly lucky to have any day the Lord allows us to live.  Let’s not waste it in fear.

Orlando? Not so bad.

I have a confession to make.  Over the years, I developed an antipathy to Disney.  When a friend would tell me they were going to Disney – most often with the wife and kids – I’d fein excitement for them, but we both knew I was insincere.  Disney – as middle of the road as one could imagine.  One giant Cracker Barrel.  A huge, overly-hyped mall.  Vegas without the slots.

Well, I’m happy to report that Disney – at least so far – is bringing me surprises.  Yes, the resort we’re staying in has screaming kids at times, but also some charming scenes like the woman at the Boardwalk this evening who said to her two daughters (with all three dressed in matching Micky t-shirts), “Ya wanna go see the enterTAINer?!”

“Yeah,” they screamed in unison, breaking into a trot!  I almost cried.

It was 39 years ago when my family first came to the new Disney World with my grandfather who shuffled his feet.  We enjoyed the ‘rides’ that were more like events: the Haunted House, Space Mountain (no ordinary roller coaster), Swiss Family Robinson and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas…  imagineering.  What a concept.  I remember being amazed then at the stories of how they’d lowered the trees in with helicopters, created all of THIS from swamp land.

Our Director of Photography asked me today, “I heard today Walt Disney had something like 50 square miles and he had a plan for it.  Can you imagine having a plan for 50 square miles?”

I had to confess I couldn’t.   Walt Disney created a legacy that would be very tough to match, but it’s fun to think about how one might try. What would one do with fifty square miles?

Everything in our complex is larger than anything in Texas.  The massive swans, dolphins and clam shells… the fountains, the fireworks at night, the water taxis that can take you through surrounding water areas to destinations unknown…. a realistic looking ‘beach’.  And I haven’t even seen the pool yet.

The service in this place has been fantastic.  No one lets you want for anything.   Service people work as teams.  Everyone is customer-focused. They put enthusiastic inflection into their voices to make one feel extra special.  Each has been well trained.  Disney is to service what France is to food.

It’s (as I remember) spotless.

And, here at the conference, I’ve had a chance to interview some amazing business minds, helping them to share their unique perspectives on how they’re applying advanced technologies.

A man from Norwegian Cruise Lines is helping his company tear down silos to create new outcomes, because his social media -enabled customers demand nothing less.  He even made me want to take a cruise.  OK.  One step at a time.  Disney was tough enough.  But if I were to take a long cruise, I’d want to do it the Norwegian Cruise way.  Free form cruises.  ‘Cruise like a Norwegian!’  I like the concept.

I heard a cool client with an articulate author talk about venturing into social media as a C-level exec.  If you check back here in a couple weeks, I’ll have the link to that video posted.  Let’s just say that was an amazing conversation.  I learned that, as bloggers, we should talk to our friends and we’ll make more friends.

One petro giant is using automation to help optimize its supply chain to deliver more cost efficient ways of delivering liquid fuels.  The fastest growing PC maker is using the same software to free its procurement people up to yes, quantify the bids, but to think more creatively on what is bid out and how.

Our hybrid imported-domestic crew merged and gelled, with an audio guy named Tom showing me that you can say no to the cookies and lose 50 pounds in four months.  I talked to a prospective client about a conference in DC in October.  And, oh, I might be going to Malaysia and/or Shanghai later this month…  yeah, it’s tough being me.

A ‘bar and grill’ dinner with talented colleagues and a chance meeting with a dear former client…  A day in the life…  And all in Orlando.  Who’d have thought?

Let bankers know it’s ok now

Alright.  Enough already.  I’m not a banker, but, jeez, haven’t we given them enough grief?

The folks at the local bank aren’t the ones who gambled on all those mortgages.  They want to help us find a loan – pending perhaps greater credit scrutiny .  The vast majority of those who work in the city-centered big banks didn’t do the damage to Main Street.  It was a weaselly few who did some pretty reprehensible things (basing that on Too Big to Fail of course), and the big banks have been recouping losses and shoring up assets and otherwise getting their acts together in the years since that great recession began.

In 2008, consumer confidence in banks reached its lowest point since the great depression.  Confidence in U.S. Banks Down Sharply

Since then, we’ve seen a slight upswing in consumer confidence, but banks have remained relatively quiet in the marketplace.  Banks face all-time low consumer confidence.

In the meantime, our society and technology have progressed.

The Mobile-Digital revolution has allowed us all to take advantage of our independence from the desktop to become technologically empowered bankers of our own.  Some banks are developing innovative mobile applications that allow users to deposit into a friend’s account, or pay bills as one would from a desktop.  But these apps are usually not integrated.  They’re often not cross-platform, cross-device.   And they’ve been fairly slow to emerge.  Perhaps it’s because the banks are feeling a bit shell-shocked?  A bit un-loved?

Trust me, I’m not endorsing a Romney perspective here, but banks are in fact people. These people (not the banks’ buildings themselves, no matter how smart they are) have feelings, and, as with all professions, they need to feel loved and appreciated.  Tell a banker you love them.  And suggest an app or two.  Let them know what they can be doing to make it all up to you.  We do in fact want them to be creative about how they use our money, right?  Not risky.  We’d just like them to find new ways to make banking easier.

So, engage your bank.   Let them know you’re ready for them to emerge from hibernation.  Let’s challenge our bankers to come up with the next ‘ATM’; some sort of exponentially joint account linked to everything and everyone we swap money with?  A way for a small business owner to quickly know her ability to make a deal based on quick online decision making using integrated analytics?   Financial institutions – along with all industries – are recognizing that consumers will define the offerings and support they will be delivering.

Perhaps it’s too early to ‘hug a banker’, but let’s stop with the cold shoulder.  Enough recrimination.  Let’s help them help us by suggesting ways they could better serve us with mobile and other online applications.  Let’s get on with building a smarter, more forgiving planet.

Bottom of the 9th creative

Is there a point where a strategic marketing campaign can become a belabored game of unproductive messaging?  Worthy campaigns are often won with consistent hit after hit, but nothing says success like a grand slam home run.  Well, it’s the bottom of the 9th.  And we need one.

Isn’t some of the best work created when we take our eye off the ball for a moment?  What if we were to stop looking at the pitcher for a minute, step away from the batter box, and look behind us and see the thousands of fans waiting for us to receive the next pitch, the next client request for a ‘creative’, our chance to deliver the next product launch in a truly noteworthy way?

Well, it seems to me they’re a bit tired of watching and waiting for something exciting to come along.   In fact, quite a few of them seem to have left the game after the 7th inning stretch to hang out socially (as in social media) in the parking lot.   How will we get their attention back?  How will we entertain them – and give them that one key message that will resonate?  Cause that’s all we’ve got.  One more strike and we’re out.

Our brand will forever be associated with this ball.   And, trust me, metrics will tell us, possibly even before our hit ball passes the pitcher (if we’re lucky) whether we’re on base, or, perhaps, as everyone hopes, we’ve delivered another home run.

You think we’re going to hit it out of the park without proper conditioning?  Without a good coach?  We need to turn our eyes back to that next pitch, keep our eye on the ball and bring everything we’ve got to delivering something that’ll have them cheering again.  We have a chance to make them fans for life.  Let’s not blow it.

Addendum:

Though I thought my initial draft sounded pretty good, I felt it was a bit convoluted and knew I was mixing metaphors.  Every writer needs an editor, and I have the benefit of a Business Partner who will be brutally honest with me.  Well, not ‘brutally’ so much, but….  he wrote:

I think it’s good but the message is a bit lost by the subplot (people socializing in the parking lot) and the incongruous methaphors. For example – you start with ‘messaging’ in a negative context (‘never ending) yet you go on to promote it? Metaphor – ‘take your eye of the ball’ followed later by ‘without focus’ you can’t succeed. Also, is it the ball or the hit that’s the brand? And is ‘luck’ or skill really what you want to hang your hat on? The ending is also blatantly salesy, not what you want from a blog. The content should sell the service. I like the story though!

And so the window has been opened a bit on how, by working together, we can better meet our creative challenges.  Thanks for the input, bud!

No ‘maybes’ about it

I was raised to be polite.  In 10th grade, after I’d answered a teacher’s question with what I thought to be aplomb, the smartest person in class turned around and said, “You know what you are?  You’re obsequious.”

I thought of course that she was paying me a compliment, but I wasn’t quite sure.  She saw that I was smiling still and said, “You don’t know what that word means, do you?”

“Well…”

“Look it up.  You’ll see.”

And it was me!  I was in fact, ‘subservient to a fault’.  I still am.  I find it easy to put myself in a service mode – a parent, a client, and, as it turns out, even people working on my behalf.

Because of this blessing-curse, I found myself, as a Producer of corporate media, able to harness the talents of people – often much older than me – through the use of humble requests.   ‘If you have time, do you think you might be able to…’   It’s what I call the ‘little-boy-lost’ approach.  “Maybe you could help me…”  It worked beautifully for my sales efforts, and, I thought until recently, for carrying out my desires from those supporting my production efforts.

Well, as much as the idea of the ‘request’ (vs. an order) is still, in my view, the only way to engage others (respect for the individual and all that), I’ve recognized that I was taking this subservience to a level that was unnecessary, and, worse yet, counter productive to clear communication of my desired outcome.

Example: “Maybe you could spend an hour or two developing something…”

Maybe?  Perhaps?   I realized these simple words of politeness were leaving open the possibility that I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to have that person do.

“I thought I asked you do that,” I’d say, miffed that my authority was being undermined.

But when I went back to the emails, it became clear.  I was leaving it ambiguous, giving the requestee an option.  Thanks to my Business Partner and other coaches, I’ve been issuing more direct requests; ones that allow me to hold the person more accountable and better insure that things get done.

“Can you please spend an hour or two…,” still sounds polite, but it forces the recipient to be accountable.

It’s semantics.  But, in communications, it’s usually the communications that are the problem.  As it is with so many aspects of life, directness in business communications can be a valuable trait.

Golf. ‘nough said?

Is there anything else that can be written about golf?  Let’s take a stab at it…

It was devlishly exciting for me to be able to tell my Father, who’s both a country clubber and golf course owner, that I’d joined a local ‘public’ course and how great it is to be able to change my shoes in the parking lot.  He hit me.

As we finished up the 17th hole at the same course, our prosthetic-enabled ‘ringer’ of a sales person shot his ball up above a retaining wall.  Had it been my ball, I’d have counted it off as ‘lost’, knowing I’d never be able to gracefully get my middling body on top of the stone wall.  My mouth was on the fairway as our buddy used one arm to mount the wall as if it were a pommel horse.  He proudly held up the ball as he now hopped off the wall, landing on one very strong leg, to resume play.  I’ve started going to the gym since.

A local political person who I’d expect would embrace golf and the opportunity it might provide for fundraising told me in no uncertain terms that he despises golf and anyone who plays it (it was clear he was only half kidding).  Perhaps he didn’t realize, I told him, that I was cursed to play the game by parents who’d named me ‘Chip’ ‘Green’; that I’d needed to develop at least my short game just to live up to the name.  The pol’s partner asked, “What’s a short game?”   I explained that it was like miniature golf on steroids (I overuse the ‘on steroids’ term, I know).  I tried to tell them it’s, “Like polo without a horse, croquet on a much larger lawn… It’s fun!”  No takers.   The world really is divided into those who golf and those who just don’t give two cents about the game, with both camps it seems gleeful about their positions.  I enjoy being an ambassador between the two.

Today, we’re venturing out for at least nine holes with a person we’re hoping will become more of a business partner to Green Ink.  How will he handle frustration?   Will he be a rule follower or, like some I play with, a proud flouter of rules such as putting order and pin pulling?  Of course, I know I talk too much generally and golf is a good place for my real friends to ask me to keep quiet for a minute or two.

Golf exposes us.  And, if we listen to what it tells us about ourselves, perhaps we can learn something.

Philanthropic muscle

I’ve been privileged to get to know a couple of families who have taken their unique challenges and turned them into blessings for causes they care about.

The Eva Fini Fund was started by Amie and Albert Fini of Goshen, NY.  Their beautiful fifth daughter, Eva, was born with a rare, debilitating disease called Rett Syndrome.  Most of us would use whatever energy we had just to deal with the huge emotional and physical toll it would take on us.  But the Fini family has found a way to turn their challenge into a triumph.

This past Saturday evening, family, friends, work associates and an extended community joined together for a world-class event at the Fini estate.  The Fini’s are, like most of us, guarded about their personal lives, but for one day each of the past three years, they’ve selflessly raised the curtain on the very private world that they and Eva go through every day, and, lead this year by the amazing talent of 10 year-old Gabriella Fini, they allow Green Ink to help them put together a video that shares Eva’s beautiful personality and the challenges she and her care givers face every day.  The result: close to $.5M raised for Rett research in just over two years.  From tragedy to triumph.  What an inspiration!

And, in the same town of Goshen lives Debra Randazzo, one of two sisters who have created a not-for-profit, Hailey’s Hope Foundation.  This cause is dedicated to helping families with premature infants to cope financially and emotionally with the challenges associated with having their pregnancy cut short – often by months.   Imagine thinking your wife would be working up until the ninth month only to find that now neither of you can be going to work because you can not NOT be there for your struggling infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Insurance and Ronald McDonald House can only cover so much.  It adds up: meals, parking, lodging, gas, babysitters…

The Randazzo family reaches out to their extended network and puts on a highly successful ‘Beach Bash’ gala event, and, this year, they’re putting together their first fund raising golf tournament.  They asked if I had any advice for them (I suppose since I’m a person whose name sounds like a golfer) and I suggested that they have a keg of cold beer at one or more of the holes and perhaps, as they had at the local scholarship fundraiser tournament I attended last week, Jello shots at the ‘closest to the pin’ hole in order to soften up the encouraged $20/per player donation to win the bag of clubs.

We all had a good laugh when Debra mentioned that the tournament they were creating would be a $5,000 per foursome donation and that they’d be having an open bar at every third or fourth hole.

“Nevermind,” I said.  “You know what you’re doing.”

Congratulations to the Fini and Randazzo families for all they’re doing.  May their work be as inspiring to other not-for-profits as it has been to me.