Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thanks Mom Revisited

Race to the moon, civil rights, protests in the news. Banging on copper-bottom pots and pans on New Years Eve. Sloppy Joes served as chairs rattle loose screws. The times they are a changing. We're making plans. Black & White programming of political views. Swimming lessons, coloring books and Kool Aid stands.

Church keys opening Shasta flavored pops. Little theaters, museums and fine arts. Stainless steel counters with built-in stove tops. School clothes filling up shopping carts. Historic sites, parades, and homecoming teams. After school -- the Stooges, cartoons on television starts. Barnaby, Captain Penny, Jingle-ling, Holiday themes.

A Baby Grand piano, trumpet, banjo, drums, and guitar. Sterling silver, Bunnykins, Royal Daulton figurines. Screwdrivers. Cigarettes. Makeup. Jelly Jars. Time, Life, and Look Magazines. Board games. Sparkling wine. Martinis. Chanel Number 5. Steak and SauSea cocktail shrimp at dinner in the pantry nook. The remarkable and mystical Edgewater Drive. Do your homework. Kitchen is closed. You know I hate to cook.

Backyard sunning for a Coppertone tan. Extensions a plenty -- never far from a phone. Reading a book and drinking a Coke from a can. In the Wonderful World of Ohio you're never alone. Cedar Point, Sandusky, a Summer cottage rental. The Football Hall of Fame, Mystery Hill and Firestone; Buckle up and away we go in the Lincoln Continental. But first, "No ice cream in the car. Finish your cone." Ordinary things, of which we become sentimental.

"I'll do anything for you kids -- as long as you remember." Silver goblets, meat loaf, tuna casserole, chicken soup, Hough Bakery cakes from Spring until September. On a continuous loop. The birthdays, they come and they go. We remember the routine and the ordinary. How did she know? A life lived and a life extraordinary.

Read, enunciate, project, pronounce. Improvise the method. The talent is a fact. Study, debate, articulate, and announce. You must believe, if you think you can act. There are no small roles. You'll stand out among the rest. Listen to the words and listen well, "Oh honey, you always know what's best." When to pause, when to gesture, you cal always tell. To dream the impossible dream.

Everything is rehearsed -- scene by scene. Coffee cup and saucer -- Black. No sugar. No Cream. The play is a hit, but what does it mean? Acting, directing, and winning your heart. The final curtain. Bravo! The audience approves without pause. Good to know but not a surprise. Prepare and be ready for your cue. Face each day. The show must go on. You know exactly what to do. House lights go up and suddenly you are gone.

We are an ensemble cast. We knew that one day, the performance would be your last. You were great mom, it was your way. On to the future, with regard for the past. The show will go on. Thanks mom.

We will go on.

Mary Frances Lawton Morgan passed away on May 31, 2011. She was 89 years of age.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Toasting Lindsey & Chris

To An Angel on her day

Henri Matisse dancers Ring Around the Rosie.
A lemon garnish makes a special tea.
At camp, a General on land is as capable at sea.
The world revolves around that little girl.
She means the world to me.

The world is a better place with her in it.                              
Her sweet, caring, creative spirit;
Among the first in a generation;
A rock, a role model, and an inspiration.

Once upon a time, a Hoboken swing made her smile;
“Push me more!” she says in a while.
Even then, she is committed, driven and oh so serious. 
And yet, like George, always very curious.

She is a big girl now and making her way.
Life is a journey. As we come to this day;
She wants to go higher. She wants to fly.
She finds joy in reaching for the sky.

She will try. She will win.
Along the way she will stop and begin again.
The ups and downs are so much fun;
Nevertheless, a marathon from the starting gun.   

Youth group advisor, conclave motivator;
Larger than life, adapter, innovator;
Wherever she is: pottery wheel, strawberry field, pumpkin patch
You will fine chutzpah and determination unmatched.

Maple Leaf Diner, Raleigh Racquet Club, Montclair Swim;
It comes to this in the Orange Theory Fitness Gym.
The first clarinet carries the day, the band and the show.
Lindsey Morgan Dewey is someone to know.

In the best of all possible worlds
That is my angel. My little girl.
Here is to another Technique of the week;
And Miles to go before I sleep.

Here’s to you. To Life. With Love. Mazel Tov.

A toast to my daughter on her wedding day, September 13, 2014

Pep Talk for Chris
One Summer night the phone rings
“I want to marry your daughter,” is the news it brings.  
I pause, and I answer, “Who is this?”
I’m kidding, of course, I knew it was Chris.

Hey Son-in-Law,
Guess what I saw?    
Someone’s Dad. Sharing hopelessly;
There in front of all, so helplessly. 

Compelled to offer an Irish Blessing. Oy, the sighs
You can almost hear the rolling eyes.
I married her mom years ago. “The longest years of my life” She’ll say.
But for me, I would not trade away a single day. 

Always remember, the world revolves around your wife.
Do that, and you will live a wonderful life.
She is part of a Matriarchy. Women rule.
This is the stuff you never learn in school. 

This girl is on fire. Don’t make her mad.
She will be the best wife you ever had.
She lost a lot of weight to get into that dress.
You know, when I first her when she weighed considerably less.

This baby girl was 7 pounds 7 ounces. Now we are wishing you all the best
Yes of course, Marry her! She’d expect nothing less.
Like a Hurricane, do it with swagger.
Be fearless. Be ambitious. You have our blessing. Does it matter?

It isn’t dollars and cents that will determine your worth.
Now is your chance to be among the richest on the face of the earth.
Live. Laugh. Love. Seek out culture and art.       
Let the fun begin. This is your start.

God Bless and be well.

Thank you for asking. Now give ‘em hell.

A toast to my future son-in-law on her my daughter's wedding day, September 13, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Last Laugh

I recently wrote a blog for UPworld about joking. Knowing full well that this is a business audience connecting professionals interested in real estate, design, architecture, engineering, and construction. The suggestion was put to the readers of this blog to seek-out humor that is timeless if a bit formulaic and funny if a bit silly while being artfully inoffensive. If we believe people want to do business with those they know, like, and trust it might make sense to let humor be a point of difference.  
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The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting - or so says the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.  It seems humor can be a powerful tool if we can appreciate the nature of competition in this digital age. Naturally you will want to set yourself apart as a premium provider of smart solutions. (Solutions that solve real problems ranging from quality service, workmanship, reputation and reasonable value. All at a price that is acceptable.) Think about it this way: You want engagement with business prospects. You have to find ways to create meaningful dialogue with your customers. That dialogue is only possible if you create an environment of approach-ability. In the scheme of things your current customers and employees become the most important ambassadors for your firm.

As a case in point, allow me to give a specific example. A general contractor, of whom I was working, was struggling with a client who was feeling less than satisfied. At the heart of the customer’s complaint was the notion that communication was falling short of expectations. “I think the problem was the lack of communication with our organization about schedule, cost and project updates,” he said in an emergency meeting between customer and general contractor CEO.

The CEO paused a moment and responded, “That’s funny because I have here some verbatim comments from your project manager specifically to the contrary.” As it happens the CG had funded an outside researcher to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. Used diplomatically, the objective evidence (in a written report) allowed the General Contractor and his client to better understand and mend the working relationship between the two firms.    

The objective report was just what the two executives needed to let their guard down and share a laugh and address what appeared to be the real issue – flawed communications between builder and customer. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jest Joking

“So a rabbi, a minister and a priest walk into a bar…” The Bartender says “Hey, what is this, some kind of joke?” The idea of this joke is about being inside of an actual joke. There is something familiar and fun about such a formulaic premise. It is no wonder I am so amused by such things. I love elephant jokes. I am always happy to hear knock-knock jokes and I am a long time fan of jokes about what it takes it take to change a light bulb.

Look them up online and you might find yourself amused for hours. Even if you’ve heard them before, you might find yourself laughing at the sublime and the ridiculous. For me, the best ones are those that can be told without reservation in mixed company to young and old. Be careful, there are plenty of jokes that borrow a format to make inappropriate or politically incorrect commentary about gender or race or religion. My advice: don’t go there.

Instead, mine those old gems for good clean fun. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Why the long face?”; Knock. Knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo Who? Well there nothing to cry about!;  How many elephants fit into a Volkswagon? Four. Two in front and two in back!; How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to CHANGE.

Maybe you are groaning a bit at the simple humor. But maybe, just maybe, one of these little jokes brings a smile. The good news: It doesn’t take any time at all for someone to get into the spirit for which these jokes are offered. Sure, maybe you will offend psychiatrist inadvertently with that light bulb joke, but you can turn him/her around when the next knee slapper about why a chicken crosses the road.

Have fun. Enjoy a few laughs.    

Friday, July 4, 2014

AMA Golf Outing at CCGC 2014

Craig Collins is winner of AMA Golf 2014 Event

Once again, AMA St. Louis kicked off another year with a blockbuster golf outing on July 3, 2015. Out annual tradition of more than 15 years attracted a mix of veterans and new players and, as always, a range of skills. 40 golfers enjoyed lunch, before loading carts for the shotgun start at 12:30 on a glorious day. (The weather was a comfortable warm partly cloudy but mostly sunny afternoon).

Special thanks to a dedicated committee who looked after details: Melanie Kachevis (2e Creative), Pat Hawn/Peter Shinkle (MarketVolt), Bud Menzel (Treetop Enterprises), Jamie Collins (Kent Precision Foods), Dave Cox (Sandbox Creative). Viviano’s catering and the crew at Creve Coeur Golf Course made sure everyone felt at home and MarketVolt hosted a post game gathering at their offices across the street.

The traveling trophy was won by Craig Collins with a low net score for nine holes (37) after a scorecard playoff with Steve Sloan of Donoson Group. Notable participation from The St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Turnkey Technologies, Sante Fitness, The Donoson Group, Charter Business, Grizzel & Company, a healthy contingent from The University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL). Jamie Collins took some great photos of the event which were on the big screen at MarketVolt for the trophy presentation.

Amid the festivities a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday was sung to Perry Drake of UMSL, Bob Bishop of Bishop & Partners and Annie McBride of Annie M Creative whose birthdays fall on July 4, June 30, and July 2 respectively. (Annie was one of the registered golfers who could not make it.)

Note: The event appears to have finished comfortably in the black once cash, checks and online payments are totaled. The unofficial accounting indicated a contribution margin of $150 or better. The event is designed with thin margins to keep the event affordable and fun for all members and guests of the St. Louis chapter of the American Marketing Association. Sponsorship is always welcome to enhance the value.

Photos above from top: The coveted traveling trophy, UMSL team Jacob, Daryl and Jennifer Clemente holding Alex Clemente, Michael Taylor and team from Creative Producers Group and in cart Wes Morgan and Perry Drake.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three Degrees of Separation

At the risk of mixing metaphors, the puzzle pieces involving Joseph in the three vignettes presented here could show dramatically the big small town in which we live. Without over elaboration on exactly how, they provide links that bring us together. So many ways to connect the dots. Small world.   

At the request of EVP Kurt Kruger I provided a bundle of information about advertising and marketing between 1998-2006. It seems that much of that material had been discarded. I hadn’t expected to become the default and self-appointed archivist for HBE but I found it amusing nonetheless. It took a few weeks to orchestrate the copies and conversion to PDF documents, but Kurt (true to his word) arranged to meet me for lunch at the Granite City Brewing Company (GCBC) on June 27, 2014 to return my original documents. I suggested Joseph Lehrer join us.  

Joseph Lehrer was appointed President/CEO of the HBE effective October 2013 while Chairman and Founder Fred S Kummer, approaching his 85th Birthday (in April, 2014) plans to continue to managing day-to-day operations. Josesph had been with Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. and served as HBE’s corporate attorney for a dozen years.
Starting with a Pale Ale (for me), an Arnold Palmer (for Joe) and a Coke (for Kurt) our 50 minutes at GCBC revealed once again that phenomenon of Six Degrees of Separation (which I pointed out was more like three degrees in St. Louis). Consider: 

One: St. Louis based McCarthy Holdings, Inc., founded as a family-owned business in 1864 became one of America’s oldest and largest privately-held construction companies. In April 2002, Michael M. McCarthy sold his majority ownership interest in the company to its employees. As the great grandson of company founder and Irish immigrant Timothy McCarthy, he was the final family member to have an ownership interest in the firm. McCarthy is now structured as an S corporation employee stock ownership plan (S ESOP). “Our new adventure began in an extremely difficult time for our nation, right after the events of September 11, 2001,” explained McCarthy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bolen.

Two: Deanna Jent (a theater professor at Fontbonne University) wrote the play based on her own experiences as the mother of a severely autistic son. St. Louis native Terry Schnuck, a theatre producer was so impressed with the production that he acquired the rights to the play. His efforts, through his own Falling Feathers production company, led the play, Falling to New York (2012).

Three: Michael Switzer had spent his career in advertising. He and Dan Kerlick founded the Kerlick, Switzer and Johnson ad agency here in 1980. Kerlick drowned in a boating accident in 1989, and Switzer merged the agency with TBWA the following year. Upon the completion of his five-year employment contract with TBWA in 1995, Switzer sold his stock in the agency to TBWA and left the St. Louis area. Another merger led to the agency becoming TBWA/Chiat-Day. Bill Tragos, the Co-Founder and CEO of TBWA along with 3 other men, took TBWA from nothing to an agency that was doing $3 billion dollars a year by the time Bill retired in 1999.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Business Development Case Study

 “Hey, where’s Chris? He was supposed to be here at 8:00. We said we we’re going to discuss strategy for this county hospital project. The first response is due this week. I’ve read this RFP. I’m not in charge of this thing, but Chris asked me to sit in on this strategy session. By the way, one of the things I bring to this group is the fact that I am an architect. Since an architect seems to be taking the lead on the Hospital project, I think I might be able to provide a little insight on what they might be looking for.”

“Oh, here’s Chris. I’ll see if I can get the president to join us. Hey marketing guy, would you show me a copy of the book we sent in response to this RFP?”

“Sure, I’ll be right back.”
The conference room which minutes earlier was populated by a dozen members of the estimating team is now occupied with a business development meeting that is trying to get underway.
“We really need to consider how we position our approach as an advantage. We’ve put 15 million cubic yards of concrete in place in this region. That gives us a ton of information and local knowledge.”

“Where did you get than figure?”

“I made it up. I’m kidding; it’s a real number.”

“You know this is a Brownfield site. Who in this room really understands Brownfield Sites? This is going to be important to these guys.”

“Well, the Construction Management part of this is something I have no experience in. I mean I can try but true Construction Management and Conceptual Estimating in particular is not something I can point to a bunch of jobs where that has been my responsibility.”

“Your experience is more relevant here than you realize. Don’t kid yourself Dan, your experience might be more relevant than the nonsense some of your competitors put out there. I mean our primary competitor has a guy that does nothing but conceptual estimating in-house. We need to structure it so our team has Mechanical, Electrical, Structural and Civil. These guys don’t have to even be in the room, but they will want to see a team that is that comprehensive. Remember this is an architect leading this selection process. The thing an architect dreads the most is having to re-draw. If you don’t have a good group up-front with conceptual estimating, the architect will roll his eyes and think to himself, “Here we go again.”

“That’s right. When we do our estimating now, we tend to send it out to a bunch of subs to get a number. We need an in-house guy that can come up with a number that is at least a starting point.”

“Now we can talk like developers.”

“Okay, so with all due respect, who is going to lead this team?”

So, does this scenario seem at all familiar?

Eight Areas for Discussion
As a follow up to the scenario provided in above Business Development Meeting we deconstruct a little and challenge you to consider how you can avoid common pitfalls. Based on our case example, here are eight common problems that arise.
  1. Passive Aggressiveness - “Hey, where’s so and so? He/she was supposed to be at this meeting.” Make business development a routine part of business. Your business depends on timely responses to requests. Ad hoc teams sometimes are needed, but winning new business should be an understood top priority.
  2. Self-Declared Leader - Just because someone claims to be uniquely qualified doesn’t mean they should drive. The more technical the job, the more complex the stakeholders, and the more likely diverse skills will be required. This is not a time for musical chairs. Manage the business.
  3. Marketing in a Silo - Sometimes routine is so seamless we forget. Be involved in all the components of your company’s positioning and marketing materials. If someone in your project leadership team has to say, “Hey marketing guy, can you show me a copy of the book we sent in response to this RFP?”, something might not be quite right.
  4. Positioning - The object of the game is NOT to change colors like a chameleon. True positioning doesn’t work like that. You need to learn from each proposal, but you also need to be true to your company strengths as you respond.
  5. Gaps in Expertise - Part of being true to your company and your brand is recognizing weaknesses and owning them. By doing so you can fortify or augment those gaps. Surprisingly, candor will strengthen your credibility. You must be willing to truly examine requests as they match your capabilities. By doing so you will better understand the marketplace.
  6. Believing your own Hype - It is important to celebrate your accomplishments and pat your colleagues on the back. However, you are in a competitive situation. Put your best foot forward, but always with a clear understanding of your resources.
  7. Trashing the Competition - It is a mistake to underestimate your opponent. It is also mistake to fall into a false sense of security, because you allowed yourself to be superior. Things change.
  8. Status Quo - You may be playing a numbers game with responses RFQ/RFI/RRP (requests for qualification, information or proposals). Beware of the boilerplate assumptions and the idea that one size fits all. Treat every request as a unique opportunity. You may even decide to walk away from some of them.  However, if you decide to go for it, go for it!