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!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The American Red Cross

Tampa Bay Chapter and Florida's West Coast 
Chairman of the Board.American Red Cross
Greg Morgan Presents

 June 6, 2014

“Good Morning to all the volunteers and friends of the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.” My brother began. He was addressing supporters of the American Red Cross as he is serving in the second year of his two year term as chapter chairman. Greg is a remarkable human being and an inspirational leader. His boilerplate opening yielded to insight into his character. 

“I want to thank my mom today – We grew up on Lake Erie and my mom wanted to be sure that every one of her 6 kids knew how to swim.  In the summertime we woke up at 7:00 AM and were carted down the street to Lakewood Park swimming pool for swimming lessons.  Now the fact that there was a 60 foot cliff in our backyard apparently made no difference (as if we would survive the fall before gracefully landing in the lake to take advantage of these swimming lessons.” Greg’s audience is amused as he continues. “Well never the less, we learned to swim.  Now that didn’t mean simply learning a stroke or two.  We learned to swim from Beginners through to Life Saving. So at 13, 14 and 15 years old, I learned CPR as part of Jr Life Saving and Life Saving Classes. Even at this young age I knew for sure that I would use this training one day.” With this Greg sets the stage for a one-two punch his audience doesn’t know is coming.

“So about 20 years ago in January of 1993 I had just started a new job responsible for two office buildings on Rocky Point Island.  One of those buildings was named Island Center where Fireman’s Fund had a large local office. While glancing at emails with my administrative assistant and eating a turkey sandwich for lunch, her hand held radio in her desk announced ‘shots fired, victims are down in the café, send help!’ After calling down to the café and clarifying that the gunman had left and set his gun on the table, the assistant property manager and I ran down 5 flights of stairs and arrived on the scene. Paul Calden, a lone gunman, had returned to the workplace where he had been fired 8 months prior by Firemans Fund. Five bodies lie in pools of blood. Shattered glass from the giant floor to ceiling window was everywhere while screaming, crying people stood in horror. One man began yelling ‘does anyone know CPR?’ It was natural, almost instinctive for me, from my childhood training, to kneel down beside the man, listen for breathing, check the pulse, and begin performing mouth to mouth resuscitation. After a few breaths the victim, Frank Ditullio came back but only for a brief time. A quiet peace came over him, he smiled and passed away. Though a horrible tragedy, I was able to report to Frank’s wife, Mary Lynn, that Frank had died very peacefully in my arms with a smile on his face. His wife asked that I speak at his funeral service. I did. I was, however, troubled by Frank’s death for months afterwards.”

Greg reads the audience as they try to comprehend such circumstances. He pauses briefly and continues:

“So fast forward 10 years…

My sons and I are in the middle of a two week vacation out west. We are spending the day at a gigantic spring fed pool in Glenwood Springs Colorado. Hundreds of people are swimming, playing, sliding and enjoying the day.

As my boys and I exit the pool area we see several people jumping and screaming for help. We walk toward the area where a man is yelling ‘Help, please Help us! Where are you? Please Help!’ As I approached another man stood up in the pool with a young child limp in his arms. Jordan LaSalle, a 5 year old boy from Golden Colorado laid lifeless, blue grey, the same color I remembered Frank Ditullio ten years earlier. There was no pulse, no breath. Once again, I began CPR. After 5 or 6 breaths, nothing. I decided to blow harder. Jordan coughed and coughed then began to cry and cry. Jordan’s mom yelled ‘don’t cry Jordan!’ I said ‘cry Jordan cry! Breathe Jordan breathe!’ He did, and this time around he kept breathing and kept breathing. Jordan’s mom cradled him and the paramedics arrived and drove Jordan to the hospital. Several hours later, my kids and I went to the hospital to give Jordan a big red plastic fire truck. He was up, clearly healthy and having fun. The doctor reported to me that it appeared that Jordan had no permanent damage and should be fine.

So a while back I checked Facebook for Jordan LaSalle and there he was with a Denver Bronco Tim Tebow Jersey on.

So thanks mom for having us learn what we learned and giving me the tools with the help of the American Red Cross, to save a life that day and also giving me a gift that I can never repay.”

Sensational. The Tampa volunteers and supporters of the American Red Cross are inspired and we are all humbled by the fragility of life itself. Thanks for being you, Greg.