Volunteer!

In 2 more days I will be completing my year as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. This year has been a year of great change within the Chamber. We have conducted a 4 month national search to hire a new President, restructured personnel and programs and took some stands on some very controversial political issues.

At events that I’ve attended this past week, I’m asked by most everyone if I’m glad my year is over. That question has caused me to really stop and think.

While, all of those changes took a lot of time that I was not expecting to devote to a volunteer position, I believe the benefits have far outweighed the time and effort required. I have received far more than I gave.

But, isn’t that usually the case in almost any area where you volunteer your time and efforts? It starts by you giving your thoughts, ideas, money and time and it ends with you realizing how enriched your life was made by that volunteer effort.

This past year I have had the opportunity to better know those I’ve been serving with over the last few years. Some friendships have deepened and new friendships have begun. I had the opportunity to meet some very important people who I would have never had the chance to meet. I went to Frankfort and to Washington to advocate for the Chamber’s positions and experienced, in greater detail, how our government works – or sometimes doesn’t work.

While I always felt that I was a leader, this past year developed my leadership skills even further. I also have become rather proficient at public speaking on the spur of the moment. I’ve had the opportunity to meet the reporters who cover our region and see just how quickly news can happen.

I had the opportunity to give my input on the type of leader our Chamber needed and met with the most powerful of business leaders in our community to get their input, too. And, while they put their shoes on just like the rest of us, having the chance to interact with them was special.

I’ve seen the dedication of our Chamber staff, who are so often quietly in the background making sure things go smoothly, scripts are written and events are successful. I’ve seen healthy debate over differences of opinion and I experienced unhealthy name calling over the same issues. Funny how differences of opinion can cause rational people to act in irrational ways. But, that’s human nature, I suppose.

Like every other volunteer effort in the past, I received so much more than I gave. I am grateful to the Northern Kentucky business community who gave this old dog the opportunity to learn some new tricks and meet some wonderful people. From the bottom of my heart – thank you!

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Loss

Lunch with a friend, who is suffering a personal loss, prompted me to write on this topic today. One thing I know for sure is that loss is hard. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, lost a job, lost a friendship, lost your home, lost a competition or lost your self-respect, loss has hit all of us at one time or another. And, if you’re lucky enough that it hasn’t up to this point, just know that at some time in the future, it likely will.

Loss leaves us with a hole. Sometimes it’s a hole in our heart for the death of a loved one or the loss of a friendship. Sometimes, it just causes a heavy blanket of sadness or grief and sometimes the inability to act. Other times it leaves a hole in our bank accounts or causes us to hang our heads in shame.

Loss also will normally involve change, which is another word I’ve blogged about previously. Change is the result of having to deal with the loss. So, now we have the two most dreaded words in the same sentence – “loss” and “change”.

I have decided that about the only thing I want to lose is weight. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have the self-control to change my eating habits to attain that loss. Oops, there I go again, using those dreaded two words in the same sentence.

A loss usually is followed by grief. Yes, it’s normal to grieve something we’ve lost. Many of us know the grief of losing a beloved pet. While others, who are pet-free, may never understand why we grieve. Heck, even graduating from college can trigger a grief response because we are losing one thing (our college years) and having to change to adapt to supporting ourselves in a chosen career.

The larger the loss, the deeper the grief. Since grief is very personal, we will all grieve in different ways. Some grieve openly while others do it privately. There is also not a timetable for dealing with a loss. It may take others longer than some to “get over” something. And, some things we never get over – we just learn to adjust.

HelpingGuide.org actually details the 5-step process you will go through when dealing with loss:

  1. Denial – “This can’t be happening to me.”
  2. Anger – “Why is this happening to me? Who is to blame?”
  3. Bargaining – “Make this not happen and, in return, I will _____.”
  4. Depression – “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  5. Acceptance – “I’m at peace with what happened.”

If someone like HelpingGuide.org has identified a process, then surely grieving a loss is normal. For some reason, just knowing that we’re not alone – that others have gone through something similar – makes us feel better. Remember the old adage, “Misery loves company”? While I don’t think any of us wish to see anyone else suffer, for some reason it helps us to feel that we’re at least “normal” because others have gone through this and survived – and some have actually thrived.

When loss comes knocking at your door and forces you to change something, I hope you’ll remember that you’re not alone. Others have gone before you and others will come after you. Here’s hoping that those who have gone before will reach out a helping hand and lend their wisdom. And, you can do the same for those who follow.

I’m praying for my friend and hope that she found comfort, and help, in our conversation today. I hope she also believed me when I told her that someday she would look back from her new normal and be proud of what she worked through and what she will have accomplished.

 

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The One Thing We Can Count On Is Change!

When did the world start changing at such a rapid rate? For our industry, I almost think it was when desktop publishing was invented.

In the printing industry, we were used to clients having us scan their photos on flat bed and drum scanners. They would then spend a lot of money to do all kinds of color corrects. The photos in every publication had to be perfect.

Well, along comes desktop publishing and the ability to purchase a desktop scanner. All of a sudden the photos that clients were using in their publications were grainy, blurry and off-color. However, they were okay with that because they had taken control of that portion of the production process and were saving money. Perfect photos were no longer a requirement.

Follow that up with all of the page layout programs and suddenly the receptionist became their in-house designer. We would receive files that were incorrect, but we would correct them and proceed with the projects. Again, the design wasn’t flashy, but the client was saving money and had control. So, they were satisfied.

As I look at the world of advertising, I see something similar happening. Social media, along with television and radio channel fragmentation have begun to make advertising agencies take a look at their current business models. They tell me they hear that the client doesn’t need them anymore for television or radio spots because the television and radio channels are providing the creative services. They tell them they no longer need their PR services because they can handle it themselves via social media.

So, as printing companies before them, advertising agencies will need to adapt to a changing business environment.

Now, I’m sure this hasn’t happened solely in the printing or agency world, but those are two I’m familiar with. We are now looking at 3D printing, which has been predicted to revolutionize manufacturing. No longer will you need long manufacturing runs to produce something that may not sell.

Developers and creators can take a 3D model and scan it, or develop CAD drawings and have them output in hours by a 3D printer. They can then take these pieces and show them to focus groups or clients and get feedback. All of this will lower their development costs, and allow for full customization of products.

Even logistic companies are starting to get a little nervous, as local 3D print manufacturing may cut back on the products that need to be shipped to customers – they can just pick them up at a local office. Once technology came on the scene, the pace of change has accelerated. It’s hard for a business to determine if their business model will even make sense in the future.

All this does is stress the fact that we need to decide what type of business we are in. Are you married to the idea of being a printer, an advertising agency or a manufacturer of widgets? Or, are you in business to provide “something” to a client and make a profit doing it? We must be willing to continually reinvent ourselves so that we remain relevant in the marketplace.

This is obviously just my opinion and others may strongly disagree. If so, I’d love to have you comment and share your ideas in motion!

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Are you really that good, or is he just that bad?

We are entering the season of political advertisements. Here in Northern Kentucky, it is starting to feel like the political season is never-ending. But, it is increasing as we are in a ramp up for this November’s election.

As I listen to the political advertisements on television, I am amazed that a candidate would think that I would vote for him/her when their entire political message is “I may be bad, but my opponent is worse”.

They no longer seem to share their vision for our city/state/country, but only want to share what their opponent has done wrong. And, realize that whatever their opponent has done, has been magnified, exaggerated and distorted. It’s very hard to know where to turn for true and factual information.

At this point, I would vote for a candidate that spent their paid advertising dollars telling me what they believe, what they intend to do, what they stand for, what they have accomplished in the past, why their ideas matter and what they stand for. Let the other candidate do the same and stop this negative campaigning and mud-slinging.

With this in mind, think about how you do business. Do you sell your products and services by bashing your competitors? Or, do you sell your products and services by telling the story of what you can do that will benefit your prospect and customer? I’m hoping you sell by sharing your story, not by bashing your competitor.

This brings to mind a recent incident. I needed to replace a significant amount of carpeting in my home. I decided, in advance, that I would visit the two locally owned and operated carpet companies in Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.

The first store I visited, I was greeted and given assistance. The carpet I liked was beautiful. I shared with the sales rep that I was visiting another carpet company and shared the name of that company. He immediately went into over-drive telling me that I wouldn’t be happy with the other company and any other negative comment he could come up with. I left and decided before I pulled out of their parking lot, that I didn’t want to do business with them because all he did was criticize his competitor.

I drove to the other carpet company and was promptly greeted and assisted. When I shared with that sales rep that I was looking for carpet at his company and one other, he immediately stated, “Well, you can’t go wrong with either company. Both are fine organizations.” Before I left the building I knew that he was the sales rep I wanted to do business with.

I bought my carpet from him and he was not the lowest price. I was looking for value and a person I could trust. He was confident enough in his company, products and services that he could compliment his competitor. That’s a class act!

Are you a class act? Are you threatened by a competitor, or do you use them to up your game and become the best choice? Always sell from a higher level. Tell your targets what you can do for them and why your products and services are a great solution for them. At the same time, always be willing to tell them when your organization isn’t a good fit for a project and be willing to refer them to the company that is. After all, we’re trying to build long-term relationships that are built on trust, aren’t we?

 

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Opinions – everybody has one!

I love Facebook. I never thought I’d feel that way when I first became a “poster” a few years back. Yes, I’ve always loved that I could see pictures of my grandchildren and my friends’ families, but I’ve never been one to actively post personally. I just “lurk” and keep up-to-date with everyone.

However, about a week ago, a high school friend posted something that really upset me. It’s not like I didn’t know we had differences of opinion, as her past postings indicated she was a social liberal, while I am a social conservative.

And, it’s not like her past postings weren’t also a little unsettling to my conservative viewpoint, but this one actually caused me to respond to her posting. After I hit “post”, I was already wishing I could recall it. I was worried that it would cause a posting avalanche and begin a conservative vs. liberal online debate. As I value my friendships, I try to never debate political or religious topics.

My friend, however, responded in a wonderful way. She indicated that my viewpoint was well thought out, she thanked me for sharing it and stated she hadn’t considered it from that perspective. Now that doesn’t mean she agrees with me, but she is able to honor the fact that I have a different opinion. I really appreciated that. Of course, a few of the posts that followed weren’t as pleasant and I was surprised by the personal nature of the comments. That got me to thinking.

When did it become wrong to have an opinion and to voice it respectfully? Wasn’t America founded on the basis of freedom- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to vote at the ballot box in a way that supports your beliefs and ideals, freedom to have a difference of opinion?

It’s no wonder people are afraid to discuss hot topic items. If you voice an opinion that is different from the current majority, all of a sudden you are a conservative (that seems to now be an insult), not socially responsible, a woman-hater or a racist. I can tell you that other than being a conservative, I am none of those other things.

But, I am a business owner. Someone who risks everything they have – even their house – every day to own my business. Business owners are assaulted with government regulations, taxes, unstable healthcare policies and, sometimes, even outright hatred. We are portrayed as being greedy, getting rich on the backs of our employees and not caring about the environment. Where the heck did that thinking come from?

We have 49 employees – long-term employees. Every decision we make is based upon the health of the business – not a personal agenda. We don’t have a company vacation home, we don’t have a company boat, we don’t take vacations on our company, and, believe it or not, we have several employees who actually make more money each year than we do. Our focus is a healthy and profitable business.

If our business isn’t healthy, then we won’t be able to write paychecks to those 49 employees. We won’t be able to pay exorbitant healthcare premiums so they have access to health care. We won’t have capital to invest in new equipment, software and technology to keep our business successful. If our business isn’t healthy, then we won’t be earning a profit and the banks wouldn’t be willing to loan us money for future investments.

And, if we cannot make a fair profit on the money that we are risking each and everyday, then why would we risk it? Why not close the business, sell off the assets, take the cash and invest it? Keep in mind that the action of closing the business also means that 49 people now don’t have jobs, healthcare, 401K, paid vacations, social security contributions, sick days and tuition reimbursement benefits.

In my opinion, our country is in trouble. Almost half of our population is on social services. That means that the other 50% are paying the tab. We have people illegally crossing our borders and burdening our country. I am 100% in favor of immigration, but it must be legal. Our national debt continues to grow and grow and grow and our current fiscal policies are doing nothing to stem that growth. We have dysfunctional legislators at the federal level (both Democrats and Republicans), and in some cases, at the state and local level.

But, with all of our problems, we are still America – the best country in the world. If that wasn’t true, then why are people willing to risk everything to get here? While they are willing to risk everything to attain our level of freedom, why are we in the background trying to stamp out our freedoms? Food for thought – and, of course, debate!

 

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Change

Just the word “change” can actually cause people to experience stress. Change simply means to make or become different. That doesn’t sound so scary, does it? But, if it isn’t scary, then why is change dreaded and difficult?

I believe, the answer is – FEAR. We fear:

  • The unknown
  • Failure
  • The discomfort that change may bring
  • Additional stress that change can add to our lives

So, we think it’s easier to stay in a situation where we are not happy, than it is to change.

Often change is forced upon us – it’s involuntary. We didn’t want it, but it shows up on our doorstep uninvited and forces us to adapt. Here are some involuntary changes you may face:

  • Your employer is going out of business
  • Your spouse becomes terminally ill
  • A child is born disabled
  • Your business is going bankrupt
  • The skill you have is outdated and no longer relevant in the marketplace

All of these things will force you to change. You will have to find a new job, become a health advocate for your spouse, find programs and resources that will help you handle a disabled child, lose everything and start over again or go back to school to learn a new skill.

The world doesn’t stand still and change is going to occur. So, I believe we are better off trying to look at change differently. Try to look at it as opportunity in disguise. Think back on your life and you will see that you have changed constantly since the day you were born. That isn’t going to stop – at least it shouldn’t. So, when change rears its ugly head, learn to stare it in the eyes and look at it as an opportunity.

What is your outlook?

  • Is your glass half full?
  • Is it half empty?
  • Is it bone dry?

Your outlook will help determine how you are going to handle change. If you are always looking for the downside and expecting the worst, that is what you will likely find. So, consider changing your attitude as the first step in learning to handle change.

Just think of the many companies that have had to, or are beginning to, handle change:

  • Bookstores – how are they handling the internet and Kindles?
  • Libraries – many are turning into career centers
  • Telephone companies – had to expand beyond selling the home phone mounted on the kitchen wall
  • Travel agencies – many have gone out of business, but others have adapted to threats such as Travelocity
  • Mom-and-pop stores have learned to change to handle the loss of business to internet retailers or big box retailers. If they didn’t change, they are likely no longer in business

So, change will happen whether we want it to or not. Try to look for the opportunity that the change can bring to you personally, to your organization or to your community. We must continually reinvent ourselves to remain relevant.

President John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Sounds like wisdom to me!

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It Does Take A Village!

Tonight, my 17-year-old grandson is graduating from high school. As my daughter-in-law stated, “I am of two minds”. There is a part of me that is happy that he is getting ready to take the next step, which for him is college. There is another part of me that wants to not just stop the clock, but actually reverse the clock back to when he was little.

We are fortunate that during his 17 years, he has not gotten into serious trouble, has usually gotten good grades, has a nice group of friends, knows what he wants to be when he grows up (at least today) and, most importantly, he actually seems to enjoy being around his parents and grandparents.

My son, in his Facebook posting today, very eloquently thanked all of the people who have impacted my grandson during his 17 years. He thanked other parents for keeping an eye on him. He thanked his church for giving him the right role models and allowing him to take on a youth leadership role. He even thanked me, his mom, for setting a good example and loving this child over those years. The post actually brought tears to my eyes. My son has always been able to write from his heart!

That turned my thoughts to the less fortunate 17 year olds who are graduating today, or those 17 year olds who have dropped out. Did they have a good group of friends? Were their parent’s friends watching over them? Did they have the good fortune of having parents who made sure they had clean clothes, good food and attended a church? Sadly, I know the answer to those questions, and it is often no.

My heart breaks for so many little ones that don’t know what it’s like to feel the security of a safe home, a goodnight kiss, a full belly or a warm hug. They have had to become wise beyond their years and cynical. This is sad.

As an almost-senior-citizen, I look at the world in much the same way my parents looked at it when I was 17. My parents deplored those long-haired hippies (the Beatles) and thought my music would surely lead me to ruin, along with the mini-skirts and tie dyed t-shirts. I’m not sure that they were aware of the real dangers that were out there – I know I wasn’t, at the time.

But, now I see real dangers for our youth. Many are often misled and misguided instead of being loved and disciplined. Many are growing up feeling that the world owes them, instead of asking what they can do for their country (thanks for that wise statement, President Kennedy). Drugs are everywhere and addiction knows no demographic or socio-economic barrier. Too many college students are graduating with massive amounts of debt and some have no hope of high-paying employment to justify that debt.

This type of thinking is depressing and makes me grateful for all of those wonderful non-profits in our community who attempt to rectify these issues with our youth every day. And, I’m grateful for all of the generous citizens of our community who help to fund those non-profits.

But, today, I am truly grateful to my son and daughter-in-law, along with their village and God for giving me, and allowing me to participate in helping to raise and influence, this wonderful grandson of mine. I love you and am very proud of you, Jacob!

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