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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Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day and a fitting time to say thank you to all of our men and women in uniform – past, present and future!

I’ve always believed that if one of my loved ones life was in danger, I would gladly trade my life for theirs. I would lay down my life to protect those I love.

Our men and women in uniform take that a step further. They are willing to lay down their lives, not only for their loved ones, but for the country they love. This is the most unselfish act I can imagine.

They put their lives on the line in countries most of us have never been, nor ever will. They give their all to protect, not only our freedoms, but the lives of strangers. They are willing to die to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.

These men and women are deserving of, not only our gratitude, but the best this country can offer. They deserve, at the least:

  • first class medical and psychological care
  • an opportunity to return to the jobs they left
  • the chance to further their careers through college education
  • to be honored each morning by all of our school children who pledge allegiance to our flag
  • support for their families while they are away

When you see a person in uniform take a moment to stop and thank them. If they are standing in line at the local coffee shop, step up and buy them a cup of coffee as a small token of gratitude.

So, not just today, but everyday, take a moment to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and safety for those who served, are currently serving and will serve in the future.

 

 

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Sharing Information

On the second Thursday of each month, we host our Ideas in Motion Seminars. The topics are selected by polling customers and prospects on what they would like to learn more about.

Over the last few years, we have tackled topics, such as:

  • Effective Direct Mail
  • Successful Polls, Surveys & Questionnaires
  • eCampaigns
  • Mobile Marketing and 2D Barcodes
  • Public Relations 101
  • Lead Generation
  • Data Enhancement and Analytics

Our seminars are free, limited to 8 attendees and take only one hour. We also provide lunch to those attending. These monthly seminars started as ways to showcase our knowledge and expertise to our target customers – and they are very effective in that way.

What I didn’t count on was the knowledge and expertise of our customers flowing back toward us. These seminars have become great sharing sessions. For example, today our topic was “Social Media”. I presented the facts on why social media should be an important part of their marketing strategy, the top 7 social media channels and details on how to develop and execute a social media strategy.

But, as usually happens, our one hour seminars spilled over into animated discussion and sharing. Some of those in attendance we’re doing a pretty good job with their social media efforts, while others were feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin. We were so busy sharing ideas, suggestions, tips, what works and what doesn’t with each other, that our time together kept expanding.

These monthly seminars have come to mean so much to me. Yes, we get to showcase our expertise and capabilities, but I’ve gotten to know so many of our clients in a different way. We are no longer customer and vendor, but friend and confidant. Relationships have been built and strengthened.

So, today’s blog is a big thank you to all of our clients and prospects who have participated in our monthly seminars and helped to make us a better company and better partner.

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Community

A community is defined as:

  1. A group of people who live in the same area – hey, that’s us Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky!
  2. A group of people who have the same interests – again, that’s us because we are all interested in our region growing and thriving!

So, if we’re a community where we live in the same area and want that area to grow and thrive, why do we often act like islands?

Together, we have accomplished much:

  • Several outstanding colleges and universities – NKU, Thomas More, UC, XU, The College of Mt. St. Joseph, Gateway Technical College and Cincinnati State Technical College. We abound in excellent institutions that can prepare our citizens for success!
  • The home to many delicious organizations – Graeters, Klosterman, LaRosas, Skyline, United Dairy Farmers, Montgomery Inn, Busken, Servatii’s, just to name a few. And, of course, Multi-Craft – my pride and joy!
  • We have more Fortune 500 companies per capita than Los Angeles, New York or Chicago – P&G, Kroger, Macy’s, 5/3, General Cable, AK Steel, Western Southern, American Financial Group, Omnicare and Ashland.
  • Great sports teams – Reds, Bengals, Cyclones and even a minor league team, the Florence Freedom.
  • A NASCAR speedway in Sparta
  • Turfway Park
  • The Ascent in Covington, designed by Daniel Libeskind, one of the world’s leading architects
  • Horseshoe Casino, and hopefully one in Northern Kentucky in the near future
  • Newport on the Levee, The Banks, Hoffbrauhaus – fun, fun and more fun!
  • Museums, ballet, two symphony orchestras and many theaters
  • A beautiful river that sometimes divides, but often unites , particularly around the fireworks!
  • An international airport that just received another award – hurrah for CVG!
  • We are home to the Cincinnati Zoo, Kings Island, Coney Island, Riverbend and an excellent park system on both sides of our river.

I could go on and on, as we do not lack in the areas of accomplishment. Yes, we also have our challenges, but what family, company or region doesn’t?

A current example is that most of us agree that we need a new bridge to replace the Brent Spence Bridge, but we disagree on how to fund that bridge. Disagreements are okay. In fact, the best ideas come from healthy debate. So, let’s debate the funding option loud and clear. Let’s just not personally attack each other for the ideas we individually generate.

Business is difficult today. We are all competing in our industries and all of our regions are competing to bring new business to town and hold on to the ones we do have. So, let’s find those areas of common interest and tackle them together. Let’s share our individual ideas and debate the merits of each. Let’s compromise until we reach a solution that the majority can support. Let’s not bully, insult, defame or demean. When that happens our “ship” is sunk.

After all, what organization wants to relocate to a community that can’t agree on how to move forward? Who wants to move to a region where creative thinking is discouraged? Let’s show the world what a great place Cincinnati Northern Kentucky is to live, work and play!

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