Sunday, February 17, 2019

A friend of a friend

My friend David Burkus has a new book, "Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career."  For some reason, if you hustle, you can get the book for FREE if you are an Amazon Prime customer. If you are a Prime customer - do it!

Several years ago, we had a major snow storm. We were snowbound for a few days. I even blogged on it, telling how I listened to all (ALL) of David's archived podcasts while we were all stuck at home. You can read that blog from 2016 for the backstory, but I'm going to bounce around a little here, from the past to present day.

Because of the snow storm, I met David. First virtually, and I met David one day for dinner in NYC (he paid - nice guy). David made his way to the "talent" page of - as did many of his "friends" from his podcast archive - his friends who then became MY friends. Ah yes, a friend of a friend in action.

What the heck is NYDLA "pronounced NEIGH-DLAH" you ask?

OK, major bounce #1

Many (many) years ago, I ran MTP - and we sold telecommunications and technology to the Maritime industry. After 9/11 this was a very hot business. 

As a good salesman should, I attended a event at NJIT, and there I met Michael Chumer who was presenting about Port Security. 

I must have asked good questions from the audience, because I got invited by my new friend Michael to attend a event at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey the very next day. 

While at the Picatinny Arsenal event I met Mitchell Erickson of and we became friends. I told Mitch about my plans to reboot and "give some oxygen" to which (at the time) was going (already was?) bankrupt. The website was 90 days past due on its hosting fees. I had an opportunity to "take it over" and run the show, and I was giving it serious thought. At the time, NYDLA was a 501(c3) Non-Profit and it was on life support. Great idea - terrible leadership. 

OK, well, for now, I'm simply going to stay focused on running MTP. 

I owned many "MTP" companies (Medical, Media, Marketing, but Maritime was our biggest and most successful. A few years later, Mitch asked me (as the CEO of MTP) to do a keynote at Rutgers, speaking to the students who were graduating from Rutgers with Homeland Security Degrees. Students who were at the time struggling to get jobs in the real world. I knew all about the real world, so I went and I presented. I think it was supposed to be a pep talk, as no one was getting jobs at that time.

[ I almost did not go - I came close to saying no - I'm not getting paid for my time - or my gas - why am I doing this? ]

The folks at Rutgers loved my talk so much, that they asked me to make that same presentation to the entire School of Business - that same afternoon! 

They said "What you covered just now, is what we want to teach here at Rutgers!" I said sure, I can do a double header. So I hung around for a few hours, and gave my talk again, this time - to all of the Department Heads of the School of Business. They even sent a car for me, they worried I would get lost on campus. They changed their planned meeting agenda to accommodate my talk - my topic. Hmmmm.

That evening (over adult beverages) I told the folks at Rutgers School of Business of my plans of possibly "rebooting" and restarting the currently dormant (and dying) NYDLA. Rutgers offered to be our first Host University. I accepted their sponsorship and their assistance. 

I also accepted having direct access to the 500,000+ living alumni of Rutgers.

One of the first "cool" things we ever did via the NYDLA was to offer all 500,000+ living alumni access to which was 100% free to anyone with a email address. We had ignition, we had lift off. And away we go....... NYDLA was on its way from "can't pay for the damn website" to 5M+ members (and growing). 

When other schools saw what we were doing, they wanted in on the action. Our next big home run was Harvard. Then Quinnipiac, UCONN, PURDUE. After that we got all 8 Ivy League Schools to play ball with us.  [ One day I'll blog about ]

Bouncing forward to 2019:
Now the only business card I carry is my NYDLA card. Now (today) we have 300+ of the Fortune 1000 and 46% of the Schools of Business (with access to their alumni). We do business with the businesses - who do business with the students - and the graduates of major colleges and universities. Graduates who are now leading and running major corporations. People who are now - our friends.

Mitch Erickson became the Chairman of the NYDLA Leadership Committee. Mega companies like Wells Fargo, First Data, Zoom, all sponsor us, and they also give NYDLA members "special pricing" as a value-added member benefit.  It has now become "fiscally irresponsible" to NOT be a member of NYDLA.

[ Example: people love, love LOVE using Zoom for videoconferencing and meetings.  Well - you will love using Zoom and creating Zoom Rooms even more - with an NYDLA member discount! ]

There are 55M+ people living in "The New York Megalopolis" from Maine to Virginia. I like to say that "people read the New York Times in LA, but no one reads the LA Times in New York".

Tom, how did you go from ZERO to 5 MILLION???
With a little help from my friends.

Networking. Friends. Tribes. Communities. Collaboration. Teamwork. Living, learning, working, playing - in the clouds.

If I never went to that event at NJIT in Newark, New Jersey I would have never met Michael Chumer. And I would have never met Mitchell Erickson. Or spoke at Rutgers. Or landed Harvard. Or landed Wells Fargo or First Data or......

And, if it never snowed really hard in 2015, I would have never met David BurkusOr would I???? 

Read David's book and find out!  If you are not an Amazon Prime member, you can and I'll send you a copy of David's new book for free.

After all, what are friends for - and we are friends now, right?

My Friend Bart Oates landed us the NFL Alumni Association.
His brother Barry Oates used to work for me in the 90's
"A friend of a friend" in action for sure.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A little more Sazón in your life

"Sazon" means seasoning in Spanish. Those things that you add to make things just a little bit better. The word refers to things that give more flavor to food, but they are not inherent in the flavor itself. 

The Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy says that Sazon is "the point of maturity of things, the state of perfection in its line."

On Friday, I needed to meet a friend to chat about business. We rattled off the common "local" haunts - the coffee shop, the pizza place, the other pizza place, and THE OTHER pizza place. Finally he said "I'm picking up dinner from Sazon Latino (Main Street Boonton) to bring home to Kinnelon, why not meet me there. You can eat, and I'll watch you."

I said sure, and then I thought to myself, "Hmmm.. he is driving almost 10 miles to pick up dinner, 20 miles round trip."

Here is the short version: I felt like I was in "The Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld. 

I entered through the back door, and there was a line. A nice orderly line of people, all waiting to place their order. Even though there are tables to sit and eat, the majority of the people were obviously doing take out. Lots of them.  

I ordered. I sat with my friend, and I ate. He drank Iced Tea, and he watched me eat (again, he was doing take out). And just like Elaine in Seinfield when she tasted the soup for the first time - my knees got weak. Thank goodness I was already sitting. The food was - amazing. The food was "blog worthy." 

How did I not know about Sazon Latino on Main Street Boonton? Why did my friend know about it, making FREQUENT 20 mile round-trips to do take out? How did I live in town and not know about Sazon Latino? 

Saturday, I picked up the mail at the Post Office in the mid-afternoon, from 501 Main Street, Boonton, New Jersey. Sazon Latino is located at 209 Main Street, Boonton, New Jersey. I was powerless. Like a moth drawn to a porch light, I had my 2nd "hit" in less than 24 hours (this time, the ribs) at around 3:07 pm EST. 

Later that same day, the kids were going to be home from Long Island for a visit. Where oh where could we possibly get take out dinner for the family? 

So now, in the period of 24 hours, I have been to Sazon Latino three times. And our family dinner, the casual take out meal at home with the family was outstanding. I told the owner that I would put a positive review for him on Yelp. He said "Wait, wait, let me show you what just came in the mail!"

It turns out that he received a certificate in the mail, from Yelp, regarding his amazing number of 5 star reviews in 2018. 

And then it hit me. My friend could not wait to tell me about Sazon Latino in Boonton, New Jersey. I am sure he has told everyone in Kinnelon that they should make the round-trip to Main Street Boonton for take out. And then, I was compelled to tell the owner that I would put him on Yelp, foolishly assuming that he did not even know what Yelp was. 

And now, Sazon Latino is my muse for this Sunday's blog. 

Once again, The Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy says that Sazon is "the point of maturity of things, the state of perfection in its line."  

I did not realize that I was going to be getting a Master Class in marketing, along with my roasted chicken. The best kind of marketing of all: 

Be so good, they can't ignore you. 

Capone Family Dinner - Sazon Style

Sunday, January 27, 2019

I remember the big things

I met "Big Tony" Gonczarow during my "Pre-Med" educational track days at PURDUE. Thanks to the magic of Facebook - Tony and I reconnected - only a few years ago.

Tony was easy to remember. First, he was taller than me, and had at least 50 pounds on me. And I'm not...tiny. Second he was from the Northeast, like me. Third, his stories about his father - a Holocaust survivor - were impossible to forget. Riveting stories. I can remember vividly Tony telling stories of how his father survived, and how he made his way to the USA. Tony's father was very proud to show his bare arm - to show the numbers tattooed on his forearm.

Around 30 years ago, I was very busy moving colleges, schools and museums off of ISDN and over to DSL. Video conferencing was going through its renaissance, and the new affordable high speed Internet (DSL) was the way to go for hosting quality distance learning and video conferencing sessions.

One of my clients at the time was the Holocaust Museum and Educational Center. One of their cool ideas was to host real-time video conference calls with survivors, and with K-12 students all around the world. This was state-of-the-art at the time.

One of my cool ideas was to not just host these meetings - but to also record and archive these sessions. 

I love technology. If it were not for Facebook, I would not have reconnected with Tony. We have "come close" to meeting again in NYC over the past three years, but it did not happen. It will happen, one of these days. If it were not for Facebook, I would not know that Tony became a teacher at Southmont Senior High School. For years, he has been changing lives. Teaching, coaching, mentoring students.

How many of his students have gone on to become Doctors, Nurses, Business Owners, Teachers, Entrepreneurs. How many of the lives that "Big Tony" has touched, are now citizens out in the world - doing good work.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ever since I reconnected with Tony, I have been thinking more and more about the Holocaust, and about Tony's father. I have been thinking about how we are all connected, all of us. And how through technology, we can ALL do more to be - connected.

Later this week, I shall be donating my archive of Holocaust Survivor video conference meetings with K-12 students to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC.

If Tony's father did not survive, there would be no Big Tony. There would not be the amazing sons that Tony is so proud of - sons who are now moving on with their own college careers. And if there was no Big Tony in Chemistry 101 at PURDUE, I probably would never had the "extra" motivation to service the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. I would have never had the idea or the motivation to give them my services at no cost. But I did give them free DSL service, in memory of Tony's father.

Life is all about the moments that we connect together.

I owe a great deal to Edward Gonczarow, a man that I never met. We all do.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Massive Mini Meetings

I had a "meetings and events" epiphany today.

This month was a busy month for the NYDLA. First was CES in Vegas (55,000+) and then NRF2019 at Jacob Javits (37,000+). Later this month will be Inman 2019 at the Marriott Marquis (4,000+).

And we had a smattering of smaller events and meetings throughout the month. From events with 75 people to 55,000 people, we really covered the spectrum of "meetings and events" so far in early 2019. 

Yesterday my son and I attended "a two man team building meeting" - at a New Jersey Devils hockey game at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Parking was easy. Getting into the area via eTickets on our smartphones was easy. Watching the game live on the ice - and on the big screen - AND on our smartphones was....easy. I also noticed that since we had eTickets on our smartphones, we had coupons and spiffs and specials sent to us throughout the game. We did not do it but we could have made purchases for food and souvenirs from our seats, and then just picked them up at our convenience. Or, had things shipped directly to our home, or to anywhere in the world. 

Last week, we had a meeting in SoHo (that's an acronym for South of Houston Street, NYC) with around 75+ in the room live. Presenters flew in from out of town, to present to NYDLA members - live. People traveled, paying for gas, tolls and parking from out of town, to meet up in the same room. The training "could" have been done virtually, via Zoom or other tools. But the decision was made to spend the money for travel and food to have people gather in the same room. 

The National Conference Center is a Platinum Sponsor of the NYDLA. Located on the old Xerox Sales Campus in Leesburg, Virginia, their entire facility is based on one thing - meetings. Quality meetings. Training meetings, corporate events, government meetings, team building - meetings. Their entire ethos is about gathering people together in the same room (5 to 5,000) at their state-of-the-art facility when the "knowledge transfer" is critical. Yeah, you can have meetings and events at hotels and resorts and such, but when it's time to get "serious" you should have your IMPORTANT meetings and events at THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTER. 

So here is my epiphany. Virtual meetings are here to stay. I love, love, LOVE hosting meetings on Zoom. It's my weapon of choice. But there is something about shaking hands with a person for the first time. There is something about "breaking bread" and there is something about looking a person in the eye when handing them your business card. Once you meet someone "live" you can always do virtual. Your brain is wired to remember the live in-person meetings, and that is what you remember when you are on a conference call. When I shake someone's hand, I will remember that person in a very different way, even if the next twenty meetings we host are on Zoom.

So with that being said, let's all meet very soon - preferably over an adult beverage - in the VIP suite - at the Prudential Center. 

Unless we need to be "serious" and then of course, we will see you at THE NATIONAL.....

The Two Toms

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Big Show

When the romantic comedy Jerry Maguire hit theaters Dec. 13, 1996, it featured a career-altering performance by superstar Tom Cruise and the breakthroughs of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Renée Zellweger.


With sports agent Jerry Maguire (Cruise) out of a job and desperate, he reaches out to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Gooding), who expresses his unhappiness with his existing contract. Not only does the shirtless Gooding dance and repeat "Show me the money!" on the phone, but he insists that Maguire scream it back at him. This iconic scene made Gooding an immediate success and propelled him to win best supporting actor.

Show. Me. The. Money.  My brain is now stuck on the

Show is one of those words that can mean a million things. It can be a verb, or a noun. You can show off, show up, you can host a show, you can show someone in. You can do a "show and tell" or have something showing that you wish was not showing. 

OK. Let me show you something.

The National Retail Federation Show (aka "The Big Show") is next month in NYC. And they don't call it THE BIG SHOW for nothing. It's not just a show, NRF is like the Super Bowl for business.

OK, let me get this show on the road. The (my day job) has been asked to help get people to attend THE BIG SHOW. So, we are sending out 500,000 emails to NYDLA members within 100 miles of NYC. And we are going to show them a good time. 

Their show, is now our show. And as history has shown, no one has a bad time. The Schools of Business supporting the NYDLA say that this one event is the highlight of their year.

Now I don't want to "showboat" here, and I don't want to show anyone up, but if 10% of 500,000 NYDLA members from NY/NJ/CT attend THE BIG SHOW this year, that is more people than attended THE BIG SHOW last year (in total). 

Heck, if 1/2 of 10% of NYDLA members attend, I will be the first one to say to our CMO:

GOOD SHOW my man! 

Good show indeed. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wait Training

"Wait! Where the hell is the Chinese Restaurant???!!!"

I must have not been paying attention. My favorite Chinese Restaurant is now GONE. Replaced by some form of personal training "gym" thingy. Great. Now where do I go for my ribs?

This is what I thought as I stared at the door. Just what the world needs, another fitness place. About four seconds before I was about to turn away and drive to a fast food joint.......  my life changes.

I have known about weight training all my life. My father was a professional athlete. I played enough sports over the years. I was never a "gym rat" as they say (who says that!) but booked enough hours "working out" over the years.  But that was many (many) years ago. 

Chapter One:  Jamie and Fran

OK, so now I am standing INSIDE The Body Shoppe in Boonton, NJ. But something is very different about this place. I see weights, and I see kettle bells, and I see exercise balls, and all the normal "gym" stuff. But I never expected to be greeted by....FRAN.  She might be 5' nothing, and something like 100 lbs (I'm not good at guessing) but she can DEFINITELY kick my butt if she wanted to.

Then I meet Jamie. Immediate connection. I start asking questions, he starts telling me his life story. And I am........fascinated. 

Jamie's words: "I worked in corporate most my life. In May of 2012 my brother committed suicide. Six months later, his wife took her own life. I adopted his children: Johnny Voit 15 now 21 - graduated from Salve Regina in the spring with a finance and economics degree, Stephen Voit 12 now 18 - graduates HS in the spring attends school for electric and HVAC and Christopher 5 now 11. I also have 2 children of my own Michela 13 and Nicholas 9. I left the corporate world in 2012, took some time off and then opened SWEAT Fitness Club. After 5 years I felt as though I was losing my focus on what I love (helping people) and "my identity" as the club just got too big and it required too much of my time each week to continue to strive (over 100 hrs per week). So I decided to take all that I learned over the years and downsize and I concentrated on what really matters: People and their Health. That pretty much sums it up."

90 minutes later: Jamie knows his stuff about health and fitness!

Chapter Two: "I'm not crying, you're crying!"  

OK, so I am no longer craving ribs. Or any food. I am blown away. I listened to Jamie tell me his story. And then I told mine. It was like meeting my old college roommate who I did not see for years, and trying to tell 'em everything that happened since college. 

Me. Jamie. Fran. Talking. And.....talking. And then more... talking. And no one wanted the conversation to end. Then I met Fran's son. She introduced me like it was...important for her son to meet me. Wow. 

Then Jamie hits me with this: "Here is a little secret.  No one knows what SWEAT actually stands for..."  

Satisfied Workouts & Exercises Achieved Together

Cute. But over time, even days later, I keep thinking about Fran and Jamie's new business. About how they are in the hyper competitive world of fitness, and gyms, and personal training. 

I've been in business since 1983. I have seen it all. And I am learning new things about business every day. 

Had I not craved ribs, I would have not met Jamie and Fran. I would not have become their new client. And I would not have written this blog. But if Jamie and Fran were not WHO THEY WERE, my visit at The Body Shoppe in Boonton NJ would have lasted around 45 seconds. Not 90 minutes.

Here's what I think SWEAT stands for:

Successful Work Experiences Achieved Together.

I have never wanted a startup business to be successful more than my hopes for The Body Shoppe in Boonton, New Jersey

I will tell everyone I know about Jamie and Fran. You cannot fake this stuff. If Fran and Jamie treat EVERYONE this way, they are going to CRUSH IT. If they ever want to franchise their business model, I'll be their first investor.  

I am going to get physically fit and healthy, yes. But what I received during my first "session" with Jamie: priceless. 

That will be my last "non-sweaty" session with Jamie and Fran.

You can only take your life to the next level when you take yourself to the next level. And the journey is best when you get yourself.....Sweaty. 

Do it with friends. 

Me. Around 90 days from now....DONE.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Joe Friday never said it. If you are old enough to remember the TV show "Dragnet" then you know the catchphrase "Just the Facts, Ma'am"

But he never said it. Not on the show. A PARODY of the show first used the phrase. But not Joe Friday.

I learned of this fact, because I Google the word "facts" and "Just the Facts, Ma'am" was the number one hit. 

[No, it was not really the number one hit on Google. But you won't check it out for yourself, so who cares, right?]

My search took me to the website, which covered the topic. Is it not amazing that a website like Snopes even exists? 

We read things on the Internet, on social media, and then after liking the posts and sharing the posts and re-tweeting the posts, we find out that the post was false. Or less than factual. But it is too late. Truth and facts lose out to speed and volume. 

I was about to say "A lie can travel around the world before the truth can put on it's shoes" ~ Mark Twain. But it looks like it was Winston Churchill who said it, and it was pants, not shoes. is a cool website founded by former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer. It is all about the facts. The truth. It is a very useful website (especially at election time). You should check it out.

But I have no idea if Steve Ballmer is actually even connected with, or has anything to do with the website. Truth. Facts. What does that even mean any more, when lies travel at the speed of light?

We always say that we want the truth. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But can we handle the truth?

Last one:  What percentage of people vote?

Google says about 60% of the eligible voting population votes during presidential election years, and about 40% votes during midterm elections. 

Is that true? Is that a fact? How do we fact check the fact checkers?

When we VOTE on November 6th shall we vote with our hearts or with our heads? 

Where is Detective Joe Friday when we need him.....

Two packs a day? EVERY DAY???