Sunday, September 2, 2018

Breaking the law, faster

Who remembers Fuzzbusters? Or the Escort, or Passport (or Fox or Whistler or....) Radar Detectors?

I was born in 1960. So I got my driver's license right around the time that driving 55 mph was "the law of the land" and that was that.

Growing up, I was young and foolish. And I was spoiled. I had the "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans Am as a teenager, and in my early twenties, I had a two-seater Trans Am convertible. I had a "little red Corvette" convertible at 28. I did buy the Corvette myself (self-spoiling).

And so, I owned and used Radar Detectors. Lots of them. I won't even mention my CB radio, Good Buddy. I used to joke that I would get pulled over for speeding while I was still putting on my seat belt. I easily justified the purchase and use of Radar Detectors because I drove sports cars. It was my way of making it a fair fight. Red Corvette = pull me over, please.

Did I speed? Yeah. But nothing crazy. 65 or 70 in a 55 was usually my top end limit. Or doing 80 in a 65, maybe when cruising back and forth on Rt. 80 from New Jersey to PURDUE. But that was not really breaking the law, right? I rarely did 85, 90. And I NEVER, ever pushed it to....100 (on an open highway, with no traffic in sight for MILES). I think.

I've been pulled over at least 20 times in my life for speeding, and I only received two speeding tickets. Everything else was a warning. 18 wins, 2 losses. Not a bad track record.

But here is what I learned about myself. I no longer speed. I lost the need to speed. I no longer own a Radar Detector, and I have not owned a Radar Detector in years. Ever since my kids were born, I now drive in the middle lane, I set my cruise control, and I'm good. 70 in a 65 is my new normal. Driving 80 (or faster) is a distant memory.

Where is this going, Tom?

A younger version of myself used to PAY good money to break the law. I used to purchase and use DEVICES that allowed me to break the law, better. I went out of my way, to break the law. I decided that breaking the speed limit was indeed breaking the law - but - it was a special kind of law. Everyone else does it. Kinda like a "fake" law, not really something that needs to be taken seriously by everyone.

Drunk driving can kill you and innocent people. Texting while driving is just as bad. Speed limits are designed to make driving safer (for all of us). The posted speed limit is not some random number. Some engineer figured out that THIS road, under THESE conditions, can be safely negotiated at THIS posted speed. THIS speed, and no faster.

Speeding kills. Distracted driving kills. Google "How many Radar Detectors were sold last year" and the number is still in the millions.

Now Radar Detectors come with "crowd sourcing" built-in so they have the old "CB Radio" feature. "Hey Good Buddy, Kojak with a Kodak at mile marker 119".

If you are a millennial, go Google Kojak and CB Radio.

As more and more self-driving (autonomous) cars and trucks hit the roads, speeding tickets (and one day, parking tickets) will continue to decline. Maybe never to zero, but the tickets (and the revenue from the tickets) will dramatically go down. Be sure to look at "the math" below.

I used to mindfully, purposefully, willfully break the law. I would spend good money to break the law more efficiently. Today, not so much. Now at 58, give me a good podcast on the car stereo and you will find me in the middle lane, with the cruise control set to 69 in a 65.

OK, maybe I'll set the cruise control to 71. Or set to 72. 73, tops.

I mean after all, who drives 65 in a 65? 

Driving Citation Statistics (2017)
Average number of people per day that receive a speeding ticket - 112,000
Total annual number of people who receive speeding tickets - 41,000,000
Total percentage of drivers that will get a speeding ticket this year - 20.6 %
Average cost of a speeding ticket (including fees) - $152
Total paid in speeding tickets per year - $6,232,000,000
Average annual speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer - $300,000
Percent speeding tickets that get contested in traffic court - 5 %
Total number of licensed drivers in America today - 196,000,000

I can't drive 55

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Variably Important Person

I just got the VIP treatment.

I was picked up at my home in a limousine, wined and dined for two days, and taken back home. Wow, I must be really special! [My wife says: not so much].

The Mohegan Sun properties, especially in Connecticut and in Atlantic City are indeed AMAZING. But to influence large groups of people to come to their resorts, to come to their hotels and casinos - they need for the "decision makers" to come for a visit. They need to get the VIPs to come on down and check it all out.

A "FAM" visit or familiarization tour is common in the travel business. FAM tours are very important in the travel and in the hospitality industry because if a person of influence, if the "decision makers" like your property and your amenities - it could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of (new) business.

And, if the decision makers LOVE your property and your amenities, it can turn into millions of dollars of repeat, ongoing business.

OK, so done deal! Effective immediately, all members of the now get special, value-added member only pricing at all Mohegan Sun properties! [ They had me at limousine..... ]

But this was not really what sealed the deal for me. It was not the amazing food, the state-of-the-art meeting rooms and conference center. It was not the limousine.

It was - the buses.

During my stay in Atlantic City, I watched the buses arrive. Dozens of buses. From New York City. From Philadelphia. From two to three hours away. People coming in to experience the Casino, and the boardwalk. In many cases, just for the day. In some cases, just for six hours.

These people arriving by bus were treated like VIPs! They were greeted as they arrived, with an entourage. They were welcomed to the property like millionaires, every one of them. It was obvious that many of the people arriving by bus were not "high rollers" but many were indeed rollers! [Many had walkers, and motorized scooters]. And each and every one of them, were greeted and welcomed to the property like they were "whales".

There are 55+ million people living, working and playing in the "New York Megalopolis".

Via the NYDLA, we effect, sway and impact many people of influence. 300+ of the Fortune 1000. The colleges, universities and corporations living, learning, working and playing in the northeast are going to have meetings and events somewhere. Why not host your meetings and events at a Mohegan Sun property? And why not do so with special NYDLA member only - VIP pricing?

So, I am considered to be a VIP by Mohegan Sun. Cool. But I am a Variably Important Person. 

If I left my position with the NYDLA tomorrow, my influence would then become minimal. My ability to direct and channel new business to anyone (or anything) would be dramatically reduced. I am not a big deal (personally). The NYDLA is the big deal, not me.

Every single person arriving by bus was treated like a TRUE VIP. They arrived with a smile, and they left with an even bigger smile. Winners or losers in the casino, all had a wonderful moment in the sun. And they will be back. They will return (by bus) and they will tell their friends. Like me, every single person who arrived by bus is now a "brand ambassador" for Mohegan Sun.

My VIP status is variable. Ah, but the people who arrive by bus every day - their VIP status is for life.

During my tour of the property, the video below was played on the big screen. Yes, I was wined and dined and treated like Frank Sinatra for two days. But it was the fact that Mohegan Sun LIVES the story of Johnny the Bagger that really impressed me. They treat EVERYONE like VIPs.

Yep, Johnny sealed the deal.

Customer Service: Expert Level

Sunday, August 5, 2018

$400 or your (Online) Life!

Do you remember the story (and then the Tom Hanks movie) about Captain Phillips? I remember when I first heard about "Pirates" I thought it was a joke.  Pirates? Like men on tiny boats attacking other people on massive ships? I said to myself, this cannot be true.

Michael Scott Moore spent 977 days held hostage for ransom as the result of pirates. The book covers the true root cause of the modern pirate problem. If there were more decent paying jobs for kids in Somalia, there would be fewer pirates.

It is connected to money, as most things in life usually are. I myself, will not be visiting the Somalia coastline anytime soon. And I do not anticipate that many of the people reading my blog will also not be anywhere near Somalia in the near future.

But many of us are "live" on Facebook. 
And that might be just as dangerous.

Cyber Crime is a plague on any size business. Ransomware. Identify Theft. Only a few years ago, it was only a problem for large corporations, targets of extortion. Pay a ransom, or say good-bye to your data.  Pay a ransom, or you are locked out of your account. Pay a ransom or your entire client and customer file will be compromised.

I am somewhat knowledgeable in the area of Cyber Security. Which makes me a little embarrassed.
Keep reading to see why.

Just this past month the hosted a "Cyber Security Summit" in New York City in partnership with Wells Fargo.

We had 1,206 "CISO" from very large corporations respond to our VIP invitation. Yes, Cyber Security is a big deal in today's world. A chief information security officer (CISO) is the senior-level executive within an organization responsible for establishing and maintaining the enterprise vision, strategy, and program to ensure information assets and technologies are protected.

This past week, my personal and business Facebook accounts were attacked. 

But it was not a sophisticated attack that a CISO would defend against. 

It was from an disgruntled employee from Asia who worked for us for a total of 11 days. They simply downloaded from Facebook all of our contacts (business and personal) data and held us ransom. 

I wonder how many of the 800 million Facebook users realize how exposed they are to such a Cyber Crime?

Pay us $400 or we shall take down your accounts.  Pay us $400 or we shall publish disparaging information. Pay us $400 or we shall destroy your reputation and your business. $400? I am insulted!

I mean, it's not Somali Pirate ransom money, but only $400? Come on! I think I need to teach this Filipino Cyber Criminal how to negotiate a ransom. 

But I do understand the low amount. If it is only a few hundred bucks, people might pay the ransom to just put it behind them and move on. 

Well first of all - it pays to have friends at and to also have deep relationships with the top Cyber Security vendors. I am in "the Cyber Security business" so I am a little embarrassed by all of this. It will be interesting to see how this escalates and how long it takes to have this knucklehead and his "gang" arrested. 

If such a ransom attack ever happens to you, your first step is to open a CASE at your local Police Department.  

From there, it will quickly escalate to the Cyber Crime unit at and also the Cyber Crime units at Facebook. Many countries (like the Philippines) take Cyber Crime very seriously. They realize that their Gross National Income (GNI) relies on their Internet Security reputation. 

So, this blog post is now less about ex-staffer Filipino Cyber Criminal Hackers, as it is really about Facebook itself. 

800,000,000 x 1% = 8,000,000 bad actors. Even if you cut that number in half many times, that is still a lot of Pirates! 

My friends are just not that into Facebook anymore. Maybe it was the way Facebook tried tracking us across the web. Or how it got busted for sharing our private information with advertisers. Or how Facebook used their platform applied rules that wound up favoring hate speech by conservative white men over political speech by leftists and people of color. Or how Facebook gave people a free, easy-to-use tool to broadcast anything, including gun violence and sexual assault. Or how it researched our emotions without our consent. Or how it enabled Russia to wage a successful propaganda campaign against the United States. 

I will probably not completely get rid of my personal and business Facebook accounts. 

I do use Facebook from time to time make a post, or to do research. Many of our vendors and sponsors have Facebook business pages. 

But in today's world, using Facebook has become more and more like sailing around the Horn of Africa. It's just not safe. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A cake to die for

A few years ago, my wife Dianne was sent a cake in the mail. 

It was a "thank you" from a very thoughtful friend. I wondered how good the cake could possibly be.

It was freaking' amazing.

So I started doing some research, and found that Caroline's Cakes is one of Oprah's favorite things. And Caroline's Cakes is pretty famous for.....their cakes.

Well, I pursued them, hoping to make them into a customer. I would love to host their eCommerce store, or provide them with their merchant account. I wanted to help them to "tell the world" about their magical cakes! 

Many emails and phone calls later, I got to know the "Caroline's Cakes" family.

Today I received an email from Caroline's son:

Like Caroline, I am grateful for all of our wonderful customers. On July 15th of last year Caroline passed away after her courageous battle with ovarian cancer. The outpouring of support from friends, family, those who knew Caroline, and those who had never met her but knew her cakes has been absolutely amazing. 

Many thanks to all of you for helping all of us at Caroline's Cakes through this past year and especially as we move into the year ahead. 

I am grateful to have had Caroline as a mother, and lucky to also have had her as a boss, leader, and visionary for this wonderful company and for the cake community that she created with all of you. I still rely on her daily for inspiration and guidance and I work to fulfill not just her dream, but mine as well.

September is ovarian cancer awareness month and Caroline's Cakes will be donating a percentage of all Caramel Cake sales during that month to support ovarian cancer research. We will have custom tins made with our logo in teal, which is representative of ovarian cancer awareness. Giving back was always an important part of how Caroline lived her life and ran her business and we hope to have a positive impact on the research to beat this terrible disease.  
Thank you all again for being a shining example of kindness in the world, and remember, as Caroline always said: "Eat cake, and be happy!"


Richard's email above made me pause. 

When your name is on the building - when you are the brand - you are automatically building a legacy. 

Caroline did not sell cakes. She connected with and nurtured the people with whom she came in contact. She was incredibly generous, both professionally and personally.
She made friends with bus boys and maids and big stars in Hollywood and all in between. It has been said that Caroline’s Cakes were so unique and delicious that they could be the secret to world peace.
She founded her bakery business in 1982, specializing in the hard-to-create Southern delicacy, the seven-layer caramel cake. Through her energetic entrepreneurship Caroline’s signature caramel cake was featured in the hit movie The Help.
Caroline was always thinking of how to make things better in her business and in the lives of others. She loved to work and did so all hours of the day and night no matter where she was. Her sharp business acumen had a laser focus and her bubbling creativity resulted in her invention of new processes and equipment to improve her business.
In business, when "you are the brand" you will live forever. You are building a legacy. A culture. A standard of excellence.

Walt Disney passed many years ago, but his legacy will last forever.

I think we shall be saying the same about Caroline Ragsdale Reutter.

“My goal is to continue to 'make the world a smaller place' with the Caramel Cake and my other Southern specialties. I am so grateful for all of my customers and their generous and ongoing support.” ~ Caroline Ragsdale

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does my face ring a bell?

This past week, the was invited to help our vendor and sponsor 8x8 with their "ringing of the bell" ceremony at the NYSE. It was an amazing experience. 

And it got me thinking about...........bells. 

Joe: "Have we met before?"
Sam: "Well, your face rings a bell." 

To "ring a bell" can mean to awaken a memory. 

Bells such as the type used in churches are large and loud. Their sound can be heard from a great distance. Bells sound a single, clear note so their sound is distinctive and not easily confused. 

Before electric sirens and amplification systems, bells were a valuable means of signaling people and alerting of important events.

Accurate clocks and timepieces were not always as available as they are today. Bells were used to signal people of the start of events such as a church session, the start of school, or a celebration. The bells acted as a reminder of the start of the event for people who had an out of sync timepiece or no timepiece. Someone would literally ring a bell as a reminder. 

As an aside bells were later used on clocks to mark the hour. A large clock usually in the town square could be heard throughout the town. This clock acted as a master time reference for the town. The hourly bell ringing gave people an opportunity to synchronize their respective timepieces, and early watches required frequent adjustment.

There are many bells that ring to remind or instruct us to do things: doorbell (open the door), telephone bell (pick up the phone), school bell (come to class), toaster bell (take out the toast), and the clothes dryer bell (take out the clothes). So, if something such as a face, a name, a number, or a date "rings a bell," it causes you to remember something.

I can remember that "ringing your bell" had to do with the affect of getting "clocked" by a impact to the head. In the case of boxing, a "bell ringer " would be a knockout where the bell was rung to signal the end of the fight. It was often illustrated as such in old cartoons. 

Or the reference to the carnival sledgehammer strength meter where the hammer strikes the fulcrum and launches a metal hammer up a vertical slide and ultimately hitting the bell at the top. Just as with boxing, the winner is a bell ringer. It's not a big stretch to see how this morphed into its current sexual vernacular or even financial stock market reference.

Bells have been around for about 5,000 years, and have obviously been used to convey information and to remind people to do something.

We spent two days at the NYSE. A wonderful evening private party on the trading room floor, and then, the "ringing of the bell" ceremony the next morning at 9:30 am (sharp). I admit it, this experience was a big deal for all of us. 

The history of the NYSE is connected to the history of business in America. I met some amazing people who have worked at the NYSE for 10, 20 years or more. And I asked everyone the same question: 

How can you possibly predict the market?

And here it comes. The same answer, from almost everyone that I asked. In some form, the answer to my question of how to predict the stock market was the same. 

"You cannot predict the market. You cannot predict how a stock will perform. But you CAN predict how people will FEEL about HOW THEY THINK a stock will perform". 

The stock markets (NYSE or NASDAQ) do not really track the performance of a stock, or track the value of any company stock. 

What the market does track, however, is how PEOPLE think about a certain stock. It tracks how they FEEL about what they think might happen to the stock price of a specific company.

And when a CEO's compensation is connected to the price of a stock, the stock price is all that matters to that leader. A CEO can take steps to increase the price of the company stock (and their paycheck) sometimes at the peril of the employees, the shareholders and the community. 

And that is when the bell went off in my head. 

Trillions of dollars are exchanged each day on the NYSE. These trades are not based on how a stock or how a company will really perform. It is all about how people think - how people WILL think - about a stock or a company. 

It is all about people guessing what people will be thinking (guessing) about what will happen next. 

The value of a company's stock is not the value of the company. The stock market simply tracks the "opinion of a guess" of a future value. And it tracks the past opinion of a past predicted value. Got it?

I have to admit it, this trip to the NYSE really struck a cord with me. Maybe my next blog will be about pianos and guitars. 

Ringing the Bell

Sunday, June 3, 2018

I was promised Smell-O-Vision

InfoComm is the largest, most exciting event in North America focused on the pro-AV industry, with 1,000 exhibitors, thousands of products, and 44,000 attendees from 110 countries. It is this week (June 6th through the 8th in Las Vegas). InfoComm is all about the future of work, the future of living, learning and playing - in the clouds. 

I wonder if this will be the year of Smell-O-Vision 2.0?

Smell-O-Vision was a system that released odor during the projection of a film so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. The technique was created by Hans Laube and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by Mike Todd, Jr., son of film producer Mike Todd. The process injected 30 odors into a movie theater's seats when triggered by the film's soundtrack.

Smell-O-Vision never took off.  But what about our other senses? 

Most of us are taught that the human body has five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But many neurologists identify nine or more senses, and some list as many as 21.

The sense of touch is actually several "somatic" senses, including perception of pressure, heat, and pain, and there are also a variety of interoceptive senses, which analyze information that originates from within the body.

Interoceptive senses include balance (the sense of the body's alignment), the organic sense (the sense of internal condition, such as hunger or thirst), and proprioception (the brain's knowledge of relative positions of body parts).

Proprioception is the sense that is actually tested by walk-the-line or finger-to-nose sobriety tests.

This year will be my first time NOT attending InfoComm live, because we have two events in New York City this week. So, I cannot attend live. I simply cannot be in two places at once. 

Or can I?

Enter vendor and sponsor: Suitable TechnologiesI will simply "Beam In" and walk the show floor. I will meet and greet our amazing vendors and sponsors who are at InfoComm, in Las Vegas. From New York City. 

Ah yes, to be in two places at once. Makes perfect sense these days, right? 

Stay in touch!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Is your image sharp?

Sharper Image Catalog, Holiday 1983

Back in 1977 Star Wars hit the big screen. Also in 1977 the original Sharper Image catalog dropped. Do you remember getting the catalog in the mail?

Almost nothing in the catalog was a necessity. But the "cool" factor, the "wow" factor of the products featured in the catalog was impossible to ignore. There was a special feeling about ordering something from Sharper Image. "Where the heck did you find THAT thing?" would be the most popular response to showing off your newly delivered next-gen gadgets to friends and family.

In the 80's I was deep into my gadget years. I admit to spending thousands of dollars on things that I did not need but things that I simply wanted. I remember when the first Sharper Image stores opened. A trip to the local shopping mall always included a tour of the Sharper Image.

Unlike Star Wars that grew and thrived over the past four decades, Sharper Image fell on hard times. The stores closed. The catalog stopped shipping.

And then it happened. I received a new Sharper Image catalog in the mail. It was sent to an old mailing address. It was a mailing address that has not been used in many years. But our friends at the Post Office figured it out, and they forwarded it along.

I was intrigued. After so many years, it was like a younger, impulsive and fiscally foolish version of my personality was coming home for a visit. I wanted to learn more about the how and "the why" Sharper Image was brought back to life.

I connected with the parent company. I just wanted to ask the question: Why? What did they see? What was the big idea of bringing Sharper Image catalog back from the dead?

Here is what anyone with access to Google can learn on their own:

Camelot Venture Group is a private investment group that invests primarily in direct to consumer companies including online, disruptive businesses, catalog, retail, technology and financial services, and sports management. 

Here is what most people will never learn: 

The leadership of Camelot is amazing. If you take a peek at their portfolio of their holdings, you will see many brands that will make you smile. 

I emailed them and told my story - about how I would spend thousands of dollars with Sharper Image in my 20's. And now in my 50's deep feelings of nostalgia made me reach out via email.

I did not expect a phone call from the managing partner, nor did I expect to spend over an hour on the phone. Just this month, I was invited to meet with them during an upcoming visit to New York. They are intrigued by our business model. Stay tuned! 

Now, the big lesson that I learned from all of this was as follows: the REAL money, the REAL value from the Sharper Image legacy was the data. The mailing list. The purchasing history of people like me. The master Sharper Image file of people who would spend money on things that they did not need, but things that they simply wanted. Bragging rights.

The Sharper Image was doing the Amazon business model, long before Amazon ever existed. 

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Camelot, I received a free "Master Class" in best practices in direct to consumer marketing including online, disruptive businesses, catalog, retail, technology and financial services, and sports management.

Many people from the past received a Sharper Image catalog in their mailbox, after many years of silence. Since they said "hello" after all of these years, I thought it was only proper to say hello via email in return. After all, I am not even sure I was using email in the 80's.

In business, image is important. Your brand (personal or otherwise) is important. What was cool and hot and admirable in the past, might not be cool and hot and admirable in the future. Make sure that you always do your best keep your own image (your brand) as sharp as possible.

If your current brand "died" (ala Sharper Image) would very smart people pay good money to bring it back to life? 

What did you spend money on in the 80's?