Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Dad is a Pole Dancer

The first firehouse pole was installed in New York City in April of 1878. The firehouse poles made intuitive sense, especially in urban areas. Building space was tight, so firefighting wagons and horses lived on the first floor while the firefighters lived on the second floor. Sliding down a pole is indeed faster than using the stairs, with one fire chief saying they save about 25 seconds in response time over using stairs.

There are just two types of workplaces that typically have poles -- but since this is a family friendly blog, I will focus on the more heroic of the two: fire stations. The image of firefighters sliding down a fire pole as alarms scream in the background is iconic. But is it really necessary? Does a firefighter sliding down a firehouse pole really save time?
Even though fire poles do save time, they're becoming less and less common in modern firehouses. Not only are they expensive, but they can also be dangerous to the firefighters. Trying to slide down a pole as quickly as possible can sometimes result in an injury. In 2013, 74.2 percent of all firefighter injuries that occur while responding to or returning from an incident involve a strain, sprain or muscular pain. The report doesn't break those injuries down into pole and non-pole categories, but it is not hard to imagine how many firefighters could get hurt sliding down a slick 20-foot pole. And beyond the injuries that could happen while actually using the pole to respond to a call, an open hole in the second floor of a building means that there's always a risk someone will fall down it. Plus, with an opening leading directly from where fire trucks are kept to where firefighters live, unhealthy fumes can easily creep into sleeping and eating areas.
While most firehouses that currently have poles are keeping them, they're also enclosing them at the top and putting pads at the bottom, to reduce the risk of injury. Newer firehouses (at least those that have the space) are being built all on one story. No fire poles needed.  

This blog is always about technology. So what’s your point, Tom?
Firehouses have fire poles, but we forget WHY firehouses had fire poles installed in the first place. We THINK that firefighters slide down fire poles because the extra 25 seconds saved is worth the expense, worth the risk, and worth the many liabilities. We feel that a firehouse without a fire pole is not a real firehouse. The mental picture of a fireman using such fire pole technology is something that we “feel” and it is that feeling that has kept fire poles from becoming extinct. When it comes to technology, we often buy or use things based on how we feel. When kids tour or visit a firehouse on a field trip, especially a single level firehouse out in the country where there is no need for a space saving two-story structure - what is the first thing the kid will ask the firefighter giving the tour? “Where’s the fire pole?” Our hearts tell us that firehouses should have fire poles, while our brains tell us that firehouses don't need them.

Installing poles in firehouses in the 1800’s made sense. Today, not so much.  It was a good use of “technology” and it allowed for two-story firehouses to exist. Installing a pole to save “an extra 25 seconds” made perfect sense. Firehouses that were NOT downtown, firehouses that were free-standing structures would install fire poles because that’s what firehouses have - firehouses have fire poles. If the men were on the 2nd floor, even if the firehouse was miles away from the people and 25 saved seconds is not the key issue, the firehouse would STILL have a firepole.
Can you find the outdated technology based “fire poles” in your business? And did you ever need these technologies in the first place?

OK, we don't need a fire pole. 
How about a $250,000 slide?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Wiseguy from New Jersey

You never know. 

Or is it, you always know - but you rarely act?

I post on Facebook. Too much, so says my wife. Quotes. Funny stuff. Pictures of my dogs in the park. I think I have posted pictures of my rescued dogs in the park, as they are running free or swimming and having a blast at least once or twice over the years. Ahem.

I reposted the article “3 Ways VC Funding Could Destroy Your Company” because it really rang true for me. And, it was sent to me by another friend on Facebook. One of my new Facebook friends, saw the link and she commented: “We have struggled to go it alone but have made it thus far without VC. We don't want to compromise our mission, plus most VC's that think they understand what we are doing... really don't get it.”

Intrigued by words like “struggled” and “compromise” and “mission” this prompted me to say to her in private Facebook chat:

“What do you do?”

If you know my battle cry, it is “Everything is Distance Learning.” Check out Check out her posts, check out her blog. Boom. Out of the sky, from nowhere, surprise! Or, is it always once again right there - hiding in plain sight? I am pretty sure that Tamra will be reading this blog and say “I can’t wait until Monday!”  

I can't wait to meet with you either, !

We have a little cluster of stores in town, off the highway. Del’s Village in Boonton Township has a Florist, a Dry Cleaner, Nail Salon, UPS store, Hardware Store, and Chinese Restaurant. There are a few more nice little convenience stores that service the neighborhood. One of the stores is a Hallmark Stationery store, founded in 1949. Birthday cards, lottery tickets, the daily news, gifts. You get the idea.

While buying coffee next door, I saw a poster hanging in the window: “The Real Wiseguys of New Jersey” and it showed lots of actors that I recognized who have played “Goodfellas” in various mob movies. Honoring my Capone family name, I had to go in and buy said poster. It went like this: How much is the mob poster in the window? Oh no, don’t get up!  (I see he is using a cane and not walking so good….) Turns out the owner of the store is:

  • Going in for hip replacement surgery soon.
  • He is actually one of the actors IN the poster! He is also a teacher.
  • He does not know what he is going to do now - during - and after his hip replacement surgery to keep the store running.
  • Turns out that we know many of the same people.

  • We are going to have students from Rutgers University School of Business / Entrepreneurship Majors come in and “run” his store for him now, and during his post-surgery recovery. Paid summer internships, via the NYDLA. I am going to make that happen. Boom!
  • We are going to build an online store for him, so that he need not rely on walk-in traffic alone. He is going to have an AMAZING online store, trust me. Boom.
  • We are going to “play up” the fact that the store has been around since 1949, and make it a cool retro theme. Boonton since 1949, I can see it now. Boom!
  • We are going to interview Perry for the NYDLA, and talk about the Entertainment business, acting, and how “you never know” what life has waiting for you right around the corner. Boom!

That "right around the corner thing" is always amazing. Had I not bought a cup of coffee on THAT day, and parked “just to the left” I would have not walked by his store. I would not have seen that poster. And THAT poster. It could have been any poster hanging in the window, and I would not have went inside. A week or two later, I might have seen a “Closed” or worse, an Out of Business sign in the window, and I would have said “Too bad, open since 1949 and now they are closed. Gee, the economy must have gotten to them. That's a shame.”

Because I went inside, Perry will not have to close his store due to his surgery. And, he will have a brand-new online eCommerce solution. We will blog on him, we will promote him via social media, and do a marketing campaign within 5 miles. Students from Rutgers will get a wonderful paid internships, and they will LEARN more about business than they can imagine. And, I’ll put my son Robert in charge of the entire project, so that he can learn - and - he can make great money on a project that HE can own, from start to finish. “Here you go, Robert, the boss is giving you the ball.”

I took Robert with me for the “follow up” meeting, to pass the baton. Robert and Perry hit it off, and I can now step back and let the plot unfold. Perry actually shared with us his financials. We are going to double or triple his business. Fact. Or, a “true fact” as they say in Washington, DC.

People say that “you never know” what is around the corner. 

I say I know exactly what is around the corner. It is opportunity. New opportunities are always right around the corner, or on Facebook, or at the dog park.  Don't get me started about meeting cool people and making money at the dog park!

With a last name like Capone, I am often asked: “So, are you related to Al?” I have different answers to that question, but my favorite is the truth: a very short and sweet: yes. I must say that we have always received excellent seats at restaurants, and we really never had a significant receivables issue in business. I am certainly not a wise guy, by the movie definition. But I have always been a smart ass, according to my father.

You never know what opportunities are right around the corner, but you must open your mouth (react, respond, move, act!) if you want to convert such chance meetings into something more than a post on Facebook or an unnecessary cup of coffee.

Serendipity means a "fortuitous happenstance" or "pleasant surprise." The notion of serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of scientific innovation such as Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, and the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945, to name but a few.

Now ask me about my dog park stories…….they're really good. 

I almost forgot to say BOOM!