Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Christmas Carol

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

10:00 AM Today:

Today was my first time going to church on Christmas Day in years. In many, many years. 

And, I am very glad that I went.  

I was baptized Lutheran, at the Community Church in Cedar Grove, New Jersey (this is a recent pic). My father was Catholic, my mother was Lutheran, and we LIVED right next door - 45 Bowden Road. The church was (still is) at 65 Bowden Road. So, Lutheran it was!

When I was around 10 years old, we moved to Boca Raton, Florida and my parents actually sold our Cedar Grove home to the church. It became the Pastor's residence. Middle School and then my first two years of High School were in Boca, then we moved back to New Jersey. My last two years of High School were at Essex Catholic - boys only. Yeah, going from Boca Raton, Florida - to Newark, New Jersey. Talk about culture shock! 

So, even though I was technically Lutheran, I was now listed as Catholic. That was OK by me. At this point of my life it was like toe-may-toe... toe-mah-toe. I'm mean as a teenager in the 70s, a Christian is a Christian, right?

Back then, If someone asked me my religion, I would say Catholic. I mean, in all the cool horror movies of the 70s, the Devil always was up against a Catholic Priest, right? So, I would say that I was Catholic even though I really was not. It was like the Catholics were "the Yankees of Christianity." 

I was not a big church person until I got married. My wife was Catholic, I was still (technically) Lutheran and I really did not care very much about the labels. When we were expecting our first child, conversations about church and religion came up, as in - how were we going to raise our kids?

I went through RCIA - Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA), or Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, is a process developed by the Catholic Church for its catechumenate for prospective converts to the Catholic faith above the age of infant baptism. Candidates are gradually introduced to aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices. The basic process applies to adults and children who have reached catechetical age.

OK, so I did what it took to make it official. But, I tend to not do things small. Next thing you know, I am on my way to becoming a Catholic Deacon.

Deacons are members of the clergy along with priests and bishops. The deacon's ministry has three dimensions: liturgy, word and service. At the liturgy, he assists the bishop and priests. At the Mass, the deacon proclaims the Gospel, may be invited to preach the homily, and assists at the altar. Deacon candidates are required to participate in a series of workshops and training over a four-year period.

Two years into my formation, it became clear that with two little kids at home, and a business to run - I did not have the time for all of this. Family first. I put my Roman Catholic Diaconate formation on pause. 

So, I went from being baptized Lutheran, to saying I was Catholic, to actually becoming Catholic, to (almost) becoming a Catholic Deacon. Now, I am "just a Catholic" who never goes to church. And, every year, less and less people (of any faith) attend church. Many blame COVID for this trend, but I think there are many other factors to this decline.

So - of course - all of this religion stuff made me think of... Zoom.

And BlueJeans by Verizon. And GoTo. And Webex by Cisco. And Adobe. And Microsoft Teams. And just about any/every collaboration technology in the world. 

The world's largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people. The country with the highest number of practicing Christians is the United States, with a Christian population of 253 million. B
y 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.

I wanted to become a Roman Catholic Deacon, as it seemed to be a good way for me to give back. A good vehicle for me to pay it forward. 

Diakonos means to serve. To take care of the poor. Now, at the age of 62 I fully realize that you can be a good person - you can be a good "Christian" just by being, well, by simply being a good person. 

The brand or the title is not what is important. If you have the basics of being nice and kind down, if you have the key factors of being a good person, everything seems to always work out just fine. 

So, I see Zoom as being Christianity - as in - having the most video collaboration market share as we wrap up 2022. 

But Microsoft Teams, and WebEx and BlueJeans (and the rest...) are also good collaboration religions. They also do good work in their own ways. They all provide a good service, they all serve a purpose and deliver to their customers a business outcome. They all just do it a little differently than their competitors - differently than their neighbors. 

And, over time, things can come and go. Brands shall come and go. I think that the lesson of my Christmas Day 2022 blog is this: just be a good person (or company) and everything will work out just fine. 

We are all have different skills and talents. We are all different by design. Being different is a very good thing indeed. In business, in religion, and in life. 

My First Christmas Day Mass 
( in many, many years)

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Get Fired Up!

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

My entire family (less me) was in construction in North New Jersey. Big construction, heavy construction. Bridges, tunnels, roads. Things like GIANTS stadium or building out the Meadowlands. As my Dad would say, "We are Earth Movers." And in the construction world, many times the winter would be the time when things slow down. As in, no work. Most big construction jobs do not "launch" when there is snow on the ground.
So, in our family's world, you knew that every job you ever started - you were going to get laid off. Especially during the winter. 
The key difference between being laid off vs. getting fired is that a layoff is the fault of an employer while a firing occurs because of the employee's fault. Most workers get laid off because the company is trying to cut costs, reduce the staff, or due to mergers and acquisitions. 
Tech companies have been laying workers off by the thousands. In 2022 over 120,000 people have been dismissed from their job at some of the biggest players in tech –Meta, Amazon, Netflix, and soon Google – and smaller firms and startups as well. Announcements of cuts keep coming.
Moreover, layoffs don’t work to improve company performance. Academic studies have shown that time and time again, workplace reductions don’t do much for cutting costs. Severance packages cost money, layoffs increase unemployment insurance rates, and cuts reduce workplace morale and productivity as remaining employees are left wondering, “Am I next?”
The tech industry layoffs are basically an instance of social contagion, in which companies imitate what others are doing. If you look for reasons for why companies do layoffs, the reason is that everybody else is doing it. Layoffs are the result of imitative behavior and are not evidence-based.
I’ve heard people say that they know layoffs are harmful to company well-being, let alone the well-being of employees, and don’t accomplish much. But everybody is doing layoffs so why don't we do the same?
Could there be a tech recession? Yes. Was there a bubble in valuations? Absolutely. Did Meta overhire? Probably. But is that why they are laying people off? Of course not. Meta has plenty of money. These companies are all making money. They are doing it because other companies are doing it.
Layoffs do not cut costs. There are many instances of laid-off employees being hired back as contractors, with companies paying the contracting firm. Layoffs often do not increase stock prices. In fact, layoffs can signal that a company is having difficulty. Layoffs do not increase productivity. Layoffs do not solve what is often the underlying problem, which is often an ineffective strategy, a loss of market share, or too little revenue. Layoffs are basically a bad decision.
Some companies are laying off people they just recruited – oftentimes with paid recruitment bonuses. When the economy turns back in the next 12, 14, or 18 months, they will go back to the market and compete with the same companies to hire talent. They are basically buying labor at a high price and selling low. Feels kinda dumb.

Why ignore the evidence against layoffs? If companies paid attention to the evidence, they could get some competitive leverage based on science. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, every airline except Southwest did layoffs. By the end of that year, Southwest, which did not do any layoffs, gained market share. Procter and Gamble's CEO said the best time to gain ground on your competition is when they are in retreat – when they are cutting their services, when they are cutting their product innovation because they have laid people off. 
The CEO of the software company SAS Institute, has also never done layoffs – he actually hired during the last two recessions because he said it’s the best time to pick up talent. Lincoln Electric, a famous manufacturer of arc welding equipment did this: instead of laying off 10% of their workforce, they had everybody take a 10% wage cut except for senior management, which took a larger cut. So instead of giving 100% of the pain to 10% of the people, they give 100% of the people 10% of the pain.
Companies could see a recession as an opportunity. In the 2008 recession and the 2000 tech recession SAS used the downturn to upgrade workforce skills as competitors eliminated jobs, thereby putting talent on the street. SAS hired during the 2000 recession and saw it as an opportunity to gain ground on the competition and gain market share when everybody was cutting jobs and stopped innovating. Social media is not going away. Artificial intelligence, statistical software, and web services industries – none of these things are going away any time soon.
When the winter months came, my Dad would "find work" to keep the gang busy. Dad knew that if the crew was lost in the winter, they would not be around in the spring. 
The PEOPLE are the most important thing in the construction game. I remember Dad doing construction projects that were going to lose money, just to keep people on the payroll. And this would repeat every year, every winter. 
It is easy to say that you are a "People First" company but if you are laying off your people at the first sign of trouble, that simply does not pass the sniff test. Laying off your workers? Your PEOPLE??? 
My Dad would have a different word for this weak leadership. 
Check out the with Bill George 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Health, Wealth and Happiness

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

When I was young, my father had a "toast" that he would often say at family gatherings. He would say "Health, Wealth and Happiness." But then he would follow up with his own commentary: "It is easy to achieve two, it is hard to have all three."

Over the years, I began to question his words, question his opinion on the struggle of having all three at the same time. Dad's logic was that if you work so hard at making money, your health might suffer. If you are consumed with work, your family life might suffer. Reminds me of "A healthy person wants a thousand things, a sick person only wants one thing." 

Another triad of words that I have heard and read over the years: Speed, Quality, Price. Pick two. The logic here is that fast and high quality will be expensive. Or, don't expect the lowest price to be the highest quality. It's like a game of whack-a-mole. You don't want to fall into the trap (in business) of doing a series of repetitious and futile tasks, where the successful completion of one just yields another popping up elsewhere. 

Funny word, triad. The best-known type of triad is a type of musical cord consisting of three notes. A D-major triad is made up of the notes D, F-sharp, and A. An F-minor triad is made up of F, A-flat and C. And so on. Major and minor triads form the basis of tonal music, and songs and other pieces usually end with triadic harmony. In medicine, a triad is a set of three symptoms that go together. 

Because I live in the Sales and Marketing world (I'm a selling CEO) the triad of Attention, Adoption and Utilization is something that I personally experience every single day. 

I cannot sell you (or teach you) anything, if I fail to win your attention. If via having earned your trust long enough (if I can maintain your attention long enough) I might then win the right for you to try - test - check out - hopefully adopt what I am teaching (or selling). And, if the thing that I am selling (or teaching) actually WORKS, well then, the utilization, the results - the business outcome of my proposed triad will last for weeks, months, even for years. This is where MY personal "toast" is that "People don't leave a good thing." I have also been heard to say that "People don't want to buy a drill, they are actually buying a hole." People are buying business outcomes. Successful business outcomes creates lifelong customers. Trust becomes the coin of the realm. 

Seth Godin's daily blog (today) is very timely. Seth reminds us that attention and trust do not scale. New technology like AI powered Chat rooms, and smarter and smarter robots might be FAST and might become very CHEAP, but the QUALITY, the true business outcome of using this technology will fail. 

I think that the most successful business leaders fully recognize that the triads of Health, Wealth and Happiness - and - Speed, Quality and Price are well, they are everything

People First organizations must put the health, financial security and the overall happiness of those in their charge at the center of everything. Business leaders must deliver the highest quality product, on time and on budget, at an affordable price - every time - all the time. The triad of speed, quality and price must be trusted. The anticipated business outcomes must become trusted in the marketplace so much, that people will not leave a good thing. 

There is no perfect business. Business is hard, just as good parenting is hard. Whether you are the head of a family, or running a company, character matters. The true purpose, the mission, the charter, the reason for WHY a business even exists, matters. People First organizations (and their leaders) know this and live this, every day. It is in their DNA. 

As a parent, the only phone call you want to get from your kids is "Hey, Mom and Dad. Listen, I'm healthy, I'm happy, and thanks for all the support." It should be the same in business. 

"Hello Mr. Capone. I just wanted to call you and wish you Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. Our business is doing well, we are looking forward to working with you and with your teams in the New Year. Thank you all for your support, we appreciate all of you very much." 

"Health, Wealth and Happiness. It is easy to achieve two, it is hard to have all three."

Dad said it was hard to have all three. Dad did not say it was impossible

Hard things are hard - they are supposed to be hard
So focus on the hard things. Do the hard things first. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

It's always been you, Rach.

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

Many times (not all the time) if you purchase enough books an author will speak to your group or speak at your event for free. At we have many Fortune 1000 clients where we help them to host complete, end-to-end hybrid meetings and hybrid events. So, it is not uncommon for us to purchase thousands of books from amazing authors. We did that with Macmillan division Flatiron Books for an upcoming BlueJeans by Verizon Telehealth Summit. Matthew Perry's memoir which details his struggles with addiction is one of the best books I have read in years. Everyone who attends the Telehealth Summit (live or virtually) will get a copy of Matthew's book for free, as a thank you for attending. And, mental health is health. 

In 2017 I did an audio podcast with Pamela Slim. She is an award-winning author, speaker and business coach who works with small business owners ready to scale their businesses and IP. She is the author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, Body of Work and The Wildest Net. 

I will admit, doing the interview with Pamela back in 2017 was a big deal for me. I was just getting started in doing podcasts, and I really did not know what I was doing. At all. Pam is frequently quoted as a business expert in press such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Information Week, Money Magazine and Psychology Today.

In 2016, Pam and her husband Darryl co-founded the K’é Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, a grassroots, community-space for equity-centered small business economic acceleration. 

In her book The Widest Net, Pam explains how to build strong diverse relationships, identify and connect with new partners, expand markets, generate leads, and find new customers in places you may never have considered. With Pam's book as a guide, readers learn how to connect with potential clients and customers using the true breadth of the marketplace, which she calls an ecosystem of living connections.

The Widest Net shows how to:

  • Search outside your own lens/bias/routine/history to target ideal customers.
  • Attract the interest and attention of new leads by learning more about them authentically.
  • Develop products and services suited to these customers.
  • Sell through a trusted reciprocity framework where your customers become part of your ecosystem and you each help the other grow.
  • Build and sustain loyalty and trust with new customers.
  • Nurture a diverse and resilient customer base by identifying and adjusting to the ideal customer target over time.
By the time you read this Sunday blog, Pam's new (video podcast) might be (hopefully) live on our website. We recorded just last Thursday afternoon. 

Matthew Perry's book and upcoming interview triggered me to rewatch some Friends episodes. I don't think I rewatched them all, but I think I came close. I did catch the one where the character Ross Geller says "It's always been you, Rach." 

I met Pamela Slim in 2017 when we did the interview and then pretty much, nothing

It was thank you thank you thank you for doing my audio podcast - and then - nothing. OK, life goes on, people get busy and all that. But here is what happened last month. 

As I was doing more and more and more video podcasts, I thought about all those audio-only interviews that I did years ago, and who should I try to reconnect with and do a new, fresh video interview? Pamela said yes so fast, that you would think that we were best friends.

The person that was SUPPOSED to play the Chandler Bing character in Friends was Matthew Perry's real-life best friend Craig Bierko. Perry actually coached Bierko for the Chandler role while Perry was still attached to another series. Bierko was offered the role on Friends - and turned it down. Turned. It. Down. And when Friends went on to become a mega hit, real-life best friends Perry and Bierko did not speak for two years. Two. Years. Now in 2022, it seems they are back to being best friends again. 

As I sit here and reflect on life's twists and turns, it really hit me. I met Pamela Slim via another friend (and amazing human) Michele Woodward. And my interview with Pam in 2017 was like an "I've made it!" moment for me as far as podcasting goes. And then almost radio silence with Pam until just a few weeks ago. And now, it feels like we are (for me, anyway) best friends. So, I am reflecting on this Sunday morning - about friends, about business, and about friends in business.

It was approximately 260 weeks ago (1,826 days) that I interviewed Pamela Slim the first time. The most recent time was 3 days ago. All that time that passed between the first interview and the second interview makes me borrow the line from Friends character Ross Geller:

"It's always been you, Pam." 

“Could I BE anymore excited for this?”