I heard a saying once that there is one thing that transcends race, religion and language:  Everyone thinks that they’re an above-average driver.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2008 was a good year.  Only 37,261 motor vehicle fatalities in 2007, down from 41,259 in 2008. An estimated 2.35 million were injured.

Over the past week I’ve seen people driving holding cell phones, applying make-up, smoking and eating.  I’ve watched kamikaze bus drivers pull out into traffic without looking, and police cars that must have defective turn signals.

Then there are those driving 20 under the speed limit with the steering wheel in a two-handed death grip.  You know, the ones you’re dying to get past, but the thought of having them behind you in traffic is also terrifying?

If we trained pilots with the same lackadaisical attitude, aircraft would be crashing faster than Airbus and Boeing could build them.  This concept of passing a driver’s test when you’re a teen and managing to get to the age of 80 without as much as a review of the rules is absurd. Surely with all the modern technology available today we can devise a few tests to ensure that drivers know the rules of the road and have something that at least remotely passes as reflexes?

Driving isn’t a right.  It’s a privilege and a responsibility.  Perhaps if we take it more seriously less people will have to die.

An answer

Today, my thoughts were prompted by one of my favorite songs. Human, by The Killers. In case you’re not familiar with the song, the lyrics include, “Are we human or are we dancers, my sign is vital, my hands are cold and I am on my knees looking for the answer.”

Thinking of this song on my run this morning, I got to thinking how often do I/we look, and I mean look, for the answer.

Am I just merely thinking about the answer?

Or am I down on my knees, asking for the answer?

Am I searching for the answer?

Am I giving it all I have to get the answer?

No mater what answer you are looking for, there is one. It may just take some time, some long days, some months, maybe even years to find. But that is what makes getting that answer so very sweet when we receive it. I encourage you to keep on looking for your answer, it’s out there!  As another lyric states, “Close your eyes, clear your heart.” It may not be what you think it should be, but be ready for your answer.

I’ve been to Twitter Jail for the past few weeks and it wasn’t pretty. The effects are still being felt. (This hasn’t just happened to me, but a few of my Twitter-buds as well). In short, we used some tools online which, for some reason, flagged our accounts. My @desireescales account was (and still is) invisible. If you do a search for “Desiree Scales” or @desireescales, my other account @soclmediacoach comes up. I was forced to create this other account because @desireescales was also banned from hashtag use so I couldn’t participate in the #sbbuzz Tweetchat. Whenever I used a #, my account didn’t show up in the #sbbuzz timeline so I had to create an alter-ego. (Try keeping track of two accounts, I can’t imagine keeping up with any more like some people out there!)

Jailbird

What’s bad about this is that if someone wants to find me on Twitter, they will find @soclmediacoach in the search results and not @desireescales and follow the former. This now means I have to update both accounts! Also, during the past #sbbuzz chats, people starting following the wrong identity. I had to politely ask them to be inconvenienced and follow the original @desireescales. Confusing, eh?

I think the problem was using www.hootsuite.com to post the same tweets more than once a day. Now, you would think that makes sense since Twitter gets a different crowd at 2pm than, let’s say, 8 pm. In fact, my friend Guy Kawasaki shared this idea with me in an issue of Entrepreneur Magazine from a few months ago. I guess I shouldn’t have listened.

The response I received from Twitter after filling out a ticket and waiting two weeks was:

________________________________________

Lukester, Jul 02 02:29 pm:
It would appear that you gave your username and login to an
advertising program which resulted in you being filtered from search
due to the number of identical updates. I’ve cleared this flag;
however, please be aware that engaging in this sort of behavior can
result in you being filtered from search.
________________________________________

He didn’t even detail which one so I’m sitting here still guessing at what I did. I also used www.tweepular.com because I was getting hundreds of followers a day due to my blog posts and podcasts at www.bellawebdesignblog.com and couldn’t follow everyone back one by one. Can you imagine how timely that would be? Tweepular made it much easier to follow everyone back at one time and unfollow those who were too sales-pitchy or MLMs. So, I’m still sitting here in the dark and can’t really explain to you why this happened.

As of today, Lukester tells me:

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Lukester, Jul 07 05:02 pm:
your accounts look fine and will probably be back in search soon.

________________________________________

I don’t believe him, but I have to keep the faith that I’ll be showing up in search soon and @soclmediacoach can go retire somewhere in Arizona. Stay tuned and if you’ve experienced something similar, please share it in the comments.

Economists are unanimous that regardless of what governments do it will take time, a lot of time, to rebuild faith in financial institutions and rejuvenate the economy.

The sudden realization that the emperor had no clothes and magnitude of the financial crisis is only now being fully addressed. In a knee jerk reaction management is moving to cut costs – circling the wagons – by reducing staff and marketing budgets.

On the surface it appears logical. But if you look at downturns and recessions in the past it wasn’t financial institutions or governments that led the economy back. Recovery was developed and carried out by Silicon Valley. And it will do it again as consumers and partners come to realize that the intellect, credibility and creativity reside in the technology areas; not in the world’s financial centers and most assuredly not in our seats of governmental power. So while paring overhead and “discretionary expenses” would seem to be relatively simple it has always had a greater or lesser degree of negative impact.

Keep in mind that NPD recently reinforced the strength of the industry by pointing out that in downturns and upswings consumer and computer technology has consistently beat the overall market’s averages. Their June retail-tracking service showed a three percent dollar increase over June 2007. This was the second consecutive month of positive news, after May’s jump of over seven percent. And this is after five straight months of flat or negative results, stretching back to December.

Before you wade into your promotional budget with a massive red pencil, consider how much should you cut from the promotional (advertising, sales support and PR) budget?

To answer this, ask yourself:

  • What does advertising/PR do for us? Can we accomplish this with a smaller investment? How much smaller?
  • What will happen next year or a couple of years out if we cut our promotional budget, keep it the same, or increase it?
  • If our competition is in the same position, is there a way to use the short-term problem to our advantage?

 Long Term Investment

Advertising/public relations should be an investment in both immediate sales and long-term objectives. It helps retain your share of market/image among your customers and prospects. It reinforces customers’ commitment to do business with you.

Some of the more successful (profitable) manufacturers and retailers in the PC/CE industry view communications not as an expense, but as an integral part of their total marketing mix. If at all possible, they maintain an aggressive promotional policy and program. They know their advertising and PR have a favorable effect on sales and income.

Today, there is a volume of data which indicates that during deep, long recessions or other “difficult” times, the firms that trim their communications budgets suffer–and suffer hardest. Other research found that companies that accelerate advertising/PR spending during market slumps perform better in both the short- and long-term.

Researcher Vernon Van Diver studied over 10,000 companies in about 800 business media sources found a relationship between promotional activities and subsequent sales.

He found two interesting patterns:

1. Companies that invest in promotion above their industry norm invariably, in succeeding years, have rising sales curves.

2. Companies that promote below their industry norm invariably, in succeeding years, have declining sales curves.

Additional Research

Researchers from the BPA and several communications firms have drawn conclusions similar to Van Diver’s. Relationships between advertising/PR and sales have been proven time and again:

  • Sales increases follow promotional increases, but rarely in the same year.
  • Sales decline with increasing momentum after promotion is cut back.
  • To retain your share of sales, promotion must increase as much as the overall average.
  • To increase your share of sales faster, communications must be increased faster than the industry norm over a period of four years or more.
  • If a marketer increases or decreases his traditional share of promotion relative to his competitors, similar changes occur in his share of market.
  • It is now possible to predict–with a high degree of accuracy–what the volume of sales will be at some future date.
  • It is possible to set an attainable sales objective very near maximum.
  • It is possible to determine the change in sales volume that follows each change in the advertising/PR budget, up or down.
  • It is possible to figure how much to allow for increases or decreases in competitive promotion.

 Using these principles, Van Diver studied 100 businesses across all industry segments. He made predictions six months or more before earnings and sales were disclosed. On the average, his predictions were within one percent of the actual figures. Pretty remarkable.

In a similar study, it was found that over a one year period organizations that did not cut back promotional spending enjoyed increases in both sales and net profits the next year. Sales were up an average of 55 percent and net profit was up 40 percent over the base year.

Marketers who cut back expenditures experienced no real growth during the period. Their net profits did not keep pace with that of consistent promoters.

Do these types of results hold true in good times and bad?  Are the same results achieved when the market is flat, down, booming? The quick answer is yes!

NPD just reported that the industry experienced a three percent dollar increase after six months of flat or negative results. The challenge in the months ahead for the industry’s players will be to can grow during this down period or be drug down with it. Growth, stagnation or shrinkage is really in the hands of senior management.

A Competitive Edge

Company management should exploit opportunities that deliver an ever-greater competitive edge. If you want to be an industry player, present yourself as one. Don’t wait on your promotion until all of the marketing variables are right. If the stars are in perfect alignment for you, you can be certain they are in line for your competition as well!

By waiting, everyone starts out on an even footing.The best plan of action is to proceed with your promotion while the competition is pulling in their horns. In good times and bad, make your choices based on:

  • Long-range, progressive promotion is synonymous with company growth.
  • Company strengths that hold up in hard times can be permanently molded with steadily aggressive advertising/PR.
  • Keeping pace with or exceeding industry communications norms is a company’s insurance of increasing sales.
  • A rise or fall in ad/PR spending is followed at some later date by an increase or decrease in sales.

 The more aggressive your promotion, the easier it is to meet and even exceed, energetic sales and profit projections. Today’s environment is going to put research conducted in good times and bad to the test!

Back in the 18th century trade unions made sense.  They fought for safe working conditions and important things that Governments didn’t take care of.  Since then, the world and the workplace have evolved, but unions haven’t.  Once leading-edge guardians of the safe workplace, unions today struggle to remain relevant. So they spend their time convincing members that they are hard done by, and then fighting to fix it.  They behave like spoiled children, always wanting more pay for less work.

Take for example, the rhetorick from CUPE Local 79 who ‘represents’ about 24,000 Toronto child care, garbage & recycling, and other workers. On their web site, they write, “We do not want to be on strike, but our employer – the City of Toronto – gave us no choice.” Of course they had a choice. They chose to strike. I expect next week they’ll write that, “it’s for the children” — always a tip off that bull excrement is in the mix.

Next they whine about sick days. Apparently being paid more than non-unionized employees — in other words more than the work is worth — isn’t enough. This whole concept of accumulating “sick time” is a crock. Employees should consider themselves fortunate to be paid if they’re sick. They clearly don’t understand the difference between sick time and vacation. Or perhaps, on second thought, maybe there isn’t any difference to CUPE.

On the topic of vacation, is it just a coincidence that CUPE Local 79 decided to strike just as summer begins? Any chance that influenced their decision? I guess if you’re going to take time off the weather might as well be nice. Meanwhile, as they strike, garbage piles up in Toronto. Perhaps it’s time to put out the trash.

TECHLife Post staff are off today enjoying the holiday with their families.  We’ll be back tomorrow!

…and we’ll put your bonus on hold.

According to an article in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen.  Apparently the Royal Canadian Mint is a tad short on gold. 17,500 troy ounces to be exact.  And they can’t figure out where it went. The Government’s response?  Put executive bonuses on hold.

Perhaps I missed something, but last time I looked, $15.3 million was a lot of money, and executives had an obligation to safeguard assets in their care. There’s no excuse for sloppy accounting, especially at the Mint. How about we cancel those bonuses and send a few executives home for a while.  To work on their resumes.

Sometimes in security, and life in general, it’s the seemingly small issues that cause problems.  As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

Take dates for example.  If I were to suggest we meet for a 10:00 coffee on 07/10/09, when should you show up?  Most of you would assume that 09 is 2009.  Then you’d hope to infer from other information whether I meant July 10th or October 7th.  Those who know I’m a night owl might wonder if I mean 10 p.m., while my old army buddies would assume that if I meant 10 at night I’d write 22:00.

About ten years ago, software developers and IT managers were in hectic race against the clock. In many cases they just didn’t know what would happen when computers using two digit dates rolled from 99 to 00.  Or 100. And it appears  that in the past 10 years we’ve learned very little about standardization.

Of course there are those who don’t bother with the year at all.  The yogurt in my fridge reads JL13.  At least I can figure out that they mean July 13, and I can hope that this container didn’t somehow get shoved to the bottom of the pile for a year.  Or even worse, the dreaded “Best before 08/01.” Is it good for another month and a half, or should I carefully double bag it and put it in the trash without disturbing whatever new life form might dwell beneath the lid? It just doesn’t make sense to force product manufacturers to put a date on something if we can’t be positive what it means.

Fortunately there is a simple solution:  Adopt the international standard, ISO 8601. Unlike many ISO standards, it isn’t all that complex.  June 22, 2009 is 2009-06-22 or 20090622.  10:00 a.m. is 10:00:00, and 10:00 p.m. is 22:00:00. Provisions exist for omitting seconds, etc., if they aren’t required.

Isn’t today a good date to become part of the solution?

[Carter is on vacation, but he’ll be back next week, cranky as ever!]

Last week Carter wrote about some positive aspects of the Canadian health care system.  But it’s certainly not all roses. While Canadians are guaranteed a basic level of healthcare, those with conditions that fall outside this basic level are on their own, and some vendors appear to take full advange of that.

Case in point:  I recently visited the Ottawa offices of VitalAire, a large Canadian respiratory healthcare firm. I needed a new mask for use with my CPAP machine. The lady at the desk quoted me $249.99. Interestingly, the exact same product is availible on the Internet from US suppliers for US $86.50, or around CDN $100 at today’s exchange rate.

Being able to pick the item up locally is certainly worth something, and Canadian prices for many goods do tend to be marginally higher than in the USA. But the fact remains that I could purchase the mask, pay for overnight shipping, and still save more than $100.

I emailed VitalAire’s head office to ask why they sell the product in Canada for 250 percent more than it costs in the United States.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t respond.

This came across my desk last week. A small company in Blowing Rock, NC called Christopher’s Wine & Cheese is using social media to compete with large companies and their multi-million dollar marketing budgets. Banding together with three small Bed & Breakfasts, they are sponsoring a “B&B and Winery Dream Vacation” along the Blue Ridge Parkway through sites like Twitter, Facebook and various blogs. Through these channels, the word is spreading quickly. Here is the story that inspired them:

Recently Queensland, Australia held a contest to find a caretaker to blog and promote tourism in their area. More than 34,000 applied for their Dream Job. Murphy Goode Winery is wrapping up a similar campaign soon with over 408 qualified entries and each campaign generated massive media attention with over 100,000 articles written or blogged about.

Since small, locally owned businesses don’t have the ten’s of thousands of dollars needed to build a website and crank up a media frenzy, Christopher’s turned to Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the Ning network to prove that small companies can compete with these big marketing budgets using just the free tools that are available online.

Lately everyone’s posting contests to win this or that job – and we think that’s just crazy. Everyone we know needs a break, not more work!

So Christopher’s Wine & Cheese decided to offer folks a chance to win a dream vacation for 2 along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.

For six days in September, just as the leaves are starting to turn, the winner will travel along the Parkway – spending 2 nights at The Inn at Meander Plantation in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, then off to the more casual High Country area where you can indulge in the great outdoors while staying 2 nights at the Blowing Rock Victorian Inn before heading south to the always entertaining city of Asheville where you’ll be staying at the 1900 Inn on Montford.

So how are we going to pick the winner? We’re not. America is. Simply submit your video telling everyone why you need a break – and we’ll put it up for a vote. And we’ll let the public decide why you’re the one who really should be working less and taking a break more.

Every few days, we’ll be posting more of the itinerary – meals and events hand selected by your innkeepers to really showcase the many fun things to do while vacationing in their area. As small, local business owner’s – they’ve always got the inside scoop on their area and specialize in creating the most memorable, romantic get-a-ways imaginable.

To see the promotion go to http://whyineedabreak.ning.com or search for #deservebreak on Twitter.

Did I catch your attention? This week I’m writing a few thoughts about a 4 letter word and it’s not the word you might think it is. The 4 letter word is called LIFE.

The word “life” brings up so many different thoughts, feelings, definitions, hopes, dreams and even fears. The fact of the matter is this: What are you doing with YOUR life? Are you living for the weekend? For summer or winter vacation? For retirement? Are you living for someone else? Are you limiting yourself to short term goals?

There are times in my life that I need to stop and ask, “Why am I doing this? Is it for me or will it bless someone else?” The choices we make affect everyone around us.

Recently, as I was preparing to go to yoga class, I received an unscheduled phone call. I really wanted (and needed) to do yoga. But, as I was pondering the implications of not taking the call, I knew it was not an option.

As I spoke with the caller I knew why I took the call. They needed me at that time. It wasn’t about me. It was about this person’s life. As we talked, I was happy that I choose the phone call. Happy that my friends are what life is all about. My challenge for you: What will you do for a life?

 

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Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!”Monk, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)

 

Admit it. You missed Steve opening WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference). You missed him walking out at the end of Phil Schiller’s keynote where Steve walks from behind the curtain and says , “One more thing!”

 

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No Show – Despite all of the wild speculation, Steve Jobs didn’t show up at WWDC and according to his earlier statements plans to be back at 1 Infinity Circle late this month. Oh yes, the team put on a very good event focusing on business, not personalities.

There was no colored water to dazzle folks. No one sat down on the chair, whipped off the shoes and socks, held them in the air and said “today we’re unveiling iSox.” And five million people ran to the Apple store scooping up pairs at $50 per. There was no rush to roll-out matching laces, iSox cases, a dizzying array of toenail colors mixed.

My gawd you had to focus on the announcements rather than the man. Maybe – just maybe – the PC/CE/communications industry has passed thru another stage of growth, dare we say maturation?

The business world goes through phases and the technologies industry has gone from techie gee whiz stuff to fashion statements. The business and consumer industry today changes fast. It changes more frequently than skirt length.

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Need for Speed – Through good times and bad the PC/CE/communications industry has kept its design/introduction engine running at full tilt. Today the industry moves faster than dress hem lengths.

In the ‘90s Jack Welch said the wind was at business’ back and he admits it was pretty easy to run GE. Jeff Immelt is having a tougher time.

Team Behind the Man

While Jobs aura overshadows the fact, he has built an executive team other firms want to use as a recruiting pool … ok so Palm did but they need every little edge they can get. What the industry needs is to dip into the talent pool to find some new crusaders, some new standard bearers.

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Conquistadors – While the industry is still remarkably young and vital some of the champions are getting a little tired of constantly tilting at windmills. We either need a new breed of champions to emerge or a new battle plan…or both. Source — Picasso

Today’s standard bearers are well getting old!

Remember Bill Gates? Hell bent for world domination. Things got out of hand and the OS razor became the all-in-one solution that included the OS, search engine, twenty tons of applications. When the fun was gone Bill gracefully bowed out and started doing world good with his billions. His grizzly bear salesman replacement’s track record? Wait for the book to be written.

Early Champions

Then you’ve got Scott McNealy’s rallying cry that Sun Microsystems would challenge, defeat and return the power of the computer to the people. Oracle’s Ellison is collecting the pieces into his horde.

Craig Barrett and Andy Grove had a fantastic run-up with Intel. They kept pushing Moore’s law, they were paranoid about survival, they orchestrated the firm’s entrance into mobile and wireless computing. Otellini guides the organization like a practiced, practical operations manager.

Intel’s perpetual nemesis AMD had a fantastic run – up and down – with the silver fox, Jerry Sanders, leading the pack. Hector Ruiz tried but another Jerry he was not. Dirk Meyer didn’t even try to follow in Sanders footsteps and just might have the company moving in the right operational direction.

The walk-about legends – Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – passed the buck to the board of directors which after a series of missteps seems to have found the operations guy they need to keep the huge tech/fashion engine running. Mark Hurd appears to have all of the cats moving in the same direction…finally.

There are still a few industry “legends” at the helm like Michael Dell and Larry Ellison but they’re a little preoccupied to lead the new fashion industry. Michael has issues. Loveable Larry causes issues.

Google is so busy gathering information about everyone who accesses the iNet they don’t qualify. Twitter, FaceBook attract mobs with their free stuff but you probably can’t name their champions.

So back to Jobs. Maybe the showman is thinking about a new phase in his life. He may have watched Woz dance and figured he might be missing things. The team is in place. He’s got a boatload of money (big chunks of Apple and Disney). He might even decide he wants to do some world good like Bill with his $5 billion +/- net worth. That’s his decision to make because if the board blew him out the Kool-Aid drinkers would storm 1 Infinity Circle and … let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

Different Times

Even with the tough times we’ve had the CEO turnover has been only been modest (increasing to 14.4%).

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Orderly Transitions – While globally the CEO turnover has increased slightly over the past year most of it has taken place because it was part of the long-term business plan or the firm was acquired. Most of the dismissals took place in the financial and “old established” industries. Source – Booz & Co

Maybe that’s why the list above has largely been operations folks. They’re focusing on fashion items (clouds, Wiis, netbookish notebooks, smartphone books) that clean up the back office mess and attract/keep customers.

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Short-Term Focus – Rather than boldly attacking new markets, new market areas; executives for the coming year are concentrating on winning over new customers for existing products and in retaining customers. Source – Heidrick & Struggles

Today has a different look/feel than the ‘90s. It’s different from the Web bubble. It’s true that the bosses don’t have a lot of time to prove themselves. They don’t have a lot of time to prove their street cred. That’s too bad because what companies really need is a CEO with the right DNA mixture of Jobs and Herb Kelleher.

Herb who? Kelleher.

The Marlboro smoking, Wild Turkey drinking, big airline/government fighting, people focused lawyer (yeah we know hard to believe a lawyer could be so human!). The irreverent SOB founded Southwest Airlines.

He built the “gotta fail” Texas commuter airline into what is arguably one of the most successful and most profitable firms in the industry. Long time employees say there’s still a little bit of Herb on every flight. He never had an HR (human resources) department. He had a people department.

He worked and partied with everyone in the organization equally. His philosophy was that no matter what his/her job was, every member of the team was a leader and responsible for people service and customer service.

LUV All Around

Caring about people internally paid off for Kellener because the SWA people LUVed what they did and their boss…and it showed. They all had a goal, a common rallying cry. Geez what a killer CEO would be bringing together the on-stage Steve with Herb’s people talents (Steve doesn’t have a huge reputation of being a party-down people reputation ya know!).

That’s what today’s PC/CE/communications fashion companies need. Imagine the sway that CEO would have over the marketplace, over the industry. Maybe the days of the wunderkin CEOs for the industry has past. Maybe it’s just time for guys/gals who know how to make things happen.

 

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Young Idealists – It may be difficult to believe but Steve (left) and Bill did sit down and discuss the industry, trends and changes on many occasions. True they probably saw the marketplace from dramatically different perspectives and had their own “best ideas” of how to make the changes and win the market. But that’s what competition is all about. Source — Fortune

Naw!!!!

There’s still time for real people who can lead and inspire organizations to do more and be more than they should be. We wanna see that dude or dudette stand before the team with jaw jutting and say…

“Before we go… let us remember our code. Let us strive every moment of our lives to make ourselves better and better to the best of our abilities so that all may profit by it. Let us think of the right and lend our assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let us take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let us be considerate of our country, our fellow citizens, and our associates in everything we say and do. Let us do right to all – and wrong no man.”

They’d go out make insanely great products, rush out and convince everyone to buy them, turn the economy around in a heartbeat and the PC/CE/communications industry would show the placeholder bosses who really runs the world economy.

Awesome man…Awesome!