Monday, October 17, 2011

Opportunities, do we seize them?

A recent email sent out by Storables promoted countertop compost pails.

Storables is a specialty retail chain in the United States [wikipedia reference]. Their communication was timely and was selected to promote a solution to a problem that area residents face.

Beginning Oct 31, single-family homes in Portland, OR will start composting food scraps with yard debris. The Storables line-up of kitsch came with prices from $19.95 for a simple waste can to $34.95 for an upscale bamboo pail.

The same day the Storables email went out a similar communication from Staples was released.

Staples is a large office supply chain store [wikipedia reference].

Staples selected an array of items and promoted top brands, but . . .

Staples only promoted price.

While price is a salient factor in most purchases, is this an effective way to advertise? If it is, then Staples should promote all these items on Groupon where consumers are known for seeking out discount pricing.

The difficulty with Groupon-esque business models, though, is that it is not a sustainable business model. How can a business afford to keep discounting prices, and at what point is the market immune to the percentage off fad?

As was asked early in What will last longer, the shoe or me?, deep discounts raise skepticism in viability of a product, the viability of the business and the viability of the economy.

Look outside the business for opportunity, seize them and promote them like there's no tomorrow.

Because without a good marketing plan there may be no tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NEW disruptive technology: rest and reflect

In honor of Columbus Day, I took Monday off from blogging, and (going backwards) Sunday, Saturday, Friday and Thursday. Illness, albeit brief, kept me from any thoughtful musings on that fateful non-blogging Thursday, and then in the scramble to catch up, it wasn't until last night that I counted the missed days.

Blogging is useful as a goal process – there is much to be said about deciding to do something and then actually doing it – and for a writer, the practice of writing everyday creates a groove in the brain that propels continuous ideas.

The challenge is to keep writing, no matter what.

At the first of the year when I changed jobs, I noticed that writing on my fiction manuscript slowed. When the new job morphed into more management responsibilities (I got a promotion) my fiction writing slowed to a trickle. Then stopped.

I filled the fiction writing void with blogging. I weighed in on several topics: non-profits helped by Dining for Women, the cool things that Umpqua Bank is doing, how the Internet disrupts family relationships, the psychology of negotiating, struggling with email and what gets in the way of accomplishing our goals.

I wrote about the results of blogging everyday. For seven weeks I blogged about the analytics that resulted of consistent blogging. I served up my favorite quotes from things I read or heard.

And I mulled over why I had stopped writing fiction.

The manuscript, that is currently in the works, is inching close to a part that is emotionally powerful, potentially explosive and crafting it well can define who I am as a writer. I've taken classes by Bill Johnson who wrote, A Story is a Promise. He would pose the theory that halting writing at this critical juncture would intimate that I'm afraid of the emotions the manuscript unveils.

I don't think I'm afraid at all.

But what if I am?

The only thing that cures fear is to face it. This week I plan to open the WORD doc of my manuscript and re-read it. The consecutive blogging is disrupted. The manuscript has rested long enough. I've had some well days to reflect.

I'm curious to know what will happen next.

If it's not too scary, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do managers need simple parenting skills?

A co-worker asked me to draft a post for a program she had recorded with a family counselor. I picked up her notes and went to town.

"Disciplining your child is a challenge all parents face. Decisions revolve around what is the right amount of discipline and what is too much."

I drilled down through the notes typing 90 miles an hour.

"Here’s another thought, what if when you asked your children to do something, they did it right away?"

I wrapped up my work, sent it to the printer and slung my draft on her desk with a smug smile.

She reviewed my output, peered at me over her glasses, sighed and tossed it aside. "That's not what we talked about at all."

I put some time and effort into that draft and thought I should get some mileage out of it. I rewrote it for the 360 Convos blog. EXCEPT, instead of discussing parents and children, I substituted boss and employee.

Here's what I mean.

"What if, when you asked your employees to do something they did it right away?"

(Here's the rest of the 'edited' article). That is the approach, one consultant takes when she addresses this issue with frustrated managers. She identifies it as ‘first time obedience.’

Consider her assertion that once you have to say something twice, you’ve made yourself weak.

She suggests, "Say it once and get action."


She uses a simple three-step process, but don’t try it just one time and give up. To see measurable results in behavior, managers need to try these steps on employees for at least a month.

The first step is to avoid questions. Being a manager is a position of authority, and not one of peer-to-peer, so she recommends starting with a statement. "Please turn off gmail and clean your desk."

The second step is a question, but offered in the form of alternatives, for instance, "Do you want to turn off gmail and clean your desk, or would you like me to?"

Over time, employees learn that the choices the manager offers may have negative side effects when they don’t respond quickly.

The third step, well, for this the consultant suggests you ask employees to leave the conference room. It is the secret that makes the technique work. The manager needs to not ‘care’ what decision the employee makes.

Overall, her advice is for leaders to give themselves time to see the results of using the three-steps and to keep up their efforts, even when the employees don’t appreciate it.

"Don’t expect adult behavior and don’t expect perfection. Prepare for the long haul." She also says, "Employees may not say 'thank you' until they retire."

The goal is to help managers develop employees with good problem solving skills who have the ability to build healthy work relationships.

~end of edited article~

If you have parenting questions, feel free to pose them on a parenting blog.

If you have employee questions, feel free to make something up.

It appears I did.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Downtown treasures and hidden spaces

About six years ago, I spent every weekend in the Columbia River Gorge looking at property to purchase.

Garage next to the music store, because the guitars are BIG?
I looked at manufactured homes on an acre or two, stick built houses on small lots, an old school house and a commercial building. I liked the idea of anything cheap. I also liked the idea of anything unique. That pursuit took me through a couple of retired grange halls.

One of the halls sparked an interest. They had tenants! To find out how much a group paid to rent the space, I went on a telephone adventure and had an interesting conversation with AA. I did not disclose to the woman who answered the phone that she was my prospect. Likewise, I did not try to dis-sway her from the misconception that I was her prospect.

Some things cannot be explained.

During the course of my property search, I learned to look at everything with the idea of seeing what others do not, of remodeling possibilities, of imagination gone wild. 

I gathered that same adventurer's spirit and took a Sunday stroll down lower Main in Vancouver and wandered over to Washington St. where I checked on an old advertising prospect. I eyed the street before crossing, ambled up to the big windows and peered inside. The stores were closed, it was Sunday after all. I walked away, turned back and raised my camera. I snapped the above picture.

I never did buy property in the gorge. I decided to be a little more mobile. But I still find old, odd buildings interesting. And I'd like to know what's next door to Briz Loan & Guitar.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What will last longer, me, the shoes, or the store that sold them?

My new shoes, available in limited sizes for anyone with $8.74
I purchased a pair of Trim Step tennis shoes at a box store known for good bargains, Target.

I'm known for sniffing out good bargains on end-caps, bottom shelves, and any odd assortment of places stores make interesting to browse.

Here's the 'kicker,' the shoes cost $8.74.

After the bloom of the purchase wore off I began to wonder why I could buy shoes at such an awesome price. They came with shoe strings. They aren't cheap feeling. I stumbled into a shoe design that encourages muscle toning in the legs, improves posture and reduces stress on feet, knees and back. They have that new roll bottom that promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.

I'm all for those kind of auxiliary benefits, especially when it comes in my size.

I did a quick look on the Internet and noted that, today, I could have purchased the same shoes online from Target for $12.24. At the branch where I made my purchase they are now listed for $5.54. At two of the company's other stores, within 10 miles, they were $6.99, $10.91, and $11.74.

Living in the land of NIKE, heightens your expectation of the cost of shoes. Finding sports, or sports-like shoes for less than ten dollars seems surreal. Finding them in your size is both surreal and of fairy tale proportions.

This leads me to two conclusions: the store selling them has issues and when shoes are less than ten dollars, the economy is tanking.

A superficial search online shows that prices are dropping in a variety of categories. Motorola dropped the price on it's Atrix 4G phone, Walmart plans to drop the price of its Xbox, Nientendo dropped the price of the 3DS, and Price Pinx and Free Price Alerts, among others monitored everyone's fall.

Venture outside of electronics and price dropping is just as prevalent. In August, gas dropped eight cents across Texas. Across the nation and in every neighborhood, home prices dropped.

Taxes, however, did not drop.

Nevertheless, if shoes continue to be available for less than ten bucks, I agree with Business Week, the store selling them, "needs to refine its strategy." The addition of groceries at Target, and the additional five percent off when you use the company-issued debit or credit card have helped revenue, but not the bottom line.

Not enough profit.

Here's some advice for a refined strategy: sell shoes for fifteen bucks.

While I ponder the inevitable, that despite all common sense, taxes will only increase, I shall ponder that thought while walking a mile everyday just to see how long these $8.74 shoes will last.

What do you think will last longer, me, the shoes, or the store that sold them?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Analytics reveals one pageview makes a difference

Sundays, we take a backwards glance at 360 Convos and review a week of posts, to see how they did within two-weeks of being released.*

In this instance, we examine the week of August 28.

The Sunday post got a little more play than the others. It disclosed the difference one pageview can make.

In fact, Sunday had more than double the audience response than the second place 'winner,' the Tuesday's post on the Tension between work and friends.

Third place was a almost a tie between sex and newspapers. The truth about seniors, teens and the sexes online was picked up by The Customer Collective, where it received a few additional reads. The post that featured a newspaper that served lunch, thus resolving the dilemma of how to reinvent journalism, wrapped up fourth place.

Curiously, about the time the editorial board believed that the 360 Convos audience was beginning to wane, the board realized that Friday of that week slid into a holiday, thus upsetting all convo applecarts.

Next week, how did 360 Convos fare after Labor Day weekend?

(chronological order)
Sunday Analytics show the number one post won by one pageview
Monday The truth about seniors, teens and the sexes online
Tuesday The tension between friends, lunch and work
Wednesday Surprise me, reinvent the J.C. Penney brand
Thursday Vanity comes in classy QR codes
Friday Fav quotes and a newspaper that serves lunch
Saturday Eat. Hydrate. Think.

*Source: Google Analytics.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Extraordinary Measures: the movie, the media and me

A news organization spent a year in a $42 million environment, a beautiful open space of larger-than-life cubicles, water that tasted good, and air that felt fresh when everyone breathed in the new ambiance.

Televisions ran 24/7 throughout the third floor. Televisions played silently in a comfortable lunch room stocked with super-sized vending machines, double refrigerators, double microwaves, double giant toasters. On every floor large glass panels etched with company history separated break rooms from open spaces.

This was a space so expansive gawkers on the second floor watched Faith Ford deliver lines flawlessly for an infomercial filmed in the lobby.

This was a space so unique that Harrison Ford brought in his crew and filmed Extraordinary Measures on the second floor.

It rewarded managers and some supervisors with individual offices.

Automatic prestige.

Automatic assumption the company was doing well.

Automatic everything...including failure.

I worked for the news organization that built the building.

After a year in the new digs, we nodded our heads in sweet recollection of our luxury accommodations, tidied up after ourselves, and waved good bye. We returned to our roots—the original building that the company had been unable to sell or lease.

Thank goodness.

Upon our reentry at our original structure, employees began calling it the 'old building.' I hated that term. I am acutely aware of how semantics affect how we view our situation and coined the company phrase, 'the classic building.'

About the same time I started my more work oriented Twitter account and pegged myself as @TheClassicCarol, and included this bio: "The Classic Carol returns to the classic building. We create our future. We are the media's future. Build our community: get out there and sell something!"

I've amended that several times. The Classic Carol is not so much about work as about thought, opinion, and ideas.

Just like the building and the bad economy, that spiraled the news organization into reorganization, I reorganized my twitter, my bio, and my blog. Within a year of the company's successful emergence from bankruptcy, I left. I reorganized myself, too.

I'm glad I got to experience both the new building and the return to the classic building. There was a lot of risk taking to throw the shovel into the ground and build a $42 million building and I learned from that. But tere was a lot we lost when we headed for brand-spanking new. There was a lot we gained when we returned to the synergy of our roots.

There was a lot of extraordinary people who returned tp the classic building and were glad to have a career they loved and a place where they could practice their craft. I learned from that, too.

Do what you love and love what your doing until you can do something different, even if it takes extraordinary measures.