Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Inspired by Firsts

We are driven by firsts. 

Our first time to do something is spectacular. Growing up in Texas, I remember visiting the mountains for the first time. I remember my first kiss, my first car, my first dog, and even my first college road trip. Sorry, Jim, I still owe you money - what's the interest after 25 years by the way?

Public, professional, and cultural firsts are as equally exciting as they are inspiring. Our first trip to the moon, our first smartphone, our first planned mission to Mars. Ok. Maybe we're not quite there yet, but we're closer than we've ever been, and that's a first.

Firsts drive us. They motivate and inspire us. They send our brains a signal that something wonderful is or is about to happen. After all, we are, first and always, stewards of our future.

What firsts have inspired you?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Embracing The Local Market's Inner Customer

On any given day, embracing a specific market's customer is supremely more important than considering the customer-at-large. The local customer, with their personal preferences grounded in the every day world they live in, can be the most meaningful key performance indicator in determining the overall success of a business.

Even a mom and pop shop on Small Business Saturday can learn something from their larger corporate brothers and sisters. An REI in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the focus of living outdoors is literally achieved right outside the front doors, is entirely different than one in Plano, Texas, where, unless you're doing some urban backpacking, you have to travel just a little further out. Each store's appearance may seem the same, but the customer experience and general atmosphere, inside and outside of the front doors of each, is entirely different.

How a business interacts with their most immediate community is also a huge indicator of success. Are they active in local community events and government affairs? Yes, Corporate Social Responsibility is huge factor here, but it goes beyond that. The local community requires something different from any local business, no matter how large or small or corporately driven and regardless of the business-to-business considerations.

A business' involvement in the local community is, and should always be, inspired by something completely different and relative to the part of the world that that business serves. The takeaway isn't the revenue generation itself, but how a business' investment in the community is perceived and ultimately shared, locally and globally.

What are your thoughts on the customer experience where specific markets are concerned?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Missing the Social Media Mark

Across the social media universe, it's as easy for your messages to get missed as it is for you, as an online connection, to be forgotten. I talk with so many people who steer clear of platforms like Twitter because they feel information flies too fast and furious for comfort, or they only connect on LinkedIn for that 'professional' contact but then never actually share posts or join groups.

I admit that sharing information without regard of who is on the receiving end can congest the internet super highway with meaningless data. This approach certainly has no hand in creating publicly beneficial knowledge - garbage in, garbage out negatively impacts all of us, everyday, in our personal and professional lives.

However, social media networking, when utilized in effective ways, can not only benefit you and your business, but it also has the potential of creating powerful change in your industry and the world we build together. So, how do we look at connecting with each other in a different light and what are some examples of relevant shared messages?

On the connection side, if I'm wanting to connect with you, it's because I want to get to know you better. Not because I feel I need to but because I genuinely feel we can benefit from each other. It's another step to further our relationship when we may not always (if ever) be able to connect in person.

This caring, connective ideology isn't true for everyone though. When you only post, share, comment, and 'like' information about yourself and your company then you are not only failing yourself but also your connections. And when you don't grow from shared knowledge, your customer doesn't grow.

Where sharing is concerned, talk about what others are doing. For example, if you sell vinyl windows, don't just post about that recent award your company received or the charity they supported. Share an article that addresses alternative materials that you don't currently have or manufacturing processes that you don't utilize but improve humanity's environmental footprint. Relay an interesting article about petroleum, since that's the core material for vinyl windows anyway. Or, and this may seem counter intuitive, post what your competitors are doing to overcome obstacles.

The point is, connecting and sharing individually on social media is never self-serving (or at least it shouldn't be). But when you share information from outside your company and immediate community, you create a meaningful dialogue of online social interactions that benefits you, your industry, and the world-at-large.

What message has social media taught you?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Meeting Climate Change Demands Is a Global Effort

Not so long ago, on a planet your feet are currently planted on . . .

. . . the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held the 2015 conference in Paris. This was not the first global conference to address our focus on climate change, nor will it be the last. But, it was a pivotal moment for humanity. For the first time, in our history, we decided to act as a united world of various governments to combat as many climate change challenges as possible.

Although the Paris Agreement that came out of this event was adopted, the actionable outcome won't fully be realized until 2020 and is not expected to be signed until April 22nd, 2016. It is, however, an indicator of impactful thinking that will change how we address climate change in our day-to-day lives and world commerce. Corporations, in particular, linking our global commerce efforts, will be forced to investigate business model changes that 187 countries producing 99% of global greenhouse gas emissions are asking, and will continue to ask, them to do.

Now, not all of us have the time or money to be as proactive as Richard Branson or Elon Musk, or have as much unrestrained, self awareness to act like Kumi Naidoo or Jane Goodall. But, we are all responsible to make this change sustainable. How? I'm glad you asked . . .

Individuals - Do you practice daily efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Do you shop at local businesses, grower's markets, and food co-ops? Do you compost daily? Carrying reusable bags for every shopping excursion as well as gardening & composting (I recommend vermicomposting) in your back yard, isn't as big of a task as you think - at least once you get started.

Businesses - Does your business embrace recycling efforts, from the top level down? Do you purchase or sell products and services derived from sustainable programs? Does your business have a Corporate Social Responsibility program built into the Business Plan? If businesses are updating their business models no less than yearly, making sustainable, meaningful change shouldn't be such an arduous task.

Industries - If individuals and their business models are the trains of thought that motivate us to change, then industries are most definitely the tracks that unite us and get us there. From small government to the UN, global policy change is driven by the industries that create the civil engineered roads we drive on, the architecturally structured buildings we live and work in, and the products & services that are the foundation. 

An industry that continues to surprise me is the film industry. Global in scale, it has moved far beyond Michael Moore's and Al Gore's valiant efforts to talk about the things we have deliberately chosen to ignore. Leonardo DiCaprio's awareness campaigning at the Academy Awards, not to discount his involvement in the People's Climate March or presentation to UN delegates, brought to light a changing tide in how we view & address global climate change. Celebrities as advocates for social change is nothing new, but addressing it through an industry like film, and then allowing public media, and especially social media, to run rampant with the notion, is phenomenally awesome.

What sustainable efforts do you embrace every day? Because one thing is certain - there is no fence riding on this one. It's up to us, all of us, each and every one of us, worldwide, to keep the momentum going. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Of 'isms, 'ists, & Issues - Paying Respect to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our opinions shape who we are, and who we want to be. The below blog is an opinion piece meant to celebrate one man's courageous spirit and honest opinion about humanity. Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for teaching me to be a better person.

I was born into privilege. White. Male. Privilege. I don't identify with it, I don't like to say I possess it, and regardless of my choice not to identify with it or exploit it, I still have it. In fact, if you are any given white male in the world today, of any age, guess what?

This is a particularly tough thought process for me because, just like so many other white males who frown upon racism, sexism, and the countless other negative 'isms and 'ists that exists today, I still can't escape this deplorable, unfathomable truth. A more unfortunate truth is that 'isms and 'ists simply shouldn't be truths. And they most certainly shouldn't be issues, yet here we are.

So, today, as I take a moment to honor a man, who fought and died for human progress, Martin Luther King, Jr., I'm stuck asking myself, what makes an issue an issue? And who decides which 'isms and 'ists are arguable issues? 

By and large, the one that impacts every human being is gender. So let's talk about gender issues first. This is particularly salient point when you consider that women make up nearly half of our population. I think it's safe to say that most people think that sexism is wrong. I'm sure you're thinking right now, of course it's wrong. But then why are there are so many someones out there, right now, who think that feminism, the rational advocacy model driving gender equality, is an over-the-top and unnecessarily rash stance to combat sexism? 

Worse yet, we keep letting this particular issue go on, spiraling out of control. It's become so polarized that we let it happen at home on our televisions, we let it happen at school in our history books, and we even let happen at work. We let it happen to each other without even thinking about it. How many times do you write (or taught to write) 'he' before she? How often do you say (or even just hear), 'Hey, you 'guys'? Heck, even our base hu'man'ity suffers. Okay, maybe that's a reach . . . or maybe it's not.

Racism falls victim to this same faulty logic. Too many people tell us to say #AllLivesMatter instead of #BlackLivesMatter. It's a rational thought. All lives do matter. But it's not our reality when so many people of color are profiled, victimized, and killed, every day, world wide. Or, why do so many people take issue with those of us who feel we should no longer say derogatory slang terms like 'Redskin'? Or 'alien' when referring to immigrants? Are they really that different, that far out there?

I think the biggest hurdle is when a per'son' (ok, now I'm really reaching) wants to call something an issue because their personal beliefs say it's a grey area:  'I don't agree with gay marriage or a gay 'lifestyle',' or 'I think it's okay for me to take away a woman's right to decide what she can do with her own body, when she can do it, and how she needs to dress (or cover up) doing it.' There are no grey areas here. It's very simple:  if it's not your body . . . well, you know the rest (and, if you don't, Google it). 

A huge problem with ill-founded issues, 'isms, and 'isms' is the waste. Wasted time, wasted energy, wasted money, all because some people want you to know that their personal opinions (I mean issues) are more important than real issues like, oh, say, homelessness or obesity in a world that also has millions starving.

It's easy to say what you're against. What do you stand for? Therein lies the difference between a conservative mind and a progressive, proactive one. I'm reminded of watching and listening to Obama talk about his thoughts and proactive stances on gun control. I'm not talking about agreeing with his politics, just his thoughts.

We can start with just simple, common sense gun control measures. All opinions aside, the cold, hard (deathly) fact remains that gun control (particularly in the U.S.) is a necessity so long as we have so many massacres of our children and other citizens not expecting to be catching a bullet. I watched Obama's presentation, felt it, finished it and cried. Did you watch this? 

There are so many other negative 'isms and 'ists. Too many for a single blog. Issues found in movies, books, ads, marketing, mass media - everything we see, and our kids see every day, reflects the inequalities of issues. Rich over poor, thin over fat, and in each of these circumstances, one is always expected to aspire to be the presumed 'better' one.

Unfortunately, people don't want to talk about 'issues' in the workplace for fear of what their peers or employer might think or that it just creates a hostile work environment. We can't talk about it on facebook for fear of losing 'friends'. We can't talk about it at the park, the market, or the game because, well, that's not fun. So where can we talk about it?

The takeaway is that we can't let this topic of issues go on any longer and expect to evolve as humanity. World hunger, clean water, climate change, these are our real issues. But if we really want human progress, we have to rid the world of the faulty issues that drive 'isms and 'ists to begin with. Which 'icms and 'ists are top of mind for you?