Saturday, November 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Betty

Betty Brady reflects on 20 years

“This will be the most boring interview ever,” says Betty Brady as we sit down to talk about her pending retirement at the end of the month. She insists that her story is not much to talk about but a few minutes into the conversation you start to piece together a career at Crossland Construction Company during an important span of history. The interview was anything but boring.  
 
“I first met Ivan Jr. when the metal building manufacturing company I was working for (Sonoco) in Chetopa, Kansas was shutting down. He asked me if I was going to go to work anyplace else. He said Crossland might be looking for some help. After giving it some thought I called to see if there was still a need. In 1991 the office was confined to where the mail room and benefits offices are now. We had fewer than 100 total employees and the office staff was just a handful of people.”  Betty remembers that time when there were really no titles and everyone just seemed to contribute to get the work done. Her main focus was making sure bills got paid. “It was a much smaller company but it seemed big at the time.” 

Betty Brady eventually became the office manager. “We really didn’t have a lot of formal policies and procedures. Looking back it seems like the time went by so fast.”

Betty smiles about some of the experiences that lead to deep friendships. She has worn a lot of hats from accounts payable to managing receivables and, for a time, she was in charge of the company picnics too. So many memories. Now, she is looking forward to retirement and taking care of her husband Calvin. People who have been around for a while know Betty Brady as a wonderful cook with some unique specialties like pumpkin dip, spiced peaches and candy corn and peanuts. She loves to decorate for the holidays too. Her house has been a showcase for Christmas Trees her family and friends have enjoyed over the years.

Betty knows she’ll have more time for cooking and her family and the holidays she loves so much but she knows she will miss the deep bonds of friendship she has developed with the people of Crossland Construction Company. “Good company. Good people.”  When asked for the advice she would share with a new employee, Betty didn’t skip a beat. “Be loyal. Earn your pay. Do what you are paid to do.” From 1991 through June 2011 she did just that. It’s that kind of pragmatism that defines Betty. We wish her all the best in her retirement.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Without Marketing, Nothing Happens.

Marketing is a peculiar career choice. I’m not completely sure it isn’t the new “undecided” major in college these days. I may have concluded this in part as a result of speaking to a group of college students at Saint Louis University chapter of the American Marketing Association. I was told by a faculty advisor at the school that Marketing was the most popular choice of major for incoming students. That got me thinking.
 
Anyone who has studied marketing will tell you that the discipline of marketing is considerably more elusive than the body of knowledge that a student of accounting, finance,  or architecture to name a few. I mean you’re not going to hire an accountant who doesn’t know the principals of depreciating assets. You aren’t going to hire an estate planner who doesn’t know how explain various transfer taxes. You aren’t going to hire an architect who can’t show you a set of building plans. So I decided to begin my presentation to this student group by asking what attracted them to marketing in the first place.

There was a range of answers. Some students wanted to pursue communications related fields (advertising, public relations or media) and they felt a grasp of marketing would be a good foundation for that career path. Others felt that marketing was basically “sales” and they felt that was where the money is in business. Still others had a combination of reasons why they thought marketing was a worthwhile major course of study that might prepare them for whatever road they ultimately chose.

Most marketing textbooks have two or three run-on sentences that define marketing. That’s okay. It’s even okay for students to feel that marketing is a way of thinking. It’s okay to have an open mind to the possibilities your future may hold. I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the line people started getting the notion that the investment in education (especially college) must  somehow be directly pointed in the direction of a specific job. That being said, it is important to note that, elusive or not: without marketing, nothing happens!

That’s because the fundamental reality is that marketing is part of nearly every career choice. It is in every single business transaction. Whatever framework or model you want to apply to your business, you are going to ultimately face the fact that some portion of your interactions are going to fall squarely in that fuzzy area called marketing. I have known engineers who have told me straight up that “marketing is soft” and that is isn’t scientific enough. Well, that may be true but try to sell something without it. Try to convince someone that your product is better than the competition based only on the superior engineering. (I know what you’re thinking – Mercedes Benz – only partially true. Status and prestige are not engineering and as important a reason for the purchase of a Mercedes.)  Even engineers makes emotional choices about brands and what those brand choices say about the individual.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Confluence of Events


 

A Confluence of Events
December 30, 2008 – January 2, 2009

SCENE 1

ROB

Opening scene: Growlers Pub in St. Louis Suburb - Creve Coeur, Missouri. Dave and Wes are perched on the end of the bar. Wes orders a Back and Tan and Dave is pondering a number of British Ales from a long list of options on the menu. It’s Tuesday December 30, 2008 but unseasonably warm outside  – around 45 degrees. Scene opens with a cell phone call from Rob. Rob doesn’t call often. It would be unlike him to call from his home in the Dallas suburb of Southlake just to shoot the shit on this penultimate day of the year. It’s starting to get dark outside and Dave and Wes have just completed nine holes at the municipal golf course in Creve Coeur. Wes answers his cell phone

Rob (on phone): Wesley Morgan, this is Rob. Are you playing golf?

Wes: No, I just got finished playing. Dave and I are at Growler’s Pub having a cold one. Let me get to a place where I can hear you a little better. What’s going on? Wes moves around and makes his way to the front door and foyer where the ambient sound is muffled but not eliminated.

Rob: You are playing today.

Wes: We just finished playing.

Rob is amused at my Wes’ golf obsession. You can hear the smile in his voice but he’s got something to report. Rob is all business. It is a practical matter – as he’s “the best.”

As a consequence of being so, he’s closest (of six children) to the aging parents.
 
Rob: I just thought I should let you know that Dad is completely flipped. He’s stalking one of Mom’s former caregivers, Bonnie. She works at Autumn Leaves, the Alzheimer’s & Memory Care Assisted Living facility Mom was in before we moved her. You met Bonnie when you were here this summer. Autumn Leaves was great but we had to move Mom to another place – where she can get more individual attention. She’s doing great by the way.”

Wes: I remember Bonnie. She’s from Kenya. The dark black girl with the big smile…  Super white teeth. Dad said she hoped to return to her country and pursue a career in politics or something.”

Rob: Yeah, well he’s completely in love with her or something. He wants to sue Autumn Leaves. They won’t let him talk to her. He thinks I’m the worst son because I’m trying to make him think straight. I know there is nothing you can do. I know you don’t call Dad that often …so if you did now he’ll just think I put you up to it. Greg calls him pretty often and Dan calls him once in a while too. It’s kinda crazy, just wanted to let you know.”

Wes: Okay Rob. Thanks for doing everything you do. Thanks for the call. A Black and Tan is waiting for me at the bar. Love ya.”

Wes takes his seat at the bar next to Dave.

Wes (to Dave): My brother Rob is really putting up with some challenges these days. I’m glad we got a chance to play today.

Fade to Black

SCENE 2

ROB AGAIN

Living Room the next day. It’s Wednesday December 31, 2008 – early afternoon.

Wes (answers phone): Hello.

Rob: Guess where I am right now.

Wes: I don’t know Rob, where?

Rob: I’m in my car traveling about one mile an hour behind Dad. He’s so mad at me - he’s walking home. That’s a three mile walk from our house in Southlake to his in Keller. He refuses to get into the car. I took his keys and he’s furious.”

Wes: Oh my.

Rob: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. I took his car keys. He came by this house this morning with a cashiers check for $5,000. He wanted me to go with him to deliver the check to Bonnie’s parents. It sounds like a sweet gesture but I’ve tried to make Dad aware that he should save his money. He may need to have funds available for Mom’s care and who knows what might come up for Dad. And…he just shouldn’t be driving. He doesn’t want to give it up because if he has no transportation he’s giving up some freedom. I understand that ….He’s ninety years old and doesn’t always think clearly when he's at the wheel… I’m afraid for him. He shouldn’t be driving. And the truth is he might be better served in an assisted care place. Joy and I are researching options. 

Fade to Black
 
SCENE 3

MEGAN AND JOY

Still early afternoon – later the same day – December 31, 2008

Wes: Joy?
 
Megan: No, this is Megan. Mom’s on the other phone with my Dad. Do you know what he’s doing? Megan is home from college, Oklahoma. She and her younger sister Tara both attend OU. Both are home for the holiday break.   Kevin, 15, is home but most likely in his room. 

Wes: Yeah I heard, he’s walking home. It’s kinds crazy isn’t it?

Megan: Yeah.
 
Wes: Where’s Tara? Is she home too?

Megan: Not right now. She got a speeding ticket yesterday. She’s dealing with that. Oh, Mom’s off the other phone. Do you want to talk to her?”
 
Wes: Yes.

Joy: Hey….

Wes: Joy, what’s happening?

Joy: Well, Dad showed up early this morning and was determined to have Rob help him get to Bonnie’s house to give her family a check for $5,000. It was a cashier’s check. Rob managed to get his keys and well…now he’s walking home.

Wes: “You’re kidding me?

Fade to Black

 
SCENE 4

GREG

Later the same day. December 31, 2008. Living room. Wes calls Greg. Greg lives in Tampa. He’s navigating a bit of a career crisis while being father to Wesley and Matthew and stepfather to his wife Ellen’s two kids. 

Wes: Greg. Have you talked to Dad?

Greg: Yes, and he’s completely clear – and very lucid. He’s never been all that practical when it comes to money. If he wants to give Bonnie $5,000, we should let him do what he wants. I mean it would be nice if he’d consider giving money to help out his grand children or something but….. but that’s not how Dad thinks…ya know?
 
Wes: Lindsey’s out of school and working and Ben just graduated from college. They don’t need anything from Dad. And they certainly don’t expect anything. They hardly know him.

Greg: I know. But it might be nice if he worried more about his grandchildren than this Bonnie …  

Wes: I don’t think this is just about the money. I think Rob and Joy are trying to look out for Dad. When he has an idea …like a new picture window for a better view of the Sky Creek Ranch Golf Course or an electrical socket in the floor in his living room…or a publishing a book of his water color postcards…All this stuff costs money. Rob is trying to convince Dad to consider the expenses he may need to incur in the future.

Greg: But Dad’s always been stubborn. Remember when he built the deck on the roof of Edgewater house? Completely impractical. And as you have said – kind of dangerous too. Mom and dad were in their sixties when they would go up those stairs to sit on the roof…remember? Anyway he’s ninety now. Surely he’s thinking about his own mortality.   

Wes: Yeah, I know. You gotta love that creativity and the stubborn determination. He’s a member of the Greatest Generation. He’s a Hall of Famer at his college – even though it took John Carroll University over fifty years to recognize him. I think Uncle David helped get him that honor. Hey, you should start a petition to get me into the Lakewood High School Football Sports Hall of Fame.

Greg: Very funny.

Wes: But I was great. Even Dad says I was the best football player in the family. 

Greg: Ha. Ha.

Wes: Yes, I am a funny man. But….seriously, I totally understand that Rob is just trying to protect Dad from himself.
 
Greg: When he sets his mind to do something. That’s it. He said Bonnie has Moxie. When he uses that word …I remember from working at the studio every time he says someone has Moxie…To him it means something special… Moxie to him is a trait found in a person who can make things happen. He sees Bonnie as a person who can make things happen in the world. He wants to help her. He believes she can better herself. And he believes that to be a good investment.

Wes: Yeah but you told me he spent four hours with Bonnie’s parents on Christmas Day.

She’s got a 90 year old man stalking her. Imagine him sitting in the home of her parents on Christmas Day. She stayed away while he was there for four hours! It has to be a little scary for her – no matter how good his intentions.

Fade to Black

 
SCENE 5

JOY AGAIN

Living Room. January 1, 2009 Mid-day.

Joy: Hi Wes. 

Wes: Happy New Year. This has been a crazy couple of days for you. Sorry about that.

Joy:  Well Dan and Nettie are here. They are staying with Dad - so that’s good. Dad’s still mad at Rob.

Wes: You still have Dad’s car?

Joy: Yes. You know Dad really shouldn’t be driving. I know it’s hard. Giving up your car is like giving up your freedom. We worry about him in the car.  But if he doesn’t have a car…

Wes: I might be visiting on business sometime later this month.

Joy: You are always welcome. Your brother Sundance is planning on coming to visit later this month. Your sister Lynn ….and Lynn Kunkle from Key Biscayne are coming sometime. Dan and Nettie are here now and that’s been good.
 
Wes: On second thought maybe I’ll wait until the circus leaves town before I come to visit …

Fade to Black

SCENE 6

MARY LYNN MORGAN

Same Living Room – mid morning- Friday January 2, 2008. Wes is reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Lynn (his wife) is at the computer working a game of solitaire. Ben (home from college – University of Miami. He’s recently graduated but on break before returning to Miami to pursue an MBA. He is still asleep. His girlfriend Allison and their dog Colbie, a Doberman Pincer puppy are in the house too – all asleep.) Mary Lynn (Wes’ sister) calls and leaves a message. Mary Lynn Morgan lives in Columbus, Ohio – near her son Jimmy Varney and his wife Susan.  
 
Lynn: Your phone rang when you were out.

Wes listens to the message.

Mary Lynn (voice message): Wes, It’s your sister Lynn. I’m at Jimmy and Susan’s for the week taking care of the dogs. I’m calling from their phone. Dad’s in the Hospital. Call your brothers. 

Wes: Oh my God. Great message from my sister. She said something about Dad being in the Hospital. I’m sure as hell not calling her back to find out what’s happening. I think I’ll try Joy.  

Lynn: Good idea.

Fade to Black

SCENE 7

DAN

Same Living Room. Saturday afternoon, January 3, 2008. Ben and Allison on the couch. Both are reading books and very relaxed. Football is on TV but its background noise. Colbie is pacing back and fourth. Lynn is at the computer - again playing solitaire.

Wes: Hello.

Dan. It’s your brother Dan.

Wes: Yeah, I know your voice.
 
Dan: Nettie and I are here.

Wes: I know.

Dan: Well this is a difficult situation and Rob is at the end of his rope. I just want to say, whatever you might be thinking… well Rob knows what he’s doing. He knows best. He’s around Dad a lot and knows what might be best for Mom and Dad. You should support Rob.

Wes: I know. Rob is the best.

Dan: But Dad might go on the attack a little because he’s not happy about losing his car. He might even accuse Rob of trying to steal from him. All I want to say is that you need to support Rob.

Wes: Right. Of course. I’m glad you are on the scene Dan. 

Fade to Black

SCENE 8

ROB ONCE AGAIN

Living Room. Early Evening. Wes is surrounded by pieces of the Sunday St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Sunday New York Times. There is kitchen noise (and a faint smell of cookies) because his wife, Lynn, is baking. She has to work the coffee window in Ladue in the morning. It’s  Sunday January 4, 2008. It’s too cold to play golf.

Wes: Are you watching 24?

Rob: Yes. How did you know? Oh, that’s right you were talking to Greg. We’re really into it. We are watching the first two seasons back-to-back. It’s a huge time investment but we’re really enjoying it. Every once in a while we take a break between episodes and Joy and I start talking about Dad. He can’t be driving. He is okay living on his own but….Dan and Nettie have taken the heat off for a while. They are staying with Dad. Dan and Nettie woke up the other day at Dad’s and he was on the phone. He was calling 9-1-1 to report his car stolen (again). They already had the report from two previous two 9-1-1 calls! Then Dad insisted on going to the hospital to get a doctor to clear him health-wise to be driving a car. Dan and Netti obliged and took him to the hospital - as requested. His plan backfired though. In checking him out they noticed something – a spot of pneumonia on his lung. The hospital policy is to keep him overnight. So that’s why he’s in the hospital. A fairly routine deal.

Wes: Well he seemed pretty healthy when I saw him in October.
 
Rob: He is. He swims. He probably would have even made it to the end of his three mile walk temper tantrum walk home but… A Good Samaritan finally picked him up and took him home. He wouldn’t get into my car - with me….He let this stranger drive him home instead. That was the third car that offered him a ride before he accepted the lift.  I followed them to make sure he’d be okay.

Wes: Well tomorrow is a work day. You need to be making calls and following up with people.

Rob: I know. But I have a few things I have to do for Dad tomorrow too.

Fade to Black.    

 
EPILOGUE

SUNDANCE

Living Room. Wes is on couch with Schlitz Beer and a small Cuban Cigar. Ben is on an adjacent couch listening to a book on CD (Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink), periodically checking his iPod phone and glancing at living room TV (ESPN hype about Texas vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl). Ben effortlessly pushes Colbie (his Dobermen Pincer puppy) off the couch periodically.

Wes (Calling Sundance – the phone rings about 8 times before it is answered): Sundance. Wes Morgan.

Sundance: Well hello, Wes Morgan.

Wes: Happy New Year. I wanted to thank you for you holiday package. I also wanted to check to see if you were up-to-date on the Dad.

Sundance: Rob took Dad’s keys. He’s angry at Rob. Dad called 9-1-1 to report his car stolen (several times). Dan and Nettie took him to the hospital (at his request) to see about getting a doctor to clear him for driving. That move backfired because they found a bit of pnemonia on his lung and the hospital’s protocol is to keep admit him for observation. Meanwhile Dad is accusing Rob of being a terrible person.

Wes: Wow. That pretty well sums it up.

Sundance: And I can tell you that Lynn (sister) is a pretty bad source of information.

Wes: Well duh.

Sundance: I was hoping to visit Dallas area sometime around January 26, 27, 28 or 29 – somewhere around there. You know, I was critical of you when you were throwing roses at Rob all the time for his efforts. Now even I can see that he and Joy deserve a lot of praise for what they’ve been putting up with….Seen any good movies lately?….Hey do you have Verizon Wireless service?

Wes: What?

Sundance: Do you have Verizon? I can talk to you for free if you do…

Wes: This is an AT&T cell hone.

Sundance: Oh. Good bye Wes.

Fade to Black.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Moon Pie and Secrets to Success

Visit Sam Walton’s original retail store location of the in Bentonville (AR). The story of the world’s largest retailer is well documented. Evidence of the humble beginnings is apparent as you peruse the museum full of artifacts. Consider the story of the original marshmallow sandwich, The Moon Pie. Sam Walton took an interest in the product after a Wal-Mart associate in Alabama mentioned customer complaints about the hit-or-miss availability.

The product was created originally in 1929 and manufactured by Chattanooga Bakery which was formed by the Mountain City Flour Mill as a way to use flour that couldn’t be sold in stores. Eventually the Moon Pie became symbol of the South itself. There’s only one Moon Pie, the sole product of family owned Chattanooga Bakery in Chattanooga Tennessee. The Moon Pie even became a popular item to toss from Mardi Gras floats, especially in Mobile, Alabama.

The Moon Pie is a great illustration of the prescription Sam Walton offered for success: Commit, Share, Motivate, Communicate and Appreciate. This formula for working with his associates moved a lot of Moon Pies. Thanks Mr. Sam.  
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Public Speaking and Keeping it Real

On behalf of the American Marketing Association, St. Louis Chapter, I was able to convince Jim Woodcock to be our luncheon speaker in November of 2012. Typically the speaker brings a PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation, fiddles with a laptop, worries about sound checks  and lights. Often the presentation is adapted from another presentation and another audience.

Jim suggested the format be more of an open dialogue. Most guest speakers would consider this tantamount to a high-wire act without a net. The more we talked about his plan for the session, the more I realized a couple of things. 1. Jim is a supremely confident speaker and 2. Jim is a seasoned professional and will know how to work the room. No canned presentation, no magic tricks, no cleaver staging or antics. Jim is going to approach this audience and encourage participation.

Jim Woodcock rejoined Fleishman-Hillard in 2005 following eight years with the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League and Scottrade Center, the team’s arena. As the co-leader of the global sports business practice at Fleishman-Hillard, Jim offers clients a breadth of experience and expertise in the sports business, brand strategy, reputation management, public affairs, crisis communications, marketing, sponsorship, broadcast rights, facilities management, publications, messaging, media relations and training. I think he can handle this.

The presentation is next week. Jim provided me with an introduction bio and I have never been less concerned about the mechanics, speaker support and technology. That is what I call “keeping it real.” Now, this AMA audience can be brutally honest and tough in their evaluations. (Particularly, those who bother to provide their feedback via electronic survey after the event.) As the programming chair, I am thrilled that Jim is looking to break with the status quo and offer the benefit of his expertise in an extemporaneous and free flowing way. Certainly, I would not advocate this approach for a less confident and/or experienced speaker but I have a feeling Jim will be a big hit.