Monthly Archives: August 2011

WOLF Announces Writing Competition

I’m on this board, as reported here, and this is the latest news of our environmental writing competition.

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Episode 60: Fifth Anniversary Observations

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Nantucket Redux

We were fortunate to spend a beautiful week in Nantucket tucked in just prior to the storm, and take one of the final ferries out. This was our 16th or 17th year in the same spot. As far as I’m concerned, it’s God’s country.

A virtually private beach, seldom more than a half-dozen people.

You'll note my trademark cocktail!

Another sunset at The Galley on the beach.

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Stormy Thoughts

Some lessons from Hurricane Irene. By no means do I intend here to minimize the losses due to this storm for many people. But I think we all have to learn from extraordinary circumstances and, at all times, to be our own best counselor.

• On Saturday we had lunch at the Wauwinet Inn in Nantucket in an almost eerie calm, as still as I’ve ever seen that remote part of the island, not a leave or blade of grass stirring. We took the ferry to Hyannis that evening on a calm sea with mystical fog. We drove back to East Greenwich on empty roads, as quickly as we’ve ever traveled that route. The next morning we were in 60 MPH winds with tree limbs crashing down and no power. But our house had been well prepared and has an emergency generator. What are you doing in the calm before the storm? Many consultants tell me, as they bemoan lack of business, that they couldn’t handle the business if all four proposals outstanding were accepted at the same time. That’s beyond a crime—it’s stupid. You need to prepare for storms.

• In 48 hours of nonstop (and 95% repetitive) weather reporting, I found only one person of truth and non-calamity. (If you pay people to talk about catastrophe, they find or invent catastrophe.) The meteorologist on the NBC affiliate in Boston said something to this effect: “I don’t want to understate this or tell you not to take precautions, but by the time Irene gets to the Boston area it’s going to be a tropical storm and will not be as bad as predicted. There can still be damage and danger and you should use precautions, but I think we’re going to be better off than we had feared.” We need to use judgment and the facts available, and not jump on runaway trains. This was the only source I came to trust, and I loathed the “meteorologists” using computer models to talk about low pressure and worst cases reading their Teleprompters. Are you providing best judgment and creating trust, or trying to scare people and/or just repeating conventional wisdom?

• Both our town and the local power company sent recorded messages on several occasions to my personal and business phones apprising me of progress and what to expect, including: emergency centers, garbage collection, evacuation areas, traffic access, and so on. Knowing what was happening so easily was calming and obviated the need to make calls and search for information, which probably made their activities much easier to complete, as well. Are you keeping clients informed of both good and bad developments so that there are no surprises and people aren’t trying to find you and ask questions? Do you practice full disclosure?

• Our cable system went down for an evening. But we have satellite, so we could use that for TV, and I have a Verizon card which I could use on my lap top to take are of email and web business. Do you maintain alternatives to get key aspects of your business completed and maintain your important personal activities?

• Our daughter, her husband, and our grandchildren spent the day at our house when their power went down. We saw many homes with a dozen cars in the driveways. People were helping each other out. Do you have a support network that’s available and accessible?

• The inn in Nantucket told us that we could check out late on Saturday, and if our ferry didn’t run we could return for a few days at half-price to ride out the storm. Do you make offers to clients that gives them comfort and build relationships by the very gesture, even if the offer isn’t used?

• We toured the neighborhood as the storm subsided to learn what had happened and the extent of the damage, which was nothing compared to prior storms we’ve experienced. Then we found some entrepreneurial restaurants that had opened up as soon as they could, and tried a completely new place. This morning we’re going to work out, as usual on a Monday, because the owner of our health club will certainly have it running bright and early. Are you resilient and can you bounce back quickly?

Storms pass. Your values and beliefs don’t.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Alan's Quest | 2 Comments

Departing Nantucket

We’re due to leave Nantucket today on a 5:30 pm ferry. It’s impossible to change ferry reservations here, which are sold out months in advance. You might as well try to get into Per Se in New York on a Saturday night without a reservation.

Right now, the ferries are running on schedule, though they expect to shut down completely on Sunday, into Monday. The President recently left Martha’s Vineyard, closer to the mainland than we are, but he has more clout.

If the ferry gets us to Hyannis as planned, we then have what would typically be a 90-minute drive back to Rhode Island, but I expect it will be many times longer with all the traffic fleeing Cape Cod. In addition, if winds rise above a certain point, the Massachusetts state police will close the only bridges which can take you off the cape. I have no idea what happens then.

The Wauwinet Inn has already extended a late checkout for us and told us we’re welcome to stay at a reduced rate if we’re stranded here. The car is gassed up, and only requires a half-tank for the normal trip home.

It’s a rainy day on Nantucket, in the 80s. We’ll head to breakfast in another hour or so. We’re wising anyone in the path of the storm good luck and safe travels. I hope to be reporting progress either here or on Twitter.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Incredibly, and Mercifully, Brief Conversations

Other Person: I’m a psychic. How should I explain this to my prospects?

Me: Well, I wouldn’t lead with your methodology.

OP: You are sending out subliminal messages about me in your Tweets.

ME: I have no reason for doing such a thing.

OP: You know you’re doing it, you’re just not aware of it.

OP: What happens if you die tomorrow?

ME: According to the church or my enemies?

ME: Buyers can make decisions and spend money.

OP: I’m a buyer and can make decisions, but I need approval.

ME: From whom?

OP: My boss, who actually controls the budget.

ME: Then you’re not the buyer.


OP: If you are willing to help me with my inheritance, and remove it from       Nigeria, I will give you half of it.

ME: Happy to help, please send a $25,000 deposit.

OP: Can you send me one of your books to read? If it helps me, I’ll send         the money, otherwise I’ll return it.

ME: Is that how you deal with Barnes & Noble?

OP: I never saw your article. Well, I must have sent it in as backup. The        publisher made a          mistake and published your article with my         name on it.

ME: Really?

OP: You’re a consultant? So you’re between jobs?!

ME: I’ve been “between jobs” for 25 years and am in the top one percent         of all earners. How about you?

OP: I’d like to join your mentor program. I plan to become a multi-        millionaire in two years with revolutionary training programs for        HR departments.

ME: Let me tell you right now that’s not going to happen.

OP: Is this the way we work together? You tell me I’m wrong because you       think you’re smarter than I am?

ME: No, because we’re not working together.

OP: I couldn’t get anything out of your book, there were seven typos.

ME: No, there are actually twelve.

OP: When you stood still on stage I could understand your point, but    when you walked around, I couldn’t follow you at all. Do you know        what that’s called?

ME: Yes, a learning disability.

OP: Why won’t you believe I’m a psychic?

ME: Why do you have to ask?

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Alas Babylon, In Case You Were Wondering What I Was Thinking | 15 Comments

Steve Jobs Leaves Apple CEO Role

With the announcement by Steve Jobs that’s he’s giving up the CEO role, Apple’s stock will probably take a hit today. The only real reason will be perceptual and emotional, since his successor is a proven talent and the Apple pipeline is full of new products. I doubt investors are reacting to something that they think happens five years or more from now.

Let’s hope I’m wrong, but after-hours trading had the stock down by several dollars last night.

The people who despise Steve Jobs and Apple strike me as the same ones who despise others’ success. They explain away the talent and innovation (luck, timing, theft) and they focus on what they perceive to be the weaknesses (autocratic, unemotional, ruthless).

Too often, like alligators, we tend to try to eat our own young.

Jobs has created one of the most valuable companies in the world through his visceral and intelligent identification of what customers need, whether the customers know it or not. (Most customers know what they want, but not what they need, or there would never have been a Walkman to begin with.) He creates trust and belief, and appeals to early adapters. His company creates more evangelists among customers than any I’ve ever seen that wasn’t actively in the evangelism business.

I’ve personally converted hundreds of people from PCs to Macs. I refused to listen earlier in my career when “experts” told me I had to be compatible with my clients and solely use PCs. I find it perfectly reasonable and efficient to be sitting here in Nantucket with my Mac lap top, iPad, and iPhone. (I’m typing this on my lap top and have written a dozen articles and columns, which I can’t do rapidly on the iPad. But I can read my books and play the latest level of Angry Birds and Fragger on my iPad. And I’m doing business occasionally from the beach on my iPhone.)

Steve Jobs is one of the latest American icons, like Hewlett and Packard starting out in their garage and creating “The HP Way” in their business (unfortunately lost in the past several years). He’s not going to be trotting out on stages in motivational rallies that dredge up ex-politicians, ex-quarterback, and ex-astronauts, along with vacuous “motivational speakers.” He’s the guy who did it his way, despite criticism, odds, larger competitors, and conventional wisdom.

We need more like him. Our kids should be studying him. He belongs in the news as an exemplar. But the media would rather focus on Bernie Madoff or the sexual escapades of still anther French politician.

One day, many of you will be telling your kids, “I watched Jobs build Apple. It was unbelievable.” I don’t’ think it’s unbelievable, but it certainly seems to be underappreciated.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Surrounded By the Sea

There is a bracing breeze here in Nantucket this morning. The flags are flapping in the stiff wind, making cracking sounds above the gulls’ morning screeches. (Everyone flies flags here, the beach houses look as if they’re in a parade, with the stars and stripes, nautical pennants, and even the national flags of visitors waving from huge staffs.)

We slept though a thunderstorm Sunday night that actually uprooted the umbrella on the terrace. The weather during the day has been splendid so far. As timing has worked out, this is a rare, annual visit when I’m not in the middle of a book project. So my morning writing has been otherwise focused.

It’s fascinating to be somewhere once a year that is like slipping into the most comfortable chair you own or your best-fitting outfit. It’s as if nothing has changed, and some Brigadoon-like, mystical characteristic creates the place for the one week we show up. When I walk into the bar each evening I feel like Norm on “Cheers”—although I’m doing a tad better than his famous line, “It’s a dog’s world and I’m wearing a Milkbone suit.”

But it’s absolutely true and comforting to go somewhere “where everybody knows your name.” (If you’re familiar with the show, that tune is going through your mind right now.)

This island clears your mind, washing the cobwebs out of the synapses, allows you to see better mentally. I gain tremendous insights here, and a strong sense of continuity. Last night, smoking my cigar with some fine Madeira and looking at the sky, I realized that I’ve done this for so many years that it’s a part of my being, a return to ancestral grounds of my own making.

I’ve always found Martha’s Vineyard too noisy and too crowded. There aren’t enough great restaurants, and it lacks the same feeling of remoteness for me. The President is over there, and I’m here.

Chacun à son goût.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 08/22/11

August 22, 2011—Issue #101

This week’s focus point: Increasing revenue is a questionable goal, unless it’s accompanied by reducing costs of acquisition and reduced labor intensity. The ideal solution is to attract buyers to you through brand recognition, word-of-mouth, strong intellectual property, and low-barrier-to-entry access. That means a home page full of value, not promotion; speaking and publishing and not cold calls; and spontaneous referral business because you are an object of interest to others. If your marketing plan isn’t creating and sustaining these traits and results, then it’s the wrong plan.

Monday Morning Perspective: The world will go on somehow, and more crises will follow. It will go on best, however, if among us there are men who have stood apart, who refused to be anxious or too much concerned, who were cool and inquiring, and had their eyes on a longer past and a longer future. — c. 1930, Walter Lippmann, syndicated columnist and twice Pulitzer Prize Winner

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© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved

I remember a meeting with a boutique consulting firm that had fallen on hard times. The debate was whether or not to sell their magnificent conference table. “Where would clients sit?” asked one partner. “We have no clients,” stated the advocate of selling. You can’t cut your way to renewal or success. Top line growth is the key to bottom line achievement, for you and for your clients. Today is the time to invest in the future. Once you cut muscle, you’re powerless.
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