Monday, November 30, 2009

Volume 67 - Street Smart Strategy Vol. 2 - Cost Cutting

Finally I'm getting back to the newly created 'Street Smart Strategy' series (I've been preoccupied with the idiots in Washington, ESPN and the NFL), so lets simply continue with Volume 2 (of that series) and pick up where we ended the last installment talking about 'Cost-Cutting' as it relates to the Customer/Sales and overall effect on a company.

Three simple statements regarding Cost-Cutting and one Major Rule to always observe:

1. Most cost-cutting programs fail because 'someone' (usually the CFO, who normally can't get out of his own way, with a overburdened staff of underachievers) sets a predetermined goal, for example, of a 20% reduction, and then spreads the 'pain' evenly around the business. But what these 'mental giants' have missed for years is that running a company at 80% of its previous cost is not the same as becoming the market leader by being the high-profit, low-cost provider.

Instead of cutting costs everywhere, squeeze costs out of your company as well as the "C-Customers" because (one must realize) you have "C type" customers; squeeze costs out of your "C" type employees as well as "C type" departments (like accounting and administration!), and keep service levels at their highest for your "A-Customers" and your "A-Employees" ( "A" Departments - those that produce results that benefit the bottom-line).

To reach better productivity, with few overall employees, segment the market to target the right customer groups with the correct service levels at the right cost. No doubt this strategy should be instituted in the "Good Times" as well as the logic of "Bad Times." Along with 'segmentation' of the market, the next ingredient must be the restructuring of the work load pertaining to all departments. The key question when discussing restructuring (addressed below) is simply 'are people spending the most time where it will bring the best returns, applicable to the Accounting Department as it is with the Sales Department.'

2. Cut Cost during the "Good Times" - Simple, but only the Great Companies understand this concept. It still amazes me when I continue to read about those "thousands" of employee layoffs; were all these people necessary six months ago?

3. Unless cost cutting leads to better productivity, this approach does more harm than good. Customers will leave when they notice that the quality of service/quality of product is slipping. So the question becomes how does one get better production with less people? Answer: Change the nature of the work. Restructure the work based upon the old adage of 80/20. A future blog will explain not only the 80/20 rule but how to adapt your business to that rule as it references the customer. Put the people where it will produce the best results for the customer.

Golden Rule to Always Observe is 'own' your customers, rather than just 'renting' them. Owning them means making a lifetime commitment to deal with each customer's needs and problems.

Hopefully your Thanksgiving involved more than food; but remembrances of your Friends and the value that 'Friendship' offers.....................................................

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Volume 66 - ESPN/NFL Columbus Day 2009!!!

Over the years I've criticized Formula One Racing, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and other Sports Organizations for their idiotic rulings and/or statements but nothing even comes close to the 'insensitivity' and utter 'disrespect' for Italian-Americans than the broadcast by ESPN of the NFL's Monday Night Football this past October 12, 2009, Columbus Day.

Columbus Day is celebrated in the United States as a Federal Holiday honoring not only Christopher Columbus but the Italian heritage of Italian Americans. It is celebrated on the second Monday in October, Federal and State Offices are closed as well as Banks in this 'national' celebration. The same holds for March 17th, Saint Patrick's Day, where "everyone is Irish" for the day, celebrating the heritage of Irish Americans. We, as Americans, have a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Day celebrating the works of Mr. King and his contributions toward equality. I can go on about the Holidays and their associated dates, but I think you get the idea.

This past Columbus Day, October.12, 2009, however there was a difference. And, before I get to that difference let me be very clear about the subject of racism/discrimination as it pertains to me, as an individual. It is without question that my 'family' of associates and friends crosses more ethnic lines (than anyone I'm aware of) from 'Black' to 'Yellow' to 'Brown,' multiple continents, four to be exact, without a single ounce of prejudice as I respect not only individual races, colors, and creeds but also the special days, and the special people that are so represented by each.

So.....back to Columbus Day this past October 12th and Monday Night Football and the NFL's presentation of the Latino Night, the Latino Culture and recognition of Latin NFL players on Columbus Day. Before writing this blog I had a conversation with one of my Italian American Friends and discussed this obvious 'slight' toward Italians; to which his reply was... "the NFL/ESPN knew that 'not a whisper' would be coming forth from the Italians, unlike other races who would cause major disruptions throughout the United States and cause 'their' leaders to perch upon the pedestals of NBC and have the NFL make a personal apology, whereas nothing would be forthcoming from the Italian-American community." I'm unfortunately inclined to believe my friend.

On a day when the NFL could have honored Italian Americans, NFL Players-Coaches-Owners, active and past, like Brian Griese, Vinny Testaverde, Travis Henry, Greg Camarillo, Bobby Sippio, Anthony Fasano, Liro Luoto, Jason Fabini, Chris Naeole, Dominic Raiola, Alan Faneca, Richie Incognito, Mike Devito Ryan Boschetti, Ryan LaCasse, Tedy Bruschi, John DeGiorgio, Vinny Ciurciu, Jon Abbate, Ray Ventrone, Matt Giordano, Jon Corto, Sabby Piscatelli, Adam Vinatieri, Mike D'Antoni, Steve Mariucci, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Alan Ameche, Joe Bellino, Stephen Bisciotti, Nick Buoniconti, Gino Cappelletti, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., Joe Flacco, Franco Harris, Vince Lombardi, Gino Machetti, Ed Marinaro, Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil TO NAME A FEW, they decided to honor Latins, since it was Latino month.

This celebration could have been on any other day within October, but not on Columbus Day. The heritage of Italians in America is one of honor, respect, and hard work. There are no Federal or State Laws written for the protection of Italians in this country. This great nation hasn't spent a single dime on Italians, as a nationality, yet has progressed as a nation due to Italian American perseverance and hard work produced over the centuries. One would think that on one day of the year ESPN or the NFL and even the President of the United States (who gave a media presentation at half-time via satellite ) would have had better sense and judgement.

I wonder what would have happened if Monday Night Football and recognition of Latino Day would have been played on the Third Monday of January.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Volume 65 - Balance

God was missing for six days.

Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day.
He inquired, "Where have you been?" God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, "Look, Michael. Look what I've made."

Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, "What is it?" "It's a planet," replied God, and I've put life on it... I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a place to test BALANCE."
"Balance?" inquired Michael, "I'm still confused."

God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. "For example, Northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while Southern Europe is going to be poor. Over here I've placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things." God continued pointing to different countries. "This one will be extremely hot, while this one will be very cold and covered in ice."

The Archangel , impressed by God's work, then pointed to a land area and said, "What's that one?" "That's Virginia, replied God, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills and plains. The people from Virginia are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving carriers of peace, and producers of good things."

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, "But what about balance, God?
You said there would be balance..."

God smiled, "Right, next to Virginia is Washington DC . Wait 'til you see the idiots I put there..."

Speaking of Balance a short editorial on the State of Economy and the lack of economic talent (idiots) in Washington DC. It is my belief that the economy is not going to turn around due to the Federal Stimulus programs. It is my belief that the economy is not going to turn around specifically because of the TARP money, which is just a financial 'papering over' of $13 Trillion dollars bailout of whom? Certainly not the people! The FDIC is bankrupt, Freddie and Fannie are bankrupt and the Federal Government is bankrupt. And thus, the reason why the banks are not lending money even though their balance sheets look like they are strengthening.

The more the federal government (Congress) talks about stimulus, the cheaper the dollar is going to get and the higher Gold is going to go. There has been a 'bank robbery' but the banks have done the robbing. The Bernanke pronouncement made big headlines stating that the recession is almost over. Bernanke, like your local weatherman, has never been right in any of his pronouncements. We criticize countries like China for purchasing our 'notes' without realizing that the US must borrow three billion per day from 'foreigners' just to stay alive. The interest on our present debt is now 800 million per day. How long do you think that 'foreigners' will keep financing this debt? BALANCE is not even understood; but, the 'idiots' in Washington continue to give away 'the bank' (or to the bank!). CUT THE SPENDING! CUT THE TAXING! CREATE SOME BALANCE!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Volume 64 - Political Correctness - Health Care

"Political Correctness" - "Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

So now YOU want National/Federal Health Insurance (of course, we are NOT talking about the Health Care Plan that covers our Congressmen or Senators)......Well, here's a story to reflect on........

"The Night Watchman

Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of A desert. Congress said, "someone may steal from it at night.." So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job..

Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, and one person to do time studies.

Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing The tasks correctly?" So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people. One to do the studies and one to write the reports.

Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" So they created the following positions, a time keeper, and a payroll officer, then hired two people. Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?" So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an Administrative Officer, Assistant Administrative Officer, and a Legal Secretary.

Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one Year and we are $18,000 over budget, we must cutback overall cost." So they laid off the night watchman.

NOW slowly.
Let it sink in.
Quietly, we go like sheep to slaughter.
Does anybody remember the reason given for the establishment of the
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY .... During the Carter Administration?
Didn't think so!

Bottom line. We've spent several hundred billion dollars in support of
an agency ... the reason for which not one person who reads this can

Ready?? It was very simple ... and, at the time, everybody in Congress thought it 'Very Appropriate. ' The Department of Energy was instituted on 8-04-1977. TO LESSEN OUR
Hey, pretty efficient, huh???

Ah, yes -- good ole bureaucracy."

Certainly I would like better health care at more affordable prices. Certainly I would like to purchase prescriptions drugs at more affordable pricing. Certainly I would like all U.S. citizens to be able to have health insurance; for there are many disabled and partially disabled that continually suffer without the ability for proper treatments. Do I think that Pharmaceutical companies, Insurance companies and Hospitals take advantage of people? Is the Pope Catholic!! - Of course they do, just as all companies attempt to acquire more profitability (and in some cases, at 'Any Cost or Means'). Major League Baseball Parks charge $9 for a bottle of beer and $4 for water! That isn't any different than a Pharmaceutical Company charging 10 or 50 times the cost of a drug.

The point being is that Health Care is simply out of control with costs surpassing 12% per year and something must be done to correct this condition as well as proper coverage for U.S. Citizens. BUT IT ISN'T GOING TO BE A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE PROGRAM; GOVERNMENT CAN'T GET OUT OF ITS OWN WAY! It needs correct and proper enforced regulations, just as Wall Street needs regulated (of course, unless you a Bank or General Motors aka Government Motors); but, NOT owned and operated by the Government. Tell your Congressmen to get off their collective asses and and start correcting the problem; something like what their health care plan delivers; Yea, right!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Volume 63 - Street Smart Strategy - Vol 1

I probably should have started my 'Street Smart Strategy' segments with the last edition with "What Lessons I've Learned At i.2;" but, considering the fact that I seem to learn something, good or bad, everyday it won't be difficult to update Volume 62 to fit into this new 'Street Smart Strategy' series. So I'll open up this new series with knowledge about 'average data' and more insight into that 'data' with reference the 'customer,' Sales' personnel intertwined with 'cost cutting' measures during a downturn.

We find ourselves living more and more in a society where business can draw on more data than ever before about its typical customer, industry segment, and buying habits of that average group within that particular industry. We receive constant requests from Industry Associations and others for this 'confidential' information. Without a doubt we can know the average age, education, income, and even the profitability of 'everything' average. As useful as this information may be, and the importance of the associated technology to obtain such information, I maintain it can be extremely dangerous.

Never forget that there is no such thing as an "average" customer, and there is no excuse for delivering average service to either your best or your worst customers. Treat your customers not as the average of their differences, but as people who have very different needs, and who make widely different contributions to your profits. Your best customer, who adds the most to your profits, and your worst customer, who adds the least to revenues, balance out to an average value to your business. But it is a huge mistake to treat them both the same. Similarly, customers in different markets may have totally opposite needs. Instead of one all-purpose strategy for every market, we at Independence2, LLC believe that businesses have to tailor their strategies to win sales according to the needs of that particular customer.

It is no different than analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of a particular business and adding value added results to the analysis, something that I did during my last couple years with WWH. Just as one would collect data from 100 Bakery shops and then 'rack and stack' the results gives you an 'average' business without taking into account the specific nuances of the business. What we do know with certainty, however, is that whether you are the 'customer' or the 'business,' we know that 20 % of the customers will bring in 80% of the business (profits) and this has nothing to do with average.

The real key is really the QUESTIONS that I've learned from what I call the 'Street Smart Strategy' that asks: What would happen if you knew how to use your resources to deliver the right sales, with the right service to the right customer, at the right cost? Obviously, your profits should jump higher than ever before; yet we know that one approach doesn't fit all customers. We (Independence2, LLC) do know that sales, service, quality and cost fits all the target groups to one degree or another. The 'mix' is the recipe that makes it work.

When one takes the categories of sales, service, quality and cost and begin to 'peel back the onion skin' of each is when you realize the complexity of the matter at hand. Lets take, for example, the arena of Sales representation; and in our particular world it evolves around 'Manufacturer Representatives' rather than 'direct' employees, the difference obviously is that the 'Rep' is a 1099 employee working off of an agreed upon commission based on collection. A self-employed entrepreneur versus an employee who picks up a 'pay-check' on a regular basis not necessarily based on that employee's production. As you can see, this simple category of Sales (representation) starts to break apart on its own with types, management oversee, culture, costs, etc. This, however, is not about the Pros and Cons of whether a Direct Sales Force is better than Manufacturer Reps or vice versa, it is about the 'Street Smart Strategy' that one learns through years of working, observing and being part of identifying and selling to each individual customer. It is however important to bring out the above described differences between the two Sales Forces for it directly effects the strategy in managing either one.

I will have to admit that I haven't been extremely successful with 'Reps' over the years, for they either come in one of two categories; those that are aggressive and overcome obstacles or else those that have a 'million excuses' for not succeeding, sort of a 'take on society' as a whole. I was fortunate enough years ago to be introduced to and work with one of the very best 'Reps' within our industry, my friend and buddy, Tom Maxwell. Tom probably taught me more about the 'Sales' game than anyone, thus my start of the 'Street Smart Strategy' at least from the Sales representation perspective.

Tom taught me that although you need a quality product and competitive pricing you need more the 'unequivocal service' that is associated with that product. This service means 'On-Time' and 'Complete' 100% of the time. It means that you build a relationship with a customer through sustained quality, fair pricing and absolute honesty. It means that not all customers are going to be 'good' customers. It means (again) the shoe doesn't fit everyone. It means that you remove obstacles from the customer's decision to purchase. It means you take risks; but, it also means that you penetrate a market. It means you customize your approach. It means you target customers and 'rack and stack' customers based on the profits they bring in. To the credit of the good 'Reps,' they know which customers are worth going after for they know what that customer wants. They also know that good service and sales depend on assessing the market, choosing the targets, and then crafting an approach to fit their needs.

The worth of the Salesperson within a given territory is of high value to the 'Street Smart' owner (corporation or small business) but, believe it or not, this value diminishes the higher up the hierarchy (organizational chain) of larger companies. There are people who actually question the value of a commission salesperson after hundreds of thousands of dollars are captured and the 'hierarchy' has to write out the 5 or 6% commission check. I've actually sat in meetings where this subject was discussed and debated; somehow forgetting that the money now received would be zero without the precision type work of the aggressive and knowledgeable 'Rep.' I actually had a conversation with Tom concerning this matter, and he, with his wisdom of years, related the following story:

"This is a story of the boiler repairman who was hired to fix an enormous boiler system on a steamship. He spent a few minutes studying the miles of twisting pipes in the boiler room. Then he pulled a hammer from his pocket and tapped a valve. The entire system started working perfectly, and the next day the repairman sent a bill for $1,000. The steamship owner, outraged that the repairman had charged so much after spending only 15 minutes to fix the problem, demanded an itemized invoice. The repairman sent a new bill that read: 'For tapping with hammer, 50 cents. For knowing where to tap, $999.50.' Tapping a boiler is simple. But knowing where to do it is not easy. The same is true of Manufacturer Reps and the marketplace. You have to know which segments and which customers of the market to tap." The good "Reps" know that......of course, the other side of the picture are the 'Reps' who will give a million reasons why they aren't successful with the product and none of the reasons have to do with them; those aren't worth the 50 cent hammer blow.

The next segment of the 'Street Smart Strategy' and the final one for this edition is very pertinent in today's market, and maybe more so than Sales Strategy for it has a direct bearing on the Sales numbers. Cost-Cutting during poor economic times is the subject matter as we continue to see on the evening news company after company laying off hourly and salaried personnel by the thousands. As I had mentioned in previous blogs, it's amazing to me that companies can lay-off thousands of workers over such a short period of time. A larger question begs answering and that is - "were these people that important six months ago? " It may seem as a harden type question but one that must be answered, for in poor economic times costs certainly must be contained and reduced; but doesn't that also apply to 'good' times especially if you understand profitability? The problem is that most cost-cutting programs fail anyway because 'someone' sets a predetermined goal of say, a 20 % reduction, and then the pain is spread evenly around the business. But what these individuals have missed for years is that running a company at 80 percent of its previous cost is not the same as becoming the market leader by being the high-profit, low-cost provider. Instead of cutting costs everywhere, squeeze costs out of your service to C-customers, and keep service level high for your A-customers where the returns will more than pay for the expense in addition to always looking a costs even during the 'good' times.

Cost Cutting is a Volume by itself, so we'll be hearing more about this very difficult subject in future editions. In the meantime, simply understand that taking percentages from every department simply to meet some arbitrary number is a formula for failure.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Volume 62 - What Lessons I've Learned at 1.2

Over the past few years of building a company from a 'clean sheet of paper' (concept) to bringing a high value, high quality product to the market place I've learned a few lessons that are worth sharing.

The importance of how Customers perceive one's product line cannot be overstated, regardless of the quality and value designed into the line. The defining of one's company in a unique way is as important as the product itself; therefore, the concept of 'positioning' becomes relevant to the discussion.

I've found that the power of positioning comes from concentrating on a narrow idea that defines the company in the Customer's mind. This seemingly simple subject is constantly in the developmental stage. We attempt to survey Customers, as well as our sales force, about their concept of our products, and 'our way' of doing business to see if it mirrors 'our' concept of the company; for if it differs, we have a disconnect. We have found that even in this modern decade of rapidly changing technology, where a ten year old child can set-up a DVR, send text messages, pictures, and scroll through multiple pages of information, some industries, ours being one, have trouble coping with simple electronic catalogs or any other documents 'on-line' versus the 'hard-paper' route. It simply seems that although everyone likes to 'boast' about their 'computer savvy' the reality shows that much less is retained compared to hard-copy. On the other hand, we have found that having and using forms for 'ordering' simply doesn't work as well as "anyway you (Mr. Customer) would like to place an order including a cocktail napkin."

We forget that with all of our 'Energies' toward Marketing and 'Explanations' of Differentials of Product that Customer's minds and processes are limited considering the amount of 'information' dispersed in a single day in today's 'Electronic' mass mailing mindset. We have found that if our Customers pay attention to our message, it will only enter their 'short-term' memory, where only a small amount of information will be held for a minimal short time period; Unless something is done to help them store that 'information' into their long-term memory, or it will be lost.

In addition, I've learned that people/Customers are self-protected from 'change' or anything 'new' which would change their 'actions' on a daily basis. Protection comes in different forms as in refusing to expose themselves to a new product/idea, or to pay actual attention to what is being delivered, or simply refusing to retain any information regarding the subject matter, consciously or otherwise.

What I've found is that when our message is simple and to the point or 'High' with emotion we have better success with potential Customers retaining our information. When we overload our message with too much information we see less retention. Sounds simple, but in application is a difficult road to maneuver. Success is based on bite-sized ideas and simplicity. Simple ideas make a powerful impression, based upon the reason that people use emotions rather than logic to make buying decisions. People tend to remember things that no longer exist, while tuning out new information that upsets (what I call) their 'obsession' against change. For example, a rather large potential Customer asks for pricing on several items even though they are in possession of our current price lists; this by itself should send up a 'red' flag condition that indicates their main fucus is to 'price shop' and that quality of product means little to them as buyers.

Independence2, LLC and our registered trademark i.2 series of products attempts to put into practice the idea of 'one to one' marketing, knowing that this depends on getting to 'know' our Customers and learning to predict and comprehend their 'needs,' 'wants' and 'expectations.' One certainly and quickly learns that not all Customers are equal. Organizational change might be in order for larger organizations, but with our Company we simply adapt accordingly to approach our business from a '1:1 perspective.' The essence of 1:1 marketing is acknowledgement of an individual at both ends of this equation. We therefore attempt to be collaborative with each individual and each company. This task is certainly a differentiation between us and other door hardware manufacturers who tend to take the opposite approach and push 'standardization' of Customer's policies and procedures. We realize and have learned that each customer is different, so individual collaboration becomes a necessity.

I've also learned that if you never hear a complaint, don't pat yourself on the back; instead, listen more intently. Handled properly a complainer can be turned into a loyal Customer for 'just by complaining' a Customer is initiating a dialogue and making himself open to 1:1 collaboration. Make it easy is to complain, not like 'institutions' using automated phones, nor like companies that screen complaints through 'low-level' employees (with bad attitudes). The fact is that 'good' companies can and 'do' turn dissatisfied Customers into frequent and satisfied purchasers.

A few more incidentals that interweave with all of the above to one degree or another:

* Avoid premature celebrations; Nothing counts until the check clears

* Don't try to be all things to all people. Learn to say no politely and pleasantly, but immediately and firmly.

* Don't be overwhelmed by the tasks before you. Don't try to do everything; just do something.

* Focus efforts on the crux of the problem. Don't expend energy on peripheral issues that are not crucial to producing results.

* For maximum effectiveness, do only what you do best and let others do the rest.

* Don't make promises you can't keep; once made, keep them.

* Don't expect friends, past business associates, or previous relationships to aid in your success.

* Everyone has an opinion; be careful who you ask.

* Most so-called 'experts' have never been 'on the front line.'

As a friend of mine has stated "Attaining a goal is a great moment for each person, but I believe there is something even more valuable to us than the actual accomplishment, whatever it might be. It's the process involved in reaching that goal that fuels one's spirit, creates one's character and feeds one's sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. In most cases, the daily work and planning involved in pursuing one's goal is much more interesting, exhilarating, rewarding, and yes, even exhausting than the actual attainment of that goal. The simple act of pursuing one's goal will lift your spirit, exhaust your abilities, push your psyche to unknown bounds, and hopefully invigorate your life."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Volume 61 - The 4th of July - Little Known History

On this 4th of July eve, I send this 'Little Known History' about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. This was sent to me from one of our customers, a friend, who understands the importance of Freedom and its cost. To anyone who might read this gem of history, I wish you the understanding of our history so that the celebration of such an event is most meaningful.

"Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

Eleven were merchants,

Nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandal or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these Patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: Freedom is never Free!

It's time we get the word out that Patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games."

Have a safe, happy and thoughtful 4th...........

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Volume 60 - A Most Charismatic President

We are now past the first 140 days of our new Presidency, President Barack Hussein Obama, and the Congressional 'Leadership' (loosely used 'term' since it is made up of individuals holding less than a 12% approval rate and a misconduct record that resembles the NFL and NBA) of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the rest of the Far-Left Liberal Congress. Nevertheless, our President is the most 'charismatic' president since the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson; and one who's charisma covers him with more Teflon than John Gotti.

As in the words of Dr. Adrian Rogers, "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation...You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it..."

How else other than the 'Teflon coating' can one explain a 65% approval rate on his demeanor, yet drastically lower approval ratings on his policies? Of course, Media Bias can play exceptional well in covering the supported 'Media President.' A simple example of which just occurred the other day with the coverage the murder of abortionist George Tiller. Newsworthy, of course but so was the killing of U.S. Army Pvt. William Long and Pvt. Quenton Ezeagwula by American Islamic convert Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad as they stood outside an Army recruitment station in Arkansas. Never heard of that incident; nor did most of the rest of the nation for it would have put a poor light on the President's message to the Islam nation. Or the execution of Chapter 11 for General Motors after 30 billion dollars 'flushed into the toilet' on something that should had taken place months ago that would not have been discussed or even allowed to surface during the election, now is 'swallowed' without a protest. If this had taken place during the last administration 'the streets' would be littered with UAW leadership screaming like 'rapped apes' over such a 'preposterous' idea. But now not a word, other than the UAW rejecting more than 16% of the company; I wonder why.

The only good that has come from General Motors turning into 'Government Motors' is that Hummer might be purchased by the Chinese Company known as Sichuan Tengzhong, a maker of heavy industrial vehicles. Isn't it simply ironic that the U.S. government is now Nationalizing businesses where the so-called Socialistic Communistic Country of China is Privatizing businesses. Whether this deal gets through regulators or not isn't the point. The point is that Nationalizing businesses is not in the best long term interest of this country. We have now Nationalized a Bank, an Insurance Giant, and the largest of the Automobile Industry; reads like "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand! And in the words of the Most Charismatic President who believed in the Free Market, Ronald Reagan, "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Another even more interesting development with Government Motors is the possible acquisition of Saturn by Roger Penske. Even though at this time it is simply a memorandum of understanding that would give Penske's Automotive Group Saturn's dealerships and save over 13,000 jobs the important note here is the following statements of Penske who truly understands 'Global' thinking: "I would expect that the model that we're putting together, the distribution model, will be profitable day one...""We'll have less costs. We'll not be in the manufacturing side..." and went onto say that he is in talks with global car manufacturers about building Saturn cars in the future. The value of my 2008 Aura just went up and 'Globalization' just might be 'breaking through' to some.

Our foreign policy is littered with apologies but this is for another time; its sensitivities and ultimate test are more than scary proposals; however, I will leave you with a quote from a truly Charismatic American Forefather "If a nation expects to be ignorant--and free--in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Volume 59 - Pete Rose

"The Boys of Summer" have returned, at least that was the term used in the past when the 'National Past Time' (Baseball) involved going to the Ball Park, witnessing one's heroes making that special play or getting that clutch hit, having a few 'dogs,' some 'brews' and enjoying the time.

So much for past pleasures, real or imagined.

A large number of The 'Boys of Summer' have turned into drug users, performance enhancer poster boys, multi million dollar babies who who simply have no ability in accepting responsibility. Some, like Ramirez or Rodriguez (our latest poster 'boys') will set 'asterisk*' records of one sort or another. This edition however is not about 'Free Market,' 'Supply and Demand,' $50.00 tickets, $6.00 hot dogs,or even .250 batting averages. This is about the fact that Pete Rose, 'Charlie Hustle,' is not in the Hall of Fame, banned from Baseball, while 'banned substance' players continue on their multi-million dollar trek through the 'bigs'.

The 3,000 Hit Club is one of baseball's most exclusive fraternities, and of the over 10,000 major league players since 1869 only 26 have collected 3,000 hits. Pete Rose has 4,256 hits. The next five in line are Ty Cobb (4,191), Hank Aaron (3,771), Stan Musial (3,630), Tris Speaker (3,514) and Carl Yastrzemski (3,419). These five as well as the other twenty are all in or are a lock to enter the Hall of Fame. The lone exception is Pete Rose who was banned from baseball for gambling in 1989.

I don't have to explain to baseball fans the difficulty in obtaining membership to this club, or the simple fact that it takes 200 hits for fifteen straight seasons to get 3,000. This feat, Pete Rose's 4,256, will never be matched nor beat. It is simply not possible in today's baseball; just as no one will ever come even close to Nolan Ryan's strikeout record. Today you will be lucky to see batting percentages above .250, and pitchers throwing more than 4 innings!

So to the point of all this, in 1989 Pete Rose was banned from baseball (and the Hall of Fame) for gambling. Actually this would be a non arguable stance if it were not for what has taken place since that time with regards to the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs . As stated by many observers of the game, the publication of the Mitchell Report marked the darkest day in the history of Major League Baseball. Complicity by the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball itself overlooking and turning a blind eye to the drug scandal is not only unacceptable but enhanced the fact that many of our 'hero's' were/are involved in wide spread practice of drug abuse, or banned substances (enhancers).

Since December of 2007, names such as Barry Bonds, Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, Eric Gagne, Gregg Zaun, Lenny Dykstra, Jose Canseco, Mark McGuire, Chuck Knoblauch, Alex Rodriguez and now Manny Ramirez (now sitting out a 50 game suspension) to simply name a few that hold Major league Baseball records or are on their way to smashing records are known or alleged participants. The list within the Mitchell report included 7 Major League Baseball MVPs and that was almost a year and a half ago with many more major players in full admission or implication into this abusive arena. "The widespread use of steroids and other banned substances within Major League Baseball, together with the complicity of the league itself, constitutes fraud and a breach of the contract major league Baseball made with every fan that purchased a game ticket. How many outcomes (of games) were effected? How many records since the 90's are questionable? The seriousness of this problem and its effect on baseball and young people will be felt for decades.

Nevertheless, records have been broke and posted. To my knowledge no one has been banned from baseball or the Hall of Fame. It appears that 'gambling' far outreaches the 'drug abuse.' Sad state of affairs when legitimate records were established by natural skill and hustle gets abruptly and permanently sidelined by a 'bookie'; yet, abusive destructive drug abuse effecting generations is, in fact, accepted.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Volume 58 - Are you kidding me!

In my previous blog, Volume 57, I described our (Door and Hardware) industry as the ultimate arena for 'Business Double Speak,' and I went on to give real examples of such 'speak.'

I now have to recant the words "greatest examples of double speak in the universe." Our Federal Government (again) takes the podium with four examples of why you can never underestimate how 'screwed up' a government can become within such a few days of assuming power.

A few days ago our illustrious Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, apologized to Mexico on behalf of these United States for the string of assassinations, beheadings and bombings that have taken place in Mexican border towns, blaming this on "our insatiable demand for illegal drugs." She went on to say, "How could anyone conclude differently?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME! No wonder there is a Jones, Flowers, and Lewinsky.

What is our fault is that 'We' allow illegal immigrants to cross our borders. What is our fault is that 'We' don't prosecute nor 'load-up' and send back the twenty (20) million illegals who drain our local and state funds. What is our fault is that we still haven't learned to fight the Drug wars. What is our fault is that we don't hold Mexico accountable and demand the use of their Army with US Intelligence assets to fight the drug cartels. What is our fault is that we haven't stop the flow of drugs and guns at the border. What is our fault is that we are getting politically weaker by the day with regards to Mexico, the border, illegals, and the costs associated with all of this crap. What is our fault is that we didn't hold any of the Presidential candidates accountable for 'border' security or the drug trade, and ended up with the one who changes terminology to combat the problems.

And as equally insane as the remarks of our Secretary of State goes to another new administrator, our new Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. She said rather than referring to the word "terrorism" she preferred to call it "man-caused disasters." ARE YOU KIDDING ME! "Terror" is "Terror" is "Terror." The purpose of a language is to express meaning, not to 'color' or 'hide' meaning. "Language lunacy" on the rampage in D.C.! If a 800 pound Gorilla is running rampant in town, destroying store fronts, casting innocent people head over heels, and laying waste to everything in sight, would it simply be a primate that is misunderstood, and 'our fault' for it's very existence in town?!%#&* What is our fault is accepting this distorted picture of reality. What is our fault is accepting the media bias, which is way out of control, glossing over comments/statements that if were made during the previous administration would have made headlines.

Thirdly, not to be outdone by the female hierarchy within his administration, President Obama has simply ended the War on Terror. Simple, we should have done this years ago. Just in case you haven't heard, and, by the way, he 'ended it' by renaming the 'War on Terror' to "Overseas Contingency Operation." "In a memo sent this week from the Defense Department's office of security to Pentagon staffers, members were told, 'this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or "Global War on Terror (GWOT).' 'Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' I'm almost speechless. A war on semantics. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Just keep dancing around the real issues, just be prepared for a real problem in the very near future; our reward for the departure from reality. Remember Mr. President your obligation is to protect Americans, and the protection of the American soil, as we've been protected over the past eight years. I will give the President "kudos" for the handling of the Somali Pirates; nice start and as always a Great Job by the Navy and the SEALS.

And finally, it has come to my attention that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to pay more than $210 million in bonuses through next year to give workers the incentive to stay in their jobs at the government-controlled companies. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! The companies paid out nearly $51 million last year, and are scheduled to make $146 million in bonuses this year and $13 million in 2010. And, you thought GM was screwed up! How is it that when one's organization lost more than 100 BILLION in a year that people get bonuses? And, as we all know, historically Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been watched over by the Government. Maybe Barnie Frank should also be given a little something for his watchful effort!

As Jay Leno stated, " According to the government, Rick Wagoner was forced to resign because of poor performance. That's embarrassing -- run an organization that loses billions of dollars and then get fired by a guy who heads up an organization that loses trillions of dollars."

I would advise that we all go to the library and start re-reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and George Orwell's "Animal Farm" - The time is rapidly approaching!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Volume 57 - Business 'Double-Speak' in Door Hardware

On October 31, 2007, I wrote a blog, Volume 40, entitled "Business Double-Speak!"

It seems never ending that Business 'Double Speak' grows exponentially whether in business or politics; for example, take the blame game going on with the AIG bonus. Congress can't complain loud enough of such a travesty, Republicans and Democrats alike pound their fists and scream for justice. The President reassures the public that the government shares its outrage. Excuse me, but my days of naivety are long past! The last time 'I looked' it was the Government-Congress that controlled the purse strings. The last time 'I looked' it was the Government-Congress that has the control to correct the situation. Don't feed me the B.S. that you're (Congress or President) one of us and that you're looking for justice. Don't feed me the crap about "too big to fail." Fix the damn problem! Nevertheless, a perfect example of 'Double-Speak,' and certainly more to come on this fiasco.

This issue, however, has to do with 'Double Speak' in our industry, the Door and Hardware Industry where certain people wave 'flags,' write proprietary specifications (actually written by 'spec writers' direct employees of major hardware companies and/or are paid money by manufacturers for using their product in the specification), use terms such as 'import,' 'brand,' 'years of experience,' 'size of corporation' (now starting to sound like GM or AIG), 'world leader' but only associated with Globalization if to their benefit, 'integrity' and a myriad of other 'double speak' terms, depending upon their objective to justify their product over a competitors, thus this arena is one of the greatest examples of Business Double-Speak in the Universe.

One last clarification before we get into this concept of 'Double Speak' within the Door Hardware Industry and that is the Truth about Independence2, LLC and the i.2 series of products, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has registered "i.2" under Reg.No. 3,589,201, a legitimate 'Brand' name. The Company stated late in 2003 with the idea of providing the Contract Hardware Distributor Supply Chain with not only a complete line of door hardware, but also with a legitimate concern for the Contract Hardware Distributor's 'bottom line' as well as our own; where a 'hand shake' still is the basis of doing business, not controlled by some foreign ownership or financial portfolio.

Independence2, LLC is a United States based company, State of Ohio LLC, owned and operated by Partners in the business, fully financed by a State of Ohio bank. Our model in 2003 is the same model used today taken from the Nike and Under Armour companies of the Sports Industry. All of our products, at this time, come from fifteen different factories, five countries on three continents. Every factory floor was walked, each with outside paid inspectors per every product/order made.

Now lets separate fact from the 'Double-Speak' BS that exists in this industry about the word 'import' and 'brand.' Let's try on for size the largest door hardware company in the world, Assa Abloy, foreign owned, Netherlands Company based in Stockholm, Sweden, with factories and assembly plants, due to acquisition, around the world. A very good company who defines Globalization. Next, the other largest importer of door hardware, Ingersol Rand, foreign corporation based in Bermuda with many 'brand' names such as Schlage, of which, except for their security cylinder, the entire product line is made in Mexico or their 'owned' plant in mainland China, as well as other international locations. Another fine Global company, Dorma is a family owned business with the sole proprietor today, Karl-Rudolf Mankel, a German Company with holdings in France and the United States with global operations in South America and Asia. Stanley with global operations in Central and South America, Europe and Asia. And so goes the story, company for company even including some that still 'hide' wrapped in the US Flag, but in reality the product is from other continents; verified by intelligence programs that track containers coming into this country, as well as their own 'stock' reports.

With respect to 'Time in Service' or 'Years of Experience,' trite over used phases that make 'longevity' a value even if your business started out selling nails and simply evolved over the years. Our history is littered with companies that have a pedigree of years, size of employees, and market experience as shown in the 'line' forming in Washington DC for 'handouts.' 'To big to fail.' 'Bunk.' Just another AIG or GM.

Concern for the Supply Chain, and even possibly as much concern for the 'customer's bottom line;' let us not forget that in May of 1990 a federal grand jury indicted four manufacturers, Hager, McKinney (Assa Abloy), Stanley and Lawrence Brothers, charging each with one count of illegal price fixing activities in the sale of architectural hinges. Enough said. There are plenty of Federal and State Laws, (Robinson-Patman Act, Ohio's Valentine Act as examples) enacted that, if enforced, would create ripples of anxiety throughout certain boardrooms in this industry.

So, as an Architect, Owner, School board, Developer, especially in this global disastrous economy, we should be looking for quality as well as toward value, rather than listening to 'Double Speak' terms or accusations that only attempt to cloud the real issues. This is and hopefully will remain a Global economy and therefore should provide a great many choices for securing the best possible product at a value proportionate to the application and wishes of the 'Owner' without the convolution of 'Double Speak' for corporate profits or personal gain with little or no concern for the ultimate customer. It seems to me that whenever public monies are involved in a project, there is a fiduciary responsibility with respect to the cost and to the taxpayer. It seems to me that any 'Owner' who can read a 'balance sheet' and 'income statement' should be concerned with every penny of a project, even those areas shrouded in darkness as in Division 8.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Volume 56 - USSA - a Socialistic Republic (Hopefully not)

It is related that on an evening, some 47 years ago almost to the date, February 6, 1962, then President John F. Kennedy gave his press secretary Pierre Salinger a simple but urgent shopping list - 1,000 H. Upmann brand petit corona Cuban cigars. As we all know, soon after that fateful evening, the President issued his most famous of executive orders, a comprehensive Cuban trade embargo. From that day forward, a 'Cuban' cigar was contraband.

A decade earlier, Americans had been the biggest purchasers of Cuban sugar and tobacco. The island nation was a friendly island, U.S. investors owned most of its agricultural land and processing facilities, and if you believe in certain myths, plans of luxury casinos and residential housing and corporate expansion was just about to become reality.

But, in 1959, the military dictator Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro promising prosperity, democracy, and the restoration of Cuba's civil constitution. From that moment on all foreign owned land was expropriated with counter moves by the U.S. involving export prohibitions. A half century later the American trade embargo against Cuba endures. The illegal trade of fake 'Cuban' cigars is a thriving business. But enough about cigars.

The promise of prosperity, democracy, and restoration of civil constitution resulted in a non-democratic communistic form of government, far worse than the dictatorship. Government take over of Banks, re-distribution of wealth, under the guise of Government 'knows best' has resulted in an island country staled in the 1950's. In 1959 Cuba's GDP was higher than Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. What should have been a glorious island nation now still lives in an ever deteriorating society. If one reads Edmund Burke, one knows the quote that is more prevalent today than when written: Government, at it's best, is a necessary evil, at it's worse an intolerable one.

This isn't about politics. This isn't about the righteousness of a democracy versus other forms of government. This isn't even about 'God-fearing' countries versus 'non-God fearing' countries (gasp! - that isn't any more of a contradiction than Vice-President Joe Biden appearing on national television with ashes on his forehead and still promoting abortion; also applies to Pelosi). This is about Economics and Wealth creation versus redistribution of wealth and Government Control.

Castro can be blamed for the debauchery of Cuba, but stubborn U.S. lawmaker's reaction was one of stupidity and remains so, and likely now to even get worse. We (the USA) could have use our economics and market-oriented form of economics thereby defeating a Control Government form of politics with investment, trade and tourism forcing a free-market island. Economic development, and entrepreneurial actions work; ask China. Government run 'anything' fails!

Nationalization of Banks, Auto Manufacturers, and 'Pizza Parlors' is not only a slippery slope, its falling off the cliff to total Government control; and frankly, Washington DC has no record of actually knowing what a 'Balance Sheet' or 'Income Statement' actually are! Bailing out Banks, Automobile companies, Insurance companies and home owners undeserving of a mortgage in the first place is simply throwing good money after bad; and the money they are throwing is ours!

We can't even protect our own borders, provide 'assistance' where it is actually needed, control an increasing High School drop out right, and yet continue to fight wars over 'the domino theory' or some other political made up reason (if one must to go to war; then go to war to win and stop with the limitations placed on the military). Unfortunately, this list continues to grow and will continue as we place more control and power in the Government to solve our problems and simply become the place where people go to get assistance and be told what to do and how to do it.

We better stop meddling in the affairs of other people, learn to be accountable for our actions and strive for individual greatness. This must be done by the government as well as individuals.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Volume 55 - We'll See...

The 'pomp and circumstance' is now over, and we, in the United States, have a new President. History has been marked accordingly, for Barack Obama is our first Black (African-American) President; well, 'half black' which obviously qualifies for Black. I'm not sure I've read all the rules about 'that qualification' but its simply not worth the argument - 30% chance of rain which means there is a 70% chance of it not raining, sort of thing.

Anyway, the election is over (finally) and the New President and his family (two beautiful kids & Grandma) have moved into the White House. On that point, referring to Grandma, he certainly has my support for he seems to understand the importance of 'Grandma's' and their importance to his children. And, secondly, he supports a Division I Football Playoff so, with me, he is still ahead of the game.

Number 43 has arrived in his home State of Texas to a grateful reception of Americans as opposed to the disgraceful 'booing' heard by 'the masses' in D.C. To 41 and 43 I say "thank you" for your years of service and, rest assured, history will record 'good things' about each; remembering that upon departure from office ALL Presidents had low ratings with President Truman having the lowest; yet, history has a remarkable way of 'telling the truth' without emotion nor prejudice.

To the new President, I wish only the best. Even though I did not vote for him, my support for him is total. May his accomplishments meet his oratory. May the 'love feast' equal results. May the elocution be translated into substance. May the ability 'to act' be as good as the delivery of speech. May Government be held (finally) to the standards that were recited. I can only hope and pray that everything I've every learned about economics - protectionism - the Far Liberal Left - Socialism (and a multitude of other subjects) were wrong; and that somehow the spending of Billions of dollars by the Government, nationalization of Banks, payments to Banks without accountability, freeing of those that sought to destroy us, mortgages made to people unqualified, balling out poorly run companies, all somehow will make us stronger and a better nation.

We have somehow over the decades forgot a great many basic truths, and simple truths. We've developed a school system that has 50% drop-out rates, yet we think that anyone can now become President. We forget that there is a Harvard Law Degree in that mix. We forget that there is time, energy and work involved in an education. We forget the Civics Class that was long ago on the school curriculum is now not mandatory. Only two out five of us can identify the three branches of government. Less than half of us know which nation dropped the atomic bomb. Only one-third of us know that the Congress, not the President, declares war. Only 30% of us know that members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and only 25% of us know that Senators serve six-year terms. Most Americans continue to believe that the 9/11 terrorists came from poverty or were neglected as children despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A generation ago presidential speeches were pitched at the level of twelfth graders; today, they are pitched at the level of seventh graders. Only 25% of us can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment but more than 50% of us can name two members of the Simpson family. So, just because there is a 'Black' President in the White House doesn't mean that everyone kid can become President because he/she simply 'wishes so.' It takes work and accountability, something again lost. Today we give out trophies to little league kids who are on losing teams for 'simple participation is enough.' We play all kids in all games because 'participation is enough.' Winning and the effort to win has been diminished with simple 'showing up' is enough. Ours has become a culture of entertainment and consumption dominated by television supported by a 'Liberalism' that diminishes learned principles of a work ethic.

And even though Jefferson and Madison believed that to build an enduring republic they would have to minimize the impact of religion on government and a republic therefore based on the separation of government and religion, I do hope that the new administration doesn't turn the Supreme Court much to the 'left' forgetting that basic Commandments of Life are engraved in that court. Forgetting that the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington D.C. have Bible verses etched in the stone. At the same time completing the balancing act from those strident and arrogant zealots who believe that they have a monopoly on morality and that God speaks directly and exclusively to them.

I'm not an organized religious person, but I also realize that spirituality exists. Spirituality isn't Christianity anymore than it is Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. Spiritual prayer is a necessity, and thus (I believe) that is why Congress begins with a prayer (God only knows they need much more than prayers). The founding fathers were spiritual men; nevertheless men that knew how to act when necessary. May we somehow never lose that ability to act.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance!