Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wine (or lack of)

I should probably blame the wine.

I didn't have any.

That's a problem these days especially when you're elbow-to-elbow with the rude and clueless. No one should endure insufferable behavior without some sort of anesthetic.

Imagine this: You're at a black tie affair on a Saturday night. The hosts have spent oodles of money to entertain you with food and music, charming decor and plenty of vino. After the hors d'oeuvres you head to your table to take your seat and then hopefully, if you're a very good guest, you're on the dance floor to whirl and twirl and shimmy and shake. In-between dances, you eat and circulate, introducing yourself to strangers, smiling warmly at everyone in the room for you're all here to celebrate a happy occasion. That's what great guests do: They hold up their part of the bargain they've made to the host and hostess. They will be as gracious and hospitable as the hosts to make the evening memorable.

Nice thought. Too bad it went like this:

After the hors d'oeuvre hour, the guests head to their table and take a seat. Blackberries and Iphones are removed from the handbags and pockets and placed to the left or the right of the dinner plate. They immediate alight, announcing text messages and incoming calls. The guests answer the phones, heads bowed, feverish concentration on their furrowed brows. Damn, it's loud, they whisper to one another, a bit peeved by the noise. The choice is stark: Talk and dance and engage in some chitchat with your table mates or communicate virtually with someone across town who's checking in to see how the party is going.

Virtual wins.

No wonder we're miserable.

Actually, no wonder they're miserable.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't Just Sit There....

Do Something!

That's my rallying cry for today.

And I don't mean "cry" as in whine, baby. I mean my call to arms.

Listen to this: Reporter James Surowiecki wrote a piece in last week's New Yorker magazine called "Hanging Tough." In the late nineteen-twenties, two companies -- Kellogg and Post -- dominated the relatively new market for ready-to-eat cereal. When the Depression hit, Post did what a lot of companies are doing today -- reined in expenses and cut back on advertising. Kellogg did the opposite: Increased advertising, new products, aggressive marketing. By 1933, even as the economy went on life-support, Kellogg's profits increased by nearly thirty percent and it had become the industry's dominant force. As it is today.

Morale of story: Every business has two options right now -- take a "wait and see" (Honey Bunches of Oats) or "full throttle" (Frosted Flakes). Simple as that.

Right now I am seeing lots of opportunities to get in front of influential decision-makers. The reason: Nobody knows anything. We're all trying to figure it out on a day by day basis and so when an expert comes a-calling with a clear and lucid message, we're all ears. And when everyone is hunkering down in their batcave, there's something compelling about meeting with someone who's optimistic. Resourceful. And nice (don't forget to send a thank you note.)

Uncertain times are scary yes but they can also create opportunities. Take a risk. Upgrade your website. Schedule some lunches and pick up the check. Polish your narrative so you come across as focused, energized and supremely competent. Do something big, grand, exciting and different.

Think Froot Loops (Kellogg). Not Pebbles (Post).