Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Needle in a Haystack

With all of the advertisements, email solicitations, mailings, cold calls, billboards, seminars and networking events bombarding us, it often seems like getting a distinct value proposition delivered to an interested and able buying partner is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Many of these well-intended and carefully crafted communications pieces get lost in the clutter of our hectic, chaotic daily lives. With so many messages, meetings, projects, calls and deadlines competing for our time and attention, we often find that only those messages from a known messenger or with an intriguing subject line command more than a few seconds of our precious attention.

We can win prizes for creative content, yet be destined for the immediate recycling bin if we fail to connect via known messenger. Everything is connected. Finding the missing link in our relationships from who we know, who they know, and how our friends are connected to those whom we need to know makes the difference between success and oblivion.

A needle with a very long thread could be visually spotted in a haystack. Or we could attract the needle with a powerful magnet. Our carefully crafted messages delivered with knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding to those with whom we've carefully connected through excellent relationship threads will stand out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Living through Construction

We are so programmed to deliver a finished product that we may miss a critical opportunity to differentiate enhancements. In our "deliver 100% solutions environment" we may do a dis-service to our friends, colleagues and constituents when we don't show our constituents that progress is painful.

As a consequence of Hurricane Ike, each day I travel 6 miles on one of Houston's most traveled major thoroughfares - Westheimer. A major reconstruction project incorporates 9 miles for this critical transportation artery. I travel between Loop 610 and Beltway 8. The construction project extends 3 miles west of my destination.

The reconstruction of Westheimer has been a challenge. However, each new lane mile of reconstruction brings terrific improved mobility. If the project had been completed instantaneously, all of the regular commuters might have taken the project improvements for granted. Since we've lived through the progress, we can, will and do appreciate the improvements.

I think this sometimes happens in business as we strive to make things transparent for our clients and colleagues. Given the road construction example, perhaps we need to illuminate for others the process we go through to achieve substantial improvements, rather than just providing turn-key enhancements.

Though living through construction is painful, it makes us vividly contrast the final improvements.

Anyone who has lived through a home renovation knows first-hand that the end result is worth it, but those who aren't familiar with the achievement obstacles aren't fully appreciative of the twists, turns, obstacles and delays that had to be endured to render a fabulous result.

Trials make us strong. Recognizing enhancements makes us vividly aware and appreciative.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who's the Teacher?

We ushered at Church on Sunday.

Our church, Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, is in the heart of the Texas Medical Center/Rice University community and adjoins Hermann Park. Our neighbors are our affluent Medical Center/Rice neighbors and those who use some version of our adjoining parks as their current address.

Though Palmer feeds and ministers to countless homeless Houstonians through the Palmer Way Station, we rarely have homeless friends in our 9:00 a.m. Sunday service.

Today, we welcomed a Way Station client into our 9:00 a.m. service. He chose the last pew. As an usher, I had the chance to invite him to communion. I don't know if he didn't initially realize that we were administering communion at the front and back of the Church, or if he didn't realize that I was welcoming him to communion. So much is communicated with gestures and facial expressions. When we made eye contact, he eagerly took communion.

I would not have thought of my new stranger encounter again, until he changed my life. As he left the service, he asked one of my fellow ushers and me where he could contribute. He gave a few cents to my friend.

Until today, the story of the Widow's Mite was a parable. Today, it became a real example of faith and thankfulness.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Powerful 3 Letter Words

These 19 three-letter words represent powerful ways of understanding, acknowledging, doing and being.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

100 Blogs! One Step at a Time

It is important to have a goal in mind (almost every time) when you tackle a new project. For me, becoming a blogger, did not exactly fit this model. Two people, my best friend and our Sterling Bank New Media Editor kept telling me that I should blog. One weekend in May, I responded to their challenge and encouragement. Had I been told then that I had to create 100 blogs by the end of September, I would never have started.

I had no idea that I had 100 things to say and share.

This experience has reinforced for me the importance of taking one significant step at a time. And, the impact of listening to those who care about us and who value our perspective.

I am most appreciative of those of you who have read my blogs, provided comments and forwarded my entries to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you!

Friday, September 25, 2009


This week has been another crazy juggling act. I'd put a notation on my calendar for an event that I'd like to attend, even though I knew the possibility was very iffy. How glad I am that I kept that visual reminder to alert me to an option that I would otherwise have missed. When, at the last minute, I decided that I could make it, I called to see if space was still available, grabbed my purse and headed to a remarkable event.

Participating was energizing in so many ways - great content, connecting with interesting colleagues, discovering two opportunities to build our business, meeting face to face someone I'd interacted with on the phone and via email, and the chance to encourage a friend who was having a very down day.

This was another vivid reminder to me of the value of keeping optional appointments tentatively available on my Outlook Calendar to capture special opportunities when schedules change.

Timing matters!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pass or Fail

I had the wonderful opportunity this week to hear Ken Jones address a group of business professionals at the Greater Houston Parnership's Marketing Excellence program. Ken is a University of Houston professor and consultant who made me want to once again be a student. His definition of entrepreneurship is crystal clear: "one who understands that the outcome is up to me."

His distinction between the often misunderstood realities of marketing and sales was succinct and useful:

Marketing generates demand
Sales cultivates demand

Ken's reality check for students and others was perfect:
The real world is pass or fail. You don't get an 82% grade on a loan application. You are either approved or declined.

His remarkable advice is to view a company website as an "employee" hit home, as 93% of purchasers go first to a website.

One of Ken's most appropriate challenges was to determine what you would do: "If you had to compete against yourself and win".

He vividly reminded us that risk and reward are related. For each employee, regardless of job title, value contributed to the organization should be 3 times the employee's paycheck.

Ken shared 8 R's for success:
Related Sales
Reputation Building

Finally, he reminded us to evaluate how others think. We often get caught in our own perspectives. We must evolve to understand how others think in order to meet their needs and expectations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Does 1 matter?
1 degree represents the difference between freezing or not, boiling or not, teaching at the collegiate level or not, and qualification for a job or not.
1 point is the difference between an A and B, B and C, C and D, and D and a failing grade.
1 fraction of an inch/second makes the difference between winning or placing second in any timed Olympic or other competitive event.
1 vote makes the difference in winning or losing an election.
1 accepted marriage proposal changes an entire family tree.
1% point interest rate can make thousands of dollars difference in interest paid.
1 inspirational conversation or speech can turn a life around.
1 more sales call can make the difference between exceeding and missing quota.
1 more dollar can make the difference between eking by and bankruptcy.
1 more meal can mean the difference between health and sickness.
1 more meaningful interaction can mean the difference between living and dying.
1 more encouraging interaction can make the difference between staying and leaving.
1 more pill/treatment can make the difference between sickness and health.
1 more positive interaction, contribution, call, meeting can make the difference between being employed and not.
1 more day can make the difference between on-time and late payment, impacting your credit rating.
1 more absence can make the difference between passing and failing; remaining employed and being terminated; salvaging or terminating a relationship.
1 more conversation can make a lifetime memory.
1 more chance can turn a life around.
1 more try can make a record.
1 more interview can launch a career.
1 less calorie, cigarette or drink can start a new life.

Everything we do makes a difference to ourselves or someone else.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seeing Things as They Can Be

I've learned that one form of creativity is seeing things as they can be:

the dress that became simple, elegant and unique with embellishment removed
the suit that became distinctive and a favorite with a change of buttons
the jacket that became one-of-a-kind with a change of lapels
the shot glasses in a wooden base that became a favorite vase
the inverted rectangular vases that became stands for Limoges boxes
the ornament tree that became a floral centerpiece
the trays that became chargers

We all see things differently based upon our experience and perspective. It's fun to see things not only as they are, but to be able to see and convert them to the things that they can become.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Let's Play!

As adults we so often get caught up in the things we need to do. I've frequently joked that when it's my time to die, I will be bargaining for a few more minutes to get everything finished. The musts, shoulds, and wills (see 9/14 post) consume many of us. I've begun to realize that we need to have some down-time without apologizing to ourselves or anyone else (though I do rationalize that my online SCRABBLE games are an activity to keep my brain from atrophying). OK, I'm not yet without apology to myself when I neglect the never-ending to-do list. But, I'm trying!

Let's play!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Positive and Negative Labels

Labels provide a convenient way to categorize people and things. Labels can be liberating, acknowledging and congratulatory or restricting and defeating.

We don't think twice when we share with a friend that our colleague is: bright, accomplished, amazing, creative, results-oriented, A+, capable or interpersonally excellent.

However, what happens when the following are attributed to our colleagues: difficult, slow, ornery, loner, slacker, needy, marginal?

We have other ways to label our colleagues - letter grades, percentile ranks, percentage of quota achievement, job classification...

And when we fail to comment, others fill in the blanks.

What about the ways we can refer to others that can have dual meanings - special, political, particular, opinionated? When appropriately supplemented with tone, inflection and reference, the meaning is clear. When absent, a person may be stuck with a label that may or may not fit.

It's convenient and helpful to give a visual characterization such as female, male, short, tall, hair color and build to allow others to identify new contacts.

Though labels are a convenient way to categorize people and things, I think we need to be aware that we may unintentionally limit our friends' acceptance among our circle if we fail to adequately explain or describe positive attributes and/or motives.

May I always remember to attribute a fair assessment of those I know, and may they attribute the same to me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Everday as a Parent is Golden!

We get so caught up in our daily personal and business expectations that we sometimes forget to celebrate important family ocurrences that aren't major family celebrations. We intellectually accept the fact that our job as parents is to prepare our wonderful, precious children to be ethical, productive, and highly functioning members of society. Our heartstrings intrude, and we often fall victim to the reality that distance is the pits. My head knows that this is the best school for my precious angel, but my heart wishes that a perfect alternative existed far closer to home.

For those whose children are still in infancy or toddlers, cherish the moments! The days turn into weeks, months and years. I'm stunned by how quickly my angels have progressed from precious infants, to charming toddlers, to angelic lower schoolers, to questioning middle schoolers, to amazing upper schoolers and college students.

I've loved each stage and phase of my amazing children's incredible development! I've always hated to hear anyone say that they can't wait until their child "....". Those parents are missing magic moments everyday.

Thank you, Julia and Gar for bringing me incredible joy each and every day!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Did You Think I Meant?

How many misunderstandings are simply that? I said or wrote "X" and you heard, read or expected "Y". One of the detriments of multi-tasking and 24x7x365 technology connectedness is skimming. We have a recipe for misunderstanding when:

"we are receiving 100+ emails daily, which are added to our phone calls and required callbacks, and overlayed with our already tightly scheduled meetings and impending deadlines, yet interrupted by stop-by colleagues and client visits."

Sometimes we feel/think/expect that super-human responsiveness is required. Actually, we all need time to decompress, think, advise and respond. My experience has been that it works best when I communicate a realistic and achievable timeline to a client, and then meet or exceed that due date.

What did you think I meant when I said "......"?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Am I Off?

Many of us rely on the robust tools in Microsoft Outlook to schedule our appointments.

I can't imagine the incredible number of lost hours of productivity from countless people individually searching for and entering holidays on our calendars. There is an opportunity to designate country-specific holidays using "Tools" "Options" "Calendar Options" "Add Holidays".

Happy Holidays! Enjoy your time away!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who Are You Trying To Please?

We must all adhere to the standard of the organizations to which we belong (work, volunteer organizations, families, neighborhoods). There is a break-through when we finally realize that we can only truly please ourselves. We all have a standard of excellence to which we adhere.

When we decide to give up trying to super-humanly please:

We most often exceed their expectations and hopefully far exceed our own highest standards.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What are You Thankful For?

I am thankful for:
Attitude, Ambition, Able-bodiedness
Brothers, Beauty, Books
Cats, Creativity
Edgar, Education, Empathy, Experience
Faith, Family, Friends, Freedom, Flexibility, Feeling
Gar, Gratitude
Health, Heart, Humor, Home, Hearing
Independence, Ideas
Julia, Joy
Kindness, Kaleidoscopes, Kiva
Love, Learning
Mama, Memories
Nest, Network
Opportunity, Options, Optimism
Prayer, Passion
Sight, Smell
Time, Talent, Treasure, Touch
eXellence, eXperience
Zeal, Zip

And so much more! An attitude of gratitude serves us well!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Must, Should and Will

We all get caught up in the "should and must" claims to our time. Carving out time to be with those we cherish creates wonderful memories and makes all the shoulds and musts much more manageable.

When we plan activities with family and friends it punctuates our routines with anticipation of fun to come. And spontaneously accepted or created impromptu outings provide another level of joy - fun without preparation and planning. Saying yes to an invitation to do something outside our normal activities or interests broadens our horizons and allows us to learn from the friend who is passionate about the activity.

There's always more to be done, but putting fun on the list is a must.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Total Cost of Enjoyment

How often have we been presented with the opportunity to review the "total cost of ownership" before making a major purchase or investment? Probably, not often enough. I've taken a new view of ownership - total cost of enjoyment. Everything has a cost - money, time and attention.

When we purchase a home we most often think of location, condition, value and potential. When we build a home we most often think of location, features, function and value. Everything we purchase involves trade-offs (even if the purchaser has unlimited means, which most of us don't).

When we buy a home, we know the "negotiated purchase price". We don't always consider the property taxes, insurance, maintenance, furnishing, cleaning, entertaining and costs to make the house a home.

A boat sounds like a fun purchase! It only costs $XXXX+. We almost always overestimate how often we'll use the boat. And, whatever the sticker price, we rarely consider licensing, storage, fuel, maintenance, equipping and "time required to use" costs.

What parent hasn't been accosted by children who want a pet? The promises are infinite - "I'll love and take care of my pet". "You won't have to do anything!" Science proves that kittens and puppies grow up. The newness wears off rather quickly. Reality sets in. This pet wants constant attention and needs daily food, water, exercise and accommodation for elimination. And what about taking trips? Pets must be boarded or otherwise accommodated. I can't even count the number of adults I know who are parenting pets that children "had to have".

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cardboard Tomatoes

Juicy farm-raised tomatoes are one of the delicious joys of summer. Juice-less winter supermarket produce labeled as a tomato is a different species altogether. I call these cardboard tomatoes because of flavor and appearance.

Growing up, we had abundant access to just-picked, vine-ripened tomatoes raised by local farmers. During growing season, we had tomatoes for every meal except breakfast. And we never had them out-of-season. Probably one of the reasons that I love tomatoes!

For those whose first or predominant exposure to tomatoes is the cardboard variety, I can easily understand why tomatoes have little or no appeal.

This reminds me that though we have common labels for things, we can view them very differently based upon our experiences. When we can't understand why another person won't embrace our enthusiasm about a new idea, we might be well advised to determine if we're talking about vine-ripened and they are remembering cardboard.

Friday, September 11, 2009


What makes the difference between a nice person who we enjoy seeing and one whom we consciously allocate time to see? Often it's a special connection that may have been discovered through years of proximity (classroom, neighborhood, volunteer organization or job). It may be a shared perspective that differs from the rest of the group. There may be a common bond (issue, ordeal, cause). She/he may be someone from whom we can learn or teach. She/he may possess an ability to assess our strengths and weaknesses as we wish we could. She/he may be able to make us laugh, remember, think or act.

To My Precious Friends,
I thank you whole-heartedly for supporting me in the infinite ways that you do!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Unique Value Proposition

My remarkably talented friend has excelled at everything she has attempted -school, career, leadership, parenting and inspiring others. I can always see her abilities - sometimes more clearly than she can. Because I've always seen her succeed, it wasn't obvious to me until recently that, this very capable woman assumed that everyone else could do the things she does. She didn't realize how special her combination of skills, talents, experiences, ability and motivation are. Regardless of how accomplished we are, having an objective friend articulate our unique value proposition can be priceless.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Practical v. Precious

My "funtabulous" car was purchased due to the "embrace possibilities" influences of my precious family. I had all intentions of buying another American SUV which had served me admirably. (Note to opinion surveyors - things change.) Why,(asked my wise beyond their years, children) did our family of four need three SUVs? They were right, and I became the steward of a fun, stylish and sporty car. And I enjoy it immensely everyday!

Though this is a specific example, I encourage listening to those who love us. They encourage us to occasionally do things that fall outside our practical mode, but enrich us. Life is to be lived fully!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Road Trips

Our family has spent many days traveling to and from Arkansas and Port Mansfield. I've heard of families who treat road trips as adventures - stopping as they spot anything interesting, to explore. Not us! The only stops allowed are for food, fuel and facilities. And it's expected that the needs coincide for quick execution in a town where all are available - thankfully, not at a single destination. Our only road trip adventures are inside the vehicle - videos, books and games. When the children were young these trips were journeys, punctuated with frequent stops for food and facilities. As everyone has matured, we now sometimes have to prompt our excellent, focused driver that food is required at least once during a 9-hour excursion. Our trips, though clearly destination oriented are journeys that have yielded a lifetime of wonderful family adventures.

Monday, September 7, 2009


A rainy morning wasn't what we expected as we rose to fish on Saturday morning. We'd traveled five hours to enjoy a holiday weekend filled with fun, food and fishing. My husband and son are avid anglers, so weather adjustments are something they deal with frequently. Since I'm not much of an outdoorsman, weather doesn't usually alter my plans. I was ready to catch fish.

Contingency planning is as important for leisure activities as for work. The fishermen in my life continue to model patience for me. Finally got to enjoy that new novel. And when the rain stopped, the fishing began.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Black, White and Shades of Gray (silver)

Traveling around Houston, it seemed that the blur of traffic was a sea of black, white and silver/gray vehicles, occasionally dotted with other colors. I thought that I was in a colorized version of a black and white movie, and became curious. The facts supported my casual observation. The Dupont Automative Color Popularity Report shows that 65% of North American cars are black, white and silver/gray. Before I checked the stats yesterday, I started counting red cars at a stoplight at a busy Houston intersection - 14 appeared. Today I only saw 3 at the same intersection. The second observation is surprising, as 13% of our cars are red. We've come a long way since Henry Ford proclaimed that any color was acceptable as long as it was black. But, with a robust palet, we've not statistically chosen to drive a broad rainbow spectrum of car colors. I love my silver car! What car color revs your emotions?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hurt Feelings

We're all human. Sometimes we unintentionally hurt the feelings of someone we care about. And there are times when we're just angry and retaliate when we feel slighted. It's easiest to stalk off, leave or disappear. And of course, an easy response is to blame, yell or become mute.

The best response is a pause.

When we get too caught up in our emotions and reactions, we often respond inappropriately.

Bite marks on my tongue are badges of relationships improved, enhanced or salvaged. I've discovered that being silently right is often more universally satisfactory than the damage control required to amend for vocal positioning.

None of us consciously try to hurt those we care about. Life just happens. The more often I remember this and pause rather than react, the happier those I care most about and I are.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gifts that Keep on Giving

My daughter and son both chose most thoughtful Christmas gifts that I love and that keep on giving. Julia introduced me to micro-lending with a Kiva gift certificate and Gar found a calendar with 365 Sudoku puzzles. Micro-lending is good for my heart and Sudoku's good for my mind.

For $25 per entrepreneur, you, too, can become a micro-lender at As my entrepreneurs repay, I reloan the funds, but this is certainly not a requirement. All of my entrepreneurs are repaying or have repaid their loans. They are from Philippines, Peru, Nigeria, Ghana, Bolivia, Mexico and Nicaragua.

And if you haven't yet tried Sudoku, free online games are available. I suggest printing v. trying to solve online. I just Googled "Sudoku" and 5.37 million entries were found.

Thank you again, Julia and Gar! Hope others can gain as much enjoyment as I have from two very different gifts that keep on giving.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Market Like a Pro

I had the opportunity to moderate distinguished panel of experts - Chancey Blackburn (EVP, The Wood Agency), Susan Young (Consultant and Professional Speaker, Susan Young Media Relations) and Graham Painter (EVP, Corporate Communications, Sterling Bank) at a Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative Luncheon in San Antonio. They did an outstanding job of sharing tips and techniques to help our attendees inform and influence targets for their offers. Their excellent advice included:

Develop and execute a PR plan
Participate in the community – See and be seen
Become known – Write and speak
Become an expert
Work your circles of influence
Make your message memorable and unique – Pitch Purple Snowflakes
Know your competitive differentiation
Make the phone ring – Cold call and knock on doors
Use internet ads and community newspapers for affordable advertising
Don’t cut marketing budget during a slow economy
Earn and use third-party endorsements
Make your direct mail targeted and distinctive
Appropriately use professional resources
Create incentives for others to provide referrals
Specifically ask your friends and family members for leads
Be prepared