Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Entrepreneurial Career

I have always admired the person who spends their entire career with one company.  Part of my admiration stems from the realization that it was never in the cards for me.  And, secondly,  as a society we are moving further and further away from what once was our workplace ideal.  

No longer.  In the new economy, many careers will mirror my own, which started in broadcasting, where in order to move up, often times you had to move on.  I did so, 8 times in 18 years.  That experience created the opportunity to enter executive management which opened the door to the opportunity to own my firm.

Each move brought with it a huge challenge, uncertainty, risk, fear of failure and a determination to succeed.   Ask any entrepreneur if they experience the same set of anxieties.

While I admire those colleagues of mine who over the years remained loyal to their single employer, my own experience suggests the career path today is wide open and headed in multiple, unknown, directions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Family Meetings

An excellent family business planning conference recently emphasized the value of trust through open communication as a key driver of success.

The patriarch and CEO of a very successful family business laid out the company strategy for strategic planning that consists of mandatory bi-annual family planning meetings at which all family members who have a stake in the company attend, spouses and children included.

The meetings are scheduled well in advance, detailed agendas are prepared with action items listed for specific attention.

What struck me was the value gained not only in helping set the strategic direction and achieve the buy-in necessary to grow the business, but also how it solidified relationships within the family.  It raised issues in my own mind with respect to open communication within my own family, the most important unit of organization in my life.   How often do we meet as a family to discuss our own strategic family plan?

Do we have our own family mission statement that speaks to who we are as a family unit and how that unit will organize itself to support the dreams and aspirations of individual members? 
Life is only getting more complex as the children get older, careers change and circumstances evolve in life.  The strength of the family is the foundation upon which such challenges are met. 

Now my oldest child has a driver's license.  A new level of responsibility for her.  A higher dimension of trust for the family.  A perfect opportunity to re-open those lines of communication to solidify the glue that binds the most important relationships in life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Here is the outline for a speech I am planning to give on Saturday to the Radio - Television student alumni association at Southern Illinois University.

The subject matter will focus on a concept I have followed throughout my own career that I call, Voice.

V is for voyage.  Accept the fact that your career path is a journey and you have to prepare.  It's critical that you have good travel companions along the way.

O is for opportunity.  The message here is that opportunities come in direct proportion to the amount of effort we are willing to put forth to create them.  It's important to understand the the effort may not have a direct bearing on the opportunity that arises.  Rather, the effort itself will establish a foundation of contacts and reputation that will ultimately lead to opportunities down the road.  This is the piece that many people fail the grasp.  It's not the direct effort that produces the value.  It's the byproduct of that effort that creates the buzz about who you are that gets leveraged through word of mouth to the right person who has an opportunity you would never have otherwise discovered.

I is for intellect.  The concept here is life long learning.  Absolutely crucial to success. We must constantly challenge ourselves to learn new things, continue our education, earn certifications and volunteer in our communities.  The value is not what you can put on a resume.  The value is internal.  It gives you the confidence you need to challenge your own presumptions about what you can accomplish or what you value.

C is for Credibility.  This concept speaks to our values and how we conduct ourselves in our lives and our profession.  Authenticity is the greatest word in life.  Be true to yourself.  Integrity, Honor, Trust, Service, these are the pillars upon which the foundation of success derives.  

E is for Excellence.  Be prepared to compete at the highest possible level.  It's not what anyone else measures that matters. It's how you measure yourself.  Settle for nothing but your best effort.  Always strive for a higher level of satisfaction.

Voice is another way of describing our own personal brand identities.  It's a process of discovery that never ends.  And you cannot define your brand in advance.  It's the collection of personal experiences and accomplishments that are viewed and evaluated externally that determines your personal brand.  The more we match our inner drive and passion with our actions, the more authentic or at peace we become to those around us which leads to a higher level of satisfaction in life.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Find Your Voice

It's not the product you sell, it's the story you tell that sets you apart in the marketplace.   Think about it.  You are what differentiates your business, your product, your service, your job from every other competitor in the marketplace.  What's the story you are telling about the work that you do?  Is it the same story as the person in the cubicle behind you?  Is it the same story as the shop owner down the street?  The same story as the web page that appears next to yours on Google?  You have a very powerful differentiating force available inside you, your company, your work product that can transmit incredible positive energy and unique value to those who you seek to influence.    What is this force?  It's the power of storytelling.  Share your story behind your product, your business, your job.  It's not what you do it's how you do it and share it that sets you apart in the market.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dealer Dilemma

I'm always interested in what local car dealers have to say about the economy.  When I worked as a local TV station General Manager the auto dealers were the lifeblood of our advertising business.   We tracked car sales monthly to identify target prospects for new advertising campaigns.  We also wanted to be the first to know how our existing clients were pacing compared to previous months.  In a good year, national auto sales would top 15-million.  Six years in the past decade, the figure topped 16-million.  That's when credit was flush, manufacturers were cranking out cars and incentives were driving traffic to the stores.  It all came crashing down last year when automotive news reported 3 million fewer cars were sold in 2008 compared to the year prior, triggering a panic among the big three and a $17 billion government bailout.  And this year?  The national car dealers association is predicting 12.7 million in sales with another 900 dealers going out of business.  Brutal.  
I have invited a couple car dealers to appear this week on a public affairs program I produce, called  Dollars and Sense  We'll get their take on the national crisis and how it hits home in their local community.  Should be a decent program.  I'll keep you posted.


Friday, December 26, 2008


I'd like to see a talk show produced around the concept of transparency, where the host and executive producer would post online every conceivable personal agenda, hidden or otherwise, to give the audience a better understanding of their particular point of view.

Put it all out there, political affiliations, voting record, board positions, investments, income, work history, education, family, etc...

How much more credibility would someone have who is willing to publish their personal bias and hidden agendas before discussing or presenting the issues of the day?  Same thing for the guests of such a show.  If you want to appear on the program you would also have to disclose your own personal bias before appearing.

What we have now, in my view,  are two media worlds, online and traditional, where the one world is built on a foundation of transparency, openness and an explosion of viewpoints, while the other is tightly managed, with fewer viewpoints expressed by guests and hosts who appear to conceal a hidden agenda.

Here's a little more background about myself to add a little context to this particular posting:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Started

"Dream big Dreams"

- Barack Obama

He scribbled the message using a crayon on two pieces of white paper tablecloth torn off a table at a Biaggi's restaurant in Champaign, IL.   One note for Hannah, another for Sarah Rachel.

He hadn't yet declared his candidacy for president.  He was in town on an exploratory visit, testing the waters, drumming up support for his expected announcement.

Few people noticed when he entered the restaurant with one other person that night.  I noticed, however, and remember telling my family over dinner that it was quite possible the man who took a seat two tables over could very well become our next US President.  "Yeah right", came the response from my two teen aged daughters.  Even my young son looked skeptical.  My wife Susan, however, was excited.  Not because of my bold prediction, but Susan saw it as another learning moment for her children.

Following dinner I asked the kids if they would like to meet Barack.   "No daddy no," came the nervous response.   They didn't want to disturb him.   But I had covered enough political campaigns in my time and interviewed enough politicians to know that when they were running for office or even contemplating a run for office meeting new people and shaking hands was expected.  

So I walked over and introduced myself and family to Mr. Obama.  He was very gracious and asked the children their ages.  We were brief.  I asked the kids if they wanted Mr. Obama's autograph and he obliged.
A simple moment, fleeting but real.  He made an impression.  The impression resonated with me at the time and it's what I remembered most when I stepped into the voting booth in November.  It's no longer about politics with me.  The stakes are too large.  Our country, God knows my state, is in deep trouble.  I voted for the person who I thought gives our country the best chance of pulling itself together.  We'll see.

It's been two years now since that dinner at Biaggi's.  The scribbled notes are lost in the chaos that describes the bedrooms of my two teen aged daughters.   When the notes turn up I'll post them here.  

Meantime, it's my honor to get in this game and add my own Voice to this digital discussion.