23 December, 2009

Why Kanawha County's Dog Tethering Ordinance is So Important

In This Issue of Higginbotham At Large:

- Update on Kanawha County Dog Tethering Ordinance

- Next Meeting of Drinking LIberally

Kanawha County Dog Tethering Ordinance Update:

Because I was at yesterday’s public hearing on the bear hunters’ request to exempt hunting dogs from the Kanawha County anti-tethering ordinance, several people have asked me for an update on the hearing.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that, in Kanawha County, dogs that are not classified as “hunting dogs” are protected by an ordinance that says their owners cannot tether them for periods exceeding 15 minutes, 4 times daily. Dog owners who violate this ordinance may receive stiff fines.

The bad news is that the hunters lawyered up, threatened to sue, and got their dogs exempted from the protections of the ordinance.

It was obvious from Kanawha County Commission President, Kent Carper’s, introductory remarks at the public hearing that the fix was in and that the commission was going to grant the hunters’ demand to exempt their dogs from the protections afforded other dogs and that the Kanawha Humane Society’s board, many of whom were in the room, had already agreed to the exemption.

Had the commission not allowed public comment, one would have gotten the impression that there were only two “sides” to the argument. On one side were the hunters who lawyered up and threatened legal challenges to the law. On the other “side” was the Humane Society board that caved in to the hunters’ demands and agreed to exclude “hunting dogs” from the protections of the anti-tethering law.

I would like to remind commissioners Carper, Hardy and Shores that Kanawha County taxpayers have never granted the Kanawha Humane Society board plenary and plenipotentiary powers to speak and decide for the rest of us yet Carper conducted the public hearing as if all that mattered was that the lawyer-rich hunters and the Humane Society board had reached an agreement and that the hunters promised not to be cruel to their dogs.

I believe Kent Carper when he says that if hunters are caught being cruel to their dogs they will be prosecuted – with or without the anti-tethering ordinance - but animal cruelty is hard to “prove” in a court of law so those of us who wish to report cruelty need as much legal specificity and inclusion as we can get. Laws that don’t define cruelty don’t really protect animals. An animal can be starved, beaten or deprived of water and shelter for days before humane officers can “prove” that cruelty took place. Laws that clearly spell out how long you can tether an animal, how often you have to provide water for your animal and what, exactly, constitutes shelter for an animal make the cruelty easier to observe and document. Those of us who have reported animal abuse know that vague, “I’ll know it when I see it” animal cruelty laws favor the abuser. That, Mr. Carper, is why observers and enforcers need specific, black and white, binary laws. You either provided your dog with legally-defined shelter or you didn’t. You either provided your dog with sufficient food and water as defined by law, or you didn’t.

And, Mr. Carper, the reason tethering and confinement laws, in particular, are so fundamental to prevention of cruelty to animals is because, unlike wild animals, tethered animals and confined animals can’t go somewhere in search of food, water, shelter or warmth. A “stray” cat can crawl up inside a car’s engine compartment to get warm. A tethered dog can’t. A wild squirrel or raccoon can seek shelter from the rain, water for its thirst or food for its hunger. A tethered dog can’t. A starving, dehydrated, shivering dog tethered to a stake in the ground is worse off than a stray dog because at least a stray dog might get lucky and be taken in by a loving human. When I was a teenager, a neglected neighborhood dog adopted my family. We had already taken him in as a stray before we learned from the mail man that our new pet was, in fact, a refugee from down the street who escaped from his abusers and found a better deal, an option the tethered dog doesn’t have.

I believe Mr. Carper is a fine public servant and, as I told some Huntington animal rights activists yesterday, I wish Kanawha County, West Virginia and the nation had thousands more progressive, fair and decent public servants just like him, but the next time Mr. Carper is tempted to broker a backroom deal concerning Kanawha County's animal protection laws, I hope he will remember that hunters and Humane Society board members aren't the only Kanawha County taxpayers with an interest in protecting animals.

My biggest take aways from yesterday's public hearing:

1. If you lawyer up and threaten to sue, the Kanawha Humane Society will back down. Kanawha County's dogs are lucky the hunter didn't demand that all dogs be exempted from the tethering ordinance.

2. People who want stronger, more meaningful and enforceable animal protection laws need to be prepared to hire lawyers because the "other side" will.

3. People who want stronger, more meaningful and enforceable animal protection laws need to be better organized, need to communicate with each other more and need to get a lot better at recruitment, at PR and at using social media.

There’s a great deal more I’d like to say about that public hearing and about animal protection laws but I’ll save some of my comments for another day. Huntington’s city council recently passed an anti-tethering ordinance and soon, I’m told, the same animal activists who demanded the city ordinance will ask the Cabell County Commission to pass a county-wide ordinance so I’m sure I’ll have more to say then.

Next Meeting of The Charleston, WV, Chapter of Drinking Liberally

If you are a liberal and you’d like to meet and network with other liberals, come join us at 5:30 PM, Thursday, 7 January at Bruno’s, 222 Leon Sullivan Way.

06 December, 2009

Referrals and Relationships - Part Two


“Marketing is not a department.” – Harry Beckwith


I said in my last blog entry that readers who are in "R & R" (relationships and referrals) businesses need to turn their staff and their existing clients into a sales force because leveraging the existing relationships of your customers and employees can bring you that most powerful and most efficient form of new client acquisition: word-of-mouth.

Hire People Who Integrate Their Professional Lives With Their Social Lives

At a recent luncheon I invited a most unpleasant director-level executive to a meeting where she would have the opportunity to network with people who could support her organization. Some of her co-workers actually asked me to add them to my mailing list and inform them of meetings so imagine my surprise when this sourpuss told me she didn’t appreciate my using a professional relationship to invite her to a social function. This unsociable executive is an example of the kind of employee NOT to hire. Not only was she just downright unneighborly, she is trying to totally segregate her professional and social lives, robbing her employer of whatever benefit might be derived from her social network – if she has any social network.

Hire people who join things, people who meet and make friends easily, people who integrate their professional and social networks.

You might be able to get a feel for a job candidate’s ability and willingness to integrate his/her social and professional lives by looking at his/her LinkedIn profile and connections. Not only does the candidate’s LinkedIn profile show me how that person is connected to me, giving me a chain of “back door references” I can ask about his/her character and competence, a candidate’s LinkedIn profile gives me some idea if the candidate knows how to network. I’m not impressed with a job candidate who has 15 connections and belongs to no LinkedIn groups. On the other hand, if a job candidate has a network of 200 LinkedIn connections and belongs to all the LinkedIn groups that are appropriate to his/her industry and profession, I might be dealing with somebody who brings some word-of-mouth and referral potential to the table.

Frankly, in this day and age I have serious reservations about a job applicant who isn’t using LinkedIn to build both a positive professional brand and a sizeable, searchable professional network. Once onboard, staff members should be encouraged to invite each other to their LinkedIn networks so they can easily see how the company is connected to potential clients and who it is on the staff who has the relational bridge to a prospect.

For further reading on the subject of integrating your professional life with your private or social life, see Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. I suggest you make it required reading for your staff.

Frequently Mine Your Employees and Clients To For New Leads

Get in the habit of asking questions like these: What networking opportunities did you attend this week? Who did you meet? Did you collect any business cards? Did you make any interesting new LinkedIn connections? Did you meet anybody who might be able to benefit from our product or service?

Asking these questions yields immediate leads and teaches how to network. When your employees know they’ll be asked which meetings they’ve attended and whom they’ve met, they’ll understand that, at your company, marketing is not a department and that they need to be prepared for the questions. Most of your current employees probably weren’t born with the networking gene but it’s a behavior they can learn if you ask them the right questions.

Spend The Money In Your Ad Budget On Association Memberships and Other Forms Of Direct Contaact With Potential Referrers


"Advertising is what you do when you can't talk to someone." - Fairfax Cone


Some of my readers are in the kind of “R & R” (referrals and relationships) businesses where almost their entire universe of prospective clients and referrers is knowable and finite. I have to be careful here because I don’t want to identify any specific businesses, but I know businesses whose target markets are so specific and so public that they can literally make a list of their prospects by name and by title and organization.

It doesn’t make any sense at all for these R & R companies to spend much money on advertising. Advertising is what you do when you don’t know how to reach your customer – or you don’t know who your prospective customer is. But when you know who your prospects are – I mean you know their names, their job titles, and where they work – it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on radio ads, newspaper ads or slick magazine ads as if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach.

For instance, let’s say you’re in the durable medical equipment industry. Oxygen. Hospital beds. Wheelchairs. Maybe diabetic or ostomy supplies. While the end users of these products are not knowable, the gatekeepers who refer these end users to you are absolutely knowable and finite. Case managers. Discharge planners. Pulmonologists. Nurses with a specific certification in ostomy and skin care. You get the idea. In most markets there are only a handful of these professionals associate with each area hospital and you can absolutely make a list and then figure out how to create a bridge or leverage an existing relationship to these professionals.

Here’s where hiring employees who use LinkedIn comes in handy. After you’ve made a list of the professionals who can refer end users to your DME business, look up each of them in LinkedIn and see how they’re linked to someone on your staff or someone you know who would be willing to introduce that referral source to you. Put that link’s name next to the name of the referral source. Ask that connecting link to introduce you to the referral source. Set up a lunch or a coffee.

Also, when you find a target referral source in LinkedIn, consider joining some of the LinkedIn groups they belong to. Join some of the same groups then send a LinkedIn message introducing yourself. Who knows, maybe a real conversation will ensue.

Can’t find a connecting link or can’t find the referral source in LinkedIn? Then ask yourself what meetings that professional is likely to attend or what professional associations that person is likely to belong to. Join and attend as necessary. If you’re in the staffing business you need to belong to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). If you’re in the DME business you need to attend sleep disorder support groups, ostomate support groups, Better Breathers support groups and you need to belong to sponsor events and meetings for National Association of Social Workers and Case Management Society of America. Someone from your staff needs to be at every meeting, gripping and grinning, exchanging business cards and inviting referral sources to lunch. Send the member of your staff who has the most in common, the greatest rapport with that professional group. Send your respiratory therapist to the Better Breathers and sleep disorders meetings. Send a nurse to the ostomy club.

Your sales rep probably can’t get an appointment with many of the people who make up the Known Universe of Referral Sources and Gatekeepers but if you show up at a meeting you just might find yourself having dinner, elbow to elbow, with someone you need to meet. Also, being seen at meetings gives your current referral sources a chance to be seen behaving friendly with you, an implicit professional endorsement or recommendation and a strong “visual” that makes you seem more trustworthy to observers who have not yet referred business to your company.

Consider Firing Or Repurposing/Redeploying Your Sales Rep

What many R & R (relationships and referrals) businesses need is not a sales rep but someone who can teach the entire staff how to get relationships and referrals that lead to sales.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a VP at The Carlyle Group who told me about a recent group of acquisitions whose greatest need is for the licensed and certified professionals who run them to learn how to network.

Ideally, this kind of networking leadership would come from the owner or CEO but for reasons that mystify and elude me, some owners of R & R businesses would rather run expensive "ego advertising" than engage in activities that will actually lead to new business. I've seen small business owners spend tens of thousands of ad dollars making sure their high school pals and fraternity brothers or sorority sisters know they own a company or trying to look like the most successful member of the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club while doing nothing at all to teach their staff how to network.

Maybe your sales rep can be repurposed and redeployed as the guy who teaches your staff how to network.

In summary: Hire people who know how to network, how to integrate their social and professional lives. Consider firing your sales rep and becoming or hiring someone to teach your staff how to network. Spend your ad budget on association memberships, on lunches, on opportunities to get face-to-face with somebody. Frequently ask your clients and employees whom they've met recently who can use your product or service.

02 December, 2009

What Are You Pretending Not To Know About Referrals and Relationships?

Many of my regular readers are in what I call “R & R” businesses - “Referrals and Relationships”. Many of my readers are HR consultants, financial services consultants, business consultants, advertising and marketing consultants, accountants, lawyers, IT consultants and others who develop an ongoing relationship with their clients and depend on word-of-mouth referrals for new client acquisition.

Because I know who reads me, I know most of my readers don’t have big advertising and marketing budgets. I also know most of my readers would benefit more from some good ol’ word-of-mouth referral than they would from an expensive mass media campaign. Experience has taught my readers that people don’t choose an accountant, marketing consultant or other professional services provider because they saw a newspaper ad or heard a radio ad but if a trusted friend or colleague recommends a particular professional services provider, that provider is likely to get the business.

So today’s question is “If you know the power of word-of-mouth referrals, why aren’t you running your business like you believe in word-of-mouth referrals?”

Let me ask it the way Susan Scott (Fierce Conversations) would ask it: “What are you pretending not to know about the power of word-of-mouth referrals?”

If you believe that word-of-mouth referrals are the lifeblood of your business and you know from experience that you are more likely to choose the lawyer or the accountant or the headhunter or the financial advisor who was referred to you by someone you respect and trust, why aren’t you running your business as if you believe these things?

As I said in yesterday’s Higginbotham At Large and as my “R & R” readers already know from experience, if you provide a professional service and you’re competing with another provider of that service for the same client, it’s the guy with the relationship, not the guy with a radio ad, who’s most likely to get the business. No, I’m not knocking radio. I believe in radio properly used. Back in the 80s I used to buy a lot of radio and a little newspaper and TV when I could get co-op money. In some businesses, sales would drop like a rock if the advertiser slashed the ad budget.

But my readers aren’t in businesses whose stock prices and sales would plummet if they don’t buy TV and radio and slick magazine ads. My readers are in businesses where one casual recommendation in passing is worth more than $10,000 worth of advertising. My readers are in businesses where a service provider with an ad budget is no match for a service provider with a referral.

But they don’t run their businesses as if they know and believe this.

Consider the case of “Rob” (not his real name) who recently asked for my advice. “Rob” is one of the many IT providers out there whose target clients are the businesses with, say, 10 to 20 computers but no full-time “IT department” to take care of their IT needs. “Rob” told me that his business would go from “just getting by” to “crazy profitable” if he could just acquire 10 more clients.

Further, Rob told me, his clients are very cost-sensitive. He told me that if he can’t get new clients and is forced to raise prices, some of his current clients will leave him and go to another IT provider when their contracts are up.

“I’m on the verge of making some real money if I can just figure out how to go from 80 clients to 90” Rob told me. He also told me he had recently spent thousands on an ad campaign that didn’t bring him even one new client. So I said to Rob what I’m saying to my readers today.

“Of your 80 clients, how many are really, really happy with your service and would be willing to tell somebody?” I asked.

“More than half of them” said Rob.

“So when was the last time you put one of your clients in a position to recommend you to a prospect?” I asked. “And, when was the last time you came right out and said to one of your happy clients that he could help you keep prices low if he helped you get a new client?”

Rob admitted that he had never asked a current, happy client to refer business to him and that he had never arranged a meeting of happy clients and prospective clients.

“How much would it cost you in coffee and lunches or coffee and dinners to put your 40 happiest clients in the same room with prospective clients where they can say those magic words that we both know will lead to new contracts?” I asked.

“Way less then I spent on my failed ad campaign” admitted Rob.

While we’re talking about the power of relationships and referrals, let’s talk about that other untapped source of new referrals: your employees. Where did your receptionist or administrative assistant work before he/she came to work for you? Did he/she know businesses that can use your service? Have you asked?

Do you see where I’m going with this? Why would you spend another dollar on advertising when you haven’t walked down the hallway and asked your new architect whom he or she knew from his/her last employer who might be willing to throw some business to your firm? Why would you spend money on advertising when you haven’t yet asked your own happy clients who they know who might want to have lunch or coffee?

By the way, at that same lunch of coffee, make it a foursome. Introduce one of your clients to another so he, too, can meet a prospective new client.

Why not hire people who know how to network? Sales is not just for sales reps. Professionals of all kinds - architects, engineers, lawyers, accountants, etc. - need to learn that nobody gets to just sit at a computer and leave client acquisition to somebody with the words "sales" or "marketing" on their business cards. Turn your entire team into a sales force. Instead of spending precious capital on advertising, why not buy your employees memberships in some professional organizations and require them to attend meetings, exchange business cards with people and swap a few germs grinning and gripping at lunch meetings and "business after hours" meetings. Buy one employee a $370 membership in Society for Marketing Professional Services, buy another a $300 membership in SHRM. For less than it costs to buy a few radio spots or a small newspaper ad you can put your team members in the same room with real live prospects where they can actually start forming relationships that lead to new business.

Again, there’s no need for my advertising readers to send me nasty notes about why I’m knocking advertising. I’m not. I believe in advertising. Perhaps in a future post I’ll even share what I learned about advertising when, back in the 80s and 90s, it was part of my job to create ad campaigns and buy ads for my employers, but for small “R & R” businesses who can’t really afford to advertise and absolutely know for sure that word-of-mouth referrals are the lifeblood of their business, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy ads until you’ve exploited the untapped power of your existing relationships.

So to my “R &R” readers I say two things in closing:

1. What are you pretending not to know about the power of word-of-mouth referrals? Why aren’t you putting the mouths and the ears in the same room with each other? It’s easy and it’s fun. If you’re in an “R & R” business, networking needs to become a way of life.

2. A competitor with an ad campaign is no match for a business that gets word-of-mouth referrals.

01 December, 2009

The Rules That Govern Human Buying Decisions Are Not Suspended Or Negated By Social Media

Important notice to so-called “marketing mavens”, “marketing experts”, “social media experts” and others who think the rules of human emotions and human decision-making have been suspended just because we have websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube: They haven’t. You so-called marketing geniuses out there may have more gee-whiz new tools with which to over stimulate us, annoy us and dazzle us but humans still make buying decisions the same way we always have: We may buy a Bible from a door-to-door traveling salesman or a ice cream cone from a street vendor, but humans don’t usually buy marketing services or other professional services from strangers if there is a non-stranger available to provide that service. When it comes to professional services, we prefer to buy from people with whom we have a relationship and with whom we share some mutual friends. No number of annoying Tweets or clever YouTube videos will change that.

Don’t get the marketing cart in front of the relationship horse. Yes, I may buy a pair of boots from Zappos.com even though I don’t know anybody at Zappos.com, but I won’t buy a professional service from you just because you have a nice website or because you Tweet me 20 times a day. In fact, if you annoy me and disrespect me and waste my time and become a nuisance to me I am likely to “unfollow” you, “unfriend” you and remove my LinkedIn connection to you.

Humans make decisions emotionally then justify those decisions intellectually. We buy from people we know, trust and like when possible. I don’t have to have a relationship with you to buy a cup of coffee or a car or a house from you but if I’m buying something that will entail having meetings with you, exchanging a lot of emails with you, talking to you a lot on the phone and, really, entering into an ongoing relationship with you, I’m going to have to like you.

These rules of human decision-making are not suspended because you pester me with your gee whiz new social media platforms. In fact, these gee-whiz social media platforms, if misused, cause the rules of human decision-making to actually work against you. In the age of Twitter, email and YouTube I can decide I think you’re a jerk in New York minute whereas, back in the old days, it may have taken you weeks or months to show me you’re an inconsiderate jerk.

Frankly, if a marketer doesn't have the social intelligence and the understanding of human emotions to know these things without being told, I would never trust such a person with my brand. Chances are, if you annoy me and try to sell me stuff before you have a relationship with me, you'll do that with my clients and customers making your insensitive jerk brand my brand, too.

Let’s review: Humans still make buying decisions emotionally and then justify those decisions intellectually. Humans seldom buy a “relationship” or professional service from a stranger if a non-stranger is available to provide the same service. People seldom buy professional services or relationships from people they don’t like. These rules have not been suspended by the advent of the social media age.

And I'm still more likely to buy a professional service from you if you are referred to me by someone I trust no matter how much you try to dazzle me or pester me via social media.

Use social media to start a relationship with me, not to sell me something.

23 November, 2009

It Doesn't Go Without Saying: Susan Scott's Fierce Leadership

The last time I mentioned books with the word “Leadership” in the title I said that leadership books should come equipped with an exploding paint bomb to warn everybody who’s trying to learn how to be a leader, but because this is Scott’s sequel to Fierce Conversations, it’s not just another book on leadership, it’s really a book about something there’s far too little of in the workplace: conversations conducted in the right way, about the right things, between the right people. Job interviews. Project post-mortems. Discussions about accountability. Discussions with customers. How to really give employees the right kind of feedback about their performance.

Scott’s first book, Fierce Conversations, was almost a like a pre-consult description of what she was going to find wrong with your company and how she was going to fix it when you hired her. Her latest book, Fierce Leadership, is like the post-consult book she leaves behind for leaders so they won’t let their companies get in such bad shape again. It really is the perfect follow-up or sequel to Fierce Conversations because it shows company leaders how to apply the principles Scott introduced years ago in her first book. The conversation is the relationship. To name a problem is to solve it. Business is a long, extended conversation. It’s not the real conversations that should scare us, it’s the unreal ones.

Those of you who read Fierce Conversations will notice a difference in style. Fierce Leadership is much more conversational and better organized than was Fierce Conversations which, as great as it was, could have benefited from some aggressive editing and organizing.

And here’s a bonus: While most business writers write as if they have no staff and work their magic all alone, Susan Scott “introduces” us to some of her staff and shares the credit. Chris Douglas. Jim Sorensen. Cam Tripp. I’m leaving someone out, I just know it, but I like how Scott shares credit with the people who help her help clients.

20 November, 2009

Charleston Chapter of Drinking Liberally Looking For A Permanent Venue

The Charleston chapter of Drinking Liberally needs to settle on a permanent meeting place so we can get our chapter listed on the Drinking Liberally website where we can be found by fellow liberals who may be passing through or relocating to Charleston.

We'll be meeting every 2 weeks on Thursday evenings at 5:30-ish. Once selected, the permanent meeting place will be mentioned as part of the chapter listing so we're hoping that somewhere in the Charleston area there's a liberal restaurant or bar owner who would be proud for his establishment's brand to be associated with the liberal-progressive politics of our members.

And, of course, we'd like to settle on a place that stays open until at least 7:30 or 8PM on Thursdays, has ample parking and comfortable seating.

Oh, and perhaps just as important as the seating and parking and the hours, we need a place that doesn't blast music so loud that we can't hear each other talk. Drinking Liberally is about liberals getting together to talk about the issues that matter to us so if we can't have a conversation, we may as well all go home and watch Hardball, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman on TV.

By the way, I'd love to find a bar or tavern whose TVs are spot-welded to MSNBC.

I think it goes without saying that we aren't looking for the kind of place that caters to a "regular" crowd of Fox watchers.

Last night's meeting was briefly disrupted by a Corona-fired, self-described, Republican coal miner who proudly "blows up mountains for a living". I wonder if our mountain top removing coal apologist would have been drinking Coronas at our meeting place if he knew the owner is liberal. It would suit me fine if we could find a meeting place where there are no Corona-swilling, meeting disrupting, Republican coal miners.

Last year, before I moved back to West Virginia, my Lexington, KY, DL group met on a presidential debate night with assurances from the owner of the establishment that we could watch the debate, but when we arrived we found that several other groups were also meeting there and didn't want to hear the debate so many of us retired to our homes and watched the debate alone instead of in the company of our liberal friends.

I know that a restaurant or a bar is a business and needs to be run like a business but it's hard for me to believe that, somewhere in the Charleston area, there's not a bar, tavern or restaurant that would proud to be the home of MSNBC-watching, liberal-talking, patrons.

Oh, and there's a small group of liberals in St. Albans who can't meet in Charleston on Thursday evenings so, if there's enough interest and a friendly place to meet, I'm hoping to organize a St. Albans Drinking Liberally, too.

Incidentally, there are also opportunities for movie theaters to host Screening Liberally chapters, for restaurants to host Eating Liberally chapters, for bookstores to host Reading Liberally chapters and for comedy clubs to host Laughing Liberally chapters.

Living Liberally is about "progressive action through social interaction". Good things happen when people meet, tell each other their ideas, exchange business cards and then find a way to collaborate.

For more information, go to www.livingliberally.org.

17 November, 2009

And No Republicans Were Harmed In The Writing Of This Post

"A company that would discriminate on the basis of facial hair would probably also discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views - and I don't want to work for that kind of company."

I said this to a guy who offered me a job on the condition that I shave my beard. He claimed his company had a policy against facial hair. I declined. I had to decline.

I bring up this incident because I'm hearing a lot of discussion about how social media is changing the world of job search and recruitment. In the age of social media, injustice happens more swiftly and anonymously than it did when I had to turn down a job because the company didn't like facial hair. Today, they might just look candidates up on Facebook and rule out those with facial hair or any other characteristic they don't like.

"Is it ethical for me, an HR manager, to look up people on Facebook and LinkedIn before I decide to interview them?" someone asked rhetorically to nobody in particular the other day.

Whether or not it's ethical, we have to assume she and other HR people are doing it.

By now, you probably think you know where this is going. You probably think I'm about to tell you what I told a crowd of University of Kentucky grads about the dangers of posting your radical religious or political views or your drunken Spring Break photos on Facebook. Yeah, I told them they should Google themselves and see what employers are going to see and then clean up what they can.

But in the limited time we had available I didn't tell them what I'm about to tell my blog readers. I didn't tell them that they shouldn't be ashamed of what they haven't done wrong. I didn't tell them that if they have to pretend to be someone they aren't in order to get that dream job, then maybe it's not really a dream job.

That's why I proudly and unapologetically fly my liberal flag knowing full well that doing so may cost me consulting gigs or job offers.

But someone who would discriminate against me because I am a liberal Democrat would probably also discriminate against a lesbian or a black or a Rastafarian.

And I don't want to work for a company that would do that.

And, oh, while I'm flying my liberal flag, let me invite all my liberal, Charleston, WV readers to the second meeting of the re-launched, re-loaded Charleston chapter of Drinking Liberally. We meet this Thursday, 19 November, at Tricky Fish, 1611 Washington Street East at about 5:30-ish. We welcome gays, minorities, animal rights activists, vegans, vegetarians, people with facial hair, people without facial hair and people who have the courage of their liberal convictions to turn down job offers from bad guys.

No knuckle-dragging conservatives or sentient beings were harmed in the formation of the Drinking Liberally chapter but we're not above making conservatives squirm.

15 November, 2009

How To Get More From Meetings

Last week I attended a lunch meeting where people signed in at the door, filled their plates with food at the buffet, then either sat down at tables with people they already knew and probably sat with at the last meeting and the one before that, or found a table where nobody was seated then failed to greet the others who eventually joined them as the room filled and people grabbed a seat wherever they could find it. Even though the people at this meeting shared a common profession and could have easily made polite "shop talk" with their tablemates, few did.

With the exception of the officer who checked me in at the door, nobody knew who I was so it had to be obvious to all of the regulars that I was a first time visitor yet only the President Elect welcomed me.

I happen to know that many of the professionals who attended this meeting paid several hundred dollars in local and national membership fees and then paid $10 for lunch. At $10 per meal, a member who attends every monthly meeting could easily spend, say, $400 a year on meals and membership fees alone. Then there's the drive across town, the parking, the gas, and the rush to get back to the office.

To me, this seems like a lot of time, effort and expense not to meet anybody new, not to get better acquainted with anybody and to return to the office with not so much somebody's business card to show for the money and effort. I don't know about you, but to a guy like me whose livelihood is 100% referral-based, $400 a year is too much money not to make new friends and meet new people.

Yeah, I know, somebody reading this is thinking, "Ah, you must be an extravert, an outgoing, never-met-a-stranger kind of guy." Nope. I'm an off-the-charts introvert. INTP on the Myers-Briggs. So even if the people I watched squander the opportunity to deepen and extend their networks are all introverts, they are without excuse. If a hardcore introvert like me can learn to smile, say my name, extend a handshake and produce a business card, anybody can. "Grip and grin". It's easy. And it leads to good things. Job offers. Consulting gigs. Friendship.

"Maybe the people at your meeting are all misanthropes,” you may say. OK, maybe they are. That would certainly explain their unsociable behavior but, remember, these people are paying a lot of money to this organization for the privilege of being in the same room once a month with these humans they don't like so, if for no other reason than self interest, shouldn't they learn to meet and greet so they can get the most professional networking bang for their buck?

How To Get More From The Meetings You Attend

1. Put a stack of business cards in a pocket where you can easily offer one to everybody you meet.

2. Arrive early if possible so you can mix and mingle and introduce yourself to people.

Introducing yourself is easy. Just do this: Smile. Extend your hand (if you're afraid of H1N1 you can use hand sanitizer later). Say your name. Offer your business card. It's easy. Good things will happen. Like magic, most of the people you meet will mirror your actions. When you say your name, they'll say there's. When you produce a business card, they'll produce theirs. You're showing them how to behave. Do this at every meeting and eventually you will have taught a lot of people how to network at a meeting and, soon, you won't have to be the initiator all the time.

3. If this is a meeting where you're going to see some of the same people you can see elsewhere, resist the urge to hang with people you already know. Be the guy who reaches out to the stranger, the visitor, the person whose body language says they feel awkward.

4. Resist the urge to scan the room for the movers and shakers and network only with them. Get in the habit of saying to you "there are no unimportant people" and get in the habit of treating everybody the same.

5. Once a week, look up all the people who gave you a business card on LinkedIn. Invite them to join your LinkedIn network.

Remember: Always have business cards. Smile. Say your name. Extend your hand. Offer a business card. Repeat.

10 November, 2009

Why It's Conservative And Capitalistic To Air Liberal Radio In Charleston

I just mailed a letter to Lisa Nininger Hale, President of Bristol Broadcasting, suggesting that if she hasn't already made a decision about how to re-program "Z-Rock" which is playing Christmas music until Bristol is ready to unveil their plans for the former rock station, she might want to consider liberal talk radio. No matter what Ms. Hale's politics, being the first to air liberal radio in Charleston, WV, would be a very capitalistic, very conservative, very Republican thing to do for one simple reason: In Charleston, WV, the owner of a liberal talk radio station would have a monopoly on that market.

Program directors whose paychecks are signed by Clear Channel and other politically conservative radio station owners are quick to point to Air America's difficulties as proof that "liberal radio never works" or that "liberals won't support liberal talk radio."

While I'll stipulate that even the most successful liberal hosts like Thom Hartmann, Ron Reagan, Jr., Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes don't have listening audiences as big as those of Rush Limbaugh, there are two reasons I think trying to compare liberal talk radio market share to conservative talk radio market share isn't comparing apples to apples.

First, since most radio station owners are conservatives who have built their radio brands for years, liberal talk radio has generally only been tried on stations nobody was listening to when those stations had a different format.

Second, conservative station owners have chased away nearly all the potential liberal radio listeners who, frankly, feel they can't turn on the radio without being aurally assaulted. If Charleston had a liberal talk radio station it would take a while for liberals who have come to associate radio with pain and insult to eject their CDs or turn off their iPods and seek information and entertainment from the radio again. I never did think it was a wise strategy for companies like Clear Channel to actually shrink the radio audience by alienating half their potential listeners without giving those alienated listeners another station to turn to. If I were an enterprising, cynical radio company I might want to own both liberal and conservative stations in the same market so that when Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity chase radio listeners and advertisers from one station, these listeners and advertisers are driven into the arms of a station that airs liberal programming.

And finally, I think one of the reasons liberals have not always supported liberal talk radio is that liberals don't like liberals who try to sound like liberal versions of Glen Beck or Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. In other words, I'm saying that you don't communicate to liberals the same way you communicate to conservatives - and I think I'll stop right there. My fellow liberals know what I mean. Let's just say that if Michael Agnello and Rush Limbaugh experienced born again conversions to liberalism and went on the air tomorrow attacking conservatives with the same simplistic arguments and bombast with which they attack liberals now, even liberals who agree with what they say would object to how they say it and tune out in droves once the novelty of their liberal conversion wore off. You don't communicate with a liberal the same way you communicate with a conservative.

Anyway, I sent my letter to Bristol Broadcasting President, Lisa Nininger Hale, telling her that if she converts Z-Rock to liberal talk, not only will she have a monopoly on that format, I'll even help her identify liberal advertisers who might like to use radio to reach liberals.

23 October, 2009

Why You Won't Hear Ads That Say "Marin Is Marijuana" And Why There Shouldn't Be Ads That Say "Coal Is West Virginia"

I’m deeply offended by the West Virginia Coal Association’s “Coal IS West Virginia” radio ad "end sings". While other environment-damaging and health-harmful industries have learned to say things like “Drink Responsibly” or “We can’t drill our way out of this problem”, The West Virginia Coal Association continues to harm West Virginia and the West Virginia brand by doing what West Virginia special interests have always done: killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. West Virginia needs to be so inexorably linked to coal or any one industry the way Rush Limbaugh needs to be known only as a hypocritical drug addict who advocated throwing the book at poor drug users while his rich doctor friends kept him supplied with pills. West Virginia needs its brand shaken by mountain top explosions and drowned in polluted water the way WCHS radio needs their brand to be equated with ultra-conservative pastor and radio personality, Michael Agnello's DUI arrest.

It's been estimated that perhaps as many as 60% of Marin County, California's residents are in some way connected to marijuana business but if some trade association started running ads saying "Marin Is Marijuana", I think you'd see Chambers of Commerce, Mayors and others scrambling to refute those ads and distance themselves from them. That's because some places understand the importance of protecting their brand and understand the danger of letting themselves be defined by one industry.

These "Coal is West Virginia" ads are proof that the West Virginia Coal Association doesn't care at all about West Virginia. If they did, they would not be raising the Big Coal flag over West Virginia at a time when organizations like Create West Virginia are trying to convince the world that West Virginia is about biotech, alternative energy and much more than coal.

I’m sure that somewhere there are a few slow-witted people who actually believe that the coal industry is about to be outlawed and bankrupted by Obama and his clean, green energy pals, but just as the tobacco industry, the petroleum industry and the alcoholic beverage industry have realized that their worlds are changing, it’s time for coal to do the same. BP doesn’t stand for British Petroleum anymore, it stands for Beyond Petroleum and it no longer gives Britain and the British brand a black eye as the coal industry does to West Virginia.

Instead of continuing to serve up a West Virginia smothered in coal dust and breaded in dead fish, wouldn’t the coal association do less harm to West Virginia if they joined the search for alternatives to coal and reminded us that electric cars will be recharged by electricity from coal-fired power plants and that America will be powered by coal for a very long time while we consider nuclear power plants and while we figure out how to use solar, wind and hydro more cost effectively? To hear Big Coal tell it, coal is in danger of going out of business today – and with their unsophisticated “coal is West Virginia” jingle they perpetuate the stereotypes that make it harder for, say, Create West Virginia to get investors, inventors and entrepreneurs to think about anything but destruction when they think of West Virginia.

Since the West Virginia Coal Association has decided to trash the future of the West Virginia brand by making West Virginia synonymous with coal, no West Virginia trade groups, business groups, politicians or other forward-thinking leaders and visionaries who truly want to create a new West Virginia should ever again utter the word "coal." Those of us who care about West Virginia's future should be talking about telecommunications, biotech, advanced flexible manufacturing, education, arts, culture, diversity and alternative energy research, not coal. Big Coal is going to spend a lot of money throwing West Virginia's brand and West Virginia's future under the coal car so there's no need whatsoever for anybody else to be talking about coal since Big Coal is trying as hard as they can to make it impossible for West Virginia to be about anything but coal. Yesterday I heard a radio commercial that strongly implied that every coal job in West Virginia is in imminent danger of vanishing. It's not true. America needs West Virginia's coal and will need it for a very, very long time.

You don’t protect and promote a state’s major industries by destroying the image of that state any more than you produce more golden eggs by killing the goose that laid them. You need look no further than Lexington, KY, to see what I mean. Despite being blessed with picture post card surroundings and a workforce that is one of the most college-educated in America, Lexington has trouble attracting the talent it needs because it is in Kentucky. The Kentucky brand – which is barefoot, ignorant, toothless, obese, racist and pregnant with another illegitimate welfare baby – is stifling both Lexington and Louisville, two cities whose economies are being harmed by their association with the Kentucky brand and, in Lexington's case, by the insistence on the part of some of its leaders to hitch its wagon almost entirely to the "horse capitol of the world" star.

Frankly, if I were Mayor of Lexington I would start a mock secessionist movement. I’d run ads in New York and Washington that announce Lexington is seceding from Kentucky and I’d appear on camera flanked by executives from companies that offered to fund a hi-tech scholarship plan that was voted down by the good ol’ boy council members who don’t think it’s a tragedy that Lexingtonians with college degrees are waiting tables or mucking out horse stalls because Lexington can’t attract more employers like Cypress Semiconductor or IBM due to its unfortunate association with the state of Kentucky.

Are you reading this, Danny Jones? Maybe you should start a mock secessionist movement. Start by denouncing the West Virginia Coal Association. Show some of Charleston’s non-coal success stories. Publicly call out the West Virginia Coal Association for needlessly harming the West Virginia brand then deliberately distance Charleston from the West Virginia brand.

Maybe Huntington Mayor, Kim Wolfe, would like to lead a mock secessionist movement, too. Perhaps Wolfe and Jones could get together to condemn the West Virginia Coal Association, denounce West Virginia's hillbilly image and "secede" from West Virginia in some satirical TV ads. And , as we all know, they wouldn't have to actually buy the airtime. All they need to do is make the ad then leak it and let the media give them free exposure.

19 October, 2009

Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go And When He Is Old Theocrats Won't Have To Stone Him To Death

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a good woman I never met. I know she was a good woman because she and her husband raised three good kids one of whom I mischievously refer to as "the only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust."

As minister and family stepped to the lectern and told stories about my good friend’s mother, I listened closely to discover the secret to her success as a mother. Was it her Baptist faith? No, I know other parents who shared her Baptist faith who did not succeed at parenthood. Was it her perky, positive, cheerful demeanor? Well, it didn’t hurt. Everybody said she had a way of bringing sunshine with her wherever she went but I’ve known people like that who couldn’t seem to raise even one child you’d want as a neighbor, employee or boss.

I’m at that age where the generation that raised me and my friends are being buried and what I fear is that their parenting secrets are being buried with them. My good friend whom I call “the only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust” doesn’t know this but had I been able to return to WV before his mother’s illness, I had planned to interview her –with her surviving husband, of course – to see if I could uncover some common denominator, some common parenting trait or style that successful parents all share.

It’s not politics. “The only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust” had one Democrat parent and one Republican parent. I’m a liberal Democrat and I would like nothing better than to find a strong correlation between being a good person and being raised in a liberal home but the truth is, I know a lot of liberal Democrats who failed as parents, whose own kids hate them and whose friends and neighbors hate them for raising the kind of kids they raised.

I’m not an expert but, right now, if I had to hazard a guess as to what all good parents did in common I’d have to say it has something to do with spending time with their kids, communicating with their kids and being involved in their kids' lives. I didn’t use the word “love” because even parents who failed to raise good kids think they love their children – and maybe they do, but I once heard a “parenting expert” say that, to kids, “love” is measured in time and attention.

I hope to get to know my friend’s dad.

And I hope to interview my friend and ask him why he thinks he and his sisters turned out to be good, productive people.

I have no children so this is easy for me to say, but I think if you bring another human being into the world you have a responsibility to society, as an act of good citizenship, to raise that child to be a good member of the human race. To do otherwise is, I think, no different than to expose your friends and neighbors to dangerous toxins. You see, I don't think you get to raise a kid for 18 years then, when he grows up to become an embarrassment to his parents and a burden or threat to society complain that the kid wasn't raised to be that way. My position is - and a lot of people won't like this - oh, yes he was. Unless you can show that wolves raised your child or that you didn't have nearly total control of your child's life for, say, 5 or 6 years then at least partial control for another 12, the kid turned out exactly as he was raised to turn out.

I'm a systems thinker. I know that every outcome is produced by a system that is perfectly designed to produce the outcome it produces.

If I were a judge, I would use the bench to, in some way, punish not only the young ruffians and scofflaws but also their parents. Here's my reasoning: If I plant a tree which eventually overhangs my neighbor's house, becomes diseased, and I then falls on my neighbor's house, I am responsible for the damage caused to my neighbor's house. The same goes for raising children who become threats, burdens or nuisances to society.

Do you remember the teenage reprobates in Pike County, KY, who used a truck to chase a herd of horses to exhaustion then shot the horses? Oh, buddy, if I were a judge and those reprobates appeared in my court their parents would be on trial, too. They may not have actively taught their kids to torture animals but, somehow, they raised kids devoid of any compassion or conscience and unleashed these monsters on an innocent herd of horses and on a community that probably knew the teens were monsters but could expect no protection until the monsters did something that attracted media attention and forced law enforcement to step in.

In an effort to provide cover and comfort to church members who raised homosexual children or liberal children or atheist children, I once heard a fundamentalist preacher say that Proverbs 22:6 is mistranslated and does not promise (or threaten), as it appears to, that kids will eventually turn out the way they were raised to turn out. I can't read Proverbs 22:6 in the original Hebrew nor can I put my hands on the "original manuscript" (neither can your pastor) so I can't comment on whether or not "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" is a mistranslation but I do know this: while parents of atheists or liberals or homosexuals may be looked upon as parental and Christian failures by their contemporaries at certain fundamentalist and evangelical churches, Bible-quoting parents of gay or liberal or atheist kids are not the ones with some explaining to do up at the Bible Center Church. No, it's the parents of straight, church-going kids who grow up to rob their employees' retirement funds and neglect and ignore their kids or torture animals who should be ashamed of their parental handiwork.

Oh, and people who say they want our nation "run according to biblical principles" might be surprised to learn that Deuteronomy 21:18-21 prescribes that parents of incorrigible children take their bad seed to the elders of the city and have them stoned to death. The text reads: "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and, though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones: so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." (ASV)

I think the cure for all this theocratic foment on the Republican right is more Bible reading. Yes, I am convinced that if more Republicans read their Bibles there would be far less enthusiasm for a return to biblical public policy.

And while I’m looking for that common denominator that all good parents share, I will also be looking for an opportunity to get to know some of my other friends’ parents before their parenting secrets are buried with them. And I’m happy to say that one of the parents I hope to get to know is a retired chemical engineer who has been driving conservative, evangelical Kanawha Valley pastors crazy with his 28-page tracts proving, beyond doubt, from Jesus’ own words that Jesus was an economic liberal. This tractarian raised a fine son whose selfless work for the underprivileged and total lack of regard for his own supplication has led me to call him “the man with one pair of pants.”

But when I have interviewed fine parents and their kids, liberals and conservatives, believers and unbelievers, I don’t expect to find that good parenting has anything to do with faith or politics. I expect to find that it has something to do with paying attention to and spending time with their children.