Saturday, December 31, 2011

Short Course on Corporate Survival

Lesson #1: Time is more valuable than money. The currency of time is getting more and more scarce and thereby more and more valuable. Listen for the clues to time being stolen away from you. “Can I have just a few moments of your time?” and the sneakier and more insidious “I’ll get back to you” and the impossible “ASAP.” There is no such thing as a“few minutes of your time,” How ‘bout scheduling a specific time? ASAP doesn’t mean anything. Use time wisely.

Lesson #2: You’ll spend most of your time making things happen. Come to grips with that reality. Have a well thought out plan sure. But your job is much more about “Just doing it.” If you come into a new job, especially if you fill a position that may have been vacant a while, you’re going to have to execute even before you get a comfortable handle on the big picture.

Lesson #3: Seek out expertise and network. It will pay off. Schmoozing works, sort of. You will always be more trusting of people you know. Networking allows you to get to know people and what they do. It will always be better to know someone than to blindly call someone out of the Yellow Pages in a panic. Best-selling business author Harvey MacKay says “Dig your well before you are thirsty.” I concur.

Lesson #4: You gotta listen first. A salesman called me once offering a service I couldn’t refuse (he thought). “I can cut your customer service costs by 25%” this guy promised me over the phone. How in the world did this guy come up with this as his lead? That pitch turned me off. The audacity of that presumptive sell really burned me up. Wrong message That company needs to find a way to listen first.

Lesson #5: Seek advice. It’s a really good idea. This isn’t the same as networking. But networking is sometimes the gateway to getting the best advice. Businesses is relying on fewer people to do more things you need to have an outside board of advisors you trust Seek help - even on less perplexing problems. Insight and support is good even if it confirms a direction in which you are already headed is the right one.

Lesson #6: Try to look at things differently. A research specialist I met a few years ago described in mathematical terms the lifetime value of a customer. A simple concept really. Armed with a gem like that, you might be able to influence your corporate culture and your brand. That’s something!

Lesson #7: Good ideas can come from anywhere. You have to rely on ideas coming from inside and outside your organization. Next time you have a chance to talk to a customer, ask them about their experience with your company at retail, on the phone, on your website. Use the data you gather to make strategic adjustments that are true to your strategy.

Lesson #8: Be yourself. Simple enough right? Your company doesn’t clones with only one point of view. It’s the differences that make challenges possible and innovation more probable. Lesson #9: Learn something new every day. I believe you can. I really do. It may not always be directly relevant to what you are doing right now. Something new you learn today may become very handy tomorrow, next week or next year.

Lesson #10: Details can kill you. Little things are big things. Make sure they are covered. An example: Proof read your copy one more time. How boring and mundane. Remembere, even an expert skier can break his leg on the bunny hill. Why? Because he/she takes their expertise for granted they are expert and cannot come to harm. Pay attention. Do Great work! Be proud of what you do.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Remembering Andrew

My uncle Andrew died this past Spring (March 2011). He was a teacher, a painter and a great man. Here are just a few highlights of the long list of fond memories I have of my uncle.

I only took one class with Andrew while at the University of Miami. It was a painting class. He was very encouraging and a little bit inspirational. He gave me a B. I never questioned it. I thought it fair enough. But my Mom wanted to know why Andrew gave her son a B in painting. Andrew explained that I was unable to recognize a painting by Raoul Dufy. Andrew did suggest that the students in his class should be familiar with a short list of important artists. To this day, when I see a Dufy on a visit to an art museum I smile and think of Andrew. (Usually I’m not sure it is a Dufy, until I read the museum placard.)

South Truro and Two Fine Horses – Two pieces of Andrew’s art hang proudly in my home. South Truro is a sort of abstract/expressionist painting, a landscape from his time in the New England area. Two Fine Horses is black India ink drawing on paper of two horses in a trailer. (That picture hung in the Andrew Morgan kitchen in Miami. When I told Andrew how I admired the simple lines of that composition – he gave it to me.) Both works feature a vintage Andrew signature from 1955 (The year I was born).

Go Hurricanes – I became the beneficiary of that extra ticket when Dahlia decided to give her’s up. Andrew loved the Canes and I loved driving to the Orange Bowl with him. Andrew loved sharing the games with my parents too. Doing the Macarena in the warm sun and watching Ray Lewis reek havock on the offense. It doesn’t get much better than that. I was with Andrew the day the Orange Bowl home winning streak ended against Washington. I am so glad I got that additional time with Andrew and my parents in 1994-95. It was before Miami joined the ACC and before the demolition of the Orange Bowl.

Mowing the Lawn in Miami – I had the pleasure of mowing the lawn from time to time for Andrew and Dahlia. Florida landscaping is never easy. Mangoes, Oranges, palm fronds and more. I loved every second of it though.

Yearbook – I was associate editor of the Ibis Yearbook my senior year. One of my favorite pages in that 1977-78 edition features three dynamic shots of Andrew in action. The student photographer was able to capture the essence of Andrew’s dramatic gestures. On film it is almost as if he could vanish with a wave of his hand. And so he has. (page 116 University of Miami Ibis yearbook - photo above)

Bragging about my uncle – “You know my uncle was President of the Kansas City Art Institute for ten years before the University of Miami offered him an opportunity to head the art department in beautiful Coral Gables, Florida in the early 1970’s.” I’m glad he accepted that opportunity, because by the time Richard Nixon resigned from office over the Watergate cover up, I was checking into Mahoney Hall with my brother Greg at the University of Miami. (I can almost hear Joe Cocker blasting out of our 8-track player now, “She came in through the bathroom window, protected by a silver spoon….”) I ended up at the “U” because of Andrew as much as any other reason. That is a decision I will never regret! (It’s very cold in Syracuse, you know.)

Raoul Dufy (3 June 1877 – 23 March 1953) was a French Fauvist painter. He developed a colorful, decorative style that became fashionable for designs of ceramics and textiles, as well as decorative schemes for public buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events. He was also a draftsman, printmaker, book illustrator, a theatrical set-dresser, a designer of furniture, and a planner of public spaces.

Miami Hurricanes - Between 1985 and 1994, Miami won an astounding 58 straight games at home, breaking the record for the longest home winning streak previously held by Alabama, which won 57 straight at home between 1963 and 1982.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Go with what you’ve got.

Take a tip from Hoyt Wilhelm

Hoyt Wilhelm is one of my heroes. He played for nine Major League Baseball teams: his clubs included the New York Giants (1952-56), Baltimore Orioles (1958-62), Chicago White Sox (1963-68), and spells with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Wilhelm was best known for his knuckleball, which enabled him to have great longevity; occasionally as a starting pitcher, but mainly as a specialist relief man. Hoyt was an extremely durable and effective relief pitcher. Hoyt Wilhelm once said: "I don't even try to fool anybody. I just throw the knuckleball 85 to 90 percent of the time. You don't need variations, because the damn ball jumps around so crazily, it's like having a hundred pitches."

Hoyt was a special player with an incredible specialty. Hoyt’s ability to throw a knuckleball made him one of the all time great relief pitchers. He went with what he had and enjoyed a wonderful career in the process. In my book though, Hoyt was one of those rare people in this world who are destined for greatness.

Consider some of his lifetime highlights:

Before he even got a chance to play professional baseball he earned a Purple Heart, having been injured in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.

He hit a home run in his first at bat as a major leaguer in 1952.

He was named an All Star in his second season in the majors.

In 1954, he became a World Series Champion with the New York Giants.

In 1958 he pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees (who went on to win the World Series).

He pitched his last game just 16 days short of his fiftieth birthday in July of 1972.

He was named into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Sadly, the world lost Hoyt Wilhelm in 2002 at the age of 90. Hoyt had what heroes always have. They believe in themselves and in their own unique ability.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Welcome to the Shoe

OSU vs. UM
September 11, 2010

So I find myself with a bottle of Heineken and a $15 Rocky Patel cigar on Varney’s lawn tossing bags filled with corn kernels into a hole placed on an inclined plane just under 12 paces away. This tailgate activity is in anticipation of the meeting between The Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Miami Hurricanes. Ohio State is ranked number 2 and Miami is ranked number 12 prior to this early season contest. The football game isn’t until 3:30 p.m. but we are already in pre-game ritual mode at 10:30 a.m. (I know right away, it’s good to pace yourself. There will be more beers at the Thirsty Scholar and the Varsity Bar before the game.)

JV is an awesome host and he has worked his Columbus network so my boy Ben and I can sit front row center at the 50 freakin’ yard line. It’s dreamlike and remarkable. We are both Hurricanes, Ben being of a more recent vintage. The good fortune is too good to be true. I know Ben and I are both secretly worried that the ‘Canes might embarrass us in the Shoe, in front of 105,000+ fans, mostly in scarlet, grey and white but this is something to experience even if you have no stake the game.

It’s great to have Ben along. He gets a glimpse of my nephew’s success, bravado and good humor. Jim and Susan Varney are all smiles around their little girl, Colleen. She’s 17 months old and an absolute sweetheart. Don’t try to double cross her by offering a cookie without delivering the goods, though. She’s still a baby, but such an angel. Jim and Susan manage the compound on Sharon Hill with grace and ease. Still JV is determined to “get off the grid” and sell the house and eventually get some property with some acreage.

JV (Jim Varney) is his own man. He’s enjoying a good bit of success after years of building his roofing business. He is a bootstrap entrepreneur who proudly accepts his responsibility as a good corporate citizen. Universal Energy is not a complicated business model but it is one that requires full attention to details and relentless pursuit of insurance money of which his customers have claims after storm damage or deterioration over time. Your home needs to be right. You need to be whole. You need Universal Energy to make sure the job is done right. Universal Energy signs are popping up all over the state of O-H!….I-O! and you can’t fault JV for a little pride in his own alma mater.

Team spirit and school pride are both good things. But Miami has a reputation for gangsta swagger and Ohio State is the college experience on steroids. This isn’t a quaint college town and this ain’t just any given Saturday. These boys came to play. And the alumni, the town and the atmosphere is charged. This is NOT a neutral site. There are only smatterings of green and orange and white gear, Ben is sporting the shades and do-rag with a jersey and green pants that scream “I am a Hurricane” and I’m wearing a Miami baseball jersey. Both brave apparel choices as we enter enemy territory.

Jim warned us that Ohio State fans can be assholes, especially on game day when the pride is pumped up with each cold beer. They walk a fine line between gracious and vicious. You can see emotions run high. How you interpret trash talk and how you respond can easily ignite an explosion. It’s all in good fun. But it’s also wise to respect the away turf. Thousands of people milling around house parties, parking lots, bars and local taverns are getting ready for the big show at the Shoe. Not everyone is a ticket holder. This is a celebration and the game is on national television.

This is an event in Columbus, Ohio that you simply cannot ignore. If you are bold enough to be sporting Hurricane Gear you will most certainly be greeted with passing comments that fall into three categories:

1. Pity – “Oh, I’m so sorry. We hope you enjoy the day.”

2. Contempt – “You suck. You are going down.”

3. Sportsmanship – “Good luck and Fuck you.”

The outcome of the game is somewhat predictable. The Columbus Dispatch sports page put it this way: As classics go, this was no January night in Tempe, circa 2003. But who wants to live in the past anyway? Ohio State validated its No. 2 ranking with a big-game victory that was earned equally by its offence and defense. Now, about those special teams…

A perfect segue for media to feed on itself. God knows they need to sell newspapers and provide chatter for talk radio. Why not start the discussion with how we might improve the Buckeyes? Any expanded conversations about the Hurricanes play will be used only as a basis for given props to the Buckeyes. Example: Star of the Game - Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He passed for 223 yards and a TD and, most important, committed no turnovers. In the duel between him and Jacory Harris – and considering Harris was intercepted four times – the nod goes to Pryor.

You see they aren’t trying to dis the Hurricanes. They only wish to seek an illustration, albeit painful maybe, of how dominant they are as Buckeyes. Fine. But when the Hurricanes get home they can head to South Beach. The Buckeyes will have to drive a good distance away from Columbus to escape the smell of beer, the roar of self righteous fans and the sounds of wet-vacs in barroom restrooms.

Ohio remains among the hardest hit states for an ongoing economic downturn. Ohio State is a source of hope, optimism and a vision for the future. The Buckeyes, like the Hurricanes are part of a team that represents so much more. I’m happy for the Buckeyes and I was glad to witness their success, even though it was at the expense of My Hurricanes. The cool thing is, a handful of these players will be pulling down some major coin as professionals playing for the NFL on Sunday soon enough. Jim and Susan – I can’t thank you enough. Thanks for having us. I know Ben and I had a great time!

Wes Morgan is founder and Principal of Morgan Studio/East. Recent projects have included a new product (The Inferno by Harris), a food color ingredient campaign around a key industry trade show(ROHA) and a brand assignment for integrating the trademarks and logo treatments for RehabCare and Triumph. In September, Wes will start as Director of Marketing and Communication for Crossland Construction Company, a top100 contractor according to Engineering News Record. Contact:

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Year of Loss and Renewal

2011 will be a hard year to forget. I found myself living in Joplin, a city torn apart by a devastating Tornado. 161 people died and thousands of my neighbors lost their homes. I lost my job. My mother died. My uncle Andrew died. My cousin Vince died too. (He was my age.) If I wanted to dwell on these and other highlights of a miserable year I could certainly get mighty depressed. But, ironically almost the opposite occurs. In spite of the sadness and loss there is remarkable renewal and fond memories that inspire me.

The natural catastrophe that hit Joplin spared me and the job loss heightened my awareness of the amazing spirit and drive of the people around me who, in spite of dismal circumstances, were showing me (and the rest of the world) what it means to have faith. Good people were picking up pieces of rubble and debris and slowly, but surely, rebuilding their lives.

Death is a natural part of life. When my mom died my sadness was quickly overwhelmed by the memories of who she was and how many people she enriched during her time on this earth. She was a part of hundreds of community theater projects as an actor and director. Through her, I started to observe the dramatic in everyday existence. Similarly my uncle, a teacher and fine artist, inspired me to see. Andrew knew than his talent began with the ability to recognize the beauty in things. He offered compositions that were full of expression and color. My cousin Vince was always searching. He left us too soon. While he never lived up to his aspirations, his time was up. The world lost a witty and charming soul. Vince, perhaps most of all, reminds me that life it too short and too precious to waste even a moment of it.

Still, the Cardinals won the World Series. I got to see the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York with my wife, Lynn and terrific grown up children, Lindsey and Ben. Theater and Fine Art live on. People are helping people and even the uncertainty of tough times open up an infinite number of possibilities. Renew. Rebuild. Aspire. It’s a wonderful life!