Monday, November 17, 2014

Observing Parkway School Board

School Board Report
Name of School District: Parkway School District
Date of Meeting Attended: Wednesday August 27, 2014 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Brief Description of What was Discussed: Regular meetings of the board of education are held monthly at Parkway Central Middle School as designated in the board meeting calendar, They are open to the public.  In addition, all meetings are streamed live on Parkway's website. (I was able to get a preview of a typical meeting but technology prevented me from sitting through more than the opening remarks of an archived video of the June meeting.) Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. unless otherwise specified.

Public comments are welcome at each regular board meeting during the period designated for citizen statements.  To address the board, a sign-up sheet is provided between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the entry table.  Citizens will be called to the podium by the board president to make their statement.  Those who address the board are also asked to provide a written statement.  Those who do not wish to address the board may fill out the comment sheet located at the sign-in table.

The board consists of the following seven people: Beth Feldman, President (Term Expires 2015, appointed 2008, elected 2009); Chris Jacob, VP (Term Expires 2017, elected 2008); Kim Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Tom Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Dee Mogerman, Director (Term expires 2017, appointed 2004, elected 2005); Deborah Hopper, Director (Term expires 2017, elected 2014); and Sam Sciortino, Ph.D., Director (Term Expires 2016, elected 2010). Also present was Superintendent Keith Marty.

This meeting I noted was, somewhat predictably, efficient. This is clearly not the forum for debate as much as a public demonstration of the civilized and orderly bureaucracy of managing a district that includes 5 high schools and somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 students.

The agenda, neatly printed on two sides of a single sheet of paper included housekeeping items like call to order, roll call, pledge of allegiance; special recognitions for a group of boy scouts in attendance and efforts on behalf of the American Heart Association. A long list of action items were quickly voted on, such as board approval of minutes of past meeting, unanimous votes in favor of purchases of supplies, transportation and a variety of other items that seemed essential to the ongoing business of running the various schools.

The biggest items for the evening came later in the meeting: Approval of Comprehensive Assessment Plan; A preliminary discussion of Math Program Evaluation and an SSD Public Review Committee Report. Surely these topics represent highly charged issues for which there are widely divergent views.           

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group, it seems, is a cohesive agreement to stay on a course forged by the creation of a comprehensive strategic plan. In addition to the plan itself, Parkway appears to have done a pretty good job of elevating their brand by communicating with stakeholders in clear, concise terms. As it happens, I am familiar with the firm UPbrand that proudly assisted in helping the Parkway School District. They described the assignment as follows on their website:
Parkway School District has long been viewed as one of the top public districts in the country. As part of their on-going evolution, they embarked on an ambitious strategic planning process that led to the re-conception of the core elements and process of delivering a top-notch public education.
Having codified their new direction, it was time to generate excitement about the new approach among the community and their key constituents.

Personal Reflection on the role of the School Board:

Before attending the meeting, I was sure that I would feel like an outsider sitting in on a board meeting of the Parkway School District. Both of my children are graduate products of Parkway West High School (Classes of 2000 and 2004).

Parkway School District was my second choice for this assignment. I had hoped to attend a Special School District board meeting until I learned those meetings are scheduled on Tuesday nights in direct conflict with EDU 211 Foundation of Education with David L. Shields, Ph.D. Fortunately, the special  report on the partnership between Parkway and SSD was on the agenda that evening.
When we relocated to St. Louis at the end 1996 we, like so many others who move, were heavily influenced by the perceived quality and reputation of the public school where our kids would attend high school. It never occurred to me to get more involved than a typical parent attending periodic open houses, teacher conferences and athletic events. With this experience I am struck by the tremendous responsibility these seven school board leaders have in delivering on the Mission Statement spelled out in the well designed and crafted Strategic Plan brochure online:


More than 400 Project Parkway volunteers helped develop Parkway's mission, vision and strategic plan, which will guide our work through 2016. We have also revitalized Parkway’s brand with a new logo and tagline to better reflect our mission and vision for students.(1)

(1) Parkway Schools. Higher Expectations. Brighter Futures. A printed copy of this brochure was available at the meeting and is offered as an exhibit.
(2)  The agenda for 8/27/2014 board meeting is also provided.  

This report was prepared by Wesley A. Morgan in accordance with assignment as described in the Syllabus provided by the professor on the first night of class August 18, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Parker, Michael, and Daniel

Parker, with a rasp of red dirt, sings
The trio together in a psalm of a song
Michael the archangel strums base strings
Daniel in a den fiddles but remains strong
Audiences move about inexplicably
Pentacostal tongues - commotion in the aisles   
Pondering everlasting life and the trinity
Life on the road – another hundred miles 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Immersion. Investment. Inclusion.

Cultural Diversity 101

Community Relations and Program Development Supervisor Kelly Moore greeted our group in the lobby of the International Institute. She opens with a question, “Who is brave enough to tell the group the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?” There are, of course, important distinctions as the key difference is that a refugee is forced into circumstances as an immigrant is not. She offers an overview that begins with visual aids – a global map; a chart listing countries of which the Institute has seen and helped people; and lists of services. She encourages us to visit the website; look for information about the Festival of Nations and consider the website as a resource for learning about unique culturally diverse events.

Kelly’s tour showed us areas where classroom language instruction takes place. She showed us an area that focuses on employment. She even noted the Institutes work with small business loans/assistance for “New Americans.” The overview/tour she assured us would be more fully explained on the website but she reinforced the message about the The Institute’s highly-acclaimed programs are arranged in THREE SERVICE PILLARS: Immersion, Investment and Inclusion. The website offers the following information about the organization:

The International Institute, established in 1919, is a pioneer in the field of diversity. In all our comprehensive array of adjustment services reaches more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees from 75 countries, approximately 8% of the St. Louis City and County 2010 foreign-born population.
As a result, the Institute has important multigenerational ties to local immigrant communities. Our programs and services are locally and nationally-acclaimed. We also have deep knowledge of the state of the immigrant communities and population trends. We serve as key consultants on a broad range of issues affecting the social, cultural and economic health of our region. Our mission is to help immigrants and their families become productive Americans and champion ethnic diversity as a cultural and economic strength.

The Institute will be celebrating 95 years of service in resettlement and integration to nearly every immigrant population (Immersion). It offers a variety of business counseling and advice and facilitates business loans (Investment). It orchestrates an annual event, The Festival of Nations and promotes understanding of different cultures in a variety of other ways.(Inclusion).
Kelly Moore could not contain her enthusiasm for all the good work the International Institute does and assured us that she could talk about it for days. She made this statement, conveniently enough, in front of a bulletin board that outlined again for us the THREE SERVICE PILLARS…Immersion, Investment, Inclusion.

For more information visit

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Docent Talking Points

Docent Talking Points
DRAFT PROVIDED 10/25, Revised 10/26/14 by Wes Morgan (docent co-chair) and Clara Coleman 11/21/2014

Laumeier Sculpture Park -Docent Talking Points

Overview: Docents leading a tour for individual or group at Laumeier Sculpture Park should always look for opportunities to key into the audience interests to make the experience relevant to their lives. A good frame of reference can be the artists whose work we are proud to present and/or the movement/style/historic context. Younger audiences often benefit from challenges to observe and share color, shape, design and composition. Here are some thoughts/topics/points of interest I have found useful in giving tours over the past couple of years.

History of the Park – The Estate House (built in 1917, Laumeier residence from 1942) – The area was once considered a place for a country/summer home. The importance of Ernest Trova to the original direction of LSP.  

Minimalism – Donald Judd, Robert Morris examples

Conceptual Art – Intricate Wall - Sol LeWitt

Abstract Expressionism – Mark di Suvero – The story of diSuvero and Ginnever taking a road trip together as they moved east from California in 1957.

Ready Made/Found objects/material – Ball? Ball! Wall? Wall!, 1994 – Donald Lipski, di Suvero, Mark Mennin

Site Specific Works – St. Louis Project, 1980 - Richard Fleischner; Four Shades – Ian Hamilton Finlay; Hortus Obscurus (The Dark Garden),1997- Frances Whitehead; Pool Complex: Orchard Valley, 1983-85 - Mary Miss (mention the history of 1930 community pool/history), Laumeier Project, 1981 - Jackie Ferrara;

Women in Art – Leelinau, 1997 - Alison Saar; American Heartland Garden,1992 and Public Goddess, 1992 - Judith Shea

Mythology – House of the Minotaur, 1980 – Tony Rosenthal; Hawthorne Tree, 1987 – Isaac Witkin   

Whimsical Statements – This area is under 23 hour video and audio surveillance, 2009- Ahmet Öğüt, The tension between truck driver and artist/installation of Redwood I, 1997– Johann Feilacher, Laumeier U-ME-UM, 1998 Terry Allen; Man with Briefcase at #2968443, 1986 – Jonathan Borofsky (anecdote about local phone number), Ricardo Cat, 1999 by Niki de Saint Phalle, Laumeier Lamps, 2011 by T. Kelly Mason

Connecting/Tour Foreshadowing – At Tower Hybrid, 1979 talk about another work to be seen later on the trail – Linked Forms, 1999 -- Richard Hunt; Can also do this with Trova (manscape, abstract variations, falling man, residential entrance to park, and challenge to find Trova works in various regional locations) and Jene Highstein (while talking about contrasting materials – wood of Old Temple, 1991 vs concrete applied to armature of Ada’s Will, 1990.)

Connecting artists – At Java, 1976 - Anthony Caro mention the connection to Henry Moore.      

Cor-TEN Steel – Mention the creation of this material for construction has become popular with artists who create large scale sculpture – as with di Suvero, Ginnever, Cosimo Cavallaro, Fletcher Benton – (Unpainted COR TEN) vs. Alpha, 1974- Beverly Pepper, and Cube Squared, 1969 - Jerald Jacquard  (Painted COR TEN)

Fiberglass – The Eye - Tony Tasset, Man with Briefcase at #2968443, 1986 - Jonathan Borofsky

Juan William Chavez and Pruitt Igoe, The remnants of poles is a footprint the size of one of the no longer existing buildings on the North Side of St. Louis.  
Bronze lost wax casting - Walking Roots, 2002 - Steve Tobin

Scavenger Hunt – Jenny Price Nature Trail, 2014 - with a group planning a hike at Laumeier, I provided PDFs of signs to add value via e-mail after a tour.

The Spring House on the Nature Trail – This distant destination of the park is always fun to recap because the group enjoys the discovery. Note: there is a Jenny Price scavenger hunt sign here.
Three Topiary, 2013 – Pearl Fryar – a good place to mention the partnership with the Museum and STL County Parks

TIP - Guests from out-of-town or well-traveled will mention Socrates Park – Astoria, NY; The Grounds – Hamilton, NJ; Storm King, Mountainview, NY: 100 Acres – Indianapolis, IN; Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, AR etc… (Guests will sometimes mention such places during the tour. Take that opportunity to look it up to become more familiar). NOTE: If you have a group of docents or people from a specific region it is helpful to connect to their regional collections. I was able to draw connections for docents from Toledo and San Diego recently that seemed to help draw them into the conversation about art/sculpture at LSP. This also helps me to be a better docent over time.

TIP – One way to remind visitors (particularly groups of kids) not to climb on sculpture is to ask them to read a sign. Ask them if they think the letters are BIG enough? This also reminds supervising adults to gently remind enthusiastic youngsters to respect the artwork.

TIP – At the beginning of a tour – create some ground rules with sports team metaphor. HUDDLE UP or BRING IT IN means the guide/docent (coach) wants to preview the next play so they need to listen.  (Example:  call BRING IT IN and preview a discussion of The Way, 1972-80 by Alexander Liberman with challenge to count oil tanks and remind them to respect the sculpture/not climb on it). Great opportunity to allow them to burn some energy with release to run across the South Lawn.

TIP – Create a game for kids – provide a list of materials and ask them to check when they see them use:  (i.e. FIBERGLASS, COR TEN STEEL, WOOD, CONCRETE, PAINT, GRANITE, and MIXED MEDIA)

TIP – In opening remarks tell a group of kids that you will make a list of the favorite things you saw at Laumeier. (This will hopefully create a device for further conversation about the visit after the tour and maybe later in school or with group). List might include things like:  the eyeball, the big red sculpture, the face in the ground etc. Kids can surprise you by the ways they describe what they see. (I will never forget my own daughter, as a little girl, describing her favorite painting at the Museum of Modern Art – The Ring Around the Rosie Painting…she was talking about The Dance by Henri Matisee.)

TIP – Use Flooded Chambers Maid, 2009-2010 by Jessica Stockholder to reinforce the no climbing rule -- but with this exception – you are welcome to climb on this one.
Suggestions for additional information/talking point

A preview on the follow up to “Archeology of Place” rubric
What should people plan for with regard to opening of exhibition center?
Status on various pieces no longer on view (i.e. Armand, Neri, Holtzer, Havel, Greenamyer)
How can people contribute to LSP beyond patronage as visitors
Resources for visitors to learn more. (Website, Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube, videos)
Other museums/art in town such as CityGarden, SLAM, Kemper, CAM, Pulitzer)
Sight and Sound – best way to access?

Docent engagement ideas:
1. Docent Award for Art Fair – the artist so recognized gets ribbon and invitation to return the following year (no cash outlay unless docents want to contribute to such a designation). This informally was awarded last year to Phil Echert 11919 Mississippi Dr. Champlin, MN 55316 ph: 763-421-7823
2. Adding to this kind of list of TIPs, talking points and ideas related to artists and work. (We will want, of course, to have fact checking and support of staff to guide this process)
3. Curator and/or Director Tour – weekend so docents can plan to join
4. Recordings and/or video docents can review after participation or to listen/view when unable to attend lectures/events.   
5. Poetry:   How did Chris Paar poem get into site map (and not Wallace Stevens)?  Are there other opportunities to connect poetry, performing arts, theater we can talk about as docents? Can we hear the Virgil Georgics IV poem that inspired Four Shades, 1994 by Ian Hamilton Finlay?

Archeology of Place

Dog Days of Summer  - Not without my Dog – Tea Makipaa

Finding a Home in an Unstable World – Tree Tent – Dre Wapenaar

The River Between Us – Space Between Plessy and Scott – Ken Lum, Plane – Bernard Williams; Panorama - Matts Leiderstam

Mound City  - Earthmover – Marie Watt; Free Hanging Chain - Sam Durant, Mud Hut – Archeologists in Residence; Recess – Geoffrey Krawczyk  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Best Day Ever report from the Bride

A recap of the wedding of  my son Ben by his incredible bride. It was "the best day ever" (10/27/2012) except for that day when my daughter married on Jekyll Island (9/13/2014). I am overwhelmed with joy over the blessings. Wes Morgan (proud father of the groom mentioned here and bride this year).

From The Bride… Ben and I share a contagious kind of love that surrounds us and makes everyone around feel confident, happy and at ease, so when it came time to plan our wedding the most important thing was to bring together all of our closest friends and family for an unforgettable celebration inspired by a beautiful mashup of the best of both of us. Since we fell in love during our last two years attending the University of Miami, it was an obvious choice to get married close to where it all began. Matheson Hammock provided the perfect backdrop: a lush grassy park with huge photogenic trees for the ceremony, and an old historic coral structure for the reception nestled in an idyllic beach lagoon that overlooks Biscayne Bay with the downtown Miami skyline glistening on the horizon. It’s a setting so naturally gorgeous it hardly needs any decoration, and a venue my very foodie family certainly approved of as well. Both Ben and I are borderline flower children and true creatives at heart, and we wanted to create an environment for our wedding that felt elegant yet down-to-earth and infused with personal touches to make it feel like us. Our very own intimate park to oceanside bohemian fairytale.

To bring the vision to life, we opted against hiring a planner to help save a few bucks and since my career in marketing/PR made me somewhat well-equipped to pull this off. Plus, bridezilla just isn’t my style. The deep greens and lush, organic hues you’d find a tropical garden served as our primary color palette, paired with my very favorite coral peonies (luckily just barely in season!) to add just the perfect pop of color. The florist was among the most important line items in our budget, and my sweet amazing mom who knows everything about nature deserves all the credit for working closely with the incredibly talented Ines Naftali to help create the most gorgeous unkempt arrangements and bouquets that fit beautifully amid the natural, uneven textures of driftwood, burlap, vintage glassware and twinkling candles that I wanted to incorporate into the tablescape design. I’d fallen in love with Ashley and Philip’s work and unique style after stumbling upon their blog a few years back, and after exchanging a few emails, just knew that they were the only photographers who could capture the genuine emotion and essence of our special day in a way that we will treasure for years to come. Everything else we kept whimsical and simple.

Ben personally wrote our entire inter-faith ceremony, and I put my artistic talents to work by designing and creating all of our paper elements by hand — including the cut-out paper heart fan programs, chevron seating cards, craft paper menus and handwritten notes. Inspired by old Miami photographs, the thank-you cards resembled real vintage postcards that displayed various images of 1920s Matheson Hammock Park, which were taken right beside the place where our reception actually took place. Each table was designated by a vintage Miami postcard image, showing different locations around Miami that holds special meaning in our relationship. From our mismatched bridesmaid dresses to the assortment of mini key lime pies in lieu of a formal wedding cake, traditional and matchy-matchy just isn’t our style. Our wedding reflected exactly who Ben and I are as a couple — fun, free-spirited and marvelously complex — in everything from the paper lanterns our closest friends helped us string up earlier that morning, to the Polaroid selfies our guests took instead of signing a guest book, down to the perfectly crisp fall weather and waves of positive energy flowing through atmosphere all evening. It really was the best day ever.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Panel Participation at UMSL

 Pursuing a Marketing Career UMSL Panel Discussion 9-25-2014

My friend Professor Perry Drake convinced me that I might have a nugget or two to offer as part of a panel discussion at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Drake has done an incredible job in connecting the dots between students, faculty, administration and the community. This is just one example. So, on the afternoon of September 25th the Summit Lounge was alive for a panel discussion with some industry executives around the topic: The Reinvention of Marketing. Organized by the Marketing Club the event attracted more than 100 people to the the session which lasted about just about 90 minutes.

The panel included Matt Coble (Fleishman Hillard), Lisa Keller (Purina), Amber Fox (Momentum Worldwide), Dana Biermann (Creative Circle), Carlos Gil (Save-A-Lot), Dan Stubbs (Condé Nast), Christine Brennan (Famous Footwear), Emily McNew (United Way) and myself. Patrick Eberle the UMSL Marketing Club president did an expert job as panel discussion leader/moderator.

The audience heard a variety of insights on what it means to be a marketer in an age of disruption and change. It is clear that college students still have a justifiable fair share of anxiety about landing a dream job after graduation. It is also painfully obvious that the roadmap to a successful career in marketing is an elusive one.  The panel represented marketers, agency personnel, talent acquisition people and human resources specialists. This cross section of expertise, it would seem, might have widely divergent views on the study and practice of Marketing. However, on this early Fall afternoon in St. Louis, the audience is treated to a tremendous amount of FREE advice. I hope, the net take-aways included a reasonable mix of fundamental wisdom, a bit of inspiration and healthy dose of motivation. Of course there was a flurry of tweets during and immediate following the event.

Some highlights that deserve mentioning: 1. Be committed to being a lifelong learner – especially with regard to digital media 2. Get connected on LinkedIn 3. Manage your social media accounts – It is becoming more common for employers to review of your social presence 4. Be true to your brand and follow your passion – the lines are blurring between marketing and other business areas 5. Pursue meaningful experience (e.g. internships, pro-bono, volunteerism) 6. Participate in trade and industry events.7. Sharpen your skills – particularly your ability to write well.

By the way – I did have a few things to offer this conversation but, as is often the case, I may have learned even more in doing so. Note: Kim Wells and Pier Alsup were not able to participate due to schedule conflicts. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Up Close & Personal

Maureen Jennings is a graphic designer with a taste for art. Wes Morgan is marketing impresario who is currently pursuing a new career path as an educator with the special school district. He admits he is a bit of an "art junky" too. Maureen and Wes share the honor of representing a dedicated corps of docent volunteers at Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills. They find themselves in this role as fans of contemporary sculpture. Over a cup of coffee, the docent co-chairs agreed that it might be fun to generate a sort of blog-challenge. The challenge is open to all Laumeier Sculpture Park docents, friends and guests. Docent responses will be recognized at the September 12, 2014 Laumeier Sculpture Park docent meeting.

Here is the challenge. Name the artist for each of the four (4) the sculpture close-up images below. If you are stumped we’ll be happy to share the answers in September. In the meantime, we'll see you at the park! 

Docents are welcome to comment on this BLOG or submit their own articles to share with the group. Right now this initiative is still in the ideation stage. Maybe someday soon it will have its own home. We love the idea of having a digital forum for observations, tour highlights/stories, suggestions and more. Feel free to leave your comments here or contact your docent co-chairs. Of course, all comments are welcome from friends and others interested in our challenge. (But get your answers in by September 12, 2014). 

a.       Fletcher Benton - Donut No. 3, 2002
b.      Sol Lewitt - Intricate Wall, 2001-04
c.       Mark Mennin - Cores for Laumeier, 2003
d.      Cosimo Cavallaro - Knots, 1996

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boomer Bummer

Maybe this reads like a rant but I'm just recently becoming more at peace with generational differences. I mean you just have to put it into context. Boomers ruled for a long time. Generation Xers were just starting to make some progress in the world and BANG the Millenials hit the  ground running with a completely new digital reality. 

So a bunch of us were born between 1947 and say 1962. We were celebrated as a generation with loose morals and anti-war sentiments. We also thought about mind altering drugs as a way to tune in and turn on man. We were against the status quo and looking for alternative lifestyles. We wanted justice and equal rights. The post World War II period was a time of unprecedented prosperity in the United States. Our parents built homes and bet big time on the American Dream. It spralled and it spawned a lot of us kids who believed in making the world a better place through peace and love. We watched a lot of TV but still made time for our friends.

Fast forward a bit and all of the sudden nearly 78 million of us are reaching retirement age. We aren’t all that happy about it either. Some economic downturns and a lot of sea-change in how business is done makes boomers uncomfortable. Well, let’s just talk about a few businesses that have changed radically as a result of digital media/technology: Photography. Printing. Newspapers. News. Telephony. Well sure we saw it coming for years. It was kind of cute when the generation X’ers started talking about: how film would be replaced by digital media; how news would be more open and free flowing through the constant stream of internet sources on the information superhighway; how conventional news organizations would be trumped by social media and how we’d all have to have smart phones that can do what cameras, newspapers and land lines used to do for us. Xers predicted it. Millenials own it.

OMG we are on the fast track to Squaresville. I mean really daddy-o. The technology is cool and we have apps that help us negotiate even the most routine tasks like grocery shopping and finding the way to that really great new restaurant. Now the Millenials (born after around 1980) are making the X’ers feel tragically un-hip. It’s all so intuitive man. I mean really. Boomers are getting side-swiped daily by hit-and-run digital geeks that suggest that lives are scarcely worth living if we cannot access movie times, restaurants, groceries at the click of a finger. And how un-cool is it to ask just a few close friends when you can ask your peeps online or (better yet) crowd source an even larger pool of people.

Is this really better? Maybe. Maybe not. But we aren’t going back. Sorry Boomers, its not our turn anymore. Step aside old man, I got a killer app for that. It’s called Retro…it’s all in B&W, you’re gonna have to watch a lot of commercials.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Business Development Problems

The Business Development Meeting

“Hey, where’s Chris? He was supposed to be here at 8:00. We said we we’re going to discuss strategy for this county hospital project. The first response is due this week. I’ve read this RFP. I’m not in charge of this thing but Chris asked me to sit in on this strategy session. By the way, one of the things I bring to this group is the fact that I am an architect. Since an architect seems to be taking the lead on the Hospital project, I think I might be able to provide a little insight on what they might be looking for.”

“Oh, here’s Chris. I’ll see if I can get the president to join us. Hey marketing guy, can you show me a copy of the book we sent in response to this RFP? “

“Sure, I’ll be right back.”
The conference room which minutes earlier was populated by a dozen members of the estimating team is now occupied with a business development meeting that is trying to get underway. 

 “We really need to consider how we position our approach as an advantage.  We’ve put 15 million cubic yards of concrete in place in this region. That gives us a ton of information and local knowledge.”

“Where did you get than figure.”

“I made it up.  I’m kidding, it’s a real number.”

“You know this is a Brownfield site. Who in this room really understands Brownfield Sites?  This is going to be important to these guys. “

“Well, the Construction Management part of this is something I have no experience in here. I mean I can try but true Construction Management and Conceptual Estimating in particular is not something I can point to a bunch of jobs where that has been my responsibility.”

“Your experience is more relevant here than you realize. Don’t kid yourself Dan, your experience might be more relevant than the B.S. some of your competitors put out there. I mean our primary competitor has a guy that does nothing but conceptual estimating in-house.  We need to structure it so our team has a Mechanical, Electrical, Structural, Civil -  These guys don’t have to even be in the room but they will want to see a team that is that comprehensive. Remember this is an architect leading this selection process. The thing architect dreads the most is having to re-draw. If you don’t have a good group up-front with conceptual estimating the architect will roll his eyes and think to himself – here we go again.”

“That’s right. When we do our estimating now we tend to send it out to a bunch of subs to get a number. We need an in-house guy that can come up with a number that is at least a starting point.”

“Now we can talk like developers.”

 “Okay, so with all due respect - Who is going to lead this team?”

So, does this scenario seem at all familiar? 

Business Development – Case Study

As a follow up to the scenario provided in part one of this two part blog we deconstruct a little and challenge you to consider how you can avoid common pitfalls. Based on our case example, here are eight common problems that arise.

Problem 1.  Passive Aggressiveness “Hey, where’s so and so? He/she was supposed to be at this meeting. Make business development a routine part of business. Your business depends on timely responses to requests. Ad hoc teams sometimes are needed but winning new business should be an understood top priority.  

Problem 2. Self-Declared Leader Just because someone claims to be uniquely qualified doesn’t mean they should drive. The more technical the job; The more complex the stakeholders; The more likely diverse skills will be required. This is not a time for musical chairs. Manage the business. 

Problem 3. Marketing in a Silo Sometimes routine is so seamless we forget. Be involved in all the components of your company positioning and marketing materials. If someone in your project leadership team has to say: Hey marketing guy, can you show me a copy of the book we sent in response to this RFP?  Something might not be quite right.

Problem 4. Positioning The object of the game is NOT to change colors like a chameleon. True positioning doesn’t work like that. You need to learn from each proposal but you also need to be true to your company strengths as you respond.   

Problem 5. Gaps in Expertise Part of being true to your company and your brand is recognizing weaknesses and owning them. By doing so you can fortify or augment those gaps. Surprisingly, candor will strengthen your credibility. You must be willing to truly examine requests as they matches your capabilities. By doing so you will better understand the marketplace.

Problem 6. Believing your own Hype It is important to celebrate your accomplishments and pat your colleagues on the back. BUT, you are in a competitive situation. Put your best foot forward. But always with a clear understanding of your resources.

Problem 7. Trashing the Competition. It is a mistake to underestimate your opponent. It is also mistake to fall into a false sense of security because you allowed yourself to be superior. Things change.

Problem  8. Status Quo You may be playing a numbers game with responses RFQ/RFI/RRP (requests for qualification, information or proposals). Beware of the boilerplate assumptions and the idea that one size fits all. Treat every request as a unique opportunity. You may even decide to walk away from some of them. But if you decide to go for it: Go for it! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The U at the Shoe at OSU

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 n 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[W1] . 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:


Happy Anniversary Dave & Joyce

Little Egypt, Saluki Golf at Hickory Ridge, Tres Hombres,
Old Load Weekend, the Burning Purse, “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence School and the opposite of a Bucket List

April 30, 2010

Dave is late meeting us at SQWIRES restaurant parking lot at Lafayette Square in St. Louis, probably due to the orchestration of passengers Sammy, Danny, Nicole and of course, Joyce; not to mention his brother Steve and his boy Taylor following in a separate vehicle.  Shaughnessy and I are not concerned as the caravan does come together at 8:20 a.m. (only about five minutes behind schedule). We depart on the two-hour drive to Carbondale, Illinois led by Shaughnessy in a Japanese-manufactured minivan followed by Joyce and the girls in Dave’s Chevy Suburban and brother Steve with Taylor in a sport utility with the license plate EARBOB.

Dave explains that the vanity plate is what’s left of Steve’s share of a business he started with his ex-wife. Earbob is a brand of funky fashionable earrings but Shaughnessy and I agree that plate has got to go, since that business is no longer any concern of Steve’s. He’s got enough on his plate as Creative Director at Paradowsky where he’s worked for 20 years. Paradowsky is a leading design firm in St. Louis which until recently had a long tradition of no layoffs. The economy has Steve a little distracted on this Spring Friday morning.

The brothers Cox are both alumni of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU-C). Both of them credit the school with their early training and discipline as graphic designers. Today, Dave is principal and founder of Sandbox Creative.  He blazed the trail to Carbondale after considerable angst with his father, a former Navy man who lived through stress of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a young boy, Dave came across a three-ring binder from one of those “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence Schools with assignments completed by his father a long time ago. The binder was living proof that a career in commercial art was something Dad seriously considered himself. But it was the Guidance Counselor at Griffin High School in Springfield, Illinois that suggested the school in the southern part of the state might have the program that could make this dream a reality for Dave.

Professor Yack only had to hint at the idea of two brothers graduating from the rigorous design program after Dave demonstrated the quality of instruction and a hereditary talent, and Dad was on board with the idea of Steve following in Dave’s footsteps at SIU-C.

The drive to the southern portion of the State of Illinois takes you though rural towns and cities like Nashville, Pinckneyville and Murphysboro. Tiny shops and small town squares are evidence of life in the Middle-West in times gone by. The southern tip of Illinois was dubbed Little Egypt for its extremely fertile soil and supposed similarity to the Nile river delta. 

Dave is proud to wear the Maroon and White of his alma mater and insists on pointing out landmarks on the campus and surrounding area. The Bookstore (where Dave worked for part of his tuition), the Pullium Hall Clock Tower (the image of which is the basis of the school’s logo), the McAndrews football stadium (soon to be demolished in favor of a newer stadium for the Salukis) and several old haunts from “back in the day.” The campus is 1,133 acres and accommodates more than 20,000 students. Dave and his brother (and Dave’s wife Joyce) are among the 220,000 graduates of this fine institution which was founded in 1869 originally as a teacher’s college.  

The school’s mascot is a gentle, friendly, even-tempered and extremely devoted ancient breed of dog. Ancestors of the Saluki were found mummified in tombs of the Pharaohs. The greyhound like animal made perfect sense as a choice for mascot for the school situated in Little Egypt.

Hickory Ridge golf course is ready for the alumni event and our foursome is ready to go…or maybe not. Steve is preoccupied with his iPhone messages and we are starting on a par three hole which we all agree is a less than optimal place to warm up to the round that will require a scramble score of ten under to win. Nevertheless, it was a day in which the impending thunderstorms held off and the weather cooperated for the most part, with the exception of some gusty winds that made approach shots tricky.

“I have an idea that I would recommend to anyone,” offers Steve, “and it’s the simple notion of the opposite of a bucket-list. You remember the movie where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a list of things they want to do before they die ….well I have a Fuck-it list of things I’m never gonna do….like run a Triathlon. I encourage you to start your own list.”

“Someday… the Cox Brothers Auditorium will be located adjacent to the Sandbox Pavilion on campus. You know just off the quad. Surely you guys are gonna bankroll some alumni tower at least, right?”(This is part of my running gag, but you never can tell.)

Shaughnessy is focused and Dave is often competing for the long ball with his brother. All things considered, we did okay. Clearly we needed to sink more putts. We finished five under par.

At Tres Hombres we encountered the girls golf team auction; Dave and Joyce’s best man, Gary (selling raffle tickets); Michelle, the Executive Director of the Alumni Association; a string of  former Rugby followers here for “load weekend” and full house of patrons at the bar. It was here that Dave proposed marriage to Joyce with a crafted puzzle, the last piece of which had the ring. She said yes. Now about twenty years later, we are seated at a table with 11 year old Sammy (“She’s taller than Joyce, can you believe it?”), Danny (Danielle) and Nicole.

“After ten beers… I was pretty impressed with Joyce… All 98 pounds of her.  It was a blind date not long after the burning purse incident… You see Joyce used to smoke.”  Dave is giving Shaughnessy and I all kinds of insight into the early days of Joyce and Dave. (Some of which Joyce would just assume not share with the girls.) They met at SIU-C and are glad to be back. They are happy the Tres Hombres is still doing a brisk business even as they mourn the loss of the Hanger. It feels like home.    
Tom and I make good time going back to St. Louis, even if we missed the only directions Dave gave us which was “See this road, it’s Thirteen West….It splits and you need to get back on it when you leave Carbondale… oh look at those people tied together …it must be old load weekend…” (No worries, Tom is expert at accessing Mapquest directions on his iPhone). We drove through a spectacular lightning and thunderstorm that delayed the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati game. The lights were still on at the ballpark as we arrived in St. Louis.

Another big adventure comes to a close. Go Salukis!

Notes: The “burning purse” is a perfect cliffhanger for the end of Season One of the 13 episode hit TV show. And Yacovelli’s Restaurant (near Lenny’s house) in North County is a perfect segue from chapter 12 to chapter 13 where we meet Professor Yack in the fictionalized novel based on Dave, Joyce and the Carbondale experience. In the book, we flash forward to Griffin High School Guidance office and flash forward again to a giant alumni gathering at the Sandbox Pavilion on campus and flash back to Dad working hard to complete the “Draw Me” Commercial Art Correspondence Course….and flash forward to young Dave Cox discovering the finished product of that course in a three ring binder that changed the course of his life. 
Graphically, the TV show features that burning purse. The Book will feature the three ring binder and the “Draw Me” ad that started it all. 

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Wes Morgan is Principal of Morgan Studio/East, a firm designed to help companies with planning and execution of effective marketing communications. For More Information Contact: Wesley A. Morgan, 2 Glenmaro Lane, Town & Country, MO 63131 (314) 692-7982 Cell (314) 488-9430, e-mail Morgan is author of Plan. Design. Execute. which is available at and can be downloaded FREE a chapter at a time.