Monthly Archives: June 2014

A FEW CLOSE CALL

In our travels to over 80 countries and all seven continents, we’ve had four brushes with possible trouble.  Thought you might like to hear about them.

1.  We were in Nairobi in July 1998 as part of a great tour of safari camps in Kenya and Tanzania operated by Micato.  Our stay in Nairobi at the beginning of the tour as well as at the end was just 10 days before the bombings of the American Embassies in Nairobi and two other African locations.  The safaris were terrific.  Glad we left when we did.

2.  In 2003, we were on a tour of the British Isles.  Had a lovely time in England, Wales and Ireland.  Our bus pulled up to the hotel in Dublin and our tour director asked us to stay on the bus while he went in to get our keys.  When he came back, he informed us that our tour operator had gone bankrupt and the tour was now over.

We had to give the hotel a credit card to stay and we were now on our own.

The end of the trip to Scotland was not to be, although we did go back the following year with Tauck.

Fortunately, we made our own air arrangements and paid for the tour with American Express who refunded everything we didn’t get to do for “services not rendered.”  Not everyone was as fortunate.  A few people paid the tour operator for their extensions and they were out of luck.

We loved the trip as far as it went.

3.  Then in November 2008, we were on a Regent Cruise that started in Dubai and ended in Mumbai.  We had a delightful lunch one day at the Oberoi Hotel, as well as the next day at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.  That was just 10 days ahead of the terrorist bombings and attacks that included both hotels, a Jewish Community Center, CAMA Hospital, and half dozen other sites.  Whew, another close one.

4.  In December 2010, we were on an eight-day tour of Mali that included a visit to the fascinating Sahara desert town of Timbuktu.  I was convinced that the guides who were always with us in head-to-toe robes had guns underneath.  When we returned to the U.S., we found a State Department warning that it was dangerous to travel in that area.  Certainly, by the summer of 2012, we found out why as the Islamic rebels took over.  Of course, the French kicked them out so we could go back again (just kidding).

As my good friend Dr. Spence says, “Never travel to the same places right after the Schwartz’s have been there.  It’s too dangerous.”

You do need to be flexible to travel much.  We certainly have had a little bit of a charmed life; and considering all our trips, the four incidents of possible trouble represented a very low percentage.

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THE PARTNERSHIP OF MARKETING AND SALES

Some years back, super salesman Red Motley said “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”  Today, in a world with so many new technologies, that saying probably needs to be updated “Nothing happens until somebody communicates.”

Most would agree, making a sale is a lot easier if the prospect has some knowledge of the product or service being pitched—or at least has some familiarity with the brand the salesperson represents.  It is even better if the prospect has been inclined to favor the product.  This is where marketing communication comes in, and is the reason marketing and sales are such powerful partners.

The power of one-way communication

The art of salesmanship is the clincher, the deal-closer.  But, by definition, this is an example of two-way communication which is very time consuming and labor intensive.  Of course, time is our most precious commodity, and it is not unusual for it to require several attempts before a sale is made.

This is where marketing communication, the crucial element of sales support, comes into play.  Such one-way communication may take the form of print or electronic advertising, public relations, or targeted direct mail.  The key point is the fact that on a cost-per-household basis, it is far less expensive than two-way communication and enables the pre-conditioning of a great many prospects.  But, of most importance, it can go far in facilitating the sale.

Not an either/or proposition

While some sales managers may harbor the mistaken belief that great salesmanship can get the job done unassisted, the most successful sales leaders tend to understand and value the role of marketing communication in “setting up” the prospect to accept the product or service being placed in front of them.

It, therefore, becomes a matter of using a combination of marketing and sales communication to build brand acceptance and, most importantly, sales.  Indeed, strategy-based marketing communication can be the best friend a salesperson can have.

More often than not, we have been pre-sold on something through its marketing message before hearing the sales pitch or signing on the dotted line.

The case for one-way communication

If the customer isn’t aware that you exist, it’s a lot harder to sell your product.

When encountering a prospect on the showroom floor, in their office or at a trade show, in every case, he or she was “delivered” to that critical point by an awareness of you; whether through an advertisement, a referral or, in the trade show circumstance, merely because you were there.

What takes place at that point is two-way communication (you standing face-to-face with the prospect, trying to make the sale).  Though your degree of success will be determined by your persuasiveness, product, knowledge, price, etc., something that happened before that gave you the opportunity; a prospect had to be delivered.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, real success is largely a numbers game.  To survive, let alone be a leader in your category, you have to close many sales.  In order to do so, you have to have ample numbers of prospects with which to work.

Here’s the key point:  developing adequate numbers of prospects cannot be accomplished through two-way communication, either face-to-face or by phone.  Neither you nor your sales staff has anywhere near the time necessary for this crucial function.  And sales calls are proven to be more effective if the prospect has first been made aware of the brand and its attributes through one-way communication.

Prominent publisher McGraw Hill & Co. has estimated that the average sales call requires approximately 45 minutes, and that an average of three calls is required to close a sale.  Surely, it’s not the way to prospect.

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THE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS – THE TITANIC HAS LEFT PORT

The place to start may well be the explosion of random violence we seem to see across the news all too often

  1. May 2014 – Isla Vista, California – Elliot Rodgers killed six and wounded 13 before doing himself in
  2. April 2014 – Ft. Hood – Ivan Antonio Lopez killed three (including self) and wounded 10
  3. September 2013 – Washington Navy Yard – Aaron Alexis killed 12 and is killed
  4. December 20, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary, Newton, Connecticut – Adam Lanza killed 28, including his mother, committed suicide
  5. July 20, 2012 – Aurora, Colorado, Movie Theater – James Holmes kills 12, wounds 58, taken into custody
  6. October 20, 2011 – Salon Meritage, Seal Beach, California – Scott Dekraai killed eight, including ex-wife, arrested at scene
  7. August 20, 2010 – Manchester, Connecticut – Omar Thornton kills eight co-workers before turning gun on himself
  8. January 20, 2010 – Appomattox, Virginia – Christopher Speight kills eight, surrenders to police next day
  9. November 20, 2009 – Ft. Hood, Texas – Major Nadal Malik, psychiatrist, kills 13, wounds 32, convicted, sentenced to death

These nine mass shootings were responsible for 219 deaths and over 123 wounded.  In the previous 40 years, there were 14 other mass shootings that accounted for 188 deaths.  The pace and copycat aspects have increased dramatically.

The Columbine incident in April 1999 appears to have set a template for much of what followed.

All of this is just the most visible tip of the mental health iceberg.  The clamor after each of these horrific events is the call for more gun control.  Certainly that will help, but the main ingredient in all these senseless episodes is the lack of mental health detection and treatment.

Writing in the N.Y. Times early this year, Nicholas Kristoff presented a good overview of the mental illness problem we are facing.  “Mental health,” he suggests, “is a systematically-neglected issue.”

One quarter of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, including, depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Such disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada, the NIH says—a parent with depression; a lover who is bipolar; a child with an eating disorder; a brother who returned from war with PTSD; a sister who is suicidal.

All across America and the world, families struggle with these issues, but people are more likely to cry quietly in bed than speak out.  These mental health issues pose a greater risk to our well-being than, say, the Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists, yet in polite society there is still something of a code of silence around these topics.

We in the news business have devoted vast coverage to political battles over health care, deservedly, but we don’t delve enough into underlying mental health issues that are crucial to national well-being.

Indeed, when the news media do cover mental health, we do so mostly in extreme situations such as a mass shooting.  That leads the public to think of mental disorders as dangerous, stigmatizing those who are mentally ill and making it harder for them to find friends or get family support.

In fact, as stated in an Institute of Medicine report, the danger is “greatly exaggerated” in the public mind.  The report concluded:  “Although findings of many studies suggest a link between mental illness and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small.”

Put simply, the great majority of people who are mentally ill are not violent and do not constitute a threat—except, sometimes, to themselves.  Every year, 38,000 Americans commit suicide, and 90 percent of them are said to suffer from mental illness.

One study found that anorexia is by far the most deadly psychiatric disorder, partly because of a greatly elevated suicide risk.

Mental illness is also linked to narcotics, alcoholism, homelessness, parenting problems and cycles of poverty.  One study found that 55 percent of American infants in poverty are raised by mothers with symptoms of depression, which impairs child rearing.

So if we want to tackle a broad range of social pathologies and inequities, we, as a society, have to break taboos about mental health.  There has been progress, and news organizations can help accelerate it; but, too often our coverage just aggravates the stigma and thereby encourages more silence.

The truth is that mental illness is not hopeless, and people recover all the time.  Consider John Nash, the Princeton University mathematics genius who after a brilliant early career tumbled into delusions and involuntary hospitalization, captured by the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind,” spent decades as an obscure, mumbling presence on the Princeton campus before regaining his mental health and winning the Nobel Prize for economics.

“Although treatments are available, we often don’t provide care, so the mentally ill disproportionately end up in prison or on the streets.

“Children in particular don’t get treated nearly often enough.  The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that of the children ages six to 17 who need mental health services, 80 percent don’t get help.  Racial and ethnic minorities are even more underserved.

“So mental health gets my vote as a major neglected issue meriting more attention.  It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t involve Democrats and Republicans screaming at each other, but it is a source of incalculable suffering that can be remedied.”

This is the first of a series of blogs we’ll do in the coming months to try to unravel the complexity of the mental health problem—the elephant in the closet.

Stay tuned ‘til next month.  We’ll try to shed some light on various aspects of this problem.

P.S.  My appreciation goes to two professionals who are helping guide me through these complex waters:

Philip Alcabes, Ph.D. (nephew) is an Epidemiology Professor in the Department of Allied Health at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.  He studies and writes on the history, health, ethics and policy of public health.

Susan Bacon (neighbor) has master degrees in human development, counseling, psychology, and marriage and family counseling.  She is currently teaching at Antioch and Pepperdine Universities.

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MY COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s graduation season and I’ve been invited by Blog University to give the commencement address.  Of course, there were protests.  They were afraid I might be too liberal.

Actually, this address is offered to graduates or undergraduates and everyone at any age who wants to get ahead on life’s ladder.

So, here goes:

“Fellow students—I don’t have a joke, just some good advice on how you can stand out and always be at the head of the pack in the world outside this campus.

“No matter what field of endeavor you choose to pursue now, or change later, there are three areas of preparation that will help you stay further ahead of the crowd, most of whom will rely on their good looks or luck.

“In the olden days, when I was a boy, everyone talked about learning as the three R’s; reading, riting and rithmetic.  With technology and a more complex world, this needs to be updated.  There are still three areas you should concentrate on while in school or after graduation, but now the three are writing, speaking and thinking.  This is just as true whether you’re an engineer, in the sciences, a teacher or in business.

“Let me define more clearly what I’m suggesting:

“Writing is telling a story or a narrative with words on paper.  It might help if you know something about grammar; but, above all, you want to tell a story as if you’re talking to your friend(s).  Keep in mind, good English is that English which is appropriate to time, place and situation much more than structure and formality.

(See my blog of 4-17-13:  What I Learned About Writing.)

“Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame requires all his senior executives to memorialize everything they want to discuss in management meetings to be in written memos everyone reads before the meeting starts.

“Speaking—the ability to speak coherently will be easier if you become a writer.  They are usually tied together.  Your ability to verbalize your ideas and thoughts to your peer group or your boss will be a huge step on your ladder—interviews, meetings, presentations.  Today, your work life is crammed with these requirements.

“Thinking—both writing and speaking require that you think through your subject or idea(s), organize your thoughts and set up an agenda.  Part of thinking is “adapting” as well.  Learn from others.  No need to plagiarize, but certainly to adapt other ideas and thinking to fit your needs.  Learning to think is also the very best way to learn `how to learn.’

“You must commit to these three areas while in school and all along your climb on life’s ladder.  If you do, you will get ahead and stay ahead.

“Now, let me tell you the secret ingredient that will help and assist you to become proficient on the three-part trifecta of career mobility—it’s READING.  Let me repeat:  The key ingredient is reading.  Reading will help more than anything to teach you how to write, how to speak and how to think.

“Reading trash and pulp fiction won’t help a lot, but reading the classic novels and non-fiction of every type and variety will be a huge advantage.

“A few newspaper and magazine columnists are very erudite and offer many instructive lessons for our trifecta, but not many.

“David Brooks, one of the more erudite columnists at the N.Y. Times, recommends Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, a collection of essays by George Orwell, Rationalism in Politics by Michael Oakeshott and All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

“So, my fellow students, let me close by leaving you with this thought:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

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