Archive for January, 2005

Blog talk was fun — taking another break for fun

Friday, January 21st, 2005

Terrible snowstorm. Did 25 mph all the way downtown the other day to speak on the NEOSA panel of bloggers. It was most gratifying to find that instead of the empty room I was sure we’d be talking to, we had about 50 people trudge their way through that blizzard to come and hear what we had to say about blogging for business.

The powerful similarity you noticed in all the panel members was passion about blogging as a business tool. It shone through in each presentation and in every response to questions. We all felt that we were able to make a difference for the people who came–a very gratifying reason to do what we did. There’s talk now of doing more–because there is so much to learn about this important topic and it’s still so new to many business people. I look forward to helping again.

Will be away from blogging for the next 10 days. Taking a vacation to warm places. A vacation with music! I love the blues and signed up to spend a week with 15 bands playing to a captive audience of hundreds who all signed up for the blues.

Bon voyage. Back on the 31st.

Here we go again…corporate chemical chaos

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

Poison in the water. Toxic chemicals in people’s bloodstreams. Sounds like a scary movie, right? Nah. It’s the real thing–again.

DuPont gives lots of people in Appalachia jobs, and they’re grateful for them. So much so, in fact, that many of them hesitate to react when they’re told that waste from the company that contains a chemical byproduct of manufacturing non-stick coatings (Teflon) is polluting the water, poisoning local livestock, and possibly connected with severe birth defects of some employees’ new babies. And that at the very least, the people who work and live in the area have measurable amounts of this not-too-friendly chemical running through their blood–the toxic effects of which have not yet been fully explored.

The reason this kind of thing sounds like a scary movie is because when it happens in real life, we try not to scream too loud. Giant corporations do give people jobs, they’re an important part of the economic welfare of our society, and so on. When the former head of research for a major tobacco company went on 60 Minutes some years ago (they made a movie about it called The Insider) to talk about how the corporation had covered up its knowledge of the addictive qualities and the health dangers of cigarettes, it caused a stir. No one’s gone to jail yet. Think about the relatively small indiscretions Martha Stewart was convicted of, and yes, she’s in jail. Yet you can still legally purchase a highly addictive substance that will destroy your health.

Fortunately, I see the government is now conducting a $280 billion civil suit in which it alleges that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking–and that they targeted teens and lied about that too. So maybe the screaming will do some good after all.

Check out this article on DuPont’s culpability (regarding PFOA and perfluorinated compounds). How loud do you think we ought to be screaming?

Speaking of blogging…

Sunday, January 16th, 2005

Will be appearing on a panel with a number of other bloggers this Thursday. We’ll be discussing blogs and business… If the shoe fits, eh?

It’s an honor to be asked to participate. Several of the participants have made a serious business out of the blog itself–a feat requiring passion and commitment, which of course are two of the prime characteristics needed just to be a steady blogger. One of the panel members is actually the paid editor of a blog called Cleveland.com, a blog that’s so serious a business that it can hire people to manage it!

Read more about it on NEOSA’s website–the Northeast Ohio Software Association.

Where are we going?

Thursday, January 13th, 2005

The world is morphing before our eyes. Two developments strike me as equally portentous, though in totally different spheres.

1. IBM is entering the business process improvement business–in competition with the likes of Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, and very possibly some of its own customers. It bought PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting back in 2002 and has been indulging in a global acquisition binge ever since–niche-oriented business services and software companies. Apparently the margins and the outlook for hardware and software sales weren’t sufficiently promising.

2. The U.S. government has issued a new healthy-foods pyramid (it’s been 12 years since the last one) that reduces emphasis on dairy (even as you now notice a pumped-up schedule of TV ads for milk and yogurt as “weight-loss aids”) and for the first time puts whole grains high on the list of required foods. But listen to this: Kraft Foods, makers of Oreos, Cool Whip, Velveeta and other low-nutrition, high-fat, and/or high-sugar items, has announced it will stop targeting children with ads for these foods. Interestingly, their home page is all about health and nutrition.

Why are these surprising? I guess #1 is just indicative of a trend–competition is driving many businesses to try to be everything to everybody in order to maintain or grow their piece of the pie. If everybody is doing the same things, the marketing function is going to become even more critical. The ability to speak your messages in your true voice–which is what we help our clients do–will take on even greater importance as a distinguishing characteristic of your business presence.

The shift in food focus is very encouraging–and also indicative. Saw a General Mills ad on TV yesterday with two kids asking each other how Kix cereal could taste so good in the absence of sugar, frosting and color–geez, that’s practically ground-breaking stuff.

And you know, I suspect that global competition is also one of the factors that’s waking America up. We have been “above it all” for so many decades–clear rulers of the world, being the dominant power, using most of the resources, making so much more of the money, apparently impervious to attacks because of our physical distance from our foes. As the national twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes continue, and the world increasingly arrives within our borders–via immigration, via outsourcing, via alternative medicine, via competition, even via terrorists–there seems to be a growing feeling that long-term sustainable profits may actually depend on taking more responsible attitudes about how what we sell affects those who buy it from us.

That’s a big morph. And a good one.

Who's minding the corporate conscience?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2005

Individual states in this country (many with Democratic attorneys general) seem to be watchdogging federal statutes more often than federal agencies lately. So if you’re a drug company or a broker or other corporation that is responsible to the public, a power plant or other potential polluter whose operations might be violating a “green” law, you could be seeing more state prosecutors stepping in to protect ethics and the environment where “federal regulators have fallen down on the job. Very interesting article tracing the history of state involvement.

Didn’t realize that we had this additional method of checking and balancing our government. It’s a good thing. Corporate ethics are already under the microscope in a lot of well-respected companies.

And given the fact that the world is getting smaller and smaller, resources are becoming more portable (so no country has a lock on anything), and our environment is having to support more and more and more of us, it seems only a matter of time before our own self-interest–and even survival–will coincide nicely with the best interests of the planet.

RANKING 99 – Even though giant utility companies might seem a far cry from what you do, you small and midsize businesses have precisely the same level of responsibility for running your operations with respect for the environment and integrity towards your employees and your customers. While the state or the feds might never catch you, quantum physics tells us that the behaviors–and even the attitudes–of every one of us make a difference in the world. Believe it, even if you can’t see it.

Flu break

Monday, January 10th, 2005

We’re taking a short break from blogging for a few days. Can’t figure out if we’ve got virus #387,000,000 or just the latest version of the flu. Either way rest seems called for.

We’ll be back on the trail again later this week. See ya then.

Money talks louder

Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

Speaking about believing in what you do in your business… I’m a great proponent of identifying your true voice–the voice of your deepest truest self–and speaking in it to promote your business. The theory is that if you believe deeply in what you are doing, you need only speak through appropriate channels (newsletters, blogs, etc.) to make your marketing effective. I was struck by this story today.

Scientists at Iowa State University are working to see how they can increase the cold resistance of certain plants. Experiments with genetically engineering the plants to kick in their natural protective mechanism are promising–so far they’ve worked with corn and with tobacco.

Interesting choices, especially the tobacco. Guess there’s still a thriving market out there for tobacco products in spite of rising societal disapproval and increasingly stern government warnings. Not sure how the owners and executives of the tobacco companies sleep at night, but after writing a white paper on the subject of asthma, I learned a lot about damaged lungs. While I was writing that paper, I happened to catch an old movie called The Insider, which talks about the former head of research at a tobacco company who finally came clean and taped a report for 60 Minutes about how they were covering up their knowledge of the dangers of tobacco.

Read more here on oh-the-many methods by which smoking damages human beings. I guess at something like $56 a carton in New Jersey, somebody’s makin’ a lot of money…

Happy new year, B4B readers. Here’s to your good night’s sleep.