Tag Archives: New Business World

What I’m Not Buying This Year

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Tis the season and there are a lot of political candidates out there selling their version of what is wrong with this country/state/county/city and how they are going to fix what ails us. This year is different from most because it seems that a lynch mob has taken over a prominent role in politics and like most lynch mobs they don’t need facts, they just need someone to be angry at and someone to blame.

It would be easy to label the people behind this political lynch mob as ‘stupid’, but that is probably overly harsh. These people are driven by emotions, not a lack of intelligence, so stupid is not the correct term. I prefer to describe the lynch mob as people who have a Lack Of Critical Observation Skills (LoCOS for short.)  This year the LoCOS are trying to sell a lot of garbage and I’m not buying it. For example:

Nevada: The best at doing it wrong

LoCOS:  Lower taxes will improve the economy
To the LoCOS who are selling the load I have one word. Nevada. Nevada has no Income tax. Nevada has no Capital Gains tax. Nevada has no Corporate tax. Nevada has no Inventory tax. Even conservative business groups rate Nevada as one of the most ‘business-friendly’ states. Nevada is to business what the Bunny Ranch was to male ego.

According the LoCOS argument, Nevada should be awash in new business. Nevada’s economy should be booming. Nevada should be the poster child of the low tax concept.

The fact is that the State exposes the Lo Tax/Mo Biz as a myth. Nevada is Number ONE in unemployment (2nd place Florida is over a full point better than the Silver State.) Nevada is Number ONE in crime. Nevada is Number ONE in housing foreclosures. Nevada is consistently among the lowest in unbiased education rankings. Nevada is proof that lower taxes does not make for a better economy.

(Article: Nevada’s State of Disaster)

LoCOS: Business is better at running our government
Let’s remember that it wasn’t government that put us in a recession but business…BAD business. Government was an enabler, in that it stopped regulating and monitoring the unbridled greed of the incestuous investor-run business world, but at the end of the day it was business people who made all the decisions. The corporate executives chose to ignore the obvious result that would happen from their greed and dove head on into unethical practices that doomed our economy.

Greed is inherent in business. Greed is why business exists. There is no ‘care for fellow citizen’ in the business world. Business is based on competition, winners and losers, and often the losers are not the weakest, but rather loser’s are the one’s with morals. Business only keeps to a moral compass when there is an unbiased arbiter oversees its activities. That is the role of government.

This year we are seeing the perversion of investor-run business with clearer eyes. The Chamber of Commerce has abandoned their mission of promoting good business in the community in favor of attacking local governments and promoting only those candidates that will remove the protections for honest business and our citizens. It is ironic that anyone would suggest that business, with its greed-driven motives and proven track record of unethical practices, should replace good government.

Don’t get me wrong, a strong economy needs good, healthy businesses, but good, healthy businesses need a strong government to create and monitor the rules for which guide and protect all. The leap of logic of the LoCOS, that our government should be run as a business, is as absurd as saying that FIFA needs fewer referees on the soccer field.

LoCOS: The trillion-dollar debt is bad
The LoCOS must have Alzheimer’s.

I’m not in favor of a large deficit, especially when it involves sending US dollars to finance the destruction of another country …. but I’m really not in favor of is a Depression. That is what we faced in early 2009. Business had raped our economy through outrageous, unregulated practices and we were on the brink of an abyss that had no bottom. Again, business, not government caused our economy to fail. Initially, our country let big banks suffer the consequences of what they had done, but it quickly became apparent that what was about to happen was the massive collapse of the entire economic system, which would have forced the United States government to take over the day-to-day operations of almost all of our major financial institutions.

Cheney's Folly: The start of our debt problems

The alternative to a nuclear meltdown of our economy was to lend money to those institutions, help initiate controlled purchases of ailing banks, and invest government money in key assistance programs. Was it a bailout? Yes, but it was investing, not buying, which meant we would get the money back in almost every case.

The government also invested money in the mismanaged auto industry that, if not preserved, would have sent us into Depression-era unemployment overnight. Yes, it increased our nation’s debt. A debt that had gone from surplus in President Clinton’s years, to a deficit under George Bush. It would have been better if we had not spent so much money on Cheney’s overseas folly and already been in the hole when the house of cards of bad business fell, but there was no choice. The decisions made in late 2008 and early 2009 were necessary and save our country from disaster.

Have we recovered? No. But the LoCOS rage over a big deficit is being driven and financed by the major corporations that would prefer the citizen forget what really happened. I wish business hadn’t forced us to use trillions of taxpayer’s dollar to remedy their greed, but we had no choice.

LoCOS: Government is bad
Government is really, really good providing it is run by reasonable people who truly care for the citizens … all the citizens. There is one difference between civilization and anarchy and that is government. Every time I hear the LoCOS point out an example of bad government I can think of a hundred ways that government has made our country great. I mentioned to a person that the airlines need to be regulated again and they pointed out how, under government regulation, an airline was forced to maintain a route to a small city that was not profitable. Yes, that is tough, but what about the scores of lucrative routes that government regulation handed that same airline on a silver platter? I’m really weary of the single exceptions to how great government has been in making this the strongest country in the history of the world. Single exceptions do not make an argument for destroying our country.

Government is the foundation of our society and the only people who don’t benefit from a strong government are the greedy and unethical. When we were in school we would have rather had no teachers telling us what to do, but that wouldn’t have made our education better. It’s time we stopped making the argument of a 5th grader…and time we started respecting what a blessing it is to have a government that keeps our society from devolving into anarchy.

The Face of the LoCO People

LoCOS: Electing stupid people is smart
This one mystifies me. A candidate from any other party would be laughed out of politics for saying or doing something stupid and yet candidates for the LoCOS wear their stupidity like a new hat.
LoCOS candidates are avoiding the media, saying one thing, then changing their story. They scream about illegal aliens and how they are destroying our country, then it’s revealed they were employing them. They dress in Nazi uniforms. They steal other people’s work and claim it as their own. They take campaign money and pay their personal bills with it. They have to explain to people why they are not a witch. They threaten violence on people, yell about almost anything, deceive, and often outright lie…and the LoCOS cheer on.

I know that the quality of candidates of the LoCOS is a reflection of the lack of respect they have for our country and government, but isn’t prima facie evidence that the LoCOS can’t really be trying to improve our country when they are represented by the worst of the worst?

LoCO S: Illegal aliens (=Hispanics) are destroying this country
First, let’s remember that a major portion of the United States (California, Nevada, Utah, southwestern Wyoming, western Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas belonged to Mexico until the mid-1800′s. We took the land from them at gunpoint and paid fifty cents on the dollar for the land. I could make a strong argument that Mexican nationals are not really the illegal aliens in Alta California, Nuevo Mexico, and Tejas, but I will let that dog rest.

(Article: America’s Hostile Takeover of Mexico)

Regardless of the history of Mexico and the United States, the fact is that a typical tactic of a lynch mob is to find a symbol (person or group) that has little or no opportunity to defend themselves and present them as evil. This is a tactic used by the KKK, the Nazis, and every ultra-right wing, nationalistic, racist group. It doesn’t matter of whether the targeted group is guilty of anything, just that they, or no one else, is able or willing to stand up and challenge the accusations. Mexican immigrants are the perfect target for a group like the LoCOS.

The facts are that:

  • Most Mexican undocumented immigrants lead quiet, peaceful, law-abiding lives in the United States (a fact that the LoCOS lie about)
  • Mexican undocumented immigrants are working jobs that no American citizen wants to do
  • That the United States is the primary enabler of the drug wars in Mexico (we buy the product and sell them the arms)
  • Mexican undocumented immigrants can’t file for Income Tax refunds (which most would get if they were citizens) so the United States collects and keeps all the money deducted from their pay.

But according to the LoCOS, they are pure evil and responsible for our all our economic and societal ills. In Arizona, a sheriff’s deputy called that he was under attack by Mexican drug smugglers and was shot. He became the hero of the LoCOS.

Deputy Puroll's wound

Despite a massive effort, no drug smugglers were found. Now it turns out that the wound was from a bullet fired at close range (not from 25 yards as he claimed) and likely self-inflicted. Almost no one questioned the story of the deputy at the time, despite the inconsistencies in his account. Why should they, blame it on the Mexicans. Naturally, the story has to be true!

To me, the whole issue of ‘illegal aliens’ is a tornado in search of a trailer park. The damning terminology, the use of single examples, and falsified facts all indicate that the LoCOS need to create a threat and it the Muslims are too far away to pick on so the target is Mexican nationals.

The New Testament of the Bible has clear instructions on how a Christian is behave. Jesus said to love thy neighbor as thyself. The Apostle Paul says, “…as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another..” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). The LoCOS often boast of their devotion to Christ and then desecrate his teachings by their un-Christian attitude towards those of Hispanic descent.

I’m not buying it.

LoCOS: Threatening our government and the electorate with armed rebellion
Several members of the LoCOS, including LoCOS candidates have indicated that ‘some people’ may be mad enough at our government to invoke ‘their Second Amendment Rights’. I don’t care how you say it, to suggest that some people are going to take up arms against their fellow citizens (if the LoCOS don’t get their way) is wrong. In this country we vote, and we don’t take up arms to enforce the LoCOS will on the majority. Anyone who suggests this is a threat to our Constitution and to this country. Mad or not, there is a line that cannot be crossed over.

I know that everything I said here will not make any difference to the LoCOS. In fact, they will be outraged that I spoke out against their unbridled illogical arguments. You can’t reason with a lynch mob. But sometime in the future we will all look back on this and say, “What were the LoCOS thinking?” The problem is that they are not.

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Your Privacy Rights on the Internet: Read before you write.

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

I have had several discussions with people who have a fear of the Internet and Social Media tools. The common issue that arises is regarding privacy, which to me is an interesting concern. Being concerned that you’re giving up your privacy if you use the Internet is, to me, a Homer Simpson moment.

I’m not sure where anyone got the idea that writing something and sending it out over a public system of servers, visible to almost anyone, and recorded for all time would be private, but for those of you who have that impression, let me read you your rights:

Your Right to Privacy on the Internet

  • You have a right to stay silent.
  • You have a right to not participate in Internet/online activities.
  • You have a right to consult an attorney before you participate in any Internet/online activities.
  • You have the right to stay in your house, block up the windows and never go out into public.
  • If you choose to participate in any Internet/online activities, anything you say can and will:
    • be considered a reflection of your public image
    • be available for anyone in the world to access
    • be recorded for the remainder history of the civilized world
    • be used against you now, or in the future
  • If you choose to NOT participate that will NOT prevent:
    • People from talking about you on the Internet
    • People using your image for almost any purpose
The Internet, and Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn allow people to communicate in a way we’ve never been able to communicate before. It is not intended for private discussions, but it is an open forum. That makes some people uncomfortable, and while I understand that, I also have to wonder why people have a need to say something they are not willing to say publicly?

There is still a time and place for a personal, one-to-one conversation to discuss matters between the two people, but isn’t that better to be done in person? Privacy is not what one should expect when using the Internet, but it is the place for ideas and concepts to be discussed in an open environment that values the input of all. Yes, sometimes the stupid people have louder voices and win the day, but at some point people will look back and learn who was behaving stupidly and who was really correct.

Here are four things I try to keep in mind when participating in online activities:

  1. Sometimes I’m going to say something stupid. I’m human and I will have to buck up and take responsibility for it.
  2. Sometimes people are going to ridicule what I have to say. That doesn’t mean they are correct and it may be a reflection of their poor judgement, not mine.
  3. By participating I will learn more than I could if I did not participate. Sometimes the lesson will be difficult, but that will usually mean I will learn more.
  4. Social Media is not the alpha and omega of life, but it is one of the most powerful communication tools ever conceived.
Now you have been read your rights… you can take it from here.

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Social Media 3Q 2010 Update: Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace:

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

The third quarter 2010 demographics of Social Media users according to Google’s Adplanner services has a few surprises. Facebook actually dropped from 550 to 540 million users in the third quarter, and Facebook users over age 54 dropped from 16% to 10% in the last six months. Based on the data from the 2nd and 3rd quarters there is a significant slowing in the growth of the major Social Media tools.

Among the numbers are the interesting age group distributions of each of the networking sites. The data gives important clues of what each site is being used for in addition to who is using it.

Facebook’s Fire Cools
No one can dispute Facebook’s impact on the world. It is BIG, and with millions of posts and interactions each day, the influence of its users is the envy of every marketing professional. Traditional media professional and other old people will be tempted to look at the 3rd quarter data and declare that the Social Media ‘fad’ is over and on the decline. That would be a statement of ignorance.

Facebook 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Facebook’s growth could not continue indefinitely and its amazing growth in users from 2008 to the start of 2010 was being fueled by a viral exploration of a new media that allowed people to connect in a way they never had before. Now that exploration has calmed and I believe we are seeing the coming of age of Social Media.

The drop of 10 million users during the third quarter is only significant in that it shows a leveling off of the growth. The average time on the site is over 23 minutes, which is much longer than the other three major U.S. Social Media tools (MySpace 14:40 mins., Twitter 13:10 mins., LinkedIn 9:50 mins.) That is important as more time spent means more interaction and more influence by users and advertisers.

Facebook reaches almost 57% of the people in the United States (35% worldwide) which is a staggering statistic. If USA Today could reach 57% of Americans (without giving the newspaper away to every hotel guest) and know that the readers were spending over 23 minutes looking at their paper they would probably be the only newspaper in the United States… and mega rich. As of March 2010, USA Today has a circulation of only 1.8 million compared to Facebook’s over 65 million visitors (based on cookies.)

3rdQ Facebook Users by Age

1stQ Facebook Users by Age

One statistic that keeps bouncing around in the Social Media world is that “women over 55 is the fastest growing group of Facebook users.” That it is old data. While the over 55 group had climbed to 16% at the end of March 2010, it is now the fastest shrinking age group and Facebook users under 18 years old have been the fastest growing group during the last six months.

Finally, 57% of the Facebook users are women, which is about the same as six months ago. That seems to confirm that Facebook is about ‘social’ networking and making personal connections. Facebook continues to be the place where buying decisions are influenced through small group interactions. Business and Marketing people will find that if they try to manipulate these discussions it will eventually backfire on them. Facebook is where business should LISTEN, not talk.

Twitter 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Twitter Continues to Pause
The biggest surprise in the 3rd Quarter with Twitter was that it did not break the 100 million user mark. At the end of the 2nd Quarter it was at 96 million users, which was up by 16 million from the 1st Quarter. However, Twitter only grew by 2 million and now stands at 98 million users.

Twitter’s daily visits have leveled off for the last six months, and some might see this as an ominous sign for the hyper-fast post Social Media tool; however, this is deceiving as many Twitter users, (like myself,) don’t go to the Twitter site to use the tool, but rather use an application, like TweetDeck, to interact on the site. Thus the visit count would not be recorded as a site visit.

Twitter’s lack of significant growth in the number of users may be do to a continued lack of understanding of the value of the Tweet world and a period of constant ‘Fail Whales’ in the 2nd Quarter and early 3rd Quarter. The service has seemed to address the major problems in system overloads, but lately has had a return of a few service interruptions in the past few weeks. Obviously, if Twitter continues to have problems it won’t be able to survive in an environment where reliability is oxygen to users.

As for the lack of understanding of the value of Twitter, the service will struggle to grow until people can learn that the impact of Twitter is not in the posts, but the conversations and the URL links to other blogs and webpages. Twitter is like Headline News for new ideas and concepts. Often posts reveal a new approach or cutting-edge information that won’t be in the traditional public arena for months. That is why I still see Twitter growing if they can rid themselves of service interruptions.

3rdQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

1stQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

One interesting development in the latest data is the shift in the age demographics. Twitter seems to have made a shift to younger adults. The 18-34 age group is up by 16%, while the 35-64 age group is down by 9% from six months ago. Also, teenagers (under 18) have dropped by 6% since the 1st quarter and now make up only 4% of all Twitter users. The apparent dislike for Twitter among teenagers is a clear age defining characteristic. I have had two separate teenagers say to me “You’re not on Twitter, are you!?”

Apparently Twitter gives you cooties. Who knew?

MySpace Back From the Brink?
I have predicted the end of MySpace for sometime, but in the 3rd quarter it did something bizarre … it gained users. It had dropped 14 million users from the 1st to the 2nd quarter and then it gained one million users back in the 3rd quarter. MySpace now stands at 67 million users. Not earth-shaking, but certainly noteworthy. LinkedIn would sacrifice several interns to have that many users. MySpace also has more women. Female users consist of 64% of the MySpace population.

MySpace 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

The reason? Well, no other major Social Media tool lets you search by gender … and age … and height … and race … and body type … and sexual orientation … are you getting the picture? MySpace is a social dating site as much as anything else and lonely people make up a lot of our world’s population. So maybe MySpace has found its niche as a romance network and that will stop the freefall of the past two quarters.

3Q 2010 MySpace users by Age

3rdQ 2010 MySpace users by Age

Yes, there are more teenagers on this site than most (14%), but 63% of the users are between 18 and 44 years old. One caveat. MySpace has limited the ‘find-a-friend’ search function to give the results of people age 18 and over. That is a smart move to protect minors; however, some teenagers have simply listed themselves as an age of 18 or older to circumvent the limitation. I caught a few teenagers that list themselves as 19, but on their main page description they indicate their real age. This is likely why the number of ‘under 18′ users have dropped from 34% to 14% in six months.

LinkedIn Drifting in Niche
The 3rd quarter statistics show that despite millions of people looking work, the business person to business person website of LinkedIn is not growing. It is at 41 million,
which is actually higher than the end of 2nd quarter, but the same as the end of the 1st quarter.

LinkedIn 3rdQ DAILY visits

Like MySpace, LinkedIn has found its niche. Essentially, LinkedIn is a business-oriented website that provides a job exchange service. Most users are using the networking website as their digital résumé in order to attract job offers. In the Tom Peters ‘Re-Imagine’ business world where branding is a key element of survival, LinkedIn is Mecca for self-promotion.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn is not as successful as Facebook and Twitter in two-way interaction. Both of those Social Media tools do not have as much as of an ‘agenda’ by individual users as LinkedIn. Users of the business-oriented network seem to spend more time professing what they know and don’t spend as much time listening to others. This is the traditional media model of one-way communication, which is the style of communication that Social Media has displaced. For some, the self-promotion run amuck style of some LinkedIn users is a turn off that may hurt the site in the long run.

3Q 2010 LinkedIn user by Age

1stQ 2010 LinkedIn users by Age

It will be interesting to see how LinkedIn will fare as the business-caused Recession of 2007-09 eases and people are employed again. LinkedIn could be a key to a sudden labor shortage in 2012 as those companies with the best opportunities will be able to target and recruit candidates through LinkedIn, leaving other employers to either compete or settle for what’s left over.

Age and gender on LinkedIn reinforce the business-world orientation as more males (57%) are users and the distribution of the age groups reflects the working world. Interestingly, while LinkedIn still has more users over 54 years old (15%), this is 7% drop from the 1st quarter. That is offset by an 8% jump of the 24-34 year old users in the last six months.

4th Quarter Predictions?
I believe we are seeing a refinement of each of the big four Social Media tools. Facebook has become the social sharing network, Twitter is the thought-provoking, learning network, MySpace is the social relationship network, and LinkedIn the branding and résumé network. The demographics are settling in to reinforce the existing nature of each of the networks. Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn will likely end 2010 about where they are now unless something viral either cause a rush of new users, or sends people running away. Twitter still has potential significant growth, but I don’t see that happening in the 4th quarter.

The volatility of the Social Media networks have made it difficult to understand what they will eventually represent in our world; however, now that there seems to be a calming of the major networks, the value and purpose is becoming clearer. That will allow the big four to lock in their market; however, it will also open the door for other networks to identify areas of opportunities and weakness. My prediction is that 2011 will be the entrenchment of the Social Media, followed by more competition by other networks seeking to improve or offer alternatives to the established services.

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Richmond Embassy Suites: The best at true Hospitality!

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

In August I stayed in hotels in seven different cities (Dallas, TX; Bloomington, IL; Chicago,IL; Minneapolis, MN; Norfolk, VA; Richmond, VA; and Virginia Beach, VA..) In a previous post I expressed my displeasure with pay-for-Internet at the Millennium Hotel* in Minneapolis, which was slightly unfair as the hotel was a pleasant, although completely expected, experience. As a people warehouse the Millennium Hotel fits the mold that is typical of most business traveler-type hotels. However, out of the seven hotels of which I was a guest, there was one that made a big impression on me, the Embassy Suites in Richmond, Virginia.

(*Millennium Hotel: Go Away)

The main entrance the Embassy Suites in Richmond

The Embassy Suites hotel in Richmond, Virginia is not a flashy, Vegas-type hotel. From the outside it is a modern, yet modest building tucked back from busy streets; however, access to the Interstate is nearby. Like many hotels it is surrounded by a massive asphalt parking lot; however, the entrance is behind a landscaped island of trees. The great thing about the foliage is that it creates the sense from the outside that this hotel is not just a people warehouse like so many others.

After entering the hotel one doesn’t have to hunt for the Registration Desk as it is positioned in such a way that it oversees the entrance area, but it doesn’t intrude into the path of a guest walking to their room from the parking lot.

The Inner Courtyard

The striking feature of the hotel is the inner courtyard. I have seen this design before, but it was a refreshing change from institutional interior designs of most people warehouses. The open interior gives a community feel to the hotel rather than the impression that you just walked into a U-Store-It facility, as is the feel of most hotels. The interior landscaping and flowing water features create a tropical environment. This hotel was number six for me during my August travels and it was a refreshing change from the five previous corporate institutions of I had visited.

My room was also vastly different from my previous guest experiences. This was a true ‘suite’ and not just a room with a bed. There was a clearly defined living space with a television, desk, couch, and bar area. The bedroom was in the rear of the suite with a door that would allow privacy if two people were in the room and one wanted to watch television or work while the other one slept. The bedroom had a counter with running water and its own television. The bathroom was in the transition area between the living room and the bedroom offering easy access from both rooms. The entire suite is a brilliant design.

Of course the Internet was free (my minimum requirement) and I had no problems making a connection. If needed, I could have easily made the suite my home base. It is a comfortable living and working environment. I would have had no concerns about hosting small meetings in my room. I had everything I needed except for my Starbucks Chai Tea.

The Embassy Suite's Dining/Reception Area

One of my issues with most hotels is the assumption that people don’t want to interact with other people when they stay in a hotel. I’m as reclusive as most, but to visit a city and never come out of my hotel room is what creates that ‘warehouse feeling’.

At the Richmond Embassy Suites the open feel of the courtyard was put to good use by encouraging guests to congregate twice a day for a free manager’s reception each evening and free breakfast each morning. The reception offered adult and non-alcoholic beverages along with a variety of choices of snack items (hors devours.) The breakfast was as good or better than the breakfasts I’ve eaten at eaten at most Sunrise Rotary Clubs. Those who have eaten a breakfast at a Rotary Club may think that may not be saying much, but I typically pay $14 to $15 to eat a Rotary breakfast and this was free. The free gatherings were the most ‘value-added’ service I have experienced in a hotel.

From the few interactions I had with the hotel staff it was obvious that the Chief Executive of this property, Kathleen Lyons, and her staff understood the meaning of the word ‘guest’. I was always treated with respect and a smile. It was apparent that they were pleased that I choose their hotel over the other options in Richmond.

Giving great customer service is not that mysterious, but it requires that everyone from the bottom (no offense intended, Ms. Lyons, but in my world that means you) up to the top (the maintenance and housekeeping staff) must enjoy what they do and enjoy working with people. It was clear that the Embassy Suites in Richmond is not run by ‘management’, but managed through leadership. Bravo to Ms. Lyons and her team!

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Nevada: State of Disaster

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Among our Country’s 50 States, Nevada has been imploding for several years and is on the brink of complete collapse. Nevada ranks:

  • 1st in Unemployment at 14.4% (over a point higher than the next highest State)
  • 1st in Foreclosures (1 in 84 homes)
  • 1st in Crime (2009 – CQ Press)
  • 44th in 8th Grade Math Scores (2009)
  • 48th in 8th Grade Reading Scores (2009)
  • 49th Smartest State (2004, 2005, and 2007 – based on 21 factors)
  • 45th Healthiest State (2009 – United Health Foundation)

Nevada has managed to take advantage of traditional and non-traditional industries to keep its economy viable, but it has typically been dependent on easily exploited, non-competitive markets (gaming, quickie marriage, quickie divorce, and …quickies.) Unfortunately, in the past decade the strategy of taking advantage of human vices and lusts has failed as other States have decided they’re not as moral as they thought. As one might expect, Nevada’s government has been as precariously designed on a Natural Law type framework where accommodation of business needs supersede governing for and by the people.

Clouds on the Nevada horizon

As the statistics show, all that has now caught up with the Silver State and the result is a failing, under-funded, dysfunctional society that is so deep in a hole that they can’t see the way out. But to understand Nevada, a person needs to understand the history of a State that had a premature birth and since then it has behaved like the bastard child of our Country.

Nevada’s Sordid History
Nevada was founded in 1864, not because it met the minimum requirements for Statehood, but because of a marriage of convenience when; 1) President Abe Lincoln needed more political support and, 2) the residents were trying to rid themselves of Mormon control.

The re-election of Abe Lincoln eight days after Nevada became a State was not a coincidence as the political powers in Nevada openly favored President Lincoln. By giving Nevada Statehood, President Lincoln was assured that his Administration would maintain control as the Civil War reached a crucial stage in the last year of the conflict.

Nevada's State Flag

At the same time, many of the residents of the region were motivated by a distaste for the governance by the Utah Territory authorities as it was being handled by the Church of Latter-Day Saints where all positions were filled by faithful Mormons. Fortunately for the soon-to-be Nevadans, the Church was not in good graces with the U.S. Government and the Mormon Rebellion in 1857-8 (a saber rattling affair) led to the Mormons retreating back into the Salt Lake area, leaving the door open for residents to split off the western two-thirds of existing State as the Nevada Territory. They then pursued Statehood ensure a local government free of Mormon domination.

Although initially rejected, Nevada’s application for Statehood became seductive to the Republicans who sought to outmaneuver political opponents in Washington, D.C. Thus, Nevada’s motto, “Battle Born” is probably more reflective of the political games of the time, rather than the State’s birth during the Civil War.

Open For Business
Though it is the nation’s 7th largest State by area, it is in the bottom third of the Country as measured by population. Eighty-five percent of Nevada’s 2.5 million people live in either Las Vegas or Reno and only 14% of the residents were born in the State.

Because Nevada’s population has always been small and transient, it has been easy for the State government to be controlled by business interests. In the early years mining, ranching, and railroad interests heavily influenced the government and while Railroad owner’s power has faded, the gaming industry has stepped in to take their place.

One example of how the State has been run by and for business men is John Sparks, for which Reno’s sister city is named. John Sparks was a shrewd, unethical man who purchased small parcels of land in Eastern Nevada around water sources and then denied access to other ranchers. In this way he could use public land for grazing his cattle but prevent other ranchers from having access to water for their cattle. He and a partner eventually became mega-land owners through shady manipulation of Homesteading laws.

Although he lost most of his wealth when his company’s cattle died in a severe winter near the end of the 19th Century, he was elected Governor in 1902. In political office he became the darling of the Railroad owners who gave him free train travel from his home south of Reno to his office in Carson City. Governor Sparks political legacy is measured by the favorable railroad legislation produced during his administration. In 1905, the City of Sparks was founded soon after his death and to this day associates itself with its ‘railroad heritage’.

The Road Not Taken

The mining industry has the longest association of political clout with the State and even today enjoys an unusually favorable tax status in Nevada as they pay taxes on net profit. Because the taxes are calculated on net instead of gross profit, the mining corporations can avoid paying taxes in years of high revenue by spending more money on equipment and services. Much of the money spent goes to companies outside the State, leaving the Silver State holding the bag, not the money. Mining companies have major lobbying forces in Nevada that not only promotes their interests with State legislators, but also have been rumored to aggressively go after citizens and groups who oppose their favored tax status.

How favorable is Nevada’s mining tax status? This year mining is projected to contribute on 1.4% of the State’s revenue. That is roughly equal to the total tax paid for renting a car in Nevada OR the tax paid on liquor purchases. It is half the tax collected on cigarette and tobacco sales. Mining is a $1.5 Billion dollar industry in Nevada and contributes one of the smallest portions to the States revenue, but is voraciously defended by senior legislators of both parties at both the State and Federal levels.

In the last half of the 20th Century, gaming interests have assumed a share of influence as almost 25% of the State’s budget is financed by gaming taxes. Because of the massive lobbying efforts of mining, gaming, and Chamber of Commerce groups, the State government is run predominantly by and for conservative business interests. Nevada is ranked as one of the top business-friendly States and is a safe haven for wealthy individuals and corporations who seek to take advantage of Nevada’s lack of corporate, inventory, income and capital gains taxes.

The Failed Argument
Conservatives across the nation have suggested that taxes are killing the free market and all economic ills would disappear if not for the evil of a government-created fair playing field. That argument is proven wrong in Nevada. Despite the State’s business-friendly environment, it has the highest jobless rate in America and businesses are not thriving, but dying. There is no spin anyone can put on Nevada’s grand experiment. Government is not the source of our economic ills.

In a recent political debate in California, the Republican candidate for Governor argued that businesses were leaving California because of more favorable business environments in neighboring western States. She even went so far as to name them. Ironically, the one State she couldn’t add to her list, Nevada, has a more favorable businesses environment than any of the State’s named. If her argument were true, why aren’t businesses flocking to Nevada?

The Disaster Brewing for Decades
Politicians have known for decades that the economy of the Nevada was unsustainable and that economic disaster is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. Dependence on only a few industries for the State’s economy has always kept Nevada vulnerable to significant changes in economic and/or business conditions. For years, Nevada’s main source of tourism and gaming revenue have been consistently in decline because of California Indian gaming.

2010 Projected Nevada Tax Revenue

Over reliance on the gaming tax revenue coupled with the lack of traditional tax revenue sources like income taxes have pushed the State to make up for it by having among the highest sales and gasoline taxes in the nation. The lack of corporate and capital gains taxes on wealthier tax payers has pushed the burden on those who are least able to pay.

Epic Failed State
Last year, like many States, Nevada felt the crushing blow of the 2007-09 Recession. Massive cuts (Higher Education was presented with a 36% cut in the Governor’s budget) and a few minor tax increases made it possible for the 2009 Legislature to finalize a budget. But in 2011, the well is dry. No one can predict how the politicians will come up with a budget, but with the Tea Party’s domination of Nevada politics and a hysteria over cutting taxes that don’t even exist it is obvious that any solution will involve gutting programs and shredding the State’s infrastructure. As Nevada is already No. 1 in crime, unemployment, and foreclosures, the continued devolution of the State’s government will mean we can only watch the situation go from worst to Epic Fail.

Poor Role Models: Governor's Dinner in Washington, D.C. - image thanks to 8NewsNow.com

Political Wackos Rule
A rational person would probably look at the current situation in Nevada and determine that this would be the time to find people of high moral character and great thinkers to take control of the crisis. This would also the time to capitalize on those people who are in positions to use their influence and power to act on behalf of the State at all levels of government. Unfortunately, a lynch-mob mentality has besieged the electorate and a blood-hunt by the national Republican Party has poured millions of dollars in an effort that will eviscerate Nevada’s voice in American politics.

There is little reason to believe that anything can prevent Nevada from an economic meltdown along with a catastrophic failure of government infrastructure. The cities and counties will experience the full brunt of the disaster as the Nevada constitution prohibits Home Rule, which means that they cannot take independent action to preserve themselves by isolating and controlling their revenue sources.

There is one positive aspect of this situation. As the nation works to recover from the Recession of 2007-09, every other State in the nation will be able to say, “Well, at least we’re not Nevada.”

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Dear Business Person: It is 2010. Please update your brain.

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Recently I listened to a presentation on how to network to increase referrals of potential customers. The speaker made her living by teaching people how to do this, so there is no doubt she knew her subject. Personally, I agree that face-to-face networking skills are critical if you are going to be in business, especially if you have direct customer contact.

However, she quoted statistics from a 2002 study done by the Chamber of Commerce on referral effectiveness based on the method of contact. 2002. That is where she lost me.

How far back is 2002? In 2002, the Department of Justice announced it was going to investigate Enron, the UN Security Council froze the assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, The US Secretary of Energy declared Yucca Mountain, Nevada to be a suitable nuclear waste depository, the Space Shuttle Columbia completed a mission to update the Hubble Space Telescope…it’s last before it would be destroyed on re-entry from it’s next mission in 2003, the United States led coalition invaded Afghanistan, A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture, United Airlines and WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, Congress approved a resolution to go to war with Iraq, and President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security.

Columbia Space Shuttle Breakup in 2003

To some, it may seem like 2002 was yesterday, but when discussing a topic on how business referrals are made in 2010, quoting data from a single, eight year-old study makes me question the relevancy of any of the information provided. Note that the Internet was only eleven years old in 2002. The first Social Media site, Friendster was started in 2002. It wasn’t until 2003, that the more known sites of LinkedIn (May) and MySpace (August) were introduced. Facebook didn’t come on-line until February 2004, YouTube began a year later, and Twitter didn’t start until July 15, 2006.

The world of communication and business have changed dramatically in the past 36 months, let alone the changes over the past eight years. To discuss ‘networking’ from a perspective of the world in 2002 is to be in Denial* of the world of 2010. While ‘more experienced’ business people scoff at “these young people” and their Social Media, the reality is that referrals are being replaced by customer recommendations read off of blogs and other Internet sources. ‘Experienced’ business people can be angry, condescending, and ignorant all they want about the impact of Social Media on business…but it won’t change what has happened. Many people blame government regulation for business failures, but more businesses fail because of outdated business minds and practices than anything other cause and we are neck-deep in 2002 business thinking.

(*See Rotary@105: Grieving Change)

Face-to-face networking is important, but compare the number of face-to-face interactions/connections that a person can make in a day with the number of interactions/connections that can be made through blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in an hour, and it becomes apparent that dismissing the power of Social Media makes a business person appear uninformed and outdated…sort of like a man who wears shorts, sandals…and black socks. That analogy may not make sense to some people, but then again, those people probably aren’t reading this blog…or any others.

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Selling Watered-Down Beer: The best spin campaign in advertising

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

It is one of the best spin campaigns ever sold in the age of advertising. Few people would ask for diluted beer, but mega brewers have managed to make the ‘light’ in light…or lite beer seem like a health drink instead of one of the most clever advertising sell jobs in history.

Have you ever wondered what makes light beer, light? It’s a question most people don’t ask, but they should. Don’t get me wrong, making light beer usually is a different brewing process than brewing regular beer. Different enzymes are used to breakdown the carbohydrates, which helps reduce the calories; however, in the end the prime ingredient in most light beer is….water. Light beer is, at least in part, water-down beer. Of course, mega-brewers don’t put it that way. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid the subject, but to achieve any significant reduction in calories, some water must be added. One brewer’s motto is, “It’s the water, and a lot more,” but with their light beer the motto should be, “It’s the water, and more of it.”

One ad campaign that amuses me is the brewer that touts ‘only 64 calories’ with their light beer. I’m not an expert, but from my research, the only way you can get down to 64 calories is to add as much water as possible while retaining a beer flavor. That demonstrates the power of advertising. To create a product that people pay more to get less. Never underestimate how advertising can disguise the reality of a product and create an impression that the product has more value added by giving you less.

Lets not tell wineries about this.  We don’t need light wine.

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Rotary@105: Grieving Change

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

On October 16th, our Rotary District (5190) will hold the second annual Public Relations (PR) seminar. It is a difficult topic because PR is a vital component to all aspects of Club operations, especially Membership recruitment and retention; however, for very ‘human’ reasons many members/clubs may not ready to listen to many of the key concepts because they are not ready to face the reality of the current situation.

To understand the resistance to the topic I need to refer to the 1969 book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying and her model of the grieving process. Her book became a major work in the fields of psychology and counseling for decades and while many experts now reject the idea of ‘stages’ of grieving, her model serves to remind us that people are influenced by their emotional state and some information will not be easily accepted when change intersects with tradition.

On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In the book, Kübler-Ross proposes that the grieving process involves five stages that help us recover from personal crisis back to a more balanced life where the incident or loss does not rule our lives and influence our decision-making. The stages are: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and finally, 5) Acceptance.

So what is happening in Rotary that would cause a member or a club to be in crisis? Two issues come to mind.

Membership in Crisis
First, Rotary has been battling a significant membership issue for almost 15 years. For example, in 2005, Rotary Zone 23 (now re-zoned as Zone 25) had 568 clubs consisting of 33,921 members and five years later (2009) Zone 23 consisted of 33,304 members in 588 clubs.  While the number of clubs had increased by 20, total membership had decreased by over 600 people. This is only about a two percent loss over five years; however, the problem is that, 1) this has been a consistent trend for most of the last 15 years, and 2) every Rotary International President for the last nine years has pushed for increased membership as part of the key programs for his year.

The facts are simple: Rotary is bleeding membership and clubs are getting smaller (in Zone 23, an average of 3 members smaller over five years.) In seven years Rotary has brought in 1.2 million members…and lost 1.2 million members. Membership in North America, and many other western countries is on the decline. If current trends continue, over the next 15 to 20 years many community Rotary clubs will shrink until they are no longer relevant and then disband. Many small clubs are already facing this problem today and have less than five years to solve their membership crisis.

A New Business World
The second issue is external to the Rotary club. Business and communication is undergoing a rapid change and all the rules are changing. The Internet and, in particular, Social Media have challenged how business operates in a world where one person can be heard by millions, and if that person is talking about your product or service you have to be plugged in and listening or be lost in ignorance of what your customers and potential customers know about you. This new world demands personal involvement, yet many people (especially older business people) don’t want to be forced to participate in Social Media tools that put them and their company up for public scrutiny. There is a growing division between older professionals that tend to reject Social Media tools and younger professionals that tend to accept them. Guess in which category most Rotarians fit?

Action Obstructed by Grieving
Public Relations offers potential solutions to both issues. By becoming aware of the Club’s public image (how non-members perceive Rotary) the members can adapt their PR plan to maximize the value of the club projects and programs to help non-members understand the purpose and scope of Rotary. Members can also be aware of behaviors and information that reinforce negative stereotypes that non-members may have about Rotary, then avoid situations that might damage the reputation of the club. P
R can also help members understand and adapt to the Social Media tools and use them to the best advantage for the club…and their business.

The problem is that discussion of these solutions is premature when someone is grieving. It is akin to telling the man who just lost his wife that, “there are plenty of fish in the ocean.” The combination of scrambling to understand a new business environment while facing a slow bleed of Rotary club members has many Rotarians in the one of the stages of grieving.

For some it is the first stage: Denial:

Stages of Coping with Loss

“There is no membership crisis. The world is the same today as it always has been. Our club is fine, we’ve been around for decades and we will continue to be here for decades to come.”

For others it is Anger:

“This is our club! We don’t need to change, if someone wants to belong to our club they need to change to our way of doing things! Don’t tell me what to do, I’ve been around a lot longer than you! Most of our members aren’t even on Facebook!”

For some it is Bargaining:

“We need QUALITY members, not more members. What help are we going to get to make these changes? How do you know this will work? How do I know this is not just a waste of time?”

And for some it is Depression:


Of all of the stages, a club should fear depression the most. Apathy and membership are never good combinations; however, for some members who are overwhelmed by change, the depression over the issues will open the door for them to quietly leave Rotary. In some cases, a member who is entrenched in tradition may not be able to accept change and leaving Rotary is the only option, but hopefully we can be aware that grieving change is part of the process and present the message in a way that will help members to the final stage of grieving, Acceptance.

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Communication: Repetition of message does not increase awareness

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

“….Welcome to Flight 2333 to Norfolk….”

August was a busy month of travel for me. On four round trips in one month I spent over 40 hours on sixteen Southwest Airline planes and heard the pre-flight safety briefing 19 times. That would theoretically make me one of the most knowledgeable passengers on flight safety. One would think that I could repeat the flight attendant patter verbatim by now. But I can’t. I travel enough that the safety briefing is merely spam to me.

“…We would like to point out a few of the safety features on this Boeing 737. To fasten your seat belt slide the metal tab in the buckle. To release the belt pull up on the tab on the top of the buckle…..”

Attention will be paid to that which is unique

I know that this briefing is intended to provide a safe traveling environment and maybe there is someone who is allowed out in public who doesn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, but really, does mindless repetition make us safer? The answer is ‘no’. Repetition can be useful in helping the brain hardwire complex information, but when the information is perceived to be too basic most people stop listening.

The failure of the passenger pre-flight briefing to inform serves as a good lesson for business people. A lot of smart people should know this, but I still find business men and women who live by the erroneous assumption that the more they get their message out, the more successful will be their endeavor. I have one group that sends at least one email to me everyday, and sometimes more than one email. I support the purpose of this organization, but I am considering blocking their emails because they have become spam to me.  When I open their email I read a few words and I file it away.

A ‘Hoser’ is what I call people who flood a Social Media tool with posts. On Twitter, I never read Tweets from someone who has multiple posts in quick succession. Sometimes people use applications that allow the Tweets to be posted on a schedule, which I think is a mistake.  When I see the same face on five consecutive posts I consider ‘unfollowing’ them over reading what they have to say. The same is true on Facebook and LinkedIn.

More about using Social Media in Aristotle’s Rules of Social Media

To be successful Public Relations and Marketing professionals must accept that a message must be more than a pre-flight briefing. If the message is just about repetition then not only will the audience not get the information, they will be annoyed by it. This is a hard lesson for traditional media ‘experts’ because they lived through a time when the audience had to get spam to get the entertainment (commercials embedded in television shows or ads embedded in magazine/newspaper articles.) Traditional media was designed to force the audience to accept the spam, but the Social Media is oriented to the audience, not the advertiser, and this means the reader has the power of the ‘off’ switch. To be heard, and understood PR/Marketing professionals must reject the old annoying ways of the past and use style, not repetition to get the message out.

As for the airlines, the pre-flight briefing will never go away even though it is completely ineffective. The briefing has little to do with informing people and everything to do with asserting the authority of the flight attendants. By standing up and lecturing the passengers on what passengers can and can’t do, they are identifying themselves as the people in charge, which is important in the unlikely event of a crisis on the plane.

However, the problem is that when your message is largely being ignored because it lacks content, the risk is that passengers won’t listen to other announcements. That’s another important lesson for PR professionals.

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Millennium Hotel: Go away, spend your money elsewhere

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

This week I spent a couple of nights in the Millennium Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Now this is a good hotel and it has everything you would expect for the business traveler. The rooms are clean and reasonably updated. The staff is pleasant. It has a restaurant and a bar (although it struck me that maybe both were afterthoughts in the lobby design.) It has a pool on a fitness room (I didn’t go to hunt for them, but I’m assured that they exist.) It has a television with a selection of stations and optional pay-for-movies.

They have everything you might expect, save one item. Free WiFi/Internet. To access the Internet in the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis you must add $10 (okay, $9.95) to the daily room rate.

Some business practices reflect old ideas.

This means one of two things. Either they decided to contract out their Internet service and they are getting some kind of kickback, or they have a bean-counter in their organization that has said to management, “Hey, we can boost our room rate by $10 if we charge for the Internet!”

It doesn’t matter why they charge for Internet service because what it says to me is simply, “We would prefer that you go elsewhere for Internet service.” In my case, I go to Starbucks where I can get online for free…and buy my tea with my extra $10…and then, rather than go back to the hotel to eat I find a place near Starbucks. Is that what they want their guests to do? Apparently.

A better place to spend $10/day

Next month I will be going back to Minneapolis and I will find my hotel on Priceline.com. That may land me back in the Millennium Hotel and once more I will go outside the hotel to connect to the world…and spend my money. I wonder if they have a clue? I seriously doubt it.

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