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Disposable Thanksgiving

Holiday stress is the stuff of legends here in America. My wife and I were recently discussing a family that has multiple issues and problems with an expectation that they will have an Ozzie and Harriet Thanksgiving, (you younger people can Google that reference!) Lots of cooking and setup, lots of mess, and mostly women cleaning up…

I am confident that the Pilgrims did not have Turkey china! Yes, we have a 12 place setting of special Thanksgiving china with a platter big enough to hold a 30 pound bird! When my mother-in-law gave all of that to my wife, it was a true trauma. It was a signal that the responsibility for directing the chaos of massive feasts had been passed to my wife. Understand that she was well into her 80s when this event occurred!

So upon analyzing the stress points of Thanksgiving, we ascertained that much of the stress centers on cleanup. Sure everyone knows that, but what have you done about it? This year, we are giving you permission to use disposable everything! (No comments about recycling, recycle if you want, don’t be a hater!)

This starts with the aluminum thing you cook the turkey in. Why not use disposable aluminum things to cook a lot more stuff in? Casseroles, gooey messy stuff of all sorts! Pies, for the love of God! Is there someone out there that loves to scrub pots and pans? Maybe?

Make Jello in folded paper plates! Have everyone mash their own potatoes! Really, is that hard to do? This isn’t rocket science!

We have matching Thanksgiving in printed paper plates and napkins. We have plastic forks, knives, and spoons that are hard to break. There will be no requirement to sit at the table except for microhumans. Everyone is responsible for tossing their own stuff. Will it look like Martha Stewart lives in our house? No, but she doesn’t live here anyway…

This strategy will create the most stress-free Thanksgiving in the history of Thanksgivings and there will be unfamiliar life forms sitting on the couch cheering on their team… There might be a battle for the Lazy Boys, but the mood is going to be a lot brighter!

Happy T-Day!thanksgiving stress

Business Closure Checklist

Several weeks ago, a friend came to the conclusion that there was no way to keep his business going. Always up for a fun project, (kidding..) I decided to at least snoop around on the net and find a checklist. Turns out there wasn’t a comprehensive one I could find. Especially after I began reading what seemed like endless articles on the various liabilities associated with closing almost any business.

Always one to make a simple job more complex, I ended up spending several days creating what I believe is the most comprehensive list one can (or cannot) find on the web. Disclaimer: The list and my comments do not constitute legal or other professional advice.

One of the biggest questions has to do with timing. When you look at the tasks, they are not particularly in chronological order. If you are going to file bankruptcy for example, you definitely need to meet with your CPA and attorney in the same room to talk about timing and strategy. Even if you’re not, you will still want to create a plan in concert with those folks, if only to make sure there aren’t tasks that should be listed because of the particular state you live in or because of the type of business you own. Washington attorney practices for example, have to have a “succession plan” for their clients, records, etc. Other professions may also have specific closure requirements.

In any case, if it will help you or a friend, please use it. If you try to sell it, note the little “c” with a circle at the bottom!

Business Closure Checklist

Kudos to Comcast!

Like most people, I’m not naturally a fan of large corporations. However, I had a crazy experience with Comcast the other day that I just have to share. I called to change my plan around because guys looking for work don’t need all the crazy channels and small business internet speed. Saving a few bucks while looking for work seems rational, right? So this was my conversation:

“This is Kyle, how can I help you?”

“I need to reduce my monthly fees Kyle, can you help me out with that?”

“Yes sir. May I ask why?” he said politely, inadvertently poking my pride…

“Sure, I got laid off from my job,” I responded somewhat suspiciously.

“Well that happened to me last year, so I understand about reducing expenses,” he replied. “It took me four months to find a job. I’m 42, so I’m sort of old in the job market. So we’re going to reduce your bill for one year and it will only go back up $20 in year two. Plus we’ll send you out an upgraded modem and wireless router at no charge.”

“That helps quite a lot and I’m 61, so I’m not sure what the implications of your story are for me,” I said while thinking I can still watch Oregon State’s football team bumble around on the Pac 12 channel.

“And sir, if you have any customer service experience you might want to think about a career with Comcast! It’s a great place to work!”

“Are you serious?” I shot back at him. He’s lowering my bill and offering encouragement simultaneously?

“Yes sir. At Comcast there is a lot of opportunity and we need experienced people. There is a lot of team building and people love working here. If you express an interest, someone from the company will get in touch with you.”

Consider that Comcast has an incredible history. They started in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1963 with 1200 subscribers. After multiple expansions, they now have 126,000 employees across the globe. On any given day they have 2,000 openings…

As I hung up the phone, I thought I must be hallucinating. Comcast must be training the heck out of their people. So I submitted my profile and someone emailed me the same day, offering assistance, etc. The latter is way more of a response than the dozens of other places I’ve sent applications and resumes and God knows all other kinds of stuff…

So remember no matter the reason for your call, you at least are going to get someone pleasant to speak with! Good for you Comcast! You are a role model! Seriously!

The Lake, Heaven or Hell?

The Lake, Heaven or Hell?

Spokane, Washington, like other places in the United States, changes dramatically in the last half of August. The streets are quieter, lines at restaurants and other establishments are non-existent, and most people you want to talk to on the phone just aren’t there. If you can find someone to answer the phone, your question about the missing human’s whereabouts is always answered by two words, “the lake.”

“The lake” as it turns out is actually a ubiquitous reference to any body of water, or a place with a cabin, a place to pitch a tent, or someone else’s property with the aforementioned attributes, etc.

At first, I couldn’t understand this phenomenon at all. Having been raised by a father of German descent who equated goofing off with going to hell, I have been a very bad vacation taker. We were picking berries when we were 8 years old and so were all our friends. My brother and I were covered up with work, especially in high school, and anxious to earn money that we didn’t have time to spend. Rural Oregon was loaded with work for teenagers in those days. Once we got home, we worked in the old man’s shop until midnight for free and started over feeding steers the next morning.

Unfortunately, I continued this behavior throughout most of my adult life, (except for the steers). It was dumb. Then we moved from Arizona to Spokane. My first summer here found me amazed that a large part of the city just left for a week or two, actually a little angry because it was hard to get things done! After a couple of years, I started thinking; well maybe taking a vacation could work out at some point. Over the years we had tried once or twice, but I didn’t know how to behave or what to do and couldn’t wait to get back to work. We did figure out we could never ride together in an RV, let alone sleep in one!

This year, I got laid off just in time for going to “the lake.” I want to rejoice in the fact that I don’t have to work but something is holding me back. Guilt, I think. I don’t know how I’m going to overcome this. There must be some strategy involved that I don’t know about because the rest of the world has already figured out that the lake is a little piece of heaven. I need to have a plan in place when I start my new job, (no, I don’t have one yet). Advice from thoughtful humans will be considered!

The Real Value of Chamber Membership

Like everyone, I am always looking for the value in belonging to the organizations I find myself involved with. I recently took out an individual membership for our local chamber, Greater Spokane Inc. (GSI). While looking for a new opportunity, I know how important it is to maintain my status with GSI. There are a tremendous number of businesses that belong to a chamber of commerce and there are many reasons to do so. The TJE American Business Magazine offers a very comprehensive list of those reasons here.

Businesses sign up and they do experience some immediate positive outcomes. And they feel good about supporting the business community. However, who benefits the most? The participators of course. There is an old saying, “the world is run by the people who show up.” That indeed is the case in most communities. Chambers have many opportunities besides events, including committees and boards.

The opportunities available during those times when you can connect with other businesses are the times when your dues seem trivial. One of my friends who is a GSI member, has taken his business from being general and local, to specialized and national because of his GSI contacts and showing up at chamber events. This story is a frequent occurrence for participators and Spokane businesses have gone worldwide using the same strategy.

The logistics of doing this are pretty straightforward. You ask about the needs of others and question what if any help they might need. I was reminded of this today while meeting with Fred Pollard, an entrepreneur of great success. An engineer by trade, Fred looks at a machine and immediately tries to improve upon its function. I suspect that he has given away a great deal of information over the years but eventually like Karma, it comes back to him and it will to you as well.

Think of yourself as being shy or even introverted? The people who do show up want to talk to you or they wouldn’t be there. Stick out your hand and three people will try to shake it. I am amazed at the willingness of these folks to listen and talk…

I have used my GSI connections to promote the businesses I worked for by providing volunteers, hosting events and assisting in any way possible. Along the way I have had plenty of fun and saw real business increases. The event of summer is coming up in Spokane, the 6th Annual Roof Deck Rendezvous at the Spokane Convention Center! If you don’t go to anything else, you must go to this. The view is great and probably 300 people will show up. You need to hurry and register here before it fills up!

Toothless, LinkedOut, and Karma

Sometimes small vortexes of dumb things take place simultaneously, causing one to wonder why the universe is so displeased! I always admire Job for not cursing God as God and the Devil played out their bet on whether Job would crack under the strain.

People get laid off. I got laid off. My second time. No problem, I’ll just power up my LinkedIn profile and jobs will fall from the heavens! Bought the premium version so I know exactly what I’m talking about. In my mind’s eye, I see employers lined up begging for resumes!

So in trying to experiment with different captions to appear prosperous, yet interested in opportunities, I changed my title on my profile. I did not contemplate that LinkedIn would tell my connections I have a new job, which undermines my efforts to find a new job! Feeling somewhat disenfranchised, I developed the term, “LinkedOut.” Now I imagined employers turning away saying well that guy doesn’t need a job anymore!

Despite a post trying to explain what happened, the congratulations and well wishes continue to keep pouring in. Not a person who is easily embarrassed, I find myself slumping down in my chair when I receive one more upbeat note for being a successful job hunter. I am in a quandary as to how to proceed from here. Everyone is so busy, that having an exchange about this miscalculation seems impossible. So I’m thinking that maybe I’ll just move on, when suddenly…last night…

I bite into a salmon slider at my favorite restaurant, at a table full of friends and my brand new front cap breaks off! As I retrieve the lightweight structurally insufficient piece of tooth in an establishment full of people, I ask Karma, “What is the meaning of this? I’m out of work and now you play this trick on me?” I am appalled at the conspiracy that is taking place around me…

In the midst of imagining a job interview with a scraggly front tooth, I hear back from Karma, “Take this as a good sign. I have humbled you and now you will get a job.” And I think there might be something to that. When you think you can control the universe, it usually means that you need to be reminded about how little control you have, (at least in my case). If you hear from Karma, please let her/him know I’m fully aware that I’m a speck in the cosmos and am now ready to go back to work!

Time for HR Avatars?

Human Resources has become a complicated and clogged world for most companies. Many advertise for weeks to find the right people to interview and then advertise some more. Applicants spend hours trying to guess all the appropriate keywords as they create “targeted” resumes. The initial screening by some low level software for keywords works well in resumes loaded with keywords perhaps, but then you meet the person and you go back to square one. Meanwhile, your software has probably thrown out some pretty good candidates.

I would propose to replace this antiquated system with an HR Avatar that “talks” to potential candidates. Now don’t waste your time trying to find this one online. It doesn’t exist. There are a few companies that have “Avatar” in their names.  The number one website that pops up is  Avatar Solutions, but the majority of it has to do with surveys and simple stuff like that.

The way this could work would be to have applicants submit verified information about their education and experience. This would require a “middleman” who would be paid one time by the applicant to contact schools and past employers.  Another business opportunity for someone!  This takes the financial burden off the employer and gives applicants more incentive to be truthful.  Then the applicant’s data would be accessible by any employer authorized by the employee to do so. Once that basic data is received by the employer, the applicant may proceed to an interview.

The Avatar could “interview” potential candidates using an algorithm consisting primarily of yes and no questions and perhaps numbers. The Avatar could also make some “judgments” about the veracity of the information by funneling the responses into a voice stress analyzer. Yes, nervous people would have to practice being calm, but this approach is clearly more valuable than looking for keywords!

America, there are thousands of jobs that are not being filled because of fear and lack of resources. This sort of technology would provide the economy with a major boost. If someone thinks this Avatar already exists, please post a link and I’ll promote it.

Meanwhile my brain is filled with more Avatar ideas. I just need to stop thinking about those blue people in the jungle!