The Itchy Sweater Manifesto

The stock market has been the Mr. Hyde of its former well kempt self in the past few days.

For most people, it won’t matter so much, at least not directly. We all aren’t focused on flipping those assets, though enough of us are that resolution and calm will return. What are we doing though while our friends from college who were business mad continue to be mad? The answer is we’re producing, we’re building value by creating interactions that work and discarding those that don’t. I’m writing stories that (hopefully) spread and our production staff here at the paper are designing products and services that actually create something worth paying for. And this is the time to do it, grow your busieness now, Go!

Seth Godin as usual reminded us today that “they” meaning the impishly smart crowds over at Google, started point blank, directly in the middle, of the dot com melt down. Caesar built Rome into an empire in times of uncertainty and FDR re-aligned a nation during the Great Depression.

In the short-range costs of an wobbly stock market are real and uncomfortable, like that sweater your grandma gave you and wear only when she’s around. We are now almost always connected and therefore have an opportunity to furthering innovation more quickly. Let’s do what we can in the meantime and hope that supervision and regulation returns to Wall Street and those unruly Brooks Brothers devotes.

Focus people.



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Grand openings, the greener grass.

 I’ve posted about this in the past, but I as a young entrepreneur myself I can’t help but continue to think, when I do open my first business I will not be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on  a big display launch. Leave the fireworks to Beijing.

Everyone imagines the presentation of innovation rather than innovating. At a gala business men whispering to each other, “this is going to change the industry.”A big spread in Wired Magazine and to be feature on relevant blogs, are all high hopes, but longevity is a key in business and the easiest place to forget that is at the beginning.

Here are some brands that had no launch at all: Nike, Harry Potter, Google, Starbucks, Apple, Wikipedia, Snapple, Geico, Linux, Firefox and even, Microsoft. The public relations troops marched into town much later, long after any opening.

Don’t get me wrong great publicity is and always will be a treasured gift and give spawn to hounding press releases until the end of days. But it is not necessary, and searching for it is often a significant distraction.

Many business owners have in their mind that the upper echelon  of the big launch is that seen in movies, red carpet, Jack Nicholson in tux and shades etc. And that’s valid because these launches are required for movies. But for just about every company, product or service, the relentless quest for validation by the media does not pay off. If you do get it don’t let that push you to rest on your laurels, and if you don’t, that’s just fine.




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What kinda mileage d’you get on your motivation

This week I have been making a concerted effort to take people at a value that’s beyond face.

As a reporter I’m always looking for the motivation in a story. How did this person get here and why?

You need to understand motivation in order to make sense and get a full picture. When I see a person or a business taking an action, my first move is to figure out the motivation. The, what’s in it for them?

We want to know why someone is acting the way they are. Often creating a niche, even if it is identified as a niche, will be appreciated because of its creative nature. That is where we move beyond the monetary value into intrinsic. Everyone wants to know what makes you tick. This is why a brand history/identity, is so important. People want a story, whether you are the muses of website design or the toiling metal fabricators who we, or I, decide to imagine going home to caves and pound ore in the center of mountains. It’s about the story.

Though often we’ll find that the reflex explanation of motivation is, what else, money.

He gets on the train at 6am and off at 8pm because He gets paid soooooo much.

Going out of business sale because This place is bleeding, let’s go save.

This sitcom character drinks Coke because They advertise with the network.

We are the children of a consumerism and many of us have developed a slight x-ray vision to these connections.

We find answers before we even ask questions. Sometimes these answers turnout to be wrong.

People don’t volunteer long hours at the museum or at suicide hotlines for the money, there isn’t any. No one’s paying you to read this blog, and the same for the writing of it.

People don’t work nights and weekends at some jobs because they have to, they most likely have colleagues that get paid just as much who work less.

People should be seen as different from the businesses they represent.

Money fuels the ride, but a person in business is most likely there for a reason other than simply to achieve the money, directly or indirectly, negative or positive. Rarely is the situation so static. They may be there for the kids they love, the habit they can’t kick, or as a step to a dream in the future.

Whatever the true motivator try remembering that there always is at least one.


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I Ordered a Turtle-neck and got Capris and a Explanation, Thanks.

There are a variety of things that I buy via the internet, clothes and soccer equipment are the majority.

Recently I ordered a variety fresh new gear from a company that shipped the wrong item and the item that they did ship was broken. I sent it back and was told it will take three or four weeks to process my return. Cue summer fading to fall and the time-lapse photography bringing beautiful foliage into my life.

I wrote an email back, asking my favorite question of questions, why? They responded, and explained that they were  NOT (capitals are a huge put off, strike one), a big company but small and may take us a little longer than others.

Which of course caused me to pose again, why?

Do smaller companies operate in an alternate slow motion universe in which a John Madden voiceover describes everything that happens, because then yea I’d expect it to take a little longer.

 Though in this case the more important issue than my knee jerk why, is something that this size conscious company and all companies of a similar size should realize when operating online. I, a nameless consumer that doesn’t want to travel to a mall and therefore could give a shrimp platter about how small they are, just want good easy service. I wanted to be able to open the package, give a wash, and fold the purchase into the ranks of my wardrobe. Instead I’m forced into correspondence with a business member that I can only think to describe as a whiner.

Am I being to harsh on the in-general little guy? I already gave my business, I purchased and wanted to support the grassroots. I simply felt the reward of making the right choice was the only part left in the equation, alas.

If your small company can’t deliver ‘better’ in things people care about like service, why should I support you? I’m not saying you must be expected to do everything better, but at least do not expect me to listen to the way the ripped edges of the world haven’t left any room for you.

The internet has allowed small businesses to prosper and expand and essentially rule; they can have a better website, better customer support, write a better newsletter than the big guys. The passionate alternative buyer, i.e. those who’ve embraced the internet and its buying prowess, are happy to embrace the small company, unless…





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They’ve Gone Plaid

Roadtrip is not just a neo-collegiate-classic film featuring Tom Green and others; it is in fact what Plaid Branding of Danbury is up to in t-minus 2 days with their very own Plaid Nation Tour 2008.

This time those fresh faces of fresh facers are headed west. As John Wayne said, “The Western Plains are rough but the east needs meat.” Though that’s a whole different kind of branding that involves a lot more pain for the great-American-bovine.

The street pounding Plaid crew will be visiting Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Redding, San Fran, San Luis Obispo, San Diego and Vegas. They will be headed out on the trail in a van equipped with a camera, twitter (@plaid), blog, and instant messaging to show various companies throughout the tour how different social media tools can work for a brand. 

The life of traveling brand man.

Last year Darryl, creator of Plaid, and co. did an east coast oriented excursion. Through trips like these businesses have a chance to meet their clients and potential clients and re-excite them about a service they receive or could receive.

It’s interesting to note that the Plaid folks are creating a paradox in that they are using a technologies, while on this epic journey, that allow for people far away from one another to correspond. It’s a way of proving that with energy and enthusiasm the world of face-to-face is not obsolete but coexistent with that of social and online media.








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Godin the Guru vs. Forces of Mediocrity

“Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths… whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it’s over.

If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued. The yin and yang are clear: without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it’s unlikely it would be worth the journey. Persist.” (via his blog)


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I’m having trouble treating you like a person but still want business.

It with no end bothers me when people who are busy need to remind you that they are busy and not happy about it.

This is an occurrence that has caused me to change my five favorite restaurants in Westchester multiple times in the past few years and even caused me to say, and mean, “I will never shop there again.”

When I fling on my customer hat I generally enjoy going into a small business to find that it is busy. It makes me think that this is a place where people go to find the good stuff, and that I’m one of those people. It also makes me more likely to buy something, the green is practically spent.

Though the same business can easily turn off these customers by being overly busy, that is too busy to say, “We’re busy isn’t it great, sorry I can’t talk for longer.” McDonalds thinks it’s good enough to tell us on their menu board that ‘smiles are free,’ well it’s not; if they’re free then that must be why they’re usually all out. Welcome to contraire station where good personalities are actually as important to customers as packaging, taste, style and how easy a return policy is.

Forget the Soup Nazi, and his Stalin-esque approach to the local eatery game. He knew naught of the ways of creating an environment in which the brand is something people are comfortable with, majorly because part of that brand are the people who work there.

Remember the definition of a maitre d is not a greeter but someone who is paid to be busy and make an establishment busy.  When a line is out the door “over there against the wall,” and pointing can be replaced by “Welcome, we’ll be ready for you in just a second. Would you mind waiting over there please?”

A perfect example, though fresh out of the gates and still in the exciting stating phase of business, is the Iron Tomato in White Plains. I’ve seen all the food before but the people who work there are excited about it and excite people about their products. This is the difference between a customer using the cash in their wallet or needing to swipe the card.

Just because you’re a professional doesn’t mean that you can’t be an enjoyable professional. Strained workers strain work and relations with the customers. It is better to revel and encourage your staffers to revel in your hectic days; more profit for you.  


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