Friday, September 30, 2016

I’ll Vote for Groucho!

In the classic Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” the main character, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), is debating with the Secretary of War on whether to raise taxes on the mythical country of Fredonia and the ensuing exchange goes something like this…

Secretary: “How about taking up the tax?”
Firefly: “How about taking up the carpet?”
Secretary: “I still insist we must take up the tax”
Firefly: “He’s right; you gotta take up the tacks before you can take up the carpet.”

I thought of this absurd parody while watching the much anticipated Presidential Debate earlier this week – a political train wreck that you just can’t help but rubberneck. And of course one of the main talking points during that often painful and finger-pointing 90 minutes was the oft-discussed subject of taxes.

I don’t often get political in this space, but after Monday night, there are some things that need to be said with regard to proposed tax changes – whether real or imagined.

Hillary Clinton has stated that under her plan the rich would pay their fair share of taxes, while Donald Trump would cut the corporate tax rate to 35 percent to usher in a more business friendly environment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Good Walk Spoiled

I once knew a wizened public relations professional who spent the majority of his career at the Ford Motor Co. In his college days, he played golf for the University of North Carolina, which in the early 1950s was one of the powerhouses of collegiate links. Each year they routinely would drub interstate rival Wake Forest University until one day the UNC coach warned his players that WFU had recruited this strapping 18-year old from Pittsburgh, who, reportedly, could drive the ball 300-yards plus.

UNC’s dominance came to abrupt end the first time their team saw Arnold Palmer walk out of the locker room, a blond Adonis in a white T-shirt whose broad shoulders looked capable of seating a family of four for dinner. He teed up the ball on the practice tee and calmly sent it to the next county.

The match was over before the first stroke.

Even though I’m not a golfer, I was saddened to read the passing of a legend, who left legions of fans and admirers not to mention being instrumental in elevating the game to the national and global reach it enjoys today.

This in a roundabout way brings us to the topic de jour. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Where did it all go?

I’ve always considered myself to be reasonably young looking and in good physical shape for someone my age. I go to the gym regularly, eat cleanly and can never make it to the end of Monday Night Football without falling asleep.

But sometimes reality of your internal chronometer smacks you squarely in the face.

Case in point.

Last week I was in the waiting room of my doctor and noticed among the stack of un-interesting publications he routinely subscribes to, that 80s pop star Cyndi Lauper was on the cover of AARP magazine.

I did an immediate double take. But there she was in all her red headed glory on a publication geared toward the 50 and older crowd. For those keeping score at home, Ms. Lauper is actually 63. Let me repeat that for emphasis, 63.

I mean, it wasn’t all that long ago that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and “Time After Time” were at the top of the charts.

Or was it?

I don’t know whether it was reflexive or desperate, but as soon as I returned home I phoned my financial planner to get a status report on my portfolio.

Too bad the accelerated pace at which the years pass by doesn’t always register with some.

Again case in point.

Friday, September 16, 2016

They’re nothing if not persistent

Of all the communications-related technology advancements over the past 20 years, the one I’m probably most grateful for is caller ID.

Like many of you, my home phone receives no less than five solicitation calls per day and just slightly less than that on weekends. Thankfully, the caller ID feature alerts me to each and every hopeful looking for a donation.

Then there are those who demand money via intimidation. I’m referring specifically to the threatening calls from people claiming to be with the IRS giving you final notice of a pending lawsuit for payment of back taxes.

Since the beginning of the week I’ve gotten five of these messages and thanks to caller ID, they’ve all originated from a wireless phone somewhere in Miami. The recorded voice identifies themselves as a member of the Internal Revenue Services (sic) and instructs you to call a different number – although one still in a Miami area code.

So much like last year when I went through a similar exercise, this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

And so I called.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Does Your Firm Suffer From Meeting Overload?

For those of you who, like me, are loyal readers of the cartoon Dilbert, you’ll likely remember one of the great characters ever introduced in that classic strip – The Meeting Moth. The Meeting Moth could not pass a meeting in progress without flapping his wings in excitement and curiosity.

We all have worked with Meeting Moths, although hopefully, sans wings. I once worked for a company so ensconced in a meeting culture that they would actually have meetings to schedule a time for a meeting.

But it went even deeper than that.

One late Friday afternoon just as everyone was about to depart for the weekend, the CEO called an emergency meeting for 6 pm. Amidst a tidal wave of dissent, loud grumbling and language heard only within the confines of a locker room for the Teamsters, he stood up and actually said the following: “Folks, we’re not really having a meeting, we just wanted to see how fast we could gather everyone in case we had to call one.”

Thankfully for him, two of the larger employees successfully fended off several intended assaults. I reminisced (although not happily) about that day when I stumbled across some incredible statistics about the state of meetings in the U.S.

Friday, September 9, 2016

What Do They Really Want?

Last week I completed my annual pre-Labor Day pilgrimage to New England for a host of in-person visits to several client firms.

Thankfully I ended my journey on a Thursday, one day before the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-95 did their best impressions of parking lots with thousands of vacationers making their way to Cape Cod or other local beach destinations for the final weekend of summer.

Wasn’t it just Memorial Day? But I digress.

After exchanging the requisite pleasantries with each managing partner I asked them point blank about their pressing issues of the moment. Want to know what the unanimous answer was for all six practices?


Specifically, the secrets, if any, to hiring and retaining younger staff.

Since five out of the six MPs were Baby Boomers I took that specifically to mean “how do I hire these Millennials?”

Good question.