Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Goodbye US Post Office

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hey! Whose Money Is It Anyway?

I finally got to reading some of my paper mail. My bank, a local CT-based bank, where I have kept my business account for almost 10 years, has decided to charge me $9.95 a month for keeping an average balance below $2500.00.

What? Huh?

I banked with them in the first place because they offered free business banking.

I was trained as a banker so I understand this industry and I certainly don't believe in paying for a checking account: it's MY money, not theirs, so why pay the bank for using my money?

And a hit of $9.95 a month? for balances under $2500.00?

I don't know about you, but it's my deliberate intent to wisely use my company's money and not leave it idle in the bank. I pay myself for all this hard work!

So I called to protest. No sympathy, as you would expect, from the automatons at the toll-free number. They'll notify management. Ho hum.

I called my usual branch manager. He left the bank a few months ago. Besides, I was told, my account has been moved to another branch because a few times I went to make a deposit there on my way to the highway. It's clear across town; my usual, and now former, branch is 1 mile away.

So I need to call the manager there, who won't know me, so I didn't waste my time or his/hers to call. Anyway, why did they take the unilateral decision to move MY account without any notice?

Ok, as you can tell I wasn't happy.

So this afternoon I made an appointment to go to the local branch of another CT-based bank and opened a free checking account with a delightful banking representative named Wadie. I get all the services, and more, that I am used to.

He assured me that I will never pay a monthly service fee for business checking. I guess I will have to believe him. He is now my personal banker.

$44.00 later for the 250 paper checks I had to order online, I am satisfied. (Yes, every so often an e-payments guy like me needs a paper check!)

1) Read your mail carefully for little notices that are BIG changes.
2) Bank where you feel welcome.
3) You don't have to pay ransom for your money in a business checking account!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Man of the People

Once in a while, and quite rarely, you attend a presentation and you really GET what the speaker is conveying. He/she speaks to you on a higher level, creating that “Vulcan mind meld” that only Mr. Spock could manage, it was so true and strong.

I felt that message from David Volkman, (whose last name appropriately translates to “man of the people”). I heard him speak this past winter and I imagine I appeared to him to be a bobble-headed doll in the rear window of a car--my head kept nodding up and down in agreement with what he was saying. I am pleased to say he is now a good friend, colleague and trusted referral source.

David is an articulate, humble, honest individual; his primary business role is a financial advisor, but his self-appointed duty is show others how to engage in smarter, more effective networking, what he calls ROIT, as any financial maven would look at it as: return on invested time spent networking.

I recently interviewed him for 40 minutes, which you can listen to by clicking here and you’ll hear him speak glowingly of his simple, yet unique thoughts on creating an effective network, one in which your helping someone, who needs your assistance, becomes so strong a feeling that they voluntarily offer to help you back as a way of saying thank you.

The gist of his message: Imagine if an incremental sliver of the business world operated this way….then some would get on board to help others, the infection would spread. It’s a 180 degree reversal of what chambers of commerce, leads groups and speed networking meetups are teaching.

Start a relationship, ask in person to get involved in what that person’s business needs really are, then offer to satisfy their need by voluntarily introducing a person that you already know well to help them. They can do the same for you or someone else.

Brilliant, right? Networking to David is a cerebral activity, one in which we have to consciously remember to thank and return the favor. That takes extra brain cells.

Life Lessons
Self-made business entrepreneur in high school, the funds from the sale of the business he started in high school were used to put himself through college. David learned from his mother and grandmother some of the life lessons that became his philosophy: help others when you have the opportunity while you take care of your own family.

Fast forward…he was stopped by a rabbi after giving a presentation this spring for Harvard Business School to a combined overflow audience of 9300 people (as he says: “suddenly I became a rock star”) and reminded that his message at its most boiled-down essence is Talmudic: help out someone else without any expectation of receiving anything in return.
David’s message contains 3 core elements:
1. Do something nice for someone else. Add a nice smile (he has that!), charisma, engage someone in a way they were not expecting. This gets a memorable response.
2. Do something that makes you feel good in the process. That leads to a more honest and open conversation about who you know that can help them. They feel your sincerity and you come across that way as a volunteer of your trusted resources
3. Ultimately something that will be good for your business will result. They will remember you for your help and either offer to help you sometime or you can ask them.
Now do it again.

Working the room
David’s tactic of entering a room full of people he doesn’t know is to stand back a while and watch the body language: arms crossed in front, hand gestures, eyes trolling the room for the next prey. Identify only a few people whose stance, eyes and conversational abilities point to their being interesting and engaging. If he is asked for his card, he gives it; if not, he moves on. He’ll only spend time with the ones who appear experienced in powerful networking, likes attract. A good night is one in which he hands out 3 cards. Smart operating on his part: the rest of the people will never commit to more cerebral networking anyway so it ruins the ROIT.

Strategic Friends vs True Friends
Quoting him from the interview: “It’s the relationships that you have with your friends that add richness to your life. If you have the opportunity to help them-to truly help them-that’s where you’ll find your relationship catapults to a whole other level.” These true friends will always rally to your side vs. strategic friends who may not be reliable.

“If you can systematically do something where you put yourself in a position, or at least have a chance to do something like that {truly helping someone}, then the most amazing referrals will happen…What if you systematically did this? Suddenly you are not networking where it’s work…it’s now fun. You don’t want to stop doing that-it’s a way of life.” Pay it forward.

Elevator pitch: a wrap

Elevator speeches are just boring and too long. David’s wraps up who he is:
“I am an independent financial advisor. I help people organize their finances to help them get to a better place.”

I know David has helped me reevaluate my brand equity and connection assets to get to a better place. His sincerity and humility are admirable. His passion is infectious.

My suggestion for some time well-spent: listen, really listen, to the interview. Read more about him.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Knowing what you don't know: a followup posting to my latest one

In my last installment to this blog I mentioned people who don't know what they don't know.

Once in a while I am fortunate enough to run into someone who says, "I need help with online donations and don't know where to start. Can you help?"

I was asked for help after I completed a presentation at a conference in May and yesterday visited with the Finance Committee of the Board to explain all that they needed to know about online donations. I brought an esteemed colleague who is an expert in an affiliated area in which they needed assistance as well. A dynamic duo!

The potential client was warm, honest, engaged and curious.

They admitted they needed to know. It was a pleasure to educate and inform rather than hear skepticism and misunderstood concepts perceived as fact. They were invigorating!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Don't know "squared"

Don't know "squared." (If I could figure out how to make the superscript 2 on this, I would have!) That means someone who doesn't know what he/she doesn't know.

Now that the definition is out in the open, why bother blogging on this topic?
Because many people think it's perfectly acceptable to proclaim they know it ALL. And they try it all, sometimes not so successfully. Or at least they don't know how unsuccessful they have been until an expert lends a hand.

I certainly don't know it all. I don't perform dentistry on myself. Nor do I think I can figure out how to bury all the gremlins and demons that I encounter in my business and personal life. But I know enough to ask for expert advice from seasoned experts. I might have to pay for it. Paying a fair price for continual service and attention is part of what I expect to have to do.

Put another way, I am as good as my vendors so I keep great company. I choose who to represent. clients get more than just plain service. They get 110% of me. Good service is already hard to find today. Great service is rarer.

For those who don't know what you don't know, I suggest you ask for, and try to get, experts with a little gray hair. Experience and expertise go hand-in-hand.

I can recommend a bunch of great experts. Just ask me if you need a referral to a great service provider in whatever area you need help.

Monday, April 5, 2010

PayPal wants your checking account PIN

For shame! The invisible folks at PayPal now think that in order to verify your credit card payment/donation on a PayPal page, you should voluntarily give them your checking account number and personal ID number (PIN) to assure them you will pay.

I am not the only one taking exception to this.

The New York Times ran an article in the Sunday Business section on March 26th. They think it's foolhardy too.

Why would anyone ever give more personal information that is absolutely needed?

The combination of your street address, zip code (called Address Verification in the e-payments business,) coupled with the CVV (3- or 4-digit code on the back of Visa/MasterCard/Discover cards and front right corner of American Express cards, respectively) is plenty of identification in almost all cases, in my opinion.

The real effect of asking all this information PLUS your checking account number and PIN, is to drive e-tail purchasers and online donors, away from PayPal payment pages. While this appears to hurt ecommerce and online donations, to quote Martha Stewart, that's "a good thing!" for you. Really.

PayPal is expensive, allows no customization and lacks efficient client service (according to my clients). I have lots of other reasons too, acquired from former PayPal clients.

Now they want your personal ID number and checking account number! C'mon...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eulogy for my father

I am breaking my own rules by posting a personal matter on my blog. The blog is supposed to deal with smarter ways to get paid. But I wanted to record this for cyber-posterity so here goes. This is the eulogy I delivered on Monday at my father's funeral.

I wrote a eulogy in my head while driving down from Connecticut on Friday evening. It was a gush of random memories about growing up in Richmond and my father’s life, all played out in my mind like a collage on a mental screen. But putting it to words was harder.

When he died on Saturday afternoon I went back to his house and noticed a book on a bookshelf: Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.” On the back of the paper cover there’s a quote:

“They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America—men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today.”

I foolishly looked for his name in the index. No mention.

So, with apologies to Tom Brokaw, here’s another brief chapter for the book in memory of my father.

Born in September 1923, to immigrant parents in New York City, and named after Oscar Wilde, , my father spent his high school years in the Big Band Era and was self-remembered best as a trombone playing kid with bow legs and wide spaces between his front top teeth.

In World War 2 he was shipped (literally) to Morotai in the South Pacific, and his service was not a romantic one like the Broadway play nor a courageous one like the TV series currently showing. He was an anti-aircraft gunner with a few hits under his belt, but his favorite story was being on sentry duty and hearing a rustle in the jungle, commanded in his best Japanese, “Stop!” to be ignored and have no recourse but to toss a grenade to kill the intruder. The next morning, the non-Japanese speaking wild boar was his first enemy ground casualty. Halperts are not especially warriors.

He returned to New York, looking for work and found a restaurant equipment sales position in Richmond, Virginia, of all places, in a period of racial segregation and post war economic opportunity. My parents were married in 1952. My mother followed him to Richmond (a culture shock for her) and soon reached that all-important milestone for first generation Americans raised in the city, bought a house on Mark Lawn Drive. We outgrew that house when Stuart came and moved to the classic 1960s split level in a suburban neighborhood on Kalb Road. My parents raised us as best they could always seeking better for their boys. Halperts were no longer apartment-dwellers.

He established a fledgling home business on the weekends and evenings, growing to a significant manufacturer of products no one else produced with the same quality. He brought my mother, Neil and Stuart into the business and named it Marston, an acronym of all our names. Halperts were now entrepreneurs.

In quickly ensuing years, the boys, and their children, all grew up. He was always most interested to hear of our successes and our children’s advancements, all the time he tried to keep up with Jewish events and Israeli news from his AOL account, he read cultural updates from the New Yorker, and produced the not-quite-ready-for-the-Pulitzer Prize 5100 Men’s Club newsletter until about 18 months ago.

Challenged by skin cancer and heart disease, he dodged the bullet more than most and healed. My mother’s pancreatic cancer and death in 1998 was difficult for him but he bounced back. He had to learn to do the laundry, shop for groceries and run a household, all truly alien to the archetypal 1950’s father.

Sarah finished with college, Mindy is finishing college, Dan and Adam are in college, Marissa is starting in the fall and Eric is soon to get ready to start the search. Halperts are on the move.

Another stroke 18 months ago threatened to stop him, but temporarily, and his greatest lament was that he had to use a walker as an 86-year old. I always reminded on our weekly phone call: 1) I want to reach 86; 2) I want to be able to stand at 86; 3) if I use a walker, that’s ok too. He never seemed to agree with me on the last point.

His physical therapy was counteracted by his fear of falling and he always needed that walker. He made an amazing rebound he made in 18 months. The final stroke this past Friday still had him reminding the staff at Beth Sholom Gardens and the ER to cancel a doctor’s appointment.

So back to Brokaw’s quote:
• duty: in the Army to his country and to his loved ones;
• honor: to manufacture the best product and do the best he could for his family;
• achievement: he took pride in his accomplishments and those of his family; and
• courage: as he had to fight his and my mother’s illnesses.

Another member of the Greatest Generation is gone.

And yet he was an eternally optimistic, intellectually curious without any formal higher education and to the end a headstrong Hungarian.

My brothers and I all thank you for celebrating his memory today.