Archives for December 2006

Greetings from Tokyo

Greetings from Tokyo!  My wife and I are fortunate in that we are able to continue a New Years' tradition.  We enjoy celebrating the New Year in a different world capital.  In prior years we have been in London and Paris.  It is fun.  And nice to get a different perspective on how people celebrate the ringing out of the old and ring in the new year.

For me, it is especially symbolic this year.  I closed one chapter in my career at the end of June and launched my consulting practice – The Company Rocks on July 1.  It has been a lot of work trying to get established – but so rewarding.  I thank all of my friends and family who have offered continuous support and encouragement.  It is hard to imagine how I could have done this alone!

Today, my wife and I are getting up early to go out to the Tokyo Fish Market – it opens at 4:40 A.M.  We want to see the auction and the action – and all of those great big Tunas!  And then we will look for a local Sushi House to get a bite of the freshest fish that we can find.  It should be a fun day!

We wish you a very peaceful and prosperous 2007! 

DR Pictures 162_edited.jpg

Danny in Tokyo

I posted a new photo to Photos.

Chicago – One Year Later

I am in Chicago this week for the 60th Annual Midwest Clinic – An International Band and Orchestra Conference.  The weather is great – bright and sunny.  Seeing so many of my old friends and colleagues – priceless!

Last year, at this conference, I was really starting to solidify my plan for a change in career.  I had been working for companies in the music products industry for 29 years, and now it was the time for me to work for myself.  There were so many things that I wanted to accomplish – and I realized that I would have to “go out on my own” in order to do so.  This was not an easy decision for me.  I needed to build up the courage to follow my convictions and launch my own consulting practice.

But I really wondered, “Will this be the last time I attend The Midwest Clinic?”  Will this be the last time I see so many of my good friends?  What about those traditions?  Gosh, I've attended this conference every December for the 22 years  – will this be my last one?

Well, I am happy to report that it is already “Old Home Week” here in Chicago!  As soon as I walked through the front door at the Chicago Hilton and Towers I ran into 3 long-time colleagues.  As usual, it took me 25 minutes to get to the elevators – just saying hello to all the people that I know, love and respect – just like the last 22 years!

Fortunately, I have a legitimate reason to be at the conference this year.  The American Music Conference (AMC) is holding our Executive Committee Meeting here during the conference.  And my schedule is quite full with appointments.  But, reflecting back to December 2005…

It is so much better to be moving towards a new goal than it is to be moving away from the past.  I was making that change- in my mind – at this time last year.  Here in Chicago.  It was painful.  Leaving my past behind… leaving all of that security behind… wondering, worrying… But then it started to change.  My vision for what I could accomplish started to become clearer.  I was walking towards a new goal.  I was ready to close one chapter in my career and turn the page to start the next one.

I am going to relish my time here this week.  I'm going to take extra time to “be present” when I chat with my colleagues.  I am going to take time to reflect on each of the traditions associated with The Midwest.  I'm going to making more plans for the future.  I'm going to be setting some new goals.  I'm going to savor each moment.  I know why I belong to this association.  I welcome the strength that I gain from my associates.  I am glad that I made my career change.  It has been a very good year!



A Successful Life

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

– Albert Schweitzer

Yes, you will! 

If you don't believe me just consider the life of Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records (in 1947) who passed away this week.

As I read Ahmet's obituary in the New York Times, I was struck by this anecdote:

In 1944, the year his father (the dean of the diplomatic corps in Washington, D.C.) died, Ahmet was 21 years old and taking graduate courses in medieval philosophy.  As he told the graduates of Berklee College of Music in 1991:

“In between courses I spent hours in a rhythm & blues record shop in the black ghetto in Washington.  Almost every night, I went to the Howard Theater and to various jazz and blues clubs.  I had to decide whether I would go into a scholastic life or go back to Turkey in the diplomatic service, or do something else.  What I really loved was music, jazz, blues, and hanging out.”

And that's what he did.  He did what he loved to do.  And his 83-years on this earth are a testament to that.

If we love what we do, we will acquire whatever skills it takes for us to be successful.  I have seen so many people during my lifetime who were talented and skilled at what they did – but they weren't doing something that they really loved – the passion just wasn't there for them.  And… they never achieved success until that found their passion.

We can thank Ahmet Ertegun for following his love, engaging his passions and becoming extremely successful – by helping so many musicians to find success.  He resisted the desires of others to make him follow a different career path – theirs.  If he had not followed his love, it would have been much harder for Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and John Coltrane to find a broader audience.

Find what you absolutely love to do.  Then it will not matter how hard you have to work while doing it.  You will be happy.  You will be successful!


The Stand-up Standard

I advise my clients to increase the actual number of meetings that they hold each month.  Yes more meetings!  But only if you implement a strategy for holding many different types of meetings.  One of my favorite types of meetings is a 10-minute “stand-up” reporting meeting.

Some people call this their daily “huddle.”  Regardless of what you call it, here's how to make it successful:

The purpose of this meeting is to keep all members of your team (executives or departmental) on the “same page” for that day or that week.

Each team member reports on what they are doing / have done towards reaching a common team goal.

Everyone stands up for the meeting.  There is a strict time limit enforced – no one is allowed to ramble-on or pontificate.

This meeting is held at the same time each day / week regardless of how many team members are physically present.  Some team members may submit their report ahead of time to be read; other team members may participate via teleconference.

No one is allowed to stay off topic!  If an urgent topic emerges from this “heads-up” meeting do not discuss it it this meeting.  Convene another meeting (starting in 5 minutes if necessary) to address this crisis.  And bring in the necessary people and materials you will need to deal with this crisis.

In order to have effective meetings at work you must take a strategic approach to scheduling and preparing for tour meetings.  If there is no purpose for the meeting… don't hold the meeting!  If there is a purpose, what type of meeting will best serve your purpose.  Should the meeting be strategic?  Or a brain-storming meeting?  Will you need to reach a decision at the meeting?  If so, what approach will you take?  Consensus, majority vote?

I think that you see the point.  I also think that you might start to agree that your company needs to hold more meetings (while decreasing overall employee hours spent in meetings) to become more productive and profitable.

As I have said in prior posts on this subject a good place to start to get reliable tips on improving your meetings is at the Effective Meetings website.  There are also several very good books on this subject.  I will write my reviews on several of them in the weeks and months to come.

Meanwhile, if you have a favorite tip or book to share with our readers please do so.  Add your comment to this post.  It's easy to do and our readers will benefit from your participation.

Start Your Meetings On Time

As I prepared my materials to train some clients to run more effective meetings I came across some very interesting tips.  Here is one that I would like to share with you:

Schedule your meeting to start at an unusual time – e.g. 10:07 A.M.  How many 10:00AM meetings ever really start on time anyway?  Very few.  So, if the reality is that your meetings start 6 or 7 minutes after the scheduled time, there is usually a reason:

The previous meeting ended at 10:00AM and people have to stop for a break prior to the start of the scheduled 10:00AM meeting.

Every meeting is scheduled to start on the hour or the half-hour and no meeting ever starts on-time.  So, make YOUR meeting stand out… and start on-time!

If you want your meetings to start (and end) on-time you have to impose discipline – and show your colleagues that your meeting is real business!  Trust me on this – if you are firm in starting your meeting on-time, people will quickly get the message.

Instead of just closing the door and starting the meeting.  I suggest that you take it one step further:

Stand next to the door with your back to the door to prevent the stragglers from entering.  You might even place your hand on the door knob to prevent them from entering.  That sends a signal!

Or… you could take a cue from the “theater” or a “Concert Hall” and place a sign on the meeting door:  “Meeting in progress.  Latecomers will be seated at the first break in order to not disturb the meeting.”

Try one of these tips.  And let our readers know how they worked for you.  If you want to learn more about running an effective meeting check out the Effective Meetings website.  Great articles, and even a free newsletter!

Boring Meetings

I've been doing some corporate training sessions recently on “How to Make Your Meetings More Effective.”  Clients have been asking me to help them to get more participation out of meeting participants. 

Well, the first place to start is to make sure that you've invited the right staff members to the appropriate meeting.  The days of “One Meeting Fits All Needs” are gone.  Unfortunately, far too many companies still continue to hold meetings using this outdated model.  Frankly, it makes no sense to invite 25 people to an hour-long meeting when only the first 15 minutes are “reporting” or “heads-up” and the remaining 45 minutes have a completely different purpose and process and only involve 10 of the original 25 members.

The energy level of the room drops considerably.  The 15 non-participants are bored and become demoralized.  The 10 people involved in the discussion are not able to speak with the freedom and candor necessary because of the composition of the meeting.  And all of this is easily remedied!

Many companies are quite concerned that there are too many meetings taking place.  I propose that too many of the “wrong meetings” are taking place because they involve the “wrong” participants.  With proper training and planning a company could easily double the actual number of meetings held each month while achieving at least a 10% drop in meeting man-hours each month.  Morale would improve.  Productivity would increase.  And certainly, participation would improve.  Just be sure to match the right members to the right meetings.  It can be done – just ask me how!

Please share some of your meeting “horror stories” or tips for improving meetings with our readers.

You can also do yourself a big favor – sign up to receive a free newsletter from Effective Meetings.  Their website is a wonderful resource center of articles, tools and tips for improving your meetings.  Check it out!



Put a Pig in Your Window

Reorganize your workspace – you might be surprised by what you find!

I was working with my assistant the other day to shred, file and generally reorganize my home office.  In one of the stacks of books I re-discovered Jane Applegate's “201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business.”  It rekindled a lot of memories.

Back in 1998 I was looking for a “hook” to use in a presentation that I was going to give to the Retail Print Music Dealer's Association convention in Nashville, TN.  I was taking a break and reading the business section of the Los Angeles Times when I say a column with the intriguing title – “Put a Pig in Your Window.”  That certainly caught my attention!

It was in Jane Applegate's weekly column for Small Businesses.  I was familiar with her because, at that time, she also had a syndicated segment on the CBS Radio Network and I would listen to her advice on the drive into work in the morning.  Great, sensible ideas for any small business owner – and that was the target audience I was to present to in Nashville.  The crux of the advice in the “Pig in your window” piece came from retail guru Peter Glen who insisted “that small retailers will not just survive, but flourish, if they set themselves apart from the competition.” 

Great advice in 1998 and even more to the point as we enter 2007!

Among the gems of advice that Peter Glen shared in that particular column:

“Create 'cheap miracles' to attract shoppers.”  How about spending $40 to tie a big ribbon around your store!

Put a bull in your china shop – or a pig in your window!  Get potential customers to stop and notice your store.  Get them excited and talking about what makes your store stand out from the crowd.

Make it clear what your store sells or the exact services that you deliver. 

“Retailing is a terrible job – nobody is in it for the hours or the money.  Concentrate on what you do best and go in that direction – furiously!”

Fortunately, Jane Applegate collected 201 of her columns into a published collection.  It is divided into sections on:

Management Strategies; Money Matters; Marketing Strategies; Developing and Launching Products; People; Time Management and Technology & Telecommunications.

There is now a second edition available with updated advice.  I'll eventually purchase the new edition, but for now I am keeping my 1998 “classic” edition close at hand.  The advice is timeless – and if scanning it gives me one good idea for my next presentation – it is priceless!


Community Music

I was delighted by an article in the Sunday New York Times written by Anthony Tommasini.  The title, “Looking for Citizens for a Few Good Orchestras,” certainly did not grab me.  But the article and the concept behind it did!

Starting January 7,2007 a new program called the Academy will be run by both the Julliard School and Carnegie Hall.  The Academy is a performance and education initiative for postgraduate musicians.  Initially, 16 musicians will receive a wonderful opportunity to perform (at Carnegie Hall) study (at Julliard) and teach (1 1/2 days a week with the NY City Department of Education.)

The goal is to place these 16 talented performers in the public schools to inspire and engage the students; to work closely with classroom music teachers; and to become a presence in the community.

Clive Gillinson, the Executive Director of Carnegie Hall implemented a similar program while he was the managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra.  He has high hopes that the Academy will light a spark of engagement between traditional performance groups, students and the community.  He envisions the possibility that the public school system will create adjunct positions that would enable more professional musicians to work alongside school band, orchestra and choral directors.

Today, most “Arts Enrichment” or “Community Outreach” programs offer little more than a “drive through” experience.  A few performers show up at the public school or community center; perform a few pieces; talk to to audience and then quickly depart.  For some students this is their only exposure to the arts.  Few students – and even fewer professional musicians – gain much from this type of program.

The Academy – and other similar programs – aim to change this dramatically!  Because the performers will return to each school on a regular basis, they will have the opportunity to make a bigger impact on the students.  In turn, I suspect that the students – and their teachers – will make a major impact on the professional musicians.  Some students may get the opportunity to dream of a world that was previously unknown or unavailable to them.  For some of the musicians, this opportunity will spark a desire to devote more of their time and attention to building community involvement and developing future audiences for their craft.

I applaud this program and hope that it succeeds and inspires other conservatories and concert venues to embark on a similar course.