Monthly Archives: September 2009

Poor and Proud or Drunk and Dead?

Juxtapose this –

“Attempted and completed suicides take place at higher rates in rural communities, especially in areas that have more bars and taverns than other rural places, according to a new study. The numbers of suicides were highest among white men.” Source:

with this –

“Perhaps the biggest surprise in these rankings is that those working in farming, forestry, and fishing, despite being tied for the lowest average income in these 11 groups, take the fourth spot in overall well-being.” Source:

I don’t think there is a connection between the two, but it sure was strange to receive this info in back-to-back e-newsletters.

Forbes Best States for Business Reveals Mississippi’s Strengths and Weaknesses

The latest Forbes Best States for Business ranking is out.  Mississippi is in the Top 20 in 3 categories and the Bottom 5 in 3 categories.  The Magnolia State ranks 18th in Business Costs , 19th in Regulatory Environment  and 20th in Growth Prospects.  It ranks 49th in Labor, 46th in Economic Climate and 46th in Quality of Life.

The Labor ranking was a bit of mystery to me until I looked at the methodology and sources and discovered that the Labor category included educational attainment, net migration and projected population growth.  Quality of Life was based on schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rates.

The Top 5 states in the rankings were Virginia, Washington, Utah, Colorado and North Carolina in that order.

Is your community a mac or a pc? Vol. 3 of 3

Leadership programs are a great place to use the “Describe your community as if it was a person” exercise.   Most local leadership programs are run by a chamber of commerce, and most tend to try to balance the class based on the demographics of the community.

In my presentations to chamber leadership groups I use the exercise often, and have learned a lot over the years.  For example, several years ago I would randomly break out the main group into subgroups and then have them report their “person.”  Each group almost always saw their community in the same way.  Then I divided the main group based on gender.  Consequently, the way men saw their community and the way women saw their community had more variation.

A few years ago I took what I thought was a risk an broke out the groups into four subgroups: white males, non-white males, white females and non-white females.  It was fascinating to see that now there was significant variation in the way the subgroups described their “person.”  You can imagine the rich discussion that followed.

Is your community a mac or a pc? Vol. 2

Yesterday I discussed how communities and organizations are often seen as having human characteristics.  I also suggested an exercise for your staff meeting to discuss what your organization would look like as a person.

The primary reason for the exercise is to gauge how your employees perceive your organization.  It could also be used to determine how your customers or the community in general perceives your organization.  The point is not so much how your organization is perceived as it is whether different groups see the organization in the same way.  For example, let’s say that your organization had 30 offices.  Going through this exercise in every office would be valuable because it would reveal whether different offices see the organization in the same.  If one office describes the organization as an old lady, and another described it as a young man then clearly there is something going on.  In this case the exercise reveals that the organization apparently has an internal communication problem.  And that’s the punchline: this exercise is one way to measure your communication effectiveness.  If different offices or divisions perceive the company or organization differently, then that is valuable information to know.  Of course, if your organization is a clandestine spy agency you probably want each division to perceive the organization in a different way.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what happened when I divided a community leadership class into groups of white males, non-white males, white females and non-white females and then had them describe their community as a person.

NOTE:  My next column in the Mississippi Business Journal will contain more on this subject.  Until tomorrow – and Vol. 3.

Is your community a mac or a pc?

Don’t you just love those mac vesus pc commercials? Especially the mac ones that portray mac as a young, hip dude and pc as the suit-wearing, paunchy salesman? Regardless of which computer system is better it must be admitted that by assigning human images to a product an impression has been created about the product.

And so it is with communities. Cities and towns are often perceived as having human attributes. For example, would you say that Austin, Texas is young and hip or old and out-of-touch? How about Detroit? Or Miami? Or Atlanta?

There is an interesting exercise that I use in my strategic planning retreats that relates to this phenomenon. I assign breakout groups the task of describing their community or organizations as though it was a person. Usually I will ask them to come up with the following characteristics: age, race, gender, vacation preference, last book read, political views, type of vehicle driven and favorite restaurant. The results are always fascinating.

Want to have an interesting staff meeting this week? Have your employees describe your organizations as if it were a person. Use the above characteristics as a starting point.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what it means when the groups are conflicted over the image of the organization.

1959 Chevy Bel Air vs. 2009 Chevy Malibu – which one wins crash test?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a crash test of the above two vehicles.  Before reading the Wall Street Journal article – and seeing the video – think about which vehicle you would rather be in?  OK, I admit the 1959 model did not have seat belts and airbags.  But what about structural strength?  The results are rather interesting.

Related article in USA Today.

First-time homebuyers must close by December 1 to get tax credit

With the deadline quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded potential homebuyers they must complete their first-time home purchases before Dec. 1 to qualify for the special first-time homebuyer credit. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended the tax credit, which has provided a tax benefit to more than 1.4 million taxpayers so far.
The credit of up to $8,000 is generally available to homebuyers with qualifying income levels who have never owned a home or have not owned one in the past three years. The IRS has a new YouTube video and other resources that explain the credit in detail.

Retail clinics provide less costly treatment than physician offices or urgent care centers.

Got your attention with that headline, didn’t I?

I confess that I posted only part of a sentence that was the conclusion of a study.

The entire sentence reads, “Retail clinics provide less costly treatment than physician offices or urgent care centers for 3 common illnesses, with no apparent adverse effect on quality of care or delivery of preventive care.”  The three common illnesses referred to are ear infections, sore throats or urinary tract infections.

So what the study showed was that if you have one of those three medical issues the walk-in medical clinic at a retail store is as good as and costs less that the emergency room and urgent care center.  That’s pretty interesting stuff.  But you might have concluded that walk-in medical clinics run by retailers provide better care for ALL routine illnesses if you had read the lead paragraph about the study in the Washington Post article.  Here’s what it said:

Walk-in medical clinics run by CVS, Wal-Mart and other retailers provide care for routine illnesses that is as good as, and costs less than, similar care offered in doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers, according to a new Rand Corp. study. The cost savings over emergency rooms, in particular, was quite dramatic.

See the difference?
Anyway, the study is fascinating and deserves media attention because people need to know these things.  But the media should use caution when summarizing medical studies that are limitied in scope.

Here’s the link to the study abstract:

Rural America at a Glance

Each year the Economic Research Service publish a report on rural America. It’s called Rural America at a Glance and this year’s edition focuses on the recession.
No surprise there. Friday we learned that the recession has “plunged 2.6 million more Americans into poverty, wiped out the household income gains of an entire decade and pushed the number of people without health insurance up to 46.3 million,” according to the Washington Post. 
The green areas gained employment from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of this year. The red counties lost between 3.5% and 17.5% of their jobs in that year.

Are you addicted to e-mail?

Do you wake up in the middle of the night and check your e-mail messages?  Do you check e-mail first thing in the morning and last thing at night?  In short, are you addicted to e-mail? An article in the September edition of  the Harvard Business Review entitled, Death by Information Overload, mentions  a 2008 AOL survey of 4,000 e-mail users in the United States, 46% were “hooked” on e-mail. Nearly 60% of everyone surveyed checked e-mail in the bathroom, 15% checked it in church, and 11% had hidden the fact that they were checking it from a spouse or other family member. And it is no surprise that one of the best-selling books on personal organization is entitled, Never Check E-mail in the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work? Well, gotta and check my… you know.