Category Archives: General Comments

Using the Power of Story to Grow Your Business

August 13, 2015 – my Mississippi Business Journal column this week

The critical problem facing businesses today is communication. Using the story of your business is an excellent way to help solve the problem. Used properly and creatively, it will increase sales, motivate employees and improve your company’s image.

So what is story anyway? It seems there are many definitions and so-called ingredients. Aristotle said that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In his book Poetics he also said that the beginning is not necessarily the first event in a story. There should be an emotionally engaging event to begin the story. Today’s fiction writers are told that a good story should be about a likeable character facing an increasingly difficult series of setbacks who overcomes adversity and is changed in the end. Using those as backdrop thoughts let’s examine the possible elements of your business story.

Your story should include at a minimum a story about a character. Most likely it will be the founder of the company. Although you probably want only positive information out in public about your company, people love stories about people who have overcome adversity. So don’t be afraid to tell about some negative things that happened, whether they be mistaken decisions, family feuds or even bankruptcy.

Your character will be in the company of some well-known characters who have overcome adversity. For example, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and investor/panelist on Shark Tank, once worked as a short-order cook and a server in an upscale restaurant. He was deemed incompetent at both jobs because he could not decide if the food was done unless he tasted it first and at the high class restaurant he could never open wine bottles without getting cork in the wine. His net worth today is said to be over $2.5 billion. Harland David Sanders, aka “Colonel Sanders,” at age 65 had his restaurant go bankrupt when the state rerouted a major highway. He then used his first social security check, which was all the money he had, to start up Kentucky Fried Chicken. Walt Disney’s first animation studio went bankrupt and he was once fired from a newspaper job because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” That list goes on and on.

Your company story should also include the history of the company. Restaurants, in particular, that have been around for a long time have great stories. Viewing the history section of Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant in Biloxi (www.marymahoneys.com)or that of Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville (www.doeseatplace.com) makes one want to dine there just to check out the stories behind these famous restaurants. Check out the Community Bank story at http://www.communitybank.net/story. Another good example of the use of story can be found on the “About” section of the Mississippi Gift Company website (http://www.themississippigiftcompany.com).

Another element of a business story is the future. The story should not end with just the present. A good story is one that moves people to action. Invite your readers to become part of the future by patronizing your business.
Although the company website is certainly a great place to tell your story, it is not the only way. The below list offers several more ways that you can share your story.
1. Newspaper article – Stories written by reporters and that appear in newspapers provide an excellent way to showcase the story of your company. Newspaper articles also convey credibility because a third party has told the story.
2. Newspaper ad – Another way is to take out an advertisement in a newspaper to tell your story. The larger the ad and the more photos and images it contains, the better.
3. Magazine article – In today’s market there are more and more profile-type magazines that feature companies and individuals.
4. Twitter – One way to use Twitter to tell your story is to post a daily “tweet” that tells about something that happened on this day in your company’s history. At the end of the year you would have enough to publish an almanac.
5. Blog – Blogs offer more space that Twitter to publish items. Experts say that when using blogs there should be regular posts.
6. Facebook – More businesses are using Facebook instead of the company website to connect with their customers, and more customers are going to the business’s Facebook page to find out if the business is open, if there are any specials and to find the location/directions of the business.
7. Speeches – Face-to-audience communication is still a powerful way to share your company’s story. Civic clubs are often looking for guest speakers. Tell your story without making it a sales pitch. See above for ingredients of a good story.
8. Employees – Do your employees know your company’s story? They should because they will be telling others the story.
9. YouTube – This is an easy and effective way to tell your story. It can be linked on your website, Twitter post, Facebook page, etc. or it can be a standalone place on the Internet. You can also embed your YouTube story on your website.
Whichever method you use, consider telling your story. You will be glad you did.
» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on

Your choice of Mississippi craft beer headlines

August 12, 2015

Last week you had a choice of headlines about the Mississippi craft beer industry. There’s “Mississippi’s Golden Opportunity: Beer” headlining a column by Josh Mabus in the August 7, 2015 edition of the Mississippi Business Journal. If that one doesn’t suit you, then this one is courtesy of an article edited by James E. Ellis and Dimitra Kessenides in Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “Craft Beers Are Hot. Just Not in Mississippi.”

The headlines pretty much sum up the content in the respective articles.

Do gardeners live longer?

IMG_0009 My wife is out of town for a week so I am taking over her duties around the household, one of which is watering the plants and garden during this record-setting summer heat wave. Each morning I make certain that the bushes, shrubs and plants in the front and back yards receive their nourishment. I’m on the fourth day of doing this, and something just occurred to me: I am caring (emphasis added) for something else. It’s not just a duty, but I find myself really caring about how these flora are doing. And that’s what got me to thinking about the subject of caring. When people care for other things, be it another person, plants and bushes or pets and animals, it takes their minds off themselves and focuses it on something else.  Indeed, I suspect that it even prolongs their lives. That line of thought led to me wonder about gardeners. They take care of vegetation and a plot of ground, so might their life expectancy be greater than average? From a pure academic standpoint, I did not discover much more than anecdotal research. Nevertheless, what I found supports my thinking. One finding even concludes that gardeners live 14 years longer than the average person. This was reported on the Wellness Mama blog, which referenced National Geographic author Dan Buettner who is known for writing about “Blue Zones.” Here are the reasons that Katie, the Wellness Mama, says that contribute to gardeners living longer: 1.  They get enough vitamin D; 2.  They play in the dirt; 3. They are “grounded;” 4.  They get relief from stress; 5.  They eat vegetables; and 6.  They exercise. That’s a pretty good list. I would add only that gardeners care for something. What do you care for?

15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher

Just read an interesting article by Tisane Palmer on the Edutopia website. It’s entitled 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. I’m posting the main points. Check out the article link for comments by Palmer about each.

Below are 15 characteristics of a 21st-century teacher:

1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions

2. Students as Producers

3. Learn New Technologies

4. Go Global

5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones

6. Blog

7. Go Digital

8. Collaborate

9. Use Twitter Chat

10. Connect

11. Project-Based Learning

12. Build Your Positive Digital Footprint

13. Code

14. Innovate

15. Keep Learning

Click here for the full article.

 

Final Chapter – THE ALIBI

Phil Hardwick, longtime contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal has produced a serial novel (fiction). The plot revolves around the theft and quest for recovery of Brett Favre’s three MVP trophies that were on display at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Jack Boulder, Mississippi’s premier private investigator, seeks to recover the special Brett Favre MVP exhibit that has been stolen from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.

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Up until now Jack Boulder has searched for the trophies exhibit from Ocean Springs to West Point, finally recovering it in Quitman from a woman who had it stolen it to give to her husband as a gift. It was learned that the woman’s brother is Jerrold Jefferson, a powerful business owner with political pull and a crooked past. Just as Boulder returned to Jackson his car was run off the road and the exhibit taken from him.

 

Wednesday P.M.
March 4
Jackson, MS

Chapter 10

RESOLUTION

Shortly after 10:00 P.M. a Jackson Police Department patrol car arrived at the scene of a vehicle off the road at Pearl Street between Interstate 55 and downtown Jackson. The police officer observed a car with a broken out passenger window and a man behind the steering wheel who appeared to be crying. According to the officer’s report that was later filed, the man had been run off the road by another vehicle, there was no evidence of alcohol and the man managed to drive away in the car, it having sustained only minor damage.

Jack Boulder arrived at attorney Laura Webster’s downtown office shortly before 11:00 P.M. and recounted the events of the previous hour.

“I feel certain it was one of Jerrold Jefferson’s men who ran be off the road,” Boulder told her. “They now have the trophies exhibit and my cell phone. Let me have the keys to your car. I’m going to stake out Jefferson’s office.”

“I have another idea,” she replied, picking up her smartphone and tapping the screen.

“What are you doing?”

“When you got your cell phone we downloaded an app that would let me find you,” she said. “I did the same thing so that you could find me.” She studied her phone for a few seconds. “According to this, your phone is at the Old Capitol Museum.”

“Let’s go, smart lady,” he said.

They drove up Capitol Street to State Street, got out and begin searching the front lawn of the former statehouse. Nine minutes later they heard Boulder’s ringtone coming from a spot under a tree. Boulder picked up the device. The display read, “Unidentified Caller.” He answered the call.

“Mr. Boulder,” said a female voice. “I have what you’ve been looking for.”

“Who is this?” he asked.

“This is Ruth Ann Tucker, the alderman from Madison County, whom you visited on Monday. Someone left that trophy thing in my carport a little while ago.”

“Ms. Tucker, leave your house now,” Boulder said. “You’re being set up. Leave as fast as you can.”

Ruth Ann Tucker took the advice with haste. She picked up the trophies exhibit, went straight to her car and drove away. Three blocks later she passed two Canton police patrol cars headed in the direction. of her residence.

Thursday A.M.

Jack Boulder woke up at sunrise after four hours of sleep wondering about the outcome of last evening’s events. His calls to the alderman were not answered. He had talked with MBI Agent Sheila Burgess shortly before 1:00 a.m. and learned that the Canton Police Department had received an anonymous call stating that Ruth Ann Tucker was harboring stolen property, specifically the trophies exhibit, and that she was about to sell it to someone from out of state. The Canton P.D. responded immediately, but found no one at home or any evidence of stolen property.

He showered, dressed and made coffee. At 7:30 A.M. he received the call he had been waiting for. It was Ruth Ann Tucker.

“I believe I have what you are looking for,” she said. “Is there still a reward?”

“There is,” boulder replied.

“Meet me in the parking lot of the Sports Museum at eleven o’clock,” the alderman said. “I’ll turn it over to you personally.”

“I’ll be there,” he said. He described the car he would be driving and ended the conversation. He called Laura Webster immediately and told her what Ruth Ann Tucker had said.

“Now I need some legal advice,” he said. “Should I just pick up the item from her and return it or should I let everyone else involved know that I’m meeting her. After all, what if I meet her and she doesn’t have it with her?”

“You’ve been hired by the insurance company to recover stolen property. That company is your client,” she said. “On the other hand this sounds like another setup that may lead to your being charged with receiving stolen property. This Jerrold Jefferson fellow seems to have enough power to make that happen. His fingers are deep into state government, according to my partners here at the firm. Just to be on the safe side, I advise you to let everyone involved know about the meeting and ask them to wait inside the museum. And I’ll meet you there at ten till eleven.”

Boulder agreed, made the calls and parked in front of the museum at 10:45 A.M. halfway between the museum and Smith-Wills Stadium. It was a cold and sunny morning. He noticed eight cars from three different law enforcement agencies parked near the front door of the museum.

At 11:00 o’clock on the dot Alderman Ruth Ann Tucker arrived in her Camry. She motioned for Boulder to come sit in her passenger seat. As he did so he noticed a cardboard box on the back seat. It contained the trophies exhibit.

“As you can see, I have your item,” she said. “I’m going to give it to you, but first I want you to read this.”

She handed Boulder a newspaper. He read the front-page article, and then said, “Well, I’ll be damned. This explains most everything.”

She drove closer to the museum front door. Boulder retrieved the trophies exhibit from the back seat. The private investigator and the alderman walked inside to the main floor where the others were gathered in similar fashion to the original Monday morning briefing. Laura Webster walked in and joined the meeting. Boulder gave her a wink. Boulder walked to museum director Chad Montgomery and handed him the box.

“One behalf of your insurance company I am returning your property,” Boulder said. “I would also like to ask MBI Agent Sheila Burgess to read the article on this newspaper from the Birmingham News-Journal dated three years ago.” She accepted the newspaper and read from the article.

Mississippi Businessman Pleads Guilty in Alabama Federal Court to $10 Million Tax Scheme and Massive Fraud That Involved the Bribery of Bank Officials.

Jerrold Jefferson pleaded guilty today in to various tax crimes that caused more than $10 million in losses to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and a massive fraud that involved the bribery of bank officials, the fraudulent purchase of an insurance company, and the defrauding of insurance regulators. Jefferson was a businessman who controlled numerous entities located throughout Alabama and Mississippi. He controlled the companies and their finances, using them to orchestrate a $10 million fraud on the IRS as well as other illegal schemes. However, rather than exercise control of these companies openly, Jefferson concealed his control by installing other individuals to oversee the companies’ day-to-day functions and to serve as the companies’ owners, directors or officers.

She paused and said, “The article goes on to say that Jefferson will pay a fine and serve a suspended sentence pending his good behavior and making restitution. The article also says that the U.S. Attorney praised the investigative work of IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent Ruth Ann Tucker for her role in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”

All eyes turned toward the alderman.

“That would certainly explain why Jerrold Jefferson would want to get back at the agent who prosecuted him and cost him a lot of money,” Boulder said.

Chad Montgomery spoke up. “But why the museum? What’s his connection with this place?”

“This was all about an incredible case of coincidence and opportunity,” Boulder said. “Jefferson’s sister is Dee Dee Turnage, who is married to George Turnage, who has one of the best sports trophy collections in the country. When George heard that the sports museum in Mississippi might have a trophy or trophies awarded to Brett Favre he casually mentioned to his wife that the exhibit would be worth stealing. He didn’t really mean it, but Dee Dee was desperate to do something to save what she believed was a crumbling marriage. She happened to mention it to her brother, Jerrold Jefferson, whose company, Caliber Alarm, happened to be updating the alarm system at the museum. Jefferson saw an opportunity to show off to his sister and to frame the former IRS agent who convicted him.”

“What about the video that showed the license plate of the car used in the theft?” someone asked.

“With Jefferson’s resources I suspect it would be easy to make a forgery of a car tag,” Boulder said. “Also, Jefferson likes to use others without them knowing it is himself, witness the IRS case. That’s why there was such an elaborate exchange of the exhibit on the night of the theft.”

“I can add more to this.” It was Captain Larry Lewis, Jackson Police Department. “We have apprehended the alarm worker who hasn’t shown up for work. He says that he is ready to give a statement about his involvement, but he wants a lawyer first. My guess is that he will admit to being hired to do the theft. He’s having trouble explaining a five thousand dollar bank deposit on Tuesday.”

At 1:30 P.M. Jack Boulder and Laura Webster could be found sharing a late lunch at a table by the window at their favorite Jackson restaurant. Each had a glass of red wine in front of them.

“Congratulations,” Laura said. “Solved a rather complicated case, recovered the stolen item and will receive quite a nice income from it. How much was it? A hundred grand?”

“I got lucky,” Boulder said. “And I certainly did not believe it could be done in seven days. And besides, I’ve got quite a few expenses. There is this law firm that ran the 800-number hotline that will also receive a nice income, plus a bonus. And then there are income taxes.”

“You’ll need some deductions on your taxes this year,” she said.

“I already have one in mind,” he said.

“What’s that?”

“I never knew much about the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum until this case,” he said. “It does some rather important work and needs to keep growing.”

“Do I hear a contribution?” she said.

“Yes,” he replied. “And it will be a nice one at that.”

And with that, their wine glasses clinked in a mutual silent toast.

THE END

 

AUTHOR’S COMMENTS – This serial novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.  There was no break-in at the museum. There is no trophies exhibit. The author encourages your support of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and congratulates Brett Favre and the other inductees into the 2015 Class. Go to www.msfame.com for more information.

More info on how Mississippi voted for state flag in 2001

The following is republished by permission from Jere Nash, co-author of Mississippi Politics. The last sentence adds insight to the fact that a majority of Mississippians voted to keep the current state flag.

 

As debate continues about what to do with the Mississippi Flag, I wanted to highlight some of the information Andy and I included in our 2006 book about the April 17, 2001 special flag election. More Mississippians went to the polls that day than voted in the 1999 governor’s election. The 1894 flag prevailed over the alternative new flag by 494,323 votes to 273,359. Of the 1,311 majority white precincts in the state at the time, only 43 supported the new flag. Of those precincts, eighteen were in the Jackson metro area and twelve were in university towns. According to the 2000 Census there were 43 precincts with no African American residents, and the margin in those precincts in favor of the 1894 Flag was 5,887 to 221, or 96.4 percent. In the 408 precincts which had 50 or fewer African Americans, the margin in favor of the 1894 Flag was 89,112 to 8,014, or 91.8 percent. Only two precincts at the time had no white residents. The margin in favor of the new flag in those two precincts was 421 to 5, or 98.8 percent. In the 94 precincts with 50 or fewer white residents, the margin in favor of the new flag was 23,098 to 1,115, or 95.4 percent. Our analysis of all the precincts showed that 90 percent of white voters supported the 1894 flag and 95 percent of black voters supported the new flag design.

The Eight Essentials of Innovation – McKinsey & Company

June 26, 2015

McKinsey & Company’s current quarterly issue contains an excellent article entitled The Eight Essentials of Innovation. As a strategic planning facilitator I find that asking the questions associated with each essential to be a useful tool to discuss with my clients as they go through the strategic planning process. It is tempting to think these items may not apply to nonprofits or government agencies because it is presumed that these organizations have no competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every organization is a candidate for replacement if they are not efficient and customer focused. I’ve found that asking the questions associated with these essentials to be very useful for schools that I work with. Think schools have no competition? Better think charter schools, home schooling, etc. The same applies to post-secondary schools. Anyway, here are the eight essentials:

1.  Aspire
2.  Choose
3.  Discover
4.  Evolve
5.  Accelerate
6.  Scale
7.  Extend
8.  Mobilize

Now check out the article.