Tag Archives: phil hardwick


November 12, 2015

My latest column as printed in the Mississippi Business Journal


They come in all sizes and shapes and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Almost all of them are serving in their posts in a part-time capacity. Many, if not most, have had little training in the fundamentals and nuances of economic development. They are the mayors of small towns in Mississippi and other states across America.

In spite of their lack of formal preparation for the duties of their offices there are quite a few opportunities and resources to them once they take their oaths. The Mississippi Municipal League offers a wide variety of training options and resource materials. Universities, community colleges, state agencies and nonprofit organizations are available for technical assistance and advice.

The following is a basic economic development primer for mayors of small towns. It is actually an outline. Each of these 26 topics are themselves worthy of full-blown seminars. The purpose here is to give the reader a taste of what its like to deal with some of the subjects that small town mayors encounter on a regular basis. Note that it is presented in second person.

A is for Asset-based economic development. Identify the assets in your community that you can capitalize on.

B is for Plan B. The best leaders are the ones who can manage Plan B. Although planning is important, things do not always go as planned.

C is for CDBG, the Community Development Block Grant program.

D is for Decisions, which tend to be data-driven or values-driven.

E is for Economy. What drives your town’s economy?

F is for Followers. You are the leader; who’s following you – and what do they want?

G is for Goals, the mileposts along the highway to achieving the vision. Goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

H is for Heroes. Who is going to step forward when you need it the most?

I is for Incentives. Economic development prospects are driven by location, workforce and incentives.

J is for Jobs. Economic development is the process of increasing the wealth in your town through creation, recruitment and retention of jobs.

K is for Keystone, the central, topmost stone of an arch (an essential part).

L is for Legacy. A lifetime of achievement is often reduced to one incident or program. What will be your legacy?

M is for Meetings, especially productive meetings – with your board, with citizens, with developers and with prospects. The importance of the agenda.

N is for Numbers, or measurements, that will quantify your town’s progress. Data should be determined early in your administration and tracked on a regular basis.

O is for Observation. Stop looking for the answers you expect to find. As Yogi Berra said, “You can learn a lot by watching.”

P is for People, or demographics. Know and understand your people.

Q is for Quality. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

R is for Responsibility. Most strategic plans fail because there is no accountability or responsibility. Hold people accountable.

S is for Story. What is your town’s story, and how can you capitalize on it?

T is for Taxes, especially tax incentives.

U is for Unique. What makes your town unique?

V is for Vision – your vision and your town’s vision.

W is for World View. How does globalization affect your town?

X is for X-Ray. Have some outside expert look “into” you town.

Y is for Youth, the future of your town. What do they think about the future? Do you have a Mayor’s Youth Council?

Z is for Zeal, the synonym for passion. One big difference in towns that succeed and those that do not is passionate leadership.


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 the web at http://www.philhardwick.com.

The most important clause in a real estate contract.

October 15, 2015

The typical real estate contract has tens, sometimes dozens, of clauses. Each is important, but there is one clause that is generally considered the most important clause in a real estate contract, and in all contracts for that matter.
If you had to guess, which of the following would you say is the most important clause in a real estate contract:

a. the price to be paid
b. the amount of earnest money
c. the legal description of the property
d. the remedies for breach of the contract

The most correct answer is “d,” the clause that provides the remedies for breach of the contract. Simply put, the remedies for breach clause is the one that states what happens if one of the parties defaults on the contract. Although it is true that if there were no description of the property or the price to be paid there would not even be a contract because there would not be a meeting of the minds, and therefore no contract. However, the question as stated assumes that there is already a contract.

For example, most residential real estate contracts have a clause stating that the buyer has deposited a sum of money known as earnest money with the real estate broker. Earnest money is often called “good faith” money because it shows that the buyer is serious about going through with the transaction and that he or she has something to lose if they back out of the contract. Because most residential real estate purchases are financed there is usually a contingency clause that states that if the buyer is not able to obtain financing at a certain rate by a certain date then the contract is void and the earnest money will be refunded. But what if the buyer simply backs out of the transaction and states, “I’m not going through with this deal?” That’s when the remedies for breach kick in. The clause may state that the party can go to court and sue for damages, pay a certain amount for damages, etc.

Let us move to other types of contracts. One of the more common remedies for breach clauses in business contracts nowadays states that in the event of a dispute the parties will arbitrate the matter instead of going to court. For example, a certain telecommunications company has this clause in its contract with users, “You agree that, by entering into this Agreement, you and (the company) are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.” This type clause is getting a lot of attention these days because some consumer advocacy organizations are challenging arbitration clauses.
Many Democrats in Congress are urging the federal agency that regulates consumer finance to ban mandatory arbitration clauses altogether. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) study arbitration agreements and provide a report to Congress of its findings. The report was submitted to Congress in March 2015. It is 728 pages in length, and can be found on the CFPB website. It mostly applies to banks, credit card companies and other types of lenders.

In today’s Internet and digital world there is a form of contract known as an End User License Agreement (EULA). These are those agreements that users of computer programs, applications and various software pop up before downloading. Most users probably never take the time to read what they are agreeing to. I suspect that it is because the agreements tend to be lengthy and that the user believes the benefits outweigh the risk of such agreements. Also, many of these agreements contain a clause such as:
“(The provider) reserves the right to update and change, from time to time, this Software License and all documents incorporated by reference. (The provider) … may change this Software License by posting a new version without notice to you. Use of the … Software after such change constitutes acceptance of such changes.”

Is there really a contract if one of the parties agrees that the other party can change the agreement without notice?

Finally, full disclosure. This columnist is not an attorney, and this information should not be considered legal advice. The intent to show the importance and use of contracts in daily life. And even though it is not practical to call an attorney every time a person or business enters into a contract, it is important to know that for certain contracts an attorney should always be contacted. Common sense is a good guide.

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

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.


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.


Mississippi State Flag Column from 2001 (just before vote on state flag change)

Look out! Red and Fred tackle the volatile flag issue

From the Ground Up

Once again we find Fred and Red at the Main Street coffee shop discussing issues of the day and other serious matters, such as whether the unseasonably warm weather will last through the weekend.

Fred: I see you’ve installed one of those banner flagpoles on your house.

Red: I’ve been meaning to do that a long time. Last Veterans Day I looked around, and all my neighbors had those little flag banners stinking out from their houses or sprouting from trees in their front yards. One neighbor has his son’s high school banner, another has one with an acorn on it, and the lady across the street has a big yellow one with a tennis racket on it. I decided it was time for me to show off what I believed in.

Fred: So you went and bought an American flag kit?

Red: More or less. That big appliance store was giving them away with the purchase of a new big screen TV. I needed a new TV. Figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

Fred: But you aren’t flying the American flag? You’re flying the Mississippi flag?

Red: Now there you go Fred, showing your ignorance again. Pass some of that artificial sweetener this way, please sir.

Fred: You have managed to confuse me this morning, Red. I thought you said that Veterans Day brought out the American in you, so you went and got an American flag. Now you are flying a Mississippi flag.

Red: The weather has got your ears messed up. I didn’t say that at all. I said that on Veterans Day I got to thinking about getting a flag. The appliance store gave me a choice — an American flag or what used to be the Mississippi flag. According to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mississippi does not have a flag. So, let’s just refer to it as the “Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.”

Fred: I haven’t seen you this emotional about something in a long time.

Red: This flag thing did it. Not only am I flying the “flag formerly known as the State Flag of Mississippi” on my house, I am sporting a new bumper sticker on my pickup that says, “Preserve Mississippi’s Heritage.” It’s time to take a stand on this issue.

Fred: Good for you. People should stand up for what they believe in.

Red: That’s right. Do you want a bumper sticker? I’ve got a half dozen of them.

Fred: No thanks.

Red: Why not? Your grandfather fought at Vicksburg. You’re a bona fide ancestor of a Confederate veteran. Aren’t you proud of your heritage? And shouldn’t people stand up for what they believe in, like you just said?

Fred: I’m very proud of my heritage and I love Mississippi. But I’m not going to put one of those bumper stickers on my vehicle. And I’m a descendent of a Confederate veteran, not an ancestor.

Red: Whatever.

Fred: This flag thing is really getting some people riled up, isn’t it?

Red: Man, you are not kidding. People are tired of having things shoved down their throats. This is one time we can make a stand.

Fred: Some people might say that the old Mississippi flag was shoved down their throats.

Red: Well then they can just vote for a new one, if and when we have a vote that’s going to cost $3 million. Ask the server to bring us some more coffee, will you?

Fred: I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in. You obviously have strong feelings about it.

Red: (standing up) Oh my gosh, look at the time. I told the wife I would bring home some butter. She’s baking a cake for the church bazaar tonight. I better get going. Now, you are going to vote, aren’t you?

Fred: Of course.

Red: Good. I’m glad we’re finally having freedom of choice. Isn’t that what everybody wanted — freedom of choice?

Fred: Um hmm.

Red: Well, tell everybody to vote for “The Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.” And tell them to call me if they need a bumper sticker.

Fred: I’m not voting for the “Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.”

Red: (sitting back down and leaning forward) My gosh, Fred. Don’t say that so loud. Somebody might hear you. Are you feeling okay?

Fred: I feel fine. It’s just that if more people vote for “The Flag Formerly Known as the State flag of Mississippi” then we will be worse off than we are now.

Red: What in the devil’s name are you talking about? The best flag wins. Whichever one. And that will be it.

Fred: I’m afraid not, Red. If the old flag wins then I fear we will see people filing lawsuits, marching in the streets, telling others not to have their conventions in Mississippi, and talking on national television about how we can’t get away from our racially-troubled past. Not only that, some people say that economic development will be hurt. How do you think some company is going to feel if they announce a new plant in Mississippi, then get a visit to their annual stockholders’ meeting by some group wanting to boycott Mississippi?

Red: That’s a scare tactic, and you know it, Fred. What we have here is pure and simple — some people want one flag and some people don’t want it. An election by the people is the way to decide it, and the vote is final. Loser goes home.

Fred: So you think this is all about choice?

Red: Absolutely. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Fred: Sorry, Red. This isn’t about choice.

Red: So, what’s it about?

Fred: It’s about peace.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@hardwick.com.

Fathers Day Thoughts

June 21, 2015

FATHERS DAY THOUGHTS – Moments after our first child was born I sat in the small chapel at the hospital pondering what was ahead in life, how things would change and what kind of father I would become. I prayed for guidance. Shortly thereafter I looked up on the wall and saw two framed cross-stitched pieces of advice. One said “More than anything else a child wants to be just like his parents.” The other said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” Those words have served me – and my family – well. Happy Fathers Day to all you dads.