Trial By Mob and the New Social Media

Tennessee is looking for a football coach. Again. And in this sordid tale lies a lesson in all of us that portends the future.

After five lousy years, the University of Tennessee fired its football coach and after an extensive search, this past weekend they offered the job to Greg Schiano. Since 1995 Mr. Schiano has been a head coach at Rutgers University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an assistant at Ohio State and Miami as well as the Chicago Bears. Prior to 1995 he was an assistant at Penn State for Joe Paterno. And Joe Paterno was the guy that turned a blind eye to another assistant coach, Jerry Sanduskey and allowed him to get away with molesting young boys for years.

Both Joe Paterno and Jerry Sanduskey got what they deserved courtesy a very public blood letting.

Fast forward to this past weekend when the University of Tennessee lets its fans know they’ve hired Mr. Schiano to be their head coach and before you can sing Rocky Top, east Tennessee’s social media went berzerk and blamed Greg Schiano for enabling every bit of Jerry Sanduskey’s child molestation.

“If UT actually cared about us you wouldn’t be getting ready to hire a supporter of child molestation and rape as the new football head coach.”

“Schiano covered up rape at Penn State”

And on and on.

Forget the fact that Greg Schiano was exonerated by the intense legal investigation that followed, or that he was good enough to get hired by two pro teams and two colleges in the years following. He was found guilty by a jury of Twitter and Facebook users and that was enough for the University of Tennessee. Mr. Schiano was fired by the end of the day. And my Dad promptly rolled over in his grave.

Dad was a judge in south Louisiana and he was routinely questioned on the outcome of many a sensational trial. People that had never set foot in his courtroom, much less bothered to read the trial’s transcripts would quickly pronounce judgement based on their skimming of a 500-word newspaper story. They would call him at home, stop him in the grocery store, or yell at him at a traffic light and demand an answer.

His response was always the same. “Were you at the trial because it lasted four and a half days and I don’t recall seeing you in my courtroom.”

So with respect to the University of Tennessee, I’ve got a couple of questions.

Q) Did they properly vet Mr.Schiano?

A) Definitely

Q) Did they anticipate a possible social media response to his Penn State background?

A) Maybe

So why the hell wasn’t someone at the University able to take a stand and tell their social media crowds they’ve done their due diligence and you’re over reacting? Jeez…

Who’s going to take this head coaching job now knowing that they could be fired by a bunch of Twitter users? Heck for that matter, why bother with a coach at all when you could have the fans calling plays from the stands via a Facebook update or an Instagram hashtag?

So what can we learn from this incident? This knee jerk reaction via Facebook isn’t going away so if you’re in a leadership position and you have to make a tough decision, you better be prepared for a possible social media frenzy. And when that happens, unlike the University of Tennessee, you’ll need to stand straight, look directly at the cameras, and respond; “Were you at the trial because it lasted four and a half days and I don’t recall seeing you in my courtroom.”

Hope, and Change

“I hope you had a great meal.”

Was he serious?

We had just finished paying over $400 for dinner for eight at a once great Charleston restaurant and not once had the manager stopped by our table. He never engaged us in conversation, he didn’t offer any wine recommendations, and there was no explanation of the evening’s specials other than a point to the chalk board on the wall.  He didn’t enlighten us as to why their menu hadn’t changed in twenty years. He never explained the odd salad of California greens, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries when we were in the middle of Charleston’s growing season. He offered no defense of the gummy Key Lime Pie or the frozen lima beans that were offered up as the local vegetable of the evening.

He did walk through his half empty (on a Saturday night, no less) dining room numerous times and he did smile at us, yet he never engaged us.

Until we had paid the check and were scooting back in our chairs.

“I hope you had a great meal.”

Seriously?

Beach

When was the last time you took a Friday afternoon detour to your supervisor’s office and asked, “I hope I did a great job this week”?

I would hope never.

Many years ago I learned never to ask a diner at the end of a meal if they enjoyed themselves. Because what if they said a sincere “No, I really didn’t.” They’re finished dining, they’ve paid the bill and only then you find out they’re unhappy. What can you do? Not much. The appropriate thing to say at the end of a meal is “Thank you for coming in.”

A polished server or manager can sense when a group is enjoying themselves and doesn’t have to pander, search for validity or a compliment.  And if someone isn’t enjoying themselves or is puzzled by a certain dish or disappointed by a slice of pie, that disappointment is most likely written all over their body language. At that point it’s time to ask a direct question; “Is your steak cooked the way you prefer? How are those lima beans? Are you enjoying that slice of Key Lime Pie?”

The same goes for anyone working in a team environment; you should know you’ve gotten the job done without having to resort to broad, tactless questions. When the time comes for a review or counseling session, you better know the outcome before you sit down with your team leader.  So take the guess work out of your performance by paying attention and getting the dang job done in a timely and professional manner.

Let’s leave the hope out of it.

Now about that pie.

How Can I Make You Happy?

“Is everything OK?”

“No sir, the pico de gallo is a little old.”
“Oh.  Is it mushy?”

“Yeah, it’s actually a lot mushy.”

“Alright.”

And off he went.  All I could do was watch him carry on with his business of wiping down tables and refilling glasses of tea.  What the hell?

I was having lunch at a local Tex-Mex restaurant that I enjoy.  Their food is above-average, their offerings are much more interesting than the frozen and canned offerings served by the numerous $5.99 lunch special “Mexican” factories, and their prices are fair.  I had ordered a side of black beans with my taco basket, and the beans come topped with pico de gallo.  Tooth of the rooster, that’s the translation, pico is usually diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro with salt and pepper.  As I lifted a fork of the beans to my mouth, I smelled something daunting, a strong aroma that was out of place.  I took a small taste and as I rolled the beans and pico around, I took a good look at the tomatoes.  They were covered in a pasty gray film.  I discreetly used my napkin to remove said tomatoes then looked for a staff member, and waited.

draft-taps

How about if I bring you some fresh black beans and pico de gallo and a cold beer to boot?

 

The young man that had delivered my food walked past and that’s when the conversation ensued. And he shrugged his shoulders and carried on.

Why?  Was he not used to someone complaining about the pico or the food?  Had he not been trained in problem solving?  Did he not care?

I was trying to be discreet because there were other people seated near me and I didn’t need to blurt out, “Hey pal, this is spoiled!”  As I said, I like this place and I’ve had many enjoyable meals there.

A minute later my waitress walked past so I smiled and asked for a hand.

“Yes?”

“This pico de gallo is very old.”

“Oh, sorry about that.” And she kept on about her business.

Oh come on people!  Make it right.  Ask the customer, “how can I make you happy?”  There was twenty five cents worth of pico de gallo on my $9.00 lunch and these two kids are about to blow this restaurant’s reputation.  For Pete’s sake, will someone make a decision here.

A minute later she walked past and I stopped her.

“I was trying to be discreet earlier because this pico de gallo is spoiled.  Please throw it out and bring me some fresh black beans with fresh pico de gallo.”

Well that got her attention.  She quickly returned with what I asked for. And I also had my next blog post.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, your front line people should be trained in conflict management and problem solving.  If your promises are not being delivered, find out why, ask questions, and train your people to take care of business, right now.  Give them permission to solve the problem right then and there.  We don’t need to go get the manager, we can solve this right now.  How can I make you happy? Let me go get you some fresh beans and pico and how about a cold Thomas Creek to go with those beans?

Don’t let a twenty five cent serving of anything derail years of hard work.

Now that that’s off my chest, how may I help you?

Googled

A thousand dollars a month.  That’s what my client was spending on Google Ads.

Yikes!

Yet when he came to me, he had one goal.  “Keep me up front on my Google search results.”  Well sure, that’s easy if one has a significant budget for Google Ads but eventually that money’s going to run out.  Then what? He had a significant following on Facebook but lately it’s been tough to get noticed on that blue juggernaut unless you’re willing to put money behind your updates.  And how do you get Facebook money turned into meaningful Google search results?  Most marketers know that one needs fresh web content to make a dent in Google, but with everyone else in a competitive segment creating fresh content, one’s content better have legs.

Legs

Will your content turn the right heads?

 

And that means publishing something of value, an essay that will be enjoyed, shared and commented on. So I wrote an emotional post on how quickly our children grow and change. That’s a familiar theme that every parent can identify with, yet I kept it around five hundred words. Then I utilized his significant Facebook following by posting at the right time, in this case on a late Sunday afternoon.  I put $20 behind the update to make sure that a majority of his followers had the opportunity to engage with his website. And 24 hours later, I had the desired results.

Keep in mind that my client is in a fairly competitive field and his business model requires a significant number of daily visits to his medical office.  His patients are his lifeblood, but his patient’s parents are paying the bills.  My post appealed to the parents, tugged at the necessary emotions and reminded them why they patronize my client in the first place.  And the client got what he was looking for: Google search results, shares, comments, and thank yous.

Would you like to read my post?  I’d love to share it but I can’t because I promise this particular client anonymity.  When his clients tell him “I love your writing”, he just smiles and says “Thank you.”

Hey, he’s signing the checks, right?

May I help you?  My rates are affordable and I can customize my services to fit your needs.  And I’m a published author that knows how to get readers. Give me a call and we’ll talk.

 

Faster, Harder, Farther

I’m a fairly emotional guy. I don’t mean that I cry often, rather I tend to linger over fond memories. Perhaps too much. Maybe that’s why I enjoy looking through old photographs. Recently my wife asked me to help her find a photo of us from Mardi Gras. We broke out stacks of real photos and spent a few hours reminiscing. The memories flooded past in glossy, colorful, slightly faded pieces of our lives. Four by six, five by seven, and a few wallets; California, Romania, Louisiana, New York, London, and South Carolina. And I found myself wanting to make memories worthy of a photograph.

Taking a photo used to be a big deal. You had to carry a camera, film, and perhaps an additional lens. Then the film had to be developed, photos were printed and paid for. So one only carried a camera if you were going to do something worthy of the trouble and expense. Today it’s so easy, it’s not uncommon to share a photo of a peanut butter and jelly in the process of being made. And where’s the adventure in that?

I want to take more photos like this one, and less of my sandwiches.

Looking Glass

A poorly-timed photograph taken on the top of Looking Glass Mountain, late fall of 1998. That’s my faithful Jack Russell Terrier, Bonnie and my wife Amy holding her leash. As usual, Bonnie is waiting for me.

 

If you’re familiar with dogs, Jacks are notoriously high-strung. They’re smart, energetic, and relentless. Once they decide to do something, there’s no stopping them. And Bonnie was no different. If we went for a hike, a swim in the ocean, a long walk, or a car ride, it was never enough just to go. She had to go faster, harder, farther. Case in point, in this photo she is as usual, waiting on me.

In our relationships, both personal, and business, we should all have a Bonnie. A faithful companion that extols us to success. Someone that we love and respect, someone that we’ll go that last mile for.

In one of my endeavors, I have an entire team of Bonnies. In July, I’ll ride across the state to raise money for the SC Alzheimer’s Association and I’ve got some teammates to encourage and push me to success. Yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I need someone to encourage and push me in my business relationships, and it feels like that’s missing from my life. A friendly competitor, someone to race me to the top of the mountain then pat me on the back when I’ve come in second, or third. We all measure success differently and I don’t use money as a yardstick. Are my kids becoming responsible? Am I protecting my family? Are my clients happy and are they getting their money’s worth? Because life isn’t about the destination, it’s really about the journey and our journey begins anew every morning. And today I’m going to try and pray harder, run quicker, pedal faster, and make my clients happier. And I’d like to do this while I work towards taking more photos of real adventures, and less photos of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Do you have a Bonnie in your life? Someone, or some dog, that is constantly pushing you to success? I think I do, I just need to remind them.

128 Miles

Have you ever seen that motivational poster that says, “Shoot for the Moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

The Moon

I hate that poster.  For a lot of reasons.

The moon is roughly 240,000 miles away from Earth.  The nearest star, about 4.5 Light Years.  If you don’t remember how far that is, it’s the distance a beam of light could travel in a year’s time.  And remember that light travels at 186,000 miles per second.

And I hate those sort of cheesy, fuzzy platitudes.  And besides, that’s hardly a goal, right?  But 3,000 miles on a bike, in a year, now that’s a goal.

The end of 2014 will mark my second year in business.  And it’s been a very good year.  I diversified my services, found a niche and have exploited that niche.  Along the way I’ve learned some tough lessons on salesmanship and trust.  One particularly glaring mistake was trusting a PR gal out of New York.  The company she represented sold high-end grills and I was a natural for their product.  A guy that can write, manage social media, and has a food background would be the natural fit for a grill company, correct?  Well turns out she was only interested in my ideas.  Three days after discussing my proposal and ideas, I knew I had been “had.”  Ah well, live and learn.

This year I also got back in cycling in a big way.

RTR 4

Halfway through day three of the 2014 Ride to Remember.

I have a cycling team dedicated to one event, the Ride to Remember.  It’s the largest fundraiser for the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Association and it happens to be a 252 mile, three day bicycle ride across the state.  All of us on Team Coast Busters have a personal connection to #ALZ and that’s what brought us together.  And in  the process of preparing for this ride, I reconnected with road cycling.  Heaven help me, I do so love it.  About two months ago, I realized that I have a very good shot of putting in 3,000 miles for the year.  Three thousand!  I certainly didn’t start out with that goal.  I just wanted to complete the #RTR with my team and along the way raise a nice chunk of money.  Which I did.  And now here it is early December and I’m only 128 miles away from three thousand.  December…with its endless invitations, cold weather, minimal sunlight and endless temptations.  You would think I would totally devote myself to putting in those final 128 miles, but I’m not.  I’ve already reached my cycling goals for the year, but haven’t reached my business goals and honestly, those are a bit  more important.  If I end the year with only two thousand, nine hundred and forty miles then that’s that.  Not bad for a guy that spent the first half of 2013 on crutches, right?  I’ll delight in the fact that this year I’ve made a lot of new friends, seen some incredibly beautiful sights, lost twenty four pounds, and increased my company’s reputation in Greenville’s business world.

GSC at night

Greenville, SC and the Reedy River at night

The lesson?  Set lofty goals but make sure they’re concrete, something you can track and manage.  But make sure they’re big.  And if you don’t make them, then you’ve still gotten close.  But along the way to achieving those goals, enjoy the view and the fringe benefits.