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.

Would you like Onions with That?

John, when is the best time for me to send my company’s weekly email?

That’s a great question.  And the answer is, when it’s ready.

I believe in great content.  And I’ve also been told that Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday night, and Sunday mornings in February are the best times for Facebook interaction.  And the best time to send out your company email is Thursday at 2:00 pm.  However, just because your timing is impeccable doesn’t mean you should cut corners on your content.  What exactly does that email say?  Is it carefully written, with an interesting subject line or are you sending out a bulk email just because it’s Thursday at 1:45 pm?

Before you hit send, think about how many emails you personally delete.  Maybe it’s the sender (Aldi has expired flour on sale!), maybe it’s the subject line (Bob, Senator Jones needs your $50) or maybe you just feel like making something disappear.  I’ve read that perhaps only 20% of all email is actually opened.  If you don’t want your email to end up on the virtual cutting room floor, think about a few things before you compose that note.

Does it have to be said?  If the answer is yes, make sure your email is clear and concise.  Get to the point on the opening line.

“Dear Bob.  We need your liver.”  You wouldn’t delete that one, would you?

“Now allow me to explain.  Veal Liver is delicious and a great source of high-quality protein.  And this week, Bistro Bistro is featuring our best customer-submitted liver recipes.  Submit your liver recipe and perhaps next week we’ll feature your liver.”

Does it include a call-to-action?  In other words: do this; buy that; call this number; eat at this restaurant.

“Dear Bob.  Your neighborhood bistro market has liver on sale!  So stop in (Stop In.  That’s the Call to Action) and pick up a couple of pounds today.  We’re here until 9:00 pm and while you’re waiting for our butchers to trim your liver, take a look at our award-winning produce department.  We’re featuring fava beans for only $3.99 a pound.  And fava beans make an excellent accompaniment to liver.”

Do you have a compelling subject line?  Because I’m going to decide whether I’ll delete or open based on your subject line.  If it’s the standard “Our latest news…” then you can bet I’m headed for the delete key.  So think about your subject line and write something compelling.  Get your recipients to take that next step.

“Our livers really quiver.”

And with that in mind, if you’re haphazard, you can produce emails that are akin to a  fried liver drenched in gravy.  It’s drenched because very little care was taken in the actual preparation.  Coat it in gravy and perhaps 20% of the public may order it.

liver-and-onions-with-spuds-and-gravy

Overcooked peas, instant mashed potatoes, and too much brown gravy. If this dish represented a paragraph in your company’s weekly email, would you want to read it?

 

 

Or you can take a moment to refine your company’s weekly emails, carefully read them three or four times looking for unnecessary words, frivolous sprigs of parsley, or too much breading.  Only use what is absolutely necessary to produce your statements, your emails, and your dinner.  And instead of drowning your liver in gravy, produce something your customers and clients should look forward to receiving, much like an appetizer at your favorite restaurant.

liver_onions_perse

Liver and Onions, courtesy Thomas Keller’s Per Se. If this dish represented a story, I would want every bite.

 

If you’re looking for clever, knowledgeable, and affordable help with your company’s social media, call me at (864) 616-7171.

John

“Is This Your Car?”

 

We’ve known for months that a new contractor was about to build in our neighborhood.  We were excited as well as a bit nervous.  New home construction comes with all sorts of variables and challenges for the existing neighbors.  There’s the headache of construction debris, the constant traffic, the noise, and the influx of the labor force. Yet we’re looking forward to a new set of neighbors.  Our quiet, unassuming neighborhood was about to go through a 180 degree about-face.  But we needed it.  We needed someone to come in and turn our neighborhood around, fix our pool, finish the clubhouse, and maintain the amenities.  So although the transition could be challenging, the end result would be worth it.  Or so we hope, because the jury’s still out.

The builder would also come into this relationship with challenges.  And as the tenant of the home across the street from their new model home, one would assume that the builder would want to start off on the right foot with the new neighbors.

So imagine my disappointment when the first words out of the mouth of the initial point person in this new relationship were: “Is this your car?”  Not good morning, not my name is…, not hello.

“Is this your car?”

“Yes.”

“Well we’re about to start building here, you need to move it.”

“And good morning to you, too.”

Sheesh!

Here’s the deal folks.  You only get one shot at a first impression.  One.  Who’s going to make that impression?  Not your CEO.  Not your CFO.  Not your Director of Human Resources.

I don’t care if you’re selling dreams, a new lifestyle, horsepower, bicycles, or an opportunity to retire in luxury.  You best make the right first impression or all of that goes right down the drain.

Now imagine if that first encounter with this builder came with a greeting:  “Good morning, I’m Robert Jones.  I’m head of construction for West Field Construction and tomorrow morning we’re going to start building across the street.  This is Julio, he’s our Construction Supervisor and here’s our contact information should you ever have any concerns.  And your name is?”

Your social media should be in sync with your company’s.  If you’re going to be on social media, no matter what you’re selling, make sure that your people are portraying the same image as their employer.  If you own a strip club, no one will be surprised to see photographs of pole dancers showing off their legacy.    For the rest of us, your people better have it buttoned up.   If you want to go out on the town with your co-workers on Friday night, go right ahead.

But DO NOT post anything on your social media about how you “Love hangin’ with the Wild Bunch at Company  XYZ!”

sams_hofbrau_girls_facebook_thumb_560x384

Gettin’ hammered before the slammer with our awesome HR Director!

 

Remember, your social media may be someone else’s first impression of your company.  And when a prospect interacts with your social media,  what will their first impression be?  Make sure it counts.  And if your team isn’t accurately representing their employer, perhaps it’s time for some counseling.

As for my builder,  there’s always the next project and another shot at making a better first impression.

 

 

Out loud. In church.

So you’re ready to get on Twitter yet you still have some reservations, so you decided to set up a “private” Twitter account.  Makes sense, right?  That way anyone that decides to follow you has to be approved by you.  And a private account will offer you a level of privacy with respect to all those photographs of your dog or your spouse in a swimsuit that you plan on sending out.  And a private account will protect you when you accidentally get a bit too much liquor in you and decide to send out a tequila fueled #selfie.

drunk

Well…you’re wrong.  And I’d be happy to show you plenty of examples.  But how about if I just tell you.  Let’s say my Twitter account is private, so all my tweets from @chefjohnmalik are protected from being viewed by anyone I haven’t given access to.  Well, what’s going to stop someone from getting on Twitter and searching “@chefjohnmalik,” finding my handle mentioned in thousands of retweets from my followers and then looking at all of those shared tweets?

The answer: nothing.  So much for privacy.

So if you’re thinking of jumping on Twitter then here’s my rule of thumb.  Treat everything you say on Twitter, or any other social media platform, as if your Pastor was going to read it.  Out loud.  In church.  All those platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are free yet there’s a cost involved.  We give up our privacy and we open ourselves up to their promoted tweets and advertisements.  Don’t like it?  Then don’t use it.

Now, shall we discuss Snap Chat?

Look over here!

 

Lose Weight Now!

Learn Spanish Today!

Cheap First Class Airfare to Italy!

Learn to Cook like John Malik in One Hour!

We’ve all seen these “too good to be true” offers when we’re floating through Facebook, right?  And if that’s all there was to these offers, you may not pay any attention to them.  I mean, all these offers sound enticing but if you’re an advertiser, these far-fetched promises aren’t enough.  You’re gonna need a sexy photo to draw eyeballs to your advert.  And that’s where Danielle comes in.

danielleknudson

Now you can’t help but be attracted to this photo.  Your eyes are drawn away from what you’re supposed to be doing to what Danielle is doing.  And suddenly you’re thinking, “well, I really should brush up on my Spanish, I wonder how much those CD’s are?  Maybe I’ll take a look.”

Internet advertisers refer to this as click bait and it makes sense, right?  Danielle is the bait that’s going to get you to click through to the web content.  Facebook charges their advertisers on impressions (just a look) and click-throughs so keep that in mind when you start looking at your Facebook feed.  Treat it as a minefield and you’ll be fine.  Or click away, and be prepared to wander off into the tall green grass, looking for Danielle.

Sky Dive!

At 7,000 feet, the jump master opened the door and offered me a thumbs up.  The air whooshed through the cabin, animating the nylon of my jumpsuit.  As the green patchwork gently retreated past the spinning props and whistling wingtips, I stood up, gripped the hand rail, and hesitated.

“John, I have a job I think you would be interested in, it’s a Food and Beverage Director at a wonderful resort hotel.  It’s in the Midwest but I think you’d love it.  Listen, before we go any further I want you to talk to your kids, talk to your family first.  Then let’s talk again on Tuesday because I don’t like to send candidates out of state unless they’ve taken everything into account.”

I would parachute out of an airplane tomorrow.  That is, if my wife would give me permission.  A few years ago she grew weary of meeting me at the ER, of cleaning the gravel out of my shoulder, of stitching my cuts and icing my bruises.

“Sweetheart, you really should learn how to slow down.”

I grew up in a time when boys were expected to get out of the house, to catch snakes and frogs, to fish and hunt.  We were supposed to challenge ourselves, to run barefoot, climb trees and take chances.  I still have an enormous sense of adventure and the desire to push myself.  And when that phone call came, I blurted out Yes!  And as I listened to her, I caught my own reflection in the glass of a family photograph.

Did I really need to jump out of this airplane?

For months I had been on the job hunt and it had slowly ground me down.  A chef that had spent almost six months on crutches was not what one would call a hot commodity.  I began to question myself and spent too much time in regret and pondering what-ifs.  One lousy 80-pound case of ground beef, a tiny scratch on my femur, an unappreciative employer and a knee that slowly lost stability had sidelined me for almost two years.  Months after the surgery I wondered not if I would be able to cook again but would I be able to run or go up and down stairs.  And finally I drew the interest of a talent scout in Chicago.  And she had one heck of a position she was looking to fill.  If it was just me, no family waiting for me to arrive safely back on the ground, I would have leapt out of that airplane, yelling with delight all the way down.  Yes I would have missed my town and friends but the adventure was calling.

Amy and I had a long discussion that weekend and decided that the timing just wasn’t right.  We had a lot of friends and contacts, we live in a great town and our kids, both teenagers, would most likely be heartbroken.  And what about my knee?  Would I be able to handle the stress of five or six consecutive 12 to 14 hour days?  Amy has invested a lot of time helping me get back in shape. Is this how I wanted to thank her?  Did we really have to start over in a new town, a new state, a new everything?  I don’t always know when to say “no” and that could have been my downfall.  If I had gone back to a hotel too early and a few weeks in had to relinquish my position; that could have destroyed me.  But I have a desire to be helpful, I love to make people smile and I really miss being part of a team that has its heart set on a common goal.  So what now?  If I say no to this, what would be waiting for me around the corner?  So I said another prayer and asked not for an answer, but a little bit of patience.

About two weeks later I was approached by a company that wanted to pay me real money to manage their social media.  Really.  And now here I am with a new career, a new company and new challenges.

skydive-in-thailand

In many ways, I jumped out of that airplane months ago, I just hadn’t realized it.

 

I’ve been robbed!

“Help!  I’m in Luxembourg attending a conference and I’ve been robbed, even my passport has been taken.  Please help!”

“Yeah, right” I laughed as I scooted the cursor to the delete button.  Well hold on.  Macon is a professional photographer and he’s travelled extensively.  I reread the email.  Luxembourg, conference, robbed, passport, help.  Well maybe this isn’t a joke.  It’s not like he’s asking for a credit card or a bank routing number.  So if he’s really in trouble why hasn’t he just gone to the embassy?  Perhaps he has a copy of the passport at the house and he needs a photocopy?  Hhhmmm.  Even though it was 7:20 on a Saturday morning I figured a phone call wouldn’t hurt, just to make sure.  After all, if his email was hacked, everyone in his database got this email and he’s probably awake from all the phone calls he’s getting.  But he’s probably been hacked.

“Macon?  Uh, are you in Luxembourg?”

Of course it was a hack.  And a few days later we got a similar email from someone supposedly in the Philippines and they were asking for 1,500 British pounds.  How does this happen?  Unfortunately there’s no easy answer but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.  The first is to exercise vigilance, especially when you’re on a public Wi-Fi such as Starbuck’s.  When on a public Wi-Fi, pretend that everyone in the area is reading over your shoulder.  What would you want them to see?  Certainly not your mail, your bank account number or your personal photographs so keep off of anything personal while on a hot spot because it’s all vulnerable.  In Macon’s case he’s lucky that it was merely a prank email that was distributed because it could have been much worse.  Change your passwords every three months, protect your personal information and for Pete’s sake, if someone emails you a link and says “Ya gotta see this!”  Chances are, you probably don’t.

A Piece of the Puzzle

Ravelry.  Ever heard of it?  Me neither, until I was searching out relevant social media site news and came across that name.  Ravelry has been around since 2007 and boasts three million dedicated fans.  Ravelry is incredibly popular with its users and it’s transactional, and informational.  Ravelry’s users really USE Ravelry. So what is it?  Ravelry is a social media platform for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.  My wife loves to do this kind of stuff so maybe I’ll get her to join up.

And that’s how defined Social Media has become.  I think Facebook will be around for a long time.  It’s got an enormous amount of users and it’s great for a quick connection with friends or associates and it’s a great avenue for bringing readers to online content.  Yet I see more of us supplementing our Facebook time with sites such as Ravelry where we can interact with our connections over a very defined interest.  There’s even a social media site specifically for Human Resource administrators, HR.com.  Yeah I can’t see that one becoming the next Instagram.  As a student of history, our present social media landscape reminds me of our country’s political party history before, during and after the Civil War.  During those years (1825-1875) so many political parties were founded that we actually had an Opposition Party, the Know-Nothing Party, a Free Soil Party, the Toleration Party and the Anti-Masonic Party.  The country was going through so much turmoil and growth that citizens felt the need to align themselves with like-minded others, even over such narrow terms as being opposed to anything that the Masons were in favor of.

I don’t see Social Media replacing traditional advertising, I see it as more of a supplement, another piece of the puzzle.  We all know that print newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  For evidence, the New York Times company just sold the Boston Globe for $70 million, thereby suffering a 93% loss from its purchase price of $1.1 billion back in 1993.  The future of news and information is online, we all know that but I think more of us are going to get that news and info through our favorite social media platforms.  We’ll read and share stories that will inspire us, make us cry or laugh in between commenting on cat videos and pictures of our favorite chef’s family meal.  Our world becomes more interactive every day and smart companies need to become part of that interaction.  Advertisements are becoming a bigger part of the social media landscape every day.  Like this one from the Dollar Shave Club.  This is their ad and it’s hysterical, irreverent and received over 10 million hits on You Tube and of course, their business exploded.  And supposedly they only spent $4500 making it.  Yet the Dollar Shave Club had to draw viewers to that video first and they did so using social media.  You’ve got to draw the eyeballs to your content if it’s going to get shared.

So if you’ve got something to sell, there’s a social media platform for you.  Ask me and I’ll find it for you.

 

Aren’t you that chef?

Yes.

But so what?  I’ve owned several businesses and learned what it takes to be successful and today, a savvy business has to be in social media.  There’s no getting around it.  Twitter alone has over 500 million users, Linked In about 225 million, and Facebook over a billion.  That’s a whole lot of eyeballs.  For those of you that don’t see the value in Twitter, did you know that the Pope and our President both have Twitter feeds?  So if you’ve got interesting online content-and you better-then these social media platforms can bring the viewers to your pages, where they’ll become readers and then your customers.  Jack Russell can fetch the readers.  So don’t let another day go by wondering whether your business should be in social media.  It should!

 

Why Jack Russell?

 

kids&dog

Shrek, Tudor, Bonnie (our dog) and Holly

I think Jack Russells are the greatest dogs ever.  They’re compact, clever, muscular, loyal, energetic, lean, fast and they’re full of attitude.  Our own Jack Russell gave us 15 years of companionship and we shared some great memories.   She didn’t care that she only weighed 35 pounds.  In those 15 years that she was part of our family she protected us from much larger enemies, both real and imagined.  She once got away from us and rounded up a half dozen horses, much to our embarrassment.  She could have given lessons to a few English Sheep Dogs, her level of determination was that strong.  So I think those attributes will serve me well in this new company.