Robroy’s occupation

October 28th, 2011

When Robroy arrived in Baltimore about 20 years ago, I had no occupation.  No one would buy the stories I was writing.  Late nights at Funks Democratic Coffee Spot in Fells Point, I made new friends who argued passionately that the wealthy corporations were corrupting the government, wiping out the arts and oppressing the masses.

So I think I understand where Occupy Baltimore is coming from.  It made me mad when I read yesterday that our Mayor said she wanted to avoid a “violent exchange” with them.  I decided to see for myself what’s going on.

First thing I noticed, walking among the tents downtown, was how much my vantage point has changed since Fells Point. Certain aspects of the protest made me feel confronted.

For example, a guy held a sign that said: “From my corner office, everyone looks so small.”

That’s weird.  You know, I actually have a corner office now.  My writing studio is near the top of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.  I’m right where he says I should not be, yet people don’t look small to me.  As a matter of fact, they are paramount.  I want to know their stories.

I asked him why he felt that way.

“It’s ridiculous that the big corporations get huge tax breaks and pocket the money,” he said.  “The government should force them to reinvest in jobs.  Unemployed people like me need help.”

These are hard times.  The job market changed fast.  It used to be that you owed your employer 40 years and in return they owed you a rewarding career, health insurance and a pension.

Now what do we owe each other?

For me, it does no good to blame others.  I discovered I am the author of my problems.  Just as I am the author of the solution.

It keeps me occupied.

Your take?

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Got any stories?

September 23rd, 2011

One of Robroy’s favorite things to ask a CEO is, “Got any stories?”

After a couple of decades of listening to their replies, I’ve finally made an important distinction about story-tellers.  The good ones teach us something about themselves.  And the great ones teach us something about ourselves.

Imagine having the ability to do this with your clients and employees.  To help them learn more about themselves by the stories that you tell.  Imagine the bond of trust, appreciation and loyalty you’d develop.

“Does that really work?” you ask?  Well, let’s see what we can learn from five Baltimore CEOs who, by Robroy’s definition, are great story-tellers:

1. Greg Cangialosi, CEO of Blue Sky Factory, never was a sales guy, and yet sold his business for millions of dollars.

2. Bernie Dancel, CEO of AscendOne, realized that, unless he helped others, they would never be free.

3. Marty Mintz, CEO of Northern Pharmacy, withstood large, faceless competition to keep the corner drug store open for its 70th year.

4. Myra Norton, CEO of CommunityAnalytics, had to experience great sorrow before coming to trust her team.

… and, finally, a lesson from the past on what not to do:

5. Captain Isaac Emerson, CEO of Bromo Selzter, advertised a headache remedy for troubled marriages, while building monuments to his own failed marriage around Baltimore.

As for me, I’d say I learned that I am human.  I’m afraid of being misunderstood.  I’m afraid of losing business and losing love.  I’m afraid of having my loved ones die.

But I’m not afraid to go for it all, anyway.

How about you, boss.  Got any stories?

See Robroy LIVE!  http://bit.ly/qhmqek

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The grand tree

August 3rd, 2011

Don’t know about you, but Robroy was getting all geared up for the Baltimore Grand Prix on the streets of downtown come Labor Day.  I loved the idea of cars blasting past my office windows at the speed of fighter jets.  I thought it would be fun looking down from the heights of the Bromo Seltzer Tower like a kid kneeling over a toy racetrack and shouting, “Cool!”

But no great thrill comes without a great moral dilemma.  In this case, what to do about the trees along the race route?  Cut them down?  These are beautiful, mature trees we’re talking about here.  Some of them are personal friends of mine.  But are they worth preserving if they block the grandstands and the chance to inject $250M into downtown’s businesses?

A spokesperson for the city’s landscape architecture firm was reported to say that the trees along the race route would be “uprooted, temporarily moved to other locations and then replanted in their original location.”  He said this effort would be repeated each year of the five-year commitment to the Grand Prix.

I liked it.  I have always said that trees don’t get enough exercise.  So I go for a stroll down Pratt Street to see my friends off, and what do I find?

Stumps.  Shorn-off tree stumps.

Ah, Baltimore.  The human race.  How can we win if we cut off our roots?

Your turn.  What do you stand to lose or gain from the Grand Prix?  Leave a comment below.

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A portrait of the writer as a young man

July 8th, 2011

At the Marketing Excellence Awards dinner last month, I met a rising senior from a local university who reminded me of me.  I’ll call him Ernie.

Ernie has no clue what he wants to do when he graduates. I asked what he’s passionate about, and he said writing short stories and falling in love. I asked why.

“To me, falling in love is like writing in dreams,” he said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so true. Then you wake up, and it’s gone forever. And you realize you never really had it.”

I was impressed. When I was his age, I could not even have come to an event like this, due to the fact that my only tie still had ketchup on it from the last Valentine’s Day.

“Kid,” I said, “you should be a copywriter.”

“No way,” he said. “I only write from the heart.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Stay true to what you know. There’s no reason to give that up, ever. Keep writing from the heart, no matter what you’re writing.”

He said, “Right,” and looked away, bored.

Exactly as I would have done.

What about you?  What advice would you give a young person who reminded you of you?  Leave a comment below.

(And while you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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5 thoughts for thought-leaders

June 17th, 2011

“Every man is where he is by the law of his nature; his thoughts have brought him there.” James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

Robroy has read this quote dozens of times over the course of 20 years, and I still find fresh meaning.  Lately, in my work helping CEOs tell their stories, I’ve discovered it means that we can not only found companies with our thoughts, but grow them by leading the thoughts of others.

Here are some ways being a thought-leader helps you grow your company:

1. Attract talent

2. Stay top-of-mind with prospects

3. Differentiate yourself from competitors

4. Shorten your sales cycle

5. Generate referrals

The idea is, the more you make people think, the more they think of you.  Steve Jobs and Apple Computer might be the ultimate contemporary examples.  Apple comes out with a new product, and legions of followers are inspired to think in new ways.  Could this approach to leadership work for you?

It’s a thought.

(While you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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The experience lie

April 29th, 2011

It’s good to have experience.  The problem is, it takes persistence and time to develop it, and more persistence and time to be known for it.  So how do you position your expertise when you’re still new?

Unfortunately, some companies take a shortcut that Robroy calls “the experience lie.”

The experience lie is when they tell you a story about their background that cannot possibly be true.  For example, let’s say Delta, Claude and Eli have three, one and six years in the industry, respectively.  To promote their new company, Delta might say: “We have ten years of experience, combined.”

The experience lie.

Sure, the math works.  But what kind of logic is that?  It’s like saying: nine 2-year-olds can enlist in the US Marines because their combined age is 18.

As for you and Robroy, we will speak the truth.  Even if we can only say, “Ah-goo.”

(Read Robroy’s column in the Baltimore Business Journal)

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Sales primer

March 11th, 2011

Helping clean out my parents’ basement before their move, I came across my old collection of MAD magazine, and re-read them all.  While it brought me back to my 10-year-old self, it also made me realize that I never really grew up.  That’s what’s so great about MAD.

Remember how MAD always took something you knew well, and twisted it in a way that made you squirm and laugh?  Then join us now as we step madly into a career in sales with Robroy’s MAD sales primer.

Consultative selling. Refusing to let a company make the mistake of not hiring you.

Sales cycle. The time it takes a sales guy to do his laundry.

Mirroring. A tricky but effective sales technique.  Remove the customer’s bathroom mirror, climb behind the sink, and wait for a meeting.

Quoting. The sales guy hooks two fingers of each hand in the air while repeating something the customer just said.

Closing the deal. Close the deal like an overpacked suitcase by sitting on it.

Yecch!  That’s enough of that.  Now let’s turn to Spy vs Spy.

(While you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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Robroy in 3D

February 28th, 2011

Strange things online do happen.  Sometimes blog characters step right out of the screen, onto the conference room floor, smiling and telling stories.

Next week in Baltimore, Robroy will do just that.  It would be great if you can join us.

My talk is about how to use the power of story-telling and story-listening to sell better.  Here are some take-aways:

  • How to hear the prospect’s story
  • How to help them tell their story
  • How to apply the Story Wheel in your business growth strategy

Get registered here.  It’s Tuesday, March 8th at 7:30AM.  All blog personnel will return to their screens by 9:30.

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5 steps for guest bloggers

January 29th, 2011

Every now and then, someone notices how passionate you are about your topic, and asks you to submit a guest post to their blog.

You graciously accept.  After all, there’s nothing you love better than sharing your passion with others.  But what is the best way to structure a blog post?

1. Start with the Problem: For example, in this post, the problem is that it’s hard to write a guest post.

2. Dwell on the Consequence: If you don’t, you won’t be able to share what you are passionate about as clearly.

3. Find the Turning Point: What does it take to turn the problem around?  You know what to do.  You’ve lived it.

4. Share the Vision: Here you create the possibilities you have been imagining, so that others can see what you see.

5. Reap the Reward: Wrap your post with something that gives readers a reason to dream.

Be a proper guest.  Apply the 5-point structure to your topic, and you will make an imprint on the world.

That’s all we ask.

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Spelling trouble

December 17th, 2010

Robroy was at his son’s 2nd grade parent-teacher conference this week.  The teacher said she was concerned about my little guy’s spelling.  It reminded me of my own challenges in 2nd grade, back at Oak Grove Elementary, in Libertyville, Illinois.

Our class was doing a newsletter.  I was assigned the role of interviewing Mr. Garland, the 4th grade math teacher.  It was my first foray into the world of journalism, and I took it seriously.  Sitting down with Mr. Garland, pencil ready, I asked my first question:

“Do you like teaching?”

“Certainly,” he replied.

Certainly?  Certainly?  I tried to sound out the word.  S-I-R-T …  That was part of it, but it looked wrong, so I erased it and tried again.  I knew another word for it — certainly I did.  But certainly he said and certainly it would have to be.  Head down, I worked at it, erasing and rewriting.  I don’t think I asked another question.

Years later, I still interview teachers and leaders.  (Here’s one with Baltimore’s Google Czar)  And it looks my boy is upholding the great family spelling tradition.

His teacher seemed surprised to see me smiling at a time like this.  “Is everything all right?” she asked.

“Certainly,” I said.

With a C.

(Check out my column in the Baltimore Business Journal.)

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