Vacation Deficit Hurts America

on_vacation[1]Access America has released its first ever Vacation Confidence Index (shameless plug: my idea) and has found that a significant number of Americans are suffering from a Vacation Deficit.  The “deficit” is caused by those Americans who strongly value a vacation, but for economic reasons have not taken a vacation this year.

 

The Vacation Deficit is very real.  Of those who feel that a vacation is important or very important, nearly one-quarter (23%) do not plan to take a vacation this year.  That’s a lot of missed vacations.

This fact made me think about the effect all of those missed vacations have on our country, our economy and our productivity.  It’s no secret that the travel industry has been having a tough year because travel is down across the board, including in leisure travel.  The travel industry contributes a lot of money and jobs to our economy.  The U.S. Travel Association predicts 450,000 U.S. travel jobs will be lost between 2008 and 2009.

But beside the pure economic impact, what is the impact on workers who don’t take time to get away because they don’t take their vacation?  No vacation means the batteries aren’t recharged and workers aren’t “tan, rested and ready.” One study found worker productivity up by 82% after a vacation.

Bottomline:  Take a vacation.  It’s good for you, it’s good for all of us.

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Embrace Rejection

 

John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria

I just started reading Entrepreneur Magazine again after a long hiatus.

 

Three articles in the July 2009 issue caught my eye.

The first article talks about learning how to alter customers buying habits in order to get your sales going again.  In this economy, customers must be jolted into buying again, not unlike the jolt one receives from a defibrillator in order to get the heart started again.  Customers have hunkered down and have learned a new pattern of buying behavior:  they aren’t buying.  This is causing a downward spiral that by now we know only too well.  To get them to buy, you have to do something drastic like offering them something that’s almost free, just to get them to learn how to say “yes” again.

Another article lists 5 ways to ramp up marketing in a downturn:

  1. If your product is a great value, scream it from the rafters.
  2. Use social media like your life depends on it.
  3. Cause marketing can bring in new customers.
  4. Take the fear away from buying by giving an iron-clad guarantee.
  5. Give stuff away to generate some good PR

The last article tells the story of John Paul DeJoria, the entrepreneur who turned a $700 startup into Paul Mitchell Systems, a $900 million hair care empire.  Not yet done, he co-founded Patrón Tequila, accidentally creating the ultra premium tequila market and becoming rich in the process.  He’s worth an estimated $2.5 billion, making him one of the richest men in the U.S.

John hails from an immigrant heavy part of Los Angeles that I’m very familiar with. On his way to making his fortune, he sold Christmas cards when he was 9, delivered newspapers at 4am and sold encyclopedias.  John was homeless twice; he was sleeping in his car while getting Paul Mitchell off the ground.

John’s story is an amazing rags to riches story of determination.  He says the biggest hurdle in business is rejection.  The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the ability to handle rejection and soldier on. Pretty good advice.

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Layoff City

 

Richmond

Richmond

Like a lot of others, I’ve tried to maintain my optimism about an economic turnaround. That was especially tough today when two friends and colleagues informed me they had lost their jobs.  One is a recruiter in Richmond, the other is a producer for an internet radio network in Portland, OR.

I’ve wondered for some time where all the folks in Richmond who have lost their jobs due to the demise of several of this small town’s major employers, will find new ones.  Richmond is a great place to live and work but employment opportunities are very limited, especially for people like me who work in advertising, marketing and public relations.

Fortunately, there are a lot of job search resources out there and Richmond’s networking community is one of the most diverse and vibrant I have ever seen. Richmond is fighting this recession with everything it has and job seekers have a plethora of career networking opportunities and professional organizations and special interest clubs where attendees can hone job finding skills and beat the bushes for their next opportunity.

The best advice:  Don’t give up.  That next great job may be right around the corner.

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The Face of Climate Protection

 

A Greener Mount Rushmore

A Greener Mount Rushmore

Since Greenpeace went to all the trouble to hang this banner, the least I can do is post the photo here.  The publicity stunt was timed to coincide with the G8 Summit in Italy.

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Climate Change Kills 300,000 People Each Year

logoIn a report issued on May 29th, the Global Humanitarian Forum estimates that 300,000 people die each year from disasters related to Climate Change.  The Forum, a think-tank led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, also believes that Climate Change seriously affects 325 million people and causes $125 billion in damage every year.

Climate Change disproportionately affects the poorest countries and the poorest people.  The United Nations estimates that Africa will need $1 billion a year to help manage the effects of Climate Change, including the cost of relocating refugees.

Similarly, the International Organization for Migration claims that Climate Change will produce more than 200 million refugees by 2050.  Many of these refugees will come from island nations that disappear due to rising oceans.

The affects of Climate Change are real.  How many people will be forced to suffer before we make the serious changes needed to combat Global Warming?

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The Top 7 Ways to Write a Winning Scholarship Application

images-3I was judging scholarship applications over the weekend for the Hispanic College Fund and I thought it might be useful to pass along these observations and tips.

1.  Write for your audience.  This is basic advice for most business writers, but for some reason it is lost on many applicants.  Think about your audience and what will move them to give you a good score.

2.  Spelling and grammar count.  I was amazed at how many spelling and grammar errors I found in the applications I was judging.   I try not to judge others harshly for their errors (I’m not perfect either) but this is a highly competitive scholarship process and spelling counts.

3.  Answer the questions.  Community service was a big part of the application but several people didn’t address this in their essay.  They might have had a great record in community service, but I couldn’t tell from their application.

4.  Sell yourself.  There’s a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, but successful applicants will walk that line and sell the attributes that make them stand out from the rest.

5.  Tell me a story.  Everyone loves a good story.  Everyone hates reading “dry” applications.  Make it a good read.  Tell me your story, evoke some emotion, make me identify with you.

6.  Use the letter of recommendation to add to and amplify your application.  It seemed that a lot of applicants asked someone to write a letter and were happy to include anything they received.  Make sure your recommender reads your application before they write their letter and ask them to amplify and confirm what you’re telling me.  If you’ve done a good job in the application, this will be easy for them.

7.  Ask several people who are knowledgeable about scholarship applications to read your application and make suggestions on how you can make it better.  Expect to write several drafts until you feel it is perfect.  

Good luck to all scholarship applicants and I wish you the best in all of your endeavors.

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S&K’s End Game

images-3S&K Menswear took another step toward extinction this week when it inked a deal with liquidation firm Hilco Merchant Resources to sell the firm for at least $7.9 million.  Hilco has the option to keep S&K running, but I think that is unlikely.  If you’re going to keep the company going, you don’t sell to Hilco, who is best known for liquidating the likes of The Sharper Image and The Bombay Company.

While Hilco has the option of continuing to operate any or all of the approximately 100 stores that are left in the chain, Hilco hasn’t elected to continue operating any of the 30 stores they were handed in February and are in the process of liquidating.  To keep S&K running as a going concern, the company must file a new sales plan with the court by this Friday, 5/15.

As I wrote in my last post about S&K, I think S&K Menswear is done and these latest developments only help to confirm that conclusion.

Here’s an image that I can’t get out of my head:  I’m in the gym watching the local news on the big TV, and on the screen appears a gaunt and pale Joe Oliver.  He is wearing a bizarre looking shirt and vest combination that I wouldn’t wear on a dare.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I was thinking, here is the president of a company that built its brand on business suits, modeling an outfit that is totally out of sync with its core customer.  I thought,  “What is he wearing?!”

In my opinion, S&K got crushed by a perfect storm of a horrible economy, changing workplace fashion and an inability to reinvent itself.  Being unwilling or unable to change a failing business model will never end well.

UPDATE: During a hearing on Tuesday in bankruptcy court, S&K indicated it could run out of money by the middle of June, as it has less than $1 million in cash on hand.  The company’s chief restructuring officer, Jonathan Tibus, says the stores are also running out of inventory.  Look for a liquidation sale to start by Memorial Day.

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