Long Live Books!

4 Sep

Saturday, September 1, 2017, was the kind of chilly, rainy and overall gloomy day that’s perfect for staying in bed with a cup of coffee and a book or two.

Instead, I showered, dressed, packed my book bag (journal, paperbacks, Kindle and poncho), grabbed my umbrella and made my way to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the 17th Annual National Book Festival. The large turnout – organizers say tens of thousands were on hand – was balm for those who worry that serious and committed readers and book lovers are a disappearing breed. Perhaps most encouraging was the large turnout of families with their children – many of whom seemed more interested than their parents in this year’s subjects and authors.

Shetterly, Stavridis, Friedman, Lewis, Herrera, Barnhill, Lu, Dyson, Saujani, Kitamura, DiCamillo, McDermott, Rice and Bohjalian – those were just a few of the more than 100 authors who drew crowds of book lovers into Washington, D.C. on a Labor Day weekend.

The first National Book Festival took place on September 8, 2001 at the Library of Congress and on the east lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Founded by First Lady Laura Bush and James H. Billington (the 13th Librarian of Congress from 1987 to 2015), the event featured more than 60 award-winning authors, illustrators and storytellers from across the country including Stephen Ambrose, Natalie Babbitt, Robin Cook, Billy Collins, Sue Grafton, Larry L. King, David Levering Lewis, David McCullough, Walter Mosley, Katherine Patterson, Richard Peck, Gary Soto and Scott Turow. Additional activities included book-signings, musical performances, storytelling, panel discussions, demonstrations of illustration and new technologies. The first National Book Fair attracted between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors.

More than 200,000 people attended the 2013 National Book Festival and the number of visitors caused damage to the grass on the National Mall. So after 12 years on the National Mall, the National Book Festival moved indoors to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in 2014 – I don’t think anyone minded not being outdoors on Saturday. The move indoors allowed the Festival to expand into nighttime events, cookbook demonstrations and screenings of film adaptions of books.

I’ve been a voracious reader from a very young age; and while I carry a Kindle with me wherever I go (mostly for fiction and internet access), nothing beats the feel of a paper book. I remember living in Monterey, CA in 1999 and repeatedly hearing the doomsday scenarios for independent bookstores now that Barnes & Noble and then Amazon were on the rise. Things looked bleak for a while –the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. bottomed out at 1,651 in 2009.

Then, a funny thing started happening. The left-for-dead victim started stirring. The number of independent bookstores registered with the American Booksellers Association grew by nine in 2010 and 163 in 2011 – and kept going. That number has grown for seven-consecutive years to more than 2,320. http://www.bookweb.org/member_directory/search/ABAmember

I think author David McCullough (whom I met for the first time at this year’s festival – fan squeal!) offered a sage perspective from the Main Stage at the start of the festival, “If you ever get down about American culture just remember there are still more public libraries than there are Starbucks.”

Share in the comments – what are you reading?

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Veterans Business Outreach Center Supports Veteran Entrepreneurs in the U.S. Virgin Islands

24 Aug

USVI B2B Reboot 2017 Day 6 005The Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Community Business Partnership in Springfield, VA, recently held two 1-Day Boots to Business Reboot workshops on St. Thomas and St. Croix for 22 members of the military community. We were delighted to provide the training in collaboration with the local SBA office and their resource partners from the University of the Virgin Islands SBDC network (http://www.sbdcvi.org/).

Boots to Business|Reboot (https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd) is an entrepreneurial training program designed for Veterans and their dependents that have already made the transition back to civilian life. The curriculum includes steps for evaluating business concepts, the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan and information on SBA resources available to help access start-up capital and additional technical assistance. Veterans of all eras, plus Service members (including National Guard and Reserves) and their spouses are eligible to enroll in classes.

This was the VBOC’s second trip to the Virgin Islands in the past year and we have provided small business start-up education to nearly 50 attendees representing: Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard, active duty, Veterans, reservists, military spouses, and their families. It’s gratifying to see first-hand that word is spreading throughout the military community on the islands about all the programs and services that the SBA and its partners offer. We were thrilled to learn that they have started a local SCORE chapter and are working with the Defense Logistics Agency to open a Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in the near future.

Now I know what you may be thinking – what a boondoggle!  But wait – when you consider that the Caribbean islands are home to more Veterans per capita than anywhere in the U.S. – it makes sense that the VBOC would be there to support our military community. The economy on the islands is struggling with an unemployment rate of 10.6 (and increasing) and it’s going to take local entrepreneurs (and those who support them) to chart a path for recovery and success.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is best known for its powder-fine beaches and turquoise bays, a constant draw for the tourists who frequent this tiny American territory. But away from the beaches the mood is depressed, as government officials scramble to stave off the same kind of fiscal collapse that has already engulfed its neighbor, Puerto Rico. While the public debts of the Virgin Islands are much smaller than those of Puerto Rico – which effectively declared bankruptcy in May of this year – so too is its population; and therefore, its ability to pay down the debt places a larger burden on the residents. This tropical territory of roughly 100,000 people owes nearly $6.5 billion to pensioners and creditors.

For decades, this distant cluster of islands in the Caribbean have played a critical role as American listening posts, fueling and staging grounds and practice bombing ranges. The military presence buoyed their small economies, and a federal tax subsidy made it relatively easy for them to issue bonds. Over the years, they have collectively borrowed billions of dollars to build roads, run schools, treat drinking water and fund hospitals.

Now, a combination of factors – insufficient tax revenue, a weak pension system, the closure of military bases and loss of a major employer, and a new reluctance in the markets to lend the Virgin Islands any more money – has made it almost impossible for the government to meet its obligations. In January, the Virgin Islands found itself unable to borrow and nearly out of funds for basic government operations.

For entrepreneurs: problem + solution = business opportunity.

Many local entrepreneurs see new chances to reverse historical patterns, and to address issues with food, health, education and infrastructure while bringing new industries to the islands. Agribusiness and sustainability, ecotourism, recycling and alternative energy, and a growing interest in fusion cuisine offer opportunities for new ventures.

We worked with several active business owners, while supporting other students who were in the initial phase of thinking about what product or service might be feasible.  Businesses ranged from fashion and food-makers to coffee roasters and fitness and nutrition consulting to agricultural suppliers and government contractors.  These entrepreneurs face a long and challenging road ahead – but the SBA and its resource partners will be there to assist them.

 

Knowing What’s Important…

4 Aug

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 5:29 PM

Charles,

Our team is looking forward to the meeting tomorrow at 10am! I know it has been on our schedule for 2 months, unfortunately, an important meeting came up for me and I can’t attend.

Thanks,

Name Withheld to Protect the Guilty

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-cancel-a-meeting-without-pissing-anyone-off-2010-5

4th of July Barbecue From America’s Melting Pot

4 Jul

“Diversity” by Charles McCaffrey (2012)

For the past several days, I’ve been struggling with the topic of my annual 4th of July blog post. Politically, things have just turned hateful and nasty in our country; and so I wanted to avoid the negativity and focus on something positive.

I’ve been on vacation for the past 2 weeks and have been trying to do something new everyday (which isn’t difficult in the Washington DC area) – and that includes trying new foods. And that got me thinking about the variety of food options we enjoy in the U.S. today; and its positive implications for diversity in society.

I remember being 5 or 6 years old and having goat’s milk feta on a Greek salad for the first time. And what about drunken noodle (Thai) or chicken tikka masala (Indian)? Just yesterday, I had a naan bowl at Merzi in the Penn Quarter of DC (https://www.merzi.com/). It was served “Chipotle-style” – meaning I could pick and choose my base (naan vs. rice), my protein (spicy chicken) and my toppings (cucumbers, pickled onions and a creamy cilantro sauce). It may be hard for younger generations to believe (because 47 is soooo old), but sriracha, salsa and banana ketchup haven’t always been standard condiments. (OK, so banana ketchup hasn’t really made it out of Puerto Rico – and probably for good reasons.) So how do you turn gastronomic diversity into a blog post about Independence Day?

And then I came across this article about food, culture and the 4th of July that had been published several years ago by Michele Kayal for NPR (http://www.npr.org/2011/07/06/137472461/july-4-barbecue-from-americas-melting-pot?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170704).

I’ve always found it mildly ironic (and comedic) that on the day we celebrate our independence (America!) we are cooking hamburgers (German) and hotdogs (also known as frankfurters – German) and drinking beer (originated in Mesopotamia) and shooting off fireworks (China). Perhaps the most poignant line in this article is by barbecue expert Steven Raichlen, “But we have this wonderful gift, because we’re a nation of immigrants, to embrace foods and make them our own.”

Happy Independence Day!

Crazy Busy

26 Jun

Here’s a little something to ponder as we begin another “crazy busy” week:
Lazy: A Manifesto

I discovered this essay in “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris and is excerpted from the book “We Learn Nothing” by Tim Kreider. I also recommend Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-Hour Workweek” for tips on making your life less “busy”.

Busting Small Business Myths

16 Jun

I was turned on to this blog post (and to the No More Startup Myths blog) by another small business counselor and I wanted to share it with you…

http://nomorestartupmyths.com/everywhere-strategy-winning-formula-just-launched-startups-simple-way-screw-things/

Your time is a limited resource, use it wisely…

Using Improv to Improve Sales

12 Jun

As a small business counselor I’m often asked, “How do I increase my sales?” The short and simple answer is to improve your sales technique. And one of the best “sales” books I have come across is To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink.

Everybody sells, but not everybody sells well. While the business of sales may have changed drastically in the past 20years – where we can research and buy just about any product online – 1 in 9 workers remain in sales (amounting to over 15 million people). And the rest of us are also selling – not just products and services – but ideas and techniques. We are pitching, persuading and negotiating on a daily basis to our bosses, co-workers, spouses and even our children. In fact, a study Pink commissioned showed that we spend 40 percent of our work time “selling” something.

Another reason we are all in sales is because the workforce has changed. With the rise in small businesses and startups – thanks to innovations like eBay, Etsy, and Apple’s app store – more employees wear more and different hats, including a sales hat. Even jobs at large companies are broader in scope and require some degree of selling – think of the intrapreneur (an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the usual routines or protocols). And the growing fields of education and health services (the largest job sector in the US economy) are all about selling: convincing students to enroll, attend classes and pay attention; or getting patients to take their medication and follow through with treatments.

Think selling is “slimy”? – Pink recommends overcoming the negative impressions of selling by applying the ABCs: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. More importantly, he recommends using improvisational techniques to build your confidence and make your interactions more productive:

• Hear Offers – “Once we listen in this new, more intimate way, we begin hearing things we might have missed. And if we listen this way during our efforts to move others, we quickly realize that what seem outwardly like objections are often offers in disguise”.

• Say “Yes and” – “Instead of swirling downward into frustration, ‘Yes and’ spirals upward toward possibility. When you stop you’ve got a set of options, not a sense of futility”.

• Make Your Partner Look Good – “Today, if you make people look bad, they can tell the world. But if you make people look good, they can also tell the world”.

Improv is a form of storytelling that revels in off-the-cuff honesty. As a substitute to prepared public speaking, it’s unconventional and free-flowing, and delivers imagination and laughter. And, there’s a lot that it can do for your confidence and to help you loosen up. And the benefits don’t end there. Improv can help you be more dynamic, more positive, more easily understood by clients, a better teammate, and, in so many words, much better at sales.

Curious what Improv is like? Check out the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP, no not THAT ASAP) – which was founded in May 2015 to empower Veterans, service members, and military family members to thrive in their communities through arts classes, performances, and partnerships. ASAP focuses on promoting artistic expression, skill-development, and camaraderie through classes in Improv, stand-up comedy, storytelling and creative writing. ASAP then partners with local colleges, arts organizations and performance venues to offer its graduates continuous opportunities for artistic and personal growth. In the process, ASAP provides participants with transferable life skills, a renewed sense of purpose and identity, and healing benefits, and leverages the arts to strengthen ties between veterans and their communities. Learn more at http://www.asapasap.org/