News + Views

It Depends


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



Less is more when serving productive ends. Direct, clear and purposed responses smooth pathways to understanding and effective results. Most would say the same, though perhaps in other words. Few allow an obvious waste of time, in conversation or endeavor.

On the other hand, the ideal in us is often lost in concerns over what others may think about us, for what we say or do—the self-ideal. The question we ask of ourselves is simple enough. What do others think I think they think I think of myself? While you ponder this, consider the nature of your motivations. Is it fear of failure (in the eyes of others), or surviving the moment, or risking abandonment for the sake of expected rewards?

“I need some exercise, but at 81 riding my bike (a former passion) is risky. And what would my family think if I fell and hurt myself?” A crazy loon, perhaps.


Risky answers to customers’ questions, like “How long will it take to do the work?” “What will it cost?” “How long will the refinished floor last?” “Will the drain stoppage come back again?” need clear answers, not those that raise more questions that add uncertainty in the mind of buyers. “It depends” is seldom the reassurance customers seek, or the confirmation sellers hope for. A fully disclosed answer to the question prepares the buyer for good decision making and the seller for success.

While reluctance to answer customers’ questions may chase sales, it is equally unproductive in the exchange between buyer and seller when the customer is afraid to ask questions. Each has his reasons for non-answers and non-questions, but neither leads to productive ends in most cases.

Why, then are so many sellers unwilling to give a different answer and buyers equally united against asking important, qualifying questions?  We all know that information and education are the best-selling tools, don’t we? Fear of failure is the likely reason.

According to Professor Martin Covington of The University of California, “ … the fear of failure is directly linked to our sense of self-worth.”  Professor Covington’s research on students, published in the Handbook of Motivation at School found that “ … one way we protect our self-worth is by believing we are competent, and by convincing others of it, too. For this reason, the ability to achieve is critical in maintaining self-worth. To fail to perform essentially means that we are not able, and therefore, not worthy.”

Into which of Covington’s four categories do you fall?

  • Success-oriented:  Love learning for the sake of learning. You see failure as the method to improvement. You embrace it as a learning process that better enables you to meet daily requirements in a healthy, productive manner.
  • Over-reachers: You are so afraid of failing that you avoid it at all costs. Sellers talk incessantly to avoid giving a buyer the opportunity to object or comment, and they never get to the “close.” Buyers try to convince sellers that they are easy to work with, not perfectionists about the project details or just browsing, but with no specifics in mind in order to fend off seller advances.
  • Non-believers: You don’t expect to succeed, so you make excuses for product shortages, quality issues, or simply take the Fifth, to pass the failure to consummate a sale to the buyer. Buyers feign to locate what they are looking for.
  • No Hope:  You’ve given up trying to succeed, believing this work is not for you. Buyers see a bad end in sight believing it is the only outcome, and then accept some measure of success as “good enough.”

According to experts, self-forgiveness is a path to overcoming failure, but it’s a process. Research conducted by Kristin Neff, an associate professor in the University of Texas’s Department of Educational Psychology, found that people who practice self-compassion recover more quickly from failure and are more likely to try new things.

When we take the attitude that we are all just people trying to make the most of things while helping others do the same, we are better prepared to succeed at whatever we choose to do.


February 23, 2018 |

Music and Movies — The Perfect Combination

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



Think back to the early days of “moving pictures,” before sound was developed to accompany the film. If you watch documentaries about the subject, you know piano players were hired to be in theaters to play music at the appropriate times during the film. This enhanced the acting that was on screen and let the audience know when they should feel happy or nervous about what was being portrayed on film. Fast forward to the 21st century and music is still an integral part of watching a film, in a theater or at home.

We had the pleasure of attending a special event held at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The evening began with a program entitled Common Language: The Art of Composing for Film. It was an evening of film clips and conversation with creative collaborator Carter Burwell, (composer of True Grit, Where the Wild Things Are, and the extremely successful Twilight Trilogy, etc.) and filmmaker Michael Almereyda (Paradise, Hamlet, Nadja).

The evening began with a greeting by Raj Roy, Chief Curator of MOMA’s film department. The audience viewed clips of films and then Burwell discussed how he composed the music in addition to the story behind several of the scores. The tales were as stirring as his music as Burwell described the process he went through to find the right music to accompany such films as Raising Arizona and Fargo, among his vast array of commercial hits.

For True Grit, he had a year before the film was made and decided not to go with a typical western soundtrack. The plot line of the film was from a fourteen-year old girl’s point of view as she talked about avenging her father’s murder. Her narrative bore many passages that were biblical or used “church language” and so Burwell scored music that was in the same genre as church hymns.

In Twilight, the teen vampire series, a compelling love song melody was requested by the filmmakers, so Burwell used a song he wrote when he was courting a girl in his dating days. Bella’s Lullaby was thus created and Burwell was amazed about how much interest this music has been generated by bloggers. “By the way,” Burwell related, “that girl from his dating days is now his wife.”

These and other stories filled the evening with the behind-the-scenes look at the process of inserting music into films. It was a forceful insight into the world of music that stirs, compels and puts us on the edge of our seats in the darkened movie theater.

February 21, 2018 |

Wake Up Refreshed


To Your Health









Simple ways to begin your morning

(Family Features) Ready, set, go. Just as you would set off at the starting line of a race, this hectic pace is how mornings begin for many men and women.

Instead of waking with dread to face another hectic morning, consider these tips for a healthier way to ease into your daily rituals. While these activities may require you to allow extra time, you may be pleased with the productive results.

Meditate. A practice that has been around for thousands of years may still be one of the best stress busters for hurried mornings. To start, find a place in your home that is free of noise and distraction. Practice sitting still, with eyes closed, and focus only on your breathing. Using deep, controlled breaths, try to steer your thoughts away from negative and stress-inducing thoughts.

Stretch. While the most health-conscious person may opt for a morning sweat-a-thon, working in some stretches can also be beneficial. When you awake, think about oft-used muscles and extend each one for 15-30 seconds.

Activate. Give your brain some fuel in the morning while also doing something nice for your mind. For example, journaling is a gentle way to ease into your morning and get your brain firing. If you can’t think of a topic, simply write down a few affirmations for the day, revisit a pleasant memory from your past or scribble down a goal for the week. Journaling can be an uplifting way to engage the mind and express gratitude for the day ahead.

Find more tips for starting your day on the right foot at


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

February 21, 2018 |

Boost Your Breakfast with Protein-Packed Recipes


In Good Taste









(Family Features) Whether you’re a casual exerciser, a professional athlete or just looking for a nutritious breakfast, kick off your day with protein-packed recipes.


As an expert in the nutritional needs of professional athletes, Megan Chacosky, chef and registered dietitian for the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team, stresses the importance of protein in any fitness enthusiast’s diet. Protein helps build, maintain and repair muscles while increasing energy and endurance, which can help strengthen the body and avoid injuries. Adding a protein beverage like Rockin’ Protein, made from fresh Shamrock Farms milk with up to 30 grams of protein per serving, into healthy breakfast recipes is one way to increase the protein level and nutritional benefits of your breakfast.

These recipes are quick to prep for grab-and-go mornings to start your day with proper nutrition. To learn more, visit

Chocolate-Hazelnut Granola

Servings: 30

1          bottle (12 ounces) Chocolate Rockin’ Protein Builder

12        cups rolled oats

1/2       cup maple syrup

3/4       cup oil

2          cups roasted hazelnuts

1/2       cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2       cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2       cup dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 F.

In large bowl, combine protein builder, rolled oats, maple syrup, oil, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds; mix until oats, hazelnuts and seeds are coated. On baking sheet, spread granola in thin layers and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

Cool completely then sprinkle in chocolate chips and serve with yogurt, on smoothie bowl or as cereal.

Nutritional information per serving: 295 calories; 32 g carbohydrates; 7.5 g protein; 16 g fat; 6 g sugar.


Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Servings: 12 muffins

1          cup cornmeal

1          cup flour

1/4       cup sugar

2          teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

1          cup fresh blueberries

1          egg

1          cup Vanilla Rockin’ Protein Builder

6          tablespoons vegetable oil

1          lemon, juiced


Heat oven to 400 F. Line muffin tin with 12 paper or foil muffin liners and set aside.

In medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; once mixed, toss in blueberries to coat.

In separate bowl, combine egg, protein builder, oil and lemon juice. Pour liquid ingredients into dry mix and stir until just combined. Divide into lined muffin tins and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving: 245 calories; 25 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 15 g fat; 6 g sugar.



February 21, 2018 |

Competitive Analysis


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich




Most of us face competition. Even those who work in the “not-for-profit” world compete for resources. In fact, competition may be defined as the alternative use of the same resources. That is, the solutions to problems are usually found by the application of these resources, whether by the purchase of a standard product or one that is made to serve its purpose. It’s the old hammer and screwdriver model. When we don’t have a hammer, a screwdriver will do.

In many open markets, most goods and services can be purchased from any number of companies, giving customers a wide variety from which to choose. It’s the work of companies in the market to find their competitive edge and to meet customers’ needs better than their competitors. So, how can one company gain competitive advantage over the others? Whether there are few or many like products and services in the chosen marketplace, how do different organizations sell basically the same things at different prices and with different degrees of success? It is a classic question, and one addressed by many over the years. Among them is Michael Porter, business professor at Harvard University, and market student. In his original work, “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors,” he summarizes competition into three classic strategies:

  1. Cost Leadership
  2. Product Differentiation
  3. Market Segmentation

These three generic strategies outline the ways organizations provide their customers with what they want at a better price or more effectively than others. Essentially, Porter maintained that companies compete either on price (cost), on perceived value (differentiation), or by focusing on a very specific customer (market segmentation).

Competing on lower prices or by offering more perceived value became very popular (as competitive advantages) for simple reasons. Price is ever present in the mind of the consumer and easily confused with value. If the analysis of value becomes too arduous, many “sellers” of product and service revert to price as the distinguisher to attract customers. Ultimately, price becomes the value proposition.

For many, however, the detail in the choice among the three strategies revealed opportunity. Thus, tools were developed to assist the analysis of competitive advantage. In developing Bowman’s Strategy Clock, Cliff Bowman and David Faulkner looked at Porter’s strategies in a different way.

In 1996, this led to the development of Bowman’s Strategy Clock. As with Porter’s generic strategies, Bowman considers competitive advantage in relation to cost advantage or differentiation advantage. This model of corporate strategy is another suitable way to analyze a company’s competitive position in comparison to others’ offerings. There are six core strategic options, eight in total:

  1. Low Price/Low Added Value. This strategy is commonly considered to be appropriate only on a segment-by-segment basis. It is generally a high-volume strategy.
  2. Low Price. This strategy calls for the company to position itself as the “low-cost leader.” The company risks low margins, price wars, and ultimately devalues the market.
  3. Hybrid of Low Price/Differentiation. Here, the company establishes a low-cost base and reinvests to keep prices low, while still seeking differentiation.
  4. Differentiation. There are two versions of this strategy — with and without a price premium. With a price premium, the company adds enough value to the product to justify its relatively high price and so, increases margins. Without a price premium, the company adds value to the product in hopes of gaining market share despite lower margins.
  5. Focused Differentiation. Here, the company adds enough value to the product for a specific customer segment to justify a price premium. This is also called an “exclusivity market.”
  6. Increased Price/Standard Product. With this strategy, the company raises prices without adding value to the product in hopes of higher margins. Unless the product is the de facto industry standard, however, the company risks losing market share.
  7. Increased Price/Low Values. This strategy pertains only to monopoly situations.
  8. Low Value/Standard Price. This strategy invariably ends in loss of market share.

Bowman’s Strategy Clock

The Strategy Clock is adapted from the work of Cliff Bowman


As an exercise, place the following product/services in their likely categories onto the Strategy Clock. Add your own as you get the hang of it.

  • New Zealand lamb
  • A standard domestic 40-watt light bulb
  • A colored 40-watt light bulb
  • Pay per view TV
  • Hyundai autos
  • First class airline flights
  • A standard paperclip

The idea is to find out where your product/service rests in the Strategy Clock to determine either your competitiveness or the opportunity to improve it. Products in the high price/low value segment (6-8) are likely to fail. Most brands don’t make money and consequently, company portfolios are replete with loss-making and marginally profitable brands. This occurs because companies too often see core competencies as far as their product definitions reveal, and not as far as the skills necessary to making a market for them. Knee jerk reaction to competitive entries is also at the root of much product formation.

The opportunity in competitive analysis is to capture a clearer picture of the brand strength — either actual or expected. Once identified, the work necessary to effective positioning can begin. As is always the case, if you don’t do your own positioning your competitor will do it (to you).


February 16, 2018 |
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