Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Awesome Surfin' Jack

Surfin' Jack and me in Las Vegas!
There is a new canine star who has burst onto the scene whom I've come to know named Surfin' Jack. "Jack" is short for "Jackie" and she isn't just any old dog...she has an amazing story.

Surfin' Jack is a 2 year old Golden Retriever mix who was rescued from 'death row' at the Los Angeles East Valley Animal Shelter. She's a natural athlete and surfer who loves people and spreading smiles. This dog is a great example of how many truly amazing dogs (and cats) there are in shelters waiting for a good home. After being rescued, Surfin' Jack got some love and training, and went on to star in a Super Bowl TV commercial for the Lucy Pet Foundation. She has also been trained as a therapy dog to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and other folks. Surfin Jack is on a mission to help spread the word about Rescue, and also Spay & Neuter to help reduce the over-population of homeless animals. She also makes appearances from time to time with the Lucy Pet Foundation Mobile Spay & Neuter Van to educate people in local communities about this important cause. 

Surfin Jack wants to help other animals in shelters find a good home, so she is an ambassador for the Lucy Pet Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) registered animal charity. In the meantime, Surfin' Jack has now inspired a line of dog shampoos by Lucy Pet Products and has her own line called Surfin' Jack Coconut Moisturizing Shampoo and a Conditioner too! The best part of this line of shampoos from Lucy Pet Products is that they are Products With A Cause, so the profits go directly to the Lucy Pet Foundation. Surfin' Jack is able to help animals in shelters by raising money for an animal charity that really makes a difference! 

With Surfin' Jack at Blog Paws in Nashville TN
Long time readers of this blog know that I am an animal advocate and like to give back to animals any way I can. This is partly why I am proud to serve on the Board of the Lucy Pet Foundation to find more ways to help this charity help animals. Her social handle is @SurfinJackDog on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter...and now Surfin' Jack has her own website. I'm glad I've gotten to meet this amazing dog and can't wait to see all the amazing things she will be doing in the future. Keep an eye on this dog, she is going to be a star.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Work Life Balance in Hong Kong

Relaxing in Hong Kong Park
Over the past six years I've spent a great deal of time traveling throughout Asia on business and personal trips. I've genuinely enjoyed the time I have spent in most countries, yet in particular I have a fondness for Hong Kong. So much so that I now have an office in Hong Kong and spend a great deal of time here. While HK is not home, it has become familiar and welcoming in many ways. 

For anyone who enjoys city life, Hong Kong is real gem. For me, it offers many things that I value and enjoy. In particular, Hong Kong is visually stimulating with a spectacular skyline, sweeping harbor. views, and an interesting blend of Far East and Western elements. 

One of the things I especially enjoy here is the ability for a healthy work-life balance. Hong Kong Park is a great example of a place I go to relax and unwind. It is a stunning park, with beautiful foliage, garden structures winding paths and calming water features. I often walk through Hong Kong Park on my way to or from meetings. Yesterday I stopped to enjoy this waterfall and the koi pond, I almost forgot I was in the city. When I got back to my office I felt so refreshed and relaxed...and grateful to have the opportunity to be able to work here every so often. Hong Kong may not be my home, but it sure feels like it whenever I am back. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Heart is Heavy Today: Dick Van Patten June 23, 2015

Dick Van Patten with his wife Patty&  son Jimmy, in Palm Springs (photo: Palm Springs Life)
My heart is heavy today over the loss of my friend Dick Van Patten. He was kind, talented, funny, generous and truly an animal lover. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have known Dickie these years. I knew him on a personal and professional level. Most people remember him for Eight is Enough, however, he had an incredible career as an actor. He started as a child actor on stage, and later went on to one of the early TV programs "I Remember Mama" in 1949. During his career, Dickie appeared in 600 radio shows, 30 Broadway shows, 26 feature films, eight television series and countless guest appearances in TV series and even a reality TV series. I had the opportunity to work closely with Dick during my years at Natural Balance, during multiple National Guide Dog Month campaigns and also during the filming of the TV series Who Let The Dogs Out. I first got to know him back when I worked at Petco, and our friendship developed over the years. But I also knew Dickie on a personal level. His passions were many...first, his family...and then from tennis to poker to race horses to animals--and especially cats. He was always fascinated by cats.

with Dick Van Patten in Palm Springs, 2009
He was also a true animal advocate, and put his time and money into programs to help animals in need. Dick Van Patten literally helped thousands of animal organizations nationwide and founded National Guide Dog Month to help raise awareness and money for non-profit guide dog schools. Dick was a family fan, a loving husband and a dear friend. 

Dick had a great sense of humor...his jokes were always hugely funny and he had great comedic timing. Years ago, back when I worked for Petco, Dick was known for telling some truly hilarious, and now legendary jokes at the Petco Trade Show and Managers Meeting. Attendees of the annual event would literally wait with great anticipation for him to appear on stage to hear his big joke. Some years his jokes had an edgy double entendre, yet still respectable, leaving the audience rolling on the floor.

Dick loved my dog Sheldon!
Many people already know that Dick Van Patten was always interested in helping animal causes. He was an ardent supporter of Guide Dog programs, and in particular he had a soft spot for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in Palm Springs, CA. During a visit to the Guide Dogs of the Desert he went under blindfold and was led by a guide dog to experience what it was like to put full trust in an animal. This experience influenced him and was at the heart of his desire to help guide dog programs nationwide. His philanthropy knew no limits--from hosting celebrity tennis tournaments to supporting organizations like Actors and Others for Animals, The Petco Foundation, and literally thousands of shelters nationwide, he found a way to help as many animals in need as possible. His efforts also served as inspiration to similar programs in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. He made a difference to animals in the world.

Dick's Star in Palm Springs
I'll always remember the time Dick received his Golden Palm honor on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. The night before, we held a private dinner party in Dick's honor at Melvyn's Ingleside Inn restaurant, which was a truly memorable evening. The next day, Saturday January 12, 2008 was the star unveiling and dedication ceremony. 

Dickie and his family assembled for the star dedication, and other celebrities including Lily Tomlin, Tom Bosley, Ruta Lee, Debbie Gibson, Jerry Vale attended that day. Following the star dedication, we hosted a private luncheon afterward at Spencer's Restaurant. I shall never forget what a nice weekend that was, and how happy Dick was to receive this honor from the Palm Springs community.

And so, as is the case in this life, all good things must come to an end. He was one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, and a man I called friend. He encouraged me when I needed confidence, and he listened when I needed a sounding board to make personal and professional decisions. Above all, he always made me feel comfortable and relaxed.

I cannot sufficiently express the depth of my admiration, respect and love for Dickie Van Patten or what he meant to me. I cried when the word came that Dick had passed. I cried because he always made me feel like a son, and welcomed me into his life.

Thank you, Dick Van Patten for many fond memories and many great laughs. 

Your pal, Rick.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Must Read Books for Anyone with a Heart

With Lisa Erspamer at BlogPaws 2015
This week I attended the Blog Paws conference in Nashville, Tennessee, along with the folks from the Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products. Long time readers of this blog will remember that I've attended and written about Blog Paws a number of times from prior years. Blog Paws 2015 was bigger and better than ever.

Blog Paws did a great job attracting some great authors for a book signing event. One of the notable individuals was my friend Lisa Erspamer, author of three really great books: A Letter to My Dog, A Letter to My Cat and this year's newest release, A Letter to My Mom. All three of these books are filled with heart-warming stories contributed by leading luminaries of our pop culture, and beyond. 

Along with her team, Erspamer has done an excellent job crafting these collections of incredible stories. Her latest book, A Letter to My Mom is already becoming as popular as her prior two publications. For anyone with a heart, these are all must-read books and make great gifts. They are highly enjoyable to read, perfect to pick-up and put-down for those short reading bursts. You'll find these ideal for a lazy Saturday afternoon or a relaxing Sunday morning with coffee. Do yourself a favor and pick up these books. You'll be so glad that you did.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Doors Opening

These past few weeks have been enormously fulfilling and enjoyable on many levels. Doors continue to open, leading to interesting experiences and opportunities along the way of life. Much of my time has been spent in Asia, where I find myself drawn for both business and relaxation. I recently opened an office in Hong Kong, so I spend a good deal of time there now with clients and such. My Hong Kong office enables me to work more regularly with clients throughout Asia, as well as those in the US who do business in the South East Asia region. It also allows me time to visit friends and enjoy life along the way.

Doors of another kind have opened for me, coaxing me to cross an imaginary threshold that has been like a boundary for me the past year or so. These early steps are tentative, cautious and guarded, but becoming more sure-footed. The photo I selected of this post is a metaphor for what life presents to us. When the doors of life open, it is important to recognize what is before us, and to step ahead to seize the opportunities.

When I took this photo (Martyr's Shrine, Taipei Taiwan) I was struck by the beauty and solemnity of the shrine. Later when I was looking back at photos, they took on a different meaning. These huge red doors were reminding me to accept what was beyond the doors of opportunity in life. When you are presented with doors of opportunity that open for you, look beyond the threshold and move forward. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Memories of Easter Past

As one grows older, some of the more simple aspects of life take on greater meaning. I'm particularly grateful to have an appreciation of family traditions and rituals surrounding holidays, seasons and passages of time. Like most families, traditions are passed down through the generations, becoming familiar--almost second nature for each event. Holiday traditions and routines seem to particularly imprinted on my memory. Religious based holidays of course have the spiritual meaning, which are central to my memories. I don't dismiss or deliberately intend to overlook those here. It is interesting to me that my memories of Easter are far stronger than Christmas. Our family traditions around Easter were substantial. Observing Lent for 40 days, leading up to Holy Week liturgical ceremonies, Easter Vigil and of course Easter Sunday service were all heavy emotionally, but highly celebratory for the family. These were occasions that united the extended family, and always involved food--massive amounts of food in fact. 

Easter was an important holiday season. We would always get dressed up and everything just felt special. Throughout my adult life I always maintained these traditions in my own circle. Regardless of whether I was with family or friends, home or abroad, Easter traditions were always maintained. My memories of Easter are in fact, imprinted deeply. I can still see my Great Grandma's rice pies, Aunt Anita's bowl of jelly beans in the living room. Aunt Antonetta's bowl of chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, Aunt Eleanor's apricot cookies, my mom's sweet bread, and grandma Julia's bowl of gum-drop bunnies. Fanny Farmer chocolate rabbits and cream eggs were the very best. Later in life when I worked for Fanny Farmer and Fannie May Candy companies, it was a dream come true.

Even today, my own celebration of Easter continues these traditions, both real and imagined. I believe in the importance of maintaining cultural and family traditions--these are part of society. These are what help give character to us. I am grateful to my ancestors who made the effort to pass down the family traditions, giving me cherished memories. These are the among the greatest gifts I've ever received. Happy Easter. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

The thing is....

A few of my recent speaking engagements have been to "young" business professionals-- more specifically with 'Millennials'. If this is a term with which you are not familiar, Millennials (or 'Gen Y') refers to people born between 1977 and 1995, which within the US accounts for close to 80 million people. No doubt you've heard the term "Baby Boomers" and may be wondering about the other groups. Here is a quick reference: 

Generation Y: Born 1977- 1995
Generation X: Born 1965-1977
Baby Boomers: Born 1946- 1964
Traditionalists: Born pre-1946

If you want to read more about Millennials, check out Jason Dorsey, the GenY Guy. He has books, DVD kits and some really helpful stuff in his online store.

Like every generation, millennials have their own unique traits, and other generations tend to "not get" them, and have subtle differences that can sometimes set them worlds apart. I am a Gen X guy--just barely, which makes me "old" in the eyes of Millennials.

Back to my recent speaking engagements. My consulting firm has hosted a series of round table business lunches across various cities, with me as the headline speaker. These business lunches are designed to facilitate discussion to open dialogue and understanding between Millennials and Generation X business leaders in the workplace. The issue is that Millennials have a sense of entitlement, they crave instant gratification, and they have huge expectations but don't seem to be interested in the time or actions necessary to earn what they want. These traits are diametrically opposed to the traits of Generation X (and Baby Boomers for that matter). The thing is that Generation X managers are having a difficult time managing Millennials, who expect everything handed to them immediately. At issue is this is a similar trait across the generation, so it is pervasive across the workforce.

For old guys like me in executive management positions, it is easy to just dismiss this generation out of hand, lecture them and tell them how hard I had to work when I was their age. That sort of speech really makes old guys like me feel good. "There, I told them, that will fix it." Except it won't. You see, the thing is that if we Gen X managers want to see our organizations thrive and compete for talent, we need to understand how this Gen Y (Millennial) generation thinks, what motivates them. I'm not suggesting that we "give in" or make it easy for them, but the smart leaders will take time to better understand what gets this generation going. We need to understand that this is a generation that has no intention to remain loyal to any single company over their lifetime. They value moving around, to meet their expectations. So instead, my "lecture" is actually to the old guys like me: "Get used to it!".

The objective of my speaking engagements is to open this discussion...get people talking and to interpret. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on Gen Y people, but I've taken the time to educate myself on what Millennials want and how they think. My own trial and error in managing Gen Y employees has been a learning experience for sure. I may not like or truly understand why, but I understand the reality in which we work today. Therefore, in order to survive AND THRIVE in the business world today, it is crucial for old Gen X guys like me to sit down and listen to the seemingly spoiled Gen Y employee. Explain. Communicate. Don't get frustrated when they have their smart phone in their hand the entire discussion. And definitely don't get upset when they check Instagram during the conversation.

Recognizing that I'm ancient to most Millennials, I decided to lighten up and lose my suit and tie for the presentations I've made. I've made a conscious effort to wear cool colors, be more casual, but still professional (like the photo above). Despite the fact that I consider Brooks Brothers to be the model for business wardrobe, I have taken a different approach during my speaking engagements. Heck, during some presentations, I've even sat down on a table, leaning in to make a point and hold the attention of this fickle 'A.D.D.' group of attendees. I have not been offended once when I look out and seen mostly tops of heads, tilted down with faces glowing slightly from their iPhones as they tap away Tweeting, blogging, or taking selfies while I speak. The thing is, by adapting my style as a speaker and business executive I've been able to engage groups of young and old business leaders to communicate.

At times I see looks of bewilderment and the hear the occasional snicker if I make an 80's pop reference of some kind. I do it to amuse myself and keep my peer generational attendees happy. Maybe someday I'll finish the book I've been writing about this subject. For now at least I have the satisfaction of seeing ah-ha moments when these two generations come together, if only for the span of 90 minutes. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Adventures of Sheldon: Acupuncture Saves The Day

It has been quite some time since an installment of The Adventures of Sheldon appeared here, but this week qualified as blog-worthy.  On Monday, March 16th, I noticed Sheldon was not his usual happy outgoing self. He was quiet, not moving around much and didn't have that spring in his step. He is aged seven, which technically makes him a "senior" in dog years, but this change in behavior was sudden. It wasn't until later that evening when I returned home from a dinner that I noticed Sheldon was breathing heavily, in a still position and did not want to go out for his nightly walk. I knew something was amiss. I watched, waited, spoke to him, gazing into his eyes in a desperate attempt to try to get a glimmer of insights to what was wrong. Dogs have an amazing tolerance for pain and adapt exceptionally well, out of necessity he kept his body stiff and still. 

Sometime around 9:45 pm I decided I couldn't wait any more, and brought Sheldon to an emergency after hours veterinary hospital. When I arrived, it was packed. No good things are happening at an emergency vet hospital. Virtually every dog or cat is in some sad situation, and their human parents are nearly always weepy, stressed and visibly concerned. I was intermittently in those states the entire 3 hours we waited for his turn to be seen. We waited in my car for most of the duration, where Sheldon would be more comfortable and not around all the other sad people and sick dogs in the waiting area. 

Midway through the waiting period, I asked the vet to just perform a quick X-Ray to ensure there was not internal blockage or life threatening risk, such as bloat where minutes matter. The X-Ray ruled out bloat or anything where an immediate surgery was obviously required. This was some consolation to me, and we continued to wait our turn. Eventually as the wee hours of the morning approached, I met with the Veterinarian who diagnosed Sheldon with back pain, due to narrowed disk space between several vertebrae. The pain he was suffering was very real, and was now limiting his movement. The Vet administered a dose of the narcotic Buprenex through IV to help with pain management. He was prescribed a series of other meds and anti-inflammatory pills, as well as Gabapentin to treat nerve pain. Sheldon was finally released with strict orders for two weeks of very limited movement-- no playing, walking, jumping and suggested confinement to a kennel or crate. I was mentally exhausted and drained from a long evening of waiting and worrying. Close to 2:30 am I brought my best friend home, carefully carrying him into the car. He was under slight sedation, drooling heavily from the meds and just out of it. He slumped into the back seat and barely moved.

Back at home, I placed Sheldon into a spot on the floor with a soft blanket (he could not go onto my bed as usual). Stroking his head and body, I wept for hours as I watched my best friend in the whole world lay helplessly in pain. I slept on the floor next to him all night long to be with him. For the next 24 hours Sheldon barely ate or drank much water. He took his meds but had no desire to do much else. I consulted his regular doctor, who advised getting Sheldon some acupuncture treatment as soon as possible. I did not know any acupuncture vets but decided to search for one in the next day or so. By an interesting happen-stance, that very evening, while having a glass of wine with a friend, I chatted with someone who mentioned in conversation--with no knowledge of Sheldon's situation that she had brought her cat to an acupuncturist earlier that day. Ah-ha! It would seem the Universe was bringing me what I needed. She shared the vet's name and contact info and the very next morning I managed to get a same-day appointment for Sheldon.
Taking Sheldon to a certified, Holistic Veterinarian seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I am a believer of a combination of Eastern and Western medicine practices, particularly Eastern methods for preventative care and wellness health programs. In this case, I felt that just treating Sheldon's back pain with drugs to manage pain were nothing more than a short-term solution and would be bad for his liver and kidneys long term. He certainly needed those to get relief and enable his body to rest and heal, but once he was past the severe pain, a holistic approach to address the nerve and vertebrae pain points made sense. Upon meeting the doctor, I immediately warmed to her bedside manner. After reviewing his X Rays and giving a physical exam, she explained the treatment he would need. Acupuncture, laser light therapy and a massage, with a bit of aromatherapy to relax him. He would also begin a regimen of herbal medicine to help his organ functions. We began treatment immediately, with some aromatherapy oils and a massage to relax him as much as possible.
A series of acupuncture needles were placed along the spine at specific intervals and along his head, neck, hips and hind quarters
The treatment went for 15 minutes, and Sheldon was totally calm and relaxed.
Relaxing music filled the treatment room, and Sheldon was very relaxed in a Zen-like mood. He didn't mind the needles at all. When the acupuncture treatment concluded, he then had the laser-light therapy which he also seemed to enjoy very much. Here is a quick video clip of Sheldon while he had the acupuncture needles in him. You can see how relaxed he was from this video...
Sheldon slept so well that night!
The holistic doctor explained that Sheldon would likely sleep well later and be very relaxed. When we returned home, that is exactly what he did! Sheldon's facial expression was very calm and happy,
he had a great night of sleep that day. He will have several more acupuncture and laser therapy treatments to help him heal, but he is definitely feeling and looking better. 

In the meantime he is not allowed to climb stairs, run or jump, just to be sure his back has a chance to heal. I've been supplementing his normal dog food with some home cooked ground turkey with pumpkin and green peas, just for love. Additionally, I started Sheldon on Cosequin D5, maximum strength for proper dose levels of Glucosamine/Chondroitin, to help lubricate his joints. To help boost his bodily functions, he is now on
These applicators make it easy to squeeze the correct dose!
Caninedophilus, a pharmaceutical grade refrigerated probiotics gel made by Natren, the probiotics experts. While the probiotics are not intended to help his back, I believe that proper gut and digestive health will ensure his organs function optimally, which will help his entire body's immune system and reduce toxins and ultimately be able to minimize inflammation. Sheldon is on the mend...he is benefiting from the great treatment by the regular vet and the holistic vet, along with proper diet and supplements to help boost his system. None of us- human or canine can live forever, but my hope is that we live our lives fully and as healthy as possible. That is what I intend to provide for my best friend in the world, Mr Sheldon Gryffindor. These Adventures of Sheldon were a bit more dramatic that I would have preferred, but looking back on this past week, it was indeed an adventure.

As a reminder, this is not a paid post, despite my product mentions here, I wrote this entirely of my own desire to share what I believe is helping Sheldon return to good health.

PS- I wish to thank all the pet bloggers, who shared positive energy with our #pawcircle prayers. It made a difference for Sheldon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Power of Positive Thinking

When I was a kid, I read a biography of President Abraham Lincoln, who was something of a hero to me as early as 5th grade. I remember reading some quote attributed to him that was something like: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be". Even as a kid, that made an enormous impression upon me, and I understood from a young age the importance of choosing one's attitude, and the importance of having a positive outlook on life. 

While I was blessed with a very good family, my life was about as normal as most American kids growing up in New England during the 1970's. Yet that simple quote from President Lincoln was hugely instructive to me, and has helped me overcome every hurdle, set back or negative thing that has come my way in life.

About ten years ago I began studying Buddhism out of pure interest. I was not seeking to change my faith, merely to broaden my understanding of world cultures and other people. I am not a Buddhist by practice, but I remain a student, so to speak. Early on in my studies I learned the importance of positive thinking. The notion that: "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts, and with our thoughts we make our world" especially resonated with me. It reminded me of a similar lesson President Lincoln was giving from that quote. 

Whether one calls it the power or prayer, power of thoughts, or positive energy, it all stems from the same source in my opinion. These principles apply to personal life, business, career or family. If you dwell on what is wrong, or what could go wrong, or what went wrong, your mind--and world around you reflect that negative energy, and the laws of attraction tend to just bring more.

Like this sign reads above, "Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results". My life has been met with many similar challenges, disappointments, and sadness or loss as the next person, yet I have never-ever felt negative or as if life was unfair. In fact I've felt exactly the opposite. I consider myself truly blessed and the luckiest person in the world. Truly, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I just made up my mind many years ago to be happy. And that positive thinking has made all the difference.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Morning Coffee Routines with Mr Sheldon

One of the things I've always appreciated about the similarity of humans to dogs is how we are both creatures of habit and like familiar routines. As a Standard Poodle, Sheldon is intelligent and studies every move I make. He knows my routines and how they affect him. In the mornings when I brew some coffee, he usually waits in the kitchen with me, and then the moment I pick up my mug, dashes out to the patio ahead of me, sits down by one of the chairs and waits for me. (Having four legs, he gets there several paces before me.) Usually I read the morning news from the usual websites, and Sheldon gets his to speak. He hops up on one of the chairs-- or an ottoman, and scans the world from his vantage. All the comings and goings must be carefully observed and monitored. 

Sheldon is a good pal... he humors me when I read a headline or recant some story to him, particularly if it is a dog story. He turns his head toward me, listens intently and when he tires of my meaningless words he looks away in boredom, dismissing me ever-so-gently. Of course periodically he gets riled up about something and barks his opinion to tell off some dog, or to tell me that he smells another dog walking by.  He isn't one to bark often, so I let him blow off his steam and then circle back to me huffing and puffing a bit, until he settles back down by my feet.

Breakfast on the patio is a routine he also enjoys, as there is always the distinct possibility something could go flying off the table and require canine cleanup service. I always say it is a side business he runs called "Sheldon's Canine Clean Up Service" but it doesn't get much business in my home, as I'm not a sloppy eater. But its certainly reassuring to know that I never have to worry should I drop a piece of toast.

Sheldon also seems to know that I have two mugs of coffee, and no more. When I finish the second mug of coffee, he leaves his post and heads to the master bathroom, as he knows I'll shower and get dressed. I enjoy having my morning coffee with Mr Sheldon, he is my best friend and a perfect roommate.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So you're an what?

Over the years I've met hundreds of people who describe themselves as an "entrepreneur" of some type.  It sounds exciting, doesn't it? The word is defined as "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk". There some incredible success stories of people who made something out of nothing. Think of people like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mary Kay Ash, Ray Kroc, Sean Combs, Milton Hershey,  Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Caterina Fake, etc. Some of those people never went to college, and some never even graduated from high school. 

So what is it that makes an entrepreneur successful? Contributing factors include ambition, drive, determination, focus, willingness to take risk in the face of uncertainty, ability to dream, think conceptually, or "outside the box" challenge the norms, using a blend of art/science and gut instinct, creativity etc. By no means is this a complete list, and any one of these alone does not guarantee success. In my experience, the successful entrepreneur also does these other things correctly:

  • Finds innovation to meet the needs of others
  • Self Awareness of their own shortcomings and seek out people with skills and expertise to fill those gaps.
  • Recognize that there are things they do not know, and actively solicit feedback from others.
  • Networks extensively to fine tune concepts
  • Possesses an in-depth knowledge of their space 
  • Secures adequate financial resources to ensure development
  • Writes down their vision and sets multi-year goals
  • Develops a business plan and strategy
  • Knows how to create value for stakeholders/investors
  • Grooms leaders and bench strength for continuity
  • Defines the exit strategy for their involvement 

It is true that there are some entrepreneurs who achieved success as a result of being in the right place at the right time. Those instances are more often the result of being first to market or creating opportunity out of necessity or an urgent need. For everyone else-- and that is nearly all of us, being creative alone just isn't enough.

As a business consultant, I frequently meet with individuals with incredible passion, enthusiasm and creativity, yet lack business skills to monetize and execute their ideas. My advice to anyone who considers themselves an entrepreneur is to write a business plan, and let someone else read it. Seek out advice from people with experience and proven track record for success. The Golden Rule I happen to live by for Entrepreneurs, is "If it is too good to be true, it usually is". 

So you're an entrepreneur...before you run down the path of bringing your great idea to reality, step back, take the time to ask the tough questions and get someone to "punch holes" in your big idea. Then, and only then find an experienced business person to engage with on a project basis to get some professional advice. It could save you from burning through investor's money, or worse yet, your own life savings.

Rick Rockhill is Managing Partner and co-founder of Zarhill Partners Group, a retail brand and sales consulting group based in Burbank, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. They serve clients throughout the USA and Asia.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Whirlwind Coast to Coast Trip

Last week was one of those "coast to coast" trips where I was attending conferences, trade shows, client meetings and public marketplace events. A day meeting in Phoenix, AZ with a client, then it was off to Orlando, FL to attend the Global Pet Expo. As an 18 year veteran of the pet industry, the Global Pet Expo is an annual required ritual, and this year was no exception. Aside from having a few clients in the pet industry, it is also critical to remain current with new and emerging trends in the pet marketplace. I tend to be a creature of habit, and frequent the same hotels, restaurants and such. This year my usual hotel was booked solid, so I went to the Waldorf=Astoria Orlando, which is a lovely property.
Hilton Hotels, which owns the original Waldorf=Astoria New York, extended this luxury brand to other cities by building other Waldorf=Astoria properties. While no other location could match the magic of the historic Manhattan property, they have done an excellent job with this brand. The Waldorf Orlando is quite nice, with many familiar aspects of its NYC counterpart. For me, being at the Waldorf Orlando made being away form home--and in Orlando much more tolerable. The only way it could have been better was if I had my poodles with me. After a few days in Orlando, it was off to Las Vegas for a quick pit stop meeting, then back on the road again to Anaheim, California to attend another industry gathering.
Natural Products Expo West, or "ExpoWest" is an absolute juggernaut of trade shows for natural products. I have been attending this show for at least 10 years now, and truly enjoy this show. In addition to the trade show floor exhibits, there are a series of seminars and educational sessions to learn and network. I was still on EST when I was dragging my body through the ExpoWest event, with my brain still confused on zone zones. A few doses of strong coffee got me through client meetings and helped me shlep through the many trade show aisles. 
Somehow I squeezed in time to leave Anaheim to attend a charity luncheon and fashion show in Rancho Mirage, CA to benefit the Animal Samaritans of the Desert.  Before it was all over, I darted over to the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market where I visited a new client who was exhibiting there. I enjoy these retail events, equally to observe the merchant vendors and consumers in action. Sunday brought the Daylight Savings Time time change, so losing an hour of sleep threw me off a bit. As I settled into the Burbank house this evening, I looked back on the last 7 days in awe. Somehow I got it all in, remarkably so. It was a whirlwind, indeed.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Sure Flew By....

At a Buddhist temple in Hong Kong
With just 28 days, February is always a short month, yet time has seemed to whizz by even faster than usual. Back to back trips such as Hong Kong and NYC--among other several destinations have resulted in more than a few times when I was not entirely sure in which city I had awakened. All these travels have been for personal business and pleasure, so I am certainly not complaining in any way. 

Back at home, I have a collection of clocks, quite a few in fact, cuckoo, mantle, carriage and various other wind-up clocks. There was one week in particular when I could have sworn they all ran fast--meaning that it seemed to me that I was having to wind them more often, suggesting to me that time was going my more quickly than usual. I don't really think there was anything different happening, just my awareness of time appearing to be fleeting. If nothing else, it was the universe reminding me to appreciate every second.

With March upon us, and Spring just around the corner things are just kicking into high gear. 2015 is shaping up to be an exceptionally lucky and enjoyable year. I hope it brings you peace, prosperity and continued good health.


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

It is for entertainment purposes only it, so just lighten up and just enjoy it. Life is short, live in the moment.

As the author, thoughts/views have no affiliation to my clients or business colleagues.