Wednesday, February 12, 2020

I'm Now 54 - A thing or four I have learned

So, yesterday I turned 54 – my age now incorporating the numbers of the most famous dance club of this (or the last) generation; Studio 54.  Truth be told, I did go there a few times (the winter of 1985) but that’s a topic for another day.

You know, birthdays always make me reflect a little – and the perfect time for that was yesterday in the spinning class I went to from 5:30 to 6:15pm.  The instructor played great music – loud – and for those that know me well, know that I love great music – loud.  It was grunge hour yesterday, a genre I particularly like.  Soundgarden.  Nirvana.  Blink 182.  Pearl Jam. I was in my happy place and did some good reflection. 

The bottom line is this: I consider myself to be the most fortunate person I know (or even don't).  Far as I am concerned, I have it all.  A great job.  An awesome wife.  Two great young adult kids.  Supportive family.  A career I adore which provides me a good living.  Perfect health.  A wide and diverse circle of friends and many clients that admire and respect me.  And I live in a fantastic country.  And that’s the point – I have it all – and I am so grateful. 

That I have so much happiness in my life, makes me kinda/ somewhat qualified to share the things that got me to where I am, and if this helps but one person of the approximate 600 that will get this – then the world will be (just a little bit) a better place.
  • Being angry for 10 minutes is OK.  Being angry for more than 10 minutes is not.  People, places and things are going to piss you off from time to time.  No question.  And you’re going to be justifiably angry.  Know what I say?  Get over it dude and move on.  No problem was ever solved by dwelling in an angry past --- look at the tomorrow aspect
  •  Keep in touch with people – even when you don’t need anything from them and especially when you don’t need anything from them.  Even a dead, rapidly rotting fish in the summer sun smells better than a voicemail I got a few days ago that went like this, “Hi John, it’s so-and-so and we met like ten years ago at a PR conference.  FRemember me? Sorry I never called you or was in touch.  But I wanted to pick your brain for a few minutes.  Please call me.”  Yeah right? I could not hit the delete button fast enough
  • Keep your word.  I know this sounds easier than you think – but most people say one thing and do another.  I’ve noticed in the past few years that many people pay little attention to doing what they say and saying what they do … but don’t be a sheeple.  If you say it.  Then do it.  Simple.
  • Ask not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others.  Help before you ask for help yourself.  Be kind and generous in everything (especially with our time) to others and they’ll repay you over and over and over again.  You have got to give to get. 
That pretty much is it.  Heed the above 4 ideas – and you’ll live a happier life.  You have my word. Now, as I bask in the emotional warmth from yesterday, I will bid the world goodnight.  Le Chaim!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's a new era - we're back to where we started

It's weighed on my head for the past few months - the kids leaving the house, that is.  Jason is now back in London, completing his fifth and final year of the Ivey Honors in Business Administration program.  Amanda, our youngest at Queen's University in Kingston - set for her first year in her concurrent education program.

We're back from Kingston now - fingers crossed she's settling in.  She resilient, I hope and expect.  A strong young lady, I hope and expect. At a great educational institution, I hope and expect.  In the prime of her life - I know.

But - it's not easy for me.  It's how my awesome wife and I were twenty-five years ago --- just the two of us.  Except, we're now 25 years older.  25 years more experienced.  And 25 years more in love with one another.  But - it's not easy for me.  I can see this transition is going to be a struggle.

They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids live out the house - some 250 kilometers away.  They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids get married. They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids have kids of their own. 

And while I feel my job is far from done, I can't help feeling sad.  Sad that my kids are out the house.  But happy that they're doing great things with their lives, getting excellent educations and making what are hopefully meaningful life connections - without me.  And that's a good thing.  It's the way nature intended it to be.  You can't fight it.

When I kissed and hugged my daughter yesterday, I felt my eyes well up .  They became thick  and heavy.  I felt the bitter sting of tear as the salty drop worked its way down my warm cheek into the waiting kleenex.  Amanda saw me.  Karen saw me and the world saw me.  Even G-d saw me - and in that tearful and mixed-up moment, I realized I am the luckiest man in the world.

And who was it again - that said real men don't cry?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Things I learned in South Africa

I just returned from an amazing 2-week trip to the land of my birth – South Africa.  To sum it up in a single word – profound.  It was the first time I have returned since 1992.  There are many changes – some for the better, other’s not.

Since I am about ongoing improvement, there are several key learnings:

1.       Never forget your roots.   Makes no difference how much money you made along the way, how many houses you have, how much fame you acquire.  Remember where you came from – because if you forget, you’ll have no idea where you’re going.  And losing you way, is frightening on a good day, disastrous on any other.   

2.       Wake up early.  I noticed Africa starts early (perhaps it’s the early sunrise or the searing heat – makes no difference) but get up before the others do.  The first few hours of the day tend to be one’s most productive.  Just ask my friend Peter Shankman – he’s up at 4am – accomplishing stuff.   I see waking up early as an increasingly important part of my regime. 

3.       Quit wasting.  Fact: 60% of all food prepared in North America is not consumed. Whether it’s water, food, hydro, time or anything similar – use just what you need.  Show respect: don’t waste.  Much of what we waste is irreplaceable – pay attention to the environment.

4.       Keep things simple.  I work with people and money --- two of life’s most complex elements.  There’s a remarkably strong correlation between simplicity and happiness.  In Africa, things are far simpler than in North America and despite service issues in Africa, people are generally very happy.

5.      You don’t just have to blend in … aka celebrate and (more importantly) respect your differences.  I’m no politician, but there are few places I can think of that are more racially divided than South Africa.  As many races as there are in South Africa, each one seemingly respects each other’s traditions and customs and while I know there is racial tension – each race co-exists – and it kinda works.

In closing, happy 2019.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I Got Fooled - A Few Times

If you know me, you know three things.  First: I'm transparent (say it like it is and give full disclosure).  Second: I'm all about giving and getting good value.  Three: I hate getting ripped off.  So, when I am treated without transparency, get no value and get ripped off - well, it's not pretty - and it's not pretty right now.

Last week I met a friend at Cibo - a wine bar in midtown Toronto.  It's her recommendation - a nice wine bar.  Some pretty people are there.  We are seated by an attractive hostess.  Trendy music is playing (a little loud for my taste, but it's all good).  Server comes to our table and introduces herself (dammed if I can remember her name) - but I digress.

She sets drinks menus down - and comes back a few minutes later.  Neither of us open the menus.  I order my usual (Campari and Soda) and my friend orders a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (pretty pedestrian orders). So far so good.

Couple hours later, we're good to go - the check arrives. "You've charged us for the bottle", I say to the server. "Umm" she replies with a look of incredulity. "The glass of wine your friend ordered is $32".  By this time, I'm rolling on the floor.  "$32 for a glass of cab sauv that my friend ordered - not even by it's name?"

"Yup", said the server with a you-caught-me-with-my-fingers-in-the-cookie-jar look. "This is a wine bar you know." (Note to self - like I believe being in a wine bar justifies a $32 hammering for a glass of cab sauv).

My blood's starting to boil - I'm biting my tongue.  "Sure", I continue - I pay the bill, add a generous tip (like she deserved it) and my friend and I continue chatting. "Wait.  Tell you what," I add, as we run for the exit. "Here's another $20. Use it to buy someone a drink who can't afford to take a $32 pounding for a glass of the same cab sauv my friend just drank" - as I pressed a cool $20 into her soft and wanting palm.

Then we left - not even an entire boatload of bitters could come close to the bitter taste in my mouth.  

I called the manager yesterday- just to let him know.  He was non-chalant - couldn't care less.  "Yeah", he went on. "It was a great wine, wasn't it - I'll let the server know you liked it but thought is was kinda pricey".  I asked if there were perhaps cheaper options. "Many", he replied.  Begs the question (in my mind, at least) why a $32 glass was served, as opposed to a $19 glass or say a $71 glass (if there even is such a thing).  

Obviously the server gave us the proverbial "you-know-what." The manager seemed oblivious. 

"Next time you're in the area, drop in - and ask for me.  If I'm here I'll give you a glass on us," he added.  "Nothing much I can do - like I can't give you a refund or anything."

Yeah right - like I'm gonna come to mid-town to get a free glass of $12, $22, $32, $42 or even $71 glass of anything. 

Lessons learned: 
1.  Don't order a house red, house white, cab sauv, burger or anything at a restaurant without knowing the price - if you do, touch your toes and open wide 'cause you're at their mercy
2.  Deliver and expect full transparency in all your communications - the server should have told us the price tag and given us the choice
3.  As a client/ customer, ask questions
4.  Last impressions last long --- I know you know mine of Cibo

Cibo's at 2472 Yonge Street - that's if you care to touch your toes, open wide and pay $32 for a cab sauv (without opening the menu).  If not, you can buy two bottles of my favorite red wine (Altoona Cab Sauv) and make a toast to three old concepts --- transparency, disclosure and value.

You'd make me smile if you did!  Le Chaim. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The End-Of-The-Car-Story

So after our awful experience at our local Honda dealership, Michelle read my blog and kindly introduced me to  Raymond Chiu over at Richmond Hill Honda.  And as bad as our experience was at another Honda dealership, so was this experience at Richmond Hill Honda good.    Now to be fair, the car business is not an easy one.  They're high ticket items and the environment is most competitive.  Here's what I learned from Richmond Hill Honda.  Salespeople, business development pro's, realtors, other car salespeople and the like, take note.

1.  First and last impressions are the most important - what happens in the middle - less so.  When we walked into Raymond's dealership for the first time, we were greeted by smiling employees.  Raymond was paged, he showed up within seconds - smiling.  When we left the dealership, new car in hand, we we got fond farewells and thanks from Raymond and his team (Kim and Lewis)

2.  Establish rapport early and at every opportunity.  In my humble opinion, you're not merely buying a car - you're buying a car that fits your lifestyle and Raymond took the time to understand our lifestyle and what we were looking for from a car.  Raymond seemsed to understand our needs, our lives and therefore was able to make suggestions based on our needs, not his.  I call that KYC - know your client

3.  You're only as good as your team - and the team approach always trumps solo.  Raymond talked about his team - and introduced us to Kim - sales assistant.  Kim would prove invaluable in the process of closing the sale.  Oh, and when we picked up the new car - Kim talked us us about all the rust-proofing options (I don't believe in them at all).  No questions Kim's got a job to do - and I get that.  Kim listened, and when I said we were not intereted, she got it.  There is nothing wrong at all with a subtle up-sell (Kim get's a 10 out of 10 for having taken the initiative)

4.  Set expectations from the start.  The dealership clearly articulated, what they were going to do - and what we could expect - and I like that.  In other words, they removed the F.U.D (fear, uncertainly and doubt) factor early

And that, brings our car story to a lovely and appropriate closure.  Thanks to Raymond, Kim and Lewis at Richmond Hill Honda for making our car acquisition process (something I don't particularly enjoy), so easy and such a pleasure. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

This would be sad if it was not so funny - or funny if it was not so sad

My wife’s looking to buy a new car – it’s something we don’t enjoy shopping for.  A necessary evil.  So last weekend, we walk into our local Honda dealership.  After a couple minutes Victor approaches us and introduces himself.  All the salespeople are busy he says and asks if we’d mind making an appointment at a convenient time at which point Victor says, a salesperson would be available.   We’re good with that – and booked our appointment for 4:30pm July 26. 
Couple hours later, I get an email.  Victor’s introduced us to Mike, (a salesperson) and the appointment is set up for 4:30pm July 26.

If I were Mike, there are two things I would have done:
1.        Found out a little more about me and my wife (Facebook/ Linked In/ Social media)
a.       It’s called relationship building – any salesperson would/ should know that

2.       Shown up for the appointment early
a.       The first rule of sales
Not sure if Mike did 1. above – but for sure he did not do 2. above.  Sadly, here’s what happened. 

We arrived at the dealership and were greeted by the hostess.  Asked for Mike.  Received a blank stare.  “He’s not here”, we were told.  “Umm, we have an appointment at 4:30”.  “One moment please”
Hostess returns a minute later.  “We’ve called him and he will be here in a few minutes.” “OK – we’ll wait.”

The clock’s ticking.  It’s 4:45pm.  Victor sees us - comes by and I tell him what’s happening.  Our mood is spoiling faster than Usain Bolt can sprint the 100m.  Victor calls Mike – Mike’s still on his way.  Victor disappears – we don’t see him again

4:56pm – we’re walking out the door of the dealership - our moods are entirely ruined.  Mike comes flying in.  Apologizes.  But the damage’s been done.  We’re out the door – on route to another dealership.

Now maybe Mike had a personal emergency – I understand and sympathize.  That being the case, there’s phone and email to let me know.

Now, my time’s worth no more than Mike’s, Victor’s – are anyone else’s for that matter.   But one thing I do respect is punctuality – especially when there’s not a single thing on Honda’s floor prices lower than $30,000. 
Again, due respect to salespeople --- it’s a hard job and it’s one that I admire and respect.  But when you don’t know with whom you’re dealing and show up late, you have more chance of making the sale than snowflake has of surviving in a furnace.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What happens when you don't return phone calls

Some things are intuitive and some things are not.  I get that, but one thing I just don’t understand is the thought process behind why so many people refuse to return calls.  Call me stupid, but I just don’t get it.

I am an investment advisor.  It’s something that I am honored and privileged to do for many families and businesses.  I take my clients’ money very seriously – as seriously as I take my own.  And my clients know it.  That I am the financial steward for so many normal people is a testament to the trust I’ve built up.  My clients know me as a natural connector, meaning I match many people up with resources they may need.  And although I only manage money, I’ve helped people in my network find soul mates, family therapists, addiction counselors, plumbers, all sorts of trades people, and a large miscellany of other resources.

I am also very generous (perhaps to a fault) or referring business to those in my network.  I do this to help others.  There’s nothing in it for me, except happiness and doing the right thing.  I create good karma. 

A good part of my job is calling people, to talk money and to offer help.  The reality is that most people who manage their own money have almost no clue as to how it works.  The result: Significant losses over prolonged periods.  It’s these very same people who continue to blame bad luck.  No – it’s not bad luck.  It’s bad decision making. Period. 

My approach is simple.  I tell – never sell.   I say things like they are (no sugar-coating) and I work with those that share the same philosophies as I do about money.  If you do – we work together.  And if we don’t – we don’t.  And I am totally not offended, either way.  Oh, and I also have a very thick skin.  Nothing ever offends me, except not returning my calls and saying a simple, honest or even dishonest - “No”

Here's what happens if you have never returned a call of mine:

  1. I am not going to support your brand. Why would I continue to support your brand, if you don’t have the courtesy to return more than 10 of my calls over a 12-month period. I call that rude (rude I get over easily) – not to mention unprofessional.  A senior VP of a nationally recognized coffee-store chain refused my calls – repeatedly.  Eighteen months later, I go out of my way to not support them. 
  2. You’re not using your time well – and your time is money.  Call me back.  Ask me to delete you from my database.  You’ll be deleted within seconds.  Promise.  Total time spent: between 30 and 60 seconds.  You’ve created valuable goodwill, and we’re all good.   Don’t call me back and I’ll call you between 6 and 8 more times.  No goodwill is created and you’ll spend between two and 3 minutes when I finally do reach you.  #awkward.  Get the picture?
  3. If you don’t take networking/ introduction calls, you’re not going to get introduction/ networking calls.    In business, it’s not necessarily what you know, but rather who you know.  I learned this from Peter Shankman, a master of networking.  And there would be no successful business person who could honestly and with conviction discount the value of their network.
  4. The worm turns.  There will come a time when you’ll need to reach out for some financial advice.  This time may be a year or two hence or maybe a decade or two hence.  Either way the worm turns.  Now, to be clear there are thousands of John Sacke’s around – but this John Sacke would rather talk to courteous people.   It’s just the way I roll. 

So, if you know some one, who habitually never returns calls, you may want to send this along to him/ her.  And if you never return calls – you may want to start.  I promise, it’s a good idea.  You can only gain.

Carpe diem