Flag Collection & Retirement Friday, July 1

Sponsored by my favorite loan officer, Dennis C. Smith, who happens to be my husband, this Friday marks the sixth time he is coordinating a flag collection and formal flag retirement ceremony as party of Long Beach Bixby Knolls’s First Friday festivities. Remember, you aren’t supposed to just toss out an old or tattered flag into the trash. You might have learned that long ago in social studies (or if you’re more mature “civics class”). You are supposed to dispose of Old Glory properly which is by flame for a cloth flag, or by burial for a synthetic flag. So if you are a conscientious patriot who always waves a flag in front of your house and doesn’t just discard of them carelessly, then donate your old American flag(s) at the flag collection area in the parking lot at Georgie’s Place restaurant on Atlantic Ave. at Roosevelt (3850 Atlantic Ave.) between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. (While you are there, pop-in to Georgie’s for some amazing chili cheese fries or my favorite, their Greek Chicken salad–it’s so American!) At 7:30, Boy Scout Troop 29 will demonstrate the proper disposal of a natural fiber flag in flame. It’s a ceremony you won’t want to miss! The young men explain what they are doing and why and honor the flag by speaking of its meaning. Other flags collected that night will be donated to the Boy Scouts to use in similar ceremonies. Nylon or other synthetic flags are buried and not burned due to the noxious fumes that synthetic fibers emit. All those who stop by can enter a free drawing hosted by Smith for two flags—one for an adult, and one for a child. The drawing will be held immediately following the flag retirement ceremony. You can bring your old flag starting at 6:30 p.m. As I mentioned, husband Dennis is a mortgage broker with Stratis Financial Corporation. For more information visit http://www.DennisCSmith.com or https://www.facebook.com/LBflagcollectionretirement...
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Best Practices for Conference Call Success

I’m pretty sure I can hear eye rolls on conference calls. The truth is that when we aren’t meeting in person, we get casual and maybe a little unprofessional. There’s usually at least one person who you know has muted the call so they can work on other things. You know this when suddenly he’s asked a question, it takes a minute for him to turn off mute, and then he has no idea what the group was talking about. Be present and respectful to your colleagues. Speaking of respecting your colleagues, don’t schedule a conference call for what could be an email. Wasting people’s time will not win you any favor. Have an agenda sent out prior to the meeting so people are clear about the point of the call. Treat conference calls as seriously and professionally as you would a face-to-face meeting. Above all, be gracious, regardless of your position in the company. Don’t use a conference call, or any meeting, to blindside someone. If you think the data they have submitted is incorrect or incomplete, communicate that with them before the meeting. Don’t use a meeting—in-person or call—to embarrass a peer, or even worse, a subordinate. Here are 10 tips—some obvious and some apparently more challenging: Don’t eat on the phone unless it is a lunch meeting and this has been established before the meeting. Don’t have music playing in the background. Don’t mute unless you have to be in a car or a busy location (airport, restaurant, etc.). Be prepared. Have an agenda and stick to it. Start and end on time. Ask to extend the meeting if it’s necessary to go longer. Identify yourself before you speak. If you have to leave the call early, inform the group. Be kind. McCormick L.A. has been helping organizations and individuals meet their public relations and branding goals for more than 20...
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Tradition

Here’s some Thanksgiving tradition––a short story to make us all thankful for what we have.  ~LS “Do you think we passed it? It’s just a tiny street?” Sherrie asked, her chestnut hair swinging forward brushing her shoulders as she peered through the windows of the minivan from the passenger seat. “Street is an exaggeration. It’s a dirt road,” her husband Joel replied. “No, we haven’t passed it. It’s up here another few miles or so.” His plaid sleeves were rolled up, his burgundy sweater vest crumpled around his seatbelt. “Are you sure? I think we passed it,” Sherrie adjusted her reading glasses and looked around again, small orange and brown turkeys jingled from her earrings. “I’m sure. We haven’t even passed the restaurant yet,” Joel reassured and flicked his big, brown eyes at her, running his fingers through his short, red hair. There was one restaurant within 10 miles of Aunt Carol’s house. They didn’t visit her often, but every time they made the drive the restaurant had changed hands and had a new name. It had been everything from “The Buttercup Diner” to the “Goulash Hut.” “Why do we have to go to Aunt Carol’s for Thanksgiving?” Greg asked from the backseat. “She’s your great aunt, she’s my aunt. We’re going there because my mother died and we always had Thanksgiving with her. Carol wants to carry on the tradition and keep things the same,” Sherrie explained to her eldest son. He had just turned 15 and with his birthday came abhorrence for everything related to family. “Yeah, but Grandma Phyllis was a good cook. Great Aunt Carol always makes weird stuff that Grandma conveniently forgot in the warmer,” Greg pointed out. His dad smiled at him from the rearview mirror. “You caught onto that, huh?” his mom said with a guilty grin. “Well, it’s still nice of her to do this for us and keep things the same.” “It’s not the same! Bobby and Dotty aren’t going,” twelve-year-old Steven said about his cousins. “Don’t forget that Aunt Carol cooks like shit,” Greg reiterated. “Watch your language! She definitely finds the kitchen a challenge, but it’s hard to really botch a turkey. You just have to baste it and keep an eye on it. If it’s dry, you just add extra gravy. It’s fail-safe, really. I just hope she makes stuffing and not dressing that’s cooked separately. I...
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Creating Brand Ambassadors

On my recent vacation to tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, I learned some surprising things about the business of distilling liquor that started with the regulations that determine legitimate bourbon from whiskey and ended with the steps that made me a brand ambassador. I was posting on Facebook constantly throughout our trip and when I did so, Facebook’s location capability would find the distillery on the map and suggest I like that fan page. Turns out, these places, Buffalo Trace in particular, have some really great Facebook feeds featuring some mouth-watering photos of their bourbon recipes that include many desserts. I LIKE the photos, I SHARE the posts and have inadvertently become a brand ambassador. Added to my digital promotion, I bought plenty of merchandise from the distilleries and other Kentucky and Tennessee hotspots. One tradition of ours is to buy a Christmas ornament every place we go on vacation. And you thought a bourbon Christmas ornament was just a fantasy! Fear not … or be fearful, they exist! Beyond the realm of being a Facebook Fan, there are other added incentives for the true bourbon aficionado, including having your name on a barrel that’s still aging at Maker’s Mark. My husband signed up to be a Maker’s Mark ambassador a few years ago. They send him a cute little gift every Christmas like a knitted cap for his bottle. It’s just cute, silly stuff that says, “We appreciate you!” If you are in charge of your business’s promotional efforts, including the social media, then you know that it is not always easy to entice people to LIKE and SHARE posts. Here are a few tips that Kentucky distillers taught me about recruiting brand ambassadors. They successfully recruited me and I barely realized what was happening. 1. You need an online presence. There’s no staying in the shadows these days and hoping to keep a viable following and loyal stream of customers. People use their smartphones more and more and if you can’t be found, that’s a problem. Make sure the information online is correct. If you have moved locations, make sure you change that on all platforms—Foursquare, Yelp, Google, etc. 2. When people do visit your business, make sure they have a great experience, even if they don’t buy anything. There were tours and tastings that were better than others, but all of the staff were hospitable and...
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Reap What You Sow, and So and So …

This is a picture of the side of my house. The most neglected side of our property, for sure. That thing growing maniacally is a tomato plant. One that we did not plant. Upon spotting this unusual growth and learning that we really need to pay more attention to this side of the house, I realized a few other things that can be applied to business and life in general. Intention and Results First, it struck me as funny that my daughter had planted tomatoes from seeds in tiny cups in a window this spring. Once they sprouted and seemed like they could endure the great outdoors, she planted them in our garden on the other side of the house. It wasn’t long—maybe a week—before the birds or other critters had snatched away the sprouts leaving nothing behind. That the intention was to grow tomatoes and there are tomatoes growing on our property is what we wanted. That the tomatoes grew by means wholly unknown to us, is startling. Things like this happen all the time and it’s okay. Life just doesn’t always follow the path we expect or that we are trying to pave for the result. The key is to keep your eye on the result and not worry about who gets the credit or how the route changed. We have tomatoes and that’s what matters, right? Persistence We don’t know how long this rogue tomato plant had been trying to grow over there but it succeeded. The seeds that my daughter planted and nurtured inside for a few weeks were decimated quickly with no sign that anything was ever planted there before. Where did the seeds for this plant come from? Did they blow down the corridor between the house and the block fence? Did some mysterious gardener plant them as a gift? And does it matter? I don’t think it does, but it is mysterious. Conditions That this tomato plant did so well is certainly amazing considering there is no water source over there, the soil is little more than silt, and hardly any sun shines over there until the late afternoon, and then it is blazing. Evidently, the critters have yet to venture over there—at least critters who would be interested in tomato plants. Somehow the ideal conditions naturally converged and tomatoes emerged. Neglect or Freedom? That we had no idea this plant was growing...
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