BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: September, 2005

Sep.30
2005

A chicken won’t do what chickens aren’t supposed to do

Qblog posted a little experiment with a product blog last week, where the "product" responds to questions.  Of course, the "product" can't answer a lot of questions about topics she (I'm assuming this product was a she!) doesn't know about — such as Quixtar.  It might be an automated response tool or it might be a real person using canned responses, but either way, it comes off as flat. But it doesn't have to.

Check out Burger King's subservient chicken Web site http://www.subservientchicken.com/.  The ads were funny, and the Web site that let you order the chicken around is a riot – but just like any automated function, it has limits.  If you ask the chicken to do something simple, like dance or jump on the couch, it will obey.  If you ask the chicken to do something chickens shouldn't, wouldn't, or couldn't do, it will either get confused, shift its feet, shrug its shoulders or shake its head "no."  If you ask the chicken to split an atom, it tries to do the splits.  Ask it to create world peace and it appears to either do a pushup or a lotus yoga pose.  Don't even try to get it to speak Portuguese.  It will fake a heart attack, but if you ask it to act like it has ADD, it just appears to pick its beak.

And why would anyone do this?  To test the limits of the tool. 

It's simple human nature…when you build something, someone will try to break it.  If you say something will do something, there's someone who will prove it can't or won't.  Waterproof will be saturated. Unbreakable will be cracked.  Foolproof will be unproven. 

Scrutiny often brings improvement.  In products, in processes, in tools, in technology, and in people.    

But so far, not in virtual poultry!

It's suddenly very cold around Quixtar.  Temperatures dipped to the low 40s last night.  But, it will warm back up and we expect beautiful weather for tomorrow's Quixtar-sponsored Easter Seals Walk With Me event in Grand Rapids.  I'll be out there walking with members of the Beauty Begins with Heart team.  For more about these and other Walk With Me events, visit   http://www.walkwithme.org/.

         

Sep.26
2005

Envy

I spent the weekend with close friends who are godparents to my youngest child.


They recently purchased a cottage footsteps away from Duck Lake and walking distance from Interlochen Music Academy.  They have a lovely cottage with four bedrooms, two baths, lake access, and lots of shady trees.


Let me explain a bit about my friends.  I've known her since we both toiled at the same Grand Rapids PR agency.  They married 10 years ago; she's in her early 40s, he's in his late 50s.


They're both freelancers — she in marketing communications, he an award-winning writer for hire.  They both escaped agency life to go out on their own about five years ago.   And now they split their time between a home in Grand Rapids and the cottage in the woods they've dubbed "Toad Hall."  Thanks to technology, they can work anywhere.  And they've just moved their long-range plan up a bit and are putting their house in the city up for sale to live up north permanently.  With Interlochen launching a film school, they both plan to take screenwriting courses and maybe pen something someday.


I found myself oddly jealous of the "new life" they were about to begin.  I wasn't envious of the house — although it's lovely and comfortable and is less cottagey than it is homey.  I guess I was envious of the freedom implied in their bold move.  


Maybe it's because with two young children in tow, I'm not going to go Walden and seek refuge in the woods any time soon.  Or maybe it's because I know I'm better suited to work for someone else than strike out on my own, yet love the freedom my friends have to walk in the woods on a crisp fall afternoon and do their billable work in the middle of the night.  Maybe its the idea that I would write something for pure joy rather than for hire.


But most likely it's because I was getting away for the weekend and seeing their life as some sort of permanent holiday, instead of realizing that they were just "on life."


Heading back home last night I read a writer's account of her cancer diagnosis, treatment, and decline in Vanity Fair.  It was a well-written, candid, and at times funny piece.  In it she quoted another cancer survivor as saying that what cancer taught them was never to do things you don't want to do.  In other words, don't say yes when you want to say no, don't go places you don't want to be, and don't be with people you'd rather not spend time with.  Good advice for anyone seeking to create their own "Walden" wherever they are today.


 

Sep.23
2005

Free Zone Fridays

A discussion with a colleague today has sparked what I think is a brilliant idea.


You all know about casual Fridays.  At Quixtar and Alticor, Fridays are Jeans Days.  And, they're "made to order omelet" day in the cafeteria.


We have a proposal for another way to end the week — by using the last day of the week to actually get some work done.


We joked about having a day with no meetings, where you could catch up on e-mail, work on projects instead of talking about working on them, and getting stuff done.  The whole idea would be to end your week with resolution rather than regrets about what didn't get done.  


The "free zone" idea would be to reclaim your schedule — if only for one day —  to move forward rather than feel you're falling behind.  I'm going to try this on the first Friday I have a clear schedule — October 21.


Kia blogged last week about Larry Harper leaving Quixtar — good news for Amway Latin America, sad news for us.  Larry is a true gentleman and one of the kindest people I've had the privilege to work with.  He will be missed.


 


 

Sep.16
2005

Communicatons by consensus…or, too many cooks in the kitchen

You may think of writing as a solitary craft, but not in most companies.  Something as simple as an e-mail announcing a new product may require a surprising number of people.

First, there's the writer.  The writer is typically working with a designer on the look and feel of the communication, and the designer will create the visual assets.  This duo is working with a marketer, who has defined the target audience, product attributes, features and benefits, and other criteria.  And the marketer probably worked with someone in product development or R&D.  When you get into claims you're involving at least one attorney (maybe more, depending on what it is) and there may be tech reg implications and players.  A creative director or editor who sees how this fits in with other communications or ensures the tone of voice is on-brand.  Everyone has a perspective and everyone has an opinion.  And the writer has to make it all make sense and still appeal to the target audience. 

In the best cases, this collective brainpower produces a more effective communication — one that's factual, accurate, compelling, concise, and creates the desired reaction in the target audience.  In the worst, it creates stilted communications that confound and confuse rather than clarify.

Just like too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the sauce, too many people trying to write by committee generally will make a communication worse, not better.

Part of the challenge is that we all communicate, so we all view ourselves as communicators. 

Last month my father-in-law died.  One of my brothers-in-law, who was in from Bellingham, Wash. for the funeral, was writing the eulogy.  He knew what he wanted to say, but struggled with how to say it.  He just needed a little help and some gentle edits to find his voice. And that's what a good writer will do….help you say what you want to say.  You define the "what," and they'll figure out the "how."     

And once that's figured out and approved, there's a whole other group of people that get the communication out the door! 

Sep.10
2005

Why Bobble?

Now that my true identity is known, I thought I'd explain why I chose Bobblehead as my nom de plume.  Of course, fellow bloggers soon shortened that to Bobble or Miss Bobble, which sounds like a cute cartoon character that wears polka dots and huge shoes.

It's very simple….I like bobbleheads.  They make me smile.  I have a chihuahua bobblehead in my car that slides off my dashboard when I take a corner too fast.  It usually winds up on the floor of the passenger side of my car, its oversized head and long, heavy neck separated from its hollow body.

I even instituted an award for cooperation and collaboration between Quixtar departments I nicknamed the "CollieBobble" because we gave these  little collie bobblheads to those who brought exemplary teamwork to their projects.  Get it?  Collaboration….Collies….Bobbleheads?  Don't worry, you're not alone.  

So, I'll change my name on the blog to something much less fun  – my own name.

And, to address some posts at QBlog….Eric is correct, I'm not related to Jim and Nancy Dornan.  I'm a Dornan by marriage and am in no way related to the IBO leaders.  It's a question I get all the time.

PS — if you like indie rock, check out mtvu.com.  Last week you could hear the entire new Death Cab for Cutie CD "Plans" before its release — no hype,  just the music.  Very cool.  However, don't go to the site to have a listen….it came down when the CD went on sale Tuesday.

Sep.09
2005

Quixtar Hurricane Relief Efforts Gaining Momentum

The latest on our Hurricane Relief program….this was issued earlier today.

Quixtar Announces Katrina Relief Efforts Approaching $1 Million
[ PR Newswire  ·  2005-09-09 ]
“”     ADA, Mich., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ — The owners, employees, and Independent Business Owners (IBOs) affiliated with Quixtar Inc. are saddened by the tremendous loss suffered in the region tragically struck by Hurricane Katrina. The disaster affected more than 3,500 IBOs residing in the gulf region, further spurring efforts to provide support on the part of Quixtar, its parent company Alticor, and the DeVos and Van Andel families who own them.
Last week, Quixtar launched an American Red Cross donation site at Quixtar.com, where the company will match all contributions up to a corporate total of $250,000. In the days since then, IBOs and employees have responded with more than $80,000 in contributions, with donations continuing to pour in. In addition to this match grant program, the company is contributing $250,000 immediately to several national and West Michigan-based organizations involved in providing disaster aid.
“IBOs across the country and the employees of Quixtar and Alticor want to help, as do the DeVos and Van Andel families. We’ve been asked by the owners of our company to do all that we can to support relief efforts,” said Jim Payne, Managing Director of Quixtar, the North American direct selling subsidiary of Alticor Inc. “Our business is all about people helping others to succeed, so it is no surprise to me that our employees and IBOs are rising to this call for action.”
In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, the company sent 117,000 bottles of water to Mississippi in support of the International Aid’s relief efforts. It also released products previously donated to International Aid for use in its U.S. relief efforts. This week, employees are assembling 20,000 personal care kits that will be donated directly to relief agencies working with those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Each kit contains various products marketed by Quixtar such as GLISTER(R) toothpaste and toothbrushes, hand soap, SATINIQUE(R) shampoo, BODY SERIES(TM) deodorant, and L.O.C.(R) Multipurpose Cleaner wipes.
“Our hearts go out to all who have experienced personal loss. We will continue to hold you in our thoughts and prayers and do all that we can to help in the recovery efforts,” said Payne. “We are planning relief trips for employees and opportunities to volunteer at local relief agencies. Corporate pilots and aircraft are already involved in transporting medical supplies and personnel. We will continue to explore other opportunities to help get relief to individuals devastated by Katrina.”
Contributions to the American Red Cross can be made at http://www.Quixtar.com , with matching contributions made up to a corporate total of $250,000.
About Quixtar
Quixtar is the #1 online Health and Beauty retailer based on sales, and a leading business opportunity company supporting the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Independent Business Owners across the U.S. and Canada.

Sep.03
2005

Give a little bit….

I'd started this post intending to talk about a blood and marrow drive for the granddaughter of a former Alticor employee.  Gloria Organek's granddaughter, Anna, desperately needs a bone marrow transplant and Alticor hosted a series of blood and marrow drives to find her a match.  People who had never given blood before lined up to be "poked" to see if they were a match.  And some even took the step to give a bit of themselves as first-time blood donors.

This was an exceptional act by Alticor, but sometimes we need to make exceptions to do the right thing to help others.

Which leads me to the second act of kindness and giving.  Everyone knows the incredible devastation and despair brought by Hurricane Katrina.  Quixtar again is making a donation opportunity available at its Web site; visitors can use a $10 or $25 sku to donate to the relief efforts.  And Alticor is matching those donations, up to an additional $250,000.  This will double the impact of every contribution made by a Quixtar employee, IBO, or customer.   

Alticor's giving is already benefiting the victims, as we've been long-time supporters of International Aid.  While the most urgent needs are food and water for the victims, the types of personal care, health and beauty, and home products we've provided will help the survivors start to cope and deal with their tragedy and in small ways, start to rebuild their lives. 

There's lots of finger pointing going on right now, but the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of people in need.  They need food and water.  They need fresh clothes.  They may need diapers and formula.  Ultimately, they need help and they need hope.  They need all of us — who sit in our safe homes and know exactly where our next meal will come from and where we'll rest our heads tonight — to give a little bit.

You can visit Quixtar.com to make a donation, or go to other Web sites to give.  You can call the American Red Cross directly.  You can give to local drives for food, clothing, and other supplies.  It doesn't matter where you give….just give.