Wednesday, February 05, 2014

R.I.P Judy Martin

It seems that I write too many posts about those we've lost, but those who have touched our lives and made the world a better place deserve to be remembered.
Judy Martin
One of those people is Judy Martin, a person I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of times on the John Tesh Network in 2012.  Judy was a TV news anchor, ran the website, and was one of the most interesting and inspirational people I had the pleasure of interviewing during the all too short life of the long form interview series I did for John.

You can read more about Judy in this story from the New York Daily News.  I first heard of the passing of Judy Martin from Susan Steinbrecher, who runs a firm called Steinbrecker and Associates and posted this touching tribute on her website:
I was shocked and saddened yesterday to hear of the sudden passing of someone I truly admired; Emmy award-winning journalist, author, yoga/meditation instructor and well-known work/life balance champion and blogger, Judy Martin.
A quote from Judy’s website aptly describes her work as a work/life balance consultant:
Essentially, I teach business professionals the skills they need to take their stress down a notch. To be fully present and harness awareness at work and in business, to cultivate an inner state of calm, clarity and resilience that is completely aligned with their values and highest purpose in the face of an uncertain marketplace. It’s what I call the “exaltation” of the human experience in business.
Judy touched the lives of many. She was approachable, candid, sincere, intelligent, and of course, a truly gifted writer.
Outside of the respect I had for her life-changing work, it was Judy’s palpable warmth that endeared me to her the most. I “met” Judy, virtually, on Twitter back in 2009—but we never actually met in person. Yet we shared such wonderful discussions over the phone, via email – and on Twitter – (I will dearly miss our late evening DM exchanges wherein she would check in on me to see how life was, and to update me on business and personal events). On all of these occasions, she made me feel like we were longtime friends.
Throughout these exchanges, I came to respect and admire her work more and more, and, in 2011, she agreed to be interviewed for my book, Kensho, A Modern Awakening, on the significance of mindfulness and work/life balance. Most recently, after reading the manuscript for my upcoming book, she generously offered to write a testimonial.
About a week ago, Judy DM’d me that she was excited to be working on something new, another book project and she wanted to interview me for it. I was honored, and we both vowed once again that we would try to meet each other in person, someday soon.
Sadly, that “some day” will never come…
I went over to her twitter feed today. For some reason, I wanted to see what that last 140-character communiqué into the world had been. I became overwhelmed with emotion when I saw it:
Living In The Moment – Why Is It So Important And Why Should You Care?
I clicked on the link and the first thing I saw at the top of the page was this quote:

“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live It.” ~ Thomas S. Monson

I’m sure Judy would want all of us to be mindful of this message, each and every day that we are blessed with on this earth. I am so grateful to have known her.
RIP Judy Martin 1965-2014

I went to the archives and found my interviews with Judy, done just after Superstorm Sandy demolished part of Long Island, where Judy lived and worked as an anchor and reporter on Long Island's channel 12.  We talked about Sandy, work/life balance, and much more.  The interviews are below in tribute to Judy Martin.

Sometimes the people the world loses aren't the biggest stars or world leaders, but they do much to change the world.  Judy Martin was one of those people.  May her memory be a blessing.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

In Praise Of The Under Appreciated HR Director

Here's a question for business owners and managers. When was the last time you hugged your HR department?

It occurs to me that the human resource manager, human resource assistants, recruiters or whatever you call the people in your HR department are the unsung heroes of business in 2014. They have to find the right people, train the people, and then retain the people for it as long as possible. With all the talent available these days, that's a very very tall order.

Yes, the government says that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% today. Theoretically, that's good news, especially if you ignore the low number of jobs created in December. But it also means that a lot of people have just stopped looking for jobs and left the work force. And that might make the HR department's job a little harder because some of those people could be diamonds in the rough for your company. Perhaps their skill set doesn't exactly line up with what you're looking for, maybe they are over 40 and have had jobs in industries that don't exactly match yours, or maybe they just were honest about how much money they wanted to make when they filled out applications. For whatever reason, they've climbed out of the talent pool and therefore can't be used as human capital.

How important is finding and keeping talent? Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, opened the 2013 event in Davos by asking "Is talentism the new capitalism?". He talked about the importance of talent and how having the right people can provide a huge competitive advantage for any organization. Everyone has the same computer programs, analytic tools, and syndicated data to work with, but the key to making all those things work right is having the right talent to use them, interpret them, and put them to work for your business. And in most companies, finding that talent falls squarely on the shoulders of the overworked and undervalued human resource department.

Many businesses try to help their HR department with this daunting task by
getting them applicant tracking software so they don't have to spend as much time looking at every application that comes in for every opening no matter how big or small it is. We all know how the software works, whether it's Taleo or Kenexa or another vendor's system. The HR person puts in the parameters they are looking for, adds the keywords, presses the button, and the job is posted for all to see. Then the system scans the applications, looks for the best matches, and puts them in a file. The applicants who don't match the qualifications set by the HR department sometimes get a nice rejection letter but tend to go into another file never to be seen again.

Technology is good, and having been a hiring manager I know that often times most of the people applying for a job simply aren't qualified. That's why applicant tracking software was invented, to weed those people out so that the overworked HR department or recruiter can concentrate on the best people based on their keywords. 

But technology has its limits. In an ever-changing world where so many people are trying to reinvent themselves or enter a new industry, applicant tracking systems don't see how the skills these candidates bring to the table can match the keywords for the open positions. It's no one's fault, it's just the way computers work and the applicant tracking system is doing the best job you can based on the information it was given. So is the recruiter really getting the very best person for the job? According to the applicant tracking software, they are. But in reality they may not be. And if that perfect person ends up getting noticed by your competitor, your company has lost the opportunity to acquire a valuable piece of human capital. Sometimes, and probably more often than that, the real best person for the job doesn't make it over one of the benchmarks in the ATS and they get thrown out, leaving the company with no idea that they're missing out on a potential superstar. 

To try to show this theory in a real world experiment, I applied for a job that I am well-qualified for yesterday after 5 PM. The application was through an applicant tracking system which was nice enough to send me an automated response saying they had gotten my stuff and would consider me for the job. At a little after 11 PM last night, six hours after making the application and most likely while the HR department at this company was far from their desks, I received a rejection letter for the job I just applied for. I can't prove this, but I can bet that my application was never seen by the retina of any human eye. It didn't match the keywords or got bounced for some other reason and the recruiter or HR director at this company will never know that I applied for the job. They lost the chance to at least investigate the acquisition of good human capital. And if I get a similar job at their competition, they lose the never ending battle of having the best people in their company.

I don't envy the role of a recruiter or HR director in this day and age. Too many tasks, too little time, and not enough help makes the job one of the most challenging in any firm. But companies who don't invest in finding the best human capital and looking beyond the applicant tracking systems are likely missing the opportunity to grow a world-class organization. Not having the human touch in the recruiting process could theoretically make the difference between success and failure for a project or an entire company. Setting one parameter unwisely in the ATS can rob a business of the person they need to move forward without them even knowing it because the HR Director or hiring manager will never see the application.

I worked for a decade at Viacom, and the chairman of the company, Sumner Redstone, was well known for saying that his most valuable assets go down the elevator at the end of the day. He knew that it was the people that worked for him that made his brands great. He also knew it was the people that did the work that generated the profits that he and his stockholders enjoyed. Even the strongest brand has to be powered by human capital.

So I go back to the question I opened this post with. When was the last time you
hugged your HR department? What have you done for them to make their jobs a little easier, a lot more productive, and help contribute more to the acquisition of the very best human capital out there? In 2014, it's about the people working in the companies that will decide success or failure. Think about that when you're looking at your HR budget or when you walk past that department in your company. Those people need a hug, and a whole lot more.

Mercer released a report about the importance of human capital. You can find a link to download the Executive Summary here. If you're in HR, you might want to print it and leave it on your boss's chair. 
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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Price-Gouging Pharmacies, Inflexible Insurance, and Healthcare 2014

Normally at this time of the year, people write their end of the year reviews or predictions for the year ahead.  I find most of those features slightly more entertaining than guessing how many times Ryan Seacrest has his makeup touched up during his Times Square broadcast on New Year's Eve.  So rather than write about what I saw in the last year or what I see ahead, I want to share a true story about healthcare, especially with the Affordable Care Act affecting so many people.  There is a lesson here, or at least I hope there is.

Metformin, prescribed 48 million
times a year
I'm a fat guy, and fat guys sometimes get high blood sugar or diabetes.  My doctor recently put me on a medication to try and keep my sugar down, along with diet and exercise.  I don't mind telling you what the stuff is, it's called Metformin and it's been around forever as a first step in treating cases like mine.  No big deal, let's try this stuff for a few months and see if it helps.

I took the prescription to my neighborhood Walgreen's store, got it filled and paid $8.01 for a month's supply using my health insurance. When I tried to get it filled for the third month of the experiment, my insurance company, Express Scripts, refused to pay for the medicine, saying after two fills I HAD to get the drug filled in a 90 day supply via mail order through them.  No exceptions, even though you only need 30 days to see if the stuff works, you need to get a 90 day supply and wait for us to mail it to you.

Full disclosure: I've had so many problems with Express Scripts "customer care", website, and mobile app that I've offered to come to work for them or consult to help them improve what is arguably some of the worst "customer care" other than major airlines. Funny, I've never heard back from them.

Walgreen's already had the refill being processed, so I checked with them to see how much it would cost without insurance paying part of the freight. After all, the insurance price for the generic was just over eight bucks,, the pill has been around forever, and it's a generic.  How much worse could it be?  How about $24.99? You're seeing it right, no insurance and I have to pay more than THREE TIMES the cost of the drug, which I guessing wholesales for about $3.50.  Now I know every pharmacy makes most of their money at the "back of the store" on prescriptions, but $25 for something that cost $8 with insurance?  I might have to call that price gouging. Wait, I already called it that.

So I took to the interwebz and did some comparison shopping.  Turns out
Metformin is an inexpensive drug, so inexpensive that big box stores and other places that offer $4.00 30 day prescriptions have it on their list.  So do many grocery stores with pharmacies, and I like to give my business to local companies
when I can, so I had the prescription transferred to Dierbergs, a family-owned St. Louis grocery chain. They're just a few blocks away from Walgreen's, even have a drive though pharmacy, and sell the same exact pill, right down to the manufacturer, for HALF of what I was paying for it using my health insurance and less than ONE SIXTH of what I would have to pay at retail.

Here's the lesson, one that will get more and more important as Big Pharma, doctors, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers try to figure our how to make more money in the new world of Obamacare.  These people are not your friends.  They don't stay up nights figuring out ways to save you money on the services and medicines you need.  They have no guilt about charging you $25 for a drug you can get down the street for $4.  Forget the commercials with the caring, fatherly doctor or pharmacist making people happy. Those people are actors, and they're doing a mighty fine job of playing the part of someone who gives a damn about you.

Healthcare, and especially the pharmaceutical industry is BIG business. Don't just take what your insurance company or pharmacy says as gospel. Take a little time to make sure you're not being taken advantage of and overpaying for the things you need, whether it's Metformin or (G-d forbid) a mastectomy.  Get a second opinion, check to see if you can get the same medicine or service for less, and sometimes that means not using your insurance at all and taking advantage of a better deal. You'll be healthier, happier, and have more money in your pocket.
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Saturday, October 05, 2013

Mark Edwards Worldwide Returns

This post was originally published on the Mark Edwards Worldwide Blog on October 3, 2013.

I wanted you to know about a decision I've made. As I see the digital media landscape unfolding and the opportunities to create a myriad of highly effective content growing, I'm returning to working with selected clients at the consultancy I've run since 2007, Mark Edwards Worldwide. This move will allow me to maximize my time and efficiency while sharing the things I've learned about the digital, social media, and new technology spaces with clients who really want to succeed in those worlds. It gives me great pleasure to say that TeshMedia is on the client list so I'll be able to continue to work with John and his team going forward.

After working for a year and a half as Senior Vice President of Content Development with John Tesh and the TeshMedia Group, we've accomplished a lot, more than doubling our online audience, growing website visits and conversions, and starting a video version of John's Intelligence For Your Life brand.

I've had the chance to implement countless online and social media programs, develop and fine tune best practices, learn an astonishing amount about online video and TV production, and help contribute to the continued success of the John Tesh Radio Show. It's been the most rewarding professional experience of my career, and I know the things I've learned working with John and his gifted team will help me immensely. You can see many of the fruits of our labors at the new and in our new mobile apps.

I'm always on the lookout for the next opportunity, whether it be in a consulting, project, or full time capacity, so please keep me in mind for anything you might know about and feel free to share my contact information with your network.

I'd like to thank John and the TeshMedia family for a wonderful experience and thank you for your friendship and support. Let's stay in touch and do great things together. You can find me here and get all my contact info at

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Cubs Have Crossed The Red, um, YELLOW Line

This blog item is reposted from my official Major League Baseball Blog.

I haven't posted about the Cubs all this season for one simple reason.  They stink.  The owners stink, the players try their best but overall they stink, and it's been a horrible season. I haven't even gotten the chance to get up to the Friendly Confines Of Wrigley Field for a game due to work commitments.  

But when I woke up this morning and saw this story in what we used to call the World's Greatest Newspaper, my blood went into boiling mode and I simply had to chime in with my thoughts.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune

Anheuser-Busch new Cubs exclusive beer sponsor

Large beer sign to go up in Wrigley Field's right-field bleachers

By Josh Noel and Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune reporters

10:09 PM CDT, September 6, 2013
The Cubs announced a deal Friday to make Anheuser-Busch their exclusive beer sponsor in 2014 and beyond, and they plan to install a 650-square-foot Budweiser sign in the right-field bleachers. 
That's bad news for Old Style, which has had an affiliation with the team for more than 60 years, as well as for Wrigleyville rooftop owners opposed to installing a large sign that could obstruct some views.

A source said the Cubs will install a mock-up of the sign when the team goes on the road next week. While it's questionable whether construction on the $300 million ballpark renovation plan will begin this offseason as planned, the Cubs have the go-ahead to install the sign either way.

"Absolutely," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. "We could potentially put up the sign by 2014 (before construction begins). … We have the approval to put up a left-field video board and a right-field sign, and with Anheuser-Busch as our exclusive marketing partner, we can do it by opening day."

The Cubs are running out of time to start the first phase of their Wrigley renovation plan, which is expected to take place over five offseasons. They had hoped to begin construction Sept. 26, the day after the Cubs' final home game.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said during a radio broadcast of Thursday's playoff game of the franchise's Double-A Tennessee affiliate that the heavy construction likely would have to wait until after next season. He did say, though, that fans would start seeing some changes in 2014 and more in 2015.

Green said Friday that Ricketts' comment doesn't mean the Cubs are resigned to begin the major parts of the project after the 2014 season, but that several hurdles remain before they can start, and time is running short. They originally planned to finish an expansion of the home clubhouse before next season, which now appears unlikely.

Green said the "rooftop issue" still needs to be resolved before the ballpark renovation and work on a proposed $200 million hotel on Clark Street, across from Wrigley, can begin. The Cubs want assurances from rooftop owners they won't sue over the contract they signed with the team in 2004 providing the Cubs with 17 percent of their revenue.

"We're still talking to the rooftop owners to come to a resolution," Green said. "Basically the (Ricketts) family is not comfortable making a $500 million investment with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads."

But the beer sign and the video board can be installed without the permission of the rooftop owners, and both could be up during the 2014 season, the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

As for the exclusive beer sponsorship, Cubs fans can expect to see Goose Island flowing at the ballpark in 2014. Brewery spokeswoman Ana Serafin said it had not been determined which Anheuser-Busch brands would be available, or in what quantity, but suggested the brewery's "Chicago-influenced beers" would be obvious candidates.

Goose Island, which regained the beer contract this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival, experimented with a pair of brews made just for the weekend-long fest. Though a considerably larger investment, would Goose Island consider a Wrigley-only exclusive too?

"A-B is being really supportive of our creativity," Serafin said. "If we come back and tell them we want to create XYZ crazy beer and it would be perfect for baseball, they would listen. But we don't know yet how creative we can get."

For Old Style lovers and traditionalists who drink it only at Wrigley, hope springs eternal. Green said the team and its concessions management partner, Levy Restaurants, might choose to continue serving Old Style in 2014.

The Anheuser-Busch deal is a marketing agreement only. Budweiser will maintain naming rights throughout the stadium, but that doesn't mean Budweiser products will be served exclusively at Wrigley, which would be illegal.

Still, the agreement gives Budweiser ample muscle when it comes time to set the Wrigley Field beer menu for 2014 and beyond. It appears likely vendors no longer will be selling Old Style in the aisles after 2013.

Whether the deal signals a seismic shift in Wrigley's beer offerings is yet to be seen, but smaller craft breweries such as Revolution Brewing don't sound optimistic.
"Sounds like a lot of dollars changed hands, and we just don't do anything like that to sell beer," Revolution founder Josh Deth said in an email. "We let the malt, hops and yeast do the talking, not the Benjamins. We're hopeful the Cubs and Levy will want to pour actual craft beer made in Chicago. And I think the fans are too."

I don't drink a lot of beer, I'm a Maker's Mark guy myself, but as long as I've been pure brewed Old Style at Wrigley Field. Just like eating a hot dog at a ballpark tastes different, drinking an Old Style at Wrigley made it taste better, way better.  It's part of the Cubs Experience, but now it looks like it may go the way of Frosty Malts and Ron Santo Pizza.
able to drink, I've enjoyed a

I understand times change, but Old Style has managed to stay in business for many years, partly because of the loyalty of Cubs fans, the Cubs organization, and the association the brand has enjoyed with the Cubs for as long as I can remember.  Hardly anything beats sitting in the stands at Wrigley, even the Budweiser Bleachers, enjoying a semi-cold Old Style and seeing Starlin Castro blow a routine force out.  But it looks like that may not be happening in the future.

Tom Ricketts and Cubs Management have done a lot to make me and other Cubs fans angry since they bought the club.  I won't list everything here, and don't get me started on the Wrigley Field renovation plans.  But this time they've crossed the Red, um YELLOW LINE when it comes to how they run the club and the kind of fan experience they give us.

So what can we do in answer to this unprovoked attack on the Cubs Experience? Sadly, not much.  Send an email to and tell them what you think, although they probably won't answer you back.  Anheuser-Busch InBev is allegedly headquartered here in St. Louis, and I know people down at "The Brewery" who will be getting calls and emails from me all next week.  You could appeal to Kevin Feehan, the guy in charge of selling Budweiser in Chicago, to let the Old Style pour, but even if you could get him to respond, he'd probably blame someone in San Paulo or Brussels, the REAL homes of A-B, for the decision.

That leaves one final avenue of appeal, Levy Restaurants, who handles food service at Wrigley Field, and might actually have the power to keep the pure brewed Old Style flowing at the ballpark.  Their phone number is  (773) 975-3606 and you should join me in calling them during weekday business hours or contact them on the Interwebz and (NICELY) demand your Old Style.  They're also on Facebook and Twitter if you feel inclined to follow then and send them a NICE message about this abhorrent situation. Don't act like a Chicago policeman and be all pushy and mean, ask them NICELY to keep Old Style at Wrigley Field. Who knows, it might actually work.  And monkeys could fly out of my butt.

Some things, like the Cubs having a winning season, are an uphill battle.  Getting Old Style in Wrigley Field might be one too.  But I leave you with the encouraging words of Cub Fan John Belushi as you join me on the quest to keep at least ONE Wrigley Field tradition alive.  WHO'S WITH ME?

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Friday, August 09, 2013

If This Video Doesn't Stop You From Texting While Driving, You Are Not Human

I don't have a lot to say about this, because sometimes a video will tell a story in a way that I could never attempt to.  This is one of those videos.

The acclaimed writer, director, and producer Werner Herzog was commissioned to produce this documentary about what is politely called "Distracted Driving" for the "It Can Wait" campaign sponsored by AT&T.  The film is called "From One Second To The Next".  You just have to watch it to understand how powerful and heartbreaking the message is.

Watch this.  Watch it with your family. Watch it with your kids if they're of driving age or will be driving soon.  But take the 35 minutes to REALLY watch this.

I'm a huge fan of technology, and I use it all the time.  But I also know texting, and even walking and texting or talking on the phone, kills.  If you or your family or friends have any doubts about why you texts, phone calls, checking your e mail or whatever can wait, you shouldn't after watching this film.

And if you still don't get it, you not only don't have a heart, you haven't got much of a brain.

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