Posts tagged frustration
I don’t get this one even more.
I mean, I get it – but I don’t see why it happens.
As a country, we are collectively mourning the loss of five Dallas Police Officers. FIVE… In a matter of minutes, FIVE lives gone, children without fathers, wives without husbands, mothers without sons.
Then we take sides…..
This is terrorism. The gunman wanted to fulfill an agenda he had, radical or fanatical thinking behind it – take your pick. And he was trained by the structure present in our country’s military. Homegrown, by definition.
You hear all sides – it wasn’t justified, it wasn’t right, it was justified by not right, it was justified and right – all positions on the spectrum. Liberals cite the gun laws, Conservatives cite gun laws. Democrats differ from Republican thinking, Republicans differ from Democrats.
And in this wonderful age of social media, we can be scrutinized about our beliefs in a two word post on Facebook or in less than 140 characters on Twitter. People hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. They believe who they choose to listen to and dismiss those who do not agree with them.
I have lived in New York all my life. I take pride in the fact that if someone needs a ride or directions to get somewhere, I can provide assistance. I can tell you the “ins and outs” of travelling in the five boroughs of our city because I have driven almost every section of every borough over the twenty-years that I ran a balloon delivery business.
Yesterday, I read a post from someone who is married to a newly hired police officer in another part of the country. She wrote about the sacrifice her husband is making – “so willing to sacrifice so much for people who care so little”.
Want to know what’s wrong with police training? Their home lives? Their way of thinking? Read that last part of the last sentence in the previous paragraph. Thankfully, most police officers truly believe in the serve and protect and that belief being applied to everyone they come into contact with. But those who are of the mentality that “people care so little” have no business putting the uniform on. You are charged with serving those you look like, those you do not look like, those who dress, pray and eat like you or not. When we wake up to that reality, we will have to address the broader issue of eradicating racism from every police department’s employee – young and old, newly hired or near retirement.
Today I was challenged by someone I am friends with on Facebook, to “take a walk in Brownsville or Bed-Stuy after dark tonight” – the challenge concluded by telling me to let the person “know how it goes”. This particular person and I have minimal contact with each other – a distant relative, the kind you may see at weddings and funerals, but not much more. We were raised in the same neighborhood as children but we apparently see the world from two hugely different perspectives.
Truth is, I have gone through Brownsville and Bed-Stuy, East New York and Coney Island; I have made deliveries in these areas as well as Bensonhurst, Mill Basin, Bayside and Astoria. I assume that the “challenger” (as we will refer to her) wanted me to agree with her that those neighborhoods that she cited were “dangerous”. Well, maybe they are – as all the rest of the neighborhoods in any area could be – at night, in broad daylight, at dawn.
The insinuations that were prompted by a post are revolting. People in a more privileged position can draw all the conclusions they want. Walk the walk, as they say; put your money where your mouth is.
I have worked with the finest people in this gigantic city – and believe you me, they are not always found in the best of positions, circumstances, or neighborhoods. I have decorated street fairs in Brownsville, grand openings in Bed-Stuy; I have brought my staff to places in every borough that may have made others look around nervously; we have been at all-day events in Corona. Our shop was in Coney Island for 19 years and we opened and closed all hours of the day and night. You may ask if we ever had problems. The answer is yes some issues but not something that would have chased us from wherever we were. The only think that ever scared us was Superstorm Sandy and even then, with every single property in Coney Island being affected, neighbors who walked passed our store in the days after the storm, asked if we were okay, if they could help and would we be back in operation.
Social media – where you can post something and it lives forever. The internet? Put it up – take it down, the web has the last laugh. If someone posts something you do not agree with, let them know; if a comment is biased, object. Do not stand by and look the other way – your voice is as important as theirs. Use your voice!
The word that will carry us forward is EMPATHY. Know what its like to be someone else…..
HURRICANE SANDY RECOVERY UPDATE:
This is to let you all know the status of our “recovery” as we close out the 10th month after the storm…
I just got off the phone with NYS & NYC offices for various “Recovery Programs”. My conversation with the representative of both agencies ended with this statement – “I couldn’t get any luckier if I stood in the middle of a field with a metal pole in my hands” – we applied to every program the State of New York offered and luckily, our last application went in on March 24th – the following week, the State turned over all applications for city based businesses and homeowners to NYC.
Guess what?? “Some of the thousands of applications were actually lost in the transfer” is the answer I was told. Upon further investigation and tracking of my application registration number, we have determined that our application was, you got it, LOST!
So while I harbor no animosity toward the staff at any of these agencies that go home every pay period with a paycheck, NO ONE in the State or City bureaucratic machine gets the idea that we, small and micro businesses literally swamped by this storm have been breaking our backs, going without, exhausting savings, and standing by aimlessly as we watch everything we’ve built for years, even decades, ebb away. Who cares about the year round community as long as rides are running and people can lay on a beach? Coney Island looks like a ghost town when many of those businesses never even bothered to open again. And by the way, even the few businesses that have qualified for the “Emergency Loans” have yet to see the money – 10 months later!! Some emergency!!
So our status? Contrary to what some may believe, we did not “hit the lottery:, we are not “sitting on our winnings”, and no, Sandy wasn’t “the best thing that could have ever happened to us” (all things I have heard from people who think we made out like bandits!) Disappointed by a system designed to fail the people who it was supposed to serve – you know, the ones that pay the corporate taxes, payroll taxes, providing year round jobs and stable foundations in a city we have been born into, immigrated to, raised in and supported. Doesn’t matter who is in charge – what a disappointment to not even be allowed to BORROW ourselves into oblivion to try to get back on our feet.
By now, most people (at least those in the Northeast) are familiar with the commercials featuring the jingle, “Cause we’re stronger than the storm”. Running on both TV and radio, the driving rythmn of this promotion makes you stop and take note.
The Jersey shore is back as they boast in the commercial – even Governor Chris Christie and his family appear, the state’s biggest cheerleaders, reiterating the jingle – not even a storm can hold back the spirit of the Jersey-ites! But let’s be honest here, stronger? It sounds nice, positive, and downright optimistic. However, for most homeowners, small business owners and people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time last October, the word “stronger” brings more sarcastic humor to the table than anything else.
My scorecard from Superstorm Sandy?
Three cousins with completely destroyed basements – every momento, appliance, and memory – gone in an instant. One cousin’s house was almost completely destroyed by the Atlantic Ocean. Over one dozen cars, both personal and those used for business – flooded. A 105 year old business flooded – its first and basement floors rendered useless. The business my partner and I put every ounce of our effort into for 20 years, gone along with every piece of equipment. Buildings so damaged that going back down to brick was the only solution.
Now after most of the repairs have been done, let’s talk about how the government sponsored programs have worked for us “victims”.
There was a tremendous amount of money “set aside” by the Federal government for people that were the latest victims of Mother Nature’s wrath. The United States Senate passed a $50.5 billion aid package and a $9.7 billion increase in national flood insurance in early January. Sandy victims were told that $60.2 billion was indeed set aside for them and financial rescue would be on its way. Then the rejection letters started piling in.
Any program, whether on the state level or the Federal level came with it a huge amount of paperwork. Funny how in the first few days, the paperwork was downplayed and every FEMA/SBA worker, every NYCEDC staffer, Congressmen, City Council Members and any other dignitary who was around at that time, reassured the “victims” that they would indeed be “there for all of you”. The money was allocated and once approved, we would be able to come back “stronger than before”, kind of like the jingle says.
People who open a small business are told that most businesses fail within the first year or two. I have watched businesses that were “in business” for 3, 5, 10, 20 years or more struggle over the last few years – from terrorist attacks to economic downturn to the “bubble of the week” that burst and now, a 100 year storm. A good number of these businesses tried every way to get approval from whatever agency would listen. A lot just never reopened. The required paperwork assumes that every person in a small business has enough time in the course of their day to be completely caught up with their record keeping, invoicing and debt totals and the ability to continue a clean-up, the likes of which most people should never have to see in their lifetime’s while trying to maintain their business footing in a very competitive market during “iffy” economic times and corral the required financial paperwork. And to boot, a lot of businesses have all their property on one level – so most paperwork, financials, computers and more were swept out with the tide, making compliance almost impossible. In Coney Island, 98 “micro businesses” came back after the Superstorm – over 75% of those businesses footing their own bill – no help, no loans, no grants (save for a $500 dollar grant from the Alliance for Coney Island).
The point of this article is not to cry over what has happened. The purpose of this article is to warn small and microbusiness owners. The days of the pizza man with his receipts in a shoe box are not ever going to go away – let’s face it, some businesses are just that small and although most people couldn’t live without their computers, there are still many people in business that rely on support staff or other professionals to pull it all together once or twice a year. Even so, accounting software, tax laws, credit applications and government filings are a daunting process. Stay on top of your business’ “business” – know when too much is just that – too much. Small business is a gamble even in the best of times.
Second opinions make sense when dealing with health issues; second opinions should matter where the health of your business is concerned also. Take yearly inventory or your insurance policies – liability, property, general, umbrella and don’t forget Worker’s Compensation and Disability. Make sure employee numbers and equipment purchases are noted and updated whenever they change. Make sure you “self-insure” for those things that are never supposed to happen but do. It may not be a lot that you can put away, but the rainy day can come sooner than you ever expect and 3, 5, 10 or 20 years seem like a blink of the eye.
Regardless of what other community based businesses or organizations tell you, ALWAYS get involved with the community you are in. The particular industry our business has been involved in has always stressed community involvement and activism in order to spread the word about our products and services. Many years ago, we spoke to business owner’s in our community about going to Community Board meetings and Chamber of Commerce meetings – we were told that “those people” were shady and crooked and you “really didn’t want to get involved with that sort of thing”. Funny thing about that is the same people who told us not to get involved with the local groups are now “in tight” with them and (surprisingly, or not) are receiving media attention and (funnier) money. Go to those meetings, network, network, NETWORK!!! It is the key to knowing what is going on, how you can be involved and most importantly, regardless of the size of your business, you will never be “too small to be forgotten” in the eyes of your community.
One question still remains, and that would be where all the Federal Aid promised is going. New programs seem to be cropping up constantly as the money allotted still sits in Federal coffers. Hopefully, the “right thing” will be done (eventually) and sometime before the micro businesses go under for the last time (pardon the pun), help will truly arrive.
After taking countless seminars, classes and webinars, reading e-book after e-book, and forum after forum on the subject of Social Media, it amazes me (oh well, maybe it really doesn’t AMAZE me) that people attempt to handle their business accounts the way they handle their personal Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
I met with a client today that wants to delve into the world of Social Media but is not “up” on alot of the in’s and out’s of its use. While 2013 brings about a change from worrying about “like” and “followers”, the real engagement is to offer the clients something to make them come back for more. In this instance, with this particular client, media and its ability to enhance his business is scoffed at – an old traditional place doesn’t need to get into all this “new stuff” but then he wants to make a splash on a Facebook page.
So we start out simply – he shows me a picture and says it received over 4,000 views – my answer, “what did it bring into the business?” His response, “I don’t know”. My next question is why did you post the picture which illicted the response, “These pasteries everyone loves! Look at the number of views!” But this business does not offer these desserts as a take home item, or a take out item, nor does it ship locally or nationally. So again I think, “Why?”
I ask if the picture is “tagged” …. “alternate text”…. “optimized so Search Engines can find it” and I am met with, “Why do I need to do all that? I don’t know what any of that is and what is it going to help?” So I, in turn say, “4,000 becomes 40,000 but again, what do you do with 40,000 views if the people can’t get to taste them?”
That comment didn’t go over well – shipping is not something they are going to do; they are a local restaurant and only have a limited amount of the product. The owner received many “comments” regarding this picture but doesn’t have the time to respond to any of them so he instead wants to just sit back and say “I got over 4,000 views”.
This is what not to do with Social Media.
Want to see how many people want to be your “friend” or “follow” you as you post a 140 character synopsis of what you do each moment, fine…. Facebook and Twitter are for you and YOUR PERSONAL ACCOUNT! Watch those numbers climb because, in all seriousness, they are just that, numbers – no one is buying from you, using your services, hawking your wares – nothing, nada! But for your business, well, that is a different story.
Want to post a picture? Make it relevant to the product or service you are trying to sell on whatever Social Media outlet you are using. Make sure it is tagged right, optimized correctly, hey, let’s even through this one in – use a CLEAR picture!! Then offer the people that are viewing something tangible – easy reservations, “We’ll save one just for you!” promotions, whatever will get them into the door of your local eatery or shop. Just as in life, don’t play the “tease” – there must be follow-up, follow through and something significant in the end.
Please keep posted to my blog as I chronicle the Social Media program I watch this business go through – what works, what doesn’t as my friend in his business does what he always does – wears way too many hats and becomes a master of letting things fall by the wayside. One day, maybe, he will actually hear me and let someone who knows a bit about Social Media handle his business’ Marketing and actually see a difference in the bottom line!