Friday, December 4, 2015

St Louis Arch

I snapped this photo while walking by the Gateway Arch in St Louis, MO this week. I've been here many times but this moment, it struck me as so beautiful. Hope you enjoy the photo as much as I do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday: All Across Africa

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving back to our communities and charities or causes we care about. One of my clients, All Across Africa is featured on the retail website One Kings Lane for today's #GivingTuesday event. These hand made items make great gifts and give back to help people in Africa. To learn more about All Across Africa, check out their mission:
All Across Africa creates market-driven employment opportunities to improve and empower the lives of rural and poor people across Africa. 

Women in Africa choose to work making baskets and other items by hand, in their local communities. All Across Africa sells these beautiful hand made items here in the USA. Every purchase helps provide income to women in Africa. It is a great organization and I'm proud to have them as a client. Check them out for your holiday gift list. Kudos to One Kings Lane for featuring such a purposeful brand that truly provides opportunities and empowers people to improve their lives. Check out their feature today on One Kings Lane.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Promotion that Benefits Animals in Need

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving....I am in Miami, Florida for the holiday weekend enjoying the beach life for something different this year. Yesterday I had a traditional Thanksgiving feast, and ate way too much turkey. However, I did leave room for apple pie and some See's Candy (no surprise there for my long time readers). Later we went to see the new Peanut's movie, because I've been a Snoopy fan since I was a kid. It totally lived up to my expectations!

Anyway, as part of my pledge to do more for animals this year, here's a great Black Friday Sale that gives back to help animals. Lucy Pet Products is having a Black Friday sale, you can save 20% off everything, site wide, plus get free shipping. There are some terms and conditions, but it is still a fantastic deal.

Lucy Pet Products are all Products with a Cause, because all profits go to support the Lucy Pet Foundation. If you are looking for a unique gift for the dog lover in your life, check out their Black Friday Sale. I'm more than happy to post this here today because animal advocacy is near and dear to my heart, and of course it is not a paid post. Hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever you are doing. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Holiday Pet Gifts With A Cause

Dog Shampoo Gift Baskets from Lucy Pet Products
Now here's a neat gift idea for the dog lover in your life...giftbaskets with dog shampoo and conditioning spray, all wrapped up in a nifty bow. I love stuff like this because it is easy and doesn't take a lot of time to shop. The folks at Lucy Pet Products have assembled these baskets locally in Thousand Oaks, California just in time for the holidays. The baskets have their signature shampoo and conditioners which are made in a solar powered plant in California and are packaged in colorful recyclable metal bottles. 

The best part of these baskets is that they are all "Products With a Cause" so you can make a difference for animals in need. Lucy Pet Products are luxurious shampoos and leave-in conditioners, and all the proceeds support the Lucy Pet Foundation mission of providing free or low-cost spay/neuter, adoption, rescue and vet services in disadvantaged areas. I like how they make it easy to "pay it forward" with your purchase to help pets in need. Check out the full selection of Holiday Gift baskets for Dogs here.

Lucy Pet Products Sampler Pack has 12 trial size bottles
Personally, I like the Blue Lightning Blueberry formula, and The Big Apple Oatmeal one too. They both smell SO good. They also have a sampler pack with all six varieties, which is a perfect way to try all of the different ones to decide which full size ones to go back and buy later.

In full disclosure Lucy Pet Products is one of my clients, but this is not a paid post. I'm happy to share this information because I like the mission of the Lucy Pet Foundation and animal advocacy is one of my personal passions. Thanks for reading and letting me give a personal plug for a cause I really believe in.

Friday, November 13, 2015

'The Road to Happiness* Is Always Under Construction' by Linda Gray

Linda Gray's new book "The Road to Happiness"
A few weeks ago I received my copy of a new book by the lovely and iconic Actress/Producer Linda Gray.  "The Road to Happiness*  Is Always Under Construction" is appropriately titled, as Ms Gray shares anecdotes, stories and advice from her life and storied career. I was delighted to have my own autographed copy, although I can speak first hand as to what a lovely and genuine individual Linda is, truly a gem of a person. Linda is talented, down-to-earth and naturally beautiful as well. 

Linda is very transparent with her story and journey of life; its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows. The book is packed with advice and lessons to appreciate life.  One of the things I've always appreciated about Linda is that she has always been very genuine and warm, which shines through the pages as you read her book. For sure, Linda Gray is well known for her iconic role as Sue Ellen Ewing on TV's "Dallas", and numerous other TV, film and stage appearances, and appearances on London's West End stage. Linda is also an accomplished Director, former United Nations Ambassador, and is actively involved in many charitable fundraising programs. 

with the lovely Linda Gray 
I've had the pleasure of knowing Linda with some fundraising events with the SAG Foundation for Children, the Steve Chase Awards events, and through one of her films 'Expecting Mary' (which was also released under the title "A Very Mary Christmas"). Linda also was guest on my radio show a few years back. She is a lovely person and so talented too. If you are looking for a great holiday gift, check out Linda's new book, it is available everywhere right now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Keeping Busy and Loving Life

Earlier this year my professional life expanded deeper in Asia with the appointment of Chairman of RJT Holdings Limited. RJT Holdings Limited-- based in Hong Kong, was founded by a team of seasoned pet industry business executives with more than 50 years management experience in retail operations, merchandising, sales, distribution, business development, brand management and innovation. 

We provide global experience in sales of pet products: food, treats, dog apparel, grooming products, toys, scratchers and much more. The firm has deep knowledge of the U.S. pet product industry enables us to seek out the very best manufacturers and brand of consumables, apparel, and hard goods supplies categories.

Today through our strong partnerships, RJT Holdings Limited enjoys an excellent reputation for always operating with full integrity and honesty, with fair, open and transparent business practices. We worked hard to develop this reputation, through many deep long standing relationships across Asia for the past decade. It is an honor and pleasure to serve as Chairman, leading our Asian operations. I truly love what I do and enjoy my work life immensely.

I made myself at home in Hong Kong.
Just yesterday I was reflecting on reviewing my calendar I discovered that so far this year I have spent 82 nights in Hong Kong, which does not include time spent in Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan or Thailand. Yes, 2015 has been a wonderful year, blessed with incredible experiences and success in business. From co-founding my consulting company Zarhill Partners Group two years ago and founding RJT Holdings Limited this year, I had seen my professional life develop beyond my imagination. I enjoy splitting my time between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, with a bit of London and Palm Springs mixed in for good measure.  It is truly remarkable what a difference a year makes. Without question life is significantly better when you are master of your own destiny. My advice to anyone reading this is to pursue and follow your dreams. Plan, plot and work hard. Be diligent and focused. Never give up. Always think positively. It has worked for me and it can work for you as well.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Influencing for Cause Can Build Your Own Brand Equity

This past week I attended BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta, Georgia.  I've been attending BarkWorld for several years and always enjoy meeting fellow social media pet professionals. I was at BarkWorld with one of my clients, Lucy Pet Products, and their spokes-dog, Surfin Jack. Surfin' Jack was a huge hit and made lots of new friends and fans- two legged and four legged-furry friends especially!

Influencing for Cause Can Build Your Own Brand Equity
On Saturday I participated in one of the educational sessions as a speaker, co-presenting on the topic of 'Using Your Influence for a Cause'. The session focused on how bloggers can promote causes they are passionate about by leveraging their followers and readers. Here are a few highlights and advice I gave to the attendees of our session:

  • Choose causes that are near & dear to you.
  • Learn about the cause…volunteer, get involved.
  • Use your social presence to help share the message across all platforms, and be consistent with the message.
  • Be authentic & genuine. (Authentic conversations have more of an impact on Millennials in particular.)
  • Focus on true stories, and leverage other people's content or media, with permission.
  • Consider forming strategic partnerships to help magnify your voice.
  • Existing followers will be more loyal from your passion.
  • New followers will find you more easily.
My closing advice to the attendees was that if you are working for or passionate about helping a cause be sure to get out there at least once and volunteer, help or work with the organization so you can speak first-hand, from the heart. This will help your authenticity and more importantly will enrich your life along the way.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Using Your Influence for Cause

I'm pleased to share that I will be speaking at the BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta. By an amazing coincidence, some other matters have brought me to the East coast, which made it possible for me to attend this conference. I've previously attended and been a featured speaker at BarkWorld several times in years past. In particular, back in 2010 I made a presentation with a colleague from Petco about "Making Money in Social Media". 

This year I will be presenting and moderating a panel discussion entitled: 'Using Your Influence for Cause'. The presentation is designed to help digital media professionals and bloggers better understand how to market cause related issues and influence others.

The panel members are from one of my clients at the Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products.  The session will provide a unique glimpse into how and why the founder of a top pet food brand donates his time and millions of his own dollars starting a pet foundation to actively affect pet euthanization numbers at a local and global level. 

Attendees will hear how he is influencing others to support a new cause-driven product company - and how you can use your influence to inspire and champion for cause, too.

Takeaways for attendees in my session will include:

  1. Hear why cause marketing is transforming product innovation.
  2. Learn how influencing for cause can build your own brand equity.
  3. Ask the Vet, Doc Halligan, Chief Veterinary Office at the Lucy Pet Foundation about supporting cause and your pets.

My public speaking engagement calendar has been quite full this year, literally from every corner of the U.S.A. to the U.K. and regularly in Hong Kong. It will be a pleasure to return to BarkWorld once again to see so many familiar faces--and friends that I've known for many years. If you will be attending BarkWorld, I hope to see you during my session, Using Your Influence for Cause.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Launching a Successful Brand

Rick Rockhill, Managing Partner and Founder of Zarhill Partners Group
Whether I am speaking at events in the US, Asia or Europe, there is one common thirst for knowledge from marketers, entrepreneurs and new business owners: "How to successfully launch my brand?".  During a speaking engagement last week in Chicago one of my presentations addressed this very topic. Without question there is no shortage of great product and service ideas percolating in the minds of creative individuals. What is often missing however is the know-how to bring great ideas to fruition, how to develop well thought-through strategy, and how to execute the plan.

I often say to clients that "You can only launch a new brand for the first time once." This is intentionally a bit of a mind game statement, but this play on words is intended to get marketers to pause and THINK before acting. The fact is that most new products and brands fail.  It is exceptionally difficult to get a new product on the "radar" of consumers. In fact, the Harvard Business Review's study shows that "American families, on average repeatedly buy the same 150 items, which constitute as much as 85% of their households needs".  From this fact, you can understand why it would be difficult to break into the shopping habits of American consumers.

In the early stages of launching a product or brand, there are some critical questions to answer, such as evaluating the current product category in which you wish to compete. What is the retail landscape like? Who are the competitors? Where is it sold? Is your product or brand better than what is currently available? Why would anyone want or need your product? Why would retailers want to carry your product?

Whether working with my clients or when speaking at conferences, I often speak at length about what I view as the most important steps to launch a new brand. The details behind these are what comes from experience and business knowledge. During my 27 year career history thus far, I have found the same common themes to hold true across multiple industries. These hold true in the U.S., UK, EU, Asia and beyond.

There are Ten Mission Critical Steps to Launch a Brand:

  1. Establish Core Value Proposition
  2. Know your Target Consumers/Channel Strategy
  3. Develop Brand Identity
  4. Establish Goals
  5. Build A Launch Strategy
  6. Find the Industry Experts & Influencers
  7. Develop a Compelling Marketing Message
  8. Forge Partnerships
  9. Make it easy to Interact with Others
  10. Monitor, Listen, Evaluate & Respond
If there are steps to launch a brand, I can assure you there is also a list of the most common mistakes and reasons that new brands and products fail. Knowing those steps can literally save a company millions of dollars. My firm Zarhill Partners Group works with emerging and established brands to navigate the treacherous waters of the consumer goods marketplace. Smart marketers recognize what that don't know, and seek advice. 

If you are launching a product, brand or have an idea that you wish to bring to market,  my advice is to always find someone who will give you honest feedback, and not worry about hurting your feelings.  Get as close to the consumer as possible, to truly understand their wants, needs and behaviors. Write a business plan and have someone shoot holes in the plan. Then re-write it.

One final piece of advice--provided you are well funded and truly have done your research--including advice from people with experience...listen to your gut instinct, and execute your plan. Launching a successful brand can be a rewarding experience and incredible learning opportunity. Even if you don't make millions, you will be rich in experience.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference

This week I am in Chicago attending the Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference at the Hilton Chicago. My firm Zarhill Partners Group is featured for several sessions at this year's pet industry event. As a 19 year veteran of the pet industry and a 27 year career professional I am frequently featured as a public speaker at conferences, webinars and business podcast events. My background as a subject matter expert extends to topics around brand strategies, retail channel strategies, the natural products industry, luxury consumer goods, dog and cat products, and the pet specialty retail channel. Through my Hong Kong office, we regularly host Brand Summits, Leadership Luncheons and Breakfast Networking Meet Ups for key business leaders and brand executives across Hong Kong and mainland China. These past few months my international travel schedule has been hectic, so it is nice to be in Chicago this week, not too far from home.

The pet industry has long been near and dear to my heart, so it is with great pleasure that I will be seeing so many familiar faces this week in Chicago. In advance of my two sessions, I wanted to share two teaser quotes regarding brands:

"Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life, and positions you in the mind of consumers."

"A must always be protected through a disciplined strategy."

If you are attending the Petfood 2.0 Event, my presentations are as follows:

  • Tuesday 10/20 "Developing a Brand Identity & Strategy" (Main Stage) 
  • Wednesday 10/21 "Launching a New Brand" (Meet Up Sessions, by Advance Registration only).

Attendees can submit any brand questions to me prior to Tuesday's sessions via Twitter @RickRockhill

Monday, October 12, 2015

Products With a Cause: Lucy Pet Products

One my my clients, Lucy Pet Products has just launched a line of brand new shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays for dogs. Their 'Products With A Cause" is really cool because they have developed a line of products where the proceeds go to the Lucy Pet Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) registered animal charity.  I love working with brands and companies who have a greater purpose and mission. It has been really fun working with Lucy Pet Products to help develop their first product line to benefit animal welfare causes. These shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays are very high quality, with incredible scents like Coconut, Lavender, Apple Oatmeal, Tropical Berries, Blueberry and a gentle Baby Powder scent for puppies. These products are only available in pet specialty shops like local independent pet stores, or Petco stores. 

One of things that has been especially fun has been developing the Surfin' Jack brand. Surfin' Jack is a real dog who was rescued from death row at the Los Angeles East Valley Animal Shelter. Jack is a family pet now, and after some training, went on to star in a Super Bowl Sunday commercial for the Lucy Pet Foundation, and now has inspired a line of grooming products called Surfin' Jack.

This is a great example of a brand that cares and puts its ethics into action. With the proceeds going to help animals, its easy for pet parents to do something good for other animals in need. It is an honor and true pleasure to work with the Lucy Pet Products brand. If you need a good shampoo for your dog, look for this brand at Petco or ask for it in your local pet shop.

PS- I really like the conditioning sprays. I used them on both Sheldon and Duncan. They actually condition the coat and smell so good too. I've been using the conditioning spray a few times a week to freshen up their coat, and it helps make brushing them easier. For Sheldon I like to use the "Blue Lightning" blueberry one, because it brightens his black hair. For Duncan I like to use the Surfin' Jack Coconut moisturizing one...and I think the Surfin' Jack one suits Duncan's personality too. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pet Food 2.0 Conference: A Sneak Peek

I'm pleased to be one of the presenters at the upcoming Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference. I'll be presenting two sessions during the week;

The organizers posted this article below on their website, which I have decide to feature below. I hope to see some familiar faces and new ones too. If you want to attend, there is still time to register.

Conference Speakers Cover All Angles: Education Sneak Peak
 - Blog

The Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 conference in Chicago is almost here, and our staff couldn’t be more excited. Besides an exhibit hall filled with forward-thinking potential partners, the two-day education lineup includes some of the brightest minds in animal nutrition, such as:
• Bill Bookout founding member and president of the nonprofit National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)
• George C. Fahey Jr., Ph.D., professor emeritus of animal sciences and Kraft Foods endowed professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
• Industry consultant Deena Krestel-Rickert, Ph.D., who worked at companies including Ralston (now NestlĂ©) Purina, Trouw Nutrition and AFB International
• Dave Ratner, who has more than 40 years’ experience in pet retail, owns his own line of dog and cat foods, and is actively involved with the National Retail Federation (NRF)

We’re also looking forward to the sustainability session featuring Sara Snedeker, project manager, Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition (PISC) and Jim Thomas, Petco’s vice president of sustainability, safety, environment, risk, ethics and compliance. In just a couple short years, PISC has made great strides in arming the pet industry with tangible tools and resources to advance sustainability in businesses of all sizes, no matter how ominous the task may seem. Petco was an early-adopter founding member of PISC, as well as leading the pack of pet retailers by creating an executive position to support sustainability efforts. It will be interesting to hear how the two organizations have made strides collaboratively and as individual entities.

Also of note are the branding sessions led by Rick Rockhill. Managing partner and co-founder of Zarhill Partners Group, a retail, brand and sales consulting company based in Burbank, California, Rockhill has 27 years’ experience in merchandising, innovation, product development, sales and marketing, both in and out of the pet industry, which offers rich perspective.

“Good marketers understand that a well-defined brand strategy is critical to launch a successful brand," he said. “A brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life, and positions you in the mind of consumers. Think of your brand as a living personality that interacts with consumers. Start by writing a background story about your brand, and incorporate it into your company materials. The expression ‘live your brand’ refers to the need for employees to understand and be able to articulate the brand in everything they do."
Rockhill will discuss the importance of defining the brand’s target customers and channel strategy, the latter of which “is much more than a matter of where your product will be sold," he explained. “It involves an aspect of corporate soul-searching to align your brand with retailers." Through this process, brand holders can identify retailers with the right mix of customers, brand support and opportunities for their unique brand’s growth.
Rockhill shares more of his expertise in our November digital issue, “The Science of Launching a New Brand," which goes live Nov. 6. Several of the conference speakers have written or been quoted in recent Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 articles. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Awesome Surfin' Jack

Surfin' Jack and me in Las Vegas!
There is a new canine star who has burst onto the scene whom I've come to know named Surfin' Jack. "Jack" is short for "Jackie" and she isn't just any old dog...she has an amazing story.

Surfin' Jack is a 2 year old Golden Retriever mix who was rescued from 'death row' at the Los Angeles East Valley Animal Shelter. She's a natural athlete and surfer who loves people and spreading smiles. This dog is a great example of how many truly amazing dogs (and cats) there are in shelters waiting for a good home. After being rescued, Surfin' Jack got some love and training, and went on to star in a Super Bowl TV commercial for the Lucy Pet Foundation. She has also been trained as a therapy dog to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and other folks. Surfin Jack is on a mission to help spread the word about Rescue, and also Spay & Neuter to help reduce the over-population of homeless animals. She also makes appearances from time to time with the Lucy Pet Foundation Mobile Spay & Neuter Van to educate people in local communities about this important cause. 

Surfin Jack wants to help other animals in shelters find a good home, so she is an ambassador for the Lucy Pet Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) registered animal charity. In the meantime, Surfin' Jack has now inspired a line of dog shampoos by Lucy Pet Products and has her own line called Surfin' Jack Coconut Moisturizing Shampoo and a Conditioner too! The best part of this line of shampoos from Lucy Pet Products is that they are Products With A Cause, so the profits go directly to the Lucy Pet Foundation. Surfin' Jack is able to help animals in shelters by raising money for an animal charity that really makes a difference! 

With Surfin' Jack at Blog Paws in Nashville TN
Long time readers of this blog know that I am an animal advocate and like to give back to animals any way I can. This is partly why I am proud to serve on the Board of the Lucy Pet Foundation to find more ways to help this charity help animals. Her social handle is @SurfinJackDog on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter...and now Surfin' Jack has her own website. I'm glad I've gotten to meet this amazing dog and can't wait to see all the amazing things she will be doing in the future. Keep an eye on this dog, she is going to be a star.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Work Life Balance in Hong Kong

Relaxing in Hong Kong Park
Over the past six years I've spent a great deal of time traveling throughout Asia on business and personal trips. I've genuinely enjoyed the time I have spent in most countries, yet in particular I have a fondness for Hong Kong. So much so that I now have an office in Hong Kong and spend a great deal of time here. While HK is not home, it has become familiar and welcoming in many ways. 

For anyone who enjoys city life, Hong Kong is real gem. For me, it offers many things that I value and enjoy. In particular, Hong Kong is visually stimulating with a spectacular skyline, sweeping harbor. views, and an interesting blend of Far East and Western elements. 

One of the things I especially enjoy here is the ability for a healthy work-life balance. Hong Kong Park is a great example of a place I go to relax and unwind. It is a stunning park, with beautiful foliage, garden structures winding paths and calming water features. I often walk through Hong Kong Park on my way to or from meetings. Yesterday I stopped to enjoy this waterfall and the koi pond, I almost forgot I was in the city. When I got back to my office I felt so refreshed and relaxed...and grateful to have the opportunity to be able to work here every so often. Hong Kong may not be my home, but it sure feels like it whenever I am back. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Heart is Heavy Today: Dick Van Patten June 23, 2015

Dick Van Patten with his wife Patty&  son Jimmy, in Palm Springs (photo: Palm Springs Life)
My heart is heavy today over the loss of my friend Dick Van Patten. He was kind, talented, funny, generous and truly an animal lover. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have known Dickie these years. I knew him on a personal and professional level. Most people remember him for Eight is Enough, however, he had an incredible career as an actor. He started as a child actor on stage, and later went on to one of the early TV programs "I Remember Mama" in 1949. During his career, Dickie appeared in 600 radio shows, 30 Broadway shows, 26 feature films, eight television series and countless guest appearances in TV series and even a reality TV series. I had the opportunity to work closely with Dick during my years at Natural Balance, during multiple National Guide Dog Month campaigns and also during the filming of the TV series Who Let The Dogs Out. I first got to know him back when I worked at Petco, and our friendship developed over the years. But I also knew Dickie on a personal level. His passions were many...first, his family...and then from tennis to poker to race horses to animals--and especially cats. He was always fascinated by cats.

with Dick Van Patten in Palm Springs, 2009
He was also a true animal advocate, and put his time and money into programs to help animals in need. Dick Van Patten literally helped thousands of animal organizations nationwide and founded National Guide Dog Month to help raise awareness and money for non-profit guide dog schools. Dick was a family fan, a loving husband and a dear friend. 

Dick had a great sense of humor...his jokes were always hugely funny and he had great comedic timing. Years ago, back when I worked for Petco, Dick was known for telling some truly hilarious, and now legendary jokes at the Petco Trade Show and Managers Meeting. Attendees of the annual event would literally wait with great anticipation for him to appear on stage to hear his big joke. Some years his jokes had an edgy double entendre, yet still respectable, leaving the audience rolling on the floor.

Dick loved my dog Sheldon!
Many people already know that Dick Van Patten was always interested in helping animal causes. He was an ardent supporter of Guide Dog programs, and in particular he had a soft spot for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in Palm Springs, CA. During a visit to the Guide Dogs of the Desert he went under blindfold and was led by a guide dog to experience what it was like to put full trust in an animal. This experience influenced him and was at the heart of his desire to help guide dog programs nationwide. His philanthropy knew no limits--from hosting celebrity tennis tournaments to supporting organizations like Actors and Others for Animals, The Petco Foundation, and literally thousands of shelters nationwide, he found a way to help as many animals in need as possible. His efforts also served as inspiration to similar programs in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. He made a difference to animals in the world.

Dick's Star in Palm Springs
I'll always remember the time Dick received his Golden Palm honor on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. The night before, we held a private dinner party in Dick's honor at Melvyn's Ingleside Inn restaurant, which was a truly memorable evening. The next day, Saturday January 12, 2008 was the star unveiling and dedication ceremony. 

Dickie and his family assembled for the star dedication, and other celebrities including Lily Tomlin, Tom Bosley, Ruta Lee, Debbie Gibson, Jerry Vale attended that day. Following the star dedication, we hosted a private luncheon afterward at Spencer's Restaurant. I shall never forget what a nice weekend that was, and how happy Dick was to receive this honor from the Palm Springs community.

And so, as is the case in this life, all good things must come to an end. He was one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, and a man I called friend. He encouraged me when I needed confidence, and he listened when I needed a sounding board to make personal and professional decisions. Above all, he always made me feel comfortable and relaxed.

I cannot sufficiently express the depth of my admiration, respect and love for Dickie Van Patten or what he meant to me. I cried when the word came that Dick had passed. I cried because he always made me feel like a son, and welcomed me into his life.

Thank you, Dick Van Patten for many fond memories and many great laughs. 

Your pal, Rick.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Must Read Books for Anyone with a Heart

With Lisa Erspamer at BlogPaws 2015
This week I attended the Blog Paws conference in Nashville, Tennessee, along with the folks from the Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products. Long time readers of this blog will remember that I've attended and written about Blog Paws a number of times from prior years. Blog Paws 2015 was bigger and better than ever.

Blog Paws did a great job attracting some great authors for a book signing event. One of the notable individuals was my friend Lisa Erspamer, author of three really great books: A Letter to My Dog, A Letter to My Cat and this year's newest release, A Letter to My Mom. All three of these books are filled with heart-warming stories contributed by leading luminaries of our pop culture, and beyond. 

Along with her team, Erspamer has done an excellent job crafting these collections of incredible stories. Her latest book, A Letter to My Mom is already becoming as popular as her prior two publications. For anyone with a heart, these are all must-read books and make great gifts. They are highly enjoyable to read, perfect to pick-up and put-down for those short reading bursts. You'll find these ideal for a lazy Saturday afternoon or a relaxing Sunday morning with coffee. Do yourself a favor and pick up these books. You'll be so glad that you did.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Doors Opening

These past few weeks have been enormously fulfilling and enjoyable on many levels. Doors continue to open, leading to interesting experiences and opportunities along the way of life. Much of my time has been spent in Asia, where I find myself drawn for both business and relaxation. I recently opened an office in Hong Kong, so I spend a good deal of time there now with clients and such. My Hong Kong office enables me to work more regularly with clients throughout Asia, as well as those in the US who do business in the South East Asia region. It also allows me time to visit friends and enjoy life along the way.

Doors of another kind have opened for me, coaxing me to cross an imaginary threshold that has been like a boundary for me the past year or so. These early steps are tentative, cautious and guarded, but becoming more sure-footed. The photo I selected of this post is a metaphor for what life presents to us. When the doors of life open, it is important to recognize what is before us, and to step ahead to seize the opportunities.

When I took this photo (Martyr's Shrine, Taipei Taiwan) I was struck by the beauty and solemnity of the shrine. Later when I was looking back at photos, they took on a different meaning. These huge red doors were reminding me to accept what was beyond the doors of opportunity in life. When you are presented with doors of opportunity that open for you, look beyond the threshold and move forward. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Memories of Easter Past

As one grows older, some of the more simple aspects of life take on greater meaning. I'm particularly grateful to have an appreciation of family traditions and rituals surrounding holidays, seasons and passages of time. Like most families, traditions are passed down through the generations, becoming familiar--almost second nature for each event. Holiday traditions and routines seem to particularly imprinted on my memory. Religious based holidays of course have the spiritual meaning, which are central to my memories. I don't dismiss or deliberately intend to overlook those here. It is interesting to me that my memories of Easter are far stronger than Christmas. Our family traditions around Easter were substantial. Observing Lent for 40 days, leading up to Holy Week liturgical ceremonies, Easter Vigil and of course Easter Sunday service were all heavy emotionally, but highly celebratory for the family. These were occasions that united the extended family, and always involved food--massive amounts of food in fact. 

Easter was an important holiday season. We would always get dressed up and everything just felt special. Throughout my adult life I always maintained these traditions in my own circle. Regardless of whether I was with family or friends, home or abroad, Easter traditions were always maintained. My memories of Easter are in fact, imprinted deeply. I can still see my Great Grandma's rice pies, Aunt Anita's bowl of jelly beans in the living room. Aunt Antonetta's bowl of chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, Aunt Eleanor's apricot cookies, my mom's sweet bread, and grandma Julia's bowl of gum-drop bunnies. Fanny Farmer chocolate rabbits and cream eggs were the very best. Later in life when I worked for Fanny Farmer and Fannie May Candy companies, it was a dream come true.

Even today, my own celebration of Easter continues these traditions, both real and imagined. I believe in the importance of maintaining cultural and family traditions--these are part of society. These are what help give character to us. I am grateful to my ancestors who made the effort to pass down the family traditions, giving me cherished memories. These are the among the greatest gifts I've ever received. Happy Easter. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

The thing is....

A few of my recent speaking engagements have been to "young" business professionals-- more specifically with 'Millennials'. If this is a term with which you are not familiar, Millennials (or 'Gen Y') refers to people born between 1977 and 1995, which within the US accounts for close to 80 million people. No doubt you've heard the term "Baby Boomers" and may be wondering about the other groups. Here is a quick reference: 

Generation Y: Born 1977- 1995
Generation X: Born 1965-1977
Baby Boomers: Born 1946- 1964
Traditionalists: Born pre-1946

If you want to read more about Millennials, check out Jason Dorsey, the GenY Guy. He has books, DVD kits and some really helpful stuff in his online store.

Like every generation, millennials have their own unique traits, and other generations tend to "not get" them, and have subtle differences that can sometimes set them worlds apart. I am a Gen X guy--just barely, which makes me "old" in the eyes of Millennials.

Back to my recent speaking engagements. My consulting firm has hosted a series of round table business lunches across various cities, with me as the headline speaker. These business lunches are designed to facilitate discussion to open dialogue and understanding between Millennials and Generation X business leaders in the workplace. The issue is that Millennials have a sense of entitlement, they crave instant gratification, and they have huge expectations but don't seem to be interested in the time or actions necessary to earn what they want. These traits are diametrically opposed to the traits of Generation X (and Baby Boomers for that matter). The thing is that Generation X managers are having a difficult time managing Millennials, who expect everything handed to them immediately. At issue is this is a similar trait across the generation, so it is pervasive across the workforce.

For old guys like me in executive management positions, it is easy to just dismiss this generation out of hand, lecture them and tell them how hard I had to work when I was their age. That sort of speech really makes old guys like me feel good. "There, I told them, that will fix it." Except it won't. You see, the thing is that if we Gen X managers want to see our organizations thrive and compete for talent, we need to understand how this Gen Y (Millennial) generation thinks, what motivates them. I'm not suggesting that we "give in" or make it easy for them, but the smart leaders will take time to better understand what gets this generation going. We need to understand that this is a generation that has no intention to remain loyal to any single company over their lifetime. They value moving around, to meet their expectations. So instead, my "lecture" is actually to the old guys like me: "Get used to it!".

The objective of my speaking engagements is to open this discussion...get people talking and to interpret. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on Gen Y people, but I've taken the time to educate myself on what Millennials want and how they think. My own trial and error in managing Gen Y employees has been a learning experience for sure. I may not like or truly understand why, but I understand the reality in which we work today. Therefore, in order to survive AND THRIVE in the business world today, it is crucial for old Gen X guys like me to sit down and listen to the seemingly spoiled Gen Y employee. Explain. Communicate. Don't get frustrated when they have their smart phone in their hand the entire discussion. And definitely don't get upset when they check Instagram during the conversation.

Recognizing that I'm ancient to most Millennials, I decided to lighten up and lose my suit and tie for the presentations I've made. I've made a conscious effort to wear cool colors, be more casual, but still professional (like the photo above). Despite the fact that I consider Brooks Brothers to be the model for business wardrobe, I have taken a different approach during my speaking engagements. Heck, during some presentations, I've even sat down on a table, leaning in to make a point and hold the attention of this fickle 'A.D.D.' group of attendees. I have not been offended once when I look out and seen mostly tops of heads, tilted down with faces glowing slightly from their iPhones as they tap away Tweeting, blogging, or taking selfies while I speak. The thing is, by adapting my style as a speaker and business executive I've been able to engage groups of young and old business leaders to communicate.

At times I see looks of bewilderment and the hear the occasional snicker if I make an 80's pop reference of some kind. I do it to amuse myself and keep my peer generational attendees happy. Maybe someday I'll finish the book I've been writing about this subject. For now at least I have the satisfaction of seeing ah-ha moments when these two generations come together, if only for the span of 90 minutes. 


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally, with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

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