There are all kinds of traditions at all times of the year.

Whether it’s the tradition of having pizza on deadline night. Or quarterly team bowling tournaments. Or annual office clean outs.
Traditions can be powerful.
The holidays are especially full of traditions.
And sometimes they need to change.
A childhood friend of mine had a wonderful nurturing mother. In preparation for Christmas, she worked hard to get the house cleaned and decorated to perfection. She spent hours making nine different kinds of cookies, coconut cake with freshly grated coconut, and an unbelievable fruit cake. All family recipes – beautiful and delicious.
When it was time for all to enjoy her fine work, she was exhausted, depressed and crabby. She yelled at the kids, complained of a migraine headache, and went to her room to sleep.
Such good intentions. All wasted.
The kids wished for years that she would skip all that work so they could just enjoy being with her for the holidays.
When Ryan was 6 years old, I thought about this and asked him what was most important to him during the holidays. His response: “It really doesn’t matter much Mommy. As long as I get to stay home and make cookies with you.”
Wow. There were half dozen or so other projects and events that I had planned to squeeze in between school and work and family events. All for him and with him. But he didn’t give a hoot about any of those things.
So I dropped them all and we just stayed home and made cookies together.
Not nine different kinds – or even fancy kinds.
Just sugar cookies — with lots of icing.
And sprinkles.
Not just on the cookies — but all over the kitchen!
Yes – there were sprinkles everywhere!
How wonderful to have that time together, the yummy cookies — and the broom.
It became a tradition.
And because it’s so easy to get swept up into the traditions of others,  it also became an tradition to re-visit these stories and to share them with others, as a reminder to each of us to fill the holidays with things that are important to us and our loved ones. But not too full.
Over time, Ryan’s desire to stay home and make cookies with me faded (he is now 24). But the messages from those memories are still perfectly clear: Let go. Plan less. Do less. Make a mess. Laugh. And leave space to just enjoy.
That reminds me of another holiday tradition.
During my years at University Directories, tradition called for a surprise visit from Santa.
I’m not sure if anyone knew this, but it wasn’t really Santa who came to our parties. Since it was such a busy time for him, Santa delegated this to my date for the party.
I must not have made expectations clear with my date one year, because when it came time for him to don the suit, he refused, saying he “wasn’t in the mood.”
With everyone waiting downstairs for Santa and his gifts to arrive, there was only one way to handle this party emergency, and that was for me to take on Santa’s assignment.
It didn’t take long for party participants to realize there was a substitute. Was it the loose fitting suit? Or did the high heels give it away?
The suited substitute explained that Santa was very busy at The North Pole and had sent his sister, Janta, in her first public appearance.
Never to rely on my dates again, Santa gave the assignment to Janta for the rest of my years at University Directories, and even now sends her for various surprise appearances in the Triangle area.
You might see her around.

The extra large suit is a big clue.
And – a good reminder to leave plenty of room for the people and things you love.Happy Holidays!

from Jan & Janta

My Wife, My City

Finally, Wednesday morning, Jan cried. Before then, she was caught somewhere between five minutes from the finish line at the Boston Marathon and the tragedy that occurred a mile or so up the road.

She and her sister, both UNC graduates from Winston-Salem, were running Boston for the first time, the oldest footrace in America and the centerpiece of perhaps the most unique day in this country. Patriots Day is a holiday only to Boston and Massachusetts, no school, commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War. Various first battle reenactments are staged in small towns all over the state. The Red Sox always play a home game that begins at 11 so the crowd can filter from Fenway Park down to Copley Square to watch the last few hours of the Boston Marathon, this year the 117th running.

Jan and (sister) Teresa had decided to run by joining charity teams that make up the great majority of the 26,000-person field. Teresa raised money for the Doug Flutie Autism team because she is a Doctor of Psychology with expertise in the field, having authored two books on Asperger’s Syndrome.

Jan Bolick, as many of you know, is a master of psychology helping so many of her business colleagues and friends with their daily challenges. Their mother, Frances “Flash” Flynt Bolick, had died 20 years ago from cancer first found in her liver. So Jan joined the American Liver Foundation team, which has raised more than $16 million over the last 25 years. At a moving breakfast Sunday morning, we found out that Jan’s part-time fund-raising gig that basically reached out to her own personal network finished in the top 20 among this year’s volunteers.

The sisters had trained together – mostly virtually because Teresa lives up there and Jan lives here. So they broke down the regimen of 450 total miles by sticking to their schedules and trying to run from 3 to 20 miles on the same day at the same time. Jan went to Boston in February for a practice “fun run” with her team that was dressing out as super heroes. Jan’s costume also honored her mother, “Flash Flynt” who got her nickname as a sports reporter for her high school newspaper.

Finally, the last week of training warm-down arrived and we headed to New England for the weekend. Constantly checking the weather, we saw a beautiful, crisp forecast, one that Bostonians pray for in the early weeks of the baseball season and Patriots Day. Temperatures were supposed to be in the low 50s with intermittent sun. In New England, that’s akin to an April Acapulco.

We made a weekend of it, as we usually do, spending this particular Saturday driving out to the starting line in the town of Hopkinton and talking to everyone from policemen who would be there to the two friends who run the Snappy Dogs stand on the town commons. We walked over to touch the Hoyt statute that honors three generations of Hoyts who have “run” in the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon. Then the sisters toed the starting line and ran the first three miles of the race before we picked them up and drove the remaining 23 or so right into downtown Boston.

On the way, we passed through Wellesley, where the brainy college coeds turn silly every Patriots Day, cheering the runners with signs about wanting to be kissed. The boys at Boston College on Comm. Ave. in Chestnut Hill are a little rowdier, some offering open beers to runners as they pass by. Over the race course through eight towns and into the city, it’s a day of celebration, jubilation and just plain fun. It’s not about the Elite Runners, who start at 9 and blow through in a near sprint in two and half hours.

On race day, after the sisters met their teams at 6:30 am for the bus ride to Hopkinton, I paid special attention to UNC All-American Shalane Flanagan, the NCAA champion distance runner who grew up in Marblehead on the North Shore and always dreamed of running and winning “Boston.” She trained long and hard with fellow American and BFF Kara Goucher, but in the end two bigger, stronger and leggier Kenyans held them off. Shalane finished fourth, Goucher seventh. Honestly, I cannot tell you who won among the Elite men.

My brother-in-law and I worked our way into Boston and planned to be on the Boylston Street finish line around 2 pm. Receiving hourly text updates, we knew Jan and Teresa would run the race in about 4 1/2 hours from their 10:40 starting time. So around 3:10 or so, they would come down Boylston on adrenalin, with the crowd of 20,000 or so cheering on total strangers as they ran the last half mile in waves ten abreast the four lanes. All ages, all sizes, all styles, they were taking it home, just as they had either envisioned or remembered as having done it before.

Steven (Teresa’s husband) and I gently pushed our way through the crowd of eight deep to get on the restraining barrier by 2:30. Having grown up in Boston and followed the Marathon as a casual fan, this was my first time seeing the unmitigated joy and happiness thousands of random runners bring to hundreds of thousands screaming spectators. Some found the runners they knew, but most were just cheering everyone. Then, within a flash of 15 seconds, the Boston Marathon changed forever.

I’ve since told friends that in all my years of sports watching, I never had a better or worse 50-yard line seat. To our right about one football field away, a gigantic explosion ripped through the opposite sidewalk near the finish line. A large cloud of burning smoke was just subsiding when, to our left, a similar explosion went off across the street. Two such blasts had to be intentional, and that’s when the stunned crowd knocked down the barricades and headed for the middle of the race course, fearing another bomb would go off on our side of the street.

First-responders were already tending to people who had been literally blown into the street and others who were staggering across. Within minutes, hundreds of Boston police were there, trying to evacuate the block, ordering everyone to walk up side streets across from where the bombs had gone off. It was two hours before we found our wives, since cell service in the immediate area had been shut down due to concern that the detonations were being set off remotely by mobile phones.

Thankfully, we found Teresa and Jan, who had been separated when the police stopped the race less than two miles from the finish line. One sister had made her way toward the home of friends where we had planned to meet and celebrate. Jan was shivering at a first-aid tent and then warmed by the hospitality of a synagogue that opened its doors to distressed runners. It was one of the many kind gestures offered by citizens and business owners and the various police and medical personnel who rushed to the scene. When Jan was eventually bussed to a staging area at the Boston Commons, a stranger walked up and gave her a sweatshirt, her size and everything.

Finally reunited, we watched the endless TV replays from the hundreds of media cameras set up at the finish line. If these sickos or terrorists wanted publicity, they picked the right place to blow up their homemade bombs. The death total rose to three and the injured to more than 170 before we left Boston and headed back to Teresa’s home. Tuesday, the Bolick girls recovered the bags they had left in Hopkinton. The Boston Athletic Association, which runs the Marathon, had set up another staging area for runners who wanted to and needed to find some closure. Upon their arrival, Jan and Teresa had the medals they were to receive at the finish line placed around their necks.

Boston is a tough, proud city with a storied history in so many ways. There WILL be a 118th Marathon, with tighter security in what is an impossible event to totally lock down. But besides the tragic loss of life and some limbs and more of the innocence we once enjoyed in America, Boston also lost some of its soul since so many people who had counted on another great Patriots Day were driven away in shock and tears.

Jan had trained envisioning how she would stride across the finish line, arms raised, big smile on her face. That carried her through four months and was to carry her through the final meters. But she never got there, along with thousands of others who planned to end the race in their own special way.

Concerned with those who lost more than a chance to complete their vision, Jan kept saying it was okay. It was okay. It was okay. But, finally, Wednesday morning, she cried.

Simple Problems: Simple Solutions

The facilitator for the April meeting of the Chamber of Commerce Small Business Roundtable was Tori Williams Reid, Ph.D., co-owner of Right at Home – Durham/Chapel Hill, an in-home care and assistance company.

During a session entitled Simple Problems: Simple Solutions, Tori invited participants to share current business problems and then for each one, she led a discussion on potential solutions. At the end, she asked participants to share aha moments – things they had done that had changed their business.

I didn’t attend the roundtable planning to write this article, but left thinking there were a lot of Good Business tips that could be valuable to others. So here goes. I don’t claim it to be a complete list of all ideas mentioned during the session, and can’t give credit to each individual for his/her contributions so will simply thank all participants of the Small Business Roundtable for these great ideas and reminders that can help all of us do Good Business.

  1. Make the most of networking opportunities.

    1. Choose just one or two groups or methods of networking rather than spreading yourself too thin.

    2. Evaluate periodically to determine which groups and methods are delivering the best results.

    3. Have a goal in mind for each networking event (examples: meet a particular person or meet people in a particular industry).

    4. Follow up (item #2biii may be needed for this).

    5. Be helpful /be a connector – in other words, focus on helping others instead of getting what you want/need.

    6. Tell the same story (marketing message) every time.

  1. Regarding processes…

    1. Put all your to do’s in one place (like Google calendar).

    2. Let go of details so you can do the most important things for you to do (like those listed in #3-7 below). Ways to let go of details:

      1. Hire a bookkeeper.

      2. Hire a payroll company.

      3. Hire an assistant.

    3. Always be checking your systems to make sure they are working.

  1. Get support/input/ideas from others. Sources mentioned included:

    1. Business coach from SBTDC (Small Business & Technology Development Center) – it’s free!

    2. Business coach from SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executives)

    3. A coach/consultant/expert from your industry

    4. Shark Tank, a reality show which features business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs to a panel of potential investors.

    5. Entre Dot whose tagline is “Helping Entrepreneurs Connect the Dots”

    6. Strategic partnerships

    7. Linked in

  2. Ask for the business – Yes! It can be a scary thing to do! More on this below.

  3. Send a thank you card even if you don’t get the business – It’s polite. It’s unusual. People will remember you!

  4. How to get the confidence to ask for the business?

    1. Know your product.

    2. Work on personal development every day. Tips and sources mentioned included:

      1. Shoot for 30 minutes/day for reading, watching, listening to positive, instructional, inspirational material.

      2. Use your car as a classroom (for listening, not watching, reading or writing).

      3. Mentioned as sources used:

        1. Business Class Leadership Quote of the Week (I am not the one who mentioned this – I promise!)

        2. Mike’s Minute. To sign up for Mike’s Minute for “Daily Inspiration, Personal Development and Business Savvy”, send an e-mail to:

  1. Have a daily goal (based on your conversion rate) of how many people you need to call, meet, speak with, present to, etc. Make it a process…a daily routine. The more you do it, the more confidence you develop, the easier it will be to ask for whatever you need and the more people will say YES!


Good tips for Good Business from a collection of 20 or so business owners in the Chapelboro area.

Many of the tips are about doing certain things over and over. Not a lot of things, but just a few. Consistently. Over and over.

And all of that led me to select this as the Business Class Leadership Quote of the Week.

You can read more about it here.

To those who attended this session…any major points I left out? Feel free to comment below.

Comments and questions are welcome from others as well.

Note: Speaker at the May meeting of the Small Business Roundtable will be Paula Pazderka from DSI Comedy Theater. The title of the session: Using the Fundamentals of Improv Comedy to Become a More Effective Communicator. Get details and sign up here.

Jan Bolick is Founder and President of Business Class Inc which specializes in working with leaders to build positive, productive, results oriented service culture.

Time To Bring The Bunnies

If you’ve had the pedal to the metal, pushing hard to make sales quotas, production schedules and tax deadlines, I encourage you to take a break for a morale and productivity boosting bit of nonsense. And if you need an off the wall, hoppin’ idea…this one certainly qualifies.

Several of the seventeen divisions of The Village Companies, now called VilCom, used to have an annual Bunny Toss. Everyone was invited to bring a chocolate bunny in a box. The event was held on the lawn of McClamroch Hall (right there on Weaver Dairy Road) where bulls eye targets had been drawn on big boards. The goal was to throw your bunny and hit the bulls eye. There were prizes for coming closest to the target, farthest from the target; and for smashing your bunny into the most pieces.

Seems to me it could have been called a Bunny Bash.

At this point, no one can remember what the prizes were; they just remember that they had a Bunny Blast.

If you don’t have time to pull this off before Easter, that’s okay. After Easter may be even better because everyone can buy bunnies on sale.


While it is certainly one heck of a silly idea….in the words of philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein:


What kind of silly things go on at your office?

Has anything intelligent ever come from it?

Please share in Comment section below or write to

Would you like more morale and productivity boosting ideas for April? Get them here.


Jan Bolick is Founder and President of Business Class Inc which specializes in working with leaders to build positive, productive, results oriented service culture.

The Aveda Way

It was a gift card and my long time hairstylist being on maternity leave that finally nudged me in to Aveda Institute for something other than Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours.

When I walked in the door, a young woman greeted me, escorted me to the scheduler for check in and then to the waiting area where there were magazines, a water cooler and hot tea. All nice touches.

I grabbed a magazine but skipped the beverage.

But then…

Simone came up with an entire tray of water and tea. And delivered it with such a great smile! How could anyone turn her down?

In just a few minutes, the student stylist assigned to me appeared and led me from the waiting area into a big buzzing room where we weaved our way through rows of steel work-spaces topped with mirrors until we stopped at her workstation.

Attached to her mirror was an Aveda recruiting poster that read:

“Do what you love. Love what you do.”

It seemed to me that’s what everyone was doing.

Once she got me seated and caped, the student stylist interviewed me about my “needs” and then asked if I’d like a stress relieving ritual – sort of like “would you like fries with that”.  Except the rituals are free!

Before actually taking care of my “needs”, the student stylist called her instructor over to approve the plan of action she designed based on my “needs” – everything from shampoo products to cutting technique.

During treatment, the instructor wandered by to observe every now and then – occasionally stopping to give suggestions. And then – when it was all done, the instructor came over again for a final review, made a few suggestions and asked for my feedback.

So what do you think of me as a redhead?

Just kidding.

I’ve now been there three times. Each time, the greeting process has been the same. Each time, the student stylist assigned to me has been different. And each time, my visit has been basically the same in terms of process.

All of that shows me that there is a system – one that I have named The Aveda Way. And from what I can tell so far – I love The Aveda Way. They are not only teaching the mechanics of a profession, they are also teaching the importance of loving what you do, the importance of offering extras AND the importance of working with a system.

It shows me that at Aveda – they are Serious About Service. And as you know…that’s good business.

Want to know more? Read about Aveda Institute at their website.

If you go, things to know:

  • There is new parking nearby, right off of Rosemary Street…directly across from Warehouse Apartments. 10 Spaces marked VIP for Aveda.
  • Remember that these are students. Allow plenty of time. My last haircut took 2 hours – and that’s without any stress relieving rituals.  It probably won’t take that long if you have shorter hair.
  • If you are just going to purchase product, call before you go and they’ll meet you with it at the curb. Their number is 919-960-GROW.
Jan Bolick is Founder and President of Business Class Inc. She will be speaking at the Chamber’s Small Business Roundtable on March 6.  The title of her presentation:  If You Want to Boost Business, Be Serious About Service. Get details here.

Countdown to Super Bowl Kick Off!

Let me guess. You’ve been invited to a Super Bowl party on Sunday…maybe even more than one. If you’re a 49ers or Ravens fan, then you’re probably going for the game watching and will be glued to the flat screen (or staying home out of superstition). If you’re a big-time NFL fan, but your team is not in the Big Bowl, then you’re probably interested in the game with a secondary interest in the party extracurriculars. The rest of us fall in the final category. We’re there to watch the commercials and socialize. Eat, drink and be merry! If your party hosts have asked you to bring a favorite appetizer or dessert, then it’s time to get creative. Forgo the bag of chips and salsa that you planned to pick up on your way to the party, and surprise your hosts and friends with a little imagination and effort. Need some help? I’ve got ya covered!

As you prep for football festivities on February 3, it helps to have a game plan. Since the Big Game is in the Big Easy this year, plenty of Cajun culinary creations should emerge. Here are some step-by-step easy recipe ideas for even the most challenged party-goers or throwers.


St. Andre Dip (aka Gourmet Cheese Fondue in a bread bowl)

Buy your favorite oval or round loaf of bread. Harris Teeter bakery has some on sale this week (bonus!) like Italian Round, Rosemary Olive Oil or Pumpernickel Boule. Cut a football shaped opening out of the top crust of the bread and scoop out the middle in cubes or chunks that can be used for dipping. (Pretend like you’re pulling out pieces for Communion.) Now you have your football shaped edible bread bowl. The dip requires 3/4 pounds St. Andre Cheese (the world’s most famous triple crème cheese), 8 ounces cream cheese, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano (i.e. Parmesan Cheese) and 1/4 cup white wine. Mix above ingredients together and heat in the microwave on high for five minutes (possibly less depending on your microwave). Serve the dip warm inside the hollow bread bowl and serve with the bread cubes, veggies, pretzels and chips. I told you it was easy! And oh so good! Thanks to Maura Zarnik for this delicious dip recipe.

Pull Apart Turkey Tailgate Sandwiches (aka Scooby Snacks)

Go to the bread aisle of your favorite grocery store and buy whatever brand pull apart rolls you can find like Pepperidge Farms, King Hawaiian, etc. They usually come in packs of 12 or 24. Cut the rolls in half horizontally keeping them attached. Butter one side and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Spread your favorite mayo and mustard on the other side. Layer the bottom half of the rolls with thinly sliced turkey (or ham) and thin slices (or shredded) cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Add the top layer of rolls and wrap them in foil. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts. (approximately 10-15 minutes). They’re filling and easy to pull apart and eat. Thanks to fellow Local Buzz columnist Jan Bolick for sharing this recipe with me years ago that she remembers from a dear friend’s Mom.

Easy Cheese Bake

Two cups chopped sweet onions, two cups shredded cheese (your choice) and two cups light mayo. Mix ingredients together. Place in casserole dish and bake until bubbly and brown in a 350 degree oven. You will definitely score points with this party pleaser from Jean Durham’s always tasty repertoire.

Carvel or Snickers Brand Game Ball Ice Cream Cake

I love themed food! Here’s your hall pass to visit the frozen food aisle of your favorite grocery store. Yes, it’s a cake shaped like a football. You will be the hit of halftime!

Or you can buy or make a Super Bowl themed cookie like this one:

Last year I attended a friend’s party and made the gourmet cheese fondue in a bread bowl. It was a hit! I also dusted off my NFL vinyl table cloth that looks like a football field, my football stadium platter and football shaped serving bowls to liven up the décor. The tailgate queen travels with her themed accoutrements!

Friends enjoying the food, football and fellowship at last year’s Super Bowl soiree:


Enjoy the game, the commercials, the camaraderie and the spread! And may the best team win!

Those are my Super Bowl party secrets. Email me for more party pleasing recipes and share yours below.

feature image by poulsbo via flickr

Carolina Home Football Game Day: Top Things To Do

Excitement is in the air as college football season kicks off around the country. Here in Chapel Hill the energy of the first home game led by a brand new coach builds under Carolina blue skies. For all game day & schedule information visit

We’ve narrowed down the list of top game day favorite things to do. Enjoy and Go Heels!

  • Tailgate! It’s the nation’s fall pastime that may be just as fun as the game itself. Take your pick of tailgate venues – Downtown Tailgate Map! You may live in a Chapel Hill neighborhood close to the stadium and host your tailgate there. Or you may be lucky enough to have a parking pass on one of the many campus lots on game day. And many of the privately-owned lots downtown offer tailgating and parking – with proceeds going to local charities! Once you have your spot, it’s time to lay out the spread. And believe me when I say that Tar Heel fans have come a long way in the art of tailgating! In many lots it’s not just a car with a couple of chairs and a cooler but a cooker, a couch and a big screen TV with satellite. Bring on the barbeque, deviled eggs, chip and dip platters, chocolate chess pie and an iced or warm beverage depending on the weather. It’s a great way for fans to enjoy friends, fellowship and food while listening to the pre-game radio show on WCHL FM 97.9.
  • Be a classy fan! Jan Bolick of Business Class, Inc. knows what true Carolina Spirit is; every year she creates WELCOME/ GO HEELS fan signs for UNC fans to display in their cars/homes/businesses – to welcome the opposing teams fans to town AND encourage the Heels! Here is the story. Jan has created the signs – all you have to do is download and print! Show your Tar Heel love and true southern charm – all at once! For a complete list of WELCOME / GO HEELS signs – visit www.SignsForGameDay.Biz.
  • Don’t have the time or talents to host your own tailgate? The lawn of the historic Carolina Inn at the intersection of Columbia Street and Cameron Avenue is the place to be. They do all the work for you in true Tar Heel tailgate style. You can relax on the lawn to live music before some games. A tailgate buffet with all the fixings awaits you. This is a great centrally located place to catch up with family and friends before the short walk to Kenan Stadium.

  • Tar Heel Town offers the best family-friendly action before the game! The Old Well Walk is a Carolina tradition and starts approximately two hours before the game. Show your Tar Heel pride and follow the football players on this pre-game walk through campus. This tradition demonstrates to the team your true support and gets them (and you as a fan) ready for the big game. Young and senior fans and alumni alike love the close-up camaraderie. Stop by the General Alumni Association’s (GAA) tent, located next to the Bell Tower, climb the Bell Tower to enjoy the view and have your face painted to show your Tar Heel spirit.

Continue While Remembering

On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, Ms. Hall, a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Phillips Middle School, gave her students an assignment:  

Pretend to be the President of the United States and write a letter to America.

It was a brilliant assignment – a wonderful way to help these eleven year olds (and their parents) think about, talk about and attempt to understand the events of the previous day and what they meant to us – as individuals, as families and as a country. Here is the letter my son wrote that day.

Dear America,

As you have, I have been watching the news feeling so sad and so angry.

Much has been said of bombing them right back. However, we do not want to provoke the Afghanistan people to bounce back and hit us. As well, we do not want to start a war between the US haters and us. However, we would win, it would come with loss of both our barracks as well as theirs.

Right now we just need to bump up security in all places, especially in airports as well as in our very own households. This is not to make you scared, but to make you aware and ready.

Now we also have to mourn for the victims, their families and friends.

A nation so great, humbleness can do nothing in this case because greatness shows on the outside. We will continue to be strong and loyal to our country.

We must continue life because life can’t go on without closure and the only way to have closure for this tragedy is to continue while remembering.

Ryan Watts
President of the United States of America
September 12, 2001

Remembering has never been hard.  None of us will ever forget.
Figuring out how to continue has been a mighty challenge for many.

I re-visit and share this letter each year, as a way of honoring the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones.   

And as a way of thanking all who have helped the survivors cope and continue.  

Whether they be firefighters on the scene that day, 
or caregivers who have nursed survivors back to health, 
or teachers (like Ms. Hall) of children who witnessed the horror from far away –
we will not forget all who did their work so well
and helped us do as Ryan urged us to do in his letter to America,
“to continue while remembering”.

Who and what has helped you continue while remembering?

Note: Ishna Hall is now Associate Director of Capital Gifts at UNC-Chapel Hill. Ryan graduated from Carolina in May and now lives in Washington, DC.

Good Business Fedora Style

During Coach Larry Fedora’s pre-game radio broadcast last week, he said “I want us to be a team that plays smart, plays fast, and plays physical.”

Sounded good. Like something any coach would say to his or her team. Along with a thousand other things blah blah blah style, until it all runs together.

On Saturday morning, I picked up my ticket to look for my seat assignment and then took a second look. There it was again.
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Basnight Family Secrets

August is finish-book-manuscript month so instead of posting two brand new articles this month, I’ll be sharing four favorites from the last year and a half.

We hit the jackpot again!

More best practices and secrets to success – this time from a business that has lasted through the Great Depression, fifteen recessions and fifteen United States Presidents.

In 1924, Stein Basnight, a graduate of UNC, opened S. H. Basnight Hardware. He traveled around the state, pulling a trailer full of products to sell.

His sons, Bill and Jesse, joined their father in the business.

Papa Stein died before he got to see this but four of his grandchildren got involved in the business: Bill’s children, Terry and Don; as well as Jesse’s children, Jesse Jr. and Steve.

Two of those grandchildren now own the business. Terry (Hamlet) filled her Dad’s shoes as President, and Jesse Jr filled his Dad’s shoes as Vice President of Sales. Just last week they sat with me and shared memories about Papa Stein, their Dads, Terry’s Uncle Jesse, and Jesse’s Uncle Bill. And the many lessons that had been passed down over 87 years.

As kids, Terry and Jesse remember that Papa Stein had a strong work ethic, strong family values, strong morals, and pride in his business. They remember him saying, “A home is only as good as its hardware.”

They told story after story about things their fathers had said and done that demonstrated their secrets to success in business. I’ve chosen eight of them to share with you today.

1. From an early age, Terry and Jesse understood that “the customer is a priority”. They watched how Jesse Sr. always travelled to meet his customers. That took time and money but he wanted to be able to shake the customer’s hand and see them face to face.

That wasn’t and still isn’t – about making sales – but about building relationships. Apparently they are all very good at that because they have many long time customers – one of them for 62 years. That’s Dargan Construction in Myrtle Beach.

From the Basnights’ experience, people work differently with people that they know.

Jesse said, “It’s hard to do things wrong with your friends. You might do them wrong. But you get them right.”

Terry added, “When you know people and their intentions, if there is a problem, you get through it together. If you don’t know them – then that issue can have a different flavor to it on both sides.”

2. Terry showed me a notepad that her Dad had created long ago. One of his mantras was, “Write it and you can forget it. Don’t write it and you can forget it”. He printed these two sentences on the bottom of Conversation Log forms that everyone uses during face to face and phone meetings.  Having such notes has repeatedly protected projects and relationships.

3. Terry and Jesse now have to train others about more than handshakes and telephone conversations. They now warn team members about e-mail and about how easily things can digress and not be understood. Terry said, “With email, you don’t get the tone, the inflection, the twinkle in the eye. When a situation comes up, we tell people to get off e-mail, get on the phone or if you need to, go see them.”

4. When asked how their fathers would have dealt with these last few years that have been particularly difficult in the building industry, Terry and Jesse said that in addition to taking care of customers and employees, it’s also important to be a good customer to their vendors. Not just paying their bills on time but also making people who call on them glad that they came in.

Jesse certainly knows how that feels since he is on the road so much calling on customers.

At Basnight, they do this by having Beth Ann, a kind, friendly, helpful person at the front desk who greets people and offers them a beverage. And she always puts the names of visitors, along with their company logo on the welcome board.

And look (left)  – they did it for me too!

Terry said, “You wouldn’t believe how much people love that. Lots of people ask to have their picture taken with it. One person wanted to send it to his wife.”

Many people tell them that Basnight & Sons is their favorite place to visit.

It may be their favorite place to call as well since they have decided repeatedly against having an automated phone system. They just don’t want customers to have to figure out which button to push.

5. Terry and Jesse were taught to take care of people on the inside too. Both of them remember their dads doing things for employees that were way out of bounds of the usual employer/employee relationship. And it seems that the two of them have continued to do such things as needed to help employees out of a jam. These are private situations so details are never shared. It’s an understatement to say that employees appreciate both the help and the privacy.

6. Giving people a chance is another value passed down through the Basnight family. Terry joined the company in 1978, a time when there were very few women in the construction industry. As conservative as her Dad and her Uncle Jesse were, they never shot her down, always gave her opportunities and stood behind her even when it would have been easier not to do so. Quite often, Terry would answer the phone and a man on the other end would say, “give me a man I can talk to.”. She thinks it was part gender bias and part not wanting to clean up his language to speak to a woman.

One time however, a customer named George called with a problem on a jobsite and didn’t know how to handle it. Terry made a suggestion. An hour later, Terry heard her Dad’s phone ring and then heard her dad say, “Well George, what did Terry tell you to do?” George answered and then Terry’s dad said, “ Well – she’s exactly right. I think that’s exactly what you should do.”

Giving people a chance wasn’t and still isn’t just for Basnight family members. Jesse and Terry know of several situations over the years – of people in the company who might not have been given a chance somewhere else. They’ve also had people leave to seek other employment and then want to come back. For the most part there has been a place for them.

And then there was the time that Terry was feeling challenged by a hard-to-get-along-with member of the staff. Let’s call him Joe. Terry mentioned the situation to her dad hoping to hear something like, “I know it’s tough.”

Instead, he threw it back on her and said, “Terry you just have to think of yourself as middle management and remember that you’re the one that needs to make it work. When’s the last time you asked Joe about his family? When’s the last time you asked Joe about something that’s important to him. ”

Terry did as her father suggested and did see his point – that people are easier to understand when you sit down and spend some time with them. Though she and Joe never became best buddies, they did form a better relationship.

7. Giving people a chance doesn’t mean they could get away with anything. Bill and Jesse Sr. had high expectations. Being in the family business, Terry and Jesse recognize that they were given a job, but they still had to do the work. And they had to work harder and longer and do better work than others.

They say they made lots of mistakes. No time was spent berating. We were just supposed to handle them, learn from them and not make them again.

And they were warned to never guess. If they didn’t know something, they were supposed to ask. But even then, it wasn’t easy. Jesse shared a time that he went to his Uncle Bill with a question and the response was, “I don’t know. Go find out and come back and tell me.”

8. While they expected a lot from people at work, Bill and Jesse Sr encouraged people to do things like go watch their kids play ball. Terry remembers her dad taking a break to go down to Suttons to grab a cup of coffee and find out what’s going on. He would encourage Jesse to go play golf. Encourage Terry to go work in the garden. Whatever was needed to keep your spirit fresh.

I wondered what messages might go between Terry and her dad and Jesse and his dad if they could speak today. Jesse said his dad would say, “Keep it in the middle.”

Terry reflected on the period time right after her dad died which was rough because she was mourning the loss and feeling insecure about her new role as President. She found herself saying, “Dad I wish you had just retired so I could still ask you…”

But she said, “it didn’t work that way. And then eventually I just accepted that I had worked for him for 22 years and I knew I was prepared.”

So today she  feels comfortable with a simple “thank you”.

What a wonderful visit – learning about lessons that have been passed down through three generations during the 87 year history of SH Basnight & Sons ( & Daughter). The overriding message is loud and clear: nurture people and relationships and protect them fiercely. Lovely.

What about you? What lessons did you learn from your Dad? Lessons that have helped you in business?

copyright 2012 – Jan Bolick & Business Class Inc