Saturday, June 16, 2007

Quality Connections and High Standards

Yesterday I caught up with my good friend and colleague Lynette Simmons, North American Design Standards Manager for Starwood Hotels—a la W, Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton. As an ace graphic designer/brand steward, Lynette helps the corporation establish continuity in the look, feel and visual environment of the properties’ advertising, sales and collateral materials.

A consummate professional, Lynette is no-nonsense like me. That’s why we get along and have kept in touch over the years! As most of you who are reading this blog know, you cannot and should not keep up with everyone. No time; no need.

Why? Because everyone in your professional/social network isn’t a “quality connection with high standards.”

Lynette and I have known each other 10 years and always take solace in our Bryant Park catch up sessions; perhaps the best outdoor cafĂ© in the city! Yesterday, we shared moments of joy regarding our son’s respective graduations, hers from kindergarten, mine from college. And, we talked about much we’ve evolved over the past decade. Basically, we’re new people, and it feels great!

Growth. That’s what life’s about.

Lynette shared a powerful statement from a 40-something copywriter friend of hers who lives in Jersey. “We’ve reached the age of intolerance.” Is that quote deep or what? It takes a while to realize that wisdom and maturity are a mindset, and not determined by age. While we still have much to learn, there’s a lot we do know.

This list sums up behavior that is “less than best practice”:

> Overall inability to communicate;

> Lack of professional standards or integrity;

> Inability to champion important issues or speak out/speak up;

> Inability to devise solutions/action plans;

> Not knowing strengths or weaknesses—and inability to spot them in others;

> Not being proactive;

> Lack of inertia;

> Not meeting deadlines;

> Overall disregard for time;

> Non-critical use of cell phones/Blackberry’s (poor etiquette);

> Lack of basic project management and leadership skills;

> Not realizing that being a “real” adult is hard work;

> Not understanding what’s important to some does not create a crisis for others.

We have grown; handle our responsibilities and businesses—and, manage to optimize opportunities. Anything less is not tolerated.

Moral of this blog entry—set and keep high standards. You’ll continue to excel and others will take notice!

>> MI

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thank You and Brand You!

Thank you. Perhaps the two most powerful words on the planet, thank you can take you a long way toward achieving your goals.

Never underestimate the power of a sincere “thank you” for:

> Gifts (graduation, birthdays, anniversaries)

> A job well done

> Taking the time to provide resources or assistance

Verbal is “uber cool” and email/ecards are “chillingly correct,” but a thank you card or handwritten note “ices” your standing as poised and polished professional. Yes, when I say handwritten, I mean the kind you put a stamp on (not the date/time stamp). Your personal image, career and business expansion are worth at least 41 cents for a USPS stamp, right?

Right! Whew—Thank You … I knew you’d get the point!

Why a handwritten note? In today’s digital world, you must figure out a way to separate yourself from the pack. Handwritten notes do that. And, you get a chance to practice your penmanship. Yes, I said it. We all know someone whose signature line needs work!

In addition to business/personal matters, learn to say thanks … just because. Thanks for hiring me as an intern … thanks for being a great mentor … thanks for your insight regarding our recent team project … thanks for being a great volunteer … thanks for lending your special talents to the task at hand … thanks for lunch … thanks for your time and expertise … thanks for organizing that fundraiser … thanks for nominating our organization for an industry award … thanks for being a good friend … thanks for picking me up when my car died … thanks for listening … thanks for just being there!

The thank you doesn’t have to be long, just sincere. Recipients appreciate your thoughtfulness and the thank you will spiral to a promotion, new business, industry recognition and other untold rewards. As I said, these two words are very powerful!

Most importantly, it builds a positive image of Brand You.

For top-of-the line thank you notes and stationery, check out Dempsey and Carroll, high quality engravers since 1878; While pricey, you make a stellar impression that’s worth its weight in gold! Remember, you get what you pay for. Quality counts—particularly in the image business.

While budget conscious options abound, consider your corporate identity and image. Work to consistently build Brand You and make a lasting, positive impression.

Thank you for reading this post. Now thank someone in your network for all they’ve done for you!

>> MI

BE BOLD! & The Power of Planning

In a few weeks, it will be July 1—the bright start to a new fiscal year. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about the outstanding possibilities! Since it’s the dog days of summer, why not turn up the heat on your own business and life planning? Put You Inc. on the front burner!

First, I’d like to share a tip jointly coined by my good friend and colleague Colette Ellis, Principal, InStep Consulting, BE BOLD!” The name of her business sums up what her company is about: Integrating Strategies To Enhance Performance. Visit to learn about Colette’s Competent Advantage™ personal development, communications workshops and online community.

During our highly energized brainstorming and business-building sessions, Colette and I share tips offered by other professionals; techniques they might have implemented earlier in their careers to get to the “next level” quicker. We made a pact to keep each other accountable as we implemented ideas—ways to expand our consultancies, generate additional revenue and visibility—over the next 12 months.

Good news! It’s working—big time!

It helps to have great mentors and colleagues you can trust. Colette is one of those people; a true friend and business partner; someone you can always count on for in-depth, on target insight. She turned me on to the world of teaching—what a tremendous gift! We originally met at a business event hosted by KBR: Kip Business Report; if you haven’t signed up for Cynthia Franklin and Lloyd Grant’s “Eventline” newsletter, you should! And, if you “really connect” with someone at an industry function like Colette and I did, BE BOLD and follow-up. You never know where that relationship can lead.

Here’s my July 1, new fiscal year “plan of attack”:

> Develop “Millynneum: The Next 20 years” business building and financial plan in tandem with trusted financial gurus, including my husband, Roland Jackson

> Asian businesses have 50-100 year plans in effect. Don’t think short term, plan for the long-term. The worst that can happen is that you’ll realize 50% of your financial and business goals!

> Seek advice from my long-time accountant, Ed Torres CPA Tax and Accounting Services. If you don’t have a good CPA, get one; Ed and his team are the best and have kept me on track since I started my consulting firm 10 years ago.

> Follow investment tips offered by’s Consuelo Mack (as friends know, this is one of my favorite shows, 7:30 PM EST, Fridays, WLIW, Ch. 21).

> Read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and Jason Zweig (WOW – just remembered I ordered this book a few weeks ago, immediately after it was mentioned on Wealthtrack.

> Make regular deposits to my online savings account.

Your fiscal plan doesn’t have to be extensive or difficult—but it has to get done. Take it one step at a time. BE BOLD! Believe you can expand your business, generate new clients, enjoy what you do and REDUCE your stress level. It takes work and perseverance, but it will happen. Don’t worry about what you haven’t done, just get started. Trust me!

And, to Andrew Morrison of Small Business Camp and 90 Day Plan fame, Colette and Lynne are expanding their brands, writing books and taking things to the next level. Many of you know Andrew is a big believer in defining your unique talents, personal growth and entrepreneurial vision.

BE BOLD and act; “fast-track” your ideas!

>> MI

Saturday, June 09, 2007

“M” Word Moratorium

M _ n _ r _ t _ . Fill in the blanks: smaller, opposition, different, under, less than full responsibility.


Tip: when communicating with me or other Expertati (MarComm execs with 20+ years experience), consider extolling a broader worldview. Aim to be more specific when describing fellow Americans, colleagues, neighbors and your child’s classmates. Let’s get real: the “M” word denotes multi-talented professionals with unique perspectives, big dreams, loving families and hard-working millionaires!

According to, mi-nor-i-ty; spelled pronunciation [mi-nawr-i-tee, -nor, -mahy-]


1. the smaller part or number; a number, part or amount forming less than half of the whole.

2. a smaller party or group opposed to a majority, as in voting or other action.

3. a group differing, esp. in race, religion, or ethnic background, from the majority of a population: legislation aimed at providing equal rights for minorities.

4. a member of such a group.

5. the state or period of being under the legal age of full responsibility.


6. of or pertaining to a minority.

The meaning does not communicate or effectively provide context for the bright mosaic that is America! Consider your reaction if the media, politicians and business leaders referred to your cultural heritage in “less than” spectacular terms.

You might get used to it, but you don’t have to like it.

I don’t.

Remember: communications is all about persuasion and getting your message across to select audiences, via unique “hyper local” channels. It’s the information age; words, phrasing, tone and manner count big. Why risk tuning out important audiences—audiences that can positively impact your bottom line? According to the US Census, of our total population of 288 million Americans:

> More than 114 million are Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders, Hispanic or Latino, or of two or more races

> More than 35 million Americans are foreign born

Does either figure sound like a “M” to you? It all how you crunch the numbers (we know this) and it’s up to MarComm pros to deepen the dialogue. Be descriptive and succinct, but don’t minimize the discussion. Optional phrasing:

> Describe country or ethnic heritage (African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indian tribe)

> Describe group you’re speaking about (Women? Gays/Lesbians? Latinos? People with physical challenges?)

> Recent Immigrants, New Americans

> People of Color

Yes, I’m on my personal soap box, but that’s the beauty of the blogosphere! Why not expand your thinking and broaden your vocabulary while educating your colleagues and clients? Maximize the impact of your message. Eliminate the “M” word.

Take the “Millynneum Challenge” – refrain from using the “M” word for a solid week. I know you can do it and trust you can develop a Colorblind Mind.

>> MI

Become a “One Page Wonder”

Tired of scrolling through meaningless, hard-to-read documents and attachments? Want to create meaningful proposals that make it EASY for people to take action?

Become a “one page wonder” – a knowledge worker who can crystallize an idea from concept to completion on 1 page or less! Be someone people want to work with, because what you want or need is so clear and concise. I try to always share this with my writing and communications students; it’s a pleasure to share my thoughts with Millynneum Insight readers.

Take heed of the following from one of my writing students, whose senior managers commented, “If it has to be collated, then I don’t need it.” Good advice! Yes, always have full backup docs available, but always try to be brief and succinct. Think of the one pager as an “executive summary,” always useful to busy professionals. Time is money. Brevity wins friends and keeps projects progressing and on point. Managers appreciate your ability to “cut to the chase.”

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve developed these one pagers:

> Men’s Health Advocacy Award - global in scope; based on “tweaked” template; word to the wise … don’t make writing assignments hard; use drafts, revise & edit

> Prostate Net (PN) / Barbers International (BI) Team Meeting Proposal – coincides with global BI conference AUG 4-6 in Chicago; Lynne is founding director

> Phoebus High School – 30th Reunion Scholarship Fundraiser - yes friends, as an Experati (MarComm pro with 20+ years experience), I proudly graduated from HS in ’77!

> Black Public Relations Society-New York - board of directors planning recap Co-Presidents, LSJ and Gordon Balkcom; Vice Presidents Renee Foster, Michael Millis

> Client Action Plan & Billing Estimate – details services & fee structure

All docs are one page (or less) and include resources and action points, guiding reader through the fundraising, meeting or event management process. Bonus: once you get the hang of it, you become a fantastic “self editor” deleting extra words to make your ideas fit onto one page!

Each doc shares what I’ve learned over the years as a marketing/PR consultant and attempts to make my colleagues’ or clients’ jobs easier. Plus, my “Millynneum Insight – Big Picture” ideas might also assist in their “stretch” leadership efforts. It’s amazing what resources evolve once you put your ideas out there! When writing or guiding the communications process, I aim to:

> SOS - Simplify Objectives & Standardize Procedures (HELP reader)

> KISS - Keep it Simple & Succinct (use short sentences, eliminate jargon)

> IIAI - Inform, Interact, Advise & Inspire readers to take action

Yes, friends, you can easily upgrade your business expertise via, a.k.a. Millynneum Business Acumen! Keep reading this blog and featured links to refine your writing, editing, communications, presentation and management skills. Learn to tightly edit and revise while attaining the achievable, yet elusive goal of becoming a “one page wonder”. Here’s to developing your unique vision and voice as you sell your ideas!

>> MI