Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Businesses are a Disaster’s First Responders and Backbone of Recovery

Up to 40% of businesses affected by a disaster never reopen, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Which is disastrous not only for the business, but for the jurisdiction in which it resides. Businesses are the recovery backbone when a natural or man-made disaster hits Fairfax County, members of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and seven other chambers were told last week.


Photo courtesy of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

In an effort to decrease that percentage and enhance recovery efforts, the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) conducted a Business Preparedness Open House last week at its Emergency Operation Center. At the time, Hurricane Maria was ravaging Puerto Rico, serving as a real-time reminder that disasters do strike. Hurricanes may be rare here, but a man-made disaster is just as likely in the greater Washington, DC, area, participants were reminded. As are earthquakes and 15 other scenarios.

Keynote speaker Deb Yamanaka, CEO of Excel Technologies, told the story of a business owner in Roslyn who ran out of the building when an earthquake hit. Because he was their leader, his employees followed. They found themselves out in the open surrounded by buildings with huge glass windows.

Business owners need to mindful of their leadership role during a disaster and lead by preparing for it. They need to lead their employees to prepare, too, Yamanaka said. “Start with a go-bag,” she said. “If the CEO is preparing with a go-bag, we’re saying we want you to be prepared too.”

Yamanaka practices what she preaches. Each Excel Technologies employee is supplied with a basic go-bag. They practice telecommuting. The company has active shooter drills and radios not tied to the grid. Excel also has an off-site location in case the primary location is destroyed or otherwise inaccessible. Employees are encouraged to prepare their families and pets as well. All of these elements are part of Excel’s business continuity plan.

“You are the first responders” for your employees and their families, Grelia Steele, the OEM Community Outreach Manager, said.

Start with a plan.

“An effective business continuity program prepares your business for the potential loss or diminished capacity of critical functions and resources due to severe events,” said Avery Church, the county’s Continuity Program Manager.

Several factors go into a business continuity plan, he said. They include determining the company’s essential functions, orders of succession, and delegation of authorities. Businesses must identify continuity facilities and determine how to best protect its essential records. Determine how your team will communicate during the disaster. (Steele noted recent disasters have shown the power of social media to communicate.) And, don’t forget your human capital and test, train, and lead them in disaster exercises. A business continuity plan also needs a plan to recover.

Employees should be encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts, not just in Fairfax County, but where they live. Each of the 18 jurisdictions in the greater Washington, DC, area has an emergency alert system, Sulayman Brown, the OEM Assistant Coordinator, said.

A disaster will hit Fairfax County. It’s only a matter of when. Businesses with an implemented plan have a better chance of survival, as do their employees, employee’s families, and community.


The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management



(This post originally appeared in the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce blog.)

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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Animals Reveal to Maribeth Her Gift of Virtual Mind-Melding (Part 2)

Intuitive animal communicator Maribeth Decker believes it was her training as a Reiki Master that opened her spirit to her pets’ attempts to communicate with her.

meeting-a-kangaroo-in-a-unexpected-placeThe International Center for Reiki Training defines Reiki as “a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” It is “based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.”

“The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words—Rei, which means ‘God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power,’ and Ki, which is ‘life force energy.’ So Reiki is actually ‘spiritually guided life force energy.’”

Maribeth didn’t realize immediately it was the training that opened the door. The realization came only on reflection on what changed to allow her pets—dead and alive—to open lines of communication.

“It took me until I had my dog Tibor to realize something really has changed here,” Maribeth said in a phone interview. “My animals are communicating with me intuitively. They’re showing up after they’ve passed and making themselves known. They’re telling me what they think. They’re sharing visions with me. And I think it was Reiki that started me on that path, which I guess I was meant to do, obviously.”

logo-2-1Maribeth owns and operates, “where people and pets heal and connect.” She connects “telepathically with animals to allow people to have a two-way conversation with them.” This allows animal and human to solve issues between them, such as anxiety or aggression issues. But she is not a pet trainer or behaviorist. She simply allows humans and animals to communicate.

Maribeth performs a quick mediation to “connect intuitively, telepathically, through a mind-to-mind—if you watched enough Star Trek, it’s a mind-meld, but not really,” she said laughing. “It’s not a physical connection. I don’t have to be staring in their eyes or hypnotize them.” In fact, Maribeth prefers connecting over the phone or a video call to lessen distractions.

“I connect to the animal and see how they show up,” Maribeth said. “It seems like they walk into my office and hang out during the session. They might slink in, dance in, strut in—however they show up gives us information about how they feel. At some level, they’re actually in the room with me.” And Maribeth’s dogs react to their presence. “If it’s a cat, I’ll just say, ‘That’s Tibor, and Tibor doesn’t mind cats. He won’t bug you.’ And my little dog, Stella, when some of the animals show up, she’ll whine a little bit, like she knows there’s something else in the room with us.

“Then I ask what they’d like to share and start a conversation about what the person wants to talk about. If we find the animal has negative thoughts, emotions, or memories, I will do energy healing to release them. Many times, we also do some emotional release for the person around the issue. Sometimes I’ll get body aches and pains, or sensations, that sort of physical information.”

If there are behavior issues, Maribeth talks to the animal about the person’s feelings, such as when the cat doesn’t use the litter box or the dog barks at every other dog on walks. Then she shows them a mental image of how the person would like them to behave and shows the person’s emotional reaction of joy or relief once the animal starts to change its behavior.

If it’s called for, Maribeth will also perform some energy healing to resolve issues that linger for both human and non-human animal.

“If people want to, I will take them on a visualization to enter the brainwaves that I was taught is most effective in communicating with animals,” Maribeth said. “It is my hope I can help them to start picking up things themselves. My picture is that there’s an animal communicator in every family, and one available in every veterinary office and animal rescue center. And if I give people the chance to feel that connection, then that just opens the door for them to have that ability.”

Not every session works out in the human’s favor, however. One client had a dog that liked to chase skunks. “We were talking about how yucky that was for the human and how the smell was awful. And we actually got more of a lecture from the dog saying, ‘Well, our tastes are different between humans and dogs and I find the smell delightful.’ I don’t think we convinced her she should stop.

“I don’t think we think about the fact that animals have free will, just like human beings,” Maribeth said. And just like humans, they can be forced into a behavior, but it’s neither right for humans or non-humans. You can enslave humans and treat animals the same, but recognizing their free will, understanding the motivation behind the behavior, and seeking change through communication is the more humane way for people and animals.

Maribeth doesn’t expect that the quizzical smirks she at times encounters at networking meetings will disappear.

“Honestly, I still get surprised when I have a session with a dog in New York City who has been acting rather nutty at the owner’s place of business who’s doing better. I say to myself, ‘Wow, this stuff works!’”

Maribeth’s book, Peace in Passing: Comfort for Loving Humans during Animal Transitions, tells many stories of people and pets Maribeth has connected in life and death and the peace it has brought them. I had a hand in persuading Maribeth to write the book and I was her editor. It persuaded me her gift is real and precious.

Read: Maribeth Finds Her Spirituality—and Her Gift (Part 1)


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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Maribeth Finds Her Spirituality—and Her Gift (Part 1)

maribeth-aboutImagine you have an unusual gift you have turned into a career. But when you tell people at networking mixers, their initial reaction is a quizzical smirk.

Welcome to the life of Maribeth Decker, intuitive animal communicator. Maribeth owns and operates, “where people and pets heal and connect.” She connects “telepathically with animals to allow people to have a two-way conversation with them.” This allows animal and human to solve issues between them, such as anxiety or aggression issues. But Maribeth is not a pet trainer or behaviorist. She simply allows humans and animals to communicate.

That includes communicating with pets that have passed, a subject she tackles in her book, Peace in Passing: Comfort for Loving Humans during Animal Transitions. The book tells the stories of people and pets Maribeth has connected in life and death and the peace it has brought them. (Full disclosure: I had a hand in persuading Maribeth to write the book and I was her editor.)

On her website, Maribeth says she didn’t come out of the womb and immediately begin to talk to the animals. But she has had an ethereal connection since a very young age.

logo-2-1“What happened to me was that as a young teenager, probably 12 or 13, I had what I consider a major spiritual experience,” she told me in a phone interview. “I was going to Catholic education classes, CCD, and was wondering if there was a God. So I asked if there was a God and, lo and behold, I had an experience that said, ‘Yes, absolutely yes.’ What astonished me was I received a response in such a clear way that I knew I wasn’t making it up. I had the experience of understanding that God—and I mean that in the non-generic way—The Creator—infuses everything around us, and because It infuses everything around us, we don’t notice it. What The Creator did was give me a sense of what it would be like if It wasn’t infusing our whole life. And it felt like somebody had sucked the air out of the planet for a little bit, and I thought, ‘Oh, oh, I get it.’ And then the air came back.

“What I learned is we live in a world where we are surrounded by a loving and intelligent Creator. That question was answered very clearly.”

Maribeth did not share her experience then. Catholic classes taught her about saints and others who had had such spiritual awakenings but she did not feel—and still doesn’t feel—she was on a level of saints and didn’t want to be accused of claiming to be.

She had a second spiritual awakening in her early twenties by gaining sobriety through the 12-step program. “I did have another experience of incredible love and forgiveness, which was just like a waterfall cleansing me. … That was another affirmation that I was still loved and that I still had a spiritual connection available to me. And it became a part of me and how I saw the world in a more positive vein.”

Still, it would be decades before that spirituality revealed itself in the gift of animal communications. First came marriage and the bearing and raising of two children while engrossed in a career in the U.S. Navy. “On the life to-do list, connecting in a big way with unseen forces was not there at the top,” Maribeth said. Raising the children, making a living, and making a marriage work were much higher priorities.

It wasn’t until Maribeth became a Reiki Master in 2007–2008 that she came to realize her animals—alive and dead—were attempting to communicate with her. And thus began her journey into another side of spirituality she didn’t realize existed.

(Next: Animals Reveal to Maribeth Her Gift of Virtual Mind-Melding.)


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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Networking Farmers Build Healthy Businesses

Networking is critical to the success of every entrepreneur. Some hunt, others farm, with the farmers more often than not finding long-term success.

healthfair2I first learned of the networking concept of hunting vs farming when I joined BNI Prosper Alexandria soon after launching my entrepreneurial career. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI (Business Networking International), describes hunters as those who sift “through crowds of people until they bag the ideal client, the big customer who can turn their business around.”

On the other hand, “Farmers take a different approach. They don’t waste time looking for the right person; instead, like those who plant seeds and patiently nurture their crops, they seek to form and build relationships wherever they can find them. If they get an immediate payoff, that’s fine, but it’s not their principal goal. They know that the effort expended upfront will pay off in a rich harvest later on—much richer then the hunter’s quick kill—and that truly profitable relationships can’t be rushed.”

I witnessed the benefits of farming firsthand Sunday at the Health & Wellness Fair at Cameron Station in Northern Virginia. Mara Benner of Four Directions Wellness, Mellenie Runion of Truly-Life, and Chuck Nally of had connected over cocktails at a West End Business Association (WEBA) happy hour and concocted the idea of the health fair.

They formulated a simple format. Four hours. Information tables for each presenter. Chairs for participants to listen to lectures. A collection of tuna for a local foodbank. Goodie bags for guests. Every half hour, one of the original three co-conspirators along with Erin Monico of The Nutrition Connection provided a presentation. Benner, an integrative healing provider, demonstrated stress reduction techniques. Runion, a creator and supplier of eco skin care products, oddly enough discussed natural skin care products. Nally and his team equipped guests with an opportunity to put on boxing gloves and kick and punch a punching bag. Monico, a dietician and health coach, promoted integrative nutrition.

Door prizes were raffled off between segments.

The format ensured a continuously lively atmosphere where newly arrived guests never experienced a lull.

Benner told me they were hoping for 50 guests, but had far surpassed that with an hour and a half left in the event.

It was by all measures a successful event. It began with farming and ended with farming, because the event itself was another example of farming. There were no hard sells (though I’m sure sales were made), only information provided in literature, lectures, and demonstrations.

The health fair provided an example of how healthy businesses grow through networking farmers. If you are a hunter, I suggest you drop your bow and begin to plant your seeds today.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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I Have Come to Praise Dane, Not to Bury Him

“He was one of a kind.” That was the recurring sentiment of friends at the news that Dane Lepson had passed on Saturday. He was certainly the most colorful person ever to share my life.

“Even now he’s bringing us together,” was the other common sentiment.

dane lepsonI had known Dane throughout high school—everyone knew Dane—but we became friends during my senior year. Dane was a merry prankster. Known for his French beret or Groucho glasses at any time and a trench coat for panhandling at the Walt Whitman Mall, Dane infected everyone with his devil-may-care attitude.

That attitude belied the truth that Dane did care. Very much.

He was a man of strong opinions shaped by the times we lived in. He stood staunchly against war and the military-industrial complex—until 9/11. He literally lived across the street from the yellow police tape that designated the kill zone when the Twin Towers fell. After that, his political views shifted sharply to the right. The only opinion that didn’t change was that one must always question authority.

His love of life and of lifelong friends, which remained until the end, is what all who knew and loved him will cherish.

He was president of my Half Hollow Hills High School Class of 1972 and organized most of our reunions over the years. Fellow classmate Janet shared this story on Facebook:

dane lepson1“Dane and I were in ceramics class together with Mr. Rubin. We had to create something lifelike out of clay. Dane spent weeks on this beautiful ceramic butt! Every class he would take it out, unwrap it from the plastic covering and work on smoothing it with water. It was a beautiful piece of a$$. He worked on this piece lovingly for weeks. Such fun. What a joy he was.”

He could be infuriating too. We hung together in a house in Commack dubbed the Green Fungus Inn with other members of the modern-day Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes—Vinnie and Vinnie, Jose, Chris, Doug, Ilene, Maureen, Cheryl, Bobby, Wayne, and a whole host of others. Later, we shared the Smithtown house with other Buffaloes. Periodically, Dane would quit smoking—cigarettes. During those times, I had to hide mine or he’d crumble them and toss them in the trash, growling about what killers they were.

But mostly Dane was fun. We fished with friends. We played hide and seek at night in the Catskill Mountains woods around Roger’s cabin, each team captain carrying a knife to protect us from—what? We danced at Grateful Dead concerts and shows at My Father’s Place.

dane lepson2And we played with authority. I moved to New Hampshire for three years in my early 20s to try my hand at writing short stories. Dane came to visit from time to time, as a number of Long Island Buffalo brothers and sisters lived in the greater Keene area then. Gerald Ford came to campaign in Keene in 1976, not long after Squeaky Fromm tried to take him out. Dane and I drove down to see what the hubbub was about, only to find the Secret Service checking us out. Why? Go figure. So Dane pulled me into a doorway. We peered out, and surreptitiously ducked in and out of doorways down the street. The agents figured out pretty quickly we were playing with them and ignored us the rest of the afternoon. We were very disappointed.

Food rounded out his life. He owned a food truck for years after high school. Then a Tempura & Taco stand. A 2007 story in The Villager finds him waxing Dane-like about knishes.

“‘I invent lots of new ones,’ Lepson said. ‘Do you know what the next knish is going to be?’

“‘Ice cream?’ manager Alex Wolfman joked.

“‘Spinach and feta,’ Lepson said.”

Dane was a serial entrepreneur. He launched several online businesses and was a real estate agent. He was a student of the master comedians and master musicians.

But most of all, he was the driver of the bus we all rode on. Still is. So save me a seat, my Buffalo Brother. A new adventure awaits us all.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

The Bonus Benefits of Scheduling Social Media Posts

Is continuing education in your field crucial to your continued growth? Do you want to be recognized as an authority in your field? Is it worth it to you to invest a couple of hours a week doing both simultaneously?

smart phone and social media icons Can Stock Photo Inc. NmediaThen set aside a couple of hours a week to schedule social media posts for the coming week.

I schedule my weekly social media posts on Fridays. In addition to scheduling links to my weekly blog twice a week, my promotional book graphics, and my Word of the Week on Sundays, I fill my social media feed with interesting posts from others. Today, we will explore the latter, the benefits from sharing posts from others.

Because I am in the communications field, I post almost exclusively on communication techniques and tactics. If you sell real estate, you will want to post on housing trends, decorating, home remodeling, lawn care, and anything else home-related. If you’re a dentist, you would want to post on oral hygiene, foods to keep your teeth healthy, how smoking leads to tooth loss, and other health-related topics.

Do not post exclusively on homes you have to sell or services you have to offer. Use the 80-20 rule: 80% of your posts should be educational and 20% should be offering your services. If you follow that rule, you will receive the educational benefits, be recognized as an authority in your field, and the couple of hours you spend each week will benefit you personally as well as businesswise.

How, Why, & What

Here is how I do it, why I do it, and what I get out of it.

Buffer_(application)_logoI use two of the most popular social media scheduling tools, Buffer and Hootsuite, to schedule my posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. Facebook has its own scheduling toolhootsuite-2200x800s for business pages and your posts rank higher if you don’t use a third party to schedule posts. Hootsuite is primarily used to schedule my promotional book graphics on Twitter, while I use Buffer to schedule everything else. I just find it easier to track the effectiveness of my promotional tweets if I separate them on the Hootsuite platform.

In addition to the four platforms already mentioned. Hootsuite also allows you to schedule posts for Instagram, WordPress, and YouTube. Buffer doesn’t post WordPress or YouTube, but it does for Pinterest.

Although I do from time to time find good material to share haphazardly, most posts are found systematically. I subscribe to speaking, writing, and marketing email newsletters from Hubspot, SpeakerHub, American Society of Association Executives, Freelance Writing Jobs, Simply Measured, and others. I peruse them looking for good material to post. Usually every newsletter has at least one good item worth reposting. Most times several posts are easily shareable.

Here are three recent examples:

The Marketer’s Toolbox: The 60 Marketing Tools We Use at Buffer

How to Gain Instant Credibility with Public Speaking

The AP Stylebook now includes “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun

An Investment in Credibility & Education

I started out reposting others’ good material to meet the 80-20 rule without having to crank out a lot of original material. I have found in the process that it has, in fact, increased my credibility as an authority in my field by collecting and sharing some of the best material out there.

I also found that I am, in fact, more of an authority in my field because I scan at least every piece I post to ensure it meets my standards of quality (educational, well-written, no spelling or egregious grammatical errors) and read many of them word-for-word.

Those I don’t fully read are now cataloged in my social media feeds. I can go back to my feeds and retrieve a post when I need it. It’s not a perfect catalog system, of course, but for the time invested each week, it works.

Try it for yourself. You, too, may find spending a couple of hours in a free social media classroom furthers your education and gains you credibility in your field. It’s a tremendous investment in you that also benefits others.  Questions? Send me an email.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at



Remembering Our First President’s Warning on Parties

As we prepare for the peaceful transition of government in a nation divided by party, creed, economics, geography, religion, and race, it is perhaps instructive to remember this portion of George Washington’s Farewell Address:

george-washington-1731-1799-on-engraving-from-the-1800s-can-stock-photo-georgiosart-smI have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.

This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseperable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common & continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it.

(Excerpted from the University of Virginia, The Papers of George Washington, Farewell Address – Transcription)

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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