Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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

Unleash your power TW

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

I Fear for My Country. This is My Now.

I fear for my country.

Crying eye with American Flag iris Can Stock Photo Inc.  bennymartyI’m old enough to say that now. I remember when my mother used to say it. I would turn to her and say, “The world has always been a mess.”

“Yes,” she would say. “But not like now.”

This is my now.

It’s not like I didn’t have my then. I was born in the 1950s and became aware of the world around me just as John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Then Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Soldiers returning from Vietnam were spit on by male civilians with long hair and female citizens without bras. National Guardsmen gunned down unarmed students at Kent State.

That was the news. But I didn’t need the news to tell me times were bad. A few miles from my home, race riots flared in the black neighborhood. Less than a mile away some crackers burned down a medical doctor’s home just because he had the audacity to think a black family would be welcome in our white neighborhood. The tracks are thataway, buddy, and you belong on the other side.

My classmates and I practiced crouching under our wooden desks on knees and elbows with our fingers firmly clasped behind our heads. This was to protect us if the Russkies were to launch a nuclear attack.

A Jewish schoolmate confided in me that she felt discriminated against in our Christian-dominated high school. My Columbian friends came to visit and my grandfather called them a derogatory term for someone on the other side of Trump’s wall.

Things seemingly got better.  A series of 1960s Supreme Court cases cleared the way for better race relations. In 1967, the court decided state laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage were unconstitutional. And, in 1968, it held that federal law bars all racial discrimination in the public or private sale or rental of property. A majority of both political parties in the House and Senate voted to approve the Civil Rights Act and it was signed by a Southern Democrat president.

The military draft ended the year my number was drawn. I didn’t look to see how close I had come. The Vietnam War ended a year later. We had relative peace and prosperity for many years. More people of color attended college and offices throughout the country became integrated in both race and gender.

Eight years ago we elected our first black president. Love him or hate him, it was a historic moment. We had moved beyond color. Or so it seemed.

More recently, we also seemingly had moved beyond the politics of obstruction with the selection of Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House. Again, love him or hate him, but he is willing and able to stand up to the fringes of his party.

Unfortunately, we have two presidential candidates who represent the worst of America. My friends on the right are correct when they call Hillary Clinton incompetent and a compulsive liar who is in bed with Wall Street while pretending to side with the little people.  My friends on the left are correct when they call Donald Trump unstable, a bigot, and a sociopathic liar. It wouldn’t be the first time I held my nose and voted for the lesser of two evils, but I can’t tell who that is in this race. They both are completely wrong for my country.

Black people are dying at the hands of police officers at a greater rate than their share of the population. Police officers are killed for the simple reason that they wear the badge. We might as well burn down the black doctor’s house and spit on our soldiers.

And, there is no leader on the horizon with the credibility and capacity to bring back the sanity. Neither evil is less.

So I find myself in my mother’s place. I fear for my country. This is my now. I do have faith my now will be my then again. But I question how many lives will be destroyed before we get there.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

wes rocki TW

5 Steps to Running an Efficient Meeting

Business people at a conference table taking notes with pen and paperI leave a meeting at the 90-minute mark – unless I have been notified beforehand that a meeting is scheduled to run longer. Most meetings can be run effectively in 90 minutes or less. I’m an entrepreneur with deadlines to meet and if you’re not paying me by the hour to be there, you’re cutting into my profitability.

Most meetings I attend outside of client meetings are for volunteer groups. Chambers of commerce. Sub-chambers of commerce. Toastmasters. Society of Professional Journalists. I also run meetings for my Business Networking International chapter and my chamber marketing committee. You can bet that unless there is an overwhelming reason to go over, when I chair a meeting, it adjourns at 90 minutes or less.

Here are five steps I take to ensure that happens:

One: Have an agenda

An agenda is your planning guide for the meeting. It lets people know what is expected. It’s also your timing guide. Once you have run enough meetings, you will have a pretty clear idea how long each agenda item will take. But if you’re a newbie to running a meeting, include times on the agenda: 10 minutes for Item A, 15 minutes for Item B – and ensure that it all adds up to 90 minutes.

Two: Be a clock-watcher

If Item A is scheduled to take 10 minutes and it actually takes 12, you need to adjust for Items B, C, and D. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time before you conclude the agenda. The other option is to shelve the least important or least time-sensitive agenda item for the next meeting.

Three: Control your attendees

You are chairing the meeting. It is your responsibility to ensure the meeting begins on time and ends on time. It’s a fine balancing act to allow ample discussion of an issue and cutting off unproductive conversation, but that’s your role. If the discussion tends to veer off-course, gently guide it back on track. “This is a fun (good, important) discussion, but it’s not addressing the issue at hand. The issue at hand is …” Doing it with a smile helps.

Four: Announce how much time is left for the last agenda item

This signals to the attendees that the meeting is about to wrap up. It also lets them know there is a concrete time to discuss the next issue on the agenda. You’ll be surprised at how focused meeting attendees can be when that announcement is made.

Five: Do not allow anyone to bully you

It rarely happens in business meetings, but it does happen. In a networking meeting I chaired, one of the attendees decided that he didn’t agree with the time limit set to ask questions of the guest speaker. He was determined to ask his question after time expired. I assured him he could ask his question – after the meeting – but we had an agenda to get through and it was not fair for the others to prolong that agenda item. He began to ask his question anyway, and I cut him off by beginning discussion of the next point on the agenda. He began to yell at me and went on a two- or three-minute tirade about how I was out of line and he was going to ask his question whether I liked it or not. I just sat there, looked him straight in the eye, and took his berating silently. Then, when he began to ask his question again, I cut him off by starting discussion on the next agenda item. He stood up and walked toward me, yelling. He was a big man. I am not. I just sat there quietly with my best you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me look. After about 30 seconds, he stormed out and we continued the meeting. We ended on time and he never returned.

Notice I did not react to his bullying except to move the agenda along. Had I tried to argue with him, I would have lost control of the meeting. An argument is what he wanted. Don’t take the bait.

As a meeting chair, you are responsible for planning the meeting, controlling the time, guiding the discussion, signaling discussion is coming to an end, and ensuring no one person hijacks the meeting. Do that and you will have professionals clamoring to attend your meetings and the non-professionals will stay away.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

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