Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Portland update

Because I'm a supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement and specifically Occupy Portland, I need to provide an update here as to my current thoughts about the Occupy Portland encampment.

I live downtown and am able to stop by the camp regularly.  My guess is that 300-400 people are camping there each night.  Out of this group, perhaps 20% represent Occupy Portland (activists motivated to create change in our society and economic system) with the remainder comprised of homeless folks, street youth, mentally ill citizens, and a variety of others.

Because of this, the camp only partially represents Occupy Portland.  The camp is a landmark and a physical space for us but the spirit of the Occupy movement goes well, well, well beyond the camp.

And this word just in as I was writing - Mayor Sam Adams has given the camp until Sunday top vacate of risk arrest.

I for one hope we vacate peacefully and on our terms as we come up with Occupy Portland v2.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Move Your Money - A National Week of Action

I've blogged about the importance of moving your money from the large corporate banks and Wall Street institutions to local banks and credit unions.  In this blog post about local banking, I provided some criteria for choosing a local bank.  In this blog post, I addressed the Move Your Money movement and provided some links to useful information and resources.  
Now, the Occupy Portland movement is asking supporters to remove their money from the Wall Street banks this week, and to move that money to a community bank.  I hope you will join me in this collective action. 
If we, the 99 %, removed our money from the big banks, we will send a clear message that conscious consumers will not support the unethical business practices of the mega banks. The 1% will take notice. 
As we know, there are better alternatives than big banks. Safe, convenient credit unions and smaller, local banks can supply all the services you need.  People protesting in Occupy Portland are sacrificing safety, home, and family time to shed light on the terrible abuses the banks have perpetrated on all of us.  However, the occupiers cannot do it alone; we all need to work together.  It is time for you to put your money where your mouth, soul and future are. So here is the plan:
·      Open a new account at a local credit union or small local bank.
·      Transfer your funds to the new account from your by bank account by Nov 5th
·      Follow your big bank’s procedure for closing your accounts.
It's that easy!
Here are some important pieces that will help clarify why this is so important and motivate you to move forward:
1If you want to know more about this grassroots movement please see this ABC's World News Tonight report click here:
2. Check out this cool video about the project to move your money here:
Also check out there website here:
3. If you want to know the difference between banks and credit unions click here:  
4. If you want to find a local small banks and credit unions click here (Note that this document is dated August 2010 and information may have changed):
5. If you want to feel the power and pure joy we feel when we fight back, check this out.
Please share this information widely.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street / Portland - Next Steps

I live fairly close to Occupy Portland so I'm able to stop by and visit fairly often.  At the encampment you'll find a mixed bag of issues, people, demands, strategies, tactics, concerns, and stories when visiting.

One common thing is clear however:  The need for systemic change.

While our current system has created vast and concentrated sums of wealth as well as abundant consumer options for Americans with spending money, the current system has also created:
  • Unemployment that hovers near 20 percent
  • 1 in 4 American children living in poverty
  • 50 million Americans without health insurance
  • The greatest prison population 
  • Multiple wars for resource control
  • Ecological devastation that puts the entire planet at peril
  • A corrupt political system where money buys votes and access
  • Millions of American home foreclosures
  • 40 years without real wage growth
  • College students burdened with massive debts owed primarily to the 1%
  • Wealth for richest 400 Americans that is equal to the wealth of the poorest 150,000,000 Americans
This list could go on and on.  

Learning the skills of an MBA, I was taught to look for root causes when solving problems.  The list above is a not a list of problems, but rather symptoms of much deeper problems.  Problems we must solve.

Because we must solve these problems, it is important for everyone to get involved.  How are you engaging with this vital revolution?

My first recommendations is for citizens to find out what is really going on.  You won't get this information from mainstream press so you need to find other channels.  What would you have known about the Egyptian revolution if you only listened to Egypt's official broadcasts?  Do you think Libya's official press did a good job telling the story of the resistance?

If you are getting your information from the mainstream corporate press you are getting filtered information when direct information is easily accessible.
  1. Visit an Occupy camp near you (Portland's is next to city hall and can be visited 24/7.  Hop on a bus and go check it out for yourself.  
  2. Watch the events on Livestream ( and search for your favorite Occupy event).  Portland's events can be seen here:
  3. Visit the official webpage for your local Occupy event.  You can get unfiltered news about Portland's occupation at
Two nights ago in Portland we had our first arrests related to the Occupy Portland events.  One of the most informative videos I saw about the events is here:  

My challenge to you is to get involved.  Will you join me?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Much is Enough?

In March 2010 I sold my house and moved into a downtown apartment.  One of the reasons for moving was to downsize my footprint.  I wrote about this in a 2-part blog post (Downsizing Part I and Downsizing Part II).  At the time of the move, I got rid of at least 50% of my possessions and felt some relief from the burden of having too much stuff.

Fast forward to October 2011.  I've now been in my apartment for 18 months and I've probably only touched/used 50 percent of what I moved from my house to my apartment.  Fully 1/2 of everything I moved sits in cabinets, a storage locker, closets, and drawers untouched from the day I moved.  Yet, I am still challenged to get rid of it.  What is this attraction to our stuff?

As you know, the sustainability mantra is reduce, reuse, and recycle.  These actions are listed in decreasing orders of environmental impact because never buying and using something is far better for the environment than buying it and reusing it, or buying it and recycling it at the end of its life.

As I'm writing this I'm thinking about the events at Occupy Wall Street.  I understand the need for change and yet the question is in what direction?  If we have full employment and a global consumer society we'll destroy the biological systems that make life possible.  The "system" is driving all of us to work, work, work and consume, consume, consume yet that isn't leading to the world we both want and need.

The good news about downsizing 18 months ago and the ongoing realization that I still have way too much stuff is that I'm not buying anything.

I already have enough - And less stuff is actually more fulfilling after you've got the basics covered.

Now we just need to figure out how to have a successful economy that isn't based on unsustainable and unsatisfying criteria.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Main Street Businesses should join with Occupy Wall Street

I've been down at the events at Occupy Portland every day for at least a few hours since the events started here in Portland on October 6th.  There truly is a wide variety of people involved.  While we need many more voices engaged, one thing clearly missing up to this point is the voice of Main Street businesses and the people who actually create jobs, make payrolls, and contribute to our communities in so many ways.  The movement is anti-Wall Street, not anti-business.

When I attend the events, I see the need for far more people to be involved in the discussions than are currently present.  While those of us with businesses probably find it hard to get down to the occupation and be involved, it is imperative that we get involved in what I believe is likely to be the biggest social change movement in my lifetime.

Business as usual cannot continue.  Business as usual cannot continue.

I wrote that twice to emphasize a point.  People are pissed off and in the streets because we have an economic system that is NOT meeting the legitimate needs and aspirations of a free people while simultaneously destroying the biological systems that life depends on.

Here are some sobering facts:
  • 1 in 4 US children in poverty
  • A corrupt political system controlled by money
  • 20%+ unemployment or underemployment
  • Multiple wars for resources and control
  • 50 million Americans without health insurance
  • The largest prison population in the world
  • A security state second to none
  • Wealth disparity that rivals third world nations
  • The daily destruction of biological necessities like clean air, water, land, diversity, and a stable atmosphere

We have an economic system that works amazingly well for the 1%, and pretty darn good for another 10-15% while leaving vast amounts of people in desperate poverty or surviving pay check to pay check.  We can do better.

Our system isn't broken, it's actually working wonderfully well according to it's design.

In order to make the necessary system changes, we need lots of people involved.  That's how we all can help birth a new society.

I did a blog post more than two years ago about systems I think you'll find interesting.  You can read it here.

The sign I'll be carrying at the next rally will say "It's the System Stupid"  I hope you'll join me at an occupation near you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Portland

Yesterday, I attended the Occupy Portland march with approximately 10,000 others.  We completely filled Pioneer Courthouse square and spilled onto the adjacent streets.  Due to work, I was only able to participate for an hour.

I returned to the occupation around 8pm in the evening to join in solidarity with this movement to change the system.  The vibe was incredible and everyone was friendly and hopeful.  The demands are for systemic change.

Around 10pm a woman came by and asked if anyone wanted to teach a class.  I volunteered to teach a class on economics starting at 10:15pm.  At the appointed time, we formed a circle on the lawn and about 20 people joined me for an economics discussion.  The group eventually grew to well over 50 people.

Without resources, I discussed some of the following:
  • The SYSTEM
  • Circulation of money
  • The FED and the creation of money
  • A giving economy
  • Happiness index and other metrics
  • Labor, capital, and managerial classes
  • The scale of the system
  • Alternatives, Alternatives, Alternative as a few different ideas.
  • The Paradigm of the current system
It was a rich and rewarding experience to share my business and economics expertise.  I ended up staying until 1am when I walked home and slept in my warm bed.

Rather than go directly to work, I returned this morning at 7:30am and ended up working as a spokesperson/information sharer as well as doing call in reports for KBOO community radio.  I also did a number of TV and radio interviews as well.

When I arrived, the General Assembly (GA) was taking place and there were approximately 500+ people in attendance.  I counted more than 60 tents though many had already been packed away.  The police had given us until 9am to clear the park as the Portland Marathon had rented out the space for their weekend event.

Behind the scenes were furious negotiations with the police, Portland Marathon, the Mayor's office, and representatives of Occupy Portland.  OP moved from two parks and consolidated into one and I believe Portland Marathon made the decision to share the park with us rather than have us removed.  That decision allowed the peaceful demonstration to stay in place so we could relax and move forward rather than worrying about the logistics of moving.

Around 9:40am, I again led an economics discussion and gathered probably 50+ people for the discussion.

At 11am I had to return to work.  I will back tonight.

We have an opportunity to change the system but we need more people to get involved.  Democracy is not a spectator sport.  The current system wants all of you to just go back to work so the 1% can get even richer while we destroy the planet through an unjust economic system.

Will you join me in changing it?

If so, you have to get out into the streets.  There is something vastly different about speaking face to face in human size groups that cannot be replicated through mass media.  Unless you have attended an event, you have no idea what is going on.  It would be like trying to taste a meal by listening to the food.
I know the Arab uprising occured and I saw it on TV but the only way to know what was really going on was to be a part of it.  This is our Arab uprising.  We need a new system and we need it now.  We need ALL people of goodwill out to help us create it.

The current economic system in the US produces:
  • 20% + unemployment/underemployment
  • 1 in 4 children in poverty
  • Multiple wars for resources and control
  • A security state 2nd to none
  • The largest prison population on the planet
  • Ecological destruction
  • 50 million without health insurance
  • Wealth disparity that rivals third world nations.
We can and must do better.  I hope you'll join me TODAY in helping nurture this unbelievable moment.

If not now, when?  If not you, who?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Home Office Deduction - Exclusive Use

If you use your home for work or business, you may be entitled to the home office deduction. The home office deduction is one of those wonderful tax deductions that allows a taxpayer to turn an otherwise non-deductible personal expense into deductible business expense.

Over a series of posts, I'm going to review some of the rules and nuances of this deduction. You can find more information in IRS Publication 587 or the IRS YouTube video.

The first thing to note are the specific rules you must follow to get this special deduction. If you fail to follow the rules, you will generally lose the deduction.

To qualify to deduct expenses for business use of your home, you must use part of your home:
  • Exclusively and regularly as your principal place of business,
  • Exclusively and regularly as a place where you meet or deal with patients, clients, or customers in the normal course of your trade or business,
  • In the case of a separate structure which is not attached to your home, in connection with your trade or business,
  • On a regular basis for certain storage use (Inventory storage or product samples)
  • For rental use (See IRS Publication 527)
  • As a daycare facility
If you are an employee, you may also qualify for a deduction if you meet the tests noted above plus:
  • Your business use must be for the convenience of the employer, and
  • You must not rent any part of your home to your employer and use the rented portion to perform service as an employee for the employer.
The IRS notes that if the use of the home office is merely appropriate and helpful for the employer, you cannot deduct expenses for the business use of your home.

The key words that often catch the unwitting taxpayer are exclusive and regular use. Many court cases hinge on the interpretation of these two words. In today's post, I'll review the exclusive use test.

The first thing to note is that you don't have to meet the exclusive use test if you are taking the home office deduction as a daycare facility, or for the storage of inventory or product samples. There are some specific rules you need to meet for these exceptions though I'll refer you to IRS Pub 587 to read those yourself.

Because exclusive use seems to be a very high bar, I'm often asked if there are exceptions to this rule beyond those noted above. In other words, does the IRS really mean "exclusive?"

The law [IRC Sec. 280A(c)(1)] is very clear on this matter - the use must be exclusive. Almost any personal use for the area destroys the deduction.

In Speers v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo 1994-157) the court ruled the exclusive use test is an "all-or-nothing standard." Combining business and personal use precludes the deduction - ANY personal use destroys the deduction.

Despite this clear standard, the courts have carved out de minimis exceptions to the exclusive use test.

In one case, a taxpayer claimed a home office deduction for a walk-in closet in his studio apartment. To get to the bathroom, the taxpayer had to walk through the closet allowing the IRS to challenge the exclusive use test. The court ruled in the taxpayer's favor saying this incidental use to walk to and from the bathroom did not violate the exclusive-use test.

In another case [Culp v Commissioner (TC Memo 1993-270)], a taxpayer stored a lawn mower in the garage he claimed as a home-office deduction. The court again ruled on behalf of the taxpayer claiming the space occupied by the lawn mower amounted to de minimis use and did not alter the deduction.

In an example of how even minor personal use can destroy the deduction, look at Langer v Commissioner [TC Memo 1992-46]. Mrs. Langer ran a piano lesson business from her home and had a special area set aside for this exclusive purpose. However, during the year she had an open house allowing guests to use the room. The court ruled that this use violated the exclusive use test and Mrs. Langer lost her deduction.

We'll continue with this subject in future blog posts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Avoiding Taxes The Way Big Corporation Do

I'm interested in tax fairness. It doesn't seem fair to me that giant multi-national corporations, with their teams of lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists, are able to rig the game so they pay no income taxes despite significant profits.

By not paying their fair share, the burden on the rest of us increases while at the same time, our nation's financial outlook worsens as a result of what I believe to be both a spending and revenue problem.

Yesterday, I had an op-ed in The Hill, discussing this issue. The article was called Avoiding Taxes The Way Big Corporations Do where you can read more about my views and this issue.

The Willamette Week had a great article back in April entitled 9 Things The Rich Don't Want You to Know About Taxes where they highlighted the impact of corporate and individual loopholes that seem to be available to only an elite few.

Monday, June 13, 2011

B Corporation Community Grows

Last week I attended a local B-Corporation event at The Joinery. The B-Corp community keeps growing and now includes more than 420 business organizations representing more than $2 billion in annual revenues. Oregon has 27 B-Corps.

Four states (Maryland, Virginia, Vermont, and New Jersey) have now passed B-Corp legislation. New York is on the cusp, and bills have been introduced in over half the states. According to Stephanie Ryan from B Lab, the legislation has been passed with bipartisan, and nearly unanimous support, when the final vote was taken.

I still consider the B-Corp certification as the gold standard for green minded businesses due to the rigor, transparency, scope, vision, and accountability of the B-Corp certification mark.

B-Corp is launching version 3.0 of the assessment tool later this summer. I highly recommend that every business benchmark themselves using the free assessment tool. It will help you lead a better business.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Individual tax returns (Form 1040) are due Monday, April 18th. Returns postmarked after this date, unless properly extended, incur a failure-to-file penalty on the balance due of 5% per month (to a maximum of 25%). Additionally, there are also failure-to-pay penalties and interest charges as well.

You can file for an automatic six-month extension by filing Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) on or before the April 18th filing deadline.

The instructions for filing a Form 4868 require taxpayers to:
  • Properly estimate their tax liability using the information available to them;
  • Enter their total tax liability on line 4 of Form 4868; and
  • File Form 4868 by the regular due date of their return.
Normally, filing this form results in an automatic six-month extension of time to file without any late-filing penalty. However, filing this form does not extend time to pay any income tax liability due.

Some people have the misconception that the filed extension also applies to extending the time when taxes are due. This is not true and you should note that balances due in excess of 10% of the total tax shown on the return will incur penalties and interest for underpayment.

One thing to note is the requirement to "properly estimate" the tax liability. It is possible for the IRS to invalidate an improper extension (one that didn't estimate the tax liability) exposing the taxpayer to substantial failure-to-file penalties. This isn't something I've seen a lot of but given the need for additional revenues and computer sophistication, it easy to imagine this becoming more prevalent.

Accordingly, my advice is to make sure you spend a little time properly estimating your tax liability before sending off your extension. It is risky to just put down zeros when you know you owe taxes.

And as a final note, don't forget to properly extend any state and/or local returns as well. Some will accept the federal extension and some won't. You need to check their specific rules. As with the federal government, the extensions to file do not extend the time to pay any taxes due.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Same-sex Marriage

The Obama Administration and his Justice Department have stated they can no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the final say on this subject (whether marriage can be restricted to the legal union between a man and women) is likely to be settled by the Supreme Court, and probably not for a year or more.

In the meantime, legally married same-sex couples can file protective refund claims for all open tax years if they would benefit on their taxes by joint filing. If these protective refund claims are filed and the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, you'll be entitled to your refunds.

It should be noted that DOMA impacts more than just income taxes. Were DOMA to be held unconstitutional, the following would also be affected:
  • Gifts between spouses would get the unlimited gift tax marital deduction;
  • Bequests to surviving spouses would not be subject to estate taxes and the survivor would be entitled to any unused estate tax exemption of the decedent;
  • Employer provided health care for same-sex spouses would be tax free.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do you have a foreign financial account?

If you own or have authority over a foreign financial account including bank, securities, or other types of financial accounts, in a foreign country, and if the aggregate value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year, then you are required to report that information to the Department of Treasury, by filing Form TD F 90-22.1.

This form is due on or before June 30 each year (following the year you are reporting on) and is NOT to be filed with your Federal income tax return. There is NO extension of time to file this report.

Failure to file this informational return can result in fines of up to $500,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment. Individuals and organizations that meet the requirements are required to file.

The form is pretty easy though given the potential fines and jail time for not filing, is not one you want to miss.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tax Cheats

Cheating on taxes is illegal. Tax avoidance is okay, tax evasion isn't.

Tax evasion is incredibly stupid as there are so many ways to get caught. As a CPA with former tax auditing experience, trust me when I tell you there are many, many, many ways to be caught.

And one thing to remember about an IRS audit is this: Unlike a court of law where you are innocent until proven guilty, when the IRS comes knocking, with them you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no statute of limitations on tax evasion. Failure to report wages or hiding income could come back to bite someone years and years later.

When caught, tax cheats face substantial penalties, interest on the unpaid tax, embarrassment, criminal charges, and potential jail time.

I was recently speaking with two people when one admitted to being paid under the table to tutor children, and the other admitted to hiring household help (landscapers, babysitters, and house cleaners) without checking their authority to legally work in the United States or properly dealing with employer reporting and taxation issues.

Every tax cheat I have ever known has their self-serving reasons for cheating. Both these women tried to justify their actions though their excuses amounted to little more than "I don't want to pay more taxes."
"The subject of every State ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State." ~ Adam Smith (1776)
I don't know anyone who wants to pay more tax although this is the way we fund our government and the many services it provides us. Though as Adam Smith pointed out, we all ought to pay our share according to our incomes and people who cheat to avoid this public responsibility, hurt the rest of us who do our civic duty.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Small Business Health Insurance Credit

If you saw President Obama give last week's State of the Union speech, you would have heard him mention how Jim Houser, Co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic, would be getting a $5,000 tax credit to help his small business provide health insurance to his employees under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Jim and the Hawthorne Auto Clinic are customers of ours and we computed the tax savings for him that the President used in his speech. Jim was in the balcony for the speech and I'm both proud of him for his activism and leadership that got him there, and I'm proud of TriLibrium for being just one step removed from the White House.

The tax credit is available to certain small business with tax years beginning in 2010, for those that provide health insurance coverage to their employees. It is also available to certain non-profits and even household employers.

The rules are too complex to go into here but the IRS has a frequently asked questions page that should answer many of your questions. I suggest you start their and then speak with your CPA to find out how you can benefit from this legislation.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Who do you need to send a 1099 to?

The following list covers the majority of circumstances that require businesses to issue a 1099-Misc to an individual or business and the situations where 1099s are not required. Let’s start with a list of excluded transactions.

Excluded transactions include:
  • Most payments to corporations (see exceptions below)
  • Payments for merchandise
  • Payments of rent to real-estate agents or corporations
  • Business travel allowances paid to employees
  • Wages paid to W-2 employees
  • Payments to tax-exempt organizations
1099s are required for:
  • Payment for services in excess of $600 paid during the year
  • Rent payments exceeding $600 paid to individuals or businesses which are not incorporated
  • Any fishing boat proceeds
  • Medical and healthcare payments in excess of $600, including payments to a corporation
  • Cash payments for fish (or other aquatic life) in excess of $600, including payment to a corporation
  • Royalties or broker payments in excess of $10
  • Gross proceeds to an attorney in excess of $600, including any law practices that are incorporated

When are they due?

Copy B and Copy 2 of Form 1099-MISC must be sent to the recipient by February 1st, 2011. The due date is extended to February 16, 2011, if you are reporting payments in boxes 8 or 14. File Copy A of the 1099-MISC with the IRS by March 1st (Extended to March 31st if you file electronically).

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Failure to furnish correct payee statements can have large consequences. Fines start at $30 per information return if you correctly file within 30 days of the due date; $60 per return if more than 30 days late but before August 1; $100 per return after August 1 or if you don't file. Intentional disregard of the requirements raises the fine to $250 per return.

Additionally, failure to file may also put your deductions at risk.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Something is wrong with our system.

Last night I got the privilege to listen to Van Jones speak here in Portland. It was an SRO crowd which was amazing given that his speech was at the exact same time as the State of the Union address by President Obama.

I arrived early and sat next to a black man about my same age. His name was Craig and we had a super conversation waiting for the program to start. Craig had come to hear Van talk about green jobs as he was desperately looking for work. Here was an American who wanted to contribute and yet, couldn't find any paid work.

Craig's pain was palpable. His pain is no different than millions and millions of other Americans, from every corner of our country.

Everywhere I look I see needs.

Our infrastructure is failing. Our bridges desperately need repair. Many here in Oregon won't withstand the next major earthquake we all know is coming. Our Sellwood Bridge has been closed to bus traffic for years and rates a 2 out of 100 possible points for structural integrity. You think we might be better off fixing it?

Schools, everywhere except newer suburban schools, are in need of significant improvements and upgrades. My daughter attends a Portland HS that is nearly 100 years old.

I'm guessing that more than 80 percent of our housing would benefit from energy efficiency improvements that would save money in the long run. We could put a million people to work within the next 12 months weatherizing homes using a revenue neutral model that is win/win/win for all.

We need more teachers and smaller class sizes. We need more opportunities for our youth and less prisons (American prisons now hold 1/4th of the world's prison population. Does that seem right in the Land of the Free?)

We need more caregivers and support for the caregivers we have.

We need programs for our returning veterans who come home from service with too few opportunities and too little support.

At the same time, everywhere I look I see people who need jobs and want to help.

It is a failure of our system and our imagination that we can't put these two needs together.

We are not some third world country without resources and imagination. We can fix this problem.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Our culture has a strange obsession with work. I've written about this from a number of angles including our Culture of Insatiability, how a shorter work week would benefit us all , and the impact of this job preoccupation.

Daniel Quinn, one of my favorite authors, wrote Work, Work, Work, a children's book that follows a mole that spends his days digging. From sun up to sun down the mole digs holes, without any thought as to why he spends his life digging nor any appreciation of the fantastic world around him. All he cares about is his work - digging holes.

I bring this up since I was reading this morning's headline that the Tea Partiers would be looking at defense spending cuts as part of their deficit reduction plan. Clicking through to the story, I knew the article would mention the "jobs" trump card. (Our societal trump cards seem to be safety, security, children, and jobs. Just pull those into any discussion and they trump every other consideration.)

And there it was, in the second paragraph of the story:
"Cutting defense and canceling weapons could mean deep spending reductions and high marks from tea partiers as the nation wrestles with a $1.3 trillion deficit. Yet it also could jeopardize thousands of jobs when unemployment is running high."
These marginal defense jobs provide little societal value since we can't eat, wear or beneficially use the output. We'd be better off paying these displaced workers to do community volunteer work which would leave them gainfully employed, with income to spend, creating societal benefits that would be palpable.

If a job is a job is a job, why not pay these folks to dig holes? I suspect most people would see this as a waste of government resources and yet what about the hole digging jobs we'd lose as a result?

In the end, we all need to contribute to our society and there are many ways to do this beyond paid remuneration.

I hope you'll consider these ideas whenever you hear the "Jobs" trump card pulled out in a debate or discussion.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Values = Marketing

We've been in business a little over two years and have spent relatively small amounts on traditional marketing and advertising. Yet we are growing rapidly and are currently expanding our office.

How so?

We let our values lead. Of course, we do excellent work and have a compelling value proposition but like an ante, those are required to play. We are trying to move beyond that.

In our office expansion we've taken the following steps to walk our triple bottom line talk:
  • We made sure we had a construction bid from a minority contractor (didn't win but that is business, at least we made the effort to reach out and be inclusive).
  • We purchased Steelcase Think chairs made out of nearly 40% recycled materials and with Cradle-to-Cradle design, are over 90 percent recyclable at the end of their lives.
  • We had made a custom built receptionist station built from locally sourced reclaimed wood, designed by a Meld-Design, a customer of ours.
  • We had custom round meeting tables built from locally sourced reclaimed wood and designed by Endurawood, another customer of ours.
  • Endurawood is also building us end tables and a coffee service table for our reception area, again from locally sourced reclaimed wood.

While we probably spent 10-20 percent more than we might have had we gone CHEAP and only considered short term costs, I believe these are great long-term investments due to the longevity and craftsmanship of the furniture, the comfort and pride my employees and customers have sitting in excellent chairs while meeting over handcrafted furniture, and the "marketing" story we have communicating our values to our target market.

Richard Seireeni coined the term the "Gort Cloud" which helps describe the network I feel we've tapped into.

Perhaps you could redirect your marketing and advertising budget towards authentic messages about who you are?