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In Pursuit of the Breakthrough Brand

Sound advice...from a wise post it note.

Sound advice…from a wise post it note.

I haven’t had a soda for over 300 days.
Prior to my streak I would drink 2-3 Diet Cokes a day. I did this for at least 25 years and prior to that it was Diet Pepsi during my newsroom days.
No more.
No more aspartame. No more high fructose corn syrup. No more sugary soft drinks.
For me, it’s Celsius, Diet Snapple, Bai and water.  (And the occasional happy hour indulgence).
Celsius is a Delray born and now Boca based beverage that I have been involved with for several years. I’m a proud shareholder and work for a firm that has a major stake and emotional investment in the brand.
We believe in Celsius and have for years.
Because the brand is right on trend: a healthy fitness drink that has no sugar, aspartame or corn syrup.
It’s also clinically proven to burn calories and fat and provides a nice burst of energy without a crash or jitters.
I’m proud of the company and the progress the team have made over the years.
It’s hard to build a brand. Very hard. But that’s where the value is…you want to be a brand not a low cost commodity. (Same for cities). Breaking through in a noisy world is a colossal challenge.

And the beverage business is ultra competitive, capital intensive and complex.
But then you see the headline…and you remember just how cool the business can be.
Bai–one of my favorite brands–was  snapped up by Doctor Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) for $1.7 billion last week. Breathtaking..
DPSG– along with Coke and Pepsi –are on the hunt for companies offering healthy options. Sales for their legacy brands are flat (pun intended) and while volumes are huge, there is little to no growth and consumers are moving away dramatically from calorie laden and sugary beverages.
This shift is not a fad, but a trend. I don’t think it will go back.
And so our bet on this local company may prove prescient after all.
We have always believed. And that’s important in the world of entrepreneurship because there will be ups and there will be downs.
The Bai deals gives you hope. But…while the money is nice and how you keep score in business, for those who are entrepreneurs there’s always more. In our case, it’s a belief in the brand and what it does for people. It helps them “live fit” as we say.
Over the years, I’ve heard from many people who have made Celsius a part of their lives. They enjoy it and it’s helped them achieve health and fitness goals–which is the point of a “functional” beverage.
We often read about “disruption” in the world of technology. But it’s happening in food and beverages too.
Healthy products— clinically proven– is a great place to be these days.

And there are several other local brands that are making it happen too. I met with a great one last week–Fro Pro, a delicious and healthy bar/meal replacement run by two very cool and very passionate people. I’ll share their story in a future post.
We have high hopes that our pioneering brand will be the next breakthrough. (And we have a few more in the pipeline too).
Until then, it’s back to the daily grind/joy of building something you believe in.


Post Thanksgiving and Still Thankful

Still vibrant after all these years.

Still vibrant after all these years.

A friend of mine sent me an old Power Point a few days before Thanksgiving.

They were combing through the archives and came upon a presentation a bunch of us gave in 2003 at a conference called Transforming Local Government.

The Power Point chronicled the city’s efforts to craft a Downtown Master Plan in 2001 and the hard fought efforts that were made to involve the community in the vision.

The old photos brought back a flood of memories—there were many faces I hadn’t seen in a while. Some people have moved away. Some people have passed away. Many are still involved; others were once deeply involved and have now faded from the scene.

Accompanying the email was a note: “I had almost forgotten how far this city has come. I had almost forgotten how much was accomplished.” Indeed.

In the rush of time, in the hectic pace of our lives and the blizzard of “stuff” we have to deal with—we too often sacrifice perspective and appreciation.

We don’t stop to be present, but we also don’t slow down to look back or look ahead.

I think to be a healthy, balanced person we need to do all three: appreciate the moment, be grateful for what we’ve experienced and plan for the future with a hopeful heart.

I think the same goes for communities, businesses and organizations.

It’s wise to appreciate where you are on the journey—this very moment when you just made something happen in your city, when you just inked a sale for your company, booked a great act for your arts organization or hit send on a piece you are about to publish.

As I looked at the power point slide show, I caught a photo of my daughter at age 11. Sam is soon to be 27 and is now teaching special education in Tampa. But in this slide she was still my little girl, ponytails, glasses, peasant dress working at a table with other kids drawing their vision of what they wanted their hometown downtown to look and feel like.

I wonder where some of these young people are today. Are they still in Delray? Did some of them go off to school and come home to start families here? Are we doing enough to make this place their place? Are we thinking about the future? Their future? I saw some photos of some older residents who have passed and I smiled. They were old many years ago and still found it important to participate, to care, to plan for a future they must have known they might not see.

After viewing that long presentation, I took the dogs and took a long walk through a park.

It was a glorious Florida day—perfect temperatures, perfect, peaceful.

Dogs live in the moment and have so much to teach us if we care to look. But I also believe they are clued in to our emotions and moods. My mood was an odd mix of happy and reflective. The dogs were just happy to be out and sniffing around. So was I.

I’m not immune to the headlines—venomous politics, heroin, crime, poverty all of which weighs even heavier (if that’s possible) during the holiday season. But…I also found myself feeling good about where I am and where I live.

I thought about how privileged I was to be given an opportunity to serve a community…my community…this community especially.

It wasn’t easy. And if they tell you it was, they weren’t there.

But wow was it ever good.

That old power point—from a place far, far away and yet right around the block, was a reminder of what can be accomplished when you capture positive energy, ask people to work together and dream of a better tomorrow. Did we get all we dreamt about? No, you never do. Nor should you.

But we did move the needle…

We built something special. More importantly, we had something special. I think it’s called love of community. I think it’s called civic pride, optimism and belief. If you collect those ingredients, I assure you there is nothing you can’t do. If you tolerate the opposite—hatred, blame, negativity and distrust—you put it all at risk.

The beauty of life, business and community is there is always more to do. For that we ought to be thankful. It’s motivation to pursue progress.

I believe the best is yet to come but that statement comes with a big caveat: only if we harness the power of neighbors coming together and working toward a better tomorrow.

Sounds hokey? Maybe to the cynics, but those of who believe know it works.



Finding the Signal in the Noise

It can get noisy out there.

It can get noisy out there.

Like many things, social media has its pluses and minuses.

I suspect I’m like many when I say I enjoy Facebook for the convenience of being able to stay in touch with a wide variety of friends and family that I wouldn’t have been able to without the ease of social media.

From former work colleagues and classmates to neighbors and far flung family, Facebook enables me to catch glimpses of their lives and to share snippets of mine (mostly dog pics). It makes me feel at least nominally connected to people I care about but in all honesty would never have time to call, take to lunch or visit. (It also enabled me to discover a fantastic song called “Debris” by the Faces, thanks to music guru Steve Martel).

But there’s also a dark side to social media—where trolls, cyber bullies, rumors and outright lies thrive.

On balance, I’ll take the bad because I think the upside and potential of social media far outweighs the negative.

The good, bad and ugly of social media is being debated loudly these days in the wake of the strangest and most divisive election most of us have ever seen. I assiduously avoid national politics on my Facebook page but many of my friends on both sides of the gaping divide had a field day this cycle.

I watched in real time long standing relationships blow up over posts and comments and it saddened me.

I suspect a few Thanksgiving celebrations may have different rosters as a result of social media posts.

And it’s not just national elections that get us overheated. Local politics is also rife with anger and recrimination.

I keep an eye on this page in Boca that can get lively. I’ll shield the names to protect the innocent, but this was an exchange last week regarding a luxury hotel coming to town.

It follows a typical pattern.

Someone expresses happiness that a project is coming.

Someone else quickly replies that the project stinks, will ruin the city forever and create traffic jams.

The person, who was happy a second ago, replies that his neighbor should move if they don’t like what’s happening. This is a pattern and usually it’s not a polite: “why don’t you consider a locale where you might find bliss” suggestion; nope it’s typically a variation of “shut up and move if you don’t like it.”

And now we are off to the races: fighting words like whining, greed and moron are exchanged and we descend from there until it finally burns out only to be rekindled when someone else joins in and expresses an opinion about how things “used to be” or the need for one thing or another. It’s exhausting and I’m not sure what it all adds up to.

Did we learn something?

Did we solve anything?

I think there’s some value in expression, but this kind of stuff hardly qualifies as dialogue.

I just finished an interesting book: “I’m right and you’re an Idiot” which explains why people get dug in and offers some insights into how to bridge divides and achieve some measure of civility and compromise.

One giant takeaway is that “facts” hardly matter—oh sure some people will change their mind if presented with evidence, but many won’t regardless of how much you throw at them. People do respond to stories and emotion, but typically once they adopt a narrative and a world view it’s hard to budge them. Social media only amplifies that human trait.

I think social media is an amazing tool for a public official or anyone in a leadership position. I think if you are in office you should be using social media to connect to constituents and to explain your positions and also solicit input. But it is NOT a substitute for face to face human interaction and real life interaction.

A lot is lost online—we’ve all been burned by email, text messages and social media posts—because we can’t see body language or ask for clarification like we can when we are face to face.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as I’ve seen families fight and friends “defriend” and “block” each other.

Social media platforms have had an odd response to this difficult and complex environment.

Twitter has suspended accounts and has been blasted for doing so. The service says it is ridding the platform of hate speech; those who have been booted are crying censorship.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that “false news” (like the Pope endorsing Trump which was shared, liked and cited thousands of times) didn’t have an impact—in the next breath he’s selling advertising on his site because of its ability to influence decisions. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. And yes, Facebook ads work. I can personally attest because I have sold a few books with Facebook ads and we have sold a bunch of hot sauce and beverages by promoting our brands on the site. Like it or not, Facebook is our water cooler these days. It matters.

I would just caution that we don’t limit all of our interactions to social media—there’s still room for meet ups, coffee with friends, group discussions etc. With augmented and virtual reality coming fast, we better leave room for face to face old-fashioned conversation.

We may not ever agree on whether a Mandarin Hotel is the right thing—but it’s not as easy to call someone a moron when he or she is sitting right in front of you.





We Long for Leadership: Do We Know What it Looks Like?

Conversely, you are not a leader if you squash ideas and enthusiasm.

Conversely, you are not a leader if you squash ideas and enthusiasm.

With an historic presidential election behind us, the topic of leadership in America and in our communities has become a front burner discussion. Here’s a few thoughts on what we think are essential attributes for leaders in government, business, non-profits and academia culled from books and articles on the subject.

 7 Essential Attributes: All Seven Are Necessary for Success

“People would rather follow a leader who is always real versus a leader who is always right. Don’t try to be a perfect leader, just work on being an authentic one.” –Brad Lomenick




Integrity is like the foundation of a house. It’s not the first thing you notice, yet without it, the house won’t stand and all the fancy amenities won’t matter.


So what is integrity? It is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It’s keeping promises, its resisting temptation to be corrupted and it means telling the truth. But it also means a lot more than just telling the truth. It means not being silent when you see something you think is wrong. It means being able to hold yourself and others accountable and it means always acting ethically.


Quote: “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” –Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.




Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is experiencing or feeling. It means an ability to tune into others, to listen and to understand. Leaders need to be able to connect to people. They need to be able to probe beneath the surface, to sense conflict before it erupts and nip it in the bud and they need to be able to sense the mood in a room and adjust their communication accordingly.

Quote: “Leadership boils down to strong relationships. Before I can be an effective leader I have to know the players, they have to get to know me and we have to trust and know each other.” – Coach K. of Duke.




Emotional Intelligence

Leaders need to understand their blind spots and weaknesses as much as their strengths. They need to evolve and adapt to new challenges. They need to work well with diverse personalities.


Quote: “Until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed.” –Warren Bennis.




Every good leader has vision. Leaders imagine a better future. Visionaries understand that leading is a job to do not a job to have. They are transformational leaders, with a clear vision of a brighter tomorrow. They are able to think long term and focus beyond the daily grind.

Visionary leaders inspire. They are optimistic and they never lose focus.


Quote: “Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.” – George Lucas.





Good judgment is essential for effective leadership. Good judgment means good decision making. In leadership positions, you will often have to make dozens of decisions on a regular basis. Sometimes you will be given time and information; sometimes you will have to make quick decisions with little information. As a leader, you can’t afford to be indecisive. You have to answer the call.


Three tips for developing good judgment and making good decisions.

1.Zero in on what’s important

2.See the whole chessboard

3.Take decisive action.



Quote: “Mistakes are not the ‘spice’ of life. Mistakes are life. Mistakes are not to be tolerated. They are to be encouraged.” –Tom Peters



Leadership is not for the faint of heart. If you want to lead, conflict is inevitable. Leadership means being on the front lines of conflict. It means having the courage to take a stand and know that you will make some people angry. You will make friends and you will lose friends. In leadership positions: you will be tested every day.


 Quote:  “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” -— Eddie Rickenbacker World War I hero




Passion is the drive to achieve, to make a difference, to put a dent in the universe. Without passion, without drive, you cannot be an effective leader. You have to wake up every day driven to learn, achieve, master and move toward your goals and vision. Passion drives progress.


Quote: “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” -— Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch



Arts Garage is a Start Up to Bet On

Bob and Linda Schmier and Chuck and Pam Halberg are just a few of the passionate volunteers devoted to Delray's Arts Garage.

Bob and Linda Schmier and Chuck and Pam Halberg are just a few of the passionate volunteers devoted to Delray’s Arts Garage. The couples were honored for their contributions Friday night.

I think of Delray’s Art Garage as an entrepreneurial startup.
Roughly five years old, the Arts Garage has blazed a trail, overcome a few near death experiences and has created a brand in a very crowded and fickle marketplace.
Tomorrow night, the Arts Garage is hoping to land a five year lease from the City Commission. I hope they get it. I’m rooting for the Arts Garage because it’s an important part of Delray Beach and because some really great and passionate people have rolled up their sleeves and opened their check books to keep it alive and thriving.
If you had doubts as to the passion and commitment to the cause, they would have been erased if you saw what I saw Friday night during the Arts Garage’s Tribute Gala.
The sold out event honored Chuck and Pam Halberg and Bob and Linda Schmier for their commitment to the organization.

I was honored to emcee the event and say a few words to celebrate the naming of two theaters at the facility after the Schmier’s and the Halberg’s.
You couldn’t find two more deserving couples. Their commitment, generosity, hard work and belief in the Arts Garage has been unwavering and that’s a good thing because the Arts Garage has had some major challenges in its short life.
First there was an ill advised attempt to challenge the CRA’s ability to provide funding, then there was some strange politics that briefly threatened the organization, followed by fiscal challenges, staffing issues, board turnover, attempts by others to purchase the space and assorted other dramas.
Through it all, the Halberg’s and the Schmier’s were there.
The truth is, cities, startups and non-profits all need people like the Halberg’s and the Schmier’s in order to thrive. They need the true believers, people who just won’t let an endeavor or a mission fail.
Delray has been especially blessed to have these kind of people in a variety of spheres over the years.
When they show up and lead, great things happen, success is ensured and any and all obstacles can and will be overcome. Progress is literally assured.
Smart communities recognize these heroes and heroines and nurture them. These leaders should be appreciated, protected, trusted and supported. Help them if you can or get out of their way. But trust in the outcome. Because success is assured.

These are the type of people who are so talented, so dedicated and so committed that failure is simply not an option.
I have seen the power of this type of leadership and it is remarkable to experience.

Quite simply, it’s magical.

And while it is rare, it is also essential. That’s why I believe our city has been blessed. We have had a bunch of special people who have emerged to achieve incredible success often against long odds.

If you think this type of work is easy, I can assure you it’s anything but. Yet the examples of local success are abundant and that’s made all the difference in Delray Beach.
Frances Bourque and Joe Gillie at Old School Square. Nancy Hurd at the Achievement Center. Lynda Hunter at our library. Perry Don Francisco of Boston’s on the Beach as an exemplar for the business community. And the list goes on.
I have a similar feeling about the Arts Garage thanks to people like Chuck and Pam, Bob and Linda.
The key is to be able replenish the tank when it inevitably empties. People move on. They retire. They pass away. They relocate. They want to try new things.
The Arts Garage is still new. It was launched by a very powerful and visionary force: Alyona Ushe.
I really like the choice of Marjorie Waldo as the new leader. And of course, they have the Halberg’s and Schmier’s.
These are the type of people you trust in… Brian Rosen too.  He’s a real good guy. Ronnie Dunayer: awesome. The other board members–excellent.

The great people on the Guild too..they care.
Give them a lease–they’ve been month to month for 9 months;  a period of time in which they have made strides. Let them experiment; don’t micromanage. Allow them to use the facility to raise money and try new things. Trust in passion. It’s what makes cities magical.

25 Ideas Revisited


Editor’s note:

Four years ago—the same length as a presidential term—we wrote a blog outlining 25 ideas for Delray Beach.

We thought it would be fun to take a look back and comment on whether these ideas still make sense or whether any of them actually happened.

25 Ideas …2012 edition

  1. Brand Delray Beach as a mecca for entrepreneurs—Comment: Still makes sense and still a work in progress. Various efforts have been tried and traction has been difficult to achieve. The lack of affordable creative space downtown is a barrier, but efforts such as the co-working space “The Kitchn” are promising. Much more needs to be done and can be done.
  2. To accomplish the above, create a business incubator downtown and invite entrepreneurs to grow in Delray. Comment: There’s potential at the Old School Square Garage to do something facing the park and at the Arts Warehouse, but this idea remains incomplete.
  3. Create a business accelerator in Delray so that once companies are incubated they have someplace to go for the extra needed help. Comment: Incomplete.
  4. Help existing businesses and individuals grow by offering classes and low or no-cost business advice at our own Old School Square. Comment: Lynn University has been scouting locations downtown to offer classes; the Small Business Development Center is active at the Delray Library and it was great to see Code Fever at the chamber recently.
  5. Speaking of Old School Square, offer executive education, certificate and graduate programs in the classrooms; revenue for Old School Square and another tool for economic development. Comment: Incomplete.
  6. Program the Old School Square Park—add shade, music and a few tasteful vendors. Comment: After a series of charrettes and private efforts, a vision is beginning to take shape. But it has been 11 years since voters passed a bond creating the park and creating a vibrant downtown “central” park remains incomplete. Lately, some have complained about vagrancy at the park. And the process to design a park has been fraught. It ought to be exciting.
  7. At holiday time, create a holiday village at the Old School Square park and allow kiosks and “pop-up” stores to capture crowds heading to the 100 foot tree. Give local retailers a free or reduced stall and charge others for the month—use funds to offset holiday costs. Comment: Didn’t happen.
  8. Creatively partner with various private entities to bring “fantasy sports camps” to Delray. Tourists could come to Delray to play with their childhood heroes and enjoy the downtown after the game is over. Comment: Didn’t happen.

9 .Install LED lighting in parking lots and parking garages. It’s green and it saves money. Comment: New LED street lights are brightening a six-block section of West Atlantic Avenue, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling nearly $111,000. Efforts appear to be underway.

  1. Create a leadership academy to train the next generation of local leaders. Teach the Delray success story. Comment: The Chamber launched a civic engagement academy earlier this year that was well attended. There are plans to do more.
  2. Create a local Business Development Corporation enabling local residents to buy “shares” in local businesses and invest in growing our own economy. Comment: Not done.
  3. Reinvigorate the Southwest Plan by borrowing a page from Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Empowerment Zone playbook. Seek foundation monies to move beyond infrastructure to developing Delray’s vast human capital. Comment: Various charitable efforts including Delray Students First have embraced the mission of developing Human Capital, but robust financial support remains elusive.
  4. Arm the economic development director with a reasonable budget to market Delray. We have to get in the game and that takes marketing and resources. Comment: Not done.
  5. Public Relations. Delray needs a publicity strategy outside the local publications to attract investment and build awareness of our assets and opportunities. After all, we are the jewel of Palm Beach County. Comment: Not done, the Delray Marketing Cooperative has done a good job on the events front, but PR regarding economic development has been spotty. There were some good articles on downtown development in the South Florida Business Journal and on the efforts of the Congress Avenue Task Force in the Sun Sentinel but creating national buzz around business and investment remains to be seen. There have been good articles in national and regional publications relating to downtown redevelopment, dining, tourism, events, real estate and lifestyle.
  6. Link the new Arts Warehouse to a broader strategy to create an artists and artisans “village within a village” in the Third Avenue area. Comment: Artists Alley has been threatened by increasing prices and gentrification and the Arts Warehouse is still not open.
  7. Help Delray’s Prep and Sports develop a national reputation for elite football training and make the 7 on 7 event one of the premier tournaments in the USA. Comment: Prep and Sports founder T.J. Jackson has gone on to become the head football coach at Atlantic High.
  8. Convene an economic development charrette to discuss our fiscal future and job creation—let the community decide the priorities and tie our spending to those priorities. Comment: 2017 should see a discussion of economic development as a key component of the city’s comprehensive plan. The Chamber is considering a similar conversation.
  9. Team up with our neighbors Boca Raton and Boynton wherever possible: city services, economic development, marketing to save money and leverage our strengths. Comment: hard to do.
  10. Get serious about jumpstarting investment on Congress Avenue. The vision and zoning is in place, what’s needed is execution and beautification. Comment: A task force spent 10 months updating the plan and adding exciting new elements. Plan was submitted in February and was accepted in August, but not formally adopted. Code has yet to be updated and the city is considering hiring a consultant. Meanwhile, the corridor has attracted a few deals: Kaufman & Lynn, Call 4 Health and there is activity on the old Office Depot site and Saltwater Brewery. However, concern lingers that new projects will be forced to “spot zone” since the plan is not yet in place.
  11. Add a Middle School of the Arts at Carver Middle School and tie it into all of our arts activities from Old School Square to the Creative City Collaborative to the new Plumosa School of the Arts. Comment: Talk has died down regarding Carver. But the district has a plan to build a long coveted middle school of the arts on the site of the old Atlantic High School.
  12. Bring a branch of a university downtown and one to Congress Avenue. Comment: remains to be done. Lynn U has plans for a presence.
  13. Revisit the North Federal Highway Plan and come up with a new vision for the 21st Century. Comment: remains to be done. South Federal is being looked at; that’s a good thing.
  14. Host a competition and have our local techies develop some interesting local apps. Comment: remains to be done. Tallahassee recently did this exercise and ended up with some amazing ideas.
  15. Develop a formal, aggressive and powerful Shop Local Campaign. Comment: there have been great efforts but a strong lasting branded campaign remains an opportunity.
  16. Add entrepreneurship academies to Atlantic High and Village Academy. Comment: remains to be done.

Election Eve Thoughts: Non-Partisan Edition


Tomorrow is Election Day.


Actually, it’s more like yuk!

According to a poll released last week 82 percent of likely voters are disgusted with the state of American politics as well they should be.

Much of the public craves progress and collaboration in Washington, polls say. They aren’t getting it and so we end up with the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

To steal a term from Silicon Valley, many voters want to “disrupt” Washington and many others are simply staying home and disconnecting.

The nation is divided and politicians rank close to kidney stones in terms of popularity. Sadly, many have earned that low opinion through inaction, ego, corruption and self-serving behavior.

But maybe, just maybe there is a silver lining. Maybe we had to endure the ugliest campaign imaginable—an endless, expensive, relentless barrage of negativity and vitriol—to finally declare we have reached rock bottom and something needs to change.

There are really two choices here: we continue to spiral downward or we begin to heal and demand more from those who seek to lead us.

Which path will we take?

If you believe surveys an overwhelming majority of Americans crave better leadership. They want to see problems solved, progress made and opportunities seized. They long for a safer public square that still allows for robust debate. They respect principles but also value compromise. We’ll see if we get it, but I truly believe it’s up to us to make it happen.

We the people…

Those three simple words are brilliant and profound.

We the people…have the power.

We the people…also stand for what we tolerate.

We the people…

I am 52 years old. So I’ve been voting since 1982.

Fifty-two is a great age.

Oh sure, I’d rather be 35 (and know what I know now) but I like this time of life. I’m old enough to have seen some things. Old enough to have learned a few things; I think they call it perspective. But I’m also young enough to still be (somewhat) relatable to younger people. (I am however, keenly aware that an expiration date is fast approaching).

I feel very fortunate that a few young people sometimes seek me out.

Maybe they have seen this blog, I know a few have read my book about local politics, some are digging into Delray and have heard my name or some may be running for office in another city—regardless I am thrilled when they reach out and want to meet.

We talk about business, we talk about life in these parts and we talk about politics and opportunity. I tell them what I think and I tell them I am still learning. They teach me too.

For a long time I was the youngest person in most rooms I entered. I was always a guy in a hurry—married early, had kids early, went into business as a young man and had a mortgage at an age when most people are still on their parents couch. I wouldn’t have traded any of it because ultimately it makes you who you are—and as time passes the things you once viewed as mistakes end up to be the experiences you cherish the most.

My motor still revs high—I am still ambitious, curious, searching and very passionate about life. The fire still burns– although sometimes it’s indigestion.

But the joys of having experience are balanced by that number: 52.

52 has limits…

52 gets tired…

52 doesn’t sleep well anymore…

52 understands that time is precious and is running short; especially when you still want to do so much and want to see even more.

A close friend and I now joke (sort of) that “hey, we may never go to Australia.”

Or we may, but the point is we won’t have the time to do all we want to do.

Truth is, nobody does. But at 52 I’ve become aware of that poignant fact.

Still in a way, that knowledge is freeing.

It’s time to prioritize. It’s time to chase, but also to savor.

And so, I love talking to people in their 20s and 30s. I want to encourage them to get involved.

Be the change, they want to see in their world. Such a cliché, but oh so true.

I speak to a lot of young people who are interested in the community and business. They are a little mystified by politics, some are a little scared, but all seem to understand that they better start paying attention and they might just have to get into the ring to make good things happen and stop bad things from happening.

I urge them to do so.

I tell them that politics is kind of like fire; its power for good is equaled by its power for destruction.

I tell them it’s a job to do, not a job to have. And I tell them that it’s OK to be a little bit scared of jumping in—it tells me that they have emotional intelligence and empathy. Be wary of the narcissists, the people who think they are the smartest people in the room. Embrace those who ask questions and have open minds and warm hearts.

There is a dearth of these people in public life today—at every level.

That’s what we are missing. Some call it servant leadership and I like that term. But it’s more: its heart, soul, sensitivity, empathy, gratitude and respect.

Its people willing to say they struggle too…they don’t have all the answers but they want us to join together so that we might create a better tomorrow.

We have our share of bullies and buffoons…it’s time to add truth, reason and compassion to the mix.


Be Nice

Wayne Gretzky: The Great One, Also the Nice One

Wayne Gretzky: The Great One is also the Nice One

“It’s so easy being nice.” – Wayne Gretzky.
You know what else is easy? This simple concept: we have the power–so much power— to help each other.

We have so much power to heal one another; to build each other up, to support good things and good people.

It’s so easy to help. All we have to do is try. It’s a decision.
Or we can choose not to.

We can choose to accuse, divide, hurt, harm, disparage, disrespect and violate.
And because we often do, we also have so much power to harm.

Clearly we see this play out in our national politics but we also see it play out in City Halls and Commission Chambers and on social media platforms all across the world.
Leaders have the extraordinary power and opportunity to harm or heal. It’s their choice.

With every email they send, with every comment they make they can uplift or they can deflate.
Right about now at this point in the column, some of you are getting a cavity from all this “sweetness.”  I feel you.

And I know what you’re thinking: what about accountability? What about people who deserve a good rebuke?
Well glad you asked. Because accountability is tied closely to emotional intelligence and to kindness.

If mistakes are made—and they will be– they give us teachable moments. But most of the time, the people and organizations who can use the education don’t deserve to be obliterated. They need to be taught and while instilling fear and bullying may be your preferred method, it isn’t sustainable. Oh you’ll get short term results and when you’re gone or not looking you’ll be ignored, forgotten or mocked.
Bullies don’t age well.

Narcissists inflict lots of damage. But they don’t transform or uplift. They are too busy tearing down others so they can feel better about themselves.

True accountability occurs when learning and growth happens. You can only grow in an environment that values personal dignity and respect. The best teams, the best platoons, the best organizations build their success around chemistry, respect, love, kindness and education. The best teams root for each other. Caring becomes your DNA.
As a baseball fan, I love the story of Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs slugger who came back for The World Series after suffering a devastating knee injury at the beginning of the baseball season.
Schwarber was befriended by a 10 year old boy in Arizona who is suffering from a debilitating physical condition. The boy is very sick but he’s comforting the ballplayer and Schwarber was quickly able to put his disappointing but temporary knee problems into perspective.
The two friends exchange letters and encouragement. They inspire each other through simple acts of kindness: text messages, small gifts, kind words. When Kyle gave his friend a bat, the boy asked if he could auction off the memorabilia so other sick children could benefit from better care.

Isn’t that powerful? Isn’t it moving?

Kindness is strength.
We all know stories of unspeakable horror so there’s no need to relate them here. But it’s the every day bruises that some dole out that can take a toll and can leave a mark as well.
The snide email that insults a volunteer, the insensitive attack based on cooked up info, the attempt to bully those who don’t agree with you.
Leaders build, bullies deflate and harass.

Bullies need to be confronted and when that happens they tend to do two things: deflect (it’s not my fault, you are bullying me, how dare you) and shrink.

Because once revealed, a bully is seen as small, petty, mean and insecure. Exactly the opposite of a leader.
Wayne Gretzky was my favorite hockey player. He is also said to be a nice guy.

Being nice is indeed a choice. And yes; it is easy.

It’s All About the Software

The intangibles make a community a community

The intangibles make a community a community

Seth Godin has a saying: Hardware is sexy, but it’s the software that matters.

Seth is a smart guy—arguably the smartest marketing mind around.

His thinking helps me with the companies we are involved with but his writing is also very apropos for cities and community building.

And that saying just resonates…hardware could refer to buildings in your city and software could serve as a stand in for all the “soft” stuff like “sense of place”, “community” and feeling a part of things.

Hardware is important. Your physical buildings should have character and be well-designed.

But software—that’s what makes a town special.

It’s the intangible things that make you fall in love with a place and when you fall in love you commit and that makes all the difference doesn’t it?

Recently, I attended a “Mayor’s Gala” at the Broward County Convention Center which was a benefit for the United Way. We ended up talking to an array of city officials—and I had a chance to have extended conversations with a Pompano Beach City Commissioner and a soon to be termed out commissioner from that city.

If you haven’t been to Pompano recently you owe it to yourself to visit. The beach area has been transformed. It’s just beautiful and was recently honored with an award from the Urban Land Institute (ULI). (I had a chance to tour the area with a ULI judge and we were impressed).

They built a beautiful parking garage, which sounds like it would be an oxymoron (beautiful garage? Really?!!) but it is. And so their hardware is improving.


But the most important thing that’s changed in Pompano is the software. This is a city that aspires. This is a community that is gaining confidence and momentum. This has become a place where people are excited about their present and thrilled about their future potential.

The retiring commissioner had the happy but tired look of someone who has served and sees the light at the end of the tunnel. I can relate to that feeling. Public service is a privilege and a very special honor. It is also exhausting if you care enough to put your heart into it and want to move a community forward, solve problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities. The soon to be termed out commissioner was tired but happy—he was confident his city was moving in the right direction.

Chatting with him reminded me of another quote I love: “the community will give back what you give to it.”

I heard that from some speaker years ago and committed that line to memory. And yes it is so true.

The soon to be termed out commissioner had two weeks left in office and then he was off to Hawaii for some rest. But he was proud of what had transpired during his term.

His colleague has an election on Nov. 8 and is working hard to stay on the commission because he is excited about all that’s happening in his city.

The best economic development is momentum and community “software” that drives progress and enables you to overcome inertia or any challenge that are thrown your way—be it hurricanes or crime or drugs or nasty characters who get up at meetings and throw bricks. It even inoculates you against the trolls, most of whom sit back in judgment but few who actually roll up their sleeves and try themselves.

Nothing great can be accomplished without enthusiasm, calculated risk and a large dose of inspiration.

Leaders either fill the reservoir with hope or drain it with negativity.

There’s another saying that I just love and it’s this: “There is a difference between leadership and ambition. Leaders have the courage to be unpopular with those that disagree with them. The ambitious want to befriend as many people as possible.”
We need more leadership and less ambition.

But we also need more aspiration and more emotional intelligence. Hardware is important. Hardware is indeed sexy. But software is heart. Software is love. Software is empathy and its gratitude.

Software is what matters.



Order Those Shades Because the Future is Bright


Just when you are ready to write off the future—the universe provides you inspiration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to have a visceral reaction to the 2016 election. By visceral, I mean nausea. It’s triggered by TV ads, debates and cable “news”—so am I doing my best to avoid all three and commercial radio too.

Thank goodness for books (I’m reading the superb Bruce Springsteen autobiography “Born to Run”), magazines (a steady dose ranging from Sports Illustrated and Inc., to Fast Company and Entrepreneur) and SiriusXM Radio (E Street Radio, Tom Petty’s Buried Treasures and the 70s on 7).

With a little mercy, I will make it through Nov. 8.

But occasionally reality slips through my carefully constructed cocoon and I will accidentally see CNN or another Randy Perkins/Brian Mast ad. So I was grateful when I read Time magazine’s “Millennials” issue and Fortune magazine’s list of 40 under 40 standouts last week.

There is hope, my friends. There are good people out there working on big challenges and getting results.

Time’s list had an international flavor with social entrepreneurs in Rwanda, jazz musicians from Indonesia and a visionary architect from Finland.

It is well worth the read to see what’s coming down the pike.

Fortune’s list was decidedly more business oriented but no less exciting. There are incredible minds at work in areas ranging from artificial intelligence and virtual reality to curing hearing loss through medications versus costly and sometimes uncomfortable hearing aids.

But this is a hyperlocal blog and as such I started to think about what we have to look forward to right here at home.

It’s a good exercise because—believe it or not—there’s a world beyond endless arguments over festivals and budget concerns real or imagined.

Such as:

FAU’s Research Park—I had a chance to have lunch with Park President Andrew Duffel recently and it was enlightening. The park is 90 percent full and there’s interest in the rest of the developable property. The Park is packed with great companies that are creating jobs and influencing industries.

Boca’s Office of Economic Development—If you want to feel good, follow their Facebook feed and learn about all the companies coming to Boca. Jobs too.

Team Delray—It’s a simple idea but oh it can be so very elusive. We are referring to collaboration and team work of course. Team Delray, which consists of a variety of agencies and organizations, has come together to communicate and cooperate. Refreshing.

Impact 100 for Men—Spearheaded by Chuck Halberg, Impact 100 plans to raise at least $100,000 to benefit local non-profits dedicated to children. If you haven’t joined, please consider it. Another great effort by Chuck.

I can go on, but you get the picture.

There is much to be thankful for in Boca and Delray these days. If we look.