Sunday, January 23, 2005

Shame on Them

First...let me thank Norm Sanders for the nice article about me, and the others who are innocent victims of the NHL work stoppage, that he wrote for the Sunday Belleville News-Democrat. Norm, himself, is a victim of this thing too. He and his fine coverage are normally much more
visible at this time of year.

I wrote here earlier that there would be some bad news…followed by some good news in the NHL work stoppage. The tip came to me through the “usually reliable” Blues grapevine. When Bob Goodenow made the announcement last weekend that any players who have jobs in Europe should plan to keep them for another year…I considered that to be the predicted “bad news”. When it came out earlier this week that players and owners would get together…without Goodenow and Commissioner Bettman…to try to hammer out an agreement, I considered that to be the “good news”.

So much for good news.

Unless some kind of miracle happens, it appears now that hockey will attain the distinction of becoming the first major professional sport to cancel an entire season due to a labor problem.

Of course this hurts the players and the owners less than just about everybody else that has anything to do with the presentation of the sport. And it certainly hurts the fans…and the fan base…more than the rich boys who can’t decide how to divide up the booty.

Being the Blues p.a. announcer since 1987…I’ve been witness to a major shift in the type of people who play this sport. In the 80’s, it seemed that most of the players were Canadian farm boys, American kids from somewhere close to Canada, and a few Europeans. No matter where they were from, it appeared that all of them were delighted with the idea that they could play their favorite “frozen pond” game and make a more-than-decent living at it while living in relative luxury in some major city in North America. Because of their innocence, and their appreciation for their good fortune, they were fun to be around and made it easy to be a fan. Being behind the scenes and in the locker room at the old Arena, I became fast friends with many of these quality people. Dave Lowry, Doug Gilmour, Bob Bassen, Larry Patey are just a few that fit this mold.

Somewhere in the early to mid 90’s, though, things began changing dramatically. The big money started to take over the sport. It became less and less about the people, and more and more about how much they were making. The mindset and attitude of the “new players” seemed to be a lot like the “what’s in it for me” boys of professional baseball, basketball, and football. I’m not saying all of the people in those sports are “bad actors”. But there’s a much higher percentage than there was in hockey.

Suddenly we didn’t know any of the players. They all wore helmets. They had names that were foreign…because they were. A much higher percentage came from Eastern Europe where we had no idea of the story behind their rise to glory. And one thing seemed to dominate their thoughts. Money. We’ve all heard the stories about how the teams who were dominated by the Europeans would tank in the Stanley Cup playoffs because they made their money for the season and didn’t care about winning The Cup. It seemed to me that the same attitude began to permeate all of the rosters. When we sent that U.S. team of our best NHL players to the Olympics and they not only got clobbered…but embarrassed the nation by destroying hotel rooms, that seemed to me to be the signature of the transformation from the “boys of the frozen pond”, to the “boys of the kiss my behind”. We didn’t know these people, and didn’t want to claim them.

Now, it seems, today’s players feel entitled to stay at the pay level that they’ve attained…just because they’ve attained it. No matter that they might not have earned it. No matter that their sport is in financial disarray. No matter that there is a paltry pot of TV money to divide. No matter that the sport itself has become a boring defensive-minded, plodding ritual that isn’t fun to watch. By God, we’re multi-million dollar-a-month players and the financial health of our industry be damned…we’ve attained a certain level and we’re keeping it…or won’t play. Come on boys…smell just a little of the coffee.

Certainly the owners are not blameless in this whole thing. They, however, spent their money in a competitive environment without the kind of controls in place that they now are seeking because they wanted to make their teams better. They wanted to sell more tickets. They wanted to promote their sport, and to have more money to pay the players…by creating better teams. It only makes sense to me, in any kind of professional sport, to make the economic playing field a level one. Why should fans in small markets have to continually suffer through season after season of losing…just because there’s no way their owner can be financially competitive.
It’s a game…and all of the owners should be able to play at a certain level. We don’t let one team put 7 guys on the ice while the other team has 3.

I don’t know where our “freckle-faced kid” of a sport went…but it doesn’t look like it’s coming back any time soon. That is unless the owners follow through on the possibility of blowing it all up and starting over. Even then, I don’t know where we find someone with a Bob Bassen mindset anymore.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What's On Hold at Your Business??

Many business owners have on-hold audio on their phone systems. Most do it because it's a way of signifying to the caller that they are still on hold...and haven't been hung up on. They also do it because the phone system they bought has the capability. They don't really think much about what possibility the on-hold position has for selling products and not much attention is paid to it.

It's a hassle...and can be change the messages frequently to keep up with changes in business hours...sales specials...whatever might be new and different about the business. So, the easy thing is to do something that will be "evergreen". In other words, a batch of thank you-for-holding "courtesy messages"...along with some non-offensive music. Then this same group of messages and usually cheesy music plays...and plays...and plays...and....well, you get the idea.

What many business owners don't realize is that what people hear while on hold really does affect how they feel about the business. And if they feel motivated to buy something, many times they will. Statistics show that 1 in 5 people makes a buying decision while on hold.
Makes sense. They have called the business for some reason. They are either already a customer...or considering becoming one. Why not give them some information on hold that will move them from potential definite customer? Or maybe from good GREAT customer.

The answer, more often than not, is... "I don't have time or money to deal with what people hear on hold. It's just not cost-effective for me to deal with it...or pay someone to deal with it."

Understandable. But, now there is a technology that allows outside companies to program someone's on-hold position on an on-going, and regular, basis without the company owner having to spend a lot of time or money.

My company sells a software-based, on-hold management program that can be installed on any PC at a business office. The output of the sound card from the PC then is plugged into the MOH port on the phone system. I can send new music tracks, messages, or any other kind of programming desired to that computer over the internet. The software downloads the message, music...or whatever...and plays it automatically in a regular rotation...or on a specific day, month, time of day...whatever. The message comes encoded with the proper date and time information. REALLY COOL!!

What this means is...once I get to know the desires of the business owner...budget, business strategy, how often he/she wants to change messages.. I can do it all from my studio. I just e-mail new messages to the business computer...and it does the rest. It's not expensive...(Some big music companies who do this like to charge thousands of dollars over a couple of years and lock you into a contract)...because we charge a reasonable amount up front...and then charge by the production after that. You only pay for what you want.

Great technology advance... Another step forward in the ability of a business to effectively market itself.

Call me if you want to discuss a system for your business..


Monday, January 17, 2005

On Hold Messages

I’m excited by the reception I’m getting to my new on-hold messages/music business. I’ve found a cool new software that’s written by an Australian company that can be programmed onto just about any business computer. Then the software can be programmed to play any mix of messages and music directly onto the on-hold position of a business phone system. If the business doesn’t have a sophisticated system, we can add a piece of hardware to make the connection. The software can receive mp3 files by e-mail. That means a client can e-mail me, or call me, and ask for their system to get a new message….maybe they’re running a big sale. I can knock out a message to say what they want to say…e-mail the mp3 file to their computer…and VOILA!! It’s playing on their on-hold system in a matter of minutes. Of course that means that I can do this for virtually any business…ANYWHERE! Many business owners don’t realize the power of on-hold messages and let their system go stale with old music…and worse yet…old messages that really don’t say much. Now, on-hold can be a real sales tool for any business. I’m pumped. Please call me if I can help you with your system…or you want more info. 1-888-585-6510…or my cell 314-368-4045.



Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Hockey Clowns

I read today that Wayne Gretzy says there's a good possibility the NHL lockout will continue through the '05-'06 season. One can only hope that "The Great One" is saying this to spur active discussion between the two sides. If he really thinks this could happen, and it looks like it could, I don't see how the sport, as we know it, will survive. Two years away from bringing hockey to the general public will effectively kill the sport in most people's minds...especially in the U.S. where we're not as "hockey crazy" as in Canada. How could both sides of this dispute let it come to this? I think the owners wanted to wipe the slate clean from the beginning and start over with a new labor situation that they control...and the players didn't think the owners were committed enough to do it.

When hockey starts up again...whenever that may be...I think you will see it start with a bunch of no-name players...and then the big name guys will start straggling in one by one in an effort to make something close to what they were accustomed to. What do you think??