Temenos Journal II

October 25, 2014

Stranded in Reno

Filed under: Branding,Reno,Writing & Creativity — by Genie Webster @ 9:33 am
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Stranded in Reno

Sign from Genie’s show in front of Harold’s Club in downtown Reno circa 1995

Only one person that I know witnessed the short period of time in the mid-90s when I sang on the street in Reno, Nevada to make a few bucks so that my roommate and I could buy groceries. Now mind you, I was not a kid… I was a 40ish grown woman. We needed immediate cash and that’s what I knew how to do. Susan (my roommate and only witness) was my side kick, percussionist, and promoter.

Being the good citizen that I am, I sought out a policeman on the downtown Reno beat and checked to see if singing for tips on the street would be okay. He pointed me to a spot in front of Harold’s Casino, which had recently closed, but which still had a lot of foot traffic. “You won’t be blocking anyone’s business over there,” he said.

I treated this as any gig… put on my make-up and show costume and went out to give the passersby an entertaining show and hope they would throw tips into my open guitar case at my feet. Most of my songs are finger-picked ballads and at the time I only knew two or three up-beat songs that I could strum. Since there was no amplification, I had to sing songs that were lively, that I could belt out. Well, due to poor planning, I wound up singing the same couple of songs over and over again. It was a windy night, too, and somehow that made this outdoor unplugged gig very exhausting.

Reno attracts a lot of conventioneers and bachelor parties so there were groups of drunk horn-dogs who would gawk and heckle us as they walked by. One obnoxious guy touched my arm and said, “Hey honey, are you working tonight?” Aggravated, I pulled away and hollered at him, “Of course I’m working! What does it look like??” Being brand new to Reno, I didn’t know yet that this was lingo for hiring a hooker.

After three exhausting hours, I counted the change in my guitar case and it was about $30… enough to feed us for a couple of days. But I was utterly exhausted. “This has been the hardest thirty bucks I’ve ever earned,” I said to Susan, who was also exhausted herself from banging a tambourine for three hours in the wind.

The friendly policeman who had given me advice earlier must have seen us sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the wall exhausted. He walked up and said, “You’d probably do better if you weren’t dressed nicer than the tourists… You need to look more downtrodden, like him (and he pointed to an apparent bum sitting on a milk crate playing terrible harmonica across the street).

My roommate and I looked at each other and nodded.

We went home and that’s when I created the “Stranded in Reno” sign above. The next night I dressed in ragged jeans and a flannel shirt and I propped the sign up in my guitar case. At first Susan objected because she thought the sign was misleading because it wasn’t true… “false advertising,” she said. She felt better about it when I explained that “Stranded in Reno” was the name of our band.

The cop was right! People not only dropped in more money, but they offered us a place to stay, and we got invitations to get something to eat. One person even stopped by to offer the use of her phone to call long distance to anywhere we wanted (that was in the day before cell phones). About 30 minutes into our show, the harmonica-playing bum came across the street and set up his milk-crate about ten feet down the street from us. “Hey, quit trying to ride on our coattails,” Susan admonished him.

We made $30 again the second night, but it only took us a little over an hour. Which proves three things: 1.) you can’t always judge a book by its cover; 2.) the way you package your product determines your perceived value; and 3.) there will always be opportunistic imitators lurking in the wings.

genieCDcover

The Susan in the above story (my best friend/biggest fan/partner in adventure Susan Cerny) inspired the song “Walk the Dream.” She died in 1997, but she was alive every day of her life. Sometimes I still feel her encouragement…..

 

 

 

 

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May 20, 2014

You can’t judge a book by its cover

Filed under: Branding,Business,Reno,Sales,Spiritual Activism — by Genie Webster @ 1:35 pm
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Every time I hear the expression “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” I’m reminded of the smart aleck guy in high school who said, “Well then take your cover off!”

You really can’t judge a book by its cover. I learned that when I was selling motorized scooters to handicapped people in their homes. They would see the “Free Scooter” commercial on TV and they would call the 800 number to see if they qualified. Sometimes they got talked into agreeing to see an in-home salesperson who would try to sell them a scooter (hardly anyone qualifies for a free scooter).

I would get my assignments by email every morning and I would load up my van and go. One morning I got an assignment to visit a woman way up in the hills of Northern California… north of Grass Valley in a very rural area (off Jackass Flats Road — I’m not kidding). I could not find my customer’s address. This area was so remote that I did not get any cell phone coverage… so I had to drive until I could pick up a signal.

When I finally got ahold of my customer, she said that she would meet me at a certain juncture in her pick-up truck, and that I should follow her up the mountain, which I did.

As we were driving up the winding mountain road, I was wondering what on earth I was doing driving a van full of power scooters up the mountain to who-knows-where. After what seemed like 20 minutes or so, my customer finally pulled off the road and parked at what looked like a hippie camp. There were piles of lumber and tents and what looked like a construction trailer.

“We’re living in the trailer while we build our home,” explained the customer, who walked with a cane towards the trailer. “We can meet in here.” She had to make room for me to sit down. Her partner (another woman) joined us and I said to myself “Oh dear lord these poor people will never be able to afford this $3000 scooter.”

The woman had been injured in an accident and wanted the scooter to help her get around the property so that she can build their home. I did my job… I showed her the sales pitch… I gave her a demo ride… and I asked for the order, even though I did not have high expectations of a sale.

The woman excused herself, while she and her partner went to the back of the trailer for a private conference. I started packing up my stuff to head back down the mountain. When the woman returned, she had an envelope with $3000 cash.

You can’t judge a book by its cover!

The next day, I received an assignment to visit a woman who lived south of Reno, in Palamino Valley. My GPS sent me up into the mountains, climbing and climbing up Whiskey Springs Road. I could see a huge house up the mountain. “Eureka!” I thought to myself. “People with money,” I assumed.

The closer I got to the house, the more I saw how huge and well-built it was. The property was more like an estate, with multiple buildings and horses and barns.

When I met my prospect, she was a 60ish woman, who walked with a cane. An elderly woman was sitting in a recliner in the living room. “That’s my mother, who lives here with me. I care for her.”

The further I got into the house, the more I saw how things were a wreck… crayon marks on the walls… debris and junk everywhere. I could hear kids running and playing in the background. “Those are my grandchildren,” the woman explained. “My 40-year old daughter and her children live here with me too.”

Her husband was in a nursing home, recovering from a stroke and she was trying to take care of a household of six people while crippled. She wanted to buy a scooter desperately.

When she was turned down for financing, she cried.

You can’t judge a book by its cover!

Whether it’s in sales or any area in life… Do not impose limitations by jumping to the wrong conclusions too soon.

antiquebook

 

 

 

August 27, 2012

Business Etiquette 101: What’s Inappropriate?

During the business day, the name of the game is to focus on achieving the company’s goals. Anything that distracts from achieving the company’s goals is probably inappropriate.

If one of the company’s goals is to help foster goodwill and camaraderie among employees, then occasional chit-chat about family activities and how the Browns did last night is certainly appropriate.

How do you know if your chit-chat is inappropriate… or over the line? The easy way to determine whether a topic is appropriate or not is to ask, “Does this kind of talk make anyone uncomfortable?”

Chances are that if your topic is anything about sex or politics…. at least 50% of the people will want to edge away from the conversation.

If you want to talk about what you did with your spouse or date last night… after the lights were out…  chances are pretty good that some people will feel uneasy about participating in the discussion. “Too much information” is one polite way to tell someone, “Dude… I don’t even want to envision that.”

Another thing that makes a whole lot of people uncomfortable is politics. Especially emotionally-laden partisan exclamations by a person in authority. Our nation is pretty evenly divided 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. So if you proclaim a partisan political opinion, at least 50% of the room is likely to disagree. It’s best to keep business as non-partisan as possible.

If one of the company’s goals is to further the success of one particular political party… then that’s another story. In that case, it’s necessary to talk politics in order to further the company’s agreed-upon goals.

When in doubt… just don’t talk about sex or politics at work.

As far as appropriate business attire… in general, don’t wear flip-flops and don’t dress provocatively or sloppily or too casually. Dress appropriate for your industry, i.e., fashionably if you’re a hairdresser; pocket protector if you’re an engineer.

Keep your eye on the company’s (or the community’s) goals, and everyone wins.