Friday, November 28, 2014

I wish I hadn’t seen this

Me? I couldn’t wait until Cyber Monday to get going on my online Christmas shopping.

I’ve been doing a bit here and there, getting the jump on The Season.

I’m a bit loath to admit- given my (current) loathing of all things professional football – that my shopping has taken me to the New England Patriots Pro Shop, looking for a little something for a young family member who happens to be A FAN.

While I was clicking through the dozens of possibilities – more than likely selecting the one that he will be least interested in – I came across the Toddler Dream Job Long Sleeve Tee.

Pats tee-shirt

The Toddler Dream Job Long Sleeve Tee-Red is great for the young fan in your life. The tee features the body of a cheerleader in a New England Patriots uniform with a small logo on the front. (Source: Patriots Pro Shop)

At first, I thought it was a headless cheerleader, which did make some sort of sense. Then I realized that this is a ‘your head goes here’ sort of shirt.

I don’t think I would have found this so ridiculous if it had been billed as a Patriots Cheerleader Tee.

But dream job? DREAM JOB?

Okay, when you’re wearing a size 2T or 4T you may not actually have a dream job. And you probably don’t have $19.95 to spend on one of these tees, anyway. But the grownup with that $19.95 really should think for a sec or two before putting the idea in a little mind that cheerleading is actually the sort of job you might want to aspire to.

And if your child does say that her dream job is cheerleading, isn’t this the time to tell her that this is really not a job. That cheerleaders get paid squat. That they all do something else. They’re dance instructors. Stuff like that.

Waving the pompoms, sweetie-pie, is just not valued in our society – and with pretty good reason, frankly.

Admittedly, there would be few jobs on the Pats payroll that any kid would want. (Boys get to grab the player dream job shirts.)

Here, honey, I know you’d like to work in the Pats’ front office when you grow up.

But why not team doctor? Or nurse?

Even little kids know who they are.

And here I was, just last week, complaining about the insulting approach Mattel had made to turning Barbie into a computer engineer.


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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This is a year in which I have a couple of things to be decidedly unthankful for. Namely, the death of my husband and the death – two months later – of my oldest and dearest of friends, Marie.

Yet when I think about it, even these two terrible situations give me some reason for thanks.

I’m thankful that I was with Jim when he died, holding his hand, which I do think eased things for him a bit. I know it did for me.

I’m thankful that, with Jim gone, I had more time to spend with Marie during her last couple of months, and was able to be with her the day before she went into full palliative sedation, no longer able to communicate.

I’m thankful that, later that day, in a final conversation with another old friend of ours, Marie asked Kim whether she thought that she (Marie) would be well enough to go with me to Ireland to bring some of Jim’s ashes. I know that on that day, Marie was in and out of lucidity. She knew, on one level, that she was dying. She told me she was ready, that she wasn’t afraid, that she was just waiting. On the other hand, Marie was still drifting in and out of conversations like the one she had with Kim. I’m just thankful that I was fortunate enough to have a friend so good and dear that, on her death bed, she would be thinking about helping me through my grieving for my husband.

As always – but especially this year – I’m thankful for friends and family. I am extraordinarily lucky in this regard, that’s for sure, as I have been reminded again and again throughout this long year.

As always, I’m thankful for my clients, especially for the ones who have become friends.

As always, I will make my annual appeal for St. Francis House, which has been helping Boston’s poor and homeless rebuild their lives for 30 years now. If you have reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day, please consider donating to this wonderful organization.

As always, I’ll put in a link to my last year’s post for this holiday.

Last year, in writing about Jim’s illness, I said:

We remain hopeful, but both weary and wary.

The day after Thanksgiving, some beyond the norm bleeding brought us into the MGH Cancer Center, where we got the word that it was time for hospice and the final countdown.

Never losing his sense of humor, as we left MGH, my husband said that, at this point, it really didn’t seem to make much sense to stay gluten-free. What he really wanted was a hot dog. (Some GF foods are fine, but we never found decent hot dog rolls.) So we went out and had a hot dog.

In last year’s post, I also wrote:

Still, when we received the initial diagnosis for Cancer Number Two in late December 2011, we would have given anything for a couple more years. Which we’ve gotten.

And I am exceedingly thankful for those two years, one month, 18 days.

All in all, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. The only problem is I’m not sure exactly who* to be thankful to. (The atheist’s dilemma.)


*Yes, I know. But “whom” sounds stuffy and awkward.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Tsk, tsk. (At least now we know who to blame for it…)

Me, I believe that there should be a couple of days a year when stores are closed.

I know it’s impossible in the era of online shopping – all those folks with a shopping jones, all those online shopping opportunities (pushers feeding the shopping jones, as it were). But if retail stores could at least keep the shutters shuttered on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that store clerks could have a holiday off? After all, it’s not like they’re nurses or firefighters or otherwise serving a function that requires someone being on duty 24/365.

But, no.

The madness that had crept into stores having to open at midnight on Thanksgiving night is now contaminating the very day itself.

But apparently it’s what the shoppers want.

Come on! Who needs to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

Seriously, doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that someone who has no place to go on Turkey Day has such serious Christmas shopping to do that they have to start on Thanksgiving?

Who are these shoppers who need to get into the stores on Thanksgiving Day itself?

If you can believe Money, it’s the millennials.

According to one national survey from the loyalty marketing and customer analytics firm LoyaltyOne, only one-third of the overall population thinks that “stores being open all day Thanksgiving is a great idea.” However, roughly half of those ages 18 to 24 say it’s “great” for stores to be open on the national holiday, while 48% of consumers ages 25 to 34 are also on board with the idea. Among folks ages 55 and up, by contrast, only 16% think all-day store hours on Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea. (Source: Time/Money.)

Another poll showed pretty much the same.

…millennials are more likely than other generations to say they’ll be shopping this Thanksgiving. Two-thirds of those ages 18 to 34 say they plan to shop on the holiday—in store, online, or both—compared to 51% of consumers ages 35 to 54 and only 30% of the 55+ category.

Well, I suppose that retailers have to cater to those who enjoy shopping, which apparently the millennials do.

For one thing, a broader look at millennial consumer behavior shows that a big reason this group is eager to jump on board with shopping on Thanksgiving is that young people like the idea of shopping pretty much every day.

I can’t get too huffy here.

When I was in my teens, I wasn’t much of a shopper. Having no money didn’t help, but I really wasn’t all that interested, anyway. I had better things to do. And there just wasn’t as much stuff out there to be had.

But in my twenties, and well beyond, I was something of a shopping hobbyist.

Going shopping was fun, it was an outing with the girls, something to do on a Saturday.

When I worked downtown, I would “cruise The B” – i.e., check out Filene’s Basement – pretty much every day.

When I worked in the burbs, it was easy enough to pop into the nearest mall on the way home and by something I didn’t need: yet another periwinkle blue sweater, yet another cute bowl from Crate & Barrel.

So I can’t put too much blame on the millennials.

Someday they’ll realize that they have enough stuff. Just not yet.

And, after all, as the article points out, they’re not apt to be hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, and may be just as happy to get out of the house as listen to Uncle Harry snore it off in front of a football game, or Aunt Bertha reveal the secret to her parsnip puree.

Interesting thing about those millennials, though.

When asked if they thought stores should be open so that they could shop, they were all in.

But when the question about holiday store openings was framed differently, so was the response:

In yet another holiday consumer poll, 77% of Americans ages 18 to 39 said that “retail stores should not be open on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can enjoy time with their friends and family.”

Having been a sales girl – as we were called before someone came up with the notion of “associate” – who worked seasonally, I would have hated to have to work on Thanksgiving. Bad enough having to go in and sell umbrellas and writing paper the day after.

But to paraphrase Taylor Swift, shoppers gotta shop, shop, shop.

Me, I’m taking tomorrow off from shopping.

Easy for me to say and do: other than my Yankee Swap item, I’m pretty well done, anyway.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Title Inflation News from the Hot Stove League

Even though it’s the off-season, I always keep an eye out for stories about baseball.

It’s winter, and I like having the hot stove league to keep me warm.

With no games to watch, I have been slogging (slugging?) my way through The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee, Jr.

This was a hand-off from my brother-in-law, whose book club did The Kid. Rick is not a baseball fan in general, let alone a Ted Williams fan in particular, so this tome was pretty much torture for him.

Although it’s been torture for me, as well, I am a baseball fan in general, a Red Sox fan in particular, and in my first game at Fenway Park – in Teddy Ballgame’s final season – I saw The Kid hit a homerun. So I’m actually finding the book interesting, in a horrifically fascinating kind of way.

After all, it’s not every day that you get to read 800 pages about someone who was a pretty awful person, a colossal boor, a roid-rager without the roids, a rip-roaring misogynist, a miserable husband, a pathetic father (can you imagine anyone calling their daughter the “c” word?)  – and someone who believed that Douglas MacArthur was the greatest person who had ever lived.

I’d say off with his head, and that’s pretty much what happened to Ted when his son decided that there might be a buck to be made post-mortem selling Ted’s DNA or cloning him, and had his severed head and the body from whence the head was severed cryogenically frozen.

Now that I’ve finished up The Immortal Life, I’ve been casting around for baseball news, and came across an article on MLB job-title inflation.

It may not be as exciting as news on what Jon Lester’s going to do next, but I’ll take it – especially as it combines both sports and the workplace.

Since the end of the 2013 season, five of the seven teams that have hired or promoted new people to run their baseball departments have given them lofty titles that don’t include the traditional description of the role: general manager. Three of those teams have, in turn, named that person’s chief underling the general manager, redefining what it means to have that coveted job. (Source: WSJ Online.)

One team even jumped on the C-level bandwagon – remember the good old days when the only C-level was the CEO, and maybe the CFO? Before we had CIO, CTO, CCO, CMO, CISO…? Before every sales person on earth was directed to sell into “the C-suite”, no matter what they were selling? (For some companies, the hope was the person in the C-suite could get bamboozled into buying something that no one who knew anything, and/who would have been the one using the product, wanted, needed or thought was any good.)

Anyway, the Arizona Diamondbacks now have a Chief Baseball Officer.

At this rate, the once all-powerful GM title will soon belong to the intern of the aide to the assistant of the Supreme Baseball Leader.

Being a GM in baseball has always been a pretty meaty post:

…general managers have traditionally been teams’ top decision-makers on baseball matters. They make trades, sign free agents and juggle an ever-evolving roster over the course of the season, all while overseeing the scouting and minor-league development operations that are the lifeblood of many teams’ success.

But just being called GM alone hasn’t been quite enough for a while, and most teams have tagged on some sort of VP (SVP, EVP) designation.

Now, not only are their titles becoming even more prestigious, but they are increasingly devoid of “general manager” altogether. Teams are handing that title to people traditionally known as assistants. The changes may be at least somewhat superficial, but there is a real strategy behind them...

By creating a structure that attracts better candidates for subordinate roles, teams can offer their top baseball decision makers the parts of the general-manager job they like while making it easier for them to delegate other parts. And today more than ever, there is plenty of work to go around.

And I guess there is: analyzing big data, dealing with 24/7 sports press, the care of feeding of a roster of highly paid, often highly strong, athletes.

But whatever’s going on, a GM is no longer a GM.

Which reminds me of a couple of title inflation situations I was involved in.

When you work for a small company, one of the benefits is that it’s easier to get to be a VP. So I got to be a small company VP.

Then we were acquired by a company where the title VP had a lot more meaning.

While the acquisition was in the works, I sent over a copy of the press release on it to the communications department of our new owners. When it came back, I noticed that my title had been changed from VP to Director. (That VP title may have come hard, but it sure went easy.)

Conversely, a few years later I was a director in a far larger company. In the run up to our public offering, VP titles were being handed out like candy. Most of my peers got them, so I started to figure, why not. So I asked the CMO how come I wasn’t a VP. Oh, he told me, if you want I’ll make you a VP.

Then I thought about it for a mo’ and decided that I’d rather have people asking why I wasn’t a VP than asking why I was.

I took a pass, which turned out to be a wise thing to do, as we found out a while later when the company decided it was top heavy and started title-demoting almost all those who had gotten quickie promotions. Definitely a case of easy come, easy go.

Anyway, if the title inflation story isn’t exactly burning hot stove league news, it’s something. And it’s a bit more calming than reading about Ted Williams’ severed head.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

The Smoking Lamp Remains Lit in Westminster, Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, usually when there’s some sort of pro-environmental, pro-health (known to some as nanny-state) ordinance enacted, it happens in some liberal and/or well-heeled enclave. You can’t buy a single-serve plastic bottle of Poland Springs water in Concord.  You can’t tote your groceries home in plastic bags on Nantucket. America may run on Dunkin, but it won’t be served in a Styrofoam cup in Brookline or Amherst. And they don’t call it the People’s Republic of Cambridge for nothing.

Then there’s Westminster, stuck out there in the middle of nowhere (i.e., Worcester County). Not especially ritzy (median family income a tad below the state in general). Definitely no one’s idea of liberal. (In 2012, they voted for Romney (53) over Obama (48) for president, and Brown (63) over Warren (38) for senator, which, electoral wise, makes them kind of double-l losers in that election.)

So it was kind of surprising to read that the town’s Board of Health had proposed a ban on tobacco sales, which would have made it the first municipality in the country to do so.

The Board proposal would have put put quite a few items on the verboten list. It would:

…prohibit the sale of any tobacco or nicotine product whether it is intended to be “smoked, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means.” That includes, but is not limited to: cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, blunt wraps, pipe tobacco, snuff, or electronic versions of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, and any other products that vaporize tobacco, according to the proposal. (Source: Newsweek).

I come down solidly on the side of being against smoking. I don’t do it. I don’t like it. I won’t allow it in my home. And that goes for a dip or a chaw or an e-cig vape, too.

I especially despise cigars.

The other day, I was waiting for a walk sign with three well-dressed, early-middle-aged men  - they had the look of fin serv types, maybe in for the Harvard-Yale Game – all puffing away on cigars. I was behind them, but if they’d turned around, they’d have seen me giving them and their stinking cigars the stink eye.

A pox on their Cohibas!

I wouldn’t mind seeing a ban on smoking in all public places, including the sidewalks.

And I shudder when I think of what a short while ago it was that we had to endure smoking in restaurants, movie theaters, offices, planes, buses, trains… Gag, gasp, choke. Even during the brief time in my life when I was something of a smoker, I didn’t do all that much of it in public. Yes, at work – I was a waitress and we smoked during breaks. And yes, if I were in a bar or at a party. Other than that…

And yet, if folks want to smoke, dip, chew, or vape, they can have at it, as long as they’re out of nose and lung range of me.

And, certainly, as long as tobacco remains legal, stores should be allowed to sell it. (This being my philosophical case, I don’t see why tobacco shouldn’t be advertised, either.)

No one’s saying that smoking is good for anyone. No one’s saying it should be encouraged in anyway. No one’s saying that there shouldn’t be special care taken to keep it out of the hands of kids.

But stores should be able to sell it.

Which is apparently what most of the folks in Westminster feel, as well.

Once the ban was proposed, the town folk were fuming, smoke was coming out of their ears, a firestorm was set off…

In light – hah! – of all the pushback, the Board of Health backed off.

The Westminster Board of Health withdrew its proposal to ban all tobacco sales on Wednesday after receiving criticism and outrage from the audience at a meeting last week. (Source:

Vox populi, in all it’s full, scratchy throated, rasping rage.

At least one of the Board members – Ed Simoncini – was upfront about why he voted against the ban:

“It is obvious the town is against it and therefore I am against it,” Simoncini told the Globe of the proposal.

Profile in courage, maybe not, but at least he’s being honest.

So the smoking lamp remains lit in Westminster. The town’s citizens and storekeepers can exhale now, and breathe (if they can stand the smoke-filled air) a collective sigh of relief.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Can STEM girls be pretty in pink? Mattel thinks not.

In the old days, Barbie was just a glamour puss, standing tall in her spikes and striped bathing suit, just waiting for you to pull a ball gown over her head and send her out the door on tux-wearing Ken’s arm.

But then Barbie became something of a career gal, Barbie Computer Engineerwith her ambitions growing over time. Stewardess Barbie, meet Astronaut Barbie. Nurse Barbie, meet Doctor Barbie. Secretary Barbie, meet Executive Barbie.

And Barbie can even be a Computer Engineer, pink laptop and all!

Me, I love whenever I hear that more women are finding their way into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers – even if they are made out of plastic.

When I heard about Computer Engineer Barbie, I figured that she wasn’t the talking Barbie who famously uttered “I hate math” or “Math is so hard.” (Leaving us wondering why so many math-headed girls turn away from the subject when the hit middle school. If they’re exposed to Barbie’s pap, it must feel to them that it’s so un-girly to like boy stuff like numbers.)

As it turns out that while Computer Engineer Barbie is really only pretending to be a computer engineer.

Her real skill is to dream up an idea for a computer game, and then get the guys to write it for her.

Nothing wrong with being a designer. Nothing wrong with getting the right folks to implement your ideas. And, yes, there are folks who focus on the idea, or the UI, while others take care of the underlying code.

But being the idea person does not necessarily translate into Barbie = Computer Engineer – especially when she pulls the pale-frail ninny act.. (And in front of her sister Skipper, no less.)

This was what writer Pamela Ribon found out when a friend showed her a book entitled “Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer.” (She wrote about it here. Her post was then published in full on Gizmodo, which is where I saw it.)

In the book, Barbie is fast at work, designing a game “that shows how computers work”, not with any pointed headed binary or hex nonsense, but with a cute puppy doing cute tricks.

But, as she tells Skipper, Barbie’s not going to code the app, Steven and Brian are.

Steven and Brianna?

Couldn’t it have been Stephanie and Brianna? Or Steve and Brianna? Or Stephanie and Brian?

Couldn’t Barbie have said something a tad more empowering, like “I’ll be coding the core underpinnings, Steven will be doing the UI, and Brian will QA it.” This would give Barbie a bit more techie cred, and show that she knows how to get things done. (Even better, Barbie might explain to Skipper that, while she used to do the coding, these days she’s a manger, but she still gets to keep her hand in coming up with specs once in a while. Good thing she has underlings like Steven and Brian who can implement for her…) 

As if admitting that she can’t code worth a damn isn’t bad enough, Barbie Computer Engineer, when trying to email her ideas to Steven, gets a blinking screen. She and Skipper try to reboot: no dice.

Fortunately, Barbie – who apparently hasn’t heard of Carbonite – has backed things up on a flash drive, which she can use on Skipper’s computer.

Or she could use it on Skipper’s computer if that darned flash drive wasn’t so virus ridden that it takes Skipper’s laptop down as well. (Thanks, Big Sis.)

Barbie may be a Computer Engineer, but she’s apparently a rank beginner because she’s still in a computer class – where we see her next – where it’s still okay to ask a question like “if your computer gets a virus and crashes, how can you retrieve all the files you lost?”

The teacher – STEM queen Ms. Smith – explains how to do it, an exchange in which it is revealed that Computer Engineer Barbie isn’t aware of security software.

Naturally, after class, Barbie seeks out Steven and Brian.

And, what do you know? Those savvy boys aren’t only coders, they know how to make the fix.

Pamela cites her friend Helen Jane here. (Both, by the way, are the mothers of young girls.)

Steven and Brian are nice guys, I'm sure. But Steven and Brian are also everything frustrating about the tech industry. Steven and Brian represent the tech industry assumption that only men make meaningful contributions. Men fix this, men drive this and men take control to finish this. Steven and Brian don't value design as much as code. Steven and Brian represent every time I was talked over and interrupted — every time I didn't post a code solution in a forum because I didn't want to spend the next 72 years defending it. Steven and Brian make more money than I do for doing the same thing. And at the same time, Steven and Brian are nice guys.

And Barbie, as it turns out, isn’t.

When the fix is in and she’s able to return Skipper’s laptop to her:

…she completely takes all the credit that it's no longer broken! What an asshole!

Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer is a flip book that reverses to Barbie: I can be an Actress, where:

…Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper's school production of "Princess and the Pea." She ad-libs and smiles her way through her lines, and charms the entire audience. Standing ovation, plenty of praise. At no point did she need anybody's help. She didn't even need lines! Just standing there being Barbie was enough for everyone in attendance. See, actors? It's not that hard. Even Barbie can do it.

Thanks to Pamela Ribon, Mattel has apologized and promises to do better:

"We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits," Barbie's Facebook post says. 'We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.” (Source: Huffington Post.)

The book has been around since 2010, and has apparently had a number of ding reviews on Amazon. But it took Ribon/Gizmodo to get Mattel moving.

I’m sure that Ribon and her friend will be looking at future titles, trying to keep Mattel honest here.

Look, there are differences between boys and girls.

Years ago, I saw a video of playgroups – made up of 4 year olds - that were given trucks and dolls to play with. The boys used the trucks to crash into each other; the girls used the trucks to transport the dolls to each others houses.

But that doesn’t mean that girls shouldn’t be encouraged to become interested in STEM, and to have it acknowledged that they can do it. (And why not let more boys know that they can be nurses and teachers, while we’re at it.)

I’ve been in the technology biz for more than 30 years and, yep, most of those Stevens and Brians are nice guys.

But why can’t Barbie be techie, too?

Sometimes life can be so disheartening.


And a doff of a Barbie-pink cap to my brother-in-law John for sending this story my way.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

A few words on words

There was a fun little piece over on the WSJ small business blog the other day. In the post that caught my eye, three folks sounded off on the buzzwords that give them, as entrepreneurs, brain cramps.

David Kalt, founder of, a musical instrument exchange, is on his third startup. For him the bad word is startup, which he thinks you need to outgrow fast.

Startup might work for the first several months, or perhaps even the first year, of a company’s life, but at some point it’s time to move on and to become a business. To me, the words “amateur” and “startup” are analogous, as are the words “professional” and “business.”

Having spent nearly a decade in what must have been one of the world’s oldest startups, I’m with David here. He nails it completely when he writes:

When companies go for years calling themselves startups, it implies they’re not a real business, that they’re still clinging to the potential of tomorrow because they don’t have a very promising reality today.

Please go read Mr. Kalt’s full take on startup abuse.

Even though we eventually segued from designating our company as a “startup” to the slightly more realty-based word “restart”,I blushed as I read his words. And to think that I spent 9 years, 3 months, and 4 days there before leaving to restart my own career. (They gave me no choice. I was fired after getting into an argument on how we were going to position our latest round of lay-offs to the remaining employees. Advice to those who really want to hold on to your jobs:  Avoid heatedly saying to the startup restart company president anything along the lines of ‘You say what you’re going to say. I’ll say what I’m going to say. And we’ll see who they believe.’)

Exit strategy is the buzzword that drives Wayne Rivers, an expert on family businesses,  batty.

Since most of my experience was with outfits of the No Exit variety, this word doesn’t especially bother me. Yet I can see Wayne’s gripe, which is that many folks (mostly those in family-owned businesses) over-focus on their exit strategy, while ignoring the fact:

…that planning an exit strategy requires the simultaneous acts of planning entry strategies and leadership-development plans for those who must replace the departing executives.

Excessive focus on exit-strategy planning indicates to other stakeholders in a family business or entrepreneurial venture that achieving financial security and a high return on investment for the benefit of departing executives is more important than the other aspects of running a successful business, including continuing to deliver high-quality products and services and creating a great workplace environment.The typical exit strategy, then, is built around the financial needs of the departing generation with insufficient attention given to the practical and financial needs of the business itself and successor managers left behind.

My limited experience here was second hand, and not in a family business. The last family businesses anyone in my family was involved in were my German grandfather’s butcher shop, and my Irish grandfather’s bar. (And how’s that for a couple of ethnic stereotypes?) But I did join one small tech company shortly after it had been sold to a larger entity. Right before the sale, the founders – who were known as “the principals” – did what some might interpret as the unprincipled thing and rejiggered the options so that the lesser employees who’d been there almost at the creation would get precious little, while “the principals” would rake in nearly the full pot.

My favorite bad buzzword was suggested by Mary Liz Curtin, who owns and operates Leon & Lulu, a store in Detroit that sells interesting and cool furniture and other house stuff. (The antithesis of Bob’s Discount Furniture, I’m guessing.) Mary Liz, quite naturally, seems to think her job is about picking out interesting and cool stuff that people like, and selling it to people who like interesting ad cool stuff.

Seems fairly straightforward, but I seem to have it wrong.

Lately I have learned that I am a curator, with a carefully edited collection. We proudly exhibit a selection of artisanal products, from small-batch vendors, global resources or crowdsourced makers. We have a special synergy with our customers and are proud to be good corporate citizens.

Curator. Artisanal (which, hilariously, I often see as “artesian”). Small-batch. Global. Crowdsourced. Synergy. Good corporate citizens.

Well, she wins today’s buzzword bingo, which she definitely aces when she adds:

Lately some of our suppliers have been referring to themselves as our partners in business.

I have only one partner in business, my husband. We became partners by investing our money, working endless hours and sharing the many responsibilities of running an independent business, employing more than 40 people.

We buy from our suppliers as long as their product performs well for us. They sell to us as long as we pay our bills. How in the world does this make us partners?


Ah, yes.

In the good old days, everyone wanted to sell solutions, not products. And these days, everyone wants to be and have partners throughout their business ecosystem. (See: us techies have buzzwords, too!)

Now there’s no doubt that, if I lived in Detroit, I would be drawn to Leon and Lulu. What’s not to like about an outfit that sells cool and interesting stuff, and – frosting on the cake – is named after the owners’ pets.

Hell, if I lived in Detroit – and I’m making a wild guess about someone named Mary Liz Curtin here – there would probably be a good possibility that I, or one of my sibs, went to grammar school or high school with her. So, right off the buzzword bat, I’m probably going to know Mary Liz and like Leon & Lulu.

But, from a pure buzzword perspective, what are we to make of the store’s description:

Leon & Lulu is a destination lifestyle store featuring an eclectic mix of upscale furniture, unforgettable gifts, and accessories in an environment unlike any other.

I get that destination shopping means that you’re willing to go out of your way to get there. (At least I think that’s what it means.) And I do like eclectic, upscale, and unforgettable.

But lifestyle store?

Tell me, what isn’t a lifestyle store?

7-11 is a lifestyle store for those who crave slurpees.

My neighborhood hardware store is a lifestyle store for people who like to think they’re actually DIY handy-folk, but who basically hire someone to take care of anything other than the most rudimentary of repairs. It’s a lifestyle store for those who like to go into the hardware store on Saturday and chat with the guys who work there, then pay for their recycle bags or have a key made, and head home to wait for the guy to come caulk the windows.

Bob’s Discount Furniture is a lifestyle for those who want to watch football in his and hers faux suede recliners with embedded cup-holders.

And that’s Pink Slip’s final word on the subject…