Subscribe to Making Rain by Email

Archive for March, 2013

01v/11/arve/G2582/016As anyone knows who reads this blog regularly, I am a huge lover of words.  I love the enrichment, nuance, and depth of enlivenment words bring to everything.  “Martin Heidiger said, “Language is the house of being.”  I’m afraid our modern “house of being” is a bit run down.

For example, did you know that ordinary people in Shakespeare’s time actually had a working vocabulary of 54,000 words?  They actually talked the way Shakespeare’s character’s did in his plays!  And do you know the working vocabulary of the average American?  3,000 words.  Yup.

Well, here’s a very funny riff on this fact from comedian John Branyan.  Enjoy.  It’s a hoot.

That’s all, folks

Comments 20 Comments »

The topic today is that antediluvian museum piece, the personal business letter.

847.BusinessLetterThis quaint antiquarian form of business communication is a disappearing art form.  It is in sad disrepute, condemned to ridicule and contumely by the go-go cutting edge of business.  The idea of sending a personal letter is increasingly pooh-poohed (if considered at all) as an inefficient instrument of nostalgia and the past.

Let me be contrarian on this.  It is my feeling that entrepreneurs increasingly are abandoning an important communication tool by dismissing the efficacy of the personal letter.  Of course, entrepreneurs are not the only ones.  The US Post Office is bankrupt because of a huge drop in letters of any kind (along with the innate lumbering inefficiencies of any government bureaucracy.)

Certainly, most small businessmen are uncommonly busy.  Emailing, tweeting, and linking in are faster modes of communication.  Yet I also believe there is a certain emotional laziness to going too quickly to reaching out just through these insta-presto mediums.

It is a personal thing writing a good business letter.  It is a warm medium and can connect people on a more emotional level.  Even a simple one line personal thank you note does this.  But there are several reasons business folk are quick to abandon it.

  1. Let’s face it.  Most businessmen don’t write very well.  Arthur Levitt, past Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bloomberg, has been on a jihad to bring good English back to business.  He says much of business writing is cold, shallow, and, often, lacks nuance and color.  It is boring to read.
  2. A good letter requires energy to write with compelling sincerity.  A compelling letter means being open and vulnerable and personal, to some extent, to your correspondee—even in a sales letter.  While most entrepreneurs are passionate, the business intimacy innate in the process is usually not comfortable or the strong suit for business people.
  3. 5758portraitofjohndonneWriting isn’t taught or remediated in business school.  Sharon Washington, Executive Director of the National Writing Project, says our high schools and undergraduate programs have de-emphasized writing and constant digital communication has eroded basic writing and vocabulary skills.  (LOL, OMG, WTF, BRB, etc.)  U understand?

So why should the entrepreneur write more personal letters, especially in the sales process?

Well, I’ll tell you why.  It’s simply because, since people don’t send letters any more, when you get one you notice it and actually read it.  It shows  personal attention and a service orientation in the midst of an increasingly impersonal society.  (Quick Hint From Heloise—To make your letter have the best impact, use a very high quality of stationary or card.)

As John Donne put it to Sir Henry Wotton (1633),  “Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.”  Thank you, John

Comments 6 Comments »

Francis-Bacon2Elizabethan poet and playwrite Francis Bacon once said, “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, a sense of humor to compensate him for what he is.”

Last week I was at the Inc. Business Owner’s Council, which is an organization of mostly Inc. 5000 company owners who meet to solve, share, and dialogue business conundrums. I found myself laughing uproariously and often there.  It got me thinking about humor and business ownership.

Free flowing silliness and humor is not the easiest thing to find as an entrepreneur.  It is not necessarily prudent to share your uncensored business mind with your employees or your clients or the world at large.  Yet the successful entrepreneurs I know are remarkably funny people.

It has become abundantly clear to me, after attending the Inc. Business Owner’s Council for over three years that most successful entrepreneurs are wickedly funny.  The nice thing about a private, discrete organization of your peers is that you can truly let your hair down and be yourself in your full absurdity.

The role of leading a small business can be a lonely enterprise.  (I previously blogged about this on March 15, 2011.)  (Loneliness and Entrepreneurship)  No one but another entrepreneur can fully understand the special frisson of fear and excitement each day holds for the high-risk small business striver.  It is an infinitely not boring experience.  Yet it is not something that you can truly share in its unfettered joy and horror even with your wife.  To try to talk about your daily trials and tribulations would load an unnecessary burden on your intimates and really to what point?  It’s cryptic to anyone who is not living in it.  Each of our businesses is unique and peculiar, but the business ocean we swim in is common to all of us.

William-James-1890A place of real safety and discretion to talk openly with very smart, kick-ass successful fellow travelers is great.  I find myself relaxing with an almost palpable sigh when I enter the rooms of the IBOC.  And humor is frequently a predominant mode of sharing.  A lot of the humor is mordant and dark, but it comes out of an ambient sense of relief at being in a safe harbor, a non-darwinian grotto of relief from an darwinian world.  There is a glow of irenic happiness and of being with one’s own kind, one’s own little supportive ghetto.

This may not be a particularly profound thought, but participation in a safe, outside personal business community of peers is surely healthful to the business psyche.  And the release of business anxiety and uncertainty through humor frees up the animal spirits and the playfulness from whence cometh innovation and ideas.

Psychologist and philosopher William James said, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds.  A sense of humor is common sense, dancing.”  Thank you, William.

Comments 4 Comments »

Corporate Rain International on Facebook