Monday, March 29, 2010

A Timely Look at the Problem of Officer Retention in the Army

Last week I wrote a Blog piece that pointed to a recent Fortune magazine article about how attractive junior military officers have become to many Fortune 500 companies - especially if the officer has seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fortune article

The timing of the publication of the Fortune article is fortuitous, for it buttresses many of the arguments that are made in a recently published report on the issue of officer retention in the Army. My friend, retired U.S. Army Major General Stan Genega, was kind enough to make me aware of this study a few weeks ago.

Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps strategy for success: retaining talent

The study was presented in January of this year to the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College, and was authored by three West Point professors, Casey Wardynski, David S. Lyle, Michael J. Colarusso.

In this study, the three authors do a very thorough and admirable job of analyzing and offering prescriptions for the troublesome trends that exist in the Army's efforts to retain the services of its best officers. Retention rates have reached crisis proportion. I will offer several excerpts from the study, and finally a link to the full report for those who desire to delve more deeply into this issue that is vital to national security.

In general the Army (and, in my observation, all of our branches of military service) continue to operate with antiquated and inadequate doctrines and policies regarding human capital. One of the many reasons that officers are leaving the Army in droves is that the private sector is beginning to place a greater value than before on the skills and traits that our military officers embody - especially if they have seen combat in a counter-insurgency environment. The Fortune article cited above makes that point abundantly clear, as does this study by Messrs. Wardynski, Lyle and Colarusso.

This issue of the Army having to compete with the private sector job market falls in this study under the broad heading of "An Officer's Opportunity Cost."

"Factors that may affect an officer's opportunity cost include unemployment rates in the civilian sector, educational opportunities, potential civilian compensation, job satisfaction, and spousal employment opportunities. For the most part, the Army can do very little to influence an officer's opportunity cost - each person's is different, governed by the intersection of his or her talent set with current market conditions. Those with the highest opportunity costs are the ones with the most to gain by leaving the Army. Generally speaking, these officers possess the talent needed to perform well at the Army's highest levels because, as we have seen, there is a high correlation between the talents sought by the Army and those sought by the marketplace." (Pages 19-20)

The authors continue their argument by pointing out an issue that I have seen anecdotally as a serious barrier to the Army's ability to retain the best and the brightest of officers beyond their initial Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO). That issue is the lack of control than an officer has traditionally had over her or his own career development within the Army.

"Most officers desire an assignment that leverages their unique talent set. At the same time, the Army would benefit tremendously if it could successfully match an individual officer talents against requirements. Productivity would soar. Satisfaction would improve, leading to higher retention. Currently, however, there is no talent matching market mechanism, no way for Army strength managers and officers to make efficient talent transactions. As a result, the officer talent market fails to function optimally - in other words, assignment transactions still occur, but there is a significant mismatch in talent supply and demand." (Pages 21-22)

The authors have hit a bulls eye in identifying this sub-optimal market inefficiency. In my experience in dealing with officers who have decided to leave the Army, time and time again I have listened to stories of frustration that all have a similar theme: "I told the Army that if I could be guaranteed some control over getting a graduate degree, or where I would next be assigned, then I would stay in and continue serving, but the Personnel Officer told me, 'No way,' so I left reluctantly. Part of me feels guilty about leaving so many of my buddies behind who are continuing to serve, but the Army is just not wired to be able to deal with me as an individual and to take into account my individual and family needs and desires, so I was forced to leave."

In the officer retention study, the author single out for praise a very effective program first instituted in 2006 - the Officer Career Satisfaction Program (OCSP)

"The OCSP is a retention initiative designed with these principles in mind. . . . OCSP is offering to ROTC and USMA cadets prior to commissioning Cadets can obtain their branch of choice, post of choice, or a guaranteed option to attend graduate school in exchange for extending their commissioning ADSO by an additional 3 years. . . Unlike the CSRB (Critical Skills Retention Bonus), the OCSP is not a reactive policy designed to entice everyone to stay. Instead, it is squarely focused upon a large, poorly retaining population with talents the Army deems critical. . . Over the past 4 years, however, more than 4,000 cadets participated in the OCSP to secure their branch or post of choice, guaranteeing the Army more than 12,000 obligated man-years of service at no cost to the Army. Quite clearly, giving new officers some voice in their assignment process immediately increases their satisfaction and helps meet their expectations of service." (Pages 27-29)

It is my heart-felt hope that the top brass in the Army and in the broader DOD will listen to the kind of forward-thinking analysis offered by the authors of this study. While on a personal and professional level I will continue to trumpet the high value that military veterans offer to the private sector, as a loyal citizen, I want our Army to be led by the most capable officers it can train and retain. So, it is in all of our best interests to encourage the Army - and all of the branches - to jump into the 21st century and to consistently implement human capital policies that will allow our military to compete on even footing with the forces of the marketplace in the private sector.

I encourage you to read the full report linked below.

Here is a link to the entire article as published in

Entire Report on Officer Retention

Thank you, Major General Genega, for making us aware of this timely study.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Campaign for God - Some Beautiful Images

My friend, Alex, made me aware of this PowerPoint slide show that was put together as part of an ad campaign by the Church of Singapore to boost church attendance. The images are gorgeous.


Campaign for God Slide Show


"Baudolino" by Umberto Eco

I have become a huge fan of the writings of Umberto Eco, Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna. His novels, "The Name of the Rose," and "Foucault's Pendulum" are masterful in their complexity and erudition. So, I dove into "Baudolino" with eager anticipation. I must admit that I found the early chapters tough going. I was not sure that I cared about the characters that Eco had introduced. It felt like I was slogging through the first section of the book, but then I got my bearings and figured out what Eco was doing through the travels and adventures of the pathological liar and protagonist, Baudolino.

The author uses this character - and the rest of the menagerie that flesh out this picaresque tale - as foils that allow Eco to lay bare the absurdity of many intellectual and theological arguments that have created wars and rifts down through the centuries. Using "reductio ad absurdum" as a uniting motif, he puts into the minds and mouths of his characters some of the most ridiculous arguments ever to influence gullible minds. Eco is clearly having fun at the expense of some of history's most notorious charlatans, including those who have offered counterfeit relics. Eco takes great delight in poking fun at hypocrisy of every stripe.

In the excerpt to follow, he pillories the nitpicking Arian controversy that rocked the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 in which the nature of the substance of Christ became the cause for schism within the young Christian church:

"Caught up in the debate, the Poet asked: 'But if the Son, not incarnated, was only a ghost, then why in the Garden of Olives does he utter words of desperation and moan on the cross? What would a divine ghost care if they drove nails into a body that is pure apparition? Was he only putting on an act, like a mummer?' He said this, thinking to seduce - displaying acumen and desire for knowledge - the blemmy female he had his eye on, but he achieved the opposite effect. The whole assembly started shouting: 'Anathema! Anathema!' and our friends realized this was the moment to leave that Sanhedrin. And so it was that the Poet, through an excess of theological refinement, was unable to satisfy his coarse carnal passion." (Pages 397-398)

Along the way, the author treats the reader to adventures that test one's view of the nature of reality, truth, free will, faith, and the role of religion - for good and for ill - in the shaping of human history. The book is not for the intellectually faint of heart, but is a wonderful, rollicking and thoroughly satisfying journey that is worth taking.



Mini-Review: "Once a Spy" by Keith Thomson

I love discovering new authors whose work is worth reading. Keith Thomson is such an author. His debut novel, Once a Spy, is a thrilling read. The premise is a fascinating one. What happens when a former intelligence officer suffers prematurely from Alzheimer's disease and still holds in his head secrets that have national security ramifications? The answer is that the agency he worked for is forced to find a way to "neutralize" him.

The adventures that this former spy and his ne'er-do-well horse player of a son share in trying the evade capture and neutralization are thrilling and well told. Thomson has a wonderful eye for gritty detail that adds a layer of believability to the story that is very engaging. He has thrown together some wonderful plot elements that include the Russian mob, the Manhattan project, CIA safe houses, inter-agency rivalries and double dealing. Thomson is writing about matters that he has researched very carefully.

I am eagerly awaiting his next novel.



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Talent Alert - Boston Area Inside Sales

A client company of mine in the Boston area is in the process of expanding their sales force. There is an immediate need for an inside sales person. The ideal candidate will have 2-3 years of experience in sales, preferably selling to banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.

Within a few weeks, there will be additional needs for outside sales persons with 5-7 years of sales experience.

For details, contact me at


Fortune Magazine Article - Battle-Tested: From Soldier to Business Leader

A number of weeks ago I was interviewed by Brian O'Keefe, senior editor of Fortune Magazine for the article that is linked below. While I am not directly quoted in this article, his conclusions are very consistent with those that I have drawn over the past several years about the transferability to the business world of the skills our young military leaders are developing in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was gratified when the article first appeared that I heard from a number of individuals who all said the same basic thing: "Hey, there is this article in Fortune that is saying the same things you have been saying for years!"

I was able to put Mr. O'Keefe in contact with several individuals who are quoted in the article. See excerpts below for quotations from individuals I know, and the link at the bottom to access the full article, which is well worth reading:

"JMOs are heavily represented in elite management-development programs at other companies. A good example is PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500), where seven of the 25 coveted positions in its Leadership Development Program currently happen to be filled by junior officers. One of them is Donovan Campbell, a Princeton-educated former Marine who published a bestselling memoir last year called Joker One about his experience as a platoon leader in Iraq.

In 2008, Campbell was midway through his final year at Harvard Business School and had already accepted an offer from Pepsi when he was recalled from the reserves to deploy to Afghanistan. When he phoned his contact at Pepsi to explain, the company was more than supportive. Within a few hours the head of human resources had called to tell him that Pepsi planned to hire him early so he would earn the equivalent of a full salary while he was on active duty. He got an e-mail of support from CEO Indra Nooyi later that same day.

Now in his first assignment in the leadership program, Campbell is running a 167-person organization in a $100 million Frito-Lay sales zone in Dallas. He says that his job commanding a platoon has given him valuable perspective.

'Combat experience was very humbling, because mistakes happen,' says Campbell, who in Joker One details the anguish he experienced when several of his men were wounded and one was killed during his platoon's deployment to Ramadi in 2004. 'In school you're rewarded for not making mistakes. And then you get out and get a job, and a lot of times you get promoted because you make very few mistakes. And so what you do is you develop a mindset that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs. What you learn in the military is that it doesn't matter how hard you try or how good you are. One, you will make mistakes; and two, sometimes events or the enemy or a changing situation will mean that you do not succeed, and in fact you fail. And you become comfortable with the idea of, I do not have to have zero defects to be successful.'"

. . . .

"While officers such as Mumm and Campbell have leadership experience that their peers can rarely match, they are typically lacking in skills like financial modeling. So business school has become a popular way station on the road to the executive track. And the MBA programs are clamoring to have them.

Schools like MIT, New York University, and the University of Virginia have created special programs to market to junior officers. Harvard doesn't market specifically to veterans, but the current class of MBA students is about 3% ex-military. 'I would be happy to have that number go up,' says admissions director Deirdre Leopold.

And on a campus where ROTC hasn't been welcome since the turbulent days of Vietnam, vets get a warm reception. Maura Sullivan, a former Marine logistics officer who, like Campbell, went to HBS and is now in Pepsi's leadership program, was stunned when she first visited a class and the students stood and applauded for her. 'I had chills,' she says. 'That really drew me in to the school.'"

. . . .

"Still, the business world has been changing at a rapid clip too, and one has to wonder: Can a former officer who's used to issuing orders feel comfortable "leading" an eccentric computer programmer who does his best work at 3 a.m. while scarfing down Cheetos and may be more important to the company's bottom line than his boss?

There's no reason why not, argues Doug Raymond, 37, a former Army captain who is now the head of monetization for Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) in China. 'I don't think it's empirically true that it's difficult,' he says. But in his experience Silicon Valley is dubious about any sort of leadership paradigm and skeptical of structure. In his four years at Google, Raymond has never had any direct reports. To get people working on a project, he has to get them excited about an idea and lure them to meetings. 'Pretty soon they start asking for work, and all of a sudden you've got 35 people on it,' he says.

That environment may sound as un-military as possible, but Raymond says it's not really so different. 'I think the people who are doing interesting stuff in the military are very much entrepreneurial in mindset,' he says. 'And they don't look up for approval and permission to do stuff. They just are doing it, and then after a while, the chain of command recognizes that what they're doing has value, and they kind of put a veneer of respectability around it. And that's exactly how a tech company works.'"

Full Fortune Article - Battle Tested

More Wisdom from Seth Godin - When a Freelancer Changes the Game

Here are some more nuggets from Seth Godin on this glorious weekend day.

His comments about freelancers who do something extraordinary and great really resonate with me, so I want to share them. These thoughts are consistent with the theme of Seth's book, "Free Prize Inside." If we, as freelancers, consistently provide our clients with more than they thought they had contracted for, it creates loyalty and raises the relationship to a whole new level.

When a freelancer changes the game

Often, businesses hire freelancers (writers, photographers, process consultants, trainers) to solve a specific problem for the lowest possible cost. And a good freelancer at the right price is often the right approach.

Sometimes, though, you spend more and get something great. You seek out and find a linchpin who combines inspiration and professionalism and initiative and pushes back on your quest for average. When you interact with someone like that, you might pay more but you get far more than you paid.

I recently did a photo shoot with my friend Brian, and from the moment I walked into the studio, I discovered that he and his lighting guru were relentlessly pushing to change my perception of what was possible at the same time they were focused on overdelivering on the project. They had little interest in settling on merely doing a good job.

There's a lot of pressure for freelancers to fit in, conform and comply. It seems easier to generate new business that way. That's not really true. It's easier to become an easily-described commodity that way, but the person who's willing to push themselves out to an edge that matters is on the only path that actually leads to success.

And then it's up to the client to care enough about the project and in making a difference to have the guts to hire you.

Seth's Blog

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Moving Tribute from a West Point Teacher to a Fallen Student: "Man of Letters" by Elizabeth D. Samet

Elizabeth Samet teaches English at West Point to future warriors. She is a civilian. She has learned to relate to and care for the men and women who go abroad to fight our nation's wars. She has written a wonderful book about her West Point experience, "Soldier's Heart," which I reviewed in this Blog in the summer of 2008.

In the current edition of The New Republic, Dr. Samet offers a moving tribute to a fallen warrior who was one of her students:

"Department of Defense News Release No. 093-10, posted on February 3, 2010, announced that two soldiers, Captain Daniel P. Whitten, 28, of Grimes, Iowa, and Private First Class Zachary G. Lovejoy, 20, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 'died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device Feb. 2 in Zabul province, Afghanistan. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.' Capt. Whitten commanded C Company; Pfc. Lovejoy was one of his paratroopers.

Dan Whitten graduated from West Point in 2004. He was my student. Together, we read everything from Montaigne to The Maltese Falcon; we studied His Girl Friday, Citizen Kane, Grand Illusion, and Night and Fog. He was a kind of student I always hope to find in class: someone who keeps the rest of us honest. He was direct, impatient with muddled thinking, yet he delivered his arguments with such wit and humor and from a place of such scrupulousness that no one could justly resent a correction. He wrote a thesis with one of my colleagues on beauty and elegance in scientific theory, but he could be equally engaging on the subject of Braveheart (a film about which we disagreed) or Billy Madison (about which we were in absolute accord). And he made me laugh, which is something I note fewer and fewer people are able to do. He was buried Friday, February 12, 2010, in the West Point cemetery."

* * * * * * * * *

I encourage you to use the link below to continue reading this deeply moving paean to Capt. Whitten, Dr. Samet's "Man of Letters."

The New Republic Article

We have lost one more remarkable Renaissance Man.


More Gold from Seth Godin: On Self Determination

Seth Godin is someone whose postings I read on a daily basis. He was recently asked to re-publish one of his classic pieces on self-determination. I found it compelling enough to want to share it with readers of The White Rhino Report.


Seth Godin Piece

I posted this eight years ago (!) but a reader asked for an encore.

...are we stuck in High School?

I had two brushes with higher education this week.

The first was at a speech I gave in New York. There were several Harvard Business School students there, invited because of their interest in marketing and exceptional promise (that's what I was told... I think they came because they had heard that Maury Rubin would make a great lunch!).

Anyway, they asked for my advice in finding marketing jobs. When I shared my views (go to a small company, work for the CEO, get a job where you actually get to make mistakes and do something) one woman professed to agree with me, but then explained, "But those companies don't interview on campus."

Those companies don't interview on campus. Hmmm. She has just spent $100,000 in cash and another $150,000 in opportunity cost to get an MBA, but...

The second occurred today at Yale. As I drove through the amazingly beautiful campus, I passed the center for Asian Studies. It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.

Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into "trouble" with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.

The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.

Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it's a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you're reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.

Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It's pretty clear that the thing that's wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.

Cut class. Take a seminar on french literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.

Diane Darling in the Wall Street Journal Talking About Networking

My good friend, Diane Darling, networking guru extraordinaire, is featured in this Wall Street Journal article.


Wall Street Journal Article

A Networking Pro Learns Some New Tricks


Can you teach a dinosaur to dance? More importantly, can you teach him to network in 21st Century style? I was skeptical.

But George Langis, a veteran turnaround executive, dispelled doubts by learning new networking steps that may hasten his job hunt. He went from conventional handshake networking to creating a personal brand that would be easily marketable online. Though Mr. Langis still hesitates to plunge into "tweeting," his experience could benefit countless other older applicants with rusty job-hunting skills.

Isaac Brekken for the Wall Street Journal
Our experts considered George Langis, a veteran turnaround executive, a deft conventional networker who needed to broaden his online reach.

Unemployment among Americans age 55 and up has exceeded 6% every month since March 2009, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show. That represents the highest joblessness rate for this age group in almost 60 years. The rate, though, is lower than the overall jobless rate as well the rates for all other age groups.

Mr. Langis helped fix nine small and midsize concerns since 2000, following a lengthy corporate-finance career. His last turnaround gig, as interim chief executive of Turbine Generator Maintenance Inc. in Cape Coral, Fla., ended in late November.

At my request, three networking specialists devised innovative approaches for Mr. Langis after traditional tactics, such as his recent sessions with 79 contacts in eight cities, failed to bear fruit. He embraced nearly all of their ideas. They range from drafting a "networking profile" to joining a global network of expert consultants typically retained for an hour at a time.

"Dinosaurs do dance," insists Mr. Langis, a 63-year-old resident of Henderson, Nev., with broad shoulders and smiles. "I lead change in companies. I can certainly change."

He acquired his fresh dance steps from Alicia Whitaker, a New York executive coach; Stephanie Daniel, an outplacement counselor for a unit of Keystone Partners, a Boston human-resources consultancy; and Diane Darling, founder of Effective Networking Inc. in Boston.

For starters, they consider Mr. Langis a deft conventional networker. They cite his month-long "Sell George" tour this winter to see contacts he collected during his career. And then there's the regular email and telephone interaction with his roughly 500 best contacts-even while toiling 70 hours a week on a turnaround. "George does most of his critical networking face to face," Ms. Daniel observes.

Mr. Langis doesn't send text messages, "friend" anyone via Facebook or send tweets to people on Twitter, a micro-blogging service. Bolstering his outreach will produce "a more strategic and more defined network," Ms. Darling says.

For people like Mr. Langis who aren't yet comfortable about putting themselves on multiple social networks, there are some clever ways to create a presence online. Here are the top tips from his informal advisers:

• Develop a stronger online identity by revamping your résumé. Mr. Langis's résumé contained a vague summary statement, calling him "a seasoned executive" who served distressed and healthy businesses. To better catch someone's eye online, the experts encouraged him to tout his turnaround stints. Ms. Whitaker believes he could better convey his passion and experience with this summary statement: "I make sick companies significantly better for owners and employees." Mr. Langis says he altered the wording "the day it was suggested."

Ms. Daniel urged Mr. Langis to create a networking profile, too. The document typically describes a job seeker's 20 target employers, desired positions and career plans. It also contains a brief review of accomplishments. A networking profile "could increase the productive leads he receives from his networking contacts," Ms. Daniel says. He can present the document when he meets someone face to face for the first time or "he can store it online through LinkedIn," she says.

• Make better use of LinkedIn, a professional networking Web site. Heeding the trio's suggestions, Mr. Langis revived his inactive LinkedIn account. He expanded his barebones professional description and added 1,500 of his contacts to LinkedIn. Most of his contacts are private-equity industry players.

Mr. Langis discovered only 72 contacts belong to LinkedIn, which has more than 60 million members world-wide. "I hope my being there will attract those who are not among my current contacts," he says. He then inserted his simplified LinkedIn address below his automatic signature on email messages.

Ms. Darling suggests Mr. Langis solicit LinkedIn testimonials from prior bosses. Ms. Daniel thinks he should join specialized LinkedIn groups, such as the one for consultants with expertise in management changes and turnarounds, and connect with international professionals in his field.

• Create a more visible personal brand. Mr. Langis admits he lacks a well-known brand as a turnaround specialist. He never knew he might benefit, as Ms. Whitaker suggested, from consulting for a rent-an-expert network, which provides small doses of specialized information.

Gerson Lehrman Group, for instance, has enrolled about 250,000 experts world-wide. They typically earn about $350 an hour, according to Margaret Molloy, a senior vice president of the New York concern. Clients, which include private-equity firms, tap experts' knowledge through short phone calls or consultations over meals.

Positioning yourself as a thought leader this way will broaden your pool of potential employers, Ms. Whitaker told Mr. Langis. Private-equity companies "are not necessarily out in the market scanning for new talent all the time," she notes.

Ms. Darling believes Mr. Langis could further heighten his visibility if he gave speeches, wrote trade-press articles and taught Webinars for alumni of schools where he received degrees. "When you are a speaker, you are instantly networking with 100 people," she says.

Mr. Langis addressed a College of Southern Nevada class last week at the invitation of his handyman's son, who is a student there. He says he told business students "what I do and how I got there." His last campus speaking engagement occurred around 1998, the executive recalls.

• Get a bigger payoff from industry events. Mr. Langis usually finds himself so busy doing turnarounds that he lacks time for meetings of the Turnaround Management Association, a professional group. Ms. Darling says he should find the time to help the group arrange for speakers because he'll earn a program mention that pops up in Google when hiring managers check his name.

When he simply attends a conference, Mr. Langis might obtain the participant list in advance and arrange casual events for those he wants to know, Ms. Whitaker proposes. He could invite people for drinks or sit together at a certain breakfast table. Playing host "can be more effective than generally 'working the room,' " she adds. Mr. Langis rejected some of the recommendations, such as using Twitter. With brief Twitter messages, Ms. Daniel believes, he could update contacts about his search and alert them about interesting articles. "Give and take is what networking is all about," she says.

Mr. Langis, though, considers Twitter to be "a little bit hokey." Nevertheless, "I'm willing to try new things," he says.

His multi-month job search is "just taking longer than usual," Mr. Langis observes. But with these new strategies, he's confident that his hunt will soon experience its own turnaround.

Write to Joann S. Lublin at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Talent Alert in NYC and Tri-State Area for Non-Traditional Sales Person

I have a new client company in New York City - a fascinating niche beverage company. They are growing and now need someone on the ground as their sales person for NYC and the larger Tri-State area. I love the way the owner of this company thinks about finding the right person. They do not want the traditional sales person, but rather a creative, out-of-the-box thinker and human dynamo who will not easily take "No" for an answer in selling to upscale restaurants, hotels and similar high end establishments. In San Francisco, this company's successful sales person is a former folk singer. She is outperforming a colleague with many years of formal sales training!

So, here are some of the things we are looking for. If they fit you or someone you know, contact me at: This is a great opportunity for the right woman or man who loves to work hard and have fun doing it.

Desirable Traits for Tri-State Sales Person for Niche Beverage Company

  • A high energy individual who works well in a start-up environment
  • A person with a strong work ethic who is self-motivated and self-directed
  • A person who is by nature happy and smiling – to be the “face” of the company in NYC and environs
  • Someone who is resilient and can handle hearing “No,” and will come back to try again and again
  • A person who is detail oriented
  • A creative person with a great sense of adventure
  • A person who has not “learned” that it can’t be done, so goes out and does it his/her own way.
  • A person with a consistent positive mental attitude
  • A person who is excited about joining a young pioneering and growing company

Is this you? Do you know someone like this?

Let’s talk!


Monday, March 01, 2010

Battling Ambivalence About the War in Iraq: Review of "Senator's Son - an Iraq War Novel" by Luke S. Larson

Luke Larson served with the U.S. Marines Corps infantry officer and saw two tours of duty in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005 and 2007. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for valor. Larson has taken the full range of experiences that he and his Marines endured while serving in Iraq, layered those experiences with the symphony of emotions and memories that play in his head from his time in Iraq, and has crafted a novel that prompted USMC Major Marcus Mainz to write: "[This book is] the most realistic account of what actually happens in a rifle company during a counterinsurgency battle."

In choosing a poignant epigraph to lead Act II of his novel, Larson makes clear his intent in offering this book to willing readers and those eager to know the truth: "Those who do not battle for their country do not know with what ease they accept their citizenship. - Dean Brelis" (Page 65)

The author does a very effective job of illuminating a parody of the concept of the "strategic corporal," tying it into the arcana of Chaos Theory. The excerpt below succinctly captures some of the frustration that the author is seeking to convey about the "no win" situation that troops on the ground often face.

"'I get it,' said Rock breaking up the lieutenants' scuffle. 'It's the strategic corporal. A Marine on patrol looks at a butterfly flapping its wings, he isn't paying attention and BOOM - he gets killed by an IED. The next day, on a patrol, his squad leader at the tactical level, revenge murders some innocent Iraqis, 'cause his buddy got smoked the day before. then the shit goes sideways.

A reporter happens to be standing there and catches the whole thing on videotape. The tape then airs on . . . CNN and the excitement goes all the way up the chain. Everyone goes berserk with the story, the locals go nus, because the Marines murdered some innocent dudes and start rioting. Oh, by the way, CNN happens to video all this as well.

Pinko faggots in Berkley start protesting the war using this event as a catalyst. The story builds momentum and college kids and soccer moms across the nation You Tune the shit and jump on board. Generals make blurred statements not demonizing the Marine, but not protecting him either. The President at the strategic level sees this shit storm and fears he won't get re-elected because of it all; this causes him to pull all of the troops out of Iraq. Basically, butterfly flaps his wings in Ramadi, Iraq you get a shit storm in D.C.'" (Pages 89-90)

In another poignant scene, Larson demonstrates some of the immediate emotional impact of combat in an environment when an IED explosion could rip apart a day and the lives of dozens of Marines or soldiers or innocent bystanders.

"'So, you don't feel bad about it at all?' questioned Rogue. 'You shot a pregnant lady.'

'Well, I honestly feel we did our best. It is an unfortunate situation.'

He his his emotions. The three lieutenants sat in silence. Cash shook the thoughts of the ambulance out of his head. I was almost killed by that IED blast.

He looked down at the cubed eggs and freezer-burned hash browns. which were cold from sitting untouched for forty minutes. He realized he failed to eat a single thing in two days, his remorse changed to hunger. He was starving as he thought about his near-death experience. He looked at the cold eggs and his mouth salivated. For the first time in their deployment, despite the complications, he felt like they had made some progress. We did it! We kept the polling center open.

Before he took the first bite, a story that his father once told him flashed into his head. A man that almost died while climbing Mount Hood in an Oregon winter storm years ago, told his father the morning after the event, he ate his best meal of his life. The climber told Cash's father that if he had captured the ingredient of that meal, he could have made millions by serving it in a restaurant. His entire life he never recaptured the ingredient.

'The ingredient,' said Cash's father, 'is the experience of near death.'

Cash took the first bite of the cold eggs and then enjoyed the best meal of his life."
(Pages 96-97)

Larson, who clearly loves the Marines Corps while holding a realistic view of its deficiencies, writes movingly about love for the Corps:

"Heath looked at the naive lieutenant debating whether or not to tell him the truth.

'Do you love the Marine Corps?'

Cash thought about all of the Marines in his platoon and his squad leaders. He remembered his father pinning on his gold bars when he got commissioned. He thought about the other lieutenants.

'Yes, sir, I love the Marine Corps.'

'That's what I want to talk to you about Cash,' replied Heath. 'How many times have you called your wife since we've been over here?'

Cash took a deep breath, he thought about Jill all the time, and wanted to call her every day. In Iraq five months had passed and he had only called five times. He did not answer the question.

'You see, I know we're busy and the shit we're doing is important. Hell, if you don't give everything you have to fight, your Marines might pay the price. I know you know this and I see you give everything you have to the Marines.'

Cash looked down at the ground.

'The problem with loving the Marine Corps is this. It will chew you up and spit you out, no matter how hard you work.'

The lieutenant looked up at Heath.

'Cash, the Marine Corps is only in love with one thing and that's the Constitution. It does not matter if you are a good man, the Marines Corps will not love you.'" (Pages 123-124)

Finally, Larson makes a compelling case for the extraordinary level of responsibility that as been pushed down to the level of privates, lance corporals and platoon leaders.

"'Sir, this is a new war,' said Rogue. 'I trained to shoot, move, and communicate and here I am practically the mayor of the Thaylet.'

'Do you know what DIME stands for?' asked Breedlove.

'No,' replied the two lieutenants.

'DIME means Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military and Economics,' said Breedlove. 'This is essentially our foreign policy approach. You gentlemen are conducting foreign policy at the company; the decisions you are making at your level were reserved for colonels and generals when I was in the Army.' (Page 231)

Larson has done a wonderful job bringing us behind the scenes and into the heart and mind of the Marines serving in Ramadi.

I expect this book to develop a broad readership.