Poll: How Much Does the Weather Affect Your Spending Habits?

Here in Ontario, Canada, over the last many weeks, we’ve been getting a pretty steady dose of “Extreme Cold” weather alerts, colder-than-average temperatures, and snow.

Lots of snow.

snow-storm-596351_1280The situation is the same in many parts of the Northeast United States, where cities like Boston have, reportedly, had enough of the white stuff to last few winters.

People are quick to crank and moan about the weather. And many business people I’ve encountered find weather an quick excuse for when things slow down. My question this month is, Does the weather really affect what you do and how you spend your money?

Please let me know what you think by casting a vote in this poll and/or leaving a comment in the space below, or on my Twitter or Facebook. Thanks!

 

Using Facebook To Market Your Small Business? Be Careful

In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.

But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.

I recently asked, in an online poll on my website (www.kevinbulmer.com) and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).

The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.

However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):

02-21-15 - d74g0n Twitter post

Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.

And be careful.

If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:

Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:

From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.

But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.

Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.

Facebook says 235 people “Like” this page. A modest amount, sure, but note how immediate is the offer to is promote (i.e., “buy” more exposure) the page. I’d be more likely to consider that if my updates were first delivered to the people who already agreed to see them …

 

In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.

Huh.

I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.

If 235 people 'Like' this page,

If 235 people ‘Like’ this page, why are these posts reaching only 17 and 40 people, respectively?

In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?

When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).

Hmm.

Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.

Here’s what I did:

I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.

Here’s a screen capture of the Facebook page for the yet-to-exist band I call “Mutineer.” Note the “Boost Post” option that accompanies every update. Sidenote: I just now realized how the song lyric that was posted here (which is a real lyric) is very appropriate to this article.

I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.

And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).

I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.

Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.

Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:

– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)

If you want to check these for yourself, go to http://www.mutineer.ca and click on the images of those who like the Mutineer Facebook page, on the widget on the right-hand side of the page

Do you think I’m likely to run into any of these people at an upcoming Extreme or Volbeat concert? I highly doubt it.

By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!

It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.

Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.

I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.

Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.

In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.

Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 5: Rob Hogendoorn of Forest City Community Church

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Rob Hogendoorn.

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Rob Hogendoorn

The Senior Pastor at Forest City Community Church in London, Ontario, Rob is one of my favourite people to be around. He is, to me, the epitome of both a friend and a mentor, and he is always generous with his time.

In my conversation with Rob, he shared some great perspective that I feel will be extremely valuable to any goal-oriented person, such as the need to have a clear vision to begin but also remaining open to new detours and opportunities, the importance of finding and empowering the right people, and why it’s necessary to be both persistent and patient.

Another key takeaway from my chat with Rob had to do with the idea of “overnight success,” and what it truly takes to achieve the kinds of results worthy of being labelled as such. Rob also reinforced for me the reality that sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them to, and not only is that still okay, but it can actually prove to be even better and more memorable than if things had gone according to plan all along.

Here is my conversation with Rob Hogendoorn.

KB: How did you find your way to London (from Vancouver)?

Rob: It was a combination of things. One is that my wife grew up here, so we had some connection to London. And we lived here for a little bit after we got married.

When you get out into British Columbia, you get so taken by the majesty and the beauty of the place, and the softer climate and all of that. And that’s why people rarely move back. And we had that for five years. We were like, “This place is just amazing – it’s just so beautiful.” But somehow we had just kept a soft spot in our hearts for London.

And then a situation turned up where I was able to find a bit of funding for me to basically pay my salary the first couple of years while I was trying to start a new church here, but it was kind of limited to the London region, this funding. And because the desire was so imbedded in my heart to start a certain kind of church, because that was all taking shape in my mind while we were living in Vancouver, and then the opportunity came and a little bit of that financial means – I had four young kids under the age of 8 and I thought I at least need to feed them and clothe them while I’m trying to do this thing – we took the opportunity.

So it was that convergence of those two things. But the sense of what it (the church) would be like, the kind of way it would function, that started to take root in my mind in 1989, 1990, 1991 – somewhere around in there.

KB: Can you tell me more about the things that were stirring inside you, both in terms of having the sense of needing to move on and in terms of the idea for what became Forest City Community Church? What was going through your heart and mind?

Rob: I’d say two things on it. One is the vision for how it would look increasingly took shape by the fact that I grew up in a church-going family and gave my life to Christ at a pretty early age. And then when I was a pastor of a church, it was kind of a traditional church and it was a church that was really great for people who were born and raised in it, and never really strayed. But increasingly I started really resonating with the need for 85-90% of Canadians for whom that’s not their story.

Probably 85-90% of Canadians, they might have some perspectives on faith and God but they certainly don’t have a very strong integrated personal experience of God and they certainly don’t have a meaningful way in which that’s lived out in a church community.

And so increasingly I thought, “How could we develop a church that would make sense and engage the 85% of Canadians?” And that’s where the kind of model and method and style and approach and philosophy of Forest City Community Church came increasingly clear in my head and in my heart, and what it would look like and what it would feel like and how it would function.

And then it became a matter of saying, “Okay, what things are going to have to happen for that to happen?” And, “What things am I going to have to try to put in place to see that take shape?”

A lot of it had to do with finding some of the key personalities and leaders who could give rise to some of these dimensions of what this church actually is now, because I couldn’t do it all. So I had to find and build a sub-team of people who resonated with that vision but they could take a different piece of it and push that piece of it out.

So that’s really what I ended up doing in the first five years, was really honing that team of people and supporting them and working with them and then together, all these different aspects of the church’s ministry just started to take shape.

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KB: What was the response, if any, from the traditional church community when you first got started? What was that like in the early days?

Rob: You know, it was pretty simple I think, because nobody knew about us. We were nobody. We were just a group of kids, really. I mean I was 30 or 31 years old and all of my other leaders were in their 20’s and we were just a little rag-tag collection of some people doing this little thing. So I don’t think anybody noticed.

KB: And at this stage, you were at Saunders (Secondary School)?

Rob: At that stage we were at Ashley Oaks Public School. After about 5 years, we grew out of that. And then we went to Saunders, and we were there for 7 years.

KB: So the church at this point is more of an intellectual and spiritual entity as opposed to any kind of bricks and mortar?

Rob: Absolutely. And I didn’t feel tension with other churches in the city at all because, first of all, we weren’t trying to reach their people. We were trying to reach people that were not going to church. And most of them were just really quite thrilled about that because many of them would like to have been more effective at that too. But for most of the years, you’re just kind of on your own at it and you don’t even think anybody’s noticing.

KB: What point was it when you realized that this had gained enough traction that you thought, “Wow, we’ve created a going concern here that is going to be somewhat of a long-term, established commitment.” When did that first occur to you?

Rob: It’s a good question. I think that, on one level, I know that for the first 10 years easily, we wondered all the time whether this was going to work.

KB: Ten years?

Rob: (Laughs) Oh yeah. Easily.

KB: I think it’s important to hear that. So many people – and I’ve been guilty of this as well – they think that everything comes right away, or should. And that’s not reality. Every overnight success is born of a lot of time with your sleeves rolled up.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. It was probably 10 years before I sort of thought, “Wow, I guess this might actually work.” And then the other thing is, I would say this: I still sort of think of it in my heart as this fledgling little community trying to reach into the lives of people who are not super-connected to God. So I still think of us in a very primitive state actually. I don’t think of us as this going concern. I think of us as, “Wow, we’ve got a pretty good start.”

KB: Do you think that’s what allows your curiosity to continue to flourish?

Rob: Yes, I think so. You’re probably right.

KB: So Rob, when you talk about that 85-90% of people who don’t regularly go to church, what it is about Forest City Community Church that does seem to connect with them?

Rob: I guess I would say that there are a number of things but one of them would rise to the top for me. It’s two of our core values are Biblical truth and cultural relevance. Without a strong, truly transformative, authoritative message, you don’t have anything for people. But at the same time, if you’re not engaging people in a truly culturally relevant way and in a way that addresses life today, and communicates in the way that life is lived today and the realities people have today, if you’re not bringing those two to bear on each other, you’re also missing the boat. So that’s what we work really hard to do.

KB: I’m interested in what it’s like for you, where you are the leader here in a number of different senses, in finding the balance in being able to be confident wearing that day after day, but also knowing that you’re an individual that is probably looking for guidance as well.

Rob: A couple of things come to my mind. One is that I think it’s important to not try to do this alone. There’s no doubt that I have a central, visible, pivotal leadership role in this church and this faith community. But I think that if you try to do that in isolation, it’s dangerous because I’m fallible just like everybody else is fallible. So I can get off track. I can make mistakes just like anybody else can. And I’ve made my share. So that’s where you’ve got to be careful.

It’s important for me to have people around me who I am also learning from, bouncing ideas off of, who are either bringing good ideas or confirming ideas I have. So we have a small elder board, a little team. We’ve got some senior staff people and then I also stay networked with pastors of other larger churches in North America that also are communities and not just try to do this in isolation. So that’s the one side.

But the other side of it is that I believe that when you have a calling from God, when you know you have been called to do something, you have to also believe that He’s going to give you what you need to do it. And if you really have sensed and believe that you have that calling, you work very hard to stay close to Him and you experience how He repeatedly, and I’ve seen this for 21 years, how He continues to come through and confirm that call with wisdom at the right time, with resources at the right time with people at the right time. So in that way, you have to keep a healthy sense of humility about your dependence on other people and God while also recognizing the importance of the role you have.

Forest City Community Church on Bostwick Road in London, ON

Forest City Community Church on Bostwick Road in London, ON

KB: As we’re having this conversation, we’re sitting inside the church. When did this building even become the seed of a thought, and then where did it go from there?

Rob: We started the church with just a dozen people and, literally, in a living room. And then the church started growing in that little Elementary School in White Oaks (a neighbourhood in London, Ontario). And it continued to grow and then we went into Saunders (Secondary School) and like I said, we spent 7 years there. So we were in rented facilities for 12 years before we built anything with physical bricks.

In the Saunders era, as the church was growing and we were reaching people, maybe 3, 4, 5 years in, we started realizing, “Okay, the rental facilities, as useful as this has been, is starting to become limiting to the vision.” And like we mentioned before, when you know what your vision is, it makes it a little easier to say ‘yay’ to that, ‘nay’ to that. When we realized that our vision was starting to get limited by rental facilities, then the option became maybe, “Is it time for us to build a facility that can continue to facilitate the vision and the mission of this church?”  So those thoughts and conversations started happening in that era, which would have been about 10, 11 years ago.

And then we started thinking about, “well what would that kind of facility look like?” And so we got some architects and interestingly, our first architects were people who were not church architects at all. They’d never been involved in a church. Because that’s the other thing: you typically will get a church architect, and we decided, no, we don’t want a church architect because they’re going to be thinking about building a church building and we wanted to find an architect that’s going to think a bit outside the box with us on what the facility could look like that could facilitate the vision of the church.

So we did that and then took them to some other places to kind of give them ideas of what buildings could look like. And then we just started the process here of just starting to put numbers down on paper, putting a bit of a design together.

We sort of thought, “Right now we have this amount of people, and if the growth continues, in 10 years from now we’re going to have ‘this’ amount of people, well then we have to find a way to build something that ultimately could be facilitating THAT many people when we don’t have THAT many people to pay for it right now.” So how do we do that?

So we developed a master plan of the facility, just sort of dreaming crazy of what this facility could grow into over the years. But then we broke it down into components and we built the first component. And then 3 years later we build the next component and then 3 years later we built the next component and then a couple years later we built the next component and we just kept adding components as the church continued to grow and as we continue to expand some of our generosity base of people who could actually be part of these expansions. So in a nutshell, that’s sort of how it came to be.

KB: What was it like, the first service here?

Rob: Oh, it was amazing! Actually the first service we had was outside. This was all parking lot, for the first service, where we’re sitting now. And we had our Grand Opening morning – this is a bit of a side point to what you’re asking – and we had announced it at Saunders, that everything was lined up, next week was our opening on Bostwick Road. And that week, the final inspectors came and the Fire Inspector came and there were a couple of things he did not like, that didn’t meet his standards. I don’t blame him, but he just said – and this on a Friday afternoon – he said, “You cannot open this building on Sunday.” And we were like, “Are you kidding me? We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people that are going to be showing up, because that’s what we said last week (he chuckles)!”

So we had to make a decision. What we did is set up a stage outside in the parking lot, right there (points outside) and we had a little outdoor service, and there were hundreds of people standing here for the very first service. And it was magical, because it was a great moment.

Our Creative Arts Director, who is still on the staff, I remember him getting up and he said something about, “You know, this is just a great reminder to all of us that that’s not the church. This is the church. The church is the people here. The church is not that thing.”

And I think we’ve tried to never forget that.

Poll: Does Facebook Still Matter To You?

Facebook questionI’ve been learning and exploring the opportunities behind various kinds of social media, particularly as it relates to businesses, artists and the like. The one I’m least sure of these days is … Facebook. So I’m curious about your thoughts on how, if at all, Facebook still fits into your life. Please vote and/or comment below, or on my Twitter or (ahem) Facebook page, and I’ll share the results soon.

 

Thanks for your feedback!

– KB

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 4: Kyla Woodcock of Forest City Sport & Social Club

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Kyla Woodcock.

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla is the founder of the Forest City Sport & Social Club, a co-ed, recreational sports league designed to bring people together for fun, to meet new friends, and to stay fit while giving back to  the community. Built upon Kyla’s vision and values, the club has been an amazing hit, and has since expanded to Windsor (Rose City Sport & Social Club).

From the moment I met her, I’ve admired Kyla. When I talk with Kyla, I find myself both wanting to learn from her and to try and find a thought to challenge her. I am always interested in what she will say or do next. And I am never disappointed.

Kyla’s story fascinates me. In telling parts of it, she relates some powerful perspective that any entrepreneur should find valuable.  As I listened to her talk about her journey, I caught myself on numerous occasions thinking, “People need to hear/see this.” And now they can.

Here is my conversation with Kyla Woodcock:

KB: Where were you professionally before you even started to get the seeds of the idea for FCSSC?

Kyla: My background is in business and human resources. I worked for a large corporation in the technology industry until the bubble burst in the early 90’s.

It found it relatively easy to find a really great HR job really early in my career and I immediately started traveling with that company, and other companies within the industry, because everything was going so fast in tech at the time.

I moved all over the country with those tech companies doing HR stuff and then, the classic story, I became completely exhausted of that life after about 7 or 8 years, being early in my own professional story and moving around incessantly. I was never close to family and I missed every birthday party and I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any kids and I was pushing 30 years old and thinking, “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m tired.”

When the tech industry experienced a significant downturn I had to severance a whole bunch of people out of work. In HR, that was my job I wrote myself a package too. I just said, “I’ve had enough.”

KB: What was going through your mind and heart at that time?

Kyla: I was exhausted. I saw the opportunity. I knew the company had to decrease the payroll and I knew that we didn’t need another HR person to do the recruiting, performance manage and compensation strategy because we just lost the 500 people for whom that HR person was responsible.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

KB: When, along that timeline, did what has turned into FCSSC start to germinate as an idea, let alone a business plan?

Kyla: There was a period in the early days of my career in HR that I actually got to settle at the head office of one of the companies I worked for and that was in Ottawa. And so I started to invest a bit into a local lifestyle.

It was just pure, off the clock play time. It was what I really needed and I found when I joined the sport and social club. And I became friends with Nicki, the woman who started the club in Ottawa. Her story was not dissimilar to mine. She started her cub having leaving the tech industry. She was a couple of years ahead of me. We’re still friends to this day.

KB: So was it that time that the thought came to you, “Maybe I can do something like this in another market?”

Kyla: It wasn’t until after I took time off. I left the corporate job that I was in, and then I traveled for over a year. I just didn’t work at all. I sold my house and everything in it. I literally put clothes in a backpack and started traveling. I traveled through the South Pacific mostly.

FCSSC donated over $7,000 and made countless equipment donations to various local charities in 2014 alone.

FCSSC donated over $7,000, along with countless equipment donations, to various local charities in 2014 alone.

KB: You did that by yourself?

Kyla: By myself. And I met fabulous people along the way. Totally fabulous people.

And then I came home because my grandfather passed away. I had intentions of going back overseas. I wasn’t sure I was done traveling; I still wanted to see more; I didn’t really want to get another job and I was fortunate because I still had a little bit left in the bank. The plan was always to spend it until it was gone and I still had countries on the list and so I was going to go back. But I didn’t.

I got home and I reconnected with my family during that stay at home and realized there was too much I was missing out on.

KB: What did you learn about yourself that that time?

Kyla: Oh. What didn’t I learn about myself? I took a lot of my identity from who I was in the corporate world and what people recognized me as being good at. I was chasing that next great big title and I was needing to be at the boardroom table and part of every corporate decision because that made me valuable and important. And then when I stepped away from all of that, I realized that’s not how I needed to be important.

Being important for me is being there for my husband and kids, parents and my siblings. That’s being important. Being there for my friends and being somebody that people can rely on. Being in the big chair at the boardroom table … I don’t care about that anymore.

KB: And at that time, at that point in your life, you’re doing what you just think that you’re supposed to be doing.

Kyla: Yeah! Everybody always said, get a great job and get out there and work and it’s all about realizing your earning power and putting your degree to work. You spent thousands of dollars at university: do something with that. You know?.

KB: So you end up doing everything that you’re “supposed” to do and you wind up exhausted and empty.

Kyla: Something like that.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

KB: I’d like to talk a little bit about FCSSC.

Kyla: Sure!

KB: Fast forward then to how that came together and why?

I still had ambitions to finish schooling. I had an undergrad degree but I’d always wanted my Masters in business and I decided that I was going to make time for that. So I went to Ivey and did my MBA (Masters in Business Administration) there and when I graduated, I didn’t want to do what I’d always done. It didn’t make sense to me that that was a good use of the investment in my education. I wanted to do something else.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My dad is an incredibly successful entrepreneur. So is my mom. My stepdad is a successful entrepreneur too. I wanted to try. And that’s where the club came from. The club was my entrepreneurial attempt that was perfectly fitted to the lifestyle that I wanted for myself.

I wanted connection to my community and I wanted more fun factor in my life. I wanted the chance to meet really great people every single day and I wanted to be in a business that naturally had the opportunity to do good. The club ticked all of those boxes, so it was an absolute no-brainer.

KB: You’ve just had your 5th anniversary, which is fantastic. Congratulations.

Kyla: Thank you.

KB: Where are you hoping to go from here?

Kyla: Wherever the membership of the club wants us to go. If they want a new sport, then we’re going to work on getting them a new sport. If they want a huge party or event once a year, then let’s get a huge party event once a year. If they want 50 partners in the network of the Forest City Sport & Social Club then we’ll work on 50 partners in the network. The club is a member-based organization and what we set our sights on as the organizers of the club is directly related to what the members are telling us they want the club to be and do. So I don’t dictate that. We plug in and respond.

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KB: And it sounds like you’re trying to manage that organically, as opposed to go back to what you experienced in the tech world, where it got too far out ahead of itself and fell in. So the growth, doing it at the right speed, is important.

Kyla: Yes. Absolutely true. We’ve had lots of ideas for different things that we haven’t actually done. And we don’t flip the switch on those ideas because it’s maybe not what the membership is looking for from us at that point in time.

KB: That’s a valuable lesson that I wish I could go back and teach my 20 and 30-something year-old self.

Kyla: Yeah.

KB: Just because you have a card in your hand doesn’t mean now’s the time to play it.

Kyla: That’s right. And for us, that’s absolutely true.

At the same time, we have the ability, for example, to expand the concept to other markets. There are lots of cities near and far from here that don’t have a sport & social club. And the joy of creating it for me, making those connections and bringing rays of sunshine to the people in those communities when they come and play with us once a week, when we take them off the clock and we give them that carefree play time, I take a lot of pride in that and I think it’s super cool that that’s my work.

No Schedule Man Store – Now Open!

The No Schedule Man Store is now open for business! You can get to it directly by clicking here, or by selecting the “Shop” page on this website’s main menu bar.

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Though each of Kevin’s CDs have been available for some time through online retailers around the world (e.g., iTunes, CD Baby, etc), it’s been years since the rest of Kevin’s “No Schedule Man” and “Hope Over Hurt” merchandise has been made available online.

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Among the merchandise now available for purchase are some “No Schedule Man – No Plan Is All Part of the Plan” and “Hope Over Hurt” lyric t-shirts. Only a handle of each shirt remain from the original “No Schedule Man” CD launch in 2010.

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Also now available in the store are “No Schedule Man” and “Hope Over Hurt” ball caps and “From the Desk of … No Schedule Man” notepads.

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Hard copies of all three of Kevin’s CDs (“Solo: the Return of No Schedule Man,” “No Schedule Man,” and “I Remember”) are in the store as well. Currently, this is the only place to get a hard copy of the “Solo” CD, other than at a concert or other performance by Kevin.

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As an added bonus, all orders will receive a FREE one-size black band bracelet inscribed with the words “Hope Over Hurt, Soul Over Skin” along with the Kevin Bulmer Enterprises footprint/music note logo.

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Shop quick before the t-shirts are all gone, and please share with your friends. Thanks!

 

Great Seasoning, These Sounds

It may well be that my favourite part of this time of the year is the music. Ever since I can remember, I have found the sound of many voices together to be incredibly moving. Christmas music notes

When concert-goers take over for the singer and deliver the vocals of a tune as one, my voice sometimes catches and I have trouble singing along. Even in the car, when the mood strikes, I will sing along with a song and, beginning to sing a harmony part, the vibrations will kick in, and my emotions will often swell up and bubble over.

Heck, I’ll even get choked up hearing thousands of people sing the national anthem en masse at a hockey game.

There’s just something about several voices blending together that makes me feel full of hope.

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One of the first recollections I have of this sensation came from a Christmas Eve church service. I was just a kid. I recall that my family and I were in the balcony, the perfect spot to absorb some beautiful sounds. I’m sure there were many songs sung that evening, yet the one I recall clearly was “Silent Night.” Hearing, and feeling, all those voices collectively offering such a gentle song into the atmosphere was a wonderful thing to behold. I will never forget the feeling that overtook me when my grandmother, who was standing and singing beside me, began to sing in harmony to the rest of the congregation, during the third verse of the song. I was young enough that I didn’t really know what “harmony” was, but I vividly remember how completely beautiful it sounded and how I immediately became emotional at the sound and didn’t quite know why. It was one of the sweetest things I could ever remember hearing, and I’ve been hooked on harmony and people singing as a group ever since.

I once wrote a song lyric that says, “One voice alone can be enough to lift an angel’s wings.” I love the line, and believe it to be true. But adding a second voice can give you the vibration of harmony. Add even more, and you begin to generate an energy that fuels a real spirit of hope and togetherness.

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Regardless of what you celebrate or recognize at year’s end, I bet that music is some kind of key part of it. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Music, to me, is the sound of creativity expressed and hope kept alive. If I’m right, the more voices, the better.

Too Many Cooks? Not in this Kitchen: Why Business Cares Food Drive Has It Right

You may have heard the line, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s a phrase not usually offered as a positive observation when trying to reach a goal.  I’m reminded of it now, in the throes of  an annual collaborative effort to gather as much food as possible for people in need in my community.

This particular “kitchen” is crowded with A-type cooks. And yet it works.

The Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

A whole cast of characters came out to support the Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

I’m in my third year as part of the organizing committee for the Business Cares Food Drive in London, Ontario. It’s taken me until now to fully accept and embrace that this committee runs counter to most others I’ve experienced. While this three-week-plus sprint to raise food and donations for our local food bank has many different activities and agendas as part of it, the whole thing seems to steer itself in a common direction, driven by good feelings and genuine positive efforts.

I believe there is a strong lesson in it.

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

The brainchild of Wayne Dunn (current committee Chair and owner of County Heritage Forest Products in London) and Ed Holder (Member of Parliament, London West), Business Cares was born 15 years ago and has since seen all kinds of companies from this area come together to reach a common goal: feeding people in need. Wayne leads by setting the example, creating the timeline and then empowering people to run with the ball. To his credit, Wayne runs harder and faster than anyone else. But when someone comes along with a new idea that could help bolster the overall effort, not only does Wayne not micromanage them to fit the brand or to mold their efforts into the way he might do things, but he is likely to have encouraged and empowered that person or group within moments instead. By doing so, he gives these people a sense of ownership and pride in their end of it. And so they go, and it all rushes forward in a gush of hopeful inertia that concludes by feeding a lot of hungry people.

As a person who works in marketing, I sometimes get antsy sitting at the committee table as we continue to splinter off the main “brand” (Business Cares) to create other off-shoots that are smaller (but very important) parts of the bigger goal. Usually, you want to keep to one defining brand name and stick to it, otherwise you risk confusing people. But the many cooks in the Business Cares kitchen have their own unique ways of contributing and a lot of terrific sub-brands have been the result. Some examples are “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” (where sports fans are encouraged to bring food donations to the Budweiser Gardens arena prior to select dates for the IBL’s London Lightning basketball team and the OHL’s London Knights hockey team), Golfer’s Care” (a one-night event that gathers local golf enthusiasts for an evening of fundraising and entertainment) and what has come to be known as “Metro Weekend”  (a two-day volunteer effort of canvassing in front of several local grocery stores). Each of these activities could be their own brands and/or stand-alone efforts in their own right. But they aren’t. It could all end up being confusing. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the machinery and magic that is the larger effort called Business Cares. And it works.

At this past weekend's Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

At this past weekend’s Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

You’ll sometimes hear negative things about big business. You may hear some not-so-nice things about small business, too. And yet I believe that the world of business remains similar to people in general: most of them are good and decent. A select few sometimes cloud it for the rest. But when something like this rolls around, I’m reminded of just how kind-hearted and hard-working most people can be.

Businesses of all kinds get involved. Over 400 companies find a way to contribute what they can to Business Cares. Some challenge other industry competitors to raise the most food. Some rally their staff and adopt the cause as their own. And some simply display a poster and drop box for food. All of it is valuable.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

It will all wrap up at County Heritage Forest Products on Tuesday, December 23rd. There will be last-minute cheque presentations and other eleventh-hour surprises that morning. There always are. It is, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas and a reminder that the true spirit of the season does still exist. It is genuinely heartwarming.

Wayne says that “Taking care of business means taking care of people.” Ironically, it’s people that have to take care of any business. And in this case, the businesses come together to help more people. And when those people are empowered and truly believe in what they’re doing, they work, put their egos aside, and are well-equipped to successfully arrive at a mutual, positive goal. Business Cares is proof of this, and I give Wayne Dunn and everyone who participates loads of credit for it.

In my experience, it usually doesn’t work to have “too many cooks.” But this is a crowded, happy kitchen that thrives because it’s driven by genuine good feelings and honest efforts.

You’re welcome to join us.

Please bring more food.

Business CaresFor more information about Business Cares and to learn how to donate or participate, please visit www.businesscares.ca or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

“Tops For Bottoms,” and Why the Middle Matters Most

My late grandfather once owned a plumbing business. During that time, he had promotional plastic key chains made up that were molded to look like toilet seats. Along with his business name and contact information, each toilet seat proclaimed his business was “Tops for Bottoms.”

I still think that’s funny. And I got thinking of it again the other day, when I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts, where references to the “top” and the “bottom” both came up.

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During the program, the two hosts were discussing the potential merits, or drawbacks, of taking on a professional role of significant leadership and heavy responsibility, and why anyone would want such a job. Offered as a consideration against it, one of the hosts quipped, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Almost immediately, the other responded with, “Yeah, but it’s a long way up from the bottom.”

Tops and Bottoms.

My conclusion? Both are somewhat correct, but it’s the thought of an existence of a top and bottom at all that serves an example of how, in much of North American culture at least (and in my opinion), we’ve got it all wrong. We want to slap labels on everything, including ourselves, so as to define our lives as one thing or the other. We are constantly comparing ourselves to, and hinging our contentment on, how we stack up versus other people. We view these out-of-context comparisons as barometers of success or failure, allowing us to gauge how close we are to reaching the “top,” and how far we’d need to fall to hit “bottom.”

All too often, when we do finally hit the heights to which we’d originally aspired, be it a new job or a new car or a fancy house or even entering into a relationship, we end up disappointed and deflated after but a short while.

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I have been in leadership roles. And it can be lonely, if you allow it to be. But even when you’re at the “top” of your specific set of criteria, as an achievement-oriented person, you’re also keenly aware that there are many others well above you yet. And so, though you may indeed feel as if you’re at the top, you may feel lonely because of it and burdened from the emotional weight you bear. You may also be exhausted by the thought of how far you’ve yet to go to reach the heights – or acquire the things – achieved by so  many others.

I now realize that I’ve spent far too much of my life thinking, “If this, then that” will transpire and make everything better once it’s occurred (whatever “this” or “that” happen to be). After a few decades, I finally began to understand that, no matter where I was or what I’d achieved, I was always there, with all my evolving thoughts, feelings and emotions with me. There was no magic answer. There is no “there.”

I realized there was no such thing as “the top.” And yet, I still chase after it.

Conversely, I’ve been down, at home and at work, as just about anyone else has at one point or another. And when you feel you’ve hit “bottom,” it can feel overwhelming to work your way back up, so much so that you rarely stop to ask, “Back up to what?” And, “What for?” It could be, and likely is, that you’re just fine exactly as you are.

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What really is the “bottom” anyway? It could be ten different things to ten different people. And even when I reached what I would consider the furthest depths of my own personal cellar, I still had a safe place to stay, family and friends who loved me, food to eat and time to reflect.

Not so bad. In fact, it was appealingly simple. And yet I’m scared to go back to it.

Ironically, I’ve always found what I consider to be “bottom” to be a catalyst for new beginnings and new learning. It’s ironic because I’ve often had the exact same – initially hollow and empty – feeling each time I’ve reached “the top” (i.e., fulfilled a goal or some kind of achievement).

Thinking back again on my grandpa, he worked hard, loved his family, and by just about anyone’s standards of measuring the “top” or “bottom, ” would likely have fallen somewhere in the middle. And yet, I don’t think he took any regrets with him when his time came. As evidenced by his clever key chains, he knew how to do his work and live his life and have fun at both. We should all do as well.

It may be lonely at the top.  It very well could be a long way up from the bottom. The truth is, you’re likely not contending with either. You are where you are. And that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. May as well enjoy it.

After all, as grandpa’s old “Tops for Bottoms” toilet key chain reminds us, whether you think you’re at the top or on the bottom, or en route one way or the other, we’re all still going to end up getting flushed.

 

 

 

New Song, “Broken Breath,” To Help Southwestern Ontario Lung Association

One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that it puts me in the path of some wonderful organizations. I was thrilled when my journey took me back into the office of the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association about three years ago. I’ve been working with them ever since, in my capacity as a marketing consultant at Bell Media Radio in London. However this project transcends those day-to-day necessities.

First, a little background:

I’m a lifelong asthmatic, though you’d hardly know it to see me now. Treatment has come a long way in forty years, and I’ve also outgrown many of the daily symptoms (though allergies and other irritations still chase me at every turn, but that’s another story). When I was a child, I was very sick with asthma. I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office on what seemed like a regular basis. A big turning point in my life was when I was sent to a facility in Toronto that was better equipped to monitor and treat asthmatic children. I lived there, weekends excluded, for three months when I was seven years old.

Here I am at 7 years old, with my Dad. This is the only photo I still have that I know was taken at what we called "The Centre" - the hospital in Toronto.

Here I am at 7 years old, with my Dad. This is the only photo I still have that I know was taken at what we called “The Centre” – the hospital in Toronto.

At that time, my family was very involved with the Lung Association, as my parents and family doctor would do anything they could to gain access to any resources that might assist them in helping me. I’ve never forgotten that, and whenever I see the Lung Association’s red cross logo, I automatically think of others with asthma and other breathing problems.

Much later in life, after the worst of my asthmatic days seemed to be behind me, I wrote a song called “Broken Breath,” which is essentially sung from the perspective of a child with asthma who can’t breathe, doesn’t understand why, and wishes for something – anything – to help. The song also touches on the subject of my parents having no choice, for the sake of my own health, but to “send me away” (to that hospital in Toronto).

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I remember when I wrote the song. It’s dated 1997. I was going through a phase of listening almost exclusively to artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, and wanted to have a track of my own that fit the mold of many of their acoustic, introspective songs that tugged at the heart. To be more direct, I wanted to write a song somewhat like Springsteen’s “Shut Out the Light” (originally a B-Side from the “Born in the USA” era), which is the story of a Vietnam veteran who is haunted by his experiences well after returning home, just looking for comfort, calls for his mother to “Throw your arms around me in the cold, dark night. Hey now, Mama, don’t shut out the lights.”

“Broken Breath,” obviously, doesn’t sound much like Springsteen’s song. But from an emotional and narrative standpoint, I feel I succeeded in capturing something similar. I’ve always been proud of the song.

A couple of weeks ago, I played “Broken Breath” for my two curious sons, who also happen to be my biggest supporters. It left Eddie, my 11-year-old, in tears. His reaction was a compliment in a roundabout sort of way, although I was sorry to see him react that way. He said he was sorry he got upset, but that he thought the song was touching and that he didn’t know I’d been through any of the things I sang about. His reaction told me that the song may indeed be able to kick open some doors for some people to have a better understanding of the kind of work the Lung Association actually does.

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Eddie (at left) & Jaden: My “Road crew,” sounding boards, inspiration and joy.

So here’s the plan as it stands: my friends at the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association have asked me if I would perform / MC as part of their “First Noel Preview Night” for their annual “Festival of Trees” event, Tuesday, November 25th from 6pm to 9pm at the Covent Garden Market here in London, Ontario. They would like me to debut “Broken Breath” that night, so I’ll do that along with, perhaps, a couple of other songs. And I’ll happily MC and help out however else I can that night.

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Whether we record or videotape the song that evening is still unclear. And plans to make a studio-quality version of the song are also very much up in the air, depending on time and cost. Ultimately, it would be great for the Lung Association to be able to use the song however they like in an effort to create more understanding and support for all they do.

I’m also trying to recruit a friend or two to come along with me to make the night more special on November 25th and give the performance more impact, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m happy to do it on my own, as the song was written for just acoustic guitar and one voice. That said, I tweaked the lyrics and melody just a bit to create a bit of a sing-along element to it toward the end of the song, so it would be great to have company that night! We’ll see.

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For now, it would be wonderful for you to consider attending the “Festival of Trees” at some point this holiday season (it’s free, and it’s a great display that kids will love). And if you’re so inclined to assist the Lung Association, perhaps consider their Christmas Seals program or at least keep them in your thoughts or spread the word.

I well remember the Lung Association’s phrase, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

It’s true. I know what it’s like.

Maybe I can help.

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