January 30, 2015

Relief for Cement Burn: Why I Still Live in a Small Town

Half the time, I hide the fact that I still live in the town I grew up in. Mostly, to save conversation time for more important things. (Yes, it takes me almost 3 hours to get to the airport…no, we have no Starbucks…yes, Cabela's is headquartered here…that's why you've heard of Sidney – with an "i" – not the one in Australia.)

Sometimes when someone asks where I live, I'll simply respond, "Sidney" and leave off the Nebraska part. It makes me instantly more interesting. ;-)

What about Cement Burn?" you ask. I'm getting to it.

Last week, while working on what my dad used to call an "over-do-it-yourself" project, I made the amateur mistake of applying a showerful of grout with the assistance of my bare hands. Doh!

Portland cement (the active ingredient in grout) burns you with a strong alkaline pH level. You won't notice the burn until it's too late. By supper time, my hands were red. By bed time, I had about 5 sores that were burning like a soldering iron was resting gently on the surface of my skin. (20 years in radio taught me what that feels like too.) I didn't sleep much that night. In fact I spent the night Googling for remedies for this particular brand of stupidity.

Next morning, I decided to cash in all my life-lines in an effort to find relief for my hands. I texted my sister, the doctor. Waited a few minutes. No response back. I went over to my neighborhood Safeway in search of some kind of "emulsifying" lotion that was recommended on a web site. I asked the pharmacist there about it. He recommended finding some Johnson and Johnson First Aid Cream, which Safeway no longer carried. He suggested that one of the local pharmacies might have some.

I drove over to my pharmacy, Western Drug. I didn't go there first because Safeway was more convenient, at 4 blocks away. You see, Western Drug is clean across town from here…almost 15 blocks, with 2 stop signs and 2 traffic lights between here and there. You city-dwellers laugh, go ahead.

Photo I walked in and started looking for "First Aid Cream." Tom Birner (the pharmacist who owns the place) asked me what I needed and then told me that Johnson and Johnson had discontinued the stuff years ago. He asked what the problem is and I told him. "Wait right here," he said as he disappeared into the back.

He returned carrying this medicine bottle with a hand-written label that simply said, "Western Lotion."

"We've got a lot of construction workers that swear by this stuff. We've been making it in batches for as long as I can remember. It's got a lot of ingredients…antiseptic plus witch-hazel plus (a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember) and it's in a glycerin base. Just keep it on your hands and you'll be fine."

He didn't charge me because he only had half a bottle on hand and someone in the office had used a bit. I'd have gladly paid anything for relief. 

Sounds like snake oil, eh? Well, it worked! My hands were still raw, but feeling much better. I applied that stuff 6 or 8 times that day, a few times overnight and I was on the road to recovery.

Western Drug has been in Sidney for about 120 years. In the early part of the 20th century they even operated out of a tent in the middle of the street while a new building was built. Joel Birner, Tom's dad, bought the place in the mid-1960s. He was our pharmacist when I was a kid and he was a good friend and client of my dad's radio stations. I don't know if the Western Lotion recipe pre-dates Joel or not.

Bottom line is you'll never find this stuff or anything like it at your Walgreens, Wal-Mart, or other corpo-box store. But, in my little town, the local pharmacy still cares, still has the recipe and is carrying on in the shadow of the giants…even though they are way across town.

P.S. My sister finally called. When I told her about the lotion, she wanted to get the recipe because she's had patients who could use it. She practices in an even smaller town, way up north in the Sandhills.

P.P.S. Right now, Western Drug doesn't have a web site. If you want some of this stuff, drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

Prosound: On-Hold Messaging for Smart Business Owners

We launched a new client web site last week for ProsoundUSA.com, a company that specializes in improving the phone experience of your customers. Instead of just providing "on-hold messages" and those automated attendant systems that we've all come to hate, ProsoundUSA owner Chester Hull makes it his business to learn about yours BEFORE attempting to tell you what your message should be.

Chester-HullIn fact, he takes it one step further and will evaluate how your living, breathing, real-life staff is doing on the phones. His phone evaluation service costs just $149 and if it saves just one sale, would be worth it to most businesses. Followups include not only his message writing and production, but customized phone etiquette training for your staff.

I don't normally gush like this about clients, but Chester is a kindred soul to those of us who believe that building a brand is more than just a cool logo and a funny ad. Chester knows that a brand is built only at that place where the customer's world intersects with the business's world. The phones are often the very first point of contact.

If delivering an outstanding experience to your callers is important to your business, Prosound is your first stop. Take a listen to his on-hold message samples and you'll understand how he's different. And, be sure to subscribe to Chester's on-hold marketing blog, he's got a lot to say about your phones.

About the web site…

Chester hired Wizard of Ads Partner Paul Boomer and I to re-design his old site from the ground up using our Persona-based approach. As Chester will tell you, the effort of putting up a site using this methodology is about 80% under water.

That is, we spent a great deal of time getting to understand Prosound's customers and their motivations…what points of information are important to them and in what order. Only after we understood his business, could we begin to map out pages, sketch out designs and get to the point where most web developers begin their process.

Kinda sounds like the same approach Chester takes, huh?

Here's the "after" shot of Chester's site:


And…here's what it looked like before:


Ok…let's roll the credits:

Jon Spoelstra, author of "Marketing Outrageously" turns to Fiction

Links: Wizard Academy, Jon Spoelstra on Amazon

Onya Craig! Blimey, I'd forgotten that one!


Finally catching up on some blog reading this weekend and found some brilliant writing on Wizard Tower Chronicle, our upside-downunder site hosted by WOA Partner Craig Arthur.

It looked quite familiar, but I read it all the way through anyway. Here’s a super excerpt:

“The point is this…before anyone will do anything at all, they must go there. They must do that thing in their imagination. Before they buy your jewelry, they must go there in their mind. Before they buy your cars, they must go there. Before they attend your college, you must show them the experience on the visuospatial sketchpad in their brain.”

Bonzer Mate!

Practical Business Applications from Canoeing with Kids

Canoe_trip_2005_041 I had a wonderful weekend. My daughters and I canoed part of Nebraska’s beautiful Niobrara River Saturday. It was cold. We got pounded by a prairie thunderstorm Friday night just as Rita was coming ashore down in Texas. Saturday night, the storms were even worse. Over 1.5 inches of rain and vicious lightning is an exciting event in a tent. Lying on your back in a sleeping bag while torrents of water pound on the thin wall of the tent and lightning flashes all around make you feel as if you should DO SOMETHING. Anything. It’s tempting to panic, or run to the car and head to the Holiday Inn Express you passed 15 miles before the campground. But, we endured. We sang "Amazing Grace" at the top of our lungs and we lived to sing another day.

Reflecting about the canoe trip on the way home, I thought that perhaps there were some lessons to be learned about running a business.

One Captain

There’s a reason for a ship (yes, even a canoe) having only one captain. Dad sits in the back of the canoe so he can steer and keep an eye on (manage) the crew and passengers. If he is derelict in his duties, the canoe will invariably end up sideways in the current or stuck on a sandbar. Even if he is just eating some trail mix or snapping a picture.

Instant Gratification

Canoe_trip_2005_043Forget it. It’s a canoe, not a bass-boat with a 200-hp outboard. Keep your eye down-river and react BEFORE you get to the splashing water. The splashing water is 3-feet DOWNSTREAM from the rock. The splashing water is reacting to the rock. You must act way before you get to the rock. When you see the signs of the rock (splashing water) make sure you are not headed for it. If you wait until you get to the splashing water, you will already have hit the rock. Ouch.

Don’t Panic

OK, we listened to the audio version of "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" on our way to the canoe adventure. But it’s excellent advice. Someone on the canoe (probably the youngest, most inexperienced person) will panic when the canoe hits the rock. They will also panic when the canoe wobbles because the captain needs to re-adjust his underwear after sitting on the canoe seat for 2 hours. They must be calmed. The panic must not be allowed to dictate direction. The focus must be in getting off the rock (or getting the underwear adjusted) and not on the panickier.

Have Fun

Canoe_trip_2005_045 Above all, remember that life and business are just like a canoe trip. If you are always watching for the splashing water, you’ll miss the scenery. If you spend too much time on the scenery, you’ll never get anywhere. If you are too aggressive about adjusting your underwear, you might tip the canoe and dump the passengers. (fortunately, this didn’t happen)  Strive for Balance.