Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Doing the Right Thing

In 1962 a trumpet player in Los Angeles wanted to record a song he wrote. He didn’t have much money so he convinced some of the top studio cats to record the song for $15 each. The trumpet player’s name was Herb Alpert and the song was “The Lonely Bull.” The trumpet solo became a top 10 hit in the fall of 1962 and made Alpert an instant millionaire. 

He then went to the musician’s union and paid a fine for recording without a union contract and then paid the musicians their fair share earning him high respect among the musicians and technicians involved. They then recorded the rest of the album and many more over the next several years as “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.” In 1964, Alpert formed another band to tour under that name. 

The success of the TJB project allowed him to form A&M Records with Jerry Moss. A&M went on to become the largest independent record label in the United States, signing dozens of top stars with dozens of hit records before they sold the company in 1989. Herb Alpert and his wife of 44 years, Lani Hall, are now major supporters of the arts and environmental issues through the Herb Alpert Foundation.

I like this story because it reminds me that having high integrity and doing the right thing always wins in the end. Always having the highest integrity and doing the right thing by our customers and employees was the goal when we formed Mathis Photo, Inc. in 1973, Homer’s Coffee House in 2001, and Mathis Photography in 2008.
There has always been a wide range of people from scam artists to people with very high integrity in all kinds and sizes of businesses. Always try to do business with the best people. It is not hard to tell which is which if you pay attention.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Spiritual Growth

I recently began rereading M. Scott Peck’s classic 1978 book, “The Road Less Traveled.” Peck defined Spiritual Growth as moving from a microcosm view of the world toward a macrocosm view. A microcosm worldview would be one defined by our experiences with our family, our workplace, the news sources we watch, along with the accepted views of our “tribe,” the friends and family who have had similar experiences as we have.

Moving toward a more macrocosm view requires that we actively meet and befriend people who are different than us, people from different experiences, different ethnic groups, religions or education. It requires that we travel, read, and seek out a variety of sources of information and broaden our education. 

The ultimate goal of spiritual growth is to begin to see things from God’s perspective. He sees the world without the constraints of time, place, or national boundaries. He sees every person as important and of equal value.

When my wife and I were in our mid-twenties, we developed a mantra of “Expanding our Horizons.” We were getting in a rut and needed to see new things, develop new interests and make new friends. This quest led to a church, a new relationship with Christ, new friends, and a larger worldview. We became almost frantic to travel, meet new people, and understand the world. Decades later we are still expanding our horizons, going places and meeting people and trying to understand. 

Oddly, we know other Christians who seem to have an opposite idea of spiritual growth. Their idea of growth is to become more and more isolated, to have a more narrow source of information, and relate only with people with a similar microcosm worldview.

To draw near to God, we must begin to see things from His perspective, which is a very macrocosm view, the big picture, understanding many people’s experiences and understanding, and seeing people as unique and wonderful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Great Depression

Not many people are still alive that remember The Great Depression of the 1930’s. I remember it through stories my parents and grandparents told. It was very vivid to them.

The Great Depression was a perfect storm of two man-made disasters. The first was a financial crisis brought about by unregulated banking and financial markets run amok. The whole thing collapsed on October 29, 1929. The solution was to shut everything down, banks and everything, and start with a new system of regulations, a strong central bank and regulated markets. The federal government then had to step in with massive spending to basically jump start the economy again.

The second man-made disaster which happened about the same time has been called the “dust-bowl.” This was a massive erosion of topsoil caused by poor farming methods. The solution here was a huge soil conservation program which led eventually to the Environmental Protection Agency and the environmental movement in general.

We have not had similar disasters since then because of government regulations led by agencies such as the SEC, EPA, Department of Agriculture and so forth. We came close to the financial part of the disaster in 2009 when banking regulations were backed off. Because of the lessons learned during the Roosevelt administration in the 30’s, the Obama administration was able to jump in and save the economy from a more serious collapse.

Hopefully we have learned our lessons about lack of regulations from this experience that started 88 years ago.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life Long Learning

This week was the first session of my class at Johnson County Community College, “Black and White Photography in the 21st Century.” The second session will be this Thursday. I am also teaching a class this Wednesday at Village Shalom on The History of Photography. 

In a few weeks I will be starting a 13 week introduction to Income Tax for H&R Block. I have been an instructor for H&R Block for a number of years, but I have always taught advanced classes for tax pros. This class is open to anybody who would like to work for Block or would just like to learn more about our tax system.

In case you hadn’t heard, there is a people shortage in just about every area of the economy. Tax preparation is no exception. H&R Block is in need of tax professionals, office managers, and receptionists. The Income Tax Course is the front door. If you, or anybody you know, might be interested, let me know and I will give a referral.

You may have noticed a theme to this article. First that I am heading into a phase of life where passing along knowledge and experience is becoming more important. As we get older we have an obligation to share wisdom and experience with those not as far down the road. The second theme is continuing education. Life-long learning is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. I have heard that if you are self-employed or doing some sort of freelancing that you should be spending approximately half of your time learning new skills, reading, attending seminars, trade shows, and so forth. If you are an employee, your employer should be encouraging your continued education, or you may be on your own. At any rate, life-long learning should be a high priority.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Money or People

Money or People?
When I worked in retail many years ago, I quickly learned that there were regular decisions about whether to sell the customer a product that was best for them or one that made the most money for the store. I learned that selling them what they wanted or needed resulted in happy customers and a long term relationships.

Later when I owned my own business, we decided to always put the customer first and know that the money would take care of itself. That was a strategy that kept us satisfied with our business for many years.

It seems that the further management is from the customer, the more likely they are to make decisions based on short term financial gain, rather than long term relationships.
Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and money." He implied that there was a decision to be made, a priority that has to be set. We want to make it clear that one way we serve God is by serving people.

Business people have a clear choice because serving people and making money are pretty much related by cause and effect. When I visit online business forums my comments are always along the lines of giving people what they want or need, or serve the client first, then figure out how to make it profitable.

In my photography business, the first priority is to figure out what the customer wants, then set pricing that is fair and reasonable to everyone.