Archive for January, 2012

Jimmy Buffett Story Is Having Fun

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I just discovered an interesting article on Jimmy Buffett, who by any measure is a skillful and wildly successful storyteller. Many songwriters are great storytellers, of course, but few have careers as enduring as Buffett’s.

Written by Karen Dietz, a colleague of mine based in San Diego, the article is based on an interview she conducted “years ago” when working for a national magazine. Describing Buffett’s diverse talents as visionary, businessman and airplane pilot, she elaborates on his top criteria for developing good stories:

  1. Spend most of your time listening to others
  2. Take time to develop interesting characters
  3. Remember that the objective is to paint pictures with your words
  4. Have fun!

In summary, Dietz says corporate storytelling can be challenging, but it’s easier if you follow Buffett’s advice. She says “the last piece of advice that Jimmy gave me…(was, ‘No matter what you do, just don’t forget to have fun with it. If you aren’t having fun, it makes for really long, boring days. And no one needs that.’ ”

The entire article is at

Eileen Fisher Keeps It Simple

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Her early years in Illinois seemed to offer no hint that she would one day be a well-known New York fashion designer. For 12 years she wore uniforms to school–a requirement most students dislike intensely but she found freeing–and then declared a math major in college. Her plans for the future were a far cry from living in Tribeca and launching a fashion career. So how did Eileen Fisher discover that she had a vision and a talent for fashion design?

After admiring–and owning–a number of Eileen Fisher garments over the past 25 years or so, I was intrigued by an interview with her in Fortune describing how she got her start. As the article reveals, she actually developed sewing skills and a love of fabric while growing up in a household where her mother sewed much of the clothing for her six daughters. And when Fisher no longer needed to wear a uniform to school, she hated shopping because she couldn’t find what she wanted, and she found it very  time-consuming to decide what to wear each day. It seemed to her that finding, selecting and wearing well-coordinated outfits each day should be simpler.

The influence of a college roommate’s coursework in interior design led Fisher to realize she, too, loved working with fabric. She changed her major to home economics, then took the opportunity to move to New York’s Soho with a roommate, and struck up a friendship with a sculptor. Surrounded by creative minds and influenced by observations on a trip to Japan, she eventually formulated her vision for a fashion collection based on–no surprise here–the concept of simplicity!

Her first collection of four garments were displayed at a show in 1984 where she sold orders to eight stores. At the next show a year later she had doubled her collection to eight garments and had a line of buyers waiting to place orders. She was on her way!

“Keep it simple” is a mantra we all need to remember as we go through daily activities. Simplicity is the key to communications, the basis for many wonderful culinary creations, and the key to achieving work/life balance. What ideas do you have for simplifying life? How can you make your job a bit easier, or help other people simplify their lives? Who knows? You just may launch a new career!

What’s the Story on Micky Arison?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

“The Wall Street Journal” published an interesting but totally unsatisfactory explanation Monday of Micky Arison’s strange silence and elusiveness following the Costa Concordia’s tragic shipwreck off the coast of Italy. “Where is Micky Arison?” the newspaper asked, and it’s a question that must have been nagging at thousands, if not millions, of people around the globe as they read about the horrible outcome of the captain’s recklessness.

As the company’s ships lay partly submerged in a gut-wrenching position, divers carefully and heroically began the somber and dangerous task of searching for and recovering victims, and salvage operators pondered the best approach to safely recover the fuel and either right the ship or begin cutting in apart in place.

In the meantime, the ship’s captain and the CEO of Carnival’s Italian unit continued pointing fingers at one another, both shifting responsibility for the disastrous route the ship followed. All the while, Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corp., spoke nary a word about the tragedy, not even to offer condolences to passengers who survived the frightening, chaotic event, nor to those who lost loved ones, many of whom are still unaccounted for nearly two weeks later.

Owner of Carnival Cruise and a number of other well-known cruise lines, such as Holland America, Princess Cruises and Cunard, Carnival Corp. should have a well-thought-out, detailed crisis communication management plan at the ready, and it should be readily available to the captain on every ship.

Overall, cruises have proven to be an extremely safe form of transportation, particularly considering the huge number of passengers carried each year without a mishap. But no organization should be without a plan for handling unexpected events. To think  company doesn’t need an up-to-date action plan to quickly and effectively handle crises is at best ill-advised. When thousands of customers’ lives and limbs are at risk, it’s extremely careless, which is also an apt description of Mickey Arison’s behavior.

The WSJ’s story is at