Writing Samples

People Count
Linda M. Verde, Acting Publisher and Editor
Managing well means more than just getting a product or service out the door. The product or service is important, but the critical variable in the process is the people.

Managers often deal with several levels of people, from top executives – to whom the managers report – to employees – who report to the managers. But, it doesn’t stop there. People are driving the competition; people are the customers, and the potential customers. They are the ultimate purpose for products and services. They are the nexus of the corporation. Dealing effectively with such a wide variety of people requires good managers to possess understanding, commitment and vision – to put it simply, people skills.

It can seem that technology, not the people, is driving us in the new economy. Troughout the ages, people have feared technological advances because they believed it would detract from the human element of commerce and even society. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had enormous impact because it raised the possibility of a person being created through technology – it still evokes fear in modern-day readers. Stories abound in which robots take over the world, or people are turned into robots, and in both cases the human element is lost. Technology, though, is limited as evidenced by the perennial philosophical debate on artificial intelligence – some distinctions can be made much quicker by humans than by computers. For example, rapid recognition of a friend’s photograph in a wide range of poses – this can be done by a person in less than half a second, but can take a couple of minutes by computer. However, I believe it is only through focusing on people that managers will succeed in keeping their companies globally competitive – no matter what technological wonders we think up to take our place.

For technology to be effective, it most often needs to have considerable people factors worked into it. For example, in this issue’s article, “Settlers or Surfers,” Sid Huff, Jeannine Glista and David Koltermann say that keeping the individual in mind is crucial when establishing an Internet strategy, especially because of the Internet’s global reach. Marketing must include an awareness of diverse cultures and more importantly of the individuals within those cultures. By designing a Website that can customize its responses to an enquirer, the Website’s effectiveness is greatly increased. This means the people count as people, not just as sales numbers.

Increasingly business literature seems concerned with the people aspect of management.

  • Such concepts as career intelligence suggest that employers must give employees an environment that encourages both their personal and career growth – do this and watch the bottom line rise as your employees become more content.
  • Competitive intelligence includes gathering and analyzing data about potential and existing customers, suppliers and governments. Specific information on individuals can give companies a better idea of their competition, particularly the competition’s relationship with their customers. In a recent issue of Canadian Business, the responses to a call for comments about banks showed the importance of customer service and warned banking executives to listen to the people.
  • Many have written to say that intellectual capital and human capital are a company’s most valuable assets. Employee turnover is costly.
  • And, people are a critical element in successful mergers. Blending people of different business cultures into a well functioning team with a common goal is an extraordinary challenge.

This issue of Ivey Business Quarterly offers a blend of people and technology. I think that this blending is a more appropriate positioning of people and technology thabn holding them as competitors for workplace efficiency – positions and functions. In addition to the above-mentioned Internet strategy article, you’ll find the final installment of a two-part series on the knowledge economy and electronic commerce, in which Messrs. Thompson, Mehta and Schaffritt show how technology is opening new business frontiers that no longer restrict customer base to proximity – more places, more people.

Other articles deal more specifically with people, but the business environment is such that technology is always a factor. David Dunne writes about using game theory to avoid price wars – the latter being a choice people often make when short-term gain is necessary for survival and long-term return on investment seems a luxury. Read Hank Riehl’s account of skills-based management that on the surface may seem to value skills above people, but reminds us that it is a person’s unique blend of skills that determines his or her value. John McCallum discusses the need for business to support management education and to invest in the people who are now students, but who will be corporate leaders throughout the next generations. Bryan Downie, Gary Furlong and Mary Lou Coates suggest establishing an internal dispute resolution system to deal effectively with conflicts among people while simultaneously raising the bottom line.

Managers who forget the people – whether it is the employees or the customers – are sabotaging their long-term success. Loyal employees will give their all, but if advantage is taken of their extra efforts, their loyalty erodes – if it continues, they will burn out. Replacing good employees is an expense that can be avoided. Appreciation goes a long way. Similarly, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. They minimize your risks when you are introducing new products, or refining your services. They may brook a faulty product or service once, maybe even twice. But again, don’t abuse that loyalty or your market share will suffer.
As this issues goes out, my tenure as acting publisher and editor is closing. I have enjoyed the opportunity this position has offered, both as an editor and as a manager. I am looking forward to the challenges that will come with a new team leader and the consequent remolding of our editorial team as we adjust to the new fit. In reflecting over the past seven months, I see that my path has been influenced by many people – authors, artists, advertisers, administrators and, of course, friends and family – to that even publishing seems as much about people as it is about words. I have always been passionate about language, but I think at the base of it is a passion to understand people. If managers can reach into their humanity to understand the people they deal with, employee and customer loyalty will bring success their way.  BQ

(Published in Ivey Business Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4, Ivey Business School, Summer 1998)

Natural Selection
Linda M. Verde, Acting Publisher and Editor

Evolution, risk, guerrilla – these words jumped out at me as I was editing this, my first, issue as acting publisher and editor. The interplay of these powerful terms of survival, adventure and strength, seemed as much at work in our endeavours to bring the articles to you as they were in the articles themselves.

In this issue, Donald N. Thompson describes the evolution of the retailing industry, and Kathy Iversen and Gary Moran discuss the evolving role of the financial executive. In our offices, our evolution as a magazine was given a nudge by the resignation of our publisher and editor. Suddenly, my perceived path as managing editor took an unanticipated and uphill turn. I found myself evolving in the role of editorial team leader and consequently the team around me evolving to a new entity.
I realize that being on the “cutting edge” of evolution classifies me as a mutant, according to Darwin’s evolutionary theory. However, if a derogatory connotation for this term exists, I am sure it results from a focus on conformity instead of possibility. Conformity has never been my strong suit.

Mutations begin new directions and I do feel myself forming anew – just when I thought I was beginning to know myself. The process has made me realize that this constant reacquainting with oneself is the true adventure of life. John McCallum, in this issue, applies this reacquaintance to business, advising us that knowing oneself is essential to being a good leader. Peter Urs Bender also discusses knowing oneself and urges each of us to look for the leader we have within ourselves. I think a corporation as a whole must also constantly become reacquainted with itself, review its goals and achievements. Vicki Powers tells us of Bell Canada’s remarkable recapture of market share by benchmarking to focus on customers. This demonstrates evolution with its inherent risks.

Personal risk and corporate risk have similarities. And isn’t evolution all about risk – the risk of trying something new and seeing whether it survives? I think it is. Risk always involves looking at new possibilities, standing on the brink and taking a leap that may land you on your feet or in the water – sometimes hot water.

There are many risk-laden circumstances that may be overlooked. For example, losing a leader always created a situation of risk – not because of the obvious risk that another leader won’t be found, or that nother leader with change the way things are done, but because there is that period between times of full leadership. I remember the play The Admirable Chrichton – in a time of crisis the servant became the leader. All the characteristics for leadership and, hence, survival were within the person deemed least likely to have them. Leadership evolves and that takes time. Until that leadership has blossomed, there is great risk to the survival of the enterprise. Peter Urs Bender brings a fresh perspective to this concept – both potential and established leaders must look within to find their leadership skills. Also, I enjoyed the writings of Robert Greenleaf who devoted his life to the concept of servant leadership as a management principle – leading by serving others requires evolution of both leader and led. Risk can be minimized if we look to this sound principle.

Technology seems to be a driving force in the evolution of our environment. Technology touches almost every area of an organization. Our push for a global economy could not have its current impetus without our capability to communicate across the world. The long-standing postal motto that assures us the mail will go through regardless of rain, sleet, snow or hail, doesn’t mention how long it will take. Slow and steady cannot match the benefits of electronic communication. Telephone, facsimile, and Email have become basic requirements for conducting business. They are faster, more economical and sometimes even fun to use. Also, they increase the rate at which we do business and how we do business. For example, Paul LaRoche’s article on guerrilla learning is about trying to fit the necessary learning into a very limited time. And, read the first of a two-part article on the knowledge economy and electronic commerce to see how our basic understanding of knowledge is evolving because of technology – next issue we’ll take you farther along its evolutionary chain.

As you can see, the themes of evolution, risk and guerrilla warfare are interwoven as are, I believe, the personal and the corporate. Sometimes what seem disparate are quite connected. Richard Farson inManagement of the Absurd writes about the complexities of human organizations, point out the inherent paradoxes in leadership. The title alone is enough to give one pause – the reading delighted my “post modern” sensibilities that embrace multiplicity of perspective. I think our appreciation of complexity will increase as we become more aware of diversity issues and we look for a definition of success that is not ruled by numbers on a bottom line. This, too, is evolving.

After assuming the position of acting publisher and editor, following the departure of Angela Smith, I received a note from our publisher and editor emeriti, Doreen Sanders. She wrote, “The magazine has had a long an noble history,” I see it continually changing, growing, improving – evolving. Many risks have been taken to get us to this point. We’ll face many more as we continue on our evolutionary path. And, if guerrilla tactics are necessary for survival, send me my fatigues – I’m ready to fight.

IBQ

Direct Response Letter
[This letter was written as part of my course work for the AWAI (Artists and Writers of America Inc.) professional copywriting course. It shows my ability to create effective direct marketing materials.]

February 27, 2015

Re: Join me next week for a time-honored tradition that will make you forget the stresses of wedding plans, and solve your booking problem.

Dear Cathy,
I know you have been going crazy with all the things that need to be done for your daughter’s wedding. I have just the thing that will give you some much needed down time and recharge your batteries. It just might help you with the Bridesmaids’ Party, too.

Imagine, sitting in the peaceful atmosphere of an authentic English tea room. The tables are covered in linen cloths in a variety of florals and solid colours, with contrasting napkins folded in the bone china tea cups at each place. Soft music is playing in the background.

Two bay windows look out onto stands of evergreens covered in snow while the fireplace in the corner casts its cheery glow warming your heart as well as the room.  A pot of your favourite tea is set before you and High Tea begins.

You take that first sip of tea and feel it soothing away your stress. You let yourself relax, if even just for the next hour. As you sip your tea, a delightful array of fancy sandwiches arrives – lean roast beef, ham and cheese, tuna or chicken salad and of course the classics, cucumber or water cress.

A delectable aroma reaches you just before the waiter puts a bowl of soup in front of you. Maybe it will be the butternut squash and walnuts, or perhaps parsnip and apple with juniper – two of my favourite soups. While we delight our taste buds, you and I can enjoy catching up on our busy lives and have some great laughs.

No thinking about what still needs to be bought, arranged, picked up or done – just enjoying our time together in lovely surroundings and the food is sooo tasty. But it’s not over. The best is yet to come.

Traditional cream tea follows. Freshly baked scones, warm from the oven, slathered with fresh creamery butter, Devon cream and home-made strawberry-rhubarb jam – and of course more tea. You can see yourself as one of the main characters in a Jane Austen novel.

It’s like a mini-holiday – you don’t have to cook, bake or clean up, just relax. And, afterwards there is a lovely gift shop to browse.  You will love it.

High Tea is all about celebrating good family, good friends and good food. Dishington’s delivers all that and more. Marion Vickery, a regular customer says, “No matter what has gone on during the week, everything seems put to right after High Tea at Dishington’s. I don’t let a week go by without it. It has become a favourite place for my book club and writing circle to meet, too.”

Adrienne Barham, Vice-President of Locations for Pinewood Toronto Studios, was delighted when she visited from England, saying, “this is just like the tea rooms at home. I feel like I have been transported back to Britain and have arrived at its most celebrated hour, Tea Time. Once I move to Canada, this will be a favourite place to entertain friends, or to come just for myself.”

I took a good friend, Yvonne, there for her birthday. Yvonne lived in England for three years and can’t wait to return. When she sat down and looked around, her eyes misted up. “This is perfect,” she said. “I could be back in Surrey, right now. What a wonderful birthday gift.”

Many cultures have used tea as healing brews. It also makes the perfect pick-me-up in a day that finds you feeling a little under the weather. There is a good reason why.

Scientists have found certain teas aid in fighting diabetes, cancer and even heart disease. Others assist with lowering cholesterol or weight loss and boosting mental alertness. More recently it has been found to have antimicrobial qualities that help fight bacteria and fungi and contribute to overall to a feeling of well-being.

A leading health authority onWebMD.com comments on the benefits of drinking tea. “‘There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,’ says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. ‘I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.’”

Look at the Queen Mum, she drank tea all her life and was active past her hundredth birthday. Queen Elizabeth II, herself, is still ruling the United Kingdom at the age of 89. Tea is part of her daily life. I only hope I can be as healthy as she is when I am her age.

Dishington’s has been in business for more than thirty years. No other establishment in Southwestern Ontario has such a reputation for authenticity and quality and that is why it has become a landmark for Lambeth and London. (The Village of Lambeth is now a part of London.)

It is easy to get to from the 401 Highway so travellers who have crossed the border at Detroit/Windsor or Port Huron/Sarnia often make it a special place to break their journeys.

Dishington’s received rave reviews in London’s eatdrink magazine and the Food and Drink section of Now Toronto listed it as a must visit.

Sabrina’s bridesmaids’ planning party is coming up in four weeks and I know you haven’t settled on a venue yet. I think Dishington’s High Tea shower would offer something elegant and affordable. You can reserve part of the tea room during regular hours, or book the whole place after hours. I think Sabrina would definitely approve.

More importantly, I am excited about sharing this, my favourite restaurant, with you. My stress levels always decrease after visiting Dishington’s – there is nothing like a really good cup of tea, especially with good company. All the craziness of wedding preparations will slip away for an hour or two and I assure you, you will feel restored.

On Tuesday, next week, I am free all day so I can pick you up at eleven o’clock. I will make reservations for 11:30 a.m. I know this isn’t much notice for you, but you will want to book the Bridesmaid’s Tea as soon as possible.

Call and let me know if eleven is a good time.  My number is 519-473-9371.
Looking forward to our High Tea together.

Your friend,
Linda

P.S.  After having our tea, we can look through their lovely gift shop where they have tea-related wares, greeting cards, hand-made dresses for toddlers and a unique line of women’s clothing. It will be lots of fun!