Tag Archives: Eric Morgenstern

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“When walking along the edge of the ethical ocean, don’t let your knees get wet.”

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

“When walking along the edge of the ethical ocean, don’t let your knees get wet.” This was the answer I gave the panel of very accomplished practitioners when asked how I define ethics as part of my “test” to get into to the PRSA College of Fellows. It worked; I was elected in 2001. I hope this concept works for you, too.

I’m leading a discussion tomorrow entitled, “Your Professional GPS: Navigating the Twists and Turns of Business Ethics at the Business Communicators Summit for KC/ IABC. I’m truly honored to serve both as a teacher (during my breakout) and a student (the line-up of speakers is terrific … kudos to Donna Schwartze and our local chapter).

I’ve been asked to share 10 real-world ethical case studies from my personal experiences during my 30-plus year career. I have so many stories, ranging from the time a job candidate sent me a dozen long-stemmed red roses with her follow-up note (she did not get the job) to learning how to work with colleagues who I’d seen steal, cheat, and lie (I left that job pretty quickly) to guiding clients to embrace transparency (not easy for privately-owned businesses, but worth it in the long-term.)

There are very few scenarios where murder, stealing and adultery can be justified as proper ethical choices. But most of the decisions that we make each day aren’t quite that simple.

For example, how many hours do we actually bill for a track-time project that took longer – or not as long – as we initially thought? Which employee gets to work on the cool, new client? Do we work for ABC Company, even though we don’t fully embrace everything they do? And the list goes on and on. We’ll discuss all of these – and more – tomorrow.

Photo credit: Webshots

Back to the ethical shoreline. Unlike simple binary choices, most ethical business decisions are much more like a shoreline – with a small area that’s both wet and dry, depending on the exact circumstances. So when working through those questions, don’t wait until your mouth is barely above water; once your toes, feet and ankles get wet, it’s probably time to step back safely onto shore.

How do you establish your own ethical code of conduct? Is every decision based on “situational ethics,” or do you believe there are straightforward rules that should be followed in every circumstance.

While I’m honored and humbled to lead this discussion, I’m eager to learn from my colleagues about exactly how they establish their personal ethical shorelines.

Onward and upward.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Attraction Marketing

Posted in Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

These days, I hear business executives tell me they need more sales, more topline growth. However, for most companies, especially B2B, it is more than a case of adding a few more salespeople, have them make calls and, voila, immediate results.

Photo credit: http://thomaslierzer.com

In fact, most B2B sales come from picking up the ringing phone to hear from a prospect that already knows about the firm, has a specific need and requires immediate help.

So how do you get the phone to ring? We call it “Attraction Marketing.”

We’ve written, spoken, and shared this concept many times. This week, I’m speaking to the SMPS KC (The Society for Marketing of Professional Services) chapter on this topic.  It’s a timeless approach to generate long-term business growth.

Here’s the essence:

- Be great at what you do.

- Tell your story – clearly and persuasively – utilizing all four media channels, and…

- Respond with enthusiasm and integrity.

This approach works for virtually for all businesses, if they have the patience. Attraction marketing is not a short-term solution, it’s a long-term approach you will need to commit to if you want to see results. You still need to network, schmooze, and “sell,” but those activities should sit on top of an effective and sustained Attraction Marketing strategy.

Reverse engineer (and keep track) of how your firm landed new clients. That’s how we do things here at Morningstar Communications. Since we were founded in 1997, more than 94 percent of all of our revenue stemmed from a call to us (as opposed to us chasing them, or responding to a cold RFP).

As Harvey Mackay taught us years ago, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” We can’t re-write history. So, going forward, perhaps now is the best time to begin implementing your Attraction Marketing strategy.

There’s nothing sweeter than hearing your phone ring.  Well, almost nothing : )

Onward and upward.

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1 Comment Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

A Communications Renaissance

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

Photo Credit: johnwilliamwaterhouse.com

Subscriptions to print publications are way down – why pay when it’s available online for “free?” Advertising revenues are way off – when’s the last time you noticed a periodical that wasn’t a shadow of its former self? And traditional agencies, that we’ve known for years, are dying – this Fast Company article explains it very well.

This all sounds grim but I am actually quite optimistic about the future of the communications industry. I believe we are going through a communications renaissance, and I’m so proud of our team who are helping our clients benefit during this rebirth.

We embrace this opportunity to evolve from the way things have always been done. It is our job to help our clients capitalize on things that may have started out as a trend but now have become mainstays of effective communication strategy.

Dialogue, not monologue. Since the beginning of time, virtually all communications have been a monologue: organizations prepare content, and then distribute it to the masses. We would sit back and hope the recipient would read, understand and, if we’re really lucky, take action. To be effective today, communication must be a two-way street. Customers and employees choose to do business with companies who listen and respond to their needs.

Engagement, not awareness. For decades, the key to a successful communications strategy was to build “awareness” among key audiences. That was then. The measuring stick of the 21st century is now all about “engagement.” Do people participate with your brand? Do your customers and prospects intentionally interact with your communication? To know if you’re truly reaching your customers, you need to measure engagement, in addition to the more standard return on investment metrics. This will help you really understand if you’re effectively communicating with them.

An ever-expanding toolkit. From the Town Crier of ancient days, to Gutenberg’s printing press, to the miracle of broadcast radio and television, to the internet, to social media, to whatever is next – we have always figured out a way to share information. We have more options than ever for choosing the best channel mix to reach the people who matter most. In the ways they want to be reached, not just the ways you think they want to be reached.

By focusing on creating a meaningful dialogue that truly engages your customers using multiple tools, you can also experience this communications renaissance.

Onward and upward.

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3 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Auld Lang Syne

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Internal Communications, Media Relations

The flipping of the calendar from 2010 to 2011 fills me with hope and promise. It’s nice to have that fresh start that comes with the beginning of a new year. While I like to focus on what’s to come, the end of the year gives us reason to look back. I’m taking this opportunity to share some of my favorite 2010 blog posts from here at Morningstar Communications. It’s pretty cool that I get to work with some really intelligent and thoughtful bloggers.

Early last year, Eric Morgenstern wrote about how Social media is here to stay. In a year when so much has happened in the social media space, it’s really interesting to see what the social media sentiment was in early 2010.

My colleague, Tricia Jaworski, dedicated some of her blog space to talking about the backbone of PR – media relations. She takes it to 11 by talking about national media relations and how luck and strategy plays in to each opportunity.

This post about filler words by Tyler Dustin has stuck with me since I read it. I was guilty of adding a “just” when it wasn’t necessary. Not so much anymore.

Morningstar Communications always has outstanding interns, who know their stuff. This post from Holly Eckold nailed how to tell your story to capture and connect audiences.

Employee communication has always been near and dear, so Matt Tidwell’s post talking about employee engagement and communications really drove the message home.

And of course, it never hurts to give another nod to the boss. Eric’s three-part series on macro-trends is worthy of another look. The first post is on transparency, the second is on privacy and the third is on connectivity.

There were so many other great posts in 2010 so look through our archives if you get a chance. You’ll quickly see what I already knew – I get to work with smart people who will keep on blogging in 2011. Happy New Year!

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

The Impact of Connectivity

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

Note:  This is the third blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses connectivity.

Think back to the days of landline phones, typewriters and paper maps.  The days before Google, before e-mails, before phones were smart.  It’s getting hard to remember, isn’t it?  In the past several years, we have gone through tremendous change with regard to new technologies. The result is that humans are connecting like never before.

According to cNet news, by the end of 2010, 6.1 trillion text messages will be sent—200,000 texts sent worldwide every single second.  The International Telecommunication Union reported that by the end of 2010 two billion people will have access to the Internet, and mobile networks will be available to 90 percent of the world’s population.  Cell phone coverage is expanding everywhere from remote villages in Africa to the tip-top of Mount Everest.

Available 24 x 7

Digital wireless connectivity means we are no longer tethered to any one place or time.  We can respond to work e-mails after dinner with the family or before Sunday brunch.  Before the cell phone era, if we left the office we relied on voicemail or a secretary to collect our messages.  Now, we are reachable anytime, anywhere through our mobile devices.  We take the office around with us in our pockets.  Google has even predicted that more searches will be done on smart phones than desktop computers in the near future.

Our phones have now evolved to become our own personal digital assistants.  It’s a fast-paced world out there, and our digital assistants help us gain some control over the chaos.  Most people keep their cell phones within hearing distance at all times.  We feel lost if we leave our cell phones at home.  These devices bring both control and comfort to our busy lives.

Waves of change

The increase in connectivity has several implications for businesses.

  • Customer service is more immediate.  People are able to contact businesses right away if they have a question, concern or compliment.
  • We can do business faster and in more places than ever before.
  • Customers want to communicate with businesses in new ways—through social media, for example.  As businesses, we must open these new channels and allow customers to communicate with us through their chosen method.
  • Technology, which lets us complete some tasks in record time, also tends to be a time sucker and can draw our attention away from other things.

Seeking balance

Increased connectivity is not a good thing or a bad thing.  It is simply a thing. In my experience, I have found that it is nice to take a break from connectivity at least once a week.  On Friday nights and Saturday, I put down the phone and log out of e-mail.  Instead of focusing on digital connections, I focus on human connections.  While these tools are providing us with fantastic new capabilities, we have control and it is up to us to find the right balance.

We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011. Click here to read the first post about transparency. Click here to read the second post about disappearing privacy.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Coping with Surveillance Society

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/hWTQhK

Note:  This is the second blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses the disappearance of privacy.

300.  That is the number frequently cited for how many times a Londoner is caught on camera on average each day.  In the U.S., surveillance cameras are also rapidly expanding today with the purpose of fighting crime.  The Huffington Post reports more than 10,000 cameras in Chicago alone.  Cameras may be filming you while you are at the grocery store, bank or simply walking down the street.  While the purpose of the cameras for our safety, many worry that surveillance cameras—like other devices in our technological society—are too invasive and encroaching on our privacy.

The Internet is another constant source of privacy concern. Google recently got hammered by the press for Google Buzz, a program that made g-mail user’s e-mail contacts public without asking first. The Google Maps street view feature also received complaints about being too invasive for showing up close images of houses and even people on the street.  Google responded by blurring the faces of people present in the images.  New technology is not only bringing  widespread capabilities, it is also bringing widespread privacy concerns.

Living in the last generation of privacy

You know the drill:  when you post pictures on Facebook, you put the attractive pictures in and leave out the unflattering pictures.  If someone else posts an unattractive picture of you, there is the untag button.  However, there is no “untagging” most of the records that may exist on the Internet.

If I wanted to find my dental records from when I was a kid, it would be very difficult to track down.  However, children born in the Internet Age will likely be able to look up their electronic medical records from the day they were born.  Records are no longer just sitting in dusty file folders, they are digitally archived and easily retrieved.

George Orwell’s 1984 warned of a big brother watching our every move.  Have we come to that point? The ACLU is fighting back against what it terms our “surveillance society.”  The ACLU “fights the trend toward a surveillance society and works to guarantee that individuals, not governments or corporations, determine how and when others gain access to their personal information.”  While there is some resistance to the current trend, there is likely no backpedaling to more privacy controls.

Taking control of our privacy

In terms of social networking, we can make the personal choice whether or not to have a blog, Twitter account, Facebook account, etc.  We can choose whether or not to divulge details about our love lives, our families and our trials and tribulations on social networking sites.  These choices are up to us.  However, we have less of a say when it comes to whether or not our medical records are digitally archived, our faces are caught on cameras, or how our internet searches are archived.

You can run, but you can’t hide

What does this mean for businesses?  It means that there is never any hiding.  Records aren’t easily expunged, and they are easier to retrieve.  Every bit of information is fair game.  Therefore, companies should strive to always make ethical decisions. Once a mistake is made, it is now easier for the public to find out and harder to expunge from the record. The solution should be to embrace a company culture of doing good.  Be good so that you don’t have to hide records, because records are getting harder to hide.

Privacy is disappearing.  That is the way of the world today and we can’t stop it.  However, as one of my favorite quotes by Khalil Gibran states, “You can’t control the waves but you can learn how to surf.”  We can’t change the way society is shifting, but we can ride the waves.  The best way for businesses to adapt to “surveillance society” is to strive to make ethical decisions each and every day.

We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011. Click here to read the first post in the series.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Through the Looking Glass: The Transparency Trend

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/gXPFJv

Note:  This is the first blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses the increasing demand for transparency.

Before the Google era, if I was interested in looking up information about a company, I ordered a hard copy of a Dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers report.  These lengthy business information reports listed sales volume, growth, industry information, and a wealth of other business statistics.

Today, gathering information about a company doesn’t require sifting through lengthy paper reports.  Instead, information is only a few mouse clicks and keystrokes away.  We can Google the company, check out their website, look up recent news involving the company, and check social media sites including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for quick updates.

    Consumers today expect information that is up-to-date, easily accessible, honest and authentic.  Anything less makes us think either the company is lagging behind the times, or worse, hiding something.

    Beyond the walls

    Just as we can look through a transparent piece of glass, consumers want to feel as if they can look beyond the walls of the organization and understand its inner workings.   Consumers expect companies to be upfront about their values, practices, products & services they offer consumers, company news, and even mistakes if they have an effect on consumers.  Obviously we don’t expect the company to share trade secrets.  However, we do expect open communication so we can both receive information from the company and provide feedback.

    While companies may express fear about pulling back the curtain, customers will reward transparency. Being up front and honest with customers will foster trust, respect and loyalty.

    Honesty is the best policy

    Being transparent isn’t just sharing the good – it is about being honest.  Companies must be honest when they make a mistake.  BusinessWeek recently examined a new program the University of Michigan Health System started  to increase transparency.  If doctors made a medical error, the new program required that they admit the error to the patient and their family, offer an apology and compensation, and explain how the error will be avoided in the future.  A study of the program found that when doctors were transparent and apologetic about errors, their chance of getting sued for malpractice was much less. People understood that they were human, and they appreciated the honesty.

    A transparent world is a better world

    Transparency is better for both the consumer and the company.  Consumers benefit from having a wealth of information at their disposal so they can pick and choose which company meets their needs and matches their values.

    Companies will make better decisions, because they know they will get caught if they don’t!   Companies that are open with their customers and respond to their feedback will also be able to adapt better to their customers’ needs.  As Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates states,  “Only when people feel free to disclose customer feedback, talk about problems in an open way, deal with issues quickly, and share best-practices, can an organization truly respond and innovate with world-class speed.”

    The Public Affairs Council offers some great tips for organizations ready to increase their transparency.  The council says that “openness creates opportunities for dialog with customers, shareholders, employees, local communities and government officials.  If you make the effort to engage your critics – and those who may become your critics- you can correct problems before they get out of hand.  You also will have developed a long term ‘feedback loop’…”

    Business people should invite customers to peek around in their house, as if to say, “Come in, take a look—I have nothing to hide!” The mantra for good public relations can no longer just be “get caught doing good.”  In this transparent world, you can get caught doing nearly anything.  Make sure that being good is completely ingrained in your company mentality.  Then you can easily open up and foster trust with those who matter the most to your business.

    We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011.

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    45 life lessons for us all

    Posted in Executive Insights

    This was written By Regina Brett, when she was 50 years old, from The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio. Well done, Regina…thanks for sharing!

    To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.

    Be Happy1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

    2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

    3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

    4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

    5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

    6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

    7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

    8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

    9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

    10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

    11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

    12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

    13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

    14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

    15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

    16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

    17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

    18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

    19. it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

    20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

    21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

    22. Over prepare, and then go with the flow.

    23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

    24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

    25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

    26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

    27. Always choose life.

    28. Forgive everyone for everything.

    29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

    30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

    31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

    32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

    33. Believe in miracles.

    34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

    35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

    36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

    37. Your children get only one childhood.

    38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

    39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

    40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

    41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

    42. The best is yet to come.

    43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

    44. Yield.

    45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

    The choice is ours:  enjoy every day.  And as I like to end my interactions with people, “Be well.”

    Onward and upward.

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    THE Center for Community Collaboration

    Posted in Community Leadership

    There are three places called Kansas City.

    The first two are the actual cities in Kansas and Missouri. They specifically include the legal and political boundaries of those municipalities.

    The third one is the place more than two million people call home when someone outside of the metropolitan area asks them where they live. When I’m in Chicago, Jerusalem or Florence, Kansas City is my “home.” I call it the “Big K” Kansas City.

    Both of these descriptions accurately define the places called Kansas City. But just as Obi-Wan Kenobi explained in Star Wars, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.”

    Our own personal point-of-view depends on how each of us sees our city.

    But understand there are two realities to consider: the political and legal boundaries versus the market boundaries, as Michael Gallas explained to several hundred civic leaders last month during the recent Kansas City Revealed conference.

    Market forces disregard most political boundaries. Businesses barely consider political boundaries when referring to a “local” market. Watersheds, traffic patterns and criminals don’t adhere to political boundaries either. I mean seriously, it’s not smart business for both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri to have their own water treatment plants that empty into the same place on the same river. I’d like to think we can do a better job as we plan for the future of the “Big K” Kansas City?

    So, what is your primary image when you hear Kansas City – is it just the city, or the whole metropolitan area?

    Most of us consider The Royals, Chiefs and Wizards as our hometown teams, regardless of which city we actually live in. And, it’s our Plaza, Truman Library, Power & Light District, Speedway, airport and Union Station.

    It will be easier to focus our efforts on greater Kansas City as we move forward because both The Chamber and Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) will move their headquarters into adjoining space at Union Station at the end of this year.

    Kansas City Chamber LogoKansas City Area Development Council Logo

    Kansas City Union - Exterior

    (Photo was contributed to the American Institute of Architects by Yakov Brodsky)

    Kansas City saved Union Station from the wrecking ball back in 1996. Voters in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas approved a one-eighth of a cent bi-state sales tax to restore and redevelop Union Station and create a science museum. The tax raised $118 million toward the total $250 million project. The remaining money was raised through private donations and federal funds. The passage of the bi-state tax is thought to be the first of its kind in the history of the United States.

    We worked across all political lines to completely refurbish the station and return this jewel to prominence among our city’s treasures. It worked. We brought new life to a historic and integral part of our city’s legacy.

    Not so long ago, Union Station served as the jumping-off point to help defend and preserve our future. I believe Union Station will do that once again.

    It serves as greatest single “proof point” of regional cooperation.

    Place Matters. Context Matters. And Union Station is simply spectacular.

    We saved Union Station. We improved it. And when thousands of people “meet” in Union Station in the normal course of business at The Chamber and KCADC, this special, physical space will help empower every one of us to transcend traditional political boundaries to make decisions that will propel the entire Kansas City metropolitan area.

    I’m exceptionally optimistic Union Station will quickly become THE Center for Community Collaboration. Union Station belongs to everyone who calls Kansas City home. Numerous other civic groups are considering a similar move to Union Station. Whether they move offices or not, their voices will be heard in Union Station.

    Obi-Wan was right: As we reinforce the new role of Union Station as THE Center for Community Collaboration, every place called Kansas City benefits.

    Onward and upward.

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    First Loyalties

    Posted in Community Leadership, Executive Insights

    We all play several roles in our lives.  However, many of these roles create a conflict of interest.  My roles include being a husband, father, son, sibling, friend, business owner, civic leader, a lay leader in the Jewish community, a Kansas Citian (who, by-the-way, lives and located our business in Overland Park), an industry and professional leader, etc…

    It’s hard to always know which role comes first.  And each situation demands a different priority.

    In balance with my family, my goal is to make a positive difference with enthusiasm and integrity in four areas:  our company, the Kansas City community, the marketing and communications profession and Judaism.

    But sometimes, those loyalties cause conflict.

    Today’s example comes from a recent Board Meeting for The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

    We discussed big issues that have a huge impact on our entire community.  These issues range from education to transportation to crime, while sprinkling in much conversation about policies, development, collaboration and engagement.

    One recent, contentious topic had board members choosing sides.  And then one of our colleagues made an impassioned appeal that helped sway many opinions.  On one hand, that’s exactly how due process should work.  But upon reflection, this person may have had re-ordered their loyalties for this specific discussion.

    KC LoyaltyMy friend, Rick Hughes, the President & CEO of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, explained his concept of “First Loyalties.”  He says we all have many responsibilities, but each of us owes it to organizations that we serve to be sure we always put our “first loyalty” to the mission of that respective organization.  In other words, when we’re at a Chamber board meeting, or any other board meeting, our roles as individual business owners must be subservient to our “first” loyalty to help that organization make the best decisions based on its purpose, even if this is contrary to what would be best for our individual businesses.

    Rick’s point makes great sense to me, and I’m proud to share it with you in this blogpost.

    I used to say that I wore many “hats” and I had to be sure I was sporting the proper headgear for each moment.  Rick has a better way to approach these challenges.  Instead of taking off one hat and putting on another, I will now keep all of those hats with me 24 x 7, and will simply re-sequence my headwear.

    Thanks, Rick, for sharing your great perspective, and helping me ensure that I am “first” with the proper loyalties at all times.

    I hope this post helps you to consciously determine your “first” loyalty in each situation.

    Onward and upward.

    Loyalty in Chinese

    Loyalty in Chinese

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