Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SHOULD "NO ANSWERS" BE PART OF YOUR SALES EVALUATION?

What is a "No Answer"? They are the times that seem to happen all too often when someone does not pick up the phone when you are trying to establish a sales contact or when the phone is constantly busy or when you are too unprepared to leave a message in their voice mail. For myself I have tended to forget them and certainly not record them. Are they important? It depends.

The minimal point of any sales effort is to either give or learn some information. If nothing happens what information is there and who cares?

Unfortunately in sales a lot of what you learn is negative. They aren't the least bit interested in what you are selling, they haven't the money or they aren't even the right person to talk to. You might learn they don't like the available colours or the way it plugs in. All this information and other negatives can help you to refocus or redirect your efforts. Some people believe there is no room for negativity in sales, but I believe there are positives even in negatives.

An unanswered phone call is delivering negative information. They aren't there, they don't choose to pick up the phone or maybe you dialled the wrong number. Maybe they are on vacation, out of business or even dead. If the matter isn't urgent you will move onto other efforts. Maybe you will try again in a few minutes or a few days. In some cases it might drag on for a long time.

With a busy signal it could of course indicate they are very busy, but it also could be the phone is off the hook or that you have the wrong number.

Eventually the situation might be resolved. You learn you have the wrong number, you find the right time or the right person or you find out it is a dead end (at least for the time being). On your data base you enter more refined contact details such as a better number or a better time.

If you leave a voice mail you are at least giving some information. Even though they do not pick up the phone there often will be a voice message that you can learn something from. They still are in business or not, maybe a name can be confirmed or pronunciation or gender determined.

Maybe before all of your unanswered calls are resolved you try to measure your efforts against your results to determine if you are making progress. Whether your results have been good or bad shouldn't you measure all your effort?  In the long run you want to avoid wasting your time so it might be a good idea to learn how you have spent your time and determine if there is a better way. Ultimately you should arrive at a figure that indicates how much total effort you made to get a result (a sale or a dollar figure).  Your goal is to improve that figure, not by avoiding negative outcomes, but pushing past them. You will find that to be successful in sales you have to keep going despite the all too often negative results.

Wouldn't it be good to realize just what times and days you have made an effort so that weeks later you can make sense of your efforts and minimize wasted time.

Sometimes you give up just because no one seems to ever answer the phone. Check the possibilities that you have the wrong number, or that you are phoning when they just aren't there. You might have to concede that they just don't want to talk to you. When you are able to determine the situation you can move forward. At least you have recorded an effort and can take some comfort that you aren't just waiting for someone to contact you.

If you aren't afraid of a no answer you will make more calls, some of which might be no answers or worse, but you will be moving closer to positive results.

If all information were positive we wouldn't need to measure it as much. As we gain in experience our efficiency and effectiveness should improve. Measurements that include all our efforts are more accurate. When we make targeted and informed efforts we will make progress.

Monday, June 27, 2011

TELL TO WIN OFFERS WINNING FORMULA


Peter Guber is best known as a movie producer of such movies as "Rain Man," "Batman", "Midnight Express" and "Gorillas in the Mist". He has also gotten involved in a few interesting side issues, such as baseball teams and parks, and teaching at UCLA. I wouldn't think of him as a sales person, but in fact he is a prime example of someone with big ideas that he was able to sell to other people.

The inspiration for "Tell to Win" was his wonder of the story. Facts and figures often get overlooked, but a good story can pack an emotional wallop. Peter realized many of his friends had used stories to win over converts to their idea. He broke down the process and set out searching friends to better understand the process.

His friends including such people as Nelson Mandela, Deepak Chopra, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Dan Siegel, Robert Rosen, Carl Sagan, Tony Robbins, all people who found a story had made a difference in getting something important done. One of the most interesting efforts he made was to go to Papua New Guinea where there is a strong oral tradition.

A lot of factors go into a successful story and Peter explores them one by one with illustrations from the experience of his friends trying to change attitudes. The basic concern is that people are inundated with facts and statistics and often gloss over them. What often compels people to take a closer look is a story with emotional content that they can identify with.

We grow up with stories. The best stories emerge from a violation of our expectations. For instance there is a problem people are familiar with or can at least identify with and the result is not what was expected.

A particular story is not necessarily appropriate at all times for all audiences. A key factor is to know your audience and what they will respond to. Timing is an issue in itself and you need to be sensitive to it. This can only come from careful listening

Stories have been important to me as a salesman. A really relevant story can be hard to dig up. It pays to be patient, but look for the opportunity. One of my favorite stories came when I worked for a cleaning product company. We had decided that a primary target would be veterinarians as we had discovered our product was very effective at dealing with skunk odour. We developed stories about successful de-skunkings and how much impact it had on social settings. My favorite story ended up being how I introduced myself and illustrates many of the principles of Peter's book.

We learned about someone who happened to be a receptionist at a vet clinic, but our acquaintance came through her involvement as a dog trainer assistant. She explained to someone else in the company that as a receptionist she got peed on a lot by dogs visiting the clinic and found our cleaner the best at cleaning up her clothes. I tracked her down to clarify the story and thought about how it fitted into my situation.  I made cold calls and of course the first person I saw was the receptionist. Thinking on it further I realized that they are generally the first to meet the people and the first to meet the pets and I guessed the first person that got peed on by a visiting animal. That was all I needed.

I would start off with something like "I guess you are the first person to meet all the people. They would nod, but not get too involved. I guess you are also the first person to see all the animals. Another nod, but still not quite tuned in, maybe even a little annoyed. Then I would say you are probably the first person to get peed on. At that point many would laugh and others would admit it was a problem.  I then explained that I had been told this by another receptionist who found what I had in my hand to be the best solution. Their interest was fairly keen and they were receptive to the rest of what I wanted to say. Often bringing in someone else with more authority letting me get closer to a decision maker.  I later had help to adapt this approach in French for calls in Quebec and found they reacted pretty much the same way.

Peter has a very interesting website where you can see videos of conversations, his schedule and more stories. Just check out www.peterguber.com

If you examine your own circumstances you have your own stories about why you do certain things, why you like certain things. You have been told why other people do things. If you are trying to persuade someone to do something they aren't inclined to do, a story about why someone else found it worth their while will be helplful.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

WHAT IS A BOLLYWOOD JODI?


In honour of the IIFA awards this evening I would like to offer a new Bollywood item.

A jodi is simply the couple in a romantic movie. For those of us who can get obsessed with Bollywood, a jodi is something we consider in evaluating any movie we have seen or ones we anticipate.

Hollywood over its history has often touted couples as a dynamic component of a movie to hype up your interest. An old one is Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn. Not quite so old might be Doris Day and Rock Hudson. A more modern one might be Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie. The idea of course is that they are such glamorous and sexy people and their chemistry will light up the screen. Many couplings are picked for their individual popularity and budget, but some combinations really do add interest to the movie.

In Bollywood the concept is more intense and fans develop their own favorite jodis. I haven't seen that many Bollywood movies so my thoughts are mostly for the last 15 years or so. In reality there are too many to note in a short blog.

Some of my favorite jodis form around the male star Shah Rukh Khan. In 1995 he made his mark opposite Kajol in "Diwale Duhania le Jayenge" that was one of the most ground breaking movies. They went onto "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" that spanned a longer period of time and showed Shah Rukh as a father for the first time and Kajol transposes herself from a tomboy to someone more glamorous. Still another popular movie where they run off together against his father's wishes was "Kabhi Khushie Kabhie Gham."    More recently "My Name is Khan" saw them together again, this time with Shah Rukh playing someone with Asperger's and a lot of persistence to win the heart of Kajol and then after some historical changes forced to redeem his love.

Earlier in his career Shah Rukh had a jodi with Juhi Chawla which is worth recalling as the two afterwards formed business relations for both movie productions and cricket. Most of their movies together were comedies and they played off each other very well. Ones that I recall were "Yes, Boss"; "One Ka 2 Ka 4" ; and more recently "Boothnath" which was considered a special appearance by Shah Rukh. Juhi made an interesting special appearance at the very end of "Kabhi haan Kabhi Naa" where Shah Rukh had lost the girl, but as the narrator said he didn't get discouraged and Juhi appears magically and you can sense this would be the match meant to be.

Another favorite jodi is Shah Rukh and Rani Mukerji. It is amazing how in movies the jodi can be configured in different ways. In "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", Rani is Shah Rukh's first real love, but her death and letters to her daughter are what spark his pursuit of Kajol.  In "Khabie Khushie Kabhie Gham" she is actually rejected by Shah Rukh in his pursuit again of Kajol, but takes it in good spirits. They come together in" Chalte Chalte" in an poor boy/rich girl mix that is realistic in the sense that they are quarreling even at the end.  Another favorite is "Paheli" where Shah Rukh plays both a cuckolded husband and a ghost who wins Rani's heart.

Again Shah Rukh picks the ladies I like. Preity Zinta. I first saw the pairing with one of my first Bollywood movies," Kal Ho Na Ho."  It turned out to be a love triangle with lots of misunderstandings. Shah Rukh won her heart, but pushed her to another hero, Saif Ali Khan. Ironically in another heavy movie, "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" they start out married while Shah Rukh falls in love with Rani and they start an adulterous affair. In "Veer-Zaara" Shah Rukh spends years in jail to be reunited with Preity in his old age and only due to the efforts of Rani Mukerji playing a lawyer.

One other jodi for Shah Rukh is worth mentioning. Asoka was a big epic historial movie where he paired with Kareena Kapoor. In another movie she played Kajol's younger sister. "Ra One", a movie portraying Shah Rukh as a super hero to come out later this year with Kareena playing the leading lady and they are also filming together in another movie Angoor due in 2012.

Aamir Khan is considered a more serious actor and he broke with tradition in pretty well always actually kissing his jodi partner. He has paired up with Juhi Chawla in a movie that proved a big breakthrough for him," Qayamat Se Qayamet Tak" in 1988. He formed a a strong jodi with Preity Zinta in "Dil Chata Hai."  In one of his biggest pictures, "3 Idiots" he teamed up with Kareena Kapoor to very good effect. One of my favorite pairing was with newcomer (to Bollywood) Asin in "Ghajini."  I am looking forward to her pairing up with Shah Rukh Khan sometime in the next two years.

A younger jodi was Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. I didn't really appreciate either one of them until "Jab We Met." They were real lovers when this was filmed after having performed together in a few others. It is one of my favorite romantic films, partly because they did have that chemistry. Both are exceptional dancers and the music helped the cause.

Recent news might heighten interest in another jodi--this time an actual husband and wife. Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. Her pregnancy was announced just a short time ago. Their wedding in 2007 apparently was one of the biggest deals in India. She was a former Miss World in 1994 and has been seen in a few American movies and he is the son of a Amitabh and Jaya Bhaduri, reigning Bollywood couple. Abhishek appeared in "Kuch Naa Kaho." they have done "Guru" and "Raavan" and "Sarkar Raj" together.

Perhaps the top Bollywood male dancer is Hrithik Roshan and he has participated in a few winning jodis. One partner was Aishwarya Rai in "Jodhaa Akbar" and lately "Guzzarich."  He also paired with Preity Zinta in Lakshya. I will be looking for another one with this jodi "Koi Mil Gaya."    One of his jodis I didn't like was with Kareena Kapoor, but they have both matured since then.

In closing--this is not a typical jodi, but one of the most spectacular casting of all time and all cultures was Amitabh playing the son of his actual son in a movie called "Paa". He played a 13 year old with progeria. Abitabh won a well deserved award for that. Another pairing, in the same movie more traditional was Abhishek with Vidya Balan, the first time I have seen her (but it won't be the last).

There are lots of other jodis and there certainly lots of attractive popular actors and actresses. Movie goers like to talk about their favorites and speculate which jodi they would be most excited about. How about you? Hollywood, Bollywood or elsewhere?

Monday, June 20, 2011

BRUSHING YOUR DOG'S TEETH CAN BE AN IMPORTANT PART OF SOCIALIZATION



A big part of trying to persuade people to think of brushing their dog's teeth comes with the health benefits and economic benefits. A problem is that this motivation is not quite enough for some dog owners. They will take a cheap or easier way of dealing with the problem.
















It was suggested to me by a retailer, Lynn who works at Pawsh in Cambridge that an important benefit is socializing.

We love playing with our dogs and things can get pretty rough sometimes. We learn not to get them too upset or we might get bitten. If we have children we are careful that they don't play too rough. Occasionally our dogs will pick up something of concern such as potentially poisonous or dangerous food. On some occasions we might be asked to give the dog a pill or medicine that we soon learn they will resist. These experiences illustrate a limit to trust.

Brushing a dog's teeth is a way of building trust. The dog needs to understand that you do not want to hurt it, but that you want to do something that at first might be a bit scary or uncomfortable. Brushing a dog's teeth requires patience. Do a little at a time letting your dog appreciate you mean no harm. Over time some dogs will enjoy the experience and it should not be unpleasant for the person doing the brushing.

At some point the brushing should become pretty routine. At this point the trust level between you and your dog has been elevated. You can certainly continue to have fun with your dog, but be more comfortable. Your dog should be more co-operative when taking things out of or into their mouth.

The fact that your dog is healthier and you might have less need to spend money at the vet's might be the main motivation for the effort, but having a more trusting relation with your dog is one of the benefits.

The photo on the top is an example of using the Triple Pet finger brush and on the bottom is using the Triple Pet classic brush.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

THERE ARE TWO DIMENSIONS TO NUMBERS WHEN SELLING


Numbers are everywhere, but for salespeople the key ones are those that reflect an effort to make a sale. Most sales people get very discouraged by rejection particularly when they make their first efforts. They are likely to be told that you just have to contact enough people and you will get more sales. That is true, but only tells part of the story.

For many years I worked with newspaper carriers and learned that I was expected to take them out canvassing which basically was knocking on doors asking for subscriptions. Its terminology reflects a numbers mentality. I remember one morning after a very frustrating canvassing effort where I recruited one young boy and he only knocked on doors for 1/2 an hour and brought me 1 order. My colleague, Rick Hill reported 48 orders, but it took him four hours with 6 canvassers. I was embarrassed, but worked out the mathematics and realized I had gotten the same production on a per head per hour basis.

What a difference! Not only did my friend get much more reward for his effort, but there were a few other lessons. My one order could have been considered flukey, but when you have more than one person making an effort over a period of time you have competition and you might even have co-operation where some will help out a beginner. You also have a learning curve and some confidence boosting. With the larger numbers Rick had more youngsters wanting to join his crew.

I did improve in this numbers game after making all sorts of efforts to encourage youngsters to participate. Considered a fairly good manager in terms of training carriers for delivery and keeping their accounts up to date, but I really was not too impressive at selling. Then I met Roma Dempsey who had come over from another newspaper. She kept some of her top sellers.

She offered to take me with her crew and help boost our techniques. Like myself she would talk to the canvassers telling them what to say and giving them a pep talk. Where the difference came was she took the most successful canvasser and had him work with other youngsters. She rewarded him for this training effort. Before too long my canvassers were performing much better and the process became fun.

That made me realize the other dimension of numbers.  First we deal with what every body understands, quantity. More hours, more doors, more phone calls, are some of the ways we measure quantity.

Quality is a lot more difficult to measure, but is more critical. When I got into more direct sales I recognized the importance of prospecting, qualifying, targeting, product knowledge, presentation skills and following up. As you improve in these areas you will get more rewards for your effort.

An important equation is Quantity x Quality=Results. When you fail to make a sale there is always a reason. One of the most basic is that your prospect was not properly qualified. They might not have had the interest, the ability to pay, or the authority to decide. More attention to those details in advance will save a lot of wasted time. Perhaps you couldn't answer one of their questions. Product knowledge can make a difference, but perhaps even more important is understanding the prospect. Maybe you were too abrupt in your approach or maybe you took too long to get to the point. You might even be able to salvage the sale if you follow up by answering the question or making the product more relevant to the prospect. If you didn't ask the right questions you would not understand what they are interested in.  As a rule the more efforts you make, the more skills you develop. The knowledge and skills need to be developed. The more you study the more you learn.

Believe me there would be no need for sales at all if people would just figure out that the new mousetrap would improve their lives, on their own. If you have any thing for sale including ideas it does pay to learn a bit about selling as nothing happens until somebody sells something.

If you are not involved with "sales" (I respect you for making it this far) you might not see the relevance to you, but I am sure you have some ideas. Until you are accepted as an authority you have to deal with those who think they already are. You need to identify who really can help you, who might have a reason to help you or let you help them. How can you best present your idea? Should you give up just because they didn't respond well to your first effort? Should you look for someone else who might be more responsive? These are selling questions. Improve your quantity (of efforts) and your quality (of efforts) and you are more likely to sell your idea. Your idea might be as simple as I can help you if you are willing to reward me.

The photo was done by my brother Marshall http://www.fotoworks.ca on a trip through South Dakota.  It is of a bunch of cowboys herding a much larger bunch of cows. You can interpret in different ways--I was just drawing attention to the numbers of the two sets of animals and trying to solve a problem.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IIFA Rocks in Toronto


As part of the big Videocon d2H IIFA weekend in Toronto IIFA Rocks offers a high fashion and music show hosted by Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan. Saif has hosted a number of popular events in India and outside. They are expecting a capacity audience of 7,500 at the Ricoh Coliseum on June 24th.

In India a big part of the music industry starts out from movies. The Indian public has gotten used to a lot of music and dance in their movies. One of the ways the movie is promoted is by a music release weeks before the movie opening. That gets people singing some of the songs in anticipation of the movie. Unfortunately it is not so good for movies that can't generate sing-a-longs. Here in North America if a movie is popular enough or the music noteworthy enough a soundtrack will be sold after the movie.

One of my favorite musical groups Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy will be performing . Brought together to collaborate on a movie in 1997 they decided to work together on dozens of movies. Ehsaan Noorani, Shankar Mahadevan and Loy Mendonsa combined their interests as instrumenatlists and vocalists to write some wonderful music in a variety of styles. When you go to their website http://www.shankarehsaanloy.com/ and check their audio gallery the first song is one of my all time favorite songs, Kal Ho Na Ho. It hits me strong because I associate it with the movie that tied into one of the saddest scenes I have ever watched. One of the reasons for the emotional attachment is the music itself (in the movie there are two versions, one labeled sad version). Also in the same movie, Kal Ho Na Ho, originally planned to be filmed in Toronto but moved to New York during the SARS scare is a song Kuch To Hua Hai that is set in Toronto with many recognizable landmarks. It is a very happy tune earlier in the movie.

A fashion show is integral and models will come from both India and Canada with the latest.

The show will raise money for the IIFA foundation that provides for workers who are adversely affected during the production of films.

We live in a big world and Bollywood music can certainly add a lot of joy.

I am repeating myself with photos, but it is again appropriate. In the middle is Saif Ali Khan the host of IIFA rocks. On the right is Preity Zinta who will be at the awards event and to the left is Shah Rukh Khan, one of my favorites.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Why I like Foreign Movies (even with subtitles) and why I think you should take a closer look


I seem to be in a number of minority groups (at least in my back yard) and here is another. I like to watch foreign movies, including those with subtitles. As an aging male with declining eyesight and attention span I too am bothered by subtitles, but I find the value is more than worth the effort. Maybe your experience allows you to think there might be something worth checking out.

It is not that every foreign subtitled movie is better than anything Hollywood and the rest of the English speaking world can produce because that is not true. The attraction is mainly a chance to see something from a different perspective. When you live inside a culture you feel that is the centre of the universe, but that is really a ridiculous notion when you think on it deeply.

I've watched and enjoyed movies from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. Asia is the continent that produces the most movies and where the culture is the most different from what I am used to. I watch a lot of movies from India (have I mentioned I love Bollywood), but have also enjoyed movies from China, Korea and Japan. In truth many foreign countries feel they have to emulate Hollywood in order to survive, but there are film makers anxious to present their country's way of life.

My feelings are that the movies nominated for best foreign language movie at the Oscars are often the better movies. the quality is there. "The Lives of Others," "Departures," "After The Wedding" are really world class. I am looking forward to seeing "In A Better World" and "Incendies."

There are a lot of skills that go into a movie. At the top is a producer who has been given a budget (maybe the real top is the one who provides the money for the budget). They select directors and key personnel. A lot of people will influence the team selection. Writing, camera, actors, directors, costumes, sound, editors are some of the main contributors. Each has a skill and has to learn to work with the others. Some of these skilled people, such as Susanne Bier are internationally exchangeable including into other languages and everyone benefits.

Earlier this year I read Empathic Civilization and was taken with his notion that civilization is evolving so that we are inter-related with other cultures. At one time the dominant cultures felt they had little to learn from foreign cultures and in fact we need to teach them our language, our religion and our way of doing business so they can get with the program. Now all groups seem to be more open to each other.

That thought has been changing over the years in big part because of actual contact. Contact comes in all sorts of ways; travel and immigration being the most profound. We have been invaded and gotten used to it--we love foreign foods as one instance and seem to be getting more "exotic" all the time. We are aware of events in other distant parts of the world in some cases almost instantly.

In some ways our understanding is much deeper than before, but needs to go further. Movies cannot totally bridge the gap, but I believe they are helpful. First we need to appreciate that both intelligence and emotions can be found everywhere. Given the opportunity foreigners can turn out stories worth watching and tell them well enough that they can be enjoyed. The best stories reflect a personal viewpoint.

It is not just that we are different from other people; it is that we are very similar. The joys and tragedies of life are common to us all. The way we communicate, what we do for fun and a lot of our attitudes are different sometimes amounting to barriers. Movies are one way of helping to bridge the gap.

In Canada the most vibrant part of the movie industry is French Canadian. As an Anglophone most Quebec movies are a "foreign" language. What could be more important to understand than part of your own family. They struggle to maintain their culture and movies is one of the ways. One Quebec movie I enjoyed was "The Seduction of Dr Lewis."

Don't judge a whole country by one movie, but look at a broader base. You are sure to be surprised from time to time, but more importantly will have a better understanding of the "other." The more you understand the better for all of us.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

RURAL AND URBAN CONTRASTS TOWARDS PETS REVEALED BY BRUSHING TEETH


Admittedly I sell something a bit unusual; toothbrushes for dogs. The concept is still pretty new and very much a niche product. One interesting reaction was the difference in attitudes and practices between urban and rural areas.

When you are able to explain to a city dweller the health and economic advantages of brushing a dog's teeth, they seem to understand it. The problem for many of them is they feel very uncomfortable trying to brush their dog's teeth and don't have the patience to persist.

When you approach some people in a rural area they are very apt to start laughing. They cannot imagine why anybody would go to all that trouble. Ironically many of them would feel fairly comfortable doing it and as a general rule they tend to be more patient.

At first I thought this contrast might reflect different levels of education, but I have concluded the explanation requires more digging.

In a rural area people who raise livestock have to detach themselves from being emotionally involved with their animals. This goes to some extent with work animals as well. It is not just a matter of money, it is a matter of survival. Any animal becomes replaceable. If an animal is going to be sent to the slaughter house it is not a good idea to become attached to it. If a horse can't pull the load anymore you need to find another that can.

In urban areas our dogs and cats survive not by working, but endearing themselves to us. We on the other hand are looking for something to fill a need. Children fufill that need to a large degree and ironically we often get pets to make our children happy and hopefully learn some responsibility. And lately for various reasons we tend to have fewer children and for many their pets help fill the void.   In my family we had been pet-less for over 5 years when my eldest daughter went off to university in the Maritimes.  It really was a coincidence that we got a cat.   A few years later our son went off to university, eventually to Vancouver Island and for the first time in our lives my wife and I both agreed to get a second cat. Perhaps another coincidence.

The point being that city folks, long removed from the farm that most of our ancestors worked on get very attached to our pets to the point they are considered part of the family. I had a job selling office supplies including to doctors, dentists and veterinarians. During an economic downturn I noticed that doctors didn't notice--they were getting their usual income through the government health insurance. Dentists did notice as without a job people did not have insurance for some dental work and it was a difficult decision. One veterinarian said that when it came to small things most pet owners delayed action, but when it came to major surgeries pet owners were more inclined to go ahead; he felt that their pets became even more important in tough times.

Of course everything is changing and these attitudes are already going in different directions. Rural people do get attached to their pets.  Urban people are learning a hands on approach to maintain their pet's health.

Still I notice that many urban people take what I feel are the cheap hands off approach to dental care. they don't like bad breath, so they buy chemical additives. They hear diet affects the teeth so they adjust the diet. Younger people are more open to getting their hands yucky and doing what makes a greater difference, actually brushing the dog's teeth and learning there are other benefits.

I have spent most of my life living in a city, but spent two years of high school in a rural area. I also went to a university with a strong agricultural reputation where I learned to respect rural backgrounds. My reflections on this topic really come from hundreds of conversations with city, small town and rural retailers.

I will from time to time be writing about brushing dog's teeth as that is one of the things that pays my bills. Even if the idea seems ridiculous or uncomfortable to you, I hope you will bear with me as it can add years to your pet's life and life to your pet's years.

The photo is of my daughter, Heather's (with Sarah) dog Lexie in my backyard taken recently by Sharon Davidson.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why I love Opera--the Wayne Gretzky connection

A little background. At my Grandmother's funeral my father thought it would be a great idea if I would grab all the family records and do a family tree. This was a short time after "Roots" had its tv run. I had not thought of that, but unknown to my father my wife was pregnant with our first child and that gave me another motive.

I enjoyed the process a lot more than I expected. At some point I realized that my now newborn daughter had another side of hr family. Part of that family was Italian. I anticipated having to go through Italian records and decided to learn Italian. As part of the process I thought I would take in a little culture and developed an interest in modern popular Italian music.

One day I came into work a little earlier than usual and our secretary, Rheta Cornish at the Etobicoke Guardian was playing some classical music on the radio and apologized if it offended me. Actually I easily accepted classical music, but couldn't help uttering, "But I can't stand opera."

It turned out that offended her, but she didn't show it. Merely uttered that it was her favorite. At that exact moment I realized that a lot of opera was Italian and maybe I should give it some consideration. I got to talking to Rheta about it and she made a suggestion or two. I decided to get some tapes at the library near where I worked in Etobicoke and put them on while driving (I commuted from Hamilton to Toronto and quite a bit on the job). Every now and then I would hear something quite enjoyable between parts that mostly bored me.

I mentioned this to Rheta and she explained that was normal, but that after awhile I would appreciate the parts in between. I reached the stage where I listened to more and more operas and read about them and even attended a few. At another stage I realized that opera was sung in many different languages and although my favorites are Italian I came to appreciate German, French and other languages. I never did master Italian, but did realize Italians have given the rest of us a lot of culture from music, cuisine and style.

You've waited long enough--the Wayne Gretzky connection is Rheta. I am pretty certain Wayne got to hear a lot of opera and classical music and Rheta's opinions as he lived with her for a year or two while he pursued his hockey career. At one time Wayne's parents had decided that Wayne needed a higher level of competition than he could get in Brantford. They knew Bill Cornish was a president in Toronto Minor Hockey and got to know him as a very trustworthy person who eventually agreed to be a guardian of Wayne.

A few years later, Rheta and Bill also took Wayne's sister into her home while she attended a community college. When Wayne had his big wedding Rheta was invited. Over a few years I got to know Rheta whose interests and connections went from hockey to music. Her son, Bill Jr was the funniest co-worker I ever had. I knew Bill Sr at a distance, but realized he also shared an interest in classical music. I was caught off guard phoning Bill Sr to learn Rheta had died. I will always remember her for getting me interested in opera which I still think is the highest art (except for a film version of opera).

Rheta got me at the right time, not only with my interest in Italian culture, but also my interest in dramatic music. As a youngster I loved to watch the big musicals on tv. South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, State Fair, Carousel and Cabaret are some that I remember. In a dramatic context the music was more emotional. You felt happy that the boy and girl were getting together and sad that things weren't working out. You could feel patriotic. The song by itself could evoke some of these emotions, but not as much as if the context could be remembered.

If you have never liked opera before don't expect to fall in love right away, but if you are open minded about it the effort is worth it. I once heard Wayne talk on the radio about his support for the National Ballet Company of Canada.