James P. Kelly: March 18, 1930 – August 31, 2016

jpkI haven’t posted anything since March because for most of that period my father’s deterioration due to metastasized melanoma overwhelmed me.  I want to begin again by posting my eulogy (one of four) and my remembrance delivered at a St. Joseph Notre Dame High School financial aid fundraiser. Given that so much of life over these months has been dominated by caring for him and then grieving his death, posting these tribute seems a fitting way back to writing. { read more }

On Bids

bidEvery so often a bid lands on my desk. It’s either a current customer seeking lower prices or a prospect looking to see if we’ll compete for their business. Whatever the case, it usually means someone asking for bottom dollar, or close. No other qualifications matter. Such exercises drive me nuts.  Any company can find someone desperate or dumb enough to buy business.  Even we’ve been guilty of such stupidity, always discovering it doesn’t pay.  Some customers can’t help themselves.  Supplier madness is just too tempting. { read more }

Careless Email, Destructive Words

imagesMost of us have vented frustration in an email.  Some rant at the recipient like they’d never do in person.  A smaller subset stumble badly.  We hit “Reply All” when we don’t intend to, write a nastygram or some other uncomplimentary email about a person and hit “Send” only to  realize that the person who we are complaining about got the email.  Fevered attempts to recall it usually prove fruitless.  The unintended recipient either ends up embarrassed or offended.  Explanations may or may not salve wounds.  But damage lingers. { read more }

Election Mania (or Maniacs)

sandersThis coming week New Hampshire goes to the polls in the first primary of our prolonged election season. Various contenders hope to stamp their ticket as front- runner thanks to their performance. For many months Donald Trump has been my main worry. His demagogic politics, given to demonizing Muslims and Mexicans, clearly puts him outside mainstream cultural traditions. { read more }

On Not Writing

imagesIt has been many months since I’ve posted anything here. This silence isn’t very smart for me. I really enjoy writing. Not doing it leaves a vacuum inside me. I like putting my thoughts out there, love the creativity of assembling letters on a page, and even find some hint of the Divine when my mind and my hands become one and the words spill out of me. It is an altered state of consciousness, access to part of my brain, my soul, that I have no other way. Not to mention how fun I find it.  Nothing I do feels quite like it. { read more }

Turning Disaster into Freeze-Dried Blueberries

dried-blueberry-productRecently I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with the executive team of Homegrown Organic Farms, which operates one of the largest organic blueberry operations in the country.  I’ve rarely met a more open, honest and intelligent group — and I am not saying that just because they are customers — so passionate about their product.  It being our first meal together we spent time swapping stories family and corporate histories.  My team, lead by local Xpedx technical sales representative Chris Kampsen then had a chance to learn about the range of new products they hoped to introduce.  They asked our help to develop the necessary packaging. { read more }

On Growing a Family Business

wwaHistoryWhen my father started Emerald Packaging in 1963 he did so with three partners.  Over the years he bought them out, until in 1993 we became a family business.  Through the years the second generation slowly jumped on board. My brother came first, about 30 years ago, and took a sales role.  My sister followed and entered customer service.  I arrived almost 18 years ago after a career in journalism helping in operations.  My father ran a tight ship. The business prospered making iceberg lettuce bags back when such things were novelty.  He had a good plant management team, which allowed him to focus on sales, strategy and finance. { read more }

The California Bag Ban 2014

flying bagAfter over a decade of struggle, the plastic grocery carry-out sack looks doomed in California.  Earlier this month the legislature passed a state-wide ban on bags to take effect in July, 2015.  After that you’ll either have to bring your own or pay 10 cents for a paper bag.  If you’re like me and carry a reusable bag in your car, that means roughly a quarter of the time you’ll get dinged for paper. I forget the bag that often.  One of my main arguments against the ban has always been that it disproportionately effects older people, who are more prone to forgetting.  Well, actually I’ve never argued that, but doing so may have convinced the American Association of Retired People to throw their weight against the bill. { read more }

Emails, Texting and Business

iphone_addiction_798185Recently I banished iPhones and PDA’s from company meetings.  Over time it had become increasingly common to see staff checking their phones while a colleague tried to bring their attention to an issue. Or worse, they’d begin texting.  Not only is such behavior rude, study after study has shown that you cannot divide your attention between your phone and a conversation and do justice to either.  “Not unless you are negotiating Middle East peace,” went the one caveat I offered for getting on the phone during a meeting.  Our confabs aren’t very long, and if someone is expecting a call they can always bow out or reschedule it. { read more }

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

imagesI recall a lunch many years ago with two executives from Exxon Mobil.  They laughed at what they saw coming for the flexible packaging industry.  Resin prices would start rising soon and wouldn’t stop.  Exxon would mint profits while many converters, unable to pass through the increases, would die.  Their giddiness wasn’t simply sadistic.  Resin companies had seen their prices fall for years as customers played rivals against each other. But the worm had turned.  Resin producers had consolidated to three or four from more than 10, which meant market power had shifted to survivors like Exxon and Nova Chemicals. { read more }


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: