Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eulogy for Ray

February 24, 2010; Boca Raton, Florida

First of all, thank you for being here. The love and support from family and friends is the thing that’s keeping us going during this unimaginably horrible time.

Darlene, Sarah and Ben, and Peter as well as my mother Lee, my in-laws Ruth and Tobe, Aunt Wendy, Uncle Steve and Aunt Miriam deeply, deeply appreciate it.

I’ve personally gotten unbelievable and amazing love from people I’ve known all my life… for years, months … and even from someone I just became friends with a few short weeks ago. Beloved aunts. Dear cousins. Friends. Colleagues. Friends I barely knew or never saw in person or met once. Fellow parents and allies in the fight.

Beautiful. A blessing. Amazing! Visits. Calls. E-mail. Facebook: Facebook has been great!

Jews. Christians. Buddhists. Moslems. Atheists. Whatever. Love. Powerful love. Thank you. Thank you. I love you too.

So let’s talk about Ray, my youngest child. My baby. My little boy.

If you knew him at all, you know how charming he is. Is, not was. I’m still charmed by him. We all are.

A charming Pachter? Is that an oxymoron? Darlene is very charming of course and Sarah is a pageant queen. Ben and I have a somewhat more casual relationship with charm and tact, though we do try.

But Ray: you could drop him into a crowd of strangers and within a few minutes, they’d be his pals. Right? That’s Ray. And it was sincere.

Ray was named for my paternal grandfather, Ralph: Raphael Ralph Pachter. RRP. Ray is Raymond Raphael Pachter. RRP. Boy, those two together, had they known each other, would have been dangerous. Two peas in a pod, as Darlene likes to say. RRP times two.

Ray’s quite a character: Deep: when my father died, he’d ask me for months where Grampa Howie was and about the nature of death. An infant Woody Allen, I thought. Now, in about an hour — give or take — his mortal remains will rest just a few yards from Grampa Howie’s.

Ray loved music, as do Sarah and Ben. Ray thanked me a bunch times for turning him on to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Was (Not Was). Miles Davis. Horace Silver…. And for taking him and Ben to see The Who a few years back. Ben says Ray’s favorite album was The Who’s Quadrophenia and I’m not surprised.

Ray loved music and he loved his family. And he was quite adept at using the Jedi Mind Trick on Darlene. The Force is strong in that one.

Every one of us in his family and among his friends can talk about how charmed we were and are by his ready laugh, big smile and words of love. In fact, the last thing he said to me was “Love ya, Daddy.”

Love ya, Ray.

He cared deeply about his family and when he returned to live with us in late October, there was a new appreciation from him of us. He started to compliment my cooking and devoured things that he previously wouldn’t have even touched. Fish. Even spaghetti, which he hated to eat because it was so unmanageable to him.

But Ray’s own cooking and eating habits would have made Elvis Presley blush. Greasy fried eggs and waffles and bacon and lox and bagels and strawberries and syrup and cheese and crackers and bananas and raisin bran. With lots of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Slathered in butter and/or cream cheese. This was one meal, by the way. Elvis would have told him it was a little unhealthy… thank you very much.

Ray also loved cars and once took an unscheduled ride in Darlene’s Camry one afternoon when we were away… a few years ago. That was exciting. He also owned a couple of vehicles that we didn’t quite know about, but that’s another story for another day.

Ray was loved… is loved by many people. I only wish that Ray took that love seriously.

I know. Shoulda woulda coulda but if he felt the love from us maybe it would have kept him from the people who didn’t value him for who he was, and might have helped him make better choices.

Shoulda woulda coulda. Right. I know. Forget it.

It’s unreal to think that we won’t see Ray again. That’s really the hardest thing for me.

He told me last week that he wanted to spend more time with me; how he missed me when he was up north. I told him that I was here and just say when and I’ll make the time.

I still haven’t watched the DVD of Inglourious Basterds because he said he wanted to watch it with me… so I held off.

But we all must remember Ray as he was, as he is: A charming, lovable and loving boy. A music lover, a musician.

Ray is a song that plays forever in our hearts and minds for as long as we live.

With loud drums! Shredding guitars! Powerful bass!

I think Ray would really like that.

Love ya! Love ya! Love ya!
–Richard Pachter

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Brain power and economics come together in an in-depth look at where we could be headed in the wake of the information age.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Daniel H. Pink. Riverhead Books. 272 pages.


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, especially when the mind is concerned.

Daniel Pink, a former speechwriter and prolific writer, identifies Asia, abundance and automation as the key forces driving societal changes. Asia, for its cheap workforce and its demands as a growing market; abundance, since we are living in an age of unprecedented plenty; and automation, because most every repetitive commercial task will soon be performed by machines, if it isn't already.

How each of these forces affects us, individually and as a society, is what this book is about — at first.

Pink writes: "We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big picture capabilities of what's rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.''

100% BRAIN
His notion is that the right side of the brain — the artistic half, if you will — can and should be better integrated with the left half — the more logical and rational portion. By doing so, we will be able to deal with the changes in our economy once Asia's dominance really kicks in and whatever economic advantages we possess become far less potent, if not nonexistent.

But Pink is not a grim prophet of doom. He uses the coming changes as a springboard for exploring the nature of personal fulfillment, success and humanity. It's not a touchy-feely self-help manual that he has constructed. But many of his ideas and approaches are wise, compassionate and supportive of a variety of personal and professional endeavors.

It's a pleasant and surprisingly entertaining little trip as he explores the workings of the brain, celebrates the proliferation and democratization of Target's designer products and learns to draw and play games, all as a means of illustrating ways we can think and live in a better, more meaningful and productive manner.

I reviewed Pink's previous effort, Free Agent Nation in July 2001, and though I found it to be well-written and provocative, I was completely unprepared for the breadth and depth of this new book. It's not that I thought that Pink was incapable of such an audacious and powerful work; he seems to be one of those people who excel at many things.

What surprised me about this book is how Pink realized that to empower individuals, it's necessary to really understand and act upon the powerful socioeconomic forces that shape the world economy.

Unlike many of the recent xenophobic screeds that rail against the evils of outsourcing, Pink has figured out several paths that individuals and society can pursue that play to our strengths. The transition will not necessarily be an easy one, but the full engagement of both types of thinking — left- and right-directed — is wholly consistent with many of the qualities that embody traditional American ingenuity and empathy.

So if Pink is correct, we're almost there. All it may take is for individuals and institutions to recognize this reality by using the tools we already possess. And that may well require A Whole New Mind.

Originally published on Monday, May 9, 2005 in The Miami Herald

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Customer service key to building business

Put as much energy into retaining customers as acquiring them and you will profit.


It's bizarre and baffling to me that companies expend so much time, money and energy on customer acquisition and then follow it up with crappy service after the sale.

Think about it: Advertising, marketing and sales department are all geared toward convincing prospects to buy the company's products and services. But after asking for the order and getting it, the customer — especially if it's a consumer and not a business — is often ignored. Worse, they're frequently forced to deal with incompetent, unhelpful or ignorant people several continents away when they have a problem.

There's nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing customer service to India or South America, for example: I've had exceptional service, in fact, from friendly and well informed people in those places. But I've had also awful ones, too.

Every interaction with a customer holds the potential to not only serve their needs, but turn them into evangelists and advocates for your company and continued sources of sales and revenue. So why is this not obvious to every enterprise?

Joseph Jaffe wonders the same thing. In this new book, he looks at every aspect of the client experience, including, obviously, "customer service" interactions. But he goes well beyond that, too. Engaging people is the challenge. Your product is secondary. After all, they're not buying what you're selling; they're buying a solution to a problem or a fulfillment of a need.

But the big challenge, he writes, is to grab their interest: "Getting people to care these days is like climbing Mount Everest. People today are skeptical, jaded, cynical and wary — and increasingly so, due to the hardships and hangover of the recession. And those are the good ones! The rest are apathetic, uninterested, indifferent, and detached. Most messages don't make it through the multiple layers of consumers' near-impenetrable defenses, and the ones that do are greeted with either a pitchfork or a pillow. It's a catch-22 of dire proportions."

How do you do that? That's the problem: there's no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer. But the good news is that there are plenty of tools to extend the human experience to address the unique requirements of each customer. But first, according to Jaffe, companies have to look at these things in a positive, proactive manner and devote the necessary resources to ongoing efforts. And then they have to make sure that they not only accommodate needs, but also delight everyone they touch.

Jaffe cites companies like Nike, Comcast and others that flipped the funnel by building their business through customer retention. Prime example is Zappos, which was so impressive in its customer relation-building that Amazon acquired the company lock, stock and sandals.

In addition to case studies (good and bad), Jaffe looks at social media (naturally!) and provides steps for companies to take in implementing the flipped funnel for fun and, of course profit.

Much of what Jaffe advocates seems self-evident, but too many companies are oblivious to the obvious, so if you are seeking a true competitive advantage, this is an excellent place to start.
Originally published in The Miami Herald