Little Lessons

The Stories of Strangers

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 28, 2017 5:06:00 AM

"I never met a man I didn’t like.” – Will Rogers

burger dinner.jpgTraveling for business means eating at a lot of restaurants; usually alone. I look for a seat at the counter in diners, or a seat at the bar in restaurants if they aren’t too noisy. Most times, I’m seated at a table for two. I use the extra space for whatever book I’m reading.

Just because I’m alone, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy some good conversations. In fact, many of my blogs are inspired by what I learn while eating. And listening.

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Topics: communicate, networking, fear

Getting Your Message Across

Posted by Mark Fallon

Nov 13, 2015 5:30:00 AM

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Topics: networking, communicate

The Company You Keep

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jul 17, 2013 11:05:12 PM

"I believe you should gravitate to people who are doing productive and positive things with their lives." - Nadia Comaneci

With whom are you spending your time these days? Not just in the physical world, but online as well. Are you surrounding yourself with people who have a positive attitude towards life? People who are respectful of others, while maintaining a strong sense of self? People who look for answers instead of problems? People who want to be successful, and want you to be successful too?

In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to make connections. With a click of a button, you’re “friends” with a person you’ve never met who lives thousands of miles away. Online discussion groups allow for the exchange of ideas with people from many different backgrounds. The networking opportunities are amazing.

There’s also the chance that you’ll encounter negative people. Individuals who are unhappy with their lives, and think others should be unhappy too. “Trolls” who will post a comment just to get people upset. Bullies who will disparage others for their hopes and dreams.

Don’t engage the naysayers. Ignore them.

Don’t ignore the positive people. Embrace them.
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Topics: networking

Another Reason to Read a Book

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 24, 2013 6:11:44 AM

It was the normal Monday routine. An early flight out of Boston, with a connecting flight to my final destination. Sometimes the connection is in Atlanta, other times Minneapolis or maybe Detroit. This day, it was Atlanta.

When we landed, I asked the person next to me where she was flying to from Atlanta (almost everyone has a connecting flight). She replied, "Alabama." So I asked, “Rockets or cars?” “Rockets.”

What does this have to do with reading? Well, the night before, I was reading My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. As implied, this is a collection of essays by writers about their favorite local bookstores. The chapter I’d just finished was by Rick Bragg, in which he described The Alabama Booksmith, in Birmingham, Alabama. To dispel the notion that people in Alabama aren’t literate, the bookstore owner pointed out that Alabama was where they built space rockets and Mercedes Benz automobiles.

From an earlier conversation, I had deduced that my seatmate was an engineer, or worked in engineering. Putting that piece of information together with my newly acquired knowledge about Alabama, I had a conversation starter. In a matter of seconds, we connected and were talking about Patriot missile systems, the defense industry and world politics.

That’s part of the joy of reading. By reading, we learn more about the world around us. And the more we learn about different places, the more we’re able to connect with other people. Even if it’s just a few minutes on a plane.
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Topics: networking

The Wonder of It All

Posted by Mark Fallon

Mar 25, 2013 1:47:00 AM

Last week, I was at the National Postal Forum in San Francisco. The NPF is a combination educational conference and trade show. I spent several hectic days presenting classes, attending classes and visiting vendors. I strengthened my network by spending time with people I knew from previous shows, and expanded my network by meeting people I should know. It was a wonderful week.

That meant I had to spend this weekend organizing the hundreds of business cards I had collected. Alphabetizing, de-duping and then entering the new contacts into my database. It’s a long process. But not a tedious effort.

The organizations that had representatives at the NPF ranged from multi-national banks to small loan companies, from famous universities to local community colleges, from household names to companies I had never heard of before. All with an interest in the subject of mail and shipping.

The names of the attendees reflected the varied population this country. The familiar surnames that I recognize from my travels and new ones I had never encountered. Variations of foreign names that had been Americanized, like some of my Irish ancestors did in the 1800s and 1900s.

As I scanned the cards, I thought of the many different faces in the audiences of my classes. People from all over the country, from big cities and small towns. People from all different races, social classes and backgrounds. An attendee had just turned 25, while another was talking about retiring next year at 65.

And every face had that same beautiful expression that comes from the joys of learning, sharing and networking.

The hours of working on my database passed unnoticed as I enjoyed the memory of the wonder that I’d experienced.
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Topics: networking

Talk to the Person Next to You

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 6, 2012 11:30:36 PM

A bad day that didn’t want to get better. Still thinking of bad news from home you received last night. Lousy run in the morning. Traffic on the way to your client. Vendors who didn’t show up for important testing. Internal politics looking for a scapegoat, and the external consultant looks like a good target. More bad news from home to end the day.

And you’re alone.

The local restaurant is packed, and there’s an hour wait for a table. Giving up, you head back to a dinner at the hotel bar. The best seat at the bar is taken. Book in hand, you seek out a corner near a pillar.

Hmm. You notice the person next you is wearing a Houston Marathon t-shirt. Taking a chance, you ask, did you run the marathon?

Fast forward 10 minutes. You are in the midst of a group of fellow veterans. But not just any veterans, but U.S. Air Force Pararescue veterans. Mostly Vietnam veterans. They are gathered to recognize William H. Pitsenbarger, the first of their brethren to receive the Medal of Honor. Several of them have received Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, and the Air Force Cross, the second-highest medal an airman can receive.

The guy with the Houston Marathon t-shirt? He’s Tom Newman, an Air Force Cross recipient and a sub 3-hour marathoner. You only know this because his friends tell you when his back is turned.

For the next 2 hours you get to hear stories and share beers with some amazing people. Vietnam rescue missions. Gemini spacecraft recovery missions. Apollo spacecraft recovery missions. Gulf War missions. A toast to fallen airmen. A toast to your father.

But only if you talk to the person next to you.
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Topics: networking

Global Encounters Stress Universal Similarities

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 25, 2012 4:07:15 AM

I’m at the annual conference for the Association of College and University Printers (“ACUP”). In addition to delivering a keynote address, I had the opportunity to attend several of the education sessions. Two sessions were delivered by international visitors.

Karen Farr is the Manager of the Copy Centre, Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand the current President of NIPPA (Network of In-house Print Professionals Australasia Inc). Karen talked about the industry trends within the NIPPA organization and her challenges at Unitec.

Also presenting was Andrew Scott, Head of Print Design Services, Glasgow Caledonian University; and a member of Executive Committee of University Print Managers Group (UPMG) of the UK. Andrew gave an update on his printing operation and the UPMG, and then provided a brief history of the printing of the bible in the UK.

Interestingly, many of their remarks were the same that I’ve heard from speakers at other conferences. For example, they stressed:

  • Success is achieved by meeting increased demands for quality and customer service.

  • Managers must know and promote the value of your team.

  • You need to meet with your customers and your peers regularly.

  • Networking takes time.

  • Executives probably don’t understand the day-to-day aspects of the business.

  • Uncertainty is the one constant in today’s environment.


These two leaders could be describing any organization in any industry in any part of the world.
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Topics: networking, customer service

Seek Out Commonalities

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 11, 2012 1:37:31 AM

Last night, I had dinner at the lobby bar in my hotel. A gentleman sat next to me, and started a conversation about the athlete being interviewed on a talk show. Within just a few minutes, our differences became very apparent:

  • Opposite coasts – Boston, Ma and Portland, OR

  • Opposite opinions on presidential candidates

  • Opposite opinions on professional golfers

  • Opposite opinions on beers – Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada


It looked like it might be a long dinner, or maybe I’d have my sandwich sent to my room. Instead, I decided to find out what we might have in common. It took a few more questions, but we soon discovered:

  • We both used the image of mountains on our business cards

  • I knew the manager of mail services at his last company

  • We both had run marathons

  • He was going to farm cacao beans in Hawaii, and my client in Omaha was a former food scientist who used to work for the largest candy companies in the world.


We could’ve focused on our differences. That would have meant a short, miserable dinner. Instead, we sought out commonalities and enjoyed a great conversation.
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Topics: networking

The Human Connection

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 9, 2012 1:43:58 AM

Last week, I attended the National Postal Forum (“NPF”) in Orlando, FL. The NPF is the largest conference in the mailing industry, combining educational sessions and a trade show. Executives from the United States Postal Service explained their strategy for the future, and made themselves available for questions and discussions.

The NPF is an important event for my company as well. I delivered 6 classes, ranging from quality control to succession planning to public speaking. We met with several vendors to discuss ongoing projects with clients. Most importantly, we hold our annual “Friends of The Berkshire Company Dinner” at the NPF – an opportunity to say “thank you” to our customers and supporters.

We use electronic media to stay in touch with our customers – emails, this blog, a monthly newsletters, and teleseminars. We also participate in webinars with vendors to learn about new products and services. Technology is a wonderful tool, yet it has its limits.

When presenting a class before a live audience, I’m able to reflect the energy of the people in the room. Discussing a problem face-to-face with an analyst ensures both sides understand the issues. Shaking someone’s hand when thanking them amplifies the message.

All the activity at the NPF requires a lot of time and personal energy. But renewing connections and meeting new friends invigorates me and recharges my spirit.
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Topics: networking

Be Interested, Not Interesting

Posted by Mark Fallon

Mar 8, 2012 11:36:57 PM

"A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something." - Wilson Mizner

One of the classes I teach is about the power of networking. I explain to the audience why networking is important, and how anyone and everyone can network. After the class, people come up and say that networking is difficult. They explain that they’re too shy, and have nothing interesting to say. My response, “Then be a good listener.”

Years ago, I met Rod Walz. Rod invented one of the first automated certified mailers, and was a speaker at the National Postal Forum. Rod told me that to be remembered, be interested, not interesting.

Don’t try and impress people with stories of your own achievements. Don't try and show how smart you are, or how interesting you are. Let the other person have the spotlight, and show an interest in what they’re talking about. Ask questions about their area of interest or expertise. Find out why they're interesting. Be the audience for a while.

Listening is good. If you’re by nature a quiet person, that’s okay. People love to hear the sound of their own voice. And if you can be their audience, they’ll thank you for it. They'll remember you for it. They'll love you for it.
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Topics: networking