It’s Cindy’s nine-year service anniversary at Crescenzo Communications

Posted By Steve | January 13, 2015 | No Comments

* Editor’s note: In honor of my wife Cindy’s nine-year anniversary with Crescenzo Communications, we are running the column we wrote 9 years ago today, when she started. We decided to recognize nine years, instead of ten, because everybody does ten and we wanted to be different.

Crescenzo Communications has a new employee!

This brings our head count to 3, now. Those of you who read this blog know that my other employee is my six-year-old son, Zach, who is the vice president of Human Resources.

By the way, Zach just switched us to a fully automated HR system. Since he doesn’t have his own computer, his system is fairly simple. If I want to talk to him about HR or anything else work related, I write him a note about it and put it in a coffee can in his bedroom. He checks the can, as far as I can tell, about once every three weeks.

Sort of like the systems other big companies use, but more low-tech.

Anyway, our new employee is my new wife, Cindy. Cindy has worked for us part-time for the last couple of years, doing various administrative odds and ends. Now she’s coming on full-time to run the entire company.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not much of a numbers guy. And I’m not much of a businessman. And I’m not real organized. And I’m not much in the area of client relations. And I’m no marketer. And I’m not much of a planner.

Really, when you get right down to it, I’m not much of anything, other than a writer and a speaker and an employee communications consultant . . . and it wouldn’t be hard to find people who would argue that I’m not that good at some of those things, either.

Anyway, Cindy used to be the director of marketing at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the director of development for the Chicago League of Theaters. Working for the arts is fun, but it takes its toll on your soul . . . so she decided to make the move to corporate America.

She’s going to be doing everything I don’t do: she has already (gasp) put a budget together; she’s putting in filing systems and invoicing systems and an accounting system and all kinds of other systems.

So far, I have to say, she has been an enormous pain in the ass.

Tuesday was Cindy’s first day, and it was a disaster. Here’s a breakdown:

7:30 a.m. The alarm goes off, and I start the business day by hitting the snooze alarm. Seventeen times.

8:47 a.m. I finally get up. Unbeknownst to me, Cindy has been up since 6:45 a.m., learning how to do Quickbooks and sorting through the shoebox full of receipts that serves as my tax return system.

8:51 a.m. I tell Cindy that as of January 1, 2006, due to a policy change at Crescenzo Communications, the official employee orientation program now involves sex in the shower. She closes the door to her office.

9:07 a.m. With my hand sore from knocking on the door, I finally give up on the “orientation = sex in the shower” argument, and answer some e-mails.

10:15 a.m. “Time for lunch,” I say to Cindy. “It’s 10 in the morning,” she says. “El Jardin’s opens at 10:30,” I say. “If we walk, we can get there just as they open.” I know this, because I have done it 765 times in the past five years. I may not have any other business systems, but when it comes to lunch, my systems kick ass. “I have work to do,” Cindy says. I’m beginning to think that Cindy has what’s known in the corporate world as “an attitude problem,” and “might not be a good fit” for the “Crescenzo Corporate Culture.”

11:00 a.m. Cindy shows me the new expense sheet system, which will involve me actually filing my receipts right after a trip, so that we can be reimbursed more quickly by the client. My old system was to turn in the expenses whenever the ATM machine stopped giving me money. Her system seems like a pain in the ass. I contemplate firing her.

11:30 a.m. Cindy says she needs to meet. Finally! Orientation! But alas . . . she wants to go over the proposed budget, and wants me to give her an estimate of my monthly income. Jesus, talk about a verbal cold shower.

12:00 a.m. Cindy is now working on putting together a business plan, which she plans on taking to a bank to see if we can get a business line of credit loan. “It will help with cash flow,” she tells me. “What’s cash flow?” I ask her. “Please leave my office,” she says.

12:10 p.m. I go to the branch office, El Jardin’s, for lunch. Cindy stays behind to work. I start practicing what I’m going to say when I fire her. She’s just not Crescenzo Communications material, I’m afraid.

3:30 p.m. Back from lunch! Three margaritas has me REALLY feeling like some orientation now. Some SERIOUS orientation. But Cindy is nowhere to be found. Slacker! Just the excuse I need to ditch her, I think to myself, settling into bed with my iPod.

4:15 p.m. Cindy wakes me up. She has been to the bank, the office supply store, and Best Buy, to buy some things that will network our computers together. I decide it’s not good a good idea to fire someone when you’re groggy from your nap, so she gets a reprieve.

5:00 p.m. “Quitting time,” I tell Cindy. “Should we go get a cocktail?” “Not yet,” she says. “I’ve got about another hour here.” Some quick calculations in my head tell me that on her first day, Cindy put in more hours than I do in typical work week, if I’m not on the road. She’s really going to knock the hell out of the culture if she’s not stopped. She has to go. I just put a note in Zach’s coffee can, asking him the best way to do it. It’s going to be dicey, because Zach likes Cindy. But personal feelings can’t get in the way of business, right?

I’ll keep you updated out here as to what happens. Meanwhile, if anyone out there needs a super competent, smart, charming, expert marketer and fundraiser who knows a lot about things like surveys and focus groups, I know just the person.


Where presidential speech ideas come from

Posted By Steve | December 10, 2013 | No Comments

If you’ve ever wondered where the idea for presidential speeches come from, I have a mole in the White House that just gave me an insider’s peek at how the concept for President Obama’s latest speech on income inequality was developed.

Here’s how it played out:

SCENE: Barack and Michele are lying in bed awake. Barack is very fidgety, waiting for Michele to fall asleep so he can sneak outside and smoke a cigarette. Michele puts down the copy of Cooking Light magazine she’s been reading, and turns to Barack: 

Michele: “Hey B, did you see that the new Pope gave a big speech?”

Barack (very distracted): “Oh yeah? I love big speeches. What’d he talk about?”

Michele: “Income inequality. And people loved it. I mean, they went ape shit on it. The guy really struck a chord.”

Barack: “Hey, I’ve given big speeches on that before! Tons of times!”

Michele: “Yeah I know, B. We built an entire re-election campaign on it, remember? But you haven’t hit it in a while, and now that the Pope has given a speech on it, I think you ought to give a speech on it again, too. I mean, people really liked that Pope’s speech.”

Barack: “Oh . . . I don’t know.”

Michele: “What? There’s no downside! You can even reference the Pope! Everyone loves this guy. Make it sound like you and him are in on this together!”

Barack: “I don’t know, Mich. You know, I always feel kind of bad that I talk about this so much but I never really do anything about it.”

Michele: “Come on baby. You know the drill. You give the speeches and then blame Republicans when nothing gets done. Everybody knows they want to euthanize all the poor people in this country anyway.”

Barack: “Yeah, but it’s not just that. I always feel a little hypocritical when I talk about that 1 percenter stuff because, well . . . you know . .  . we’re super rich. And all our friends are super rich. We don’t even know any poor people. We don’t even know any middle-class people. We only know people in the top one percent of the top one percent.”

Michele: “That’s not our fault, baby!! We both went to Ivy League schools. And what about those human props you sometimes bring up on stage with you when you give speeches. Some of them are poor, I’m sure. Didn’t you make friends with any of them?”

Barack: “Not really. I mean, this one guy was nice. But . . . well, you know, we really didn’t have anything in common. He didn’t even play basketball.”

Michele: “Well, you can’t worry about the hypocrisy thing. I mean, look at the Pope! He’s up there talking about income inequality, and the Vatican has more money than . . . well, than God!!”

Barack: “I guess you’re right, baby. Plus, it could get the press to stop talking about the damn health-care Web site.

Michele (turns off the light): “Bingo! But don’t wait too long. Got to piggyback on the Pope before people forget about his speech.”

Barack lays in the dark for 20 minutes. Then slowly reaches under the bed, where he has taped a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, grabs them, and starts to creep out of bed.

Michele: “Don’t even think about it, B!”

Barack gets back in bed with a huge sigh.

Barack: “Yes, dear.”

Michele: “And you give that speech, you hear?”

Barack: “Yes, dear.”

Michele: “And you do better than that old Pope, you hear?”

Barack: “Yes, dear.”

Michele: “Oh, and B? Make sure the boys in speechwriting work Mandela into it somehow, too. You know, so it’s like you, the Pope, and Mandela are all in this together.”

Barack: “Yes dear.”

Editor’s Note: Just so nobody thinks this was a politically motivated post, which is certainly was not, I’ve asked my insider source at the White House to give me the background behind one of George W. Bush’s most famous speeches. I’ll tell that story later this week.


Boehner makes startling announcement . . . and other political news

Posted By Steve | March 21, 2013 | No Comments

This just in . . . breaking news on the political front!

When asked by CNN Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper if he ever aspired to be President, House Speaker John Boehner replied: “I don’t want to be president. This is not anything I’ve ever thought about.”

Boehner reportedly has also never thought about being a unicorn, a wizard, a leprechaun, a kangaroo, or a woman . . . all of which he has a better chance of being than President.

In related news, other people who say they have no interest in being president include Kim Kardashian,  Charles Manson, Carrot Top, Dennis Rodman, and Ted Bundy, the serial killer who was executed in 1989.

But . . . even with those people out of the running, however, there is no shortage of people who do want to be president. In recent weeks, the people have gone on the record as saying that they do, in fact, want to be president include:

Oprah Winfrey (“Dr. Phil would make a great VP, because he’s as useless as a bucket of spit.”)

Bill Clinton (“I managed to have oral sex in the Oval Office four times a week and still run the country better than these last two yahoos.”)

Tim Tebow (“God told me I’d be a good President. Of course, he also told me I’d be a good quarterback, but I doubt He’d be wrong twice.”)

Ryan Seacrest (“The only way to guarantee gay rights is to put a damn gay in the White House.”)

Rick Santorum (“The only way to guarantee gay rights is to put a closet gay in the White House.”)

Hilary Clinton (“Admit it, you all wish you voted for me in 2008, don’t ya? Don’t ya?”)

Rick Perry (“People think I’m crazy, but that’s just because I say a lot of stupid crazy shit.”)

Reverend Jesse Jackson (“I think this country is ready for a black President.”)

Michelle Obama (“I think this country is ready for a strong black female president who just looks like she could kick the living shit out of that little dude from North Korea.”)

Charlie Sheen (“What this country needs is a little Tiger Blood in the White House! Yeah, Tiger Blood! And cocaine. Butt-loads of cocaine. And hookers.”)

Barack Obama (“What? FDR had three terms, and that dude was in a wheelchair. I can do three terms. Shit, I could do five terms. It’s gonna take me that long to clean up Bush’s mess anyway.”

Stay tuned to this space for further updates on the 2016 election, and ongoing political news as it breaks.


Forget the ‘Harlem Shake,’ . . . the “Obama Five-Step Shuffle is more fun to watch!

Posted By Steve | February 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

All the modern-day presidents had their own style of governing.

Reagan used his charm, personality, and relentless optimism to win over the so-called “Reagan Democrats.” He even managed to get some things done with his adversary Tip O’Neill, who once called Reagan “the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House.” (And you think today’s Republicans hate Obama!)

Clinton made his famous “move to the middle” and by doing so, was able to work with people who hated him enough to try and impeach him to accomplish things like welfare reform and balance the budget.

And, alas, George W. hitched his wagon to the neo-conservatives, and governed with a fierce loyalty to their beliefs, despite what the polls showed or popular opinion. Which, while it didn’t turn out that well for us, is admirable in its own way.

And now we have President Obama. After five years, we can finally start to get a sense of his governing style. Now that he has settled into the day-to-day governing in his second term, you can start to see a definite pattern, a strategy for governing. I call it the “Obama Five Step Shuffle.”

Here’s how it works.

Step One: He either creates a crisis (Draconian sequester spending cuts) or takes advantage of one (fiscal cliff) to try and get what he wants.  Peggy Noonan calls this Step “Politics by Freakout,” and Obama has it mastered.

Step Two: Obama then rides in on a white horse and outlines his plan for digging America out of this crisis, and saving “Main Street, U.S.A.” That plan, of course, is raising taxes on evil rich people. While outlining that plan, he is sure to let everyone know that his plan is all about Main Street, and any plan offered by the Republicans, even plans he hasn’t seen yet because the hasn’t actually talked to them in months, is all about bailing out “Wall Street.”

Step Three: This is the step where most Presidents roll up their sleeves and, after having set the public relations strategy,  they get to the governing strategy, and actually sit down and negotiate with the other party to get something done.

But Obama hates negotiating. He hates that part of politics, which unfortunately for him is 90 percent of what politics is. So he skips that phase and sticks with the public relations strategy. He leaves Washington, and goes on a campaign-style whistle-stop tour to drum up public support for his idea (singular), hoping that will sway the polls and the Republicans will cave in to his demands.

Obama is very good at Step Three. He ha mastered the little things, like using human props. At one recent speech, he surrounded himself with firemen. At another, he surrounded himself with defense workers who might lose their job if the spending cuts go through.

Throughout the “campaign,” in every speech, he uses scare tactics, class warfare tactics, and smear tactics to make people believe that he is for the “little guy” while Republicans want to give everybody’s money to billionaires, eat small children, burn the elderly alive, and destroy the Earth.

Step Four: Obama returns to Washington, still refuses to sit down with Republicans, and starts complaining about how everything bad that has happened to this country has happened because House Republicans refuse to work with him. He pisses and moans and cries and complains and does everything short of trying to actually negotiate with the enemy.

Step Five: He sits back and hopes America is dumb enough to believe his bullshit.

So far, the Obama Five Step Shuffle seems to be working. In fact, he won reelection using it.

But let’s see if he can keep it going. I mean, it’s easy to fool people for four years. It gets a little trickier after six, seven years, when nothing seems to ever change.


I’m willing to be the Pope . . . if they are willing to make some changes

Posted By Steve | February 11, 2013 | 9 Comments

It’s official. Just got the call from the Vatican. They want me to be the next Pope. I agreed, providing they make a few small changes to their doctrine. Ten tiny changes, to be exact:

1. Reverse their stance on gay people, and encourage people to be who they are. I figure they’ll go for this one, since many of their priests are gay.

2. Reverse their stance on birth control, so people in poor countries like Mexico don’t keep having kids they can’t afford, just so the Church can continue to grow. I checked the bible. Nothing in there about not wearing rubbers, so they should pass this one, too.

3. Reverse their stance on women not being allowed to be priests, because anything men can do, women can usually do better. The Democrats talked about the Republican War on Women, but that’s nothing compared to what the Catholic Church is doing to them.

4. Reverse their stance on allowing priests to marry, because it’s inhumane to tell someone they can’t have an intimate relationship for their entire adult lives. Plus, you tend to attract more perverts that way. Again, there’s nothing in the Bible to support it. The only reason they outlaw marriage is the almighty dollar. If you allow priests to marry, they’re going to have children and want their own places to live. Which means you’ll actually have to pay them.

5. Speaking of perverts, change the culture so that instead of protecting pedophile priests, and allowing them to continue to rape little boys, they must turn over all pedophiles to the authorities immediately. The immediate shortage of priests that will happen as a result will be offset by provision #3 and #4.

6. Shorten the Mass to seven minutes. Start with a prayer. Have the priest give a short homily, and end with a song. That’s enough religion for anyone. All the rest is bullshit. And all that chanting gives me the creeps. “Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith . . . “. Let us not, okay? Catholics know what they believe in; they don’t have to chant it every week.

7. Knock off this whole eating Jesus and drinking his blood stuff. It’s creepy, and cult-like, and way too medieval. Catholics make their communion in second grade. So you’re telling 7-year-olds that they are eating a human. What the hell is the matter with you.

8. Don’t make priests wear dresses anymore. It probably adds to the perversion factor.

9. Get rid of all the bishops and cardinals who live lives of incredible luxury. All they do is suck money from the local churches that need it more. As Pope, I won’t need them. And I can’t stand their hats. As Pope, the only hat I’ll wear is a Cubs hat.

10. Move the Vatican to Chicago until my son graduates high school. Then we can move it back to Italy, since he’ll be away at college anyway.

I’m still waiting to hear back from them . . . but I’m sort of assuming it’s a done deal. When it happens, I’ll keep this blog, but change the name of it to either “Papal Matters,” or “Papal Infallibility My Ass.”

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