I live to eat

July 14, 2010

I love food. Anyone who knows me knows that.

It is a part of my DNA and my heritage, going back to my childhood and growing up in New Haven, Connecticut where my father operated a luncheonette. I also worked there as an adolescent and during my early teenage years. Some of my fondest memories involve shucking clams on my back porch and enjoying authentic Italian food, especially Sally’s Pizza (arguably the best pizza in the U.S.) on Wooster Street in New Haven. Sundays meant neighbors gathering at our home for a special brunch that included (my favorite) sausage and peppers.

Food is important to me to this day. Some “eat to live,” I “live to eat.” In fact, I actually plan my vacations – whether east coast, west coast or overseas – around good food and outstanding restaurants.  When in New York, I still frequent one of my teenage haunts, Grand Central Station, where The Oyster Bar is outstanding and fair game. In San Francisco, I have to stop myself from eating my way entirely through their incredible Farmer’s Market.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, it is all about the entire experience. A good meal with great service shared with outstanding company.  I am fortunate to have family and friends living in different regions of the country.  When making plans to visit we always discuss the pending menu.

I think it all comes down to an appreciation of individuals (in this case: food preparers and servers; wine growers; etc.) who strive to be the best and are passionate about what they do. In turn, it shows in the final product, which stands apart from the everyday. It’s what we strive for at Dover and why, I’m sure such experiences continue to resonate – for me and, in turn, my clients.


Gulf catastrophe exposes rudderless leadership

July 6, 2010

It is very easy to jump on the popular bandwagon and attack those in charge of the BP disaster, yet I feel it is important to examine (and hopefully learn from) the lack of leadership occurring on many different fronts – from the middle of the Gulf to corporate offices in England to the White House.

Who, exactly, is in charge here?

While the roots of the problem may go back to previous administrations and the Department of the Interior, President Obama and BP officials have totally dropped the ball in their response and (mis)handling of the situation from Day One.

It took far too long for this crisis to become a priority for the administration. BP’s initial communications efforts were no better with (now) outgoing CEO Tony Hayward spewing forth a series of unfortunate and inappropriate sound bites (remember the ‘it’s a big ocean’ quote)?

And, unfortunately, amid growing public discord and pressure, when the president did finally get involved, his lack of executive managerial or leadership experience in handling a crisis of this magnitude was sorely evident. President Obama is smart, compelling and, at times, a brilliant orator. Here, however, he was too scripted, too academic and too short on practical problem solving experience.

In good times and especially in bad, those in “command” have to be immediately visible and tangibly demonstrate they are 100% focused on the task at hand. In crisis situations this means assessment, determining answers and, ultimately, decisive and corrective action.

In the Gulf, we need rolled up sleeves (and pant legs), steely determination and true solutions.  In short, we need leadership. Instead, it remains in short supply.


The Office Kitchen

January 14, 2010

There are many items in an office setting that are there for your convenience: a coffee maker, a microwave, plastic utensils. I’ve found that many people treat these items as they would in their own home—with little respect. After soup explodes in the microwave, the splatters are left to coat the walls and flavor every other dish that later makes its way into the machine. Empty utensil boxes litter the counter, with no one bothering to throw them into the nearby trashcan. And crumbs that could easily be removed with a single swipe of a sponge fill every crevice.

The worse offender, however, tends to be the office fridge—it’s convenient, packed full of month-old goodies, and emitting a landfill-like odor. Items sit in the fridge for eons with no one claiming their now moldy contents. Sauces drip, cans explode, and no one bothers to clean it up—they only want to complain about it.

It’s pretty disgusting and easily avoidable: Clean up after yourself, and be considerate of others. If you left a sandwich in the fridge for more than a week, it’s probably a good idea to throw it away. If you notice a food item that looks more like a science experiment, you can probably throw that away, too.

So, the next time someone opens the office fridge, and you get a nice whiff, instead of whining about how bad it smells, do something about it.


Office Hygiene

January 12, 2010

Whenever I enter a new work environment, I’m always given someone’s old desk. In most instances, I have no idea who the person was or what they were like, but remnants of their former life remain. There are usually stacks of papers and various knick-knacks that piled up over their tenure. Old sticky notes and phone numbers leave hints as to the previous employee’s day-to-day operations. But it’s the things I can’t see that bother me the most.

My first instinct is to sanitize every surface: the phone, the mouse, the buttons on the computer. I have to toss all of the pens and highlighters with caps that look like they were once an appetizer to someone’s lunch. I have to clean the dust bunnies from beneath the computer tower, and spray the crumbs out from the keyboard.

Sometimes I feel like I might be going overboard, but I have no idea what my previous desk-mates hygiene was like. In an office environment, one dirty person can pollute the spaces of even the cleanliest of people. If one person doesn’t wash their hands after using the restroom, the rest of the office suffers.

I often find my hands cracked and dry in the winter, not from the frigid temperature, but from the excessive hand washing. However, I am responsible for my own health and, in a way, the health of my colleagues’ as well. I would rather keep a bottle of hand lotion on my desk to alleviate cracked hands, than forgo soap and water and risk the sniffles or the heaves.

-Missy Schwartz


Grammar

January 7, 2010

There are few things worse than bad grammar. Some people might not feel the same way, but I consider myself a bit of a grammar fiend. Although it’s nice to know how to use words and phrases correctly, sometimes I wish I didn’t.

There are some obscure grammar rules that even I occasionally let slide, but there are others I come across on a daily basis that have a nails-on-a-chalkboard effect on me.

Nauseous: If you say you are “nauseous,” it means you are nauseating, i.e. you make people sick. If you feel like you’re going to vomit, you are “nauseated.”

You’re / Your:
“Your” is possessive, meaning something that belongs to a subject. For example: your hair, your car, your bad grammar. “You’re” is a contraction meaning “you are.” You’re going to the store; you’re losing money; you’re using bad grammar.

Compliment / Complement: If you give someone a compliment, “Your hair looks nice,” it’s spelled with an “i.” If things work well together, they complement one another with an “e.” There is also the case of something being free, and then it’s “complimentary,” with an “i.”

I / Me: Most people I know were taught in elementary school to use “I” in place of “me,” but that doesn’t always work.

For instance:
He and I went to the store.
She came to the store with Jack and I.

The first instance of this is correct, however, in the second example, “I” should be “me.” You would never say, “she came to the store with I,” which is essentially what the second phrase says. A simple way to decide which to use is by taking everyone else out of the equation. Then decide whether you would use “I” or “me” in each situation.

And finally, spellcheck isn’t foolproof. Just because all of the words in your document are spelled correctly, that doesn’t mean you’ve used the correct words. From is commonly typed as form, manager as manger, and being as begin. Always reread documents, and if the document is important, have someone else read it, too.

– Missy Schwartz


IMAGE – PART II: INTERVIEW

December 3, 2009

If you are fortunate enough to receive a request for a telephone interview, be prepared for the interview. Research the organization, and have some notes that describe your qualifications and how they relate to the job. Have a list of questions available in the event you are given the opportunity to ask questions. A phone interview can be very challenging. You need to be in a quiet place where a barking dog or a crying baby cannot interrupt you. Smile, even though you are on the phone; sound upbeat and motivated. If you have gaps in your resume, be prepared to explain them. Remember, the purpose of the telephone interview is to get you an in person interview.

The personal interview day arrives: You got this far. Don’t blow it because you decided to roll out of bed in your clothes from the night before. I had a candidate who appeared so disheveled it detracted from a pretty good interview. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hire someone who had such a poor image. I’ve had candidates who smelled, had a significant amount of hair protruding from their nostrils and hadn’t brushed their teeth. Pretty disgusting? Look in the mirror before you leave for your interview. You don’t need a designer wardrobe, but make sure your clothes fit properly and are cleaned and pressed. Shoes should be polished. And for the smokers out there, you can’t arrive at an interview smelling like you just bathed in an ashtray. Most people are non-smokers, and you are bound to offend.

Your image is an integral part of landing an interview, and what’s between your ears is the part that helps you land the job.

– Terry Schwartz


IMAGE – PART I: RESUME and COVER LETTER

November 30, 2009

I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes and have interviewed close to 1,000 candidates during my career in real estate. A resume is an extension of your image. The purpose of a resume is to get you, at a minimum, a telephone interview, and the purpose of a phone interview is to get you a personal interview. The poor quality of resumes I have received boggles my mind. Many resumes can be sent electronically, but if you have to deliver a hard copy, stick to a neutral color such as white or off-white and good quality paper; forgo the colors of the rainbow. Also, forget having an “objective” header at the top of your resume—it doesn’t provide any detail as to your qualifications. It’s more important to have a header describing your overall qualifications. Your resume should be one page in length unless you have many years of experience; only then may you employ two pages. Use bullet points to describe your specific duties and responsibilities during your employment history, and use action words (developed, initiated, trained, etc.) where possible. You’d be surprised how many resumes suffer from misspelled words and poor grammar. With spell check on computers, there is no excuse for any misspelling. Poor grammar is another problem. If grammar is not your strong suit, have someone you trust review your resume or pay for a resume review service. The cover letter is where the biggest challenges are presented. Misspelled names, words and poor grammar are job killers. Describe how the qualifications listed in your resume specifically relate to the position for which you are applying. If you have gaps in your resume, they should be explained in your cover letter. I place poorly drafted resumes and cover letters in my circular filing bin (read: trash).

– Terry Schwartz