ABX Swim Lanes

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For the past 20 years, I have relied on Joe Kreuz for his uncanny knack of recognizing business talent, especially in WNY.  So, by his recommendation, I was recently on LinkedIn reading the profile of Erin O’Brien, Assistant Dean, Director of Graduate Programs at University at Buffalo School of Management, and I was enjoying her adroit ‘business speak’ as she detailed her career history.  She articulated her job chronicle in a vernacular that could serve as a building block for any corporate novitiate.  There were a couple of her job descriptions that I thought would play well in our c1 world, so I borrowed freely [I hope she sees that as a compliment].

Here’s what I came up with this afternoon [as I set out to further describe our nascent Advantage Business Exchange]:

The Advantage Business Exchange [ABX] is putting together a remarkable group of professionals, combining their unique and diverse expertise into an effective program dedicated to providing our clients with unique access to our spend reduction and category procurement and development solutions.  As business unit leaders artfully steer their organization through the demands of a dynamic global experience, we provide an appropriate focus on developing a clean architecture with embedded processes and governance to ensure continual complexity control.

Armed with our aptly named Savings & Solutions Program, ABX is prepared to help facilitate a sustainable growth and results agenda, providing a speed to benefit for our clients without the cumbersome introduction of a burdensome and invasive consulting engagement.  ABX provides an independent acceleration module that bypasses the complexities inherent in the very structure our clients created.

One of the key resources of ABX is the c1 Cloud Solutions Group [CSG].  The Cloud Solutions Group provides our clients with a full compliment of resources to build and support a flexible cloud matrix that enables, encourages, and ensures ongoing paradigm shifts through the simple restructuring of elements providing maximum speed to benefit and cross-platform recognition throughout their organization.

The Cloud Solutions Group provides cloud solutions to end-user companies that spend strategically — and want to save significantly — on the cost of cloud resources.  We provide consistent engagement with client management to align core strategies with appropriate investments in cloud technologies, achieving maximum effectiveness.  We also oversee successful cloud initiative implementation, in order to ensure achieving positive returns.

The Cloud Solutions Group helps local, national, and global enterprises recognize the benefits of an organized cloud service program including price, development, implementation, and provider consistencies.  This makes a standardized, centrally managed approach to cloud services possible, which is infinitely more efficient than fragmented in-house activities.

c1 also serves as the strategic IT interface with our clients’ business units and as a consultant to their management team.  Our main focus is to establish and maintain value-driven, strategic relationships with our clients’ business units and to proactively manage business demand for seamless and scalable cloud solutions.

We partner with our client’s Chief Information Officer in providing cloud resource vision and direction for assigned business units; as well as aligning cloud solutions with business strategies, making a vital contribution to the business units’ strategic-planning processes.

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/ekij45gdh/swim-lane/

I miss you too.

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The woman was mad.  She wanted to know what gave me the right to talk to people that way.  It was 1984, almost 30 years ago, and I was getting blistered by the woman running the shipping department at Technics in Albany.  I hung up the phone and called her the nom de guerre that most women fight their most bloodthirsty battles over, only to realize that I hadn’t actually hung up the phone.  I pulled the receiver ever closer to my ear as her rage was building to a crescendo.  After a dozen roses and a heartfelt apology, it proved to be the start of a wonderful friendship.  Years later, when she left Technics, I was lost without my most ardent supporter.  On her way out, she sent me a goodbye note that simply said, “See you next Tuesday.”

Not much has changed since then.  I swear, and when I hear someone else swear, I really do cringe.  It sounds ignorant.  Go figure.  In meetings, I use a dozen variations of fuck as if I was stuck in a sophomoric torrent of Tourette’s.  Just writing the word seems ignorant.  I even hate hearing it in comedy acts.  I once gave a little talk at Canisius High School, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t drop any F bombs; but, sure enough, some little shit went home and told his parents that I dropped three of them.  The sad part is I really thought I got out of there clean.

I always kid that every year Butch puts $30k aside just in case my mouth provokes a nuisance suit.  $30k seems, to me, like a small price to pay to be able to say [or do] whatever I want; but I realize it can never be enough to convince everyone [or, at times, anyone] that it is appropriate.

I do sincerely apologize to those that feel I have wronged them.  We all have regrets.  If we didn’t, it would mean that we are perfect.  Not likely.  Nevertheless, I’ve always had to answer to myself, and you can trust that I am my harshest critic, prosecutor, judge, and jury.  So, before you tell me what a %$@&!/# I am, be confident that I have already considered and accepted your epithet.  (But why not let it go?  Give me a call.  It’s all good, and we’ll both feel a whole lot better.)

Yesterday, Dej told one of our vendors that the Stereo Advantage is not a store, it’s a story.  And everyone who has been a part of it certainly has their own story to tell.  For me it’s been a story of 35 years of building and creating opportunity.  It’s been 35 years of being part of a community.  It’s been 35 years of being the guy who owns the Stereo Advantage.  And, yes, it’s often been 35 years of being mad.

It’s also been 35 years watching over 5,000 employees: I’ve had to break up fights, but not as many as I was in.  I’ve had to forgive some of them, and I’ve had to ask some of them to forgive me.  I’ve been to their weddings, and now I am hiring their children.

And now it is time for me to leave the stage.  I am selling 51% of the Stereo Advantage to the management team that has remarkably transformed the company over the past year.  Now they get to write their own Stereo Advantage story.  Dej, Al, Mike, Joe, Jim, Kam, and Butch are the future of the Stereo Advantage, and what a future it promises to be.

The leases at the Walker Center are set for the next 10 years, we have a great partnership team for the Stereo Advantage, the G8 Partnerships are thriving, and my kids are building TW&Co and Giancarlo’s with a great staff of leaders.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  I’m a lucky man.

So, why was I so mad today when we had six people standing around in Jewelry with their thumb up their ass?  I may have gently said, “What the fuck are you doing?”  But, I’m not sure.  I do know a couple of customers looked at me like I was nuts [as I was going nuts].  I know what you are thinking, and you’re right: We don’t need anymore of that.

So, that’s what I have to say after 35 years in business.

If you thought this might end with a promise to curb my mouth, well, some of you really need to lighten up.  You may not swear as judiciously as I do, but, admit it, you still let it rip every once in a while.  Righteous indignation doesn’t wear well on anyone, and it only fits the most contemptuous hypocrites well; so, save your outrage, it will only spoil a beautiful day.

I’ll close with one of my favorite memories of one of the sweetest girls who ever worked for me [and who died tragically young].  She would always cringe every time I dropped an F bomb.  She would admonish me in her own sweet yet decisive way.  And then one day at the corner of So. Forest and Main, she was cut off while making a left hand turn by a particularly rude man.  Yes, I caught Becky Stone with road rage.  As I was sitting at the light, I could see her lips forcibly carve out an unmistakable FUCK YOU.  When I called her on it, it was one of the best laughs we ever had.  Some times you just have to belt it out.

I miss Becky, and I miss everyone from the past 35 years.  Yes, I even miss you.

PS  A car ran into the new hotel today.  Plowed right into it.  I guess we all had the feeling it was a tad too close to the street.

What’s new for 2013?

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As always, this year will once again be a time of renovation, expansion, and renewal.  The 30 business units of the Advantage Co are all poised for a great 2013.

Front and center will be several new projects, programs, and businesses that we expect to launch in 2013.  Here’s a brief look at what’s new for the coming year:

  1. The Cento Club.  The Cento Club will be for our top 100 TW&Co customers based on their total TW&Co and Giancarlo’s purchases in 2012 and additional select customers who will be invited to join for an annual fee of $1,000.  Additionally, we will have day passes for special customers and out of town guests.  All Cento Club members will automatically be enrolled in all TW&Co programs and receive an additional 10% off all of their regular purchases.  There will also be a private Cento Club Concierge and three private Cento Club rooms available by appointment only:
    1. The Cento Private Club Room.  Construction is nearly complete on the private club room which will include a 400 sq’ private dining and dressing/showroom/lounge, along with a private spa treatment room and bath.  Cento Club members will be able to enter the Cento Private Club Room directly from TW B+B, the outside, or Giancarlo’s Cento Banquet Room.  There will also be a private patio right outside of the club room for summertime dining.
    2. The Cento Banquet Room.  Although there are several finishing touches still underway, Christina Karl hosted our grand opening of the Cento Banquet Room last night.  By all accounts, it was a very good time.  The new room is considerably larger than the Vantaggio Room, and it will accommodate all types of parties, meetings, shows, and banquets for our Cento Club members.  Cento Club members will also be able to eat lunch and dinner in the privacy of the Cento Banquet Room when no events are taking place.  With the addition of the Cento Banquet Room, Giancarlo’s can now comfortably accommodate parties of up to 160 guests.
    3. The Cento Bazaar.  Our new private back-room store will be for our Cento Club members only, and it will open at the end of January.  The Cento Bazaar will feature transition product from the previous season’s lineup from all of the TW&Co shops.  All product in the Cento Room will be exclusively for Cento Club members at 30% off.
  2. The TW&Co Gift Center.  I always feel better when we actually get to build a new concept, so, in 2013, we are finally going to build our long awaited TW&Co Gift Center.  The Gift Center will be home to our Corporate Gift Concierge, Gift Giving Registry, Gift Registry, Gift Wrapping, Ship It Free, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, and video conferenced gift solutions.
  3. The Smart Center.  Yes, some day soon we will speak as fondly of the old Stereo Advantage as we do the Sneaker Advantage.  Just as the Sneaker Advantage morphed into the Tony Walker & Co array of premium shops, so will the Stereo Advantage transform itself into the Smart Center.
    1. The Smart Center will offer consumers, businesses, schools, institutions, and the government complete technology integration and entertainment solutions, providing the finest brands, Lifetime Service, and system architecture professionally designed, programmed, and installed by The Smart Squad and Advantage TI.
    2. Computer/Internet Technology.  It is up to us to integrate computer/internet technology with entertainment and business solutions.  Furthermore, we have to make it universally accessible.  Whether it’s in our customer’s living room, office, business, or online – it’s up to us to seamlessly integrate our customer’s access to all of their information and entertainment resources.  No one is better equipped to provide the myriad of expertise necessary to deliver the whole package.  We are the future.  From System Architecture to Technology Integration to Lifetime Service – we are the vanguard of our industry.
  4. The Resource Center.  Since 1981, the Advantage Co has embraced my Root Philosophy.  At the core of this business philosophy is the desire to always develop new opportunities for everyone involved in the Advantage experience.  Accordingly, The Resource Center will identify and enable the utilization of all our resources, products, and professional service offerings to expand current business operations and to, more importantly  launch new business opportunities.
  5. Advantage Brands.  We are fortunate to nationally represent Sumbody, Bogavia, Piece Apparel, Modern Luxuri, and, soon to be launched, RiOT clothing and accessories.  The representation, sale, distribution, and fulfillment of these brands to accounts nationally [and online direct to the consumer] will provide TW&Co with unlimited access to customers worldwide.
  6. The Advantage Sales Group.  Once we are finished with all of the above, we will be able to turn our attention to renovating and expanding our second floor operations at the Walker Center.  Fortunately, we currently have space for our iFul and Advantage Brands’ sales operations, but the full promise of the Advantage Nation Sales Program will not be realized until we have everyone under one roof.  By the end of the summer, we will have the Advantage Sales Group, iFul, Advantage Global Management, and Smart Squad Design all in one contiguous space.
  7. IaaS.  It’s official as of yesterday.  Our Autonomic Resources partnership is the first to receive an authority to operate from FedRamp.  This is a remarkable achievement.  Yes, the Advantage Co is much more than meets the eye in Williamsville.  Please read the entire announcement: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/autonomic-resources-arc-p-cloud-173500926.html

Autonomic Resources ARC-P Cloud Receives FedRAMP’s First Issued Authority to Operate  CARY, N.C., Dec. 27, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Autonomic Resources, a Government Cloud Service Provider (CSP), has received a Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program (FedRAMP) provisional Authority to Operate (ATO) from the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board (JAB) for their ARC-P cloud solution. The FedRAMP program supports the U.S. government’s objective to enable U.S. federal agencies to use managed service providers that enable cloud computing capabilities. 

Of course, there are several other projects, programs, and new business waiting to sprout in 2013, but this is enough for a first glimpse.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.  The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.