Monthly Archives: August 2013

A retrospective farewell to Innovative Incentives, Inc.

Today is my last day at Innovative Incentives, Inc., a job that I’ve had since the year 2000. All told, this is the job I’ve held for the longest amount of time. The previous record being the nine years I worked for the Kennedy-Donovan Center.
It’s been both an interesting and fun job and, at times, a stressful and difficult job.
In the year 2000, Allen was working for a retail travel agency in Holden, MA that was paying him a moderately adequate salary. He had made arrangements with the owners to start receiving commission income for incentive travel business that he had brought to the company. When it came time for the commission payments to be made, the owners reneged on the agreement. It was then that I suggested and encouraged Allen to leave the company, take the incentive travel client, and start his own incentive travel company. I named it Innovative Incentives, Inc.
Setting up the corporation in the year 2000 was definitely one of the fun and interesting experiences I had at Innovative Incentives, Inc. Initially, we hired Anne, a local lawyer, to draw up the corporate documents and set up the corporation. In 2004, we switched to Brendan, a lawyer at Fusaro, Altomare & Ermilio in Worcester, MA. At that time, we given a corporate book and we made significant changes to our corporate structure and practices. Since that time, we have worked with Paul, a local lawyer in town at Cranston & Cranston, P.C., He has been extremely helpful and invaluable to us on both a personal and business level.
In 2000, we hired David, an accountant in Shrewsbury, MA. He recommended changing our corporation from a C-Corp to an S-Corp. This was done to allow us to buy universal variable life insurance. This insurance program was tied to a somewhat unusual investment program, one that allowed generous amounts of tax-free investments to be made by the company. However, there was no mandatory provision for making any investments at all. The insurance program was the only part of the investment program we were interested in.
At the time that we set this investment/insurance program up, the program was very new and unknown to most people and most companies. In fact, at that time, it hadn’t held up to lawsuits made by insurance underwriters and the government had issues with its tax-loopholes. Buying into this program was risky, but only in the sense of having the insurance cancelled if the program didn’t pass government scrutiny. In the end, it did and we’ve kept that insurance up to this day.
David died on the golf course sometime in 2002, leaving us without an accountant.  His passing was sad as he was our first accountant and we felt he really was invested in our company. Our favorite memory of him is a time that we were having a discussion and I asked about some governmental consideration in regard to a tax liability. He replied in a completely relaxed manner with “fuck the government.” Immediately, we both started to laugh. I think he also suggested that, at least financially, we had then become republicans.
I don’t remember how we found our next accountant, but it must have been through a personal referral. I know we didn’t pick him out of the Yellow Pages. His name was Brian and he was associated with a law firm in Worcester, MA. He was an affable and competent accountant who was always available for questions, even when they weren’t strictly about accounting. Over the years, we became friendlier with him and we invited him to our (then) traditional 4thof July party.
In 2008, he called us to say that he had been indicted for theft or perhaps it was termed embezzlement. It was my understanding that he’d stolen in excess of 100k from a customer. He came out to the office to discuss the matter with us, saying that he’d “made a mistake.” I was very disappointed and we fired him.
We asked several people in town for a recommendation in regard to hiring a new accountant and they unanimously referred us to Bruce, an accountant in Oakham, MA. We’ve used Bruce’s accounting services ever since that time and although he is more business-minded than Brian in his manner, he is a great accountant and we’re very pleased with him and his services.  
Over the years, Innovative Incentives, Inc. has moved a few times. Actually, it has moved MANY times! It’s sort of a corporate in-joke. I carefully reported the company’s moves in a previous post, but let’s say it moved approximately nine times. I think that may very well be accurate.
We’ve always been a small company with two employees (me and Allen) but there was a time when we had three employees (me, Allen, and Martin) and a time when we had four employees (me, Allen, Sarah, and Emily).
Emily worked with us for a short time when we were located in Worcester, upstairs in the Taproot Bookstore building as a general support person. She was also with us for the move to the Tatman House in Barre center. Emily once traveled to South Africa with Allen to deliver a program, and I think she picked out most of the species of fish we got to put in a huge 500 gallon aquarium we set up in the office.
Sarah stayed with the company for 5 years. During her tenure with Innovative Incentives, Inc., Sarah developed our corporate identity as well as our very cool corporate logo and she was proficient in pretty much every aspect of the business. She did marketing and advertising and also delivered programs and made presentations to prospective clients. She continues to be a consultant to the company in an informal way and remains a corporate stockholder and corporate officer.
In the past, the company has had several outside agents but none of them produced any significant business for the company. One outside agent’s referral business was primarily that of her own occasional vacation travel arrangements. In regard to retail travel business such as this, the company has not realized any serious income from that aspect of the travel industry. Not for lack of trying. Over the years we have done some advertising to the local retail market without appreciable results.
For the most part, in reality, Innovative Incentives, Inc. could be regarded as a one-man business.  Allen has a passion for travel and the travel business in general. His knowledge of travel and travel destinations coupled with his very competent and engaging personal people skills has resulted with repeat business from loyal clients year after year. Allen has had one client’s incentive travel business for twenty years in a row!
Our partnership has been a solid one and we’ve each had very distinct roles within the company. Allen has handled all of the retail and incentive travel aspects of the business including: client contact, re-contracting, presentations, program budgeting, site inspections, trip deliveries and a lot of other detailed work. I have been involved with the business infrastructure and “behind the scenes” work needed to run the company (taxes, accounting, banking, graphic design, documents, and setting up phone systems, office machines and business protocols.)  
Together we have started and successfully managed Innovative Incentives for thirteen years. It is not without some sadness that I leave the business, but I will remain an owner, corporate officer and stockholder. After some planning and discussion, we have made arrangements to transfer my job responsibilities to others. We think we’ve come up with a good plan with which to move forward and hopefully our plan will transition well as it becomes the “new normal” in regard to the operation of Innovative Incentives, Inc.
Although I will no longer be involved with the business in an active manner, Innovative Incentives Inc. will remain my livelihood so I will always be interested and supportive of the company in any way that is necessary or holds some interest for me. This job has taught me a lot of new skills and made me familiar with corporate America. I can’t say I have any affinity with corporate America, but it has, of course, provided me with the means to enjoy a good life.
It is my hope that the company continues to be successful and provides the excellent and personal service for which it has been lauded since its inception. I also look forward to this new part of my life and wonder what may lie ahead…

The Life of a Story in Progress XII: how does one change their mind?

I’m so stupid, I should have eaten the GREEN BERRY!!!
Change your mind and change the world.
If there’s anything you can’t change, it’s your first impression. Secondly, it’s also very difficult to change your reputation. As you know, it precedes you and often times IS your first impression. So what is one to do? I’ll give you two choices. You must pick one, there’s no third option.
1) Be elusive and secretive. Keep all your thoughts and feeling to yourself and don’t come out on the side of anything controversial.
2) Live your life as if it were an open book, be aware of what is going on around you. Be accessible and present. In other words, live in the moment.
If you chose option 1, I don’t know what’s going to happen to you because you’re not available for mutiny, I mean scrutiny. 
People won’t know you or care what it is that you’re doing because you’re not making any waves nor are you rocking the boat. In other words, you’re dead in the water.
If you ever come out of dry dock and want to sail the seven seas, you’ll find that you’ve missed the boat and been left high and dry. You might say that you’re somewhere between the devil and the blue sea; your goal may be to row full steam ahead but you’re up a river without a paddle.  
On the other hand, if you selected option 2, you’re a loose cannon and when given a wide berth, you’ll take any port in a storm. When beached, you don’t feel the need to batten down the hatches, if you catch my drift.

Usually you are an even keel, although you may occasionally haul up short and find yourself in the same boat as the scallywags who look one way but row another.

“O Captain! My Captain!” “Our fearful trip is done, the ship has weathered every rock, the prize we sought is won, the port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting.” —Walt Whitman

Religious Ranting: 001

Latter Day Saints
Prairie Saint Denomination

All Hail the Mightly Wheat Chaf God!

There are about 80 different types of Mormon churches. Yes, 80. Those churches headquartered in the American west are known collectively as the Rocky Mountain Saints and those sects that formed in and around Nauvoo, Illinois; Voree, Wisconsin; Independence, Missouri, and other locations in the midwest and east are referred to as the Prairie Saints. 

Reality Check: 001

“It is time we realize that belief is not a private matter. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels—and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it.”

Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason


The Life of a Story in Progress XI: recreation of the 60’s

When I lived in San Angelo, Texas during my youth, we often visited the Goodfellow AFB recreation area on Lake Nasworthy on weekends and perhaps on some holidays during which time my father didn’t have to work.  
We’d pack up the car with lawn chairs, blankets, swimsuits, toys and our trusty metal cooler (filled with food and snacks) and leave the house in mid-morning to spend the entire day at the park.

The rec area was a place set aside for use by military personnel and their families. There were playgrounds, baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, horseshoe courts and plenty of space for badminton, croquet and other lawn games.

(this is a sample cooler of the times and not our actual one)
And, there was fishing and boating. To fish, (or engage in any other activity) fishing poles, basketballs and all manner of equipment was available to be checked out for free at the boat house. I think items were chedcked out for specific amounts of time. We often went fishing and I once caught a big fish; I think it was among the larger fish anyone in the family caught–at least at that time.
(this is a sample thermos of the times and not our actual one)
One of the special activities we’d enjoy from time to time would be to check out a boat (equipped with an outboard motor) and we’d fly across the lake, from one end to the other. We’d have to go under a large bridge on one end of the lake and we’d have to slow down while passing under it. I’m pretty sure this bridge was one we’d cross over on our way to the park. Seeing the bridge from underneath was always exciting and I remember being amazed at how far away it was from the park. Each time we went out on the boat, I wondered how my father knew how long we could be out on the water and how far we could wander without running out of gas. I don’t know the answer to those questions, but we never did run out of gas.
Once a year, around the 4th of July, there would be a carnival at the park. This would always be a special event and I can remember playing many midway games and having special treats. Each year, we’d come home with all sorts of treasured prizes and memories. Of course, there would also be fireworks. Sometimes, there would be an entire fireworks show and other times, there’d be a smaller display. Fireworks were legal in San Angelo, TX, although you couldn’t buy them within the city limits.  Some years, part of the 4th of July festivities would include a live band. I don’t know what kind of music they played but they were a band and not an orchestra, so I imagine they played music of the sixties for the most part. 

The rec area was very large; at least that’s how I remember it. Wherever the family set up its picnic area or cook-out area, one could wander far away to check out what was happening in another distant part of the camp. Sometimes, a family of friends would be near us and we’d hang out together, or they’d be all the way across the park and we’d visit throughout the day. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing the end of the park in any given direction. I’m not sure if this is because the park was so large that finding the edge was impractical or if it’s just that I never tried to find it.  

There was a time that we left the park to go home because there severe thunderstorms in the area. Along the way home, we saw a tornado off in the distance. When I say off in the distance, I mean way, way off in the distance. The terrain on the Edwards Plateau (the region in which this story takes place) is flat, flat, flat; and this means you can see far, far away.

Enjoyed a fun-filled birthday weekend in NYC with Allen, Sarah and Emily!

It was a very nice weekend indeed. We visited and revisited the food emporium (we’ve been there several times before while visiting NYC), walked a few blocks this way and that way, went to the show and ate at the Olympic Diner and Ruby Tuesday’s. We enjoyed the Hell’s Kitchen flea market. Sarah and Emily gave me a beautiful Swarovski crystal key designed and signed by Yoko Ono. That was a terrific surprise! …and besides giving me the entire weekend and taking me to see the Book of Mormon for the third time, Allen bought me a Book of Mormon t-shirt.