My Takeaways From The Book Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 02:21 AM with 0 comments

photo of the back cover of Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man

Everything happens for a reason. That phrase is something I have always believed in. Even if I don’t know what that reason is, or don’t believe the reason when I hear it, I have always felt that somewhere, someone knows why something happened.

This phrase came to mind as I read the 2004 novel Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. The book, which he says is truly that, his confession – is about how corporations have worked and continue to work on behalf of the US government to gain influence, allies and assets from other countries for the benefit of said corporations and the US government, but not necessarily for the countries they are purporting to help.

As you might guess, Perkins states he was an economic hit man, or EHM. The book is the story of his life from growing up in New Hampshire to being offered the role and traveling the world doing the bidding of others through the consulting firm he worked for. When successful, he benefitted greatly. When not, he still got paid, but then handed the work off to others to get the job done, presumably at any cost.

As I read this tale of international intrigue, many thoughts swirled through my head, including the following takeaways.

Act Locally – Perkins traveled the world as an EHM. He didn’t do it sitting behind a desk in his Boston office. Granted this was the 1970’s and 1980’s and you didn’t have the tools of the Internet we have today. But if you want to be effective and close the deal, you have to directly connect with others, on their turf. I have done this before and in the case of an EHM, for good or bad.

Tell Your Story Well – With a topic like this, it is easy to dismiss it as a farce and conspiracy theory without even reading one word of it, Now I am not saying this story is 100% true, as I have no clue. I am simply absorbing what the author wrote. But what he wrote, though, is a well-told story where he ties world events in with his own tale. If it is 100% false, then he is an amazing fiction writer.

Everything Happens For a Reason – See what I wrote above. What Perkins wrote about may or may not be the reason – again, I don’t have any special insight, I can only take him for his word. Then again, what I’ve seen in headlines over the years, my hunch is there is more to the truth than fiction. And as Mark Twain once said, truth is stranger than fiction.

If you have any interest in current affairs, world politics or simply love a great story, I recommend Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I bought this book myself, and as I pass along all books I read, this one is going to a good friend who is an international consultant who himself has traveled to all corners of the planet. Is he an EHM itself? I don’t know, and if he is I’m not sure I even want to know for sure.

Have you read this book by John Perkins? If so, what did you think? I welcome all thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Digital Spring Cleaning

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, May 01, 2017 at 11:20 AM with 0 comments

screenshot of an empty trash can message

Call it a rite of passage or a subconscious impulse, but there is just something about the weather getting warmer and wanting to get rid of excess possessions. Though Spring is only a few weeks in as I write this, perhaps it was the warmer weather in Chicago (hello, a cookout in February?) that got me started with this sooner.

Personally, as I have purged much of the excess tangible things I have acquired over the past years, my spring cleaning this time was more virtual – specifically, digital. I have been carrying around some digital baggage for a while that was beginning to wear on me, let alone cost me money.

So I exchanged my broom and dustpan for my fingers and a physical trash can for one on my desktop and did the following.

Archive Excess Files Off My Computer – When I bought my Macbook I purposely got the maximum available memory and a smaller hard drive. Why? I don’t want to carry around a lot of unnecessary files. So I scoured my hard drive for what I truly didn’t need to carry around and 1) deleted what I didn’t need to own at all, and 2) archived what I needed to keep.

This activity freed up a lot of space on my hard drive, making searches more efficient, and mitigated the need to buy more online backup space, what I use it as part of my digital backup strategy.

Shuttered Old, Inactive Web Sites – As someone who, among other technology skills, builds Web sites, I still had out there a few sites that, though I had high hopes and intent for, had languished due to lack of time as well as changes in my personal priorities. So I closed them – backing up all of the code and databases – and in most cases redirected the domain names to my blog at TheHotIron.com (link) where you are likely reading this.

I would be remiss to say some of those sites still had some sentimental meaning to me, but in the end, it save me some emotional baggage, and led to the next cleaning task going a lot smoother.

Consolidated Web Hosting Accounts – All these Web sites and services have to live somewhere, and for me they were with multiple companies. My goal was to consolidate the 4 of them into 1. However, as I got into it, I decided to leave it to 2 for reasons that, if this isn’t boring enough for some of you reading it, would certainly put you to sleep!

Where this task saved some money, it also allowed me to isolate and think about what I need for Web hosting, leading to an even better way to manage it, and save even more money. This is a work in process as a result, but one that has already deliver gains.

Dropping Domain Names – As someone who has worked a lot with domain names, from advising to managing domain name portfolios for individuals to publicly-traded firms to everyone in between, it’s probably needless to say I have registered a number of domain names for myself over the years. Just like a financial portfolio, a domain name portfolio has to be reviewed, evaluated and changed periodically. In this case, that included dropping domain name.

For this task, similar to dropping domain names, there were a few emotions I needed to put aside. In other cases, I just realized having the .com for a domain was enough and the .biz and .info were not needed. The savings from this cleanup will pay over time as some domain names don’t renew right away.

Antialiasing, or Deleting Email Addresses – Over the years I have employed various strategies to manage email. Where some have worked great, like managing my inbox to zero (LINK), others proved to be more work that saved. This was the case with setting up email aliases or forwarders, which were separate email addresses that forwarded to my main email address. I set them up to use for specific purposes, like eCommerce (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), noting xyz.com is not my email domain!) and mailing lists (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), etc. Et. Al., yada-yada, henceforth… you get the picture.

As you might guess, I had a lot – over a dozen aliases when I stopped counting – and though they were not being actively used, they were the destination for most of my spam email. So I deleted them, or “antialiased” as I like to call it. I now have 1 email address, and a heck of a lot less spam.

Canceled My Yahoo Accounts – As Spring rolled around, so did the word that Yahoo had yet another major password breach. I have had Yahoo accounts for over 20 years, namely using them as backup email addresses and tying them to Flickr accounts when they acquired the photo sharing service. As time went on, I never used the Yahoo portion of the accounts, as well uploading photos to Flickr went out of vogue for me.

So it was with less emotion that I canceled my Yahoo accounts. Nobody was emailing me at those addresses, and there was little traffic to my Flickr photos. Granted all of those photos will disappear from the Web, but if anyone really needs to see pictures of me sitting on the visitors dugout bench at Wrigley Field, contact me directly.

Deconstructing Digital Spring Cleaning

Digital Spring cleaning is similar to eliminating tangible items, but is more for peace of mind, not to mention possibly cost savings. This peace of mind gave me the same relief I get by packing up a box of stuff and shipping it to GiveBackBox or dropping it off at Goodwill. It is also something I will plan doing every year along with getting rid of physical crap.

Have you done digital Spring cleaning yourself? Or have you even thought of it before? I welcome your thoughts on it in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From the Novel Post Office By Charles Bukowski

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, March 24, 2017 at 07:16 PM with 2 comments

photo of Post Office back cover

People learn about books and authors from a variety of sources – friends, social media, browsing airport stores, the New York Times Bestseller list... just to name a few. I first learned about writer and poet Charles Bukowski in a much different way – a bar.

The Bukowski Tavern is a quaint place tucked into the corner of a parking garage complex that also houses a high-end bowling alley and seafood restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The long, narrow joint serves a great selection of beers and has a kitchen, the latter which made “The Buk” a favorite lunch spot for me when I worked nearby several years ago. That, and the fact my co-workers didn’t like it, made me a frequent patron as a getaway from my daily grind.

On the walls of Bukowski Tavern are paintings of the image of its namesake as well as quotes from his books. One would think by being immersed in such a locale would drive me to want to read his collection of books and poems. One would think, but that was then when curling up with a good book meant sticking my nose in a technical manual. That was then, this is now, and I have finally begun reading Bukowski’s work.

Post Office was his first novel, written later in his life after publishing numerous short stories and poems and, as you might guess, working for the U.S. Postal Service. It is a gritty, real-life tale, yet written in a compelling way to hold the reader through the hard-drinking life and times of a mail carrier. As I read and absorbed this piece, the following takeaways came to mind.

The topic can be mundane – Working, drinking, bad relations... these don’t necessarily jump out at you as topics you want to read about. As I made it through the pages of Post Office, the vivid story presented in front of me became as if I was watching it, and made for an entertaining use of my time. It fulfills the expression that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Read something different – A short perusal of the other book takeaways I have written here at The Hot Iron shows a variety of books, but few of them are fiction. This is not to dismiss the gripping and compelling business books I tend to gravitate to, but as I read Post Office it reminded me I need to mix it up more.

Write, right now – Post Office was written and published when Bukowski was 49. I am 49. Granted he had written many, many poems and short stories for many years. Where I won’t equate my own little blog as an equivalent, as I have written the 800+ posts here over the last decade, I have gained a great appreciation and love of writing, and it’s time to get those books out of my head and into a more tangible format.

As you might guess, Post Office is far from a children’s novel. I highly recommend it for anyone who is not easily offended by language, and loves a good, real story. I gave this book to a friend who is a huge reader but has never read Charles Bukowski himself. It was easier to hand the book over to him than to fly him out to Boston to the bar, though the latter would be much more fun.

If you have read Post Office or any of Bukowski’s other works, I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post. I am now ordering his second book, Factotum.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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7 Tips For Giving Your Younger Kids An Old iPhone

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 08:08 PM with 0 comments

photo of my kids holding an iPhone

A common situation in my household and others is when parents upgrade their mobile phones they then give the old one to their kids. With more and more apps tailored to kids, their desire to take pictures as well as shorter device upgrade cycles, it is a logical scenario. Not to mention kids know how to use them better than most adults and, frankly, they make for the occasional babysitter, but I digress.

As good as they are, and as much as they can be used for educational purposes, simply handing over your old device without restrictions when you get a new one is not the best approach.

For the iPhone and Beyond

Here I will be specifically talking about the Apple iPhone, as it is what I use and know best. Where some or all of these tips may apply to other mobile devices, such as an Android, I don’t know them as well, so I will only vouch for what I know and lessons I have learned.

Where there are some features for managing the use of them by the kids, and apps are continuously coming onto the market to address this, there is already some features and settings out of the box built-into iOS – the iPhone’s operating system – you can leverage, along with good old-fashioned common sense.

As someone who first did this years ago, and has learned a few things along the way, I’d like to share with you some tips I learned – some the hard way – for giving a kid an iPhone. Note many these apply to whether or not the iPhone you give has a SIM card in it or not, and I indicate which ones apply to specifically to having one or not.

1. Wipe It Clean – Once you have activated your new iPhone, synced all of your photos, contacts, calendar, music, apps, etc. to the new device and did one final backup of it, have your kid start with a “fresh” iPhone by wiping it clean, or doing a hard reset. This article from Lifewire takes you through doing a hard reset on various versions of the iPhone. This way, your kid will not see any of your old information, apps, texts, notes, email… or something you may have forgotten was on it.

2. Use Your Own Apple Account – By using your own apple account for the kid’s iPhone, they won’t be able to install any apps on their own, and it will require you to enter your own password to have any added to the device. Any photos they take will also appear in your Photo Stream, as another way of monitoring their activity. And when you enter your password, make sure nobody else sees it!

3. Use a unique passcode, different from your own – Their iPhone should be locked with a passcode… just like yours is, right? You should know their passcode, and tell them not to change it (they will likely find where to do so), and if they do and don’t tell you what it is, you will have no choice but to wipe it clean again.

4. Turn Off Cellular Data For Apps – Streaming Pandora and watching all of the Angry Birds app videos is certainly fun, and can add up if they are eating at cellular data. If your device has a live SIM card in it, make sure to turn off the settings to use cellular data, which will force them to use WiFi for such app features. Even with recently launched “unlimited” data plans, the more data you use, the slower the connection can be.

5. Turn Off Notifications In Apps – It’s one thing if they use the iPhone, it’s another if it keeps beeping and vibrating for whatever random notifications. Turn off these notifications so they have less reasons to keep it in their hands… any more than they are now. Where you can do it for already installed apps through the Settings, you can also be with them when they first launch a new app, and when prompted to show notifications, you can always decline them.

6. Do not give them a charger – If they don’t have a charger and need their iPhone recharged, they need to give it to you. Granted many households have chargers everywhere (mine included) but one place should not be in their possession. Most likely the battery on your older iPhone is not too strong and draining quickly, so it this adds an additional control mechanism on the device.

7. Do not “give” the iPhone – You’re probably reading this and saying, Mike, so far you have been talking about giving them a device, now you’re saying not to? What the… Ok, ok, let me explain! The kiddos can use the device – customize the icon locations and wallpapers, get a case for it… but it is still your iPhone and their use of it is a privilege! A privilege can be revoked if abused or as a consequence of not getting out of bed in the morning or whatever other challenge you have with them as a parent.

Take a few steps before you simply hand over the old iPhone, and you’ll be glad you did.

Demystifying Giving Your Kid An iPhone

Parents are faced today with challenges they themselves and their parents didn’t have to deal with, one being mobile technology. Where it is impossible to watch the kids constantly and how they use the devices, taking some preventative steps will go a long way to instilling responsibility in using the technology.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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The Simplest Web Site Content Plan

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, March 05, 2017 at 06:55 PM with 0 comments

image of content plan model

Quick – how accurate is your Web site?

My deepest apologies if I caused you to have anything from a puzzled look on your face to a panic attack. But if you own a Web site and have any sizable amount of content, it should be periodically reviewed to see if it needs to be updated.

Where there are tools available to help this – perhaps within your content management system (CMS) where you update your content, or external, third-party tools, I’d like to share a basic, straightforward and low-tech way to remind you to review your content.

From Louisville With Love

In a past role I managed the technical environment for our Web site and Intranet, working with staff from Marketing together as the Web team. One day someone from the facilities department stopped by my desk, and the brief conversation we had went something like this:

Julie (not their real name): “Hey, Mike.”

Me: “Hey, Julie”

Julie: “You know the Louisville, Kentucky office moved, right?”

Me: “Yea, I saw that someplace… why are you asking me?”

Julie: “Because the old office address is still on the Web site – you do something with that, right?”

After that thrilling conversation, I got on the phone with my marketing counterpart (we’ll call her Natasha) and has basically the same conversation with her, however I said Julie’s lines. This was followed by a few choice adult words by both of us, then Natasha proceeded to make the change to the Web site.

Maintaining With a Plan

Still on the phone, we both could hear each other exhale. We were glad we were able to make the change quickly, then the conversation continued around how much other outdated content was out there, updating it, and a plan to do both of these tasks moving forward.

As with many Web sites out there, content has many owners. The marketing teams for each product managed their own content, and Natasha was responsible for the overall “corporate” content. We didn’t have a feature-rich CMS for the site that could alert us to “expired” or “expiring” content, nor were there many decent comprehensive content tools at the market at the time – and we looked – so we had to come up with our own solution.

What we came up with was straightforward yet highly effective, and it came about with these steps.

1. First I listed all pages of the Web site and put it into a spreadsheet. As we had a Sitemap page it made this task easy.

2. Natasha then took the spreadsheet and added a column called “frequency” and proceeded to make the frequency of how often page content should be reviewed (e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly).

3. I took a look at her revised spreadsheet and made suggestions regarding the frequency – remember, I am much, much more than just a technologist!

4. Natasha, using the final spreadsheet as a guide, created calendar alerts with links to the pages as reminders to review the content.

That was it, and it worked.

Of course some content would be reviewed more frequently, namely when it was modified or other business triggers occurred. The point of the above exercise though was to ensure that, on a regular basis, all of the Web site content would be reviewed for accuracy. In addition to this, I would perform regular link checks to ensure the content was technically connected.

What Works For You?

As you are reading this, I hope you are thinking of the content of your Web site, as there is no time like the present to be thinking about it! In addition to the site itself, your extended Web presence includes your social media profiles and feeds. As it’s easy to tweak one or more and forget about the others, perhaps this “detached” solution of using your calendar will work for you too?

Deconstructing a Web Content Plan

In this hyper-speed world of content development, it’s not unusual to have inaccurate or incomplete content out there, exposed, for all to see. By coming up with a straightforward and highly usable plan, you will be able to get ahead of long-standing errors and omissions in your Web presence.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Ultimate Female Fan Guide to Pro Football

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, February 04, 2017 at 05:19 PM with 0 comments

photo of The Ultimate Female Fan Guide to Pro Football cover

The Super Bowl is a game you prepare for mentally, physically or both – depending on your level of fandom, and what you are watching it for. It is unique among sports as even non-fans watch, for the commercials, because they are at parties, for curiosity sake, et. al.

If you are a football fan, you realize the complexity of the rules of the game – realize in that you understand them all, none of them, or as many are, somewhere in between. How much you may know is most likely influenced by if you played football, was taught by a parent or someone else close to you or you learned on your own… he latter being the case for myself. Football for me wasn’t my first love of sports, but has become it. I grew up a baseball fan, which came from my Mom’s love of the Boston Red Sox. While I was growing up, the New England Patriots were horrible, and the bottom rung of the sports ladder in New England, way behind the Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.

So when I decided on a whim to get season tickets for the Patriots back in the early 90’s, before they became the multiple Super Bowl winning team they are now, where I had some knowledge of the game, I had much to learn. As I was in my mid-20’s at that time, I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know more of the game, and sought out a way to learn it. I found a book that not only helped me then, but over 20 years later as well.

I found the book The Ultimate Female Fan Guide to Pro Football at the Patriots Pro Shop, which was adjacent to the team’s former home field, Foxboro Stadium. Flipping through it, I realized it was exactly what I needed to learn the game. Two decades later I found it among some things, and I dusted it off and re-read it. My takeaways, as follow, come from my recollection of my initial read as well as this recent unearthing of it.

Structured Learning Is Sometimes Better Than On-The-Task Learning – As most of my training and learning over my career has been on-the-job or just-in-time and supplemented by some training, depending on the topic structured learning is the better way, as it was for me with football. Simply sitting down and watching 60 minutes of plays over 3 hours may not even cover everything, and taking a methodical approach supplemented with watching the game helped me learn it well.

Anecdotal Information Provides Greater Context To Formal Knowledge – Learning the formal rules of football, like any other topic, is important to learning about what you are watching. But for a game like football which has evolved over close to 100 years, having familiarity of the evolution and events which led to where the game is today is great to the deep understanding of the game. Betsy Berns mixes helpful hints and fun facts throughout the pages of The Ultimate Female Fan Guide to Pro Football, all of which provide greater context to the main information presented.

What Taught Me Helps Teach Others - When I found the book, I wanted to go through it again as I am teaching my daughter the rules of football. As I am writing this I am sitting down with her and we are going through it together, and I am helping her understand both the rules for and my love for the game, which I hope will lead to her own appreciation and affection for it too.

As my copy of The Ultimate Female Fan Guide to Pro Football came out over 20 years ago, what I have is now out of print and is now known simply as The Female Fan Guide to Pro Football by the same author. Where I haven’t read the newer version specifically, I can only imagine it is better (not to mention more up to date) than my version. I recommend it to any fan of any reading age – and gender – as a great way to learn this great game.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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7 Lessons Learned From Blogging For 10 Years

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 02:58 PM with 1 comments

photo of Bulleit Bourbon bottle label

On Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 1:56 pm Central US Time, I published my very first blog post here at The Hot Iron. If you didn’t click on the link to read it, it would have taken longer to read this sentence than to read that post. Now ten years and 822 posts later, I am entering my second decade of blogging.

Where every year on my “blogversary” I have written a post to acknowledge it (some more robust than others), rather than simply patting myself on the back again, I’d like to share some of the lessons I have learned over the years of writing.

1. You never know who is reading – Despite knowing the Internet is Earth-wide, I still get amazed as to the reach of what I have written. Whether it’s companies inviting me to dinner or to travel the world, to the one time when someone quoted to me something I wrote myself, the true exposure is something I need to remind myself before I click the publish button each time.

2. Answer a question with a blog post – As the genesis of this blog was out of my former Web consulting firm, I found it useful to use The Hot Iron as not only a means of promoting my business but to create “reusable” content. Whenever someone asked me a question that I believed someone else may ask me, I would create a blog post on it and send them the link in response to their query. It not only answered their question, but made me look smarter as I wrote something on it, and made answering the question the next time all the easier. I still do that to this day.

3. Blogging can help you be a better writer – Before I started blogging, most of my writing was emails and technical specifications and documentation. Over time, I not only honed my writing but found myself greatly enjoying it. Many people have told me that they find it hard to get into a groove on writing, and if you look at my first few posts to those I write today, you will see quite a progression. More on the writing process later.

4. Simply placing ads on your blog won’t make you rich – Some of you may be surprised by this statement, and others of you are surely smirking at it, as you learned this the hard way yourself. From banner ads, Amazon product links to payment services like the former CentUp or soon-to-be former Google Contribute, ads may bring in a little loose change, but it takes a concentrated effort and plan to make real income from your blog.

5. Allow people to subscribe by RSS or email – Many of my most faithful readers are ones who receive my blog posts in their inbox or in their RSS feed reader. Even though Google killed off its Reader product years ago, people still aggregate content by RSS feeds in their Web browser or other services such as Fever. Making it easy for people to read what you write will keep readers reading.

6. Control your blog platform – Over years I have seen people post loyally on a variety of public platforms, from Geocities to Posterous, only to see those services shut down and their content vanish, especially as they never had a backup of their own writing! I am in the business of helping people get their message out on the Web, and I sill profess the best way is to do so is to have control of your Web publishing platform. Your own domain name coupled with any one of the number of content management systems (CMS) out there will give you the ability to manage your message as well as move it if necessary.

7. Blog posts don’t write themselves – Doing the math, I have written and published about 1.5 posts a week. On the surface this looks good, but looking back on early posts – especially those before the social media boom which would have probably been tweets rather than blog posts – there was irregularity and long periods where posts were published and where they were not. It takes a commitment to writing – focusing on actually finishing writing, editing and publishing something. I also like to add original photos to posts, which will take me on a hunt to find the right shot (like the one above at a liquor store – there are worst places to go) and more time. But as I do enjoy writing, it’s also a hunt to find time when I am caffeinated and have thoughts pouring out of my head, as I am as I write this.

Deconstructing Ten Years of Blogging

There are very few things in our lives that we can measure in terms of decades, and I can now count this blog as one of them. For as much work that goes into writing what I share here at The Hot Iron, it is truly something I enjoy doing. This makes the time I have devoted to this labor of love all the more worth it. Feedback from readers rounds out the overall experience, and for that I am also grateful. Now on to post 823.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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7 Lessons Learned From Serving On A Non-Profit Board

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 10:00 PM with 0 comments

photo of boards on the counter at Starbucks at North and Wells, Chicago

As the year winds down, a New Year’s resolution to give back to the community is common on many people’s resolution lists. If you are considering being on the board of directors of a non-profit organization you are in good company, as it is an excellent way to contribute your talents and connections to an organization that is on the frontline of helping others in your community.

Recently I concluded a 2-year term on a non-profit board. My decision to leave was personal and not related to the organization, as I still support them and their great work. This was the first time I was on a board in this form – in the past I served on a board where it also ran the organization, a very different scenario. As a result, there are unique roles you fill.

Allow me to share some lessons learned from my most recent board experience. These hopefully will be helpful for considering being on a non-profit board, and could even be of use for those already on one.

1. Schedule time to perform board work – If you are serving on a board it is most likely not your full-time job. In addition to said job, you may have a life, family, favorite sports team, like to exercise and so on. It is easy to push off time to perform board duties for other duties of life. Unless you are a supreme being and can make time, schedule time for the board activities you have committed to.

2. Get your pitch down – Among the other activities of a board member is to be a spokesperson for the organization. When people ask you what the organization does, you better be ready to respond. Getting your pitch – or elevator speech – down is very important. Perhaps the organization may have one scripted already, and if it does that is a great place to start. But as you get to know the organization better, having a personalized pitch, in your own words, is the best way to sell someone on what they do, and why that person should contribute money to it.

3. Make a plan to fulfill your financial commitment – As much as your talents and time are important to the organization, treasures – namely money – keeps it running. Most board members make a financial commitment to contribute X dollars and raise Y dollars. This is commonly called a give/get, and it is dollar amounts that you should commit to both memory and heart. Where giving may be easy, it also may not be, and for both it is best to come up with a plan or timetable for when and how you will raise the funds to meet this vital commitment.

4. Understand the numbers – The devil is in the details, and for a non-profit board member this is the financials of the organization. Depending on the leadership of the organization, the numbers may be to varying depth and organized in ways that may mean something to the organization, but maybe not to you yourself. If there are accountants or financial people on the board, don’t solely leave the analysis of the financials to them. If you don’t understand them – ask. It could be having a 1-on-1 session with the executive director or perhaps one of those accountants on the board to better understand them. As the vitality of the organization is part of your duty, understanding the numbers and what they tell will help you know if they are on the right path or not.

5. You will learn many things as you go that you didn't expect – “Gee, I didn’t realize that” was a statement I used a lot during my Board term. A non-profit organization, no matter the size, will have many nuances, just like people do. Even great organizations who have a board-member orientation may not cover everything. Perhaps it is the depth of the history of the organization that is not fully documented, or perhaps several employees quit just after you joined the board and you may be involved in hiring them. Just like people, there are a lot layers to a lot of things, and hopefully what you discover is more positive than negative.

6. Get to know all board members – A board of directors can be a handful of people to close to 2 dozen. Each of these board members brings something to the table making them unique, and where you will know that on the periphery, as with most aspects of business, it’s good to know the person behind the board seat. To what depth you get to know other board members will likely vary based on the person – some you will get to know better than others. It’s always good to do the basic connecting – LinkedIn, other social media – and like any other networking, find areas in common or of interest to have conversations.

7. You are not there to make friends, but you just may – Where it’s good to know other board members, or the staff and other people involved with the organization, it’s not a good idea to go in assuming you will be true friends with everyone. Friendships are much deeper than that, and your role on the board may not even be appropriate for friendships with others. If you do, bonus!

Deconstructing Board Service

Being on a non-profit board of directors can be a satisfying and rewarding experience, one which should be a win-win situation between you and the organization. To achieve this takes a level of commitment and understanding, of yourself, the organization and what can be possible. Like any experience, try, evaluate, and work toward your goals. And hopefully have some fun along the way.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book Equal Is Unfair

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 04:11 PM with 6 comments

photo of Equal is Unfair back cover

This past spring I attended a debate held by Chicago Ideas Week between Dr. Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and Dr. James Galbraith, an economist and professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, on the topic “Is Equal Fair?” Where it was a debate about a heady topic, there was a good connection with the audience on the subject of equality and inequality in our society.

As someone who owned his own business and believes my success and failures are my own doing, despite all outside factors and influences, I personally take a more conservative look at this topic. That being said, I came into this debate with an open mind and was interested in hearing both sides to see how either could influence my thinking. In my humble opinion, Brook won this debate not only on substance but in style and how he presented complex economic models in simple terms.

After the debate I bought a copy of the book Brook co-authored with Don Watkins, an Ayn Rand Institute fellow, titled Equal is Unfair as I was interested in reading more on the points Brook made during the debate. As I expected, it is a very comprehensive book, with economic charts and data. However, it has an interesting and engaging narrative that explains well to the non-numbers person like myself without taking anything away from the topic.

As I read Equal Is Unfair, there were a few overarching takeaways I took from it, including:

Nothing Is Ever Equal – Other than a well-formed math equation, it is hard to say that all things are truly equal in the world, or can be. Many people have advantages in one area over others where they may have disadvantages in other areas with the same people. Especially in an ever-changing world, it’s hard to predict everything and keep things in equal, especially when there are unpredictable and unanticipated forces that may come along and have a negative impact, at first, and from which someone may recover or not.

By artificially trying to make something equal that naturally isn’t, it is simply going against a tide that is hard to maintain. Rather, do you look for another way, a Plan B, to gain advantage as compensation? For myself, I don’t look at being equal as the end goal.

What Do You Really Want? – The idea of equality is discussed in the book, as it was in the debate, to bring people in line with others who have better access to resources or information. To this end, I think to myself… is the goal for everybody to be equal, or to have the opportunity to be all the want to be?

Consider the Ripple Effect – Efforts to make all things equal may have unforeseen consequences, such as costs incurred or diverted, that have to be paid for somehow from somewhere. Anything new will have an impact on time and resources which are not infinite.

Whatever side you are on this issue or whatever your political and societal positions are on the topic of equality, I recommend reading Equal Is Unfair for a unique point of view on this topic.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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7 iPhone Apps I Am Thankful For

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 04:25 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of icons for 7 iPhone apps I am thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow Americans and everyone else celebrating the US holiday! As we gather with friends and family, I am certain we will all have our mobile devices close at hand, as the perfect diversion from political debates and to catch the latest sports scores.

Where I will try to keep mine at bay for much of the long weekend, there are some apps on my iPhone that I consistently count on, dare I say I am thankful for. I will now share them with you, in the order they are on my iPhone, across several screens.

ParkChicago – Several years ago the bill to outsource parking meters in Chicago, rammed through the City Council with barely a glance by former mayor Richard M. Daley, has been considered one of the greatest municipal outsourcing blunders of all time. And only a few years into the 99-year deal, its cost to drivers and the city is growing with no end in sight in our lifetimes. Fortunately, the app that is provided by the outsourcing firm to pay for parking helps paying the fees easier, if that makes any sense. It’s fast, efficient, and you can extend parking right from the app, whether in a bar or a Broadway musical. The app, available to visitors and residents, takes a little edge off the sharp pain of parking in the Windy City.

DRYV – My on-going quest since living in Chicago to find a dry cleaner with convenient hours and great customer service ended when I installed this app. DRYV is like the GrubHub for laundry and dry cleaning, partnering with cleaners in Chicago and now Detroit and Los Angeles to pickup and deliver dry cleaning as well as wash and fold laundry and alterations. Their customer service is top notch and their prices are also on par with other cleaners. As one of their first customers, I have also been able to watch this service evolve and improve, and win out over other competitors. And if you use code THEHOTIRON you can get $10 off your first order (and I get $10 too as part of their referral program).

BugMe – I stumbled upon this app when I found a login for an old Web service that evolved into this app. It allows you to create digital Post-It notes you can write on and set alarms for them. I use this all the time, whether it’s an idea or to remind myself to do something. Being able to scribble with my finger on the note is also handy when the idea comes up when riding on the train and it’s easier than typing… providing I can read my writing at a later time.

Headspace – I am trying meditation. I don’t do it every day but I wish I did. And when I do, I use the Headspace app. It was recommended to me by many people who meditate, and where it has a monthly fee, so far it has been worth it. You can also have it send you motivational quotes on meditation throughout the day, which sometimes make you think and other times make you smile. You can try the app at no charge, and if you are considering meditation I highly recommend it.

W Hotels – I don’t stay in W Hotels as often as I would like to, but this app can give the ambience of the hotels to any space you are in, even a Motel 6 (though you may have to close your eyes too!). The app, which allows you to view their properties and reserve hotel rooms, features music from various genres you would here in a W – from chill to poolside to dance. If I want an escape from the reality I am in, or need some music to write to, this app provides the soundtrack.

Xfinity My Account – Calling Comcast, now Xfinity, customer service has always sucked. Then one employee took to Twitter and revolutionized their support, albeit for a short period of time. The next iteration of their support is this app. When I think my Internet service may be out, I can simple open up the app to confirm it, along with an estimated fix time it that’s the case. It also allows me to pay my monthly service bill in fewer steps than it takes with their Web site. Though I don’t use this app all the time, it excels for me when I need it.

Keeper – Whether on my Mac, in a Web browser or on my iPhone I use Keeper on an almost daily basis, several times a day. It secures and manages my myriad of logins and passwords for apps and Web services, as well as key information and images I need on occasion. I have used this secure app and service for years and they continuously improve its features and user interface. Keeper comes with an annual fee but you can use its basic services for free. Of all my apps, it’s ROI is probably the highest. And by listing it last is no indication that it’s my least favorite app – I am not disclosing what screen I have it on!

Deconstructing Apps I Am Thankful For

The more reliant we are on mobile technology, the more we seek out and find apps that are vital to us on an almost daily basis. Of all of these, I did not say email or messaging, as those are core or “plumbing” apps. Rather the apps I have presented here are all third-party, non-Apple apps that improve the productivity of using their hardware. And for that, I am thankful.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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