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Capiche Conversations: Interview with Moneeka Settles, Program Coordinator of the SOU Innovation & Leadership Program

When Moneeka Settles isn’t teaching communication courses, solving organizational puzzles, or Telemark skiing, she’s busy helping Southern Oregon University’s Innovation & Leadership (INL) students transform their careers and ultimately lives. Over the course of her three-decade tenure in education, Moneeka has been one of the founding forces behind new schools and new programs—a role her master’s degree in organizational leadership at Columbia University, Teacher’s College, prepared her to excel at. Capiche’s Chris Cook has been teaching one of INL’s cornerstone courses—the popular Working with Emotional Intelligence—for SOU since 2013, and together, they have a passion for developing confident, inspiring leaders with the resourcefulness, knowledge, and skills to keep their organizations thriving, despite adversity.


Q: Tell us about your background and how it prepared you for your current role as the Innovation & Leadership (INL) program coordinator at Southern Oregon University.

Moneeka Settles Head ShotA: I love being involved in the beginnings of new programs, and I love working in educational settings. I have been an educator for almost 30 years—starting with my work as a high school teacher and then as the director of a boarding school program in Portland, and then as one of the founding administrators of The Bay School of San Francisco. When my family moved to Ashland in 2011, I was immediately interested in teaching. I first worked at Rogue Community College and then applied to be the program coordinator for the Innovation & Leadership degree program at SOU. At the time, the degree was brand new—it had just been approved by the state. The first course was scheduled, and the first 17 students were enrolled. I was thrilled to market the degree, enroll students, schedule courses, and support the development of the degree and its students. My own master’s degree in organizational leadership at Columbia University, Teacher’s College, was modeled in a similar fashion to the INL degree—it was cohort-based and integrated many of the same types of courses, so I knew right away I could support the mission of this degree and enthusiastically nurture it.

Moneeka Settles at Innovation and Leadership Ceremony

Q: What is the mission of the Innovation & Leadership Program? What was the inspiration behind creating it, and how has it evolved over the years?

A: The Innovation & Leadership degree is a bachelor’s degree completion program for working professionals who are emerging and developing leaders within their organizations. The degree is designed to teach flexible high-demand skills for today’s job market, including interpersonal, technology, and business management skills. The degree was inspired by the realization that employers in the Rogue Valley wanted employees who had these strong skills and that there were adult learners in the Valley who had started their degrees but hadn’t found the right path to be able to complete them. The degree comprises courses selected from the Business, Communication, Emerging Media, Computer Science, and Psychology Departments to deliver a relevant and innovative degree path reflecting the realities of leadership in today’s workplace. The degree started by offering courses delivered in an accelerated face-to-face format with classes in the evening to increase access for working professionals, but we have since added a fully online format to reach students outside the Rogue Valley. We have accepted seven cohorts of students since the first group was accepted, and we continue to modify course offerings and delivery options to make sure we are meeting the needs of students and employers.

SOU Innovation and Leadership Program Graduating ClassQ: As an accelerated bachelor’s degree program, INL draws a broad range of nontraditional students—from firefighters to bankers to real estate agents. What are a few of your favorite stories of transformation?

A: I do love the broad range of professionals our degree attracts. But, no matter the profession, the transformation I love hearing about is the increased confidence in leadership skills our students consistently share with me. A recent graduate who is a successful marketing director for a national organization said:

I really believe the innovative approach of this degree did much more than help me complete my degree. It helped me gain confidence, visibility, and respect at my company. I am now seen as an innovator and leader who backs up their thoughts/ideas with critical thought and structure. While I’ve always been creative and passionate at what I do, I didn’t always have the right tools to explain the whys. That’s where INL really helped me.

I also feel a bigger benefit of the INL degree is toward the employer as it inspires/encourages people to apply every learning in some way to their current role, and that keeps people sharp and engaged on top of driving business results.

I hear time and time again about how powerful it has been to build a network with the other students in the cohort, how many terrific ideas folks bring back to their workplaces after every class, and how much more confidence they have in themselves. So many of them said they were joining the program just to get the degree, but they left with so much more.

Q: Rogue Credit Union (RCU) is a big feeder into this program. What is it about the program that makes it such a great fit for RCU employees?

A: RCU has some key core values in common with the INL degree. Gene Pelham is an innovative leader, and the culture at Rogue is one in which they clearly support the continued growth of their employees. RCU values keeping their best and brightest employees while giving them the opportunity to expand their knowledge base without leaving the Valley. They also value cross-disciplinary skills—having employees who can think critically, work well in groups, and tackle the hard skills of business management. The INL degree teaches those skills, so it is a great match for their values. We have three great interviews featuring Gene Pelham and another with Laura Hansen on our Testimonial Videos page if anyone would like to learn more.

Q: You teach Organizational Communication at SOU. What are four tips you can share with those wishing to improve communication within their organizations?

A: I teach Organizational Communication with a particular framework in mind. That framework asks the following questions every time we build an organization or evaluate one:

  1. How are you sharing the message to your employees that you can hear the human side of their experiences—their joys, worries, concerns, and hopes?
  2. How are you using rituals, ceremonies, and stories to communicate the core mission and vision of your organization and to inspire engagement?
  3. Have you evaluated the defined roles of employees and lines of communication between them to make sure both are structured to send the messages you intend to send about your organization?
  4. Have you looked for opportunities to map the networks within and outside of your organization, and how will you communicate with those networks to anticipate everyone’s level of investment?

Q: You also teach Intercultural Communication. This study identifies three approaches to intercultural communication: indigenous (seeking to understand the meaning of different cultures); cultural (adds a focus on the individual’s sociocultural context); and cross-cultural (compares/contrasts cultures to identify cross-cultural validity and generalizability). For daily interactions, which do you think is the most pragmatic approach among the three—or do you recommend a combination or alternative methodology?

A: For daily interactions, I think it is key to seek to understand the meaning of different cultures and the context within which they exist. The trick is we often don’t know what all the elements are of our own cultural values, nor are we very adept at recognizing the element of another culture. Thus, we tend to stumble around, clashing into contrasting values while not realizing they are deeply rooted in culture. As an example, I’ve just started to read Rule Makers, Rule Breakers by the cultural psychologist Michelle Gelfand. She makes the very interesting argument that there are “tight” and “loose” cultures existing internationally and in the United States, and our connection to one or the other may very well explain why we are more or less comfortable following government mask-wearing mandates and why we are more or less comfortable with creativity and innovation. We may think our reactions to these circumstances are driven by our personalities or wishes, but they are actually tied to our cultural background. Knowing what that background is and how it matches with others is key to understanding how to work well together.

Chris Cook Teaching Emotional Intelligence ClassQ: Chris Cook has been teaching Working with Emotional Intelligence for SOU since 2013. It is one of the most popular courses and consistently earns high ratings from students. What unique strengths does Chris bring to the subject matter, and how does developing emotional intelligence equip students to succeed in their careers and their lives?

A: First, Chris brings a tremendous amount of passion for the subject matter. She credits the course with changing her life and often gets the same reaction from her students. It is immensely helpful that Chris is highly knowledgeable about the subject and deeply committed to it. She applies her learning and offers examples from the wide range of organizations she has consulted with. Her work with the Ashland Food Co-op, Mt. Ashland, the wine industry, and Rogue Credit Union, to name a few, means she can offer a myriad of real-world examples in her academic coursework. The course content is then meaningful and relevant for the students. Learning about one’s own emotional intelligence and how to strengthen it means students gain confidence in their leadership skills and people management skills.

Q: Chris is also on the Innovation & Leadership Program Advisory Board. Can you talk a bit about the board’s work and Chris’ contributions in that role?

A: The INL Advisory Board was developed this past year to ensure the INL degree is staying as relevant and innovative as it could be. Chris is one of seven board members who will meet with me to give feedback on our strategic plan, including the types of courses we offer to make sure we are staying in tune with organizational needs. I asked Chris and the others to join the board because they are well-respected and well-established leaders in their own organizations here in the Rogue Valley. Their wisdom and perspective are invaluable to me as we ensure this degree remains as meaningful as possible for prospective students and employers. Chris’ work in marketing, strategic planning, and team building are especially valuable to me in developing the success of this degree.

Q: Your favorite endeavors include solving organizational puzzles and proposing creative solutions. Can you give an example of an organizational puzzle you’ve solved that was particularly gratifying?

Bay SchoolA: I have been lucky enough to have been a founding administrator to both the building of a brand-new high school and a brand-new university degree. Both of those endeavors faced multiple organizational puzzles that required creative solutions, thoughtful collaboration with others, and navigation of new waters. Both the high school and this INL degree have been successful, and since their success means students are completing the educational paths they desire, I find that particularly gratifying.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for businesses wanting to build resilience in the face of COVID and its concomitant regulations?

A: Each time I hear about the struggles organizations and businesses are facing because of COVID, I think about the message I have tried to learn from reading William Bridges, who states that it isn’t the change that is hard, it is the transitions. Transitions raise so many human reactions such as loss, hope, fear, and confidence. I believe leaders have to focus on helping the people in their organizations hold those emotions well so they can transition into new endeavors. Managing those emotions well will build resilience for everyone.

Moneeka Settles in the Screamin Tele Lizard Classic Race at Mt. Ashland

Q: If you read the interview with Hiram Towle in the previous segment of Capiche Conversations, you may have noticed a Telemark skiing theme emerging. Hiram (like you and Chris) is a fellow Telemark skier. You and Chris both participate in the Screamin’ Tele Lizard Classic, an annual event that takes place at Mt. Ashland. How would you describe this experience, and who does this fundraiser benefit?

A: Telemark skiing is a sport that takes a lot of perseverance to master, but, at the same time, Telemark skiers never take themselves too seriously. I love that about the sport and the people who do it. The Screamin’ Tele Lizard Classic embodies this in that everyone dresses up in very playful costumes to match the theme of the year and then does their very goofy best to Telemark ski through the race-course gates. We most definitely can’t take ourselves too seriously when, after the last gate, there is the option to go over a big jump, which inevitably makes us look silly and possibly flattens us as we cross the finish line. I love the joyful, playful nature of the race and the community that shows up for the fun. And it feels good to be raising funds for the Special Olympics.

SOU Women's Leadership Conference Board

Q: Last year, you served as chair of the Women’s Leadership Conference—an annual event that, like most conferences, was impacted by COVID. How did the organizers respond to the associated challenges? What was the theme in 2020, and what can we expect for 2021?

A: In the summer of 2019, the Women’s Leadership Conference had agreed on the theme of Embracing Change. This was well before we new what a predictive theme that would be. It is an important theme but has become an even more relevant one since the pandemic. We have kept that theme for our upcoming 2021 conference, which will be delivered virtually on May 7, 2021. We are excited because it means the conference can reach women even further afield than our Valley, and we are being met with a strong interest in this topic and a chance to connect over it. We have two incredible keynote speakers lined up and multiple breakout session speakers who will all speak to the skills and resilience we have all faced in embracing change this past year. More details can be found here.

Q: What keeps you inspired?

A: Working with connected communities keeps me inspired. I love working with people and being linked to their growth and innovation. I also love spending time outside in the snow and on our trails, Mt. Ashland, the mountain biking network of trails, and the terrific hiking trails in our Valley—all lift my spirits each time I go there.
It isn’t the change that is hard, it is the transitions. Transitions raise so many human reactions such as loss, hope, fear, and confidence. —Moneeka Settles Click To Tweet

Capiche Conversations: Interview with Hiram Towle, Mt. Ashland General Manager

We are delighted to introduce Capiche Conversations, a new series of interviews featuring Capiche clients. Our first entry spotlights Hiram Towle, general manager of Mt. Ashland Ski Area, whose board Chris Cook has served on for nine years. Hiram’s passion for snow, skiing, and mountainscapes started when he was a toddler and sparked his move from Maine to Oregon in 2014, when he was appointed Mt. Ashland’s GM in 2014. Hiram has overseen the radical transformation of a ski area on the brink of economic collapse to a flourishing and robust nonprofit company. Ski Area Management Magazine named Mt. Ashland one of the winners in their annual Marketing Winners and Losers Contest for his trailblazing Hiram on the Hill reports and Dr. Snowe etiquette videos. Below, Hiram discusses the impact of working with Capiche on rebranding, leadership transition, strategic planning, and organizational development.


Q: If you reflect on the story of your life, how did it prepare you for your position as general manager of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area?

A: It all started at the age of two, growing up on a small community ski hill called Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire. My father was a ski patroller, and the mountain was our second home. The only life I know is one where when there is snow on the ground, we ski. This developed my love of the sport and made it a dream of mine to one day work at a ski area.

Dad Ski Patroller and Hiram Towle

Hiram with ski patroller dad

In 1988, I graduated high school and immediately started working at a high-tech company. I worked my way up over 14 years and was in just about every department before joining senior management. It was there that I learned all about business—from the loading dock to an office with a nice desk. I have no college degree, just 14 years of on-the-job experience. In 2002, the business dried up in New England, and our offices were going to move to Buffalo, New York. Although Buffalo gets lots of snow, with no mountains in sight, Jeannine and I made a conscious choice to move to one of the places where we loved to play to start our next careers.

That’s when I started a job at a large destination ski resort in Maine called Sunday River. They are one of the largest ski areas on the East Coast, getting around half a million skier visits a year, and they have a robust summer operation as well. I started in Mountain Operations. After nearly 13 years there, I moved over to the hotel and restaurant side of the business to broaden my knowledge of overall resort operations.

Mt. Ashland Bowl

Q: What do you love most about Mt. Ashland?

A: Apart from the incredible terrain and great skiing and riding, I would say it is all about the vibe. The mountain just feels like home for so many people, and it shows. You may never see the folks you’ve come to know at the mountain in real life, but when you are here, suddenly you are like best friends. We have always had an incredible team of employees who exude what we call “local mountain fun.” We hear from so many people how amazing our staff is at making people feel welcome and appreciated. Before COVID, it was all high fives and smiles. We are still a very tight family—we just smile from behind our masks at more than six feet away.

Mt. Ashland Lodge

Q: What makes Mt. Ashland special when compared with other popular skiing destinations—including Maine, where you and your family moved from when you were hired?

A: I came to Mt. Ashland despite the huge challenges it was facing at the time because I believe little community ski areas like ours are the most important on the planet. We provide this restorative, healthy activity to those who could otherwise not take part due to the many barriers in the sport. It is well-known that this sport tends to favor the more affluent portion of society. Not at Mt. Ashland.

Because we are a nonprofit, we are able to keep our offerings affordable—far lower than the national average for a day ticket, which now exceeds $130. We offer scholarships, low-cost learn-to-ski-and-ride programs, and free transportation on weekends to those who need it. We break down those barriers to entry and welcome people from all walks of life to enjoy this special sport.

At Mt. Ashland, we get back to the roots of skiing with a focus on the outdoor experience, not fine dining, water parks, hotels, and ski-through coffee shops. At no other time is that more apparent than this year, when we have no indoor amenities available other than checking in for lessons and rentals. Everything is taking place outdoors. Even with guests having to use their cars as their “lodge,” nobody seems to care. At the end of the day, we are in the uphill transportation business, and folks just want that unmatched feeling of sliding downhill on snow.

Q: Tell us about Dr. Snowe and your Hiram on the Hill reports.

A: It all started the day Facebook released its live feature. We have always been unique in the ski industry in that we are committed to truth in advertising. Well, what is more truthful than going live? You cannot sugar-coat things when it is raining if people are seeing you get wet in real-time. We all thought it would just be a flash in the pan, but to this day, I have people tell me they came up because they saw my morning update. We were actually named in Ski Area Management Magazine as one of the marketing “Winners” for our live updates in their annual Marketing Winners and Losers Contest.

Hiram Towle as Dr. Snowe with Chris CookAs for Dr. Snowe, that was another organic creation. I wanted to do an educational series that talked about proper mountain etiquette and covered problem behaviors in a humorous way. It started with a piece called “Powder Etiquette,” where the good Doctor describes how to preserve the most amount of snow on a powder day by taking “tiny turns” and not chewing up the whole trail going edge to edge on your first run. We added parking etiquette and others until Dr. Snowe became a stand-in for the Hiram on the Hill series.

Chris Cook Skiing

Q: You’re a Telemark skier—a passion Chris Cook shares as well. What sets Telemark skiing apart, and why are you drawn to it?

A: I started Tele skiing in 1986 as a vehicle to get into the backcountry, seek out fresh powder, and “earn my turns.” After that, I tele’d exclusively for 20 years. In 2006, I locked down my heels again. I was just getting a bit older and wanted to be able to be out all day. Tele was too taxing on my body to do full-time. Now I try and split my time 50/50 and throw in a little snowboarding, snowblading, and snowskating for good measure. I still love the grace and beauty of the turn, and it just feels different getting low and more in touch with the snow. It also makes the mountain feel bigger as you really have to work the skis harder to do the same runs that might seem easy on alpine skis.

Q: Chris fondly remembers being part of your hiring committee. What are some of the milestones you’ve witnessed at Mt. Ashland since becoming GM in 2014? What changes are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of being part of taking the mountain from the brink of economic disaster to a financially strong nonprofit company. When I arrived, we were literally counting the dollars until we would have to close following a year when the mountain never opened due to a lack of snow. My first year was no picnic, with a total snowfall total of just 86″ against an average of 250″ annually and a meager 38 days of operation, when a typical season is closer to 90. We managed to squeak by and get into a few good years where we ran lean and put money in the bank. We now have more than a million dollars set aside that serves as a rainy day fund. We also generate enough operating dollars—even in less-than-average years—which we use to chip away at years of deferred maintenance. At the same time, through support from our tremendous community, we were able to invest millions of dollars in capital projects like a $2-million lodge renovation in 2017 that completely changed the experience for our guests.

Q: How did Capiche help Mt. Ashland with the transition to new leadership, which included both you and Director of Marketing & Development Michael Stringer?

Michael Stringer

Mt. Ashland Director of Marketing & Development Michael Stringer

A: We are so fortunate to have Chris’s expertise on the board. She has a way of getting to the bottom of what makes an organization its very best. Her leadership on the board helped forge a very clear path to success, and she coached both Michael and me through some very difficult times. She took on so much during the transition to be sure there would be a soft landing for me as I dug into the operational and financial changes needed to revive our little ski area.

Q: One of the first projects you embarked on was rebranding. You recently told Chris, “I think we got our Nike swoosh.” What did you mean by that statement?

Mt. Ashland LogoA: All iconic brands have an image that is unmistakable even from a distance. The McDonald’s M or the Chevrolet bowtie. Mt. Ashland just had the words “Mt. Ashland.” Now we have our unmistakable MtA image, and you can see it all around the Valley and beyond. From vehicles to water bottles, the new logo stands out and screams “Mt. Ashland” and can stand alone by itself enough to grace the front of the lodge without actually saying the name.

Q: Can you share more details about the rebranding process?

A: Thanks to Chris’s work on our DNA statement—an exercise in really assessing what makes Mt. Ashland Mt. Ashland at its very core—we were able to share a very clear vision with our partners at Lithia Motors to come up with a new brand, a brand that would transport us into the next 50 years and leave a challenging and often controversial history behind. Chris was right there by our side through the whole process as we created a new graphic identity and redesigned the website with the support of our partners at Lithia. They really knocked it out of the park, providing our little local ski area with Madison Avenue results!

Skier on Mt. Ashland

Q: How does Mt. Ashland navigate the challenges of working with the Forest Service and other governmental entities?

A: We have a wonderful relationship with the US Forest Service. We act as partners under our special-use permit, which authorizes our use of the land the ski area occupies. There are certainly challenges, but many of them exist for a very good reason. For example, the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which needs to take place whenever we want to do a project that impacts the land. The process is slow and sometimes cumbersome, but it ensures we are being good stewards of the land and minimizing and offsetting any potential impacts. The Forest Service is also the authority that ensures our lifts are safe and pass a yearly inspection, and they provide oversight for our explosives program so we can safely mitigate avalanche danger on steeper terrain like the Bowl.

Save Mt. Ashland Montage

Q: The Mt. Ashland Ski Area is owned and operated by the Mt. Ashland Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. What’s the story behind the Save Mt. Ashland campaign that led to the creation of this nonprofit in 1992?

A: The story is quite long, but the Reader’s Digest version is that Harbor Properties, a Seattle-based company that owned Steven’s Pass ski area in Washington, planned to sell Mt. Ashland and move the lifts up to Steven’s Pass after a few bad winters. In 1992, the community rallied around the mountain, raising more than $2 million to purchase the ski area to save it. The 501(c)(3) Mt. Ashland Association was formed and put in charge of overseeing the operation of the ski area. We have remained a nonprofit corporation serving the residents of the Rogue Valley since that time.

Mt. Ashland Association Board on Mountain

Q: Chris has served on the Mt. Ashland Association Board for nine years, including her current post as secretary. She recently spearheaded the first true strategic planning effort ever undertaken by the board, which took place entirely via Zoom. What was that process like, and how did Chris help transform any skepticism toward strategic planning into ardent support?

A: We are all “Zoomed out,” so having a solid agenda with well-defined goals was important. After the first meeting, it was clear a change in course was needed. The Capiche team, which included John Lamy, was able to quickly adapt and move in a new direction that invigorated and engaged the board. When the sessions were over, we had a crystal-clear direction for the board, my staff, and me. We forged a five-year strategic plan outlining capital expenditures and significant operational improvements with unanimous support. We defined the committees more clearly and set goals for each. The leadership from John and Chris really made a difference and kept us from spinning our wheels. They created a space that allowed for rousing conversations and welcomed contrasting views, which resulted in every board member feeling like they had been heard and mattered. I look forward to the tremendous work that will get done with this new understanding of what is essential for our success. I have sat on a number of boards and have seen a dozen ways to approach getting actionable results during strategic planning sessions, and unfortunately, many plans still sit on the shelf. I believe what was created here will easily guide us, is realistic, and will yield the result we all want—to carry Mt. Ashland into the future stronger and more capable so we can do the good work we do for generations to come.

SERVICES CAPICHE HAS PROVIDED FOR MT. ASHLAND
  • Strategic planning & leadership transition
  • Surveys & research
  • Marketing & PR consulting
  • Board member, secretary, and chair of multiple committees
  • Rebranding
  • Community relations
  • Organizational development
  • Zoom meeting facilitation
  • COVID pivoting

Q: Can you talk about the purpose and impact of the newly formed Governance Committee, which Chris chairs?

A: One of the more important roles of a board is to govern the organization and the board itself. It is the “not-so-fun” part of being on a board as it is more on the business side of things versus the fun part of getting things done on the ground to support the mission. We have always had a very strong group of working committees that get a ton of tangible work done those we serve can see, which is what drives most board members. The Governance Committee, on the other hand, is charged with more boring stuff like reviewing bylaws, procedures, and being sure we are continuing to operate ethically and to the letter of the law. It takes someone with an eye for detail and a passion for getting it right. Chris is the perfect person for the job at hand, and with all of the committee’s hard work, the Mt. Ashland Association is now running like a well-oiled machine.

Skier on Mt. Ashland

Q: Chris previously chaired the Community Outreach Committee, which conducted three community surveys to discover which direction Mt. Ashland should be going, what people like and don’t like, and what they want more of. Sent to all season passholders and the community at large, the first survey occurred around the time you were hired. How did that survey help inform the tack you took in the ensuing years? What have the subsequent surveys revealed?

A: Since we are a community-focused ski area, what matters most is what the community perceives us to be now and what they would like us to be in the future. Although we receive a lot of direct feedback and anecdotally know quite a bit about our shortcomings and strengths, the community surveys created a detailed look at the hot topics that were on the community’s mind. The results, which Chris helped us effectively boil down and report out, gave us a tool to make important decisions such as where we should focus our capital expenditures and how we would craft our new voice through our messaging and branding.

Q: Mt. Ashland achieved STOKE certification in 2015. What does this certification mean, and how does your commitment to sustainability play out in practice?

Stoke Snow-Certified BadgeA: STOKE is not just about environmental sustainability like some third-party certification programs. Of course, environmental impacts are a huge part of the program, but they also look at impacts pertaining to business sustainability; social and economic ramifications; and how we embrace and affect culture and heritage in our area. The benefits have been many, including a reduced cost of operation, more engaged staff, and more loyal customer base fully supportive of our efforts to be leaders in all areas of sustainability.

Q: You serve as chair of the Travel Ashland Advisory Committee under the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. What does that role entail?

A: The Travel Ashland Advisory Committee oversees the activities of Travel Ashland, the destination marketing organization for the city. The committee has representatives from retail, restaurants, hoteliers, outdoor recreation businesses, B&Bs, and inns. We help support Chamber staff with developing content for the Travel Ashland website, reviewing marketing plans, and generally offering guidance and feedback from the business community. We form ad hoc committees to address specific needs such as a recently formed group of outdoor recreation leaders that helped gather a list of local outdoor rec assets and worked on storytelling ideas and media content for the website. A number of our members are also on a committee that’s currently working on efforts to rebrand Ashland to highlight all of our wonderful offerings such as wine, food, and outdoor recreation. Our visitor numbers are slowly catching up with traditional theatergoers.

Parent and Child on Ski Lift at Mt. Ashland

Q: How have community members and local businesses come together to support the mountain over the years? What are some of the ways in which folks can support the mountain today?

Lithia4Kids LogoA: We have tremendous support from our community through donations of cash and in-kind donations as well as business sponsorships. Our largest supporter, Lithia Motors, supports our ski school through their Lithia4Kids Program and provides in-kind services like the rebranding efforts we talked about earlier. We are always so blessed by the generosity of our community as they support us through donations, business sponsorships, and volunteering their time—as Chris does on our board of directors. The best way to get in touch with all the opportunities to help is through our website, where you can sign up to volunteer, donate, or even leave a lasting impact by including us in your will or trust. I find the best way to support us is to purchase your tickets and season passes and get up here for some Local Mountain Fun!

Q: Thank you for your time, Hiram. See you on the mountain!

A: Thank you for the opportunity, and I will definitely be up here when you come.
I am most proud of being part of taking the mountain from the brink of economic disaster to a financially strong nonprofit company. —Hiram Towle Click To Tweet

10 Ways to Shine Your Light in Dark Times

As Winter Solstice is upon us with long nights now growing shorter, I daydream about the previous year. All that I am grateful for, all that I celebrate, and all that I cherish. You are part of that daydream, and today I offer you all my best with wishes for a joyful 2021, along with a promise. Many thanks to guest contributor Allan Weisbard of Healthy Optimism for his eloquent expression of this wish—and promise.


Shine Your Light. I’ll Shine Mine. Together We’ll See Our Way Through.

by Allan Weisbard, LCSW

All of us struggle with dark times, whether it’s a private, personal crisis or a public, worldwide crisis. As I shared in a recent Ashland Daily Tidings article, I learned this lesson early when two months shy of my 13th birthday I lost my younger brother to cancer. But I also learned that when we make our light shine bright, we can dispel the shadows.

Shining your light also helps others feel more resilient. Your light joins with and amplifies the optimism and resilience that others shine, creating a clear path through the darkness.

How to shine your light—even when it feels like you’re in a long, dark tunnel.

1. Cultivate Healthy Optimism

Tell yourself, “I will get through this. This too shall pass.”

2. Hold Integrity to Your Boundaries

COVID precautions are a sign of love and respect for family, friends, and community. Remembering this makes it easier to be firm in your limits.

3. Remember Kindness

Think positive thoughts toward everyone you see and choose to be kind every day. See all the little things people do for you each day and thank them.

4. Be Grateful and Appreciative

With modern medicine and technology, there is no better time to be living through a pandemic. We have a vaccine on the horizon, video conferencing, movies, and online ordering at our fingertips.

5. Look for the Silver Linings

It’s easy to concentrate on what you’ve lost, but look for what you’ve gained. I know that I have gained a more leisurely lifestyle with more time to explore new interests.

6. Challenge Pessimistic Thinking

Replace negative, self-limiting thoughts with positive self-talk. Focus on what went right instead of what went wrong. Find something that can bring you joy each day … fresh air, foliage, clouds, etc.

7. Seek a Sense of Awe

sense of awe is valuable for getting through hard times. Enjoying nature in-person or on shows is soothing. Actively seek out moments of awe to increase your positive emotions and decrease stress.

8. Remain Socially Connected While Physically Distant

Many people have reconnected with friends and relatives utilizing Zoom. A continued sense of social bonds is a key to happiness. Is there someone you can reach out to?

9. Curate Exposure to the News and Social Media

Find some good news and share it with others! Feel free to take a news sabbatical. Read other sections of the paper such as science, health, or book reviews.

10. Imagine Positive, Joyful Outcomes

Making a positive Post-Pandemic Plan for yourself helps you to start living that positive outcome in your mind. I look forward to travel and visiting friends and family, without worrying. What are some activities you’re looking forward to?

Inside the word emergency is the root word emerge. How do you want to emerge differently from this crisis/opportunity?


Your Optimism Challenge:

I encourage you to choose a few ideas from this list and try them and see how it can strengthen your resilience. If you’re still having trouble getting your light to shine, reach out to a friend or a professional for help. I’d love to hear what works for you.


Note: Reprinted with the author’s permission; the original blog post can be found here.

Executive Coaching: Why Bother? Why Now?

COVID-19 is spiking, Oregon’s Governor Brown just declared a two-week freeze, and businesses are scrambling to determine what the 2021 landscape will look like. Some predict the virus’s spread will worsen and further shutdowns will be necessary, while others anticipate a return to quasi-normality following the introduction of a vaccine. In any case, uncertainty is the name of the game.

As a leader, you need to be prepared for not just the present, not just what’s around the corner, but what lies beyond the foreseeable future. Instead of lamenting potential revenue losses during these fragile times, begin to think of this pause as an opportunity to deepen your and your team’s knowledge, skills, and vision so your company is resilient enough to withstand and even triumph during times of crisis.

To give your organization the best chance of surviving—and thriving—you need to focus on your own growth, sanding down the rough edges while equipping yourself with a toolkit for success.

Co-Active Coaching

Executive coaching can take you there … but not just any type of executive coaching. Capiche leans on co-active coaching techniques like those taught at the Co-Active Training Institute, which emphasize clarity of communication, conversation, awareness-raising, and concrete actions.

A co-active leadership coach partners with you to reveal your strengths and push you toward greatness. Together, you will identify problem areas and strategies for addressing those weaknesses. Be prepared to be inspired—and held accountable.

Are You Ready?

Before you dive in, ask yourself, Are You Ready to Be Coached? Don’t fool yourself—the co-active coaching process is hard work. But that hard work yields exceptional results.

Growth can be painful. It may require you to examine aspects of yourself you’d rather leave hidden. Exposing those vulnerabilities, however, can divest them of their power over you and enable you to rise above them.

Co-active coaching is a creative, experimental process. You need to enter it with an open, willing mind to fully benefit from the experience.

You also need to let go of perfectionism—waiting for the perfect moment to start, the perfect moment to pursue a new idea, the perfect moment to resolve issues that have been festering underneath the surface. The perfect moment is NOW.

What Do You Get Out of Co-Active Coaching?

Honing your emotional intelligence (EI), strengthening your willpower muscle, developing true grit, deepening your humility, heightening your sense of responsibility—all of these occur as part of the co-active coaching process and ultimately result in your becoming the finest leader you possibly can be.

Perhaps the best-known executive coach in the world, Marshall Goldsmith has conducted extensive research on what drives leadership success. As discussed in this Capiche blog post, the level of employee engagement is not the responsibility of the employees but rather their managers. It is when leaders accept that responsibility that their team begins to mirror that behavior back. You need to model the type of person you would like your team members to be.

Is it worth the effort? If you care about your company, your team, and yourself, then the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

In this Forbes article, business thinker and author Erika Andersen outlines the following benefits of executive coaching:

  1. It helps you see yourself more clearly.
  2. It helps you see others more clearly.
  3. It teaches you new ways to respond.
  4. It illuminates how to leverage your existing strengths.
  5. It enables you to build more productive relationships.
  6. It gives you the tools to achieve what you want.

It’s Time

So you’re convinced. You realize it’s time to stop procrastinating and to commit to co-active coaching. How do you find the right fit for your personality, needs, and goals? Read this blog post for starters. Then contact Chris Cook at chris@capiche.us or 541.601.0114 to schedule a complimentary phone or video consultation so you can discover if she is the right co-active leadership coach for you.

True Grit Revisited

What’s the strongest predictor of success in life—at the office, in school, on the field, or in relationships? Is it IQ, EQ, socioeconomic background, leadership skills, or talent? Actually, it’s none of those. It’s grit. This realization came back to me in full force amidst the non-stop, ever-changing COVID-19 predictions, and the whirlwind that has invaded our daily lives. When I first posted this blog in April of 2016, the world was a different place. Yet the premise has never rung more true. Please read on, and let me know if you agree.

From spelling bee finalists to Westpoint cadets, athletes to rookie teachers, scholars to salespeople, MacArthur fellow and University of Pennsylvania Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found two consistent predictors of achievement: grit and self-control.

Duckworth discusses the pioneering research on grit she and her colleagues have been conducting at the Duckworth Lab in the following TED talk.

What Seventh-Graders Taught Duckworth

Having left a lucrative job in management consulting to teach seventh-grade math, Duckworth started noticing something funny. The students with the sharpest IQs were sometimes the lowest achievers, and those with poorer IQ scores sometimes outshone their more talented peers.

None of the typically assumed factors for success accounted for the patterns she was seeing. What did those who excelled have in common?

After five years of teaching, Duckworth got a PhD in psychology to find out. She shares these discoveries in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. A fast-rising #1 bestseller in Educational Certification & Development at Amazon, the book explores why focused persistence gets us further than raw ability.

It’s Not How You Succeed—It’s How You Fail

Those who glide through life don’t get a chance to develop the stamina and chutzpah that help them overcome obstacles when they do arise. Grit is not about skating by but rather about doggedly bouncing back every time you stumble.

Authentic Happiness author and positive psychology luminary Martin Seligman is part of the team heading up the Growth Initiative, which focuses on the subject of growth through adversity.

Seligman and his colleagues are interested in identifying how and why some people thrive following tragedy while others wither. Their goal is “to better understand the conditions under which people can experience positive behavioral changes after going through highly stressful adverse events.”

Japan: A Case Study in Post-Traumatic Growth

Just as a scar thickens the skin, trauma can build the resilience necessary to weather future calamities.

A case study in post-traumatic growth, the nation of Japan flourished following the physical and psychological devastation wrought by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

Written following the 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor crisis, this New York Times article argues that it is Japan’s very history with trauma that would enable it to heal from the latest onslaught.

In the article, authors Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland outline the five necessary conditions to cultivate in the face of mass trauma:

  1. a sense of safety;
  2. calm;
  3. a sense of self and community efficacy;
  4. connectedness; and
  5. hope.

We can carry those lessons over into our individual lives as we learn to cope with—and grow through—adversity.

An Undercover FBI Agent Shares Her Secrets

Former FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy shares these five tips for building the confidence needed to succeed in an informative article:

  1. Don’t fear failure. Taking risks, challenging yourself, and making mistakes give us an opportunity to learn—and grow. In other words, it’s what Homer Simpson calls a “crisitunity.”
  2. Value feedback. Quy cites recent Leadership IQ research indicating that lack of coachability accounted for 26 percent of failed new hires. Those who seek out and embrace constructive feedback are more likely to evolve.
  3. Practice. It gets you to Carnegie Hall for a reason—the more familiar you are with a task, the more effortlessly you will be able to execute it. You will also recover from a misstep with more grace.
  4. “Only connect.” Having the support and mutual respect of colleagues will bolster your confidence and strengthen your sense of community.
  5. Build grit. We’ve already learned the value of grit from Duckworth. There is no pearl without the sand.

How Much Grit Have You Got?

Find out by completing the Grit Survey available at Authentic Happiness. Registration is free, and you’ll gain access to tons of goodies.

How have encounters with adversity led to your growth? Are you ready to up your game?

Chris Cook can help you develop the necessary grit to achieve your goals. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Note: This is an updated version of a previously published post.

Business Not As Usual: The Most Important Thing to Do Now to Prepare for an Uncertain Future

Now’s the time to plan for the new normal when we’re back in business. Things are different now and will be different then. Expectations are different. And your modus operandi had better be different if you want to retain, recapture, and attract customers.

Do it now. Create—or update—your strategic plan.

Now’s the time to look around and get in touch with the new competitive landscape. So much has changed and is still changing. Especially customer expectations. Like it or not, it’s true—a privilege once granted becomes a right that’s expected.

Even if you have a strategic plan in place, there’s no doubt it will need a massive re-imagination as the competitive landscape has experienced an earthquake with numerous aftershocks (many still to come) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a nutshell, strategic planning identifies the purpose of an organization (vision and mission), what it will do, how it will perform (goals and measurable objectives), and under what terms it will operate (values).

It specifies baseline capabilities as well as real or potential constraints that may exist or be placed on an organization, delivering a set of goals and requirements to achieve desired outcomes. A strategic plan enables an organization to establish direction and priorities while focusing on the critical actions necessary to implement and achieve the mission. A strategic plan improves resource utilization, reduces redundancy, and allows an organization to both create stability and seek opportunity.

What are your competitors offering? What are consumers expecting? For grocery stores, delivery and curbside pickup are the new normal. For wineries, free shipping is the new normal. How will you stand out from the competition and stay true to your brand?

Start with SWOT

Revisit that SWOT analysis you did or create one now. What are your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in this new business landscape? Are there strengths in your customer base, market position, products, sales channels, or profitability? Are there weaknesses in your financial resources, staffing, or competitive vulnerability? Are there opportunities to enter new markets, form alliances, pursue M&As, and launch new products? And how are the threats surrounding the economy, lack of financial resources, loss of key staff, and more aggressive competition affecting you?

With this information at hand, you can answer these four key questions.

1) Why does this organization exist?

This can be answered in the refinement of the organizational vision, mission, and values, which define the purpose and function of the organization.

2) What should be the major work of the organization?

This is answered in the development of strategic goals, which are based on the critical issues and needs facing the organization.

3) How will the work of the organization be completed?

Here’s where we drill down to department-level objectives. Your strategies and tactics will be developed with specific details of implementation written in an action-planning format with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timebound).

4) What are your staffing, budget, and financing needs?

With all the departmental needs defined and quantified, we round them up to a centralized plan with an organizational structure and budget. If your financing is not at the required level, there are two solutions: either decrease the plan to a level you can afford or raise the capital required to achieve the full plan.

Together Yet Apart

You may be thinking, “But we can’t all get together to do this, and I can’t imagine a daylong ‘meeting’ online.” Well, true. Capiche is working with a model that uses the Zoom platform in shorter sessions—I’ll outline below.

Using breakout ‘rooms’ and collaboration tools, this format has the potential for even better outcomes than a daylong marathon session.

For example, at the first session, you can complete the SWOT analysis and set the stage for what’s to come. Each of the following sessions could focus on answering one of the four questions outlined above.

These shorter sessions are easier for your team to schedule since they can participate from their own home. You’ll find that you can keep things moving, interesting, and completely interactive with skillful use of the many online communication tools available. I’ve found a comprehensive review of these items in a recent blog post by Lucid, and I selectively use these tools to enhance processes and outcomes. They include:

  • collaborative document editors
  • simple sticky-note applications
  • dedicated group brainstorming and decision-support software
  • virtual design spaces and visual management tools

These tools make the process easy and FUN! Actually, it’s way better than spending a day or two cooped up together in a room slogging through the typical process.

For each of the Zoom planning sessions, I like to use this format—and it works both in-person and online:

  1. Discuss topic context and background.
  2. Engaging in individual brainstorming during which each person writes their ideas on separate notes.
  3. Share ideas with the whole group—posting to the group space.
  4. Group or cluster underlying concepts.
  5. Enable voting on priorities.
  6. Create a working draft.
  7. Determine next steps.

Get Started Today

Capiche is currently working with organizations remotely with great success, and we can do the same for you. Let’s get started on your organization’s new strategies for success as we all find our way toward the future. Call 541.601.0114email, or use our contact form today.
Now’s the time to plan for the new normal. Click To Tweet

The News Is Making Me Sick—and Killing My Business!

Accidents. Scandals. Deaths. Lawsuits. Layoffs. Pandemics. All of these events—and others you’ve never imagined—can impact your business. Do you have a crisis communication plan?

With the coronavirus sweeping the country, I’m getting email blasts from businesses far and wide—with varying messaging. From a nonprofit group: “We’re writing to inform you that the …  Conference Steering Committee has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s conference.… We make this decision out of an abundance of caution and in the best interest of current public health concerns.”

And from my residence, Ashland, Oregon: “On March 12, 2020, Governor Kate Brown announced urgent new rules to slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Oregon based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Oregon public health experts, epidemiologists, and health professionals. This includes the cancellation of all large gatherings over 250 people statewide effective immediately for four weeks. As a result, venues that host large public events, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Angus Bowmer and Thomas Theatres, will be closed beginning March 12, in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Why Have a Crisis Communication Plan

Michael Turney, professor of communication at Northern Kentucky University (with a robust communication strategy related to the virus and its implications to the campus community), likens having a crisis communication plan to auto insurance.

“Most of us purchase automobile accident insurance even though we’re statistically more likely to not have an accident than to have one,” Turney states. “So, buying insurance is also a way of planning for something that may not happen, and most auto insurance policies sit in drawers gathering dust. Despite this, clear-thinking drivers do not forego car insurance, and knowledgeable communicators do not try to get by without a crisis communication plan.”

The time to create your plan is before you need it. However, necessity is often the mother of invention.

Elements of a Crisis Communication Plan

1) Identify critical stakeholders, such as:

  • employees
  • shareholders
  • donors
  • vendors
  • media

2) Define tasks:

  • Who makes the decisions and directs operations, keeping the team updated?
  • Who keeps employees—and possibly their families—updated?
  • Who will serve as the spokesperson, publicly announcing new developments, articulating the organization’s positions, and handling media interviews?
  • Who will assist with arranging interviews and distributing background information to the media? How might this person help with fact-checking to support the spokesperson?
  • Who will communicate with investors, especially if the situation results in financial uncertainty?
  • Who will monitor phone calls, emails, and social media posts to appropriately route crisis-related messages and responses?

3) Create a crisis communication team roster that identifies specific people who can take on each task.

  • Be sure contact information (cell phone, email, home address) for each person is current. If the organization is large, include current job titles and departments.
  • Add at least one or more people who can back-fill for each task.

4) Share the plan with all employees and update it with every change in personnel.

5) Create (or gather) boilerplate information about the organization that can be available to the media.

Are You Ready?

In this crisis, do you need immediate assistance with communication to your stakeholders and the media? Do you need help developing a crisis plan for your business? We can quickly step in to help with practical, actionable advice. Call 541.601.0114email, or use our contact form today.
The time to create your plan is before you need it. Click To Tweet

Yes, It’s BiG—a BiG Fail! 5 Ways to Avoid a Colossal Campaign Clunker

At the end of each year, many publications “celebrate” the worst marketing campaigns of the year. Less than 40 days into the new year, and there was already a regrettable fail that hit my mailbox. Earlier this month, I published this to my Capiche.wine blog. While I was at the Oregon Wine Symposium last week, several of my readers remarked that they’d been appalled by this example of a marketing fail—so much so that I decided to share the story on this site as well. Here ya go!

The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium has moved from downtown Sacramento to Cal Expo—the state’s fairgrounds. This was a great decision as it centralizes the entire three-day event. “It’s Going to Be BiG” was a good marketing theme. The location change will give 14,000 wine industry members the opportunity to network and visit the 700+ industry suppliers without having to travel throughout the downtown.

BiG Unified Wine and Grape Symposium Wine Spectator Cover

“It’s Going to Be BiG” is a PR nightmare! Because of the way the circular is folded, there is the appearance of a massive breast, complete with an areola, with the tiniest squirrel positioned in front of what looks like a nipple. The acorn is about 16 times larger than the squirrel, hence the “BiG”—except conference organizers (and worse yet, their graphic design team) didn’t look at the circular in its folded format, or so they say.

We called both sponsors of the event—the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). One organization was understanding and concerned. The other was more defensive.

Ideally, your organization and the marketing team and graphic artist will look at every ad as it will be delivered. We were told this didn’t occur. Seasoned marketing professionals know to do this. We would like to believe there was never the intent to produce an offensive ad, but this was a colossal fail. And the defensive response from one organizer compounded the problem.

Five ways to avoid a colossal clunker:

  1. Consider your audience—will the messaging resonate with them (or, in this case, disgust them)?
  2. Be sensitive to cultural references and stereotypes (e.g., H&M).
  3. Review timing so as not to cause confusion with unrelated activities that may be added with your campaign (e.g., Milwaukee Bucks).
  4. Involve others in your organization in the review process—different perspectives can reveal problems before it’s too late.
  5. Test content in all formats—online mobile, tablet, and desktop; printed flyers (folded and not), print ads, and so on.

How to recover:

So, what do you do if you have a colossal failure? Get out in front of it. Pull it off the web, out of the publications, off the walls. Issue a public apology and move on with a more appropriate campaign. Ironically, this “bad” attention gives your organization a chance to self-correct and look “good” in the public’s eye. And they’ll pay more attention to the new campaign as a result. But don’t use this as a PR tactic—it’s better to have a strong campaign to begin with, and that should be every marketer’s goal.

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
What do you do if you have a colossal failure? Get out in front of it. Click To Tweet

Management and Intuition

How will you manage in 2020? Is it time to shift your usual protocols? Here are some thoughts you may find useful. Thank you to my friend and colleague John Lamy for this post.


Why Intuition in the Age of Management Science?

Starry Night by Vincent van GoghTwo reasons: First, intuition is a prerequisite for real insight, meaning a fresh understanding of the situation, seeing a reality that you hadn’t noticed before. “Wow, our company is overlooking a major market!” Insights like that are pure gold.

Second, intuition is the primary ingredient of creativity. If you want your organization to truly thrive, you need a continuous stream of innovation in your products, marketing, operations, hiring, and on and on. Otherwise, you’ll be lumped with the lackluster has-beens on the closeout rack.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition usually starts as a subtle feeling in your body, followed by a preverbal stirring, and then you notice a very quiet voice in your head. The whole process is ethereal, way below the radar.

Example: You finish your cup of coffee, and your mind feels quietly present. You stroll out onto the factory floor. You see the latest run of product—50 instruments lined up and ready for packaging and shipping. Then, you feel a little quiver in your gut … you notice that quiver … hmmm. Suddenly: “We could promote our product in the industrial refrigerant industry! It’s huge, we’ve never played there, and we would help reduce climate change!” For you and your company, that’s an intuitive breakthrough! Now go check it out.

How Can You Develop Intuition?

Employee Working with Gantt ChartRational thought is not the enemy of intuition. They are actually vital allies. In fact, intuition’s mortal enemy is our prevailing compulsion to fill every moment with physical or mental activity. We often do that under the banner of efficiency and productivity.

To cultivate your intuition, begin by setting aside a few moments, several times a day, to do nothing at all! Truly feel your body, drop your preoccupations, and let your thoughts go. Open a welcoming space for that quiet little voice to speak up; and when it speaks, listen gratefully. And … just know that intuitive insights aren’t always sweetness and light!

Three caveats here: first and foremost, learn to distinguish your biases and old hurts and angers from something authentically new. Just let the old stuff go, without judgment or feeling bad about it. Second, after your intuitive leap, go back to your old friend rational thought. Is this insight really right? Doable? Risky? Think about it.… Third, studies consistently show that real intuition works best when you have solid knowledge of the underlying field. Even though it can feel good, don’t just opinionate in a vacuum and attribute it to intuition.

All this takes a while. Don’t expect instant results. Enjoy the ride!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
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11 Ways to Bring Your Web Presence to the Next Level

First impressions can create a lifelong ambassador or a disappointed grumbler—and those impressions can spread exponentially for the positive or negative, depending on the customer’s experience. Whether it’s your label design or website, this is your chance to woo prospective patrons. Before that can even happen, though, they must be able to find you online.

Here are 11 ways to bring your web presence to the next level so you’re not only reaching a wider audience but ensuring those who find you have an enjoyable, memorable experience.

  1. Be unique. If your website doesn’t currently align with your branding (or your branding itself needs honing), it may be harming rather than helping your online presence. You don’t want your website to look like another cookie-cutter template users forget as soon as they bounce but rather a reflection of your unique culture and graphic identity. Ideally, it will wed aesthetically striking design with seamless functionality to create a gratifying user experience that inspires visitors to explore—and come back.
  2. Make it mobile-friendly. The number of people accessing websites via mobile devices increased 222% from 2013 to 2018, and that upward trend is only growing. If your website is not responsive (adapts according to screen dimensions), users on mobile devices will have trouble navigating it—and, worse, Google will penalize your site in its search engine rankings.
  3. Lock it down. Google recently announced that Chrome will start blocking insecure elements on sites with mixed content, beginning with a disconcerting warning to visitors about insecure content in an upcoming Chrome release with full blocking of insecure elements (e.g., images, scripts, stylesheets, or pages) by January or February. That means sites with http elements instead of https (secure/SSL) may appear broken or be altogether inaccessible to people using Google Chrome as their browser. Try viewing your website in Chrome and take a look at the url bar—if there is a lock next to the url on all your pages and posts, you’re good to go. An information icon (circle with an ‘i’ inside) indicates mixed content, whereas that same symbol followed by “Not Secure” warns all of the content on that page is insecure.
  4. Streamline images. Google has been placing growing emphasis on the speed of page loads in its search engine algorithm, and that has become heavily weighted in recent years, especially in the context of mobile devices. One of the ways to accomplish a significant speed boost without compromising image quality is to convert images to the new WebP image format recently introduced by Google.
  5. Track conversions. Ever wonder how traffic flows through your site, where it comes from, and whether these referrals result in valuable actions? You may be paying for a directory service or advertisements but have no idea whether those investments are worthwhile. Setting up conversion funnels and tracking will help you make decisions that garner the best bang for your buck.
  6. Scope out the competition. An SEO expert can conduct a competitor analysis to identify challenges, tease out unique opportunities, and recommend how to make your website rise above the rest. A one-time investment in in-depth SEO research and analysis can pay huge dividends when it comes to crafting and implementing an effective online marketing strategy.
  7. Make it accessible. Getting an ADA compliance audit can help you determine whether your website is accessible to those with disabilities—a concern that has escalated with the rise of ADA lawsuits, including winery websites. This is one of those situations where an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure as it potentially saves thousands in lawsuit costs.
  8. Build buzz. There’s no denying the power of social media, and harnessing that power is crucial to the success of every business these days. If you’re not regularly posting to Facebook and Instagram (and to a lesser extent, Twitter), you’re missing an opportunity to broaden your fan base, encourage engagement, and create faithful followers who happily spread the word about your business.
  9. Reach out. Whether it’s a Facebook post, Instagram story, or Google ad, geotargeted ad campaigns can zero in on the precise demographics best-suited to your products or services, making your brand visible to thousands who may otherwise be unaware of your company.
  10. Keep in touch. Your mailing list is one of your most precious assets. These are folks who have already expressed interest in your business and want to keep up with the latest news. By providing valuable dynamic content through regular blog posts and sharing that content via e-newsletter campaigns, you reward existing customers with pertinent information and draw new users to your website through compelling blog topics. Philip vanDusen’s Brand•Muse and Keto Savage’s 7-Set Sunday are two exceptional examples of engaging, authentic, valuable e-newsletters that follow consistent patterns so you can always jump to your favorite sections—or read top to bottom to savor every morsel.
  11. Control your Google presence. Do you have a Google My Business page, and if so, is it up-to-date? When you do a Google search, the relevant Google My Business page is displayed in the righthand sidebar. It provides a synopsis of the business/service provider, contact info, relevant images, and a link to your website. Setting up a Yelp page is also essential for those with brick-and-mortar establishments. Both Google business and Yelp pages inspire greater confidence and contribute to a professional, unified online presence.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Don’t panic—Capiche can help you with all of the above services and more through our affiliate Michaels & Michaels Creative, LLC. We can create a custom plan tailored to your particular needs and budget. Don’t hesitate to email Michaels & Michaels Creative and ask for the Capiche discount of $200 on combo packages featuring four or more services. We look forward to helping you bring your web presence to the next level!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
First impressions can create a lifelong ambassador or a disappointed grumbler, and those impressions can spread exponentially. Click To Tweet