A few weeks ago had the pleasure of sharing a great evening with 100+ retail attendees at the world famous Walnut Room in Chicago. Opening in 1907 and currently located in a Macy's, the Walnut Room was the first ever restaurant in a department store. The elegant interior is surrounded with Circassian wood paneling imported from Russia and features Austrian chandeliers.
The celebration was part of our two day ShopperTrak Retail User Summit. My role for this particular evening was to deliver the official welcoming toast to our special guests. Taking my endless curiosity to the next level, decided that this particular moment required a special "Chicago Way" salutation. Verbatim following are the words shared with the audience.
It was an early brisk morning. My tired tourist family was still asleep. It was my turn to venture out to our favorite bakery in Florence
The sun was still hiding behind the Tuscan hills. The sky was a mixture of darkness, red, yellow streaks of light, forecasting another great Italian holiday ahead.
I was the first to arrive at our special bakery and found the door still locked. The culinarians inside were busily filling the bakers’ racks with the sweet treats. An amazing delicious sugared aroma permeated the air outside the store.
Impatiently I paced outside. One minute, three minutes, past opening time. When are you going to open this door? The family has a busy day ahead.
Last week had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Sensormatic. Over 300+ current employees and a large number of alumni gathered in Boca Raton to honor the legacy of a very successful retail loss prevention brand.
I must admit that I was initially skeptical on the need to celebrate the past as my focus has always been on driving a positive future. This hesitation was reinforced by a recent article titled 'Why Steve Jobs Turned Down The Idea Of A Big 30th Anniversary Party.' "Apple is focused on the future, not the past," said Jobs.
50 years is a major milestone. Reflecting on the history of Sensormatic and its impact on retail loss prevention, it's an important time to assess the lessons of the past and celebrate the promising future ahead.
Vision, customers first, and teamwork are the strategy elements to the Sensormatic brand successful first half century.
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." - Mark Twain
Over the last several years, I have embarked on a focused journey to develop a global personal brand. The initial inspiration was Apple's discerning attention on simplicity in both their hardware and software which disrupted multiple industry sectors and revolutionized personal computing.
The insight was transitioning Apple's level of continuous innovation to the personal level. Formula elements that coalesced to shape my brand definition included constant career re-assessments, an interesting mix of personal passions, global leadership skills, and the recognized importance of staged goals for success.
The USA holiday of Thanksgiving carries a special meaning in our family as many years ago it marked the exact day we started our immigrant journey to the United States. From a small town south of Rome, to Zurich, and then on to Cleveland, my youth was brimming with dramatic cultural changes.
Our USA trip was arduous from the start as my family was literally lost in New York. On arrival by cruise ship, traveling with an uncle who we thought spoke English; we were taken to the wrong train station. For the planned train journey to Cleveland, instead of Grand Central, we were dropped off at the nearest New York subway station.
"Each footstep we take is a memory of the past." - Tony D'Onofrio
As my son is getting ready to graduate from Zurich International School, thoughts of life's transition moments have been swirling in my mind. When the family decided to move to Switzerland about 3 years ago, Nicholas had a very sad look on his face. Ahead for him were the uncertainties of a foreign country, a different language, strange cuisine, and a new school.
Nick's Swiss adventure was a reminder of my own early life which was filled with major transitions. From a small town of 1700 people south of Rome, to Zurich, and then on to Cleveland in the United States, the first dozen years of my life were all about adapting to new cultures.
The greatest gifts in life are not material, do not need batteries, and are not the latest gadgets. The greatest gifts in life and this holiday season are family, lasting friendships, a passion filled career, cultural sensitivity, and endless curiosity.
Italians stereotypically are considered passionate, having close-knit families, and loving food and wine. Guilty as charged.
Several milestone events over the last thirty days have crystalized in my mind the three critical skills that will guarantee your future success.
Technology is leading to an explosion of ideas on which to build a solid business. Ninety percent of the world's data was generated in the last two years and this trend is accelerating. Every minute of the day, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video, Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content, Twitter users Tweet 277,000 times, and email users send 204 million messages.
The information noise around us is endless and it will increase. Critical to progress is identifying the most important listening posts. In all careers, success starts and ends by closely listening to the customer.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens
Over the last couple of weeks have been contemplating the subject of creating a lasting family legacy. When does one start thinking about creating a legacy? Is legacy simply the wealth possessions you pass on to your children? Why do leaders ponder their post existence legacy and even try to shape it? Should you aspire for a personal, family, or business legacy?
For the past four weeks, a special family moment keeps replaying in my mind. While spending time with my again parents in Italy, I made it a priority to visit my ailing Godfather Uncle Ralph.
Standing next to his hospital bed, we briefly reminisced about the old times, the great Italian card games, the many toasts to a healthy future, the family reunions in his favorite place in the mountains, and the mutual immigrant journeys on multiple continents.
At one point in the conversation, my frail Godfather reached for my hand. Abruptly words melted into silence. Holding hands, we stared into each other's eyes and I started stroking his arm. Our simple handshake was now speaking volumes. Silently, my Godfather was saying goodbye to a lifetime of enduring mutual experiences.
Sadness engulfed our family as less than two weeks later my Godfather passed away.
The somber news led to reflections on five key exemplary lessons of "Greatness" from the celebrated life of my Godfather, Raffaele D'Onofrio.