• January 13, 2017

Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, January 2017


    First Principles

    By: John Wilson


    One of the benefits of being old, and I am, is that you can “remember when.” As in when stuff happened. It helps with that thing called perspective.  I can look back and see how the landscape has changed, and think about what I might or should have done differently. Email, for instance, has made mincemeat of business communications. Torn it apart and left it on the floor for dead. I should have known better, but I fell into the trap along with everyone else. But it is time to reclaim the territory.

    In the old order, business communication focused on two areas: business-to-business and interoffice. Business-to-business communication had three facets:

    • Face-to-face
    • Phone
    • Letter

    There were increasing levels of formality, the letter being the ultimate, iron-clad tool for summing things up and sealing deals. Face-to-face happened at trade shows or in offices and was typically expensive because it involved travel. The phone was the preferred medium for daily work.

    Interoffice communication was a slightly different story. It primarily involved phone and face-to-face, but with the memo standing in for the letter. Around the office we talked to one another, a lot. You sent memos to make proposals, summarize meetings, and formalize plans. It was all straight forward and hierarchical and well established by the time I arrived.

    1701 Newsletter Figure 1


    What followed would completely reshape business communications, practically ensuring the need for the company I founded to step in and help sort through the noise using tools based on those first principles.

    Continue reading the full article on our website

    The fax was the first disruption of the old order. In the beginning, I treated faxes like letters that came without the bother of envelope or stamp. That was good. We got them, pondered them, and replied. That was bad. The sender had different expectations. Speed was the name of the game. A letter, depending on its origin, took anywhere from two days to a week to arrive and the same amount of time to get back. People factored that in to their expectations of a reply. A fax, however, was instantaneous, and people wanted an instantaneous reply. We got a lot of did-you-get-my-fax calls. It threw the workday into turmoil.

    We ended up creating a standardized form that told the sender when and how we would reply. When we got a fax we sent back the form. Basically, we tried to take control of setting the expectations and slow things down. It worked for a while until email showed up. It blew apart everything including interoffice communication. I’ll never forget the day my boss, sitting in the office next to me, close enough that if he talked loud I could hear him, sent me an email to ask if I would be able to attend a meeting. As with the fax, the paradigm had shifted. From there it was all downhill.

    It was as though everyone suddenly went blind, deaf, and became immobilized. Messages flew back and forth asking questions, giving answers, telling tales, offering opinions, on and on it went. What got lost was context. The physical clues of the face, the body, and the voice that gave additional meaning to words. Face it. Most people are terrible writers and have neither the skill nor the patience to craft a nuanced thought that successfully conveys emotion. That’s why seeing a face and hearing a voice worked so well prior to email.

    Texting is the inferior subordinate of email. It’s hard to write on the phone mainly because the keyboard is so blazingly small. But people try it all the time. Emoji’s were created to help add emotional context, but does anyone really want to get a business text with a heart in it? No. And I’m not an anti-technology Luddite. I embraced the computer the day it arrived, from HP mini-computers to PCs, learned to write batch files, used Windows 3.1, my first spreadsheet was VisiCalc, and XyWrite was my first word processing software.

    At this point it might be useful to reference Ecclesiastes 3:1, and I’ll quote King James because I like it: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” When it comes to email and text we need to get back to first principles. We’re doing business with people. Talk to them. Email and text facilitate that talk but they’re no substitute.

    Email or text are good ways to ask simple questions, but once the conversation becomes more complicated and the rabbit hole beckons, the rule of thumb should be, “Pick up the phone.” A three-day email/text conversation can often happen in as little as five minutes and solve a lot more problems a lot faster. Email can be used to wrap up and summarize. As for texting, keep it simple. I send a text to my school teacher daughter to ask her to call me when she gets out of school. I send a text to my middle son with the same request, because he never answers voice messages.

    Here are a few simple guidelines for using common communication tools:

    1701 Newsletter Figure 2


    In the end, there’s no doubt email and text have enriched our lives. It is time now, however, to begin using them in a more prescribed manner with rules and protocols and get back to first principles. Our clients, our staff, our friends are people, and they deserve to hear and see us live and in person.

    Say What You Mean

    By: John Wilson


    Several years ago I moved to the Hill Country. I drove back and forth to Houston to work. Coming in on Monday, going home on Friday. The drive in to town was always timed for an early evening arrival where dinner would be eaten when I got there. The drive home, however, always entailed a stop on the road for sustenance. There were several spots along Highway 71 that were favorites. One in particular was at the top of the list because they made a good BLT.

    On one occasion, however, after I placed my order, I was asked very seriously if I wanted lettuce and tomato on the sandwich. I said, “wouldn’t that make it just a bacon sandwich?” The blank stare led me quickly to add, “yes, I’d like lettuce and tomato.” It happened again several months later. This time, I simply replied, “yes, I want a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.” Apparently, the meaning of the acronym BLT had faded into obscurity and meant simply bacon to the wait staff.

    I thought of those folks this past Monday. After a round of golf, we stopped in at the club house for lunch. My brother placed my order for a BLT while I went to wash up. When it arrived, I took a bite and realized there were no tomatoes. Expecting the all-inclusive BLT, I got the slimmed down, BL. Maybe she was out of tomatoes or simply forgot. My brother wanted me to go tell her, but I demurred. I had no idea how someone could mess up a BLT, but they did, and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to discuss it with them. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, and bacon by itself is pretty good.

    It also got me to thinking about acronyms in general. In all the procedures I’ve edited there’s been a heavy reliance on them. At one point I thought it was done just to cut down on the amount of typing that needed doing. But, over time, it was obvious that they served a useful purpose and could communicate a great deal of information.

    Continue reading the full article on our website


    Windows in Word

    By: Jessica Rohe

    Use this pro tip to view Word and Excel documents in a different way – by splitting the document window into two separate panes. This way, you can see your document and edit it in two different places at the same time.


    Let’s say you know you need to change casing size and related information in the first section, but it’s also repeated in a few sections towards the end of the document. And, the document is 100 pages long. Opening two windows allows you to do it all at once.


    Split the window by clicking the “View” Tab on the Ribbon at the top and choosing “Split”.

    1701 TT-1 Figure 1


    Want to get really fancy? Click into either window and hit the “zoom” feature on the bottom left side to view more than one page at a time for quick updates.  You can also view more than one window in Excel, but the zoom feature unfortunately doesn’t carry over.

    To go back to a single window view, click the “View” Tab on the Ribbon at the top and choose “Remove Split”.

    Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.

    Show Me Where You’re Hiding!

    By: Jessica Rohe

    Have you ever been working on a document when suddenly, out of nowhere, you notice your text has jumped to the next page when it seems like there’s plenty of space on the previous one? Or, somehow your paragraph begins jumping around like a mountain goat?


    Sometimes Microsoft Word can be tricky, and one of the quickest ways to check if something’s awry is to use the “show/hide” feature to turn on the formatting marks. Don’t worry, you can turn them right back off after you find the issue.


    First, go to your header ribbon and make sure the “Home” tab is selected. Then, you should see the teeny tiny paragraph button in the “Paragraph” group. It looks sort of like a backwards “P” in the figure below.

    1701 TT-2 Figure 1

    Figure 1


    Once that key is selected, you will see all sorts of fun stuff, including every paragraph break, page break, section break, and even every space in between words in your Word document.

    1701 TT-2 Figure 2

    Figure 2


    You should now be able to discover the source of your issue.  You may need to delete that page break or clear some funky formatting.

    Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.