How I use Google Voice for my Small Business

By John Gardner

Phone Word CollageWhen I started my VirtualMusicOffice, I wanted a phone number other than my home or cell phone. I didn’t want to add a monthly phone bill. I wanted to screen calls and take calls on either my home phone or cell phone, and to know before I picked up that it was a business call. If I missed a call, I wanted a professional voice mail message for my caller and a way to have immediate access to the message from a variety of methods that would not require listening to it on my phone. Because I conduct my business virtually anywhere, but including locally, I wanted a local phone number. From several options, including subscription and free, I selected Google Voice.

In the signup process, I was able to search for phone number options by area code and zip code. I wanted a local phone number and was able to get a prefix from a small town 5 miles away from Huntington. Some of the calls I get are because people recognize the prefix.

I set my account so that a call would ring simultaneously to both my home AND cell phone. Prior to answering the call, I can see that the Caller ID indicates it is a Virtual Music Office (VMO) call. Google Voice prompts the caller (option) to say his/her name, so the first thing I hear when I answer is,

“You have a call from…..”

…and then I can choose to take the call or not.

Voice Mail and messages. The caller hears the message I recorded for the VMO call — NOT the messages on my cell or phone phones. That’s a good thing.

Message notifications. I have my account for multiple notifications:

  1. text to my phone that I have a message with a transcript. So I can SEE the message without having to listen to it. That is handy if I am in a meeting or somewhere phone use would be a distraction.
  2. email to my Gmail address. From that email I can read and/or listen to the message. (Sometimes, especially if the caller fails to speak clearly, the transcription might contain nonsense word(s).
  3. Google Voice account. From the list of messages I can edit the transcription to fix any nonsense words. From this list I can….
    • Call. The system calls your phone and then connects you to the caller, so they don’t see your home/cell number.
    • Text. Again, the text comes from your Voice (not your private) number.
    • Email.
    • Block caller.
    • …and more


I’d like to be your Virtual Assistant. Check me out at

VMO Business Card

Posted in Consulting, How May I Serve YOU?, Internet web design and ecommerce, Managed hosting, Virtual Assistant, Virtual/Local Services Tagged with: , , ,

Example: Colleges Pay for those who Play WELL

Today’s video find is personal. Really happy as several of our video recordings from son John’s high school career were stolen along with our camera during a vacation trip.

I like to use John as an example of one way to pay for college; combining systematic study with proficient musicianship and good grades.

In addition to playing in his high school’s wind ensemble, jazz band, and show choir backup band, John went to summer music camps in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. He participated in solo/ensemble festival every year and was principal trumpet in the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony.

About half way through high school, his trumpet teacher said he wanted to expand from 30 to 60 minute lessons. When I asked if there was a discount for the longer time, the teacher’s response was,

“You get me for twice the time at double the price.”

During one of those visits to teacher’s house, as we sat in the driveway while I wrote out the check for that day’s lesson, I said to my son,

“I’m paying for your college education one week at a time. By the time you graduate you should be good enough that someone will pay you to come to their school.”

It worked….because John worked.

As a result of his music and high academic success, for most of his semesters at college, THEY gave HIM a check.

So that I can justify this as an educational post:

  1. What type of trumpet is he playing? Not the brand, the type?
  2. Why does he adjust tuning when inserting/removing the mute?


Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Music Performance, Personal experience, Solo Prep, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

A new Virtual Services Possibilities Prezi

Posted in Business strategies, Consulting, How May I Serve YOU?, Internet web design and ecommerce, Managed hosting, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Virtual Assistant, Virtual/Local Services

Corporate Common Core Standards for Business

By John Gardner

Common Core Corporate RottenSince one purpose of education is to prepare world learners for success in the business/corporate world, we should implement  Corporate Common Core (CCC) Standards for Business.

Businesses cannot continue to compete in such a way as to assign and support inappropriate labels like “winners” and “losers” or “profit” and “loss”. We don’t condone competition in our Common Core classrooms, so why should it be acceptable in business?

Corporations should mainstream employees into adequately average work groups, de-emphasizing, promoting or rewarding achievers or gifted performers. Stop encouraging the win. Stakeholders should applaud improvement, not excellence (because not everyone will make it to that level) or bottom line.

All businesses should start no-employee-left-behind corporate common core standards.

Most businesses are guilty of talent discrimination, especially in hiring. Just as the system encourages teachers to modify tests to increase success and ensure evenly distributed test scores across economic and ethnic boundaries, businesses should hire from the mainstream (average) pool of applicants, or just hire all who want a job.

The corporate world should follow the lead of public education as it moves away from GT (Gifted & Talented) programs and recognizing Valedictorians — and focus on showing improvement for the poorest performers. Yes, all should improve, but the process includes no longer rewarding high achievement. Educators should not label students, i.e. advanced/gifted or remedial/slow.

Every employee, regardless of ability, must participate in every task, like they did in t-ball where the emphasis was on playing rather than winning.

Increase the number of steps for any task and force all to take every step. Follow the example of this Common Core 4th grade math problem that takes 108 steps to complete.

The first year using Corporate Common Core Standards, there will be no improvement expectations, but rather for all to focus on a particular skill, like getting to work on time. Each year they will add one skill – such as all working the full number of minutes paid for without taking extra breaks. In year two, employees will stay on task 80% of the time, representing the accepted standard for employees in the high and medium competency groups. Workers in the “low” performing group can strive for 60% instead of 80. For each sub-standard worker, the manager will write an individual plan. No one can move on until they ALL do.

Remember, Common Core is about helping EVERYBODY get better. The focus cannot be on those with above average proficiencies.

You cannot single people out for higher level work. If there is a specialty task, all employees will strive to achieve it.

It is about process, not product.

One of the problems facing businesses as they adjust to the CCC is that they tend to reward achievers, increasing their pay and giving them ‘special’ titles. Similarly to the way academics is removing labels like “special, gifted or valedictorian”, businesses must stop assigning titles like, supervisorteam leader, as those imply higher rank. To meet the CCC, every employee will perform each of those duties every day.

Focus on helping every person reach the core (minimum) competency. Make them each feel good and accomplished every day, because they did the best they could and their best is good enough if it is better than the last effort. Get over those out-dated ideas that some people or groups are better than others. In business, as in public schools, we need competency, not excellence. Compare individual performance to the common average. Compare the company average to that of their competitors. Just imagine what will happen when every business meets the same level success.

No more superior brands. All business will move toward the mediocre core competency. Share ingredients and packaging with all competitors, so everybody can meet the common standard. Regulate production so no business can individually excel. Remove phrases like “the best” or “superior quality” from all marketing.

Some businesses have taken advantage of exceptional innovators, engineers, marketers and salespeople. That practice cannot continue. The state will decide the designs, ingredients, pricing and sales practice. Think of the money that will save. Surely each business will pay less for the state-mandated practices than it would for customized work by competing specialists. Only when all businesses are the same size, with the same expectations and performing at the same level — will we really be able to achieve that universal core competency.

No more unequal funding. Efficient operations that have worked harder to conduct profitable business will spread the wealth so that all competitors become equal.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Industry averages become the standards. Each worker will display working fundamentals at a moderate level, demonstrating an average understanding of business practices (production, marketing, sales). Average is the new normal, the new standard. No more focus on “winning” or “competing to beat” the competition. Those who begin to show higher levels of performance will have extra break time mandated to allow slower, less efficient operations to catch up.

After the first year expectations of 80% accuracy in rubric items like attendance and basic practices, raise the goal for the second year to 85%, unless there are still those unable to meet the 80% benchmark . Managers will write individual performance plans, outlining steps to help the sub-standard worker and will be held accountable for those failing to meet minimums core competencies, but since it would not be fair to expect managers to do that on his/her own time, that planning will happen only while working “on the clock”.

Assessing core competencies. Instead of using bottom line growth or profit to determine success, the government will provide a 4-6 page form that the CEO or business owner will use to evaluate the company, and another form for the manager to assess each employee.

Managers must take part in professional development training to learn the necessary and unnecessary forms and formulas. While in PD training, workers must stop working because the Corporate Common Core assumes that unsupervised employees cannot function.

Managers will design a pre-season test to determine what employees know, but must get both the pre-test and the final assessment pre-approved. The approval process can involve multiple adjustments as determined by the professional development person within the building. Note: If that person doesn’t yet exist, Corporate Common Core mandates hiring from outside to train, administer and monitor the process.

Using a complex formula requiring training to understand, test data will classify (label) each employee as “highly effective”, “effective”, “needs improvement” or “not effective”. Use test data, not work product to rate managers, whose job is on the line if the test data fails to show individual improvement. Monitors will focus on the overall team averages. Reassign highly productive employees to tutor/mentor/train those operating at a lower level. One aspect of the Corporate Common Core is that “No Employee Left Behind” is given priority over the overall bottom line. Instead of dismissing poor performers, give them tasks that show they are improving. Improvement, not results, is key.

The good news is that with enough enthusiastic manager and CEO/Owner commitment to spending major work hours evaluating data and devising, discussing and implementing  individual employee plans (IEP’s), there is reason for optimism that the end result will be average.


If your Corporate Common Core goal is to achieve and celebrate mediocrity (Corporate Standards) — don’t call me. Otherwise, if I can assist individuals (on site or remotely via Skype) your focused performers who want to improve their individual proficiencies past the minimum average, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.

VMO Business Card

Posted in Business strategies, Consulting, High Schools, Sales and Marketing, Small Business Tagged with: , , ,

Web-volution: Web Design is evolving

By John Gardner

s & h green stampsWeb-volution: Web Design is evolving.

When I first became involved in web design a decade ago, designing a site required a lot of expertise, expensive design and photo editing software plus an expensive scanner that could only be justified if used as a service provider. The designer had to write code in HTML and PHP and upload via FTP. For most, web design and hosting required expensive experts. It was an almost overwhelming environment, purported by the industry itself, that discouraged self-design. Even some programmers didn’t want to tackle web design.

Getting a web page cost hundreds (or thousands) in start-up design followed by hourly upkeep or ongoing retainers and maintenance for edits and updates. Those were the days of $40-$80-$125/hr fees. Avoiding those fees attributed much to the outdated and abandoned sites left for prospects to stumble through. High-priced designers are still out there, but they no longer control the market. YOU DO!

Web designers have been historically successful in preaching “custom” vs “cookie-cutter” to prevent your looking like everybody else. Sites had to “flash”, show spinning buttons and cool screen changes. But in the same way doctor-prescribed Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen and Naproxin Sodium became over-the-counter Tylenol, Advil and Aleve, which now compete with over the counter (OTC) generics, we no longer have to live with more expensive prescription-level websites.

If you don’t want to design and maintain your own site, at least go for the OTC rates because it is no longer the ultra-fancy specialized static design you need….it is dynamic and content driven functionality.


A static web site consists of seldom changed “pages”; (Home, Contact, Products/Services). Most would update the products/services page seasonally with marketing (phone calls, email campaigns, direct-mail marketing) encouraging people “visit” your site. But once they were there, why would they ever want to come back….until next year when you change it?


engages the customer. It asks questions, encourages responses and responds to customer desires and trends. Blogging is no longer controlled by the pajama-media. It is an opportunity for a business owner to interact with the end consumer enabling the owner to keep in touch and the prospect to feel important.

Prospects and customers can subscribe to receive update notifications via mobile or email, so they don’t even have to remember to come back or sign-up for an email newsletter or free e-book that also gives the business an opted-in email address. Prospects and customers can Tweet, Share, Like or Send your content to their connections. Commenting or replying to a blog post is the thing to do and presents exposure for the prospect and feedback for the business.

…can be updated by the client, including adding, removing or editing ‘pages’, posting, controlling responses and responding to blog inquiries, initiate discussions or create polls. The client can record videos and post them to the site; introductory videos, sales pitches, training and more. Areas within the site can be publicprivate (not on the menu…only those with the link should find) or password protected (pages with information for a specific group, or for paid subscribers.

…is easily updated and promoted across multiple media. Students and younger parents are more likely to click on a Facebook or Instagram update than to follow an email blog link. There are tools to assist with scheduling and cross-promoting updates to a variety of media frequented by those you are trying to reach.

…gives you valuable dynamic, dated and demographic stats to utilize. A local group facebook page targeting a small group, has about 150 fans, but has reached thousands because content can also show up on fans’ friends’ pages as well. The dynamic stats not only tell me how many people have seen material, but the demographics of who is looking and even which posts or updates attracted them the most.

MANAGED HOSTING / VIRTUALLY ASSISTED. It is getting easier to create and post to media. However, most people running small businesses (been there, done that) are too busy with the day-to-day operations to give adequate attention to promoting what they do. Consider working with someone (LIKE ME) to help you get the word out.

I am ACCEPTING Guest Posts

VMO Business Card
Posted in Business strategies, Consulting, Income Opportunity, Internet web design and ecommerce, Monetizing, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Virtual Assistant, Work from Home Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Is Selling In The Schoolhouse Really That Unique?

by John Gardner

School hallway and lockersIs Selling In The Schoolhouse Really That Unique?

I have over 30 years of sales experience, but there would be lots of places I would be very uncomfortable or unequipped to call on. I don’t have proper security clearance to visit military or government facilities.

My business partner, who worked in a high-security military-servicing facility, once called me because he had forgotten a brief case he needed. When I asked how I would find his office, his response was, “You will never see my office. You won’t get past the guard house, not to mention the outer rings of this building. I will give your name to the gate guard. Follow his instructions.”

I would not be comfortable calling regularly on police departments.

I made a fundraising sales presentation once to a PAL (Police Athletic League) Board, and was the only one in the room not wearing a uniform or a gun. When I tried to crack some humor, as the local contender, by saying that, “You all know where I live.” – nobody laughed.

I have no idea what the good or bad times are to approach someone at a large department store, and would be intimidated (I think) making medical or pharmaceutical sales. I can’t talk car parts with auto dealers or mechanics.

But I DO understand the education business. I’ve taught IN schools and called ON schools for decades. Education sales is unique, or at least semi-specialized in terms of practices and expectations.

Unique Working Environment

Problematic Perceptions

Not everyone can succeed in sales, but of those who can, there are additional hurdles for those who want to sell in the schoolhouse. Some are haunted by their poor behavior or academically challenged high school experience and thus intimidated by the idea of walking into a school and talking to teachers like the ones who used to send them to the principal’s office. Walking into a principal’s office could stimulate history-based hyper-something. And a fear of speaking in public can be heightened when that public is mostly teenagers.

Professional Atmosphere and Academics

All teachers have at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Administrators and half the faculty will have a Master’s. Secretaries and Treasurers have been formally trained. The main secretary at the local high school probably has a business degree and/or is a certified accountant. The nurse is certified, if not registered. Within the school corporation, staff are referred to as “Classified” (custodians, cooks, aides, bus drivers, etc) and “Certified” (faculty). Communication that goes to all is often headed: “Faculty and Staff” or “Certified and Classified” staff.

Educationally Correct Communication

As you write email, design promotional materials and craft proposals, consider that you’re dealing with teachers, who are not impressed with poor grammar and bad spelling. Keep correspondence short and to the point. Educators have lots to read, so hook them early or lose them quickly.

Formal – until told otherwise

Don’t use first names without permission. My superintendent always calls me “Mr.”, so I dare not call or communicate with him on a first name basis. My principals use both with me, but I ONLY use “Mr/Mrs” with them. Teachers will likely be okay with you calling them by first name, but NOT in front of students. The three music teachers in my school are on a first name basis when the door is closed, but always use “Mr” in open areas where students are around. Teachers will probably introduce you to students as “Mr/Mrs/Ms”.

If you interact with students, follow the lead of the teachers around them to decide how students should address you. When I was in a choir room and a student called me by my first name, the teacher interrupted and told the student, “his first name is Mr.”. Assume formal until instructed otherwise. Listen carefully to your introduction. That is your name. If you are introducing yourself to students, go formal first.

Polite and Appropriate

Do what your mama taught you. Sir and ma’am are good, especially with administrators. Avoid slang. ‘Yes’ is better than ‘yeah’. Talk about students, not kids. Be careful if mentioning someone’s appearance, especially a student’s. Teens are hyper-sensitive about how they and others think they look. “Hot” is inappropriate for student or teacher. I grew up hearing phrases like, “You dress in the dark?”, but that could be the result of wearing the only clothes available. Trying to compliment a student’s look can get you labeled “creepy”. Until you know them, just don’t talk about appearance. There is often a back story that you don’t know.

It is sad that you can’t even assume things like “mom and dad” or “parents”. In my classes I have guardians who are single moms, single dads, grandparents and foster parents. I have students from non-English (or barely) speaking parents, some with deceased parents. Until you know who you are talking to and his/her home situation, speak generally or generically.

You will encounter students with piercings, tattoos, wild hair colors and shocking clothing choices. You are likely to encounter guys dressed like girls or girls like guys. Don’t ask why the tattoo, or if the piercing hurts, or anything. Avoid the drama.

Don’t give your opinion on couples, because you’ll see all kinds. Don’t assume that pretty girl has a boyfriend. You have to earn your way into those types of conversations and that is a difficult task to accomplish quickly. Some never let you in, but don’t go in uninvited.

Politically Neutral

Avoid politics. An educator may be polite enough not to interrupt, but you can unintentionally forfeit business by offending someone with a political joke or comment about a position or candidate.

Remembering that all educators are college graduates, avoid an uninvited comment about a college team. In my building, you’ll find passionate supporters (and haters) of Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Kentucky and Michigan. If you walk into my office wearing the school logo of the team that just beat my team, ummmm. Yeah. Don’t do that.

Cultural Sensitivity

Classrooms, schools and staff are increasingly multi-cultural.

When a freshman band student came to me complaining about an upper classperson’s performance-related critical comment, I told her that, unless the upperclassperson was excessive or out of line, that she needed to listen to what they were saying.

The next thing I knew I was in the office student-charged with ‘racism’.

Be careful what you say.

Economic Sensitivity

Studies are showing that poverty has as much impact on school and student success as race. Education Week, in an article by Sarah D. Sparks, claims that “school poverty – more than race – affects students’ college-going”. reports that the local poverty rate is 15.7%, which means that 62 high school seniors would struggle with $70 yearbooks, $400 class rings or professionally photographed senior picture packages. Salespeople talking to students should not use words like “only” when describing cost.

Our marching band shoes cost $36, and we have several freshmen each year who will go through our boxes of “used” shoes to find a pair.

Environmental Sensitivity

“Green” is huge. If you can package what you’re selling in an environmentally friendly way, you increase your success potential. Put your fundraising orders in ‘recycled’ or ‘biodegradable’ plastic. Or instead of using virgin boxes, take back the boxes you delivered in and reuse them somewhere else. What historically looked ugly or cheap now makes you look environmentally conscious. Green Child Magazine lists “10 Eco-Friendly Fundraisers”. Josten’s (class rings and graduation supplies) promotes “sustainable products”.

Language Sensitivity

Teachers and administrators discipline students for bad language and won’t tolerate it from you either. Have you heard of zero tolerance? You might get to apologize if you have a language slip with a teacher or administrator, but if you cross that line with or in front of students, you are done and out of there.

Smoking, Drinking, Drugs, Weapons, Fighting, Bullying

Zero tolerance. In an age when elementary students are suspended for holding a gun-shaped pop tart, or shooting by pointed finger, or when a student taking an aspirin (or a teacher dispensing one) can face disciplinary action, you should consider the school as a sterile environment vice-wise.

Smoking. In most business or industry, even if you cannot smoke at the work station or in the office, there is a break room where you can, or you can step outside during a break. Not so at schools. In most cases, the entire campus is smoke-free for everyone at all times. If you smoke in your car on the way to an appointment, consider what your clothes will smell like when you get there.

Drinking. Teachers can’t leave for lunch and get a glass of wine with their lunch. Detection would likely mean termination. Don’t come in smelling of or under alcohol influence.

He owned a small, family-operated music instrument store in the town just 10 miles away from where I taught. I drove past that show on my way home from work, so it was convenient for both vendor and customer. There were rumors of the owner’s drinking problem, but I had not seen or experienced it and he had always done right by my program, so I remained loyal longer than many….. until the day he staggered into my band room and propped himself up against the door for stability. I asked him to leave and informed the principal, who promptly banned him from the campus.

Sad, because the replacement store was inconveniently 40 miles away. The local shop went out of business because my school’s decision became the norm.

Drugs. A teacher cannot give an aspirin to a student with a headache and students, unless nurse-approved, cannot carry medication with them. On band trips, we have designated parents carrying inhalers and signed parental permission. Students who have regular medication to take during the day (and an alarming number of them do), go to the nurse’s office to take it.

Weapons, Fighting, Bullying. A weapon would result in automatic expulsion (kicked out for at least the semester). Fighting and bullying would follow the normal discipline policy. Even with a license and the Second Amendment, it is illegal to have a firearm on school property. For a teacher, that means it can’t even stay in the car. That would go for you too.

Protective and Perception

Handshakes and high five’s are okay but otherwise, DON’T TOUCH. A photographer positioning a student for a picture is okay, but a speaker interacting with a group of students grabbing or hugging is not. Many students are extremely sensitive to any touch, and teachers are generally very hesitant, even after getting to know the student. As a guest in the building, you have not earned that permission.

Schools are mandated, expected and trusted to protect students. Don’t transport students without permission.

A 16-yr old student failed to get on the school bus. Shortly after parents realized it, there were administrators, custodians and teachers literally running to different areas and potential hiding places around the school and campus.

After unsuccessful searches by local law enforcement, an all-call for help went out to the community. Hundreds of students, parents and community members, every administrator and even the superintendent met in that Walmart parking lot to be divided into teams to focus on different parts of the city.

The student was found safe.


Sales trainers are all about emphasizing the importance of getting the sale on the spot. Handle the objections and go for the close (jugular). But there are few times the person you are contacting has authority to make a final decision. Most decisions in the school house involve a group or require approval. If you gather your information correctly, you will know who to meet and greet and when to unload your presentation.


Loyalty can work for you eventually, but until you earn it, respect it. Never bad mouth a competitor. If you do a good job of earning business from people who like and trust you, you will be able to keep their business by taking good care of them. As you encounter prospects firmly connected to a competitor, be polite, positive and respectfully persistent. Things change. Be the one they come to in that eventuality.

Get this and the rest of the 50-page eBook for only $2.99.


Posted in High Schools, Personal experience, Sales and Marketing, School Security, Selling in the Schoolhouse

Times Have Changed: Open Schools of Yester-Year vs Secure Schools Today

by John Gardner

Robot and shieldTimes Have Changed…

Open Schools – yester-year

My first teaching job was in a small, rural school with less than 500 students in Grades 9-12. I was the only instrumental teacher, responsible for Grades 6-12. My high school band program had as many as 93 students in it. In that small, rural community, the Band Boosters were loyal, energetic, and mostly from a farming background …so project organization tasks were generally my responsibility. I was the decision-maker for almost all things band, knowing that I had the solid support of the boosters. Sales reps for fundraising, uniform and music stores knew to come to me.

The openness of the schools was not a safety issue, but presented a sales problem. Sales reps would step inside my band room during a rehearsal, expecting me to ignore the dozens of students to hear a sales pitch. I made the following arrangement with the high school office and principal:

If I have someone coming that I want to talk to, I’ll instruct them to come directly to the band room and I’ll leave their name in the office with the secretary. If they come to you, please send them down. If they come directly to me, I’ll see them.

If someone finds me and I DON’T want to talk to them, I’ll ask them to check in at the office. If I send them to check in, or if they come to check in and I haven’t given you their name, I don’t want to talk to them and you should have them leave their information and call during a plan time to make a follow-up appointment.

Buildings were open, all doors remained unlocked during the school day. There were usually signs at the door instructing visitors to come to the office, but there was no one enforcing that request. Strangers in the hallways were not questioned or confronted.

When I started selling to schools in the early 80’s (pre-cell phones, wifi, Internet, voice mail, etc…..), gas was cheap and long distance was expensive, so the way of the day was to go “belly to belly”, as Tom Hopkins told us in sales training seminars. I developed good relationships with my customers. One of my favorites was with a choir director at a small, rural school. He was a smoker (yeah, right?), and his standing instructions were….

You know my plan period and that I’ll be in the boiler room during that time and lunch. When you come to see me, just come in through the boiler room. If I’m not there, come on down to the classroom.

We made multi-thousand dollar decisions sitting at the janitors’ picnic table next to the noisy on again, off again boiler.

I never used that arrangement with prospects, always presenting my credentials to the main office secretary, even when I had an appointment with someone in the building. Not everyone operated that way, however.

I hired an experienced sales rep who came from a national fundraising company that actually trained and instructed reps to enter through the delivery doors rather than the front office doors — and to make their way around the building gathering info as they go. This rep was successful, so I rode with him for a day to observe and learn. We would find an open door, or wait for someone to open one for us, and then start down the hallway toward the back of the building (common location for music departments). He would stop a student in the hallway and ask for directions to the band room. There would be an empty classroom with the teacher working at his/her desk and he would use a Columbo-style sales-trick to get the director’s name.

Hi, I’m here to meet with your band director (pause) ummmm, oh, that name…. (pause)…

Twice that day, we were thrown out of buildings (as we should have been). I had to invite this guy to find another job, because he was using my company name and was operating in a non-professional, unacceptable manner. 

That kind of operation would be more difficult today and, sadly, people like him are part of the reason for some of the changes.

Secure Schools Today

Safety, Security and Getting In

After the 1999 Columbine shooting, schools went to a policy of locking all but the main entrance door as soon as classes started. The local high school has 45 doors, so at the first class bell, all custodians go to assigned areas to lock.

New school building designs put windows from the office to the entrance, and some older buildings have remodeled to move an office to just inside the main entrance door.

Most schools lock even the main entrance and have an intercom with a camera. Visitors activate an intercom with the secretary who makes a visual check before buzzing the door unlocked. Visitors must come to the office, sign in (including time and teacher they are going to see) and affix a “Visitor” badge or sticker in plain view.

At the local high school, you can enter the outside door into a secure area where you check in via computer under the watchful eye of a secretary behind a glass. The camera is also watching. The secretary can see what you enter on the computer and ask more questions — and if approved, buzzes the inside door that takes you into the school hallway. As you exit, you ‘check out’ at the same computer station. Failing to do so leaves the school with your information, which can result in a search of the building, blocking you from a future log in — or both.

Teachers notify the office of expected visitors, and when someone comes in asking to visit a particular teacher, the secretary calls the classroom to confirm before allowing the visitor to continue.

It is no longer okay to walk into a school building and wander the halls. Administration and custodians carry walkie-talkies, both for communication and security. Faculty members, especially in larger schools wear ID badges on a lanyard and stop and question unknown people in the hallway.

Cameras view every entrance, corner and hallway – and officials watch large screen panels showing multiple views. Cameras are motion sensitive and time-stamp recorded. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 84 percent of high schools, 73 percent of middle schools, and 51 percent of primary schools reported that they used security cameras to monitor their schools.

Security can include uniformed or plain clothes police. Our local high school has a not-in-uniform “resource officer”, who is active duty police – and he wears a badge, gun and handcuffs on his waist.

Teachers can call in or broadcast various “codes”, including “Intruder at Door xx”. The school will go into immediate lock down, including individual classroom. Education stops. Law Enforcement responds in force.

You don’t want to walk into a school uninvited or unexpected.

This post comes from the 50-page eBook, “Selling In The Schoolhouse” that I wrote from my perspective of a high school teacher and a sales professional selling products and services to schools.

Selling-in-the-Schoolhouse-Cover-50-percentOrder the 50-page eBook,
“Selling In The Schoolhouse”
for only $2.99

Posted in Personal experience, Sales and Marketing, School Security, Selling in the Schoolhouse Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Taking Lies Personally

Cracking and crumbling of the word TrustBy John Gardner

I wish I could stop taking lies so personally. I mean…..after all, it is the way society is these days, right? Here’s an approximate script of a conversation I have had with some students who have violated my trust or who were untruthful to me.

“Do you recall the conversation I had with the band a while back about my wanting to trust you?


….and how I said “I WILL UNTIL….”?


Well, we are at the “until” part. So what do I do now? How can I trust you NOW?

Often, what follows is a tearful conversation laced with some begging and forgiveness asking.

I CAN forgive you. But I CAN’T forget what you [did/said]. Does that make sense?

Here is the ‘conversation’ I try to have with the band at the beginning of a season or semester… Read more ›

Posted in Parenting, Respect, Teaching Tagged with: , , , , ,

Learned a Digitizing Lesson Today

Digitizing imageTransferred a lot of old media today. Finding that both VHS and 8mm cassettes from the 90’s are starting to deteriorate. If you (like me) have a closet full of old media, don’t let it sit and rot.


1992 a church Children’s Choir Trip to Cincinnati
1998 a show choir’s performances at three competitions
1999 a show choir competition performance
1999 a school production of 3 1/2 Musketeers
2000 a Sym Band, Wind Ensemble, and Choir at District Festival
2000 a choir performance at State Festival
2000 a Trumpet Ensemble Concert
2000 a school production of “The Wiz”
2001 Varsity Singers at HNHS, Homestead, Danville
I uploaded some for private sharing on Youtube, put two musicals on DVD per a local request and backed everything up to both my computer as mp4 files and copied to an external drive. Then I was able to dispose of a full trash bag of no-longer-needed tapes.
I did learn an unpleasant lesson on Youtube. Shortly after uploading the Trumpet Ensemble concert, I was notified that “due to copyright concerns”, the audio for that video was ‘muted’. Was it something I said? I am curious how that determination was made since I put nothing in the description other than the date and name of the group performance.
Stay tuned for more on that.


Posted in Digitizing Media, How May I Serve YOU?, Income Opportunity, Music Department, Personal experience, Virtual Assistant, Work from Home Tagged with: ,

14+ Ways to Volunteer for a Marching Band to Appreciate and Applaud What is Good About Teenage America

by John Gardner

volunteer_image-517x453In a quick search on variations of “teen school behavior”, “teen behavior” and such, I found links to a several behavior modification schools, advertisements for parental survival guides, places that want to segregate teens to ranches or boarding school type setups, medical and mental solutions….. wow. If you watch much TV, you hear about how current teens are falling behind academically or lacking dedication and commitment.

I hear from people who ask how I can be in a room with so many teens or why I would want to spend all that time with them. They inspire me with their youthful enthusiasm, but why rely on second-hand information? Volunteer with a local marching band organization and travel with the group to a marching band competition. There’s a lot of good stuff happening, academic, artsy and otherwise. Here are over 14 ways to volunteer for a marching band to appreciate and applaud what is good about teenage America.

Volunteerism Opportunities

Nearly all bands have a Band Parent Organization, but in some cities, or with smaller bands, finding enough help is a challenge. Most of the adults volunteering with a marching band have students in the band, but very few organizations would limit help to ONLY parents. Jump in. You’ll be accepted, appreciated, respected and even loved.

UNIFORMS. Are you good at measuring and sizing? All band students get sized for uniforms every year. That normally involves finding a coat, trousers and hat that fit. Someone has to keep track of who has what number of which piece of the uniform. Then there is distributing and collecting accessories like gauntlets, plumes, gloves, braids, sashes and other uniform add-ons. Marching Band uniforms can easily cost $400ea, so it would cost $40,000 to uniform a 100-piece band.

There is a need to manage and maintain those uniforms to increase the life expectancy and reduce the frequency of buying new sets. Older uniforms require dry cleaning, which is no small undertaking. Organizing them for pick up or delivery, removing the items that don’t go to the cleaner, then re-assembling and reorganizing upon their return. Some newer uniforms are machine washable – but also no easy task. Do you have a large front loaded washer you would be willing to use for your local band? That also helps with the savings from the dry cleaning bills of before.

COSTUME DESIGN/SEWING. The Color Guards (Flag Corps) generally have a separate, custom-designed outfit to go with the show theme and colors for that year. Drum Major(s) sometimes use a theme-oriented, custom uniform as well. Volunteers can save the band significant money by sewing, rather than purchasing flags and/or uniforms.

CONSTRUCTION / PROPS. You’ve seen the sets on a theater stage. The football field is the marching band’s stage. Bands want props to shrink the size of the stage or to enhance the theme of the show. Props can be decorative or functional (ramps, storage for equipment/uniform/costume changes). Maybe it is building and putting wheels on carts to haul all the extra percussion equipment (marimba, xylophone, timpani, gong, bass drum, keyboard, sound system, etc) in such a way that it can be moved easily.

Local props have included an analog clock painted on a full size trampoline, 10 foot hour glass, a ship complete with flag pole mast and sails that go up and down, tarps, tepees and more. If you’re not the construction type, share your design and creativity talents.

PIT / FIELD CREW. All that sideline ensemble equipment and any props must be put into place and then removed after the performance. Getting the band on and off the field is an operation that some competitions recognize with a “Best Pit Crew” trophy. The good news is that those on the pit crew generally get into the competition for free and get to hang out with the band students around the buses before and after a show. What a deal.

FOOD. Like to cook/fix foods for big events? Like to see smiles on teen faces? Want to serve? When bands travel to competitions and events, there are often times when it is necessary to feed them. The local band students get excited when they hear about “what’s for dinner”, especially things like potato or soup or taco bars, walking tacos, burgers, pizza and the like. Most of the meals served locally cost the band parent organization about $2 per person (does include both donated and purchased items). After a performance there is often a snack table with sweets, fruits and water. If you’re a food service professional, your skills could be especially helpful in planning, coordinating and calculating. Not only do you get into competitions for free and get to hang out with enthusiastic teens, but you also get to enjoy meals with them.

On her post, “Zen and the Art of Drum Corps Shopping”, Emily Tannert describes that most Drum Corps get most of their food from a food service company, but lists the following as a “daily shopping list”:

30 loaves each white and wheat
50 packages hot dog buns
8 gallons milk — 4 x 2 percent, 2 x 1 percent, 2 x skim
1 gallon barbecue sauce
10-plus lbs. peanut butter
250 slices American cheese
40 tomatoes
18 heads lettuce
20 lbs. baby carrots
6 watermelons
Generic Dayquil

Read more of that article.

CHAPERONES. Unlike the general population of the school, band students understand the behavior expectations and how they are held to a higher standard. They understand that travel is a privilege that can be lost. Band students are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and riding the bus with them, helping them get all their uniform parts together and such…. is really a fun job. Many chaperons are “Mama [insert name]” to the students. They understand chaperons are a reality and they do not make it a hard job. And yes, you get in free… is the least we can do.

DRIVERS.The bus drivers are school corporation employees, but most bands have trailers of various sizes, or even a semi to pull. Are you a professional truck driver? Have your own rig? One year our band borrowed a trailer from a local warehouse company that had their advertising on it — and used a truck donated by a local delivery company. A parent volunteer drove and the band parent organization paid for the fuel.

FUNDRAISING. In most high school music programs, both instrumental and vocal, the financial requirements involved in funding a competitive ensemble (show choir / marching band) can be staggering. A new uniform drive needs $40,000 the same year the band is going to Disney ($80,000). Throw in a new set of drumline percussion instruments ($10,000), another $10,000 for a sound system, $25,000 for five new tubas, $3,000 for drill design, $1500 for music, $5,000 for flags and guard uniforms, food for road trips, transportation costs, etc.,  and you can see that fundraising is a major part of a successful marching program.

Are you good at organizing events, making calls, creating publicity, motivating people? Your skills would be invaluable.

CONTEST/EVENT ORGANIZER. A marching band competition can involve over a dozen marching bands bringing a couple thousand teens, 50 school buses plus vans, trucks, trailers. The group is flying in judges from all over the country, housing and feeding them — as well as providing hospitality for directors and drivers, concessions, advertising, announcing, timers, people to help each group through their event schedule, score tabulators and so much more. Competitions are large fundraisers, but also massive undertakings. Can you help with parking, crowd control, first aid — or as a runner to take care of all the highly stressed and sometimes demanding band directors? Whatever you like to do, there is probably a job for you at a marching band, winter guard or indoor percussion competition.

GRANT WRITING. There is money out there, but the competition for it is great. Are you an experienced grant writer? They could certainly use your help.

BUSINESS MENTORING. Do you run a small business? Have a business degree? Band Directors are trained educators, not necessarily heavily trained in the business skills involved in running the “business” of a travelling competitive program. And the band parent volunteers are always well-meaning parents who want to help, but don’t always have the organizational or motivational skills that could make them more effective and successful contributors to the program.

Especially in programs organizing “competitions” as fundraisers….the organization requirements are huge — and most would accept constructive help from a local business professional.

MEDICAL. Students with asthma have prescription inhalers. Someone severely alergic to bee stings may have emergency medication. There are those on behavioral modification medicines (including narcotics) or with medically prescribed ankle or knee braces. An intensive performance in uniform with the added stress of competition and heat, students need real help when they come off the field. It is not unusual for students to get a variety of injuries (twisted ankles), bumps from flag poles, sun burn, dehydration and more…. The local show choir was fortunate for a number of years to have a parent who was a chiropractor who would transport a portable table to competitions to help dancers with injuries and stresses. If you are a medical professional, your advice services could be put to good use.

LEGAL. Increasingly, band and choir parent organizations are incorporating — and part of that process involves legal services. Can you help? Bands make contractual commitments to drill designers, instructional and expert staff, choreographers, and more. Perhaps they are building sponsorship relationships with local business. You could help them saying the right words the right way.

FINANCIAL. Bands often have an individual participant financial requirement that can be met from everything from parental checks to profit from a multitude of fundraising projects. So, in addition to the general fund expenses, there are individual student accounts. On a major trip year, responsibilities are magnified as families make scheduled payments into an account, or where the band treasurer must coordinate with the travel company on all those individual accounts. If you can’t be the day-to-day person, perhaps you could help set up the spreadsheet or recommend the program to use — and offer financial or bookkeeping advice.


A marching band should be run like a business, but that is hard to do when most of those in the operation are untrained and unpaid. If you can help, please do.


VMO Business Card


Posted in High Schools, Marching Band, Parenting, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,


LinkedIn Profile