PepperMill August 2014

You Tubin’: Hot Advice

I think I've found my new favorite science geek! Mark Rober has a YouTube channel full of fun, quirky math & science videos, and he's really embracing his role as a regular guy who just happens to be exceptionally smart and entertaining. Mark quit his job as a NASA scientist three years ago (after helping to develop the Curiosity Mars rover) to follow a particularly strange path making clever Halloween costumes that integrate custom iPhone and iPad apps simulating exposed beating hearts and other essential organs.

While that became his career focus, he has continued to produce informative YouTube videos and just landed a gig writing a monthly column for Men's Health magazine called "Guy Math."

Rober's latest video, posted last week, is approaching 6 million views already and offers an easy tip for thwarting the latest way that thieves are stealing people's debit card PINs. Fascinating!

Got some YouTube videos of your own you’d like to share? Just send them my way!

Todd Underwood

Tim’s in the Moment

Have you been to Aspen? I have already put it in the Top Ten of places I’ve been to and just can’t believe the beauty. Mother Nature nailed it in Aspen.

I was there in June with my entrepreneurs group on our annual retreat. In addition to our monthly meetings, once a year we go remote to brush up on our leadership skills, learn about other businesses and sharpen our best practices. Our theme this year was Mind, Body & Spirit.

Our first stop was spent at the Aspen Club, where we started the day with a meeting led by the CEO, who shared his experience of buying the health club and spa and turning it into a premier destination. They are going to close for over a year to do renovations and build a residential hotel next door. Fascinating journey, as Aspen has some of the toughest zoning and building laws in the country.

We also met Chris Crowley, the co-author of Younger Next Year, which I wrote about back in March’s Pepper Mill. You should see this 80-year-old youngster! Still does century rides (100 miles) on his bike in the hills of the Rockies. Chris is the epitome of how to get the most from your quality of life in your senior years.

Then it was on to stretching class, an awesome lunch, nutrition class and then 90 minutes of extreme cardio and weight training. Topped the day at the spa with what else but a nice massage.

The following day we started out with a meditation session. Don’t know if you’re into meditation or not, but it’s pretty interesting. You probably don’t have any stress in your life, but if you did, this might be the ticket. I highly recommend the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Anyway, we promised to be “mindful” all day and to be consciously “in the moment” whenever possible.

Later that morning we went to the Hotel Jerome, an Aspen landmark loaded with history that dates back to the silver mining days. Again, we had an audience and guided tour with the general manager, learning about the ins and outs of high-level hospitality. Oh yeah, there was a great lunch included.

Then it was off to do some serious hiking. We ventured up to Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed places in America. After parking the car at the “end of the road,” we started the trek. It’s only about a mile and a half, but you’re also going up about 1,000 vertical feet. At over 10,000 feet at the start, the air gets a might thin.

As the senior member of the group (ages for the eight entrepreneurs in the group range from 32-56), I am affectionately referred to as “Big Poppa.” And as one might expect, Big Poppa was pulling up the rear as we ascended the rocky path to Glacier Lake (seen in the thumbnail accompanying my article). Not just small rocks, but big ones jutting out from the path at all angles. The sad part was that you had to really keep your head down, missing some awesome scenery, or you could easily twist an ankle.

Once at the lake, to say it was glorious is an understatement to the Nth degree, we basked in the beauty. We sat on felled trees and meditated again. It was amazing; way in the distance you could hear a waterfall, you were totally in sync with the breeze and birdcalls.

Big Poppa decided that on the walk back (downhill, thankfully) I would try to be in the front of the line. That way, if a rest stop was required, everyone could be together. About a third of the way back to the car I stopped in my tracks when one of our guys said, “Hold up.” It was Pete. He was very deliberate in his command, yet very calm and decidedly quiet. For the whole hike I was thinking about snakes. So, I immediately scoured the ground around me.

I didn’t see anything, but they’re usually well camouflaged so I wasn’t feeling exactly safe yet. I continued to turn around very slowly until my eyes met Pete’s. He pointed over my shoulder, down the path in the direction we were walking. And then I saw him— the biggest brown bear you could imagine.

Had Pete not looked up at the time he did, there’s no doubt I would have continued with my head down and possibly bumping into him! Whoa.

I slowly retreated and we stood together. Though we didn’t panic, you could tell that we were all trying to remember the bear tips we’ve heard throughout our lives.

Go into a fetal position and play dead.” 
Not exactly tactic #1, so let’s worry about that later.
Make a bunch of noise.” 
Again, that might not be a good beta test, he may be annoyed.
Cluster and provide a bigger presence.” 
That’s a good start.

Mountain Man Pete had the idea to move uphill and off the path to give the bear some space to walk through. While it was the right thing to do, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the joke about two guys walking in the woods. You know, the one with the punch line, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, just you.” Well, I was the oldest and slowest, so I guess you could call me “the bait.”

Luckily it didn’t come to that. The bear decided to venture off the path and up the hill opposite where we were. Not without giving us a good snort as if to say, “You guys got lucky today, it’s nap time.” While not a dramatic end to the situation, it did satisfy our goal we set at the beginning of the day—we’ve never been more in the moment.

Meet the bear.

Tim Padgett

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” 
—Mark Twain
Exit, pursued by a bear.”
—William Shakespeare, stage direction in “The Winter’s Tale”

20th Anniversary Update

This month, we celebrated by getting together for lunch in our usual office hangout spot, The Scoville Suite, and watched the very first episodes of a favorite 20-year-old show together.

Pepper Group is a 101 Best and Brightest Company—Again

What makes a Pepper, a Pepper? Well, we genuinely love what we do: combining strategy, processes, energy and creativity to help our clients achieve their business goals. We love working together to get it done, and we have fun doing it. (And if you count all the team bike rides, volunteering and other things we do together outside of the office, we have fun NOT working together, too!) That’s why we’re thrilled to be recognized, for the second year in a row, as one of Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For™.

The Best and Brightest competition identifies and honors companies around the country that display a commitment to creating special and fulfilling places to work. Businesses are evaluated based on categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition, retention and more.

We’re proud of our Pepper people, processes and culture, and even prouder of the great work they allow us to do for our clients. Internal marketing and communications play a big role in helping employees feel fulfilled, energized and ready to excel for their businesses, their customers and themselves.

Call us—or better yet, stop by—and let’s talk about how we can help you make your award-worthy business even stronger. For a complete list of 2014 winners, visit

5 Places Where HR and Marketing Go Together Like PB & J

If you ask 1,250 business leaders (PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently did) they’ll tell you that their #1 priority is attracting and retaining the best talent. Marketing is designed to find and retain good customers, but guess what? The most forward-thinking companies, including many of our clients, use marketing to help find and retain good talent as well.

Competitive advantage used to come from things like processes, trade secrets, product features, scale, etc. But new competitors and substitutes spring up daily, once-stable markets are constantly disrupted, and buyers continue to gain power.

All of this means that talent is more critical than ever. Smart, skilled people make better decisions. People that share a company’s core values deliver better customer results. And more engaged employees stick around longer so companies can invest more confidently in training and development. Finding and retaining the best talent is at the heart of building a stronger brand and a more competitive organization.

But good employees are becoming ever-more scarce. A 2014 Manpower survey revealed that 36% of employers say they’re currently having difficulty finding talent—the highest since 2007. Like a good prospective customer, today a good prospective employee has choices. And their decision is about much more than just price. If you can more effectively communicate why your organization is a great place to work (assuming of course that it actually is), you’ll be able to better attract and retain the best and brightest.

So where can marketing and HR team-up to have the most impact? 

Here are some ideas:

  1. Employer Branding: Understanding the audience and then crafting a positioning and messaging platform is the foundation of a marketing effort. Making this the foundation of recruiting and retention efforts as well can help make those initiatives more successful.
  2. Employee Communications: Ongoing message reinforcement via email, videos, and other internal corporate communications helps keep people informed and engaged. Marketing can help make it even more compelling and creative to get the best results.
  3. Community Building: Marketing skills can be applied to drive more interest in and improve the impact of employee volunteering programs, best-practice sharing, and internal ‘friendly competitions’ (such as a fitness initiative for example.)
  4. Recruitment Materials: These are lead generation and sales tools targeted to recruits. For example, a compelling careers page or microsite, recruiter collateral materials and strong social media presence can help persuade a talented prospective employee to sign with you vs. a competitor.
  5. Meetings and Events: Marketing can help ensure that sales meetings, anniversary celebrations and other employee events are memorable, fun and really energize the team.

Is talent important to your organization? Want to hear some success stories from our clients? Or are there other areas I’ve missed? Contact us and let’s talk!

George Couris