PepperMill June 2015

Tim’s Gettin’ His Amazon On


(Take a big breath and say the following in your booming announcer voice) “Are you ready to stumble on unexpected knowledge and be inspired by nuggets of experience? Get your Amazon ordering fingers ready! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s what you’ve all been waiting for over the last few months. That’s right, it’s another installment of “Bookshelf Roulette!”

For our new readers, this is where I take a few books off my shelf and challenge myself (you’ll have to trust me) to pull a worthy extraction to share with you in less than 60 seconds. Let the game begin …

“I don’t believe in a particular industry, and I don’t believe in technology or product. I believe in people. Give me the right horse and I’ll bet on any race.” (As declared by Raj Soin, founder of Modern Technologies Corporation.)


How They Did It
Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America
By Robert Jordan

“There are many different emotions that a human being can experience and it can be overwhelming to try and identify all of them. For the purpose of this book, they will be grouped together into four main categories:


1. Passive Positive Emotions—such as peace, serenity, contentment, compassion
2. Active Positive Emotions—such as love, joy, excitement
3. Active Negative Emotions—such as fear, anger, anxiety
4. Passive Negative Emotions—such as apathy, sadness, hopelessness”
Think or Sink
The ONE Choice That Changes Everything
By Gina Mollicone-Long

“If you had to choose among three factors—(1) the company, (2) the position you’re applying for, or (3) the people you’d be working with—which would you say plays the most significant role in your decision to accept our offer?”


96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire
by Paul Falcone

“TMESIS is the separation of parts of a compound word by the intervention of one or more words.
Abso-bloody-lutely, for example.”


The Whatchamacallit
Those Everyday Objects You Just Can’t Name
(And Things You Think You Know About, But Don’t)

By Danny Danziger & Mark McCrum

Whew! Mission accomplished. Go forth and read and have a super-freakin’-month!

Tim Padgett

“Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.”
—Carl Sandburg

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”
—Henny Youngman

Client Spotlight: Advanced Resources

Advanced Resources is a staffing agency that has been connecting the right people with the right jobs across Chicagoland since 1987. They take the time to understand associates’ career goals, talents, skills and preferences. They reward and support their associates. This in turn means that employers are matched with the talent they need. When it came time to introduce a new recruitment campaign, it was only natural that Advanced Resources choose a theme they were already living: It's Personal.
Advanced Resources turned to Pepper Group to help them bring the “It’s Personal” theme to life. We developed a system of materials that will help Advanced Resources tell their story throughout the year. The resulting campaign showcases an associate's personal story each month, using video, print and other materials to show how working with Advanced Resources helped each person find the right career fit. The integrated campaign tells this story both externally, on the Advanced Resources website, blog and social media pages, as well as internally, using posters and other printed pieces. The campaign is supported by a blog post written by Advanced Resources marketing team and traffic driven to the site from LinkedIn ads.

In May, we met Linda who was searching for a work life balance. And in June, we met Kathy who was looking to come back to the workforce after taking some time off. 

Working collaboratively, Pepper Group and Advanced Resources were able to leverage the talent of both our teams to effectively launch a compelling campaign that helps Advanced Resources stand out in its space, with a foundation that allows the story to be told in new ways all year long. To see how it really is personal with Advanced Resources, check out their website at



3 Components of a Great Workplace

Foosball and free beer are nice, but that isn’t what makes a great workplace. What does? In our experience, there are three key elements.

Over the years we’ve been studying our great clients and emulating the best of the best. Putting it into practice has worked as Pepper Group was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work in Illinois™. We’re by no means perfect, but I was recently asked what I thought helped us achieve this status. Here are some of the things we pay attention to:  

Identify and reinforce your purpose and core values, and hire and evaluate against them.

Our purpose is “We Move People.” To us, it’s all about moving our clients towards their goals, moving their target audience to action and moving our employees ahead in their own professional development. It’s our calling, and we hire people who want to be part of it and who have the energy, creativity and love of learning to carry it out. We Move People is displayed proudly on the wall of our Scoville Suite. By the way, if you know why it’s called “Scoville,” email me and I’ll send you a hot sauce.

We also have a list of core values, each articulated in a fun way. These don’t just hang on the wall, but are reinforced and referenced continually. Every new hire has lunch with our Founder to really understand these values. They’re tied into our recognition program too. Following our core values is non-negotiable and applies to everyone in the organization. It helps ensure that we have the right type of people on the team.

Share the vision and progress in a transparent, open environment.

A shared understanding among the team regarding the company’s goals, vision and brand promise is critical. A recent Gallup survey showed that a full 41% of employees in the US don’t even know what their company stands for and what makes it different from its competitors. That same survey also showed that 70% of employees were disengaged or otherwise emotionally disconnected from their workplace, and that it costs companies $500 billion per year in lost productivity. If people don’t understand where the company is going or what it stands for, how can they be expected to care about helping it succeed?

We are also open with our financials. We’ve developed key metrics that we track on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. These help every individual in the company understand how their contribution impacts the overall company. In our quarterly meetings, we review the P&L and discuss how we are doing vs. our goals. It’s important that everyone understands the big picture. With the goals clear, we make sure people have the tools and resources they need. Then we get out of the way. Our focus is not on managing people’s activities, but on helping them reach their goals.

Find creative ways to enhance benefits and recognition

No company can afford to shower staff with loads of expensive benefits, but smart, meaningful benefits don’t have to cost a fortune. Perhaps you offer more flexible work schedules, or summer hours where people can leave early on Fridays, or lunch and learns, or impromptu 4:30 gatherings to have a drink and take a break.

Recognition is another benefit. The number one complaint of people about their work environment—number one—is that they don’t get enough appreciation or recognition. Put a program in place around peer-to-peer recognition, and remind your managers to share sincere appreciation. Ask me about our Kick Ass award. Many of our clients have borrowed the idea for themselves, and we can help you do the same.

The number one source of competitive advantage in today’s environment is a company’s ability to attract, retain and engage the best talent. In study after study, companies with higher engagement achieve better results. For us, having a team of the best, most talented and most engaged marketing professionals gives us all a more stimulating work environment, and the ability to deliver better results for our clients. It also feeds back into a continual loop that helps us accomplish our purpose—it moves people.

George Couris



Double Take: When Brands Come Alive

The Snuggle bear. The Gerber baby. Tony the Tiger. Snap, Crackle and Pop. Betty Crocker. The Pillsbury Doughboy. The Keebler Elves. Chester Cheetah. Wendy. The Green Giant. Mr. Whipple. The Taco Bell chihuahua. Morris. The Budweiser Clydesdales. That ubiquitous gecko.

Like a Pavlovian reflex, brand mascots and fictional spokespeople provide instant identity for a brand.

Join Joe and Sharla as they Mickey Mouse around through a cast of characters in brand land.

YouTubin’: Backwards Brain Bicycle

For June’s YouTube selection, I’m taking last month’s topic of neuroscience and blending in a big dose of my favorite pastime (bicycling) to share a fascinating study in learning. Rocket scientist Destin Sandlin has been producing entertaining science videos on his “Smarter Every Day” YouTube channel for six years now and this new one is especially interesting to me.

The phrase “just like riding a bike” means that once a skill is accomplished, you’ll always be able to pick it back up easily because your brain has stored the kinetic patterns needed for repeating it. In this video experiment, Destin tries to learn how to ride a custom bike with a steering mechanism that reverses the effects of turning the handlebars: left=right, right=left. His resulting study into how difficult it is to unlearn a skill certainly brings to mind another favorite cliché, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

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

Todd Underwood