Friday, March 30, 2012

Second Acts: From Unemployed Construction Worker to Raw Foods Guru and Job Creator

Unemployed. Overweight. Late forties.

It’s a story we hear a lot lately; after 20 years as an independent construction worker laying fiber optic cable, Brad Gruno found himself struggling to find work in the over-crowded telco industry. Gruno describes himself as being depressed, forty pounds overweight, and unhealthy. He knew he needed to get healthy, and he knew he needed to find a new career. But having previously found success working for himself, this entrepreneur simply couldn’t fathom going to work every day for someone else.

Knowing that he needed to reinvent himself, Gruno took two simple steps: he moved back “home” to Buck’s County Pennsylvania, and he made the decision to get back in shape and eat healthy foods. He started researching and learning about vegan diets and raw foods. Eating only raw foods, Gruno lost 40 pounds, brought his cholesterol down, and felt better than ever.

A raw foods diet is one made up of what Gruno calls “live” foods, rather than cooked, and with no animal-based products. It is an extreme vegan diet where none of the food is processed or cooked. According to Gruno, “When you cook food you kill the enzymes and lose the nutrients.”

When Gruno wanted a food with some crunch to it – something like a chip – he started experimenting, and created a raw chip from kale. Instead of baking the kale in the oven, he dried the kale to create the chips, and flavored them with other natural ingredients. Gruno converted a garage into a small chip factory and Brad’s Raw Chips was started – the first raw chip company on the East Coast.

Two and a half years later, Gruno has fifty employees, continues to create more jobs, and he is expanding distribution. The business brought in $2 million in revenue in 2011, and Gruno expects to end 2012 at $10 million.

Brad’s Raw Foods product line includes kale chips and leafy kale, and Gruno continues to innovate and find new flavors. Most recently he introduced a nut-free version of his chips. All of the products are gluten-free, vegan, and free of many common food allergens.

Gruno describes his business as having, “happened totally organically,” and I believe the pun is intended. “I fell into something I was really passionate about.” Passion, after all, is Gruno’s fuel. When he’s not on the farm or in the factory, he likes to get out and share that passion with customers – at trade shows, expos, and in the stores.

The next phase of Gruno’s reinvention will come to life this spring when the Chip Factory and Education Center opens May 12th at his new fourteen-thousand-square-foot facility in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. It will feature a raw juice bar, coaching, and workshops.

Happy. Healthy. Inspired. Now that’s the way to start a new career!

Friday, March 23, 2012

You've Come a Long Way, Techie

The first computer I worked on had a grand total of 2MB of memory. Not gigabytes, megabytes. It was an early version of what we know today as distributed systems. On that system (which was intended to run things like inventory systems for warehouses) I wouldn't have been able to watch a video, play music, or even connect to the internet. That was 1980.

If you could travel back in time, and bring today's laptop with you, what could you accomplish? That was the question posed by Alan McMahon recently on the Dell blogs.

Let's travel back in the time machine to see:

Click below to see the image larger at its original site:
Laptops and Humans: Modern technology in the pastHumans and laptops: What could you do with a single laptop in the past?

If you could bring your laptop into the past, what would you like to do with it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Social Media Finds (and the Challenges of Facebook)

PinterestPinterest (Photo credit: stevegarfield)Just a year ago I was talking about Facebook versus Twitter, and concluded that there was a place in our online lives for both of them. Shortly after that I learned about Google+ and did absolutely nothing about it for quite a while. I didn’t (and still don’t) see the value that it provides.

In the past few months I have created a Facebook fan page to connect with food allergy fans and promote my new book, I have joined Goodreads, and I have started my own pin boards at Pinterest. Whew! It’s a lot.

And even more recently, Facebook forced me to the timeline layout, and my only beef is that it appears I never had a life before 2008. According to Facebook, there’s no proof I was born, went to college, or did anything for the first four decades of my life. Facebook very kindly prompts me to add photos for those periods, but conveniently forgets that we not only didn’t have digital cameras in 1970’s, we didn’t even have compact cameras. At least I can prove (with photos) that I had my children, but not until 2011, and only due to a nifty little photo scanner.

But let me spend a little bit of time on Goodreads and Pinterest, which share the concept of being for a more targeted audience. Goodreads, while not new (just new to me) allows you to create bookshelves with books you’ve read and books you want to read. It also allows you to review books, and see what your friends are reading and saying about books. It’s a reader’s dream for finding great goodies (not just the same top bestselling authors). Goodreads is focused for a very specific purpose.

I was leery about Pinterest at first, and completely unsure what to do with it, until I realized that people were pinning my photos and recipes. Pinterest allows you to create photos boards (or vision boards) and pin pictures from all over the web. (One exception I’ve found is Facebook – you can’t pin from Facebook – despite the fact that Facebook users like to post photos).

Having played with if for a bit, I have concluded that Pinterest is a dream site for a food writer/recipe developer/food photographer, like myself. I can create boards of recipes I’ve developed, recipes I want to try to make, photos I love, photos from my new book – anything that suits me. I can follow other people or their boards, and I can re-pin! The best part is that anything pinned from my website gets pinned with a link back – so there’s a great deal of linky love going on there!

While my blogs continue to be the hub for my online life, for me, Twitter is where it all comes together. I can tweet my blog feed, and I can tweet what I post on Facebook.

What’s your favorite social media tool or find in the past year? What do you like best, and why?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eeeny Meeny Miny Moe…

MANCHESTER, NH - JANUARY 10:  Republican presi...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI hated playing that game when I was a kid. It went on forever, no one ever really won, and it was too darn boring. And that is precisely how I feel about the Republican presidential primary. I was hopeful that Super Tuesday would finally end the game and land us an actual Republican candidate who could go about the business of becoming (ahem) presidential, but alas, that does not seem to be the case.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a registered Independent, and (for me at least) that means that I will vote for the best candidate, I rarely make up my mind until the last minute, and I have no loyalty to any party. What I say here in no way means that my vote is pre-destined for Obama. However, there are a number of reasons why I think this prolonged game is hurting the Republican chances of winning in November.

Even high school athletes know that when you’re on the practice field with your own team that you challenge but you don’t injure your fellow team players. The longer the candidates keep duking it out on their own turf, the less likely it is that any one of them will be able to be cleaned up, patched up, and made presentable for the real battle. They will go into the race wounded and worn down.

What’s said in Kansas no longer stays in Kansas. It is no longer possible to play to an ultra-conservative Bible belt town one day, and sound like a libertarian the next. The era of “that’s so 20 seconds ago,” is here. Everyone is a journalist, everyone is a videographer, and we are as likely to hear the news on Facebook or Twitter as we are through traditional media. That gives a candidate with an unwavering position on all things an advantage… sort of. But the idea that all political ideals fit into one of the two cookie cutter molds is simply not realistic. So that same unwavering position may play well in one state and bomb in another.

The Republicans are creating a deep hole with women voters. A very deep hole. I cannot remember when so much of the discussion from our political candidates centered on issues that matter to women. At times it seems that they’d like to see us all barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Don’t we have more important issues to tackle than reproductive rights? (And didn’t we settle that already?) It just may be too late for any of the Republican candidates to dig their way out of that hole and earn back a respectable amount of the women voters.

What do you think?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Does the Difficult Boss Always Deserve to Be Fired?

English: Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone...I have been fascinated by the media coverage about Steve Jobs, since he passed away late last year. It is virtually impossible to watch a show about his life without hearing that a) he was a brilliant visionary and b) he was extremely difficult to work for.

Anyone who has spent time in the working world has run into difficult people. It’s inevitable. (The same applies to families and just about any group you can imagine.) When the difficult person is your boss, the complexities of dealing with that person rise tremendously. After all, he or she is your boss – holds the cards, has influence over your career, and can make your daily life miserable.

Interviews with team members and employees that worked with (and for) Steve Jobs inevitably mention that he was difficult. They mention impossible schedules, impossible requirements, and (of course) yelling and ranting.

By all accounts, Jobs was maniacally focused on his vision to change the world. But even as these employees discuss how difficult Jobs was to work for, they say it with reverence – as if they would have had it no other way. That was the man, and the way you worked with the man.

Many of you reading this will have a story about a difficult (or even impossible) boss. I have my own stories. Many of us would argue (as Robert Sutton does in The No Asshole Rule) that these bosses should be fired.

But is that always true? Is it possible that there is a place in the business world for difficult bosses? Is it possible that the best bosses need a little bit of crazy to be successful? Is it maybe even necessary to break (almost) all the rules when you are striving to create something entirely new? Is there some quality (perhaps it’s the visionary brilliance) that tempers the difficult behaviors, making an otherwise unacceptable boss okay?

Or, is it possible that Jobs could have been just as effective a boss, without employing the tactics that have branded him as difficult to work for? What do you think?