Not My Job

Had a problem with an accessory for a radio I own and can’t say enough about the online help I got from the manufacturer. Wonderful folks but all of us missed the obvious and then there’s a little lesson in all this for the retail store.

I’m not naming names as really this could happen to anyone and I want to share the story more than do a beat up.

So here’s how it went. One of my buddies said he was going to buy the accessory so I said please pick one up for me and I’ll pay you for it. No problem.

Eager to play with my new accessory I plugged it in and nothing. Zero. Nada. Zip.

Thinking this an opportune time to replace the old HP computer I bought a new I7 2600 PC hand-built by the boys at Tiger Direct. This sucker’s got more fire power than North Korea and causes the provincial power grid to dip when I turn it on.

It made running my Ham Radio software an amazing new experience as the CPU now runs at less than 5% as opposed to 20-25% on the old machine when I fire everything up.

But….and you know where this is going,,,,my accessory still wouldn’t work. Try explaining this situation to the XYL who has witnessed you whipping out the credit card to the tune of just south of $1K….. 😦

Anyway emails to the  manufacturer and replies within the hour and I’m deep into device manager and reinstalling software over and over again and still zilch.

Suddenly I have a brilliant thought. I call my buddy and I ask to borrow his accessory and ta-da it works instantly. So I have a defective accessory. S**t happens.

So I called the retail store and yes I have my invoice and yes I can get an exchange by driving from my town over to the store which is just over an hour round trip.

I’ve been through this before on another matter so I ask and do you have one in stock? Ah…well..let me see…no actually we don’t. But we do have a shipment on order.

Okay how about calling me when the shipment arrives and holding one for me?

Sorry we can’t do that as it’s first-come, first-served.

As you can imagine the tone of my voice drops and I say so you’ve sold me a defective accessory and you’re not making good on it?

Oh no not at all but that’s a sales problem!

Gee I don’t think so. It’s a customer satisfaction problem and I would have liked to have heard something like “we’re really sorry about this. Please accept our apologizes and we’ll call you when your accessory comes in and we’ll put one away especially for you”…. or words to that effect.

Now we all know this story is going to end well but right now the retailer has left a bad taste in my mouth because (a) either they don’t emphasize customer satisfaction enough with all their staff (I suspect the guy I was talking to was a bean-counter and not one of the frontline sales staff.) or (b) there’s not enough competition to warrant treating the customer any better.

The manufacturer on the other hand had at least two guys communicating directly with me and the top guy apologized for the situation. Funny thing happens as a result. I go around recommending the manufacturer and raving about their customer service.

But what about the defective accessory? Like I said s**t happens. Let’s move on.


Touchy what!

Seems there’s been a few snarky emails fired back from RAC claiming the issues with the broken links to the Industry Canada site wasn’t a problem at the RAC end.

Fair enough. But all the other stuff applies 🙂

Also, here’s a wonderful link about the joys of Ham Radio from the ARRL. It’s a neat intro to this wonderful hobby and a nice break from talking about what doesn’t work in our hobby.

How To Build A Better RAC

Okay so perhaps my tone is getting a little shrill but it’s frustrating to be a member of a national organization that’s run like a private old-boys’ club.

Notice how many people are listed in the RAC Report newsletter holding high office or some volunteer position? And how many of these folks do you hear from on a regular basis? How many are women? Anybody under 50? Anybody from an ethnic background other than central European?

Does one sound about right?

I read that the president is even giving presentations via Skype to clubs. Thought that was the job of the regional director? Maybe not everyone has the official script?

(BTW The RAC Report is only available to paid-up members who supply their email address to HQ. This is a practice that’s fraught with danger as there has been some claims that some members have been cut from the newsletter list. We trust this is not true and is simply a misunderstanding.)

So how does one build a better RAC or better anything for that matter?

Number one is start acting like a national organization. Stop behaving like you were running a club in Upper Rubber Boots. Take nothing personally and get on with the job at hand.

And how do national organizations act?

First the executive members lead the membership in creating a vision (I know this is old territory but bear with me) and from there they decide on some national goals.

Number two is the national association then engages the entire community of Canadian Amateur Radio operators in reaching these national goals.

We don’t worry about who is getting what services for their membership dollar at this point for to consider these trifling matters at this time is nearsighted in the extreme and makes the organization (let alone the executive) look cheap and misery beyond words.

I am not saying you give away the farm but you share your national services with your national audience and you provide your paid services to your paid-up membership. So your magazine should be made available for all. If you want to keep a paid-subscription model that’s fine but share the best parts online 30 days later. Same for your QSL bureau and your insurance program but everything else should be offered to the overall community.

Within the organization seek to engage the paying members in growing the national association by enlisting them in a national membership campaign.

If every member of RAC personally asked 20 other Canadian amateurs to join RAC and had a handout available that listed the compelling reasons for being a member we’d triple the RAC membership within 30 days.

As it stands now based on no information being released to members it appears that RAC’s membership is in serious decline so much so that the dues were raised thus lessening the reasons to remain a member for the survivors who are bearing this additional cost for which there was no compelling explanation.

Dumb is too kind a description.

When it comes to a membership campaign, a proposal of a similar nature was offered to the RAC executive group two years or so ago but was never embraced by the same guys we hear so little from today.

Ah well, there’s the rub.

Third step would be to create some urgency in reaching our national goals. We would do so by calling upon the existing and new members to get involved in the affairs of the association. Form committees and provincial sub-groups but above all keep the bureaucracy at a minimum and push the decision-making process down as far into the organization as possible.

A national movement to enrol young people to our ranks would seem a no-brainer. Are we doing anything like this on a national basis? I sure haven’t heard of it.

We could accomplish anything by creating a two-way conversation between members and the executive team. We could get people talking and engaged and then taking action.

Oh wait, we had that in our national blog site but it got dropped as again no one seemed to have anything to say in either official language with the exception of the members who were hopping angry at the lack of action from our national association.

So where to start?

It starts and ends with engaging the national constituency of Amateur Radio operators in Canada and not just a declining pool of P.O.’d existing members.

It begins with leadership that knows how to serve and not just govern. That’s a pretty big step when it comes to this association IMHO.

The RAC Report

Got my email copy of The RAC Report on Dec. 25. There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news: Here’s a newsletter from RAC’s president Geoff Bawden that really needs somebody to help Geoff with the new technology.

For example the hyperlink to allow English-speaking amateurs to view the newsletter in a browser doesn’t seem to exist and the one that connects us to the French-language page reads “SVP connecter pour void cette page” which translates to you’re SOL.

Okay let’s not be too harsh. After all the transition from AM to SSB took some years to accomplish and still hasn’t happened as far as a few on 80 meters is concerned.

So let’s look at the links to Industry Canada’s new online Amateur Radio Operator Certificate Services website. Unless it’s me – and it could be – neither link works.

Gee guys: Doesn’t anyone check the links on these email newsletters before they go out?

Okay let’s get back to the president’s message. Didn’t anybody who is new to RAC run for any office and was there an election for any of the positions?

Seems we still need a treasurer and a public relations person. After driving away the last two PR guys I wish you luck. BTW there’s an opening of a Quebec director and if someone came forward they’d probably double our penetration into la belle province.

President Bawden seems to agree with a movement within the RAC executive group that RAC is a closed club not open to serving the overall Amateur Radio community in Canada.

This viewpoint is incredibly shortsighted and so cheap it squeaks.

While membership should have its privileges and we should pay for what we get RAC says it is Canada’s national Amateur Radio association.

It will be on the day it starts to act like it represents all Canadian amateurs and not just those who pay their dues (who are due some members-only services). It shouldn’t shun the rest.

Why not put some effort into a membership drive instead of whining about who gets what from RAC?

Okay. Enough! Now the good news….ah well….oh dear.

Merry Christmas OM/YL

Merry Christmas Canada from your RAC “leadership” team.

And here’s your present: Increased membership rates five days before Christmas.

Yikes. RAC, please you shouldn’t have.

I mean really! You shouldn’t have.

Now let’s face facts. Sooner or later every organization has to raise membership rates  and RAC is not immune to financial pressures.

But normally when you raise the rates, you at least take the time to come up with some reasons for the increases. Maybe you boast about some new services (whether real or perceived).

And even before you raise rates, you get member involvement in something that affects them so fundamentally.

You hold talk groups. You send emails. You foster discussion. Of course you have to actually talk to those icky members.

Raising the rates should have come only after group-wide discussion (maybe on a functional blog site or Google group but don’t think the old Sparkies at RAC have heard about Social Media yet).

But that’s not the RAC way.

Why involve the membership in an organization decision when you can just mandate it by decree?

RAC raised the membership rates because it could and did so five days before Christmas because nobody thought to look at the optics of this decision.

So Merry Christmas members and fork up some more dough.

This new RAC debacle really puts me in the Christmas spirit.

Remember how the Christmas story started….”now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus” …and look where that decision ended up 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone and here’s a link to the ARRL’s membership page. Maybe this is a present you’ll really enjoy.



The Burden of Leadership

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is telling it how it is.

And how it is right now could see the end of the RCMP says the new commissioner.!

That is, unless, according to an article on the front page of The Globe and Mail, the culture of bullying, botched investigations, misuse of power, lack of accountability and leadership isn’t immediately turned around.

Paulson says the national police service is only one or two “earth-shattering heartbreaks away from losing all credibility.”

Gee, not to put too fine a point on the end of the quill, but doesn’t this sound just like our own beloved Radio Amateurs of Canada?

And, I’m not alone in this assessment.

Top leaders in the Canadian Amateur Radio community have been saying the same thing for months now. There is a growing awareness that RAC is dying.

ARES groups, especially in Ontario, have been backing away from the heavy-handed bureaucratic leadership that is creating a crisis in our public service arm.

So what to do?

Again, Commissioner Paulson is showing the way forward.

Paulson is ripping open the kimono to quote a phrase and revealing all of the ugly issues facing the male-dominated force. He’s showing real leadership by doing so.

It’s what Dr. Phil says and I paraphrase: You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge”.

We know what needs fixing in RAC. We just don’t have the leadership capable of carrying out the mission.

Lesson From The Bay

I’m listening to Bonnie Brooks, CEO of the The Bay, who took the failing retailer from $1-billion in sales to $7-billion during her tenure who was interviewed on CBC Radio this morning and it got me thinking about how to apply her lessons to RAC.

Her number one tool was to focus on change. The key she says is reinvention and pushing the management team to continuously raise the bar. This requires a massive effort and will be met with resistance.

She went about it by asking her team to write out a vision statement (RAC failed to take this key step some months ago.) about how The Bay would look in five years time.

After some discussion, she asked the management team to implement the agreed upon plan in three years! My guess is the management team probably changed a lot during this process.

The problem with the old Bay said Brooks was it lacked “soul” and “integrity.” It had “no personality or spirit”. It was dead in the water and customers were going elsewhere. Sound familiar when it comes to RAC?

Sure RAC is no $1-billion retailer. It’s a hobby-based association with a bit south of a $200,000 mess on its hands with a falling membership, a controversial top-down decision-making process that’s alienating the overall Amateur Radio community and a siege mentality when it comes to communicating with members and potential members.

It’s website is a mess, the blog is non-existent and there’s no vision or spirit left in the old girl. Critics abound and the future looks dim indeed.

But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change things around.

What’s needed is someone (and it won’t be me) with new vision and the support of the general Amateur Radio community (members and non-members alike) in Canada to  force the changes that need to take place.

BTW Brooks says Christmas season sales this year are terrific.

Sorry we can’t say the same about the outlook for our national Amateur Radio organization.

BC/Yukon SM ‘s Blog

Since nobody at RAC seems to be able to write a blog in either official language, it’s being left up to individuals within the organization to be creating any posts of interest to Amateurs who are RAC members.

A new blog that’s showing some promise comes out of B.C as VA7MPG, the section manager for B.C./Yukon is now blogging fairly frequently.

Perhaps the best feature so far is the comprehensive links to Amateur Radio clubs in B.C.

Online lists of clubs may play an important role in soliciting the support of the presidents of Amateur Radio clubs across Canada when it comes time to join together to put RAC back into serving the interests of all Amateur Radio operators in Canada regardless of whether or not they are paid-up members.


Doing What Works

Some of you know I have been a facilitator of men’s groups and a personal and business coach for many years. This may come as surprise to some as my coaching style doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I call them as I see them and I’m particularly opposed to situations where bullies prevail or members are purposely disempowered.

So when it comes to RAC, how can we create badly needed organizational change?

First and foremost, those who were elected or appointed to serve the membership have to focus on member involvement and participation at all levels of the organization.

Authoritarian or anti-social behaviour will drive away potential volunteers and membership will decline. Unfortunately we see this all too often.

At RAC, there was a failed attempt at member involvement some months back and this failure to do what works is likely going to result in the death of the association.

This won’t happen tomorrow or even next year but it’s coming. So what do we do when that happens?

In my work as a coach I like to use the solution-focused approach which starts from the premise that members are viewed “as capable and responsible people who want to and are able to make sensible decisions“.

Right now we have a handful of people making decisions that directly affect the membership and the association. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to organizational growth.

Topdown management using the old command-and-control methods work sort of – – – I’ thinking of the RCMP which is in a land of woe thanks to the men who ran it for the last decade or the U.S. debacle that’s ending this week in Iraq.

But these methods produce unsatisfactory results when applied to volunteers and hobby association memberships. But if all you know is how to swing a hammer, then everything is going to look like a nail to you.

RAC sorely needs to embark on national vision process. I’m sorry to say this is going to need a new team at the top. Then, this leadership group, with a vision firmly in view need to invite members to support the vision and foster involvement and growth.

In the meantime our national hobby continues to face grave challenges that RAC is simply incapable of addressing in its current form as it stares into the abyss.


No VE5 in RAC Winter Test

It’s tough to decide whether to laugh or cry. A last-minute bulletin from RAC HQ is pleading for hams in Saskatchewan to step forward and put the VE5RAC call sign on they air this weekend during the RAC Winter Contest.

For those who aren’t contesters, the RAC Winter and Canada Day Contests are popular fun national contests that see national and even international interest.

If you’re on HF and you want to dip your toes into contesting, this is a good place to start. You can run CW or SSB and there are categories for QRP, low and high power plus all-band and single-band.

(For example, if you ran single-band 20 meters or above at any power level you would likely find yourself able to get eight hours of sleep Friday night as propagation declines during the night. Then you’d have all day Saturday to run up some points and have tons of fun. If you run all-band and you want to be serious, this can cut into your beauty sleep.)

But back to this weekend, I do have a concern.

If nobody in Saskatchewan wants to activate the extra-point call sign of VE5RAC how many other Canadian contesters are sitting this one out?

And, if the participation numbers are down, why are they down?

Is this any indication of possible rot from within? Are Canadian contesters casting a negative vote when it comes to RAC or is this just an anomaly that will be quickly resolved?

We’ll know in a couple of months when the results are announced.