The Office (DVD) Review

One of the most refreshing new comedy series on TV, The Office catalogues the inner-workings of a fictional Pennsylvania paper company called Dunder-Mifflin. The name itself alludes to some sort of bureaucratic labyrinth administered by dunderheads, and in reality, it is. Unfortunately, what makes The Office so hilarious is the ability of viewers to relate to the onscreen office culture. The branch office of Dunder-Mifflin viewers are privy to is managed by the politically-incorrect, borderline lunatic Michael Scott (Steve Carell). Using twisted logic to set company policy, worn out clich├ęs as a substitute for leadership, and an endless array of corny group activities to lift employee morale, he creates an office atmosphere that makes the career of Dilbert seem desirable in contrast.

Carell, star of the recent box office hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin, shines in the role of the nutty and eccentric office manager, and his talents are well complimented by Rainn Wilson who plays the part of Michael’s butt-kiss, rule-Nazi lackey, Dwight Schrute. Dwight’s over-the-top antics conflict with the rest of the office, particularly co-worker Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) whom Dwight would like to fire. A charming unspoken office crush between Jim and Pam Beesley (Jenna Fischer) makes for an interesting and recurring subplot. Both Jim and Pam epitomize the remainder of the cast of Dunder-Mifflin employees who come across as logical, well-reasoned, and normal individuals. Normal people stuck in a bizarre world where idiots like Michael and Dwight preside over their working hours. Similar in theme to the equally funny feature film Office Space, The Office provides us with a much more excitable Bill Lumbergh lording over an army of Peter Gibbons-like worker bees. For creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who first experienced success with the concept in the UK, it’s a recipe for pure, unadulterated laughter.

The Office (Season 1) DVD features six hilarious episodes including the season premiere in which a camera crew arrives at Dunder-Mifflin in order to film a documentary. Naturally, Michael tries to portray himself as a brilliant steward of office productivity, while office enemies Jim and Dwight engage in a series of desk battles. Viewers also get a glimpse of the regular flirtations between Jim and Pam. Other notable episodes include “Diversity Day” in which Michael engages in a feeble and half-hearted attempt to shed light on office diversity, while alienating most of his employees in the process, and “Health Care” in which Michael, afraid of bearing bad news, delegates his authority to Dwight who creates an utter fiasco of the company health care plan.

Below is a list of episodes included on The Office (Season 1) DVD:

Episode 1 (Pilot) Air Date: 03-24-2005

Episode 2 (Diversity Day) Air Date: 03-29-2005

Episode 3 (Health Care) Air Date: 04-05-2005

Episode 4 (The Alliance) Air Date: 04-12-2005

Episode 5 (Basketball) Air Date: 04-19-2005

Episode 6 (Hot Girl) Air Date: 04-26-2005

Creating Successful Alliances and Partnerships through Networking

Douglas Wilder, former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the first elected Black Governor in the United States gave me advice that I will never forget. He said, “From this point on, when you walk into a room, walk in that room like you own it, when you talk with people remember to stand on your principles, keep your word, and people will want to associate with you.” His advice became synonymous with my career and everyday living.

At the time, that advice seemed a bit arrogant, but in retrospect, his advice has granted me passages into many executive suites, corporate boardrooms and has helped me build solid relationships. His advice came at a time when I was desperately seeking to glean knowledge and help from anyone who was willing to share insight on what it takes to be successful in business as a young African-American-especially one on the lecture circuit.

Seemingly overnight, in a section of Fairfax, Virginia, businesses stretching a two-block radius have changed ownership from a predominately-White entrepreneurial establishment to an Asian and Latino establishment. They are receiving thriving support from each other. Granted, I find it great to witness that in the land of milk and honey success can be achieved by all. But, how long will African-Americans continue to allow years of division to stop us from gaining the riches and wealth we deserve? Why is it difficult for African-Americans to build business alliances and partnerships with each other?

Marie Johns, President and CEO of Verizon Communications Washington Company said, “Creating alliances and partnerships is a dynamic organic process. It is formed and reshaped. As professionals move to different sets of responsibilities there is a need to network with new people as well as maintain current alliances. One can never say that their network is complete. There are always interesting people with whom one can engage who would end up being a valuable experience.”

In today’s business culture, having productive relationships for commerce exchange is a way of life. People do business with people they know and with people, they like. They do business by referrals from people whose judgment they trust. Albert Einstein said it best, “Trust is what stands the test of experience.”

Similarly, Frank Fahrenkopf, Co-Chairman of the Commission for Presidential Debates said during our interview it’s best to “Look for opportunities and see where there is a need, think about it while making sure that you have a plan, set objectives that are reachable then prove yourself by your professionalism as you go along with every small step until you reach the end. It is highly important to be able to articulate your views once your objectives have been set.”

It’s foundations like Emerging Business Forum who see the need and are bringing minorities together as a culmination of the essentials for business growth, knowledge transfer for personal and business relationships. But, does former Governor Wilder have a valid point in how to attract quality relationships? More importantly, what are colleges doing to educate students in creating alliances before they get into the workforce?

Cliff McKnight, Counselor and Associate Professor at Montgomery College in Maryland believes “that colleges should engage students in leadership activities such as clubs and other organizations through the office of student life. It’s a major component for student development.” His belief is noble. But without a formal setting is joining clubs enough to provide competent networking skills?

Dr. Ivan Misner, President and Founder, of BNI (Business Network Int’l), an international organization that manages two thousand networking chapters says, no! Colleges and universities are not teaching networking skills because the professors don’t know the subject matter.” Why? “Because it’s an emerging topic and many are unfamiliar with the art of networking themselves,” Misner said.

After years of research, informative interviews, and hundreds of social events, I discovered the key to creating successful alliances and partnerships is by utilizing the NAAP Approach. The NAAP Approach is coined and defined as a three-dimensional approach to creating long-lasting partnerships. The rules of engagement are:

oNetworking–First stage, strictly for building a Rolodex of contacts and expertise. Identify professionals that have partnership potential.

oAction-Alliance–Second stage, relationship building takes place at this stage. It is important that keeping in touch or practicing due diligence. This process can take months or several years.

oPartnerships–Third stage, after completing stages one and two, a shared purpose for partnering can be determined. At this point, there should be a solid foundation for working together; call in your chits.

Contrastingly, Marilyn Crawford, of Primetime Omni media says, “If you have established a genuine relationship with a person there’s no such thing as calling in a chit. If you need help with something and you go to a certain person, you are essentially forwarding the relationship. In turn, they are simply forwarding opportunities to other people.” Crawford continued by saying, “If I need something from an alliance, I am comfortable enough with the relationship to pick up the telephone and say this is what I need, can you help me? On the other hand, because that person is comfortable with me they will say either yes or no. Just be prepared for possible rejection.”

Rejection! Rejection? Many African-Americans will say that the fundamental nature of rejection is nothing new and the word itself carries no meaning until the banks and lending institutions makes the word real. “It’s the banks, they refuse to give minorities loans,” a woman said while reading the draft of this article. Maybe Rennie Williams, a professional barber dubbed by the Washington Post as a “debater laureate” says what some are afraid to say, “It’s trust. Whom can you really trust in business? Many African-Americans don’t trust each other and that mistrust stagnates our culture.”

In my opinion, the easiest and most effective way to accomplish creating many strong partnerships simultaneously is to:

oGo direct to the decision maker. Begin at the top. It’s the top down theory. Going direct to the top will eliminate corporate politics that come with starting at the bottom. Top decision makers assign projects to the appropriate person.

oPresent your credentials before an introduction. Having a good image can open many doors. Presenting your credentials before you meet with potential partners allows them to have an idea of who you are and the past work you have done.

oProvide any professional supporting documentation. Submitting supporting documentation such as patents, trade articles, or related accomplishments is often the deciding factor whether executives will accept your request for a meeting.

oHave a reason for the dialogue. Make sure the purpose for communicating with potential alliances is compelling. Ask yourself this, is the meeting more to help them or help me? If it is more for them, your chances of collaborating are greatly increased.

oMaintain good values, strong ethics, and moral principles. Would you do business with a liar and a cheat? Of course not! Never assume that you know someone’s values and ethics. The best rule of thumb is to carry yourself and treat others with the highest respect.

Creating successful alliances and partnerships is critical more than ever before. It takes more than having a college degree and it takes more than just having a prominent job title. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, creating partnerships that work takes personality and action. Once you put these two ingredients together and see the benefit of the alliances you form, you will understand why Tim Russert, Host of the television news magazine Meet the Press says, “Creating partnerships has been the most important component helping me build my career.”

There’s Strength in Strategic Alliances

An alliance is really just a business-to-business collaboration. Some people use the term business networking when referring to alliances. Alliances are formed for many reasons. When you are a small business owner, it’s important to understand that there is a strength that can be utilized by strategic alliances, which may be overlooked in light of developing new business and developing additional revenue streams.

Small business alliances produce great rewards

Alliances between small businesses can offer additional benefits besides an increase in business. For instance, there are alliances of small business owners who proactively approach office supply corporations, internet service providers, health care providers and others on behalf of their membership base in order to secure better rates, additional services, and other benefits as the result of the alliance they’ve formed. There’s strength in numbers when you’re a small business owner, and if there are some products or services that you’re looking for to enhance your business, chances are other small business owners are looking for similar products or services too. Why not form a strategic alliance and approach the product or service provider as a group to show that there is a need? There is a market and that you are aligned in hopes of doing business with large companies who are willing to work with you.

Capitalize upon merged resources

Additionally, small businesses can combine more limited resources in order to appear in more high traffic advertising areas than what each business could afford to do on its own. For instance, one small business networking group decided to participate in a local high traffic tradeshow, on behalf of the businesses that chose to be involved. Using the banner of their combined membership, the group divided and conquered the tradeshow fees and staffing for the event, with each participating company taking a time slot and promoting his or her business, as well as the alliance that they had formed. Not only did the participating members increase visibility and gain new business, the networking group added new members that were unaware of their activities, and thereby increased the strength of the alliance by providing a larger member base to include in negotiations.

Synergetic referrals

Another business group of marketing professionals found strength in forming a strategic alliance amongst themselves in order to offer a more comprehensive service package to large clients than any of the independent businesses was able to offer on their own. While they had to deal with some service crossover, it was determined that the size of the potential contracts outweighed what any one business would give up in revenue if crossover in services did occur. To handle the situation, it was written in the alliance contract that the company who brought the business to the table would have the last say in who would work on each contract and what the final compensation would be in the event of a crossover situation. The business owners were like-minded in that they all agreed to act in the best interest of the alliance’s clients first in order to provide a service level above and beyond the large marketing communications firms with which they were competing. By operating as a virtual team of experts, this alliance was able to increase business for all of the participants; they understood the strength in approaching large clients with a more comprehensive offering than any of them could offer independently. It paid off in the end.

Leverage the strengths of a strategic alliance on behalf of your business and tap into clients and resources you may not have thought previously available.