January 13, 2008
Family, Friends & Colleagues
Happy New Year! 2008 is Going to be Great! Of course, I’m sure you are breathing a collective sigh of relief with everyone else to see the annual letter show up. Admittedly, 2007 was so busy right up to the end; I questioned myself whether we’d miss a year. But 2007 was simply too good to miss and we can’t wait to catch you up on all the events.
2007 was the year of Appalachia, All Appalachia, All the Time. Ignited by my mother’s recent fascination and research in Appalachian culture, I became intrigued in the mountain history and lifestyle and set off on a series of trips across the mountain range, readings and research on the hills and a diversity of other lifestyle experiments to steep us in the backwoods experience. We began by making a visit to historical Cumberland, MD where we toured the path of the first National Turnpike, B&O railroad; C&O canal (the nation’s first major infrastructure project and equivalent in time & expense to putting a man on the moon). This trip was followed by a true American adventure on a paddle wheel riverboat ride from Pittsburgh, PA down the Ohio River to Cincinnati, OH. I’d been reading a volume on the history of the Ohio River and became fascinated by the idea of seeing the river geography end-to-end on a classic riverboat. Stephanie and I were the only guests under the age of 55 which made for a fairly low key trip highlighted by sitting on the back deck of the boat sipping Mai Tai’s and practicing Harmonica.
The Harp was another Appalachian endeavor, one that was started with a decidedly un-Appalachian trip to Vegas in March for high school friend’s bachelor party. Led by The Grand Martonious (Marty Mlod), the group of revelers had brought their instruments (fiddles, guitars, etc.) to jam in Sin City for Dave Templin’s final send off. I’d just recently finished singing classes and took up my voice to jam with the group on the strip out front of Caesar’s Palace like a group of traveling troubadours. The experience got me thinking about picking up my own instrument for future jam sessions, one that’s easy to transport, compliments singing and would be truly Appalachian.
The river ride was followed by a trip down the Shenandoah Valley of Western Virginia to the Smokey Mountains of North Cacalaca (Carolina) with my brother Dan and his girlfriend Erin. For the John Denver fans, here’s a little known fact. When Take Me Home, Country Roads sings about “Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River”, he’s actually talking about the Western part of the state of Virginia. Consult a map and you’ll see it’s true, those mountains and river are not in the State of West Virginia, sorry Mountaineer fans. The trip took us through the little known town of Asheville, NC and home of the even littler known Appalachian State University that is until they upset the Michigan Wolverines. I have to admit some responsibility for the upset. I’d been carrying an Appalachian good luck charm from my parents’ trip to Berea, KY and in a year of Appalachia it only made sense they’d overcome adversity. Even as the year came to a close, I couldn’t help but continue to profess the benefits of Appalachia, telling tales of mountain men and sausage gravy. This culminated with a visit to the Bob Evans’ farm in Rio Grande, OH where Stephanie and I met with the son of the great patriarch, Steve Evans, to discuss the philosophies of good life, good business and great sausage.
2007 was also the year of making Excellent Better than the Best and Exceeding Expectations! My partner, John Haselmann, and I excelled at developing Integrated Management Services’ (IMS) strongest client relationships yet with internationally recognized organizations like White & Case, Clifford Chance, LexisNexis and New York Presbyterian Hospital. In August, I took three of our clients on a Harley Davidson trip from Miami to Key West where we connected with local Conch extraordinaire, Stephanie Kaple, for a night of partying on her island. We also took significant steps to enhance IMS’ organization and infrastructure by welcoming several uniquely talented experts such as my good friend and colleague Jamie Forrest, hiring a top notch Executive Director in Ed Winfield, developing our Client & Expert Portfolio positions with Ligia Quinn and Erin Kromann, and implementing a leveraged workflow system with colleagues from a previous business venture in TeamDynamix. 2008 is Going to be Great as we continue to strengthen our vision to create real time delivery of artistic business solutions and develop our new media, multi-dimensional methodologies to practicing unique expertise and innovative accomplishments for our exceptional clients, projects and experts.
The Ohio University Ralph & Luci Schey Sales Centre continues to be a great source of innovation and enjoyment in my life. I went back in the spring to award the second annual “More than Kaple-able” award to a senior student and brought him to NYC for a day of professional events. Over the summer I was back in Cleveland for the regular strategic planning meeting of the board where we set the goal to establish the first ever PhD program in sales and someday create an OU College of Sales. Then last fall, I had the honor of traveling back to Athens to be recognized by the University with the Recent Graduate award. It was simply surreal to be recognized by the President and colleagues at a Gala event on Friday night. You can see my acceptance speech on uTube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=923yUkXo9KA. The events continued on Saturday with my family and a trip in the Homecoming parade and on field recognition during the first quarter intermission of the football game.
If these activities weren’t enough, I’ve begun work on a second portfolio of business ventures called Micro Business Initiatives. MBI is series of small business ventures oriented around providing a product or service such as steamed bagels, sausage gravy, quality shoe shines, custom jewelry and others. The rules of micro business are that it’s something I personally want but can’t get from local business services, it has a low cost of entry, it’s gotta be fun to live vicariously through telling the stories of running the business and if the idea takes off it could become a business of greater significance. Only time will tell the success of MBI, but it’s already proved to be a fan favorite of storytelling and a hell of a good time.
Of course this letter wouldn’t be complete without catching you up on the news of my better halves, Stephanie & Rally Dog. Steph continues to enjoy her teaching. Besides being a constant support to me, she stayed busy over the summer with her Girls First leadership camp and preparing for her classes in the fall. This year she’s taken on a lighter load choosing to focus on her teaching and student council while stepping away from volleyball and many of the other extracurricular activities that have kept her so busy. She’s continued to work on her Masters Degree in Education and expects to complete it this spring. Looking ahead she’s not quite sure where her passions are going to lie. She feels she’s accomplished a lot at her current school and while she continues to love teaching, she is looking for something that will let her expand her horizon. I’m negotiating passionately for her to consider taking a sabbatical for a year and to try her hand at some entrepreneurial ventures including something in education like tutoring, running an education camp or teaming up with me to build out the Micro Business Initiative program. I think she’s excited by the thought of what we could do together and the challenge of testing her potential in a unlimited environment of opportunity. Rally Dog continues to keep our lives balanced. He’s settled down somewhat from his puppy years but still insists on playing rough with the ball and tug of war each night when I come home from work. He spent the summer in Ohio with the “grand parents” and truly is the canine equivalent of his parents with one paw in the big city and another as a North American Appalachian Mountain Dog.
Stephanie likes to raise the question of why I insist on living vicariously as a country boy while making our home in the urban jungle of NYC. All I can say is I like the diversity that each offers and besides hatching dreams of making use of regional jets to simplify our 8hr driving trips, I don’t see us migrating our permanent home soon. Last summer, we sold our place in Hoboken and are preparing to move into a truly civilized residence, still in Hoboken, with two bedrooms, parking & a washer/dryer and oh yeah, a 700 sq ft patio, viva la hammock! We’re excited to get into the new place soon and welcoming visitors to come stay with us. As we kick off the new year, the year of the North American Mountain Man/Woman/Dog, we want to encourage you to stay in touch, drop a call, share a visit, a trip, a musical jam or some other invention of mind, body and spirit to help us make 2008 truly Great!
Gregory & Stephanie Kaple