Support FOCM Entrepreneur

I am excited to announce that, Alicia Kelley Schifano, the first graduate of the FOCM College of Entrepreneurism is hitting the big time!!  Alicia will be a contestant on a new TV show airing Thursday, October 14th on the USA Network.  The show is America’s Big Deal.  It was created by Joy Mangano (from the movie Joy) and it will be hosted by Scott Evans from Access Hollywood!  It will be a bit like Shark Tank but live and “shoppable” so people can buy the products in real time while watching the show.  Alicia will be on the first episode, competing for a retail deal for the Mr. Big Curling Irons!  Here is a link to the video promo:

Here’s a link to the contestant page:

Please tune in at 9pm, October 14th and watch Alicia shine! And check out the product being offered at a $20 discount at the above link. For any of the FOCM members with long hair, this curling iron is a must in your beauty supplies inventory.

I have known Alicia for more than 10 years, having been introduced to her via TommiLynn Baker.  At our first meeting we talked for hours.  Alicia is energizing to be around; so much energy, passion and enthusiasm.

Networking Stories

When I do presentations and/or workshops on networking it’s been pointed out to me that some of the best “aha” moments or learnings that people take away come from the stories that I share.  So, the plan is for me to write up these stories in the hopes that they’re helpful or illustrative.

I use fictitious names when I have not asked for or not been given permission to use real names, yet the stories are real.

During the financial crisis of 2008, an acquaintance of mine (I’ll refer to him as John) worked in IT and became laid off.  I do not know for certain (no personality test was given) that John’s personality leans toward introversion, but I’d bet $100 that he is. He’d been unemployed for close to 10 months and was complaining about having applied to hundreds of openings, getting rejection letters, hearing nothing or getting some interviews but no job offers.  After many interviews and never getting the job, he explained that he was being interviewed by people 10-20 years younger than him that had no where near his experience and talents. Over time he was becoming embittered.

I asked for his resume and said I had connections in several of the local companies in my industry and would be happy to send his resume in to them.  His response was something like this: oh the networking approach, well I think that’s cheating.  In an idealized world, I see the point, and it would be nice if everyone were unbiasedly judged/evaluated on their resume.  But we’ve all seen good and bad resumes, which is one way in which recruiters judge/evaluate candidates. Recruiters and hiring managers use a variety of criteria to evaluate candidates: resume content and layout, experience, personality, references, etc.

Networking is most definitely not cheating; it’s a requirement.  I explained to John that networking isn’t cheating – I do not get him the job because I sent his resume to someone I know.  Me, sending his resume to someone I know just gets his resume lifted out of the pile and gets it a second or maybe third look.  Now the resume carries a reference, an additional factor giving it more credence.  Chris Matheus or whoever sent the resume to their friend serves as a background check. Getting the resume lifted out of the pile does not get John the job – it gives him a better shot at getting an interview.  He still has to “get” the job, still has to interview (without the embittered chip on his shoulder) and interview well.

Building a network of contacts is a key element in managing your career. It needs to be nurtured, maintained and expanded.  Remember networking is a reciprocal endeavor, you must be helpful to those in your network if you are going to ask for their help.

What is in a name

So this story is from an industry friend in Wilmington.

At one point in his career, he worked for a company whose name had an interesting origin.

As I recall him telling it, it is a tech company and when the founders were thinking of names; one of them said – I don’t care what we name the company, just as long as it has an X in it.  And Anexinet born.

Now, some digital marketers say that “X” originally sounded cutting-edge and sleek, but is now considered datedbusiness.


Two-line Jokes


The best two-line jokes

I do not know who decided these were the best, but they’re pretty good. I think this was from an email I got from my brother.

  1. Parallel lines have so much in common.
    It’s a shame they’ll never meet.
  2. My wife accused me of being immature.
    I told her to get out of my fort.
  3. Women only call me ugly until they find out how much money I make.
    Then they call me ugly and poor.
  4. How many Germans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    One, they’re efficient and not very funny.
  5. What do you call a dog with no legs?
    It doesn’t matter; it’s not going to come.
  6. Someone stole my Microsoft Office and they’re gonna pay.
    You have my Word.
  7. What’s green, fuzzy, and if it fell out of a tree it would kill you?
    A pool table.
  8. I went to a really emotional wedding the other day.
    Even the cake was in tiers.
  9. What do you do with a dog with no legs?
    Take it for a drag

  • Want to hear a word I just made up?
  • Why do cows wear bells?
    Because their horns don’t work.
  • What did the pirate say when he turned 80?
    Aye Matey.
  • I took the shell off my racing snail, thinking it would make him run faster.
    If anything, it made him more sluggish.
  • Someone stole my mood ring,
    I don’t know how I feel about it.
  • I tried to catch fog yesterday,
  • Why does a chicken coop have two doors?
    If it had four doors it would be a chicken sedan.

Single payer government run healthcare

Here’s why I am not in favor of government run healthcare.

In addition to worse care and higher death rates for hospitalized patients, just think of your experience at the DMV – government employees who get their salary and their two breaks and a lunch who don’t care how long you wait, have no motivation to improve the process or the quality and if they did, there’s not budget for improvements.

To my friends who say “we need single payer healthcare” – I am astonished.  Sure it makes it equally accessible to all – an equally frustrating, inefficient and uncaring experience. Competition among physician practices to earn more money drives improvements in customer service, quality and improved outcomes.

Maybe politicians want single-payer to lower the average life span in order to improve Social Security’s solvency and remove people from city,  state and federal pension rolls. Much like Governor Cuomo did in NY by sending the elderly with Covid to nursing homes.

Meeting Summary of FOCM & GLSA Event

So, it finally happened, on that glorious day which shall long be remembered, these minutes will be heretofore submitted to the USA Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and for reasons unknown, to the Sydney Opera House on the northside bulletin board for public postings.

On May the 20, in the year 2021 of the Gregorian calendar, it was noted that the GLSA (Global Life Sciences Alliance) and FOCM (Friends of Chris Matheus) Networking organization did hold an online (virtual) networking event. The meticulously planned event went terribly awry when but half of the positive RSVPs failed to show up.  That said, it was a resounding success for the initial such event.  A total of 22 attended.

The meeting started off with an acknowledgement that it was Global Clinical Trials Day and a toast was given to the clinical research industry for saving the world from Covid-19 and to James Lind, the Scottish doctor who initiated the first controlled randomized clinical trial on May 20, 1747 aboard a sailing ship. Dr. Lind divided twelve sailors sick with scurvy into six groups of two. They all received the same diet but, in addition, each group was given a different treatment. Only the two sailors who received citrus fruits improved and returned to work.

Chris then introduced the GLSA members to the FOCM community.  After a bit of general discussion, several polls were taken. About half of the group is reluctant to resume conference travel immediately, preferring to wait a few more months. Slightly more than half have been vaccinated or acquired immunity through catching the virus. An interesting opinion was voiced that perhaps as members of the clinical research industry, we should set the example by all being vaccinated.  I, for one and I believe I speak for many of the others have the utmost confidence that not a step was missed, not a shortcut taken in the development of the available vaccines.  Given the prioritization and urgency of vaccine development, we were able to speed up the data review process. The one thing that the sped up development lacked is longer term safety and side effect data.  However, vaccine side effects rarely (I can’t think of any) change the longer from the time of injection.

Then it was time for speed networking!  The assertion has been made by Chris that each of us in the clinical research industry are within 2 degrees of separation from each other. We had 4 different sessions.  Attendees were randomly put into different “rooms” with the assignment to each introduce themselves to the group, sharing where they’d worked the previous 10-20 years and what they’re doing now to see if they could identify who they knew in common.  Good information was exchanged and several new connections were made which can improve the management of clinical trials.

Join us next month – June 16.

David Holland, Cmed Research
Jon Matheus, Pancrazi Real Estate
Sheila Mahoney-Jewels, Life Science Hub
Eric Nier, Block Clinical
Lynne Becker, Power of Patients
Nadia Bracken, Medidata
Christine Ver Straate, GLSA
Mitchell Efros, Verified Clinical Trials
Cassandra Hui, HealMary
Denise McNerney, GLSA
Joe Buser, GLSA
Tom Ryan, GLSA
Kalyan Ghosh, Inference Inc
Marty Frazier, GLSA
Tanusree Bhattacharyya, Inference Inc
Zulma Varela, GLSA
Mike O’gorman, Life Science Marketplace
David Gibboni, DJGibboni Consulting
Eric Mayer, EDP Biotech
Craig Fernandes, EDP Biotech
Maria Frane, C3 Research

Life under Covid

An observation occurred to me – as many of you know the FOCM rules when attending the annual Drug Information Association convention: stay out too late every night, drink too much every night and get one or two good leads. And even if you don’t want to drink to excess on night three you know you HAVE to do it, so at the reception you start with one beer or glass of wine; it’s not real tasty, but you push through it. Why do you push through it, because you have to, it’s one of the rules.  The second drink feels a little better and then its off to some company sponsored party and you’re right back at it again.  

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately under Covid.  Like today, ugh, a bit too much wine yesterday, it would be good not to have any tonight, but the headache that arrives around 4:30 suggests that one glass of wine will help ease the headache away.  And it doesn’t taste too bad and we all know a bottle is best consumed on the day its opened, so by the end of the night the bottle is gone. And the sun comes up the next day and the circle of life under Covid begins again.

Office Workplace Etiquette

Cubicles can present many challenges to our daily work lives.  The company has developed a guideline on Cubicle Etiquette to try and decrease some of those challenges.  The office I worked in made some modifications specific to our situation. The names may or may not refer to actual people.


  • When you are on the phone try and keep the volume of your voice high. You may not realize that the cubicle walls absorb sound quite well.    
  • If you are going to need to use a speakerphone book a conference room following SOP GP via Outlook, so that you do not disturb others.
  • Your phone ringer should be really loud so that you can hear it ring while you are in the kitchen area and so that when you’re talking with customers or sites, it will sound like we’re really busy.  Another thing to do while on the phone is ruffle papers so it sounds like you’re multi-tasking.
  • Do not use your cell phone in your cubicle unless it is an emergency.  Emergencies are defined as calls to 9-1-1. During business hours it should be turned off. No photo taking is permitted in the building, they are only permitted in the kitchen.
  • When having personal or confidential calls, be aware that those around you may be able to hear your conversation.  Make sure to speak up so that they can offer advice to you when you’re done. 
  • Keep personal calls to a minimum.  Extended personal calls can be quite entertaining to others.


  • When seeing someone for the first time each day, you’re to say, “good morning.  Upon subsequent encounters, you merely need to say, “acknowledge”.  We find this avoids the uncomfortable what-to-say-the-next-time situation.  Phrases like: “you look like you tied one on last night” or “what’s with your hair” should be avoided.
  • Remember you work in an office and popping your head over the cubicle to yell to someone or trying to talk through the cubicle wall creates a friendly and collegial atmosphere.
  • Try to keep the volume of sounds coming from your cubicle loud. (ringer on phone, music, conversations or computer volume and sound effects), it makes for a busy sounding place and we find that when coworkers are irritated by something they are more productive.
  • If you eat lunch at your desk consider the benefits to others that the fragrance of food can provide and rather than eat at your desk, take your lunch to someone else’s and sit with them while you eat. 
  • The use of perfume/cologne is encouraged.  To make sure everyone gets to detect your fragrance, put a lot on, stop and talk with everyone at least once per day shortly after applying or reapplying perfume/cologne.  But remember, not everyone may enjoy the same scents you do or may be allergic to perfume.   Those with severe allergies have nothing to fear as Catherine is required to carry an Epi-pen in her tool belt while on the premises and Sharon wears it after that.
  • Please hold lengthy conversations (business or personal) outside someone’s cubicle, preferably Chris’ office, he likes to interrupt with sarcastic remarks. 
  • Keep the common areas (printer areas, mailroom, copy rooms, fax machines, restrooms, archive rooms, cafeteria, kitchen, hallways, foyer, reception, that weird dead corner by the back door) neat, because your momma don’t work here.
  • Put your large, heavy, fragile personal items on the overhead bins and ledges.  While the object could fall and injure the employee in the next cube (plants, pictures, etc.), it enables Shelley to stay well-versed in the office first aid procedures


  • Do not enter someone’s cubicle without letting them know you are there. If your colleague is concentrating on a project the surprise of your presence may not get a positive reaction.  This can be done by telling them you are there, knocking on the cubicle wall or saying “beep beep” or “knock, knock”, then wait for an invitation to enter the cubicle as they may not have time at that moment to talk with you.
  • An employee’s chair is not an Inbox (Kelly), a mailbox or an open invitation to go sit down and chat (Catherine).  Use the appropriate delivery areas to provide documents to another employee, if there is a designated location identified.
  • If the employee you need to speak with is on the phone or having a conversation with someone else do not wait outside their cubicle until they are done, step right into the cubicle.  This will annoy them until they get off the phone to speak with you.  Whoever they’re talking to can be called back.  You may also use hand gestures or whisper the issue to them while they are on the phone. 
  • Information on a colleague’s computer screen is not for your viewing unless asked.
  • Conversations had with other employees in your colleague’s cubicle are private.  It is inevitable in the cubicle environment that you may overhear a conversation, however refrain from answering a question you overheard asked in the cubicle next to you.  If your opinion is required your colleague will ask you for it.  It is thought that this cannot apply to Chris, he does not seem able to do this.
  • If you need a chair, look for extra chairs around the area, not another employee’s chair.  If you must borrow another employee’s chair, ensure that they are not in the office and return it immediately, if not sooner, when you are done.  Imagine coming back and having to hunt down your chair after being gone for an extended period of time (days).  This happened to one person and they’re still out on leave due to post traumatic chair loss stress disorder.
  • Bringing in some personal items and a few pictures to personalize your work area is acceptable and highly encouraged.  This should be done in moderation, good taste and items should be appropriate to a business environment, it is not recommended to completely clutter your cube with items on the walls.  The cube walls are not designed for this purpose and can cause damage to the fabric.  If you have a question about what is appropriate to put in your workspace, check with your manager, HR, Administration, Mike or Kyle.
  • Because there is no door on cubicles that means your colleagues office supplies and personal items (tissues, candy, etc) are community property. I know this sucks, but hey we own all this stuff and we’ve given you a job, so too bad.  This can also cause fun to watch fights among coworkers and hey, we all need a break or to hit someone everyone once in a while, right?  If you take something personal of someone’s, please return it or leave them a dollar.

New People

For the first month that you are here you are requested to do the following once per week:

Make ice.

Bring in a pound of good coffee – decaf and regular (Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, etc.)

Bring in one batch of Rice Krispie Treats.  Some of us enjoy them with rainbow sprinkles.

Bring in a dozen bagels.

Bring in a dozen doughnuts.  Some of us enjoy them with rainbow sprinkles or chocolate-glazed custard-filled.

Wash and gas up each person’s car at the Shell around the corner.

Clean the refrigerator.

Clean the microwave.

Wash the coffee pots.

Clean the kitchen.

Don’t worry about the restrooms, Lori and Kyle clean those for us. 

Rotate the paper in the printers. 

Buy Mike a carton of Camel Light’s and a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper.

Pretend to care about recycling to get on Heather’s good side.

Ask Kristy any question about the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bring Heather a chocolate candy bar.

Give Lori 2 Excedrin migraine tablets at 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Buy a 12-pack of Diet Mountain Dew for Eric.

Don’t bother Chris when he’s napping.

We all spend a large percent of our time in our cubicles. Please try and work together on making the cubicle environmenta pleasant place to spend time and be productive and if each of us does this and that makes three other people do this and so on, the world will be a better place and perhaps the achievement of world peace will be accomplished in our lifetime.

Wedding Toast from Father of the Bride

So 9 years ago when my first-born daughter became engaged, my signifcant other/spousal equivalent said, “you’ll have to give a toast at the reception, practice it now, just speak from your heart”.  I panicked, I pictured myself in front of everyone at the reception and couldn’t come up with anything.  Public speaking is listed as one of the top things people fear. I’ve done a lot of public presentations but I’ve prepared for them, scripted them, practiced them.  So when put on the spot, I froze.

So I had several months to prepare and wrote a toast and re-wrote and re-wrote it with a focus on not too long, focused, concise and from the heart.  In the years since then when friends, strangers and new acquaintances tell me their daughter is getting married, I remind them they’ll have to give a toast.  I tell  them I have one which I can share with them as a template they can adjust. It will at least get them started.  The below has been shared with almost 10 people.  What prompted me to write this blog is I found an email I sent to a man I met in an airport bar and he said his daughter was getting married.  The man’s future son-in-law was a graduate of Texas A&M. The template is below:

First, we’ll have a quick toast and then I have a few things to say. Everyone please raise your glasses: To (state your daughter’s name) and Person (your daughter’s fiancee’s name), on behalf of everyone here, may you have a lifetime of happiness.  Cheers.

And now I’d like to say a few things:  Parents and brothers and sisters of person marrying my sweet precious angel, we’re glad to add you to our extended family and look forward to getting to know you better in the years ahead.  Person, without a doubt you are my favorite in-law, (say this if he/she is your only child-in-law: pause for laughter), you’re also my first sin-law and I couldn’t be happier, you’re an Aggie engineer, who could ask for anything more. (Maybe drop in an Aggie joke here: I do like the fact that you’re (choose one or more than one: a college graduate, have a job, have wealthy parents).  _______ (Daughter’s name or nickname), you are a beautiful bride, I remember when I first saw you __ years ago, it was a feeling of instant and complete adoration and love.  Oh and maybe a little fear that I might be buying you a car at age 16 and that maybe I’d spend money to send you on a European vacation every year you were in college and that somehow we’d end up with any pets that you “bought”.  I was certain that I’d be paying for a wedding someday.  I’ve been so proud of you every step of your life.

To you both, I have a few words of advice:
Don’t keep score
Don’t expect marriage to be 50:50 every day, because there will be days when one of you can only give 25% to the relationship, that’s when the other has to give 75%.

Use your words
If you don’t tell each other how you feel and what you’re thinking, they will not know.

Lastly “a little teasing goes a long way” – be sensitive to each other’s feelings when joking around because – “a little teasing goes a long way”.

Please join me in one more toast:  To Precious and her Person – here’s to the beginning of the happiest days of your lives together. Cheers!

Yikes, as I finish this I realize I have to do another toast to do – in August my last-born daughter is getting married and I have less than 3 months to come up with a completely new toast!

Office Dress Code Rules – A Look Back

So way back in 2006 working with a great group of folks in starting a Raleigh area office for a global organization, we were a somewhat rebellious and humorous group. When HR in Headquarters would send out policies, we’d create our own version for our office, as shown in the example below: (last names have been left out to protect people’s identities)


An employee’s professional appearance is very important.  It reflects a respect for ourselves as well as for the people we are serving.  Your appearance says a lot about you and is an important part of your performance appraisal.  Therefore, all employees of the Company are expected to dress appropriately in a professional, clean, businesslike, well-groomed manner.  The Company has adopted certain days as “Business Casual” and “Dress down Days.”  Employees are permitted to dress accordingly within the defined guidelines.  Styles that are currently fashionable may not be appropriate for work.  Accessories, hosiery, jewelry and perfume or scented cosmetic use should be conservative.  Noncompliance with the standards of dress as stated in this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Business Dress:  To be worn at sites and as required by management in the office.  Conservative suits, ties, dresses and professional coordinated pantsuits.

Business Casual:  Usually acceptable Monday – Thursday.  Clothing that is neat and professional, such as slacks, sport shirts, casual dresses, and shirts, cream or white pants with shades of pastel blue blouses (which can be worn daily), split skirts or skorts of an appropriate length.  No jeans (except for Chris M), chacos, flipflops (faux rainbows are okay for Chris L), lounge/pajama pants (except for Kourtney when she uses the barely believable skin rash excuse), basketball shoes, kickball shoes, pants that unzip to become shorts (except for Lori), baseball caps (unless worn backwards) or leggings. 

Dress Down Day:  Usually each Friday, except for NC office where it appears that everyday is Dress Down Day.  Acceptable: Neat “dress jeans” with no holes, rips or tears (Heather), neat clean sneakers or casual shoes.  During warmer weather, conservative sandals, walking length shorts (Bermuda length shorts, and Capri pants are permitted. Maternity umbro shorts with expandable waistband are okay for Lori.

Not appropriate:  Baseball caps, motorcycle helmets (Mike), tee shirts, tank tops, gym clothes, Umbro-type shorts (Lori), cutoff shorts or shirts, tank tops, flip-flops, chacos (Heather), water shoes, Chewbacca costume (except for Greg), thongs (flip-flops), beach slides, swimsuits, bandannas, bathrobes, lingerie, hockey jerseys (except for Kristy) cowboy boots while wearing shorts, black mid-calf socks with plaid Bermuda shorts or with any shorts for that matter, dress shoes with jeans, belt with your name on it, shirts with sayings or slogans that others, not Mike, may find offensive.  An exception is Mike’s Pink Salmon slogan shirt, because that’s just too damn funny, while being totally inappropriate.