Getting To Know You

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I think about making a New Year's resolution every year starting in about September. I have one standing resolution that I've kept since 1997, but there's nothing worse than making a resolution that you don't keep, so I haven't made another one since then.

When I moved to Wisconsin, many of my routines were disrupted. My Chicago running group was swapped for a Madison biking club. I started hanging out at Cronometro bike shop in place of Vertel's, my Michigan Avenue running store. Instead of 10-mile runs along Lake Michigan, I cleared my mind with 50-mile bike rides through beautiful Wisconsin farmland. But I miss running, and throughout the fall I've been trying to get back into my Nikes, but it's hard to change routines. After rationalizing and over-analyzing and agonizing over why I had stopped running, I finally decided it didn't matter, I just have to start again. And that's where the New Year's resolution comes in. It's a great way to "just do it."

Another routine I've fallen into (you realize, of course, that "routine" is just a nice way to say "rut") is to go to the Internet first when I'm working on stories or developing ideas. I'm a pretty academic person ā€” I loved graduate school ā€” so I tend to gravitate toward books and research and data. At some point it occurred to me that the answer to one of my most important questions was not written down anywhere. That question, "What do my readers want," can only be answered by the readers themselves.

Most of you, of course, already know that. The most successful among you have an ongoing dialogue with customers, finding out what they want, how they want it and what they want to pay for it.

My resolution for the magazine in 2004 is to talk to you more often, ask questions and seek advice, so I'm forming a virtual focus group. This informal advisory panel will occasionally receive e-mails from me asking for input on a specific topic. If you would like to help shape the content and direction of your magazine, send me an e-mail ([email protected]) indicating whether your expertise is in retail, building or service.

And sometime in the spring, I'll let you know how many pairs of running shoes I've worn out.

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