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June 2015 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION
June 2015
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Kurt's Corner

 

   Please bear with me: this is about cigars!  In her seminal work, The Classic Italian Cookbook, (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1978), Marcella Hazan writes, (p.335):
 
"I cannot imagine Italy without its vegetable stalls, filling ancient squares and animating dusty side streets with mounds of fabulous forms in purple, green, red, gold, and orange. In a land heavy with man's monuments, these are the soil's own masterworks.
                                      
Perhaps one day the vitality of these still flourishing markets will be replaced by the pallor of deep-freeze counters, those cemeteries of food, where produce is sealed up in wax boxes marked, like some tombstones, with photographs of the departed.  But I hope it never happens. I would sooner be deprived of all of the marvels of Michelangelo."
 
What creates the “cemeteries of food” she so eloquently describes?  Regulation, the hidden tax on small business, prevents small operators - manufacturers and retailers, from competing (surviving) against well-financed larger corporations who will make up the cost of regulation through increased market share.
 
Can you imagine the USA without its brick and mortar cigar shops?  Can you imagine buying cigars in their plastic tombstones, with a brand label on top and no images whatsoever?  I can imagine it, I have seen it!  If you doubt this – take a quick trip to Canada. 
 
I would sooner be deprived of the works of Mark Twain, who, through his cigar smoke, I imagine would chuckle and agree!  If you also agree, join the CRA!!  This, your (consumer) cigar rights organization, leads the defense charge for you in the halls of Congress and among the States, to prevent over-reaching regulation at both the factory and retail level.  Their work has already accomplished much – and yet they still need your help. We can win this fight! We can win, if you join today!

Kurt Van Keppel

President, XIKAR, Inc.

February 2015 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION
February 2015
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Kurt's Corner

We’re working on a promise!
 
XIKAR recently engaged in some very effective management training, which included the elements of a request and a commitment (promise).  According to the Coach’s wisdom, our whole social fabric revolves around communication. Organizations, or networks of communications made up of requests and promises, will perform best when they effectively achieve a high standard in each.
 
A good request includes a committed speaker, who verbally or in writing states a request that contains a timeframe (delivery date), the future actions, and the expected conditions of satisfaction.  Appropriate mood and context assist in getting to yes – (the right request at the wrong time is the wrong request).
 
The request becomes a promise or a commitment only once the listener declares, “Yes” (I will do it by then).  If that promise is broken, the relationship diminishes.  And not dealing with broken commitments almost always leads to resentment and a drop-off in effectiveness in organizational accomplishment.  Yet we cannot keep 100% of the promises we keep. Thus, managing commitments becomes key in a world where our commitments take most of our time. 
 
How then do we manage our commitments and our time?  First, by learning to say “yes”, and “no”, and then with two more detailed tools. One might reasonably “Commit to commit” when further information is needed. (“I need to check my calendar, then I’ll let you know.”)  Or perhaps one might counter offer (“I can’t get it done by tomorrow, but I could by Friday”).  Finally worth noting is the broken promise: sometimes we have to break a promise.  We should always endeavor to do it up-front, to give advance notice and a chance for a renegotiation.
 
You may wonder why I spent this space on something so simple!  Simply put: we thought we had it right until we brand the formal request / promise approach. It has really helped.  Secondly, it has really helped in other areas outside of business.  I’m sure you can imagine your own examples!
 

Kurt Van Keppel
President, XIKAR, Inc.

September 2014 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION
September 2014
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Kurt's Corner

 

Recently, reflecting on the power of observation, I have discovered that in so many of life's facets, observation provides the best first step to success.  There's power in doing nothing!

How can this be true in a world of fast-paced go get 'em business?  First, observation requires quiet, which tends to remove ego from the matter.  So, we stop talking when the sale is made, or more importantly, we listen to the customer's suggestion or complaint.  And by doing so, we learn so much about what's working or not. That's why we developed the PuroTemp remote humidification system - by listening to customer desires.

Secondly, observation gives us the opportunity to deploy the trio of great communication: ask, listen and (really) hear.  This is exactly how we understand the needs of others - whether product needs as noted above, or perhaps just individual needs among team mates. Not only does this integration of others' thoughts make them relevant to the discussions (be they inside XIKAR or out), but they also help us to communicate our respect and appreciation for them.

Most importantly, observation, combined with the tools of listening, enables us to achieve collaborative creativity.  And this powerful result has catapulted us into areas we didn't before dream possible.  You can imagine that we accomplish more and better solutions through collaboration.  And more importantly, everyone is part of the process.  Recently, we attended the Intertabak cigar show in Dortmund Germany, where we had the "official" launch of the Allume lighter family.  Our European distributors collaborated with us in the design and color choice of this lighter family - and it is now the #1 selling launch item in the history of XIKAR.

Enjoy the results of our observation process.  And if you have some observations of your own to make, please let us know!

Sincerely,

Kurt Van Keppel
President, XIKAR, Inc.

July 2014 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION Newsletter

July 31, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
We are back from Las Vegas, and the IPCPR Trade Show
was a tremendous success! Our team works hard all year
to create the newest and most cutting edge cigar
accessories, and this year was no exception. The latest
XIKAR innovations were inspired by beauty and power, from
the heights of mountaintops, to the depths of the ocean.
You will be prepared to take on cigars bigger than you've 
ever imagined
, and will never again find yourself without a
cutter on hand
. Of course, all products exemplify 
superior form, feel and function, the Essence of XIKAR!

The industry received our new accessories with adulation
at the IPCPR Convention, and we look forward to getting them into your hands. This newsletter will introduce you to some of the new XIKAR innovations, and we will continue to feature a new product every month through the end of the year. 


 I want to thank you all for your loyalty to XIKAR as we progress with our commitment to revolutionary product development. I am certain that you will be impressed not only with the new releases, but the future introduction of creative concepts as XIKAR continues to serve you... for life!

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

June 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

June 26, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
"That's not XIKAR!"

So say some of the pre-launch reviews of our new lighter,
the Allume mini. It's small, it comes in an array of colors
(beyond black, silver and gunmetal). It's sleek, it's stylish,
it's... sexy!


Here at XIKAR, we take design seriously. We take our 
customers very seriously. And we try not to take ourselves
too seriously. So when the marketplace tells us small
and colorful, we set aside our Dutch austerity (Kurt) and
Austrian tech (Scott), and embrace power in a little flair of
color and precision. Imagine Italian cars and French
fashion combined.


We think you'll be impressed - as they have been in Europe, where initial consumer sales are very strong.  And just wait until you see our upcoming social media campaign - adding in a bit of the Riviera.  We think you'll say, "that's XIKAR! Olė!!"

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

May 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

May 21, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
On April 10, 2014 my iPad was stolen, along with
other “personal effects” (my briefcase and suitcase),
from my vehicle in Houston.  Theft is a crime that deprives
us of our property, and to some degree our liberty (having
to go shopping for clothes and sundries instead of calling
on customers), and ultimately of our enjoyment or prosperity
in life.  Our criminal laws are very clear on this matter –
theft is a prosecutable crime.  I have been very
impressed with the Harris County Sheriff’s
department’s handling of the matter – I may even get my
iPad back!
 
Our Constitution’s laws are also very clear on the matter of theft: Article V. states “(No person shall) be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”  On July 8, 2014, you may be the victim of a crime.  You may be deprived of your liberty and ultimately your property by the FDA, who will on that date decide how to regulate your enjoyment of cigars.  Unfortunately, when the perpetrator and the prosecutor are the same, the handling of the matter is much less impressive.  You will not get due process of law from a regulatory agency whose purpose is to eradicate your access to a legal product!
 
I know some smokers who are complacent on this and other smoking issues.  They say, “I don’t mind warning labels”.  “Won’t regulation of production protect us?”  Don’t be fooled – you already have the choice, the liberty to smoke or not to smoke, to choose between brands, and try new products, to congregate with others of similar tastes.  Through regulation, the FDA will create a burden on manufacturers that will effectively eliminate new items, killing small manufacturers and also small retailers.  This will be a theft, a death by decree. 
 
But we have a chance!  You do have a voice – the FDA has given us a sliver of hope by suggesting that they may choose to not regulate premium cigars.   We now have 48 days left in the “comment period”.  Your comments will count!  Go NOW to the 
CRA website. Review the situation, click the link, make your comment.  Our passion for cigars, our business, our industry depends on YOU!

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.
 
 

April 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

April 23, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
I love to eat – I always have.  Over time, it’s become more of a “living
to” than a “living for”.  Cigars are also like that for me – I live for the
moments to smoke them.  This month, we discuss cigars and eating,
which share more in common than just our palate (which truth to tell,
is enough!)
 
Last week’s trip to New York City provided my passion
extraordinary satisfaction.  The Comfort Diner extended day-after
comfort, while Mario Batali’s Esca found a way out of NY – to heaven
(try the Branzino), and The John Dory Oyster Bar gave me the need
for Comfort – along with the best oysters and lobster po' boy
imaginable. You can find my list of favorite haunts for both food and cigars right here: Kurt's NYC Food & Cigars. Add one of your own!
 
New York City has among the world’s best cigar shops – with something for every taste, in both cigars and atmosphere.  And rather than pick favorites, I invite you to visit them all.  The cigar world in New York occupies a small space, with just enough stores for the intrepid smoking traveler to visit (most of the others are gone, victims of New York’s draconian tobacco taxes and anti-smoking laws).  Among them you will find sophistication, relaxation and lounges large and small.
 
For all my passionate eating, my weight hasn’t changed. Some might call it “discerning,” or less kindly, “picky”. Really, I just eat what I like, and beyond that I don’t have much interest.  However, I practice intrepid eating, meaning I’m willing to try anything once. The same is true for cigars – this is key to really, really understanding cigars.  And if you also read about them, study them, perhaps write about them, you will soon find your own expertise.  Howard, who I first met in the Dominican Republic, recently said hello at the TX Cigar Fest.  He carries a cigar dossier with him – of descriptions of almost every cigar he has ever smoked.  Now that’s personal expertise!
 
At events, consumers often ask what cigar I might recommend.  I always reply, “what do you drink: beer, wine or whiskey?” I find the palate for drinks matches cigars (beer – mild, wine – medium, whisky – strong).  I also find the palate is indifferent to gender: once I suggested a strong cigar to a woman who was sipping a bourbon – she loved it. 
 
Whichever palate you have, I invite you to intrepid, travel-smoking discovery.  If not to NY, then travel around your city, visit a variety of shops.  “Travel” through the humidor, practice intrepid smoking.  Above all, enjoy!

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

August 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

August 2013

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Kurt's Corner
Importance of Cigar Education

 

     When we started XIKAR, we based our essence on innovation and extraordinary customer experience. To achieve this kind of experience for all consumers, we have strived to achieve lifelong relationships based on trust and loyalty.  The trust comes from our Lifetime Guarantee.  And we hope the loyalty comes through our constant efforts in education and interaction with consumers -- on the phone, in person, and on-line.
 
Superb education opportunities exist in the cigar industry - we observe magazines and blogs bringing great focus and clarity to the "what of cigar".  However, we believe the "how" of cigars needs attention as well.  Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of retailers about XIKAR, and I focused my presentation on the how-to's of cutting, lighting, humidifying and transporting cigars.
 
Many in the audience had great questions and comments such as, "Thanks for the presentation! I think I've been lighting a cigar wrong my whole life!" This shows that whether you are a seasoned aficionado, or new to the hobby, you may learn something through the information we have to offer.
 
As always, you can find instructional videos on our YouTube channel, as well as information on our website, Facebook and Twitter. XIKAR is committed to helping you have the best possible cigar experience; please feel free to email us anytime with questions at info@xikar.com.

For now, here are a few quick tips (click each for an instructional video):
How to light: Be sure not to burn the wrapper with your lighter, this will ruin the burn of your cigar.
How to cut: Do not cut past your cigar's shoulder, this will cause the cigar to unravel.
How to store: Use our PG Solution and not distilled water in your humidifier. The PG solution will prevent mold from forming and also keep your RH level at a steady 70%.

Thanks and happy smoking!
 
Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR, Inc.

April 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

April 30, 2013

 

Kurt's Corner

 

     Tim, one of my partners, compares marketing to a diamond – many facets that must each have polish, almost to perfection, to create the ulitmate value of the whole.  A single flawed element (in marketing that could be pricing, product or promotion, for example) can wipe out the value of other elements done very well. I view “Management” similarly. 
     Certainly few business activities have more value than the finding of the right people.  At XIKAR, we use interviews, resumes and a “work culture” survey to indicate work style and inherent traits, making sure they fit both the company culture and the job activity – “getting the right people in the right seats” to paraphrase Disney and others. Getting this right, getting high performers who emulate, even live the culture, prevents most problems and facilitates the other facets of management.
     Once at XIKAR, our associates deserve to understand our goals, and should be able to guide themselves by them. We accomplish this by setting overall objectives and then by including them in defining the specifics.  We then leave strive to provide the right amount of autonomy,  with the authority,  to achieve that responsibility.
     Associates also deserve recognition and reward.  We often hear that recognition is the more important of the two.  In my experience, both are required, but of the two, recognition is the harder to give. That’s not because we don’t give it or don’t want to, but because it includes and means much more than congratulating them on a job well done.  It also means recognizing their value to the organization and the value of their input by including them in the ideation and strategy process.  As a result, many of our ideas,  such as our best selling lighter, the Element, come from inside the team.
     And perhaps in our most important facet of management, we strive every day to treat our associates as we expect to be treated.  At XIKAR, we try to create a meritocracy of ideas.  At the trade show this year in July, we will introduce a new era of humidification technology that results from brainstorming, deep study and the outcome of many people synthesizing each others ideas.
     Finally, I view safety as the glue that binds the facets.  As long as we each are focused on innovation and extraordinary customer experience, then team members don’t risk when they take a chance on ideas.
     Hopefully, our diamond of Management creates XIKAR for Life among our team. And when you call, we hope you hear that in our voices and see that in our actions – and make XIKAR for Life your mantra too!

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR, Inc.

XIKAR Nation - Hall of Fame Inductee, Carolee Martin, Border Management Task Force, Afghanistan

XIKAR’s Hall of Fame Nominee:  Carolee Martin XIKAR: Hall of Fame Inductee Carolee Martin

XIKAR, Kurt Van Keppel - President & Founder, Scott Almsberger, VP, Jerry Dear, EVP and Bob Moreno, Director of Marketing, are very proud to announce our first XIKAR Nation "Hall of Fame Inductee" Ms. Carolee Martin.  Carolee is in Afghanistan, as part of the Border Management Task Force. Carolee has been very instrumental in coordinating XIKAR products to camps and troops in remote areas of Afghanistan.  Her goodwill and support build the spirit of our troops. Read below and learn more about our Hall of Fame inductee.  Congratulations to Carolee Martin and its our honor... and she loves cigars!

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