Friday, June 25, 2010

Without Further Ado

Becoming more creative, reflecting on life and its mysterious ways, and doing things for the right reasons are my marching orders for the rest of 2010. I’ve spelled it out in a somewhat cryptic way throughout the past 3 posts, but the point I’ve been trying to get at is that when you have a vision, a stance on something, everything else seems to fall in place to make that happen. Here’s what you can count on from me in the coming months.


Opening in late July, TEA will be located in the old Acme Comics space on State St. It’s going to fulfill a need for affordable ethnic cuisine, and hopefully be a great place to spend time. More details will come on this as we get closer to opening. Suffice to say, if you haven’t tried a Vietnamese Sub (Banh-Mi) then, this is a place you’ll want to check out if you live in the area, or are passing through.

Creative Video

I fired my video production partners that were taking for granted what a business relationship is all about, and have started my own company to produce viral “YouTube” style videos for small businesses. The first shoot went very well earlier this week in Charleston, and I hope to do a lot more with this throughout the summer and fall. Once we’ve got 3 or 4 shoots under our belt I’ll build a website business around this concept, till then if you are interested email me.

Another Book

Many moons ago I promised a new SEO book with strategies that have worked well for our clients in the past year. I am still committed to doing this, and might actually make this a Vook. Stay tuned for more details.

On another note, my catalogue of books should migrate over to the iBookstore later this year. I’ve been in touch with a company that specializes in this sort of thing, and we should start getting titles in the iBookstore before too long.

More Services with a Personal Touch

To know your clients is to interact with them. I’ve taken steps to get closer to my clients in the past few months, and will continue to do so for the life of my business. Learning from them is priceless, and while I don’t always LOVE what they tell me, I ALWAYS appreciate the feedback in the long run. In this vein the company will launch more client focused services this year, not only built on client demands, but with the idea of interacting with the clients on a regular basis.

Making Things Better

My dad always tells me you can always make things better, at least when we talk about doing presentations for clients at Newsplex. I’ve taken heed to this advice, and will continue to work on making our services that are currently available better, and those that are causing issues will get shut down.

If you have an idea, insight, or just want to share some feedback, please leave a comment below.

Not The Money

I could care less about money, in thirty, forty, or if I’m lucky 50 years I’ll be dead. Money will buy me what at that point? And until then, is it supposed to be the end all be all? Sure I need money to pay my mortgage, bills, dog food, and internet access, but that’s about it. Having some money is essential, but really other than that I could care less.

What I do care about is winning. I care about creating winning concepts, bringing visions to life that actually does SOMETHING for SOMEBODY. In other words, I’m in love with the idea of rearranging things in life for the betterment of the citizens of life. Seriously, that’s what boils my crawfish, plain and simple.

Here is why a seemingly random few paragraphs above is so important for you to know, when you forget the money, everything falls in place in business.

When you get into a business for the money you are doomed to fail for nothing more than taking your eye off the ball, a business has and should always be about delivering a solution to a customer problem. Don’t open a batting cage in a football town, or sell firewood in a forest. Instead look at the real needs, even if they are ironically based on the depressing facts of life.


Unemployment is at an all time high, the information economy has replaced factory jobs. Now is the perfect time to train those that need it most. By giving people a path to fulfill their dreams, you can fulfill your own. The money in education, subsidized and private, is substantial. The framework however isn’t about the money, it’s about the absolute need for helping people become assets in the internet age, the wealth from doing that will follow.

Commercial real estate vacancy rates are at record highs. Finding a way to help property owners and managers fill their spaces might be more simple than one might think, people are constantly concocting crazy business ideas, and with a open-minded property owner these folks might just get their low-risk shot at trying these nutty ideas out. You, the connector of the two, have a replicatable business model that would pretty much sell itself to the thousands of strip mall owners nearing bankruptcy.

I could go on and on, the point is when you focus on helping people you inadvertently create phenomenal business ideas. Some don’t work, idealists fail all the time, but that is the norm in life, some things work, some things don’t, at least following this path will ensure that when something does work, it REALLY works.

When I Was 23

Life was like a cresting wave of happiness, swelling nearly every day to greater heights than ever before. Teaching had me around incredibly optimistic individuals, otherwise known as college kids. To be able to teach at that age was a gift, being young enough to relate to the students in ways most are not was priceless. For all of us back then life was at our beck and call, ready to be tamed with our remarkable ideas and unmatched skills. The positivity of youth is intoxicating, the beauty of the campus, the tranquility of life without a bevy of clients to please, it all brought new meaning to the word relaxed.

When I was 23 it wasn’t about what you did each day as much as it was about how you did it. Were you feeling well? Was your girlfriend by your side, or were you still trying to find one? Tough questions that seemed at the time to be the weighty issues of life, framed around how you did things, and how they fit in with your peers. Friends at that age were still a lifetime equation, being so tight then, how could life ever separate us? Beautiful naivety.

When I was 23 coffee was so strong, a small cup had me up all night.

I’m 30 now, and most days I wonder where I parked my truck, or how my neighbor got his lawn to look like a PGA grade golf course. I care so much less about what others think, but just as much about being heard. I want ten kids now, back then I was terrified of the word parent, nonetheless the idea of being one.

I drink coffee now like a five-day parched traveler in the desert consumes water. A cup is never enough, and even when my hands are shaking from the insane amount of caffeine in my system I consider having more. 14 hour workdays are the mandate for the head of a small internet startup. In a way I’m the person I didn’t want to be at 23, yet feel like I’m living a dream at 30. How dreams change…

30 is cool I guess, I appreciate people more, and realize that life moves fairly quick, and that of course like most people my age, I’ve concluded I know next nothing about anything. The word expert is meaningless to me at this point in my life.

Where were you seven years ago? Reflection helps us put in context all the things we have to be thankful for. I’d be curious to know what you were thinking then, and how it all seems to fit now. Leave a comment if you wish, with your seven year reflections.

Who Are You

Who are you? Who the hell are you? W-h-o a-r-e y-o-u? The question rings in my head from morning to night, it has ever since I read a tidbit Apple Founder Steve Jobs wrote in an email last month.

It all started when a blogger named Ryan Tate shot off an email to Steve Jobs questioning, among other things, the lack of porn made available on the iPad. You can read the play by play here. Rather than the context of the discussion, I focused more on a bit of brilliance from a man full of it at the end of an email sent in defense of his ideas. Steve Jobs gave a glimmer of insight if you will, a look at what seems to be the way society is heading, into a full-blown hypercritical group of conformist followers. As you might have heard the gesture before, if you’re busy always following, how much are YOU really leading? If you own the latest iPhone or laptop, does that make you innovative, or for that matter anything more than someone that paid for a gadget? It’s what you DO with the tools of production, not how fast you got it, or how many pictures you take of it.

Who are you?

The internet makes you anonymous, you can say what you want, because who can find you behind that computer screen. What you say on the computer is exactly what you’d say in real life, right? Wrong. Of course not, you would change your tone, adjusting from animal to human at the first sight of eye balls and flesh. Your digital you is so much different than the physical you. If we could get back to the human standards of real life interactions, and away from the entitlement-centered my every opinion matters crap, we’d all be better off.

Are you a critic?

Do you judge the work of others? If you don’t like a website, are you first reviewing how many you’ve built before speaking? Or a business model, or a restaurant, or flying an airplane, are you putting in the necessary credibility check before opening up your mouth, or are you certified to speak on the topic simply because you think your opinion alone is worthy of sharing, despite the fact it might disrupt the creative process of others.

Critics stifle innovation

Those that truly want to change things are best suited to crawl in a box, turn off all media, and create. Ever hear someone that just did something incredible say they didn’t read about their achievements or struggles in the papers or see it on TV, because they shut themselves off from it all? Me too, many a great innovator has been a diagnosed recluse. Not such a wonder why they’d do such a thing if you stop to think about it.

In the day and age of reality television judgment panels and uneducated bloggers claiming journalist credentials at White House military briefings, it is so easy to feel entitled. To feel as if we are anointed to critique others, as if just our mere opinion matters, having to substantiate that opinion is totally passé. It’s just about judging right off the bat, no matter how little you create, or how afraid you are to create, since you know the exact level of unfair criticisms that can come your way.

Are you really?

So are you really going to be so quick to make your mind up about innovations that cross your path each day, and the people behind them? Are you ready to shove it down their throats for no reason other than you can? You are better than that, and you have to make an effort to be so. I’m not here writing this like I never judge others, twice today I had to cut myself off when talking with a friend about so and so, and we all have a so and so on the tips of our tongues, so let’s all get off our high horses.

If we can be better to each other in the sense that we align ourselves with principles that makes us proud, rather than weak, and motivated, rather than melancholy, would we not be better off for such a thing? Then again, this is just my opinion, and some could say I’m judging the idea of judgment, but at least my intentions are in the right place.

“By the way, what have you done that's so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?”

Steve Jobs in response to Ryan Tate blogger for

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yes to Everybody: A No To Self

Yes, I’ll do it. Yes, I’ll be there. Yes, I’ll pay for it. Yes, I do want that extended warranty, and yes, I was hoping you’d bring some frozen meat to my door for purchasing. Yes, yes, yes. The more you yes, the more you end up putting a big fat no in your own plans.

A half decade or so ago when I quit teaching college speech, and forged ahead full time as an internet business creator I read that the most important word in business was in fact the word no. Learn to say no to people and you’ll get far in business and life many a book (including my own) have advised. Too many yeas and too few nays later I concur, no is better than yes.

While my plans are often off the wall, and rarely fit with what conventional minds would dare to plot to begin with, they are my plans. For this reason alone they should remain in tact. The more I’ve said yes over the years, the less I’ve been able to pursue these wacky plans, leaving me thirsty for more. Less is more, say no to most requests from others and get a yes from karma to execute your plans as you see fit.


This blog post is inspired by the many distractionary hiccups that I have to endure each day of my otherwise fantastic life coupled with an article Jovan Washington sent me yesterday dealing with the dangers of distraction. I’m sure you can relate, and thus I write this with great respect for those that already do say no, if you are a no person, I admire you. If you are like me, always saying yes, let’s not forget the great George Foreman’s appearance on the ill-fated ABC show American Inventor, in which he approved of nearly every invention presented to him. At last blush Mr. Foreman’s grills have made a few bucks over the years.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Every Action Has A…

Spring has pretty much come and gone, summer is ventilating heat here as it is across much of the country, the dog days are officially upon us. With the South Carolina heat comes reflection, it is after all easier to reflect when things slow down than it is when they speed up. Here is a reflection, dare I say lesson, on doing business in 2010.

Being self-employed definitely has its perks. Want to take an impromptu trip to Augusta to check out productivity software at the Apple store? No problemo, you’re the boss, go on your geek quest and indulge in the euphoria of utilizing the 3G feature on your iPad for the first time while you ride shotgun in your cushy Chevy Suburban truck. What’s that you hear? You have payroll due for two businesses, rent due for three locations, and a handful of rioting clients over a delayed turnaround time in services ordered? Turn the truck around, this geek adventure must wait.

While the example above is mostly hypothetical, the truth, pains, and stresses it illustrates are entirely real to me. For the better part of a year I’ve attempted to diversify my business interests in a hedge against any one business becoming victim to the economy.

Watching the Today Show this past Saturday morning sprawled out on my sofa that’s too small to fully lay down on, legs bent and all, I was privy to the advice uttered every year by a perky summertime fun expert turned TV personality. The advice to having a safe and fun summer at the beach goes something like this, when going swimming in the ocean be on the lookout for riptides, if you are swimming in the ocean and get taken by one, swim parallel to the shore, instead of towards it to stay alive. The logic being that if you swim with the current instead of fighting it, the end result will be life preserved. Much of my business ventures as of late have been riptide inspired.

Instead of boldly claiming our business is going to become recession-proof, which is a dumb phrase on so many different levels to begin with, we instead aim to navigate the recession-riddled waters of commerce with cautious aggression. Try to do as much as we can to hedge ourselves against going out of business, while still working to innovate by bringing new products and services to those that want them, this is the game plan we have followed to date. Sounds like a good plan right? Maybe not.

By cautiously but aggressively expanding we have in essence made our business vulnerable to the economy in new and different ways. Instead of dealing with one business that has to figure out how to keep customers coming back day after day, we are now forced to deal with three, or more depending on your definition of a unique business. It’s as if we swam with the current when caught in a riptide only to get bit by a jellyfish. Maybe the best bet all along was to stay out of the ocean all together.

Hindsight is 20/20, and critics are far too eager to analyze a business post problem. What is clear is that caution in business makes a lot of sense right now, staying in a core competency and executing a long-term plan also is a pretty good idea these days. Trying new things just because the economy sucks, unfortunately, is not.