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I keep threatening to do a video on the WhiteBoard Method, but admittedly, I haven’t.
In The Beginning
Throughout my life I have followed the directions of others. When I was 17 I had zero direction of my own. My dad wanted me to go to the Air Force Academy. I didn’t get accepted, so I did what any smart kid would do, I enlisted. Well maybe I wasn’t so smart.
After completing the Security Police Academy, I started work. Walking circles around airplanes at 4 am wasn’t my idea of a good time or a good job. My boss said take some classes get your G.E.D. and he could reduce the time you spend walking around airplanes. That was easy, I did what he told me to do.
At some point I realized that Security Police was not going to be my life career so I looked around my little world. All of the big bosses were pilots so I set out to be a pilot. Not because I had any direction but because that was the highest level of success I had understood at that time.
Building a Business
Desert Storm aka the Gulf War started while I was in pilot training. At first there was a knee jerk reaction, lots of pilots might die, we need to get you ready quicker. Then it ended in a matter of days and the knee jerked the other way. Suddenly they didn’t need pilots. I was close enough to graduation, I was able to stay and actually fly an airplane in the Air National Guard. the bad news was the budget had been cut so fast and so deep in the next 24 months that I was working 3 or 4 days a month, and that doesn’t pay the bills as a reservist or Air Guard pilot.
Out of necessity I started pulling wires for a friends business. Wanting a little more money I started a business contracting that work out to my friend and his competitors. The business grew at triple digit rates and I had no idea what I was doing. I just kept doing.
Eventually that business was sold, and everyone thought I was a business genius. The next two didn’t work out so well. By the fourth business I started making a living again and didn’t need a side job at night. Flying picked back up and I changed to a better airplane in the Air Force Reserves. The job in the reserves landed me in the middle east several times. It was those lonely days where I started making notes on large white boards to solve problems we were having with airplanes, people and anything else that came up. I didn’t realize it would be the early stages of the whiteboard method.
My fear of being broke, created a work ethic few can understand. The problem is that I just worked for the money. Nothing else mattered. Then I met my wife, I started working a little smarter, and less harder. She had a good job, one that her parents and teachers said she should do. She too had no direction of her own. It might be why we got along so well back then.
Some years ago, halfway between meeting my wife and today, she was diagnosed with Cancer. Friday morning we went to the hospital for some tests and Monday she was going in for surgery. That weekend is when I realized that I had been doing what other people thought I should do my entire life.
Friday night, we were told that she may only have 90 days to live if the surgery doesn’t get all of the tumors. Yes that is plural. She had been the most stable thing in my life. The one thing I thought I could count on. All the way home I kept asking “What do you want to do?” having no idea she was trying to digest that she many only have 90 days to live.
The drive from the hospital to the house was about an hour. As we pulled into the driveway she finally said something. She said “I don’t want to die.”. At that time I had a very large whiteboard installed on the wall in my garage. It was my thinking space. It was where I solved problems for my business, my employees and it was about to become the place I solved my wife’s problem in a new way.
Looking at the board, as we got out of the car, I said, “I have an idea, can you grab a bottle of wine and two glasses?” She walked into the house and I wiped three months worth of work from the whiteboard. In that moment none of that work mattered. I started at the blank white space and thought, how do you map out the best 90 days anyone can ever have?
Using the same techniques that I used to problem solve, I figured instead of “pros and cons” or “costs and benefits” or “risks and outcomes” that I used for other problems, this one was all about her “wants”. I started with two columns, “Want” and “Don’t Want”. Part of her meetings with doctors on that Friday included a session with a Psychologist who talked to us individually about our stresses and anxieties. He separated us so she wouldn’t bias her answers. They believe stress is a major factor in Cancer and this was where her treatment began.
At home I thought, maybe we should be separate there too. So I made another area for me with “Wants” and “Don’t Wants”. I realized quickly that we can somehow achieve more than we imagined without any direction. I had been rolling the dice every day up until this point. It turned out to be part of her stress.
I wrote “Don’t Want To Die” on her “Don’t Want” column to get her started. As I sat there I remembered some marketing training that the brain doesn’t understand negative language so we subconsciously read “Don’t want to die” as “Want to die”. I didn’t like that so I erased it and moved it to the want side simply writing “Live”.
We each started very slowly. As the wine flowed the boards began to fill. It didn’t take long to see two things. Each of us could quickly point out inconsistent areas on the others board. More importantly we could see the conflicts between us. It opened up a whole new approach to marriage negotiations that we still use to this day.
Every year we use the WhiteBoard Method to reset our goals and make sure we keep moving forward. If you need help moving your life and business forward, give it a try. If you need more than that, give us a call.
Can you really have a Pizza Problem?
For those of you that know me, you know I am a bit intense. I think my wife is getting worried that I have a pizza problem. Like most things I do, I’ll dabble first and see if I like it, then I’ll press on or go find something else to do. Some might say I have a little bit of attention deficit disorder to boot. I disagree, it just means that I find some things boring, and other things engaging. Sometimes I know what I don’t like very quickly, like watching anything.
Stagnation is death
Sitting around doesn’t work for me either. I have done the work, and I know exactly why I don’t like sitting around and watching things. As a young boy if my parents caught me in the house during the day, the belt came off. It was seldom used if ever, but the threat felt real. I know this is why I need to be at work or outside doing something. Surfing is my normal first choice, but I have been known to fly jets, race cars and do other things most people only dream of or watch on TV.
I have been fired twice in my life. Once was from a major retailer. I hated the job and was just too chicken to quit. They did both of us a favor letting me go. The other was my first “real” job. I got hired at “Danny’s Pizza”. The place that started the “Pizza Factory” chain. I liked it there, my friends and neighbors worked there, but for some reason I was terrible. Danny didn’t actually fire me, he just didn’t have any hours for me on the schedule for three weeks in a row. It was a kick in the butt I needed.
I stayed friendly with Danny and his family, and still chat with them from time to time. They are great people that were starving while starting a small business and they didn’t have the time or the funds to waste training me. I totally get it. I sucked at making pizza. For whatever reason I just didn’t get it. The problem was I really liked pizza and watching Danny grow the business was a great lesson for anyone that wants to succeed.
One little shop in a small town has turned into a small empire. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I know those are bad words in todays world, but those are the facts.
Becoming a Pizzaiolo
Among all of the things I do here at the Bourquin Group, I do stay in close contact with several clients. One was a pizza shop. They went from almost bankrupt to selling at a very nice profit in under 36 months. I was glad to be a part of that transformation. That client also reminded me that I had never learned to make pizza.
It began as a test to find a good gluten free crust. I made dozens of pizzas. Mastering the gluten free crust was a challenge but not near as fun as tossing a pizza the right way. While traveling Europe a few years back I started eating gluten again. Just not glyphosate tainted US gluten. I had no issues with it and learned I may have a minor glyphosate intolerance.
I found organic wheat, grown in Italy and started learning to make pizza. It took almost two years of making pizza every Friday to finally perfect the dough. Another three to six months was spent learning to toss the dough and stretch it properly.
Once I had that down to a science, the real journey began, learning how to make a proper Italian “Margherita” Pizza and a proper French Marseille style pizza. Both claim to be the birthplace of Pizza. I learned from the food trucks in Marseille and the masters in Naples that scissors work better than a wheel.
I then started down the gourmet path. In the back of my head I wanted to own a Pizza place. I don’t want to be Pizza Factory, Danny does a great job and I still like eating there. So for the past year I have been working on the idea for Three Blades Pizza. Creating the pies, crafting the cocktails and creating an operations manual. Soon I hope to add gourmet pizza restaurants to our portfolio. I just hope my wife doesn’t divorce me or quit eating pizza first.
If you need to livestream an event, we might have a solution for you.
Live-streaming an event can quickly become a daunting task. Especially if you are part of the event. While there are some great live-streaming setups like the Mevo, it is still better if someone manages it and watches the video for you. Sometimes the most important part of the live stream is the audio. If people can’t hear what is going on, they tune out.
We have been producing live stream shows like CoolToys TV and Beach Street News for several years. This experience can be a big benefit to your live stream events. We have live-streamed graduations for medical programs and weddings in addition to our own shows and events.
Rent and Run Solutions.
When you need to make sure that your livestream looks like it matters, we can help. We have everything from single camera web video systems to Television studio and cinema grade cameras. We can livestream your event in HD and in some cases 4K UHD.
Just because you only have a small venue for the dream wedding, milestone birthday party or graduation doesn’t mean you can’t invite everyone. All of our packages include a private event with feedback from the Fan2Stage virtual audience system at no extra charge. Even virtual guests can cheer when the big moment comes!
Cost Effective Live Streaming
When you have just one big event, yes you can go out and buy all the gear. You might even get it to work in time and get a live stream channel all set up and paid for. Is it worth it for just one event? Not Always. Sometimes it makes sense to hire a live streaming company just like you hire a wedding photographer. The gear is different and the way the process works is different. Live streaming is live. Yes you can fix the final shots later, but during the show, you get what you get, so you want to get it right.
It is harder to think like your customer than you think.
In the 1970’s when my uncle started his photography business, his job was to make things look good. With film and expensive processing, every shot mattered. Today anyone with an iPhone can take 500 shots of a product and get one pretty good one. As the market became more saturated, buying habits changed. More importantly we began to tune out the noise of marketing. Too many ads were polluting our landscape.
Build It and They Will Come
The movie “Field of Dreams” makes an interesting statement, and it is about half right. If you build what a customer wants, where they want it, they will come. The first three rules of real estate is of course “Location, Location and Location”. McDonalds has an amazing ability to find locations that will pay off. The real estate many of their restaurants sit on is more valuable than the restaurant itself, and it wasn’t when they bought it.f
This is true of all businesses to some extent. If you build in the wrong location, your customers won’t come. A surf shop in Fargo North Dakota isn’t likely to be the town hang out. Stop by any of the surf shops on Main Street in Huntington Beach or along Waikiki Beach and there are plenty of customers. Even during a lockdown.
The Internet Changes Everything
One think about location is the internet. While not technically a location, it is like real estate. Being in a location that is easy to find and access isn’t easy or cheap. Selling online has become a very expensive proposition. Local stores are now competing head to head with Amazon, NewEgg and WalMart online. Once upon a time Wal-Mart was the bad guy for putting small shops out of business. Amazon is changing the game completely.
The biggest issue today is price competition and online service. Just this week I wanted some hangers for my garage. I use Flow-Wall for just about everything. I didn’t want to wait three to five days for the right parts online so I ran to Home Depot to buy a Gladiator basic kit. It worked perfectly and they price matched Amazon. Think like your customer and can you survive on Amazon pricing?
Do They Need You?
Steve Jobs gave an iconic speech the day he introduced the iPhone. He told the world they had a problem that they didn’t even know about and he was going to solve it for them. He was thinking like the customer and proving it. To bad he didn’t have Fan2Stage to hear the applause of the world.
As my Uncle approached retirement, his son, had the opportunity to take over the business. He thought product photography was dead and there fore there was no need for the business. He was right in a way. As I said before, anyone with an iPhone can take a descent photo of a product and put it in an online catalog. Oddly, the direct mail industry is still one of the largest industries for advertising spending. The business changed, and video is a key player now. In addition to creating online, print and direct mail ads we make a lot of videos for clients. A photo of the iPhone introduction speech would not have the same impact. That speech was important not only because of how Steve Jobs delivered it in person, but in how he delivered it to the world. Video has impact. It is the new product photography.
One thing that hasn’t changed throughout history is that we like to do business with people we like. You can force all the rules you want, but we still have the freedom to decide who to work with. When you go to the other side of the table and sit in your customers chair, do you like what you see?
After spending what should have been my first two years of college in the military, I became very dull. I wanted to get in, get the job done and leave. While I quickly became one of the top engineers in the budding field of networking, my business only succeeded because the demand way outpaced supply. Today that isn’t true and if I walked into a client with that same military no-nonsense style, I would lose 90% of my work.
Guardians and Angels
As a business owner, you become the guardian of your customer. Even if you are selling them donuts, you are their guardian. If your donuts let them down they won’t be back. Some businesses still make a profit in spite of themselves. This happens when the demand for the product or service is far greater than the ability of businesses to supply it. Over time though, equilibrium will occur or worse. Sometimes the profits are so high in the beginning that too many people join the market and it crashes.
In 2006 the home entertainment systems market began a three year tumble to the bottom. Every day I walked into the office another brand was demanding that I buy more demo gear. It didn’t take long to realize they were just cleaning house before closing the doors. One of my favorite companies went bankrupt and resurrected twice before being acquired. Another never truly recovered because technology changed. In 2009 almost 70% of all the high end home entertainment brands were gone.
The biggest problem the home entertainment system industry had was a lack of angels. The business grew so fast starting in 1993 that the business didn’t act like the guardians of their customers. When that happens, the customers are not your Angels. You need Angels to be the evangelists for your business. The most expensive customer is a new customer. The best customer is a free referral customer from an Angel.
Our business provides technology and marketing services to other businesses. Our job is to think like your customer, and provide you with the technology you need to get the job done and the marketing services to help your customers find you. It sounds easy, and I can tell you after 20 years in the family business, it is a lot of very rewarding work.
The first thing I ask frustrated owners is “Do you celebrate in your business?”
You might wonder why I consider it an important question. Ceremony and Celebrations go back to the beginning of recorded history. Early man celebrated a good hunt. Every religion has a host of holidays to celebrate the hero’s and stories of their history. Ceremony’s are a special kind of celebration. When morale is low in a business, many times the first step is to start with a ceremony or a celebration. Once though, the owner told me he “hated people”.
Ceremony or Celebration, What is The Difference.
A ceremony is a celebration. Not all celebrations have a ceremony. Birthday parties are sort of a foggy middle. Yes we get older but nothing feels like it changed. A ceremony marks a change of some kind. Graduating High School for many is a big ceremony. Since the early days of organized civilization there have been ceremonies to crown Kings and in military circles, change commanders. These ceremony’s set the tone for the new boss.
In your business, if you promote someone, a small ceremony may be in order. A big announcement may be in order too, depending on how big the news that justifies the ceremony. Ceremonies quickly lets everyone know about the promotion and gets the employee started on the new path. The ceremony also helps them leave the old position behind so that the new person can step into the job.
In business ceremonies, there are ribbon cuttings for new buildings, promotion announcements, retirement ceremonies and of course educational ceremonies. If your business has a difficult training program, there should be a ceremony to let the graduates know that now is the time to get to work.
Sometimes a full ceremony isn’t warranted but a little celebration is. Holiday parties are common, but what about celebrating a banner year. What about landing that big contract, kicking off a new ad campaign or launching that new product? Can a positive start help the success of the person, the ad campaign or the product? Of course it can. Can a negative start hurt? Yes, it can.
Think about the business you want to run. I hope it is one with a little ceremony and a lot of well earned celebration.
Our family has been in the marketing business since the 1970’s and these 5 simple rules of marketing are part of our “Secret Sauce”.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Why share your secret sauce?” The truth is the when it comes to marketing a business, it is a lot harder than it looks. No matter how much money you spend, if you don’t spend it in the right places, it won’t matter. While our focus is mostly on the field of online marketing, offline is still a very important marketing tool for many businesses.
The 5 simple rules of marketing come from many years of study, both in college and in the field. The thoughts and the process have been handed down from the first generation to the next. Even before marketing the business, my father was a political marketer developing campaign slogans for politicians and they were normally the winners. I could count these down backwards, but if you read them and execute them backwards it won’t work.
Simple Rule of Marketing Number One
Be consistent. If your marketing message changes with the wind, customers get confused. This is true in politics and in business. If your car wash is the “premier car wash” and then a month later you are the “highest volume” or “lowest priced”, the customers won’t know if they should trust you. I have a car that sits in the garage that I usually hand wash. From time to time I take it to the premier “hand wash” car wash. The place is very expensive and a regular wash takes at least an hour. Everything about the place says “premium”.
The same company also has a mid range drive through I take the Cooltoys TV Jeep too. After all it is a Jeep. That wash is still almost $20. For my every day car which I paid $3000, I go to the “high volume” and “best value” drive through car wash in town that has free vacuums. At each place, each car fits right in.
Simple Rule of Marketing Number Two
Know your customer. This might sound funny, but the reason that I turn down clients most often is that they refuse to define their customer. Lets face it, not everyone will go to a $100 car wash. Nor will they go to a $5 DIY spray booth. I don’t care what business you are in, you serve a very very small part of the population. Even WalMart and Target don’t serve “everyone”.
One of the best techniques of marketing that we use here, is to find your “best customer” describe them in one or two paragraphs and then find some random photo that can be that person. All of our clients have that paragraph and photo in the front of their file, so we know who we are writing ads too.
Simple Rule of Marketing Number Three
Know Where Your Customer Is. This might sound funny, but it is extremely important. If your customer is in a gated community, you don’t want to pay for fancy door hanger flyers that will never get there. You might part a big van just outside the gate that says “Best Car Wash” or “Best Pizza”.
If your customer is a high school teen that has a sever case of FOMO then you advertise on mobile friendly services. Your customer can be “on a phone” or “in a car” or “on a bus”. Ad placement in places where your customer isn’t is a big waste of money.
Simple Rule of Marketing Number Four.
Know Your Customers Triggers. Every customer has a slightly different trigger. For most kids today it is FOMO, the fear of missing out. In marketing that is the “fear of being left behind”. This is slightly different that the “need to belong”. If you sell tech toys, maybe you are looking for customers that “need to be first”. There are about a dozen well known marketing triggers.
If you know who your customer is, and where they are, figuring out their triggers is pretty easy. Here is where you can start A/B testing ads. An A/B test is a way to try two or more triggers and then eliminate the one that performs the least.
Simple Rule of Marketing Number Five
The Customer You Have Is The Best Customer. This rule is the one that cable companies, airlines, credit cards and cellular companies ignore. All of them are in a semi-saturated market and want a monopoly. So instead of giving the best deal to existing customers, they give it to new customers hoping you won’t switch back when the good deal ends. 70% don’t.
What those companies lose out on is the long term ability to upsell and get referrals from the customers. The ultra high end car wash gives you your 11th wash free. They also offer a $2000 paint protection package. Yes $2000. How is that for an upsell? How many people do you think leave their home for a $2100 car wash day? Getting the $2000 sale from the new customer is very hard. I didn’t get the offer for the paint package until my third visit. They knew I trusted them with my favorite car at this point.
In our business over 70% of our new clients are referrals. Who do you think gets the best holiday baskets each year, our new customers or our long term customers. Those baskets still cost less than the cost to acquire a new client.
If you aren’t sure if your marketing plan is following these simple rules of marketing, give us a call for a free evaluation.
When asked “How Much should I spend on marketing?” my answer is usually “It depends.”
When a business starts out, it has no income, and must spend some money on marketing. Let’s look at my latest book, the Easy Guide To Internet and Network Stuff. If we treat the book like a business it makes a good analogy. If you publish a book without marketing it, there is a 99.9997% chance no one will ever buy it. The same is true with starting a business without any marketing. Even a donut shop needs a sign everyone can read a block away. You need a marketing budget before you start your business and a marketing goal.
The Business of Books
Before the Book’s business is started, I did research, paid for drawings, and a book cover. The next step was to have an editor go through the book and find the glaring errors. When you start a business it is a lot like this isn’t it. First you need to have an idea, then you need to write it down and show it to others to see if you are missing anything. This process is time consuming and can cost a bit of money.
Once the manuscript is complete, I need to decide if I want to self publish or try and find a publisher. Many publishers want a “marketing commitment” before looking at books like mine. This is sort of like trying to rent office space and the landlord wants proof that you can pay them for a year. Self publishing is a bit like working from home or “bootstrapping” a business.
In either case there is going to be a cost of time and money to market the book. For this book it was the self publishing route and bootstrap marketing. The first thing I did was the “free” stuff. Posting on facebook, instagram etc. When I set up Books, I expected that I would get four reposts, 10 likes and 1 sale from the “free” effort. I use that as a bellwether to see if I should spend more marketing the book. The first sale came within 15 minutes, so I started the marketing campaign.
The Marketing Budget
When a business has a long running history, the marketing budget is usually pretty close to industry norms. There are some outliers though. Some speaker companies for instance have marketing budgets in the 50% range. They also have a lot more profit in their product so losing 50% of the margin to marketing isn’t difficult. If you only have 2% margin like grocery store, losing half of that would make it nearly impossible to survive.
Simple rule, the higher your margin the larger your marketing budget. While not always true, it is a good way to start out in the right mindset.
The idea of a marketing budget is to spend some of the “profit” on maintaining current customers and some on getting new customers. I want people who buy Books to come back for Books 2 and 3. I also want to attract new customers. But how much do I budget before there are sales.
From the first business I have owned, all the way to books. I budget anywhere from 20-50% of the gross margin to marketing. For Books, my target number is 70%, but more on that in a minute. Because I prefer to bootstrap my businesses, I start with a “hustle number”. I want to sell x number of Books without spending any money. Next is the Launch phase. I will keep hustling and I will spend $x per customer.
The Value of a Sale
Figuring out the x value of a client is harder than you think. In this case because books is used as a leader to my main business, the value of a book sale could be $10 or more on a $10 book. Let me explain this thought process. If I sell 100 books at $10, and two of those people call and get a quote, then one signs a contract for blog services, I could have $2500 in margin for that year of blog services.
If my end game budget is 30%, that means that I am willing to spend 30% of the $2500 margin to get the new customer. That is $750. That means I would be willing to spend $750 plus the $250 profit from the books to sell 100 books. $1000 in marketing budget to sell 100 books. In a sense I am giving away the “Books” business to build the BG Marketing business.
Profit and Margin
Keep in mind the difference between gross margin and profit when determining the value of a client. Profit is the money left after all the bills are paid. A lot of new business owners get this wrong and it costs them. My goal with the book is to sell 5000 books this year. That puts it on the top of the Amazon best sellers list for the category. I want to make $1000 for my efforts. That is about 20 cents per book. The rest is the overhead for running Books, the business.
There are copyright fees, legal fees, tax filing fees, artist fees and even shipping fees for signed copies. All of this adds up, and then I need money for marketing too.
The Myth of Getting Rich With Books
The biggest problem I run into is business owners saying things like “I made 1 million last year” and yet they have no money. The gross margin on sales might have been $1 Million, but the profit, which is their income, might only be $50,000.
Recently I met a business owner who also released a book. He thought the income from the book was going to save his business. I didn’t set up Books to get rich. I set it up to build my main business. Tony Robbins doesn’t make money selling books. He sells books to sell seminars. Stephen King cranks out a novel a year to make the money he does. It is the only thing he does.
Marketing Budgets for Success.
If you start a business and have no money left for marketing, you are the marketing. You need to get out and hustle. I highly recommend that no matter what. Owners that hustle make it, owners that wait for customers don’t. 30% is a very common number for a marketing budget. This means that if I sell a book for $10, and it costs me $4, I will put $1.80 into marketing the book. For things like books and articles that are actually marketing pieces themselves, I spend closer to 70% on marketing.
The Easy Guide to Internet and Network Stuff might make the best seller list for it’s category this way, but it won’t make me rich selling Books.
If you are asking if your network is set up right, it probably isn’t.
The good news is that there is an easy way to know for sure with the Easy Guide to Internet and Network stuff. Bourquin Group founder and technology expert Scott Bourquin has put together an Easy guide to help you understand what all those boxes do and don’t do.
When it is time to get your network set up in your home and office, you have a lot of choices. You can of course spend a lot of money and hope that the people you hire get it right. You can spend a lot of time researching all the parts to try and find the best. Or, you can get the highlights in the Easy Guide to Internet and Network Stuff.
Video calls from home are no longer the stuff of the Jetsons’. Now your network at home is just as important as your network at the office. For many of us, our home is our office. That isn’t likely to change any time soon. Distance learning, video classes and virtual audience technology are here to stay. If your network goes down, are you ready? The gear is getting smarter every day. It is also more reliable, so fixing problems isn’t that hard if you have a little help.
Knowing what each of the little boxes do all over the house is a great way to start. Understanding that more WiFi devices slows things down, might be just the little nibble of knowledge you need. If you work at home or run a small business, get your copy of The Easy Guide to Internet and Network Stuff today!
The Owners Play Academy is for business owners that feel like they don’t have any free time?
Years ago I was sitting with a client who said he had no time off. At the time I was still flying jets in the Air Force Reserves. He wanted to know how I found the time and ran TeleData Enterprises. I have to first share that TeleData was my first income producing business. Before that I owned Nedra Century Company. A very small auto parts business that specialized in 1965-1968 Ford Mustangs. I was so bad at that business that I still have parts in my garage and haven’t owned a Mustang in almost 20 years.
A Born Work-a-Holic
From a very young age my dad and both grandfathers taught me the value of work. If you finished your work, you could play. Get caught playing before finishing work and there were repercussions. Usually more work. Being the second son, but 10 years younger than my brother created what most shrinks would say is a “second first child”. My brother left for boot camp at 17. I did not know why he left when I just turned 8, but did the same thing my self just over 9 years later without finishing High School.
Before I enlisted I worked three jobs. The first one had terrible hours. The second was at a Pizza place where I was fired for not learning how to make a pizza. The third was selling cars, which ethically I hated. Each of these jobs had a huge influence on the work I chose and all are part of what brought me to where I am today. The pizza job haunted me. Pizza can’t be that hard I thought. The lesson was I was thinking too much about it. Today I have a pizza oven at home and am very confident you would enjoy one of my pies. The process is almost therapeutic now that I don’t think about it, I just do it.
Car sales taught me that I don’t want to sell anything to someone they don’t want or need. It is why we won’t own any website we manage like other companies that will rent you your own business name online. Selling real estate years later re-enforced that idea. My wife was forced to quit a major department store chain because she wouldn’t push credit cards on people who couldn’t afford it.
Work Pays and Costs
The work ethic that my Dad and Grand dads instilled in me paid off. Quickly I figured out the best way to goof off in the military is to get high scores and get your work done quickly. I considered the military experience to be a slightly socialist experiment. My bosses gave equal work to everyone at the same pay grade. Only three every pushed me to do more. If I was smarter about my work, got done quicker and finished my education classes, I was released to my own vices. Sometimes that wasn’t always good. Most of the time it gave me a level of responsibility and freedom few others in my group had. Most importantly, that freedom gave me a chance to get my GED and start some college classes off base.
Eventually, I left active duty to finish college. This was my first brush with being near homeless. I had no idea how to manage money, and didn’t know it was a problem. I was very fortunate to land a job at Stanfords Graduate School of Business installing computer networks. Something no one else was doing (yet). I was also lucky that I was able to find friends and family willing to give me a place to sleep or very very cheap rent.
I also had a skill in marksmanship that caught the eye of some very important people. While in college I remained on the National Guard Combat Marksmanship team. I earned a commission and later a pilot training slot because of the wins at major competitions. You would think I had it made.
Just six years after I enlisted, I finished pilot training at the tail end of Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force thanked me for my service and said they had no money to pay me. The job I got flying C-26’s in Fresno California let me fly two or three times a month. My pay was a whopping $400 a month. My truck payment was $395. I was right back in beggars mode without the excuse of being a “poor college student”.
When I became a “traditional guardsman” as a pilot, I needed a job and had to find a place to live. The airlines were not hiring and I had no money. A friend of mine worked for his dad, and they wouldn’t hire me as an employee, so I started a company and subcontracted to them. He also let me sleep on his couch for a month or so while I realized I didn’t know how to manage money.
The Right Place and Time
My little startup that was me, a bag of tools and a pickup truck was called TeleData Enterprises. TeleData started at a time when the internet had less than 500 registered domain names. A network in a home was un attainable and offices where just starting to network. I learned from the military and my pizza boss how to teach simple tasks quickly. This let me buy more trucks and hire techs to do what I considered almost mindless work.
When I was essentially homeless. One thing my parents were never good at was managing money. My Dad used our homes like an ATM and every five years we moved. He died nearly broke. I wasn’t good at managing money then either. The GI bill paid for most of my school, so all of my paycheck went into cars and beer. You can’t rent a house with no deposit money.
I “camped” for a couple of days before a friend took pity and let me crash on his couch. Thankfully I did have a new pickup which let me start my business. After the first couple of jobs were done, I called up my mom’s second husband. Someone I consider a great friend and mentor and asked to rent a room. Less than a year later I bought my first home.
The journey from the Air Force and Air National Guard saying “we don’t have flying money” to me getting married and owning three houses took just over 24 months. During that entire time I took exactly three days off. I was the owner that didn’t know how to play and it was starting to show in my physicals. I was still flying in the Air Force Reserves, and had landed a great job in a great squadron flying KC-10’s. My wife landed a teaching job at the same base.
Learning How Owners Play
As my business grew we moved out to the “country club” neighborhood. We had driven around it for almost two years dreaming of the day we could buy in. Then it happened. The worst house on the best lot was for sale, and in such poor shape that no one would look at it. This was a major learning event for me. I learned that real estate agents don’t care about the buyer or the seller. They just want the commission. I asked to meet the sellers and after listening to how they go to a point they were about to lose the house, I crafted a win-win offer. My agent said I was crazy, her agent said “no-way” and that evening she signed the contract.
Still working 80 hours a week between flying in the reserves and running TeleData, my wife made me attend a local chamber fundraising dinner. I reluctantly agreed. At that dinner we won a three night cruise. It was the first time my pager and cell phone would not work. As we pulled out of Long Beach Harbor, a level of angst and fear came over me I had never experienced, even in combat. This was quickly followed by the realization that it was done. I went to our stateroom and took a nap from 11 am to 7 pm. We had an 8 pm dinner at the captains table. I wore a full military dress uniform and was back in bed by 11 pm. My body was able to relax for the first time in years.
On that cruise I met a contractor. Like me he always was hustling for more work. He said “do the deal, get a check, take a vacation.”. While it sounded nice, it brought up the fear of having no work and losing everything like my Dad did twice. For the next two days I got a great lesson in money management for small business owners, and learned how to play. It was very much in line with what both of my grand dads taught me and except for the bad financial habits, my Dad.
Stepping off that cruise ship my life was very different.
When that conversation happened with the client a few years back, the idea for the Owners Play Academy started. If you are a business owner and need to find a way to get a little better balance in life, stop living to work, and start working to live. Sign up for the Owners Play Academy Today.
Naming a business or product can be tricky business.
It isn’t any secret that companies have secrets. They also have names. How to name a business can be a make or break decision. Names are something many companies work hard on and spend a lot of money to protect. Try and sell a soda called Cola-Coke. As soon as the folks in Atlanta get wind of it, the lawyers will run you out of business. This is why naming a business is so tricky.
Recently I was approached by a company to feature a product on COOLTOYS® TV. The person claimed to have complete rights to the name. A little research showed otherwise. Putting that product on our show might have led to a lawsuit. At the minimum the company that owns the name could make us pull the episode. That would be a very expensive way to not have a show for a week.
Business Products and names can be a very expensive creative process. Think about energy drinks and what comes to mind? Red Bull? Monster? Bang? If you just say those words, does “Energy Drink” pop into your head? With Red Bull yes, but Monster and Bang, probably not so much. Since Monster could be “Sully” from Monsters Inc, or Godzilla, the brand name is a little vague. But have you ever seen a red bull? I haven’t. The two words mean energy drink to me.
How To Name A Business
Automatically having a consumer connect a name to a product is a result of finding a great name and spending a lot of money marketing (building) that connection. I am sure the first time someone looked at a can of Red Bull and tasted it, the response wasn’t “Red Bull gives you wings”. That was a long creative process. My hat is off to the group that built that brand.
Many years ago I started a blog about all the cool stuff my wife didn’t want to talk about. Since I owned a medium sized home theater design and installation business, I had a lot of cool toys. Over time I started racing in the 24 Hours of Lemons and doing more “cool things”. Had I trademarked the name early on, I might have been in good shape but it was just a blog so I didn’t bother.
Years after I sold the home theater business, the blog turned into a vlog. I named the vlog Tech-Tach-Dough. Tech was obvious. Tach was all the fun toys that had an engine and dough simply being money. The three things I liked to learn about and talk about. The original blog name stayed with the blog.
Do Your Homework or Get a Lesson
At first the name Tech-Tach-Dough didn’t have traction, so I merged the blog and vlog under the blog name and found out that the name worked immediately. For legal reasons I can’t use the name here. The vlog took off and I turned it into a web series. As the show grew, an attorney suggested I trademark the name. That is where the problems began. Another company who I still believe still went way out of their trademark range, gave me a very expensive lesson in trademark law. Basically if they have money and you don’t, they win.
In 2007 when I started the Blog, they were a little company. In 2018 when the vlog became a web series and I was naming the show, they had grown. Over the course of the year that I spent fighting them, I didn’t pay attention to my other domain names. One of which I already had a trademark on. They were grabbed and the price to get them back is beyond their value to me.
Ironically, the Tech-Tach-Dough name was starting to get some traction because the early videos were starting get some fan recognition. Sort of the Red Bull type name thing. Once the connection is finally made it sticks. Unfortunately that is one of the domains I didn’t pay attention to and it was lost.
Moving forward I have an entirely different approach to naming my new ventures. Fan2Stage was an easy one to name, everyone in the test group got it, and we received the trade name with no contest. When you look at how to name a business, there are two ways to go. A name that makes sense and connects quickly, or a name that isn’t related and is unique. In the second one, the marketing is about the connection, so once made, it sticks.
What’s your business name doing for you?
If you need help naming your business or a new product, give us a call!