The average household has 5 TV’s, hmm? Reason for thankfulness?

So I was sitting in the board meeting for the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce and the closing remarks from board chairman Bill Manson has me thinking. He told us that the average American home has five televisions. Think about that for a second, five televisions. He goes on to reflect that we Americans live in the richest nation in the world. We have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. Now I am not using the television as a barometer to measure wealth in totality here in America…I am looking at it as a small fact that makes you sit back and think.

One year ago this month, I decided to break away from another company and start my own business. For the past year, Sarah and I have been able to achieve more in one year than we have in the last four years of marriage. We have rid ourselves of all our medical debt, we have really started focusing on saving, we have spent more time thinking about giving not only money but time to causes we believe, we have helped our sister-in-law get through college, and we are closer than ever to starting a family. My little business is only a small part of this freedom of choice, but it has been more about empowering our future. Taking an active role in where we want to be tomorrow. So, I am thankful.

This past year, my mother has finally found her mate…one she can spend the rest of her life with; and I do not have to worry any longer. My sister has found someone who makes her day happy, and it is our hope that this relationship will flourish. Sarah has began to find the new her, after loosing her best friend…her mother to breast cancer three years ago and suffering three miscarriages over the last two years. Grief is a tough road.

I am not sure where business will take me next year? I have a good plan in place and focus on growth and continue to find the right people to work with…ones who want to do some fun stuff. I am looking forward to continuing teaching at Clemson…this is one area that I find the most joy. There is nothing better than walking in a room of tomorrow’s leaders and knowing that one day they will be taking care of me, in some capacity…why not help them along the way. For this I am thankful.

What do I want the most next year…not the gadgets that everyone knows I love, not the new car, not some crazy trip for vacation…I want to start a family. If it is our place to be able to have our own child this year…I think I will write about it every day on this blog. If it is our place to adopt, I will open my house with joy. I am 36 years old, turning 37 next March. If we have a child next year, I will be 57 when they turn 20 and in college. I will be 67 when they have kids…if they do so by 30. I want the opportunity to see my legacy. I want to see my tomorrow. I want to be able to support my family and do it with the passion I have for everything I put my heart into.  I want to be able to tell the story of my family just as much as telling stories for my clients. I want to start teaching my legacy just as much as I teach our legacy in Clemson’s classroom.

So I am humbled and thankful. This is not some cliche blog post where I am going to sell you a bunch of thankful stuff about turkey and world peace. I am thankful that I can get up in the morning, in the house I pay for everyday, working with the clients I love, next to the woman I adore, and share life with the family and friends that make breathing air so complete. We should be so thankful to be able to freely express our opinions, fight for our passion, share our values and ethics, and do it in a country…a place we can call home regardless how many televisions sit in our households. Thankfulness is contextual and this is my little thankful thought for the day.

Thanks Bill for helping me think and articulate why I am thankful this holiday season! We should be so thankful.

What is your story? What is your legacy? How are you sharing it with your tomorrow?

organize this digital life…the digital divide

Hi my name is Bobby and according to my wife, I am gadget freak. Yes, I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, PS3, AppleTV and on and on and on. I love gadgets. I love the accessories that go with these gadgets.

I love bags. No…I am not a guy with tons on man bags. I have tons of camera equipment, lighting equipment, cords, gizmos, and gadgets to do my job. Oh yeah…I have other bags for my laptop, iPad, books, etc. So I love the idea of finding the best bag possible to organize these things and make them  quickly assessable.  My life…my entrepreneurial life…my small business life…quickly assessable.

Digital Dependancy
Everyday, I use these things that we depend on so much in this new digital life. Google Calendar, Google Docs, MS Word, iCal, BaseCamp, Quickbooks, Mobile Me, iMail, etc, etc, etc. I use these everyday to organize and execute my life to serve my clients. OK…are you annoyed? Yes…I am. My head is spinning.

Think about your day. If you are a technology person or live in this Corporate Americano…we are influenced to use so many digital tools. We check our email, update our calendar, take notes, use the CRM, pull out the iPad, take notes on paper, save our contacts in three places…we try so hard. This is a true digital divide…dividing us between all the devices/software and efficiency.

Have you tallied up your communication and online communication costs?  How about the time invested in creating the best tool from a piece of open source code? Oh yeah, how much time do you spend sifting through emails or even multiple email accounts? How many newsletters are you getting each day? How many different passwords do you have to remember for each login between all of those technologies?

So…I put my foot down.
I spent more time stressing out about what I am doing next and where to find what I am doing next. Notice the last sentence was in past tense! Yes…I have an assistant, but using the “digital” to find the “digital” is creating a huge digital dependancy. Why do think we text, Tweet, and consistently review our digital device while driving…because we can and we hope we can stay in-tune with our information. We do not have a clear plan.

So I went old school!
Yep…I did it and I have a planner again. Yes, you know that organizer that is a day timer? Yep, it is about the size of my graduate school classical rhetoric book. Guess…what, it is WORKING. Also…It has me thinking about all this digital dependancy.

Because if you are surrounded by the crowd I am around (offline and online), then you are always hearing about the next big tool, next big CRM, next gadget, next organizational “do-dad”…and we try it. We are entrepreneurs, small business owners, and we want the edge…the edge to get ahead. We live technology and we are conditioned to believe that killing trees is not the answer…just a better gadget.

Back to basics.
Yes…I have moved to the planner full of paper, a calendar, organizational tools, place to take notes, place to journal. Oh, I still use my iPhone and iPad with the calendar so my assistant can keep up with what I am doing. I am getting rid of all the stupid newsletters and blog posts delivered. I am also using my hand to write. It is amazing how much this helps me clear my head and articulate my thoughts. Plus…if I can add 30 minutes of time back to my life each day, then that is more time with the things I love…my family.

Building Career Relationships Goes Beyond the Resume

When I think back over the course of my career…the one thing that I can say is that I have never gotten a job because of a resume. Every job I have gotten has been based on a relationship….the resume was a formality in the job hiring process – HR required it for my file.

As I work with students and other professionals, it has been my philosophy it is not what you know..it is who you know. When teaching on a collegiate level especially in a business writing class; i do not teach how to write a resume…I teach how to build relationships to get the resume in the right hands.

It is my belief that that the hand shake is today’s resume in the business world. During a recessionary time period, employers are being flooded with resume’s after resumes. Even a janitor job in Ohio received over 700 job applications…WOW. In a slumping economy, it is important to find ways to separate yourself away from the pack.

Think…does two pieces of paper listing your job history, education, experience, and qualifications accurately represent your abilities, personality, and willingness to be a vital part of an organization? Why do you think so many employers want to interview the person before they are hired. Imagine if you spent just as much energy when applying for a job figuring out the name of the hiring manager or decision maker, then put yourself in a position to meet them and shake their hand.

Some say that the origin of the hand shake came from Medieval Europe where kings and knights would extend their hands to each other and grasp the others’ hand as demonstration that each did not possess a concealed weapon and intended no harm.

The hand shake communicates lots of different non-verbal cues but ultimately it is a product of relationship building.

Why do we spend so much time building a resume. Well, it is an educational/professional process to organize our background, qualities, education, honors, etc. into one place. It is a snap shot of who we are and what we represent professionally. It is tremendous exercise to go through the process of compiling a resume. This forces the job seeker, to organize thoughts so that when we meet with other professionals…this writing process has organized our thoughts. It is a starting point for conversation and can be a reference when filling out a job application. It is my opinion that the resume is not the “end all be all.”

There is more to a job or joining an organization than the ability to organize our resume. We should spend just as much time, actually more time building career relationships as we do putting together a resume. We should be teaching students and professionals how to network, make “elevator pitches”, shake hands…ultimately building relationships.

Working On and/or In Your Business – The Crucial Distinction!

As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, one of the hardest challenges faced is how to balance time between working in the business and working on the business. That in lies a critical distinction. For a business like mine here in the Upstate of South Carolina, I have to consistently looks for ways to refine and strengthen my business model. I am a Storyteller and I make money off of telling others’s stories using video, digital media, and social media.

If you are self-employeed or own a small business, you have probably started at day one doing both. It goes in cycles, you spend lots of time growing your business and when you take on clients, you then focus on serving those commitments. This is a good business cycle to have, so we should maximize our time and remember that when are not racking up billable hours, we need to grow our business.

Defining our terms:

Working On Your Business
This is when you are spending time and energy away from those billable hours to do the following:

  1. Business Development – seeking out new business opportunities, partnerships, or forging relationships and creating a plan.
  2. Working the Numbers – spending time not only servicing the books (finances) but also thinking strategically how to grow your business financially. Creating budgets for growth areas and contrast them with what is necessary to operate your business.
  3. Marketing – spending time working on your business message and delivering that message to the right audiences, using the right mediums. Creating and evolving your marketing plan and budget.
  4. Seminars/Conferences – spending time to grow as a business owner. Seeking out venues for you to meet like minded people and those who can help you grow.
  5. Rest – spending time away from your business to enjoy family and friends…the things that make you smile. ROR is crucial for reflection and critical for ROI.

Working In Your Business

  1. Generating billable hours – working with your clients to serve or satisfy your contractual obligations
  2. Business Development – executing time to pitch those clients, meeting prospects, generating proposals for your next set of billable hours.
  3. Servicing the Numbers – making sure that you are keeping up with your invoicing, liabilities, expenses, and operating costs. This is crucial to do weekly, monthly, then quarterly to get ready for Uncle Sam and his state friends.
  4. Servicing your relationships – writing thank you notes, taking a client to lunch, making follow-up phone calls, things necessary to be considered your clients “go-to” person.
  5. Marketing – executing daily, weekly, and monthly your marketing strategy.

It is my belief that a small business owner should spend the same amount of time on Working On Your Business as the billable hours your generate when you are working in your business. For every hour you bill a client, you should spend that same amount of time growing your business.

Web Strategy Firms are the New World Order

Times are changing faster and faster everyday. As technology evolves faster  than we can breathe…and as it evolves, we need people to help us with it, understand it, and sell us a strategy to implement.

Web strategy of 2010 has evolved into business communication strategy. Creating and monitoring revenue streams as we create and monitor conversations…well actually the technology that distributes these conversations and messages.

I think back to when I was in undergrad at Clemson. My freshman year (1992), no email and the only knowledge of the World Wide Web was this thing called Gopher. I remember I could use it to find my girlfriend’s class buildings at Appalachian State University. By my sophomore year, I had email and the WWW became a new idea on Clemson’s campus. By my junior year, Clemson was teaching web design and development classes. While I was in college, major AD & PR agencies were building strategic communication strategies and the computer geeks were creating webpages.

Now…here we sit in 2010, the new age AD Firm is the web/new media agency: building business models around web strategy as a communication plan that drives revenue. It started out as going paperless to save money, but now communication strategies are sold to drive revenue not only for the organizations that buy the plan but for the firms that are selling the strategy.

Why the discussion…I have been studying and trying to understand the evolution of the new media business models. Watching and researching the retainer models for web and new media firms that are not only creating an updated web presence but also building relationships with C-Level executives for long term ROI.

I have been talking and visiting with companies everyday who are caught in similar positions. They are staffed with creative professionals that handle all the graphic design and communication planning for their communication strategies. These companies are staffed with “traditional” media execution but scrambling to create and implement web and new media strategies. Many companies staffed with seasoned professionals trying desperately to get up-to-date with these web, social, and new media concepts. These same companies are staffed with interns that are training professionals how to evolve and adapt practitioner concepts into new technology.

Web strategy companies come in with big retainers and big ideas…visions of solving problems capitalizing on the current deficits in knowledge in many mid to large size organizations…”how can we make our web presence better and drive traffic to our message.” The new age AD Firm is today’s Web Firm….staffed with Presidents/CEOs, project managers, business development professionals, designers, developers and a board of directors. These board of directors made up of investors and visionaries capitalizing on the new wave of messaging.

It is a new world order…we are buying iPad’s and Androids as fast as we consume information. We sit and watch HDTV on our couches while we sit and surf the Internet with our Mac Book Pros and posh laptops. We are texting as we drive down the road while answering phone calls and listening to Pandora. Information velocity has a new derivative…information velocity. It is a new world order. And what is the next evolution? Hmm…Mobile Media Firms will take over and create the new strategies as business communication strategies with brick and mortar offices in every city.

How will we as practitioners stay relevant though this accelerated evolution of business and technology strategies. Hmm…maybe just keep on telling stories. BTW…I realize I might be one of these groups I am talking about…taking part in the new world order.

Pulled the Trigger on the iPad 3G – WOOHOO!

OK…so I got the nod from the CFO, yes…my CFO is the wife and she gave the nod that it is cool to drop the dough on a glorified gadget that can be justified as a business expense! After a month of deliberating, hemming and hawing about the idea of purchasing it…I pushed the “Pre-Order” button on the Apple website.

I did spend sometime thinking, researching, and wondering if this was a good decision. Here were some of my initial thoughts:

  1. If I was going to purchase the iPad, it had to be the 3G version. Simply because there are so many times I am in a non-wifi zone and will need to send emails, download something, or just be online. I have contemplated getting a AT&T card for my MacBook Pro, but this makes sense. I know I have my iPhone, but need something a little more to finger scale.
  2. Tired of carrying around my 17″ MacBook Pro to meetings in a big ole bag. I have a “Producer” bag that I can throw the strap around my shoulder yet I spend so much time avoiding knocking something over with the bag and the contents.
  3. Want something small and mobile that is not another laptop.
  4. Price compared the iPad to purchasing a MacBook and the pricing was similar. But then I thought, why do I want another laptop for just searching the web, answering email, and other related web related items.
  5. Liked the idea of a “bigger” iPhone concept…seriously! So many times I have my iPhone as I lay in beg catching up on email or searching the web for stuff…and would like something bigger yet not the size of a laptop. Opening a laptop is a process.
  6. Excited about the opportunity to download books via the iPad…this will be new and cool experience!

So after weighing these thoughts…I pulled the trigger. So this is what I purchased:

  • iPad with 64GB of memory with Wifi & 3G Capabilities
  • iPad Keyboard Dock (so I can type on a real keyboard, if I so choose)
  • iPad Case (I am clumsy so figured I needed to protect my investment)
  • iPad Camera Kit (so I can upload pictures straight from a SD card)
  • iPad VGA Adapter (so I can connect to a screen or projector to show presentations, pictures, and videos)
  • Apple Care for iPad (once again, I am clumsy and this protects me from me)

All in all…I am pumped, the only thing now is that I have to sit back and wait. The expected shipping date for my iPad 3G/Wifi is late April! I am hoping it gets here before my vacation trip where Wifi is non-existent.

Now, once again my gadget life is complete with one more gizmo. Yes…now I can go over to my grandfathers house and wow him with a cool new gadget!

What is next for GoogleOnMain? Standby and Listen!

Well…it has officially happened and now nine days after the big event ( tons of local, regional, and national press) and finally with a big wrap-up party at the Warehouse Theater, it is time to say…what is next? First off…it needs to be noted that Aaron von Frank and all those who made this event a success should be proud. But now, what is next and what happens after the hype. Well, for starters…sit back and wait to here what Google is planning on doing.

The whole purpose of this event was to publicly solicit the opportunity to be one of the chosen cities for Google to invest billions of dollars into a fiber infrastructure. Now, while they are still doing their due diligence, Greenville, SC is sitting back and wanting more. This little idea that turned into a big idea has now built a community of innovators into a community of believers…”We can get the attention of a big group like Google.” Now is not quitting time….it is actually time to keep on pushing forward and taking the nicely branded idea “We Are Feeling Lucky” (nice job btw by Spike Jones) to the next level…continue building on this momentum and grow the community at large around an idea of innovation.

Thinking back as I was flying in the helicopter over the event, I was not only looking down and capturing an image of 2200 hundred people forming the words “Google,” but actually capturing the image of 2200 stories, 2200 ideas, 2200 reasons why Google should consider Greenville, SC. There is not just one story for Google to hear, it is more than “We Are Feeling Lucky,” it is 2200 different stories why each person thinks Google should come to Greenville, SC.  Define through each of the 2200 individual stories as 2200 supporting arguments why Greenville, SC could use such an innovative pipeline of technology.

Imagine of the next several months (through the rest of the year), each of those 2200 people that formed the human wave of Google could articulate their story, their reason why they personally could benefit from this technology.  Each one would be a different perspective ranging from small business owner, family member, large organization, government leader, entrepreneur, etc…all with a vested interest to make Greenville, SC a hot bed for innovation and thought leadership. Imagine if we could capture each story, and funnel them through the WeAreFeelingLucky.com website using video, text, audio, images, etc…capturing the hearts and minds of a community, building a larger case supporting a technology initiative.

I would image that many of the cities have stopped campaigning for Google’s attention, feeling that they have met their burden and thinking “now it lies in the hands of the organization to hand down a decision.” But the energy felt tonight in the Warehouse Theater auditorium showcased the desire to keep on campaigning, not just for Google technology but for a bigger cause…bringing a community together with a common goal, to build a bigger and brighter Greenville, SC. What a tremendous case that could be made if we could continue this mission, capture those stories, display them everyday on WeAreFeelingLucky.com and show the world that Greenville, SC has more in store…not just a one time event that happened on March 20, 2010.

***Photo courtesy of Michael Bergen of AidJoy.org

So what do you propose? What is your alternative healthcare reform?

So on Tuesday, March, 23, 2010…President Obama signed into law the new health care reform bill. In the months, days, and hours leading up to this bill becoming a law, there are LOTS of voices in complete opposition to this piece of legislation. There are even people in agreement there is need for reform, but this is not the best piece of legislation to achieve the goal at hand. There are states currently working overtime trying to pass legislation to block this federal law.

So here is the context, I am a thirty-six year old husband who owns a house, small business owner, helping a 23 year old pay her way through college, shopping to afford healthcare. This piece of legislation speaks to me…provides me some sense of hope. But, there are so many that believe this is not the correct path. But I have not heard one time, one suggestion that would be an alternative to this plan. Seriously, for all those who do not like this legislation, who are screaming out loud against this new law, what is your plan? What is your recommendation? What is your alternative?

So…here is your chance to let me know what you would propose. I want to be educated. I want to know what you think is the alternative? The current system is not working…I want reform. What is your reform. I want you to use the comment section to sound off with your alternative. I will approve all who write legitimate ideas, not party bashing ideas…real, legitimate ideas that provide people like me an opportunity for healthcare. I want to see if you can live up to the screaming and articulate a proposed solution. No foul language, no party bashing, no slanderous accusations….a real idea with real vision. Prove it…back it up.

Let’s see what you have!

All it takes is a thank you note!

There are so many layers to a story, and those layers can continually evolve regardless of time!

I was riding home from Charleston, SC a few days ago. The wife and I were tired and it was getting close to 8pm, a long day visiting my sister-in-law Susanna at the College of Charleston. As we were navigating the back-roads of this I-385 detour, my iPhone began ringing with an unfamiliar phone number displayed. This self-employeed businessman never passes up an opportunity to talk about business, so I answered. The gentleman introduced himself and called me by my name…he said, “My name is Gary and I helped your family three years ago when I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Columbia.” This begins our little journey.

This story ultimately begins with a trip. My wife’s family is notorious for packing a car full of family and that car is notorious for breaking down at the worst of times. This time it was a hot spring day, Friday afternoon traffic in Columbia, SC. Seriously, 5pm traffic on Interstate 26 towards Bowman, SC. Bowman was their destination, where my wife’s grandfather had passed away. They needed to be at the funeral home before 6:30pm, to greet family and friends the day before the funeral. Stuck on the side of the road, they do what they normally do…call me. Being two hours behind them, I did what I knew best…call Enterprise Rent-A-Car, because they have a simple motto, “We’re Enterprise, we’ll pick you up!”

So I called the nearest Enterprise based on their location, it was a branch at the Columbia, SC airport. Gary from Enterprise answered the phone and I explained the situation. He broke protocol, took a Town and Country van, dropped it off, helped them exchange cars, and my family was on their way arriving in Bowman right at 6:30pm. He stayed with the car until the tow truck arrived and then got a ride back to the branch office. It was this can-do attitude and service that has now earned a lifetime customer, yes…I am a card carrying rewards member of Enterprise.

After hearing this story, I wrote a series of letters to his boss, the corporate office, and the southeastern manager. A series of thank you notes. It probably took an hour of my time. He had the time to help my family, I had the time to tell Enterprise…because of Gary, they now have a loyal customer.

Back to the phone call. So while talking to Gary on the phone, he began telling me that it was those letters that prompted him to call me. He was calling to thank me. He told me that those thank you letters changed his life. HOLD ON? I asked, “what do you mean, changed your life?”

He continued explaining; because of that letter, he was immediately promoted to a marketing division. After a while, and a few downsizing efforts, he was laid off. I immediately perked up and wondered where this conversation was leading. He went on to explain that he took some time to consider what was next after Enterprise. He had enjoyed investing his retirement package at Enterprise and began helping family and friends with their portfolio. This prompted him to begin researching the business of investments. After a series of meetings, many certification tests, several interviews, and a long training process…it was decision time for Edward Jones Investments. He went to meet with a VP of Edward Jones, and as a part of his application package for his own branch, he included this very letter from that I wrote to Enterprise. The VP basically told him that this letter was the only thing he needed to make his decision.

So Gary was calling me on this day, March 1st to thank me. You see, it was March 1st…this day that his branch in Lexington, SC was opening for the first time! He had reached his dream, to own his own business, be his own boss, and help people. He was thanking me for writing that letter. What he did not realize, while he was thanking me, tears were running down my eyes. I was actually thanking him, because this story, this day brought a new meaning to my life. It was this day he had changed my life. His one phone call, his few minutes thanking me made me see the world in a difference way. He had once again made a serious impact in my life.

It is amazing what a thank you note will do. It is amazing the residual effect from a single gesture. It is amazing the layers to this story, that connected us once again. I have yet to meet Gary, but I will be making a trip to shake his hand. Thanks Gary, thank you for being you. You are an inspiration!

This post is dedicated to a few people:

  • To Denise Weathers, my mother-in-law who is no longer with us but made a tremendous impression on Gary that day!
  • To John Warner who taught me the value of a simple social media called a thank you note!
  • To Bob Dotson who has helped me learn the value of the red-string and finding those stories with layers.

What am I really trying to measure? A Conversation?

So I have been thinking a bit about all these various discussions relevant to Social Media and how to measure success. People want a metric…they want to measure something! Whether it is the “SIZE” of the community, the number of leads, or the amount of revenue generated, etc.

I just read an excellent blog post by Amber Naslund titled: “How I made $100K with Twitter.” This was such a great post, but what I walked away from this post was this simple point, you get as much as you put into it. I know that sounds so elementary, but it is so true.

“The magic in making money with social media isn’t that the site or social network becomes a revenue center itself. I didn’t sell stuff on Twitter. I gave people access to me and my expertise, and paid attention to when the time might be right to talk business.” Amber Naslund, Radian6

So what are we trying to measure? If we are business people,  we want to know that we will get something in return for the time we invest into this medium. If we are a large company, we want to measure the scale of time as it directly relates to the revenue or sales it generates. If we are a cause or advocacy group, we want to measure the reach of our message; basically how many people we can communicate and get them reciprocate the message.

This is what I want to measure:

  • Connectivity is increasing: I want to know that my community is growing and I can continue to connect with other smart people.
  • Revenue is increasing: I want to know that the number of people I am reaching has some direct effect on the revenue I generate.
  • Generation of New Ideas: I want my ever increasing connectivity to help me to become more innovative.
  • My “Competition”: I want to be able to engage and watch what my “competitors” are doing as they innovate.
  • Reciprocity: I want to know that if I am sharing, others are sharing back.
  • Clicks: I want to measure if people are clicking what I want them to click.

I think of the ole education story. Remember back when we went to college, and it was hard to get up in the morning for that 8am class. Sometimes we would skip and wonder what we missed? Then there are some of us that might have been perpetual skippers and wonder why we could not get good grades. I was one of those people. But my academic advisor told me this, your success in the classroom dramatically increases if you just show up for class. Think about that statement for a second. Your success can be attributed to the amount of time you engage.

I think the same thing is true for any portal of conversation you choose to find value. The more you engage in the conversation, the bigger return. The key word here is conversation…not dictatorship. People want conversations, opportunities to grow, listen, and to be heard. People want to share with like minded people. If you are in the business world, they want to share business with people that understand how to solve their problems. This goes back to listening .

So here is my metric: I can directly correlate the number of times I listen to the amount of meaningful conversations I have, whether it is business or personal. If I listen, I can help people solve problems. If I am a good listener, then my network is big…AND if I can’t solve the problem, there is someone in my network that can probably help solve that problem.

What stories are you listening to today?

BTW, here is a good discussion Social Media ROI from Olivier Blanchard. I think the guy is smart and has figured this out.