Dream Big – Quit Sleep

10 06 2011

“You can say what you want about me but I’ve made the most of my time.” Vokab Kompany

Wild dreams.  Impractical hopes.  Unreachable desires.  Impossible ambitions.  Crazy ideas.  You’ve had them.  I have too.  That idea that you just had to tell somebody about but never got the reaction you envisioned, the “can’t lose” business proposal, the vision of your life that you would love to see.  Are you making it happen?  Is it just too crazy?  Too risky?  Too unbelievable?

“I’m going to be a rapper,” he said to me during our weekly one-on-one sales meeting.

I asked the obvious question:  “You’re what??”

“I’m going to rap – I’m going to make music,” Robbie pronounced with conviction.

“Okay man.  Good luck with that.  Now go make some phone calls.”

As much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, I needed Robbie selling, not rhyming.  And he did.  He came to the office, made his sales, and generated revenue.  He put in time each day, and then he went to his second job.  In the studio – writing, collaborating, practicing – doing the work and producing.  He focused on the dream and put some sweat into it, not waiting for luck and circumstance.

When I was 6 years old I was convinced that I was going to be a professional baseball player.  At about 16, I liked my chances in life better with a job and a car than I did trying to be a professional athlete.  And *poof* – the end of a dream.  So when Robbie came into my office and declared his improbable desire for music stardom, I was surprised, confused, doubtful, amused – and positively rooting for him.

Flash forward to today.  Robbie Gallo and Vokab Kompany have released two money-making albums.  Garnering publicity and attention via their loyal fan-base and a growing support within the music community, Vokab Kompany have branded their unique, dance party, hard-rocking, slick rhyming, soul-singing, good times musical show.  They pack houses, they rip stages.

The dream started small – very small.  Robbie invited me to his first “show.”  Robbie stood on stage with a boom box behind him and spit rhymes to a curious and entertained crowd.  It was a gutsy maneuver, and a respectable effort for the first-timer.  But Robbie knew that his dream had to grow, so he formed a partnership with local roots-funk band “Native Root.”  The collaboration consists of singer Matt Burke’s highly stylized smoothed-out vocals, Robbie’s lyrical flow, and a full band with drummer Alvaro Nunez, bassist Aaron Cheatham, horn-player Jesse Molloy, Geoff Nigl on the keys, Karen Mills singing backup vocals, and Spencer Sharpe ripping the electric violin.  They are a full-boat of talented musicians, creators, artists, and entrepreneurs.

If you’re keeping score at home, the dream-seeker list goes like this:

  • Have idea you’re passionate about – check
  • Do the work, even if it means long hours and loss of sleep – check
  • Take risks and make yourself uncomfortable – check
  • Find partners to help you grow your vision – check

The Business

Watching over the past few years as Robbie built a musical platform as an artist and entertainer, I noticed the parallels between the production, distribution, and marketing of music and the same principles of any business.  A good idea is not enough – not even close.  Your idea is as good as your ability to deliver a finished product to your audience.  Music is an unpredictable and quirky business, and a tough way to earn a living.  Getting started, the band maintains their day jobs, upholds family commitments, and manages a steady load of travel – and the business becomes that much tougher.  But they push on through, hoping for stardom.  Robbie shared the Vokab Kompany approach with me, and these tips work for any business.

1.  Idea creation

“Creative thought can pop out at any time – the trick is to capture it.  Always good to have a pen and pad close to you.  A lot of people get a creative idea when they’re a few minutes from falling asleep.  You wanna make sure you have something close to you to write with or you may miss a good concept.”

2.  Marketing materials

“Whether that’s a shirt, sticker, or some other promo piece, you gotta get people to rock it – and you gotta give it out for free, but make sure you give it to the right people.  The ones that are in “the scene” or go out a lot, or know cool things to do.  Other people will ask questions and then you have your successful marketing piece.  You also gotta be just as creative with your merch as you do your music. It’s a huge part of your branding and you want people to wear it or use it and be proud to.”

3.  Finding partners

“We search and we follow up on every lead.  As we begin to grow our brand the labels, mangers and agents start to take notice.  They’re looking for good material too, and one of the main things I’ve noticed is they’re looking for artists that work really hard.”

4.  Work your talent

“The format has changed, it’s not just about talent and you get signed.  You gotta have a lot to offer – a good record, a great live show, and a hard work ethic.  Keep building these and I believe it’s only a matter of time.”

5.  Drive adoption

“You need to give people a little time to become familiar with the album.  Most importantly is not to ‘rush’ the product or you may miss something that could’ve made that song better.”

And the crowd bobs their heads.  Feet stomp, arms raise.  Mic on blast, energy blaze.  Earth shakes, bass pumps.  Passion builds, people jump.  Bright lights, electric sights, the flow, the rhyming, the quick steps on time and, the sound hits, the curtain lifts, the band stands, the beat drifts, take the stage, lay your claim, the fans rage, they chant your name!  Dreamlike, unbelievable – and the hard work pays off.

I have watched Robbie and Vokab as they plotted this course, did the work, made it happen.  I have heard the sounds of their team, each bringing their unique style to the art they create.  Sacrifices have been made in hopes of success.  Rest has been replaced with raging desire.  The path to glory is in the willingness to completely commit – the willingness to Quit Sleep.

More Vokab videos:  http://www.youtube.com/user/TheVokabKompany

Vokab Kompany on iTunes:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/vokab-kompany/id331619910


Create Valuable Content

6 05 2011

People ask me a lot of questions about blogging, making videos, and participating in Social Media.  Quite commonly I am asked this:  “What should I post?”

It seems that although people and businesses want to increase their participation in the digital community, they are unsure how to engage their audience – perhaps afraid that they will misrepresent themselves, post something that makes them sound stupid, or just produce content that is deemed worthless.

There is one simple principle to help companies and individuals as they market themselves – Add Value.  It could certainly be argued that there is an information overload in the world of Social Media – much of which mostly becomes noise and distraction.  If you don’t provide some kind of unique value then your efforts will go largely unnoticed.

So how do you add value?  Here are three concepts to consider when creating content:


One of my favorite quotes is “I’ve never met a person that I couldn’t learn something from.” – Dan Collins.  Everyone has insight that others would find valuable.  Enlighten your audience with knowledge related to your products and services – report customer success stories, showcase new ideas, or share information related to your industry.  We all like to learn from experts, and most likely, you are an expert about something.  Teach us.


Go ahead and admit that you have a guilty online pleasure like www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com.  Maybe you love watching silly videos or listening to new music.  Maybe you appreciate a quality “funny forward,” or maybe you like to participate in a discussion on Facebook.  Guess what, so does your audience.  Branding does not always have to be serious.  Providing a laugh, recommending a good restaurant, telling a silly story, or sharing interesting photos, are all great ways to get your audience to pay attention.


We can all use a little extra motivation.  When you run across an inspiring story, share it.  For example, today is the anniversary of Roger Bannister running the mile in under 4 minutes.  There are hundreds of ways to spin that to create engaging content.  Certainly there are plenty of stories about sacrifice, perseverance, charity, determination, etc. that can be emotionally rousing and encouraging for your audience.  Inspirational content is interesting to read, and as the curator of that information, you reveal your personal character or the ethical standard of your business.

In this age of digital interaction, I don’t think there is necessarily any “right” or “wrong” approach, but I do think that focusing on education, entertainment, and inspiration can help steer your branding efforts.


In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to say “I Love You” to my Mom, my Mother-In-Law, and my beautiful wife.  You “educate, entertain, and inspire” me all the time.

Will You Be Obsolete?

8 04 2011

Toothless and Taking Over

At my house we love Spongebob Squarepants and we usually watch it through Roku, commercial-free.  For some reason last Saturday we were watching it on a regular TV broadcast when a commercial came on and interrupted the show.  My daughter looked up from her doll and said “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” I replied.

“That,” pointing to the TV.

“The commercial?” I asked, wondering if I knew what she was talking about.

“What’s a commercial?” she asked.

It struck me that a kid today doesn’t recognize what commercial is, even though she watches TV.  We have unlimited access to a surplus of entertainment choices, yet only see commercials if we are ignoring our technological advantages.  What does this mean for advertisers and entertainment companies?  How will this affect revenue streams as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace?

Later that day at the park, three little kids were swinging on the swings next to us.  A kid no older than 8 took out his iPhone and filmed a video of his friends on the swings.  He pressed a few buttons and then announced that he uploaded the video to his YouTube channel and posted the link on his Facebook page.  The whole process couldn’t have taken him more than two minutes.  I was blown away.  His actions were natural and almost automatic for him, easier than remembering to say “please” and “thank you.”  Does he realize that his personal life is accessible to billions of people?  Does he even know what a “billion” is?  Do we really understand how “social networking” affects our reputations and relationships?  How will all of this progress 5, 10, 20 years from now?

That night at bedtime, my son was practicing reading one of his favorite books.  His little fingers struggled to turn the page.  As we waited patiently for him to find a proper grip, he broke the silence by saying “Loading..,” equating the experience to a slow webpage.  This guy is not yet 6 years old, he is missing several teeth, and he is more comfortable on a computer than a lot of adults I know.  What will it mean when his generation enters the workplace?  What current jobs will be totally obsolete?  Will he study things in college that are outdated the day he graduates?

All of these circumstances are glimpses into the future, and commentary on the present.  The rate of advancement in technology, business, and healthcare in the last 20 years has been significant. Building on that foundation, the next 20 years will see more extreme change than this planet has ever known.  Change is not coming, it is here.  Keep up or be irrelevant.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

Believe or Be Lost

25 03 2011

I believe.  Every day I confirm that simple truth.  I believe that I control my own destiny.  I believe that I can be a better person.  I believe that good things happen when you open yourself to the possibility.  I believe that I don’t know everything – I believe that I can learn faster when I acknowledge this.  I believe that people are naturally good, although often misguided and confused.  I believe that people deserve a second chance.  I believe that you can show me how to live a better life.  I believe that smiling is so important.  I believe that positive energy is contagious.  I believe that teaching is the best way to learn.  I believe that we are all related to each other – I believe that some day we will accept this.  I believe that most people would be happier if they took some risks. I believe that all businesses are basically the same.  I believe that real entrepreneurs understand that partnership does not weaken their position or threaten their value.  I believe that mindset is everything.  I believe that “kids these days” are not any worse than we were – we just choose to remember the good stuff.  I believe that we often take each other for granted, and I believe we can change that if we learn to listen.

I believe that working hard will make you feel better about yourself than anything else you can do.  I believe that you can work harder than you are right now – I can too.  I believe that being trustworthy is the best thing you can offer your boss – in any job.  I believe my kids will accomplish things I never thought possible.  I believe that I am supposed to have a positive impact on people.  I believe that music is therapy, joy, and inspiration.  I believe some people think I’m slacking-off because I am always having fun – I believe they don’t know me very well.  I believe that celebrating is critical when you have success.  I believe that politics and government are not the same thing.  I believe that the words “cool” and “amazing” are misused.  I believe we are all our own worst enemy.  I believe that forgiveness is the highest form of nobility.

I believe that stereotypes are tools of the weak-minded.  I believe that transparency will earn you respect.  I believe that I will be successful if I focus and am relentless in my pursuit.  I believe that believing is step one, and that if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.  I believe that confidence is misunderstood and that we are entirely too willing to allow ourselves to be meek.  I believe that we are all lucky to be here – that life is as great as it is tragic.  I believe that there is a negative and positive way to look at everything, and that your happiness relies on your perspective.  I believe that critics should spend more time creating.  I believe that paying someone a compliment can change their life.  I believe that “believers” do great things.  I believe that life is tough, and that it’s even tougher if you don’t believe in something.

What’s Next: The Greatest Thing Ever

18 03 2011

Walking the streets of Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW), I am startled by the difference since I first attended (and rocked) this event 12 years ago.  What with the tweets, and blogs, and webinars, oh my!  But even “Back in my day” this Interactive/Film/Music festival was alive with talk of the latest and greatest.   The video industry was changing at the widespread adoption of DVD’s:  “You mean I can just skip from scene-to-scene with the click of a button??”  There were no iPods back then, so bands were pushing CD’s.  Websites were trying to build and engage online community participation, but there was no Facebook or Twitter to help implement the strategy.  Speaking of communication, I remember waiting in line at the payphone my first SXSW.  What’s a payphone?  For that matter, what’s a cell phone?  They have been replaced by “mobile devices” capable of so much more than making calls – capable of changing the way we live.

So as we say goodbye to CD’s, DVD’s, phones and all the other antiqued technology of our recent past, I just want to say to everyone, especially to those in the younger generation – don’t get too attached to this next best thing – whatever it is.  Today’s latest innovation is tomorrow’s punchline.  Change happens fast in our relentless pursuit of “The Greatest Thing Ever.”

What truly is “The Greatest Thing Ever” is our ability to adapt, to let go of the things we value, and be open to the possibilities that something better will come along – because it always does.  Don’t fight it!   This generation – these kids filling the streets of Austin – they will be required to constantly adapt in a rapidly-advancing world, with a life of perpetual learning.  You can fight the change.  I see that mentality all the time from my senior peers – people that are hoping to retire or pass away before they ever have to learn anything new.  In today’s generation, those that are unwilling to embrace change will face a life of extreme disadvantage compared to the enabled believers.

From a marketing perspective, there certainly are changes to the way companies are spreading their message:

  • Companies paying to rename a bar for the week
  • People being sponsored to wear t-shirts and blast a message to the world
  • Conducting surveys with potential clients
  • Offering special deals through mobile devices
  • Encouraging fun interaction with company mascots/brand icons

I can’t wait to see how these methods will continue to evolve and impact the way companies interact with clients.  It’s a strange new world people – soak it in, but don’t get too attached.

Open Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

28 02 2011

Dear Governor Brown,

Last week, in an attempt to ease California’s budget deficit, you ordered state agencies to stop using promotional products to as a means to market their programs and services.  I was born in California and lived there for 25 years – I certainly understand the mess the state is in.  What I don’t understand is why you chose to ban one form of marketing but not others.  I don’t understand why you specifically went after promotional products:

“Not a cent of taxpayer money should be spent on flashlights, ashtrays or other unnecessary items, most of which likely end up in landfills.”

Pardon my tone, but are you really qualified to determine what kind of marketing is effective?  Speaking of things ending up in landfills, did you know that 99% of all direct mail is thrown away?  Why didn’t you ban direct mail?  I know why – because that mail is delivered by government employees.  Why didn’t you ban TV ads?  Well, we all know that it’s not smart for politicians to upset folks in entertainment.  And why not get rid of billboard advertising?  Oh that’s right, billboard company CBS Outdoor donates money to your art school charity – not to public schools, but to your hand-chosen art schools – so you better not upset the billboard guys.

And what about the products you are banning?  The “plastic gewgaws” as you call them.  Things like buttons, mugs, bags, bumper stickers, and t-shirts.

If using logoed merchandise is not a good way to promote your message, then why did you use so much of it in your election campaign?  You remember the election, the one where you and Meg Whitman fought tooth and nail to see who could spend the most money?

Governor Brown, I have no problem with you cutting spending – it must be done.  But why are you picking on promotional products instead of all forms of marketing?  Clearly you believe this is an effective form of marketing or you would not have used it.  If you want to cut marketing spending then cut it all – TV, radio, mail, billboards – ban all of it, or LEGALIZE PROMO!!!

I welcome your comment.

Follow updates on Facebook:  Legalize Promo

Do It With Love

11 02 2011

There is a picture hanging on my  wall that I see every day, and every day it brings me a smooth mix of joy, sadness, and inspiration.  Few things get to me in this way.  So what is it about the man and this particular picture that stir such an emotional response?

It is strange to me that people don’t seem to know Sam Cooke.  We recently passed what would have been his 80th birthday.  They called him the “King of Soul.”  A pioneer, he brought soul music from church gospels to radio stations and concert halls.  He was cool of Elvis-proportions.  He defined the love song.  His music ranged from easy and free to haunting in passion and sorrow.  He endured segregation.  He stood up for his brothers and sisters.  His life was filled with accolades, fame, and wealth – but matched with sorrow, hardship, and tragedy.  His death was sudden, scandalous, and puzzling.

I can’t write the whole story here.  I highly recommend the book Dream Boogie by Peter Guralnik, especially if you are into music, American history, business, or mystery.

Personally, I am inspired by the man, and specifically this picture.  Posture relaxed, arms crossed, completely at ease and comfortable in his ability – yet, neck-strained, he gives it all he has, pouring his soul,  effort, and passion into his craft.  Sam was known as a perfectionist, obsessed with results – and it shows in his work.  He was also known for matching that effort with a fun-loving spirit, understanding that even in work there can be passion, optimism, and joy.

I look at this picture every day, and it always reminds me to work hard, have fun, and put some love into it!


“Bring It On Home To Me” is my favorite song.  Sam is teamed up with his good friend Lou Rawls.  You can hear the effort – and the passion builds as a new instrument joins each verse.  Turn it up!

And last but not least, can someone please make a movie about Sam’s life???  The Ray Charles and Johnny Cash movies were great – but neither of them have a story like Sam.  Universe, please give me a Sam Cooke movie.  Thank you.


How To Waste 3 Million Dollars

4 02 2011

Advertisers love the Super Bowl – and why wouldn’t they?  It’s like the Oscars of advertising.  They have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage, to be in direct competition for popularity and supremacy against their rivals, the chance to be the one that everybody talks about on Monday – and of course, they bank a ton of dough.

I can imagine the pitches they might give:

  • The statistics – “20 Bajillion Viewers!!!”
  • The clichés – “Maximum Brand Exposure”
  • The competitor leverage – “Well, Budweiser’s doing it”
  • The blatant lies – “This is how you build Customer Loyalty”

I like the theatrics and the entertainment value of Super Bowl ads.  I appreciate that someone paid $3 million to give me a 30-second exhibition for me to discuss with my co-workers on Monday, I really do.  But I have never once in my life actually purchased a product because of their Super Bowl ad – ever.  Funny talking babies do not make me want to invest my hard-earned money with your company.  Horses playing football are neat, but they don’t make me want to drink your crappy beer.

For small and mid-size businesses, how can you market your brand without wasting an obscene amount of money?  Here are the 3 best ways to gain exposure for companies who have modest marketing budgets:

Give consumers something for Free. Logoed merchandise is inexpensive and can be useful and fun for your audience.  A Frisbee, a t-shirt, a mug, or a bottle opener with your logo on it will be used for a long  time.  The item becomes part of someone’s life, and is a constant reminder of your brand.  If you don’t know where to get this stuff, contact me – I have a whole network of professionals that can help.

Glacier Outdoor blog

Write a Blog. Expose your audience to consistent messaging that shows your culture and thought process.  Blogs are free, and as newspapers and magazines go the way of the dinosaur, they are a good source of entertainment and education for potential clients.

Make a Video. Consumers like advertising that is honest, tells a story, and shows why something is cool.  Marketers like advertising that shows results and can easily be shared.  A nice digital video camera costs about $250.  That’s $2,999,750 cheaper than a Super Bowl ad.  Wilson Football provides a great example of how to use video.

Enjoy the game on Sunday.  You’ll have fun watching the ads, but not nearly as much as the ad agencies.  When you’re ears are ringing Monday morning, it’s because you drank too much – for them it sounds more like a cash register.

Sales and The Olde Sea Dog

27 01 2011

Before he had kids, my Dad was a pirate.  Not a bad pirate, no plundering or pillaging, but a pirate nonetheless.  He would sail the high seas for months at a time, he would battle gangs of evil seafaring scoundrels.  He boarded wooden ships under the cover of darkness.  He struck swords with treacherous criminals and angry villains.

My Dad fought tirelessly against the scallywags of the sea, but he never, ever won.  No, he was always captured, beaten, and forced to walk the plank!  Somehow he managed to escape and return home to my Mom.  Then every few months he had to go back to the ocean and continue the fight, for he never quite conquered his foes, he never completely bested his enemies – those scurvy dogs!

And so went the narratives every night after dinner.  My brothers and I finished our meals quickly so we could hear my Dad tell his tall tales.  We hung on his every word.  We listened intently as the old man would weave a web of fiction so thick you could touch it.  I don’t think I even realized the pirate chronicles weren’t true until I was about 10 years old.  And then it dawned on me – if the stories were made up, why not be the hero?  Why did he always lose in the end?  I mean really, it’s a fictional story you are telling to your kids – why not set yourself up as the swashbuckling version of Rambo and win night after night?

My Dad is a true Sales Professional, and not in the caricatured opinion of the buying public.  Dale White is not pushy and he is not slick.  He is a man that understands the value of hard work, honesty, integrity, and relationships.  He wakes up at the crack of dawn, straps on his tie, hits the pavement, and does it with consistency.  With that approach he has already differentiated himself from most of the so-called sales professionals.  Aside from all that, my Dad does the one thing that even the best sales people are often unable or unwilling to do – he leaves his ego at the door.

I know thousands of sales people, and I have heard all the excuses:

“Cold-calling is dead” they say,

“I need to do extensive research before I can act,” they procrastinate,

“My network will support me,” they fool themselves.

I have been guilty of it myself.  Not Dale White.  He is not too good to knock on strange doors.  He is not above calling someone he’s never spoken to.  When his father was in poor health, my Dad took a sales job that was far beneath his talent and experience level just so he could relocate to the small town where my Grandpa lived.  Did his ego prevent him from strapping it on every morning in that situation?  Absolutely not!

It is the same reason he never needed to proclaim victory in the pirate stories.  The goal was to entertain his sons, not to make himself out to be the hero – and we were certainly entertained.  The result is the only thing that matters.  Sales is not glamorous, it is not easy, and it is not about the sales person.  If you are not willing to storm the ship and get battered about by the power of the waves, then Sales is probably not for you.  But if this is the profession you choose, then follow the example of my humble father – don’t let your ego get in the way of your success.

Tips for Trade Show Exhibitors

17 01 2011

For over a decade I was an exhibitor at hundreds of trade shows.  The amount of details that led to the success or failure of an exhibitor’s trade show experience is staggering:

“Do we have enough samples?”
“Did we pack extra lightbulbs?”
“Where’s the extension cord?”
“Who ordered the badge scanner?”
“What happened to the tool-kit?”

If you have ever exhibited at a trade show then you panic a little at each of these questions – or at least you can tell a story of your own personal trade show fiasco.  There are so many little things that can go wrong.

Now that I am someone walking the aisles talking to exhibitors instead of being one, I wish I knew years ago all the things that I have learned since my perspective changed.  So, as the trade show season has kicked-off in all industries, here are my Top 10 Tips for Being a Successful Exhibitor:

1.  Set appointments. It is very easy for attendees to become distracted and completely miss large stretches of exhibits.  If there are clients that you must see, then set appointments with specific meeting times.

2.  Chill out with the catalogs. Seriously, if the only reason you came to the show was to hand me a catalog, then you should have done a mailing and stayed home.  Trade shows are about forming and expanding relationships.

3.  Stop talking to your coworkers. I appreciate that you like the people you work with, I really do.  But if you are talking to them then you are not talking to your customers.  Unless you plan on selling to your colleagues you should focus on the people in the aisle, not in the booth.

4.  Make noise. There were many booths I walked past without noticing, but it was hard to ignore booths playing music or having some kind of loud demonstration.

5.  Smile. Okay look, I completely understand that you have been standing in the same spot all day saying the same thing.  Get over it.  If you look sad, frustrated, or in any way unpleasant then you make yourself unapproachable.

6.  Have a goal. There is a significant difference between talking to an exhibitor that leads a conversation compared to one that is just making conversation.  Set goals before the show and focus your actions toward meeting them.

7.  Be different. Your competitors go to the same trade shows that you go to.  Take a hard look at your approach to differentiating your value.  Think about what you can do at a show to genuinely set yourself apart from competitors.  Don’t be scared to go against the grain.

8.  Burn the booth. No one notices if your lights break, if the table falls apart, or if the scanner stops working.  They will remember the interaction they have with YOU – they will remember how you make them FEEL – they will not remember if your sign has been duct-taped to the wall.

9.  Hang ‘Em High. Speaking of signs, those signs that hang from the rafters are a little pricey but they are worth every penny for exhibitors.  That is definitely the easiest way for your clients to find you.

10.  Follow-Up. How many exhibitors say they will contact you the week after the show?  How many actually will?  The first week after the show is your big chance to show potential clients that you are serious about moving your business relationship forward – especially if you told someone that you would do so.  After the first week it is awfully hard for your potential clients to remember you or the conversations you had at the show – so act fast!

Exhibitors, I feel your pain.  I know what it’s like to answer silly questions all day long.  I know how difficult it is to live on hot-dog lunches all week.  But you CAN have a good show if you build a strategy and focus your efforts.  Good luck!

Being Accountable in the New Year

7 01 2011

One week into the New Year and I can’t help but wonder – how many resolutions have already been broken?  How many people have the fortitude and discipline to live up to their own expectations?  How will we all hold ourselves accountable as the year progresses?

Me?  I’m a talker (as if you couldn’t tell).  My accountability strategy is to make promises to myself and share them with anyone who cares to listen.  I know that if I stray from my path and ignore my goals, I will be judged by the people that heard me promise aloud, so I will feel guilt and embarrassment if I don’t live up to my declared expectations.  To that point, what better way to keep myself on task than to list my resolutions publicly?

  • 20 Push-ups every day before I take a shower – it’s not a lot, but I will do them every single day.
  • Stay in touch with friends that have traveled far from me, and those I’ve left behind.
  • Be a more attentive father and affectionate husband.
  • Admit that I don’t know everything and try not to be a know-it-all.
  • Find a positive in negative situations – turn everything into a lesson learned.
  • Try things that I’ve never done, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes me.

    Austin Sunrise

One week in and so far so good.  I’ve got a different job in a foreign town with an unfamiliar house – and it is all a little scary.  Luckily, I am making friends and finding new people to learn from.  It has been a trying time to say the least, but I am positive, encouraged by new possibilities, and undaunted by fear of the unknown.

Why do I share these things?  Why choose to use myself as an example?  I do it because I am not special.  I do not come from a ton of money – not poor, but far from rich.  I mowed lawns, I packed boxes, and I waited tables – not glamorous by any assessment.  I graduated from college, but one that is a significant distance from the Ivy League.  I majored in a subject (English Literature) that garnered snickers and criticism.  I make mistakes, I am impatient, I often speak before thinking, and sometimes I have a short temper.  I have vices, I have broken the law.  I am not the tallest, not the strongest, and not the smartest kid in class.  I can be clumsy, forgetful, and preachy.  I have an ego (as if you couldn’t tell), I struggle to be a good listener, and I rarely read things as thoroughly as I should.

When I use myself as an example, I do it not because I am perfect, but because I am greatly flawed.  However, I don’t use that as an excuse or a crutch.  I move forward imperfectly, understanding that I can be better, do more, and learn as I go.  I use myself as an example because we are all flawed in our own unique ways – and we can all improve and evolve as imperfect creatures.  If I can do it, so can you.

Comfort Kills

3 12 2010

As this year winds to a close and we spend time with our loved ones and celebrate the season, I can’t help but think about the year ahead.  Call it a New Year’s resolution, call it a goal, call it a challenge – we are just a few short weeks away from the renewal of our annual cycle.  How will we approach it?  What will we change?  What will we accomplish in the coming year?

Each year represents a new challenge, and for me the challenge next year is huge.  So I do what I always do – I go in search of direction, inspiration, and resources.  This time the inspiration found me.  This week I have stumbled across 3 or 4 different articles about Richard Branson, and the timing could not be better.

Richard Branson founded Virgin Records and became a multi-millionaire.  A lot of people would have been satisfied with the success of their early endeavors.  Not Branson.  Did he get complacent, drink too many margaritas, and absolve himself of productivity?  Absolutely not.  Instead of basking in the warm glow of success, he throws himself on the fire.  He risks it all and starts an airline.  It too is successful.  Does he sit back and smile?  Maybe a little – and then he starts a mobile technology company.  Why stop there?  How about an innovative digital publication?  Still not satisfied??  Virgin Galactic – oh yeah – flights into space.

So why keep going?  What’s the point?  When will this insatiable Branson finally rest?!?!

There is a phrase that says something to the effect that “satisfaction is the death of desire.”  My paraphrased version is “comfort kills.”  The best musicians, artists, and poets are usually somehow tortured.  The best fighters are often the most hungry.  In a world where everyone works for a bigger piece of the pie, you must improve to compete.  You cannot become complacent, lazy, comfortable.  You must find a way to stay hungry.

I’m no Richard Branson – I do not own an airline, so I have a long way to go.  Therefore I am throwing myself on the fire.  The coming year will challenge me greatly.  I will be doubted and questioned – by others and by myself.  Announcements will be made, and I will be criticized as much as I will be applauded.  Discomfort will find me – and I will embrace it.  I will not look back and I will not apologize.  Great things come from chaos.  May we all find a way to make ourselves uncomfortable in the coming year.

Branding with Video

20 11 2010

Since I began writing my blog I get asked a lot of questions, and many of them are related to the videos I have made.   Here are some tips for making videos to promote your brand:

Keep it Short. Try to keep it around two minutes long.  If you have more content than that, split is up in to sections – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – and name each part with the specific content so people know what to expect.

Amateur is OK. So you don’t have a recording studio or a video editor on staff – no big deal.  Get a decent video camera (very affordable right now), or you can even use the camera in your smartphone, as many of them are pretty high quality.  Personally I enjoy amateur-looking videos (like this one) because I feel I get to know the real person.

Build Value. So why should we watch your video?  Why would anyone care?  Educate and Entertain.  You have a specific audience you are speaking to – what educational value or entertainment value can you bring to them?  We are a “what’s in it for me?” society – if you can’t educate or entertain us, we will click off after 20 seconds.

Edit. You probably already have a program on your computer – if not, there are a number of great programs you can download for free.  Clip out the beginning and end where you were fumbling with the camera – add music, add text, splice sections together.  Remember, this is YOUR creation – there is no right and wrong.

Practice Makes Perfect (or at least better). Before I ever published my first video I hooked up my webcam and just looked at it and started talking.  I was very uncomfortable in the beginning.  I thought, “Who will see this?  What if I look stupid?  Am I making sense?  Do I have a booger?”  In time I grew less nervous, more confident, and eventually forgot the camera was there and focused on my message.

Broadcast. YouTube, Facebook, your website, etc. – there are many ways to get your videos watched.  Put them out there, encourage sharing, and post updated content.  We are hungry for original, interesting material – just give us access to it.

Good luck everybody.  Hope to SEE you soon!

Moment of Silence / Something Happens

12 11 2010

In honor of the brave men and women that protect this country, I am observing a moment of silence.  Although I greatly respect the honorable contribution of those that have given their lives and service to the military, I am not one of them.  I can show appreciation but do not speak from experience.  Therefore, instead of my weekly blog, I would like to share the thoughts of a man that actually served – my mentor, Mr. Dan Collins.

Something Happens

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick

Something important happens when I meet a combat veteran.  Something that’s hard to explain.  There’s a recognition, a respect, a salute and… a sadness that embraces me.  It’s simple, silent and sincere.  It’s a shared appreciation.  It’s different than the love that I have for my child.  It’s different than the respect I have for role models.  It’s different than the salute I give to accomplishments.  It’s different and yet it’s the same.  It’s a strange bond that transcends country, color, race and religion.  It’s older than age and younger than youth. It’s about sacrifice and sincere substance.  It’s grave and it’s gravitas.  It’s hard to explain the warm smile and the chilling sadness that I feel when I think of the value and values of a veteran.  It’s hard to explain but…

Something important happens.

Dan Collins

Read Dan’s Blog here:


Charley Johnson – Paying It Forward

5 11 2010

When you ask most people “What is your goal?” they might say they would like to increase their business, lose some weight, or buy a new car – not Charley Johnson – Charley is going to “change the world.”  When you talk to Charley you realize he is serious, and you realize that he has the passion, drive, and confidence to actually achieve that goal.

In 2006, driving on the freeway, Charley Johnson had a vision, and that vision has turned into a movement.  The idea was inspired by the movie Pay It Forward written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and the foundation that it spawned.  Millions of people saw that movie and thought, “great idea” but Charley Johnson took action to spread the word – with a simple bracelet.

The “Pay It Forward” mission is this:  You, your company, your community, your family & friends can make the world a better place.  It could be a small act like opening a door, buying a stranger a cup of coffee, or giving your time to a cause.  Donate blood, open a door for someone, work at a soup kitchen, assist your neighbor with their yardwork, give someone your spot in line – there is no wrong way to participate, as long as you are doing something to make another person’s life better.

Charley’s contribution to the cause is a white rubber PAY IT FORWARD bracelet.  You CANNOT buy them – just contact Charley and he will send you a bunch of bracelets for free.  Wear your bracelet to remind yourself to do something nice.  Pass the bracelet on to remind someone else to keep it moving forward.  Thus far, Charley has put over 800,000 bracelets into 58 countries around the world, and he’s only getting started.  The goal is 1 billion (with a “B”) bracelets in circulation – 1 billion reminders to do something nice.  Schools are involving the concept in their programs about citizenship and responsibility.  Communities are using the concept to improve their surroundings and help their neighbors.  Companies are using the concept to increase teamwork and boost employee morale.

Charley & Stacey-Marie Hansen

Speaking to Charley this week was as surprising as it was inspiring.  I tried to get him to talk about himself, take some credit, and soak up a little well-deserved spotlight for making a difference.  You might expect a guy with over 4,000 Facebook friends to self-promote when given the chance.  Not even close.  “This movement is not about me,” he said with a matter-of-fact frankness that is his trademark whether he knows it or not, “this is about creating your own movement.  This gives everyone a chance to participate – the bracelet tells you what to do, but not how to do it.”

The Promotional Products Industry, where Charley earns his living, is throwing it’s weight behind the cause.  Saturday, November 6th, is Promotional Professionals Pay It Forward Day, and we encourage everyone to participate.  Do something nice for someone else.  Follow Charley’s example and make the world a better place.

Great job Charley. I know you don’t want the credit, but you deserve it.

Halloween: Personal Brand 1.0

29 10 2010

T-shirt + Duct Tape = Racer X

I went to Catholic school until 7th Grade.  We wore uniforms – navy blue cords, white collared shirt, and the optional red v-neck sweater.  Not a lot of opportunity for personal expression.

But once a year there was Halloween.  On Halloween I could be anything I wanted.  Express the inner me and show some personality.  I had my favorites – Evel Knievel, Wolfman, Batman, baseball player.  I think I was a pirate 3 or 4 times.  Everybody got into the spirit.  My older brother was often an Indian, and my kid brother was usually the Hulk.  Our friends all dressed up at the school carnival, and the streets filled with trick-or-treaters dressed as Jedi’s, vampires, and princesses.

Growing older, I was surprised to see that everyone continued to dress up.  We got decked-out for events in high school and college.  After that it became bars, clubs, and late-night house parties.  Talk about your self expression.  Seems a lot of people like to express themselves with very little clothing these days.

The costumes people choose have always intrigued me – actually, not the costumes, but the intention behind them.  What makes people choose their costume?  What influences that thought process?  Scary, silly, or sexy?  Funny, flirty, or famous?  Wonder Woman, a Banana, Scarlett O’Hara, Billy Idol, Popeye and Olive, a Cheerleader – you were those things for a reason.  You have to be comfortable in your costume, and I doubt you would be comfortable in something that wasn’t a personal reflection of some defining characteristic.  Seems to me that on Halloween we reach inside ourselves and find a quality that we can display on the outside, if only for one night a year.

At least that’s how we used to do it.  Now we constantly share our pictures, our thoughts, our friends, our likes.  We display everything – and we do it all 365.  Never have we been more able to express ourselves – or see the character of other people.  Everyone establishing their “personal brand” whether they realize it or not.  Halloween is a fun outlet for personal expression, but I do prefer this ability to do it on a more regular basis.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Passion for Beer

8 10 2010

“Ah, beer. The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson

I moved to San Diego right after college and needed to find a way to make a few bucks while I searched for a career.  With a bit of table-waiting experience under my belt, I was able to land a job at the Karl Strauss Brewing Company in downtown.  Talk about your great times! I made a ton of friends (many of the life-long variety), earned enough money to cover the rent while I searched for a regular job type job, and got deep discounts on some fantastic beer.

Also during that time, I had the extreme honor and pleasure of participating in a beer-tasting with the man himself, Mr. Karl Strauss.  Always dressed in suit and tie, “Uncle Karl” personally led the tasting, describing the brewing process and unique qualities of each of the fine ales and lagers we sampled.  The more he drank the thicker his German accent grew, and by the time we were done I thought I would need a translator.

Although impressed by his ability to put ‘em down, I was primarily enamored by the passion he had for his craft.  Mr. Strauss was literally born on the premises of his father’s brewery.  He was the VP of Production for Pabst and remained with the company for 44 years.  This was not his job, it was his love.  He is not just the name behind the brewery, he is the inspiration.   Beer was in his blood – his profession was his life.

“My life’s work has been brewing and if I had to do it over again, I would pursue the same path, which is to say I have no regrets.” Karl M. Strauss, 1912-2006

Okay, we don’t all get to work at a brewery and talk about beer all day, but there is something you can find to be passionate about at your job.  I will always remember to bring passion to work with me every morning.  Thank you Uncle Karl for the inspiration.  And cheers!  I’ll raise one to you this Oktoberfest.

Get Naughty

1 10 2010

So I’m headed to Vegas this weekend.  Just a short while ago that would have meant all kinds of craziness.  When I tell people about my upcoming Vegas trip, they say, “Oooh, what are you going to do???” with that certain hopeful and devilish tone that implies they want to hear about gaming, clubbing, and debauchery.  But alas, the times, they are a-changin.

Instead of cocktails on the plane, it will be DVD’s in the minivan.  Oh yes, on the weekends it’s the minivan for me.  Believe it.  My son is 5, my daughter is 3.  We like three rows of seats so they can sit separately – hence less eye-poking, scratching, and pinching.  They are good kids, but they act like hockey players inside a car.

Instead of a suite at the Hard Rock, we will be shacking up at my brother’s house.  Yes, people actually live in Vegas – and the houses are huge.  When we wake up in the morning we won’t hear slot machines and smell like smoke.  My daughter will wake me singing, “Daaaaaddyyyyy wake uuuuuup” at 6:30 instead of a housekeeper banging on the door at noon.

Instead of lounging (passing out) by the pool, we will swim together in my brother’s back yard.  I will throw my son as high as I can and he will splash grandpa in the face.  There will be no cocktail waitresses bringing us Mai Tai’s in bikinis – unless I do something really nice for my wife and she volunteers (does driving a minivan count as something nice?).

As I slip pleasantly into middle-age, businesses are constantly rebranding themselves as sexy, sleek, and young.  Why?  Well, I suppose minivans are not sexy.

Consider Volvo.  They have established a brand known for safety and sensibility.  And here they are, jumping into the sport-sedan class with all four tires.  We printed these “I Got Naughty In A Volvo” t-shirts to promote the new S60.  They were given to test drivers.  Apparently you can get naughty in a Volvo and you don’t have to wait til your parents are out of town.  Oh yes, the times, they are a-changin.


Have a great weekend everyone.  If it’s still warm in your town, here is a great drink:


1 Can of concentrated frozen lemonade

Pour concentrate into pitcher

Add 3 cans of water

1 can of Vodka

1 full Beer – preferably Amber or Mexican beer

Stir and pour over ice


That’s What She Said

24 09 2010

I’ve been waiting until the season premier of The Office to write about the shirts we recently produced for the show.  This post was supposed to be about how t-shirts can start conversations – about how the guys in the art department and I talk about the show every Friday morning:  “Why was Dwight holding a knife??” – stuff like that.  But after last night’s premier of The Office, something else happened and I have to change direction.

The Office is not just “ha-ha” funny – it is filled with such strange, inappropriate, and unethical behavior that it becomes almost uncomfortable to watch – and you can’t help but laugh.  As you learn the flaws of the characters you eventually feel like an insider.  NBC capitalizes on this and promotes the show by making items that appear in the episodes available for the public – the Dwight Schrute bobblehead, the personalized mugs, the Dunder Mifflin fun run t-shirts.

Last night they took it a step farther.  On the season premier, the staff made a YouTube video (sounds familiar) and “Ryan” wore a shirt advertising his website: www.wuphf.com.  Of course I had to look it up, and it exists.  The site asks for all kinds of sensitive personal information but does not actually allow you to enter – although I wonder how many people tried.  The hoax becomes clear, especially since it’s backed by Ryan who has already done time for fraud.

What point are they trying to make?  Who knows – does it really matter?  The bottom line is that they got me and a lot of other people to participate.  They used a printed t-shirt to make me curious enough to take action.  And yes, I’m the shirt guy, and I was giddy.  I sat back in my comfy chair, sipped my traditional Thursday cognac and smiled.  Thank you NBC, thank you The Office.

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