Something I Gotta Say

16 12 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote about making ourselves uncomfortable to drive forward.  It was an attempt to shed light on my thought process for the big decision I recently made.  Since then I have been asked a lot of questions by the keen observers and inquiring minds.  So that the record is clear, I will discuss the subject plainly and with transparency.

For the past 13 years I have been working as a Sales Rep, then Sales Manager, then VP of Sales for AddVenture Products, an apparel marketing agency specializing in the CompressT and other innovative promotional products.  During that time I learned more about business than I could imagine, achieved success, and grew as a professional.  I built strong, lasting relationships.  I tried weird things, I failed, I learned, I tried again.  We produced t-shirts for everything you can imagine – some that I was particularly fond of, like The Hangover Movie, Snoop Dogg, The Simpsons, NASCAR, The Office, Family Guy, Batman, Alice In Chains, True Blood, etc, etc, etc.

In the past year I started writing this blog.  It has helped me establish myself as somewhat of an expert in my industry.  I won some awards, and I’ve been asked to participate in committees, magazines, and webinars.  I certainly don’t know everything – far from it, but there are some things I know well, and I have been sought out in that regard.  The attention has made me feel a bit guilty, humbled, and embarrassed – I have also felt empowered and proud.  My network has grown and I have increased my exposure within the industry where I earn a living.

Along with this new recognition came job offers – really interesting ones too.  Some were tough to ignore, even tougher to turn down, and one in particular was impossible to overlook.  Along with that great opportunity comes a great disturbance to my life and my family.  In these situations you want to investigate and be sure – “look before you leap,” right?  Sometimes damnit, you just gotta leap!  So that’s what I did.

I have joined Boundless Network as the VP of Sales.  My family and I are moving to Austin, Texas.  To anyone reading this that has no knowledge of the promotional products industry, this means very little – I’m just a guy changing jobs, moving to a new town, and taking way too long to explain.  But to my colleagues, clients, family and friends, it is kind of a big deal.

Am I nervous?  Scared?  Doubting myself?  Questioning whether or not I will suck???  Sure.  Am I excited?  More excited than I can measure.  Am I sad to leave my town, friends, and a company I genuinely love?  Of course.  But life is change, and no reward comes without risk.

I will continue writing the blog.  I am going to let it evolve naturally, mirroring my own path.  I love – seriously – love the ride I’ve been on.  Now it’s time for a change in direction.  Am I going to make mistakes as I progress?  Yep.  Am I going to look back?  No way.

There is a large group of people that have touched my life.

  • I am grateful for the kindness and support I have been shown these past years. 
  • I appreciate the knowledge and honesty I have received from my valued mentors.
  • I am honored by the people that have chosen to learn from me.
  • I greatly respect the people that were unafraid to tell me when I was wrong.

And now I move forward, as do you.  Happy New Year everybody.  May we all kick some serious butt next year.  Thanks for listening, thanks for participating.  This is only the beginning…

Great Idea

3 09 2010

I’m writing this thread from 30,000 feet on a flight to St. Louis.  I was inspired by SkyMall Magazine, which is my favorite part of flying.  They’ve got some crazy and awesome stuff in there.  So many cool, useful, and strange ideas.  And I wonder – why didn’t I think of the Digital Camera Swim Mask?  Couldn’t I have come up with the Bigfoot Tree Statue?  Actually, I’m sure that the Peaceful Progression Wake-Up Clock was my idea, but someone beat me to it.  And Lawn Aerating Sandals???  I could have built those in my garage!

You’ve had an idea.  You’ve thought of some invention.  We’ve all had them.  So why are we not all rich inventor types?  Because a great idea is not enough – not by a long shot.  You need product development, marketing, sales, customer service, artwork, meetings, clients, catalogs, employees, websites, strategies, people, associations, trade shows, flights – do I have to keep going?  The idea is only the beginning.

Browsing through the various SkyMall treasures, it made me think of the the great idea that is the reason I am on this plane – and on so many other planes before it.  Made me think of all the things I have seen and learned over the years – how many people I’ve met and how many places I’ve visited.  And this time I’m flying out to win an award, but none of it would have happened without one man and a great idea.

My boss Alan Davis invented something called the CompressT.  It’s a printed t-shirt shaped to look like something – a star, a guitar, a house, a pint of beer, or about 1,000 other things.  Companies, clubs, and groups, use t-shirts to promote their message at events, giveways, concerts, etc.  And shaping them as we do emphasizes the message.  But aside from the product, how did Alan get this idea off the ground?

As a smart entrepreneur, Alan knew that he couldn’t accomplish his goals on his own.  I’ve been in sales and marketing for a long time and that is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.

  • Admit that you don’t know everything
  • Find people to help you
  • Let them use their talents to propel your vision

That’s not just how you develop a product, that’s how you build a culture.


Speaking of great ideas – how great is this?

Your Inner Rockstar

13 08 2010

Who is your favorite one-name celebrity?  Madonna, Prince, Bono, Sade?  My favorite is Slash.  It’s not even a name, it’s an action, a motion, or a punctuation mark / .  Slash doesn’t need authentication, he doesn’t need a last name – that man can play the damn guitar.

I recently produced a t-shirt project for Slash’s new album.  No surprise that he went with a skull and crossbones for the design – that’s always in style for Pirates and Rockers.  A few years ago, skulls came back as a fashion trend, even for the non-hardcore and non-swashbuckler.  As a guy that makes t-shirts for a living, I saw skulls everywhere, and I’ll admit it got a little tired.  Why didn’t I feel that way about these shirts for Slash?  What’s the difference between him and everyone else?  Well, Slash would have shirts with skulls on them in 1987, 1999, 2010, or 2056.  That’s not being trendy, that’s being authentic.

Authentic Slash

Guns N Roses is one of the most iconic bands of my generation, and Slash’s guitar became the backbone of their signature sound.  You might not be a fan of hard rock, but you gotta admire the ability to cement your place in pop culture, brand yourself as a virtuoso, and become known as one of the best ever in your profession.

Okay, so you don’t shred the guitar on stage in front of packed stadiums.  How can you brand yourself or your business as authentic and timeless?  What can you learn from the man with one name?

  • Be YOU regardless of the situation. Regardless of who you’re hanging out with, where you are, where you work or go to school.  You might not fit in with the trendy crowd but you will always be cool.  Slash wears a top hat, has hair covering his face at all times, and usually has a smoke hanging from his lip.  Sure it’s cool now because he’s “Slash” but there were times in his life when that look was not fitting-in.  Better to be an outcast as yourself than a cool pretender.
  • Stop paying attention to rivals. Yep, I said it.  If you want to read a business blog about how studying your competition is good, there are plenty.  Everyone is so concerned with what the competition is doing.  “Will meet or beat,” or “bring in a competitor’s coupon,” you’ve heard it all.  Your competitors might be doing something right but you can never truly match it – even if you come close you will be perceived as a copycat.  Do your best to be your best.  To be authentic you have to be an innovator – you can’t focus on innovation with one eye on someone else.
  • Stop using the word “Supposed.” Doing what you’re “supposed” to do is overrated.  It only means you are living up to someone else’s expectations.  What if you’re better than that?  When you worry about what you’re “supposed” to do, what you’re “supposed” to say, you will never sink into the confident feeling of owning your actions, owning your success.
  • Form your own band. So you don’t fit the trend?  There are others – find them, appreciate your differences.  Provide each other a safe haven for creativity and individuality.  Slash has collaborated with an wide array of artists from all musical styles – including Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Insane Clown Posse, Fergie, Ozzy Osbourne, and the guy from Maroon 5.
  • Broadcast. People can’t get to know what is special about you if you don’t put it out there.  Don’t hide the weird things – expose them, let people get to know the real you.  Don’t worry about showing your best side, your most presentable traits.  You are only delaying the inevitable – at some point people will figure out who you truly are.  They might like you for your flaws or your inner weirdo, but not if you try to hide it.

Be yourself, be authentic, be the rockstar in your life.

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