Saturday, May 31, 2008
This was the tenth year that I attended the event, and am always impressed with the way the the accounting firm honors the city's top business leaders. While the program ran long, it was still great to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that makes Austin spectacular.
The lifetime achievement "Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award" was given to local entrepreneur and venture capitalist Jimmy Treybig. Jimmy is a fixture in the Austin business community and was the founder of Tandem Computers, which was sold to Compaq, and is now a venture partner with NEA Ventures. He has been a "leader by example" and adviser to many of today's young entrepreneurs.
The "Social Entrepreneur Award", which includes a $100,000 donation to the charity, was given to Richard Halpin, founder of American YouthWorks.
Ernst & Young honored the founders of three successful companies as the "2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Winners":
Sam Goodner, Catapult Systems
Satin Mirchandani and Mike Rosenfelt, Message One
Mark Adams, Advocate MD
All the winners are shining examples of the "can do" attitude of Austin's business climate.
The party continued until late in the night at the annual Andrews Kurth "After Party" at PF Changs. Hosted by the Austin office of the Andrews Kurth law firm, the party rocked out until after 2 AM (I left at 1 AM, and there were still over 200 people dancing and having a grand old time!). If the award ceremony is like the Academy Awards, this party is like getting an invite to Spago. Nobody ever believes that middle aged executives in tuxedos and formals would party until 2 AM...but it happens every year!
Even after a decade of attending this event, I still find it to be the best party of the year.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
This involves giving yourself an occasional "pep talk". I don't have many days when I want to pull the covers over my head and not get out of bed, but they do happen. The trick that I have adopted that keeps me going everyday is the "wake up thought". I wrote about this in January 2007, and utilize the focusing of my brain on the positive aspects of the day before my feet hit the ground.
As soon as I wake up I concentrate on how fortunate I am to have a great family, to have a job that challenges me, to have the chance to write books and speak to business audiences around the country (I woke up in Denver today after speaking last night)...I remind myself that the day ahead will be outstanding. I imagine the opportunities that I will have to experience a great day.
This mini pep talk is all I need to jump up and start my day.
Try this yourself for one week. Begin your day by looking at what will make it awesome. God knows, there is enough negativity in the world to drag down an elephant .... but if you look for the fantastic, then you will find it every time.
Have A Great Day.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I had an interesting conversation this morning with a woman in the airport who recognized me from having seen me speak at an Austin Chamber of Commerce event. She complimented my speaking skills, but admitted to not having bought into my message of the power of business relationships. She specifically was avoiding a major black tie event this week because she "hates those things".
However, all of her customers, prospects, referral sources and competitors will be at the event, she rationalized that it will be so crowded that nobody will notice she is not there.
WRONG! Out of sight is out of mind. And what is worse is that if your competitor has an active networking campaign, then they can undermine your credibility.
What? How can somebody's visibility undermine your credibility? Think about it this way: The people who do participate at business events see your competition at all the time and feel a camaraderie with them. They don't see you and thus have no feelings about you at all. When it comes time to make a referral or select a vendor, they will choose to do business with the person they know and like.
My airport friend disagreed with me, but went on to talk about how tough times were right now in the economy and that it looked like it would remain tight for a couple of years in her industry. Interesting, she sees tought times but does not think being active in the community has any value. Meanwhile I am sure her competition appreciates her being a hermit.
Have A Great Day.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Have A Great Day.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
"Clean up MySpace and Facebook pages because potential employers will check them. One test: Make sure there is nothing up there you wouldn't want your grandmother to see"
Her two sentence observation should be expanded into an entire article for Millennials (and others), as it is often shocking to see what these aspiring young professionals have posted on the internet. I wrote about this a few months ago, when one young buck whose "Chick Magnet" persona made him look less than professional. Since then I have been made aware of dozens of other similar incidents that have kept people from getting jobs, clients and other opportunities.
When I talk to Millennials about social networking profiles that include wild party pics, booze, innuendos of drugs, sexy pics of themselves or friends, etc.... most defend the phenomenon and opine that the world is just different now and those things on MySpace pages are just "normal" and that it wont effect them negatively later because their generation expects these things.
Their statements of how different things are remind me of those who thought the stock market was operating under different rules in 1999 and that the dot-com companies had created a new economic reality. Certain things do not change as much as one thinks they might.
The reality is that job seekers and those concerned with building their future career should make conscious decisions about the image they portray on the internet. Regardless of if you like it or not, people will search for all your online information when making hiring and purchasing decisions. The information they find will influence their decision on if you get the job or if you win their business.
I am sure that the guy in this video would be the prize hire for any company:
Underwater beer bong
Think about this for a minute... you are 23 years old have this clip on your MySpace page and the hiring partner at a Fortune 500 company has to choose between two highly qualified candidates for one great job. She is fifty years old and the mother of three teenagers. What effect will watching this clip have on her choice?
Even those who already have jobs need to think about this, as employers are regularly searching to see how their employees are representing their brand. Very often these social networking profiles will include professional information, and you boss may not be happy about you listing your company name or logo next to the underwater beer bong or the nearly naked Playboy centerfold. Employees are an extension of the company's brand and any time you list your employer publicly they will find your profile (*a good marketing department is always searching for the brand on line!).
Take Alexandra Levit's advice and think about what grandma would say if she found your profile. It is not bad advice, because most grandparents are becoming web savvy and she probably will Google her grandchildren just to check up on you. Unless granny is a beer-bonger, you might want to rethink your profile!
Have A Great Day.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Yep. Being Casual Friday I am wearing my white golf shirt with the "vcfo" logo. The right side of my shirt is now polka dotted with faint reddish pink circles where the tidal wave of marinara settled.
Oh well. It sure tasted good when I was not wearing it.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The panel included:
Bill Wood, founder - Silverton Partners
Brett Hurt, founder and CEO - Bazaarvoice
Mike Maples Jr, managing partner - Maples Investments
The shared wisdom included important observations and advice that the panel has experienced first hand over their many years of experience:
Everyone knows the bubble VC model is dead and "back to basics" is the word of the day. Many only remember the crazy venture capital lending practices of 1996 - 2000, but those days were nutty. We are now back to the fundamentals of how the venture industry operated for decades before the boom of the late 90's. The best entrepreneurs also do not want to raise money unnecessarily and bootstrap their companies for as long as possible.
The costs of starting a technology oriented business have come way down over the past decade. It is now easy for an entrepreneur to prove concept before needing to take millions. "Sell first, build later" allows the business to have customers and revenues before needing the investment.
The raise of VC money is then used to accelerate into a proven market, and today's savvy professionals treat every dollar they spend as if it was their last. The opulent spending on non-necessities are long gone for the entrepreneur and the venture capitalist. Smaller dollar investments are becoming more common.
The new VC math does not work in all verticals as hardware system plays still require huge amounts of money to get up and running, and there are many exceptions where companies are still successfully raising large rounds, but the trends are toward lean and creativity with capital efficiency is what many VC's look for in today's companies.
Entrepreneurs do not benefit from diluting ownership if they are not right on their assumptions. This is why being smart and testing models first and making sure to get it right before welcoming investors into their organizations is the goal of the savvy.
Mike Mapels added from the VC perspective that "it takes more money to fund a crummy company than it does to fund a great one", sighting examples that Cisco, Microsoft and others took very little venture money. A true test of a disruptive idea is if the company can create disruption with limited cash from outside investors.
Entrepreneurs and investors agreed that in addition to the money an investor does bring other value to a portfolio company. Their connections and experience are a valuable asset, and a good VC knows how to be helpful to the companies in whom they invest, and thus helping them achieve more. However, the relationship can be much like a marriage and thus both need to be conscious of the long term interactions that come along with the investment.
Knowledge of the marketplace is paramount for a growth company and experimenting is more important than ever. Test all theories and focus on fundamentals to accelerate the company was the thread of the discussion.
After hearing this panel I feel strong about the future, as there seems to be no limit to innovation out there in the world. There are still ideas and people willing to fund the entrepreneurs. New math or old math, there will be successes for startup companies!
Have A Great Day.
Monday, May 19, 2008
No, I am not having a mid-life crisis. I am not talking about chucking it all and moving to a remote cabin to write a manifesto. I have not embraced some harmonic convergence of the third kind. This is not a bad thing.
Personally a major sea change is happening, and I can let it pass me by or embrace what will be a meaningful directional shift that will allow me to find ways to make a better impact on all areas of my world. I think these come along from time to time, and we can either ignore them or go with the flow of discovery.
I am not even sure exactly what changes I am looking to make, but I do know that I am feeling more confident than I have in a long time. With such confidence comes the ability to take actions toward being more than I was yesterday. When I was young I never questioned myself or the future possibilities. Not that with age came doubts, but responsibilities can bring a plethora of fears that can stifle. One does not want to mess up a good thing!
I am now looking to be more productive, engaged and excellent in all that I do. I am corralling my focus to ensure that I have an impact on others and that my time is not wasted on the mediocre. This is easy to consider, difficult to execute.
This is a common desire, because the most dynamic people seem to instinctively share this feeling. Distractions are abundant and can imprison that intestinal gumption that makes one strive to figure things out at a higher level. But we can all get past the mundane distractions and get on out path when we are aware of our goals and direction.
Dr. Stewart Friedman of The Wharton School (whom I met last week) teaches that you have to assess own life situation and align your actions with your values. A person who wants to accomplish more in any area must focus on achieving better results in all parts of their life. Spending too much time on any one thing will through the whole person out of whack and rob them of their potential.
When Wall Street guru Warren Buffett of the famed Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. makes an investment in a company, he looks for an organization that is undervalued, but has unusually good potential for growth. This strategy has lead him to the top of the investment world. I think anyone who wants to embrace personal growth needs to see them self in the same manner: undervalued, but with an intrinsic value for achieving future successes that are beyond current performance (As opposed to the "book value" of a business, the intrinsic value is the value of a business' ongoing operations).
So here we go. While this is not new, as I always strive to create a better life for myself and those around me, this is a construction project like no other. The raw materials are here, it is now my challenge to assemble them. Some Assembly is Required to achieve anything outstanding and inspiring.
This whole adventure should be fun. Especially because I do not go into it alone. I have a number of people in my life who support me in my quest. Equally important to those in my inner circle are those who regularly read my books and blog. This journey we take together, as my writing has become an extension of myself, so all readers are part of the process. The people who read my books and blog have become an important part of my extended network. I welcome you comments about constructing Life 2.0.
Have A Great Day.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Three years ago a small boy named Liam Jessin was in the hospital being treated for Leukemia. While tucked into his bed he whispered to his parents, "I wish there was no cancer; I wish I could travel, too".
His parents replied, "One day, son, we will show you the world. And one day there will be no cancer!"
Liam is now eight years old and has been out of treatment for two years. His parents are keeping their promise to their young son, and this month Mom (Lydie), Dad (Stephan), Liam, and his three brothers will embark on a three year trip around the world in a motor home.
They will cover 85,000 miles and visit 60 countries in an effort to see the world and raise money for cancer research. They have sold their house, cars, and many other possessions and in two weeks they will leave Austin, Texas on a journey like no other.
Their plans and the of the map of their route are on their website at http://www.milesofhope.net/.
Besides being a family adventure, they hope to raise money for the “International Union Against Cancer".
These are amazing people. Liam's mom, Lydie, was my daughter's pre-school teacher, and Liam's little brother, Julian, was in her kindergarten class. I can't help but be envious of these four boys who will have the most unique childhood of anyone they will ever meet as they go through life.
While the family is self-funding this trip, they are accepting sponsors to help get them through the whole three years. For $50 you can sign up for their quarterly newsletter that will update you on their progress as they navigate this little blue marble known as Earth.
If you read this story and are half as inspired as I am by Stephan, Lydie, Jeremy, Axel, Liam and Julian, please share their story with a friend.
Have A Great Day.
We all deserve more than just "blah" from the companies we do business. You customers are waiting to hear from you. They want to have a dialog.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Two days ago I blogged about being too short on time, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed at all that I have on my calendar. Then by pure serendipity I met author Stewart Friedman who was in Austin to promote his new book, Total Leadership, and speak at a meeting sponsored by Leadership Austin and Bootstrap Austin. The event was hosted by BazaarVoice, one of Austin's hottest growth oriented companies and leader in the area of social commerce.
The message of Friedman's Total Leadership is about being a better leader and having a better life. However, this in not your usual leadership book, but instead is focused on going beyond life / work balance and being more effective with the limited 24 hours that we all get every day. Stew is on a mission to allow others to create change that benefits work, home, community and self.
As the Wharton School professor spoke to the sold out crowd of over 100 business professionals, it was as if he had read my blog post from Tuesday and was speaking directly to my dilemma.
Each of us is challenged in different ways to make it through our lives, but Friedman teaches that leadership is not just about businesses, it is about life. One must begin, be real, be whole, be innovative and then reflect and grow from their unique experiences.
His research shows that those who can gain control over their lives are more productive in all areas of their life. Many look at the work / life movement as being all about the employee, but in reality, when done right, it benefits the individual, the company and the greater community.
The most telling part of his talk was that we put much of the pressure to perform on ourselves. When we explore the situation, we discover that that what we think people expect from us is usually much more than they actually expect. We are the ones who push ourselves to superhero levels when others have mortal expectations of how we go through our day.
I am anxious to dive in and read Total Leadership, as the book has "ah ha" moments waiting to be discovered.
Have A Great Day.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I enjoy the days when I go from meeting to meeting and complete successive projects. Checking off the "to do's" on my ever growing list engulfs me with personal pride. The clock seems to stand still while at the same time the hours pass instantaneously. I feel like Superman. Everything I touch turns to gold in a Midas like manner and I thrive on the ability to successfully navigate and achieve so many activities at one time.
Yet in a parallel universe I feel the pressure. I think this is common to most active professionals. We are junkies for the "busy", but long to have that "free time" that seems to populate media advertisements for "the good life".
I had a free hour today between two speeches I was giving in Austin (one for a non-profit and the other for a law firm). Part of me wished to sit in a park alongside the lake and just stare out at the water, but it is rainy and humid. The other side of my brain screamed; "Ahhhh, look at all the emails in your in inbox, and there is so many projects due at work, oh, and you have not blogged in a few days.... Oh gosh, and the new book needs my attention, etc..."
Alas, I am sitting here doing work, calling the office, writing this blog post and catching up on emails and other stuff that needs to get done. I philosophically understand that this is my choice, as none of these things NEEDED to be done right this moment. I wonder if the weatherman had provided me with a "Chamber of Commerce Day" if I would have found my butt on a park bench enjoying some solitude. Probably not, I would probably be doing just what I am doing at this very minute.
None of this post is about complaining. I enjoy all that I do in my life. I am writing this more because I know that I am not alone in this feeling of enjoying a demanding professional and personal schedule, while still longing to have that "down-time". I think it is part of our culture to desire these in the same space. We want both at once (which is not possible). This is "wanting my cake and eating it too".
I like where I am right now in my life. I am surrounded by good people who make a difference and I am challenged to grow personally and professionally. I just desire that I could invent the 26 hours day, and get by on five hours of sleep. That would provide me with five extra hours in each day, which would be just about right for me to excel in my quest to be healthy, wealthy and wise!
Have A Great Day
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I just completed my year in the Leadership Austin program, and I cannot find the words to describe the experience. It is not just the curriculum that makes it great, but the interactions with a diverse and engaging group of people who challenge each other to examine their commitment to community service, leadership and success.
You will see in the video that the theme for everyone is their connections to the other people in the class. While I did not have the opportunity to get to know everyone in the group, I developed an unparalleled level of respect for these dedicated leaders.
For more information about Leadership Austin please visit http://www.leadershipaustin.org/.
Applications for the 2009 class are being accepted until June 16, 2008.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Yes, I realize that many of you have come to believe that wearing nametag is not "cool" so you invent lots of reasons not to use them. High School ended a long time ago (decades ago for some of us!!!), so get over the "coolness factor"....at least on the subject of the nametag.
I recently went to a business event hosted by a major company. They did not have nametags because a few of the senior executives protested to the event planner that their event was not a "networking" event, thus there should be no nametags. They felt having nametags made people uncomfortable.
Let me see if I have this correct. They invited 250 clients to a party, but it was not about networking? Anytime you put a group of humans together, networking happens...this is normal, not a bad thing!
The way it played out was that the executives all knew their clients, and thus did not see the need for nametags. But alas, the 250 guests did not know each other, so they could not easily mingle. People sat with those they already knew and did not mix. The executives thought the party was a success, but the guests all privately grimaced that it was a waste of time because they did not meet anyone new. These rationalizing execs only saw the event through selfish eyes.
One person I talked with spent twenty minutes thinking I worked for the hosting company. Heck, I do not work at that firm, but with no identification she assumed I did, until the end of the conversation when we traded businesscards. Had I been wearing a nametag she would have known my name and where I was employed right from the start.
Another mistake that is made is not putting the company name on a nametag. This is as important as the person's name. It allows conversations to begin.
One again, a nametag is a tool for facilitating communication. Learn it. Live it. Do not allow people in your company to make anti-nametag rationalizations when you are planning a corporate event. As the meeting planner, it is your goal to make sure that your event is a success. This means you need to stand up to those who rally against nametags. They are just wrong. Tell them I said so.
Have A Great Day.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I love the old line from the classic 1970s movie "The Bad News Bears". Anyone who is now around forty-years-old fondly remembers the original Walter Matheau / Tatum O'Neal classic baseball flick where the coach tells the team of misfit ballplayers "never to assume anything" as he writes the word assume on the chalk board. Then while circling the parts of the word he tells his little leaguers that "when you 'assume', you make and 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'".
Make sure that you communicate with those around you and take the time to be sure they know what motivates you. I am find that those who comprehend what I do in my job are quick to make referrals to the company where I work. Those who know I speak professionally will often hire me to come into their company or recommend me for a keynote at a conference. If these friends did not know details about me, my company, my books, my speaking, etc.... they would never have the ability make such a big difference in my life.
Look around at the people in your life -- do they know what you need to reach for greater successes? Are you sure? Or do you assume that they understand all they must to know to make a life changing introduction for you to a client, prospect, referral source or other partner who could have an impact on your future?
If you do not tell people about yourself, who will. I am not suggesting you brag, but you need to promote yourself or you will suffer by being "the best kept secret in your industry".
Many times people think that if they just do good work that others will praise them to all they meet. Most likely not. Doing good work is just cost of doing business. Look around, your competition does good work too (I know, you hate to hear that, but they most likely serve their clients quite well or their customers would already be calling you!). Never assume that your prospects know you exist. Just because they have heard of you once a long time ago does not mean that they will remember you when the time comes to buy your products or services.
Take control of making sure that people remember you at those critical times when they can buy or make a referral. You have to take responsibility for cultivating your professional relationships and making sure that people know how they can help you. Trust me, people want to help you succeed, they just need to better understand how help.
Have A Great Day.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
This summer the team has the opportunity to perform at a major martial arts event in Houston, but they need to raise about $2000 for new uniforms and travel costs to the performance.
Here is where I need your help:
What types of businesses do you think the kids should target to raise sponsorship money for the team. They have the ability to put the sponsors name or logos on the front and sleeves of their uniforms for the next year (think NASCAR) and to promote the sponsors at the school and at a variety of other events where they will participate (sometimes they end up on TV). This is not a big business with massive reach, but an important part of the lives of the kids who are enrolled in the program.
Four sponsors at $500 each would cover all their needs, however this is not your normal marketing promotion....so I am struggling with coming up with the right mix of value to those who would support these kids for their summer trip and performance.
I have some thoughts swirling in my head, and the owner of the studio, Master Juarez, has spent a lifetime in the martial arts - thus he has many great ideas.... But I know that someone out there in the blogosphere might just have an "AH HA" moment that can spark the answer they seek.
Feel free to comment on the blog or to send me an email. All ideas are good ideas, and I appreciate you allowing me to tap into your minds..... as when more than one person contemplates a solution, amazing things can happen. How cool that the medium of the internet allows this brainstorming to go beyond just a few.
Thank you to those of you who share your thoughts.
Have A Great Day.
Rock ’n’ Restock began in 2004 as the brainchild of Chad and Tara Goldwasser of Goldwasser Real Estate. Initially a client appreciation party, they realized that the event was the perfect way to fulfill one of the company’s missions—to give back to the community—while incorporating Chad’s love of live music. Over the years, the vision has grown, and this year will be the biggest year yet.
In 2007, the event was expanded by inviting members of the general public to attend. What began as a small party has turned into a major event, with more than 700 Austinites rocking to Bob Schneider and raising $10,000 for charity. With Chad’s energy and enthusiasm, there’s no doubt that within five years we’ll be rocking and restocking along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.
Since its inception, proceeds from Rock ’n’ Restock have been donated to the Capital Area Food Bank. Beginning in 2008, the event will also benefit Right Course, a brand new non-profit organization aimed at providing children, who cannot otherwise afford it, the opportunity to participate in organized sports. The organization believes this involvement will teach children important values such as teamwork, leadership, and personal growth that they will use throughout their life. This year with our multiple sponsors, we will raise more than $50,000 for local charities.
Past headliners have included Guy Forsyth, Lavelle White, Grupo Fantasma, and Bob Schneider. This year, Bob Schneider returns with his Bluegrass Masscre, plus opening acts Superpal Universe and Feeding 5,000.
Buy your tickes now!!! Only $25 for a great night at Stubb's BBQ in beautiful Austin, Texas...and support a good cause.
Have A Great Day.
Friday, May 02, 2008
I unsubscribed from her blog, deleted her from my blog roll, un-facebooked, deleted the Twitter follow, and all around just purged myself of this online persona who I originally admired, but came to lean was a phony. A self-centered prima donna who only was looking out for herself and not really interested in building any type of mutually beneficial relationships through the social media tools she populates.
Her blogging had become painful to read. There was little concern for imparting knowledge, but a constant attempt to stir up controversy while positioning herself as somehow better than the common folk. As a common folk, I had reached the end of my rope.
She has a big following and never seems to use it for good. She has an army of fanny-kissers, but even then she does not share the love. Sure she occasionally linked out to other blogs, but only ones with more cache than she. Never have I seen her be gracious to others on line and say a kind word or helped lift others up, although she certainly kissed-fanny to those more famous than her at every turn. She has a big ego, and in the end was leaving me sad every time I had any contact.
The great thing about cleaning house in the social media arena is that she does not really know or care who I am, nor will she even notice that I am gone in most cases. This is not like having to purge a toxic friend or family member. She could care less who follows her as long as she has the big numbers on her statcounter. Why in the world was I wasting my precious time with this person who brings no rays of sunlight into the world?
How about you, have you ever found the need to eliminate people from your online life? (oh God, is it me?).
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
The panel was made up of four local executives from top companies that assist clients in understanding and utilizing this brave new world:
Rob Solomon -Bulldog Solutions
Tim Hayden - GamePlan Marketing
Bill Leake - Apogee Search
Paul Walker - GCI Group
Together they shed light on this complicated and ever changing topic. The small business audience was engaged and many stayed afterwards for over 30 minutes asking individual questions of the experts.
I used my new Flip Video Cam to capture a few snippets of the speakers (sorry Tim, I did not get any of your wisdom on camera). Very new world to have a panel on social media where the moderator was capturing the speakers on video for instant use on the blogosphere. Just a few years that was not even possible, now it is the standard.
Blogs, video, Twitter, SEO, Webinars, Interactive media, Online Reputation Management, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other topics were explored and the experts got the audience thinking about the new realities of the online world.
Have A Great Day.