Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Living a Life without Regrets – Finding Your Purpose(s) at Each Stage of Life

In August 2010 it was a long day riding my Yamaha FZ1 through big sky country in Montana from a tiny, campground just south of Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park. The air was quite brisk in the early evening at my camping spot as I setup my portable “pup” tent at over 8,000 feet and then had to jump back on my sportbike for a short ride down to the public showers.

My bike outside of Death Valley NP. FYI: Don’t ever ride thru Death Valley in August!

With all of my camping and heavy riding gear left behind, it’s amazing how much lighter (and exposed) you instantly feel with the cool, high-elevation air cutting through thin layers of clothing.

As I’m dismounting my motorcycle at the public shower, a minivan pulls up next to me. The mom quickly gets out, followed by 3 cute, blonde-haired “mini-mes” of their mother in a frenzy of giggles and activity.

The father walks around the back and then just stands there. Literally, and a bit awkwardly, staring at me gathering up my toiletries.

“Nice bike,” is how it always starts.
Struggling to continue the conversation, “Where did you ride from?”

Not one to miss the opportunity to share my epic adventure, I obliged the small talk. “Just south of Glacier last night but I’ve done the whole west coast starting in New Mexico, riding across to California and then north along the Pacific Highway almost to Canada. Do you ride?”
“I used to ride dirtbikes but had to get rid of them,” as he glanced back towards his minivan, his wife straining to let him enjoy his memories while not interrupting to ask him for some much-needed help.

Then it came as predictable as the sun rising in the east, “Do it while you’re young.”

The last time I’d heard that was just a few short hours earlier as I stopped to take some pictures in Northern Yellowstone at a scenic overlook.

It had become a bit of a disturbing joke to me. Since I was riding alone, there was no one else to share it with, but it was always a bit depressing because what was unsaid was much more important than what was said…

“Do it while you’re young… or you’ll never get to do it at all.”

Ouch. How depressing.

Never could I imagine the day that I didn’t regularly yearn for the thrill of a motorcycle.

Whether at the track or on a trip to the grocery store, for almost a decade I only rode motorcycles and drove sports cars while changing my address over 22 different times and moving between 8 different states.

Then, my son was born and it all changed.

My main modes of transportation shifted from a Buell 1125R and a Camaro 2SS 1LE to a rusty 15 year old Chevy pickup for a child seat to fit in the back.

The pickup was because, I reasoned, at least I’d have a vehicle to transport my bike to the track for the occasional track day. Two years later and still no track days.

But it wasn’t because there weren’t any opportunities to ride.
My wife gave me plenty of leeway to go ride if I wanted to.

I simply don’t want to give up my time with my family.

How to live without regrets

We all have purposes in life. Unfortunately, most people talk about “a purpose.” Something singular.

This is doing you a huge disservice. No one has “a purpose”.

We all have many purposes.
Each stage of your life has a different set of purposes.

As a student, my “purpose” in life was to learn. Learn to become the best engineer possible, learn to interact with people from all walks of life, learn leadership, learn to struggle, learn to overcome tough exams with minimal sleep, and learn to come together with a group of friends to achieve seemingly insurmountable tasks with no money and diets of Taco Bell.

As a young graduate, now in the real world, my purpose was to find my professional calling and passion. Learn how I could impact the most lives and generate the greatest value in the world. For me, my purpose was to find, buy, run or start a business and I clearly understood that I wanted to achieve enough financial success to support a future family.

My other purpose was to enjoy life to its fullest by exploring the world which often involved motorcycle and car trips to over 2-dozen national parks along with any other adrenaline-inducing adventure I could find. At one point, I flew to Australia to look at buying a business on 3-days notice.

In my mid-20’s and early 30’s those were my purposes and I lived them fully.

Now, in my mid-30’s it’s to spend time with my young, growing family.

The secret to not having any regrets?

Live out your full purposes at the right time in your life.

What happens when you mix-up the timing of your purposes?
You have a mid-life crisis.

When you’ve enjoyed adventures when you have little responsibility and few bills, you don’t feel that you’ve missed anything when responsibility and bills inevitably come along,

When you feel like you’ve missed out on some of that adventure because you got married too young or started having a family before you were ready, you turn 50 and buy a Corvette.

Far be it for me to ever disparage someone from wanting a Corvette. I bought a Z06 in my early 30’s and hated it. It was simply unusable as it couldn’t make it over a speedbump without painful grinding. Been there, done that.

Now when I’m playing toy cars with my son, I’m not thinking, man, will I ever have that Corvette?

Of course not everyone buys a Corvette. Maybe you buy a $2,000 purse, get plastic surgery, buy a Harley, or insist on a fancy vacation your family can’t afford.

Maybe you have an affair (or fantasize about it), get divorced and then run around, or just become depressed as you realize your youthful energy, beauty, and naivete aren’t coming back.

Certainly, treating yourself to an expensive gift isn’t wrong.

But if you’re doing it to “make-up for” something you missed before, you’ll quickly realize the new purchase depresses you when you finally admit that you can’t stand the Corvette scraping the ground when pulling into your driveway.

Don’t play catch-up with your dreams

A sure fire way to never be happy and content with life is to continually try to catch-up with “missed opportunities”.

Recently I asked a friend with a growing brood of grandchildren if he had any regrets raising his own kids as I was hoping to not make the same mistakes myself.

His answer was that he wished he’d spent more time with his children when they were all very young instead of relying so much on his wife to handle everything.

If you currently have a young family, they are your purpose. Loving, serving, teaching and being with them.

That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, but the last thing you want to do is give up that time with them to fulfill missed dreams and desires from your youth. Trying to chase those old dreams will simply result in you missing your purpose in the current stage of your life.

That’s a vicious cycle.

As your children age and go off to college, you’ll once again regret missing your purpose and then have a hard time letting go.

If you want to live a life without regrets, determine clearly your purposes for this stage of your life, prioritize them and live them fully.

To fulfilling your ever-changing purposes,

Should a parent of a toddler start a business?

Nine years ago at the age of 26 I bought my first business.
Since then, I’ve bought and sold 3 businesses, started a 4th, got married, and now have a 17-month old.

So, if I had to start that process from scratch today, would I do it with a young, growing family?

To set the stage, you will not find a bigger supporter of entrepreneurs and capitalism (not to be confused with cronyism).

I love business.
The challenges, the changes, the rewards, the people and the lives that are enriched by it.

Though I made many mistakes, I would be an entrepreneur all over again if I could go back in time.

However, would I start a business from scratch as a 35-year old with a wife and baby???

If I was giving my sister or best friend, who both have 2 children and are in their mid-30’s, advice on whether to start a business, here are a few questions I’d ask.

Do you hate your job?
Like really hate it.
Does your spouse cringe when you sit down at the dinner table because she knows it’s just going to be a barrage of negativity?
Do your friends “get busy” when you call because they know it’s just going to be a complaining session?

First, if that’s just your personality, fix it.
But if that’s truly the opposite of your personality (seek the honest feedback from people you trust), then get out as fast as you can.

No job is worth anxiety, depression, or a heart attack.
More importantly, no job is worth alienating your spouse, friends, and family.

Consider trying to fix the culture at your current job while you start looking for a new job.

But, instead of another job, should you just start a business?

Questions to ask yourself before starting a business as a parent

  1. Do you have at least 6 months of living expenses saved up (preferably 12)? Trying to start a business without the cash to survive for AT LEAST 6 months while you have a family to support is simply selfish and irresponsible. Can you make it work? Maybe. Is it worth risking your livelihood and providing for your family? No. If you are unemployed and can’t find work, then, by all means, start a business. In fact, according to The Millionaire Next Door, this is one of the most common reasons people start a business – they have no other option.
  2. Do you have access to the capital you’ll need (in addition to your living expenses) to fund the business? This doesn’t have to be a lot but you generally will need some money to invest in marketing, software, sales materials, uniforms, gas, insurance, etc.
  3. Do you have potential backup jobs available? Most businesses fail. Don’t delude yourself going in. Accept the risks and face them. Part of that is having a backup plan. Only fools believe blindly in their business idea.
  4. Do you have multiple business ideas that you can launch in a short amount of time if needed? Hedge your bet a bit. If your full-time job is to make a business successful and you currently have no clients or income, be prepared to try a few different ideas while you’re living off of your savings.
  5. Are you living below your means? If not, then don’t even consider starting a business. Making a business successful is about delayed gratification which means continually trading your short term time and money for a long-term result. If you already spend your full paycheck, then you aren’t ready for the financial sacrifices of getting a business off-the-ground.

In summary, there’s a myth that entrepreneurs are stubbornly obsessed and risk everything to follow that one great idea!

That’s not true at all.

Smart entrepreneurs fail fast and ditch the bad ideas or pivot them to good ideas and THEN, once they’ve proven they have a good idea through finding some paying clients, stubbornly pursue it.

This is why your first 1-3 businesses are learning businesses.

Why do you want to start a business?

Most people answer some version of more money and more time.

That’s a reasonable answer.

What most people don’t consider is, to get more time you need money. And if you don’t have a lot of money right now, then you need to invest lots of time.

As an example, if you have $2 million dollars in the bank, you could put that in a few Dividend Aristocrat stocks that generate 5% dividends, live off of the $100k in annual dividends, and never work again.

That’s an extreme example of buying back all of your time.

In a small business, once you invest the time to build your business, then you can use the profits to hire people to do your work – once again, you’re buying more time.

If you don’t have time or money, then you can’t start a business.

Granted, if you do have money, forget about starting a business and just buy one. Rare is the business model you can start from scratch that will grow your wealth faster than acquiring an already successful business (or business model).

Keep in mind up to 8 out of 10 new businesses fail whereas nearly 7 out of 10 acquired businesses succeed. (Depending on which study you read, those numbers do vary a bit but the point is still valid, buying a successful business is a lot less risky.)

How long does it take to be successful?

To become an overnight success takes 10 years.

Michael Masterson wrote a book called Seven Years to Seven Figures that claims you can be a millionaire in 7 years.

Mark Cuban didn’t take a vacation for 7 years.

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, worked 100 hour weeks for 24 years before becoming CEO.

Brad Sugars breaks it down a bit more in the time it takes to be a millionaire:

  • For most people – at least 10 years.
  • For those with a head start, like lots of experience, capital, or the right connections – 7-9 years
  • All of the above plus you’re super-lucky and amazingly talented – 3-5 years

This is important to keep in mind if you have a 2-year-old running around. How much time with your family are you willing to miss to hit your desired success?

There is no right answer and I can’t answer that question for you.
BUT it is a real, serious question that you need to answer with your spouse.

And if you think I’m exaggerating about the time and sacrifices needed to be successful in business, maybe you’ll believe Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, or the CEO of Pepsi who says her intense dedication to her job may have made her a worse parent.


Is starting your business and making it successful the most important thing in your life?

Listen – of course, you’re going to say no. I would say, no.

You will say your spouse, your children, your family, your faith, your health are all more important.

Fair enough. I’ll second that.

However, in the last week, how much time have you spent truly with your spouse? Sleeping and watching TV together while on your phones doesn’t count.

How about with your children? Again, watching TV doesn’t count.

On your health (working out and preparing healthy meals)?

Now, how much time did you spend working?

If time is your most important asset, where are you investing it?

If you took your limited time working out, with children, with your spouse, praying, and with family and friends and you had to cut it in half for the next 3-5 years to make your business successful, would you?

What if you had to cut it in half again? (That takes us down to ¼ the amount of time you currently spend on the most important things in life.)

Of course, if your evenings and weekends are spent watching TV, surfing the internet, or posting on social media, then you have some time available.

But the point still stands.

At this stage in your life, can you invest the time needed to make your startup successful?

Recently, a coaching group for budding entrepreneurs was working on accountability partners.

This line of thinking boggles my mind.

How committed are you to success if you need an accountability partner for your business!?

Mentor? Absolutely.
Coach? Sure.
Cheerleader? Awesome.

But someone to hold you accountable to do what’s needed to succeed?
If you need that, why even start?

Sacrifices I made as a young, single start-up founder

  1. I slept on an air mattress for almost a year in an apartment with no furniture.
  2. I charged up a 0% interest credit card to cover living expenses (over $5,000 worth). However, I never paid a dime in interest charges or late fees.
  3. To chase the opportunities, in a span of 10 years I moved from WI to PA to NM to NC, back to NM, back to NC and finally back to PA including a few short stints staying with friends and family in-between.
  4. I worked a lot. Let’s not blow this out of proportion, I’m no Jeffrey Immelt or Marissa Mayer, however, I also rarely went an entire day without working. Some weeks were probably 80 or 100 hours. Most were probably around 60. A bit higher if you include all the books I read to learn how to build a business.
  5. I worked out a lot more than I do now. With a family, I’m just not willing to give up that much time from my family now. These days I work out 4-5 days/week in about 15-20 minute sessions. No more 5 mile runs or 10-mile bike rides.
  6. I didn’t take any income from the business I started for about 3 years. (I lived off of consulting income.)

Could I do all of these things now, again, with a family to support?
One way or another, I could scrimp, scrounge, sacrifice, and save to make it work.

More importantly, would I be willing to?

To most, that answer sounds completely and utterly unbelievable.

And if you had asked me that same question 18 months ago, I would have given you a different answer.

As cliche’ as it sounds, having a family changes everything.

Earlier I asked if your business idea is the most important thing in your life because, unless you’re unbelievably lucky and brilliant, it will take precedent in your life if you want to succeed.

Today, with a 17-month old and a wife, the sacrifices to start a business aren’t worth it to me.

Here’s why…

Most mornings I get my son up, get him some milk, change his diaper and get him ready.

Most evenings I play with him, wrestle with him, teach him and just have fun for a few hours. I then bathe him, get him ready for bed, read to him, and snuggle until he falls asleep at which point I put him to bed.

Most weekends I don’t do any work beyond maybe checking some emails. Just typing that out seems strange to me since it was my habit for so long to get “caught up” with work on the weekends.

These days my wife and I make it a priority to spend time with both of our families and do something fun with our son nearly every weekend. (Just this past weekend. for instance, we took him to the PA Trolley Museum to visit Daniel Tiger.)

As I was starting on my entrepreneurial journey, this family schedule would have been impossible.

For me, no business is worth giving that up.

Again, if I had no other options, was unemployed, and needed to put food on the table, I would start a business and make the sacrifices necessary to support my family.

So what are you going to do?

Ask yourself the above questions, discuss them with your spouse, and determine if starting a business at this stage in your life is what’s best for you and your family.

To your success,

P.S. If you started a business with a young family and still were able to work a “normal” schedule to spend time with your family, you’re a bit of a unicorn. I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment.

photo by: joejungmann

4 steps to increasing the value of your business 33%

How to prepare for the death of a small business owner with a “Bus Plan”

When I was a sophomore in college my dad woke me up one morning with a phone call.

“Did you hear?”
“I’m not even awake, hear what?”
“Well… uh…”
My dad never stammers.
I have no idea what I said after that. My body was overwhelmed with confusion, denial and emotion.

It didn’t make any sense.

My best friend since kindergarten’s dad had died. He was in his early 50’s.

He walked outside to get the dog and fell over. His wife was a nurse anesthetis and there was nothing to be done.

My friend called a bit later.
“Did you hear.”
“Yeah, I’m on my way home”
“Ok. Thanks”

I was at college 6 hours from where he and I grew up in the same neighborhood.

My friend’s dad had sold his business a few years prior so his wife, 2 sons in college, and daughter in high school didn’t have to upset their lives to step in to help with it.

Over the last 5 years my business has helped about 70 small businesses scientifically improve their online lead generation with PPC, CRO, and websites. One of our very first customers died unexpectedly a few years ago. His wife had to step in, take over, learn the business, and she eventually sold it.

On a daily basis, small business owners die or get hurt and can’t work.

Ben Feldman, who at his peak sold more insurance by himself than 1500 of the 1800 insurance agencies in America, used to say,

“When you walk out of life, your insurance money walks in for your family.”

His carefully chosen wording helps illustrate how a small business owner can’t shirk his responsibilities to his family, the families of his team, or his customers when he unexpectedly “walks out on life.”

If you’re a small business owner with at least 5 team members, you NEED a “What-if-I-get-hit-by-a-bus-tomorrow” Plan. (Smaller businesses are likely going to dissolve without the owner but one once you have a stable, profitable enterprise, create your plan.)

There are 4 huge benefits to a Bus Plan:

  1. It ensures all the stakeholders in your business are taken care of when you wake up dead one morning.
  2. It increases the value of your business by about 1x multiple.
  3. It frees you up to focus on growth and acquisitions or, if you enjoy working IN your business, it helps you to become more profitable.
  4. It allows you to take a real, I-don’t-have-to-put-out-any-fires-while-out-of-the-office, vacation.

Brad Sugars defines a business as,

“A commercial, profitable enterprise that runs without me.”

Unless you have a “Bus Plan” in place, the business can’t run without you.

Additionally, if you ever need to sell your business, show a broker your bus plan and often the multiple for your business will increase by 1 fold.

In real numbers, if your business generates $150k in cashflow and the industry norm is 2-4x cashflow, you’ll often end up around 3x or $450k for a sale price. However, a bus plan will help push your valuation to the higher end of 4x or $600k.

In other words, executing a solid plan for your business to keep running after you wake up dead can increase its value by 33%.

This is because a bus plan proves that your business isn’t dependent on you which reduces the risk for the buyer and helps her get a more predictable return on her investment in your business.

That, of course, assumes you can even sell your business without a bus plan. Up to 4 out of 5 businesses that go on the market never sell.

It also has the hidden benefit of forcing you to systematize your business like Michael Gerber teaches you how to do in The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It and Sam Carpenter obsesses over in Work the System.

A systematized business allows a new owner to easily learn to run it and then frees him up to focus on growth to get a faster ROI – which makes the business more attractive and valuable.

How to create your Bus Plan

  1. List out everything you do as an owner.
  2. Indicate who can take over each responsibility and what software, tools, or outside vendors they will need to work with for each one.
  3. Prepare emails to each of the following:
    1. Your customers to explain what will happen now.
    2. Your team members to explain that you prepared for this because you wanted to make sure they can continue to support their families and customers.
    3. Your family because they need to understand you prepared for this plan.
  4. Go through a test run.

To save you the hours it took me, add a comment at the bottom and, once I get a few comments, I’ll make my Bus Plan cheat sheet available for you.

Step 3 is the hardest.
There’s something a bit unsettling about writing emails to people as your dead self.

But it’s absolutely necessary because, it forces you to think through what you will want to say to assure them their livelihood and families will continue to be taken care of.

Obviously, to take the time to write out these letters ahead of time demonstrates to your team and customers how much you truly appreciate them.

Your test run will look like this:

  1. Review with your team exactly what their new responsibilities will be. Create the necessary How To’s and instructional videos to train them.
  2. Go off the grid for a week. Let someone else check your emails and voicemail (and hand over your cell phone if it’s business only.) You certainly can’t tell your clients you’re pretending the owner is dead, so allow your team to contact you via your personal cell if there is a true emergency.
  3. Have your team keep track of things they couldn’t do or had a hard time completing and send you a list at the end of the week. Address all of those issues.
  4. Go off the grid for a second week.
  5. Rinse and repeat annually.

Don’t forget to update your Bus Plan annually.
Set a reminder on your calendar or have your annual update coincide with your insurance renewals.

A few quick tips:

  • Review your plan with your accountant and lawyer. Often it may require a buy-sell agreement where a partner, key team members, or a family member will buy your business from your spouse at your death. This requires professional legal and tax planning help.
  • Have adequate insurance. If your family isn’t going to have your income ever again, an insurance policy is crucial. You have car insurance, fire insurance, and health insurance even though you may never total your car, have your house burn down, or get cancer. You will “walk out on life” and you can’t predict when. Get life insurance.
  • Review the plan with your spouse and adult children. No one wants to talk about what will happen when you die, but it’s necessary. You don’t have to like it. You do have to do it.

Creating your Bus Plan may be the quickest way to increase the value of your business, ensure a great vacation, and show your team members and customers how much they mean to you.

To your long and prosperous life,

This 1 thing would have made the $70k minimum wage successful

The Gravity Payments announcement that the CEO, Dan Price, was taking a $930,000 pay cut to pay his team a minimum wage of $70,000 has recently caught headlines again because it doesn’t seem to be working.

It would be easy to point out the obvious problem with this approach, the same one Walmart is experiencing when they raised their minimum wage, that when you pay people for just showing up, you violate the social contract that employers and employees have that more talented, hard-working employees should earn more.

In other words, when people don’t earn a raise, (i.e. it’s just given to you as a minimum) it upsets those who have earned a similar raise or a very close amount.

However, that’s not the biggest problem with the Gravity Payments minimum wage.

The biggest problem, as-is generally the case, was Price’s ego.

If Mr. Price’s primary motivation was improving the way of life for his team members and he was happy to redistribute his wealth to do so, that would truly be a noble and generous act.

To ensure it’s success he only had to do 1 thing:


That’s it.

Had Price met with each person individually on his staff who was making less than $70k/year and told them, “Hey, I think you deserve an increase in pay and we can’t afford to do it all at once but over the next few years, we’re going to work hard to bump you up to $70,000/year,” it would have likely been an extremely successful adjustment.

  • The longer term employees would not have felt unfairly treated because other, less-effective team members were now making as much as them.
  • The people who received the raises would have actually worked harder (particularly if he gave them specific, actionable feedback as to WHY they received the raise).
  • The public, political pundits and the press would have not ever known about it to debate it and his customers wouldn’t have left because of his perceived socialist experiment.

Price, unfortunately decided to take a different approach.

He setup a video camera, held a company-wide meeting, recorded himself announcing the minimum wage to his team and then shared that video with the media heralding himself as a generous and benevolent leader.

His actions fall under a simple concept I try to live by, “If you have to tell people you’re smart, funny or nice, you’re not.”

In other words, because he had to prove to the world that he is such a great guy and an example to be modeled by CEO’s everywhere, his plan backfired.

If he was a looking only to improve the lives of his team and never told anyone that he took a $930,000/year pay cut to help them, he would have been a great leader because his concern would have been solely for others.

So the question is, if it was that simple to execute properly, and it was, why didn’t he do that?

Since I don’t know Price, my insights about him come mostly from his actions however these 4 explanations are more of a reflection on shortcomings all successful entrepreneurs will struggle with at some point in our growth.

  1. Ego – “Pride comes before the fall”, are words that ring true for all of us and who wouldn’t want to become the national face of such a hot topic?
  2. Greed – Let’s face it, when you stage something like this along with video recording the meeting and interviews on national TV, you are trying to get free exposure to your business. There’s nothing at all wrong with free publicity. Unless you do it at the expense of your team while claiming it’s for their benefit. My guess is Price took a calculated risk to temporarily reduce his pay and then increase his income again (through a salary increase, dividends, a stock sale or sale of the entire business) as a result of increased sales coming from the low-cost PR.
  3. Political Agenda – Being a 31 year old with a 7-figure salary tends to inflate your self-worth so potentially he thought he could be the first person to prove socialism works. Or maybe he just thought of it as charity since he was donating his own salary and profits. (And by me mentioning this am I hypocritically pushing my political agenda? Sorry, it’s hard not to do.)
  4. Lack of leadership – As Simon Sinek reminds us, great leaders eat last. It doesn’t work the same way when you do something good so you can get personal media attention to show everyone how great you are.

This may look like I’m picking on Price…

Ok, I am.

But, unfortunately, this would be an instance of the pot calling the kettle black as I’m surely guilty of ego-driven mistakes in business.

However, when a situation this unique and popular comes to the forefront due to national media attention, it gives us the opportunity to learn.

And that’s my goal. To articulate both the good intentions and poor execution of this strategy, and separate the 2.

Dan Price appears to be a sincere, hard-working, intelligent and successful guy and his mistakes in executing a $70,000 minimum wage don’t change that.

Hopefully, this will help him, and other business leaders, consider that you CAN achieve seemingly impossible things (like a $70k minimum wage) when you become a servant leader and put the needs of your team ahead of your own ego.

Dan, if you read this, I truly appreciate your good intentions and hope my advice can help you execute better servant leadership going forward since that appears to be your goal.

To humble, servant leadership, Bryan

The 3 Non-Leadership books every Leader, Teacher and Parent should read

I realize that might title is a bit redundant.

A great leader IS a great teacher and vice-versa.
In industries, like internet marketing, where the amount of information doubles every 8 months, the ability to teach your team may be the single most important aspect of leadership.

So with that in mind, if you want to be a leader on one of my teams, these are the 3 books you need to read and live.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

If there was a single book that taught you how to be a great teacher and thereby a great leader, this is it.

Each day we are all faced with success and failures and we respond in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Fixed Mindset – Each mistake is validation that you aren’t smart, talented or good enough. Conversely, every success tells you that you are innately “gifted” which is very dangerous because then you stop looking for challenges where you might fail and therefore not validate your “gifted” status.
  2. Growth Mindset – Each failure and success are a means of learning. You either learned what you wanted (i.e. succeeded) or you didn’t (i.e. failed). Either way, you have more to learn, further to go and higher mountains to climb. Your mind is ever-expanding and intellect can always grow.

Our team has summarized this in our Culture Statements as:

Learning from other’s successes is extremely valuable however sometimes learning from our own mistakes is more memorable. We embrace our mistakes, learn not to repeat them, and therefore are constantly pushing the limits to get better.

If you only have time for one leadership or teaching book, Carol Dweck’s book is it!

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

It wasn’t blind luck that the greatest concentration of artists, sculptors and painters of all time just happened to live in the same area of Italy over a 60 year time frame in the 16th century.

It’s also not chance that the small, dingy school where Anna Kournikova learned to play tennis, at one time produced 4 of the top 50 greatest players in the world.

It’s by design that the Dominican Republic has an unmatched density of great baseball players and, amidst abject poverty, Brazil has produced some of the world’s greatest players and teams consistently for nearly 50 years.

There’s a system and a code to “talent”. It’s not merely innate and it’s not simply about working for 10,000 hours on something. It’s about mindset, commitment, and breaking down the skill or talent to it’s essentials.

Daniel Coyle tells you exactly how and it’s as inspiring a read as you may ever encounter.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Think for a second of the tests that you may have taken to measure your intelligence.

  • IQ Tests
  • SAT’s
  • ACT’s
  • College Exams
  • High School Exams

Of the tests listed above do you know which one most closely predicts success in life?
None of them. None can be correlated to job, income, happiness or any other measure of success.

But there is a test that can.

It’s called the marshmallow test.
Put a 3 year old in a room. Give her a marshmallow and say, “You may eat the marshmallow. Or you can wait a few minutes until I come back and I’ll give you 2.”

If she waits, she understands the value of delayed gratification – working hard and sacrificing now to receive something better in the future – and it will predict her future success more accurately than any other test.

That’s one of hundreds of examples that illustrate that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important in our lives than IQ.

Goleman also provides great examples of how to teach 3 to 93 year olds how to improve their Emotional Intelligence and better empathize with those around us.

Those were listed in the order of importance so start at the top and work your way down.

To your success in becoming a great, teaching leader,

Is it possible for your business to accurately track lead sources?

If someone sees my service truck while my radio ad is playing, and later sees my TV commercial, and then gets on their iPad and searches for my business, how can you possibly track the effects of each one?

By watching the “pulse” of your marketing through your online laboratory.

So let’s start with that heart rate…

When you fly over the red rock formations surrounding Moab, Utah you can’t help but be fascinated by the unique beauty of the area.

Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

The sun setting on Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

Arches National Park is truly one of the most beautifully mysterious corners of the planet.

It’s one thing to see it from the comfortable, encapsulation of a commercial jet at 30,000 feet.

However, sitting in the back of a small prop plane with the door removed for effortless mid-air exit and a man strapped to your back, the thoughts of the intense beauty fade into the background drowned out by the idea you’ll soon be hurtling toward those red rock formations at 120 mph.

For a fleeting moment, you consider the wisdom of this particular adrenaline rush…
Then, over the roar of the wind, you feel the “signal” from a wild-eyed, greying jump instructor looking for the “OK”.

You’re only option is to give the thumbs up and juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuump.

If you’re a data-junky like me, when you go skydiving, you wear your Garmin GPS watch with heart rate monitor.

Looking at the data, it wasn’t hard to tell when we stepped out of the plane.

My heart rate spiked!

Interestingly enough, when you have the monitoring tools in place, your marketing impact can actually be tracked the same way as your heart rate.

Just as your heart rate is an important measure of overall fitness, your online activity is the core of any marketing plan. When you launch marketing offline that generates interest in your market, you can see that spike in activity online.

Tracking your lead sources

Is marketing so complex that it’s become harder to track lead sources instead of easier?

If you understand the goal of each lead source, you can track the effect of each lead source more accurately than ever before.

All marketing is not independent of each other. If executed well, all marketing works together with the focal point being the internet.

Have you ever put a call-tracking number on a TV ad, radio ad, or billboard? Did you get many calls? Probably not.

But did you measure the effect that had on your online search volume?

Just because you didn’t receive calls doesn’t mean that marketing didn’t work because most people do not respond to TV commercials by immediately placing a phone call. Instead we get online and do some research.

The exciting part is, my heart rate monitor doesn’t care if I’m running, sky-diving, or car racing, it still measures the change in my heart rate.

Your online search volume can be tracked the same way when you have the right tools in place to measure the impact of all of your marketing.

The Optimized Marketer’s Funnel

Now you need to understand the GOAL of your marketing.

To address this you need to use the Optimized Marketing Funnel.
Unlike your normal “Sales Funnel” an Optimized Marketing Funnel is upside-down. The wide part is on the bottom instead of the top.

The problem with the traditional funnel is that it doesn’t really help us understand the marketing process because:

  1. Everything you put in the top of a funnel comes out the bottom.
  2. Everything you put in the top of a funnel naturally moves along thanks to gravity.

Unfortunately, in the real world neither of those 2 points are true, which is why an upside-down funnel is so much more useful.

Now that you have an upside down funnel, imagine all of your inquiries are being fed in the bottom and are climbing their way up the walls.

For anyone to come out the narrow top of the funnel we need a driving force to help them out. That force is a combination of your Value Proposition and Branding.

Without that force, people will just naturally fall out.

For example, if I see your TV ad and go online to search for your business but you don’t show up in the results, guess what happens? I fall out of the funnel. Naturally. With no effort on your part.

  • What if I see your Google Ad but I like one from a competitor more? Fall out…
  • What if I click on the Ad but your landing page doesn’t solve my problem? I’m falling…
  • What if I fill out a form on your website but you don’t call me back for an entire day? aaaaaaahhhhhhh…

That little image of an Optimized Funnel brings up a few crucial points.

  1. You will naturally lose people at every step in the process so you should measure every step.
  2. The goal of each marketing piece is not to generate a lead. The goal of marketing is to have the prospect go to the next step and move them further up the funnel.
  3. You can measure what works (and what doesn’t) at every step and use that information to improve the entire funnel.

Without defining and understanding that your goal is to get the prospect to take the next step, you’ll never be able to track the effectiveness of your marketing.

Here’s why…

If you run a TV ad, your prospects go online to search for you and they can’t find your website, you won’t get any inquiries and you may say, “See, that darn TV didn’t work!”

In reality, you can measure that TV did indeed work but your web presence is what failed.

Let’s take this one step further and define the goal of each marketing medium.

All of your marketing should be categorized as Interruption Marketing or Response Marketing.

Interruption marketing simply means that, as a consumer, you didn’t ask for me to market to you but I did anyway. Television, radio, direct mail, billboards and even online display advertising are all Interruption marketing.

The goal of Interruption marketing is to generate interest. Period. If you define its goal as generating a lead, you’ll have almost no way to track how well it works.

Google Changed Everything

Google did something amazing and a bit scary to the marketing world. For the first time in history, we, as marketers, are able to read the minds of our prospects and respond immediately.

Google is our therapist as we type all our problems into that magical little search box.

In Response, we can market to people with a problem for which we have the perfect solution. That is Response Marketing.

The defining characteristic of Response marketing is that the consumer is asking you to market to them. Yellow pages, email opt-in lists and remarketing campaigns can also be considered less precise forms of Response marketing.

The goal of Response marketing is to generate a contact or inquiry.

Measuring the Net Change

To determine the effectiveness of your marketing, you can only measure when something changes. An engineer or scientist conducting experiments might refer to this as “isolating each variable”.

With a heart rate monitor strapped to your chest, it’s very easy to see when something changes. You engage in some cardio and your heart rate goes up.

However, if you never measure your resting heart rate, it’s hard to tell just how much of an impact different workouts have on you.

In marketing, if you are running radio, TV, direct mail, branded delivery trucks and search marketing at the same time, and you ask my team to tell you which is working, it’s nearly impossible.

Why? Because nothing has changed. Your heart rate is never at “rest”. We haven’t isolated any variables.

Instead, if you are running radio, delivery trucks and search marketing, and then ask us to track the effect of an upcoming TV campaign, now you have a baseline and a change to measure.

Even when our customers don’t tell us about these changes ahead of time, we often notice the spikes in our data shortly after an effective offline change.

To your success in accurately tracking your marketing,

P.S. To my knowledge, there’s no other company that offers this level of data analysis for small businesses with internet budgets as low as $800/month. Contact me if you’d like to increase your leads by only investing in marketing that you know is working.

The 3 Videos Every Leader and Manager Must See!

Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s no harder challenge for leaders than to ignore their power and instead focus solely on serving their team. Simon is being interviewed by Glenn Beck and tells the best short story I’ve ever heard to help keep leaders grounded by the fact that they exist to serve not be served.

Dan Pink – Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – Every human being desires these 3 things and Dan breaks this down with unbelievable clarity. He also shares the downsides of commissions and incentives in many job positions.

Shawn Achor – The Happiness Advantage

Everything you know about success and happiness is wrong. You will NOT be happy once you are successful. The truth is, you will be more successful if you are first happy.

15 Must-Follow Rules for Retiring Wealthy

retirementAs someone who has owned 4 businesses before my 30th birthday, family and friends regularly ask me about investing, retirement planning and overall, what are the best ways to have more financial security.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll be well on your way.

Top 15 Rules for Retiring Wealthy:

  1. Always spend at least 10% less than you make. Always have a savings plan and understand that most people who “look” wealthy are just in a bunch of debt. Don’t be that family. Look comfortable and BE wealthy.
  2. Spending, Saving and Giving are all habits. If you spend every dime when you make $2,000/month, you’ll spend all that you have when you make $20k/month. Develop spending, saving and donating habits immediately!
  3. The quickest way to “make” money is to pay off debt starting with the highest interest credit cards and loans first. It’s a guaranteed Return on Investment (ROI).
  4. Never put more on a credit card than you can pay off each month. If you can’t pay it off each month, shred the credit card and pay with cash or debit cards for everything.
  5. Once the high-interest debt is paid off, save up 3-6 months in savings for a rainy day.
  6. Know your budget and don’t break it. How much are your housing costs? gas, grocery bills, Starbucks purchases, gym memberships, car payments, insurance, cell phones, internet, cable TV? Track your purchases every month ( is a decent way to do this) and make sure they are under budget. Reward yourself with a dinner out or other fun activity for each month the budget is met. Just make sure the reward is also budgeted. 😉
  7. Compound interest is the most amazing invention in the world so invest early and often.
  8. Max out any employer matching 401k’s or IRA’s. It’s like getting a guaranteed 100% ROI.
  9. Never consider your primary home an investment. By the time you pay utilities, taxes, maintenance, interest, and insurance a home is nearly always a loss. However, that’s not the goal of a home anyway.
  10. Short-term investing is extremely hard to do well. Long-term investing is extremely easy to do well.
  11. Learn how to minimize taxes legally. Taxes are your biggest individual expense BY FAR.
  12. Statistically speaking, money managers don’t know jack. Very, very few are accurate over the long-term.
  13. The most expensive thing in life is ignorance. Investing, like everything else, takes some homework and a commitment to learn.
  14. Never buy toys with debt. If you can’t afford to pay cash for motorcycles, quads, dirtbikes, jet-skis, razors, boats, vacations or anything else non-essential, then you can’t afford to have them. In other words, ONLY consider debt to buy a home, business, primary vehicle and some college degrees.
  15. Delayed gratification is the number one predictor of long-term success. It’s more accurate than IQ, EQ, SAT’s, ACT’s or any other tests ever administered. In other words, spending an extra $10k to get a nicer car today can mean having $50k less when you go to retire. Discipline yourself to be an expert at delayed gratification.

Here is one of the best articles I’ve come across for a nearly foolproof plan for a healthy retirement. It lists out exactly where to invest your IRA and 401k dollars each year.

Start with the book that is referenced, If You Can: How Millenials Can Get Rich Slowly, as it is only about 35 pages long, costs less than $6 and is available for Kindle.

Warren Buffet (one of the top 3 richest men in the world for several decades) told us 30 years ago the simple secret to investing and he predicted, quite accurately, that almost no one would listen.

Do you think there are any other investing or money-management rules that are missing?

To your healthy and secure retirement,

photo by:

Optimize Your Marketing Budget with 1 Simple Concept You’ve Never Heard

When Search Engine Marketing (SEM) was invented, the entire marketing world was instantly and forever changed.

For the first time, we could actually read the minds of potential customers as Google became our therapist to solve all our problems.

Psychographic and demographic information paled in comparison to responding in real-time to the thoughts of consumers. It created an entirely new type of marketing – Response Marketing.

Prior to that, we really only had Interruption Marketing.

The difference?

Response Marketing presents a message to a consumer in response to an action he or she has taken.

Interruption Marketing presents a message to a consumer without any input from the consumer.

Here are a few examples of both…

Response Marketing Examples:

  • Search based – Results shown in search engines like Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Amazon
  • Survey based – Whether on a website or in an email
  • Event/Action driven communication – You spent $100 at a business so they send you a 10% off coupon for your next purchase. You bought a pair of running shoes so they recommend some running socks.

Interruption Marketing Examples (everything else):

  • Display Advertising (Google Display, Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • Billboards
  • TV (though Google is working on changing this to response)
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Direct Mail

As the founder of a company that specializes in Search Engine Marketing and Scientific Websites, obviously I’m going to tell you Response Marketing is the best way to spend your money…

However, that’s not true…

Yes, Response Marketing CAN be an amazing, cost-effective, and powerful form of marketing but it can only work if a few conditions are met.

  1. People must know they have a problem.
  2. It’s something people actually research. When was the last time you did a Google search for toilet paper?
  3. There are many people searching for it.

When you understand the difference between the 2 types of marketing you will better know when to invest in and how much to spend on Response and Interruption Marketing.

For now, forget about ONline vs. OFFline marketing since both can be Interruption or Response marketing.

Let’s look at a few examples starting with the extremes.

When should your entire marketing budget to be focused on Response Marketing?

When you have a consumer who knows he has a problem, researches the solution to that problem online, and there are a sufficient number of people searching online to meet your sales goals.

Most often this occurs in highly competitive industries in competitive markets because then it’s just a matter of being the BEST online.

Think of it this way, if you are the only one in your market selling your new widget inventions, very few people are searching for your widgets because they don’t know about them.

However, if you have 20 competitors selling a similar widget and at least a few of them are marketing, people in your area will be searching for your products. All you have to do is have the BEST online Response Marketing out of your competition.

When could your entire marketing budget to be focused on Interruption Marketing?

When people have no idea your amazing product or service exists and so won’t be searching for it. My business, Optimized Marketing, is this way since our scientific approach to online lead generation is completely unique and we only work with very specific industries.

With Interruption Marketing you have a very difficult task ahead of you. You need to generate enough interest in a very short amount of time (the time of a billboard, radio, TV or direct mail ad) to get someone to take an action.

Historically, that action was to contact you and sign up for services.

Unfortunately, that’s a large leap to ask someone to take. A much smaller leap is to generate enough interest through Interruption Marketing that she is curious enough to search for you online.

In other words, when looking at the entire Sales/Marketing Funnel for your business, at some point, all marketing can turn into Response Marketing.

If your web presence hasn’t been optimized to convert those searchers to contacts, that gives your competitors a great opportunity to steal the leads your Interruption Marketing is generating.

And vice-versa.

How much of your budget should be allocated to Response Marketing?

As much as gets a solid ROI. Then put the rest into Interruption.

There are 2 major factors in determining how much to invest in Response Marketing:

  1. How many people are searching for your products.
  2. How much you can spend and still get a great ROI.

If only 100 people each month are searching for what you provide, SEO and SEM are going to provide very little help for you. Your goal at this point is to get more people searching through Interruption Marketing.

However, if you spend $1000/month online and get 20 leads at a cost of $50/lead and your other marketing is generating leads for $75, keep increasing your Online Response Marketing budget (i.e. SEO, SEM and online testing) until your lead cost is higher than your other sources. A previous blog addressed how you can learn to balance out your online lead volume and cost.

Once your Response and Interruption lead costs match, invest more in Interruption knowing that your online Response system is already well-optimized to handle the increased searches.

Your 3-step summary to optimizing your marketing budget

  1. Implement a testing strategy to get a strong ROI from your Response Marketing.
  2. Keep increasing your Response Marketing budget until the ROI no longer makes sense.
  3. Invest in Interruption Marketing to increase the volume that your optimized web presence will be able to turn into contacts for you.

To better balance between Response and Interruption marketing,

P.S. If your service-based business has at least a $1000/month online marketing budget and you would love to turn your online presence into an optimized Response Marketing machine, get in touch.

Why WhatsApp is NOT everything that’s wrong with the economy

By WhatsApp Inc. ( [Public Domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFacebook recently purchased a startup with no profits for $19 billion dollars in the largest tech acquisition in history.

The venture capital-backed, tech startup world is rife with problems as I’ve blogged about before.

However, Robert Reich has brought up one of the more popularly alleged economic problems.

He claims the problem is that tech companies like WhatsApp are hurting the economy by not creating enough jobs.

In Reich’s words:

Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line – or spread the gains more widely – our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.

In other words, Mr. Reich is saying, “55 employees were able to make a business worth $19 billion dollars serving 450 million people and that’s not fair. Why do such a small group of people deserve so much?”

Of course, he offers no solutions other than to mention income inequality implying that it’s the fault of successful companies like WhatsApp for being successful.

Venture backed start-ups with insanely high valuations, minimal revenue and no profit have all sorts of issues.

But not creating enough jobs is not one of them.

Remember the Luddites rioting to destroy new machines that made the textile industry more efficient back in the 18th century?

Richard Arkwright invented his cotton-spinning machine in 1760 which became one of the main instigators of the Luddite riots.

After all, the cotton-spinning machine would displace the jobs of all of the seamstresses who used to make the clothes by hand, right?

In 1760, there were about 7,900 persons in England engaged in production in the textile industry. In 1787, 27 years after Arkwright’s invention and only 8 years after Ed Ludd destroyed 2 stocking frames allowing his name to become synonymous with all the machine destroyers, there were 320,000 people employed in textile production in England.

Why did more efficiency results in a 4400% increase in jobs?

Because with increased efficiency came lower prices so, instead of having 2 sets of clothes, people could afford to have dozens.

The same complaints have been lodged against every major technological advancement.

Every time we progress, the Luddites come out claiming this time the new increase in efficiency is going to hurt the public by reducing jobs.

The exact opposite is true.

About two centuries ago, the majority of America was an agrarian (i.e. farming) society.

However, the invention of farm machinery didn’t result in the majority of Americans starving because they were no longer needed on the farm. In contrast, less people on the farm meant more people inventing, building, and creating other things.

At its core, economics is very simple.

If something increases efficiency it’s good for the economy. If it decreases efficiency it’s bad.

WhatsApp figured out how to connect 450 million people with only 55 employees. That sounds hyper-efficient to me.

Our knowledge-based economy has seen the fastest and greatest improvements in efficiency and leverage the world has ever known.

The end result of that increased efficiency is always an improvement for society.

Massive fortunes were made by Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie when we transitioned from an agrarian to an industrial economy.

More recently, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page and Brin have been richly rewarded in our transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy.

Would we all be better off if none of them were allowed to reap the rewards of their creations?

You have 2 options

Become a Luddite, slow down technological innovation, and reduce the reward for being an innovator by asking the government to intervene.


Learn what it takes to excel in the knowledge-based economy and join the successful companies that are improving our lives.

Time will prove, once again, that Robert Reich, despite all of his experience, power, and prestige, is no different than Ned Ludd whose name became synonymous with the machine destroyers’ failed attempt to halt progress.

The problem is education

The problem is not our exponential increases in efficiency.

The problem is an education system that was built at the beginning of the industrial revolution and is still designed to teach students to be good “workers” instead of great thinkers.

As the owner of a marketing tech company who has been almost steadily hiring for 2 years, I can assure you that the education or degree of people who succeed on my team is irrelevant.

A particular degree, or college education at all, cannot predict job success as well as cognitive reasoning abilities, emergent leadership, the ability to learn quickly, a passion for your expertise and a willingness to make mistakes while admitting when you are wrong.

Google recently revealed their top 5 hiring attributes and indicated that the number of people at Google without degrees is increasing.

So whether it’s Twitter, Google, Facebook, WhatsApp or my company, Optimized Marketing, fast growing companies that understand how to leverage technology are coming to realize that relying on someone’s particular degree or level of education is not a good predictor of future job performance.

In other words, our education system isn’t reliably producing people with the skills we need.

The problem isn’t successful companies.

The problem is we haven’t yet learned how to educate students for the knowledge economy.
Don’t blame successful entrepreneurs for not making more jobs.

Celebrate their success and start teaching more people how to do the same thing.

There’s a reason Ken Robinson’s below TED talk explaining how schools kill creativity is the most popular TED video ever with over 25 million views.

Mr. Robinson’s talk is popular because he’s right.

Whether creativity comes in the form of becoming the dance choreographer who wrote Cats or the founders of a successful startup company that sells for billions, creativity is the solution.

Taking away the rewards of creativity, as Mr. Reich seems to be implying, would further hinder creative pursuits and not help anyone.

Imagine what the next 100 years will look like if we are all allowed to “come up with original ideas that present value”, as Mr. Robinson defines creativity.

To your passionate, creative success,

P.S. For more examples of technology increasing employment in various industries, check out Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.