Monday, July 31, 2006

Thoughts on Friday’s Upson, Davis Story

About half of my business is B2G so I pay attention to the industry. Anyone in B2G knows about the Washington Post’s expose of Representative Tom Davis and Don Upson’s relationship, and the insinuated violations this relationship is causing in the B2G tech marketplace.

A few of points of analysis from a PR perspective:

1) These guys go way back, and friends do favor for friends. That’s human nature, and for once I don’t fault a politician for that. So long as Davis is mindful and offers other cos similar treatment, what is the harm in this? I just don’t get the slant in the article

2) Furthermore, Upson used to be Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The guy holds weight and probably very easily can get a meeting, not only with Davis, but Moran as well as some other Congressional Delegation members from Virginia. I think the Post blew it on this aspect of the story.

3) A couple of tech firms tell all about their relations with Upson’s ICG. A big PR mistake. We all know this business happens, but admitting in a national newspaper that you buy influence from government officials is a terrible error, and one that will impact a brand. The PR strategy behind this is seriously flawed. In my opinion, it’s better to simply say we do employ lobbyists and consultants including ICG as part of our federal business efforts AND THAT’S IT. The goal is to minimize damage, and to be quoted paragraph after paragraph in a “Paint It Black” story like this is seppuku.

OK, I said my piece. That being said, my own PR issues, as a spokesperson and strategist for my neighborhood will not go away. They keep asking me to help. I wish I could say no, but I can’t. So many of my neighbors are suffering financially from the natural disaster, and in my opinion, based on continued government attempts to make Huntington go away, PR is desperately needed.

For example, consider the farce at the Fairfax County Board of Governors meeting today: T-Shirts and plaques given out to government officials who helped in the initial disaster recovery... Then there was the block party given to the neighborhood. Hmm, how about using all of that money for financial aid, folks? Save This Page

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Five Things to Jump Start a Week

OK, so the week is beginning (Yes, it’s Sunday, but as a start-up, weekend work is the norm). So I figured that mixing this up a little bit would be fun, so here are my top five ways to jump start my week.

  1. Exercise: Begin the week with a long bike ride or a thorough work-out. It airs out the mind, clearing it of clutter, background noise and other garbage. This provides focus for the coming effort.
  2. Meditation: Yes, this is something I engage in regularly. Whether it is reading some thought provoking literature, using stream of conciousness writings, or just sitting quietly for a half hour, this, too, clears the mind, preparing it for the trials ahead.
  3. Plan a break: This acknowledges the human aspect of life. You can’t go on in a relentless push. This week bowling is on the agenda, mid-week.
  4. Incentives. Again, recognizing the human element. I’m thinking that my goal of garnering an account with reoccurring revenue will result in…. a weekend away with my wife. Perhaps Montreal? This goal is big, and may not be achieved this week, but it is certainly on the map and something to strive for.
  5. Commitment: Commit to seeing it through, and do my very best one press call at a time, one word at time, one meeting at a time. It’s not enough to just show up. I must give my best.

If you want to see a good movie, check out Miami Vice. An unusually dark art house approach to this often laughed at TV series, the movie was pretty good. We also saw Love’s Labor Lost at the Shakespeare this weekend. Certainly enjoyable, though I am not sure if all the modernization efforts worked for me.

OK, here are this week’s quotes for you:

“The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating -- in work, in play, in love.”
Anne Morriss

“A man's word and his intestinal fortitude are two of the most honorable virtues known to mankind.”
Jim Nantz

“Anyone can dabble, but once you've made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it's very hard for people to stop you.”
Bill Cosby Save This Page

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trickling Flood Ink Continues

Just continuing to document additional flood coverage, this time via the Associated Press’s Brian Westley in the Examiner papers throughout the country and online. The story was also run in the Virginia Pilot and Channel 13 in Hampton Roads.

Locally, channel 4 also picked up the Governor’s response to our petition. Of course, local scoop master and ace John Teschner’s “Is the Beltway to Blame?” really seems to be a nice little wrinkle on the story. More shall be revealed, I am sure as the media really has seized onto this story. Save This Page

Preparing for Successes

One of the things I am working on is preparing for more work. The what if scenario looms over me currently, so its important to be prepared for the short-term hit as well as begin the long-term build-out plan.

Yesterday, I met with a 1099 PR counselor, one I know from my previous days at Widmeyer. She is a major league hitter. We’re going to give it a go on a product launch that I am going to be executing this August and September. I am confident she will be excellent if I win one of the large retainer prospects I am looking at.

For the long-term, the thing to do is find a strategic partner who can help build this business. This may or may not be someone as senior as me, but definitely someone who brings something to the table. A key component will be fulfillment.

It’s a big day for media training. Looking forward to it. After that I have a white paper to work on, as well as some serious positioning activity on a brand project, and some PR and advertising work. The beat goes on!

Key right now is staying positive and focused on the big picture. My attitude is still suffering a little from the past month, so I am actively working on addressing this by trying to build in fun, work-outs, and am even going to the Shakespeare Theatre this weekend with my wife and elderly grandmother who just moved into town.

Also, I should be able to move back into my home office within the next two weeks. That will be good, though Preferred Offices has a great facility here in Alexandria. I would like to use them once I get that first large reoccurring revenue account in. Save This Page

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Source Material on Starting Up

Crazy day yesterday… things are really back up at full-speed now, and work is very active. The blogging advertising project is on, transferring heavy traffic to sustainable advertising revenue should be an interesting challenge. We will be using an NPR model. This is my tenth client.

Looks like Escape from Cubicle Nation’s Pam Slim will be authoring a book on the mental transition from employee to business owner. This is sorely needed in my opinion. Yeah there are a lot of hotshots out there with the “how they did it book,” but there is not a lot of what this process feels like, the incredible mental and emotional drain that starting a company takes. She could probably do her book, then a follow-up on the actual escape process after leaving a company.

In fact, that’s why I started this blog. This is not a tech start-up, it’s a services start-up, and I found little source material on the communications agency process. If I could only write about all of it, but you can see how much one has to focus, focus, focus on the business. It’s all a matter of really keeping a positive attitude No Matter What and focusing on the big issues that are impacting your business.

I started implementing my board recommendations yesterday. It’s time to get serious about finding a partner to help me out.

The Huntington coverage continues to trickle in. Here’s a story in today’s Washington Examiner. Save This Page

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Huntington Flood Publicity Works...

Looks like the pro bono publicity conducted on behalf of my neighbors for the Huntington Floods worked out. I received a letter from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer indicating that Governor Kaine has ausked VDoT and the Woodrow Wilson bridge project conduct an investigation on the project’s impact on the flood, and report the results to an independent panel for review. Copies will be made available to the public.

In addition, the media have picked up on the story and also believe the cause of the flood was man-made. Check out today’s Washington Post story.

My Board meeting was outstanding. I got some great feedback from them, and some interesting direction to partake in the next couple of months. From partnership to marketing focus, from resolving some eisting issues to suggested vendors, this was a great meeting for me, and I am very grateful to have these folks in my life.

Now all I have to do is listen and execute. It’s one thing to hear things, it’s another to listen and actually do it.

An interesting deal is brewing in a blogging sort of way. It involves generating advertising revenue for a popular portal. My buddy WineSmith will be working with me on this, and it should be a great opportunity. Meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss.

BTW, WineSmith brought to my attention a great Pew study on the blogging community. We’re growing quickly, and becoming an increasingly larger part of the Internet world.

This week’s quotes are on listening, and yes ladies and gentlemen, there is a Listening Association, which lists these quotes.

“The contrast between hearing and really listening can be as different as night and day. And in a business environment, not listening effectively to customers, employees, and peers can mean the difference between success and failure.” — Ken Johnson

“We listen in order to learn and retain information. If we are speaking, we are not listening or learning anything to add to our sum of knowledge. This is why the first step to effective listening is to stop talking!” — Ken Fracaro

“Listening well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” — John Marshall Save This Page

Friday, July 21, 2006

End of First Quarter

Played hookie this afternoon and went to see the Pirate movie. It was lame, and I split to meet my wife at 6, but I did enjoy the down time.

Won a small personal client today, an old contact who just called me out of the blue. Nice. That makes nine total clients so far in three months (next Monday we will start our second quarter)... Albeit, there is no reoccurring contractual revenue on a monthly basis, but I am well enough off here to sustain myself and a few 1099ers on a part time basis. Not bad for a first quarter that included a natural disaster.

Next step, reoccurring revenue. Lots of that in the pipeline… Does summer matter for decision making? Not yet, but we’ll see in the dog days of August.

Speaking of next steps, I have my board meeting later today (yeah, more Midnight oil burning…). This will be invaluable. All senior managers running major marketing efforts, companies or divisions of companies. Average age is 50.

I like their ethics and values, their views on business, and of course their experience. It’s so important to have strong, identifiable folks like this who can help out a young CEO like me. The resulting advice and opinions should be invaluable.

With that… have a great weekend! Save This Page

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pitch Energy

The brand report is in, woo hoo. Now on to media training and white papers. Yeah!

The big pitch went well, in fact I am writing now because I was so pumped up for the past couple of days that I can’t sleep. Unfortunately, I found out the hardest competitor in the market is up for this deal, too. This company is extremely difficult to compete against, but I’m up for the tennis match. Brainstorming follow-up ideas right now.

Kudos to personal friend Mark Amtower for a sweet placement in
Entrepreneur magazine. Mark’s done a great job branding himself as the go-to B2G guy over the past couple of years.

I’ve got four major deals up in the air right now, and it is an interesting time to be weighing them. In many ways this calls for a unique blend of patience, value demonstration to the prospects, and persistence. There will be at least one if not two who see that I can be of service to them.

Here’s a nice little quote to ponder on this topic: “Patience cautions us to focus our efforts on what we can change while accepting what we cannot. When external circumstance rains on our parade, patience is our umbrella. Rather than blaming what we cannot control, patience is the wisdom behind persistence.” –
Denis Waitley’s eZine, Issue #65, June 19, 2006

I had three very interesting conversations today. One was a one of these wolves in sheep's clothing trying to "help me." Sigh. Ever try to rationalize with one of these? Believe me, don't waste your time. They think they're totally justified, and you can’t really point at anyone when you find yourself suffering as a result of interacting with these folks. It’s the price of keeping company with thieves, so to speak.

The best part of owning your own company is opting out of relationships like this. No thank you! But really, there is no excuse for allowing folks like this in one’s life in any form at all, owning a company, personally, as an employee, or even family. You just can’t change these people, and their karma inevitably spreads to you. A hard lesson already learned by me.

The other conversations were with folks that I want to work with or would like as a client, but for whatever reason gave up on those relationships. They are both back on the board.

OK, it’s almost 1 a.m. Wear off pitch energy, wear off… Save This Page

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In the Weeds and Loving It

Ahhh, yes. In the weeds, and loving it.

Currently, hanging out with the pitch team for the big Fortune 100. It’s coming together pretty nicely, I’d say. Tomorrow afternoon is the moment of truth, but in the interim we are bonding, making sure that we seem like a natural team in the pitch (as opposed to contrived).

Simultaneously, I’m sneaking in ten and fifteen minute periods on the branding report due to my client by close of business today (i.e. when she walks in tomorrow). That’s coming along pretty well, and I feel confident with the product.

Next up after the pitch tomorrow afternoon… media training, media buying, an advisory board meeting on Friday, and, oh yeah, networking. The key is to focus on the next right thing…

The latter half of the week is a lot less active, and it may be time for some self care. There are only so many consecutive days full throttle that any one person can handle, and I’m pretty close to there. It’s a quality to problem to have, but at the same time one that needs to be monitored closely. It may be time for a nice, long healthy ride on the Mt. Vernon trail.

You have to smile. Things are happening… it sure beats the alternative. Save This Page

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Rhythm of Consistency

I feel like I’m back in the zone. Things are moving, working hard again, with new business opportunities tracking, and good work being developed. The brand report is evolving nicely, and hopefully the client will agree with the quality of work and messaging, too. Tuesday is deliverable day… Yes, locked in once more.

In reflection, it really annoys me that I had to ratchet things back and curb my momentum. Granted a natural disaster occurred, literally, and my attention was definitely needed elsewhere (and to be honest it was and still is pretty depressing). However, I was fortunate that my workload was only 50 percent AND that it happened during the Fourth of July. Even the summer to recover is helpful.

Listening to Musashi’s Book of Five Rings today in the car (currently in the Water book), I am reminded how important consistency is to my effort. It’s critical to provide a strong effort everyday, ready for all situations, no matter how good or bad it gets, how tired or rested I am, whether it’s a holiday or not.

Wikopedia defines consistency as "the property of holding together and retaining it's shape.” Back to the Water book, a consistent total effort balanced with a calm, unshakable approach to every day creates opportunity for success.

Now, after listening to the Five Rings, I realize that what really bugs me about the flood recovery period was that I could not dedicate myself to the start-up the way I’d like to, in a consistent, totally committed way (yes, I know it was a natural disaster).

Don’t get me wrong… rigid consistency is the stuff of fools: Flexibility to events, situations and errors is just common sense. To be consistent in answer and thought is to become predictable, and eventually means that you will be surpassed by those that continue to change. The point of a consistent hard effort it that in anything – whether it be career, art, hobby, sport, even parenting – if you are leaving it all out there everyday, there are no regrets... only successes and lessons.

To be honest, I don’t think anything else could have knocked me off course with the exception of a close death or, yes, this natural disaster. In the end, some things are fated, but that was yesterday. Today, it’s back to the rhythm of consistently hard, all-out effort.

Here are some quotes for you to start the week:

“Part of courage is simple consistency.”
- Peggy Noonan

My theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.”
-Tom Seaver

“In everyday life you should be determined though calm… Even when your spirit is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken.”
- Musashi Save This Page

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mt. Vernon Gazette Coverage on the Flood

Some more coverage on the flood in the Mt. Vernon Gazette. Save This Page

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Artist's Way

Things seem to be back on track. Plugging out a forty+ hour week, and the enthusiasm is coming back, and momentum is picking up. I feel that things are getting busy again. The only thing that’s lagging right now is networking, which is in great part due to the summer.

I’m at that point in the branding process where I am stewing on the report. Seems to be my way with critical documents… It just brews in my head and then kaboom, the words start flying from my fingers. Well the storm is brewing, it’s just a matter of time now. My team is waiting to edit the document as soon as I produce it.

This seems to be the most artistic, creative aspect of my work, the messaging portion of everything. It’s so critical to take it easy during this time. Usually the best ideas come to me at the gym, on my bike, at a movie instead of staring at a blank screen.

There’s a great book called the Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Julia really seems to understand the creative process, and I have found her techniques to be absolutely critical in unleashing my ability to develop innovative materials. If you are inclined towards any of the arts, this is a must read.

Big new business pitch next week, and yes, the PowerPoint’s almost completed. How nice is that to be done now? The beauty of owning your own business is that you don’t have to be subjugated to other people’s procrastination. In my book preparation prior to a major pitch is absolutely essential.

Onward through the rest of the week. Have a good weekend. Save This Page

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Politics? Uh, No.

One funny thing that has arisen lately has been people asking me if I am going into politics now, a result of my activism on behalf of the neighborhood. This is definitely not my intent.

I’ve lived in DC now for 14 of the past 15 years, and have avoided the political scene like the black plague. It doesn’t really seem to be an attractive lifestyle to me, or a group of people that I want to spend my life with for 50 hours a week. It’s just not my cup of tea, and I can’t imagine proactively seeking out a politician’s job.

That being said, I do believe in the Jeffersonian ideal of public service. And that’s what drove my publicity efforts last week on behalf of my neighbors. They needed and wanted the help so I provided it. If my community asks me to be of service(including elected office), I believe it’s my civic duty to provide that help. Don’t hold your breath, though.

To help out with future press requests, I’ve started requesting some of my neighbors to be spokespeople. I need to get back to business, and answering media calls (two more) for Huntington is getting to be time consuming.

Doing a major competitive analysis, messaging report, advertising deal, and PPT today. Oh yeah, still working on media training, too. Stamina is becoming an issue, and sleep is much needed. I am trying to pace myself, but by the time I get to Friday, I fear that exhaustion will have full grasp of me…

That’s Friday. We'll worry about that then... Today is today, and it’s on to the next right thing. Save This Page

Monday, July 10, 2006

Flood Coverage: Top Story on WTOP's Site Today Save This Page

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Getting Refocused on Biz

I found myself fascinated by the World Cup over the past week… There must be justice in the world if Italy wins the World Cup after that vicious head butt. Wow. And who would have thought soccer would be so much more popular for this World Cup (more so than any I can remember)? Things continue to change in our country…

Back to work after a short week. Sometimes these short weeks can be off-putting, almost distracting. However, this week will be a full one, and most everyone will be back to work.

Personally, I too will be back to work and full speed ahead. Lot’s to do this week, including two nice new business efforts, a new client, and four active projects, plus a fifth starting. So there is no shortage of work, and I will be running full speed. It will be nice to focus on my client, their efforts, and trying to resolve them.

The primary focus for me right now is getting re-centered on the business and regenerating momentum. The flood threw me off, a real life issue that was necessarily absorbing; however it was a distraction. We moved back into the house this weekend, and though there is much work to be done still (basement won’t be repaired and refurnished until late August), the worst is over. The start-up business must take the front stage again.

Part of the struggle with regenerating this momentum is simply fatigue. I am somewhat drained after recent events. To succeed with this much activity, I must be careful. Pacing will be critical; the marathon approach must be adopted for the week. Taking rest, going to the gym, eating well, these are important things moving forward. Having fun is critical, too.

OK, so it begins. Here are this week’s quotes:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
- Fred Nietzsche

“If you confront your problems rather than avoid them, you will be in a better position to deal with them.”
- The Dalai Lama

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
- Les Brown Save This Page

Friday, July 07, 2006

More Coverage of Huntington Floods

Another day, in a short week. Yes, it is slower, isn’t it?

Spent a good part of yesterday garnering coverage for the affected Huntington residents. The county government and VDoT are trying to control the flood investigation, and everyone thinks the government bodies have some responsibility, so the local citizens are trying to get an independent investigation launched via a very public petitioning process. Coverage has included Channel 7 (ABC), Channel 9 (CBS) as well as the Washington Post and the cover story in today's Washington Examiner. A media advisory goes out this morning.

And so I get to use my powers for good and try to help my neighbors out. It feels good to try to make society a better place.

Got a new client on Wednesday. Interesting company involved in the aerospace industry. They have guerilla marketing needs due to small budgets. We’ll do what we can! Also found out we’ve got the big Fortune 100 pitch in the middle of the month. Big time PPT writing coming.

Almost done the final pieces of branding research for my client that I did the brand workshop for last week. We’ll be writing that messaging report over the next few days. It’s good to be back in the groove, and excited about it. That’s what it’s all about. Having fun, and enjoying what you do.

And with that… Have a great weekend!!! Save This Page

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Final Flood Thoughts

More acts of the weather gods. Last Sunday’s lightening storm knocked out the electricity in Old Town and West Alexandria on Monday, effectively knocking me out of work again. I was able to get my media training PPT done. Apologies for not blogging as promised.

My company has leased a car on my behalf, a benefit of being the owner. It’s an Acura TL, which actually came in cheaper than a fully loaded Volkswagen Passat and a Toyota Avalon on the lease side. Actually the payment represents a more than 20 percent reduction from my old car, the Audi, and that’s pre-tax dollars. Not bad. It’s a sweet ride, one of the pieces of silver lining that’s come out of the flood. The color is red, perhaps an early sign of a flood-induced mid-life crisis?

One thing I will say. The amount of help we have received from people has just been amazing. It’s really made me believe in the human race again… with the exception of insurance companies (if you are shopping for insurance, stay away from SafeCo. We’ve had a very bad experience with them).

Preferred Offices really saved my business from suffering more than it has, and family and friends have come together to make our living situation as tenable as possible. We think we will be back in the house by this weekend, and the basement should be refinished by Labor Day. Thank goodness.

It appears the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project was the cause of the Cameron Run flood. VDoT is denying culpability, but now we are organizing. My neighborhood has become my new pro bono client. That’s about it for flooding from a business standpoint, back to work, really.

It’s a short week, but it would be good to have amore than 40% productivity week. That’s my goal, get back to basics, think about others, my clients, my business associates, my friends.

Here are this week’s quotes for you:

“Leave selfishness behind you, and you cannot fail.”

“Do nothing that achieves nothing.”
-Musashi (Yes, I am listening to the Book of Five Rings on CD)

“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.”
-Herodotus Save This Page