You are Always on Stage

Have you noticed lately that it is becoming less and less commonplace to hear about some dumb thing a certain celebrity or politician had said or done on the recent past, only is just now being discovered and/or reported?  Well, I have.  And you know why that is?  It isn’t that people are behaving better these days – far from it – it’s that literally everything gets reported in real time anymore.

It doesn’t even have to be something important – even stuff like a candid snapshot of so and so random celebrity knuckle deep in a nostril while sitting in traffic is enough to make the front page of TMZ.com.  But, you don’t have to be a celebrity to know your life is under a constant microscope.  Between handheld flip cams and security cameras and cell phones with built in video capture capabilities – not to mention everything you put out there voluntarily by way of your blog, Facebook, etc., your entire life is potentially being recorded whether you like (or know) it or not.

What this implies is that not only is everything you do possibly being recorded and archived, the millions of avenues of self publishing and broadcasting  means that the ability to bring your shenanigans to the masses at warp speed is readily available.

The whole point of all this is the fact that the world we live in now forces us to come to terms with what some may consider to be a rather sobering reality: Whether you like it or not, you are always on stage.

always on stage u2

Source: pollstaronline.com

As your Miranda rights go, anything you say or do can be held against you in a court of public opinion.  Don’t think that you can slip one through here and there.  It’s been estimated that as many as 45% of employers use Facebook to screen potential job applicants and that number is only going to go up.  In today’s economy, the sheer number of resumes employers receive make them more interested in seeking reasons not to interview a candidate for a position, so they look for voluntary idiocy via social media accounts as a method of weeding out morons who still think posting drunken pictures of their beer-pong exploits is a good idea.

And, while this is potentially true for prospective job hunters, it is even more so for those of us who are self employed.

When you’re self employed, it’s basically true that you are never not working.  Any social scene, from backyard BBQs to your interactions with other parents at your kids’ sporting events can potentially provide an opportunity to meet a future client or gain a referral.  But even beyond that, every single encounter will leave an impression.  The type of impression you leave is up to you.

Think of all the ridiculous parents yelling incessantly in the stands during sporting events.  Whether you’re a fellow parent with a kid on the same field, or you’re a player yourself, or you’re a coach – you’ve undoubtedly encountered someone like this at some point.  It’s inevitable. And when you see people act this way, what’s the first thing that runs through your head?  I can probably guess – but I think it’s safe to assume that it isn’t that this person is a level headed individual you might like to someday do business with.

Every single person you encounter has the potential to to influence the perception of you and your business – so you always have to be on your game to make sure that that influence is a positive one.  Because in today’s digital age, a little bit of damage can go a long long way.

Hustler. Hacker. Slacker: An Afternoon with Paul Jendrasiak

As I’ve grown a little older (I turned 35 in February), self-reflection has become a large part of my experience.  Taking the time and examining the events, decisions, luck (both good and bad), people that have come and gone (again both good and bad), circumstances, etc. that have shaped my life to this point has had a positive effect on things going forward and is something I look forward to doing more of as time goes on.  If you’re a bit older than I am – you’re probably thinking to yourself something like ‘you think you’re older now?  Wait til you’re 50, son’.

It was exactly at that time that I was just beginning to branch out on my own as a service provider in the SEO and Internet Marketing industry.  At the time and up until relatively recently, I didn’t know Paul very well.  In all reality, I had an idea as to the businesses he was involved in – but aside from that I really knew only one thing about him: Paul Jendrasiak was everywhere around here.If you live in West Michigan, are active on social media channels around here, or even if you’ve spent any time at all in Grand Rapids, chances are you’ve heard of Paul Jendrasiak.  In case you are unfamiliar, Paul is the founder of Spambully, a photographer for GRNOW, and co-founder of Hello From Grand Rapids, among many other business ventures over the past 20 years.  I first met Paul at a cocktail event in 2010.  Prior to that, we’d connected informally on Facebook, when it was the thing to do to be counted as among his near capacity friend count.

When I was first starting out, I attended my fair share of networking events and the like.  If you’ve ever engaged in such activities – you know that it usually becomes pretty apparent who the regulars are – and Paul was seemingly at all of them.  If I was the guy with his hands in his pockets lurking on the outskirts of the party like the captain of the chess club at a high school dance, Paul was the star quarterback in the middle of the dance floor.

Over the past few years, I’d gotten to know Paul a little bit through his Facebook page and occasional chance interactions.  He was always laid back and cool and always seemed to make time for everyone.  But it wasn’t until his recent presentation at a GRAPE event called “Hustler. Hacker. Slacker: Confessions and Ramblings of an Accidental Entrepreneur”, and a subsequent conversation over coffee a week later that I realized how much he and I had in common and how his life experience resonated with me both personally and professionally.

The truth is, listening to Paul’s talk about his experience growing up – and by ‘growing up’ I am actually referring his early adulthood years – felt as if I was listening to the older brother I never had.  Paul’s remarks on growing up admiring musicians and an affinity for photography yet letting go of those dreams in favor of a more practical career path resonated with me and had me hanging on his every word.  It isn’t that his experience is a perfect reflection of mine – far from it.  But there is a feeling of familiarity in listening to Paul describe his path to this point in his life (he’s 42), and certain parallels when I think and reflect on this point in mine.

So with that, I encourage you to check out Paul’s talk below.  It’ll probably be the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today.  And by the way – as to turning 50 – I’m looking forward to it and I’ll report back in about 15 years’ time.

The Underlying Issue with Mass Shootings that no one is Talking About

By now you’ve heard about the actions of one deranged psychopath in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. This is a tragedy, and my heart aches for the people who were killed, injured or otherwise affected.

Having said that, there is an underlying issue with this tragic event, and mass shootings in general that no one is talking about, and that’s the demand in this country for absolute safety.

An article on Yahoo this afternoon contained the following quote:

“We don’t understand America’s need for guns,” said Philip Alpers, director of the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org project that compares gun laws across the world. “It is very puzzling for non-Americans.”

I doubt Mr. Alpers will ever see this, but it’s really not difficult to understand. However it does require a rudimentary grasp of American history – which sadly even many Americans don’t seem to possess.

This country was founded upon the principle of an armed society and government by the people. To understand why, you have to examine the tyranny and oppression of the British government from which we fought to separate. The guiding principle is that an armed community will be better prepared to defend itself, and will be properly equipped to keep the government in line.

Say what you want about the second part, but the fact remains that there are many repressive governments in the world – and the imbalance of power in those countries is vast compared to the freedoms we enjoy in the US. Imagine living in constant fear that the slightest hint of non-conformity meant imprisonment or even death (North Korea), or a land where anything short of absolute religious indoctrination meant a stoning or beheading. This is not just a dangerous ideal – there are parts of the world where these ‘punishments’ are routinely carried out. Or imagine the constant fear of living in a place where only a few dozen miles away the Islamic State had just besieged and massacred innocent people by the 10’s of thousands in a neighboring city. Imagine gathering up your family and fleeing your home, your possessions and your city because you have no way to defend yourself.

But you don’t have that here. And it’s reasonable to speculate that maybe you have an armed society to thank for at least part of that.

How effective would the IS be if they encountered 50,000 armed civilians at every turn? Could Kim Jong Un operate such a unilateral dictatorship in the United States? No. Because someone would have offed him long before he could demand every man in that country wear the same stupid haircut as him.

How successful would the Nazis have been in the 1930’s, when they employed blitzkrieg military tactics to overwhelm most of Europe? What if they’d encountered armed citizenry in Poland, France, Greece, Czechoslovakia, or any other of the countries they overran?

The sad part of this from a societal perspective is had the attack in Charleston not been so blatantly racially motivated in a time where racial tensions are getting worse by the week, this would just be another mass shooting by another deranged psychopath.


MoxieMen Incorporated has at times had a diverse array of clients on our roster, and all in all a member of just about every race, gender and sexual orientation has been a MoxieMen client at one time or another. But there are two individuals in particular who come to mind when it comes to the notion of living under the constant threat of violence.

The native countries of the two gentlemen in question are sworn enemies, so naturally I didn’t tell them about one another while they were both clients at the same time. One of the men was Dan, who lives in Israel near Jerusalem but had spent 10 years stateside in his early adult life. The other, a man named Mahmoud – as you can probably guess from the context of this paragraph, is from Gaza. Mahmoud now lives in the Detroit area with his wife and four kids and has been in the US legally for a long time. I never asked, but he is likely a naturalized citizen by now.

To make things worse, this was in 2013, when tensions between Israel and Palestine almost led to all-out war. As such, rocket attacks and raids left 44 people dead including non-combatants ranging in age from two to 61 years old (source). 38 of the dead were Palestinians.

As I got to know the two men individually, the conversations eventually turned to the cultural differences between the Middle East and America. And while the discussions were generally light and cordial, I had the opportunity to ask both of them individually what the biggest difference was between their homeland and the US. Their answer was EXACTLY the same: Safety. Mahmoud’s words: “It’s safe here”.

It’s safe here. There aren’t nuclear weapons pointed at us from virtually every direction. The people in our border cities don’t live under the constant threat of mortar and rockets being lobbed over the fence at us. The Islamic State isn’t going to crash our borders and march from city to city beheading and burning us alive.

In a population of 320 million people, there are going to be some psychopaths. And every once in a while, one of these psychopaths will snap, and tragedy will strike. And while the increased media coverage and exposure of these events makes it seem as if the frequency of such attacks is increasing, the truth is that the number of mass shootings has remained static (source: USA Today). In fact, that same USA Today article states that there are on average 20 mass shootings annually that involve at least four deaths. In other words, you only hear about the really bad ones.

If a person happens to be at the mall, or the movie theater, or in school, or on their college campus, or at McDonalds, their church or anywhere else tragedy happens to strike at that moment, there’s probably not a lot that person can do to defend themselves in those particular circumstances.

In the interest of objectivity, I want to fully acknowledge that I have never been in an ‘active shooter’ situation. Nor has my immediate or extended family ever been affected by such as event. I am open to the possibility that I might feel differently had I experienced such a tragedy personally.

But in the overwhelming majority of the time, it’s safe here despite the absence of absolute safety. Please know that absolute safety doesn’t exist and isn’t possible. So stop demanding it.

Don’t Fear Failure

There’s a lot of conversation these days about failure – to the point saturation. Online publications such as Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur have published dozens if not hundreds of articles on the topic of failure, ranging from general info to anecdotal pieces by wildly successful individuals such as Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuk. Here in Michigan, there’s a forum called Failure:Lab where individuals give presentations on past failures. If one didn’t know better, the concept of ‘failure’ – whether it’s personal or professional in nature – is being romanticized in a effort to un-demonize the phenomenon of falling short of a goal.

It’s true that there’s no teacher like experience. As Vern Law, the famous baseball player is known for pointing out, “Experience is a hard teacher because it gives the test first and the lesson afterward”.

The truth is, people aren’t afraid of failure. They’re afraid of the consequences of having failed. That, depending on your circumstances, could mean any number of things.

For some people, failure means a change in lifestyle. For example, the financial consequences of a failed business might mean losing a home or cars or not having the money for private schools that the kids are enrolled in. For others it could be an ego thing.

For MoxieMen, being in business is about the clients for whom we’re able to help make money. It’s about the fact that they have come to rely on our services to do better by their own customers, clients, patients and patrons. It’s about keeping their businesses healthy so that they can take care of their own employees and families. It’s about the vendors who allow MoxieMen to provide the level of service and results to do amazing things. It’s about the contractors who’ve come to rely on MoxieMen for income. If MoxieMen fails, they will all eventually be fine of course. But it would leave a hole for them to fill and I don’t want them to experience any unnecessary hardships.

For me personally, being in business is about freedom. The freedom of having a wife that can stay home with our two young sons. The freedom of a flexible schedule. The freedom to decline project work that is not a good fit. The freedom to pursue victory.

Victory. Everyone is different. What does ‘victory’ mean to you? Every day we stay in business proves every person wrong who ever said I couldn’t do this, subliminally or otherwise. Every day in business denies those same naysayers the satisfaction of predicting my personal and professional failure, even if it has more to do with their own insecurities than anything else. That’s victory. Victory is pushing forward every time that the evil cloud of self-doubt rears its ugly head and has to be swatted back down. Victory is quieting every negative voice in my head that tries to convince me that those people were right – you can’t do this.

But victory is more than just an eff-you to anyone who didn’t believe in me. As satisfying as it can be, the truth is victory is so much more than that. Victory is as much vindication to all the people who have been supportive – who’ve believed in and supported this. For as many detractors as there have been, there have been at least twice as many cheerleaders, champions, mentors and supporters. Victory is more for them then it is for me. Victory is the pride in my 13 year old daughter’s tone when she tells her friends about how her dad ‘has his own business‘. I could go on and on.

So don’t fear failure. Instead, put safeguards in place to soften the blow if things don’t work out. Failure doesn’t need to equal financial ruin, or outright embarrassment. Ensure that no matter what happens, you’ll mostly be fine, even if you have to recover for a bit.

Product Review: EGO Electric Lawn Mower

Executive Summary

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Power
  • Reliability
  • Five-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
  • Reduced noise
  • Performance
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Easy to start and use
  • Batteries are interchangeable among all EGO products

Cons

  • Price
  • Not ideal for larger yards
  • Not intended for commercial applications

Introduction

Ego Electric Lown Mower - Moxiemen, Inc.

Before

I’ve been in the market for a new lawn mower for the past three years, ever since my old gas-powered Snapper began it’s descent into a less than reliable grass-cutting machine. I’d previously given serious consideration to investing in an electric lawn mower for the sheer convenience of a maintenance-free, gas-free yard tool, but in the end I passed on the idea because at the time they were considered to be under-powered, offered an unacceptably short battery life and required excessively long charging times.

Last year I discovered the EGO Power Plus electric lawn mower. When I discovered the EGO line of lawn care equipment, I was intrigued by the technology. This was the first electric lawn mower on the market powered by a 56 volt lithium ion battery, and the 30 minute charging time made the EGO an attractive option. Still, I was skeptical of the idea of an electric lawn mower in general – could it really do as good of a job as the gas engines that have been around forever?

Ego Electric Lawn Mower - Moxiemen, inc.

Ego Electric Lawn Mower

I was definitely interested in the EGO electric lawn mower, but the $499 price tag scared me off a bit. It was a lot to invest in an experiment. After all, if it didn’t work like it was supposed to, I would basically be stuck with it. So instead, I opted to purchase the EGO Power Plus Hedge Trimmer to see how the technology worked out and continued to nurse along the old Snapper for another summer.

The hedge trimmer turned out to be a great value and well worth the $199 retail price. It functioned as advertised, and I found to be as powerful as any other hedge trimmers I’ve used in the past. With a cutting capacity of up to 3/4″ branches, it may very well be even more powerful than some gas trimmers on the market. This spring, based on my experience with the EGO Hedge Trimmer, I made the decision to invest in the EGO electric lawn mower.

My experience with the EGO Power Plus 56v Electric Lawn Mower

As luck would have it, I was recently afforded the opportunity to test out the EGO electric lawn mower for the purposes of this review. In full disclosure, I am not at the time of this writing affiliated with EGO, its parent company, or Home Depot, where these products are sold. I was not paid for the review and I will receive no compensation whatsoever in the event a person makes a purchase based on this review.

Initial Impressions

The item arrived packaged neatly and is about 90% assembled right out of the box. It probably took longer to empty contents of the box than it did to start it up. The lawnmower arrives packaged in its folded, compact position. Simply extend out the handle, install the battery and grass catcher if desired and fire it up.

The product is light. At 62 pounds, the EGO’s weight is consistent with that of its smaller gas powered counterparts, and as much as 40% lighter than some of the bigger gas models on the market.

Appearance

Ego Electric Lawn Mower - Moxiemen, inc.

No, it’s not a RC Car!

It looks cool. The EGO electric lawn mower nicely utilizes a combination of grays, blacks and bright greens that definitely offer an aesthetic upgrade over the traditional fire-engine-red that lawn mower manufacturers have utilized for decades. The battery is housed under a clear acrylic green shield that gives this electric lawn mower a futuristic look.

Function

For the purpose of this review, I didn’t go easy on this electric lawn mower and I worked it a lot harder than I normally would.

The mower deck is easily adjustable using a lever on the left side of the unit. My 13 year old daughter was able to adjust the deck through the five settings with relative ease. We set the deck to the lowest possible cutting height.

This was the first cut of the season for my lawn. As such, there were various piles of leaves and small branches that had accumulated over the course of the previous winter. Normally I would clean those items up before mowing, but in the interest of truly testing the product thoroughly, they were left alone. To make it even a little bit tougher, the grass catcher and mulcher attachment were intentionally left off the machine.

EGO Electric Lawn Mower 6

Ego Electric Lawn Mower, After - Moxiemen, inc.

After

The EGO electric lawn mower worked as well as any of it’s gas powered counterparts. It cut right through the thick grass, leaves and sticks as well as I could have hoped it would. It bogged down in spots where the leaves were especially dense, but that experience is consistent with other gas lawn mowers I’ve used. The 20″ mower deck powered right through and left a evenly cut patch of grass in its wake.

At 62 pounds, it is light enough that a 13 year old girl can use it with ease. It’s light enough that the fact that it’s not self-propelled isn’t a drawback.

Noise Factor

The machine starts with the simple push of a button and pulling back of the safety bar. When it starts, it makes a whirring noise akin to that of a standard vacuum cleaner. I estimate it’s roughly a third to half as noisy as a traditional gas-powered lawn mower (although EGO claims it’s only 20% quieter). From about 30+ feet away, it simply sounds like a high powered fan. If you’re inside of your house, you can barely hear it.

Battery Life

My lawn is small and requires about 20-30 minutes to completely mow all the grass with a standard lawn mower. The EGO electric lawn mower completed about 90% of the job before the red indicator light came on to suggest that the battery’s charge was close to depletion. This was largely due to the mower deck’s lowest possible setting and the additional workload from the excessive leaves and sticks in the yard. I swapped the battery with the one from my trimmer and easily finished the job. In more standard circumstances, the lawn mower would have completed the task on a single charge, and in fact it has in subsequent uses.

That said, the 2nd battery was a nice luxury to have. It should also be noted that the EGO Power Plus Rapid Charger worked as advertised, charging the 4.0 Amp Lithium Ion Battery the mower came with to capacity in about 26 minutes.

Convenience

As advertised, the handle folds up swiftly and the unit can be stored upright. If you lean it against a wall, it barely consumes two square feet of floor space.
The low maintenance aspect of electric lawn mowers is one of the most attractive aspects of this product. There are no fluids to change, no gas to mix, and no filters to replace. The only wear item is the blade, which is understandable.

Smell

Since the EGO electric lawn mower uses lithium ion technology, it is odorless in operation. The lack of gas fumes may not matter to some, but for me it was a very positive attribute of this product.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a new lawn mower, consider going electric. Between the convenience, the noise and environmental aspects, and the fact that the technology has finally been developed to generate the power and battery life necessary to make the products viable, electric lawn mowers are worthy of consideration. And despite the $499.99 price tag, while higher than some lower end mowers, the EGO Power Plus Electric Lawn Mower is a excellent value.

So You’re Just Starting Out

“If you can move it an inch, you can move it a mile.”

Yes, this is true.  Even if you only move it one inch at a time.  Those you see that are seemingly miles ahead of you?  They started out where you are right now – and you know what?  You may even be further along at this very moment than they were when they began.

As things have progressed, and I reflect on what it was like when I first started out in this industry back in 2009, sometimes I ask myself, ‘how the hell did this happen’?

Before I go any further, I don’t mean to imply that I have arrived.  I don’t think that will ever actually happen if I’m being perfectly honest.  There will always be another level.  Another mountain to climb.  Even if it’s the same mountain over and over.

Let me tell you what I mean by that.

Achieving success the first time is amazing.  And it really doesn’t matter how you define it.  I’m talking about the first time that it works.  That holy shit! moment where all the uncertainty evaporates and the internal dialogue that had been telling you to give-it-up-and-just-go-out-and-get-a-job that’d been so prevalent quiets to a whisper of a whisper.  It never truly goes away entirely, but it knows defeat is imminent.

I’m talking about the kind of success that feels good in an equal but different way every single time it is achieved.  It’s possible.  It’s achievable.  And if there’s ever a story of ‘if I can do it so can you‘, it’s this one.

In my earlier days, I would hear people say things like that.  I thought it was just their way of being humble.  But they weren’t.  They were right.

I got my start in the world of digital marketing back in 2009.  After having been downsized out of my previous job in retail management through no fault of my own, I knew that I needed to make a change.  Through what was essentially a circumstance consisting of dumb luck combined with even more dumb luck, I wound up with what was more or less a temp-to-hire gig at a company called Mindscape, an up and coming digital marketing and web design agency here in Grand Rapids, MI.

A lot has changed between then and now.  Since moving on from Mindscape in 2010 and striking out on my own, I’ve gone from run-of-the-mill freelancer to owner of an agency in my own right.

As things have progressed, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people who are in similar positions as I found myself several years ago – downsized out of gainful employment and deciding to strike out as a freelancer, not really knowing what lied ahead or even really what I wanted to happen – and in a weakened economy no less.  It’s still very real – and in many ways the emotions, fears and anxieties I recall remain quite raw. In talking with those who are ‘just starting out’, I think back to where I was back in 2010.  I didn’t know anyone.  I had no profile.  No company.  No presence.  I looked at the people who were seemingly doing well and that level of success seemed impossible.  I thought to myself, ‘forget cranking it up to 11… how do I even get it from zero to one?’  It was discouraging and quite frankly depressing.

I’m not going to tell you it’s been easy to even get as far as I have.  That would be a blatant lie.  And while I reiterate that I have yet to ‘arrive’, at the same time I’m not ‘just starting out’, either.  And that’s something.  That’s progress.  And in celebration of that progress, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you along.

1) Do a kick ass job for everybody willing to hire you, regardless of who they are, what their profile is or how much they’re paying you.

This is important when you’re starting out for a variety of reasons.  One, you need a portfolio of ‘success stories’.  Two, it’s much easier to hire someone who’s done good work for others.  Furthermore, those people you’ve done great work for will become your cheerleaders.  You never know who will become an evangelist for your work.

2) Do your absolute best.  Always.  

My time at Mindscape was a different experience than most people get.  Most people when they’re starting out begin at the bottom.  They work for a low-end agency, or start out freelancing by surviving on the breadcrumbs passed down by top-end firms.  My experience was different because I started at the top and I was thrown to the wolves, knowing I was one screw-up (perhaps in my own mind) away from being gone, and it would have been simple to make it as if I’d never been there in the first place.  For these reasons I had to do my absolute best just to survive, and that mentality has translated into my corporate philosophy.

3) Understand that time is more valuable than money.  By a wide margin.

We all know that time is money.  But it’s important to understand that the risk a prospective client is running by hiring you isn’t the money they will lose if you don’t produce. It’s the time they will lose – not only in the initial time lost but also the cost of cleaning up any messes you’ve made.  Be respectful of this.

4) Relationships are everything. It’s not who you are, or even who you know.  It’s who knows you.

You can’t do this alone.  The easiest way I’ve found to build relationships is to be a resource.  Do whatever you can to help as many people and businesses as possible to achieve their goals – or if nothing else connect them with people who can help them along.  You never know when someone you provided amazing advice and guidance to four years ago will come out of the woodwork and ask you to quote a 5 or 6-figure project.

5) Relationships take time to develop, but the investment is worth it.

Expanding on #4, understand that no matter what your track record of success, it’s going to take time for someone who doesn’t know you to trust you.  If you’re working in an industry with little to no barriers to entry (like SEO), you have to know that for every quality service provider, there are 10 or more who suck.  And chances are most prospective clients will have encountered one who is saying a lot of the initial things that you are.  They are skeptical and rightfully so – and their skepticism speaks to their business acumen much more than it does to how they feel about you.  So don’t take it personally – just do whatever you can to cultivate a relationship based on trust, no matter how long it takes.

6) Being self-employed doesn’t mean you are your own boss.  If you have 100 clients, you have 100 bosses.

Enough said.

So You Want a Job

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since I wrote this series of pieces titled ‘How to get a job in the 21st Century’, part 1 and part 2.  In re-reading my remarks from 2010 most of it is still very relevant, although I think it’s reasonable to surmise that the job market and the economy in general is in a little better shape than it was in the post crash mess that was on everyone’s mind back then.

As time has gone by, my business has grown to the point that I’ve hired several people over the past few years.  Most of the time, they were freelancers or other industry professionals looking for side work.  All hires have been on a contract basis and at the time of this writing, Enliven SEO & Design only has one full time employee (me).

As business has grown, the profile of both myself and the business has increased as well.  This wasn’t necessarily intentional or the result of a deliberate effort – it was just the natural progression of things such as media mentions, relationships built, guest lectures at local universities, etc.  That said, as awareness of myself and my company has increased, more and more people come out of the woodwork, from potential clients and outsource partners, to people seeking employment.  It’s the latter that I want to address today.

Last week, I received a email from a recent college graduate looking for a job.  This happens often and there’s nothing remarkable about it in and of itself.  The email in question didn’t reference myself or my company by name, didn’t contain any specific information whatsoever, and in all likelihood was simply copied and pasted.

The initial email read like this:

My name is [redacted]. I am writing to express my interest in working for your company. I am a recent graduate of [redacted] with a degree in marketing. I have a very diverse background with experience in several different areas of business. I would love to discuss any job opportunities further with you if you get a chance.

I also get them occasionally that say little more than:

Are you hiring?

I don’t want to be too hard on the kid – I know it’s tough out there, and the value of a college degree is becoming diminished more and more with every graduating class.  I responded to his email asking him if he might be interested in contract work, which was met with a response indicating that he ‘is looking for something a little more full time‘ for personal reasons he included but aren’t worth repeating here.  The email exchange predictably didn’t go much further than that.

My purpose for writing this blog post is that this is generally the approach I see from people when seeking employment, especially young people.  The truth is this though, with the email above, this is about the worst approach a person can take.  A copied and pasted message through the contact form on my blog tells me that you don’t care who hires you, as long as you wind up with a job.

Furthermore – and this is especially egregious, this approach also tells me that a candidate is not willing to take the time to figure out what my company is all about, who our clients are, and how they can provide value.  Had this person actually read anything on my site, he would have seen that the services I provide are very explicit, and between the testimonials clients have provided and the portfolio of past projects that is very visible on my site, he shouldn’t have any any problem figuring out who Enliven’s clients are and how we help them be more successful with their online presence.  He also might have noticed that I don’t have any full time employees.

Having said all that, I don’t want to discourage people from reaching out to me.  I am ALWAYS looking for new contractors, and if you do a good job for Enliven, it will open other doors for your professional ambitions.  For example, there are many people around who runs their companies through contract workers instead of full time employees.  You can quite literally piece together your own full time gig, set your own schedule, rates, and eventually find your own clients and contractors to help you out if you so desire.  That might sound a little crazy, but that’s EXACTLY how I got to this point.

As such, I definitely want to hear from you.  Even in the event working with Enliven isn’t a great fit, I have many people in my network I can pass your information along to.  I’ve met many of my contractors this way.

Reaching out to business owners and hiring managers is a great way to get yourself out there, but it won’t be effective if you use the wrong approach.  Here are some guidelines for making a great first impression.  Some of this may come off as a little harsh – but you should know that much of this comes from actually dealing with people looking for work:

  • Don’t ever for one second think that your college degree qualifies you for employment with my company or any other employer.
  • Hiring managers get a lot of emails.  Remember this.
  • Don’t send a generic email.  Customize it to the person it is addressed to.  If you don’t know their name before emailing, learn it.
  • Hiring managers don’t initially care about your personal life, and aren’t going to give you preferential treatment because of your life’s choices and or circumstances.
  • Your college degree does not precede you.  Your MBA does not precede you.
  • You are not entitled to a job, and the world does not owe you a living.  This may be a complete contradiction to what you’ve previously been sold.
  • In most industries, there are more people in the job market than jobs to be filled.  The laws of supply and demand are in full effect here.
  • Jobs exist to provide value to a business and it’s objectives.  Businesses exist to make money, not to provide you with a job.
  • Some occupations, such as engineers and medical professionals require a college degree for job-function-related reasons.  Only in those circumstances should your degree be a focal point.
  • Find out what the company actually does.
  • Find out who the company’s customers are, and how they benefit from the transaction.

Those that demonstrate an understanding of these things, and can effectively communicate as to how they can be of benefit to the company and it’s customers/clients are the ones that get interviews.  They’re the ones who get 2nd interviews, and they’re also the ones who get hired.

What Makes a Website ‘Good’? What Makes a Website ‘Bad’?

In an effort to provide value in areas outside of business and marketing, I’ve been participating in discussions in various groups outside of my normal arenas on Linkedin.  In one such discussion in a group dedicated to interior design, a group user asked:

What, in your opinion, describes a poorly-built website? And a really good one?

Characteristics of a ‘bad’ Website

One of the services we offer at Enliven SEO & Design is one where I perform an * analysis of a client’s existing Web presence.  This is usually when a client feels their site is not performing as well as it could be, whether it’s from a sales, conversion or traffic perspective.  When this is the case, we look at a site from a variety of angles, such as page load speed, user experience, layout, visual appeal, content, optimization, etc.  Once the analysis is completed, a report is generated and a list of actionable items is presented to the client for implementation.

Here are some characteristics of what makes a website bad (*every bullet point below was taken from previous reports):

  1. Slow load times;
  2. Poorly laid out content;
  3. Visually unappealing;
  4. Excessive number of slides in rotating slider;
  5. Broken Links;
  6. Out of date copyright date;
  7. Site contains published pages that are ‘under construction’;
  8. No Google Analytics or other traffic tracking code installed;
  9. No privacy policy/terms of service page;
  10. Poorly organized navigation;
  11. Poorly optimized images for page load speed and search engine optimization;
  12. No testimonials (if company sells a product or service);
  13. Site contains excessive amount of annoying popups;
  14. Inconsistent layout between different pages;
  15. External links are not ‘no-follow’ (bad for SEO);
  16. Site lacks content;
  17. Site contains little to no pictures;
  18. Site URLs are not optimized for search engine placement for desired keywords;
  19. Site contains duplicate content;
  20. Site contains excessive amount of ‘self-congratulatory’ copy;
  21. Site lacks content in general;
  22. Site contains copy that is centric to the business and not the needs of the customer;
  23. Meta titles are not written to benefit site from an SEO perspective;
  24. Site contains no blog;
  25. Site contains no RSS feed;
  26. Site does not link to social platforms;
  27. Site lacks calls to actions to improve conversions;
  28. Site contains no FAQ and other value-add content;
  29. Site is not on a content management system;
  30. Site is not optimized for mobile devices.

Characteristics of a ‘Good’ Website

So what makes a website ‘good’?  While good is a subjective concept, it’s safe to say that with bad websites, there is a common thread.  The one thing all bad have in common is that there is generally no planning involved.  Planning comes from goals.  When you outline your goals, you can only then formulate a plan and a strategy to achieve those goals.

Here are some general characteristics of a ‘good website’:

  1. Site loads quickly;
  2. Site contains information that is relevant to the needs of the customer or client;
  3. Site is set up to achieve certain objectives – whether that is sales, lead capture, etc.
  4. Site is attractive in appearance;
  5. Site contains a good amount of content;
  6. Site contains a blog that is updated consistently;
  7. Site is ‘for’ the prospective client or customer;
  8. Fundamentals of search engine optimization such as header tags, page titles, etc. are in place;
  9. Content is written to address the pain points of the prospective visitor;
  10. Site contains links to social media accounts and RSS feed;
  11. Site’s copyright date is current;
  12. Site contains clear calls to action to contact the business, make a purchase, etc.;
  13. Site navigation is well thought out and planned for a good user experience;
  14. Site displays testimonials and other social proof;
  15. Site contains Google Analytics and/or other traffic tracking code;
  16. Site contains faq page;
  17. Site contains whitepapers and other value add types of content;
  18. Site is built on a content management system.

What did I miss?  What would you add to the list?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Why I Turned Down a Six-Figure Job Offer

Toward the end of last summer I received a private message on LinkedIn from a contact named ‘Ted’* I had made here in Grand Rapids several years ago.  Ted was a guest speaker at a seminar I attended.  He and I were never close – and it’s safe to say I don’t know him well.  Shortly after the seminar, Ted departed the Grand Rapids area for San Francisco and ended up working for a startup, which has since become very well known in the world of digital marketing.  I won’t mention it by name*, but you’ve likely heard of it, as well as its founder, who is one of the major players in this realm.

*I am not trying to be vague – I just feel it’d be in bad taste to blatantly brag about turning down an opportunity with such a high-profile firm by mentioning them or their founder by name.

I receive inquiries every now and then from various recruiters looking for in-house SEO help.  I almost always decline to entertain the opportunities for the simple reason that I am not looking to quit what I am doing to take a full time job, and the salary for these positions usually isn’t anything special anyhow.  But when Ted reached out initially, I was intrigued given the firm involved, especially considering that they’d just secured $12 million in new investor funding.  Ted told me he’d been following my progression over the past several years which is why he thought of me when this opportunity came down the pipeline.  The total compensation package was well into the six figures with incentives for even more based on performance.  It was briefly exciting and I gave the proposal a little consideration, but it didn’t take long to realize that turning this down was the correct decision.

The job responsibilities would have been a challenge, and the requirement of commuting to San Francisco on at least a monthly basis was a huge drawback.  But the main reason for turning this down was actually pretty simple.  As attractive as the compensation package was, I like where things are at with business and my relationships with my clients.  I didn’t come this far to simply abandon them by closing up shop for a salary I will likely reach on my own anyway sooner or later.

The reason I am sharing this is not to brag – although I will admit it does feel good to be on the radar of at least one of this industry’s premier companies.  I just wanted to take this opportunity to demonstrate not only my commitment to my clients, but my associates as well, without whom I wouldn’t be able to provide the level of service and results you’ve come to expect.

 

When a Company Goes Above and Beyond…

I want to share a positive customer service experience I had this week.

I bought a guitar on Ebay two days ago and immediately paid for it. The auction included ‘free shipping’. Upon realizing that the estimated delivery date was unfavorable, I called the company to try to arrange for expedited shipping with the intention of paying for the additional costs. This was a whole two hours after I’d completed my end of the transaction.

I called the company which is located in Tennessee only to find out that their driver was already in route to UPS. The receptionist hung up with me to try to catch the driver, which she was able to do. She returned my call some 30 minutes later to report to me that they’d shipped the item UPS two-day – at no extra cost to me. I offered a credit card to cover the expense but they declined.

At about 11 this morning a small package came in the mail from the seller that contained hardware items they’d inadvertently failed to include in the original packaging. It was just a couple pieces of hardware and some allen wrenches – probably weighed less than 2 ounces total. Still they shipped the item USPS next-day at an expense of $23.

I received the guitar tonight – in perfectly new condition as the Ebay listing promised. I’m sharing this simply for the fact that with everyone focusing on the negative stories out there – it’s refreshing that there are people out there who want to provide great service that goes well beyond the bounds of what is reasonable or necessary. If it suits you, like and share this post and give their FB page a ‘like’ as well.

https://www.facebook.com/yardsaleusapage