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Month: April 2021

Crippled CEO Blog #080: No College Funds

Crippled CEO Blog #080:

I don’t think you should be putting money away for your kids to go to college.

I know. This is sacrilege. Every good parent, after they pay for the necessities of survival, are obligated to put some of the remainder into the college fund for the kiddo.

And maybe this was a good idea 30 years ago.

The reality today, though, is that unless your kid wants to be a doctor, engineer, scientist, educator, or lawyer, traditional college likely isn’t the best course. 

It is also egregiously overpriced.

Of all of the degrees that are a waste of money, I am particularly annoyed by one of the most popular ones: business. 

Spending $100k to get an MBA is dumb. 

I’m a high school drop out. After a decade of running my own businesses, I had this insecurity that there was some secret knowledge in a business degree that I was missing out on. I decided to start taking online classes at a university. The only problem is that I kept leaving my books in shrink wrap on my desk at my office. I wasn’t reading any of the material. I wasn’t paying attention to the lectures, only logging in to make attendance. And after a year, I was consistently getting perfect scores in every quiz and test. 

Apparently, actually running businesses also teaches you the material. Go figure. 

And instead of paying six figures to get this information, I made money while I learned it.

Definitely do set some money aside, preferably in an investment account that compounds, to give your kid a head start — just don’t pigeon hole what it can be used for by calling it a college fund. 

If your kid wants to go into business, instead of spending it on college, let her use the money to start two or three different businesses over the course of five years or so. Even if they fail completely, she still got the education. She can then use that knowledge and experience on the next thing that she does. Just like college. But there’s an excellent chance that one of them doesn’t fail, and now your education fund is a successful investment. 

If your kid wants to be a writer, an artist, a photographer, a filmmaker, or any other creator, instead of going to college for this, she can use that money to live while she spends a year or two writing/creating full-time, honing her craft while educating herself online. If she wants, she can hire specialized coaches/instructors to help her advance. 

Learning how to run a business or getting better at a craft, like writing, requires actually doing it. You can read about doing sit ups all day, but you don’t get anything out of it until you actually do them. Giving your kid money to get the actual experience is going to be more beneficial. I promise. 

Or, for another option entirely, you and your kid can decide to let the head start fund continue growing and compounding while they forge their own career path without any additional financial support. If you put $200 a month into an investment fund, and that investment earns a very reasonable 8% a year, your child will have $1,061,940.70 when they turn 45. Almost $1.6 million when they turn 50. Working an average job that pays the bills for a couple decades and then cashing out over $1 million at 45 and then deciding what to do from there is not a bad plan. Plenty of people end up doing that on accident, but without the $1 million payday in their 40s. This also seems like a better alternative to getting a degree you might not use.

The world is evolving rapidly. Many of the jobs your kids will have in 18 years don’t exist right now. It’s impossible to predict what role universities will play in the future. Give your kids the best kind of help that fits them specifically, not what society necessarily expects. Maybe that means going to college, but there’s a good chance that it doesn’t.

(I didn’t have to go to college to learn a bunch of things from your mom. One thing she did not need to teach me, though, was how to make sure I never miss the latest blog post. Send a text to 484848 with the word CRIP as the message and I will send you out a link to the latest one every Sunday.)

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Crippled CEO Blog #079: Who’s the Boss?

Crippled CEO Blog #079:

Earlier this week, the wonderful, conscientious, superbly detailed, on point, and all-around joy to be around Hunter Zumino was on the phone with a customer. I overheard her say, “… he’s kinda like my boss.” I thought she was talking about me, so when the call ended, I jokingly said, “Just kinda like your boss?”

It turns out she was referring to somebody else, and she added, “I said it like that because, besides you, I don’t know who my boss is.”

And there’s a reason for that. I had just never explained it to her, and I’m not sure I have really ever explained it anywhere.

Business school will tell you that there are five types of authority in the workplace, but I prefer to boil this down to two.

The primary form of authority that people think of at work is what I call Positional Authority. As the name implies, this is where someone has authority over you because of their position or their title. They are clearly defined as your boss or supervisor, directly or indirectly. They have ultimate control over everything you do at your job and all of the decisions you make.

I’m not a huge fan of this style of authority. You do need it sometimes. In the warehouse at Life Saver, for instance, you need one or two people directing traffic so that the entire shop is on the right track. But that’s all we have out there. There are roughly 25 employees in the warehouse, and we still don’t have assistant managers or division managers. The production manager and the operations manager co-lead all of them. Besides that, the hierarchy is entirely flat.

The same thing goes in the office. The only person explicitly “in charge“ is me, even though there are seven of us in the office, and eleven total, including people working remotely. 

Instead of Positional Authority, I prefer Knowledge Authority. 

As I told Hunter the other day, who is and isn’t her boss, and vice versa, depends on the topic being discussed. In certain things, she’s going to be the most knowledgeable, so when it comes to that, she is the authority. She is the boss of that thing. Other people should defer to her expertise and decisions. And things where she isn’t as knowledgeable, she asks the person who is, and then for that thing, right then, they have the authority. A couple weeks ago, I asked her to show me how to issue a refund for a customer with the newer online sales platform we use, that I don’t have much experience with. While she was telling me how to do that, she was in charge of that process. She was acting as my supervisor/my boss. 

When it’s not clear who knows more, and there’s  a disagreement about how to move forward, then a discussion is had to figure it out. Ultimately, I’m available to make the final call if there’s an impasse — due to my Positional Authority as the CEO — but also because I have been at Life Saver the longest and likely have a degree of expertise on the topic. 

Giving people the opportunity to be the authority/in charge specifically in the moments where they are the most qualified makes a lot more sense to me than giving one person total control of a group, any of whom may be more knowledgeable in certain areas and might be the best person to make decisions on those topics. 

Letting the person “in charge” be fluid, changing to best suit the situation, seems like a much smarter approach in many scenarios. 

(Do you know who always wants me to be in charge? Your mom. She loves it when I tell her what to do. But one thing I never have to tell her to do is subscribe to my weekly text with a link to the latest blog. Just send a text to the number 484848 with the word CRIP and I’ll send you a link to the newest blog posts every Sunday or your money back.)

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Crippled CEO Blog #078: Wrap It Up

Crippled CEO Blog #078:

This blog entry will only apply to you if you have a service business or plan on having one. If you don’t, you can probably skip it.

If you’ve been reading for a while, then you’ve heard me say that the only place your small business should be advertising in 2021 is online — social media and Google Ads. 

And that’s pretty much true. 

But there is an exception. It is an exception because it is a relatively small, one time investment that pays for itself, over and over again, for years. 

I’m talking about a full vehicle wrap. 

If you have a service business, you use a vehicle — probably a van or a truck — to deliver your services. 

And you need to wrap that vehicle.

You might be thinking right now, “I have magnets on my truck. I’m good. A wrap is so expensive.”

No, Ken. Just no. A full wrap is going to cost you around $2,000. If you have an established business, you can’t afford not to do this. The cost per impression (people who see the ad) over 5 years on the mobile billboard that drives all over your area and parks in your customer’s driveway is easily the best advertising deal you’re going to find. It is a billboard you get to run month after month, but you only have to pay for it once. You’re not going to get the same effect from magnets.

Besides advertising to all of the people you drive past and all of the people in the neighborhoods you work in, it will also help you close sales. When you have a professionally wrapped vehicle, potential customers are more likely to trust you over your competitor who just has a magnet. You look more like a legitimate, quality company. It might be the reason somebody chooses you even though you are more expensive.

Now that we know you need a full wrap, here are some tips to avoid common mistakes and do it correctly.

  • Start with the brand 

The focus of the wrap is going to be your brand, not your service. Use Fiverr or 99 Designs to make sure you have a high quality logo. Consider creating a “character“ that represents your company who you can feature.

  • Almost never use photos 

Unless you do something really esoteric (like pool fence) that people aren’t familiar with, your brand and company name should be enough to let people know what you do. If you install AC units, having a photo of an AC unit on your truck isn’t convincing anybody to go with you. It’s not communicating anything about your brand. 

  • No bullets. Limit the words. 

Your company name, a tagline, your website, and your phone number. Those are all the words that should be in your vehicle wrap. No one is going to read your list of bullets at 65 mph on I-95. Focus on the one thing you want people to learn about you and make it big.

  • Stand out. Be creative.

An interesting, creative vehicle wrap costs just as much as one that looks like everybody else. Why not be different and cool? I’m going to include a wrap for my future pool service company here. We told the designer to go nuts, and this is what he made. How much better is this than a stock photograph of a swimming pool? Or a list of bullets over a water background?

That’s it. If you stick to those rules, you should be in good shape. But the most important part is that you actually decide to do it. Don’t miss out on the best ROI currently available in advertising.

(You know who never wants to wrap it up? Your mom. She crazy. But she’s not too crazy to subscribe to my weekly text message letting you know about the latest blog post. Send a message to the phone number 484848 with the word CRIP and you’ll get one message per week from me with a link to the latest post.)

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Crippled CEO Blog #077: Do You

Crippled CEO Blog #077:

I was originally going to send this as advice in a text message, but then realized y’all might also find it useful. Also, she reads the blog, so it’ll be fun when she sees it. (She won’t get mad, will she? Nah.)

She’s been struggling with a likely common conundrum — one I struggled myself with, but via a different platform. 

She believes, with excellent reason, that optimum success in her particular freelance industry requires a large and engaged Instagram audience, but abhors the thought of doing what’s required to achieve that result. She doesn’t enjoy the process, or the effect it has on her as a person. But she does want the success she sees the top performers in her space enjoying, at least in part, from their IG prowess. 

Instagram does work. If you enjoy the work that goes into flourishing there, and you’re good at it, you will have good results. And that’s exactly what you’re seeing there: people thriving in the place they belong. 

The problem is that if you, as a consumer of content, do most of that consuming in one place, only see people succeeding there, that seems to be the only path forward.

If you spend most of your time on Facebook, you think you need to do well on Facebook. If you’re on Pinterest all the time, you think Pinterest is the key. When we set up a new dealer, if they are an avid TV watcher, they tell me they want to try a TV commercial. 

It happened to me. The platform I spend most of my time on is YouTube. And so, I saw all of the people that I look up to, doing what I want to do, killing it on YouTube, and decided that was the necessary path to success. The problem is that I am a cripple who looks crippled, who talks faster than people can understand, who can’t hold a camera, with zero video editing skills — YouTube isn’t for me. You know what is for me? Writing a weekly blog. It uses the things that I am good at and enjoy. Also, managing a team of specialists for all the other things. I’m good at that as well. That’s what works for me.

If the idea of posting constantly to Instagram gives you anxiety, then don’t do it. You don’t want to follow other people’s roadmaps for their success. That works for them. But you are a different person, with a unique set of skills, talents, values, and preferences. Maybe you’re better off making longform YouTube videos about the state of your industry, or sharing the unique way that you do your craft. Maybe fun TikTok videos are the right thing for you. Maybe you host a podcast/YouTube channel where you interview the top performers in your space, and you then become a coveted authority due to the host advantage (which I previously wrote about here: Maybe you create a documentary/docuseries following the path of your business, detailing your growth and improvement, and/or your development of a new innovation you are creating. Maybe you write a weekly blog and post it on Facebook. Maybe you create and sell an online course for other practitioners, and you not only get income from this course, but its existence makes you an expert/authority/thought leader, allowing you to charge a lot more — the goal with freelance work, always, is to have the smallest number of hand chosen dream clients as possible, whom you charge a rate most would think is crazy. Or maybe you just spend all of your time focusing exclusively on your craft, let your reputation grow organically, nurture your customer evangelists, and get to your dream client scenario that way. 

You want to double down on your strengths and do what you enjoy. If you’re doing things that make you happy, that you excel in, then eventually you will win. It’s inevitable. It’s a bullet proof recipe for success. Trying to force yourself to do what works for other people rarely works out for the best.

And it is important to remember that, as counterintuitive as it sounds, we have learned from Seth Godin that we are seeking the MINIMUM viable audience — we are trying to focus on the subset of customers who will be ecstatic with our work, for whom we are the perfect fit. We are looking for our tribe. Kevin Kelly wrote about the concept of 1,000 true fans — that if we can get 1,000 people who really adore our work, who spend $100-$200 a year on us, we can do really well. Likewise, if we can get 100 people to pay us $1,000 a year, we are also doing pretty well. 

And if we are only looking for our fan club, our tribe, our dream customers, then chances are they are going to be the kind of people who will appreciate our unique approach. They will like that we don’t promote our work in the same way as everybody else. To them, we will stand out amongst the herd. 

And that’s it. If you are stressing out because you think that the best way to market yourself is something you either don’t like or you aren’t good at, I have good news: that makes it the wrong choice for you. It definitely is the right choice for those other people who excel at that thing. But you are different. You have a path that they can’t do, and down the road, maybe they’ll be looking at what you do, envious, wishing that they could do the same.

(I’m not even going to tell you about the path your mom takes. She definitely does get my text with a link to the latest blog every Sunday, though. Just send a message to 484848 with the word CRIP and you’ll become an instant VIP.)

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