Monday, April 19, 2010

Got Vacation?

For entrepreneurs, the lure of reaching the pinnacle, risking life and limb and thrilling to the rush of success is not only tempting, it's mandatory. So why is it that taking a week off from my business is so hard to do? And why is it that I am such a chicken on the slopes?

Beautiful Colorado scenery; Quality time with my wife and kids; A chance to reflect on the successes my business has been able to provide and plenty of thinking time to determine new opportunities while driving 35 hours to Denver and back. Coming off of a rare family vacation, I was left wondering why I hadn't been pressing for more of these?

The answer, of course, is that when you run your own ship, you often get caught in every single decision - and when you're away from the office, bad things seem to creep in. When you're away for a week, a whole lot of anguish can set in. I'm not sure that I have the answers on this - in fact, I know that I don't. I'm still learning how to establish a routine that works for me, my business and my family. Most often, this blog is about what I can do for you... but today, I'd like to hear how you balance work and play and what single piece of advice you'd give to make this more palatable for us entrepreneurs.

What's your vacation secret?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Good Karma of Participation

Recently, Sue West, an old high school friend of mine who I had reconnected with on Facebook, challenged me to enter a T-shirt design contest for a place called Big Top Chautauqua (pronouced: Sha-tock-wa). If you've ever listened to A Prairie Home Companion or NPR, you may recognize the name. If you haven't, you're like most of us who haven't experienced the joy of listening to outstanding folk music under a big top tent near the summer shores of Lake Superior.

Being an "opportunist", I checked out the prize awarded to the winner of such a contest.

A $50 gift certificate and one free t-shirt... wow.

I decided to enter anyway. I thought that even though it wasn't worth the prize, it might be fun and it might produce some interest online. As long as I was going to enter, I might as well attempt to win — it's in my blood. Engaging the same skills I have used with literally hundreds of brands for the past twentysome years, I asked my Facebook friends what they knew of the place, it's music and how they felt about it. Why did people go? What kinds of folks are they? What's the history and so forth? Lastly, what is quintessentially "BTC"?

Receiving dozens of comments on Facebook from friends and strangers, listing what BTC meant to them and what their impressions were, I began to form an image of what this design might become. I posted images of different poster styles to help them define what they thought the proper style might be. More questions, more answers, more posts along the way.

In the end, I did the design based on what I had read and from the intuition that any good designer imparts on a blank canvas. After some final tweaks, I posted my design to my Facebook masses and let them take a last critique before submission. I e-mailed the collaborated design just prior to the deadline.

A week later, the results were in.

We won the contest.

Which, of course, I had to share with my "peeps" on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. From start to finish, about three weeks worth of info, interest and victory. What I learned is this: that the prize for winning may not have had anything to do with "the prize for winning". Simply engaging in this activity, under the freedom of doing so without monetary gain (at least momentarily), allowed anyone and everyone to participate.

My success would be their own success.... and who doesn't want to be a part of that?

My suspicion is that hundreds (maybe even thousands) of eyes have looked on this design and recognized some talent there. I've also re-engaged people from my past who now remember that I had a passion for good design. Could it be that they (or an acquaintance) may have a business in need of some brand assistance?

Here's to the good karma that can come from doing something well, for a noble cause, without the expectation of winning the contest in the first place... all under the starry skies of a warm Lake Superior night.

Oh, and now the hard part. Dividing up the winnings! :-)  Thanks to all who participated!