The Rise of the MMB (Middleman Business)

I’ve always been a champion for entrepreneurs that find an opportunity to insert themselves in an already existing business transaction. At the end of the day, if there is additional value being created or the problem is being solved with more fervor, both parties will always justify paying for a third party’s involvement.

That said, I fear that this mentality has gotten out of hand lately.

Perhaps the internet is to blame here, but I have been finding businesses that are selling services only to offload it to partner (often competitor) businesses at a negotiated cost. In other words, it’s as if service providers are pivoting their business into a referral business - even though they are known for having their own licenses and team members.

When this is performed one layer down, it feels appropriate. After all, a company should have partners that can field surplus work during busy times and lend expertise when they can add value.

It’s when a customer can sense there are many rungs to the ladder that this becomes dangerous. I had this experience over the weekend. As a customer, I have to admit, it was sloppy and absolutely dreadful.

Here’s what happened….

I needed some very specific house work done. This would be the type of work that a specialty business would have to provide. Think about something similar to needing a locksmith to fix a door handle.

After posting all of the details to Thumbtack, I was courted by a persistent business owner that led us to conversing via text message. Time passed, and mostly due to my own schedule, we didn’t get around to booking anything until several weeks after the post.

A phone call later, someone would be out to “take a look.”

Upon the worker’s arrival, two confusing things happened simultaneously. First, the van he showed up in promoted an entirely different business than the one I was choosing to hire. Secondly, he seemed “ready to work.” My understanding up to this point was that someone was going to come and look at the project. At that point, we would discuss pricing options, timeline, etc.

So there we were talking about what he’s going to be doing. Whether a language barrier or a “I’m just doing what I was told” mentality was to blame, he persisted to work through the project. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I finally caught his attention with my repeated confusion. Since he didn’t know much else at that point, I decided to call the owner of the company I “hired” to come out and assess the project.

Long story short, I could immediately detect that the business owner was trying to fast track this project, hired another company to do it, and planned to bill me 2X+ what his cost to pay the contractor would be. I sniffed this out, not just because the arrangement was so sloppily put together, but because I wasn’t actually getting my door handle fixed (from the example above).

I had to say things like “You obviously didn’t read my post” or “It’s as if I have a cold and you’re treating me for a broken arm” to get my point across.

I was savvy enough to see where this left everybody. The business owner was about to be out the cost of the incorrect work and thus needed me to pay for it. The worker himself was an innocent hard worker stuck in the middle of a lazy business man making costly mistakes.

Although I had work done that I didn’t need and that I otherwise would have never hired anyone to do, I felt it would be best to pay the contractor directly for his time and lecture the business owner for running a poorly constructed operation.

What baffled me the most is how these types of situations don’t educate the business owners at all. He never admitted his mistake, said he would negotiate down to where he would only make “a little profit,” and tried to convince me that his company has the best customer reviews on the internet.

Stepping away having done the right thing by paying the worker allowed me to audit everything I was told. Lo and behold, the company is a fraud and they will undoubtedly continue putting customers in situations like these. My only hope is that he’ll at least spend a minute or so to understand the project before throwing it over the fence for someone else to do.

Lesson learned.

The Stress Button

When experiencing the present, you can’t be overwhelmed by mistakes from the past or an anxiety over what’s to come. We’re just there. Living the now.

Without a dedicated focus on a task, project, or goal, the mind will inevitably succumb to distractions. These distractions are thoughts. These thoughts are usually memories or fearful anticipations.

Mankind has found a sense of self lately after the rise of wellness activities like meditation and yoga. Even apps like Headspace have paved the way for mindfulness as a daily health practice.

While I fully encourage this regimen, living with extreme intent in each moment is an alternative, and often less arduous, path leading to the same outcome.

This heightened self-awareness allows us to pull the fire alarm, or hit the proverbial Stress Button, so that we can crawl back into our turtle shells and find ourselves again.

Stress must first be identified before it can be treated. Locate it, feel your way out of it, and let your purpose block the doorway after it’s gone.

Like a Kernel

We all start out as a little kernel. 

We’re thrown in a bag with others that we are told are a lot like us. 

There is no alternative present. We must stay and maintain hope.

We may get along just fine, but we each maintain our independence. We’re one of many.  

Then the day comes. It’s time to serve our purpose.  

Like a caterpillar to a butterfly, we transform. We evolve beyond a single simple entity. We’ve grown. We’re more valuable now. 

Above all else, we leave the bag a team player. Enriched by the experience together, we all become one. Many to one.

Bulb Like a Light

Rather than warn us they can’t take it anymore, lightbulbs go out. They leave us no room for preparation, nothing noticeable during their last moments, and no mourning thereafter. 

We’ve just always known to have a replacement on hand. To us, this event was never a matter of if. It’s certainty.  

Through nothing more than a tempoary dark moment, the bulb is swapped out and we move on with the same level of brightness as before.

Surely we can do better than this. We can pay our respects, honor even the slightest of differences in each filament, and find ways to predict outcomes with more accuracy. 

Seeing the light requires screwing it in first. Bright ideas don’t come from the dark. 

Take This Promise to the End

It could be tomorrow. It might be five years from now. Somehow, it could even be never (never rule that out). 

At some point, that thing you’re so focused on right now will be no more. It will vanish. Poof. 

Alas,  a memory. 

You could have prompted it. She could have initiated it. Maybe nobody wanted or expected it. 

This just happens. Sometimes without warning. Often when you least expect it. 

My Return to Agency Life

For those of you that have been followers for a while, you’ll remember how much I enjoy maintaining a diversified portfolio of work. While I usually focus on one project at a time, I typically continue mentoring entrepreneurs and investing in startups on the side.

As of today, I wanted to formalize my latest focus and explain why I’m especially excited about it.

As most of you know, I started my career in the agency world. I founded what became a full-service marketing agency while I was still in college. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but after several years growing the business, I thought it was time to move on. At the time, I was right. What I didn’t anticipate is that the world would pull me back in years later.

Marketing, in general, means so much to me. It’s been my livelihood throughout my entire career. I love building brands, identifying target customers, and establishing emotional connections between the two. I’ve thrived doing this in the digital world, but have hesitated to expand outside of the online realm.

My latest venture combines my love and experience for all things digital with the old school traditional media buying practices that have never ceased to move the needle for many businesses across the globe.

As of today, I’ll be working on streamlining the media buying process.

I’ll be doing so as part of the Executive team at a proven marketing agency we’re calling Order Media.

Our tag line suggests that we’re “Making Sense of Marketing Chaos.” This means much more than just understanding your marketing strategy. My ultimate goal is to make traditional marketing more approachable. I hope to build tools that will help businesses realize their ROI on all spend, and measure their acquisition costs in ways they’ve never been able to before.

I invite you to share this journey with me. Over the next few months, we’ll be building upon our own strategy and helping our clients pilot our proprietary technologies.

Then in early 2019, we expect to open the doors to all types of franchises, multi-national brands, and small businesses alike. If you’re interested in hearing more about what that could mean for your company, reach out to me via email and we’ll discuss.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support. I promise to keep you updated on all developments surrounding this venture as we continue making progress.

Godspeed.

How It Seams

It’s impossible to see the finer details after only a quick glance. Great work isn’t designed to be viewed; it serves to be analyzed.

On the other hand, mediocre work passes the smoke test more often than not when those observing it don’t allocate the time necessary to understand it.

So there we sit - stuck in the middle between quality and quantity.

Me? I choose to slow down and take the time to assess the seams. Someone put a lot of hard work into the quality that I prefer. I’ve consciously decided to never take that for granted.

The Tree Rings of Competition

I’m fascinating by the evolution of mature markets and how competitors engage in said market to obtain mind share.

Many people question why Founders choose to enter certain markets. Onlookers tend to see juggernauts and feel as if the space is off limits. In my experience, the opposite is true. It’s very rewarding to carve out a niche inside a much larger market than it is to be the high-pressured innovator that is forced to make things up as they go. For one, the market has been validated by someone else, and you may have an advantage having observed what hasn’t worked for those that came before you.

Competition is healthy. And according to a recent article I read about market shifts over the past two decades, it’s the brands that come in later on that end up taking over the market. As proof, consider this list of market shifts from one leader to another juggernaut:

  • Coca Cola (1886) - Pepsi (1893)

  • Yahoo Mail (1997) - Gmail (2004)

  • MSN Messenger (1999) - Skype (2003)

  • Basecamp (1999) - Asana (2008)

  • Myspace (2003) - Facebook (2004)

  • Todoist (2007) - Wunderlist (2011)

  • GitHub (2008) - GitLab (2011)

  • HipChat (2009) - Slack (2013)

The lesson here is don’t be afraid to enter a market to compete for your own subset of customers inside a saturated vertical. Sometimes that’s where the best businesses change the world.

Ben Horowitz on Blockchain

As most people continue to obsess over the term “crypto” representing the financial instruments, Ben Horowitz thinks of it as the latest form of computing.

In the below clip from a recent interview, he very eloquently describes its importance in a way I have not been able to verbalize myself.

I especially love the piece about innovative technologies “being worse at first but with better features.” That’s a common trend we’ve seen with all startups and technologies over the past few decades.

Stimuless

Habits are comfortable. Change is painful.

The trick is to ease yourself into progress. Doing too much at once...

  • increases stress
  • lowers success rates
  • eliminates learning opportunities
  • establishes unbalanced patterns of change rates

The key factor in this equation is sensitivity. 

How much can you handle at once? 

For sanity's sake, the answer should always be "less." 

The Honest Clock

A broken clock doesn't communicate much. While it may be correct twice per day, it's inability to move into the future puts a halt on its progress. 

Despite this, a broken clock is always more valuable than an inaccurate one. 

I'd rather be told the truth quickly and move on. 

September 2018

I thought about changing the format of these monthly posts - mostly because I'm so busy that the calendars themselves have continued to diminish. We can blame my son being born this year or we can simply say I'm hiding in the weeds doing so pretty exciting work. 

In addition to doing some traveling (not listed), the most notable event is my upcoming birthday. It goes without mentioning that September is one of my favorite months of the year. Here are a few more reasons why:

  • September 4th: My Birthday!
  • September 18th: Borns and Twin Shadow at Revolution
  • September 27th: Thrice at Revolution
  • September 29th: David Byrne at the Fillmore Miami

I look forward to celebrating my birthday and continuing to work on some pretty fun projects. 

What about you?

What do you have planned in September?

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August 2018

I have to keep a few events close to the vest this month. I have a few private projects picking up momentum, but I am yet to be able to share information about them. 

That said, here is what is shareable for the month of August:

  • August 11th: Monster Jam at BBT Center
  • August 17th: Umphrey's McGee at Fillmore Miami
  • August 18th: Lindsey Stirling at Coral Sky Ampitheater
  • August 26th: Braves at Marlins

Since I just got back from a lengthy vacation, I look forward to staying home and lounging for the first few weeks. 

What about you?

What do you have planned in August?

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UNdriving Your Focus

While driving your car, you have a single purpose...

To get to where you're going safely. 

While walking on a sidewalk, you also have a single purpose...

To get to where you're going safely. 

Your mind is the difference. Your focus is what changes everything. 

Outside your car, you are exposed to more of the world. More importantly, you have the freedom and capacity to let your mind wander. 

Healthiness aside, choose to slowly follow your mind's inspiration. 

The Country With Clean Air

When asked what they liked most about the United States, a group of Chinese tourists looked at each other as if they had already discussed the topic. 

The spokesperson looked up into the sky, opened her arms, and took a deep breath. 

"The Clean Air!," she said. 

This notion should impact you in some way for a multitude of reasons. 

The Smartest Guise in the Room

In this moment, there isn't a need to test IQ's. Instead, there's this sudden urge to survey body language and sense the honesty in the air. 

If we're all so great on our own, why are we even in this room together? 

The brainstorm session is often the biggest culprit. Ideas don't have to be loud to stand out. 

Whisper your truth if you have to. 

July 2018

This month, there will be a little bit of travel. For the most part, though, I'll be head down working on a handful of secret projects. Shhhh...

Here is what I have on my calendar for the month of July:

  • July 4th: 4th of July!
  • July 6th: Coheed and Cambria at Bayfront Park
  • July 10th: 3 Doors Down at Mizner Park
  • July 14th: Sam Smith at American Airlines Arena
  • July 19th: The Rocket Summer at Culture Room
  • July 23rd: Braves at Marlins
  • July 24th: Smashing Pumpkins at American Airlines Arena
  • July 25th: Glass Animals at Fillmore Miami
  • July 31st: Lauryn Hill at Bayfront Park

There are a lot of exciting events to look forward to this month. I'll try my best to stay out in the sun too long. 

What are you going to be up to?

What do you have planned in July?

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The Write Time

A busy writer's biggest dilemma is when output transforms into quantity over quality when tasked with too much. How can a writer keep up with the demands of writing for business, clients, news, books, blogs, and for herself?

It's not easy to prioritize how much creativity goes into which outlet. And after a while, nonstop writing starts to feed into each other through repetitive word usage and involuntary theming. 

My point here is that even when external obligations keep a writer away from their source of inspiration, a writer should still write. 

You may not be able to find the writing today, but it's out of their mind and in the world somewhere. It could be on a computer, written on a piece of paper, or waiting in a queue ready to be published. 

Thanks for your patience with writers. There will be a lot more great content to read soon.