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LA ON Fire – Part II
Jul 6th, 2016 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!

— By Blake Glenn

 

Upon my arrival in LA, as always the tall palm trees, bright sunshine, and pollutant-infused smog embraced me with open arms. But, unfortunately, for the next week I wouldn’t see much of them. My immediate destiny was to be holed up deep within the bowels of the GAO office, leading efforts to turn around our fast disintegrating hopes for the $5,000,000 tech project.

When I got to the office I hit the ground running. I immediately set up a meeting with the client staff to hear their grievances. We held the meeting in the large conference room. It was windowless, barren, cold, grey, lacking in anything approaching personality, completely soulless.  It was an appropriate scene for the hellish torture I was set to endure.

All of the client stakeholders were present. Having all of them present was critical. Some of these people may have had their careers tied to this project. And even the least powerful among them still had influence and could make our team’s life miserable with their discontent and dozens of small complaints, a death by a thousand tiny cuts.

I should have put on my toxic substance defense suit because the shit began flying immediately. While I wasn’t the reason for their travails, I was now the onsite representative of the enemy. And as such, I was now the one bright red target upon which to vent their unending anger.

 

………………..

 

The grievances were many. That the new network installation wasn’t going well was an epic understatement. There were lots of bugs. That happens all the time of course. Things never go the way you expect. And like roaches in real life, you could quash a few here and there, but you could also rest assured that they would pop up somewhere else. Again. And again.

The situation was exacerbated by the engineers and technicians whose poor attitudes angered the GAO staff . The techies didn’t communicate well about problem resolutions. They didn’t respond quickly to information requests. And most damaging of all, they were simply rude to the customers, treating them like uninformed idiots that didn’t deserve the tech’s time.

My employer had made a big mistake too. They had left a hard core network engineer named Terry in charge of the onsite team. They could not have chosen a worse candidate. He was a very good network engineer, maybe even superb. But his people and management skills were non-existent. He was rude, short-tempered, and thin-skinned.

He was the Donald Trump of the geek world. But this was my employer’s fault more than Terry’s. They knew about his “personality flaws”. He should have never been the onsite team lead in the first place. But, in a moment of weakness, they acquiesced to his desire to be the man.

The other techs followed behind him because, well, he was in charge. But they weren’t happy. The customers were haranguing them relentlessly, not due to their own ineptitude but due to his. And the team recognized Terry’s inadequacies. They were ready for a change. When I arrived, the GAO villagers were so incensed with Terry that they were gathering torches and pitch-forks and descending upon the tech castle to drive him out of the building. And I think each and every one of our team members was ready to join them!

I acted quickly to take control and try to put things on the right track. Here’s what I did:

  • Immediately met with client staff as a means for them to vent their anger, frustration, and grievances. I mostly listened, and listened, and listened
  • Inserted myself between all tech personnel and client staff. There needed to be a buffer or cushion between these two groups and I had to be it
  • Immediately removed Terry from his position and made sure the other team members knew who was in charge … Me. The boss had already made everyone aware that I was now in charge. But that was a mandate from almost 3,000 miles away. I reinforced that mandate upon my arrival and included the boss in our meetings via conference call
  • Set up war room complete with crisis board to manage each problem
  • Enacted an emergency project management plan
  • Set up hierarchy to prioritize each problem
  • As a public relations move, had tech’s quickly fix a handful of small but lingering problems to show progress and ease tensions, i.e., killed several roaches quickly
  • Set up morning, mid-afternoon, and end-of-day progress briefings with client staff as a means to keep the client close to the activity. Only included techies that were necessary for updates and answering technical questions. Kept their client interaction time to a minimum.
  • Held tech staff briefings three times daily … about 30 minutes to 1 hour before client briefings
  • Threatened to drive Terry to the high open desert and remove his man-parts, Game-of-Thrones style, and feed them to the rattlesnakes if he came close enough to even breath the same air as any member of the client staff

 

Of course none of these items were rocket science. They weren’t that innovative. They weren’t going to change the world. They were all mostly just practical common sense actions needed to turn around this failing project, especially the Game-of-Thrones technique.

 

………………..

 

The primary requirements to do my job were pretty simple:

  1. Organization and project management;
  2. Thick skin to take all of the heat from the client … and my team members;
  3. Great communications skills;
  4. Ability to seamlessly transform at a moment’s notice between being a soothing “crisis whisperer” to a tough but fair ass-kicking leader;
  5. Sense of humor – seriously, some things you just gotta laugh at;
  6. Ability to combine individual profane words and phrases into new semi-lucid profanity strings targeted at non-compliant members of my team. This was a last resort of course, but proved unusually effective when used sparingly and with precision. As effective in many cases also was the strategic use of profane hand and finger movements and gestures.

 

And, while not flawless, the tactics worked. Within a week we had saved the LA project, which helped to renew confidence in my employer, which helped save the other regional GAO installations, which means we rescued about $5,000,000 in revenue for my employer. I was proud of the team coming together under my leadership to make this happen. But it was a team effort. They just needed the right leader. I didn’t have to Game-of-Thrones Terry’s man parts … unfortunately. And my boss was able to maintain his golf privileges.

The trip wasn’t all work though. One upside of that adventure was that my girlfriend-of-the-time lived in the Los Angeles area. Though we amicably went our separate ways soon after this trip, it was certainly good to see her.

Frankly though, I couldn’t understand why she brought her good male friend with her each time we met. It was good to see that she had a friend out there. Who says men and women can’t just be friends. I guess he needed her support. Going through a difficult time according to her. And he was strong. Lots of muscles. I knew she was safe. She later got married and had kids. I never met her husband. But the kids kind of looked like that guy. What a coincidence. I wonder if they’re still friends.

 

Want to catch up on Part I? Just click here!

 

………………..

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?

 

If you dare, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

P.S.  I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!

 

 

LA On Fire – Part I!
Jun 30th, 2016 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!

— By Blake Glenn

 

In mid-June, 1995 at approximately 8:29 am EST, on a typical sunny-hazy day, a major fire broke out in downtown Los Angeles, California. The sparks from this blue-hot blaze had been smoldering at a low level for about 10 days and now threatened to burst into an inferno and engulf the U.S. GAO building. The GAO was the Government Accounting Office.

 

An aside … As a result of a brilliant and strategically considered rebranding effort, in 2004 the “A” was changed from Accounting to Accountability. Yay!

 

This was not one of the ubiquitous 100-times-a-year forest fires indigenous to Southern California. No. This one was special. It was entirely contained within the GAO building. But if not contained, it threatened to leap-frog across the U.S. and spread to Atlanta, Washington, DC and other regional offices of the GAO.

Let me set the stage for this story.

You see I was working on-site as a contractor at the U.S. GAO Washington, DC headquarters. Our mission was to maintain the information technology system at the HQ as well as several field office locations around the country. Our services included installation, help desk support, repairs, maintenance, disaster recovery, and training. In total, the contract was worth about $5,000,000.

In 1995 the contractor I worked for was in discussions with the GAO for renewal and expansion of said contract. When you’re in a contract renewal year it’s like being a professional athlete in your last contract year. You want to have a great year. Be on your best behavior. Do a great job to try to ensure another big contract to keep the money rolling in. Those titanium golf clubs don’t buy themselves you know.

Needless to say, the higher-level, and by default, mid-level managers were all in a tizzy, as would be expected. The prospect of losing country-club memberships would panic even the most fearless individual. My employer implemented a secret plan send a specialist with a particular set of skills to address the situation.

Me.

And after conducting a bit of clandestine research, putting myself and those I love in dire danger, I was able to uncover the original transcript from the top-secret 1-on-1 crisis meeting with my boss, the project manager at U.S. GAO HQ in Washington, DC. Below I’ve provided a complete un-redacted original transcript.

………………..

 

8:47 am EST: Boss called into office of GAO division director in Washington, DC to get an earful on a critical situation developing in Los Angeles, CA

9:17 am EST: Boss asks to meet me in large GAO conference room … alone

9:23 am EST (I had to make a bathroom stop): Boss provides overview of the critical situation in Los Angeles

 

Full Transcript (un-redacted):

 

Boss: I need you Blake.

Me: Of course. How can I help sir?

 

Boss: We have a major situation in LA. A raging fire has broken out at the GAO regional office there. And I’m not so sure we can contain it. It’s bad. Real bad. Our entire tech contract is in deep shit. That’s $5,000,000 ready to go poof!

Me: Hmm. I see sir. How did this happen?

 

Boss: The geeks. Those damned geeks. No people skills. They ran wild. Talking to the customers like they were idiots. Not fixing problems in a timely fashion. They’re utterly out of control. They’ve fucked it all up! Damnit. Damn. It!

Me: I agree. That’s a bad situation sir. And by geeks I assume you primarily mean Terry, the onsite project manager.

 

Boss: Yes, Terry. Blake you’re our best hope. Hell you’re our only hope at this point. You’re the sole individual that can drag us out of that quagmire. Without you I’m afraid this contract will be lost. It’s worth $5,000,000 you know. We can’t lose it. You have to save it for us. It funds my country club membership. We have to focus on the real important things in life right?

Me: What? That’s a lot of pressure sir. By myself I don’t know if I can …

 

Boss (interrupting): We’re depending on you Blake. I mean TOTALLY. DEPENDING. ON. YOU. We really are. I need you to fly into LA and fix this freakin’ mess.

Me: Of course sir. I’ll do my best. But …

 

Boss (interrupting): No buts. I mean butts are fine. I like butts a lot, just not as part of this conversation. Just make this happen. And here may be a pony in it for you if you can pull off this miracle. You like ponies don’t you?

Me: Silence. Bewilderment. Staring. Mouth open.

 

Boss: Well don’t you?

Me: Uh. I don’t know. I never …

 

Boss (interrupting): Of course you do. What a stupid question. We all like ponies.

Me: Ok sir. I can see you’re under a lot of pressure. Are you ok?

 

Boss: How about a pink one. I think I can make that happen. You like pink do you?

Me: Pink? What?

 

Boss: Pressure! You have no freakin’ idea. I picked a helluva day to stop taking my pain killers recreationally.

Me: Ok. Ok. I’ll go to LA and do my best sir.

 

Boss: Of course. Your best is all I can ask for. That and fixing this mess of course. And saving my golf privileges. We can’t forget what’s important here. Am I right?

Me: No. I’m not promising …

 

Boss (interrupting): So that’s it then. It’s settled. You’ll fly out and deal with it. I already have you booked on a flight.

Me: What? When?

 

Boss: Two hours . You better get moving.

Me: Two hours! Sir what the fu…

 

Boss (interrupting): Excellent! I knew you’d be excited and want to leave right away. You’re my main man. By the way, does my golf swing look correct? Look at this.

Me: You son of a …

 

Boss (interrupting): No reason to thank me! You know I’m an unsentimental fool. When you reach LA be sure to check in straight away. Now off you go. You’re the man!

 

………………..

 

And with that I raced home, quickly packed, and caught a taxi to Washington National Airport. The 8-hour trip to Los Angeles, including the layover, flew by (no pun intended … ok it really was) rather quickly. I had a little time to prep myself for the hellish, toxic environment I was about to walk into – angry clients, battered tech staff, low morale on both sides, and the prospect of losing a $5,000,000 contract.

After a good night’s sleep, the last one I’d have for several days, I stepped onto pavement directly in front ofthe downtown Los Angeles GAO office. It was 8:00 am sharp. I quickly glanced the bright yellow shape in the sky, adjusted my red power tie, took a deep breath, opened the glass door, and walked head-first into the raging inferno inside.

 

For the rest of the story please read part II of LA On Fire!

 

………………..

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?

 

If you dare, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

P.S.  I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!

 

 

Jimmy’s Descent Into Hell: A Cautionary Business Tale … Part III
Oct 13th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A true story ripped from The (Mis-)Adventures of The Looney Executive

– By Blake Glenn

 

Just finding us?  Catch up on Part I and Part II of the story.

 

A Murder – Suicide in Van Nuys!

Say It Ain’t So Jimmy!

After Jimmy had been coming to our sessions for a few weeks, I noticed something striking about him. He looked so different. His look of suicidal desperation was gone (though he was certainly still a little desperate … just not so much suicidal). The blood no longer rushed to his face, turning him into a talking beet.

But perhaps most importantly, I no longer had to keep the SBDC staff on high-alert. I no longer was afraid that I would make the back page of the LA Times as the victim of a murder-suicide!

I could just imagine the 6:00 news anchor making the announcement:

“This is Tim Weathorford Tisdale bringing you the 6:00 o’clock news.”

“This just in … In Van Nuys just moments ago, a crazed and desperate small business owner brutally attacked a business consultant before taking his own life.”

“Apparently the emotionally distressed owner beat the unsuspecting consultant upside the head with a stack of financial statements, rendering the poor man completely senseless. The victim staggered into the hallway of his office where he collapsed, several months of financial statements were triple-stapled to his scalp. I can’t verify this, but sources close to the situation say the consultant also had at least a half dozen cash flow statements protruding from his rectum.”

Financial Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My God! Ladies and gentlemen I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s senseless barbaric brutality …”

“Then the killer ripped a computer monitor from the wall and smashed it into his own head. Both men were rushed to the hospital. The owner and his business were pronounced Dead-On-Arrival.”

“In a heroic effort, the doctors enacted an emergency surgical procedure to remove the financial statements from the consultant’s skull. Although he had a heart attack on the operating table, at this moment the victim is still waging a desperate battle for his life as the cash flow statements are being delicately removed by North Hollywood’s top proctologist.”

“This is such a tragedy. I’m sure the consultant was only making a valiant and desperate attempt to help keep the anguished, distraught small biz owner from going under. Such a senseless attack is nothing short of … a tragedy. These days being a small business consultant is such a dangerous and thankless job.”

“Oh well.”

“In more breaking news … 12 year old Cinnamon Johnson narrowly won the West Hollywood spelling bee, just edging out 11-year old Wilbur Montgomery …”

Winner!

 

 

 

 

Closing This Case

Many firms in Jimmy’s highly fragmented industry were in similar circumstances. I saw this as an opportunity for him to possibly roll up 2 or 3 rivals via acquisitions. So I suggested this as a long-term option. Once he regained his health, he could pounce on weaker rivals with buyout offers. He could then root out overlap, cut costs and create a larger, more stable, and more profitable firm that had a better chance of surviving and thriving. I offered to help him in researching and exploring this further.

But Jimmy would have none of this. He was no opportunistic predator. Sure, he understood what I was saying. And it made lots of sense intuitively. He just didn’t really have the heart or ambition to go on a takeover spree and become a poor man’s Carl Icahn. You see he was the classic small business owner. He felt fine at $1,200,000 in revenue and $200,000 – $300,000 in take-home cash, plus perks. He lived a certain lifestyle. He had no real growth ambitions to speak of. He just wasn’t an entrepreneur. He felt comfortable just where he was … operating as a commodity business, always trying to best the price of a competitor.

The bottom line is this, once Jimmy saw what was happening with his cash flow, he felt a hell-of-a-lot better. He knew the expenses he had to manage closely and how much loss or profit to expect.

Cash Register

 

 

 

So What’s The Lesson In All Of This?

Well, there are a couple of key lessons you can take away from Jimmy’s experience.

1.  Stay Out Of A Commodity Business

Anytime there’s lots of competition and sales is based almost solely on the price of your product, you’re in a commodity business. You’ll have low margins. And your revenue will based on trying to achieve a high volume. That’s a rat-eat-rat world not worth the effort … if you can avoid it. Aside from a complete exit from the market, coping methods could include (a) Moving into related higher margin products; (b) Creating premium priced services to package with the commodities; (c) Buying up competitors to eliminate competition, reduce  expenses, and force up prices.

 

2.  Know Your Financials

The bottom line is that you need to keep a strict handle on your revenue, expenses, profit, and cash flow so that in good times or bad, you know the financial condition of your company. You’ll see the trends as they’re developing. And, as revenue and profit dip, you’ll know where you can cut back expenses if necessary

Let me offer a little more creative twist on this lesson:

 “If you’d just keep a better handle on all of your cash … You could end up saving your’s and someone else’s precious ass.”

“And frankly, the ass you save could be mine!”

 

You’ve just read a tale from “The (Mis-)Adventures Of the Looney Executive!” …  A series of biz stories from Blake Glenn.

 

The Looney Man

 

 

 

 

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive  blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?.

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

—————————————————————————————————————

P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.

Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

Jimmy’s Descent Into Hell: A Cautionary Business Tale … Part II
Sep 6th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A true story ripped from The (Mis-)Adventures of The Looney Executive

– By Blake Glenn

 

Click Here … to catch up on Part I of the story

 

Jimmy Spills The Beans!

Slowly Jimmy unwound the story from deep within the depths of his knotted up stomach. You see, Jimmy and his wife owned a business that supplied nuts, bolts and related items. Fasteners is what they call these things. They had purchased the business a few years earlier from the previous owner. And a big chunk of the purchase price was loaned to them by the prior owner in the form of a note. For instance, let’s say the purchase price was $1,000,000. Jimmy and his wife make a down payment of, say, 20% ($200,000). They pay the remaining 80% ($800,000) over, say, a 7-year period in monthly installments … with interest of course.

Wad of Bills

 

 

 

 

 

Yea, fasteners is real boring stuff. And the industry was cluttered with small mom-and-pop shops doing the same thing, with absolutely no differentiation and consumed by commoditization. The low price was usually the winner. It’s a bad, bad business model dependent totally on volume.  At its peak, Jimmy’s firm brought in somewhere around $1,200,000 in revenue. I deduced that they cleared at least $200,000 to $300,000 annually for themselves. But now it was just a few months after the September 11, 2001 attacks and business had fallen off dramatically. Customers just stopped buying. Jimmy was panicking because sales were down to about $700,000, a nearly 50% drop. I thought how terrified he must be. He didn’t say it. But then, he didn’t really need to. His face told the story.

 

Problem … What Problem?

The problem was that most of Jimmy’s family wealth was probably tied up in this thing. His nuts and bolts supplier business was rapidly tumbling into the dark chasm below. His firm was descending into business hell and it was taking Jimmy’s wealth (and probably his wife’s) right along with it. Maybe the marriage too. Whether or not that would be a blessing in disguise for either party wasn’t for me to surmise.

It scared the hell out of him to think that all of his hard work was doing a Thelma and Louise right over a cliff! Yep. It was driving Jimmy nuts. He was deeply embroiled in a daily living nightmare. On the upside, his wife still worked a job outside of the business. So they weren’t completely screwed. After listening for several minutes, it was clear that cash flow monitoring (or lack thereof) was a big source of his anxiety. He thought there was more cash going out than coming in on a monthly basis. But he didn’t seem to be real sure how much he was losing.

So I asked Jimmy a simple question … or so I thought.

 

“What does your financial software tell you about your cash flow?”

 

Whaaaat!

Jimmy stood amazingly silent for what seemed like hours. He appeared to be in a deep trance. His eyes widened to the size of golf balls. Then they glazed over. I was terrified they would completely pop out of his hairline-receded oval-shaped head. His brow furrowed. His face wore an expression of complete bewilderment. Based on what I’d always heard – but not experienced personally though – Jimmy appeared to be tripping on  acid.

The Looney Man

 

 

 

 

 

As he fixated his dark golf ball eyes on me, I think Jimmy was pondering whether or not I was an alien from the unexplored planet Chromoton 5. He had no idea life existed on Chromoton 5. No one did. For years, NASA had considered sending exploration missions to that region of space. But they hadn’t even completed missions to Chromotons 3 and 4 1/2 yet. But I was an English-speaking alien. And that was something.

Finally, Jimmy began stuttering through a response. He stumbled for a good answer, perhaps a bit embarrassed. He said that he used some vertical industry software to provide income statements and balance sheets quarterly, but didn’t know how to use it for cash flow analysis, or if it even had that capability. Frankly, I didn’t trust the accuracy of his financial statements. As if that first question wasn’t torture enough, I followed with another. I began to feel a sadistic sensation of power – putting a small business owner through a torture chamber of boring and unanswerable questions.

I was soooo evil!

 

The Evil Power of Boring Questions!

I felt a slight discomfort in connecting to my dark side. But on the other hand, it also felt damned good. A million volts of unadulterated power surged through my body. This evil power was addictive. So I asked another question. Ha Ha Ha!

“So then how do you create monthly financial projections?”

 

At this point, Jimmy looked at me like I was a Chromoton 5 alien that didn’t speak English after all. Now I appeared to be speaking some dialect of Southern Klingon, and without the benefit of a universal translator. But good ole’ Jimmy suffered through and responded anyway. He said the company didn’t do any projections. He relied on what was in the bank account to monitor his cash. This was a typical small biz owner MO … aka Method of Operation. Watch at least 3 episodes of the original “Hawaii 5 0” (pronounced Five Oh) for further explanation of MO.

Voila!

There’s one big problem. He didn’t have an accurate way of determining what cash flow to expect from one month to the next. This caused him (and I imagine his wife too) many sleepless nights. So I told him we’d start with the finances. Over the next couple of weeks we analyzed his finacial information. I also helped him to set up a spreadsheet in Excel specifically to track cash flow … nothing fancy, just basic stuff.

Soon we had a good handle on revenue, expenses, and cash flow. Indeed the business was in trouble. But now Jimmy knew exactly how much trouble. And frankly, it actually wasn’t as bad as he originally thought. While we were analyzing cash flow, we also discussed a number of immediate actions he could take to raise or save cash in Phase I of a broader turnaround plan.

These actions included:

  • Selling extra inventory
  • Providing incentives to get customers to pay earlier
  • Making cuts in perks and other miscellaneous expenses
  • Consolidating personnel functions, cutting staff … etc.
  • Repositioning and charging for value-added consulting services he had been simply giving away for free
  • Restructuring the debt held by the previous owner

 

I also didn’t cushion the blow for Jimmy:

“Death is imminent … unless you act fast and decisively”

 

Skeleton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once he exhausted these steps I knew Jimmy would be in a much better position. Not great mind you. Just better. His business might still be in the critical condition, but he’d be off of life support. He might even survive. And survival was better than, well, death.

 

In Part III and the conclusion of “Jimmy’s Descent Into Hell” … A Potential Murder-Suicide In Van Nuys!

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive  blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com

—————————————————————————————————————

P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.

Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

Rust Belt Rising #7: Rise Of The Silicon Imitators!
Jun 1st, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core rust belt town.

 

– By Blake Glenn

 

Ok. Let’s see if I can get my head around this. There’s:

  • Silicon Prairie
  • Silicon Forest
  • Silicon Alley
  • Silicon Beach

 

And there’s also:

  • Silicon Hill
  • Silicon Mountain
  • Silicon Slopes
  • The New Silicon Valley (Several in contention)

 

And there are many more still, one of which is close to my heart … Silicon Rust Belt. Being a baby of the rust belt I find this one especially intriguing. I don’t think it’s gained quite the traction or panache of some of the other infamous Silicon brand imitators yet. And it might be a bit of an oxymoron too. After all, does silicon actually rust? Don’t know.

If you combine Silicon Mountain and Silicon Slopes you create Silicon Mountain Slopes. Such a combination would clear the muddied field a little and make for a potentially powerful tech monstrosity. And I bet the view and the skiing would be absolutely fabulous.

And Silicon Beach has at least two contenders – Los Angeles and Miami. I expect soon there’ll be a war between these two international meccas over the use of the term. And this would be appropriate. You see Miami is sort of the East Coast version of LA. They share some key attributes.

They’re both sunny, diverse in population (though Miami is much smaller), right on the water, a favorite site for film and TV shoots, and full of celebrities. LA has Kobe. Miami has LeBron. Perhaps to further distinguish its own unique Silicon identity, Miami could modify the tagline just a bit to … Silicon South Beach.

Coast Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I digress. I find this “Silicon Valley imitator” phenomenon to be quite odd and yet fascinating. It’s kind of amazing really. Several cities or regions around the country have repeated the same recipe. Simply insert the word Silicon as your first word in a phrase, follow it with one to three additional descriptors (mountain, alley, beach, or Mountain Beach Alley … etc.), and voila … you have instant branding as an emerging mega-hub of tech innovation!

And it’s not just national. This is a truly global phenomenon. There exist cities/regions on every continent that are quickly taking to the Silicon Something brand identity movement.

Even some regions that have yet to take up a prominent Silicon nickname can still get in the game by referring to themselves as “The Silicon Valley of”. As in the Silicon Valley of:

  • Drones (or unmanned aireal vehicles – uh, UAVs)
  • Digital media
  • Clean energy tech
  • Robots capable of winning Jeopardy
  • Health tech
  • Batmobiles
  • Massive male genital growth enhancement technology

 

It’s branding not as the next Silicon Valley per se. But as THE Silicon Valley of a specific much smaller niche.

Genius! I mean REAL DAMNED GENIUS!!!

I really do see why so many regions want to position themselves as the next, newest, best-est emerging tech center of something. They’re frantic to establish an identity in the ever expanding world of regional tech hubs. But (and this is my inability to delineate higher thought processes) I just can’t bring myself to see how the repeated steal…, uh I mean borrowing, of one distinctive word will distinguish one region from another … or from the reigning tech king itself – THE Silicon Valley.

Now I don’t want to be the wet blanket on this national tech mecca party. I want to be a believer. I do. But you see, off the top of my head I can list some potential major problems with this approach.

1. First, referring to yourself as Silicon anything immediately draws comparisons with the original Silicon King.

With very few exceptions (Boston, LA, Seattle, NY City … maybe) most of these cities/regions have small, even miniscule, amounts of angel funding, VC, available startup-ready tech talent, and wealth creation produced or in the pipeline in comparison to Silicon Valley. One measure of where a region is is how many billion dollar tech startup cash outs the region has produced in the last 15 years. How about cash outs of $100 million plus? Another measure is the number of patents produced and turned into viable ventures.

 

2. Secondly, it’s just not very original, unique, or frankly … INNOVATIVE.

In my most humble opinion, any region that tags the Silicon moniker as part of its branding statement is attempting to be viewed as an area that’s seen as innovative. But, just playing Devil’s advocate here, what’s less innovative than simply stapling Silicon onto the front end of your tag line? And now-a-days, “innovation” has been used so much it’s been almost reduced to a laughable cliche. So how about we band together to create an innovative new term to replace it.

 

3. Thirdly, I’ll phrase this as a simple question. Is silicon really at the heart of the products your region produces?

Yes, most tech products do have some form of silicon in them because of the electronic chips that comprise the delicate intestinal tract of those products. And of course apps, games, and other software run on silicon-based products.

However … silicon isn’t usually the core product produced. And even if it is, see number 1 above.

But here are a few branding suggestions that I really think will mitigate the Silicon Valley comparisons, create a unique brand identity, and really help your region to stand out from all the other Silicon imitators.

  • The Drone Belt, uh I mean The UAV Belt
  • Digital Media Mountain
  • Batmobile Alley
  • PC Prairie
  • Software Slopes
  • Clean Energy Canyon
  • Health Tech Highway
  • Big Data Boulevard

 

I know. Genius right!

You’re very welcome. No problemo.

Over the next few weeks I think it will be interesting to take a closer look at some of the Silicon Valley imitators and learn a little more about them. In order to include the global factor in this phenomenon I’ll also look at some outside-the-U.S. locations too.

Stay tuned.

And let me know what you think about the growing Silicon imitation branding phenomenon.

Tata!

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive   blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

 

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way …  blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Ride The RocketP.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  

Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas.

Build your connections.

 Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

Jimmy’s Descent Into Hell: A Cautionary Business Tale … Part I
May 14th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A true story ripped from The (Mis-)Adventures of The Looney Executive

— By Blake Glenn

 

It was Spring of 2002, late April. It was a typical beautiful spring Southern California day – sunny, no rain in sight. I was in Los Angeles. So even if it was raining … who cared.

The Pacific Coast Highway, also called the PCH, hovered in the distant background, beckoning like an  exotic temptress. PCH was the siren sweetly calling out to all of us working stiffs to break free from the musty office doldrums and make a frantic get-away to the freedom of its beautiful, sexy, writhing coastline.

Coast Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arrival we could shout to the top of our lungs,

“FREEDOM!”
“FREEDOM!”

Instead, I sat in my office at the North LA County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Van Nuys, patiently awaiting my next small business client. Van Nuys is in a part of LA called the San Fernando Valley.

Yes, THAT “Valley”. The valley of “Valley Girl” fame.

Though I’d met many girls who were from or near “The Valley”, I’d not encountered any that represented the prototypical “Valley Girl”. Perhaps one or two had a little Valley Girl DNA. But I’d met none of pure-bred Valley Girl stock. Rumors had it that they were becoming extinct. But if you were real lucky, you might be able to spot one during certain times, usually after 6:00 pm. Their survival instincts had driven them to become nocturnal creatures.

This sort of adaptation has long been a part of nature’s evolution. But still, they were a dying breed. It was a shame really. They’d meant so much to our culture. I hoped that cultural anthropologists would find a way to preserve those remaining few Valley Girls, perhaps in captivity surroundings that closely simulated their natural environment.

Just as my daydream about Valley Girls drifted nowhere in particular, a mysterious stranger walked into the SBDC office.
Let’s call him Jimmy.

 

Mysterious Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy was shepherded straight into my office without delay. I guess they gave him to me because I had a little experience helping distressed businesses navigate difficult situations. Or maybe I was just the only consultant available at that moment. I don’t really know.

In any case, as soon as I met Jimmy the alarms started blaring away in my head. He stood about 5’10″, a little soft but not fat by any means.

His age appeared to be mid- to late-40′s. Jimmy had a receding hairline that was moving backward as if retreating from a more powerful unconquerable enemy. He had a glazed “I ain’t all the way here” look in his eyes. His face was a beet red. He was noticeably nervous. He had sweaty palms that felt like cold, damp sponges when I shook his hand. I wondered where the hell his hands had been. And where was the antiseptic gel when I desperately needed it?

I eyed him calmly but nervously throughout our meeting. I kept a hand by the phone in case he went all berserko on me. He had the desperate look of someone that was ready to take himself out of this world … and maybe take two or three others along with him. And just my luck I was the closest to him at the moment.

No sir. No thanks. While I might not have had the galaxy’s best life, it was the only damned life I’d ever have. And I sure as hell planned to keep it as long as possible! This was only months after the September 911 attacks. The Internet 1.0 bubble had exploded.

 

Descending Stock Chart

 

 

 

The parallel telecom and IT bubbles went Kaboom. And day trading had mercilessly crashed and burned into a fiery mushroom cloud. A recession had ensued and was followed by occasional office shootings and murder-suicides.

So I asked Jimmy how I could help him. He looked at me like a lost puppy trying to find his way. He said that he didn’t know if I could. He hadn’t been to a Small Business Development Center before. He said his situation might be irreversible. He might have to shut down his venture. Maybe no one could help. I told him to hold the horses on the doomsday scenario. And then I simply asked Jimmy to tell me the full story.

 

In Part II of “Jimmy’s Descent Into Hell”, Jimmy makes a desperate plea for help!

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive  blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way …  blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

Ride The RocketP.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  

Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.

Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

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