You Don’t Have Any Competition

raceI remember attending a networking event and a talented speaker was up talking about how to grow your business. One of the things he said has always resonated with me, and it was the idea that you have to operate your business with the attitude that you have no competition. At first I kind of shrugged off the idea, but as he spoke more about it, I loved it.

Being a business owner (and incredibly competitive), I’ve always found that I would often peruse the web to do recon on other companies that did the same thing as me, and in many cases be irritated or jealous of how well they presented themselves, the client portfolios they possessed, or the talent they had on staff. While it can certainly be healthy and useful to see what others are doing in your space, it can also derail your focus on what’s truly important…what makes you unique and different.

The reality is, no matter what business you own or get into, there are going to be plenty others that already do it, and do it well. But here’s the awesome thing…there’s plenty of business to go around. As long as you do your thing, and do it well, you’ll get your piece of the pie. The key is to find that one thing that makes you different. The one thing that is unique to your business that no one else can touch. And when you can figure that out, and position yourself effectively, in essence, you don’t compete with anyone else.

Stop thinking of others in your same industry as competitors, but more as colleagues. You’d be amazed that by establishing relationships with those that are in the same industry, how much more you have to gain by working together vs. not.

The True Story Of The Ugly Christmas Sweater Guy

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For the past 6 years, every time the holidays rolls around, a new tradition has come upon me; an outpouring of emails and Facebook messages asking me if I know that my picture comes up on Google for ugly Christmas sweater. Or that my picture was used on a flyer for an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. Or recently, that my picture is on the cover of an Ugly Christmas Sweater book. And of course my response is always something of the…”here we go again”. But deep down, I kind of like it.

There’s actually much more to the story then most people think. I never anticipated what happened would. In fact, the pose that has won me all this attention was really just a last minute, spur of the moment thing. After all this time, I thought it be fitting for there to be a place that tells that story. And at the very least, celebrate not just my photo, but all the amazing ones that went along with it.

The year was 2007, and it was a cool, brisk Autumn day like many others. But this day was different. I was a few years into my tenure at Microsoft Advertising, and had fallen into an amazing group of dudes at work…The COT…or circle of trust if you will. A group of fellas that entrusted each other with information that would never be shared outside of the group. It really wasn’t that top secret. Mostly a lot of jokes about the bathrooms at Microsoft. Don’t even get me started.

I can’t take credit for the greatest idea of all time. That falls on my friend Matt. Matt was the elder statesman of the group back then. He was older than dirt..so these days I can’t imagine he even knows what planet he’s on, but bless his heart for the gift he gave The COT. His brilliant idea of hitting up Value Village for some hideous sweaters, then heading to Sears for a photo shoot was ballsy..but we were in. We just wanted to create a funny poster to hang up for our team at work. It ended up becoming so much more.

You see, Ugly Christmas Sweaters were not as big in 2007 as they’ve become today. Shit…you can actually buy a kit to make one these days they’ve gotten so popular. I’ve been offered  3 figures for mine repeatedly (holding out for 4). When we got to the store, I literally just wanted to find the most ridiculous one I could find. I figured if I was going to do this, I might as well go all in. You should have seen the look on some of the older ladies faces as I proudly found my winning vest/turtleneck combo.

I don’t think I ever laughed as hard as I did in that photo shoot. It was so incredibly random, and the gal taking the pictures…bless her heart, she had no idea what she was in for. Ridiculous pose after pose, and then someone pushed me into frame and without even thinking I just did what I thought might be funny and whalla…history.

A week or so after our shoot and tremendous praise at work for our efforts, our photos were submitted to The Seattle Times for their then annual Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. I was in Chicago and got a barrage of texts and calls. I remember them vividly.

“Your picture is on the paper!” they said

“Oh…cool…like in some special section?” I asked

“Um, no…your picture is ON the paper…the front page!” they said

And thus begun the ascent to all things Ugly Christmas Sweater. It worked it’s way up to the top of search results, on the front cover of a book, and ever since then, it’s become more recognized more than I ever would have thought. To this day, people will bring it up in conversation and they’ll say “Holy Shit, you’re the Ugly Christmas Sweater Guy?!?!”  I’ve learned to embrace it.

I still look at these pics every year and laugh my ass off. Unfortunately, most of the guys have moved on to other things, and we don’t get to see or hang out as much as I would like. But I still hold on hope for a reunion shoot. Perhaps Easter?????

 

10 Reasons Why Being Your Own Boss Is The Cat’s Meow

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Yea that’s right. I made a list of 10 reasons why being self-employed rules to get you to come read my stuff. Because lists are cool like that. People don’t have time to read paragraphs. That’s so 2012. I wrestled a bit with posting this as by doing so, I possibly alienate myself to any “offers you can’t refuse” for a traditional 9 to 5er. But I’ve learned these past few weeks as I’ve gotten a nice taste of success that if I’m ever going to truly make it big on my own, I have to be all in. Logistically and mentally. Besides, if someone really wanted me that bad and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I would hope my commitment to what I’m currently doing would be viewed as a plus.

So enjoy this digestible bloggy goodness and share mmmmkayyy? I’m trying to make a living here.

  1. You can wear whatever you want. Jean shorts? Crocs? Ass-less chaps? Do it. You’re the boss. Save the good stuff for when you meet with clients. Otherwise, get comfy.
  2. No more sitting in mind numbing traffic. Every time I drive by the freeway and see a parking lot I feel tickly all over now. I do not miss that. Avoiding being in the car 2 hours a day is motivation enough to try and make it work on your own.
  3. You actually get work done. So many companies I’ve worked for that get in their own way. Too many layers of management…process. I get more done in one day then I was ever able to try and get done in a week at bloated companies.
  4. You can show up late and leave early. Hell, when you’re saving 2+ hours of commute time, it changes everything. Sure is nice to sleep in or have a big breakfast every once in awhile. And by big breakfast I mean 2 bowls of Cookie Crisp. Huge.
  5. You can design your office any way you want. Mini fridge…check. Triple monitor action? Check. Hot Tub? Soon.
  6. You can write stuff off. These days it feels like I’m being taxed on air. At least now I can write off purchases that my business utilizes.
  7. You can’t be fired, laid off, demoted, etc. In fact, this blog post is so friggin good, I just gave myself a raise. Yea self employment!
  8. You choose who you work with. And I choose Kate Beckinsale & Scarlett Johansson for my sales team. As soon as they return my calls.
  9. Unlimited vacation & sick days!! Hmmm, my tummy hurts. Millionaire Matchmaker marathon!
  10. My Boys Stuff. I never have to miss any of my boys’ baseball games, school events, etc. My time is controlled by me, and not having the stress of having to worry about missing anything is priceless. Worth the price of admission in and of itself.

What say you my fellow entrepreneurs? What would you add to the list???

My Switch From iPhone To Android: Part Two

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Earlier this year I decided to make a switch to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from an iPhone 5. I wrote an initial piece about this switch, and my reasons for it, mainly as I wanted a larger screen for my phone, and I had grown increasingly frustrated with Apple’s lack of keeping up with the competition. It is now roughly 4 months later and I’ve had plenty of time with this new device, and I can say with the utmost confidence…I’m going back.

Now before any backlash from Android enthusiasts or how I should try Windows Mobile (not going to happen), here’s the deal…I don’t fall into this strange world of fanboyism for electronics. There are people that will yell and scream about how amazing Apple or Android or whatever is and how everybody else sucks. To each there own I say. I think most platforms do a variety of things very well, and some things not so much. No one is perfect. But for my world, I’ve learned that the iPhone is where I need to be. Here’s why:

  1. I’m ingrained in the Apple ecosystem. I use a Macbook Pro every day and I miss the consistency and marriage of my phone matching with my computer and software. Using an Android device and a Mac just don’t work nearly as well.
  2. You can say what you want when you compare mobile operating systems, but in my opinion, no system is more polished, clean, and overall a pleasant user experience then iOS. I’ve used the Android OS and it’s just too fragmented, messy and quite honestly, I always found myself trying to get it to look and work like iOS anyway. Most notably I found the text messaging UI and camera UI on the Note frustratingly bad as compared to the iPhone.
  3. The build quality of iPhones is unmatched. Although I really like having the bigger screen with the Note, the build quality always felt cheap and more susceptible to damage.
  4. I never realized how many people I knew that used iPhones until I switched to Android. I miss the iMessage compatibility, and even more importantly, being able to iMessage with my kids on their iPods.

I really wanted to hold for the iPhone 6 which if I had to guess, will finally succomb to a larger screen size, but I don’t think I can wait that long so may pony up for the 5s. That was my experience, and interested to hear from others that have similar stories whether they ended up with the same or different results.