A huge job change

I started my company in 2005. It has changed and evolved over that time but the truth is my job has always been the same: finding clients and serving them.

After nine years of doing this, I have a huge job change ahead of me.

We’ve been very blessed to grow over the last few years, and this year I’ve taken a leap of faith and begun hiring people. So far we’ve added three new team members. What I’m discovering is as we hire and grow, my day is now divided differently. Instead of spending all day dealing with clients, I now spend much of the day teaching and leading our team.

I’m imparting the vision of why we do what we do.

I’m equipping them to find new clients and care for them.

I’m making sure they are fulfilled in what they are doing.

I’m focused on company structure and marketing to make sure we can afford to care for our team.

The biggest thing I’m seeing is that I have to be much more intentional about my schedule. I need a lot more focus. The idea is to divide out my time and completely focus on whatever is in front of me.

If there is an hour blocked off for design work, I have to turn off my phone and e-mail to focus.

We have an hour every morning for calls with my team and an hour in the afternoon. During that time, they need my focus.

I have to start scheduling meetings only on certain days and at certain times.

This is a big change but for the sake of my health, the happiness of my team, and the future of the company, I have to become more intentional.

The transition from doing to leading is a tough one, but I’m looking forward to learning.

No one cares that you’re busy

“How are you doing today?”

“Busy, man, really busy.”

How many times have we had that exchange? What I’ve come to realize is that no one cares. Somehow we’ve come to equate “busy” with success. If I’m busy doing things, they are good things, and you should envy me.

The reason no one cares is that we’re all busy. Successful or not, we never stop. I can remember days when our business wasn’t what I would call a success. I was both busy and stressed out about the amount of things that had to be done.

Busy does not equal successful.

How much of our busyness comes from just not managing our time well? How much of it comes from not being able to say no? In reality, we should probably be ashamed of most of our busyness, not proud of it.

The busy answer also allows us to avoid deeper conversations. What do we usually say to “We’re really busy right now?” We answer, “Yeah, we are too,” and that’s about as far as the conversation progresses.

So what if our answers were honest? What if they started with “I’m having a great week,” or “It’s been a hard week.”? These answers invite more conversation. “Why has it been a great week?” “What happened, can I help?”

Let’s just assume everyone is busy and skip that step. Maybe we’ll have deeper relationships if people really know how we are doing.

And let’s stop being so proud of being busy.

A vicious cycle

For people looking at starting a business, I thought I’d give you a rundown of how my brain works when it comes to taking time off, 9 years into this thing.

“You really need to take a day off,” my brain said to me early Saturday morning.

“I don’t have time to take a day off,” I responded, “Do you not see the mountain of things we have to accomplish?”

My hand flew up out of nowhere and slapped me in the face.

“What was that?” I yelled.

“That was me,” my brain said, “I can control things like that. And I’m going to keep doing it until I get a day to rest.”

“Look, I don’t…”

My other hand flew to my cheek, stinging it.

“Stop it!” I said.

“Nope, you give me a day off or this continues.”

“Fine, I will give you a day off, but let me just get this one last…”


“That’s getting really old. Stop it. Fine. Day off. Starting now.”

An awkward silence ensues for 10 minutes.

“So what if I just do this one small…”


“Listen, stop being unreasonable, I can’t just go cold turkey. What if I do a little bit today, and less tomorrow, and then you’ve had most of a weekend off. Then by next weekend I’ll be okay with literally doing no work?”


“Why would that not work?”

“Because you won’t take next weekend off. If history tells us anything it’s that my next real day off will be in the next 90 days, not seven.”



“But there’s this one thing that will only take 10 minutes.”


“It’s going to be like this all day, isn’t it?”


Do what’s best for the client, even when they don’t want it

“I’m not interested in your creative input. Design what I tell you.”

It’s not often I hear this, but I can still remember a few years ago when I had a new client tell me this. She wanted me to take her ideas, which weren’t great, and give her exactly what she wanted. The problem was I have a deep conviction about always doing what’s best for the client, even when they don’t want it.

Typically when a client wants me to do something that will hurt their brand (usually through bad design or poor strategic decisions), I’ll gently let them know why it’s a bad idea and offer creative alternatives. So what happens when they insist on bad ideas? What happens when I can’t talk them out of it?

At that point I have a decision to make. Continue to serve the client by doing what they ask, or politely let them know we aren’t a good fit. If the client is just belligerent in their disregard for what we do, I’ll end the relationship. However, if there’s hope there, I’ll often forge on.

Are you a teacher?

At the end of the day I see myself as a teacher more than a service provider. I want to educate my clients about great design, interesting marketing, and innovative thinking. Just like educating a child, sometimes that takes a few tries. Sometimes I’ve done work for clients that I wasn’t proud of. That usually leads to the next project and we have the same discussion again. “Why don’t you try this, it would be better for your business.” They might still say no.

But the next time, they might say yes.

The next time they might take the spec design I did, to demonstrate our thinking, and run with it. They might begin to learn the things I’m teaching. Eventually you can transform someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing, into a great client who values your thinking, and does interesting work. And at that point, you’ve enriched their businesses and lives, rather than just provided a service.

But none of that happens if you give up on the relationship the first time you’re asked to do bad work. Sometimes what’s best for the client is giving them what they ask for but continuing to push better ideas.

To me it’s the difference between a teacher and a service provider. I want to be known as a teacher.

The never-ending story

There are things I know I need to do more often. Things like writing, planning marketing for my business, and just taking time off.

These things are good for me, but I rarely take time for them. Usually it’s because there area a hundred other things I could be doing for my clients with that time. If I’m going to be doing something, it seems like it should be something to chip away at that never-ending pile of client tasks.

But, did you notice the key words in that last sentence?

Never ending.

Never. Ending.

The funny part is, I’m always busy. Even when I look back at times when this business wasn’t bringing in enough money to pay our bills, I was busy. I have always worked hard. I have always pushed myself and done more than I probably should have. Always.

And now that the business is taking care of us and growing at an insane pace. Nothing has changed. My days feel very much like the days when we weren’t making it. I get up, tackle as many things as I can throughout the day (and some of the night) and then go to bed exhausted, never pausing to do the things I need to do. Why is it that I’m the same amount of busy in a growing company versus a failing one? I don’t know. But what I do know, is I need to take time for things that are important, because there will never be a time when I feel caught up enough to do them.

I need to write more. I love it. I’m sure my high school journalism teacher would be happy/incredibly angry to see how much I enjoy writing now. It gets thoughts out of my head and on paper (screen). It allows me to think through problems and topics in ways that I don’t normally if I’m not trying to put them into words for the world to read.

I own a marketing company, and sell good marketing ideas to companies every day. And, yet, I don’t take time to plan mine out. I still do it, but it tends to be in more of an “oh crap I need to get something done this month” manner, rather than a nicely calendared plan (which happens to be what I counsel all my clients to do).

I’ve never been good at this and probably won’t ever be. If you look back through this blog, you’ll see an awful lot of “I really need to take time off” posts. More and more, though, I can’t push myself to work 100 hours a week too often. I can work through the weekend, and sometimes have to, but when I do, I can see I’m much less productive the week after. Maybe someday I’ll figure this out.

The mountain of tasks staring me in the face today won’t all be accomplished today. I hope I’ve learned that that’s okay. The world keeps turning. Clients keep paying. We do a good job and we meet deadlines. I think I can keep doing that and take times for some small things that matter.

Just get it done

I’ve never been a believer in New Year’s resolutions. There is not a magical switch that flips from December 31st at 11:59 p.m. to January 1st at 12:00 a.m. that makes you a better person. You aren’t somehow better equipped to stop doing bad things or start doing good things.

Now don’t get me wrong I do believe in getting better every year, but I believe laying the groundwork for that begins way before January 1st. My one goal this year is to stop procrastinating and just get things done. I started working on this way before January 1st so I think there’s some small chance of success.

This last year was like every other year, full of challenges and joys. My business grew by just under 300%. I learned a lot, including that I can’t count on always being healthy while working 100 hours a week. I’ve made adjustments, including getting some help and following my new rule: just get it done.

It’s easy when the sky is blue and the sun is shining to procrastinate. Things are so nice, I’ll worry about this tomorrow. The problem is there’s no guarantee tomorrow won’t be stormy. I learned that in a rapidly growing business tomorrow always looks different than you expect. Always.

So this year, instead of putting things off, I’ll try to force myself to get it done when I can. If that happens, then when the storms come I won’t feel the weight of so many unfinished tasks. I was sick for about two-and-a-half months straight during the late summer and early fall. Not one time during that stretch did I just get to take off and be sick. No time to heal. No time to rest. Granted we did as much business in August as we did in 6 months of 2012, but still. Had I known that was coming I probably would have buckled down more in June and July to prepare.

I’m not hoping for another 300% growth spurt. I’m not sure I could survive. But whatever God decides 2014 looks like, I’m going to try to just get it done and see where that leaves me on January 1st, 2015.


There’s something to be said for scarcity elevating something from just okay to “perfect”.

My bleary eyes stared at the screen for what seemed like the 24th straight hour.




More scrolling.

I need a new truck. Well not new, but new to me. I need to find that perfect combination of price, mileage and features that would make me want to drive it for the next decade.




“Hey!,” I exclaim, “This one looks great.”

I pick up the phone an call. “Hi, first question, does the truck have a clean title?” I ask.

“No, sir, it’s a salvage title.”

This is the fifth time tonight I’ve found “the perfect truck” and it’s turned out to be a salvage. I consider hurling my iPhone against the wall. The prospect of iPhone and truck shopping simultaneously stops me.




“This one isn’t bad. Nice truck. Great price. Low mileage. White isn’t my favorite color, but it could work. We’ll add it to the maybe list.”

I pick up the phone and dial the number.


I leave a message. Seem interested, but not eager. There is, after all, still that age-old dance of negotiation to do.

An hour passes. No call back.

“Why hasn’t he called me back?”




“Seriously, this is 2013. Technology, man. Pick up the phone and CALL ME!”




“What if it’s sold? What if I missed out on the perfect truck by minutes?”




Okay, I need some sleep.

Eight hours later: “He still hasn’t called! I want this truck. I need it more than the air I breath! Why can’t I have it?”

The wrong mine

I watched the steam curl up from the fresh brewed cup of coffee.

“I’m off to the salt mines!” I yelled as I always do and began the 20-foot walk from the kitchen to my office.

“That’s the problem,” Rebecca said, “You always go to the salt mine. Maybe you need to try the diamond mine.”

Various and sundry

It’s been so long since I’ve written a real blog post, I barely remember how to start them. That’s why you get this awkward intro. Looking back at the history of my writing, it’s odd for me to go long stretches without saying something. Over the last few months I feel like I’ve had things to say, I just haven’t had the time to pull the thoughts from my brain and place them here. And so this post serves as a stretching of muscles. I’m trying to remember how it was that I used to write on a regular basis.

We survived the long stretch of the spring baseball season, only to enter summer, which has somehow been just as busy. Cody and Colton’s teams both finished somewhere at the back of the pack, but they both had fun and learned a lot. Conner’s made a run at the championship and ended up in third place. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on the baseball field.

Since joining Life Church in February, we’ve once again become sucked into ministry which seems to eat a substantial amount of time. More so than actual church work though, we’re spending a lot of time really getting to know people we’re doing life with. It’s honestly something I’ve never been good at, but I’m learning.

My business continues to grow and branch out. Not as quickly as last year, but still growing, slowly but surely. Always with me at the helm, questioning everything we do all the time. Does that ever stop? That uncertainty that comes, not only with developing a business, but with knowing the decisions I make help or hurt the future of my family. It’s the odd position of always having to be sure of what you are doing, but never actually being sure.

In a few weeks I get to preach on the Gospel. All the study that goes into that has me examining my life to see all the places where the Gospel of Jesus really doesn’t have a hold. It’s a process of God prying my fingers off the things I want to control. It’s a battle He is winning, and I’m thankful for that. The transformative work of Christ is by no means easy or even fun, but I can see changes for the better.

Maybe that’s the source of my introspection this hot July evening. Maybe it’s my impending 32nd birthday. I tell myself I’ve accomplished a lot in my 32 years but the other side of my brain knows I probably could have done more, made better decisions here and there. But my deep-seeded theology about the sovereignty of God tells me I had to make every decisions the way I made it. He has been very gracious in my life and I should be more thankful for that.

As a rule, getting older doesn’t bother me. A big part of me relishes the idea of being in my sixties or seventies and really enjoying the wisdom of age along with finally having an excuse for my cantankerous nature. But, every so often, I have the occasional day when I acknowledge that I am getting older. My kids are growing rapidly and before I know it will be out of the house. I tell myself I’m looking forward to that day so Becca and I can start a different chapter in our lives, but I know the day one of the kids leaves my house I’ll be devastated.

God has blessed us with some of the most amazing friends in the world. Tomorrow night they will descend on our house for hamburgers (hopefully), margaritas (definitely) and swimming. We’ll swim and splash with our kids. We’ll relish the fact that their oldest just had his cast removed and is on the way to recovery. We’ll stay up entirely too late and talk. We’ll probably spend a lot of time dreaming about the future of the people God has entrusted us to care for in the church. And in that time I’ll take a moment and thank God for all he has done and I’ll forget that I’m about to turn 32 and anything else that’s bothering me.

But for now I get to be quiet and introspective and listen.

And that’s okay every once in a while.

Rage against the machine

Sometimes there are large corporations we have to deal with and sometimes they screw up, give terrible customer service and are accountable to no one. What do we do then? Complain on blogs, I guess. Let me give you a broad picture of what it’s like to deal with the Adobe Corporation.

Two weeks ago I upgraded from Creative Suite 3 to Creative Suite 5.5. That was an $840 upgrade. I ordered the boxed version. Unfortunately when you order that, you don’t get the serial numbers until they arrive. Of course, my 30-day trial of the new software had just expired that day. So basically I would be without the main software I use for a few days. That’s not possible with our schedule right now.

So I call Adobe customer support, conveniently located in another country, and asked if I could cancel that order and just order the download version to get the serial number immediately.

“Of course,” the guy says, “The old order is canceled, was not charged to your account and now you may order the new one.”

So I order the download copy. Fast forward a day later and I get an email to let me know my boxed copy had shipped. I check my account and sure enough I have been charged $840 twice. I’m not sure about you, but that’s a little more than inconvenient for me.

I call Adobe support again, also, still conveniently located in another country.

“Sorry, sir, I canceled it in one of our systems, but not both, so it went through anyway.”

“Obviously,” I say, trying to keep my irritation under control, “But, I’d like my money back now.”

“Sorry, sir, you have to wait until you get the boxed copy, call us back with the serial number so we can cancel it, then wait 3-5 days.”

“That’s unacceptable,” I say, “I need the money back now. You guys screwed up and I shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

“I can upgrade this to a Tier 2 support status and you’ll get a call from a Tier 2 representative. They might be able to help.”


Fast forward a few hours. The phone rings. “Hello, sir. This call is to let you know your case has been escalated to a Tier 2 level and you will receive a call tomorrow morning from a representative.”

“Seriously?” I ask.

“Yes, sir.”


Fast forward to the next morning. No call.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. The box arrives. I call with the serial number.

“Thanks for the call, sir. Your refund will now be expedited in 3 to 5 days.”

I wait 7 business days. Still no refund. I call back today.

“Sorry sir, we forgot to generate a something something report. We’re doing that now and you will get your refund in 3 to 5 days.”

“Since you guys screwed up again, I’d like it faster. Let me speak with your boss.”

Fast forward another 20 minutes.

“Hi, I’m a supervisor.”

“Hi, I’d like my refund faster than 3 to 5 days.”

“3 to 5 days? We can only do 5 to 7 days.”

“Wait, what? But the last guy said 3 to 5 days.”

“Did he give you a 100% guarantee?”

“What the hell is wrong with your company?”

“Nothing, sir, I assure you.”

“Must just be the people then.”

So I sit on hold for hours now through this process. My blood pressure is through the roof every time I speak with them. I don’t normally cuss or yell. I’ve cussed and yelled. And I still don’t have my $840.

I guess we will see if it ever happens.

UPDATE: This was e-mailed to me letting me know they had closed my case (for the third time): “Your credit card will be refunded within ten business days. Your issuing bank often requires an additional two to three weeks to apply the credit to your account.”


If you say so

While shopping with my wife at Sam Moon (or as I like to call it, the fifth circle of Hell) it became really irritating to see all the packages of cheap jewelry that said “best quality.”

This reminds me of all the businesses in the world that brag about being the best quality. Only about 10% of those really are best quality. The other 90% are either ignorant or just plain lying about it.

You shouldn’t have to say you’re the best quality. It should just be obvious to everyone who ever deals with you.

Writing the anger out of roast beef

I occasionally like to have Arby’s. I say occasionally because my wife doesn’t like it that much and the nearest one is about 30 minutes away. The main reason, though, is the ridiculously long wait at the drive-thru.

Always with the wait. Arby’s always delivers decent food (for fast food) at a slightly high-end price (again, for fast food) but by the time I’m through the drive-thru I’m usually so irritated about the wait I don’t even want the food anymore. It happens every time at every Arby’s I’ve ever been to. Obviously it can’t be fixed or they would. The delay is because they put together all the food fresh (once again, for fast food) when you order it. I guess if they just pre-made everything and left it under hot lamps I’d be angry it wasn’t fresh.

So how do you fix a problem for a customer who won’t be happy either way?

Good writing.

On a recent trip (by myself) I decided Arby’s was what my rumbling stomach was asking for. I pulled up and ordered (By the way, why can’t we list the main deals on the menu? I hate having to ask if you still have something.) and was about the pull through. The lady on the other side of the worst-speaker-ever-conceived-by-man gave me my total. I was about to pull forward when she threw one last line at me.

“Give us a few minutes while we make your order fresh for you.”

The phrase bounced around in my head for a few seconds as I pulled around. “They are making my food fresh,” I thought. I pulled up to the window and handed her my card. I then pulled up my e-mail on my phone and proceeded to return a few messages. A few minutes later I looked up from my phone and that old impatience began to well up inside me. “I want my roast beef!” it said loudly. Then another voice quietly protested, “But they’re making it fresh for you. That takes time.”

And my anger disappeared. With one friendly, well-written line, they managed to diffuse my annoyance. Amazing. Each time in the ten minute wait I would start to get impatient, the line would do its job and quell the anger.

I know the girl, nice though she was, didn’t come up with that turn of phrase on her own. No, somewhere in the bowels of Arby’s HQ, they collect data about customer wait times and subsequent complaints. Eventually the complaints reached a level that couldn’t be ignored. They looked at the process and discovered they couldn’t speed it up if they still wanted to make the food fresh. They would rather be known as being slow than serving stale food. Instead, someone in the organization handed the problem off to their ad agency.

And this is the beauty of ad agencies. We don’t just create ads. We use creativity to solve business problems. “We have an image issue,” Mr. Arby said, “We’re known as being really slow.”

“Let us see what we can come up with,” Mr. Ad Agency responded. He then handed the problem off to the Arby’s creative group. Some smart writer in that group realized that you have to explain the benefits of the wait to sell it to people. After much thinking, strategizing, brainstorming and concepting (all of which, by the way, looks like doing absolutely nothing), that great line was born. “Give us a few minutes while we make your order fresh for you.” I’m sure it ended up being a minor line item on a huge bill. “Drive-thru copywriting, four hours, $500.”

And yet how much good will that $500 line do them? When you consider the millions of customers Arby’s sees each year, I’m guessing a lot. If even a fraction of those customers returned again because they didn’t mind the wait anymore, it would yield millions in revenue. All from one well-written line.

The moral of the story: Don’t make people wait for fresh roast beef. If you have to, hire a smart writer.

Coupon stupidity

Don’t give your customers an excuse to stop paying you.

We spend a decent amount of money at Marco’s Pizza in Leander. We always get the same deal. A big square pizza, cheese sticks and a Coke for $15. Anywhere from two to six times a month we make the call and go pick up the food. It’s always been good.

Tonight I call and tell them I’d like the “Big Square Deal” (see, we order enough to know the marketing name of the deal).

“Sure,” the voice on the other side of the phone says, “We still have that deal.”

“Great,” I say, “I’d like pepperoni.”

“Okay,” the voice says, “You know what, hang on a second.”

I wait patiently for a few seconds.

The voice comes back. “My manager says I need a coupon for that deal now.”

“Okay,” I say. “Well, we buy this deal a lot. Any chance we could have it again this once? I don’t have a coupon.”

“Nope,” the voice says, “My manager says I have to have a coupon.”

“Okay.” I think for a moment and then decide I’m done. “Tell your manager he lost my business. Have a good day.”

The manager seems to have forgotten that between their location and my house are almost a dozen other pizza joints. That’s a lot of more convenient choices.

And look, I’m not even asking for free pizza here. I would have gladly accepted, “Sir, I’ll give you the deal this time, but next time I need the coupon.” Or even, “We are no longer offering that deal at all.” In either case I would have continued to give them my business. But making a good customer jump through the coupon stupidity hoop to get a current offer is just too much when there are so many other choice out there.

If someone shows up at my business and wants to give me money, I’m going to do everything I can to make that transaction happen, including saying “don’t worry about the stupid coupon.”

Marco’s gave me an excuse to stop paying them.

I doesn’t take much these days. All businesses would do well to remember that.

An honest economic question

I’ll admit I’m not an economist, or even close to one. So please forgive the naivety of the following question:

I understand the downgrade of America’s credit rating could have a negative effect on Americans’ ability to borrow money, but isn’t spending a lot of money we don’t have part what got us here in the first place? Could an America emerge from this where credit is harder to come by but we still do just fine?

Maybe the televisions are smaller and the luxury yachts less numerous, but maybe our blood pressure level as a nation is somewhere in the survivable range. Debt can bring a some positives if handled correctly (like taking on debt to expand a business, thereby generating more income), but we haven’t really proven to be good at handling it.

I realize it’s a deep issue with lots of facets that most people don’t understand and it can’t be boiled down to such simple levels. I’m just saying maybe there is an America in the future where everything isn’t about material goods and is more about living a better life without crippling debt. Over the last few years we’ve been tremendously blessed in the getting-rid-of-debt department. Our life today is a far cry from what it was even a year ago when we owed a lot of money. Life didn’t get any better until we turned off the debt nozzle and decided we didn’t need any more of it. It wasn’t easy and there were some definite growing pains over the years as we’ve come to this point. Is the same thing possible for an entire country?

Related: Rob Delaney bought some U.S. stocks.