Interviewing Myself as an Entrepreneur

I don’t really think of myself as an entrepreneur. I can barely spell the word. But if I had a million dollars, I’d be a billionaire overnight. So, when I saw a little miniature interview that Shane and Peter were promoting, I thought about taking it. Then I realized there was a possible prize, so what did I have to lose?

I’ve talked about Shane and Peter, web developers, a few times here and here. All the questions here, except the last one, are from Shane and Peter. They also want each participant to come up with their own question as part of the contest. So that last doozy is mine. Don’t blame them for that one.

The Interview

Q. What’s your personal mission statement?

A. Up until about eleven minutes ago, my personal mission statement was “make as much money as possible in the least amount of time, because I’m running out of both at an alarming rate.”. Upon further reflection after seeing this question, I decided to change it to this: “Family. Friends. Business. Fun. High Standards for All.” Sort of a self-help motto to keep me from playing too much Starcraft when my children haven’t seen me all week. Not that I play a lot of Starcraft. I really don’t. Stop looking at me.
Q. What’s the biggest mess you’ve dealt with this year?

A. Easy. I had a client who claimed she was a “contract negotiator” (but currently ran a very basic retail storefront). She insisted on paying in two parts (for a very small contract) because she claimed she had an inability to trust people. After paying her second payment, she moaned about her website - to the tune 0f 77 emails this year. When her annual agreement expired, I elected to non-renew her. Even though I had already told her this on the phone six months ago, when she got the reminder email, she exploded and started making all sorts of threats. A week later I got a demand for a copy of her agreement. Seems the “contract negotiator” had lost her original copy and was trying to see if she could force me to continue hosting her website. Hysterical and equally tragic. I felt sorry for her new web guy, but pawning off your bad clients to the competition is a definite competitive advantage. Only wish I knew what a loony tune she was before I got roped into it. I at least warned the new guy. No one warned me.

Q. What current entrepreneurial efforts consume your time?

A. The ones that don’t pay me real money: flights of fancy, moments of genius, unflappable market analysis, and yes, this very blog. For 2008, I’m seriously considering switching that around. It might not be as fun, but I’m thinking that more money could end up balancing that out. I’m going to miss the moments of genius, though. Like this one.

Q. Why do you do what you do? What inspires you? When do you get most excited?

A. I do what I do because I’m a) good at it, b) able to schedule my time around family (something my old employers used to balk about a bit) and c) who wouldn’t want to stare at a computer screen for 15 hours a day?… Wait. That last one might not have been my best answer. As far as getting inspired, other people in this business are what keep me going. I had virtually no heroes in my other lines of work. Quite seriously, when you are head cashier at Winn-Dixie, who do you look up to? Exactly. But in web design and development, my heroes are many: Jeff Zeldman, David Heinemeier Hansson, Molly Holzschlag, Dave Shea, Andy Clarke, Kevin Potts, Eric Meyer, Dave Thomas, Cameron Moll, Shane and Peter <gulp! that would be bad to forget them in this list, eh?>, Andy Rutledge, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, Veerle Pieters, and many others. The really cool thing is that they are all scattered all over the world, some working for firms, some freelance, and yet they are the most accessible (no pun intended) of any ‘hero’ I’ve ever had. I’m going to Miami next month to see Dan Marino but doubt I’ll get to even shake his hand, much less have a fifteen second chat with him (although I’m hoping). But almost everyone of these folks would respond to an email if I sent them one (as long as it wasn’t annoying and was legitimate). This type of inspiration keeps me going on the dark days of web design. Yes, we web guys have dark days. Don’t laugh. What gets me most excited, however, about what I do, is meeting a new client and making them thrilled with their website. Just being able to help them, point them in the right direction, keep them from blowing thousands with an SEO scam company, and working with them to meet their business goals. Very satisfying. I wish I could say it happens with every client, but it doesn’t. When it does, though, it is very exciting.

Q. Boxers or Briefs? or as Naomi says, Bikini or Thong, duh?!?

A. I wear boxers. I prefer my women in thongs. And that is way more than anyone ever need know. It is possible I answered this backward just to throw off your scent. But maybe not. Please do not mail me new boxers for Christmas. Unless they have a Miami Dolphins logo on them. I’ll even wear those on my head. Go fins!

Q. What do you do when you’re not [designing | programming | managing | writing | toiling for the wo/man]?

A. I’m trying to remember. What did I do last time? There was that bathroom episode, but I don’t want to talk about that here. And then there was those few hours at the mall last year. That was kind of different. Seriously, I chill out at Barnes & Noble and look through all the books I might want to buy someday when I have more time to read them. The nearly 1,000 books I own now are nothing but a huge pile of printed guilt. I’ve been working on Moby Dick for almost two years now. That was not a joke.

Q. What one thing made the biggest difference when getting started?

A. Uh, getting started. In other words, finally no longer listening to others and doing it anyway. Despite all the things that could (and have) gone wrong. Now, I love failure more than ever. But, until I got started, it was all talk, conjecture, ideas, and hope. And then the alarm clock went off. Yeah, that was life before. Never again.

Q. What’s your exit strategy?

A. I sort of like Tim Ferriss’ 4-hour workweek approach. If I can even get to a 14-hour workweek, I’ll start thinking more about exit strategies. Optimize everything. Outsource as much as possible. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Productivity over Perfection. Until then, love life, love friends, and work. And write, write, write. The great stress therapy created by God.

Q. What is the last thing that made you belly laugh?

A. Easy. This video from College Humor. It is R-rated (for language), but it is so pathetically true about blogging, bloggers, and forum discussions. I had tears in my eyes for at least ten minutes.

Q. Have you ever been in business before?

A. Before today? Yes. Before this business? Sort of. Okay, not really. Does lawn mowing count? I think it should. It’s hard work.

Q. At what point do you consider yourself successful?

A. When I can afford to buy a friend a brand new home, but simply choose not to. Not because I don’t have the money, but because I think he’ll ruin it and not take care of it. That’s true success.

Q. What was your first experience with a computer?

A. The TRS-80 (a.k.a. “trash-80″). What a thrilling machine. Shortly after playing with those cassette tapes more than should be allowed for an otherwise healthy lad of 12 years old, I was upgraded to an Apple II Plus. On the TRS-80, I remember helping put my parents inventory into a dBase II database. I was never paid for that. The things parents trick their kids into, eh? I’m trying to figure out a way to get my oldest son to become a “web coder”. I have the perfect internship for him.

Q. Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates in a jello wrestling match, where’s your money?

A. Bill Gates. Because he won’t play fair. Steve Jobs will think it is just fun and he’ll get caught in a trance looking at the pretty jello colors. Meanwhile, Gates will use his necktie to strangle Jobs. Steve doesn’t even know what a necktie is, so he’ll have no idea how to untie it. And then he’ll die. Gates wins.

Q. Where do you do your best thinking?

A. When I’m driving, at a good wireless cafe, when going for a bike ride on the open road, or walking in a crowded downtown area.

Q. What does your average daily work / life balance look like? How much time do you work, play and sleep?

A. Work: 14 hours. Play: 2 Hours. Sleep: 8 Hours. No, that’s not true. That’s the goal. Subtract 2 hours from play and sleep. Then add 4 hours of “aimlessly drifting through the internet, waiting in line at the Taco Bell drive-through, watching Dolphins games during football season, daily hygiene (very important), reading, and organizing fun. Or does that come under Play? There should be more categories. I can’t do this exercise. I quit.

Q. If I could introduce you to anyone, who would it be?

A. Jennifer Lopez. I know that seems contradictory to my list of heroes before. But recall, I like them because I feel they are accessible. Jennifer, on the other hand, hasn’t returned any of my letters offering to help with her relationship problems. Somehow, I know she’s just Jenny from the block - not some stuck-up celebrity. Just a normal girl next door. Okay, my wife says I have to stop answering this question now.

Q. What stops you from giving up when you are frustrated?

A. Nothing. I give up a lot. I recently quit a project that could probably have made me $100,000 by the end of next year. But I got frustrated. The beautiful thing about being self-employed (or an entrepreneur) is that you can quit projects with which you are frustrated. I could never do that before. I had to keep plugging away at projects at work that were clearly designed by Nazis. I turn down retarded ideas all the time now. It is so blissful. Telling people no is a godsend. Everyone should do it much more often.

Q. If Chuck Norris and Steven Hawking had a baby (hey it’s my damn interview), would you vote for her for president?

A. Uh, no. I don’t want a woman president, even though I’m not sure how this would be possible. But of course, Hawking sure is smart enough to figure out. And Chuck could probably be tough enough to endure whatever Hawking dreamed up. I don’t mean to sound sexist when it comes to women for president. But have mercy on me. Look at what my generation has wrought thus far: Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton. If those are “women”, then I’m a colorful and loud macaw. I would support Laura Ingraham for president because she’s a) conservative, b) smarter than every president we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt, c) attractive (yes, it counts for me - stop your whining) and d) loves music. That last part should be a requirement for all presidential candidates. Playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t stop believin’” upon their inauguration is a sure sign of a bad president. I didn’t like Bill Clinton and didn’t vote for him. But I thought I’d learn to live with him like a mature adult. Until he had that song played. Then I stood strong against him for eight long years. I think history will prove me right about that.

Q. (My question to myself): What is the most promising technology on the horizon and how do you see it helping you in terms of your business ideas?

A. Easy question. Is that all you got? Quite honestly, the advent of micro-financing is going to dramatically alter the structure of business operations. It is going to allow more and more individuals to break away from serving “the man” and taking that first step out into the big blue marble. The reviews of VC firms like The Funded did this past year is going to become more common and help continue to shift power away from large capital firms to the little guy. While micro-financing isn’t a ‘technology’ per se, it relies upon the increasingly larger community and social network of the broadband internet. Even the fact that a little guy like me is aware of it and has been watching it is testimony to the power of this for the future. Entrepreneur’s will no longer be working with friends because they have money. Instead, they’ll work with folks who “get it” to begin with via micro-financing. Very exciting. In five years, I think some banks will completely eliminate traditional business loan departments because they won’t be competitive with micro-financing.

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My personal favorites:

That you can pawn my bad clients off on the competition (god that was funny!)

That nothing stops you from giving up and you do so all the time, considering that a luxury of entrepreneurship (Never thought about it that way, am definitely going to change my mindset to agree with you)

That you want to meet Jennifer Lopez. THANK YOU! I hate when people write the Dali Lama or some great famous dead person or any other most very important person. Most of the time, that answer is just to look intelligent or good. Truth is, we’d like to meet normal people just like us. Okay, well, Jennifer isn’t normal. I mean, she’s normal, but she’s like… uh… yeah.

To answer your question of most promising technology that will help my business:

Sounds like math. I thought there was to be no math… But I’ll say SaaS and web-based programs. That way I can always access what I need no matter where I am.

I have a tough time calling it a technology - more of a social and organizational structure - but I do see a future trend that has already begun and will play a massive role in the future of technology and business. In tandem with your micro-loans, the micro-business or freelancer or independent contractor (call it what you will), is one of significant changes that will occur during our generation. Right now we may be a minor group, but I expect that to change by the middle of the next decade.

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