David Brim on business, marketing & life.

17 Startup Lessons Parenthood Can Teach

By: David Brim

Recently my wife Lindsay and I were blessed with our greatest adventure yet…becoming parents.  In our case we were blessed with a two for one deal and had twins! A beautiful boy and girl.

Our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy, we “tried” for over 5 years, followed by a complicated pregnancy which included my wife being hospitalized for six weeks and followed by a 28 day stay in the NICU for both of our babies. Everyone is healthy and happy now and we feel so incredibly blessed!

Nothing can truly compare to the feeling that comes along with being a parent, and the love that you have for your child, or in our case children. However, during a recent conversation Lindsay and I discussed the similarities of parenting to co-founding startups. While we are new to being parents (and do not consider ourselves experts by any means), both Lindsay and I know what it is like to start a business and get it off the ground. As we continue down our journey of parenthood, we couldn’t help but notice they have a lot in common.

We decided to co-author this post together. We hope you enjoy it! Without any further delay, here are our 17 lessons learned from our two little startups.

 

1) Expect lots of late nights and hard work

Having a newborn means getting little to no sleep and working around the clock to make sure their needs are met. Both babies and start ups are completely dependent. If the parent doesn’t change the diapers and feed the baby, that does not get done just as if a founder isn’t working day and night to get their start up off the ground, no one else will. Parents and founders need to buckle up and be all in.

 

2) A strong commitment is needed to reach their potential

Good founders and parents both have a strong commitment to help their little startup(s) reach their potential. They put the needs of their little startup or child above their own so that they can grow. However, the commitment for a startup can be full of pivots, or even closing down one startup to focus on another – parenthood is a full commitment for life.

 

3) Both take on the culture of the creators (founders or parents)

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Whether you’re talking about a startup, or new little babies, their behaviors as they grow will be greatly influenced by the culture set in place by the parents (or founders). So be intentional about creating the right culture for your startup or kids. Remember if you’re cool, generally speaking your kids will be too.

4) The goal is to raise an outstanding adult / mature company

Any parent or co-founder has the goal of ensuring that their little one can not only survive, but thrive in their environment. You want to raise a startup, or child that can become an outstanding adult or mature company. One that is self sufficient,  and can provide for their family.

 

5) They don’t care about your agenda

Startups need what they need when they need it. Just like babies. A baby doesn’t care if you are sick, or have a proposal to write, if you haven’t showered in 3 days, or are hungry. They care about their needs being met. The same is true with startups. Constant attention is required and there are no days off. If you do take time off, you better make sure you have someone watching that you trust. Your startup is either growing or declining – our job as parents of children and startups are to ensure our little ones have what they need to grow…all the time.

 

6) Don’t go at it alone – build a team

Raising a child, and starting a business is hard work. Thankfully you don’t have to go at it alone. Work to develop or leverage a support system or team to help you. Find good service providers, or managers to oversee your startup. Find family members or babysitters that you trust to watch your kids. The key is to delegate to people you trust that are capable. Be willing to ask your network for help and accept it when offered. I’m sure you heard the phrase “It takes a Village”, this is true for both startups and raising children.

 

7) Be on the same page with your partner

In business it is important that you have a vision that is clearly articulated and adopted by your team and partners. Abraham Lincoln once said a house divided cannot stand. When you have two forces pulling in different directions, for example founders with different agendas or goals, the startup suffers. The same is true in parenting. Ensure that you and your partner communicate, resolve differences of opinion and are on the same page – both working for the common good of your child(ren). Start this process before you even bring your startup, or children into existence.

 

8) Nobody will love your children or start up like you

The moment we laid eyes on our little miracles, something within us changed. We felt a love like no other. No one is going to care about our kids the way that parents and often grandparents do. The same is true with our startups. The founders have to be the example for working hard on the start up. As founders, we have to realize that our “employees” are not going to love our business like we do and it is our job to inspire them to work hard. Our love for our children is very personal and Entrepreneurship is very personal as well.

 

9) Don’t be defeated

Sometimes you can try your best and things still don’t work out as you’d like. It’s important to realize that both startup and parent life will not always go your way and you will likely get frustrated. It’s important through all the setbacks that you are able to pick yourself up, stay encouraged and move on with the same optimism and hope as when you started.

 

10) You need to learn & adapt as you go

Both new parents and new founders don’t have all the answers when they start on their journey. There is no “instruction manual”.   It is important to learn quickly and be able to adapt as you move along. For your business, incorporate new concepts, tips and tricks you learn from other founders. For parents, follow your doctors orders and seek advice from fellow parents. In both instances,  see what works for you and ditch what doesn’t.

 

11) Be ready for big financial investments

Babies gotta eat, and if you want them to grow properly they need to obtain all of their proper nutrients. They also regularly outgrow their clothes, may need medicine, fresh new toys and much more. That’s before we even think about college funds, or cars down the line. All of this costs money. Startups also have many requirements for growth, and someone has to pay the bills! It often falls on the parents or founders. Finding the right talent, or specialists to help you with your startup, or work with your child can be expensive, but can provide a great return on investment!!!

 

12) You need a strong foundation – Take time for your self

They often say on airplanes that “In the case of an emergency, parents should put their masks on first before doing so for their child.” This is because if the parent isn’t able to breathe, they won’t be very effective while helping their kids. The same is true in the world of startups. Often times both founders and parents are in a Go, Go, Go mode. If the health of a founder or parent declines and they get knocked off their feet, the child or startup will also suffer. As a parent of a child or founder of a startup, be sure that you do set aside time for you. Seek to maintain your mental and physical health. This could involve reading a book, going to the beach, having a nice dinner with your significant other, going to the gym or setting aside some time weekly to do something you love. For my wife that is spending time with our horses. For me, it’s going to the gym or on hikes.

 

13) Always measure key indicators for growth

Both children and new businesses should be measured to see how they are performing. Are they keeping up with their peers, or lagging behind. There are many different indicators that can be measured. For children, some include: Height, weight, milestones (like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, solid foods, being potty trained, etc). For startups, some include: sales, profitability, customer growth, acquisition costs, employee growth, and much more. By measuring various indicators founders and parents can become aware of trends and potential risks, equipped with this information they can seek to address potential problems to ensure the startup or child continues to grow properly.

 

14) It gets easier then harder again – there are cycles

Sometimes things just click and go smoothly. It’s great when they do. But the ups don’t last forever, sooner or later you’ll have a dip. Your child or startup will misbehave and you’ll experience challenges. Then before you know it you’re back to smooth sailing again and amazed by the progress.

 

 15) Nurture unique gifts & talents

There are lots of children and businesses born every day. Not to mention the substantial amount of them that already exist. This being the case it is important to stand out. As a parent this involves recognizing your child’s unique gifts and talents that they may not even see in themselves. Nurture these abilities and help develop them. By doing so they can differentiate and find their space in a crowded world.  The same goes for startups. Nobody wants to be a commodity that has no differentiation or competitive advantage. Find what makes your startup or child special and focus on that.

 

16) Advice – take it or leave it. Everybody has an opinion.

Everywhere you turn someone will have an opinion on how to raise your child. “You should do this, you shouldn’t do that”. I find this to be very similar to entrepreneurship. Even those that have never ran a business will have an opinion. Advice from people who can totally relate to what you are going through as a parent or who understand your business and you trust should always be considered. Remember, as a parent or a founder, the choice is yours! In both cases, you may need to let advice/opinions go in one ear and out the other and that is totally OK!

 

17) Time will tell what your creations will evolve into

When we look at our children we can’t help but wonder what they will become. Will they be a doctor, or lawyer? A singer, or maybe an athlete? Maybe future entrepreneurs?All we know is that they have potential and we as parents want that potential to be realized. Many founders start a business and end up in a business that is very different than what they initially anticipated. In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg said (referring to Facebook): “We don’t even know what it is yet, or what it can become. We just know it’s cool!” That’s how parents are. Mark Zuckerberg’s startup worked out very well for him!  We’re excited to see what heights our little startups reach!

This post was a co-written by my wife Lindsay and I. Lindsay Brim is the co-founder of Crossroads Corral, a non-profit 501(c)(3) based in Central Florida that promotes personal growth, hope and healing through the use of horses.

12 Solid Runways to Help Your Venture Take Flight

By: David Brim

Earlier this week I met with an entrepreneur that has had a business for quite sometime, but it has been very stagnant for years. He works a full time job and has never focused full time on the venture. Consequently the venture has not reached its potential.

He wants to take his business to the next level and focus on it full time,Runway
but is seeking to raise $50,000-$100,000 to pay himself a salary to do so. I explained to him that this is not what investors typically want their money to go towards and suggested that he build himself a runway. He replied, “what is a runway?” I explained.

So many times people think they need a large capital infusion to focus on their business, but that is only one type of runway. There are so many other ways to get a business off the ground.

So what exactly is a runway?

In aviation a runway is: A leveled strip of smooth ground along which aircraft take off and land.

In entrepreneurship a runway is: A foundation that enables your living expenses to be minimized or covered that enables you to dedicate time and focus on growing your venture.

*Note: the same can be said for building a runway for venture as a whole. A runway enables you to cover all of the startup costs needed before breakeven and reaching profitability.

For the purpose of this post we are focusing on helping entrepreneurs themselves understand and build runways. Truth be told, raising money for a venture can be close to a full time job in itself and investors are more likely to fund you if they know you are dedicated and have lots of time to commit. And you cannot do that, without building a runway.

Major Types of Runways for Entrepreneurs

I have leveraged essentially all of these runway methods during one time or another. Often I combined numerous runways as I sought to bring visions into existence.

1. Leverage Your University (or High School if you’re younger)

Whether you’ve gotten a scholarship or relying on student loans, attending college can be a great runway. While most students are taking classes then spending their time drinking, chasing parties or their next date; you can focus on the love of your life…your startup.  The student loans that you are paying anyway provide a runway that enables you to focus time on your venture.  You can also plugin into and leverage the network of the university (successful alumni, knowledgeable professors, other studentpreneurs, etc), which could lead to great friendships, mentors, potential customers, future employees, employers if your venture doesn’t pan out, and more. Consider taking online classes or night classes can give you even more time to dedicate to your venture.

2. Prize Money from Business Plan Competitions & Pitch Events

There are many organizations that host business plan competitions and pitch events for local entrepreneurs. Some are organized specifically for students and others are open to the community. During college I was able to win over $18,500 in funds through several different business plan competitions. This kind of money can go a long way especially if your living expenses are not very high.

3. Consulting Clients or Virtual Part-Time Jobs

Having your own clients, or being a part-time employee that can work virtually can enable you to bring funds to cover your costs while you are able to spend much of your time working on your business venture.

4. Starting a Service Business & Investing Profits (Hunting to Survive. Gardening to Thrive)

The example I tend to give related to this is a young entrepreneur starting a local landscaping business to bring in funds (hunting for clients) then using the income not only to live on, but to invest in some sort of product oriented venture that isn’t leveraging your time, but using the asset to make money (gardening). I did this through my service-based business (Marketing Agency) Brand Advance. I actively invested our profits into supporting various business ventures such as GroupTable, Bright Impact, ApartmentsUCF and most recently OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org. By investing in ventures out of your profits you are starting to garden and these seeds you plant can lead to passive income or great gains in the future.

5. Invest in Income Producing Real Estate

Back in 2010 I realized how risky entrepreneurship can be. It can be a constant grind and you are never guaranteed a venture is going to work out no matter how passionate you are, how great of an idea it is, or what traction you have. Things happen. Life happens. Markets change, hardships happen, clients get lost, employees or partners can have substance abuse issues, legal troubles can occur, or a large company can roll out a similar venture or innovation that makes what you’ve been working so hard on obsolete. Investing in quality real estate deals is something I have grown quite fond of. It helps me hedge my risk as an entrepreneur and angel investor. My first investment was a duplex with my girlfriend now wife. We lived in one side while renting the other out and virtually eliminated our rent / living expense. Here’s how we did it.

After one of my software ventures generated a good amount of income, I struggled with scaling the software to other customers. After many market-fit conversations and tests I decided investing more into my software was too risky without a validated strategic direction. I decided to take this profit, distribute it and my wife and I purchased another duplex in 2014. We made decent income along the way then sold it two years later for a great gain.

6. Live with an Understanding Significant Other or Family Member

Growing a business isn’t easy. There can be long nights, lots of stress and financial hardships. If you are fortunate to having a significant other or family member that is working and willing to float the bills for you during your startup journey that can be a great runway. This could involve moving back in at home, or even couch hopping. It isn’t a sexy lifestyle and may not be ideal for your dating life, but if utilized effectively can be very valuable for your startup. Back in 2008 and 2009 I was working very hard. My girlfriend, now wife had moved down to Florida after one year of long distance. She believed in me, but couldn’t understand why I wasn’t bringing in the money she knew I was worth. I remember we got in a big discussion after a while because she wanted me to just take one of the full time job offers I received (some of which were very strong especially for a recent grad). I wouldn’t budge. She has guest posted here about the experiences of being the significant other of a startup entrepreneur here:

My wife is wonderful and very supportive. Interestingly enough, within the last years the tables turned and she co-founded a business that merged her passions of helping people and horses. I had to be the one supporting her as she had long hours with no pay.

 

7. Finance through Customer Sales

This is one of the best ways to grow. When I was looking to fund a startup I decided to start a marketing agency to provide me an income and flexibility as I did so. I took no initial loans for the marketing agency and had no investor, but in our first full year (2009) we had $220,000 in sales. I had a strong marketing background, but had a model that enabled me to finance my growth through sales without carrying much overhead. I would simply understand the needs of a client, spec out the project, obtain estimates from contractors I knew and trusted then receive a deposit from the client to get started before paying the contractor. This way, the first year we didn’t come out of pocket at all to grow.  I eventually hired an account manager to coordinate the projects then brought on more full time employees as we grew. However my initial approach enabled us to get off the ground without outside funding.

So consider putting together enough of your concept to sell it to your customers for a deposit. Then using that money to support you and fund your venture. Make sure you have a long enough lead time, or a way to refund the customer if you are not able to deliver.

8. Obtaining an Anchor Client

This is similar to financing through Customer Sales, but it involves finding a great customer that can pay you a lot to cover your costs. The risk in this is that you are not diversified and if that client goes away, so does your runway. Nevertheless I have found that often times bigger companies with big budgets can be much less stressful and pay far more than certain smaller clients that could even be entitled at times and demand far more than the value of what they are able to afford.

9. A liquidity Event (Earning a large bonus, commission, or selling an asset such as another business, home, car, stocks, etc.)

If you are fortunate enough to have built or acquired a valuable asset(s), or have a large commission or bonus coming, this can be a great runway for your startup. When acquiring a good sum of money there are always risks and rewards. What are you going to do with it? Do you want to be safe or risky as an investor? If you truly believe in your startup and have done proper planning including many validation conversions and tests to determine market/fit then go for it.

10. Parent or Relative Financial Support or Gifts

Originally my parents were pushing me to become a teacher. Primarily because they were educators and had contacts for me to get a good job out of school. My junior year at a school in Pittsburgh I decided to switch majors, move to Florida and attend UCF.

My parents were not very supportive at first, especially because I decided to redirect my focus education and playing college basketball to entrepreneurship. I remember my father telling me that the only people that are successful in business were family legacy type businesses, and large corporations.

My parents and family eventually came around as they started seeing my success and know are huge supporters. However, they have never given me money for any of my businesses or co-signed on a business loan. After graduating college I paid all my bills including my car, rent, phone, etc.

I do know several people, including friends, that have had parents pay for their cars, large deposits on their houses, and even give gifts of money to help them focus on their business. This can be a great runway if you are fortunate enough to have this opportunity. If you are accept it with gratitude and a thankful heart realizing that many don’t have this opportunity.

11. Getting a Loan or Line of Credit

A loan is another commonly sought way to get a runway. Loans are a very important, but risky tool that must be used with care. However, with the right loan you can move far faster than with bootstrapping while maintaining ownership of your company. I’m a huge fan of having lines of credit for your business and real estate. Rather than get a loan for a lump sum and pay interest on the balance, with a line of credit you are not charged unless you use the funds, however you have the ability to move quickly on opportunities and invest in specific initiatives to help grow your business.

12. Raising Investment Rounds

This is probably the most common runway that people focus on. Working with angel investors, wealthy individuals that will invest for your business for a percentage, or early-stage venture capital firms seek to fuel the growth of startups with hopes to receive a 5-10X+ return on their money in a specific period of time (3 years, etc). This kind of runway can potentially give you a very solid runway to take flight, however there are risks with this approach as well. Finding the right investor is very important. If you are relatively new to the business world, you should typically look for experienced entrepreneurs that have turned into investors that can not only give you money, but also guidance. This is known as “smart money”.  On the flip side, you may not want to give up control of your business and some investors are very adamant about the direction you should go and that direction may differ from the vision you have. It’s possible that both approaches could be successful, but if there is dissension causing the venture to be slit in multiple directions this can cause a lot of problems.

You’ve heard the saying…”A house divided cannot stand.” or the “Too many cooks in the kitchen” problem.

Final Thoughts

Starting and growing a business to profitability is not easy. Startups are like babies. They are needy and crave attention. They want what they need when they need it or the market and opportunity may pass them by. In order to provide for the business you first have to be able to cover your own basic needs (Like on the airplanes you must put your mask on first before helping your child). Nobody will care for your startup like you, the founder(s). Building runways give you the ability to explore the potential of your venture. But it is important to remember that no runway lasts forever. If your runway is running out, then you have to build another one ASAP or you risk going off the runway and crashing.

I hope that you found this post to be valuable and useful on your startup quest.

Are there any other runways you would add? Drop me a comment or contact me.

How I got started in Real Estate investing

By: David Brim

Anyone that knows me well understands that I have been a big fan of real estate investing for quite some time. Recently I was asked how I got started in real estate investing, so I decided to share for everyone.

The backstory

My first real estate investment was seven years ago this month (November, 2010). I had just gotten engaged to my now wife Lindsay, and we were planning a wedding.

After meeting with various vendors we realized that wedding that we wanted would cost $16,000+. Even though I wanted the day to be magical and more importantly wanted my future wife to be happy, it was hard to justify to a young entrepreneur (one to two years out of college) dropping $16,000+ on one day.

Then I thought to myself, what if we didn’t have to come out of pocket for this wedding and have everything that we wanted? But how could that be possible?

The plan

After going through our personal finances I came with a plan. Our largest expense by far was the apartment we were renting ($1,350+ per month) or $16,200 per year. Nearly the same amount we would need for our wedding. Then it hit me. If I could invest in a duplex, live in one side, and rent out the other side to cover costs, I could virtually eliminate our rent expense. Then the money we would be paying for rent could go towards the wedding and the property could continue to work for us into the future.

The deal

The night I came up with the plan I found a duplex that I liked. The property was just south of downtown and built in 2008 (only two years old at the time). It was a foreclosure and the price was right. I did some numbers and was ready to jump. I pitched it to Lindsay and…she turned it down!

After working on her for a day or two she was convinced. It became much easier to convince Lindsay when she saw how nice the property was. She also knew how passionate and sure about this strategy and deal I was, so went along with it.

The benefit

The plan worked to perfection. We scheduled our wedding one year out and the savings from not having to pay rent enabled us to pay for our wedding cash with no debt. Today we still own our first duplex and it continues to add value to our lives. Years ago we moved out of one side to purchase another primary residence and now have both units working for us, plus are benefiting from the great appreciation and rental increases that the area Orlando downtown area has seen.

lucerne terrace_outside

 

From then to Now

After seeing the success we had in our first deal I knew I wanted to grow our investment real estate holdings and help others do the same. In 2014 I earned my real estate license to learn more about the real estate industry, help others in my network looking to acquire investment real estate, and find new promising deals to invest in. Today my commercial real estate services (sales, leasing, buyer representation) are offered through Results Real Estate Partners in Lake Mary, Fl.

Though I am still very involved in marketing consulting, there is no better wealth accumulation strategy in my opinion then purchasing the right multi-tenant investment property.

By investing in multi-tenant investment properties you benefit from:

  • Monthly passive income
  • Property value appreciation (our first duplex investment has more than doubled in value since we purchased it)
  • Tax benefits from depreciation and interest write offs

After this initial purchase we continued on to purchase another duplex and now our focus is on acquiring multi-tenant commercial real estate investments.

Nevertheless, we are very fond of the first duplex we acquired and our journey into the world of real estate investing.

I hope that you found our real estate investment backstory to be helpful! If I can assist in any way, or if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

007 Ways to Digitally Spy on your Competition

By: David Brim

In business it is often said that only the strong survive.  The businesses that adapt to their environment the most effectively greatly increase their chances of surviving, or better yet thriving. But so do the companies resourceful enough to learn from them.

Developing trade secrets, creating innovative offerings, and tracking market changes can take a lot of time, money and effort. Many companies, both large and small allocate substantial sums of money towards these initiatives to win. Yet there are others that lurk in the shadows – Spying on companies large and small to uncover key insights to help their business grow at a fraction of the cost.free-vector-james-bond-007_068002_james-bond-007

Now before some of you get worked up on the ethics of this topic, I want to state that I am not advocating for unethical business activities.

Monitoring your competitors, or other successful companies that you may look up to, can be equated to studying Lebron James to learn his best moves to incorporate them into your game.

There are many levels of spying. Today, we’re talking about using digital marketing tools…it’s not like we’re encouraging you to sneak into a team’s locker room during warm-ups to steal play-sheets like a certain patriotic football team that will remain nameless..(Had to sneak that in there. I am a Steelers fan!)

The internet has equipped us with the power of anonymity and empowered us to access vast amounts of information at our finger tips. We have the ability to use both, along with our many smart connected devices, to spy on our competition.

Here we go…

The activities you are about to participate in are of a highly classified nature. Use absolute discretion while executing this mission.

Agent, your mission if you choose to accept it, is to breach the digital footprint of your competitors, monitor them from a distance undetected and utilize the latest technology to extract key information. Deploy what you have learned to advance your organization…and take over the earth. Well, maybe not the last one…but at least use it to gain market share your industry 😉

Below are a few considerations to help you on your way…

  • Follow without being detected – stalk competitor social media and third party web profiles.

By following the social media properties of your competitors you can uncover updates on product releases or changes, new industries they are exploring, existing customers and new potential customers.

You can also monitor their company profiles on websites like Glassdoor (reviews from employees), Google Maps (Reviews from customers),  Amazon (if they are selling products there), etc. Understanding what customers like and don’t like about your competitors and their products can be a great learning experience for you. Often times people purchasing a product may say something like  – “I like this product, but it would be great if it had this” (or was more durable, wasn’t so expensive, had different colors, etc). These are all opportunities for your business to learn and grow. It’s one of the best focus groups you could ask for.
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  • Subscribe to competitor email newsletters

Companies use email newsletters to communicate with their potential customers, partner organizations, and investors. Consider subscribing to their competitor email newsletters or blogs – use an email that is not clearly identifiable.

  • Mine competitor websites

Websites reveal a great amount of information about a company. Take your time going through the websites of your competitors. Determine how they are positioning their company in the minds of their customers. Uncover what they are doing well, and what you think they can improve on – then review your own website and make adjustments.

  • Understand what keywords they are targeting

Your competitor may have invested in search engine optimization, or be utilizing paid search advertising. Consider checking their URL on a service like www.keywordspy.com,  www.spyfu.com or even the free Google keyword tool located in Adwords. What  keyewords are they targeting? Are these keywords you should be targeting as well?

  • View Competitor Back links 

There are great tools out there that allow you to see links pointing to your competitor websites. Why should you care? The web is made up of links. It is what makes the digital world click.  By browsing these links you can not only see what is being said about your competitors, but identify potential places that you may be able to obtain a link from. SEO algorithms regularly change, but obtaining quality links from good sources is never a bad thing and can significantly help your rankings in search engines.  Consider these tools to view your competitor back links:

  • Set up Keyword Alerts for competitor company names, products, key personnel, etc.

There are many great online monitoring tools that exist. These tools crawl websites, social media profiles, and forums looking for specific keywords that you specify. Consider using an online monitoring tool to monitor your competitor company names, key employees, brands, products, etc.  Consider utilizing free offerings such as SocialMention.com, or Google Alerts. For the experienced spy, that wants the best…consider premium offerings such as BrandWatch.com or Trackur.com. For more resources, consider this great list of social media monitoring tools.

  • Remember, Tomorrow Never Dies

Change is the one constant in life. Don’t just check out your competition one time and stick your head in the sand. Every minute of every day social media posts are occurring, press releases are being submitted, blog posts are being published, website content is being changed and more. Some of these are likely from your competitors.

Final Briefing

There are many that discuss the power of the “First Mover Advantage” – the idea of getting to market first with a new offering, innovation, message, or positioning. While being the “First mover” can have it’s benefits, remember…Pioneers were often the ones that met their demise with arrows in their back when exploring uncharted territory.  Spying, or should I say “learning”, from competitor wins, successes, innovations, and marketing efforts can help you establish a stronger position to win in your respective marketplace.

Now it is time to put these suggestions into practice.

So get your favorite drink (shaken or stirred), open that laptop or smart device, put on some James Bond music and get to work.

Remember the success of your organization is resting on your shoulders.

Good luck Agent.


I crafted this originally as a guest post for Access Information.

Will infrastructure projects and tax reductions improve the economy?

By: David Brim

Over the last seven years, I have had the opportunity to work with and get to know Chris Gibbons, the founder of Economic Gardening. Economic Gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to economic development that focuses on growing second-stage companies within communities across the country, as compared to traditional economic development initiatives that focus on recruiting outside companies to relocate and bring jobs with them.

Chris recently shared his thoughts on the economy as well as the proposed tax reduction and infrastructure improvements with me and several others via email. I always enjoy reading and listening to his perspective on the economy and thought my subscribers and network would find it interesting as well.

With his permission, here is a guest post from Chris Gibbons, the founder of Economic Gardening.

Will infrastructure projects and tax reductions improve the economy?

water-pipesI tend to think of economic systems as closed systems – like a big field of interconnected pipes.  The water (money) is always there, always moving in the system.

So we can’t say the money goes to someone (rich people, government, China) – it always goes through someone on the way to the next place.  Government workers buy clothes, food and cars just like everyone else.  China uses its trade imbalance (accumulated US dollars) to buy U.S. government debt.  Rich people buy mansions and yachts.

Diverting money out of the private sector pipes (via taxes) to build infrastructure does not put more water into the system – it only moves the existing water over into public sector pipes which will dump it back into private sector pipes shortly thereafter (bridge builders buy food that evening).  It’s not new money coming into the economy, it’s just a diversion from the main set of pipes into a side set of pipes and then back into the main set.

In the reverse situation, reducing taxes takes money out of the public sector pipes and funnels it into the private sector pipes. Instead of the policeman or city planner buying groceries that weekend, someone in the private sector takes their tax refund and buys groceries. There is no new wealth; there is no new water in the pipes—only water directed out of the public pipe into the private pipe.  The dollar amount in the economy is exactly the same – the only thing that changes is what it is spent on (a public good like a policeman’s salary or a private good like a new washer and dryer).

The point is  — none of these activities increase the amount of wealth in the economy.  They are zero sum actions.  Add a tax refund in the private sector and subtract the same amount from the public sector.  Take taxes out of the private sector to build infrastructure and add it to the public sector account.  Add them together and the sum is zero.

The discussion should be around innovation.  It is innovation creates new products, new companies, new jobs, new wealth.  Innovation puts new water in the pipes.

Christian Gibbons

Thanks for sharing this Chris.

Though tax cuts and infrastructure improvements will greatly benefit certain individuals and companies (especially the ones getting big contracts); I agree that from a macro level this merely moves money around as compared to growing the top line of the economy (adding new water into the pipes – great analogy!). We can only hope that the individuals and companies that benefit the most from these cuts and projects will reinvest their profits into innovation. When people and companies have more than enough – think Google – they can afford to invest more heavily in R&D and social good initiatives. The question is will they? We’ll have to wait and see.

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