We’ll Always

There are a few ideas that I have about improving Simplifilm.

First – that I’m always going to find the best clients I can.  That has meant – even when in August – we were booked out 7 months…that we were looking for new clients. Because we knew eventually we’d need them, and some times the sales cycle is a week.  Other times the sales cycle is 3 months.

Still more often, people think they have a deadline, but what they really need is a nearly magical video.

I was looking for clients then – when we had plenty to do – and now, I have probably nearly 6 figures that I can harvest from that.   More connections than I need.  The fact that I was looking for clients – even when we couldn’t help – means that I’m first in line with a lot of great people and companies.

And my competition, bless their hearts, aren’t.

It recently occurred to me that there were more things that we could – and should be doing.  For example: we should always be recruiting talent.  Even when we don’t have projects.  Even when we don’t have something to start on.

We got extraordinarily lucky when we got our first great finds, and we (I) didn’t know how hard it would be to find people at the level we are after.

So here are things we’ll always do – every week…

  • Recruit Writers
  • Recruit Animators
  • Find Clients
  • Blog
  • Look for trade shows.
  • Talk to Journalists
  • Connect people together (for free, because we should)
This is what we’re going to do always it’s the work/glue behind what we do.
Now, personally, there’s an “always” set of things:
  • Read
  • Write
  • Run
  • Express Gratitude

Blocking Yahoo and Other Sites

About a year ago, I blocked yahoo.com and a bunch of other sites from my Mac.

I used the directions here to make it happen.

Anyway, I sill find myself going to Yahoo.Com about 3 times a week.  Just the home page. The habit isn’t worn out even though I’ve put a barrier up.

It gets to how hard it is to change a habit.

Stupid Advice

Screen Shot 2011-10-20 at 4.43.45 PM

I used to dole out all sorts of stupid advice to people that are smarter than me.

The gist of it was this: “You should add a layer of known complexity to your business for some unknown, possible revenue.”

I’m on the receiving end of this now. Simplifilm should have a reseller agreement, a finance plan, an admin, a this, a that. It’s exhausting and moderately insulting. Most of the advice is something I’ve tried.

The reseller agreement that everyone wants but nobody can close is the frequent one.

I look at one of the companies I love: 37 Signals. They base things on staying convenient for them. 

 This is the way to do things. You are given a service that’s designed to simplify life for 37 Signals. They are fine to do this.

This minimizes energy expenditure chasing receivables and other things. As Simplifilm redesigns its website and web copy, we’re going to take a page here and keep things brutally simple.

We run the company based on what’s working not based on what idiots that don’t have a business as good as mine think that we should do.

The Resistance, Again

Right now, I’m on the cusp of doing something cool.

I’ve been broke a couple times, I’ve had many months of money a couple times. Most of the time, I’ve been paying debt and making excuses.

Right now, I’m on the cusp again of punching through. I’m not excited about it like I had been. I don’t feel that lunatic burn. I know how hard it is to keep it, to not self destruct and to stay humble.

This is the nature of the resistance. Internal and external resistance are flaring up right now, right now, as I have a chance to break free and punch through. Drama at home, drama from clients, everything is an advertsisment for self destruction.

Have a drink, play some video games, blow off a client, overreact to an itinerant remark. Fight with my wife. All of it’s more possible now.

I’m less sure of myself than ever. I don’t ever know quite what to do next because on the one hand I don’t want to screw it all up.

It’s hard, wrestling with this demon every day. I’ve never quite won. I am not underestimating it, I think it’s going to get harder still before it gets easier. I am, say, a month and a half away from doing amazing stuff if I can keep my head in the game and stay the course. Just be cool, just get shit done, just be mellow.  I tell myself all sorts of things to not melt down.

I turned the comments off on the blog and will hide them from view. A couple posts got shared on Hacker news.

The validation trap was hurting me.

Right now it’s focus, focus, focus. The resistance is going to come, in many nasty ways, I’m getting into its inner sanctum. I’ve gotta beat it down with all that I have.

Endorsements Are Not a Business Model

Listen, there’s nothing new under the sun.  Just because someone has tons of endorsements, that doesn’t mean squat.

There’s a self organizing delusional cult out there, and you can too, for just $129.99.  Got it? You can launch your tiny coaching business from nothing and conquer the world.

It’s a crock. It’s a trap that will keep you in a game that never makes you money.  You’ll self destruct.

Read this whole thing and you won’t. I promise. You’ll see the truth and do better.

First, let’s explain where online authority comes from.

Page Rank Doesn’t Account for Bots and Spinners

Let’s take the example of Page Rank by Google. The first premise of PageRank is this: that every single page on the web has a tiny amount of Page Rank. This represents a “credit” for the effort it took to make the web page. Page Rank is authority transferred and aggregated.  If many links go to one site, that site accumulates Page Rank.

Content producers need to gin up links, but there is a problem. PageRank presumes that human effort created the content.

PageRank won’t know how to deal with aggregators and bots and content spinners. If a bot can do 10,000 pages an hour, all different, is there value there? The teensy amounds of page rank add up and pass authority to sites where it doesn’t belong. Even with Panda stuff happens.

What if the page itself was create only to transfer the minuscule amount of presumed authority upstream? Does it then have the intrinsic authority that PageRank implies? This is how you used to game the search engines. A bunch of crap pages in a box somewhere. Farm-ZineArticles and its ilk. Google’s been combating this since its first days, most recently with the “Panda” update.

Larry Page’s PageRank  premise of PageRank was that human effort was behind a page, and someone wanted it up. What if no human did it?  If even 1% of the spun content gets into the index of Google, we’re all screwed because 1% of a trillion pages is too many.

When the basis of Authority works with a faulty assumption, it follows that there are problems everywhere.

The Echo Chamber is Self Organizing

Social proof is hacked. Proof is now meaningless in many ways.

We rely, to some degree, on social social proof to buy things.  Yelp gets a ton of traffic selling our reviews back to us. We look at who our Facebook friends are friends with before making a choice.  We purchase because of social proof. It’s shorthand.

When you hack this and pervert social proof, you can win. Let’s consider the case of a pretend author that wrote a book.

Let’s take Tom Hopkins, business author, a our hypothetical example.  We often see quotes from him on the front – and back – cover of various sales books.

“Oh, Tom Hopkins said on the front cover that this book doesn’t suck?  Well, shoot, I’ll have a gander.”   Once a book is in your hand, you may be persuaded to buy it. We don’t understand that Tom may well charge a fee for some consulting service that includes a review.  This may be $5,000 and it may be more. It’s implied that the review will be favorable in the consulting deal.

Tom’s endorsement is worth 5 stacks.  Tom lends his credibility to the new author.  People buy.

The new Author–we’ll call him Steve– buys a “consulting” package that includes a nice implied pull quote from Tom Hopkins.

In exchange, the new Author–let’s call him Steve–is now dependent on Tom can’t ever say that Tommy hasn’t had a good idea since the 1970s. (Which is true).

The new author  won’t t say that because he’s trapped by the endorsement. Bought off. It works just as well for Tom, because he’s now insulated from criticism. Can’t take shots at someone that you got an endorsement from. Roger Ebert has a fascinating take on this idea.

When Steve hired Tom to “consult” on the book package, he didn’t understand that he was forever compromising his ability to deliver criticism to Tom.  ”Come over here dear boy, welcome to the machine.” (To mix up some Pink Floyd lyrics.)

It doesn’t require malice or fraud.  On Tom’s side, he’s well intentioned. He has connections, and people probably ask about making that  book deal. So Tom offers some consulting as a way to help. He probably means well.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

-Upton Sinclair

Some fabulously hilarious writers I know think that there’s overt corruption. There might be, but I think it’s mostly just daddy issues.

The Bloggers Make This Happen at LightSpeed

I’ve been sick of blogs lately. I unsubscribed to a ton of ‘em because they have all echoed the same shit for 2 years. Bereft of real insight or value, once great blogs have become content farms of sorts where riffs on the 4 basic themes are played:

  • Lifestyle marketing and the new rich is the way to go.
  • Corporations are dead and meetings totally suck
  • Content marketing is what smart people do.
  • Ron Paul! Ron Paul! Ron Paul!

The bloggers offer this incestuous compromise at light speed.

What if a blogger exists only to promote someone else’s stuff? This could be called an affiliate marketer. Does that endorsement matter? If I endorse the company I work for, does it matter? A little, maybe, but it’s still perverted.

What happens when social proof itself is purchased? Newt has some ideas about this.

What happens when an idiot endorses a famous blogger with a great and compelling testimonial?  Do you think the blogger will turn down the chance to put a photo there and caption it? No chance. What if they are batshit nuts, delusional and emotionally unhinged?  Hey, the endorsement sounds great, let’s go with it. Batshit people need beacons too.

Why I Know This

Let me tell you a story.

When I was selling websites (badly), I collected testimonial videos. I might have 40 of ‘em lying around. They helped me sell websites.   sold pretty well, I delivered badly. This isn’t self loathing, it’s a fact.

I never once asked a customer to lie. But they did. I know this. They said they were getting benefits that they never got. I had their hosting, saw the traffic first hand. My customers were trying to help me. They lied, all the time. They said that I was better than I was. I never asked for this.

I never asked for this. Not once. I never used the known lies in my marketing.  I had to restrain people and ask them to be truthful. All I wanted was to get them to say that the process was good, but unprompted they made ridiculous claims about their fake success.  I didn’t understand why, but they were simply hoping it was coming true.

I just showed them how to record on Youtube in 3 easy steps. My customers were kind, nice people.  Mostly Realtors, mortgage folks and their ilk.  None of them ever meant to do anything but benefit me.  The exaggerated because they were delusional.  It was a mystifying  - and unintended – social experiment

Some famous blogger will take an endorsement, put it on a product page, and the new blogger will get to have the benefit of being part of the club. So, it’s in the new blogger’s interest to gin up as many product endorsements as possible, and play as nice as possible.  Then they can too, you see?

Everyone is compromised, nobody has malice or fraudulent intentions. Everyone probably even means well, despite why my fabulously hilarious acquaintance says. Nobody feels compromised: of course we could tell off the big blogger.

This also compromises new ideas.  Our economy is in need of the destruction of old ideas. There are bad ideas being portrayed as truth abut everything.  I don’t often agree with everything a lot of bloggers say, but

Again: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. 

Our inherent biological valuation of social proof probably presumes it won’t be hacked.  Like PageRank, it is probably assumed that we aren’t gaming the system, and our presence there is an endorsement of sorts.  We all know somethings amiss, we have that queazy feeling, but we can’t place it.

Kiss the ring, promote our stuff, and someday you might get to guest post regularly.  When you do, you’re forever unable to say anything bad.  Be a good company man. Don’t bite the hand that has made you. No money needs to change hands, the rules are understood tacitly.

I’m Compromised, Too

Take this at face value: I’m compromised. When a client buys from me – be it a website or anything else, I’m going to be publicly cordial forever. They are a customer, I’m not going to rip a customer, it’s simply poor form. You’d be scared of me if I went all Mike Arrington on my own, and I don’t have that kind of style.

Only classless people gossip about others.  Even if circumstances change,  I am bought off and I’ll shut up.  So take this stuff as it is.  The blogosphere – from the Blogworld folks and around them – have all sold out, tacitly. There’s no room for dissent because there’s money to be had.

There’s also upward mobility- you can grind your way up the food chain pretty quickly, I’ve watched others do it.

I don’t have any immature  urge to tell my former clients a thing or two online. That does no good.  There are a couple we have no plans (or, fortunately, need) to do business with.  But I’m not “naming names.” Just be aware that things aren’t what they seem. My clients lied freely and without prompting.

Be Picky

I’ve spun my wheels with about 10 people that have wanted to resell our products.

Not one has done so.  We’ve gotten referrals galore, but everyone that “wants a cut” before we work together is not the type of people we want to work with.

Every stranger wants to derail you. Don’t let it happen.

 

There’s No Drama At Simplifilm

We are going to die. Our ends, on this planet are going to be ugly. This is clear. We’re going to age, lose our ability to control our bodies, and maybe even our mental facilities. We are going to die.

So let’s have some perspective, OK?

It doesn’t matter – really – if we lose a sale.

It doesn’t matter – really – if we are late on a delivery.

It doesn’t matter – really – if we don’t want to work with a customer.

We can’t be held hostage by anyone else’s money, we can’t be held hostage by a deadline. It matters if we respect each other and we’re kind to one another. It matters if we set an example.

So, what governs us at Simplifilm is the simple idea: There’s no Drama At Simplifilm. None. Zip, zilch, nada. It’s not allowed. We’re not allowed to feel stress, we work as hard as we can.

But the work we do – as good as it is – is just a lubricant for commerce. We’re doing the very best work of our kind on earth. We get to help people that make cool things.  We get to tell stories.  But all of what we’re doing is not worth feeling anger, or being upset at one another.

It’s not worth getting insulted, or reducing ourselves to insult someone else. It’s not worth being in someone’s thrall.

There’s no drama at Simplifilm.

See? That’s a mantra. Because it informs the rest of it.  We raise our prices to scare off the crazies.

We work at a sane pace on sane projects to keep our energy up.

We hustle every day so we can accumulate options (which is what selling does).  We execute the ones that make the most sense to us. We can afford to say no to great clients.

We can refund or terminate any client that insults us. All of this without rancor, without nastiness, without drama. If something doesn’t go as planned, w’re prepared, and we account for it in the next batch.

We don’t make the same mistake twice.

We’re not there yet. We haven’t processed out all of the bottlenecks and friction points at Simplifilm. But listen: when you do excellent work, you don’t have to be around failures. You can be free to create because you’ve winnowed out the nonsense. We work hard to figure out ways to get better. But with hostility, stupidity, bad clients, nothing goo happens.

Personal Branding Is Not a Business Model [Confessions of a Recovering Social Media Dbag]

You’re going to hate this post.  You should probably stop reading.

This post isn’t going to make us friends.  It could even tarnish my “personal brand.”

Really, you should go. The couple hundred readers that followed me here from GenuineChris are gonna be mad.  You’ll think I’ve lost my last marble.  But I’ve got to say this. I have two true-believers left. This has to be said.

Personal Branding is a waste of time. Totally, completely, and without any major exceptions. It might make cash but…only when  you can position yourself atop some ponzi scheme.  When you do that, you lose touch with who you are. When you do that, you become some slithering reptile that monetizes every connection. You lose track of who you are, and you pontificate instead of creating.

I had a teensy personal brand, of sorts.  Real estate people followed me from Lenderama, Bloodhound Blog and other places. I made a couple ridiculous e-books. (Note: that particular one is 80% half joking, to quote yogi berra, and if you want one, I’ll get you a copy, just lemme know in the comments).

Nowadays I have a business.  This site?  Not a business. Never will be. Just some place where I get things off of my chest, and consecrate my thoughts. A sandbox. Something that’s intentionally relatively anonymous.  Not hidden; anyone looking me up can find it. But not “out there.” It shouldn’t surprise too many people.

My business is the real deal. I hustle, I find people that need what we do, and I tell ‘em we do it. That’s about the gist of it.

Together with my partner, we’re looking for great stories to tell, and we’re taking the simple “demo movie” farther than we’ve seen anyone go. Our stuff sells because Jason is a total pro. I’ve learned from working with him, it’s a treat personally, professionally, spiritually.

I’ve barely blogged about it. Because I’m fucking working, you know. Get that? This site is just an indulgence to clear my head and to keep some notes. I have to write or else I’m constipated, and people get irritable when they are full.. But the real work I do has nothing to do with this site. It also had nothing to do with GenuineChris, Guerrilla.Me or any of the other umpteen flailing iterations of what I was trying to do.

It’s Never About You – It’s Always About The Work

It used to be (back in, say, February) that I believed I was some sales supergenius when I netted a couple extra 3 figure sales. I puffed out my chest like a rooster.  Coffee’s for closers, baby. Mmm buddy, text the wife and call your mom, you don’t have to give plasma this week…

I’m operating at a different level now, and the work I’m doing has more numbers before the comma, and the companies I serve have many, many more numbers before their commas. It still doesn’t matter. I’m just one fungible vendor, effortlessly replaced. Many people do the work we do. Adding friction to what I do would be dumb. A personal brand is not going to make my clients get their videos any faster.

Ryan talks about losing confidence, but I know the second I get even a little, I’m toast. Willie tells me I need to spotlight what I’ve done.  Last thing I need. I’m 35, and my net worth is underwater.  That’s part of my “personal brand.”

What do you really do?  What do you make? You don’t inspire people to be more free, the epic conference call almost never is. You might be around when they convince themselves to do something different, but you didn’t cause it. Personal branding is a ripoff, at worst, and an undisciplined sales call at best..  What gets made because of you? And are you selling delusions, or are you being of real live service to others? Do people want or need that help?

I spent 3 years towing my ridiculous brand around, behind whatever I did.  I had to think “is it authentic? transparent?  is it me? Does it fit?”  Really, I did.  ”Is it in your face enough?” I was never less sure of what I was doing. I had traction.  I was too broke to be any of the things I pretended to be. You think I wouldn’t have taken any sort of bribe? Heh. The whole world is lucky my kid never got sick or hurt and I never had to make any real hard decisions.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

-Upton Sinclair

I was ready to “believe” anything because I was scared about as shitless as my wife.

Creating a persona is a waste of time. Do real work.

Even Tom Peters – who is credited with inventing the concept of personal branding pushes out content that says “it’s not about what you say about yourself.

Create character. Cultivate kindness.Fix people’s problems. Listen to the bitching on Twitter, and offer a real solution to whatever’s ailing them. That’s how you use social media – if someone is whining about broken widgets, and you fix widgets, connect.

Personal Branding adds no value. What problems were solved because you became known as “the Firecracker coach?” Or whatever.

What you want to do is be preternaturally competent, you want to make it dead simple to do business with you and you always, always want to be around to help others.  When you do that, things change, you get traction and life gets better for you.

[note: I took a bunch of links out of this thing because it came off as mean. the ones I left are from people that can take it and won't notice a pebble being thrown at a battleship]