Archive for the ‘Efficiency’ Category

Inside the Mind of Mike O’Donnell – August 2013

Posted on August 11th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Cave Tools, Couch Surfing, Efficiency, Goal Setting, Lessons, Management, Media Buying, My Story, Self Improvement, Shipping | No Comments »

This is more of a general update kind of post where I want to touch on a bunch of different things that are going on and also take a snapshot of what I’m thinking right now and planning for in the coming months.

Hyacinth Marketing

First things first, we have Hyacinth Marketing. The company is doing pretty well right now and I have been using almost all of the profits to support the growth of Cave Tools. If I didn’t have my clients at Hyacinth, I wouldn’t have nearly enough capital to be as aggressive as I am with Cave Tools. Right now the only sales I’m doing for the company is attending my breakfast meetings with the Million Dollar Marketing (MDM) group. In the past 2 months I’ve given 3 prepared speeches to this group of Doylestown business owners and these guys literally think I’m the smartest marketing person they’ve ever met. I share a ton of strategies and advice with them and they have been referring a good amount of clients over to me. It’s literally like having my own sales team working for me. They actually invited me to a golf outing next Friday with a ton of business owners in the area, so I’m really excited about that. Apparently the keg is tapped 2 hours prior to tee off so it should be a fun day.


The Unlimit3d project also started almost a month ago. I built a project management platform for this entire project and between my team and theirs, we have about 9 people communicating and sharing files every day. However, even with the ease of collaboration we are already falling behind schedule. As far as my estimates go now, I think we are between 10-20 working days behind where we need to be to keep pace. The problem is that we are still stuck in the graphic design phase and because Unlimit3d has so many people involved on their end, nobody is taking the lead on feedback because they are afraid everyone wont agree. This is causing us to have feedback response times of close to 48 hours sometimes and it is really slowing things down. I’ve had a bunch of talks with Unlimit3d and my development team on ways to improve efficiency with the feedback process. They’re getting better, but at this point we are already behind and there’s not much we can do about it because we don’t want to start coding and then have to do a ton of rework. The entire website is broken into 6 milestones, so the longer milestone 1 takes, the longer I need to wait for my milestone 2 payment and the less aggressive I can be with using that money on Cave Tools.

Cave Tools

Speaking of Cave Tools, we’ve gone profitable! Well…only for a short period of time. I described Cave Tools to my friend the other day like this, “I started out by digging a 2 inch deep whole with my initial investment. As soon as I filled it up to the surface, I decided to dig a 4 inch hole in the same spot. I’ve filled that up a couple inches so far, but then the other day I just dug another 6 inches deep.” Basically, due to such a lengthy supply chain (approx 2 months), even though I am making profit, I am not making enough to support growth on the timeframe that I need it. Therefore, I’m drawing money from Hyacinth to drive growth and hoping to make it back on the backend.

Right now I have another shipment of 2,000 grill brushes on its way to me now. Due to the money restrictions, I was late on placing my replenishment order in time to make sure I don’t stock out. It took 20 days to manufacture the next batch of brushes, but because of my tardiness I had to split the shipment into 400 brushes via air and 1,600 via boat. To put the cost in perspective, it costs me about $900 to ship 400 brushes via air and about $1,200 to ship 1,600 brushes via boat. That’s a ton of money I’m now losing because I don’t want to be faced with a stock out. This also counts as 2 separate imports, so instead of paying the fees twice, I decided to get a continuous import bond. Now, I’m a registered importer and can do as many imports as I want for a year without paying a fee each time. It’ll pay off by the end of the year, but for now it’s more money. The 2,000 grill brushes was my 4 inch hole. My new product line is the 6 inch hole…

Product Development

My next product line is a 3 piece grill set: Spatula, Fork, Tongs. From a money standpoint, this is pretty much triple my initial investment for just the brush because we have 3 new items. Depending on my cash flow, I may have to actually take investment to afford it, but I really don’t want to do that.

I haven’t paid to start manufacturing yet though because I’m waiting on my samples to arrive, hopefully this upcoming week. I’m super excited about this because I literally spent hours researching different sets and designing these samples. For the grill brush I just picked out a certain model, but the 3 piece set I actually designed. I also had a mold developed so I can brand them with the Cave Tools logo. Here’s a few pictures of what they look like:





I can’t wait to get my hands on them and just hold them! My goal with this set was to make them incredibly strong and durable. I took the average steel thickness in the grilling utensils market and increased my thickness by 20%. For approximately $0.40 per unit extra in steel, I will probably be able to increase my sell price by about $4-5. I have 2 sample sets coming in right now. One has a strengthen slot, which curves the metal a little bit to make it stronger and the other is just flat steel. I’m going to be comparing the two and also soliciting feedback from people to see which they prefer more.

These sets will most likely retail in the $30 dollar range. The best Weber set sells for $31 so I’m thinking of charging $32-35. I have a bunch of marketing ideas planned for when I finally launch the set and I’m also going to be building an early bird waiting list primarily via facebook where people can get a 20% coupon. I’m also thinking of doing a direct mail campaign to all of my grill brush customers. Something like a teaser post card with a coupon code.

Sales Trends

From a trend standpoint, I have noticed that my week to week growth has started to level out. We’re still making solid sales numbers, but the growth has slowed down, which is not good at all. I think it is do to a combination of our promotion efforts slacking a bit (Because I am very busy with Hyacinth) and possibly the seasonal effect. We are getting closer to the end of the summer so people are probably just not buying as many brushes. I have a couple of solutions on my success list to keep my growth trending up and protect against a winter slump in sales. My success list is different from my daily to-do list in the sense that these are strategic business advancements that will take my business to the next level. Building my wholesale program for instance was something on my success list.

Success List

At the top of my list right now is utilizing Multichannel Fulfillment to increase my ecommerce footprint. So what does this mean? I’ve outsourced all of my warehousing and customer service to Amazon and yes, they charge me an arm and a leg for it. Since I’m already paying them for this stuff, I might as well use them for sales I make outside of Amazon. Basically, my goal is to get listed on as many ecommerce stores as I can and when orders come in from those channels, I pass them through to Amazon and have Amazon ship for me. This means I can now get listed on websites like and and the other big ecommerce stores on the internet. There are many benefits to this from a marketing standpoint, sales, brand awareness, etc. I’m in the process of compiling a list of sites right now that I want to target. Then I need to build the processes to automate order handling from the various websites. This creates more of a management aspect for me unlike Amazon where when I make a sale they instantly do all of the order management. If I’m late on passing my orders through, then I get bad feedback and pissed off customers. That can’t happen. I also need to build processes to track my profit and loss on each website so I can be sure to focus my marketing efforts at the high converting channels. Finally, I need to figure out how to simplify all of this so my assistant can handle everything for me and just give me a weekly progress report. Sounds difficult, but I get a chubby for business development work, so I’m excited to take on the challenge.

Next up on the success list is becoming an expert at media buying. Media buying scares the shit out of me because it costs a lot of money and I have heard tons of stories of people losing their shirt with poor purchases. In short, media buying entails building out a profile for my ideal customer (ex: Male, 21-35 yrs old, interested in grilling, etc.) and then running targeted banner advertisements on the websites that the person hangs out on. I could run the adds by going through an advertising network or by doing direct purchases from individual websites. In order to do direct purchases, I need to build my own ad server to rotate and serve my ads. This is cheaper in the long run, but to get enough test data I’m going to need to go through an ad network.

The ad networks used to be reserved for just the big brands like Coke because they have outrageous minimum budgets like $10,000. Just to get enough sample data to optimize a campaign, you need to blow through at least $5,000 and have enough money left over to make it all back. However, Real Time Bid (RTB) networks have become readily available in the past few years which makes it easier for someone like me to break in. Basically, I’ll be able to bid in real time on remnant advertizing inventory that wasn’t sold via the big networks. I’ll still have to blow through about $500 in a test budget, but then I can optimize my campaign for the highest converting websites and approach them for direct buys.

My strategy for Media Buying is to target websites with a large visitor base that matches up to my demographic and also target sites with a visitor base primarily in the southern U.S. states. This way I can keep my sales consistent during the winter time in the north. In order to do this the right way and not lose a bunch of money, I need to do significant competitive intelligence research to figure out what the highest converting offers are for the grilling industry (ex: Free Recipe books, discount coupons, etc.). Once I figure out what my offer will be, I need to create it and then drive traffic to an email opt in form where I will give it away. Then I need to convert email leads into product sales on the back end. It sounds funny, but I don’t want to do what Weber is doing because they are very corporate. A lot of their marketing is designed for branding, not direct response marketing. I’ll probably end up breaking down all of Grill Daddy’s advertising because they are more of an internet based company.

Retargeting is also going to be a big factor in boosting my conversions. Retargeting is placing a cookie on someone’s browser when they visit your site, which then shows your ads all over the internet and literally follows them around to make it look like you’re everywhere. The majority of people will leave my offer page right away without giving me their email, but if I retarget them I will reclaim a lot of those visitors at a later date.

To be clear, my experience with paid advertising is limited to just Google pay per click. I’m pretty good, but I’ve never run any type of campaign this complex before or built a significant email list. I have a shit ton to learn and I want to get this all set up by October so I can be ready for the winter. I purchased a media buying course the other day from some pretty respectable internet marketers and I also got my hands on some training documents from Gauher Chaudhry, who is one of the biggest paid traffic guys in the world. I’m trying to do about an hour a day of studying and then I need to start testing on a small scale so I can scale up. As scary as this is to me, I know that if I master Media Buying, I can scale the shit out of my company and start to become a big player.

Traditional Marketing

I decided I need to be doing some more traditional marketing for myself as well. Instead of just doing online press releases, I need to start getting featured in newspapers and branding myself as a young up and coming entrepreneur. This will bring publicity to both of my companies and will also help drive traffic online and give me back links from authority news services. Regardless of how much money I’ve made so far in my career (very little compared to if I had a job), my on paper resume sounds ridiculous right now: “23 year old entrepreneur who has started 2 companies in the past 2 years, conducts business all over the world, and has 8 employees in 4 different countries. Has never accepted any investment and has built everything from scratch with hard work, determination, and virtually no budget.”

I dropped a quick email to a reporter that covers the bucks county area and I have an interview coming up next week. My plan is to get featured in the business section for print and online and then use that credibility to approach larger newspapers.

Couch Surfing

I originally planned to leave for my couch surfing across America trip in September after our fantasy football draft in Atlantic City. There is no way in hell that’s a realistic option for me anymore. I have way too much shit going on to just pick up and leave. I’m also strapped for cash right now because of everything I’m working on. I’m thinking a realistic departure date is going to be sometime in March/April of 2014 because it will be getting warmer for my trip and that also gives me time to do test runs where I couch surf for say a week at a time and learn how the logistics are going to work.

Working From Starbucks

I had quite the week this week working out of different Starbucks. The only people that are in a Starbucks during the day for the most part are entrepreneurs and people doing business meetings. I always have my headphones on, but when I hear an interesting conversation going on, I turn the music off and eavesdrop with absolutely no shame. They think I’m working and listening to music, but really what I’m doing is qualifying them. For the most part, I listen for a couple minutes and then go back to work, but sometimes I find some gems. This week was a good week for me.

Early in the week, I overheard people discussing a business plan for some SAT tutoring service. They talked about SEO and the need for a website multiple times in the convo, so as soon as their meeting was done I introduced myself and gave them each my card. Later in the day, they both checked out my LinkedIn profile and then within a half hour I had a voicemail on my business line asking for a meeting with me. Easy Peasy.

On Thursday, I overheard a conversation between a real young kid and a business attorney. He’s only 21 years old and his business which I will not include here, has already done over $1 million in revenue for the year. He recently fired his cofounder because she blew 250K on bull shit and now she is causing legal problems for him. After the meeting was over, I grabbed the kid and went with the I love meeting other young entrepreneurs approach. We talked for 15 minutes about different stuff and exchanged cards. I’m planning on following up with him sometime this upcoming week and seeing if he wants to grab a few drinks. Surround yourself by smart people and build relationships with movers and shakers and somewhere down the line it will pay off.

On Friday, I was working out of a starbucks in Philadelphia. This old dude was working behind me and looked at my screen and asked if I was building a website. I wasn’t, but a conversation ensued and this guy who I thought was a kook, actually turned out to be incredibly interesting. He went from being a taxi driver, to landing a job from a passenger in his taxi, to becoming a self taught programmer, to designing one of the world’s first heart monitoring machine software’s, to becoming #1 ranked in the world at competitive air hockey, to having an asthma attack in which the doctors fucked up and paralysed him. Ever since the accident, he has problems focusing and he talks weird, which is why I thought he was kooky, but he is intelligent as fuck. We literally talked and exchange stories for 3 hours on Friday (which I made up by working until 8:30pm fml) and he has invited me to stay at his house in South Texas when I do my couch surfing trip. He also took my card and wants to introduce me to a bunch of business people he knows in Texas. During our talk, we got onto the subject of encryption and I got an entire rundown of how to encrypt devices and back them up. He was at Starbucks on Friday rebuilding a computer’s operating system and he had a bag of flash drives. Each flash drive contained its own linux operating system on it. He basically had 7 different portable operating systems stored on these encrypted flash drives that he could plug into any computer and boom he was up and running.

Based on what I learned from Joe, I set up a bunch of encrypted files on my computer today. With my level of encryption, not even the NSA could break into my computer to look at my documents if they wanted to. Seriously, and the NSA knows it, which really pisses them off. Not that the NSA would ever solicit my documents or anything like that, but if my computer were ever stolen like it was in Montreal, all of my information is safe. Furthermore, I now plan to back up my files everyday on my encrypted flash drive so I can be completely portable instead of having to drag my laptop around. Bad Ass!

Mike O’Donnell Working Hard On New Amazon Business

Posted on April 27th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Efficiency, Goal Setting, My Story, Outsourcing, Reflection | No Comments »

I made a pretty bold claim in my last post. 20 days ago I said I was going to be building a new business and would be generating good cash flow by May 10th. Well, I’ve worked for 18 of those 20 days on weekends and at nights and I’m ready to give an update.

Once I decided on grill brushes, I started interviewing manufacturers and negotiating. I decided to go with a manufacturer in China because they were obviously more competitive than the domestic manufacturers. I did however receive sample products from my Chinese manufacturer and then ship them out to a domestic manufacturer out in Wisconsin. The manager there was very aggressive and wanted to win my business. She took the specs of the product and figured out her price, but she still wasn’t even close. It would be nice to be a made in the USA product, but that’s not going to happen.

This happened during one of my first Skype conversations with the Chinese manufacturer. Not the most professional verbiage, but she’s definitely a keeper!

[4/08/13 12:31:46 PM] Tracy: so.. do you still have any question about the order?

[4/08/13 12:32:29 PM] Michael O’Donnell: Not at the moment. I need to have a discussion with my partner and then I will get back in touch with you

[4/08/13 12:33:38 PM] Tracy: Ok .. then I am going to take a bath .. BTW.. you are so handsome on that pic .. 😉

[4/08/13 12:36:34 PM] Tracy: have a nice day .. bye !

[4/08/13 12:48:05 PM] Michael O’Donnell: haha Thank you


Another Chinese lady from a different manufacturing facility said this to me:

hello Michael

[4/22/13 9:25:42 AM] Ruby.Y: Do you see the series “the Vampire Diaries”?I see your pic,and think you and Stephen who in the series something look like 😛


I looked him up. I don’t see the resemblance, but I’ll take the compliment. All these Chinese ladies trying to woo me into working with them. Americans should take some notes 😉


Sourcing from China has been interesting because I knew absolutely nothing about shipping 20 days ago. I think I’ve shipped maybe 3 boxes in my lifetime and they were domestic, so I had a lot to learn. Luckily for me Bob’s job is to ship things all over the world, so I had him as a resource.

The first step was to figure out how all of my brushes would be packed and how many boxes I was shipping. We’re placing 40 brushes into each box with dimensions of 56X26X58 cms and each box weighs approximately 8 kilos. We’re shipping 25 boxes (do the math and I’m importing 1,000 brushes), so that translates into 2.1 CBMs.

Now that I had my dimensions all figured out, it was time to start speaking with shipping companies. Bob was a major help with all of this. I also introduced him as my logistics manager to the Chinese manager Tracy and he started speaking Chinese to her. She got super wet over that and I think if he was over there she would have invited him into the bath with her. But that’s beside the point.

We figured out the HTS code (still not sure what this is) and Bob hooked me up with his friend Michael O’Donnell (truth) who is an import broker. I paid Mike to set up my import bond so I could place it on my shipping mark and send to China so they could place on the boxes. Then came the confusing part. Once in America, I need to split up the boxes and send to 3 different fulfillment centers (East coast, Midwest, West coast). I kept changing my mind on where things were going and switching up the addresses, which caused a mess. Then I decided to ship them all directly to my house so I could inspect them and then ship out. That caused more issues because now I needed port to door service and since I’m residential it costs more than shipping to a commercial location. Such a mess!

When I shipped my sample brush out to Wisconsin, I noticed that the Parcel Place in Newtown counted as a commercial shipping location. Boom, problems solved! For 3 bucks a package I could have them all shipped there, inspect them, and then ship out to each fulfillment center that day!

Now that that’s figured out, I’m in the process of pinning DHL and Fedex sales reps against each other so I can negotiate the cheapest shipping price. We’re shipping these via air cargo instead of by boat so I can get up and running quicker. Next shipment will be by boat, but for now I’m stuck paying the more expensive air freight prices. We still don’t know what the actual shipping price is going to be because the rates change daily and our shipment date is May 10th (gonna push my cash flow deadline back a few days). I’m expecting it to be around $4,000 to ship them all in. On the surface, that’s a HOLY SHIT high number, but for 1,000 brushes that just adds $4 to my unit price for each. Considering I’m saving a ton of money going to China, that’s actually not that bad. This first shipment is all about getting the business up and running. If I tried to be perfect and maximize my profit at this stage I’d never get off the ground. I’m moving at a blazing speed right now and there is no time for me to be perfect. I’ll refine later.

Next step was to create a brand name. I decided to go with Cave Tools because I want to play on the whole Man Cave theme and eventually expand into other manly products. Being the cheap ass that I am, I hired a designer from Sri Lanka. The dude could barely speak English, so I had to do a lot of back and forth with revisions before the Hand Tag design as complete. In hindsight, I should have paid a few extra bucks to get someone I could communicate with. It would have saved me money in my time.



Looks pretty damn good though if I do say so myself! A whopping $22 out the door for this gem!

Next thing I had to do was get high quality pictures for my product listing. Online shopping is highly visual, so you need to have kickass pictures if you want to get attention. I originally was going to have a Photoshop master create a digital image for me. Basically, I was going to have him create my product from scratch in Photoshop so I could show more details than a picture would ever capture. This was going to run me around $100 and I didn’t really feel like paying that. I also didn’t want to hire a professional photographer to take pictures for me with their super high end cameras. What to do? What to do? Solution: take pictures with my regular camera and have them professionally retouched to enhance the details.

So that’s what I did, I enlisted my mother to be my camera person and we went out to our grill and started taking pictures. Problem was that our grill grates look like shit after years of poor cleaning and there was rust everywhere. Hardly the image I want to portray for my grill “cleaning” brush. Fran had the bright idea of going to Home Depot and taking pictures using their brand new grills. Perfect! People were giving us really weird looks, but we had no shame. Upwards and onwards!

Once I had my pictures, I needed to get someone to retouch them. I have been burned by Bangladeshis in the past, so as a rule I never hire anyone from Bangladesh anymore. This time however, I made an exception because my man Ibrahim had a hell of a portfolio and his rates were dirt cheap! Before I share some before and after pics, I have to share this message that he sent me because it’s hilarious. His profile picture makes it even more hilarious haha


hello boss
how are you ?
i hope you are well by the grace of almighty .
boss i have completed your other 5 images work.
please see the attachment and if you have any problem please inform me and i will be trying to overcome it.
thank to you.

Here are 2 before after pictures to show how great he did:












As you can see in these pictures, Ibrahim is the Fucking Man! I had him retouch 8 pictures for me at a negotiated rate of………. $2 an image. Being the gentlemen that I am, I gave him a bonus and paid him $20 for all 8 images. I’ll be working with him again in the future for sure!


Ok, shipping taken care of (almost), packaging and branding complete (Need website to finish branding), High quality pictures finished, now I need some sales copy.

Sales copy was written by yours truly. Started off by doing deep keyword research on both Amazon and Google and then dove right in. Amazon only allows 2,000 characters including the html tags for formatting (bolding, italicizing, etc.) o that’s not a lot to work with. This stuff may change over time, so instead of linking to it I will show a picture:



So now that everything is set up, we need to start marketing the hell out of this thing. Of course, I don’t want to have to do everything myself. That would be silly!

Right now, I am in the process of hiring a writer that will provide me with press releases, articles, and blog posts on a weekly basis. I’m thinking we’ll do 1 of each per week and then I will turn them into videos as well. All of this will be templated out in the next week. For example, all articles will be 500 words (100 intro, 300 body, 100 conclusion), standard article resource box and contact box. I will generate a list of headlines and my writer will fill in the places to make them unique per each article. All articles will be focused on 1 keyword specifically with the ability to target other keywords in the list I provide. You get the point. When I’m ready, everything will be pretty much drag and drop for the writer and I will order content in bulk so I can clump their research time and get cheaper rates. Every piece of content will also be “Spun” into about 50 slightly different versions of the same piece of content. This is so we can avoid duplicate content all over the internet. Make sense?

Each type of content is going to have specific instructions as to where to post, what automated tools to run it through, and what to do with each piece of content on certain days of the week. We are literally going to be building thousands of links per month to my product page and my Cave Tools website to blast this thing to the top of the search engines. Since I’m leveraging Amazon’s authority, I can build a ton of links without getting in trouble. As you can imagine with 1000s of links per month, this can get out of control very quickly.

Well, on Thursday night I stayed up until 1am building a ridiculous excel dashboard that is going to track everything. Every single link I build will be tracked on a micro level down to the exact keywords that are used in every post. Then I have a clean macro dashboard sheet that will tell me with one glance, how many blog posts have been done (and on which platform: wordpress, tumblr, blogger), how many press releases, how many articles, videos, micro blog posts (twitter, etc.), etc. On top of that, I also have a pie chart that shows the percentage of times each keyword has been used so I can keep track of my keyword usage and add substract keywords as necessary.

What I have built (still designing parts of it) is a massively complex personal SEO system that I can manage with very little personal time of my own. Why you ask? Because I have templated everything out and I’m in the process of dumbing all tasks down into instructions that a robot can follow without messing up. However, instead of having a robot do it, I will have my personal assistant in the Philippines, Caecilia, run this system for $2.50 an hour.

I just stopped writing this blog post for 45 minutes because I remembered an article I read over a year ago. With a little bit of research, I just figured out how to build my own web scraper by modifying the code from other people’s scrapers. On top of that, I figured out how to set up an automated timed scrape that streams directly into a Google Docs. What does this mean?

Well, part of SEO is to promote links you have built, not just build new links all the time. When you send a press release out to 100 sites, you end up getting much more links because other news sites pick your release up. This normally within a week or two news websites will stop picking it up because it’s old news. If you do a search for your exact press release title a week later, you may see there are 500 links to it because of the additional pick up. On top of my current system, I am now going to build a timed Google scraper that automatically finds all of my extra press release links a week later, drops them into a spreadsheet, which I will then create a process for Caecilia to add to my URL booster. Remembering that article right now probably just tripled the effectiveness of what I am going to do.

In the last 20 days I have gone from knowing nothing about physical products to building the processes and systems to go into Beast Status all while running my marketing company. The anticipation for my first shipment to come in is literally killing me right now. Let’s get this show on the road!

Mike O’Donnell Utilizes Over 28 Hours in Train Rides to Learn His Way to the Top

Posted on August 2nd, 2012 in Books, Efficiency, My Story, Philosophy, Psychology, Self Improvement, Time Management | No Comments »

This past week, I had the opportunity to take a little vacation from work and spend a week at home in Newtown. This is one of the great perks of being an entrepreneur that you have the flexibility to do what you want. It also shows the power of building systems in your business and striving towards removing yourself from the org chart and having a business that can just run itself. We’re not there yet with the business machine, but that’s the goal we are striving towards.

Thursday was my Dad’s birthday, so I decided to take the train to Morristown, NJ to Bob’s place Wednesday night so I could surprise him for dinner Thursday night. The train ride took me 14 hours from the time I left Montreal until the time I got to Morristown that night. They claimed there would be WiFi on the train, but it was very spotty the whole ride so I kept myself occupied with some good old fashioned offline learning!

I started out the train ride listening to an hour long podcast from my friend Alex Epstein talking about, “The Dangers of Not Fracing.” I met Alex during my senior year at Penn State when I helped promote his speech on campus entitled “Vitamin O: America’s Healthy Addiction to Oil.” Alex used to be a fellow at the Ayn Rand institute, but has recently set out on his own as the Founder of the Industrial Center for Progress. Alex has been making quite the name for himself in the Energy industry by taking Objectivist principles and applying them to energy rights. We have briefly kept in touch since meeting at Penn State and I hold him as my chief information source for any energy related issues I am interested in. With the current media buzz about the dangers of Fracing, I was really excited to hear his point of view on the subject. Like always, Alex did not let me down and I learned some very good information. The kind of information that for some reason is always left out in traditional media sources like the fact that Fracing is essential to Oil recovery and accounts for almost 95% of all Oil extraction already. After listening to Alex’s Power Hour episode, I did a little researching of my own and found out that the movie Gas Land is a scam. They purposely left out crucial information and misled the public into thinking Fracing was the cause for natural gas contamination in public water sources even though the areas that do have water contamination have had this problem since the 1930s before Fracing was even used.

After getting my Energy fix, I moved on to business and listened to the audio book for “Work The System.” Besides eating and taking a few naps, this 8 hour audio book took up the entire rest of my train ride and was well worth it. Sam Carpenter really helped me realize that you systems are not just important in your business life, but also your personal life. If you can view things through the lens of a system, then you can take the necessary steps to make sure the system works for you. Inspired by this book and what Sam teaches in it, I decided that I needed to start implementing more systems into my own life. On my train ride home, I created an excel dashboard to help manage my personal key relationships. I realize that everyone gets so caught up with their daily lives that it gets harder and harder to keep in touch with important relationships. This has happened to me on plenty of occasions, so I decided to make a list of important friends and business contacts and include fields for their contact information and industry expertise and also set a frequency of how often I want to make it a point to contact these people throughout the year. Some people are on a monthly basis while other people are on a bi monthly or tri monthly basis. Using formulas, my spreadsheet keeps track of the last month I spoke with the person and also tracks my communication progress so I know if I am behind schedule with keeping in touch. The spreadsheet is also conditionally formatted so if I forget to touch base with someone on a particular month that it will notify me to drop them a line and see how they are doing. Boom, just like that, I don’t need to worry about consciously maintaining important relationships anymore. I created a system and the system now works for me.

So I surprised my dad Thursday night for dinner and had the opportunity to see his whole side of the family which was great. On Friday and Saturday, I headed down to Manyunk to see a bunch of my buddies. Saturday was great because we went to Summit Aid. The way I would describe Summit Aid would be picture yourself at a swim club with over 100 people, most of whom you know, with a DJ and bars set up all over the place. All day long people are partying and drinking and swimming and playing volleyball and all the drinks are pretty much free. Needless to say, it was a really fun time and I got to see a bunch of my friends that I haven’t seen since I moved up here to Montreal. Sunday was another great day because we had an all day bar b q at my house with my mom’s family. Tons of food, people, baggo, and wiffle ball all day long. It was a great vacation and it rejuvenated me and gave me that extra boost to make me want to come back to Montreal and keep kicking ass with the business so I can eventually achieve the not so lofty goal of lifestyle design.

I left my house at 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday to catch my train out of Philly and never got back to my apartment until 8:30 that night. Much longer day than the ride down so I did a lot more sleeping on the train this time. However, I was still able to accomplish a good amount of learning.

I started out by reading “The Charge” by Brendon Burchard. I’m about 50 pages into the book now and I’m not quite sure it’s something I want to spend time finishing. The premise of the book is to help you activate the 10 factors in your life that lead you to live a Charged/Happy life. In my opinion, it’s just alright so far. Right now, I’m much more interested in the 3 books I picked up from my dad: “The Knack” by Norm Brodsky, John Paul Getty’s “How To Be Rich,” and “Quantum Leap Thinking” by James Mapes.  I also started reading and highlighting an info course I received for free from Glazer Kennedy called “Inside the Mind of a Millionaire Maker.”

After hitting the books, listened to a great interview from Ramit Sethi and BJ Fogg called the Psychology of Persuasion. Ramit is my personal finance guru and the one who helped me design my automated savings system (which sadly I had to halt to help myself make ends meet while we get things up and running up North). Psychology is definitely one of my primary interests right now as I continue my journey on becoming a master Marketer/Persuader.

Finally, I listened to another Alex Epstein Power Hour called “How to Think About Energy.” I have to say; Alex really got me thinking on both the train ride down and back. This Power Hour once again merged the power of Objectivist philosophy with the way we should be thinking about Energy and Energy rights.

As long as my travel time was, I think I would definitely opt for the train again next time because it forced me to dedicate time to my self improvement. I got to catch up on a lot of material that I’ve had on the backburner and I spawned a bunch of new creative ideas that I otherwise may not have had the opportunity to develop.

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    From Unpaid Virtual Intern to Owner of an International Marketing Company in 14 Months

    Posted on February 11th, 2012 in Efficiency, Goal Setting, My Story, Sales, Time Management, Training | No Comments »

    From Unpaid Virtual Intern to Owner of an International Marketing Company in 14 Months

              Its spring semester of my junior year at Penn State and internship season is in full swing. I just came back from a semester abroad in Ireland so I’m already behind the ball after missing the fall career fairs. After many interviews and many rejections I have finally narrowed my internship selection down to 3 companies. The first 2 companies are offering standard paid Marketing internships. The work responsibilities don’t look very challenging, but on the brighter side: (1), they are paid job opportunities in my industry, (2) if I take either internship I will probably get hired right out of school and (3), they will be reputable names to add to my resume for future jobs. The 3rd internship opportunity is an unpaid virtual internship working for an entrepreneur named Justin Lee and his wife Dreama. To be completely honest, one of the reasons why I applied for this internship was because it was unpaid and I figured there wouldn’t be much competition if I wanted to use it as a fall back. Like many internship-hungry students, I didn’t even research the opportunity until I received an email about a phone interview. In my research, I learned that Justin and Dreama were successful entrepreneurs who owned multiple businesses. I always dreamed of owning my own business, so I figured working directly with someone who has already accomplished this goal would be a good start.
    My internship started during the first couple weeks of summer. It was a virtual internship, which meant that I would be working on the computer from my house. It was also unpaid, which meant that I wouldn’t be spending a ton of money that summer. At least my meals were free and I didn’t have to pay for gas to go to work. I told Justin that I would work 7 hours a day and made a commitment to myself that I would stick to my promise. We decided to correspond daily by email and weekly on the phone to track my progress. During the course of the summer, I would be helping Justin build an information product called InternProfits. InternProfits was going to “provide entrepreneurs the tools and resources to find, hire and manage interns to help grow and expand their business while creating educational opportunities for tomorrow’s talent today.” My first responsibility was to help build the internship database. This included calling every college in the United States with 3,000 students or more and collecting data on their internship programs.

    I made phone calls every day for roughly 2 months to help build the InternProfits’ one-of-a-kind College and University Database. At this point, many interns probably would have quit because they weren’t seeing the immediate returns they expected. When friends and family asked me how my internship was going, it was hard to explain to them that I was making phone calls 7 hours a day for free. They didn’t see the value in it and at times neither did I, especially when I compared myself to friends with big time internships at companies like Proctor and Gamble. I would be lying if I told you that the thought of quitting never crossed my mind, but my phone skills were getting better and better and I knew that if I could prove myself to Justin, I would be able to take on more responsibility.

    Eventually, I proved myself to be the most hardworking and productive intern and I was able to move on to bigger and better things. As Justin hired more interns, he allowed me to manage/train them on the most efficient ways to build the database. At this point each intern had his or her own roles, some focused on learning to write press releases while others learned social media. We all contributed a portion of our time to build the database. The next few months were extremely exciting for me because Justin brought in industry experts to create his famous Easy Intern Assignments. As top dog intern, I was given the privilege to learn internet marketing techniques and strategies from gurus such as Sam Bell, Sean Malarkey, Yaro Starak, Brian Horn, and Michael Taggart, to name a few. Google their names real quick to get an idea of the opportunity that was in front of me. It was HUGE, and I was sucking it all in like a sponge! After each training session, Justin gave me a set of goals that he wanted me to accomplish and then he set me loose. Instead of telling me exactly what to do, he allowed me to learn through trial and error. I quickly mastered article and video marketing, search engine optimization, blogging and link wheel creation, social media integration, and many other important strategies.
    At the end of the summer, Justin presented me with the opportunity to stay on until the end of the first semester. It was my senior year and I already had a full schedule with school, club lacrosse, and making time to go out partying with my friends. However, we were building up for the InternProfits soft launch and I was learning so much about internet marketing and business in general that I couldn’t possibly decline. I became a time management expert and was able to work about 3 hours a day for InternProfits without any significant changes to my schedule. As the soft launch approached, we gained momentum and were excited to finally see the result of all of our hard work and effort. The launch week came and went, and when the post launch numbers were calculated, our high expectations were crushed. InternProfits didn’t do nearly as well as we all expected it to do. We were all pretty depressed for the first few weeks following the soft launch after seeing what looked to be a lot of hard work go to waste. However, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Justin and Dreama realized that InternProfits was still an amazing product and they decided to restrategize.
    While Justin and Dreama focused on changing the InternProfits service offerings and price points, I set a goal to start my own business during the spring semester. I was no longer working on InternProfits, but I was still speaking with Justin on a regular basis. He became my mentor and offered me as much training and guidance as he could to help me get my business off the ground. He still included me in high-level decisions with InternProfits, like redesigning the sales funnel and planning out prospect communications because he knew it would benefit me. He also offered me more free trainings on Local and Mobile Marketing from Laura Betterly and Adam Horwitz. I took all of this training and tried to launch my own local and mobile search marketing company at Penn State. With Justin on my side to keep me focused, I was able to land multiple meetings with prospective clients. However, I quickly learned that all of the techniques and strategies in the world wouldn’t help me if I didn’t know how to sell them. By the time graduation came around, I didn’t have a single client and I lacked the confidence I needed to start my own business. Time for the real world.

    Three weeks after graduation, I started working in sales for a fortune 500 company. I set conservative goals of learning about business for 2-3 years and then one day setting out again to start my own business. With no short-term plan to get me there in 3 years, I fell into the 8-5 rat race and became a bum. I went from overflowing with ambition, to coming home from work to take a nap on the couch and watch television. I may have given up on myself…but Justin didn’t. Every time we talked on the phone he asked me what ideas I was working on and when I was starting my own business. It’s pretty hard telling your mentor, who has provided you all the tools you need to succeed, that you are wasting away on the couch every day when you come home from work. Eventually it wears on you and you have to snap out of your funk. I had to either set a plan to achieve my goals or stop pretending and get some new goals. The thought of working towards my first promotion 3 years down the road didn’t appeal to me, so I whipped myself into shape.

    In mid September, 2011 Laura Betterly was hosting a conference in San Antonio on the topic of Local Search Optimization. This was exactly the type of business I wanted to start and the perfect opportunity for me to get focused again, but I wasn’t planning on going. I was paying my student loans and trying to put some money into savings and the idea of spending money on a plane ticket to go to a conference on something I already failed at wasn’t at the top of my priority list. That is until I had to face Justin on the phone again. I attended that conference and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Within 40 days of returning from the conference I had my first paying client, a used car dealer in Philadelphia named Millevoi Bros. Auto Sales. Not only did I return from the conference super focused, but I also had the chance to network with people who were interested in the same business as me. My relationship with one of those people in particular, Benjamin Beauregard from Convernet, has helped launch me into the position I am in today.

    So how did I go from having a single client in October to being the owner of an international marketing company by February? First, I started my company called Hyacinth Marketing, LLC and began offering local search engine optimization services to companies in Philadelphia. I was finally able to put to use all of the knowledge that I had been learning for the past year and half and apply it to my own business. As I started to see outstanding results, I communicated them with my friend Ben who already had a successful local search marketing business. When the time came for Ben to expand his business into working with clients all across Canada, my business was the first business he approached to partner with.

    Unfortunately, my story has to end here because I am still living it! I’m building my client base here in Philadelphia and we are on-boarding over 100 clients throughout Canada within the next 2 months. I wrote this article because I wanted to reflect back on where it all began, with an unpaid virtual internship. Unpaid internships are a very controversial topic in the news these days and every time I turn around I hear another horror story. Yes, I agree, there are some terrible unpaid internships out there that offer no value whatsoever to the intern. The sad thing is that these are the only stories that make the headlines. There are plenty of unpaid internship success stories, and if designed correctly, they can provide immeasurable benefits to the intern. I went through the InternProfits system and I am living proof that an unpaid internship can be a win-win for both the intern and the company.

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