Life in Review

Posted on August 13th, 2014 in My Story, Reflection, Self Improvement | No Comments »

Today is my first day back from China and Lithuania. Besides checking the odd email and for the most part, not responding on purpose, I haven’t worked at all since July 25th. I’m happy that for all that time away, my business has been running on autopilot and making me money. There were small fires and problems that I now need to handle, but nothing serious. Caecilia did a wonderful job handling things and I’m truly surprised at her ability to step up to the plate and make decisions on her own.

I have a mound of work ahead of me now to get back into the flow of things and also on all the new projects I want to work on and books I want to read. Before leaving for my trip, I would have felt an immense amount of pressure to get all of this work done. I would have skipped my morning routine and just jumped right into things because I was living for other people and according to other people’s deadlines.

However, this morning I woke up and faced my day with a sense of calm and certainty. I went through my morning routine of working out, reading for a half hour, meditating and planning out my day. However, before I started working, I decided to watch the Blacksmith application video of my friend Ben

Watching Ben’s video made me cry. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed with emotion before. For the past couple years, subconsciously I’ve felt very lonely. I’ve never met anyone who had such a desire to learn, improve, and achieve as myself. I’ve always felt different in that way, and attending Sovereign Academy this past week has given me a sense of validation. There are so many young people out there like myself that have passion for life and growth and I’m grateful to have become such close friends with so many of them at Blacksmith this past week.

After we got back to Vilnius on Monday, I snuck away from everyone at the hostel and walked up to the top of a hill that overlooks the city. It was very peaceful and there were a couple people sitting around playing the guitar. My intention was to sit at the top of the hill and write about my experience. To document everything that happened and all of the wonderful people I met. I’ve been doing this type of stuff on my blog for years so I can always remember where I was at certain stages of my life. However, this time felt different. It felt wrong to write about my experience and get it down on paper. My experience and the wonderful people I met was just too personal. In 4 days I’ve established deeper relationships with these people than I ever have with my friends that I’ve known for years.

Instead of writing, I closed my laptop and just sat there looking out at the view. I spent about an hour and a half just feeling grateful, happy about life, and filled with emotion and the desire to achieve. This morning, instead of tackling all of this work ahead of me, I’ve spent the last hour reading product reviews and feeling grateful for all of the people I’ve touched through my business. I’m overwhelmed with pride about what I’ve accomplished and the people whose lives I’ve made a difference in and I’m excited about the challenges to come and the personal growth I’m about to experience.

There has been a few key turning points in my life where I’ve made a decision that has sent me on a wildly different path in life. The first was in college when I decided to work for Justin for free and gain firsthand knowledge from an entrepreneur.  The second was meeting Ben and deciding to move to Montreal to partner up together. And now after attending Sovereign Academy, I just feel different.  I’ve changed as a person. I feel bigger, I’m thinking bigger, and I’m re-infused with a vigor for life. It wasn’t the content of the speeches at Blacksmith, but the quality of the people that changed me. My pathway is clear and I know what I need to do to take my business and my life to the next level. There’s no more mountain ahead of me and there’s no more struggle, there’s just progress.

Mike O’Donnell Works With Wayne Marquez…Round 2

Posted on May 16th, 2014 in Consulting, Lessons, Reflection | No Comments »

Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me twice…shame on me.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from Wayne. With the exception of a few random conversations, we really hadn’t spoken a ton since we stopped working together.

The fact that he made me chase him around for over a month and kept dodging/avoiding paying me were definitely contributing factors. It’s not like he was paying me a salary or anything either, these were expenses I paid for on my credit card that he said he would reimburse me for. I knew at the time he was in a tough position from a cashflow standpoint, so I figured his actions were a product of circumstance, not personality.

We talked for about 15-20 minutes just catching up on the phone and he seemed like he was back on his feet again. His education company had picked up and he had just returned from Seattle locking down a new school contract. The reason he was calling me was because he was working on putting together a parenting workbook for inner city families in L.A.

Apparently, schools in Los Angelos are required by law to spend 5% of their discretionary budget on parents every year. They normally spend this money on parent teacher nights and food, but 5% usually comes out to about $50,000 per year! Through his conversations with various principles from those schools, they told him that they literally struggle to spend that money every year. If he could come up with a decent parenting workbook, they would give him the contract.

So Wayne went around and pitched a bunch of principles on his parenting workbook idea and in his words, sold the thing before he even made it. He lead his pitch with his absolute best activity for parents and children, tied it in to a personal story, and sold them on the entire workbook based on what would become just 1 page of the entire thing. He’s a hell of a salesman, I’ll give him that.

His pitch/story had to do with a quick activity that helped parents learn a ton about their child. First, you ask the kid to write their name in the middle of a piece of paper. Then, they need to place the names of their friends around their name. The closer the friends name is to their name, the better friends they are. Farther away means they aren’t as close friends. They also have to group friends in clusters based on who they hang out with.

Right away, the parent can get an idea of who the major influencers are on their child and who hangs out with whom. After this is complete, the child has to write 2 things next to each persons name about why they like that person and 1 thing about what they don’t necessarily like about the person. Now, the parent gets to see what their kids are attracted to and what turns them off. This is very powerful information that most parents never know and it only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete.

So Wayne has all these contracts waiting on him now to produce a workbook with about 60 pages worth of these types of activities. The reason he was contacting me was “Because he needed someone he could trust to do a full day of white boarding with him.”  In reality he only had about 10 of these activities pre thought out and he needed me to help him build the rest and take notes as we brainstormed. He offered to pay me $25 bucks an hour if I would help him out.

I had a ton of stuff on my plate with Cave Tools and Hyacinth Marketing and also had 3 interns coming on board within the week that I needed to prepare for. I figured that this would be a good way to rekindle a relationship with an old business partner and also get my creative juices flowing. He seemed to be back on his feet, so I ignored the thought of him screwing around with me like last time.

I assumed that helping him out as a friend meant that this was a personal job, not a business job. Like when you help a friend move out of their apartment and they hand you 40 bucks at the end as a thank you. In retrospect, I definitely should have discussed payment terms with Wayne first, especially knowing the type of person he was.

Wayne’s neighbor had free office space for us to use in New Hope, so we took over for the full day (9 hours). I have to say, outlining and creating a book was a pretty cool experience. We discussed layout, organization, illustrations, and reverse engineered a bunch of competitor books.

We decided to break the book up into the cover, credits and copyright page, introduction page, parent child contract, and then 4 activities per section (Self Awareness, Family, Friends, Education, Health, Money). The back had a corresponding student section for activities that both the parent and child would do and then compare answers.

All of the competitor books pretty much covered these areas, but they just had words on paper. There was very little interaction and the messages were very direct. The goal for this book would be to have less words and more activities. As the parents and children completed the activities, the answers/message would come through indirectly and would be learned because they actually engaged with the book instead of skimmed through it.

It was a good concept, but to be honest I would never do any of the things we put into the book. I mean these were some pretty basic parenting skills that I guess as a white boy from the suburbs I just take for granted that everyone already knows and understands. However, our target audience comes from a completely different background and household. We approached the book with the mindset that if someone did the entire book, as long as they came out with just one good insight, it would be a success. With that perspective in mind, the creative flow of ideas came much easier.

We worked on the book all day with a short lunch break in between. Over lunch, Wayne started talking as usual. Telling me about how he got a 10K commission for introducing his friend to the owner of the restaurant across the street because his friend bought it. Then he starts going on about how his wife has a new job and that he’s also been selling coffee on the side to distributors for extra cash. Now that he was a big coffee connoisseur he had all of these grand plans for launching his own private label coffee brand. He was going to sponsor farmers in South America and had a brilliant plan to use kids to sell the coffee in train stations. Typical Wayne…talk all day about the grand vision and then never take a single ounce of action.

In the afternoon we go back to work and the productivity seriously drops. Wayne is on the phone with his wife texting and he didn’t prepare with ideas for some of the later activities in the book. We were coming up with activities on the fly and wasting tons of time thinking of unique questions to ask. We ended up powering through and finishing up as much as we could before he needed to leave to go coach his daughters softball team at 6:30.

As we’re packing up to leave, he hands me one of the workbooks and tells me to take it home with me to keep working. Of course, I hadn’t agreed to continue working from home. I had a very busy schedule and told him that I could only fit in the 9 hours we did today because I had other responsibilities.

We walk out the door and Wayne starts to get in his car to leave without paying me. I make a comment asking to get paid and he tells me he’ll send me a check in the mail in a few weeks. I’ve already been through this once before with him so I tell him I was expecting to get paid today. His response is that he doesn’t have enough money to pay me. At this point, I’m fuming. He runs his mouth all day about all this money he’s making with schools and coffee and now he can’t afford $225. Bull shit! At this point, I say no I want to be paid in cash. I’m not dealing with him giving me a check and then the check bouncing and me having to chase after him again. I also said I was expecting to get paid personally, not as a business consulting fee. For $25 bucks an hour, there was no way I was paying taxes on top of that. All of our work together is on my computer, so I have all of the leverage.

He’s in a hurry on his way to his daughter’s practice, so he tells me he’ll think of something. He realizes that I have the leverage, so he gives me a call later that night telling me he’ll meet me tomorrow and give me a check. About a half hour before our meeting, he calls me saying he needs me to bring an invoice and a printed copy of the work with me. Now that he’s broken the trust, there’s no way I’m handing over my leverage until I get paid and the check clears.

When we meet, he’s really pissed off that I don’t have the hard copies with me. We get into a small argument and I flat out tell him that I can’t trust him and that I don’t like the way he does business. If you truly can’t afford to pay someone, then you don’t leave that information until the end after they put an entire days worth of work aside for you. He assures me that the check won’t bounce and then I leave to go to another meeting. I then get a whole bunch of texts about how if I have a problem cashing the check to give him a call. This of course further reaffirms that I thought he was going to try and screw me again.

I deposited the check in my citizens bank account instead of finding a bank of America to cash it on the spot. In hindsight, that would have been the smart thing to do, but the thought didn’t even cross my mind. Wayne of course was pissed that I was now making him wait a full day until the check cleared and he went into a total breakdown.

I received about 15 texts from him that night freaking out. He was calling me a liar and doing all sorts of character assassinations. He was even completely making things up as if he was trying to rewrite history through text messages in case this came into a court battle or something. At one point he even threatened to show up at my house because I was depriving him of supporting his family. I only responded a few times to these outrageous allegations, but basically I said I will send it to you once I get paid. The number of texts and phone calls I got form him were absolutely ridiculous.

I sent him everything that Saturday when the check cleared and I haven’t heard from him since. Looking back on this experience, I definitely should have been very clear about how I expected to be paid before we started working together. This way he couldn’t have tried to pull his shit at the last second. I also should have just used my brain and really considered if it was worth it to work with him again. I knew the type of person he was and should have expected something like this to happen. He definitely hasn’t changed. Ironic that the only 2 people to ever fuck me over in business are Wayne and Matt Zinman. Very similar personalities and I met Matt through Wayne. To this day, Matt still hasn’t paid me the $1,500 he owes me and I’ve found out that he has scammed a bunch of other people as well. That’s another story for another day though.

Looking at the bright side, I’m happy that I did work with Wayne because it was a creative new experience and I did learn a lot throughout the day. We got a lot of really good work done together. I’m also happy that I understood the situation enough to not give up my leverage until everything was square between us.

Mike O’Donnell Recaps March and April 2014

Posted on April 27th, 2014 in My Story | No Comments »

Working out of a Starbucks in Yonkers, New York today because I’m visiting my friend Donny, whom I studied abroad with in Ireland. It’s his birthday this weekend and he had the awesome idea of renting a limo to take all of our drunk asses to Medieval Times!

After I finish this post, I’m going to head out. Time to write like a mad man for 45 minutes…

  • I ended up as a finalist for the 2014 Bucks Happening Awards for web design. Red Carpet Bash was a great time.


  • Back in March I stumbled upon the BBQ Central Radio Show podcast while doing some google searches. Sent the host, Greg Rempe an email and within a week I was on the radio show being interviewed. The complete interview can be found here Awesome experience and my first time ever on radio. I listened to about 10 of his podcasts before hand so I had a good idea of what the show was like and what to expect. I prepared for any question he could possibly ask me and I absolutely killed it on the show. I even went as far as to ask Greg if he would fuck a cow! What? Yea…I did that, and it was hilarious. Let’s just say it worked perfectly into the context of the conversation.
  • After airing on the show, I updated all of my product images to include the BBQ Central and Outdoor Cooking Channel logos. Leverage the credibility baby!

Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer

  • I recently did a Google search for my name and found that I was quoted in YFS Magazine back in December and didn’t even know it. I remember responded to a reporter inquiry from HARO about tips for hiring employees, but never knew I was published   I stopped receiving HARO emails a while ago because they were so time consuming and I rarely got published. However, now I’m back on the bandwagon because Cave Tools has given me more credibility and people seem to be responding. So far this week, I’ve already locked down a quote for a article and started speaking with a writer for If all goes as planned, I’ll be published in the Young Entrepreneurs section of the website. These are major credibility boosters and good old fashioned free PR
  • Penn State Blue and White weekend happened a couple weeks ago and I took full advantage. A few weeks prior to going up, I emailed about 10 professors asking to speak in one of their classes. I got no responses back, so I messaged the Secretary of the head of the marketing department. She put me in touch with Brad Leve, who teaches a bunch of the 400 level entrepreneurship classes. I did two 40 minute speeches to his classes and they absolutely loved it. I took a video, but it stopped recording after 20 minutes so sadly I don’t have the whole thing to put on here.  I spoke about the 10 major lessons that I think young entrepreneurs need to learn in order to be successful. Basically, Brad said anytime I’m up at Penn State and want to speak he will fit it into his schedule because it was so good. Thank you Toastmasters!
  • After my entrepreneurship speeches, I went down to the Career Center and hosted some internship interviews. They literally put me up in my own office and everything. I interviewed a handful of kids who were all dressed up in suits for their big interview. It felt crazy to be sitting on the other side of the table this time around haha I ended up hiring an awesome kid named Ryan for this summer and I think he’s going to do a hell of a job. He’ll be doing the SEO internship that Phil is currently doing now. It’ll be cool because the entire course is already bui.t, so I can spend my time guiding Ryan and improving the course.
  • I also hosted a Cave Tools tailgate on Saturday at the game. Never realized how much damn work went into planning a tailgate and cooking for everyone. My friends came up big time in terms of helping out. We ended up with about 30 people ish. We cooked a vertical rotisserie pork roast, onion, and pineapple. Then we turned the grill into a regular grill and made burgers, dogs, sausages, peppers, and a bunch more food! It was a huge success!



  • Starting in about 2 weeks, my cousin Matt will be doing a video seo internship and his girlfriend will be taking over our social media and press releases. I’ve outlined both courses for them, but haven’t had a chance to start creating the trainings. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to light a fire under my ass. I’m really looking forward to having all 3 interns working together this summer and freeing my time up so I don’t have to do all the content creation
  • This week I had Phil take a step back from all of the seo stuff and do some good old fashioned human interaction. He scheduled 5 guest blog post exchanges with other bbq websites so we can start cross promoting each other. He’s also going to be interviewing the heads of 5 big competition bbq teams via Google hangout. Well edit the videos and create a meet the BBQ Team series. Each interview will be in video form, transcribed into text for a blog post, turned into a cool image for pinterest, and the audio will be stripped and sent into iTunes as a podcast. Phil is just as excited about this as I am. It’s a fun assignment and a great lesson in repurposing content for different marketing mediums.
  • Yesterday I finalized my deal with WiseJack Cooking. From now on, all Cave Tools customers get a free 3 month subscription to their executive chef recipes service. Really cool service built specifically for men from world class chefs. It’ll help me build a bigger email list and they get more people dropped into their top end funnel, so it’s a win-win. Huge value add for us as well in up front sales, so I’m hoping to see conversion percentages increase.
  • We also launched a VIP Reviewers club on the site to help boost our Amazon reviews. Another way to build an email list of buyers and keep them engaged. Check out our new bonus page format…pretty slick!


  • We had a grill fest at my friend Matt Budensteins house the other day. We grilled ridiculous amounts of food all day and I even ate a grilled lambs heart!

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  • I also started shooting how to recipe videos for the recipe book to beef it up. The Carolina Spiced BBQ Dry Rub is my favorite so far…delicious!

rub pic

  • Cave Tools took a wicked slump in the winter this year. However, we’re only in April and I’ve already surpassed my peak monthly revenue from last summer. I didn’t start until May 28th last summer, so I’m really excited for the upcoming growth. Especially now that I have 4 product lines instead of just the grill brush!
  • With that said, it’s time to start thinking about another brand. No! I’m not abandoning Cave Tools. That would be crazy. I am however looking to start a completely new revenue stream where I can take advantage of higher frequency of purchase and higher profit margins. Remember that National Championship College Lacrosse Ring? How about we tie that into a sports nutrition brand for some credibility. This week I started looking into developing my own brand of proteins, creatines, pills, weight loss, all that kind of stuff. The idea is to let both businesses self fund their own growth. As long as I can keep producing enough content, I can keep marketing both brands effectively and build an entirely new income stream. Sports Nutrition is no joke though. The market is full of literally most of the top internet marketers in the world because of the amount of money at stake. In order to compete, I’m really going to have to step my game up a few notches. This is a serious challenge, but with my Cave Tools experience I have most of it planned out already. It’s just a matter of executing. I was joking with Justin the other day telling him that if I do this, I’ll have to change my FB name to Michael “Medium Rare with Extra Protein” O’Donnell
  • I’m also part of an Amazon Mastermind now. There are 7 of us and we all sell products on Amazon in different niches. We do a Skype conference call every Friday to share our weekly successes, failures, and help each other work on problems in our businesses. So far, I feel like I’ve been sharing more than I have been receiving back, but that’s how I’d like it to be. I’ve picked up a handful of really good tips so far and I’m building some good relationships. Plus, just the fact that I’m speaking about my business every week and discussing goals, it keeps me accountable.

Ok, I just reached my 45 minute mark. I’ll post this on Sunday. Time to go have fun!

Mike O’Donnell’s Goal Setting Framework

Posted on March 1st, 2014 in Business Development, Frameworks, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story, Philosophy, Reflection, Self Improvement | No Comments »

Back in October, someone posted this article on Facebook and a bunch of us got into a very deep discussion about it. The article was written by the creator of the cartoon Dilbert and discusses how the Secret of Success is Failure.

The controversial part of the article and the reason it generated so much buzz is because Scott Adams says that goals are for losers! If you read the article it will make much more sense, but the point he is getting at is that there is always a feeling of emptiness when you achieve your goals. You have that slight high and then you are faced with the question “Now What?” I achieved my goal, I should be happy because this is everything I have been working for for so long. Often times people get depressed or lose their focus because they don’t have a proper road map for after that goal. Scott says you should be focusing on systems instead of goals. When you have a system in place, failure is just an obstacle on your way to success. Achieving goals are just milestones on your journey. I completely agree with everything he says in the article. In my opinion, the set “Short, Medium, and Long Term” goals mantra that you always here is bull shit. It doesn’t work and it sets you up for failure.

Today, I watched a 1 hour presentation by Todd Herman (Google him, he’s a fucking beast) in which he explained a framework for managing your goals. This framework was like the Scott Adams article on steroids and has inspired me so much that I stopped everything I was doing to do my own self evaluation based on his framework.

If anybody is reading this blog post, I recommend you open this diagram in another window so you can follow along as I build my goal setting framework. I have no doubt that once you understand this framework that you too will want to reflect on your own life as I am doing now.


goal setting framework


The top of the pyramid is “The Outcome” or what I ultimately want to do with my life. Ever since I read The 4 Hour Work Week, my outcome was to live that cush lifestyle and become a tycoon of business without having to work long hard hours.

As a full time entrepreneur for over 2 years now, I have gone through more bumps in the road than I care to recall. I’ve done the standard goal setting approach and have subsequently gone into mini depressions. I’ve lost my course more than a few times and at this point last year I was even calling it quits and looking for a “job” on career builder like a little bitch.

In Todd’s presentation, he talks about how “You set goals to feel alive. You’re searching for meaningful experiences of connecting a feeling to yourself deeply. “ But to bring things full circle you need to go Through your outcome.

The brain interprets things very literally. If your goal was to make it to the NBA, but you got a career ending injury 2 weeks after signing to a team, what kind of fulfillment is that? Yea you achieved your goal, but now what?

When Todd works with professional athletes, he gets them to tell him their outcome and then he repetitively drills them with the question Why? Why is that your outcome? It normally takes about 17-23 times of answering the Why to get a substantial answer from the person and to get them to see Through their goals.

If you asked me a few years ago what my outcome was, I would have said to live the 4 hour work week lifestyle. Some of my other answers would have been to make money, to have freedom, to achieve lifestyle design, to be able to move out and support myself on my own as a business owner.

The final “outcome” I just listed has been my biggest goal over the past year. I’m living at home right now and it sucks. I’m missing out on lots of things that I will never get back in my early 20s. Yea, I go out all of the time and do fun stuff with my friends, but I don’t have the autonomy I had when I lived on my own in Montreal. I can’t just bring a random girl home from the bar. It’s difficult to get into a relationship with a girl when everyone I meet lives 45 minutes away and I would basically just have to crash at their apt every weekend like a leech. These may seem like superficial kinds of desires, but they’re true and they are a major part of your early 20s. So that has been my outcome since I moved home from Montreal. Living on my own and supporting myself with my business has been the epitome of my “Success.” If I could just achieve that outcome.

The truth of the matter is that everything I just listed above is just a goal that if I achieved, I would feel empty inside and maybe go through a little depression because of the “Now What?”

Todd says that to get Through your goals, you need to add the words “so that.” The So That helps you build “Your Story” around your outcome goals. I want to move out of the house so that I can regain my autonomy. But there is so much more to that once you start asking Why?

I want to achieve these things so I can give back what? So I can do what? Why am I breaking my ass trying to build 2 companies at the same time and taking on ridiculous amounts of work? Is it to make a million dollars so I can be a young playboy and bang super models? Yea, that would be great for a while, but are money and lifestyle my true end goal or outcome? Or is there a different outcome that I want to achieve. Something that will give me a fulfilled life and make me feel happy.

Taking on my first intern has been an amazing experience for me. I have the opportunity to mold a young budding entrepreneur and pass on all of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired over the years. Teaching my intern gives me an amazing sense of fulfillment and when I listen to myself giving him advice it puts everything into perspective on how far I have really come. Being a mentor and the person he looks up to for guidance and advice makes me feel truly happy. It’s like I’m experiencing what it’s like to be a father for the first time. Teaching your children the right mindset and giving them advice so you can watch them grow up and succeed in life in whatever they do because you helped them build a solid foundation.

Public speaking has also been a passion of mine for about 2 years now. I love the rush I get when speaking from stage and have often envisioned myself giving seminars to 1000s of people from stage and teaching them. That’s always been a goal of mine. The underlying motivation here really comes back to teaching and giving back.

I’ve always had a very capitalistic mindset. The idea of volunteering and giving back has never been something I could truly relate to. One day when I have tons of money I’ll give back, but until then I just need to focus on making tons of money. I remember when I was working with Wayne and he asked me why I was trying to launch the National Alliance for Student Debt Awareness with him? My response was that I wanted to make money and that I wanted to expose myself to him so I could learn from somebody that had much more experience than I did. I never really gave a shit about “The Cause” like Wayne did. My motivations were selfish (in a good way) and I was very clear about that.

Now that I’m reflecting and going through this exercise of using the goal setting framework, I see that I CAN give back and I CAN make lots of money and achieve all of those other goals at the same time.

So what is my Through Outcome that I’m busting my ass to achieve?

I want to build Hyacinth Marketing and Cave Tools into power brands and I want to build them in a highly scalable way that allows me to achieve lifestyle design. There’s no doubt about that. But I want to do these things SO THAT I can pass my knowledge on to my interns, students, family, and friends. So that I can speak from stage and help change people’s lives. So that I can do my Couch Surfing Across America trip. So that I can travel the world and have incredible life experiences. So that I can meet new people and share stories with them. So that I can be the exception and show other young people that if they really want something that they can achieve it. So that I can choose something new to learn each year such as learning a new language or becoming a true competition BBQ Pitmaster AND have the time to devote to these things. So that I can acquire all of the knowledge and skills and experiences that many people could only dream of.

That is my true Through Outcome when I look at my life as a full circle. Not just some empty goals that I want to achieve. I set out to start my own marketing agency, now what? I set out to build a physical products business, now what? Just like the NBA player I achieved those goals, but there has to be more. This is my more and this is my destiny in life.

The mid level of the pyramid is your performance goals. These are the goals you need to achieve to reach your desired outcome. Typically, for 1 outcome goal you will have multiple performance goals that you need to achieve to get there.

Here are some of my current performance goals:

  1. I will develop the processes for a call center so I can expand the website development portion of Hyacinth Marketing by 1 week from today.
  2. I will implement my project management software marketing strategy to build copious amounts of back links and increase my exposure and referrals for Hyacinth Marketing by 1 week from today
  3. I will start developing my 4th Cave Tools product line and launch by the end of May
  4. I will start to penetrate the Competition BBQ community and leverage my exposure to grow Cave Tools by 1 month from today

Before moving on to the final stage in the pyramid, we need to discuss the difference between Ow! Brainers and WOW! Brainers. Performance goals are great, but the difference between achieving your through outcome and failing lies in the way you have trained your brain.

Both Ow! Brainers and Wow! Brainers follow the same path in life. You have your starting point, your goals, and your Ideal Outcome.

People that are Ow! Brainers are stuck because they are constantly trying to go from Goal to Outcome. Wow! Brainers on the other hand, focus on getting from their starting point to their goals.

Ow! Brainers are fantastic at saying I started here and I’ve done all of this work and I still haven’t achieved my desired outcome. They quickly come up with all sorts of excuses as to why “This isn’t for me” or why it will never work out. They jump around from opportunity to opportunity and they eventually quit because they never get to achieve the desired outcome. They look at the top of the pyramid and say holy shit that’s a far ways away. They build their internal story around this mindset and then they quit. I’ve been on the Ow! Brainer side of things plenty of times so far in my life and I can completely relate to this mindset. I’ve accomplished a shit ton of things in my short career, but I still haven’t reached the financial success I have always been striving for.

Wow! Brainers are different. They go from the starting point to their goals and then they look back and say holy shit, look at everything I have just accomplished. If I keep making progress every day and knocking off my performance goals, I’ll eventually achieve my desired outcome.

Yea, I’ve achieved a shit ton of things in my short career and the monetary gain hasn’t been there yet. But the Wow! Brainer side of me says look at all of the knowledge and skills and experiences I have acquired. If I keep at it, I will achieve my Through Outcome because I’m building a foundation that can never be taken away from me.

This brings us to the bottom level of the pyramid which is your Process. Your Processes answer the questions of What, How, and When. The beauty of this stage is that YOU are 100% in complete control over your processes and how you spend your time. Performance goals are only about 90% in your control and there are other factors that affect whether you hit your performance goals or not. Processes are 100% on you. You need to take Personal Responsibility if you want to start hitting your performance goals.

A Process Goal for me would be that every day I am going to spend 10 minutes researching online and reaching out to BBQ teams and Pitmasters to give them free products or ask to be a sponsor. The great thing about the Process stage is the old 1% theory. If you work to get better at something by just 1% every day, then it will take only 70 days until you have doubled your effectiveness in that area. If you follow the 1% rule for multiple areas of your life every day, it will have a geometric compounding effect.

The Process stage sums up the entire framework with the word “INEVITABLE” By building and following your Processes, you make it INEVITABLE that you will knock off your Performance goals and reach your desired outcome.

It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been a huge financial success yet because I have a framework or system in place that I follow every day. It may take me a few more months or a few more years before I will be able to start living my Through Outcome the way I envision it. The point is that it truly is INEVITABLE that I will make it there.

As long as I am making progress each day, I will hit the bend in the exponential curve and everything will fall into place.


Michael O’Donnell Learns Life Changing Frameworks

Posted on March 1st, 2014 in Frameworks, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story, Self Improvement | No Comments »

To put this post into perspective, last night I went out into Philly for a $28 open bar from 9-12pm. I got 3 times my money’s worth of the open bar and I loaded up with 4 more mixed drinks before 12 to keep me going the rest of the night. We didn’t get back to my friends place until around 2:30AM.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am busy as all hell with different projects that I am working on and at times I have been feeling completely overwhelmed. Luckily for me, I built an in house project management system last week and have been offloading everything in my mind into it because I literally haven’t been able to sleep for weeks because my mind is racing. I’ll make another post soon on the Project management system because I have a ridiculous marketing strategy behind it that will help grow Hyacinth Marketing exponentially over the next 6 months.

With that said, I am no stranger to work hard play hard. I got my ass up and made my way to Starbucks by 11:30 this morning and have been working ever since. Normally I just go right into things and get lost in my work until around 7pm at night (sometimes forgetting to eat because I am so immersed). At that point I go back over to a friend’s apartment and get blasted and go out.

Today is different. I closed all of my email down and decided I was not going to work at all today. I was going to spend my entire day working on myself and knocking off self education goals that I have been sidelining.

I just finished watching a presentation that has been on my list for about 2 months that I’ve been putting off. This presentation moved me so much and really struck home, so I decided to place all of my notes and pictures below.

In another post, I will be working through my own thought processes and building out my own framework. I’m also planning to reenact this exact presentation on video myself because for me it was that incredibly powerful and the notes don’t do it justice.

Your Potential – Todd Herman:

Frameworks for unleashing your potential:

 Performance Protocal Framework

For athletes that have been very successful, they hate when people say they have a lot of talent. The reason is because talent refers to genetics and basically says you did nothing to get where you are, you were born with it. Code is your genetics, the stuff you were born with

Competence is the collection of skills you have built over time and knowledge you have acquired. Everyone has the capacity to get more of competency.

The Catalyst is the motivating force or the drive that you have within you.

Kids are a great model to look at. They have what’s called intrinsic motivation. They have a desire to learn to grow and to explore the world around them.

When Competence and Catalyst match up you get motivation.

When Competence and Code match up, you get “A Calling” something you were drawn to do.

When Code and Catalyst come together you get Confidence.

This model is called the performance protocol. When all 3 are working together, your performance matches your potential. At that point, Code pretty much gets taken out of the equation



Goal Setting Framework:

 goal setting framework

Heider Simmel Study: We as human beings despite whatever information is in front of us, we attach a story to everything.

Most people goal set to a destination. Once you get there you feel kind of empty. That’s because you went to it, but you didn’t think through the goal. You need to go through that goal and tell the story of that goal.

You set goals to feel alive. You’re searching for meaningful experiences of connecting a feeling to yourself deeply.

Most athletes and type A individuals are really really good at the “Outcome”. What is it you’re shooting for. If you are not getting the satisfaction when you achieve your goals then you are focusing on the Outcome too much. You need to go Through your outcome.

Examples of outcome goals: Winning the race, getting a medal/trophy, making X amount of money per year.

How to goal set through the outcome. If your outcome goal is to retire, you goal set through that by saying so you can travel, so you can be your own boss, it’s the why behind it. Think about what you are giving or what it will do for me to achieve that outcome goal.

When you keep repetitively asking someone why they want to do this? The surface answer is rarely something that really evokes a lot of emotion and motivation. Keep asking someone Why and then typically by answer 17 or 23 you will uncover the real Through Goal.

Outcome goals are great, but you need to develop that story around it. The middle level is performance. Performance goals sound like this:

I will improve the number of vendors I reach out to in China from X to X+5 by Date

I will improve the number of sales I get from 10 per day to 20 per day by 1 month from now.

This model works for anything you are trying to achieve. The key words are “So That” I will shoot for this outcome goal so that I can give this back or so that I will be able to do these other things.

I will improve my pushups from 10 per day to 100 per day within 1 month from now so I can get ripped and live a healthy life style so that I can play with my kids and not get tired out from being a fat ass.

How is not important in this stage. If you have 1 outcome goal, you will typically have 3,5,10 + performance goals so you can hit that mark!


Performance goals are very important because there are 2 types of people. Ow brainers and Wow brainers. The word success is a crap word. Value is a better word.

Einstein had a great quote: He said don’t become a seeker of success, become a person of value. None fears value. People have a fear of success but nobody fears value.

You have your starting out point and then you have the where do you want to get to. What’s the ideal. Both Ow! Brainers and WOW! Brainers have the same path.

Now you establish your goal in the middle. If you are caught in the OW brain side you are stuck trying to go from goal to outcome. Versus people on the WOW side who focus on getting from the Start Point to the Goal. You need to work your way out of the OW brain side. Most people are not wired to be on the WOW side.

Ow brainers are fantastic at saying I started here and I’ve moved forward and done all of this work…but I’m still not at my ideal. This isn’t for me, I’m not going to do this.

Wow brainers are not the same as everyone else. You start at your start point and now you’re here (wherever that is) and here is what you do differently if you’re a Wow brainer. You say look at everything I’ve just accomplished.

Ow Brainers look at the top and they say wow that’s a bitch to get to the top, it’s never going to happen. You start telling yourself some bullshit story about how you’re never going to get there and why it will never work. How you’ve quit a million times before

Wow brainers are looking up from the bottom at the next stage and saying look at all I have accomplished. Let’s keep going because I’m making progress towards the top and I’ll eventually reach my outcome goal.

If you implement this model in your life it gives you a framework to run your days and achievements through and catch yourself. If you’re stuck on the Ow side and you just do this over time, you rewire your brain. You’re not stuck where you are, you can change yourself.

If you’re an OW brainer don’t write down what you want to do today, write down what you don’t want to do each day and start tracking that shit.

Everybody always keeps some type of log book about everything they are planning to accomplish each day. At the bottom of each day, put a little number from 1-10. Over time you will start to see patterns on what your “8” days look like versus what your “2” days look like.

Your next questions are What, How, When? At the bottom of the triangle is your Process that you will do to achieve your performance goals.

Every day I will wake up and do 4 sets of pushups until failure. Today I might only be able to do 40 pushups. Tomorrow I can do 42. A week from now I can do 60, and so on.

You have control over Process Goals 100%. You are responsible. Performance goals, you have control maybe 90%, Process is all you 100%.

If you are an athlete you are constantly bombarded with did you win the game? If you are a parent and you weren’t at the game, the worst thing you can do is ask them did they win the game? Children internalize that as if I win because mom and dad get excited about it, that means that they love me. Sports are about developing, learning, growing, gaining skills. Not about winning. You’re not toughening up your kids, you’re teaching them what not to be.

Process goals are all about the What the How the When and how to schedule that into your calendar. Follow this framework and you build a real support system to achieve your performance goals.

The word that sums this entire framework up is “Inevitable” How can I make it inevitable that I can retire by the age of X so that I can give the lessons that I’ve learned to my family or friends, help them to achieve some of the things that they want to go after, and do more of the things that I really want to do such as travel, experience new things, meet new people, tell people about my journey.

You make it INEVITABLE by doing the PROCESS goals and reaching PERFORMANCE goals. The lessons that you learn along the way are the things that are so incredibly valuable to you and everyone else around you.

The great thing about the PROCESS area is the 1% factor. If you improve yourself by just 1% each day, how many days does it take for you to double your effectiveness in that area? Just 70 days…

If you do this in multiple areas of your life, the improvement is geometric and has a compounding effect. Instead of asking yourself how can I be incredibly successful? Ask yourself how can I be Average today? Take the pressure off of yourself. Schedule in 2 days of the week where you are just going to be Average. It’s amazing when you release a whole bunch of that pressure and those average days becoming amazing and great days.

3 Things to take action on right now.

1.)    Know your outcome and wrap your story around it. How can you go through that outcome?

2.)    Measure your performance. Simple numbers, I will improve X to X+ by deadline.

3.)    Build the process. Give it some legs underneath it and energize it with action stuff.

The brain has an amazing way of seeing to the horizon line 3 months out. 1 year goals are hard for the brain because it is a little bit too foggy to see that far out. Do 3 month focused sprints.

Is my 3 month goal going to be mastering the mechanics of getting stuff into Amazon? Build the process and performance metrics around it. Give yourself the deadline a sprint to it. Chase it!

goal setting framework

Mike O’Donnell Gives A Status Update

Posted on February 24th, 2014 in Business Development, Cave Tools, Goal Setting, Lessons, Management, Media Buying, My Story, Outsourcing | No Comments »

I have been horrible at writing lately, so I figured I would at least give a status update on what has been going on in my business life. I would love to write about each of these things in more detail, but I just don’t have the time. Or maybe I am just not prioritizing this blog enough, but it is what it is right now.

What’s Going On:

  • I have my first SEO intern working for me doing about 10-15 hours of work per week. I built a 12 week course on my own platform which will allow me to scale with multiple interns. Course is set up as Major project week 1, redo project week 2 with some tweaks. After every 2 weeks the intern must write reflection post on our interns blog to help solidify their learning. Week 3 starts a new major project and everything builds on itself as they go through the 12 week course. Students get College credit for completing the internship
  • About a month ago, I built my own software (I coded it myself:) which allows me to scrape the business owner name and contact information for companies in pretty much any area that don’t have a website yet. Today I am hiring a data entry person for dirt cheap to run the software all day and upload leads into a CRM system. I also started the process for hiring my first cold caller/ telemarketing employees. They will call all day to sell websites using my script. Anybody that bites will be set up with a phone meeting with me where I will close them. My website developer will take on all new projects and follow my detailed instructions for exactly how we are building every website. Basically I’m productising small business websites and scaling. Once the process is smooth we should be able to increase lead generation at the top of the funnel and increase throughput
  • I have a phone meeting later today with a Famous TV personality in the weight loss niche. She is a B-list celebrity, which for my purposes is perfect. We’ll be discussing building an apparel ecommerce website for her. She has already mentioned promoting Hyacinth Marketing and Cave Tools to her following. I plan to close the deal and over deliver the shit out of her. Then I’ll open the conversation for not just promoting Cave Tools, but becoming the face and celebrity endorsement for the company
  • My 3rd product line, digital cooking thermometers are finishing being manufactured this week and will be thrown on a boat so we can get them live selling. I also have samples on their way for a 4th product line which also sells more year round. Really working hard on leveling out the business to avoid the seasonality trap I got stuck in this winter
  • This week I will be receiving my sample for our first full size Cave Tools grill. It is a combination charcoal grill and vertical rotisserie. Absolutely bad ass and super high quality craftsmenship. Still working on finalizing the details of our agreement, but it will be a private label dropship deal with a welding company in NY to create the grills. The design itself is an award winning design, but they are welders not marketers. Best part is I never have to stock inventory or risk capital to get going. Once orders come in I parse them through and the grill is manufactured for the customer and sent directly to them. I’ll finally have some high ticket items to legitimatize the brand.

Cave Tools Lunchbox1 20140212_211604

  • I’m sending sample products out today to Restaurant Depot, which is like the Sams Club for all restaurant owners. Also working on getting samples out to MrBarBQ as they are very similar to Restaurant Depot, but primarily focus on BBQ niche
  • I did a 1 yr national advertising deal with the National Barbecue Association back in November. I spoke to my rep this past week and they said I am outperforming the industry average by over 200% and I’m getting tons of brand engagement and follow up searches. They were trying to sell me on an even larger advertising package, which sounded pretty fantastic from a value standpoint. However, I declined because I need to expand our product lines more first so once we do kick the advertising into high gear I can have better conversions through cross sales, upsells, etc.
  • I got invited to a major auction in Las Vegas in May that draws over 20,000 retailers and distributors. I’m not personally attending, but I will have trained sales reps selling my products to the attendees. They take a 20% commission, so I don’t intend to make money here. I intend to break even and get as much brand exposure and engagement as possible. I also get a full data list on everyone that showed interest in our products so I can remarket to them afterwards. The list itself is priceless
  • I took a different angle with FB. Instead of working on the Cave Tools brand page, I set up a general interest group called I Love Barbecue. The reason being that people are less likely to like a brand page because they feel the company is making money on them. With a general interest group it is very open and people easily like the page. I am currently getting likes for less than $.05 a piece. We are well over 1,000 likes and the page is getting all sorts of engagement from Barbecue Associations and Enthusiasts posting pictures. When the Thermometers are ready, I will have a huge and captive audience to run a deep discount deal to. The deal will be giving away 50 free products, but it will be viral in the sense that in order to qualify they need to share the deal on facebook to their friends. The additional exposure will be huge. I  know other people who have done this with amazing results.
  • Today I built out a full advertising campaign for a real estate investor. I am getting much much better at media buying and conversions. This REI is part of a group of close to 100 other REIs and he has been talking about me a lot. Best part is that his original campaign was worse than horrible so without even trying I will look like a genius. I also built this guys website and he has already passed on a solid lead for another person that wants something similar.
  • We’re almost finished the completion of the Penn State specific classified ads website. This is a cool project that is basically creating a CraigsList clone but only making it university specific by email address for posters. Once they build a following at PSU they will approach other universities and I’ll be the web dev for each new site.
  • Just finished a website for an author and will be helping him with his book launch when they are done being printed. Interesting book that targets Atheists market and was rejected by over 100 traditional publishers because it was too controversial.
  • Planning a full rebuild of Hyacinth Marketing website to showcase client success stories and focus on Web Dev, Media Buying, High Level Consulting, and SEO only.
  • Planning to migrate Cave Tools over to a more robust ecommerce platform so we can really build out the sales funnel and increase conversions on the site. I’ll write a recap post of the website as it is now before I get rid of it. I learned so much through the development of the current website that I never knew before and I have tons of cool shit going on on the website!

There is probably more stuff going on right now I can’t think about. My mind has been racing lately and it’s very difficult to keep on top of everything. I’m really working on getting out of the employee mindset and focusing more on C-level and scaling processes. Lots of stuff coming together and I can’t wait for the summer when Cave Tools picks up again and I start having more cash flow to play with.




Michael “Medium Rare” O’Donnell

Mike O’Donnell Learns Some More Business Lessons…The Hard Way

Posted on November 11th, 2013 in Lessons, Management, My Story, Reflection | No Comments »

This is one of those reflection posts that is long overdue. The fact that I haven’t done a complete reflection yet makes me sense that this will be a painful read when I’m finished because the answers to many months of struggling will be so clear. This post will recap the Unlimit3d project from the beginning to where we are today…still in Milestone 1.

I first started devoting time towards the unlimit3d project back in April 2013. I was coming off an intellectually stimulating, yet financially fruitless partnership with Wayne Marquez and was in the beginning planning stages for Cave Tools. The Unlimit3d website represented a significant revenue opportunity and a chance to bring large scale recognition to Hyacinth Marketing.

I remember spending many nights on Google hangouts with the Unlimit3d team helping them build out the scope of work for the website and outline all of their ideas on paper. Throughout these meetings I would offer consulting advice for their business model and share insights about how I have built and scaled my business.  Through these meetings with the Unlimit3d team it became very apparent that Mark was the type of person that focuses on minute details and has a hard time seeing the big picture. After what I went through with Wayne, I knew this was the worst type of person to work with as they crush momentum at every stage of the game. However, I decided I could put up with it because of the potential income opportunity. All of these meetings were done free of charge so I could position myself to win the bid for the website. This essentially amounted to about 3 months worth of free consulting before we finally signed the contract and began work on July 15. Furthermore, I allowed the possibility of them going with another company to make me under price the website to ensure I won it.

What I would do differently now: I allowed the dollar value of the website to cloud my judgement. I knew the difficulties of working with Mark’s personality type and I put up with it for 3 months for free in the “Hopes” of winning the bid. Could you imagine how pissed off I would have been if I didn’t win the bid? If I am to devote this much time to hand holding and building an SOW again, then I need to charge an hourly rate for this service and all of the consulting advice I was giving. I also consciously knew that I was going to be putting up with a ton of frustration working with Mark because of his personality type, yet I still cut my margins in order to win the bid. Cutting margins in favor of “just working a little harder” is a losing mentality that will eat you and your business alive.

A much more subtle lesson learned during this reflection is to watch how much I talk about my business and the strategies I use to run it. Throughout our meetings before and during this project, I have discussed in great detail how I have built my business, hired foreign workers, and created systems and operating procedures to scale. Over the past few years I have been involved in so many different entrepreneurial ventures and aspect of business that my peers can only dream of doing. When asked targeted questions, my narcissistic side takes over and I tend to flex my big dick by telling all of my strategies. While reading the 48 Immutable Laws of Power by Robert Greene, I realized that there is a certain benefit to leaving some questions unanswered. Having a certain level of mysteriousness to your accomplishments can actually be of great benefit. Not that Unlimit3d would have the ability to “steal” and implement all of my ideas/strategies, but when explained in detail, they lose the wow factor. A great example would be how I coordinate all of my shipping and fulfillment for Cave Tools products across the country. When explained in detail it all seems very logical and realistic, but if all you knew was that I’m a 24 year old guy that manages national distribution of his products in his free time, well…you get the point.

We started working on Milestone 1 on 7/15/13 with an expected completion date of 8/23/13. Today is 11/05/13 and we are still working on Milestone 1. So what happened?  How could things have gone so wrong? While I am about to discuss quite a few flaws and problems that have occurred, I need to take responsibility for everything myself. Over the past 4 months I have blamed all of my frustrations on my client and have allowed them to put me through a living hell. However, my role in this process is supposed to be the project manager. It doesn’t matter what the client does, it is the project manager’s responsibility to keep everything on track and to enforce deadlines. If I was managing myself, I would have fired myself 30 times over by now. When I look at the root cause for all of my actions and allowing things to get this way, it all comes down to me chasing the money and chasing the recognition.

I prepared for the start of this project by customizing a project management platform that would facilitate perfect communication between my team in India and Unlimit3d. I allowed my project manager in India to handle the majority of communication with Unlimit3d and I spent my time tending to other clients and building Cave Tools. I put blind faith in the fact that my project manager could handle a personality type like Mark’s and keep things moving with me checking in occasionally. Regardless of the fact that I can barely handle working with his personality type, I ignored the fact that Indians are notorious for not speaking up when there are problems. Everything is always “ok” until you specifically confront them. Three weeks into the design phase we still had very little progress and that’s when the problem was truly addressed, not in weeks 1 and 2 when it was obvious that we were not on track.

In order to remedy the situation, I had to step into a much more operational role in dealing with the client. This was not scoped for and has required more hours of my time than I ever could have imagined. Upon taking over control, I quickly realized a few major problems. The first was that there was no clear leadership role on Unlimit3d’s side. They were a team of 5-6 people all trying to exert their wills. This caused very slow decision making on their end and it also resulted in us doing tons of rework by modifying designs every way imaginable. I finally forced unlimit3d to funnel all decision making through 1 person and to ensure quick turnaround times so we could catch up to schedule. The person they chose was Mark. Mark has an amazing ability for giving ambiguous requests and having a short memory when those requests are implemented.

The overall look and feel for the website was quickly taken out of our hands and everything had to be done exactly to the Unlimit3d specifications. As a designer it is important to be able to add your own creativity into the design. Unlimit3d was constantly asking our opinions on every single tiny detail of the website design and then after we spent time crafting our expert opinions, they would ignore it and go with what they wanted. While this sounds fine, it put us into a reactionary mode instead of a proactive mode. We became robots and did exactly what Unlimit3d asked because the design was no longer our creation. This caused major problems down the line because Unlimit3d did not foresee issues with color schemes clashing and how different layout styles would not work well together. These are all things we would have been able to foresee if the design was even somewhat related to our idea, but Unlimit3d was calling all of the shots. Before we knew it, they were having us generate 8-10 design versions of every page and spending tons of time redoing different designs.

After 2 months of work, Unlimi3d approached us and wanted to completely redo the design. I allowed this to be charged as a change order like we put in the contract, but in reality, I should have confronted the situation then. My team in India charged me 50% more than our original change order rate because they were frustrated and this was a much larger job than just a change order. I took the hit to my margins without passing a 50% increase on to Unlimit3d because I didn’t want to disturb the waters. Once again I was making concessions and chasing the future potential of the deal.

After the change order was complete, I placed greater pressure on them to be more specific and detailed in their feedback so we could wrap up the design phase. Mark responded by asking for weekly face to face meetings on Mondays. This seemed like a good solution because it would help move things along quicker. The reality of these meetings turned out to have no impact at all on feedback and design turnaround times. They ate up at minimum another hour of my time each week and in many cases prolonged feedback times because Mark would wait until after meeting with me to give feedback. In addition to reviewing his feedback, we would also spend time on general conversation and of course Mark asking about how my business was going. I would respond by flexing my big dick about all the cool things I was doing as mentioned above and before you knew it the meeting was 2 hours long and accomplished nothing. If anything, these meetings were me coaching Mark on how to run/build a business and how to be decisive and provide clear feedback.

Our meetings never resulted in actual feedback because Mark would then need to go home and discuss with Azeem. The deal was that he would send me the final feedback before 9pm at night so I could get it over to India and they could work while we slept. Not only did they rarely make the 9pm deadline, but the quality of feedback was often so poor that I would still need to go over everything and rewrite it in a way that my designers could understand what they wanted. This resulted in me working full days managing both Hyacinth Marketing and Cave Tools and then coming home for a few hours break and then working late hours so I could filter feedback and send to India. Working an outrageous schedule like this quickly wears you down.

I can’t imagine how much money I have lost because I have allowed the Ulimit3d contract to consume me. In essence, they got 3 months of free planning work out of me and they paid for 30 days of work for milestone 1 and have now gotten 4 months of work out of that payment. I can’t even begin to put a dollar amount to the 6 months of free work they have gotten from me, the impact of lost sales opportunities I haven’t been able to pursue, the drop in performance for my current clients, the lack of time to focus on promotional activities or Cave Tools, and the inability to work on forward thinking projects to take my company to the next level and generate more income. It’s truly disturbing when I think about everything I have put into this project and how little I have received in return. Chasing the money and recognition is the underlying factor that has been clouding my judgement.

After living through all of this and reading everything I have just written, I just can’t believe I allowed things to get so far out of control on my watch and my wallet. I think it has been a combination of a sense of duty because we signed a contract, and the fact that I had a personal relationship with Mark before entering into our business relationship. I have never been one to back down or to give up on something and dropping this project would have been accepting defeat. My personal friendship with Mark has also caused me to give him so many concessions and non charges even when they were clearly justifiable based on the terms of our contract. On the other hand he has clearly exploited our friendship and has used it to take advantage of me. Parts of me wish he hasn’t realized what he is doing, but he has slipped a few times in conversation recently which suggests otherwise. He is fully aware that he is taking advantage of me and knows that I have been bound by a contract and handcuffed by the potential social fallout if things do not end smoothly between us.

This brings me to the current situation today. Since Unlimit3d insisted on taking the lead for all of the designs, the project has gone vastly out of scope. They have cherry picked ideas and features from all of the major websites on the internet and thrown them into the website. Every time they have added a new feature, I have been put in the bad guy situation where I need to advise them that this is something that we never planned for and is out of scope. Things like adding in Google + Circles for social interactions, advanced preloading scripts, various algorithms from sites like Imgur. From their perspective everything on the web today is drag and drop, so they think it should be as easy as copy and paste. In reality, there are hundreds of hours of programming that go into creating these things. They expect a 5 hour change order, but when I tell them it would most  likely be another 30-40 hours they argue and complain as if I am taking advantage of them. Every time something comes up the persist and make us spend hours working on the design of the new feature, even though they will most likely want to cut the feature out when they see the bill. More work completed on our dime that will result in nothing tangible. Based on the 3 months of working together to build the scope, we outlined a very nice feature rich website for them. Now when I try to explain what they are doing, it’s almost like we scoped out a Corolla and they want a full featured Mercedes…for the same price. It’s classic bait and switch, but I’ve allowed it to go on without taking a firm stance.

We scoped out Milestone 1 to include the graphic design of the main pages and some preliminary coding to get the website up and functioning. Unlimit3d has taught me to never mix design and coding together in the same milestone. After 4 months of work on this milestone, there is no money left for the coding portion. Since the coding portion of this milestone has changed so much by going outside of scope, I have discussed with Unlimit3d that we need to re scope and re propose the website.

Right now we are trying to finish up the final designs for the website so we can get to the point where we can re propose. The problem however is that my team is so frustrated and so sick of working for basically free that their work output is dwindling. It’s like pulling teeth trying to get the modifications done correctly so we can finalize designs. This is causing me to spend even more hours operationally to make sure we get the designs right.

Our plan for when we re propose is to make sure we can make up some lost money in the later phases of the website. As I see it now, even without me jacking up prices to try and make anything back, the price is going to be so astronomical that they will either cancel the deal or try to go a la carte and pull features out of the website until they get the price down to something reasonable. Either way, I am screwed. If they go somewhere else, I need to accept a major loss on the books and 7 months worth of work down the drain. I also feel the social ramifications of explaining to mutual friends my side of the story versus his. If they go a la carte, then the 100s of hours we put in to designing these features are all for not. Do I now charge them to remove these from the designs? If It is as simple as deleting a layer from a design file, do the 1 hour change order really do justice to the work we put in to that? Do I then pull a number out of my ass and say to remove anything it will cost you X amount because of the time we spent on it? All signs point to this ending badly in some way or another.

Up until a few weeks ago losing this website would have represented a major failure for me and would be the last thing I wanted to happen. Now, I feel just like my designers and programmers feel. I just want to get rid of these guys once and for all and never have to deal with them again. Even if my new proposal is accepted and results in me being heavily compensated, is it worth it to go through 7 more months of this? They are a poison I have allowed them to be a poison to my business, my bank account, and my mental and physical health. In this situation, I feel as though the only way to stop the poison is to cut the limb off.

If I ever find myself in a situation like this again, there are probably 100 things that I would do differently. For starters, I would definitely separate graphic design and coding. I would also hire an American designer and charge them out at an hourly rate. That way they could work in real time with the client and get everything done according to specifications. I would structure the contract to be heavily in my favor as the company. When we built the contract with Unlimit3d, it was very Democratic and I made a bunch of concessions (which came back to butt fuck me) in order to get the deal through. I would obviously price the website accordingly and make the change order rate very painful so it could serve as a stronger deterrent. I would also set up the milestones to be much shorter in length. That way we could never get to far off track and we could always keep cash flow coming in. I would also manage the project with a much firmer hand to ensure things didn’t get out of control. When you have the mentality of chasing the big win, you tend to make poor judgements. When you have the mentality of this is the way our company does things, you make much more objective decisions.

The key to success lies in your failures, not your successes. In the grand scheme of things, this will probably be a small failure for me. However, in my world as it is today, I have just failed on a large scale. This reflection post has helped me to finally come to terms with this failure and accept whatever consequences arise over the next few weeks. I know I’ve learned more from this project than I even realize right now and I’m actually glad that I had the opportunity to weather this storm. Learning from your mistakes is the essence of entrepreneurship and builds the foundation for your future success.

Mike O’Donnell Describes Grill Set Product Launch

Posted on October 17th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Cave Tools, My Story | No Comments »

***First off, I’m a total ass hole because I just went another 2 months without posting on my blog (This happens every time). I just did a brainstorm on everything that has happened since August 11 and I’m hoping I can fit it all into 5 or 6 blog posts (excluding 2 speeches I never uploaded and critiqued) without making them monsters. Time to start writing***

My first batch of 1,000 grill sets has finally finished being manufactured! After working through a bank wire fiasco yesterday/today (topic of a different post), they should be picked up in China tomorrow morning and hopefully be live by the start of November. Due to time restrictions with missing the holiday season, I had to split up between a plane and ocean shipment again. I did the math and it was in my best interest to do so, but it still sucks because I’m spending more money than needed again #profit margins. Working with Unlimit3d has been an absolute mess, so luckily for me my dad offered to front some initial investment to get the set manufactured.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this grill set is my pretty much my baby. I designed every aspect of this set and also got the chance to employ some pretty cool marketing strategies on the packaging. Needless to say, I am very excited about finally launching this new product line in a few weeks.

Product Packaging

When my manufacturer shipped over my sample products, they forgot to send them with sample packaging as I requested. They acknowledged their error and sent over 2 pieces of cardboard with varying thicknesses, but they were not the correct size to fit my tools and I couldn’t get a feel for if I should use twisty ties or plastic zips to secure them to the packaging. Of course, I now had to make these decisions on my own with nothing to use as a reference. Each day that passed was another day I wasn’t making sales, so I had to act quickly.

I designed the grill set to be a premium product so the packaging had to match, especially if I wanted to sell them in retail stores in the future.  I played with each piece of sample cardboard and held the tools against them to see how well they could support the tool set without bending. Since the cardboard pieces were not full size, I couldn’t get a good estimate. I knew I’d be pissed off if I went with the lighter weight to save a few cents and it didn’t come out well, so I immediately decided to go with the heavier cardboard.

My next decision was to go with either a shiny finish or a matte finish. Initially, I thought I should go with the shiny finish because it would look nicer. However, I did a little bit of research and found that many people actually think matte finish looks higher class. I also found out that shiny finish shows finger prints when it is touched. My grill sets would be handled quite a few times by people before reaching the customer, so I decided that matte finish would be the way to go. The only trade off was that matte finish isn’t waterproof and shiny finish is. Not that I would ever find myself in a claims situation with a shipping company…

My instinct on the ties was to go with the plastic zip ties because they look nicer. However, I probed my manufacturer on this question and found out that plastic zips can sometimes snap during the shipping process. Twisty ties would be the way to go to ensure no quality issues.

Now that I decided on the heavier cardboard with matte finish and twisty ties, I had to take measurements to figure out my dimensions. I would expect my manufacturer to provide this for me based on other similar grill sets, but they would not. So I took out a ruler and a pencil and went to work. I taped a bunch of pieces of paper together so I could have a large canvas and I took my best guess at measurements. Later we actually had to resize all of my artwork because the manufacturer thought there was too much extra cardboard. Adam Sandler summarized my feelings perfectly in The Wedding Singer with one of the best quotes of all time:

I decided to go with a similar template as my grill brush tag on the front of the packaging. On the back I dug into my bag of marketing tricks. The back starts out with a personal letter from the owner of the company (me) with cursive font to symbolize my signature. I thank them for their purchase, tell them a little bit about our company philosophy and values, express that we are there for them with customer support, and finish up with a soft request for a review using a vanity url that automatically takes them to the review page on Amazon. Underneath my letter I promote my social media links. Most people just ignore the social media links, so I give them an actionable reason to go online and actually follow us (grilling tips, videos, only place for insiders discounts). I follow up with a comment to check out our members area and I throw in a big ass 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed badge. Research has proven that these badges decrease shopping cart abandonment online because they instil consumer confidence. These people are already customers, but I’m hoping this will decrease my chances of receiving negative reviews and encourage people to contact us first. I also threw in a nice “Please Recycle” sign above my UPC Code for all the greenies out there. I had to purchase 10 UPC Codes at once, so I guess I need to come out with 9 more products 🙂

Grill Set Front



Grill Set Back


After I created my packaging design, I sent the mock-ups over to Bangladesh to my boy Ibrahim who converted them into print ready Illustrator files. Then my manufacturer told me that I needed to show the measurements for where the tools would tie in. Once again, I took out my trusty ruler and figured out all of my exact measurements and had to carefully place them on the artwork so they were in perfect position after printing. This was a lot harder than it sounds because you need to use the rulers on your computer screen to match up to life size. In the end, the manufacturer changed these positions as well when we resized the art work. Thanks again Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer!

Writing Sales Copy

After the product and packaging process was complete, we started manufacturing and I had about a 30 day window to start getting ready for the launch. First up was writing my sales copy. My sales copy for the grill brush page was converting at a high percentage, so I decided to go with a similar format. My 5 big features (written in benefit oriented copy) were the 20% thicker stainless steel, extra wide tool hangers, spatula bottle opener, oversized tong clamps, air pressure and interlocked handle welds, and the strict quality control process. Here is an image for my original sales copy for this page:

Grill Set Sales Copy



High Quality Product Images


Next, I had to get super high quality product images so I could draw visitors in and get them to actually read my beloved sales copy. I was working in Philly one day near my good friend Chef Matt Budhenstein and he just so happened to invite me over for lunch. I just so happened to have my sample sets in the car and he just so happens to have a very expensive camera. We took about 60 pictures from varying angles. This wasn’t a planned photo shoot, but the pictures came out great! I sent them over to Ibrahim to do some professional touch ups (remove shadows and backgrounds, sharpen edges, etc.) Amazon requires your main image to be on a pure white background, but you can do whatever you want with  the other pictures. A black background really made the images POP! Here’s a peak at 2 of them:

Spatula Close


Tongs Close



Email Follow Up Sequence

Manufacturing was now underway and product page was complete. Time to write an email follow up sequence to increase the chances that people will leave product reviews. My email sequence for the grill brushes was 4 emails over the course of 3 weeks after the person ordered from Amazon. I took a somewhat hard angle at asking people for reviews under the thin veil of contacting them to give them “Grilling Tips from Bobby Flay.” I’ve gotten a bunch of reviews from these emails, but I think most people saw right through my ploys and just got pissed off and never left a review. Even worse, some people may have given lower star reviews because they were annoyed at my continuous fake attempts to provide value. Don’t get me wrong, the grilling tips did provide value, but when coupled with repeated review requests, I think I was harming my brand a little bit.

My product packaging is personal and already asks for a review, so I wanted to pair the follow ups by going with the personal touch. Customers will no longer receive an email from Nick Giordano or Mike O’Donnell the “Customer Support Rep.” They will be receiving personal emails from Michael “Medium Rare” O’Donnell. The founder and owner of Cave Tools. I think this gives an entirely different feel for the customer because it is rare (no pun intended) that the owner of a company actually follows up with you. My new email sequence is only 2 emails long and I tell them that we spent a lot of hard work designing these products (we did!) and that we really want to hear back from them on what they think. I read through and respond to every email personally and will reply to them ASAP.

The first email goes out the next morning and tells them that we just shipped their grill set out to them. The second email (this is the key) goes out 6 days later to confirm they received their set and encourages them to grill up a nice juicy steak to try out their grill set and let me know if they have any comments. The big part of this strategy (I spoke with other sellers using this strategy at high success rates) is that most people choose standard shipping which is 7 days. Since I am confirming they received their shipment, this initiates a dialogue in which I can confirm they will receive their set within another day or two. Now that we are speaking personally, I can request feedback, acknowledge concerns, and have permission to ask them to post their feedback as a review.

This creates more email handling on my part, but the responses are very predictable. I can use a template response and slightly modify each time to fit the customer.  From my discussions with other sellers, this should dramatically increase my reviews. If I start to receive too many emails I can modify my copy a little bit and have my assistant Caecilia handle the emails. I recently changed my grill brush email sequence to this strategy as well because it is proven to work.


Facebook Launch

The final piece of the puzzle is my facebook launch, which I just started today. Up until now, I have done a piss poor job of building an email list. None of my previous attempts have worked out, so I don’t even have a list to email when I launch my grill set. If I had a list of even 200 email addresses, I could probably generate a significant initial boost of sales to get me rolling.

Just like with the grill brush, I am offering a huge discount so I can get momentum and initial sales in the door. However, I learned from last time to give a limited number of coupons away and to price myself so I can still make money on this first burst of sales. Oh the mistakes I have made so far on this journey. Anyways, capturing emails is a huge part of my strategy so I set up an opt in page on my fan page with a video explaining how people can get a 37% off coupon for the coolest Christmas gift ever! I’m using Facebook ads to promote my opt in page and get as many views as possible. On this initial round I don’t give away a lot of info at all about the grill set. I’m trying to sell them first on the opt in. Once we become closer to the launch, I will release more info about the grill set and keep promoting my opt in page each time. I’m really hoping that I can get a solid group of emails this time around. Here is a peak at what this initial opt in page looks like today:

Facebook Opt In


That’s about it for now with the Grill Set Product launch. There’s a lot more ongoing marketing to come to make this product a success!

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 Fires His First Customer

Posted on August 11th, 2013 in Lessons, Management, My Story | No Comments »

Buckle up, this is a good one. I almost contemplated calling this post the legend of Matt Zinman because the weekend out in Newtown was truly legendary. Let’s jump right in.

The first time I met Matt was when I was working with Wayne in Doylestown. Within 15 minutes of the start of Wayne and Matt’s meeting, an argument erupted and Fuck You’s started flying back and forth between both of them. This was classic conversation style for Wayne, but I figured Matt was just responding to Wayne in the same manner. It  turns out they’re very similar people, except Wayne actually had his shit together. On Matt’s way out that day, we exchanged cards and he told me he was impressed with me and would like to stay in touch for future business together. A quick, “Nice to meet you Mike. Go fuck yourself Wayne.” and he was gone.

Matt always works out of the Starbucks in Newtown, so I would run into him every now and then and keep the contact warm. He has a non profit that “attempts” to raise money for unpaid internships and has had quite a few conversations with Justin and Dreama before, so we had that in common. A little over a month ago I get a call from Matt and he wants to start doing business together. He wanted to do hourly work instead of by the project, which is not something I normally do. He gives me the classic start small and then work up to bigger dollar value projects pitch and I figured whatever, I’ll do some hourly work for him.

Before he has ever given me any work, he starts CC’ing me on tons of super long emails that have nothing to do with me at all. I’m talking like 3 emails a day of 5+ pages. He also asks me to do a conference call with him where he introduces me to everyone as his marketing guy. I eventually had to have talk with him because he was wasting my time and not giving me any work. He’s the type of guy that wants a ton of work done without paying for it.

After my “talk” with Matt, he starts giving me some graphic design and programming work. In addition to having my guys do the work, I’m wasting tons of time just trying to manage him. He keeps calling me and asking form y opinions and basically trying to have me build his marketing strategy for him. Meanwhile, I’m busy as hell with Cave Tools and 4 new Hyacinth Clients and he is destroying my efficiency. I finally tell him that I am not “on his team” and I charge $100 per hour for consulting if he would like to continue calling me for everything. Otherwise, we will do the work he asks us to, but that’s it. This is now strike 2 for the guy and during that phone call he was raising his voice and getting aggressive while I was trying to remain calm and diffuse the situation.

We continue doing hourly work for him and everything needs to be done right away. Now, Now, Now. Most of the time, we didn’t have any passwords to access the sites he needed work on (we had to hack into 3 of them to reset pws he lost) for about 2 weeks. Then I would get an email at 3pm on a Friday and the immediate work for the last 2 weeks now needed to be completed by Saturday morning. At this point he is really getting on my nerves and he has the balls to tell me I am missing my deadlines.

He asks to have a quick meeting with me in Newtown and since I’m already there shipping out some grill brushes to somebody in Regina, Canada (Amazon only ships domestically), I tell him I’ll meet him at the Starbucks. I walk in and see him sitting in his chair wearing a muscle shirt and we start to make small talk while I’m waiting for my coffee. He tells me about how he almost got in a fight over the weekend with a bunch of 20 something year olds at a bar in Richboro and then slips in that he’s been getting kicked out of too many bars from drinking too much (He’s mid 40s). He also said he needs to clean up his act because he is going to be a very prominent public figure soon…

When we sit down, he starts showing me all this random shit that once again has nothing to do with me. I keep looking at my phone and showing strong disinterest and tell him we’ve been here for over a half hour and haven’t discussed anything yet. When we hit the 45 minute mark I tell him I need to go and then he jumps right into what he intended for the meeting, giving me more work to be done immediately. I tell him that we need to close out the first invoice before any more work because we’ve been working for over a month without any payment. He starts to get aggressive again and I tell him that we won’t do anything until we finish this first round of work and can get paid. Tensions rise and he is now raising his voice and making an ass of himself in the middle of a packed starbucks. Then he starts poking at me and trying to get under my skin. This is pretty close to how the rest of the convo went:

Matt: Look at you man your face is all red, you need to calm down. What’re you threatened by me because I’m wearing a muscle shirt?

Me: Matt, have you ever heard of Pareto’s Principle?

Matt: Yea, the 80/20 rule…

Me: Yea, 80% of my profits come from 20% of my customers. 80% of my frustrations also come from 20% of my customers. What side do you think you’re on?

Matt: Are you kidding me?

Me: We’re no longer doing business together

Matt: Are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to reject my money? (Freaks out and makes an even bigger scene)

Me: This meeting is over. You’ll receive your invoice by the end of today.

I start walking out to my car and he follows me out screaming about how I’m ruining the launch of his non profit. I tell him we’re doing our best for him and if he’s unhappy he can work with a different marketing company.

Later in the day I get an apology email from him. I respond and tell him I thought about things and am sticking to my decision. The next day I get a pissed off email from him saying how work is separate from an invoice (insinuating he isn’t going to pay me the $1,500 he owes me) and that I’m ruining his launch, and his website isn’t working because of mistakes by my team. I check his website and it’s working fine so I tell him that all work has been completed exactly as asked and his website is working fine. I attach the invoice again and say if he has any other questions to let me know.

His response, “Oh, ok my bad. Nothing else then…besides the fact that you won’t work with me.”

Now for the good part. Last Thursday I’m outside at Isaacs in Newtown with a bunch of friends and I’m telling them this story. About 10 minutes later our friend Hank comes over and says, “That little Italian dude is here again buying a bunch of shots for random people.” He describes Matt to a tee and tells a story about how Matt got kicked out of Isaacs last time he was there. I decide to not go in because I don’t want to get into any drunk altercation with him.

After Isaacs, we go over to La Stalla because it’s cougar night. This place is known all over the internet for the best place to pick up cougars and people drive from all over to go there on Thursday nights. Its pretty ridiculous. Tons of divorcees and 40+ year old moms all dressed up in sorority outfits dancing with old fat dudes to rap and hip hop. Tons of rich plastic trophy wives too. The whole place is a show in and of itself. Watching old creepy dudes pull the same moves that didn’t work in high school 30 years ago is hilarious.

Anyways, I’m waiting in the line for the bathroom and across the room I see Matt in an argument with one of the waiters and screaming at him. When I come out of the bathroom he’s gone. I had to leave because I had work in the morning, but apparently Matt came back after I was gone. He walks up to my friend Kurt and says, “Hey dude I just started my own business, isn’t that cool? By the way, if you see anybody walking up behind me can you let me know?”  Within 5 minutes, Kurt said the bouncers came over and carried him out and said he’s been kicked out too many times and he’s never allowed at LaStalla again.

The next night, we are all out in Newtown again and I see Matt at the Black Horse Tavern. He’s talking to Hank again and since all my friends were over there, I decided to just say hi to him. We make no small talk and when he realizes these are all of my friends, he just walks away. About 15 minutes later there is a bunch of commotion and we all go outside to see what’s happening. I have no clue what happened, but Matt was across the street on the ground with the bouncer pressing his face into the sidewalk. I think he tried to fight a bouncer or something. Every cop in Newtown shows up to the scene, but it was too late because Matt took off running down the road already. I guess because he is going to be this big public figure soon and that would be bad press…

Everyone outside the bar has their own stories about Matt and how he has literally been kicked out of every bar in Newtown. The dude is an absolute mess.

As For an update, Matt will not respond to any of my emails. He is approaching the 30 day mark for his invoice and I’m assuming he is going to try and not pay me. He has about 10 more days left to pay, so we’ll see what happens. My attorney has a collections department, which I can use, but ideally I would like to just get paid and not have to ever deal with him again.