It’s the Customer’s Story (Not Yours)

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Work | No Comments

Recently I was working with one of our teams to distribute pre-work for classes at The Iron Yard. One of our instructors (Matt Keas) included the following in his message to incoming students:

Hey IronYardians!

I’m so excited to get started and meet as a group! As a precursor to our class, I have some “pre-work” for our class. Eric, Brian, and myself will email everyone a few more times as our starting date arrives. I am very excited and extremely grateful that each of you has invited us here at The Iron Yard to share your story. I am pumped and ready to rock. (Emphasis mine.)

What a wonderful perspective and reminder: we as the business have the privilege of being invited into our customers’ stories (not the other way around). Whenever I have the opportunity to speak in front of students at The Iron Yard, I always make sure to thank them for trusting us and believing we can help them make a difference—after all, they didn’t have to choose us. We have an opportunity to make their life better. In our context, we have an opportunity to help them completely change their life—that’s not something to take lightly.

I think on some level this is a philosophical perspective: do I view my interactions with customers as more of a privilege or a right? It’s easy for me to look at the value I think we’re providing and wonder why someone wouldn’t do business with us, but that’s a fertile ground for unhealthy ego.

On one of the flights I took today one of the attendants said, “Thanks for flying with us today. We know you have choices and the fact that you chose us means a whole lot.” That could certainly be lip service, but the attitude towards the customer is on target.

Paralyzed in the Face of Infinity

Posted by on Sep 21, 2014 in Life, Nerdery | No Comments

Because I travel a good bit, blocks of down-time in airports have become coveted chances to knock work out and clear my inbox. Sometimes, though, I choose to take a break from productivity and simply observe the world around me. That’s a fancy way of saying I enjoy walking around and looking at displays, marketing campaigns and, of course, people-watching.

Yesterday in the airport I observed several people, who were waiting to board flights, simply staring at their smartphones. I happened to be close to several of them in the context of boarding and could see their screens, on which were apps. These individuals were staring at apps on their phone. What a curious behavior. It’s even more strange when repeated—one gentleman stared at his phone for a bit, locked it, put it in his pocket, then pulled it back out again in a few minutes and performed the same staring ritual, this time swiping back and forth a few times between screens.


Reading Online VS Reading Print

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014 in Nerdery | One Comment

A significant portion of the reading I do is digital. I would suspect the same of many people today—afterall, there are now bookless libraries.

There’s are plenty of opinions about the differences between reading on screens versus reading print on paper. I’ll save my opinions on the good and bad of both mediums for another post.

Today I want to point out one difference that is consistently noticeable and makes the online reading experience more difficult for me in some ways.


I Coded My First Program

Posted by on Sep 7, 2014 in Life, Nerdery | 2 Comments

I’ll delve into more detail in the future, but I’m very happy to say that today I completed a goal I’ve had for a long time: writing a program using code.

That may seem funny to say because I run a code school, but running a code school and writing code are two very different things (and you don’t have to be excellent at both unless you’re a one-person school). As far as writing code goes, I know enough HMTL and CSS to be dangerous, but I’ve lingered on the edge of building actual programs for some time.

I’m on a week-long business trip to Houston, which means lots of quiet work time in a hotel room.


On the Road: My Hotel Work Station

Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Work | No Comments


Recently I thought about what people might envision when they think about what others actually do when they travel for their job. For me, the tasks on each trip vary—sometimes its non-stop meetings, sometimes it’s looking at real estate, sometimes it’s spending time with our team and many times it’s a combination of all three and more.

No matter what I’m doing for work, though, time on the road tends to be incredibly productive for me. I love working with people, but I also love working in a quiet, solitary environment (especially if I need to make something, like a piece of writing).


Freedom to Make Things Better

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Work | No Comments

Yesterday I wrote a post about post about the difference between being entrepreneurial and enterprising.

After writing it I thought about the team members we’ve hired at The Iron Yard. Some are truly entrepreneurial, but all of them are enterprising and have been described that way to me more than once.

I’ve also heard business owners say that they really desire to hire enterprising employees, or, in their words, “employees with an entrepreneurial spirit.” (Putting the words “employee” and “entrepreneur” in the same sentence can be a bit contradictory, but that’s another post for another day.)

The desire to hire such employees can mean different things and depends on the type of business. Writing the article yesterday got me thinking about what hiring enterprising employees means at The Iron Yard.


Entrepreneurial or Enterprising?

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Work | No Comments

The term “entrepreneurial” gets thrown around a good bit these days, especially now that startups are a popular headline in the news. I’ve been called entrepreneurial before, both before and after helping launch The Iron Yard. So what exactly does the term mean?

Mirriam-Webster defines the word “entrepreneur” as:

One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

The dictionary application on my laptop, which sources material from the New Oxford American Dictionary, defines entrepreneurial as close to the same:


Quotes Won’t Revolutionize Your Business

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Work | No Comments


If I could read 77 quotes and suddenly experience all of the desired transformation I seek personally and in my business, I’d be…well…not writing about how to navigate the crazy adventure I’ve found myself on, for one.

I’m generally not one to rant, but running across that sensational headline was a reminder that we are often addicted to the quick fix, no matter what we are facing. We want the nugget, the secret passage way, that one silver bullet that we’ve been missing that will solve the problem.

Sometimes, we do find a flash of inspiration or solution that makes everything better (temporarily), but most of the time I think the search for magic is a salve to the painful realization that doing good work is just plain hard most of the time. The magic is actually in endurance—the ability to keep pushing forward and doing work, day in and day out.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.
—Woody Allen

Showing up and facing hard work doesn’t mean you don’t have to enjoy what you do, but it may look a lot less glamorous than headlines would lead us to believe.

Gears of Change: Time, Technology and Me

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Nerdery, Work | No Comments

Yesterday morning I somewhat randomly reminisced about my introduction to email and how I used electronic messaging “early on” (at least in my personal history). During high school I had an AOL email account (as a consequence of using Instant Messenger, of course). I rarely used AOL for email and when I did, it was almost always related to school.

I started using email more often my freshman year in college. My cousin, an IT professional, told me about Gmail and after trying it I thought it was incredible compared to AOL (it was). I was amazed at the constantly-increasing megabyte count on the log-in screen. And the service was free.

Even in in the winter of 2005, I was one of the only people I knew among my freshman friends using Gmail. For fun, I looked up the first email I sent from my personal account (which is still in use). I remember sending it: I’d changed my AOL email to something more professional (my Instant Messenger handle was “snowrider34″), which required me to notify my contacts. After hearing about Gmail, I made another change and notified my contacts again. Apparently my father noticed the quick double-switch.


After signing up for Gmail, I used email prolifically. I remember the feeling of emailing customer service addresses when I had problems and those problems being addressed without the need for a phone call. It was powerful. Most often, though, I used email as an expedited letter service to maintain long-form correspondence with family and friends. I had long preferred typing to writing, so the efficiency of sending letters digitally was wonderful.

Thinking back on that time made me wonder about the last time I sent a long-form message via email to a friend or family member. Try as I might, I can’t remember. I haven’t sent a long digital letter in quite some time.


Videographers, Butchers and Talent

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Work | No Comments

I’ve worked on a fair number of video projects over the past few years. I always enjoy watching really talented people perform their craft and tend to ask questions when I notice a particular way a craftsman works.

One video project was a short biography of a customer. I’d written a basic script outlining the points we needed to make about both the customer’s story as well as the brand and product. As with many videos, we shot the footage out of order—the chronological sequence that would ultimately become the promotional film didn’t match our schedule of shooting.

After shooting for about half a day, I remember the main videographer/director stopping in what seemed like the middle of a testimonial section and saying, “That’s it. We’re good. We can start packing up.”

Naturally, I asked, “are you sure you’ve got enough to put together the story and brand components.”


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