Adventures of Youth

Today I wanted to depart from the normal discussions with regards to business, technology, and growth, and share a story with you. It was part of a discussion I had with a friend of mine who I refer to as my little sister, and she looks up to me like a big brother.

To give you some background, after taking a number of years off after high school, she went back to school, and is finishing up her degree in college. She is also planning her wedding this summer, and working full time hours. She has an extremely positive outlook in life, is very adventurous, and her bubbly personality is almost infectious.

A few weeks ago she was offered to opportunity to go to St. John’s with a few friends. She immediately jumped on the opportunity, since the trip fell during spring break from school. The plans were set, and off they went. There we almost daily pictures posted to FaceBook, and she tweeted the entire time she was down there. She did this more for her fiancee than anyone else, since he couldn’t go on the trip because of work.

I dropped her a line after she got back and asked how the trip was. She said she had a good time, and wanted to go back with her fiancee so he could experience it with her. That gave me a momentary pause, so I asked her this: “Then why didn’t you wait, and go down as a couple?”

Her answer was not quite what I expected, though gave me a lot to think about. She said “To be honest, I am not sure when that trip would be. With the wedding coming, our honeymoon already planed, and his limited vacation time and insane work schedule, it may be a ways off. See, we discussed this trip in depth, and he told me to go since this was an opportunity to go away with my friends that may never come around again. He said we have a lifetime to plan to go ourselves.”

As I reflected on what he told her, I knew those words rang very true. I see it happen when my own wife tries to plan a girl’s weekend with her friends that are scattered across the country. It is a long process to find a time that works for everyone, and a location that fits for making travel plans.

The sad part though, is that many times the adventure of youth fades away as you get older. As career and responsibility assert itself into your life, the spontaneous fire starts to dim and fade. The “let’s pack a bag and go somewhere” transforms into careful planning and budgeting. The get away weekends become farther and fewer between, and we allow ourselves to get caught up in life without any reprieve.

That spontaneous fire never truly goes away though. It sits like an ember inside, waiting to be stoked again. The key is you have to want to ignite it again.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Never give up your sense of youthful adventure. No matter what road life takes you down, or where you wind up, never let your sense of adventure fade. Even if it is something simple like a spur of the moment day trip, the benefits to boost your spirit and let you soar are well worth it.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

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The Business Whirlwind

After an action packed week of meetings, finalizing a new application module for our system, and the general day to day operation of the business, I decided to take a moment to reflect on the whirlwind of activity that goes hand in hand with owning your own business. As most business owners will tell you, there are times when it seems like it can be never ending, and makes for very long days.

Of course there are the inevitable questions that people almost always seem to ask. The big one I get asked the most is: “Is it all worth it?” The answer is always “Yes, because I am doing what I love to do, and the feeling of accomplishment is very rewarding.”

That is one of the major keys when you own your own business, you have to love what you are doing. It drives your passion to keep moving forward, and infuses everything you do. It is the same with any profession. Take a chef for example. Many times they work 12 or 14 hour days at the restaurant. Most people would say that is crazy, and they could never do it. For the chef though, it is their love and passion for cooking that gives them that extra energy to work those long shifts. They thrive on the accomplishment of serving a perfect dish for each and every customer.

Another major key is balance. The ability to separate yourself from your business, and spend quality time doing other things. This is very important to any business owner, and even as an employee, because you can become consumed with the “business only” aspect of your life, and run the risk of getting burnt out. When that happens, your drive and passion suffer, and you start to lose your love for what you are doing. I know this from personal experience, because I have been there. I was the lead development manager for a large consulting company, and our clients were some of the top names in the financial industry. At times I felt like I lived my life in the financial district of New York City, and never had any time to do anything else. After 9 long years, I had nothing left to give.

It took me taking a risk and starting my own business to re-ignite my passion and love for what I do. I turned my focus towards helping small businesses with their solutions, and helping them grow through the use of technology. Armed with the motto of “Fortune 500 solutions do not need to come with a Fortune 500 price tag” my company, Delaware 302, was born.

Are things still a whirlwind? Most definitely. Am I loving every minute of it? That is a resounding YES.

Forward Momentum

Last week I took some much needed time off from work, to spend time with my family. If you are a small business owner, having time off is a luxury that many of us never get much of a chance to experience. Our lives almost seem to be dedicated to building our business, making our mark, and keeping that forward momentum going as we strive towards our goal. Even though I was “on vacation”, I found that I was still checking and responding to emails, reviewing design drafts, checking programming development, and keeping an eye on my business.

A friend of mine chucked when I was telling them this, and said: “That doesn’t sound like a vacation to me.” The truth of it is though, is that this is what people that own businesses do, at least all of the business owners that I have met and talked to. It is the entrepreneurial spirit that drives us to get up earlier, stay up later, and never loose focus.

The key though is balance. While I was on vacation, I took my family to Hershey Park, and we went on just about every roller coaster in the park. We also visited Zoo America, Chocolate World, and spent a day shopping in Lancaster. I made sure that my business did not supersede my time with my family.

I also consider myself very lucky. I am blessed with a wonderful wife that understands my drive and ambitious, and takes an active part in my business and the decision making process. My kids are also very good, and understand daddy needs to take care of “business stuff”.

One thing I found that taking time off accomplished, was that it helped me to focus on the direction of my business, clarify where I want to be, and define what I want to achieve. It helped me decide where to apply the energy to give us that forward momentum to achieve our goal.

This is something very important that any business owner should do. Take a step back from the day to day of running their business, and see if they are moving in the direction they want to be.

We here at Delaware 302 have some great things in the works. Stay tuned, because we will be sharing them very soon.

What Is Success?

Today I want to touch on a subject that is one of those that has led to many hours of controversial debate and conversation, no matter what circle you travel in. It is the subject of what makes a person or business successful.

The reason why it has the potential to be one of the most controversial topics to discuss, is for the simple fact that it is driven by what a person’s personal idea of success is. Every person has their own viewpoint, and many times it is influenced by the way their were raised.

So what exactly is success? According to the dictionary, success is: “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals”. It also says that it is: “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.” Again, even with the definitions, it is not a cut and dry answer.

So, now I want to tell you a story about my great grandfather. He owned a bakery in Philadelphia in the early 1900’s, near the Germantown area of the city.  It was not a huge bakery, though he provided bread and rolls to most of the restaurants in the area, and everyone in the local community went to him for their baked goods. He was an energetic person, and very involved in the community.

During the depression, when many people found themselves out of work, and families were scraping what little they had together to eat, my great grandfather opened the back door of his bakery and proceeded to hand out hundreds of loaves of bread to these families on a daily basis. He encouraged other businesses in the area to do the same, and became the voice of the community to unite them “as one family”.

When he passed away in the 1950’s, the entire community was in mourning. The church was standing room only for the funeral, and hundreds of people stood outside during the service. The procession from the church to the cemetery afterwards stretched for at least a mile.

My great grandfather was not a rich man when he passed away, nor was he some high ranking dignitary. He was an immigrant that came to this country, started a family, built a business, and loved and cared for his neighbors. His success can be measured by the good he did for others.

As small business owners, we can learn a valuable lesson from this. The foundation of what makes us successful starts in our own community. From the way we treat our customers, to giving back to help out a cause, to how we are involved in making our community a better place.

At Delaware 302, we firmly believe in giving back to the community. We are currently supporters of 2 Delaware charities, and are always looking for ways to help out where and when we can. We also have something great in the works to be able to extend that reach and do more.

Is your business ready for success?

Let’s build the future together.

SEO Marketing SPAM

Today I wanted to touch on a growing trend that should come with a big label attached to it that says: “Warning, you are about to be had.” This trend is the promotion of SEO services and marketing that touts “We will get you on the first page of Google”. I get at least one of these emails a week from these companies, and most of them are located in India.

How can it be that so many of these companies know the safely guarded secret of how the site and page ranking logarithms Google developed work? They don’t! Not even the engineers at Google know how the system fully works, because it is broken up into pieces and divisions, to ensure no one takes advantage of the system for personal gain. I happen to know this because a close associate of mine is a recently retired engineer from Google.

Maybe I am being overly crass with regards to this subject, though many businesses fall prey to this type of marketing on a daily basis. They are so eager to have these “experts” help them move up in the search engine rankings, that they don’t heed the warning signs.

Now that I got that off my chest, let me share with you some things that you should watch out for, before you click that Reply button and start a chain reaction that will damage your business.

1. The email address – Most of these spam emails come from free email addresses, with the majority of them coming from Gmail accounts. My favorite was best.seo.marketing245@gmail.com.

2. Lack of knowledge – In almost every instance these emails are sent out to a list that they obtained from the registrar of your site. They have never once looked at your site to see who you are, or what you do. This is evident in the fact that they send these to my company, and we are a technology provider.

3. No web site listed – None of these companies will give you their URL to go look at their site. The few that happen to send the emails from a company email address, you will find that the site is always “Under Construction”.

4. The message – This is where they rope you in by using buzz words, and making it all sound legitimate. Here is one I just got yesterday:

We are a Delhi-NCR, India based, leading SEO company.

We provides Guaranteed first page ranking in Google.

We use only ethical SEO techniques. Our organic search engine optimization consultants (SEO Experts) ensures a high ROI (return on investment) by achieving maximum visibility within major search engines including Google, MSN & Yahoo! Search. We analyze your sites web traffic and all other online marketing activities to find the most optimized path to increase your sales leads.

We use 100% white hat stuff.

We offer complete Search Engine Optimization solutions:

On Page Optimization:

1. A detailed keyword research (if necessary)
2. Header text with h1 tag.
3. Write Meta title, Meta description and keywords.
4. Write header text and footer text with right keywords.
5. Optimize alt tag with right keywords.
6. Optimize the body content through appropriate use of keywords in the right place.
7. Modify the footer links

We Use Various Off Page Optimization Techniques.

If you are interested reply this mail.

Within 24 Hours we will contact with quotation & time Frame to bring your keyword to front page.

5. The Disclaimer – I usually get a kick out of the disclaimer, since it is almost always the longest paragraph of the entire mailing. This is where they tell you that this is an advertizement and a promotional mailing, and they are doing everything legally and in compliance with the CAN-SPAM act guidelines.

There is also a catch to all of this that they don’t tell you until you have paid: In order for them to do all of these neat SEO techniques they are selling, you have to give them full access to your web site and your statistics package.

Maybe it is just me, though the last thing I would want to do is give people I have never met, nor know anything about their company, access to the core of my web site. If you are an on-line retailer or a service related business, you have basically just handed over the keys to your customers, and sales information. And say a big prayer that your system is PCI compliant, our they will have the credit card information too.

So why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I don’t want to see you get taken advantage of, or have your business suffer. It goes against everything we believe in as a technology provider.

At Delaware 302 we don’t use these tactics to sell you on our products and services. We believe in being open and honest with our clients, and working closely with them to build the solution that works for them.

Our 302 Engine has a built in SEO platform, and we train our clients on how to effectively track and manage their site to get the search engine results they need, at no extra cost.

Contact us today, and learn how we can help your business grow.

Let’s build the future together.

Provider Nightmares

Today I wanted to relay to you a conversation I had recently with a potential client. Sadly the story they told is one that I have heard time and time again, and each time I hear of the nightmares they have gone through, it leaves me wondering how these solution providers can treat their clients this way, and still stay in business.

This company’s story goes like this:

About 2 years ago we were in need of a new web site, so we contacted one of the local development companies that seemed to do most of the web sites in the area. We sat down in an initial meeting with them and told them exactly what we needed. They said they would draft up a quote and send it over. Shortly after that started a back and forth process that quite frankly took a lot longer than we expected, and each time we were talking to someone new over there. Finally, almost 5 weeks after the first meeting, they came back with a $15,000 quote for our site. At this point we were already behind schedule, since the new site was a key element to our marketing, so we signed, and cut them a check to start work.

A few days later, their graphics designer called us, and said he would have a proof for us within 2 weeks for review and approval. About 2 months later, after calling them repeatedly on a weekly basis, we received the proof, and came to find out the designer that contacted us initially, was no longer at the company. We were promised at that point that once the design was approved, our site would be ready in less than 3 weeks. 6 weeks later they sent us a development link to look at. At this point we were hard pressed for time, and said go with it.

Finally, almost 5 months after our first meeting with them, our new site was launched, and then the nightmare really began.

Over the next 9 months we experienced constant email outages, with one stretch being a week. Our site kept going down due to server issues. Every little request we made for a change to the site was followed with a $120/hr invoice, even it it was something very simple. Never being able to get someone to respond to our calls or emails. It was finally capped off with the owner of the company telling us point blank, after our 20th some odd complaint, “We have no contract. If you have problems, and don’t like the way I run my business, leave.”

So we gathered around in a meeting at the office, and decided to take our site and go. Unfortunately we found out that we were locked into his system, and leaving was no simple task. So we did the only thing we could think of at the time, since we couldn’t afford to do this all over again, get as much of the site as we could, and created a new one ourselves.

Needless to say, the experience they had has left them wary of any technology company. The only reason they were even willing to talk to me, was because of my reputation as being straightforward and honest. I assured them that my company was different, and was willing to do whatever it took to prove it to them.

Is your business going through similar issues? Are you tired of your solutions provider treating you like you don’t matter? Are you frustrated of being overcharged for everything?

At Delaware 302 we treat our clients the same way we would want to be treated, with respect and honesty. Drop us a line and find out how we can help your business grow.

Let’s build the future together.

Buzz Word Overkill

Recently I was asked by an organization to do an independent review of a proposal that was submitted to them by the PR firm that they have been working with, as a lead up to their contract renewal. This is something that I have done time and time again over the years for clients, so I was more than happy to help them out. What I read left me scratching my head, and quite frankly angered. This proposal was literally a blatant attempt to take advantage of the client, disguised behind that WOW factor of buzz words.

The proposal was broken down into 2 sections, Branding/Marketing and Social Media/Web, each with a price attached to it.

I read through the branding/marketing section, and while some (emphasis on some) of the general marketing aspects made sense, there was very little substance to it to substantiate the price tag they attached to it. The item that glared out at me larger than life though, was the fact there was no breakdown on pricing. That is a huge first sign indicator that you are about to get taken to the cleaners. Without line item prices, you can’t completely evaluate exactly what you are getting. It would be like going to the grocery store, and having the person at the register look at your cart and give you a price. I don’t know many people that would shop that way.

The second part of the proposal, Social Media/Web, is what really got me. It was crammed with so many buzz words that my head was spinning. Things like: seed your social media, ongoing SEO performance enhancements, engage your audience, and campaign saturation monitoring with targeted site modifications. Again I looked at the price tag (this one was an exorbitant monthly charge), with no breakdown of what cost what, not even listing the Social Media platforms to be utilized. Knowing that this was a contract renewal, and now being very suspicious, I decided to do some research and digging. This PR firm had no idea how deep they just stepped in it.

I decided to start with the web site and social media, since these are the core of my business, and where many businesses and organizations get taken advantage of. Here is what I found:

  • The FaceBook page and the Twitter account for this organization were both active, and currently maintained, including an active engagement with their audience. This raised a red flag as to why the PR wanted to charge for the “engage your audience” in the proposal.
  • The web site was being hosted by a small media company in Maryland (Red Flag raised high). Upon further digging, I found the server domain name was also registered to this company, and I would be willing to bet the server is located in their back room, given the IP look-up location ping back.
  • There was NO SEO done at all to the site. The only reason it came up in the search engine is because of the organic content and the site name. If this is ongoing SEO, it should have been there to start with.
  • The website was built on WordPress, which isn’t a bad thing, except that there didn’t appear to be any tags.
  • The PR firm was in charge of building and hosting the web site, and the maintenance.

There is more, though hopefully you get the picture.

So what lessons can we take away from this experience I just shared with you? The answer is: you need to be fully aware of what you are paying for, and if you have any doubts, ask questions. If the company is honest, and values you as a client, they will answer your questions.

At Delaware 302, we take pride in being transparent with our clients, and building trust. Our solutions are geared to be affordable, and we don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. We also will never charge our clients for something they don’t need.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your business grow.

Let’s build the future together.