Is This My Face?

A day or two ago, I was trimming my beard. It isn’t an unusual thing.

As I worked to tame the gray hairs that have a growth plan that they haven’t seen fit to share with me yet, I had one of those thoughts that can only happen when your are by yourself, working through a thoughtless task – Why am I spending so much time working on the fine details of my hirsute chin?

I don’t enjoy it. I don’t think I do it very well. In fact, Stephanie at StephanieLouis Salon always humors me and tells me I am getting better at it every time I get my haircut. The only time I ever really see my face is the two times a day when I am brushing my teeth. I never comb my hair, and when I shave, the shower mirror doesn’t catch my whole face. The state of my beard is almost comically unimportant to my daily life.

But I worry about my beard. I run my hands along it a dozen times a day and think that I need to deal with this mess. When I see myself in the mirror, I am almost always shocked when I see my beard, not because it is unkempt, but rather I forget that I have a beard. My face doesn’t look on the outside the way it looks on the inside. On the inside, I look the way I did in high school or college – clean-shaven, 30(?) pounds lighter, 30 years younger.

But my face shows a different version of me to you – an adult version of me. It is this hairy, wrinkled face I share with you every day. It is the face that my children see when I tell them I am proud of them. It is the face that I share with my clients and and colleagues when they look for advice or collaboration. It is the face that my wife sees when we face challenges and joys.

This adult face isn’t a mask. It is me. It carries in it all of the times that I have succeeded and failed. It carries all of my pride and shame. It carries all of my love and apathy. It carries all of my joy and sorrow. It carries you in it, too.

The times I see your version of my face, I am always surprised – sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not. However, I wear it happily, because it is your face. It is the face that you and I created together. It is the map of my life.

The version of my face that I carry on the inside looks at all of you with awe. You are accomplished and striving. You are joyful and despondent. You are loved and alone. My face loves your face.

I trim my beard because it belongs to you.



It Has Been A Long Time…

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged here – I’ve been busy with AdChemix and my sales and marketing blog, Selling to The C, as well as distributed blogging forms like Medium. But it is time to get back here – under my own name.

Look for more content starting soon.


When I wake up in the morning, in those precious few moments before the day begins, before my coffee has circulated all the way to my brain, I get a chance to think. I think about my kids, my wife, our house, and so on. And then, before the day bolts ahead, I think, for just a moment or two, about my company, Adchemix.

Honestly, I think about my company all the time. But in these quiet moments, I think about how I feel about my creation. The rest of the time, I am on a relentless prowl for growth, money, solutions, talent and so on… But in the silent moments, when I get to examine how I feel about Adchemix, I stumble on the right words to describe my state. Primarily, I am just excited. We’ve all seen kids jumping up and down with excitement as the parade prepares to march past. That is how I feel all the time about the solutions that we are creating, and the problems we are solving. This is just fun. The future as always racing closer, and it is full of opportunity and excitement. So, I am just jumping up and down, because I know what is going to happen next, and I can’t wait.

But there is more. It isn’t all fun and games. Building a business is hard. There are financial sacrifices, emotional turmoil, indecision, the never-ending sales process (see my post, Chief Selling Officer), and the constant quest for what is just over the next hill. It is hard work. Still exciting, but hard. There is another feeling that comes along for the ride with excitement – it is the inverse – there is a lot of terror in building a business. The media celebrates entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are always killing it, crushing it, and whatever other silly words we use to say that we are being successful before we really are… But inside of every builder, of every maker, of every startup founder, there is real terror. Did I make the right choice? Is this the right technology? Is this the right hire? Can we make payroll? Are we going to get fired by our biggest client? Am I smart enough to be the CEO? Am I going to let everybody down?

So, the feeling is excitrified. Excited and terrified. In that moment before the day accelerates, I let myself feel it all. The terror tamps down the excitement so you can make smart choices. The excitement pulls you out of the mental fetal position that the terror can put you in. I love being excitrified. It makes me more alive.

Conductor Has Got It Really Wrong – It Is All Just Marketing

So, there seems to be a theme of me telling people they are wrong in this blog (see here and here and an angry rant). So maybe it is just the nature of an opinion-based blog to do this, but Conductor, the really great SEO tool company, has got it all wrong with their “Break The Addiction to Paid Media” campaign (Hey, guys, you are welcome for the link, BTW.)

Conductor has a new spin on SEO, suggesting that it is no longer about search rankings or keywords, but rather it is “Web Presence Optimization”, using advanced SEO techniques to expose content that appeals to specific “personas” and that will allow consumers to engage better with your content. Apparently Conductor, unknowingly, has been trapped in the world of 1999 SEO where organic search presence was full of doorway pages, skinny content pages and poor results. Web presence optimization, in Conductor’s parlance, is this new approach of creating great content to appeal to different segments of your potential customer base at different points along the purchase or engagement funnel. That sounds AWESOME.

But, hey, isn’t that called marketing?

Marketing is the act of trying to influence a targeted group of people to do what you want. In order to do that, you create compelling content, and gain visibility for it. Conductor is making a strong separation between the value of earned media (i.e., SEO and Social) vs paid media (paid search, social advertising, etc.). They say that paid media is “rented presence” whereas Conductor shaped content is “earned presence”. This is like saying junk mail sent via First Class is somehow more worthy that that sent by bulk rate. Is there a real difference between paying for advertising and creating content that is algorithmically-favored by Google or Facebook? It just changes who you pay, right? SEO, Social, Paid Search – it is ALL advertising! Native ads, advertorials, links, testimonials, retargeting, pop-ups, pop-unders – it is ALL advertising. (By the way, this blog post is a form of advertising, too. I want you to think that I know what the hell I am talking about so that you will hire my company Adchemix, or ask me to speak at a conference, or simply gratify my ego by asking my advice.)

Retargeting From Conductor

Retargeting From Conductor

This blog post is an example of earned media. I have earned any visibility that I get from it because I spent the time to think, write, and hit the publish button. Conductor earned the right to their visibility by coming up with the catchy approach. But then they reinforce their right to visibility with PAID ADVERTISING. OMG.

So, there is no real difference between paid and earned media. It is all media. It is all marketing, and Conductor is trying to influence you to buy their product – that helps you create and promote algorithmically favored content. C’mon guys, you can’t BS a BS’er. Get off your high horse. It’s all advertising, regardless of how you spin it..

Chief Selling Officer

I got some new business cards recently. They are nice, if not a little anachronistic. I have 1000 of them. I rarely hand them out. But, my kids are enjoying playing with them. My 11 year old picked one up, and said, “You are the CEO. Does that mean, like, you are the boss?” T responded, “Yeah, Q,  that does mean that I am the boss.”

But as I started to reflect on what I really do as the CEO of Adchemix, I am totally not “the boss” in that captain of industry, autocratic way my son might think. I might change my title, at least in my own head, from Chief Executive Officer, to Chief SELLING Officer. Because what I really do all day is sell.


I have a lot of sales targets. I don’t track them in Salesforce or anything. The most important selling I do happens pretty close to home:

  1. ME: My first sales target was (and continues to be) me. I started with selling myself on starting a company. In some respects, convincing myself that I should was easy. But if you look into the eyes of any founder, you look into the soul of their very best sales target. Regardless of how convinced they are that their idea is phenomenal, every day they have to sell themselves on the idea that they are the one to lead the charge. Trust me, they all do it, every day. Wake up, convince yourself that you deserve another day at the helm, and start kicking some ass. Selling yourself is really hard. You carry baggage, you carry fear, you carry responsibilities, you carry dreams – that sale needs to be made each and every day.
  2. SAM: Then I needed to sell my co-founder on the idea of jumping in on my concept. That was a hard sale. Not because Sam was unwilling or overly cautious, but because I needed to sell him on the idea that I was the right partner, with the right idea at the right time. Now, honestly, entrepreneurs are a pretty optimistic bunch, and consequently, I think we are pretty easily sold. We see opportunity everywhere. Sam was no different. But that is a sale that took gumption on my part and faith on his. The difficult thing about this sale is that it never ends. Every day, I need to re-close this sale, and Sam has to sign up again. We are going on on our 372nd sale. So far, so good.
  3. SPOUSE: This, too, is a sale that needs to be made every day. I need to be able to look at my wife and convince her that this is the right path. She needs to understand that this dream of mine is a dream for us. I think the entreprenuer’s spouse or significant other shares our optimistic outlook. When I tell her that revenue is headed up, she believes me. But regardless of her willingness to be part of this process, I need to continually reinforce the value proposition of the unstable nature of startups. Now, honestly,  my wife is as big a part of Adchemix as anyone, and her buy-in is really high, but everyday, I feel like I need to prove the value of what we are doing.
  4. COMPANY: Yeah, this sounds funny, but you need to sell your own company to your own employees every day. You need to sell the mission, the tactics, the direction, the fun, the joy, the fear…You need to sell it every day to everyone who relies on you to feed their families. This is your most important audience. Because without their buy in, your company fails. Your employees are your MOST important audience every day.
  5. CUSTOMERS: This is pretty obvious, but you need to sell customers to get business, and also to keep business heading in the right direction. Lots of folks talk about this, but as an entrepreneur, you should know that no business is ever safe. You need to reinforce your value proposition to your clients every single time you speak with them.
  6. INVESTORS/BANKERS: This is an easy one. They have the money. You need to sell them on your business, its potential, and YOU.

So, that is what I do all day. And while I might sell like a boss, the CEO isn’t the boss – the CEO is in charge of selling – at least this one is…

7 and a Half Reasons To NOT Start a Company

            “Obviously, you don’t know much about adventure.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote


I had a really good job at a fabulous e-commerce company. Everyday was an exercise in managing runaway growth and creating process. I had a wonderful boss (really, a total peach of a guy – Hi Mike!), got a good paycheck, had great benefits, wonderful co-workers, free snacks, and a great downtown office. Life was good.


Then, one day, my wife asked me a simple question, “Hey, how was your day?”And before I knew it, it all tumbled out of my mouth. I was far enough from the C-level where I felt vaguely emasculated. I commuted on a train, I walked into a sterile high-rise office building, As soon as I hit the elevator button, I stopped thinking about my job. In short, I had become somebody that I never expected to be – I was an employee. But I have 5 kids, two mortgages, car payments, horseback riding lessons, college to pay for and more! I couldn’t give up the employee life. I am a responsible adult. I was doing what adults do. They trade their time for money to support those that they love. That is the smart thing to do.


It was that day, that I gave myself 7 Reasons To Not Start a Company.


  1. Money: Forget about WhatsApp being acquired for $19B, or Oculus Rift going from Kickstarter to $2B acquisition, startups aren’t about money. In fact, according to the Washington Post, about 50% of businesses have closed their doors after 5 years, and over 70% after 10. My father worked for the local power utility for 42 years. Betting your financial health on something that has a 70% chance of ceasing to exist in a decade is a sucker’s bet.
  2. OPM: During the first dot com boom, the goal was to always play with OPM (Other People’s Money). And that is easy, right? Throw together a pitch deck, pop up at a few angel groups, and pretty soon you’ve got a 7-figure bankroll to play with. Easy peasy, no? I was at an IEEE event this week, and I learned that Harvard accepted 5.8% of of its applicants in 2013. Two investor groups (an angel investment group and an early stage VC) shared their 2013 acceptance rates:

   Firm 1: Saw 238 company pitches. Funded 3. (1.26% chance of success.)

   Firm 2: Saw 1300 company pitches. Funded 30. (2.3% chance of success.)

  1. I Want To Work For Myself: That is the dream, isn’t it? To work for oneself, to be the captain of one’s own ship? It is very American, very “Manifest Destiny”, very Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. But when you run a company, you work for your customers, you work for your employees, you work for your investors, you work for your family. You work for everyone except you. You may be the captain of your own ship, but you are subject to the wind and waves of everyone who is not you.
  2. Life/Work Balance: I have said for years that 2 weeks of vacation isn’t enough. Millions of people in America break their backs for those 14 days of freedom. When you work for yourself, when it is your company, you can spend August at the beach, and take off from Christmas to MLK Day, right? After all it is your company. Guess what happens when you take off for a month? The whole thing grinds to a halt. Decisions don’t get made, business isn’t landed, and your dream floats out with the August tides.
  3. I Really Want To Focus On What I Love: That is admirable. But being an entrepreneur isn’t an exercise in focus, it is in an exercise is keeping everything moving in the right direction until it all magically works. When you run your own business, you end up focusing on things like payroll and tax nexus, HR policies and cap tables, local labor laws and the machinations of regulatory bodies, none of which drive the thing you love. Starting a company often means that you work for the business, not in the business.
  4. I Don’t Want To Deal With: Maybe it is office politics, or selling, or corporate bureaucracy, or whatever. When I start my business, we aren’t going to have THAT. Well, guess what, you are going to have it, or something like it. Those kinds of things that you rail against, you will invent different versions of them. You might not see them immediately, but the folks that work with you will. Organizations are full of compromise and conflict, and, inevitably, your company will have that too.
  5. Finally, I Will Be Able To: Work at home, see my kids, choose my own hours, and so on. Yeah you can do all that but the tradeoffs in stress and sleepless nights isn’t worthwhile. Starting a company isn’t fun, it is work. Really hard, stressful work that obeys no timetable.


So that was it. Those 7 rules saved me. They helped clarify my thinking. Those 7 rules lead me down the right path – towards the next rule.


RULE 7.5: Screw it. Starting a business is awesome

A Quick Note To The Red Sox

Dear Red Sox,

Thanks. That was an amazing season. It was thrilling, it was fun, and it was gritty. I will let all the sportswriters make comparisons and parallels to teams past and discuss personalities current. But I want to focus on a single, quiet moment that happened last night while champagne was being sprayed all about the Fens.

My dear 11 year old son, who had just run up and down the chilly street in his pajamas because his joy no longer fit inside his frame, was lying on the couch, basking in the glow of his team’s victory. I put my hand on his head, and I felt him settle into the fatigue that he earned with many late nights and the relief of victory .

For that one, small moment, I was truly connected to him in a new way. We basked in the glow of the team that we follow, that we share, that we treasure. Now, he was alive in 2004 and 2007 for Red Sox victories, but he is, sadly, too young to remember them well. So, those moments belong to me. But 2013 belongs to us. I never got to share this kind of moment with my own father. Despite the fact that my own paternal relationship was really complicated, we missed the opportunity for this simple joy. Maybe it was the Curse or bad luck, but our beloved BoSox never reached these peaks of success while he was alive. Because of the complications, if my father and I had ever had the chance to share this kind of joy, the connection would have frayed by the time the revelers left Kenmore Square. But this moment, with my dear boy, will last.

So, all I can say is thank you. It was a great season, and this victory is a touchstone that my son and I can share forever.




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