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EO Welcomes Our newest Member, Nicholas Moyer

Nicholas Moyer is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Life Consultants Inc. As the Founder and CEO, Nicholas is focused on reducing homelessness and helping people with serious mental health challenges gain stability within the community.

For over 13 years, Nicholas has served as a CEO of various organizations where he led sales teams and also helped drive and execute the company’s investments, strategy shifts and mission.

Nicholas Moyer lives in the Hampton Roads Area of Virginia with his fiancée Krystal Clanton, a data analyst, and their two sons, Nolan & Nicholas Jr. To relax, he enjoys riding motorcycles, ATVs, traveling and spending time with his family.

Congratulations Nicholas on joining EO!

EO Member Pratik Kothari’s Great Year So Far

The first 6 months of 2021 have been kind to EO member Pratik Kothari. He’s been mentioned in the news several times, with his first article in the Pilot celebrating his win of the Entrepreneur Award and his business TechArk being mentioned as a 2021 Small Business of the Year.

Here’s a quote from Kothari:

“It’s important to have grit, to stay on the path and to trust your instincts and decisions. This is one of the things that my wife has taught me. I’m framed in logic. I have a master’s in computer science. Everything to me is a zero or a one, so I would take my time in deciding, pondering over the possibilities because I have the details and logic wired in my brain. My wife would say, ‘Is this a life-or-death situation?’ It’s not, so you just have to be OK managing risks from that decision.”

Read his full article here.

He was mentioned in the paper a second time when TechArk continued their expansion. Just four months after its first acquisition of Virginia Beach-based Eyepinch, TechArk acquired Coders Clinic, a Suffolk-based digital solutions company. Coders Clinic specializes in web design and development, online marketing and hosting management services.

Read about this acquisition here.

After having such a great year so far, Kothari has decided to give back!

His children Smit and Sahil Kothari decided to try pour painting during the extra time spent at home during the pandemic. They now have a website to sell their art creations, with 100% of the proceeds going to ForKids.

Get your own painting on their online shop and click here to read their story.

EO Parties Are Back With Summer Bash

After a year without parties, EO members came strong to our Summer Bash earlier this month. On June 5th, we finally got the gang together to party in big ways.

Live art demos let our entrepreneurs express their creative sides and light dancers gave the party a burning man feel.

We can’t wait to have more events like this soon, and if you didn’t come this time, don’t miss out on our next big party!

Reflect (or get FOMO!) with some images of the event:

Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree

Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree

Greg Crabtree, CPA who is the Partner in Charge for Crabtree, Rowe & Berger and Simple Numbers Author shows entrepreneurs how to view their business as their best investment vehicle to build shareholder wealth. Greg is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Birmingham Chapter.

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​Managing Cash Flow and Costs Through The Pandemic Crisis

Managing Cash Flow and Costs Through The Pandemic Crisis

Henry T. Peterson, CPA, CFE and Ali E. Gunbeyi, CPA, MBA, CFE of Jones CPA Group discusses how to manage cash flow and costs through the pandemic crisis. Jones CPA Group is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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Winning Through the Cycle with Innovative Payment Technologies

Winning Through the Cycle with Innovative Payment Technologies

Regina Tureman Regional Manager of Business Development of American Express discusses how to win through the cycle with Innovation Payment Technologies. American Express is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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How to Build Relationships With Clients

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Cheryl Tan CEO of Cheryl Tan Media discusses how to build relationships and win clients with video. Learn more about the process behind video creation. Cheryl Tan Media is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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How to Add A Virtual Event Into Your Marketing

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Deany Dormer CEO of Executive Events talks about how to add virtual events into your marketing. She discusses platforms for virtual events, lead generation, and ways to engage attendees. Executive Events is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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Reopening Post-COVID Screening Best Practices

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Rudy Patel President of ARCpoint Labs of Virginia Beach discusses the best practices employers can do upon reopening post-COVID. ARCpoint Labs of Virginia Beach is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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EO GSEA

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Learn about EO GSEA, the annual competition for young entrepreneurs

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Array Digital Wins Chesapeake Small Business of the Year

Array Digital, a leading digital marketing agency headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia, has been awarded the Small Business of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.

Array Digital specializes in website design, online advertising, SEO and social media for clients in the home services, legal, and medical industries. 

Growing substantially since being designated a Best Place to Work in 2017, the title still holds true. With unlimited paid time off (PTO) and great benefits they continue to grow their local and remote staff.

“It’s great to be surrounded by such a smart and dedicated group of people,” says Creative Director Jake Maines. Following in co-founder Kevin Daisey’s footsteps, Jake was recently named a Millenial on the Move by CoVaBIZ magazine.

“Everything at Array Digital starts with our amazing people who believe strongly in our core values; transparency, quality, urgency, winning and passion,” says CMO Kevin Daisey. 

CEO and EO member Erik J Olson attributes the growth to the company’s “extreme focus” on digital marketing. 


Array Digital

660 Independence Parkway #310
Chesapeake, VA 23320

Workplace Culture with Shelly Smith from Premier Rapport

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Shelley Smith Founder & CEO of Premier Rapport consulting firm discusses best practices on helping companies develop and maintain the right workplace culture amidst the COVID Pandemic. Premier Rapport is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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Paycheck Protection Program Update – New forgiveness guidelines.

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Barry Dorans from Wolcott Rivers Gates provided an in-depth discussion regarding the changes to the PPP loan forgiveness guidelines and proposes strategies for businesses to properly use the funds to maximize the potential for forgiveness. Wolcott Rivers Gates is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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Thriving Forward – Sandler Training

How to Build Relationships with Clients

Chad Stenzel CEO of Sandler Training Hampton Roads provided an in-depth discussion regarding strategies for entrepreneurs to thrive in the post COVID-19 marketplace. Sandler Training is a Strategic Alliance Partner of the Southeastern Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

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CBDA & EO Networking

How to Build Relationships with Clients

We are looking to expand networking opportunities for CBDA members by leveraging our involvement in EO to cross-promote events. Let us know if we can help you!

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A Letter to Portfolio Companies – Navigating COVID-19

I sent this note to all the CEOs we’ve partnered with at Frontier Angels.  Hope you find it helpful…

By: Pat LaPointe, Frontier Angels

Dear CEO:

I hope you and your families and friends are healthy and staying safe. There is no “sale” worth jeopardizing your health. No meeting is worth exposing yourself or your team to something for which there is presently no cure. Please be careful.

I was running early stage companies in both Sept 2001 and in March of 2008. This feels EXACTLY like those situations. Fear and uncertainty reign. No one person has a completely accurate view of the situation because it is SO complex and unprecedented. In case you care, here are a few observations on how I would apply my own experience if I were running an early stage company today:

  1. If I was selling to enterprise or government buyers, I’d expect everything to stall. Sales pipeline will get rigor mortis and nothing will move forward for months. That means any revenues you were counting on from companies not already under contract will NOT materialize anytime soon.
  2. If I had contracts with cancellation clauses, I’d expect to see half my enterprise customers exercise those clauses. Government buyers don’t tend to cancel in the near term, but commercial enterprises will start shedding expenses UNLESS I’d already been able to PROVE clear cost savings for them. If my value proposition was about generating more revenue for them, they will STILL cancel because many of their clients/prospects will not be buying right now.
  3. If I had less than 12 months of cash on hand, I’d start preserving cash NOW. TODAY. It is incredibly painful to have to lay off people who you worked so hard to recruit and train, and who have worked so hard for your shared future and vision. But you have to think about the business surviving first so you will live to fight another day and have any hope of re-hiring people later. I would triage my accounts payable and stretch my vendors to 90 days or more. I’d call and tell them I was doing that, but I had no choice if the business was going to survive.
  4. Even if I had more than 12 months cash on hand, I’d move to conserve cash immediately. I’d defer discretionary expenditures. I’d look for opportunities to reduce my non-strategic expenses like rent or other things where I may be able to renegotiate the deals.
  5. I would look for opportunities for “customer financing” – getting happy customers to pre-pay for the next 12 months of product/service and offer something special in return.
  6. If I had a revolving line of credit, I would draw it down NOW. The interest cost is small price to pay for the security of the cash.
  7. I’d look for opportunities to sell services to customers/prospects for short-term revenue flows to keep the lights on. I’d think about where my expertise is and how I can leverage that near-term to create value for someone.

Bottom line: act fast to preserve cash so you have more options 6 or 12 months from now. Expect the situation to get far worse than you may initially think (e.g. 20% unemployment; 8-12 weeks of “social distancing”; a big viral rebound in the fall of this year; fundraising rounds taking 12-18 months). If it’s any better than that, you’ll be ahead of the game.

I will never forget how my first big exit completely fell apart in the fall of 2001 and took many months to put back together (at a lower price). Or how I had bankruptcy papers on my desk in 2008. Or the incredible pressure of having to keep my family afloat and protect my staff – many of whom had become close friends and all of whom had families of their own. In both situations, I acted too slowly, was overly optimistic about how soon things would turn around, and pushed the company too close to the edge. I was too optimistic and overly confident of my own ability to impact a market being buffeted by forces far larger than I could overcome – no matter how hard or smart I worked. 

But we adapted, learned, and thrived. You can too.

Stay well; act fast. Remember, YOU are the core of your asset. Take care of YOU.


Davis Business Appraisers, a Hampton Roads Mergers & Acquisition firm performs brokerage, business valuations, ownership consulting and machinery & equipment appraisals. We help define the tangible and intangible asset values for family-owned and closely-held businesses, professional practices, limited liability companies, corporations and partnerships.

Our unique combination of business valuation, acquisition, ownership experience and machinery & equipment appraisal expertise allows us to offer innovative solutions to difficult valuation and acquisition issues.

Quest to eradicate homelessness

For the past several years, EO Southeast Virginia member, Frank Tommaso, has been quietly feeding the homeless. 

Once a month, Tommaso uses his own funds to purchase food to feed the homeless at a local homeless shelter in Virginia Beach, VA.

At first, Tommaso and his family would buy, cook, and serve the food all by themselves. Soon other families joined the cause. 

He recently introduced the efforts to chapter members as well. He now creates MyEO events each time he organizes an event to feed the homeless. His efforts are gaining traction not only with the chapter, but throughout the community.


EO members, from left to right, Marion Long, Frank Tommaso, Erik J. Olson

“It’s a relatively low cost for me to help – a few hundred dollars and 3-4 hours each time. But we can affect a hundred people’s lives at a time”, says Tommaso. 

Although homelessness is not a serious problem in Virginia Beach, there are still approximately 400 people afflicted in the city. A small enough number that Tommaso believes he can completely eradicate homelessness in the region. 

His personal goal is to reduce the number to zero. 

The impact of his efforts are immeasurable. Tomasso has received stories of individuals who wanted help and have gotten back on their feet due to the assistance provided by the homeless shelter. 


Frank Tomasso preparing a large batch of pasta

One older gentleman wrote Tommaso a letter explaining how he came to the homeless shelter with nothing. With the assistance of the shelter, and volunteers like Tommaso, he recently bought his own tent and a heater. Now he’s getting his money straight and looking for help to get his own place.

“Even if you affect just one person’s life by connecting him with somebody, it’s worth it. If I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have been able to help him” says Tommaso. 

“There are people who really want to get out of their situation, and others who don’t. As leaders we have a unique position and the ability to lead in a manner that uplifts people and makes a difference.”

“It’s a gift we all have. It’s a gift we should recognize. We shouldn’t squander that gift by simply focusing on making money. It’s easy to make money, but there are other things in life besides simply making money. Helping others is what drives me.”

5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry

Innovate and evolve. Thought leaders are more than keepers of knowledge; they stay on the cutting edge of actual solutions to the problems people face. If innovation is truly in your organization’s DNA, you should be constantly reinventing and advancing your approach. And if your competition’s go-to market strategy is to copy you, they will always be behind.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Tucker. Kevin is the CEO of SOLitude Lake Management.

Kevin Tucker started SOLitude Lake Management® to focus on the growing need for the adequate management of lakes and stormwater retention ponds and the preservation of our natural and man-made freshwater resources. SOLitude Lake Management is a full-service lake and pond management firm devoted to providing its clients with a wide array of aquatic services throughout the country. His firm provides lake, stormwater pond, reservoir, and wetland management programs designed to restore water quality, improve habitat, protect public health, and develop world class fisheries while preserving public, recreational and aesthetic value — and, ultimately, achieving greater ecological balance.

Tucker graduated from James Madison University in 1993 and holds a degree in Business Management. He has served as an Entrepreneur in Residence and is currently serving as a board member for the JMU Center for Entrepreneurship. Tucker is widely recognized as an expert in creating and growing innovative businesses and has established himself and his team as the industry thought leader in the management of lakes, ponds, and other freshwater ecosystems.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I have always loved the outdoors and been drawn to the water. Early on, I gained a lot of foundational knowledge in horticulture and ecology working in my family’s landscape business.

With this experience and a background in business, I sought to create a niche company that served an under-fulfilled need and offered the opportunity to differentiate and compete on value rather than price. I recognized an opportunity for the professional management of lakes and stormwater ponds for residential communities, golf courses, commercial developments and the like, and taught myself everything I needed to know about maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems.

I took the leap of faith and gave up my “day job” to start running this business out of my garage. At the time, it never struck me how risky the decision was, but my family was always supportive; they had raised me to be independent and a self-starter.

For the first year or two I was the company’s sole employee, but as SOLitude Lake Management has grown my role as a CEO has evolved considerably. I rarely find myself on the water in a professional capacity, but I still have the same passion for the environment. I spend as much time as I can outdoors at the beach or in the mountains, surfing, hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, camping and searching out that next great waterfall or piece of natural scenic beauty.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Over the past 20 years, I have built SOLitude’s brand around three core beliefs that have allowed us to become the forerunner of our industry in thought leadership and market share.

· Hire well-educated and experienced experts who can step up as leaders in our field

· Continually produce relevant educational content for public consumption

· Differentiate ourselves through innovation and disruptive, value-driven services

Establishing authority in the aquatic management industry is by no means something I have accomplished alone. I am the tip of this spear that set the vision and built our team around the idea of thought leadership within our space. However, to me, thought leadership is a top-down organizational achievement that our incredible team continues to build upon each day.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My father is an incredible mentor and his advice is usually spot on. But ironically, as I was starting out, he admitted that he couldn’t see lake and pond management becoming a big business. Though he did not initially see my vision (truthfully, I’m not sure anyone did), he never doubted me. We smile about that today, knowing SOLitude is now the largest business in our industry — which is continually growing to meet the world’s expanding freshwater management needs.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on, I was too conservative and slow to build our team. When one hundred percent of your income rests on making the right decisions, sometimes it is hard to pull the trigger on the next hire. Funny enough, I made more work for myself that way. If you do not invest in hiring exceptional talent ahead of a need, you will struggle to scale quickly. I eventually learned that great people pay for themselves many times over. People often talk about investing in their business; I say start with people.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader is a person or organization that is the most knowledgeable, evolving, innovative, go-to expert in their respective field. They lead through the respect and authority they have earned as a trusted source of information. Ultimately, a thought leader sets the tone for others in a given discipline and gains credibility by clearly demonstrating a pattern of success that results from the application of this expertise.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

When you establish yourself as a thought leader, opportunity finds you. It’s worth the investment because it’s much easier to scale this way. Your ROI is greater because your cost relative to each opportunity generated is much lower than it is with some other methods that you might employ to mine for the same number of opportunities.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

For example, if you consider thought leadership in terms of sales and marketing, it can be compared to the difference between an inbound and outbound approach. Thought leadership is akin to inbound, where leads and opportunity come to you because people view you as the solution to their problem after having established yourself as the subject matter expert. Outbound, on the other hand, focuses on hunting for those opportunities through more ‘traditional’ sales approaches. Sales will always involve some hunting, but wouldn’t you rather close deals that come to you as warm leads versus having to cold call and self-create every opportunity?

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Disperse your knowledge. Be disciplined and relentless in educating your audience by sharing your expertise via your website, newsletter, blog, and social media. Establish yourself as the problem solver they want to come to when they are ready to buy.

Get published. Get published and cited by other platforms that people look to for information on the topic of your expertise. Being named as a source provides third party validation that supports the efforts on your own platforms and continuously drives people to them.

Innovate and evolve. Thought leaders are more than keepers of knowledge; they stay on the cutting edge of actual solutions to the problems people face. If innovation is truly in your organization’s DNA, you should be constantly reinventing and advancing your approach. And if your competition’s go-to market strategy is to copy you, they will always be behind.

Differentiate and disrupt. Don’t do the same thing better than your competition — do it better and differently. Demonstrate how your unique approach yields the best outcome at the best value. Show how you can provide unique intrinsic or ancillary benefits that exceed the consumer’s expectations. Lead your industry by designing solutions that no one else has envisioned or, furthermore, offered.

Be disciplined. Too often, people have the right ideas, but crash and burn on execution. It’s easy to get excited about new initiatives, but discipline is required to execute over the long haul. Once you have an idea that works, make sure you have the personal and organizational discipline to build a process that allows you to replicate the solution consistently.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Tony Hsieh. He built Zappos around the idea that investing in people by creating an exceptional company culture would drive top- and bottom-line outcomes. He further differentiated himself through his willingness to share the approach for anyone who cared to learn. That openness further entrenched Zappos as a thought leader, which, in turn, drew positive attention and even more great people to their doors.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I think most terms like this become cliché and overused at some point. Doing a good deed doesn’t automatically make you a hero and overseeing a business doesn’t automatically make you an entrepreneur. Similarly, the term “thought leader” should reflect a very high bar, but as we do with many things, we risk devaluing its meaning with over-application.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Surround yourself with exceptional people and turn them loose. Avoid the temptation to do everything yourself and be everything to everyone. Focus on your strengths and leverage your team.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. ????

For me it would be clean, healthy water achieved by unleashing the power of capitalism and the innovation it drives to solve the water quality problems we face. Bigger than that, it would be unleashing these same forces to solve all the challenges we face in the world. Capitalism is a force for good and a powerful engine when given the fuel to run.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a NO.” Honestly, this phrase came to me after reflecting on some personal decisions I made when I was young that led to significant heartache. I have since applied it to many situations in my life and often offer it as guidance to others in those critical moments where a pivotal, maybe even life-changing decision is about to be made.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. ????

This is a difficult question because it requires me to narrow in on one person, and there are so many fantastic minds out there. I referenced him before, but one of the people who has inspired me with his focus on driving success by building an amazing culture within his business is Tony Hsieh.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

SOLitude Lake Management can be found on all social media platforms

Instagram: @solitudelake

Twitter: @solitudelake

Facebook: @solitudelakemanagement

YouTube: /SolitudeLakeMgmt

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

West Coast Video

The hot technology of the late 1980s was video tapes. After my father retired from the Air Force, he opened a video rental franchise named West Coast Videos.

Most reading this should be old enough to remember far enough back when you had to physically drive to a video store, pick out the video tape you wanted to watch, and bring it home to play in your VCR. Well, my Dad owned the video store that rented you the tapes.

He would regularly start work before the store opened at 10am, and stay there until 10pm or later every night. When he got home he’d work on the administrative stuff — paperwork, taxes, etc — that still had to get done. There were very few days off.

I helped at the store occasionally, mostly behind the counter interacting with customers. I liked interacting with the customers. I also liked watching movies in my spare time and then making recommendations to customers. Working the counter and interacting with customers was a relatively easy job, and it was fun.

In the early days, when videos were $100+ each and there was significant risk of shoplifting, video stores kept the box on the floor but the video tape itself safely behind the counter. Customers would bring me the box from the floor and I’d go to shelves behind in the back to find the video tape, put the box in the spot on the shelf where the tape had been, and give the tape to the customer to take home after they’d checked out.

He opened his second video store during the summer after I graduated high school. To save a ton of money, he purchased the inventory from another video store that had recently shut down. That store kept their boxes and videos separate like my Dad’s first store did.

But the industry was changing. Demand for videos had picked up, the cost of a video tape was dropping, and newer stores put the video in the box and put both out on the floor for the customers to grab. My Dad wanted the new store to be with the times. That meant he needed to match up a couple thousand boxes with a couple of thousand videos. It was a large project.

After working for a moving company for a week, and realizing that moving furniture for eight hours a da sucked, I gave in to my Dad’s request to come work for him. My job for the next few weeks was to match up the boxes to the videos. He had other things to attend to like hiring staff, building out the new store, setting up the computer systems, and continuing operations at the first location.

All of the inventory was in a large storage unit. Knowing I couldn’t possibly do it all myself, I recruited a bunch of friends to help. Every day we’d go out to the storage unit, pull ½ of it outside onto the asphalt, and one by one match up the boxes to the videos.

For weeks I’d have to find friends who were available that day, coordinate with their schedules, pick them up and driving them to the storage unit, and then made sure they worked instead of just goofed off. It was a good lesson in managing a team. We worked hard in the hot sun, but we also had fun and everyone made a little bit of money. We finished the project on schedule and got the videos on the shelves in time for training the new staff.

That summer I had an opportunity to learn an amazing lesson in entrepreneurialism. My Dad found someone he trusted — me. He gave me an important job and checked in with me often, but didn’t micromanage me. He gave me a timeline and set expectations.

In turn I did the same with my crew and reported my progress to my boss/Dad regularly. That allowed my Dad to focus on other parts of the business.

Lesson Learned:
Find competent people, extend trust, give them responsibility, and shift your focus elsewhere. That’s how you run and grow a business.

~ Erik

Learn from the mistakes of others

The best way to learn is to experience something for yourself.

As an entrepreneur, you typically do this through trial and error. You try something, observe the results, tweak the process, and try again. It’s an iterative process…over and over.

It’s the best way to learn because you are intimately involved in all of the aspects of the process. You see things first hand, and you personally feel the positive or negative effect of what you’re doing.

But there’s a big downside to that way of learning.

I’m not even referring to the potential loses that come from experimenting. That’s a pittance compared to the time it takes you to obtain the knowledge that comes from experimenting.

Like it or not, we all have a finite amount of time on this earth. We have even less time that we can put towards building our future empires. Wasting time is the big loss that you should be worried about.

You’ll figure things out on your own given enough time. But most will eventually run out of time. The question is, Will you have enough time?

One way to shorten the learning cycle is to learn from the mistakes of others. What I mean by that is that if you consume content from others, and internalize their experiences, then you will learn what’s worked for them.

More importantly, you’ll learn of unseen landmines that they’ve stepped on which you can now avoid. Avoiding major setbacks puts you miles ahead of your competitors who don’t take the time to learn from others.

This type of third person learning is not as visceral as if you experienced it yourself, but you can apply the learnings immediately to your next experiment.

Some people love to read. Some people hate it and prefer to hear. Others prefer live interactions with a teacher or speaker.

Personally, a lesson won’t sink in unless I see the information on paper, read it myself, and then apply it immediately. That’s the best way for me to learn.

It doesn’t matter how you learn.

The key is that you do learn.

Accelerate your path to wisdom. Learn from the mistakes of others.

~ Erik

Sometimes just let it fail

I was clearly on the right path in my career.

After being a project manager for a few years at my last employer, they rewarded me by assigning me five existing projects. Giving me a portfolio of projects was a nod that I was doing a good job and that I was bound to do well with the company.

After quickly reviewing each of these projects I found that one of them was in deep trouble. My company wasn’t happy with the project, the client wasn’t happy, the project team had thrown their hands in the air, and the previous project manager warned me that it was a ticking time bomb.

Knowing that it was about to go down the tubes and that I needed to save it, I focused almost exclusively on it. The other projects were doing just fine and I put them on the sideline to run themselves. This one project though required massive attention and action.

After interviewing all the stakeholders I realized that, as always, there were communications issues. In particular, previous expectations had not been met and requirements were vague. That’s where I focused — requirements definition and stakeholder communications.

We began to nail the requirements for future iterations. But the communications…they never got better. The client had had too many promises broken by the time I got on the scene that she just couldn’t overcome it. Add to that, she was combative and our communication styles drastically conflicted. I wasn’t doing a very good connecting with her.

I was able to grab the project by the throat as it was being flushed down the toilet. I pulled it back up, for a while, but about six months into the project it snapped back down the drain. One day the client unceremoniously canceled it.

Although I put 95% of my time into this project, it never truly improved and we never could figure out how to fix it. To put it frankly, this project made me miserable, and the results showed.

With that project being cancelled, senior management had second thoughts about letting me keep the other four projects. Those projects were reassigned to another project manager and I was left with the one original project I’d had for the past few years before this portfolio had been assigned to me.

I learned an enormous lesson from this chapter in my career.

Whenever you are overseeing multiple projects, do not instinctively jump on the landmine. As a project manager — as an entrepreneur — it’s drilled into our heads that failure is never an option. Never give up.

But that project, in retrospect, I probably should have let it fail and fail fast. It was doomed and everyone knew it. I was just too proud to admit it.

If something is outright failing, sometimes it’s best to just let it fail.

~ Erik

Communication is always the problem

I was told this years ago by my Program Manager when I was working as a DoD contractor. A retired Commander in the US Navy, he told me how the Navy had conducted extensive studies and found that communications was at the heart of the majority of the problems encountered.

I’ve carried that concept forward ever since.

We’ve spent a lot of time on our client on-boarding process, and much of that time we’ve focused on properly communicating with our new client. On-boarding a perilous time; things can go very well or very wrong. Properly setting expectations and communicating often, we’ve found, it what typically results in on-boarding going very well.

In the past we struggled with the initial 2–3 week period of an engagement. There are many tasks, configurations, and steps that need to be accomplished before we can actually start publishing the marketing collateral that our clients hired us to produce.

For a long time we were not sure how we should handle this 2–3 week period from a billing standpoint. We weren’t producing social media posts, advertising, etc, but we were doing a lot of preparatory work.

We came to the realization that we were spending a good portion of time and energy during this period that was clearly billable work. Although you may not see public evidence of our work, our onboarding process is real work, producing real deliverables. We wouldn’t do this work unless it was for this new client.

If we billed by the hour like most agencies, this time would certainly result in an invoice. But we don’t nickel and dime our clients — we bill a flat monthly rate for all of our work.

After we realized that onboarding was billable work, we wanted to make it clear to the client that they should not expect to see any overt evidence of the work during this on-boarding period.

During the sales process we explain to clients that the first 2–3 weeks is full of internal work that must be done in order to ensure success. It’s also in our contract. The key is to explain this before they sign the contract, and in a clear manner. We then reinforce this expectation at our kickoff meeting at during the first digital marketing report we provide them.

You cannot simply tell a client once what they should expect and think that it’ll sink in. When you sign a new client, you are best served by setting expectations for your on-boarding period in order to prevent confusion and chaos in the future.

Then remind them of those expectations often.

There’s never enough time

Ever feel like there’s never enough time in the day?

Everyone should always be trying to increase their work efficiency.

Do more with less.

Work smarter, not harder.

Easy to say. Hard to do.

One method that several of us employ at Array Digital is time blocking.

Time blocking is a scheduling method where you simply block off portions of time to work on specific tasks. If you need to work on something then simply allocate time in your day for that.

Instead of hoping to get ½ hour here and an hour there between meetings to get your work done, with time blocking you set aside dedicated time to focus. That time goes on your calendar just like any other appointment except that you’re not meeting with anyone else — just you and your work.

What I’ve described is blocking off time for specific tasks. That’s a one-off activity.

A more advanced version of time blocking is to set aside blocks of time on a recurring basis. Ex: you can block off Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11am to 1pm to make prospecting calls. That way you give yourself the time you need to get this important, yet easy to overlook, task done.

Or, block off time without even having any tasking in mind. If you’re constantly bombarded with meetings and people needing you all day, simply block off an hour in the morning and maybe another hour in the afternoon. Those are your “working” hours for you to get done whatever needs to get done at that moment. During that time, close your door or put on your headphones, and try to not let distractions in. You’re working!

Here’s the kicker.

Respect your calendar.

You have to be willing to defend those time blocks. What I mean by that is you need to treat them as just as much of an obligation as you would anything else on your calendar. If it’s on your calendar then it takes priority, and that means even if it’s just you meeting with yourself.

Don’t give in and cancel your blocked off time for another meeting request. When someone tries to take your time from you tell them the answer is No. In a nice way you can tell them that you already have something scheduled for that time. “Sorry, I have a meeting at that time. What other times work for you?”

For time blocking to be successful, you must stick to it!

~ Erik

Defining Success Through KPI Dashboards

Every Wednesday morning we review our KPI (key performance indicators) dashboard.

Sounds corporate, right? You could say that, but they help us focus on our goals.

These KPIs vary from things like how much new revenue we’ve collected over the last week, how much we’ve lost, NPS (net promoter score), the number of times we have posted on social media, and a whole bunch of other stats.

We started about a year and a half ago when we really didn’t know much about KPIs, or what would constitute a good one.

Over time we refined our KPIs, and every quarter we update our goals.

KPIs are color coded — green if we’ve achieved the quarterly goal; red if we haven’t. So at a glance, you know where you’re kicking ass and where you’re not.

Every quarter the KPIs start off red — we set stretch goals for ourselves — and turn green one by one over the next 12 weeks.

Recently, for the first time ever, our board was 100% green! I was excited. The team was excited.

But I was most excited that the team was excited. They had achieved their goals, and they were proud of their achievement. These KPI meant something to the team. Their work meant something to them.

You get what you measure.

Want performance?
KPIs

Want an engaged team?
KPIs

Three Ways to Turn Around Bad Publicity

EO Member Thanos Polizos tackles the topic of bad publicity in an article in Inside Business, January 2015.

As the owner of ODUrent, a provider of off-campus housing to several hundred students at Old Dominion University, we have long dealt with negative press about crime surrounding the campus.

Even though the stories in the papers were not directly aimed at us, our customers and their parents were always very concerned.

Negative publicity is a reality that many businesses will face, and combatting it should be a part of every business owner’s strategic plan.

I’m not talking about the dissatisfied customer who wants a refund or the high-traffic negative blogger who has an opinion to share. I’m talking about true disasters – defective products or personal injury – that can change the public’s perception of your business.

Fifteen years ago, we took a huge risk investing in aging and rundown neighborhoods. Zoning issues, neglectful neighbors, over-grown foliage, along with crime, were some of the challenges we had to overcome. We have learned firsthand what to do in the face of seemingly endless bad news.

1. The best time to plan for a crisis is before it happens. Have your management team dream up worst–case scenarios and create operating procedures to handle each one of them. Don’t forget Murphy’s Law! If it can happen, it probably will. Set up alerts online on multiple search and media channels with your company name to monitor comments. Know ahead of time who will be your company’s spokesperson. Consider using a PR firm and have a plan on using social media to rebuild trust.

2. Don’t be impulsive. Take a deep breath and think through the scenario. Is it that detrimental? Do you need to get involved? Is this media widely read? Silence is OK. Sometimes the bad press makes it sound worse than it is. Then, decide if and how to communicate and if this is worth a public response. Be honest and transparent with your customers and the community and let them know you care and that they are your team’s first priority. If you are at fault, it is best to be honest. Do not sugarcoat or deny the claims. The public will see right through this.

3. Look at it as an opportunity to solve a problem. One of the best ways to handle bad publicity is to treat it in a solution–driven and optimistic manner. I don’t mean to challenge the media or other organizations involved, but to quietly offer a solution and to use this to differentiate yourself from the competition. By offering a solution and accepting the challenge, your business will come out ahead in the long run.

Long-term success creates amnesia. Many comeback stories involve long-term vision.

AT ODUrent, we took a long-term approach. We alleviated our tenants’ fears by adding safety features such as automatic nightlights, unique automatic door lock systems, door latch guards, window bars, peepholes and motion alarm systems.

When high-profile crimes came up in the news, we reminded all of our tenants about the pre-emptive security features we installed and how to use them. We also hired two private security firms to patrol the campus perimeter every weekend and over holiday breaks.

We are proud to say despite early challenges, we have made progress by renovating city blocks one at a time, while our numerous crime prevention features on our properties allow us to enjoy almost no crime.

We raise our standards every year to improve the neighborhood and become great stewards of the community, the neighborhood civic leagues and Old Dominion University.

We hope that our actions benefit several hundred households in the Lamberts Point and Highland Park areas, and also the several thousand students who call this area home.


Thanos Polizos is the co-founder of ODUrent.com, an investment and redevelopment company that manages off-campus housing at ODU. He is the outgoing president of Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Southeast Virginia, a global network exclusively for entrepreneurs. EO helps entrepreneurs learn and grow through peer-to-peer learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and connections to experts.

New Ravenna in National Campaign

KUDOS TO EO MEMBER SARA BALDWIN!

New Ravenna Mosaics, based on the Eastern Shore, has been chosen to represent the state of Virginia in Ford and AOL’s initiative, “This Built America.” The whole campaign highlights select American manufacturing firms

New Ravenna Mosaics are available exclusively through more than 200 independent showroom partners across North America, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates. The company headquarters is in Exmore.

Build Your Business Through Relationships

EO member Marion Long discusses building a business through relationships in Inside Business December 2014.

You’re in business for yourself, building your company from the ground up. There is quite a bit of excitement.

You feel as if your energy is a renewable resource. It doesn’t feel like work. That’s in the early stages of business growth. That’s when you, the owner/entrepreneur, are wearing multiple hats. You are the IT professional, the billing specialist, the director of marketing and the list goes on.

Your first customers benefit from this high level of energy and excitement. Oftentimes, new businesses get the first customers quickly. Their commendable work leads to word-of-mouth referrals and the development of new customers. More times than not, businesses retain those initial customers long into the life of their business.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.

EO Bill Headed to the General Assembly

Virginia Delegate Glenn R. Davis calls it the “EO Bill.”

This week, the former president of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Southeast Virginia introduced the EO Bill to the Virginia General Assembly.
What does the “EO Bill” do?

Davis says House Bill 1278 is a win-win for employers and for employees.

He says the idea for the bill formed during conversations with other EO members at an EO-sponsored legislative event.  They are all business owners in the Hampton Roads area who came up with a solution to a problem regarding business hiring and unemployment costs.
House Bill 1278 increases the time an employer has to vet an employee from 30 to 60 days before unemployment compensation becomes the responsibility of that new employer.
Essentially, it gives employers 30 more days to evaluate a new employee, Davis said.
The process is just beginning.  It first must go through the committee process.
But if it passes, Davis said, “EO can take credit for the concept, having the bill introduced inthe General Assembly, and making changes to the law.”
For more information, you can reach out to Delegate Davis at (757) 802-4982.
For details on HB 1278, click here: