Tag Archive for Entrepreneurial

Finally getting to meet one of Wayne County’s enigmatic figures

For more than a decade, I have been a reporter at The Daily Record. Up until a week or so ago, I had never had the chance to really speak to John Bowling, president of Rayco Manufacturing.

Rayco

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Administrator Steve Buehrer (left) hears from Rayco Mfg. Plant Manager Jim Miller about a powder coating line.

Bowling is a quiet man who goes about his business, not desiring to call any attention to himself or his company, which manufactures stump grinders, brush chippers and forest mulchers. So, to say I was shocked when I received a call from Jim Pindell, the human resources/safety manager, asking me if I wanted to come on a tour of the plant is an understatement. I jumped at the opportunity.

What was the reason for the tour? Well, Gov. John Kasich was going to be in nearby Medina, Ohio, to deliver his state of the state address, so state officials canvassed Northeast Ohio. Steve Buehrer, administrator for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, wanted to visit Rayco and see how they were putting to use a couple of welding tables the company purchased with a safety grant. (Read The Daily Record story here.)

Plant Manager Jim Miller led Buehrer, his staff and me on a tour, which gave me a glimpse into who Bowling was. When Buehrer arrived, Bowling welcomed him, but deferred all comments to Miller and Pindell. Bowling rejoined the group as it was wrapping up the tour.

Bowling literally built the business from the ground up. Miller talked about how back in 1978 he had a tree service. He needed to rent a stump grinder, but he would not have access to one for a year. He couldn’t wait that long, so he built one. A friend liked it, so he sold it to him, and he built another. Thus began what became Rayco, named for Bowling’s father, the Rev. Ray Bowling (now deceased).

In the journalism business, reporters get to meet a wide-range of people. Some desire attention, a lot of attention. They call up the newsroom informing us of their every activity, asking (before insisting) we send out a reporter and a photographer. In the grand scheme of things, these people do very little, but they crave the spotlight.

Then you have people like John Bowling, who are successful, hire a lot of people, support a lot of families and enhance the local economy my exporting manufactured products and importing sales dollars, and they seek to avoid the limelight, letting their actions speak for themselves.

Stan Welty Jr., former president of Wooster Brush Co., was another one of those who preferred to work behind the scenes. I tried for years to write a story about him, but he never wanted to. The only story I ever had the opportunity to write about him was when he died (you can read that story here).

It was nice to get a chance to spend a little, and by little I mean little, time with Bowling and learn more about him. Buehrer was impressed with what he saw and what he heard, saying Bowling and Rayco are true Ohio success stories.

Here is video from Buehrer’s visit to Rayco:

MMA coming to Wooster Jam 2013 (Sorry, not that MMA)

It’s not Mixed Martial Arts, rather a blend of Music, Magic and Art coming to the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Wooster on April 13, and I will be providing the magic.

Wooster Jam Poster 2013-540

This is the third year for the Wooster Jam, an ambitious effort to blend music and the arts. This will be my third year performing magic at the event, and I was quite surprised to see my name on the official poster.

For the second year in a row, the event will be held in conjunction with the Wooster Ethnic Fair.

Here is a little about the event from the Wooster Jam website:

The Wooster Jam is an end-of-semester celebration of music and the arts, consisting of an array of individual artists and ensembles from a myriad of art forms and media.  The gathering will take place at the historic Wayne County Fairgrounds on April 13, using several distinct and non-traditional venues. One may hear an A Capella ensemble, the Ohio Light Opera, the Cedar Valley Cloggers and the best rock music on campus – all at different venues simultaneously.  The Jam is a unique fusion of language art sound motion music and interactivity.

We are looking for participation by Visual Artists, Installation Artists, Musicians, Media Artists, Light and Sound Artists, Theatre Artists, Poets, Sculptors, Performance Artists, Laser Artists, Magicians, Electronic Artists, Drummers, Video Makers, Filmmakers, Dancers, Floral Artists, Street Performers, Culinary Artists, Ceramicists, Sculptors, Fire Artists and more to participate in our art event!

We welcome your imagination and ideas.

The Wooster Jam is organized by the Wooster Jam Inc. Board of Director under the guidance of James Levin (founding director of Cleveland Public Theatre and Cleveland’s IngenuityFest). Further information about the Jam’s staff and history can be found on our website, listed below. “The Wooster Jam Festival is currently sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council and the J.M. Smucker Company.”

Official partners for Wooster Jam 2013 are WE Fair 2013, Wayne Center for the Arts &  120 Artist Co-op.

The Wooster Jam will take place from noon to 10 p.m. on April 13 (in collaboration with the Wooster Ethnic Fair during the afternoon).

The Wooster Jam will also have food and beverages on site from local vendors.

Hope to see you there!

Are You Sacrificing Your Core for the Elusive Cutting Edge?

As I boarded a flight at the Akron-Canton Airport for Boston to attend the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference, I brought with me my trusty Kindle Fire HD.

Old school notebook

‘I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!’

I have so many books on it, ranging from The Story Template, Simply Jesus, Click Millionaires, Necessary Endings, EntreLeadership, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Princess Grace, How to Deliver a TED Talk, APE: Author, Publisher, Editor and others, it was tough deciding which would I would read on the two-hour flight.

I finally settled on Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright.

I sat down and started reading the book. I highlighted a passage I found to be particularly profound about how the teachings and sayings of Jesus made sense to some people who considered him the messiah, while those same words led others to want to assassinate him.

As I was typing in my note, the flight attendant repeated herself several times informing me and everyone else on the airplane to turn off all electronic devices and stow them away.

It seemed like it took me forever to write a very short note (I was in such a hurry I didn’t even capitalize Jesus and feel bad about it now), but I managed to get it recorded. I shut off the Kindle and settled in for the flight.

Before we could take off, the plane needed to be de-iced. It turned out to be about a 15-minute process. I sat there with my amazing and incredible Kindle (I really do love the device, you can see what I mean here, here, here and here, and if you are really ambitious, here) tucked under my left arm, and I waited and waited and waited for the plane to be de-iced so we could taxi down the runway, take off from the airport and reach a high-enough altitude so I could turn on my amazing and incredible Kindle.

I happened to notice a guy sitting across the aisle one row up who was reading The Wall Street Journal. I immediately thought he never has to fold up his newspaper and lay it down. Altitude means nothing to a newspaper reader on an airplane.

The lady next to me was involved in completing word searches printed in one of those magazines you would find in a dollar store.

The man to immediate right across the aisle was utilizing some old-school technology: He was reading a traditional paperback book.

Their encounters with the written word proceeded uninterrupted during the de-icing process. I, however, was not so fortunate.

I sat there, Kindle still clutched under my arm, and thought about how sometimes we are too quick to discard yesterday’s technologies, yesterday’s devices and yesterday’s ideas for new things that might relatively unknown, unproven and untested.

However, those old things served our parents and grandparents well. They were able to accomplish great things without computers, GPS units, smartphones, smart TVs, the Internet, Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, Eye-Fi or Re-Fi (OK, maybe they needed Re-Fi).

As I sat on the airplane thinking about all of this, I pondered this question: Are we sacrificing our core for the elusive cutting edge?

I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!

 

Spend a Day in My Shoes, Sort Of

Lately, when people have asked how I have been doing, instead of falling into a familiar rut and answering mindlessly, “OK” or “fine,” I have been finding myself pausing, reflecting for a moment and telling them, “I am doing great. I have a blessed life.”

Bobby Warren Wendi Warren Mary Taylor Josh Krajcik

Some of the components that make up Bobby Warren’s life, from the top, left: Being a member of Parkview Christian Church; getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor as a reporter at The Daily Record; shooting video for newspaper website; being the husband of Wendi Warren; enjoying wonderful pets like Madison; playing in Parkview’s praise band with people like Steve Hanna; and hanging out with Josh Krajcik before a concert with The Daily Record’s Lydia Gehring.

And, I do have a wonderful life. If you look at the collage above, you will see just a small sample of the things that make up my life, like church, getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor or shoot video for a Josh Krajcik interview; spend my life with my wonderful wife, Wendi Warren; enjoy our pets like Madison; and play in Parkview’s praise band with the likes of Steve Hanna.

Here is a typical day for me:

  1. Wake up and ease into my day. I might check to see who’s beating me on Words with Friends; log into Google+, Facebook, Twitter; check out my previous day’s stats on this blog; look to see if me or my wife, Wendi, sold any more books (see here and here); and see if there have been any sales through my Amazon affiliate links.
  2. Once awake, talk with Wendi before she leaves for work. This, of course, happens if I actually get out of bed before she heads to work.
  3. Read the Bible and pray. I have been reading Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai and Zechariah because I teach a Sunday School class, and we have been focusing on this period in Israel’s history.
  4. Get ready and head to work. My full-time job is working as a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio. I get to meet a lot of interesting people, and I really enjoy what I do.
  5. Come home and eat. Self-explanatory.
  6. Engage in various activities. Depending upon the day of the week or month, I might be covering a night event or meeting for the newspaper; I might be in a men’s ministry meeting; I might be watching TV, performing magic somewhere or practicing with the praise team (I play bass); I might be writing, editing or laying out a book; checking and rechecking my social networks and Words with Friends; hanging out with Wendi; reading a book; working on a Sunday School lesson; or writing a blog.

My life is hectic, but not really stressful. I hope you have enjoyed a day in my shoes, sort of. I have a great wife who makes me better and supports my endeavors. I am truly blessed. What about you?

Lessons I Learned Working with a Freelance Illustrator

When I dipped my toe into the world of publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I had no idea where it was headed. What I discovered was I landed a gig as an executive project manager on a fairy tale with a Christian message to it, so I needed to work with a freelance artist.

Princess Sketch Freelance

Actually, I began exploring all of the possibilities with publishing via KDP, and it occurred to me my wife, Wendi, had written a fairy tale that would be a good project. I had been reading Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4–Hour Workweek,” and he talked about working with freelancers through elance.com, which I decided to do.

We found an illustrator in Armenia, and we really liked her style. When we solicited bids for the project, she returned with a very reasonable price, and we came to an agreement. For us, this was an exciting time.

The project ran into some hiccups in the early stages, and I learned some things in the process. Based on my experience, here are just a few things you should consider when working with a freelance illustrator (when it is not possible to meet face-to-face):

  1. Communicate with the artist in broad terms, but clearly identify some boundaries. In sketch No. 1, this is all the direction I gave the illustrator: “A wide shot of Princess with Castle and woods in the background and the ability to use a close-up shot of the Princess.” That is exactly what was delivered, just as requested. Because this was my first time doing something like this, it would have helped if I also added: “Because this is a story with a Christian message, the princess needs to be dressed modestly.” Not fully understanding what I needed to communicate, it caused delays. I responded and told her that the neckline needed to be moved up. I used a photo editor to take her drawing, modify it and show her an example of what I wanted. This can be seen in sketch No. 2. However, leave the artist room to create and express herself or himself.
  2. Be prepared for the work flow to be interrupted due to time zone differences. Armenia is nine hours ahead of Ohio. When I am going to bed, our illustrator is waking up. When I wake up, our illustrator has finished her work for the day. There is no overlap, so if I want something changed, it is a two-day process, at minimum. To work like this, you need to recognize there is no immediate feedback or reaction. It is a process. If you are uncomfortable with this, find an illustrator in your town or the closest one you can find.
  3. When working on a project, plan for delays in the timeline: By not clearly identifying some boundaries, there were delays. One of the issues we ran into was a time when Internet service in Armenia was not optimal. This was not the fault of our illustrator. Also, after we communicated what we wanted from the original sketch, you can see in illustration No. 3 what was delivered. This was not what we asked for, however, mistakes happen. The illustrator could have been in a hurry with other things, maybe dealing with some traumatic things in life, and the result is the changes were not made. My full-time job is a reporter, and I make mistakes all of the time. Why the illustration came back wrong was not a concern to me, we are all human. Getting it corrected was, and you can see in illustration No. 4, our illustrator accommodated our wishes.
  4. Find a freelancer who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. It is important for the freelancer to understand while you will give them some latitude to be creative, at the end of the day, the project will bear your name, so it must be what you want it to be. The next time I hire a freelancer, I will articulate that I can be picky at times. It does not mean the work produced is bad or inferior, rather, I just want something else — it doesn’t work for me.
  5. Be a contractor who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. You, too, must understand that you must be flexible where possible. Do not give up your principles or values, but allow for the creative process to work. In one of the illustrations that will be in the book, we needed the princess to be shown in a work camp setting making bricks by hand. I have no idea what this scene should look like, but the illustrator came up with something, thankfully. I do not have the ability to express Wendi’s books in pictures, so I have to give up some control.

Working with a freelancer has its challenges, but understanding what they are going into the process will help provide for a better outcome. I am quite pleased with how this process is moving forward, and even with the delays, the project is still on track to be done on time. We are hoping to publish it on Kindle on our anniversary, March 4.

Stay tuned.

Kindle Fire HD 7 Continues to Score Big Here

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I purchased a Kindle Fire HD 7, and I am liking it more and more everyday. For good reason.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I remember reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about how preferred the iPad Mini over the original, larger version, saying the Mini was what the iPad should have been from the start.

Having never owned an iPad, I cannot make the same statement, but I can say this: The Kindle Fire HD 7 is what netbooks should have been all along. When my wife’s laptop became old, outdated and slow, I wanted to get her a new one. However, there was something attractive about the netbooks. At the time, I did not fully understand what they were; I just thought they were slightly smaller laptops.

Well, in a sense, they are. Netbooks are smaller than laptops. And, netbooks kind of look like laptops. But, what we discovered is a netbook is not really a laptop. A laptop is for computing, and a netbook is mainly designed to surf the Internet.

My Kindle Fire HD does just that. It surfs the web, it feasts on Amazon.com content, it plays games and it even contributes to some productivity. After I first purchased the tablet, I carried it with me sometimes. Now, unless I know I am going to be totally tied to my desk at the newspaper, it comes with me.

Why I Carry My Kindle Fire HD All the Time:

  • It turns my vehicle into a mobile university: This is the No. 1 reason why it is with me most of the time. By owning a Kindle device, I can turn on Amazon’s text-to-speech function and listen to books while I drive. I just finished reading/listening to The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (which turned out to be better than I initially envisioned). Whether I am in the Jeep five minutes or 35 minutes, I like having the option of listening to a book.
  • It keeps me up-to-date with my blog: I have a WordPress app that allows me to edit or create posts, check my site stats or do anything else I need to with my blog, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • I keep my teaching notes on it: I teach an adult Sunday School class at Parkview Christian Church, and I send all of my notes to my Kindle device. I have a study Bible loaded on the Kindle, and I keep my notes for Sunday School on it.
  • I can capture thoughts using Catch app: When you start blogging, you realize how important it is to get your ideas down. With Catch Notes, I can do that. The free app allows you to write notes, record audio notes, take photos, set up reminders and create checklists. I used it the other day to jot some ideas down for future blog posts and a future book.
  • I can move my online reading offline: With Pocket, another free app, I can be reading something on the web and save it to read later. The app works across all sorts of devices. I can be reading something on the web at home, save it to Pocket, and when I sync my Kindle Fire HD, I will get a nice, readable version of the web page. It is important to sync Pocket’s content while you have Wi-Fi access. This is immensely helpful when researching. I have been using it to aid me in writing a book for mindreaders. It is invaluable.
  • I can keep up-to-date with all of my social networks: Again, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

If you would like to purchase your own Kindle Fire HD, check out my affiliate link by clicking here. I recommend the 32 GB version because once you buy it, there is no expanding it. Might as well get the extra storage space.

The Kindle Fire HD  7 has been a great fit for me, but let me caution you by saying I made the purchase because I was an Amazon Prime member. It made sense to have a device geared toward watching the movies, TV shows and videos available for free to Prime members, getting the shipping discount from Amazon and the ability to borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you are looking for more of a computing tablet, then perhaps the iPad, iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7 are better options for you.

For me, it was the Kindle. You can see other reasons why by clicking here.

What Do You Say, When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Traffic to The Z Section was higher than normal early Wednesday. I had no clue as to why. Could it be I wrote such a stellar blog post? Maybe.

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But it turned out that was not the case. I noticed that I was getting some referrals from Michael Hyatt’s blog about Intentional Leadership (check out his wonderful blog here … and subscribe to it!).

I figuratively scratched my head and wondered why I was getting traffic from Hyatt’s blog, but I was busy with other stuff, so I kept moving. Every time I checked on my site stats (and I can get OCD about them as I try to build a platform), the number kept increasing at a higher than normal pace at a higher than normal clip. (At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, I was just three page views away from previous best. Update: I was just one page view away from my best at the end of the day.)

Finally, late in the afternoon, I checked out the referral link from Hyatt’s blog, and lo, and behold, but what do my wondering eyes discover: He posted his latest “This is Your Life” podcast about changing your story and changing your life. He had solicited questions from his blog readers, and my question about how faith played into that was selected along with six others.

Read more

Want to Succeed? Find the Singular Focus of Mr. Thomas

Mr. Thomas, our cat, has a singular focus. Day-in and day-out, the cat has one thing, and one thing only, on his mind.

Mr. Thomas

That singular focus is to get outside, which might not seem like a bad thing, except Mr. Thomas is a house cat.

So, how does a house cat determine he wants to be an outside cat. Well, before my wife rescued Mr. Thomas (some people found him, along with his litter mates, abandoned in a park and found homes for the kittens), we had bought a wire dog crate, but not for the dog. It was so we could put our cats outside. We don’t want them running off, so we keep them in a crate.

When Mr. Thomas was first introduced to the crate, he absolutely fell in love with being outdoors. So much so, that he always wants to be outside. He does not care if it is cold or snowing or sunny and warm, Mr. Thomas wants to get beyond the front (or back) door and get some fresh air.

In order to accomplish his goal, Mr. Thomas has a ritual. Whenever my wife or I walk even remotely close to the front door, he takes off running, leaps onto the table by the door and pounces on us. He will be in your arms and nearly on your shoulder before you can blink an eye. It took Wendi by surprise the first time he did it when she walked in the house.

Because Mr. Thomas is so persistent, he gets out more than we would like him to be. In fact, it is winter time in Northeast Ohio, and we ran into a spell of a couple of warm days in January, and we dragged the crate out, set it up and let Mr. Thomas, long with Ariel and Buddy, enjoy some fresh air in the outdoors.

If we want to be successful, then it is going to take a singular focus. We have to know what the end game is and devise a strategy to accomplish our goals. Above all else, we have to act. A plan with no action just represents potential. Even if you execute the plan poorly, you can still revise and adapt. If you do nothing, then you better expect nothing good will come of it. You have to get started. Now.

What will receive your singular focus this week? What will drive you to act? There is no better time than now to start, so when will you?

Want to be Successful? It’s Simple, Follow These 16,107 Steps

Regular visitors to The Z Section know of my skepticism about lists, which is why I found Mike Michalowicz’s comments in “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur” so funny.

Illuminate - Ivan,Cyborg,Web

Mike wrote about how he had been struck by the number of business books that encourage its readers to take 28 steps, follow these 100 rules, etc. He set out one day to find out how many steps people would need to take to be successful in business, and he said he stopped counting at 16,107.

Actually, Mike does not really recommend you take, or follow, the 16,107 steps. Sorry, I just tried to hook you into reading this blog.

It is my belief when we stop looking for that one best way and actually try to do something, then we will eventually be successful. Mike’s advice is to quit talking and take action.

When it comes to action there is only one lesson. Start now. There really isn’t much else to say. Start now! Start now! Start now!

– Mike Michalowicz

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Today is a good day to start something. What action will you take today to move closer to your goal?

How a Dream Becomes a Reality

My wife Wendi has a dream of “becoming” a published author and has been chasing the dream off and on for years.

Wendi Warren

Wendi Warren doing voice over work at the Audio Thrills Recording Studio outside of Wooster, Ohio

I put the word becoming in quotes above because she already is a published author. When I published a newsletter geared toward families, she wrote articles for it. My wife is a licensed professional clinical counselor in the state of Ohio. While she no longer counsels, she keeps her license current, as she still works within the mental health field. With this background, she was able to provide some good information for families.

When I was an assistant editor at the Record Herald newspaper in Washington Court House, Ohio, she wrote some columns for the newspaper. She wrote one about her father for a Father’s Day feature and another about the time she met Ricardo Montalban, who was the only actor she ever wrote a fan letter to as a girl. It was a touching moment, literally, when they met and he touched her hand reassuringly. It was an awesome moment.

But, I digress.

Even though Wendi is published, she still does not consider herself a published author. It does not count, she tells me, because I was in a position to make it happen. This might be true, but I would not publish her writings if they had been junk or even just OK.

Right now, Wendi is involved with a project that will make her dream become a reality (she is working on a fairy tale). I am excited for her. I do not want to say too much about the project right now and steal Wendi’s thunder. It looks as if this thing is going to fly, but I want to be careful not to count the chickens before they hatch.

When Wendi’s project is on more stable ground, she will write a guest blog here and announce it. I am hoping she will be able to share some good news before Valentine’s Day.

How is this dream becoming a reality? Because of a never-give-up, never-say-die mentality. No try, just do. What obstacle hinders you from achieving your dreams, goals and aspirations?