Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Blog

I'll be taking some time off from posting to this blog for a while. Instead, I am going to focus on my new blog. So if you want to see what I've been up to, click here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I was reading Allen Webb's blog about setting new year's resolutions and it got me thinking about what I want to do differently this year. I have been listening to numerous podcasts this christmas break, mostly from the Harvard Business Review, and some from the Stanford Ventures Program which seem to be focused on the financial crisis and what to do about it. Many talk about my generation (gen Y), and say how for us, this financial mess should not seem so bleak. We didn't loose much in the stock market. We don't have much in a 401K. Most of us don't have kids to support. Other than the waivering job market, we have been virtually untouched by all this mess. Much of what I've read and heard says that now is the time to look for opportunity amidst all the garbage that surrounds us. To echo Allen Webb, the opportunities to "go big" are aplenty.

With that said, I want in. I want a peice of the action. Being in college I feel like I'm so far away from the action. I feel like a can't really do anything until school is under my belt. I know how untrue that really is, but the feeling remains.

I have decided that my new year's resolution is going to be to live like I am right in the middle of the action. I am going to live like the entrepreneur I have always wanted to be. There is so much I want to do that doesn't get done due to a lack of dicipline and even a lack of confidence. This is the year to have no regrets. This is the year to work hard and really enjoy the rewards. This is the year to excel in school, excel in business, and above all, excel in matters of the spirit.

I'm not sure what this will all look like but I have decided to keep a record of my journey on a new blog which you can find here. This is where you will find out if I am succeeding or failing at my task of self improvement. This year will be a refining element in my life.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turkey Tri

Okay, so it's been a few days, but I still wanted to post about the triathlon I ran this weekend. I'll be honest, I'm pretty proud of myself. I know it was only a sprint triathlon (this one was in reverse order: 5k run, 6 mi. bike, 350 m swim) but I still feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Looking back I could have pushed myself harder and had a better time, but all in all, I'm pretty satisfied. By the way, anyone reading this post who HAS run a triathlon, ignore all my gloating since I know I don't have much to brag about.

Here are my times for each leg of the race:

Telos Turkey Tri

Overall Place
Overall Back
Gender Place
Gender Back
Class Place
Class Back



Thursday, October 23, 2008


Last week our intramural volleyball team won our division II tournament. After a lot of sweat and tears, we came out on top and won the most prestigious prize of all... a championship t-shirt. (Picture of the coveted prize coming soon)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Volleyball Lesson Learned

Last Friday I played two tournament volleyball games with my intramural team, Garies'. We have only lost one game in our double elimination tournament. We have plenty of people on our team, but it doesn't help when they don't show up. On Friday we started with 4 players and luckily the other team had only 4 players as well. We beat them pretty easily. The challenge came when we played the second team.

With only 4 players we were already at a disadvantage since the other team had 5 players. Most of their players were decent also. Half way into the first game, one of our players rolled his ankle and was out for the rest of the game. Intramural rules say you can't start a game with less than 4 players, but if you start and one of them gets injured, you can still play. So, here we are playing with three players against their five. The odds were not in our favor.

We were already way ahead in the first game, and we beat them, 25-21. The second game was a scramble. Because there were only three of us, we all knew that we were extremely important to the success of our team. Needless to say, we hustled on the court the whole game. To our frustration, the other team beat us 27-25. Barely. We were pretty pissed.

The third game we turned up our energy and killed them 15-9. It was a satisfying victory against tough odds. That keeps us in the tournament and we play again on Wednesday.

The lesson learned from this experience is about the importance of the teammate on the team. With four players none of us played to the best of our ability. There were a lot of errors due to miscommunication and assumptions that the other teammate would get the ball if you didn't. The truth was that no one on the team really believed that he was an integral part of the team, and that without his complete effort the team would suffer. Once we were forced to play with three players, we all knew we would loose if one of us slacked.

I have always known this principal, but not until now can I really draw on my own experience as to how important it is, and how it works. In management, everyone on your team must know how important they are to the team. They must have a deep down sense of value and responsibility to their team. Without that, your team will suffer and perform below their capacity.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shoe Funeral

Last night two good friends of mine died. They were twins. They did everything together. You could never find one without the other. Inseparable in life, and together in death. They were so alike, yet completely opposite. They were my favorite pair of running shoes.

I had this pair of running shoes for three years. They even doubled as my volleyball shoes and it was that sport that killed them. Last night as I played my men's intramural volleyball tournament, I could tell they had died. Both insoles wore out causing the balls of my feet to feel like they were on fire, and it was that moment I knew... they were dead!

I find it so hard to part with articles of clothing, especially shoes. They really are like two friends who have been with you through thick and thin; rain or shine. They are so loyal, and after a short while, you grow to love and respect them. You get used to the way you look in them and they seem to boost your confidence in any athletic situation. They never fail you, and the one time they do, you have to replace them.

Why can't I just repair them or something? Can't I just buy them a new insole and avoid having to tell them to take a hike? They've been so loyal to me that the thought of replacing them feels the same as having to take your sick, dying dog in the back yard and shoot it. It's downright painful.

The truth is that at one time I did try to fix them. I did buy them new insoles once and kept wearing them for another year, but those insoles wore out, and now the hard soles were wearing out too, so I think it's time to let them die.

And that's why we had a shoe funeral.

We had an open casket funeral where we lit some candles and I said a few words. I paid my respects and then we buried them. It was quick- very suiting for a pair of running shoes. It's exactly how they would have wanted it.

Then Angie and I went to the mall in search of a suitable replacement. I interviewed many pairs of shoes before I found the right pair. They were light weight, bright, shiny, and of course affordable. We went to the checkout stand and finalized the selection process with the swipe of my master card.

The trouble is, how do I know if they will even fit in? I mean, how do I know they will be as good? How do I know if they will be loyal or not? I don't. But I have no choice but to give them the reigns and see how they ride.

While I mourn the loss of a faithful pair of running shoes and inaugurate the new ones I'm sure the new pair will fill the void in my heart that the old ones left. I'm sure after one run or one game of volleyball, I will notice how new and comfortable the new pair really is. I'm sure by next week, they will be my new favorite pair of running shoes and I will have forgotten about the old ones altogether. The new pair and I will have a lot of adventures ahead of us and hopefully it will be another three years before I have to have another shoe funeral.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Mentors Advice

I've been writing my mission president here and there to get his advice on whatever was on my mind. Mostly I ask his advice on how I can someday be a millionaire. Here is the letter I wrote to him and his responding letter. All I can say is that he is a wise man. To read other words of wisdom, read his blog here.

President Webb,

It’s the middle of August which means the summer is almost over. It has been a journey full of its ups, downs, and of course, valuable lessons.

Let me give you a shortened version of my summer selling pest control. I anticipated starting my office out with 25+ sales reps. I never had more than 17 or so at one time and I am now down to 5 including myself. Some of them never showed up to work. Some quit after only a few days. Some quit after a few weeks. Some were fired, and some have already completed their summer and are back home to start school again. Over all, my office won’t do as much production as last year’s office, which is frustrating, but all in all, I’ll make more money this year. There has been a lot of improvement on my part as a manager (which is why I’ll make more money) but there was a definite decrease in employee quality this year compared to last year.

This year I have learned again first-hand the importance of hiring the right people for your team. I recruited most of my office outside the Utah “bubble” and hired a lot from booths on college campuses. The quality of those people isn’t half as good as that of the ones from the mother land. I hired for my office relying on sheer numbers to get me through. I was supposed to have one of the biggest offices in the company when I started. I found that there are some kinds of people you want on your team, and some that you don’t. I did not do a good job of picking the good ones. Actually I wasn’t even looking in places where those good people could be found. Big mistake.

As a result, I had to fight laziness, immaturity, a lack of responsibility, insubordination, dishonesty, etc. I will give myself credit, though, for not tolerating much of any of those things this year. I sent a lot of reps packing, some even before the summer started. I made up my mind that I would not put up with much crap this summer from my reps. I guess the problem was I hired reps that came with a bunch of crap.

I am reading John Maxwell’s book about the laws of teamwork. It’s an excellent book I wish I would have read a year ago. There are so many things he says that I wish I could have practiced much earlier on in the summer that I think would have given an extra boost to my team. I think it would have helped me hire better reps for my team also. Maxwell talks about finding people that are going to make a good fit on your team; people who share the same vision and are willing to work hard for that vision. (Actually he says a lot more than that on the matter). I have decided that for next year, I am going to build my door-to-door sales force from the biggest pool of door-to-door experienced individuals, BYU campus. It is no wonder there are so many companies that recruit from there. BYU students just have what it takes and I’m gonna do what it takes to get them to work for me.

Back to this summer. I think the thing I struggled with the most this summer was being disciplined with my time. Like last summer, I seemed to find a lot of miniscule things to do in place of the most important things. I wasn’t nearly as lazy as last year, but there is still a lot of improvement I need to make. That is one thing I would like to hear from you about. How do you keep the balance between your management responsibilities and your personal production responsibilities? I hear leadership trainers say that leading from the front will show your team what to do and how to do it, and they will follow, but I still feel like my office sees me as the manager that demands too much of them. How do I balance?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of leader I want to become. I’ve been taking a realistic view of myself now and comparing it to who I want to become, and figuring out what’s keeping me from being that person. In a nutshell I want to be the leader that works like a well oiled machine; someone who knows how to work when it’s time to work, and play when it’s time to play and knows how to set those boundaries. Here are a few things that I feel are weaknesses of mine that I want to work on for the next few months. I’d like your advice.

1. I find myself getting so emotionally overwhelmed with managerial housekeeping tasks that I feel like I need some kind of escape. That usually comes in the form of wasting time on the computer, or crunching useless numbers, or something like that. How do you manage the emotional part of being a leader?

2. Time management has been a real struggle for me. Do you have any recommended books or other resources about how to manage time better? What do you do to help yourself stay structured with your time?

3. In the pest control sales industry, the team spends a lot of time with each other. We not only work together, but we live together and play together. We spend almost all of our time together. I have a hard time separating business and personal stuff. It’s easy to become everyone’s friend, but I feel like I can’t make the switch to being the leader all the time. How do I maintain the respect of my team as their leader and still enjoy a good time with them as well?

One more thing. What kind of businesses do you own? Who comes up with the ideas? Do you back them financially, or take part in the administrative side of things? What are the first steps to building a business? Do you have any positions available in one of your companies? If so, what are they? How could I get involved?

I’d better end this letter now. I just finished eating a nice big mango and I think my fingers a still a little sticky. There’s nothing like a big mango on a hot night. Takes me back to Caracas.


Mark S.

Now here is his response:

Well, here I am, por fin, and here are my thoughts.
You gain wisdom from experience. Experience comes from making bad choices. Nobody hits a home run every time at the plate. You adjust your swing, you change your bat, you change your stance, etc., etc., etc.. Eventually, you come up with the combination that works for you. If you didn't lose money, you got an education that cost you nothing. That's a great value.

I like John Maxwell's books. I haven't read them all, by any means (it seems like there are about 20 at Barnes and Noble) but I have enjoyed the ones I've read.

At the end of the day, you're only as good as your team. No matter who you are or how good you are, nobody succeeds without the help of others. There are several ways to get others to help you reach your dreams. One is the carrot. Another is the stick. Another is manipulation. The one I like best is selling them the dream (you need to read the book, "Selling the dream" by Guy Kawasaki, ex Apple Computer marketing manager. That book will do wonders for your team building and evangelizing a product. But in your case, what you are selling is your dream. When they buy into your dream, they will help you reach your goals.)

There's no question your employees will follow you if you show them it can be done. I remember telling one employee that if I couldn't do his job in exactly half the time it was taking him, I would give him my next paycheck. The downside was, if I did, he would have to give me his next paycheck. He didn't take the bet. At that point, he had to admit that he wasn't giving his "all." If you're a "do as I say, not as I do" manager, you'll have difficulty getting people to sacrifice for you. If they know you're in it right along with them, they'll do anything to support you. I'd say that for at least one period per month (it could be a day, or a couple of days, or a week, or two weeks, or whatever) you have to go out and set a blistering pace, proving it can be done. You don't have to do it every day, but you have to do it often enough so they don't lose sight of the fact that you can out-do any of them any time you want. I can think of several times when I did that. It usually came when the troops were murmuring that I was asking for the impossible. When I did it myself, they saw I wasn't asking them to do anything I couldn't do (or hadn't done for that matter) and they lined right back up.

As to your list of improvements:

Getting overwhelmed -- I stop as often as necessary to "sharpen the saw" as Covey says. That doesn't mean I take long breaks. Short duration, high intensity is the answer. You have to do something that takes your mind entirely from your problem to get any relief. For me, that is adrenaline. Working hard, playing hard, whatever brings an adrenaline rush. For you it will be different. It's different for everyone. At any rate, sitting and playing on the computer gives you more time to stew on your problems and makes them worse not better. You need an escape, even if it's only for 15 minutes.

Time Management -- This is all about discipline. Reading books isn't going to help. You decide to do better today, and you don't let yourself down. You do whatever you have to to build discipline. I remember in the mission, Elder Longhurst wanted to improve his self discipline. He decided to make a list of the things he hated doing, and then force himself to do them. First on the list was cleaning the toilet. He hated that more than anything in the world. So he decided to get uup 30 minutes early each day and spend that time scrubbing the toilet. When he got to the point he no longer detested that, he started on the next item on the list. I'd have to say he's one of the most disciplined people I know. He's already very successful in his career, and I expect he'll continue to be. Discipline is everything. The old saying is successful people are successful because they are willing to do the distasteful things that the rest of us won't do.

Business / friends -- We do the same in many of our businesses, and I've had no problems. Everyone knows that business is business and friends are friends. I remember having a particularly intense discussion with one employee (and good friend) where I told him if he didn't shape up, I was going to have to let him go. An hour later, we went to luch together. Our discussion was a business discussion. We went to lunch as friends. You let them know that we're all friends, but at the end of the day, I have a job to do. That job is to make sure you do your job. If we're going to be friends, we have to expect that we're both going to do our jobs.

Relative to my business dealings -- Sometimes I come up with the ideas, sometimes others do. Sometimes I buy (or startup) a business and sometimes I come in as an administrator. There are as many different scenarios as there are businesses. I look for something I can get passionate about. It takes a lot of passion to work at the level of intensity I work at. Without that, the job becomes a drudgery. I can't handle that. When I find something that excites me, I dive in. I don't just wade in and test the water. I dive in. I love the shock of that cold water hitting your system. It's invigorating. Then it's swim or die. So far I've been able to swim.

I love business. I love the competition with others as much as the competition with myself. After all, the biggest obstacle to your success most of the time is you. When you get to where you can manage that, you're on your way.

Un abrazo fuerte. You're on the track. Keep running.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Lykke Li - Little Bit

This is part III of the newest delight.

Lykke Li - Dance Dance Dance

This is part II of the newest delight.

Lykke Li - I'm Good, I'm Gone

This is the newest delight.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

1000 degrees

It's got to be over 1000 degrees here in Portland today. My face is literally melting off my head right now. 1000 degrees is way too hot to be doing anything but taking a nap with the fan blowing on you just to keep the skin from melting off.

What I wouldn't give to be eating a huge bowl of ice cream and watching shrek 3 right now. I would give anything. It's a good thing I'll be doing that in about one hour from now.

Portland oregoneans are funny people. Everyone thinks the air that comes out of the AC is made out of gold. If the front door is open even a tiny crack, (because you are talking to me through it) Portlandeans worry that all their gold will empty out that tiny crack and into my pockets. How I wish that were true. Instead it kisses me on the face and helps keep my eyebrows from dripping off my chin.

Too hot.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ethics Dilemma

Recently my mission president, whose blog I read often, wrote about the business ethics dilemma. He has a very good blog for anyone who is interested in business, management, leadership, etc. Click here to read it.

Here is the crux of what he wrote:
Is it wrong / dishonest / immoral / etc. to sell something for more than it’s worth? I know there are many who would say it’s worth whatever someone would pay for it. Therefore, you should get all you can. I know there are others who say that to consider yourself honest, you must seek a win-win situation, and not take undue advantage of anyone else. I have strong feelings on this one.

My wife and I talked about this for a while and we decided on an opinion. But first I want to share a story.

A few months ago, two friends of mine were on their way home from a day of snowboarding. When they stopped for gas, two men approached them in a white van, offering my friends a good deal on some home theater surround sound speakers. The men had apparently just finished a job in Park City, and when they had received the speaker shipment, the warehouse had accidentally sent an extra pair. They explained that the invoice only reflected the correct amount ordered, which was one pair, so they now wanted to sell them off at a good price. My friends (who are both salesmen) thought they would talk these two guys down in price and get some cheap speakers. The bidding started at $1200 and when all was said and done, my two friends walked off with the new speakers, having only paid $700, a snowboard, and two Park City lift tickets.

While driving home, and feeling proud of themselves, they decided to look up the speakers online to see how good of a deal they really got. They Googled the brand (which they had never heard of) and in the second search result, it said “White Van Scam.” They went on to read, in horror, a full detailed description of the very interaction they just had with these two men, and realized that they had just paid $700, a snowboard, and two park city lift tickets for a set of $200 speakers.

Clearly my friends felt that what these two men in the white van did was wrong. I agree. The reason it was wrong is due to one thing: lack of full disclosure. There was intentioned deceit, and the seller knew the buyer had not done his homework.

So that is the answer to your question: “Is it wrong/ dishonest/ immoral/ etc. to sell something for more than it’s worth?” Only if there is lack of full disclosure. A seller should fully disclose all information pertaining to the value of what’s being sold, being careful to not mislead the buyer by omitting information that directly effects value. The seller should disclose anything that could otherwise be falsely assumed, and be willing to disclose all information that is requested by the buyer. However, I think the buyer is responsible to do their homework so they know what questions to ask. If the seller offers full disclosure, and the buyer has done the required research and has received an answer to all questions, then the buyer is able to make an educated decision about whether the value of the item matches the seller’s asking price.

I think the worth of something is determined by each person. An item might be more valuable to one person than another, resulting in that person’s willingness to pay more for it. The key again, in my opinion, is having both parties clear about what is being purchased.

As a salesman, I sell my service at a fair price. Many times I give a discount. Sometimes I give a bigger discount than other times depending on how valuable my service is to a customer. I do not feel bad selling the same service to a customer at a higher price than to another when both customers are getting a good deal. I fully disclose the terms of the service so my customers are clear about what they are buying.

So there you have it. Disclosure is the key.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why does McDonalds suck so bad?

Yesterday at around 6:00 my stomach started growling for dinner. I was in the middle of doing my favorite thing on the planet which is walking around the neighborhood and trying to sign people up on a route for pest control. By this time I had worked for 5 hours for free and was already pissed about it.

I got in my car to drive around and look for a suitable place to satisfy my appetite and found none such satisfyings. Somehow I ended up in the ghetto, and was so hungry I vowed to eat at the very next place that served food. A strip mall up ahead looked promising and as I approached with anticipation, the only restaurant in sight had two yellow arches. McDonalds.


With MUCH hesitation, I mean VERY much hesitation, I walked in having convinced myself that, "hey, I haven't eaten here for years. Maybe things have changed."

They haven't.

Why is it that every person who eats at McDonalds looks like McDonalds?There is just something disturbing about seeing America's lower half chowing down on what they think is awesome food only to see clearly that it's really super sized obesity in the form of a big mac.

I sat there embarrased while I satisfied my mac attack in shame among my over weight peers. Between the man with swollen feet popping out of his tevas and the old woman with wrinkly homemade tatoos, i sat dreading the thought of ever turning out like them. I felt their presence seeping onto my skin like a thick stench makes you want to take a hot shower and scrub all over. It was not pleasant.

There were a few normal looking middle class citizens who came in the doors that made me feel a little better about being there. I mean, if they were there, then maybe me being there wasn't so bad. That reassurance quickly left when I noticed that the only reason they came in was to rent a redbox movie. Then they huridly shuffled towards the door as if trying not to be seen, throwing a glance my way that said, "poor fellow. He doesn't even know how to take care if himself." Then they were gone.

There was nothing I could do. They were right. I was taking my first steps to being on welfare and not owning a washer and dryer. I was becoming McDonalds.

Note to self: McDonalds is a terrible place to be. It's not worth the shame.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm learning how technology works

I've just discovered that I can now post blogs from my phone. This blog won't be very interesting since its just about phone blogging.

I will say that on July 11th I will be an excited little camper. On that blessed day the iPhone g3 comes out. I currently own the origional iPhone, but since the vibrate alert function doesn't work and the the camera is jacked up, I'm going to cash in on apple's awesome warranty that says I get a new phone if the one I have breaks before a year is up. Well a year isn't up, and I'm going to have them just upgrade it to the G3.

If you are at all curious as to why I could get so excited by a piece of metal and glass that can call someone, watch apple's keynote address on their website. Steve Jobs will explain everything. Its about the dopest (fake word) thing I can think about.

Sent from my iPhone (soon to be G3)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Letter to a role model

This is a letter I wrote to my mission president today. He is a great man who has taught me a lot.

President Webb,
I've been thinking a lot about you the last couple of days and thought I would write you a quick note. First of all, we missed you at our wedding. We don't feel bad though, and hope that you don't either, because after the wedding, I found out that there were a handful of invitations that got returned, and yours was one of them. So I should really be apologizing to you for not making sure you received our invite.
My wife Angie and I live in Provo where she works in a real estate office as the executive assistant to a bunch of realtors, and I go to school at BYU. I'm majoring in urban development and double minoring in business and communications. I have a very part time job where I sell websites to real estate agents. Somehow my wife and I found jobs where we both work with the same type of people. I am also preparing for the summer where I'll be managing a sales office selling pest control in Portland. I've been recruiting a lot (which gives me an excuse to fly home every couple of weeks) and am very excited for another round of summer sales.
The reason Ive been thinking about you probably comes from the fact that Ive been reading your business blog. You give great advice that has helped me mentally prepare to manage 30+ college aged sales reps this summer. Every time I read one of your stories, I think of you telling them in the Caracas mission home to a bunch of eager zone leaders. Those were such mind forging days for me. You instilled in me a fascination for business that has stuck. I have attempted to start my own business a couple of times since I got home, but like many starry eyed college students, nothing ever came of them. Like you say, there has to be passion, which was the very thing I lacked.
I have found an outlet for my entrepreneurial spirit with the whole pest control gig. It gives me great real-world management experience that I value and a chance to experience the concept of leverage as I recruit, hire, retain and train sales reps to sell pest control for me. I like that, and so far it has paid the bills and then some. I managed last summer also and learned a lot of painful lessons that hopefully I will be able to apply this next summer.
I've been listening to some great podcasts lately that have also fueled the ambitious fire within me. My two favorites are the HBR Ideacast by the Harvard Business Review, and the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. From what you write in your blog, I think you would like those two. Those podcasts, combined with self improvement books, blogs like yours and the ones you recommend, keep pushing me to train myself to be a great business leader somewhere, someday. I keep wanting to jump ahead 5 years and see myself running my own business or going to Harvard or being groomed at a big company to be the next Jack Welch. When I read in your blog that you were a CEO at the age of 27, (I'm 25) I wonder if in two or three years I'll be able to do the same.
President, I look up to you so much and you should know that you are and have been one of the greatest role models I have known. I remember all the great stories you've told from your past about your successes and even your failures, and that has become the model for how I want my life to be. You are a great man and I aspire to be more like you. For that reason, I have decided that you are going to be my mentor. I know that is something I should probably ask you about first, but all I really want to do is write you every once in a while and hope for a response with feedback. Heck, maybe you could blog about the experience. I feel like you could help me find a little more direction for what I want to do with my career.
I hope all is well in the Webb household and pray for you and Sister Webb. I would love to hear from you soon.

More to come.
Mucho Amor.

Mark S.