Friday, December 29, 2006

Me as the Blogger and Reader

Okay, so I suck at sticking to this blogging thing. To be honest, I equate blogging to the "message in a bottle" method of communication. Here I am on a little island writing all this stuff, but with little feedback from those that are reading it.

Therefore, this year, I am going to change my tone a little bit. Instead of assuming there are readers out there, I am going to assume that no one at all will be reading this crap. When you think about it, it is very liberating. It kinda makes me feel like Nancy Drew and her little diary. (Of course, I never ready any Nancy Drew books!)

Alright, so just in case I wake up with amnesia one day, here is what is going on in my little business world:

DeWitt Crossing is still moving along. I have gotten the road plans approved and am heading into the deepest debt of my life in order to swing for the fences. It is a real joy to see this place being built. I believe it will be great addition to the community.

RentQuick is in the process of re-tooling. I have developed a Access database that allows us to track our inventory through the special world of meetings and event rentals. This much I do know from this project: Access is a powerful program and I don't know enough about it.

As a result, I have hired a specialist, John Raleigh ( to help with some of the more technical parts of the system. When complete, it should make our lives here much better, plus give us more information about the movement of the inventory.

We have a new tenant: Bradford and Catchings Dentistry. They are great people who have moved from New Orleans to be in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They are in the process of building out their rental space and should be moved in during February.

Finally, I have returned to teaching. The Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce put a call out for anyone wanting to do seminars. I thought it would be nice to get back into the classroom again. When I was in the Marines, I taught quite a bit and always enjoyed it. My first seminar for the Chamber was "The First-Time Manager". I had 13 students, (all women!) and had pretty good reviews. Although I did get one bad review, but I blame the reviewer on that one. (Note: if you consider yourself a seasoned manager, don't take a course called First-Time Manager!)

So now Christmas is over and 2007 is fast approaching. I wish I had some words of wisdom for myself, but I don't. My resolutions are to work out three days a week and to delegate more.

I will not make any promises on when I will post again. For all I know, I may never talk to myself again!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dirt Moving Update 2

Over the past two months, we have been moving some serious dirt! It is so cool!

On the 10 acre portion of the site to the East, we have moved close to 30,000 cubic yards of fill material. Everything has gone very well.

If you are not familiar with the exciting process of fill dirt, then allow me to explain. The dirt must first be dry. Since we are digging it up and moving it directly to the site, it is pretty dry. Then a large dozer spreads the dirt out in a 6 to 12 inch "lift". After this, roller known as a "sheeps foot" compacts the dirt. That is what creates the little foot prints you see in the picture.

For the fill to be good, there can be no large rocks, debris or organic material in the fill. And, yes there is a big difference between top soil and fill dirt. Top soil is very bad fill.

The idea is to create a filled space which can be built upon. In order to build on it, it cannot compress or move. You can imagine what trouble that would create.

We are very close to having our construction plans approved so we can start on the really fun part: the road construction.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Happiness from Running

When I was in the Marine Corps, I would run 6 to 8 miles 4 days a week. I can honestly say I was in the best shape of my life. Running was just a part of the job and I got pretty good at it. However, after leaving the Marines in 1992, I stopped running. It was mainly the lack of structure that did it. In the Corps, you always ran when your platoon ran. In addition, every six months, you had to perform in a physical fitness test which involved a timed 3 mile run.

Now, after being out of the running world for 14 years, I am back at it again. I feel better. I sleep better. I look about the same. But the good news, is I feel better.

If you have the opportunity to run, even a mile at a time, do it. Running may be the cheapest sport you can every do. You get more excercise per minute than any other exercise. Finally, running is a great way to experience the outdoors.

Run, Forest Run!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dirt Moving Update

It has been a while since I spoke about the DeWitt Crossing project. As you may remember, DeWitt Crossing is a 33-acre commercial development located in Waynesboro, Virginia. I am in the process of creating 20 commercial lots for resale.

Right now, we are involved in filling 10 acres of low-lying property on the eastern side of the project. This portion of the project is huge. We are moving 38,000 cubic yards of dirt from down the road to the property and compacting it. To give you an idea of how big this is, it will take about 4,000 dump truck loads to move the dirt.

Every day or so, I head over there and watch the trucks move. For a former Tonka kid, this is great.

While all of this is going on, I have been in the process of getting the construction plans for the other side of the road approved. We are in the final stages of getting this done. The big lesson is how much longer this takes than what I expected. However, it will happen eventually.

In the coming weeks, I should be able to go public about what is going on out there. Although everyone seems to think it will be an Olive Garden. That is pure speculation. I would love to have an Olive Garden there, but I don't think the market meets their requirements.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I should have thought of this

Today, I have found something completely amazing. Obviously, if you are reading lots of blogs, you may have noticed an increase in the number of bloggers who are pushing websites, products, candidates, etc.

This is because they are paid to do it. It is so cool!

There is a site called that sets advertisers up with bloggers. The advertisers post an opportunity which offers payola to the bloggers. You can may a few bucks each time you run a short post about a new fangled something or another.

Wow! Who says bloggers don't have journalistic integrity. It's like we are back in 1953 all over again.

Now duck and cover!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wounded Warrior Project

This past January, I was skiing at my local hill, Wintergreen, when I saw signs and banners welcoming the Wounded Warrior Project. This is a non-profit group that helps wounded American servicemen and servicewomen recover from amputations. The day was dedicated to teaching a group of amputees how to ski. There is something wonderful in seeing someone who has every reason to feel sorry for themselves, get up and do something like this.

The numbers are stagering. Over 18,000 young men and women have been wounded since the war in Iraq began. Of those, close to 500 are amputies. Since the weapon of choice by the insurgency is the improvised explosive device, arms and legs are lost frequently. Furthermore, the number of brain related injuries is much higher than other conflicts.

Regardless of your polititical views, these numbers are troubling. Most of the press does not keep a running tally on the wounded. As a result, the wounded are often forgotten by the American public.

The Wounded Warrior Project provides a much needed service to those wounded and their families. They provide assistance to every wounded warrior from the time they are put into the hospital. These support services include a handy backpack with essentials which help the young soldier or Marine deal with their situation. The WWP also provides counselling and rehab services provided by other wounded service personnel.

Please help these brave men and women. You can learn more at

Monday, May 01, 2006

Finally Something to Talk About

It has been over a month since my last post. As a cyber-personality, I truly suck. The fact is that I have not had anything interesting to talk about. Other blogs are about mundane things, whereas I try to write mine like Op-Ed pieces.

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing more business in nearby Charlottesville. Fishersville and Waynesboro, where I live, are located about 30 miles to the West of Charlottesville. Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Monticello and lots of rich wealthy people. There seems to be a Charlottesville-centric belief there that the world revolves around Charlottesville. Case in point: I attended a meeting of the Charlottesville Venture Group last month. This is a nice group of business people both entreprenuers and investors that meets at the Darden School in Charlottesville. The seminar was about statistics of the surrounding area. The instructor asked people what they thought the average income per household was in the area. An educated guy actually thought it was around $110,000. In fact, it was in the mid-thirties.

It seems that everytime I meet someone from Charlottesville, they name-drop. Things like I knew Dave Matthews before he could play a guitar. Or "John Grisham and I used to go cow tipping together". The concentration of rich and famous people in Charlottesville makes the rest of the residents think they are all rich and famous. More power to them.

The problem comes when they put the rest of the state down in bragging about themselves. Charlottesville is a very nice city. But believe it or not, other parts of the state do have running water and power.

Where this comes into the business fray is that with so many people in Charlottesville thinking that the rest of the world sucks, it opens opportunities for us peasants. For instance, commercial land in and around Charlottesville is really expensive. However, in areas such as Waynesboro, opportunities to get in at the ground floor are still available.

This is my "out-edge" theory. It goes like this: every booming area has a center. At some point, you are out of the center and reach the outer edges. That is the place where you should be investing. Paying too much for real estate or labor or anything makes it very difficult to make any money. If you open your eyes, you will find buildings, land, and people who are not in the center of a high growth area that are just as good. Buy low and sell high. If you only look in the hot spots, you will be buying too high.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why No Brain Enhancements

You know, it is really interesting what modern medicine can do today. You can get a new heart, a new liver or a replacement kidney. If you don't like your nose, you can change it. If you don't like your breasts, you can enlarge them. According to the million or so emails I get everyday, you can increase the size of your johnson with a little pill.

You can straighten your teeth. You can correct your vision. Your hearing can be improved by a hearing aide, although why they advertise on radio, I don't know.

You can get an instant tan or fake nails. You can add or remove tatoos with ease.

Luckily, you can get replacement limbs if you lose one.

You can fight the signs of aging with a face lift. You can fight the signs of overeating with a tummy tuck or a liposuction. You can enlarge your butt, put hair on your bald head or remove hair from your upper lip.

It is amazing what you can do today. However, one area is missing. We don't yet have the technology to make you smarter.

My challenge to the scientific community is to develop the technology to make people smarter. I need to challenge the scientific community to do this because I currently lack the brain power to do it myself. Its the whole chicken-egg thing.

Here is the goal: I want a device that allows me to learn new things quickly and without much effort. It should be small and convenient. I don't want it to be too cheap though. If everyone can get smarter, then it kind of defeats the whole benefit of me being smarter. Its the same as everyone getting a million dollars, it diminishes the value through rapid inflation.

I have thought this through and figure that a small USB port in the head should work well.

Although I don't want everyone to have access to this device, I think there are a few people who should be early-adopters. To avoid politicizing this too much, I will not say their names. Although I will give you a hint: He is elected, from Texas and is the leader of the free world. But I want to be second in line.

So get to work smart guys. I expect a product on the shelves of Office Depot or WalMart by Christmas.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Self Learning

It's amazing how fast technology is changing. I am in the process of re-building the website from scratch. It seems that everything I used to be good at is now obsolete. Therefore, I must learn a whole new bunch of stuff.

Specifically, I am referring to cascading style sheets. If you haven't done anything with them, then you are going to be amazed at what you can do. Not only can you layer the images on the page and control the overall look and feel of the site with one little file, you can also put things exactly where you want them without those pesky tables.

So I have spent the last few weeks learning and implementing all kinds of new stuff for the website. I am still testing it, but thought it would make for an interesting discussion: self learning.

Over the years since finishing my MBA, I have found that I spend a great deal of time learning things to perform a specific task. Whether it is the ins and outs of stormwater detention facilites or it is the latest design tools, I have been forced to learn without the aid of a classroom or an instructor.

In fact, most of what I consider to be important knowledge has come from learning on the job. This has been such an important tool for me, that I assumed everyone did the same. However, in my interviews with others I found the opposite to be true.

Obviously, people learn differently. Some excel in the the classroom environment. Some do better by trial and error while others prefer to learn through books. I learn best through a mixture of trial and error and reading.

The great thing about learning is that it is limitless. The problem with being limited to learning in a classroom environment is that you are so dependant on finding a class that teaches what you need to know and taking the time to attend.

Of all the tools I have in being the do-all entreprenuer, self-learning is the most powerful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Finding a way through the red tape

Over the past six months, I have been working on getting Adin Circle accepted by Augusta County and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Adin Circle is a residential street within Silver Ridge Subdivision. This road was constructed four years ago, but is only now being accepted into the road system.

Here are my lessons learned:

1. Get a very clear understanding of what the government wants before you start. Know who the players are and what their role is in the process.

2. Find out what all the fees are. You would be surprised how many secret fees pop up during any acceptance process.

3. Determine the payout and release of any surity bonds. With bonds, you can set them up a number of ways. For small bonds, it is often best to post a Certificate of Deposit with an escrow agent (attorney or bank). This way, you are getting the little bit of interest on the money.

4. When you get comments back from the agency, be sure the information is in writing. Never go on the verbal comments of a government employee. These people like paper and if it isn't on paper, it didn't happen.

5. If you are working with an engineer, surveyor or contractor through the acceptance process, be sure to specify that you are hiring them to get acceptance by an agency. Then get a price for them to reach that acceptance. Paying by the hour will kill your budget since you will never get it right on the first step.

6. Unlike the real world, working with government agencies is seldom negotiable. The rules are the rules. Don't look to get any breaks. Treat the entire process as professionally as possible. Remember the government employees really don't care about your timeline or budget. All they are interested in is being sure they do their job by the book. Keep that in mind and your frustration level will drop considerably.