Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Calm After The Storm

Over the past 18 months, I have been completely engaged in the construction and now running of Zeus Digital Theaters. My previous posts about the project have given a little insight into what I went through in order to get the project done. However, now that is over with, it is time for me to start paying attention to the rest of the world around me and where I think things are going on a medium-macro level in the mid term.

First, I think this part of Virginia has seen the worst of the recession. Nationwide, unemployment is rising still (latest is 9.8%, but that will be adjusted as it always is.) Much of the increases are from the economy not creating enough jobs to both feed the supply of new entrants and re-employ previously unemployed workers.

I believe a part of the sluggishness in employment growth is tied to Corporate America's resistance to new investments in new bricks and mortar locations is a tie over from the down turn where companies increased their operating profits by cutting costs (employees). All the blood is gone from that turnip. Now, the only way to increase profits is to either make some miraculous increase in productivity or to invest in new market growth in order to increase revenue.

So I do predict that corporate investment activity will increase in the next year. Of course, some of that cash sitting on their balances sheets will and should go to either stock buy-backs or to dividends. However, neither will increase revenues which is needed to increase profits. As a result, investment into market growth will happen this year. It has to. None of the executives want to be the guy sitting on the sideline with a pile of cash while their competitors gobble up market share. Once one moves, the others will follow.

Once the investment starts, we should see a jump in construction spending and related jobs. Once we start to see job growth again, then the Fed will start to un-wind all the liquidity programs, long term bond purchases and ultimately the Fed Funds Rate will rise. Once that happens, order will be restored to the universe. Of course, once interest rates rise, growth should slow a bit, but the dollar will strengthen as money flows into the US economy for debt investment.

Simple right? Publish Post

So the key right now to getting job growth is in the hands of the big corporations. They need to invest some of that cash to grow their revenues. That will in turn spur hiring, etc. etc.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Trouble with Mixing Economics and Politics

Last night 60 Minutes ran an interview with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who seems to have requested the interview to straighten up some of the misunderstandings concerning the Federal Reserve's QE2 program.

The QE2, (Quantitative Easing 2) program is a plan for the Fed to buy $600 Billion in treasuries in order to push down long term rates which help lower the cost of mortgages which would help with the housing crisis.

Of course, the general problem is that people think that the Fed is printing $600 Billion in order to push long term rates down. This is false. The Fed is just buying 10 and 30 year t-bills in order to push long term rates down. The money supply is staying the same. People further believe that this will cause hyper inflation. This too is false since we are close to deflation and the Fed has so many tools available to slow inflation if it should show up.

The underlying issue is a push by some politicians to rein in the Fed and bring it under the control of Congress. However, like all modern economies, an independent central bank is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we would have the same silliness going on in our monetary policy as is in our fiscal policy.

Back in 2008, during the meltdown of the world economy, you saw the real limits of the political understanding of macroeconomics. They didn't understand the banking crisis, nor the Fed's response to it. They didn't truly understand TARP. They still don't understand most of the tax policy that they actually wrote.

Nothing could be more dangerous than to have the power of the Fed subject to the ebbs and flows of political  favor. The Fed is charged with keeping inflation in check and maintaining full employment. Most people in know, accept that there are few tools available to the Fed to keep us at full employment. They cannot affect demand or supply. All they can do is affect the money supply and to some extent the interest rates which impacts economic activity through the cost of financing growth and investment.

The actual growth and investment must start with a market in need of a product or service. Interest rates could be negative, but without demand for goods and services, there will be no growth. (example: Japan).

Economics can be hard to understand. Yet, it is understandable with a little effort. Those who drive public opinion would do well to understand the subject before pushing an agenda. Leave politics out of monetary policy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Long Time, No Update

I ran into an old friend who reminded me it has been a very long time since I blogged. This happens from time to time as I get too busy to eat, sleep or blog.

So over the past year, I have been focussed on designing, building and now operating the new Zeus Digital Theater in Waynesboro. This has been a very interesting, exhausting, stimulating, challenging and rewarding year.
Over the past year, I have pretty much worked every day 10-18 hours. I have learned a great deal and hopefully implemented those insights into running the theater.

Of course, the financing was tough from the beginning. Trying to finance a huge project like this during the worst economic downturn in the past 80 years was tough. I was able to pull it off by building on that "loyalty banking" I have written about before. Banks don't lend money to projects, they lend to people. Your reputation for success will either hurt or help you in this endeavor. I like to think that my past performance helped, but also my past loyalty toward my banker played a part.

The construction phase was fantastic. Yes, there were challenges and setbacks, but we brought the project in close to budget and on time. Jon Sweringen was great to work with as the GC. I have to admit, building this huge theater was alot of fun.

Since opening on October 8th, I have been putting together processes, systems and controls to make sure my vision actually exists. I can't say it has been easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. 

I am still a little new to the complainers. Most guests are fantastic, but there are just a few that ruin my day. For these people, I have a hard time not reverting to my old Marine days. I will say that generally, people are reasonable and polite. We won't get everything perfect and they understand. Those that complain the loudest usually have never done anything difficult in their lives, but expect perfection in others. 

So here we are, 8 weeks after opening the new theater. I am still working to tighten up my staff and what they do from hour to hour. However, I am very pleased with the project and the business. Waynesboro and the surrounding communities have been very welcoming. I am now waiting for a restaurant to go in front of the theater, which will make the site a real entertainment destination. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Zeus Theaters Opens

Wow, I  have been pretty busy. We are now 9 days after the opening of the theater and things are starting to fall into place. Over the past year, I have been working full time on planning, financing, building and now operating the new Zeus in Waynesboro. I can honestly say that I have never worked so hard in all my life.

Looking back on the construction, things went pretty well. My GC, Jon Sweringen was fantastic to work with. He kept me sane during a hectic schedule. We had shot for an opening on October 1st but ended up hitting October 8th. The punch list is short and the building looks great.

I would like to point out that there were plenty of the "old guard" and so called experts who happily predicted our failure. They were wrong on all accounts. Jon and I brought the building in pretty close to a tight budget and timeline. I doubt any of the old money builders could have done better. So there.

On the theater, it looks great. The lobby has a sense of community. It really feels like a fancy hotel lobby. We now have leather seating in the lobby. I have met many people who enjoy just sitting in the lobby and talking.

The theaters are fantastic. Seating is great. Sound is great. Not too much bleed from one theater to another on the noise. The HVAC is working well.

We still haven't hit full capacity yet. This week will be a real test. We are running Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 on Thursday/Friday Midnight showing. I expect to run two screens full for that one show.

The retail store is doing fine. Christmas will be the big rush I think. The party room will get going this week. Groups and fund raising start this week as well.

So far, everything is going according to plan.

The best part is when people ask me what chain Zeus belongs to. I love pointing out that this is the only one. Normally, they are shocked to hear that a single entrepreneur can just make up a brand, finance it, build it and run it all by himself. We have go to stop saying that the American Dream is dead. It isn't. The dream is there for those who are willing to risk everything they have and to work 100+ hours a week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Happened to the Entrepreneurs?

During every past American Recession, the recovery was always led by the return of the entrepreneur. People would move from the large companies and jump into their own startup which would fuel the next expansion. However, there doesn't seem to be a resurgence of the start-up during this recovery.

Now, this may be because this recession was pretty bad or it may be due to a lack of demand for new services which startups would find. I think it has to do with the lack capital available to the entrepreneurs. In the past, they would get a business started by running up credit cards or pulling cash out of their home with a second mortgage. However, across the nation, housing prices have dropped about 30%, which would be enough to wipe out most 30-something's equity. Add that to the tight lending environment, and you kill off new business startups.

In some cases, there will be startups funded by a third party. For instance, where people get tired of watching their stocks portfolios drops or of getting 1% on CDs, they might lend it or invest in someone's startup. But this cuts out the first-time entrepreneurs since they are not likely to get private funding without a track record.

The fix on this would be an expanded and simplified lending system for startups. The SBA has some programs out there, but they are slow and difficult to get going. A better method might be to bring back the business plan competitions of the 90's.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Limits of Social Networking

As a practical matter, I have been using facebook to both build buzz and gain market knowledge for my new Zeus Digital Theater project. I started the facebook page in November at the behest of my 15 year old son, John.

John was right that it would be a good way to reach out to the theater's main demographic, teenagers. With the facebook page, I have been able to get teen boosters talking about the new theater which should open October 1st this year. In addition, I have been able to gain significant insights into how people viewed the new theater, what they expected from it and what they disliked about the competition.

While the Facebook page works for the market analysis and the buzz building, it fails in the traditional "call to action" marketing. If I put up some call to action on the page, I do get some response. However, without a strong reward (such as a t-shirt give away), it does not register as high as one would expect from "fans".

As a result, I believe the theater will need to use a reward based call to action system that is based upon email and text messages instead. You see, with facebook, fans see a stream of updates on their wall. If you post something on the Zeus page, it is posted by date (default) which means that if the fan has lots of other activity after my post, then my post will be buried way down their wall. If the fan only gets on their page once or twice a week, then they don't see it at all. In other words, Facebook has lots and lots of noise. Noise, as any marketer knows, is the enemy of messages.

So while Facebook gets lots of press, it is only one tool in the arsenal of the modern marketing package. And just like any marketing message of the past, a call to action must have some time related benefit to the consumer. Otherwise, it is just noise.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Little Discussion on Planning

Over the past 8 months, I have been involved in the planning of my new theater. Unlike my other businesses where I could make adjustments and investments as I went along, the theater requires that all the investment and planning take place at the beginning.

For instance, I started RentQuick out of my basement in 1998 with $3,000 worth of investment. As I went along, I would use income to buy new equipment which I would then rent. There were times when I had orders for rentals and did not have any equipment. So I simply bought a projector or two on a credit card, had it shipped to the location of the rental, then figured out a way to get it back to me.

The theater project is completely different. With Zeus Digital Theaters, I need to build the theater, put in every single seat, then run it. Once it is open, it will be very difficult to make major changes since the theater is open every day. Yes, even Christmas!

So now the pressure is on to not only make all the investments from the start, but to get it all right. It is a fine line between what I can afford to put in and what I want to put in. The sign is a great example. Would I like to put in the mac-daddy of all signs on the street? Sure! Can I afford it on my budget? Nope. So I have been spending the past couple of days trying to come up with a workable solution.

Where the investment affects the quality of the experience to the visitor is where I put the money. As a result, we have nice carpeting, great projectors, fantastic sound, top-end seating.

Of course, there will be some things I can change after the theater is open. I am really interested in getting the thing put together as nice as I can with what I have available.

As I have said, my first theater is likely to be a Chevy, not a Cadillac.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old Friends and How Much We Change

I just got off the phone with an old friend, Pete, whom I had not spoken with in a very long time. Pete and I worked together in the mid-Nineties at Framatome selling computers in the lead up to Y2K and the internet boom. At the time, I was still in my 20's and a little bit of a hard-ass. Pete always seemed wiser and calmer.

As a result of my more "offensive and aggressive" personality traits, I moved out of the corporate world. At the same time, Pete flourished in it. Like water, we each seemed to find our own level.

The interesting thing about our talk is just how much I had changed. Pete still seems calm and wise. When I was in my 20's, I had just come off of 6 years in the Marines. That tends to have an impact on one's attitude. However, even the Marines thought I lacked tact. Although, my definition of tact and their's was very different. I thought I was being honest. Whereas, all my military superiors thought I was a wise-ass.

Over the past 14 years, since Pete and I worked together, I realize that I have calmed down a good bit. Politically, I have changed drastically. I read more now than ever. I don't blow my top like I used to.

To find a point in my latest ramble is difficult. I guess we all grow up at different rates. While I am sure I still have a good bit of growing up left to do, I don't think I am as bad as I used to be.

Oh, the other point is it's great to talk to old friends. They are like book marks that show you where you were and how far you have come.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Zeus Update: April 12, 2010

Right now the theater construction is finally moving along. We are about half way through the footer stage, and expect the outside walls to be up by mid-May. I am still shooting for an October 1, 2010 opening night. Much of that will require the contractors to work 6 days a week, but I keep telling them to make hay while the sun shines.

The process thus far has been smooth. That isn't to say that there haven't been surprises, though. Whenever you deal with dirt, there are always surprises. Sometimes you hit rock. Sometimes you hit mush. The only way to be sure is to core drill the entire site, but that gets pretty expensive too. I figure at some point, I am going to buy a core drill machine and just drill holes in my spare time.

The weather has finally turned nice. Once we get through the next two weeks, the weather won't affect us too much.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Zeus Update: April 3, 2010

We are finally under way with the construction. The weather has broken and we have enjoyed a full week of moving dirt to the pad. On Monday, we will begin the footers which will be a very nice thing.

In other news, the theater plans are pretty much complete. Steve will begin working on an employee handbook next week. I will be focused on getting the building up.

On the rest of the project, I have a feeling there are just too many signs. This week, I will be going "dark" on my marketing for the remaining commercial real estate. The signs have been up all through the recession, but I now feel it is time to take them down. If someone wants to buy or lease land from me, they will have to seek me out. I will no longer call these national companies and beg them to consider my property for their next expansion. If they are interested, then they can call me.

As for the rest of the timing, it looks like October 1, 2010 will be our grand opening. Once we get the building under roof, weather won't be a factor any longer. We should be able to work 6 days a week and finish everything on time.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yet Another Zeus Update March 21, 2010

Okay, I have gotten some questions regarding Zeus:

1. When will you open? 

Thanks to the wet winter, we are looking at an October 1, 2010 opening.

2. Will you have first run movies?

Yes, we will carry the major, first run movies.

3. What will it cost for admission and concessions?

We will be matching the same prices that you see at the area Regal Cinemas.

4. When will you be hiring?

We expect to be holding "casting calls" in August and hiring people by mid-September.

5. Will you carry 3D movies?

Yes, we are starting with 2 3D screens and will quickly ramp up to 4 screens based upon Hollywood releases.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Zeus Update: March 4, 2010

Lots happening on the theater. First, the weather is finally breaking. It has been the worst Winter on record here which has stopped all our work. That is about to change.

While this was going on, we made some changes to the building. Now, instead of using 9 1/2 inch concrete tilt up walls on the exterior perimeter of the building, we will be using a steel stud system that is skinned with 2" of concrete. It is way lighter, which will allow us to save money on the footers and foundation.

The lobby designs are done. I am using a cool laser show to put the stars up over the open area. This is far more economical than putting thousands of fiber optic strands up in the ceiling. It looks awesome.

Steve LeRose, our new General Manager, is finishing his move from RentQuick to Zeus. We have hired his replacement at RentQuick and things are transitioning well.

The seats  have been ordered. The stadium seating is ordered. We are waiting on the final numbers for the projectors, but I expect to have them ordered by the end of the month. I am still unsure about some of the concession equipment, but that will fall into place quickly.

A good thing is that 52" LCD 1080p screens are dropping in price. I need to put in a bunch of these, so the better prices help.

All in all, I am looking at spending close to $6 Million on this project. I need to work day and night at the printing press to put that out in $20 bills. (Just kidding Secret Service guys!).

Monday, February 22, 2010

After Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

I normally don't do politics on my blog, but I wanted to put these thoughts down.

What happens after Osama Bin Laden is dead? Over the past four weeks, with the help of the Pakistanis, the US has captured or killed a number of high ranking terrorists. They have made a break through on where the bad guys are hiding at and are getting some traction. Eventually, our old buddy Osama will be killed or captured by somebody. I think they still have the $25 Million bounty on him. Just like the Mafia, someone will flip on him. It may not be this year, but it will happen.

So when Osama Bin Laden is dead, what will become of America and her allies' resolve in the "War on Terror" (a stupid name since terror is a tactic, not a people)? The easy answer is that everyone will have a ticker-tape parade and call it a victory. While it will be as such, it will not be the end. Just like Bobby Kennedy's fight against organized crime, it will be long and unending.

It is possible that the Muslim world will tire of the constant suicide bombings that generally kill more of their's than ours. Maybe the chain will break like it did with the Black Panthers, the Weathermen or other domestic terror groups in the U.S. Maybe a two state solution will stick in Israel and the Middle East will settle down for a much needed period of peace. These "what-ifs" are all possibilities, but are not likely.

What is likely, is that after Osama is dead, that the "War on Terror" will follow the same path as the "War on Drugs" where we never really win it, but is just settles into a lower intensity than when it first started. Think back to the 80's when the drug runners were everywhere. Today, they are still around, just like the Mafia, but they are at a lower volume level and therefore not as much of a threat.

I do think that Osama will be caught, killed or die of disease before long. When that day comes, we will be faced with a problem of not having a face and a name for our ultimate enemy. And without a nemesis, the American people will lose interest. Of course, if history repeats itself, there will be some unintended consequence to rise up to replace it. There always is: WWI and Hitler, Hitler and the Cold War, The Cold War and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Mujahidin, the Mujahidin and Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda and  9/11, 9/11 and Afghanistan. So we will have Afghanistan and something else.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Jobs Bill

Since I am a big proponent of entrepreneurism, I thought it might make sense to give my opinion of the Presidents jobs bill ideas. Now keep in mind, the bill has not been written yet. So the final bill might not have all the parts in it that are currently being proposed. Based on the big three issues, here is my take:

1. Tax Credit of $5,000 per New Employee: This would be fantastic for creating new jobs. Any business would take advantage of this if they could. However, the is a real issue with fraud and abuse. What happens if someone just shuts down one LLC and starts up another one under a different name thereby firing and re-hiring everyone on staff? How this is worked out, remains to be seen. If they can fix the fraud question, then you are likely to see serious job creation this year. 

2. No Capital Gains Taxes for Small Businesses: This to my mind (and experience) would not really be stimulative. A business has capital gains when they sell something for more than what it is shown on their books. For instance, if you have a pickup truck that is fully depreciated and you sell it for $1,000 then you have a capital gain of $1,000. I guess this would reduce the cost of replacing older equipment with newer stuff. That would kinda be stimulative. But the problem is that sometimes you might just sell the truck and not replace it since you laid off the guys who would drive it. The tax reduction is only helpful if people really see the correlation. If it is complex, like capital gains taxes, most won't even know about it and therefore they would not make the actions you want them to make (sell the old truck and buy a new one.)

3. Increase Lending to Small Businesses: This is huge. Right now, the only way to get new money (not loan renewals) is to get a federal guarantee. The feds (SBA, Stimulus and USDA) only have so many people on staff to review all this stuff. That means that there is currently a serious backlog in the lending and borrowing. I know plenty of businesses that could get going if they could just get the money. Increasing the lending is going to be key, but then you need to figure out how to back the feds out of the lending relationships so it will go back to banks and entrepreneurs. Once you are on the i.v. it is hard to get off. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The American Entrepreneur

We have all heard about the American Business Hero. You know, the one who goes out, risks it all and creates a new business. You can name some of the names: Ford, Edison, Jobs, Gates. These guys, in the beginning were pioneers who reached out to make the better mouse trap. In doing so, they made themselves very wealthy.

However, along the way something happened. Something changed in who they were and what they were doing. In the end, it was no longer them, but the company that had control. They had each created a monster. Today, there are many very large monsters lumbering about the country feeding at will and leaving a wake of destruction behind them. Doubt it? Here is a short list: Enron, AIG, Northern Rock, Walmart.

All of these companies have become so large that they no longer represent the personality or wishes of a single founder. These companies are now mostly run by hired guns who are experts at process, reporting procedures, hierarchy structures and financial manipulation. They are filled with average workers (no free-thinkers except on corporate retreats, please) who do an average job managing an average product for the average consumer. Not too hot, and not too cold.

The shareholder is just a nuisance to these companies. Once a year, they hold an annual shareholder's meeting in some hotel and there the average titans are forced to listen to the average shareholders bitch about their less than average returns. Of course, the company will pay lip service to the shareholders, who ostensibly own the company. Of course, no single shareholder has enough shares to do anything serious about it.

So the average company is very average indeed. Even the self-appointed kings of the boardroom are very average. Their main goal is to move the ship without too much list or lean in the cargo area. Or in other terms, don't rock the boat baby. They accomplish this by creating a system where no single decision can be made by any single person. As a result, you must make all decisions as a group, committee, board or up the chain of command.

None of this is new, of course. This is bureaucracy: a system of management that allows average people to perform averagely.

Juxtapose this with the concept of the American Entrepreneur. In the beginning, Bill Gates did not create a company that would try to monopolize markets, instead, he wanted to make some money which would help him get laid. When Henry Ford started, he wouldn't have formed a committee to see at what point he should recall a dangerously flawed vehicle or not.

In our society, we honor the individual who starts a business. However, we do not separate that individual out of the company as the company become a giant bureaucracy.

So to the point: It is my belief that the individual will be returning to the American landscape. We will see more entrepreneurs emerging from their corporate cubicles of mediocre malaise and walking into the bright sunshine of risk and reward. Twenty-Ten will have more business startups than we have seen since 1999 during the dot-com breakout.

Why? Well, first it will be out of necessity. Those big companies are all smaller in staff now. They cut their staff down last year. It will take a little while before they bloat back up. Secondly, people will find that all the tools needed to start a business are right at their finger tips.  Third, the recent collapse of some markets will open opportunities for new debutants.

So break out those spreadsheets. Start working on that business plan. Seek out the answers to your questions and then execute. People will try to dissuade you from doing it, but press on. You know that deep inside you want to be a little above average. The average person always wants to be above average, don't they?

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Theater Seats Are In

Here is the first set of seats for the new theater. I like these, but will likely like the black ones a little better.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My typically interesting day

Today was a very interesting day, but strangely enough it wasn't unusual. Here is a sample of what I dealt with today:

8-10 am
Spent most of the morning on the phone and hung out with the wife at the house. Phone calls were about footers, tilt up walls and Haiti relief. I played with my cat, watched some news and listened to some music.

11:00 am
I dropped by Mark's house to discuss the Rotary meeting at noon. Mark is the current club President. I give Mark a ride to the meeting.

12:00 pm
 At the Waynesboro Rotary lunch I met with Laurie on a loan renewal, discussed Sarah's trip to Mexico and Paige's new teeth whitening plans. I then spoke for a few minutes about raising funds for la Gonave in Haiti. I supported a matching funds request from the Foundation in what was the quickest Trustee meeting ever. Ten minutes later we had $6,600 raised. I make a recommendation to someone for an attorney. John mentions a secret party that he should not be talking about.

1:15 pm
I drive Mark home after Rotary and then check to see that I have four messages: two contractors looking for work, a reporter, and an architect in Michigan who wanted to give me some ideas on the theater.

1:45 pm
I arrive at RentQuick and assemble the first of the sample theater seats. I meet with a possible new hire. Steve and I talk about the theater, RentQuick and a bunch of other things.

2:15 pm
I talk with Linda about the Haiti funds. She and I brainstorm on ways to get stuff to la Ganove. She has been talking with Cuban rebels about using their sea-plane. I suggest using a large dive boat that operates in the area. I regret not knowing any Columbian drug lords who owe me a favor.

3:00 pm
I talk with the architect from Michigan. We discuss efficiency ratios on the theater, structural steel and how he would change my plans. Ultimately, I am happy with the plan I have.

3:19 pm
I check on BlackBear Title and there is no answer. They are on the phone.

3:25 pm
I contact some Scuba shops and see if any have contacts in the Caribbean who would have a dive boat for hire. No luck.

3:35 pm
I talk with Jerry in LA about the new seats.  The maroon will not work with the logo. Other than that, it looks good. LA is getting bad rain. I still need to see the seats from Irwin.

4:16 pm
I drop by Jeb's home office. He runs a new business idea by me. It sounds really good. Very viral. I pay him for paintballs and we plan to do a match soon on his course. His kid played Chopsticks in the next room while we spoke.

5:15 pm
I return home, pick out some cabinet colors and corian tops for the concession stand. I catch up on emails, write a little, eat dinner and hang out with the boys.

6:15 pm
I get the updated concession plans with the equipment cut sheets. Still no pricing yet. The files are huge and would kill my printer if I tried to print.

7:00 pm
I finish writing this blog post. About to go play Modern Warfare II if I can get my wife off the internet.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Zeus Update: Jan 16, 2010

We now have our building permit and will be putting footers in as soon as the ground is ready. The thaw over the past few days has done wonders for the site. Steve Lilley with S&K Excavating did a great job getting the site clear of the snow so it would be dry and ready to roll quickly.

Just to give you an idea of how big this project is, the footers will be 3' deep. The footers on your house might be 12-18" deep. The cost of the footers, just the footers, is right under $100,000. I had a Realtor tell me that putting in footers didn't mean anything. That I could be bluffing. He clearly did not understand the value of money.

That brings up another point, for some reason there are a number of people who don't think this theater is real. Well, it is and we will be open on September 1, 2010. Just to back up some of the questions of how serious I am about this, here is a list of some of the professionals already contracted with on this project:

General Contract: Jon Sweringen, Platinum Construction
Architect: Robert Pilkington and Dennis Stevens, Balzer & Associates,
Site Engineer: Ray Burkholder, Balzer & Associates
Site Contractor: Steve Lilley, S&K Excavating
Interior Designer: Hiedi Cupka, Interior Creations
Integrators: Jerry Van de Wright and Beven Wright, MIT
Concessions: Proctor Companies
General Manager, Steven LeRose
Banking: Laurie Landes, First Bank & Trust

There are others, but I think you get the point. We are serious, we are coming and we are Zeus!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Help Wanted at RentQuick

I know this is not the best venue for posting a help wanted ad, however, I figure it is worth a try. is seeking an organized individual to join our team. This person must be very focused on our clients. That means when the phone rings, they answer it and do whatever they can to help our clients. They should have experience in inside sales or customer service, sound great on the phone, be willing to learn our system and our products.

The hours are Monday - Friday 9 am to 6 pm. They would be required to carry the after hours phone for occasional late night sales calls and technical support calls. We will train them on all the technical aspects of the job.

We are a small team and work very hard to cover each other's backs. There is no negative culture here. We all get along and support each other.

The pay will be in the $30K-$35K range with paid vacation.

If you are interested in this position, please email your resume to for an interview.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lobby Interior Designs

In looking at the interior of the lobby, I have been working for the past few days on a design that will work well.

I know that I will have some (not many) Doric Columns in the lobby. For instance, at the ticket booth and the entrance to the retail space. The bigger problem has been how to handle the ceiling. Unfinished the ceiling is 30' tall. So we have a lobby that is 60x60 with a ceiling of 30' tall. That is pretty big. The huge space overhead would be a noticeable void.

To fix it, I have come up with a new idea. I will drop platforms at 20' high. These platforms will be 10x10 with a 2x2 grid inside them. The tiles in the grid will be as below:


Hanging from the center of these tiles will be a pendant bowl light fixture. There will be two sizes. One will be 60" wide the others will be 36" wide. 

Once we add some LED accent lighting on the platform, we are underway. I would put five of the platforms in the lobby with the remaining space open to the 30'. You won't be able to see the upper ceiling since it will be painted black and there will not be any lights up there. This should fill the space, lower the ceiling, give the ceiling depth and interest and add lighting to the lobby. 

I am in the process of running this by the architects. If it works, then we are way cool. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Update on Zeus Digital Theaters

Much has happened since my last post.

We have started work on the site and are about to begin construction of the building. The weather has been awful, but that is okay. We will continue to work around the snow, ice and rain. I have been through and seen worse.
  • Steve LeRose, my long time friend and confidant, will be the General Manager. He will be leaving RentQuick in March and moving over to the Zeus payroll. Rick Burns will take over running RentQuick. 
  • We have selected Barco digital projectors for the theater. We will use Dolby 3D in two of the auditoriums. 
  • We will have full rocker seats. Each seat will have the Zeus logo on the head rest. The seats will be black leather. 
  • Total seats in the theater is 1,106. 
  • We are about to get a parking variance from the city, which will leave us with 278 parking spaces. 
  • The facade of the theater will be brick with accents. 
  • I am still evaluating whether or not to have a coffee bar in the lobby with cappuccinos. 
  • We have Zeus t-shirts that are showing up all over town. Only the coolest kids are wearing them. 
  • We still expect to open the theater on September 1, 2010.