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All of these companies have become so large that they no longer represent the personality or wishes of a single founder.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.