July 15, 2015

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Picture of burnedout lightbulb shattering

Beware the Cool Idea

“Beware the Cool Idea.”

-Jeff Jarvis in his book What Would Google Do?


Tech Startups are in vogue. Those of us who are slightly older than the average white, male, clean cut twenty something, bright eyed tech founder remember the bubble in 2000. Wild, rampant speculation generating stock profits on paper, wiped away when the dot com bubble burst. All those great ideas so generously funded with Venture Capital, gone.


Hedge fund managers had to deliver the news. It became understood that tech stocks were volatile and high risk. Remember that? I do. I was entering my 20’s and college. I believed in the future of tech. I went to college to create a hybrid e-zine ultimately and get a job generally. The tech boom opened the door for companies like Google to plunder the underutilized, unemployed workforce of Silicon Valley. Creating the best damned search engine the world has ever known: Google. Sorry Bing. I’m a Google Partner. Every one of my clients wants Google love.


Fast forward 15 years later, everyone wishes they would have bought tech stock in Google, Microsoft, Apple etc. when the professionals heeded warnings. We all adopted the technology but not the underlying concept: innovation through problem solving. Scientists and entrepreneurs both solve problems to arrive at a solution. Research reveals the problems. Conduct testing, analyze the data and arrive at The Idea. Every good scientist will tell you, don’t start with the idea. Let the data guide you. Find the trends, the patterns, identify the technical realities.


Over the last five years, running Howe Innovative Design, I’ve met many entrepreneurs. I’ve been pitched many cool ideas. I’ve seen some slick graphics, presented by fit and sexy innovators. Plus, there’s frequently free hors d’oeuvre. I enjoy the presentations and wonder how they will generate actual revenue after those three rounds of venture capital funding. I’ve patiently listened while meeting to the passion they have for this project. They dismissively wave a hand at the notion of generating revenue. They confuse enthusiasm with currency. Passion is not the price of admission to the Fortune 500 club.

June 9, 2015

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Roses from Washington Park in Portland, Oregon

Battling Burnout

The hardest parts of owning and operating a small business require me to talk to strangers diplomatically every day. Living outside my comfort zone is part and parcel of life. Dealing with this plus the day-to-day operations of the business itself is very demanding.

Here are the top Four Most Difficult Aspects of Running a Small Business for me. I’ve included how I battle burnout to slog ahead toward entrepreneurial independence.

May 18, 2015

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Lobbying as a Small Business Owner

It was time to meet our legislators. We moved into a new neighborhood. The mail was forwarded, the utilities transferred, we settled into a community garden plot, now for the final step: get to know our representatives. Oregon wants its citizens voting and involved, created a unique law, mailing ballots to anyone with a drivers license. I love the vote by mail system. In Utah, I used to vote absentee to vote by mail.

Christy dutifully called the offices of our Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Barbara Smith Warner. Scheduling a day both could see us merely an hour apart in Salem, Oregon. We promptly booked our Amtrak (bus?) tickets to visit one of only three art deco style state capital buildings and the fourth newest in the United States (thank you Wikipedia).

It isn’t just the architecture of the Salem capital that is new and novel. In early May 2015 Oregon passed a bill expanding gun sales background checks, one of the few states to enact gun control measures. Oregon has one of only six current female governors and the nation’s first and only lesbian Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, our former representative. I used to run into Tina at the grocery store regularly. Lobbying was much easier over produces and pet food at the check-out stand.

May 5, 2015

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the value of professional services

Help!!! Pornographers Hijacked My Website!

Worst case scenario for a business website. If you think a professional web developer is expensive, imagine the cost of a complete rebrand and name change of your business. 


Among my favorites Portland restaurants is a white linen table cloth, yet affordable Indian restaurant in the stylish, bustling Northwest Neighborhood on 23rd Avenue. After several meals at this restaurant, I left two 5 star review on Trip Advisor, Google Reviews, and checked in on Facebook, not a common practice for me.

This was different. This was great food, in an otherwise empty place. I made it a point to sit near the window, visibly reveling in my meal to lure in passers-by.

A month later, I noticed a Grand Opening banner covering the very nice, presumably expensive lit sign on the front of the building. It had a new name on it.

March 27, 2015

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Gray seamless vine wallpaper

When It’s Time To Say Goodbye

I am fortunate to have some fantastic clients. I also have mediocre clients and the occasional dud. I am the owner of a full service digital marketing agency. The firmly plants me in two camps:

1. Owner. My job is to ensure profitability, manage projects, determine and implement the strategic operational strategy for the business.

2. Account Manager. Keep clients happy by doing great work, training & managing others, ensuring my business partner has buy in with autonomy and hiring well be it contractor or CEO.

Recently these two aspects of my position are at odds. This is a sign it may be time to phase out a client. If you cannot safeguard the wellness of the business’ profit, pursue your operational growth objectives and keep a client happy, it’s time to move on.

Signs you Need to Phase Out a Client:

January 12, 2015

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How I Sold My Soul for Free GB

I literally sold out my mother for 512 MB of storage on Dropbox. I didn’t even need to do it. I managed to score 48 GB of free space for free. I’ll tell you how.

January 4, 2015

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hiking for business

Lessons I’ve Learned: Business Edition

I knew something was wrong when I was excited, neigh elated to have coffee to talk about a leads and referrals group in Vancouver, Washington. You see, I’m a busy business owner that’s in business all day, every day. Doing business, talking business, selling services….

September 3, 2014

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Business Card Trends

It’s time to brand. To what? To create a visual identity in web, print and promotional materials company wide. Why? Because you’ve grown. You’ve changed. You’ve matured. Communicating the improved products, services & expertise you now offer is important.


It can be critical in the ADD business climate of the new economy. A great place to start: business cards. New print press techniques, technology & design sensibilities offer a host of dynamic options for your cards. Here are some trends to consider when designing, or better yet, hiring Howe Innovative Design to create your new cards.

August 1, 2014

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Expert, Guru, Ninja– Really?

Social media is an ideal venue for shameless self-promotion. LinkedIn in the premier spot for the budding wantrepreneur of all things “new media” to tout the titles, “Expert,” “Guru,” or “Ninja.” The problem is: it’s a lie.


The terms Expert or Guru are only true if bestowed by others who are professionals in your field. If you refer to yourself as a Ninja or Guru, it is guaranteed to be not only gross but untrue. Somethings are best said behind your back. If you’re claiming expertise show us your awards,  accomplishments or successful project outcomes. Emphasize the results of your work. Show us a portfolio, illustrious testimonials or give an inspiring TED Talk.


The key to expertise: It’s DEMONSTRATED and VERIFIABLE.

July 27, 2014

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anatomy of a floating home

Anatomy of Our Floating Office

In April of 2014, we moved our lives and business to a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon (pronounced OR-Eh-gone). Entrusting Craigslist to offer up some useful rental leads, I answered an ad titled, “Floating Apartment,” listing the rent at significantly lower than most in Portland. There were no pictures and Christy was headed to a conference in Portland. I thought, “Why not?” I called and scheduled and appointment with my landlord to be, who was instantly suspicious that I was a weirdo to want to live on a floating home. He lives in a floating home next door. Classic projection on his part. I assured him that I am only as weird as he is and arranged to see the place. I loved it. After years of living in Salt Lake City, a beautiful hikers paradise in the desert, we knew it was time to grow the business and our lives. Portland is a natural choice. A youthful, tech savvy town with a highly inbound migratory population and emphasis on local business. Our kind of people. Learning about living & working on the river is fascinating and bizarre. It is as much a study in personalities as it is wildlife, infrastructure and currents.