Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm not scared you're a lawyer, I'm scared that you're probably an idiot!

I got into an email brawl with one of our clients last week. It's a long story but the gist is that after 9 months of working with this kid, he wants a full refund for the services that we rendered. I took a look at his file, saw that we had completely fulfilled our contractual obligation to him and shot him an email telling him as much. Like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum I received a return email with the following "warning." "I have already talked to my attorney to review my options and I plan to contact Mark Shurtlef (Mark is the Attorney General for the State of Utah) and file a complaint against you and your company. Do not force me to take legal actions against you or you will be very sorry!" When I read that I laughed so hard that it caused a coughing fit and I had to leave my office to compose myself. I LOVE people who threaten legal action, and try to wield it like it's some kind of sword. It reminds me of this scene from Indiana Jones.

While I am not a lawyer, I know enough about the law and legal procedures to be dangerous. If I had to describe how the law works in one sentence or less it would go like this. Document everything, give out nothing and if you can explain your case to a five year old you can probably explain it to a judge. DONE! I've been in court a number of times, both as a defendant, a plaintiff and once as a divorce attorney (seriously I did! for a friend of mine who was representing himself pro se) I'm happy to report that I have emerged victorious each and every time because of my one sentence rule of law that I follow religiously. (FYI, she got the jet skis and he got the kids... not a bad deal for us!) I'm pretty good at legal stuff, but I would never want to do it as a career. But on a part time basis when dolts like this guy want to force the action? You bet! Ding, ding, school is now in session!

So I called his bluff, and told him that with his crap-ola attitude there wasn't a chance in hell I would give him a refund and that I would LOVE to meet with his attorney AND Mark Shurtlef but only if they pay for my lunch. I'm sure that my curt reply has enraged him but I haven't heard from him since. To be honest with you, I'm a little disappointed because I am absolutely confident that I could sign both attorneys up as future clients!

One of these days I'll have to regale you with some of my lawyer stories. Let it suffice that most of the attorneys that I have met are complete idiots (paralegals however, are a pretty sharp group!) Yes, I agree with you, most lawyers aren't worth the dynamite to blow them back to hell. They tend to dress in black, try to intimidate by wielding large swords and for the fearless, can usually be taken out with one shot.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can I Say Something Here?

I realized tonight that I haven't talked to my wife in 13 years. Four boys and a Greyhound will do that to you. I thought I was in the clear tonight as all of the boys had eaten and left the kitchen, leaving just Lisa and I to talk about the days events. The topic for sure would bore you,what follows will surely make you laugh!

7:10 pm Two minutes into my story, Logan (the 2 year old) walks into the kitchen and starts to play in Milo's dog dish. Several warning's are issued and finally Lisa get ups and removes him from the kitchen. Half of Milo's dog water is splashed across the floor. Time Delay -5 Minutes

7:17 pm I retrace the last 90 seconds of my story when we hear a SMACK followed by immediate wailing from the other room. I stop as the crying increases in proximity and volume. Jack stumbles into the kitchen, tears streaming down his face and babbling incoherently. We finally translate through the tears and snot pouring into his mouth that "Eli hit me in the cheek with the Wii" Eli, upon hearing this accusation screams his innocence from the other room. Both suspects are interrogated, warned and then released back into general population. Time Delay -9 minutes

7:26 pm. Where we were in the story? Ohh yes, I continue. A sentence into my story, Milo comes into the kitchen looks at his half empty water bowl, licks his chops and quietly sits next to Lisa. It's obvious from his groans that he wants to be pet, or brushed or let out. Maybe he wanted an explanation on who the hell got into his water bowl again. He whimpers, barks, snaps and whines. Instead of fixing the obvious problem we subconsciously get up and let him in the back yard. Time Delay -3 minutes

7:29 pm. I've lost complete track of my story now and trying to remember what I said. As I get my bearing Lisa's phone blares the "Iowa Hawkeye Fight Song" ring tone which I can't seem to talk over. To her credit, Lisa didn't reach for the phone. However, the persistent bugger on the other ends figures that calling two or three more times in a row will surely get an answer. Time Delay -6 minutes.

7:35 pm. As I start to re-tell my story for the fourth or fifth time, Milo scratches at the back door and barks to signify that he is ready to come back in. I try to get through my story anyway. As Milo comes in the back door and then OUT of the kitchen Logan comes in and drops a Tonka Truck on the hard wood floor KABLAM! It sounds like a bowling alley as he runs that truck back and forth, crashing it each time into the walls or doors or Milo's water dish spilling yet MORE water on the floor.

As this goes on, Jack returns with a welt on his cheek and points to the other room and complains that Eli has logged him off of the Wii. Eli denies this from the other room, complaining that "Jack is ALWAYS LYING!" I find the welt on Jack's cheek strong evidence that perhaps it is ELI who is lying! This opens up a court case, the defendant in the other room continues playing on the Wii.

In the middle of this argument, Milo returns to his spilled water on the floor, licks it up and then starts to lick Logan's face who his crashing his truck into the stove now (metal makes a louder CRASH than walls or dog dishes) this dog licking interfears with his aim which makes him mad. Logan gets up and swings unsuccessfully at Milo's nose, which makes Milo bark. Logan is angry with the barking so he starts to chase Milo around the table screaming "No MIYO!" as Milo runs ahead of him barking. Through all of this I come to the conclusion that Eli is feeding me a real cock and bull story.

Lisa's phone rings, Eli is still screaming his innocence over the Wii incident and with the chasing dog it's seriously sounding like I have been throw inside a tornado. I can't take it anymore. I quietly get up in the middle of all this chaos, clear my plate from the table and hibernate downstairs trying to figure out why Lisa knows nothing about what I do anymore. Sarcastically I think "Maybe I should just call her?!?" I look at my watch, it's 7:55pm Total Time Delay -43 Minutes and I can't remember what I was trying to tell Lisa in the first place. Ohhh well, I do have some good news however!

1. Eli was found GUILTY of aggravated assault, racketeering, perjury, lying to an officer and obstructing a criminal investigation. He did NOT invoke his right to remain silent which really worked against him. He was sent to Spirit Prison for the rest of the night.

2. Jack's facial welt looks better. No trip to the Emergency Room just yet but we are on standby should other Wii flesh wounds appear.

3. Logan and Milo are friends again. Logan caught Milo by the tail, Milo in turn, used his super dog defenses and lapped at Logan's face with a big slobbery, wet tongue and Logan let go, running into the other room with Milo fast on his heels. At last check Milo was laying in Logan's bed.

4. Whoever called four times in a row is probably talking to Lisa right now. (insert sarcastic cheering here) Yayyyyy for persistence...

5. I get something out of this too. I have now documented life in the Nielsen kitchen which will be in the archives of the web forever and ever. I intend to show St. Peter this blog if I am on the verge of being rejected at the pearly gates! Everyone wins and at some point in my 70's I'll remember what I was going to tell Lisa tonight and will share it with her over the 4pm Senior Citizen's Early Bird Dinner at Denny's. She will probably have some awesome ideas on how I could have done whatever I tried to tell her about better. It would not surprise me in the least, if in the middle of her sharing her phone rings...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Lack Of Imagination

2008 Scion tC Release Series 4.0

Trivia question for you. Is the car on the left a Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Suzuki, Chevy, Ford or VW? Answer, it's none of those, it's a Scion. Don't feel bad if you didn't get the right answer either, like you, almost every new car looks the same to me too.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 2009 Utah International Auto Expo and boy was I disappointed. With the exception of the hood ornament, just about every car looked like the other. Seriously, how many shades of silver can an industry turn out?

When the Detroit automakers went to congress with their hat in hand, I for one was not surprised. Did you know that the Big 3 average less than $2,000 profit per vehicle? That represents less than a 5% margin and I don't know a lot of companies that can operate long-term on those kinds of margins. Bloated overhead, a history of producing inferior products and (for me) a lack of imagination are obvious warning signs that the Big 3 have been running over and over for the last 25 years. Is all lost for Detroit? I don't think so, but a return to earlier roots would certainly be appropriate.

The best part of this years car show was the "classic car corral." Mustangs, Corvettes, GTO's and other trophies from Detroit's glory years were on display. Looking at these "classics" I found myself wondering what happened to those innovative car designers and what their thoughts would be on the this years Ford Fiesta? How these brilliant minds became replaced by todays cookie cutter designers is a mystery to me that I doubt I will ever understand.

The problem with Detroit and other established businesses is that you can't fool the public for long. New Flash: When you belong to a company that prides itself on mediocrity, it shows! It shows in the design, the packaging and the imagination (or lack thereof.) We "know" when you don't care. Don't believe me? Take a seat at your local DMV for a heaping bowl of stale mediocrity. Yeah, the DMV really has your best intentions at heart...Now serving number two-four-nine at station twelve..."

The best of the best are always looking for ways to define and then re-design themselves. Nike, Apple, Coke and McDonalds spend millions of dollars each year refining, designing and expanding their brand. If you don't have millions of dollars to spend, try spending just a few minutes of time imagining the possibilities and then make it happen. At Funding Universe we challenge you to dream, to scheme and to use your imagination to grow and innovate. For those of you who find that task too daunting, may I suggest taking a test ride in a 2009 Chevy Cobalt. For guys like you, it comes in 17 shades of silver.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A New Shooter

I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and one of the things I like to do is cruise by the table games. Craps is one of the most fun games to play, particularly when you have a shooter that can roll numbers. Nothing is more fun than a hot table. Craps is Lisa's favorite casino game and more times than not she has walked away with cash. In fact, she was the hot shooter at a table in Chicago and won enough money to pay for our honeymoon. Again, the key to winning at craps is finding a hot shooter that is rolling numbers and then trusting your gut to cash in before you 7 out. With the 20th of January just a few days away, we are under 48 hours before we get a new shooter.

While the election was an overall disappointment for me, I guess that I'm grateful that we won't be swearing in another Clinton or a Huckabee. Regardless, I really want our next President to be successful so I've decided to not go "Dixie Chicks" on Obama and be ashamed of anyone who wants to serve our country. I'm happy that he has as much support as he does and it will be interesting to see if that can be sustained as his presidency becomes more centrist than what his base probably wants. These are challenging times but I think we can pull it together so to use a poker term, I'm cautiously putting my chips behind the new shooter.

A few thoughts on President Bush. While it's not popular to say this, I think he was a good president. 9/11 was shoved on all of us and our Nation's innocence was lost forever. For the first time, we were forced to deal with the faces of hate, and of a radical religion hell bent on destroying our way of life. To his credit, President Bush protected our Country and his administration has thwarted numerous attacks since then.

Many mistakes were made in the course of his Presidency and in the end we find ourselves in two wars and a ravaged economy. Was this his evil scheme all along? I don't think so. But I believe that he tried to do the best he could with the information and advisers that he had around him. In any event, I'm grateful to him for his time and dedication to our Country. I hope History proves you better.

As for our new Shooter, I hope that you can enhance the good things that have been done for us already and sidestep the mistakes of those who have gone before you. Whether you voted for him or not, he's the best bet we have right now and on Tuesday afternoon I will be proud to say that he is my President too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

woman_frustratedTo be successful you MUST share the misery! Yes, you heard it here folks we strongly believe in handing your problems off to everyone else. Isn't this the kind of advice that you have been waiting to hear? Well it's kinda true actually.

If you have ever worked as a small business owner you are very familiar with the fact that work never starts at 8 and ends at 5. Owning a small business is a 24 hour comittment which means that we NEVER stop thinking about it. Over time, this constant focus on profitability and success can take an ugly toll.

The other trait that many small business owners have is a reluctance to lean on outside help. Afterall, your business become like a member of your family and who in their right mind would leave their own baby with a complete stranger?!? Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is flawed and can lead to burnout, frustration and office rage (for example, it's a really bad idea to whack your computer monitor. See here for more on that!)

teamwork_puzzlew300h199As a Type A personality myself, I often had a "go it alone" mentality that served me well, until graduate school. It was in my MBA program that I finally had to come to grips with the fact that there weren't enough hours in the day to micromanage every one and every thing. It was a hard habit to break but in the end I learned that there are a lot of talented people who can produce phenominal results if you trust them and more importantly empower them to do it "their" way.

Brock Blake, the CEO of Funding Universe learned this lesson at a much earlier age than I did. Early this month he sat everyone down and challenged us to elimate costs and improve profitability. In a matter of hours thousands of dollars were eliminated from our overhead. New ideas and strategies were put into place and a feeling of ownership was felt up and down the hallways of our office. Funding Universe is "my" company. No good idea is ever turned down and often, good ideas are tweaked into GREAT ideas.

Again, this leadership style comes with a severe warning. If you give power to your employees to solve problems, you must do it with the full faith and confidence that they will come through for you. If you give power and then pull it out from underneath them you will damage credibility forever. Trust but verify, guide but empower. If you view each of your employees as problem solvers versus problem causers you will find small business ownership a constant delight!