Back to the Beginning
It all started with a big grey box. In 1983 I was 11 years old and my dad (an engineer with General Electric) brought home one of the earliest versions of the “laptop”. It weighed as much as a sack of flour and was about as fit to be a “laptop” as a Great Dane is to be a “lap dog”. But I was hooked. The magical green screen, the “beeps” and the “boops” and the disks and the keyboard – sigh. I was in love.
That Christmas, my parents surprised us with a permanent resident to the household – a brand spanking new Commodore 64 computer. Now, these early computers had less memory and speed than the slowest smartphone these days, but it was enough to get me learning how computers work, and more importantly, learning how to understand and create software. And hey, I learned how to draw a smiley face using computer code! Look ma! I got so into technology during those years I actually acquired and read the “Operator’s Manual for the Space Shuttle”. A nice light read, I assure you.
My foray into technology took a shift in high school. Besides computers, one of my other passions is music, and I was becoming an accomplished guitar player for my age by then. I scratched my “technology itch” by stringing together an endless series of guitar pedals and twisting knobs to see what cool sounds I could make (and then pretending I was the newest member of Van Halen). In between the screeching guitar dive bombs, U2 echo sounds, and cloud of hairspray, a personal pattern emerged: I was always optimizing. I was always trying to get a better guitar sound, a more-professional sounding recording, or trying to make my band the winner of the Battle of the Bands.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
When I arrived at college in the late 80’s/early 90’s, the Grunge music movement was in full effect. I ditched my tight spandex pants for flannel shirts, and scored a part-time job at the campus recording studio, recording recitals for the music majors. When I went to listen back to my first recording in the studio, something struck me that changed things for me in a big way: it sounded Amazing. “Wait! How did I do that?” I wondered… I just set up the school’s microphones right in the place they told me to and hit the Record button, and BAM!, a gorgeous recording came out.
That day I realized something important that has become a major mantra in my career: Tools Matter. The tools that I had to work with at that recording studio: microphones, tape recorders and processing gear were some of the best tools available. I learned that to be the best at your craft, you have to work hard and you need to have the right tools. Put those tools in the right place at the right time with the right “artist”, and magic will happen.
I started college as a Finance major, which went fine. Steady as she goes. It wasn’t until I took a Computer Programming elective course my Junior year that I reignited my love for computers and software – Tools that I could use to really help people do great things. I added an Information Systems degree to my declared major, and scored a job as a computer consultant with a large consulting firm right out of school. The year was 1995.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The next ten years were a whirlwind of traveling and consulting. I helped clients of all sizes and industries: power companies that needed new billing software, defense companies that needed manufacturing software, I even helped develop an “inmate tracking system” for a county jail system. I learned how to quickly assess a client’s needs and design software tools that helped them achieve their goals. I’ve traveled the world, stayed in a lot of hotel rooms, and learned a lot on that journey.
In 2001, I moved to California and landed a consulting contract with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, installing and configuring software to help them manage software designs. JPL are the people who build the Mars Rovers, a pretty smart bunch. It was a pretty heady opportunity, and I eventually parlayed my consulting there into a full time job as a software architect for JPL. Perhaps my knowledge of how to fly the Space Shuttle factored in here? I digress…
Flash forward to 2011 – my wife Danielle was running a successful branding and consulting firm and much like Forest, I supported her business behind the scenes, getting her site and systems up and running. Ultimately she ended up asking me to work one on one with her clients that needed guidance in choosing and setting up the best technology solutions to support their business ventures. This work included search engine optimization (SEO) training and support, e-commerce platform selection/implementation and general business strategy, and I loved it.
Around this same time I had been reading Tim Ferris’ seminal book, “The 4 Hour Workweek”, which catapulted me further into the world of web marketing and online sales, searching for the truly elusive “passive income” that so many people search for (although it seems that everyone one of us who have experienced passive income has had to work their ass off for it). Partly as an experiment, I bought a dated e-commerce store and gave it a makeover and continued to learn in real time what it really takes to be successful in the online marketplace.
In these past 6 years, I’ve honed my craft with tools and techniques that help online businesses expand and become more effective – Conversion Rate Optimization to get more of your website visitors to become customers, Search Engine Optimization to get more qualified traffic to your website, E-Commerce store design to present your products in the most glorious light, data migration for when you want to change platforms, and more.
I’ve been in the trenches – I’ve owned and managed multiple e-commerce businesses grossing more than a quarter of a million per year, I’ve built highly converting websites for individuals and companies, and I’ve established relationships with some of the best service providers in the business. As for tools – I’ve used, abused, reviewed, deserted and worshipped tons of software tools in this journey, and I have the lessons learned to share. I’ve had plenty of successes, and also learned some hard lessons.
Whether you’re starting fresh with a new business and need a sage recommendation on where to put your money for the biggest bang for your buck, or you’re already in business and want to know how to integrate the tools you do have (or jump ship and move to something else while preserving all of your products/posts/pages/sanity), I can help.