Fireball: thanks again…


Meeting you all and getting a window into your businesses was really a great thing. Please remember that this active, thoughtful work with your communities is the best kind of work, and that it’s hard, by definition. You are the ones who made the decision to keep at it, to dig in rather than wish that you were more savvy about something. Many of you made new friends who can help you on this road.

Some of you have scrapped plan A and are now moving on, some of you are ramping up capacity on your current projects, and branching out to new things. This flexible, gentle approach to creating work is a new model, far from what our parents did or thought they could – and that’s a good thing. Our kids will create even cooler models of work, even deeper integration:

And so it goes. We’re evolving slowly into this new model, this integrated understanding of how we create. And you’re leading the way. Good on yas.

Please keep in touch. I’d love to watch with you as your businesses grow and I’d love to hear your success stories.



PS: Very sorry about the video stream tonight, ustreams servers were down.

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Fireball – last class Wednesday

Hi gang,

It’s really been fun, and I hope you’ve enjoyed our time together and found it useful and worthwhile. six people (of nineteen!!) have filled out the three-minute questionnaire that I sent you last week. If you haven’t, would you please take just three minutes right now?

Wednesday we’ll look at using mass-mailing programs (think Constant Contact) to keep in touch with folks, and the whys and wherefores of that. If you’re going to charge ahead with sending mailings from your database (maybe Indie Band Manager?) Then bring it so you can learn how to do that. If you don’t already use some kind of contact platform, then you may want to sign up for a free Constant Contact trial:

See you Wednesday – and hope to talk with some of you before class,


PS: This article about retail renegades is interesting. The case studies it mentions are pretty large-scale, but the spirit of the examples is telling.

PPS: There’s some feedback in the comments from folks who wanted more specific hands-on time to work on their specific issues. If you’re feeling this way, I really hope you call during one of the open consulting times on Wednesday. Very few people took me up on the free hours of consulting. I’d love to know how I could have made it easier for everybody.

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This post pretty well sums up everything we’ve learned together.

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Gretchen Henn notes March 9th

Gretchen Henn

for info on – looooots of resources.– different orgs post workshops and events there.

DB most important is that you’re comfortable with it. if not, you won’t use it.

as long as your system works, I won’t knock it…

who do you need to communicate with?
how often do they need to hear from you?
what do they need from you?

One way to track is a DB tool – so you can let it go, let the computer do the work.

Quickbooks also has vendor and customer file. QB specific to finances. those have customers and vendors related to ‘em. You can populate QB w XL file.

You can add fields, but you can’t really search it well.

QB also has to dos and reminders, new version yearly and online version.

Portland workshop Apr. 7 Better Biz Bookkeeping

Biz. Development Services – Gretchen provides training and counseling. CEI also lends. GH helps folks find funding alternatives.

Both women’s Biz center and Small biz development center SBA funded.


4 biz counselors in the WBC (open to women and men!), online workshops, in-person, counselling 1-on-1 for a small fee.

anybody needing funding? loans, targeted grants… tech-based grants Maine Technology Institute (Sue’s on their board!)

Rural development money, little from Maine Arts Comission, etc.

Notes from Gretchen’s talk to the previous class:

Biggest trick is to look for what people need – you’re providing the solution to their problem.

IRS free webinar on small business taxes coming up. State of Maine site also has lots of resources.

how to find the right blog partners for advertising. Sole Proprietors – find themselves doing so much more than the thing they want to do – find the right tool to take it over.

press releases, event publicity

What DBs are you using?
Terri: top producer real estate DB 32$ monthly
Ryan: Quick Books w/ contact mgmt/Constant Contact

Mobile DB management.
voice notes?
iPhone/PC –

How to find business partners?

where are your clients? do you know who, why are they perfect to you? what orgs are they already members of? cluster your efforts…

description of perfect customer is for your message as much as knowing where to advertise.

QB won’t let you inventory.

Constant Contact = good.
also has surveys., too!

Mark: hard to name a perfect customer. But hip!

Google Places advertisements:

Gretchen can do Ring study, industry stats, by proximity… also consumer spending profile databases…

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Fireball tonight: Gretchen Henn, Databases, and *one* little task.


You don’t want to miss Gretchen Henn tonight. She’s one of the sharpest tacks around, a CEI business advisor and business consultant.

You also really want to bring my books back. If I loaned you a book, please bring it back tonight.

Tonight begins a two-part series on database management and customer relationships. If you’re not already using a good database for your business, these two classes will be worth every bit of the time and money you’ve put into class so far.

I use Indie Band Manager. It’s built for touring musicians, but it’s cheap and does a great job of managing my product inventory, press and fan databases, doing my mailings, tracking my hours, sending invoices and tracking payments. It also provides a complete expense and profit report for the year – VERY worth it. Plus, it’s a FileMaker platform. if you don’t love the interface, the data can export to anywhere. It’s cheaper and easier than anything else I’ve seen out there, including

YOUR MISSION, should you choose to accept it: if you don’t have a working database, start by downloading this free trial:

Bring it on your laptop if you can, otherwise we’ll try to install ’em on the class computers and see how that works out.

Tonight I’ll show you around the database, then Gretchen will speak about customer resource management and the resources she has to offer through CEI and her business network. Next week, Charlie Cheney will join us by video conference – Charlie is the creator of Indie Band Manager, he’s a programmer who does really cool stuff including the screen-vacuum program I was blathering about last week.

Oh, and remind me to tell you about how my new iPhone paid for itself.

See yous tonight,


………………………………………. cell: 617 953 8764
Feb. 2011 new project: Einstein’s Dreams!

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Notes from John Bliss talk.

Tonnie Schultz:
Born in So Cal, wanted out no connection to people. Came to Bath, waited tables. Lots of people asked where to get coffee.
Nobody did it, so I finally did – “But I’m just a waitress, with no business experience.” Bath is great for that, but there was no hub for it. First: a community meeting spot. Second, yummy treats. Use as much local as possible, local roaster, local bread, cheese, bakers. Costs a little extra, but it’s worth it.
8 years in May. We were successful
The other business people on the street were very welcoming – from the landlord on down. Working in Bath is pure pleasure. Even the hard family situations work themselves out – kids off the hook self police, etc.
Really early on, watched a yuppie mom and a BIW blue-collar worker strike up a conversation, and felt that made the business a success.
People come here as groups, couples come here to resolve disputes, etc. What a gift to hear people’s stories, the hard stuff and the easy stuff.
I can’t afford to pay living wages, but we keep the staff because of the connections. One staff member was bought a ticket to Honduras – because he could.
One of the top real estate folks in this area knew Ashley since she worked here, She helped Ashley get the house and bought it herself for Ashley and got it fixed up. Arleigh was given a car b/c somebody who comes here wrote about her in a contest, she won.
I’m successful b/c I have connection with my community, my co-workers, my neighbors.
What better gift is that?
No web presence at all? Nope. One regular manages a FB page, I’ve never seen it. Leaving to take care of her daughter at home.
John Bliss: Face time with a three-year old way more important than Facebook.
Most important – the personal relationships.
I’m a Venture Capitalist and a developer, that happened because I went to Faneuil Hall and after a few drinks they went to check out 60 State St, the big high-rise under construction. On the top floor, saw an amazing view. By the end of those drinks that evening, I’d decided to rent the two top floors.
If you magnify your small need, you end up with a biiig need. Most VC deals are Big needs.
Since I couldn’t afford to pay rent, I borrowed money, furnished it with my family’s antiques and rugs. Turnkey set of offices at the best Financial District address in Boston.
I got a rent which was extraordinary b/c the developer rented at 15$ sq. foot, then I rented it at $125/sq. Foot. Harvard biz review, Boston redevelopment agency, city councilor, John Kerry’s Senate campaign, etc.
Turned a $10,000 loan into a million net after taxes in my pocket. I realized that a real estate deal made a VC return, 30-50% annual. More really, since I started with zero. It’s more about your vision and the positioning. It’s not about business itself. You can reposition any business.
Two ways to compete:
Red ocean : full of blood and sharks.
Blue Ocean: positioned in a way that noone can compete with
You’ve disrupted a market, that’s where the opportunity comes from. Ask yourself: how can I position something to disrupt a market?
Those floors were 100% rented for ten years.
SRI think tank in Silicon Valley for ten years. Went down to LA, saw the downtown real-estate, met a Hollywood lawyer guy (driving a Rolls) who had done the same deal he did.
He repeated the pattern.
In 10 years – 40 other people tried to do the same thing. Other buildings were getting tenants from his startups. NY, lots of this.
Deals are all done in places like this (in Café Crème.) It’s a deal factory!
Economic Geographer Richard Florida talks about creative economy. It’s not art – creative people hang together. People who start companies HAVE to hang out together. In Silicon Valley, Boston, NYC, this is standard practice. Deals happen in the cafes.
Every place should have a place like this. In the VC community, everybody knows where these places are. It’s the atmosphere of a place, the culture of the place you create.
This is as well as it’s ever been done in all the cities I’ve seen. AND Tonnie made it personal, in touch with your heart. Richard Florida says every city should create this.
Web: Maine Enterprise Schools. Angus King
When Steve Jobs was kicked out, he started the next computer company, I became a developer for that. He asked us all what our deal was. My deal was a “telephone scratch pad” much like the iPad.
Steve Jobs has always been the leader in the innovations. His ideas of positioning in a market to make himself the leader of that market. Vertically integrated software system. Gates really can’t match that. He’s a role model for positioning and innovating your business.
Recently got a good book: Switch.
They discuss the appeal you make in your business, and break it into three parts. “elephant in the living room” framing the argument. The elephant is your emotional side. If your business can’t compete, it can’t appeal to that emotional side of you, you should hang it up. If the elephant isn’t motivated, it won’t move. To be successful:
Direct rider
Motivate the elephant
Clear the path
If you can do that, you won’t have to beg for the money.
John then detailed the Sewall House deal and how it was perfect for a VC-type return for the investors who had agreed to go in with him.
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Fireball Marketing Tomorrow 6:30 at Cafe Creme


VERY much looking forward to you all meeting John Bliss.

We’ll start at seven, as usual, so can we gather for potluck at 6:30? Julie’s bringing a card table, Whitney’s got 4 folding chairs. Can someone else bring another 4 folding chairs? The Creme has offered their dishes and flatware, and in exchange I told them we’d buy drinks and desserts from them and tip well. Good deal? (Cafe Creme is at the corner of Front and Center streets in Bath.)

Tonnie Shultz will speak briefly before John. She felt that a downtown cafe was really missing in Bath, so a few years ago she made Cafe Creme happen. It’s been wildly successful. In lots of ways, Tonnie is the epitome of John’s message – support a walkable downtown, create places for people to gather and exchange ideas, have sustainable (local) foods. Tonnie’s doing exactly what John’s advocating.

John is a real estate developer, and a venture capitalist. He loves making things happen, and he’s good at it. A few of his projects have made him lots of money. Plus, he feels that Bath is the perfect incubator for a new economic and sustainable community model.

One of John’s central philosophies is that by definition,
entrepreneurs redefine opportunity by disrupting the market. To me, that’s deeply inspiring. We build the new and disrupt the old in order to create possibility. Fireball marketing didn’t exist as a concept in Bath – now there have been two very successful classes, some private consulting has come from it, and the Superintendent has asked the director of adult education to create more programs like it. And – bonus! – it makes more money for adult ed – and for the teacher – than any previous offering.

What’s the engine of all that growth? One person with some skills and a few good ideas. YOU are the engine of your business, and there are l o a d s of opportunities outside the status quo.

Have a peek at John’s website, here –

If you have questions for him, please send ’em – his email is above. Remote fireballs, we will video stream the class as per usual, and I’ll watch the chat for your questions.

See you tomorrow!

Randall, on a mechanical flight delay in a cheap ATL motel for a few more hours.

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Class notes 16 Feb – thanks rob!

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Twitter Resources from CE Morse

Chris was kind enough to send these along:

Couple of resources via Twitter mining:

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Wed Feb 16th class: websites vs. blogs

Hi gang, Wednesday’s class will be about websites vs. blogs, including using analytics, hosting solutions, and content. Please reply to this email with your questions beforehand, we’ll build a syllabus from those. In the meantime, here are a few useful links: (if you have a website without stats, you want this) (if you want to start a blog, this is the place) (a good example of blog integration with RSS/FB/Twitter)

And if you’re asking: “Should I have a website OR a blog,” the answer is probably blog, unless you can have (and need) both.

Consider this fine example:

Several of you also wrote to ask if I would share something with the group. Please feel free to share anything useful and helpful with the group. It’s good practice to reach out to your community with helpful information, so please DO share those things without asking me. (Shameless self promotion, however, will cause warts and toads and other fine plagues.)

Wed. consulting calls will continue until the last class, but signup is one week before – here’s the spreadsheet: (URL suppressed)

NEXT WEEK: forgive me mentioning the 26th, I was smoking crack again. It’s Wednesday the 23rd. Rather than paying for a nice sit down dinner, I propose a potluck at Bath’s Cafe Creme, from 6:30. We’ll start the talks at seven. I’ve asked cafe owner Tonnie Schultz to speak briefly before John Bliss talks. Tonnie started the tremendously successful cafe because Bath needed one, and she got the best piece of real estate possible to do it, the corner of Front and Center streets.

The cafe will have desserts and drinks for sale, they’ll also have plates and silverware (if we tip ’em for washing up for us.) I’ll write you back about that next week. See you Wednesday (and talk to some of you beforehand!)

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