This page deviates from the stuffy third person stuff you’ll see on certain pages of this site because I really want everyone to know that with some effort, you can do whatever your heart desires. I’m living proof – just look at my low SAT scores!
For a quick look of “what I’m doing” just click this link to see what I’m involved in. It’s just the core stuff – if I had to outline all of the projects I have incubating, you’d be overloaded with information and utterly confused. I have domain names that deserve full time efforts, but until I can be cloned, or find a compatible project manager, they’ll collect dust. In addition to being an entrepreneur and having my hands in a lot of emerging markets, I’m an in-demand writer and frequently contribute anti aging content to the Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and many others. If you are interested in having me write for you publication, please contact me.
I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Not a place I’d recommend for your exotic vacations or honeymoon, but a place where crime is non-existent, people are friendly, and the place I fell in love with steaks. At the age of eight I was bummed to find out that we were “moving to the big city,” which to the Dakota folks means a trip to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. I was bummed because I had made great friends in the neighborhood and at school, and had a soccer team that hadn’t lost a game in years. Couple that with not knowing anyone in Minnesota outside of family, I was scared.
Yet the adventure was good for me, and I instantly found new teammates to play soccer with. Eventually, like every Minnesotan, I took up the sport of hockey. Given that I was just starting to play at age nine, this meant I was eight years behind the curve. In Minnesota, kids skate when they can walk and develop killer slap shots before they can write their name. Hockey is life, and life is hockey. Between playing those two sports on a year round basis, and having two brothers who did the same, we kept my parents busy and made sure there was plenty of mileage on their vehicles.
I never tried in school for the most part, but I was far from a slacker. I normally would occupy my time in class by drawing logos of my favorite sports teams and thinking to myself about how dumb the subject matter was back then.
“How is dissecting a frog going to make me money?”
“Why are we learning about the war of 1812 when we have desert storm right in front of us?”
“When am I ever going to make Tiramisu?”
So I was a bit of an underachiever in some respects, but I worked hard at what I wanted to work hard at. I still managed (because my parents would take away privileges if I didn’t) to get a 3.0 GPA and excelled at all of the business classes. Clearly, I had an interest in things that had an end goal, a process that could be planned out and executed, and I liked to pay attention to stuff like that.
My Grandfather is an inventor, and held many patents that he has subsequently sold off for a huge profit. When he speaks, I listen. Watching his career and learning from his experience was mind-blowing. One of my best friends families started the company that is now Northern Tool & Equipment in a garage down the street from me, and watching their family business grow into the enterprise they have created today also also helped shape who I am today. We’re talking about people from Northern Minnesota – true blue collar people who outworked everyone in their industry. I am forever humbled by the fact that from age 12 the owner, Don Kotula, a serial entrepreneur who I have never witnessed sleep nor yawn in 25+ years knowing him, allowed us every opportunity to work for him and see first hand how things happened. The mere fact that I witnessed a company evolve from a bootstrapped business in a garage to a
70+ 86 retail store operation with a 2,000 person corporate office, in about 15 years, was insane. But that wasn’t the tip of the iceberg. I was able to work in many departments at Northern and see how every facet of the business worked. I was able to travel with a team to South Carolina to oversee the opening of a new retail location. The pure range of what I saw was something that couldn’t be learned in any classroom, and while I admittedly fail at remembering major events in history, I can remember the SKU’s of the top selling products we used to take orders for during the time I spent in Sales. (Item #4065, The Trencherman Backhoe….big money!)
I’ve never been one to relax. Even when I was earning three times that of most my friends by working in Sales at Northern, (and more than some people’s parents when I worked full time hours) I always had other jobs and sought out side income. I was a Roller blade test subject, putting 20 hours on a pair of prototypes and submitting comments to the R & D team. I worked at a gas station. I worked at a sporting goods store. I worked in several restaurants. I was refereeing semi-pro soccer games. None of those stimulated me that much but I liked having money and took something away from every job and earned an appreciation for people who work those jobs full time. Until you’ve worked in someone’s shoes, you don’t fully understand the dynamic of their environment, which is why to this day, even as the CEO, I get in the trenches and experience what every department goes through from time to time, so I can speak with them from an educated point of view.
When I had a gap in time after college, I worked at Papa Johns as a pizza delivery man. I’ll never forget when the General Manager said “at the end of your shift you are required to fold 100 boxes, or clean the bathroom.” I refused to do either, and said “if you ever see me slacking on delivering these pizzas, I’ll clean the bathroom so clean that you and I will sit down and eat a pizza directly off the floor, but since I know this city extremely well, work harder than anyone, and have a Papa John’s Red Honda CRV (which was new at the time) I can guarantee you that’s not happening.” Weeks later, I was getting the sales pitch to take the Assistant Manager job at a nearby location, but the money was better in delivering pizza and it was temporary anyways. Flattering stuff, who knows where that would have led?
I graduated high school early, but again, not because I was smart. I just didn’t take two study halls every trimester like everyone else and in turn, racked up credits at a high pace. Being “Done” in November of my Senior year allowed me to
work full time at Northern and play a lot of winter soccer. (We played in golf domes back then in the chilly winter months.) I had many opportunities to play soccer at the collegiate level from all around the Midwest, and I chose St. John’s University. While I’m highly adaptive to new environments and would have enjoyed spending those years at just about any school with good people, I don’t think I could have picked a better school. Surrounded by pine trees in Collegeville, Minnesota, this was one of the most gorgeous places on earth.
The Soccer program was an immediate success on so many levels which led to instant friendships that I maintain to this day. We had our ups and downs in the win-loss column, but the time I spent playing was time well spent and I cherish the memories.
College was much like high school for me in the fact that I excelled in classes I enjoyed, and created crazy ways to pass the time in classes I clearly didn’t belong in. I remember once making a list of ex-Minnesota North Stars hockey players over several class periods and challenging friends to add more names. Only very savvy hockey fans with memories that went back to the 60’s were able to add players I hadn’t remembered. This was before Wikipedia made research easy. The Internet was in its infancy back then and most classmates during my freshmen year were just getting started with email.
I’d spent two years on AOL dial up and knew the web well. Chat rooms, GeoCities, NetScape, and the harsh reality that when the phone rang, we’d get kicked offline. Those are my memories of the early days of the Internet. I knew right away this “information superhighway” was something I could utilize to my advantage, and I soaked it all up like a wet sponge.
The web, like it does today, served me very well during college. From doing research for term papers to being the first in my dorm to learn how to “burn” CD’s and create custom mixes to sell for a profit, the web was a great ally.
During my Junior Year I wanted to do a study abroad program in Europe. Hundreds of students applied, but only 30 could go on the semester-long trip. I was an alternate, and at my final interview, I could see why. When asked what I would do on a “free day where I could do anything,” I replied “I’d go to a pub, have some cold ones and talk soccer with the locals.” The person next to me cited a turn by turn map of things he’d do on his down time. Advantage to the dude who paid attention in European studies.
As a Europe “reject,” I was given priority access to any program that hadn’t filled yet. When I talked to two of my best friends, both soccer players who I had lived with, I found out they were also rejected from the Euro-Trip. One said “Vamos a Nicaragua.”
I was like “I took the three semesters of Spanish and got passing grades, but what are you talking about…. Nicaragua?”
I was sold on a trip to Central America, which turned out to be life altering. Not only did we live with host families who spoke zero English, which forced us to learn a language on the fly, but we also were subject to living conditions that weren’t “five star.” Sure, I could have stayed back in school and taken classes with the rest of the world and lived in a nice apartment or campus villa, but I’d be subject to another Minnesota Winter. So, when we thought about the potential pro’s, we all agreed to do it together and it ended up being a great decision. I returned functionally fluent in Spanish, with a great tan, and a new appreciation for exploring. I also vowed to get back there and invest in the country we spent four of the six months in – Costa Rica.
What more does one say about college? It’s a great time in life. Parties. Freedom. Laughs. I did it in four years but sometimes wish I dragged that out to eight. Then again, progress was always fun to me and it was time to move on.
Moving on meant a job with Accenture, the consulting giant out of Chicago. I was hired within weeks of starting my Senior year, which meant the rest of the year was a write-off for me. However, upon graduating, I found out through a letter in the mail (don’t get many of those anymore) that my job was delayed by two years.
What was I to do for two years?
While I waited for clarification, I started working at Papa Johns, which I mentioned earlier.
Fast forwarding through Summer, I did some filling in in the Accounting department at Northern in the early Fall. It was more of a mutual favor, since I’d been working in some capacity there for so long, but wanted to set off on my own journey and create my own company eventually – but they needed a gap filled and I needed some structure (my parents had hinted that multiple times, and eventually asked me to get my own place since I occupied their basement) while I waited for Accenture to tell me my career was ready to begin.
Months into this opportunity, (and right after 9/11) I felt it was time to roll the dice of life. I took my search to HotJobs.com (is that still around?) and found an SEO Sales opportunity in South Florida. Passing several phone interviews, I was invited to come down and work on 100% commission at this start-up that was clearly in the right space. Clearly a gamble and bold move, but I had some ammunition with me and calculated I could survive for a year even if the job didn’t pan out.
Upon arriving, I didn’t see anywhere fun to live at the time except for South Beach. I had one friend from college living there, but he was an anomaly, he happened to be a linguist and was very well paid to travel around the America’s and Europe to get things done in one of seven languages. He urged me to immerse myself in the “scene” and stay right in South Beach, which I did.
But it was uber-expensive for me at the time. $700 a month for a tiny studio apartment. Furnishings. Parking. I had to PAY for parking. That doesn’t happen up north. Beers were expensive. Food was expensive. Everywhere I went, money was just getting spent, and spent fast.
Luckily, this drove me to succeed at work. I worked all day, came home and prospected all night, and wrapped myself up in the business. I was learning at alarming rates, and I loved it.
Not to be cliche, but the rest is history.
I went from a studio to a two bedroom. A two bedroom to a 15th floor massive two bedroom suite looking over the bay, seven pools, and Star Island. I could watch Shaquille O’Neal shoot hoops from my living room, bedroom, or terrace. It was incredible. From there I started acquiring real estate, starting consulting many companies on digital marketing, and networking. I was frequently traveling to Costa Rica, and eventually bought a home there.
Today, I call Fort Lauderdale home. It’s certainly been an adventure and I’m always excited to see where it takes me next.
Until we meet,