June 5, 2009

k.sturm blog is shutting down

For those of you that actually still check to see if there are posts coming here, there will be no more. I've elected to combine k.sturm blog and hospitality technology made simple (htms). Today I completed the process of migrating all the old posts with relevent data to htms.

All new posts on business, consulting, and technology will be done on htms. For those of you that read this blog to read about my some times humerous personal life should go here.

June 9, 2008

Father's Day Contest

If you are a dad or have a dad go check out this post on my other blog. Submit an entry if you are bored or think you have a really good story.

June 2, 2008

I Got Tagged

Have you ever got one of those email forwards that asks you to answer a bunch of questions and then forward it onto all of your friends who then send it back to you and a bunch of their friends. I'm not sure of the point other than to get an email.

Well the trend has hit the blogosphere. My friend Matt blog tagged me last week and I'm just getting around to doing it. I'm not one that would normally do this but my wife really wants to me to tag her (love you sweetie).

But the questions in Matt's tag were lame so I'm breaking the tag rules and answering questions that I would actually like to know the answer to. Some of them I stole from Ross's tag. Sorry Matt, it isn't that you aren't cool, or that Ross is cooler than you, though I think Ross is cool. You are cool, just keep telling yourself "I'm cool."

I'm then allowing the option for my taggees to answer my questions or to create new ones they find more interesting. See, isn't this just a better game!

1. If you could change one thing about a major event in your life what would it be?
This one was easy for me (but I made up the question). The funny thing is that it happened on a day that was perfect. Can a day be perfect and want something different? The major life event was the day Chrystal and I got married. It was awesome. The one thing I'd change was paying for a wedding planner. Here's why...

There were lots of little things that we didn't think about, but also one big thing. Right as the wedding started my dad asked me if I was going to walk my mom down the isle. I looked at him clueless and said with a shrug, "I guess not?" It hadn't even crossed my mind, which makes me feel like a bad son but we were so engrossed in trying to figure everything out. It is something I wished I could have done. Sorry Mom. But she never once has made me feel bad about it even though I know it was something she really wanted.

2. What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire? (I stole this one)
1. Pay off all my debt and the debt of friends and family.
2. Buy a bunch of property in Santa Barbara and offer my family and closest friends free homes so we could live near each other in my favorite place in the world.
3. Pay Josh Gustafson to figure out how to invest some portion so we could live very comfortably but not outrageously. I'm not going to lie and say we'd live meagerly, because we would travel often and we'd fly first class.
4. Give a huge chunk of change to Westmont College but specifically allocate a portion to buy the freakin' coolest athletic facility you had ever seen and name the track and field stadium after coach Russell Smelley. Smelley Track & Field, can you dig it!
5. Establish a foundation to figure out all the places the money needs to go and hire a staff to help manage it.

3. What are your three worst habits?
1. Not listening. Lord forgive me but I talk too much, day dream too often, and listen too little. Ask my wife.
2. Pointlessly surfing the Internet and too often entering "Kevin Sturm" in Google or Technorati just so I can see if someone loves me enough to put my name in a blog.
3. Quietly judging someone based on how they talk, how they dress, or what they do. If anyone knew how often I did it no one would be my friend.

4. What are the three things you have to have within reach at all time (think bedside, car, etc.)?
1. My iPhone. This could mean I need to add another worst habit. I freak out if I don't know where my phone is, and having an iPhone only made it worse.
2. A book. This is not saying I read all the time. I just always want a book near for when the urge arises. On the night stand, in my laptop bag, near the man throne.
3. I don't really have a third. How about Love?

5. If you could have any job what would it be and why?
Professional athlete. I'm open to almost any sport. Though not gymnastics, or curling, or billiards, or boxing...you get the point.

There is a sixth question. What five people do you want to tag.
Chrystal (My Love) - Will do it because she is waiting for me to tag her.
David Jay - Eventually will get around to it if he reads this and lots of girls will find it cute.
Tessa McCook - Stay tuned it will be funny.
Gabriel Ryan - Have no idea if he'll do it.
Tim Halberg - Maybe will do it.

June 1, 2008

Two Things I Hate

I'm generally not a negative person, but yesterday was not a great day for me. I endured two of my most hated things simultaneously.

First hated thing...sickness. I had a sore throat that was ripping me up. I hate being sick, but really hate being sick when I'm trying to get something done. I had planned to clean out the garage yesterday and all the dust and dryness was not helping the throat. Not sure why I was so stubborn to finish it versus wait for another weekend. But the reason I did it was it was clear of all sorts of stuff...leading to the next hated thing.

Second hate thing...garage sale. Having a garage sale is in my top 5 hated things (I'm not sure of the other 4, but I'm sure garage sale is in the top 5). We had a huge multi-family garage sale where a bunch of people, most of whom I didn't know, got to put the stuff they don't want anymore and are too stingy to just give away in my driveway so strangers could loiter around and take something home to store in their garage. And most of the stuff was junk.
Me post garage sale sitting on couch that didn't sell.

I'm a terrible garage sale salesman. My goal isn't to make money, but to just get someone to take the stuff out of my driveway. If someone barters I counter with a lower price then they offered. I'd just as soon put a huge FREE sign on the corner and then enjoy the glorious possibility of a humorous rush of people fighting over junk, versus just touch everything and ponder if they really need a chipped shot glass. A rhubarb between two middle aged women over an ugly plate sounds way more fun. But alas, I married a woman that LOVES garage sales. Going to them, having them, bartering at them...she thinks it's great.

The wife told me to go wash the car after I complained enough, which I actually enjoyed. I'd have washed every car on the street versus sit at the garage sale.

But what I can say for garage sales is the people watching. I believe there are two types of people that d0 garage sales. The first is a deal seeker looking for entertainment, which is the category my wife falls into. They most likely will buy nothing but enjoy the process of looking.

The second is the person that can't leave without buying a cart full of crap it doesn't appear they can afford. They hand you somewhere between $5 and $20 and leave with the junk you were sure was going end up in the throw away pile. I want to feel sorry for these people, but at the same time want them to show up just to watch them. I suppose that makes me a bit mean...Lord forgive me.

All-in-all we made $124 for about 6 hours of work. That is the other reason I hate garage sales...the return just isn't worth while.

May 2, 2008

A New Title for What I Am

I just learned what I am...

While reading Escape From Cubicle Nation I found out about Anywired and read the post Become a Lifestyle Entrepreneur: Complete Guide and 40+ Resources.

I'm a Lifestyle Entrepreneur! What does that mean you ask? You really should read the post, but here is a great description from Skellie over at Anywired.

"If you are — or would like to be — an entrepreneur, yet you’d be happy to earn enough to live the life you want rather than becoming filthy rich, lifestyle entrepreneurship might be a good fit for you.

Lifestyle entrepreneurs will generally base their ventures around time minimalism, or something they love, even if there are more profitable (but more time-consuming, or less interesting) options available.

The goal of a lifestyle entrepreneur is not to amass a huge fortune, but instead, to achieve certain definable goals and, beyond that point,
to ensure business does not interfere too much with the enjoyment of those goals."

Now don't get my wrong, I think it would be cool to be filthy rich. But not at the expense of the relationships with my wife, kids, or current freedom. I spent 9 years climbing the corporate ladder and had a good position with a good salary. The next step in my plan was a VP position which would lead to a C-level position. But ultimately what I found is the stress of those positions, the time requirement, and the sacrifices I was going to make just weren't worth it.

I quit my job and started my own consulting firm to create freedom in my life. Here is my current daily schedule - which I adjust daily as I need to fit into my lifestyle.

7:15 am - Wake up to alarm clock of "DAAAAADAAAA IT'S LIIIIGHT TIIIIIME!"
7:45 am - Get breakfast for the alarm clock and take a shower
8:15 am - Make coffee and lunch for Bubba
8:30 am - Catch up on my favorite blogs or take Bubba to preschool
9:15 am - Blog (I have two others here and here)
10:00 am - Work on client projects (yes I start "work" about 10:00 am)
12:00 pm - Lunch or go pick up Bubba from preschool
1:00 pm - Work on client projects
4:00 pm - Stop work to alarm clock of "DAAAADAAAA I HAVE TO GO POOOOTYYYYY"
4:05 pm - Play with Bubba, Chrystal, and Mianna for the rest of the day.

I say this not to brag or gloat but to say it's possible. We are not getting rich and sometimes money issues are stressful, but we (my family and I) live a comfortable life and love it. We have more freedom (though not necessarily financial) than we have ever had. Join what Tim Ferris calls the NR and break the chain!

Photo by Dazzie D'

April 30, 2008

Confidence and Humility are NOT Mutually Exclusive

In the last week of my full-time employment a co-worker (and former consultant) told me she thought I would find consulting harder than I expected. I didn't know her very well but I knew her well enough to know she was referring to the selling side of consulting, and I could tell by the way she said it she didn't think I had the "selling side" in me.

I told her I agreed that most consultants struggle with the selling side of the job, mainly because you are selling "you". What you personally bring to the table is all there is to sell, and part of what you bring to the table is confidence. But many consultants struggle with the concept that confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive. The opposite of humility is not confidence but rather cockiness. Cocky consultants are annoying, irritating, and often difficult to do business with.

When I talk with any customer I know I bring confidence to the discussion. Confidence that I know what needs to be done or that I don't.

Cocky consultants always know the answer, regardless if they really do. Confident consultants are humble enough to know when they don't know the answer, but instill confidence they can find it.

She was right that I'm not naturally a sales person. I have friends who are and they could convince you to buy the dirt off your own floor. As a consultant that is not the type of sales person you want to be.

If you are selling on the basis that you offer a service you're selling on cockiness: "Buy me because I'm here." You should be selling on the basis of a business problem that you personally can help solve: "Buy me because you have this problem and I can help solve that problem."

Seth Godin had a great post today on Self Promotion that spurred this thought. Thanks Seth!

April 26, 2008

The Most Important Decision as a Consultant

The number of decisions you have to make when starting your own consulting business are numerous. Decisions like choosing your niche, how much you charge, where you will spend money are all important. But one of the lesser discussed but possibly most important decisions is what business will you NOT take.

I have found this to be the most difficult decision because knowing when the next job will be is usually unknown. You are always in need of the money (lets be honest here), but every opportunity that comes your way has the potential to grow or limit your business (read income).

  • Will the contract increase your specific skill or expertise that makes you valuable?
  • Will the contract lead to on-going future business with a client?
  • How sure are you that the project will end successfully?
  • How likely is it that the potential client will provide you with a good reference?
  • Is the potential client the type that would recommend your services without request?
These are all important questions to ask when deciding what kind of projects you do or do NOT take. But I'm going to focus on one question where many consultants make the wrong decision.

Will the client pay you what you are asking?

This is an important question because it brings up two equally important questions. First, how much are you worth? And second, what type of personal life do you want?

The temptation to take a contract at a reduced pay is great, especially when the pipeline is small. But one of the most important decisions you will make is sticking to your guns and turning this business away. Consultants are generally willing to take these jobs because they come with a promise of lots of work or because of nervousness that nothing else will come along.

But if you take a contract for either of these two reasons you are both decreasing your perceived value to current and future clients and sacrificing your lifestyle. You should be confident that you are worth your rate and your current and potential clients must see that. Taking a contract for a lower fee says that you believe you are not worth your stated rate. And if you do not believe you are worth your fee then you should not be charging that fee.

The second reason you should not accept a reduced fee is based on simple math. Let's say your normal fee is $100 per hour. If you take a 20% fee reduction at $80 per hour then you have to work more hours and harder to make up the difference.

Most likely you have a revenue goal for your company (if you don't it's time to get one). The more projects you take at a decreased rate the more you have to work to achieve that rate.

If you are still not convinced then look at it this way. Let's say your goal is to bill 30 hours per week at $100 per hour with four weeks of vacation. That means there are 48 billable weeks in the year. This is pretty aggressive goal if you are just starting out.

48 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $144,000

NOTE: $144,000 may look like a lot (or may not), but when you factor in taxes and business expenses your take home quickly begins to fall.

If you take a 12 week contract at your 20% fee reduction there are only 36 weeks left in your "goal year".

12 week x 30 hours x $80 = $28,800
36 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $108,000

Now your total revenue is $136,800. In order to make up the difference of $7200 to meet your goal you have to work 72 hours at your $100 rate. That equates to 2.5 weeks of work which leaves you with 1.5 weeks of vacation time.

But the better scenario is that you would only need to work 45.5 weeks at your normal rate to achieve the $136,800 revenue number. This means that you either have 2.5 more weeks of vacation time (imagine a job with 6.5 weeks of vacation), 2.5 more weeks to market and build the business, 2.5 weeks to blog and share your knowledge, or 2.5 weeks to try and find a small contract at your $100 per hour rate.

Be worth what you say you are worth. It will be better for you in the long run.

April 19, 2008

How Far Should I Take It

Out of curiosity to where it would go I responded to the French email I received. Here is what I wrote...

Dear Mr. Majeed,

It took me a while to understand your message, but I was able to translate it. I think maybe you didn't mean to send this to me since I'm not French, but since I was able to understand the message WOW! $20 million! Lucky you...and now lucky me for maybe accidentally receiving your email. I think you are looking for americans to help you invest the money. If so, I am definitely interested! I mean even if I only get 1% that is a lot of money. How do I go about helping you and me make a bunch of money?


This morning I received this message back. (Click on the picture to open a more readable version.)
This kills me because who would honestly believe this?! But now I'm intrigued because I'm curious how far this could actually go. What do you think, how far should I take this?

April 17, 2008

I'm Gonna Be Rich

I received an email today that is going to change my life. There is this guy in Iraq that works as a translator for the US military. He and a few soldiers found this trunk with $20 million US dollars! His share is $5 million and he wants me to help him invest it in the US stock market and I get to keep a portion of the profits! I mean, even if I only get 1% that is $50,000 per year! If you don't believe me, here is the email he sent.

Oh...it reads a bit odd because the email was in French and I had to translate it on Babel Fish. Leave a comment if you want me to email Issam Majeed and ask if you can be involved, too! I'll keep you apprised of how it goes down.

Good evening, Jai have your contact and would please share an important business trcs with vous.Si that does not interest you, want mexcuser for the disturbance much. I am Mr Issam Majeed, I work in Iraq with the American Soldiers as translator. Jai of the evidence for you to show it aprcs.Dans one of the our military operations in Iraq, we discovered a strong trunk in a large house dun great man daffaire Iraqi in the town of TIKRIT. This strong trunk contains a great sum dargent, of the American dollars, it be-R-statement USS 20 Million. We immediately kept this strong trunk in a place made safe with three other American soldiers. After long deliberations between us to know if we must give these funds to the American authorities in load of place or not, we decided all to share these funds between us. For the division, each one of us received the sum of USS5 Million For my part R causes problcmes of safety in Iraq, jai decided marranger with the agents of safety measures deprived in Iraq to transfer my share from these funds out of lIraq, precisely R London. Jai put the funds in a parcel as being family affairs and I lay coded what wants to say to quaucune anybody does not know that this parcel contains largent me except. What I tell you is the truth and if we treat together in this business, you will see it. I you contact thus to see whether you can maider has récupcre the parcel R London and to transfer it in your country or I would like to invest these funds in profitable fields. I would give you also a few percentages of these funds to have to accept maider, the percentage we will discuss it when I receive your answer. The Iraqi insurrectionists are against me what makes quils seek me to kill me because I make translations with the American soldiers. I do not leave nimporte how without the American Soldiers to avoid the worst. I nutilise not of telephones nor do not receive calls here. Jutilise only lInternet and walkie-talkies to communicate with soldiers with whom I work. If this transaction is well concluded, I want to resign of this works because to live here in too risky Iraq cest. I thank you and jattendrais your answer. Please, if you agreed to help, I want that you me via this address e-mail (issam.majeed1@yahoo.com Mr Issam Majeed.

Original email in French

April 13, 2008

Next Gen Dads

I posted about launching Next Gen Dads and while back and I've got enough of the layout done that it was time to launch. No sense waiting till it's done or it will never get launched. Next Gen Dads is a Daddy Blog about raising kids as a work-from-home-dad that believes dads and moms should share raising kids as an equal partnership. It will be my thoughts, and hopefully the thoughts of others, on marriage, parenting, and the successes and failures that you experience as a husband and dad. You will need to read the blog to find out exactly what all that means.

For those of you that read k.sturm blog to find out about my family related stuff, the majority of those posts will now appear at Next Gen Dads. This blog will be 99% dedicated to "Ramblings on business, entrepreneurship, consulting, technology, and other topics I'm passionate about." I will be migrating all existing family related posts to Next Gen Dads over the next few weeks.

If you would be interested in co-authoring on Next Gen Dads leave a comment and we'll chat!