EXPERIENCES OF A "HUMANITARIAN ENTREPRENEUR"

 

I recently had the life changing experience of volunteering as the de facto "entrepreneur-in-residence" at a well respected international NGO in the country of Ethiopia. I had never formally volunteered before, had never been to Africa and I had never lived abroad. Like most Americans, I had only traveled to such places as Europe, Central America and elsewhere as a "pampered" tourist, seeing only what our "5 Star Budgets" provided. I even have lots of friends that have traveled to Africa, although on $20,000 "safaris" and what not.

The fact is that most Americans, myself at the top of the list, have no idea what it means to live among the members of a foreign culture. We Americans are wonderful at responding to a crisis in other parts of the world with our checkbooks and military might, if needed. What we "miss the boat" on is actually understanding and appreciating the many different cultures that comprise the world. I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to share in the beautiful culture and people of Ethiopia, first as a volunteer and then as the "ExPatrepreneur" I have fashioned myself to become (www.peterjburns3.com)

My mantra has always been "Doing well by doing good, " and the opportunity I have to do just that is so obvious in my work in Ethiopia. With a population of 92 million and only 15% or so living above poverty level, there is so much that this country needs and that we as Americans and entrepreneurs with a social conscience can provide. To that end, I am endeavoring to bring high quality portable MRI machines to their capital city of Addis Ababa with a population of 5 million...and only 4 poor quality MRIs in the entire country.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/using-gaps-ethiopias-healthcare-good-make-profit/

Other projects "in play" include a unique livestock feed made from insects, which is not only far healthier for the animals being raised but also less expensive than the current meat by-products. Another project involves the financing and roll out of kidney dialysis clinics that are in such short supply and so needed.

In short, American entrepreneurs should consider rolling up our sleeves and volunteering somewhere in the world that needs our unique skill sets to observe and then act upon opportunities that not only help the indigenous populations but also make a profit. Another mantra I live by is "You can't give unless you make."

 

Posted on September 5, 2014 .

HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?

One bite at a time. This was wisdom passed down from my dear departed father when I was faced with the angst of being overwhelmed with major tasks of new business ownership starting at the tender age of 19. My father suggested that I take what was apparently overwhelming and break it down into "bite size" components, attacking each piece one-by-one until the seemingly impossible task facing me was reduced to "wholly consumed elephant."

Thirty nine years later, I am taking Dad's advice yet again. Recently returning from a humanitarian mission in Ethiopia, I have accumulated no less than 42 viable projects that merit development, funding and launching into this remarkable country. Basically, I determined what was needed in that country and matched it up with what was available back here in the States, and which was within my ability to provide.

To that end, I took the "lowest hanging fruit" of a dozen such ideas and created Project Files on each. I had great luck with interns in my past US-based ventures, so I reasoned that I could access a new set of eager and talented young people to assist me this time too. I placed my request for virtual interns with specific skill sets out in CyberSpace and lo and behold, I now have nearly 60 very qualified young men and women awaiting their selection for specific projects and tasks.

Through one such intern, already recruited, I established a Project Management template that each intern will follow. Another intern selected, who is now my virtual Administrative Assistant, has organized all of the various projects (up to 50 something with my US projects combined with the Ethiopian ones) into Google Docs and Drop Box files/folders. Each intern, assigned to specific projects, is granted access to his or her projects and my Administrative Assistant is adding to each project folder as I receive more info, updates and requests on each individual project. It is amazing how much material is flowing through these combined channels and now, so efficiently!

Since I favor a mentoring-style of management and am as far removed from micro-managing as anyone I know, I informally communicate with each intern as regularly as once a week, sometimes more. I am making the move to place a new head of Project Managers, who is, herself, working on one of the major projects and happens to be going to school for a Project Management certificate.

The plan is to create complete packages of multiple projects and have a 5 page (or so) Summary of each project, complete with research, financial docs, etc, so that I can present them to my top financing resources for consideration. Then, I either fund the project myself or take on an interested joint venture partner, put in the internal operations, and assign management to handle each one.

That is how I plan "to eat this elephant." I think my dear father would have been proud. 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Family, Volunteering, Teaching, Personal History.

A LESSON FROM ONE OF HISTORY'S GREATEST

Arguably, one of WWII's greatest heroes was Winston Churchill. He is immortalized with many famous quotes but the most important one for me in my life of entrepreneurship has been:

“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Life in general and entrepreneurship in particular is fraught with challenges. We, who live and die on every decision we make to determine the course of our livelihoods through self-enterprise, are particularly vulnerable to the slings and arrows of our detractors. Not only must we constantly face the challenges of creating a venture from scratch from our own passion and ingenuity but we must also secure financing and sustain our dreams through the life of that creation.

Along the way, our heels are nipped by the naysayers and by the "dogs" that are ill-equipped to do much more than whine and remain merely irritants in the scope of things, belittling the entrepreneur's vision and doing anything in their power to rain on our parade. Through all, we as entrepreneurs owe it to our families, our supporters, and most of all ourselves, to embrace Churchill's credo to "Never give in."

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Deep Thoughts.

MEMORIAL DAY IS MUCH MORE THAN FAMILY PICNICS

As I sit before my computer on the porch overlooking the beautiful hills and forests of my part-time home in California (I live in Ethiopia most of the time) I am moved by the freedom to conduct business and live a life far away from the strife many others face across the world. My experience of moving to Africa was quite a revelation and I'm so thankful to have served as a humanitarian volunteer in that peaceful and safe capitalist democracy, while the rest of Africa seemed to explode with murderous conflicts each passing day. Truly, Ethiopia is like an oasis on the African Continent, as the USA is an oasis on Earth.

The reason I can happily pound out my thoughts of free expression and even conduct worldwide commerce on my laptop while sipping my morning coffee on the porch of my dear friend's multi-million dollar mansion is because of the brave souls of the US military that gave their very lives to protect the freedom that I and so many generations of other Americans enjoy but, regrettably, often take for granted.

My grandfather, Peter Senior, served in WWI. My father, Peter Junior, served in the Pacific battlegrounds and until he passed away a little under two years ago, was one of the last remaining combatants who stormed Iwo Jima and precipitated the defeat of Imperial Japan. My dear father is featured, along with a half dozen other Iwo Jima veterans, each anniversary of that immortal battle on the Discovery Channel in a feature entitled, "Going Back." Watch it if you can. It's the "real deal."

I served my country as a US Army infantry soldier at the age of 17 at the end of Viet Nam and while I was blessed not to have gone overseas, I lost many fine young fellow soldiers to that infamous war. We, as Americans and indeed the entire world, owe a debt of gratitude for every single American life lost in the preservation of Freedom that marks America as the one true Superpower and the Forever Guardian of the Free World.

As you all enjoy a peaceful and fun filled Memorial Day weekend gathering with your loved ones, take a moment and bow your heads for the brave souls that gave their lives for the Freedom we all enjoy as Americans.

God bless America.

 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Family, Deep Thoughts.

ENTREPRENEUR HAS SOLUTION FOR BUSINESSES SQUEEZED BY GOVERNMENT

“Rather than hire the individual as an employee, the entrepreneur explains to the individual what the benefits would be if they were to incorporate by obtaining the necessary EIN number, bank account, and business license to establish a consulting business in their specialty field,” Burns told the Digital Journal. “The consulting business would then contract with the small business for this service.”

That’s right. Burns suggests that instead of hiring on full-time employees to work for your small business, why not have that individual create their own start-up consulting firm, which would then contract with your small business for work.

No catches. No hoops to jump through. It would function as any other business-to-business interaction would, and you would not be faced with the difficult task of categorizing a worker as an independent contractor or full-timer.

And as of this point in time, and according to Burns’ knowledge, this is 100 percent completely legal and within all IRS rules, regulations and guidelines. In fact, Burns has employed the model with his company B3 Funding Partners, which serves as a portal, or conduit, between small and medium-sized businesses in need of capital and willing lenders.

In an exclusive, in-depth interview, Burns discussed how he came up with this idea, what it means for the IRS and most importantly, what does it mean for you and your business. Here’s what he had to say:

CC: How did you come up with this idea?

PB: I look at it from a purely business stance. The government is jamming us [small businesses] right now trying to make it where if you have 50 employees or more, they’re trying to force you to have ObamaCare. They are taxing us into nonexistence. So I said let me take a look at how I can solve one big problem: I’ve got a business and I’m growing, and I need help, but if I bring people on I have all of the restrictions of having to worry about unemployment insurance, withholding taxes, benefits...

And then I said, "What if the individual became a business themselves and simply had their services exchanged for full compensation from the company?" It wasn’t the half-solution of being an independent contractor; that is so restrictive on all of the elements you have to prove, and then the IRS will slam you and fine you, both the individual and the employer, if they disallow that.

But they can’t do anything about incorporating and starting a business because that’s IRS guidelines and if you adhere to exactly what they require (EIN number, bank account, contractor services), then you’ve come up with a solution using their own legislature against them. I’m not trying to say we’re anti-government. I’m saying if they want us to play by the rules, then they have to obey the rules too. I see it as a really good solution; I see it as a way to hire yourself. You create a little company – you get to offset all of the other expenses you can’t do as an individual. The company itself that needs those services pays a simple gross amount which is up to the client company… if they don’t perform correctly then you sever the contract – you don’t have unemployment insurance, you don’t have to worry about them filing for unemployment, you don’t have any of the headaches…

CC: What are the benefits of doing this?

PB: The top benefits are that it is a simple transaction between business to newly created business without any of the hair of reporting and withholding taxes, or with social security and health care et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It streamlines the relationship between the employer and employee – it streamlines it into a very efficient business model, which is what capitalism is supposed to be all about anyway.

You don’t have to worry about hiring them [independent contractors] and making them an employee and toeing the line for all of the things you have to do that the government requires. It is a simple exchange of services for money for an actual service performed, agreed to and paid for.

In this case the IRS code doesn’t have anything to do with it. It is a “pay-for-services" to an actual company to company transaction. Period.

You agree on a payment amount, service is rendered, you pay it and it’s a straight deal. I don’t see the negatives in this…except the IRS can’t grab a bunch of money from people and there’s no way to actually screw the individual or the company if you use my process. I can’t see the negatives, honestly.

CC: What did your lawyers and accountants have to say about this? What is the IRS going to think?

PB: I do not believe the IRS is going to like me talking about this but guess what, I don’t really care. I’m the advocate for small business. I’ve been doing this since I was 19 years old… I’m their friend – government is not so I’m going to do whatever I can to help.

My CPA is a principal at one of the largest accounting firms in the country, my lawyer has been practicing for 25 years. I went to them and I said "Punch holes in it, tell me… is this right or wrong?"

They both looked at me and said it is completely within the realm of the current law. My accountant didn’t think it was sustainable, he thought companies are going to have to hire people, and I said of course they are – but what if you can exchange the bulk of, or at least some of your would-be employees with this concept. My lawyer said technically it’s completely correct.

CC: So what made you want to help out fellow small business owners so much? Where is this creativity and passion coming from?

PB: We’ve got to do something to help our small business population; nobody’s helping us so we’ve got to help ourselves.

When you involve government with capitalism, it’s a cluster. It always has been and it always will be. It’s just like how government is interfering with crowd-funding right now. What was a great idea and was actually passed is now mired in controversy and legislation… it’s just a mess. Let business people stay with business people, let government stay with government. Do not mix the two – it is a recipe for disaster.

I’m just another entrepreneur out there just trying to help my fellow entrepreneurs. I am not a lawyer, I am not an accountant, I am just a fellow businessman who may have come up with a way to save a lot of time and trouble, and not to mention money, for my fellow entrepreneurs.
 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.

THE NEW (OLD) COIN OF THE REALM: BARTER

According to Wikipedia:

"Barter is a method of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.[1] It is usually bilateral, but may be multilateral, and usually exists parallel to monetary systems in most developed countries, though to a very limited extent. Barter usually replaces money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis, when the currency is unstable and devalued by hyperinflation."

My experience with barter goes back 10 years to when I first moved to Phoenix and partnered with a businessman who taught me the ropes. Brian had a party bus limousine business and he often traded his services through one or more of the established barter companies in the area. Next, he moved into the magazine business and traded ads for barter currency, which he used for restaurant scrip, printing and other services for himself and his business. I moved on to other enterprises and found a use for barter in literally every field.

I was involved in the first Destination Club in the country, Private Retreats, and I actually figured out how to barter memberships (at $100k apiece) and use the barter dollars to both furnish the multimillion dollar residences as well as help the company purchase full page ads in such high profile and glossy national magazines as "The Dupont Registry" and "Ritz" magazine. The results of my introduction to barter and it's adaptation to as-of-yet untested uses like private club members were $900,000 in barter sales!

So, like a duck to water, I learned the "ins and outs" of bartering. This lasted the three years I was partnered up with Brian and then I was involved in other businesses, which didn't lend themselves as readily to barter. That all changed this past year, when I introduced barter to our ever-expanding group at Club Entrepreneur. First, I tested the waters by joining one barter company after another. It took four tries because the first barter groups I tried were so incompetent and/or crooked, that only the most optimistic (or gullible) of souls would ever have remained committed to barter. Finally, I landed in an organization whose integrity and longevity were a testament to what a barter company should really be about.

Tradesource run by the mother and daughter team of Sylvia and Mary Ellen Rosinski has been operating their 1100 member trade company for 24 years. In a barter organization, the members buy and sell their products or services to each other at retail prices, accepting barter currency for their sales to each other. The barter company, Tradesource in this case, acts as the "bank" and makes it's revenue through the 12% transaction charge, which it assesses each member monthly and in cash, for those barter sales.

The "trick" in any barter company is to maintain the quality of service between the members and to balance the books by keeping the value of its currency intact. Hypervigilance is essential, so that "inflation" or "devaluation" of its barter currency does not occur and remains solid. In all candor, the Tradsource dollar is much stronger than our own American "greenbacks" because it really is perfectly balanced.

Having my own organization of literally thousands of Club E members (4500 at last count), I proposed a partnership of sorts with Tradesource. First, I established my own "private label" barter organization that I named the Club E Exchange . Next, I negotiated for a split of the transaction fees for Club E members that I brought into Tradesource. I also negotiated a release from both the membership fee of $695 (cash) and monthly maintenance fees of $20 (cash) for the first six months, for all new members coming from Club E. Tradesource would act as the bookkeeper and "bank" to make certain that everything ran smoothly. It seemed a perfect fit for both organizations.

In the meantime, Sylvia approached me with the possibility of locating one of our CEOs (Club E Office) into one of the new commercial properties that were offered through a new account of Tradesource. These landlords, suffering from commercial vacancies on an unprecedented scale had decided that they'd rather take barter dollars than no dollars for some of their properties. My crew and I staked out a facility and the rest, they say is history.

Club Entrepreneur is now heavily ensconced in a beautiful 8,000 sq. ft. facility in downtown Phoenix, with plenty of parking and a multitude of private offices and open space. We bartered for this "all inclusive" space at less than market rate and for all barter, which includes both the utilities and daily janitorial service. In exchange, we offer the offices and other parts of the space to our Club E members at retail rates - but in barter dollars by signing them up on Tradesource through our own Club E Exchange. Our Club E Office keeps the spread of barter dollars as our profit and spends those barter dollars to maintain operations. For instance, we bartered for the handyman services to assemble the furnishings, which we also purchased with our barter dollars. We used a bartered mover to transport our equipment and furniture to the new facility. We even use a bartered catering service to provide our event attendees with delicious food and beverages at our weekly and monthly events.

Recently, I chanced upon a rather unique application of barter - the retention of skilled services needed by companies who haven't the cash to retain the needed employees. I establish these companies as trade exchange members that then use their excess products or services to generate barter dollars. In turn, the skilled worker incorporates himself and establishes a barter account of his own to offer its services to the company for a 1099 barter exchange. A thorough discussion of this can be read by accessing my blog entry.

In short, there is no limit on how you can make barter work for you, especially in these turbulent times of limited cash and uncertainty. Sign up to an established and reputable barter company, using your excess products and services to generate your barter dollars. Then offset many of your cash expenses for bartered products and services and you will benefit greatly. My own experience proves this out.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs, Personal History.

AZ BUSINESS RESOURCE BLOG

I wanted to share some business resources that we have found particularly valuable for assisting entrepreneurs.  Whether you are starting a new business or have been in business for awhile, these resources can assist you as you launch or grow your business.

Read More at: http://www.azbusinessresource.com/blog/2010/05/business-resources-for-az-entrepreneurs/

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.

CEO UPDATE

Lots to report on the progress of our Club E Office (CEO) expansion. The 300 W Osborn facility in downtown Phoenix is filling up, with a waiting list for the private offices. We're also starting to get some traction on both the "Drop-In" spaces and hosted meetings outside of our regular Club E functions. We are optimistic that this CEO will quickly become the epicenter of entrepreneurial activity in the Phoenix Metropolitan area.

Through a key introduction from our resident CFO, Al Schaap, we are now discussing the possibility of opening a Veteran-only CEO in a secured facility so that we can host military veterans that win some of the 80% "set aside" government contracts (see below.) We have a 6,000 sq. ft. site in Tempe and a Camelback site with 10, 000 sq. ft. (both secured sites) under consideration. The government contract expert, Dr. Jonathin Miller. is scheduled to come visit us in Phoenix in about a week.

There are over 1 million veterans returning to America after serving our country in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. Many of these men and women are disabled. Our government has established an 80% "set aside" for government contracts for qualified disabled vets who seek to go into business for themselves and bid on these contracts. In order to win such a contract, the military entrepreneur must operate from a secured facility. Club E can provide such a facility and support the fledgling "Vetrepreneur" with assorted business services and the collaboration that is only found within the ranks of Club Entrepreneur.

My old friend and business partner, Bob Johnson, has established a new CEO in the Atlanta suburb of College Park. A friend from the economic development department of Goodyear AZ, Barb Coffee, moved to College Park and took her admiration of working with Club E with her. She and Bob connected about creating both a Club E chapter and a CEO facility, located a perfect spot, and for the past 6 months have been working diligently to make this happen. I just received word that Barb had successfully negotiated a $150,000 grant to help support the $300,000 tenant improvement guarantee that Club E needs in order to open the facility. Bob tells me that we already have commitments to rent for 25% of the space and a real shot at making this facility Vetrepreneur-eligible through the help of our new friend, Dr. Miller.

There are a lot of empty commercial structures across the country that could be retrofitted to incorporate a Club E chapter and a CEO operation that could house the cilvilian and military operators alike. This story will only continue to grow...

Stay tuned!

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.

1% OF CLUB E = INFINITY

Last night, 1% of our membership of Club Entrepreneur showed up for our one-on-one roundtable. That's over 60 individual business owners from every walk of life, and it was powerful!

Generally, around 2 dozen invited one-on-one "alumni" show up, we introduce ourselves and then deal with one or two issues that need solving within the group. Next, we break for a social hour, usually joined by another dozen attendees for refreshments and conversation. Last night was very different.

For some reason, a whole lot more Club E members came to share last night. The group ranged from a young start up restauranteur to one of America's most recognized informercial personalities with over $1 B in sales. As I was listening to the individual business owners introduce themselves and what businesses they were in, I couldn't help but wonder what magic could be performed for our local economy by simply harnessing the energy and optimism within that room last night.

Think about it - 60 business owners averaging $700k in gross revenues (average small business statistic) represent over $40M in annualized sales. Commit that sum to one or two of our local community banks as deposits in Club E's "Bank Local" program and we could pump over $400M of financing into the economy through the Federal guidelines of matching 10 times a bank's deposits at 0% interest.

We had a husband and wife team whose company provides the successful step-by-step process of obtaining business credit based on a company's EIN number only, without the need for personal credit. For a very reasonable charge (and they'll even finance it) they guarantee that if you follow their steps, your company will receive up to $100,000 in business credit. In a room like last night, that means we could generate over $6,000,000 in unsecured business credit for those businesses. In an economy like this, that is truly outstanding.

A start-up utilizing a proprietary software that attached a bar code on the back of a person's business card debuted last night. The bar code, when accessed by taking a picture from a smartphone that had installed a free aplication, accessed the card holder's web site and video message, making that person's message much more memorable than a handful of other business cards we all collect each time we network. Imagine the effect to that start-up if all 60 businesses became their customers last night.

There was a lady in the ink cartridge business, who recently had a one-on-one with me. Her employer was the largest ink catridge manufacturer in the U.S. with prices far less than the normal providers of such products like Staples and Office Max. I introduced her employer to barter and we just launched a site where you can spend your barter dollars and not cash on replacing the "necessary evil" of print and ink cartridges. The average business spends over $700 annually on ink and printer catridges. Imagine if each of last night's attendees gave that business to the "ink lady." She would have booked a cool $40,000 in sales.

Speaking of barter, the founder of the area's largest and most longstanding (24 years) barter exchange was in attendance last evening. Club E works very closely with Sylvia and Tradesource and counts over 75 Club E members that are part of the 1100 Tradesource members. If all 60 attendees became part of Tradesource and utilized barter for only 10% of their sales, there would be over $4,000,000 in additional annualized business that Tradesource could have booked. This represents millions of dollars in freed-up cash flow for these businesses.

We had a talented artist there last night who produces wonderful paintings of classic cars, portraits and anything else that a client might want. Why not consider giving her your business and commissioning a family portrait for a unique Christmas gift?

There was a young woman who had created a number of products from a unique textile that she had discovered after much research. Who couldn't use the beach and athletic towels which were so much better and more compact than available products? There was a longstanding manufacturer's rep in the audience that started discussing his representation of her product after the break. Another product produced by another attendee, a biomass produced log for burning, also caught his attention and they began discussions last night.

A call center operator with state-of-the art technology which hired American workers and charged far less than even offshore competitors to generate leads and sales calls was in attendance. He will be setting up headquarters at our facility and what company doesn't need more sales leads? Many of the members were lining up to speak with this fella last night.

There was a database programmer there last night. He has engineered a number of software based products including a program that "remembers" all of one's log-ins and passwords for every account. This gentleman has created a CRM, email delivery platform and data base management system that will take all of Club E's thousands of members, classifying them by industry and other parameters for ease of use. What company couldn't use his services? Who couldn't use his "memory stick?"

Speaking of a perfect candidate for our database expert, we had a first time attendee, the founder of one of America's most successful product sales through infomercials, with over $1B in sales. This gentleman's database has over 18 million customers who have bought his products and he has come to Club E to see if there are any new products that he might be interested in promoting through his vast network and via his television celebrity. This man has spent over $250,000,000 in advertising over the years and his recognition factor is greater than former President Clinton's, I am told.

A couple of young men had a towing business and were looking for contracts from commercial property owners. They offered this service free of charge to the property owner and made their money in towing and storage fees. Our landlord was there and she offered them our building and four others that she owned to try out their service. What other commmercial property owners are there in Club E that could use their free towing service to remove unwanted cars that are illegally parked or abandoned?

A lovely young woman in the photography business was there. She specializes in weddings but is now branching off into specialized photo shoots and is even working towards producing an album cover with yet another Club E member who started his own Hip Hop label.

Two old friends of mine that I did business with 10 years ago showed up for a one-on-one a few days ago and shared what had happened since. They are starting a women-only racecar team and through a Club E connection, now have the first lady Indy car driver as their CEO. There are numerous sponsorship possibilities and PR plays for this exciting business starting in our midst.

There were dozens of other business owners with services and products that many of the attendees could use for their own businesses. If all we did last night was to open the possibilities of working together to become each other's clients and referrals, that would be great. But I have something much bigger in mind.

What if we formed a cohort of members from the group last evening and all worked together and acted to become each others' customers? What if we all worked en masse to drive business to each other, to pool our banking resources and to energize our community from within by throwing our collective weight to each other in an effort to jumpstart the local economy?

I can bring America's largest small business lender into the mix to loan $5k-$25k to each member with a 680 FICO score and an executive summary. This loan carries only a 6% interest, is amortized over 10 years and requires no capital. At a mere $10k per loan for the members of last night's gathering, we can generate $600,000 in fresh capital into the businesses there last night. Add the $6 million in new business credit obtained from our experts and you have some serious resources that could be generated from this group.

We could all come together again and again to brainstorm with each other and share the three types of capital that Club E professes in its "Open Source" credo: Relationship Capital, Knowledge Capital and Capital Capital. There could be a simple agenda prepared and we can break into smaller groups, offering each other advice, contacts and most importantly, business. Why dilute this extraordinary collective buying power when we could all throw our much needed business to each other? Like our forefathers once said when facing our British oppressors, "United we stand, divided we fall."

I woke up at 3 AM this morning, so excited with the possibilities that this concept offers all of us. What a model could be created that could be duplicated after proving it out. Sixty talented and motivated entrepreneurs and business owners from within the ranks of Club E can do some seriously great things. I am going to start putting this together right now and I am going to be reaching out to every one of you.

Expect my call!

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.

FAMILY, WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT IN THE END

Last weekend, my two daughters and I trekked from Phoenix to Santa Barbara to attend a family reunion for the celebration of my father's 85th birthday. Reaching that milestone is noteworthy enough but the gathering had far more meaning for me.

I grew up the eldest son in a proud and achievement-oriented New England family. For many reasons, each of the three sons and one daughter took very different life and career paths and I was the proverbial "black sheep" of the Burns clan. As time and distance grew, the times for family gatherings became less frequent and often, by either situation or choice, I was not included. My daughters took offense at that and even my former wife tried to help mend fences on my behalf but was met with a stone wall of resistance.

You see, I just didn't quite fit into the whole "family dynasty" thing. It wasn't that I was not very proud of who my family was or what they had achieved in life, it's just that I wasn't part of that life, since I left home on my own journey at 17 years old.

Great success was mine at a very early age. I counted myself a millionaire at the tender age of 22. My brothers and sister were just finishing college at that age, preparing to enter their respective fields. The distance between us as siblings grew wider as I flitted around from one farflung business to another and reaped the success of entrepreneurial freedom. My siblings climbed their respective corporate ladders, married and had families. The occasions of sharing time together became less and less frequent.

Along my journey, I had lost my way. Money and power replaced my responsibilities of family and conscience. My marriage collapsed, through no fault of my long suffering wife and my mother died way too early at the same time I got divorced. What relationship threads I did have with my siblings vanished, or were never there in the first place. Instead of being the undisputed leader of the pack, my two younger brothers replaced me and reached the pinnacle of success in their respective fields and my sister had married well and had a large and successful family of her own.

To add insult to injury, my now former wife packed up my two beautiful daughters and moved across the country from our winter home on Sanibel Island to the desert of Phoenix while I was out of town with yet another of my "flavors of the week." I returmed from that vacation to discover that everything that I had owned - houses, businesses, autos, furniture and even clothing, was gone. The saddest revelation of all was that I knew that I deserved it and that I had nothing left to do but to start over.

The next 14 years were spent moving out of my comfort level of an upper-crust East Coast mentality and embracing the "Wild West," first landing in Denver, courtesy of an old Harvard classmate, then to Las Vegas and finally to Phoenix around 10 years ago. To say that I started over from scratch at each turn is a gross understatement. Landing in Phoenix just months before 9/11, I arrived with only $200 to my name and through a series of fortunate events, moved from renting someone's 500 sq. ft. guest cottage to buying a grand manor house of 12,000 sq. ft. (circa 1929) at the venerable Phoenix Country Club in a matter of six months. But that's another story.

In any case, through a series of skillful and mostly lucky business moves, I quickly reclaimed my legacy as a "serial entrepreneur" and in no time was back to my former grandiose lifestyle, driving a Rolls convertible and entertaining the rich and famous at my newly acquired estate. My father, newly arrived from California, moved into the main house with me, much to my siblings' chagrin. It seems I was a "bad influence" on my dear old dad. Oh well, the black sheep is always the black sheep.

That "Hugh Hefner" adventure lasted 8 months until my real estate partner's deception of diverting the mortgage payments caught up with him and the bank took back the house, the Rolls, the antiques, everything. Oh well, on to the next chapter. I ended up in the email marketing business and made some great cash. Next, I moved into the magazine business, pioneering the "insertazine" concept and then started the area's first "Entertainment Card."

I bounced around from venture to venture until I was moved to take my two young daughters on the greatest adventure of all, a pilgrimage to Medjugorge, a tiny village in what was once Yugoslavia and is now in the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Along the way, I had returned to my roots of Catholicism and this pilgrimage completely turned my life around.

I returned from this fateful trip and decided to teach school, landing a pro-bono adjunct gig at my daughter's school at Barrett Honors College at ASU. That precipitated the beginning of Club Entrepreneur; the teaching evolved into my starting the country's first College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University, I launched the eFactory, (CEO's predecessor) and started a number of new businesses.

Step by step and most importantly, I became closer to my children, reunited with my father, became best friends with my former wife and as of my father's 85th celebration in Santa Barbara a couple of weeks ago, am happy to say that I'm even making some progress building back my relationship with my siblings.

Life is a journey and really can and does come full circle, which I dearly hope happens with my family. Because that's what life's all about, family.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Family, Personal History, Deep Thoughts.

GOING INTO DEBT OVER ATTENDING COLLEGE IS RIDICULOUS!

The headline of today's Arizona Republic blasts out "Defaults on student loans rising." Reading this thoroughly depressing article, we learn that the average student graduates from college with literally tens of thousands of dollars in debt. while launching themselves into one of the worst economies for job seekers in history.

Apparently Arizona's private for-profit schools have the worst record of all for graduates: the largest student-loan debt as well as the highest default rate. So, not only do these schools cost much more to attend than do community colleges, public universities and private non-profit schools, but a graduate ends up owing more student loan debt and has a much higher default rate. What a great deal. NOT!

In these times of uncertainty and economic plight, with our President urging Americans to go back to school and the need for many of us to "retool" ourselves because our former industries don't exist or aren't hiring anymore, where do you turn?

I believe that Club Entrepreneur, the Arizona-based 3500 member entrepreneurial community has a solution to offer. Through an agreement with our friends at Andrew Jackson University, an accredited for-profit inline university, Club E will offer a tuition waiver to every Arizona resident wishing to go to college. AJU offers 11 degree programs in both undergraduate and graduate programs, including the College of Entrepreneurship, where I serve as the Dean. The programs are taught by excellent professors and are solid academic offerings. Why go into debt for thousands of dollars, when Andrew Jackson and Club Entrepreneur can offer you the same education as the other Arizona-based for-profit online schools for NO TUITION?

There's even better news for all of you considering the switch to AJU with Club E's help. In 2010, with Obama's blessing, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $2500, should cover literally every other cost associated with attending AJU.

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Reach out to my friend at AJU: Tammy Kassner at tkassner@aju.edu who will answer all of your questions about our program.

 

Club Entrepreneur Offers Zero Tuition College Education for Arizona Residents

21st Century Marketing Techniques, Tax Credit Cover All Costs

TEMPE, Ariz., March 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Arizona residents can now earn a fully accredited college degree at no cost by joining Club Entrepreneur, a free online community for emerging entrepreneurs. Prospective students who sign up are eligible have their tuition waived at Andrew Jackson University (AJU), a nationally accredited online institution with eleven degree programs. Additional enrollment fees, books and materials costs, and other qualified expenses may be fully offset by the recently passed American Opportunity Tax Credit, effectively bringing the net cost of a college education to zero. (see link below)

"Our sponsored tuition program will strengthen Arizona's economic future by unlocking the gates to higher education for thousands of residents who are being shut out by the recent wave of fee increases at colleges and universities throughout the state," remarked Club Entrepreneur founder Peter J. Burns, III.

Club Entrepreneur is the latest addition to AJU's growing list of business and organizational sponsors who want to offer educational opportunities to their employees or members. Interested students must join the sponsor's e-mail list or online network in order to qualify for the tuition waiver. There is no cost to the sponsor or the student to participate.

"Traditional educational institutions find applicants by paying hefty fees to educational websites which collect and sell personal information of interested students," explains AJU President Don Kassner. "We eliminate this costly middle man by partnering with groups that are trying to reach the same population we are," he adds.

Students are under no obligation to maintain a relationship with their sponsoring organization and will continue to have their tuition waived even if they sever ties with their sponsor. "It's really up to the individual sponsor to maintain a good relationship with the student," according to Kassner. Sponsors are prohibited from selling or sharing the personal information of their sponsored students.

Participating students can choose from a variety of Associate, Bachelor and Master degree programs in business, communication, health care administration and other fields. Courses and assignments are administered "anytime anywhere" on AJU's secure, user-friendly online platform. For more information on the sponsored tuition program, visit Club Entrepreneur at http://www.clubeoffice.com and Andrew Jackson university at www.aju.edu.

INFO ON TAX CREDIT FOR COLLEGE EXPENSES:
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211309,00.html
 

Let's get America back on her feet by helping to educate our citizens.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Teaching, Entrepreneurs.

HAVE A MERRY (BARTERED) CHRISTMAS

As many of you know, Club Entrepreneur is deeply vested in the barter applications of business. (see www.clubeexchange.net) We've partnered up with the longstanding and integrity-filled barter company, Tradesource (see www.tradesource.net)and have conducted many tens of thousands of barter transactions with our Club E members through Tradesource's barter network.

Over the last year or so, Club Entrepreneur (and me personally) have been able to trade for the lease of our beautiful downtown Phoenix facility (www.clubeoffice.com), complete with bartered furnishings and even the delicious catered food at our weekly and monthly gatherings of entrepreneurs. In the past several weeks, we've added both print and ink cartridges (www.clubeinkandtoner.com) as well as good, used automobiles to the roster of products that can be purchased through our barter network.

Perhaps the greatest personal story of what can be bartered occured just a day or two ago, when I had the privilege of hosting two young single mothers, who are now working with Club E, as well as a surrogate aunt and young Club E member, who were able to pick out literally hundreds of dollars of toys and gifts for their 20 month, 4 and 5 year old little girls for a Christmas that they will never forget. You see, each of these young ladies had been unable to afford to buy Christmas gifts for their little girls because they simply could not afford to this year.

Fortunately, the sale of catridges and cars on barter had left a generous amount of surplus barter in my accounts and I was honored to bring these young ladies to go Christmas shopping at the Tradesource store, which was filed with member items, including toys for little girls. The ladies at Tradesource, Sally and Amanda, kindly assisted these young ladies in finding many great gifts for their children and the smiles on their faces, as they gleefully filled their cars with gifts for their girls, was the greatest gift of all!

Tonight, I was able to fill up my daughter's large SUV to the brim with large boxes of beautiful new furnishings for her townhouse, which she shares with her sister. My daughters had been laboriously filling their new home, piece by piece over the months as they settled in together but they still had a long way to go to make their place comfortably furnished. Through one of Tradesource's members in the new and consigned furniture business, I was able to locate beautiful furniture and accessories that I could give to my two daughters for Christmas. Had I had to pay cash for such beautiful items, I never could have afforded to be so generous this Christmas. Barter saved the day!

There are many other examples of how using barter can help us all in this tough economy. I, for one, can proudly, gratefully attest that barter has allowed me to provide a very Merry Christmas for five young ladies - the three little girls of Club E members and my own two beautiful daughters!

Merry (Bartered) Christmas to you all!
 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Family, Entrepreneurs.

LIFE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR NEED NOT BE LONELY

I know all about writing countless emails, after doing the due diligence on a project, reaching out to potential team members and financiers and hearing nothing back. I know all about the thankless hours spent brainstorming over $5 lattes at coffee shops with prospective strategic partners and teammates and going back home feeling drained and empty. I know all about sitting at my home office computer or laptop outside on the porch and wondering why I'm the only one that seems to be working on a myriad of projects while everyone else is sleeping, out entertaining or even better yet, on vacation. Vacation(!) what's that like, I continually ask myself???

The path of the individual that forges his own path in entrepreneurship is a daunting one. There are no bi-monthly paychecks, health insurance benefits or car allowances. There are no "paid lunch hours" or sick days or anything else that 99% of working Americans enjoy every day. Now, of course, that has changed drastically over the devastating economic decline over the past several years but let's face it there are still 90% of Americans that are gainfully employed somewhere.

Entrepreneurs have to hire themselves. They have to create the jobs within their own organization that have to provide a product or service and then sell them for more than they had to spend to create them. Then, and only then, can the entrepreneur get paid, often at rates that are less than minimum wage. Why do we go through the brain strain and Herculean effort to do this? Because it's in our blood and as a true blue entrepreneur, one just can't be satisfied doing anything else.

Still, it is lonely out there, often holed up in a home office, away from everyone else as we toil away at bringing a new idea to market or in battles to prevent our fledgling businesses from going extinct. The good news is that there are others out there that are facing the same challenges or have done so and won the good fight. They are your fellow entrepreneurs and "corporate refugees" seeking a piece of the American Dream - business ownership.

Organizations abound for the business owner and entrepreneur. Most are specific to the industry or level of experience and size of the entrepreneur and their enterprise. As the founder of one such organization, Club Entrepreneur (www.clubeoffice.com), I can attest firsthand to what a refuge and support network we have been to literally thousands of Phoenix area business owners and entrepreneurs.

Reach out and participate with others with the same dreams and aspirations that you have. Ask them the hard questions and seek out their advice. Offer your own hard-earned knowledge to others that you can help. It's all about "Open Source Entrepreneurship," that is, sharing the three types of capital: Knowledge Capital - where you may know something specific that could help another and share it; Relationship Capital - where you have a contact that can solve another's problem or energize their business; and Capital - where you have a source or alternate financing angle that can save the day for a struggling entrepreneur.

That's what it's all about, my friends. Share the struggles. Share the solutions. Most of all, share yourselves by becoming involved, reaching out and participating with your fellow entrepreneurs. We are all that America has left to correct the terrible position Big Business, Big Banks and Big Government has left us in. Join forces with your fellow entrepreneurs, the founders and backbone of the United States and take America back and right the course. It's your destiny and you need to seize it.

Come join us at Club Entrepreneur and learn what a difference you can all make!
 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurs.

NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!

I often like to paraphrase that great English statesman and warrior, Winston Churchill, who stated "Never, ever give up..." If that isn't the best war cry of the entrepreneur, I don't know what is. As a self-proclaimed "pureblood" entrepreneur, I really do "walk the walk" and have especially done so these past several years. Starting in 2006, I taught my first class in the field of entrepreneurship, as an Adjunct at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. I called the class, "Ready, Fire, Aim" and those 19 students ignited my interest in education in a big way.

I was invited back by Dean Mark Jacobs to teach and oversee four classes that second semester and our enrollment grew to 94 students. My "Barrett Honors Entrepreneurship Program" was gaining great traction and I had high hopes to expand the entrepreneurship curriculum throughout Arizona State University. Naively, I reached out for what I thought was a logical ally, the W.P. Carey School of Business and was soundly trounced as a "non-academic," teaching what would surely prove to be a "fad," according to their Dean. I was disappointed but not beaten.

At the urging of the principals of the Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University, I laid out my ambitious plans to create the unique College of Entrepreneurship, hopefully at their university. I shared my disillusionment at ASU's short sightedness at not working with me on what promised to become a unique differentiator and real asset to their school and we fashioned plans to go ahead together.


Eight months after our first meeting, Grand Canyon University was the first school in the country to offer a College of Entrepreneurship. That was January, 2007. The first students followed me from ASU over to GCU on a full academic scholarship and I set about creating the pipeline of new students to enroll in our new school. Aside from giving me this great opportunity, GCU really didn't commit any effort or resources to market our school but I was wholly committed, so I spent my own money to pave the way for the Nation's first College of Entrepreneurship, figuring that their success was my success.

Along the way, the little-known Grand Canyon University started getting some seriously positive press because of the new CoE. We were written up in the venerable WALL STREET JOURNAL, CNN Money wrote about us, along with scores of other periodicals and online sources that were very interested in the "NEW Business School" model that I invented. Only 6 or 7 months after the school's start, FORTUNE Small Business Magazine named GCU's College of Entrepreneurship as #2 out of the top 5 entrepreneurship programs in the United States. I promptly mailed the story to ASU'S Dean to share with him how my "fad" was doing!

The program at GCU gained great traction and I enthusiastically threw myself into the project. I had created a revenue share arrangement with the school and based upon the anticipated future income, I started spending tens of thousands of dollars on new lead generation software and campaigns as well as advertising in targeted publications for the new school. All this came for naught because after only a few more months I received a termination notice of our deal together, citing the lack of student enrollment. This was ludicrous because we had only just gotten started. I learned of the real motivation for this months later when GCU became the only public offering in 2009 and raised their cap rate to over $1.5B. Apparently, they just didn't want to share.

I went to my attorneys to discuss what had happened and they gave me invaluable advice, "get over it and move on." GCU had way too much money for me to fight back but they couldn't take away the fact that I founded the country's first College of Entrepreneurship and despite what Grand Canyon University claimed, it was very successful. I decided, at my attorney's urging, to find a compatible school, that would actually sign my contract, and start another College of Entrepreneurship. I took this advice to heart.

I am now the Dean and on a contracted rev share basis with the accredited online school called Andrew Jackson University in Birmingham, Alabama. I was made the Chancellor of the new College of Entrepreneurship at Southern States University, which just received their accreditation status. SSU is in San Diego and we're now working on another of their schools which has it's own law school and we're discussing forming the country's first JD/MBA in Entrepreneurship together. I'm also working on a new CoE in Michigan and am even in discussions with the local Indian Nation to open up our program at their university.

As an eternal optimist, (read: entrepreneur) I know that when tough things are thrown at you, it is important to see them as opportunities and that you must "Never, ever give up!"

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Personal History, Teaching, Entrepreneurs.

PLAY TO YOUR OWN "GENIUS"

As a "pureblood" entrepreneur, I'm often asked how do I put complicated deals together so quickly when others look at the same line-up of components and facts and don't recognize any discernible pattern, let alone see the opportunity to profit. The simple answer is that I play to my "genius," that is, I do what comes naturally, which happens to be recognizing patterns, putting disparate pieces together and monetizing that effort.

We all have our God-given talents, be it in the creative zone of developing graphically beautiful web sites, figuring out how to organize members of an entrepreneurial team (equivalent to herding cats) or developing tech solutions and financial models for any kind of business. Entrepreneurs, being the "lone wolves" that they often are, sometimes forget the importance of collaborating with a team with complimentary skills sets, often making the effort of moving forward, stronger, quicker and better.

Doing business well is all about how one gets along with other people. If one can respect another's talents and work together to achieve a common goal, both win. When a team of like-minded entrepreneurs learns to successfully delegate responsibilities and creates a system of accountability and measurement towards reaching that common goal, magic happens.

The trick is to not only "play to your own genius," but allow others to do the same.

Recently, the creators of our successful StartUp Now workshops, Jim and Sonia Graham, and I had a meeting to see how we might improve upon what we had started with the workshops. Out of the four sessions to date, there were four new businesses started, which is wonderful. However, only a handful of each of the four groups decided to participate in each new business launch, leaving most of each group on their own.

I offered to use my "genius" of recognizing opportunity in a free 45 minute session with any of the StartUp Now group members that wanted to explore the possibilities of starting their own new business, outside of their group, or perhaps move into one of our eFactory business opportunities. I reasoned that given a focused session one-on-one with the erstwhile entrepreneur, I could recognize that individual's passion and motivations, fashioning an opportunity for them on the spot. At least that's the plan and if members from the upcoming April 30th StartUp Now workshop take me up on it, we'll end up having more than one business started from each workshop from now on.

Here's another tip - not everything works the first time you try it. Practice does make perfect and we learn more from what doesn't work than what does and continue to improve with each lesson learned. Now, I don't know how many members of our upcoming StartUp Now workshops will take me up on my offer to fast track them into self-employment but I'm a big believer in "nothing ventured, nothing gained," so if you happen to be in our April 30th or subsequent StartUp Now workshops and don't want to join the group business effort, take a shot and schedule a talk with me. You never know what can result from one simple conversation and maybe you'll find your own "genius" too.
 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurs.

SCHADENFREUDE

Over the years, I've been the occasional target of the German term "schadenfreude."

According to Wikipedia:

"A New York Times article in 2002 cited a number of scientific studies of schadenfreude, which it defined as "delighting in others' misfortune." Many such studies are based on social comparison theory, the idea that when people around us have bad luck, we look better to ourselves. Other researchers have found that people with low self-esteem are more likely to feel schadenfreude than are people who have high self-esteem.

A 2006 experiment suggests that men, but not women, enjoy seeing bad people suffer. The study was designed to measure empathy, by watching which brain centers are stimulated when subjects inside an fMRI observe someone experiencing physical pain. Researchers expected that the brain's empathy center would show more stimulation when those seen as good got an electric shock than they would if the shock was given to someone the subject had reason to consider bad. This was indeed the case, but for male subjects the brain's pleasure centers also lit up when someone else got a shock that the male thought was well-deserved.[22]

Brain-scanning studies show that schadenfreude is correlated with envy. Strong feelings of envy activated physical pain nodes in the brain's dorsal anterior cingulate cortex; the brain's reward centers, such as the ventral striatum, were activated by news that the people envied had suffered misfortune. The magnitude of the brain's schadenfreude response could even be predicted from the strength of the previous envy response.[23][24]"

When you're an entrepreneur, you're really the "warrior of the business world." There isn't a net to catch you if you plummet from your attempts at self reliance in your own venture. If you try something and you fail, there are those around you that will forever chant "I told you so, I told you so." If you surpass all odds and not only survive but thrive in your venture, there are those envious souls that sit in the dark crevasses just waiting for you to fail at your next juncture.

After three and a half decades of starting and running my own companies, well over a hundred of them, I've definitely soared to great heights as well as crashed and burned. Each event brought out the detractors, the naysayers and the cowards that stay in the shadows with their "Anonymous" comments directed to anyone that will listen.

Well, I say to all those who cast stones, "show yourself and let's see how perfect you are". Where are your trimphs and successes and better yet, what were your failures? The odds are you are pitifully living lives of "quiet desparation," as Henry David Thoreau described. You "Anonymous" detractors, who haven't the stones to identify yourselves when you spit out your vile detractions are cowards who probably never moved from the comfort of your insignificant little 9-5 jobs with your insignificant little lives.

You are the ones to be pitied. I'll continue to take chances and risk failure rather than "play it safe" by living in the darkness of your lame practice of schadenfreude.

Drive on.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Deep Thoughts.

THE LOST ART OF GRATITUDE

We're all guilty of it, not being thankful or even acknowledging the help we are given from another. Now, I'm not advocating the constant reaffirming of another's good deed into perpetuity but when a glaring omission just stared me in the face on another's blog entry yesterday I must admit, I was more than a little annoyed. 

Five years now, after a random coffee break at Starbuck's with a friend (I thought), we discussed the plight of entrepreneurship in the state of Arizona. Each of us lamented the fact that while there were efforts in several individual silos, there was virtually zero collaboration and as a result, Arizona lagged far behind almost everywhere else in the country as far as a unified entrepreneurial effort was concerned.

My friend had been involved in helping start-ups and had actually founded several successful businesses over the 40 years she had been living in Phoenix. I was a relative newcomer to the area but in the five years preceeding, I had managed to start half a dozen businesses, sparked the entrepreneurial movement at ASU through my program of four classes at Barrett Honors College and even founded the first accredited College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University, for starters.

We both agreed that the answer to unifying the various entrepreneurial forces would be to host a consortium or a conference of sorts. Thus, the "First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference" was born!

Both my friend and I went to work marshaling resources. I reserved the Ritz to host the Conference for several thousand dollars on my credit card to reserve the date. Next, I started to bring in sponsors like the Phoenix Business Journal, Jim Riggs of Shea Commercial and a host of others. The operations aspect and roster of workshop speakers, except for the main attraction, was left to my friend to execute. I bagged superstar Michael Gerber to be our keynote speaker, as well as the most prominent and financially lucrative sponsor, Grand Canyon University.

Next, we started the campaign to bring in attendees, who would pay a fee to attend the many workshops that my friend planned. Others were recruited to help the Conference from a logistics standpoint. I left the minutia in their capable hands. However, when it came to filling the place and footing the bill, all eyes looked to me. When the dust cleared, I had reached into my pocket to the tune of $12,000 and personally covered the cost of 150 attendees out of a total of around 450 that attended our November 2006 function.

To add to my contributions, I recruited key student members of Club Entrepreneur to perform much of the "gut work" to make the first Conference run smoothly. With my connections at Thunderbird, I was able to bring 20 Afghani women in full tribal wear, who were members of Barbara Barrett's pilot program to educate Afghani war widows into entrepreneurship. I also brought the Hollywood premier of "Bella, The Movie" to the Ritz, with the stars in attendance, for a presentation of the Big Screen movie in one of the rooms decked out as a movie theater, complete with snacks and popcorn! That cost me a few more grand, which I happily forked over for the good of the Conference.

In any case, the "First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference" was a smashing success and its leaders were excited to continue this event in forthcoming years. During the day long Conference, I noticed that the only so-called Arizona entrepreneurial group that was not in attendance was EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) aka YEO or the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, of which I was a founding member back in 1987. I'd been having some pushback from that organization's executive members, ever since I had moved to AZ and joned the local chapter. It seems that my initiatives in entrepreneurship, which I managed with no help from EO, had basically eclipsed their nearly decade old efforts in the State. So they boycotted the conference to basically shun me. Well, let me tell you what resulted from that slight.

At the Conference, I looked around and saw the numbers of bright and eager Club Entrepreneur members from ASU that were helping out. I decided then and there to expand Club E to the general populace. With my ASU members gathered around me, we decided to hold our first open event in February, a couple or three months from then. The gang got to work and at the February 2007 event at the now defunct Tempe restaurant , Grilled Expeditions, we packed the house with over 200 entrepreneurs from every age and business stage. The press was there and Club Entrepreneur was born. In a few short months, Club E's membership overtook the local EO chapter's membership tenfold and today, less than four years from it's launch, Club Entrepreneur's Phoenix-area membership rivals the entire world membership of EO, which has been has been in existance for 23 years! Needless to say, I never looked back, left EO in the dust and more than a few former EO members are now part of Club E.

So, to get back to the point of this blog, gratitude, or the lack thereof. The 2nd Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference became a different animal when my friend decided to take over the Conference herself and make the thrust of that event tech-related only. Same with the 3rd and 4th year events and I'm sorry to say, they bombed, compared to the first Conference. Now, I'm not going to claim that without my spirit, connections and financial backing, the subsequent Conferences were a mere shadow of the first one in which I staked but...

However, I politely withdrew from anything to do with the Conference after the first year, mostly because of the antipathy directed towards me from other Conference do-nothing, busy-bees. I didn't have time anyway, as I was focusing on Club E and my other entreprenerial initiatives. I kept my distance and let the "glory" remain with the others.

Well, yesterday, a blog from my "friend" got my "Irish" up. The subject was the upcoming 5th Annual Entrepreneurship Conference, with flattering, nearly obsequious mentions of everyone that had made the Conference series possible, .except for yours truly. That's right, not one mention of the man that co-founded the event five years earlier, who was the largest financial contributor, not to mention the provider of 150 attendees plus the lead speaker and most, if not all of the paid sponsorships....me.

The blog went on to whine that only 100 attendees had registered so far, the event was coming up right away and blah, blah, blah. I pack 'em in my events every month, over 200 last Wednesday, in fact. My weekly round tables and "Fridays at 5" social hours for Club E regularly enjoy 40, 50, 60 and sometimes as many as 80 attendees.

So, the "5th Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference" will come and go soon and I expect the memories of this event will fade as fast as my "friends" at the 1st Conference "forgot" my involvement in the project's even getting started in the first place.

Gratitude, it really is fleeting.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Deep Thoughts, Personal History.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF BARTER

After experiencing nearly all of the so-called barter organizations in the Phoenix area over the last few years - the good, the bad and the very ugly - Club E has decided to launch it's own barter company. As you all may or may not know, barter is the simple trade of goods or services at retail rates through an organization that keeps track of these exchanges through debits and credits of their own currency. The trade organization makes it's profits through transaction fees and (supposedly) provides customer service to facilitate the trades among the members in a (supposedly) seamless transaction. The results are sadly nowhere near these expectations for the client.

Over the years of trying out other barter organizations I have been flabbergasted at both the incompetence and sometimes outright criminality, present. With little or no regulation (yet) in the barter world, very stupid or very crooked people are actually allowed to start and run some organizations - a distinct black eye for the barter world as a whole. I, personally, have been ripped off for one significant transaction that I engineered for $150,000 in trade credits and in light of the fact that the principal of this trade organization has been accused, convicted and now sentenced for fraud on another matter, I expected that her trade company would simply fade away. However, that's not the case. They are still out their touting their trade company, probably deceiving more business owners as they did to me and others before. Another very well established trade organization simply "forgot" to pay me what may be tens of thousands of shared trade fees we were to have earned by agreement for enrolling nearly 100 Club E members into their trade group. Now, I am forced to hire my accounting firm's forensic accounting arm to dig into the trade group's finances to prove what they "forgot" to pay me and pry it out of them.

In short, my experience with local trade groups hasn't been pretty but I remain totally committed to the concept of barter, properly executed. So, last Friday I announced that Club E will start it's own barter organization and the Club E Exchange will no longer be a "private label" for other trade organizations but will now do barter business on it's own under the name "Instant Barter."

We're going to do things a lot differently than the other trade companies. First, we're not going to gouge customers with exhorbitant transaction fees. While others may charge their clients 12% to 15% for the "privilege" of buying and selling goods and services through their exchanges, Club E's "Instant Barter" will charge only 2.5%for both the buy and sell or between 1/3 and 1/2 of everyone else's transaction fees. We will also collect that fee at the time of the transaction, so there will not be any big monthly bill to swallow for you active traders.

Club E will also accept barter from virtually any other trade organization that you may belong to. We're receiving many inquiries from people that are "stuck" with large trade balances that they simply cannot spend within their existing trade companies. We'll take care of that for you.

Finally, we're actually going to offer you something that is woefully absent in virtually any other trade group - customer service. How sad is it that customer service is the exception rather than the rule in today's business world and particularly in the barter business? Well, we are committed to doing something about that so, Ana Hawk, our Trade Director, will do her utmost to meet your needs. Simply send her your "wish list" at azclube@gmail.com and join "Instant Barter" with no enrollment fees, transaction costs at a fraction of anyone else's and our promise to do our utmost to serve your needs.

Club E has paved the way on many fronts these past four years to serve entrepreneurs...now it's time for us to lead the way in the barter world. Please join us.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.

THE TIDE COMES IN THE TIDE GOES OUT

People come and go in one's life and the same in business. Since starting Club E, four years ago, whole teams of the earnest and capable, the lazy and self-serving, have come and gone from our ranks. This is not a sign of instability but rather one of growth and evolution.

Often the individual's needs are simply not met by a group's efforts in an enterprise and he or she moves on. Often a clique within the group packs their bags and decides they can do better. I've seen it all and Club Entrepreneur is merely a microcosm of the vast array of enterprises that I started, bought and operated over the last three and a half decades.

What is hoped for is that the partings of former team members is amicable and that whatever path they've chosen works better for them. More often than not, there is bitterness and blame at expectations (whether valid or not) that are simply not met. Oh well, I say. Business is not a popularity contest. If those that have come and gone from the ranks of my brainchild have matched the four years of my not receiving remuneration plus forking out over $500,000 in cold, hard cash to keep the dream alive, then they have something to say. However, that hasn't been the case, so I say move on with your lives and good luck to you.

 

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Personal History.

WHAT A JOURNEY LIFE IS!

Three weeks ago Club Entrepreneur was turned upside down in the midst of active business operations when we were evicted from the Club E Office headquarters in Tempe without notice. We had previously learned that our landlord was in foreclosure by its lender and a Trustee's sale of the property had been set for July. Our attorney had made all of the appropriate steps to mitigate this action by offering the landlord and lender a number of viable options, so that our tenancy could remain intact. Club E acted in good faith. The landlord and their law firm did not. As a result, a dozen Club E tenants, over 100 attendees streaming in for three important events and 11,700 sq. ft. of furnishings and equipment had to be removed during the busiest time of everyone's day with no notice and no consideration. 

Before the night was over, one of Club E's greatest supporters, Dolf de Roos, had called in from Chicago where he was on a speaking engagement, offering a suite of beautifully situated offices for our core team to move into the following morning. We broadcast a short video to our membership from the new building the next morning and hundreds of views resulted in numerous emails, calls and texts offering great support for Club E. We jumped back into business hosting our one-on-ones at the new site and planning for our monthly event, which went off flawlessly, courtesy of our event host, McCormick & Schmick's and our wonderful speaker, Pam Gaber of Gabriel's Angels.


Two weeks of one-on-one meetings with members resulted in scores of new opportunities for us all. Club E is launching Club E Ventures, which will participate in select opportunities presented by its members as both an operator and equity partner. Using the collective resources and opportunities afforded by our nearly 4000 strong membership, we believe that Club E Ventures can become a very important source of financing and new business launchings. We already have a number of great opportunities knocking and will report on each one as things manifest.

One such opportunity is Club E's possibility of becoming a franchisee for Front Office Staff, a state-of-the-art receptionist and answering servce business, specially created for small businesses. By retaining this affordable service a business's phones are answered by courteous professionals who are trained in your business's operations and who manage calls to a pod of up to 80 businesses (all in the localized area) where they cross-market each pod member's services to each other. We are very excited to have this opportunity at Club E, which wil be scaled into our expanded markets as we roll out new chapters across the country very soon.

Much more to report but this is a good step. Club E is alive and well and growing stronger each day, and there is one more big empty building in the area with no tenants and about to become part of another bank's "non-performing asset" portfolio.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under Entrepreneurs.