14 years and a big year at that

This is a cross post. Please comment on the original post on the official Schipul Web Design Company Blog here.

September 1, 2011 is the 14th anniversary of starting the company. 14 years. Considering I was unable to hold a single job for more than 2 years before this (if you exclude teaching on and off at a gym in college) this is impressive for me to stay focused for 14 years. But my job has changed. Years ago I realized that the company had grown to the point that I, me personally, was no longer the one building web sites. Rather my job transformed into growing people. And I enjoy and try very hard to surround myself with brilliant, hard working people with positive attitudes. Turns out they make great employees and they challenge me to grow at the same time.

14 is kind of an awkward age. I think if you are married there isn’t even a recommended gift from de beers given it isn’t a multiple of 5. (Wait. Sheesh, I just looked it up. 14 years is traditionally ivory? What the heck? Do NOT send me any ivory people. Really. Elephants look better with their tusks IMHO.)

And this is my second blog post on blog.schipul.com. I have submitted other posts, but as I was reminded when I mentioned to Katie that I was writing this post, apparently “snark” isn’t appropriate on blog.schipul.com.  I must reserve that for my own blog or the Chron. Thus my previous posts were rejected by Katie for official publication. Hopefully this one makes the cut!

Back to the 14 year thing. Obviously I am incredibly grateful to my family and friends who helped me start the business. There truly is no such thing as a self-made-man, woman, entrepreneur, whatever. We ALL get a TON of help in both sweat equity, money, advice, support and every other type of help imaginable. Nobody can do it alone. The media likes to tell the story of a modern day Galt charging forward solo against the odds. It doesn’t work that way. It takes a network of support to start a business. And I had that network 14 years ago and I still have it now. And as I have said many times, the biggest supporter I have ever had is my wife Rachel. If Rachel had not gone back to work in 1997 when I quit my job the company wouldn’t exist at all.

In the early days, huge thanks to Paul Bieniawski, Scott Pederson and Javier Avellan as well. Starting a company is like moving apartments when you are young; everyone says they are your friend, but suddenly they are busy and can’t help on that particular Saturday. Rachel, Paul, Scott and Javier freed up the time to help me and were truly paid in pizza and beer (yes really). Our first server was built on the floor of Scott’s kitchen using left over alpha hardware and a case, motherboard and CPU purchased on Harwin. (Tip for future entrepreneurs – NEVER use “alpha” hardware. Uuuugh, that server was rough. But it got the job done.)

Employees – the team – the heart of the company. I appreciate Jennifer, Rodney, Aaron, Jenny, Katie, Eloy, Kerry, Lyndia and the entire team. We definitely would NOT be celebrating 14 years without all of them. And that’s not even listing some of our former employees who made huge contributions, helped the company move forward and then went on to follow their own path. Their impact was felt and moved the ship forward. And a special shout out to Ellen M, my very first employee, who is awesome despite having gone to t.u.

Clients – we are here to serve our clients and without clients we wouldn’t exist. Saying thank you to our clients, letting them know we understand we work for them, and that we appreciate them, can’t be repeated often enough. So if you are a client reading this - THANK YOU!

I have a lot of history of the company to write. Forgive me if I am missing something and I’ll try to get it all organized by the time we hit 15 years.

So if I didn’t write a blog post at year 10, if I didn’t write one at year 11, 12 or 13, why now? Because 2011 is different for us. We have not had a year this transformative in the company’s history since 2001 when we shut down network consulting services and started programming codebase (now called Tendenci.) In fact our theme this year is “Go Big or Go Home” which I borrowed from Aaron’s team goals. That Aaron is a wise man.

“Go Big or Go Home” is definitely not a typical theme for a conservative businessman running a company during a recession. But in 2011 we effectively “doubled down” as they say. Instead of running from a recession, we charged into it and reinvested while cutting costs and reinventing our products. Go big or go home in 2011 means this year we:

  1. Tendenci – Finished the rewrite of Tendenci version 5 on the Amazon server cloud. The rewrite started in January of 2009 and we had a few clients moved onto the new version in 2010. But only in 2011 has our dedicated team of programmers started to really build the recurring revenue and functionality to rival Tendenci 4. I can’t speak highly enough of the team. Writing software ALWAYS takes longer than you want and costs more. That has been the case for us with the rewrite of Tendenci. But it IS done and live on client sites like Discovery Green in and ThinkLA. We look forward to converting our other 400 clients to the latest version over the next few years.
  2.  SchipulCon 2011! – We had our first Tendenci user conference in 2007. We tried to do it again in 2008 but Hurricane Ike had other ideas and instead we cancelled and had a giant party. I know, a dot-com kind of thing to do, but if you remember the time after Ike we all needed a bit of healing and beer heals.  In 2009 we renamed it SchipulCon and had a great event at our long time client the Houston Zoo. Well, you guessed it, we are DOING IT AGAIN! Please check out our speakers and register for SchipulCon October 6,7, 2011 at client Norris Conference Center at CityCentre in Houston.
  3. Silicon Valley – we opened an office in Silicon Valley in March of this year led by April Kyle. We are learning to speak Californian and finding they aren’t so different from us! West coaster? Give us at call in the valley at 408-430-3137!
  4. Business Processes – kind of boring to talk about, but we have completely reengineered our internal processes from accounting procedures to better utilization of SugarCRM and switching time tracking and moving our email to the cloud. It hasn’t been completely smooth, but it is building a foundation for us to continue our growth unimpeded. Thank you to the team for moving with the cheese in 2011 as we grow! And it helps our clients by improving our efficiency which allows us to reinvest in YOU!
  5. Tendenci self-signup – by the end of 2011 smaller organizations will be able to self signup for a much lower cost Tendenci site for their organization. We have lowered our costs by moving into the cloud and we are passing those savings on to our clients to enable more and more small associations to take advantage of our technology at an affordable price. (Special shout-out to former employee Glenbot who has moved on to a VC backed firm. Without Glen’s contributions to Tendenci 5 over the last few years we wouldn’t be this close. Thanks Glen. I appreciate the beautiful code dude.)

And to our competitors who told our clients we had “stagnated” and had “stopped updating Tendenci,” … um…. ooops, meet T5 baby! Rockin the cloud for a bigger and better future. Two and a half years of serious double-down and rebuilding was hard to endure, but we are near the finish line to the ultimate benefit of our clients.

And the team has done all of that in the fourth year of a recession. Call us crazy, but we figured there would never be a good time to do any of these changes, so why not do them all at once? Why not Go Big or Go Home in 2011?! And we are doing it. And I couldn’t be more proud of our employees or more grateful to our clients and everyone who has helped us not only this year, but every year for the last 14 years.

Please join us for SchipulCon and get some brain candy. We are here to serve you. We are reinvesting to serve you better. And as always, we are appreciative of Houston and the community and friends that have supported us for so long. Thank you!

Ed

This is a cross post. Please comment on the original post on the official Schipul Web Design Company Blog here.

Swine Flu – We’re all (NOT) Gonna Die Man!

STOP IT! Just STOP IT damnit. No, we are all NOT going to die from Swine Flu. Sheesh.

“The biggest question is this — how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start,” Chan said. “It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”

True, the definition of pandemic is:

pandemic: an epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world

Yet that could describe the popularity of Heidi Montag as well as the spread of Swine Flu (hat tip to the Jewish & Muslim Political correctness police). Even the Governor is fundraising excited.

protect-yourself-firestorm-flu-webinarSo what are the facts about Swine Flu? I attended an informative webinar about swine flu from Firestorm today. Some highlights are:

Dr. Stephen Cunnion explains Swine Flu:

  1. The swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork. People catch the flu from other people passing the germs.
  2. The first reported case was on March 22nd. The gestation of the influenza virus can be up to a week long so we still don’t have exact facts and figures.
  3. The flu virus is the number one cause for lack of productivity for companies any given year.
  4. The BEST WAY to avoid contracting the Flu is the use of Hand Sanitizers and the avoidance of super crowded places.

How is the Flu transmitted?

  1. Directly via human to human contact, droplet or airborne contact
  2. Indirectly via objects handled by someone who has contracted the flu

So how is this swine flu thing going to play out. A few predictions about the Swine Flu / H1N1 flu in the US. I shouldn’t call these a prediction, this is more of how I see things possibly playing out in a “best and worst case” scenario.

End game: It is a new virus. It is here permanently. People get used to it and live with it. We just have to make it to September when a new vaccine is produced. In the meantime the virus responds to treatment and regular flu prevention tactics.

Short Term Media Panic:

  1. Media hysteria leads to –
    1. shut all schools in the USA and we all stay home.
    2. NBA, MLB, NFL all play to empty stadiums
    3. NYC subways shut down, the American (wasteful/isolated) car rules
  2. Many small businesses shut down because nobody is working. Worsening the depression recession. (when can we call it a depression?)
  3. Businesses can’t pay people because, well, they don’t have any money at this point.
  4. Employees call the office and say “um…. can we get some cash?”
    1. Management calls the White House for a bail out.
    2. White house says “no, we gave it all to the bankers and a pittance to the car guys who can’t negotiate a contract and we’re broke. Ooops.”
  5. Everyone realizes that they need to go back to work. But there are no customers.
  6. Employees, white collar included, come back with partial telecommute schedules.
    1. Most work hourly because there isn’t enough work for salary.
    2. Hourly wage works against self-containment of infected workers as there is no “sick time” so they have a monetary incentive to come to work even if sick. Irony.
  7. You can’t buy a surgical or painters mask anywhere
    1. Western Stores sell out of handkerchiefs
  8. Bleach gets very popular (a dangerous chemical, some will injure themselves with it)
  9. Pig farmers go out of business and religious nuts gets all old-testament righteous about it.
  10. Purell, the maker of sanitizers gets very popular / stock goes up
  11. Density of housing goes up with families moving in together to cut costs even though this spreads disease faster.
  12. Community unlicensed child care facilities form on an ad-hoc basis. Mary covers Tues, Thur. Bob covers the kids Mon, Wed, Fri. etc…
    1. Neighbors helping neighbors.
    2. Untrained unlicensed facilities means accidents will happen that are not related to the flu.
  13. Home schooling goes up.
  14. Abandonment of marginal properties by upside-down home owners skyrockets, particularly in dense North Eastern cities
    1. Or alternatively this may not happen as banks may not bother to kick out foreclosures or tenants because there is no market for upside down houses.
  15. Victory gardens in the backyard are very popular. Seeds sell out, but few know how to garden anymore.
    1. Community gardens
    2. Web tutorials on gardening become popular.
    3. Theft of community vegetables as is typical of the tragedy of the commons.
  16. UPS, FedEX and the USPS all see a surge in business. Drivers paid a premium.
  17. Amazon.com has huge success selling books, videos, anything that fills time for a family trapped at home!
  18. Wall mounted hand sanitizers sell out, only to find you can’t buy refills for them.
  19. The Internet slows to a crawl with the increase in throughput from telecommuters
  20. Local Internet Service Providers force through variable pricing on bandwidth with public consent because everyone wants the network to run faster.
  21. Gun stores have an increase in sales, with all customers entering and exiting the store wearing masks. Really.
  22. Hard alcohol and beer sales up, wine sales drop based on discretionary spending priority. More bang for the shot with the hard stuff.
  23. Gas prices drop – with no place to go demand side of equation drops, at least until the fall of 2009 when oil and natural gas go up with more people staying home.
  24. Home safe sales increase. Gun safes as well.
  25. Debit card use increases so people can avoid touching cash and physical artifacts of money.
  26. The virus reveals itself to have genetic targeting factors meaning different races have different fatality rates.
  27. Increase in religious activity, but perhaps a drop in mass/service attendance
  28. Cruises see a huge drop in use, advertise guest/square foot ratios to emphasize separation. Heat detectors throughout the ship to measure body temperature.
  29. Blogging increases, facebook increases as people have time on their hands. Short term.
  30. Tamiflu and Relenza sell out because it is safer for docs to prescribe those if they are unsure of what a patient has, and it takes 3 to 5 days to get the test results back

What can you do now?

  1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A WRITTEN FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN. And have distributed it.
  2. Antibacterial Soap – buy it. Purell is sold out, but hand sanitizers are not as good as actually washing your hands anyway.
  3. Bleach – buy it. Best sanitizer/cleaner ever. And cheap. Just be careful with it.
  4. Facemasks – questionable if these work, but if you go to the mall and EVERYONE is wearing one, social pressure says you will want one. Handkerchiefs will do.

Economic Impact of Arts in Houston

Our lady of transportation from the Houston Art Car Parade
The Houston Arts Alliance is one of our clients, and I have been doing some research on the economic impact of the arts in Houston. It's very impressive actually.

Some data from the Houston Arts Alliance Blog from Mayor Bill White's recent talk on the arts.

  1. Arts are a 626.3 Million Dollar Industry in Houston
  2. The Arts in Houston support 30,000 full time jobs
  3. The economic impact for the city is 69.5 million in local and state government revenues
  4. Total Attendance of the 10 Largest Arts Organizations in 2007 = 7,383,740
  5. Total Hotel Occupancy Tax funds directed to the Arts in2007 = 12.1M

(source)

I mention this because I have been seeing the 13 Undercover teasers on TV for a show called "The Color of Money". I haven't seen the segment yet. Investigative Reporter Wayne Dolcefino runs "The Color of Money" about Houston Arts tonight at 10:00 PM.

As a tax payer it is important to me that my taxes go to logical and necessary expenses. But I also like knowing that there is a baseball team in Houston (stadium paid for with taxes), and while I can't always afford the beer at a Texan's game (ditto), I can always afford a glass of wine in the basement of the new building at the Houston Museum of Fine Art. Art is necessary. To what extent, that can and should be legitimately debated as with anything regarding public funding.

And again, the Houston Arts Alliance is a client so I am clearly biased. And I love the arts, so add a second bias to the first.

Trying to reserve judgment until I see the piece. But knowing Dolcefino….

Here is the Mayor's Funding for the Arts set:

Speaking at PRSA Southwest District Conference Mar 2-3, 2006

FortworthrodeoflagI will be speaking on “Trends in Public Relations Technology: Harnessing the Chaos to Encourage Collaboration and Engagement” later this week at PRSA’s Southwest District Conference in Fort Worth Texas (reg here).  I will be joining Scott Baradell, President, Idea Grove and Jennifer Peper, Vice President, Aristotle.net, Inc. 

Not sure if I’ll have time to make it to Billy Bob’s or the botanical gardens, but I will be there in spirit while talking Public Relations and Tech at the conference.

2006 PRSA Southwest District Conference – New Technologies Panel

Ed Schipul CEO, Schipul – The Web Marketing Company


Fri 3-Mar-06 9:00 AM to Fri 3-Mar-06 10:15 AM

The image at the top?  That is an actual photo of me joining a panel at a recent event.  Really! Or maybe it comes from the Fort Worth convention and visitors bureau site.  You decide. <g>