Monthly Archives: October 2005

Henry Juszkiewicz – CEO of Gibson Guitar

The Texas Union frequently brings CEO’s and other speakers to UT, and this Thursday night was a speech given by Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar who took the company from small and unprofitable to the most recognizable brand of guitar in the world.

He claims his passion for music coupled with his love for electronics since he was a kid helped him excel at running Gibson. He strongly emphasized that true success is best accomplished with passionate leadership.

In his third year at Harvard Business School he became curious about buying/selling companies. His professors told him, “Just find a good lawyer.” Not satisfied with this answer, he went into investment banking for a few years to learn about buying and selling companies. He later tried buying several at-risk companies and restoring them. Like most successful people, he failed at some and succeeded at some.

A while later he was informed that Gibson Guitar Corp was for sale, but no one would buy it because it was a financial disaster. He moved to the Kansas to live near the company headquarters and observed the operation for a full 6 months while drawing up a concrete business plan. Once he purchased it, the company became profitable within 30 days because of his hard work and research. Since 1987 he has grown the business 20% every year.

Some of the main pieces of advice he gave were:

  • Have the tenacity and boldness to do things others won’t.
  • What’s possible is only what you think is possible. He said he wanted to grow the company to impossible levels. He has now far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
  • Only allow people in your company who believe in your vision. If they don’t believe in the company, they must go.
  • Constantly grow and innovate.
  • Give back to the community that helped build you.

Of course I had to get a picture with him. I actually brought my own guitar I’ve had for over 10 years to the speech to take a picture with:

The pictures came out….interesting. He covered the head of my guitar in both pictures because it wasn’t a Gibson!

Mike A. Myers – University of Texas

I had the opportunity to listen to Mike A. Myers, an extremely successful business man and community developer. He has developed many high-end neighborhoods and golf courses all around the nation, especially in Texas, including several by my home in Houston. He owns several banks and has been involved in tons of other investments. He gave a large donation to UT to help construct the Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium:

He is also on the board of many companies and is very involved with the university.

A Quick Background on him:
-He attended UT and later went to law school here also.

-One summer he moved to Michigan to sell books door-to-door. He said still to this day he has never experienced so much rejection as his door-to-door days. He also said learning how to handle rejection helped him immensely in the business world.

-In his junior year of college he started a mobile catering service which ended up being pretty successful.

-He then opened two restaurants, including one very speculative property inside a military base. Both were wildly successful and he had over 40 employees.

-At a very young age he got several high-up internships in Washington D.C.

-After making loads of money from various investments, he decided to build a 750-acre luxury community in Dallas. He put up much of his own money, totaling about 25% of the total capital. He raised the other 75% and got started with the project. One of the largest oil price spikes in history struck and vastly increased the cost of the project, nearly wiping him out completely. In the end he came out successful.

-He later started a bank which has since expanded to several banks.

Towards the end of his speech he said the following five things were his own rules for success:

  • Find a mentor.
  • Keep your options open.
  • Have as few responsibilities to other people as you can.
  • Stay focused.
  • Get Lucky.

He was a great speaker and I definitely learned a lot from his talk (especially some very interesting facts about real estate development). At the end of the speech I spoke with him for a while, discussing his developments around my area and joking about Herb Kelleher. I also got a nice picture with him to add to the collection:

Party Crashing Fashion Show

I was informed about another charity event where many wealthy Austinites would be Saturday night for drinks, a fashion show, dinner and dancing. I always jump at chances like this to meet powerful people, so naturally I decided to crash it.

Crashing this party was a little different because it was black-tie attire only and held at a secure venue. Three days before I had a tuxedo tailored at K&G Men’s store. The entire ensemble including the tux suit & pants, cufflinks, bowtie and cumberbund cost me around $200 after tailoring. Not too bad, especially since there will be lots of black-tie events during the holiday season.

Now that I have a suit AND tuxedo, I’m properly outfitted to attend upcoming events. Looking the part really helps when attending a fancy-shmancy party. When I was checked at the front of the base, they checked my ID, saw I was wearing a tux, asked me if I knew where my table was (I said yes) and they handed me a gift bag filled with Grey Goose, assorted bottled waters, pens and all sorts of other goodies. “Bob” had given me a table name to use, I was wearing a tux, sounded like I knew where I was supposed to be and acted as if I belonged there…and it worked.

I pulled up to the event, and my car was valeted because there was no self-parking. A photographer at the front entrance took my picture by one of three huge tanks, and I asked him to also snap a picture with my own camera:

I ordered a martini, Grey Goose of course because they were partly sponsoring the party and began to mingle. I found the crowd very easy to talk to, and striking up conversations was simple, especially since UT had just won a football game an hour earlier.

After cocktails, the crowd entered a large aircraft hangar (I think) which was converted beautifully into a large fashion show runway. There was loud music playing and the whole place had a very New-Yorky feel to it.

After the fashion show, which was actually pretty cool, everyone was ushered to several enormous and connected tents for dinner, dessert and dancing. There was a silent auction, a live auction, and raffle. The main prize for the raffle was one of three Mercedes cars. I found out the event was being coordinated by the Four Seasons, so it was very nice, and MUCH more elegant than the pictures show:

I knew a few people before I came to the event, but their table was already full. Also, my whole goal of attending this was to meet NEW people, so after some mingling with the crowed I was invited to another table for dinner.

After desert, coffee and some dancing people started to leave. The valet area was around several M1 Abrams tanks….I couldn’t resist climbing on top of one and getting a picture!

I left the party with several contact numbers, new friends, some interesting business ideas, a full stomach and having had a great time.

I must remember to thank “Bob” who told me about the party in the first place. He’s one of the people “In the know” about all these events, and is always gracious enough to inform me about them and help me get in. He also introduces me to his well-established network of friends and mentors, he’s a really great guy…always smiling!

Bought a 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50 Scooter

I wanted a cheap, quick and easily parkable form of transportation, so I bought a 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50cc last weekend.

I’ve been looking to buy a used one for quite some time now, but they are very hard to come by. I was ONLY interested in buying the Scarabeo because:

  • I wanted a big wheel scooter for more stability.
  • I wanted something quick enough to handle traffic, yet not fast enough to get me into much trouble.
  • Gas mileage. This is the only 50cc scooter in the world that gets 122 MPG.
  • 1.9 gallon tank x 122 MPG = 230 miles for every $5 of gas.
  • I can park anywhere. 2-foot wide parking spaces.
  • I can use sidewalks or small spaces to avoid stand-still traffic.

After some negotiating I got the scooter + tax + title for exactly $2,000 out the door. If I bought the same scooter out the door brand new, it would have been about $3,600.

Just like a car, the real cost of ownership is much higher. However, gas, maintenance and insurance are extremely cheap for the scooter unlike a car. The larger costs came in the form of safety equipment. In the end, this is what I spent:

  • $2,000 – Scooter out the door
  • $50 – Matching helmet found on Craigslist
  • $55 – Battery trickle charger
  • $13 – Chain lock
  • $40 – Motorcycle gloves from Craigslist

Commuting to campus or around Downtown during rush hour is a cinch now. I am doing everything I can to be safe and always take low-traffic roads to avoid cars. Small trips are much quicker since there is no concern about parking and they are definitely much more fun!

Gary Kusin – CEO of FedEx Kinkos

I just saw and met Gary Kusin, the CEO of Fedex Kinkos. He was giving a speech here at UT and drew in quit a large crowd. He called himself a “Forest Gump” of business because his success was simply the result of hard work. In a nutshell he stressed the trick to getting ahead was outworking the next guy.

He is a UT alumnus who graduated one December with a degree in Government…..that description will also fit me this December. It was very interesting hearing him speak about some of his friends and mentors such as Ross Perot, Jack Welch and Bill Gates. I breifly talked to him after the speech and got a picture:

The reason I am wearing a nametag is because of an idea I stole from “The Guy with the Nametag” Scott. He’s a motivational speaker who has been wearing a nametag for three years. I like the simplicity and effectiveness of the nametag. Now when I attend an event I make my own nametag. It helps people learn and remember your name and is great for starting conversations.

So far it has worked quite well. I usually forget I am wearing it and get thrown off when strangers call me by name! I bought a pack of 25 nametags for less than a dollar. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to aid in meeting people.

-Nev

Make a Cheap Photo Studio

When starting any small business it’s best to bootstrap and avoid large costs. If you sell products online and need professional pictures taken of the products, skip that step and do it yourself. I’ve done this for a while by making a Cheap Photo Studio:

INGREDIENTS:
-2 pieces of white poster board (Regular white paper works too)
-Swivel Lamp
-Regular digital camera
-Basic Photoshop skills

Depending on what you are photographing, setup the poster board(s) accordingly. The goal is to take a picture with a clean, white backdrop without lines or interruption. Blemishes or lines can always be removed by Photoshop later.

For Example:
I took a picture of an old playing card.

With Photoshop I brightened the picture and removed all the red and white blemishes.

Playing around with Photoshop yielded this picture which looks nothing like the original. Point is: digital enhancements can make even bad pictures look good.

You can also do the same thing with less 2-dimensional objects such as this lock:

<-- before Photoshop

After Photoshop:

Just 2 magic eraser clicks in Photoshop and some cropping made this clean picture. The already white background makes Photoshopping very easy.

Pictures like this can also be used to enhance Ebay auctions or Craigslist postings. This is just one way to save money when running or starting an online biz, especially if running on a low budget.

Quotes, HoR, The Godfather, Scarabeo

This is my new dry erase board with a push-pin section. I keep a few inspirational Post-It’s right above my desk. My favorite is:

“Dig the well before you’re thirsty”

I like the Post-It note quotes because they draw more attention than the dry-erase writing.
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My House Of Rave goals were mostly met, although some of the stipulations changed. My main concern is finding a better customer service system. I currently use a basic webmail program for email, and an answering machine through Vonage. This system doesn’t allow me to organize emails or easily track problem resolutions. I’m THIS close to signing up for an exchange server. This will allow me to use an Outlook interface, but from any computer in the world.

I finally added some custom templates which allowed me to integrate the frame of the main page onto every page, including the shopping cart and checkout pages. This makes the whole site look much more congruent.

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I recently checked the webstats for Neville1.com, and found it gets 500+ unique page views a day. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t all traffic from NevBlog, but from the “Wallpapers” section under “Stuff”

When someone types in “The Godfather” into Google Image Search, one of the first results is a wallpaper on Neville1. Also, the image searches for “Kawasaki”, “Yamaha R1″ and “Henry Ford” also bring in several thousand visits per month.

I decided to test what would happen if I put an Adsense banner on the Wallpapers page about 4 days ago. So far it’s only made about $0.45 a day. Ehh.

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I spoke about the change in libraries too soon. After that post, the PCL library added some outside tables for the coffee shop inside. I’m curious how much money the university gets from the coffee shop.

The local coffee shops must hate this new cafe!
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After visiting the Aprilia dealership, I found a few leads for used Aprilia Scarabeo 50 scooters. This is the one I’m hoping to get a deal on:

A brand new one runs $2,700 + tax, title & insurance = $3,400
The time I spend waiting for and riding the bus is getting ridiculous, especially since I live so close to campus. Parking in Downtown is also crazy during the day, so a scooter would be especially helpful.
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One business venture under a non-disclosure agreement is really coming together now. The original creator of the business and I will hopefully have it up and running within the next month. Exciting stuff!