Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Nicest Party I've Ever Been To: A Christmas Story

The Nicest Party I've Ever Been To: A Christmas Story
By: Jake Kilroy | December 23, 2008 2:38 PM

As an employer, you see Christmas parties one of two ways: something you have to do or something you want to do.

And the party you throw shows which you believe.

I've been to both kinds. I've had the good food, I've had the bad food, I've shown up in jeans, I've shown up in slacks, etc. And I'd rather not talk about the bad Christmas parties, where you can feel the boss's teeth grinding while he watches his employees eat the Mexican buffet he felt he had to buy just to please someone other than himself, like you love your job 364 days out of the year and on Christmas, should be buying him dollar store gifts.

No, I'd rather talk about the best company Christmas party I've ever been to, in hopes that employers will give a second thought about their Christmas party and employees.

In 2007, I was working as a screen printer at J&M Promotions in Orange, Calif. Jack and Michele Ohanian ran J&M Promotions, a uniform, specialty items and screen-printing company.

The headquarters was an office with an attached warehouse. Those in the office were generally adults and those in the warehouse were generally obnoxious.

I was of course in the warehouse.

My job was pretty ideal actually. The warehouse crew was 10-20 local high school and college boys who all knew each other somehow. We got the job done, but we got to talk while doing it. We rarely had to talk to customers and we were paid a couple bucks above minimum wage for a job that I'm pretty sure robots could do.

December rolled around and I received my invitation to the Christmas party in the mail. Quite formal for a job where you know everyone's name and see your bosses and co-workers every day, I thought.

Having attended previous work Christmas parties at roller rinks and bowling alleys, the location of J&M's Christmas party caught me off-guard. It was at The Catch, a slightly upscale seafood restaurant.

"[We had to] find a facility that could accommodate our 40 guests and a place where we knew the food was good and we would be well taken care of," Michele recalls.

Since my good friend Chris also worked there, I carpooled with him and his girlfriend, Traci. And since my girlfriend was abroad at the time, I brought my buddy Rex, who made an exceptional substitute and plus one.

The four of us strolled in and couldn't believe we were in the right place. It was a legitimate company Christmas party with all the attendees dressed so much nicer than they usually were (at work). It was in a festively decorated private room with a piano and a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts.

Jack and Michele welcomed us like family and we greeted our peers with handshakes and hugs instead of high-fives. The Ohanians took cutesy pictures of the couples (Rex and I posed magnificently and would've probably won if there was some kind of contest) and asked employees to write down their favorite Christmas memory on a piece of paper upon arriving. Furthermore, there was a table of appetizers and an open bar, complete with a bartender who was generous with the whiskey.

After an hour of talking up good cheer, we took our seats. Jack gave a toast and we ate, all amongst our several different tables. Like actual adults. Again, most of the payroll were twentysomething dudes that I usually saw in jeans, so such a formal event seemed almost spiritual in nature.

There were two bottles of wine on each table and a box of See's Candies on each plate. They served steak, ahi tuna and vegetarian pasta. We all conversed much more politely than we did at work, many of us in ties now with our girlfriends present.

After dessert was served, employees would take turns reading aloud a fellow co-worker's name and favorite Christmas memory, and the person would choose a wrapped gift underneath the Christmas tree, while the rest of those at the tables clapped and yelled jokes.

"We wanted to have some sort of a fun little game to get to know each other a little better at the party. We had all the employees complete this statement, 'My favorite Christmas memory is...,'" Michele remembers. "And it was fun to hear what everyone's memory of Christmas is, from family time to actual events and gifts received. Each employee also received a $50 gift card for various things, such as Best Buy, Trader Joe's, iPod music, gas cards, restaurant gift cards, Nordstrom, etc."

It was pretty wild and actually slightly suspicious to me, since I had never had such warmth and respect at a job before. I recently asked Chris what he thought of last year's party. Knowing full-well I was writing this blog, he said, "I felt like the belle of the ball. I felt like first prize and I was being awarded to myself. Keep that. You're going to quote me on that, right? Say that I said that."

Once dessert was finished, we stood around talking in different social circles, holding our gift cards, chocolate and fourth round of the open bar. It was warm, it was friendly, it was Christmas. It was like all of those old holiday songs were written about this party, though there was no fireplace, no snow or sleigh rides and I don't think anybody's eaten chestnuts in anticipation for Christmas since the 19th century. By the end of the evening, Jack was cracking jokes with Rex, and Michele knew Traci's name.

On the way home, eating our boxes of chocolate, the four of us compared the J&M Christmas party to previous work parties we had each attended over the years. This was the first one any of us had attended with an open bar. "Anytime you can get drunk and your boss pays for it, that's a Merry Christmas," Chris says.

An open bar to twentysomethings is like a free candy store to kids.

"We had an exceptional year [of 2007] and we wanted to have a nice celebration of our appreciation of the wonderful people we have [and had] working with us," Michele says. "We do have nice Christmas parties each year. Sometimes, we celebrate in our home and sometimes we celebrate at an outside facility. Each year we try to have something memorable for the employees to show our gratitude."

The Ohanians spent around $6,200 on J&M Promotions' 2007 Christmas party. And that didn't include the bonuses each of us received, either.

However, business has slowed down considerably this year, along with many small businesses across the country. And sadly, it's affected the Christmas party. "[This year] is a little different in that we did not extend an invitation to include employee spouses or guests," says Michele.

But that won't stop the Ohanians from treating their employees to a nice Christmas celebration.

"This year, we are hosting a luncheon for our employees at Mr. Stox," Michele says.

Now, I don't know if you've ever been to Mr. Stox in Orange, but it's the type of place where the valets need valets and the food looks like it's delivered by The Food Network. I've only been there once and it was for my father's 50 birthday. The only restaurant I could imagine nicer is one run by Helen Mirren and James Bond somewhere in Dubai.

So, really, next year when you throw your companny Christmas party...be the employer that wants to do it, wants to show appreciation, wants the pat on the back to last another year. If you give a little extra in December, your employees will give a little extra the other 11 months.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for The Grinch.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for Ebenezer Scrooge.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for Mr. Potter.

Ok, you know what? I can't think of a way to end this whole thing so it doesn't sound campy, cheesy and stupid. Just throw an awesome company Christmas party. Bottom line: be kind for a better bottom line.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part II)

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part II)
By: Jake Kilroy | December 19, 2008 9:51 AM

Two days ago, I wrote a blog about Batman and Ironman.

Or at least the businessmen underneath the armor. Who was the better entrepreneur, Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? Which company was better, Wayne Enterprises or Stark Industries?

I wanted to know. So I asked three of my friends to weigh in on Wednesday.

Now, I'd like to compare their perspective and insight to the reason and logic of an all-star panel of actual entrepreneurs and financial experts.

Alone, they are presidents, founders, professors and directors, but together, they are...The Panel of Truth & Justice!

The Panel of Truth & Justice:
- Patricia Greene, Professor in Entrepreneurship at Babson College
- Christine Moriarty, President of MoneyPeace, Inc.
- Rohan Hall, Founder/CEO of rSitez Inc. and Creator of a social networking site for Ironman
- John "JT" Taddeo, Creator of Zoom Suit, founder of Voodoo Tiki and Co-Owner of restaurant with Adam West
- Michele Harris, President of Smarti Solutions
- Laurent Duperval, President of Duperval Consulting, Inc.
- Eric Papp, President of Generation Y Results-Based Consulting LLC
- Drew Stevens PhD, President of Stevens Consulting Group
- Brian Moriarty, Associate Director for Communications at the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics
- Dayman [absent], Fighter of the Nightman, Champion of the Sun, Master of Karate and Friendship to Everyone

I'm not going wrap up anything at the end of each question, like I did in my last blog. I did not quote everyone for every question. Also, there are more gray areas considered here and more experience to consider. I made sure that each member of The Panel of Truth & Justice was quoted for 5 out of the 7 questions, because The Panel of Truth & Justice also stands for equality. And hope. And dreams. And sometimes, foreign cinema.

To the questiooooooooons!

1. Which company would you prefer to work for?

"Stark Industries. I am a tech guy and Tony has more cool stuff than Bruce. To work for an interesting and innovative company, Stark Industries seems to be the winner. To work with a stable company, Wayne Enterprises wins. It's like Google vs. Microsoft. Both good companies, but going at different speeds." - Rohan

"I'd work for Wayne Enterprises. Bruce Wayne is a hands-off CEO. He trusts his people and lets them do their job. This is shown in the way he treats Lucius Fox." - Eric

"In would entirely depend on what you did in the company and what you wanted from it. WayneCorp is probably the kinder, gentler company. After all, in one of the movies, the press announce that there will be profit-sharing for employees and Bruce Wayne also has the factory manager's family receive full benefits on his 'suicide,' although he is reminded that it is not company policy. The culture at Stark looks quite different with Obadiah yelling at his scientist, although to be fair, he was under a bit of strain at the moment. But, even so, seems like they would be quite different cultures. Bruce seems to respect people in general. Tony, not so much. So for where to work, I'd go with Bruce." - Patricia

"Based upon the end of the Ironman film, it looks like Tony might be getting into the energy business, but in the short term, the bulk of Stark International's incoming $21 billion a year is clearly attributed to weapons sales. The same thing day in and day out can get awfully monotonous for a high impact executive. I hate cash cows. Give me start-ups, launch phases and a board so far at their wits' end that they're willing to stay out of my way and 'rubber stamp' what a sacred cow would consider unbelieveable. At Wayne Enterprises, with her hundreds of sectors across a dozen industries, I'd find enough problematic, underperforming and in need of revamping companies and divisions to keep me challenged and busy for a lifetime." - JT

2. Who would you rather have as your business partners?

"Being partners with Bruce and his widely horizontally integrated Wayne Enterprises would offer an unprecedented degree of control and synergy that would allow business and marketing plans to be implemented swift and powerfully." - JT

"Bruce Wayne. With Tony Stark, it's all about Tony. I feel I would constantly be in a battle with him and I'm not sure he's open to listening. Bruce Wayne, while broody and moody, you can reason with. He'll listen and won't do the opposite, just to do the opposite. I wouldn't like him as a friend though, because emotionally, it would be too draining." - Laurent

"Definitely Bruce Wayne. He was a stronger, more stable personality and maintained control of his company, filled with solid, trustworthy businessmen. Tony Stark was a tempermental and instable CEO." - Michele

"I would prefer to work with Tony. I like his energy and drive, as well as his refusal to quit. Tony works business from the gut and I like that, as it resembles my persona." - Drew

"I'd partner with Bruce Wayne. I think he would be easier to get along with than Tony. Tony would be overbearing and would want everything done his way. He is a one man band. Bruce believes in partnerships. This is evident with him and Alfrd." - Eric

"As an inventor, Stark is much more of a rock star than Wayne. Despite, Stark's appeal, Wayne would be a better business partner. Stark has lost his company a number of times, often due to his own foibles, such as his alcoholism. Wayne is more of a wise enabler who brings out the best in others." - Brian

"Working with Tony, pre-life-altering experience, would always be exciting, but you know you'd take a royal amount of abuse. Partnering with Bruce would most likely be milder as he hides in his public persona. He keeps his widler side for Batman. While pursuing risk is only an entrepreneurial stereotype, Tony's risk-taking is evident in both os his personas, while Bruce saves his for Batman. On this one, I'd go with Tony." - Patricia

"Bruce as a partner would be fabulous. He is not just the son of an entrepreneur, he is one in his own right. He is a hard worker and a gentleman, both qualitites in a respected business partner. Also, Bruce is more appealing because he is better looking." - Christine

"Wayne, because the Wayne businesses seems to be more diversified in various industries and are run more smoothly. There is Wayne Tech for alien technologies, Wayne Biotech for healthcare, Wayne Foods, Wayne Shipping, Wayne Steel, Wayne Aerospace, Wayne Chemicals, etc. WayneCorp has been around since the 17th Century and is well-managed, so being a business partner with Bruce Wayne is not such a bad deal. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is like a mad genius. Very exciting highs and very fast lows." - Rohan

3. Who is the most grounded to his entrepreneurial roots?

"Neither are founders, but both are builders. Tony is the most evident inventor and prior to his conversion, explicitly true to the roots of his company. Bruce seems less about the business and more about how he uses his wealth to help. And, depending upon which Batman it is, and I'm partial to the Michael Keaton version, to be a humanitarian, hosting seriously great charity events that are then usually robbed. For this one, I'm with Bruce." - Patricia

"The Wayne Family Foundations are an important part of Bruce Wayne entrepreneurial activities. The soup kitchens and other organizations they fund keep them in contact with people who are disadvantaged and ill, the very people some of his company's divisions are meant to serve. This helps keep his firm grounded in a moral purpose." - Brian

"Tony Stark was more grounded to his entrepreneurial roots. He created his ultimate technology product through his own ingenuity from practically nothing. He creatred Iron Man as a product extension from defense technology he was already selling. The product created competition in the market, which forced him to make product improvements. This led to a better product, landed him government contracts and increased Stark Industries' market share." - Michele

"The typical entrepreneur will have his hand in everythign and is constantly pushing in unknown and new directions. Tony Stark does that with the constant reinvention of his company. From munitions to consulting to other endeavors, he adapts, changes quickly and shows remarkable resiliency." - Laurent

"When you get right down to it, Tony is 51% Steve Wozniak and only 49% Steve Jobs, while Bruce is 100% Bill Gates, circa 1990. He takes no prisoners, and if there's even a chance you'll be a worthy competitor tomorrow, he buys you and Netscape out today. So, based upon the 'comic book' version of business, finance and entrepreneurship, most of the time written by guys that have exactly zero experience in these disciplines and don't have 20 bucks in their pocket, Bruce is far more entrepreneurial." - JT

4. Who had a better strategy for building up his company?

"Bruce Wayne had a better strategy for building his company. He had the vision and foresight to get involved in ground-breaking areas and new markets with significant growth opportunities, including healthcare, ecological foods and alternative fuels. He diversified his risk." - Michele

"Bruce, I think, exemplifies the typical strategist. He is conservative and calculating, taking the time to think issues through." - Drew

"Wayne spun out new subsidaries and kept the company from getting static." - Christine

5. Who made the most of his resources?

"Wayne is unusual in his success with an inherited business. Most small businesses do not make it to the third generation due to the second generation's issues with everything from mismanagment to taxes. I believe Wayne made the most of his resources because he did not just feel entitled to his inheritance. He worked to make it better." - Christine

"Wayne was orphaned at eight years old when the Waynes were murdered, whereas Stark's parents passed away in an accident after he had already graduated summa cum laude from MIT. A rough start for both young men, but Wayne's rise is a bit more impressive, given his greater vulnerability. That he was able to not only learn to trust others, but to foster trust among divisions of a large multi-national conglomerate is very impressive." - Brian

"Tony is definitely the soloist. Bruce, from Alfred to Commissioner Gordon, always knew where to ask and receive resources." - Drew

"Both of them had great parents that handed them great companies. Wayne continued the tradition or building and expanding the company while Stark eventually drank himself to silliness and destroyed his legacy." - Rohan

"Stark Industries would probably be much larger had it not gone through successive bankruptcies and resurgences. In that manner, we can say that Wayne Enterprises made better use of their human resources. Stark Industries' reoccurring problems were mainly due to human failure. Tony Stark's inability to control his drinking and surround himself with trustworthy advisors cost him dearly. CEOs and entrepreneurs are only as good as the people that surround them. CEOs need to surround themelves with people who are competent in their field, regardless of whether they agree with them or not. CEOs must respect these advisors' opinions and they must listen. Otherwiser, it cuases unnecessary friction, which can later cause the types of issues Stark had to deal with." - Laurent

6. Who is the better CEO?

"Bruce Wayne." - Rohan

"Bruce Wayne." - Michele

"I pick Tony. I admire his energy and love for innovation and forward-thinking. In our present society where items and issues appear to have a shelf life of six months or less, Tony is more malleable and quick to change. He is also proactive where Bruce is reactive." - Drew

"Tony Stark." - Laurent

"Tony Stark. He is more business savvy." - Eric

"I think Wayne is the better CEO." - Brian

"Bruce Wayne emulates the successful entrepreneur in his life by having passion for what he does, surrounding himself with good people, using technology to his advantage, having a bigger vision than the day to day business operations or just making money, having outside interests, albeit law enforcement, that gives him an outlet beyond work, and overall, he has a balanced approach to life and stays in physically good shape as well as mentally." - Christine

"Bruce, either himself or by some proxy, manages to do what many CEOs of huge organizations miss. He manages to keep everyone informed and educated on what is happening company wide to create a synergy between dvisions resulting in systems, products and breakthroughts that would slip by many huge conglomerates. How many divisions alone allow him to be Batman? That's an unbelieveable level of inter-corporate communication." - JT

"If my goal as to 'better CEO' was strictly financial return to stockholders, I'd go with Tony." - Patricia

7. Which is the better company?

"As to 'better company,' I'll define that more broadley and go with Bruce." - Patricia

"Wayne Enterprises." - Rohan

"Wayne Enterprises." - Michele

"Wayne Enterprises." - Laurent

"Wayne Enterprises. They are more diverse." - Eric

"Stark Industries." - Drew

"I would need to see the financials to best judge the overall company. That would be objective. Otherwise, I would lean toward my favorite." - Christine

"Wayne Enterprises is deepy diversified, even including pharmaceuticals and healthcare, which are fairly recession-proof. Wayne is better suited to weather the coming financial maelstrom. According to the list of Forbes 25 Largest Fiction Companies, Wayne Enterprises has sales in excess of $31 billion, compared to Stark Industries' $20.3 billion. However, Tony does it for the most part in one industry, where he appears to be an oligopoly, while Wayne Enterprises is spread across the business map like icing on a Yellow Pages. Could you even imagine the 'W' section of the Gotham Yellow Pages? Wayne, Wayne, Wayne...sheesh!" - JT

"Wayne Enterprises is the better company. Forbes seems to agree." - Brian

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part I)

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part I)
By: Jake Kilroy | December 17, 2008 1:19 PM

Batman and Ironman both saw some wild profits for their name this year, but nobody thinks to ask them for business advice.

And it's a damn shame.

When Batman has The Joker by his purple collars, nobody wonders about his employees' benefit plan.

And when Ironman is wrecking hell on MODOK, nobody asks, "What kind of expansion do you think his company sees? How are they doing in today's global market?"

But that doesn't mean that Batman and Ironman aren't businessmen underneath their suits. Hell no. In fact, the actual men, Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, are two of the world's most famous business figureheads.

I think we should consider them to be two promising entrepreneurs. Though both initially inherited their companies from their fathers, they have taken their companies to new heights with greater goods. And I actually spent some time this summer discussing the matter.

Nearly every Sunday night this past summer, I would sit around a local Irish pub with three friends and debate the magnificent logistics of nonsense. For a solid month, we argued about being able to fight 100 kindergarteners (and I still say you can't do it).

Meanwhile, in these discussions, no matter how wild or ridiculous, the four of us would consider strategy, ethics and plausibility, while using an array of school subjects and real world applications. We took nonsense rather seriously.

And we love superheroes. So, naturally, it was only a matter of time before we argued the better entrepreneur and better company between Bruce Wayne (and Wayne Enterprises) and Tony Stark (and Stark Industries).

Batman and Ironman came up quite a bit this year especially because of The Dark Knight and Ironman. And of course, business came up, since, as "adults," we can now observe a larger portrait of either superhero.

I decided to finally have my three friends (James, Keith and Zuhair) provide some perspective as to what they thought of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark as businessmen, company figureheads and, most importantly, entrepreneurs.

Here's what they said...

1. Where would you prefer to work?

"I'd rather work for a company that has more facets than just military technology, as diverse as that may be, and doesn't carry the whole 'creating war machines' stigma with it." - Keith

"I think it would be fascinating to be able to jump from department to department. It would almost be like being able to switch careers while staying on the same health insurance plan. Want to move from ship building to cosmetics but don't want to worry about moving your 401K? Just get a job at Wayne Enterprises." - Zuhair

"Other than making weapons, I really don't know what else Stark Industries does. In the movie, it looks like they have some kind of electrical gravity thing that scares and confuses me. I'd rather work at Wayne Enterprises where I can focus on making the world a better place with my ability to surf the web." - James

WINNER: Wayne, 3-0. The company can diversify. Sure, your business may have one hell of a start, but if you're not adapting or introducing anything new, there's a stale taste left in the consumer's mouth. Diversity is the key to progress and expansion. A great idea is a great start, but it might not be a great end.

2. Who would be a better business partner?

"Bruce Wayne is a playboy. He likes to sleep all day and party all night. Tony Stark knows what he and his company has to do, day in and day out: fight terrorism." - James

"If I wanted to go with a smart, responsible and creative partner who I knew for certain was also a superhero, well, I'd have to go with Mr. Stark. If, on the other hand, I wanted to take a serious risk, potentially losing lots of money, but at the same time getting to hang out with a plethora of super-hotties and riding around in the corporate Lamborghini, I'd have to partner up with good ol' Brucey." - Zuhair

"While both are unarguably ambitious and successful, I feel Stark is more profit-driven. Wayne inherited a giant fortune and an already successful business, with which he can comfortably sit back and manage, interjecting only when he needs some new gear. Stark inherited his father's company and made it wildly profitable. Not to say Wayne Enterprises hasn't grown over the years, but I think Stark would be more growth-minded." - Keith

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. He has his hands in everything. He's an extensively active CEO. And nobody wants a business partner to rake up the profits if he's not putting in the effort. If ever entering into a business partnership, make sure your partner is going to work as hard as you are. Your partner may be a great person, but nobody likes doing business with an angel who slacks off.

3. Who is more grounded to their entrepreneurial roots?

"Tony Stark is more grounded to his entrepreneurial roots. His company is his baby and he treats it that way. Wayne treats his company like his personal toolbox and leaves the day-to-day to Lucius Fox." - James

"Stark took his father's company and made himself the poster child for over-ambition and mind-blowing success. He strikes me as the kind of guy who you could lock in a room for a week with pen and paper and he would come out with a way to make some serious profits. Tony Stark is the proverbial 'MacGyver Entrepreneur,' if you will." - Keith

"I feel like I don't even have to explain the reasoning behind this one, so I'm just going to flat out say it: Tony Stark." - Zuhair

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. It goes back to dirty hands. Who has more of himself invested in his business? What company would you trust more: the one where the founder isn't sure what's going on or the one where the entrepreneur knows every single movement? It's a difficult balance between micromanaging and macromanaging, but you better know what's going on with your company.

4. Who had a better strategy for building up his company?

"While I don't know the answer to this question, I do know that in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne has a great strategy for keeping hold on his company." - Zuhair

"Wayne, knowing right from the start of taking over the company that he was going to be a vigilante, was far more focused on his personal emotional goals, even to the point of appointing someone else as the CEO to be able to spend more time pursuing them. Stark didn't have this chip on his shoulder and was able to parlay his skills and knowledge into an extremely profitable living." - Keith

"Wayne hired a capable CEO, Lucius Fox, who can run the business while he fights crime. That is just irresponsible. Sure, he's out there jumping rooftops, wrestling Catwoman and speeding around in his fancy Batmobile, but what's going to happen when his employees strike or gas goes up to $80 a barrel? He's not going to fight OPEC. Stark, on the other hand, wakes up every morning knowing what his company is doing, where it's going and that he can use for the greater good of his company and the world. Plus he can fly. Batman can't fly." - James

WINNER: Stark, 2 to 1. Stark took some wrong steps with the ownership of his company, but Wayne letting someone else run his company shows a lack of interest. He's certainly capable of running a company, but his main interests lay elsewhere. An entrepreneur will always be trusted more if he or she is still running their company. Taking a step down is taking trust a notch down. Companies are more trusted when an entrepreneur's main interest is being an entrepreneur. Show an interest in your work and others will too.

5. Who made the most of their resources?

"Both created their personas and indeed much of their abilities to fight crime using all the resources that their companies afforded them. The main difference between the two is that Bruce Wayne used his money to go around the world and learn the skills of being a warrior from the best. He learned how to fight. He learned how to survive. He learned how to be like his enemy so that he could defeat his enemy. Stark never had to learn these things because he was able to build a suit that turns him into, well, Iron Man. You take that suit off and you're just left with Tony Stark. You take Batman's mask off and you've still got Batman." - Zuhair

"Stark was financially successful through every time period in his life, including his college days when he was an engineering prodigy. Wayne was more occupied with gymnastics and fitness at that age than he was with number crunching, deadlines and budgets. Not to say that Wayne was lacking in the smarts department. It's really just a matter of motivation. Stark was more motivated at a young age to be financially successful and, as a result, made more of himself, with less, at a younger age. That speaks volumes." - Keith

"Wayne used his company's ability to produce weapons-grade technology to fight crime while also implementing new technology into Gotham City. Stark just builds missiles and new buttplates for his suit." - James

WINNER: Wayne, 2 to 1. Stark had less and built his company and himself up, but he stayed on the same path. Wayne Enterprises is always so ready to adapt because Bruce Wayne knows how to adapt. If you, as a person, can't adapt, how will your company change to a bigger picture? Always be ready to hear out new ideas, new themes, new products. Never be afraid to be new.

6. Who is an overall better CEO?

"Better CEO is Stark. He's hands-on, knows which direction he wants to take his company and works closely with his associates." - James

"Tony Stark. Everyone knows that Bruce Wayne is mostly just a figurehead. While he indeed runs the company, he really does view it as his own personal piggy bank. But instead of being filled with change, it's chock-full of sweet crime-fighting stuff." - Zuhair

"Stark. Bruce Wayne is the majority stock holder but doesn't even hold the CEO position of his own company. If it were only a matter of experience and Wayne stepped down from the CEO position because he believed Fox would be a better officer, that's one thing. But I feel he gave the position up solely so that he could spend more time on pursuing his emotional goals as an orphan. While admirable, I can't say that makes him a good leader." - Keith

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. It comes down to being hands-on and knowledgeable of everything your company is and does. An entrepreneur's favorite hobby should be entrerpeneurism. Appreciating your own work is the first step to gaining the appreciation of others.

7. Which is the overall better company?

"Wayne Enterprises. Probably more ethical and global in reach." - James

"Wayne Enterprises. They're seriously just better at making, selling and developing anything than anyone else in the whole DC universe." - Zuhair

"Wayne Enterprises. The company is of conglomerate proportions and makes damn near every product under the sun. Maybe that's why Forbes estimates that Wayne Enterprises makes $10 billion more a year than Stark Industries does." - Keith

WINNER: Wayne, 3-0. The company is so diverse, everything from Wayne Chemicals to Wayne Entertainment. They do everything. They are able to adapt, progress and are much more active in charity work. Diversity has made them successful and likeable.

Now, this was the insight of three non-businessmen. Part II will include answers from experts and entrepreneurs. Come back for Friday's blog to see how different the perspective of a good leader and a good company is between businessmen/businesswomen and my three friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House? Does He Drink Coffee?

Is There a Doctor in the House? Does He Drink Coffee?
By: Jake Kilroy | December 12, 2008 10:20 AM

I'm not a doctor.

"What? Come on, Jake, but you know the remedy for so many things...snake bites...marketing campaigns...zombie apocalypses..."

OK, OK, so I am a doctor of sorts. Actually, let's just say I am a doctor. Let's say I just saved your life (as you were infected with the virus from the second season of Heroes). It took me quite a few hours, an andidote and several rolls of Playdoh to keep you breathing on my dining room table. I'm sleepy. The day has worn on me.

Enter Mike Adams, founder of Java Medic Coffee and paramedic for 15 years.

Java Medic Coffee is a coffee gift company aimed at the medical field. The company sells coffee with labels that resemble a doctor's prescription pad and caffeine levels categorized by EKGs. For example, a flat line means the coffee is decaffeinated.

"I got the idea about three years ago sitting in the cafeteria watching people hover around the coffee urns," recalls Adams, 38. "I remember saying, 'If I had a dime for every cup of coffeee a doctor or nurse drank, I'd make more money than saving lives!"

Adams teamed up with a private coffee roaster who had the best coffee Adams had ever tasted and found a web designer who understood what JavaMedic.com should be. And so, Adams started up Java Medic Coffee.

"I primarily used savings to fund the business, and when the inventory increased, I needed to get funding through a home equity loan. The process was involved. I actually went to SCORE, read tons of books about starting a business and niche businesses, and I met with many business professionals who had a better understanding of the term 'spend money to make money.'"

For now, JavaMedic.com has only been able to be a part-time venture. "I still work as a full-time helicopter paramedic," Adams says. "However, my schedule is unique, as I work a 24-hour shift and a 12-hour shift. So, essentially, I work two days a week. This gives me the rest of the week to focus on JavaMedic.com."

But what Adams has is not only a good niche, but he's his own target demographic. He doesn't just understand his audience, he's a part of it. He knows the balance of adrenaline vs. caffeine.

"There is no better feeling in the world than helping someone or saving a life. It is an indescribable rush when you make a difference in others' lives. I love being a paramedic," says Adams. "As an entrepreneur, the rush is when you see your creativity come to life. It is an unbelieveable rush to see others use and enjoy the products you create and market."

Adams would like to take on the new rush for a few years though. "My ultimate goal is to be a full-time coffee entrepreneur and have Java Medic in hospitals, doctors' offices and firestations across the United States."

Since Adams can clearly handle the stress of being a paramedic and an entrepreneur, I thought he would have no problem answering...Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Questions!

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #1: A few years ago, my brother and I took my grandmother to the emergency room once when she hurt her ankle (and has since vowed to crawl to the hospital before letting us take her if there is a next time). I talked to this rather attractive nurse (attempting to score cute points), but it wasn't enough. How can Java Medic Coffee help me win over this nurse next time I'm visiting St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange?

MA: Giving this nurse a pound of Java Medic Coffee would indicate to her you are a man who knows his grind. One cup of Trauma Mama Coffee and she'll be aroused for the entire nightshift.

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #2: I'm actually a pretty big fan of Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy. Let's say both shows are real (in which case, I would of course be actively dating Dr. Addison Montgomery right now). Which character from either show would benefit most and/or be most thankful for a gift basket from Java Medic Coffee? Why?

MA: Carla on Scrubs would most benefit from a Bed Pan Gift Basket, because we all have crappy days, because she consistently covers up the interns' mistakes and she loves coffee!

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #3: Let's say I'm a doctor (a combination of Elliott Gould in M*A*S*H and Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out The Dead), so I'm a little bit unorthodox and sleep-deprived. My peers think I'm a bit of an oddball. What specific items in a gift basket from Java Medic Coffee would help me charm them?

MA: Odd and on the edge, ready for action is a description of many health care providers. A travel mug represents energy to paramedics and having a Java Medic Carabineer travel mug would show your fellow co-worker not only do you provide the best care, you drink premium Java Medic Coffee.

So, next time you see a paramedic in action, you can wonder if he has good coffee stashed next to the gauze.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meet the Spirit of Young Entrepreneurism...

Meet the Spirit of Young Entrepreneurism...
By: Jake Kilroy | December 5, 2008 1:48 PM

Andrew Galasetti is a lot like me.

Well, the more successful version anyway.

During my first semester of college, I started a website called Zaftig. I used a slow FTP server and a mildly senseless homepage-building program my parents bought me for Christmas when I was 16. I wanted Zaftig to be a community blogzine (before "blog" was in every sentence). My friends wrote articles, fiction and poetry for the site. I updated it with political links and my brother, at some point, drew a series called "The War of 2011: Vegetarians vs. Carnivores." It was a fun deal, but I became busy with college, postponed the site, and lost the passwords and software.

I haven't updated it since my freshman year of college, but you can still see it at www.geocities.com/zaftig_anarchy

And now that you've seen it, let's face it: I was ahead of my time.

Anyway, Andrew Galasetti contacted me some weeks ago with a pitch. I thought I was dealing with your average serial entrepreneur in his mid-40s, several companies under his belt, so self-aware and willing to admit past mistakes and lessons learned from them.

"I've attempted to launch so many ventures over the years, probably more than five. The only endeavors that became remotely successful were a search engine and bottled water company. The others failed because I was interested in getting rich quick and I wasn't fulfilling a need or servicing others," Galasetti says.

Here's the thing: Galasetti's only 20.

Based in Spring Lakes, N.J., Galasetti is the founder and editor of Lyved, a blogzine that covers business, politics, the environment, personal growth, etc. Lyved.com has already been featured on Esquire.com and Portfolio.com

I was impressed.

"How are you able to do this at 20?" I asked, only a couple years older than he.

"Age is just a number. I think the circumstances I've had to face forced me to grow up quickly and take control of my own destiny," Galasetti told me.

I was stunned. I mean, Galasetti's not the first college student entrepreneur, but his kind only comes around sporadically. A lot of college students have a good sense of philosophy, but I rarely knew them to be wide-eyed entrepreneurs. He was taking the great wide open (thank you, Professor Tom Petty) and applying it to real-world diligence. I was fascinated with Galasetti.

However, I found myself growing more and more disappointed in college student Jake Kilroy of freshman and sophomore year. Why hadn't I followed through with Zaftig? Why had it been years since I was so wildly optimistic? I wondered.

And the more I wondered, the more I began having grand delusions of Zaftig paving the way for ventures like Lyved, as if Galasetti owed me as some kind of mentor figure. I didn't and he doesn't. I grew mildly resentful. And I knew he had heard it before.

"Usually criticism comes from internet trolls, so I just brush off what they have to say. Other times, the criticism comes from fellow bloggers. I was recently told that I knew 'nothing about blogging and even less about life,'" says Galasetti. "Comments like these make you think for a moment, but then you have to look at where they come from. Usually it's out of jealousy or frustration. So I don't really take them personally."

Damn. Galasetti's good, I thought.

Why wasn't I as determined at his age? Why didn't I have as much faith in my ideas and schemes? Well, maybe that's all he's doing, I told myself. Maybe he's not working or going to school. Maybe Lyved is just a full-time hobby, I considered.

"Right now, I'm both a full-time college student and I work at a restaurant part-time to pay the bills," says Galasetti. "I have my plate full, but I'm having a lot of fun running this site and changing the world. If I continue to work hard and provide great content, without a doubt Lyved will be a huge source of income."

Ok, the kid's invincible.

And once again, he reminded me of myself, as I worked at a restaurant for nearly five years with "bigger dreams." Growing more anxious about Galasetti succeeding where I quit, I slipped into rapid fire questions/accusations:

- If I wanted to start Zaftig up again, how could I turn Zaftig into Lyved?
AG: Firstly, I would definitely move to your own domain instead of Geocities. Then I would find a simple, clean design and create a professional logo. The site needs to be more visually pleasing, so I would include images with each post and change the black background. I would also not look to turn it into another Lyved. Think about being unique.

- Do you think that my Zaftig appears so "modest" in comparison to your Lyved because it was harder to make a website five years ago?
AG: I don't think it was harder to create websites five years ago. I just think the site needed more focus and it should have seized the power of open source blogging software and social media, which was just emerging at that time. But it's never too late to restart. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.

- What do you think are the top three differences between Zaftig and Lyved?
AG: One, site design; Two, domain--it needs something short and hosted on your own server; Three, topic--Zaftig's seems to be very varied.

- Straight up: Do you think that your Lyved is better than my Zaftig?
AG: As of right now, Lyved may seem better, but with refocus, a new design and a lot of hard work, your site could surpass Lyved. It also depends on readers. Some might find your site to be better. But the web is so big that there's always room at the top for multiple sites.

- Would you let me write for Lyved if I provide Zaftig, your new rival, as a reference?
AG: Sure, as long as you aren't bashing Lyved, I welcome competition.

I shook my head. I had to hand it to Galasetti. I mean, who wouldn't? Come on, the guy's exceptionally nice, he's done everything right and his advice is solid. And he generally wants to help anyone he can.

Now recalling more and more memories of what I did at 20, I find myself increasingly invested in Galasetti. My friends and I were starting fake bike gangs when we were 20 while Galasetti already has sight beyond the site.

"The future for me as an entrepreneur is all about others. Lyved and every other endeavor I launch for the rest of my life will benefit others more than it will benefit myself," says Galasetti. "I plan on donating a lot of the profits from all of them to help social causes, other social entrepreneurs, the hungry and the homeless, and anyone else that is in need."

Again, Galasetti's 20, the age where my biggest obstacles were scoring beeer as a minor and lying to girls about where I worked (NASA, the FBI, the CIA, NATO, all the alphabet agencies launched during FDR's "New Deal," as I was a big fan of acronyms back then). But Galasetti already has perspective.

"When I was younger, being an entrepreneur meant that I would be able to get and buy anything I wanted: mansions, Lamborghinis, boats...to go to others, so that they can obtain basic needs like food and clean water," recalls Galasetti. "When I grow old, I'd much rather leave a legacy than a Lamborghini."

Now, I'm proud of the guy, as if he's proving that my generation has something to offer already.

Furthermore, Galasetti's the best sell for entrepreneurship. He's failed before but any doubt has been replaced with confidence. He's learned from any small mistakes he's made along the way (as a teenager). He works part-time, he goes to school full-time and he still has time to run a popular blogzine with contributing writers. He wants to change the world, he considers every opportunity as a possibility and he's so polite that I want to introduce him to my sister (whose interests include art, sports and Steve Martin, by the way...just so Galasetti knows).

Sure, Galasetti's young, but when has an entrepreneur ever succeeded as a cynic?

And that's where I went wrong.

So, good luck, Andrew Galasetti (and Andrew Galasettis elsewhere)!