Author Archive

Yikes, you mean I still have a blog?

March 8, 2013

OK.  Really, I’ve known this thing was still out there and that I’ve been pretending it doesn’t matter.

My son, who worked for Many Hats Creative briefly a few years ago told me (as many people do who provide unsolicited advice on how to market using a blog) that never posting on your blog is worse than not having one because people think, “Well, that guy doesn’t care!”

It’s not true–I do care . . . both about my business (a lot) and this blog (a little), so I’ll try to catch up . . .

So this is supposed to be an eclectic collection of thoughts about all of the “hats” of Many Hats Creative (the business) and me (Magsy’s grandpa and the wearer of “Many Hats”).

Since my last post, Magsy has added 4 or so years . . . she’s now a nine-year-old, third-grader, in New York (Street) School–Langdon Hughes’ alma mater, and the highest rated elementary school in Lawrence, Kansas.  She’s an amazing person (my favorite person ever), with a totally nutty personality.  Instead of trying to describe the indescribable, I’ll just relate my favorite memories of her over her lifetime . . .

When Mags was just a tiny baby, she had a really hard time relaxing and going to sleep (she lived at our house with her mother for her first year, then with her parents in Stouffer Place married student housing on the KU Campus) until her parents figured out that she’d go right to sleep when they play music for her . . . specifically Miles Davis.  How many tiny tots do you know that listen to Miles Davis?

Over the past couple of years she’s taught herself to roller skate by constantly wearing skates in the house when she’s at her grandparents (our) house.  We recently walked down to the local skate park and she impressed all the skater boys with her abilities (which she didn’t even know she had).  The neighbor boy rolled up to me and asked, “Are you . . . ?”  (Uh-huh.) “Is that?”  (Yes.) “Oh. Wow.” (Skates away.)Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2009


Magsy Defines Unconditional Love

December 13, 2008

On the odd weekday when her Mom sets up an afternoon appointment, I get drafted to pick up Magsy from preschool.

The routine usually includes wandering in and getting glared at suspiciously by the lady at the front desk even though I’ve picked up Mags 100 times  (I learned a long time ago to ignore ladies at front desks and just walk by like you work there and know exactly where you’re going), making a b-line to Magsy’s room, saying “Hi” to the other kids, who always notice me first and collectively announce, “Hey, Marguerite! Your Grandpa (or “Dad”) is here!”  then I usually hang out and do whatever  they’re doing (sit in the reading circle or sing or dance or listen to music) for a bit until Mags notices me and smiles. then we gather whatever take-home stuff (school notes, art/craft work, soiled clothes, etc.), change from slippers to street shoes, get goodbye hugs, then sign out and yell “goodbye!”  to everyone on the way to the car.  The same lady I ignore on the way in usually smiles says a cheery “goodnight, Marguerite” on the way out.

A few weeks ago, Mags’ take home stuff included this colored page . . . 


"That spells 'turkey.'"

"That spells 'turkey.'"

She held it up for me to see and said, “I made this for you.”  Then, pointing at the letters at the top, explained, ” That says, ‘Turkey.'”

After a little pause, I said, “Wow! Thank you, Magsy.  It looks great–I really like the colors you used!”

Then, later, after we drove home, I posted the picture on my fridge along with all the other bits of Magsy-art.


I realized just today, that that little incident probably defines the notion of “unconditional love” better than anything else I’ve experienced. 

Thanks, Magsy!

“Magsy, please don’t stand on Miles Davis”

September 27, 2008

So I put together (actually recreated) the Many Hats Creative music studio and have started teaching. Here’s a photo:

Many Hats Creative Music Studio
The Many Hats Creative Music Studio

Last weekend while moving some of the wall hangings back in to the studio, Mags walked across the posterboard of my huge French Miles Davis poster, prompting the comment and this post. (I’d put the poster on the floor to flatten it out and to try to figure out which wall to put it on.)

When people ask me about being a father or grandfather, I frequently comment that “it’s the only time in your life you get to say certain things . . . like, ‘Green beans don’t belong in your nose’ or to explain things like (actual conversation with Kim, Mags’ Mom), “Well, no, eating poop won’t kill you, but it could make you very sick, and it probably doesn’t taste very good . . . no, I haven’t tried it. I’m not really sure why dogs do that. Dogs do a lot of things that you shouldn’t do.”

Just one of the great joys of being a parent . . .

Unconventional Thinking and DVR Viewing Habits . . .

August 12, 2008

AdAge posted this article lamenting that by making DVR technology widely available, the value of TV advertising would be further eroded, citing the often cited statistic that “85% of DVR owners are currently skipping at least three-quarters of ads.”

I think they (and a lot of others) have it wrong. The DVR is network television’s (and network TV advertisers’) salvation. The only reason network TV still has any audience at all is because of the DVR–the DVR is an effective (if sneaky) way to keep us watching TV ads when we don’t have to. For me, it works like a one-two punch, 1) making network programming watchable again, and 2) sneaking in an ad I actually watch here and there–which is probably just as many as I watched before the DVR . . .

For me (and I bet it’s the same for most viewers) it looks like this:

John’s (very few) hours of TV watching pre-DVR: [Thinking] Is there a movie on a cable channel I don’t have to pay for and is it commercial-free (like TCM or IFC)?


Is there a reeeeaaaallly interesting program on Discovery or History or A&E?


Forget it.

In the days before 128 channel choices (and that’s in DirecTV’s cheap package), and back when there were fewer than 20 minutes or more of commercial content every hour, I might have suffered through the 10 – 15 minutes of ads to watch a sitcom or variety show or some other network program, but it’s just torture for someone like me (who eats, sleeps, and drinks advertising all day, every day).

John’s (still very few) hours of TV watching with-DVR: [Thinking] What’s on that looks interesting and starts in about 30 minutes? Go to channel guide and find out. Go to channel (or just hit record) and go do something until the show comes on (or my scheduled viewing time comes) and push play.

Now here’s the kicker–and what the networks and their analysts aren’t seeing–beside the fact that I’m now in their audience when there’s no way (except during basketball season and the Olympics) that I ever would be otherwise, while I do fast forward through the ads, I also do sometimes end up watching them: 1) if I’ve never seen it; 2) if I find it entertaining or informative; 3) by accident (if I get complacent about fast forwarding, or someone walks in and starts a conversation, etc.).

And really, that’s about how much attention I paid to ads before the advent of the DVR (when I would go get a snack,take a potty break, make a call, etc. when the ads came on).

So, in effect, the DVR is actually buying back network viewers who watch the ads just as much as before.

Should I Try On a Grant Writing Hat?

July 31, 2008

In one of my many former lives, I spent almost 10 years writing government and other types of business proposals for a small environmental services and training company. (Mayhew Environmental Training Associates). So another hat I wear (and look good in) is preparing government and business proposals, from 800 page, multipart ones worth hundreds of thousands, to simple letter proposals. But I’ve never tried writing grants.

Which is a shame since there’s this giant market that’s largely underserved by writers (mostly freelancers out to make a quick buck or people who aren’t very good writers, but have to do something for a living): grant writing.

I get these listings everyday, but I figured 1. I bet the writers low-ball everything like the writers on do; and 2. I know very little about grant writing; so it doesn’t make any sense for me to bid.

Anyhow, so today, somebody posts (actually re-posts because they were so ill-served by the people they’d hired before) this request:

Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
We are a small church in southwest Arkansas preparing to purchase a group home for people with mental retardation. We want to bring this home under a Christian based board of directors and improve living conditions, programs, and open a community based work shop to ser the six men living in the program and others in the comunity.

We have an expected budget range of $800,000 and are in need of a grant writer to write, submit, follow up on, and obtain grants to assit toward the $800,000 goal.

This project has been posted in the past without much success due to serveral factors, but some things we will need is the following: 1. References, 2. Fee Rates or flat fee, 3. projected time, 4. contact information, and 5. follow up.

Unfortunately, we have hired grant writers who have had little follow up with his, little assistance in submission of our proposals, and no return calls. Most of the recent bids we got were figures from $600 to $4,000. When we tried to obtain further information about the fees, we felt sidelined and ignored. Please be prepared to give a detailed billing.

A flat fee would be good and the person needs to keep in mind we are a very small church. However, once the facility is obtained through grants and loans, there will be a substantial Medicaid income that will sponser new grant projects (i.e. the workshop mentioned for example. We will need a grant writer who is prepared to grow from what we feel is a small project to a rather large project.

So that turned on my “oh my gosh, I could help here” meter (plus I could make a living if it pays between $500 and $5000 per grant submission), so I figured, well, damn! How do I get to where I can help? Someone must put on a decent course on grant writing . . . but I bet it’s $2K or $3K and takes a week or two . . .

Then I found this: it’s $425 for 2 days of instruction (which is a steal), and looks very professional:
Grant Writing USA.

So I’m taking the course so I can start bidding on select projects–some projects are just idiotic, but many are churches and philanthropic groups who just don’t have the skills to apply (or know where to look for) a grant.

I think it’s an opportunity for me and a chance to do something more meaningful than make rich people richer (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;~}).

About Mags . . .

July 21, 2008
All About Mags

All About Mags

So, that’s Mags, flying over a WPA lake near Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  We’re actually showing up early for her ballet class on picture day, so while we we’re spinning, the photographer snapped a couple of pix . . . my overactive imagination thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it look cool if she was flying in for a landing over a lake or something?”  Then I rememebered the pictures of the sky over the lake . . . perfect!

 . . . and our relationship is just like that.  She flies right into the middle of whatever’s going on and takes my hand.  “Swing me!”  ;~}

Moving toward meaning

July 21, 2008

Intuitively–and really more as an adaptive tool to compensate for a bad memory–over the years as a writer I’ve made a habit of furiously jotting down as much of everything anyone says in meetings with clients prior to doing creative work. 

I came to call those meetings “Discovery” meetings (from the legal tasks also called “discovery”), but in Creative Discovery, the aim is not to uncover everything there is to know about a business, but to find out very specifically, what makes the business (or product or service) tick, why people buy what they do from them, and what people do and say to help their potentials make the decision.  I take those things, sort of “glorify” them if I can, distill it down so it will fit in an advertisement, buff if up following the client’s direction, the send it off for production.  That’s pretty much what I do for a living in practical terms.

But what’s my core?  What makes me (and eventually my business) “tick?”  What the heck is it that I say that convinces people that they should entrust their marketing messages to me? (It’s amazing how many business people–even in Fortune 500 or 1000 companies–don’t have any or only the vaguest idea, either, of what they do or why anyone should work with them–or worse: I find they often have conflicting ideas–and send mixed messages to their market).

I do have an idea of “what it is I do and why” and will build on it as I go (and have this looney notion–brought on by reading “The E-Myth”–that I can somehow standardize and package that up as a repeatable business).

An interesting parallel example (and much more interesting than the examples Michael Gerber uses in his book) is a maker of saxophone mouthpieces, Theo Wanne.   He apparently makes amazing mouthpieces (for around $700 a pop!), but hiis real goal, though, and he uses it throughout his marketing messages, is that of developing his own and his client’s spiritual well-being–for Theo, it’s about Soul: (check out his blog).

That got me to thinking about where my own internal thing–my soul (or whatever)–is centered . . . I re-read the summary post on my blog (because I thought I said something about it there), and there it was, “helping people.”  Of course that’s too broad and doesn’t say anything about what I do to “help people” . . .  but guess what?  It doesn’t matter what I do, so long as I’m guided by that central motivator–the meaningful part of why I do what I do.

So, I choose to do what I’m good at as a vehicle to help people find what they’re looking for:  When I teach, I begin by asking the (music) student where they’re going and what they want to do with music, in almost the same way that I ask business people what they’re doing and where they want to go with it.  I imagine working as a personal chef in the same way.

So I’m moving away from working to make money or because I feel I must work to pay bills and support a spending habit; instead moving toward sort of the Zen of working . . . my own need to help people, and to perform work centered around helping them get from where they are to where they want to be . . .

Finally Made the Decision . . .

July 16, 2008

Just today, I know I’m better off running my own business than working for someone else.  I thought it was a stop-gap, but am still liking the feeling of truly being my own person, chasing down my own jobs (which I’m billed out through the next month if the last two deals close), etc.  I also like dealing so much more directly with clients than I did the last couple of years as a staff-person.

I’m also reading “The E-Myth Revisited” (a recommendation from by brother, who has a purer enterpreneurial spirit than I do), and I “get it” about how successful businesses set out to (or after faltering, make the strategic decision to) build a business that’s not a cult of personality or based on one person’s unique expertise.  it has to be repeatable, expandable, and documented procedurally well enough so that if I’m Joe Businessman or Investor, I think, “Hey, I could do that.”

So, will be talking about what that means for a fledgling business and one that’s a little more complicated than the pie shop example the author (Micheal E. Gerber) uses throughout the book.

Way Past “Day One”

July 14, 2008

So I think the real reason for having a web-log should be closer to fulfilling the desire to keep an online journal than to just have another marketing tool . . . my hope for this one is that it becomes a story of building a business (and reveals some of the thinking behind all of the effort), as well as a place to try out my thinking (and if I’m lucky, receiving some of your feedback, whoever “you” are) before I put it into practice.

So here we go.

I’ll add more background as I post over the next couple of weeks, but just, “for the record” Many Hats Creative started the day I left a small, Kansas City-based Interactive Marketing and software development company.