Archive for December, 2013

What a serial entrepreneur taught me about Christmas:


Greg Boyle successfully launched 7 start-ups in one of the most gang ridden areas in the United States.

He is also one of my Heroes.

He is the founder of Homeboy Ministries, a series of start-up businesses designed to give former gang members something they are all desperate for:  a job, purpose and a meaningful life.  He wrote a book about it (Tattoos on the Heart) which I found fascinating for several reasons:

  1. He is a Catholic priest and a serial entrepreneur. (What?)
  2. It is likely he does not know what the phrase serial entrepreneur means.
  3. If reading his book does not make you shut up and quit whining about your work life, nothing will.

Why is this story so astonishing? It defies virtually every bit of business wisdom I know.

  1. Instead of  funding outcomes, they fund futures.  They “see in people what they don’t see in themselves”.
  2. Where businesses take calculated risks, they take enormous incalculable risks.
  3. They seek out  and hire the difficult and belligerent.
  4. Money is a tool for recreating people. People are not tools for creating money.


Granted, this is not a for profit business.  But I guess it depends on how you look at profit.  It is recognized as the most successful program for helping people leave gang life; period.  It saves the State of California millions of dollars in incarceration costs annually.  It helps people become productive, self-sufficient taxpaying citizens contributing to the economy.

In a lot of our business analysis we look only at the short-term ROI.  I find it interesting, that in this instance, the ROI is very hard to calculate, not because it is nebulous but because it is so vast. What is the value of a life restored?

If you find yourself in a less than joy filled mood this season look around.  This is just one example of a  “light shining in the darkness”.  Want to really change that mood? Become one of those lights.

Merry Christmas!

Best pitch advice ever: from my 10 year old


When our children were young my wife and I agreed on a strategy: “Answer only the question they ask.”

Q: Where do babies come from?

A: The hospital.

Q: Does Santa Exist?

A: Yes. (Unless there is a follow up question on modes of existence, “zip it”.)

My wife was a lot more successful at this than I was (am).  But it has provided me with some powerful lessons.

We are all big fans of ‘The Far Side’ in our house.  After my son (then 10) asked me a question, and I was way too far down the road with way too much information, he interrupted me with a quote from The Far Side.  He said “Hey Dad… Blah, Blah, Blah, Ginger.”

It was hilarious and quite instructive.

When people ask me what I do, I try to remember Craig Wortmann’s advice: Keep it simple and clear; then shut up. 

Example: “We help X do Y by doing Z”.

If they don’t ask a follow up question remember: “Answer  only the question they ask.”

Holiday Leftovers:


I looked in the fridge and saw the leftovers from Thanksgiving.  As I threw them out it made me think of company newsletters.

  1. They are old
  2. They are taking up space
  3. They stink and might just make people sick.

The newsletter format is outdated, and is usually a mixture of really old news and employee profiles.  The author likely sees this as an extra task that is an obligation and a time suck. Yummy…

Turkey cake

(Yes, that is a cake made from Thanksgiving leftovers. Gotta love that Potato/marshmallow icing! )

Your clients are way too busy to be combing through old news and although I am sure your employees are awesome, nobody really cares to read about them.  If they did, they would follow them on Twitter.

Throw it out.  Be ruthless on the quality of your customer communication.  Better to have no communication than to have your clients thinking this when your newsletter arrives…

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Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

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