Tag Archives: Entrepreneurial Journey

Charlotte

Doing a Charlotte Deep Dive this February

While I’m fortunate that my business often takes me all over the country, every now and then it’s crucial to do a deep dive into my own HQ city, Charlotte, NC. I’ve made a lot of progress with growing my network here, but it’s still far from where I want and need it to be. And I don’t have nearly the client base that I’d like here yet either, and building it is one of my primary objectives for 2018.

Over the next couple weeks (while simultaneously continuing to run the business) I’m going to be back on the local networking grind with a vengeance. Below is the scheduled itinerary with links if you’re interested in joining me. Also, if there’s any events/organizations I’m missing please let me know!

February 7th; 6:00 pm – StartupGrindCLT

February 8th; 7:30 am – Bisnow’s 8th Annual Charlotte State of the Market (Commercial Real Estate)

February 9th; 8:30 am – Monthly BIG Ideas Exchange: Big Data (BIG – Business Innovation Growth)

February 14th; 8:00 am – PitchBreakfast

February 14th; 11:30am – Charlotte Chamber YP’s (CCYPs) Non-Profit Luncheon (Volunteer Matchmaker)

February 16th; 12:00 pm – Skookum TechTalks: Blockchain Technology: Uses Beyond Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

February 22nd; 4:00 pm – NextGen Charlotte Business Journal – 2018 Money Management

If you’re in Charlotte, and planning to attend one of these, I hope to see you and to get to know you and your business better!

Judging the YLAI Pitch Competition: A New Entrepreneurial Perspective

Last week I was fortunate enough to be 1 of 6 judges from the Charlotte entrepreneurial community to take part in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Charlotte Pitch Competition. In partnership with International House Charlotte, Meridian International Center, and the U.S. Department of State they’ve been hosting 9 incredible startup entrepreneurs (aka “Fellows”) from across Latin America. They started their trip in Atlanta before heading to Charlotte, and are currently finishing up in Washington D.C. before heading home.

We were asked to simply listen to each of them tell us about their business. They had 3 minutes to do so along with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. We were given a scoring rubric with which to judge them on, and we were also given 3 minutes for follow up questions. After they all went the judges deliberated and had to select the top 3. Afterwards the judges were given a certificate with “The title of Citizen Diplomat, in recognition of outstanding efforts in fostering cross cultural understanding.” Very cool, but the real takeaway was the education I received from this experience.

The creativity and resourcefulness shown by each of them was profoundly inspiring from an entrepreneurial perspective. The fact that they are building businesses with far less resources and infrastructure than we have here was mind blowing. Not to mention, their target markets aren’t as neatly defined or as accessible as they here either. Yet these people relentlessly march on, finding unique ways to monetize and scale their businesses despite the odds being against them. But what stuck out the most was their sheer passion for doing whatever they can to make their communities and countries a better place to live and work.

They knew all the buzz words and latest business trends, what business models work well, how to leverage social media and the internet to promote their business, etc. Even though each country has differing laws, tax structures, governmental support, and macroeconomic circumstances they all seemed to know how to play the game well in their respective countries too. It reinforced the fact that there is simply no excuse or justification for not doing whatever it takes to succeed in business.

I don’t mean to imply that these things are negative, on the contrary I think it presents a tremendous opportunity. The potential for further global growth is seemingly infinite, and the entrepreneurial spirit is spreading to every corner of the globe.

In case you’re interested in looking any of these entrepreneurial people and their businesses up (they would greatly appreciate any support, even if it’s simply offering feedback to help them improve) I’ve provided a list below.

The Potential ROI of Social Media

By now I shouldn’t have to articulate the value or justify the need for a social media strategy for your business. There are literally thousands of articles, white papers, and studies that have been written and distributed highlighting facts, figures, and metrics galore. Rather, I wanted to share a couple recent social media success stories and provide some tangible action steps for you to implement because that’s what this blog is for. As I’ve mentioned publicly, the new mantra is: Add Value.

LinkedIn Is Still King (depending on your target market)

I get referrals on LinkedIn all day long, but then again, I’m fairly active and present on the network. It’s my obvious preference with regard to the long game of business development. Every time I meet a new person at a networking event, or get introduced to a prospect or potential COI (center of influence/referral source) via email my first follow up step is to connect with them here. It just works and compounds.

Another tip: if someone asks you to introduce them to someone you’re connected to: do it. What do you have to lose? Sure, there are exceptions to this, but if you’re not comfortable with that then why are you connected to them in the first place? Even if I don’t know them all that well, I just disclose that fact in the intro and let that person make the call to follow up or not. This simple act often leads them to reciprocate when needed, and is a good reason to reach out to the other person too. Try this: “Hey I know it’s been a while, but so and so reached out to me and asked if I’d make an introduction, figured was a great reason for me to follow up with you too.” The answer is always no if you never ask.

However, you can’t neglect the others such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Sometimes you spend days and weeks shouting into an empty vacuum of time and space. The social media vortex swallows your content and garners little more than a like or two, and maybe a share or a re-tweet. You have great content but no one is really seeing it, so you get discouraged and post less frequently or stop altogether. BAD MOVE.

Now these results aren’t typical, but in addition to managing my company’s social media accounts along with a few clients, I also do it for some of my joint ventures. Recently, a life-altering event occurred when we received an inbound lead worth well into the high six/low seven figures. And this deal came in from a single TWITTER post. No joke, you read that right. Even if I never get another lead from Twitter again, that one tweet will pay for a life time of tweeting. The point is keep sharing, and sharing, and sharing.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Make sure to be very specific about what you’re looking for. When asking for a general referral, it’s often answered with crickets. It’s not that people don’t WANT to help, rather they just don’t know exactly how, or even what you have to offer. If they have to think too hard about it, you’ve lost them. Therefore, its best to keep things simple and specific.

For example, I recently posted that I was looking for a referral to accounting firms with annual revenue over $5 million. I have an abundance of experience in that space and currently have a gap in my client portfolio. Literally within 3(!) minutes of posting it on Facebook I was introduced to a dream prospect that would be a perfect fit for my business. And 10 minutes after that I was introduced to another one equally as good.

Action Keeps You Top of Mind

Even if you do nothing but share existing content from sources such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and others that regularly post timely business-oriented content online you could still see ROI. Take it a step further and curate it with a nugget of commentary and context and over time that’s enough to garner goodwill and establish yourself as a thought leader and resource. This really adds up and pays dividends over the long-haul. People in your network will appreciate your contribution to enhancing their education along the journey.

As always, if there’s anything I can ever do to assist you along your social media journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And don’t forget to check out the WIMS Blast Off Bundle: 10Kto10X if you haven’t yet.

WIMS: WHO is Mike Simmons? Part 1

“Look at what we did. Came a long way from dirty ghetto kids.” Lupe Fiasco

Not many people know much about my background. Aside from a few exceptions, it’s something I’ve mostly kept private. But since the purpose of creating The WIMS Guide is to sporadically document the entrepreneurial journey I’ve been feeling compelled to share the origins of my story lately.

It’s something I’ve thought about doing for years now, but have hesitated due to a combination of self-consciousness and fear. Will people judge or look at me differently? Or perhaps they just won’t even care at all? I’ve finally realized that regardless if it changes the way people think of me or not, if it’s able to help even one person who’s had a similar experience by encouraging and motivating them to keep pursuing their dreams it will be well worth it.

My journey started out growing up in a pretty ghetto neighborhood in Harrisburg, PA (if you’re skeptical and think I’m embellishing Google Earth: 2353 Logan St.) before later making a relatively lateral move to a trailer park in Mechanicsburg. To say I come from a poor and dysfunctional family would be the understatement of the century.

While I had a very rough start, oddly enough three events that seemed like tragedies at the time ended up altering the course of my destiny and changed my life forever. First, I was sent to a boarding school called Milton Hershey School when I was five years old as my mother just couldn’t take care of me on her own (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s fascinating). Soon after that when I was six my father passed away. And then shortly after when I was seven my sister (who I was closer to more than anyone in the world) moved to California.

At the time, each of these events devastated and shook me to my core. I felt helpless, alone, and extremely confused. However, little did I know at the time that they all would be the very best things to happen to me (later to be trumped by getting married and having a baby). Going through all that at such a young age set the tone for the rest of my life by making me stronger, more independent, and extremely hungry to change my life for the better.

Even though most of my childhood was rough I often say that I was blessed to have the “Michael Jordan of Guardian Angels” by the way things turned out. MHS fed me, clothed me, and provided a wonderful well-rounded education along with opportunities I would have never experienced otherwise. Not to mention I hit the jackpot with an incredible set of “house parents” that taught me so much about life and how to be a man. Going there also allowed me to be able to visit my sister in California three times a year which opened my eyes up to an entirely different world, one with infinite possibility.

Despite greatly improved conditions compared to what they could have been, I do still vividly remember many times of going hungry when I was away from school at home. The memory of that feeling, along with that of having to live in the places we did, sticks with me to this day and creates an incredible desire to be successful and never go back to that again.

Being broke all the time made me realize that I wanted to eventually be an entrepreneur so I could have more control over my life. Ever since elementary school I started countless businesses such as selling sports cards, beanie babies, Pokemon, Pogs, and just about anything else I could profit from. Unfortunately, I had to do quite a few things I’m not proud of to get by as well.

Because of these experiences I developed a sense of ambition, drive, and commitment to doing well in school and getting good grades. Well that and the fear of my mother’s wrath if I didn’t. Understanding the importance of good grades was crucial and ended up paying off big time. After graduation, I literally became the first person in my family to attend college. On top of that, it was with a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami, half from “The U” and the rest from MHS. While there I earned my Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing and Finance and a minor in Advertising.

If my story ended there I would still feel extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish given how things began. But fortunately, I was just getting started.

To be continued…