Author Archives: Paul Davis

It’s Only Day 5, It’s Not too Late for NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo?

Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo is an organization that encourages people to write through some really great and fun challenges throughout the year.

Their biggest challenge is of course the challenge to write a novel in the month of November. Since they are not associated with any publishing organization and are funded mostly by donations, NaNoWriMo participants are encouraged to do more than just write novels.

You can set a challenge to write 50,000 words of any type of genre, including a content-marketing challenge to write that many words in one month.

For myself, this year, I intend to attempt a journalistic styled expose of my legacy, titled White Man from a Slave? But, since I am a content marketer and I have neither time nor creative energy to do all my normal writing and an additional 50,000 words on a novel, I am including blogging and other job-type writing in my word count, just because.

So, it is only November 5. You can still get a really good start at writing that novel you always wanted to, getting a really meaty blog going in one month, or writing your autobiography, because everyone needs at least one.

What Do You Want to Write This Month?

So, I am writing a autobiographical expose, and thousands of words in blogs. What are you going to write this month?

Head on over to nanowrimo.org/  to get started in the community and experience a great month writing this month!

Also, leave your comment below on what you are going to be writing this month.

 

ps. I just happened to move last week and was not able to get started quite yet. What’s your excuse?

Saturday Book Review: The Merchant Bankers

The Merchant Bankers

The Merchant Bankers, by Joseph Wechsberg, had a tremendous impact on the way I think about my business. Because it is written well before the housing crash of 2008 that sullied many merchant banker’s names (notably Lehman Brothers), like 42 years before, it does not address many of the issues regarding modern business and political processes.

But, what was it that inspired me and I think will inspire others by reading this book?

5 Things to Learn from The Merchant Bankers

Learn to Trust Your Intuition

Although much banking is based on numbers, Wechsberg interviews and studies multiple houses of merchant banking families (3 in England, 1 each in the United States, Italy, Germany, and then he covers the Rothschilds). Through interviews and research, he tells about how much of a merchant banking operation is based off of the intuition that comes from many mistakes combined with an innate sense of relationships. Whether building a business or teaching a classs, writing a book or digging a ditch, I think that we can learn to treat our mistakes as necessary parts of learning a business and learn that the people we interact with are more important than the numbers on a spreadsheet.

Never Forget Your Core Values

Wechsberg mentions in the chapter on Lehman Brothers how they loaned money to a company that lost their Chief Administrative Officer. Lehman Brothers sent one of their managers to work without charge to the company until a replacement could be found. Contrast that to the attitude of unbridled greed selling bad loan certificates in the 90’s and 00’s and you will see that when a business or group of individuals forgets what made them great in the first place, they will cause catastrophes.

The Rich Are People Like Us

Reading the history of some of the most elite families in the history of humanity in terms of riches and power associated with those riches, I was struck with the fact that they really are not that different from us. People who take a risk, make mistakes, and grow something of value can be found on any corner of any street throughout this world. Some may say the rich are just lucky, but as I read the stories of these families and individuals, I realized that the rich generally do certain activities to get rich, and avoid activities which don’t increase their income and profits.

In the same manner, many people I know consistently choose activities which will increase the value of their friends and family over the value of their wealth. I have many poor friends who are surrounded by richer culture and relationships than any of the merchant bankers I read about. On the other hand, I know people who are rich in computer games and poor in just about everything else.

History is a Valuable Study

Do you read historical books? Do you understand who the major players were in world history? Your nation’s history? The merchant bankers Wechsberg studied were well versed in their respective histories; they were steeped in it. Even the West German merchant banker, Abs, who lead the way to economic recovery after the devastation of World War II, made a purposeful choice to acknowledge the history of his people that lead to the rise of the German Reisch and then depart from that history.

Other merchant bankers would tell stories of the time their ancestor ran supplies through the lines in this war or that one, and all the time, they reinforce the values and strategies that made their homes great.

Free Market Capitalism Has Nearly Died Out

I know that people talk about how capitalist a society we are, but reading the analysis of a dying breed of business in the 60’s that has become almost extinct today, I was reminded that our modern society is more socialist than not. Because the government controls the money supplies and the private banks, the type of entrepreneurial spirit and desire for return on capital that we saw in the past has been nearly regulated out of existence.

It is a sad thing, but many people say it is a necessary thing.

If you want an interesting look at bygone eras in western finance and European culture, I highly recommend reading through The Merchant Bankers.

 

Grammar Rules You Still Have to Use in Modern English

English Grammar Rules

Everyone has seen one of the “If you can read this” memes about how we can read so many different things, or the phonetic tropes like, “hukt on fonics.” But, how you use language, grammar and vocabulary matters. Especially if you are selling something, even if it is just a book.

That said, there are few rules that are universally applicable in what grammar or style of language you should use in marketing content, blogging, or even writing a book. Because every piece of written material has an author and an audience. Even if the author is just journaling for their own enjoyment or record keeping, this is still an audience.

Because there are educational forms of content, entertaining, inspiring, and more that combine with different dialects and cultural groups, take anything I am about to say with a grain of salt.

3 English Grammar Rules

  1. Don’t Use Taboo Words in the Wrong Place – While many sales people and coaches drop an F-bomb or describe the stinkin’ stench o’ sh…, understand that this might turn certain audiences off. And also understand that what is one person’s swear word is another person’s term of endearment. In most languages, a taboo word will either be around politics, bodily functions, religion, or a person’s identity. Use these words with caution.
  2. Understand The Determiner – If you learned grammar in classical schooling, they call this the article. But, we often don’t use article when we can use null determiner (See what I did there?). While your grammar check may tell you to always add the or an, sometimes dropping them and using what linguists call the null determiner makes a stronger point or makes the sentence stand out. (You might also think I just wrote a poor sentence, but whatever.) Other determiners include numbers, possessives, and words that come before a noun and determine its function and relationships.
  3. No, Abbreviations Are Not Great Marketing – Most hip marketing lingo does not age well. Current abbreviations will age just as well as a picture of a Motorola phone with a text following the abbreviations of the early 2000’s did in my old youth group room. Lol has been around a long time, and it might have crossed from the world of punctuated writing into real communication. But, brb, ttyl, roflmfao, op, ty, gg, and many other abbreviations will not create marketing that lasts and engages people. It might be catchy.

These are just some thoughts on grammar and English use. From my tired brain to yours.

~N Paul Davis

Saturday Book Review: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the entire Chronicles of Narnia are worth reading. They impact my life every time I read them, and they can change your life, too. That is my review in a nutshell.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Review

If you want a little more information on the first book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, including how it can impact your entrepreneurial journey, read on.

Plot Summary

In case you have not read the books, or watched the movies, the plot of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is as follows.

Introduction to Narnia

  • 4 Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to live in a large house in the countryside. This is during the Battle of Britain in WWII. They have some grand adventures there.
  • While exploring the house, the youngest, Lucy, wanders into the land of Narnia through a Wardrobe.
  • After meeting a Faun, her older siblings do not believe that she actually went to Narnia. Edmund teases her mercilessly until he stumbles into Narnia after Lucy. In Narnia, he meets the White Witch who realizes that the four siblings may be the cause of her downfall. She slips Edmund some enchanted food that causes an addiction so that he will betray his siblings to get more.
  • When the children are trying to hide from the housekeeper, who gives tours of the home, all 4 children stumble into Narnia. There, they discover that Lucy’s Faun friend has been captured by the secret police. In an attempt to find out more information, they get lost in the woods and find a Beaver who says he is a friend of Tumnus.

Edmund’s Betrayal and Rescue

  • After dinner with the Beavers, Edmund sneaks off to betray his brother and sisters to the White Witch and Peter, Susan, Lucy and the Beavers head off to meet Aslan, the Lion.
  • Edmund is captured by the Witch, realizes he is a fool, and she prepares to kill him to prevent a prophecy from coming true. The others meet Father Christmas, trek to the Stone Table and meet Aslan. Then Peter kills Maugrim the wolf chief of police.
  • Aslan sends some Narnian creatures to rescue Edmund, the Witch demands his blood, and the two of them come to some agreement. Aslan and company leave the Stone Table.

Aslan’s Sacrifice and the Conclusion

  • Susan and Lucy cannot sleep because they are worried about Aslan, so they find him walking back to the Stone Table where he offers himself for Edmund. They mourn all night, and he is resurrected with the morning light.
  • Susan, Lucy, and Aslan head to the Witch’s castle where Aslan frees the Witch’s captives who were turned into stone, and they all come back to save Peter and Edmund’s army as they fight the Witch and her army.
  • The children are crowned kings and queens of Narnia where they reign for a period of time before they accidentally stumble back through the Wardrobe and discover that they arrive precisely when they left.

How The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Impacts My Life

It seems silly to say that this series remains a significant influence in my life, but it is true. Written words have a way of transporting me to new places, and helping me see new ways of looking at our own world. Narnia may not be true, but then again, it might. You never can tell.

But, Narnia is a hope for me, a reminder of the idea of happy endings. Each of the books in the series, including this one, end with the main characters learning from their adventure but also coming out ahead on the other side of it.

Key Business Take Aways

Business is hard. Some days it feels like overthrowing a 100-year-old curse and defeating the powerful enchantress might be easier than doing business. Narnia reminds us that we can keep our chin held high. (When you walk through a storm…. sorry, different review)

Narnia also reminds me to enjoy life as it comes. If all we focus on is winning the game of business, we will be miserable old gits. Even in the midst of an adventure seeking to free Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, the children enjoy a great meal and friends. And C.S. Lewis delights in telling us there is nothing quite like fish caught half an hour before and just coming out of the frying pan.

I happen to agree with him. But, if food is not your thing, it is important that you take time to rest and enjoy the company of others. Especially when you are pulling 80 hour weeks trying to get your business off the ground.

When business gets overwhelming and I get in the feels, it helps me to remember the middle of the book. When Edmund is being driven on the sleigh for hours or Susan and Lucy are weeping at Aslan’s deathbed, there is no hope. But, the story has a different ending.

Your life can be that way, too. Hope is a powerful remedy.

In Conclusion

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) (You can follow that link if you want to buy the book and I’ll get a small fee for recommending it for you) is an inspiring tale of adventure and overcoming hardship. As a father, I love reading it to my kids. As a businessman, I love reading it to remind myself that there is hope in the most difficult days.

Are You a Wantrepreneur or an Entrepreneur?

Are you a wantrepreneur or an entrepreneur

Are You a Wantrepreneur or an Entrepreneur?

After having a tremendous breakthrough in my mindset about my business this month, I thought I should write a post to help people figure out the answer to the question: Are you a wantrepreneur or an entrepreneur? But, I just realized that literally everyone and their dog has written an article on entrepreneurs vs wantrepreneurs.

So, why do I want to write this article, still?

Because a story is worth telling. I write a lot of listicles, and I was going to make this a listicle, but since almost all of the above links are to listicles, I think that genre has been overdone for the question: Are you a wantrepreneur or entrepreneur?

My Entrepreneurial Journey

I have embodied what many of these lists call a wantrepreneur for many years. I look back now and embrace it with passion. Because for me, being a wantrepreneur means that I try, I work, and I learn. But, things don’t always go the way I want them.

You can read more about my personal journey with multiple businesses on my LinkedIn Profile. Long story, short, I have done 13 different businesses or freelance-type work in my adult years. Add to that my 8 different jobs I have held, and I am one busy fella.

For the purpose of this blog, my consulting, and your own sanity, I have a simple definition of a wantrepreneur. If you are working on a business but making less than you would earn picking rock in the fields of southern Idaho, you are a wantrepreneur. Working includes the time you spend thinking about starting a business because thinking is often the biggest hurdle in business-life.

If you just say you are an entrepreneur but don’t even think about starting a business, you are just a want. Sorry.

It was not until this last year that I moved from my definition of a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur.

Wantrepreneur: You Earn Less Than Burger-Flipping High School Dropouts

I remember interviewing for a McDonald’s job a couple of years ago and they asked me if I could handle earning minimum wage and I laughed at them. After working for overseas content mills at $4 an hour, I would be happy to work for $7.25 an hour. Delighted, in fact.

Sadly, I didn’t get the job.

Entrepreneur: You Start to Figure Things Out

Now, I know that there are plenty of entrepreneurs who set the standard for entrepreneur as someone who builds and exits businesses. While I respect their vastly superior build-and-exit experience to my scratch-for-sustenance experience, I disagree with their definition.

To get a little nerdy, entrepreneur was coined by a French economist, Jean-Baptiste Say, in 1800 in response to an omission he saw in the classic The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. In this definition, Say crafted together the word to mean one who undertakes. He used it to describe the type of business person who undertakes a venture, assumes an unknown amount of risk, and hopes for a profitable return. (Investopedia)

These three parts of an entrepreneur mean that, by my definition, a wantrepreneur is also an entrepreneur. They just have not reached a point where their ventures are able to sustain them.

If you are actually doing something towards your business, have taken some amount of risk, and are hoping and working towards a return on that risk, then you are an entrepreneur.

Even if the only capital risked is the time you put into creating it.

So, to answer the question, are you a wantrepreneur or an entrepreneur, the answer is three questions. Because all the best answers to questions are more questions.

Have you started a business venture?
Have you taken risk for an undetermined outcome or result? This means you are not creating gadgets or raising calves. Those are easily determined businesses (manufacturing and agriculture). Now, creating new gadgets for raising calves faster is an entrepreneurial venture, because of the added risk of creating something new.

Have you a hope of profit? If your entrepreneurial ventures keep bringing low to no profits, consider yourself a wantrepreneur. And keep trying. If your entrepreneurial ventures are bringing more than you can earn in an American entry level job, then congratulations! By my arbitrary, etymological, historical, and contentious definition, you are an entrepreneur!

Thanks for reading.

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These Uses for Redirects Can Save You Time and Money

Redirects

3 Uses for 301 Redirects

I know, I couldn’t resist the numerical alliteration: 3 uses for 301 Redirects. Before we get into the uses, this post will cover some of the technical aspects you may or may not know about 301 redirects, 404 error messages, and why they matter on your website.

Technical Aspects of 301 Redirects

301 Redirects is a technical term for telling web browsers to go to a different page than the one you entered into a browser. The purpose of a redirect is to keep people from being frustrated by the error message you see so often in internet surfing: “Oops! The page you are looking for cannot be found!” This error message is technically called a 404 error message when a server receives a request for a page that it does not have. 301 Redirects Avoid a 404 Error

This is an error you do not want your users to see on your page.

“Generally, 404s don’t harm your site’s performance in search, but you can use them to help improve the user experience.”  – Google Webmaster Tools

Rather than sending the user this error message, a 301 message tells the browser to go from the intended address to another one of your choosing. Even though Google says, generally, it does not hurt search ranking, you do not want people to click on a search result and land on a 404 error message. This is the number one reason people use redirects: to prevent the website user from bouncing because they got an error message.

I have discovered several uses for redirects that do more than just prevent 404 error messages. Read on for more info.

Redirect Hacks

Redirect to A Social Page

One use of a redirect I have discovered, and use, is to send people from an easy web address to a hard to remember URL for a social platform. For example, I use www.mybloggingcommunity.com to send traffic to my free Facebook group. With a social platform, your address always comes after the name of the platform, so even if it only a word address (many profiles use long strings of numbers), it is better to have 3-4 words that identify your business and redirect that to your social platform.

Redirect from A Page You Haven’t Built

When I was writing the review for Hobo’s Grill in Fort Mill, SC, I thought I would probably want to build a landing page focusing on restaurants and breweries, but I did not have time to do it at that moment.

With a 301 redirect, I was able to insert my preferred link to the text of the article and set up a redirect to my homepage so that readers who click on it will still see something of value and when I build my local restaurants landing page, it will already have links to it.

Manage Inventory

I noticed this with an online store that I was helping manage: if you no longer hold a certain inventory item, people will land on broken pages when they look for it. If you are selling a product on your site, this is the last possible thing you want your users to see!

If you are going to discontinue an item in your inventory management, make sure you set up a 301 to send the users on to the replacement item. If you do not have a replacement item, then send users to a landing page explaining that you no longer hold that type of item, but recommend they look at a list of other sites. This way, you are providing your user with valuable service, rather than leaving them high and dry on your desolate 404 page.

These are some of the uses I have discovered for a 301 Redirect. What are some uses you have discovered?

Saturday Book Review: Screw Business as Usual

After a small hiatus, SBR (Saturday Book Review) is back. Short and to the point, I read and review business, fiction, self-help or other works of information and show how they can apply to you as a business owner, entrepreneur, or marketer.

Today’s review is about Richard Branson’s book Screw Business as Usual.

One thing that always amazes me when I read things by or about Richard Branson is how much I resonate with him on a personality level; this book was no different.

The following are points in the book that really resonated with me:

  • As a young entrepreneur, RIchard Branson gave a homeless man the clothes off his back and had to stand wrapped in a blanket while selling his blanket. That is an attitude that great business owners have: compassion for those who are less fortunate.
  • Branson integrates teamwork in all the aspects of his businesses. If it was all about Branson, the Virgin Group would not be significant, but he makes it about his team members and praises them throughout the book.
  • Branson is willing to listen to others and act on the information they give him. Whether its environmental issues, AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, or his business processes.

These are some of the many great stories and points that Richard Branson mentions in the book. That said, there is one issue that Branson focuses on that I do not really resonate with, although many people will, and that is climate change.

Since this is a business blog, I will not go into more detail on a political issue like climate change, but I would like to point out that most of the extreme climate issues Branson brings up in the book are not provable, and are so sensational that any amount of common sense demands that we question the bearer of that news rigorously and check their predictions.

Will all life end on the earth if we don’t stop producing CO2? Is Global Warming really a worse problem than World War II?

I’m not so certain, and since this was an assumed point of much of the book, there were many premises and conclusions that I disagreed with.

But, Screw Business as Usual is an excellent look at one of the 20th Century’s greatest entrepreneurs (yes, he’s still alive and growing his businesses, but Branson earned his first million in the 70s.

 

Don’t Make This SEO Mistake!

I Broke My Website with This Simple SEO Mistake

As I was researching my website content and its ranking on Google today, I came across one seo mistake of the many I have made and am learning from in managing my own websites. 

If you’ve ever heard of the barber who never had a good haircut because the other barber had to cut it,  that’s me. I am that proverbial barber, not because I have the other barber cut my hair, but because I am a creative person who always experiments on my own product first.

If I break my own website, I am the one who suffers, not my client. At least that’s how my thinking goes, some of the time.

So, after perusing one of the plethora of articles on what to do, or not do, to improve SEO, I removed the dates from all my posts in WordPress. It might  also have been during a theme update. I don’t remember, but the end result was I changed the format of how every post on my site looks. Without thinking too much about it, I moved on to other content projects for other clients.

Fast forward to today, when I was researching my target market and realized that I had 59 404 errors listed in my Google webmaster tools. 59 broken links that were not getting search engines, or more importantly, human eyes, onto my content. Google 404 Errors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t think that 404 errors matter, just think about how many times you go to a website, get a “the page you are looking for is not here” and immediately x-out of that tab, never to return to the blog again?

I know I do it.

Simple SEO Principles

I wanted to take this time to point out to you the fact that you need to think about the consequences of your actions. The simple SEO mistake I made was to substantially change all the links on my site without setting up a redirect. Here is a blog on how to do that, if you didn’t know.

If you are going to change how your site is laid out, realize that it will break things like internal links, external links, and more, and you will need to plan on having Google crawl your site and giving you a list of pages to fix.

But the simple SEO mistake you should not do is to think that the search engines don’t matter. They do matter, they just don’t matter more than the people you want to read your website. But, if your website has poor SEO or other technical issues, at the end of the day, it is your users who suffer.

Think through the people who will be on your site and realize that good SEO practices make for a good experience for them, and also remember that your experiments on your website don’t just make you suffer, they make it difficult for anyone else to engage your website as well.

Building Businesses Through Writing Content

If you have not seen Paul Davis Solutions active recently, the reason is simple: I have been writing content on multiple platforms for different customers. For example, FrameMaker Arts is a new site that Paul Davis Solutions manages content and website technology for:

Building FrameMaker Arts through content writing

Some other projects include helping with marketing planning for Greater St. Louis Parks, the creation of a website to help veterans get home loans (USA Veteran Loans), continuing to write content for Aletheia Christian College, and building a website for Pastor Randy Davis. These projects are incredible opportunities to continue growing my business as a marketing firm, and expanding my capabilities as a content marketer.

Places to Follow My Content Writing

While you can watch these different projects on their own basis, and I highly recommend it if you are interested in any of them, you can follow the lessons learned from building these and other projects here at The Writer’s Cue, at My Blogging Community, my free Facebook community, or by following Paul Davis Solutions on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks, and Have a Happy Independence Day if you happen to be an American.