The CEO Freedom Experiment

My work life totally changed as of last Friday. This was not unexpected… in fact, in some ways, I’ve been preparing for this since the day I started my company SCOTTeVEST about 15 years ago. I am still the CEO, but with the help of my team, I dismantled and totally rebuilt what it means to be CEO.  It was not unlike taking apart a classic car and rebuilding it into a leaner, louder muscle car. In my old role as CEO, I was a control-freak, a micro-manager, a hands-in-every-project style of leader.  It was natural to me, and it worked.  But it also made every project MY project. In my NEW role as CEO, I will still provide the vision, but not the operations.  The evangelism without the execution.  The approvals, not the details. It’s a 180 degree turn, and it’s scary.  But it’s also liberating. The idea of redefining my role as CEO has been in the works for some time, but now that it has arrived I was hit with a rush of emotions ranging from sheer happiness to confusion to nervousness to excitement, and a whirlwind of thoughts about new beginnings. This is why I did it. They Were Ready I use the word “they” with intent: a company CAN’T be ready.  Computers and boxes of products can’t be ready or unready.  But the people that make up the company need to be capable of not only sustaining what has already been built, but growing it, expanding it and evolving it without the Founder/CEO being involved in every decision. The people need to be ready... read more

Highlights From This Week at SCOTTeVEST

Around the Office Building a Stronger Company: I am wired to like people, which can sometimes make me a poor judge of character. In the past, if you wanted to work for SCOTTEVEST from TEC and could talk in complete sentences, I used to simply hire you. I am learning that there is a huge difference between talkers and doers, although it is hard to tell the difference until they start working with you. It is for this reason that I invited Sylva Leduc to join us at SCOTTeVEST headquarters this week. Sylva is a leadership strategist at Sage Leaders who incorporates a unique blend of Consultative Coaching in her work with clients and organizations. With 15 years of consultative experience, I am confident that Sylva will be able to take our already excellent team and fine tune our leadership skills. Keeping Our Employees Happy: In addition to building a team of leaders, making sure our employees are proud to work at SCOTTeVEST is a major goal of mine. I am always looking for new perks and opportunities to incorporate into the SCOTTeVEST corporate culture. The latest perk we are working on is adding a rock climbing wall in one of the stairwells of our building. It is a work in progress, but when it is complete, it will reach all the way to the top of the building and will be an excellent way for employees to take a break and relieve some stress during a crazy work day. On the Web A Personal Victory: Waking up to find that the Inc.com article discussing my experience with Shark Tank had made its way to... read more

Be the Squeaky Wheel and F.U.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?” While I usually take a counterpoint on conventional wisdom by encouraging people to bite off more than they can chew and leap before you look, I actually think being the squeaky wheel can get most people what they want out of business and life. As a car and motorcycle guy who likes to drive really fast, you better believe I take this phrase seriously.  The last thing you want at 100+ MPH is a $10 part blowing out under high pressure, and a new squeak from a performance vehicle is never a good sign. Squeaky wheels have their place in business, too… and they can cut both ways. Squeaky Wheel Employees To paraphrase Tony Robbins, if you want better answers, ask better questions. When an employee asks me good questions… that’s a good squeak.  When they’re 5 minutes late for every meeting, that’s a bad squeak. The most eager, hardworking, intelligent, thoughtful employee can still be stuck doing entry-level tasks if they don’t make their employer aware of their contributions.  Tooting your horn in this way is a good squeak, and can create huge results for the employee. 15Five has essentially created a tool to help people do this, and the key is that it’s not bragging if it’s true.  Wins should be celebrated, and it’s a true win if the employee accomplishes it on behalf of the company. Tell your boss what you’re doing, and you’ll excel if what you are doing is worthwhile and valuable.  If you are ineffective, ask for help.  Employers have... read more

Tech on Deck Recap

Like many entrepreneurs, I thrive on accomplishing the impossible.  Perhaps you can relate. About one month ago, I had an idea to meet with my friend Robert Scoble (Futurist at Rackspace) during the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.  I live about a mile from the site of the annual, famed and secretive “billionaire conference,” and we thought it would be fun to hang out and see who we could run into around town. Of course, like all entrepreneurs and creative people, Robert and I couldn’t just leave well enough alone, and we started one-upping each other with ideas until the concept grew to become a major media event: Tech on Deck. This is Tech on Deck in a Nutshell Tech on Deck wasn’t a pipe-dream.  We actually pulled it together in about 2 weeks, secured sponsorships and assistance from Cisco, NewTek and UStream (in addition to our companies Rackspace and SCOTTeVEST), and fully fleshed out the concept. It started as two tech-oriented friends discussing the future of media and technology while riding on the coattails of a much bigger conference across town, and it essentially became the pilot for a TV show and proof-of-concept for a new media brand.  We had tons of viewers, had some phenomenal guests and even crashed a Mark Zuckerberg karaoke party…. We interviewed Guy Kawasaki, Hap Klopp (founder of The North Face), Gary Shapiro (CEO of CES) and close to a dozen other major tech influencers on topics that helped to dissect their vision of the future of tech.  While it’s fun to imagine the far-flung future, we were most curious about their... read more

Go Inside the Allen & Company Billionaire Conference Right Now

There are a lot of millionaires in the world… hell, even my dentist is a millionaire. But billionaires are a rare breed. They may cross paths or compare notes privately, but it’s not as if dozens of them fire up their private jets and converge in someone’s backyard for a cookout, right? Actually… they do (in a way).  And they do it in my (figurative) backyard. The Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference To the outside world, this is a pretty mysterious event. When dozens of the world’s top net worth individuals converge for a private conference nestled in the mountains of Idaho, it sounds like a plot device in a conspiracy thriller. To someone who lives and works around Sun Valley, Idaho (like me), the annual Allen & Company conference is more of a curiosity than a conspiracy. It’s the reason why there’s traffic for one week of the year. It’s a chance to see a different type of celebrity hanging around town than our area’s typical residents-or-vacationers-of-note (like Bruce Willis and Adam West). Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a previous Sun Valley Conference  wearing a vest from my company SCOTTeVEST.  We have provided clothing for attendees for three years.  Embedded image used under editorial license from Getty Images. Widely considered to be the most exclusive business conference in the world, theAllen & Company Sun Valley Conference guest list is a closely guarded secret.Frequent attendees include Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and other high-profile media leaders. The combined net worth of the attendees... read more

Triple Your Odds of Getting a Job with One Simple Trick

Don’t you hate those clickbait articles that have a really catchy headline, then make you read three pages before they tell you the “one simple trick,” and it turns out to be really dumb?  Let’s not make this one of those articles. The Trick is to Send a Thank You Note I started my company SCOTTeVEST about 15 years ago, and since then I’ve hired a lot of people.  Almost every single one of them – and all major contractors – interviewed with me. Within my company, I have a bit of a reputation of wanting to hire everyone I interview.  Maybe it’s because people who are interviewing for a job are on their best behavior, and I perceive that behavior as the minimum I can expect from them every day to follow. While my team may have a more realistic view of an interviewee’s long-term capabilities than I get from a first impression, there is something we all agree on: we don’t hire ANYONE who doesn’t send a thank you note. It’s the Thought that Counts Email is great.  Handwritten is fine, too (but the slow speed of mail is a negative).  If you can make a carrier pigeon work (or a raven, for fellow Game of Thrones fans), I would even accept that. When it comes to thank you notes following an interview, it is the thought – and then the act – that matters more than the method. You ARE Being Judged When someone comes in for a job interview, the interviewer may only have 4 or 5 data points about the interviewee.  A resume, cover... read more

99.9872% of CEOs FAIL at Social Media, and This is Why

Before Facebook, there was… face. An “online sale” meant you had to stand on line before you could buy something. The bells on the shop door jingled when it closed behind you, and you made eye contact with Sam the butcher standing behind the counter (think… Brady Bunch).  You smiled, he smiled, and even though he already knew that you likely wanted “the usual,” he asked anyway. You probably were on a first name basis, and you definitely knew each other by sight.  Maybe your kids were in the same school. You weren’t best friends, but you trusted him to have good products and you believed him when he told you what you needed for your big weekend get-together.  He was right, too. He could be a little gruff sometimes, but he was the best butcher in town.  You wouldn’t invite him over to your house – and he wouldn’t have you over to his – but you had a trusted relationship under the roof of that shop. That trust enabled you to give him your money and feel good about doing it. There’s a lot to learn about social media from those interactions Since day 1 of my business, the “old time butcher shop” was my model for how I wanted to interact with customers, and I’ve worked hard at building that level of authenticity and trust. It’s a lot easier to do that now than when I first started my company in 2000 to sell multi-pocketed clothing online.  Youtube makes it easier.  Twitter makes it easier.  Facebook makes it easier. The Dark Ages of social interaction There... read more

Pocket Wisdom from the Other Side of the Shark Tank: Do Your Own PR to Win

A dozen years before my company TEC/SCOTTeVEST appeared on Shark Tank, I thought I already knew everything about how to make my brand succeed. I knew I needed PR (and I was right). I also knew that I needed to hire a PR agency (and I was DEAD wrong). As a newly-minted, bootstrapping entrepreneur with a literal boatload of product on its way to me, and my Net 30 terms steadily ticking by, I believed that the difference between my success and failure could be as thin as a single article in a major publication.  Fifteen years and over ten thousand media mentions later, I can attest that PR is indeed one of the most powerful things an entrepreneur can pursue for their business. If you want to win as an entrepreneur, you need to do your OWN PR.  This is why. Why Do Your Own PR? No one will be as passionate and energetic about your brand as you are, and communicating passion and energy is the key to getting the attention of the press.  If you can’t communicate your own passion, work on it.  Your employees, vendors, contacts and especially the press need to be infected by your passion. As an entrepreneur, keep in mind that your payoff for doing press is that you get to live the life you want and deserve.  The stakes are high… your livelihood, your future, your freedom.  When you channel that deep-seated need and express your company’s mission with that passion as the fuel, the press will listen. If you are the client of a PR firm, you are just a... read more

Bitten by Shark Tank: What Really Happens to Entrepreneurs After The Tank

The Shark Tank season finale airs (tonight) Friday, May 15th 2015 on ABC.  Check your local listings. It seems like everyone knows that I was on ABC’s Shark Tank for my companies TEC-Technology Enabled Clothing® and SCOTTeVEST… even people I meet in my travels.  There is this look of vague recognition, a squinting of the eyes, a slight turning of their head, and then one of several variations on the questions: “Where have I seen you?” or “Were you on Shark Tank?” If the person I’m speaking with doesn’t mention the show immediately, I usually ask, “Do you watch Shark Tank?” 9.5 times out of 10, it clicks for them instantly.  And then, they have an opinion about my appearance that they are not shy about sharing.  Sometimes loudly. Perhaps it had something to do with me telling the Sharks they were “out” – a Shark Tank first that led to my episode being considered the most controversial of all time. I’m sure this experience is largely the same for the hundreds of other people who have appeared on Shark Tank over the years, though their appearances on whole have been a lot less polarizing than mine was.  Chalk some of that up to me, and some of it up to creative editing, as I described in a previous article on LinkedIn. All things considered, my experience with Shark Tank has been life-changing in a positive way.  This is a common sentiment amongst Shark Tank entrepreneurs, whether they got a deal or not.  Shark Tank is a good experience, but not in any way that the audience at home might... read more

Pocket Wisdom: What I Learned from Building a $50 Million Biz

In 2000, I left my successful – but misery-inducing – career as a lawyer to start my own company based on a very simple idea: people who carry lots of gadgets need lots of pockets.  SCOTTeVEST started with one prototype of a multi-pocket vest and has grown into a pocket empire with over 50 different items. In the 15 years since then, I’ve appeared on Shark Tank, traveled the world, been covered in just about every news outlet imaginable and written a book.  This Pocket Wisdom comes from and is inspired by content from that book – Pocket Man – which I co-authored with Thom O’Leary of Fixer Group. Here are some of the unconventional things I’ve learned while leading the Pocket Revolution. ________________________________________________________________ About Raising Money… You DON’T need investors to start a business. When I started SCOTTeVEST, I did it to be my own boss… so why would I ever sign up to get a new boss by bringing an investor on board?  Make no mistake: when you have investors, you are not the one making all the decisions, which is to me the opposite of being an entrepreneur. Explore crowdfunding, bet your life savings on yourself, remortgage your home.  If you truly commit and put your own money where your mouth is, you’ll feel a lot more pride when you succeed. I bootstrapped SCOTTeVEST with my own money, but that was not necessarily my original plan.  When I figured out that I was spending 30-40% of my time looking for investment, it became clear that it was getting in the way of actually launching my business.... read more

Shark Tank Part 3: What Really Happens In the Tank & After

Please note: This is the third in a three-part article series recounting my experiences on ABC’s Shark Tank, adapted from my new book Pocket Man.  You can read part one – how I got on Shark Tank – here, and part two here. My episode – season 3, episode 7 – was the highest rated up to that point, and is still considered to be one of the most controversial episodes in Shark Tank history.  There is an unofficial version posted to YouTube here (while it lasts) and it is available on iTunes. The Sharks are Savvy The Sharks truly have no fore-knowledge of the people appearing on the show. They are very savvy individuals, though, and they have an intimate knowledge of how the rules work… both the on-screen rules, and the behind-the-scenes rules. At the time, there was a rule on Shark Tank that the production received a portion of your company just for appearing on the show. That rule has been changed in subsequent seasons, but it applied to my episode. I was pitching my smaller patent licensing company TEC-Technology Enabled Clothing® to the Sharks in an effort to grow that business, but the Sharks caught wind that I also had a much larger retail company.  The problem was that they wanted a piece of my retail company – SCOTTeVEST – and if I mentioned that name during filming, I’d owe the producers 5% of that company, too. This is why I believe that The Sharks were intentionally “baiting” me into discussing my retail business the entire time I was being filmed. The more I challenged them and tried to keep the... read more

Shark Tank Confessional 2: Producers’ Editing Painted Me as a Villain

Please note: This is the second in a three-part article series recounting my experiences on ABC’s Shark Tank, adapted from my new book Pocket Man.  You can read part one – how I got on Shark Tank – here.  My episode – season 3, episode 7 – was the highest rated up to that point, and is still considered to be one of the most controversial episodes in Shark Tank history.  There is an unofficial version posted to YouTube here (while it lasts) and it is available on iTunes.  Well worth the money.  Getting on Shark Tank was not nearly as hard as preparing to be on Shark Tank. Months of dieting.  Dozens of presentation drafts.  Hundreds of hours gaming out all the questions they could ask me, and how to redirect them in a way that would allow me to communicate the points I needed to get across. I’ve been creating videos as the face of my multi-pocket, gadget-friendly clothing company SCOTTeVEST for years, so I’m definitely comfortable in front of the camera… even for major interviews.  Being on Shark Tank is completely different, and while Shark Tank is in no way scripted (other than the entrepreneur’s initial pitch), there is A LOT that can be done in editing to tell the story they want to tell….  …which is why I am a hero to half the Shark Tank audience, and a villain to the other half.  This is how it happened.  As Seen On Shark Tank I would love to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened on the screen in my episode (which is not... read more

Pocket Life #1: Grateful Dead and Tech on Deck… on deck

Some of my fondest memories were from going to Grateful Dead concerts, and this weekend I attended one of the final ones… ever.  Almost 20 year ago to the day, I proposed to my wife Laura before a GD concert, so they’ve been a big part of our story. As with most concerts, no bags allowed, so I loaded up my SCOTTeVEST pockets with everything I needed for the show. It was everything you would expect!  From the “thank you for pot smoking” sign to the skywriter screwing up the peace sign, the air hung heavy with smoke and great music.  I even ran into my good friend Jim Louderback and had the opportunity to grab a photo with him in true Pocket Man style: Jim will be joining our Tech on Deck broadcast this week to discuss the present and future of publishing. Of course, being in San Francisco during the Gay Pride parade immediately after the historical marriage equality ruling was also a once in a lifetime treat.  I got to tag along with Thomas Hawk since he had special access to get close to the action.  I even got to see a poodle… which made me miss my girls at home: …ok, I actually saw two poodles. Another benefit of getting out to SF is that I was able to pick up my Pocket Rocket, a Polaris Slingshot and drive it home to Idaho.  It’s been months since I’ve been able to drive it, and it always gets attention… which you might be able to guess I love!  I even crowdsourced some advice on the best... read more

Shark Tank Confessional 1: How I Got on ABC’s Shark Tank

This is the first in a three-part article series recounting my experiences on ABC’s Shark Tank, adapted from my new book Pocket Man.  My episode – season 3, episode 7 – was the highest rated up to that point, and is considered to be the most controversial episode in Shark Tank history.  There is an unofficial version posted to YouTube here (while it lasts) and it is available on iTunes.  Well worth the money.   I am currently planning a tell-all Shark Tank book which follows up on previous contestants and explains to fans of the show some of the hidden dynamics that make Shark Tank so compelling. How Did I Get On Shark Tank? As a passionate promoter, founder of a pocket-filled clothing company (SCOTTeVEST) and now an author, it makes perfect sense that I would want to go on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank.  After all, how many entrepreneurs are vying to get on the show and be seen in front of millions of viewers?  The answer: most of them. A lot of people imagine what it would be like to get on Shark Tank, and this is the most frequently asked question I hear (other than how someone else can get onShark Tank).  This is a brief account about what the months leading up to the airing entailed: It was the summer of 2011.  My hidden pocket clothing company SCOTTeVESTwas up and running, and the business was growing steadily, adding employees and products regularly.  I felt like we had an opportunity to pursue TEC-Technology Enabled Clothing® as a spin-off company on Shark Tank.  TEC was and is... read more

Move Over SkyMall… SKY2BUY Is the New Mall in the Sky

SUN VALLEY, Idaho, March 30, 2015 – After a difficult bankruptcy auction process, the purchase of SkyMall’s brand name was announced last Friday, March 27th. The new owners paid $1.9 million for the well-known brand. The purchase price, however, didn’t include any assurances from the airlines that the catalog will be put on their planes. In fact, all prior agreements with the airlines are void. One fact is clear: SkyMall no longer has a monopoly to sell in the skies. Scott Jordan, CEO and Founder of multi-pocket clothing company SCOTTeVESThas been both a supporter of getting SkyMall back onto planes and a critic of the mismanagement that landed SkyMall into bankruptcy in the first place. Jordan was the most vocal during the auction process and many assumed he would be the winning bidder for SkyMall. He explains why he let the SkyMall name go to another party: “At the most basic level, there are two things required to make SkyMall work: a catalog and placement of that catalog on airplanes. Producing a catalog is easy. The only way to get a catalog onto airplanes is with the cooperation of the airlines. SkyMall allowed every airline contract to lapse and, despite my best efforts, we were unable to come to terms with the airlines before the bankruptcy auction,” Jordan explains. “By losing the agreements with the airlines, SkyMall’s previous management team lost their monopoly on in-flight shopping. Since I didn’t like their business model, I chose not to submit a bid. I didn’t believe that the name alone was worth it.” About six weeks ago when SkyMall declared bankruptcy, Jordan... read more

Confessions of a Facebook Addict: What Does it Take to Quit?

I am an all-or-nothing kind of guy. So, when I tried to back down from my Facebook addiction, I quit cold turkey. I even wrote about it in this LinkedIn article, so consider this article to be my first follow-up. (And you know how important following up is to me.) I know that I am not alone in my attempts to cut back the time I spend posting, clicking, commenting and liking on Facebook. Lots of people – maybe you – have hit the tipping point where your social media time consumes a little too much of your attention. Perhaps Facebook has become a bigger part of your daily activity than it should, based on whatever subjective measurement you want to apply to that. The fact that there is a condition called Facebook Addiction Disorder tells me that a lot of lives are consumed with artificial relationships, mine included. About two months after my initial acceptance of my FB addiction, it feels like the right time to revisit what I experienced and learned in the hope that it might help other people struggling on the spectrum of social media addiction. Back in January, when I decided to take a couple of weeks off from Facebook, I didn’t know if anything would change in my life as a result of the experiment. It turns out, a lot changed. So, what did it take for me to get my Facebook addiction under control? I admitted there was a problem While I recognized my love-hate relationship with Facebook (my addiction), I did not recognize quite how much it monopolized my time and... read more

My Escape from the Law

Maybe you aren’t a lawyer like I was, but unless you are one of the lucky few people who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up — and became it — your current job is probably not going to be what you do for the rest of your life. About a decade into my law career I woke up and said, “Miserable, miserable, no end in sight!” before collapsing again deep into sleep. I don’t remember the incident (my wife will never forget it), but it signaled to me that I needed to escape from the law. Soon thereafter, I started my business SCOTTeVEST to create clothing that incorporates hidden pockets for electronics, and I’ve been successful and happier ever since. Latest incarnation of the invention that let me escape from the law: the SCOTTeVEST Featherweight Vest. We now have about 50 styles of pocket-filled clothing. Whatever you are escaping from — or escaping to, for that matter — these are a few ideas from my book Pocket Man to get you started once you say, “I quit!” Passion is the foundation It’s a cliche to say “follow your passion,” but it’s a cliche that rings true. Passion is the foundation for knowing which direction to pursue. Many smart people find themselves “stuck” because, hell, when you can do anything how do you decide what to actually do? Passion is your first clue. If you’re passionate about something at the start, it’ll fuel you through the ups and downs, and give you the fire to keep going through the boring parts as you pursue what it... read more

SkyMall is Refueling for Takeoff

I recently wrote an article about my plans to get SkyMall back into the air, and I’m pleased to say that we are in the “refueling” stage of our journey back to the skies! While there are a lot of steps, tons of work, and some potential turbulence ahead of us, the deeper I get into the process, the more exciting it is. This is absolutely a huge opportunity and a great and profitable business. I cannot wait to get started and launch SkyMall back into the skies where it belongs. The press (and the world) has taken notice, too. CNBC, CNN, NBC News,TechCrunch, Engadget, AdWeek, TravelPulse, and even the Hollywood Reporterpicked up the story (along with dozens of other outlets). SkyMall is part of our culture as travelers, and the response has been amazingly encouraging that I am on the right track. It’s clear that people want a new SkyMall. Transparency is one of my favorite business practices (I even wrote about that in my book, Pocket Man), so here is some radical transparency as I lay out further details of the plan. If you hear a grinding sound, it’s probably just my business partners rolling their eyes… but transparency is that important! Here is another look under the hood, with more detail. The Problems Whenever a business enters bankruptcy proceedings, it’s a foregone conclusion that “something went wrong.” It could be the economic or political climate (macro trends), it could be a cash flow or marketing issue, it could be a management issue, or something else entirely. There are an almost infinite number of permutations and combinations... read more

Best Advice for Entrepreneurs: F-U! Follow-Up (or Fail)

When you are first starting out in business, the people around you can have a profound influence on your direction, approach and even your happiness. If you’re lucky, you’ll be steered in the right direction by a good mentor, but sometimes even the best advice from a mentor doesn’t feel like it at the time. In my case, it turns out the best advice I ever received became one of the major keys to my success once I consistently followed it… but it took me years to realize how powerful that piece of advice was. F-U Lawyers Imagine this: I’m in my early 20s and just graduated law school. My future is ahead of me. I’m excited to start living an “L.A. Law” existence… fat paycheck, nice apartment, and a Porsche. I knew I wanted to buy a Porsche. After all, that’s what lawyers do, right? And I worked hard through law school so I could get a job at a great firm. And I did… but I never imagined how much WORK it would be. Enter my first law office mentor: Don Shindler. Don was a partner in the firm, and like Mr. Miyagi, he believed that the best way to get on track was to start “going through the motions” until the lesson finally sunk in. At first, I thought he just didn’t like me. He constantly reminded me about tasks, perpetually beat me to the punch (not literally) with follow-ups, and he insisted that I always CC him on all communications. Not important communications, not certain communications, ALL communications. This didn’t feel like the life of... read more

SkyMall Will Fly Again. Get Ready for a New Pilot.

New developments in SCOTTeVEST’s bid to resurrect the bankrupt seat-back pocket catalog company A few weeks ago, the news broke that SkyMall was bankrupt. You know SkyMall – everyone knows SkyMall – that ubiquitous catalog found in the seat-back pockets of every commercial airplane in the US. Even if you didn’t love SkyMall, everyone knows what it is. I know it better than most: I sold my multi-pocket travel clothing line SCOTTeVEST inside for years. At first, it seemed like a shame that SkyMall was going away. What else would people read while flying cross-country after their devices ran out of power? Then, it seemed like an opportunity. Then opportunity turned into a plan. CNBC,CNN, NBC News, Reuters, TechCrunch, Engadget and even the Hollywood Reporter agreed with me: I am going to get SkyMall back into the air. But the media outlets are all missing something, and I’m going to tell you right here, right now, the rest of the story. The Plan for SkyMall: A LinkedIn Exclusive While I am playing much of our strategy close to the (SCOTTe)vest – and keeping a few aces in my pockets (since I am Pocket Man) – I just have to tease some of our favorite developments in our bid to rescue SkyMall. More than just a catalog. Sure, it looks like a catalog. But SkyMall has always been entertainment first, and shopping second. That’s the secret sauce that made it so compelling. While the “social sharing” of SkyMall’s content was limited to just exposing your travelling companion yet another outrageous product, the content was always entertaining. We will dial up... read more

The Writing on the Wall: How I am dealing with my Facebook addiction

I am a CEO overcoming a Facebook addiction Facebook addiction – like any addiction – has real consequences in the physical world that affect you and everyone around you. I am a Facebook addict. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact as plain as the nose on my face(book). While it may not be as life-threatening as a drug or alcohol addiction, the psychological aspects are very similar, to the point of being a recognized medical condition in Japan and elsewhere. It was also the single largest daily use of my time other than sleeping, which is pretty sad. So, about two weeks ago, I went cold turkey. I could easily justify using Facebook for my job as the CEO of SCOTTeVEST (a clothing line full of hidden pockets to carry gadgets). I even wrote a book about passionate self-promotion, and Facebook is certainly a tool for self-promotion. But it became clear to me that my addiction cut far deeper than any excuses I could make about it, and I decided to do something about that. I am constantly experimenting in my e-commerce business and trying to optimize different aspects of it. I use A/B tests to make improvements to the site, and I test experimental designs in products. I applied that same experimentation mindset to kick my Facebook habit, and like any experimenter, I’ve been observing what has happened to me in my first weeks away, and planning for what comes next. How addicted was I? A lot of people spend hours of time on Facebook each day, but my habit pushed me far beyond simply being a... read more

Evolve or Fail: How I Reinvented Myself as an Entrepreneur

It takes more than passion, promotion and money to sustain a business. It requires leadership and management (and a dozen other things, but let’s just stick with these two for now). Before I started SCOTTeVEST in 2000, I moved from working in a dysfunctional family business to working in odious law firms to working in a dysfunctional startup in one of the most wild west periods of modern American business. In other words, I had never worked for a “real” company. I had never been part of a typical business environment or dealt with employees. This both helped me and hurt me. I definitely had to learn things on the fly, but for every stumble and everything I should have known better than to do (but did anyway), I feel like my unique approach got me where I am today. I’m proud to be one of the biggest local employers in my area, and I’m proud that I keep factories hopping and UPS delivering packages all year long. But a funny thing happened – and had to happen – as I went from being a one-man show to a business owner. I had to evolve as a person. I had to develop leadership skills, and rely on motivations other than money to get the best work out of my employees and contractors. I had to create a corporate culture for people to understand the core values that make SCOTTeVEST successful, so they can continue in the same vein when I’m not looking over their shoulders. It was really tough. Being passionate and inspiring people comes naturally to me, but... read more

Why I HATE Knockoffs, but LOVE Competition

Let me make something clear: as an entrepreneur, I LOVE competition. It’s part of what drives me, and it’s literally what drives me when I’m racing a car on a track (one of my favorite hobbies). Competition ignites my passion for my own company.  Like most entrepreneurs, I put my heart into my work to step up my game, to innovate and to win.  Competitors require you to be sharper. Now, let me make something equally clear: knock-offs and copycats are NOT competitors… they’re cheaters. A competitor tries to beat you at your OWN game, or creates a totally new game.  They don’t undermine the rules of fair play in the middle of a match. A competitor tries to overcome your greatness by being even BETTER than you.  Innovation is their tool, not imitation. A competitor puts a NEW twist on what exists.  This ADDS to the conversation, it doesn’t take away from it. A competitor inspires YOU to be even better than they are.  They provide obstacles that challenge your ability to problem solve and improve. The only thing copycats inspire are calls to your lawyer, and maybe a LinkedIn article. Imagine speaking with a group of people, and someone in the group starts repeating what you say immediately after you say it.  They don’t get all the words exactly right, but it’s an almost verbatim repetition of what has already been said.  They may get some attention for it, but this repetition does not and cannot move the conversation forward. Innovation – and competition – are about advancement, and moving the conversation, the products and the industry... read more

The Importance of People

Part One: Our “Bozo Explosion” and How We Recovered For the longest time when I was just starting out in business, I had a premise about people. I thought, ‘why do you need to wonder what makes people tick?’ It should be so simple. They take a job and get paid. Straightforward. I came to realize that I was completely wrong and this was a completely backwards way to think about people. As you grow with a business, you quickly learn you need more people to do things. It’s finding out how you select the best people for your business that is the hardest part. I am believer in the “Bozo Explosion”, as Guy Kawasaki referred to in a post back in 2006, which I still reference today. The premise of this is that as soon as a company achieves success, they’ll hit a downward slide which can completely be avoided. It even happened at Apple under the control of Steve Jobs and it happened to us. Many things play a role in the downward spiral; the hiring of less than competent employees, involving big name consulting firms who have no interest in your business, money not well spent, and the list goes on. Well, here’s the short version of my ‘SCOTTEVEST Bozo Explosion’… In 2010, our business began doubling year over year, and we were trying to adjust to some serious growing pains. People continued to tell me that as an entrepreneur, I needed to get out of the way and hire professional managers to run my business. I was hesitant, but ended up hiring a President for... read more

“Raising Money is Not Making Money”

SCOTTEVEST continues to grow in the current economy. Right now, there are countless “entrepreneurs” trying to grow really big, really quickly, by “selling money” rather than building lasting value. It can feel like a get rich scheme rather than a solid business model, and it leads me to ask the question,  “Are you an entrepreneur or are you a small business owner?”  Try to guess which one I consider myself to be. This question leads to a series of more questions. You must identify what your goal is when you start a business. Is it to grow big and sell, or is it to make money every day? These are ultimately two completely separate business models, and I have taken the latter with SCOTTEVEST. I started this company with a loan secured by my house, knowing if I failed, I would go bankrupt. I had to hire people and provide them working salaries (myself included). I knew that everything I did, every activity I did THAT day, had to make us money, because if it wasn’t making money, it was costing money. My money. Thankfully, with a business run on the internet, I could easily find out how I did that day so nothing went unmonitored. Let’s look at the other business model mentioned; growing big to sell. Companies such as Bonobos work hard to keep their investors happy. We have a great relationship with Bonobos, but they have a different goal than I do. They are massively successful when you look at their valuation and how much money they’re raising, but that is separate to how much they’re... read more

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Scott Jordan

Scott Jordan

CEO, Founder and Pocket Man