18 November 2010

Bigger and better ... than California?

One of my best friends (since kindergarten) has been offered an exciting new opportunity on the other side of the country, where houses are one-third the cost they are here in SoCal. His lovely 2,800 sq. ft. home here in Los Angeles recently sold for about $750k, whilst the bigger 4,000 sq. ft.model homes he and his lovely wife are looking at on the East Coast are going for a little above $250k -- fully furnished to help close the deal ... and such a deal. (Btw, these homes are the signature homes of a large, high-end home builder, not some schmaltzy remnants of a slipshod company.)

I picked him up at LAX upon his return from this East Coast trip where they offered him the gig (following a national search out of roughly 600 candidates), and after a quick (and de rigueur) stop at In-n-Out Burger next door to the airport, I shuttled him home via Malibu in my MKX to remind him of what he'll soon be leaving behind: a perfect 73 degrees on the coast (in mid-November); seeing Paul Allen's impressive yacht, Octopus (one of the largest private vessels in the world with crew of 60, two helicopters, and two submarines. Last week I watched as one of the helicopters landed on the rear of the ship with surfers aplenty providing perspective in the foreground.) anchored off of billionaire row on Malibu's Carbon Beach; sun-kissed beach activities; fantastic restaurants; and canyons and mountains with their winding roads nestled next to pristine coastline that never cease to inspire middle-aged blokes with thick middles to think back upon gossamer dreams of a misspent youth.

(There's also The Coffee Bean that I'd be hard-pressed to leave behind, where I occasionally do some writing, take a meeting, drink some light drip coffee with a scoop of vanilla powder and where I recently spied Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men, Minnie Driver, and Diane Neal from NCIS and Law and Order minding their own business and not being bothered, thank you very much. Gotta love L.A.)

But, he's not chasing a dream with this probable move, but rather securing the next stage of his career and improving the lifestyle for him and his wife and their daughters. He'll take on a staff and budget roughly triple the size he had here. Both of their beautiful and talented and funny (and sarcastic) daughters are in college (one film school, and the other ready to start grad school), so there's no family concerns to keep him local. And, upon finishing his own graduate degree next year he'll be ready to finally publish the material for the two or three books he already has compiled (if only he had an editor! His wife and I have been encouraging him for almost 10 years to write his first book). To borrow a phrase from President Obama (and the backers of the "stimulus package"), his career is shovel-ready for a meteoric rise into the mesosphere. I'm so proud of him.

Moves across the country are an interesting conundrum (moving across town is tough enough). One of our dear blogger friends (the redoubtable Ms. Deb over at Dumbwit Tellher) recently considered a move out of country, to Scotland, I believe. If she did go, she would raise the level of my impression of expats considerably. When I moved to Virginia for grad school, it was four years of sheer enjoyment (and about a year of hell). Hell because it was law school and tough and my brother died and my marriage was fraying. Sheer enjoyment because my ex and I both loved the area, the weather, our first son was born there and we used to have picnics in our large backyard under our elm tree with our son and our dog, Mr. Beebe (before the tornado topped it with an unreal brute force, leaving it looking forlorn with a bad, asymmetrical haircut). At some point a few years back, we both admitted that had we stayed in Virginia we'd most likely still be married. It was an odd, though refreshing moment. She also revealed around this time (of our nuptial demise) her regret for not encouraging me (and trusting) to pursue my writing rather than a degree in law. Late-coming, back-handed compliments are better late and backward than never I guess.

When you "go for it," trying to improve your lot in life (like my childhood pal), there's that moment before the roller coaster of life drops you into zero gravity, when your stomach and heart and mind ask, "what the hellll?!" as you plummet into the unknown. Taking the plunge like that is good, but consider the cost of what you're undertaking. Jesus gave us the metaphor of the builder of the tower and its attendant costs. Go for it, take the plunge, build the tower, make the move, but consider those pesky costs. You could: lose a marriage or a job or a house over it. You just might also: Make that million. Find that husband. Earn that MBA from Harvard. Write that screenplay. Or start a new life on the East Coast with nothing but upside.

12 November 2010

Thick headed update ...

Wow. From great news regarding action by Congress, to some really unbelievably bad news from a client (delivered by email, of course). Seems that when I took several weeks off because of the death of my mother (and the weeks of her being in the hospital and then planning the service and then taking care of my 80 yr-old father), this one particular client took umbrage. Perhaps that's a bit too simplistic, but at the end of the day, that's basically what happened. WWBD?

When you are on a shoestring budget, and have few employees to cover your absence, and there are questions that are asked and the client wants to speak with you personally, well, the next-best choice sometimes isn't best-enough to satisfy the client's demands. So, we had a cease and desist letter (er, electronic missive, otherwise known as an email), notifying us (our company) that we are no longer representing five (5) of the biggest names in the business (picture extremely popular white crooners from the 50's and 60's).

So, whilst we still represent 25 of the biggest names (ugh!!), with one fell swoop we lost five pretty much due to a misunderstanding and because yours truly wasn't there to handle the tough questions. Do I think I could have prevented some of this desertion? Yes, well, at least for two maybe three of the artists. The others? Not so much. WWBD?

But, what really bothered me was the personal relationship I had developed with these acts and the client handling them (the one who sent the C&D). The months and months of meetings and dinners and lunches and sharing our personal lives with each other. So, on a winding road in Malibu Canyon this week whilst in the middle of moving half of my house from Los Angeles, I pulled my truck over to take a conference call with five of us on the line to flesh-out the several issues driving their decision and concern. The view to Catalina island -- twenty-six miles out in the Pacific -- was spectacular. Some Santa Ana winds had cleared out the smog and haze and Catalina looked close enough to swim to.

I'll apologize now for this update being so close to the last one, but I thought it important enough to share the ups and downs of a new business struggling to get its legs underneath itself. Bottom line is that we still have 25 clients, and are still in discussions with two investor groups to bankroll us. In business school we learned that there are many things to focus on when in start-up phase: getting new clients; raising money; hiring the right people; proving up the business plan; etc. If I had to start this over, I would begin with the money first, but then we would lose our leverage if we didn't have the clients signed. Lots of issues to wade through. WWBD ... indeed, what would Branson do?   Gotta love being an entrepreneur.

POST --> Forgot to mention, Dear Reader, that a bank from Nashville flew in to meet with us to discuss our clientele. We've had discussions with banks from Beverly Hills, Nashville, Atlanta, and L.A.. Professor Lassiter of Harvard Business School said, "never in recorded history has the supply of capital not overwhelmed the supply of opportunity." Or, as Philip Broughton rephrased these sentiments in his book, Ahead of the Curve, "there's always money for a good idea." Let's hope so.

06 November 2010

Thinly Veiled Update ...

Yes, there is a Santa Claus, Virginia ... and a God above who completely blessed me and my business partner beyond what we deserve this week with news from Congress.

Our company is very focused on signing new clients for our (very) entertainment-related business. As I have mentioned in the past, we have signed the who's who of artists and musicians who have sold hundreds of millions of records -- and no, that's not an exaggeration. Growing up in SoCal, I've never (and I mean EVER) asked for so much as an autograph from any celeb. Several of my childhood friends have had their own shows on television and cable and starred in feature films. Friends of mine are writers (successful) and producers (oh-my-gawd successful!) and actors and even ridiculously hot fitness models. The first actor I can remember meeting was Robert Young (Father Knows Best, Marcus Welby, M.D.) when I was about 5. My little brother had run around a corner (of course, with me in hot pursuit) and ran headlong into Mr. Young. Of course, Chad fell down, and Robert Young, who was no stranger to a wee nip in the morning, helped my brother Chad to his feet. I grabbed Chad's hand to pull him away from this tall, gray-haired gentleman in his bespoke suit, and with Robert Young's words of "slow down young man" hanging in the air, we quickly ran back to where our parents were standing in line with a half-dozen of our siblings for the famous champagne brunch. (I've written in this space about my encounter -- at my house, twice no less -- with Michael Jackson. Surreal to say the least. It's a SoCal thing, not a Jg. FatScribe thing in case anyone thinks I think I'm all that, with a bag of chips.)

Which brings me to my partner: Dude has everybody's autograph. His house and garage and storage facility are loaded floor to ceiling with memorabilia. He is the antithesis of yours truly when it comes to his relationship with those in the entertainment business. And, in some respects, I am jealous of the guy. There he is with Miles Davis. And again with Ice Cube. And, yet again with Pat Boone. He loves the music business. And, if our venture is successful, he'll be a pig in slop for the next 20 years.

But, this week, as we had one business group from India, that owns 26 businesses around the globe with revenues exceeding $1.5B per annum, pass on investing in our firm -- which stung and stunk, thank you very much -- we nonetheless had GREAT news from Congress. They asked the Copyright Office to receive comments about a new law they're considering. So ... the C.O. called us about several of our clients and asked that we enter comments into the record, as well as encourage our clients for their comments. This new law's potential passage could launch our valuation into the multiples of millions if we can get our ducks in a row. It's great to have clients signed-up and excited, but we still need a few planets to align, and a few special interest groups to stop sharpening their claws (they'd love to kill us, or at least put us out of business), and one or two investors to step-up with several million dollars.

And, there you have it. An update from the ether, where I'm perennially finding myself dreaming of fat cats and their wallets and their millions falling into our bank account to hire 42 staff w/in the next six months. Of course, only after we give up 30% of our company.

Good times, Dear Reader. Broke times (our original six-figures of investment from our non-equity investor) is, after 13 months, g-o-n-e. Bootstrapping a new business has never been so fun, er, tough, er tiresome. Ugh. But, still. Thanks, God, for your seemingly miraculous timing.

Keep you posted.