I first encountered Shopify when one of my best clients jumped off the Joomla bandwagon to try out the still green, but now more hulk worthy, eComm platform. It was (maybe not) coincidentally my first brush with an unapologetically human business.
Here's the email I dug out of the archives:

8/19/11
to SmallBizTriage

Hey Everyone,

My name's Brian Alkerton, and I'm part of the Guru program here at Shopify. If you've been with Shopify for a while, you may not be familiar with who we are and what we do, but the short version is that we're dedicated to making sure you've got everything you need to succeed at your disposal. Want marketing advice? We can help. Unsure of how to make a couple edits to your store's template? We've got that covered too.

I'll be in Seattle next week for Penny-Arcade Expo, but I'll be arriving a few days early. This coming Wednesday and Thursday, August 24th and 25th, I'll be in the city, and since my plan was to spend most of those days working, I thought it might be fun to hold some "open office hours" and meet some of our customers in person.

If you've got any questions about working with Shopify, need a bit of hands-on help to get up and running, or just want to say hi, I'll be at the Top Pot Donuts located at 2124 5th Ave. Wednesday afternoon from 1pm-5pm (and yes, coffee and donuts are on me). On Thursday, I'll be at Office Nomads, at 1617 Boylston Ave. all day from 9am-5pm.

The whole thing's going to be fairly informal so there's no need to RSVP or schedule a specific time, just drop in and say hi - you'll be able to spot me by my MacBook with the Shopify decals on it. Of course, if you've got any specific questions you can feel free to send them my way at [email protected] and I'll make sure you get the info you need.

Hope you have a great weekend, and look forward to seeing you next week!

Regards,
Brian Alkerton
Shopify Guru
[email protected]

I met up with him, had coffee, learned some Liquid (Shopify's 'language' for customizing their stores). Can't remember a lick of Liquid, but can't forget the personalized approach they used. A few months later, Tim Westergren (founder of Pandora) held a town hall style get together at the Seattle Public Library. Unapologetically human business events became a permanent fixture in my life from that point onwards.
Shopify is now our go-to platform for anyone trying to sling a physical product online (with WooCommerce and BigCommerce nipping at their heels).
Take a look at this ridonculous 61 Facts About Shopify infographic.

Nate jams with SBT co-founder and jazzy dude Eric Fridrich, a fellow member of the single dad mafia of Seattle in the late '00s, early '10s.

Highlights:
Eric drops the call - recovers gracefully
A coffee shop explodes, Eric suggests due to the incredible chemistry between him and Nate
A brief history of Eric - music as a core element of his personal vitality
Bonding over American Spirits and Pabst Blue Ribbon
Moving from starving artist to business owner - property style
Managing bands, managing business
Where Eric is finding mentors now
What's next for Eric - and growing pains
Nate twists Eric's arm until he plays us song
The Love Gangsters
Eric drops a hot tip
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Angela True, a writer based out of the GORGEOUS Puget Sound region shares her story of earth shattering loss, travel, healing, and furniture with Nate.
No highlights this time - this story is heavy, but here's some sound bites:
It takes a special person to hear someone's story of loss and hold it.
Angela truly believes everyone has a story worth telling, one that can change the narrative of their life.
Avoiding pain invites further trouble.
As for the rest, give it a listen to find out what happened, what happened next, and what's happening now.
Contact Angela at AngelaTrueWriter.com.
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Nobody puts David in the corner. Except David I guess. Nice selfie David.

For kicks, we decided to make Episode 7 a round table with the whole SBT lineup of goofballs. So instead of one guest, you get either none or three depending on how you want to spin it. Totally not a cop-out while we wait for our latest round of invitations to enthusiastically agree to appear on our podcast. Also, not a total trainwreck either. Instead, enjoy this companion piece to Our Three Words - 2018 edition. Sure, you could just read the blog post and skip this episode, but you'd miss out on the brotherly camaraderie and bonus rounds.
Highlights:

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My Three Words is an annual tradition started by unapologetically human marketing phenom Chris Brogan. Why three words? It’s way more effective - and easier to remember - than a long list of likely to be forgotten resolutions. It's also a useful tool in the same flavor as Warren Buffet's two list approach.


Hey, we also did a podcast version of this. Listen below for the real talk behind our respective word trios for the year and get a few bonus rounds for the trouble:

Last Year's 3-Words

Nate
Human, Anchor, Flow
Seth
Balance, Scale, Loop
David
Drop, Change, Focus

So, how'd we do?

NATE: I made a lot of headway on the 'human' side of my life. Even started writing about it exclusively here and Seth and I podcast about it there. Flow is something that I've had to tackle more out of necessity than some intrinsic motivation. Shifting out of my shallow work default into a deep work 'flow' has been getting easier with reps, but still hasn't become habit. I lost touch with my why in a huge way earlier this year, but had a strong finish creating some previously impossible(ish) to form habits.

SETH: I think I balanced my life *fairly* well in 2017 - Balance requires a lot of small readjustments over time so it's an ongoing battle. Same with looping success back into itself. As far as "scale" goes - I'm giving myself a goose egg for 2017, but I am optimistic about the prospects in 2018. All that balancing and looping shouldn't hurt either.

DAVID: My 3 words were *intentionally* all tied to my habits. Admittedly, I didn't drop much (I still find myself hitting up the Taco Bell drive through once and a while, though I guess there are worse vices). I was able to achieve a change in my worldly perspective with a trip to Morocco and Spain. This spatial adjustment helped me dial in what I really wanted out of life, and therefore, I've shifted my focus to achieve these goals. I'll take 2 out of 3 for now, and stay after it in 2018.


And now onto our three words - well a straight dozen to be particular - for 2018.

Our Twelve Words for 2018

NATE

Human - This one deserves a repeat. I've set some downright ludicrous goals in the event, workshop, teaching space, so it deserves to be top of mind. Additionally, I've doubled down on investing more of my fiscal resources towards human coaches for therapy (mind), kickboxing (body) and ... well not sure on the spiritual front. A client/friend is convinced that Bikram Yoga will balance me out - after 'acclimating' to Muay Thai short-shorts, not sure if hot yoga won't push me over the proverbial edge. Guess we'll see.
Structure - A large chunk of my days are unstructured ... I'd say 80%. Leaves too much room for ebbing anxiety, low flowing productivity, and on bad days - lazy binges on food and TV. Of course, I'll need to make a deliberate effort to avoid letting more structure devolving into low-impact busyness.
Fight - the most useful advice I received this year was, "Your fight isn't Nate vs. <insert villain here>. It's actually Nate vs. Nate". Framing my life in this way has helped me dodge the oh-so-dangerous blame game that erodes our goals and motivation.


SETH

Duff - as in "get up off your..." Having seen some success in balancing my energy across the day and year, I find that I still do in fact have a modest reserve of youthful vigor to spare. Don't know how much longer that'll stick around though, so no time like the present to have a few more ill-advised adventures?
Scale - Carried over from 2017, I would *still* love to add another member or two to our team to manage and deliver projects with the same level of quality our existing clients know to expect (or higher, why not?) so I can spend more time on long rambling newsletters and whatever else.
Recover - I always thought it was funny that the word "adventure" is just "venture" with a negative pre-fix thrown in. As though by definition an adventure will tax your resources. That said, this word is at least a half cop-out so I will remember to keep an eye on the daily balance of resources that were represented last year by the words "Balance" and "Loop". Recover wasted time, recover spent energy, and then spend what you have reclaimed doing something awesome. If I'm going to roll with "Duff" as a word for the year, recovery, like breakfast, is not going to be something it is healthy to skip.

DAVID

Aim - We're all familiar with the classic, "Ready, Aim, Fire!" but it never fully resonated with me. If we're talking firearms here, shouldn't you aim until you're ready, then fire? Anyway, my point here is to aim for an achievable goal, then when my sights are set, get after it!
Sharpen - No matter what you're good at, whether it be skiing, fire juggling, or some insane combination of the two, you can always get better. I intend to work on all aspects of myself, the good, the decent, and the downright mediocre. I once read something on a gym wall, "You're stronger than yesterday". Makes sense, unless you've ever tried to double up on your weekly leg days...That being said, I intend to upgrade every skillset in my arsenal, making sure to have a healthy rotation to achieve overall improvement.
Push - Through I'm no longer 16 and ready to hit the ice and skate ladders until I puke, I've recently re-discovered my motivation to go further than "enough". I'm not using this word strictly in reference to physical activity but in all aspects of my life. The easiest way to identify where I can go further is a heavy dose of self-discipline, easier said than done of course, but I've got to start somewhere. In the most disheartening of times, I find that I can sometimes trick myself with the "one more set, one more mile, or one more minute" tactic. After I hit that "one more" marker, I keep the mindset and push onward!  


COREY

Lead - I need to shift out the "managerial" role into a stronger and more effective "leadership" posture. Vision to execution, instead of task to completion.
Me - Giving gets me into trouble. I'm the classic case of they guy helping everyone else put on their oxygen masks, before I don my own. And it finally bit me in the ass in 2017. I spent nearly two months of the past twelve battling illness. Kind of hard to lead anything when you are bed ridden.
Surge - Mediocrity is enemy number one in my world. True slow and steady usually wins the race. But in a competitor laden landscape, the ability to surge ahead as a team makes you unstoppable.

Nate rambles here regarding how human interaction has changed. From starting in caves where social behavior was learned and commonplace - to the act of "caving it up", leading to the slow erosion of our culture. 

The latest clip from our March CA Roadshow has Nate hopping around, getting excited telling the Grist&Toll attendees about our favorite subject... how to be human. Check out the clip below and don't hesitate to subscribe to our YouTube channel... we've got plenty more clips and new stuff that we'll FINALLY be adding on a regular basis!

 (There is a Difference)

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Small businesses are everywhere. These micro corporations form the very backbone of the entire nation’s economy. 

They create jobs, employ millions and keep money flowing in the local community. The scale of the economic crisis would be unimaginable without these small enterprises.

However, the word “Entrepreneur” has been gaining a lot of attention in the media recently. It turns up everywhere you look.

This may have created a bit of confusion as to what exactly a small business is and how its owner is a different breed of business person than an entrepreneur. The difference is widely unknown and essential to understand if you fall into either one of the two categories.

Here’s a look at how the two differ.

The Scale of Ideas

A lot of business start off with just a simple idea. There’s a gap in the market, a glaring problem that needs to be resolved. There’s an opportunity to serve and the small business owner embraces this opportunity wholeheartedly. They set out to form a company that serves the local community and makes their customers happy. It is a business that is traditional and well targeted to a certain audience.

An entrepreneur, on the other hand, is set apart by the sheer scale of his or her idea. They think big, very big. The ideas they have come up with have never been explored before. They cannot be tested, referenced or diagnosed. Often there is no set historical data for what is being attempted, so an entrepreneur is basically setting sail on uncharted territory. The fact that the ideas may seem crazy and impossible at times does nothing to discourage an entrepreneur. Instead, it drives them.

The Attitude towards Risk

Small business owners are not exactly averse to risk. They like taking risks, but calculate them thoroughly before taking the plunge. They hold steady for the most part and like to know what's coming next. The outcome needs to be clearly visible for anyone looking to take risks as a small business owner. As a consequence, the small business owner may get good results, but not necessarily extraordinary ones. But extraordinary may not be the small business owner’s aim in the first place. Consistently moving forward in a disciplined way is the small business owner’s overall goal.

The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is a risk taker like no other. They step out onto ledges more often than not and sometimes fail or succeed spectacularly. The attitude to risk is completely different for an entrepreneur. They understand that more often than not the size of the potential success is worth the risk, and they take the plunge knowing they’ve put in as much effort as they possibly could.

The Time Horizon

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The weekly and daily to-do lists are what small business owners live by. The lifestyle involved with running a business on this scale requires near constant hands-on work for managing employees, communicating with customers, networking with suppliers and just keeping the ship on course. The time and effort required to manage just the mundane tasks becomes so overwhelming the small business owner adopts a myopic view and it’s common not look more than a few weeks or months ahead into the future.

The primary difference with an entrepreneur is that they think about the big picture stuff much more often. Their mind is constantly working on new ideas for growth and expansion of their brainchild. The entrepreneur understands that the day-to-day work at the business needs to be properly managed but that is not where their passion lies. They often find a way to delegate this daily management to someone else so that they can focus on the bigger moves and the creative thinking that drives them.  Whereas a small business owner might be happy to have a successful stable company, the entrepreneur is always thinking of what more can be done. 

The Emotional Attachment

Small business owners can be a little sentimental when it comes to their businesses. Only on the very worst days will they even casually think about selling or giving the business to someone else to run, but that thought always passes.  They enjoy making the day-to-day decisions and running the whole operation so much that they don’t even consider retirement most of the time.

Entrepreneurs are just as emotionally attached to their business but the focus here is on the growth rather than ownership. Relentlessly expanding the business is the thing that drives entrepreneurs the most. To achieve this growth the business needs to grow beyond what a single individual, the owner for example, can handle by themselves.

The business ends up growing to such a scale a team of managers and experts is needed to make the whole thing work. At this stage the entrepreneur has created a business that can run and sustain itself without him or her. And once that happens, they wouldn’t think twice about selling it if it was a smart deal that allowed them to pursue another passion project.

The nation needs everyone to participate to the best of their abilities for the economy to run smoothly. Whether you’ve realized that you are a small business owner or entrepreneur depends entirely on your mindset and your future goals.

Both forms of business and both types of business owners are needed equally, but it helps to know which type you are so that you can work towards achieving what you really want.

 

3rd photoAbout the Author:  Andrew May is a longtime business and finance attorney who specializes in FINRA arbitration.  As the founding member of his own boutique firm, May Law, he’s passionate about helping small business owners and entrepreneurs alike with whatever legal issues come their way. Andrew also enjoys guest blogging on a variety of industry publications. Click here to learn more.

 

We're stoked to have had the opportunity to be invited by the impressive Elena Verlee, to write a guest blog for PR in your Pajamas. If that doesn't sound comfy enough (as long as you're not going out in public, and in a college town like Chico, even that's sometimes "acceptable"); we break down the four "Lessons Learned from 1,000 MailChimp Newsletterswhen sending newsletters to your clients. Check out the full article in the link above and don't forget to let Elena know we sent ya! -Nate

Lessons Learned from 1,000 MailChimp Newsletters

I’ve written a LOT of email campaigns. I sent my first email newsletter when I was in college promoting swing dances 15 years ago, played with list digests after that, then spent a few years fiddling with sales emails, and (finally) made the jump to MailChimp five years ago, and haven’t looked back since.

Monkey-typing

Now I’ve read all the guides, and best practices, and do’s and dont's: “Craft a compelling subject line;” “Strengthen your call to action;” “Use better visuals.” But after sending a thousand email newsletters for hundreds of small business owners, I never found myself regurgitating that advice. Not once.

Here’s what I found instead:

Lesson #1: Care Then Sell

Most of our clients want one of two things with their newsletters: (1) to make some damn money, drive sales, trigger donations, etc. or (2) we’ve been collecting emails for three years on a greasy clipboard; we need to send them a newsletter, right?

But what do your subscribers want from your newsletter? Why did they sign up in the first place?

Our instinct usually revolves around something like: “Well, because they care that much about my product/service/cause/widget/idea/movement” or “To get that cool ebook” or perhaps “They want to buy stuff from me,” or even better, “Discount Codes.”

Now maybe your subscribers expect that from A newsletter, but I doubt that they want that from YOUR newsletter. Your subscribers want what most human beings want: a sense of belonging, to be inspired, to be happy, to be loved.

Gooey, kumbaya, glitter. Sure. But it’s what humans want. And last I checked, your subscribers are human (or at least I hope so, [email protected]).

Find a way to connect your newsletter into that soft spot and you’ve got something worth sending. We advise our client to not sell for the first three to six newsletters. You need to earn that right. Get your subscribers to care, and the selling part becomes that much easier.

You unearth what they want (a free tip), discover where it overlaps with what you want (a click), then serve it up via an email newsletter.

Be wary of the tempo and rhythm of your newsletter sales efforts. Alternate selling vs. not selling in your email blasts.

SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL = Monotone, and doesn’t focus attention anywhere

Share, Share, SELL, Share, Share, SELL = Less boring, and focuses attention on the sales.

Continue onto the full article here for more monkey business

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Part of series on small business networking groups, Randy Gordon. This time, we dug deep into home-based businesses, networking groups and the hunger for human connection.

Randy:     I want to go back to something you said about home-based businesses and tell you that we do have a pretty good share of home-based businesses. We probably have, out of a thousand members currently, at least 150 home-based businesses. They’re in a big pickle in those home-based businesses because many of them start their business on a shoestring, and they don’t have very deep funding, and they’re out of business before they even have a chance to renew. But we do have a special rate for those home-based businesses.

So we do cater to many of those through a group called Women’s Business Council — we have one of the few chambers of business that has a Women’s Business Council that is made up of mostly women. There’s a few men. But it’s for micro-business owners, home-based business owners. So that’s a great step for a home-based business person who’s doing some writing out of their home, or maybe they’re doing PR out of their home, or maybe they’re Mary Kay reps.

And so a lot of those home-based business ladies that are members that join — in our case, it’s $395 — they get plugged into Women’s Business Council, and that’s been pretty successful for us.

I think the home-based business movement has helped chambers, but not a lot of chambers are really aggressively going after those home-based businesses because they don’t really want them. Whether Seattle Chamber of Commerce has a special rate for home-based businesses, I doubt it.

But we feel there’s a niche there because we believe more and more people are going to work out of their home. Let’s face it: you could do work practically anywhere on the face of the earth and be successful if you’ve got the right electronic equipment.

Nate:     Well…[laughs] Now, I can talk about that topic for hours and hours. The electronics is part of it, but I’ve spent a lot of time training my clients to handle my remote nature. It’s taken building up — I mean selling it when you’re remote is a lot harder. Building trust when you’re remote is a lot harder.

So I actually go on road trips and actually meet clients face to face so that the next time we do our remote training session or a remote meeting or doing work remotely, that they’re still feeling comfortable about it. That’s something for me: up until this past year, I’ve steered clear of most networking groups because of that home-based business aspect.

But understanding the community of networking groups and how they function together, I think that I have a lot to learn in that particular space. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that the chamber and Rotary—all these places—they’re actually businesses too, and they have business models, and they’re delivering a service that I’m paying for. I’m still trying to get my hands around that one.

Randy:     Actually, the one thing about it is I’m sure there are people out there that are making a decent living working from their home remotely, and they maybe never see anybody. But I think that that is much more difficult. I think regardless of where we’re going in the future from the electronic age, I don’t think you can ever, ever take the human contact completely out of the equation.

I’ve been in Rotary 32 years, and I can tell you that the optometrist I go to, I met through Rotary. The guy who did my throat surgery was a Rotarian that I sat next to and had lunch with and got to know. So the guy operating on my throat, I knew through Rotary, and I was more comfortable with him doing that. Plus he had a stellar reputation.

And the kind of people that join Rotary are usually the best of the best in their industry. I remember when I decided not to have kids anymore, and I had my tubes tied. That was a Rotarian who did that. For the first time ever last week, I went to a podiatrist—first time ever. I’m 65 years old. I went to a guy who’s in Rotary.

So what happens is that just absolutely—that human contact and getting to know someone—maybe you knew them—like this podiatrist, I’ve known this guy for 20 years. Now, I don’t know him well, but I’ve sat next to him, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with him, and I’ve never used his services until I needed it. But when I needed it, the first thing I thought about was my Rotary roster, which is listed by classification, by medical groups, and we only have one podiatrist in the club. “Oh, I kind of forgot what the guy did.”

So that human contact is important. You can’t take that completely away. But I think what’s happening today is the chamber has got to be like 80% electronic and 20% human contact because we’ve become a society of skimmers and glancers.

I try to read three newspapers a day. I get hundreds of emails every day. I try to go through them every day. I’m responding from my phone that I’m talking to you now—my Samsung. I’ve got my iPad in the car, and sometimes, I’m responding to that or my laptop at home or my laptop sitting on my desk. We are just absolutely bombarded by electronic medium messages, not to mention the hundred texts that I get a day.

Our chamber’s on Twitter, but I’m not. I can just barely handle what I’m doing now from an email point of view, from a text point of view and try to read three newspapers a day. It’s a world that’s fuzzy and moving fast. I love this quote from a Putnam Investments commercial that says, “Just when you think you understand a situation, what you don’t understand is the situation just changed.” I’m just trying to keep up.

 

About Randy Gordon

Randy Gordon was named President/CEO of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in April 1994. He is a 1988 graduate of the U.S Chamber Western Institute for Organization Management at San Jose State University, former instructor at the Stanford Institute, a past member of the Board of Regents of Western Institute, a 1993 graduate from the U.S. Chamber’s Academy at Notre Dame and is currently a trustee for the National Board of the Institute. He is a 1995 graduate of Leadership Long Beach. He is a past president of the 330 member Rotary Club of Long Beach and has 29 years of perfect attendance.

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