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Grand Avenue Offers Free Membership to E|SPACES MembersGrand Avenue Offers Free Membership to E|SPACES Members

By Kelsy Harms on March 6, 2014

Grand Avenue invites the 
Members of E|SPACES to 
become a Grand Select Member

Grand Avenue invites the Members of E|SPACES 
to become a Grand Select Member


Grand Avenue invites E|SPACES Nashville office space members to become a Grand Select member at NO membership fee for 2014 (normal rate is $495).

Grand Select membership improves the value of the transportation services used through Grand Avenue. Whether you are a corporate traveler, hitting the town or need transportation anywhere in the US and Europe, Grand Select members enjoy:

  • Easy booking through our Grand Select program manager
  • Senior chauffeurs on any trip in Nashville 
  • Discounts on all travel
  • Automatic entry in our Rewards Program to earn higher discounts 
  • Access to all Affinity Partners special Grand Select deals
  • Concierge help with a myriad of establishments in town
  • Mobile detailing at any convenient location in Nashville 

For more information on our Grand Select Program, click here. To view our Affinities Partners, click here (click the “Perks” button to automatically download all the offers to our members). 

If you’re interested in this membership offering, please contact Morgan Taylor.

Morgan Taylor 
Client Services Supervisor at Grand Avenue

E|SPACES Announces New CEOE|SPACES Announces New CEO

By Kelsy Harms on February 24, 2014

E|SPACES has announced the selection of Jon Pirtle as the company’s new chief executive officer, effective immediately. Pirtle joins the company after serving as vice president of Grand Avenue Transportation.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that Jon has agreed to join and lead the team here at E|SPACES,” said Co-Founder and Board Chairman J. David Gibbs.  “His commitment to a high level of customer service while focusing on business development and accelerating sales growth makes him the perfect fit for our company and this role.”

One of Pirtle’s primary objectives is to expand membership sales of individual and group spaces, as well as larger meeting rooms for companies of all sizes to have a fully equipped, supplemental space to serve their unique needs. In support of that strategy, Pirtle will lead the sales team in enhancing preferred membership with special offers, including discounts on 24-hour member services and more.

“I’m excited to share my experience with the incredible staff here at E|SPACES. This is an amazing opportunity to lead an innovative company and I feel truly blessed,” said Pirtle. “We’re already exploring a large number of ideas geared to make E|SPACES an even greater value to our clients and show entrepreneurs, networking professionals and companies of every size that E|SPACES is the right choice to meet their many needs.” Pirtle will work closely with the E|SPACES sales teams to grow the company and fill the need in the marketplace for the services it provides.  

A native of Nashville, Pirtle began his career in sales with the Brentwood, Tenn.- based toy manufacturing firm, KidPower, Inc., serving major corporate accounts like CVS, Walgreen’s, Walmart, Academy Sports and many others. In a relatively short period of time, he managed a 20X expansion of the company’s catalog sales and was named regional sales manager. In 2010, he joined Grand Avenue with responsibility for the company’s motor coach and bus division, driving significant growth and necessitating a tripling of Grand Avenue’s bus and coach fleet and later becoming a partner in the company.

“E|SPACES is truly a launching pad for clients who want to take their business to greater heights, without the commitment of a permanent office space,” said Pirtle. “But we’re more than just a space— we’re a business partner to our clients and want to provide them with all of the tools they need for success.”

Five Basic SEO Principles - Keep It SimpleFive Basic SEO Principles - Keep It Simple

By Paul Hickey on February 18, 2014

Recently, I heard the quote - “if you don’t like change, you’ll like being irrelevant even less.” Sorry, I can’t remember who’s quote that is - if you know - tweet at me @cabedge please. 

While I can’t take credit for the awesome words of wisdom, I can assure you’re they’re extremely applicable to whatever your business is trying to accomplish. Keeping it really simple: it’s easy to want to ignore SEO and the basic Organic and Paid Search principles that go into building and managing every successful website.

Reasons why...

1. There is constant change. (Panda, Penguin and now Hummingbird), and constant rumors of even more changes on the horizon, and work you did yesterday won’t be relevant tomorrow, yadda, yadda, yadda. Bottom line, when most people sniff change-a-comin’ they bury their heads.

2. We can’t control anyone’s actions but our own. Another great quote I heard recently, from former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George, is that he tells his son every day that he can only control his own actions - not the actions of others. Take Google for example. None of us are Google except Google. Boom- there it is, we can’t control what Google displays. Sorry, or the Bing/Yahoo network. :) Keep in mind, I always say “Google” because it still represents more than 80% of organic keyword referral traffic on all sites we analyze, while Yahoo and Bing only get around 9% each.

3. Real ROI. Is there a real return on investment? Letting the data speak for itself, less than 5% of websites that I’ve analyzed Google Analytics for over the last decade-ish feel like they’ve achieved the level of business they want out of their website. This makes it hard. Sort of like the chicken and the egg - you can’t have one without the other. The answer is simple, the pattern is clear. The sites that invest the proper time in a solid, relevant Organic and Paid Search strategy, do absolutely take major steps towards achieving their business goals and monetizing their online presence. Let me be clear - 100% of the businesses that do this, see a return on investment. Those that half-you-know-what-it - don’t really.

To that end, though, it’s not hard to fully commit. Here are the five basic SEO principles I implore you to implement in 2014. 

1. Still conduct keyword research, but keep the user’s intent in mind. Let’s not get analysis paralysis and question things too much here. Yes, Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird happened, and yes they all worked to change the game, but people are still typing various phrases into the Google search bar and clicking “return” or “search” and generally using phrases relevant to what they expect to find. So doing a preliminary keyword analysis is still extremely relevant, but now in a more meaningful way. Wordtracker’s Mal Darwin does a great job here of explaining how to speak to the user in their language.

2. Know your audience, please. There’s a difference between knowing the intent behind a search, and knowing actually who is searching. If you’re reading this, there’s a solid chance you know better than anyone who your ideal clients are, but you may not know if they’re the ones actually visiting your website. To that end, it’s important to create or invest in creating user personas for your business. This will help your website blossom, trust me. It can get intense, and it definitely doesn’t need to be this heavy, but this article breaks down about everything you need to know about getting buy-in internally for user personas. They can be pretty inexpensive though, when done efficiently, and serve a phenomenal purpose.

A less heavy commitment than user personas, is just thinking through building pages that serve the user, rather than the keyword, which is important.

3. Implement Structured Data Using the Google HTML Mark-up Helper. You may hear this referred to as “keyword tagging.” To keep this super easy on you and me both, I’ve totally spelled out everything you need to know about this wonderful tool on our Cabedge blog - Structure Your Data.

4. For the love of Nancy, please embrace social media. I’ll be more specific - post relevant links back to your website on social media. Seriously. I’ve said this for years, and now there’s more proof than ever to back it up. I’m not saying be obnoxious, but don’t give everyone else all the credit. Here’s what I mean - if there’s a blog post you enjoyed reading, don’t just social out that link. Take five minutes to make a blog post on your site, giving rave reviews to the original author, with screenshots and links back to their content. Then, post the link from your site onto social media. Here’s why - Google is crawling social media not for likes and follow totals, but rather for the amount of times a link has been posted to a specific root domain (URL - web address) - and how many times that particular link has been engaged with (specifically, Google plus-1’d, liked, commented on or retweeted). Moz, an unquestioned industry leader in rocket-scientist level organic search geekdom, uses the below social media metrics to rank sites in their “open site explorer” tool. Not only does this alone more than validate the importance of these social metrics, but taking it a step further, only paid subscribers get access to the social media metrics portion of the open site explorer tool, seen below...


5. Take the time to properly write your meta descriptions. You’ve seen my tirade on meta data still being relevant, haven’t you? Well, here it is, in all it’s glory. Seriously though, we learn by experiencing, and unsolicitedly, our friends at Raven Tools recently posted a great blog on properly writing meta descriptions, specifically. The meta descriptions are what Google SERPs pull in and display to the user after the user has searched. So in other words, the meta description on all of your website’s pages, plays a key role whether or not the user engages with you, after you appear on page 1 (we hope). :)


Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.


TAGS: Paul Hickey Small Business SEO Series

Stop Guessing and Arguing Over What to Say on Your WebsiteStop Guessing and Arguing Over What to Say on Your Website

By Paul Hickey on January 29, 2014

Trust me when I tell you that I’m smack dab in the middle of at least 5-6 conversations every week regarding what headline copy, imagery and color of buttons will be used on a website that won’t launch until at least 2-3 months from the date in which the conversation is taking place. I don’t blame companies or partners of ours for wanting to get it right and present the most effective user experience for their web visitors, but consistently there is one thing missing - a lack of conversation about the real answer to the question.

Let’s just A/B test.

Seriously people. Come up with the two most effective options (be it for featured imagery, headline, sub-headline, button or body copy, button color or calls to action), and dub one “Option A” and the other “Option B.” While it’s hard to decide on one option, it’s much easier to come to a consensus and move projects forward by agreeing to go with two, then test to see which one is most effective. 

Data doesn’t lie, and in the end, conversions win out over preference.

Any strategic web design and development company that doesn’t suggest A/B testing to their clients is not truly doing their job at a high level. So I’ve mentioned a few content types to A/B test, and now it’s time to dig in to how to actually execute.

1.  Always consider the user scenario.

Typically geolocation and device are things to pay attention to. In other words, backing up a step, A/B testing is about gathering data to drive informed decisions on how to best engage different types of users. While one generic type of A/B test would be to serve up Option A and Option B split up by day of the week (in other words - every other Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, run Option A - and vice versa for Option B). You can then go into Google Analytics and see how different options perform against one another by day of the week. Drilling down further, you can segment deeper by pulling mobile device data and geolocation data. For example. users on a desktop device may respond more favorably in engaging with the site or completing a conversion action with Option A, while mobile users may gravitate towards Option B. Also, people in the Midwest region of the US may like Option B better, while Californians may engage with Option A at a much higher clip.

While it’s easy to get lost in this stuff, the point is simple. Gather the data during the early portion 3-6 months of a new website rollout, then lock in to the most effective options and serve the menu accordingly to each audience. 

From a technical standpoint, any programmer worth their salt will be able to code a site to display different calls to action, copy or imagery based on device or IP address.

2. The changing of the Options can be toggled manually, or with tools like 

Manually is for the hands on content manager with a bit of time, but not a huge budget. A/B testing can also be custom coded into a website, but perhaps the best why to start is with a tool like - which can load two versions of your website for you, and report back data via a dashboard with high-end UI features. The downside to a third party platform like this is your organic search may see a blip due to slower page load timing, as the code needs time to load. Overall, it’s tried and true, however, and worth a look for any level business.

Other tools I recommend are WordPress plug-ins like

3. Don’t forget to also A/B test your email marketing.

So many companies want to guess what type of headline will be most effective. Mailchimp makes it easy, buy allowing you to pick two options, serving both to a segment of your audience, and then based on the open rate, serving the most effective one to the remaining segment. (See screenshot below). 

4. Employ the Mail Chimp principal on your website.

Don’t forget to turn A/B testing off and just go with what is most effective after your test period. It’s fun to gather data, but once you know what your users are engaging with the most - serve that 100% of the time.

Trust me, A/B testing is worth it and needs to happen for your business to succeed digitally. If not to optimize conversions, then at least to get you out of those long, bureaucratic meetings about what to put on your website or in your email blasts. 


Paul HickeyPaul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites. 





TAGS: Small Business SEO Series

Health Reform's Greatest OpportunitiesHealth Reform's Greatest Opportunities

By Kelsy Harms on November 21, 2013

Alex Tolbert shares about the changing map of healthcare with business leaders in Nashville at an E|SPACES event October 22, 2013. This event was filmed by the Bank of Nashville as part of their CEO Cafe series. 

TAGS: CEO Cafe Events Healthcare Kelsy Harms

SEO Business Bootcamp Easy Win: Get A Customized URL for Your Google Plus Local PageSEO Business Bootcamp Easy Win: Get A Customized URL for Your Google Plus Local Page

By Paul Hickey on November 5, 2013

Remember that Alanis Morissette song with no irony in it, just bad luck? You know, like rain on your wedding day and stuff?

Well, Google has a little irony of their own, within the Gmail platform. We’ve talked about how marketers now have to deal with Gmail “tabs”. Remember? When you send an email blast through Emma, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, or even blind cc more than a few people these days, you risk showing up in the “Promotions” tab on Gmail.

Well, in a stroke of what the aggressive Canadian pop singer was striving for in her 1996 hit, Google has sent out emails with this title recently - Get a custom URL for your Google+ page. My guess is, it didn’t show up in your promotions tab - for obvious reasons.

Google wants you using Google+, and in addition after Google Reviews and Google Plus Local pages, the missing link, which now has been revealed - is customized URLs. 

In other words, instead of saying “+1 this” or “go here to check out our Google Plus page, you can simply say, go to ... much more brand-friendly, right?

Well - it’s also SEO friendly. Don’t think for a second that this won’t help in some way with your business’ local search results. SEO-friendly URLs are always a positive thing, especially when the number one search engine / business directory in the world is offering it to you.

If you don’t have a Google+ page yet, or haven’t verified, feel free to for more information, and if you have but haven’t received this email yet from Google - stay tuned. You need to meet this criteria to be eligible.

So while all of Alanis’ stuff represented bad luck, the true irony of a Google-promoted post by-passing the “promotions” tab in Gmail is probably the best luck/easiest win your business could have asked for in a while.


Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.

TAGS: Paul Hickey Small Business SEO Series

The Dangers of Deployment - How to “Go Live”The Dangers of Deployment - How to “Go Live”

By on October 8, 2013

Heading into the fourth quarter of the year, it’s time for new websites. Many organizations are launching new sites this month, while others are beginning new projects that will launch before the holidays.

Website redesign projects can be very fun. There’s an opportunity to refresh your company’s brand, look, feel, presentation and ability to market and generate traffic. It’s a very exciting time, but it’s also pretty hard to launch a new website. I mean, no website redesign project is “easy.” Having sat in many-a-room with many-a-smart group of people and having had the great opportunity to help them walk through every intricacy of transitioning from their current website to the newest iteration - one thing has become obvious: we all have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

Let’s assume that we’re at the end of a full website redesign process. Having been through this several dozen times, there’s always a real risk of several things happening.

1. Getting crippled by your content

I can totally understand the need for good content. I preach it all the time. But there’s a difference between wanting to put your best foot forward, and trying to win a pulitzer prize. The reality is that people expect your content to change, so it makes no sense to really stress over it. Yes, you want quality content, but you also don’t want web copy to push back the launch of your new website.

2. Too many opinions

Everybody wants to weigh in on the design of a new website. Personal preference is hard to ignore. It infringes upon every scenario, even when that’s not the intent. Inevitably, after all the work is done, and the final bill is paid, there are changes requested. Sometimes folks are generally scared to see their new face go live to the public. It’s like hearing their own voice on the radio - they hate the idea of it.

Others just want to “get it right.” That’s understandable and admirable, but not possible.

Unfortunately, too many opinions can kill an entire project, and sometimes derail it completely.

So instead of taking opinions, make data driven decisions. The best possible way to combat opinions is with facts. So instead of “shopping around for internal approvals,” a smarter move is to invest some of your project budget into usability testing and analytics analysis. Also, saving some of your project budget for making post-launch changes is always better than trying to solve every issue before going live.

Something will break. Something won’t work the way you thought it would, and people will interact with your site and demand things from your site that you didn’t anticipate.

That’s all good. Anticipating those things and planning to address them after your website hits the market is the way to craft the best possible experience for your constituencies. Google does it. Speaking of Google, let’s not forget to address probably the most overlooked piece of a website redesign.

3. Proper SEO considerations

What does this mean, exactly?

Well, there are some core things that need to happen pre-launch.

Content Migration - It seems silly that it would even be possible to miss migrating content from your old site to your new site, and I’m not taking about refining down and eliminating unneeded pages and words. I’m talking about moving from one house to another and leaving boxes of your stuff on the floor. If you’re launching a new website, please make sure that you take the time to audit your old website and double check your new one to make sure you’re web development team has a content strategy. Once you lose your old stuff, it’s hard to get it back - and it will create an initial drop off in traffic. Why?

301 Redirects - Think of it this way. While a website is always a work in progress, each page that’s published is actually permanent in some way. For example, when you make a blog post, or edit a page, it lives forever somewhere. Even if you’ve never emailed that link out to people, posted it on social media, included it in a printed marketing piece, e-mail signature or verbally told someone to check it out - chances are, Google has indexed it.

A website that gets launched without 301 Redirects will lose valuable traffic. A 301 Redirect ensures that when a user finds an old like that has been indexed by Google, or clicks on a link from an old bookmark, the content on a page like gets sent to it’s new equivalent at

301s are easily the most overlooked part of a website redesign, but the most important from a practical standpoint.

Proper Meta Data Implemented on each page - The purpose of a 301 redirect is so that traffic isn’t lost in the transition, but the overall SEO goal is for the new site links to out-rank the old site links anyway. This is where including the proper meta data and search engine titles on each new page is extremely important. Again, it’s easy to basically get blinded by how great your new design is, and miss some important things. The simplest and safest thing to do is to recreate the same format that exists on your current site, but this launch is also an opportunity to refocus your keyword strategy and try some new things.

Don’t Forget about Post-Launch SEO Tasks

  • Verifying webmaster tools
  • Submitting site-maps
  • Monitoring SERP (search engine results pages), and making necessary tweaks and adjustments to optimize
  • Google Plus Local Verification

There’s a lot to consider, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty black and white. If you can make sure you’re strategic and calculated about going live, instead of striving for perfection before going live, then you’re on the right track.

Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLCan Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.

TAGS: Paul Hickey Small Business SEO Series

Small Business SEO Series: And Then There's Your Google Plus Review StrategySmall Business SEO Series: And Then There's Your Google Plus Review Strategy

By Paul Hickey on September 9, 2013

Paul Hickey Nashville Sometimes it feels like it's all coming down hard on you at once. Well, let me rephrase that - most times, it feels like it's all coming down on you at once. Small business owners - or even directors of smaller marketing departments always have multiple "issues" to deal with. Much like a homeowner or a car owner, there's always something needing attention, or even broken - that you didn't plan for.

Just like the way I tried to drive into work today and noticed my back left tire was flat and had a nail in it (this on top of my home A/C being broken in August and September, locking my keys in my car last week, having a broken garage door, and already having planned on coming into the car dealership for an oil change and tire rotation).... "by the way Mr. Hickey, your battery is testing low and we can't repair your tire so you have to buy four new ones."

Yep, this is exactly what it's like when running a small business - trying to generate new business while also providing the best possible Client Experience for your existing business. In other words, you've got outbound calls to make, employees to lead, opportunities to sift through, blogs to write (remember, this is a Small Business SEO Series), and now, Google Reviews to watch out for.

Wait, what?

Yep - Google Reviews. Consider this the curve ball in your day. The flat tire. The broken A/C in the middle of 95 degree heat. The garage door that won't shut. Okay, you get it. Wait, one more ------- the LOCKING YOUR KEYS IN YOUR CAR!

So let's take a look at exactly what these Google Reviews are and how they're applicable to your business.

Google Plus SEO Help

When you click on these reviews, you're taken to a page that looks like this...

google plus review - autozone 2

This may seem like small beans, but it's not. Google is betting the farm on Google Plus, and part of their investment is in these reviews. They will eventually make Yelp! and Yellow Pages seem a bit obsolete, and they will continue to over take the precious real estate in the search results.

Your business needs to have a Google Plus review strategy. Here's why.

AutoZone is a chain. There are more than 4,000 AutoZone stores nationwide. Google is going to look at your IP address and your GPS location depending on where you're searching from. There will be variations in the search results depending upon several factors. Your location, whether or not your logged in to Google, and the device you're using. Point being, if I'm search from Franklin, TN, Google is going to show me reviews posted for stores closest to me (see above address, Columbia Ave., Franklin, TN). So each store as the opportunity to take charge of it's own reputation, and create it's own Google Review strategy. After all, if you're the manager at the AutoZone in Spring Hill, TN, you don't want to get judged by a review from Columbia, TN, do you?

How to Implement a Google Review Strategy...

  1. Verify your business' Google Plus Local Page (instructions here).
  2. After taking charge of your Google Plus Local page, optimize all information (make sure business hours, address, and categorization are correct, and write detailed, efficient descriptions of your business and its service offerings).
  3. Use social media and your website's contact form as tools to filter positive reviews to your Google Plus Local page.
  4. Track and respond to your reviews.


Here are a few screenshots that show what I'm talking about in #3 above...

- This could be an option on your website's contact form. This link could also be private messaged to social media followers who say good things about you, or customers you have positive interactions with in your point of sale locations...

Google Reviews - Contact form

Next step...

Google Reviews- Response Submission

As far as #4 (Tracking and responding to reviews), our friends at Nifty Marketing pulled out this example of a solid response from a business owner (courtesy of

Google Reviews - Response from the owner

5. Being helpful to your customer base and empowering them to learn about Google Reviews is key to driving your positive review strategy. The screenshot below is an example of a resource you can use to help your constituencies.


Google Reviews - Tutorial

Some examples of what a verified local business, and competitor to AutoZone (when it comes to service, parts, etc.) is doing by the way of Google Plus is below. Note that their page is verified, and they have far more reviews, traffic, etc.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.05.08 PM

Reviews Below (notice how the good reviews combat the bad). If you can make that angry person seem overly emotional by offsetting it with positive reviews, you'll look just fine to people researching you.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.07.25 PM

So, I know this probably seems like one more thing to do. You were packing your kids' lunches and the microwave blew a fuse. Well, your Google Plus Local Business Review strategy shouldn't be treated as "just another thing to do." Rather than allow yourself and your business constituents to be blindsided by negative Google Reviews, take charge of your destiny and build this into your digital media marketing strategy. Remember...

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.52.08 AM

Also, take some relief in the fact that theoretically you should be able to identify anyone and everyone who reviews your business online via Google. In other words, Google requires that a user be logged in to post a review. Nothing anonymous.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.11.00 PM

Oh, and you can always say howdy if you need help with any of this!

Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC - an Atiba Company - and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.

TAGS: Paul Hickey Paul Hickey SEO Small Business SEO Series

On Being Tethered to a Shark—LiterallyOn Being Tethered to a Shark—Literally

By Phil Gibbs on September 3, 2013

You’ve heard the quote, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working.”  I put this saying to a test on a recent trip to Destin, Florida, and learned that fishing has a lot of similarities to starting and building a business.

With great anticipation my wife, son and I boarded a boat with six other aspiring fishermen at 6:30 AM, looking for great adventure on the high seas—I know, it was just a fishing trip, but this needs to be dramatic.  The weather had been rainy and the ocean was rough that morning.  And the first mate said we were going to have to go a little farther than they normally go because the Air Force had closed part of the ocean.  Turns out they were shooting live missiles and we didn’t want to be the target.  This is already beginning to have a lot of similarities to starting and growing a business—rough seas and live missiles!  Funny, I don’t remember that part when I was reading about blue ocean strategies.

After a two-hour ride southeast to where we were going to fish, the Captain finally throttled the engine down and we dropped the lines.  We were fishing close to the bottom and almost everyone started pulling fish in left and right.  We were primarily catching Amberine, along with some different varieties of Snapper, although Red Snapper were off limits.  It was great fun and a great feeling—that is for those who were not throwing up in a trashcan or hanging over the side.  While I had fought the urge, fortunately I did not get sick.

I must admit that at one point I was fishing and immediately to my right was my wife with her head over the side throwing up—if you are an entrepreneur and have a spouse, I don’t have to tell you that there could not be a more perfect metaphor for doing a start-up.

One of the rods was rigged as a Grouper line.  Unlike the other rods, you were unlikely to pull in many fish but a big Grouper would be worth the wait.  As I started fishing with the Grouper rod, I was instructed to not jerk when I got a bite but to let the fish really take the bait.

After a move to another fishing spot and a couple of missed opportunities, I had a huge tug on my line—I had this one hooked and started reeling or least tried my best.  The first mate had all the others pull in their lines and the battle was on.  The rod was bending and I was doing my best to hold on and crank the reel.  I was wearing a belt with a plastic holder to rest the end of the rod, but they attached a much larger belt around me and then snapped it to each side of the reel.

I will never forget the instructions from the first mate, “If you get pulled overboard, you need to unsnap those from the reel.”

Looking back, I think, “You have got to be kidding me?”  But in the middle of the battle, I didn’t have time to think—I was putting every bit of energy I had into trying to hold on and crank the reel.  I thought I had a 40-pound Grouper.

Finally the battle was won and we got it to the surface, but it wasn’t a Grouper.  It was a 100-pound Dusky Shark.  As a protected species, we could not bring it onboard but had to cut the line and let it go back to its habitat.  We did have pictures and bruises on my arm as proof of the battle.

I am not sure there is such a thing as a bad day fishing, but fishing does seem to have a lot of similarities to life as an entrepreneur.  It is a nice late summer day but the ocean is rough, live missiles are being fired nearby and you feel the urge to throw up—oh by the way, my wife just told me that I never asked how she was doing when she was hanging over the side throwing up.  I just kept fishing.  The similarities are beginning to bother me.  Ouch!

You have a clear mission and finally hook the big one.  You are all in—literally attached to the line.  There is no compromise and no turning back.  And instead of a 40-pound Grouper, it is a 100-pound Shark.  In spite of the best market research and business planning, you never really know exactly what is on the other end of that line to which you are tethered—a Shark or an industry disrupting solution.


TAGS: Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurs Phil Gibbs start-up companies

Congressman Marsha Blackburn on the Nation's Fiscal Issues

By Kelsy Harms on August 29, 2013


Congressman Marsha Blackburn shared at a recent E|SPACES event in Cool Springs with our members and local small business owners. Highlights of her discussion included how the nation's budget and fiscal situations affect our long-term viability, bond rating and fiscal health and also touched on the affects Obamacare is having on small businesses.



Handouts with additional information provided:



TAGS: Government Spending Kelsy Harms Obamacare

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