40oz of Determination

Boss, IT Business, Uncategorized
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Over the past few years I’ve dedicated much of my words on Vladville towards calling out the BS I saw as a threat to many people I do business with. As with all fraud, it all comes apart given the time. And with most of my nemesis long gone to mediocre jobs, prison or being a tricycle BBQ “chefs” – combined with my time taken up by new business ventures – I wanted to offer this eulogy.

It’s hard to sell people mediocrity unless you can convince them that everything they are doing and everything they have ever done is wrong.

But once you’re able to appeal to someone’s emotional insecurities, instead of their rational mind that can do basic math, there is no limit to the number of clichés you can string together to slowly bleed them dry with consulting, books, groups, seminars that push the notion of accepting inadequacy with a hint of who to blame for it all.

As one of the most miserable business failures recently said in a video (paraphrased): “I’ve never been happier than I am now and it’s because I’ve stopped trying to make money.”


This, in a nutshell, is the mentality that drives business failures insane: They try so hard to deny the proven value of hard work, discipline, accountability, cost savings, tradeoffs and long hours and their fantasy world inevitably always leads them to failure. Of course they feel this enormous relief when they stop trying to scam people and can finally be honest with themselves: next time I’ll try harder.

The Only Proven Repeatable Success Story

Hard work.

Unless you play poker or are remarkably good looking with terrible morals, there are no shortcuts.

Nobody is going to write a book about this. You won’t see a New York Times Bestseller “How I Became Wealthy By Working Myself To Death” at the airport. It’s not fancy. It’s not glamorous. There is no “MTV Cubes” show with Robin Leach fawning over someone’s business book bookshelf or papers on their work desk. It’s not a fantasy – it’s reality – one that people so desperately want to escape from.
Why? Because they are building nothing. Because they have no passion for what they can accomplish. Because they, ultimately, do not believe in it. If you don’t believe what you’re dedicating your limited time on this earth is valuable and worthwhile then it’s going to fail. Sorry. Don’t like the truth, go buy a Subway franchise.

But never, ever, put down the value of hard work. I hereby humbly submit this eulogy to all those who thought they could cheat and fraud their way to the top, may the hotel bars give you some peace that you never found in convincing people they don’t need to dedicate every ounce of effort towards realizing their dreams.

To hard work and people that actually do stuff. I salute you.

P.S. While I’m sure a scammer is born every day, I’ll dedicate more of my time on this blog towards things I’m actually doing these days. But if you ever need a WWVD just ask them how working less is going to make you more successful and enjoy the fantasy.

Of Politics & Baby Steps

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I try not to get into politics on this blog. My extent of political evangelism is somewhat limited to what drives my personal entertainment: I post Facebook political memes to egg people on, I’ve been to rallies to people watch and random social media name calling that really brings out the best in people. Truthfully, what concerns me the most aren’t the people that we’re electing but the people that are electing them – and their dependence on the big government – and I’ll make this quick.

First, it’s difficult to talk about politics because you can no longer have a political opinion without the responsibility to defend everything about it. Standing for something means you’re automatically standing against something else and you’re liable to explain away any bit of criticism. You have to rationalize your opinion with folks that want lower taxes and but higher government spending on things that are important to them.

Second, it’s hard to explain the world to those that haven’t left their bubble. I’m not a fan of wars or of the military industrial complex – but I understand that much of our wealth and prosperity is due to our ability to enforce the petrodollar which gives us the ability to print unlimited quantities of our currency and rack up significant debt. So we’re in places we shouldn’t be in, doing things we shouldn’t be doing and as a superpower people look to us for help in every conflict. Where is the line between world police and superpower?

Finally, it’s hard to be a normal person that has to make a binary choice from options that don’t represent them. You have two choices (and two more unqualified ones) for the leader of our nation who have made their greatest strides breaking the law and even the common decency. For many of us it’s not a vote for something we want to stand for but for a vote against something we detest and find repulsive.

What really worries me

We don’t have a serious and qualified alternative to the big government: neither party is interested in limiting the size or scope of the government – the only part they differ on is whether they want to grow the government directly through services or if they want to create big tax cuts for the rich government contractors or corporations that underpay people and make them dependent on welfare. Neither is arguing about anything smaller, both just think their approach makes us grow faster. Or roll the dice and vote for unqualified isolationists that are afraid of wifi or failed elementary school geography.

An overwhelming majority of our country is too dumb or too naïve to understand the problems we face and is being educated about the issues by the very people that only benefit from having us dumb and split. I grew up in an era that had journalists that covered facts – news these days covers opinions of facts and the more entertaining and outrageously dramatic they are the better for the ratings – their agenda is not to educate you but to entertain you and keep you angry enough to see the next guy get slammed – the same as WWF in 1990s. The most popular media outlets, with the most attention, aren’t your typical Sunday shows but social media videos and memes that oversimplify and rile people up.

I don’t have a political viewpoint to share but I have a bit of advice: The issues we face as a country will not be solved by this election or the next one that will start as soon as we know the results of this one. Our government will get bigger. Our representatives will become less accountable and if the recent history is an indication – facts will seem to matter less and less.

Ask not what you can do for your country or what your country can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for your family, friends and community. In a complex world where everyone is seeking to divide us, let’s ask ourselves what we can do to help one another. Baby steps.

Of Hustlers and Entrepreneurs

Boss, IT Business
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I love my boy Dre. In the 13 years that I’ve known him, he has made every single tshirt, hat, hoodie, jacket, flyer, visor, screen printed junk and piece of apparel ExchangeDefender logo has ever been on. And trust me, I got a fantastic deal on every single one of those.

My boy Dre is the ultimate hustler. He has a few tables at the local flea market and in the dozen years I’ve known him there is no trend the man hasn’t made money on. From apparel to screen printing to bootleg DVD and CDs (that a while ago) to web sites and the latest addition to the family: 3D printed stuff from souvenirs to anything you want.

Yet every few months that I see him we have a Come to Jesus meeting about working 80 hour weeks, living at the market, not being able to find good help… peppered with the usual dose of “check out my new business” and “making money doing this new thing”. The conversation always ends like this: You need to focus on building a business that lasts longer than your latest gimmick. 


Entrepreneurs Build Businesses

All entrepreneurs are hustlers.

Not all hustlers are entrepreneurs.

I know it’s en vogue to say “I’m an entrepreneur” because it sounds good but calm down Jimmy Joe Bob, a 3D printer and a Facebook page make you as much of an entrepreneur as it makes you god on day four. Hustlers take spare time and Google to make something that brings them a few bucks – they make a pitch, make a few sales and that’s it – once they realize it involves actual work and that the hobby isn’t fun when it requires time and people.

Where the hustle ends, real business begins. This is why real entrepreneurs take ideas, usually simple thing that any hustler does, and they build them to scale. With people. With process. Sustainable over time.

How do you know if you’re a hustler or an entrepreneur? What happens to your “business” without you.

Simple. Hustlers keep on shifting cash from one mouse trap to another, in perpetuity.. and the real tragedy is, they can’t outrun their scam. Because a real business doesn’t dodge it’s bills, talk a big game about “great new things in works” while dodging phone calls and maintaining zero accountability. It works in the short term, because they really don’t know any better, but in the long term things fall apart without people, partners and vendors you can trust in business.

Don’t be a hustler. If you are one now, forget about the next idea and focus on being an entrepreneur that builds a real business – one that doesn’t need you and as such outlasts you.

Update on Work-Life Balance

Boss, Leisure
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As many of my long term followers know, I have a workaholics objection to the work-life balance bs. Once I meet someone that has become wildly successful working 8 hour days without compromising ethics or the law I will gladly come here and admit that I was wrong. I can only honestly speak about my life, the 10+ hour workdays and over a decade without vacations.


All of which has brought me here: I’m almost 2 months into my summer vacation and let me correct your notion of that right now: not a day has gone by that I haven’t done something work related or spent a significant amount of time thinking about work. As an entrepreneur, your businesses are just a part of who you are and a responsibility you have for your business is no different than your need to have lunch or take a shower: payroll still has to be made, decisions still have to be approved, staff needs to be guided and counseled, business partners kept in the loop, etc.

So how is it a vacation at all? Because it’s void of all the things that suck about work: there are no deadlines, no grunt work, no meetings, no mile long task list. There is absolutely no stress about being involved in everything other than what a CEO is actually supposed to be doing: strategy, partnerships, mentoring.

Two months absent from day-to-day grind and operations of my businesses, they are all in a better shape today than when I left. I’ve gotten to spend a ton of time with my family, travel do dozens of countries, go to five different continents and have what is perhaps the most relaxing time of my life.

That, my friends, is work-life balance: When you can have your business AND personal lives thrive. Not the endless schedule juggling, plugging and unplugging, hours cheating on work/family and a gazillion time management techniques that optimize the heck out of your day just so you hit the day near dead and wake up even more tired. If you are a workaholic – that is you love your work – and you want to be a multimillionaire with wild success and multiple companies and charities and so on: that stuff costs time and money. So get to it.

I don’t mean to gloat: but don’t ever discount the value of hard work. Don’t ever disparage the long hours, the long term thinking, the work ethic and the obsession you have with what you’re passionate about: particularly if it’s your work. Dismiss and outright kick out the people from your life that tell you otherwise – are they going to give you everything you want in life?

We live in a phenomenal time where there is an opportunity to do wildly better than the norm if you’re willing to work really, really hard. It’s not easy and it’s not glamorous and you won’t write any books about it – but it’s valuable and it will give you the ability to do life on your own terms instead of a tradeoff-obsessed realtime-satisfaction world.

All the amazing things in life you enjoy today, and the peak of our very civilization, didn’t get accomplished by zen monks and guys striving for a half day. Do likewise ladies and gents, do likewise.

All the business is a stage

ExchangeDefender, Gaypile, IT Business
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If you didn’t recognize Bill S in the title, it’s also my philosophy on business and HR:

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…

Yesterday was a rather bittersweet day at ExchangeDefender, it was a celebration of the last of my big generals from the ‘08-‘12 moving on and leaving our business on to the next generation. These folks sat around the table with me when I explained our business model change and the new things we were about to do. All of those business lines went from nothing to millions of dollars, all those people went from making very little to becoming executives and not only did we produce incredible value for all our clients and their users but we also impacted way more than just the quarterly agendas.

Small business is not all about maximizing profit

I know I always say that “your only responsibility as a business owner is to maximize shareholder value” and I completely believe in that 100%.

I also happen to own 100% of my business, and always will, so I’m not too concerned about what happens month to month because the balance is not the end game: I am constantly spending on what I believe is important and it goes way beyond me. If you don’t see it that way I feel truly sorry for you and I understand because I’ve been there because at some point the goal of my work was to own a Ferrari in every color of the rainbow. Sadly, eventually you run out of parking in front of the house.

As someone who isn’t simply climbing the ladder, my name is on the business and my loyalty is to my clients and to my employees. Because without them I’d have no money, or worse, I’d have to do all the work myself. And believe me, that sucks, trust me because at some point I did all the jobs myself.

It’s back then that I realized that the true service was something entirely beyond me because service isn’t just a matter of accomplishing the task. It’s about studying it and having a passion for it. About constantly improving it, growing it, scaling it and making it more than an annoyance in between the parts of the job you truly love.

My promise

My promise to that team was quite simple: Here you have an opportunity to do something great that you will likely never have anywhere else: nobody is against you. Nobody is after your job, nobody is after your headcount, nobody is after your salary, nobody is going to fight you because we are on the same team. That’s not typically the case in businesses, particularly profit obsessed ones, because greed becomes a factor and it becomes a tactical game with warfare, politicians and peons.

About half a dozen people sat there, listened to my BS and turned my dream into a reality. Their own ambitions, ideas, suggestions and projects always (much to chagrin of some of our partners) saw daylight.

As of yesterday, they have all moved on. All of them far better, far more experienced and far more efficient than they were when they got here. Part of a successful business is that it looks at all the parts of it and tries to make them all better: I’m confident that all of the folks that worked with me from those early “cloud” days are better off. They worked extremely hard, they hustled, they put in crazy hours.. and they managed to be a part of something truly incredible that doesn’t happen every day.

Yet, it’s bittersweet for me personally. Even though without exception every single employee or team that has come after them and replaced them has so far proven to be much better. Better coders. Better designers. Better marketing. Better business management. Better support engineers. Better network engineers. Better because they got to benefit from the hard work the people before them put in to give them that opportunity. Yet it’s bittersweet for me because over time people become a family and you get a sense of comfort and familiarity even when you know you could do better.

I wouldn’t trade what we’ve built and how far we’ve come with this magnificent group of people for anything. Most people that suck you know right away – everyone can fake it for a week or a month and they are gone in a virtual business instant. People that stick around for years are the unicorns, those magical beasts that see things more than a day at a time and can build things that take forever to do.

I really hope my team understood how much I appreciated them all. Early on in my career I was told that I don’t say thank you enough to which I responded with “I say thank you thousands of times every two weeks.” 

As with anything, some things are bigger than money. I appreciate the commodore. I appreciate the support. Physical, emotional, virtual. I’ve texted people after midnight about as many times as I’ve dragged their drunken ass out and off the floor.

It’s hard to say goodbye to so many great people but I’m happy that they have given so many an opportunity, built so many great businesses, impacted so many small businesses… and we’ll always have great stories and a corporate Amex to drop some shananigance on whenever we get together.

And we’ll always have the security camera footage. Cause if a picture is worth a thousand words, those drives and their distributed replicas..

Goodbye Agent Whereisbigtitsthatlikesitintheass. To the next chapter.

Realtime instant life satisfaction with free 2 day shipping

IT Business
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AKA How to fail at life.

I don’t want this to read like yet another shit-on-millennials blog post; I’ve met ineffective, lazy and underperforming people across multiple generations. To me, it comes down to one thing:

                                        Long Term Planning.

If you suck at it, you’re going to suck at everything you do.

We life in a reckless #yolo culture. Everyone is conditioned to expect instant gratification, fast food, free 2 day prime shipping, realtime status updates and non-stop entertainment to fulfill a no-attention-span lifestyle.

So they expect constant praise for anything that goes well and zero criticism for anything that goes wrong because “hey that’s ancient history, why are you bringing it up and treating me like a child?” Spend every dollar they make (and then some), as fast as they make it, not for a moment contemplating whether it’s going to keep coming. The feeling of need and desire is primary and secondary, everything else be damned.

And as a topper, courtesy of a college professor that one of our employees overpaid for terrible life advice:

“When you get a job, and trust me people will be fighting to hire you, expect a raise quickly after you’re hired. If you haven’t gotten a raise or promotion in the first 6 months, leave.”

Le sigh.

Learn to separate career and consumerism

Things you expect from Amazon, you cannot expect from life. There are many people that will take advantage of you if you choose to ignore that: credit cards, instant loans, get rich quick schemes, coaches, toolkits.

Take a deep breath. Nothing I’ve ever done, nothing any of the folks I’ve ever met that made something of themselves, happened overnight.

Take a step back. You need stuff. Yeah, me too. Ever wonder how seemingly the whole rest of the world makes it by with a tiny fraction of things we take for granted here? And how they manage to be happy? If you’re by some miracle lucky enough to have $1 that you haven’t spent yet, contemplate how badly you need something by having it in your pocket for a week – month and see if at the end of it you’re still in a dire need of whatever impulsive crap you thought would change your life so much.

Take a look at your plan. Often. I’ve seen so many people, good and smart people, screw themselves by not thinking where they needed to be 1/5/10 years out. Our needs change hour by hour, day by day: but what really drives us and gives us meaning isn’t an empty quick fix. Unless you’re an alcoholic then by all means have another shot. Otherwise – where are you and where do you need to be? What do you see yourself as when you grow up?

This applies to everyone – regardless of age – and it’s been true forever.

Ethics, Faith, Nationality & Business

Boss, IT Business
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There is a saying: It’s just business.

Yet most people do not see their own values as separate from their business. It’s even more ridiculous among the millennial managed organizations who start with the social contract first (“Part of profits goes to X”) and put a business plan last. Do no evil. Connect the world. Nice catchphrases but for every multibillion there are millions of failed enterprises who failed to focus on the only important thing in business:


In business, it’s about the value you deliver – not about who you are.

Even more importantly, it’s illegal to discriminate based on your convictions. That doesn’t mean you don’t have them – it just means they aren’t a part of what you do.

So how do you reconcile that with an invoice that has a bible quote on the bottom? And have you ever noticed how it’s never Timothy 6:10? What about the jews, muslims or atheists that were a part of that service or that got that receipt? Do they share those beliefs?

It gets even more touchy when you run a global business. We make a lot of $ in Australia – what is our social responsibility to the people of Australia? How much should we be spending there? Or as someone misunderstood on Facebook recently:

Vlad, if you feel so strongly about Christians, how could you possibly work with them?

Substitute anything you want for religion – vegetarians, foreigners, immigrants, competitors – you can make anything seem to be at odds with something else. And in business, it’s not about creating conflict or likeability, it’s about delivering value.

Business Performance

People are smart enough to know that when they do business with you it’s not how much fun it would be to go drinking with you. I know this because I’m not a billionaire yet.

When people consider working with you, employing you, outsourcing to you they consider two things and two things only:

1. How likely is it that you’ll do the job well?

2. How many issues/problems am I going to have?

That’s it.

When you go out and market yourself or promote your business values or try to get that next job… focus less on your personal values and focus more on your professional ones. Because those are the only ones people actually care about.

Oh, and one more bit of mindcrack: Some of your best friends don’t see eye to eye with you. 

P.S. We’re currently on a hiring binge which is what compelled this post – folks always seem to focus on saying the right thing, having the right answer and projecting the right “personal brand” – and this is going to be hard for some of you to swallow and accept – the only person any of that stuff matters to is you.

Learning and why some never will

IT Business
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It takes quite a bit of confidence to go out and start a business. Not just in yourself but in your idea, in the longevity of that idea, in a plan that is hardly more than a dream built on unproven confidence. There is no such thing as a sure thing. Most people lose this quality the longer and further they get from their dream.

Why? Because running a business is hard. The more successful you become at it the more problems you will have – with vendors, with clients, with employees, with partners: the bigger things get the more complicated they become. Mo money, mo problems.

Critical mistake: “Working on your business instead of working in your business”.

I’ve seen this misguided slogan from many people that have crashed and burned in business. You become successful by focusing on your business – you make your business successful by focusing on your clients. Most folks, just as they make some level of success, pull way back and pretend they are Warren Buffett: no phones, no meetings – “I’m all strategy. Guided and kept accountable by my peers. And these consultants” – You can guess where things go from there but chisel this into your monitor:

“The most important person, anywhere, is the one that is giving you money.” –me, now.

Earn it. Thank them for the opportunity and their money.. cause they could always give it to someone else.

Now that you know the minor details of why client cash is king

IMG_3758There is a reason why really successful people are always reading and always studying. Experience. You know you’ll make mistakes and you know you’ll survive them so you study all the time to learn how to deal with and overcome mistakes.

But not to avoid mistakes.

This is huge I’ll write it again because it goes for employees as much as it does for employers: you will make mistakes – it’s not about not making them. It’s about overcoming them. It’s about how quickly you can move on. It’s about how quickly you can embrace the next idea/task – it’s about always moving forward and making progress.

It’s why I run so many marathons.

There is an epic misunderstanding (mostly fed by misleading lies) in success being a matter of doing something remarkably simple consistently – it’s not. It’s the process of taking a chance and being able to cash in on an opportunity.

I’ve talked to so many people that spent so much time trying to analyze every single possible way of doing something, doing peer review, thinking about it, thinking about it, thinking about it. Hi Eddie! That in the end never pulled the trigger and lived to regret it.

Listen, I get it. Comfort is nice. I want things to be easy too. I want predictable stuff.

The question is if you’re cool being safe and comfortable and working till you’re 104. And even if you’re that fearful of risk and taking chances – what you should really be afraid of is not the opportunity but the threat that someone very smart and very resourceful is working extremely hard to replace you.

And that to me is all the motivation you’ll ever need.

How to grow old services in a Millennial age

ExchangeDefender, IT Business
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In business, you have to look forward in order to grow. Just because what you have now is selling well doesn’t mean the fast shifts in technology and demand won’t make you tomorrow’s dodo bird. And this is something I’ve been blogging about for years but it’s finally being noticed by IT shops out there in the SMB:

In a way, selling IT services during late 00’s and this decade has been simple mostly due to the demographics: People starting and managing companies were older, had previous jobs and careers in larger corporations that were consumed by standards, licensed software and IT departments. It was easy to sell them a PC, it was cake to get them on Windows and Office and for the most part the job security was guaranteed by your ability to be cheaper than IT staff and be able to keep it from going down.

Enter millennials.

No previous career.

No allegiance to Microsoft, apart from what they were forced to learn in school and would be shocked to know the cost of where an entire generation was raised on “things that just work” and “cost less than a few bucks, if at all.”

No fondness to “solutions” that don’t hook into their already established suite of services where all contacts, documents and data can be pulled into and out of.

They aren’t cheap – but unfortunately for the industry that specialized on selling and pushing their “supported” solution – they aren’t stupid either.

The Growth Challenge

The challenge for the MSP/VAR/ITSP folks, many of whom are significantly outside the new generation, is to figure out a way to embrace the world of services and mobile applications with the grownup (or old way) world of laws, regulations, restrictions, standardization and change management.

To a millennial, BYOD isn’t an acronym that makes sense – their entire professional life has existed in their pocket. They don’t think about “the cloud” – and judging by the people that come in for job interviews in our office looking to work for a cloud company – many don’t even know what it is. You can imagine the disillusionment that comes with compliance requests, document holds and data loss.

It’s clear that “I’m a Microsoft ______” is no longer a winning strategy (yeah, you might get the crumbs in the meantime while they figure out “mobile first, cloud first” deal but in the long run Microsoft and cheaper trunk slammers will crush you) and it hasn’t been for many for a really, really, really, really long time.

So what do you do and how do you grow in a world where the new business opportunities are coming from folks who manage their entire accounts and billing from their iPhone? I have no idea, I’m still happily cashing in on you geezers that think selling someone M$ Surface and hosted Exchange is a great way to get off a server.

But what I can tell you, and what I would love to share with you, is how my partners are able to get into this brave new world with the services and solutions we offer. If you currently work with ExchangeDefender, please join me for an hour long webinar next Thursday and if you don’t then maybe you should be.

Two Simple Rules For Success

IT Business
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The more I hang out with entrepreneurs and stable business owners (yes, there is a difference between the two beasts) the more I become aware of things I need to be doing as my business grows. Unfortunately, nobody has written a book on “How To Avoid Becoming An Axe Murderer At Work: Leverage Alcohol & Pain Pills To Keep Calm In A Chaotic Workplace”

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from successful people over the years is that the key to staying sane is a commitment to simplifying things.


Everyone is different. Some people thrive on checklists. Others live by pomodoro. Others micromanage away the stuff big and small. The key is to know what you’re doing, be aware of what is going on and recognize mistakes. The catch there is that to get that 6th sense about things that are about to go to shit in a big way is that you have to experience those mistakes first.. but details.

For me, business is a marathon. Things are going well or poorly but they are going. I’m going in the right direction. If stuff starts to hurt, slow down. If things feel great, drop the hammer on it. Yeah I’m tired but there is beer at 5pm.

Whether you’re doing great or you’re doing poorly in business right now remember that it’s a race – compose yourself, get some water, find out where you are, where you need to go and then take it step by step. One of the biggest mistakes people do when things aren’t going well is they “keep problems in their mind” and play all sorts of worst case scenarios that typically lead to bad decisions which then creates new problems. Slow down. Take a breath. Write it out. Blow up outcomes in their own bubbles, consider all options, see who can help with what and where. Then start moving in the right direction with hopefully a clear mind instead of crap that is stressing you out and annoying you and slowing things down.