Friday, May 30, 2014

2 For 1 - Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel

Josh Gordon. (Cleveland Plain Dealer Photo Staff)
I'm struggling with how the Cleveland Browns still have Josh Gordon on the roster.  Josh Gordon is allegedly in the stage three of the NFL substance abuse policy. That particular ring of fire is banishment from the NFL for a *minimum* of one year. 

His latest drug test failure was once again for marijuana, at least his 5th failed drug test since 2010.  Over the holiday weekend, he was busted for speeding. Ok, I'm not going to judge that one, but his "friend" was busted for carrying marijuana. 

This very well could be it for him. 

Read this very carefully, I'm not being all weed judgey pants. I don't care if he blazes up watching Friday while floundering around in a kiddie pool filled with crunchy Cheetos. This isn't a debate about whether it is right or wrong for the NFL to include marijuana in their drug policy. 

These are collectively bargained policies. Just like how long players practice and whether they play with or without pads at training camp. Gordon agreed to this when he signed his $5.3 million rookie contract. 

The Browns were aware enough of his issues, but they still took a chance on him. They should have taken it to the next step and funded a "baby sitter." A mentor or advisor to keep him on track.  At least give him advice, like get a driver. Driving around Cleveland's suburbs in a camo Lamborghini is a big, fast target.    

Gordon needs to get serious about his career. Until he does, he is doomed to make the same mistakes. 

Johnny Manziel, Gronk and the Vegas peeps. 
In addition to Gordon and his issues, #22 Draft Pick, Johnny Manziel took some time off and went to Vegas. He then hooked up with Gronk and a variety of bikini wearing new friends. 

When this picture popped up on Twitter, the first thing I thought was how grateful I was that there was no Twitter when I was 21 and in Vegas. Ahem. Then the Browns fandom exploded. Fans were furious Johnny Football wasn't home studying the playbook. 

Look, at this very moment, I do not give a furry rat's rear if he is slamming tequila shots or slurping bacon vanilla bean apple pie milk shakes. Do. Not. Care. 

Manziel is bringing a frenzy to Browns football that I don't recall ever seeing. This buttercup is all buckled up for a wild ride.  Manziel is full of himself and that will make fun football or sorrow drowning Sundays. 

Once the season starts and if Johnny Football is out being the party boy with the rest of the team circling down the drain, mark my words, I will be all over him like ants on a powdered doughnut. I'm not going to press the panic button on him yet. 

I'm just going to wait and see...and like most years, I'm waiting for THIS to be the year. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - David Jay Collins

Hello. Welcome to awesome town. 

I'm continuing my quest to find out what makes awesome people tick and to make sure that awesome people know that they are...well...awesome. 

You can read my original blog post about the idea here. So far, I have asked questions of Scott Wise - the Scotty in Scotty's Brewhouse, Rik Danburg from your Cleveland Indians and Browns Kicker, Billy Cundiff

This time, I asked my friend, David Jay Collins, 5 questions. This one was a little weird because I know David the best out of anyone that I have chatted with so far. We went to grad school together and have been friends since before the Browns were back in town. It was stange because I sent him an email that was basically, "hey, I never told you how awesome you are when we worked together every day, so I'm telling you now. Wanna answer some questions for my blog?"

I remember the first day I met David at Iowa State. I looked like a regular grad student and he looked like my boss - tie and all. Over the years, I have been inspired by him and how he looks at the world. David is the kind of person that never thinks in small terms. Here is an example...let's say you are camping and have to fish for your dinner. You would be happy with a perch, while David is hooking a harpoon up to the boat to go after Jaws. 

It was great fun to catch up with my friend and ask him why he is so awesome. 
 David Jay Collins, friend and author of Gaybash, available now.

  1. For those who don't know you, we went to grad school together at Iowa State, and we met while working with the fraternities and sororities. What are you doing now?  

I currently work as the Community Development Manager for a Chamber of Commerce in Chicago. Since graduating I’ve worked mostly in nonprofit and have enjoyed the work very much. I’ve had some varied work experiences, though. Ten years ago the nonprofit I worked for in Washington DC closed. After returning home to Chicago, I struggled to find another job in the field. So I changed course and bartended for Hilton for a few years. That was an amazing detour I’d never trade.

  1. One of the many things about you that I think is so awesome is you are the kind of person that always thinks BIG. I remember when you were irritated with the grammar atrocities from the student groups and that spurred you to put together a handout, which resulted in a book that was published on campus and used in classes. How did that happen?

I loved putting together Spiral: The Students’ Guide to Style at Iowa State, but I knew if Spiral was going to matter to others, it had to include others. After sketching out chapter ideas, I reached out to faculty, staff, and students to determine and create the content. Grammar made up the biggest chapter, but the book included study skills, university history, business etiquette, even a chapter on beer and wine. I wanted it to feel very Iowa State-specific, so I used campus buildings and local landmarks in the grammar examples. The book was spiral-bound so it would lie flat, a convenience I envisioned for students writing papers at their computers. This was 1997, after all.

My favorite chapter was called 17 Essays, in which 17 students wrote about their personal experiences on campus. It included perspectives from African-American students, Asian-American students, student athletes, an international student, gay and lesbian students, and members of fraternities and sororities. The honesty they offered! I’d love to know what they’re all doing now.

  1. What inspires you to take a little idea and turn it into a major awesome whatever? What was the one little idea that morphed into a giant undertaking that you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of the e-book I’m about to publish, Gaybash. It’s taken me years to finish it because, looking back, I was living within my comfort zone—happily talking about writing a novel instead of actually writing a novel. In just a few weeks it will be a real e-book on Kindle and iBooks and that’s wonderful, but also a little terrifying. (CC note: GayBash is available now. Check it out for Kindle and Nook. Other formats available soon).

In my fictional novel, a reserved gay man, inspired by the actions of his bold best friend, fights back against two attackers and changes his life and the attackers’ lives, forever.
The story takes place in a section of Chicago’s North Side known as Boystown for its large gay community. The main character lives in my building and I received permission to set a few scenes at Sidetrack and Roscoe’s, two very popular bars here.

The tipping point for me came when I realized that I was so warm and cozy under my excuses that the dream of writing a novel might never happen. And I’d have no one to blame but myself. That’s when comfort became uncomfortable and like my main character, I had to break free of fear and doubt and just be alive in my life. Gaybash might fail. It might succeed. But it’s all mine and I can’t wait to get it out to the world.

  1. You are from Chicago and love it as much as I love Cleveland. What is so great about it and what makes it a special place?

I love living in Chicago for its beauty, its friendly people, its culture, and even the changing seasons. I haven’t owned a car for ten years because I can walk everywhere or take the train.

I also like that Chicago is entirely manmade. The parks, the beaches, the skyline—all of it was pulled into existence by sheer force of will. The spirit of architect Daniel “Make No Little Plans” Burnham is alive and well. It’s endlessly inspiring, cosmopolitan but welcoming, all at a pace and scale that’s not overwhelming. And compared to big cities on the coasts I think you get a lot more for your money here.

  1. Last question, who do you think is awesome and why?

My parents are pretty awesome and they encouraged my creativity from a very early age. I have many childhood memories of filling up the living room with little cities made of paper buildings I made and writing stories that I shared with them and my teachers at school. They sacrificed so much to provide me with a strong start to life and I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, supportive mom and dad. Though in adulthood our relationship has changed, in many ways we’re as close now as we ever have been.

It was only fitting that I dedicated my book to them.

If you would like to connect to David on social media, you can do so on Twitter,  Instagram and YouTube, for the Channel-To-Be where he will talk about the book, answer readers' questions and post about some of the neighborhood locations. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - Billy Cundiff

Never forget to be AWESOME. 
I love finding awesome wisdom nuggets from people around me, friends or strangers, it doesn't matter. People around you can be inspiration for you to improve the world around you or just a better way to grab toast out of the toaster. 

Last season, I learned how awesome Browns Kicker, Billy Cundiff is. 

During the season, he worked with Cleveland Clinic and donated for $200 for every field goal to  Ovarian Cancer research in conjunction with Colleen's Dream Foundation. Browns Punter, Spencer Lanning, along with other NFL Kickers joined in. 

It is safe to say that we can all agree that cancer in any form sucks. Ovarian Cancer, however, is particularly insidious. You can read more about it here, but rest assured, it is awful. There is hope however, and that hope comes in the form of research.  With early detection and improved treatment, women have a fighting chance against Ovarian Cancer. 

Billy was kind enough to answer 5 questions for me, about why he is involved with ovarian cancer research and what he would like fans to know. 

Before you read his answers, I'm going to share something with you....Billy Cundiff is one of the nicest, most polite people I have ever been in contact with.  He really is a great guy. 

If you would like to help fight ovarian cancer, cheer for Billy this year when he makes a field goal.  You can also find out more information about Colleen's Dream Foundation here

Browns Kicker, Billy Cundiff
1. Cleveland Browns fans know you as the Kicker. What else would you like fans to know about you?

Kicking is something I do, but it's not who I am.  I strive to be the best kicker in the NFL every year, but in the end my character means more to me than the stats. 
On a personal note, I take a lot pride in being a good father and husband.  I have an entrepreneurial spirit.  My hobbies include learning and traveling.  I take philanthropy seriously.  Throughout my life I have lived all over this amazing country and wouldn’t have it any other way.  I spent my formative years in small town Iowa, yet I love big city life. 

2. Last season, your Kicking For The Dream Foundation supported Colleen's Dream. How did you get involved in supporting Ovarian Cancer research?

Colleen's Dream is named after my mother-in-law, Colleen Drury. At the time of her diagnosis, we didn't know that much about ovarian cancer.   We were shocked to learn that mortality rates hadn’t changed much in 40 years.  It looked like getting late stage ovarian cancer was a death sentence.  My wife, Nicole, and I along with her sisters decided something had to be done, so we started to raise funds for research and rolling out grassroots awareness campaigns. We held a couple of parties in Colleen's back yard to raise money for the University of Arizona Cancer Center. We were all so grateful for the outpouring of support (over 500 people came to one of the parties) and it gave us the confidence to later start Colleen’s Dream.  In 2012, after the ovarian cancer metastasized to Colleen’s lungs, we decided the time was right to use my platform as an NFL kicker to legitimize our fundraising efforts and really make a difference in women’s lives.  Colleen helped us shape the vision of the foundation.  Today, we carry on her legacy and strive to make a difference for all women. 

3. I think you are so awesome because of your positive attitude and what you are trying to do to defeat Ovarian Cancer. You are working with Kickers and Punters from high school to the Pros with your Foundation. How did you get all of them involved, where did the idea come from to donate for kicks? 

We came up with the idea for Kicking For The Dream while Colleen was in hospice care.  During my time in the NFL, most teams had programs to donate to a charity after a field goal was made.  After discussing, we started wondering why high schoolers couldn't do the same thing.  I was invited to speak at a high school camp in Florida, so I presented the idea to all the participants as a test.  The response was overwhelming.  Kicking coaches from this camp started telling their kickers and punters.  Eventually, we got the NFL guys to participate.  Our goal the first year was to raise $10,000.  We crushed that and raised over $40,000.

4. You have interacted with thousands of fans through your career. What is your favorite fan story or an interaction that stuck in your mind? 

While in Dallas, we had a Make-A-Wish kid visit practice.  The kid looked perfectly happy and healthy.  However, both parent's faces told a different story.  Their youngest son had a brain tumor that was located behind his eyes which meant that doctors couldn't operate on him.  It was only a matter of time before he would just one day collapse and die.  He ran around with his older brother and played catch with a bunch of the guys on the team.  I didn't have kids at the time, but it really hit me hard.  These parents would never know when their son was going to take his last breath.  As a parent today, I still can't fathom what they were going through.  It's been over ten years and the emotions are still just as strong.

5. Last question, who do you think is awesome?

I think my wife, Nicole,  is pretty awesome.  We started dating in college and became best friends.  She has been by my side during this entire crazy ride through the NFL.  She is talented (executive director of foundation, law school graduate, mom of three) and has a great personality and sense of style.  Here is more background info on her:  I could go on and on.  Just meet her and you will agree that she is awesome.

As far as someone from Cleveland is concerned, I think Spencer Lanning is awesome. He is a great guy and teammate. He was actively involved with Kicking for the Dream last season and because of his contribution, we were able to give a big grant to the Cleveland Clinic. He and his girlfriend, Brittany, also came to Phoenix this off-season for our inaugural golf tournament and gala. Nicole and I feel very fortunate to have his support and to call him a friend.

During the season, I like to practice yoga on Monday night's at Inner Bliss Yoga Studio.  Tammy Lyons is a great teacher.  I have practiced all over the country during my time in the NFL and its tough to find someone better than her.  She is truly awesome.  Her studio has a great vibe.  She has built a great yoga community.  I met Tammy because she used to teach yoga to the Browns when I was first with the team in 2009.  Cleveland is a better place because of her.
Spencer Lanning and Billy Cundiff. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dear National Media - I'm A Cleveland Fan

Johnny Manziel, or Johnny Football to you. 
Dear National Media,

Thank you for your interested in the Cleveland Browns 22nd draft pick,  Johnny Manziel. As fans of the Cleveland Browns, we are pretty excited to see what he, along with the rest of the team, can do this season. We are, without a doubt, looking forward to this season.

I understand that several of you are upset because you were denied media credentials for the upcoming training camp. Well, those of you that usually have credentials, year in and year out, still have them. It was just those folks that have no real interest in Cleveland, or the Browns in general, that were denied.

My suggestion to you is to reach out and make friends with the local media and fans to enrich your Johnny Football stories. I'm sure you realize this, but for my own sake, allow me to mention it. To make friends, you need to be nice to people. Say hello. Tweet to Cleveland fans telling them that  they have an exciting season in their sights this year. Mention the last time you were in town and stopped by E4th for a great dinner. Or Tremont. That will score some points.  Cleveland has some fantastic restaurants and innovative chefs.  Everyone can relate to food.

You could even talk about the new GE Chandelier in Playhouse Square. That thing is pretty awesome. It holds a Guinness Record.

My point is, by making a connection to someone in Cleveland, you will be able to craft a better story.

Several of you have lashed out on social media, with negative comments about Cleveland and one gentleman in particular, became vulgar with fans. I assure you, that is not the way to get invited to the party.  Your mom would be ashamed of your behavior. I know my mom is. While we are on that subject, I'm sure you are savvy enough to grasp that Cleveland sports fans are leery of you.

Rightfully so.

Cleveland is more than an asterisk in Lefoolio's career notes. If we are all honest with one another, the last time you cared about Cleveland, it was to get video of jerseys in flames and angry fans screaming obscenities.

Cleveland is more than the city Lefoolio left.

Cleveland is a dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic fanbase.

We love our teams, and we love our city.

On a personal note, I have gone to significantly more training camps than you, and as a dedicated fan, I want to see *my* team. You see, long after you are gone... the cameras are packed up, the stories are written and posted, I will still be here.

I will still be in the stands cheering for my team.

In the bright sunshine of training camp or the bitter cold snowy Sunday, I will be there.

I am a Cleveland fan.

Johnny Cleveland, by the fantastical  on the twitter. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - Rik Danburg

I love talking to awesome people. 

The more you talk to them, the more you start to think about small changes you can make in your own life to be a little more awesome. 

With a little luck, you have read more about why I'm talking to awesome people (other than the fact that they are awesome) and my first post with Scott Wise of Scotty's Brewhouse

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Rik Danburg of the Cleveland Indians. 

For this little blogging experiment, most folks have sent me answers to my questions via email, but I had the pleasure of meeting with Rik in person. As a testament to his good nature, we were stopped several times during our interview by people popping by to chat with him, say hi, ask questions, and such. There was a lot of laughing during the interview as well, so I apologize in advance if I missed a word or two with him.  I did edit our conversation down a bit because I was laughing too much. 

As a side note, I now know I do not have a future as a transcriptionist.  
Rik posing with my hero, Ketchup, in Goodyear. 
Before we go into the questions, I want to make it clear that I absolutely adore Rik. I met him, not in Cleveland, but in Goodyear, Arizona at Indians Spring Training. I immediately liked him and tried to convince him and my dad to become best friends. I'm still working on that. 

If you have never met him, give it a few minutes with him and you would think you were old friends. Rik is one of the most positive, friendly people that I have ever come across. When people were complaining about a player not signing autographs at Spring Training, he pointed out which players were. If someone has something bad to say about the team, he would somehow turn that frown upside down. 

Rik greets everyone by name and remembers conversations. Fans from other teams knew him by name. He is just an all around great guy. 
A big thank you to Rik and the Indians for participating!

5 Questions with Rik Danburg

1. Cleveland Indians fans know you as the guy that gets the home run balls. What is your role with the Indians?

My title is Supervisor of Guest Services. Pretty much they can give me any type of challenge or any type of job, any day, and I will tackle it with enthusiasm and confidence and a positive outlook. Brad Moore calls my position a Recovery Specialist. When people come back to the ballpark after a bad experience, he will send me to them when we bring them back. I try to help them to rejuvenate their enthusiasm and get that loyalty, and that passion, for baseball back. 

2. When I was in Goodyear, Arizona for Indians Spring Training, it seemed like fans from all the other ball clubs knew you by name! The Indians practice facility was a great environment for all baseball fans. How did you help build that environment?

First of all, you need to set an attitude and atmosphere that is safe, positive, and one that fans want to come back to. It has to be a safe and comfortable setting. If you set the framework up ahead of time, then they are going to come back.  I did hear some negative comments about other complexes and fans would tell me that "it isn’t as friendly as it is here." A simple greeting, "hello, how are you, nice to have you back," is important. Remembering faces and remembering names is also very important. It comes easy for me because I was a teacher and I used to do the same thing with my students. Remembering for example, that a person’s favorite player is Michael Brantley and when Michael Brantley comes out, you can go to that fan and say, "Michael Brantley is now coming out of the batting cage, you might want to get yourself ready and your pen ready for an autograph."  Every person that comes through that gate when I open it in the morning is important to me.

(editor's note: I would like to add here that Rik was amazing at this. There were many times during Spring Training he would dutifully hop out of the way without thinking twice when I scrambled to chase down Masterson. Well, not just me, but other fans as well. Rik would always come back to the fence and chat with the fans without missing a beat once the players walked away)

3. You have interacted with thousands of fans over the years. What is your favorite fan story or an interaction that stuck in your mind?

Here is one for you. Ben Broussard hit a home run in the right field stands- in the Mezzanine, in the old stadium. There was a couple that got engaged that night, and they caught the ball. I met them, I got to know them, I felt good about them. At the time, there was a contest here for an engaged couple to get married on the field at Jacobs Field. I told this couple to enter it.  I said, "you are a vibrant and enthusiastic couple that are in love with each other and you caught that home run ball. You should enter this contest." They did, and they won! They got married on Jacobs Field, at home plate. We were invited to their reception in the Terrace Club, and I went with Nancy (his wife). From time to time I see them at a game. They always look me up when they come back.

(editor's note: I originally wrote that this story was from Progressive Field...It was Jacobs Field. Sorry for my confusion)

4. One reason I think you are so awesome is your attitude. You go out of your way to greet people by name, and maybe sing them a song if they are lucky. How do you maintain such a positive attitude?  I’ve never seen you grumpy. I’ve heard grumpy fans say grumpy things to you and you don’t respond back as a grump.

Growing up, I thought that there has to be a way to find the good out of anything bad. I always try to make lemonade out of lemons and look at the bright side. Taking a negative thought and turning it into a positive. Someone might say, "Oh, its gray today, it might rain." I would say, "However, we can still have a wonderful picnic under the shelter, because the people who are here are going to make the picnic, not the weather." Or someone might say, "Oh, its cold right now at Progressive Field and we have to wear three or four layers" and I would respond, "yes, but the people that are here are passionate about baseball and we need to make them feel comfortable and make sure they enjoy the game, because this may be the only game that they go to this entire year." I’ve always had an optimistic attitude. I love people. I think because I was an only child and I always wanted brothers and sisters, so the more people around me, the happier I am. I jump out of bed, and like this morning, I can not wait to get down here, to do what I do.

5. Last question, who do you think is awesome?

My wife is the one who I think is awesome, because she’s the one that I chose to marry and share my life with. She knows me better than anybody. She encouraged me to do the things that I did and travel the way that I’ve travelled. She’s the number one person that is most awesome in my life because I get to share so much with her, and having our two sons, and raising them the way we did, and she did, it has been awesome. I always wanted to be married and I wanted  to find a person to respect me and to appreciate me for my craziness and my talents and my strengths and weaknesses. She is perfect for me.

When you pick the person that you  are going to be with the rest of your life, you better think they are awesome. We will be married 42 years in October.

Friday, May 2, 2014

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - Scott Wise

You are awesome. 
I'm excited to start this new feature on my blog. I find someone that I think is awesome and ask them to answer 5 questions. You can find more about why I am doing this here

The first person I am starting with is Scott Wise, the owner of Scotty's Brewhouse in Indianapolis. You can check out Scott's bio and company history here

Here is what I know of Scott... he is a social media master.  And his joint has the best wings ever. 

Scott has done away with "traditional" media and he does all his promotion on social media. His twitter feed is full of specials for his restaurants, but also interesting stories, family stories and Indiana pride. 

Now for the awesome part. It was my second visit to Scotty's Brewhouse and let's just say I was having a craptastic experience. And I tweeted it. Blow by sad blow while I was waiting for my friend. After my friend arrived,  we were enjoying our adult beverages and nachos, watching the Colts and the Browns. Ok, I was watching the Browns. And then something weird happened. 

Staff from all areas of the restaurant came up to us, checking on us, chatting about the game. It went from zero staff interaction to 100 in about 20 minutes. Around half time, a man sat next to me and said, "So, I understand there are some problems today. What can I do to help?"


Turns out, Scotty was at home, reading his Twitter, and called the restaurant (with a name like ClevelandChick and wearing a Phil Awesome Dawson jersey, it wasn't hard to pick me out), and got the GM to hustle his hiney into the restaurant to fix things.

One of the Brewhouse Managers set the Browns pennant up for me. 
How often do you go out, have crappy experience and have to deal with it? Too often in my book.  Years later, as an extra touch of awesome, one of his staff brought in an old Browns pennant and surprised me with it at my spot at the bar. Awesome.

Scotty took that moment, and turned me around as a guest. I very easily could have never stepped foot in the restaurant again. But, I turned into a regular. That was pretty awesome.

Early on, he had a financial choice to make; to cut staff or cut traditional marketing...he went with keeping his staff and moving to social media. If you want to see how to do social media right, follow him here.

I asked Scott 5 questions and here are his answers. I hope you learn something. I sure did. 

5 Questions answered by Scott Wise

1.     I know you because you are the Father of Indianapolis Hospitality Social Media. How did you get involved in social media?

Hahahaha, I’ve never had it phrased that way; but, I like it.  Makes me sound a bit older than I care to acknowledge – cough – 40 is the new 20 – cough!  I have always found technology interesting, so part of me just liked to “geek around” to see what the latest tech was and how it could be used in my industry.  For example, we had iPads at our tables at Thr3e Wise Men in 2010…  you are seeing them a lot now; but, I guess I just like trying to be the 1st to use innovation in the restaurant segment.  Being first, however, can also mean you get to work out all the bugs on technology as well, and we’ve been bitten by that too.  But, the important part that I always try to remember is to not just use a technology to say I’m using one.  I see too many people do that…  usually the big box companies that a bunch of suits sit around a table with no true knowledge of tech and say, “I keep seeing these QR thingies, we need to get a QR.”  And, then they use it improperly and wonder why “tech doesn’t work for them.”  

When I use technology, it has to do 2 things for 2 different groups of people:  it has to save my company and/or the guest, time and/or money.  So, back to your original question, it wasn’t just that I was geeky over technology – I saw a window where the world had changed, we went digital and I think I may have just chosen to go “all in” quicker than a lot of other people that were still just “dipping their toes in the water” to see if this stuff would really take off.  I believe that I am my typical customer.  I believe I am very “average Joe.”  And, there were things I was doing in my life that changed – for example, I quit walking outside to get the paper to read it in the morning and I quit listening to most traditional FM radio stations.  Why?  Because I got the newspaper, and not just 1; but, 4 or 5 different ones, emailed to my inbox every morning and I read the stories online.  And, I quit tuning into FM radio and used my XM receiver to get radio while driving, or I listened to my iTunes account in the car…  So, knowing those things, I thought to myself, “why would I put an ad in the paper or on traditional radio, if I’m a typical customer and I don’t use those mediums?”  Why not put the ads or marketing where people are gravitating – the web…  and figure out where they are all going and how to get that message in front of them.  Enter social media.  

The 2nd part of that story and why I got entrenched so quickly was the recession…  in 2009 I had to save my company about $500,000.  My CFO said, “you can lay people off or you can cut marketing out.”  I chose the marketing path as I didn’t want to lose my people.  Well, as a Marketing/PR graduate of THE Ball State University (Go Cardinals – Chirp! Chirp!), this was tough – how am I going to get my message out to people if I have no marketing budget?  Ahhhhh, the “free medium” of Social, right?  And, that’s when I went all in.  It started, as funny as it is to hear today, with MySpace (Facebook, at that time was only for college kids) and I used MySpace exactly like I use Facebook and Twitter today…  when they opened the gates for the public to enter the FB world, I was first in line.  And, when Twitter was created, I was one of the first accounts.  I just had a feeling this was the way the world was going to get their new and info.  So, I guess, being the 1st one to the party and figuring out how to use it pretty uniquely, made me a “Father of the Hospitality Social Media industry,” huh?  Going back to those suits at the Big Box…  it is one thing to have the technology – it is a whole other thing to figure out how to use it properly.  And, everyone has a different methodology.  Mine seems to work for me; but, that doesn’t mean it would be the correct strategy for someone else.  

The most important thing for me is to have fun with it – to make people laugh, to engage and communicate with people (the most important) and to listen/read as well as talk…  At the end of the day, I call it “Digital Bartending.”  The great thing about social media is allowing me to have a conversation to someone like you in Cleveland, a customer sitting at the bar in Mishawaka, another customer sitting at Scotty’s in Downtown Indy and another in the bar in West Lafayettte…  I may sit behind a desk; but, I can still engage with guests, fix problems that occur and give great feedback to my team members from a tweet telling me how awesome John Doe server was for them…

2.     When in Indianapolis, I can sit in your restaurant and get tweets and messages from you, sometimes I think you are hiding in the next booth. How has twitter improved the guest experience in your restaurants?

I may have answered some of your next questions in my long diatribe above; but, I’ll elaborate on some…  I check Twitter the entire day – I think part of our success is not just the responsiveness from me, the owner, but, we do it quickly and we answer every single tweet that tags us.  There are times where I wish my management would take care of an issue before a guest thinks to involve me and Twitter…  but, I would never be upset by the guest doing this…  it is the digital world of customer service that we now reside.  My view is to embrace it and use it to improve our operations…  if a guest lets me know we have failed them in some way, I am thankful for them telling me this.  “You can fix what you don’t know is broken.”  The “digital eyes” of our world has actually allowed me to save money.  We got rid of our Secret Shopper company several years ago when I embraced the social world and saved over $100,000 a year we were paying them…  now I have guests that let me know the bad and the good.  The positive tweets are just as beneficial as the constructive ones, in a different sense.  I think we all respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative…  so, when a guest tells me a specific server or bartender or manager gave them great service, I thank the person tweeting me; but, then I also email the employee and show them the tweet and tell them “thank you for giving great service – YOU are the reason this company is successful!”  And, I mean that.  I do it for all 1,000 employees and 9 restaurants every day.  Hell, I even know when a Browns fan (Cleveland Chick) is served her beer in a Godforsaken Steelers mug at Scotty’s, right?  J 

3.     You encourage your staff to be involved in social media and that is something a lot of companies would run away screaming from. What would you say to those companies that avoid social media like they would a stinky fish?

When you were a teen living at home, did your parents ever tell you not to do something?  Whether you were planning to do that thing or not, sometimes the challenge alone by your parents was enough to push you to do something you probably shouldn’t have done.  That same thing applies to a company and social media.  Sure, there are all kinds of preventative and protective measures a company should take.  They should have a dialogue and talk about the proper ways in which to use the medium.  Let them know you will eventually hear or see something they have said or done that they probably shouldn’t have.  (And, you get to sound just like Mom and Dad when you come home past your curfew…)  So, instead of telling someone they can’t, just tell them to be careful, understand you are watching over it and to be smart about it.  For example, when I talk to my team of servers I tell them, “I’m not going to see every one of your tweets, but, trust me – people love to let me know when/if someone in my company says or does something they shouldn’t.  So, eventually I will find out.  Instead, use the power of social media for the greater good – meaning, if you are serving tonight, why not say, “come see me at Scotty’s tonight for $2.50 pints – ask for me to wait on you!”  You just gained extra tips when your friends come in to see you!  Fish only stink until you marinate them with Mo’Fo’ Mustard and put them in some bad ass Fish Tacos from Scotty’s… 

4.     You are a respected and successful entrepreneur. What is one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you before you started your business?

Understand the complexities of a Balance Sheet.  It took me years to always look at the Income Statement and try to run our company from just that.  The importance and knowledge of what a balance sheet means is directly connected to the success of an entrepreneur.  Always sleep on a big decision.  Don’t act too quickly, get emotionally involved and make irrational decisions.  I’ve always found it is great to go exercise, do some research and get some sleep – never give an answer to a big question, a big meeting or big decision without doing these things first.  Don’t surround yourself with “yes men and yes women.”  Let people challenge your decisions and listen to them.  Don’t feel like you have to agree or take their advice; but, always listen – their thoughts may help you think of something you hadn’t previously.  And, don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes.  My second restaurant lost $1 million.  It took me 8 years to pay it all back.  And, I learned more in the 3 years I ran that restaurant, than 10 years running this one.  Just don’t make the same mistake twice.  Lastly, learn to get away from work.  Love your wife, partner, parents, children and don’t forget to have a life outside of work.  The world will remember you for your relationships and what you meant to the world, not for that year you had a big profit.  Do something good in the world, give back, lend a helping hand to those in need and always be philanthropic in nature with your time and life.

5.     Last question, who do you think is awesome and why?

My mom and dad are 2 of the most awesome people I know.  I’m so thankful to have great parents that have made me whom I am today.  My wife is the most awesome person for putting up with me.  The wife of an entrepreneur can be a difficult one and I would not be as balanced or the person I am today if I wouldn’t have met her over 20 years ago.  My kids are pretty damn awesome and they helped turn daddy into less of an obsessive compulsive person and learn to love life more than work.  Leaders, Sports Figures and others that inspire me?  Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Pat Tillman, Dick Hoyt (Google it), Steve Jobs

Thanks to Scott Wise for participating in my little blog experiment. If you are in Downtown Indianapolis, or anywhere in Indiana for that matter, check out Scotty's Brewhouse. Order the wings. Seriously. 

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