Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Big Hole in the Middle

Evel Knievel is an icon. Not only that, he is a smart businessman.

I recently heard an old interview with him in which he said...

"There are two reasons you don't see anyone else doing what I'm doing: 1. Fear 2. The Big Hole in the Middle."

I think that's the exact same reason you don't see too many people starting businesses. They see the big hole in the middle and aren't sure if they will land safely on the other side.

Evel, you inspire me. Not to jump motorcycles, but to take the leap and not let the big hole in the middle stop me.

Craig Johnson

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Changing Culture: The Role of the Entrepreneur

Here is a great talk from Tim Keller (Senior Pastor of Redemer Presbyterian Church in New York City)about the role of the Entrepreneur and Businessman in Culture. It is about 20 to 30 minutes, but well worth your time.


Jimmy Branham

Monday, August 13, 2007

Go Ahead, Make a Mistake

I recently read a great quote from Paul Arden's book, It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be. In it he quoted theater director Joan Littlewood who said 'If we don't get lost, we'll never find a new route.'

Failures and false starts are a precondition of success.

So if you want to be successful...go ahead, make a mistake.

Craig Johnson

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Negative Effects of Short Term Profits

The most recent issue of Harvard Business Review features an article entitled If Brands Are Built over Years, Why Are They Managed over Quarters? I thought this final quote was worth sharing.

Brand Management today is like driving a car by looking only a few feet ahead. The drivers can change direction rapidly, but they're not necessarily on a path that will take them where they want to go. In the face of an increasingly fragmented media and powerful retailers, brand managers cannot afford to be steering their brands in the wrong direction. Mounting evidence suggests that a short-term orientation erodes a brand's ability to compete in the marketplace. Accordingly, managers are well advised to refocus their attention on the basic principles that once made their brands ascendant.

I often find myself being short-sighted and need to look at long term effects of what is done today.

If you are intereseted in this article, email me at and I'll send you a copy.

Craig Johnson

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wisdom from Lord Chesterfield

I read the following quote from Lord Chesterfield the other day:

"I have seen the silly cycle of business and pleasure,
and have no use for any of it. I have enjoyed all the
pleasures of the world, and consequently know their
futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise
them at their real value, which in truth is very low;
whereas those who lack experience always overrate them.
They only see their gay outside, and are dazzled with
their glare; but I have been behind the scenes. I have
seen all the coarse pulleys and dirty ropes which
exhibit and move the gaudy machine, and I have seen and
smelt the burning lard candles which illuminate the
whole decoration, to the astonishment and admiration of
the ignorant audience. When I reflect on what I have
seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I cannot
persuade myself that all that frivolous hurried
movement and pleasure of the world had any reality. I
look on all that is past as one of those romantic
dreams which the drug opium can bring about, and I do
by no means wish to repeat the nauseous dose for the
sake of the evading dream."

Just think about that quote for a minute.
It needs no commentary (but I will still give you a couple sentences on how it affected my thinking).

As I let this quote sink in it served as a sobering reminder of my need to constantly arrange & check my motives(sometimes it seems I need hourly reminders). As a young aspiring businessman I want the world...but for what? What is the motive of my/your business success? There is a lot of wisdom to be had from those who have gone before us.

I am sure I speak for most when I say - I want true success...I want lasting success!

The Keyes Company

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I have an idea for a book that I want to write (if it hasn't already been written).
The name of the book would be "Pulse". "Pulse" would support the theory that every great company has a constant pulse, or a strong heartbeat, that can be sensed by all of have any interaction with the organization. A pulse can be traced through several different ways:

1. The brand. A Pulse Company has a logo and business card that refuses to join most in the graveyard of the irrelevant but instead sparks one's interest to find out more about their company (I promise this isn't an incestuous plug for Matchstic's services ). A PC (Pulse Company) has a website that has new content and consistently keeps the consumer engaged. So often I go to a company's site that hasn't changed in look or content for 4 years and it looks like everyone else's . From moment one, I'm bored by them. They seem dead, life-less, without a pulse.
2. Client Relations. PC clients know they are important. The good or service that is offered feels bigger than them. Its an experience they will be quick to tell others about.
3. Employees. What does a client feel when walking into your office? A PC has inspired and trusted employees who love to talk about what they do. PC employees love their job, they have incentive to serve clients. The office environment has a vibe and life that can be sensed from the moment they walk in. Its infectious. A non-PC business breads the living dead. Their offices are quiet, stoic and boring. Their employees are bored and uninspired, the job is simply a paycheck.
4. Industry Presence. When consumers talk about your industry PC's are the first on their lips. It may be subconscious but it is no accident that they know about you. PC's are belligerent about being known, and know how to get in front of their target market. Non PC's think that people should happen upon them. They think the leaders in the industry are simply lucky.
5. More to come I'm sure as I begin to dissect this idea.

A Pulse is completely viral. There is contagious energy running throughout every aspect of the business, from their marketing to their interns. I'm convinced that the reason that 80% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years and another 80% fail other the next 5 years (stat from E Myth, a must for any small business owner) is they slowly loose their heartbeat. At the start they are full of life and fervor but the monotony of the daily grind slowly beats them to death. They don't have time to dream, push ideas forward, and think up new ways to capture, engage, and entice clients. They are busy and tired of doing everything.

There are many companies which have challenged me to have a constant Pulse throughout my business. It has become one of my highest goals for A Bryan Photo. I hope to post several examples of organizations that inspire me. I know this post seems like alot of generalizations but I wanted to get this idea down and I can share examples later.

A Bryan Photo

Employees and Baseball

I was watching the Braves game last night and the announcers were discussing the starting pitchers. The top starter has been hurt but will soon come back to the regular pitching rotation, and the question that the announcers posed was who would be the pitcher to get knocked out of the rotation. They answered "It's not a matter of who has better stuff, it's a matter of what can you give me consistently?" Isn't that true about employees as well? At Matchstic, we have interviewed a number of incredibly talented designers, but at the end of the day it's a matter of "What can you give me consistently?"

Craig Johnson

Monday, July 16, 2007

Learn Marketing from a College Student…

As a business owner, it’s often a temptation to focus all of your efforts on perfecting the product and business structure, while customers are flying by your doors having no clue who you are or why your business will make their lives better. Recently, I was given a quick lesson in Marketing by an unlikely source: a college student named Kat McClusky looking to interview for a job at Matchstic.

She took the following steps that can be applied to getting in front of any new potential client or customer: Entice, Engage, and Inquire.

Step 1: Entice
I received the following email from the contact form from our website: “Best. Website. Ever.” That was it. Nothing else. You think I’m gonna just let that go? Of course not! Could this be a potential client? A friend? It doesn’t matter – anyone who would say that about our website, I’d like to know! I was so enticed that I was forced to send the following email back “Is that all you are gonna tease me with?

Step 2: Engage
Soon I received a note back saying only “I think that about covers it” and included a link to a funny Will Ferrell video. I watched the video, a rare one I hadn’t seen before, and laughed a good bit. I still know nothing about Kat – she hadn’t even signed her name to any email at this point. All I knew was that I had been complimented and entertained.

Step 3: Inquire
A day later I get this email, “In the event that you'll humor me one more time, I wanted to ask if you wouldn't mind taking a look at some of my design work… I'm even going to be in Atlanta next week. Even if you aren't looking for anyone I would love a test interview if time allowed for one. thanks, Kat” – Her work was very good. I was impressed as was Blake, our Creative Director.

I told Kat to call me. We were not looking to hire, and it’s too bad. I like the way she thinks. I want to hire designers that know how to get someone else’s attention as that is what we do for our clients. I am going to do all I can to help her get a job. Some lucky employer will be privileged to have her on the team.

And I realized that we can all learn from Kat. With all of the form letters that go out and cold calls that are made every day, remember Kat. Entice, Engage, then Inquire. All too often that process is reversed. Good luck to you Kat, we know you’ll do great things!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leadership with a Little L

I stole this entry title from my business partner, Blake Howard. I like the title of this because it reminds me of the Jamiroquai song Little L. I was talking with Blake today, and he was commenting about leadership and how some treat it with a capital L and some treat it with a lower case L.

"Little L-ers" are in it for the attention and credit that comes with being a leader.

"Capital L-ers" are in it for the success of the team. They lead as a servant to the team, even when their efforts go unnoticed.

If you ever see me doing Little L work, slap me upside the head and tell me I know better.

Craig Johnson

Welcome to Wildfire Network - Home of the 13% Club

It has been said that 87% of people in this country hate their jobs. This is a blog for the other 13%. The Wildfire blog is managed and run by Wildfire Network, a group of like-minded entrepreneurial business owners who add value to others by being intentional about creating social, financial, and intellectual capital. The goal of this blog is to share ideas, stories, goals, successes and even failures with a larger community of business pioneers. We hope this site will act as a canvas where relationships and ideas can grow. Through this medium, we plan to connect with leaders who want to continue growing in productivity, efficiency, and creativity. Life in the 13% club isn't always smooth sailing and we each face the frustrations of limited resources, misguided aspirations, ambiguity, and disappointment. We don't have all the answers, but through this portal we can gain continued direction, courage, and passion. Welcome to a site for the few, the influencers, the world changers.