Teaching #Leadership to our young people, adding value to their lives.

In the picture above my daughter Claire is the young lady on the right, training her first new entertainer, Haley. Claire and I will be in a restaurant with Haley this Friday afternoon, showing her how to approach tables and getting her ready to fill her first gig.

Claire has been by my side as I’ve built Balloon Distractions since she was in kindergarten, she is helping me train new staff here in Wesley Chapel, and in the process Claire’s becoming a better entertainer herself and learning what it takes to develop and motivate a team.

Being an entertainer with our company takes a certain level of personal mastery, Claire has demonstrated that she can successfully fill bookings and garner compliments from restaurant managers. Proving yourself as an entertainer is the FIRST step. As a trainer Claire must recruit a team and influence her team by teaching them a skill and showing them how to earn an excellent income.

In this manner Claire is learning Basic Leadership 101, as she builds her crew her income will increase as she gets better at influencing her team in a positive direction.

Since the beginning of 2014 I have been taking the Life Leadership course, a system of monthly books and audio CDs that teach the dynamics of leadership in an organization as well as the importance of character and integrity in all aspects of your business. The lead authors of the series are Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady, I read the books every morning and listen to the audio CDs in my vehicle.

Our Regional Leader Randy Crain introduced me to this system and my only regret is that I did not get this training ten years ago when I started my business!

Balloon Distractions has very specific training regarding balloon art, recruiting a crew and selling restaurants, but we did not have comprehensive leadership training, until now.

As a company we are paying half of the monthly cost for any of our trainers or regionals who want to take advantage of the monthly training. We want our people to pay for at least 50% of the cost because we feel that people value what they buy more than that which they are merely given.

As the leader of my organization I’m seeking to influence our people in a positive way by teaching them leadership and getting them involved in ongoing professional development.

In this way I wish to ADD VALUE to the lives of all the people on our team, including my daughter!

Happy Twisting!

-Ben Alexander

August 6, 2014

Acorns and #Entrepreneurs.

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As the founder of Balloon Distractions I have one simple goal that will probably take me another decade to achieve: get a team of twisters going in every city in the United States…. a couple thousand restaurants, and over a thousand balloon twisters.

No company has ever done this before in our little entertainment niche, but with existing teams in over 40 cities we have a good foundation and all the online systems in place to reach our goal.

During the work week I’m on the phone every day, talking to entrepreneurs in target cities and coaching all the new Regional Leaders that we’ve recruited since we appeared on Shark Tank earlier this year. Developing a Regional Leader is like planting an acorn, it takes time to grow but eventually you’ll grow a forest if you plant a new acorn every day, consistently and over a number of years.

During the weekends I’m out there filling balloon twisting gigs in our client restaurants, earning cash and staying in touch with the very basics of our business. Developing new leaders and then going out to entertain children keeps me grounded. I find tremendous in satisfaction in filling a gig, making kids laugh, and then driving home at the end of the shift tired, but with a pocketful of cash.

I used to think that it would be awful to be out twisting balloons at 40 years old, as if I had failed in some way…. but if we get this company to 200 cities and 3,000 bookings each week I’ll still be out there filling gigs. A child doesn’t care how big your business is, or even what you’ve achieved, they are in the moment and as an entertainer I’m bringing them a small memory of joy.

Nothing wrong with that.

If you are reading our blog and you would like to start a team with us take a look at this link:

http://balloondistractions.com/build-a-region.html

Have a GREAT weekend!

Benjamin T. Alexander

#SharkTank forced me to #Learn:

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When I filmed Balloon Distraction’s Shark Tank segment back in September of 2013 and FAILED in HORRIFIC fashion I came back to Florida and took an honest look in the mirror and realized that I was the problem.

I needed more work, more learning, more improvement as a business owner and also as a human being. I needed to improve MYSELF before I went out and found the team we needed to move forward.   

So I began to read, all the time, over the last 4 months.  

I’m currently reading ALL of the books in the picture during my downtime, at the same time.

Turn off the TV, stop looking at silly gossip on social media, and just READ A BOOK.

Garbage in, garbage out, GOOD stuff in? Positive results.

We all have flaws, we ALL have stuff we need to work on. For about $3 per book I bought a whole bevy of used paperbacks on Amazon, almost a mini library.

(I can not believe that it took me THIS LONG to finally read all of Dave Ramsey’s stuff, awesome!)

Amazon.com made this easy, for a few bucks you can buy used books and they arrive in a week.

Using the least expensive shipping each used paperback will set you back about 8 bucks.

Of course, you can also read this stuff off the internet, and reading actual BOOKS is kinda old school… but I love the feel of a book, and I write notes in the margins as well. Hard to do that on a Kindle or Ipad.

You can also Google all these writers and watch YouTube clips (except for the Bible).

So, if you are not happy with WHERE you are and WHO you are please start reading, learning, growing and then DOING!

-Ben Alexander

Jan 30, 2014.

   

 

 

 

I’m taking the SHARKS advice !!!

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When the members of my local Rotary club here in Wesley Chapel learned that we were appearing on Shark Tank they arranged a viewing party at a local restaurant. My fellow Rotarians also promoted the heck out of it and gave me a ton of LOVE and encouragement. If you own a business I would strongly encourage you to find a dynamic Rotary club in your area and check it out, Rotary made me a better human being as well as a better entrepreneur.

EVERYONE showed up, there were 200 people there, we packed the place.

This morning as I write this I am so darn grateful, it was an AWESOME night.

I filmed the episode in LA back in September, on the flight home I filled 3 pages of notes with feedback from the sharks, I was in front of them for over an HOUR, so they gave me far more advice than you saw on the show.

Valuable advice, from super successful people.

We’ve been doing EVERYTHING the sharks recommended, I brought on a great CFO (who is in Rotary) and formed an advisory board (again, all Rotarians). We’ve been recruiting business majors from local colleges, exactly what Mark Cuban suggested when I pitched him 4 months ago. 

Balloon Distractions needed better organization, and an organized leadership team that we have now has been working hard to make this a BETTER run company, and a BETTER opportunity for those who join us in the future. Our mistakes in the past were a function of my lack of organization, and I take full ownership of that.

The work is just beginning. There are people out there who are looking for a great opportunity and we have that. The leadership team is ready, the publicity is there, now we’re getting to work we’re really gonna GROW this thing!    

Ben Alexander January 18, 2014.

A Construct of the Mind.

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written by Ben Alexander, January 2014

The only physical manifestation of our company is a balloon artist in a restaurant making a balloon for a child. After the customer goes home with a cool balloon there is no evidence that we were ever there other than our promo poster on the door.

We don’t have any storefronts or billboards next to the highways, no trucks or warehouses filled with product, no lasting “widget” that will be sold at yard sales and later discarded in landfills and left to rust.

We are a memory in the minds of children everywhere, something they will recall with vague fondness when they become adults….  

Balloon Distractions is a virtual business, a business of information, ideas and memories.

It all started as a rough idea in my mind in 2003, through training systems that idea has been multiplied in the minds of hundreds of people across the United States, as well as information stored in the ones and zeros of our software in order to organize tens of thousands of bookings each year.  

The most expensive component of our business has been our online scheduling program and our training / orientation interface. Both of these are the most effective way to spread information across time and distance, across 4 time zones, to pursue a common goal.  

With the ongoing evolution of technology there will be more businesses that have little to no physical assets, with software that is parked on servers that are rented on an as-needed basis.

Is there a limit to these “constructs of the mind”? 

As a student of economics I’m going to theorize that there are NO limits to how many different ways we will find to monetize the movement of information in the global economy. Just as Twitter, Facebook and E-harmony started as ideas there will be hundreds and thousands of “mental constructs” that create wealth in the future.    

Lynch Mobs, Seduction and Balloon Twisting.

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Recent advances in brain science have revealed that when we watch another person do something there are complementary, or “mirror neurons” in our brain that fire off in parallel with whatever we’re watching, even if we don’t actually move from our armchair.

If you are sitting and watching your friend bounce a ball off the sidewalk there is a part of your brain doing exactly the same thing, even if your arm is not moving, weird, eh?

This is why if one person in a room starts yawning everyone else will start yawning.

This is why you are more likely to feel like dancing when you see other people dance, cry when other people are crying, and laugh when everyone in the room is already laughing, etc.

When I used to lead sales meetings in my previous career I would nod my head at the other people in the room, invariably the people watching me would start doing the same thing without even realizing it. Mirror Neurons at work.

If you are on a date and trying to look more desirable to a member of the opposite gender you can sit in the same posture, and adopt the same cadence and tone of voice to put them at ease.

Con men use body posture to establish rapport with a potential rip off victim.

Mirror neurons explain why angry people in a lynch mob will riot, murder and cause property damage in a way they would never do if they were acting alone.

Humans are highly social primates, and this weird mammalian quirk helps us blend in, and ostensibly survive. Since our brains (and our neurons) are more active when we’re younger it seems that people under the age of 25 are much more susceptible to the group activities surrounding them, whether in a church, a cult, or even in boot camp for the Marine Corp.

If the Marines tried to indoctrinate 50 year-old recruits they would have a much harder job building a cohesive platoon willing to take orders without question.

So how does this tie into making balloons for folks in restaurants?

If you smile at the customer they are more likely to respond back in the same manner.

If you have an awful attitude the customer will reflect that back to you.

I found that when I had a great attitude, my restaurant tips went through the roof, but if let myself get frustrated I would not do well.

Children respond very well to positive energy and a sincere smile, even as young as a few months old.

-Benjamin T. Alexander

written in 2012

Simplicity.

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written by Ben Alexander

LIFE is not easy.  It will pull at your sweater and unravel you thread by thread until you stand naked in front of a room full of everyone you’ve ever known, then you’ll wake up from your nightmare realizing that in real life it’s 2AM and your fish tank has just sprung a leak and is flooding  your living room floor.

Yes, this scenario actually happened to me.

Thankfully all the fish survived, so I gave them back to the pet store and no longer have to worry about maintaining a fish tank as large as a coffin.

There will be random events in your life that complicate things, so for this reason it makes sense to clear the path of all the challenges that you CAN control and strive for Simplicity, a philosophy designed to smooth the path a bit and clear the way for whatever success you were destined for.

The Simplicity Concept is one that I wish I had been aware of when I was a young man starting out in life, a philosophy that I formulated through countless boneheaded mistakes as well as a handful of successful ventures as well. These concepts come from being the father of 2 lovely ladies, living a lot of life in 40 years (and making mistakes) along with owning a national company with hundreds of young associates and seeing them undergo various challenges, from dating woes to drug addiction to just general disorganization.

Simplicity thinking looks at all areas of your life and asks one (simple) question: IS this complicated for no reason, can we simplify this?  

In high school and college you might learn about the victor of the 100 Years War, the sublime use of the periodic table and Gregor Mendel’s theories of genetics but they fail to teach you the common sense lessons that you need to navigate the shoals of our modern adulthood without wrecking your ship on the hidden rocks beneath the water.    

I personally embrace a lifestyle of Simplicity; in my community work, as a husband, a father and as an entrepreneur.

Fired! …. at 12 years old.

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Written by Ben Alexander

Every day, all over the world, every single MINUTE people are waking up and going to their jobs and expending their energy, time and intellect in exchange for the money they need to eat, live and take care of their family.

No other plant, mineral or animal does this other than humans, with the exception of performance animals and service dogs… and we pay them in food and shelter, mainly because it would take a very talented dog to handle coins and paper currency.

Of course, you can’t forget your friendly killer whale down at Seaworld, doing flips for buckets of fish and occasionally living up to their names when that little switch goes off in their Orcan brain and they decide to murder that small primate in a neoprene wetsuit who has been ordering them around for the last few years.

If you outweighed your boss by a few tons how tempting would it be to simply END them one sunny day?    

My first job was an auctioneer’s assistant, I was 12, the guy who hired me knew me from church and he was a total jerk. He paid me $2 per hour to clear brush in his backyard and help him run estate auctions on the weekends. At the time the minimum wage was about $4 an hour, but I was 12 and he paid me cash.

You have about zero options for legal employment when you’re in sixth grade, and my parents would not have been happy if I’d become a cocaine dealer while still in elementary school.

In this first job I learned all about auctions. People would die, and we would come in and sell every item in their home. This was interesting because you learned that used stuff was pretty worthless 99% of the time. At one house I took home a whole set of heavy duty hand tools for about $4. They were probably about 60 years old when I bought them back in the 1980’s, I still have those tools in my tool box to the present day.

A valuable thing to learn early on is that THINGS have less value than you may realize.

During the actual auction I would hold up items and then help haul stuff around for the buyers.

At 12 I was a smallish kid, so my lovely boss would always tell me what a pathetic weakling I was. I had spent my childhood reading books and avoiding  athletic activity, for a mere 2 bucks an hour what the hell did he expect, Hercules?

My boss would also find odd lots of stuff in warehouses and then buy it to sell it elsewhere. I remember one day when we drove to a decrepit warehouse in a ghetto of Philly where we loaded about 500 one gallon tins of tomato sauce into his box truck. To this day I have no idea what he did with 500 cans of tomato sauce. It was crap work and he paid me crap pay, and then he fired me a few months later.

I guess 2 bucks an hour was too much to pay a 12 year old kid, perhaps he found a 5 year old who could work for less?

So there I was, fired from my very first job at the tender age of 12.

I had all the feelings that one associates with being fired; shame, humiliation, failure, disappointment, etc. But in a way getting fired is an action of forced change, you have no choice but to look around and consider your other options.

Later on in life, when I was fired from other jobs I took it in stride and always landed with all 4 paws on the ground. Getting fired forced me to try new jobs that I never would have considered if I didn’t need work. I was a waiter in a BBQ restaurant when a balloon guy came in and started twisting balloons, if I had NOT been fired from my last waiter job I never would have learned balloon art, if I had never learned balloons my present company would not exist today…

Everything happens for a reason.

2 easy ways to Stay Happy.

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written by Ben Alexander

#1. Be useful and DO something every day.

Do something every single day that is measurable and productive. It could be exercise, a chore around the house, gardening, etc. I work from home 99% of the time, today I was closing new clients over the phone and talking with my database expert about changes to one of our systems. I also did the dishes and went food shopping.

One of the roots of depression is the feeling that you are worthless, but if you DO something you can draw satisfaction from that, at least for that day.

This is why I take care of my own yard, at the end of the day it feels great to sit on my back porch in sweaty clothes and drink a beer while the sprinklers run over my freshly cut lawn.

If you work hard every day, and get stuff DONE you will sleep well and have a great sense of daily satisfaction.  

#2. Serve others.

This does not mean you have to go out and solve the homeless issue, this can be as simple as cooking a nice meal for your family or cleaning up your home. When you are focused outward you gain perspective on your own life.

This upcoming April I’m going on my third trip to Honduras to install water filters with my fellow Rotary club members and Pure Water for the World. Going there, and seeing how people struggle with everyday life makes me tremendously grateful for what we have here in the United States.

Serving others also translates into my business, by making Balloon Distractions BETTER I am serving the independent contractor Artists and Regional Partners who make our concept possible.

The flip side of serving others is doing NOTHING for anyone but yourself.
We all know people like this, they never lift a finger to do anything… and then they wonder why they have no friends and are wracked with depression. If you are a business owner and you don’t serve your clients and your team you will be OUT of business pretty fast!

Serving others can be as simple as going to a local nursing home and just spending time with the people who live there. You can volunteer to mentor a youth group in church each week, or volunteer to frame out a house with Habitat for Humanity. During the recession there were several empty houses on my street with knee-high weeds, I started cutting all those lawns on a regular basis, which kept my street looking decent until those empty houses eventually found buyers.

As a member of the local Rotary club here in Wesley Chapel I was fortunate to serve as the president of the club 2 years ago, my goal during my year of leadership was to grow the membership of the club and we were very successful.    

There are so may ways to serve others if you just look around….

So, if you are feeling down try my 2 suggestions for the next few weeks, let me know if it helped you feel better about life!