Spinning Plates!

Lots of plates spinning….

 

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written by Ben Alexander

I learned earlier this week that Balloon Distractions’ segment on Shark Tank is going to air on January 17th, 2014 … at the same time my parents are traveling to Florida to visit for the holidays I have to rent out this little house I own in Tampa.

I bought it in 2004 for about 58K, and its been rented out continually since then… when my last tenant left in July I put it up for sale on the market for 50K, but I keep getting ridiculous offers for well below that. So I’m going to rent it for another year or 2 and try to sell it again in 2016. I guess, who knows.  

I’m cleaning up the house and getting ready for the holidays…. the tree is up, the lights are hung….  

I’m also traveling to Ocala once a week to recruit and train college kids, stay at home Moms and military veterans on my team up there. Right now we are in a recruiting push to add at least 20 new regions in 2014. I have no idea who will find us as a result of the national exposure on Shark Tank, but I’m positive it will be good for our business.

I love military veterans, they work really hard, know how to follow standard operating procedure, and they have a very teachable manner that makes them a joy to do business with.

If you just retired from the military and you are looking for your next chapter let’s have a conversation!

I’m still looking for the magic formula that will get my idea in all 200 markets around the United States, if you are reading this and would like to develop a region with us (or maybe just twist balloons for a couple hundred $$ per week) shoot me an email and we’ll take it from there:

BenAlexander@BalloonDistractions.com

Systems and Complexity.

I’ve been reading books on soil microbiology, capitalism and the growth of railroads from 1850 to 1900 and (last but not least) a book by Kevin Kelly on the evolution of technology in the last 50 years. All three books have a common underlying theme: through the use of well developed systems  a problem is solved with sublime balance and simplicity.

All three books are really about evolving systems: from the way protozoa eat bacteria in soil to the way railroad companies organized freight schedules to the progression of technology from vacuum tubes to the modern high speed internet. The evolution of technology is by far the most rapid of all three because modern progress is continuously becoming a more complex and interwoven system. Case in point: an advance in material technology leads to a faster computer processor, which helps a geneticist unravel a viral genome, and from this another doctor figures out how to graft human skin onto a metal prosthesis, which leads to more human-like robots, etc.

Even singing in a choir you need complex systems… taken in pieces the notes are very simple and unremarkable, but when they are combined in the complexity of voices and instruments a complex and multi-level beauty emerges, all from the organization of simple notes on a sheet of paper.  Perhaps this is why so many scientists and engineers are also musicians on the side…..

Inherent in everything is a quiet system at work. Even the words that you are reading right now are a small part of a highly evolved language system that was started 10,000 years ago and continues to develop even to this day.

Language enabled humans to pass along knowledge from one generation to the next, our forebears learned how to make weapons, which mushroom it was safe to eat… or which root would help cure certain illnesses. We are the products of a vast system of oral and written knowledge that has been modified and grown through ten thousand generations.

Look at any form of biological reproduction: from bacterial replication to mammals bearing live young to a dandelion being visited by a pollen-hungry bee. Vastly different in implementation, but the goal of all three is the same.

The most successful businesses use systems internally, and the largest companies on the planet sell systems that help the consumer simplify their lives. All IT companies sell systems, from Apple to Microsoft to Google.

Take a look at the entire world around you, there is a system quietly humming right there in front of your nose, from the orchid blooming on your desk to the swirling electrons and organized binary bits inside your computer that manifest the words on your computer screen.

As technology moves into the Conceptual Age everything will revolve around clever systems designed to solve a problem.

You might invent the next billion dollar system!

Ben Alexander

2010

Twisting balloonz in Honduras!

In April of 2014 I’ll return to Honduras on my third trip… this was written after our first trip in January of 2012: 

Last week I went to Honduras along with 4 other members of my local Rotary club to install clean water filters in a joint project with Pure Water for the World. The trip was paid for by our Rotary club aong with a $3,000 sponsorship from Wesley Chapel Toyota / Honda.

     

I packed my steel-toe boots, leather gloves, some heavy duty work clothes and a bag full of balloons. Our group of Rotarians were joined by a handful of other folks from around the country: a writer, an accountant, a dentist, 2 paralegals, a construction consultant and the CEO of an electronics company. Our base of operations was the town of Trojes (pronounced TRO-hayes).. a rag tag town with dirt roads near the Nicaraugan / Honduras border.

Pure Water for the World (PWW) has installed over 2,000 water filters and over 600 latrine facilities in the communities surrounding Trojes, and during our trip we added several water filters and 7 new latrines to that total. Another component of PWW’s mission is educating Hondurans about basic hygiene issues.

In Trojes we stayed in the Hotel Moderno ( I think it rates NEGATIVE 3 stars in the Michelin guide). Every morning about 200 roosters would promptly wake us up at 5AM. My first morning I climbed up to the roof of the hotel and was amazed at how you could hear roosters crowing and dogs barking from every point on the compass. From my vantage point I could see the entire town and the tropical mountains beyond…

Everyday after a decent breakfast at a local outdoor restaurant we would climb into the back of several 4X4 pick-ups and head up to the homes far up into the mountains. Sometimes it would take almost 2 hours to reach our destination, and as we climbed the mountains on muddy, slippery roads we were always about 8 inches from plunging off the side and falling several hundred feet into the jungle below. Once we got off the truck we had to hike a couple hundred yards down a steep muddy path to get to the target household.

The people living up in the mountains lived in adobe shacks with dirt floors, no electric, no sewer system, windows that were just a hole in the wall and a wood burning stove. One family that we helped grew coffee, beans and rice right there on the side of the mountain. Every home had one or 2 half starved dogs wandering around along with a gaggle of chickens and curious barefoot children everywhere you looked.    

The Honduran people have a different attitude about danger and child rearing, I would see little kids right on the edge of the roads all over the country, and many times you would see a child totally alone with nary an adult in sight. Up in the mountains these little children would run up and down the muddy footpaths like it was nothing… I got the feeling that any child who reached adulthood must be one tough son of an onion….   

This trip gave me a new perspective and made me thankful for all the things we take for granted here in the United States.

How much are you WORTH?

If you die today what worth did you hold in the universe?

I’m not talking about money or wealth, we just accumulate money during our lives and then is gets dispersed again after we die. Money is fluid and temporary, if I take $10,000 and disperse it outward to relatives, charity, taxes, etc… pretty soon that money is gone. 

Like water in a 10 gallon bucket that’s been poured out onto the lawn on a hot summer day, if I come back the next day there is zero proof that the water ever existed! Money is so temporary, more of a symbol than a tangible thing.   

I’m talking about the changes that you created while you were here on earth. Did you change people’s lives? Did you create something that is generational and lasting?

Did you make life better for your family, the people you work with, the clients you serve?

Maybe this is what keeps me in Rotary, besides the social aspect of it all. Do the water filters we install in Honduras save children’s lives? Do the balloon art skills that we teach students help them pay for college?

I want to get my company into 100 regions not just for the profit, but because I feel that we have a positive impact on the lives of the people who work with us, even if they only do so for a few months.

It’s HARD to find the right people who are willing to build regions by training a crew and selling new clients. They have to start from ZERO and really build a business from the ground up. I know they’re out there; the salespeople, the school teachers, the folks who retired in their late 50’s yet they still have SO much to contribute and a lifetime of people skills under their belt to help them do it.

Whatever you do strive to make an impact, strive to do something positive that will outlast your short time here on earth.    

Posture is important!

Maintain the correct posture when recruiting! No, I’m not talking about standing up straight, check it out:

A man is standing on a street corner with a tray of cookies. Every time a person walks by he says “Take a cookie, please, please, please, you gotta take a cookie, I NEED you to take a cookie…” Would everyone take a cookie? Some people would, but a lot of people would be put off and suspicious because of the man’s poor posture. Instead, the cookie man should only let a few select people have a cookie (like every tenth person). The nine that were left out would be begging and screaming for a cookie because people want whatever is denied them.

How does this apply to recruiting for Balloon Distractions? When you are talking to someone about the business let them know that there are only three (pick any low number) positions to fill and once the positions are filled their window to get in will be shut.

When someone resists my efforts to recruit them I’ll say something like “Hey, ya know, there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t mind making twenty bucks an hour, you’re obviously happy making six bucks an hour and my time is worth a lot….. You have my number, call me if you change your mind.” I said that to a skeptical guy once and hung up the phone. The next day he called me back and begged me to come on board and now he’s one of the best twisters in the company.