(Net)Working Indianapolis

Every Thursday morning I attend a BNI networking group in Carmel. After the meeting I head over to the Subway next to Jason’s Deli and Office Depot. I get the $3 breakfast combo, which includes a 6-inch breakfast sandwich and a regular drink. I then sit down with my laptop and get online using the local Wi-Fi. LePeep, La Hacienda, and Jason’s Deli all have Wi-Fi so I encourage you to try any of those during lunch.

If the seat by the outlet in Subway is taken, I head down the strip to Starbucks. This particular Starbucks is loaded with outlets and many coworkers, commuters, sales persons, and solopreneurs hang out here during the day. I believe this is primarily because of a) the size of the Starbucks – it’s unusually large for a Starbucks, b) the sheer amount of outlets to plug in your laptop or mobile phone, and c) it’s central location to Indianapolis and Carmel.

After attending meetups and other networking events, I’ve started to know a lot of people around Carmel and Indianapolis. Usually, whenever I’m in a Starbucks I’ll run into someone I know and because of that, these cities have started to feel more like a community. I don’t know everybody, but my chances of running into someone I know are now greater than not running into someone I know. And although I check into Foursquare, it doesn’t ever seem to help me run into people, which is odd.

As I am an Indianapolis web designer, my meetings are sporadic and sometimes far in between. I use these ‘holes’ in the day to work out of various locations such as Starbucks, Subway, or Panera Bread. After doing it a while, you start to learn what other business professionals have chose to use as their personal office. There is a dog walker and an oil salesman at the Starbucks at 96th and Meridian and of course there is my habitual use of the Starbucks at Meridian and Carmel Drive.

The greater Indianapolis area is large in size, but it’s a small community. The people you actually want or need to talk to is relatively very small compared to the population of the whole city. For me, it’s business owners who can make a decision to buy from me direct, can be a referral partner, or can be a connector to someone I need to talk to. This is really what networking is all about because you also want to be those same characteristics to other people in your network. You want to be that power connector.

Robby Slaughter, a business process consultant in Indianapolis, has made it his goal in 2012 to help 1000 people. Because Robby is a power connector, he’s able to help a lot of people and I actually took him up on it and Robby had a one to one with me over the phone. Robby is a fellow BNI member of another chapter and he helped me figure out what would be some good referral partners for me and how to tweak my 60-second asks, some of which I’ve implemented. Thanks, Robby!

I’ve actually mentioned Robby Slaughter before as being one my local heroes. I ended up finally meeting Robby last August at Blog Indiana and then immediately saw him again when he spoke at Linking Indiana. Robby also wrote a guest blog post on my web design site entitled, Increasing Productivity In Website Maintenance, which was appropriate since he’s a productivity expert and I design websites around a CMS called WordPress. Thanks again, Robby.

It’s Your Life

As you may or may not know, I’m an Indianapolis web designer who specializes in making custom WordPress themes. I also do affiliate marketing and write on the side. This is one of those posts that’s more traditional to a formal blog, the kind that people like to look down on blogging because of – because the author is just talking about what “he had for breakfast”. Sometimes posts like that are useful if they give you insight into how other people are living and solving problems in their daily life. I’m hoping this post can be sort of like that.

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My CEO Heroes

I am going to write about a couple of my CEO heroes, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors.  Previously I wrote about my media heroes, which included two CEOs, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg, but when I classify ‘CEO’ heroes I value the entrepreneurial spirit and management style of Schultz and Musk in the same way I value the media empires of Murdoch and Zuckerberg.

Howard Schultz

Starbucks CEO and former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of Marketing after a sales trip to Seattle as a general manager for Hammarplast drip coffee makers, which Starbucks was buying at the time.  While working at Starbucks, Schultz travelled to Italy to buy coffee and noticed not only were they selling coffee, but espresso too.  He also noticed a new dynamic, one he would later embrace, “The third place,” after noticing Italians ‘hanging out’ at coffee shops all over the country.

The Third Place

The ‘third place’ is a phrase coined by contemporary sociologist Ray Oldenburg.  Oldenburg in 1990 that postulates that the third place is a term referring to a public place where people gather for the social satisfaction that they can’t get from the first two domains of the home and the workplace.  Oldenburg argued that the availability of such gathering places in America was lacking and so, inspired by Oldenburg’s observations, Schultz turned America’s ‘lack of place’ into a business opportunity encouraging loitering and turning Starbucks into a cozy home-away-from-home.

The Great Experiment

When Schultz got back from Italy he convinced the management team to add espresso to the menu.  They agreed to try it out in one store and although it went over well, the management refused to roll it out explaining that they didn’t want to get into the ‘restaurant business’.  Frustratated, Schultz started his own company to serve coffee, Il Giornale, in 1985.  Two years later the original Starbucks management team decided to focus on their Peet’s Coffee & Tea brand and sold the Starbucks name to Schultz and Il Giornale for 3.8 million.  Schultz renamed Il Giornale to Starbucks and aggressively expanded the brand across the United States.  In 2000 Schultz left the company, but rejoined as CEO in 2008, taking the company to new records in profitability.

Elon Musk

Co-founder of Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors, Musk is currently CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors in addition to being chairman of SolarCity.  Musk was inspired by Thomas Edison to solve three “important problems”: the Internet, space, and clean energy.

His first company was Zip2, which Musk cofounded with his brother, Kimbal Musk. Zip2 was acquired by Alta Vista in 1999.  That same year Elon Musk cofounded X.com, which later merged with Confinity, which owned the domain, paypal.com. This helped him solve his first problem, the Internet.

Paypal.com was originally used by Confinity for email payments by Palm users, but after 2001 became known for what it is today and X.com changed its name to PayPal.  Just one year later, in 2002, Ebay acquired PayPal and that same year Musk founded his third company, SpaceX. This helped him solve his second problem, space.

Musk was still building SpaceX when he cofounded Tesla Motors in 2004.  He later became CEO in 2008.  Tesla Motors make all-electric cars, which use much less energy than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.  Lyndon Rive, Musk’s cousin, founded SolarCity in 2006 of which Musk is chairman of the board.  Together with Tesla Motors, Solar City helped him solve his third problem, clean energy.

In 2007 Musk won Inc.’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and his fortune is estimated at over 300 million dollars. This serial entrepreneur and father of five works 100-hour weeks and is passionate about what he does.  His passion is an encouragement to me and that is why is one of my CEO heroes.