Robroy’s writing roost

November 19th, 2010

All my life, from the top bunk to the treetops to the roof of my 4-story college dorm, I’ve always tried to get as far off the ground as possible.  Not sure why.  Reaching new heights has been even more important to me as a writer.  So, when it became time for Robroy to find new headquarters, I started thinking big.

Several business friends offered to share their offices with me, but I wanted a place that was distinctly my own.  A place from which I could write my powerful, positive stories about living and working in Baltimore.  A symbolic place.  A magical place.  And most of all, a tall place.

On a whim, I decided to apply to the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

“I thought they only accepted artists,” you say.  That’s what I thought too.  And like you, I wasn’t convinced I qualified.  Sure, Robroy’s business stories borrow a few literary elements.  They have plot, character, scene and story structure.  They sell.  But are they art?

I knew of another guy in town with my problem, a visual artist, Robert McClintock.  His commercial success threatened his status as an artist.  I was on my way to interview him for the Baltimore Business Journal (here’s the column), when I received an email on my Blackberry from the manager of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

“Congratulations!” he wrote.  “You’re exactly what we’re looking for.”

I chose a studio on an upper floor.  It’s only 330 feet high.

But it sure feels good.

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Granny on the roof

October 8th, 2010

Every time I drive by, I get a kick out of the corner drug store in my neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore City.  I love how they’ve adopted a marketing stunt from auto repair shops of the 1950s.  Not a car but a motorized wheelchair sits on the roof of Northern Pharmacy.  It’s as though some hotrod granny overshot the parking lot, climbed down, did her shopping, and forgot where she’d parked.

I recently had a chance to interview the owner, Marty Mintz, for a story in the Baltimore Business Journal.  Here’s the column.

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Time-traveling, business class

September 17th, 2010

Last month, in my column, I wrote about my entrepreneurial grandfather, Roy Macdonald, Sr.  The best part was, the day the piece appeared, a lot of people emailed me to tell me about their own grandfathers.  The kind of men they were.  Their values.  The work they did in their prime.  It was as if a time-traveling grandfather convention had come to town.  Everyone had a story.

What’s yours?

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Good humor

July 2nd, 2010

Robroy has not always been the steely eyed card shark you see standing before you today.

At 23, I was about as far from that as you can get.  Emotional, insecure and a lousy liar, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be okay in life.  This was back in Chicago.  I was teaching creative writing by day while earning my MFA by night.  At the same time I was trying to fit in with a talented group of very funny writers and actors I’d met at Columbia College.

One night, they invited me to a game of Texas Hold’em.  The five players were:

  • Tom Bell, future writer for “Storm Chasers”
  • Dino Stamatopoulos, future writer for Conan O’Brien
  • Andy Dick, future actor on “NewsRadio”
  • Mike Stoyanov, future actor on “Blossom”
  • And me.

The pressure was on.  Tom dealt, and we all peeked at our cards.  While the guys frowned around their cigars and squinted at the board, I tried to follow suit, so to speak.  Tom glanced at me.  “Your action, sir.”  I was up.

“Raise!” I said.  Everyone stared at me.  Play stopped.

“Does that mean you want to, like, raise?” Andy said.  Dino giggled.

“Oh.”  I put in three white chips, blushing.

Mike looked at me from under his green visor.  I could feel him trying to size me up.  “Let me ask you something, Rob,” he said.  “Are you a poker man?”

“Heck, no,” I said.  “I’m an ice cream man.”

What that means, I don’t know, but everyone laughed.  So I was okay.

Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!

(Read my column, “Working Life,” in the Baltimore Business Journal)

· Andy Dick, future actor on the TV show “NewsRadio”

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Zap! (a book review)

June 7th, 2010

The promoter sent Robroy a couple of advance copies of Delivering Happiness (http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com) by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, and asked me to write “an honest review.”

The request alone made me happy.  There is so much horrible writing out there, and it’s so much fun to criticize.  I was really hoping to hate this book.

Unfortunately, I liked it.  You take a shine to Tony as a kid, and come to admire the selfless, tireless leader as an adult.  Though I’ve never sold a company for $265M, as he did with LinkExchange, or gambled it all for a chance to sell another company for $1.2B, as he did with Zappos, I feel like I did.  I feel like we did it together.  His story-telling is that good.

But the real value, and the reason I’d recommend the book to business folks, is Chapter 5.  There you get 70+ pages on how to move your business forward with Zappos’ structured “Pipeline” for connecting customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.  It makes sense.  Everyone gets happier the happier they make others.

Everyone, that is, but Tony.  His happiness is temporary.  He’s thrilled at the moment of conquest, or “checking it off the list,” like the time he risked his life on Mt. Kilimanjaro, an important experience, for sure.  But he doesn’t seem to experience the other kind of happiness.  The sustainable kind.  Intimacy.

It’s a business book, not a romance; I get it.  But as a man, Tony seems to have no interest in that stuff.  No wife, no kid, no dog, no prospects.  He’s so busy working, no one really gets close, and in the end, you feel that this amazingly successful, super positive businessman is unfulfilled personally.  Which is a bummer.  You love him too much to see him to fail now.  Yet all you can do is close the book and hope it turns out that Delivering Happiness is only half the story.  Maybe the title of his next book will be Receiving Happiness.

If so, on that day, Robroy will give an honest review.  I’ll stand up with tears in my eyes and cheer.

(Read my column “Working Life” in the Baltimore Business Journal)

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Golf lesson

May 21st, 2010

The doctor had no patience for Robroy on the golf course.

“Caddy!” he shouted as I stood still, holding the pin.  We were on the first green.  This was my summer job in high school, and I took it seriously.  I knew to hold the flag so it wouldn’t wave, but it was not enough for this guy.  “Your shirt is flapping in the breeze!”

I loved caddying for entrepreneurs. You could tell who was the most successful by who was most relaxed.  It was the opposite with doctors.

He glared at me until I’d got a hold of the pin again.  Then he put his head down and tapped the ball.  It arched smoothly toward the cup.  I pulled the pin.  In she dropped, a 15-foot birdie.

“Nice shot, sir,” I said, jogging over to take the putter.

“See what a difference it makes?” he said.  “If I’m going to have a great game, I need you to have a great game.”

“Got it,” I said.  I did, too.  Over time, building my career in the service of others, I have grown to appreciate what he said even more.  Golf is life.  Life is a game.  And a game is more rewarding when you try even harder to be your best.

(Read Robroy’s column in today’s Baltimore Business Journal)

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Bull!

April 30th, 2010

Have you ever had a dream that you were alone in the ring with a bull?  You flourish your cape.  The crowd cheers.  Fifty feet away, the bull leans toward you, absolutely intense.  Are you ready?

If you’re selling or marketing your company, you’d better be.


The bull is boom times, and Robroy has news for you.  This is no dream.  In Maryland, the bull strode cooly into the ring earlier this year, when the Baltimore Business Journal acknowledged “the end of the recession.”

The bull paused, straining his powerful neck and pawing the dirt as the Baltimore Sun reported more data on economic recovery: http://ow.ly/1DaVo.

What does the data say?

Businesses posted thousands of new jobs in sales (up 23%), marketing (up 8%) and customer service (up 26%) on CareerBuilder.com, the Sun’s online job board, recently.  The article says more companies are restocking their revenue producing roles.

How is this good for you?

Whether you have a company or a revenue producing role, you have a new purpose.  Get out there and warn your prospects and customers that companies are going agressively into growth mode.  Not only is it safe for them to invest in growth again — it’s dangerous not to.

Ole!

Maryland gets first crack at the bull.  What we do, win or lose, will create momentum for other states.  So let’s be true matadors and engage fearlessly.  Our time has come.

(Read Robroy’s column in today’s Baltimore Business Journal)

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Robroy for president

March 19th, 2010

Since I started blogging, I’ve come to think about our country differently.

The politicians like to segregate us into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got a different view.  Thanks to Google Analytics, I see green states and yellow states.

For example, here’s a report from a blog entry I recently posted, showing where all that week’s traffic to my site came from:

Yellow means nobody in that state visited Robroy’s blog.  Green means they did.  Darker green means more visitors came from that state.  It makes sense that Robroy had the most hits in Maryland, my home base.  But I can’t understand why they don’t like me in Texas, where I always kiss the babies.  If this were an election year, I’d be nervous.

My fellow Americans, keep reading Robroy.  Because if you do, I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from California to Maine, the people will rise up and reclaim the promise of our destiny, and out of the polluted haze of partisan confusion, a greener day will come.

Thank you.  And for those who sneezed, God bless you.

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5 quick lunch tips for starting a blog

March 5th, 2010

One of the nicest unintended consequences of writing a blog is you get so many invites to lunch.  People are hungry to know how they can start their own blog.  So, yes, let’s sit down.  Tell me what you’re passionate about.  I’ll listen.  And here’s what I may recommend:

  1. Soup – To get started in blogging, you need Web stuff.  You won’t believe how easy it is with WordPress.com.  For 1:1 time with a Webber, Robroy trusts Dustin Pfeifer Creative.
  2. Salad – The healthy course is to have a social media strategy.  Some of the freshest ideas are coming from Right Source Marketing.  For example (I love this): http://bit.ly/br6kYJ.
  3. Entree – The meat and potatoes, the true richness of your blog is the size of your readership.  To be successful, “be famous,” to quote my friend, Marci DeVries.  Check out her Web energy company, MDV Interactive.
  4. Coffee – Care enough to serve the very best content.  Good strong stories can be addictive and keep your audience coming back.  Write them yourself, or hire a professional copywriter.
  5. Dessert – Indulge.  Respond to all comments on your blog with feeling.  Return the favor by commenting on their blogs.  And always, as they say at Etsy, “Be sweet.  Retweet.”

That’s it.  It’s really that simple.  Follow these 5 tips and you may never pick up the check again.

Unless of course you’re out with Robroy.

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Who else wants amnesia?

February 26th, 2010

(This post was first published on GoBeyondIT Blog on February 17, 2010)

Hi there.  The name’s Robroy.  You don’t know me, but – can I ask a personal question?  It’s about your medical history.

Have you ever had amnesia?

No?  Me neither.  In fact, I have never even met someone who had it.  And yet, rare as it is in real life, amnesia must be one of the most commonly dramatized illnesses in all of Hollywood.

Goldie Hawn lost her memory in Overboard.  Mickey Rourke lost his memory in Angel Heart.  So did Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic.  And Jim Carrey in … what was that one called … Spotless in Seattle?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had amnesia?  If more companies caught a little case of it?  Think of the benefits.  We could wipe out all of our old excuses.  Starting with the software and technology that runs and grows our business.  You’d take one look at our server racks and say, “Why are we hosting our stuff on company hardware, instead of in the cloud?”

You’d be absolutely right.  With cloud computing, we could get more computer power, instantly, on demand, at a fraction of the cost.

And nobody could say, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”  Because we wouldn’t know that.  We’d have amnesia.

Right?  That Hitchcock classic, Spellbound.  Gregory Peck.  Can you remember any?  Let’s list a few in the comments below.  Who else had amnesia?

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