Welcome To Mike's Blog (Web Log)

Visit Mike's other Blog entries 4/01/05 - 7/31/05 and 8/1/05 - 11/30/05 and 12/1/05 - 3/31/06 and 4/1/06 - 7/31/06 and 8/1/06 - 12/31/06 and 1/1/07 - 6/2/07 and 6/2/07 - Present Day
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My web site gives you a pretty good idea about who I am and what interests me. If you're reading this, odds are you're interested in some of the same things. In general, my blog will share lots of thoughts about entrepreneurism, writing, travel, western history, inspiration and the secrets of life. Oh, and Border Collies.

But enough about me. Let's start talking about what I think. :)

12/5/04 6:03 am

So starts my new blog. I've been thinking about starting this for months. As a Gemini, I'm a born communicator. My astrology chart has ten planets in the career house so just about everything I think and do relates to my career in one way or another. If I enjoy it, I figure out a way to make it generate income. This of course, drives my wife Margie nuts. She often awakens to me spouting off yet another plan, scheme or idea that is bound to turn our lives upside down if implemented. God bless her for going along with the good ones and pointing out the bad ones.

Up until the last couple of years, I'd been living my lifelong dream of being a professional writer. Been doing it since 1991 - and been feeding the family pretty much exclusively by writing since 1992. But our recent (last five years) real estate and business start-ups have forced me to mostly stop writing for others and concentrate on writing for our own companies and projects. Truth be told, I miss it. So here I am communicating to the outside world again from my modest basement office.

Gemini's, of course, are known as communicators. They often hold positions as writers, radio personalities or TV broadcasters. Some are public speakers, authors, columnists, reporters, ad agency copywriters, PR professionals, comedians or actors. I've done all of these except for television and acting, although my wife might tell you that when necessary, I can act like a pretty decent husband after she's given me THE LOOK.

Some of my favorite Geminis include Stevie Nicks, John F Kennedy, Andy Griffith, Gene Wilder and Donald Trump.

Anyway, expect reading lots about my latest ideas for generating income. I'm in that time of life (age 47) where I'm really concentrating on making Margie & I financially secure. With our real estate investments we pretty much have our retirement taken care of, so we are working hard to create enough passive CURRENT income to not have to actively work to create our next paycheck ever again. Of course we will ALWAYS work at something, and because of my unbalanced career urges, always find a way to make it pay, we just won't HAVE to work to eat.

Let me say a few things about real estate because I spend lots of time thinking about it every day. Listen closely because this is where you receive a gigantic reward for reading this far. Up until 2002, I had no retirement account at all. Zip, nada, nothing. Today, my real estate holdings alone guarantee I'll have about $2 million dollars in salable assets by the time I'm 65. With a little extra effort, I can make that happen years sooner. I acquired these assets by investing less than $20,000 of my own money. This is the power of real estate. I share this not to boast but to inspire you to get the same results for your family.

Yes, you'll have to work at it. You'll have to study various techniques and you'll have to devote time every week looking for properties that meet a select set of criteria. You'll have to confidently sell yourself and your ideas to others. You'll have to handle rejection and negative thinkers. Having good credit is also a big help getting banks and/or property owners to loan you money. But we were still able to achieve these results with a bankruptcy in our past so having imperfect credit doesn't have to be a game breaker. And finally, you have to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and take action. The time is going to pass anyway, you might as well use it learning new skills to make your todays and tomorrows better.

Fear not, I'm not selling anything here. I merely want to share that the "magic" of owning real estate generates income four different ways. And if you buy it right, costs you absolutely nothing except for your time.

The four ways real estate earns you money:

Equity. Each month you make a payment on your loan, the value of your equity (the value that is yours if you sold for its appraised value today) goes up. If you buy right, your tenants are making this payment for you. This makes your investment FREE. Over time, when the mortgage is paid off, your tenants have handed you a gigantically valuable property that THEY paid for FOR you. Your net worth increases every month just by providing tenants with a property at fair market rental rates.

Income. If you buy right, the payments your tenants make for renting your property will more than cover all mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance and other costs. This extra amount is monthly income for YOU. Because you rarely have to be at a certain place or time as a landlord, this is called passive income. It rolls in every month with very little effort.

Appreciation. Real estate always goes up in value. This is always true in the long run and almost always true in the short term. Even during recessions and depressions, if real estate values drop they always come back. Typically, values increase at least at the pace of inflation. So just owning a $100,000 property earns you a minimum of $3,000 a year. This is $250 per month. Forever. If you live in an area with high growth, values can increase 20 percent per year or more. As owner of the property, this increased value is yours to harvest when you sell.

Depreciation. Real estate tax laws allow you to depreciate the value of the real estate improvements (buildings, fences, sewer lines, asphalt - everything except the land itself) over a fixed number of years. This value is deducted from your property's taxable income, greatly reducing the amount of taxes you must pay on your income. These tax savings go right into your pocket.

I'm so excited about real estate because it has assured my retirement after less than two years of making deals. In a prior life, I was an employee running 50 convenience stores for 7-Eleven. They had a wonderful profit sharing plan to accumulate savings for retirement. Even with their great plan, after 10 years, my account had only reached $30,000. I made that much in my first month of owning my first rental property by making a simple improvement. Real estate greatly compresses time. And time is all we really have.

There are many good free resources on the topic of real estate investment and I suggest starting at the Creative Real Estate Online web site at www.creonline.com. This site has hundreds of free, high-quality how-to articles and success stories. The success stories are very inspiring. They also sell lots of specialized courses if you want more information.

You can earn similar returns by starting your own business. I've taken this route several times too. However, this is rarely passive income like real estate. You'll have to physically and mentally work much harder to gain this value. The companies I own today generate the income I need to pay my monthly living expenses and to purchase additional, less demanding, passive income properties.

Or, you can purchase an already-operating business that generates enough cash to pay all the bills and SOMEONE TO MANAGE IT FOR YOU. These type of investments are much more passive. They generate income for you without you having to do all the work needed to generate that income.

Have you ever read the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad?" I highly recommend it. It's written by Robert T. Kiyosaki. But here is the book's best advice boiled down to one powerful sentence:

"The rich buy assets, the poor buy liabilities."

In this description, an asset is anything that generates income FOR you. These are things that create income streams like rental properties, businesses, stocks, bonds or mutual funds.

Liabilities are things you buy that take money FROM you, without generating any income FOR you. Things like cars, furniture, boats.

The rich spend their money buying income streams first, and then use a portion of those income streams to buy the liabilities that make life fun.

Once the income stream from your investments exceeds the cost of your monthly bills, you have achieved financial security and independence. You no longer have to work for others so are free to spend your time as you like. The rich don't stop there however, they continue to allocate a portion of their income toward the purchase of MORE income streams. This allows them to easily purchase finer and finer liabilities WITHOUT lowering their monthly income. They don't buy a new toy until they have generated a new income stream that more than covers the cost. This is why the rich get richer.

The poor typically spend all their immediate income on items that DON'T generate income. They then have no money left to buy new income streams so they become more and more trapped in the world of employment. So they have less time and less money to break free. The poor get poorer.

I wish I had been taught this when I was a student in high school. I'd have been financially free by the time I was 30. But I know it now and am happily on my way toward financial freedom. If you're not already free yourself, I hope I've inspired you to get yourself on track too.

For inspiration about more general life issues, please visit my Free Inspirational Columns that I call "Consider this..."

12/05/04 7:33 am

We just returned from a research trip. Some would call it a vacation. Because we researched places that fascinate us, it felt like both. Twenty-one days, 16 states and 5,030 miles in our Winnebago.

If you are on this web site, you've likely seen that we own a trolley tour company. We operate in the western town of Cody, Wyoming, just 52 miles from Yellowstone National Park. The town was founded by William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who due to his military scouting heroics and Wild West show, was the most well-known man on Earth in the years around 1900.

We started the business from scratch in 2001 with $2,000 of our own money and a convincing business plan we wrote while attending a Cody Chamber of Commerce-sponsored entrepreneur class. Our business offers 60 minute, 22-mile tours that share the story of Buffalo Bill and spotlight historical sites, scenic vistas, geology, wildlife and old and new west attractions. Our motto is, "Give us an hour and we'll give you 100 years." I drive, Margie is the tour guide and we both narrate while showing poster-sized historical photos, entertaining audio clips and pass-around relics choreographed to the sites outside the moving trolley. It's actually a 60 minute live performance that happens to be rolling on six wheels.

Some locals thought we were nuts. The defining comment from one naysayer was, "Who'd pay $11 to be driven around Cody?" The answer four years later is "More than 10,000 summer visitors." Today, that price is $15. Thank you very much. :)

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the value of what is right in front of others. We moved to Cody eight years ago. It's become obvious to us that heritage sells. People love to learn and experience new things. We help them do so. Cody is a special place with a rare western flavor and fascinating history. To continually offer more value in our tours, we take annual research trips to deepen our knowledge about key elements.

Which leads me back to our recent trip. Tune in tomorrow to read what we learned about Buffalo Bill's home in LeClaire, Iowa and Annie Oakley's stomping grounds near Greenville, Ohio. Oh, and maybe a little about that Border Collie. :)

12/6/04 4:32 am

About this Border Collie. Millie is her name. She was a stray that we adopted 6 years ago. We already had a dog - a wonderful white German Shepard named "Snow." Snow was getting old and I had no desire to get another dog until Snow passed. However, since moving to Wyoming, I'd decided that my next dog would be a black & white Border Collie.

Be careful what you wish for. I've been called a physical manifester because what I think about tends to appear in physical form. Of course everyone is a physical manifester, some just refuse to believe it. Thoughts are things. And when you think about something often and with feeling, you become a magnet that calls forth the creation of that thing.

I sometimes think that the reason we are alive on Earth is because in a three dimensional plane, everything happens so slowly. There is a delay between what you think and what happens. Once we move onto the other side, I think that what we think happens immediately at the speed of thought. So working here on Earth - and its much slower dimensions - let's us practice the control of our thoughts so we don't create our own personal hells on the other side from uncontrolled thoughts.

Anyway, there are many, many books on topics of thoughts and how they create the quality of your life. I recommend anything by Vernon Howard . I also recently discovered a great book written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles, called "The Science of Getting Rich". Rebecca Fine has converted this non-copyrighted book she found in the public domain into an electronic book that she offers free of charge. Click here to access the free e-book .

So we're walking at the park one day and what runs by but a Border Collie with the exact markings I'd been imagining. The dog was skinny and running loose but close enough to other people that I figured it belonged to them. An hour later we're walking home and there lays the same dog in the grass on the side of the road. I thought it had been hit by a car. Closer inspection revealed the dog was obviously a stray. When she let me pet her I could feel her ribs and her hair was matted with dirt.

That was enough for me. We took her home, gave her food which she immediately devoured. We ran ads and reported the find to the Humane Society but no one claimed her. That isn't entirely true. I'd claimed her the moment I took her home. Turns out she was meant to be here.

It turns out that Millie had a great interest in catching Frisbees. With a little practice and training, she became a wonderful Frisbee dog - something else I'd been wanting for a number of years. We started entering Frisbee Dog contests across the west and did fairly well. Tired of traveling, we started our own contest here in Cody and have been running it and competing annually with Millie for six years. Millie finally won the Cody contest in 2002.

Click here to see photos of Millie and learn more about her contests and Frisbee Dog information and resources.

Back to the research trip

Our trip started in Cody, Wyoming and went as far east as Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has the world-famous Biltmore Estate, the world's largest private residence. We wanted to take the Biltmore's audio tour (we produce audio tours and are always researching for ideas) and we wanted to take the Asheville trolley tour for more new ideas. Oh, and we have like a million relatives in the Ashville area.

Along the way we also visited Wall Drug, South Dakota, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Buffalo Bill's childhood home in LeClaire, Iowa, the Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska and the Cabelas in the same town, a museum and I-Max-like theater in Hastings, Nebraska, Abraham Lincoln's home and burial tomb in Springfield, Illinois, and Annie Oakley's birthplace, deathplace, museum and grave in and around Greenville, Ohio. We then visited relatives in Cincinnati and headed down to Asheville. On the way back we stopped at the just-opened Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas and at gained lots of ideas at another great western town, Dodge City, Kansas. The Boot Hill Museum there is great.

Buffalo Bill Cody was born in LeClaire, Iowa on February 26, 1846 in a log cabin not far from the Mississippi River. The cabin no longer stands. However, Buffalo Bill's father, Isaac built another home in 1847 that does still stand and housed the family for several years.

The Buffalo Bill Homestead is owned by Scott County and open to the public during summer months. The caretakers live right on the property in another dwelling and appropriately, graze three or four buffalo right on the grounds.

We arrived in November but after a phone call to the caretakers, were graciously allowed in for a tour. To see photos of the home, visit Buffalo Bill's Homestead.

During the tour, we were guided into the basement. We were told that the foundation had started to collapse so the limestone rock wall in the basement had to be rebuilt. They used modern concrete inside the wall which left no room for hundreds of rocks that filled the inside of the original wall. Margie saw the pile and with her usual charm, talked the caretaker into giving us one. Trolley tour customers will now be able to hold an actual artifact from Buffalo Bill's boyhood home. Click here to see a photo of the basement where the rock came from.

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley, (Phoebe Ann Moses, Mosey or Mozee) was born on August 13, 1860 in Darke County, Ohio. Her father died when she was six years old, throwing the family into severe poverty. The family struggled financially so badly that Phoebe's mother turned Annie over to the county orphanage because she could not afford to feed all her children.

Here, Annie learned to sew and gained an education. But the severe poverty left a permanent mark. Despite her fame and riches, Annie would remain frugal her entire life.

Upon returning home from the orphanage Annie helped feed her still-poor family by learning how to hunt. Ammunition cost money so Annie was motivated to make every shot count. She was soon shooting more game than the family could eat and began selling the excess to local restaurants. Restaurants preferred buying from Annie because her clean headshots left the meat in perfect condition.

Before long, Annie was considered the best shot in the area. Her sale of game was so successful that at the age of 15, was able to pay off the family farm with her hunting proceeds.

A restaurant owner in Cincinnati knew of Annie's skills and invited her to enter a shooting contest against well-known marksman Frank Butler. Butler was traveling with several other marksmen and had a standing challenge to compete against local shooters. Butler is said to have laughed when he learned that a girl had paid the $50 entry fee to challenge him in a contest.

Annie won that contest hitting 25 of 25 targets while Butler only hit 24. The two began a relationship and were married in 1876. By 1882 the pair had formed a shooting act and were traveling around the region. Annie then took the stage name of Annie Oakley, (some think the name was inspired by the nearby town of Oakley, Ohio) but in private, she always called herself Mrs. Frank Butler.

It didn't take Frank Butler long to realize that the novelty of a woman shooter was the better attraction and Frank was man enough to step back and let Annie get top billing. From that point on, Annie was the star of the show and Frank became her manager and did all the legwork to get things ready for Annie's performances.

The pair were signed by Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885 and Annie & Frank traveled with that world-famous show for 17 seasons. "Little Sure Shot," as Annie was known, soon became one of the most famous women in the world.

Annie died at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926 at her sister's house in Greenville, Ohio and is buried in Brock Cemetery near Willowdell, Ohio. She died just three weeks before Frank. Her body was cremated and the urn was then placed in Frank's casket which is buried next to Annie's grave marker.

We visited the cemetery on a rainy day in November, 2004 and had the place to ourselves. Located on a quiet two lane road in the middle of Ohio farms, it is a simple and no-frills resting place befitting Annie's no-nonsense approach to life. This is a significant contrast with Annie's great fame and fortune.

Click here to view Annie and Frank's Gravesite

Click here to read Gravesite Historical Marker Side One

Click here to read Gravesite Historical Marker Side Two

Click here to view Gravesite Headstones

The house where Annie died still stands today in the old part of Greenville. The three story Victorian home is now a rental dwelling. Those with serious interest can get the address from Greenville's Garst Museum which displays a nice room full of Annie Oakley possessions and memorabilia that we greatly enjoyed viewing. Click here to visit the Garst Museum.

Finally, we tracked down the historical marker that points out Annie's birthplace. It is located on Spencer Road outside the little town of Willowdell. This is located within about six miles of the cemetery. The marker is about 1,000 feet from the original location and no dwelling remains. Today, the spot is near a large farmhouse and out buildings. Still, it was electrifying standing there, looking at the nearby woods and realizing this was where Little Sure Shot learned her shooting skills. Click here to see the birthplace marker

Please return tomorrow for the next entry!

12/7/04 4:39 am

Well, the trolley battery is dead. It's only 18 months old so that seems a bit premature. Hopefully it's under warranty. I'll make some calls today. It's not your normal car battery, this monster is built to power RVs and has 6 fill caps on it. Lots like several hundred dollars to me.

This is the type of stuff you face when you're an entrepreneur. You have to navigate through a regular diet of obstacles. Some are easy, some are very difficult. Many are weird. We are always asking people to create something, or find something that is unusual, unproven or very rare. The best ideas just don't stay within the norm.

The challenges of replacing the battery are several that are typical when you run businesses. First there is time pressure. We promised to run a church group to an event tomorrow. We learned the battery was a goner yesterday. That gives us today to find and install a new battery. Next, it's an unusual battery so it might not be available in Cody. Third, we'll need a mechanic to make the change to verify it actually IS a battery problem and not the alternator, which would cause another series of problems. Fourth, we'd already scheduled today to help our daughter move into a new place.

So you adjust and do what you have to do. It's situations like this that prevent most people from owning their own businesses.

But when you think about it, a job presents the same challenges, you're just performing the solutions for someone else within the framework and policies of THEIR business. The difference is your rewards are smaller. But your pay is guaranteed at a certain level. This guarantee must keep most people happy because most people still work for someone else.

An entrepreneur, however, wants far more than a salary. He or she wants equity. Net worth. And more than money itself, loves to create something from nothing. Loves the business of doing business. Loves dreaming up ideas and then implementing them in reality. And when they work, the rewards can be very great. But when they don't, the losses can be very great.

We own 9 or 10 different business entities. People occasionally ask what a typical day is like for us. So let me share a few things we took care of yesterday.

I started at 4:30 am writing yesterday's blog. I'm sharpest in the mornings and like to "eat dessert first" by doing things I enjoy to ease into my day. Lately, that's writing this blog.

After that, I worked up a deposit for the trailer park. Yesterday was the 6th so the payments that arrived on the fifth needed to be banked. The fifth is the last day tenants can pay without getting a late charge. There are still a few lates so I wrote up that list and gave it to my park manager. We charge a $25 late fee and $3 per day for each day late after the fifth as a motivator to pay on time. It works. I recommend it to other landlords. When the few still pay late, you at least appreciate being compensated for the extra hassle.

Then I reviewed responses from some Realtors I'd emailed questions to about some properties. The new Real Estate Guide just came out and I scanned every listing over the weekend. I keep a cabinet with files on about 50 properties I'm watching at any given time.

My criteria for purchasing a property is very stringent: it must generate enough cash to pay all its bills, including its new mortgage and its management and still have extra income left over. If it doesn't have this type of positive cash flow, I don't want it. Which means I end up not wanting most of the properties I review.

It's like mining for gold, you have to go through a lot of rock to find the nuggets. I enjoy penciling out potential properties immensely so it doesn't seem like work. When you find a nugget, the real fun starts - visiting the property, meeting the owners, learning their ownership problems and figuring out ways to solve those problems while making the deal a winner for yourself as well. Then you have to sell your plan to the owners and your bankers to line up financing. Once you get the property, you have to put management in place and develop systems to keep things operating profitably. It's a lot of work, but to me, a lot of fun.

Once a new rental property is set up, it takes very little of your time. This passive income keeps you free to explore other activities and other properties.

But back to the trolley. This is a very time-demanding business for about half the year. But the rewards are there. How many people can work half a year and generate an income that is much higher than most employees make by working a full year?

During June through September we're like carnival people - we work every day. Margie & I give 90% of the tours ourselves and have a relief team fill in on Sundays. But Sundays are taken up by paperwork and other activities that couldn't get done during the week while we were giving tours. So summers are pretty much survival mode for us. It won't always be this way but it works for us now.

We then take an extended vacation in October or November and come back to perform Holiday Light Tours during Christmas season. Seating is limited to 40 so we must keep track of seats like an airline. This requires customers to call us for reservations. In December 2002 we had 500 people take a light tour. Last December it was over 1,000. This year we expect another large increase. Do you know how many phone calls it takes to make 1,000 reservations? Lots. During December we carry a scheduling clipboard and portable phone with us wherever we move in the house.

We also start to sell advertising inside and outside the trolley during the fall and winter for the next season. This generates income for us over the winter while there is little or no tour income coming in. We get the occasional off-season charter but for the most part, we have a very busy 4 summer months, a very busy December and a month or so of busy prep work. Six busy months and six quiet months where we come up with new ideas and projects for the next year.

Other activities I performed yesterday:

* Negotiated with two tenants living together who had to break their lease. They were good people who sincerely wanted to meet their obligation so we were happy to work out a payment that was acceptable to us all. You don't have to be cutthroat in business. Just try to solve the situation so it's fair for all concerned. You sleep better at night and you aren't creating bad karma you'll have to face later. Plus, you're creating fans that may help you in ways you'd never expect in the future.

* Checked the thermostat at a vacant rental office I own. I hadn't been in there in a while and with the cold weather, wanted to make sure the heater was on to prevent pipes from freezing, but at the lowest setting to keep costs down. Another advantage of buying your rentals right is that you can handle vacancies. Sure you'd like the additional rental income, but you still generate enough so you're not worrying about being able to pay the bills. If you make sure that every deal you buy can more than pay its own way, you'll always be increasing your wealth without greatly increasing your risk.

* Used the Internet to research anti-fogging products for the windows of the trolley. With 40 bodies in a heated, enclosed trolley, all that exhaling fogs up our windows during the light tours. I think I finally found a more elegant solution than handing out hand towels to wipe the windows.

* Completed an annual operating report for the COLT bus that is required by WY DOT. We've been operating the public bus system for the City of Cody for the past two years and this report is required because the state and city fund the operating costs. The ridership is not as high as we'd like so it's possible the state and city will not continue the program in 2005. We started the program from scratch for the city in 2003, so would hate to see it die. The people who DO ride greatly appreciate the service. We'll meet with the city soon to make some decisions.

* Had a meeting with a friend and colleague who works for the city. We discussed everything from Christmas decorations to visitor and convention centers. The fun of being entrepreneurs is learning all the opportunities that are available. Every time we speak to someone we listen for problems they mention. Solving their problem could be our next business opportunity.

* Fielded half a dozen calls for Holiday Light Tour reservations. This resulted in another 30 people signed up. Bookings are strong this year and historically get much stronger the deeper we get into December. We have newspaper ads, radio ads and window posters out there spreading the word. But most important, we have 1,000 evangelists out there who rode with us last year. We try to give great customer service to everyone who deals with us and it pays off. I'm such a fanatic on the topic I wrote a book. Click here to learn more about my book, "101 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service Today"

* Tossed the football with Margie for an hour discussing our various businesses, opportunities and to-do lists. Yes, we throw the ball inside. One of the advantages of being an adult. :) I love this activity. She has a busy life with her many volunteer activities so it's a treat to make a football tossing session possible. These sessions clarify our thoughts, reduce stress and refresh our souls.

* Went to bed about 7:30 to read the newspaper and watch a little football. I was out cold by 8 pm. I love the advice given by CNN founder Ted Turner: "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!"

Thanks for reading! I hope you tune in again tomorrow. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at

  • E-mail Mike

    12/8/04 5:43 am

    It was the battery. We got it replaced ($344). Originally Ford said it was covered under warranty but once they saw the 1500 amp battery they realized theirs had been exchanged when the trolley manufacturer converted their motor home chassis into our new trolley. The trolley company's warranty was only 12 months, 12,000 miles, so we have to eat the bill.

    We did get the thing replaced within our tight time limit so we are still happy. It's just another cost of doing business. Business owners deal with unexpected bills all the time, which is one more reason why prices steadily increase. Small businesses have to operate with a wide buffer of cash flow or the unexpected eats them alive.

    We also got our daughter moved yesterday. She had lots of help from her mother-in-law which made it easier on us all. I installed 6 window blinds there and have more to finish today.

    We attended a city council meeting last night to support a friend's idea to build a new miniature golf course. The rub is that the location is on city land. The city owns a small course and has a professional services agreement with a private citizen to run the operation in exchange for a share of the revenue. The agreement expired and the city invited the public to provide them with new proposals.

    Only two people did - the old operator and our friend. The old operator proposes no changes to the facility and our friend offers to invest several hundred thousand dollars in a new facility IF he can get more land to place it on. BIG issue in town.

    Dozens of people showed up to speak for each side. To the good of Cody, the exchanges were very civil. I support our friend's proposal because we know he will enthusiastically operate the thing in an impressive manner, and we think his proposal has a far better chance of enticing visitors to stop. We think he'll attract more locals too - both kids and adults.

    Being in the business community, I think anything different is good. Anything unique is good. After just traveling 5,000 miles, most towns look the same. Cody, with our western buildings and attractive downtown is one of the few that shout, "We have personality." The beautiful mini-golf proposal will be one more eye-catcher to stop more of the 4,000 visitors who drive through our town each day in the summer.

    I asked the city council to ask themselves a question as they considered the two proposals. "What would Buffalo Bill do?"

    Because our town founder Buffalo Bill Cody was a showman, entrepreneur, risk taker and visionary, the answer was obvious.

    Life is funny. It has a way of shaking up the status quo to make you grow. Sometimes you get to coast, but mostly you have to share opinions, choose sides, sell ideas and handle rejection. When anything new comes along, peoples' initial default position is usually "no." It's far easier to do nothing and avoid the whole hassle of getting involved, weighing the problems and benefits and making a decision.

    Very few people make profound changes without a crisis forcing their hand. This is why I admire entrepreneurs. They have the courage to face the hassles of change head-on for no better reason than they know they can make situations better.

    This morning we go on the radio to promote our Holiday Light Tours. I hope people don't hold my opinion about the mini-golf issue against our company. When you share an opinion, you're basically telling lots of others that you don't agree with their opinion. This doesn't have to become personal but unfortunately, often does. This is why the larger a company grows, the more politically correct they become. No one wants to alienate customers. In an ideal world, sharing an opinion should not alienate anyone. But, in the real world, I'm afraid too few can separate an opinion from the person sharing it.

    During our recent trip, we also stopped in Springfield, Illinois to tour Abraham Lincoln's house and tomb. Click here to get lots of great history about Abraham Linoln, including a 360 degree tour of Lincoln's tomb.

    Margie is reading a Lincoln biography and is learning how political Lincoln had to be to get anything done. To gain support, Lincoln learned to solve the other fellow's problem first. The man handled massive resistance to change. Which is what you face (hopefully in far less quantities than Lincoln) when you operate a business. I'll share more about Lincoln after I get that book from Margie.

    12/9/04 3:30 am

    Let the fun begin. Today marks the start of 15 straight nights of Holiday Light Tour activities. The actual tours start Friday night but we need to map the route and take photos of the homes and businesses that have entered the decorating contest tonight.

    We also have to decorate the trolley. We ordered a new anti-fogging product but there were shipping snafus so we won't have it for the first few days of tours. We've been told that in the meantime, it's best to run the air conditioning and the heat at the same time. The heat will supposedly overcome the A/C and the A/C will help pull moisture out of the internal air which sticks to the windows causing the fogging. I guess we'll provide hand towels just in case.

    It's difficult jumping back into an ocean of must-do activity after we've been out of it for 9 weeks. But once you get started, the fun of the season takes over and before you know it, the days have flown by. Margie & I have a saying, "Everything comes and goes." No matter how far off something is scheduled, no matter how large and difficult the event, it always arrives and you're soon looking back on its completion. Just keep on swimming.

    Scheduled activity does at least solve the problem of deciding what to do next. I guess we could just ride out the duties of our current businesses and be just fine, but I'm obsessed with starting multiple streams of income during our off-season. We have so many opportunities that it's difficult to prioritize. Right now I'm putting more weight on studying online business opportunities.

    Online costs are typically low, the business doesn't require you to be there on demand, your universe of customers is most of the world and you don't have to deal with people face-to-face which saves gigantic amounts of time and stress. But the learning curve is steep. There is soooooo much to learn. I'm fairly web savvy and I can maintain my own web site, but the avenues I'm looking at require a giant leap in knowledge about web design, databases, e-newsletters and more. I may just sign up for some college adult-ed courses if they are targeted enough.

    I have set up one online store through a vendor who handles everything. They pay me a small commission for every sale made by customers who arrive by clicking through my link. The prices are very good - for example, most books cost less than Amazon - and the selection is huge. My store offers books, music, videos and video games, cameras, computers, electronics, sports equipment, office supplies and much more. More than 600,000 items! If you have shopping needs, I'd appreciate you purchasing from my online store named Feed Your Soul.

    I'm also a domain name speculator. Generic domain names (like EverythingJapan.com) are inexpensive to reserve and register but can be developed to attract traffic and then resold for huge prices. I own about 130 names that could be developed into portal sites for large industries. The upside is huge for a relatively small investment.

    For example, Loans.com recently sold for $3 million. I own EverythingLoans.com. I know that if I develop the site with content and links or even just sit on it for awhile, some large financial institution will see the value of that name and purchase it from me. Domain names are the real estate of the Internet.

    You can learn more about establishing the value of domain names and review the list of names I offer for sale by clicking Domain Page.

    I'm off to other duties! I hope you stop by again tomorrow.

    12/10/04 7 am

    I'm up late today because we were up late last night mapping the Holiday Light Tour and taking photographs of the contest entries. Don't have much time to write this morning because we have a meeting at the city at 8:30.

    I had to tape "The Apprentice" last night but was able to watch it when we got home. You save some time when you can fast forward through the commercials. Although, I am one who generally enjoys watching commercials if they are clever and funny.

    I love The Apprentice because I really admire Donald Trump. He's a lot more hard-edged than the management style I use, but then he's a heck of a lot more successful than me too. His style may be suited for New York, but it would not go over too well in Wyoming. I wouldn't trade places with him but I admire the size and success of his deals. He does real estate at the very top end in the toughest market in the world. But, he did launch his career with building and operating low income, government-subsidized housing units with his father. Donald just decided he'd rather cater to the well-heeled, top-end market and has become a legend.

    Trump has several books out and I've read them all except his latest, "Think Like a Billionaire," which is on my Christmas list. To learn more about Donald Trump, click here. To learn more about his show "The Apprentice" click here. For great articles about Donald, click Trumpery.

    Speaking of television, my brother and his wife were on "Good Morning America" yesterday. Rick and Alanna are pretty heavy into E-Bay and Alanna gives E-Bay how-to seminars. Apparently the local Nashville ABC affiliate spent a day at their home filming them as they worked their E-Bay business. Their segment was to be shown with an interview of the E-Bay CEO. Charles Gibson teased the story as coming up after a break and a short clip of Rick & Alanna appeared with them working at their home. Pretty cool.

    But that was the extent of the coverage because when they returned from break, it was all the CEO and Diane Sawyer and no more Johnsons. Alas, their best stuff was lying on the cutting room floor. That's the way it works sometimes. An editor has to juggle 50 different demands on a show that large so I'm sure other items must have gotten a higher priority, leaving less time. Still pretty neat though.

    Tonight we start the the Holiday Light Tours and run for 14 nights straight. We ease in with a charter for the radio station crew tonight and then participate in the parade tomorrow night followed by public tours.

    The tour route will be similar to the last two years based on the most well-lit neighborhoods. We're challenged by time and density of decorations to set the best route. If a great looking house is surrounded by several blocks of dark neighbors, we usually can't justify adding it to the tour. Which is a shame. We just can't hit everyone in the 35-40 minutes we have. So here I am in the editor's shoes, leaving someone's well-lit house on the cutting room floor.

    I'm out of time so I'll report in again tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

    12/11/04 5:52 am

    I went through a period when I worked at being a comedy writer. I even attended a comedy writer's conference in Los Angeles that was organized by Gene Perret, who wrote for Bob Hope for 30 years. Gene lined up some successful comedy writers to make presentations and participate with our class of about 30 people.

    Joe Medeiros was then Jay Leno's head writer and he made a presentation, as did Liz Sage, who had written for The Carol Burnett Show and several successful sitcoms. Both had interesting comments but Joe's really stuck with me.

    Joe described how his team created each Leno show. A large board was posted on the wall with a place for each minute of the 60 minute show. Slips of paper noted the segments of the show that took care of themselves like "interview guest," "advertising commercial" or "musical act." All portions of the show that the comedy team had to create were marked on the board by yellow slips of paper. These were the parts of the show that had to be created from thin air by Joe and his 13 writers.

    For example, for Jay's monolog, more than 250 jokes had to be written to come up with the 25 or so jokes he uses each night. After the monolog ends and they return from commercial, there are other comedy segments written for Jay. Joe said that if the writers couldn't come up with anything great, they'd fill the time by doing a "Jay Walking" segment where Jay goes downtown and asks random people questions. Jay's spontaneous humor then makes the segment funny.

    After many years of writing for the show, Joe said those yellow pieces of paper represented a feeling of foreboding wondering how they were going to fill them tonight. Being an aspiring comedy writer, I'd have seen those yellow slips as a huge opportunity to present my stuff to the world.

    So even a dream job feels like work if it's on your back all the time.

    I sold some jokes to a club comedianne but didn't get any farther. To make the real money you really need to live in LA or New York where the decision makers are. That wasn't for me. And it's next to impossible to get the nationally known comedians to even look at your stuff because they are afraid you will sue them if they later write a joke that was close to something you sent them they decided not to buy.

    I'm not saying this can't be overcome, I'm just saying you'd have to be 100% committed to make it happen. In my case, I wasn't willing to make it my entire life. The difficulty of selling your stuff to others is one of the reasons people become stand-up comedians who deliver their own material.

    I guess I was too lazy to do that so I perform my own material online as a sit-down comedian. I "perform" in a couple chatrooms that attract other writers and an over 40 crowd. It keeps my wit sharp and the free flow of online chat topics presents unlimited opportunities to create new oneliners. I monitor crowd response and save the best ones for later use. You can see some of my better comedy material here. It's also DATED material because this comedy page hasn't got much of my attention in recent years.

    Three years ago I joined the local Rotary Club that has been putting on an annual satirical show about our town for the last 50 years. The first year I joined the writing committee and last year I moved up to chairing the writing committee. The show lasts about 2 hours and includes skits, musical acts -- both serious and parody -- and lots of comedy.

    Last year's show revolved around all the transportation issues the city had been fighting over. The largest issue was whether or not to build an alternative route roadway that many thought would become a bypass around Cody's business district, hurting merchants. After lots of controversy, the road was never built. We called the show, "Road Kill, Or 100 Years of Bypassing Progress."

    For the show, I wrote and arranged professional production of a humorous audio segment called The Cody Bypass Horse Race."

    We start writing this year's show next week.

    Last night we provided two light tour charters and they went well. We decorated the trolley yesterday afternoon and the job was easier because temperatures were in the 50's. Our warehouse isn't heated so we appreciated the warm weather. In fact, it was so warm I had to run the air conditioning a little bit during the charters.

    Tonight our public tours start. We still have openings because we increased our number of tours this season to handle 2,000 riders. Last year we had 1,000 riders and filled every tour we offered. This year we're offering lots more tours to determine the size of the market. We'll work harder but be able to provide tours to everyone who wants one.

    We do have a trolley web site located at CodyTrolleyTours.com .

    The trolley business is doing well and we have lots of ideas to increase the number of riders next summer. We brainstormed a great list of improvements while traveling in the Winnebago. We're even considering franchising our system because it works so well. So many opportunities, so little time.

    One thing we are doing is updating our Cody Keepsake book that we give to each party of trolley ticket buyers. The 64-page book includes the Historical Downtown Walking Tour, the Buffalo Bill Burial Mystery article, lots of information about Buffalo Bill and advertising from leading Cody merchants and attractions. It sells for $5 if you do not take a trolley tour. You can order one by emailing me.

    Anyway, the book is a great value-added premium but needs to be updated, which is a major job. This year's version will be created to last two years, will have a glossy cover and more pages. This job is on our spring to-do list. We'd also like to create another audio tour this spring. Once we get through the light tours, we'll start looking for another venue. I wish I had an administrative assistant to help me chase down all these opportunities. I just know I could generate more than enough income to pay the person's wages through new income. I may look into getting a cyber assistant that charges by project to get started. But I'd rather have someone local who I already know and trust. I also have a vacant office building just crying for my use so I'm thinking of new ventures I could launch in case I can't get it rented.

    That's it for today, thanks for visiting!

    12/12/04 5:43 am

    It's snowing! About time. Cody only gets 3-6 feet of snow per winter which isn't very much for a mountain town. It usually falls 3 to 6 inches at a time and then melts in a week or two.

    Yesterday was Cody's big Christmas celebration. Lots of events all over town culminating with the lighted Christmas parade down our main street, Sheridan Avenue. Margie serves as president of the Cody Events Committee and helped get lots of those events organized. She tells me our parade is the largest lighted parade in Wyoming. The trolley participated, with the Absoroka Assisted Living Center folks riding along. Because the center had less than 10 people ride, we invited anyone else aboard who wanted to take a trolley tour right after the parade. We got about 20 takers. We gave three Holiday Light Tours after the parade and they went well.

    We probably offered too many light tours this year because the next several days are light on reservations. The times closer to Christmas are packed though. I think the snow will put more people in the mood. I just hope they don't wait much longer or they will miss our open days and wind up without a seat.

    I've been silently identifying people I'd like to work with and have been lamenting the fact I don't have a job to offer them. I spend time thinking of a business I could start that would generate enough revenue to get them into our growing empire. The thought just struck me that I may be going about this backwards. Perhaps I should organize a meeting with these folks and ask them to brainstorm business ideas that they'd like to manifest and then find a way to fund or organize the effort. If you get the right people you'll get the right results. Hmmm...

    I have a showing at our trailer park this morning. Our park manager is caretaking a ranch for friends and is away until Monday. I'm a little rusty because Chris has been handling showings for more than a year. But we have four vancancies out of 32 so I'm eager to fill them. It's always a balancing act -- you want tenants but you really want qualified tenants. So we screen applicants pretty well and reject a certain percentage. It costs us money to say "no," but it saves us money, time and hassle in the long run. We also have a responsibility to protect our current tenants from getting bad neighbors. Our park has earned a good reputation during the past two years and vacancies or not, we insist on keeping that trend going.

    If we enter January with vacancies, we'll offer to sell a few trailers and carry the financing for the buyer. This locks in a new tenant while helping someone become a home owner. It's true they will still rent the lot from us, but it's better to get some equity from your rent payment then no equity. We'll then be marketing to renters AND buyers, giving us a larger pool of potential customers.

    We try to provide a high level of customer service in everything we do. I've been a fanatic on the topic since I became famous for it when I was a McDonald's store manager in my teens and early 20's. Most people don't extend themselves for others, so it's easy to make a good impression by doing so. Plus, it's the right thing to do.

    Most people's definition of customers is just too narrow. Customers are anyone you encounter -- vendors, family, coworkers, friends, prospects, your boss, your employees and yes, customers. All deserve the very best customer service you can provide.

    When I left the corporate world to become a writer, this customer service passion helped land my largest writing client, Clement Communications. Clement hired me to write an 8-page, bi-weekly newsletter on the topic of customer service. This how-to publication was sold to businesses all over the world. I kept this assignment for six years until Clement decided to take the writing in-house to save money.

    The assignment allowed me to interview executives at the most service-renowned companies in America and capture their best advice on customer service. I also researched the topic incessantly, publishing over 800,000 words on the topic.

    I've boiled all the best advice down into a powerful, 16-page booklet titled "101 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service Today"

    If you serve customers or oversee people who do, you simply must click here and read a great article about empathy, titled, "You Never Know What Crisis Your Customer is Facing."

    12/14/04 6:48 am

    I skipped writing an entry yesterday. Got up too late and the day was upon me. Part of the fun of working for yourself is that you can either have a routine, or change the routine at your whim.

    I just completed the writing of our annual Christmas newsletter. I know they can be about as popular as sending a fruitcake, but I think most of the people we mail to enjoy it. We spice ours up by sending a page of photographs. We've been doing this since at least 1997.

    The letter forces us to reflect on everything we've done the past 12 months, which always looks a bit overwhelming. We have this passion to compress time by doing as much as possible in as short a time as possible. We lie to ourselves that all this activity is bringing us closer to the day we can slow down and just enjoy the life we've created. I imagine we'll always stay busy, but I sure hope it's far less busy.

    I'll say this though -- we truly are creating our own life and most people can't say that. We get to research the things that interest us and dump the things that don't. We have no morning commute, no dress codes, no job that can be taken away (I like to say I work for myself, my boss is a real SOB) and we get to work at things we enjoy. And if we get tired of a project, we can sell it for its value and move on. You can't sell a job -- the value you've created goes straight to the company. The value we create goes right in our pockets. We truly are blessed.

    Scott Pederson got the death penalty yesterday. I love keeping up with cable news and have a TV over my desk to stay current. I'm a FOX News guy. I'm also on the move all the time and don't want to miss anything so I have 6 TVs placed throughout the house. None in the bathroom yet but we put one in there for our Super Bowl party.

    I have satellite TV so I can get the NFL and NHL packages. I had to get city cable TV too this year because satellite started blacking out NFL games carried by local cable channels. So you need cable AND satellite to get every game. Cable lets me watch the city council meetings from home too, so it's money well spent. The information technology is just amazing today. What a great time to be alive.

    I feel sorry for the people who aren't up to speed with current technology. They are missing so many opportunities and will never know what they miss. I just spent a week with relatives in Asheville and they have far more electronic gadgets than me, so I looked clueless next to them. They exposed me to TIVO and cell phones and fancy cars and RV's that had controls I'd never seen before. So I've reached that point where I know enough to know I have far more to know.

    To keep track of news throughout the day, I usually just read The Drudge Report . It's an eclectic mix of hard news, political news, entertainment news and the weird and bizarre. Right up my alley. :)

    That's it for today. Thanks for reading!

    12/16/04 5:59 am

    In three weeks we've owned the trailer park for two years. Time flies. The park was a real fixer-upper when we got it and we've plowed all profits back into repairs and improvements. I can't count the number of stoves, refrigerators, water heaters and furnaces we've replaced. Well, that's not true, I COULD count them, I just don't. The good news is that we've completed over 75 percent of our "to-do" list. So in less than a year, we'll start getting a nice passive income from the park.

    Furnaces are the killer because they run $1,400 installed. I authorized the replacement of another one last night. This one was especially painful because it is in a trailer that the tenants have applied to purchase. But at least if the sale goes through, I'll feel good that they will be getting a very solid unit.

    We occasionally sell trailers and carry the financing for the buyer. Banks won't make loans on 30-year-old trailers so we do. It helps the buyer, earns us a good return and is a safe investment because if payments aren't made, we can repossess the trailer and resell it or make it a rental again. It allows the buyer to build home equity while helping us lock in a lot-rent tenant. Everyone benefits.

    After the first of the year, we'll offer some more trailers for sale to maintain a 100% occupancy rate.

    We had a meeting the other day with folks from Yellowstone National Park. Margie & I sit on the parks committee of the chamber and have been discussing road construction projects. The roads have been neglected there for decades and they finally are receiving the money needed to repair/replace them. There is about a ten year backlog of work and since the weather is so bad there in the winter, forces construction to occur during the busy summer months. This of course, reduces the number of tourists who use our entrance, hurting Cody businesses. We have two or three more years of construction scheduled just inside the east entrance to the park which is the one 52 miles from Cody.

    Last year the park leaders had agreed to our ideas of creating a "Construction Delay Care Package" that would move to the places where traffic was stopped during the rotating 30 minute delays for construction. This package would include a porta-potty and a low power FM radio transmitter that provided entertaining interpretation of the surrounding area and animals. We wanted to take the sting off the delays by providing bathrooms and special information to visitors trapped by the delay.

    Ultimately, these care packages could be provided by the road contractor and included in the project's specifications and bid. In fact, we thought contractors nationwide should be required to include this at all road projects that caused long delays.

    Well, at the meeting this week, that all went by the wayside, so to speak. Actually, nothing will go by the wayside because the park service isn't doing any of it. Apparently they made the decision last year and neglected to inform us. The porta-potties would cause dangerous conditions if traffic started and someone was in the bathroom (understandable) and the radio interpretation had some obstacles the park leaders decided they couldn't solve.

    So it's business as usual -- visitors will face delays and the park service will not extend itself to make the waits any more palatable. We love the park, we like the leaders, but we are extremely disappointed that they think it is OK to invite 3 million guests into the park and then make them drive over rough roads and face 30 minute delays, and then give up on ways to make the situation better for visitors. It's a customer service issue.

    Yes, the roads have to be fixed. Yes, it has to happen in the summer. But there is no passion there to soften the pain of the 30 minute delays. In the grand scheme of things, a 30 minute wait in Yellowstone isn't the end of the world. But when you multiple a half an hour times tens of thousands of people, you've stolen a significant amount of time. And the park service leaders don't see it like this. Which is disappointing to me.

    The private sector would have solved the radio problems and come up with a better porta-potty plan. The government sector just isn't motivated to provide extra energy or creativity to create something better than the status quo. They apparently believe they have all they can handle already.

    Which leads me to my "are you one of us?" theory. After years of promoting new ideas and projects and businesses, I've come to realize that most people are not "one of us." It takes a special breed to have a positive, open, creative and supportive attitude toward new ideas. I figure the percentage of people who have these qualities is only about 5 percent of the population. The other 95 percent are either too busy with their own lives to care, or too busy not having a life so they make it their mission to become an obstacle to yours.

    Albert Einstein said it this way, "New ideas always face violent opposition from mediocre minds."

    Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, said it like this, "When you're green you're growing, when you ripen you rot."

    The truth is, most people don't support change. Most people are wired to only change when faced with a severe crisis. Few people voluteer to change. But the few who DO embrace and seek out change are the people who are "one of us."

    I've written a column about this topic called Change Will Never Change .

    I'm off the soapbox until tomorrow!

    12/19/04 7:34 am

    I got the good news that we have another tenant for the remaining office in the Pioneer Building we own in Lovell. This has been a sweet little property. It was empty when we bought it from a motivated seller who had inherited it. She was tired of trying to be a landlord from 50 miles away so was eager to just sell it. We got it at a bargain, she financed the sale and we only had to come up with 10 percent down.

    The property has two offices, a large shop, three garages and a large fenced yard. Everything is now rented except for the fenced yard. My Realtor in Lovell manages the property for me for 10 percent of rents so I never have to go there for showings or problems. The building is throwing off over $600 profit a month after all expenses and the mortgage.

    I could now sell it for up to three times what I paid for it and the new owner would STILL have a positive cash flow after mortgage and expenses, from the existing rents. As I get a feel for the tenants, I may offer to sell the building to one of them.

    Have I mentioned that I love real estate?

    Now all we need is to rent the Pioneer Complex vacancies and we'll be financially free. We've been advertising the vacancies for months as a package deal or as individual rentals but no takers yet. I share this so you know that real estate is not effortless. You DO have to work at it and be able to carry some vacancies.

    But the Pioneer Complex has so many parts to rent that the pieces we have rented are already paying for the property. The rest are just profit waiting to be collected.

    We purchased the property on a lease option because we could not find a rental building large enough to store our two trolleys, the COLT bus and a motor home. This property had been on the market for years with no takers. It included a house, office building, apartment, five warehouses, fenced yard storage and half acre of open yard storage. It's located in a prime industrial area just north of Cody near the Coca-Cola and Budweiser distributorships. Coke & Bud never put facilities in lousy locations.

    The largest warehouse on the property is 50 X 80 with 30 foot ceilings. This was just large enough for all our vehicles. I did have to install a wider and higher door to get the vehicles in.

    Anyway, our deal was to lease the large warehouse for $700 per month for 18 months and then have the option of buying the entire property. To seal the arrangement, I had to put down a $10,000 deposit. If the deal wasn't made at the end of the 18 months, I'd lose the deposit. If I DID purchase the property within 18 months, the deposit was applied as a down payment.

    The 18 months gave us time to get through two more trolley seasons, generating enough cash to qualify for a loan (the owner agreed to carry 25 percent on a second mortgage, making qualifying for the bank easier). The lease option allowed us to immediately gain use of the large warehouse we needed.

    We exercised the purchase a month before the expiration date and have rented the house, apartment and some warehouse space to generate enough income to pay the mortgages. So the large warehouse we rented for $700 per month is now ours for free and we also have a free office building, four warehouses and fenced and open yard storage. I prefer to rent these pieces for income but because they are "free" to me now, I could use them for my own needs or as a base to start another business.

    Anyway, it's a nice position to be in. And if I hadn't done the work over the past 4 years to get here, the time would have gone by anyway and I'd be sitting here with nothing to show for the time.

    Real estate is like making ice cubes. It takes a little work to get the process started, but once you've started the process, something of value builds on its own. Click here to read my column called "The Ice Cube Theory.

    The Holiday Light Tours are going well. We're on track to exceed last year's number of riders. I think our 7:45 tour last night had the best moment of the season for me. All the kids were singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in their little, enthusiastic voices, the lights were spectacular and the dark trolley had just a hint of chill. It was a Norman Rockwell moment.

    We have five nights of tours left and about 75 percent of our capacity is booked so far. This is our third year of Light Tours and we're honored that so many have already made a Light Tour part of their holiday tradition.

    Less than a week left before Christmas and as usual, I haven't started to shop. Margie makes it easy on me by taking care of all the people on our list herself. That leaves me with shopping for her. One of my daughters usually helps me or I'd be buying her a household appliance or power tool. Sadly, when it comes to shopping, I fit the male stereotype to a tee.

    I DO pick up my socks, wash my own laundry and dishes and put the seat back down, so I do have SOME redeeming qualities.

    That's it for today! Please come back tomorrow!

    12/20/04 6:55 am

    I just finished a song parody for the Rotary Show. I love writing those and have always been good at them. I've been told I'll never be truly happy until I'm fully immersed in the entertainment industry and I tend to believe that. I can tell because when working on parodies I easily get "into flow" and lose myself for hours.

    I have the resources to start a parody business and that is yet ANOTHER opportunity sitting out there for me. I know people with production studios, have created several successful audio products and have some funds to launch the thing. Plus I have that empty office if I needed to create my own studio.

    With all my web site plans, free parodies that can be forwarded via email would be a great "viral marketing" technique. People love the parody so they eagerly forward it to friends until hundreds of thousands of people have heard it and seen your message attached to it.

    So many projects, so little time.

    I'm going to do something similiar with my "Consider this..." columns. Make them free and allow anyone to post them on their web sites as long as they include a paragraph that I provide pitching me and my sites. In fact, I'm going to go make that change right now. Be right back.

    Well, that was easy. Except for the part where I now have to format 101 columns for the web and add 101 more column links to the web site. But, I'm now offering a free resource that will help get my name out for my future online activities. So, it's worth the extra work. Especially when I start using the columns in my own e-newsletter.

    I'm also planing to start a free customer service e-newsletter. I have enough content for that to last a lifetime.

    Nothing you do is ever wasted. It's a good idea to look back on the volume of work you have already created and look for ways you can reuse it or tweak it for a new audience or new project. It may be old material to you, but it will be new and valuable to someone else. There are often "acres of diamonds" in your own backyard.

    Click here to read Russell Conwell's world-famous inspirational speech titled Acres of Diamonds.

    These links to valuable information are my way of thanking you for investing your time here on my site. I will continue to offer similiar gems everyday. I hope they become as valuable to you as they are to me.

    See you tomorrow!

    12/21/04 7:11 am

    Twice a day the clock reminds me I am free of employers. I spent 10 years working for 7-Eleven. The first three years were pretty awful but the last 7 were wonderful. The difference was that I was in charge of my own projects the last 7 years. During the first 3 years I was learning the system and building credibility by working toward other people's goals.

    When I enter a new situation, my strategy is to blend in, learn the standards and accepted techniques and then become the "rabbit" for the boss's #1 priority. By "rabbit," I mean I become the passionate champion for that priority. I find a way to spectacularly achieve the results. The boss then points to me and tells others to do it like me. This makes the boss my fan and builds my credibility throughout the organization.

    I then start to suggest my own ideas and projects which puts me on the offensive. I'm no longer being managed by a boss, my ideas and passionate actions wind up managing the bosses. This allows me to set my own work agendas. The difference is huge. Instead of being a minion to others' projects which I might not enjoy, I get to become the leader of the projects that light me up. And it makes me famous in the process, which leads to promotions and salary increases.

    I can't recommend this process highly enough because it worked for me in two of the largest companies in America -- McDonalds and 7-Eleven. I'm just a high school graduate. This strategy and passion earned me the position of McDonalds Store Manager by the age of 21. I had full responsibility for a $1 million dollar restaurant and 50 employees, many who were much older than me.

    At 7-Eleven, by the age of 29 I worked my way up to responsibility for an entire 55 store area that reached $60 million in annual sales while directing the efforts of 550 employees. So in my opinion, education is nice, but passion, attitude and my strategy are much better.

    You can pay a college to teach you knowledge, or you can work for a company that pays YOU to learn. I believe the second avenue is faster and more cost effective. I'm not against college, it just takes four years and costs tens of thousands of dollars. You better know what you want out of that huge time and money investment before you sign up for it.

    The next year of Donald Trump's show, "The Apprentice," will be organized with teams of "book smarts" and "street smarts" competing against each other. I'm putting my money on the "street smarts."

    Anyway, I'm delighted I have broken free of employers. I now get to decide what I do, who I do it with and how much I get paid to do it. There are no limits on my work life in any direction. I can start any project or business I want, or I can enhance any aspect of my career that gives me joy. No one can lay me off. No one can fire me. If I lose a client or business partnership, I have dozens of other opportunities to make up for it.

    Creating multiple streams of income is the best way to live. It keeps life interesting and insulates you from downturns or unexpected calamities. It provides a constant stream of creativity and testing that can reveal the next homerun income stream. I love knowing that I am only one idea away from turning my career in an entirely different direction.

    Margie and I frequently ask ourselves if we can imagine where we'll be in five years. We always answer "no way" because of how far we've traveled in the last five years. I'm not talking geography, I'm talking career and personal growth. Because of how much we accomplish, five years to us is like 25 years to many other people. Five years ago we had no idea we'd be running a trolley company, or being landlords or creating audio tours. I find it a fascinating way to live not knowing what opportunities we'll dream up and embrace next.

    Now of course, living like this is easy. But I do remember how difficult it was when we first broke free of employers. Scary. Uncertain. And man was I raw. My corporate management experience did not come close to providing all the skills I needed to make it on my own. It was a major struggle. I selected non-productive projects and then I held onto them far too long. One even sucked us into bankrupcy. But we learned so much by being under crisis. You quickly learn how to market and sell when success means you get to eat and failure means that you don't.

    Hopefully, you'll make the transition smoother than us. Perhaps you can start a business or project on the side while you keep your job. Perhaps it will then grow large enough to easily quit the job with no revenue loss.

    I'll complete this thought by saying this: For me, poor planning made transitioning from employee to entrepreneur pure and total hell. And I'm so glad I did it.

    Click here for a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur Magazine .

    12/23/04 6:58 am

    One more night of Holiday Light Tours. Last night was really challenging because our windows froze up. Through using a new fog spray on the windows and running the heat (to keep people warm) and air conditioning (to remove the moisture created by people's breathing), we were able to avoid fogging for the first ten days of tours.

    That all went by the wayside last night. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees and we had reapplied a new coating of fog repeller and the windows FROZE. Riders had to use credit cards to scrape off the ice so they could see the lights. If it wasn't us going through it, it would have been funny.

    By the end of the night, we were running full heat and the windows unfroze, but there was still normal fog due to all the moisture people exhale. So we passed out towels. Better to wipe water off windows than chip ice. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of running a business.

    It is 10 below zero this morning. This is by far the coldest day of the year. Forecasts say it will only last a day or two and then pop back up to the 30's, which will seem balmy.

    I always worry about pipes freezing at the trailer park on below-zero nights. But my park manager knows how to unfreeze them and we've taken precautions with heat tape and reinsulating the underbellies of trailers, so we've done all we can.

    Our friend's mini-golf proposal was shot down by the city council on December 21. It was a tough issue for them. It's a small town so council members had to make a decision that affected many friends and business clients. There was no way to please everyone.

    In the end, asking for a larger location at city park was too much for them to agree to. It definately would have been an attractive facility and would have gotten greater use. It would have earned more income for the city too. But the visual change of increased square footage, closing part of 9th Street and having to redo the parking at the Chamber of Commerce proved too large a vision for the council to embrace.

    I know my friend is disappointed but he'll rebound. Likely come up with an even better idea that has less risk.

    I've decided I'm going to study up on Billings, Montana. The population of the area exceeds 100,000 which makes for many more business opportunities. It's also growing far faster than Cody's 1 percent a year. It's only 100 miles from Cody so passive investments there seem do-able. I pretty much have a handle on Cody opportunities so I can watch both areas.

    I am not a fan of the Christmas season. I don't like the conditioning of having to buy gifts just because it is expected. Margie & I buy ourselves what we want all year long so we don't need a special holiday for that. As for the spiritual side of the holiday, I've long ago answered those questions for myself. I'm not saying I have the right answers, but they feel right to me.

    I spent at least 10 years reading hundreds of books to search for an understanding of the big questions of life. Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is our purpose? Who put us here? Where are we going after death?

    I'm not in the mood to share my answers with you, and besides, when you feel you truly know, you have no need to convince others that your path is the only path. Nothing bothers me more than people trying to "save" me. What they are really saying is that their way is the only way and you are too stupid to realize it.

    Let them invest ten thousand hours studying the questions like I have and then we can have a nice discussion. Just because someone else -- or even the majority of others -- tells you things operate a certain way, doesn't mean that is the truth. The truth can always survive the scrutiny of questions. If it can't, it isn't the truth.

    Anyway, another thing I don't like about the Christmas season is the mess and clutter. So many people, so much cooking, so much present wrapping and unwrapping, that there is stuff everywhere. I find it difficult to function in disorder. I let it cause me great stress. I suppose that reveals that I need more practice controlling my own peace of mind. So be it. Peace of mind is the most valuable asset you have and the world is full of stimulous trying to shake it.

    I have a saying, "No meal is worth the mess it leaves behind." I'd truly rather eat fast food than cook if it means I'll be faced with a messy kitchen. It's a cost-benefit equation. I do that a lot. Before I do a thing, I ask myself if the payoff will be worth the effort. I suppose that with this attitude, over time, I'll eventually never leave the couch. :)

    But I do like the magic moments you find in the Christmas season. Kids singing "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer" on the trolley. A lighted Christmas tree in a dark living room at 4 am. The warmth of an electric blanket when you crawl into bed with some Christmas cookies. So I'm not a grinch, I just think all the busy-ness isn't worth the payoff.

    Life is funny. I spent a good ten years trying to capture inner security and now I am spending another ten years trying to capture it on the outside. The truth is, when you say you have security, and believe it, you do. Claim a thing and it is yours. Search and ye shall find. It's so simple. Yet so hard.

    I just finished a book called "Upstairs At the White House." It's about 30 years old and I got it at the local thift shop. Every so often I go there and buy about ten books. There is no greater investment than a book at any price. At 50 cents and a dollar, this is about 10,000 times better than real estate.

    What you learn can never be taken away. I could spend 10 years reading and be perfectly delighted.

    Anyway, I'm fascinated by the presidency. I read about the men and the office frequently. I've also been a rabid investigator for all things regarding the JFK assassination. I have enough new info to write a book but have chosen not to. The time and energy committment is too great for the payoff. Besides, I have answered the questions I had to my satisfaction. No need to become a lightening rod. But if you must categorize me, put me in the conspiracy category. If you must read one book on the topic, I recommend David Lifton's Best Evidence . This link takes you to Amazon's used book section since the book is no longer a "mainstream" selection. Lifton doesn't have all the answers, but he has enough to make you realize everything you know about the topic is wrong.

    What studying this event has taught me is that what you think you know, you don't. We rely so much on the media for what we think we know, that we only know what we watch on TV or read in the newspaper. It's the lazy way to "learn."

    When it comes to this 1963 event, the media does not present the most basic facts of the case accurately. The location of the wounds, the relationships of the people involved, the description of evidence, etc. What has occurred is that editors have paraphrased and edited and simplified and changed the event, which totally changes the story. Yet we accept that story as fact.

    You can see how this happens by watching a live event on cable news as it occurs. Then watch the summarized news story of that same event on a different network later. You know what you saw, but the editor's description will be different. The language he uses to describe the event adds emphasis or minimizes emphasis, changing the event from what you saw, to something very different. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes not so subtle.

    So, if you truly want to understand something, you need to do your own research. And always, question the sources of your information. Ultimately, no amount of research will prove truth because you are getting the information secondhand. Truth remains a feeling that you have embraced what is right as you sift through information. It's a weird world.

    Another resource I can recommend to expand your thinking is Illusions by Richard Bach. I bet I've read it 50 times. If you're reading my ramblings this far, I think you will enjoy it too.

    One more night of light tours and we are done for the season. We added a fith tour tonight because of demand. I hope the windows don't freeze. Everything comes and goes.

    I've been wanting a heater for our partially finished basement and finally bought one of those TwinSun portable heaters. I left it on all night and the basement is a bit warmer. It's supposed to cost pennies a day to operate. I plan on testing that.

    It is amazing to me that over time, my want list always gets filled. If I put it on a mental list, the day soon arrives where I have the item. If you own a house, you know about "want lists."

    This past year we added evergreen landscaping, ripped out a clothesline and cement slab in our backyard and sodded the area. We then finished off the backyard by installing 6 foot tall cedar privacy fence across the back of the yard. We then painted the entire fence a redwood color. Now the heater.

    Next year it's new windows and replacing the driveway with a new cement slab. Everything comes and goes.

    As do I. Hope to see you tomorrow!

    12/27/04 1:57 am

    I hit the rack about 8 pm last night and woke up at midnight. I read the new Donald Trump book, Think Like a Billionaire (yes, I got it for Christmas) for an hour and was motivated to come work in my basement office.

    I fired off an email to a Realtor in Red Lodge who sent me the latest Real Estate book. There are four properties I want to learn more about. Three are income producers and one could be a weekend retreat. I don't have any deals in the hopper at the moment and am itchy to get one started.

    Besides, with the Light Tours over, I now have the time and money to start a new project. In fact, the time between now and May when trolley season fires back up, is the only time I have to get a new project rolling.

    I want my new projects to be much more passive than the trolley business. Or at the least, one-time expenditures of energy like creating an audio tour. I've come to realize that time is my major currency and with it, I can create many more passive income streams. The goal of course, is to become totally free of having to be somewhere for extended periods of time.

    It is nice to have assets that perform for you. And I am proud of how far we have come in four short years. But truthfully, we are really just getting started. The properties and businesses we have now will be the springboard to larger, much more profitable projects. What we have done so far has been tremendous training and confidence building. We've learned the basic strategies and techniques that can now be applied to larger projects. We've also generated the net worth nestegg needed to accelerate our progress.

    I can't wait to see what we embrace next.

    I had an inquiry about a domain name over the weekend. I named a price and am awaiting a response. I look forward to having more time to devote to selling domains and my service booklet. Both have huge potential with a little attention on my part. My problem is that I see opportunity everywhere. I wish I had a staff to help pursue everything I can envision. I know that day is coming, it's just a matter of when.

    Actively pursuing these opportunities really motivates me. But if you need help in getting motivated, I highly recommend you visit Nightingale-Conant.

    This is the world's leading provider of motivational audio tapes. Turn unproductive driving time into priceless learning time. They call this type of learning, "Dashboard University."

    For four years, I used to have a 45 minute commute each way. I always had a tape playing while I drove, which turned a boring commute into a "I-can't-wait-to-get-behind-the-wheel" experience. I credit these tapes for giving me the courage, inspiration and knowledge to leave the corporate world and start on my entrepreneurial lifestyle.

    I rarely drive long distances today and greatly miss those hours of Dashboard University. I make up for it by reading at least one book every week.

    Funny how the quality of your life is determined by how you spend your time. And time is all we have.

    To learn how much time you have left, visit Death Clock. This site uses actuarial tables to determine your exact date of death. It's creepy, but motivating. Life is not a rehearsal! You're on stage NOW. It's your time. Are you spending it in the best possible manner?

    12/28/04 6:02 am

    We're driving up to Billings today. I need a new Daytimer calendar and I want to look at a building that is for sale on the way and pick up some Billings Real Estate Guides.

    We've now arrived at that great time of year when we have time to relax and consider what project we take on next. I'm ready for some time off. We basically worked right through last spring with my kidney stone (lasted all of February) and then creating the Buffalo Bill Dam Audio Tour. That work lead right into trolley season and we've been going full speed ever since.

    Yes, I'm ready for some time off from on-demand activities.

    I made an offer for a trailer park yesterday. It's out of town and has been on the market a couple years. It needs lots of work to bring it up to potential so my offer reflected that. I only buy properties if they generate positive cash flow and don't eat up my cash resources to get into the deal. This strategy has worked well for me so I'm not changing it. It does eliminate about 98% of the properties I look at though, so I have to watch lots of properties.

    I called another trailer park owner we'd spoken to four years ago. It turns out his park is STILL for sale but he thinks he finally has a buyer. It it falls through, he'll call me and we'll talk again. As I look at my notes from that visit four years ago, I see I was incredibly thorough back then. I still am, but I know so much more that I don't have to ask as many questions to learn it.

    Based on the figures in those notes, it was wise to pass on his park back then. It would have been my first property and it is 50 miles away. The positive cash flow was pretty low and the development needs to make it more profitable would have overwhelmed me back then. Now that I have more resources and knowledge, that park could be a nice asset for us if I could buy it at the right price.

    I keep files on all the properties I investigate and suggest you do the same. The longer they sit on the market, the more motivated the seller and the better chance you can acquire a profitable property. You solve the seller's ownership problem and you are rewarded with a profitable asset. Everybody wins.

    I finished the latest Trump book last night. I enjoyed it. Trump offers lots of general advice but doesn't get into the nuts and bolts of how he closed specific deals like he did in some of his past books. He has accomplished a lot and I admire him. I'd love to be his Apprentice but not enough to move to New York and wear suits. I guess you have to question my level of committment. :)

    If you want to get into the nuts and bolts of specific Real Estate deals, I once again highly recommend reading the success stories at Creative Real Estate Online . The writers of these stories -- the people who have actually purchased an income property -- take you through all the numbers and techniques they used to make the deal happen. This information is gigantically valuable because you can use the same techniques in YOUR deals. It's a great way to learn quickly. You might even recognize one of my success stories in there.

    I keep other files on business opportunities that interest me. I have 50-100 different files. As I read magazines, I clip articles and advertisements that reveal interesting or creative new businesses that haven't yet made it to Cody -- or in many cases -- Wyoming. Being the lowest populated state is an advantage and a disadvantage. New ideas get here last, so if you read and travel, you can be the first to bring the idea here. But, with there being less than 500,000 residents in the entire state, you don't often have enough customers to make the idea work.

    Cody is wonderful because you get the quality of life offered by a small town, yet you get lots of Yellowstone National Park traffic June-September to help make a business work. So, most new businesses I am considering are seasonal in nature.

    Seasonal businesses also have a plus and minus. On the plus side, you don't have to work it all year. On the minus, you only have about four months to pay all your annual bills and generate enough profit to make the venture worthwhile. Fortunately, the trolley business easily justifies its existance.

    When you go through life looking for great business ideas that could be brought back to your town, life becomes fascinating. At least it does for me. I always ask myself, "Would that work in Cody?"

    Another good question to ask yourself is "What's missing?" Look around your town to discover what is missing. Larger towns may have already had city assessments and actually have a list of businesses its citizens have said are needed. Just check with the local chamber of commerce, economic development agency or city government.

    Creating your own businesses and income producing projects is an exciting and fascinating way to live. I highly recommend it.

    Tomorrow, we talk about writing.

    12/29/04 5:15 am

    I'd wanted to become a writer since 6th grade, when I gave a funny oral report and the class broke up laughing -- just as I'd wanted them too. The teacher, Mr. Snyder, gave more positive feedback and I was hooked. Unfortunately, I never really took my talent seriously back then.

    I still have papers graded by my 11th grade creative writing teacher, Trudy Grimes, that implore me to do something with my talent. I was lazy back then, coupled with an inferiority complex, the double whammy that is sure to stop any dream cold. Fortunately, I had an inspirational teacher.

    Click here to read a column I wrote about her called Angels In Disguise. I bet you've met someone like her too.

    So anyway, I got a part-time job at McDonald's, gave it my all and soon found myself getting raises and promotions. Soon I was injested into the work-sleep-repeat treadmill. McDonalds found me an asset to help them achieve their dreams, but I never consciously considered whether McDonald's was an asset to help me achieve MY dreams. Like most young people, I just went to work and my real dream fell by the wayside.

    After six years, I quit McDonalds to become a writer. And quickly crashed and burned. I knew nothing about the trade and naively thought I could just write brilliant material and anyone would buy it. I knew nothing about matching material to specific markets or how to professionally approach those markets. And frankly, my material was rotten. I cringe today looking at it.

    Married three years to Margie, we became pregnant so it was time for me to go back to a "real" job.

    So I repeat the same process at 7-Eleven. I last ten years there until I can no longer contain the writing dream. I quit again, throwing myself upon my wits. This time I had a little nest egg to buy time. It still wasn't enough but it gave me more time.

    This time I studied the trade. Learned how to make submissions. Learned how to determine what editors wanted and how to provide it. I learned that some of the best freelance money available was writing for trade publications.

    In the meantime I wrote inspirational columns and finally made a sale to a small RV newsletter. I still have a copy of that first check for $7.89. That small token and the editor's hand-written letter of encouragement that accompanied it, gave me the motivation I needed to re-double my efforts.

    Soon I'd successfully pitched my services to a convenience store trade publication and had some steady "real" money coming in. I started by writing case studies, evolved into features and was even given my own column. The company that owned that magazine had others and soon I was writing for those too.

    I learned and adapted my skills from each editor's suggestions and my confidence grew.

    I started our own newspaper and that led to earning steady work for a how-to newsletter company writing entire issues on the topics of customer service, cost control, sales, marketing and small business. I was selling 10,000+ words a month and earning a fulltime living as a freelance writer. I was free to live anywhere in the world with a phone, Internet connection and post office. So I chose Cody, Wyoming.

    That's my story. You can hopefully take an easier, far more effective approach.

    I suggest taking classes at the local community college or adult education facility. Subscribe to Writers Digest magazine. Purchase their Writers Market annual directory of publications that gives editor contact information, what material they need and what they pay. Invaluable resource.

    Read biographies about successful writers. Look for writing clubs in your area with members who are paid writers. Surf online for answers to your questions. Buy grammar books. Buy how-to-write books. Volunteer to perform writing tasks such as press releases, presentations and writing your service club newsletter. Treat any workplace memos you write as high-paid writing assignments. Practice interviewing authorities whenever you can. In short, immerse yourself in the trade and learn and adapt as you go.

    The technology today allows anyone with desire to earn an income by writing. The Internet makes research easy. In addition to the traditional published products like newspapers, magazines, newsletters and books, millions of web sites are also searching for content, so there has never been a greater demand for content in the history of mankind.

    And one more piece of advice. Write about what you know and enjoy. Everyone is an authority on something. And anyone with passion about a topic can quickly become an authority. Your knowledge can be written and shared -- at a price that rewards you for your work. Once you start to specialize in certain topics, you'll find hundreds, if not thousands, of places willing to pay you for your efforts.

    Each piece you sell can then be used to help sell the next one. As your portfolio grows, your confidence grows and you'll begin selling to higher paying buyers with larger circulations.

    With work and persistence, you can earn a fulltime income by working part-time from home, freeing you to live anywhere you like.

    If this sounds good to you, I have to say that it is. To me, it was very, very good. It takes work, but doesn't anything worthwhile?

    Another benefit of sustaining yourself from writing is that you are now a small business owner.

    There are a million tax benefits to being self-employed and as you learn them and embrace them, you'll see the amount of money you pay in taxes plummet. Anything you purchase that relates to your writing can be deducted from your taxable income. Every penny you save in taxes, is a pay raise that goes right into your pocket.

    Today, I mostly write for my own businesses. I'm able to charge myself the high market rate I earned when I wrote for others, giving me great flexibility to move income into the companies I own that need it the most. This allows me to control my tax liability even more. I now use a CPA for advice and bookeeping because my business accounting has become more complex and time consuming. She keeps me 100% legal and the fees I pay her are a drop in the bucket compared to the money she helps me save.

    I can thank my writing career for leading me to the education of how to minimize the largest expense most people pay -- taxes.

    So it turns out that all those years I spent working rather than writing, did pay off. Because the first "real money" paychecks I received from writing came to me because of my knowledge about business. Nothing you do or experience is ever wasted. You're just collecting material for later use. And even if you'd rather be doing something else, the time you spend doing it is merely calibrating destiny for your next adventure.

    Writing may not be your dream. But something is. And this dream is evidence that you have talents in that area. And you owe it to the rest of us to use those talents. Share them. Let them shine. Because if you don't, we ALL lose.

    To remind you of how much we all lose, please read my column Are You Using Your Talent?"

    See you tomorrow!

    12/30/04 5:19 am

    Windy this morning! That's nothing new for Cody, especially in the winter. No snow though yet and that is a bit unusual. It typically snows a little and melts quickly here. We normally have more grass visable than snow on the ground, unlike Minnesota where I grew up. There, once it snowed, it stayed until March.

    I used to have paper routes as a kid in a suburb of Minneapolis. Some were morning routes which put me outside during the worst weather imaginable. To read a bit about it, click When I Was Your Age .

    I got a writing assignment from the local chamber of commerce yesterday. Details will follow as will deadlines. It's funny that now that I'm not chasing writing assignments any more they still show up unsolicitated. Especially after writing about writing as a career in yesterday's blog. Just being who you are attracts those who need your skills.

    Our writing committee for the Rotary Show met last night and we had lots of fun coming up with concepts. It's a good group that will get better when the rest of the group can make the weekly meetings. There is no shortage of material and we have some tremendous ideas. This year we may expand our horizons into making some film clips.

    I started the meeting by playing our radio commercials for the show from last year to get us in the mood. I wrote the spots and they were performed by various club members. The radio station even earned an award for "Best Series of Ads" from this campaign. Click the links below to hear how we pitch our satirical show.

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #1

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #2

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #3

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #4

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #5

    Rotary Show Radio Ad #6

    Our Billings trip the other day went well. It was fun to take a road trip again, but without the anxiety of traveling 5,000 miles. We are 90 miles from the closest Interstate and I always feel like I'm in a new place when I get on that highway.

    Getting a new car is moving higher on our list. It is getting close to becoming a need, rather than just a want. We haven't had car payments in years so I hesitate to jump into that again. But, we can handle them if needed, so as I type, I know I am attracting the perfect vehicle to me right now.

    Margie got her new computer hooked up yesterday. We really rely on these machines and she seems delighted to have a new speedy Dell to get her work out. She's a great designer and makes most of our marketing materials and forms. Her first job is to get our Christmas letter and photo page designed. Her next job is designing a logo and letterhead for the city assessment team we're serving on.

    We're always creating something out of thin air and our skills mesh really well. I can write and come up with catchy slogans and names and she can make it all look good.

    Computers help make our lifestyle possible. The funny thing is that I resisted learning how to operate computers for years. When I was at 7-Eleven, I always had a secretary check email for me because I didn't even want to know how to use it. When we started the newspaper, I HAD to learn. Necessity is the mother of invention -- and learning.

    Today is a light day. Rotary meeting at noon and no other "have-to" items on the to-do list. We have finally reached that time of year where we get to work on the projects of our choice. Here is a list of potential projects I can initiate. Which would you choose first?

    * Find another audio tour venue that wants to partner with us
    * Market my customer service booklet in bulk quantities to large companies
    * Market my domain names to large companies
    * Set up each of my 130 domain names as "portal web sites" to attract traffic and increase their value
    * Start an online affiliate business
    * Start a print or online publication
    * Start an e-newsletter on a topic I am passionate about that could help others
    * Write and sell e-books on profitable topics
    * Start a campaign to get a giant buffalo placed on top of Cedar Mountain to fulfill Buffalo Bill's wishes
    * Create a series of "Burma-Shave" type signs to promote the trolley as you enter Cody
    * Purchase low power radio transmitters and place them throughout town to promote the trolley
    * Build a multiple panel billboard on our property by the trailer park to promote our businesses and rent to others
    * Find or build an electric trolley that will circle the roof of our trolley ticket booth
    * Create audio parodies and find a way to make them earn income
    * Create a business in the vacant office building I own next to our trolley warehouse
    * Write a manual on how to start a trolley business and sell it to entrepreneurs in other cities
    * Franchise the trolley business
    * Get to work on updating our "Cody Keepsake" souvenir book that goes to trolley ticket buyers
    * Learn to play the guitar
    * Take a Real Estate course so I learn what brokers know
    * Create, market and present local how-to business seminars

    Nice to have options isn't it? I certainly prefer going through life doing what I WANT to do, rather than what I HAVE to do.

    And the ideas and opportunities never stop flowing. Just take action toward one opportunity and you see 20 more just by becoming involved in something new. I could live a thousand years and never make a dent in the list of opportunities. I guess I've arrived at the age where I'm beginning to understand that time is far more valuable than money. The question is no longer, "What can I do successfully?" but "Where do I want to spend my limited time and energies?" Choices, choices, choices.

    Enough rambling for today. If you'd like me to address a certain topic, just shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

    12/31/04 5:48 am

    Here is some free advice organized by category, as a reward for making it to the last day of 2004.

    Cost Savings

    Gasoline. Would you like to save 15 cents a gallon on gas? Just sign up for an account at one of those automated gas stations. Because they don't have to pay for employees and fancy facilities, they can sell you the gas for far less than a normal gas station. Discounts can easily run 15-20 cents PER GALLON and you don't have to pay until the end of the month.

    Insurance. Have you checked your deductibles lately? If you can afford to increase them, you save big money immediately. Have you shopped your insurance around lately? If not, it's almost guaranteed there is money to be saved. This is your money and your savings. Most people never file an insurance claim so most people don't need the highest rated (and most expensive) companies. Insurance brokers are a good place to start because they will shop many companies for you.

    Buy Your Treats in Advance. Do you spend $3 a day on coffee? $2 a day for soda? $1 a day for snacks? Now multiply this by 30 days and be amazed at what you're spending. Buy these treats at a grocery store or discounter and then carry them with you from home. You'll easily cut the monthly bill in half.

    Income Generation

    Think projects, not paychecks. If you're still employed, be on the look out for projects you can complete on the side while continuing to hold your job. Ideally, these projects involve things you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy photography, offer to shoot photos at a party, company event or friend's wedding. This earns extra income while forcing you to get more involved with something you enjoy. Do enough of these projects and you may no longer need the main job.

    Think of employment ads as project ads. When businesses run employment ads they are saying they want to pay someone to complete various tasks. They need the task completed, but they don't necessarily need to hire an employee to do it. Pitch yourself as an independent contractor who can complete the work for a flat fee without having to be hired. This saves the company at least 30% the cost of an employee because they won't have to pay for your equipment, work space, training, vacations, holidays and employment taxes. They also gain flexibility by not having to pay another employee during slow times. You're helping them acquire a project mentality. Now you are not begging the company for a job, you are educating them on how they can get their work completed at a huge cost savings. You are doing them a big favor by pitching your services! This also puts you in the world of the self-employed where you gain freedom and enjoy huge tax savings.

    Give Something Extra. Whenever you complete a job or project throw in additional value. For example, if you shot photos of the corporate event, hand them over displayed in a photo album. Include hand-written comments from some guests at the event to make it personal. Blow up one of the best photos of the person who ran the event. By doing a little extra, you create more value than the amount you were paid. This turns a happy client into an evangelist who will recommend you everywhere.

    Give Yourself an Immediate Raise. Do you always get a tax refund in the spring? Do you really want to give Uncle Sam an interest-free loan every year? Just ask your employer for a blank W-4 and increase the number of exemptions you claim. This will increase your take home pay on your very next check. In effect, you're getting your money NOW rather than waiting a year for Uncle Sam to give it back to you. Now INVEST this extra money into something that generates extra income for you. Perhaps photography equipment for those side jobs?

    Self Development

    Read. Cut back your TV time and read a book a week. Over the year, you'll be 52 books smarter. Chose topics of interest that will make you a better human being and help you meet your goals and aspirations. Think you don't have enough time? Get books on tape and listen while you drive, walk or workout at the gym. Why just be entertained when you can be entertained while you learn?

    Make Some Goals. You'll never get what you want if you don't focus on getting it. Writing down goals is the best way to get them manifesting. This doesn't have to be complex. Just write down everything you want for 15 minutes. Now prioritize it. Now pick the one goal you want the most and ask yourself, "If I achieved this goal in a year and looked back on how I did it, what steps would I have taken to get there?" This becomes the list of steps you must take to achieve that goal. Now break these steps into pieces small enough so you can do something each day to advance toward your goal. Now take the first step.

    Start a New Hobby. You know what you've always wanted to do. Learn the guitar. Start a model railroad layout. Plant a garden. Reward yourself by starting one new hobby that has been calling to you. You deserve it and the new knowledge will provide opportunities you can't even imagine.

    Happy New Year! I hope these ideas help you have a happier and wealthier 2005. Thanks for reading!

    1/02/05 6:40 am

    I don't make New Years resolutions because I'm chasing new goals all the time. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Sometimes I think I am too driven because I don't spend much time at recreation. But then I am ALWAYS "re-creating" something. I find it natural and enjoyable to get "into flow," focusing so tightly on the activities of creating something new that I lose myself for hours. But when I drop that focus, and once more see the world around me, I see so many choices that I sometimes lament I don't have the time to partake in them.

    Have you ever seen that movie City Slickers? There is a scene where Billy Crystal asks Curly (Jack Palance), the grizzled cowboy, his secret of life. Curly slowly holds up one finger and says, "One thing. You focus on one thing and the rest doesn't mean shit."

    The point of course, is that if you focus your attention on what is most important to you, you'll succeed famously at it if you don't dillute yourself by getting distracted by everything else at the same time.

    I can focus on one thing long enough to get it going and then I have to move onto something else. I'm sort of like one of those plate spinners. I love to get a project up and going and then move on to another plate. Then I rotate through the projects giving each another spin to keep it going, using any extra time to start a new plate. How do you use your focus? Are we similiar or are we very different?

    I've been adding my "Consider this..." inspirational columns to my web site and have been delighted to reacquaint myself with the points they make. We are our own best teachers.

    One column reminded me that I am a Firewalker. Yep, I successfully walked on red hot coals without getting burned. Margie did too. We attended a Tony Robbins seminar in Orlando back in the early 1990's. I invite you to read about the experience by clicking The Firewalk.

    I highly recommend Tony Robbin's book Unlimited Power.

    Today is another light day. Margie continues to work on the "Christmas" newsletter that has now become a New Years greeting. Once that's printed, we'll be stuffing and addressing about a hundred envelopes.

    The Minnesota Vikings play today. I've followed them since I was a kid. I'm not much of a fan because they break my heart every year. They've been to the Super Bowl four times and never won. They always choke. Lately, they can't even make the playoffs. They always have some talent but never play up to their potential.

    But I'll watch them anyway. They need to win today to make the playoffs. But even if they do make it, they'll exit early because they have no defense. And their coach is horrible. He costs them 7-10 points every game by making bad decisions.

    I also follow the Denver Broncos. They gave me a couple of glorious Super Bowl wins with John Elway at the helm. Unfortunately, they haven't been good since Elway retired.

    Now I love to watch Peyton Manning. What a class act. The man is a brilliant quarterback and extremely modest. Always puts the team first. No big ego. So I find myself rooting for Manning's Indianapolis Colts.

    My favorite sport is hockey. But the league is on strike and it looks like the entire season will be lost. I follow the Colorado Avalanche who are always good. They won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001 and always go deep into the playoffs. The owners have locked out the players because the players' union refuses to allow a salary cap. The players make an outrageous amount of money, which continues to increase every year, so I can see a cap is needed. Fortunately, the Avs are like the New York Yankees -- the franchise is so profitable that the owner can afford to pay the bucks to get the star players. I hope they resolve this soon.

    Anyway, the rest of my day is "want-to" activities.

    I also want to prepare for a meeting I have scheduled with a trolley advertiser tomorrow. It also happens to be one of my banks and I have some ideas about partnerships concerning our audio tours I'd like to present.

    One thing about being an entrepreneur is you don't worry about asking for things from others because there is always a way to make your request profitable for them too. When you create a win-win package, you are actually doing the other party a favor by offering it. This is a huge mindset change. Rather than asking for something of value, you are GIVING something of value. When you package your requests so that everyone benefits, you start hearing "Yes" much more often.

    That's it for today! Thanks for stopping by.

    1/3/05 12:42 PM

    Wow. My first entry made during DAYLIGHT. It's a Monday afternoon and I feel like dogging it, so here I am. Yet ANOTHER reason to be in business for yourself.

    Over the weekend I was researching a property online and stumbled upon a web site for True West magazine. The owner, Bob, has a great web blog that recounts the trials and tribulations of keeping his magazine going. All the gory details. I found it fascinating. He too wondered if he was revealing too much in his blog.

    I was happy to see someone else out there sharing lots of personal nitty gritty and am inspired to continue doing the same with mine. I sent him an email saying so, and he sent a gracious response.

    I just got a call from a tenant who is buying a trailer from me tomorrow. We're set to close the deal tomorrow afternoon. Since I am carrying the financing, he asked me for an amorization schedule. I said I could do that, thinking I could ask my bank to run one for me. Then I got to thinking and hopped on Google. I typed in "amorization calculator" and sure enough, there's a zillion hits. I click the first one, type in the length of loan, interest rate and amount financed and there's my schedule all ready to print. I'm holding the schedule within 60 seconds. I LOVE the Internet.

    Earlier I wrote and sent a letter to a past tenant who still owes me money. The life of a business owner has lots of highs and lows. The best one-day example I have of that occurred a couple years ago right after we bought the trailer park. In the morning I was crawling under a trailer dragging out dead cats and in the evening I was shaking hands with the state governor for participating in a commercial shot for our trolley business. In case you're wondering, I did wash my hands. After the cats, not the governor.

    We met with our bank representatives this morning to discuss advertising packages with our trolley. They've been advertising with us since we started the business in 2001. They've switched to a zero-based ad budget (everything has to be justified) so they wanted to better understand our offerings and how it will help them.

    They've been running an ad on the outside of the trolley, on the inside of both trolleys, a full page in our Cody Keepsake book and a 30 second slide show on the trolley's monitors before each tour departs. We hope they maintain that same package this year.

    The outside trolley ads are a pretty easy sell. Most people just renew their ad so it isn't really selling at all. One or two clients each year decide to drop out or increase the size of their involvement. It's a nice, dependable income stream that helps us get through the winter and spring while the trolley is mostly parked awaiting the summer season. But it works for the advertisers and informs riders and town visitors about what Cody offers, so it's a win-win-win situation. We're blessed to have earned a stellor reputation so that's another reason people want to wrap their company around us. Plus, it's neat for companies to see their rolling billboard on the side of a trolley.

    We'll hear the bank's decision later this week.

    We also gave them copies of our Buffalo Bill Dam Audio Tour and planted the seed for future sponsorship opportunities. This bank is very history-oriented and it would be a great partnership for all concerned if we produce any more local audio tours.

    I haven't heard anything on my offer for the out-of-town trailer park yet. Over the holiday weekend, the Realtor emailed me that he was still trying to contact the owners. I'm not living or dying over the deal which is a giant change from my early deals. The truth is I don't need to buy the park so I have no tension about it at all. If it's meant to be, it will happen with favorable terms. If not, my toes are still tapping.

    I need to get a skit written by our next Rotary writing meeting on Wednesday night. Lots of material, I just have to knuckle down and do it. I'll save that for a morning when I am at my best.

    I'm sending the retiring mayor a thank you note written on our trolley "Appreciation-Gram" postcard. He was defeated in the election and had been pretty supportive of all our activities the past four years.

    The new mayor used to be my boss at the radio station and always treated me well so I think he'll turn out to be fine too. My yard sported an election sign for the old mayor, however, and I took the initative to tell the new mayor why during the campaign. Once again, I hope taking a public position doesn't hurt me down the road.

    I started reading the Lincoln biography yesterday and got through about 100 pages of the 600-page, small-type monster. It really helped to have visited his old stomping grounds in Springfield, Illinois.

    So far, I only like Lincoln more. I made the realization that even an exceptional life seems quite unexceptional to the person living it. You have to leave the planet to gain the perspective needed to evaluate a life. The Rocky Theme only plays in the background of everyday events in the movies. Although, I may try it the next time I type a blog entry just to see what it does to me.

    The email alert just went off. A piece of advice: NEVER fill out an online application for a mortgage quote. I did that a year ago to better arm myself with information before refinancing our house for a 15-year better rate with my local bank. Twelve months later, I am STILL getting ten emails a day telling me to click here for my home loan approval. All these spammers are paying good money for some very old information.

    The Vikings lost yesterday but still lucked into the playoffs. The coach cost us a time out by challenging an official's call that was clearly right. We needed that time out late in the game to get within field goal range to tie. This coach really needs to read the following thought of the day.

    Todays thought for the day: "In any group of eight people, there is one idiot. If you can't recognize who it is, it's you."

    1/5/05 8:04 am

    Had a pretty good day yesterday. Sold that trailer. The bank renewed their trolley advertising, as did the museum. The tenant who owes me money even called and promised payment on the 14th. Life is good.

    Had a little situation over the weekend with the trailer park. We are hooked to the city water system but because we bill each tenant for water, we must do a monthly bacteria test on the water supply each month. The tests always prove the city water is safe but we have to keep doing them.

    Well, we didn't test until December 31 and shipped it "overnight" to the testing lab over the New Year's holiday so it didn't arrive until Monday for testing. By then the sample was deemed "out of code" so we have to re-test. No big deal except if you miss a calendar month you come up on the EPA's radar screen. Knowing this (experience is a bitch) I immediately called the EPA to plead my case and they graciously allowed me to re-test today and credit it to December.

    One MORE reason why most people keep a job rather than run a business.

    We are also working with the city to get the trailer park annexed so we can hook up to city sewer. They say it will cost about $250,000 to do so which is money I don't have. So I plan on going after a low-income housing grant of some kind and getting the city to sponsor the application. I could likely spend $25,000 - $50,000 to get our septic system repaired/replaced but that's not certain either because we are right on the river and regulations may have changed since the last time it was built 20-odd years ago.

    So getting on city sewer is the better, more permanent solution. Rebuilding the current system will be our "Plan B."

    When you're an entrepreneur, you have to operate on faith lots of times. All the solutions to your problems don't appear at once. Sometimes you have to make decisions blind, and just trust you'll figure out the details later. This type of pressure has a way of making you find a solution. Necessity is a mother.

    I got a request for a free copy of my customer service booklet today. It's my way of getting the product in prospects' hands so they'll consider buying hundreds or thousands for their company. It worked with several local companies and KOA Kampgrounds bought 2,000 copies to train their worldwide workforce. So I know if I give the booklet more marketing attention, I can do much better.

    Yesterday I submitted the booklet to tipsbooklets.com which is a web site that sells tips booklets of all topics. It'll cost me 97 bucks to have it posted for sale there. Visitors can buy it for $4.77 right online and it is immediately sent to them electronically. I get half the proceeds but more importantly, I'm hoping some key decision makers find it and order a zillion from me. I will customize the writing or add the company logo to the cover so it looks like it's coming from company leaders.

    If the booklet starts making real sales, I can write others for other topics. Nice to have options.

    Today is dedicating to writing. The Rotary writing team comes over tonight so I want to have some material ready for them to critique. Also have to write a classified ad for selling more trailers and I already polished off a 100-word promo for my service book that will appear on that tips website.

    Also on the plate is writing a "success story" about our Lovell office building for Creative Real Estate Online. Their success stories have inspired me so much that I want to share mine to inspire others.

    I also need to write a letter to trailer park tenants announcing a rent increase coming up on March 1. We only raise the rents once a year because we realize an increase is a big deal to people. When we bought the park it was a major fixer-upper that compensated for the bad conditions by charging the lowest rents in Cody. We've plowed all profits back into repairs and upgrades which has been well over $75,000 so far. So we need to massage rents up to keep the improvements going and allow us to start taking some income for ourselves. We keep the increases to $30 or less to make sure we're not killing anyone's budget. Even after the increases, we'll still have the lowest rents in town.

    No meetings today, (other than Rotary gang at my house tonight) which is a good thing. Meetings force you to dress and travel out into the world and break the spell of working "in flow" at home. They also cause more work. You either have to prepare something or get assigned something. Because Margie & I have so many skills and interests, we find ourselves volunteering for too many projects.

    Margie is especially prone to this for some reason. She's better at relationships than I am but I'm better at creative ideas, solutions and vision. So together, we're pretty much the whole package. She's held some high profile leadership positions (chairman of the school board) so she's often asked to join boards or run for public offices. So I'm always pitching her ideas and she'll present them publically and get the credit. It used to drive me nuts but I'm now used to it. We laugh about it now. This doesn't mean she doesn't come up with her own ideas, she just doesn't come up with them all. She's better out front anyway because I have less and less patience dealing with institutions and bureaucracy. My arguments are always pithy but they can get a little biting if you're slow to catch my vision. This is one MORE reason why I'm running my own show in the private sector. Behind every good woman is a smartass man hiding in the basement.

    If you want to hear something extremely funny, visit The Man Song . We may do something similiar to this at the Rotary show.

    Because I'm about to start promoting my web sites, I called my host and asked about getting visitor statistics. They have to move my web site off their old server onto a new one that can track stats. The guy says it's an easy move and won't cause any problems. I'm less confident. He promised that they leave me on the old site AND the new site for awhile so I'm never "down" during the switchover. We'll see.

    Still no communication from the Realtor about my offer for the out-of-town trailer park.

    I received an invitation to the annual Creative Real Estate Convention. It's held in April in St. Louis. I plan on going. It will cost about $1,200 for both Margie & I and includes the hotel room. I know I'll make a million times more than that from the ideas I'll return with. Plus, it's a business expense.

    Nice to have your business pay you to learn. One MORE reason to be an entrepreneur.

    1/6/05 7:39 am

    Got the water test done and sent off yesterday at the trailer park. Planned on testing a vacant cabin but the water pipes had frozen. Grrrr. So I adjusted my plan and tested a vacant trailer instead. Chris is calling the plumber today to get a new heat tape on the pipes. This cabin's water pipes are built in a crawl space that is hard to effectively insulate so it's always giving us problems. You'd think we could come up with a permanent solution.

    Chris has a couple of showings this morning so perhaps we can whittle away at these vacancies. The holidays is a rotten time to have vacancies because nobody is out looking. Also, we have to pay the utilities for the vacancies and are paying for heat to keep pipes from freezing. Or so we think.

    Finally, the last item in trailer park news, we'll get the rate increase letters delivered today.

    I also got my customer service booklet sent to TipsBooklets.com . It's supposed to be posted for sale no later than tonight.

    I almost bought a pricey online business package over the Internet yesterday. I had a couple questions and sent them to a guy who has been emailing me steadily pitching the thing. I tried five different addresses he'd sent me over the past few weeks and all bounced back undeliverable. Hmmmmm..... that's a clue. He also included his phone number, which I have not tried. But why would I want to talk to a human being? That would require real communication. I can't do THAT. So the purchase is on hold.

    I have to say that is proof of a great copywriter though, he makes you want the product so bad that even though the email's bouncing make it look like a scam, you STILL want the thing.

    The Rotary writers meeting went great last night. We have a great group working on the show this year. Things that make it great is that no one dominates, everyone is contributing, everyone is a good laugher, yet no one is offended when we don't grab their idea. Better yet, when an idea is put forth, everyone is able to add something that makes it much better. We have lots of material and I feel ahead of the game.

    Our show title is based on the big bruhaha over the city mini golf proposals: "Codyshack: Putt Up or Shut Up."

    The show poster will be a take-off of the Caddyshack movie cover.

    Two of our team have volunteered to make a short movie -- which is a Rotary first in my tenure here. It's the show opener and has the potential to be hilarious. We just need to execute. Which, with Rotarians, is always a challenge. But these two guys have earned my full confidence.

    The real challenge is to get as many members involved as possible, without diluting the humor. The more people, the more chance of getting a dominator or an ego which wrecks the group dynamics. There is also the definition of what is funny. Our group has a good feel for that but if something bad gets through, it's my job to cut it. That hasn't happened this year but it happened last year and I let it into the show against my better judgment to avoid offending some writers. Not this year. I'll make the point that any critisism is not against the people, just the work they created. Oh the joys of leading in a volunteer organization.

    We received a call booking the trolley for a wedding tomorrow so we need to get the Christmas decorations off it today. That could go fast or slow, based on how easy that clear packing tape we used to hold everything on, comes off. High temps in the 20's today so I know we'll be cold in that unheated warehouse.

    I added some more inspirational columns to my web site page titled Consider this... I've finally reached the halfway point. Only 54 more to post.

    1/7/05 5:41 am

    The trolley never got undecorated yesterday. We ran out of light and energy. So we'll get to it today sometime. The wedding charter is at 4 pm. Once that is done I have to scoot to the Rec Center and help keep scores posted for a Rotary Club racquet ball tournament.

    We also have a meeting at City Hall for the city assessment team we've volunteered to help. The assessment team arrives in Cody in March and speaks to every segment of our population to discover what else is needed to make Cody an ideal city. This helps local government set goals and decide which projects get funded. As a private sector guy, it should also identify new business opportunities. Margie has been assigned the creation of the letterhead and logo, and I created the slogan: "Share your voices to guide our choices." We need a snappier name for the group too, and I need to give that some more thought.

    We signed up a new tenant at the trailer park yesterday. They move in on the 12th. Another promising prospect came by and may fill out an application. We're down to three vacancies out of 32 dwellings. I also fielded a call from an out-of-state prospect yesterday, so the phones are starting to ring again after the holiday doldrums.

    I received a couple of emailed compliments on the blog yesterday. It's nice to hear that some people are actually reading it. You wonder, sitting alone in your basement, if the world will ever stop by.

    I'm going to get more aggressive marketing-wise. I have a meeting this morning with a web-savvy consultant about what I can do with the various Internet pieces I've created. I think publishing an e-newsletter is getting closer every day. It's not like I don't have content. I just need to package the content in a way that helps others while it makes money for the guy doing all the work. In case you haven't been paying attention, that guy is me.

    The Johnson family "Christmas Letter" became the "New Year Update" and if Margie doesn't get going, will soon become the "Easter Email." Waiting for her new computer slowed her down and then she learned all the files from the old one didn't properly transfer so now she's waiting for her computer guy to show up, who just learned his 12-year-old son has cancer. So who knows when it will get done. Just for the record, I wrote the thing a month ago. It's HER job to design it and create the picture page we include with it. I'm about to hand-write and mail the thing myself. We've never been this late before.

    Husbands and wives typically have strategies on how to get their spouse to embrace their projects. I find myself strategically-challenged at this point. Any suggestions?

    Our youngest daughter has to be transported back to college this weekend. Can't be Saturday since we have an all-day trolley charter for the VFW Convention. Can't be Sunday, that's football play-offs. So Monday it is. The trip to Ft. Collins, CO (CSU) is about 450 miles one way. Can't do that and return same day so that presents the problem of what to do with the dogs.

    I hate kenneling them. The other daughter who now lives 5 minutes away has her hubbie in town on leave from the Navy then, so she won't want to be saddled with watching dogs. She's not a big dog fan anyway. Her favorite comment when the Border Collie jumps on her is "Piss off, Millie!"

    I'd throw the daughter on a bus but Mom already promised a personal delivery. That's the difference between Mom's and Dad's. Dad's can say goodbye from the couch at home but Mom's have to extend it all the way to the college dorm room. Taking two days and driving 900 miles to do that seems a little excessive to me. Does that make me a lousey father? In this house it does.

    So I'm mentally dealing with it by lying to myself and calling it a "spontaneous, mini vacation." The mind is a slippery thing.

    The trailer park rent increase letters went out yesterday and the park manager already received a complaint. Of course. People forget the new stove or new fridge or new furnace you bought for their dwelling. Alas, it will always be such between tenants and landlords. We know we've saved that park from it's ugly past and it takes a bit more money to keep the improvements going.

    Today's thought for the day: "It's better to pat yourself on the back because you know where it feels the best."

    1/8/05 3:20 am

    Couldn't sleep. Got up and read some Real Estate articles at CREOnline.com.

    Performed our wedding charter last night and helped post scores at the Rotary Racquet Ball tourney. Was invited to speak at the high school career days again. Hit the rack about 9:30 pm.

    Today we have a trolley charter off and on all day and night moving people for a VFW convention so I'm going back to bed for awhile.

    1/9/05 7:57 am

    Busy weekend! Yesterday was a killer. Had to run the trolley as a shuttle bus for nine hours. In the middle of that, had to take a break and attend a friend's wedding. I've structured my life to prevent having to be "on demand" for such long periods at once. Even during the busy trolley season we get breaks in between tours. I'm getting soft.

    Margie & I talked about this on the trolley last night. The more you create your life, the more you want to make it better. You never stop fine tuning. You work hard to break free of a job by starting a business and when the business is working good, you start looking for ways to break free from the business. Everytime you take a step toward a free-er life, you can see a bit farther and identify ways to become more free. Basically, I want to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. Which means I need unlimited time and unlimited money. Which means I need a minimal amount of "have-to" activities, and a maximum amount of passive income generators. So now you better understand my passion for Real Estate and my constant drive to create more passive income streams.

    Did I mention I hate wearing suits? Talk about uncomfortable clothing. And impractical in a Wyoming winter. I had to wear a suit to that wedding yesterday. I attended another wedding a week ago. That makes twice in one week I had to dust off the suit. I've gone over a year without wearing it, so when I say "dust off," I literally mean it.

    I wear jeans every day of my life. The Wyoming business culture supports this with all the ranchers we have and the casual dress that is most common in our area. One MORE reason to work for yourself.

    So I'm still reading this Abraham Lincoln biography. So far I've learned he was a farmer, laborer, river boat captain, surveyor, lawyer and state legislator. He just lost a bid for the US Senate by four votes and is starting to debate Stephen Douglas who was the most powerful man in the US Senate. The catalyst for these debates was the men's opposing views on slavery.

    Lincoln came around to this issue slowly but finally landed on the right side of it. Slavery had become so entrenched in the south that it was impossible to peacefully find a way to make it stop. Then as new territories in the north and west sought statehood, the big issue was whether or not slavery would be allowed in THOSE states. Douglas was for it, Lincoln was originally for allowing the states to decide themselves, but finally evolved into wanting it abolished everywhere.

    So far Lincoln is just a popular man in Illinios with a busy lawyer practice and I'm in the 1850's. He became president in 1860, so he's going to be making up lots of ground between now and then. I'm eager to see how he does it.

    I love biographies because they expand your mind to possibilities you might never ever consider. If one man can do something, another man can as well, as long as he embraces similiar thoughts, techniques and develops similiar skills. If you want to achieve a goal, read biographies about people who have already done what you want to achieve.

    Lincoln, by the way, had less than a year of formal schooling. He was a self taught man. Which means he read constantly. Buffalo Bill Cody was the same way, only Buffalo Bill was no big reader of books, but he was a great reader of men. Both men learned by DOING and then adjusting and DOING again. I'm a big fan of reading AND doing to learn something new.

    Can you imagine living in a world where most people had no formal schooling? (No wise cracks). It's popular to complain about our public school system, but at least we HAVE one. 150 years ago, this wasn't the case in most places in America.

    Yesterday I managed to look at every property in the online multiple listing service in our Bighorn Basin area. This took a couple hours and I try to do that once a month or so. You never know what will pop up for sale. You snooze, you lose. I also have a couple of Realtors watching for properties for me, so that helps stay on top of it too.

    I've noticed a niche that I'd like to get more active in and that's houses under $40,000. There are many available in that price range in the surrounding smaller towns. You can always rent a house to somebody and if your payments are low enough, still get a positive income stream after expenses each month. This is on top of getting the house for "free" because the tenant is making your payment via rent.

    For example, I saw several homes listed for $25,000. Even with 100% financing, your payment is only $179.11 (6% interest, 20 year loan). Even in a small town, you can rent a home for $350 a month. Taxes and insurance on that home only run about $42 a month. So your break-even before repairs is only $222. With a $350 a month renter, you get a free house AND $128 monthly income. You can even write the lease to require the renter to pay all repairs under $100, keeping your repairs down to the major items only. And if you inspect the house before purchase, you'll know where you stand with those items and can negotiate a lower price if a major item is failing.

    Now why wouldn't you want to create 10, 20 or 50 such income streams and then end up with 10, 20 or 50 free houses?

    The equation to wealth is simple. If you buy your Real Estate correctly, it's value will increase at least 5% every year (usually more) through equity build up and appreciation. You should earn another 5% through monthly income.

    This means that for every $100,000 in Real Estate you own, your net worth goes up $10,000 per year for every year you own it. So the more you own, the more you make. Control a million dollars in Real Estate and your net worth goes up $100,000 per year. If you buy right, $50,000 of this can be current income you can live off and the other $50,000 builds up on paper to be collected when you sell. So once you understand how to buy right, you can repeat the process forever, building your net worth to astonomical levels. Which is exactly why most of the rich people in the world have gotten there with the help of Real Estate. I read a statistic that said 97% of the super rich got that way due to Real Estate investing.

    Better yet, you are using other people's money to make these purchases but the profit your properties earn is all yours. The lenders get a nice return on their money by charging interest but when you buy right, the income the property generates easily covers this. So to get to the next level, you just need lenders who understand your plan and are sold that you can effectively work the plan. As these lenders provide the capital for your purchases, your net worth and monthly income grows at faster and faster speeds.

    Now that we have proven ourselves with several successful deals, we want to continue acquiring and will soon be approaching lenders with our plan for many more deals. If we can get a commitment that they will finance all workable deals we bring at 70-80% of appraised value, they'll be protected and we can make lots of cash offers, which gets you lots of instant equity.

    In the past, when I spoke to high school Career Day students, I always spoke about starting businesses in the fields that fascinate you. This year, I'm titling my talk, "Retire Before Age 30." I'm going to talk about Real Estate. Dreams take financial gas and once you've built your own gas station, you can drive anywhere. :)

    I had a meeting Friday with a consultant friend to discuss my online business concepts. I came away deciding to look at purchasing Dreamweaver web site building software. It's obvious to me I will be creating lots of web sites so it makes sense for me to learn how to do it myself. I like the control factor.

    Today is football playoffs. Two great games. Indianapolis vs Denver and Minnesota vs. Green Bay. I'm rooting for Indianapolis and Green Bay. Which is exactly opposite of where I normally stand. I want the best teams to win and the ones I want are clearly the better teams. Take that, Vikings. That's what you get for breaking my heart for 40 years.

    The alleged Johnson Family Christmas Newsletter is still sitting on you-know-who's computer. (Picture me looking off nonchalantly and whistling)

    Tomorrow we take Daughter back to Colorado. I'll let them drive as much as possible so I can read. The weather is dicey too, so that is a concern. No plan yet for the dogs.

    Still getting ten emails a day promising me a loan for the refinancing of my house that I took care of ten months ago. I'm getting an equal number offering to sell me drugs. It must be this blog.

    Updates on prior blog comments:

    The tape came off easy on the trolley Christmas decorations so that job turned out to be easy.

    We rented out another trailer yesterday so we're down to two vacancies out of 32. Yee-Ha!

    Rate increase letters were distributed at the trailer park a few days ago and no more complaints have reached us. The car started without exploding yesterday too, so that's a good sign of acceptance.

    Got a nice email from Bob Boze Bell, owner of True West magazine. He made some nice comments about my blog and linked my web site in his blog. I've never met him but I really like him just from reading his blog comments. We have much in common and with his mother living in Cody, I'm sure we're destined to meet. I've secretly decided to subscribe to his magazine but I'm still playing hard to get, just to throw him off. I suggest you do the same. Subscribe to his magazine, that is, not play hard to get.

    1/10/05 5:43 am

    The Vikings surprised the world and beat Green Bay yesterday. Green Bay really beat themselves with Favre throwing four interceptions. Randy Moss embarrassed himself again by pretending to moon the fans after a touchdown pass. He's an idiot and worse, doesn't know it. Man do I miss hockey.

    Peyton Manning, on the other hand, is a real class act. I love that guy. Modest but a superstar. His team beat Denver handily which I was happy to see. Manning deserves to go all the way.

    It's Mike & Margie's most excellent adventure today. Still no plan for the dogs so they may just come with to Colorado. Weather seems OK. Likely take the trolley van because the personal car is having an intermittent ignition switch problem. Sometimes it starts, sometimes it doesn't. You have to jiggle the gear shift to get it properly set to start. Grrrrr.

    Paid the bills last night. Man it takes a ton of money to keep everything going. Insurance is my latest rant. We pay well over 6 figures a year to cover all our ventures and you feel like you're buying mob protection because you never get anything for it. Expensive peace of mind. But when you're writing checks to those insurance companies, you LOSE your peace of mind.

    Chris called and reported more showings at the trailer park yesterday so people are out and looking again. Which reminds me, I need to write a new classified ad for the trailer park and Pioneer Complex, to beat tonight's 5 pm deadline.

    1/11/05 7:54 am

    I didn't go to Colorado with the girls. I stayed home in a quiet house, solving the dog problem and they had some good mother-daughter time. Margie stayed with Jess in her dorm overnight saving a hotel room expense too. And if you recall, I wasn't too keen on eating up two days of my time anyway.

    Yesterday I was able to get all the December accounting sent to the accountant and get all my rental classified ads updated. It is such a load off to have an accountant. I used to do everything myself on Quickbooks and loved the control I had, but hated the time it took. Now I have less control, but more time. And it costs money for an accountant, but is well worth it. Our business has gotten too complex so I sleep well knowing I have someone to keep me legal and timely with payroll taxes, workman's Comp/Unemployment and the IRS. It also helps to have an accountant when I apply for Real Estate loans because it gives my numbers more credibility.

    I was able to spend half the day yesterday reading and catching up with current events watching some cable news. I'm a FOX guy, a real red-stater. Yes, I voted for George Bush and yes, I can't for the life of me understand Democrats, who seem mostly to live in urban areas. And I'm a fan of keeping the Electoral College just the way it is so candidates have to address issues in all geographical areas of America rather than just the highly-populated urban areas. If you take one look at the Bush/Kerry red counties/blue counties election results map, you see how few geographical areas Democrats won. I don't want urbanites telling me I can't snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park or I have to reintroduce wolves in my backyard. Local issues should be decided locally. How'd they like it if we made them reintroduce rattlesnakes into New York City?

    I spend some time on America Online chatting (mainly performing some sit-down comedy) and most people there are from urban areas and hence, Democrats. I'm amazed at how they see the world and they can't understand how I can see it so differently. I can't explain why they don't understand and I can't understand why so I just try not to talk about it. Much.

    I spent this morning researching more online business opportunities. I'm getting close to purchasing some software and services that will identify unserved online business niches, automate the research for the best domain names and content and then let me design unlimited web pages which are enabled for e-commerce. The learning curve is steep even with "automated services." But I figure the harder it is, the fewer competitors I'll have. And I just love the thought of creating income streams that require no big investment, no employees and are so portable they can be operated from anywhere you can plug in a computer. Even Real Estate which I love so much, doesn't provide THAT much freedom.

    So when it comes down to how I'll spend my limited time getting something new started between now and May, I'm leaning heavily toward the online opportunities. Which means Real Estate, audio tours, and selling the service book and domain names are all sitting there as my backup projects. I have too many options. I hope it lasts. :)

    Today's to-do list includes more Rotary Show writing. I have a skit to write and more ideas to list. We're selling this year's show on a DVD to the general public for the first time in history. I think we'll sell a good amount and it will be a good fundraiser. Especially for people who can't make the show due to scheduling conflicts.

    Had some bad news about our rental property in Lovell. An office tenant had decided to move and didn't tell my property manager which would have been a bummer in itself. But it got worse when the tenant turned off her heat which allowed the water pipes to freeze and burst. Better yet, the water pipes are above the office ceiling and ran for who-knows-how-long before the next door office tenant noticed a wet floor. The damage is extensive my property manager says. I haven't been there yet since it's 50 miles away. I have insurance ($1,000 deductible) so I'm out no more than a grand, but I lose time making repairs and have to find another tenant. So Real Estate investing isn't all peaches and cream. Still beats a job though. I'm going to bill that tenant for the damage and of course she'll lose her deposit. And we'll have to add a clause in the lease agreement about leaving the heat on. And you wonder why lease agreements have so many clauses? Every clause is evidence of a prior disaster.

    Scratch my prior day comment about insurance being like mob-protection that never gets you anything. I'm such a big kidder.

    On the upside, I just got a call from Chris, my trailer park manager, and she's coming by to drop off more rental money she's collected. So you take the good with the bad. Fortunately, there's far more good.

    Here's a great link as a reward for reading so deeply into the blog. I'm only 52 miles from Yellowstone National Park but the park is 2,000 - 3,000 feet higher than Cody's elevation of 5,000 feet. So I like to see what's happening weather-wise in the park by visiting the Old Faithful Geyser webcam. I just took a look and it is snowing and blowing there so hard you can't even see the geyser. Meanwhile in Cody, it's sunny outside my basement window. I LOVE the Internet.

    A short aside. Margie & I celebrated my 40th birthday (7 years ago) by staying at the Old Faithful Inn. She called it "The Geezer at the Geyser."

    1/14/05 4:44 am

    Today I make the serious plunge into the online business world. I had phone conversations with two companies and emails with a third and narrowed it down to one company. I still fear that I will jump in and STILL need more software to keep things automated. I'm tired of researching though and ready to start DOING, so off I go.

    The plan is to select the topics I am most passionate about, and then research different combinations of keywords real people are actually typing into their computers until I find niches that no one is serving. I then select a domain name that matches that niche, create content that answers those needs and write the pages in a way that puts it near the top of search engine results. I also create a free e-newsletter that visitors sign up for, building a targeted list of people interested in that topic. I then add products they may be interested in -- either my own or other's which pay me a commission for each order.

    Once that site starts generating income, I can add other sites using the same process. By selecting topics I'm already passionate about, I'll enjoy creating content for people with the same passions, build credibility and trust, and connect people with products and services that they would like to purchase.

    Sounds good in theory but I think the advertising end of this is a giant unknown, frought with ways to easily waste money. It seems impossible to learn everything though without starting. I'm sure once I take a few steps forward, I'll see other information that will keep me evolving. The initial investment is only $300 so my risk is low.

    Margie & I agreed to speak at the upcoming Career Day at the high school. Our topic is "Retire By Age 30." We'll share the self-employment and Real Estate tips we know now, that we wished we'd been taught in school. Or as our course description reads: "Learn how to turn your passion into cash and your cash into Real Estate. Discover how developing a “project mentality” can achieve financial security decades sooner than a “paycheck mentality.” Learn dozens of self-employment tips from the owners of Cody Trolley Tours and Pioneer Properties, LLC."

    Margie sold a couple more trolley ads yesterday so that is progressing nicely. We need to start updating our Cody Keepsake book for 2005/2006. We sell ads for that too, so it's deja-vue from our old newspaper days.

    We don't miss those 100-hour weeks and constantly fighting to stay financially afloat. The three years was a great education however. It's left such deep memories that I STILL thank God when I pick up a newspaper off my doorstep that I didn't have to build myself.

    The cold weather is killing us at the rental properties. Had two or three dwellings get frozen pipes again. The underbellies of trailers are very difficult to keep properly insulated. It's frustrating because we had handymen crawl under during the summer and cover those bellies and wrap heat tape around pipes. But you can't detect the weak spots until the freeze hits, and then you're scrambling.

    It was 10 below zero yesterday morning and it's 4 below now. It won't get back above 32 until Saturday, they say.

    Margie & I watched The Family Man last night. I love that movie. Tea Leoni is adorable and Nicolas Cage is great. He is a rich company president who is given a glimpse of what his life would have been like if he'd have married "Kate" rather than pursue the business success. It's a fresh look at the old premise of wondering what would have happened if you made different choices.

    We closed up shop for the day at 4 pm and watched the movie on the big screen in the basement. We got about six phone calls during the movie so it wasn't exactly "escaping from it all." But still nice to be able do that. One MORE reason to work for yourself.

    The Rotary writing is coming along well. We have lots of completed scenes. Lots more to go but we'll make it. The opening five-minute movie has the potential of being fantastic and we gave our filmakers lots of good ideas. Now if they can just execute. I think we will even advertise "Whatever You Do, Don't Miss The First Five Minutes of the Show."

    The show is free this year and I still worry that we will have more customers than available seats. The auditorium seats just under a thousand people and we play two nights. That means if one out of 4.5 residents attend, we'll fill the place both nights. The trolley light tours attracted one out of 7 residents spread over 13 days, so it's certainly possible we'll surpass that in a shorter two-day window. We need to come up with an overflow plan just in case.

    I finally put photos of our vacant rentals on our trailer park website. It should have taken me about five minutes but for some reason, the uploaded photos weren't opening and I troubleshot that simple procedure for about two hours. Finally they opened. I think there was a delay on the web host side of things because my html code was right. Welcome to the online world where you wish you could just reach through the monitor and paste the things in yourself.

    I have a PR opportunity I need to address. Our vacant office used to be the old airport terminal building and the airport board is considering building a new, multi-million dollar terminal. I bet I could get coverage if I let the newspaper know the history of my building. But first I have to research that myself. On the to-do list it goes.

    In the book I'm reading, Abraham Lincoln is now running for US Senator against Stephen Douglas in 1858. The debates between the two made Lincoln famous nationally. I'm looking forward to reading how he finishes the race and how he becomes president in 1860.

    1/16/05 9:16 am

    Signed up another renter for the trailer park yesterday. Seems like she'll be a great tenant. This leaves just one vacancy, which is a good thing. And we have some prospects nibbling on that remaining vacancy which is a one bedroom log cabin.

    Watched football all afternoon yesterday. Pittsburgh pulled it out in overtime. The thing I hate about sports is that the teams never seem to play to their potential when it matters the most. Pittsburgh was clearly better than the Jets but not yesterday.

    I fell asleep during the second game but saw enough to see Atlanta take it to St. Louis. Atlanta looks tough to stop.

    Today's games are the ones I care about. The Vikings play the Eagles and the Colts play the Patriots. If there is any justice, the Eagles and Colts will win. I like the Vikings as you recall, but I absolutely hate them this year. They have no defense and a lousey coach, so should have lost to the Packers last week. But that's football, you never know what's going to happen. But if the Vikings happen to "play so far above their heads that their noses bleed for a week to 10 days," (Bill Murray quote from "Meatballs") and actually make it to the Super Bowl and WIN, I will be devastated because the team DOES NOT DESERVE IT this year. In 1998, yes, but not this year.

    Man, I miss hockey and it looks like the strike will eat the entire season. I am tired of sports writers attacking the league and saying no one misses the NHL. I miss it and I know the 18,007 fans that filled every seat in every Colorado Avalanche game miss it too.

    Margie is working on the Johnson "Christmas Newsletter" so we may actually get it in the mail this week. I know you're dying for it because two people out of the hundred we mail to, asked for it. Here's to you two. :) The letter is finished and now she's working on the photo page, which is a real ink cartridge eater. I think we have a spare cartridge, but better check.

    I took the plunge and bought Site Build It, a product and service that teaches you how to build a profitable online business and then hosts the web site on their server. I'm still reading the 250 page Action Guide. Once I have the overview, the real work starts.

    They provide tools that reveal how many people are searching for specific key words online each day and how many sites provide info about those same keywords.

    You start by selecting topics that you're passionate about so you're creating a business that you enjoy. The tools they provide then help you identify niches within your favorite topics that aren't being served. You then create a content-rich website that fills that niche. They teach you how to write the content in a way that search engines like, so when people search for those keywords, you pop up on the first or second page of hits. Visitors get their answers and like and trust you for providing them. Your content occassionally provides links to products and services (some your own and some sold by others) your visitors would enjoy and if they make a purchase, you earn revenue. Everyone wins. That seems like solid logic that should work.

    Sort of what I do with this blog, but without the sophistication of web research and heavy traffic. So we'll see.

    I had a few more business ideas. My daughter belongs to NetFlicks which allows you to rent unlimited DVD movies for under $20 per month through the mail. You can rent up to three at once and when done, just return them in the postage-paid envelopes they provide. You order online. Blockbuster has started a similiar service.

    So why not do the same thing with books? Or books on tape? Or those self-development 6-cassette tape sets? I know what you're thinking: "That business already has a name, it's called a "Library.'" Perhaps, but if people are too lazy to go to the video store to rent movies, perhaps they will appreciate the convenience of renting books online and having them mailed to their house. Two problems I see right away -- the weight of a book will drive up postage costs (unless you can provide them electronically) and the inventory needed would be a nightmare.

    What if you could visit the video rental stores FOR your customers and deliver and return the movies they want right to their door? Sort of like a meal delivery service?

    I like the how-to tape sets as the best solution here. I'll start a folder and place it in my "business ideas" file.

    Wasn't as cold last night, I awoke to 2 degrees. Supposed to get above 30 by tomorrow. My properties greatly appreciate that.

    We also looked at a vacant piece of property with fresh eyes. It's on a high traffic road and would be a great site for installing billboards. If we can rent out the billboards, the property will pay for itself and generate at least $1,000 a month profit. So many ideas, so little time.

    1/20/05 5:33 am

    Inauguration Day. For being in the off-season, we sure are busy. Rotary is taking lots of time but I keep spitting out the bits and skits. Had another writing meeting last night and we're progressing nicely. I worry that I'm providing too much material myself. The others on the committee have "real jobs" so can't devote the time I do.

    It's good practice for me though and I love the entertainment aspect of creating humor. I even looked at karaoke machines and music so I could create a library of parodies and perhaps perform them somewhere. If I could only sing and play an instrument.

    Today we mail out the Super Bowl party invites. It's an annual deal for us -- the only party we give all year -- and we look forward to it. Not excited about the teams contending now that Indianapolis lost. I'm rooting for Pittsburgh now.

    Last year I got a kidney stone the morning of the party and we had to call it off at the last minute. My first one and I don't want to go through that again. I was messed up for an entire month until it finally passed. And I have $10,000 deductible medical insurance so I got the full weight of that bill. Grrrr.

    On the trolley front, we're still selling and renewing ads. The college and a large area merchant are the next clients we're in discussions with to nail down the last outside ad packages. Then it will be onto selling ads for The Cody Keepsake, our 64-page Downtown Walking Tour and Cody info book. The book is good for the next two years which works nice for high-value ad rates and our workload.

    We're also trying to get our rent-a-chair program renewed. We have a gunfighter group that performs a shoot-out 6 nights a week all summer at the Irma Hotel, right in front of our trolley ticket booth. The show attracts 300-500 people a night and there is very limited seating. So we ordered 120 folding chairs and rent them for $1 and give half the proceeds to a charity. Visitors then get a reserved seat (we put their names on each chair) so they are free to shop downtown, eat dinner or have a drink at the Irma bar, without worrying about having a place to sit. Visitors LOVE the service and are happy to part with their dollar. The charities love it too. We need to secure the approval of the hotel owner and the gunfighters to do it again this year.

    We had a chamber of commerce marketing committee meeting yesterday. I'm president of the group which is weird because the marketing is really run by the chamber director and the tourism director. But our group votes and approves the money expenditures. I'm pushing to spend our limited funds on things that will stop the 2,000 people a day who drive right through Cody in the summer without stopping. We get lots of pitches to advertise in regional magazines, newspapers and TV. The Park County Travel Council collects about a million dollars a year from a 4% lodging tax and takes care of national and international advertising. They also give our chamber a grant to operate our visitor center, which carries the expectation that we will advertise regionally to fill the gap the travel council doesn't fill. So we have to spend some money on local ads. But I see all those people driving through Cody, just 20 feet from our businesses and think it would be more productive to spend money on ways to make those people stop, rather than trying to convince people to come here in the first place.

    As an independent, I'm always thinking how I can get the most bang for my buck. I think funded organizations get too complacent at just writing checks because it's easier than dreaming up creative ways to guerilla market.

    One MORE reason I enjoy being an entrepreneur.

    No estimate yet for the repairs at our Lovell office. Lovell has like no tradesmen. It's a town of about 3,000 but it feels like a town of 500. There is a very limited number of handymen there and it takes forever to get anything done. I could start a handyman company and immediately get more business than I could handle.

    Had a nibble on one of our warehouses for rent, but haven't heard back after the guy said he'd look at it.

    The "Christmas" newsletter is done, but the photo page printed at such low resolution it wasn't crisp enough to send out. Margie called a friend, learned how to fix it, and now has to re-scan all the photos. What a nightmare this project has been. I think we should just wish everyone a Merry Christmas 2005 and tell them this letter is EARLY. Then we'll be off the hook next year. Or, we could sign the letter, "Merry Christmas 2005 and Forever" and be off the hook forever. :)

    The Site Build It process is going well. I'm researching the supply and demand of customer service keywords. I already have a customer service booklet to sell, plus there are lots of customer service training products out there I can earn a commission from recommending. Also, I have an unlimited supply of customer service content in my brain and archives. So far I've identified a good niche but I'm still pumping in keywords.

    The beauty of the Site Build It system is they give you software that automatically searches the web to determine how many people a day are typing in specific keywords and how many websites out there offer information about those keywords. So you just enter a keyword, click a button and the software does all the research and returns supply and demand numbers within 30 seconds. A HUGE time saver. I'm excited about the data I'm getting and think I can really make money at this.

    Abraham Lincoln finally closed the experience gap in the biography I'm reading and became president. He was an extremely shrewd politician. He helped form a new party -- the Republicans -- and manuveured himself to become their nominee. He'd gained national attention while losing campaigns to become a US Senator in 1852 and 1858.

    Isn't it ironic that it was a republican that freed the negroes at the cost of his life, but 90% of them vote for democrats today?

    In those days, the candidates for president did not publicly campaign for themselves. In fact, Lincoln did not even attend the Republican convention but had representatives there working the delegates to get the votes. It took three ballots which is exactly what Lincoln had foreseen. Then once he got the nomination, he didn't even campaign through election day. In fact, he purposely remained silent and out of sight. It was seen to be bad form to campaign for oneself back then. Lincoln did not even vote for himself when he cast his ballot during the national election because he didn't think that was honest. Man, how times have changed!

    In between his election and him taking office, the southern states all started to secede from the union, leaving him with a huge mess to deal with. I look forward to learning how he does it.

    I have a meeting this morning as part of a group that is trying to mitigate the reduced visitor traffic caused by road construction in Yellowstone the next few years. We'll create some sort of public communication program. I'm wary because the group mostly consists of the Parks Committee I'm on that left me hanging out in the breeze over my push to get porta-potties and low-powered radio interpretation broadcast at the construction delay areas. The Yellowstone leaders had agreed to do it, then decided not to without telling us. Didn't even communicate that the ideas encountered problems and ask for our assistance in overcoming the obstacles. Just decided to bail on the entire plan. When I fought for the ideas at our last meeting, the rest of our group did nothing to back me up. So, it remains business as usual. Which in my opinion, isn't nearly good enough. Thank God I'm only volunteering, and am not required by some job to attend these meetings. Nothing creative gets done unless it's rammed through by the 5% with vision and passion.

    One MORE reason to be self-employed.

    1/23/05 8:43 am

    Rock and Roll! Life is blazing by and it's all I can do to hang on.

    No estimate yet for the damage at our Lovell building but they got the pipe repaired and the water back on for the other tenants. The good news is the other office tenant (a youth group organization) wants to help with the clean up and then maybe rent that space in addition to the one they have. I'm all for that.

    We start the billing process for the trailer park today. We read the utility meters this morning, then write and print the newsletter and then calculate the bills and get them to Chris to deliver. Profits for this month are already spent.

    As we bought two other properties this year, we had our insurance agent put them under a binder until the policies arrived. For unknown reasons it took about six months to get the policies so now I have a monster insurance bill which will swallow February profits. Oh well, at least we'll be back on track with a managable monthly bill after this. And, the increases at the trailer park start in March. I wish they'd been more.

    I've collected about 500 keywords that will help my customer service online business. Progress there is being made every day. New keywords keep popping into my mind all day so I write them on a pad.

    The meeting with the highway construction mitigation group went well. No decisions until next meetings, so we'll see how serious and creative we can get then.

    Speaking of meetings, I'm sure you've attended ones where one person monopolizes all the air time. These people never seem to realize it and you learn to dread attending meetings with them. A good rule of thumb is to count the people in the room, divide the available time by that number and then make sure you only use your share of that air time for your comments. Aware people already do this. Unaware people do not. Do the world a favor and spread this advice. :)

    We're on the radio again tomorrow morning to promote the Rotary Show. The station is helping us record commercials in a couple weeks and have graciously agreed to help us record the few audio portions of our show that need sound effects and characters.

    The "Christmas" newsletter is STILL on Margie's desk. The photo page is still the hold up. She is in like 10 different volunteer organizations so she wasn't home most of Friday and Saturday. If all her energy ever gets directed exclusively on our own business projects, we'll be zillionaires in about 5 minutes.

    I got a great email from Tony, an entrepreneur who is launching a thoroughbred horse racing tour business in the epicenter of Kentucky horse farms. He's got a very impressive concept and is well down the road to getting his project started. He's renovated a 7,000 square foot building and filled it with horse memorabilia like Man-o-War's barn doors. He's also bought two trolleys and will take visitors past ten of the most successful horse ranches in the world, ending with an interactive presentation where customers can actually pet some valuable steeds.

    He found me on the web somehow, read my blog and sent a great letter pointing out our many similarities. We'll brainstorm ideas about our businesses via the phone tomorrow. I look forward to speaking to him because he seems as enthusiastic as me about developing businesses. One more example that you attract who you are.

    I'll link his web site when he gets it up and running. I'm just happy that there are actually people out there reading my sporatic entries who find them halfway helpful.

    "The Apprentice" started up again last Thursday night. I LOVE that show. And the first competition was running a Burger King, which was near and dear to my heart with my past McDonalds experience. It's good to have role models and I admit it, Donald Trump is that for me. Watching him, pushes me to expand my horizons. So I have 15 more episodes of free advice and inspiration to look forward to.

    1/25/05 2:19 am

    Woke up in the middle of the night so here I am. I love the early, dark, quiet of the house this time of day. Get the decaf going and toss in some Fleetwood Mac and I'm ready to write. Short commute down the stairs to the home office. Millie our Border Collie follows me down for a biscuit and then plops down next to the desk. Life is good.

    Drove my daughter up to Billings, Montana yesterday afternoon. Her car has been giving her fits and being a Volkswagon diesel, means there is no repairman in Cody who can handle the problem. The jury's still out on whether the Billings shop can handle it either.

    Anyway, the 200 mile round trip was a nice break away from the world of phones and to-do lists. On the way back I listened to tapes from Jay Abraham, one of the world's best marketers. Among his many helpful nuggets is his advice to ask yourself not, "Am I worthy of this project?" but "Is this project worthy of ME."

    That rings helpful for me because I find myself involved in lots of volunteer projects that eat my time. And time is my ultimate currency.

    Another good piece of advice is that working to achieve small goals is just as stressful and involved as working on big goals, so we might as well play large since it takes the same effort. If that is true, why not select projects with rewards ten times or one hundred times larger than what we're used to? There is no rule that says we can only grow in small increments. Growth is really only limited to how much we believe we are worth. Expand that belief and we can compress years of results into weeks or months.

    On the drive home, I spent about an hour thinking about the skills some of my friends have and how I might combine forces with them to create something of value for us all. I need to brainstorm with a few of them and see what we can come up with.

    The trailer park bills went out yesterday. I'm proud of how much we've improved that community in just two years. We are within a few months of having all the major needs taken care of, meaning we can start drawing an income from the investment. It feels good to know the tenants have a much better neighborhood and that the park is far more valuable than it was as our reward for making that happen. The two years would have passed anyway so it was smart to harness that time and effort to secure a property that perpetually builds our net worth.

    I'm looking at a check on my desk from a fellow who ordered a Cody Keepsake. It's only $5 but it represents income generated from my online activities. He read this blog, learned of the Keepsake and ordered a copy. Now I just need to multiply those results by a thousand. Every month. :)

    The radio show to plug the Rotary Show went well yesterday. The host played The Cody Bypass Horse Race that I wrote and produced for last year's show. I'm going to produce a similar one called The Cody Mini-Golf Horse Race. I also have a 60 second commercial to produce that spoofs the operating problems of a local ski area. Today I also must write a skit based on "The Apprentice" where we fire, hire and retire an array of local celebrities. So much to do, so little time.

    1/27/05 7:09 am

    The Apprentice script came out pretty good. Presented it to the Rotary writers group last night and they liked it as is. We still have a ways to go to fill out our show but we're on track.

    You can get help from a dozen people but it always comes down to one guy at a keyboard pulling it all together and smoothing it all out into one, final script. This year, that guy is me.

    We have a trolley charter tomorrow which means we need to get out and practice the tour today. We've given the thing nearly 2,000 times but we always start to forget the content once we stop performing for a few weeks. We have a script to review but we prefer taking the trolley on the route to get all the visual cues and use all our audio clips and photos. Once we start, it all starts flooding back in. One trip is usually enough practice.

    The group is from the state here to assess Cody as a tourist destination. We'll give them the basic tour with a few stops along the way to help them explore some of our biggest attractions. Others will take the assessors around to Cody's other ammenities and answer their questions. The assessors will share their advice with town leaders and the public on Friday at 3 pm.

    We provide free tours for lots of groups that can benefit our town. People like journalists, convention site-selection committees, tour bus drivers, VIP's, key job applicants, etc. From the town's viewpoint, it's nice to have a company that can provide a great tour to help sell the town. From our viewpoint, it's fun to be ambassadors and keep building our excellent reputation that leads to lots of referrals. Everyone wins.

    Got a call yesterday from a guy trying to sign me up for a Robert Allen mentoring course. At $995 for both Margie & I it's a bargain. But I don't have the time now. Robert Allen is one of the most well-known Real Estate investors in the world and teaches lots of no-money down techniques that actually work. I want to enter the program but don't have the time right now. Maybe next year.

    That is really a stupid way to think because the sooner you own Real Estate the faster your net worth increases. I bet that decision to delay costs me several hundred thousand dollars by the time I retire. So much to do, so little time.

    I've been doing lots of research for the customer service online business I'm starting and am close to selecting a domain name to start the web site design process. I've found some good niches that look profitable and will organize the business to fill those niches.

    I did some searching on the largest search engines and was delighted to discover that my "free inspirational columns" rank #5 and #6 on Google, #1 on Yahoo and in the top five at MSN. Now, if someone will just type in those keywords.

    With online businesses, success comes with traffic. Traffic comes from having great content that gets you to the top of search engine rankings. People aren't looking for YOU, they are looking for information. Align your business to best match the keywords they are searching for and you'll get lots of traffic. As they read your content, they begin to like and trust you, which "pre-sells" them on items you might recommend. Some of these items might be your own products (like my service book) or others' products that pay a commission. If that all works, wallah, you have another income stream. You can then start other web sites that fill other niches and soon you are waking up in Hawaii wondering why you ever ran a trolley company . :)

    Speaking of which, we have a goal of increasing the number of trolley passengers 20 per day this summer. This is significant because it would generate another $30,000 for us. We have lots of signage ideas and I am going to buy 1-3 low power radio transmitters. I think I can convince the museum to take one because by installing a few signs in the parking lot telling people to tune to the frequency, we can play a repeating 3 minute "orientation" message on how to get the most from your museum experience. Which, of course, includes purchasing the museum/trolley combination ticket. Once again, we'll set this up so all parties win.

    I also want to place a transmitter out at the Buffalo Bill Dam to help us sell our audio tour out there. Sales are too soft because the dam has free admission and it takes the volunteers out there to enthusiastically recommend the $4 audio tour. People being people, some do this better than others and some don't do it at all, let alone consistently to every visitor. Since the dam gets $2 for every tour rented, it's in their interest to get better results. The audio tour is also the best interpretation of the dam, so recommending it is actually giving visitors a better experience. Without taking the audio tour, visitors have no idea of what they're looking at and why it's such a big deal. Last year's results were disappointing so the dam board extended our contract another year (5 more years to go). Everyone agrees the tour itself is tremendous. The weak spot is the selling of the tour. The labor force there is mostly volunteers and no one wants to push the volunteers too hard fearing they will quit. We have to find a way to overcome this or we will never get good results. So we're considering creating employee incentives, combined with better signage and the radio transmitters to get visitors to ASK volunteers for the tour.

    The experience has taught us that the next audio tour we create must be at a venue where it's price is built into the admission price so everyone automatically gets the audio tour, creating a guaranteed income for all concerned.

    With 60,000 visitors a summer, the dam board (and us) have the opportunity to earn some serious money while providing a great experience to guests. Once again, the program was set up so everyone wins. So far though, because we invested $15,000 in cash and another $25,000 worth of our time to create the tour, the relationship is spectacularly out of balance in favor of the dam. Hopefully we can get their help to get better results this year.

    One MORE reason why everyone is not an entrepreneur.

    But wouldn't you rather face these challenges and have a chance to increase your income by 25 to 50% EVERY YEAR than have a job where you have to fight to get a measily 3% wage increase?

    1/29/05 6:05 am

    Yesterday was a very good day. Margie sold another trolley ad renewal ($2,500, thank you very much).

    Then we performed a trolley tour for some tourism experts that the State of Wyoming hired to visit its communities. They assess each city's tourism efforts and then share suggestions on how to better attract tourists and keep them in town longer.

    The experts told us that our trolley tour was the best tour they had ever taken, ANYWHERE. And they travel throughout the WORLD. This was especially sweet because they said this in front of our local travel council and chamber of commerce leaders and Wyoming's tourism council representative.

    Then later in the day we attended a city council retreat to get the council's buy-in and funding for another city assessment that involves getting suggestions from hundreds of local citizens representing all walks of life. The city council agreed to participate and fund the study. Margie & I serve on a comittee of community leaders who are organizing the study.

    The council then discussed the COLT bus system that Margie & I operate for the city to determine if it will be continued during the summer of 2005. The city council voted to keep it going but want to investigate several new options, including researching the feasibility of using a new, smaller bus. Ridership has been lower than we'd like so we were happy to see they believe in the concept of continuing a public bus system, as long as they can make it as economical as possible. This likely means Margie & I will hand the system over to the city and let them run it. That way they get the advertising and fare revenue, rather than us, so they can reduce their costs. This is fine with us since our original goal was for the senior center to run the bus. When WY DOT said they preferred someone independent like us run it for the city, we jumped in to get the system started. Now that it's up and running, we sure don't mind handing off to someone else, even though we'll lose about $12,000 annually.

    Finally, yesterday afternoon, we attended a meeting with the tourism experts as they presented their improvement recommendations to our local leaders. Margie & I are at the very forefront of virtually every suggestion they made.

    For starters, they recommended that the chamber advertise that visitors should take the trolley tour FIRST, to gain an overview of everything Cody has to offer. The experts said that we do the best job of getting people to stay in town LONGER, by teasing them with our info about all the main attractions. We've been saying this since we started in 2001 but never really got enough buy-in from local leaders to make this the POLICY.

    Next, they loved our "Recommend Cody" program where we take frontline staff and local citizens on a pre-season tour of Cody's largest attractions. We stop at each attraction for 10-15 minutes and a rep from each attraction shares info about that attraction. By the time the tour is over, these key influencers have a good knowledge of Cody's "Must-Do" activities. They can then recommend these activities to visitors, which will get the visitors to stay longer, have a better visit, and of course, spend more money.

    Margie & I had already created (last year) a one-page list of the "must-do" activities, called, "23 Things To Do in Cody" that was handed out by local hotels to visitors. This will continue this year.

    Finally, the experts suggested we highlite Buffalo Bill far more aggressively. They said because Buffalo Bill was a showman and entrepreneur, we should run and market our town with his same flair. We should also wrap him into all we do. They basically repeated my line, 'What Would Buffalo Bill do?" I wanted to kiss those experts. Margie & I have been pushing this type of approach for years and it often felt like we were beating our heads against the wall.

    Now that experts have said some of the same things, our approach is validated. You can never be a messiah in your own town.

    The experts also latched on the Buffalo Bill burial mystery story we share in the tour and suggested Cody start a "Bring Buffalo Bill Home" campaign. He's officially buried in Denver but he really wanted to be buried in Cody (some think he IS buried in Cody). By demanding Buffalo Bill be returned to his town, we'll generate lots of publicity and maybe even make a reinterment possible. Margie & I have toyed with the idea of fulfilling Buffalo Bill's wish to build a giant buffalo statue on top of Cedar Mountain overlooking his town, so their idea is very similar. I'd also been recommending that we divert some advertising money into writing press releases and creating news hooks that national media might pick up. A news story is not only "free" publicity, it generates lots more interest than an ad. The "Bring Buffalo Bill Home" campaign would be a great hook for national attention.

    They had some harsh recommendations for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center regarding dropping the word "museum" from their advertising because that word means "boring" to many people. Also, they are recommending adding lots more "entertainment" elements over there, to reduce the sterile "academic" feel. We've long thought they should add historically-accurate costumed characters to provide tours and interaction and look for ways to add more fun and entertainment. Buffalo Bill was a showman but that museum isn't run with his flair. They'd do well to ask themselves, "How Would Buffalo Bill Run This Place?" Hopefully the leaders there will act on the suggestions. We say this because we love the museum and want it to be all it can be.

    The experts also gave us some radical suggestions to improve our brochure. They shared these ideas right after we finished the tour. Margie then went to work on her computer and came up with a new design. She brought the design to the meeting and the experts loved it. They especially loved the fact that she had listened to their advice and taken action so quickly. They also loved that she was dressed in western costume during the tour. They thought she looked like Annie Oakley. So I joked that she was Annie Oakley and I was just Frank, the Butler. (Frank Butler was Annie's husband) I was very proud to be Margie's husband yesterday.

    One other thing the experts recommended was creating a variety of audio tours. Guess who creates the best audio tours in town? Yep, us. Once again, on the cutting edge. We handed over copies of our Buffalo Bill Dam Audio Tour to the experts, the State of Wyoming rep and the marketing executive for all the lodging in Yellowstone National Park. Hopefully we'll get more audio tour clients from this.

    It was a VERY good day for the Johnsons.

    We ended the day by watching Apollo 13. This was especially sweet because when it came out in the theaters in 1995, we were near the end of the nightmare of running that newspaper on Pine Island, Florida. We were working 100 hour weeks and sleeping on the office floor to meet our publishing schedule for each issue. Worse yet, we were making no money. So we'd escape for a couple hours by going to Apollo 13. We saw that movie thirteen times at the theater. So watching it last night, from a much more comfortable and successful life, provided overwhelming feelings of gratitude.

    1/30/05 6:48 pm

    Worked most of the day on setting up the new home page for my online customer service business. I'll provide the link when I get enough content to make it worthwhile for visitors. I'll be working on it for weeks it looks like. But once it's set up, should be a perpetual money maker while providing lots of great free content.

    Margie has been painting the basement bathroom this weekend and is getting there. She's a perfectionist so it always takes longer, but always looks great.

    We learned today that a friend was diagnosed with cancer. He's in for a fight, but he's up to it. Life looks different today due to that news.

    Abraham Lincoln is stumbling along through the civil war in that bio I'm reading. His generals were incompetent, his cabinet was a disaster and members of his own party were constantly sniping and undermining him. It makes the Bush administration look like Einstein incarnate.

    Lincoln himself was a disaster the first couple years as president. He seemed to know nothing about anything except politics. His deliberate manner of making decisions meant he most often decided to make no decisions. This drove everyone he worked with nuts. But he learned quickly. He even read military strategy books to better manage the war.

    The nuances of all the arguments and factions and north-south problems left him a razor thin ledge to cling to in his efforts to hold the union together. His patience and political skills turned out to be just what was needed to save the country we know today. Lincoln proved it's not what you know, it's what you're willing to learn.

    We have an applicant for the last vacancy at the trailer park. Hopefully she will check out fine and we'll be 100% full.

    No estimate yet for the Lovell building damage. No further bites on the Pioneer Complex vacancies. I need to write some targeted letters to organizations that might have a need for space who would make good tenants.

    The thought occurred to me to start living life with a greater margin of built-in time. I tend to fill every available minute with work. If I sit still for five minutes, I feel like I'm wasting time. But this weekend was delightfully free of "have-to" activities, so I worked all day and took last night off. I'll do the same tonight. I also took some time just looking at the memorabilia I have mounted on walls in the basement. I've had a darn full life with many accomplishments and it was relaxing and humbling to take a few minutes to reflect. I walked away relaxed, with this "margin-of-time" idea. I really don't know why I race and why I'm so driven. But it was good to remind myself all that activity is a choice. And I can choose to slow down a bit.

    I need to write radio commercials for the Rotary Show. The commercials I wrote last year won radio station awards, so there is pressure to repeat. Our writing group brainstormed lots of ideas last Wednesday so there is lots to work with. The show poster came out great thanks to Alan Swenson (the artist) and Margie and the folks at Rocky Mountain Custom Photo.

    Our Super Bowl party is next Sunday. Turnout looks like it will be good and it is a great bunch of people from many different walks of life. The one common denominator is they are all good laughers. Can't have too much of that.

    Time to close up shop and check in on honest Abe Lincoln.

    2/3/05 5:52am

    I've been up for two hours already. Took a walk over at the Marathon Oil headquarters. It's a 20 acre grounds with walking trails and in the summer, ponds. They're drained now for the winter. I love the cool, dark mornings because no one is out and I feel like I'm out on the morning paper routes I had as a kid in Minnesota. When I came back home, my Billings Gazette was laying on the step. A newspaper that I didn't have to create or deliver myself. I love it.

    Margie is still painting that basement bathroom. Now she's painting the cement floor. It looks great.

    The prospective tenant for the last trailer park vacancy checked out great and we offered her the cabin. However, she changed her mind for the time being so it's still open. Maybe she'll move in a bit later after she settles some issues.

    Another tenant who just moved in two weeks ago is moving out at the end of February. She got an offer to buy a house and jumped at it. We negotiated a settlement to release her from the year lease she signed. At least this time we have some people on a waiting list to call. I'm going to try to sell that trailer first and if that fails, rent it out.

    I completed the radio commercials for the Rotary Show and the group thought they were great. We record them next week. I also provided lots more material for some open spots in the script and received another skit from another member of the writing team. We're down to just plugging a few little holes and then we're good to go. The movie is coming along great. I have two guys on that project and based on what I'm hearing about footage they shot, we'll have a hit. This next week is the intense work of compiling everything into one final script. Then we assign parts to the cast and start rehearsals February 21.

    I had Tivo installed the other day and am still learning how it works. My first attempt to record the State of the Union speech didn't work. So I reset it for the midnight rerun on FOX last night. I'll check later to see if it recorded that time. I also upgraded my satellite service to get everything they offer. You gotta have some luxuries in life.

    I haven't gotten any farther on my new customer service web site. Rotary is eating all my time. And it will continue to until we get the February 25 & 26 performances behind us. Margie's ad sales team will go over $20,000 in the next few days so she's wrapping up her Rotary Show activities.

    Still no word on the Lovell property estimate. I wish my Realtor there was more proactive and communicative. If she was, I'm certain I'd buy more properties out there. But it takes forever to get anything done in Lovell. It's a frustration and an opportunity at once. If I had the time, I could solve the repair and slow management problems and build an empire. I'm learning that I have more self-discipline and focus than about 98% of the world. Donald Trump would be all over the situation. But then he has a staff. I only have me and when lucky, Margie.

    I updated the content on our Cody Trolley Tours website yesterday. It's still a temporary site until we get our new one set up. The ball is in our court to approve the final design and give our designers the OK. I don't like the current "frame" set-up among other things.

    Margie is close to completing her sales materials to sell ads in out Cody Keepsake book. Our goal is to sell 35 full page ads at $500 each. This will cover the cost of printing and generate a nice profit to reward us for all the work. This trolley business has lots of clever revenue streams. I really think we could franchise our system if I'd find the time to create a manual.

    Today I edit a sales letter for Margie's Cody Keepsake sales effort and polish an article for the local newspaper's "Progress Edition." It's an annual publication heralding business improvements in the area. For one price you get an article and an ad. We're control freaks, so we create both and hand them over to the newspaper. That makes us a pretty easy client for them.

    Got the word yesterday that we have a water leak underground near one of our trailers. Could be a big deal or a simple fix. The plumber checks it out this morning. Ah, the landlord life.

    2/6/05 7:14 am

    We have our annual Super Bowl party here at the house today. Lots to do to get ready so this entry will be short.

    Finally got the estimate to repair the water damage at our Lovell building: $6,255.20! We'll be making an insurance claim for that one. Can't remember what my deductible is. The good news is that when it is repaired the tenant in the other side will lease it.

    I have almost completed the second page of my customer service web site. This is going to be a long process. I have too many competing activities going on at once to give it the speed and attention I want.

    The Rotary script must be completed by this Wednesday night which will eat my Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The good news is we have really come up with some great content. I'm trying to avoid having any dead spots but that's not going to happen. Too many people have their fingers in the final result and I can't control it all. So I'm shooting to minimize the dead spots and make sure I arrange the acts to pep up after any suspect material. We also record the radio commercials on Tuesday which is a major job. And while at the radio station, we record a couple of our own audio acts. We perform the show on February 25 & 26 and I'm looking forward to getting it behind us.

    Margie's Rotary ad sales team has eclipsed $20,000 which beats the old record by over 20%. And she still has the best salesperson out there selling. So as a fundraiser, the show is already a major success.

    That's it for now. Thanks for looking in.

    2/9/05 5:37 am

    Interesting day yesterday. I got an offer to fly to Kentucky to do some consulting for a trolley tour start-up company. I also got an offer to write some more Entrepreneur of the Year award nominations for clients of an ad agency that has given me lots of work over the years. I know from experience that offers don't always develop into work so we'll wait and see what happens.

    We also cut the radio ads for the Rotary Show yesterday. It involved recording nine spots with seven different club members. Over three hours in the studio. The commercials came out great and will only get better as the producer there adds more music and special effects to our voice tracks. We had to reschedule the production of the audio acts we created for the show. One of our guys couldn't attend yesterday and the other group song we wanted to record didn't get written by another member as planned. Sometimes this is like herding cats.

    Another member is a musician and wanted our "Budweiser-like" spoof ad to have a perfect sound track behind it so he spent three hours creating one at home. He played it for me over the phone and it came out great. It's fun to watch what lights people up. Basically, once someone gets invested in the assignment, they throw themselves into it. So that's the trick, get people invested.

    I also performed a water test at the trailer park, fielded several calls for various rental ads I'm running and wrote some more content for the Rotary Show script that is due tonight. Oh, and Margie & I attended a Rotary Show committee chairmen meeting at Maxwell's restataurant, which is where all the business in Cody is conducted.

    The Lovell office building bid dropped by $1,200 yesterday. That brings it down to $5,000. The handyman called me and reported that since the tenant waiting to get into that space is going to do the painting after the handyman replaces the walls, it will save him that much labor. The insurance company will appreciate that.

    I updated our trailer park web site RiversBendMHP.com to list a couple of upcoming vacancies. Trying to get ahead of the game here. We still have one cabin vacancy.

    Margie sold another $975 in trolley ads yesterday with the possibility of another $500 as the client considers an upgraded position in the Cody Keepsake book we are printing. The trolley tour company has reached critical mass here -- virtually everyone in the area is aware of it or has ridden on it. Our reputation is fantastic and it's hard to see how it can get better. But we'll keep working it like no one has ever heard of it to keep that edge. It really makes selling ads lots easier. For most contacts, it's more like taking orders than selling, which is a great place to be.

    Margie fielded two calls from large groups wanting to book the trolley. So it is getting to be that time of year again when people are making their summer plans.

    Margie is driving to Billings today to sit with a friend while her husband has surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his neck. These two are our best friends -- the first people we met when we came to Cody. He's only in his early 50's. They're still in shock over the diagnosis. The prognosis is that it's going to be a tough recovery after the surgery, chemo and radiation, but the odds are better than 50% he'll make it at least five years. Cancer doctors only talk in five year increments so that doesn't mean he'll ONLY make it five years.

    I told my buddy my dad had a tumor the size of a human head in his belly and they couldn't operate for fear it would make the cancer spread. So he got chemo and radiation only, and the tumor WENT AWAY. It's just gone. And now my dad is cancer free. So good things happen these days with modern treatments.

    I'm aching to get back to my customer service web site building, but Rotary is eating all my time. Voluntering has its pluses and minuses.

    I'm encouraged by the Kentucky consulting offer because that came across entirely due to my work on my web sites. The man was researching trolley companies and found our site on a search engine. Then at our site he saw the link to my personal web site and he went over there to learn about us. That led him to this blog and our many similarities encouraged him to contact me. I offered lots of free advice that convinced him I was someone who could save him years of trial and error, so he's offered to hire me as a consultant. I never had to sell myself to anyone, just BE myself through my web sites.

    That's exactly what the Site Build It program preaches. Content + Traffic + Presell = Monetization. Give away gobs of free content and that attracts visitor traffic that will like and trust you based on all the content you provided which makes them ready to buy from you if you have products or services they need. I'm using Site Build It to build my customer service web site and I HIGHLY recommend it. The C + T + P = M model works on the web and it works in real life. It's based on the way people behave. Basically, it's following The Golden Rule. Do Unto Others As You'd Have Them Do Unto You. Serve others and they will serve you. It's a great way to run your business.

    We watched Caddyshack on Monday night since that is the theme of the Rotary Show, and it was as great as ever. What a classic! The big screen in our basement makes for a great home theater. We need to do more of that.

    The Super Bowl party turned out great on Sunday. We had a good turnout but not a crushing amount of people. We had to scale back the invite list because this house is just not built for entertaining. A new house is moving farther up the list every day.

    Oh, that leak under the trailer at the trailer park turned out to be nothing but water draining from melted snow. Whew.

    2/11/05 4:28 am

    We received the Rotary show radio ads from the production guy yesterday. They came out great! It's so rewarding to hear what you envisioned in your mind playing in the real world. Each ad is a mini-production. I wrote them and selected cast from club members but our cast had to perform and the production guy had to come up with the music and effects that tie them all together. A great team effort!

    One club member is in a band and actually produced the music/singing bed that makes the following "Real Men of Genius" ad work. It spoofs the approval of an unpopular communication tower in our town:
    "Real Men of Genius" Rotary Show Radio Ad #1

    This ad is a spoof of the Geiko Insurance ads you see on TV all the time:
    "Insurance" Rotary Show Radio Ad #2

    This ad is a spoof of all those "male enhancement" ads you see on TV:
    "Rotaria" Rotary Show Radio Ad #3 (For those who don't know me, this is my voice)

    This ad is a spoof of our own trolley tour ads that air locally all summer:
    "Cody Trolley" Rotary Show Radio Ad #4

    This ad is a spoof of The Twilight Zone:
    "Twilight Zone" Rotary Show Radio Ad #5

    The local museum danced with the idea of opening a satellite museum in Scottsdale, AZ. Here's our spoof of that:
    "BBHC" Rotary Show Radio Ad #6

    The typical cop spoof ad with a twist:
    "Cops" Rotary Show Radio Ad #7

    A play with words:
    "Mirth Defects" Rotary Show Radio Ad #8

    Bashing our local leaders is a Rotary tradition:
    "Local Leaders" Rotary Show Radio Ad #9

    Finally, this is a spoof we will run during the show to dig at the local ski resort that has really undependable hours of operation and questionable equipment. We'll play this during a "commercial break" during the "TV News Skit" in our show:
    "Sleeping Giant" Rotary Show spoof

    2/14/05 8:13 am

    It's snowed about 6 inches overnight and it's still coming down. Glad to see it.

    The Kentucky trolley consulting gig came through and the client bought my plane ticket. I'm looking forward to that trip in early March.

    The ad agency writing assignments haven't yet developed and the chamber of commerce writing assignment I might have mentioned a few weeks ago hasn't yet developed either. People have ideas and it's sometimes a big leap between thinking about it and taking action to make it happen. I'm not as hungry as I used to be to get writing assignments so it's not like I'm an agressive closer once I catch a whiff of a potential assignment either.

    I spent so many years writing on deadline, there is always a feeling of dread and reluctance once I accept a writing job. There is euphoria when you get the offer and euphoria when you complete the thing, but in the middle, there's some discomfort. I'm trying to build my life to eliminate discomfort. Plus I have so many other things to do that I enjoy more. So I charge top dollar for any writing assignment I accept today, to overcome that temporary discomfort. However, there is no doubt I'm worth it. So there you have it -- I've become an egotistical, lazy, greedy, whiner. :)

    We attended a meeting at the museum on Friday to find ways to match their price increases with our trolley tour/museum combination prices. Bottom line, it looks like we'll be adding another ticket for "students."

    We also recommended they use the low powered radio systems I've been researching so they can talk to visitors before they enter the facility. They seem interested and the price is very inexpensive for the numerous benefits.

    Chris, our trailer park manager called this morning to check in. She's dealing with too many kids visiting one of our tenants. She's good at nipping problems in the bud and we're delighted we have her there running things.

    The Pioneer Complex has had a burst of calls on my rental ads but no takers yet. It's a great property and I know it will rent, it's just a matter of who and when. Once it DOES rent, it will make a big impact on our monthly standard of living.

    The Rotary script is 90% done and is due this Thursday. Our writing committee met last night to finish casting the parts and getting concepts for one-liners we'll have our "hecklers" use in the show. We're building a presidential box that will hold two hecklers (like the Muppets) who will complain and crack jokes after each act. We'd assigned this writing to another member of the club but he bailed out at the last minute after accepting the assignment weeks ago. So we called a special meeting last night to nail down some concepts. I'll turn those ideas into a finished script today.

    We saw the golf ball movie for the first time last night and it's tremendous! We're playing the movie at the bneginning of the show. Our show title is "Codyshack: Putt Up or Shut-Up" so it's a golf theme. Basically, we have someone tap the "ceremonial first putt" to get the show started. The ball is hit off stage and then a movie starts showing where the ball goes (traveling all over town). The ball then ends its journey back in the auditorium live and we start the show. It's a great idea that was executed wonderfully by Mike & Brad, two guys on our writing committee. It will be hilarious.

    The Rotary Show radio ads we're running are getting great reviews too, so all indications are that this show will be a winner.

    My buddy's cancer surgery was successful and he made it back home last night after a few days in the hospital. Now he has the long road of chemo and radiation. He's a reminder that when you have your health, you really do have everything you need. A healthy person should never hesitate to follow his/her dreams because nothing external to themselves is stopping them.

    Which reminds me that we give our Career Day presentation to high school students this Wednesday. We've done it many times before so it doesn't require much preparation. I do want to update the content emphasis though to better match our title: "Retire by the Age of 30."

    Margie has to complete the Rotary Show program today. Which once more pushes our "Christmas Letter" project aside. It's almost humorous now. I thought I was kidding earlier when I called it our "Easter Update."

    The hold up is that darn photo page. The quality changed with her new computer and she has avoided troubleshooting what went haywire. So the letter sits there awaiting the photos.

    I signed up for two affiliate programs over the weekend. So now I'll earn commissions from Nightingale-Conant and CareerBuilder.com where you can Search over 900,000 Jobs.

    If you enjoy inspiration, motivation and personal growth, I highly recommend visiting Nightingale-Conant. My life journey has been greatly enhanced by tape sets I've purchased by Earl Nightingale, Tony Roberts, Jay Abraham and Robert Allen. Nightingale-Conant has the world's largest selection and offers fast shipping and great guarantees. I love turning unproductive drive time into life-changing learning time! They call their tape sets "Dashboard University" and it is true! Investing in yourself is the best money you will ever spend.

    CareerBuilder.com compiles employment ads from the largest circulation newspapers. For those of you who are entrepreneurs like me, I suggest using these ads as "opportunity notices." Most companies don't realize they can hire a freelancer to do the "job" they are advertising much cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. If you make a pitch and spell out the savings, you can snag assignments that you'd never otherwise secure.

    These savings include payroll taxes & unemployment/workman's compensation insurance, vacations, sick time and holiday pay, workspace and utilities, equipment and training, administrative supervision and employee theft. Add it all up and you can easily save an employer 30 to 50% of the cost of a full-time employee.

    2/15/05 2:26 pm

    Update: I've achieved #1 rankings at Google and Yahoo for several keywords. "Free inspirational columns," "inspirational columns," "worlds best writer" and "worlds best customer service tips." These top rankings mean that if anyone in the world types those search terms into Google or Yahoo, my web sites will pop up as the #1 link on the list.

    Having lots of free content is absolutely the secret to getting high rankings.

    Rotary script is almost done. Just need to assign some casting and then verify I have entered all the lighting, sound and stage instructions. It goes to the bank for copies on Wednesday and is distributed to club members on Thursday. Practices begin next Monday.

    I have lots more details to square away regarding additional sound effects and PowerPoint photos so I'll be working this show preparation everyday through the 26th. It really looks strong on paper, the public should love it.

    Margie is driving up to Billings to pick up our oldest daughter Jen. Her plane couldn't land in Cody last night due to the snow, so she ended up in Idaho Falls last night and then Billings this morning.

    She went to San Diego to see her husband who is in the Navy and shipping out to the Middle East by the end of the month.

    She's not thrilled because they have a new baby and he was to return home from one 6-month deployment in December and here he goes off on another. These military families really have to put up with a lot.

    The dogs just called me upstairs to let me know the UPS truck was parked across the street. It's funny how they can hear the truck and instantly know what it is. Even funnier that they see it as an intruder.

    I'm a big dog lover, so being able to work with them at home is one MORE reason to love being an entrepreneur.

    Our Career Day speech at the high school is tomorrow morning. Only 7 kids have signed up for our session. They have like 90 different speakers for 850 kids, so we're right about at the average number of kids. But I was hoping for more. Oh well, the ones who attend get the chance to have their lives veer off in a better direction. And you know what? Only a small percentage of people have the ambition, self-discipline, courage and brain power to become self-employed anyway. And that's OK. Those who are willing to work harder and take risks get to harvest the unlimited supply of opportunities that aren't being snatched up by the majority of people who will never embrace them because they have a "job mentality.".

    I have two other meetings tomorrow. One is the chamber's Marketing Council and the other is a road construction mitigation committee to reduce the impact Yellowstone road construction will have on us the next two years. We get involved in lots of these types of groups so we have a say in what happens. We also have the time (ha ha) to attend because we don't work a "real job." (Double ha ha).

    I'm up to 70 columns posted on my inspirational column web page. Check it out.

    2/18/05 6:16 am

    I've been up since about 3:30 am. I've gotten on this early morning schedule because I'm mentally sharper in the pre-dawn hours. And I've had to put out so much mental work lately, I've needed every minute.

    I finally finished the Rotary Show script. I feel much lighter with that off my back. I'm still rounding up sound effects and digital photos for the show, so my work won't be done until we perform both nights of the show on Feb 25 and 26. THEN I can collapse for a bit.

    I added five more columns to my inspirational column web page this morning. That brings me up to 75 posted of the 108 I have written. I also proofed Margie's Rotary Show bulletin twice so far and have one more round to go. She's been working that show as hard as me and she has more work to go as well.

    I also spent some time this morning and last night reviewing Cody's latest Real Estate Guide. I found a couple of interesting properties, but nothing exciting enough for me to chase.

    Three convenience stores just went on the market, one just three blocks from our house. I may get the numbers, but I'm not too eager to run c-stores again. Did that 10 years for 7-Eleven. They'd have to pencil out tremendously to get my involvement and I doubt that is the case, based on what I see.

    I watched The Apprentice last night. Love that show. They fired the lazy guy who was also a jerk. As they drove him away in the cab, he blamed his demise on his teamates, proving that he has a giant blind spot about himself. He better stay self-employed because no one will hire him now.

    Our Career Day presentation at the high school went well. We ended up with 9 kids and the business teacher attending. One kid approached us after the talk and asked if I'd read, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." Which I had. Him asking immediately let me know he was a cut above his classmates. He told me his parents invest in Real Estate too, so he has great knowledge, great role models and hopefully great ambition. Hopefully we fanned those flames a little bit more for him.

    I know the business teacher enjoyed the talk because she was making notes like mad as we spoke. Either that or she made one heckuva grocery list. :)

    I resigned from the committee that is trying to mitigate the Yellowstone road construction. The Park Service arrived at the meeting Wednesday with the announcement that the contractor wanted to close the road all of May and all of October. And the Park Service was going to let them! This is after they'd released another schedule months ago with NO all day/all night closures. Many tour operators had already booked reservations in May and October.

    The Park Service just doesn't get it. They have no conception that inconveniencing the public and the gateway communities is a bad thing. They do the bare minimum that's required to just get through whatever is front of their face. Very frustrating. And as a volunteer, I don't need to put up with it. I will never be able to influence their behavior so there is no sense spending any more of my time and talents trying to. I can use my time and talents in other areas of community service and make a much bigger impact.

    They should force those Park Service people to watch The Apprentice. There is ALWAYS a way to do things better if you have the desire and creativity. Unfortunately, they have no desire. No passion to provide exceptional customer service to everyone they deal with. I'm sure they are good people, but the system they work in must not reward this type of performance. It is not OK to CLOSE a main entrance to the country's PREMIER NATIONAL PARK. It is not OK to make people wait 30 minutes due to road construction without an apology or an interpretive program or other way to make the experience seem like less of a hassle.

    Being able to walk away from wasting your time is one MORE reason to become an entrepreneur. I feel sorry for the salaried people at the chamber and travel council who HAVE to keep attending those types of meetings.

    I just re-read the last few paragraph rant and am now thinking I must be getting old. It sounds like I have a bad attitude. I really don't. I just see that the Park Service is a customer service disaster that will never change. And I wish they would. But they won't. So no sense getting angry about it. They are what they are. God bless them.

    Time to reflect on one of my favorite quotes: "All mental pain is caused by insisting that reality be different than what it is." I've been insisting. I'll stop now. :)

    2/20/05 11:02 am

    Spent the morning writing letters to local construction companies alerting them to our available property on the 2AB industrial park just north of Cody. This is a great property for someone. The newspaper ads haven't worked very well so I'm trying direct mail to targeted prospects. Renting that property will make a significant improvement in our monthly income.

    Margie & I then sat in the living room throwing the football and talking over our to-do list. Chris, our trailer park manager came over to drop off a rent check so she joined our conversation for about an hour.

    The current cabin vacancy is sort of rented. A man called and said he wanted it sight unseen but has yet to fax us the rental application. He'll be in town Wednesday he said, so hopefully it will be a good match for us both.

    We have a renter interested in the trailer coming up on March 1. She says she wants it as a rental if we don't sell it first. I prefer to sell, so I'm holding out as long as I can. The current tenant there moves at the end of the month so I want a seamless change over.

    Our friends Kathy & Bill are coming over this afternoon. Bill is my buddy who is fighting cancer. He had the surgery and it went well. Chemo and radiation start in a week or so. We'll get the latest info when we visit with them later today.

    Margie & I spoke about getting more from the trolley, dam audio tour, Pioneer Complex and my customer service book. These are all proven money makers that can produce more if we give them more attention. We really need an assistant. But we need more revenue to pay for the person. I feel certain a good assistant could more than pay his/her salary so it's catch-22.

    We'd planned on taking a walk yesterday but that didn't happen. Maybe this afternoon.

    I'm still getting ten mortgage solicitation eamils a day. Never EVER fill out an online form asking for mortgage information. I must be on a thousand mailing lists now. I filled that form out a year ago and the emails are still increasing rather than decreasing.

    2/22/05 8:54 am

    I've been sick the past 36 hours but I'm feeling better now. Fever and chills and congestion. They call it the Cody Crud. I was afraid I was having another kidney stone because I had an achey kidney. That doesn't seem to be the case now.

    Health is everything. Once sick, you realize there is no excuse for failing to make big achievements when you're well.

    We're in rehearsals for the Rotary Show and it's challenging. 40-plus people and it's a volunteer situation so there are lots of no-shows. But they want a part in the show. But you can't count on them. So it is like herding cats. Frustrating. I'm not too eager to head the writing committee again next year. There's been other irritants like a couple of old timers turning in a skit after the main script was completed. They purposely circumnavigated the process and their material didn't fit in with the rest of the show. So it was rejected. Which didn't go over well. Poor communication and poor behavior from people who should be 30 years smarter than me. Ah contraire.

    The specialty acts are also falling apart. Lots of our members who can play an instrument and sing are away during the show this year. The ones that are here are reluctant to perform and one of them wasn't told he was performing, yet he's now listed in the program. Specialty acts have been a major challenge this year. Not my department, but it's causing me most of my headaches. Grrr.

    Then many of the songs are parodies so we need to get music without the words which has proven to be a disaster. Even 95% of karaoke music has backup vocals on it, which makes it worthless when you've changed the words for a parody. I've had two audio guys working on stuff and one guy is so busy I'm getting rotten service. So I can't use him again because I can't count on him. I'm realizing how rare it is to find someone who will do what they promise, when they promise it. If people could see how many problems they cause others by missing deadlines and failing to deliver, they'd be appalled at themselves. If you want to impress someone, do what you promise faster than you promised it.

    I read a quote from a woman somewhere once that nails this thought, "If you do what you promise, I can build an entire empire around you. If you don't, you're just another problem I have to deal with." There are lots of people walking around that have no idea they are creating problems for others.

    Basically, at Rotary, there is a small hard-working group of us wanting to elevate the show quality and a large portion of the rest of the club that doesn't really care. So it's hard to push your vision through sometimes. I'm sure it will come off fine, but it's sure frustrating now. Based on my experience in other organizations, it's pretty much like this in all clubs.

    I'm wrestling with attending a Real Estate convention in April. It's in St. Louis and will take significant time committment to go. Plus it'll cost close to $2,000 by the time we pay fees, hotels, meals and gas. But I really think we'll come out with knowledge that will take our investing to the next level. Margie & I have a five year plan with giant numbers as our goal, so just riding what we have now will not get us there. I'm leaning toward going. It takes lots of sacrifice, self-discipline and demanding work to become financially secure. Those who aren't trying, have no idea. So when you see a rich person, realize how hard they worked to get there. Unless they inherited their money they have used their time and taken risks in ways most of us can't even imagine.

    We decided to rent our trailer that is available March 1. The rental applicant is strong and there are no buyer applicants right now. Plus we have two more trailers available on April 1 that are for sale. Our plan is to sell all our singlewides over the next couple years.

    The vacant cabin is supposed to be rented tomorrow but I have not received the promised rental application. Another case of someone promising but not delivering. Hopefully he'll make up for it when he arrives tomorrow. If he shows up and qualifies, that will put us at 100% occupied.

    Margie is making PowerPoint ads for businesses who donated money for the Rotary Show. We've got two solid months of full-time work invested in this thing. As soon as the show is over, she has to get out and sell ads for our Cody Keepsake book. I'll write and update the content. That's our March/April project.

    No word from the insurance adjuster who was to look at the water damage at our Lovell office building. I'll call my insurance agent this morning.

    We also need to arrange a meeting with the Buffalo Bill Dam board to discuss ways to increase audio tour rentals. That's a volunteer group so there are challenges to getting buy-in and agreement of what should be possible.

    One MORE reason why so few people are entrepreneurs.

    The border collie is barking at someone who just dropped by to see Margie upstairs, so I'll close for today.

    2/23/05 8:08 am

    I'm still sick. Definately the Cody Crud. Congested in my throat and chest. Sore throat. It's preventing me from singing and I need to practice my Rotary Show solo, "The Mayor Song." Greg in our club bailed me out by physically playing and recording the background music I need for that song. He also performed the song bed for the "Real Men of Genius" radio ad we created. He's very talented. But very busy. I wish I could dream up a way to make us both rich creating parodies. I can write them all day long and he can play them right out of thin air.

    Rotary Show practice went much better last night. I feel much better about it than I did after Monday night. Tonight is full prop/audio/visual rehearsal so we'll get a better flavor of what this show looks like.

    Casting is still a challenge. Lots of no-shows again last night. Hard to know who we can count on. I update the script for the last time this morning. A few people want more parts so I'll likely reassign some parts from the no-shows.

    This blog has become all Rotary, all the time. So you see how it's filled my life. Fear not, we'll return to our entrepreneur, western history and fun miscellaneous topics as soon as the show is over this weekend.

    2/25/05 7:37 am

    Show day has finally arrived! Dress rehearsal went pretty well last night. The specialty acts that were all uncertain and falling apart on Monday were all filled and were performed wonderfully. They add so much to the show. The two I was worried that would not be performed are both song parodies and now will be performed. They should get a great response.

    Margie & I were on the radio with Rob, our show director, yesterday morning promoting the show. The host played a couple of the commercials we cut as part of our segment. He says they're going to submit the "Budweiser" spoof ad we cut for the "Best Radio Commercial" awards they enter every year.

    Then I went home and pitched the show to Allison, the local Billings Gazette reporter. She interviewed me on the phone and then came out to dress rehearsal for a photo. We had a zany photo pose and she took lots of shots but it didn't make the paper. Her article, however was wonderful. I really like and respect her. She's a great writer and she laughs easy. I look forward to working with her lots more in the future.

    I came up with a good golf costume for the show. It's traditional to dress in any wild and crazy way. Men sometimes dress as women, women like men and tie dye, wigs, and creative props are the norm. So I've got the classic "Payne Stewart" look going -- knickers with striped tights from the knees down, pullover sweater and one of those no-brim golf/Chauffeur hats.

    I've still got the Cody Crud. My throat is raw so I can't do any talking so I can save my voice for my song solo. I feel OK except for between my chin and my chest. I want to get through the two show nights and then heal before I head off to Kentucky next week.

    We're a day behind schedule for billing the trailer park, so we have to get that done this morning. The rent increase kicks in with this billing so I look forward to the increased income. Nice to be able to give yourself a raise. One MORE reason to be an entrepreneur. But on the other hand, the money will be going to making more needed repairs and improvements in the park, so I wan't see any of it for a while yet.

    The man who verbally rented the cabin over the phone never showed up. He never filled out the rental application either. People are funny. So we still have one vacancy out of 32.

    More trouble at the Lovell office building. The tenant who rents the shop portion of our building hit an interior wall while working on his car. Damaged both sides of the wall. He didn't report it either. Our handyman discovered the damage and when confronted by our property manager, the tenant admitted it. People are funny.

    I called a past tenant who still owes us $850 for breaking a lease. She's been holding me off for months and is promising $300 will be mailed today. The balance when hubbie gets tax return in a month or two. I'm going to turn it over to our lawyer if I don't get this check. Then we'd sue them for the entire $13,000 that would have been payable over the life of the lease, rather than the $850 settlement we agreed to. People are funny.

    I decided to skip the Real Estate convention this year. Too much time, money and effort required during an already busy time for us. Plus, we need a new car for a trip of that distance and we're not interested in making that purchase until later in the summer when the trolley money is flowing heavy again.

    I guess it must sound like owning real estate is a hassle and I guess it is. But it sure isn't a hassle 40 hours a week like working a job. And it's far more lucrative than any job I know about.

    Margie is at a Cody Events Committee meeting this morning. The St Patty's Day parade is coming up. If I could only get her to work so passionately for us, we could retire in about 10 minutes. The Christmas letter project is dead on her desk again under the latest pile of volunteer duties she has stacked up. Volunteering has many benefits but it takes a heavy toll against the timeframes of our personal goals. Where you spend your time and energy determines what you achieve. It's a tricky balance and we are not even close to finding such balance.

    2/28/05 2:28 am

    Wow, just looked at the clock and it's earlier than I thought. I awoke feeling better, hopefully I'm getting over this crud I've had for a week. I think I literally made myself sick over that Rotary Show because I never get sick.

    The show went pretty bad on Friday night and pretty good on Saturday night. At least that was my perception. I hear the audience saw it as good both nights.

    The Friday night show had way too many mistakes -- missed light and sound cues, clumsily-delivered lines and too much improvising off the script. I was pretty disappointed that night -- and it didn't help that I was pretty sick too. I know that impacted my perception. Yet, Saturday morning a friend of ours called and said the show was in the top three she'd seen since the 1970's.

    Saturday's performance was much better. We hit all the cues and the audience laughed harder. I left the theater feeling proud of that show. Everyone performed well and the timing was crisp. An all around good effort.

    Plus our club earned record income from the show and had the highest attendance we've had in years. So it was a big success. Whew. Glad I did it, glad I'm done.

    We celebrated yesterday by vegging all day. Watched a couple movies and then drove to Yellowstone's East Gate. Saw lots of Big Horn Sheep, four buffalo and a couple hundred deer. Stopped at Dairy Queen for a banana split on the way home. I was in the rack by 7 pm.

    This week I prepare for a trip to Kentucky to do some trolley consulting. I think this will be the start of another income stream. The consultants who visited Cody and told us we had the best trolley tour in the world, also said they knew of enough towns around the country who needed us to show them how to create similar tours. They said they could keep us busy in our off season for years. So we'll see.

    Margie starts selling ads for the Cody Keepsake book today. Her goal is 32 full-page advertisers (we only offer full page ads). A good portion should be restaurants because our #1 question on the trolley is, "where's a good place to eat?"

    This fifth trolley season is a break through season for many reasons. For starters we pay off our original trolley/business loan this summer. This will give us a nice income bump and lighten our debt load in the off season. We're also planning on increasing passenger counts 10-20 per day which will provide another good income bump. Our marketing brochure will be updated and we'll push the Annie Oakley/Frank Butler costumes and characters this summer. We also have the momentum of those consultants telling our town they should tell all visitors to take the trolley tour first. It feels like our efforts have finally hit critical mass.

    The dam audio tour should do better too and I look forward to experimenting with those low power radio units I'm going to buy.

    The trailer park should get the last of its major improvements completed this summer too, so we should be able to start drawing some good income from that this fall. It takes lots of work to build an empire but I can see that we're just months away from it all starting to pay off. The Real Estate income should more than cover our personal monthly expenses and the trolley and audio tour income should then become gravy. Any web site income I generate just becomes gravy on gravy. Financial freedom is within sight.

    I finished that Abraham Lincoln biography about 10 days ago. That was a mother to read. 600 pages and a million characters. Glad I did it, but it was lots of work. It sure helped that we had been in Lincoln's house and his tomb.

    Overall, he started as a disaster of a president and grew into the job. He had a very deliberate and patient management style. In fact, most of the time he was deliberate to the point of being paralyzed. It took him forever to take action and make decisions. Which drove people crazy. But that style was what was needed at the time because it held the union together. Although you could make the case the war should have ended sooner because Lincoln's lack of confidence made him live with incompetent generals much too long. Thank goodness for Grant, Sherman and Sheridan or we'd be two countries today.

    I was delighted to learn how valuable Philip Sheridan had been to Lincoln in the Civil War because he was the general who loved Buffalo Bill's scouting abilities in the Indian Wars. The two served in many campaigns, became great friends and Buffalo Bill named Cody's main street "Sheridan Avenue" after this general.

    3/1/05 10:27 pm

    I'm making headway on this Cody Crud sickness. I finally went to the doctor on Monday and got some antibiodics. Doc said I had some bronchitis in my chest. Been fighting this for 10 days or so.

    I head to Kentucky on Thursday for the trolley consulting. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery and discovering how someone else is approaching their trolley business. I know I can add lots of value too because of my experience, and the materials I'm bringing along, so the trip really should be a stress-free, fun experience.

    I sold a domain name today. A man emailed me, I replied, he stated a number, I agreed and we had an agreement. Whole thing took about 15 minutes. Now I await instructions on how to transfer the name to the buyer and his payment to me. I'm trying an escrow service that does this first. If they don't reply soon, I'll use my bank and call the buyer's web host to make the transfer myself. I find this encouraging because I own 150 other domain names and haven't given their sale the attention they deserve. This buyer found me on the web. Domain names are the Internet's version of Real Estate.

    A tenant in the trailer park decided not to move from the trailer he's renting into a cabin I have coming up. This caused me to change the trailer park web site again. No biggie. I think the two bedroom cabin will go quickly and I still have about 4 weeks to find a renter before it becomes vacant. But it also takes a trailer off the market that was up for sale. That's OK. All trailers are for sale as soon as they become vacant. Over time, we'll sell them all. But if they have renters, that's OK too.

    The rents are starting to come in with the March price increases. No complaints yet. The increase is both needed and fair. Plus we gave about 60 days notice so it was no surprise.

    We took the trolley out for a photo shoot this morning. The local newspaper runs a "Progress Edition" each spring and we bought an ad/feature package from them. They needed a photo so out we went with the trolley.

    Also attended a lunch meeting with the Rotary Show Committee. We talked about what worked and what didn't work in this year's show and the process leading up to it. I resisted agreeing to run the writing committee again next year. Nice to be asked but I prefer to just write some material rather than lead the effort again. Two years is enough. Looks like after expenses that the show will have earned the club about $20,000.

    The Cody Stage is for sale here in Cody. I hear the owner is trying to sell it to the theater group that performs there first. If that falls through, I'm interested in looking at it. Cody needs a summer melodrama and that building is within a block of the Irma Hotel, which makes it convenient for the nightly shoot-out crowd and our trolley station. Once I return from Kentucky, I'm going to talk with the owner.

    3/7/05 4:59 pm

    I had quite the interesting 4-day weekend. I was hired by Tony Moreno to fly out to Lexington, Kentucky and provide consulting services for his start-up trolley tour business. Tony found me on the Internet by searching Google for trolley tour companies. As he read my information and then my blog, he realized how much we had in common and gave me a call to ask lots of questions. I answered them as I do for anyone who calls, and a few days later Tony called with the offer to fly me out and pay me to consult. The whole thing happened at Tony's request after he found me on the Internet.

    So I flew out to the epicenter of the best thouroughbred horse breeding area in the world. Tony will take people from Kentucky's Horse Park (think horse-related museum and theme park) and take them to a working horse farm, share the entire life cycle of a potential championship horse and then end the tour at "Old Friends," a retirement home that takes in past champion horses who might otherwise end up at a slaughterhouse. Old Friends makes sure these special horses enjoy their last years in comfort. Tony's trolley tour passengers will get to feed and pet these horses who include Secretariot's (1973 triple crown winner) grandson and Sunshine Forever who earned $27 million in his career.

    We mapped out Tony's route and got some content ideas on paper and shared all our operational paperwork and advice while we drove throughout Kentucky's spectacular horse farms.

    Tony also has renovated three old buildings into one large restaurant, a bookshop and a theatre. The project looks great and he has tenants in there helping pay the note. I was envious of the possibilities.

    Anyway, it was a fun, creative and learning weekend for us all that was made possible by the Internet. The only downside to the trip is that now I want to buy a horse farm. :)

    During my stay, Tony put me up at the Historic Scottwood Bed & Breakfast in Midway, Kentucky. I highly recommend it. It's owned by Tim & Annette Grahl. Tim is a former company president and Annette a former school teacher. Delightful, friendly people who found the perfect mix between attentive service and giving you enough privacy. Annette's breakfasts are spectacular! The B & B is located on a creek just a couple minutes from Midway (named because it is midway between Lexington and the state capital of Frankfurt) and about ten minutes from Lexington. Tell them the trolley guy from Cody, Wyoming sent you and it will freak them out.

    I was over that Cody Crud sickness this weekend but I feel it coming back on. I stopped taking the antibiodics this weekend because they were making me queasy. So I started them again today and sure enough, I'm queasy again.

    Before I left for Kentucky, I completed the sale of the domain name EverythingCooking.com. It sold for $1,000.00 which I found encouraging since I own another 150 "everything" names. You read about people selling them successfully, so you think you can do it. But when you REALLY do it, now you KNOW you can do it, and for higher amounts.

    That too, came through entirely by the Internet. The buyer must have keyed in the name and was sent to my "Domain Names For Sale" page. He sent me an email expressing his interest and within 15 minutes we'd agreed upon the price. By the next day I had figured out how to transfer ownership and get paid and we completed the deal within 24 hours of him making first contact. We did it all by email. I love the Internet.

    I also received another inquiry for a sample copy of my customer service booklet. This too, came from the prospect finding the booklet on my web site. Things are starting to pick up.

    Today I returned to a desk full of mail, hundreds of emails and lots of rent checks. Rents are due on the first and considered late after the 5th, so most people pay between the 1st and 5th. Only a couple lates left at the trailer park so I'm happy with collections so far.

    My park manager talked me into a little raise to cover the gas and mileage she uses running park errands plus a little extra. She's worth it as long as the increases occur at reasonable intervals.

    Had a call from a prospective warehouse/fenced yard storage candidate. He's gathering options and will get back to me in a couple weeks.

    During my trip I bought another book in the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" series called, "Rich Dad's Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest in, That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!" I bought this book on the road for $19.95 and I could have bought it through the link above at my own store for $13.75. But I didn't know it existed until I saw it at the airport book shop. If you ever order books, I'd appreciate you shopping my store because it will make me a little money while it saves you a LOT of money. The store link (Feed Your Soul) is on my home page.

    I've read 95% of this "Rich Dad" book and it is great. It has me motivated to start another, larger business. Starting businesses is one of the best ways of creating assets out of thin air. Buying assets like rental properties can be a good thing, but creating assets out of thin air is much better, with chances of spectacular returns. The idea is to create businesses with systems and other people running them so you are free to supervise a manager, provide direction and search for passive income generating assets to purchase with the excessive cash generated by your new business. If the business gets large enough, you can sell it outright or take it public and sell shares of stock for huge gains. Once you understand that process, you can repeat it as many times as you have energy and interest for.

    I finally took the dogs out to Rattlesnake Mountain for a walk this afternoon. I've been wanting to do that for weeks but haven't been able. I feel free again with the Rotary Show and the Kentucky trip behind me.

    3/8/05 6:04 am

    It is nice to be home! Margie & I had a great night and morning. This is the perfect time of year for us. We have work ahead of us, but nothing killer yet. It's not trolley season yet, but the holidays, our fall vacation and the Rotary Show are all behind us. The kids have moved out of the house so we have total privacy. We have some time, some money, and most of our health. Life is good.

    Margie modeled some new "Annie Oakley" clothing she bought for our tours and she looks spectacularly gorgeous. Better yet, the stuff will look great OFF the tours too. Now I have to catch up with a "Frank Butler" wardrobe.

    The National Park Service relented and has announced it will NOT be closing the east gate of Yellowstone National Park all of May and all of October for construction like they had planned. They got creamed in the press and landslided from letters including one from the state governor telling them their plan was totally unacceptable. Then our chamber director had to thank the park service for not closing the gate for two solid months after they "reconsidered."

    What a load of crap. "Thank you for deciding not to screw us after all." They should be apologizing to us for even suggesting such a thing. I would not be chamber director for all the tea in China. To have to kiss their butts so you can work with them in the future is just too painful and insincere an activity for me. One MORE reason to run your own business in the private sector.

    So now the roads beyond the east gate will stay open with short daytime delays and night closures while they work. This will also likely extend the construction into 2007. This works fine for 95% of all travelers, although the park service still needs to add ways to entertain/educate the visitors who get stopped for the occassional 15-30 minute construction delays.

    I think we will have a good trolley season this summer. We have plans and ideas that should boost ridership 10-20 per day and that will make a huge impact in our personal income. Plus our positive reputation continues to grow.

    I'm going to depart and add a few more columns to my inspirational column web page. See you tomorrow!

    3/10/05 7:02 am

    I read an article yesterday saying gas prices will be about 15 cents a gallon higher this summer over last summer. So if a traveler gets 20 miles per gallon, they buy 50 gallons of gas per 1,000 miles. So they will spend $7.50 per 1,000 miles more in gas. That would not affect my vacation plans. Most travelers' trips are less than 2,000 miles so hopefully 15 bucks won't slow traffic to Cody.

    I attended a meeting with the Rotary writers last night to hash over what worked and didn't work in the show this year. While I was in Kentucky one of the Rotary members launched an attack on the show quality at a club meeting. He claimed our pianist was upset with the edginess of the show and was going to quit because of it. When one of the club board members interviewed her, he learned those comments were false. And the complainer is a 27-year member who rarely shows up for meetings anymore and has managed to alienate most of the club by his abrasive behavior. His comments brought Margie to tears so I was glad I wasn't there to see it. Now there are discussions about throwing the guy out of the club and there is lots of support for that. He just rubs everyone the wrong way and is very negative, pompous and egotistical. I can't imagine going through life with that giant blind spot about myself. God bless him.

    Also, I've apparently lost a friend over our spoofs of the mini-golf course. The couple who proposed the course -- who I vigorously defended at the city council meeting -- are good friends. That issue became the big issue of the year in town so the Rotary Show HAD to spoof it. To minimize their pain, I tried to make them the victim, rather than the villian in our jokes and I rejected one submitted skit that was too harsh toward them. Nevertheless, the wife of the couple took the city rejection hard and our jokes must have pushed her over the top because she couldn't speak to me or acknowledge me last night. They happened to be sitting behind us at the bar where we met. Small world, small town. I'm sad because I like her and thought I was protecting her the best I could. I don't think they attended the show so I suspect they are getting their info about the show second hand, which might not be an accurate portrayal.

    So lets add this up my scorecard here -- 200 hours of work, complaints from the peanut gallery, lost friendships... Ouch. Luckily most of the comments are overwhelmingly positive about the show. Most are saying it is one of the best shows ever. I'm avoiding this next year because before this drama erupted, I'd announced I won't run the writing committee again, although I will serve as a writer.

    These past few paragraphs are a perfect example of stuff that may be too private to post here. Yet, the best blogs share real challenges and real events. And my life isn't all peaches and cream 24/7 so I figure you should read the good with the bad.

    Margie is out selling ads for the Cody Keepsake book and is off to a great start. Yesterday she closed three sales and got two maybes. She's great at selling anything and the trolley is established enough that the "selling" is merely pointing out how the trolley can help others' businesses. So it is really more sharing than selling.

    I added some new content on our trolley website yesterday. That site is hosted on another server so I have to go through friends who own that company to make any changes. That is frustrating and we are trying to arrange a re-design of the web site so we have total access to make all changes ourselves. It's a $1700 project though and is very complex. So time and money have prevented us from providing the content to the designers to get it started. So we're making the best of what we have up now.

    The lady who owes us the $800 settlement for breaking a two-year mobile home lease never paid, never contacted us and her phone is now disconnected. So I get to sue her for the entire $13,200 she committed to in her lease. I look forward to the learning experience and I'm sure my attorney will appreciate the business.

    On the upside, we received an application and deposit for a two bedroom cabin we have available at the end of the month. We'll check the application today. We are still carrying a vacancy in our one bedroom cabin but the rest of the park is full.

    Did I mention the insurance company denied the water damage claim on our Lovell office? My insurance agent says she disagrees and is searching for more information. I hope she comes through. And we've requested a review of every insurance policy we own to avoid any such problem in the future.

    What angers me about this is it is my own fault because I let others drop the ball until it landed on me. The place had frozen pipes before so I insisted the problem be permanently solved before closing. The Realtor verbally agreed. The prior owner supposedly verbally agreed with the Realtor. It just didn't happen. And I didn't stop the sale over it. Then my insurance agent gave me a last minute binder before closing and took seven months to get me the policy. So I had no idea what coverage I had. Grrrr. My fault because I didn't insist more aggressively. So I've learned. From now on, my needs are every bit as important as the others in my deals. All deals have to work for me too. If I don't take care of me, no one else will.

    We meet with our rep at the city today to discuss what happens with the COLT bus this summer. It seems that the city is leaning toward letting us run it again this summer. If so, we have to get moving because there is lots to do. At the least, the council has voiced its support so the program should survive in some form. But it also depends on the level of WY DOT support and I have no idea if they have funding for the city. If not, anything could happen.

    Two guys met with me on Tuesday to talk about selling a "master ticket" for Cody's main attractions. They envision a $50 ticket that gets you in the museum, rodeo, trolley and COLT bus. A couple bucks will go to a fund to build a convention center in town. The tickets will include discounts from local restaurants to make the value better for the buyer.

    I told them I was game if they could get the other attractions support and work out an easy way to reimburse us for the sales. They seemed to be leaning toward launching this in 2006. I shared my best advice and appreciate hearing from anyone trying to start something new in town.

    3/12/05 7:05 am

    Our big event today is the St Patrick's Day parade. The trolley will get decorated and participate. Then we drive a group around town with bagpipers to bars and solicit donations to fund future events. Extortion by bagpipe. Only in America.

    Margie is one of the group leaders so completing today gets her off the hook until the Christmas parade.

    We approved the tenant for the 2 bedroom cabin and she moves in as soon as the old tenants move out. Got another nibble on trailer #4 that is for sale. Chris is giving a showing there tomorrow.

    No word on Lovell yet from my insurance agent.

    The Rotary Show jet wash continues. Margie got two comments from people saying it was amazingly hilarious. I got an email from people we spoofed saying they were unhappy about it. So it goes.

    You put yourself out front and you get good and bad. So I'm left with this concluding thought on the whole affair: I can't control how 2,000 people react to an event. I can't even control how ONE other person reacts to an event. But I CAN control how I react to their reactions. And I choose to not hurt myself because they choose to hurt themselves. I did the best I could with the skills and resources I had. No malice was intended to anyone.

    I'm still looking at starting another online business. But I'm quickly running out of time before trolley season starts for us in late May. So I'll likely settle for completing my new customer service website Worlds-Best-Customer-Service-Tips.com . I have about 30 pages of content to add so that's an ambitious goal.

    I have managed to get 90 of my columns added to my Free Inspirational Columns page. I have 108 in inventory, so 18 more to add.

    Margie's "Cody Keepsake" sales efforts continue to get a high conversion rate. She's only received one "no" so far. We'll invoice the ones she has so far, this weekend.

    The COLT bus meeting collected more info about what would happen if we were asked to run it again. We have no idea which way it will go. The council decides soon. They have many options and we frankly don't care which way it goes as long as they continue the service. If we are selected to run it again, we have lots to do in a short time period. But that has been the case ever since we started the thing. There has always been a decision bottleneck somewhere right up to the last minute.

    We need to arrange a meeting with the dam board this week. Our audio tour season opens on May 1 and we have to do all we can to get those rental numbers up. We owe it to the 60,000 summer visitors there to do a better job of explaining why our audio tour will tremendously improve their experience. If they don't take the audio tour they truly miss out and we've done them a disservice.

    The Chamber of Commerce agreed to sell our trolley tickets yesterday. They get 30,000 people at their visitor center each summer so that should give us a sales boost. It'll also get people to stay in town longer, so it's good for everyone.

    So our sales locations are strong -- we're sold at the two largest hotels, two largest campgrounds, largest attended attraction, the chamber and our booth at the Irma Hotel. Margie is just starting to recruit people to work in our ticket booth this summer.

    I finished reading "Rich Dad's Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest in, That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!" I highly recommend it if you have read the first Rich Dad, Poor Dad book. The "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book should be read by everyone who has a desire to gain financial freedom. It should also be required reading in every high school.

    3/14/05 5:30 am

    Interesting day at the trailer park yesterday. We recently sold a trailer (2 months ago) to a couple who now say they can't keep it and want to turn it back over to us. Financially that is a good deal for us if we can resell it or rent it out quickly. Their home payments and lot rent added up to about what their rent was so no loss there. Plus we got their $750 down payment and they'll lose their security deposit for the short notice. Plus they made some inprovements on the trailer so we'll get it back in better condition. But there are some hassles with more paperwork and finding a new owner or tenant.

    Another tenant is late with rent and gave our manager lip when she tried to collect so we know he's likely a shortimer now. I have to write him a letter.

    Finally, a third tenant who has been late has our manager concerned that he might be stringing her along, so he gets a letter too. These sorts of things tend to happen in bursts and remind us that we will always need to have a park manager there if we want freedom to pursue our other businesses.

    The man who arrived to look at trailer #4 mixed up some other property's low-ball price so he had sticker shock when he heard our price and left.

    We invoiced the Cody Keepsake and trolley advertising buyers yesterday and Margie had sold to nine different businesses last week. A tenth said yes to one type of ad and maybe on another. That keeps her on pace to sell to 32 businesses by March 25.

    I've got my bank setting up an escrow service for me so I'm better prepared when I sell the next domain name. I was surprised to see that when you type in "blue chip domain names" my domain page appears #1 on Google. The trouble is that I don't think very many people type in that phrase. So I'll get back to sending pitch letters to hand-picked businesses. It's exciting to realize that one of the names I own could go for $1 million or more if the right company and situation converges. Others are selling domain names for that much and more, why not me?

    The St. Patrick's Day parade Saturday went well. It was sparsely attended because it snowed all day and the number of floats was down because of that. I'm thinking there were about 12 floats. But we had fun. We picked up the assisted living ladies at Beehive Homes so they could ride in the parade. They enjoyed it and have been in parades with us in the past.

    Then we visited local bars with the bagpipers who were very good. I especially liked hearing them play "Amazing Graze."

    I made it to three bars before I tired and went home. Margie hung in until the end and hit two more bars with them and others in the parade committee. The committee raised a few hundred bucks so have money for their next Christmas events and parade.

    Today we are scheduled to attend the dedication ceremony for a new interpretive walking trail at Old Trail Town, a collection of authentic cabins collected from all over Wyoming and Montana. They date 1850-1901 (different dates are in various print pieces) and have been assembled to form an old town.

    Anyway, the new trail is next to the buildings and is on land that was the original town site of Cody, then named "Cody City." After a year, the 1895 residents realized they had lousy access to the river in the deep canyon, and moved the entire town a mile east to its present location and changed its name to "Cody." Click here to learn more about Old Trail Town.

    We are buying a $500 "bench brand" to help the fundraising efforts there. They'll brand our trolley logo on a bench along the trail.

    Retired US Senator Al Simpson lives in Cody and is active in the Friends of Park County History group and will speak at the dedication today. Apparently, he told people in our club he loved the Rotary Show this year. He's a big trolley fan too so I look forward to seeing him today.

    Margie & I penciled out an outline for the new trolley web site. We're now leaning toward having our web design friends just set up the front page and create a template page we can dupicate for the remaining pages. We'll then add our own text and photos. Anything to get it out of its current "frames" layout and get us in control of making all changes ourselves.

    We ended the day watching the Travel Channel's best log homes and lake homes. Amazing what money can create. Which is one more reason why I'm looking at my domain names as lottery tickets that need a bit more work before they can be cashed in. I feel confident we will become paper millionaires within the next five years, but I'd sure like to shave time off that by selling some big domains. Besides, a million isn't what it used to be and that's mostly retirement money. If we want a larger house on the water somewhere now, we need to create another large income stream first.

    Time to come back to earth and go write those collection letters. If nothing else, we have a very diverse life.

    3/15/05 6:49 am

    More excitement at the trailer park yesterday. A tenant moved out in the early morning with no notice. They are paid up through the end of the month and they lose their $300 security deposit. This is the tenant that was going to move into the 2 bedroom cabin but changed his mind. Hmmmmm..... no wonder. People.

    Another tenant whose girlfriend just moved out wants this vacancy because it is smaller and cheaper per month. So we'll likely do that and then put his 3 bedroom on the sales/rental market. 3 bedrooms usually rent faster than the diappearing tenant's 2 bedroom, so that should work to our benefit.

    I meet other tenants at the courthouse this morning to have them sign the trailer they bought, back over to me. Another hassle, but no financial loss. Still, I'd prefer owning that promissary note than that trailer. Another tenant is already interested in buying it. Then her trailer would enter the shuffle that is occurring there.

    Things stay quiet at the park too long and you know you're in for a burst of activity. Better now than in the summer. People tend to move more often in the spring and fall so we should have more prospects looking to move in, to help compensate for the tenants we have looking to move out.

    Anyway, we only have two vacancies right now and have a few weeks to plug the others before they become vacant. Time to institute Ted Turner's slogan, "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise."

    We missed the ceremony at Old Trail Town yesterday. I got the time wrong somehow. Saw a nice photo in the paper of the leaders all with shovels in their hands.

    Margie sold three more trolley ads yesterday. Most were for the Cody Keepsake but some people are still buying inside trolley ads and slide show ads. I went on one sales call with a couple we've been wanting to get to know better. Neat people.

    Our daughter took her Wyoming cosmotology license test Sunday. It turns out converting her California license isn't that tough. She gets the results in a week and is already working at a beauty shop doing non-cutting activities as she waits for the results.

    Today is the 15th of the month which is when the bulk of my mortgage payments are due. The rental properties all pay for themselves so they are never a problem. The two trolley payments in the off season get a little dicey though and they are due today. I have the money so no problem this month. The first trolley loan gets paid off this summer so I look forward to that going away. It'll be a nice pay raise for us and make the off season cashflow way more comfortable.

    I've definately decided to purchase low-powered radio for the trolley business. I'll put one at the trolley ticket booth and maybe the chamber. I get to play a 2-3 minute repeating message that can be picked up within a 300 foot radius of the broadcast unit on normal radio. I'd also like to get one for the dam audio tour if I can get board approval. If it works, I might buy ten of them. I have more ideas than Davy Crockett.

    I've added more Free Inspirational Columns to my web site and now have 100 posted. My goal is to get e-zines, e-newsletters, publications and web sites to post them. My link is at the end of each column so that will hopefully drive traffic to my web sites.

    I'm using the same strategy to build my new customer service web site. I'm working on posting 100 free customer service articles. The site will be a free resource to all customer service managers, executives and business owners. They can stop by and get free tips, articles, advice, jokes and quotes for their customer service presentations and training classes. And by the way, they can buy my customer service booklet as a training tool or value-added premium. Good, free, content attracts traffic.

    I had a fun moment this weekend. I was standing by the fireplace in the Irma Hotel listening to the bagpipers. I was looking at the west wall where Buffalo Bill stood for his famous photo next to his old registration desk. The place was packed and dripping with history. I looked around wondering if I might one day own Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel.

    We've already told the owner we're interested if he ever sells. The place has multiple income streams but the building is 103 years old so will soon need a major renovation. That will likely cost millions. Perhaps there are grants available for that. Anyway, Margie & I would sure respect and showcase the history there. You have to dream before you manifest.

    The same thing happened with our trailer park by the river. We drove through wishing we owned it and two years later, we did. It took that long for the universe to calibrate our destiny. Perhaps the same calibrations are occuring right now as I type.

    I just let the dogs out. It's Tuesday morning which means the garbage truck is working its way down the alley. The dogs love running along the fence "chasing" it. Some days, it's just fun to bark.

    3/17/05 6:44 pm

    Quick entry before "The Apprentice" comes on.

    I sent out about 150 customer service booklet sales emails to Restaurant/hotel trade show exhibitors today. I got one response for a review copy of my customer service booklet. Trade shows are perhaps the best market for my booklet. I want to sell it in bulk quantities and it makes a far more valuable free premium than a keychain.

    If this strategy works I'll have another good income stream because there are dozens of huge trade shows every week.

    It's snowing like mad outside right now. It rained and snowed and hailed all day -- weird weather day.

    Margie's trolley ad sales are still going well. She's about halfway to her goal so far. Once she finishes those, my work starts updating the content in the Cody Keepsake book. I have some research to do about Buffalo Bill's divorce attempts and we might toss in a small article about Amelia Earhart's connection to this area.

    I got some info in the mail from a Realtor about a trailer park that is on the market in Powell, 20 miles east of here. The numbers need more massaging before I can tell if it's worth pursuing.

    We met with our trolley web designer today and got a little bit closer to getting a new trolley web site. The ball is back in Margie's court now. She needs to provide a list of web sites she likes so the designer gets a feel of what Margie is looking for. I don't dabble much in design, I'm in charge of content. A man learns what he's good at after 26 years of marriage. :)

    3/18/05 6:36 am

    The county bought the Marathon Building yesterday for $4 million. I invested a number of hours looking at that deal trying to make it work. Bottom line, I couldn't justify the risk for the possible rewards. Also, they wouldn't release much information unless you proved you were qualified as able to pay the price. I don't have that kind of money but I know investors who do. But I can't approach investors without a solid plan. So I couldn't get enough info to answer the questions to create a plan. Now most of the purchase info was released and I can see the county got a great deal and great payment terms. I suspected that was possible.

    When I was looking at the numbers, the price was 6 to 8 million. I heard they might let it go for $5 million. Two millionaires we know have offered to invest with us if we come up with a profitable project so I figure we could have gotten financing if we could have come up with a solid plan. Oh well, at least the building will now pretty much stay there as is. It's a beautiful 23 acre tract of prime real estate with ponds, fountains and paved walking paths. I figure the land is worth $2 million alone and I would have had to sub-divide it to make the deal work for me.

    The good part for us is that they are planning to move the county's public library to the Marathon Building and it is just one block from our house. We also live one block from the city's $12 million Rec Center/Indoor Ice Rink. So our house just got a bit more valuable.

    Today we have a city assessment meeting at City Hall. Last minute planning for next week's close look at Cody. Assessors with various talents arrive in Cody, tour the town and hold 25 listening sessions to learn what citizens think are Cody's biggest problems, shortcomings and assets. The data collected will help guide decisions here for the next 2, 5 10 and 20 years. Margie & I are on the assessment organizing committee and will take the out-of-town assessment team on a city tour Monday morning and transport them to all the public meetings in the trolley Monday through Thursday.

    As business owners, I'm interested in learning what citizens think is "missing" here. That info might identify a new business opportunity.

    I've written to Clement Communications seeking authorization to post some of the articles I wrote for their customer service newsletter on my new customer service web site. This will generate traffic for us both. It's a weird situation because I am the author, but they paid me to write them so they own the copyrights. If they decline, I'll just write my own articles from scratch and keep all the traffic for myself. It's not like I don't know the subject. :)

    Last night I watched programs on distillaries and saloons. When in Kentucky I was able to tour the Woodford Reserve Distillary and it was very interesting. Woodford Reserve is a small-batch super premium bourbon. They store it in wooden barrels for about 7 years. At the end of the tour, they give you a half-ounce sample and a free souvenir shot glass. My body doesn't like alcohol so even though I wanted to like the product after I watched how hard they worked to make it, it still tasted like booze to me. If you like booze, I bet you'll like Woodford Reserve.

    I'm going to re-read "The Science of Getting Rich." You can download this free e-book from a website set up by Rebecca Fine. Basically, the book teaches and reminds that we don't have to manifest everything ourselves. A clear and powerful image held in mind orders the universe to asemble the desire and propel it your way. But if you doubt, or if you insist on the "how" and "when" you mess up the process and the thing never arrives.

    I know it sounds a little metaphysical, but as you evolve, you learn we're ALL metaphysical. Some just learn to believe it.

    We're supposed to learn what happens with the COLT bus today. Do we run it again or not? If so, what are the budget parameters? If not, when do we hand over and train the city?

    3/20/05 2:49 am

    Up early tonight. I'll work a bit and go back to bed.

    We learned the city wants us to run the COLT bus again for them this summer. But we also learned they want to buy a new, smaller bus. So that leaves many questions and situations to work out during the two short months we have to get the service ready for summer. We'll hear the details next week.

    We had a big photo shoot yesterday in front of Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel. Margie got the local Buffalo Bill lookalike, some friends who help us photograph and design and another friend as a helper to meet us there. We took lots of photos for our Cody Keepsake cover, brochure and business cards. Margie looks very much like Annie Oakley and she did her best to make me look western. Despite not having much to work with, she succeeded.

    We saw the contact sheets from the digital cameras and the developed 35mm film. We have lots of good shots to work with. The best shots have Margie as Annie Oakley with Buffalo Bill. Rifle and all.

    I'm re-reading an Annie Oakley biography. This is the second time I've read it and it's more enjoyable because we have since visited many of Annie's old stomping grounds it discusses. The author did lots of research of newspapers from the cities where Annie performed, which provides lots of detail other Annie bio's lack. She also had access to 8 scrapbooks of newspaper clippings that were compiled and assembled by Annie Oakley and Frank Butler themselves. If you're interested in Annie, I recommend starting with this book.

    I'm also still reading that other book I mentioned yesterday. I often bounce between two books at once.

    This next week is very busy. An assessment team is coming to Cody and we use our trolley to ferry them around all week. We're tied up from about 8 am to 8 pm every night Monday through Thursday. It's all comped to the city because they were smart enough to get us to volunteer to be on the organization committee. We do get time off throughout the day as they hold their listening sessions after we drop them off. We have to go out and practice the tour today because we present it to them first thing tomorrow morning. We still have the old mayor's welcome message as one of our audio clips. The new mayor has agreed to record us a new one, but has a cold so we can't get it done before tomorrow's tour. Just one more thing a small business has to deal with -- election results.

    Today we also have an 11 am brunch at a friend's house this morning. I'm also planning on doing my daughter's taxes today. We'll see.

    The trailer park numbers I was looking at don't work out well enough to justify pursuing the deal. You have to mine a lot of rock to find the gold nuggets.

    The summer is looking promising because we should be able to increase our revenue from various sources. The COLT bus is revenue we weren't counting on, so that's some there. The dam audio tour has to do better than last year, so that's more. We should be able to increase trolley passenger counts with a few ideas we plan to implement, so that's more there. And the customer service web site should be up by summer and that should generate a steady stream of large quantity service book orders. A little from each of those sources can add up to a lot. Let's hope.

    We also hope to have the last of the major projects completed at the trailer park this summer so we can start drawing income out of there over the winter.

    No word yet from the insurance agent on our Lovell claim appeal. This is disappointing because she has not returned my phone call from last week and it's been two weeks since I first spoke to her about the problem. If you want to lose my business, just give me poor service. I think we spend over $20K a year on our various insurances and have asked for a review of all our policies. Then I'm going to put the policies out for bid. We've been renewing with the same agent for the past 4 years without getting any other bids, so it's time to make sure we're getting the best deal.

    I think people are overworked and under-enthused in most companies. Sadly, it seems like only about 10% of the companies out there really "get" customer service. The other 90% give it lip service. It's not what you say, it's what you DO.

    On the upside, the marketplace will always need my customer service book.

    Last night we watched Deep Impact . It's a great movie about a comet on a collision course with earth and has one of my favorite actresses, Tea Leoni. I bought the movie at Wal-Mart as an impulse purchase because it was under $10.00. I just checked the price at the above link at my online store and the movie is $9.75, which is cheaper than Wal-Mart. That makes me proud of my store -- whenever you can beat Wal-Mart pricing, you've done something.

    We also picked up City of Angels which only costs $8.45 at my store. So I overpaid for that one too. We love Meg Ryan and had watched You've Got Mail with her and Tom Hanks on Friday night.

    We have a big screen TV in the basement and it's like our own personal movie theater. We load up on treats, snuggle into the couch and all the cats and dogs lay down around us while we shut the world out for two hours. We don't use it often enough so when we do, it's a real treat. Isn't it amazing that you can OWN a movie? Even more amazing you can own your own movie theater.

    Our daughter passed the cosmotology test and got her Wyoming license in the mail this weekend. Now she can cut hair and everything else at her salon job here. She finished near the top of her class in California and is licensed there, so she was prepared for Wyoming.

    3/20/05 6:23 am

    Well, I never went back to bed. I finished re-reading The Science of Getting Rich . What an amazing book! I'd forgotten. Which was a BIG mistake because my manifesting could have been occurring at a much higher level of increase. I HIGHLY recommend this book! And it's free! Just click the link above and you can immediately download it onto your computer and start reading right now!

    This book not only teaches you how to become rich, it reminds you that you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to do so! The best way to help others is to become rich yourself. Then you become an inspiration to others and can teach them how to become rich too. In this regard, you truly will get away from giving a man a fish, and advance to teaching the man how to catch his own unlimited supply of fish.

    This isn't just thought-control mumble-jumble, it also requires developing the right attitudes and actions. It's practical, it's logical and it's magical! Your reading this deeply into my blog has just rewarded you handsomely. This is likely the most valuable information on this blog. Enjoy! And when you become rich spread the word to your circle of influence.

    3/22/05 10:20 am

    The Cody Assessment team is in town. We met them yesterday morning, gave them our one-hour tour and then gave them a tour of other areas they wanted to see. Then we transported them to the Cody Audiorium and school district office for a series of listening sessions. The tour went well and they enjoyed it.

    Today we picked them up at the hotel with the trolley and brought them to City Hall for more listening sessions. We move them around to other venues through Thursday.

    Last night we had another meeting with the city about the COLT. There was a newspaper article on the front page that mentioned the public bus program plans and our names as the contract operators. There were a few errors in the article and it will cause more problems if I try to correct them. I'll let the city handle that.

    I used to own a newspaper and have been a journalist myself, so I see how errors can occur. One mistake turns a good article into a bad article -- and a giant waste of everyones' time. So I learned to send my sources a copy of the article before publication to have them verify the facts were accurate. Traditional journalists poo-poo that approach but they are the same people who make these types of mistakes.

    Anyway, the city council voted to purchase a small bus (brand new) and voted to have Margie & I run the system another year. We'll work closer with the city in our day-to-day operations so they can take the system over next year. We still have to discuss and agree upon many details such as compensation, operating budget, employee sharing, advertising and bus signage. Then once we make those decisions, we run it all by the council again for approval.

    Lots to do in a short time, which has been the norm the past two years we've run the bus. There has always been a decision or funding bottleneck that doesn't allow us to get ready for summer until the last minute. But with the city buying a new bus, they are showing their committment to keeping public transportation going, which I am very happy to see.

    Back to newspapers, when I see mistakes made it makes me want to start my own paper again. But then I remember all the work involved and how it almost killed me the last time. But then I remember I now live in a town with an economy that is at least 100 times larger than the town where our paper was located. And I have over 100 times more personal resources now as compared to then. So I know I could make a publication work. And there are infinate types of publications besides newspapers. And the publication doesn't have to be local. It doesn't even have to be printed thanks to the Internet. It could be statewide or regional or national. So I have ideas. What I don't have is time. Yet. But one day I see us starting something and setting it up so it is run by a staff, independent from us. And I'm sitting on an empty office building that would be perfect for that right now.

    3/23/05 4:01 am

    My mother died on this date 33 years ago. I was 14 when she died at the age of 38 of breast cancer. She actually passed after midnight so the official date was 3/24/72. But I've always thought of it as 3/23.

    Dads weren't very communicative back then so we really didn't know what her sickness was or that she was fighting for her life. All we knew was she was in the hospital a lot. The closest dad came to spilling the beans was a few days before telling us that mama was "really, really sick."

    I knew something was up on that morning she died. Dad had been called to the hospital at night after we had gone to sleep. Then he stayed home from work that Friday morning -- something he had never done before. He hurried me and my two brothers -- age 11 and 8 -- off to school. I'm now sure it was to give him the freedom to make the funeral arrangements and to have his own grieving space. I remember walking to Junior High that day feeling something very bad had happened. I suspected death and felt death, but refused to believe it was death. Once we got home from school, dad asked to us to see how fast we could complete our paper routes.

    I remember running by the neighbor's house throwing a newspaper -- the neighbor was a friend of mom's -- and she asked me how I felt. I smiled and said "great," and she gave me the strangest look. Later I realized she had known of mom's passing and knew by my response I had not yet been told.

    Once the paper routes were completed, dad gathered us all on the couch to "tell us something," and we knew something huge had occurred because unless we were all being punished, that had never happened before either.

    Then he said it. "Fellas, I have some really bad news....Your momma died."

    Now that's a moment that is cemented in my memory.

    I had never been exposed to death so it was a gigantic shock. At first we didn't believe it. He had to say it twice. I felt grief stricken, angry and confused. After a day inside crying, I went outside to shoot baskets with my brothers and it felt wonderful to get out of that house and do something physical. I enjoyed shooting baskets so much I felt guilty for feeling good. And then I started seeing the neighbors looking at us and felt embarrassed. When I went back to school, it was the same embarrassment because I saw everyone looking at me as "that kid whose mom died."

    My dad did the best he could but he didn't know anything about helping kids deal with grief and he was dealing with his own grief. It was pretty much a disaster for us all. Both in the way we felt and the way we dealt with it.

    In those days, they didn't allow kids in the hospital rooms with patients unless they were a certain age. I remember dad taking me up to mom's room a week before she died and she looked great -- far better than she had in a long time. I also remember her telling me she loved me, which was also something that our family never said. I didn't reciprocate her comment and I regret that to this day.

    I had signed up for a school trip to Washington, DC and was to depart in a couple days but of course, I had to cancel. I then realized why dad had been so reluctant to discuss the trip with me whenever I brought it up in the preceding weeks.

    So we became a "My Three Sons" family without a mom. It forced me to learn how to take care of myself. How to cook, iron, clean house, make the bed, wash my own clothes. Which makes me a dream husband for Margie. :) I even put the seat down.

    And being 14, I never really knew my mom. Plus she was away sick for months at a time. I later learned that she had wanted to become a writer. Which is what I always wanted to become, and successfully achieved. Just a few years ago, I learned that my aunt was my mother's best friend. I had no idea. So I spoke to her about mom and learned so much that I hadn't known. I learned mom and my aunt once worked at an ad agency together. I've done writing for an ad agency for five or six years and never knew that. So, I've concluded that mom must be keeping an eye on me, pulling strings so I can achieve my (our) dreams together. Thanks Mom.


    Yesterday was another good day with the trolley. We transported the assessment team and had lots of time off while they attended the listening sessions.

    I bought a dog house. It's a mini log cabin and is adorable. It looks great in the backyard by the redwood fence. Our dogs live inside but Angel, the australian shepard, loves to stay outside all day. So she gets a house. Everyone is getting a log cabin before me. Margie & I dream of owning a log cabin as our home one day. We do own 7 log cabins in our trailer park, but they are rentals, not our home. And they are smaller than we envision.

    I'm loving this Annie Oakley book. It turns out that Buffalo Bill actually turned down Annie Oakley's first job request. He was already heavy in shooting acts plus Annie wasn't bashful about asking for a high salary. Just a couple months later, the shooting act quit the show, Annie & her husband heard about it and re-applied. This time Buffalo Bill agreed to Annie's offer to work for three days as a probationary try-out. If Buffalo Bill didn't like her, she would walk away with no complaints.

    Annie arrived at the show location in Louisville, Kentucky and found an empty stadium because the Wild West cast was performing its parade downtown. So Annie started practicing her act in the empty stadium while she waited. She noticed a well-dressed man in a bowler hat, holding a fancy cane. She figured he was a local who had wandered in and paid him no attention.

    As soon as she completed her practice, the man ran over yelling, "Wonderful! Great! Very Good!" It turns out the man was Nate Salsbury, Buffalo Bill's business manager. Salsbury hired Annie on the spot without Buffalo Bill's approval. Buffalo Bill soon learned what a good decision that was. Annie performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West for 17 seasons, one of the most popular acts in the show.

    Here in Cody, we have a Salsbury Avenue which is one of the streets in town named after our founding fathers. So now when I drive down Salsbury, I'll have a special appreciation for Buffalo Bill's business manager, the man who hired Annie Oakley.

    Margie has started to design potential covers for the Cody Keepsake book. The new photos we took Saturday are going to make great covers and it will be difficult to choose just one. This all-week trolley charter has slowed her sales efforts but she worked the phones a bit yesterday and set some appointments. I'm at the point on the calendar where I need to get my book content written so I don't become the bottleneck here.

    Yesterday I wrote update letters to our COLT advertisers and the content for our trailer park's April newsletter. We read meters today and bill tomorrow.

    This afternoon I take a water test which is required monthly by the EPA (one MORE reason why most people aren't entrepreneurs). It's a simple process but takes an hour to gather the sample, fill out the paperwork and get it shipped overnight.

    I learned last night that one of my tenants wants to purchase the trailer that was just given back to me by other tenants. I'm supposed to receive her completed credit app today. If approved, this will be a good thing for us both. This will also open up her trailer for sale or rent and it is another of our few 3 bedrooms which usually go fast.

    It's the city administrator's birthday today. We work closely with her on many projects including the COLT bus and the assessment that is now underway. We'll have to think up something memorable to spring on her.

    3/25/05 9:04 am

    Slept in today. We finished the assessment group charter yesterday and attended the free dinner the town gave to those who attended to get an initial review of the results. Margie and 6 other women cooked all day to feed over 100 people. I did the dishes with the industrial dishwasher which operated like a dream. I'd been a dishwasher 30 years ago for Mr. Q's Restaurant in St. Louis Park, Minnesota so it was like a blast from the past. Dishwashing technology has really advanced.

    We made some new friends on the assessment team and will likely keep in touch with at least one of them whom we felt very drawn to. She has already sent us a nice note and her email address. Volunteer work has many benefits.

    I had to turn down the applicant looking to purchase one of our trailers. Which is another weird circle of life in itself. I've had several of my own credit applications declined in the past and it seems quite the twist of fate to be on the other side of the fence now. You play many roles in life and it's best to treat them all with reverance.

    We did get the rental bills distributed to tenants in the park last night via our park manager, Chris. Billing is a bigger job than it should be and takes Margie & I a few hours to get utility usage and costs calculated, the newsletter written and printed and write out the individual bills and stuff them into envelopes with the newsletter, self-addressed envelope and any personal notes we want to add to address specific tenant situations. It's a big responsibility providing a community for 32 families. Yes, it's a good financial investment for us, but it's more than that. We feel the self-pressure of creating a nice community for folks whose economic situation doesn't always place them in situations where that is possible.

    Our daughter Jessika came home from college late last night after we were asleep. She's still asleep now and will stay until Sunday. She says she'll work the trolley ticket booth for us this summer which will be a big help because she is great with people. She helped run the booth our first three years and took last summer off. Also our two friends from Florida who have worked in the booth for us the past three summers have decided to retire. So Jessika gives us some continuity while we hire a new crew.

    I got an email from Tony in Kentucky who is starting his own trolley tour business there. He's going through the typically weird challenges of starting something new from scratch. He's kept his sense of humor so he'll do fine. His letters make me better appreciate what we have built and how far we have come.

    Lots of paperwork on my to-do list today. The accountant needs more info for my taxes. I also have two months of records to send over for our 2005 bookeeping. It is soooo much easier having an accountant -- especially at tax time.

    Jessika and I will also do her taxes together on Turbo Tax this weekend. With her few W-2's and that program, it only takes about 30 minutes.

    Yesterday I spoke to the attorney representing the Cody Stage building that is for sale. The owner wants to first offer it to the theatre group that has been using it. If that doesn't work, I'll be there in line to consider buying it. I'd like to present a nightly melodrama after the gunfights June - September and then use the place for local plays by this theatre group. I also have ideas to profitably use it during the daytime during summer months.

    I also got a lead on another local business that may be for sale. I'm very interested but need to learn more. So many ideas, so little time.

    3/26/05 6:32 am

    I was up at 5 am today and it felt good. Yesterday became a lazy day and I mostly just fiddled with web pages and read about half of my Annie Oakley book. She's just ended her 17-year Wild West career. Annie wasn't just a stage shooter -- she entered and won many shooting and hunting contests and was inducted into the trapshooting Hall of Fame. She was the real deal, and a devoted wife and modest woman. I wish I'd known her. I'm honored to be in a position to educate people about her.

    Re-reading this book has been so enlightening because of our 5,000 mile research trip past her old stomping grounds around Greenville, Ohio. I'm going to re-read a Buffalo Bill biography I own next. We traveled through his birth area during that same trip. I look forward to re-learning facts and stories I may have forgotten.

    Margie sold some more ads for our Cody Keepsake book. I don't know her total but we'll update that this weekend to see where we're at. The print bids came in reasonable even with our new glossy cover. And we're shooting to have the thing ready for the printer by April 8 so we will be free to celebrate Margie's birthday on the 12th.

    We might drive to Lovell this weekend to check on our rental building there. That's a 50 mile drive through pleasant farm country.

    My office stereo crapped out so I hooked up a new one this morning and it is working just fine. The volume control on the old one had a short so it was difficult to set it where I wanted it. It was always too loud or too quiet. I lived with that for about 6 months. Funny what you live with. Everything is in a state of deterioration the moment you buy it.

    3/28/05 6:14 am

    Happy Monday. My commute this morning, like every morning, consisted of walking down the stairs. The uniform policy is old jeans and a sweatshirt. The beverage of choice is decaf coffee and the music is a tape of favorites. The work in front of me are projects of my own choice. THIS is why I'm a self-employed entrepreneur.

    We drove to Lovell yesterday to check out our building there. The water damage will require re-drywalling half the ceiling, some walls and installing new carpeting. It looks worse than it really is. Still, the estimate in hand is $5,000. I may be able to do better, but then it's 50 miles from my handyman in Cody who is very busy, so maybe not. I may have to chase down the renter to get some of that money.

    All in all, I'm still delighted with that property. I got an entire building and it's large, downtown lot for $25,000. You can't even buy a pickup truck for that anymore. It's worth at least twice as much, and you can make a good argument for three times as much. Plus it's all rented except for the damaged office, which one of my tenants is waiting to rent as soon as it's repaired.

    So in real estate, you make your money when you buy and collect your money when you sell. And if you buy right, the rents cover all your bills and provide you with a monthly excess. That's the case with this Lovell property.

    I've decided we need another employee. Now I have to figure out how to pay for it. We just have too many good ideas that can't be implemented because Margie & I can only do so much. So I need to create another income stream that throws off enough cash to pay an assistant. Or maybe I can go the intern route. School is almost out for the summer and we could test our plan. I could create Cody's version of The Apprentice.

    (An hour later)

    That last sentence was such a good idea that I just created our own apprentice program. And not just for a college student, but for an experienced person too. I created a web page describing what we're looking for and wrote a teaser ad for the help-wanted section of the newspaper. It has the potential for attracting the great employee I need and is imaginative enough to attract lots of good publicity. Now I just need to think about it for a bit from all angles to decide if I really want to do it.

    3/29/05 6:55 am

    I need to take a fresh look at the trade show strategy of selling customer service books. I sent another blast of 125 emails to trade show exhibitors about a week ago and got one response. The week before I'd sent 150 emails and got one response. So, I'm left with needing to send out far more emails or change my letter (or headline) to get a better conversion rate. Ah, the mathematics of direct mail marketing. The thing that keeps me encouraged is that one response could become an order for 10,000 or more books. And, I KNOW the book makes a great premium from first hand experience giving it away myself.

    We met with the new advertising/PR guy at the museum yesterday. We took him to lunch at Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel. Great guy and he's helping lead the charge to add more "fun" to the customer experience there. I'm all for that.

    Then we met with the "Recommend Cody" committee at the chamber of commerce. This is a chamber/trolley program where we take front desk personnel on a two-hour tour of Cody's most popular attractions before the busy summer season starts. We stop at each attraction and the frontliners get off the trolley, get a quick look at the attraction and get a ten minute presentation about it from the attraction leaders.

    The idea is that the frontline staffers will then understand the value of each attraction and will more likely recommend it to their guests all summer. If we can get most of the local hospitality workers on the free tours, we can make a huge impact on the length of tourist stay and amount of money spent in Cody. Plus, we're doing the tourists a favor by giving them a much better experience than if they didn't learn about our attractions and drove right on by.

    I am leading the charge to get our chamber to focus more on the 2,000 cars that drive through Cody each day during the summer that do not stop. They are on their way to Yellowstone and to them, Cody is just another town on the long road they've been traveling for days. These cars are 20 feet from our businesses, so I think money spent to get these people to stop gets far more bang for the buck than advertising out of state to get them to come here in the first place. Somehow, we can think of creative ways to close that last 20 feet.

    Anyway, we ran the Recommend Cody program last year and it got great reviews from the 160 who attended and there are some good anecdotal stories of how it worked for increased recommendations. The weak spot last year was attendance. We had capacity for at least twice as many riders. We need to find ways to get the hospitality industry owners and managers to press their employees to go.

    We spent much of yesterday's meeting brainstorming ideas to make that happen. One of the best was to create a "Tourist Certified" program where people who take a Recommend Cody tour get a badge. Their employer gets a sticker or plaque proving their employees are "Tourist Certified" by being trained on the Recommend Cody tour. The idea is to motivate employees to get the training to give them a leg up on their job search. The motivation for employers is to avoid standing out as NOT being Tourist Certified when all their competitors ARE. Over time, we might educate visitors to requent Tourist Certified businesses to get the best service while in Cody. Cody might even add welcome signage at city entrances that boast that we are Tourist Certified.

    City representatives are coming to pick up the old COLT bus from our storage warehouse today. Kind of sad because it looks like the bus will be parked outside in a city yard and used just as a spare. There is a feeling of relief though too because I no longer have to insure the thing.

    The city will insurance the new, smaller bus and handle maintenance and fuel. It looks like we will store the new bus at our warehouse just over the summer months because that is our base of operations. The COLT drivers will be managed by us and the trolleys are stored in the same place so us and our drivers meet in the mornings at our warehouse. Splitting locations would be a hassle and we need to easily communicate with the drivers each day.

    Margie liked my "Apprentice" idea for hiring an employee but the timing is wrong with trolley season approaching. So it looks like we'll have to delay that program until fall. Too many ideas, not enough time.

    I'm going to work on articles for the Cody Keepsake book today. We also have to design our full page ads for the trolley and COLT that go in the Summer Guide book published by the local newspaper. The ads cost $2,000 + EACH so we have to do that right. The book is expensive but the exposure makes for an acceptable trade. But they are getting very close to out-pricing themselves. Our Cody Keepsake is a much better bargain, with a much more targeted audience. Plus, our book is good for two years.

    3/31/05 5:03 am

    Busy day yesterday. I updated two articles about the trolley and the COLT for the Summer Guide publication. We layed out our trolley and COLT ads for our designer friends at Rocky Mountain Photo for the same publication, I paid some bills and sent two months of paperwork to my accountant.

    I also checked out and approved a rental application. She wants Cabin 5 so hopefully that fills that vacancy. Another tenant now wants to move from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom vacancy we have so that is good for us both. Yet another tenant took us up on our $100 discount offer and renewed her lease for another year.

    That leaves us with three, 2-bedroom vacancies starting tomorrow. Spring is the time lots of people move.

    The park lost electricity yesterday afternoon for a few hours. Some sort of transformer problem that was the power company's problem. Chris wasn't there at first and I was about to go down there but she returned and handled telling people what was going on. Good to have her there. Although she's pushing me to buy a truck for the park so she doesn't have to use hers. As good as she is, she has a tin ear when it comes to spending my money. She just has no conception of how many expenses we have to keep the park improvements going. No other owner would be so selfless toward improving conditions for tenants. I show and tell her every chance I get but she's oblivious. Everyone out there has gotten paid for over two years now, except us. I see one more summer of investing in a few more major improvements and then the gravy train stops. We'll be at a point where the park is improved enough to just maintain and the Johnson's will start living off the trailer park income rather than reinvesting it all back into park improvements.

    Other good news is that one of my tenants has drywalling experience. I may be able to use him to repair our water-damaged Lovell property.

    Margie & I were on the front page of the local newspaper yesterday. We've been interested in that Cody Stage building and the leader of the Cody Community Theater group that is trying to buy the building asked us to appear for the photo to help generate fundraising support. They have until September 1 to raise the $370,000 selling price. I've offered to buy it as has at least one other private individual. Both of us promised to keep using it for theater but the owner wants it to be a non-profit and owned by that local theater group. If that doesn't work out, we're told he'll consider other options.

    I have no business plan for the thing yet, I just know I can make it financially work somehow. If it gets farther down the road I'll deal with those issues then. In the meantime, it looks like I'm doing something to help with the fundraising. I guess I'll research grants for them first.

    Today we attend the two hour video tape showing of the feedback session from Randall Travel Marketing. This is the firm that took our trolley tour in January and called it the best they have ever experienced. The audience will be the local VIPs -- the city council, county commissioners, chamber board of directors and business leaders. After the showing we'll all have a discussion about which recommendations we'll implement as a community.

    The part of the tape I'll be happy to see is where they say everyone in town should recommend visitors take the trolley tour FIRST to get a great overview of the town so they see how much there is to do and then stay longer. We've been beating that horse since we started in 2001. Now that tourism experts are saying it, maybe it will start to stick.

    My friend in Sundance sent me an article relating to the JFK Assassination. She knows it fascinates me. It was mostly a re-hash of the acoustic evidence on a Dallas police department dictabelt recording. Forty two years later they still don't know how many shots were fired that day. Like I've said earlier, I've dropped out of that investigation and dropped plans for writing a book about it. I've answered the questions to my own satisfaction. Besides, when I immerse myself in that frustrating topic, I get angry and cynical. Still, I can't walk past a JFK article when it's thrust in my face.

    This friend is retired and I call her a rat for doing so. She worked with me at 7-Eleven so we've known each other since 1981. She'd wanted to move west for years and even bought land in Montana while she still lived in Florida. Yet, I beat her out here by about 7 years and that drove her nuts. Now she's retired, and bought a house ( a log cabin, which is MY dream) and moved to Sundance, WY. She plays all day now and rubs that in my face so the tables have turned. It's some good-natured ribbing that we both enjoy. Yes, we're sick puppies. :)

    I read yesterday that my buddy who owns True West magazine just announced a couple of Reader Choice Awards recognizing Cody's Old Trail Town attraction as a reader's favorite in two different categories. It's a nice reminder that I really DO live in the epicenter of the Old West.

    I spoke to my dad this weekend and learned several of my relatives are fighting health issues. One of my aunts has lung cancer. My step-sister has breast cancer. My uncle has emphesema and is hospitalized and struggling. It just reminds you that if you're healthy, you're rich.

    My buddy here in Cody with the throat cancer is struggling too. Chemo and infections are really whacking him and he needs to have a feeding tube installed. The hell of it is he felt fine until they started taking action against the tumor. The treatment is what dang near kills you.

    It reminds me of how they treat dogs for heartworms. They flood the dog's system with arsenic to kill the worms. Unfortunately, it darn near kills the dog. In fact, many times it does.

    There has to be a better way to get rid of cancer and some smart person is probably already on the planet destined to discover it. My dad told me that 1 in 3 people get cancer by the age of 80. It's statistics like that that show you how out of proportion TV newscasts are when they focus so much attention on smaller tragedies.

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