Welcome To Mike's Blog (Web Log)
January 1, 2007 to 9/8/07

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Visit Mike's prior Blog entries 12/05/04 - 3/31/05 and 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
Visit Mike Johnson's EverythingCody.com Home Page

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. :)

January 3, 2007 4:46 AM

Happy New Year. Ours started great yesterday. We sold our commercial building in Lovell. Had no idea it was coming. Got an email in the morning from our Realtor who said an offer was being faxed and by noon we'd agreed and faxed back the contract. Cash deal, no banks, closing set for January 15. Nice, direct, quick.

We bought at a very good price so could afford to sell at a very good price and still make good money. Everyone should be happy. We owned the building for 2.5 years. Lovell is 50 miles east of Cody so we'd hired our Realtor to be the property manager and that worked pretty well. Had full vacancy most of the time so it way more than paid for itself during our ownership. Hopefully it will do the same for the new owners.

Now we can apply the profit to reducing debt, getting us ever-closer to semi-retirement.

We entered the New Year by seeing the movie Rocky Balboa with friends. It was very good and tied up the Rocky series nicely. We were in bed by 10 PM. As Ted Turner says, "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise."

Our daughter moves to California today. We'll miss her but a kid has to chase her own dreams. We'll miss our grandson too so I imagine more San Diego trips are in our future.

They bury Gerald Ford today. I've been aloof to the event. He seems a nice enough guy but played a giant role in the JFK murder cover-up. It wasn't a passive or accidental role either, so for me, those actions have overshadowed anything else he did as president.

I just read another book that says he accepted $15,000 in cash payments from a lobbyist for favors using his old position as House Minority Leader. It's packed with actual letters from Ford, so seems credible. I ordered a second book that documents these payments and payouts and corruption performed by others in power at the time including Lyndon Johnson.

Of course none of this is being mentioned by the media during the sheep-like flood of positive comments about the man. He's being called a man of integrity. I imagine he WAS honest most of his life. But he sure stepped off the path a few times.

It is easy to start thinking all national leaders are corrupt. My idealism won't let me go there, but I do believe that sadly, most of all national leaders are corrupt. Most good people won't subject themselves to rigors of achieving national office so we are left with lots of grafters, egoists and the integrity-challenged. And I suspect most good people who successfully earn a national office learn to "play ball" with peers to get their goals accomplished. It's sad. And I suspect, way worse than any of us can possibly imagine. If they can kill a president and get away with the murder and cover-up, they can do anything. And I can assure you, based on thousands of hours of research, that elements of the national US leadership at the time, DID have that president murdered.

If you don't believe that, it just means you haven't studied the topic deeply enough. The truth is out there. And it is hidden in plain sight on bookshelves all across America.

But back to lighter topics. I'm trying to get Internet access installed in the Cody Club meeting room. Many groups meet there and it amazes me no one has installed Internet there for the many presentations that are delivered each week in that room. I need it for a speech I give to the Cody Chamber members on Jan 8 about EverythingCody.com. It likely won't get installed by then, but I'm making a donation if needed to get it in there soon after. And forever.

Our trailer park manager starts selling ads for EverythingCody.com next week. We offer a nice variety of affordable programs that provide far more value than their cost. When we sell out the initial spaces it'll generate about $3K a month. Not enough to hurt any of the local print publications but enough to generate a new income stream for us and still pay Brenda well for her sales results. The income assures the town that EverythingCody.com will remain free of charge to readers and continue for years into the future.

I've spent the past year establishing and tweaking and building traffic to the site. Everyone decides how they spend their free time, I build new sideline businesses with mine. The time is going to pass anyway, you might as well use it in ways to improve your tomorrows. Plus I love the research and creation. I already have a good idea for the next business after I get the income stream established in this one. Too many ideas, not enough time.

1/7/07 7:56 AM

Lots on my plate today. I have to prepare two speeches that I deliver this week. One about EverythingCody.com and one about customer service. We are also sending out the annual Christmas newsletter today. A bit late, but complete.

The desk has also piled up a bit so I need to spend 30 minutes on that. And then there is the bookkeeping paperwork to send to the accountant so she can close out our year.

Football playoffs on TV this afternoon so I'll be watching those a bit too before we visit friends at 4 PM.

I hired a reporter for EverythingCody.com and will give her some assignments today. She's on the newspaper staff and in the journalism class at the high school. She'll get some real world experience, coaching and a little pay while she builds some clippings. This should be fun for us both.

I've been enjoying a luxury item I got for Christmas - a single-serve coffee machine. You select a single serve "K-cup" of your favorite flavor, push a button and in 15 seconds you get a perfect cup of coffee. Saw this at my sister-in-law's house in North Carolina and had to have one. Every time I go there I find fun new devices I never knew existed. Life is faster east of the Mississippi so they get the latest and greatest stuff first.

I also experienced wireless Internet on our trip east and realized it would be great to have here at home. So this past week I bought the wireless router and had my computer guy Dave install it. Now I can update my website from the laptop anywhere in my house.

We lived so long with so little, these little luxuries are greatly and forever appreciated.

I'm reading a financial book sharing money advice given by Ben Franklin. I found it at the Bargain Box for a dollar. There is no greater return on investment possible than that provided by a used book. According to the book, Franklin lived to age 84 and had retired by age 42. Due to following his two keys of financial success, Industry (work hard with quality) and Frugality (live well below your means), Franklin accumulated enough wealth to spend the second half of his life contributing to mankind. Put in this perspective, we owe it to the world to get rich as soon as possible so we gain the time to work on the truly important, not just the urgent.

1/14/07 7:33 AM

Fleetwood Mac is on the CD Player this morning. I was up by 5 AM this morning updating EverythingCody.com. Life is marching on.

The cold snap is supposed to break after tonight. Been below zero for the past few days. Had a couple dwellings get frozen pipes at the trailer park but Brenda handled them. We got some snow a few days ago too so it looks and feels like winter.

We mulched Christmas trees Saturday morning and helped run a racquetball tournament Friday night. Both events for Rotary. I'm writing for the annual Rotary Show again but at a much lesser role this year at my request. I want to do just enough to have fun but not so much it becomes a burden.

I received the engineers estimate for the hook-up to city sewer and it is way over what we expected. So I'm formulating questions to determine why and how we can shave those costs. I'm also looking at the option of adding more units at the trailer park to generate more income to pay for the project. One thing leads to another and I have to be careful to not to over extend.

I received a phone call from a high school buddy and we had a great chat for over an hour catching up. He's started his own business so we had plenty to talk about. He'd read my entire blog (zzzzzzzz) and seemed a bit punch drunk from it all. Which got me thinking how neat it would be if everyone had a blog you could access to get an overview of their lives. Better yet, wouldn't it be really cool if you could just think of someone and instantly understand who they were, what adversities they'd faced and what they were working on now? Kind of an instant character detector. It sure would make life more honest. And easier to decide who you wanted to spend time with and who didn't even deserve a hello.

Speaking of who I don't want to say hello to, I gave up on this season of "The Apprentice." Donald Trump has become too much of a jerk for me to tolerate. And his daughter on the show is a smaller version of him. And neither have to be so offensive. Trump burns too many bridges and is too harsh when he doesn't have to be. Business requires cooperation with others much more than it requires trying to destroy your competition.

I imagine New York is a tough place to do business so you have to be tough. But if you have to be an a-hole to conduct business, it is not worth it. I'd rather be a millionaire and be me than be a billionaire and be him. You have to sleep at night. You can call a spade a spade but you don't have to twist the knife and smile while you do it. He is just too cut-throat in everything he does.

Even so, I side with Trump on the Rosie/Walters fight because I think he's proven Walters is a liar and Rosie is obnoxious (and started the feud). I'm sure what I think matters naught to the Donald.

The two speeches I mentioned earlier went well. I paid through the nose to get Internet access for my EverythingCody.com presentation to Cody Club but it is technology I can use for other things.

The customer service speech to the Bed & Breakfast Association went well and Margie & I tag-teamed it, which was fun and made it easier for us both. They seemed to like it and several folks followed us out with compliments.

Speeches are a lot of work though. Lots of prep time and a little worry time. You want to do well. Now if you gave the same speech all the time like our tour presentations, there is no worry. But custom-created speeches are far less polished because you don't have the practice time in. So you do your best and move on. And be very selective of what you agree to say yes to.

We're in the heart of football playoff season. I'm rooting for the Colts again. They made it to the final four teams and have a big game next weekend. If they win next week they are in the Super Bowl. I think Peyton Manning is the class of the NFL and deserves to win the Super Bowl. I just hope, like any fan, that my team plays up to its potential.

Had a nice dinner with friends last night. Today is pretty open. Lots on the to-do list but no "Have-tos."

Our daughter is in Cody today to pick up our grandson and they leave for their new life in CA tomorrow. So everyone is sad and happy at the same time.

1/30/07 1:49 PM

I don't want to apologize at the beginning of each entry but I notice it's been a couple weeks since the last one. I'm working so much on EverythingCody.com that I've shortchanged this blog.

Lots has happened the past couple weeks and I'll try to list the big stuff.

We closed the sale of our Lovell building on the 16th. That went as smooth as it could have possibly gone. One less thing to worry about, which is nice because that building was 50 miles away. All profits went to debt reduction which felt good. We're not ones to splurge when we get extra money in our hands.

The trailer park is coming out of a tough winter of vacancies. We only have two vacancies now. We survived fine but we had too many frozen pipes which are a giant hassle for everyone. The men we paid to insulate the underbellies this fall didn't do the job right, or at all. The manager didn't follow-up and assumed it was done because they told her it was. I assumed it was done because the manager told me it was done. It's a sad, but classic story.

The engineering report on hooking the park to city sewer is also a challenge. The initial number came in at $332K. We need a lift station and 1400 feet of pipe buried under a river to get to the hook-up. Pretty much worst case scenario. A contractor visited with the engineer and they have it down to about $300K and both seem motivated to get it lower since I'm a private guy with no grant help.

To put this in perspective, I saw a new real estate listing over the weekend. You can now buy an entire bowling alley business in Lovell, WY for just $275K. My sewer line will cost more than a bowling alley!

Our daughter finds herself in a custody battle with her ex. Lawyers involved on both sides and I am getting an education on the legal system. It's sad and stupid at the same time. It isn't needed but the ex thinks it is. So we'll help her deal with it aggressively until it's resolved.

On the upside, Margie has re-sold nearly all the outside trolley ads. Everyone has renewed so far. She'll have inside ads and the souvenir book ads to sell next. I'm trying to recruit her to sell some EverythingCody.com ads too.

EverythingCody.com is averaging over 500 visitors a day and still climbing. We have another two great guerilla marketing ideas to launch which could double these numbers quickly. I'll keep you posted.

Barbaro died yesterday. The Kentucky Derby winner with the broken leg. Too many medical problems cropped up and they had to put him down. We were certainly rooting for him and I bet you were too.

We provided the city administrator wives a tour of Cody in the trolley the other morning. That was fun. It lasted about 2 hours and included a tour inside the Rec Center. We'll be doing the same for the chamber director candidates. I'm on that hiring committee. I think we have 27 applicants.

Rotary Show writing is coming along. I am so appreciating not being so heavily involved. Hopefully I can maintain that when it gets down to crunch time.

2/10/07 3:37 PM

Life is returning to normal here, whatever that is. We are enjoying having the house to ourselves again.

We enjoyed hosting our annual Super Bowl party last weekend and I was delighted to watch the Colts win. Their quarterback Peyton Manning is a class act and that team deserved to win by beating the Patriots and coming so close for many years. We had 20 people at the house and all seemed to have a good time.

Better news at the trailer park lately. We have filled our vacancies after working hard on that the past couple months. Not many people move in the winter so Dec/Jan is always a challenge to stay 100% full. The rest of the year stays full or close, so we usually land at about 95% full for the year.

A city councilman helped me connect with some rural development people who help solve infrastructure problems like our trailer park sewer hookup. They say I can form an independent improvement district which will make us eligible for federal grants to pay for half or all of the hookup. So we are pursuing that avenue. Hopefully that will pan out.

EverythingCody.com continues to increase readership. We're exceeding 600 visits per day now.

The publisher of the Cody Enterprise called me down to his office and asked me to stop linking the location of his website articles on EverythingCody.com. This is irrational because they invite everyone else in the world to view the articles they post. He also takes my money for advertising EverythingCody.com in his newspaper. The publisher is a small thinker who has let his irritation with our existence override the benefit of the extra traffic we send him. His request hurts his advertisers and the community. I compromised and decided I'd only link to his home page, which still lets his advertisers benefit from our traffic but isn't too inconvenient to our readers.

He just ran a full page ad noting his website traffic. I'm glad our links are contributing to his traffic numbers. But he's not thanking me for it.

He didn't react well to my assessment of his personal and business weaknesses and I predict he'll be revamping his website soon. His subscribers and advertisers deserve it and I am in both of those categories although you wouldn't know I was his customer by the way he treats me. Because of his treatment, I won't spend one extra dime with his paper more than my minimum needs. If he's treated you poorly, I suggest that you do the same. It's my opinion that Cody would greatly benefit from a new publisher there.

I'm on the chamber director hiring committee and we're getting closer to selecting a new leader. Big meeting next week will narrow the 28 applicants down to the top ten finalists. There are some very good applicants on paper and I'm optimistic we will select a good candidate.

The Rotary Show seems to be progressing. I'm happy to be writing far less this year. The past years' shows have basically taken a good 6 weeks out of my life. Margie is still active with making the tickets and posters and program and advertising. But it seems like less work this year for her too. Our best friendships in the club have come from working together on the show. Fundraising becomes friend-raising. The show raises $25,000 to $30,000 each year which then goes back to worthy causes in the community.

February 22, 2007 11:12 AM

EverythingCody.com is now taking me 3-4 hours per day and that is pretty much eating up my free time. Traffic is still climbing and we've had as many as 700 daily visitors.

I'm still working on grant leads for the city sewer hookup at our trailer park. Had a meeting with some rural development folks and a county commissioner to better understand the process of setting up an improvement district. Looks doable from a technical standpoint, but the commissioner is checking to see if it's legally possible. In the meantime my engineer is working on getting a permit to bury our line under the river.

Rotary Show is nearly upon us. March 2 & 3. The script is done and rehearsals start next week. Lisa Velker was writing chair and really did a good job working hard to get it put together.

I wrote a solo skit called "Welcome to Hell" that has me nervous. It looks good on paper but it all depends on how I sell it. Lots more time to rehearse and I'll use it. I've had to sing solo in a past show so after that level of stress this looks far easier.

Had a nice meeting with one of our trolley ticket-selling partners earlier this week that went great. That should generate extra business for both parties.

Margie got the first draft of the design for the cover of our new "Best of Cody" souvenir book and it looks tremendous. Mark Schuler at ProDesign does a wonderful job. We're using Jan at that company to hop up our brochure too.

Trailer park is full as of this weekend. Two openings coming up March 1 but we have nibbles on those. With 32 units, someone is always coming or going.

We had a nice visit with our friend Sam who dropped by last night. Had a great time with friends Jack & Diane within the last week. They had us over for a fish dinner that Jack caught in the reservoir. We also went to dinner with pals Bill & Kathy on Valentines Day and had lots of laughs. Another dinner outing with Cindy and Todd scheduled this Saturday. I feel like a social butterfly. Right. Well for me this is a lot of socializing. And I'm liking it.

Margie & I saw that movie "Music & Lyrics" and I loved it. I love both Hugh Grant and Dru Barrymore anyway but I really liked their characters and the plot. It's a romantic comedy which is my favorite type of movie. Yes, I like chick flicks.

March 5, 2007 10:32 am

I'm taking a deep breath this morning enjoying having completed our two Rotary Show performances this past weekend. The crowds were good both nights for a total of about 1,000 people and the show went off pretty well. My involvement was much less than prior years and I enjoyed a bit less stress.

However, I opened the show with a one-man devil skit welcoming the crowd to Hell, which added its own hellish amount of stress. But it went over well, despite the initial fears of some club members. It's a discussion we hold every year - just how far can you go to spoof the town?

Ruffin Prevost of the Billings Gazette wrote a very good article about the show and called it "Topical, biting & funny." Which is pretty much exactly what we aim for.

The weeks of writing, prep, practice and performance build some strong friendships. By the end we are all happy it's over but glad we did it, and miss not working with each other so much. It looks like we grossed over $30K this year. After expenses, we should land in the $25K range of profit. All of this money is donated to local causes and charities during the year and then we repeat the process next year. The club has been performing this show annually for fifty-six years.

The trailer park is going well, we're at 100% occupancy and have picked up a few really good new tenants. We are still working on the sewer hookup situation and will be all summer. We hope to get construction done in the fall when the river is at its lowest level.

This will be a very busy month for Margie & I. We are republishing our "Best of Cody" souvenir book that we give to each party of trolley tour passengers. The book will be in the 90 page range, which is a big increase from the last issue. Lots of ads to sell and create and then much more new content to write and layout. The job is so large we only do it once every two years and just print enough to cover two seasons.

The radio station is renting my brain on Thursday to help the sales team there come up with some creative new ideas. Should be fun for us all.

EverythingCody.com is still growing. I've had problems with my server provider the past week off and on and they are moving my site to a new server for the third time this afternoon. It frustrates me because the site ran great the first two months after I moved it to them. When the site is slow or down there is nothing I can do about it except complain and wait. Fortunately, the problems are limited in duration and affect the backend update panel more than the public front views. Still, I want perfection and the server company president promises a permanent fix is coming.

I watched the "Jesus Tomb" Discovery Channel documentary last night. Fascinating show which will draw controversy like crazy. They have a good website with photos that is really worth exploring. I'm not prepared to weigh in on this (like I'm an authority anyway) but there is so much we don't know. And so much we think we know that is wrong. I look forward to the day I leave the planet and get access to answers to all the big mysteries and all the big questions.

The chamber search committee is getting closer to hiring a new director. We are down to seven final candidates and will hold in-person interviews with them all by March 15.

That's it for now. I'm off to clear the desk and get out into the world.

March 16, 2007 11:49 AM

I survived a rough couple weeks with the host of EverythingCody.com having major problems with its servers. They moved my site twice and created problems both times. Things have seemed to have stabilized this past week and the site is now working fine. It is so frustrating to be helpless when computer geek stuff goes wrong. Hopefully we're in for a long run of good operation. They tell me my site has its own server now which should increase speed for everyone who accesses it.

I just completed a couple long days of interviewing candidates for the chamber director position. In all we interviewed seven candidates. Lots of good people to pick from so the chamber will be well served. We scheduled city tours and lunches and dinners and a social into the two days so I worked from dawn to dark both days. But I met lots of neat people and bonded much deeper with the interview team I worked with. I think everyone on the hiring committee was glad they participated. We'll meet next week to make our selections, do some more due diligence and then make a recommendation to the chamber board on March 28.

I've seen a couple good movies the past couple weeks that I can recommend. Music & Lyrics and Wild Hogs. First is a romantic comedy and the second is just laugh-out-loud funny.

The trailer park is still full and that really quiets down activity and expenses. When people move there is lots of cleaning and repairing and phone calls and showings. Once full, all of that pretty much goes away which makes things much easier for my manager there and easier and more profitable for us.

The sewer hookup is still progressing. We've gained approval to run the line under the river. My engineer has started the design work. I'm still trying to get clarification on the legality of us starting an improvement district so we can apply for state and federal grants and loans for the project. So irons are in the fire and pencils are being applied to paper. It seems to be moving at a snail's pace but we really are advancing steadily.

The radio station hired me for a one-hour rent-a-brain session and that went well. We got to discuss many sales situations and dream up some creative ways to make them more effective and tap into new markets with off-the-wall ideas. I enjoyed the process and they said they did too.

Margie & I will present a free seminar on April 26 from 8-9 am at the Northwest College Workforce Development Center in the old Marathon Building. The topic is "Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spirit." Here is the course description:

Want multiple streams of income? Whether you work for yourself or hold a job with a company, there are thousands of ways to create value for yourself and others with entrepreneurial ideas. Learn how to find, capture and implement valuable ideas and generate multiple streams of income with the free one-hour seminar "Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spirit."

Should be fun and hopefully profitable for all who attend. I hope to see you there.

April 3, 2007 10:06 AM

Today is the birthday of my childhood dog. Funny the things you remember. I can't remember the date of her death or how long she lived but I remember her birthday.

I've been reading lots of books lately. I had a Napoleon Hill fetish going for awhile, re-reading "Think & Grow Rich" and a new one to me, "Grow Rich with Peace of Mind." The second one is actually better than his classic, because it was written at the end of his life with more experience.

Reading those books made me discover the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Which lead me to order the video movie "Millionaire Awaken Your Secret," the story of a man who was penniless who used Hill's secrets of success to see if he they still worked. They did and the movie documents the man's journey from nothing, into turning an idea into $2 million. We watched that movie last night and it was wonderful. Everything starts with an idea.

The bottom line from these books and movie is that anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. All riches start with your thoughts and imagination. Ask anyone with money and they will agree.

Then I got on a Bill & Hillary Clinton tear. I read "The Truth About Hillary," "The Clinton Crack-Up" and am almost done with "Uncovering Clinton." I've read many other books about the pair and I get angry every time I read one. I'll be writing a long, documented article about the couple one day, compiling the key activities that reveal how phony, dishonest and criminal they are. The senate made a major mistake by not finishing Bill's impeach off by throwing him out of office. Integrity and standards lost in that vote and now the bar is lowered for even worse behavior from our presidents in the future. Sadly, party loyalty triumphed over integrity. Which tells you lots about the people who sided with Clinton.

Basically, there is undeniable evidence that both Clintons are liars, thieves and criminals. They just always get away with it through the laziness of the press, the stupidity of the public and the loyalty of their party. If you are a Hillary or Bill fan, you just haven't done your research. It's all out there on bookshelves across America, hiding in plain sight. It's a sad testament to Americans that half of us are fooled into thinking they are fine leaders. The Clinton's have never sued anyone about the evidence in these books, and publishers vet the content through lawyers before they are published, so I'm concluding what I read is true. Even if 90% wasn't true, the remaining 10% is more than enough to make the case they shouldn't be leading bake sales, let alone our country.

Margie asked me why I spend my time reading about them and spouting off about how bad they are. What's the draw to me? I guess I value integrity and these people don't and it annoys me that they shamelessly lie to the public and fool so many people. If so many Americans can be fooled by this obviously criminal couple, we really do live in a country with millions of idiots. And that smacks up against my positive view of Americans. The truth hurts when you realize you've overestimated the quality of your world.

It's just like the OJ murder case. So many believe he is innocent despite overwhelming evidence that they never bothered to read about. That ignorance amazes me. The nicest thing I can say about these people is their faith is misplaced and their hearts overruled their heads. And that they need to get a library card.

I've read that the average American reads less than one book a year. Scary. Without an educated public involved in running its government, you get leaders like the Clintons. And jury verdicts that favor murderers.

Thankfully, I balanced out that negative reading by devouring another positive classic by Dale Carnegie, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." Marvelous. Everyone should read it. Twice. It's quite the conundrum that the best way to help the world is to turn yourself into the best person you can be first. Of course that is the hardest thing to do, which is why so many skip that step.

In my perfect life, I'd take a year off to just curl up and read, occasionally coming up for air to spout off on my website now and then. With a little more work, I keep telling myself, I'll get there.

Margie & I are creating a new souvenir book for the trolley tour company. We produce a new one every two years and this is the year. The deadline weighs heavily on us and we have too much to do and not enough time. But somehow it always gets done. I wish we had a staff that could complete all the projects we dream up.

Cody received 15 inches of snow last week and it is melting fast. Made everything look beautiful and it was fun to just snuggle in and nest. Bad weather is fun when you don't have to go out in it.

I'm looking forward to our presentation "Capture Your Entrepreneurial Spirit" on April 26. I have a good part of the presentation written and look forward to delivering it. Anytime you teach, you learn yourself. Here's to more big-time learning.

Friday, April 20, 2007 6:52 am

I feel like I'm living in the past lately. We're working on an 84-page souvenir magazine we publish for our trolley guests. We're down to the wire approaching our Monday deadline and this feels eerily like the three years we survived publishing our own newspaper. I say survived because that time in the mid-1990s consisted of nothing more than 100 hour weeks. What an education! What an accomplishment! What a nightmare!

Things are much easier though this time around. We've learned a few things. We farm out most of the ad design to others. Much of the editorial content can run just as we printed it two years ago in our last magazine. So I'm down to creating about ten pages of new content. We'll make it.

Deadlines have a way of making things happen. As you close in on a deadline, your productivity triples. The world fades away and the project gains your entire focus. Like a magnifying glass burning a hole in a leaf, no work can withstand the focus of a workaholic on deadline.

In a way, an impossible deadline is refreshing. It simplifies life. Makes it easy to turn down distractions and other offers that pull you away. Provides clarity of thought. And thanks to the relentless march of the calendar, everything always comes and goes. This time next week we'll be focused on a different project. And the giant magazine project will just be a completed memory.

We've been juggling many such projects these past weeks since my last entry here. Margie has invested over 175 hours in a project to revamp all the Visitor Center directional signage on the roadways and actual signage on the Visitor Center building itself. This has been needed for years. She's been carping about it without anyone picking up the ball so she finally just started doing it herself. She's picked up a few helpers along the way but she's been the workhorse.

You'd think it would be a simple project but au contraire. It has required city approval, Wyoming DOT approval, planning & zoning approval and chamber board approval. Then there has been dealing with designers and sign vendors and getting feedback on the designs from a dozen or more stakeholders. Now she's trying to round up funding. Total cost for the 25 signs and some Visitor Center parking improvements is $32,000. And she has found a benefactor who will donate whatever funds that she can't round up. Amazing amount of work and amazing success story. One person really CAN make a difference.

This signage will greatly increase the numbers of people who stop at our visitor center. Each new visitor in Cody spends $100 per day so the economic development benefits will be off the charts. Just from better signage and looking at the facility as a visitor would. When you have the eyes to see, there are opportunities for improvement everywhere.

I'm juggling the improvement of my trolley air conditioning and the trailer park sewer system. Both are advancing. The A/C needs to be upgraded by May 1 so that is right in my face after the magazine is done. I can control that because I'm dealing with private industry. The sewer system has me dependent on various government officials so that is not moving nearly as fast as I want. There seem to be obstacles everywhere that need to be overcome and most of these obstacles are people who do not deal with your requests in a timely manner. I can't stand being someone else's bottleneck and will get up at 3 in the morning, or work 24 hours straight to get rid of work someone else is waiting on. Whatever it takes. I was raised to believe that you abuse yourself before you inconvenience someone else. I've learned that about 3 people out of a 100 think that way. Always knew I was weird. Margie's the same way so we are the perfect match. We celebrate our weirdness.

But that makes us work-tornadoes. We're fun to watch if you stand back far enough but we can make you pretty uncomfortable if the work we want to do is located right where you are standing. That's why we enjoy entrepreneur and volunteer work -- together they give us a license to stick our nose into improving just about anything that needs improving. Love us or hate us, we get stuff done.

Saturday 5/19/07 4:24 AM

Life has been coming at me fast. We set up the trolley ticket booth on the porch of the Irma Hotel this morning which signals the start of another trolley season - our 7th.

This year we have hired a tour team to take the pressure off our usually grueling schedules. The two gals we hired seem great. If all goes well, they'll perform tours 4 days a week and Margie & I will cover the other three days. This will give us plenty of time to market the tours and time to take some days off to enjoy summer more than we have in the past.

We returned from a big event in Ft. Collins last weekend. Our daughter Jessica graduated from CSU with a degree in Interior Design with emphasis on construction management. She is the first kid on both Margie and my sides of the family to get a college degree. We're proud of her and she'll do great.

We enjoyed time there with friends from past and present. Some childhood friends from Florida surprised Jessica and flew out to Colorado for the event. They have blossomed into wonderful and funny people. Which makes me feel old. But a bit happier and more optimistic about people.

We just finished performing Recommend Cody tours. They educate frontline staff in our town about the many great attractions in Cody. When they recommend these attractions to visitors, the visitors stay longer which gives them a better experience while they spend more money. $100 per person, per day is the average spent by visitors. So the economic development potential is huge with 3,000 to 5,000 visitors in Cody each day. Just getting a percentage of these people to stay another day will greatly help the entire town.

The trailer park is full and running good. We're replacing a roof on a cabin this weekend. The sewer hookup project is progressing at a snail's pace awaiting a ruling from the state attorney general about the legality of one owner setting up an improvement district. I've been waiting 3 months for a decision. If we can set up a district, we can apply for grants and low interest loans to make the project more affordable. We don't mind paying to hook to sewer but to do so, we have to pay for and construct a pressurized trunk line for the city that must be buried under a river and run uphill for 1,400 feet. That's where the expense gets gigantic.

The house at our trolley warehouse is vacant but we have several very good applicants in the works. It should fill within days.

EverythingCody.com is still doing well. We've been slowly picking up advertisers. When we can carve out some dedicated time we'll easily get as many as we like. The site is great and very well-regarded.

We've been dealing with incompetence lately. Maybe I'm grumpier lately from being so busy but I think incompetence is growing. We spent 300 hours + creating an 84-page souvenir book to give to our trolley passengers. When it came back from the printer, the cover was beautiful but someone had botched the trim work of the interior pages so badly that they have to do the entire job over. We have 325 bundles of these neatly stacked in our warehouse that now go right to the dump. The reprint will barely arrive before the start of our season. But to the company's credit at least they immediately offered to reprint. All it took was one employee being incompetent for one job to cost them nearly $10K.

Many other projects we've worked on the past few months have required extra phone calls when original calls were not returned. Or reworked because instructions weren't followed. Or promised deadlines were missed, putting us into crisis mode trying to round up the work that was owed us so we could meet the deadlines we'd promised to others.

Sadly, 90% of the world does not consistently deliver what they promise. People make promises too casually, and fulfill them too leisurely. Everyone can drop the ball but in my definition of the world, that ought to be a very rare event. Margie & I get up at 2 in the morning to prepare for meetings or complete promised work so others aren't waiting for it. I don't see many other people being that committed. I was raised that it was a huge sin to inconvenience anyone by becoming a bottleneck to their work, so I'll go to extremes not to. I think it is a trait that has helped me achieve many worthwhile goals. I wish everyone acted the same way.

There is a great quote I heard from the founders of CareerTrack: "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." Which are you?

Our trolley brochures were totally redesigned and enlarged this year. We get them back from the printer (crossing fingers) next week. The print run this year is 50,000. We also ordered 10,000 post cards for our trolley customers as a free souvenir and a marketing device for us. Those arrive soon too. As do the 50,000 restaurant guides we're printing for the entire town to distribute to visitors. Combine this with the print and radio ads that we must design and produce, and April-May is always crazy-busy for us. By the time we perform the first tour we are relieved to have all the prep behind us. The tours are the easy part of the business.

Margie's project to improve signage at the visitor center and around town has stalled until next year. Funding roadblocks slowed her down until she ran out of time, crunched with all our own projects. The legwork is done and the state appears likely to fund the $32K needed, but it won't happen until next season. It took many 2 AM mornings for her to get this far and she didn't get that level of urgency from others so we lose a year.

It's frustrating to live life seeing potential everywhere and then have to go through other people to harvest it. This is one reason why we love running our own companies - when we want to do something, we can immediately make it happen. No committees. No approval requests. No presentation packets to create. No delays. As I age I find I have less patience for people who are oblivious to the fact that they have become barriers to good projects. If you can't dream up the projects or work to bring them to reality, the least you can do is get out of the way, or do what you promise so you don't become a roadblock.

We are almost done upgrading the air conditioning on the trolley. This is our third attempt. The prior two are more evidence of the incompetence I've been talking about. The trolley manufacturer severely under-built the original A/C system. When I complained he offered a solution that he promised would fix the problem. $3K of my own money later, it didn't. So I'm spending another $5K now to get the system where it needs to be. It better work because we put in everything physically possible for the space we had. We've been testing two-thirds of the system and it is providing significantly more cool and airflow. We have a third evaporator to hook up yet which will hopefully provide the overkill I want. It took two engineers, a creative mechanic and some outside-the-box duct work to maximize the improvements. That and a big wad of my cash. It will all be worth it if customers beg me to turn down the A/C this summer.

We've been looking into buying some more businesses this summer. On one hand we want to keep building the empire. On the other, we want to slow down and take a break. Which do you think will win? Stay tuned.

Saturday 6/2/07 10:53 PM

Just one more day until the start of another trolley season. Our 7th. This year we've hired a tour team to help cover half the week. We need to get out of the trolley and market the business more during the summer and get some more time off. Work smarter and turn the business into a system rather than a 120-day job.

The team we hired is doing very well with their training and will start our season for us on Monday.

We've also hired new ticket sales people for our trolley station. Daughter Jessica graduated college and is starting her new life in Colorado so won't return to work for us this summer. Our other steady ticket gal had a family medical situation take her out of state and our retired friends from Ohio who help in the booth are staying retired this year. So we have a whole new crew to train.

We've been receiving small batches our re-printed trolley souvenir book. The new version was printed and trimmed much better and is getting good reviews from the people we have shared it with.

We also received our order for 50,000 new brochures which came out great. We added two panels this year and did a major redesign. Then the 10,000 post cards we designed arrived. We'll give them out to trolley passengers as souvenirs who will then hopefully mail them across the world which markets us. We've also gotten lots of restaurants to place our trolley/rodeo table-tents on their tables. And we have 50,000 restaurant guides coming that feature trolley and rodeo ads. We're running our funny radio ads again this summer too. So our marketing is stronger this year. Our hope is to increase passenger counts enough to more than pay for our extra tour staff.

The upgrade to the trolley air conditioning system is complete. It works much better and is absolutely all we can fit in the vehicle. Hopefully it is enough. Two new compressors -- the largest that will fit in the vehicle, an additional evaporator inside the trolley and a major ductwork system to distribute the airflow much better. It's a shame it wasn't built right in the first place.

I had a wonderful 50th birthday celebration. Margie surprised me by flying in my two brothers from Florida and Tennessee. They walked into my basement office while I was on the phone with a Minnesota friend I have known since age 5, which freaked me out. I had no idea they were coming so I was nicely stunned. We had a great two days together playing pool and traveling to the Beartooths and Yellowstone.

Margie then surprised me again with a big dinner. I was told it was dinner with 5 others. I walked into the room to find about 20 of my friends. It was an overwhelming experience. Hard to operate with all that attention on you. I'm truly blessed. And now officially an old geezer. I'm looking forward to diving into the books I was given by friends.

The trailer park is full and the 2AB house is rented so everything is calm on the rental side of our business. Finished re-roofing one of our cabins. No progress to note yet on the sewer hookup situation. We're still waiting for a decision on the improvement district question to the state attorney general.

We had a neat experience at Yellowstone. Saw 4 wolves, which is more than 1% of the entire 300 population in Wyoming. They were swimming across a river and then walked single file within 20 yards of us, right in between cars and crossed the road. A very fortunate 5 minute experience. We also saw coyotes, buffalo, elk, deer and bighorn sheep. No moose or bears on this trip.

We've decided no new businesses for the time being. We have our hands full right now and look forward to more personal time, thanks to our new tour team. We have compressed time by working like dogs for the past 7 years and the payoff is now in sight. We've created multiple income streams and valuable assets to make our semi-retirement possible in the not-too-distant future. Best to stay focused on that goal now as we can always add passive businesses later.

Saturday 9/8/07 7:52 am

The summer trolley tour season has captured me and I have been unable to continue regular blog entries since June. I've been spending my limited free time sharing great links and opinions on my EverythingCody.com website. I hope you've been tuning in there. Our traffic is now averaging about 1,000 visitors a day which is more than the Cody Chamber of Commerce and Powell Tribune websites.

I will return with regular blog entries again after trolley season is behind us at the end of September.

For those of you following our lives, here's a few short updates.

We received the DEQ permit to construct the lift station and 1,500 foot run under the river and uphill to hook our trailer park to city sewer. We have failed to find any public funding source for it however, so plan on just biting the bullet and paying for it ourselves. We are getting bids now and plan to build this winter while water levels are lowest in the river.

Cody has had a tremendous summer season this year and our trolley tours are having the best year ever. Big sales and customer count increases. We hired a second tour team and they have performed wonderfully this summer. Not running the tours everyday has improved our lives in 50 different ways. We severely abused ourselves for years to build that business and we greatly appreciate knowing those years of hard work have paid off. Be thankful for your hardships because they give you eternal appreciation for your many blessings.

No new businesses on the horizon but I want to do more with EverythingCody.com once I gain the extra time when trolley season is over.

The family is doing well and we plan some travel in October.

Thanks for tuning in and I'll post more here regularly in October.