The Danger of Overreliance on 1 Online Platform

I have written before about the stunning effectiveness of YouTube and Facebook advertising, provided it is done correctly.

There is a tremendous danger, however, in putting all your eggs in one basket.

Recently I met a young woman whose entire business-surprisingly successful-was based on the popularity of her Facebook page and Facebook advertising.

When she fell foul, however, of Facebook’s advertising policies she was prevented from advertising and her page was effectively shut down. This ended her business and she came to me for advice.

The difficulty is that Facebook or YouTube are private platforms owned by limited companies-Facebook and Google-and do not have any public service obligations, for example those that RTE must adhere to.

So, when Facebook close your account because you have breached their advertising policies, and you have unsuccessfully appealed their decision, it is difficult to see anywhere else you might profitably pursue the matter.

Yes, perhaps you can complain to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission or go to the Courts seeking some type of order or relief on anti competition grounds. But pitting the resources of a small business against the resources of Google and Facebook is a battle that is only for the extremely brave or foolhardy.

The takeaway is that these platforms make the rules and if you want to play you need to keep a weather eye on their policies and procedures, which do change frequently, to ensure you are not shooting yourself in the foot and destroying your business.

And you also need to ensure that you do not develop an unhealthy overreliance on one platform.

20 Years’ Experience or 1 Year Repeated 20 Times?

When you are considering getting expert advice from a consultant or other professional, and you are concerned about their claims of relevant experience, ask yourself whether they have one year’s experience repeated multiple times.

Or whether they genuinely got 20 years of varied, wide-ranging experience in the sphere of activity that concerns you.

This is an easy mistake to make.

We all know people who appear to be wise, sagacious, and experienced but when you look more closely you may find someone who has repeatedly carried out a narrow range of tasks in a limited area of activity.

Fake Law and Pseudo Lawyers-Giving False Hope and Increasing Costs

One of the most frustrating types of person I have met since the great Irish property crash in 2007 is the person struggling with debts who will clutch at any straw to believe there is a simple solution.

And there has been a significant number of individuals who are happy to peddle a concoction of legal mumbo jumbo and snake oil to the desperate borrower struggling with, in many cases, unsustainable debt.

“It’s not your fault”

It all starts with a simple but beguiling assertion: “It’s not your fault”.

This is tremendously powerful. Tell anyone who is struggling with a problem for years that it’s not their fault, that they have been beating themselves up all this time needlessly, and a good many people will happily accept this proposition.

Once they do they are further persuaded by the pointing of the finger at others for the problem. Politicians? Bankers? Property developers? The Central Bank? The EU? German banks? Take your pick.

Pseudo legal mumbo jumbo

Then the charlatan provides the solution. It may be based on some misguided, misconceived version of a half baked idea with a passing acquaintance with a law from hundreds of years ago or it may be a concoction of pseudo legal mumbo jumbo that has as much legal substance or validity as  snow disappearing off a hedge.

The underlying arguments may be based on ideology, political views, morality, philosophy but the problem with these arguments is a simple one: when the case comes before a Judge or the County Registrar the issues will be settled by recourse to the law of the land.

And there is a fundamental inescapable problem facing borrowers: the mortgage contract or agreement. This contract will provide that the lender will advance the money to the borrower and the borrower will repay it, failing which certain steps will be taken to enforce the security/charge on the borrower’s property.

No amount of pseudo legal gibberish will sidestep these fundamental terms of the mortgage agreement.

And the sooner the borrower recognises this, the sooner he might arrive at a solution or deal. He may also avoid needless legal costs on a course of action that is bound to fail when it is tested in court.

There are solutions available, don’t get me wrong. But those solutions are not to be found in half baked faux legal ideas smeared with a veneer of pseudo legal respectability. This is the equivalent of holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” and hoping it will go away. It won’t.

Make terms

You need to, as Uriah Heep’s mother exhorted him in David Copperfield, “Uri, Uri, make terms”. In plain language, doing a deal may be the best option in the long run, and this will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.

But one thing is certain: relying on fake made up law and pseudo legal jargon will only make matters worse.

My Origin Story

I found the photographs this week, worried I had lost one in particular. Turns out I had put it away so safely I could not find it.

Anyway, here it is. On the back it says “Feb ‘87, started trading in December, ‘86, sold in February ‘89, bought Navan July ‘89

This is where my business story starts, at the age of 23, on 6th December, 1986.

It was a failed, locked up shop unit with a 2 bed apartment overhead. My brother Pat and I worked like mules to build it up from ground zero, from zero turnover to a healthy one within 12 months.

We traded from 7 am to 12 pm, not very common in 1986, built the turnover up well, and sold it on at a nice profit in early 1989.

Then I went to Navan in July 1989 and bought this property on Flower Hill.

Flower Hill, Navan, 1989

Did quite well there, too, but my dad wanted to retire from his petrol station business in Enfield, Co. Meath.

So I sold Navan and bought the filling station business in Enfield in 1996 and spent a lot of money developing it: new convenience store, new branding, new deal with the oil company, new tanks, equipment, pumps, car wash, etc.

Enfield, Co. Meath 1996

I had a young family and the hours of work and commitment in retail are savage. Retail, if you are running the show yourself and the buck stops with you, is relentless and genuinely 24/7.

I had also bought a small shop and building at Seapoint avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin and was trying to develop and run this at the same time.

So I eventually sold it in 2006 and went into property development. I bought a site in Edgeworthstown in Longford and built a block of 8 apartments.

Edgeworthstown, Longford, 2006

Down through the years I had been buying and selling property, flipping shops, houses, a little bit of renovation and improvement but this was the first time I was building from scratch.

So I managed the build myself, hired a teleporter and learned how to drive it, engaged the services of sub contractors and was involved in a race against the clock.

Just as I was coming to the end of the build and getting ready to launch the apartments the signs in the economy were bad, even though there was some hopelessly misguided talk of a ‘soft landing’.

We all know what happened next: the economy crashed and nowhere was the effect more pronounced than in the property game.

I lost everything. Wipeout.

When the tide goes out there is no fighting it. You are stranded. Just ask Sean Quinn or Tony O’Reilly or any of the other wealthy individuals who ended up being wiped out by the property crash.

When I say I lost everything I mean everything material or financial. I was healthy and had a great family and even though I hadn’t a cent to my name and massive debts I had two things going for me:

  1. A good attitude
  2. A willingness to work hard

So I went back to college to study law. I went to Griffith college and studied full time for about 4-6 months.

I spent the days in my garage at home and the nights in Griffith attending lectures.

The garage at home where I commenced my legal studies!

I sat the 8 FE1s-the entrance exams to the Law Society-and scraped a pass.

In all 8 subjects.

So then I became an apprentice solicitor and qualified after the usual period of apprenticeship and professional practice courses in the Law Society.

Now I have my own solicitor’s practice here in Enfield, Co. Meath.

Enfield (again) 2011

And the funny thing is my office is only about 200 yards from the filling station. I even buy my milk for the tea there, sometimes.

It’s funny walking across the forecourt on a morning to buy a litre of milk for the office and getting a flashback to 20 years previous-for example walking across the tanks I can remember vividly getting down on my knees at least twice a week to dip the tanks.

Or the little office in the shop in which I spent a lot of time dealing with the problems of a growing business. Or the flower beds around the place-they were my doing.

And the property I refer to above at Blackrock , Co. Dublin? I sold it to my younger brother who in turn sold it to my older brother and I am now acting in the conveyance of this property, some 20 years later.

Talking about going full circle.

What you have read is most of my origin story; I have actually left out parts. For legal reasons.

Building your brand

If you are starting or growing your business it is a good idea to use your origin story-your back story. Everyone has one.

And it helps grow and build your brand. Some brands appear to have something intangible that makes them more attractive to would be customers or clients.  

One of these hidden characteristics is an origin story.

Think Ray Kroc, the milkshake salesman, building McDonalds and his origin story as a seller of milk shake machines and what he noticed on his travels, particularly the success of the McDonald brothers restaurant.

Think about Phil Knight starting Nike. Or Richard Branson and his beginnings in business.

Or Howard Schultz who was instrumental in growing a small coffee shop in Seattle, Washington called Starbucks into a global corporation. Or the college students who started Google.

And ask yourself this: when did you last, or ever, see an ad for Starbucks or Google? Starbucks and Google are just two brands who have grown without huge or any advertising spend because of their origin story and the ability to attract true believers.

What’s your origin story?

P.S. Some of what I have learned is to be found on my YouTube channel and SmallBusinessLawIreland.com.

If you have an interest in employment law in Ireland EmploymentRightsIreland.com contains a good deal of free information which you may find useful, and my solicitor’s practice website is BusinessAndLegal.ie

Employee #30 at Facebook, Facebook Advertising, and Email Subscribers for $.34

facebook advertising

He was the 30th employee at Facebook when it started up. He was directly involved in the creation of the Facebook advertising platform.

And he is almost certainly a multi-millionaire. He is the founder of AppSumo, Sumo, and King Sumo and a leading light in the business world dispensing advice for startups and entrepreneurs.

His name is Noah Kagan.

I came across a video of his on YouTube recently and was fascinated to read the title and the premise of his video. It is called “Facebook Ads Tutorial: How I Get Thousands of Email Subscribers for $1 Each” and you can watch it here.

I was fascinated because I get email subscribers for $0.34 per sign up.

Yes, 34% of Noah Kagan’s cost. 34% of the cost that Noah Kagan, employee number 30 at Facebook, is so impressed with and made a video about it.

So I made a video about it, which you can take a look at on this page.

Of course the reason why I can make Noah Kagan look like a rank amateur is because I am in a much less competitive market.

Less competitive from a geographical perspective, and less competitive from an industry standpoint.

Nevertheless, you would have to wonder why more business owners, entrepreneurs, start ups, hustlers, grinders, and so forth do not avail of Facebook advertising for their business.

And don’t use email marketing properly.

And don’t use YouTube and YouTube advertising properly, or at all.

It baffles me, quite frankly.

Anyway, take a look at the video here:

Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste on a February Saturday

Sometimes you stumble upon a place and it surprises and delights and takes your breath away.

Last week myself and she who must be obeyed were in Ballina, Mayo for the weekend. A Christmas gift from the kids.

On Saturday we decided we would go for a drive prior to retiring to the hotel bar and watching the Ireland v Scotland rugby match.

I have always been impressed and fascinated and frightened by the power and majesty of the Atlantic Ocean waves smashing the west coast so we headed north to the North Atlantic.

Up through Killala and towards Ballycastle, as I thought Ballycastle was right on the coast.

En route to Ballycastle and perhaps the Céide fields I took a turn down a small, narrow side road and ended up at Downpatrick Head and this was the surprise.

This is a stunning place that I never heard of and on this February Saturday there was only one other couple in the small car park.

It is right on the coast and there is a piece of rock or sea stack called “Dún Briste” which is located about 50 metres off the coast, having broken off in a storm from the island of Ireland in 1393.

The top of Dún Briste (Irish for ‘broken fort’) is flat and measures about 50 metres by 13 metres and contains evidence of people and buildings having lived there when the land broke away from Ireland.

When you come across a place like this, one you have never heard of before, and you see the power of nature, feel the strength of the wind, look down the face of the cliffs and see the gulls sitting there immobile, peer into the blowhole you are made to feel insignificant.

In the last few years I have visited the Acropolis in Athens, the colosseum in Rome, the Berlin Wall and these places are tremendously well known and widely photographed. All fantastic experiences.

Stumbling across Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste on a brisk February Saturday morning preparatory to sinking pints in a hotel bar was a different experience but equally memorable, in my book.

Growing Old

It’s my birthday this week and I have been thinking about growing old, and what it means.

I think I have come to the conclusion that growing old is when you do not want to learn new things.

Growing old is when you do not want to make YouTube videos.

Growing old is when you are not enthused about finishing reading a book because, now, you get to pick a new one again.

Growing old is when you grow more sedentary and put on weight.

Growing old is not losing 3 stone since August.

Growing old is not hustling and grinding as if you were still 23.

It’s probably certain and self evident and an ineluctable fact that I am growing old.

But it doesn’t really feel like it.

The Level of Folly Attained

The Law Society sends out, by email, a newsletter containing summaries of “Recent Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court reserved written judgments”.

I always try to scan through the decisions which cover a wide range of topics ranging from disputes about wills to personal injury claims to prisoners claiming infringement of human rights in jail, and so forth.

I do so because it is useful to try to stay on top of the various legal principles which are confirmed or changed in some of these cases. But another reason is to read the actual decision from an English language perspective.

I am a lover of writing, language, words and sometimes a Judge will use a particular turn of phrase which ranges from amusing to sublime.

Last week, I came across an amusing one in the personal injury case where the plaintiff suffered a ‘degloving’ injury when attempting to access the eastern platform of a Dart station through an unauthorised route. He sued the operators of the DART light rail system.

The injury he suffered was a serious one, no doubt about that, as he had to endure the amputation of the injured finger and a disfiguring and debilitating permanent injury to his left hand.

But he needed to establish liability on the part of the defendants, Transdev Dublin Light Rail Ltd and Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

Justice Hanna dismissed his claim on the basis that “the level of folly attained by the plaintiff” was to such a degree as virtually to extinguish any potential fault on the part of the defendants.

The next time one of your kids misbehaves and you want to explain why he is being deprived of some treat you can refer him to the “level of folly” his conduct has recently exhibited as the root cause.
You can read the full decision here.

Brown Bread

I received a gift of a new Neven Maguire book at Christmas, “Neven Maguire’s Home Economics for Life: The 50 Recipes You Need to Learn” and took it as a hint that I was to finally get my act together in the kitchen.

And so with prodigious enthusiasm, not to mention a tremendous and violent casting about of ingredients such as strong white flour, coarse wholemeal flour, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, golden syrup, some type of black sugar whose name escapes me, buttermilk, sunflower seeds and a teaspoon of salt, I baked my first loaf of brown bread.

And, even if I say so myself, it is most agreeable. It has received a solid thumbs up from she who must be obeyed and all the successors to my overdraft.

I now look forward, at least once a week, to making the bread in the kitchen on a Saturday morning.

It is such a change from the activities I am normally engaged in-things like law business, marketing, making videos, writing blog posts, reading, watching sport-that it has become a form of therapy.

The odour of freshly baked brown bread that wafts from the oven when I open the oven door after 40 minutes or thereabouts causes an explosion of the saliva ducts and gives a great sense of accomplishment and anticipation of what is to come when I let it cool just a little and then slice it and dress it with some real butter.

It may look like a regular loaf of bread to the casual observer, but it is a great deal more than that to me.

Now, onwards to making the dinner…

How to Succeed Every Time

how to succeed every time

“Succeeding every time” may strike you as an ambitious, unrealistic aim but I can assure you it’s not if you choose how you measure success.

Let me explain.

If you measure success by the outcome or goal you cannot succeed every time.

If you measure success, however, by how well you attend to the process you can succeed every time that you try and do your best.

Because your measure of success will not be measured by the outcome but by your application to the process/procedure.

And this will generally involve three things:

  1. How well you focus your attention to the process
  2. How hard you try
  3. How well you prepare

Let’s face it, you can never determine the outcome because this will depend on what has gone on prior. For example, if you are in the WRC or Labour Court or Court the outcome will be decided by the adjudicator or the Labour Court or the judge.

All you can do is prepare well and let the cards fall where they may.

You will often have heard footballers and rugby players and hurlers talking about “sticking to our processes” after a match. This is because they know if they stick to their process the outcome will take care of itself.

Shane Lowry, Dean Rock, Joe Canning, Johnnie Sexton all face high stakes outcomes when they stand over a putt or a free or a penalty. Dean Rock, for example, had a difficult free a few years ago to win the All Ireland against Mayo.

But Rock was not thinking about the outcome of scoring or failing to score; he was thinking about his routine, his process because this was all he could control. And he slotted it by sticking to his routine, one that he had honed in Ballymun.

Sexton, Joe Canning, Shane Lowry all have tried and trusted and well practiced pre-shot routines. This is because they know they cannot control the outcome, there are too many variables.

They attend to the process and forget about the outcome because all they can control is their approach to the next shot,t he next putt, the next free.

This routine is a little like a child’s comfort blanket, something they can rely on and familiarise themselves with in the comfort of their own training pitch or course.

You can succeed in your next endeavour, therefore, if you measure success by how well you prepare and provided you do your best. And you can do this every time.

Or you can worry and fret about the outcome and the consequences.

It’s your choice.