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Posts from the ‘Work’ Category

The Path To Mancavedom

On the day we consume massive quantities of turkey, beer and 12 straight hours of glorious football it only seems fitting I celebrate the official grand opening of my very own man cave. My accountant would rather I call it my home office but calling this blog entry The Path to HomeOfficedom is super lame and I’m paying him good money so work on those tax write offs from the “man cave” investment.

You see man needs his own space and that was easy for him to obtain in his early days roaming the earth. But then man fell in love, married and created little men that eventually look over his home office sanctuary and found himself parking his ass regularly at Starbucks to get some peace and quiet and taking conference calls over endless hours of baristas making double shot skinny mocha latte frapacchinos . That life was getting old.

This path to mancavedom was not an easy one. It started as a vision years ago. became reality last year when the CFO of DonutMonday Inc signed off on the project (wife) and broke ground earlier this year. During this trail blazing journey to build his new castle I documented each milestone of the arduous process and I share that with you today.

Step 1 – Find a suitable location. I live in a modest home in Northern California where housing is expensive and general contractors are in high demand. So visions of a grand remodel adding square feet were not in the cards. Fortunately my property contains a shed in the backyard that was the inspiration for a number of horror movies ground zero for every child’s nightmares. Actually my wife keeps her off season clothes and holiday decorations in here so we’re good to go. Location secured. img_2710

Step 2 – Execute Operation Shed Crap Transfer. This is my dining room table. I think. I didn’t actually see it for almost 2 months because it was the interim staging area of where we stored all the crap we had in the shed. However this was a principal condition of getting the CFO financial green light so failure was not an option. img_2719

 

Step 3 -Knock that old mofo shed down. This was going to be the fun part of the project. Just me, a home depot special entry level low torque cordless drill with accumulated dust from non use and ingenuity. I may not be able to build but I can destroy! img_2708

 

Step 4 – 3 hours later, throw away the cheap ass drill, scrap the elegant de-assembly plan and just start sledgehammering with middle age dad anger. That worked way better. Eventually I was left with the final skeletal remains of the old shed. One i-beam remained holding everything together that required accurate precision to ensure full safety precautions and avoid any injury from walls falling in on the demolition crew.

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Unfortunately that plan did not work but the ladder and what was left of my dignity took the brunt of the collapse.

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Step  6 – Draw up your plans. This was the first rendition of the vision for what my man cave would look like utilizing cave man like drawing skills. Possessing no ability to draw a person from a sky view makes it look like I’m lying on the floor sprawled out face up on the floor with a beer in my hand. That’s entirely in accurate. I’m normally face down.

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Step 7 – Throw away that 1st grade level crayon drawing and hire a real outfit that can do the job right. In my case I went the pre-fab route and worked with a company called Modern Shed (www.modern-shed.com) These guys were great as was their design options and I’m not just saying that because I get $500 for every sales referral I send them. That said if you are in the market for a man cave/home office I highly recommend this outfit and I’ll give you unlimited use of my soon to be new kegerator which happens to be $499 on sale today at Home Depot. Weird coincidence on price. Did I mention these guys were great? So very great.

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Step 8 – Check your non-handy ass ego at the door and get out of the way. This is Jose and Gaspar. These guys know how to build and simultaneously silently mock me with real power tools which they leave scattered around my property to torment me.

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Step 9 – Find a suitable side project. While Gaspar and Jose did all the heavy lifting building out the cave I found a way to make myself useful by building out the storage closets that would house all of the wife’s clothes and decorations that previously resided in the horror house shed. Just look at the precision on how the cabinet doors don’t quite line up nor the 3rd unit on the right which is an entirely different sized storage closet I accidentally purchased and didn’t even realize it till assembly stage 14C.


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Step 10 – Pimp It out. That wall spackle is not even dry and I have the TV fully mounted. Boom! It’s the corner piece centralized universal of any certified man cave and mandated by the city permit that I did not secure when putting up this bad boy. But don’t tell the  city and for god sakes don’t tell that to my accountant.

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Step 11 – Invest in a wifi extender. I cut the cable cord and bought an Amazon Firestick to broadcast HD TV over wifi. Great plan on paper. Unfortunately my current home wifi did not adequately reach the outer confines of Casa de DonutMonday and watching impressively consistent levels of buffering on aforementioned TV in VHF display quality got old fast. So I invested in the titanium grade Sports-A-Saurus 3000 model to deliver 100MB grade HD delivery with the 1 click push button pizza delivery feature. Comcast is NOT getting my money today.

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Step 12 – Once Sports-A-Sauris is installed ensure you have your man cave built during MLB baseball post season, NFL, NHL and college football seasons for proper and thorough quality assurance testing.img_3072

Step 13 – Understand you will fall victim to purchase every ManCave themed shwag on earth.I tried to fight this but who can say no to a one of a kind Mexican license plate themed sign sold by ten thousand street vendors in Cabo San Lucas? I didn’t think so Judgey McJudger

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Step 14 – Equip your man cave. Check out this bad ass hand stitched Italian leather dual motorized reclinable couch imported directly from Florence for a mere $4500. Unfortunately that was not a CFO approved purchase so check out the plan B Costco sofa bed special that currently resides in the cave instead. img_3080

Step 15 – Landscape, paint and rejoice. My kingdom awaits and it comes equipped with full time child labor who will keep the beer fridge restocked knowing access to the Xbox relies upon completion of those duties. Pretty nice upgrade over the horror shed and packs a 140 SF of certified man themed punch on the inside.

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7 Easy Steps (and 180 Sleepless Nights) To Becoming Your Own Boss

This is the true tale of my transition from corporate mid level exec jockey to mid priced self employed business consulting dude and largely the reason why the Donut Monday has been on hiatus the last 6 months or 180 sleepless nights. Large bouts of joblessness and possible financial ruin strangely dulls my humor. Only the names and the companies have been omitted to protect the not so innocent starting with yours truly who doesn’t want to get his ass sued as I recount my journey.

Step 1 – Get Fat and (Un)Happy In the Corporate World

You blink and all of a sudden you’ve been at one company for 13 years. You didn’t plan on it but you figure out how to not only survive but thrive in the corporate matrix. The pay is good. The benefits even better and the 6 week sabbaticals downright intoxicating. You think about leaving but they toss in Sr into your title. You think about leaving again and then they start calling you Director and that’s got a nice ring to it. Now it’s business class bookings on corporate travel and a cute admin. At this point you’ve dodged atleast 6 or 7 company wide layoffs so you think you’re untouchable or just damn lucky but who cares. You made it through the gauntlet and you start buying into the hype. But even though you’ve built up a dream and become a delegation superstar you’re in meetings 8 hours a day and 200 daily emails is a regular occurrence so you catch up at night after the kids are in bed a couple (every) night a week. Your friends start calling you a lifer and you think maybe they just might be right.

Step 2 – Buy Into the Start Up Dream

The dirty little secret is that living in the bay area can be a grind. So much wealth abounds and even though you’re W2 would bring bring no sympathy to anyone else in any other part of the country you start to feel like you settled and the house starts to feel smaller. And you’re about to turn 40. So you start to put out feelers on making a move to a start up , kick your feet up and wait for the offers to pile in like high priced veteran ballplayer who has just become an unrestricted free agent. But no offers come in. Sure you’re great, wicked smart and you put in the hours but you’re a corporate guy and you’re best years are behind you. You don’t know how to work in an environment without process. Can you sell the vision and close when the company’s existence depends on it? Can you work in an environment where everyone is 20 something and that salt and pepper hair is not helping things. No one tells this to your face but that’s what’s going on.

But then all of a sudden an offer comes in from a start up. OK it’s a start up that has been a start up for 10 years and you’re not feeling good vibes about the founder/CEO but then again every start up founder is a bit of a mad scientist so you talk yourself into this being the one. Who cares if it’s the only one. You take the job. The wife is supportive but starts to update her resume just in case.  The company is not based in the bay area so you become a temporary road warrior but you can handle it until you see the hotel reservation the company made for you and you think the one star rating is a typo. It’s not.  Business class is a long way away from your new home in row 39 middle seat. But you’re a seasoned veteran who knows how to play hurt and you soldier on. And before you know it you’re living the dream. Deals are closing. Attaboys and high fives all around. You start sitting in the quarterly board meetings. Your confidence skyrockets and you’re already counting ways to spend your forthcoming start up stock option wealth. Life is good.

Step 3 – Get Fired

While you are hitting nice strides in your job the revenue numbers come up short and your team members are getting picked off one by one. Rationale thought is in short supply and then one day the mad scientist CEO sets his sights on you and next thing you know you’re fired. I’m not talking about one of those prolonged individual performance plan layoffs with a soft landing and a fat severance plan kind of terminations. Or  the  sorry that risky new direction we took the company in didn’t quite pan out so we need to perform a mass casualty slaughter set of terminations. No I’m talking about a coming out of no where-in your face-made for TV-you’re fired-no soup for you kind of terminations transacted in about 15 seconds at curbside pick up at the airport by your boss who you were there to meet and drive to the big customer meeting that you set up. So now you suddenly find yourself curbside and jobless. And the airport cop behind you telling you to pull forward right afterward is not helping the situation at all at the moment. Curbside and jobless.

Step 4 – Have the Sure Thing Job Offer Fall Through

You know you had not been happy in this job for sometime anyway so the feeling of shock is quickly replaced by relief and ultimately joy because another large company had been recruiting you for a few months leading up to this moment. You were hesitating up to this point about going back to the corporate life but after getting virtually gunned down in broad daylight you start thinking maybe this start up life is not for you. Collect a severance, sign a fat offer and walk away unscathed. But just as you’re pricing out a 4 star family trip to Hawaii to celebrate the hiring manager calls up says the open headcount has been pulled but let’s talk again in 6 months and that’s when you really start to sweat.

Step 5 – Consume Large Quantities of Humble Pie

You’re a survivor so you shake it off, fire up the laptop and make LinkedIn your default home page. You punch out some key words in the job search that are representational of who you are and what type of role you are looking for. “VP”… “Team Leader”….”Superstar”.. “Generous Compensation”.  A few weeks later you’re resetting your expectations to “Entry Level”…”Flexible Hours”…and “Free Uniform Cleaning” It’s not going so well. You become a networking mad man. Lunch meetings are your daily ritual and while you put on a good face for friends and former co-workers who actually answer your email or calls no good job leads are materializing and you start to wonder if in fact your shit maybe does stink afterall.  You sit and your home office and do the job math. One unemployed single household income earner times  2.5  months average interview to offer time divided by 6 weeks left of severance to the power of end of season/holiday no one hires this time of year. Don’t forget to carry the one.

Step 6 – Reinvent Yourself

You’re on the 48th coffee meeting when a wise man asks if you’ve considered consulting. You had not. You’re a one company kind of guy but maybe it’s time to reinvent yourself. It’s 10am on a Sunday morning and there is an industry trade show Monday where you know everyone. 2 hours later you’ve booked a flight on your dime and 10 minutes before your local Fed Ex store closes you’re printing out the last batch of home made business cards. JSW Consultants is born. You’re on the 7th hour walking the tradeshow floor when in fact one of your former business contacts says they could use your consulting help a few hours a week. That grows to a few days a week and as you’re filing your business license, installing QuickBooks and pondering what exactly you can and can’t write off on your taxes in your new self employed status an email comes through on a new consulting opportunity referred by one of those networking lunch contacts you thought might be a waste of time.

Step 7 – Remake the Dream

Now it’s 6 months later and you have multiple consulting projects going at once, a few more in the pipeline and atleast 2 intriguing job offers, both of which you turn down for now. You understand the perils of consulting and realize there is no job security and it could all go away in less than 30 days but for now you’re not just surviving your thriving. You are the salary man who only knew one way to earn a living consciously took an unchartered career path and in the end learned alot more about yourself along the way.

FarFromGroovin – Down with Rental Car Companies

I put myself in the category of the classic business trip mid level exec grinder. Having not (yet) achieved superstar CEO status where access to private jets and town cars are at a moments notice and working for a start up, I pack my bags for each trip, kiss the wife and kids goodbye and prepare to go to battle. Flight delays, tight connecting flights that require full sweat maximizing sprints between terminals and surly flight attendants don’t phase me anymore. Bring on the excessive drinking repugnant customer who orders his 3rd last round on my tab at 1am the night before a 5:30am wake up call for an early morning flight home. No problem because I play hurt. Yet rental car companies cut me down at the knees. They are my kryptonite. While the world continues to evolve, the rental car industry embraces 40 year old practices with their proudest achievement in the last 5 years being the introduction of the flexible fueling option/wallet vaporizer, and super sized rental car lots that are outfitted with every imaginable type of car ever made except the one I actually reserved. A random sampling of their practices I find the most annoying

1. Forcing me to deal with actual humans

The airlines have taught me the less human interaction the better. I embrace a kiosk driven interactive business lifestyle. With exception of the frequently pleasant and borderline hygenic rental car shuttle drivers who pick me up to take me to the rental car lot located as far as possible from the airport, everything about a rental car experience can and should be automated so no one has to deal with an actual rental car company employee. That world does not yet exist and regretfully there are a few occasions when I actually have to walk in and talk to a customer service reservation agent. That usually instigates the official start of a shitty business trip day. Not that I have anything against the employees personally. They work exceptionally hard for minimal pay. Its the process they are forced to follow. The encounter typically starts with me queuing up at the end of a what resembles a depression era bread line with fellow customers at various stages of frustration. Your estimated wait time is 20 min (+1 day). When my turn finally arrives I present my drivers license and credit card used to secure my reservation to the service agent who proceeds to type uninterrupted into a computer screen I can’t see for a minimum of 20 minutes, supposedly processing my reservation. Its the most inefficient process I’ve ever encountered. I truly wonder at some point if the agent is Facebooking, or perhaps instant messaging with a friend to bet how long I will stand there blankly waiting before I loose my mind. My alternative theory is they are talking directly to the insurance arm of the rental car company to plot their strategy to see how much they can fleece me before I can leave the lot in the compact Ford Fiesta that oozes my “playa” status. Which leads me to my next gripe…

2. Enough of the hard sell on insurance

Suckers and grandmothers buy rental car insurance. Yet the world must be filled with the former because the rental car companies remain relentless in this practice. First it was the peace-of-mind tactic. “Sir why would you not consider protecting your company and person financial liability for a mere $15 a day.” Then the direct threat tactic. “Sir you will be charged a minimum of $1000 for any damage to the vehicle.” Now it’s a scare tactic. These words actually left the lips of a service rep recently. “Sir it’s 1000 times more likely you will get into a car accident than an airline crash so you should really consider liability coverage.” Well thank you for reminding me that my imminent death is mere moments away, knowing that you will be there to cover the cost of the burned out car that my unrecognizable charred remains will be scraped from after I’m t-boned by a gas tanker leaving the rental car lot.

3. Phantom daily rental rates

There is basic arithmetic. There is Calculus. And then there is rental car math. I have a PhD in rental car math yet even I’ve not completely figured out how my 2 day compact car rental comes to $232.34. The typical rule of thumb on calculating the real cost to rent a car is double any advertised daily rate and  pre-anticipate some additional hidden fees such as the  $5 “We bought too many Chrysler Sebrings and now we can’t unload them” fee, the $12 “Buying 150K shares in Facebook stock seemed like a good idea at the time” fee and the $15 “Reservation agent carpal tunnel syndrome epidemic from excessive typing producing unanticipated medical costs” fee.

4. Practicing IVU – (Inept Vehicle Up-selling)

it’s 8am. I’m in a business suit. I’m in Minneapolis. It’s February. Hmmm..do I want the Mustang Convertible upgrade? Fuck you.

5. Optional Safety Accessories

This one comes directly from Mrs. Donut Monday and falls more in the vacation rental scenario. Renting a baby car seat. This was when we still had some faith in rental car companies. Silly new sleep deprived parents. The first time we rented a seat and arrived to pick up our car the agent said they no longer had any available. Oh ok it’s 10pm and we’re an hour drive from our hotel but we’ll just put our 3 month old on my wife’s lap in the front seat and pretend it’s 1962 again. Can I also get a 6 pack of beer and a Jack Daniel’s chaser for the long ride since drunk driving is optional in this time warp universe you think we’re in? And come to think of it, yes I’ll take the fiery crash insurance option. The 2nd time (yes we did this twice) the rental car seat was covered with an inch of baby vomit and a belt restraint system that only worked with their higher end car models. Crafty

Logical conclusion – Rental car companies enjoy making babies cry

My only hope is a Virgin America equivalent of the airline industry breaks into the rental car market and shakes things up to reinvent the whole rental car experience. Already we’re seeing that with Zipcar and other similar start ups. Or I get that upgrade to CEO. Stay tuned….

10 Tips for a Successful Business Trip in Paris

10. Prior to leaving refrain from complaining to others that you have to take yet another business trip to Paris. You will get zero sympathy and a 12% chance someone punches you in the face

9. That 2 star hotel your company booked for you which is quite “charming” and is moments away from getting a 3 star upgrade is guaranteed to be dump. If in doubt send a work colleague a day ahead of you. You can borrow mine if needed. This is Mike. I now call him Recon Mike.

8. Forget trying to pretend you’re really French. French purposely named their cities so that non-natives cannot properly pronounce them. It’s not “Reims”, it’s “Reeeiiiiuuuummmmeeeesss”

7. No business meeting will start until the room is represented by atleast one Philippe, a Pascal, 2 Oliviers and a Gaspard. And Gaspard is on vacation until September

6. Showing up for a business meeting on a motorcycle (+ 5 points). Showing up on a moped…driven by someone else (- 25 points)

5. Accept that pate will be served at all meals

4. Be warned that French taxi drivers, when given the option to take an extremely generous 50 euro offer for a 3 mile fare or send 2 Americans walking home at 1am in the morning to their certain death..will choose the latter option

3. That friendly ribbing about France loosing in the last World Cup just cost you the business deal

2. The only no-smoking section is 40 miles outside of Paris

1. Refrain from documenting all business trip debauchery on Facebook while you’re wife is home with the kids. Trust me on this one.

Adventures in Barcelona

Recap of my first 18 hours in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress tradeshow.

3:30pm – After 16 near sleepless hours, arrive in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress tradeshow as sole representative of the company I work for.

4:15pm – Arrival in cab just outside hotel. 15 years of world travel does not hide my “essence of gringo” and almost immediately I’m propositioned to buy souvenirs, weed and a wounded cougar Spanish lady friend.

4:16pm – 13 years at Adobe has by nature instilled blind faith that an organization that sends its employee on a business trip will ensure that proper accommodations are secured during the stay. Silly silly Scott. As I walk toward the entrance to the hotel I read this note

“During the week of the MWC tradeshow only full night room reservations will be available”

A moment lapses before I realize my company has booked me into a 1-star cash only hotel that by policy allows rooms to be rented by the hour. I turn my gaze back outside seeking an escape route but all I see is the cougar lady friend across the street who gives me a knowing wink as if to say “I’ll be here when you’re ready big boy”.

I haul out the smart phone. Surely this must be a mistake. Hopes dashed when travel itinerary confirms the destination. A quick scan of hotel review on Yelp. The words “dump”….”avoid”….”shady” and “nightmare” leap out at me first. Defeated, tired and anger brewing I succumb for the moment to my predicament and walk into the lobby.

The manager looks like he’s on the tail end of an 18 hour shift. Cables behind him lead to a dilapidated modem that likely is the sole source of Wifi that likely has a limit range of about 10 feet around the lobby. Other guests huddled around laptops scattered about the lobby confirm my assumptions. No one is over 25 except me. 75 euros nightly rate! Cash only sir. MWC pricing. Keys are handed over. Complimentary gruel and water service begins at 7am each morning. I’m pointed to the 19th century elevator to take me to the 4th floor room. I choose the stairs instead.

4:45pm – I check into my room. I believe the original decorator was inspired by 3rd world interrogation rooms for criminals when deciding on an “essence” for the room. 2 cots, a dangling light bulb and an armoire with 3 hangers. I can’t bring myself to unpack

4:46pm – The first hint of the sewer like smell wafting from the bathroom hits me. I check to see if the last guest left a deuce as a present but no such luck flushing that problem away

5:15pm I return to the lobby to inquire about getting an iron to prepare my work clothes for the week. The manager informs me there is just one iron and it’s being used at the moment. There are atleast 40 rooms in the hotel. I calculate that my turn to get the iron will come about 3 days after I’m already back home in the U.S. Then again I might be the only guest in the last few years that ever set foot on the premise wearing a suit and sporting a full time job.

6:00pm – After a good cry I decide to head out to a restaurant where healthy doses of Sangria will blunt the sting of my predicament.

8:00pm – I finish dinner and check around a few other local hotels to see if they have any remaining vacancies. After a few hearty laughs as I pose that question to front lobby managers and one prolonged grimace when I note my current accommodations I accept the predicament I find myself in and make the long slow walk back to the hotel. Around the same time I get a text message from an old Adobe colleague also at the show. “Hanging out at the Mandarin Oriental tomorrow night for drinks….join us!” That one hurt.

9:00pm – As night falls the quality of the characters lingering around the bar next to the hotel follows suit. The hotel manager buzzes me in through the since secured double re-inforced lobby door. I catch a momentary glimpse of the sacred single iron as it disappears into yet another room. I start my death march upstairs

9:15pm – I reach the top of the stairs and approach my room. The hall lights have since shut off. Lock down for the night. In the room realizing I’m still in the same clothes from a day ago I plug my nose, head into the bathroom and start up the shower. I scan my surroundings. No fancy soap or shampoo. Correction..make that no soap or shampoo. Contemplating if the liquor store across the alley from the hotel carries Irish Spring. Odds quite low. I jump in and decide to just spread the dirt around.

9:45pm – I gingerly pull of the bed spread pull back the covers, praying that all the money the hotel saved not stocking shower soap for its guests has been invested alternatively in healthy amounts of strong germ killing laundry detergent instead.

10:15pm – Either total sleep deprivation over the last day or the lingering effects of the sewer stench wafting straight through the bathroom door lulls me to sleep/unconsciousness.

3:00am – Bar next to the hotel closes. Remaining fellow quality guests return to their rooms. From the paper thin walls I hear every conversation simultaneously and crisply as if it’s being screamed directly into my ear. I contemplate offering my unprompted advice in return to one particular conversation that indeed you might want to have that rash checked out. Over the next 20 minutes the collective guests around me decide to have an impromptu door slamming contest.

3:20am – Rythmic bed squeaking sounds from my neighbor to the left begins.

3:22am – Squeaking ends. Rookie.

4:15am – I’m awoken again by shouting voices coming for the alleyway outside of my hotel. I don’t speak much Spanish but the loose translation I am able to derive from the conversation is something along the lines of “Yo WTF? I’ll crack your skull in half if you don’t give me my money” I recognize the voice of that of the wounded cougar. Mental note – Never stiff a wounded cougar.

7:15am – Sunshine breaks through my window. I survived the night. I take another soapless shower get dressed, brace open my door and slam it shut as hard as I can to provide a complimentary wake up call to my hungover neighbors.

After a hearty gruel breakfast I fire up the laptop and craft an email to my boss.

“Hi! Made it to Barcelona and the hotel your assistant booked for me. An interesting selection. Here’s a link so you can check it out for your next visit here. Just wanted to let you know I’ll be heading off shortly to the show, I’m a bit tired from the noise emitting from the bar below till 4am, sporting a wrinkled suit and a bit smelly at the moment given the lack of my hotel amenities and won’t be able to do any work from the room with no WiFi but I’ll manage somehow. BTW if you don’t hear from me in the next 24 hours inform the CFO to prepare the random money to secure my return. Glad I could be here in person as the sole rep for our company. Later!”

10:45am – Our travel coordinator calls. Miraculously a room opened up at a 3 star hotel down the road and I can check in anytime.