Brad Rutledge

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Social Media Movement

Think Social Media is a fad that will fade away like the pet rock and leg warmers? Think again. I'm already sold, as we've seen some amazing results with the Social Media Marketing campaigns we've managed for Rutledge Consulting Group clients. It's pretty powerful to see some of the numbers on this video.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Powerful & affordable business tools I use Part 2

Talking about tools I have used in my office to save money & with great features. Okay - so last time I raved about Google with iGoogle & Google Voice. I just upgraded from GrandCentral to Google Voice this week & it looks super cool. I left a test voice mail for myself & was emailed a text transcript of my message. For a CrackBerry user like me - this is a great feature. If you consider that your voicemail may be auto transcribed, it kinda makes you rethink what you say when leaving a voicemail. That rambling message will be posted in its text version - careful!

Moving on, today I wanted to feature two other phone technology options - 1. is for conference calls; and 2. is for a mobile phone system that travels anywhere throughout the world with you.

ack - About two years ago, a client told me about this little magicJack USB device because he had been traveling internationally for months. magicJack, he told me, allowed him to be on his trips to Asia or Europe & still make local (without long-distance charges) calls back to the States. Pretty cool. I think most people are attracted to magicJack because of the price: $39.95 gets you the magicJack & one year of free local and long distance calling to the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Basically - for $40 - free calling all year for folks making domestic calls. Very cool, considering Comcast & Vonage are about $24-$30 per month!

Other magicJack features include Caller ID, ability to change your phone number, Voicemail, call-forwarding, etc.

Cons - You can tell by visiting the Web site that this is a great product invention that needs some adult supervision. When going to the Web site to research for this blog post, I even had trouble finding info like basic features & pricing. This shallow-level of thinking extends to the product at times when you have technical problems. My office had two days where we couldn't use the system & finally figured it out after several machine reboots, etc. It also is a VOIP solution, so performance depends on your Internet connection (if I'm on a call I can tell if someone is downloading a large Internet file because the call get choppy). Overall, a great solution for someone who travels, has patience with lack of documentation & support - and a super speedy Internet connection. Honestly, I will keep the magicJack as a back-up number - perhaps a direct line for someone in the office. But for my main office phone line, I'm exploring one of the more expensive VOIP solutions for greater reliability.

Free Conference - Well, most of its key services are free, and offers some professional services, such as automated email invitations w/ RSVP's, real-time conference management controls like self mute, different conference modes like Conference Mode, Q&A Mode & Presentation Mode -
I should use these more. You can upgrade and get a toll-free line, online support - and even desktop sharing (think Web X). I have a marketing team in San Diego as we're working on the San Diego Sockers indoor pro soccer team's marketing. We have weekly coordination meetings and Free Conference has proven to be a perfect solution for this - there are four people who join the call & is pretty reliable.

Cons - I have only had one problem with the service. During a client call for Costa Vida, the Baja-inspired fast casual Mexican restaurant & we were presenting the marketing plan for the year to franchise owners/operators across the nation. There were several people on the call - and after I left the call, apparently the quality dropped significantly. It could have been one bad connection - we could have overcome the problem by using the Q&A section, etc.

For an important meeting with clients or customers, I would recommend upgrading and using one of the more professional services. For internal meetings, I think Free Conference can be a perfect solution.

There you go. Still on the hunt for more new cool technologies to make my life easier! Next we'll review some of my fav music services.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Powerful & affordable business tools I use Part I

This is a quick post to highlight some of the business tools I use at Rutledge Consulting Group that are 1. affordable or free; 2. allow me to utilize technology to be more productive. I'm always on the hunt for new tools to make my life easier - aren't we all?

Google Rocks
I know I've only scratched the surface on the tools & capabilities that Google keeps putting out there - but I've discovered a few key tools that I use on a daily basis - and each doesn't cost anything.
  • Grand Central or Google Phone - This is a super cool & useful feature that is great for small businesses, consultants - or anyone wanting ONE number that people can always use to reach them. When you sign up, you select an area code & request a number. If the system is still accepting new number requests (I've seen it where new numbers have been temporary blocked) - you'll have a choice of available numbers with that area code. You pick the one you like - and BOOM - you're up and running. Some of the features include (Call Screening, ListenIn, Call Record, Block Callers, Notifications via email or SMS, ability to ring multiple phones at once - or change phone you want to ring, personalized voicemail per caller (this is a cool feature for clients - you can have a vm that starts, "Thanks for calling Allen, I'm not available right now ...") -- some of the other features that are available that I haven't tried yet include a WebCall Button - people call call you w/out seeing your number, ability to switch phones in the middle of a call (when the cell battery is dieing, and Visual Voicemail for your mobile phone).
  • iGoogle - I know a lot of people already use this - but it allows you to set up ONE page where you can see and interact with other key Web apps or news feeds. I use mine now for Twitter, FaceBook, Pandora, Wall Street Journal, YouTube, Comics, Photo Galleries, Weather, Movies, etc. - I'm just now getting into this & it rocks!
Next I'll overview some low cost business lines and free conference calling
magic jack, free conference

Then, some of my favorite online radio stations
slacker, pandora

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Is Busines Ever Usual?

So, earlier this year, we celebrated the start of the 4th year of operations for Rutledge Consulting Group. It was quite an eventful year for the business. We experienced significant spurts of growth in the Summer, followed by several clients going by the wayside in the Fall. The downturn in the economy was to blame.

It was about one year ago, that Rutledge Consulting Group decided to find digs of our own. We had been sharing an office with a small graphic design shop - but we have obviously outgrown our space and it was clear our businesses were headed in different directions. We found an inexpensive space downtown Salt Lake that allowed for month-to-month rent. We were several flights up in the old McIntyre Building overlooking the Downtown City Creek Development. Other than the excitement of watching 5+ concrete trucks pour concrete & dozens of tiny construction workers run around & pour floor after floor of parking structure, it was good temporary location - but bad long-term fix.

After my wife & I bought a house in Holladay - I found a great office space in downtown Holladay, just 0.8 miles from our house. I walk as often as I can & love it.

Being mid-way through our 4th year, I have been thinking of a few lessons.

BEING DIVERSIFIED IS GOOD When some clients went away, we had enough business to maintain, without too much pain. At one point I thought, if I were employed by this business, I would have just been laid off. It was having a diverse mix of clients that helped us sustain through this brief period of contraction.

Additionally our approach of working with talented contractors was a positive as well, because we could more easily trim back those monthly budgets - it's a great system that allows us to more easily ebb & flow with the market conditions.

GROWTH IS GOOD - BUT ORGANIC GROWTH IS TOUGH We experienced significant growth in 2008 - doubling our revenue & client base. But, I've always heard it - and now have experienced it. Organic growth is tough. You have to be very thoughtful of your decisions & only make the move to add additional resources (liabilities) when the time is right. Otherwise, cash flow can become an issue. I know just enough to be dangerous & am pretty conservative with finance. It's the classic Chicken or Egg dilemma. How do I get the new business without the resources? Well, I'd hate to bring on someone I cannot afford, and make a big bet that later leads to disaster. Company's deal with this issue daily, but as a small business the stakes are much higher.

As we're looking ahead, the economy is stabilizing and confidence is growing. The demand to perform is very high & I feel like we're positioned to do this. Sometimes you have to retract to hit that next big growth spurt. We're ready.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

New House, New Office, New Clients

A lot of happenings going on in my life since my last post. Here's the quick view:

Sold old house & bought a new one
> Sold our house
> Found a new house & put in an offer
> During inspection found structural problems
> Withdrew our offer
> Found another house & bought it
> Moved out & into the new one

Moved into a new office
> Found a gem of an office just 0.8 miles from the new house
> Negotiated a great deal
> Picked up three Free desks for the office
> Moved out of the hot & inconvenient Main St. office
> Moved into the new one

Grew the Biz
Picked up three new significant new clients
> Hired a new Account Manager
> Found two other new leads

Things are going well. I'm happy things should start to settle down now. We've nearly unpacked all of the boxes at home - and it already feels like home. With the current state of the U.S. housing market, Alicia & I were lucky to not only sell our house, but find a good deal, get financed ... and move.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can Traffic School Help? (again ...)

Well, I got another speeding ticket yesterday. It was similar to the one I received earlier this year, where I was on a city street that merges directly onto the highway. Yesterday I was driving on West Temple - and about 1/2 a block before it technically becomes the on-ramp to I-15 South, when I saw a moto cop in my rear view mirror speed out with his lights roaring.

I have NEVER been able to get out of a ticket when pulled over for speeding. It's honestly something I've had a lot of practice with - but for some reason, my various tactics have never worked. I've tried:

> Acting extremely sorry
> To be surprised & sorry
> In a hurry - "can you help me out today?'
> Being upset
> To find a technical loophole - "I'd like to see the radar gun" - and even "when was the last time this was calibrated?"

None of these have ever worked. In fact when I tried the Technical Loophole play, the cop informed me that he was the Laser & Radar Detector trainer manager for all of Salt Lake County - he gave me an in-depth lesson on how the technology works - and showed me the record of when his machine had last been calibrated (the day prior).

I've heard numerous stories of friends (usually females) who have gotten a warning. I'd love a warning - just once! This, for some reason, is one of my weaknesses! Why can't I do better???

I already attended Traffic School once this year - I think there is a limit of attending only once per year. Looks like I'm screwed here too. Guess I could always try to slow down ...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's (gonna be) a girl!

Alicia, Finn & I went in for Alicia's 20 month check up at the Dr. for her pregnancy this morning. After much jelly on my wife's belly for the Ultra Sound do-dad - the medical tech. finally proclaimed "It's a girl - no question about it."

Honestly I would have been happy with either a little boy or girl - but part of me was hoping for a girl, since we already have Finn and don't plan to have any more kiddos. So now instead of thinking and saying "it" or "the baby" we can now say "her" and "she" - maybe even "Little Misses."

Girl names seem much easier than boy names. I think we already have a short list of 3-4 that would work & we haven't even been thinking about it too much.

New House Too
We also have a contract on our house & are close to extending an offer on our next home. We need to be out by the first week of August - so time is short! With a new baby on the way, a new home in a month & new office - I hope we're done with new things for this year!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Small Town Festivals Rule

So one of my clients is developing a new community called Legacy Ranch in the oldest town in Idaho - Franklin. This past weekend, Franklin hosted its annual Idaho Days Celebration. As a good community member, Legacy Ranch hosted a series of fun activities at its lake. Activities centered around the lake, which is for the first time open to the public.

Activities included:
  • Canoe Races
  • Kids' Fishing Derby
  • Closest to the Pin Golf (pin was located on a small island)
  • Tractor Pull Competition
  • Hay Rides
These small town events are really great because you get to hang out with all of the 'big wigs' in town. Following are some of the highlights.

Farmers sit and watch the exciting Tractor Pull competition.

The exciting canoe races, with all the thrills & spills.

... and of course, winners of the Kids' Fishing Derby.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Participate - or shut up

Over the past few months, I've decided that it is time to be a Participant, instead of being a side-line complainer. I'm focused on two areas for this: 1. Politics; and 2. Social Media

So, like most Americans, I have been what I call a quiet complainer. I've grown up in an age of extreme political correctness, where it's become a bad thing to offend anyone, for any reason ... at anytime. I believe this is one of the reasons for the so-called silent majority, meaning the large number of people who do not express their opinion publicly. The term was initially coined by Nixon, unfortunately, when speaking of all of those who were not protesting the Vietnam War. Today, I believe there is a different group of silent level-headed folks in America who, because they are not extreme, stay quiet on most issues.

Anyway, I have been quietly complaining about U.S. politics with my wife & friends who I know share my views for years. In fact, I recall, I was quietly outraged when President Bush began beating the war drum for Iraq, just after our troops had been deployed in Afghanistan (which I agreed with). I believe I yelled at the radio in my car when I was driving alone when I first started hearing the Weapons of Mass Destruction talk. My voice went unheard.

Well, with new elections coming up - I decided to Participate in Politics this round. With this being a major election year, I attended a Democratic caucus for my precinct in Salt Lake City, which was amazing! For anyone who feels they don't have a voice, they need to shut up and participate! I was elected as one of two delegates to represent our precinct and will have the power to help select who will be on the ballet for Utah elections come November. Vying to be on the ballet for a seat in the Utah House of Representatives on the Democratic side are Kelly Ann Booth and Brian King. I have since met with and had a chance to sit down and discuss real issues and concerns with those running for a seat in the Utah House. I plan to post a few more blogs about my experience, but this is as grass roots as it gets. And I'm convinced that if people actually Participated in Politics, special interest groups would not have such a strangle hold on our political system. They say, elections are won by the people who show up, I'm starting to believe that.

At this early stage, I can see the process is run by citizens & seems fairly transparent. Can it be possible that this can occur at higher levels of government too ... ? So this round, instead of quietly complaining in my kitchen and scaring my dog, I'm going to be a part of it. If you don't participate, then you have no one to blame but yourself. At this level, at least I'm trying to make a small difference ... We'll see how it goes.

So, I've been wanting to learn about this new so-called Social Media partly as a way to stay atop of trends in marketing - but, now I'm finding, these new technologies are a great way to stay connected with friends & also a way to find people who are interested in the same things I am interested in. Very cool.

After attending several lunchin seminars and reading blogs about Social Media, I quickly realized the only way to learn about this new movement, was to actually roll-up my sleeves & participate. A well-read blog manifesto clearly sums up this new form of communication in its headline: The People Formerly Known As the Audience, where media has transitioned from one-way communication - to two-way communication. Whether it be through article talk back comments, blog posts or numerous other means of communications, the people have been empowered to publish their voices & opinions. No longer can a company simply blast out key messages to their target audiences & hope to get the same old results. No longer does the audience listen quietly with blank stares on their faces, and blink, then wait for the next set of messages. Today, we can TiVo through unwanted commercials, blast those we don't like, and with some emerging technologies, even vote down the ads we hate the most! The world of media has changed ... for the better.

So, my understanding of this, is that it takes people to participate to make it powerful, meaningful & impactful. If no one used LinkedIn, it'd be a useless waste of software code. And the only way to learn about it is, well to participate too; thus the kickoff of my blog, which you're reading, my Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and my tinkering with Digg, Twitter, etc. Fun stuff.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Our Fallen Brothers & Sisters

At the Five Year Anniversary of the U.S. invasion & occupation of Iraq, I think every American should spend time reading the Obituaries of the soldiers who have lost their lives. I'm afraid it's too easy to simply go about our daily lives & forget what is happening to our soldiers, friends, neighbors & families.

The Salt Lake Tribune put together a great article this week entitled Remembering Utah's Fallen that features a picture, brief quote & bio about every one of the Utah soldiers who lost their lives.

The Tribune article cites that 46 Utahns have died in the various U.S. conflicts since Sept. 11, 2001. Please take a minute to read the article, Remembering Utah's Fallen and the bios of each person. There are several photos of lonely children included with the bios, which is heart-breaking.

I've had a few friends do military tours in the Middle East, and thankfully return safely. A couple who are close to my in-laws had their son die - Blake Stephens was the first soldier to die from Pocatello, Idaho.

But the total casualty count is much higher. U.S. casualties, or those wounded or dead, are nearly 30,000 (29,314 as of March 25, 2008), according to . And a recent Reuters story cited a scary & very sad figure:

Precise Iraqi casualties in the conflict are not known but the widely cited human rights group Iraq Body Count said earlier this month that up to around 89,300 civilians have been killed since 2003.

I won't get political here - but we all need to seriously think about how the decisions of our elected leaders can affect us all.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Black Diamond Wasatch Powder Keg

I've been Jones'in to do it for a few years now - finally 2008 was the year I was stupid enough to do The Black Diamond Wasatch Powder Keg. It was EXTREMELY painful, due to the horrible shape I'm in, but well worth the experience.

The Wasatch Powder Keg is a Ski Mountaineering Race, apparently very popular in Europe, but only just catching on the the U.S. So, what this entails, is a bunch of folks who love backcountry skiing, line up to "race" a grueling snow-covered mountain course as fast as possible. Using skies with skins on the bottom to hike up to 10,000+ foot peaks, people then peal off the skins & ski down as quickly as possible. Our course included three peak hikes & ski downs.

On Black Diamond's FAQ they describe the course as follows:

The race starts at 8,553', goes up to 10,619’ for both race and recreational categories (Overall vertical – Race: 5,514' / Rec: 3,811'). Both courses finish at 8,553’. The Racing Division course is 8.34 miles (13.4 km); the Recreational Division course is 5.73 miles (9.1 km).

Wisely, I participated in the Recreation Division - so bottom line: 5.8 miles and 3,800 feet of vertical.

Since I didn't decide to do the race until the Sunday before, my training consisted of four days of running between 3-6 miles & lifting weights once. With a new baby in my household, I had only been backcountry skiing three times before the race. Generally I can hold my own, but I quickly realized (about 2 minutes after the start of the race) that the people who are crazy enough to do the Powder Keg are in pretty damn good shape!

I was in the Telemark Rec division and finished in 2:37 (2 hrs 37 min.) - and 13th out of 21 in my division - and actually finished ahead of about a dozen men in the Rec division (both Tele & Alpine Touring) - so better than I feared I'd do!

Well, I wasn't in it to race, but to finish, which I did - yeah!

I have to say my favorite parts of the Powder Keg were being up at Alta at sunrise - watching the sunrays hit Mt. Superior at 7:30 in the morning was spectacular! Quickly hitting three peaks & the views they offered was amazing. And skiing in 14 inches of fresh powder on the first run down Patsy Marley was a blast. The following two runs down Black Bess & Davenport (course map) were really painful, as my legs had lost their juice by this time. In fact, my biggest weakness in the whole thing was my downhill skiing - I had no leg muscle left & had some decent wipe-outs, which sucks.

Best Part: The best part of the whole thing was pushing through the final little uphill to the finish & seeing my wife Alicia & our 11 month-old son Finn - along with some friends like Jimmy Mac & Pete there to support me & others who did it. Way cool.

I'm planning on doing it again next year - but being in better shape will help me feel mucho better.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Utah Backcountry Skiing - Days Fork

Since I'd only been backcountry skiing once this year (on a day when the snow was horrible & we missed our trail) I decided to have another go at it with my buddies Marty Tuttle & Ross Hager. Surprisingly, the Utah Avalanche Report came in Saturday morning with a Low rating - on most aspects. We decided to hit Days Fork, a normally avalanche-prone area.

We got lucky & followed an established up track from a few days earlier - only a few inches of snow covered it. The hike was pretty difficult with multiple deep switchbacks & lots of steep ups. It took us some time to reach the Reed & Benson Ridge, which is about 10,000 feet - but the hard work proved to be worth it.
Marty hiking up.

The picture at the top is me taking a tight turn to spray Ross with a pile of pow. Ross' photography skills actually made me look like I know what I'm doing.

The ride down was amazing with lot's of deep powder, face-shots & untouched snow everywhere! We stayed in the trees for safety & smiled all the way down.

Ross getting a face-full of Pow on his split board.

Me, pointing the way up to
Reed & Benson Ridge.

Free Your Heel - Telemark Ski!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The Emperor's Pants Have No Knees

One day I woke up & went to put on some jeans for the day, and a bad realization occurred - I didn't have any jeans I could wear. All of my blue jeans, including the ones that fit well & were fairly new, suddenly had holes in the knees!

Well, obviously, I can & do wear these on the weekend - but pants with holes aren't especially good for work. The reason for my holey jeans is that I've been spending a lot of my time on the floor on my knees, with my 10 month-old son, Finn.

So, in a way, it sucks that I went through some good jeans so quickly. But on the other hand, I'm glad I'm spending so much time down with the kiddo! Seeing the world from his perspective is one of my favorite things to do today!

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Friday, February 1, 2008

My poor sick buddy

Two weeks ago, I picked up my 10-month old son Finn from day care & they told me he had a fever. He was obviously very fussy & upset that night, didn't eat much & really didn't sleep. During the daytime over the weekend, he seemed to be okay, but at night, he wheezed & coughed & had trouble sleeping.

Finally we took him to InstaCare on Sunday. The Doc checked him out & said he looked fine & sent us home with some other meds for his childhood asthma (reactionary airway disease).
Well, after two more sleepless nights, Finn was really struggling to breathe - so we called our pediatrician & the nurse told us that if he was having a hard time breathing to bring him immediately to Primary Children's Hospital.

They immediately identified that Finn had RSV, which is really bad with a little guy who also has asthma. Well, I don't want to go over all of the horrible details, but pictures tell the story:

The good news is, the little rascal is back to normal, & as happy and funny as ever.

In all, seven kiddos in the infant class at day care came down with RSV. One baby has been on a respirator & is still in the hospital. It just goes to show how quickly things can go bad. We feel lucky to have the good health care we have today.

By-the-way, our home thermometer doesn't work at all. For the entire weekend, it said Finn never had a fever!

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