Trusted Counsel Podcast

Shark Fight! How I Survived, and My Product Thrived, after Shark Tank

The Christmas Tree Hugger

This month on Trusted Counsel’s podcast show In Process: Conversations About Business in the 21st Century, Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon spoke to Ryan Kenny, inventor of The Christmas Tree Hugger, a seasonal holiday product that he invented in 2016. Podcast co-host John Monahon happens to be the business partner of Ryan Kenny and has been involved with the product from the very beginning. The Christmas Tree Hugger makes artificial trees look more festive, fun and real. The product comes in several holiday-inspired designs and is simply wrapped around the bottom pole of any fake tree – instantly making it appear more realistic.

The idea came to Ryan after he and his wife decided to purchase their first artificial Christmas tree, simply for convenience factors. But when they sat down on the couch to admire the beautiful tree they had put up, Ryan was sorely disappointed when he looked down at the bottom of the tree. Ryan said to his wife, “there is this fuzzy, hairy, ugly green pole of an eyesore at the bottom” – the eyesore soured the holiday magic. Without more thought, he turned to the internet searching for a fix. Disappointment again - nothing available in the marketplace. So he decided to makeshift something in his basement. After receiving positive opinions from friends and family, he decided to sell the product on Etsy, the e-commerce website focused on handmade items. Soon thereafter, the product started selling and it received nothing but five-star reviews with buyers saying things such as “Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?” It was at that point that Ryan decided to make his product more official. With a background in graphic design and advertising, it was second nature for Ryan to develop sketches that ultimately led to a solid prototype. He applied for a patent, sought out manufacturers, and launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. It wasn’t long before 100% of the goal was hit. From there, one thing led to another and he soon found himself on QVC (his television debut) during their “Christmas in July” promotion in 2017. John was impressed with Ryan’s ease during the taping by saying, “I’m glad Ryan was comfortable because I was sick to my stomach. His execution was perfect! The host even gave him a kiss on the cheek which Ryan accepted just like a professional TV personality.”

The Short Road to ABC’s Shark Tank

Ryan admits being on the cable network QVC opened doors for The Christmas Tree Hugger. It was not long after airing on QVC, that Ryan was interviewing to become a contestant on The Shark Tank. Fast forward a few months when the holiday product was featured in the ninth season, episode thirteen of The Shark Tank, airing December 3rd, 2017. Ryan sought $100,000 for 20% equity of his company, The Christmas Tree Hugger. He didn’t get a deal but was happy with the way the experience went – The Shark Tank was amazing.

The Christmas Tree Hugger in 2018

A year since Ryan appeared on Shark Tank, the product continues to receive top online ratings. He hopes his invention will turn into a standard Christmas product - a Christmas season iconography. During our podcast interview, he said “much like the top of the tree that has a star, I would love for the bottom of the tree to be equally important. People will say, what will we do with the fuzzy, hairy pole on our Christmas tree? The answer will be a no brainer, THE CHRISTMAS TREE HUGGER! The interview ended with these heartfelt words by Ryan. “It makes me so happy knowing I’ve made something from nothing, this simple product, and it’s now it’s in thousands of families homes.”

Click below to listen to the entire podcast. During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, C-level executives and entrepreneurs will learn:

  • Ryan’s strategy for getting major retail buyers to talk to him on the phone

  • The various stages that contestants need to go through in order to get selected to appear on Shark Tank

  • How Ryan prepared for the actual filming of Shark Tank

  • The real reason why Ryan went on Shark Tank 

  • The after Shark Tank update, where you can find his product now!

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Intellectual property protection is critical in today’s business environment and Trusted Counsel has helped numerous clients with their intellectual property needs. In addition, our counsel extends beyond registering trademarks, copyrights and patents; we develop strategies that leverage your intellectual property into true competitive assets that create business value. If you have any questions or comments about patent protection for your invention, please contact John Monahon with Trusted Counsel. You may reach him at 404. 898.2900 or email him at jmonahon@trusted-counsel.com.

How I Did It: I Bought a Failing Business and Turned it Around in 60 Days

“My partner and I bought a software business and we took it apart. We were set out to turn this warhorse into a systems house.”

“My partner and I bought a software business and we took it apart. We were set out to turn this warhorse into a systems house.”

In this episode, Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak to Senior Counsel, Tom Wardell who joined the firm in early 2018. If you missed the press release on Tom’s joining Trusted Counsel, you can read it here. Additionally, Tom was president and CEO of Versyss from 1988 to 1993. Versyss was a provider of computer systems for small businesses and based in Boston and Los Angeles. It was the largest provider in the United States for the physician practice and credit union industries and one of the top-three providers for the construction and building-supply industry. Tom’s experience with buying and selling Versyss gives him unique insight and practical understanding of our clients’ businesses and the operating problems and issues they face. We’re pleased to share with you our in-depth interview with Tom Wardell.

According to Tom, he and his business partner David knew what they were getting into when they bought Versyss. They had a good sense of where the mistakes were and what the problems were. Upon takeover, they immediately set out to get rid of expensive R&D projects. Next, they tightened operations which meant eliminated various projects and there were necessary layoffs. Lastly, they decided to set the foundation for a larger concept that entailed positioning the company as a “systems integrator.” They managed to turn the business around in 60 days in terms of having it run in the black, and therefore, generating cash that they could use for operations.

Absolutely critical during the process was having a strong executive team. Tom said “You wind up needing people who first of all buy into your vision. Secondly, you need to know how to assign responsibility and hold people accountable without pushing or scaring them.” The business success can also be contributed to managers who created a strong team.

Tom ultimately sold the business because a true systems integration business required an engineering/programming creating thinking group that was different than what the company was at the time. Secondly, his business partner became very unwell.  Based on his partner’s illness, Tom thought it best to sell the business instead of continuing this entrepreneur undertaking.      

During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • The biggest challenges Tom faced when he bought the business

  • What prompted him to start wearing bow ties (it started when he bought the business!)

  • How he got the business out of the black in 60 days

  • Advice for CEOs or first-time entrepreneurs looking to sell a business

To learn more about the steps that you should be taking inside your business now to make it more attractive for a successful sale visit our dedicated website www.preppingtheprincess.com. Also, be sure to check out our new e-book titled Prepping the Princess: Is Your Business Ready to Sell? Download the e-book here. The e-book is compiled of a collection of conversations recorded over the course of 2018 as a podcast series on our podcast show called “In Process: Conversations About Business in the 21st Century.” The show is hosted by Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel. The e-book is designed to give the enterprising business owner an idea of how to prepare for an exit, even if that transaction is years away from fruition.

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments

(This podcast originally aired in July 2017)    

(This podcast originally aired in July 2017)    

This week on In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, (Trusted Counsel’s bi-weekly podcast show) hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel revisit a previously aired podcast from July 2017. They were joined by Jonathan David Lewis, a branding and strategist expert and the author of Brand VS Wild: Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments.

A few years ago, Lewis was in the midst of accepting an award for his firm, when he had a not-so-average “aha” moment of the realization of just how lost he truly was in the business world. Lost in the sense that nothing in the business world is predictable. Disruption is just about the only thing business entities can rely on happening in the ever-changing market. With that uneasy, yet resonating truth, how do corporations and the like stay afloat? This experience prompted Lewis to write a book.

There’s a psychological component behind the idea of staying afloat and Lewis argues that executives’ behavior is essentially no different than fighting for survival in the wild. The premise of his book stands on the belief that the way executives react in a boardroom to unforeseen roadblocks parallels with the reactions of survivors navigating their way to safety. Alluding to the U.S. Air Force Survival Manual (USAFSM), as well as several other sources, he uses these survival psychology tips to teach readers how “to navigate unremitting uncertainty and change” in the business world’s “wild”: that being the economic changes, aggressive competition, and disruptive industry dynamics that have grown increasingly prevalent since the start of the financial crises recession of 2008.

He begins his strategy by introducing the natural physiological reactions to stressful situations that stand unwavering across the board. It’s human nature for our bodies to resort to one of the following actions; fight, flight, or freeze. The pituitary gland releases hormones in this moment inevitably leading to “less logical and more visceral” reactions. Visceral being behavior reflecting inward feelings instead of that of intellect (aka emotional and impulsive). Leading us to Leach’s 10-80-10 Theory. The theorist divides the population in these ratios arguing that; 10% of people react calmly and rationally to the stressful situation, 80% literally go numb with no noteworthy response, while the remaining 10% react uncontrollably and in some cases act as a threat to those standing by.  With science acting as its supporter, there is no denying a vast amount of individual’s automatic response is irrational and erratic – seems our mothers were right, sleep on it!

Acting as the most necessary abettor against our shortcomings, Lewis emphasizes that focus is a crucial discipline. However, he follows up by noting it is conjointly “the hardest thing to accomplish and the easiest thing to lose.” Talk about a twofold setback. With that, how can we grasp this discipline to ensure our success? Lewis describes several ways to overcome the various enemies hindering us such as; success, misdiagnosis, complacency, and placation. Some key points he brings up include is to set short term goals. These are more obtainable, and you won’t become discouraged from something that seems too far fetched in the long run. Additionally, avoid losing track of priorities in response to lack of focus known as “brand drift” by implementing the Beaning’s Cycle. The cycle can be used as a tool to separate your company apart and bring it back to progress. First, determine your land mark, pile your stones, then finally confirm and celebrate. In layman terms, set your goal, get your projects and systems in order, make sure everything went accordingly, then enjoy your bit of success. With a clear, organized mind it can be that simple. So, when the market seems to run amuck step back and keep in mind, “where the wild paralyzes, focus empowers.”

 Adaptation: a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.

 Despite the magnitude of unpredictability, we encounter day in and day, there is at minimum one firm truth to hold on to – we can’t change the facts of our environment. In order to train your business to vigilantly navigate the market we must learn to adapt. Three principles are discussed that teach us never to rely on old forms of success; Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Second Law of Thermodynamics. The foundations of these principles are broken down within Lewis’s work to convey their relevancy to those in the harsh business environment. Applying these principles can aid us all in adaptation to change.

Stream the conversation with Jonathan in the player below to learn more about leading your business through the wild. Listen to examples of real businesses that trenched though the wild and how they emerged out of the wilderness. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to In Process Podcast on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.

Read the Transcription

Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is Your Business Ready to Sell? Part Three

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How to Boost Brand Reputation Ahead of the Sale

This week on “In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century,” we continue with the next podcast in our series dedicated to the topic of preparing your business for sale. This series leads up to the physical event we are hosting at 5:30 p.m., on Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018, in Atlanta titled, "Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is Your Business Ready to Sell?"  

When companies think about their brands, among the first things that come to mind are name, colors, logo design, and even a tag line. However, reputation is one of the most important―and most often overlooked―attributes for a brand. Brand reputation refers to how your company is viewed by others, whether it’s customers, prospects, partners or marketplace influencers such as media and analysts. Having a positive brand reputation means customers trust your company, and feel good about purchasing and recommending your products or services. Being able to demonstrate a strong and viable brand in the marketplace helps build value in the eyes of potentials buyers who might be interested in purchasing your company.

In the third installment of our six-part podcast series, show hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak with Peter Baron, Carabiner Communications founder and principal, about what companies need to consider from a marketing and branding standpoint prior to a potential sale. Carabiner Communications is a top PR firm in Atlanta, specializing in marketing and lead generation.

“Companies often don't put enough strategic effort and muscle into creating visibility for their brand, whether it involves a rebrand or support to boost an existing reputation in the marketplace,” said Peter. “Another mistake we see is not investing enough in a particular marketing channel―for example, choosing to go 1-inch deep in 10 different marketing channels instead of going 6-inches deep in three of them that really matter. Determining where your customers actually are and prioritizing those communications avenues will help.”

Sellers are often so focused on the legal and tax consequences of a potential transaction that they often lose sight of proven marketing strategies and tactics―and even reduce budgets for these activities―that will help them increase the value of their companies.

During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs, business owners and C-level executives will learn about the:

  • Concept of brand reputation as part of the sale
  • Considerations for rebranding
  • Elements of a good brand
  • Marketing strategies, tactics and assets involved with a rebrand
  • Right mix of content to satisfy prospects’ and customers’ information needs

Learn how to develop an integrated marketing campaign to build or boost brand reputation ahead of a sale by streaming the conversation in its entirety in the player below, or download it to your mobile device via iTunes. Don’t miss a single episode, subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

“Prepping the Princess” is an invitation-only event for C-level executives and business owners. The event will provide substantive information on the key elements, which most every business should possess, to make it an attractive participant at the sale dance. For more information on the event and to request an invitation, please go to preppingtheprincess.com.

 

Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is Your Business Ready to Sell? Part Two

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Don’t Wait!  Get Your Legal House in Order Now

This week on “In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century,” Trusted Counsel continues with the next podcast in the series dedicated to the topic of preparing your business for sale. This series leads up to the physical event the firm is hosting at 5:30 p.m., on Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018, in Atlanta titled, "Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is Your Business Ready to Sell?"  

Many business owners who have sold a company generally agree that it’s a fairly stressful experience for anyone who's not been through the process before. Sellers typically don't really understand all the complexities, how long it can take, and what actually is involved. While they’re thankful when it gets closed, most sellers don’t relish the overall experience. However, sellers who can get their legal house in order now with the help of good professional support will find the sale process much easier to navigate.

In the second installment of the six-part podcast series, show hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon go inside the firm to speak with two of Trusted Counsel’s law partners, Allen Bradley and Tom Wardell, about the legal side of selling a business―from before a buyer knocks on your door until the final distribution from the sale is made.

“A large issue for a seller is recognizing capital income rather than ordinary income,” said Allen. “Often, when the purchasing price is tied to an earn-out, there can be ordinary income issues. Today there's a 20-point spread in the two tax regimes, so capital gain is very important.”

Unfortunately, sellers often wait to bring in legal counsel once they’ve already gotten a Letter of Intent. That’s a big mistake. Sellers, especially first timers, can benefit greatly from having sound advice not only from the tax perspective but also from the legal side that can help determine the value of a business and identify strengths as well as weaknesses―because those are the things buyers usually focus on.

“There are some fundamental terms within a Letter of Intent,” said Tom. “Price is obviously one of them. Another is the nature of the transaction, for example, is it going to be structured as an asset sale or a stock sale? Will there be a continuation of management. If there are to be down-stream terms, then what are those terms? Sometimes you get further into things like expectations with respect to employment agreements. Usually a Letter of Intent will run two-three pages more or less.”

During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs, business owners and C-level executives will learn about:

  • Often overlooked legal elements in the preparation process
  • What to expect during the actual negotiations
  • How contracts can be structured
  • The importance of network security and privacy to the sale
  • How and when to communicate customer information
  • Impact of employee incentive packages
  • The concept of escrow

Learn about the steps you can take to prepare your business for a sale now or for the future by streaming the conversation in its entirety in the player below, or download it to your mobile device via iTunes. Don’t miss a single episode, subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

“Prepping the Princess” is an invitation-only event for C-level executives and business owners. The event will provide substantive information on the key elements, which most every business should possess, to make it an attractive participant at the sale dance. For more information on the event and to request an invitation, please go to preppingtheprincess.com.