Brandon C White - April 2020

VOL. 1 · APRIL 2020


FROM MY BOSS’S CLOSET TO HERE How I Built My Dream Business (Twice)

Mark Zuckerberg started coding Facebook in his dorm room, and Jeff Bezos sold the first books on Amazon out of his garage. My startup story began in my then-boss’s closet, where he was generous enough to let me set up a desk. The year was 1996, and I was just starting to build an online magazine that would change the game for mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay fishermen. I’m an avid fisherman myself, and in my years of casting lures and reading obsessively on how to catch more fish, I noticed a hole in the market for a quality fishing publication. As a grad school student on a shoestring budget, I couldn’t afford a print magazine that I originally had my heart set on, but I could code a flat HTML file — and flat HTML files were just about the only game in town on the internet back then, apart from AOL. Most people probably would have felt insulted to be stuck in a spinach farmer’s closet to work on their brand-new business idea, but I was thrilled. After years of planting trees to afford my master’s degree in psychology, I loved having heat and AC in my hideaway. I wrote my very first business plan for my brand-new magazine, Chesapeake Angler, in that closet on a lunch break, enjoying the AC and my homemade Wonder bread and tuna fish sandwich. During those first few years, my business partner Eric and I screwed up a lot. We tried to scale our business too quickly, struggled to engage readers, looked for content (and then advertising) in the wrong places, and were turned down by countless venture capitalists. Plus, considering our first real business plan was a whopping 40 pages long, it’s a miracle anyone bothered to read it.

Even so, after years of hard work, we managed to get the traction to take our online magazine from a few lines of 1990s code in a closet to a thriving business called Worldwide Angler. Some people might say we were lucky to go into online content creation at just the right moment, build a thriving platform, start selling fishing books and products, and raise $1 million in investor capital on our first round of fundraising. But honestly, I don’t believe we got lucky — we made our own luck through action and by seeking out the invaluable advice of business Jedis (aka mentors) along the way. From day one, Worldwide Angler was risky. I actually started the business on a credit card, and Eric and I got into stock trading with our revenue to maximize profits (a move I wouldn’t recommend). While we were looking for investors, I took the financial gamble of flying to Florida to see one potential backer and driving 70 miles through a blizzard to meet another. Each of them put in $100,000. Then, when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001, I took the biggest risk yet when I bought the company from the investors myself, rebranded, and restarted the online magazine/social networking site from scratch as Tidal Fish. After years of working on Tidal Fish as a side hustle to my full-time consulting job, I sold it to the Canadian media company Vertical Scope. I remember reloading my bank account page over and over waiting for the payment to come through. One minute, there were four figures, and the next, there were seven — at that moment, I felt like I was living in a movie. Can you imagine reloading your bank account and all the sudden having that much money in it? Little did I know that

Cranking away on the LC 475 teaching myself how to build a website

On the road selling and stopping to get directions to a tackle shop. Circa ’97 version of a cell phone.

was just the beginning of a new chapter of my journey when I’d make the move from Padawan to Jedi. Over my decades as an entrepreneur buying, selling, and funding businesses, I’ve realized that if you want to make progress in business, you can’t go the normal route. You need to think outside the box, you need to take risks, and ideally, you should have a Jedi/mentor along. When I started Build a Business, I became that Jedi! After doing things the hard way for so long, I developed a simple business-building formula to help thousands of entrepreneurs get out of their own version of the boss’s closet. Having been in their shoes, with no direction and a big dream, I know I can lead them to success, and there’s nothing that gets me jacked up more than

helping entrepreneurs achieve the success I know is possible.

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After spending 20 years as a lawyer, Joe Tiano was worn out by the daily grind, the long commute, and the unending office politics. So, he decided to uproot his stable career and put everything on the line to start a tech business. As Joe explains it, while he was working in law, he realized many companies didn’t have the analytic tools and data they needed to effectively price and manage the cost of legal services from outside counsel. They were either paying too much or hiring the wrong lawyers altogether! To solve this problem, Joe launched Legal Decoder, a tech company that puts legal billing data analysis at its clients’ fingertips. Joe built his first product and started selling. When he and his business partner, Christopher Miller, hit a few roadblocks to expansion, Joe sought out Brandon and Build a Business for advice. Now, with our help, Legal Decoder is growing at a furious pace. “Brandon’s actionable feedback, never-ending positivity, and guidance have helped keep me going and increase our sales,” Joe says. “His energy is contagious … The fact that he can back up advice with his own entrepreneur experiences makes his feedback invaluable. He’s lived it himself, and there is no replacement for that type of guidance.” Today, Joe can enjoy the satisfaction of being his own boss without worrying that his business is built on a shaky foundation. There’s nowhere for Legal Decoder to go but up, and we’re thrilled that we get to watch it happen. A STUDENT SUCCESS STORY Meet Joe Tiano, Founder-CEO of Legal Decoder

Boosting customer retention by any amount can have a huge impact on your revenue. A study conducted by Bain & Company and reported by the Harvard Business Review found that even a 5% increase in retention can boost revenue by 25%–95%. In short, your ability to retain the right customers can make or break your business. Businesses are constantly searching for ways to achieve customer loyalty. After all, it’s far more cost-effective to keep the same customers coming back to you than it is to constantly go after new ones. Marketing to new customers can cost up to 25 times more than simply catering to your existing customer base. Loyal customers who love your business are an incredibly powerful asset. They can do a lot of your marketing for you through social media and other word-of-mouth channels, convincing others that your business exists and has value. But how do you get to that point? How do you develop a strong bond with your customers that is hard to break and will keep them coming back time and time again? It really starts with stellar customer service. Poor customer service is the No. 1 cause of customer loss. Upward of 71% of people say they cut ties with businesses over poor customer service. Customer service includes your employee-customer interactions, your response to problems, your response time , and your approachability on social media. Look to businesses that have figured out how to do customer service right, like Apple, LEGO, and other beloved businesses in your community. Consider what you can incorporate into your own customer service experience or become a customer yourself and see just how far other businesses are willing to go for you. Another way you can win loyal customers is just by being present. One way to do that is by answering phone calls, emails, and online inquiries immediately . The more time you put between the initial customer contact and your response, the worse it looks for you. When people visit your business in person, be there to offer a hello, answer questions, and engage in casual conversation. When you’re there for your customers, your customers want to be there for you.



If you’re into reading self-improvement or business books, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of positive self- talk — which is the practice of talking to yourself inside your own head. Psychologist Dr. Karissa Thacker is one proponent of the concept, and was featured in an Entrepreneur magazine article claiming the practice can “boost confidence, regulate emotions and improve overall mood and performance.” We’re on team self-talk, too, and Brandon has used it throughout his career to combat self-doubt and negative thoughts. And here’s the thing, science supports the results if you do it right. According to a study conducted in the Emotional and Self-Control Lab at the University of Michigan, not all self-talk is created equal. The study found that compared with first-person self-talk (sentences using the “I” pronoun, ex. “I am

powerful”), third-person self-talk (sentences using the “you” pronoun, ex. “ You are powerful”) is more effective when it comes to enhancing self-control and keeping emotions in check. In other words, if you’re psyching yourself up before you go on stage to give a speech, whispering, “You can do this” inside your head will stave off a breakdown more effectively than thinking, “I can do this.” The theory, according to Psychology Today, is that using third-person pronouns creates more distance between your emotional self and your situation. By addressing yourself the same way you’d address someone else, you can keep what’s happening in perspective, increasing your self-control. A study at the MSU Clinical Psychophysiology Lab backed this up when it found that “emotional distress” dropped when third- personal self-talk was used.

In the Psychology Today article, author and athlete Christopher Bergland reports using the technique to great success during an endurance footrace. “Instead of psyching myself out by having a defeatist first-person monologue such as: ‘There's no way I can make it to the finish line. My body is overheating and the soles of my feet are on fire. I can't take it anymore. I have to stop,’ I would flip the script of my silent inner dialogue and talk to myself (like a broken record) in a bold, third-person coaching voice: 'You can do this, Chris! You've lived through other painful experiences in your life, you'll live through this. Don't give up now,’” he writes. Next time you’re giving yourself a pep talk, try this trick out for yourself. It just might change everything.


Inspired by



• 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided • 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pounded to a 1-inch thickness • Salt and pepper to taste • 1/4 cup whole-wheat panko • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

• 6 tbsp spinach pesto • 2 cups cherry tomatoes • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

–David Hackworth


1. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and add it to pan. Cook chicken for 5 minutes on each side, then remove pan from heat. 3. In a bowl, combine panko, Parmesan cheese, and butter. 4. Spread pesto over chicken and top with panko mixture. 5. Broil chicken for 2 minutes on high heat until browned. 6. In a skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. 7. Add tomatoes and cook for 6 minutes. 8. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. 9. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, and add red wine vinegar. 10. Serve tomatoes with broiled chicken.

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How I Built My Dream Business (Twice) P. 1

Give Love, Get Love P. 2

How Build a Business Helped Launch Legal Decoder P. 2

Pesto Chicken With Blistered Tomatoes P. 3 Are You Giving Yourself Bad Pep Talks? P. 3

Should You Be Worried About Digital Dementia? P. 4

Have you heard? I have a podcast! Check out the latest episodes of "Build a Business" on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune In, Spotify or Stitcher, and subscribe for new content every week.

SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT DIGITAL DEMENTIA? What It Is, Where It Came From, and What It Could Mean for Our Screen Time

Everyone forgets things. It’s not unusual to have trouble remembering the name of someone you’ve just met or recalling the face of a classmate you haven’t seen in 20 years. But it’s less normal — and a lot more inconvenient — to become chronically absent-minded. If you find yourself struggling to remember the minutiae of daily life, which page of a book you left off on, or when it’s time to pick your kids up from soccer practice, digital dementia could be to blame. The term “digital dementia” was coined in 2012 by German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer, who studies how our addiction to technology is impacting our brains. According to, Spitzer found that “overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way that is more commonly

seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.” Because of the shared symptoms, Spitzer called the affliction digital dementia. In the years since, speculation has abounded about the causes of digital dementia and how people can fight it. A 2017 Forbes article theorized that the problem isn’t just time spent with screens but how much we rely on our smartphones to feed us once-memorized information. “In theory, having a device to store phone numbers, dates, maps and directions, and other information like that frees you up to focus on bigger and theoretically more important things,” Tony Bradley wrote in Forbes. “If you just use your device as a memory crutch, though, and you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to put your

brain to work on other things, you aren’t exercising your brain, and it will atrophy.”

Psychology Today blamed digital dementia in part on the mental strategies encouraged by video games. According to one study, gaming encourages the “response” strategy of following the same rote movements, while nongamers tend to use the “spatial” strategy of relying on landmarks when they navigate, which is better for mental sharpness. Whatever the root cause, we can take steps to fight digital dementia. As Dr. Carolyn Brockington told, the best strategies involve stepping away from screens and relying on brainpower. The next time you’re considering picking up your smartphone, try reading a book, playing a musical instrument, hitting the gym, or learning a new language instead.


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