Dave Murray

3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

In 3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs, I pulled from my own experiences in an attempt to help you out. I put in a few jokes, but this is mostly a serious post. It focuses on you gutsy entrepreneurs, rather than your brands. It focuses on you as people, not you as founders, CEOs, or Big Guys. As I sat in the home office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I got introspective – almost uncomfortably so. But I hope my discomfort is somehow your gain. Fair warning: it’s a long one.

Dave Murray, Mayniax Branding - Introspection with the red glasses can get trippy

So now, for your reading pleasure, I present “3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs”!

1. Know Who You Are at Your Core

If you’ve been reading my maniacal musings for any length of time, you know the heavy emphasis we place on the “why.” Here, however, is the dirty little secret: our “why” isn’t just the “why” of Mayniax Branding – it’s also mine.

When you check out our About page, you’ll see much of our story’s about my parents, their business, and dad’s death.

It’s largely because of this upbringing that the cause of entrepreneurship runs in my blood. Later in life, as Vanessa and I studied everything from politics to art, including neuroscience and branding, we decided the only way the world could become truly happy is through benevolent entrepreneurship – something that’s been a part of me since before I knew what it was.

But I haven’t always known my “why.”

For a long time I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was great with a pencil, and even got a degree in painting and drawing. I showed off my art at various comic book conventions, where I got to see a drunk Kenny Baker – R2-D2 – fall off a barstool. But I learned comic book pencilers made – at the time – roughly $100 per page, and those pages usually took around 16 hours to draw. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to sacrifice so much of my day for $100 – I also decided I wasn’t passionate about it, because if I were, money never would’ve been a factor.

Dave Murray, Mayniax Branding - When you're a short comic book nerd, you draw Wolverine

For a while, I wanted to be an actor. I took classes and even performed on stage. But alas, short, marginal-looking dudes don’t a leading man make. And I was getting typecast as the smartass. Go figure.

I even wanted to be a journalist, because I love research and was big into politics and world events. The local community college even awarded me a scholarship for journalism. That still sits in the back of my mind, but with the state of “journalism” today – not to mention politics – I honestly think I can do more good fighting for entrepreneurs.

I also thought about trying stand-up comedy. That thought didn’t last long. Plus, with my sense of humor and slight acting experience, I’d do much better hosting an entrepreneur-style internet show. Hmmm.

Something I discovered about myself in the last couple years is who I am at my core: a smartass who loves to help people. It could be argued the above things would’ve allowed me to be a smartass who got to help people, but none of it was enough. None of it would really change people’s lives for the better. Someone could get 15 minutes out of a comic book, then they’d be off to do whatever. With having a huge comedy and acting career, people could get hours of entertainment, but then they’d be back to the same ol’ same ol’. To be a smartass journalist who helps people, I’d need an opinion column. And all that’d likely do is piss people off, even if they enjoyed the column and agreed with me.

With branding, I can help a lot of people in a real way, and be a smartass while doing it!

Figure out who you are at your core. And if what you’re currently doing doesn’t gel with that person, stop doing it and do something else. Life’s too damn short.

2. Learn to Trust People

Trust can be tricky, and it’s tough for a lot of entrepreneurs – including yours truly.

Vanessa and I started working together under less-than ideal circumstances. The people I worked with had just been told they had to take a 14% pay cut. I didn’t know Vanessa at the time – all I really knew was she liked to take pictures, and I desperately needed help catching up.

I’d always worked independently, and was an insane perfectionist. My feeling was that no one could live up to my standards when it came to design – Vanessa was simply a necessary evil until I was caught up. She sat away from the studio, though it was clearly big enough for the two of us.

Vanessa had blown it on a few photos I’d asked her to do. “Oh good, another incompetent idiot,” I thought. One day she’d asked me for help on a photo, and I could see she was irritated. So I walked over, saw where she’d blown it, and asked to see the photo process sheet I’d made for her. I then realized something: Vanessa didn’t blow it because she was an idiot – she blew it because I was.

I missed no less than three steps in the sheet I’d given her.

Dave Murray, Vanessa Symington, Mayniax Branding - Still alive after all these years!

Oddly enough, after the process sheet was fixed, she stopped blowing it. Shortly after, she moved her stuff into the studio, and I started calling her “Newbie” – because she was new and I like the show “Scrubs.” This was 2009. I stopped calling her that in 2014. Not only that, but with both of us now on the same page, a lot more work was able to get done!

I used to start people at 0 / 100, always sure they’d disappoint me. Now I start them at 50 / 100, because it assumes some degree of trust-worthiness. And also because there are people like Vanessa out there – people who will surprise you at every turn. I don’t wanna give her a 100 / 100 yet, though – there’s no need for both of us to be cocky *heh heh*

Today, we’re surrounded by people we trust to help us out. And I can’t wait to find more so she and I can focus only on strategy.

Moral of the story: Find your Vanessa, and trusting becomes way easier.

3. Never Be so Focused on Your Mission that You Miss Opportunities Outside of It

This one’s for that special group of entrepreneurs who have their “why”s nailed! That group who believe so strongly in their missions that nothing can make them deviate! The ones who are, well, like me!

Yeah. Stop that.

In Personal…

On June 19th, Father’s Day, I received – from someone totally unexpected – the kindest text I’ve ever gotten from anyone. The text spoke of what I’d written about dad on social media, saying she loved what I wrote, that dad sounded like a great man, and she finished it with, “The people we love never really leave us.”

Ken Murray, Dave's dad, Mayniax Branding - "The people we love never really leave us."

I saw the text and honestly had no clue how to respond. As a smartass, my friends tend to be smartasses. We reply to texts with smartass comments and use the medium to tear each other up whenever possible. Now, don’t get me wrong, my people are great people and we’d do anything for each other – we just don’t send or get texts like that.

One friend of mine delights in calling me any number of the following words whenever she can: clueless, dense, oblivious, and unobservant. And she’s right. And I’ll get to why that’s relevant in a second.

I’d started getting to know the woman who sent me the aforementioned text at the beginning of 2016. We each already knew the other to be cool, but that was it. As we got to know each other more, however, we realized we had a lot of things in common – and important things, not just, “Oh my goodness, you like cookies too!”

Side note: if someone doesn’t like cookies, they’re obviously a bad person and not to be trusted.

I was so struck by the kindness of the text that, shortly after replying, I began thinking about the times we’d spent together. Was I again being clueless, dense, oblivious, and unobservant? Should this woman and I give the whole dating thing a shot? “It doesn’t matter,” I thought to myself. “I can’t deviate my focus from Mayniax.” But it gnawed at me. After over a month, I decided taking a chance and deviating from my focus was worth it. But by then, I sensed it was too late – and half-ass tried anyway, which has only made things awkward.

And who knows? Maybe it wasn’t an opportunity at all. I may’ve gotten the “no.” Or maybe we would’ve tried a date and realized it was no good. Maybe we would’ve dated for a while before she realized I drove her crazy, or I realized she bored me to tears. In a fit of anger, perhaps she would’ve killed me and dropped me off in the Everglades on her way to a party in Miami. Why the Everglades? Because no cop’s gonna ask a bunch of gators if they’ve seen a nutty, short man.

Or perhaps we would’ve gotten along great, and it would’ve lasted a long while. All I know is I was too focused on Mayniax to even notice.

After far too long, I finally recognized the importance of a personal life. And you need to recognize the importance of it, too.

Mayniax Branding, Alligator - "Yeah, I seen him. But he wasn't very filling."

…And in Business

Sometimes you can be too focused on your brand. You can be so focused on it, in fact, that you lose touch with reality.

Vanessa and I started on our own in 2010, and we started racking up business debt right away – business debt that we’re still paying off. In fact, every day, I feel like I’m behind the 8 ball. So what should we have done differently? Simple: we should’ve done everything else we’re good at.

Much of brand strategy is about focus. We tell our clients to focus on selling one product / service per brand, since brands are easier to remember that way. Because we know about branding, we could’ve built several around all the things we can do. But we got so focused on the mission that we didn’t do that. But here’s something I didn’t think about until recently: another way of making money may not impact the mission directly, but it can help impact the mission indirectly.

So, we’ve each been looking for side projects to help kill that debt – a debt that would’ve been gone long ago had we thought about it sooner. We’re also looking at ways of generating passive income. And don’t let the “passive” fool ya – there’s a lot of front-end work needed to make that happen.

Brands can take a long time to take off, so whether you’re in the early stages of entrepreneurship – or even just looking at getting into it – make sure you find other ways to make money. After all, to be a true entrepreneur, you need more than one source of income, anyway.

And remember that doesn’t mean you’ve lost focus on the mission – it means you’re focused on keeping the mission alive.

In Closing

That’s it, folks. I sincerely hope you’ll all learn from my mistakes, as well as my successes – and go kick all kinds of ass, entrepreneurial-style!

And now I’m gonna have gator nightmares.

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!

Dave Murray

Envisioning a Happier World

Envisioning a Happier World

“Here’s to the crazy ones…”

With those words, Apple’s “Think Different” campaign was launched. The year was 1997. I was a 20-year-old cocky kid who didn’t take his classes seriously, skipping everything but my acting classes if I was on a roll at the pool tables. At the time I was in junior college, bored out of my mind and a touch rebellious. At my core, I was a good kid. But when you’re like me, there are few things in life scarier than boredom. And I had no choice but to do whatever I could to alleviate that fear.

I don’t remember the first time I saw the “Think Different” ad, but I do remember how I felt when I saw it. It spoke to the rebellious kid in me in a way it didn’t speak to others. “Maybe I could be one of those people,” I thought. I let that idea die as I pursued my education in the arts, and my work in the “real world.” It was even buried away after my dad died, while Vanessa and I were running Good Stuff Studios.

It wasn’t until 2014 – and Mayniax Branding – that the thought returned. “Holy crap! Vanessa and I have the opportunity to be two of the crazy ones!”

The Vision

The official vision for Mayniax Branding is to help more entrepreneurs than the governments of the world pretend to. I think we need to change that. It’s a little too cynical.

We talk about the world being broken, and believing entrepreneurs are the only ones who can fix it. And we do believe that. But how they can fix the world is pretty cool: they can make it happier.

The Ripple Effect

The best entrepreneurs really get into what they do. When they’re genuinely passionate and can build a community of like-minded people around their “whys” – purpose, cause, or belief – they have the power to create incredible cultures – cultures where everyone involved is a little happier because they’re working toward something they believe in. That effect carries over to those people’s friends and families, making everyone they come into contact with happier.

I Like to Think I’m Already One of the Crazy Ones

People talk about work / life balance, but I see that as an entrepreneurial fallacy. As Doc Holliday said in 1993’s Tombstone, “There’s no normal life, Wyatt; it’s just life. Get on with it.” And his quotes are all true, because Val Kilmer was a badass Doc Holliday.

Mayniax Branding Doc Holliday Quote from Tombstone

My Definition of Success

My success is a mix of both personal and professional. It would be waking up on a cool, crisp fall day, turning my head to meet the soft gaze of a remarkable woman, and saying as sweetly as I possibly can, “Hey, wanna go to Italy, today?”

We’d hop on our plane and be in Italy later that day. Then we’d check out Greece because I’d want to see both places where western civilization started. We’d see where our ideas of philosophy, art, and language began. There’d be so much history, I wouldn’t be able to help but geek out. We’d even visit Paris to see the sights, especially the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. And we’d stay in all these places as long as we’d like.

And this will all be possible since Mayniax Branding will be able to function without me. Because let’s face it: one day, it’ll have to.

So my idea of success is complete freedom that I get to share with a remarkable woman and some incredible kids, along with the rest of our friends and family. And when my time’s up, however I go, dying with the knowledge that Mayniax Branding will continue making the world a happier place – by helping gutsy entrepreneurs – long after I’m gone.

“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…”

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!

Dave Murray

Personal Branding in Ann Arbor

Personal Branding in Ann Arbor

I love Ann Arbor

I mean sure, it has its problems – For instance, Ann Arbor was voted the most educated city in the United States in 2015. Wait, how’s that a problem? Well, ya see, what that study really said is that people in A2 stayed in school for a really long time. And, when your job is to build brands around entrepreneurs, when many of the most successful ones in history didn’t graduate from college or even high school, that doesn’t impress one all that much.

Then there’s Plymouth Road, where there are blinking yellow lights that are supposed to mean “stop.” And while we all know yellow lights – even the blinking kind – are supposed to mean “caution” or “slow down,” in reality, we all know they really mean, “Hurry so we don’t have to stop!” Hooray for staying in school a really long time, A2 denizens!

And finally, there’s the reputation Ann Arbor has outside her fair limits – a reputation of snobbery. I have to say, I’ve lived here for over nine years, and have yet to come across that. Of course, I’m classically unobservant, so a lot of people have said I probably just don’t notice when people are being snobs. I certainly make room for that scenario – but the fact remains, I haven’t noticed untold snobification.

“Wait, I thought this guy said he loves Ann Arbor?”

Before I go on, I’d be remiss not to mention this blog post was suggested by our social media queen, Stefanie Mitchell – Twitter: @stefcherelle – who sent me an email that read, “Write something like this about Ann Arbor.” “This” is a Forbes article entitled “9 Personal Branding Reasons to Love New York.”

stefanie-mitchell-mayniax-branding-social-media-queen

And so I was gonna write something similar, talking about A2’s young professionals and tech scenes. I was gonna write about networking and my firm belief that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere – thus borrowing from the aforementioned article and proving NYC’s just a proving ground for Ann Arbor. Heh heh.

But I’m not gonna do that. Instead, I’m gonna tell you why I love Ann Arbor – with a personal branding twist, of course. Because it’s actually very personal to me.

Mayniax Branding - Red Glasses and The Cube - a match made in A2!

Growing up in Jackson, Michigan

Yours truly, along with my sister, parents, Hortence and Sniffy – our two cats – moved to Jackson when I was nine. And I was mad! You see, mom and dad had done a lot of research on area schools, and decided to enroll me in Catholic school. I, of course, had no idea what that meant, but I do know that – to this day – I hate navy blue pants. I was mad because I had no idea what Catholic school was, I just knew I’d always gone to regular schools in California and Nevada, prior to moving to Jackson.

I attended Catholic schools in Jackson from the middle of fourth grade through senior year. And I gotta tell ya, while it was never explicitly stated, there was an underlying message: love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

Now before I go on, I wanna say that I got along with everyone. I was – and obviously still am – insanely short, but that wasn’t enough to raise the ire of my classmates. I was, after all, a straight white kid.

In fifth grade, I had to stop a fight because a heavy kid was about to get beat up – in front of a throng of parents.

In high school, more kids sold drugs than we had kids who weren’t white.

Also in high school, a girl committed suicide because she was mercilessly teased for the “sin” of being gay.

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

I was lucky to get out of there still being the man my parents taught me to be, but I still fight those with that “love thy neighbor unless they’re different” mentality.

Who Wants a Throwdown?

I argue with people whose asinine beliefs say simply being gay is a sin. How exactly? They’re just out there doing their thing like everyone else. Besides, I’m pretty sure whichever deity’s actually in charge is shaking his head saying, “How the crap could you think I meant that’s a sin!?!” And then he goes to get drunk on whiskey before realizing he created a place where even he can’t get drunk. D’oh!

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

And I’m absolutely speechless whenever I encounter racists. Seriously, they make me so mad I can’t even speak. Not to mention I’m in awe of the sheer stupidity required to be a racist. To be a racist, you have to hate just to hate. And have the I.Q. of a dead earthworm, of course. I saw too much of it growing up, and encounter it nearly every time I’m in a rural area. And I simply don’t get it. I never have. And I never will.

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

My friend, Chris – Twitter: @radiohostchris – who will be helping us launch a podcast in the next couple months, used to work in Farmington. He told me whenever he’d go for a walk and say hi to a little old lady, she’d just look away and hurry passed him. “But whenever I’m walking around Ann Arbor, if I ask a little old lady how she’s doing, she’ll say, ‘I’m fine, young man. How are you?’”

Mayniax Branding - Chris Lee Potcaster Extraordinaire and Lover of Our Logo

I’m not one who likes the words “tolerance” and “acceptance” – I think they denote having to put up with something. But Ann Arbor, in spite of the problems I mentioned at the beginning of this post, doesn’t seem like it’s accepting or tolerating anything. Instead, it seems to be welcoming, even embracing, everyone.

And Ann Arbor’s not just about embracing people for things they can’t – nor should they want to – control. Nope, Ann Arbor’s gonna welcome the weirdest, craziest people they can find. Hell, Ann Arbor welcomed me! And no one bats an eye when I walk around downtown with a red t-shirt and red Chucks. Because Ann Arbor doesn’t care. Ann Arbor’s cool with ya just being you. And that’s the greatest thing ever for a personal brand – told ya I’d get there.

Mayniax Branding - The Michigan and State Theatres

Your personal brand is simply who you are. And when you’re in an environment that won’t judge you for being that, you actually get to BE who you are. I never felt like I could truly be me in Jackson. There was too much I didn’t like about my experiences there. Too much “love thy neighbor unless they’re different.” Ann Arbor’s not perfect, and I’m not ignorant enough to think racism, homophobia – not to mention a whole lot of other judgment – doesn’t exist here, but I don’t know anyone who would use those words to describe it.

So why do I love Ann Arbor? Easy: I get to be me. And there’s nothing cooler for a person, or a personal brand.

So sayeth King Dave of Ann Arbor!

Dave Murray Mayniax Branding King Dave of Ann Arbor 2

Stay gutsy!

If you’re looking for branding help in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, feel free to get a hold of us at contact@mayniaxbranding.com. And don’t forget to visit our About page, just to see if you’d wanna work with us, anyway.

Oh, and you should probably fill your coffee cup. It’s getting low.