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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

21 True Confessions of a Gutsy Entrepreneur

21 True Confessions of a Gutsy Entrepreneur

The last couple months have been crazy! And by that, I mean I went a little crazy. Not clinically, of course – I prefer to not receive an official diagnosis – but I most definitely snapped a bit.

For the last several years, I’ve been averaging 60 – 70-hour work weeks. And, with Vanessa’s second kid due in about a month, I’ve been doing a lot on top of those 60 – 70-hours. For instance, we have a lot of legacy clients – we used to be product photographers for the automotive industry – needing work done. And, coincidentally enough, we’re working on another brand to handle that work. All this while keeping personal commitments and still working to help gutsy entrepreneurs, because those are the people I want so desperately to help.

Of course, none of that is an excuse for snapping at people. There is no excuse for that.

One of the great entrepreneurial lessons we learned a couple years ago is that we can’t do it all alone. And, after snapping in a few meetings, and at a few people who’d done nothing wrong, I realized I needed help. Not as in a therapist, but as in people to take some of the workload off my hands.

Besides, poor Vanessa’s basically my therapist. Heh heh.

vanessa-symington-mayniax-branding-therapist

Anyway, when you’re a person who considers himself strong, and you let stress and the workload get to ya enough to where you snap at people you like and respect, it’s time to make a few changes. I’ve already found some people to take the workload off, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But I’m sure I have a few more changes to make.

The entrepreneurial road is far from easy, gang, but we trudge through it. Because we have to. And because we believe in what we’re doing. With that, here are 21 true confessions from me, a gutsy entrepreneur. Some funny. Some serious. All true.

Confessions From The Big Guy!

1. I study the greatest people in their fields, not for quotes on Instagram and Twitter – though that is a bonus – but to see how they tick, and what drives them.

2. Bugs Bunny > Mickey Mouse; Star Wars > Star Trek; Muppets > Sesame Street

3. For the last few years, I’ve been scared to date because I’m afraid I’ll lose focus on our mission. Though I’m definitely working on getting over that one. And fast.

4. I want Mayniax Branding to help more entrepreneurs than the governments of the world claim to help.

5. I sometimes wish I didn’t have so many friends. Not that I’d ever get rid of any of them, I just feel bad when they ask me to do something, and I can’t because of helping entrepreneurs.

6. I believe monkeys are always funny. It’s the chimps you gotta look out for.

7. I haven’t had a vacation since I was 19.

8. I study Steve Jobs’ second tenure at Apple because that’s when the branding magic really happened, both culturally and strategically.

9. I once got a black eye from drunkenly picking a fight with a sidewalk.

10. If I don’t exercise five or six days per week, I feel lazy.

11. I think organized religion, politics, and money are dumb. They keep us divided, and I prefer we focus on things that bring us together. And I recognize the irony, since brand strategy is about differentiation.

12. I think Scrubs is television’s all-time greatest show. Except season 9. Season 9 didn’t happen.

13. I’m an extreme minimalist because I don’t like cluttering my brain, or place, with a lot of dumb things.

14. In spite of a few blog posts, and an image, I’ve never actually kicked a puppy.

Dave Murray, the Big Guy at Mayniax Branding, soaked and imploring you to not make him want to kick puppies.

15. I believe the pursuit, and attainment, of happiness – whatever that means to you – is all that really matters.

16. In the event of nuclear annihilation, the only survivors will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Tony Horton.

17. I believe my staying healthy is a responsibility not only to myself, but to current and future friends, family, and clients.

18. My food weaknesses include Blimpy Burger, pizza, tacos, anything peanut butter and chocolate, Salted Cara-melo-Oh! cookies from Busch’s, and pretty much any other kind of cookie. Feel free to judge.

dave-murray-mayniax-branding-blimpy-01

19. I think George Carlin was the greatest philosopher of our time.

20. As blunt and tough as I can be on our clients, I’m much tougher on myself.

21. When I’m feeling particularly cocky, I say, “Hey, it’s me.” Because Han Solo.

In Closing

Most anyone who knows me will say I have a whole lot more confessions in me, and they’d be right. But hey, I need something to write later on down the road, right?

I hope you got behind some of these, or at least understand how the entrepreneur’s path – even mine – is a difficult one. I make mistakes. I beat myself up over them. And I get introspective. After that, I get a refresh and a reboot – sometimes to the head – and get back to work. Because really, that’s all any of us can do.

Have fun, and as always,

Stay gutsy!

Dave Murray

Happy Branding Birthday to Us!

One year ago, today, the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti region’s favorite branding and brand strategy team took the area by storm! The area just didn’t know it, yet.

Entrepreneurship Isn’t for Sissies

Starting a business is hard. It’s really hard. And, when you start a business in a category people don’t always understand, it’s doubly hard. Next to my dad dying, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I really want to drive that point home, because I don’t want anyone reading this to think it’s a piece of cake. The thing is, when you have a powerful “why” and know the end result of what you do is a far better life for everyone you do business with, you slog through it. Because – and not to sound gushy – because it’s the right thing to do.

mayniax-branding-steve-jobs-quote

Year One Brand Strategy

We have a three-year goal of being the number one branding / brand strategy team in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area. With that in mind, year one’s strategy was simple: get visible! To accomplish that, we focused on three tactics:

1. Getting our website to the top of Google in area branding searches
2. Maintaining a strong social media presence
3. Networking and doing some speaking engagements

For number one, we’re really close. I’m able to blog fairly regularly, which Google digs, and we recently sent for the all-important Google postcard, which should propel us to very nearly the number one spot. We’re currently on page two.

For number two, there’s always room for improvement, but our Facebook and Instagram pages are actually ranking higher than our website in several searches, which is pretty cool, but only because we know the postcard’s on its way.

When it comes to number three, we’re crushing it! I spoke at an Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber event that was well-received, and am currently scheduled to speak at a Lead Gen on Tap event on July 30th. After that, Vanessa and I have been asked to put on a branding workshop for The Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College, which we’ll be spring boarding into more workshops. I was even lucky enough to be featured on The Chris Lee Show. Like I said – crushing it!

It’s Fun Being Us

Ya know how, on every pic you see on social media, people look like they’re having the best day EVAR!!!? – Hell, you’ve probably seen pics of us that look like that – well, I’m not gonna lie: we’ve had our share of throw downs – with each other, even – utter dismay, and even a few pull-our-hair-out-by-the-roots moments – which, as you may have seen from pics, I really can’t afford to do. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t tell you we have far more than our fair share of absolutely fantastic days!

Our clients are utterly fanatical. Seriously, we may be Mayniax, but they’re crazy! We’ve met great people who are always trying to find ways to get us more business. Many of those people, and our clients, have even become friends of ours. And, since Vanessa and I have been working together for so long – Mayniax may be one-year-old, but we’ve been working together for six-and-a-half *gulp* – we can usually get our points across without pushing TOO many buttons, and with quite a few laughs, to boot.

In short, it really is fun being us.

mayniax-branding-dave-murray-patrick-collins-melanie-geib-francis-olegario-millie-chu

What’s in Store for Year Two?

We’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing, along with running some ad campaigns, and really developing our branding workshops, so we can help as many gutsy business owners and entrepreneurs as possible. From there, the sky’s the limit for the gutsiest branding team in every known, and unknown, dimension!

Was that a little too sci-fi? My bad.

THANK YOU!!!

Thanks to everyone for such a great first year, and here’s to another great one for all of you! Okay, and us. Heh heh.

mayniax-branding-dave-murray-vanessa-symington

If you have any questions, feel free to visit our FAQ page, or email us from our Contact page.

And, as always, stay gutsy, gang!