What we do defines who we are..

December 5, 2009

A Soliloquy About Me

Yesterday my blog experienced the highest number of page views yet. Likely due to the discussion about the allegations of fraud from a current company Executive at Idearc Media, my former employer for over 9 years. I woke up thinking about why the traffic was so high. I am sure it was due to the fact that you wouldn’t expect this sort of behavior from a former Verizon executive, someone who is responsible for pricing, marketing, and the transformation of the company, and someone who is at the very top of a multimillion dollar business? If you stop and take a second to actually think about it, what do you expect? If YOU had the chance to jump ahead of your competition without fear of reprisal, would you do it?

If corporate executives were all honest and ethical (I hold them to a higher standard since they are the people who have greater influence on other peoples lives) we would not see things happen to good people by the likes of folks like Bernie Madoff, Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide, Ken Lay at Enron, and other countless executives with power and authority.

What do small business owners deserve?

I grew up in Royse City Texas, a town just 30 miles east of downtown Dallas. My grandmother owned the local feed and tack store, Abney Feed and Ranch Supply. While attending Royse City High School, I enrolled in a forward thinking Cisco Networking Course. This is probably what fertilized my mind, thus  putting me ahead of the average computer user (and on my way to Google Guru Success). After my Grandmother sold her feed store, I started working nights as a barback (Chief Dishwasher) at Southern Junction in Rockwall Tx. Pretty cool experience getting to meet hundreds of drinkers (I also had one for a step father at the time) while being sober the entire time (learn to do what they do… or learn the opposite – THE CHOICE IS YOURS.) You hear people say the darndest things when they are inebriated. Next was US Wireless Communication in Mesquite during my senior year of High School, when, I finally realized that late nights at the bar was negative impact on my grades.

My mother at the time was a Sales Representative for GTE Yellow Pages (she was the 1997 Rookie of the Year during the YP haydays) and she wanted to move closer to the office in Irving vs driving almost 50 miles from Royse City TX. It was my last year of High School and she also wanted me to be able to graduate from Royse City. So I stayed in Quinlan TX with a friend my last year of High School. I myself was only concerned with being able to hang out with friends and play football (which was only possible thanks to my girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife) due to the challenges from the amount of time working necessary/required to support myself.

The next step in my life, 3 months post High School graduation, was an interview with GTE/Verizon Yellow Pages in the Telephone Sales Call Center (TCC). Apparently a bit of nepotism, my inherited gift of gab, and skills I picked up while working as a Communications Sales Consultant at US Wireless Communications. Let’s just say that either I was destined to be good at it, or I was lucky. I spent 364 days at the TCC. Never missed my expected quota. Won my first Prestige Award and was on my way to getting my second (would have been the first to carry out such a feat) when I left to join the local sales office my mother also worked at. She was well-known in Dallas and made many strong relationships with Dallas area business owners. Folks like Cheryl from Pest Management in Wylie, Frenchy from Frenchy’s Lawn Service up in Denton. David Langford from Express Storage Containers near Sherman Tx, and countless other folks. She was always loved by her co-workers and clients. She understood what it felt like to be a small business owner. Responsible for the lives of your employees and helping to put “food on the table.” What my mother did, DEFINED HER. She was very ethical and kind.

Meanwhile at Verizon I learned from the great folks around me. Aside from Northwood University the only formal training I have had was my years at Verizon. I’ve learned things that Harvard Business School doesn’t teach about business.

I  fortunate to be able to purchase my first home at 20 years old in Grand Prairie, just a few block away from my mother’s home. My wife (and former High School sweetheart) had a few kids. I won a few awards at Verizon/Idearc  (3 President’s Awards including one presented to my by Sandy Henjum with Verizon.) I then lost my mother a year ago in an accident, this helped redefine me as much as my Cisco Networking class at Royse City High School did. My passion for search engine marketing stemmed from my young age as a media consultant at Idearc (I still remember being held back from promotion at the time due to my age and the company car insurance policy.) The day my mother stopped using the phone book I knew the company would have a some challenging years ahead of it. My mother, like many other people, became your “average computer user.”  I have always studied search engines and search engine marketing. I studied about social media, even though I was told by Idearc’s management not to (how can you learn without messing with things?) I became a local Google Guru. I studied SEO (thanks to folks like Chris Smith who used to head the SEO division of Idearc for sharing his thoughts and findings on the subject, I am forever appreciative.)

Not all the folks I worked with are unethical because one or two Idearc executives make decisions that negatively impact the lives of clients and employees around them. I’ve had managers and co-workers at Verizon Superpages and Idearc Media that helped mold me into the person that I am. Just because a few bad apples exist, it doesn’t spoil the entire bunch. Bad apples just spread badness to apples around them. Idearc has always had good folks in the business. The business had always been a good one. The death of the PRINT yellow pages due to the growth of internet and mobile search was obvious.  The yellow page printing industry saturation distribution methods just made things worse for them. The lack of planning and leadership has just made things worse for them. The executive leadership has just made things worse for them.

My suggestion to business owners in Dallas is to find a media consultant who has the same beliefs as I do. One who has the knowledge, experience, and ethics to help you reach and then surpass the goals you have for your business. What I have done in my life, as well as who I have had the pleasure of doing business with, defined me.

What defined you? Why did you start your company? For years I have heard stories from clients that make me proud to be an American. I have a deep-rooted faith in America’s small and medium-sized businesses. Although my 9 year career at corporate Verizon and Idearc have been good, (thanks to my friends and co-workers) I can say that if given the opportunity to go back, I would prefer to be a small business working for small businesses.

Would you click on a competitors link on Google to charge them money?

I look forward to the way my future will define me. Please share this discussion.

The Dallas Google Guru
Mike Stewart

P.S. A suggestion to Idearc: Embrace the future. When you embrase the future you find new and creative ways to prosper from it. Encourage this behavior. Encourage your media consultants to learn beyond your product offering. Then allow them to build the relationships with business owners. Find a way to employ the largest local media consultant organization in the history of America and you will prosper. Continue your product focused approach to advertising with a sales focus and you will never become “America’s Local Advertising Agency”.  America can use good solid advice. Encourage social media. I have learned a tremendous amount of search engine optimization strategies from Twitter.com lately. And best of luck to my friends and former coworkers at Idearc, don’t drink the kool aid. Make a commitment to learning about your industry. If your industry is only print yellow pages, you deserve the same fate as Idearc.

Let’s see what happens next week when we ask for comments from local Dallas area Paving companies! I am also going to request Pave Stone’s (a national pavement and paver brand) competitors voice opinion on Idearc adding the brand to the phone book. What a potential co-op nightmare! I am anxious to see the response from the companies public relations officials Andy Shane and Lisa Vilfordi.

All comments will remain confidential.