Reporting Live from Greece

Chappy here, coming to you live from Athens, Greece. I know the insurance company (and my mother) have told me never to reveal the fact that I am out of town, but nobody reads this blog and (note to would-be burglars) my cat loves the taste of stranger-flesh.

Anyway, it’s been a while, and I just felt like sharing thoughts, so here is Chappy’s big ballin’ review of Athens:

First off, both of my parents (separately, I might add) have reminded me that this was the last place my Grandfather visited before he passed away. Since he was too ill from late-stage cancer, Ed had to take a taxi to all the sites and peer out the window. This, as you might imagine, adds a little gravity to scaling the hill up to the Acropolis and looking out over one of the world’s most historically significant cities. Throw in the fact that he was a) the primary genetic source of any humor I may have and b) apparently part of why I am now noticing the onset of male-pattern baldness, and it really hits home. In his honor, I want to throw up a warm dedication to the incomparable Edwin Leroy Chapman.

I’m Surrounded by Cats
Any other travel guide might start out by mentioning the history, the unibrows, important Olympic tie-ins. You know what the most obvious thing to my untrained eye was? Cats, man. There are stray cats everywhere. We had lunch the other day (inside a building) and there was a black cat at the foot of our table. At first, it was amusing, as I fancy myself somewhat of an animal lover, but dadgummit, there could not be more unattended felines in this city. If you want a free cat, drop me a line and I’ll bring one back for you.

If They Hate Americans, I Blame Snooki
Due to jetlag, I was up much later on Monday than a Chappy should ever be. I turned on the television, and what to my wondering eyes should appear – the first ever episode of Jersey Shore. Imagine what a Greek person thinks when they read the translation of “I just want to hook up with hot Guidos” on the bottom of the screen and see an orange midget bouncing around the boardwalk. Hey John Kerry, you want to improve our foreign relations? Tell MTV to shut it down…

The Greeks Will Work it for a Euro
One of my British friends set the bar high by declaring I would live “like a King” in Greece. True to form, I’m pretty much impressed with every bill I get (outside of the Hilton). If you have weathered the Euro or Pound elsewhere, a five-course dinner and wine for 25€ is legit. As soon as I speak, an English menu is delivered. The people are also quite friendly, despite their pissed-off disposition. No joke, I haven’t seen a person smile yet without provocation.

Cops are Everywhere
Confession: I jaywalked earlier…but only after 5 other people went first. The police-to-civilian ratio has to be closer to 1:1 than anywhere I have ever been. There are so many cops that they must share motorcycles. Imagine getting pulled over by one motorcycle with two cops on it (wearing protective armor no less). The other day, we were walking through a major park and a police dog tried to eat our faces off through the bars of his nearby cage. This (and the 4 officers smoking nearby) merely confirmed that we had better not exercise any unwelcome freedoms. Point made: I would recommend not rioting in Athens if you can help it.

Greek Food is Delish
I’ve been to many a place that holds back on spices in an effort to not offend discerning patrons. Not here. Put that spice on that meat and get it into my belly as quickly as possible! I’m telling you – if you like assorted meats and a flavorful mouth journey, then hop a plane to this part of the world. Double bonus, they deliver plates of food with all the ingredients (you foodie types might call this “deconstructed”) which means you get to make your own personalized mini pita sandwiches. Thumbs in the air, and pass that taziki sauce!

All Ruins Need a “Before” Pic
I love me some history. It has always been one of my best subjects. But I also do a bit of sales in my day job, and if you want to put the historical “spin” on a pile of stones, give me a high quality picture and a backstory of what I’m looking at. To give you an example, below you will find the current state of Zues’ house. Ummm…who drank too much and knocked down all the columns?


So there you have it. Thinking of heading to Greece? Give me a shout and I’ll offer up an even more comprehensive review.


Things that Rich People Talk About

I am not a wealthy man. That being said, I’m not poor either. I do, by casual association, know a few folks that have quite a bit of money. Whenever we hang out, I take meticulous notes for when I too am rich and must converse about things that such people find interesting.

In anticipation of the day you are also swimming in your Scrooge McDuck style pool of coinage, here are some pointers on how to sound like a yuppie who has always been loaded.

1. Who played parts in plays the best
Maybe you and your honey hit up the movies on special occasions. That’s cool. I’m so cheap I don’t even let Allison get the large Coke after we drop $20 on tickets. When you are old school rich, however, the actors must perform the movie live and in front of you (there’s a cocktail break and everything). Not only that – you also have to see the same play like 20 times so you can form an opinion on who played the lead roles best.

2. Investments
Yeah, yeah. So you are thinking “I have a 401K Chappy.” I’m not talking about common sense money you can’t touch until you are 65. These investments are the “I just bought a honey farm in Vermont” kind. Big ol’ piles of cash that you throw around because your wife’s dog would prefer gluten free kibble. The key is in the delivery. You have to be all casual-like when you tell the boys at the country club that you bought $500,000 in man thongs because you “got a hot tip.”

3. Vacationing in Europe
Who doesn’t love a long weekend in the Gulf, sitting on the beach and drinking High Life? I know I do. When you have some coin, that’s not a vacation. That shiz is called “summering,” it should last for at least a month, and the Gulf of Mexico is not fancy enough. Once you sell your first company, it’s time to pack those bags and get your ass to France!

Where’s the Party At?

For no fewer than years, my buddy Kevin tried to pick up girls by yelling “where’s the party at!?” Lord knows he tried. Whether he was hanging out of a trolley in Ybor City, or hollering at a gaggle of ladies strolling through the Galleria Mall, the dude was persistant. To my knowledge, it may have actually worked once.

The theory, I surmise, was that Kev hoped the females would respond with either a) the actual location of a party (not likely) or b) an admittance that they had no knowledge of a party and ask if we knew of any (even less likely). Truth be told, beyond a comedic element, I could see the appeal. After all, who isn’t always in search of a good time?

As disillusioned as this may sound, I think we are all looking for the next party. Where is the hot new restaurant in town? Which new release is popular on Netflix? And what’s the cool product that everyone is buying? We like to go where others go and do things that present an aura of fun. Good times for everyone!

In trying to draw attention to your product, company, or idea, the hard truth is that being cool can be quite challenging. If you are inauthentic or trying too hard, your potential customers will eventually sniff you out (or only give you business ironically). For this very reason, I have become a big fan of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Quite honestly, the guy was borderline terrible on Saturday Night Live, but for the time being, Jimmy has turned his talk show into a party that anyone would love to attend. One minute, he’s wearing a beer helmet and racing Blake Shelton around the set on motorized coolers. Another he and the best house band ever are playing classroom instruments to back Carly Rae Jepson. If they aren’t having a good time, then Jimmy, guests, and crew are all faking it pretty well.

My company sells vehicle maintenance software. For the space, it is an awesome product. But did you get all hot and bothered when I said “vehicle maintenance software?” How about if I use the word “fleet” instead? (Barry White Voice) “Ooooh yeah, baby – you can track all of your important fleet information with Fleetio.” (end Barry White Voice) Chances are, what you are pushing isn’t the sexiest thing ever, but you can be cooler than your competition – genuinely cooler.

People want to be a part of something special, in all facets of life. Even in your little niche, there is an opportunity to build a desirable effect: one that the informed consumer will feel good to be a part of. Whether you are Tom’s shoes – giving your customers the warm fuzzies, or Zappos – with the best return policy in the business. People will flock to your business if you prove yourself different and noteworthy, in a good way.

Next time you walk in the office, maybe you should ask everyone “Where’s the party at?”

Making the Sausage

I’ve worked in a few food-related jobs. The first helped me swear off anything served at concession stands. The other sufficiently has me questioning the cleanliness of every beverage can that I have drank from in the 8 years since. Such is life in the food industry. Once you see how the proverbial sausage is made, you may or (more likely) may not want to partake in the final product any longer. Sausage seems to take the bad wrap for this because of all the nasty bits that go into it, but for the record, I still find it to be delicious.

Some (not this guy of course!) will say the similar things about marriage; The post-wedding experience being realization of what goes into producing the final product that you formerly picked up on your way to dinner. Fellas, like it or not, there is a process. The number of wardrobe changes is something that no hetero male would ever be able to anticipate (note: strategically, as this is published, my wife is heading out of town for a few days). If you still love her, though, it matters not.

A job is very much the same. I’ve been told that being a doctor is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy – with a lot more paperwork and much less covert sex with other hot single doctors. At the end of the day, you might get to save a life or two, but chances are equally likely that an old person will do something really gross in your presence. I personally aspired to be on Mythbusters, but after spending enough time in an Engineering lab, I realized that the 30 seconds of construction footage actually equates to many days of sweaty and diligent fabrication. Measure twice and cut once – that’s for sissies!

You might think it cool to work at a variety of notable outfits (Google, Apple, etc.), but there is always more to it than the glossy depiction or shiny product. Believe it or not, actual work is involved in order to get to the point of awesome. There will inevitably be necessary crap along the way. You may not love every moment, but if you can put up with the unsavory bits and still enjoy it, then you will still love the product.

There are things that I don’t necessarily want to do at Fleetio. For instance – answering wrong number calls from an international phone service that is giving out your 1-800 number as part of their scam (kiss mine Evaphone!). But at the end of the day, I’m happy to be where I am, working for the company that employs me.

I’ve seen what goes into the grinder, and I’m still eating the sausage!

Take Me To Your Leader…Seriously

According to my profile and preferences, there are three teams that I follow closely: Auburn Football, The Atlanta Falcons and Chelsea Football Club (soccer team in England). If you are a fan of Sesame Street (and I most certainly am), let us briefly delight in a game of “Which one of these is not like the other?” If you guessed the Falcons, then a gold star is in order.

In the last week, both Chelsea and Auburn have fired their respective head coaches. One turned a struggling team around mid-season and won the biggest tournament in European soccer last year. The other brought home a National Championship two years ago with a 14-0 record. Whether you agree with the sacking of Chizik or Di Matteo (in the case of the latter, I do not), they both were judged to be underperforming in their role as leaders. Whatever brilliance they found in the good times, it just as easily slipped away as their clubs headed in the wrong direction.

The takeaway here is that leadership doesn’t take an off day. People may build statues in your likeness, but that doesn’t mean that your job is finished. Your team, coworkers, etc are not a static bunch. What led them to victory in previous efforts may not be the answer tomorrow. Sucks, doesn’t it?

I don’t spend a lot of time on message boards, and I do my best to avoid reading up too much on college football, but I was dumbfounded to learn that Auburn’s coach was struggling so mightily keeping his players out of trouble that he actually had to hire a private firm to help. Think about that for a second.

I know it’s hard to imagine managing a group of 18-22 year old Primadonnas as your full time job, but we’ll ignore the demographic momentarily. In the hierarchy of goals, winning a lot of games is obviously high on the list. I would imagine that “keep your players out of the bad section of the news” is there somewhere, but extremely low in priority. After all, if you instill enough focus and discipline, the good ones will behave themselves for a few months out of the year.

So there you have it – Chappy’s advice on leadership: If your team is so terrible that you are just trying to keep them from being arrested, then you are doing ok.

Wrong suckers! I’m not writing a book anytime soon (or hiring a Biographer for that matter), but here’s a word of advice: Your team has to buy in to your mission. For this to happen, it is necessary for you to show them the big picture and how their role plays a significant part.

As one of these awful Millenials that is infesting the world with my horribleness, I can tell you – we like to be a part of something significant. Not all of us have to change the world right out of the gate, but seeing our contribution in a final product is cool. Feel free to keep my people (a loose term, mind you) in the dark and hide in your corner office – we’ll simply put on hipster clothes and move back in with our parents.

In short: if you get anything out of this, it’s that believing in what you do and convincing others to do so is key. People are not motivated simply by money, fame, or security. Being a part of something special and meaningful is what motivated people are after.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to make a donation to the Gene Chizik buyout fund, care of Auburn University, 317 South College Street Auburn, Alabama 36849

Make the Robot Laugh

My title at Fleetio is “Director of Business Development.” It is understood, however, that the role is actually more like “Everything That Tony Doesn’t Do.” Such is life in a startup.

Given my lack of coding skills, all writing over the last few months has been delegated to Chappy. I bust out regular blog posts, newsletters, and tweets like it is going out of style. Gotta generate that content baby! The internet is a complex thing, but we know one thing for certain – Google’s Search algorithm is the name of the game. Unfortunately, nobody outside of Google (or “The Google” as old people call it) knows the intricacies of their criteria. All we common folk can infer is that being mentioned and clicked often is a good thing. Association with applicable keywords is also a big positive. Don’t bother writing garbage and simply inserting links randomly, as they will figure you out (and that scary dude from The Matrix will make an angry face).

Pretty early in the game, I was given a rundown of the balance between using a lot of keywords and writing something that humans would actually read. Unless your audience is Johnny Five, it will behoove you to add a little substance to the verbiage that Google is looking for. Or, in my case, the occasional humour. I’ll admit, though – when your topic is Cars, Trucks, Safety and Vehicle maintenance, you really have to work for that laugh. It isn’t like this blog where I can simply insert a fart joke and bring you back to the point. Aside from adding some personality to what is otherwise a series of web pages about fleet software, I must (understandably) keep things kosher. Bad press, for us, is actually good press. I would much rather err on the side of not offending people that pay us money for a product. There is still plenty of space to be creative, though.

Just like my college experience, I believe that one day Google will award style points. And when this finally happens, we are going to rule the world.

Dangle that Carrot!

I ran that race up the mountain a week and a half ago. It was extremely difficult, painful and fulfilling. Now I find myself a little depressed.


As previously reinforced by the aftermath of other challenging experiences, it has occurred to me that there is such a thing as the “post-achievement lull.” Even if said achievement was half-assed via a hasty two week training regimen. Shut up haters – Still counts!

So you did that impressive thing – what comes next? All that time and effort exerted in getting to the top of Mount Everest, only to find that the trip back down is two weeks long, really flippin’ cold, and devoid of new scenery. Just allow me get on to my next accomplishment already.

The same goes for business things (there’s the turn!). I like to know that my efforts are steering the company down a profitable and righteous path. In order to validate such, there are metrics that are vehemently ascribed to. For starters: number of paying customers and total revenue. Both are quite nice to have, and we have been steadily clicking away.

And then…

It has come to pass that we are now in the midst of an awkward two weeks in the progress of our company. After a few months of dialing up new customers and dancing regularly in the halls of Fleetio HQ, we have altered the trial process for our users – thus sending our real-time stats into a state of confusion. Giving a seasonal reference, I liken it to Christmas morning with a few empty boxes mixed in under the tree. Still awesome, but there is that period where we are a bit unsure of what we have exactly.

I know we are still growing at a great pace, but I am hesitant about when to celebrate. Call me impatient! Is it when they open an account? No Chappy, that’s too presumptions. What about when they enter a credit card? Getting closer, but let’s not count chickens. Once we reach day 14 and there is still a card on the account, we are good to go. Commence the Soulja Boy and on to our next round of world domination!

The Angry Line Forms to the Left

I typically err on the side of talking too much. This, I have found, is never more true than when I am stuck in a one-on-one situation with a stranger in an uncomfortable scenario. Most commonly occurring when a poor soul in the Walmart checkout lane is faced with double bagging a month’s worth of my discount wine. It gets a little awkward after bottle six or so – probably made worse by the fact that he/she knows how much the Walmart actually pays for $2.77 worth of Oak Leaf.

But I digress…

Recently, while weathering the checkout line at the aforementioned Walmart, I noticed something: As you know, there is a double-sided display atop the register. It typically reiterates the product and price of what has most recently crossed the scanner. Example: “Milk $2.85” in block green letters.

When my first adult beverage came across on this occasion, the display very clearly read “Does [the] Customer Look Under 40?”

I, being a babyfaced 28 year old, of course did not take offense. But, I thought that it would be worth mentioning to the clerk that “There are a host of middle-aged individuals that would be wondering whether or not you think they appear to be less than 40 years old.” All it takes is one hot mom with self-esteem issues, and this has the potential to get ugly.

Dear Walmart, we all understand that you have a policy, but do you really want customers knowing, at that very moment, a high school kid is doing the over/under on their age? Probably not. Ol’ pimple face probably thinks everyone over 25 looks old…

This is a simple fix, of course. Just keep customers from seeing such a prompt. Yet, at one of the largest retailers in the world, this little detail has gone unnoticed.

When was the last time you completely walked through your customer experience with them in mind? Sure you know the product inside and out, but have you looked at it from another perspective? If you were seeing your website, storefront, or concept for the first time, what would be your takeaway?

Sometimes, this could be as simple as bothering to check the translation (like, for instance, making sure “Colgate” doesn’t translate to “hang yourself” in spanish. Fun fact – it does). Take the time to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you don’t, those shoes might just walk them to another product that doesn’t piss them off.

If I Wasn’t Busy

This past Thursday night, my wife and I spent a few hours listening to Anthony Bourdain talk at the Alys Stephens Center. Quite honestly, I think this guy is awesome. Tony started off as a chef, and has since become a New York Times bestselling author in addition to hosting an Emmy winning travel show. He’s a modern day renaissance man with a sense of humor.

As Tony was wrapping up his talk, he made a point that resonated with me in a way. To paraphrase “If I wasn’t busy doing all of these things, I’d probably sit around all day and be worthless” (note: there may have been some drug references, but the point is the similar). You could very well be different, but I totally get this philosophy. If I’m not applying myself, then it seems I am growing dumber or more worthless by the second. For this very reason, I find massages be torturous.

I’ve listed “self-motivated” on a number of conceited attribute lists. As a youngster, I might have been the poster child: One Summer morning, I woke up and was the sole participant in a “Triathlon” that consisted of two miles running, 4 miles mountain biking, and about a mile of roller blading (dad wouldn’t let me swim in our lake unsupervised). If I was practicing layups in our driveway, there were self-imposed sprints for missing a shot. One of my hobbies, I kid you not, was chopping wood. So you get the picture: I was not type of child Michelle Obama had to “get moving.” There was, it seems, not a lot of sitting still in those days.

This type of attitude came in handy once I moved into corporate life. In my first job, I started an email/blog, then said yes to every non-profit opportunity that came around. My schedule quickly filled to that of an overachiever – on a ridiculous level if we are being honest. In 2008, I was chosen as the “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy” (the cutoff was 25, so I barely qualified as a “youth”) for the State of Alabama. The previous winners were a former Miss America and a girl that has raised millions for Cystic Fibrosis. This wasn’t even at the height of my extracurricular involvements.

Up until recently, I had been carrying an impressive load of resume builders. Otherwise, I would have been doing a lot of finger twiddling…

Then I started working at Fleetio. It has been strange over the last few months adjusting to, for the first time, having enough to do. Shockingly, I am actually saying “no” to new opportunities outside of work. It’s a strange feeling to be loaded up with something for 8+ hours a day. I mean, I haven’t been to in months!

The opportunity has arrived where I can put my head down, work hard, learn every day, and truly be a part of something special. It won’t be easy, but it’s not going to suck either. Some other things are going to have to wait.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to sit on the porch, listen to banjo music, and whittle indeterminate things for hours on end. That day, however, is a long way off.

Halloween and Customer Service

After experiencing 3 lackluster years of Halloween visitors in our neck of the woods (count it – less than 1 child annually), the wife and I decided to spend yesterday evening in the cool section of town. I, being Chappy, donned a banana suit that I naturally wore all day at the office. It’s a Fleetio Tradition!

So anyway, we spent the night at a proper Halloween Party. The minimum contribution was one one bag of candy per person – not for consumption, mind you, but for giving to the kiddies. This was the type of neighborhood where people drive in from all over the metropolitan area to lovingly drop off their little ones for a few hours of respite. There is no “let’s wait for the doorbell to ring” strategy. You had better station someone at the top of the walkway or else an army of heathens will tear your freakin’ door down.

Since there was music on the front porch for dancin’ and the occasional volunteer refilling solo cups, Chappy was the default choice for doling out some candy. It was, in a sense, the best birth control imaginable. I won’t waste your time on all the deets, but here’s the skinny: There are a lot of terrible kids out there between the ages of “can barely talk” and High School age. Of the ones I encountered, about 20% didn’t even have a costume on. Further parsing that group, the most popular solicitation was “give me candy.” One little hellian even slapped my hand as I was putting tasty treats in another’s bag.

I’m not trying to paint myself as the ideal kid growing up, but much of the behavior I witnessed over the course of 3 hours would have been punishable by death in the Chapman household. By the latter part of our evening, I literally reached the point where I openly congratulated parents of good kids for their attention to detail. If a sweet little one said “thank you,” “please,” or referred to me as “sir,” I practically melted in adoration.

Given the experience, I wanted to share this with everyone. I was, however, struggling on how to relate such an instance to the world of working at a startup (there’s a learning component occasionally!). After all, I’m trying to count this blog as a business write-off! Then, after spending some enjoyable time on the phone with a customer this afternoon, it hit me: being nice these days may not be as much of a standard as one might think. We’ve heard on a number of occasions that we are different, but honestly, our team is just nice to people because we think that is how it should be.

Do you answer the 1-800 line like it’s interrupting your day and you could care less? OR, do you pick up every phone call with the enthusiasm that this could make or break your business?

Having a product you can stand by certainly helps (or else you shouldn’t be working there in the first place), but at the end of the day, people can tell if you really give a sh*t. You can try using forced inflection or asking scripted questions. It may occasionally work, but only because folks are simply happy to be talking to a real-life person, and one who speaks English as their first language.

Do more to make that customer experience as great as it can be. You are not above anyone or any task that is asked of you. If you are going to stand out, it is essential to go that extra mile. Because, based on what I have witnessed, that is going to put you far ahead of the competition (and their terrible little children).