How many people out there have a specific morning routine that consists of keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in your market, your industry, and your competitive landscape? I do! And for those of you in business, you probably do too. Well, what if you could shorten that routine? When I started in the web industry, I knew keeping up to date with the pulse of the technological community was something that just had to be done. Hence, my morning business review! I built something that really helped me shorten the time I spend online listening to the heartbeat of the industry, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

When I moved from freelance and contract web development work to business development, a whole new ballgame took shape. It wasn’t about div’s, stylesheets, includes, and semantic markup anymore; it was about competition, leads, emerging technologies, concepts, and timing. Being seen as the expert was a must, even though the experts were behind the scenes working on the solution. You have to know what’s new, what’s changed, what’s worth taking a look at, and what’s worth talking about. So, what did I do? I started going to good sources to get information. Moz Blog, Mashable, TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, and more.

The chaos of a morning routine…

I began by viewing the industry blogs, business reviews, industry leaders’ tweets, Linkedin streams, and so on. But hopping from one source to another online takes time. I would start my morning routine for work before I got into the office. I would get up early, usually at 5am. Drink my morning coffee while watching the morning news. Then I’d hop online and look at these different blogs, go to Twitter and see what people were talking about. As I grew in my craft, I started to look at alternate sources like AMEX Open Forum and Smashing Mag, but I also looked at what agencies were talking about. It was (is) important to know what the competition is up to.

I would go to the gym around 6:30am, get to the office around quarter to 8, then continue with my search. There’s so much information out there for business development people, that it’s exhausting just thinking about which sources to read, to believe, to leverage. It also got to be a lot of running around online. I needed a place where I could bring all these different sources together, compile information, and make that information work for me as I continued to build relationships and sell web projects.

Bringing ideas to life…

So, I had this crazy idea! What if I could build a website that pulls in all the sources I look at in one easy-to-access place? Wouldn’t that shorten the time I spent in the morning? Of course it would! So, I started fleshing it out.

The first thing I did was put up a quick website under the name TheWebward.com – think forward or westward. I used WordPress, the open-source, awesomely easy application to build websites with. Even though I did front-end development, I knew bringing in RSS feeds wasn’t going to be easy, so I looked for a plugin. And I found one—WP RSS Aggregator. It did exactly what I needed it too. I ended up with a little over 50 RSS feeds that I pulled into this website. Then I separated them by pulling them into different pages — Agency, Design, Sales, Strategy, Tech, WordPress, and so on. I had all my blogs and sources in one location, and categorized accordingly.

Screenshot of WP RSS aggregator plugin in dashboard

Check out the WP RSS Aggregator plugin – it’s super easy to pull in the feed, all you need is the feeds URL, and you can choose how many previous articles you want it to pull in. Then use a shortcode to get it to display on the front-end. I ended up doing the past 5 articles because I look at the feeds often, and that was plenty for me!

Screenshot of the Webward.com

All my design RSS feeds pulled into one single page!

Continuing to add more features…

But well-known blogs weren’t the only sources I went to during my morning business review. I also went to social media, company postings, groups, and more. So, I used a few different plugins for this feature:

  1. Easy Twitter Feed Widget — which allows you to display Twitter feeds on your website.
  2. Custom Facebook Feed Plugin — which allows you to display completely customizable Facebook feeds of any public page or group. *Note – it cannot pull in private groups.

Working with these two plugins was super easy. The hard part was working it out with the respective social channels. For the Easy Twitter Feed, I had to go into Twitter and create all the widgets with the person’s (or company’s) Twitter handle to get the Twitter ID, which allowed me to pull the feed into my morning business review website.

Twitter Widgets

Now, I’m sure there’s probably an easier way to do this instead of creating dozens of widgets, but I need to get more familiar with Twitter’s API and their developer documentation (which I’m in the process of doing), so as soon as I come up with a better way to do, I’ll let you know!

It was kind of the same thing with the Facebook groups and pages. FB no longer adds the page/group ID to the end of the URL, so I had to look at the source code for the page, find their ID, and pull it into my morning business review.

Source code for FB group to find group ID

Then it was just adding a shortcode on the back-end page to get a display like this on the front-end:

Facebook Groups on The Webward

And this:

Easy Twitter Feed Widget front-end display

I aptly named this area of TheWebward — The SocialSphere.

The SocialSphere on TheWebward
The SocialSphere

Making my morning business review even better…

For a long time that was what my morning business review consisted of; Daily RSS Feeds and The SocialSphere. But I always thought about how I could make it better. I’m pulling in all this information. Some articles I like and some seem like they’d be super helpful. Others I couldn’t read right way. So, I created a reading list! I use the “Press This” button that comes with WordPress and allows you to capture articles that you want to share. When I find an article that I like or that I think might be useful, I save it. I’ll also put it in one (or two) categories, and attach tags to it like “analytics,” “strategy,” or “mobile.” This helps me class certain articles to fit with certain personas (I’ll explain later!).

The reading list eventually turned into the Article Library which separates interesting and useful articles into different subsections. My train of thought behind this was simple: as a biz dev guy I’m engaged with different types of people (or personas) and they are interested in different things. Some like content, others like education, or marketing tips. But I knew I was going to create personas and eventually attach articles to them to be used as a starter kit for my sales “toolbag” — pretty neat, eh?

Building buyer personas and developing a sales toolbag…

If you’re in business development, then you know what buyer personas are. They are a representation of the types of people you engage with to buy your product or service. Buyer personas list out their demographics, communication preference, major goals, pain points, etc. And this essentially helps you market your message and your sales pitch to them. So, I created a few buyer personas as Custom Post Types, which actually isn’t that difficult to do in WP. I also created custom taxonomies for my buyer personas that reflected the industry they were in, the role that they played, and their affect or emotional mood. Then I used Advanced Custom Fields to add more fields where I could put in their age, location, pain points, challenges, and so on.

How cool is that? Let’s look at the Tech CEO (one of my buyer personas):

Tech CEO Buyer Persona

As you can see all these different fields are on the backend like so:

Back-end Custom Post Type Buyer Persona

I also made a few spots to attach useful PDF’s, articles, and areas of interests (tags) that were already a part of the reading list.

Tech CEO Buyer Persona

If I’m engaged with a Tech CEO and I’m trying build rapport or trust with them, I can always come to my morning business review and pick an article or two they might be interested in. Or if I need talking points, I can just look at the “areas of interest” and choose a topic. It’s really just a way for me to use all the information that I’m pulling in to my website.

This is going to be different for you because we all work in different industries and we all have different buyer personas. But I wanted to show what’s possible when you start fleshing out ideas! WordPress helps because it’s super easy to use and easy to integrate with other mediums.

Adding some good vibes…

Because this was the site that I visited first thing in the morning, I needed to make it feel like home, or be inspirational. I added a big slider with nice images of the sunrise, skylines I like, and more to put me in the right frame of mind. I added an image of a “virtual high-five” to get some daps for when I needed to get pumped-up (fist bump!). Then I also used the Quote of the Day plugin by QuoteTab to pull in a new quote everyday.

Homepage of TheWebward.com
Today’s ‘Good Morning’ Quote!

This gave me inspiration. I pulled in Morning quotes, Happy quotes, Leadership quotes, Motivational quotes, Life quotes, and the list goes on. So, everyday I wake up, I go to TheWebward.com and the homepage consists of inspirational quotes, messages, and sliders that just give me good vibes. Then I hop over to my Daily Feeds page and see what’s new! It’s pretty awesome!

What’s next for my morning business review?

That’s a great question and I have a few avenues I’d like to explore. That’s why I have a Sandbox on the website! But I’ve recently put a calendar (courtesy of The Events Calendar Plugin) on it where I enter in my usually meetups, NIM groups, and WordCamps/DrupalCamps. But I wonder if there isn’t a way to integrate that with the WordPress.com WordCamp calendar. There might me, but I’ll have to do some digging. Here are the big ideas that I have (and in the name of sales):

  • Business Intelligence Engine — I know, sounds fancy, right? Well, it probably is and it may be a little outside my development wheelhouse. But I think it would be really cool to be able to set certain metrics on the site, like pulling in quantitative results and figuring out when the best time to reach out to a certain company would be. I’ll have to do a lot more digging here, but if anyone knows of open-source business intelligence software, give me a shout!
  • Case Studies — I’d eventually like to add a field for Case Studies because these are an oh so important tool in the salesmen’s toolkit!
  • Company Profiles — I’d have to do some research here too, but what’s one of the things biz dev people need? Lists, right? Everyone hates cold-calling, but if I could pull in company profiles and figure a way to attach the people I know to those companies, I might be able to do something with that. I’ll have to look more into LinkedIn’s developer documentation, and other sources like Data.com
Turning a chaotic morning into a well-oil business machine…

Yeah, that’s right! My morning business review, TheWebward.com, really ups my game in keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in the technology space! I love it! Without it, I’d still be hopping from one source to another to yet another. It literally cut my morning routine by about half the time. I can spend more time reading articles, developing cool new features, or putting in a little extra time at the gym!

So, if you’re in the business development world, I highly recommend building something like this! It’ll make your job easier and it’ll free up more time for your personal stuff! If you need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out! And, if you read the stuff I read, and follow the people I follow, then by all means, use away!

What I Would Write if I Won

September 15, 2015
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Win what? TheListserve, of course! I wrote about this cool community in one of my other posts. It’s a really great community of people all over the world and the Listserve is kind of  like the lottery, only you don’t win money, you win an email – one email. And you get to email everyone on the Listserve. There’s only one rule, no links! You can tell people to google something, but you can’t add any links, which is pretty cool when you think about it. I think the total is up to 24k people, maybe more, it keeps growing. Some day I’ll win! But when you win you have a short amount of time to write this email, so I figured I’d get started on it now. What should I tell the world….or the people who read the Listserve…..which is representative of the world….so what should I tell the world?

Maybe I’ll write about the things I’ve done….

I’ve driven across the country over a dozen times. I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve loved and lost. I’ve been stranded in the Rocky mountains, I’ve raced motorcycles going over 165 mph, I used to play a mean guitar. I worked for the studios in Hollywood, I used to be able to do a kick-flip on a skateboard. I used to be tough! I would take trips to Tijuana to play the sports book in my early twenties. I used to build energy efficient houses. I used to..I was… blah!

Nah…that doesn’t do me justice!

Maybe I’ll write about the things I’m doing now….

I build strong business relationships. I can talk tech with anyone. I’m a member of the Young Leaders Circle, which is actually really cool! I can put together good-looking WordPress sites. I can code…a little. I help companies find right solutions to their web challenges. I’ve finally grown up.

But does this convey what I want the world to know? Probably not!

Maybe I should tell the world about the qualities I have…

I’m a funny guy, I can make people laugh. I am loyal, almost to a fault, but I would move the world for the people I care about. I empathize very easily, I have this innate ability to sense when people are hurting and that makes me hurt too. I’m reliable, very very reliable – I wasn’t always! I’m intuitive, I’m nice, I’m affable, I can carry on a conversation with almost anyone from the kid in the mailroom to the CEO to the homeless guy standing on the corner. I’m a people-person.  I’m pretty hip too!

But….does this encapsulate me?

Maybe I’ll write about who I am….

But honestly, who am I? I am a person, a human being, a son and brother, a loved one, probably a hated one, a lover and a fighter, honest but lies sometimes, happy but I’m sad sometimes, handsome yet I feel ugly sometimes, polite but sure can be rude, I am whatever I am whenever I want or need to be it. And this sure doesn’t paint the warmest picture of me.

But…….what do I want the world to know?


But what is my story? Sometimes, I don’t even know.

I was born and raised in a blue collar New England town. I have loving parents and a great family. I was popular in school, used

GNR Logo to be athletic and play basketball, cross country running. I got into Guns N Roses when I was young and learned how to play the guitar (I eventually learned how to sing), but I knew in my bones that I was going to be a rockstar….and I failed at that. Then I moved around a lot in my early twenties – L.A., Montreal, Denver… I did a bunch of sales jobs, learned a whole lot! Then came back home, for good, 8 years later.

I got into construction, which I liked for awhile, but then needed something else, something more challenging mentally. I took a year off, moved to Boston (Dorchester, to be exact) and learn how to code under the tutelage of my sister (a kick-ass software engineer). I worked hard, lived off of close to nothing, got help from my family, and started to freelance. Then I got a job as a developer, then I came to Oomph (I love this company). I’ve found a home in the place I work and friends in my coworkers. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger and better, and we all have one common goal – to create some pretty cool shit!

But another part of me feels like I work too much. When I’m dying, will I remember the work I did? Or the people I affected? Putting all this time into work takes away from the relationships I should be making stronger. I need to find that balance, I’ve posted about this before. But it’s really important to connect with people, your friends and family, everyone in your life who’s worthy of your time.

Maybe I should give advice to the world….

I’d want people to know that it’s okay to be kind to a stranger. It’s okay to be vulnerable too. Sure, there is bad in the world and tragedy – no one escapes this, we’ve all been there. Don’t close yourself off because you’re afraid to hurt. Do whatever it is that makes you happy (as long as you’re not hurting anyone else) even if it’s weird. Weird is good. Be kind to our planet, I’m thinking it’s the only one we have for generations to come. Side note: I believe this universe is big enough to eventually find a planet that’s habitable, but we’re a long ways away from discovering that one. Hold on to the good things in your life and share whatever gift you’ve been given. If that means you’re a painter, let people see your work. If you love to play music, shout that shit from the rooftops. Creation is what humans were born to do! So go create something beautiful and be unapologetic about it.

A poem by Edgar Guest: Tomorrow

He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say

The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do

Don’t be this guy!!

Maybe I’ll end my email by asking people to take action….

Go do something, TODAY! Whatever you’ve been putting off, well, get up and go do it. Your life will end (and I know that sounds morbid) and most people look back on their lives with some type of regret. I think that’s inevitable for me, but I won’t let it ruin the rest of the time I have left.
Guitar SilhouetteI had these dashing high hopes of being a rockstar when I was 17 years old. I flew out to Hollywood to make that dream happen….and I failed. Or did I? If it’s still my dream, I can make it happen, I just need to keep creating.

My story isn’t a unique one, it’s in line with all the other souls who tried to do something they loved and then ended up doing something practical instead, but it’s my life and I’m happy with it, for now.

Let’s all have hope that we can accomplish the things we want in this lifetime. And experience everything you can, it only makes you better!!!

I’m not sure, but this is probably close to the things I would say if I won the Listserve. It’ll probably always be a work in progress, though!