Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is being creative?

This post is part of a bi-weekly blogging event titled Let's Blog Off. This week's topic is: 
How do you define creativity? Is creativity the balance between imagination and talent that bring ideas to life?
Is creativity a true differentiator though? Do you believe that “uncreatives” exist or do you believe all of us have a spark of it on some level?
Before you delve into this blogger's take on creativity, allow me a moment to explain why this will not be a life altering read. For the better part of the past 2 months, I've been working 80-90 hour weeks and have only taken Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve off. I italicized off because anyone who owns a small business will agree, no matter what you are doing, where you are, or which day of the week it is, you are always working in some capacity. 
I'm not complaining but simply stating the facts. I love what I do; I thrive on the challenge, and the people I have met along the way (especially some of the great folks in the Letsblogoff community -- meet them here) have been the wind in my proverbial sails. 

This past weekend was me hitting the reset button. I tuned out the world and focused on me and nothing else. Because I was 'resetting', I forgot to write this post and wasn't going to, until I decided tonight to give it a go.

Jim & Jamey at the 4th Annual Brad Arms
Noah Harris Memorial Golf Tournament
in 2008 - Raising money to send care
packages to troops in Iraq.
Charity founded by Jamey Burrell.
Growing up, in addition to playing varsity football, I was a highly competitive golfer. Golf was a part of my personality. Character, integrity, mental fortitude, and creativity are defining aspects of a golfer. Years have passed since feeling the pressure of having to hole a putt for my high school team or teeing off in front of over one hundred spectators, but the butterflies still swarmed my belly when I stepped on the course this weekend. It had been almost a year since my last outing, but like riding a bike, standing on the first tee, the passion for the game and the knowledge of how to score well returned to me.

Golf is a great metaphor for life and business, and perhaps that is why so much business takes place on the golf course. The game has a tricky way of exposing one's true self on the course. The game will humble the mightiest of athletes and anoint the quietest of men kings. 

But the reason I bring up golf and why it is relevant to this post is that I didn't realize until yesterday while on the course the amount of creativity the game requires. To a beginner, the game seems simple. Hit the ball as far as you can and get it in the hole in the fewest amount of strokes. Playing with my roommate, I realized this skewed perception. He couldn't understand why I insisted on hitting irons off certain tees when I clearly possessed a long and accurate shot with my driver. Furthermore, he was perplexed when, at times, I admittedly chose to hit 'away from the hole' in order to avoid potential danger when I had shown quite accurate precision all afternoon with my approach shots. 

"Why not aim at the flag instead of the certain of the green," he questioned, "or pull out your driver and bomb it down the fairway." 

My answer is simple. I explained that golf is a game of strategy and creativity. You take a look at each hole. Analyze and understand where the risks lie. Obviously, at differing skill levels, there are differing risks presented on each hole. Each hole will play differently to the golfer playing the hole. 

Sometimes you need to lay up, sometimes go for it. The shot may require you to work the ball (by swinging in such a way to produce side-spin on the ball) left to right and other times right to left. You may need to hit the ball high to fly over a tree but in times of heavy wind, you may be forced to play it very low. Some situations allow you to attack the pin whereas in others, you must play defensively and away from danger, make par and move on.

Image Credity:
Why is this a creative task? It's simple. There is no instruction manual about how to approach a hole. You are provided dimensions (length, width, etc) and knowledge of the obstacles (sand traps, water hazards, etc), but you will not find a pictorial 'how-to' guide like an Ikea instruction manual (although I'd love to see one) in your golf cart. A golfer must rely on their innate ability to not just play the shot but to envision the hole and the different ways that it can be played before ever striking the ball.

A golfer does not always make the right decision as evidenced by the enormous amount of How-To Books that help people cope with the frustration of the sport, but if he is wise, he uses his creative competencies to most effectively harness his talents in order to get the ball in the hole whilst minimizing risk. 

And so it is in life. Some of us have a greater sense of Creativity than others, but I think it can be easily defined as looking at a situation and taking a unique approach to it. It may be an obvious or totally fresh approach to an age-old situation, but the creative person is smart enough to know within them exists a better way to address a certain problem and brave enough to then execute it instead of succumbing to the pressure of hitting driver on each hole because that's just the way it's done.

Creativity is simply being unafraid to be YOU.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's Your Pepsi Taste Test??

Yesterday, I had an extremely insightful conversation with well-respected marketing guru (he won't label himself this out of humility, but I will, I've researched his track record) Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. Mark and I discussed many topics, and I listened with an attentive ear, hoping to absorb as much of this man's knowledge as I could in the hour conversation he had alloted in his day specifically for me. When time came for me to speak, I told him of the conception of Eco-Protective Products, our goals and core-values. I recounted to him success stories, and other stories where we faltered in our actions but learned valuable lessons. 

Courtesy: Schick
As if he were a new customer, I explained why Eco-Protective Products offers greater value to potential clients versus an established named brand paint supplier. I poured my heart into the conversation because I pour my heart into our business.

Mark was patient, allowing me finish before he finally spoke, and his message couldn't have been more of a bucket of cold water to the face kind of wake up call. No this isn't an Ad for Schick Razor's but that image (right) pretty much sums it up.

I'm paraphrasing and embellishing Mark a little here, but his message was clear to me: Where is that heart, that person behind the business in your marketing message? Why is all of what makes your company better absent from your website, blog, and Twitter account? Why are you so cookie cutter and bland -- just trying to be another sheep in the herd? Do you want to your marketing message to be a carbon copy of your competition, competition whom you've admitted is bigger and more well known? Are Green and Sustainability the only legs on which your business stands, or is Eco-Protective Products something more? Something better?

It boiled down to him asking me, "What is your Pepsi taste test"? What sets you apart from the herd? In our industry's terms, do we want to be a substitute for Sherwin Williams, PPG, or Benjamin Moore? And the answer is no. We want to be more. What about you?

  • Do you want a to give your customers and partners a more fulfilling and valuable experience versus the competition? 
  • Do you offer higher quality, longer lasting products and services?
  • Does your company offer more cost-effective solutions?
  • Do your customers know your business beyond the sale; do you know your customers? 
If you answered YES above, don't be afraid to promote those facts!

Hey that's me (left) & Richard Feis (Right) of
Greenhaven Group in Atlanta, GA
Featured product (floor & panels on wall)
Eco-Coat 1500
So What to Expect Now

Moving forward, we will not be abandoning our core message of practicing sustainability in design, construction and daily life, but we will also give you a greater opportunity to learn about what comprises Eco-Protective Products. 

  1. On our website, you'll see us highlighting more what differentiates us from bigger paint companies than makes us so similar. Here is where we WANT your feedback. Where do other companies fall short? What can be done better to make your life and painting experience easier & better? You guys, our customers and friends, will help develop the future of Eco-Protective Products.
  2. Featured on both this blog and on Eco-Protective Products' site, you will see new faces -- some recognizable -- some may be you!! We are going to feature our customers because nothing defines a business more than its customers.
  3. We are also inviting our partners, friends, and employees to begin guest posting. This writer does not have all the answers, but I'm sure one of my far more knowledgeable colleagues may have the answer a reader is seeking. So if you're interested in guest posting, shoot me an email here.
  4. More personal stories -- we are a family owned business. As a part owner, I have done everything from help unload and blend raw materials in order to produce paint, to being integral in every step of the customer relationship process (first contact all the way to product application and onto shaking hands with a happy customer/ new friend when the project is completed). I want to share with you our experiences to provide you a window into the men and women who comprise Eco-Protective Products
In closing, whether you are a small business owner, a marketing professional, or just a person in this world, Mark struck a chord with me, and I want you to think about whether we should be spending our energy comparing ourselves, both similarities and differences, with our competition and the rest of the herd, or should we concentrate on describing WHO WE ARE and what makes us unique, makes us better.

We thank you for taking the time to read this post, but we really want you to be a part of the discussion moving us forward in 2011. Please, share with us a comment below, or if you prefer, you can email me directly here or call, (888) 809-8995 Ext 102.

Thanks again and warm regards,

Jamey Burrell
VP, Marketing & Business Development
Eco-Protective Products

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Announcing Bio-Shield Interior Coating

This week, Eco-Protective Products has begun production of Bio-Shield Interior Coating, a Low VOC acrylic latex paint developed as an environmentally safe, advanced interior paint for healthcare facilities, laboratory clean rooms, the hospitality industry, school systems, and more. 

The paint exhibits a combination of outstanding flexibility, superior water resistance, and abrasion / impact resistance and is impervious to moisture penetration. This innovative interior paint is uniquely engineered with an EPA registered, inorganic silver antimicrobial agent that is occupant safe but creates an inhospitable environment on the coating’s dry film surface for the proliferation and growth of microbial cells.

Why silver?

Silver is a natural element that, for centuries, has been recognized as a safe type of preservative and antimicrobial. Its uses are far reaching, and it can be found in cosmetics, textiles, medical products and even wound care because of its broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties.

ACT™ composite silver technology

At Eco-Protective Products, we consistently try to provide consumers products that are environmentally friendly as well as exceed traditional performance standards. With Bio-Shield Interior Coating we feel we've continued that legacy.

ACT™ composite silver technology is the only silver antimicrobial manufactured in the United States, and unlike organic antimicrobial products, it does not leech or risk harm to users or the environment. 

So what does that mean? 

Unlike other paints whose dry-film surface can provide a fertile environment for the propagation of odor causing bacteria and the growth of stain causing molds and mildews, BSIC is formulated with EPA registered ACT™ composite silver technology, a broad spectrum antimicrobial that provides a barrier resistant to bacteria proliferation and mold, mildew and fungal growth on the paint film.

Benefits Beyond the Norm

The antimicrobial benefits extend the useful life of the paint, virtually eliminating issues of film deterioration caused by microbial growth. Moreover, the paint is engineered VOC compliant and exceeds Green Seal GS-11 standards for Low VOC paints and coatings.  The low-odor formulation permits quick return to use in freshly painted areas and is safe to apply even in occupied spaces.

Backed by repeatable test results, this paint proves to be exceptionally durable and will withstand years of regular cleaning, scrubbing, and operational use without peeling, chipping or necessitating repainting. Additionally, ACT™ composite silver technology is UV stable, which differentiates Bio-Shield from other silver based coatings that will dull and discolor over time from UV/light exposure.

Bio-Shield is engineered to resist staining, and smudges and scuffing from human and equipment contact wipe away with a damp cloth. Bio-Shield Interior Coating applies as easily as regular paint and demonstrates excellent adhesion to most interior surfaces. 

Bio-Shield Interior Coating is available in over 1000 colors and in multiples finishes.

More information can be found on our website here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Here lies your deceit - We were tired of being swindled

Here are the RULES:
Death and taxes. None of us can escape either and while you can’t do anything about paying taxes, nothing says you have to trust your relatives to write your exit speech — your obituary.
A traditional obituary is no longer than 208 words and has a photo of you at the top. Sometimes this is a photo of you in your younger days and other times it is current, depending on how you want to be remembered. This time, you get to pick. To make this #letsblogoff a bit more challenging, we’re asking that you stick with the word limit of 208 for your obituary. You can write less if you want.
And if you really have more to say on the way out than can fit into 208 words, write another blog post and link back to your obituary.
Since this topic was released to the Letsblogoff community last week, I've considered various approaches to take with this post. Some ideas, such as falling into a vat of (gasp) non-eco friendly paint, transforming into a sustainability vigilante were both sarcastic and slapstick. I also contemplated writing my obituary as if my time were to come to an end today, but for obvious reasons, that failed to stoke my desire to write. I finally settled on writing the obituary that would sum up a long-lived, fulfilling life. But once I'd written it, I deemed it too personal to post here, so I scratched that idea (but if you're interested, you'll be able to read it on my personal blog Life as an Experiment tomorrow). Ultimately, I couldn't bring myself to write about my own death or the death of Eco-Protective Products, so I chose to write about the death that would do our industry a favor. 
Atlanta, GA January 4, 2011 

Late last night, huddled in the back corner of the Starbucks, angered homeowners surrounded and killed the tactic of overpromising and under delivering from painting contractors and manufacturers. 

Until last night, over exaggerated claims had withstood years of attempted exposure from honest paint companies who had tirelessly worked to overcome the ill will created by the industry’s snake-oil salesmen.

False promising reached its height during the early 2000’s when wild claims were easily disseminated via the internet but rarely verified or backed with substantive evidence. More so, any business, regardless of ethics, with a website and charming sales staff was seen as credible. 

Crime scene reporters describe the outrage as palpable. “Never paint again”, “no prep work required”, “lifetime guarantee”, and “50% reduction in power bills” were just some of the grievances that could be overheard standing near the angry mob. An elderly man, who was barely able to maintain his composure, recounts high-pressure sales tactics used by a company that swindled him into paying a premium rate for underperforming paint on the exterior of his home. 
Misleading advertising in the paint industry had long been under pressure, and finally, thanks to the collaboration of a few concerned citizens, it seems this deception has been put to rest. – End 207 words
  • Never Paint Again Eco-Protective Products offers many high quality interior and exterior paints, and while our paints are made with high-quality resins and premium raw materials enabling them to last 2 to 3 times longer than competitive paints, we do not guarantee lifetime performance. Paint, like any other man-made material, is subject to degradation from Mother Nature including climatic elements, Ultra Violet light, and various critters (for interior spaces that includes pets and children). 
  • No Prep Required Cue goosebumps and raised hair when you hear this. No matter how high performance a paint may be, if the prep work isn't properly performed, expect peeling or flaking paint as a result. For both interior and exterior applications, the surface must be clean and free from dirt, grease, scale, efflorescence, mildew, fungus, loose impediments and all other surface contaminants. Pressure washing, sandblasting, sanding, scraping or any other manner, which thoroughly cleans the surface and removes is recommended.  Additionally, seems and areas around windows should be caulked to prevent airflow. 
  • 50% Energy Savings Sound too good to be true? Well then it probably is. I can't tell you the number of times I've overheard salesmen at conferences and home shows exaggerate claims of energy savings from paint. Eco-Protective Products manufactures a very high-performance Cool Roof Coating (Eco-Cool Roof 5000) but even in best case scenarios, it may produce ~30% energy savings at best resulting from lower cooling loads placed on HVAC systems. Consider that the roof is a much larger heat sink than a home's exterior siding, and it puts 50% energy saving paint in a very clear perspective. EPP's Platinum Exterior 1000 achieves ~8% Energy Savings for use on exterior stucco, siding, and other exterior substrates.  

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