John Tenney

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Economic-Gardening The Right Way

Economic Gardening

Economic-Gardening  The Right WayFlorida has touted the term Economic Gardening for several years now.

Many business, political and economic leaders have dropped the phrase many times. Is there something to it? What’s it all about?

More important: Is it working?

The subject has several parts. It would require an in depth study beyond the scope of this essay but let’s try and explore it a bit.

What is Economic Gardening?
I first heard the term in a Florida Trend article (which I have been unable to find online) several years ago. I believe it was an editorial on the current practice and some excellent suggestions on how to improve it. Hopefully someone will point out the source to me as a result of this essay.

Economic Gardening, simply put, is the process of planting and growing business in a specified region. All regional leaders, be it village, county, state or even nation share a common desire to grow their economy. All realize that starting, growing and cultivating regional businesses will accomplish that goal nearly all the time. Unfortunately the practices some regions use are less than optimal. Let’s discuss some negative practices and follow up with some positive suggestions.

What NOT to do
One practice that sounds good at first but is counter-productive in the long run is attracting businesses from out of the region by giving tax breaks for moving to the area. While this might be initially advantageous, it will eventually hurt the existing businesses, and history has shown that a high percentage of transplanted business get up and move once their tax breaks end. Well, of course. If they were eager to move once to save money, why not do it again?

Another practice that can be abused is marketing in other regions. Aside from being expensive, with travel and all, it hasn’t shown a large success rate. My own county used to pay one of its commissioners to make “marketing trips” to another state with the auspicious intent of attracting businesses to move down to Central Florida. The ROI on this effort was extremely poor. It was also discovered that this commissioner was combining family visits with nearly all the trips as well.

The final error I will discuss is the tendency to concentrate on larger businesses, and neglect the high potentials of smaller business. A region would benefit much more from 100 small businesses than one large employer. When a region is dominated by a large employer that employer starts to get too much power in the region, and creating many other problems.

Let’s do it RIGHT
One of the most enlightening features of that Florida Trend article that burned in to my memory was the concept that most of the “seeds” for the region’s garden are already here, in one form or another. There are startups all the time. Giving assistance to local startups seems like a good idea, no?

Another idea was that a lot of the businesses you want to recruit from other areas may already be visiting. In Central Florida we have a large tourist population, and many of those are business owners. The article even went on to say that it might be as simple as starting a conversation at one of the local attractions and including a comment such as “Wouldn’t it be great to live here year round? Wouldn’t your business do just as well or better in this region?”

My final suggestion is to spend more time on the smaller, high potential businesses, which are generating positive cash flow for the region. This would be companies that are creating an inflow of cash to the area, be it through the private sector or government contracts. Several local organizations here in Central Florida are working in this direction – GrowFL, UCF Incubator, SBDC to name a few.

As I previously stated, a large number of small businesses makes a more attractive economic environment than a small number of large ones. Keep in mind, that every large business at one time started as a small one. Next time you see a small business owner, encourage them. And you might ask them, “Hey, you know anyone in business from out of the area that might like to live here?”

Good business to you!

From Couch to Marathon in 35 years

JWT-finishAt the age of 21, long distance running was not part of my fitness plan. Sure I had to run for some of the HS and college sports I played, but nothing more than a mile at a time. 35 years later, I am wide awake at 4am, the morning after I completed my first marathon.

When I started distance running in 1980 my goal was always to complete a marathon, of course. It was another one of those things that never happened. The greatest distance accomplished was a 20K race in Oriskany, NY – or about 12.4 miles – in 1981.

This year, December 1st, the Space Coast Marathon was held in Cocoa, FL, over a route I was very familiar with – on a bicycle. Running this route had never been an option I had considered. It was hard enough on a bike.

Some perspective is called for here. 3 years ago, December of 2010, I weighed 287 lbs and would have had difficulty running a mile. I weighed 232 lbs after the marathon, and that was after a week of “carbing up.”

Dave Brillhart and I before the start of Space Coast Marathon 2013

Dave Brillhart and I before the start of Space Coast Marathon 2013

In February of this year I tried my first Half Marathon, The Xtreme Half, put on by Epic Sports Marketing at Orlando Wetlands Park. I had run a few 10Ks around the neighborhood and figured I should be able to stretch it out to 13.1 miles. After walking the last 4 miles, with severe pain in my feet, I realized I was not ready. Oddly enough I finished at 2:52 which put me on the podium in 3rd place for my age group. I had some issues to work on though.

First thing to do was get some good running shoes. After trying the popular “running” store, which didn’t give me what I needed, only what I wanted (big difference there) I ended up at Foot Solutions with Corinna Dexter, wife of my running buddy Patrick. She got me in to the correct running shoes with special inserts that were suited to the shape of my feet. They were not really comfortable to walk in initially, but she knew that as I broke them in they would fit my feet and she was right. Made a big difference in the marathon. My feet hurt at the end but not nearly as bad.

Coaching was essential. Brock Brinkerhoff helped me correct my running form. During the marathon I thought constantly about what he told me: “When you get tired your form will be the first thing to go. Don’t let it deteriorate. When you start feeling pain, slow down and concentrate on your form. You will recover more quickly.” He was right. Other members of our fine club, Orlando Runners and Riders, were also a big help, not only in inspiration but in tips on form, fitness, nutrition and training regimen. Special thanks to Dave Brillhart, Patrick Dexter, Janine Vance, Mike May and Brian Young, who all supported our running efforts. Also a big thank you to Crockett Bohannon for introducing me to “Injinji” socks, which fit your toes, very much as a glove would. Reduced blisters incredibly.

Injinji socks, or "toe socks" feel a little weird at first but they are excellent for running.

Injinji socks, or “toe socks” feel a little weird at first but they are excellent for running.

The most important and essential support came from my wife Kathleen, who made special meals for me, shopped for me and most of all, put up with me during the last month of training, which was very stressful.
Nothing meant more to me than seeing Kathleen waiting for me at the finish.  I am so thankful for all that she did to support me.

Nothing meant more to me than seeing Kathleen waiting for me at the finish. I am so thankful for all that she did to support me.

Training Challenges
In the early summer I started developing a burning pain in my right knee. Brock’s rule was always “Sore, keep going. Stop when it burns.” I stopped running for a while to see if it would go away. Although it subsided, it would come right back any time I tried to run. Finally, I visited Orlando Orthopedic for x-rays and other analysis and was told by the doctor that all was well, it was just the way my knee was adapting to a new running style. There was no bone or cartilage damage and the muscle pain would not cause any permanent harm. Good to know but I had lost about 2 months of training.

So when November started the furthest I had run since the Half in February was 6 miles. The plan was to get a 15 or 20 miler in before tapering off. That didn’t happen. 10 miles was as far as I got and the holiday schedule interfered. I still did a lot of smaller runs, 5Ks mostly, and one 10K. So the morning of December 1 arrived with only a 10 miler as my “longest run.”

My strategy was to run the first half, and try to beat my time from the Wetlands Park Half (2:52). Shouldn’t be that difficult as an 11:30 pace was expected, or about a 2:30 half. Since I had not trained for a longer run, I would “wait and see” what to do with the second half, but I expected a run/walk method would be necessary.

Brock (left) and Dave (right), shown here with Jerry Hertzler before a Hal Scott trail run, were tremendous trainers and motivators.

Brock (left) and Dave (right), shown here with Jerry Hertzler before a Hal Scott trail run, were tremendous trainers and motivators.

The Race
The first thing I noticed besides the large crowd, the crazy costumes and the incredibly loud music (why do the play loud music at 6am? Do they really want non-runners to hate us that much?), was the several “staging” groups with banners stating the expected finish time. It started at 3:15 and went up in 15 minute increments right up until 7 hrs. I had no idea where to start. I stood at the side of the road and wished I had read up on my Galloway running method a little more. Granted, the method works but it is annoying for people who want to run the whole thing to be constantly weaving around and through large packs of walkers, and then get overtaken by them as they sprint by in 2 minutes, only to do it all again. Safety tip: Please move to the side if you are walking? Please?
Dave took this photo of the crowd.

Dave took this photo of the crowd.

After working my was around several groups I got in to some clear space and settled in to my pace. Too soon, I had to pee. I just went before the start! This became an issue for the first 10 miles. I lost count but I think I had to dodge behind a bush 8 or 9 times in the first 10 miles. So while others were doing the run/walk method it seems my body had chosen the run/pee alternative. I still do not know why that happened as I had not had any unusual amounts of fluids other than normal hydrating procedures. Probably nerves.

I intended to run the entire first half, but it was impossible to drink from the cups given at the water stations without walking. I tried at the first one and spilled Gatorade all over myself. From then on I would walk a few feet while drinking and resume running ASAP. It slowed me down some, but not as much as all the pee breaks. I was conscious that I was running in a mixed crowd and had to go quite a distance in to the mangroves to pee without offending anyone. At least I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

I also noticed that the mile markers seemed long. In my experience, the Garmin runs behind actual mileage. It was the opposite on this course. I hit the 10K timing strip showing 6.5 on my Garmin. This continued throughout the race, as I crossed the 20 mile strip at 20.4, and the finish showed me with 26.7 miles. Others have confirmed that the course was long, although not everyone came up with an extra half mile.

Anyway, I made the quarter distance turn and began heading back to Cocoa. The weather was turning out to be perfect. Overcast, breezy and temps between 62 and 70 made for perfect running weather. Even on the “downwind” leg, with the breeze behind me, over heating was never an issue. I was watching my heart rate to judge my speed and it only got a little high when I was climbing up hills. Fortunately in Florida there aren’t many of these.

My Garmin shows me hitting 13.1 in 2:44:30. Of course, I crossed the timing strip in 2:48:28, showing 13.4 miles on my Garmin. Either way, I had managed to set a new personal record but was nowhere near my goal of 2:30. This made me change my goal of doing a 5+ marathon to just finishing. I began the run/walk right away with a 2 on / 3 off split. A few miles later I switched to 1:30 on / 3:30 off, hoping that when I turned around and headed back in to the wind for the last quarter that I would be able to cool off quicker and go back to 2 on / 3 off. While that was true, and I did so for a mile or two, once I got to mile 22 my feet were starting to hurt, and even with the Injinji socks on, I was feeling an impending blister on the bottom of my left foot. I looked at my watch and realized I had almost 3 hours left to beat the 7 hour time limit. It was time to relax a bit.

So I didn’t run the whole thing. In fact, I pretty much walked the last 4 miles (although at this point walking hurt a lot, like a real lot). Is finishing with a 4 mile walk still an accomplishment? I keep asking myself that. The time limit was 7 hours, and that wasn’t going to be a problem so why beat myself up more than necessary? I made a decision to walk the rest of the way, even though it was painful to walk, it caused less damage to be recovered from over the next few days. It hurt my pride a little to walk 4 miles, but my legs and feet are grateful today. 6:34:55 is nothing to shout about for a marathon finish, but it is a finish, and that is what matters. If at sometime in the future I decide to run another one, I will train better and be ready to run much more, and I will worry about a better time when it happens.

As it stands, I am different than I was 24 hours ago in at least one way. Back then, I hadn’t completed a marathon.

They had beer for the finishers.  I really thought it would taste better.  Even though it was good beer I couldn't even drink half a glass.

Patrick Dexter, Dave and myself with a FREE post race beer. Really. They had free beer for the finishers. I really thought it would taste better. Even though it was good beer I couldn’t even drink half a cup. Training has ruined me as a drinker.

My split times:

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trial

The Positive Power of Exercise

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trialToday’s ride was not starting out well. At 4pm I laid down for a much needed nap, having a headache, shaking a bit and other symptoms which I can only describe as “flu-like” – you all know that feverish feeling.

At 5pm, not really having slept at all I got up and gradually began to “assemble my cycling ensemble.” Yes it’s an ensemble. What with the special reinforced shorts, cycling jersey, special socks, shoes, gloves, helmet and of course the all important digital watch with heart rate on it, yes it is quite a preparation.

Left the house at 5:25 armed with some special concoction in my “Clean Bottle” designed to replenish lost energy and reduce lactic acid build up in the legs, which I got from Nutrishop Orlando in Waterford Commons. Also had a second bottle of good old filtered water from the fridge.

I felt awful as I started pedaling down the street. Felt slightly better as I turned on to Waterford Chase Parkway. Started feeling pretty good on Avalon Park Blvd, and whaddya know, actually starting doing 20+ mph as I came in to Avalon trying to beat an approaching rain shower to the YMCA.

The next couple of hours were great. I rode a total of 39 miles, all in about 2 hrs 21 minutes. I pushed it through our time trial route and beat my best time by almost a minute. Here’s a SportyPal profile of the ride.

Had to rush home because I was running out of daylight, and gave the wife a bit of a scare because I apparently couldn’t hear the phone ringing in the back pocket of the jersey I was wearing.

Had a nice dinner and drank four full bottles of water! The flu symptoms are gone, and I feel great :) There is healing power in going out and putting your body in motion.

Feeling lousy? Try a little exercise :)

Luck does not exist

“You’re So Lucky”

Luck does not exist“You’re So Lucky”

Do you hear this when people see something that is part of your life, or someone’s life, that they wish was part of theirs? It’s a common expression but think about it, by saying that to someone what are you saying? I suppose on the surface it says “I wish I had your lifestyle.” Let’s dig deeper though, what does it really say? Perhaps the intent of saying “You are lucky” could be translated as “I made just as good life choices as you but somehow you got a better outcome.” Is that closer to the truth?

I have now been alive 54 years. I can’t say I ever saw anyone that was truly “Lucky”. It’s been said that “Luck is when preparation and opportunity come together.”

I’ve definitely seen people who were more prepared when opportunity came along. I’ve also seen people recover from situations you would call “bad luck.”

May I share a personal example? On September 10, 2011 I was a Boeing 737 First Officer for Midway Airlines. On September 12th, we all received emails telling us that the airline was shutting down, “good luck.”

“Fortunately” (“Lucky for me!”) I had a second job. I was working part time as a consultant for a local charter company. I went to work there full time. Now really, was this luck? Or was this being prepared?

Obviously, no one could be prepared for the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. The nation was in deep shock. I never expected the charter job to become full time.

Continuing on with this story, it quickly became apparent that the charter job was a dead end. The future I desired was not going to come from there. At first, I tried to change it. I made several attempts to grow the company, many of them successful, but it was privately held, and I knew the owners would never really share the equity I was creating with me to the extent I wanted.

This was made glaringly apparent when I solicited, researched, arranged and closed a large charter deal that netted the company $30,000. I asked for a $5,000 commission. The answer I got was a shocked expression and an exclaimed “Five Thousand? Are you crazy? We can’t pay you that much. We can give you Five Hundred maybe …”

I started to chalk it off to “bad luck” but stopped myself. I learned the lesson. I needed to change my outlook if I wanted to change my life.

That was also the sign that I needed to build my own business, and take control of my own financial future. I began to form the Tenney’s Rules of Financial Security. The rules grow as life goes on but here are the Thirteen Rules About Luck.

Rule 1: Good Luck is When Preparation and Opportunity Meet
From this point on I was determined to be prepared.

Rule 2: If You Want To Change Your Life, You Have To Change Your Life
or “if you want to change some things in your life you need to change some things in your life.” Another corollary: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” The gist of this rule is there are risks to be taken, and changes to be made to achieve better results.

Rule 3: Nobody Else Will Look Out For You As Well As You Do
Translation: If you aren’t in control of the money, you won’t get it. Sadly I had to have two incidents like the one above to make this point. This also leads to the next rule:

Rule 4: If You Don’t Control It, Then You Don’t Really Own It
That’s important. I remember being told as a multi-level distributor that I “owned my own business.” I can see the fallacy in this now. I had only one supplier, inflexible pricing and no options. In short, I was on my own with no control over what I could sell or how much to sell it for. I had “rules” to follow which basically prevented me from getting any position or advantage over any other distributor. There was no compelling reason to do business with me. This, among many others, is a reason I do not like multi-level businesses.

Another thing people think they “own” but they really don’t: real property. If you think you own your home now that you’ve paid your mortgage think again. Just try missing your property taxes for a few months and you will find out who really owns your home. This was another good lesson that led to the next rule:

Rule 5: Equity In A Home Is Mostly Worthless
The mortgage bankers are now screaming “heresy! blasphemy!” but this is true. Unless you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that is unilaterally irrevocable equity in your home is not going to help you at all when you really need it. Think about it. You get disabled, lose your job but you have all this “equity” in your home. Just take out a loan and live on that until things improve right? Hmmm, nice plan but I never met a banker who would lend you money unless you really didn’t need it. Even on equity loans they want to see income, and income that is capable of repaying the loan in a timely fashion. So don’t count on home equity as a “security blanket” – it isn’t!

Rule 6: There Are Friends In Business, But Only So Far …
I have done my best to surround myself with people I like and trust in business, but I always remember that even friendship will wither when times get hard. This is not cynical, it’s just fact. When it comes down to a person feeding their family, friendships have to take second place. So the next few rules apply to this rule.

Rule 7: Get It In Writing, Signed, Dated and Maybe Even Notarized
I had a lawyer tell me once that his primary source of income was other people’s failure to prepare written documents. While he enjoyed working for people who got everything in writing, he had to admit that the lion’s share of his fees were from resolving disputes between people that did not have written agreements or contracts. It may seem silly at the time but 10 years from now that contract is going to mean everything to you. Get it in writing.

Rule 8: To Keep Your Friends in Business, Give Them Something to Lose
Keep it equitable. If your friends are gaining as much from you financially as you are from them, the friendship will not be as strained when times get tough.

Rule 9: Always Get an IOU for Everything You Do
This is actually a rule by David Sandler, but I’ve said it enough that it’s been adopted in to the Tenney Rule Book. I’ve taken expressions such as “don’t worry about it” or “no big deal” out of my vocabulary. Instead I say things like “I’m sure if situations were reversed you would do the same for me” or similarly if I know them well “you owe me one.” People keep score. You know they do. All we are doing is helping them remember the score. Conversely, if someone does something above and beyond for me I remember it.

Rule 10: Become a “Trusted Adviser”
This is also from David Sandler. A trusted adviser is someone who would never knowingly give you bad information or attempt to mislead you. This also involves being an expert at something. I’m not suggesting you give away “free consulting” but if it is in your best interest to advise something, then do it well and with their future in mind.

Rule 11: Your Time is Your Most Valuable Asset
You can always make more money. It is impossible to make more time. Use your time wisely and use it the way you decide. Once I learned to stop letting other people control my time, my lifestyle became much better.

Rule 12: You Can’t Enjoy Life Without Good Health
The most important thing you can control, other than your time, is your health. You can’t be a good steward of your life if you are sick or unhealthy. You will also enjoy your life much more if you are in good shape. There is nothing more important than this, nothing! You may think spouse, family and things like that come before health but they don’t. Believe me, your spouse, family and friends would rather have you healthy and taking care of yourself than otherwise.

Rule 13: There Is No Such Thing As Luck
There really isn’t a rule 13 but I couldn’t have a story about luck without the number 13 in it could I?

That’s enough for now. There are other rules, corollaries, guidelines and watch words that are important but this is a good start. Someday I will publish the complete Tenney Rulebook, but until then I plan to enjoy my time, my success and my lifestyle.

I guess I’m just lucky :)