Happy Birthday to Verde Media!

Exactly six years ago, I filled out my DBA/sole-proprietorship paperwork with Macomb County for Verde Media. Holy shit. Time flies.

Looking back, I’m grateful for all of the people and opportunities that have crossed my path. I’m also thankful for all the hardships. Without the wisdom gained from triumph, the company probably wouldn’t even exist today.

Looking forward, there is still a lot more room to grow. I’ve got great people on my side, a significant other that believes in me, and a family that supports me. I feel like there’s nothing that can stop me from achieving my goals.

Maligayang bati, Verde Media! (Maligayang bati means ‘happy birthday’ in Tagalog)

Things I Learned In 2016 as a Millennial Business Owner

At the beginning every year, I always look back and reflect on what has happened in the last 12 months in an effort to improve and grow not only as an individual but also as a business professional. As a digital agency owner, I not only have my client’s businesses’ well-being at stake; I have employees that trust and rely on me to lead the company in a forward-moving direction.

Even though continuous growth was the goal for 2016, it was also a year that presented many struggles. Hiring. Firing. Broken partnerships. Feelings of doubt. Sighs of relief. Without outside investment or people to tell me what I was doing right or doing wrong, there were times where I was scared shitless.

For many people, this is what deters them from actually starting a business. Sure, everything is unicorns and rainbows while you’re coming up with your business plan. Your go-to-market strategy plays out perfectly in your mind, and your confidence in your five-year sales projects seems like a certainty. But the reality is – nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Which brings me to the first lesson I learned from last year:

  1. Always have a Plan B, and a Plan C (D, E, F, etc. wouldn’t hurt either)
  2. Whether that means storing six months of operating capital in your bank or coming up with a second target market, never assume that you have got all of the details on lock. Don’t get blinded by your own personal bias. There are plenty of huge companies that have pivoted from their original idea to stay alive.

    For example, did you know that Instagram was originally called Burbn, and was modeled off of Foursquare? They ended up scrapping everysingle feature from the original app, except for the photo sharing infrastructure. A little under two years later, the revamped photo-sharing app was sold to Facebook for $1.2 billion.

    Not too shabby for a Plan C idea.

  3. Your team is everything. Surround yourself with the right people.
  4. Nobody can do it alone. Michael Jordan had the 91-95 bulls. Barry Sanders had the 95-2000 Lions’ offensive line. The media often puts organizational leaders on a pedestal, but they wouldn’t have achieved greatness without a team.

    I heard a quote from another entrepreneur (can’t remember who exactly) that said a business is simply a group of people who are working together toward a common goal. If your entire team isn’t on the same page as you, you need to get everyone aligned as soon as possible or start moving people around.

    This is even more important for startups. The first group of people you bring into your team will dictate your company brand and culture for years to come. Which brings me to my next learned lesson:

  5. Vet everyone you work with, and ask for second opinions.
  6. Because your team is everything, any weak spots in your squad will reflect badly on your business. It can be tempting to hire someone you know based on relationships (friends or family). If that particular person has the proper credentials and experience, I’d say go for it. However, you need to really ask yourself the true reason of why you are hiring a particular person. That reason should be logical, not emotional.

    Find candidates that possess the right skills, passion, and work ethic. Vet for trustworthiness. Then, double and triple check. Regardless if this person is a partner, employee, contractor, or client. Even clients and customers can get fired, too.

  7. You can’t please everyone
  8. No matter how amazing of a job you have done, someone out there will always disagree with you. Sometimes people will say things without merit, just for the sake of pissing you off. Remove yourself from those circles and gravitate towards people who bleed positivity, instead.

    We as humans are products of our environment, and although you can’t control what people think about you, you can control who you surround yourself with.

  9. Focus on scalability and profit, not money
  10. If your business does $1 million in sales but has $2 million in liabilities, you’re probably going to under pretty quickly. As logical as this may sound, many people in this situation would still consider themselves a successful millionaire. Why? Because it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at your balance sheet on the sales side without realizing that you’re spending more than you’re making.

    I personally went through a few months of this early on in 2016. I wasn’t anywhere near making seven figures in revenue, however, I knew that if something didn’t change, I wouldn’t be able to continue doing what I love and being my own boss.

    How did I fix it? I made someone else accountable for my finances. I hired a CPA that didn’t sugarcoat things. He gave me advice on how to improve the financial shortcomings of my company. From there, I created a strict budget and scrutinized every business decision that I made. I only spent money on things that would provide a return on investment in terms of knowledge, capital, or productivity.

    This was probably the most impactful change I went through in 2016.

    Free finance hack: I replaced my credit card every quarter. This allowed me to audit all of my subscriptions quarterly and decide whether or not to update the credit card and continue paying them, or just let the account lapse.


  11. Passion and hard work go a LONG way
  12. When I first started the company, I was a mediocre web designer. I wasn’t really a developer, either. I was more of an ‘implementer’. I could put the puzzle pieces together, but I couldn’t engineer the pieces by themselves.

    Even though I wasn’t the best, I still loved solving problems with code. I invested countless hours into practicing my skills and learning new things. That investment into myself allowed me to start Verde Media with very little capital.

    Sure, I could’ve gotten this point in half the time if I would have gotten a bank loan. I could’ve hired a developer, designer, and sales person to do all the work for me. Looking back, however, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The knowledge and experience that I gained were well worth the hardship that I went through during my early years as an entrepreneur. What’s important to note is that I wouldn’t have dealt with that hardship if I wasn’t passionate and hardworking along the way.

    If you have these virtues instilled into your personally, never let them go.

  13. Being busy and being productive are not the same
  14. I used to think I had to put in 80 hours a week to become successful. There were times in 2016 where I was working that much, too. What I learned toward the end of the year, however, is that when it comes to creating impact, often times less is more.

    Burnout is a real thing. Burnout will kill every last creative cell in your body, and will turn your motivations to shit.

    To fix this, I shifted my focus to things that I was good at. I had to put my ego aside and really determine what parts of the business I brought the most value too. Everything else I would delegate.

    The result? Revenue is up substantially, profit margins are steady, I have two full-time team members, a new office, and I never work over 40 hours per week. Delegation is an amazing thing. You just need to set your ego aside, let go, and trust your team enough to handle everything.

To all my fellow entrepreneurs: if you’re going through a slump, have faith. Pray. Mediate. Go to the gym. Remember that why you chose to be an entrepreneur instead of working for someone else. If reflecting on that ‘why’ doesn’t do it for you, then realign yourself and take a break. Find your true motivation and keep pushing ahead.

Best of luck to all of my fellow entrepreneurs in 2017!

How The Effort Heuristic Affects The Way People Perceive You

We solve thousands of problems every day and may not even realize it. What should I eat for lunch today? Which route should I take home? Should I watch that seventh Netflix episode in a row?

But as humans, it is impossible for us to consciously weigh out the pros and cons of every situation. Instead, our brains use heuristics to streamline our problem solving processes.

A heuristic is any mental shortcut that we use for problem solving, learning, or discovery. Heuristics occur subconsciously and allow us to solve multiple problems at a time. Without heuristics, we would be horribly inefficient at living our daily lives.


When people interact with your business for the first time, they’re going to establish an opinion about your brand. This first impression happens through a heuristic process. One common heuristic that we use to make first impressions is the effort heuristic.

Based on this study done by the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, the effort heuristic states that people will generally associate something to be of higher quality based on the amount of time and effort that they perceive has went into building or creating it.

In one of the experiments in the study, participants were asked to evaluate the quality of a piece of poetry. Participants were required to make two types of judgements: qualitative (“How much do you like the poem?”) and quantitative (“How much do you think the poem is worth?”).

Half of the participants were told that the poem took four hours (low effort) to complete, while the other half of the participants were told that the poem took eighteen hours (high effort) to complete.

The results demonstrated that those who were told that the poem took more effort to complete not only feltthat the poem had higher quality, but also valued the poem to be worth almost twice as much.




In today’s connected world, a visit to your business’ website is the first touch point for new customers. For businesses that don’t include quality as a part of their brand identity, the design of your website may not matter as much. However, if you position your business towards the higher end of the quality spectrum, a professionally designed website is a worthy investment.

If quality is indeed the name of your game, your website’s design isn’t the only thing that you should pay attention to. The caliber of your content, such as the text, pictures, and videos that live on your website should also be good enough to meet the expectations of your customers. Misspellings, low-quality pictures, or poorly produced videos could send the wrong message.

Remember that until you have had a chance to walk a customer though a demo or have them experience your products or services in person, the perceived quality of your brand matters more than the real value.


Bad timing or a lack of capital could be the reason why you haven’t been able to dedicate as many resources to your marketing as you should have. Despite this, you’re not totally screwed. Here are a few quick tips that you can implement now to help boost your brand’s perceived value:

  • Audit your website’s copy – Make sure there are no misspellings, grammatical errors, or other obvious mistakes.
  • Remove low-quality pictures – If you have low resolution pictures on your website, take them off. Replace them with stock photography from sites like ShutterStock or BigStock, if you can.
  • Talk to your customers – The best validation is feedback from real people. Ask them what they think of your brand. Do they think your website matches the quality of your actual products or services? How about your other marketing materials?


We can be a victim of our own heuristics. Because we’re in a time crunch or on a tight budget, we may be led to believe that cutting corners on our website’s design or marketing materials might be a good idea. The effort heuristic as demonstrated above tells us otherwise.

First impressions matter and can make a very substantial difference in how people value your products or services. So the next time you’re presented with a “cheap” option for marketing your business, make sure you think twice!


Using Subliminal Affective Priming To “Hack” A First Impression

“You only get one chance at a first impression.”

It’s a very obvious statement, but in life, first impressions are everything. You could have ten million dollars in your bank account and a Bugatti Veyron in your garage, but if you rub a person the wrong way when you first meet them, chances are they probably won’t like you very much.

It’s no different in the business world. If you walk into Saks and encounter a sales person who looks like they’re having a shitty day, you will probably steer clear of that person. I know of zero people that are willing to tolerate a bad customer experience for any item, regardless of how much they want it.

This is because people largely base their decisions on emotions first, before logic.

Sure, we can be logical, when we are told that we need to think that way. However, when you need to make an on-the-spot decision, our emotions tend to take over.


An experiment conducted in 1997 by three psychologists at the University of Michigan and Stanford Universitysays that something called subliminal affective priming could help you “hack” your first impressions to get people to think positively about you, even before they’ve made a conscious judgement.

Piotr Winkielman (U of M, Ann Arbor), Robert B. Zajonc (Stanford University), and Norbert Schwarz (U of M, Ann Arbor), explored how priming people with different types of positive and negative stimuli affected their overall judgement.

The experiment was conducted on 63 undergraduates from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The study examined if briefly exposing a person to a “happy” or “angry” face before showing them another unrelated photo had any correlation with their feelings about that picture.

To determine this, the participants were first shown one of the following three pictures: a polygon, a happy face, or an angry face. This visual prime was only shown for 10 milliseconds. Right after, they were shown a picture of a Chinese symbol for 2 seconds. Finally, the participants were given 8 seconds to judge how much they liked the Chinese symbol on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 meaning, “I don’t like this at all.” and 6 meaning, “I like this very much.”

The experiment was conducted in two rounds. During the second round of the experiment, the researchers aimed to determine if people were subliminally “anchored” to feeling a certain way based on being exposed to a “happy” or “angry” face in the first round. Therefore, those who were exposed to a “happy” face in the first round were exposed to an “angry” face in the second round, and vice versa.



The results of the experiment demonstrated the following:

  • People that were shown a happy face first, liked the picture of the Chinese symbol significantly more than those who were exposed a neutral stimulus (picture of a polygon).
  • People who were shown an angry face first, liked the picture of the Chinese symbol less than those who were exposed to the neutral polygon.
  • Those who were shown a happy face in the first round, then shown an angry face in the second round, still liked the Chinese picture more than neutral.
  • Those who were shown an angry face in the first round, then shown a happy face in the second round, still liked the Chinese symbol less than neutral.


The data tells us that even the smallest, subconscious details of first impressions matter. In the experiment, those who were exposed to a positive stimulus (a “happy” face) had a more positive opinion about the item that they were judging right afterwards.

Furthermore, those who were exposed to a positive stimulus still had a positive opinion about the item that they were judging, even if a negative stimulus was shown to them. This demonstrates anchoring effect of a first impression.

When customers walk in your door, visit your website, or meet one of your sales reps for the first time, that first impression sets the tone for all of the interactions that will happen after that.

An interaction that begins with positive cues such as a smile, strong handshake, or confident body language, could trump a stutter or brain fart in the middle of your pitch. On the flip side, a frown or a snarky attitude could make it very difficult for you to get on your potential customers’ bright side, even after you try to fix it.


You don’t have to give away free stuff to get your customers to like you. Stick with the following basic tips to make sure you have a chance at a lasting positive first impression: