Sunday, February 23, 2014

Failure Coach XXVIII

Fine Art and Price/Value

It was a busy day at Rachel Davis Fine Arts, an auctioneer and appraiser of fine and decorative arts in Cleveland. Since 1991, Rachel Davis and Company conducted auctions, appraisals, consignments, and estate liquidations. The Valentine Collection was in safe hands for the moment but once the appraisal was completed it was not certain if they would offer the art at auction or not. Nana Valentine was, some thought, experiencing signs of dementia when the work was consigned to Rachel Davis Fine Arts. The auction house knew the paperwork was in order but also knew that an estate like this could be tied up in probate for months, if not years.

Alan was already making his way to Kansas City in his Cadillac Escalade when the auction house called him. He was not expecting a call from them. “Mr. Edgewater, I’m Ivy from the auction house of Rachel Davis Fine Arts in Cleveland. I’m calling to invite you to a private showing of select pieces from the Valentine Collection.” She went on to say the work was not currently for sale and that the showing was consistent with Victoria “Nana” Valentine’s wishes that the work would be viewed, photographed and catalogued on the anniversary of her 25 years of collecting.

“Why me?” said Alan. “I’m not a close friend really. I love art but I’m not a collector or buyer.”

“Maybe not, Mr. Edgewater, but you are among a short list provided by the most likely heir, Andrew Valentine and he especially indicated that he wanted you to be witness to our Anniversary Celebration in Cleveland. The work will be on view for just 10 days. Rachel Davis Fine Arts will do whatever we can to accommodate you. Your airfare and hotel will be paid for by the a grant made possible by the Valentine Family Arts Foundation.”

“Really? Well that seems too good to pass up.”

“Great. We’ll send you details on the event and travel arrangements via e-mail. Just follow instructions and we’ll see you in a few weeks.”     

Alan shook his head. He put one of his CDs into his player and listened to himself talking about embracing 
failure. He was listening for clues to pattern his next book. Negative Space talked a lot about artists and how artists used negative space. He was preparing in his head for this group in Kansas City who wanted to meet at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum auditorium. He wanted to test audience reception of some to the Negative Space material. Just a taste, as most of his presentation planned for the museum auditorium was already audience tested and approved. He thought it fortunate that the invitation to the Valentine private collection showing in Cleveland might make him seem even more hip to contemporary art than he might otherwise be able to lay claim.

He wondered if it made sense to hint around about the coming third book to the Walmart buyers in Bentonville. With two successful books under his belt, his publisher might be willing to package a three paperback book set together as a Walmart exclusive. He decided he better not bring it up as the publisher would want to calculate the economics of such a program before serving it up to the shrewd negotiating team in Bentonville. He knew he’d get an earful about pricing strategies and value when he picked up the publisher’s representative at the Bentonville Airport tomorrow afternoon. First things first he thought. Let's make sure this concept resonates with this audience in KC. After all an art museum is a perfect place to test drive Negative Space

Failure Coach XXVII

Victoria Valentine Dies

Alan Edgewater, catching up on his reading in his office at home, opened an A-7 envelop he assumed would be a greeting card or a Thank You note. He removed the card and a newspaper clipping obituary column fell to his desk. The card was from Andrew Valentine. Andrew has written in his mostly block print handwriting in ball point pen this short note. “I just wanted to thank you for your part in the award event at the Missouri Athletic Club in Saint Louis. My parents really enjoyed the evening too.” It was signed, “Andy Valentine” and included a post script, “P.S. I know my Nana would have been proud.”

Alan picked up the obit and focused on the picture of Victoria “Nana” Valentine. He read the tiny type. “VALENTINE, Victoria 85, died September 15 at the Arlington Good Samaritan Center. Ms. Valentine was a patron of the arts and supporter of education. She was well known in the Arlington community as an advocate and volunteer. She traveled widely and was a collector of art. Her eclectic collection includes contemporary works of American Art and forms one of the most significant private collections in the Midwest. She was preceded in death (twelve years) by Harold F. Valentine, a retired engineer from Rubbermaid.”

Alan learned more about Nana Valentine a day or so after the banquet in a phone call from Jan Abbeshire. Jan had taken it upon herself to research Ms. Valentine’s art collection. The art was currently in trust and managed by an auction house in Cleveland and included pieces by Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Keith Harring, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson and Georgia O’Keefe. A source close to the family reported the collection was appraised in the neighborhood of $80 Million. It was unclear what Ms. Valentine intended to do with the art but clearly, the move involving the auction house was not directed by Nana. The art, and the management of that property, would soon be in probate court. Nana only had one daughter and that daughter was the mother of the second Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship award. It appears that he is a very lucky young man with an irrevocable four year college scholarship and the most likely heir to art worth a fortune.     

Alan could not help but laugh. With Coach Robert Siena’s help he started a fund to award an annual scholarship, the first two winners of which were selected by a committee managed by the coach and the Bluestone & Abbeshire agency. As near as Alan could tell, the agency was doing a first rate job managing the fund, the candidate reviews, the award and all publicity. The first winner was hand-picked by the coach. The second was selected from a small pool of candidates proposed by friends of the coach (mostly coaches themselves). It remained to be seen what Johnny Appleseed and Andrew Valentine would do with their scholarships. So far, it looked like an undeclared/undecided major and a talented would be music engineer were going to set the stage for future funding. Jan and Alan agreed that a fair amount of pressure was going to be on the shoulders of these young men.

Johnny Appleseed’s case was settled and basically dropped in a plea bargain thanks to the maneuvering of the lawyer Coach Siena was able to engage in this bit of business. The story pretty much disappeared, much to Jan Abbeshire and Alan Edgewater’s delight. The only media outlet that pressed at all was the St. Louis Business Journal but they seemed to fold soon after the publisher met with Ambrosia Managing Director Tony Blank and executives at the Omnicom Group prior to Ambrosia’s St. Louis Grand Opening ribbon cutting downtown.

As Alan got up from his desk and started started to make his way through his kitchen hallway to the garage he noticed a full color postcard he must have dropped out of the stack of mail, community news and shopping circulars he transported from the mailbox earlier. It was an invitation to a sampling event at the Jack Buck Grill at the Missouri Athletic Club downtown featuring Sazerac Rye Whisky. “The Coach doesn’t miss a trick,” thought Alan. He posted the notice on his refrigerator with a magnet in the midst of a variety of magnets, photos and a small dry-erase board on which he wrote, “Talk to Coach Siena about Christmas Gifts”.       

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Failure Coach XXVI

Missouri Athletic Club, Saint Louis

The banquet room at the Missouri Athletic Club was set to receive 500 guests for the ceremonial presentation of the second Alan Edgewater Failure First Foundation scholarship. Coach Siena was thrilled that Andrew Valentine could get into town for the festivities along with his mom and dad. Andrew’s High School coach and a handful of others were able to make the trip as well. This was a big deal for the kid from Arlington, Ohio. The coach was interviewed by the Saint Louis Business Journal, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Public Radio and some others. He was holding court at the Hyatt Regency at the suggestion of Jan Abbeshire. Jan wanted the coach to do as many interviews as she could possibly schedule prior to the actual event to diffuse the possibility that the coach would go off-script. Coach Siena, it turns out, was coachable. Jan shadowed him through the one-on-one sessions. She promised everyone a bio of the winner of the award after it was announced. So, in essence, the gala ceremony would be more photo op than anything else.

The talking points:
1.      The award was given to deserving candidates with character but without regard to grades, athletic accomplishment or economic need.
2.      The scholarship was set up to pay for all tuition for four years.
3.      The only requirement was to meet periodically with the committee to report.
4.      The award cannot be revoked for any reason.
5.      The first winner, Johnny Appleseed, while currently navigating some legal trouble surrounding an incident on South Beach with two fellow classmates, is expected to continue at the U for another year. The committee asks that the media focus on the current winner and his plans.

Coach Siena had prepared remarks that painted a picture of the town in Ohio where Andrew Valentine was raised. He talked about the beautiful village of Arlington, located eight miles south of Findlay on State Route 68 in Ohio, a bedroom community located in the rich farming region of Hancock County where residents enjoy a peaceful living experience where family-friendly activities. He talked about The Arlington Good Samaritan Center, a retirement and continuing care facility located directly west of the school is where Andy last saw his grandmother. The audience understood Nana Valentine to be a fanatic fan of the Arlington Red Devils and the entire community shared in the sadness of her passing.  The close-knit community came together at school for a chicken barbeque in her memory.  In this small-town atmosphere, children are the focal point of the community. 
When Andrew Valentine took the podium, there was hardly a dry eye. He read the audience perfectly with a demeanor of grace and gratitude. He expressed heartfelt thanks to his family and friends; Coach Siena and the selection committee; Alan Edgewater and the Failure First Foundation; and the first winner Johnny Appleseed. He was a soft spoken winner. He paused briefly, cleared his throat and sang a cappella, without instrumental accompaniment, something he had written and composed himself as a tribute to his grandmother, a woman who influenced him greatly and encouraged him to pursue life as an artist.

Read, Enunciate, project, pronounce
Improvise the method. The talent is a fact.
Study, debate, articulate and announce.
You must believe, if you think you can act.
There are no small roles. You’ll stand out among the rest
Listen to the words and listen well,
“Oh honey, you always know what’s best.”
When to pause, when to gesture, you can always tell.
To Dream the Impossible Dream.
Everything is rehearsed: scene by scene.
Coffee cup and saucer: Black. No sugar. No cream.
The play is a hit, but what does it mean?
Acting, directing and winning your heart.
The final curtain. Bravo! The audience is for you,
“Always do your best. Understand. Play the part.”
Carry on and excel in everything you do.

Thunderous enthusiastic applause.
As cheer and joy arise.
The audience approves without pause.
Good to know, but not a surprise .
Prepare and be ready for your cue 
Face each day. The show must go on.
You know exactly what to do.
House lights go up and suddenly you are gone. 

We are an ensemble cast.
We knew that one day,
The performance would be your last.  
You were great Nana; it was your way.
On to the future, with regard for the past.
The show will go on.
Thanks Nana.
We will go on.

The performance was unexpected and got an immediate and enthusiastic audience applause. Andrew smiled and  took a breath. He then announced, in a soft voice, that he intended to take his talent to Oberlin College in Ohio where he hoped to study music engineering. Jan Abbeshire was sure that the image of Andy Valentine singing at the Missouri Athletic Club podium would get media pick up. Along with Jan’s press packet of information on the uniqueness of this type of scholarship. The boilerplate copy about the Alan Edgewater Failure First Fund. The information included how to contribute to the ongoing success of the scholarship fund and its vision for the future.

The evening came to a close. The event was a success. Alan was confident the that a number of matching gifts to the fund were forthcoming and the stage was set for positive press for the first two books and that third work in progress about leveraging negative space. All seemed right with the world as he drove west on 1-64 to his home in Chesterfield.    

Meanwhile, in the bar at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Coach Siena was enjoying a drink with Andy Valentine’s father and the coach from Arlington High School. “I’m sure impressed with that boy. I had no idea he could sing like that. That was friggin’ beautiful. It was quite a tribute to Nana Valentine and the Arlington Red Devil community. We are so looking forward to tracking Andy on his journey.” 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Failure Coach XXV

Coaching the Coach

“No matter how you slice it the tuition, boarding, books and basic living expenses for the kind of scholarship we are funding comes in around $250,000 for four years. Johnny Appleseed is our beta test at the University of Miami. We are going to have to make it clear that the funding is limited to a timely completion of a full workload over a four-year span. He’s already looking like a guy that is going to take six or seven years to complete college. And that’s okay. Now we’re looking at the D-III liberal arts schools in Ohio and even those programs are estimated at sixty grand a year. I don’t care. I want to do this thing right by these kids. It isn’t a program for the disadvantaged but it is a program for the average. And as our name implies, the Failure First Scholarship is an entitlement that does not have a penalty for falling short in academic progress toward a degree or anything else. Just read about those billionaires who went to school for a couple of semesters at Harvard or wherever and dropped out to build their fortunes. That ain’t the kinda kid we are gonna see coming through our program. If we are lucky, we’ll have upstanding citizens who contribute to society in places like Red Bud, Illinois and Arlington, Ohio.” The coach was getting better and better at explaining how this program was different from so many other scholarships. He loved the idea that this award was a genuine chance with no strings attached. But even he worried that the program could not sustain itself unless the approach got investors beyond himself. Jan Abbeshire understood this almost immediately and offered to structure the award to tighten up the purse strings so the fund would be around in 6-10 years instead of running out of gas in year 4 or 5 as she and some financial advisers she hired were projecting. This kind of analysis was not her cup of tea, but she was sure the coach was not really thinking long-term when he made is generous initial gift. The one smart thing he did, however, was to start the fund publicly with Alan Edgewater which assured a pretty high level of visibility. That’s the good news. On the other side of the coin, however, was the intense scrutiny on the first recipient and the next winner to be announced in a matter of days. Jan felt the solvency of the fund and the no-strings features should be included in press releases when the announcement of Andy Valentine was made. She also, felt the coach should be ready with short but candid talking points about the first winner, Johnny Appleseed. Jan counseled that the coach should be forthright, honest and transparent about Johnny’s progress, his recent legal entanglement notwithstanding.

“Coach, the incident on Miami Beach that Sunday afternoon is not one you want to try in the court of public opinion. There were prescription drugs in the car that ended up in Johnny’s possession. He and the other two males in the car were drinking. The law officer might have been a bit over zealous but three college boys playing loud music in broad daylight; indeed in the bright sunlight; are asking for trouble. No amount of reassurance from you is going to satisfy the media on this thing. You simply need to be prepared to give a canned response, of which we will prepare for you.”

“I got it. But hey, boys will be boys. I know from my coaching experiences that scrapes like this one here always sound worse than what they really are. Narcotics, puhh-lease. Johnny got caught holding the bag. They were pain killers and they weren’t his. So the boys are at the beach and having a few pops. So what?”

“That’s fine if you feel that way coach, but your statements to the media – and I mean any reporter, newsman or stringer – need to be more terse and factual without all that room for interpretation. I’m not going to ask you to say NO COMMENT but I am going to ask you to be unlike your usual folksy, engaging self on this one, okay? The statement will be something on the order of I’M SORRY FOLKS, I CANNOT COMMENT ON THE JOHNNY APPLESEED CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND HIS ARREST IN MIAMI. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT AN ATTORNEY FOR JOHNNY AND HIS TWO COLLEGE COLLEGUES WILL PROVIDE AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT IN A FEW DAYS.”

“Well that sounds pretty evasive to me. I hope you can give me something a little meatier than that. I know you are talking to the attorney in Miami. I’m glad I found that guy. By the way, he is almost famous in South Florida for high profile cases involving celebrities and such.”

“Johnny isn’t a celebrity. He isn’t Justin Bieber. We have to downplay this thing, or it will overwhelm the story we hope the media will pick up about Andy Valentine and his aspiration to go to Kenyon or Oberlin to study music or whatever.”    

“Knock Knock,” Daniel Bluestone stood in Jan’s office doorway and politely interjected. “I don’t mean to interrupt your meeting but I was hoping the coach had time to stop by my office and talk a little bit about Sazarac”.

“Well sure, Dan. I’m more than happy to. We’re sort of wrapping up here anyway.”

Jan clenched her jaw to suppress comment. She was sure she’d need more time with the coach before the Missouri Athletic Club awards banquet. Now that Dan interjected the possibility of a more fun dialogue with the coach, she was sure she would not be able to get him back in the right frame of mind to practice answering media inquiries. She started thinking of ways to mitigate the coach’s exposure but that would be difficult. The coach liked the spotlight and was just delusional enough to think he was skillful in these situations. His media training, after all, was limited to responding to local high school sports beat writers who would be happy with the cliché answers of which coaches were so adept. Stuff like. “I’m just so proud to this team. They left it all out on the field tonight. They played with a lot of character. And I cannot say enough about this coaching staff. Finally, I have got to give a big shout out to the fans…”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Failure Coach XXIV

Where in the world?

Alan Edgewater, Author, Failure Coach and all around impresario is in St. Louis having coffee by himself in the Starbucks next to the Dierberg’s Grocery in the west county suburb of Chesterfield. He is worried about his reputation and his brand while two agencies are taking credit for his initial successes.

Tony Blank, Ambrosia Account Director is making some notes prior to his account group meeting in New York. He wants to rally the group, even as several team members are worried they will lose their jobs or be asked to relocate to St. Louis, although that isn’t a certainty. Several key staffers are officially not moving. Julie Chase and Grace will be available for continuity on the Alan Edgewater business. Both are willing to travel as necessary in the interim. Julie and Grace, project manager and public relations tactician, are “go to” players.

Daniel Bluestone and Jan Abbeshire have become strange bedfellows as it were. Once they came together in a merger of equals that still allowed Jan to run the business they started seeing each other socially. Through Theater, Art and fine-dining they began to enjoy each other’s company. Jan is a single mother of three girls and Dan is managing the final stages of a messy divorce. His wife and step daughter are not making things easy. Abbeshire & Bluestone is becoming something of a hot shop with more energy behind the creative process, thanks to Dan. They have yet to declare themselves officially a couple but because so much of their time together includes business associates and clients it just seems natural for them to be together. 

Robert Siena, the former high school football coach and lottery winner, is still working on a retainer for Sazerac Rye Whiskey, for whom he travels a fair bit (within his Midwestern territory mostly). He and his wife are trying to maintain a status quo in Red Bud, Illinios. His riff with Alan over the Johnny Appleseed arrest news, while not exactly a “non-event” is now being handled by a capable attorney in Miami. An ad hoc crisis communications team on loan from Fleishman-Hillard was offered by Ambrosia but Alan decided in favor of Jan Abbeshire who agreed to personally supervise all message strategy as an incremental rider to the agreement they already have in place for the Failure First Scholarship Fund publicity. Joseph Fontenot is pleased with the level of incremental activity in the Midwest because of Coach Siena, particularly since he is not interfering with established relationships. When the coach comes up with an idea, he is careful to work within the framework of the organization when necessary. When no relationship exists with a potential customer, Coach Siena isn’t afraid to forge one.  

Johnny Appleseed is working harder on his studies although he has yet to select an official major of study. He expects to finish enough credit hours to declare himself an English major and maybe take advantage of a semester abroad. However, his recent legal trouble could jeopardize this plan.

Andrew Valentine is still shopping schools in Ohio with his parents, neither of whom are college graduates. Andy is hoping he can announce his preference at the Missouri Athletic Club along with a few remarks. He’s been rehearsing his acceptance speech with his High School drama and public speaking teacher.

Bob Caster is getting more comfortable managing young lawyers and para-legals. His practice is growing slowly but surely around small to midsize businesses. Labor law, licensing, incorporation, patents and liability cases are keeping him busy.

Alan at work in his home office thinking about the next book and the concept of negative space. He enjoys the tinkering with post it notes and a dry-erase board that was part of his process. He has some notes off to the side about Hall of Famers (Rock & Roll and Football). He wants to devote chapters to artists who used negative space including some that play with the optics of positive and negative. He notes op art and surrealism as areas for further study. He wants to gather information on how musicians use orchestral accompaniments. He thinks about landscapers. He thinks about color theory. Illusions and Magicians. How professionals use time off and vacations to recharge. He wants to explore examples of athletes in their respective off seasons. The post-it notes are filling his board. He knows that, at this stage, like in brainstorming sessions, it was best not to rule things out. He notes personality testing and learning styles. How can people complement each other in organizations? Would it be helpful to structure this book as a workbook with team building exercises? The time passes and as the early daylight savings time darkness falls he works a few more hours. He looks at his board, now full of post-it notes. He wants to sleep on it, but he was confident there is a strong idea in all of this.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Failure Coach XXIII


“I’ll tell you what Alan, I have really enjoyed my association with Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC and I’m so glad I met you. I don’t have to tell you have been on a roller-coaster since just before winning the lottery. I made some bad decisions before and after winning but hooking up with you isn’t one of them.” Coach Siena remained loyal to Alan and was in no hurry to collect the repayment of his $15,000 loan. Alan, however, was anxious to at least make a payment of $5,000 to show good faith. He fully intended to pay the amount back in full but was seeing more outflow than inflow these days. Coach Siena was flush when he made the loan. He lost track of spending for a period but he has gotten his finances more under control lately with his Sazerac position. His compensation is fair enough, he thought, and allowed him to live more on his paycheck and business expenses instead of dipping into his principle savings. 

He still resisted any kind of financial planning. He didn’t trust anyone who appeared out of thin air after news of his winning hit local media. He took a lump sum amount of $218,000,000 after winning instead of annual payments. He was generous initially with friends and relatives but learned to limit his gifts. Instead, he made some loans and pledged enough to get the scholarship fund he started with Alan Edgewater’s help. Now as Alan stood poised to make a payment of $5,000 to Coach Siena, the coach refused to accept it. “I’ll tell you what, Alan why don’t you make that payment into the fund and we’ll call it a forgiveness of that portion of the loan. I’m in no hurry to collect and I do want us to be in a position to make that award annually. I really like this kid Andy Valentine. He’s a good kid, smart and I think he’ll come out on top. He’s looking at historic Ohio D-III liberal arts schools. Oberlin, Kenyon, places like that. I really think you will enjoy meeting him and his family when they come to St. Louis for our little presentation.”

The Missouri Athletic Club is one of turn-of-the-century facilities with overstuffed leather wing-back chairs oak-paneled walls and priceless art on display in the common areas. Of course there was also a pool, indoor tracks, gyms, basketball and squash courts. The board of governors was always trying to attract new members with structured activity but the original downtown location at fourth and Washington was convenient before football and baseball games and that was sure to pull people into the Jack Buck Grill. It was a pregame gathering point. The downtown location was ideal for clubby exclusive awards banquets, too. The second annual Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholar would officially receive his award in this distinguished old boy environment.

Meanwhile, just about 12 miles west of the downtown facility The MAC West location which was a strategic real estate purchase in 1995, renovated in 2003. This facility was already paying dividends and attracting a more robust family activity. This location was where Alan Edgewater and Coach Robert Siena met for a buffet-style breakfast. Alan was a guest because of the business he was doing with the downtown ballroom and coach Siena was hoping to chat a bit with the Food and Beverage manager about a Sazerac Rye Whisky sampling event, presentation and maybe a signature drink promotion. The two looked like captains of industry in this out of the way setting in West County with all the time in the world to discuss business, books and plans beginning with the scholarship banquet which was just a couple of weeks away. The F&B manager sat with them a while and talked a little about Sazerac without committing to anything in particular. He excused himself and quietly comped their breakfast. They tipped generously having occupied the table for 2 hours. The breakfast clientele this mid morning was sporadic anyway.

The two men were feeling prosperous and successful at the club. As they made their exit, Alan noticed a copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch someone left behind in sections. He picked it up to scan the news and a headline stunned him.

Alan Edgewater Scholar Arrested.

Johnny Appleseed, the first winner of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship was arrested in Coral Gables, Florida for possession of narcotics, assault and public drunkenness. Appleseed accepted a full scholarship to the University of Miami with much fan fare from Coach Robert Siena of Red Bud, IL who helped start the fund last year. The arrest happened just two weeks prior to the scheduled presentation of the second annual award in St. Louis. Calls to Alan Edgewater were not returned but the erstwhile coach offered this bit of insight, “I’ll tell you what, that kid is going to make some mistakes. Our scholarship comes without strings but I’ll wager he'll come out ahead of the game.”

Alan could hardly believe what he was reading. He took a few deep breaths and handed the article to Coach Siena. The coach laughed. “That is some fucked up journalism, right there. This business with Appleseed is a non-event. This ain’t news.”

“With all due respect coach, it’s news. Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“This thing happened and Johnny called me. It was something that happened on Miami Beach. You know South Beach on Sunday afternoon. Well Hell, he was with some kids at the beach. Anyway I got him a lawyer. It’s a non-event. I’m telling you.”

Well it is something we need to assess. We are about to award another scholarship and that non-event of yours is gonna be linked to ours. This is NOT what we want people to understand about the Failure First scholar program.” Alan spoke as calmly as he could muster, “Coach, If you don’t mind, let’s see what Bob Caster thinks about this non-event in Miami.”  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Failure Coach XXII

Why me? Why here?

Alan was at home chillin’ with his laptop and black coffee and Sweet’N Low. Anything that comes into the website gets routinely answered by Ambrosia. He’s confident that he’ll be able to focus once he clears his mind. He thinks out loud as he sips his coffee but it morphs into a rant on the phone with his good friend Bob Caster who’s in his office preparing for another day at the law firm.

“Hey, I get mentioned in two agency stories like I’m a big deal account. Shit, I didn’t even know Bluestone was friends with Jan Abbeshire, let alone business partners. If not for me, they wouldn’t even know each other. And Ambrosia I come to learn is just using me as a smokescreen to look like an agency that has a reason to exist in St. Louis. It turns out the Omnicom Public Relations firm Fleishman-Hillard and Omnicom’s Rogers Townsend are behind the scenes propping them up as a flashy digital/social media hot shop. God knows those two firms can make Ambrosia look legit. And both of these firms – I wish them well – but both are showcasing my fame and social media success as an example of their ability to harness the power of a brand by engaging followers. I guess I don’t blame them for doing this, but even I don’t know how this really happened. It just happened. I’m a sort of viral phenomenon.”

Bob is patient but he’s leading a meeting in the conference room with a group of young lawyers and para-legals at 9:00 a.m. The standing Monday morning meeting is about building his practice: A little bit of marketing; A little bit of business development: A little bit team building; A lot of handholding. He envies the freedom of running his own show like Alan Edgewater but he knows the stress of being a sole proprietor too.

“Well Alan, my professional opinion, as your lawyer…” Bob enjoys this not so subtle reminder from his friend that time is billable. Still, at the same time, he is generous with advice and generally a great sounding board for Alan. “Look, you can play hardball with both firms if you want, but it isn’t exactly libel when they hype themselves as being a part of your success. Hell, look at it this way. Those additional mentions adjacent to a cover story in the Saint Louis Business Journal make you look like a magnet for business growth downtown. You are starting to become a local hero. You aren’t a household name yet buddy, but you are getting there.”

“Funny Bob-O, I can send you a signed 8X10 B&W glossy if you like. Ha. You know I don’t want to sue anybody. But I do want to understand why all of the sudden, everyone wants a piece of me. Jeez Bob-O, you’d think I was at the center of an economic boom in Mound City. Things must be tough if I’m news. Failure Coach chasing windmills! Ha. I’m on a quest all right. My quest is to move to Florida.” Alan often threatened to move to Florida but he liked the parochial big small town he had come to know in St. Louis. It’s true he wasn’t a household name, but he was well known among business leaders, and “movers and shakers” in town. And lately a featured example of economic turn-around. Even though, the St. Louis location had little to do with it. It starts with stuff like viral video clips of the failure coach, the AE IOU tweets and being everywhere to promote the books and seminars.

Meanwhile, Coach Siena was still riding the wave too. He was happy to give Alan a bridge loan to keep the excitement alive with the mini tour starting with Cleveland. His annual scholarship was a reason to keep the coaches story alive as a shining example of failing forward. He wins a lottery, quits his teaching and coaching gigs, endows Johnny Appleseed for a full ride at UM, joins Alan as a featured presenter and bang he’s a fixture in the supporting cast. In a way, the coach saw himself as a partner in the continuing success of Alan Edgewater. Coach Siena was grateful too. And the Sazerac Rye Whisky retainer would not have happened, were it not for Alan and his ambitious self-styled marketing maven Daniel Bluestone. It was Bluestone who somehow connected with Fontenot, the fountain of knowledge for Sazerac Brands.

The Coach was also enjoying the mentoring role he was assuming for his Scholarship boy Johnny Appleseed and the front-runner for the second annual award, Andrew Valentine. Abbeshire & Bluestone picked up what was initially a pro-bono assignment of the Failure First Scholarship Fund. The assignment was easy enough. The applications and inquiries about the Fund would be routinely handled and carefully crafted language camouflaged the relatively small number of applicants. No-one wanted to pour through hundreds of essays and recommendation letters. Johnny was hand-picked. Andrew Valentine came via referral from an Ohio college coach he knew from a coaches clinic a few Summers ago when Coach Siena was a guy with some keen insights into Division AAA prospects in central Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Siena was on Alan’s mind because he knew he needed to schedule repayment of $15,000 he owed him. The coach hadn’t said a word about it but the loan was made about 90 days ago and Alan was hoping to gracefully pay it back in full before 120 days passed.      

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Failure Coach XXI

Local Placement

It had been a couple of weeks since Alan sat with the writer from the St. Louis Business Journal. In all the excitement around the first part of this mini tour he almost forgot about it, which is why the cover story kind of caught him by surprise. There it was on page one of his copy of the St. Louis Business Journal. A big profile photo taken by a SBJ staff photographer of Alan with stacks of It’s not easy being anybody and No one can give 110%. The local book signing at Barnes & Noble at the West County Mall was a modest event, among the first scheduled around the launch of the second book. The photo captured a successful looking author smilin’ and signin’. The headline: CHASING WINDMILLS with the subheading: Two years after the success of his breakthrough business book the self described Failure Coach, Alan Edgewater gears up for what’s next. Story on page 8.

The story covered a spread on pages 8-9 and was continued on page 10. Photos provided by Ambrosia included the photo credit: PHOTO BY DANIEL BLUESTONE of Alan in his glory in front of a big crowd in Orlando in January and  photos of the covers allowing for a sidebar about the commercial success of both books.


Alan Edgewater is comfortable with failure. That is why he, like a hapless Don Quixote, he is on a quest to re-educate all of us to stop focusing blindly on a narrow definition of success. His first book It’s not easy being Anybody was an overnight success and now tops the New York Times list of best selling non-fiction paperbacks. His second book, You can’t give 110% is on sale now and has received favorable reviews.

“My message is pretty simple really, but many people have a tough time getting their arms around it. I am not telling folks to give up. I’m not telling business people avoid failure. Quite the contrary, I’m promoting the idea that expecting setbacks and embracing failure, when it comes, is productive,” says Alan. The interview took place at the West County Mall Barnes & Noble. Alan was there to sign books but when we met he was drinking coffee anonymously reading the play Man of La Mancha. “People are wasting too much time dwelling on preconceived notions of self actualization. I just want people to start with a clean slate, tabula rasa, and forge ahead. Go ahead and chase your Impossible Dream.”

Clearly Alan Edgewater is a man on a quest. He doesn’t want to answer questions about what brought him to this place. He won’t answer questions about his High School or College or his curriculum vitae. That is by design. Edgewater insists that his background, experience and education are important but he doesn’t want his readers to suppose there is a formula or a path they should follow. “In fact, a favorite of mine is that Robert Frost poem about the road not taken. People should be free to choose a course and be applauded if on that road there is a certain amount of disappointment. That’s good, because it means you didn’t just pick the easy way.”

Well, Alan Edgewater has certainly chosen a road less traveled. His quest started just after he dropped out of law school at St. Louis University. He was, according to his friend Bob Caster a pretty marginal student but always great at motivating others. “He finished his undergraduate degree at Quincy College in Illinois and spent a couple of years doing everything from telemarketing to advertising sales before studying law. It might have been his lack of affinity for the law that inspired him to do public speaking and writing. He was a beat writer in Springfield, Missouri for a while and a pretty successful freelance writer too.”

Alan Edgewater is fit, 48 and confident. He doesn’t talk about High School because he doesn’t like the stereotype of St. Louisans using the question “So where did you go to high school?” as a way to pigeon-hole people into groups with pre-determined social status and career prospects inside tightly knit networks. “If you must know, I finished at Saint Louis University High School, but my parents moved here when I was a sophomore and first enrolled at Parkway Central midyear. So I went to three different High Schools.”

Alan doesn’t want to talk about his non-profit and fundraising efforts either. He is well known in St. Louis as a go-to guy for energizing events from charity golf outings to successful banquets and fundraising for causes like Autism Speaks and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. He has been a leader for years for the annual Old Newsboys Day effort that has raised millions of dollars for area children's charities. In all cases, people close to Alan describe him as a selfless leader. But it is his first book that put him on the map as a celebrity.

“Alan’s ability to back up his book with captivating public appearances and bring others into the events make him a triple-threat,” says a spokesman from his publisher who asked to remain anonymous. “The guy is so easy to work with and everyone from publicist to editors agree. When you have a brand like Alan Edgewater you want to leverage those marketable attributes.” And so they have, to the point of saturation some might argue. Time will tell. After this interview, Alan and his team from the newly formed unit of Omnicom advertising/marketing giant got busy scheduling a mini tour that will include Cleveland and Canton (Rock and Roll and Football Halls of Fame), Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City and other cities.  

His St. Louis stop later this month is highly anticipated, as it will be held at the Missouri Athletic Club and include the presentation of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship award. Tickets will be available through the St. Louis Business Journal as part of the SJB speaker series or directly via the Alan Edgewater website.

The article, by most accounts, was kind of a puff piece. Except for two sidebars with graphics adjacent to the story Alan was happy about the overall presentation. The sidebar headlines and the accompanying stories caught Alan’s eye and made him wonder. The stories both mentioned the Alan Edgewater connection. Both stories, for Alan at least, triggered more questions than answers.   

Ambrosia to open St. Louis office
It was announced today in a brief press release from Omnicom, the parent company of Ambrosia Digital Marketing that the firm intends to open an office in St. Louis. The agency already handles the Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC social media and event management. The office is expected to be 5,000 – 7,500 sf downtown and employ 24 people here.
Abbeshire & Bluestone wins Sazarac Rye Whiskey

Sazarac Rye Whiskey, a proud tradition in New Orleans announced that Abbeshire & Bluestone would handle a sales promotion, digital media and branding assignment out of its St. Louis office. The firm was formed as a merger of Abbeshire Public Relations and Bluestone Creative. The principals are credited with marketing successes for Alan Edgewater books and keynote presentations, healthcare, CPG and brand innovations via digital and social channels.   

Failure Coach XX

Dollars and Cents

Alan was looking forward to a ten days in St. Louis without any pressure to prepare for media interviews, speeches or book signings. He did feel compelled, however to sit down with Laurie Ripp, his accountant and Bob Caster, his lawyer. Laurie always helped him look at the practical side of everything. Bob was good at putting things in a kind of perspective. Bob was happy to reserve his conference room for a convenient downtown meeting. Alan called the meeting because he was getting nervous about the direction of his overall enterprise. He felt Ambrosia, even with the steady hand of Tony Blank managing the account, was not really seeing a bigger picture. He tried to share this concern with Tony but it always seemed like his agenda was about growing the business, not looking out for the best interests of Alan Edgewater. So Alan was going to spend an afternoon sorting some things out from a dollars and cents perspective with a touch of soul searching. He knew Laurie would provide the left brain thinking and Bob would be pragmatic without taking the afternoon into a creative exploration of the tactical.

“I’m thinking the Ambrosia relationship is probably good for promoting the books but my income from advances and royalties from both books aren’t going to keep pace with the steady stream of expenses they recommend. I’m working with these guys because they are familiar with the publishing industry but they are also a new agency in the Omnicom family. I get it. They need to deliver profits and cover overhead/personnel. They are making stuff happen but I don’t really have a way to measure value beyond an investment in a lot of wishful thinking. Right now, and Laurie recognized this early on, we are operating in the red. I was afraid to pull the trigger on the kind of spending of which Jan Abbeshire and Dan Bluestone were trying to get me to commit, and here I am spending more and working with generally less accountability. The big events pay best for me, but I’m not getting the bookings like I did that first year after the first book. Now book two is doing okay, but I don’t know.”

Laurie waited until Alan was ready and, as is her style, had a deck that showed how Alan Edgewater’s year was shaping up, with some estimates through the first three quarters of the calendar. “Of course, you had some meaningful revenue coming in early in the year from your keynote conferences and sales meetings and we’ve seen a fair amount of outflow of cash in the second half as the second book launched. It still looks okay, but as your accountant I would encourage you to pull back on the reigns a bit. Unless you have a half a dozen keynotes generating something on the order of $200,000-$300,000 you are going to have to cut somewhere.”

“Exactly, and for whatever reason, it doesn’t look like those gigs are going to be realized until next Spring and I’m looking at maybe two big ones that might get me $50,000. It will take a lot of scrambling to fill in a schedule of 12-15 dates of modest revenue around $5,000-$10,000 over the course of the next six months to fill out that target revenue. I was the flavor of the month last year. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if things have an ebb and flow. And I’m not ready to do the global travel thing yet.”

“Alan, you are a great keynote speaker but…If you look at trade shows and conventions in places like Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago, Dallas and New York you can see there are only a limited number of spots. Right now you have limited representation through your publisher and half-hearted efforts from Ambrosia. The bigger events are booked more than a year in advance. We’ve talked about trying to take your branded show on the road but right now you don’t have the horses to manage 45-50 dates a year with average attendance of 1,500 or better. You have to pony-up money in advance for production, room rentals, food/beverage etc. You would be gambling big time if you started putting deposits down. The audio/visual roadie stuff is an up-front investment too. You are already seeing how hard it is to manage the advertising, public relations and basic event management.”     

“Alright Bob-O, you’re right. I’ve been fortunate to have done a dozen or so big keynote deals with rooms of more than 1,500.  Now, I’m starting to see those gigs are not as easy to come by as it seemed.